this is awkwardly AU and written on a whim, /apologizes.

title from now that you're gone - ryan adams.


i don't dare touch anything.

When she was younger and stole one of her mother's cigarettes, she went out into the backyard, sat prim on the porch steps, and puffed smoke out into the dark, chilly night.

She thinks that's the first time she really heard them.

In the woods, the faint screeching, the smell of blood, sometimes the cries.

She's sure she heard it first, then. But too scared that she shouldn't be smoking because she's too young, Caroline hurries back inside her big white house, tries to forget any noise she may or may not have heard.

She does not tell anyone, does not hide under her covers with the curtains over her windows closed, does not smoke another cigarette.

–;

The next time she thinks she hears something her mother's at her door telling her to sleep tight. And in the middle of her mother's sweet smile, Caroline hears very distant sounds coming from outside but she still hears them, and interrupts - "Mom, can you please close my window? Tight. And pull the curtains, please?"

Her mother continues to smile sweetly at her. "Oh Care, still scared of the dark? Better watch out, those monsters may get you!" She laughs as she pulls the curtains closed.

Caroline laughs nervously when Liz tells her to get some good rest.

As she pulls the covers completely over her head, she's sure she heard something.

–;

Caroline's positive she's hearing something the third time.

She's sixteen, fresh out of sophomore year, having a bond fire, inviting Elena and Bonnie and Matt, among others.

She wonders if they hear it too.

The screams are sad this time, and seeking, and Caroline feels a shudder running down her spine. And, "Elena, do you hear that?" with her hand laid cautiously on Elena's arm; who only laughs and kindly squeezes Caroline's hand. "Hear what, Care?"

"Ooooh, does Care hear the monsters from her dreams?" Tyler pipes in, marshmallow burning hot on the end of his stick.

Caroline chuckles and thinks she must be the only one.

–;

She hears the noises (soft, deliberate, chilling, angry) often during the summer.

Hot, lazy nights on the bed of Tyler's truck when she's letting him skim his hand over the skin below her breasts, she hears something and smells something fresh, akin to blood. She pushes him away, wonders if she really sees red eyes staring back at her when she looks into the nearby woods.

Tyler's eyes follow the direction of hers. She feels like maybe he's too immature for her when he still jokes about the monsters under her bed. She shoves him away quickly, disgusted, grabs her tank top, and walks home.

Voices following her, but she's not entirely scared.

–;

One night, mid-June, when the sun's just settling into the darkness and she can barely see two feet in front of her, she treks into the woods; feels like maybe this is how teenage horror films start out (she'd know if she ever watched them) and she should just turn around before something bad happens.

But she's heard the voices (they're voices now, not just screams, not just sharp intakes of breath) for a while now and she's become seeking, wanting more, waiting and listening.

She pushes passed the tree branches in her way and barely avoids patches of briers. Caroline settles into a steady pace, avoiding holes and lingering noises that would frighten her if she weren't searching for the ones that have been following her since she was thirteen and naïve.

She's deep in the woods when she realizes that she doesn't know how to get back out now, even if she tried. And she also realizes that she doesn't know what she's supposed to do now that she's in the middle of the forest where it's colder than the usual hot summer air.

Caroline panics for a quick minute, almost cries – tears slipping passed her closed eyelids, heartbeat erratic, hands shaking. Then she feels this weigh being lifted off of her and a subtle voice telling her to calm down.

So she does – breathing leveled, hands by her side – and when she opens her eyes and sees pretty blue ones staring back at her, her first instinct is to touch them.

Her hands find a face, cold to the touch, with sharp bone structure, and perfectly smooth lips when she runs the pad of her thumb over them. She stares a little longer, almost waits for herself to freak out (come on, Care, do it!) but she doesn't. The blue she stares into is like ice; one too many pieces of the ocean, one too many clouds from the sky.

"What are you?" She whispers, voice so low she almost says it again because she's sure she wasn't loud enough. Her voice cracks and she realizes her hand is still touching the face. She pulls her hand back quickly, gasps slightly, thinks this is the time she'll start freaking out.

But then suddenly she's calm again, eyes boring into the blue ones. "Care," the voice whispers. He whispers. His voice is sad and sympathetic. "Oh, Care," he says again.

"H-How did you do that?" She stutters, confusion arched in her brow. She raises her hand back to his face, touches lightly around his eyes. "Your eyes," she whispers.

"Yours," he whispers back, running the back of his index finger under one eye, gathering wet tears. "You're crying," he says with a frown.

"I am," she confirms when she touches her own warm face. The contrast between his cold face and her warm one is astounding, makes her shiver just from the thought.

"Who are you?" She asks this time, determination joining the confusion on her brow.

"Damon," he smiles. "I'm Damon." And his voice is still so low she wonders how she can even hear him, but she does.

–;

Caroline hears the voice, just one, more often now; when she's trying to study for school, trying to lull herself to sleep at night, and when she's trying to watch the latest teen drama.

Sometimes she sees him too. She knows he can hear her, even when she barely whispers. Because he's always there in just a moment when she, smilingly, whispers his name and something about how she can't sleep.

