Better With Two
Disclaimer: Doctor Who (revival), and its associated characters, belong to the BBC and the wonderful, brilliant, amazing Russell T Davies. Not Steven Moffatt. He can go suck a lemon.
Nice to meet you. Run for your life...
Caroline opens the door. Steven can immediately see how drawn, and worn, she looks – far paler than when he saw her last. Her father’s death would hit her harder than most, Steven knew; they loved one another and although Bill was recently estranged (he never explained why he was no longer speaking to Caroline for a few months the past year), the two made up and seemed much closer than ever.
“Caroline,” said Steven, tensing his mouth as his eyes swept his stepdaughter from top to bottom: lank, messy blonde hair, bags under her eyes, pale face, thin collarbones sticking out from a black Mystic Falls Timberwolves hoodie, sweatpants hanging low on her hips and bare feet.
Caroline mustered a smile, even if her tone was flat. “Steven. Thanks for coming.”
“Of course, Care,” he said, stepping in when she moved away from the door. The house hadn’t changed – it was the same as when he’d last been by, almost half a decade ago. “Where’s Liz?”
“Patrol,” answered Caroline, in the same monotonous voice. “As usual.”
“She left you alone?” Steven asked, almost aghast. He never understood Liz’s handling of her grief, especially when he saw how horrible Caroline handled it instead. He reached forward and drew Caroline into a tight hug.
At first, Caroline resisted. Then, she collapsed against his chest and clutched his – rather brilliantly bright tangerine – polo shirt. Bill loved bright colours. Steven thought it was fitting that he would honour the man he loved by wearing colours Bill loved too.
“Where’s Melanie?” asked Caroline, moving to sit on the living room couch. She grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around her, up to her shoulders. She then drew her legs in, tightly wrapping her arms around them under the blanket. Steven moved to gingerly sit next to her, but she didn’t acknowledge him – her eyes remained on the muted TV screen.
“She’s good,” answered Steven, thinking of his and Bill’s adopted daughter. Caroline had tried to visit her for her birthday earlier in the year, but finding a dead body was more than enough for Steven; Caroline certainly didn’t need to come to her stepsister’s birthday when she was traumatised. “She’s staying with her grandparents in Athens.”
“What time does the funeral start, Caroline?” Steven gently asked, trying to draw her into conversation.
“Ten tomorrow morning.”
Steven bit his lip and looked around the room. He saw various vases with flowers, taking up much of the fireplace mantle; there were some on the kitchen counter just across the hall, taking up space by the window above the sink. Two bouquets of flowers rested in the large sink, soaking up the water in it.
His eyes were drawn, however, to the sunflowers that stood in a large, blue-tinted vase on the coffee table in front of them. Steven knew sunflowers were Caroline’s favourite – she loved all things sunny and bright and often Steven sent her some for her birthday via a flower delivery company. He forgot this year, between Caroline’s accident and hospitalisation, Melanie’s birthday, then Caroline and Bill’s period of not speaking to each other.
“Those are nice,” he said, nudging her in the shoulder. She gave way and her eyes met his. He tilted his head towards them and her eyes followed. “Who’re they from?”
She scoffed. “Some guy.”
“Some guy, huh?” Steven teased. “Boyfriend?”
“He wishes,” she muttered, her nose twitching as she spoke.
Steven suppressed a smile. “You don’t like him then?”
Caroline brought a hand out from under the blanket and rubbed her nose awkwardly. “Didn’t say that,” she mumbled, her voice quiet. Then, louder she said with derision, “He’s so evil and exasperating. And he’s all like ‘sweetheart’ this and ‘love’ that in his stupid British accent! Ugh! He drives me insane.”
“So...” Steven trailed off. “I’m sure you’ve told him you’re not interested, then.”
“Like a hundred times!” she snapped loudly, breathing heavily as she started in a rant.
Apparently, Steven thought, this young man was a favourite target of hers for ranting and getting her emotions riled up. And, given how she was when he first arrived, he wanted to thank him.
“I told him I have a boyfriend, that I’m with him,” she said frostily. “But he’s like, ‘that doesn’t matter to me, sweetheart,’ and he goes and gives me a freakin’ diamond bracelet. I mean, who does that? Like he can buy me or something?! Tells me there’s genuine beauty and great cities and art...”
“And you don’t want that?” asked Steven.
Caroline fell silent.
“I want it more than anything I’ve ever wanted,” she whispered, turning to face her stepfather. “And it scares the hell out of me.”
Steven thought that was enough soul searching from an innocent question for the day, so he changed the subject. “What time is Liz going to be back?”
“Dunno,” Caroline shrugged. “Whenever’s she back.”
“Well, how’s school going?”
“Still top of your class?”
“Um, how’s cheerleading?”
“It would be great if Klaus’s stupid sister Rebekah wasn’t on the team now,” groused Caroline, the familiar, frosty and annoyed tone in her voice.
Ah, his name is Klaus, thought Steven smugly. Oh, dear.
