So I started writing this almost a year ago (ten months, to be exact. And the last time I updated this was the 2nd of February! Ikr), and obviously a lot of things have changed canon-wise. There are these fabulous new characters I hope don't get killed off (I mean – Vaughn. Let's talk about Vaughn. Or more specifically, let's talk about Vaughn and Rebekah. Is it a thing? I feel like it should be) and that I am dying to incorporate into this story somehow, but I guess there is a time and place for everything. And this isn't one of them. Thankfully, this story is way AU and doesn't follow canon storyline anyway.
And Jeremy getting killed off in the show. Did I call it (sort of. I mean.) or what?
(Unbeta'd, but) happy reading.
Sometimes Caroline doesn't feel like she belongs anywhere. With Stefan and Damon, maybe, but they didn't really belong together—not really—more like had the world crash down around them at basically the same time, so it was only natural for them to just fall into each other.
She definitely doesn't belong with the Forbes either, because when you belong somewhere, you want them and they want you and nothing in the world could possibly keep you apart (except her mother's heavy-duty job and her father's penchant for French men).
Tyler, with the summer sun bringing out the gold flecks in his eyes and lemonade wet on his upper lip is this first boy to ever say, "You belong with me", and with him looking so golden and so true, Caroline believes it with her whole heart. She replaces peeking into her mother's empty bedrooms at night with the feel of her back pressing against the door of Tyler's car and her father's I'm sorry I couldn't make it this weekend either, honey's with Tyler's lips against hers, melting into the warm nights.
"I love you," Tyler calls, and she catches at his words that run with the wind as they cycle down Main Street, and when he falls in a heap on the sidewalk because he's too busy making sure she can catch up with him instead, she chides, "You shouldn't have looked back, you doof."
"But then I would've lost you." Tyler touches the spot on his torn jeans where, just moments before, blood had bled through. And when he smiles at her she almost wants to cry, because summer is almost over and she wants his smile to last forever.
Looking back, it's all so small town she wants to laugh, but if small town meant having your high school sweetheart hold his hand out to you on the night of homecoming and whispering in your ear a promise to love you forever as he twirls you around an extensively decorated gym, then she'll take it.
The trees change colour.
The arms that wrap around her waist as she stumbles drunkenly up the stairs aren't familiar or welcome in the very least, but it's the same heat that Tyler always gave out.
The thought of Tyler turns her stomach and twists in her heart, and it's that thought that is enough to make her wrench out of Klaus' grip. "Don't."
Klaus doesn't even make an effort to hide his eye roll. "Don't what, keep you on your feet?"
Caroline ignores this and skitters even further away, managing to catch her hand on the banister of the spiral stairway before she fell over. "You drove my boyfriend out of town."
Klaus' jaw clenches and she could have sworn his eyes flash yellow for just a fraction of a second. She peers at him through the hazy fog of her drunkenness but then puts it down to just that—her drunkenness.
"I didn't drive him anywhere, Caroline."
Caroline doesn't know if it's the way he says her name, breaking it up into syllables that snap and sting, or if it's his hand reaching for her that makes her flinch.
Klaus' hand hangs in the little space between them, and he lowers his voice. "He left on his own accord."
"To break free of your stupid sire bond," Caroline fires back. "So in retrospect, it is all your damn fault." She says all this without a sway of her feet or a tremble to her voice, and she lifts her chin in defiance, but all it does is bring her face closer to his.
There's a moment where she can see nothing but blue, feel nothing but his breath tickling across her lips, hear nothing but the sound she makes when she swallows. Hard.
"Take me back to the Grill," she says through gritted teeth. "I can manage on my own."
Klaus runs his eyes over her red cheeks and bright eyes before saying, "Stefan told me to take you home."
Caroline wants to laugh then, because of course Stefan would leave her with a psycho-hybrid who, just months before, had snapped her boyfriend's neck and made him his weird sire boy. "This is not h—"
There's the sound of footsteps, a door opening and closing, the flick of a switch and suddenly the whole foyer is bathed with golden light.
"Nik?" Rebekah calls, blinking her sleep-addled eyes. They fall on Caroline. "What are you doing here?" Her hair falls in waves down the back of her white nightgown, and she sees the way they're standing. Not touching.
