You're in here for a routine session, they say. Just making sure you're dealing with everything fine.

People are dying (a barista, a waitress, an old lady named Marilyn or Margaret or something and three students whose memorial is on Tuesday, funded by the town council and organised by Caroline herself).

Animal attacks or something of the like, they're told. Everybody is safe and they shouldn't panic but every student gets a slip with a time on it, so their fifteen minute session with the therapist in the front office (the old one with the frizzy hair and nobody likes who only thirteen people have ever seen before these attacks, including Caroline herself) is sure to only go for fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes to spill your secrets and bear your soul and you can't go back to class unless you get your slip signed.

Fifteen minutes too long.

Five minutes in and she's smiling beautifully, as she always does because what's the point in smiling at all if it's not beautiful? He doesn't believe her though and she remembers why she hates him, although really it's not like she could forget. Seven months solid of therapy for her daddy leaving and her mummy leaving too, in her own way. Seven months gone because her parents made her crazy and isn't that a cliché?

There's one in every town, she'd bet.

She hates him because he might work in a small town high school but he has his degrees and he has a habit of seeing way too much in people's faces, too much of things he shouldn't, and she really just doesn't trust him.

(she hates him because he says she'll never be cured, it's called Psychotic Depression Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and "Are you still taking your pills, Caroline?" disorder and those things can never be cured only managed.)

She stops smiling because his click, click, clicky pen is annoying her now as much as it did three years ago and his papers look out of order and she hasn't taken her pills today even though she should and the papers are fucking bugging her.

Most of the things I do make me hate myself, she says.

"Well then why do you do them?"

"Because I feel number one for a little while." She says, smiling slightly at the completely sober look on the school appointed therapist's face.

"Is it worth it?" The grown-up man in the grown-up suit looks at her, click, click, clicky pen not clicking for once as he focuses his whole attention on her. "Think about it for a moment here, Caroline. Is feeling like you're in first place for a little while worth feeling like shit for a lot longer?"

And she thinks, like the good doctor told her to.

She's student body president. She has three scholarship envelopes (the big ones, the ones everybody knows are filled with good news) waiting for her at home. She has perfect hair and perfect clothes and a perfect smile thanks to three years of braces and whitening strips. She's pretty, everybody knows it. Caroline Forbes is the pretty one, they say. Not the smart one or the one people want to love. Not Elena. Not Bonnie. Not Chastity Hall from second period math. She's nothing but a pretty face and an empty head seventy-five percent of the time, isn't she? And that other twenty five percent . . . well she actually doesn't really know what she is during that time.

She's still figuring it out.

"Yes," She throws a toothy smile his way, flips her golden, perfectly curled, perfectly glossy hair over her shoulder. "It's worth it."

No, she thinks. It's really not.

And then times up and he signs her slip and that's that.

She's Caroline Forbes and she's the pretty one and she hates it but she'll take it if it means she's not the one who'll have to see a therapist for another seven months.


Prozac, Effexor, Zoloft, Lexapro.

Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe.

She stops taking her Prozac because it made her feel things she didn't want to feel but three days later and she still feels them,

(something's watching her. something with teeth and claws and she hears howling late at night but nobody else seems to, do they? so the pills aren't even working)

so she stops taking the rest. She keeps buying them though and her mother doesn't notice a thing, nor Elena or Bonnie and she isn't really sleeping anymore but it's fine, she says, my mum's just super busy and I never realised how much housework there is and really, Bonnie? I so don't look worn-out, not cool of you to say that, at all and ohmygosh did you see that new boy, Stefan? We're getting married in June.

Seroquel puts her right to sleep but she's not supposed to take it until she's at home and far away from driving and machinery and all those other things that have the potential to harm but it's lunchtime and she's hungry and Seroquel makes her not so hungry and if she's going to be Miss Mystic Falls she needs to be skinnier than Elena who, oh wow, look, is still going to enter even though the reason she'd entered in the first place is no longer a factor.

And apparently she really is tired, because she said that aloud and everybody is looking at her in shock,

(even though Elena never wanted to run in the first place.

even though Caroline would do anything to win).

"- I'm so, so, so sorry Elena! You know I didn't mean that!"

Only she did because frankly Elena's parents died and she finds herself envious because Elena's parents never wanted to leave and Caroline's never wanted her.

And it's all very, very screwed up but Elena says she forgives her and the blonde plays along because they're not really friends, are they? Not really.

All of that flies out of her mind later that day when she's home alone again and seriously feeling like her mother should maybe just move her bed into the Police Station because if she's never here, Caroline should have the master bedroom and why would she even want to sleep there anyway, especially when her daddy and her used to fuc-

Oh.

Well, now it makes a little bit more sense.

Still.

She's in her Miss Mystic Falls dress and she's walking up and down the stairs, over and over and over and trying so hard not to stop smiling. Only, there's something out of place and she's not taking her medicine so she doesn't know if there really is something out of place or if it's in her mind but she's going to have trouble breathing soon if she doesn't find it and smiling while struggling not to hyperventilate is hard, this she knows.

So she stops and looks and the pictures are all straight and the carpet is perfect because she just vacuumed and everything looks fucking fine so why does she feel like something is wrong?

