a/n: i accidentally uploaded the exported version of 'the curve of you' over this fic a couple days ago. all fixed now, though! that's what i get for having so many fic titles that start with 'the'.
Here's what happens:
Stefan pulls his hand back with a sick, wet noise, and Caroline thinks of Tyler's voice ragged against her cheek saying, "I love you," right before he'd jumped in the way to protect her dad. Who had been stupid enough to try and stake Stefan because Stefan is fucking crazy and Elena is sobbing behind her and Damon is wrestling Stefan up against the bridge railing even as Tyler's body crumples onto the pavement and Caroline—
Caroline takes a deep breath that makes her bones shake, flips that switch Damon sometimes tells her doesn't exist, and moves.
She doesn't kill Stefan. She can't, because Elena still loves him (because Elena is still human and so stupid sometimes), because he's Damon's brother and Damon's got enough baggage as is without his entire family being dead, and maybe because he's the boy she ate bunnies with who taught her control.
She does, however, shove three branches into him and break his jaw. Twice.
When she finally darts away and Stefan runs off, it's Elena who tucks her fingers into the back of her shirt, warm and shaking. "C'mon, Care. Let's go home."
She helps her dad carry Tyler's body back to the Lockwood house, covered in blood. His mouth is a slash of red, but she kisses him anyway, just one more time, as they set him down in the foyer.
Carol screams and cries so hard she collapses. Her dad leaves to phone someone, probably her mom, and Elena and Damon stand outside, speaking in quiet, rushed tones.
Caroline smooths her fingers over Tyler's cheekbones until her fingers cramp, the bracelet he gave her sliding down her wrist to press against the fleshy part of her palm, and sobs until she thinks her chest is going to cave inward.
She remembers this:
"I've changed every day for the past two weeks." Tyler's hand is sliding up her back carefully, under her shirt, blazing hot. "It doesn't hurt as much."
"Well," she giggles and kisses the side of his neck, "I guess you deserve a reward then, right?"
He presses his mouth to her throat, and for a minute, she tenses. Hates herself for it. His fingers spread against her spine and he says, "I'm going to make it up to you. I promise, Caroline."
"I know," she says, even as he whispers I'm sorry into her skin over and over, "I know, I know."
The coffin is sitting in the middle of the cellar at the boarding house. They stand in a circle around it and stare.
Finally, Caroline goes, "Tyler's dead because of this stupid thing."
Matt puts his arm around her and squeezes. Across from her, Damon avoids her eyes. She thinks he thinks she blames him, because Stefan's his brother, because he hadn't moved fast enough. She doesn't.
Alaric says, "I think we can all agree Stefan's crossed a line here."
"Crossed?" Caroline lifts an eyebrow, remembers Tyler telling her how much he loved it when she did that, and stops. "More like vaulted over it and left it thirty miles back."
She isn't shaking. She isn't shaking. She isn't shaking.
Upstairs, she can hear Stefan stalking through the living room, knocking over furniture and glasses. She wonders just what Damon and Elena said to him.
Elena takes her hand in both of hers, so soft and warm and pliable next to her. "I agree with Caroline," she says firmly. "Things are different now."
Damon seems annoyed, or maybe frustrated. "So, what?" he snaps, pacing. "We just give Klaus his coffin like, oh, I know I helped my psycho of a brother hide it but you can have it back now. Don't kill me, please?" He snorts. "Yeah, that's going to go over so well."
"Stefan's the one who wants this thing," Caroline says quietly. "Let him figure out what to do with it."
"The problem is," Alaric says patiently, "is that we still have Klaus to deal with, regardless of Stefan."
"No," Elena murmurs, "the only reason Klaus came back is because Stefan took his family. This whole thing has been a cycle of revenge since the day of the sacrifice."
Elena looks so hollow and empty and exhausted that it breaks Caroline's heart a hundred times over. She steps away from Matt and curves into her, because she knows she needs it.
"I'm out," Caroline says after a beat. "I'm done with this whole Original crap. I've been done with it since Stefan came back crazy." She stares Damon down from across the room, can hear the slight hitch in Alaric's breathing. "I'm going to live forever— I don't want to remember the beginning of it like this."
Everyone is quiet for a long beat. Then, sniffling into her shoulder, Elena whimpers, "I'm out, too."
And like that, everyone decides to move on.
"Hey." Matt's fingers catch her elbow in the hallway, on her way to class. She pauses, stares at his hand until it falls away. "Let's blow this joint and hit up The Grille."
