He wasn’t sure when things had changed. He couldn’t pinpoint the moment, or the day, when Caroline became more than just his friend. He only knew, with a certainty he hadn’t felt his entire existence, that he loved her more deeply than he’d ever loved anyone else.
With Katherine it had been different. He’d been in awe of her. She was so unique, so captivating, that he’d been powerless to resist her aura as it enveloped and seduced him into darkness.
Stefan had believed Elena was different, and she was. She was innocent and caring, she was everything he’d thought he’d found in Katherine.
He loved her and she was his light at the end of the meaningless tunnel that was his eternity.
He thought he would love Elena for the rest of his life. He never questioned his feelings for her, never needed to. As far as he was concerned his heart was hers whether she wanted it or not.
Caroline was just Elena’s friend. She was bubbly and charming and beautiful but that was it. That was always supposed to be it.
Then she became his friend.
She helped him, guided him even. Here was a girl, barely at the beginning of her life, who supported and cared for one of the most dangerous creatures she’d likely ever meet.
He didn’t notice her until she stole his heart.
Now when she entered a room he couldn’t focus on anything else. He couldn’t think or feel or remember anything other than her eyes, her lips and the way she’d flash a smile as she giggled on about the next dance she was planning.
He loved Elena but he wasn’t in love with her anymore. He was in love with her best friend. He was in love with Caroline.
God, he was a mess.
Torn between giving up on Elena and loving Caroline.
But he knew there was only one choice. From the moment Caroline had entered his life there had only ever really been one option.
But how could he tell her?
How was he to know she even felt the same?
He sat, lost in his thoughts for hours, as the day fell away into darkness. He was so caught up in the agony of his conflicting feelings that he didn’t even notice her step into the parlour until he caught her perfume as he inhaled irritably.
His head snapped up as she shyly walked towards him, confusion and shock prominent on his features as he attempted to scramble for some measure of control to hide his surprise.
“Caroline?” He whispered before he cleared his throat and shook himself back into reality.
“What are you doing here?”
Just like that Caroline burst into tears, sobbing and shaking as she tried desperately to reply.
Stefan panicked as he sped over to her, mentally checking for any signs of injury as he attempted to fight back his desire to rip apart anything that would cause her to appear so broken.
“What’s wrong? Caroline, are you hurt? What happened?” He spoke so rapidly he was amazed that she was able to understand him.
She let out a choked laugh as she clung to him, guiding him back towards the sofa he’d just vacated.
Stefan’s heart momentarily leaped as he heard her laugh. Even as she cried she was still the most beautiful person he’d ever met.
He waited for her to calm down, slightly less anxious now that he realized there was no immediate danger.
“It’s Tyler. I shouldn’t be surprised really. I knew this would happen. I’m an idiot to think I actually had a chance to be happy. I mean, it’s never me, is it?”
She shrugged helplessly, defeated.
“I’m good for a night, a distraction. But I can never be more. I’m never the one.” Caroline sobbed, he words catching in her throat as her insecurities silenced her.
“What happened, Caroline? I don’t understand…what did Tyler do?” Stefan gently grabbed her face and turned her towards him, tucking her disheveled hair gently behind her ear as her eyes slowly came up to meet his.
“I found him. I went to see him, he’s been…avoiding me lately. He kept telling me he was busy, that he needed space. He said he loved me but he needed time to think about what had happened with Klaus.”
“Klaus?” Stefan asked, wary.
“Klaus says he loves me. He let Tyler come back because he wants me to love him back. He thinks that Tyler is who I love now but that I’ll eventually be “his last” or whatever the hell that means.” Caroline made a face as she huffed angrily, wiping away the tears that had fell from her lashes.
“So I decided to surprise him, you know? Tell him that I loved him and that Klaus wasn’t even an issue.” Her back straightened angrily as she fought back her tears and clenched her hands into fists.
“But then I found him with…her. April of all people! I mean, aside from the fact I thought she was with Jeremy…April! It’s bad enough that she took my crown, now she has to take my boyfriend!”
“Crown? I’m sorry, I am completely lost here…” Stefan raised his eyebrows as Caroline threw her arms up into the air, muttering about the forgetfulness of the opposite sex.
“Well, I’ve lost two crowns actually. It’s been a bad year…”
Stefan burst into laughter as it finally clicked.
“You’re mad about her becoming Miss Mystic Falls?” He fell backwards as his shoulders continued to shake with laughter.
“Hey, I just found out my boyfriend’s been cheating on me and you’re laughing about it?” Caroline huffed indignantly but with a begrudging half smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
“I’m sorry.” Stefan sobered as he caught her beginning to tear up again.
