Down the Rabbit Hole
Disclaimer: Neither the Vampire Diaries and associated characters nor the quotes from Lewis Carroll are mine (obviously). I'm just playing with them.
A/N: Warning for vaguely adult themes/ coarse language etc.
A grin without a cat
When Damon Salvatore turned thirteen the town whore let him touch her under her petticoats. He never did ask why. He remembers that her thighs were plump but firm and her skin dry to the touch as the coarse hair of her most private parts scratched against the run of his nervous fingers. He remembers also that her painted smile was never anything but empty.
Two weeks later he came back and fucked her, using the winnings from the poker games his father did not know about. He doesn't know why. It just seemed like the thing to do. Her name was Maggie-May and she smelled like cheap whiskey and tired pain.
He became one of her regulars because he'd known even at thirteen that nothing he did would ever matter.
Maggie-May taught him a great many things, for the price of his small change. She taught him how to rut like an animal, how to count cards and spit tobacco, but mostly she taught him to smile – even when empty. It was the latter skill he would value the most.
He's always been an empty vessel waiting to be filled.
Off with her head
He joined General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in early 1862; he had just turned twenty-one and Father had informed him, in perfunctory fashion, that he would not be inheriting the estate upon Giuseppe's death as might be expected of the first born son.
Go and make yourself a man, Father said standing with his back to Damon and facing the window which looked out over the back fields. You won't listen, you won't be taught and I won't tolerate your presence here any longer than I must. You are unfit to carry forward my legacy.
It shouldn't have been a surprise. It shouldn't have hurt like red hot pokers ripping through his chest. It shouldn't – but it did. This was his home. This was his father. This was his future denied him.
I'm your son. He had said through lips gone numb and cold.
Father had turned around then, his broad shouldered and heavy-set frame, a body built by hard work and honest toil, limned by the dying sun in a symphony of red and gold light.
You are a disappointment. His father had replied and then walked past him out of the study because Stefan, fifteen and already perfect, had called out to him from the main parlour.
The next day Damon enlisted. It just seemed like the thing to do. He was a man without a future after all.
We're all mad here
In the roughly two years Damon stayed with Lee's army he learned more of what it was to be a man than Giuseppe could ever teach him. He saw the truth of everything and nothing at all in a dozen increasingly futile infantry charges that ended in miles of bodies strewn across pock marked fields. He saw the nature of man in the tiger striped shadows of burning towns and the bombastic roar of cannonade fire. He saw the pointlessness of life in the pig squeal indignity of men blown apart in droves, bodies ruptured and bones crushed, over and over and over again until in the end names and faces didn't matter.
Both sides claimed that they fought for freedom. Both sides claimed that they fought for what was right and just and true. Both sides lied. The battle of Gaines Mill, the Siege of Petersburg, Cold Harbor…it didn't matter. Damon knew, just like every other dead man walking in the army knew that what they fought for was nothing more than a painful, anonymous death.
Eventually when death failed to materialise Damon sought only to go home, to a place he was no longer welcome. He did whatever he had to get out of the army and somehow it worked. Father called him a coward of course but Damon no longer cared.
He knew what he wanted now – and it had nothing to do with the living.
He loved her best when she was monstrous.
He kissed her in the perfect dark and did not choke on the taste of a dead man's blood upon her lips. He revelled in the tomb coolness of her skin before his own blood helped to warm her. In the war he had seen so much death, so much pointless and needless death that he had stopped believing in either heaven or hell. Instead he had come believe that all men were nothing more than murderous beasts. Men killed and maimed and bled one another for reasons that could not ever hold up in the face of the devastation they wrought upon so many. How could his father's constant ramblings about demons carry any weight in comparison? Father spoke of the death of a dozen people, of unholy fiends with unnatural desires creeping at the edges of the night like wolves at bay. Yet Damon had seen his brothers at arms slaughtered in their thousands; slaughtered in broad daylight while men like his father sat safe in their mansions drinking fine brandy and plotting nonsense.
So yes, he loved her best when she played the part of a demon for him; when she told pretty lies about temptation and forever while tearing open his weak and unresisting flesh. He loved her for her deception, which he swallowed down as greedily as the poison flowing sluggish and cold in her dead veins. He loved her because she was truly damned, while he merely wished to be. He loved her because she was to him the face of death. She was the dissolution he craved; beautiful and alluring, cruel and selfish and god, he ached for her so.
When she hungered she was even more beautiful; olive skin, chocolate curls frothing like surf past delicate, birdlike shoulders and the magnificent swell of modest, but perfectly formed breasts. She smiled at him with bloody teeth and pinned him down to the bed, one deceptively small hand curling around his throat, her fingernails teasingly poking at the still oozing puncture wounds on his neck. When she looked down on him her eyes were hard, shuttered, stone and steel. He could not love her more if he tried.
My sweet Damon, she coos fingers clenching over his throat, squeezing down in lazy increments until he can feel just how very fragile he is, how easily she could snap him in two, suck him dry and toss him aside. You really have no fear. Like a butterfly her thumb strokes over his trapped adam's apple and he thinks that she'll leave bruises if she's not careful. Then he wonders, vaguely, dizzily, disinterested and unconcerned, if he even has enough blood left in his body to make bruises.
