title: it's in the abc of growing up
pairing: caroline-centric; gen; references to caroline/damon, caroline/elena/bonnie, caroline/stefan friendship.
prompt: Life is not a song, sweetling. You may learn that one day to your sorrow.
a/n: written for the tvd comment fic-a-thon for opheliahyde's lovely prompt! Oh my god, I wanted to fit it in the comment box but then it became like ~3900 words so I just gave up.
Damon Salvatore is actually the first person she ever sleeps with.
Except that she’d been pretending she’d slept with a lot of people before she’d actually even seen a guy naked, so it’s not like it’s a big deal for anyone but her.
“Caroline,” Elena sighs in this half-tired way that she’s taken to doing everything since her parents died, like she’d rather not be doing anything at all. It’s kind of scary, “you don’t even know his last name.”
“I do so,” she says indignantly, because she totally does know his last name, “it’s Salvatore. Like your boyfriend.”
“That was rhetorical, Caroline,” Bonnie says affectionately, like she’s trying not to laugh, and she wants to tell them that it’s kind of a huge deal because she just had sex, in this totally legit, grown-up way with a guy who knew what he was doing (she’s assuming he knew what he was doing because she can’t remember much, but he was older, ergo).
“I know that,” she didn’t really, but all water under the bridge and what not, “I just thought you guys might be a little excited for me. This totally hot guy was all over me instead of E...very other girl in this town he could’ve possibly had.”
Both of them just look at her, and it sort of sucks that they’ve been friends long enough to complete half finished sentences, like those sickeningly perfect couples in the kind of movies that she totally doesn’t watch and cry over on Saturday nights.
“How was it,” Bonnie suddenly asks, giggles in a way she remembers, “was it gooood?”
”Bonnie.” Elena says like it’s a travesty, like she always does, even when she can’t stop from smiling. She doesn’t tell them all about Matt, even though both she and Bonnie know they’ve totally done it. Elena did say that Matt’s neck apparently has a really sensitive spot that makes him make this particular sound and sometimes she stares at his neck out of sheer boredom when he sits in front of her in English. In this purely academic curiosity sort-of way because Elena’s her best friend and she would totally never look at Matt that way because, hello, preamble of the girl code.
(It’s just weird that it’ll be Matt and Elena now. Not MattandElena. Matt and Elena. As in not together.)
“It was,” she starts, and it’s odd she can’t remember much. It sucks to think he might not have been that good, as in, she would remember if it was epic, right? “awesome. He’s so…”
“Hot,” says Elena, unexpectedly, “that is to say,” she clarifies, because this is Elena, the daughter that Caroline herself would want because seriously, who wants to deal with a Caroline Forbes, ask her mom, “if you like that all-black wardrobe with the deliberate fuck-me hair and that constant look of condescension.”
“Why, Elena, are you setting your sight on the other brother now? Seems like someone's been noticing the elder Salvatore a lot.” and this time she’s not jealous, not really, because Elena’s eyes are still too huge for her face and she almost can’t stand to look in them and see the girl she used to know weighed down by a grief she can’t understand, can’t do anything about.
“Ew,” Elena wrinkles her nose and Bonnie laughs and Caroline wants to keep this Elena forever, and not lose her in the next ten minutes like she knows she’s going to, “no. And I haven’t set my sight on Stefan, he’s just…a nice guy.”
“With nice abs,” Bonnie adds in, “Stefan Salvatore: the nice guy with the nice abs. It’s almost poetic, don’t you think?”
Caroline remembers it being like this, except then it was Tyler Lockwood’s body under question (Tyler Lockwood is a jackass, but he's a jackass who works out a lot) instead of Stefan Salvatore’s, but it was still the three of them, and really, it never was about the boys with the different names and different faces and beautiful eyes anyway, it was about them. And Caroline hopes it’ll always be about them.
