Author's Note: Hello, my loves! I am getting excited about this story, so I do hope that yall come to enjoy it as much as I am starting to. I know it's a bit slow now but it will hopefully get better with time. Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
There was a decent build-up to their worlds colliding together. Time for things to settle, to explode, and to go so very wrong. It started on the first day of school.
Caroline drones out the public speaker that goes on about the importance of not texting while driving. While everyone else was either half listening, or daydreaming about one thing or another. Caroline had out a notebook, diligently working through her week's schedule. Everything was organized and color-coded. She made sure that everything was orderly and neat before waving her hand in front of the wage to make sure the ink is dried before she closes her notebook. She lets out a long, drawn-out sigh, not listening to the speaker as her eyes scan the crowd stilling on the bleachers around her.
Bonnie and Elena are a few rows up and to her right. They managed to beat her there but then got surrounded by a bunch of other people - Matt, Tyler, and their friends on the football team as well as a few cheerleaders. Bonnie offers a little wave, mouthing another apology for them not being able to save her a seat. Caroline offers her a smile and a little shrug. It's not her fault. It's not really anyone's fault. Caroline's not mad at Bonnie or Elena. Honestly, her feelings are a little hurt, but she's not really mad.
She hugged Elena this morning, then asked Bonnie if Elena was okay, knowing Bonnie would know better, but Elena answered, saying she was fine. Caroline didn't believe her one bit but realized quickly that she was not going to help Elena reacclimate to being back. She could tell Elena didn't really want to be smothered, which Caroline understood. But she loved Elena so much, worried so much for her, that she couldn't help to hug her one more time, hoping that maybe it would help her feel better. Even if it was only a little bit.
What hurt was when she walked away and Elena dismissed her. She knew she was being thoughtless but hearing her best friend say that struck her heart in a way there weren't words for. But she didn't blame her. Caroline wasn't really mad. Elena just needed a bit more time, and a comforting hand Caroline couldn't provide. It wasn't anything bad or rude just, "No comment."
It shouldn't hurt Caroline's feelings, it really shouldn't. She's been insecure her entire life, always feeling like everyone always liked Elena more, that Elena and Bonnie were closer to each other than her, that no matter what, the two people she loved most in the world, despite that evil green jealous, may not love her as much as she loved them. They are all different people, and Elena and Bonnie love her, she knows that. She also knows that if given enough time she gets too in her head about things that she shouldn't be freaking out over. She reads too much into things. Elena just lost her parents, she needs time to find her new normal.
Caroline can accept that, no matter how painful.
She's spent pretty much all summer alone - after Elena and Jeremy went back to live with their aunt Jenna once she got legal guardianship of them. Bonnie has been at Whitmore College with her Grams the whole time too. It's been a really weird summer vacation. So much happened, so much went wrong. Caroline knows that not everything can remain the same as it has always been, but that doesn't mean it's getting any easier. Caroline knows that Elena has had it horribly rough since the death of her parents and Bonnie's Grams needs help and wants to bond with her granddaughter. There isn't anything wrong with both of them having lives outside of her.
And she has a life too. Cheer, student committees, school work, and so on. Still, she was hoping that things would turn out to be somewhat the same as before.
It's dumb. She knows it is, which is why she's not mad. She's just lonely.
Elena follows Bonnie's eyes over to Caroline and offers a little smile that transforms her pretty face. There is still sadness in her pretty brown eyes that kills Caroline to see, making her feel bad for her insecurity and thoughtlessness. That ugly little part of her that focuses only on Elena and everyone else's view on her rears its even uglier head once more. Caroline stomps the feeling down deep into her chest and smiles back at her friend.
Caroline turns away from her friends in time to catch the principal thanking the speaker for coming before announcing, "Alright, before we let everyone go, we have one more announcement from Sheriff Forbes. Everyone, please welcome the Sheriff."
