this tragedy is paving the way to my heart
those who loved before will be brought back together
and so they say baby, for everything a reason
and so they say baby you will be brought
brought back to me
- for everything a reason, carina round
"Wake up, sleepy," Caroline yawns in his ear. He keeps his eyes screwed shut, because he knows she's not real. He wishes she was, but his Caroline is dead and buried in the ground. He's cold, so inexplicably cold. He pulls her blanket tighter around him. Caroline yawns out, "Seriously, babe," she sighs against him, "I know you're awake. I'm hungry, make me pancakes."
"Go away." Damon mumbles pitifully. God must be playing a joke on him. It's not funny. He just wants her hands and body and voice to go away so he can drag himself out of her bed to face another day without her. He thinks this, and yet, he can't force himself away from her. Even if the contact isn't real, he's going to cherish it. Perhaps he's dreaming.
(If he is, he wants to sleep forever.)
"Hey, this is my room. I'm not going anywhere, grumpy." Caroline teases lightly. He rolls over onto his back, and it's then that he realizes something is wrong. She's smiling down at him, and she runs a hand through her hair. Her hand comes away red and sticky, though she doesn't seem to notice. The air around them is filled with the rusty scent of blood, and there's dirt under her fingernails. Gravel, he corrects himself, gravel from the parking lot of their school. His eyes widen, and he swallows thickly when he sees that she's still wearing her cheerleading uniform. A thin line of blood drips down from her hairline, instantly drying against her porcelain skin and leaving a brown streak. His opens his mouth, sucking in a heavy breath.
He was wrong. This isn't a dream. This is a nightmare.
Damon slaps his hands over his eyes, mentally chanting, "Wake up, wake up, wake up," over and over. The weight from the bed disappears, and he breathes out a sigh of relief. A few moments later, he moves his hands, looking around the room. She's gone, but the rusty smell of blood still lingers, and there's a hint of her strawberry shampoo. He sinks lower onto the bed, pulling the covers back over his head. That's what she'd looked like when she had died, give or take a few minor details. She'd looked like a cheerleader, one who was privileged and loved and rich, and that's why she'd been targeted. Because she looked like she had money. He wants to strangle the man who'd mugged her and bashed her skull into the ground. He flinches as he thinks of thick hands wrapped around her, head being forced into the gravel again and again.
Damon imagines that she struggled, she kicked and spit and yelled. He imagines that she didn't beg for mercy. She was stronger than that. He prays she didn't cry. Prays she cursed at him and swung at him.
Damon sighs, rubbing his hands over his eyes. He can't the image of her hair caked with blood, the side of her head bashed in. He sniffs, eyes welling with tears he's not going to allow himself to cry. He tells himself that Caroline wouldn't have wanted him to be sad. She probably would have smacked him if she was alive.
Damon shuts eyes, willing himself to sleep, praying he'll be knocked out for a long while so he only has to face a few hours without her.
"Damon, hey, how are you?" Elena asks when he finally answers his phone. She'd been calling nonstop for the past hour.
"I just buried my girlfriend, how do you think I am?" he snaps, running a hand through his hair and flopping back onto Caroline's bed.
Elena is quiet for a moment, and he feels a little bad, "I didn't mean to—"
"I know," Damon sighs, interrupting her. "I'm sorry. I just—I'm just tired."
"I get it," Elena breathes, "I'm tired, too. Just—just call Stefan later, okay? He's worried..." she trails off, and then, she whispers, "He lost Caroline, too." the dial tone sounds as she hangs up, and he throws his phone onto the floor. They'd all lost her; him, Elena, Bonnie, Matt, Stefan, Liz, her dad...
"Why is Elena calling you?" Caroline's voice interrupts his inner turmoil. He shoots up, scooting to the edge of the bed and sitting there. She's standing in front of her mirror on the other side of the room, brushing her hair. The brush combs through the sticky red tangled in her tresses, and his stomach knots together. "Hey," she sets the brush down and she snaps her fingers at him, "I'm talking to you. Why is Elena calling you?" there's jealousy in her voice, and she props her hands up on her hips. "What, are you secretly dating her or something? Do you think she's prettier than me? Do you—" she cuts herself off, catching his bewildered expression in the mirror. "What?"
Damon sucks in a long breath, and says, shakily, "You're not real."
Caroline's eyebrows knit together, and she turns away from the mirror, towards him, "You're being weird, Damon." she tells him, tilting her head to the side. He swallows roughly and gets a little nauseous when she looks him in the face. Her blonde hair is matted and stained brown with dried blood. Bits of gravel and brain matter and hair mix into one big wound, and he wonders how she hasn't seen it in the mirror. He's dreaming. He has to be.
"No," he croaks, "you died. Six days ago. You were mugged and your head was smashed into the ground. I was there when Liz identified your body. I buried you. I put flowers on your coffin. I cried. You'redead."
