She brings home a fully drunk tom less than an hour later.
"Im sorry about tonight." He says, walking into the house.
"That was out of line and I shouldn't have done it."
"It's okay." She assures him. "I shouldn't have let you."
"Is it because of Stefan?"
"What? No." She says instinctively. "Stefan and I are strictly friends. I mean there may have been a time, years ago, when i thought I thought we'd be something more, but I turned out to be wrong. And I'm glad I was."
"Too bad." He scoffs.
"Yeah, I mean all those lingering stares have got to mean something right?"
"What stares?" He means her right. Oh god, does Stefan notice them too? It doesn't matter. It doesn't mean anything.
Neither of them say anything after that.
She's back at the boarding house bright and early the next morning ready to have two very deep and meaningful conversations with the two of them. Okay, maybe not that deep, but definitely meaningful-ish.
She needs to talk to Stefan about what the next step is with the travelers and why the hell he didn't show up yesterday at the grill? He'd said he would and then..
And then tom had kissed her and that's what they needed to talk about.
For some odd reason that she's not really sure of, she doesn't want Stefan to know about the kiss.
But she gets to the house and he's the only one there. "Hey." He says as soon as he sees her.
"Hi." She smiles, unsure. "Where's Tom?" She sounds way too impatient.
"He went out for a run." He raises his eyebrows when she seems disappointed. "Is something going on between the two of you?"
"What? No." She shakes her head like its about to fall of. "Why would you even ask that?"
He's not sure what to say. He knows what he should say; Because I thought you should know that it's okay if there is.But he can't really say that and he's not sure why. Instead he goes for. "I saw you guys… Last night."
She's taken aback by this. He was there last night. "Why didn't you come in?" It's a stupid question.
"I didn't want to interrupt whatever was going on between you." It sounds much more harsh than he'd meant it to be. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
"It's okay." She says immediately. "Besides, nothing really happened."
"I saw the kiss, Caroline." It's the way he says her name. Like he's accusing her of doing something horrible without actually saying anything out loud. If it were anyone else they wouldn't have heard it. But she's his best friend, so obviously she did.
She doesn't say anything.
"Tom was drunk." She says after a pause. "It was a misunderstanding."
"Are you sure?" He asks. What is he doing? He surprises himself by saying it. "Because it's okay if there is."
"I mean, if there is…I'm happy for you." He says, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. She hadn't even realized he was holding it. "Just be careful."
"Aw, look at you worrying about me." She mocks him. "But you don't need to." She say just to let him know she's sure. "There's nothing going on between me and Tom. Besides, even if there was I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have to be that cautious with him."
"Just be careful, okay." He says, seemingly agitated.
"What's going on,Stefan?"
"Do you believe in coincidences?" He says, eyes meeting hers as her smile warms his heart.
"Not really." She's so sure of her answer. It's reassuring. "I think everything happens for a reason and whether it's good or bad, nothing's just a fluke."
He takes a deep breath.
"Stefan.. Is this about Tom?"
"I'm sorry." He says. "It's just strange. He shows up right when we're in the middle of this whole doppleganger situation and I can't help but think this too big of a coincidence."
"Stefan he's not here to hurt anybody, the guy looks like he couldn't hurt a fly." She promises with a reassuring smile. "Even if you don't trust him or you don't want to… Trust me. I trust him and if you just trust me about him that's enough. I promise you he won't turn out to be a psychopath that's been alive for a thousand years."
"Be careful what you're promising." He smiles, lightening up instantly. "I mean this is Mystic Falls after all."
Her smile lights up the entire room.
"And I do." He tells her as they're getting ready to leave the house.
"I trust you."
"Oh come on." Tom laughs, tossing one of the couch pillows at her from the room before she skillfully ducks and catches it in her hand. "Is there like some secret tell or something?"
"I'm not kidding." She smiles, flinging it back at him. "I don't know how I know… I just do, okay?"
"I don't believe you." He says. They sound like kids. Arguing over pointless things that don't even matter. And yet, of all the conversations she's had in the past 4 years this is the most normal of them all.
He tries to throw it at her again but she catches it before it even comes close. "Fine." She pretends to snap at him. "But only if you stop throwing this at me."
"Deal." He sounds too eager.
She should never have let him rope her into this. It's a pointless question anyway. How does she know the difference between him and Stefan?
What would the point of that even be?
"This is the part where you talk." He urges her mockingly.
"Well, I guess it would have to be your eyes." She says. It's sounds so cheesy..and un-platonic. "I know you think you guys have the same eyes, and they are. Almost identical."
The keyword there being almost.