He steps aside while Caroline's mom comes strutting into the center of the room, looking like she owned the face. Caroline could feel the eyes of her classmates turn to her. Caroline doesn't focus on them, she just slowly closes the notebook on her lap to put amongst her stuff, keeping her eyes on her mom. She doesn't remember hearing anything about her mom coming to her school, then again, she hadn't seen her mom at all today, but a text message would have been nice.
Liz's pretty blue eyes scan the crowd of teenagers, waiting for them to all quiet down from their respectful clapping before taking the mic that the principal offered her, and then her gaze finally finds Caroline. Her lips quirk a bit in a hello and Caroline waves her hand a bit, still surprised that her mom was there, but curious about why she was there, to begin with.
"Hello guys," Liz says, pulling her eyes away from Caroline to address the crowd of teens. "As most of you know, I am Liz Forbes, I'm the Sheriff here in Mystic Falls and I wanted to inform all of you about a new nightly curfew." The words barely left Liz's mouth before the teens around Caroline started to moan and groan rather loudly in their protest.
"Oh my god," Caroline bemoans, sinking back into the wooden riser behind her. "And everyone knows that she's my mom." She covers her face with her hands, wishing that she could sink into the floor and disappear forever. It's bad enough that she had to come to her school dressed up in her uniform, but now she's enforcing a curfew?
This is the worst. This school year was supposed to be different, but now it's turning out to be worse than ever before.
Liz nods slowly, accepting the dissatisfaction of the teens with grace. She waits until they settle down, giving a little wave of her hand. "I know, I know. I'm sorry that I ruin all the fun, but there has been a vicious animal attack last night that took the lives of two people. This is for your own protection. I'm initiating a curfew for ten o'clock. Everyone should be indoors before nightfall until further notice."
The school groans once more and Caroline can hear everyone whispering around her about how unfair it was and how no one was going to really listen to that nonsense. People were also whispering about the back-to-school party that was supposed to occur tomorrow night. Caroline couldn't believe that this was happening! School was supposed to bring back the fun. Sure, homework and class and whatever, but it was being able to see her friends and have fun and return to some semblance of normality. And now here her mom was, telling them that the whole town has a curfew? She couldn't believe this.
Caroline rubs roughly at her face, trying to work through the stress building up in her shoulders. Nothing was going the way it's supposed to. This sucks.
"I mean it," Liz says, looking around the room. "I would hate to have to drive each and every one of you back home, but I will. Just for a few weeks, at most, then everything should be back to normal, I promise. If for whatever reason you have to be out past ten, it is advised that you go about your business quickly and return home. And don't be out at night without at least a group of four or more. Oh, and I know I shouldn't have to say this to a bunch of teenagers," Liz says, looking around the room before her eyes settle on Caroline, "but never invite strangers into your home."
"Can you believe this? Now we can't have our back to school party," Caroline sighs dramatically as soon as she corners Elena and Bonnie as everyone starts to pile out of the gym after Liz's announcement. "And say goodbye to anything fun until this prison sentence is over with."
Bonnie gives her a look that she recognizes for when the pretty dark-skinned girl doesn't approve of her words, thinking that she's being over-dramatic. "I would hardly call it that, Care."
"I think your mom is right," Elena adds, wrapping her arms around her midsection. "If there is an animal prowling about, killing people, I think that we should stay indoors until it's caught."
Caroline gives her a sideways look. "She didn't say don't ever go outside, just not at night. What sort of animal attacks only at night? I don't think that this is just about some animal."
Elena's eyebrows pull together in confusion while Bonnie purses her lips and tilts her head to the side, staring at the tall blonde in front of her. When Caroline doesn't just continue with what she was saying, Bonnie prompts her with a smooth, "Okay, I can accept that being a bit odd. But if not an animal, then what? It's your mom, Care. Why would she lie about that?"