She sees the way her brother's fingers are just a hair's breadth away from Caroline's own. Sees the way Caroline's ballet flats are always two feet away from Nik's own shoes.
She puts two and two together.
"Go to bed, Nik," Rebekah says and leans over the banister. "I'll take care of her."
"I'm fine," they both snap at the same time. Rebekah sends her brother a pointed look and he flashes her an irritable one, but he leaves anyway. Rebekah expects her brother to look back at Caroline, but he doesn't.
In the silence that follows, Rebekah just props her chin in her hand and gazes down at her blonde pseudo-friend.
Caroline huffs, taking in Rebekah and her raised eyebrow and her straight lips. "What?" she growls, tired of people staring.
Rebekah shakes her head. "Well?"
"I'm fine," Caroline says again, but this time it's tired and drawn out. She bats her hair out of her eyes. "I just want to go home."
Rebekah laughs a soft one, but it echoes and bounces off the gleaming white walls. "Don't we all."
Oh, it's such an Elena Gilbert thing to do: your childhood friend loses his mind, bites your childhood sweetheart, rips your brother's heart out, goes on a mad rampage about town, and you decide to mask all that doom and gloom, all that grief, with—
Stefan's sitting on her windowsill, an stiff ivory card in one hand, the other hand resting against the side of his face in what appeared to be confusion. Caroline struggles to sit up against her pillows, her blankets bunching up at her ankles. She waits for Stefan to read the elegant wording stenciled onto the invitation aloud.
"Dear Mr Salvatore," Stefan reads, "the honour of your presence is requested at the wedding of Elena Gilbert and Matthew G. Donovan—" There is a pause as Stefan catches Caroline's eye.
The pause stretches into a silence that is much longer than necessary, and after a while Caroline shifts slightly in her bed, and Stefan goes to her without needing an invitation. He sits there, back against her headboard, and she lies beside him, playing with the remnants of her used Kleenex, rumpled from tears that have dried out.
A few hours pass, and the world passes along with it, but Caroline's room is still. They are lying next to each other, Stefan and Caroline, but they also not next to each other. Neither of them say a word. The curtain does not sway as it usually would (the window is closed, from the swell of thunder and the gush of rain, or more suitably, closed off to the rest of the world), and the doorbell does not ring.
The rest of Mystic Falls may cry from astonishment, or relief, or hope, or whatever emotion a wedding might incite (and especially one of Matt and Elenas, Oh how lovely, oh those poor darlings with no family, oh those dears who have lost so much, they are so lucky to have each other, don't you think?), but Caroline counts the tick of the clock hanging from her wall and Stefan reads the invitation again and again.
"I guess they're finally doing it," Caroline says. Her voice is a croak from days of disuse. "That part we hate. The part where the rest of their life unfolds and all you can do is watch."
Stefan props the card against Caroline's lamp. "Shit sucks."
"Doesn't this feel like old times?" Rebekah's voice goes down smooth like the 1928 Krug they're sipping (or chugging, which seemed to be the case for her two drinking companions, she notes with a dainty sniff of her nose) even though there isn't cause for celebration at all.
"Your hair's still the same, so that's something," Damon offers flatly, not bothering with the delicate champagne flutes and grabbing the bottle from her, bottom's up. "You would think you'd at least try something new after a century."
Rebekah scowls. "There hasn't exactly been time for makeovers, no thanks to you three." She makes a grab for the bottle but Stefan beats her to it, raising his eyebrows.
"I assume you're talking about the merry little chase you've got us on?" Stefan swigs from the bottle and passes it to Rebekah, who huffs a thanks. Their champagne flutes lay forgotten in a pile, along with Rebekah's heels.
The gritty feel of cement against her feet remind her that this is real, that she's celebrating her birthday swigging expensive champagne by the Seine, straight from the bottle, with the two Salvatore boys on either side of her, all animosity and snarky quips. She's spending her birthday with her hair being messed up by wind picking up the breeze from the river, with the pale skin on her arms painted golden by the lights that line the river, and if she strains her ears she swears she can hear some drunk man belting out La Vie en Rose.
It's sort of romantic, she thinks—but then her elbow brushes against Damon's and he's harping at her to keep her handsy hands to her handsy self—
and also sort of sad.
