I have been working on this since the beginning of January, sporadically; therefore, I don't believe it flows quite as well as I'd like. Also, this is a roadtrip!fic. I hope nothing seems too confusing.
Title from Comes and Goes (In Waves) - Greg Laswell.
this one's for the torn down, the experts at the fall.
Somewhere around the gulf they start sleeping in their car.
It's October and the weather's almost too chilling, almost too fitting. The wind beats against the car, tries to sway it, but Damon's grip on the steering wheel never falters – his gaze straight ahead. It's like it's some fight between him and nature, push and pull, but Damon always wins, always. So what would make this situation any different.
The windows are cracked open slightly, the chilling air from outside sweeping into the car, settling on the leather seats, making her skin crawl. She sits in the passenger's seat, legs brought up on the seat, resting in the middle. Her head falls against the window and if he ever swayed, moved the steering wheel to the left just a little, she's sure her head would bang against the glass and she'd have a headache, her sleep disrupted. But because Damon never falters, never will, she sleeps.
But not the good kind of sleep. It's the kind where she can still hear the tires on the road, the rattling of change in the console, heavy sighs from Damon when they pass yet another mile marker. She can still hear everything going on around her and she can feel the cold stinging her ears, rustling her hair, making the hair on her arms stand straight up for moments at a time. She is very aware and it doesn't result in good sleep. Not even a short nap after coming home from school because isn't that place just so exhausting? It's not that, or the power nap you get on the short drive back from Sunday night church service.
It's restless. It's legs shaking with the car because the road needs to be paved, the smell of wheat and old country. It's tiring and sad and it's all she ever gets these days.
But it's probably better than what he's getting.
She shifts, finally succumbing to restlessness, opens her eyes, watches her breath swirl around in her face when she releases it, and stares straight ahead out into the fading darkness. Damon doesn't say anything, like he hasn't even noticed that she's awake. It's been like this for days – he's just so unaware. She looks at him; tight grip on the steering wheel, eyes hard and harsh, features in a sharp line, never changing.
"Want me to drive?" She asks loud enough to catch his attention. She's sitting on her hands, trying to cast away the bitter cold seeping into them, looking his way questioningly.
He jolts, just momentarily, then gives her a side glance. It's not much, but he musters a small smile, she almost misses it, and shakes off her offer. "No, I'm fine."
She eyes him warily; finally sees the dark circles under his eyes, his tense hands on the wheel holding on too tight, the hollowness in his eyes – not harsh. She sees it with concern and because she's who she is, she wants to help. "I'll drive." She slides over to the middle seat, right beside him, and places her right hand on his arm gently, her other hand playing lazily with the buckle of the seat belt. Her voice is softer as if she doesn't want to scare him, distract him from the road, go flying into a ditch somewhere. She knows that they'd survive it, but still. She thinks she needs to approach him with more caution than usual. "You've been at it all night. We must've driven through, what, four states?" She intends to lighten the mood a little because it is always – dark, musty, cold – so she adds a small laugh and waits for his lips to quirk up, or something.
He doesn't do anything of the type though, just casts another side glance her way and says "We're still in Alabama." And she remembers that's where they were before she fell asleep at nightfall.
She sits back against the seat, feels only a couple of inches tall, and there's pink in her cheeks, "Oh. Okay." She smiles courtly and watches her hands sitting in her lap. He looks back at the road and it's never ending yellow lines and brisk cold weather. She quirks up a moment later, returning to the idea that she had abandoned, "I could still drive though!" And when he looks at her she has this look on her face that's too hard to deny – or sleep's too hard to deny – either way, he sighs and pulls off of the road. She claps her hands together like she's five and just won the best stuffed animal at the fair and the look on her face, that he swears he doesn't notice, is so innocent.
He turns to her, keys in his grasp, and stares at her shining eyes and eager bouncing. "Don't screw this up, Blondie."
She rolls her eyes at him and before he's even turned around to open his door, she's standing there, door open, waiting for hm to get out. She smiles when he rolls his eyes, "Oh come on, Damon. It's my first time driving this car. It's not like I've never driven before."
He's almost on the passenger's side of the car, when he turns around to her, eyes her suspiciously. "You have though, right? Driven a car before?" He's at the passenger's side door now, resting his arms on the hood.