“She’s totally trying to take my spot as captain, I know it! And she’s weaseling her way into all my committees, trying to take over the plans for our dances. Ugh. She’s just annoying and mean and stupid as her stupid older brother.”
“Must run in the family,” chuckled Steven.
“You don’t know half of it,” muttered Caroline. “Only sane is seems to be Elijah, their older brother, but then again, Elena hasn’t been making good decisions lately.”
“Elena knows them?” asked Steven, curiously. He may not visit Virginia often, but he did try to keep up with Caroline’s life. “How’s she doing since parents’...?”
Caroline rolled her eyes. “Considering everything? Really well. Although her aunt Jenna passed away recently. And her uncle John. Who turned out to be her biological father.”
“I didn’t realise Mystic Falls was such a soap opera,” commented Steven laughingly. “Where do you fall in the soapy spectrum?”
“Caught between two guys and playing the blonde distraction,” she answered promptly without checking her mouth. “I hate it.”
Steven commiserated. “I would too. So is there anything going on in your life that doesn’t revolve around Elena, or Klaus and his sister or your boyfriend whose name you still haven’t mentioned to me?”
Caroline shot Steven a dirty look from the side of her eyes, but didn’t respond. Steven didn’t take offense; instead, he shifted on the brown couch, pulling a little at his beige khaki pants and reclined, casually checking the watch Bill got him for his fortieth last year.
“Well, if we’re waiting for your mom to get back,” began Steven, “I think we should pass the time watching TV. Especially if you don’t want to tell me anything else about your life right now, Caroline.”
“Fine, whatever,” she muttered, going back to staring at the infomercials on TV.
Steven exhaled. She was hurting, badly. And she was a teenager. This was what he was going to look forward to in ten years when Melanie was near the same age as her stepsister; gosh.
“Have you ever seen Doctor Who?” asked Steven, standing and moving back to the front of the house when he dropped his luggage.
Caroline frowned, calling after him, “No. I’ve heard of it though. Jeremy – Elena’s brother – watched it.”
Steven returned to the living room with several boxsets in his hands. “No offense, Care, but I’m not watching that ridiculous crap that’s on ABC or the CW or whatever it is you teenagers like to watch. I’m all about the BBC.”
“The CW isn’t bad,” mumbled Caroline, blushing at the thought of some of her shows. “Really.”
Steven quirked an eyebrow. “Well, if you like supernatural stuff, like TrueBlood...”
Caroline gave a quick, nervous twitter and turned her head to the side to smother the sound. Her life was a TrueBlood episode, but without the sex. Or Eric Northman. And werewolves were not as built or as hot as Alcide. Period.
“What’s this about then?” she asked as Steven set down one of the boxsets and opened it up, flipping to the first disk.
“It’s about a time travelling alien,” he began, carefully prying the DVD from the case and moving to open the DVD player tray.
Caroline wrinkled her nose. “Aliens?”
“Not like that,” laughed Steven. “Think of it as... an alien who looks human and needs to visit Earth because he finds humans interesting and full of humanity and light. He’s intrigued by them. And then he finds Rose.”
Steven glanced over his shoulder as the tray closed, and saw a peculiar look on Caroline’s face. She looked startled, like the words he said were far more profound than the basic synopsis demanded of the show. Her eyes were wide, but despite staring at the TV, her gaze was focused inward, on something she was remembering. Then, her face softened, as something like understanding crossed it, but too flashed away quickly and her eyes darted to his.
Steven smiled, moving back to the couch. Caroline handed him the DVD and TV remotes; he changed the input to the DVD player and the main screen popped up. He quickly selected, ‘Play All.’
“Rose?” echoed Steven. “Rose is... is the most human girl he’s ever met. And because he’s in a really bad, dark place when the show starts, she’s his light. His beauty in the darkness. She makes him feel. Makes him whole.”
Caroline was gapping at him. Steven wasn’t really sure what he was saying – other than his views on the Doctor/Rose dynamic of the show – so he was rather surprised by Caroline’s visible shock. It was like everything he was saying resonated in her, deep inside, and brought forth a completely different meaning.
“What happened?” she asked, quietly as the opening sequence and swirls began. “What happened that made him that dark?”
“You’ll find out in the first episode,” answered Steven, glancing down at Caroline. “Spoilers, Care.”
She nodded, her eyes glued to the screen. “Is that her? Is that Rose?”
Steven nodded, and together they watched as the episode panned from the Earth to the messy-haired blonde making her way to work, going about her business, meeting her boyfriend and enjoying their time together, but ultimately unhappy in doing something so rote.
At first, Steven could see Caroline wasn’t too interested, especially with the initial tension of Rose in the basement. But then—
“I’m the Doctor, by the way. What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!”
“He blew up her work?!?!” Caroline was outraged. “What a jerk!! He didn’t even apologise for it.”
Steven stifled a laugh. Caroline was getting more into the show than she thought she would, clearly. Steven watched her eyes grow wide at the Doctor’s telling of Rose to forgot him (“But how would she forget him if he leaves such a memorable impression?”), her mouth drop open at how everyone treats Rose as a dumb blonde, but who ultimately, saves the Doctor (“Oh, I relate, Rose. I relate.”).
