Author's Note: Hello my loves! I am so sorry for the really long wait! Thank you all for your kind words, I really do appreciate it! Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
The Elena look-alike stares back at Caroline with wide, pretty brown eyes so painfully familiar but Caroline is more certain now than she was when she initially said it. This person, while without a doubt a literal spitting image of Elena, is most definitely not Caroline's childhood best friend.
But damn, they could be twins.
"I-I'm so sorry," Caroline hears herself say, trying desperately to get ahold of herself. She feels like a fool, crying like that in front of everyone. Thankfully no one she outwardly recognizes or knows saw it, she supposes is the better way to say it, seeing as that girl looks exactly like Elena. She wants to sink into the ground and disappear forever. That would solve all of her problems.
"It's... fine..." Not-Elena says slowly, narrowing her brown eyes slightly in thought. There is a little tilt to her head that looks so much like something that Elena does that it physically hurts Caroline. She wanted so badly to talk to Elena, to finally bear her heart out to one of her best friends after suffering for so long in silence. This was sort of the last straw, she was so panicked by what happened that when she saw Elena, she finally found the courage to say something and now to learn that it isn't even Elena has left her emotionally, and physically, drained.
Caroline shakes her head, hand clutching at her shirt as she tries to work her way through all of the emotions swirling around inside of her. "No, I... um, should have checked to make sure that... that you were who I, um, thought that you were..." If she could sink into the ground in shame now, she would.
Not-Elena stares at her, curiously. She purses her lips a bit with a slow half glance at the dark-haired man next to her before looking back over at Caroline. "We must look a lot alike to have been mistaken for one another. Especially since she seems to be a... close friend."
Caroline pushes herself to her feet, rubbing away at her eyes. The weight of the night - or the last few weeks - is wearing down on her more heavily now than it has in a while. She's feeling especially vulnerable today. Probably because she just turned into a freaking dog! How is she supposed to explain that to anyone? Let alone own up to her new reality? How could any of this be happening? To her?
"You two are, um, completely identical. I almost couldn't tell the difference..." Caroline mumbles, rubbing harder at her eyes. She pulls her hand away to see spots in her vision. Talking is good. Talking helps make her feel just a tiny bit better. She doesn't have to focus on herself or her life while she's talking. Something else to occupy the mind.
Not-Elena nods slowly, standing up too, pushing long curly brown hair over her shoulder. Elena doesn't curl her hair - at least not unless it's a special occasion. And it's got to be very special.
"Are you okay?" Not-Elena asks, crossing her arms over her chest and giving Caroline another look that makes the shorter brunette look like a bomb could go off next to her and she wouldn't bat a single mile-long eyelash at it. Caroline envies her incredible strength.
"I'm okay," Caroline lies, looking away from the strong woman in front of her, afraid that the truth would be shining in her eyes. "I'm just..." Caroline hesitates. She rubs at her forehead, not caring if she leaves a big red mark there. She's dreading offering a single thought more to the terrible night that she just had. She can't believe that actually happened to her. "I'm just having a really bad day. I'm sorry for freaking you out."
Not-Elena raises an eyebrow. "Surprised me? Yes. Freaked me out? No such luck. Believe me, I've seen and heard a lot worse than someone calling me the wrong name." She rolls her eyes before reaching out to take Caroline's arm and leading her over to one of the nearby tables outside of the restaurant they are in front of, and nods for her to sit, not looking as if she was giving the taller blonde an option.
Caroline practically falls into the seat feeling exhausted beyond bone-deep. It permeates through her entire body, throbbing like a heartbeat. A part of her wants to run back to her car, speed home, crawl into bed, and never leave it again.
But once more, she's scared. She's scared to be alone with her thoughts. Even now, the image of her turning into a dog with all of her bones breaking in order for her to do that keep replaying behind her eyelids every time she closes her eyes for too long. Just thinking about it makes her just want to cry. It won't fix anything, though. It won't make anything better. But at least she knows how to cry on command so that would give her some semblance of control. Not that she has to try hard if she wants to cry. But she won't of course. She feels weak enough as it is, the last thing she needs is for her own tears to steal more of the pitiable amount of power that she has left.
