Pairing: Caroline Forbes/Stefan Salvatore
[all graphics created by the illustrious crowandfog]
Blurb: Confessional moment: I am a hardcore (HARDCORE) Damon/Elena shipper. This shipping tendency though had nothing to do with my falling for Caroline and Stefan. Let me lead you through the whole thing; this will not be a short story.
During S1 of TVD, I was very much about Matt and Caroline. As S2 started I really got into the idea of Stefan and Katherine. But an odd thing happened in S2 of TVD: Caroline became a vampire. And when that happened to Caroline, she needed someone, someone who knew how to be a good friend, and that person was Stefan. So when that happened, it caused me to go back, to the very beginning and consider Caroline and Stefan as a pairing from the Pilot episode.
Hang on, we're just getting started.
When Stefan first arrives on the scene, he has an agenda. He's been stalking Elena for months, after saving her from a car accident that kills her parents. He inserts himself into Elena's path, meets her, and the spark between them is enough for them to pursue a relationship. The funny thing is Caroline; the moment she sees Stefan, she too wants him. She makes a play for him and he totally shuts her down, in his kind Stefan way.
Stefan: Caroline. You and me, it's not gonna happen. I'm sorry.
Of course this crushes Caroline, as most rejection to teenage girls will crush them, but what's worse is she sees Stefan choose Elena over her. Later that same evening, Caroline laments to Bonnie about what happened:
Caroline: Why didn't he go for me? How come the guys that I want never want me? I'm inappropriate, always say the wrong thing and Elena always says the right thing. She doesn't even try, and he just picks her. And she's always the one that everyone picks. For everything. And I try so hard and I'm never the one...
Of course, Caroline doesn't know that Stefan "picked" Elena months earlier, or that she looks exactly like his believed-dead vampire ex-girlfriend, or that the creepily attractive man she notices at the Grill that night is Stefan's brother, and that he too has an agenda.
I've since come to realize the irony in all this wouldn't be if Damon ended up with Elena, but if Caroline ended up with Stefan, because Stefan's agenda was set. He didn't plan on Caroline any more than Damon planned on Elena. I've often envisioned the progression of Caroline and Stefan's relationship as something that neither of them will see coming, because Caroline gave up after Stefan shut her down, and Stefan couldn't see past his own nose for a really, really long time.
Then, in S2, Caroline becomes a vampire. She doesn't really understand what's happening to her, and without anyone else being aware right away of what's occurred she ends up killing a random stranger at the school carnival. And this happens:
Stefan takes care of her. Caroline is freaking out, understandably, and Stefan cleans her up, shows her how to breathe her way through bloodlust, and tells her:
Stefan: I promise you, I will not let anything happen to you.
As he holds her in his arms, things don't really change for Stefan and Caroline, but for the viewer? A whole new world just opened up. In the next episode, while teaching her to hunt, he explains about the heightened emotions of vampires. They have conversations like this:
Caroline: So what do I do when I see the rabbit?
Stefan: Chase it, catch it, feed on it.
Caroline: Isn't killing cute defenseless animals the first step in becoming a serial killer?
Stefan: Well, you sort of skipped 'serial killer' and went straight for 'vampire.' Hey Caroline, if you're not serious about all this then I think you should tell me.
Caroline: No I am. Look, I swear that I am! Okay, but it's just I haven't been in the sun for days, and everyone's at the swimming hole having fun and Matt is there and he finally told me that he loved me but I've been blowing him off and now YOU want me to eat bunnies and I'm kinda freaking out, okay? [Stefan chuckles quietly.] And now you're laughing at me.
Stefan: No, no, I'm not laughing. None of this is funny. Trust me. But it's just... uh...
Stefan: When someone becomes a vampire, all their natural behavior gets sort of... uh... amplified.
Caroline: What do you mean?
Stefan: I mean as a... uh... as a human I cared deeply for people, how they felt, if they were hurting I'd feel their pain and I'd feel guilty if I was the on who caused it and as a vampire all that got... magnified.
Caroline: So you're saying that now I'm basically an insecure, neurotic, control freak, on crack.
Stefan: Well I wasn't gonna say it like that, but...
This is how self-involved Caroline is at this point, because she doesn't even point out to Stefan how douchey he sounds when describing his "human" self. But I digress...
[Later when they're trying to mingle with their schoolmates]
Caroline: [Noticing Mason and Stefan looking at each other as Mason passes in his car] Why are you looking at him with your 'serious vampire' look?
Stefan: My wha... my 'serious vampire' look?
Caroline: Mmm... it's different from your 'worried vampire' look. Neither strays too far from your 'Hey, it's Tuesday' look.
Stefan: Oh, I get it. Okay, you think I'm a... you think I'm too serious. Is that it?
Caroline: I mean, I wasn't going to say it like that.