Caroline opens her mouth, thinks about it, then closes it. "I don't know," she admits. She throws her hands. "I don't know, okay? I'm just saying, this year is supposed to be fun and it's already off to a terrible start. I mean, after everything-" She catches herself before something horribly inconsiderate popped out of her mouth, especially after her little slip up in the morning and quickly recovers with, "- everything that happened with Cheer this morning."
Both Bonnie's and Elena's eyebrows pull together as they stare at her, neither knowing what happened seeing as both decided not to show up in the morning. Caroline's first session as team captain, she couldn't believe it. She understood, first day and all, they had other things, but Caroline was a little disappointed that they didn't show up. And she was so excited to be Captain this year.
Caroline launched into how Emily wasn't pointing her toes enough. How Taylor was always a half a beat behind everyone else and how Amanda just wasn't memorizing the routine fast enough.
"Care," Elena says slowly, tucking loose strands of long brown hair behind her ear, "it's the first day. Everyone is going to need a bit of time to adjust to being back. There's no need to worry. It'll all be fine."
Caroline gives her a look. "I know, but they should really try harder. It'll be good to have the two of you there after school to show them how it's done." Her sigh of relief is met with blank stares back at the blonde by the two brunets. Caroline's eyebrows pull together as worry zings through her. "Wait, what is with that look? You two are coming today, right? Right? Oh, come on, Elena? Bonnie?"
Elena unfolds her hands, holding them up in surrender. "I will be there."
Bonnie nods. "Me too. Sorry, we had to bail on you this morning."
Caroline waves it away, deciding that she wasn't going to let how upset she was about all of this get in the way of them finally doing something together. "Excellent, well, I'd better head to class. See you, ladies, later!"
With that Caroline turns on her heel, slipping into the crowd of fellow students, and off to her class. Tomorrow night might be ruined, but maybe after Cheer, she can convince Bonnie and Elena to come over for a sleepover, just like old times.
Caroline tries not to let the fact that Bonnie and Elena couldn't come over bother her. She sort of got the feeling that neither of them was much into school at the moment - not that she could blame them - but she had other things to help focus on. One was the new guy in school, Stefan Salvatore, who showed up after the school assembly, that she spent the whole day learning everything the rumor mill could spew out at her about him and the other was the fact that the majority of the school seemed like they were still going to go to the back to school party.
So at least she had that going for her.
Elena and Bonnie did agree to go to the Grill with her for a little while, which she appreciated, and Elena definitely seemed interested in getting to know more about Stefan, which Caroline was happy to blab about to help fill the silence. That is until Caroline caught Elena stealing more than a few glances over at him and that angry, ugly little part of her reared it's head once more. It hurt because Stefan was cute and new and of course Elena was interested in him, and judging by the looks he was sending back her way, he was interested in her too.
Because of course. Beautiful, wonderful, perfect Elena. Who wouldn't be interested in her?
But Caroline doesn't say anything because it's not Elena's fault. It's not her fault that she's beautiful and lovely and perfect. It's not her fault that people are interested in her. And despite how envious Caroline is of Elena and her beauty, she loved her so much more than that. Never mind the bitterness or the jealousy, at the end of the day, Caroline loved Elena, more than she envied her.
So she accepted Elena bailing on her with grace because Bonnie stuck around for a while after.
"Are you okay, Caroline?" Bonnie asks once Elena left.
"Hm?" Caroline hums, sipping at her soda and glancing over at the brunette. "What do you mean?"
"You seem a bit down," Bonnie observes, leaning her chin on her fist, giving the blonde a knowing look. "Is this about today?"
Caroline scoffs, knowing that she has a terrible poker face, and Bonnie is just observant enough to be able to tell when something was bothering her. Bonnie could always tell. "I'm okay. It's fine. I'm just upset about how everything has been turning out today. I can't wait for everything to go back to normal. This year was supposed to be great, and it's... well, not."
Bonnie laughs, shaking her head. "Caroline, it's the first day. I know everything isn't going the way you imagined it would, but I promise, it's all going to be alright. Just be patient."
