The Caroline Adventures
Summary: A series of stories, featuring Caroline Forbes as the main character. An exploratory look into her personality, her dreams, and her life – AUs, what if's, stand alones.
Disclaimer: All character, locations, and situations belong to the CW and Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec (unfortunately), along with the original rights of the book series to L.J. Smith. No money is made in this story.
5: Stefan and Elena don't discover Caroline after she makes her first kill at the carnival. Caroline figures things out on her own and a nighttime trip out of town sees her enlisting the help of a different witch for a daylight ring. Caroline might be a vampire – but she's still her, and now she has kick-ass powers. Guess she's a superhero. Klaus is amused when they meet. – in other words, everyone needs an origin story.
"Oh, God, oh, God," moaned Caroline, stumbling backwards and away from the truck's extended trailer and the bloody corpse. The young man who had smiled at her, asked if she was okay, was now nothing more than a dead man with a ripped-out jugular, and empty, glassy eyes.
She couldn't control herself – the scent of his blood, wafting from his split lip and cracked knuckles sang to her – a tantalizing, sweet scent that made Caroline's dry mouth water and her eyes grow wide in euphoric pleasure at the coppery taste. The taste of blood.
Denying it wasn't an option anymore. Ever since she woke up in the hospital, craving the blood and groaning at the agonizing pain of the fangs piercing through her gums and the nurse's delicious taste, Caroline realized what was going on. She was surprised the nurse was still alive, after all – she had tasted her and snacked on her twice, the second time practising that strange, hypnotic ability she had, but she still left her alone.
Why was this young man any different? Was it because of his open wounds?
Whatever it was, Caroline knew what she was. Somehow, she became a vampire.
And if that wasn't plain weird, she didn't know what was. Sure, she watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and she had a couple Anne Rice novels on her bookshelf, and she thought Edward Cullens was adorbs, but her? A vampire?
Suddenly, Elena and Bonnie's strange behaviour, as well as Stefan and Damon, made so much sense.
Those bitches! She thought darkly, frowning as she used her new-found power to race away from the scene of her crime to the high school. Once inside, she made her way to one of the ground floor toilets, and immediately began running water from the tap and diminishing the paper towel supply.
How dare they keep that a secret from her? She continued with a furrowed brow between her eyes. Caroline scrubbed harshly at the bloodstains on her hands and caught her reflection in the mirror as she looked up. A startled squeak erupted from her mouth as she realized that there was dried blood all over her lips and down her chin.
A tiny groan escaped and Caroline wet another paper towel to scrub at her chin and mouth. The pristine white sink in the girls' toilets soon became tainted pink, but the rushing water from the tap removed the evidence of blood from Caroline's face and hands rather quickly.
Soon, Caroline's reflection showed the girl that she knew – curly blonde hair, bright blue eyes, immaculate clothing, and a wide, beaming – if not fake – smile. If anyone saw her, nothing would seem different.
Now, thought Caroline with a dark-tinge to her thoughts, closing her eyes to her reflection. It's time to do some research.
None of her "friends" contacted her. They all knew that Caroline was supposed to be at the Carnival, but the fact that they didn't even notice whether she showed up was a punch to Caroline's stomach and her feelings. Yes, she meant to remain in the hospital until her mother's shift ended and she could take her daughter home, but Caroline's unexpected vampirism allowed her a free pass to escape her absentee mother. It also allowed her freedom from Matt's bipolar personality (after all, one minute he was all "Caroline is great" and they were dating and the next, he was following and panting after Elena and making Caroline feel second best, as usual).
Therefore, instead of joining her friends on carnival rides and eating cotton candy, Caroline had changed from her hospital clothes into shorts and a tank, and curled up under her covers with her laptop out and researching vampires on Google.
Ten minutes into her research, she contemplated throwing the damn computer out her bedroom window. She found hundreds of fan sites dedicated to Edward Cullen; several Wikipedia pages for Anne Rice's novels, and she even discovered something called fan fiction, which after glancing at a rather smutty one, she thought she might revisit it later.
But other than fantasy and fiction, there wasn't much dedicated research on vampires. Google Scholar yielded different results, including a link to a professor at Duke University, by the name of Isobel Flemming. The professor had several articles and links about vampires, werewolves, and something called a Doppelganger, as well as suggestions for further reading.
Thinking she hit jackpot, Caroline attempted to email the professor, by checking her "About me" page on the university website. Unfortunately, reading about the woman's disappearance and suspected death had Caroline biting her lip in frustration.
What was she supposed to do now? Who was going to help her?
Then she remembered: Elena and Bonnie had invited her over a few months back and Bonnie was all "I'm a witch!" and then she started acting weird, locking herself in the bathroom and leaving the house. Caroline remembered being pissed, wondering what Elena and Bonnie were doing, but Elena's face at the banister – she was terrified. Something had happened to Bonnie.
Ergo, Bonnie was a witch.
Ergo, witches existed.
Caroline perked up, sitting straighter in her bed. A witch could help her! And there was no way in hell she would go to Stefan or Damon Salvatore for help. She needed to find a witch – but where would she? She couldn't ask Bonnie, and it's not like witches were listed in the telephone directory.
Caroline kept randomly scrolling, clicking on a link and opening it in a new tab, browsing the link and then closing it when it yielded no result, until she came across something very strange.
A cafe website, looking like a broken or unfinished HTML layout, with a single contact name and telephone number, located in Richmond, leapt out at Caroline. It was nondescript, simple, and utterly unfinished – why have it continue to pop up on web searches under 'vampires'?
Caroline called it.
"First Bite Cafe, Slater speaking," a male voice answered on the third ring. Static background noise, the low hum of patrons, and jazz music filtered through the speakers.
"Um, hi," began Caroline slowly. First Bite Cafe? Too clichéd.
"Um, hi, back," replied Slater. "How can I help you?"
"I found your number on Google...?" began Caroline, wondering if there was proper etiquette to asking straight out if his cafe was vampire-friendly.
"Oooooh," he said, elongating the vowel. There was a shuffle and muted noise on the line as Slater moved away from where he was. "Right. Sorry about the noise. So what can I do to help you... Miss...?"
"Caroline," began Caroline carefully. "And I ah... need some help?"
"Is that a question or a statement?" Slater asked, his voice tinged with amusement.
Caroline frowned and began to wind a strand of hair around her finger. "I'm not sure. I'm rather new to this."
"How new is new?"
Were they really speaking in vampire code here?
"Umm... new as in maybe twelve hours? Or less?"
Slater was silent for a brief moment on the line until he finally asked, incredulously, "Right, excuse me for coming right out and saying it – but you mean you were turned into a vampire less than twelve hours ago, found my contact information and called me to ask for help?"
"How are you not consumed with bloodlust?!" Slater's sharp voice rang across the line.
Caroline blinked. "We get bloodlust? Oh. So maybe that's why I drained the guy and not the nurse at the hospital..."
There was a quick intake of breath on the line. "Caroline – do you know who turned you?"
"It looked like someone I know, but she wouldn't do that. Besides, she said 'game on,'" replied Caroline. "Look – Slater – I just... I don't know what to do. I'm seventeen. Oh my gosh, I'm permanently seventeen. I'm going to get carded wherever I go..."
Slater laughed. "Okay, okay, I get it. This is new and it's not like Twilight, is it? Listen, it's dark for at least another six hours. Can you come by the Cafe?"
Caroline thought of driving to Richmond, which would take at least two hours. "I think so. It's a bit of a drive from where I am, but I could be there in about two hours – as long as I'm back for school in the morning. Unless... can vampires really only go out during the night? Sunlight will burn us?"
"Yeah, side effect unfortunately," sighed Slater. "Although, some people owe me a favour. I might be able to find a witch to make you a daylight ring. You may need to stay here overnight though."
"I can work something out," responded Caroline thoughtfully.
"Good," replied Slater. "You have the address from the website? Right, I'll see you in a bit then, Caroline."
"Thanks Slater," said Caroline. "See you."
After hanging up, Caroline immediately ran for her closet and pulled out a small bag which she began filling with clothing and hygiene items from her bathroom. Since her father hadn't been by to see her in the hospital, Caroline thought she could leave a note for her mom saying she was heading to Georgia for the week to spend time with him and Steven and her stepsister before returning to school. A missed day or two in Richmond hanging out with vampires would easily be hidden as a delay in traffic.
Barely thirty minutes later, Caroline was ready to travel to Richmond, had called her father and received his permission to visit, and was on her way out the door.
And not once, since she left the hospital at seven that evening, had her friends called to see where she was, or what she was up to.
Slater's First Bite Cafe was located on a quaint, picturesque main street in Richmond, with tons of glass windows and a beautiful, abstract orange design of circular and sweeping lines that ended up looking like wheat and barley – a strange design for a coffee shop, but Caroline wasn't about to argue.
It was busy inside, too: almost all the square, four-person white tables and matching modern, white plastic seats were filled with people – or vampires – of different genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds. A bar running parallel to the glass frontage, all in chrome and white with glass shelving behind it, was filled with people, too.
Caroline tentatively opened the glass door, her eyes darting this way and that. Did she have a giant sign on her forehead that said 'newbie vampire'?
A man from behind the bar, who had just finished sliding a large mug of frothy something to a skinny Asian man, glanced up and caught Caroline's eyes. He wore a thin cardigan over a t-shirt, and as he came out from behind the bar, jeans. He was of a regular height, with dirty blonde hair in a stylish cut and wisps that just brushed his eyes, lots of scruff, blue eyes similar to Caroline's, and wrinkles around his eyes and the edges of his mouth. He looked like he was in his early thirties or mid thirties, and very tired.
However, his mouth stretched into a wide, friendly grin at the sight of her. "Caroline?" he asked, coming forward with an outstretched hand.
"Hi," said Caroline in response, shyly; she took his hand and shook it. "Slater?"
He nodded, glancing up and down as he led her passed several tables and towards the back of the cafe. "I've got most of my stuff at my apartment, but we can talk without anyone eavesdropping in my office."