“I wouldn’t mind being in a Salvatore brother sandwich at all,” she shrugs, tries to imagine it, can’t, “I mean, I’d eat that in a heartbeat.”
It’s an odd sort of a euphemism but then Elena’s laughing anyway and Caroline’s been hanging around her since after the funeral, saying all the wrong things, except this time Elena’s laughing because of something she said and it’s the best thing that happened to her all week.
It’s a bit ironic really and a lot something else that is not ironic; even in death she’s second to Elena.
After all, it’s standard stuff; someone couldn’t get Elena so they used her instead. That kind of sounds like how her life’s been playing out since she can remember.
“So what am I getting out of not drinking human blood, again?” she asks, because it's a damn good question.
And she’s never been particularly nice; she’s never been the kind of person to do something because it would be good for someone else. And now she has to live every single fragment of every single second of her life for other people, fighting this hunger, this need that seems to be a constant part of her, that crawls under her skin and dries up her throat and makes her feel alive and reminds her she's dead.
“Your humanity,” he says, which is grand and everything but it’s so hard to remember that when all she wants to do is eat people.
“So, when does it get easier?” she asks, because.
She knows the answer before he says it, reads it in the tired curve of his hand as he pushes his hair off his forehead, “it doesn’t, Caroline.”
Stefan’s an amazing guy, and sometimes she thinks it’d be almost too easy to fall in love with him. The horrible, forever kind of love that a couple of shopping trips wouldn’t cure. And that would suck because she’d break the girl code in the worst way ever and be a horrible friend, which sounds a lot worse than being a vampire ever did.
Seeing Elena is a little strange now.
It’s like she can’t help the instinctive fear or the automatic backing away, and it makes Elena look a little like she did at the funeral (Caroline’s not exactly sure which funeral now, there’ve been too many to count).
“I’m sorry,” she says, and man, she really has to get this thing under control, “sometimes, I just can’t help it, you know. You look, as in, she looks so much like... she was just—”
“I know,” Elena tries to smile and it doesn’t reach her eyes, and Caroline remembers this look but she’s never in her life wanted to be the one to make Elena look that way, “I know, Caroline, you have every right to, after what Katherine did to you.”
“But it was Katherine, right, not you.” it comes out sounding too much like a question, and she hastily continues, “I’ll get over it. Give me a day, I’ll be over it, I swear.”
And then she’s crying, which, even though she’s been undead for exactly two weeks, she knows has to rank pretty pathetic on ‘How to Be a Badass Vampire’ scale.
But Elena’s hugs still feel the same, her hair still smells of that apple shampoo they’ve both loved since the eighth grade, and if Caroline is able to tell the rush of blood beneath the veins and can’t stop her teeth from elongating, then it’s just a reminder that Elena’s still alive and that she still loves her, fangs and all.
And then she knows the ‘why not’ of the human-blood drinking thing. See, what Stefan wasn’t able to quite explain to her is this; every person she wants to eat is someone’s Elena. And what would people do in a world without their Elena anyway?
“So, do we, like, still have souls or what?” it’s an important existential question and the whole modernism debate in class really got her thinking. Her English teacher’s still boring as all hell, and has started smelling ridiculously eatable for someone who resembles that guy from True Blood, and not any of the hot ones either. He also wears these horrible sweaters when it's a thousand degrees outside, and Caroline Forbes is not about to digest a fashion disaster, thank you very much. However, regardless of the teacher, the Camus essay was interesting, depressing as hell, but interesting.
Damon groans, the ever-present glass of Bourbon in his hand tilting dangerously. Caroline’s just starting to realize the guy’s an alcoholic, and if he’d been a regular human, he would totally be one of those people who would sit at the Mystic Grill bar all day and perv out on the high school girls.
Oh, wait, he does that already. Moving on.
“I don’t know,” Stefan says, serious vampire look stamped all over his face. Stefan would have thought about this before, obviously, he’s Stefan; “I honestly don’t know Caroline. I wish I did.”