Then, the episode was over and Steven was looking at Caroline as he paused it, not wanting to start the second episode unless she asked.
“She had these responsibilities,” Caroline began, her breath stuttering. “She turned him down, from seeing the whole world and what he was offering her, for Mickey. She could’ve had it all. But she said no.”
“And then he came back for her, a second time,” Steven said gently. “He’s never asked twice before. Rose is special.”
“And she went,” gapped Caroline, eyes still on the frozen credits.
Caroline was flabbergasted, Steven could see it. He wasn’t entirely sure why the storyline meant so much for Caroline – but he was sure there was more to her story about her and Klaus and Tyler than what she said. Then he remembered, Caroline said Klaus mentioned other cities, of genuine beauty and art and music; the diamond bracelet; making her feel special by singling her out. Was she seeing herself in Rose, but was feeling guilty with her own Mickey – Tyler – being left behind while she did something for herself for once. The comments about Elena were beginning to make sense.
“Caroline,” said Steven firmly, turning to face his stepdaughter. “Listen to me.” He caught her eyes and they faced each other on the couch. “Rose leaves Mickey and her mother and the council estate because it what she wants. Because she lived this life – she’s a nineteen year old shop girl who’s never left London, who dropped out of school for a loser boyfriend because it was what he wanted – and now this amazing man, who has the world in his hands, offers her the chance to see it all. To experience everything. And he wants to see it with her.
“Yes, she has responsibilities, like Mickey and her mother. But Caroline, they understand what Rose does later because they see how happy she is, how happy she can be, with the Doctor. And he loves experiencing life through her eyes – fresh eyes. Rose gets more out of her life living with the Doctor and travelling through time and space than she does in London. The Doctor makes her a better person, just like she makes him a better person. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all – and if Mickey or Jackie made her feel like she was making the wrong choice, well then...” Steven finished with a loud exhale of air. “Then they weren’t her friends at all. They didn’t love her enough to let her be happy.”
Caroline’s eyes were wide, the green almost hidden by the pupils. Steven reached forward and cupped Caroline’s face. “And if you ever had that opportunity, Caroline,” he said, “I would tell you to take it in a heartbeat.”
The two were silent, staring at each other, and Steven knew Caroline was reminded of all the things that made her father fall for him back when he left the Forbes family in Mystic Falls. She was reminded of Steven’s selflessness, his calm and steady manner, his ability to make everyone feel fine.
“Can we watch the second episode now?” she whispered, drawing back slowly.
Steven gave her a small smile. “Of course, Care.”
“ There was a war. And we lost.”
“A war with who? What about your people?”
“ I’m a Time Lord. I’m the last of the Time Lords. They’re all gone. I’m the only survivor. I’m left travelling on my own cause there’s no one else.”
“ But, it’s like... think about it, though. Christmas. 1860. Happens once. Just once, and it’s gone. It’s finished. It’ll never happen again. Except for you... You can go back and see days that are dead and gone and a hundred thousand sunsets ago... no wonder you never stay still...”
“Not a bad life.”
“Better with two.”
"We’ll go down fighting, yeah?”
“I’m so glad I met you.”
“ Then what are you waiting for?”
“ I could save the world but lose you."
“ And I’m looking for a blonde in a Union Jack. A specific one, mind you, I didn’t just wake up this morning with a craving.”
The finished the first season of the show, but not before the pizza arrived. They were sharing a large meat lover’s pizza on the last two episodes, both of them forgoing plates and drinking Diet Coke from a large bottle they received with the pizza split between them.
Caroline was a sobbing mess in the last five minutes of the show, clutching a half-eaten slice over her still-tucked knees, watching through blurry tears as the Doctor stared up in awe at Rose, who was glowing a bright, vibrant gold.
“My head...” Rose moaned on screen, her eyes golden. The Doctor had stood and was standing just in front of her, a gentle, but fierce look on his face.
“Come here,” he said.
Rose continued like he hadn’t spoken. “It’s killin’ me...”
“I think you need a Doctor,” he finished, drawing her into his arms, bending, and placing the most perfect kiss on Rose’s lips.
Caroline burst into fresh tears. Steven was alarmed. A TV shouldn’t have that much of an effect on someone watching it; he was a Doctor/Rose shipper at heart and adored the two together – they were an epic love story – but Caroline should not have been reacting as she did so.
He hastily put his pizza, half-eaten, into the box it came in and gently took Caroline’s slice from her hands. Once it was out of them, she moved her hands to her face and covered it as sobs shook her.
“Caroline,” began Steven, reaching for her and drawing her into his chest. “Caroline, it’s just a TV show.”
She sobbed harder, and somewhere, between the heavy breaths and sobs, Steven could hear: she watched her father die, he made the choice to die... the Doctor showed her the world... made her realise how alone she was too on the first date... she stood between him and a Dalek... Captain Jack is so much cooler than her boyfriend... Team TARDIS... Mickey as second best... Rose was his ‘plus one’...