"Thanks," she replied, fighting the urge to fidget as she saw a few people glancing over curiously.
"Don't mind them," breathed Slater, his voice below a whisper but loud enough for Caroline to hear. She started in surprise and glanced at him, shock written on her face.
As he opened the door, he glanced back and saw her expression. His tired, lined face softened and he gave a small smile. "This is really new for you, isn't it? You weren't kidding when you said less than twelve hours."
Caroline shook her head and entered his office, glancing at the full bookshelf crammed with books double-stacked, to the messy papers on a large, modern chrome-and-glass desk and the iMac resting on top.
Slater gestured for Caroline to sit in one of the two chairs in front of the desk, both plushy and high back armchairs in black fabric, while he moved to the bookshelf and began looking at the spines.
"Are you looking for something in particular?" asked Caroline curiously.
Slater nodded, running a finger along the spines until he found the one he was looking for. "After I was turned in the 1970s, I met another vampire in New York who would procure new identities for those of us who needed to be someone different," explained Slater. "He'd been doing this for ages and since information is my thing—" he turned with a glance over his shoulder and a wink at Caroline "—Well, they call me Mr. Universe in the supe world, and we partnered up over the years. One of things we worked on was a compendium of everything vampire related."
Caroline blinked. "So, firstly; you're a Joss Whedon fan. Secondly, you were turned in the 70s, over thirty years ago but look thirty now; and finally, there's a how-to-guide for newbies?"
"Pretty much," grinned Slater, pulling a book out and passing it to Caroline in a smooth motion. "Some of the traditional bits of vampirism – the sunlight, garlic, holy water, coffins – well, some of it is relevant but most isn't. Trial and error," here he shuddered, "and I do mean trial and error – make sure you avoid Augustines, okay? Went into much of the research. The rest I did on my own after Will and I went our separate ways in '92."
Caroline began flipping through the book. It was small and compact, with a nondescript cover that would look more like a journal or old-fashioned fiction novel. The pages inside were printed and offered a few pages with pictures and captions below: pictures of a plant with vervain underneath or a strange Fleur de Lis symbol with five lines coming off from it and names written in cursive loop (Niklaus, Elijah, Rebekah, Kol, Henrick).
"So, what do I need to know?" asked Caroline, glancing up from the book and looking eagerly at Slater, who moved to sit opposite her and behind the desk. He began clicking on his mouse cursor and moving it about while doing something on screen.
"First things first: does anyone know you're a vampire? We'd need to send a clean-up crew if that's the case," he began seriously, glancing at Caroline from under his wispy bangs.
Caroline shook her head. "I woke up in a hospital and the blood there was practically screaming at me to drink it. I only did when I felt the fangs burst through my gums. I then drank from my nurse, but I did that weird hypnosis thing and she immediately bandaged herself."
Slater blinked. "Wait – you fed from a human within your first two hours of being a vampire and didn't drain them? You compelled them and cleaned it up yourself?"
Slater's face changed from surprised and awe-struck. "Caroline, you're a wonder!" he shook his head. "I don't know a single vampire with that much control. That's amazing. It took me months to learn to feed without killing someone."
"I did kill someone though," whispered Caroline, guilt and shame flooding her as she looked down at her lap, and clasped her hands together. Her fingers tightened and the knuckles turned white. "He had been fighting, I think, and I could smell his blood. It was so strong – I couldn't help it then."
Slater nodded, typing a few things on the computer. "Right. So where was this? I can send a contact of mine out that way to hide any evidence."
"Mystic Falls, Virginia," replied Caroline evenly, taking a deep breath.
Slater glanced at her sympathetically. "Don't feel too bad about it, Caroline. You didn't kill the nurse and it was only because he had an open wound that you lost control. That's still ten times better than anyone I've ever encountered. I bet even an Original would be hard-pressed to show the restraint and control you have."
"Original?" asked Caroline.
"A rumour, I suppose," began Slater absently, a part of his tongue sticking out of his mouth as he focused carefully on sending an email. "The first vampires, who created us and our version of vampires. They do exist, or some type of super vampire does, anyway. I have contacts to one of them."
"Huh." Caroline played with the tips of her fingers.
"Right, so where in Mystic Falls?" asked Slater, who then frowned. "And why does that sound so familiar? Are there any other vampires around?"
Caroline nodded. "Two, at least. And a witch."
Slater snapped his fingers. "That's right – that's where the Bennett family came from!"
"The Bennett's? As in Bonnie's family?" Caroline's mouth dropped open. "I seriously thought Bonnie was just messing with me when she said she was a witch!"
Slater shook his head. "Nah, the whole family is like some serious American Horror Story witches. Although... now that I think about it, there was a really big scandal about fifteen years ago with the Bennett witches..."
"Fifteen years ago? That's when Bonnie's mom left her and her father. Her grandmother, Shelia, has been helping to raise her," explained Caroline.
Slater nodded. "That's right, Abbie. Abbie Bennett – she did something that many of the other witches disagreed with – probably something vampire related – and she lost her powers. The witches took it away from her."
"That can happen?!" asked Caroline, incredulously.
Slater nodded, leaning back in his chair. "Yeah, witches can be a nasty bunch. Anyway, let's go over some things about vampires. Also," he glanced at Caroline with a friendly look and gave her a small smile. "Speaking of witches, I contacted someone who owed me a favour from two decades ago and called it in. They're going to come by in an hour and make you a daylight ring... so I hope you have some jewellery on you."
"A daylight ring is just what it says on the package – a ring that allows you to walk in the daylight without any nasty side effects," explained Slater.
Caroline hummed. "Then why don't you have one? It would help you with your research."
Slater shook his head. "I have eighteen degrees, three Masters, and four PhDs. With the invention of the Internet, and Netflix, I can easily do all my work via correspondence and at night. I don't need a daylight ring."
"If you're sure," replied Caroline doubtfully, an eyebrow raised.
"I'm sure," said Slater, who then launched into a summarized account of the book he gave Caroline. He went over common rules that most vampires followed (how and when to feed, how to avoid suspicion, who to go to for help), ways to live a human life if one wished – and alternatively, how to let go if someone wanted to. Slater explained her there were certain techniques for control but with Caroline's obvious ability to maintain her composure, he wasn't sure she needed meditation and calming techniques.
About half way through his explanation of how not to messily feed from a human (after explaining in human food terms the differences between animal/synthetic/"from the tap"), a knock on his office door had him using vampire speed to open it and usher in a tall, skinny, and sweating bald man.
"Julian, thanks for coming," said Slater, pointing to the other free seat next to Caroline, which the man gingerly settled himself in to it.
"Slater," he tittered, glancing at Caroline warily, as though she were about to leap from the chair and devour him.
"Hi," said Caroline brightly, extending a hand for a shake. "I'm Caroline."
Julian looked at her strangely, and then eyed her extended hand warily. He hesitantly reached out and shook it. "Hello."
"I'm calling in my favour," said Slater, without preamble, his gaze on Julian. The man winced but nodded.
"What do you need from me?" he asked.
Slater nodded in Caroline's direction. "A daylight ring for Caroline. She's seventeen and wants to finish school. She deserves that."
Julian glanced at Caroline from the corner of his eye and swallowed. "I don't like giving rings out to vampires who can walk during the day."
"I know," replied Slater idly, with a quirk of his eyebrows as his blue eyes pierced Julian. "But you owe me, and I'm asking for a daylight ring for Caroline in return for that help."
"Vampires having daylight rings are unnatural," argued Julian with a grumble.
"I know two other vampires with daylight rings," replied Caroline, "And for the most, one is really nice and the other isn't. But I think that's a personality thing, and much less that of being a vampire."
Julian's eyes focused on Caroline. "Have you killed?"
"Only once," said Slater for Caroline. "And that was only because he had an open wound. It was less than twelve hours after she was turned. Otherwise Caroline has perfect control."
"Perfect control, huh," scoffed Julian. "No one has perfect control all the time."
"I promise not to abuse it," said Caroline earnestly, turning to face Julian in her seat and clasping her hands tightly in her lap. "I just want to finish school. It'll be my last year next year – I just want to finish and then I'll leave, go to another country for university even... I just want to win Prom Queen and organize the best Prom ever and chair all my school clubs..."
Both Slater and Julian were looking at Caroline strangely, as she rambled on. Finally, Julian broke into a ragged grin.
"You're really something, you know that?" he laughed, shaking his head. He was still shaking his head as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a velvet ring box. He cracked the box open, showing Caroline a silver ring with an intensely blue jewel.
"Silver doesn't hurt vampires," explained Julian, pulling the ring out and laying it in the flat of his palm. "And Lapis Lazuli is the best stone for holding spells, having been mined since the seventh millennium – it's a favourite for witches since ancient times."
He waved his hand over the ring, once and then twice, before covering it and cupping it in his hands. He closed his eyes, mumbling briefly. Then, he opened his eyes and uncovered the ring. The Lapis Lazuli stone in the ring glittered under the harsh artificial lights of Slater's office.
Julian extended his hand with the ring in his palm towards Caroline, who gingerly took it and examined the ring. It was a very modern design – something surprisingly tasteful given that Caroline preferred the Civil War era and conservative designs. The silver wasn't thick, but thicker than a normal ring band, with a U-indent bezel at the top for the jewel. In the U-dent, a perfectly shaped sphere of Lapis Lazuli sat embedded, brilliantly polished and shining in the light.
Caroline slipped it onto her ring finger on her right hand, admiring the stone's glint as she held her hand out for everyone to view.
"It's beautiful," she said genuinely, turning to Julian with a wide smile. "Thank you so much."
"What do you plan on doing with it? Other than finishing school?" asked Slater, with a small smile, happy to have helped a new vampire. Julian slid the empty ring box back into his pocket and prepared to leave.
Caroline frowned thoughtfully. "Before I was turned," she began carefully, "A vampire used me as a human. He fed off me, compelled me..." She shivered and left the unspoken 'raped me' from her explanation, but both men froze, as they seemed to have heard her anyway. "I'm starting to get the memories back now... but..."
