Disclaimer: The characters and other stuff in this fanfic belong to Lisa Jane Smith and Warner Bros. I don't make a dime with this story nor do I intend to.
Don't believe in fear, don't believe in pain
When the Plague ended Caroline Forbes was less surprised than she should have been. Actually she was kind of relieved. While she had been as clueless as about anyone else on the planet about vampires before they killed millions of people with their virus as if they were bugs, there were a lot of muddled, half-forgotten fragments in her brain that finally made sense. While she still woke up from nightmares of dark eyes, pain and squeaky doors that never allowed her to leave, she now knew that they weren't just bits of her subconscious out to torture her but rather memories that had been too horrible to remember.
The Plague had spared Mystic Falls, the weather had made the roads into town impassable just when it broke out and soon no one even thought about making them passable again. After it was over Bonnie, Elena and her boyfriend had left town without much explanation. Just a phone number and a passionate plea to Caroline to never take off her necklace it contained vervain, a little purple flower. Later, in college, she learned about just how common it was, when she read Faulkner who called it the only scent you could smell above the smell of horses and courage.
It was a small miracle that she even could go to college. Her mom had been scared to let her leave her sight, let alone the state, so she made it only as far as Radford.
But no matter where she was people desperately tried to pretend everything was business as usual, doing their best to ignore the many graves, the many empty spaces, the half-empty class rooms which no optimist dared to think of as half-full. They also tried to their best to forget about the threat of total annihilation the threatened "flare-ups" had turned entire neighborhoods into ghost towns at the smallest mention of hunting down the vamps.
Everyone acted as if life went on it as it once had been and in some ways it did. The government governed, the courts made judgments, the police made arrests, businessmen made money, everyone tried to live as well as they could. Life really contained nothing supernatural but the threat of extinction of mankind itself.
But even death lost its novelty after a while. Caroline's life went on nearly as she had imagined her college to be if it hadn't been for the plague until the day she came into her dorm room and found sitting on her bed sat the very thing that had been haunting her dreams for so long.
"Your roommate invited me in," he said.
He looked the same as always, the same hypnotic eyes, the same unsettling smile, the same careless grace. He had always made Caroline feel like a klutzy, stupid child and which she believed she always had been to him.
He gave her the once over, his eyes rested on her necklace, accurately guessing what it is.
"Pretty necklace," he said while his eyes never left her neck. "Take it off."
"No," she said. The scent of vervain is above the scent of courage she reminded herself, even though she never really understood what that meant.
He smiled but it was an unpleasant smile, one that would accompany the sound of nails on chalkboard.
"How's your mother," he simply asked, his smile growing broader, meaner.
She thought of her mom, of the bite marks on her own neck which her mother had never seen and swallowed. Her hands reached for the clasp of the chain and then slowly pulled the chain from her neck. She kept it in her hand for a moment, her back turned to him, relishing the feel of free will, of the ability to remember before dropping it on her desk, amidst her make-up collection.
She turned back to him and looked him in the eye. If courage really had a scent it would be above all over her now and she still didn't know what it meant. Distantly she wondered if she ever would have the time to find out. His eyes were bright and then she felt the world blur around its edges.
"Tell me what happened during your prom."
His smile had disappeared. She was confused why he cared for her prom, even through the blur. Not even her mom had wanted to know anything about it.
"Nothing," she said. "Just Nothing."
"Not good enough," he said and the scary smile was back.
She scrambled for an answer, something that would lessen the pain, something that would make the pull to tell him every smallest detail go away. Until she realized that maybe she just should tell him.
"I wore a wonderful dress, strapless, pink with a large white belt," she said. He wanted to know after all. "I don't have it here otherwise I would show you how beautiful it is. I have one that is kind of similar though."
She went to her closet and grabbed the first dress she could get her hand on. The necklace, a part of her desperately told her, you have to touch it again. The world was dim and her hands trembled around the fabric.