“Me,” she whispered breathily, “It’s just like me.”
And somehow, as Steven tried to understand just how Caroline was supposed to be like Rose, Caroline shuddered and quieted and fell asleep against his chest.
Liz found them on the couch, the DVD screen gone black with the time out feature and the pizza long since cold. She blinked at Steven in surprise; not that he was there, but that Caroline had finally wore herself out with dried, shiny tear tracks on her face and that she was cuddled into him tightly.
“What happened?” Liz whispered, frowning as she reached to smooth a wayward strand of Caroline’s hair.
“We watched TV,” whispered back Steven, still in shock at Caroline’s response.
“What did you watch?” asked Liz, confused. “A Nicholas Sparks film like The Notebook? She always cries during that.”
Steven shook his head, and Liz helped unwind the tangled blanket Caroline had around her. “We watched Doctor Who.”
Liz stared at Steven in befuddlement.
Steven shrugged, and gently eased Caroline into his arms. He could manage to carry her to her bedroom, but he would feel it in the morning.
Once Caroline was resting under her covers – Liz had peeled them back before Steven entered the room – the two made their way back to the living room and began cleaning Caroline and Steven’s earlier dinner.
“I don’t think Doctor Who is the type of show that would case her to break down,” commented Liz slowly.
Steven shook his head, screwing the pop cap back on the nearly empty bottle. He carried it into the kitchen. “It’s a sci-fi show, Liz. But we finished the first season and she just burst into tears. Said she was like Rose and that everything that happened to her was like her life. I don’t get it – she mentioned Klaus earlier, but—”
Liz fumbled the pizza box, her eyes darting to his as she entered the kitchen behind him. “She spoke about Klaus?!”
Steven frowned, taking the box from her and setting it on the counter. “Yeah. She said he’s interested in her and drives her mad. Sounds like she’s half in love with him already, with the way he drives her up the wall. She wouldn’t stop complaining about him, or his sister. I didn’t even get the name of her boyfriend. She just mentioned him once and didn’t say anything else.”
“Tyler,” said Liz absently, blinking. “She’s seeing Tyler Lockwood.” Then, Liz snapped out of it. “But she didn’t mention him?”
Steven shook his head. “Not once by name. And only said ‘her boyfriend’ once.”
Liz’s mouth dropped open. “Oh, boy,” she muttered.
“Who’s Klaus, Liz?” asked Steven.
“Trouble,” was her dark response. “He’s been nothing but trouble since he arrived in Mystic Falls.”
With that, Liz left the kitchen, and entered her room, the door firmly shutting.
Steven sighed. Well, maybe he’d see the man tomorrow. And get a few more answers. Whatever could distress Caroline that much over a TV show was something he was going to get to the bottom of. Bill would’ve wanted that, at the very least.
Well obviously, I got it wrong. I’ve been to the year five billion but this, this is really seeing the future, you just leave us behind. Is that what you are gonna do to me?
Steven didn’t know the majority of the people who came to the funeral. He knew Caroline, and Liz of course; he remembered Elena and Bonnie, Caroline’s friends, and he vaguely remembered Matt from a photograph Caroline sent ages ago. But he was surprised to see new faces that surrounded Caroline; she needed the comfort more than Liz, who was stoically handling the situation as she usually did – badly and without emotion.
While Liz stood with Carol Lockwood – when did she become Mayor!? – and other Founding Families (Bill once explained it was all cultish and that he would never be introduced to them because Steven was Bill’s light and shouldn’t be exposed to their darkness), Caroline stood off to the side with a small huddle.
Steven wanted to know who everyone was.
As he approached, he caught the tail end of a conversation (“... so you just had dinner with Klaus and Elijah and tried to broker a deal with them? Are you nuts?”) before the tallest man in the group, a black-haired, blue-eyed handsome young man, stood straight and glared at Elena.
“Hello,” Steven said genially. “Elena, Bonnie. Nice to see you again. Who is everyone else?”
“Hi, Mr. Hastings,” greeted Bonnie and Elena cheerfully in sync. Elena took over, pointing at each person in their huddle.
“This is Damon,” she said, pointing to the man Steven saw first. Damon dipped his chin briefly, but then went back to patrolling the church, as his eyes moved from place to place, like there was an innate danger in standing still.
“This is Matt,” continued Elena, and Steven grinned.
“Caroline sent a picture of the two of you back at your elementary graduation,” said Steven, shaking Matt’s hand. “You’ve grown, Matt!”
Matt laughed. “Thanks, Mr. Hastings. I just haven’t grown as much as I’d like yet.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet Caroline’s friends,” said Steven, smiling at the group. He glanced at Caroline, whose eyes darted from his to somewhere over Damon’s shoulder. “Did you know Bill well?”
Matt shook his head; as did Bonnie and Elena. Damon seemed to roll his eyes, muttering something about “daddy issues,” under his breath that left Steven confused. Was he referencing when Caroline and Bill weren’t speaking?