After a hundred years of chasing she'd been—not gonna lie—expecting something different, to say the least. Maybe an impressed look or two for having caught up to them (but if she's being honest with herself Nik would have 'caught up' with them twenty years ago, but he's such a drama queen and wanted a grand entrance); at the very least less hostility from Damon. She grips the bottle so hard the neck shatters – but doesn't break – and she gripes, "Your tie is stupid."
Damon frowns down at the raw silk Caroline had practically strangled him with earlier. "But they match my eyes."
Rebekah blows her laughter out of her nose and shakes her head. "It's my one thousand and one hundred and seventeenth birthday—"
("Would you like some champagne with that mouthful?" Damon asks, gesturing to the bottle.)
"—and this is how I'm spending it." Rebekah leans back and thinks of all the years Kol would mysteriously show up after a whole year of silence; how Elijah would wake her up early in the morning with his quiet smile and a gift in his hand - one year it was a nine-hundred-year-old letter in a dirty glass bottle saved from Finn's pirate days, another year it was a blue swallowtail butterfly just about to break out of its cocoon (Rebekah's still not sure how he managed to time it).
And Nik had painted her once.
Yes, her, with his brush tickling ever so when they glide up her arm and down her sides and across her face, dabs of colours here and there, her giggling mingling with the sound Nik's brush makes when he sloshes them in the dirty paint water. She ends up a butterfly, dazzling and bright, and she thinks she sees her brother smile.
That was, of course, before Tyler had bitten her and it all went to hell.
She'd sat in the back of the church and silently watched as Elena had walked down the aisle, a rose-blushed dream with flowers in her hair. She had no father to give her away so Alaric was doing the honours, looking as proud as any father would. He gives her away with eyes shining with what he would not admit to be tears, and Elena's eyes were shining as well, and you could see them because she wore no veil. Veils were used as a symbol of purity and virginity, Rebekah scoffs, and Elena, Rebekah had decided, was undeserving of one.
And then Elena and Matt were exchanging vows, and when Matt leans in to whisper an I love you before going in for the kiss – tender and sweet, just long enough for the ladies in the front pews to sigh into their delicate lace handkerchiefs, for the photographers to capture a picture that would inevitably be shown off to little Elenas and Matthews of the generations to come, for the boys (now men, Rebekah supposes) to smile to themselves and punch each other lightly on the arm, almost as if to say: Who's next?
Long enough for Rebekah to catch Stefan, Matt's lone best man, looking down at his feet for a fraction of a second before joining in on the applause. Long enough for the image to be burned into Rebekah to think: that was her kiss.
That was her kiss, and Elena Gilbert had taken it from her, framed photographs and crying grandmothers and all.
The whole church seems to glow in the late afternoon sun, and the warmth that Elena is exuding spills onto every vestige of the vast chapel, illuminating even the darkest corner in which people pretended not to notice Rebekah and Nik sitting. The kiss ends and their foreheads touch, and Rebekah, with delicate hands balled into tight fists, looks over at her brother instead. He's sitting next to her, his face a blank canvas.
"This is all your fault," Rebekah says to her gloved hands. Tyler, Jeremy, Elena getting married—Nik's fault, all Nik's fault. Last year she had been the one Caroline had lifted right at the top of the pyramid, the one Matt had run to after a glorious touchdown, the one who absolutely reveled in the glaring lights of the stadium.
Today, she's sitting at the back of a church. Too bitter to cry, too angry to do anything but to blame her brother, whose brilliant plans for the world ended in his brash desire and petty jealousy over a girl.
"Take a good look at Caroline, Nik," she says through her teeth. Caroline is holding on to Bonnie's arm, and they're both laughing, both jumping up and down in their heels as people whoop and cheer and holler all around them. "Go on, look."
At her sharp tone, Nik does. His silence serves as a question. (Why?)
"She's not looking at you." Only then could Rebekah manage a smile.
"I wasn't going to kill her, if that's what you were wondering."
It's not, she wants to say, but she's too tired. She just shakes her head instead. She doesn't want to talk, doesn't want to listen anymore—all she wants to do is go home.