There is just FUN present in Stefan and Caroline's exchanges, even when it's like, you know, super serious business. They bring out this delightful lightness in each other, and they have such sweet chemistry. Just, unf.
But really what is most appealing about them is that they're friends. When Caroline confides that she has told Tyler that she's a vampire (after a very threatening DO NOT TELL edict from Damon), Stefan promises to keep her secret to preserve her life, because he knows his brother wouldn't hesitate to kill both her and Tyler. He tells her that he protects her because she reminds him of his old BFF, Lexi (who Damon killed).
Caroline: You have a friend?
Stefan: Heh, heh. You say that with such a discouraging amount of surprise, Caroline.
See? Just, FUN. And the friends aspect is what sealed the deal for me. The best basis of any romantic relationship is the foundation of friendship. Even when Caroline disappoints Stefan by being loyal to Elena and keeping secrets, he still cares for her.
When Tyler finds out that the Salvatores are vampires and killed his uncle Mason, and that Caroline didn't tell him, Stefan goes to him and pleads Caroline's case, like a true blue friend. Then Caroline gets kidnapped and tortured by some werewolves, so Stefan and Damon go to rescue her; but it's Stefan who sees her home, who looks at her and sees the battle wounds she's bravely trying to carry without help.
So, he does what any decent guy would do--he goes and gets her girlfriends so they can have a slumber party. Because that's totally normal. But seriously, it's one of the best scenes ever, because when Caroline sees Bonnie and Elena, that's when she breaks down. And once again, he takes care of his friend.
Most of the following fics illustrate this slow-burn friendship to lovers that keep Stefan and Caroline in character while allowing the thing to happen between them that should happen. It will be such a shame if we never get that from them; a phenomenal waste of chemistry and love that would put Pilot!Stefan to shame for ever telling Caroline that they weren't gonna happen. Because of course, they are.
Plus, Caroline is good at being a vampire. She learned how to deal with it, held on to her humanity and as shown in these fics, that's the kind of gentle balance Stefan will need, because he's never going to be good at it himself. He will always be a ripper at heart, ruled by his bloodlust, and only with Sunny, Happy Caroline by his side, will he be okay.
There isn't much fic about these two. I hope this post will inspire people to write more! And because this intro is ridiculously long, I've just used excerpts from the fics I recced instead of pontificating about them.
Fic Rec #1 The Truth of Who We Are
Why This Must Be Read: Stefan is not Stefan anymore, and Caroline tries to remind herself of that. But old habits die hard and even a ripper, no matter how cruel, still needs a friend.
Fic Rec #2: Inertia
Why This Must Be Read: Damon is the one to pull his brother out of the dark, deep hole he'd dug himself in. Caroline, however, is the one that keeps him from stumbling back into it.
Fic Rec #3: She's Blowing Smoke Like Halos
Why This Must Be Read: The Salvatores leave Mystic Falls, and then five years later Stefan blows right back in. “You know everyone’s going to be gossiping when the neighbors spread the word that the first thing you did was come see me,” Caroline tells him, stretched casually across the doorway.
Fic Rec #4: Boys Like You Love Me Forever
Why This Must Be Read: [This is actually a Caroline fic that focuses on several of her male relationships, but it ends with Stefan, and is so worth it.] This is not Stefan, she keeps repeating to herself, but she tears up anyway because this is not Stefan and all she wants is Stefan back.
Fic Rec #5: We'll Leave Our Scar
Why This Must Be Read: Caroline is lying in the grass beside him with her hands behind her head, waking up from a nap. The animals in them are not always so well-hidden, and Stefan remembers thinking that maybe they should just live like this forever, out in the wild.
Fic Rec #6: wishin' and hopin' and thinkin' and prayin'
Why This Must Be Read: “Wait! Should you even be drinking, Stefan? You’re an addict, after all. Isn’t alcohol like a gateway drug?”
Fic Rec #8: Understudy
Why This Must Be Read: "No matter how good it feels to give yourself over to it, you fight it," she blurts out, remembering the words he said to her months earlier when her own face was coated with blood, when her world was imploding. Caroline sees the recognition register on his face so she rushes on, "You can survive this. I'll help you. You can get through this."
Fic Rec #8: just to catch a flame
Why This Must Be Read: Years later and miles away, they find each other in a dark bar. Complete coincidence, really. Stefan hadn’t thought about her at all, not since Elena had made her choice. And even if he had, he wouldn’t have thought she’d be in downtown Chicago. Vampire or not, Caroline would always remind him of sun and sand and summer weather.
Fic Rec #9: a house unbuilt
Why This Must Be Read: It seems they're always moving in some sort of twisted dance. One of them lays a brick, the other one kicks it down. A house goes unbuilt.
Fic Rec #10: The Sins of Our Fathers
Why This Must Be Read: And when she has managed to take a few steadying, shaky breaths, they are stolen away by Stefan who whispers, "My father murdered me."