Caroline shot Damon a dirty look. “Steven, let’s go.” She grabbed his arm and with a strength he didn’t think she had, dragged him from her friends and towards the closed casket, where Pastor Young was speaking to Liz about pallbearers.
“Steven, of course,” Liz was saying. “Caroline, if she’d like. I know we’d need four others.”
“I’ll help Liz,” Damon offered, joining them and making Steven’s heart leap. Where did he come from?
From behind the man, Steven saw the rest of Caroline’s friends scurry over. “We’ll help too,” Matt was saying, and Elena and Bonnie nodded along.
Steven was touched by Caroline’s friends. “That’s lovely,” he said with a smile.
The drive to the cemetery was short, but silent. Caroline’s friends did a fine job in helping with the lowering of the casket, and Pastor Young said many nice things about Bill. He invited Steven, Liz and Caroline to place a flower, or throw dirt, onto the casket. Steven went first, saying goodbye to the man he loved, who helped raise their daughter as a second chance he didn’t always have with Caroline.
Steven stood, and moved away, taking a few moments to himself and out of the crowd around the fresh grave. He took a few breaths, trying to even them as tears came to his eyes.
Saying goodbye was difficult.
That’s when he saw the man, of course; between his tears, Steven could make out the man who stood far away from the group, his hands deep in his dark trouser pockets, and half-hiding behind one of the thick trees that grew beside the path and riverbank next to the cemetery.
Steven peered to try to make out the man’s features. He was tall, Steven could tell from the distance, with light coloured hair and a pale face. He wore a dark jacket and black shirt, appropriate for the funeral. But why wasn’t he coming closer? Was that Tyler? Or was it Klaus?
Caroline stepped beside him, her eyes fixed on the figure who stood straight at the sight of her.
“Who’s that, Care?” asked Steven, not taking his eyes off the man.
“Klaus,” she replied tiredly, sighing.
Steven nodded, pursing his lips a bit before making a decision. He began walking away from Caroline, despite her panicked yelp of “what are you doing, Steven?!” and deliberately ensured that Klaus realised he was walking towards him.
The man was very good looking, Steven thought as he approached. And obviously he had fantastic taste in women if he was interested in Caroline.
“Hello, Klaus,” said Steven with a smile as he held his hand out to be shook. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Steven Hastings, Bill Forbes’ partner from Georgia.”
Klaus shook Steven’s hand, dropping it quickly and stuffing it back in his pocket. “Hello,” he greeted, his voice tinged.
Ah, that’s right, a voice reminded Steven. British.
“As Caroline’s friend, you don’t need to stay this far from the rest of the family,” said Steven slowly, eyeing the man who seemed to close in on himself as Steven spoke.
“Caroline’s friends don’t like me much,” he replied instead. “So it’s best for her if I stay away.”
“That’s very thoughtful of you,” responded Steven, a smile still on his face. Damnit, he wanted to crack the mystery behind Caroline and Klaus. “You must care about her an awful lot to be so mindful of her friends.”
Klaus’s eyes slid from Steven to over his shoulder, where he knew Caroline stood, rooted in the same spot and most likely staring at them. The man smirked, and suddenly Steven could see the allure Caroline found in the man who drove her insane. “She means the world to me.”
“Good,” replied Steven, firmly, and drawing Klaus’s eyes back to him. “Then maybe she’ll see it and you, instead of being with a boyfriend whose name she didn’t even tell me and who didn’t show up today.”
Klaus’s smirk widened, his eyes once again sliding to Caroline. Steven turned and saw Caroline had crossed her arms and was flushing in the face, almost as though she could hear their conversation. But surely, they were too far for her to hear anything, even if their voices carried on the wind?
“Klaus,” began Steven, glancing back at the man, “Maybe you can clear something up for me.”
“I can try,” the man hedged.
“Last night, Caroline and I were watching a TV show of mine that I like: Doctor Who,” continued Steven. “Have you ever seen it?”
“Some of it,” answered Klaus, confused.
Steven nodded. “Right, well, the thing is, at the end of it, Caroline made some comments. I’m just a bit confused, like I’m missing a part of the story here. She feels so much for you, but Liz thinks you’re trouble and her friends don’t like you. But you seem like a pleasant sort to me, and from what I understand, just want Caroline to be treated like the amazing girl she is. So what am I missing?”
Klaus’s face grew shuttered as Steven spoke, and by the end, at his question, Klaus had his hands out of his pockets and clenched into fists. He glanced away from the man, and spoke through thin, tight lips, “You’d have to ask Caroline that. Although I’ve only ever been kind to her, she’s taken offense to how I’ve treated her friends in the past. And she can’t get over it, or take a chance on me.”
“I see,” murmured Steven, shifting his weight as he thought over Caroline’s comments the previous evening. He offered a small smile to Klaus and shook his hand again, in farewell. “I’ll be rooting for you, Klaus. She may not see it yet, but I do.”
“See what?” Klaus asked, confused, but Steven was walking back to Caroline who was glaring at him.