The suited man holds out the chair for Not-Elena before lowering himself into the last available one at the table. Caroline offers him a curious look, having forgotten that he was there. He's been quiet for their entire exchange. No doubt trying to wrap his mind around the insanity that Caroline has just introduced into their lives. But he's looking between them with a perfectly impassive look on his face, taking this with simple grace.
"That's Elijah," Not-Elena says, pulling Caroline's eyes back over to her. She nods to the dark-eyed man before offering a charming smile that would be too sultry, too domineering for Elena but somehow looked perfect on her literal double. "And my name is Katherine."
Caroline flushes, realizing that she was blabbering on to these strangers after having awkwardly called out to them in the middle of the street, and she never even gave them her name. It's like she's forgotten how to be a normal person these last few weeks. So much of her is being chipped away, bit-by-bit, that she's even forgetting basic manners.
"Oh. Um, I'm Caroline," Caroline says, pushing some wild blonde hair from her face. She must look like an absolute train wreck. What a first impression this turned out to be. "Sorry, I'm just having a bad day."
"Caroline," Katherine says easily like they have known each other forever and once more it's hard to imagine that this isn't Elena. "I know what a bad day looks like. And hun, I hate to say it, but you look like your bad day has stretched on for a few months. It looks bad, trust me, I've had bad decades, so this isn't the worst I've seen. But it's still pretty bad. No offense."
Caroline shrugs. She can't exactly be upset by it. She has been having a terrible time lately coupled with the fact that tonight alone, she went from human to dog to human again. If she didn't look terrible, she would be surprised beyond words. So she can't exactly be mad. Even if she wants to be. It shouldn't be like this. It shouldn't have to be like this for her. She shouldn't have to feel so utterly alone in her own hometown surrounded by her friends and family. It shouldn't be this hard to escape this negative bog that's been following her around.
This isn't the way this year was supposed to go.
"None taken. I didn't mean to freak you guys out. Tonight has officially sucked about a million times more than justifiably acceptable," Caroline says, rubbing at her forehead again. She offers a thin, mirthless smile to Katherine, trying to stem the stream of darkness clouding her mind. "I think I just need to complain."
Katherine's eyebrow quirks up a bit as she crosses her arms over her chest and leans back in her seat. "Well, you haven't said much aside from how sorry you are and that you were having a bad night. So go on." She gives a little nod for Caroline to proceed.
Honestly, it's jarring. She looks like Elena's identical twin, and yet they are so completely different from one another. Not just in their overall appearance - or style is probably a better way to say it - but in their personalities too.
Caroline has never for a moment thought that Elena was weak. With the tragic death of her parents driving off the Wickery Bridge while she was in the car with them..?
Caroline can't imagine that level of pain that she would carry with her constantly. The strength that one would need...
Katherine though... She looks like her world could blow up around her and she wouldn't bat an eyelash. Caroline strives to one day be as strong as either of them. Especially since Caroline feels anything but strong these last few weeks.
Caroline hesitates, wondering if she really was about to unload all of her dirty laundry on a couple of complete strangers right now. But Katherine looks exactly like Elena. And Caroline misses her friends. She feels so alone recently, which is mostly her fault for not reaching out, so she feels like she was ready to bear her heart to Elena but now she can without actually having to own up to Elena. Elena's pitying eyes. Elena's sad voice. Elena's sympathy. Elena's empathy.
Elena is in pain too. Probably more pain than Caroline is. How... how can Caroline pile onto that? How can Caroline top her already terrible habits of being a subpar friend at best?
Things have been so weird between Bonnie, Elena, and Caroline since school started back up again. Caroline isn't certain what she did but it's not getting better and she's been too terrified to talk about it. Terrified that Bonnie and Elena will realize how much better off they are without Caroline holding them back and leave her forever. Then Caroline will be completely and utterly alone. And she definitely can't handle that.
Caroline won't be able to hold on any longer if she's left alone. She will have nothing left. Damon will have officially destroyed her.
