So you know who’s my third favorite? Caroline Goddamn Forbes, that’s how. If you’d told me that a year ago, I would have snorted Diet Coke out my nose.

For the record, I am not all that fond of Rosalie Hale, unless she’s played by Nikki Reed. I don’t know that Caroline would be, either. I mean, beforehand. Now, yeah, probably a bit.

Contains spoilers through brave new world, obvs.

not your Rosalie Hale
by gale

SUMMARY: "You're dead," Stefan tells her. "That doesn't mean it's a death sentence." Caroline's starting to believe it.


Being a vampire sort of sucks.

For starters, she has to wear this stupid necklace all the time. It's lapis something, really jewel-tone blue; she's pretty sure it's not even a gemstone. But it keeps her from catching on fire during the day, which makes up her mind pretty fast.

(Damon was the one who gave it to her, either on Elena or Stefan's orders. He'd just tossed it at her and not blinked when she snatched it out of mid-air, which is still really neat, then walked off. Whammy or not, Caroline isn't sure what she ever saw in him. Being hot only gets you so far.)

Also, she’s always hungry. Alcohol apparently helps with the cravings, but in, like, ridiculous quantities, so her options are a) constant, low-grade hunger or b) turning into a total drunk. It’s kind of nice to realize she can still eat food, but it’s not like it does anything about the hunger – “which makes sense,” Stefan says, “because it’s not what you eat anymore.”

”So why do it?”

He shrugs. “Helps to fit in. Besides, food’s okay. I don’t love it the way Damon does, but – I mean, I like Italian food. Vegetable plates. Stuff like that.”

“That’s not helping!” Caroline groans. “Stefan, seriously, maybe it’s because you’re good at this and you’re all old, but it’s so hard! Everyone smells delicious—“

”They’re gonna keep smelling delicious, too,” Stefan says. “You might want to transfer out of gym. Sweat doesn’t help.”

”I know! We were doing hurdles last week and everyone smelled like bacon.” She flumps against a tree – making it creak, earning a Look from Stefan – and crosses her arms over her chest. “Delicious, delicious bacon.”

“Caroline.” He cocks his head at her. “I know it’s hard, okay? But you just have to get through it.”

“I know,” Caroline says, huffing out a breath. “I just – it sucks, okay? And I know I can’t slip up, and I have to work at it every day. I’m just venting. I don’t know how long it’s been since you had someone to talk to about this stuff who wasn’t Damon, but friends do that sometimes.”

(It’s kind of sad, the way Stefan brightens after the “friends” bit.)

*

Now that she's a vampire, Caroline gets to know everything she's missed.

It's kind of a lot.

For starters, Bonnie's a witch. Not just "oh, Grams says I'm a witch"; a freaking witch. The kind that does spells and stuff. Like that's just something people do. She can light fires with her mind, and touch you and know if you're a vampire, and move things with her mind--

("She really only has one party trick," Damon says, because sometimes he wanders into the room when she's at the boardinghouse and just proclaims stuff. "But it's a doozy.")

--and she hates vampires. So Bonnie hates her, now, probably.

"Bonnie hates vampires, yes," Stefan says patiently. (Stefan is always patient. This is maybe because he's 162. That's still so weird.) "She...sort of has reason to."

And that's how Caroline finds out that that night Bonnie had acted all weird and stormed off during the sleepover, she was possessed by her dead ancestor Emily. Who was also a witch. Also, Damon almost ripped her throat out, so Stefan had to give Bonnie some of his blood to keep her from dying.

She could punch Bonnie right now. Why couldn't you tell me? she wants to yell. I'm your friend! Maybe I'm just your backup Elena, but I still get to know stuff!

And now she does. Caroline's just not sure it's worth it, if it means there's a Bonnie-shaped hole in her unlife.

*

Also, Damon ate Mr. Tanner.