“What was that about?” she demanded.
The crowd around the grave had dispersed, and even Caroline’s friends were gone. Liz, too, left, although she paused by Carol Lockwood’s car to give a short wave and strange gesture – like I’m going with Carol, see you later – and as Steven glanced back at Klaus, he saw that the young man was gone too.
“That was...” Steven trailed off. Instead, he cocked an elbow out to Caroline. “Let’s go for a walk, okay?”
Caroline stared at him, mentally questioning his change in mood, but nodded and looped her hand through his arm and grasped.
The two walked from her father’s grave, from Steven’s husbands’ grave, in silence. They meandered down a dirt path, opposite and parallel the one that Klaus was standing on by the river, and they stopped here and there to admire a memorial or statue until Caroline couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Why did you say those things to Klaus?” she asked.
“How did you hear that?” gapped Steven in response. “We were pretty far away!”
Caroline shook her head, tossing her blonde hair behind and over her shoulders. “That’s not the point, Steven. Why would you say things like that to him? To have him think there’s a chance...?”
“Isn’t there?” he replied quietly, glancing down at her. “Wasn’t that what yesterday was all about, Caroline? The Doctor and Rose?”
Caroline’s shoulders hunched and they curled inwards.
“No,” she began, defiantly, but then she sighed. “Yeah.”
“Want to share?” offered Steven lightly, deliberately pitching his voice to be as non-judgmental as possible.
Caroline fell silent, but Steven knew she was thinking about it. Finally, she asked, “What happens to Rose and the Doctor in season two? He’s completely changed his face and personality. He’s not the same man anymore.”
“They rediscover each other,” answered Steven, “And they learn to fall in love again.”
“What was it about Rose that you saw in yourself, Care?”
Caroline stopped, forcing Steven to stop walking as well. She then turned her face up to him, and said, straightforwardly, “I’m a monster, Steven.”
Steven blinked. He wasn’t expecting that! “Excuse me?”
“I’m a monster,” she repeated. “I’ve killed people.”
Steven exhaled heavily. Okay...
“Would you care to explain, Caroline?” he asked gently.
Caroline nodded. “Did Daddy tell you anything about the Founding Families?”
Steven shook his head. “Only that he didn’t want me involved.”
She scoffed. “Didn’t stop him from torturing me, then,” she said, and Steven’s shocked eyes flew to hers, which were rimmed with unshed tears and leftover bitterness. “Yeah, didn’t tell you that’s why we stopped talking, was it? That he tortured me.”
Steven withdrew his arm from her grasp and reached forward to touch both her shoulders. Her face was looking down, at their shoes, and her hair was a blond curtain, shielding her face from his eyes. “Caroline, what happened?”
Then she looked up, and he stifled a gasp. Her eyes were completely black, with dark, inky veins extending from them to her temples and down her cheeks. Her mouth was open in a slight snarl, and her canines were elongated into fangs, a hiss emerging from her throat.
And Steven felt it: deep in his bones, an instinctual need to run, to get away, to fly away from the greater threat. Without thinking, he took a few steps back, releasing Caroline’s shoulders and staring at her face in shock.
But then, he stopped. His shock melted away and he realised – this is Caroline. This is Bill’s daughter. His sweetheart.
“Oh, Caroline,” breathed Steven, stepping back towards her and watching as her angry tears, her snarl and hiss disappeared. Her face became one of confusion, the veins eased and then disappeared and her eyes were green again, and importantly, her fangs were gone.
The heartbreak in her voice was his undoing. He reached forward and drew her into a tight hug, rocking slightly back and forth as she gripped the back of his jacket in tight fists.
“Oh, Caroline,” he murmured, “Shh, shh...”
“I’m a monster! A vampire!” she gasped into his chest. “How could you... just stand there and...?”
“I take it Liz didn’t handle this so well, then,” he replied dryly.
“She hates me,” admitted Caroline lowly. “We’re better now, but at first... she hated me. So did Daddy. He tortured me, telling me I was a monster and tried to control my bloodlust.”
“Well, I haven’t seen you lose control,” Steven tried a quick joke, “So maybe Bill was having an off day.”
Caroline drew back from his chest and gave him a dirty look. Steven sheepishly shrugged.
“So...” he said, as they stepped away and began walking again. “What does this have to do with you and Rose and the Doctor and Klaus?”
“Klaus offered to take me away from here. Said that I would get bored of a smalltown life and smalltown boyfriend,” admitted Caroline. “Bought me a diamond bracelet, saved my life when Tyler bit me.”
“Explain that one, please.”
Caroline sighed. “Klaus is a vampire/werewolf hybrid and is immortal, even from vampire standards. Tyler is the first werewolf/vampire hybrid he made and so Tyler has to do everything Klaus says. For some reason, Klaus told Tyler to bite me, and werewolf bites are fatal for vampires. Tyler did, but he thought he could overcome the sire bond. Obviously it didn’t work and Klaus gave me some of his blood, which saved me from the werewolf poison.”