Even now she isn't entirely sure she wants to talk about it. Despite hating how much it's been weighing her down, she still feels as though speaking about it would give it more power over her than it already has. Never mind the fact that she doesn't even know what to really say. All of it is confusing and most of it hides behind the brick wall in her mind. That wall is meant to keep her safe, now she doesn't know how to live without it. It's a safe place to store all of the scary, unknowns in her life.
The young blonde turns to look at the twin of her best friend. Vulnerably, Caroline says, "Ever since school started nothing has been going the way that it should. People are..." she racks her hands through her hair, feeling her anxiety spiking the more that she's thinking about it. She glances around to make sure no one is listening to them, not that she would know how to put into words the things that she has hidden behind the wall. "People are scarier now than ever before. My friends are acting strange and drifting apart. There's suddenly a bunch of animal attacks by a recently caught mountain lion that literally killed my history teacher, but we don't talk about that whole weird debacle..."
Caroline drops her head into her hands, trying not to turn too much of her attention to the wall in her mind, to the scary things that lurk on the other side scratch, scratch, scratching on its surface, begging her to come closer. To give in and just accept the secrets that lie beyond. Just thinking about it, even if a small part of her wants to see what lies beyond, a voice whispers in the back of her mind, telling her to forget and it sounds so similar to St-
"Caroline?" Katherine says slowly, her expression falling flat as she stares through her long lashes at the blonde. "What was so weird about the mountain lion?"
"It only hunts at night..." Caroline says softly, eyes squeezing shut as the secrets beyond the wall in her mind beckon her forward with more ferocity, begging her to remember. She knows that she should, that something important lies beyond but she's scared. So scared. "But it wasn't a mountain lion. It wasn't. I saw it. I saw him. I felt it. It was... he... I felt..." Caroline grips at her throat as weeks' worth of silent screams jam it shut making it hard for her to breathe. The wall in her mind starts to crumble a bit, widdling away and something slips past her lips in a terrified whisper, "Vampire..." Then she sees him in her mind's eye. She sees midnight black hair, pale skin, flashing fangs, lunging at her throa-
Terrified, Caroline slams the secrets peaking through the cracks into the wall back to the other side, forcing the word to vanish with it. Caroline's not sure how long she's staring vacantly at Katherine before she looks around, blinking rapidly. Her heart is pounding and she knows to be afraid but the exact why behind it slides beneath the wall and out of sight. Caroline rubs at her forehead, standing up.
"I have to go home," Caroline says, head hurting. "I don't... I don't know what..." She shakes her head, flinching at the motion. She looks at Katherine, who crossed her arms over her chest and casts a look at the man next to her - Elijah - who was leaning a bit to one side, rubbing at his lips contemplatively with raised eyebrows before turning her dark eyes back to Caroline. "You should go home too," Caroline says, sounding robotic even to herself. "Bye."
She turns and blacks out. By the time she comes to once more, she's falling into her bed.
Katherine crosses her legs slowly under the table, watching the blonde robotically retreat towards the dark parking lot on the other side of the street, no doubt where her car is parked. Katherine turns to look at the Original next to her, eyebrows ticked up toward her hairline. Elijah is staring at the seat where Caroline was just a few moments before, lost in thought as he runs the pads of his fingers over his lips.
Katherine waits for one breath, two, before commenting half-heartedly, "That was a strange way for compulsion to kick in."
Elijah sucks in a slow breath, contemplative, before shaking his head. "Indeed..."
Katherine blinks slowly, knowing the older man long enough to know that there is something bothering him. Something that he's considering deeply but won't put into words just yet. She stares at the side of his head, waiting for him to say something more, but he just stares at the empty seat in silence, lost to his thoughts. Katherine reaches up to one of her curls, twisting it around her finger slowly.
"You know... there was definitely something off about her. I thought she was human at first but then I got the distinct feeling she wasn't. I know that she isn't a witch, I've been around enough to know a witch when I see one," Katherine says slowly, turning her eyes back over to the Original next to her. "I mean, I've met Rebekah more than once." She narrows her eyes a bit, looking at Elijah. A frown pulls at her lips, which should have gotten her some sort of reaction from the older man. But nothing.
