it's all over now, baby blue




She sits up straight, eyes staring ahead at the glass mirror behind the bar. The sleeves of her black turtle neck are pulled down over her hands, and she cups said hands around her small glass of bourbon. She watches herself in the mirror, chocolate brown eyes—so much like Elena's—boring into nothing as she stares, seemingly spaced out.

Damon's been watching her for awhile now. He sits at a table in the farthest corner from her, fingers tapping on the table out of sheer boredom. He'd first seen her four days ago, in the exact same spot in the exact same bar. A little dingy place in the middle of a small town that he can't be bothered to remember the name of in Virginia. She sits there every night, looking lost and always staring off into space. He'd been intrigued, certainly, when she'd made no move to tilt her head towards him when he had walked in. He was used to commanding the attention of a room with little to no effort, and while the other bar patrons had been enthralled, she'd sat in silence, eyes still on the mirror.

It was then that he'd seen her eyes. The deep chocolate brown. He'd seen those eyes before on another face. Elena's. It was eerie, really. The same thirst for approval was there. The same blunt determination. The same streak of fierce loyalty. The same need, burning need, for love. It struck him as strange when he had the sudden thought that he should be the one to give her the love she needed and deserved. It was strange, and he'd been dying to speak to her since. So he sits and waits for her to do something eerily out of the ordinary, but she never does. She sits in the same manner, uptight form, eyes averted from anyone other than herself.

Damon keeps tapping his fingers, eyes boring into the back of her head. She's slim, and a little shorter than his usual, but she's certainly a beauty. Long, full lashes. Full lips. She's interesting. But alas, she makes no indication that she notices him staring at her. His leg jumps up and down as he considers getting up and approaching her himself.

Then, just as Damon's preparing to get up, a drunk boy from the local fraternity sidles up to her. He's grinning stupidly, and he drapes an arm around her shoulders.

Damon grits his teeth, a sudden wave of sheer need to rip the boy's arm from its socket to get it away from her washing over him. He digs his nails into the table he's sitting at, cracking the wood. He's so morbid it's unreal. He removes his hands from the table, lifting his glass of vodka up to his lips, listening intently to their one-sided conversation. He thanks god once again for vampire hearing. His face morphs into one of chagrin when he realizes that the boy, the little insignificant blip, is propositioning the silent girl. Anger stirs in the pit of his stomach, but he stays seated, waiting for the girl's move.

She looks at the boy, stiffening under his arm, and meekly shakes her head. Satisfied, Damon relaxes. But the boy is relentless. He tugs at strands of her hair, ruining the perfect way it had previously fallen against her shoulders. Damon's hand tightens around his glass and he sets it down, afraid he might break it. The girl shakes her head a second time when the boy says something along the lines of, "We could have a good time."

The girl shakes her head again, and the boy grows agitated. Damon fidgets. He's done things like this before, forced women to be with him. One specifically; Caroline. After months and months of apologies, she'd finally forgiven him, but the things he'd forced her to do under his compulsion had stayed with her until her death, and him by default. When the boy tries to grab the girl's chin to pull her towards him, Damon jumps up, and before he knows what he's doing, he's forcibly removing the annoying little twit's arm from her shoulders.

"She said no." Damon deadpans, glaring harshly.

"Hey! You can't just—" Damon grabs his shoulders, eyes boring in the kid's.

"Leave." he commands, and the frat boy nods quickly, running out of the bar.

Damon runs a hand through his hair, wondering what he'd just done. The girl had swiveled around in her chair sometime during his exchange with the boy, and now she was staring at him. He blinks at her, uncomfortable under her gaze.

"You're welcome." he finally says, and her lips twitch. She just nods, and turns back around. That's all he's going to get? He won't stand for that. He climbs onto the barstool beside her and motions for the bartender with two fingers. "Bourbon, two." he says idly, looking at the girl instead of the bartender. A glass of bourbon is set down in front of each of them.

