Disclaimer: I own nothing of True Blood or its characters.
AN: Thank you reviewers, love you all! Your reviews and messages are better than crack! ...not that I know what crack is like, but I'm sure the happy feeling I get from reading your feedback is TEN TIMES better than it. No major warnings for this chapter. Just a bit of angst, which I'm sorry for. Don't hate me! *runs away*
One For the Vault
The first time Caroline woke after her assault, she was not conscious for very long. The few short seconds it lasted, seemed like an hour to her pain fogged mind.
Jerking awake strapped tightly to a gurney was a shock, but her movements were barely visible due to the straps holding her securely. Waves of panic washed over her at the unfamiliar surroundings and her disoriented state only increased her alarm. Caroline tried to open her mouth to speak, but a jolt of pain shot through her jaw and her whole body clenched with it as fresh hurt awoke. The slam of opening doors, as she was pulled from the ambulance bay and rolled into the bustling emergency area of a hospital, startled her and rattled the gurney.
It was loud in the hospital. Too loud. A chaotic buzz of orders to nurses and constant questions to the EMTs on Caroline's condition, sounded more like bombs going off to her aching head. Keeping her eyes open to the confusion left her lightheaded and dizzy. It was glaringly bright, and her only view was of strange faces and the quickly passing ceiling tiles and light fixtures. Her view began to blur and she suddenly felt nauseous as the pounding in her head became too much.
Caroline didn't even think to put up a fight as the darkness of unconsciousness asked to take her again.
Hours later, Caroline woke to silence. The only sounds of the room were her own ragged breaths and the constant beeping of the machines beside her bed. The sky was black outside her window and it painted the hospital room in shadows of dark blues and black. There was pain too. So much fucking pain.
The tightness of her jaw trapped her sobs inside her clenched mouth and she could only swallow them back. Her fingers clamped onto anything in reach; the white sheet on her bed, the thin wires that ran from her body, and the railings on the side of her bed. Anything solid enough to grip through her discomfort. A sudden dry cough brought on the most excruciating pain and her spine arched with the resulting heavy pressure pushing against her chest and back.
Blinding tears poured out of her good eye and then blurred the form of the quickly approaching nurse. The heart monitor at her bedside beeping swiftly now.
Caroline wanted to beg her to make it stop. 'Please, just make it all stop.' But it hurt too much to speak. It hurt to even think. God, it hurt everywhere. So much so, that the firm hand at her arm pushing a needle into her skin and injecting didn't even register to Caroline. Compared to everything else she was feeling, the small needle was trivial.
Oh, that felt good...
Caroline blinked heavily and looked up at her nurse. She loved this nurse. Loved her so very much. Loved her and whatever drug she had just injected into her arm, because it was slowly taking away the burning sting and... fuuuuuck. That was better.
"There we go," the nurse's kind voice soothed. "Get some rest, Ms. Lambert. You'll feel better in the morning."
'Drugs were awesome' would have been her response, but she was suddenly distracted by the floating clouds above her bed.
She'd tried pot once. The girls from her private school, whom she'd called friends for a very short time, had talked her into it at a party. Caroline had regretted it almost instantly, and felt so guilty that she'd raced home to confess to her grandmother. Her grandmother's mumbled reply about living through the sixties wasn't even processed by her in her worried state as she begged for forgiveness. She hadn't calmed until her grandmother gave her a smile and led her to the kitchen for a late snack.
The single use from her teens was nothing compared to the serious drugs in her system now.
Caroline stared up at the ceiling of her hospital room, letting the wonderful pain killer seep into her system and take away her discomfort for the moment. She felt as if she was floating and sinking into the mattress at the same time. Her limbs felt weightless and made of air, and the most fabulous warmth was spreading down her spine and out to the rest of her tingling body.
She could only purr when a sudden hand began combing through her hair, the long nails gently brushing against her scalp in a sweet gesture. Her heavy eyes blinked open and she couldn't remember closing them. Her nurse had moved to the other side of her bed, her back to the window now as she stroked her curls tenderly. And when had she had time to change? The glaring white of her uniform was gone, exchanged for a lovely shade of lavender that was much easier on her eyes. She smelled better too... somehow like home.
"That feels nice," Caroline tried to tell her, but wasn't certain if her lips had even moved. She pressed her head into the hand caressing her scalp, hoping it could do that forever. "Don't stop."