Katherine twists her body to face the Original. She rests her cheek against her fist and stares at him. He blinks slowly as his phone starts to ring in his pocket. Katherine looks down at his pocket, then back at him. Elijah doesn't make any move to go for his phone. The Doppelganger raises her eyebrow, curiously. Yes, Caroline was a little odd, but it's obvious that she's going through something. But she mistook Katherine for her friend, who she said is the exact same as her, which means her doppelganger.
That's the entire reason they came here, so it's good that it didn't take long for them to get a lead. While Caroline was certainly interesting enough with the information she provided - Elena, being the name of her doppelganger - and the fact that she's seen better days, just not recently, but nothing that should be holding Elijah's attention so thoroughly.
At least, not that Katherine can tell.
Katherine doesn't think about it. Doesn't think about the pain in Caroline's voice. The agony, as she called out for Katherine - who she mistook as one of her so called "friends" - while trying desperately to hold herself together. Katherine has seen lots of pathetic and pitiful people in her life, and she herself was one such person from time to time when it just seems like nothing is going right, but it's... hard to see it on others. It's hard to watch someone so young look like she's ripping apart at the seams. Katherine has heard the desperation in Caroline's voice on other people. People who simply couldn't hold out any longer as the terrible keeps mounting.
Katherine remembers being so low when for the briefest, and the darkest, of moments it seemed like the only way to escape the pain and the agony was to die. Katherine felt that when she was disowned by her friends and her family. When her baby was taken from her and she was forced out of her life with absolutely nothing to her name but the clothes on her back. It was traumatic. It was terrible. And for the lowest, darkest moments in her life she wanted to die. She wanted nothing more than for the agony to end, but she couldn't do that.
It took time. Perhaps too long wallowing in that darkness before Katherine learned the truth about herself that kept her going. She wanted to live far more than she wanted to die. It came to her when she was at her absolute lowest. It was a long, arduous road with a lot of peaks and pits along the way, but Katherine made it. Katherine saved her own life. She got up on her two feet and pushed forward. For every singular day that would beat her down, she would own the next two. For every dark thought or shadowed moment, she would spend the next two seeking the light. For every person that cut her deep enough to kill, she found the strength to survive in herself and those that she trusted most in the world.
For those small, unpredictable moments when it seemed like too much, she knew that she always had him to help pull her through the fires if she wasn't strong enough to do it alone.
But Katherine knows that not everyone gets to that point. Katherine understands that for a lot of people, that darkness wins.
Elijah's phone stops ringing and Katherine mumbles, pulling back into herself, "Well, screw whoever that was then."
"Hm?" Elijah glances over at her. "What was that, Katerina?"
Katherine raises her eyebrows, staring at the Original. "Your phone was ringing."
"Oh," he says, disinterested, reaching into his coat pocket to pull out his phone to see who it was. Before he even could say, Katherine's phone starts going off. She pulls her own phone to see who it was.
She sighs and answers it. "Yes?"
"Where is he?"
Katherine sighs again, turning to look at the Original next to her, holding out the phone for him to take, but his mind is still elsewhere. She purses her lips, somewhat annoyed, before pulling her phone back to her ear. "He's not talking to you."
"Any particular reason?"
"I don't know," Katherine says, leaning back in her chair. "Did you make him mad?"
He sighs, which makes Katherine shake her head. "How am I to know? Everything I do seems to upset one sibling or another."
"I am not upset with you, Niklaus," Elijah says, still looking at his phone, disinterested. "Believe it or not, my entire life doesn't revolve around you, my dearly misguided brother."
Katherine and Klaus both scoff at the same time, Katherine can hear the other Original practically roll his eyes. Elijah blinks slowly but doesn't turn his attention to the younger vampire next to him as Klaus says, "You could have fooled me, dear brother."
"Do you want to take the phone or do the two of you prefer to talk through me?" Katherine asks, wiggling her phone toward the Original next to her. "Because as interesting as this is, it actually isn't."