And not home in Le Marais, but home home—where Tyler first kissed her on the porch, where Bonnie had accidentally burned part of her table in a baking experiment gone wrong, where Matt had watched countless games when his TV wouldn't work, where Stefan would go when he had nowhere to go to, where Damon would go when he was looking for Stefan, where Liz would come home and expect a very sleepy human Caroline (and later, an alert and worried vampire Caroline) waiting, where Rebekah had had her very first sleepover and where Klaus had his last.
She hadn't thought about home in years. Not since she'd snuck back, hours after Elena's funeral, not since she smelled the freshly laid earth and the smell of the rain that would soon fall, not since she heard the sound of heavy boots crunching against the frozen grass of 2am, not since she laid a hand on Damon's back as it shudders the way it hasn't for a long time.
"We're not supposed to be here," Damon says.
"We made a promise," he'd said.
She kneels down next to him. "And yet."
Caroline thinks she'll never get used to the sight of Damon breaking right before her, of his wet eyes determined not to meet hers. He lays his rose down and stands up, bones creaking and weary. "'Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be'," he reads quietly the engraved wording on her tombstone. "She taught high school literature, Caroline. High school literature," he nearly spits out. "I could have given her the world, but she settled. That's all she did. She settled."
"Damon," Caroline says harshly, but he cuts her off.
"She's not here anymore, Care." He shrugs her warning hand off his shoulder. "I can't hurt her anymore. She can't feel, she can't care. Because she's dead." He looks up at the night sky, at the trees surround the compound, anywhere but the matching tombstone next to Elena's.
Until the morning of Eternity, it reads. Caroline feels hot tears prick the corners of her eyes. "Damon," she says again, quieter this time.
"I'm going to find her, Caroline," he promises, eyes bearing into hers. "I'm going to find her, and then—and then…"
"And then what, Damon? Huh?" She shoves him back and he stumbles. "Make her choose you? Make her love you? You can't keep doing that. You think that would make it better, make it hurt less?" Caroline closes her eyes, thinking of Damon's feverish explanation of curses and doppelgangers from a drunken night forever and one years ago. "You're not doomed to fall for doppelgangers who don't fall for you, Damon. It's you. It's all in your head."
"It's the person, not the face," he whispers to himself the words Caroline had told him all those years ago. "But the longer it gets, the harder it is to tell the difference, Care."
"They're different people who share the same face." Caroline says flatly, eyes still shut. She doesn't mean to sound cruel, but she does. "Katherine is not Tatia and Elena is not Katherine. We've been over this a hundred times. You know this."
"Then why are you so worried?" She can barely hear his voice over the sound of the crickets singing, so she opens her eyes to see him walking away, but still facing her. "I say it's worth finding out. Once and for all."
And then he turns around.
The darkness that surrounds her is much like that night all those years ago, and she looks at Klaus. "I wasn't."
"I'm going to go ahead and assume you already knew I wouldn't. Which begs the question…" Even without looking, Caroline knows that trade smile of his is growing on his lips. "…why are you here, then?"
"Why do you ask questions you clearly already know the answers to?" Caroline heaves a sigh and looks up at the night sky. "Damon only saw her for like, a second. Stefan never saw her at all. But you knew, didn't you?" She closes her eyes. "Todd had a twin. She was stillborn. She couldn't be the doppelganger."
"Keeping tabs, love?" But then the smirk dies away. "You didn't tell the Salvatores."
"I wasn't supposed to…" Caroline trails off, and she props her chin in her hands. "We made a promise. Don't look back, but don't—"
"Don't forget. Charming. And you came because—"
"I wanted to know why you were pretending anyway. Ties suit you better than lies," Caroline says, her breath a song, but her eyes cut like she wants an answer.
Klaus just shrugs. "The Salvatores are predictable. Once they caught wind of a doppelganger surfacing – artfully spread by Finn, by the way. You know how he loves this trade – all I needed was your inquiring little mind." He makes the mistake of looking into her eyes. "I know you, Caroline. You were bound to wonder. You knew I wouldn't let darling Elena out of my radar."
"Screw you." Caroline laughs once, too tired to upset tables and throw candlesticks, things she really wanted to do. "Just… screw you, Klaus." Todd's uncanny resemblance to Elena was all Stefan and Damon needed to be convinced, but the fact that Klaus didn't already have her ensnared in his twisty little hands should have been a telltale sign.