"Actually this one doesn't look much like it. But I had just gotten a lipstick that went perfectly with the original dress." She frowned for effect. "Wait a minute, it is here around somewhere."
She reached for the lipstick and her hand touched briefly over the pendant as her finger passed it. Her head grew clearer don't let him notice, she told herself and then started to put the lipstick on her lips.
"Do you see," she asked.
He gave her distrustful look and for a second she wondered if her ruse was all for nothing. Except instead of muddling her world again, he simply told her to put on the dress.
"If you want to re-enact your prom, I won't stop you." He sounded bored. "Whatever helps you to remember."
She didn't hesitate; she could not risk losing herself again. She opened the buttons on her blouse, and then pulled it off. Her pants and shoes went the same way. Clad only in her bra and underwear, she reached for the dress and realized that it was really as strapless as her prom dress was. She would need a different bra or he would probably be able to tell that she was faking it. Quietly she went back to the closet and picked the first strapless bra she could find. It didn't match her underwear but that he wouldn't notice. She kept her back to him and discarded her old bra, put on the new one and finally pulled the dress over her head.
"My date was Matt," she continued as she struggled with the zipper on the back.
"You remember him, do you? He was so adorable and brought me a beautiful corsage lilies. And then my father took pictures. My shoes hurt."
The pull to tell him everything grew stronger again and she continued. She spoke faster: "We got there and there was some sort of punch. Matt got me a glass."
She reached for a water bottle standing on the floor and then reached for a glass, too far away from the necklace. She poured herself some water and drank. Her mouth was dry.
"It tasted horrible. Like someone had just mixed sugar water with food coloring."
She pulled a face. The water strangely tasted like the punch.
"Then Tyler joined us. He asked me to dance and then said" she stopped, she hadn't thought for ages about what Tyler had said. She had tried to forget it and apparently she had. "some really rude things." She put the glass down.
"I left him standing on the dance floor. He deserved nothing better."
She walked towards him, sitting on her bed, his eyes still attentively on her.
"I grabbed Matt's hand," she said as she grabbed his hand. "and asked him to dance. It was a slow dance."
She remembered now, Matt's hands had been around her waist and her forehead had nearly touched his.
She pulled him off the bed and was met with very little resistance. In a trance, she pulled him arms around her middle, put hers around his shoulders and then began to sway to memory of the song that played during the dance. She kept her eyes closed, to make it easier to maintain the illusion.
'Wake up, Caroline,' her inner voice said. 'Continue if you want to live.'
"It was really warm there, so we went outside."
The dorm room was a blur to her now, all she saw was the balcony she and Matt had been standing on and the darkness around it.
"We kissed," she swept her lips briefly across his. "Matt had his back to the railing, I saw over his shoulder "
And there in the darkness she saw something she had long-forgotten.
"I saw Elena out there. Except Elena was inside" It seemed so confusing but she knew that her memory was not wrong; it was vividly in front of her eyes.
"She carried something." She peered harder into the darkness. "A stone with some silver writing on it. It looked like leaves and Greek letters. Then she was gone."
She frowned. "Later, I asked Elena about being outside but she just said that I must be wrong. She and Stefan left soon after. Tyler and I went back to dancing."
She put some distance back between them and began to sway again. The dorm room came slightly back into focus.
"Can you draw the stone," Damon asked her.
She dropped out of his embrace and grabbed a pen and a yellow notepad out of her purse, sat down on the bed and began to draw to the best of her ability which wasn't much. She had never been much of an artist. He peered over her shoulder and absentmindedly ran his fingers to through strands of her hair.
As she drew, his cold fingers wandered down from her hair to her naked shoulders. She suppressed a shudder. He pulled down the zipper on the back of the dress, and finally opened the hooks of her bra. She tried not to react and kept her eyes firmly on the notepad as the drawing grew more and more elaborate and her clothes pooled around her waist.
"There," she finally said and turned around to look him the eyes. "It's done."