"I won't, peaches."
"I hate them," Caroline mumbled through the haze of the medicine, frowning as a breeze rustled the chart hanging on the hook at the end of her bed. Had the window always been opened? The cold air felt nice though.
"The ones who did this to you?" Her nurse's voice was lower... richer than she remembered, and she sounded angry about something. Perhaps the breeze was too cold for her. Not everyone liked the cold as much as Caroline.
"Maenads," Caroline replied quietly and blinked heavily with sleep as the hand in her hair lulled her into a familiar comfort. "They really suck."
A lovely arched eyebrow was the last things she saw before her eyes fell shut. A moment later, the bed dipped as a solid form laid down gently beside her. Caroline fell asleep quickly, her face nestled in soft blonde curls and cold arms wrapped around her protectively.
When Caroline opened her eyes to the sunlight warming her room, it was with no recollection of her night. The morphine her nurse administrated before she'd left for the evening, had assured Caroline a restful and painless night of dreamless sleep. In fact, she couldn't remember much of anything. It took a few minutes for yesterday's events to come back to her. When they finally did, it was in a jumble of images and sounds that flashed in her thoughts like a skipping record.
"Danny, will you shut her up. She's louder than my fucking wife."
"Damn-it Ginger, run!"
"At least you can hit her, Pete."
"It's time to teach you a lesson fangbanger, and since you let your friend get away, we're all gonna' hafta' play with you."
As Pete's final words to her sunk in, the last image before the nothing that was her memory, flashed in her mind. It was the sight of a thick stone... quickly falling towards her head. She groaned, remembering all of the events before the stone had fallen with perfect clarity now. From Ginger's frightened expression, to her own calls for help as she was dragged back from view of the road and beaten unconscious. Caroline prayed that those three assholes had been caught, arrested, and then traumatized all night long in their shared jail cell by their cellmate Bubba.
When two Shreveport police officers walked into her room an hour later, she learned that her wish had not come true. She swallowed back the bitter tears of anger as the two uniformed men told her that her attacker's had not been caught, or even identified for that matter. Mr. Bovil, along with a few of the staff and restaurant patrons, had rushed to her rescue after Ginger's hysterical entrance. But they'd arrived just as Pete's pickup truck was speeding away from the shared parking lot, and none had been quick enough to get a look at the license plate. The ones not crouched at her side had been hastily pulling their cell phones out and dialing 9-1-1, distracted at the sight of her... red and bright in comparison to the dark concrete.
Ginger's memory of the men wasn't specific enough in the department's opinion, and they took Caroline's statement with flat eyes and cold voices that surprised her. The pin attached to one of the men's uniform explained their compassionless and blank expressions.
FELLOWSHIP OF THE SUN
We are the Light
If her left eye weren't swollen shut, Caroline would have rolled both at the police officers. Instead she stiffly answered their questions and only resorted to pressing the nurse call button under her hand when they began asking her how many vampires she's slept with, and the names of her friends who had done the same. The interruption of the nurse was meant to get them to leave. Also, it would have been nice if it reminded them that she was the one laying in a hospital bed broken, while their fellow Fellowship members were out there with only bruised knuckles.
One of the two officers had the decency to look a bit ashamed, and quickly put away his notepad and wished her a quick recovery. His partner, the one wearing the button, had no such reaction. He didn't even bat an eye as the nurse pushed past him to examine Caroline. He actually smirked to himself as he glanced over the arm wrapped in a heavy white cast before he left and trailed after his partner's retreating form.
The poking and prodding the young nurse did as she examined the purple skin above Caroline's bruised ribs, had her regretting the hastily exit of the police. It was difficult for her to label which was more unpleasant; their rude intolerance or the fresh pain waking under the fingers of her caregiver. Both certainly sucked.
There was no button to rescue her from her nurse, so Caroline swallowed the pain the best she could and stared, with wide eyes, up at her ceiling through the uncomfortable few minutes. Grateful when a dose of pain killers was injected into her IV, she relaxed into her pillow as her nurse left to fetch the doctor for his own consult.