"Caroline?" asked Slater lowly.
Caroline glanced up at her unlikely helper and gave a small smile to the two men. "No one should have to feel like that – be used, made to feel like they're insignificant and told that they'll be killed once their usefulness is over." She took in a deep breath. "Being a vampire means we're stronger, faster than humans. And maybe I couldn't stop this vampire from hurting me... but I can stop someone else from hurting others."
Julian blinked in his seat, while Slater let out a startled laugh. "Don't tell me you'll start donning tights and a cape, Caroline."
Caroline shook her head. "No way, that's too eighties."
Slater did let out a genuine laugh while Julian shook his head, raising his hands in an unspoken indication of 'I'm so done with this.'
"But a mask might be appropriate, don't you think?" continued Caroline with a grin.
When Caroline arrived at her father and Steven's suburban home in Atlanta, Georgia, the first thing Steven said was, "Your father was called back to Mystic Falls by someone named Carol Lockwood. She said it was urgent."
Caroline frowned. "Tyler's mom? Weird."
Steven, a tall, skinny man who wore bright polo shirts and khaki trousers, smiled at his stepdaughter. He stepped back, gesturing that she enter. Caroline, eager to see their home as it was the first time she had made it to Georgia, stepped forward only to slam against an invisible barrier.
"What the-?" Caroline blinked as her eyes roved up and down the invisible space separating her from entering the house.
Steven was also staring at her strangely. "Caroline?"
"Huh," murmured Caroline, prodding the barrier with an extended finger. "One myth proven correct, I guess."
"One myth?" echoed Steven, quirking an eyebrow at Caroline who was practically imitating a mime up against an invisible wall. Then, he sighed. "Oh, boy. I feel like we've got a lot to talk about."
Caroline grinned cheekily at him. "Well, you are a fantasy novelist. I suspect I may provide you with some ideas for your next novel."
"I don't doubt it," muttered Steven, clearing his throat and then overly enunciating, "Caroline, won't you please come in?"
The invisible barrier she was prodding and laying her palms against immediately dissipated, and Caroline stumbled forward briefly before righting herself.
"Thanks," she said, once she stepped into the foyer.
Steven eyed her. "Planning on snacking on me? Do I follow social convention and ask you what you'd like to drink and then make a quip about how I don't stock O-negative?"
Caroline's nose wrinkled. "I don't even know what type of blood I would like. I was turned, like, two nights ago."
Steven paused in leading Caroline down the hall and towards the back of the house and the kitchen. "The night of the car crash?"
Caroline sighed. "Is Melanie around?"
"Well, it's a bit of a long story..."
Steven smiled, a hand on Caroline's arm as he guided her away from the kitchen and back of the house, instead towards his writing room. "Almost all stories begin that way. And I don't think this one will be any different. Now, where do you want to start?"
Caroline smiled at her stepfather and sat on a couch in the stuffed-to-the-brim-with-books writing room Steven used when he wanted to get to work on his next novel. "Well, I guess you could say it began the day I met Stefan Salvatore on the first day of school this year..."
Her father never returned from Mystic Falls until Caroline was already well on her way back. She spent a week with Steven and Melanie, both of whom were strangely accepting of her new-found immortality and vampirism. Steven kept racing back to his writing room, yanking off all his fantasy novels that featured vampires of some form or another, and asked her to 'perform,' doing the things that they did in the books to see if they could separate truth from fiction.
Melanie, her ten-year-old stepsister, thought that Caroline remaining seventeen forever and looking as beautiful as she did was wonderful, until the three of them realized that she'd see everyone she loved die and live beyond. It sobered the group, and Steven later quietly informed Caroline that he was likely changing his will to add a stipulation for her to take care of Melanie should anything happen to him or her father, Bill, in regards to an "untimely" death.
It was a wake-up call for Caroline as well. Once Melanie had gone to bed on the second night of her week-long stay, Caroline told Steven everything – including her new-found memories that Damon had wiped from her mind using compulsion. Steven was appalled and equally horrified – if that was something any vampire could do, who's to say that they hadn't done that to someone else? That someone else was victimized?
"That's what I told Slater," admitted Caroline, looking down at a bottle of beer Steven had reluctantly passed her, but the next item on their list was to check Caroline's sobriety and whether or not her metabolism could speed up or if she'd have a massive hangover in the morning. Steven felt a bit like a fraud of a parent, but he and Caroline rationalized that they might as well practice while she was in a safe environment. And his writing room, on his comfy, sagging in the middle couch, while Melanie was at school, was one of the safest environments for her.
She continued, "I don't want anyone else to go through what I did. To feel that helpless, that scared that every moment might be your last." She swallowed heavily and recalled Damon's passive "mmhmm" reply when she, as a human, plaintively asked, "Are you going to kill me?"
Steven nodded seriously. "I understand that, Care, but you're seventeen. You're a week turned. And this Damon fellow, he's what? Over a hundred? From your memories and observations, we can only guess that vampires do get stronger as they age. You'd need a lot of surprise to take someone like that down and make them stop what they're doing."
Caroline sighed. "Yeah, I guess." She remained silent before blinking, turning bright eyes to her stepfather. "But, Steven – I might not be able to fight against an older vampire, but I can definitely fight against another human."
"Caroline," began Steven in a warning tone... "Where are you going with this?"
"Vampires aren't the only people out there to do bad things," she said eagerly, sitting up and looking with fervid eyes at him, barely wincing from the brightness of his yellow polo. "People do bad things, just as they do good. I told Slater I don't want anyone else to ever feel like I did – to feel helpless and victimized."
Steven blinked. "Please tell me this isn't going where I'm thinking it is..."
Instead, Caroline rose from her spot on his couch, making Steven blink watery eyes as she moved incredibly fast (during the night they used a police radar gun Steven had from a previous crime-writing attempt to clock her speed when she used her vampire abilities), only stopping to pluck a tall, slim hardback from Steven's shelf. She glanced down at it, then at Steven, before handing it to him.
Steven pulled out his reading glasses and peered down at the title. He then looked up at Caroline.
She remained silent.
"Please tell me you're joking."
Caroline shook her head.
Steven sighed, looking back down at the cover of the hardback, much larger than any paperback novel, with a distinct blue bit at the bottom of the binding and white capitals in block letters reading DC COMICS. The cover had a red background, with a dark, shadowed tree with elongated limbs tangling and being used by the four women featured. One, towards the back, braced herself against two limbs as she held herself suspended between them, although from her arm position, she looked like an organic extension of the tree. The bottom and foreground of the cover had three other women: one in the middle, behind the other two, sitting prettily in black leather and corset top; the woman on the left, blonde and in blue fishnets, swung from a vine. The woman on the right, in a white mask with red mark on the forehead and a katana shielded the woman sitting and was in a defensive pose. The title of the comic, large and white in block letters surrounded by red above all the women in costumes, proclaimed: BIRDS OF PREY, the new 52.
Advertisements inside the graphic novel issues for other DC comics and earlier issues of the Birds of Prey series showed other characters: a redhead in a wheelchair, a dark-haired seductress in tight crop-top and purple holster and cape, a blonde girl in all black, dressed similar to Batman...
"Caroline, if this is your way of telling me that you don't want to go to college to pursue a life of mask-wearing, cape-crusading vigilantism," began Steven slowly, "You have chosen the most creative way of doing so."
"I think I can time manage it well enough," argued Caroline, crossing her arms defensively. "Did I not run three school clubs, keep my grades up with near perfect marks across the board, while running a very active social calendar?"
Steven sighed and ran a hand through his thinning brown hair. "As a parent, I can't support this." Caroline's face fell, and her crossed arms moved to hug herself tight. "But... as a fantasy novelist who reads far too much and lives the majority of my life in fake worlds..." He glanced up. "Well, you'll need a name, for starters. And a costume. Just..." he winced. "No Kick-Ass and Hit Girl stuff, please."
Caroline beamed, racing forward with human speed to wrap her arms around Steven and hug him tightly.
Caroline, being Caroline, knew how to sew and sew well. With her mother working near 24/7, it left Caroline with little to do but watch television, do her homework, and spend as much time as she could outside of the house, keeping busy to avoid thinking about the emptiness in her life.
When there wasn't homework, or Elena, or Bonnie, or Matt, or Tyler to hang out with, when her clubs and charities and activities were in a lull, Caroline would watch TV. She would watch the Food Network, the National Geographic channel, Discovery, Home and Garden, Fashion TV... anything she could. She learned to cook by watching cook-off challenges and Iron Chef; she learned how to unclog the shower drain from Home and Garden and the DIY channel; she learned to sew by watching Project Runway on Bravo!, and she learned to darn and mend her clothes. Caroline retained information. She was good at it, and worked hard to present a perfect picture of her life.
She took to vigilantism the same way.
She first thought of a costume: what could represent her without being too sexy (she wasn't Huntress or the Scarlet Witch or a Star Sapphire), too obvious (Poison Ivy, or any of the female X-Men in their non-standard X-Men uniforms). She wanted something that was Caroline Forbes – teenage vampire.
Steven was great for helping her with practicality. "You can't move in that," he would argue when she suggested a cape. "How can you fight if you're always tripping on it? It'll weigh you down." Or: "Stilettos are fashion statements Caroline, do you really think you can fight in them? Can run?" "Of course I can, Steven, I'm female, aren't I?"
Eventually, they agreed to disagree but Caroline considered his opinions and presented her finished product to Steven proudly on the fifth night of her week-long stay in Georgia.
Caroline did a little spin in the living room, where Steven and Melanie sat on the couch, watching a movie, which Steven muted. Melanie squealed with delight, clapping her hands and laughing as Caroline beamed widely at them, while Steven's eyes roved up and down, cataloguing each nuance of Caroline's outfit for practicality and function.
Finally, he nodded. "It looks greats, Care."