Caroline wishes she could feel worse about that, but Mr. Tanner'd been calling her "stupid" and "lazy" in new and interesting ways since freshman year. She's not gonna be a monster if she can help it, but that doesn't mean she's gonna be nice.

*

Elena, at least, is okay. She doesn't invite Caroline into her house -- and how weird is that; it's like Base -- but she hangs out after dinner a lot, and she offers Caroline a drink from Stefan's squirrel stash when they're at the boardinghouse at the same time.

(Caroline is grudgingly trying animal blood, though it's kind of like eating tofu: it's nourishing and everything, but it tastes weird and the texture is off.)

"Why didn't you tell me?" Caroline asks, only once.

Elena just looks at her with huge, dark eyes. They’ve known each other since they were kids. Caroline knows almost every facial expression Elena’s ever had, but this one is new. This one is—

This one is tired.

”Because it was safer if you didn’t know,” Elena says.

”But I wasn’t,” Caroline says – not rude or anything, because she gets it, now. She still thinks people messing with her head, like, once a week is messed up, but there are some things you don’t remember and stay the same. Like that nurse at the hospital. No one wants to remember being someone else’s salad bar. “Damon used me like a salad bar that gave blowjobs, and there was this dark-haired lady, and Stefan made me forget that night when he slipped me vervain to mickey Damon. I wasn’t safer. I was just stupider.”

And oh, man, now Elena’s crying. “I’m sorry!” Caroline says, waving her hands. “I mean, I’m not, really, because I’m not wrong, but I’m sorry I said it that way—“

”No,” Elena says, sniffling. She wipes at her eyes. “You’re not wrong. And – it’s kind of nice, actually, to know you’re still you. Only Caroline Forbes could say that that way.”

“Well, duh.” She shrugs. “I’m still me. I’m just bitey.”

“Yeah,” Elena says, “you are,” and hugs Caroline tight.

*

Being a vampire is totally awesome.

For starters, she's really strong. The first night, she tossed Damon down the hallway like she was throwing a shirt out of her closet. She isn't that strong on animal blood, but she can still pick up things like bed frames and bombay dressers without any actual effort. The only real hard part is faking like she can’t do things, but Stefan says fitting in is key.

Crosses don't do anything, not that that's a problem; her family isn't really religious. (Her dad's family, maybe, but she doesn't want to bug him or Stephen just now. Maybe when she's got a better handle on the whole thing.)

She's really fast, too. She’s stopped borrowing the car, which her mom would be thrilled about if she wasn’t constantly working these days. It’s ridiculously easy to open her window and dart outside, head straight for the woods. And it’s freeing, too, just her and the wind and things she can eat—

No. She is not going to think like that. That’s how monsters think, not teenage girls. And maybe she’s different, now, but she’s still a teenage girl.

*

Caroline can’t even think about telling Matt. She’s known Bonnie since they were kids, and Bonnie can’t even stand to look at her; even Elena, who is apparently really okay with vampires, still startles when Caroline moves too fast or doesn’t make noise or – anything not-human.

“How am I supposed to tell him?” she asks Elena, because there are things she can’t quite bring herself to ask Stefan. Like questions about boys. It’s not a vampire thing, it’s a boy thing. “How am I supposed to not tell him? I – Elena, I think I love him, and you can’t keep secrets—“

It occurs to her after she says it that Elena used to date Matt, too. Caroline winces. “Sorry.”

”It’s okay,” Elena says, and weirdly, it sounds like she means it. She and Matt are still friends, but that’s it. “And I don’t – Caroline, I don’t know how you tell him. I kind of figured it out about Stefan, and I talked to him about it, and he told me.”

”Yeah,” Caroline says, letting out a huge sigh. She flumps backwards on Elena’s bed. “Crap.”

*

On top of everything else, Caroline apparently comes from some long line of vampire hunters. Her mom’s known for years – for years – and she’s killed, like, actual vampires. With wooden bullets. Like those are actual things.

