Discalimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, The Vampire Diaries.
AN: The first scene picks up during "Rose" while the rest of the story has no ties to canon events, though there are vague spoilers through "Katerina."
When she finishes Caroline leaves him, giving him time to digest under the pretense of food and more alcohol. He remains sitting the whole time she's gone, nursing his long empty tumbler and trying to make sense of everything. Some of the most powerful and influential people in town know about the threat of vampires and not a single one ever thought to do so much as give their children a reasonable curfew. Or any curfew really, if he and Caroline are any indication.
"How're you doing?" Caroline asks, filling his glass nearly to the brim.
"Does your mother know about you?"
She flinches at the question and he instantly regrets asking.
"No," she says, not meeting his eyes. She busies herself with the food she scrounged up: microwaved mini-pizzas. He supposes she doesn't need to eat healthy now that she's dead and all, and wonders if he needs to either.
"How did it happen?" he asks, popping one of the cheesy morsels in his mouth. It burns his tongue and he feels the wholly different burn of healing. He runs his tongue over his teeth, marveling, before noticing Caroline's expectant look. "How did you become a vampire, I mean. It's not like becoming a werewolf, is it?"
She shakes he head and her blonde hair flies in a halo. She seems to consider her answer for a few moments before saying, "You remember how I told you about the device the Council had? How it hurt the vampires and you?"
He nods and repeats the lesson she gave moments earlier, inexplicably eager to be a good student. "A whole bunch of vampires had shown up in town and the Council wanted to take care of them all at once. That's why I-" His eyes go wide as he makes the connection he'd missed earlier. "That's why I crashed the car."
"It wasn't your fault," she says quickly, resting a hand over his before his shaking can empty the tumbler. "One of the vampires escaped the Council. He happened to be in the hospital, probably picking up a few blood bags before running out of town, and saw me. As it turns out vampire blood can heal humans."
"Your miraculous recovery."
She nods. "If a human dies with vampire blood in their system then they sort of - come back. But not for very long. If they feed on human blood before their time is up then -" She holds her arms wide and shrugs.
"So you almost died, got saved, and then really died? How did-?" He pauses, seeing the pain that flashes in her eyes. "You know what? Never mind. That was - a really douchy question."
She genuinely smiles and it's probably the greatest thing he's ever seen.
The locker slamming and walking away aren't exactly unexpected, but they hurt all the same.
"Come on, man," Tyler says, rushing to catch up with Matt, who's cutting through the crowded halls with almost supernatural skill. He finally catches up, grabbing Matt by the shoulder and forcing him to turn. Matt looks at anything except him and Tyler wonders for the millionth time why this friendship is so important to him.
"We're friends," Tyler states, not quite sure if he's talking about himself and Matt or himself and Caroline.
"Really?" Matt asks, finally meeting his gaze. Tyler wishes he hadn't. He wasn't nearly this pissed that time Tyler made out with his mom. "Could've fooled me."
"Hey! You're the one who got drunk and attacked me at the party, okay?"
"Yeah, but I never stole your-"
Tyler lets out a harsh laugh. "First of all, you broke up with Caroline. Second, nothing is going on there. We're friends," he repeats, still unsure.
"Can you honestly tell me nothing's ever going to happen?"
Tyler steps back, not enough to end the conversation, but enough to reassess his oldest friend. He'd never been a big fan of the relationship between Matt and Caroline. He could see the appeal in a one night stand, maybe some non-friends with benefits, but a relationship? With Caroline Forbes? Why would anyone torture themselves? Now though, Caroline is his lifeline. She's kind and caring and strong enough to take all his troubles upon her own shoulders. A relationship with Caroline Forbes? Who the hell wouldn't want one?
"Caroline was there for me when I really needed someone," Tyler says slowly, measuring his words carefully. "She's a great girl, I was really wrong about her. I know that things didn't end well between the two of you - and out of respect for you I'm not about to try anything with her."
Matt nods, clearly relieved, and it takes more courage than Tyler knew he had to hurry on.
"But that doesn't mean nothing will ever happen."
Matt tenses up again but he's not nearly as angry as he was when this conversation first began, so that's something.
"If anything does happen-" Matt begins.
"You'll be the first to know," Tyler says quickly. "And you can even hit me if you want."
"You know I will," Matt says and smiles.
Tyler smiles back and the two head to their first class together.
Caroline still refuses to be seen at the Grill with him even after he tells her about reconciling with Matt. She won't be seen with him anywhere and finally he spends a whole day palling around school with Matt, going everywhere he knows Caroline is, just so she can see the proof for herself. When she still refuses he asks, "Are you still in love with him?"