The first time she saw him, outside of the woods where she sometimes joins him, her breath caught in her throat, formed a lump she couldn't get down.

The first time she saw him, she saw just how beautiful he was. And she had to touch him all over again; his eyes, the soft pink of his lips, the sharp line of his jaw. She stood on the tips of her toes, rested her face right against his neck, let her lips linger there for not a moment too long. "You're breathtaking," she whispered, her lips moving against his skin softly. He had pushed her away to arms length and smiled. "Caroline," he had said simply. "You're beautiful," just like it was obvious, a small smile playing on his lips.

–;

She kisses him before he even tells her whoor what he is.

He comes in through her window, never making a sound, careful not to disturb her mother, lands perfectly still on his feet and waits.

She looks up from her Physics book, smiles, and ushers him to her bed. "You don't have to wait for permission. You can just join when you'd like," she says as she pulls him by his hand onto her bed. He falls effortlessly against her pillows – hands folded behind his head and legs crossed at the ankle – and watches her, stops only for a moment when she laughingly nudges him. "Stop," she suggests.

He doesn't.

And when she's finished reading from her Physics book, she lies back on her pillows beside him; curls up on her side, facing him, hands tucked beneath her face.

She sighs, stares at his face, wonders if he's the same red eyes she saw that time at the beginning of summer. She loses her thought when she realizes he's lying down beside her now, inches away from her face, trailing his fingers lightly over her skin.

"Beautiful," he says again, another sentiment. She leans up, a sudden confidence she thinks she's only ever gotten when he calls her that, and kisses him softly on the mouth.

His hand automatically goes to the soft skin of her face, rubs soft circles on her cheek, and his lips feel like fire when they touch hers but she thinks she likes that feeling. Likes him.

She pulls away first, needs air, and smiles shyly when she finds him just staring at her; heaving chest and rosy cheeks.

She kisses him again.

–;

She asks him one day when it's cold outside and she just knows it's going to snow sometime soon. There's all of these pent up emotions, all these unanswered questions, secrets from her best friends, and lying when her mother asks her who she's talking to late at night.

"God, what are you, Damon?" She demands; voice stern and frustrated. And she has this little eye roll she does because she thinks it's foolish that she even has to asks. But still, it's serious.

"I'm a vampire, Care." And she did not expect him to be so blunt; so quick to respond. Then she thinks he's insane, this is not true – he is not Edward and she is definitely not Bella.

"God, you're not a vampire!" She half yells at him in a way that tells him to stop being stupid and tell her the truth.

Then she freaks the fuck out when she realizes that shit's just hit the fan and he is telling the truth. (She can't even enjoy the snow that comes later that day.)

–;

So her boyfriend's a vampire. She can live with that. Yeah, you can, Care, she tells herself. She gets all the facts from him and tries not to worry if he's going to sink his fangs into her neck when she's sleeping. She does leave her window open, after all.

She feels absolutely ridiculous for not suspecting something sooner. He does too, when the subject is almost light enough to joke about. "I mean, Care, you met me in the woods. Come on."

He laughs and kisses her forehead when she smiles up at him.

–;

Late at night, when she's almost asleep only because he's rocking her in his arms, she asks, "why me?" so softly she can't really remember asking.

"Why not you." He offers, kisses the top of her head.

–;

Sometimes when he's not around and she sits and wonders, has become consumed in him, she hears voices again. His or maybe something else. Because if something like him is out there, she wonders what else there is.

The thought scares her into a horrid sleep; sweaty and restless she makes her eyes stay closed. Even after all she can see in her dreams is a set of red eyes staring back at her.

Caroline does not scream. She reminds herself he chose her for a reason. She hears him for a reason. (Even if it turns out to be foolish on her part.)

–;

She tries not to think of him as a monster. And when she sees his face – beautiful, beautiful, beautiful – and hears his voice – sweet, sweet, sweet – she doesn't think of him as a monster. She does not.

It's only when he's away and she hears everyone else's screams (they aren't just his) that she can't get the thought out of her mind.

Caroline's quiet one day, her head resting on his chest, pondering ideas. "You know I can hear you, right?" She looks up at him from behind her pretty, long lashes.

He doesn't look down at her, continues looking straight ahead, and she hears the soft hum coming from him. And it scares her beyond belief.

–;

She doesn't want to hear the "I thought you were okay with this!" come from his mouth, so she doesn't say anything.

But wonders just how he thought this would all plan out.

Thinks maybe this 'voices (screams, they're screams now; deliberate, sad, angry) gift' is more of a fucking curse that she sometimes loves to hate. And vice versa.

–;

Sometimes Caroline goes back to the first night she thought she heard something, with the cigarette held tight in her hand, the end almost burning her skin.

Sometimes she goes back to that night and she doesn't run when she hears the scream and smells the blood, she walks towards it and tells Damon to go the fuck away. She doesn't want this or him.

–;

In reality, she holds him tight and doesn't let him go; doesn't want to succumb to the voices. Even if they are his.