“I don’t even know why I’m so upset. I don’t think I’m sad because I love him. I mean, I love him but I don’t think I’ve been in love with him for a while.” She shook her head sadly.
“It just hurts that he would do something like that after everything we’ve been through.” Caroline dipped her head as another wave of tears engulfed her.
“Hey.” He said softly, holding her chin gently as he tilted her head up to level with his.
“It’s his loss. If he can’t see how amazing you are, how caring and brave…then he’s the one whose not enough, okay? He doesn’t deserve you, Caroline, and you don’t deserve to be treated like you’re second best.”
Caroline gave him a watery smile as she sniffed quietly.
“That’s easy for you to say. You have woman fighting over you on a daily basis.” She chuckled halfheartedly. “No one’s ever fought for me.”
“I would.” Stefan whispered, shocking himself as he let out the one secret he’d resolved on only an hour ago to never reveal.
“What..?” Caroline’s gaze darted to his lips for a second then back to his eyes.
He decided to just give in, just tell her once. At least if she rejected him he’d know.
He couldn’t hide it anymore. He’d spent his whole eternity living one lie after another, pretending. He was tired of lying, tired of being someone he wasn’t, fitting roles that he was supposed to be cast in.
“I’m breaking up with Elena, Caroline.”
“What? Why?” Confusion darted across her face as she struggled to keep up with his apparent change of subject.
“It’s been coming for a while. We’re different people. I think she feels it too. I think…I know she loves Damon. She’s with me because she thinks it’s right. She thinks I’m the right choice, but she’s wrong.”
Stefan dropped his gaze as he continued.
“We aren’t right and we both love someone else, but she’d never walk away from me because she’s loyal. She’ll break her heart and Damon’s just so she can save mine but I don’t need her to save it.”
“Stefan, slow down, I’m confused. Elena loves Damon…no shocker there I suppose, but you, you love Elena. You’ve only ever loved Elena. Who else is there?”
Stefan held his breath as he attempted to find the words to tell her how he felt. He wanted to express everything she’d ever made him feel, tell her exactly how much she meant to him but he could only form one word as a reply.
Caroline gasped, eyes flying wide and flooding with an emotion Stefan didn’t dare put a name to for fear he’d find revulsion there.
“But…what…how..?” She was speechless, knocked flat by the emotion contained in such a simple word.
Stefan rushed to explain, anxious to get it over with so he could leave before she completely destroyed him with her inevitable rejection.
“I know you see me as just a friend. I know you don’t look at me that way and that’s okay Caroline, but I love you. I’ve loved you for a while.”
His voice became quieter.
“I know I shouldn’t. I know it’s not fair to you to spring this on you when Elena’s your best friend and with Tyler and everything but I can’t pretend anymore and…”
He was swiftly cut off as Caroline launched herself towards him, tangling her fingers in his hair and pulling him down to her lips.
He froze, his brain desperately trying to catch up with Caroline’s movements before his body took control and his lips began moving back against hers.
He leaned back slightly as she adjusted her position, straddling him so her knees came to rest on either side of his hips.
He melted into her, stroking her hair softly and cupping her cheek as he adjusted her head so he could kiss her more fiercely.
He felt weak as she continued to kiss him, his body flaring into life as if he’d been sleeping for centuries.
She pushed herself tightly against him, gasping and sighing as he released her lips and dropped his mouth to continue kissing along her throat.
Caroline gasped as Stefan nipped gently against the rapidly pulsing vein in her throat. He felt his face change as Caroline pulled him up to her eyes.
They stared at each other for a second as both of their faces betrayed their true natures to the other.
Instead of the disgust Stefan had felt whenever he’d seen Katherine change all he felt was peace and certainty that this was were he belonged.
She was everything.
“You’re so beautiful.” He whispered, brushing his fingertips under her eyes as she dropped her head, almost ashamed.
“No.” He spoke firmly. “Don’t ever hide. You are special, you are loved and you…you are my first choice.”
Caroline let out a small gasp as her eyes flew back up to meet his.
“Stefan…I…I like you, I really, really like you…but I don’t…I can’t…” She floundered but Stefan smiled, understanding.
“I know you don’t love me, Caroline. I’m just asking for a chance to show you that you could.”
Caroline nodded as she leaned towards him, kissing him sweetly before the fire ignited within them both once more.
He didn’t care how long it took. He didn’t care what other people thought. He only cared about this girl, right here, in his arms.
He’d spend forever loving her if he could and as she pushed him further back against the cushions, her lips formed a silent promise that one day she’d do the same.