Elijah's lips part, sparing Katherine a glance, but Klaus cuts him off before he can even say anything, "Not at all, Katerina. I'm sure you can fully appraise me of the situation update as good as my brother can." A pause, long enough for Katherine to roll her eyes again. "Go on."
"We made it to Mystic Falls yesterday morning, and we were ultimately unsuccessful in locating the possible Doppelganger until not too long before you called. We don't have a positive ID just yet, but I think we're on to something," Katherine reports, hating when Klaus uses them as if they are part of his spy network. It only just so happened that were the closest people to Mystic Falls when Klaus caught wind of video footage of this little town and caught a glimpse of someone very reminiscent of Katherine herself.
"Think you've found my human doppelganger?" Klaus asks, amused. Katherine can see his smile through the phone.
"Actually I think it's my doppelganger but sure."
Elijah smiles at that, obviously amused where Katherine is getting the sense that Klaus no longer is. Katherine offers the Original next to her a sultry smile in return, which he seems to appreciate.
"Have patience, Niklaus," Elijah says, putting his phone back into his pocket and straightening out his cuffs. "We only just got here. Give us a few days to confirm one way or the other."
"I have been patient, Elijah," Klaus says evenly. "Five hundred years worth. And you know what this means for me, to be able to make more hybrids."
"But it's not the end of the world if you don't," Elijah says sagely. "You have plenty of people on your side, brother. You don't need the hybrids."
"Do you two want to talk to each other?" Katherine offers again, eyebrows raised toward her hairline. Elijah shakes his head again and Katherine has to fight the urge to roll her eyes for the hundredth time today.
"I know I don't need them," Klaus says, stiffly, ignoring Katherine as if she never said anything. "I just want everything that our dearest mother stole from me. That includes making my hybrids. I want all of it. Even if I never make one. I still want the ability to do so."
Katherine glances over at the older of the two of them. Elijah rubs the pads of his fingers together slowly, murmuring, "I understand." Before looking over at Katherine and holding out his hand for the phone. Katherine passes it over to him, curiously, as he puts the phone to his ear and says, "There is something else peculiar here, brother. Something I wanted to run past you since we are on the subject. I think we found someone of interest."
"Someone interesting to you, brother?" Klaus says easily. "This I have to hear."
"I can't be certain as of yet, but I think we've come across a young werewolf," Elijah says, straightening up in his seat.
Katherine stares at him, frowning. Caroline? There was definitely something off about her, but was it really that she was a werewolf? Katherine has been around one or two and is starting to be able to recognize them. But the last time she's seen a werewolf - aside from the fact that it was old and dying - was over two hundred years ago. Keeping in mind she wasn't even looking for one, but she knew that werewolves were a rare breed. Caroline, though, didn't strike her as a werewolf. Katherine knows all about them. She has to. They are the natural enemy of the Vampire.
Which reminds her. If there are werewolves here in Mystic Falls, she's going to have to get back to the hotel and get her vial that she always keeps with her. A gift from Klaus. Just in case.
"You think it's a young werewolf?" Klaus asks, curiously. "Odd for you to be unable to tell, dear brother."
Elijah rubs at his lips with his free hand for a moment, considering. "It might be because we don't see a lot of freshly cursed werewolves, or lonely ones at that, because I'm not so sure that she has a pack if she is a werewolf, but she also appeared before us either at the end of the apex of the moon or just after it passed. But she's also showing signs of being under compulsion. Or, at the very least, under the influence of it," Elijah amends.
Klaus is quiet for a long moment, considering carefully. That was odd. Katherine hadn't considered it. Witch or werewolf, it didn't matter, neither should be affected by compulsion, yet Caroline was definitely showing signs of it. Not only is there a werewolf in town, but also a vampire too. Well, Mystic Falls is nothing if not interesting.
"Things are starting to get interesting," Klaus says, as if able to read Katherine's mind, before hanging up the phone.
Caroline pulls herself out of bed a few days later and heads for the shower. She's been careful, keeping an eye on herself. She's starting to figure out that whatever it is that happens to her has this strange feeling washing over her a few days in advance. It's like the feeling of ants beneath her skin. She also gets more and more anxious.