He gave the drawing a cursory glance, looked a little higher and said: "I knew I could make you remember."
He sounded almost proud while she felt exposed. She pushed against the blur in her mind and stuttered a slow "eyes up here."
It came out a lot less forceful than she would have liked but his eyes did go up there.
He pulled her toward him and asked: "Did you forget how much fun we used to have?"
Some distant part of her grew furious but her reply came out more detached than anything: "Was I supposed to?"
"Touché" he said.
His right hand cradled her face and it felt like he had done that before, even if she couldn't recall when. His head bend down and his lips met hers and the room began to spin again but, unlike before, it wasn't a dull sensation that dimmed reality. Instead it was as if she was intoxicated and every sensation had become part of a new heightened reality, sharper around the edges, every touch was more intensely felt. His hands wandered over her body and her clothes seemed to disappear. So did his. Ecstasy all too soon mixed with pain, as he violently consumed her, all of her until she passed out from exhaustion and blood loss.
When she woke up, surprised that she actually woke up at all, he was already up and about, throwing her things into bags, some of them garbage bags she noticed with discomfort as a particular expensive sweater went into one.
"You're up," he said. "Good."
He threw another bundle of her clothes into a bag.
"What do you think about transferring to Columbia?"
"Columbia," she echoed faintly as she sat up in her bed.
"New York, bright city lights, Broadway," he continued.
"What?" She still didn't comprehend what he was going on about.
"This is place's far too provincial for my taste. And the food is just terrible. Present company excluded, of course." He continued throwing her stuff together.
She frowned. "What does this got to do with me? What would I do in New York?"
He looked at her silently and then she realized that this had been something she had wanted all her life. Damon (Handsome, smart Damon!) wanted to her to go with him. And he wasn't just taking her anywhere but to New York, exciting, wonderful New York where she had wanted to go all her life. And he was taking her now, not in three years when she was finished with college, but now.
She smiled, excitedly. "Let me help you packing, you're going to mix everything up."
Hastily she put on her clothes and started to store away her make-up. There was something missing on that desk but she couldn't remember what it was.
"Have you already packed some stuff up here," she asked, looking at the desk in confusion.
Immediately she felt him behind her, his hands rested on her shoulders as he whispered into her ear: "No. Do you miss something?"
She looked in the mirror for the first time all morning. He met her gaze steadily; his left hand grasped her shoulder tightly next to the large, painful hickey on her neck.
"No," she admitted. "It just feels like something is missing."
She looked down on her desk, feeling stupid. "It's silly."
"Sure it is."
His hands slid along her arms and then finally embraced her waist from behind. He felt warm to touch. Her blood, she realized dimly. It was her blood that warmed him up from the inside. She took another look in the mirror and the hickey turned out to be a bite, the pattern of his teeth plainly visible upon her skin.
He nuzzled the unblemished side of her neck. His lips burned on her skin, she felt faint.
"Come on." He pulled away. "Time's a wastin'."
'Right,' she remembered. They wanted to go to New York.
She tried to recall what happened between them yesterday that he wanted her to be with him but her memory could provide her with only a few details. His smile. They had danced, she had worn her new dress (Had they been on a date?), his fingers in her hair, stroking down her naked back. It must have been a good date, she figured. He had been kind.
Soon her things were packed, she had eaten Nicole's yogurt (who had still not come back to their room) while Damon had gone to "fix her transfer" whatever that meant.
She took a long look around the room and realized that despite wanting to go to New York with Damon so badly, she really didn't want to leave. Her desk was empty but it still felt like something should have been on it, like something had gone missing. Her trashcan stood next to desk. Impulsively, she turned it upside down and emptied it over the desk.
"God, Caroline," she said to herself. "Looking through the trash like a hobo. What's wrong with you?"
At first it looked like the trashcan contained what it had promised to contain: empty food wrappers, thrown away papers and other things she preferred not to touch. But then enveloped in a ball of paper that had been an aborted English essay, she found a silver pendant on a chain. It was cute but she couldn't remember owning it. Nor could she remember Nicole wearing it either.