Caroline rolls her eyes, pushing her empty glass away from her, resting her arms on the table, and looking at her best friend. "I am patient, Bonnie, but you know that I'm not good with things changing so much. I just..." she sighs. "I just miss you. I miss Elena. It seems like you guys are so far away from me."
Bonnie's eyebrows pull together. "Far away? Care, no. We're right here. Elena is going through something really hard right now and I've just been a little busy. But nothing has changed. We're still here, we still love you. Trust me."
"I know," Caroline says, still not completely feeling better. "I love you too."
Caroline liked being able to forget about how zoned out Elena and Bonnie were during the day - including cheer - to go out drinking in the forest with her classmates at the back-to-school party. She knows that she shouldn't have been there, especially because her mom would kill her if she knew, but also because, honestly, Caroline knows that her mom knows it is probably still going on. If Caroline had to guess, they probably hoped that it would be canceled but weren't really holding their breath.
Plus they are in a group larger than four, which is what her mom asked for, so they aren't exactly breaking any rules.
Caroline can't blame the police for trying, but she needed this to help unwind from watching Stefan and Elena make googly eyes at one another all day. The less she had to think about the guy she wanted to know better being interested in her best friend the better. This is just how things are. Next time. The next time will be better. She just knows it.
It's nice to see her classmates all hanging around having fun. This is what she's been dreaming about since school ended last year. They would all hang out and have so much fun - sure, Matt and Elena aren't together anymore and he's still giving her puppy-dog eyes from across the fire pit while she's focused on Stefan, but that doesn't mean that once the two of them get over their breakup that they can't all be friends and spend time together. Stefan might be interested more in Elena as a girlfriend, but maybe he'll want to be friends with Caroline too.
She was having a good time talking with Matt and some of the other football players when she heard the screams coming from the other side of the party. It took her a minute to really realize what she was hearing. Once she realized, she followed the crowd toward where Jeremy Gilbert, Elena's kid brother, sat with a bloodied Vicki Donovan in his arms. Caroline turned away and called the cops immediately, hearing others around her doing the same. She just couldn't believe what happened.
Could this be an animal attack? What kind of animal goes after a full-grown adult at a loud party? Where was Vicky when she was attacked? Was she with Jeremy? Why wasn't Jeremy hurt like she was? What happened? Caroline is no expert on animals, that's for sure, but something about this just didn't seem right, but she just couldn't put her finger on why that was. Why none of this really added up to her.
Needless to say, the party broke up right after the police showed up, which was definitely for the best. Caroline wanted a good time, not something like this. She wouldn't have hoped that this party was still going on if she knew that someone was going to get hurt. She knew Vicki second hand. She's sort of friends with Matt, her younger brother, through his relationship with Elena.
Caroline gets a ride to the grill which proved to Caroline that it was more of a suggestion and not an actual law, or whatever, seeing as there were still people out and about, but she couldn't help but feel bad for her part in just being there. She didn't organize or orchestrated the party, she hardly knew Vicki Donovan and she doesn't remember seeing her at all that night, but she was there. Caroline just sort of wishes that there was something that she could have done to help her. Unfortunately, all she can do is simply hope that she'll be alright.
Liz didn't say anything at Caroline's slow walk of shame past her, but the look was enough. Thankfully she didn't get close enough to smell how intoxicated Caroline is at the moment. Sweet compassionate Bonnie would never leave to fend for herself or leave her alone when she is obviously still inebriated.
Caroline sips at her water, watching Bonnie who was staring at her phone. "What are you looking at?" She asks around the rim of her glass.
Bonnie's dark eyes flicker up to her. "Huh? Oh, I'm just seeing if Elena texted me back yet..."
It takes Caroline's addled brain a moment to realize that no, in fact, Elena wasn't there with them. "Where is Elena anyway? Is she with Matt?"