Not that she isn't constantly anxious, but still.
Caroline couldn't help herself the next morning and went looking around to see if she could find Katherine, but was unable to. With all the insane things going on, Caroline was starting to wonder if she was going crazy. As much as she would like to write off that her turning into a dog never happened, the video is saved onto her phone and she watches it often to remind herself that it's real. Although unfortunately, it's harder with Katherine. Someone who looks exactly like Elena but isn't her? Someone no one ever knew about?
Elena would have told her if she had a twin sister. Especially since Katherine didn't seem all that surprised that Caroline confused them. Maybe Caroline is so starved to have someone pay attention to her, to acknowledge her worries and her fears, to have someone there for her, that she's dreaming of someone like Katherine to help her.
At this point, Caroline can't even trust her own mind anymore. She has turned into a dog and back. And Caroline can't exactly say that she is the pinnacle of mental health. She hasn't been for a long time, if she ever was.
Caroline sits in the shower after having washed her hair and body far longer than she needed to. It took Liz, who was home in the morning when she woke up for once, knocking on her bathroom door to alert her that she was going to be late for school if she didn't get out soon and let her know that her basket of clothes were on her bed to put away when she got home for school. Normally Caroline would have tried to be independent and tell her mom to leave her clothes alone and she would just handle it alone, but things have been different. And it's these small little acts that for some reason help Caroline hold on. There is still someone out there that loves her.
Caroline gets out of the shower and wraps up in her towel, walking into her bedroom to find some clothes to change into. She's going to have a long day with Tiki for a fundraiser at the school gym after classes end, so she's going to need to be comfortable. She puts on some jeans and t-shirt and a jacket over it. She stuffs her feet into some sneakers before walking back into her bathroom to brush her teeth and brush through her damp hair, trying to work up the strength to put an ounce of care into her appearance, but she can't.
With greater difficulty than is fair, Caroline pulls her hair up into a messy ponytail, pulling loose a few strands so they frame her face to fake effort while unable to bring herself to do anything else. She can't bring herself to put on any makeup aside from mascara and when she heads back into her room she wars with herself before putting on a few rings and a necklace that Elena gave her a week ago, after telling her to never take it off. Caroline thought it was cute but wasn't sure why she shouldn't ever take it off but Elena ran off before she could ask.
Caroline was choked up though, to get a gift from her friend, even if it was out of the blue.
She had to make it look like she was trying to look basic and not because the thought of putting any ounce of effort into her appearance sucks the very life out of her. Tiki would say something if she didn't at least try. She puts her birthstone earrings - opals - into her ears before sitting down on the edge of her bed, exhausted. She's done hardly anything and yet her body feels like it weighs a thousand pounds. She drops her head into her hands, trying to encourage herself to get up and move.
She's not sure how long she sat there, unmoving, before Liz pokes her head into the room. "Hey, sweetie, do you want to try and grab some food before going to school?"
Caroline stands up, quickly, forcing a smile across her lips before turning to her mom. "No, thanks. I'm not hungry. I'm going to head out. Don't forget the fundraiser is after school. Come and show your support."
Liz stares at her, frowning slightly before nodding slowly. "Okay... but try to get something to eat. I haven't seen you eat anything in a while..."
"I'm fine," Caroline laughs, throwing in an eyeroll that took up half of her reserved energy. "I eat at school."
"Okay..." Liz says softly, in disbelief, "if you say so."
Caroline grabs her purse, slinging it over her arm and heading for the door. She kisses Liz's cheek, telling her that she loved her before heading for the front door, smile falling from her face before she hits the welcome mat.
After school, Caroline and her minions are setting up for the fundraiser. Caroline is leaning on one of the tables as the flurry of motion happens around her, focusing on the clipboard and check list that she has prepared. Her eyes are skimming her notes in the margins, squinting and hating herself for not finding the strength to have rewritten everything before today. She hated how disorganized it looked and wanted to pull her hair from her head but she just couldn't find the energy to rewrite everything, which is so unlike her.