She's going crazy, she thinks. It's finally happened.


It's Thursday and it's dragging on and on and she might be going through some sort of withdrawals because she can't stop shaking. Elena snagged the new boy Stefan and Caroline watched the wedding she'd planned between the two of them go up in smoke.

Literally.

But again, it seems only she can see it so she doesn't say anything. She doesn't need anybody telling her that seeing things isn't exactly healthy.

It's Thursday and Elena is with Stefan and Bonnie is whocareswhere and Caroline is trying to figure out a way to smuggle a stack of pills out of her locker and into her car so she could take them home with her tonight because she has a funny feeling if she leaves them any longer she'll be caught out and who really needs an absent mother to finally take notice when she's only taking notice of her failings?

Her failing being a daughter and her failing being sane and normal and happy.

Only, there's a new boy in town. A new New Boy and his name is Niklaus ("Niklaus is the name my father gave me, call me Klaus." He says, smirking at the class as he stands next to the bored-looking History teacher) Mikaelson and she might be in love because he's English and that accent and oh my god, Elena!

Salvatore, who?

He's in her AP English class and her AP Biology and by the end of the week she realises he's in her AP everything. He's English and hot and apparently smart and she really thinks this is the one.

Only he looks at her and she feels things.

Feels things in her mind, crawling, and feels things on her body, writhing.

And for once it's not extremely terrifying because did she mention he's hot? And smart? And that accent? And if it makes her throw up a lot in the bathroom, all the better, right? Because she's still got a pageant to win.

So she tells herself he'll be hers like Stefan won't ever be because this one is a lot better and she's pretty sure she'd actually be regretting her decision if she was Elena right now.

(and he won't ever find out about the things that go on in her mind because that would ruin it. Pretty Caroline doesn't need to be insane Caroline too).

"Did you need any help, love?" He asks, leaning casually against the locker next to hers. And it's not the first time he's asked that this week and she thinks it won't be the last because he offers his help a lot like he watches her a lot, watches her writing notes and speaking with Elena and subtly flirting with Stefan because Elena might have him but that doesn't mean it isn't fun to try and take him away.

He watches her and she pretends she doesn't notice and she imagines it's their thing, but thinks maybe it's not just her thinking it when she catches him looking again and again and once he even pulls out a sketch pad in the middle of class to draw her and that sort of thing makes a hell of a difference to her.

If it's real she might finally be managing.

She slams the door shut and beams up at him, "I'm fine, Nik. Just getting my math book." She waves the book in her hand slightly to make her point, disregarding the fact they don't have math on Thursdays and cherishing the fact that his eyes didn't go cold like they do when anybody else tries to call him that. He's the one who told her to in the first place after all and she'll take what she can get like she always does.

Caroline Forbes, the girl who calls Niklaus Mikaelson 'Nik' and isn't killed for it.

It has a lovely ring to it, doesn't it?

Besides, it makes her feel first place.

And when she doesn't remember anything after looking into his eyes she's not really worried because that's actually kind of normal for her. She only hopes she didn't say anything embarrassing during her latest blackout because he seems nice and she doesn't want to screw it up.

(and when the pills turn up in her room later that day she thinks she must have brought them home without realising.

it must have been easier than she thought).


When she wins Miss Mystic Falls she's ecstatic. Absolutely ecstatic because this is what should have happened. Elena didn't even want it and so Caroline deserves it.

At least that's what she tells herself.

Really, she thinks. It doesn't matter if the other girl would have gotten it if only her parents hadn't driven themselves off a bridge. Because frankly, her parents did and now Elena is like, not-Elena and nobody really knows how much Caroline loves it like that (her friend is much less popular now she's all mopey and sad all the time, now all the condolence hugs and such are over with) and if that makes Caroline a bitch well then, it just does.

Maybe people die for a reason.

And when she asks Nik to the girls-choice dance he accepts straight away, even going so far as to saying he was hoping she'd ask because who else would he go with, love? and it's all going great for her.

Miss Mystic Falls and Nik all in the same week and she really doesn't know which is better.

And while a part of her honestly wanted to ask Stefan for no other reason than maybe her winning streak could continue, her not really friend and her truly-madly-deeply boyfriend are already joined at the hip and why shouldn't her and Nik be able to have that too?

She wants him.

Only him and all of him and if he lets her have him then she's not going to complain, like ever, because have you seen him?

(because he hasn't looked at Elena more than three times since he's been here, and when he does its only ever in private amusement mixed with maybe a hint of malevolence and really that's fine with her. she can build a relationship on the shared aggravation they both seem to have of this one particular girl, easy as fucking pie. thank god they actually do have more than that though, and hating Elena is only a bonus.)

The problem is the next day she doesn't remember much of the dance, her dance, the one she'd spent three weeks organising in between practise for Miss Mystic Falls and almost-not-quite date-slash-study sessions with Nik.

She doesn't know if she had a good time, or if he did or even if everything went off without a hitch as all her parties do.