The break between the examinations was welcomed, but she didn't know what to do with herself. The window in her room was on the side of her bad eye, and to look out it she would be forced to press the swollen skin against her stiff pillow. The added discomfort was certainly not worth her third story view. The small TV hanging from her ceiling was off, the remote nowhere in sight. She stared at the black screen for some minutes, the small reflection of her bed like a blurred mirror. The details of her injuries couldn't be seen in the glass, from her position across the room, so she slowly lifted the arm not heavy with bandages to press against her face.
The swollen skin and cuts felt strange under Caroline's fingertips. She suddenly was glad that she was unable to see her reflection properly, the texture of her face was depressing enough.
"Caroline?" The hesitant voice and knock at her door startled her. The hand at her face snapped to her side quickly, and she felt embarrassed at being caught examining her bruises. "You up for a visit?" Thomas Bovill asked softly from her doorway, a small bundle of daisy's in his hand.
Caroline nodded her head in reply and pushed herself higher into a seated position as he slowly crossed the room. "Thank you," she spoke, voice raspy and quiet as she took the flowers from him. She couldn't look him in the eye and instead let her gaze rest on the cheerful plants resting in her lap.
"Christ, Caroline," he sighed deeply after looking her over, and sat on the chair beside her bed. "Are you in a lot of pain?"
"I'm fine." She lied, wishing her words could be true.
"Like hell you are!" he huffed out and ran a hand down his face. "What were you thinking, darlin'? They could have killed you."
"But Ginger... they would have just done this to her."
"I know, I know." His tired sigh caused her to raise her gaze, and Caroline was touched with the worry etched on his face. "But damn-it, you've got to start putting yourself first." She frowned and he continued. "I've known your Gran since I was a kid, and you're making my job of filling her last request of me really damn hard. She ask me to look after you and keep ya' safe. Now, I know you got a good head on your shoulders, and your heart is big enough for the both of us, but please promise me you'll start thinking of yourself a bit more."
"It was just instinct."
"Would it have been so hard to lean on your horn, call the police, or to holler into the restaurant before you put yourself up against three men?"
"Well, when you put it like that..." she tried for her normal sarcasm, but her voice only sounded dejected.
"Sweetheart," he leaned forward to rest his hand on the fingers sticking out of her cast, "I'm not tryin' to kick you while you're down, but I'd like you to outlive me." He laughed a small tired laugh and seem pleased when she smiled with him. "Because if you don't, your Gran is going to kick my ass when I finally see her again. I wouldn't put it past her to get me banned from Heaven!" he laughed harder and patted her hand once before sitting back in his chair.
Caroline couldn't help but smile at the image Thomas gave her. She could easily picture her grandmother standing between him and the pearly gates, shaking her finger at him before crossing her arms and not allowing him to pass.
"Well, I guess I'll to try and keep you out of trouble then." She smiled and played with the ribbon tied around her flowers. "For Gran at least."
"For Gran," he agreed with a nod.
The next visitor came late in the afternoon. The walls of Caroline's room were glowing with warm light when the noise of heels echoing from the hall alerted Caroline out of her thoughts. She sat up straighter, unable to stop the bubble of anticipation at who was making their way to her room. She didn't know many who wore heels that loud.
While alone, most of her thoughts that day had drifted towards Pam. Caroline's emotions bounced back and forth from wishing she was at her side, to her thoughts from yesterday; of needing distance from the vampire to asses her feelings and the relationship itself. Wanting Pam near won more than loss as she argued with herself, and she eagerly watched the entrance of her room.
When Ginger rounded the corner and entered instead, Caroline tried to mask her disappointment with a smile. The sunlight bouncing of the sequins of Ginger's top reminded Caroline of the time of day, and she suddenly realized that Pam couldn't visit for another hour or two.
"Hi, Ginger," she greeted as the petite blonde stepped fully into her room.
"Oh, my gosh," Ginger's eyes grew teary as she looked down at Caroline. A small teddy bear, with a pink tee-shirt that read GET WELL, was clutched in her hands as she stumbled forward. "Oh Caroline!" The tears fell in earnest then, and Caroline's eyes grew wide with the sudden display of emotion. Ginger ran the last few steps to her bed, collapsing on it with a loud sob. She fell forward and wrapped her thin arms around Caroline, crying into her hospital gown.
Caroline hissed through her teeth at the weight against her bruises, but didn't have the heart to push the woman off. Blinking through the discomfort she could only pat the blonde on the back in a soothing gesture. The motion a bit awkward with her cast.