Caroline has to force herself not to just toss down the clipboard and walk away in stress to her bed and never leave it again.
Caroline glances over to her side to see a handsome young man leaning against the table next to her, arms crossed over his chest with styled messy brown hair, dark brown eyes and a smirk that has no doubt slayed a hundred women.
A normal Caroline reaction would be to turn to goo at the attention of such an intimidatingly handsome young man who is just about her age, but she isn't normal Caroline anymore. Normal Caroline was caught and killed a long time ago. Instead, Caroline is reminded, painfully so, about the last time a handsome, strange man approached her out of the blue. What he did. How he hurt her. How he killed her.
So instead, Caroline wants to sink into the ground and disappear forever.
Caroline straightens up, holding her clipboard to her chest like a shield between them, her eyes flickering around the busy gym. No one is looking at them. No one is paying them any attention. But if she screamed, they would all know. That comforts her, but only minutely.
Caroline swallows thickly, trying to keep herself steady and her knees from knocking together in terror. Her mouth is dry and the fear must have shown on her face because the young man uncrosses his arms and holds up his hands for her to see.
"Calm yourself, love. I'm not here to hurt you. I'm a friend of Katherine's," he says, his voice low and smooth. "I'm Kol."
Caroline blinks a few times, trying to reign in her terror. She sucks in a few breaths, stepping back to put a bit of space between them, relieved when he doesn't move from where he is. His face falls impassive, but his eyes stare through her, like she's made of glass. Caroline remembers Katherine. She remembers that night, but it's like she's seeing it through a dream. She's spent the last few days trying to convince herself that it wasn't real - that she didn't meet someone who looked exactly like Elena, but it seems it really did happen.
"You..." Caroline croaks. She takes a moment to steady herself before asking softly, "You know Katherine?"
Kol nods slowly, offering a look like he's seeing something terribly damaged. Like one would look at a wounded animal. Caroline feels horribly exposed. She doesn't like it. She wants to believe that any friend of Katherine would be nice to her, but she doesn't know Katherine. One small moment of kindness - which was really just basic human kindness, nothing spectacular - was enough to make Caroline want to believe. But that's stupid, of course.
Caroline would be stupid to blindly trust anyone. She knows all too well what happens when she trusts the wrong person. Or people.
"I do," Kol says. "She asked me to check in to see how you are. But it seems that instead of helping you, I've made you worse. I'm so sorry, love." He genuinely looks sympathetic, and maybe even a bit apologetic as he studies her closely, and Caroline can't help but feel bad. He hasn't done anything to her. She shouldn't be so cold.
So long as he stays right there and not come any closer, the least she can do is talk.
"I'm okay," Caroline says slowly. "You just... surprised me, is all."
Kol levels her with a disbelieving look that makes her feel tiny. "Yes, well, I am sorry for... um, surprising you, love," he says placating, despite the look on his face. She could lie all she wanted, he didn't believe her. And it was unnerving to see. Someone she didn't know. Someone who only knows of her from someone she spent maybe ten minutes with, can see through her so easily. For weeks, everyone who has asked her if she was okay, believed her when she lied right to their faces.
But not Kol. Someone she's shared about ten words with.
"It's fine," Caroline says slowly, staring down at her feet, unable to look into his eyes as his burrow through her. "I'm okay. Tell Katherine that I'm fine, but she doesn't have to worry about me. I'm sorry for freaking her out the other night."
Kol scoffs, shaking his head as Caroline glances up at him through her lashes. "Nothing scares Katherine except maybe cheep shoes and a bad hair day. But sure. I'll pass the message along." Not knowing what to say, Caroline looks away again. There is a long, painful silence before Kol shifts to face her, but not move any closer than the space that she's made between them, saying, "Alright, love. I'm here to help. Tell me what to do first."
Caroline jerks her head up, eyebrows pulling together as blue eyes meet brown. "What..?"
Kol's smirk returns full force, brown eyes burrowing into her as he loftily says, "I do love me a good cause. So put me to work. What should I do first?"