"Thanks," she replied breathlessly, full of pleasure. "There's one last thing to do now."
"What's that?" asked Melanie, sitting up to face her stepsister.
Caroline bared her teeth in a predatory smile. "Find someone to practice on."
Although Steven was vehemently against Caroline putting herself in danger ("You're still only seventeen, Caroline, I don't care if you're practically indestructible or immortal, you are my stepdaughter and I will always worry about you."), he finally capitulated and realized that the only way for Caroline to test her vigilantism, and fledging skills, was to practice them.
And practice them on assholes who terrorized Atlanta's dingy alleys and seedier parts of town.
"I still really don't like this," muttered Caroline's driving companion, who was not Steven, as he had to remain home and watch over Melanie. Instead, in order to allow Caroline out, the two agreed on having a third party, one older than Caroline, to monitor her.
They ended up calling Slater, who after laughing hysterically for ten minutes when Caroline told him of her costume, abruptly stopped when he realized she wasn't joking.
"You know, when you first told me about this," began Slater, "I thought you were being funny. Like, 'oh, ha, ha, what a joke, I'm so strong, I'm a vampire now!'" he pitched his voice up to sound female.
Caroline shook her head, cutting side-eye to him. "I wasn't joking then and I'm not now."
Slater snorted. "Well, yes, I can see that, Caroline." He then rubbed at his temples with his hands, resting his forehead on the steering wheel. "At least your stepfather has better sense than you. I can't believe you wanted to do this alone!"
"It would've been fine," soothed Caroline patronizingly, patting Slater on the head, pushing down his fluffy brown hair.
"No, it wouldn't," argued Slater, sitting up and staring hard at her. "You're a baby vampire, Caroline, and for all you know, there are a bunch of vampire hunters in that bar."
Caroline blinked. "Vampire hunters... exist?"
Slater stared open-mouthed at her. "Haven't you been reading the book?!"
Caroline shifted uncomfortably. "I got a bit busy making my outfit," she admitted.
Slater groaned and rolled his eyes. "You're doomed. How did I get stuck babysitting you?"
With a huff of her own, Caroline slouched in the passenger seat and crossed her arms, staring out of the windshield at the back entrance of a very seedy, possibly illegal bar.
While she abstractly understood Slater's concern, the truth was Caroline had to do this. She had to make a mark for herself, to push her vampire limits and do something about her life now that she would permanently be seventeen forever. How could she explain to someone who had never felt helpless before? To know the same fear, horror, and absolute surety that Damon was about to kill her if they – Slater, her stepfather – never knew the same feelings?
"I have to do this, Slater," said Caroline lowly, eyes fixed ahead. Her voice was unnaturally loud in the stillness of the car. "I need to know that I can be more than just a blonde, seventeen-year-old vampire who is only good at planning parties and missing the obvious. I can't... I can't go back to being that girl again." Her voice wobbled. "I just can't."
From the corner of suddenly teary eyes, Caroline saw Slater's annoyed face slowly morph into understanding and sympathy. She turned her head and met his face-on, holding his gaze steadily as he searched hers for something. Apparently, he found it a few minutes later, because he sighed and nodded.
"Right," he said, running a hand over his face in resignation. "I'll go in first. Order a beer and stay by the bar; you'll come in a few minutes later and look all cute and shy in your outfit, tear-stained like your boyfriend just dumped you and you're looking at getting some revenge. You'll get hit on quick enough, but you'll need to learn who your target is going to be. I'll help choose by interfering with the person who picks you to instigate a fight."
Caroline nodded. "Okay. Then?"
"I'll let myself be taken to the back alley. You come with the guy, if he doesn't try to bring you," continued Slater, moodily resigned to taking one for the team and not being able to fight back the way he wanted. "Whoever the guy is, Caroline – he's going to be huge and strong and powerful. You'll have to be quick, and not hold back. Can you do that?"
Caroline nodded, determinedly. "Yes."
Slater eyed her for a moment before reaching for the driver's side handle and opening the door. "See you in a bit," he said, and gave her a jaunty flick of his fingers in goodbye. Caroline watched him jog across the road towards the bar, before stopping, slouching, and shoving his hands in his jean pockets. The transformation from philosophical know-it-all to moody, petulant swagger awed Caroline. And Slater was only sixty or so since his human birth – a vampire of only forty years! To learn to that much in such a short time...
Caroline counted to one hundred four times before decided that was long enough and exited the car.
She mentally prepared herself and strode into the dingy, dirty bar like she owned the place, and immediately made her way to the bar, flagging the bartender down with a disgustingly large amount of cleavage.
"Cranberry and vodka," she ordered as his eyes dipped below her chin and remained there.
"Coming right up," he replied, reluctantly pulling his eyes away from the large amount of cleavage on display as he turned to the mini-fridge to grab the cranberry juice.
She spied Slater, slouched over a drink and a bottle in a dark corner where the fluorescent lights barely reached, but she could feel his eyes on her. The point of her exercise was to find the sleaziest, creepiest, douche bag in the place and scare the bejesus out of him. Scare him straight.
And within seconds, she found him.
He was tall, muscular, with a close shave and sideburns. He was bothering one of the waitresses, and although the bar was a dive, literally, it was clear the bottle-blonde with tired brown eyes and thin arms was not amused by the attentions the large was giving her.
He had grabbed her free arm, the one that wasn't holding up a tray with half-empty glasses, and dragged her back to his front, where he was grinding into her lower back.
"You like that, don't you?" Caroline could hear him mutter lowly, while several of his friends, all wearing similar greasy tank tops or flannels and baseball caps, chuckled appreciatively.
"Stop it," the waitress demanded, gritting her teeth, trying to yank her arm back. "Leave me alone! I'm not that kind of girl."
"Oh, I definitely think you're that kind of girl," he continued, chuckling as his hand, the one gripping her arm tightly enough that Caroline could already see bruises popping up, slid up and across her collarbones to down the waitress's thin camisole – and was about to go under.
Okay, enough, thought Caroline, tossing her cranberry-vodka down in a single go, making the bartender's eyebrow shoot up. He didn't say anything, though, when she slammed the empty glass down on the table – not hard enough to shatter, at all, but enough that there was a definitive whack – and Caroline stood and turned.
There were tears in the waitress's eyes when Caroline approached, still trying to struggle and hunch her shoulders enough so she wasn't groped by the sleaze. There was only one way Caroline could turn the man's attention to her though, and even though she loathed the idea, it was the best she had. Slater could theoretically jump in by trying to break up the man and the waitress – but what better way to catch the man's attention by stroking that ego of his?
So, Caroline mentally apologized, and plastered a fake, obviously fake smile on her lips as she sauntered up to the men, and drawled, "oh honey – can't handle a real mean? Let me show you how it's done."
The waitress's mouth had opened into a tiny circle, half-pain from the grip and half-humiliation from the groping; Slater, from over the man's beefy shoulder, was watching with his eyebrows raised.
The man's greedy, if not hazy, eyes roamed from the top of Caroline's perfect blonde curls to her low-cut top, tight skinny jeans, and her stilettos. She was young, she was seventeen, and she was a walking temptation for men who thought only with their dicks instead of their heads.
"Think you can handle me, sugar?" the man asked, a thick Southern accent that indicated he was definitely from further south than Atlanta.
Caroline stroked a single digit up the man's arm to where it rested against the waitress's collarbone. She pushed the sick feeling back when she met his eyes and said, "Better believe it."
A greedy light lit in the man's eyes, and the next thing Caroline knew, the waitress had been passed off to one of his friends, and he was pushing Caroline up against the brick wall of the alleyway behind the seedy bar, between an empty parking lot and two dumpsters.
His hand stroked her cheek, in a pantomime of a lover's caress, before it trailed hotly down her neck and do her breast.
"Why don't you show me what you can do, sugar?" he hotly suggested, his reeking breath of stale, cheap beer and peanuts wafting across Caroline's face. "Have that other girl watch before my boys and I have some fun with you both?"
Ew, thought Caroline, disgust rolling in her stomach. But she only needed a few more minutes and then Slater would be here too... he wouldn't leave her alone with these men – five of them including Mr. Muscles and the waitress – would he? And how did the bartender or other patrons in the bar not care or come to see what was happening to the girl? Honestly.
So Caroline arched her back and pressed her chest into the man's hand, inwardly grimacing at the heavy pawing and trying to ignore how similar it felt to Damon Salvatore's encounters. The heady scent of arousal from the men was building, as was the fear from the waitress.
Caroline let that fear and arousal build in her new vampire senses, feeding each other in a tumultuous rolling cycle of fear-arousal-fear-arousal until all Caroline could hear was the unsteady heartbeat of those around her and the heat from their bodies.
Vaguely, her vampiric senses noted the back door opening and a familiar, undead scent and lack of a heartbeat meant Slater was ready to help, because Caroline certainly had not wanted or expected to fight five men off on her first go as a superhero.
"How wet are you for me, babe?" the muscular man panted into Caroline's neck, his sweaty hand catching on her shirt as he went for the button of her jeans. "Are you ready for me, sugar?"
"Not as ready as you'll be for me," she replied, dropping her blond bimbo act and letting her bloodlust sweep across her face. Her green eyes darkened to black, with inky lines spreading across like lightning, and her canines elongated into vampire fangs.
The man took one look at her face in confusion and hustled back so fast that he hit the dumpster and almost bounced off. His friends, all of whom were violating the waitress by threatening her by telling her what they were going to do, by pawing at her breasts and bum, stopped laughing.
Caroline turned on one heel, slowly, drawing her face around and speaking around her fangs as she as she could without lisping (it was a learning curve, really): "I suggest you let her go."
Of course, things could never go to plan, as one of the men furthest from the waitress let out a wordless roar and raced towards Caroline, who quite truthfully, realized he was moving very slowly. Her vampiric senses had dulled everything around her so she easily sidestepped him and used a move she saw Matt Donovan once do on the field after a very, very bad day with his mother and sister: Caroline thrust out her arm and the man's neck ran straight into it.