She doesn't even pause before answering, "Yes." He doesn't need an explanation, but she gives it anyway. "I bit him. I can still taste him sometimes, and it hurts not to be able to …" She looks away and he's not sure if that sentence ends with death or a fuck, but it turns his stomach either way.
He lets the Grill go after that but insists on talking to her at school. She's finicky, ready to run at the first sign of any of her friends, and more than once he catches Stefan Salvatore glaring when he sees them together. He wants to ask her about it but worries that if he does it'll only scare her more, so he leaves it alone and takes what time with her he can get.
Four nights before the full moon they're out getting supplies. She wants to make sure he's chained up tight and trapped behind sturdy bars. He tries to calm both their fears by pointing out that if he escapes she'll be there to stop him. She pales at that, an impressive feat for someone without a pulse.
"You're strong," he says, shifting all his hardware store bags to his right hand and resting his left on her shoulder reassuringly. "You'll be able to stop me, easy."
She tries to smile but her attention is caught by something up the street. He turns to see police lights flashing through a gathering crowd. Someone died, he can practically taste it. Death is something he's had more than enough of the last few months so he's sure it's the wolf inside him that makes him move toward the scene.
The crowd's not big - this time of night most people are either at the Grill or home - and Tyler has no trouble seeing the stretcher being loaded into the ambulance. No one's hurrying and he can smell blood. Sheriff Forbes stands in the center of it all, her expression grim.
"We shouldn't be here." Caroline's quiet voice rocks him and he realizes how hard this must be for her. She told him that she'd learned to hunt animals and had a contact at the blood bank, but she also admitted that it was hard. Every day was a struggle for her and he just callously dragged her into danger, just to satisfy his own inner demon.
"I'm sorry," he says.
She doesn't answer, just keeps her eyes on the scene a moment longer before turning to go. He has no choice but to follow with the pace she's setting, but he glances back once and meets Damon Salvatore's eyes. The Sheriff's talking to him but Damon seems more intent on glaring daggers at Tyler and Caroline.
He figures it out the next day while he's cutting school to work on his cage.
There's not much else to do while welding except think and his thoughts have all been focused on a certain dead girl for a while now. She told him not to blame himself for her death and subsequent transformation but he still can't stop thinking about that day. It had gone from bad to worse when the Sheriff found him at the hospital and he'd spent the next few days in a haze, functioning only on the most basic levels.
He remembers wandering back to the hospital, thinking vague thoughts about apologizing to the Sheriff and making things right with Matt. Neither of them were there, Matt having just left and the Sheriff dealing with all the shit going on around town, but he remembers asking the nurses which room was Caroline's and stopping just down the hall when he saw Damon going inside. He came out not long after but now, as then, Tyler can't help but wonder what the hell Damon Salvatore was doing visiting Caroline in the hospital. Tyler hears all the rumors everyone else does and maybe the Mystic Falls High gossip chain travels a bit slower when Caroline's not the one spreading the word but it's no secret that Damon was an abusive bastard.
As he finishes work on the door, pieces fall together in Tyler's mind. He'd seen Damon and Caroline together after they supposedly broke up and even used rumors that the two were still sleeping together against Matt once upon a time. That could mean that Damon had still been abusing Caroline long after she and Matt started hanging out. Even Mason had seen that Damon was a dick, warning Tyler to stay far away from both Salvatores. What if Damon was dick enough to kill?
Tyler shuts off the gas and considers this possibility. It sounds crazy, accusing someone of murder, but even he's guilty of taking a life, accidental as it may have been. And how big of a jump is it really from abusing your girlfriend to killing her?
It would explain a lot, including Caroline's strange behavior the night before.
He goes through the motions, double checking his work and making sure chains and bars are secure before packing up and heading back toward town. He can't ask Caroline about this but he thinks he may have finally found a good outlet for his animalistic rage.
It's early yet and everyone should still be in school. Sure enough, when he pulls up to the Salvatore boarding house only Damon's car is in the drive. He doesn't bother knocking. He's a werewolf, not a vampire after all, no invite required.
"Oh great," Damon mutters when Tyler marches into the first doorway he sees. He doesn't seem put off by the rage rolling off Tyler and instead moves to refill his glass at the small bar. "What did Caroline tell you?" he asks, sounding resigned.
"Nothing," Tyler says, surprised at how calm he sounds. "But it didn't take much to figure it out."
Damon spares him a glance before taking an insultingly long sip. "You're not that smart," he points out. "Caroline told you. Probably not everything, she knows I'd kill her if-"
Tyler barks out a laugh.