"So what is it about our eyes that make us so different?" He says, batting his eyelashes like a teenage girl. "Are mine really that dreamy?"
"I don't remember you being this cocky." She deadpans.
"That wasn't exactly a no." He says earning a pillow straight in his face. He almost falls down. "Haha.. So what is it?"
"I don't know." She says, completely lost in thought. "I guess I can tell because when I look at either of you, your eyes sell you out. I can tell. You look happy. Genuinely happy. Stefan looks likes he's carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He looks like he's been through so much and he's been hurt so many times, and you can see it his eyes. I wish I could take it away."
He pauses, taking a deep breath. "You know, if I didn't know any better I might've thought you-"
"Stop." She pleas. "There's nothing to think. Nothing's going on, nothing ever will. Just stop, okay?"
They hear the car pull up outside before he gets a chance to say anything. Neither of them move. "Hey." Stefan says, walking in with a bag of groceries.
"Let me help with you that." Tom responds first, getting up off the couch as Caroline's eyes still follow him across the room.
He doesn't bring it up again.
Shes decided to ignore her phone even though it's been ringing off the hook for about five minutes. That's really nothing. If Bonnie and Elena want to talk to her they should at least have the guts to do it person.
She's about to decline the call when she freezes. She'd forgot what they were even fighting about. She tries to do a mental rewind type thing but she still comes up blank.
So she throws all caution to whatever aside and picks up the phone. "Hey." She says.
"Stefan?" She takes a quick glance at her phone. So she's been ignoring Stefan all this time? Great.
She remembers then. Remembers what her and the two people she's loved since she was in second grade are fighting about; Stefan.
He could've died…. Any of them could've died. They didn't, and she's so thankful for that. But that's not the point.
"Yeah, I'm here." She says quickly. "Sorry, I got kind of distracted."
"What's on your mind?" She loves him for that. Not love, love but 'he's my best friend and I don't know where I'd be without him' love. She loves him for asking her that.
"Just thinking about me, Bonnie, and Elena." She says softly.
"Is everything okay?" He asks, tapping his fingers on the desk. When she doesn't answer, he continues. "I thought you guys worked things out at the ball."
"Well we didn't really talk at the ball… Unless you count small talk and letting Elena babble on about Damon." She smiles. "But I'm pretty sure you didn't call to talk about girl drama, so what's going on?"
"Nothing." He says with a grin. "I just feel like we haven't talked in a really long time."
"We literally spoke like five hours ago." She teases.
"You know what I mean."
"Yeah." Her breath hitches in her throat and suddenly she's not sure what she's supposed to say. What would be the right response to that?
"Well, you're probably busy. I'll see you tomorrow?
He comes this close to hanging up. "Stefan." She pauses. "I'm starving. Do you want to maybe got the grill and listen to me whine about Bonnie and Elena."
She thinks it sounds out of line and she's completely ready to take it back when he says "See you there."
She has no idea what time it is. Or how many drinks they've had, or if she's even still conscious but the music is blaring and she can't stop now.
After dinner, they'd seen a flyer for this 'kickass' party nearby, and well, Stefan Salvatore had never been able to say no to a party. Or more likely to Caroline Forbes.
And of course he spent the entire night brooding by the bar as she'd swallowed down drink after drink, lime after lime–possibly deafened by the music.
"Hey, we should get going." He says, grabbing her hand and skillfully pulling her out of the enormous crowd.
"Why?" She groans. Her breath smells like tequila. She normal hates tequila but tonight she'd been on a roll. And also, why was he standing so close he could smell her breath?
He took a step back before she noticed. "Are you allergic to fun, Stefan?" She mocks him.
"Caroline, come on. Let's get out of here."
"Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine." She nods, gesturing for him to leave her alone.
He doesn't let go of her until they're inside the car. It's to prevent her from getting hit by one and then eating the driver. It is. That's all.
"You know," she drunkenly says in a matter of fact kind of way. "We should go out more."
"Yeah, we should." He nods, helping her onto the bed in his guest room.
"I'm not kidding." She groans, rapping her fists against his chest. She sees the way he's looking at her. "What?"
"You're a horrible liar." She pouts, falling onto the bed.
"Get some rest, Caroline."
Her eyelids shut before he ever hears a response.
She opens her eyes to sunlight creeping in the through the small cracks of the curtain and a pounding headache.
It hurts to sit up. It hurts to move. But she does it anyway, because she is in desperate need of a fresh cup of coffee.
The house is empty. She'd expected to find Stefan and Tom in the kitchen being completely silent and subtle about how they have nothing in common. Nothing besides her. They're both her friends, and she doesn't really think either of them would've agreed to this if it weren't for her. (because of her.)