She cocks an eyebrow. "Why?"
"Because you shouldn't be here," he mutters, rubbing his face, "not right now." And then, after a pause and meeting her eyes, "Me neither."
"Kay." She gestures to her bag. "Let me put my stuff away, though."
She doesn't know why she's at school, really. Not when it's only been a week. Not when everyone keeps treating her like she's made of glass. Not when she can barely look at Elena who she knows, deep down, probably still loves Stefan.
"You can just throw it in my truck," Matt goes, and takes her hand without hesitating. He's warm, she notes. Not as warm as Tyler was— and she hates that she's using past tense already, wasn't she still mourning, she still cares goddammit— but still.
She drops his hand a few seconds later, self-loathing bubbling in her chest.
"He's not going to hate you for hanging out with me, you know." What is he, a mind reader? They step out into the parking lot and Matt fumbles for a minute. "I think," inhales here, "I think he'd get it, if we hung out. I think he'd know that we needed each other."
"Okay," she says.
His hand doesn't quite fit like it used to.
Her and Elena talk. It's potentially weird.
"Do you still love him?"
Elena's curled up on Caroline's bed, where she's been for the past week, hair in a sloppy ponytail, eyes red. She blinks once, slowly. "Sort of."
Caroline exhales hard from the edge of the bed. "Elena. Seriously? Seriously?"
"A part of me is always going to love him, Care." She shrugs, carefully indifferent, but Caroline knows her better than that. Knows that she wants to just fold in on herself and stop moving, like she used to when they were kids. "But I've accepted that we can't save him."
Caroline is quiet for a long time, fingers threading together in her lap. Elena leans against her gently, chin hooking over her shoulder. "What the hell are we going to do?"
Elena's smile is sad and delicate and empty, like it'd been after the accident. Caroline wonders if this is what dying slowly looks like. If this is what she'd looked like under that pillow in the hospital room months before. "Let go."
Caroline tilts her head to stare down the slope of Elena's nose. Maybe they aren't dying, she muses. Maybe they're just growing up.
When she thinks of Stefan, she tries to gloss over the part where he became batshit fucking insane oh my god and remembers this:
"You're making your serious vampire face. Again."
"Actually," he winks up at her, arms behind his head, face tipped to the sun, "I'm just thinking about how it's Tuesday."
"Haaaa," she deadpans, and flops down next to him, brushing off her jeans. "I think I just ate Bambi's mom. What is my life?"
He snorts lightly and slants his eyes towards her. "You missed a spot." And then he reaches up and brushes his thumb against the corner of her mouth, rubbing gently. "Who would've thought that the neurotic Caroline Forbes could be such a sloppy eater?"
"Shush, you," she slaps his hand away, grinning. It's so easy, with him. "I can't be perfect all the time you know."
"Could have fooled me," he shoots back, laughing now, and for a minute, she wonders what it would have been like if he'd just said yes to her at that bush party. If he'd just said yes.
Three weeks after Tyler's funeral, she wakes up, and there is someone sitting on her bed and it all feels so familiar she automatically touches the bracelet on her other wrist. The one she doesn't think about.
"I heard about Tyler," Klaus says, with that accent and those eyes. "My apologies."
She can't help it; she snorts. "Are you this slow on the uptake with all your hybrids? Because if so, you're gonna have a serious problem with Stefan the Psychopath running around."
His jaw clenches. She thinks maybe she wants to make him angry. Maybe she wants him to reach into her like Stefan did to Tyler and pull her heart out. Maybe she wants to feel what he did. Maybe she just wants to feel. "I had business to attend to, unfortunately." He looks down at her. "Otherwise, Tyler would not be the one you'd be mourning presently."
"Stop saying his name," she says, automatic, and rolls over. "Why are you even here?"
She thinks maybe his fingers brush her arm, but she isn't sure and she doesn't know if she wants to be. "I'm going to kill Stefan."
She shoots him a disbelieving look over her shoulder. "Haven't you been trying to do that for like, months? How is this news?"
"It's not." Klaus shrugs. "I just need to be sure that when I do, you and your little band of misfits aren't going to try and stop me."
Caroline pauses. He's looking at her intently, studying her, waiting to see if she's going to lie or give something away. She thinks about after she'd been tortured the first time, and how Stefan had been there. She thinks about when she'd been turned, and how Stefan had been there.