Clotheslined, the man toppled backward onto the pavement, wheezing and his hands at his bruising throat, eyes wide as he began to panic. Without realizing, Caroline had crushed his trachea and he was choking to death. Well, she couldn't stop to help (and that brought up another point she hadn't thought of – morally, was she obligated as this man was about to commit rape, and by the sound of it, it wouldn't be his first run at it, either), as his friends rushed at her, too.
She was aware that Slater had remained behind and out of sight, and had snapped the neck of one of the men, but he also wanted to see how well she could handle herself in an uneven fight. So, Caroline took everything Slater had taught her, what she knew from watching martial arts movies, and her school's gym self-defence classes and mixed them up.
One man's hand flew at her face for a mean punch to the cheek, but Caroline let it roll by letting her cheek move with the momentum and used it instead to bring her left leg up to kick the man in the face – hey, she was flexible thanks to cheerleading! The stiletto boot not only knocked several teeth out as it connected, but the heel scraped over his nose, breaking it and cutting a deep gash with the force of Caroline's supernatural abilities. She didn't stop to analyze, however, as she brought her leg down, crouched and let the other, black-tank wearing man's arms crush nothing but air. She placed her hands on the ground in a leap-frog position and then kicked back like a donkey or mule; her heels punctured his chest and the man flew several yards away, only to land in a heap, bleeding from his wounds.
The last friend had a switchblade. He passed it back from hand to hand, keeping Caroline guessing which was his dominant, and his cruel glint told her this wasn't his first time attacking a woman.
But it would be his first and last attacking a vampire.
"I'm gonna make you sing, little girl," he leered.
"Really?" Caroline laughed. She then flashed in front of him, using her speed and his right hand, the one holding the blade, was slammed against the brick wall, hard. He howled in pain as a dent appeared and the bones in his hand shattered. The blade dropped, unused to the ground.
Still gripping the arm and hand against the wall, Caroline used her strength to flip him over her shoulder, dislocating the arm in the process. A swift punch to the face knocked the man unconscious, and probably left him with a concussion.
All that was left was Mr. Muscles, who had slid to the ground, still against the dumpster, watching his friends be defeated by a perky blonde.
"Please," the man begged, as she stepped closer. Caroline cracked her neck, menacingly even though it was more for show than anything, and the man peed himself. "Oh God, don't kill me. Don't kill me!"
"Why shouldn't I?" asked Caroline, raising her eyebrows. "Hmmm? Tell me, what did you think you were going to do to me or that poor girl?"
The compulsion set in, and the man opened his mouth, babbling about rape, assault, and maybe even death if either girl resisted too much. He and his friends were stragglers coming from somewhere else, having received parole for the first time in many, many, years, and were already re-offending and leaving a trail of offences and unsolved crimes.
Grimly, Caroline knew what to do. Three of his friends were dead – two by her hands alone – and the man was never going to stop.
With great power comes great responsibility, Peter Parker's uncle told him. But Tony Stark once said, No politics here. Just good old fashion revenge. And okay, killing people was a bit over the top – but – BUT – no politics here, right? Being a vampire meant blood and guts and gore, but it didn't mean killing indiscriminately, and it didn't mean using her power to abuse; it did mean helping where she could, and with a corrupt justice system, Caroline really only had two options: compulsion or death.
And given what Mr. Muscles was going to do... well... his three friends already suffered, and with him and his other lackey left, she supposed he was going to get option number one instead.
"Your lucky day," she frowned.
"What?" he bubbled, fat tears rolling down his face.
"Guess you're not going to die tonight," answered Caroline, upset at the revelation.
The man's eyes brightened, and his nasty little gleam began to light up, just as hope did.
"Nope," she continued, brighter now though. "It just means I lobotomize you!"
"Whaaat?" the man wailed, as Caroline reached down, grasping his head firmly, cupping his ears and making his terrified eyes focus on her.
"Hello sugar," she sang, "Now... let us erase everything that made you, you..."
Thirty minutes later, she finished with dislocated shoulder lackey, and Slater had the waitress by a firm vampire hand, although she was no longer crying. She was shaking, though.
"What are you?" the girl whispered, not in horror though. No, she was looking at Caroline in... awe?
"Sorry?" asked Caroline, turning to her.
The waitress ignored the blood-stained clothing, and looked Caroline up and down. She shook her head, and just muttered out, "Thank you. God, thank you... I thought I was... I thought..."
"Shh," Caroline said in response, touching the waitress's shoulder and smiling. "That's not going to happen. And it's never going to happen by these guys ever again."
"I know," the waitress continued. "But... I... can you...?"
Caroline cocked her head to the side, aware of Slater's slightly disapproving gaze. "Can I what?"
The waitress's eyes darted at Mr. Muscles on the ground, eyes blankly staring ahead as Caroline's compulsion had ripped through his entire brain, rendering him brain dead. "I don't want to be like him, but can you – I don't know – remove tonight from my memories?"
"You don't want to remember?" asked Slater, drawing the waitress's eyes to him instead of Caroline's. She shook her head.
"I don't want to remember what almost happened," she said, reaching up and grasping her arms to stave off the cold and fear. "But I want to know that someone is out there, protecting people." She cut her eyes back at Caroline as she next spoke. "No matter what she is, or what she's capable of."
Slater had a funny smile on his face. "Didn't you know, darling, we're monsters?"
The waitress shook her head. "Oh, no," she said. "You're not monsters."
Caroline caught her eyes and her compulsion began. "You won't remember being attacked or dragged out to the alleyway tonight; you'll only remember an asshole trying his best to assault you in the bar, but that someone intervened... someone helped you. And that those guys – they're never, ever, going to bother you again."
"Definitely not monsters," the woman murmured as the compulsion took and her eyes closed; Slater caught her in his arms and jerked his head towards the bar.
"You're going to have to go in there and compel the rest of them into the same story," he suggested firmly.
Caroline nodded, moving back towards the door. As she opened it, letting the thrumming bass of a tawdry country song echo through the night, she heard Slater continue, "Oh, and Caroline?"
Slater grinned. "Not bad for your origin story, Blondie."
"Thanks," replied Caroline with a grin. "But I was thinking more like the Fanged Bitch. Much more intimidating than 'Blondie', don't you think?"
Caroline did her best to hide her derisive snort as she eyed Bonnie and Elena try to have a covert whispered conversation next to Stefan in the school cafeteria. Her eyes lingered on them from her spot with the rest of the school's cheerleaders – a position she maintained even after her "car accident" had her recovering at home for a few weeks – as she daintily ate at her meal.
She, with the help of her Dumbledore-mentor, Slater, pieced together much of what happened the night of the full moon and the car crash with his extensive vampire network. She now knew that Tyler Lockwood was a werewolf, with a recessive werewolf gene that would only be triggered with him killing someone. She knew that there was a Council in Mystic Falls that dedicated itself to the eradication of all supernatural creatures to ensure the safety of its citizens, and that her estranged father, and her mother, were both members thanks to Steven. She even knew that when Elena was only a few years old, a very old and powerful vampire had come to Mystic Falls, seeking her out and planning to kill her. Her parents however, who headed the Council, trapped him somewhere along the Southern, Eastern seaboard of the States with the help of Bonnie's mother.
From that, Caroline was able to extrapolate several other truths: someone, most likely the Elena lookalike who killed her, was playing a strange game. The game involved Stefan and Damon, as her final words to Caroline were, "game on." She knew far more than Elena, Bonnie, and Matt, and possibly more than Damon and Stefan; from her understanding, Caroline knew Damon was especially spitting mad about the lookalike's appearance.
But now? This? What she was overhearing with her vampire hearing? This was gossip.
"—he's coming for me, Bonnie," Elena was furiously whispering, leaning close to her best friend, whole Stefan looked on with concern. "Klaus wants me dead."
"He wants to use you for his ritual; he needs the Doppelganger. That's what Katherine said," argued Bonnie. "That means there is a spell out there that we can use against him. We'll stop him. I promise."
"We'll do whatever we can, Elena," promised Stefan, nodding emphatically.
Klaus, huh, thought Caroline with a tiny, Queen Bee smile that went unnoticed among her cheerleaders. Time for some more digging with Slater, then.
"Stay the fuck out of it," were the first words Slater said to Caroline as soon as she mentioned the name 'Klaus.'
"What? Why?" asked a flabbergasted Caroline.
Slater swore under his breath over the phone line, but Caroline still heard him. "Fuck! Caroline, Klaus is a fucking legend. He's the originator of all vampires. He's a thousand years old. He's the most powerful, most dangerous, most psychotic of all vampires. If your childhood friend said he's after her, she's a walking corpse and not like us, either. Cut your losses and move on."
Caroline swallowed heavily. "That... that doesn't sound too good."
"Not one bit," sighed Slater. "Caroline, just try to keep your head down, will you? I know you meddle, and I know you want to help... but this is too much for a baby vampire. Even for the Fanged Bitch."
She gave a tiny laugh, but understood what Slater was trying to say.
"Hang on, someone's calling me, let me put you on hold," said Slater abruptly.
As the phone beeped in her ear, Caroline thought how thankful she was to have Slater in her life. He was an incredible friend and had helped her with her insane ideas, went along with Steven's rules, and continued to be her vampire spirit guide when he didn't have to.
Slater just as abruptly returned to the phone call. "Caroline, you won't believe who just called."
"An old friend of yours," said Slater breathlessly. "Well, an old acquaintance of mine, who called on behalf of a friend of yours: Rose. Looking for information on how to contact Klaus by the request of Damon Salvatore. They're coming by tomorrow."
Caroline was alarmed. "You're not going to say anything, are you?"
"Depends what they want," he argued. "I'll tell them the same I told you, but with less detail: stay away from Klaus. If they push, they'll have to pay for more."
Caroline bit her lip. "Just... be careful, okay?"
"Always," promised Slater, hanging up.