She doesn't look at him. She pulls the glass towards her, cupping it in both hands while Damon knocks his back, setting the empty glass back on the counter. She bites her lip, and he knows she's trying very hard not to look directly at him. She steals glances at him in the mirror, eyes scrutinizing his face. She blushes when he meets her gaze in the mirror, and he likes the light red against her tan skin.

They sit in silence for awhile, until Damon gets antsy. His knee bounces up and down. His fingers tap. He taps his fingers, marching out a beat with his digits. The girl suddenly reaches out, slapping her hand on top of his. She gives him a pointed look, and he shrugs, muttering an apology.

"What happened to your voice?" he asks, afraid that he might have made the wrong assumption all along, and maybe she's mute.

She blinks, turning back towards the mirror. She toys with her glass, biting her lip. "I lost it." she finally mutters, her voice croaky. Like it hadn't been used for some time. So she can speak, he gathers, she just doesn't like to.

"Lost it?" he repeats, brows furrowing.

"Lost it." she agrees, standing. She's short, impossibly so. It's sort of cute, he realizes. "Thanks for the drink." she murmurs before she walks away.

Damon sits there for awhile, mulling over their short conversation. It's then that he realizes he doesn't even know her name.

The next time he sees her, she's wearing a dress. It throws him for a loop because she's always wearing dark colors and long sleeves. He stops in his tracks, wondering if she's the same person he'd spoken to the night before.

Her hair is up in a sloppy bun, some strands curled, some strands braided together. It's strange not seeing the brown locks strewn all over her face. The dress she's wearing is something Caroline would have worn; flowy, vintage, floral. A pang shocks his heart as he thinks about the blonde. Dead, buried in the ground. He shakes his head quickly, crossing the long expanse of space between him and the girl.

She's sitting at her usual seat, glass of water in front of her. He sits beside her like he had the day before and orders a bourbon. "Found your voice yet?" he asks conversationally.

Her eyes flick towards him, and the ghost of a smile passes over her lips.

"Guess not then." Damon concludes, shrugging. "How about your dress? You look nice. It's different from your usual attire." he knows he's talking too much, but he can't help but try and fill the silence that follows her.

"I like to keep people on their toes." she murmurs quietly, eyes focused on the mirror across from her. "I like being different." she adds, and then she's standing up.

She moves to leave, and Damon jumps up, grabbing her elbow. "What's your name?" he asks, "You're in here everyday, always staring at that mirror, never speaking. Who are you?"

She blinks at him before tilting her head to the side. Then she asks, "Do you know who you are?"

She speaks to him first the next day, "When are you going to stop blaming yourself?" she asks, sitting in the booth across from him.

"What do you mean?" Damon asks as the bartender sets a glass down on the table in front of him.

"I read people. And I've read you. You sit here, desperate for some kind of human contact, but dreading it at the same time. You hunch your shoulders and drink too much." she tilts her head, bangs falling into her eyes. The bin and the dress are gone, "Who was she? The girl who scared you half to death?"

Damon sits back in his seat, shocked. She's blunt, and he kind of likes it. Caroline had never been one to beat around the bush. He doesn't know why he leans forward to speak, doesn't know why he trusts her when he doesn't even know her name. Perhaps it's because she has Elena's eyes; and he trusts Elena with everything. "She was—she was everything, but I realized it too late."

The girl looks down, "I'm sorry."

"I am, too."

She sits with him for awhile, and for once, he doesn't feel the need to fill the silence. Her questions and assumptions brought for his own questions and assumptions, and he was afraid of what he would blurt out if he spoke.

She stands to leave two hours later, but before she does, she slides a slip of paper towards him. He waits until she's out the door to look at it.

Rachel, it says.

"Do you remember when we first spoke? When you told me you'd lost your voice? What did you mean?" he asks, sliding into his usual seat beside her. They've been doing this for a few days now, and he's learned that she was born in a small town in Ohio, that she'd graduated last year, but not much else. She's very secretive, even more so than he is.

Rachel bites her lip before saying, "I sing."

"You sing?" Damon repeats in disbelief. He can't believe that a girl who hardly speaks sings.