Klaus would have never let them, led them, so close to the real doppelganger. Not in a million years. Klaus' toys were his own; they weren't for showcase or for sharing.
"You knew I had doubts."
"And it festered away in your mind, growing with each decade." Klaus inches closer. "It's a relief, isn't it? To be able to think of something other than Tyl—"
"Shut up," she snarls, looking away. "His name is poison in your mouth."
Klaus' eyes narrow and his next words cut. "And what about when Stefan says it? Damon?" He steps even closer. "If I'm not mistaken – and I rarely am, mind you – they were trying to stop him as—"
"They didn't make me promises they didn't intend on keeping," Caroline hisses, all the heaviness in her bones leaves her. They're standing eye to eye, bodies still with suppressed rage. The only giveaway was Caroline's hands in tight fists at her sides, trembling ever so slightly.
Blue eyes locked onto blue. For a while, it seems neither wanted to be the first one to look away, until—
"Caroline." It's not his hand cupping her face, but the way her name forms in his mouth, so gently (so defeated), that catches her by surprise.
"Caroline," he says again, and there's even a trace of regret there. "I think it's time you knew."
Damon goes back to the apartment. The night's taken its toll on him, a heaviness in his chest. Not even the endless amount of alcohol had been able to dull his senses enough to let his guard down—not when Caroline was off gallivanting with Klaus.
He's about to cross the street (he could have ran, vamp sped, hailed a cab even, but the sheer mechanisms of walking – one foot in front of the other, repeat repeat repeat – and the solidary sound of his footsteps is a faint comfort) when he sees her.
Standing in a pool of gold made from the streetlight, waiting for Alphonse to finish making her sandwich. Damon wonders vaguely if her tour guide's the one who told her Alphonse was the best food vendor on this side of town, but her bus isn't around. Nor is her friend.
Damon wonders vaguely if he should call Stefan, but his feet are already taking him across the street. A
Alphonse hands her her sandwhich wrapped in paper, and she thanks him, turning to walk down the street. Damon's feet pick up their pace, and in his urgency he calls out to her. "Hey—Todd!"
When the girl looks at him alarmed, Damon realizes too late that he's not supposed to know her name.
"Stefan," Rebekah sighs, and dances and twirls right into his arm. He's humming a song under his breath and she's laughing drunkenly, breathlessly, into his ear. She hangs onto him, almost for dear life, and he holds on to her so gently you might think she was made of glass, this thousand year old vampire.
"Stefan," she says again, her chin resting on his shoulder. The moon casts her in a silver glow and she looks ethereal.
He hums a response, his lips almost forming a smile as they dance.
"Do you ever regret it?" Their footsteps make echoed sounds against the rooftop. "Not telling her?"
"Telling who, Rebekah?"
"Caroline," Rebekah whispers, eyes screwed shut. Stefan stiffens and stills, but his arms still cradle her body against his. "Nik's been carrying your little secret around for a hundred years. He's not going to te—"
"He owes me enough not to," Stefan says. His face is a stone.
Rebekah tuts, snuggling her face further into his neck. "You're his friend. Deny it all you want, deny him all you want, but Nik doesn't forget easily."
None of us do, Stefan wants to say, but doesn't. He waits for Rebekah to make her point, as she always does.
"It pains him, you know." Rebekah is looking up at him, reproachful now. They're not swaying anymore, just standing there, on the rooftop of Rebekah's rented hotel, just holding each other. "Not that I care, since he probably deserves it, but he feels." Her fingers dig into his shoulder and she looks worried suddenly. "Sometimes I'm scared he feels too much."
"Rebekah—" Stefan starts, but she shushes him. Her finger is pressed against his lips and she leans in close.
"He told me to distract you," Rebekah says. "And even if he didn't say it, I know he's sorry."
The words almost don't come. "Sorry for… what?"
Rebekah steps out of his hold, looking apologetic. "He's telling her. Right now."
There's no time for a response as his mind seizes and his feet stumble as he takes one step back, two steps, and then breaks out into a run.
Rebekah stays where she is. The moon still shines down on her.