But when Nik is waiting by her locker the next morning with a strange cross between a boyish smile and a sly smirk on his face that only he could ever pull off, she doesn't mind as much, especially when he asks her if she wants to go steady with him. ("Really? Did you just say 'go steady' like it's still an acceptable way to ask a girl to be your girlfriend?" she grins at him, trying to hide her blush and how seriously cute she finds it. He can be so old-fashioned sometimes.)

And the throngs of people coming up to her all day to congratulate her don't hurt either, especially when her boyfriend, her new legit boyfriend is there smirking fondly as she practically glows or grows wings or something because her life is amazing right now.

(the things she sees out of the corner of her eye that nobody else seems to see are duly being ignored and Nik doesn't seem to mind when she gets a little neurotic or even when she goes all out with her craziness)

It's perfect.


It all comes to a halt when she dies.

She crashed her car with Nik in the passenger seat and he's fine while she's not but it's not like that stops her from crying and apologising as soon as she wakes up in the hospital with him sitting next to her because it's their three month anniversary and that sort of thing is important, she practically growls at him. It's important and I nearly killed you.

He just smiles softly and tells her to shut-up and let him worry over her like she wants to do to him because she's too breakable, like that makes any sense and when she finally makes him go home after hours of sitting next to her it's only because frankly she's a little tired and a little drugged and she doesn't know if she snores or not so he better leave right now, okay?

And she actually says that because she's Caroline Forbes and she has a tendency to ramble sometimes.

It's while he's gone that Elena kills her, only it's not Elena, that's what they say.

Her name is Katherine, her not really best friend tells her. Her name is Katherine and you were just collateral damage.

And her dead heart shatters because who will have her now? And it's all Elena's fault.

Only, apparently it's not.

Only, that doesn't stop her from seriously hating the other girl more than she ever has before because it's always Elena, Elena, Elena and Elena killed Caroline.

She was there. She'd know.

Her not-even-close-to-a-friend-now friend and her boyfriend leave her in her hospital room, telling her they'll be back tomorrow to take her home and to just relax Caroline, as soon as visiting hours are back we'll come get you, (this is all their fault, why did they leave her alone?).

And of course it's when she's just murdered three blood bags and a nurse that Nik chooses to walk back into her room uncaring about visiting hours like everyone else is apparently and she really doesn't find it as strange as she should that in a too-fast flash he's pulling her away from the body she's crying over. Her face is in his hands and he tries to shush her ("I'm a monster," She sobs brokenly, her hands clutching at his newly stained shirt).

Shhh, he soothes. No, you're not, sweetheart. You could never be. I won't let you.

Her words come tumbling out, unfiltered and stuttering because she's actually taken her pills today, she thinks. That nurse had them in her hand, ready, but now that hand is clenched shut and might never unclench again and she wishes she could just see through the fucking skin to see if those pills are still there.

That might not have actually happened, she thinks. All of this might not have actually happened. It wasn't too long ago when she thought she'd gone insane now was it?

Because Katherine killed her and Katherine looks like Elena so that means Elena killed her and Elena is dating Stefan and Stefan told her not to tell a soul just before they walked away but why the hell should she listen to him when she's got Nik? Nik with the accent and the eyes that tell her everything is going to be fine, because he'll make sure of it.

She's Caroline Forbes and she'll be seventeen forever and maybe she's crazy, maybe this is her crazy mind making things up again, like smoke and itches that aren't there or . . .

Maybe she's not.

Maybe she's not crazy and she really is dead and well, then if that's true, who better to tell than the boy you like-slash-maybe-love?

It's practically Twilight.

And he tells her he's sorry. That he'll kill Katherine for her. Maybe Elena too if it makes her feel better ("Because frankly, that bitch has it coming. Both of them do, love. Fucking Petrova's." He looks livid and she doesn't really understand why or what a Petrova is but he's promising to kill for her and its terrible but she kind of loves it because it's all very romantic in a situation that should call for the opposite but she's Caroline and she's into that sort of thing, romance that is. Not so much the killing but she'll take what she can get, like she always, always does), and she's not exactly proud to say that, yeah. That makes her feel better.

Like, a lot.

Because she fucking died and she wants somebody else to because she didn't deserve it when there are people out there that do and it's really fucking unfair.

She didn't expect to find out Nik is a vampire too and the phrases 'Original' and 'Hybrid' are said a lot in the span of the next few hours and it doesn't fully sink in that he's not exactly like her but close enough, but eventually it will and it'll be fine.

At least that's what he says when she tells him she's not processing very well right now because the nurse's eyes are still open and staring and "Oh my god, what about Homecoming?"

He tells her the only reason she didn't die in the car was because he gave her his blood to save her, and that he was perfectly content with human Caroline for a while as long as she was alive Caroline, or thriving Caroline or simply with-him Caroline, until that Petrova bitch came into her room and killed her.

My blood saved you twice, he says as he tucks her tiny body against his and turns her face away from the nurse and towards his own. And I'm not going to apologise.

She tells him she'd rather learn from him, all the big bad things her friends think she should be learning from Stefan even though she doesn't really know Stefan, not really.

She tells him she's not really sorry either because she's only seventeen and she's got way too much to live for.

Even if it's not really living, in the traditional breathing-slash-beating-heart sense.