“What does it matter” Damon sounds annoyed, which is a bit rich coming from him, really, “you’re already dead.”
“But I could be deader,” she points out, “and if Klaus— or, let’s face it, one of his minions— kills me in the war or whatever, I don’t want to be stuck in an Inception-type limbo for freaking forever, that would suck.”
“Nobody’s going to kill you,” Stefan says, immediately, she kind of adores him for it, even if he’s lying.
“You don’t know that,” she says, kindly, “you can’t possibly know that, Stefan. I mean, Katherine killed me, right? So I need to have my bases covered for another unfortunate incident like that.”
“Why do you keep doing that,” and Damon actually sounds frustrated, that guys has a kaleidoscopic range of emotions, all of which border on ‘annoyed’ or ‘manic’.
“Doing what?” she says shortly. It’s stupid to ask, this is probably just setting herself up for a punchline.
“Putting yourself down,” he says, and um, what?
“I don’t?” she says, what even?
“This is exactly the sort of thing you did when I—”
“When you what?” she interrupts furiously, how dare Damon Salvatore of all people think he knows anything about her at all, “treated me like your personal restaurant? Made me feel stupid. shallow. useless?”
“Caroline,” Stefan says quietly, moving close, hand on her shoulder, “hey, Care, listen to me--”
“No,” she says, nearly in tears, apparently stoicism isn’t a vampire superpower. Sad, that, “ I’m going home. Screw you both.” Which is both stupid and childish, but she’s going to be seventeen forever anyway, so.
She barely has time to register before she’s caught between the table and Damon, with the loud crash of what was probably a very expensive bottle of alcohol.
“Damon.” Stefan sounds resigned instead of outraged, which Caroline think is totally the wrong emotion to pick from the three or four that he seems to have.
She struggles, she’s a freaking vampire for god’s sake. She can totally handle this shit herself now.
Except, of course, so is he.
“Did I do this to you,” he asks quietly, using his finger to lift her chin, making her meet his eyes even though she totally doesn't want to. She hates his eyes.
She stops struggling, leaves her hand on his chest, remembers her first time like she couldn’t when Elena and Bonnie had asked her about it. It had been epic, probably the best sex she’s ever going to have, and it had still been the worst day of her life, “no.” Because he didn’t. Damon Salvatore didn’t do anything to her except teach her not to trust strangers in bars or boys with eyes like his.
“You were the most beautiful girl in that room,” he shrugs, drops his hand to her waist, “what was I supposed to do? I’m a connoisseur, Caroline, I’d only visit the best restaurant in town.”
Which is actually a pretty gross thing to say, but when he finally lets her go, and Stefan turns away from her slightly, looking like he’s about to smile, she decides maybe she doesn’t have to go right this instant, she can stay for a little while longer.
“You don’t have to leave,” she says, “I’ll leave if you want me to.”
Bonnie hesitates, looks at her and doesn’t say she doesn’t want her to leave. It kind of hurts, if she’s telling the truth, which she was never a big fan of in any case.
“Okay,” she says, “I’m just leaving. I was waiting for Mr. Saltzman about the History project, and you’d think he’d be sort of cool, you know, with the whole vampire-hunter thing going on for him, like Buffy or something, but he’s really, really not. He made me stay after class because I didn’t know what the Spanish Civil War was fought for. Like, does he know that your favorite color is blue, or that you and I and Elena spent the entire night outside in the Donovan garden that one time, without our parent’s knowing? Not everyone can know everything.”
(Bad examples, those, considering the situation. She’s totally projecting here.)
Bonnie’s looking at her with an odd sort of expression and maybe she really should stop talking now before she does that thing where she can set Caroline on fire or whatever. Not that she minds being set on fire. Like, she minds of course, but she’s pretty sure Bonnie being the one to do it would be the harder punch out of the two.
She smiles a little and moves toward the door and doesn't think please ask me to stay, please, please, because that would just be all kinds of lame.