Also, she can’t whammy her mom, or even try to, because she takes vervain, which is some kind of plant that shuts down a vampire’s mental powers. (It also made her glass of Jack Daniels taste kind of bitter at the last Founders’ Ball, because apparently Stefan wasn’t above using her too. Caroline makes a mental note to whap him one.)

Oh, and she can’t do it to Mrs. Lockwood either, the big lush, because Mrs. Lockwood is on some kind of Founders’ Council that hates vampires and would destroy her in a heartbeat, and as part of some kind of sneaky plan to cover his own ass, Damon supplies them with vervain.

“Remind me to kick his ass,” Caroline mutters. “Again.”

”Okay,” Stefan says agreeably.

*

"You can shut it off, you know."

Caroline is slowly starting to get used to Damon just popping in on her. Stefan had said that vampires naturally don't make noise when they move – hard to be an efficient predator if everyone heard you tromping around – but Damon is freakishly good at it. Either that, or he can teleport.

She doesn't look up from her math homework. "I know. Stefan told me."

Damon leans against her door and stares at her, curious. "So why don't you?"

Caroline shrugs. "It's stupid," she says. "Hey, you're old. Do you know anything about algebra II?"

"Stefan's the math whiz, not me. I prefer literature." He shoots a pointed look at her copy of Breaking Dawn.

She just rolls her eyes. "That's not a great argument, okay? That one sucked."

Damon levers himself up and stalks over to her. "Why is it stupid?"

"Well, for starters, vampires don't have babies. They can't, all the fluids in Edward's body are, like, poison. So how could he get Bella pr--"

"Not the book, Caroline."

He still talks to her like she's stupid. Caroline turns to glare at him. "Because it is. Why wouldn't I want to feel stuff? That's dumb. I'm gonna live forever--in theory," she adds, because she doesn't want him interrupting her. "I'm not gonna get any older. As long as I don't lose my necklace or do anything stupid to get found out, I'm okay. Why wouldn't I want to feel all that?"

"Because it isn't worth it," Damon says. "Humans feel everything. You know what happens to them? They end up dead. They live about a week's worth of life in total, and most of them get that wrong. They feel pain and fear and anger, and it's not worth it."

Caroline shuts her textbook and looks at him for a long time.

She tries to imagine it. If Matt had come in and been exotic and mysterious and swept her off her feet, and promised her eternity, and she'd thought he was dead. If she'd spent almost a century-and-a-half missing him. If she'd found out that he wasn't dead after all, he'd been free the entire time, and he didn't really love her because he loved Elena. That he'd always loved Elena.

Maybe she'd be crazy, too. Maybe the only way she could shut it out would be if she shut everything out, good and bad.

And just that fast, Caroline can't hate Damon. She can pity him, a little, and have a really healthy desire to kick his ass up one side of town and down the other, but loves makes you stupid. Caroline's known that since she was a kid and her dad told her he was moving in with a guy he met at Whole Foods.

"Yeah it is," she says. "Worth it, I mean."

"Really?" He raises an eyebrow at her. "So, what, every time you get all pissy because Matt still goes to Elena when he has a problem, that’s worth it?”

”Yeah.” Caroline doesn’t rise to the bait he’s setting out. “What’s my other choice, not feeling anything? Being a robot? No. Worse, I’d be a robot that eats people. I couldn’t get angry, yeah, or sad, or hurt – but I couldn’t be happy, or find something funny. And mixing them up, like when you cry at a movie but you feel good about it? Forget it. If you can’t do one, you really can’t do two. Which is, again, stupid, because why else would you see The Notebook?”

”There’s never gonna be a good answer for that last one,” Damon says after a minute.

”It’s still better than that awful Miley Cyrus one,” Caroline says. “And I can say that, because I have an opinion about it. Because I feel things. And unless you are gonna have feelings about algebra II in the next ten seconds, you can get the hell out of my bedroom.”

When she lifts her head, Caroline’s not really surprised to see that Damon’s gone.