She thinks about Tyler crumpling and loving her and dying, and how Stefan had been there. "That ship has definitely set sail."
This time, he does touch her, fingertips feather light on her skin and so hot, so very hot, hotter than Tyler ever was. Her teeth dig into her tongue. "Oh, I know that sweetheart. You did break his jaw twice."
She tenses, and turns back to him slowly. He smirks down at her. "How did you—?"
"Same way I found out what happened, love." She wants to know what he means, but then he leans in a little closer and maybe her breath hitches, just enough. "I need you to do me a favour though."
Oh hell, she thinks. Looks at him dryly. "And that is?"
His fingers curve around her arm with the barest hint of pressure. "Stop moping about like a bloody corpse. Have you forgotten what I told you, Caroline?" She doesn't shiver when he says her name. She doesn't. She hopes.
"No," she says quietly, and has the strangest urge to go I'll do better, I promise but doesn't. Thank God.
"Good girl," he murmurs, with that damn voice, and she silently curses herself for still being so eighteen because he was evil for God sake's. He lets go of her. "I'll be seeing you, then."
That makes her sit up. "What?"
But he's gone.
Since Tyler died, she's gone to the boarding house every Friday and gotten absolutely drunk off her face with Damon. Stefan is in hiding somewhere, but he drops in sometimes to basically ruin Elena and Damon, then takes off again. Caroline hasn't seen him since that night on the bridge.
When she gets there, Elena and Damon are both already ridiculously trashed. Or at least Elena is, while Damon fills another tumbler with scotch and watches her flail around with a mix of amusement and affection.
I miss that look, Caroline thinks, remembering the way Tyler had eyed her whenever she'd started to babble or freak out. She knocks twice on the door frame and grins when Elena swings towards her so hard, she stumbles. "Am I interrupting anything?"
"Um," Elena says intelligently, and then slumps onto the couch. Damon snickers into his glass and for once, Caroline realizes, everything isn't all doom and gloom and death and doppelgangers and psychotic ex-boyfriends. Elena pats the cushion next to her. "Come sit!"
Caroline takes the drink Damon hands her and takes a very long, much needed sip. Elena is watching her strangely. "What?"
"You're a regular champ at that," she chirps, and leans on Caroline's arm, dark hair tangling between them. Caroline quirks an eyebrow at Damon, who shrugs and does his crazy eye thing into his drink. She wants to say, is that how you practice for Elena? but doesn't. Elena pokes her thigh. "Do you drink with Damon a lot?"
"Jealous?" Caroline teases, as Elena's gaze flickers between her bracelets. She should probably take one off. She just doesn't know which one. "I know you totally want me all to yourself, Elena, but—"
"Oh God," Elena whines, "you sound just like him."
Damon makes an indignant noise. "There can only be one of me!"
"Small mercies," Elena says flatly, but does that thing where she scrunches her nose when she's kidding and Damon pretends to look insanely offended and Caroline just laughs.
When she gets the invitation to another one of Klaus' damn balls, she almost throws it out. Mostly because of how the last one went.
(his hand against her back and Tyler staring holes into the side of her head and she'd only been wearing one bracelet, then, and it hadn't been the right one, and Klaus had been dangerously close to her before that, whispering in her ear and this— this wasn't happening, she wasn't this girl)
"Well it's not like he's going to try and kill any of us," Elena says, strangely at ease with her own invitation. "He knows we don't have anything to do with Stefan anymore."
Caroline stares at her blankly. "I'm sorry, but did you, like, forget the part where he murdered your aunt and tried to kill Jeremy?"
Because seriously. What the hell is this, the Twilight Zone?
Elena frowns slightly. "I didn't forget; I'll never forget. I'm not saying I want to bask in his presence or anything. But trying to fight him just leads to people dying, and I'm so sick of people dying, Caroline."
"Oh," Caroline says. "Well, see, that totally makes more sense." She squeezes Elena's hand just before she starts rifling through her closet and, in a tiny voice hidden among stretchy skirts, adds, "I'm sick of it, too."
"Would you care to dance, Caroline?"
She hates the way he says her name. Hates even more that she takes his hand without thinking much about it.
It's different, this time, dancing with him, mostly because Tyler isn't glaring from the sidelines and Elena and Damon aren't shooting her worried looks every time he spins her, and Stefan isn't sneering and trying to get Elena alone somewhere or whatever it was he'd been trying to do that night.