“And you got drunk on that one can of beer. And dressed up in Vicki’s clothes and danced under the streetlamp.”
Caroline swears her heart skips a beat, even though she knows it doesn’t technically beat anymore. She turns with her hand on the knob; Bonnie’s standing near the teacher’s desk, her hand gripping the edge. And when she catches Caroline’s eyes, she almost smiles. Not quite. But almost.
So it’s not much, but it’s good, and maybe it’s enough for now. She’s Caroline freaking Forbes, she’s single handedly managed the school environment club, and headed the most bake sales out of any individual student and stayed back hours to read to the elderly in the hospital and held rallies for increasing the cheerleading fund. And maybe it’s not exactly the same thing, but she worked on those and she can work on this too. She can work on them.
Being a vampire is sort of awesome.
Well, apart from the whole the Tyler thinking they’re forming some sort of Creatures Of The Night R Us club thing and the Matt-would-hate-her-if-he-knew thing. But she can work with that; Elena came around, didn’t she? And Matt and Elena had lasted together so long; they’d have to have been compatible in some ways. And Caroline's hoping their easy acceptance of terrorizers of small woodland critters is the basic way in which they were compatible.
Except there's also that being a vampire seems to involve a lot more confrontations with Stefan.
“I totally compelled her later,” she argues and Stefan needs to stop thinking he’s her mom and looking at her like she’s the biggest disappointment in the world, which actually is kind of what her mom looks at her like, to think about it.
“We’re all so glad you have your priorities just right,” Damon rolls his eyes, seriously, why isn’t he off somewhere trying to find a way to protect Elena and get into her pants, wasn’t that like his life mission or something, “car troubles are so much worse than mind control.”
“Shut up,” she says, because it’s totally not the same thing as what he did to her, it is not.
“You can’t keep offering to fix people’s cars, Caroline,” Stefan sounds like he feels he’s said this a million times and okay, he totally has not. Not about cars, at least.
“Told you you should’ve let me stake her that time,” says Damon from his place on the couch, because he does that, sits on the couch and watches Stefan scold her and she would ask him where his popcorn is, but she trying to pretend he doesn’t exist, so. Also, he makes too many remarks about killing her for her comfort. She would totally keep a stake near her bed when she stays the night at the Boardinghouse, just in case, except it would suck if it went through her heart when she was tossing and turning in her sleep or something.
“Shut up, Damon,” Stefan doesn’t look at him, and she resists the urge to stick her tongue out at the older, eviler Salvatore; she’s a grown woman after all, or at least as grown as she’s ever going to be now, “the key is to blend in, Caroline, and picking up people’s cars while they try to change tires is not blending in.”
“Yeah,” she says because she gets it, she’s not, like, a complete moron or something, “but I couldn’t just leave her there in the middle of nowhere; she didn’t even have a jack. God, that would just be mean.”
“You didn’t do it out of the goodness of your heart,” Damon chimes in and it’s sort of sad that the whole pretending he doesn’t exist thing doesn’t come with a mute button on it, “you did it because it’s totally awesome that you can.”
She’ll dance on his grave someday (it’s so weird to think it must somewhere close, his empty grave from 1864, what the hell has her life become anyway?), but for now, “okay, one – I sound nothing like that. Two – shut up. Three— Elena hates you.”
He dramatically mimes staking himself, it’s pleasurable viewing experience, except for that whole mime thing, “Elena hates me. I have nothing left worth living for anymore.”
“Figures that’s the only thing you’d pick on in the entire sentence.” he’s so obvious, it’s kind of sad, really. Sometimes, she wants to put her arms around him and tell him it won’t always be like this and that he’ll find someone too. Most times, she just wants to drive something hard and wooden through him, though.
