Cinderella Dressed in White
When Caroline was growing up her favorite movie was Old Yeller. Her mom never let her watch it till the very end though, afraid it would traumatize her. One night when her mom had to respond to an emergency call at the station, nine year old Caroline had crawled out of bed, carrying her raggedy stuffed Simba, and had curled up into a ball in front of her TV, forwarding the Old Yeller VHS to the very end. She'd played it right as Old Yeller was called outside, and the gun was cocked-
Her mom was right. It was traumatizing. She'd cried for hours, and refused to sleep alone once her mom got home. Looking back on that now, Caroline's tears escalate. Tyler hadn't been a dog that needed to be put down because it was rabid. Tyler was her friend. Her family. And now he was dead. She sniffs a little, leaning back on her haunches. The room is absolutely silent until Damon tosses the gun away; looking like he can't believe what he's just done. And oh god, it must be so horrible, having to kill someone like that. She can't even imagine. She would comfort him, would hold him, if she thought that he would let her. But she knows he wouldn't. Not now. Not after what he'd seen between her and Tyler in the woods. She had felt some kind of shift between them in that moment, when she'd seen the crestfallen look on his face that quickly morphed into one of indifference. He cared, she knew. He cared a lot. Katherine jumps as the gun lands by her feet, and she shoves it away with the toe of her boot. None of them want to touch it. Not after it's just killed their friend.
None of them look at what's left of Tyler, either, though Caroline is still gripping his slack hand. She sets his suddenly cold hand down by his side, eyes trying to avoid the bullet hole between his eyes. She swallows roughly, wipes a few tears away. She doesn't know what else she expected. Did she really think that they would all last? That they wouldn't lose a few on the way to rescuing Elena? The world wasn't like that anymore. They couldn't just take a trip to Virginia and expect to make it there in one piece. The thought of Tyler passing hurt, and she wanted to curl into a ball and die with him, but there was still five of them left. Five others to protect. She looks up finally. Katherine's eyes are still watering, and she angrily wipes at them, hating the rare display of emotion. Stefan rubs her shoulders, looking anywhere but Tyler. Bonnie is huddled in the corner, arms wrapped around her knees. Damon…
Damon looks worn, and old. Older than she's ever seen him look. He's still sitting beside her, above Tyler. He's staring at the body of their friend, dismayed.
Tyler wouldn't want this, she thinks. He would want them to keep going. He'd want them to find Elena and a safe haven. And he wouldn't want them to cry. She didn't think he'd like it that they were wallowing in self pity. So Caroline sniffs, wipes her eyes, and croaks, "So what now?" she asks, voice timid. She's trying to be strong, really, but this is probably the most difficult thing that she's ever had to accept. Nobody will get out of this new life alive. Not Matt, not her mom. No one. It was foolish of her to think they would all live happily ever after. This wasn't a Disney movie.
Stefan is the one who answers her, "It feels wrong to leave him like this." He says, fidgeting.
"We can't exactly dig a hole and bury him with a proper funeral." Damon butts in, not sounding very happy about the fact. "Not with what's outside waiting for us. The entire zombie population of Madison knows we're here." He meets the eyes of every individual member of the group. "And they're going to try their hardest to make sure we never leave." Bonnie gulps, eyes shifting. "Look, we've got enough gas in the SUV to make it to Mystic Falls. Plus the tanks we have filled in the back."
"It's just a matter of reaching the SUV." Caroline finishes for him. He gives her a look, slightly tinged with warmth, and nods. "But…at the same time, Stefan's right. Tyler was our friend."
Katherine sits up, "How about a burial fit for kings?" she questions. She pulls a zippo from her pocket, flicking it.
Damon shakes his head, "The fire will attract every Walker in Madison."
"They already know we're here, you said so yourself. Why not keep them occupied while we hightail it out of here?" Katherine questions, eyebrows raised. Caroline has to admit, it makes a little sense.
"Yeah, but what about the process of getting out of here?" Bonnie interjects, "I mean, they're beating on the door. How do you propose that we get out?"