Caroline sighed and rolled her shoulders to ease out the kinks. She had homework to complete and a cheer choreography to complete for practice the day after tomorrow as well as the possibility of her going out that evening for a hunt; she didn't have time to wonder what trouble Damon Salvatore was about to get into.
When Caroline didn't hear from Slater the next day, she wasn't too concerned. Her friend and mentor could take care of himself, and besides, Rose and Damon had just returned, according to her overhearing of Stefan and Elena, who were arguing.
But by that evening, when Caroline stepped into the Grill, she saw that Stefan was moping into a beer and Elena was nowhere to be seen.
"All okay there, Stefan?" asked Caroline jovially. It was fun keeping a secret from everyone else, thought Caroline, watching as Stefan subtly schooled his features into a pleasant mask. She knew he – along with so many others in Mystic Falls – didn't have a high expectation of her, but with her vampire senses it was amusing (if not sometimes sobering) to watch the minute emotions and facial changes people made when she appeared. She was beginning to learn some long overdue truths.
"Fine," sighed the perpetually seventeen vampire. "Just... there was a death. A..." he paused. "Family friend."
Caroline twisted her face. "I'm so sorry to hear that," she sympathized. "Did you want to talk about it?"
"Oh, we weren't close," confided Stefan, slightly blandly. "Damon and his friend Rose went to see him yesterday but they and the friend's girlfriend discovered his body."
A chill swept over Caroline.
"Damon and Rose went to see him yesterday?" she confirmed, beginning to feel dizzy.
"Yeah," continued Stefan blithely, "We didn't know him well but Rose said she did, and they were going to ask him for some help. From what Rose said, Slater was a good guy."
An icy wave crashed over Caroline and there was a loud ringing noise in her ears. She couldn't hear Stefan ask if anything was wrong, but she knew she made some sort of vague apology to leave and wandered out of the Grill on autopilot. Without realizing it, her cell phone was in her hand and she was ringing Steven.
When he answered, she only said, "Slater's dead."
There was silence, a heavy sigh, and then, "I'm so sorry, Caroline. I realise that Slater was a great friend of yours, and he really helped you since you transitioned."
"I—" Caroline choked off a sob. "Steven – Steven, what am I going to do? He helped me. He was the one I went to for clarification and help. Oh, God," the sobs broke through. "Steven, I'm all alone. No one knows. No one knows about me at all. No one knows me."
Steven was murmuring words on the other line, trying to calm her but Caroline was inconsolable. Slater helped her so much; he put up with her crazy superhero ideas and even trained her and gave her the guidebook so she could avoid hunters and could learn the do's and don'ts of being a vampire. What was she without him?
She was vaguely aware of Steven muffling the phone as he spoke to her father, telling him he was handling Caroline and to not worry; she could only blink through tears and try to make sense of what she could do next. She could continue to be herself – be the cheerleader and hope no one would notice that she wasn't aging, that she wasn't changing anymore, and then quickly leave to university abroad and remain away, letting her life in Mystic Falls fade away – or she could begin to make changes. Could she still afford to remain hidden?
She was contemplating this, her eyes unfocused but her senses sharp, staring ahead at the figure of Elena meeting Stefan outside of the Grill, embracing and kissing, then engaging in a conversation. The words drifted towards her on the breeze: Klaus, the Doppelganger, Katherine, ritual.
Calm settled over Caroline as she sucked in a large sniffle. "I'll be okay, Steven, don't worry. I'm going to try to... to focus on other things right now."
"Are you sure, Caroline?" asked Steven, worriedly. "I can come down to Mystic Falls for a bit, if you'd like. And you know you're always welcomed here."
"I know," replied Caroline with a small smile. "But I'm beginning to come up with a plan and there's something I need to know."
"If there's a big bad vampire coming to Mystic Falls, trying to use an old childhood friend of mine as a ritual, I think it's my right to know what's going on and why, don't you?" questioned Caroline lightly, her eyes stuck on Stefan and Elena's backs as they entered the Grill, blissfully unaware of her presence.
"Only if you're sure and careful," cautioned Steven back, and as Bill's footsteps faded, sure that his daughter was fine now, Steven added, "Watch your back, Caroline. And Caroline? Go get 'em, sweetheart."
"Thanks Steven," finished Caroline, hanging up the phone.
First stop, the library.
It took her over a week, and many strange had happened since: Stefan disappeared from school for a few days, but then reappeared haggard and planted at Elena's side; Tyler left Mystic Falls for an unknown amount of time with his Uncle Mason's friend Jules, without telling anyone including his best friend Matt, where he was going; gossip had Bonnie seeing a new boy in town whom Caroline learned was named Lukas, and the two were awfully close in under such a short amount of time – and Damon, after heading out with Rose to discover Slater's body, returned, friendly with the older vampire, who died shortly after during an attack of some sort at the Salvatore house.
Caroline was unsure how that all fit in to the Klaus situation that killed Slater, but, at the library, she learned other information about the Founding members of the town, such as them being excellent record keepers, but shoddy in terms of hiding evidence. When presented with enough, Caroline could easily piece together unsolved murders, town mysteries and unexplained disappearances; strange sounds and observations by various members of the populace over the years, always ebbing and flowing with the Salvatore family's coming and goings.
Caroline easily deduced that Stefan and Damon only ever arrived in Mystic Falls every forty or fifty years, enough to pass themselves off as distant relatives or sons or nephews, and never stayed for more than a few months – making this time the exception. So there was something different with their arrival in Mystic Falls this time than any other.
From there, Caroline moved to the Language section and read up on what a Doppelganger was, and its mythology in the Occult section of the library, which was terribly small. She learned that Elena was an exact copy of someone else – Katherine Pierce – and that her duplicate meant she was magical and supernatural in a way that was different to other supernatural creatures. Her blood was special, as it was her blood that allowed her to wear the same face as someone else.
After that, Caroline returned home; once again, her mother was out doing goodness knew what, leaving Caroline to freely browse the guide Slater left her. She began skimming through, reading bits and pieces about Klaus. She learned he was called an Original – one of eight of the first vampires, a family all turned at the same time a thousand years ago. Age made them powerful and vengeful; vampires knew not to cross them if they could help it. Their origin story was unknown, but their first recorded appearance in a monk's journal was from 1123 off the coast of Wales.
Their bloody path cut through most of Britain, France, and Spain over a course of several hundred years as they moved in a unit; then, they split with family members going their own way and slowly, one-by-one, disappearing until only two remained active: Klaus and Elijah.
There were vague descriptions but Caroline knew enough about them. She wanted to know why they wanted Elena.
And for that, she would need to go to the source.
Caroline didn't do subtle, ever, so between math and gym, she leaned against the block of lockers next to Elena's and bluntly asked, "Who's Klaus?"
Elena dropped her gym bag and water bottle in a loud fumble, her face paling. "W-what?"
Caroline raised her perfectly sculptured eyebrows. "Klaus. Who is he? You're not dating him because you and Stefan seem to still be happily ever after. So... why do you keep talking about him?"
Elena shifted nervously and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. She knelt to pick up her items but Caroline refused to help, her arms tightly crossed around her Algebra textbook and pressed tightly to her abdomen.
"He's..." Elena struggled to find the words. "He's someone my parents tried to keep away. Stefan's ex-girlfriend is working for him and she's crazy," Caroline agreed with that assessment of Katherine Pierce, "And he wants to hurt me."
"Why would he want to hurt you? You haven't done anything to him," said Caroline, trying to fish.
Elena shrugged. "I dunno. He's insane. So's she. What do I know about the minds of killers?"
Inwardly, Caroline began to laugh hysterically. Outwardly, she frowned. "Killers? If they're killers, shouldn't my mom know and be involved?"
Elena's face paled and she tried to backtrack. "What? No! No, it's fine. Did I say killers? I didn't mean that. I'm exaggerating. I'm sure they're just crazy, which is better than killing people randomly, but if they're targeting me that's not random... um, wait..."
Caroline mmhmm'ed. "Right. So... either they're crazy and targeting you for some strange reason or they're killers. Freudian slips much, Elena?"
The brunette's shoulders slumped. "I wasn't supposed to say anything," she finally admitted, closing her locker door gently. "Stefan and Damon didn't want to say anything to you or your mom. I just... remember the whole thing with Bonnie and being a witch? Have you changed your mind about it?"
"I've thought back on it some more," admitted Caroline carefully.
"Oh!?" Elena looked happily surprised. "That's great. I just... feel like I've learned so much more about the world this past year, and not all of it is good, or bad, but this Klaus thing is... bad. Like, I could be dead in a weeks' time bad."
"What can I do to help?" asked Caroline honestly. Even if it wasn't to help Elena directly, she wanted to know what Klaus was up to and if she could help keep the rest of Mystic Falls away from him.
Elena shrugged, hoisting her gym bag and water bottle into her arms as the two began walking down the hallway. "I don't know. I'm not going to think too much about it tonight anyway, with the dance."
Caroline's face soured briefly. She forgot about that.
The two spotted Bonnie speaking in hushed tones to Jeremy, both of whom quickly quieted when Elena and Caroline approached; Jeremy, after shuffling awkwardly, left the group.
Elena blurted out, "I told Caroline some of it about Klaus."
"What?" Bonnie burst out.
Caroline's head swivelled back and forth. Clearly, Bonnie did not want her to know, and had no faith in her at all, if this was how she was being treated.
"She just wants to help, Bon," pleaded Elena, looking imploringly at her friend who huffed and crossed her arms, shifting her weight onto one foot and darting her eyes in that direction to avoid looking at them.
Caroline rolled her own eyes. Bonnie was just being childish. Once again, it was the Elena show and she was just a random set extra in their lives. Bonnie always had been territorial growing up, since her mother left.
"I don't think it's a good idea," she grit out from behind her teeth.
"Oh, c'mon, what's wrong with Caroline knowing someone is out there to hurt me? She can help keep an eye on things. And you know she has a great network," argued Elena.