“Careful, Stefan,” Damon gets that sex-glint in his eyes (and he might not be thinking of sex, but that look totally reminds her of sex. Pity he’s hot, Caroline thinks it’d be so much easier to hate him if his hair didn’t fall just that way. It’s not like he has anything else going for him, the psychotic, murdering vampire with severe girl issues that he is) “kitten has her claws out.”
“Yes, you could,” Stefan continues their argument, ignoring Damon. She’ll have to ask him sometime how many years it is before it’s possible to be as good at that as Stefan is, “it’s the twenty first century, Caroline. There are mobiles and tow-trucks now.”
Stefan’s a nice guy, she can totally imagine being bff’s with him if he ditches the worried-vampire-look occasionally, maybe hooking up with him five hundred years later if he wants her and it’s not a horrible thing to do anymore, but seriously, sometimes the guy just doesn’t get it,
The thing is, basically, she can do a lot of things now. Like Fight Crime and bring the Bad Guys to justice and be the Savior of The World and the Scourge of Evil. Be, like, James Bond, instead of, you know, the skimpily dressed Bond girl or something. Make up for this...thing that she is, make up for wanting to drain innocent people walking past her in the streets. She’s died once; she doesn’t have to do it every day for the rest of her undead life.
“I think Blondie didn’t get the memo,” Damon starts again, “you’re a vampire, not Super Girl. You are the bad guy in this Marvel Comic fantasy thing that you so obviously have— what superhero do you know who eats people anyway?”
It stops her short for a bit, because she’d never thought about it that way, that she’s the monster in this scenario.
“But I’m not,” she says because she’s not, answers her own unspoken question, “I’m not a monster. So, I have fangs, yeah and I’m pretty sure all the little, furry bunnies run away when they see me in the forest now, but I don’t eat people. I don’t do that because that’s a horrible thing to do, and what would people do if they didn’t have their Elena or Bonnie or Stefan…or you.” she adds, because in this completely freaky way, Damon is, like, her father or something, she has his blood in her veins and it’s never quite going to go out, and sometimes, when she’s sad, she thinks of him automatically. Mostly Stefan or Bonnie, but sometimes him.
“The point is—” she tries to explain again, because Stefan is still giving her That Look and she doesn't like it when Stefan gives her that look, she hates disappointing him.
“Drumroll,” says Damon and it’s a real pity they haven’t initiated an Olympic medal in the art of being annoying-- he’s going for gold right there.
“The point is,” she repeats, puts her hand on Stefan’s arm, because he has to understand this, right? It’s not like rocket science, it’s pretty basic, really “I could. Like, I could help her, that girl with the punctured tire. So I did. It’s what people do, it's not something to think about.”
He stares at her for a second longer than she thinks is absolutely necessary, and it makes her sort of uncomfortable because she’s new to this whole let's-prove-When-Harry-Met-Sally-wrong, j
“That thinking part is a problem for you, anyway,” says Damon finally, except he says it kind of soft, like he can’t really help himself but tried for like three seconds to.
“Yeah,” says Stefan, and rapid mood-changing must be one of the vampire superpowers that she doesn’t know about, because he’s smiling now, “of course it isn’t.”
See, the thing is; she has a long time to live. Like, the longest ever.
‘Life is not song, sweetling, you may learn that one day to your sorrow’ Damon quoted to her once, because Damon’s the kind of person who keeps quoting random stuff and seems to have read everything from Aristotle to A Walk To Remember. And she wants to tell him, tell Stefan, when he looks like he doesn’t want to try anymore, it’s still life. They’re still alive, against every conceivable reason, against every single odd, they’re still alive. And it'd be stupid to give that up. And maybe she’ll die soon staked through the heart or something. But that’s not the worst thing, not anymore. She can still feel Elena’s hugs and see Bonnie smile and hear her mother scold and run through the forest with Stefan and watch Damon try to redeem himself or whatever it is he’s trying for these days.
Caroline Forbes has already died once, and she might die again; but this time she’s going to damn well make sure she lives first.