I could kill you. She points out conversationally, all the while watching him with those pitiless eyes.
Only if I'm lucky, He whispers back painfully around the obstruction of her hand and closes his eyes, tilts his head back, crown digging into the bloodied pillows, and arches into her hold. She chokes him and he can't breathe as the sharp nail of her pinky finger deliberately jabs into the gnawed wound at his throat, splitting open scabbed flesh so that blood flows and seeps over her fingers. Her breath tastes of his death as she leans over him and nips his ear; her whispered reply cruelly playful.
Oh Damon, don't you know by now: you will never be that lucky.
When he wakes up hours later, body aching and mind sweetly empty, to the stale reek of his blood, sweat, and sex, she is gone just as he knew she would be. He determinedly does not think about whose bed she is in right now. In the early dawn light, pale and weak and inconstant, he is not even sure he cares that right this very moment the wondrous monster who choked him unconscious, tore open his throat and devoured acres of his soul in one deep swallow was likely doing the exact same thing to his little brother.
Down the Rabbit hole
When Damon finally found the death he'd been searching for it came not from her but instead from his father. The irony is not lost on him.
Waking up neither dead nor alive should not be the shock it truly is. He'd been taking her blood willingly after all. The only thing is he hadn't really believed it would change him. Now everything is wrong. She kept more faith with him than he had ever thought possible. She'd given him eternity, just like she promised. Yet it's wrong, all wrong, because eternity isn't what he wanted and now she's gone and once again he's alone in a world he hates.
Alone save for his brother; Stefan. Stefan should not be here; Stefan does not deserve this. Stefan had no reason, no goddamned reason whatsoever, to seek his own destruction. Now Stefan has killed their father, sealed his fate, and doesn't even understand what he's done.
Dimly Damon thinks he should weep for his little brother who was never born to be a monster. Instead with blood on his lips (that isn't hers and isn't his) what he feels for the brother he will never lose is hatred; so much hatred. He doesn't know where it comes from because he has never hated Stefan – he has never done anything but love his brother since the moment he was born. Yet now he hates and he hates and he hates some more and that hatred seems to pulse through the entire world like the sound of cannon fire and the scream of the dying on the battlefield.
I will make an eternity of misery for you.
It is in that moment watching the fear and the hurt and the desolation in his brother's eyes that Damon knows he has finally done it. He has found what he was looking for all along. He is dead; everything he was is dead inside and now he is free. He is free and he is damned and nothing will ever mean anything ever again.
Why is a raven like a writing desk?
Are you going to kill me? The vapid blonde asks him, voice soft and small like a little girl's as he nips lazy and harmless at her collarbone, momentarily sated and languorously full of her blood. He tells her that he will, but not yet. She is nothing to him, after all. Nothing but an outlet for his urges; food and a fuck rolled into one cute package.
Her response is still interesting.
She sighs, still girlish, almost innocent, and then wriggles obscenely underneath him, bearing her throat to him in what he chooses to view as an open invitation to bite and rend and tear. She does this without coercion, reacting to the prospect of her own murder not with horror but with a kind of dazed shiver. She doesn't know it, but she has a death wish. He should know. He was just like her once.
It doesn't surprise him all that much when Caroline Forbes proves to have all the makings of one awesome vampire. He gets it. He understands. He understands her, although she'll never admit it, not now she remembers what he did to her. It's still true. Damon knows that some people spend all their lives seeking death. Death is the one moment everyone has to really shine, after all. It is uniquely personal even when it's horribly public. Death can make even Caroline Forbes, perennial runner-up, into something truly special.
In the end, when the hysterics and the recriminations are over and the tears all dried up, the only truth that matters is a simple one: death set Caroline free – just like it did for him.
Curiouser and Curiouser
There is no single moment, no bright and burning epiphany that comes to him and lets him know that after a hundred and forty-something years he has finally run out of hatred. Instead it is a series of little things, tiny increments of time and conversation, brief looks and moments of peaceful silence that let him know that his primary fuel for continued existence has run dry.
First she betrays him, one hundred and forty-five years later than expected, and it hurts like hell, even though it really shouldn't.
Second is Stefan, who he doesn't kill and who doesn't kill him despite each having their reasons for wanting to. Instead, in the face of a war of attrition they both grew bored of decades back, and amid a passel of other problems not exactly of their making, the brothers' enmity turns to bland hostility and then fades even further into different strains of almost good-natured rivalry. Damon hesitates to say he likes this change in status quo, but he'll roll with it while it lasts.
The third catalyst in his not quite epiphany is Elena; a girl who wears the face of his personal demon. She is a girl who loves his brother and has yet to fully grasp the cruelty so abundant in this world. Elena makes him feel less empty, less tired, less damaged. She does this without blood, without pain, without the allure of destruction. He doesn't understand it, this peace she can bring, but he wants it.
He wants it very badly and this makes him think that maybe he isn't quite as dead inside and out as he once longed to be. In one hundred and sixty-eight years of existence nothing, not one damn thing, has ever scared him more than the thought that he might finally want to live.