AN: So this is an AU, and for the sake of the story Elena has been in the cell for more than a few days – actually I'm just taking liberties overall. Interpret the pair how you will.
It's another monotone day, and she's the change of pace.
Her body is dropped into the cell opposite and he watches passively as the doctor clangs the door, smirking at the triumph of another one and relishing the knowledge of his freedom. He can come and go when he pleases. This one is worse than his predecessors, crueller and harsher and sharper.
Technology, he supposes. Advancements, allowing shiny new games to be played.
The doctor leaves and he shifts forwards, inspecting her. She's young in both ways, vampire and human, and there's a red streak in her hair. Her clothes are odd and he wonders what date exactly it is.
She awakes to find him watching her and he smiles, a mockery of a greeting. "Welcome. I'm Enzo," he introduces himself, and she frowns back at him. No doubt she wonders at his ability to welcome someone to a cell, his ability to be so cavalier.
"Elena," she replies, and he wonders about her. She's a new source of information and he likes that about her.
The date is 29 November, 2011.
She learns that he's spent most of his unlife here.
Wasted it, she corrects.
He shrugs, because he didn't want immortality, but once he had the daylight ring and accepted the need for blood, he'd long wondered what he might do with his lifespan. Wasted or spent, the time has passed, but the desire for freedom remains.
"How old are you?" he asks one evening. She guesses it's January by now, and wonders if she's been reported missing.
"Eighteen," she replies, and the hesitation over her answer is enough to tell him that she's not been a vampire long at all. Younger than he expected then, but she makes for good company.
"How long have you been eighteen?" and she feels like telling him that she knows what he meant. She doesn't bother to answer; laughs softly to herself and stares out the window. He wonders what's funny about the question but doesn't elaborate. There's no rush for information. It isn't as if time is going to just run out on them one day.
Sunlight streams through the window as she is pulled towards the lab, and she wonders at the season. The sunlight is weak and she supposes it's late winter or early spring. If she's lucky the doctor will record the date aloud and she'll hear it, can report back to Enzo.
Together they can speculate on what they've missed, what else has happened in the world. It's becoming a tradition between them. On the days that they're both at decent energy levels, he asks and she answers.
She stumbles through telling him about the wars, Korean and Vietnam and he doesn't bother to ask further details. Her knowledge is patchy, "too many missed classes" she laughs sadly, and he leaves it at that.
The nameless minion shoves her back into the cell and she looks down at herself as if she doesn't quite recognize the person she is. She fumbles with the straps on her shoes, the tiny buckles no bigger than a fingernail and rips them off when her fingers shake.
They're not going anywhere after all.
The light behind her eyes goes out one rainy day. He's quite sure it's autumn, because the doctor recorded his notes as being in November, and he's started to lose track of the seasons.
Time means nothing here.
He tells her the date and she drags her finger over the ground, pressing hard enough to make an indentation. She's been staring at the ground as if it holds the answers she's looking for, and when it doesn't she wishes to destroy it.
"A year, then."
He shoves a rock into her cell – it's sharp and pointy and crude, but it does fine for carving. A few minutes of scraping later she sweeps away the dust and tiny gritty stones and reveals a 1, below 2012.
She's missed the entire school year and the beginning of her second year.
The memories swirl, reminding her of a time when she didn't have emotions: when she could do anything she wanted and not fear or feel pain or anxiety. The memories are hazy and dull from being repressed and she doesn't explore them too deeply.
He watches her flip the switch.
They talk about death. She's died twice, he learns, and had any number of near-death calls.
He used to wonder if he'd die here, but at some point he came to realize he'd be more use to the Augustines alive. Anyway, the promise of one day getting out and revenge drove him – he's lost count of how many different ways he thought of killing the people who took away his freedom.
It's a pleasant surprise that she smiles, one corner of her mouth quirked, and suggests they team up.
It's sunny again.
The light is persistent, unescapable. They shift to the darkest corner of the cells, an action nullified when she leans her head on the wall and discovers the bars are coated in vervain.
At least they have their daylight rings.
Today she's dragged out, having convinced the guard that he's at death's door. It's not really a lie: they receive so little blood that they scrape every last drop out of the shot glasses to not miss a bit. They don't want to desiccate and lose their chance of revenge, after all.
The sobs he hears are a little harsher than usual and he supposes they've come up with some new, untried torture. He knows by now it's the pain causing the sobs, not anger or fear or whatever else he feels. She doesn't feel, after all, but she still cares.