"Something funny, Fido?"
That gives Tyler pause. "You know," he says, unable to think of anything better to say. "How do you-"
He shakes himself. This isn't why he came here. Of course, if Damon knows about him then it's possible he knows about Caroline too - probable, in fact, considering he's the one who killed her. That thought gets Tyler back on track.
"Must've been a shock," Tyler says and begins circling around the room. Damon observes the predator-move with amusement. "You kill a girl and a few days later you hear she's walking around, right as rain."
Damon's eyes narrow but his tone remains almost friendly. "What are you getting at?"
Tyler waits the few paces it takes for them to be face to face before saying, "You killed Caroline Forbes."
For a moment Damon's whole face freezes and then he's crouching on the floor, gasping for breath as great guffaws shake his whole body. Tyler stares in shock and decides the man before him is clearly psycho.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" he demands, grabbing Damon by the collar of his shirt and hauling him to his feet. He throws him into the bar and sees humor fade quickly to rage. Tyler's only happy they're finally on the same page. "You killed her!" he yells. "And you don't even care!"
Damon's on him faster than he can blink and this time Tyler's the one flying back. Damon slams him up against the wall, holding him there by his throat. "Let's get one thing straight," he says, shaking Tyler once, "I did not kill Caroline. I would have been happy to, sure. I was going to once - twice," he amends with a frown, like he can't believe he forgot. Tyler can't either. "But her current undead state, of which I'm sure you are aware despite all my warnings to her, is not my fault. Entirely," he adds with an unapologetic shrug.
Tyler tries to swing at him and Damon deflects the punch carelessly.
"What did you think you were gonna do here?" Damon asks, almost laughing. "Were you gonna kill the bad guy? Save the girl? Did you think she'd fall into your arms? Caroline's not a helpless little damsel," he says seriously, "and you're gonna have to do a whole lot better before you even stand a chance of taking me down."
He slams him back one more time, making the paintings on the wall shudder, before dropping him carelessly.
Tyler lands in a heap and watches Damon saunter away, adjusting his shirt as he goes.
"By the way," Damon calls over his shoulder, "while you crawl, tail between your legs, out of my house, remember one thing. The only reason you're still alive is because some people who are scarier than me want to kill you themselves."
Tyler doesn't want to be around people but drinking his father's stash alone in a big, empty house is a level of pathetic he'd rather not sink to again so soon. He goes to the Grill where he finds Caroline with her friends. He takes a seat at the bar and watches her smile and laugh like everything's normal.
He desperately wants to believe everything she told him but his fight with Damon proved she wasn't being entirely truthful with him. He spends a good half hour trying to make sense of what Damon said while trying to ignore what Damon did - things that were way too similar to some of the things he'd seen Caroline do.
When Caroline excuses herself from the table he follows. He intends to catch her on her way out of the bathroom but she passes by the doors, instead heading for the back exit. She steps out into the dark alley and he hurries to catch the door before it can close all the way.
"What?" he hears her snap. "So you're too good for the Grill now?"
"We had some things to discuss and I thought it'd be better if the others weren't around," Damon says.
Tyler presses up against the wall so he can see through the crack in the door without giving away that it's open. He can see the two clearly in the light over the door. Caroline's tense and trying not to let it show while Damon is almost casual.
"Why do I not like the sound of that?" she asks.
"It's about Tyler," Damon says. "The full moon's in a couple days and I was wondering if you'd seen anything that we should be worried about."
"He doesn't know anything," Caroline says and from her tone of voice Tyler thinks it's probably about the hundredth time she's had to tell him this.
Damon steps close to her, brushes a lock of hair back over her shoulder. "And you've been keeping clear of him, like a good little vamp?"
"Of course," she says with a jerky nod.
"Good." His hand is resting on her shoulder now, kneading small circles at the back of her neck.
"Is that all?" Caroline asks regally. "Because I'm pretty sure we could have had this conversation with the others."
"Could have," Damon concedes, "but then we wouldn't get to do this after."
He pulls her to him for a kiss. Tyler watches as she brings her hands up to push him off and sees the exact moment she gives in. Her hands go instead to his shirt, lifting it half off him. Blood tinges the air as she claws at him but it's clear from the way Damon moans that this isn't an attack. He pulls her closer, moving to kiss along her throat, and his eyes meet Tyler's over her shoulder. They're dark the way Caroline's get when she's hungry but there's a smugness there he never saw in Caroline. Damon's not surprised to see him and Tyler gets the message. If Caroline Forbes is anyone's bitch, she's Damon's.