Bonnie shakes her head, looking down at her phone again. "No, that new guy took her home. Stefan Salvatore."
"Oh..." slips from Caroline's lips before she could stop it. Bonnie's eyebrows quirk as she glances back up at Caroline, making the blonde feel the need to explain, "I'm just surprised, to be honest. I kind of got the feeling that he didn't like being here. I'm glad he's nice enough to look after Elena, though." Which is true. Stefan hasn't been outright rude or mean to her by any means. He's been friendly, but indifferent. He seems like he's trying to keep a respectful difference between them. Which she supposed isn't unreasonable since this is a new town that he hasn't been to in a long time.
Plus, at least with all of the scary stuff going on, Elena is safe, which Caroline is thankful for.
"Yeah..." Bonnie says slowly, her eyebrows pulling together in worry. Caroline recognizes that look on her best friend. Something is definitely bothering her.
"What's wrong, Bonnie?" Caroline asks, sipping at her water a bit more, feeling her head clear up.
"Nothing," Bonnie says quickly. Caroline gives her a look, raising an eyebrow at her. Bonnie sighs. "Okay, my Grams has been telling me that I'm psychic because our family lineage leads back to Salem and all of that. So when Stefan touched my hand the first time I met him... I don't know. I just got a bad feeling from him. I don't know how to explain it."
Caroline stares at Bonnie, raising her other eyebrow. "What does that even mean?"
Bonnie sighs. "Nothing, never mind."
"No, Bonnie, I don't understand, just explain it to me," Caroline insists. Her tone may have been a bit incredulous - which she didn't mean for it to be - but she really was curious. This was more of a Bonnie and Elena conversation than a Caroline and Bonnie one and Caroline was eager to push past that barrier. Bonnie was her friend, and she loved her. She knew that there was a connection between Bonnie and Elena that neither of them shared with her, but she still felt like there was a chance that she could. That one day they would feel like they could tell her the weird things too.
Bonnie shakes her head again, smiling softly. "No, it's nothing. I'm just overthinking it, I'm sure."
"Bonnie - " Caroline starts softly but Bonnie's phone going off stops her. Caroline's mouth snaps shut so fast her jaw hurt.
"Oh good," Bonnie says, sighing in relief, "Elena made it home alright. I was really worried there for a second."
"That's good," Caroline agrees, leaning back in her chair. "Hey, Bonnie? About before..."
Bonnie's smile is kind and smooth. "It's okay, Care. I'm sure I'm just overreacting, is all."
Caroline wilts a bit, shoulders drooping a bit but force a smile, hoping that Bonnie wouldn't be able to tell how much this dismissal hurt her. "Well, so long as you're sure. I guess it's time to head home, right?"
Bonnie nods, standing up while dropping some money onto the table for the server. "Alright, let me take you home."
Caroline hums to herself as she walks home after the festival in the city square, thinking about the pretty comet that flew overhead. It's been a weird few days since Vicki Donovan was attacked by that wild animal out in the woods the day of the back-to-school party. Thankfully she survived and hopefully she's going to be okay. Despite Matt and Elena not being together anymore, Caroline made sure to swing by to send her best wishes to Matt - one of a hundred people, no doubt - but he thanked her and she hoped it helped him feel a bit better.
She enjoyed spending her time around people. For a small amount of time, she got to convince herself she wasn't lonely. Bonnie seemed bothered by something that she wasn't willing to really talk about - at least not with Caroline. And Elena is getting closer to Stefan, which Caroline is finally coming to accept is just her luck, but she is happy for them. She does hope for the best for both of them. She wants them to be happy.
She hums The Climb by Miley Cyrus under her breath as she walks, her pretty blue eyes finding her home in the darkness of the street in front of her. The same streets she's walked her entire life. She knows that she should have walked home with someone else, at least, but thankfully she's not so far from home for her to be worried.