"July 2013," she tells him.
He marks it off on his own mock-calendar, birthdays missed. His tally is much longer than hers, and he carves a deeper line around them with the rock, separating it from her tally.
They talk about summer and she spins a pretty picture of barbecues and swimming and fun and friends. It feels so far removed from this situation that they may as well be on another planet.
He learns her surname on her second Augustine anniversary, as they've taken to calling it.
It sends him flashing back a dozen places a minute, and he shudders briefly at the memory of the notebook the man always carried. He hates the colour blue because of it.
They don't talk for a week.
She never seems to run out of stories.
Half of them are fabulous tales. She tells of killing an Original vampire – myth, he thinks – and of being sacrificed with vampire blood in her system and awakening human.
He doesn't contradict her though, never tells her what he believes or disbelieves, and she never asks what he thinks of the tales.
The tales are truenottruewhocares and he's willing to keep them coming. Some days the tellings are so good that he loses himself, sees her in a room where she dresses for a ball or the library of her sire's house where she liked to sit and read.
He begins to imagine them, picturing them so thoroughly that he wants to go there, and after three years in her company he considers the switch.
She keeps talking.
They bend the bars between their cells.
It takes effort, more because of the vervain, and then she tears off her sleeve and wraps it around her hand. The bars give, slowly, under the pressure and leave a small gap.
The rest will wait.
He covers her hand with his own, reaching through the gap, as she talks of people dying and being brought back with magic (he's still convinced it's a myth, but every time she weaves this particular tale it gives him a bit more hope) and she wraps her own hands around his.
There is, somehow, still a scrap of polish on the nails. He wonders idly if it's some kind of metaphor or symbol, and doesn't mention it to her. Maybe his sanity is being sapped away, maybe she's helping him stay sane.
Human contact is denied to them, but they can at least rely on each other.
The trick with the bars has the humans worried.
He sleeps while she listens and learns that they worry about vampire strength evolving. They get ever-so-slightly less blood from then on, and he tells her of a trick he and his cellmate used where one took both rations to build strength.
The dark look that comes over his face tells her the story doesn't end well.
She hears about the vampire who saved himself and wonders who could be so selfish.
It's been six years since she arrived and dust and dirt cling to her clothes. She tells him of modern plumbing in the world she left, and he finds himself interested to see what will have been provided since then. She stares wistfully at the jacket she's left on the ground, thrown aside in a fit of annoyance in a day where everything was scratchy and every nerve was worn.
It's been six years since she had a change in clothes.
They decide one day to combine their years here, call it one big mess of days and years and weeks and have done with it.
Eighty is a rounded number, one that reflects on since he's been here and she's been here and the birthdays and Christmases they've missed.
The next year is marked as eighty-one, for both of them, because it's beginning to feel like that.
"I wonder where Damon is," he mutters one day.
She wrenches her attention away from the bar she's digging at and stares at him.
"The vampire who left me to die," he explains.
Of course. It never occurred to her that it was Damon, but it sounds like something he'd do. She tries to offer comfort, but she's only just reflipped the switch and curls into a corner.
They don't talk for a week.
He lies down and watches her scratching at the bar of her cell. A tiny chipping sound is heard, audible only to those with superb hearing, and she sighs.
"Third one this week," she mutters, and proceeds digging with the nail of her next finger. She no longer uses her left thumb or index finger, but the bar is showing definite signs of wear – barely visible to humans, and she sends him a bloody grin as the bar wears through on one side.
He gets it now: she's going to wear down all of her nails trying to break free.
The stories have run out, almost: there's no linear pattern, and sometimes she has to go back and explain something else. Some days she does explain, others she shrugs it off with "long story."
This is a basic-story, and he's grateful because it means she won't be refusing to explain something and leave him waiting for the next instalment.
It's the tale of the witch who died and was resurrected to immortality, and he decides that he'll definitely stick with her, if only to see how many of the tales are true. After all, he needs a way to entertain himself while he adapts to the twenty-first century outside of a cell and she seems like she'd be a reliable tour guide.
One bar breaks; she has worn down five nails.
He takes the lead from her and begins working on the bars between their cells. There are the days when he takes two rations of blood and she goes to the lab: during this time, he punches the bar until it weakens and after three weeks, the bar snaps at one end.
The other days are the ones where she takes two rations of blood and he goes to the lab, and she spends the time wrecking the last five nails she has on making indents in the floor and bars.