She picked it up and held it against the light. It was really pretty, too pretty for the trash anyway. She swept the rest of the trash back into the can and then went off to wash her hands and the pendant. Afterwards she threw it into her purse and forgot it about it - again.
When Damon came back, she felt weirdly exhausted. In the car she pretty much passed out immediately.
When Caroline woke up, she woke up to a vision of dim white and sparkling light. When her world came into focus, she realized she was in a bedroom, colored all in white white upholstery, white linens, a white carpet, and dim lights that gave it a homey vibe. Through the large window she could see the New York skyline. It was night.
Her things, trash bags and all, had been carelessly thrown into a corner of the room a dark stain against the room's color scheme.
She got out of bed, checking quickly for new bruises. But aside from her shoes, she was still fully clothed and no new pains, bruises or bites could be felt.
Looking for something to eat, she made her way to the living room (also very white, very clean, very modern) and then to the kitchen. But the fridge's interior was like the rest of the apartment: white, immaculately clean, and empty. The kitchen's cupboards contained pots that had never been used, utensils that looked like they belonged into a surgeon's toolbox and plates that looked like food would blemish them rather than giving them a purpose.
Abandoning the search for food, she took a closer look at the skyline through the living room windows, trying to place the apartment in what little she knew about New York's geography.
Down below the apartment there was a large dark square, only sporadically illuminated, and with a little gasp of surprise she realized that it was the Central Park.
"Like what you see?" Damon's voice came suddenly from behind her.
Turning around with a bigger gasp of surprise, she said: "Oh God, don't scare me like this."
Vampire, she realized once again. He's a vampire. How could she have forgotten? Her heart raced in her chest.
"Did you expect someone else," he asked - an unreadable smile on his face.
She blinked at him dumbly for a second. 'He's teasing me,' she realized and then came another startling realization. "This could turn nasty.'
"No," she finally said.
She paused, gathering her wits. 'He must be in a decent mood, Caroline,' she told herself. 'Don't be scared. Seize the day.'
"Actually yes, I expected someone to bring me some food. I'm hungry and nothing in this apartment looks like it can be eaten."
Dimly a memory of their relationship surfaced and she amended herself with a smile: "Present company excluded."
He seemed genuinely amused now, so she continued, hoping to keep him that way: "Nice apartment, by the way. Did you win the lottery?"
His face became unreadable. "I didn't need to."
He looked at her for a second while she imagined the previous apartment owner's bloodless body rotting under the immaculate floorboards.
"Come on, get dressed. We're gonna grab some food."
The entire way to the restaurant Caroline wondered if she was on the menu. But by the looks of the place, upscale and so crowded that the maitre got a really long look from Damon before he got them a table, she was nearly certain that if anything she would only be dessert.
Briefly she wondered what kind of dessert she would make, probably some pastel-colored pastry, while Damon ordered for both of them. She briefly thought about protesting (steak tartare sounded like the steak got sick with some exotic disease) but then decided to save her energy for a worthier topic.
She fingered the edge of the white tablecloth for a second then remembered something she had read what seemed a really long time ago. A story by Faulkner, something about the smell of courage. Above all things. Right, the smell of courage is above all things other than horses. Or something. For a second she was puzzled why this ever spoke to her so much that she remembered it now, here with Damon.
She shook it off. 'Courage, Caroline,' she tried to pep talk herself. 'Just courage.'
She looked him squarely in the eye. "I have a question."
She gave her voice what she hoped a firm edge: "And don't blinker me before we at least talked about this."
His eyebrow rose.
"You know the thing when I forget or want to do stuff when I should want something else." She bit her lips before continuing. "Like going to New York."
"I thought you wanted to go New York?"
"I did," she admitted quietly and then more firmly: "But I know that I also really wanted to stay in Radford. I know you love your blonde cheerleader clichs but I'm not a total idiot who can't tell which of these things I've wanted and which one you did."