"I suppose I should use past tense, shouldn't I?" she murmurs, more to herself than him. She reaches into her purse, pulling out her cellphone. She opens a video, and hands it to him, then excuses herself to the bathroom.

Damon hesitantly presses the play button, and waits for the video to load. Rachel's face is close to the camera, and she's giggling, bangs framing her face instead of hovering over her forehead. He guesses this was from her school days. She's saying something to a boy named Finn, "Hold the camera steady, Finn!" she cries. She grabs the boy, steadying him while she says, "I'm going to have to get used to having cameras in my face, and this is phase one of my "Immerse Rachel" plan." she strikes a pose, and beams.

The boy, Finn, laughs, and says, "Okay, Rach, now sing something."

Rachel frowns, "I have nothing prepared."

Finn scoffs, "You always have something prepared."

Rachel beams again. This Rachel smiles a lot. And then, she opens her mouth, "Carry on, my wayward son / There will be peace when you are done / Lay your weary head to rest / And don't you cry no more." she holds the last note, eyes wide, hand raised dramatically. He's truly in shock. Her voice is...phenomenal. He's always had a thing for a girl who could sing; Caroline, Rachel.

There's another pang as he thinks of Caroline singing "Eternal Flame" to her human boyfriend, and he wishes she would sing again.

But she can't, because he got her killed. He'll never stop blaming himself for it.

Rachel returns a moment later and he hands her the phone. "You're amazing." he breathes.

"I was amazing." she corrects, but she smiles, and he's surprised to see that it's a Caroline smile, coming from a girl who reminds him so much of Elena.

"How did she die?" Rachel asks later.

Damon sets his glass aside, drunkenly propping his chin on his folded arms. He's drank a lot, but he's not drunk enough to have that conversation just yet, but he does the best he can.

"She, ah, she died...saving me." he sighs finally, dropping his head into his arms. Suddenly, the images of Caroline jumping in front of him to take the bite Klaus had ordered Tyler to give Damon fill his head. She'd fallen backwards, golden hair flying around her like an angel's halo. In shock, he'd caught her, sinking to the ground with her. Tyler and Klaus had fled then, plan ruined.

The rest was history. She'd died. The end. Only it wasn't the end. He'd realized that, sometime during her clinging to his neck and whispering, "I don't wanna die.", he quite possibly still held a torch for her. He was ashamed that he hadn't realized it before. It wasn't the same kind of love he had for Elena, but looking back, if he'd had more time, he thinks he could have loved Caroline more than he'd loved anyone else.

He would never get the chance now.

Rachel's brows furrow, a tiny crease forming on her forehead. He looks away quickly, remembering the little crease of Caroline's forehead. She prompts, "Details?"

Damon shakes his head, and asks for another drink.

"Finn broke my heart." Rachel says the next day, "And after that, everything fell apart. My entire life, everything I'd worked for, spiraled out of control. My dads for divorced, my mom completely cut me out of her life, my best friends decided we weren't best friends anymore, the music schools I applied to in New York didn't think I was talented enough." she pauses, shaking her head and laughing bitterly. I wasn't even good enough to be a backup dancer."

There's a flash of Caroline in her, then. The insecurity, the inferiority complex.

"I just—I just wish I didn't have to give up singing to blend in. Do you know what I do during the day? I'm a student teacher." angry tears form in her Elena eyes, "I hate kids."

Damon feels an overwhelming sense of pity for her. She closes her hands around her glass, and says, "I wanted to be a star, but I had to leave all of that behind because I wasn't going to make it."

"You're only nineteen." Damon reminds her, unsuccessfully trying to cheer her up, "You have plenty of time."

Rachel just shakes her head. It falls silent, and Damon looks around the bar in an attempt to ignore Rachel's sniffs. There's an empty table in the center of the room, and suddenly, he has an idea. "Do you miss singing, Rachel?" he asks.

"More than anything."

"Then get up on that table," he points, "and serenade me." he orders, thumping the bar counter with his palm.