Stefan is pacing.
Shoulders hunched, eyes down, hands behind his back. Maybe his mind is still a frenzy from his brush with Tyler (with death). He moves restlessly, one corner to another. Never stopping.
Like a never-ending pendulum, Klaus thinks, swirling his drink lazily in his crystal glass.
Stefan is running.
The night rushes up to wrap him in the silence of the stars above him and the street stretch ahead of him. Buildings cease to exist and the sky melts into the Seine as he runs, tie streaming behind him.
He never stops.
The ride back is silent.
The space between Klaus and Caroline is never-ending.
Caroline sinks back into the leather seats, counting the blocks left until she spots her own apartment building. Klaus hadn't said a word since the restaurant; just held out his hand and said Come. She'd followed, but kept her hand at her side.
The car stops. Klaus looks at her.
"Klaus." Stefan is hunched down in his seat, hands pressed flat together. With his eyes closed, he could be praying, but his eyes are trained on his.
Klaus shifts in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable. He wants to open the window to let some of the tense air out, but it's raining outside – hard – and his painting haven't quite dried yet.
Stefan opens his mouth and the truth spills out, and Klaus remains in his seat unmoving, not even to take a sip of his drink. His ice melts down into his scotch, and at the end of it, he frowns. "This isn't your conventional favour."
"It has to be done. At this rate, it's the only choice we have left. And in case you haven't noticed," Stefan adds dryly, absentmindedly rubbing at a patch of dried blood he hadn't gotten off his neck yet, "this isn't your conventional problem."
Caroline's standing in the middle of her living room, finally showing signs of distress. Her eyes are wide and she can taste blood where her teeth had bitten down into her lower lip. She wants to pace – it works for Stefan – but her feet are rooted to the floor.
"You're lying," she says, hiding her shaking hands in the folds of her dress. Her voice doesn't tremble, and she's glad for that. "Why should I even believ—you're a killer and a liar."
Klaus stands by the window, hands in his pockets. He just watches her.
"Don't look at me like that," Caroline snaps. "Pity isn't in your vocabulary."
"It was," Klaus says quietly, "when Stefan asked me to—"
"Just shut up!" Caroline cups her hands over her ears, and if the situation had called for it Klaus would have rolled his eyes at her childishness. But it did not, so he did not. "Shut up shut up shut up."
Shut up, she thinks savagely, shut up, don't say anything, you're lying, no, be quiet, shut up. She bends down, arms wrapping around her torso. It's getting harder to breathe, but since she doesn't need to she stops altogether. Her cheeks are wet.
Klaus moves towards her, a hand outstretched. "Caroline, I—"
The door bursts open, and Stefan stands in the doorway, looking worn and windswept. His eyes dart from Caroline, to Klaus, and to Caroline again.
"Care," is all he says and Caroline straightens up. She tries to smile; fails spectacularly.
"Tell me it isn't true, Stefan," she says, still in her spot in the middle of the living room, surrounded by the things they'd collected, things they kept over the years. The frayed throwpillows from Liz's room, Damon's ornate knick knacks, Stefan's journals. Paintings and windchimes and first-edition books. Graduation caps and doctorates. The Jar. Things that could, by all means, transform this once bare room into a home, but doesn't quite succeed.
Stefan takes a deep breath, plans on telling her exactly what to hear, but then he says, "It's true."
The breath goes out of him, his shoulders drooping ever so slightly, even as Caroline builds herself up taller. "N-no. No way. Come on, Stefan." She looks at him, an urging look in her eyes. "Come on," she finishes, her voice of that girl they'd left behind in Virginia so long ago.
"Come on," Klaus says as well, but his voice scratches like silk in the darkness of the room.
"I asked…" Stefan stops. The way Caroline is looking at him, so earnest and so blue, makes him break. He can't look away.
Caroline's gaze begins to waver. "Stefan?" she asks hoarsely.
Stefan takes another breath that fills him all the way up, and lets the hundred-year-old cat out of the bag. "I asked Klaus to kill Tyler."
well hi guys (and dj, who i wrote this for, slaving away month after month, because oh how i love her so). what did you think? personally it's not my favourite chapter, but i'd love to hear your thoughts. please leave a review if you have the time! :-)