Damon stands, considers this. He paces a little, rubbing his eyes tiredly. "Is there a backdoor?" he asks Bonnie, and she nods. "We'll take the backdoor, sneak around the mob at the door, grab a gas can from the SUV, and light this place up." He looks at all of them, "Yeah?"
Caroline finds herself nodding, because she wants to get out of this place as soon as possible and never ever come back. She stands, volunteers to lead them out, and heads for the door. They'll make their peace with Tyler and burn him. It's not a proper burial. But it's the only way. She doesn't want his body to be a feast for the next Walker to parade through. And what's the harm in burning a couple of zombies to a crisp on the way out? She hurries to the door, grabs the handle and opens it, turning to ask Bonnie which direction the back door is in, and a hand grabs her, yanking her out of the doorway. Bonnie screams, Stefan shouts, and thousands of dead hands claw at her, scratching her cheeks and tearing at her clothes. Through her own screaming, she can hear Damon scrambling for the gun they'd carelessly tossed. Zombies swarm the stairwell, and oh god, through the grey bodies she can see that the magic shops front window is destroyed, zombies still filtering in. She tries to fight her way out, reaching for the knife tucked into her boot. She stabs blindly at the same time that Damon starts firing. A zombie that had been a little too close to her neck falls, head blown off. She stabs another through the eye, yanks her knife back out, and gets another through the spinal cord. Hands grab her, friendly hands, and she's pulled out of the grey grasps and back into safety. Damon and Stefan close the gap between her and the zombies in the stairwell, both firing their respective pistols. She's gasping, rubbing herself down, feeling for a wound. She hadn't felt a bite, but…
"You're okay." Bonnie whispers in her ear as her sobs get louder, and the only thing she can feel is their dead hands on her. "You're alright, Caroline. You didn't get bitten." She soothes, and Damon slams the door shut, shoving his back against it, Stefan doing the same. Bonnie holds her, and Katherine strokes her hair. Why does this always happen to her? She wonders. She's going to die someday.
"Alright," Damon huffs, looking at her, "how about we forgo the fire and get the fuck out of here?" he nods to the windows behind them.
"There's a fire escape." Bonnie says suddenly, as if she's just remembered. "We can just climb down, one at a time, and get the hell out of Madison before someone else dies."
They hurry to the windows, and Damon drags a desk from the corner of the room and settles it in front of the door. He follows the others, Stefan slamming the window open. Bonnie climbs out onto the thin edge first, hedging a little to the left, catching ahold of the brass steps, pulling herself over. Damon hands her his gun through the window, and she starts the climb down, eyes peeled. Katherine follows, and then Stefan. Caroline stays behind, hands closing around Damon's wrist as the zombies behind the door moan louder, as if they know dinner is escaping. Her eyes are wide, crazed. He cups her face in his hands, asks, "Are you alright?" and she shakes her head, because no, she is not. Suddenly, he presses his lips to her forehead. "You will be. I promise." He takes her hand then, and he's being so tender that it almost scares her, but she knows he's just trying to make her feel better, comfort her after she's almost just died. He holds her hand as they climb down the stairs together, meeting the others. They trek to the SUV, being as quiet as they possibly can, and as they round the corner, their home away from home stands out among the zombies.
Caroline and Damon peek around the corner of the magic shop, watching the zombies still crawl through the window. "I'm not risking anyone as a distraction," Damon says, just ask Caroline opens her mouth to offer. She grins sheepishly, and he rolls his blue eyes, elbowing her. "Come on then." He says suddenly, grabbing her elbow, breaking into a run.
"Hey!" they hear Katherine shout, but they're already to the SUV, piling in. The zombies have noticed them now, and they slowly turn, moaning. Bonnie, Stefan, and Katherine slam against the SUV all at once, climbing through the back door. Stefan rolls his window down as soon as Katherine is safely inside, and opens fire on the monsters edging closer to them. He knocks a few down and Damon is speeding away, running over a few stragglers as he goes.
And still, Caroline's hand is wrapped in his.
a/n: ...hahahaha, oops. this is just a filler to let you know i'm not dead, guys. this story will hopefully be wrapped up in 9 more chapters. and i have most of them written out :) i know you've all probably forgotten about it, buuuuut. here it is! until next time! also, totes unedited.