Rachel looks horrified, "I haven't sang in—in months. I'll be off-key and—"

"Nonsense." Damon quips, grabbing her and hauling her up. "I'm sure it's just like riding a bike," he adds. She's surprisingly light. He pushes her towards the table, and she approaches it slowly, looking back at him every so often. He nods encouragingly, and she hops up onto a chair, and then the table. The full bar turns to look at her, confused.

Rachel wrings her hands, licking her lips. She's clearly nervous. The Rachel of the video wouldn't have been nervous, he guesses. Finally, she stands up straight, and parts her lips, "You must leave now / Take what you need / You think will last / But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast." she sings a few lines of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," and he's struck again. Her voice is a bit scratchy, but still so strong and so full of life.

The bar patrons all move closer, and Rachel smiles a little. She toys with a strand of her hair as she sings, eyes closing, "Yonder stands your orphan with his gun / Crying like a fire in the sun / Look out, the saints are comin' through / And it's all over now, Baby Blue." she ends with a sigh, running a hand through her loose hair.

Damon is the first to clap, and then, the clapping that follows is deafening. Rachel hops down from the table, accepting the compliments graciously, cheeks rosy.

It's glorious.

Things change.

Rachel changes. Bright colors and floral dresses replace her drab clothing, and her hair is up more often than not. It's refreshing, and he wishes Caroline were here to see how much he's helped her.

They're friends, he thinks. Him and the girl with the Elena eyes and the Caroline smile.

"I wish you would come out of your shell more." Rachel says to him. "You're like a little turtle, stuck in your little turtle shell."

Damon gives her a pointed look, "That's the best analogy you could come up with?" he quips in disbelief.

She's talking more. Actually, she never shuts up. She's always humming or singing or talking. It would annoy him if he hadn't had enough experience with Caroline's constant chattering. He learns that she's in contact with friends from home and her fathers. Turns out they missed her as much as she missed them.

Hearing this, Damon considers calling Stefan. He hadn't spoken to his brother since he'd left town and Stefan had gone off to hide Klaus' coffins. His hand itches towards his phone, but he thinks better of it.

Just because Rachel's ready doesn't mean he is.

"I like my shell." he mumbles.

It lasts for a few days, and then the temptation to go home becomes to much.

Rachel beams when he tells her that he's going back to Mystic Falls, and she hugs him. She throws her little arms around his middle and holds him close. He jumps a little, but wraps his arms around her tiny shoulders. He's never touched her like this before, but he likes to think that he could get used to the idea of her tight body pressed up against his.

He lets go after a moment, but mentally promises that it's not going to be the last time he touches her. He tips an imaginary hat at her, "Until we meet again." he murmurs.

Elena cries when she sees him. Bonnie tears up. Alaric hugs him.

He wonders why he chose solitude when he could have had this the entire time.

Stefan calls him, and over the line, he can hear his brother crying.

Damon's eyes water when he remembers that Caroline won't be there to see his grand life change.

Her headstone is simple, adorned only with her name, her birth date, and her death date. Flowers that Elena and Bonne drop off every week lie across the headstone, and he gently brushes them away.

When he thinks of Caroline, he automatically thinks of Rachel. How just a few weeks of drinking and silence completely cured him of quilt and sadness and loneliness. He finds himself itching to go back to that bar.

He presses two fingers to his lips, then brushes those fingers over her name. He stands, a sudden weight lifted from his shoulders. He had blamed himself for her death, when he should have blamed Klaus. Caroline was so brave, so selfless. He should have been with her when he could have.

He thinks he'll regret that until the day he finally dies.

Damon walks away, hands shoved in his pockets, thanking god that he knew Caroline Forbes at all.

He slips into the seat beside Rachel, and she turns to him, smiling brightly.

"What happened to your shell?" she asks, repeating the words he'd said to her many weeks before, with some variations.

"I lost it." he says back, grinning.

She pushes a glass of scotch towards him, and it begins again.

He'll get around to telling her he's a vampire eventually.