"And she's also standing right here," Caroline interrupted dryly. "Bonnie, if you don't want me to know, fine; but Elena has already told me some. I'm not asking for more, but I did ask if she wanted help. I do care about my friends, you know."
Even if I use the word friends very lightly, thought Caroline.
Bonnie softened at her words, and was about to respond with a friend of Elena's from History walked over to them.
"Hi Elena, Bonnie," she began, looking at each girl. "Caroline. Are you guys going to the 1960s dance tonight?"
Elena enthusiastically responded. "Hi Dana! Oh, yeah! I could use some fun."
"Great!" replied Dana. "'Coz some hot guy was asking about you saving him a dance."
Bonnie nudged Elena in the side and they shared a grin as Caroline watched on. "Oh?" asked Elena. "Did he say his name?"
Dana nodded. "Yep: Klaus."
Elena's face paled and Bonnie's eyes widened. Caroline immediately began looking around the hallway to see if anyone was watching. If Klaus wanted chaos, he would also revel in knowing he was upsetting Elena and would want to see it firsthand. But other than many students milling around the hall between classes, none who glanced their way, and Alaric, who was beginning to make his way towards the girls, there was no one suspicious.
"Is Klaus in the room right now, Dana?" asked Bonnie quietly and urgently.
"Oh," said Dana, her voice taking on an odd tone. "I don't know."
"She's compelled," murmured Elena, looking the girl up and down.
So he's nearby then, thought Caroline, looking around again, just as the bell rang.
"Let's go," muttered Bonnie as Dana wandered off. Coldly, she continued, "There's nothing we can do for her."
Caroline hid her shock. She, Steven and Slater had numerous conversations about theories on how to break compulsion during her stay in Georgia, mainly based off the fact that when Steven took Bill for their five-year anniversary to Las Vegas, Bill was able to break the performer's hypnosis act. Caroline, too, believed it was possible as a mind over matter debate. But to just leave the girl go on in her life, knowing that memories are missing and parts of you are shifted to someone else's will? Was that truly Bonnie?
Resolved, Caroline sat through English scribbling ideas for breaking compulsion, each more ridiculous than the last, but resolved. She tracked down Dana after class, just before lunch, and asked if she wanted to come by her house later for a study session.
Hooked, the girl agreed and Caroline began to set her plan up.
It took four hours to break the compulsion.
Four hours, three different methods, and finally – finally after mixing Harry Potter Imperious curse debates she Googled online, and mediation with Yoga and a quick dose of pain from a lighter – Caroline broke Dana from the compulsion.
The girl promptly began to shake and kept muttering "oh, God," in repeat.
Caroline left her to do so, realizing the emotional impact, before she began to question her gently.
The girl's wide eyes looked up at Caroline in gratitude. "Caroline. What happened?"
"What do you remember?" she asked in response instead, carefully, settling herself next to the girl on her bed.
Dana began slowly. "I just arrived at school. I was on my way to my first class, History. I was speaking to one of the teachers, my Calculus one, I think, and then there was someone else, asking to speak to me about my essay..."
It was a teacher, then.
"... and then there was just this... blankness that swept over me," finished Dana quietly. "And I couldn't remember anything until I was here."
"Do you remember who the teacher was?" asked Caroline, helping the girl lift a glass of water to her mouth.
Dana took a sip and nodded. "I won't be going in for the next little while, I can tell you that."
"I understand," Caroline said softly, helping Dana become comfortable until she was ready to go home. When she stood at Caroline's door, her father's sedan at the curb in front of the house, Dana turned around to face the blonde vampire.
"I remember who the teacher was," she said, her face solemn. "It was Mr. Saltzmann."
How perfect, thought Caroline as she entered her bedroom again, shutting the door firmly behind her. He's close to Elena and distant enough that they wouldn't notice anything immediately, especially with John Gilbert back in town.
Caroline opened her closet door and pushed the clothes aside, revealing the tight black catsuit she, Steven and Melody had designed, and the hot pink mask she used over her eyes.
A grin stretched across her lips, half-devious. A little snooping never hurt anyone.
Alaric Saltzmann's apartment bedroom window was ridiculously easy to pick the lock and open, as there were no protection spells or alarms. She slid the window up gently and slowly, her keen vampire ears listening for noise or movement, but there was nothing: Klaus-as-Alaric was at the dance.
Caroline crept in, leaving the window open in case she needed a quick getaway. The bedroom was sparse of personal artifacts but filled with books and paper, messily strew about the room and desk. A single framed photograph of Alaric and Jenna rested on the bedside table.
Caroline began to ease towards the main area of the apartment, slowly stepping on the balls of her toes. She eased around a corner and immediately, her eyes were drawn to the large, travelling trunk that rested in the middle of the cleared living room. Perfectly framed by the bar in the galley kitchen, to the back of the couch in front of the TV and the two walls – one by the front door and the other by the long row of industrial-sized windows – the trunk was the centre of attention.
"Ghastly, isn't it?"
Caroline shrieked and turned, hissing and barring her fangs at the person in warning, only to stop when she saw Katherine Pierce sitting in a chair and idly playing with the hilt of a small dagger. She yanked it out of her leg.
"What are you doing?" asked Caroline curiously, as she cocked her head to the side and stared at the woman who made her.
Katherine gave her a dirty, dry look. "What does it look like? I'm plunging a dagger into my leg." She proceeded to do so. "For fun."
Caroline gave her a sympathetic look. "Klaus compelled you?"
Katherine scowled. "What I wouldn't give to just piss the bastard off some more..."
Caroline smirked. "What do you think I'm doing here? He's in Mr. Saltzmann's body at the dance and I can play detective without anyone know."
Katherine pulled the dagger out with gritted teeth and glanced over at Caroline with something akin to respect in her eyes. "No one knows you're a vampire?"
Caroline pursed her lips together and didn't answer. Instead, she moved to the trunk and ran her hand across it. She could feel the remains of a protection spell – something that made her skin tingle – but nothing that actively stopped her from unlatching the lock and pushing the heavy lid up and open.
Had Klaus-in-Alaric's body not currently been tortured by Bonnie at the school's dance right that second, he may have noticed the tingly response of his trunk opening and the protection spell's barrier collapsing.
However, luck was on Caroline's side. With the lid propped up, she was able to peer into the large trunk only to blink in surprise and her mouth drop open.
"There's a body in here!" she told Katherine.
The doppelganger did not look shocked. "Describe it."
Caroline's hand reached up to her mouth and she began biting the edge of a hangnail. "Umm. Male. Maybe early twenties? Mid-twenties? Curly light brown hair, pale skin. He's wearing a leather jacket and dark jeans. Heavy work-style boots."
"Oh," said Katherine in a bored tone. "That's Klaus."
Caroline turned in surprise. "That's what he looks like when not body snatching?"
"Yep," replied Katherine, plunging the dagger back down. Blood oozed up from the wound, dribbled down her leg and pooled on the growing puddle on the floor around the chair leg. "Almost time for him to get his body back."
"What's he going to do?" asked Caroline in horrified fascination. She took another glance at Klaus's real form before closing the trunk. She replaced the latch and turned to face Katherine, who looked at Caroline as though she dribbled on her shirt.
"He's going to break the curse, of course," she replied. "Complete the ritual."
"How's he going to do that?" asked Caroline, perching herself on the edge of the bar counter to face Katherine.
"Are you a complete idiot?" demanded Katherine, the knife going back in her thigh.
Caroline rolled her eyes. "I'm operating under assumptions and guesses, since no one tells me anything and no one knows I'm a vampire."
Katherine sighed, pulling the dagger out. "Klaus needs to complete the ritual on the night of the next full moon. He needs a vampire, a werewolf, and Elena as the doppelganger to complete all the necessary ingredients, and a witch to bind them together. The three sacrifices are killed in a specific order: werewolf, as he's a born werewolf first; then the vampire, as he became and transitioned into a vampire; and finally, the doppelganger as the binding agent between the two forms."
Caroline shrewdly glanced at Katherine as the dagger went back into her thigh. "He tried it with you, didn't he?"
"Five hundred years ago," confirmed Katherine quietly. Both ignored the squelching sound as the knife pulled out of the torn muscle and flesh. "But I ran. And never stopped running." She glanced at Caroline. "I didn't want that for Elena."
"You didn't do your hardest to try to stop it, either," countered Caroline, but she understood. "Is there any way to save Elena?"
Katherine shrugged. "Elijah thought he found a way, but he never told me what it was."
Caroline frowned. "Elijah?"
"Klaus's older brother," explained Katherine. "Dead sexy in a suit."
"Literally," chuckled Caroline, adding the information to her storage bank of Original information. "All right." She glanced at the dagger back in Katherine's flesh. "Is there anything I can do to help you with that?"
Katherine glanced up, surprised. "I wouldn't say no to a drink."
Caroline turned and went to the fridge, unsurprised to find a few blood bags. She passed one to Katherine, who greedily drank from it with the knife sticking out of her thigh. Once she was done, Caroline folded it, wrapped paper towel around it, and carefully tucked the ill-shaped package down her cleavage.
"We can't have him wondering why there's an empty blood bag in the garbage," she reasoned as Katherine gave her a strange look, which turned to cunning appreciation.
As Caroline passed the vampire, heading back to the bedroom, Katherine called out after her. "Caroline!"
The blonde turned, giving Katherine a searching look.
"You were meant to die, that night at the hospital," began Katherine, "But I'm glad you didn't. You make a fantastic vampire."
"Thank you," replied Caroline, and then she whooshed from Katherine and the living room, was through the window and down the street in seconds. The blood bag was thrown out in a public garbage bin, and Caroline was at home, in bed, by the time the dance ended.
Bonnie had disappeared.
That's when Caroline knew she was out of time and needed to make a decision. How could she help Elena and the other vampires in Mystic Falls without revealing herself? Without calling up Slater and asking for his philosophical advice as he waxed on about choice, about reality, about philosophers with foreign names she couldn't pronounce?