With each passing word, Caroline's expression morphs; into one of disgust, then fear, then confusion. "D—Damon," she licks her lips, running a hand over the red side of her head. He looks away, "what's wrongwith you?" she moves towards him, hands reaching out. The hand stained with red reaches to touch his shoulder, but it goes right through him. Caroline's mouth tries to form words, and she reaches for him again. Her hand goes through his other shoulder, his chest, and his hand. He feels cold, when she goes to—or tries to—touch him. Her lips quiver, and tears spring at the corners of her eyes like they always do when she's frustrated. "Why can't I—" she chokes out an angry sob, trying to grab his hand again, "Why can't I hold your hand?"
Damon reaches his own hand out, reaching for her waist. His hand goes right through her red and white uniform. Caroline's crying now, tears oozing down her cheeks. "What's—what's happening?" she chokes out, trying to grab his hand with both of hers.
Damon eyes cloud over and he whispers, "I told you. You're dead."
Caroline stills, "No," she stumbles backwards, "no, you're lying." she falls back against the wall, and he stands up, holding his hands out. She shakes her head, "Why are you lying? Why are you—I didn't die. I didn't get my head smashed in—I..." something flashes across her face then, and she slowly raises her shaking hands to her head, touching the gaping wound underneath her hair. Her hand comes away red, and she stares at it in wonder. She looks back up, wiping her hand on her uniform, "I died." she whispers. "I'm dead."
"I'm so sorry, baby," Damon chokes out, "I should have been there—I should have—"
"No," Caroline interrupts him, "I remember. He came up behind me when I was digging in my purse for my keys, poked his finger into my back..." she laughs lightly, and then says, "I thought he had a gun, so I dropped my bag and held my hands up. I tried—I tried talking to him, tried to make him see sense, but he wouldn't listen! And then, I tried to—I tried to get away, but he grabbed me around the waist," as she says this, her hands falls to her stomach, and she hugs her arms tight around herself. Damon stands, moving closer to her, as close as he can get without his entire body going through hers. The lines of their bodies blur, and he hears her start to cry. He stares at the wound on her head, and she goes on, "I kicked and punched just like you taught me...but he was too strong. He threw me down and—and my head hit the ground, again and again and again...and I died."
"And now you're here." Damon finishes. Her eyes flick up to meet his, and she bites her lip, nodding.
"Am I...am I a ghost?" Caroline asks.
Damon looks down at her hands, and wishes he could grab them in his own, "I don't know. I—" he sighs, "I just don't know, Caroline."
Caroline's eyes once again well up with tears, and she whispers, "I wish you could hold me."
Damon looks away, hiding the tears in his own eyes from her, "Me too," he chokes out.
"So...what do we do?" Caroline asks warily. They're lying face to face on her bed, so close, barely touching, but it's not close enough. He just doesn't like the feeling of her body near his when he's not allowed to touch her for some weird, inane reason.
"I don't know. Maybe—maybe this isn't real. Maybe we're dreaming." Damon offers lamely. He doesn't really believe that theory, but it'd be an easier to swallow than this ghost business.
Caroline's eyebrows come together, her forehead crinkles, and he fights the urge to smooth it out with his thumb, "What?" she questions, "Like a shared dream?" she shakes her head, "Those aren't real. It's a myth."
"And ghosts are real?" Damon counters smoothly. "I put you in the ground," he whispers urgently, scooting closer to her. Her eyes widen, "I held your mom when she was crying. I fell asleep in your bed last night after your funeral and when I woke up, you were here. I don't know what this is, exactly...but I'm thinking it's a miracle." he sucks in a breath, swimming in her eyes. He'd thought he'd never see the color of her eyes again. "I lost you...and then I got you back."
Caroline bites her lip, and then whispers, "It's not a miracle, Damon." she reaches out, her hand going through his chest. Her eyes meet his, "It's a punishment." she pulls her hand away, "I can hear you and talk to you but I can't touch you. It's hell." she closes her eyes, and repeats herself, "It's hell."
Damon closes his eyes, sucking in a ragged breath. "We'll figure it out." he tells her, "Somehow."
"Do you think I have unfinished business or something?" Caroline asks, watching him pour himself a cup of coffee in her kitchen while she sits on a counter top. "I mean...isn't that what ghosts do?"
Damon shrugs, "I'm not a Ghostbuster, Care. I don't know what's happening anymore than you do." Caroline bites her lip, and he feels a little bad. He sets his coffee mug on the counter and walks over to her. He leans against the counter beside her, and says, "I wish I had this all figured out, but all I know is my girlfriend is a ghost. But she's back." she meets his gaze, "She's not locked in a box in the ground. She's sitting right next to me. She's talking to me." Caroline looks down, legs swinging, "Can't I be happy about that for a moment?" he asks quietly.
Caroline's eyes water, "I don't want to be dead, Damon," she whispers. "I'm scared. What if I just vanish and you never see me again? I just want to know what's going on."
Damon put his hand through hers, and says, "I know."
They stay like that for a few minutes, hands overlapping each other. They hear Liz start to move around upstairs and they start the trek back to her room, where they curl up together—but not really—in her bed, wondering what the evening would bring them.
A/N: Edited and re-uploaded.