He leaned forward and instinctively she turned her head away, averting his gaze: "Let me finish, okay?"
Her voice trembled: "I just want to know what I'm doing here. Is there a point to this?"
She turned back, blinking away those pesky tears gathering in her eyes: "Why me? Why now?"
He silently looked at her but not in the way that would have made her questions disappear. He looked down on the table, and straightened a knife that hadn't gone astray in the first place.
"Can't tell you," he finally told the table. "Everyone's better off with you not knowing."
"Everyone? Who's everyone?"
He looked contemptuous: "Who do you think?"
He shrugged again but smiled.
She was getting really upset now: "Bonnie would never agree to this"
She clasped her trembling hands together under the table, out of his sight. "She would never."
"Really," his bored voice mocked her. "When was the last time you talked to her?"
"Eight months ago," she said with as much confidence as she could still muster. "But I've known her since first grade. I know her better than you ever could."
If Damon even heard her little speech he certainly didn't react to it. "I've talked to her three days ago."
He grimaced. "And that was just a little bit too much information for you."
"Bonnie is too much information for me?" She panicked, realizing what he might do. "Damon, please don't."
The tears she had suppressed earlier started to run. "Please. Don't take her away from me."
She stared at him, unfocused and wide-eyed.
"You look like shit," he told her roughly.
Her face crumbled. He looked at her; there was nothing in his eyes, no feeling - just nothing.
"Excuse me," she said and ran off to the ladies room. The Caroline in the mirror sported unfashionable panda eyes.
It didn't take long to fix her make-up. Putting a smile on her face again, took much, much longer.
When she came back her dinner was being served. The steak tartare turned out to be an uncooked, decorated hamburger patty.
"Thanks," she mumbled, not even trying to mask her lack of enthusiasm.
"Eat up," Damon said cheerfully.
Thankfully it appeared that he hadn't noticed her little breakdown earlier. "Crying takes a lot of energy out of people."
The dessert was much better. He had ordered her creamy custard filled concoction surrounded by white chocolate and raspberries. She loved every single bite and in the end even licked the spoon clean.
"Yummy," she said as she laid the spoon down.
"Let's go then."
He had been impatient through the entire last half an hour.
"Don't we need to pay?"
"It's on the house," he said nonchalantly and walked away.
She quickly grabbed her coat and quickly followed him.
Back in the apartment he unceremoniously and roughly pushed her face forward into the nearest wall.
"What" she began before she felt her shirt being torn down.
Then, painfully, his teeth in her upper back. For a second she thought she would pass out from the shock and the pain but that moment passed and the pain merely stretched for what seemed an endless long time. When he finally let up, black spots were swimming across her vision and her knees failed to keep her upright.
She slid down the wall, her head leaned against the wall, and she closed her eyes, exhausted. Her shirt hung off her shoulder in tatters and she felt cheap, violated, and tawdry. A sob came unbidden from her throat.
He picked her up, carried her to the bedroom and dumped her on the bed. She opened her eyes and found him bent over her, staring at her. He was blurry through her tears. But the bite began to hurt less and it hadn't really all that bad in the first place, perhaps she had been only a bit surprised. He had been so careful, kind of sweet actually, after all.
She smiled dreamily at him and raised her to stroke a wayward curl behind his ear. But the muscles in her arm wouldn't really obey her and she felt strangely faint. Damon frowned at her, then rolled eyes then bent down further to kiss her. She thoroughly enjoyed his kisses even feeling as weak as she did now. Then there was a taste of copper pennies (blood, she realized later) on his tongue and she felt better, stronger, more awake, more alive than she had been in weeks.
She embraced him with her arms, raking her nails down his back as his kisses went down further south.
He kept her awake for the rest of the night and the bite on her back was forgotten. When she looked into the mirror of the immaculately white bathroom the next morning she couldn't even see it anymore.