"It's ok, Ginger," Caroline said. "I'm ok." The whole speech Mr. Bovil had given her earlier, about putting herself before other's, ran through her mind again in a mocking salute. She groaned inwardly. It really was ridiculous to be the one offering comfort, when she was the one marooned in a hospital bed.
"Ginger," she spoke after a few minutes, "I'll be fine. Really."
Ginger sat back slowly, her mascara clumpy under her eyes. "I feel so horrible, Caroline. This is all my fault." Small hiccups interrupted her words, and she looked ready to start crying again at any moment.
"No its not, Ginger," she soothed. "Those men were ignorant assholes, and all the blame is on them. None of this was your fault." Ginger shook her head in reluctant agreement as she listened, but still looked distraught so Caroline quickly changed the subject. "Um... do you want to sign my cast?"
It was something a child would ask, or one would ask a child, but it worked and that's all that mattered to Caroline. Ginger perked up immediately and even smiled with the suggestion. She quickly handed over the small bear she'd brought for Caroline and then dug into her purse for something to write with.
The visit went smoothly for the next few minutes, and Caroline enjoyed herself and Ginger's company. Holding her tiny bear and watching her visitor decorate her cast with hearts, flowers, and words of cheer. Ginger's airy voice as she talked nonstop about just about anything, brought a grin to Caroline's face. Watching the swirl of Ginger's pen on her arm she almost forgot about her troubles. So distracted by her light voice and hand movements, she almost didn't catch Ginger bring up Pam.
"...and I've never seen Pam like that before. I thought those cops were gonna' shit their pants! I've never seen her that crazy, I swear. Not even when that tourist spilled red wine on her velvet dress. Or when this brawl broke out and she broke a nail. Or the time-"
"Wait," Caroline interrupted, shaking her head to clear her thoughts. "You saw Pam yesterday?"
"Well, yeah," Ginger looked up from the cast, her pen paused over a lopsided smiley face. "She was at Fangtasia all night. Eric is out of town so she's like the head honcho, and has to deal with everything from...from yesterday."
Caroline's heart sank. "She was at Fangtasia all night?"
"Yeah," Ginger replied before lowering her eyes back to her writing efforts on the thick arm cast.
"A-and she knew about ...about me?"
"Yup, she was there when the police took my statement. Had to make a copy of the parking lot's security tapes for them too... well, she made Chow do that. Then when she finally kicked them off the property, she locked herself in the office all night."
"All night? You're sure?"
Ginger nodded her head in affirmation. "Yeah. I felt so guilty about what happened, that I didn't want to leave work. I wanted help some way, but she never came out of the office so I just stayed there and mopped, and cleaned, and restocked the bar, and-"
"I get it Ginger," Caroline cut her off, suddenly no longer in the mood for visitors. So Pam had known she'd been injured, probably even saw the surveillance video, and she hadn't even come to check if she was alright... or even alive after the beating she took. Her doubts from the day before came back full force, and the thought that she was nothing but a warm and willing bed partner to Pam suddenly flared, like a blinking neon sign behind her closed eyes.
"You ok, Caroline?" Ginger's voice was quiet with worry, and a small frown creased her brow.
"I... I'm just a little tired I think," Caroline offered in explanation.
"Oh! I'm sorry, sweetheart," Ginger apologized with a squeak. She stood quickly, after giving her another painful hug, and collected her purse. "Feel better, Caroline." She started to turn, but paused suddenly and toyed with the strap of her bag. Looking somber, she met her eyes with an soft gaze, "I really appreciate what you did for me. Not many would stick their necks out for someone like me. No one really has before. Not even my own momma."
Caroline's heart ached with the sad truth of Ginger's confession. She'd been delusional about Pam for two months and the weight of that crumbling wall left her numb. Her heart, now cracked with the truth about her so called relationship, was weakened further with a slow throb that tightened her chest after Ginger's words.
"So, thank you."
"Ginger..." she wanted to say something more than 'you're welcome', but with her heart out of order at the moment, it was all she could mange in reply before Ginger left quietly.
Alone again, Caroline cried silently until there were no tears left to set free. She watched the colors on the bare hospital wall darken from warm oranges to cool blues. Nightfall had come, and again Pam had not.