It's different. Maybe nicer. Maybe not.
"You're still wearing your bracelet." His eyes flick to her wrist, then to her mouth. She chews the inside of her cheek. "Trying to make a point, love?"
"Hell no," she snorts, then wonders if maybe she is. She doesn't complain when he comes into her room at awful hours, barely blinks when she finds him sitting on her couch. Absently, she wonders if this is what insanity feels like. "It just goes with everything. That's all."
Klaus smirks at her, knowing. "Is it really?"
"Oh, shut up," she huffs, and slides her palm over his shoulder quickly. His hand dips lower on her back, knuckles grazing the length of her spine. She grits her teeth. "What do you even want from me?"
The look he gives her almost makes her faint, it's so intense. "Nothing but the pleasure of your company," he murmurs, his fingers pressing against her hip to bring her closer. "You can give me that, can't you?"
She should say no. She should say he ruined Tyler. She should blame him for that night on the bridge, even if knows she can't. She shouldn't trust him. She shouldn't want his fingers to stay on her like this forever.
"Yeah," she whispers quietly, so Damon doesn't hear. "Yeah, I can do that."
(When it's over, and Elena says her feet are killing her, and Damon offers to carry her home, Caroline steps away to let them have their moment, and someone brushes her back, fingers against her spine urging her away.
Klaus pulls her into the shadow of the stairs and kisses the inside of her wrist, mouth opening against cold, bare skin. His eyes are dark and wild and wanting.)
There's someone on her front step when she gets home.
"What," she hisses, breath stuttering in her chest, blood rushing up to her eyes, "the fuck are you doing here?"
Stefan stands up slowly, almost hesitant, and keeps his hands in his pockets. "Caroline."
"Go away, Stefan." She won't cry in front of him. Not anymore. "Just, leave."
She pushes him so hard, he breaks the screen door. "Shut up!" Dammit, she is crying. "Nothing you say is going to bring Tyler back," she hiccups. "So just don't."
"I'm sorry," he says lamely, and she punches him this time, because he doesn't mean it. He winces, then catches her wrist when she goes to do it again. "I'm leaving town."
"Oh, how courageous," she snarls, trying to shake him off. He doesn't let go. "Does Elena know?"
His lips curl, unkindly. "Elena has Damon, now."
"Shut up," she repeats, pushing her palm against his shoulder and shoving him back against the door. "You don't get to do this to her again, you know? She loves you. She's always going to love you."
"Oh," he snarls, and pushes back this time, his fingers spreading along her ribs and pressing. "Just like you were always going to be my friend, right?"
Caroline doesn't falter, not when she's been through so much already. She slams her elbow into his wrist and twists his other arm until the bones grate. "You don't get to use that against me," she breathes, right up against him, "you killed Tyler and you were going for my dad."
Stefan stares down at her, and she memorizes the sharp line of his cheekbones for what will be, she knows, the last time. "You're different. Tougher."
"I told you I wasn't girly little Caroline anymore," she says quietly, and lessens the pressure on his hand. His touches the dip of her waist briefly, lightly, scared, and she steps away. "You're going to be running forever, you know that right?"
"I'll have a good teacher," is all he says, and she knows somewhere nearby, Katherine is probably watching all of this with faint, sadistic amusement. He slouches down and passes her, lips thin. She stares at her broken door until he calls back, "be better than I was, Caroline. Be better than the rest of us."
When she whips around, he's gone.
"Stefan took the coffin."
Caroline looks up from her coffee, brows knitted together. Matt, dish towel in hand, pretends to wipe down her table. "What?"
He tilts his head towards the front door. "Elena just told me. He's gone."
Caroline knows this already, but doesn't say anything. Instead, she turns and waves Elena over. She looks sad, but resigned. Matt says, "I'm on break in five minutes," and heads for the bar.
Elena slumps onto the table, eyelashes dark against her cheeks. She looks paler, Caroline notes. "Hey, Care."
"Matt says he left again." Caroline doesn't know when she got to be this good of a liar.
"He always does," Elena murmurs, eighteen and so very tired. Caroline threads their fingers together; Elena opens her eyes. "He's not coming back this time, is he?"
Caroline tries to pretend she's confused, but something in Elena's face and voice make her pause. Re-evaluate. Then, "no, he's not."
Elena gives her a watery smile. "I'm glad he had a friend like you," she finally says, straightening, the line of her shoulders just shy of even. "I'm glad Ihave a friend like you, Caroline."