*

Caroline likes the graveyard. Morbid, but true. It’s quiet, except for the birds, and she moves too fast for the caretaker, Mr. Owens, to catch her. She avoids the couple of Goth kids who come out on weekends to drink and make out.

After she finds out about it, she tracks down Vicki Donovan’s grave and spends most of a night just staring at it.

There are things she can’t ever tell Matt. Like how his sister died, or why she’d looked so weird that night she came home; or how she’d ended up buried outside of town in a shallow grave, until Caroline of all people tripped over her. (In retrospect, that seems like a horrible irony.)

But she can leave Vicki flowers, and make sure the grave stays neat and clean. She can do that.

I’m not gonna end up like you, she thinks, every time, and works a little harder at making sure it doesn’t happen.

*

Caroline’s always liked Mr. Saltzman. He’s not mean or vicious like Mr. Tanner, and he actually has pretty neat ideas for group projects or extra-credit. He actually geeks out a little over history, which is weird but fun. He makes it fun. (There’s also the fact that he’s not hard on the eyes, but he’s a teacher. Ihhhhh, no.)

So it comes as sort of a shock when he tries to fling a stake into her chest.

Caroline stares at him, in shock, and tosses it behind her. “Mr. Saltzman?”

“Oh,” Mr. Saltzman says. He blinks at her, mildly startled. “Um. Your eyes—“ He gestures a little.

She looks at him, frowning, then gets it and pinches her lips together, closing her eyes ‘til she can shove it back down. It’s easier than it was, and getting easier every day, but it still sucks that she has to think about it and not just – not do it.

“Sorry,” she says, blinking her eyes open. “I’m getting better about shutting it down when I know I’m doing it. I just don’t always know I’ m doing it.” She frowns. “Also, trying to stake one of your students? Rude.”

”Defensive mechanism,” Mr. Saltzman says. He looks less startled, but he’s not relaxed, either. “Caroline, I’m so sorry.”

”I’m getting used to it,” she says. “Kinda. I mean, as much as you can.” She shifts her notebook. “But, um. Thanks, Mr. Saltzman.”

”Oh, what the hell.” He holds his hand out; after a couple seconds, Caroline gets it and picks up the stake, handing it back to him. He tucks it back into a desk drawer. “Call me Alaric.”

*

This is important, Caroline thinks, skidding around the corner and making a beeline for Elena's locker. Sure enough—

"This is important," she blurts out, interrupting them. "Hi, Elena. Sorry! Stefan, can we show up on film?"

Stefan doesn't blink. He's getting used to Caroline's questions, thank God. It's not like she's gonna run out of them anytime soon. "Cameras are fine," he says. "You show up on surveillance tapes and reflected in water, too."

"Okay, great." She tugs on Elena's arm--but just barely. Elena has fragile human arms. "Come on. You're gonna miss yearbook photos. Oh my God, are you wearing your hair like that? That's--are you even trying?"

*

Caroline Forbes is 16.

Ten years from now, Caroline Forbes will be 26, but she'll still look 16.

She'll look 16 when she turns fifty, and a hundred, and every year after. She's always going to have trouble buying alcohol, and getting people to hear her out. That part's more okay; she's used to people underestimating her.

She's going to outlive most of her friends and all of her family. She'll make new ones, Stefan tells her, very gently, but she'll probably outlive them too. She probably won't have many vampire friends; they're instinctively territorial, and most of them shut off their emotions, so they're gonna think she's weird.

She's going to become a really good liar, really fast. "That," Damon tells her, not without some sympathy (which is just weird), "or you'll be dead."

She can see the world, if she wants. Money's sort of an issue, but if you're careful, you can spend a lifetime or two working your butt off, then take the next few off and just travel. Buy a house, pretend to be your own grandkids, read a lot of books. Go to Fashion Week in every country. Raise horses. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Try new things. Discover old ones. Anything, everything she's ever wanted.

"You're dead," Stefan tells her. "That doesn't mean it's a death sentence."

Caroline's starting to believe it.
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