“Damn, this really is a soap opera,” muttered Steven.
“Tell me about it,” said Caroline, rolling her eyes and she then proceeded to start with Elena’s parent’s deaths, and what happened in Mystic Falls since, leading up to Bill’s death.
Steven could see that for Caroline, this was therapeutic. She was telling someone, who had no contact with anyone else in town, and therefore an unbiased view, of what was happening. He listened patiently, asking clarifying questions, and hummed in the right places and gasped in annoyed shock and dismay in others.
Caroline finished telling him about Bill’s choice to not transition, to not become the thing he hated and how vampires cheated death. On one hand, Steven was really hating Bill for keeping so much a secret; on the other, he empathised with Caroline and her pain. So much had happened to her (werewolves torturing her and her boyfriend didn’t give a crap!? He was glad Tyler never showed up.) but she was still full of light.
But he also understood why she felt for Rose and the Doctor. He understood it, so much. Klaus was the Doctor, a dark, brooding and mysterious man who found himself drawn in by the beautiful, full-of-light blonde. Someone who made him see the world differently, who wasn’t afraid to stand up and shout at him, tell him off (“And you Doctor? What are you turning into?”). Klaus killed thousands of people, like to Doctor committed genocide. But while the Doctor was remorseful of his species death, Klaus was vengeful and hurt by his past and was running from it. Both were running from their previous actions and deeds.
And Caroline was the only thing keeping him together. (“No! ‘Cause this is what I’m gonna do - I’m gonna rescue her! I’m gonna save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I’m gonna save the Earth, and then - just to finish you off - I’m gonna wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky! ... Rose?” “Yes, Doctor?” “I’m coming to get you.”)
“So the fact that he used Elena in a ritual that he’s been planning for a thousand years, the fact that he killed Jenna – whom you didn’t even really know that well – and the fact that he turned Tyler into a hybrid which reverted him back into his pre-werewolf assholery,” ranted Steven, “Those are the reasons you don’t like Klaus?”
Caroline looked a bit shocked at his summary. “Well... yeah.”
“Oh, okay then,” said Steven with a sarcastic lilt.
Steven sighed. “Look, Caroline... in Doctor Who, Rose saw the bad things that the Doctor did. How he went bad and tried to kill the Dalek, when he deliberately eyed Jack, warning him to stay away from Rose, from how he treated Mickey... he did bad things too. He was dark, in a bad place. But she forgave him for all of it, even in how he treated Mickey and her mother. The Doctor manipulated Rose and sometimes treated her like dirt too... but he was always there for her in the end. Made her feel special and like number one. Remember?”
“At the end of the day, did the Doctor make Rose happy, despite all those things?” he asked.
Caroline nodded. “Yes, she loved him. Spending time with him, seeing the world. It was worth everything. She says that – that she wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Steven nodded too. “Exactly, Caroline. Exactly.”
She opened her mouth, most likely to speak and ask, “what?” again, but then she stopped, frowned, and Steven saw the figurative lightbulb go off above her head.
“Sometimes,” he began gently, as he saw understanding envelop her face, “It’s just better with two, Care.”
Steven left the day after the funeral, heading back to Georgia to pick up Melanie from his parents’ place and a promise that Caroline would visit for her March Break.
He also left behind seasons one through five of Doctor Who for her to watch.
Liz was back at the Sherriff’s office the day after they buried Caroline’s father, with very little said to Caroline or Steven. Now that Steven knew, Caroline could see that he was far more understanding and observant of Liz’s handling of Caroline’s vampiric state. He didn’t approve, and set out to make his last full day with Caroline memorable.
But when he was gone, and Caroline was left alone in the house, she found the loneliness and depression start to creep back in. So she sat on her bed, staring at her dresser across from it, and at the stack of boxsets he left behind.
British TV. The BBC. The Doctor and Rose. Rose and the Doctor.
Caroline made a snap decision. Without thinking about it, trying not to think about it, she grabbed the boxsets, grabbed her purse and car keys, and left the house. She threw the DVDs and purse on the passenger seat, and started the car, trying hard to not think about where she was driving.
She pulled up along a long, oblong driveway that curled around a thin, square fountain feature. The house was white brick, large and square. Modern.
She didn’t think as she leapt from her car, grabbing the DVDs. She didn’t think as she knocked on the large wooden door, and didn’t think as the door opened and Klaus stood in the foyer in shock.
“Caroline,” he began, but she cut him off.
“Have you ever watched Doctor Who?” she demanded.
“Um, not really,” he answered hesitantly. Did her stepfather ask him the same thing recently?
Caroline nodded, and shouldered past him into the entranceway. “Right. Then you’re watching it with me, if you don’t have any plans today.”
“I always have time for you, sweetheart,” answered Klaus with a faint smirk as he shut the door. He motioned for Caroline to follow him.
They ended up in a large, brightly lit sunken den. They were alone, he explained; Rebekah was out shopping for a ball his mother was planning, as were Finn and Kol; Elijah had disappeared somewhere.