She's grabbing a mug from the cabinet when she her phone starts buzzing. It sounds like a freaking siren.
She picks it up with pure frustration. "What?!"
"Blondie, have you seen Stefan today?" Damon. Great, just what she needed right now.
"I just woke up, Damon." She says harshly before taking a deep breath. She hears an exasperated sigh on his end.
"But no, he's not home. Why?"
"I think the travelers have him."
"You can't." She states matter-of-factly, rummaging through Stefan's drawers.
"I could be the bait or something…" He argues. "I've gotten so good at it." He lets out a light laugh but she doesn't even look up. "Caroline, what are you looking for?"
"Stakes?" He repeats and she just nods. "What are you going to do with them? Can you please give me and answer that's more than two syllables long?"
"Kill them all."
"I know I'm new to this stuff but I'm pretty sure you can't take on an entire traveler campsite on your own." You can't blame a guy for trying.
"Damon will be there. Bonnie too." She says pulling out a black duffel bag. "She knows what to do. We all do."
"Let me help." He's so close to begging. "Please."
"You can't!" It comes out too loud, too harsh, too not meant for Tom. Because this is the reason she'd left. This exact reason. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell."
"Let me come with." He whispers, taking a few steps closer and taking her hand in his. "Otherwise it'll only hurt you when I come anyway."
"You can't come, Tom." The desperation in her voice scares him. The way her eyes refuse to meet his. It's terrifying.
"I'm not asking permission."
She bites her lip and forces herself to meet his eyes. They're so green, and they're staring straight into hers and he's not wearing a bracelet and he hasn't had coffee in days. "You can't come, Tom. It's not safe for you. And I don't want you there."
"I can't come." He repeats, his head hanging slightly. "I'm sorry, Caroline, but it won't be safe for me."
She nods and shuts the door behind her. The second it shuts she falls apart.
"Are you okay?" Stefan asks, walking her up to her front door.
"Yeah, that's why you didn't say a single word the entire car ride." That earns him a frustrated look from her. "Are you okay, Caroline?"
"You shouldn't be the one asking, you know." She says stopping before the first porch step. "I'm not the one who just spent a day being tortured and held against my will."
He shrugs. "I've been through worse. Besides I'm kind of immune to the whole tortured by supernatural beings thing."
"And of all your many traits, you choose to brag about that?" He lets out a laugh and she smiles in return before taking a deep breath.
"What's going on with you?"
"I compelled Tom." She whispers, too afraid to admit it loud enough. Too afraid of what he'll think of her. "It was something small and to protect him but I did it anyway. I did the one thing I said I'd never do. And to Tom, of all people!"
"It'a okay, Caroline." He says, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her closer. She smells like lavenders today.
"No it's not." She says, completely falling apart in his arms. But it didn't hurt as much as she thought it would. "What do I do? I can't even look him in the eye."
"What?" She pulls back, eyes wide and jaw almost on the ground.
"Tell him that you did it. He'll forgive you. No one can resist Caroline Forbes. Trust me." There's something there in his eyes, something she's seen a couple of times in the last few weeks. It's something else. It's more than I'm your best friend but it's right down underneath it as well. She doesn't say anything.
"You play ski ball?" Ski ball? Of course that's what's on his mind right now. Of course it's not Caroline compelled me and now I hate her.
"Yeah… Tom can we talk-"
"I'm feeling like a night of fun after all this drama.. Let's go to the arcade tonight." He suggests, eyes lighting up at her little smile.
"I'll tell Stefan." She sighs. "But I really need to-"
"Not Stefan." He objects immediately. "Just the two of us."
"Oh.. Uh… Like a, um, like a date?" She asks, cheeks turning pink.
"Yeah like a date." He takes a step closer and grabs her hand. It makes it even harder because that's exactly what he did two nights ago. Right before she compelled him.
"Tom, I need to tell you something first."
"Is that a yes or no?" He chuckles. He stops when he sees the look on her face. She looks terrified. "What's wrong?"
"The other night… When the travelers had Stefan" There's no way to sugarcoat it now. "I didn't want you to get hurt so I compelled you not to come."
"When you become a vampire, you gain all of the traits. Some are beneficial and others are down right monstrous."
"What are you saying?" He inches back.
"We have the ability to make humans do anything we want." She takes a deep breath. "It's kind of like mind control. Except it's worse because we're vampires."
"So you used your mind control on me?" He sounds disgusted and his eyes won't even meet hers.
"I'm so sorry, Tom. I hate that I did this and I'll take it back if you want. I'm so so sorry I swear." She takes his other hand into her own. "Please say something."
"I think I need some air."