"I'm not that big of a deal," she says flippantly, all teeth and a girlish laugh. "I was just there."
"That's all you needed to be." There's finality in Elena's tone, the way she says it, like everyone should have been like that. Like her. "I know you feel like we don't need you, sometimes, or like I pick Bonnie over you, but you're wrong." Small hands with long fingers and skinny wrists cover hers. Elena's expression is open, honest. "I'm always going to need you. Always."
Caroline nods. Elena pulls away quietly, stares at her lap. When Matt starts back towards their table, that's when she figures it out.
She waits until their eyes catch to say, "I'm not going anywhere, I promise."
The smile Elena gives her this time is wide and warm and alive.
Klaus laying on her bed, long limbs stretched out comfortably, probably shouldn't make her want to climb on top of him. Probably.
Caroline drops her bag and kicks the door shut before crossing her arms. "Can I help you?"
"Come to Paris with me," he says simply, still examining her jewellery box. The bracelet he gave her lays against her forearm, shining. "You can't possibly want to stay in this one pony town forever."
She coughs. "Um, okay, for one, why would I go anywhere with you of all people, and two, why the hell would anyone want to stay in Mystic Falls. I mean, seriously." He slides over so she can lay down, and she thinks, I'm thigh to thigh with a heartless killer and he wants to take me to France. What is my life?
"You're still wearing your bracelet," he murmurs, like it's some great metaphor for something, but it's not. And is he talking into her hair? What the hell. "I think you're in denial, Caroline."
"Stop saying my name like that," she grumbles, kicking out her legs. Tips her head to the side so she can look at him. "It's weird."
His eyebrows rise. "And just how am I saying it?"
"Like you want to, I don't know, eat me or something."
The silence is brief, then, "well, I have considered that, I won't lie."
"That definitely makes the list of top ten things you don't want to hear while laying in bed with someone." She rubs a palm over her face before realizing she's smudging her makeup. "Why do you want me to go to Paris with you?"
He sets her jewellery box down on her dresser and rolls onto his side easily. She's kind of jealous of how graceful he is. She tries not to stare at the line of his collarbone, where the top of his shirt gapes. "Remember what I said about the pleasure of your company?"
Caroline remembers how hot his mouth had been, that's what she remembers. She slips her fingers over her wrist without realizing it. Klaus smirks, catches her hand, traces the veins with his finger. She inhales. "Yeah. So?"
His palm drags up her arm. "So I want you to come with me because I actually enjoy being around you, sweetheart. Is that so hard to imagine?"
"Yes," she mumbles, but doesn't move away. "I can't."
He fiddles with her bracelet, oddly content. "Why?"
"I told Elena I wouldn't leave her."
He eyes her, considering. "So you'll stay in this horrible thing of a town until what? She says otherwise?"
"Until she dies," Caroline says softly. "Elena's never wanted to be a vampire."
His lips definitely brush her hair, then. "Fine," he huffs, breath puffing against her forehead. "But I'm holding you to that."
She scowls. "Holding me to what?"
Abruptly, he rolls on top of her, grin a little feral. Caroline can't find it in her to be scared. "When the doppelganger dies," he purrs, and leans down to kiss the hollow of her throat, all sharp flicks of his tongue, "you'll come with me."
"Um," she stares at her ceiling. Klaus' teeth graze that spot where her neck meets her shoulder and she has to breathe through her nose so she doesn't moan. "Okay. Sure. Assuming you don't forget about me 'cause you're like, a billion years old and have more important things to do."
He leans up and kisses the corner of her mouth hotly. "Caroline," he growls, "I believe it would be physically impossible for me to ever forget about you, even if I tried."
She can't help it; she giggles. "I am kind of totally awesome, I guess."
His face softens at the edges. "You're insufferable."
"You're a sociopath," she retorts, and thinks about kissing him. Stares at his mouth. Wonders if Tyler will ever forgive her for this.
Klaus palms her hip, entirely focused on her lips. Caroline undoes one more button on his shirt because she can't help herself. He says, "you're going to be the death of me."
She whines when his fingers trace each of her ribs, and goes, "oh, God."
"Call me Klaus," he snarks, and she actually thinks about throwing him off of her right before he tips his head and presses his mouth against hers, all tongue and teeth and need.
Elena dies just after her eighty-sixth birthday.
Caroline muscles him into taking her to Italy, instead.