Then, Alaric Saltzmann returned after a day off from work, disoriented and wondering what the last thing they learned in History class was, and Caroline knew Klaus was walking around in his true body and no longer in Mr. Saltzmann's apartment.
And the night before the full moon, after Elena was missing from school for an entire day, causing Stefan and Jeremy to run around frantic, even asking her if she had seen or spoken to Elena, Katherine came by Caroline's house.
"Leaving again?" she asked, standing on her front porch.
Katherine idly viewed her nails. "With Klaus around, away is the safest thing for me."
Caroline hummed her agreement. "Fair enough. Good luck with that."
"Thanks," said Katherine, turning and ready to move. "And you too, Caroline. Good luck."
Then, she was gone, and Caroline stood on her porch until the sky darkened and pink and purple beams of colour were splashed across the sky, and the stars slowly appeared. Shivering, even if the cold didn't truly affect her, Caroline wrapped her arms around her body and went inside the empty house, her mother out at work again, looking into Mason Lockwood's disappearance from never having arrived back in Miami.
With a reckless thought, Caroline put on her cat suit and mask, and left the bungalow for the streets of Mystic Falls, wondering where Klaus could be hiding.
She knew, thanks to Katherine, that he had a witch with him; he needed to her complete the spell. But he probably also had helpers, someone by the name of Cody, and maybe one or two other vampires. He wouldn't be staying in town – Caroline knew that as small as Mystic Falls was, people would notice a few strangers on an extended stay.
Nodding to herself, she turned away from town and towards the larger plots of land and farmhouses along the interstate, including some recent new-builds.
It was along the interstate, as she weaved in and out of the trees along the side, that she spotted the abandoned car with its lights on and two figures hunched by the front, illuminated in the cars' light beams.
A man was holding onto the woman, who was limp in his arms. At first, Caroline thought she was unconscious or hurt and he was trying to help her, but as she got closer she saw instead he was attached to her neck.
Without thought, Caroline darted forward and forcefully pushed the man from the woman. The man flew away, stumbling on his feet as he regained his balance. Blood dripped down from his open mouth, staining his shirt collar and the front of his leather jacket. His teeth were barred, fangs dripping with saliva and blood; black, inky lines spread across his veins around his eyes, brightly shining red in the light.
Well, she had wanted to find him, didn't she?
The girl was on the ground, clutching at her neck as blood dribbled between her fingers. Her eyes fluttered as she fought to remain conscious.
"Please," she whispered, reaching a shaky hand towards Caroline. "Please, help me." She then dropped to the ground, her hand falling away from her neck wound.
Caroline turned back to face Klaus, whose features had schooled themselves enough now that he no longer had his vampire face out, but regardless, he still looked predatory as he took him Caroline's rather tight outfit and pink mask.
"Think playing superhero is going to save you, sweetheart?" he asked in a mocking, accent-tinged voice.
"Didn't anyone ever tell you it's rude to be greedy?" she countered, raising her eyebrows as she deliberately looked from the girl to his messy clothing.
He chuckled, slowly and steadily moving towards her with a strong, deliberate gait in his steps, his heavy boots making loud smacks on the pavement as he did so.
Caroline held her ground and refused to move from her spot just slightly in front of the human girl on the ground.
"I don't think you know what you're playing with, love," warned Klaus in a low tone. "I'm that boogieman that you fight in the dark, except I'm much, much more dangerous."
"I think I know exactly who you are," scoffed Caroline, placing her hands on her hips. "Thousand year old vampire who happens to be the originator of most vampires today – and one who is a hybrid at that. How is your planning for tomorrow night coming along, by the way?"
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Caroline knew she pushed the right – or wrong – button. Klaus paused, and then was in front of Caroline, his eyes raking over her face and the two of them sharing the same breathing space.
"Just who are you?" he breathed, a hand coming up to forcefully grasp her chin and hold her head in place.
"Someone who was, once upon a time, that girl on the ground," whispered Caroline back, staring steadily into his eyes from behind her pink mask. "Someone who never wanted another to go through the same thing I experienced."
The two were silent, staring into each other's eyes. Caroline held her breath, wondering if he thought she was human and he was about to break her neck and leave her dead – or if he would try biting her – or any numerous dastardly things he could come up with and practised in a thousand years.
But instead, he stepped back, glanced at the girl on the ground, and said flippantly, "I was hungry. And she's only human."
"You were once, too," replied Caroline softly. "All life is important."
"Humans are insignificant in the grand scheme of things," argued Klaus, taking on a lofty tone as he waved a negligent hand to indicate his point. He established more personal space between them, but he hadn't attacker her or moved against her threateningly, so Caroline took that as a good sign.
"So is an insect," began Caroline, stepping away from the girl and closer to the thousand-year-old vampire. "But it's important in the life cycle; humans are the same. You can't have one without the other, in a living, symbiotic relationship of give and take together."
"Interesting," the vampire said in response, eyeing Caroline warily as she took another step closer.
"Are you still hungry?" she asked instead.
His smile was toothy and he looked every inch of the hidden wolf in him. "Are you offering?"
"I doubt my blood would taste anything like hers," glibly countered Caroline, trying to avoid answering.
He was in front of her then, a warm, intimate hand at the back of her neck and under her loose-flowing hair, his nose brushing against her neck and his lips caressing her skin as he murmured, "Let's find out, shall we?"
And then he bit into her neck, and Caroline thought better me than her, and she could feel her body fighting the puncture wounds, trying to close as his teeth continued to rip the skin to keep it open. He knew, she could tell, immediately that she was a vampire herself but he didn't stop drinking. Instead, unlike to leisurely take he took to the unconscious human on the ground, he was insatiable with Caroline, greedily sucking and cradling her close to his body.
Finally, he released her and although she felt hungry, desperately in need of blood to replenish herself, Caroline steadily met his eyes and asked, "Enough?"
He hummed his response, eyes never leaving hers as he brought his own wrist to his mouth, bit into it, and offered the bleeding appendage to her. "Drink," he commanded.
"I'm fine," she countered.
"If I didn't have you, you'd be swaying. Now, drink," he rumbled again, and Caroline did so. The taste of his blood exploded on her tongue, a gorgeous mix of her favourite summer smells and tastes – watermelon, freshly mowed grass, lemonade, the smell a rainstorm about to begin – and she understood now why he devoured her so completely.
It was intoxicating.
She then drew back, conscious enough that she needed to remain in control and his taste – however wonderful – would risk that; and her control, from day one as a vampire, was something she prided herself on.
Her blood coated his mouth, mixing in with the human girl's, and his blood lingered on her lips and tongue as she idly used her tongue to sweep up leftover bits of blood clutching her stained lips. His eyes were dilated and his breathing was quick.
"Why have I never seen you before?" he asked.
"You never came here before," she replied cheekily, and stepped back as soon as she was sure she could stand firmly on her feet.
Klaus's eyes narrowed. "You know of the ritual. You know Katherine."
Caroline shrugged. "Katherine killed me, but we had a nice chat in Mr. Saltzmann's apartment when you were out. Nice touch, compelling her to stab herself with the dagger while you were gone."
Klaus growled. "Who are you?"
The look Caroline gave him could strip paint. "Really? If I wanted to answer that, I wouldn't be wearing a mask."
Klaus blinked in surprise, and then a reluctant twist of his lips showed his amusement. "Not even a name for me, sweetheart?"
Caroline huffed, turning her back on him and making her way to the girl lying on the pavement. She gingerly hoisted her into the driver's seat, eyeing the blood on her, the torn neck wound that was oozing slowly drying blood, her pale features, and the broken windshield. Klaus had done enough work to make it look like she lost control.
Caroline used her cell phone – that she concealed in her cleavage pocket – and dialed in a jumbled 911 call that conveyed the pertinent information of a wounded girl, a broken tree, and then cut the call off. They would find the girl and Caroline would be long gone.
"C'mon, love," cajoled Klaus, as he watched her step around the car carefully to not disturb anything, coming closer to him as he watched. He had lost interest in his earlier meal to the catsuit-wearing vampire. "You know my name. Isn't it fair for me to know yours?"
"And then what? What would you do with my name?" asked Caroline, eyeing the tree line and wondering if she could disappear quickly enough that he wouldn't follow her.
"Ask you out," he replied swiftly.
"Anywhere you want," he continued, a strange glint in his eyes as he did so, his tone light. "What do you say about a Broadway play in New York? Authentic pasta candlelight dinner in Rome? A tour of the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Sushi in Tokyo? It's all yours, sweetheart. Just for a name."
Caroline was incredibly flattered, even knowing that he was actively trying to kill Elena. "And you would take me now? Right this second, and we'd disappear for the entire weekend – the week – and leave everything and everyone behind?"
Klaus took a step forward. "Yes."
"But your ritual," pointed out Caroline, tilting her head. "You'd give that up for a dinner, a name?"
"I'm a vampire, love," he replied, "I have all the time in the world."
Caroline considered it; she really did. She could give Elena another month to figure out a cure, a way to survive if she said yes and told him her name. But giving him what he wanted that easily? Caroline wanted someone to want all of her for once; to not be Elena's second runner-up. And besides, the thrill of the chase was half the fun.
"Some other time," smiled Caroline, clearly implying that they would meet again. "And my name?"
Distantly, they could hear the sirens of the ambulance draw closer. Klaus's eyes focused intently on Caroline.
"My name is the Fanged Bitch," she finished, and then flashed away with her vampire speed.
She glanced back when she was in the trees, briefly, to see Klaus standing in the car's light, a smile on his face and his hands clasped behind his back. He tilted his head towards her in the trees, accepting her challenge and unspoken warning.
Sure, he knew her name; but he also knew that she'd be there when he attacked someone, to stop him. They could dance, but always around each other – close to the fire to burn but never engulfing.
And who knew? Maybe he had a thing for her cat suit, masked vigilantes, or girls in super-tight clothing and hot pink masks.
But Caroline knew, with his taste lingering on her tongue, that they'd see each other again, and soon. It was just a matter of time, and like he said, as a vampire – they have all the time in the world.