“That’s okay,” she answered. “I wanted to see you. Not them.”
And if he was shocked at her bold declaration, he made no mention of it. Instead, they watched the first season of Doctor Who together, and then she held out the second season boxset and they began that one too.
“ Get out of him!”
“ Oooh, he’s slim. And a little bit foxy. You thought so too. I’ve been inside your head. You’ve been looking... you like it!”
“ I thought you and me were... Well obviously I got it wrong. I’ve been to the year five billion but this, this is really seeing the future, you just leave us behind. Is that what you are gonna do to me?”
“ NO. Not to you. I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone who you...”
“ What, Doctor?”
“ You can spend the rest of your life with me... But I can’t spend the rest of mine with you.”
“ They did what? They just took her face and left her in the street. And as a result, that makes things simple, very, very simple. You know why? Because now, Detective-Inspector Bishop, THERE IS NO POWER ON THIS EARTH THAT CAN STOP ME! Come on!”
“ I promised Jackie I would always take you back home.”
“ Everyone leaves home in the end.”
“ Not to end up stuck here!”
“ Yeah, well stuck with you, that’s not so bad.”
“ You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”
Klaus had ordered in some Chinese for them at around the time Reinette and the fifty-first century appeared on the show (“What a bitch!” Caroline had explained, throwing a pillow at the TV screen, especially when he Doctor was acting all love struck. “Rose is waiting for you, you nitwit!”).
But season two left Caroline a sobbing, hot mess for a second time in three days. Even Klaus seemed vaguely affected by the Doctor and Rose’s storyline, clearing his throat and rubbing his hand roughly over his mouth.
“He never got to tell her,” sobbed Caroline, clutching one of the throw pillows to her chest. “The transmission cut out.”
“He tried, though,” argued Klaus weakly, turning to Caroline who was clearly distraught. “He tried to say goodbye.”
“But everything they went through!” Caroline turned to face him, her eyes lined red and her cheeks puffy from her god-awful, heaving sobs. “From when he was Nine to Ten and all the challenges they met and conquered. They should have their happy ending.”
Klaus eyed Caroline, a strange expression crossing his face. She hardly noticed, continuing.
“He gave her the world – she turned him down and he went back for her. He let her see how he felt on their first date, seeing her world explode like his was gone. He called her his ‘plus one,’ the girl who was always first on his mind. Then he changed. And they were playful, adorable with each other making bets and laughing their way through danger but they were tempted by Mickey and old flames and new flames and, and...”
“Caroline,” began Klaus softly. “What’s this really about, love?”
Caroline sniffled and her eyes met his. “Don’t you see?” she whispered. “It’s like us. You keep offering me things, and I want to take it but I’m so scared. I’m like Rose before the second chance, but still experiencing the same hurdles and issues she has. And out of everyone – her Mickey, Jackie, Jack – the Doctor is the steadiest one for her. You’re my steady. Not Tyler, or Elena, or Stefan. You.”
Klaus was blinking at Caroline, like he couldn’t believe what she was saying as the words poured out of her mouth. He reached forward with a shaking hand, tentatively touching hers as it continued to clutch the pillow.
“Caroline, sweetheart,” he murmured, sliding across the couch as she didn’t pull from his touch. He then gathered her in his arms. “Are you saying what I think you are?”
“I don’t know,” she mumbled, almost petulant. “Am I?”
He chuckled. “Do you need me to ask a second time?”
She nodded against him.
“Caroline Forbes,” he breathed pulling her face up from his chest to stare into her eyes. “There are great cities, art, music and genuine beauty out there. Are you going to remain in this town forever, or go and see it?”
Caroline began to smile.
“Do you want this small-town life, with a small-town boyfriend, or with someone who can show you the world?” he continued, whispering despite being the only ones in the house. “We could go anywhere in the world.”
“But does it travel in time?” asked Caroline, and Klaus widely smiled.
“’Fraid not, sweetheart,” he began, as her smile grew. “But we have all the time in the world, you and me.”
“Well, that’s okay, I guess,” she demurred, eyes still locked on his.
They fell silent, and slowly, eyes still on hers, he leaned forward until their lips were just brushing – just a mere, faint taste – and then her eyes fluttered shut and a sigh escaped her and he slammed his lips against hers.
The kiss was strong, passionate; he tilted his head to the side and exhaled heavily through his nose and Caroline’s hand grasped the neck of his Henley, and she angled her head as her lips parted and his tongue dove in, fluttering against her teeth, stroking the roof of her mouth, and twisting against her tongue.
And then Klaus pulled back, resting his forehead against hers.
Will you have regrets? He wanted to ask.
No, she wanted to reply without hesitation.
But what will everyone say? He wanted to question.
Doesn’t matter anymore, she wanted to reply. This life? It’s better with two. Better with you.
But instead, he opened his eyes and looked into her as she opened her. And he asked, calmly as he could, “How long are you going to stay with me, love?”
And she smiled, not just from her lips, but in her eyes, and replied, “Forever.”
“ How long are you going to stay with me?”