Caroline has walked these same streets every day of her life. She made sure to stay under streetlights and didn't drag her feet while going. And despite how anxious she was for school to start in hopes that it would mean that everything would return to normal - which is silly since almost nothing has gone back to the way it was - she is enjoying this moment of peace. Of solidarity because she doesn't have to try to impress anyone.
She can just be Caroline. Caroline, who is the type of person who enjoys long walks while humming songs. To be honest, some of her favorite memories is walking down this street with Elena and Bonnie, singing as loud as she could. Her favorite songs, and some she didn't like but knew Bonnie or Elena did so that they would sing along too. Their voices would bounce off the houses in the night and they would laugh without a care.
Caroline missed those sweet moments. So silly. So simple. What she wouldn't give to be back in those moments. For Bonnie and Elena to be here with her now. Just like old times. Just like good, easy times.
"You have a beautiful voice."
Caroline yelps, her humming going horribly off-key as she jumps at the sound of a voice she wasn't expecting. She looks to her left to see a man standing in the middle of the road and immediately Caroline is intimidated by how cute he is. Beautiful dark hair and piercing blue eyes, a dreamy bad boy, no doubt.
And Caroline loved her bad boys.
"Huh?" Caroline gasps, hand over her pounding heart. "What did you say?"
He smiles and it's beautiful and charming. "I said, you have a beautiful voice."
"Oh," Caroline says, flushing a bit. "Well, that was sweet of you to say. Thanks."
His smile widens a bit. "You're welcome." An awkward moment of silence passes between them before the man offers his hand to her. "I'm Damon."
Caroline hesitates for a moment more, still intimidated by how handsome this man is before her. Damon looks to be in his early twenties, bad boy, with pretty eyes? He was just Caroline's type. She takes his hand, smiling sweetly back at him, finally able to focus on something aside from Bonnie, Elena and Stefan probably about to get together, the animal attack that Vicki Donovan barely survived, and honestly feeling more isolated from her friends than she's felt in a long time, "Nice to meet you. I'm Caroline."
He shakes her hand nice and slow, staring into her eyes and suddenly Caroline has a weird feeling settling over her. An uneasy feeling that she can't put into words off the top of her head. His smile suddenly sharpens as his grip on her hand tightens. "Tell me, Caroline. Do you know someone named Elena Gilbert?" Elena? What about Elena? Who was this guy? And why did he want with Elena?
An unexplainable fear zings through her as she yanks her hand back, struggling the first time in his grip before yanking again and finally being let free, and retreats a few steps away from the strange man. "N-no. I don't. I have to go."
Her skin crawls as suddenly the feeling of danger washes over her. She races around him toward her house, heart pounding in her chest in sync with her shoes slapping against the pavement. She jumps over the curb and up onto the grass leading to the front door. Her feet barely touch the porch before her hand is outstretched, grabbing onto the door opening it only a bit before a hand slams it closed and she feels hot breath against the back of her neck.
Caroline was running so fast, breathing so hard, that she didn't even know that he had followed her. The painful stitch forming in her side, coupled with the roaring of her blood in her ears is enough to frighten her frozen. She doesn't have to turn around to know that it's Damon at her back. Her legs tremble and she stops breathing, as if somehow by freezing up and holding her breath, he won't know where she is. He won't be able to hurt her like hse's terrified he will.
"No, Caroline," Damon whispers softly into her ear, making her shiver in fear. "No need to be afraid."
Caroline whimpers, her heart beating hard against her chest as he slowly pushes hair over her shoulder. "Please, leave me alone. I don't know anything!" She can feel tears sliding down her cheeks. "Pl-Please." She wasn't going to talk about Elena. She wasn't going to help this strange weirdo corner her best friend. He wasn't going to get anything from her. She would never betray her best friend. Not for some weirdo who probably wants to murder her and wear her skin. No, he wasn't going to get anything from her.
If he wanted anything on Elena, he wasn't going to get it from Caroline. He would have to pry it from her cold, dead, lips.