The guards notice slowly. It takes them some time to notice the middle bar on her cell is broken at the top, and the bar dividing the cells is bent to one side. It'll take the next bar, and he'll have to break them entirely before they can step between the cells.
She takes to kicking the bottom of the bar, preserving her nails for the next one so it's easier to get out. He doesn't trust her to take all the blood, having learned from bitter experience, and she doesn't blame him.
So they alternate, and swear that if one of them has the chance to get out they'll do everything they can to help the other.
"I give you my word," she swears to him, and he tips his head in appreciation.
The second half of the reply – what he should say – is lost in the steady cacophony of soft thuds and irritating screeches of breaking metal as they work on their bars.
She fills in the blank, mentally recalling a handsome man in a crisp suit and wondering if she'll ever see him again. That doesn't mean anything to me until you live up to it.
He's hooked to a tube that drains blood from him, and he doesn't know when it's going to stop. After several pintshoursbags he is released, on the brink of collapse, and shoved back to the cell. In the haze of pre-sleep, he's sure he hears something about a guard dying, and there's a metal bar missing from his cell.
She watches him sleep and doesn't confirm, or deny, the guard.
The next day she gives him the rations and dismisses him to the guards with a careless hand – he's useless right now – and takes the hit in the lab.
When she returns he's still asleep, but she's feeling stronger than ever now. Somehow, something the doctor did made her powerful and she doesn't know what because her range of sight was limited. There was an injection and pain and adrenaline.
She crushes the bar in her fist and revels in her newfound strength.
He awakens and she hands him the blood he needs. They collect the glasses like trophies, a tribute to every blood ration they've had since she's been here. It isn't quite accurate; they had the habit of putting one outside the cell and adding the latest to the collection. Still, it is memorabilia, and they're not going to be here much longer.
He's replenishing, looking healthier than he has in a while, and she tells him it's been seven years.
There's just one bar now, but she won't destroy it until he's strong enough to leave. She made a promise and intends to see it through.
A month later they're back to dividing the blood between them: one glass each and she's grateful. It's no use planning for them both to escape if she's unable to move, but lately the experiments have been tamer than usual, and so neither of them is in desperate need to replenish.
She wonders about everyone else outside, and suddenly she's not sure about leaving.
They don't know what the date is, but he knows he wakes to her shaking him.
She slips back through the bars and he watches as she snaps the last one, freeing space for him to enter her cell and then get out. Her hands heal with a trace of blood drying and she grins at him, sticking a hand through the gap.
He takes her hand.
It's night and they set off alarms as they leave, but they don't care. The escape is too easy – a guard, fallen asleep – doors kicked open and windows punched through. They link hands and she pulls him along, reading his hesitation as being unnerved by this world. The world is bigger, he's certain, and there's stars in the night sky and the air is clean and there's no-one around.
A house not far away is promising. The lights are on and she compels their way in. The woman is a corporate type, one who doesn't sleep so she can go over mountains of paperwork. There are no kids around, and the husband is away on a conference. She graciously offers them clothes and showers, and they delight in throwing the grotty rags in the burning fireplace.
After that it's easy enough to politely decline food – she wouldn't stock the kind they require – and they mutually decide to thank her for her kindness by not feeding on her.
He fixes the shirt, slightly too big, and watches as she alters the woman's memory of them, making it seem they were just travelling when their car broke down and needed a place to sleep. She smiles dazedly and sees them out.
"New Orleans is supposed to be fun," he tells her. "Especially for people like us."
She doesn't need to be convinced.
"I have a friend there," and he's smiling at how delighted she sounds to get there.
There are no specifics about the friend, and so they walk to a more visible area and he sticks out his thumb.
They reach New Orleans and are greeted by vampires who see other day-walking vampires as a threat. She tells them to call her friend, giving no names, as a gesture of goodwill and they do. Within minutes he's there, handsome and powerful and wonderful as ever in his perfectly-pressed suit and gleaming shoes. For the first time in years there's a friendly face, one she hasn't seen in so long but that just doesn't matter somehow.
It's fine, he tells the others. I know her.
She points out that now he knows her friend too, and he smiles at the loyalty she still has.
They enter his home – a house in a secluded part of the city – and sit down together.
"I believe it's time to catch up."
They agree not to tell him the worst of it, and he doesn't ask, but he can read between the lines.
They're welcome to stay, he says, and she's sure his gaze lingers on her just a little longer.