She sighs heavily, "Yes, Damon. Now get in." It's absolutely foolish, she thinks. Because she's eighteen and he's been around her for long enough; of course she's driven before.
She's in the driver's seat, the leather still warm from him sitting there, her feet reaching the pedals just right. She adjusts the rear view mirror, buckles her seat belt, and fumbles with the radio, finding something that will keep her awake for the rest of the day.
"If I have to listen to anything Top 40, I will personally kill you." He says as he nestles himself just right against the seat and the door, head touching the glass where hers did before. His voice is monotonous and serious and god, she's heard his threats before but this one sounds like he's really not playing around.
She finds a station that plays old, old music that she can barely stand, but it'll work because he's not whining about his ears bleeding or anything, so one thing she doesn't have to worry about. And with the map open in the seat beside her, getting lost is another thing she doesn't have to worry about.
Damon wakes up to Caroline's voice loud and distant, but still all the same I'm-going-to-stomp-my-foot-at-any-moment loud. He opens his eyes slowly, raises up from his slumped position in the seat, and kneads at his eyes with the heel of his hands. He looks to his left and of course she's not there. He looks around and notices that they're at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and he can see a small hole in the wall diner a couple hundred yards away.
He gets out, notices the dust covering his car, and follows her voice. The rocks and dirt crunch beneath his feet and it's such a vile sound, he needs coffee in him. He finds her inside the gas station yelling at the employee.
Her hair's falling in her face, her cheeks are red, and her eyes are glazed over with something that resembles the eternal hatred she once had for him, but he won't rehash that again.
The bell above the door chimes when he walks in and the man behind the counter – big, grody, and mean – looks his way before turning back to Caroline who is still cursing and "You vile creature.." she keeps repeating.
"Blondie, what's going on here?" He asks looking back and forth between her and the man before settling his sights on her, eyebrows raises and mouth opened slightly, waiting.
She abruptly stops speaking and turns to him, still fuming though. "This, this beast refuses to sell me any type of tobacco product." She pauses and turns to the employee again, "I am of age you asshat."
"Control your lady, son." His voice is nasty and Damon really doesn't feel like tasting his blood on his tongue so he swiftly escorts Caroline out of the store; her spit flying and feet kicking the whole way. She stomps her foot – just like he figured – once she's on the ground again.
He grips her shoulders tight and shakes her a bit, "Calm the fuck down, Barbie." He's in her face and she's overwhelmed and she needs to get the hell out of dodge.
She blows out a breath; it splaying her bangs crazily across her forehead and hitting him right in the face all at the same time. Then her bottom lip is poking out and she looks up at him, eyes angry and it's too funny for him not to laugh. So he does.
"The fuck did you need with cigarettes anyway?" He asks as he walks back to the car. She doesn't answer him. "You could've just compelled him, you know. Would've saved you, and me, some trouble."
She looks up at him when they reach the car, "Yeah, well. I don't need to be reminded that I'm a monster." Then she gets in the car without another word.
They don't talk at the diner. She eats her pancakes and he drinks his coffee and the waitress is nice, smiles at them like they're cute or something. And Caroline wonders if anyone will ever notice that there's really nothing cute about them.
If anything, they're ugly.
The sun is high in the sky when they're already back on the road. Damon's driving and he doesn't say anything about the place Caroline circled on the map that they should go to next.
He thinks anything is better than where they've been.
They don't talk for most of the way; haven't for most of the trip. Only slight gestures here and there or "You hungry?" And they both know what the other means when they ask.
Caroline tries not to feel bad about the people she leaves abandoned in wheat fields waking up disoriented and bleeding from the neck.
She thinks being with Damon has made her worry about it less. She hasn't come to terms with it, but she hasn't seen any bunnies running around either. So it's either live or die and Caroline's still thinking she's too young to give up just yet.
Sometimes she waits in the car while Damon fetches the girls and she fucking hates that term but what else is there? They're food and Damon always tries to lighten the mood, "I got the bitchiest one I could find. I know how you love to show them who's HBIC around these parts."
She still feels almost entirely bad for laughing at his comments.
It starts one night that Caroline hasn't had any sleep and the road has worn Damon down. There's no motel around and she can smell the rain in the air, feel it in her bones.
So they sleep in the car.
Damon gives Caroline the whole backseat and she wonders if that says anything about his character because long ago he would've tossed her in the trunk or something. He stays up front, feet stretched as far as they can go, seat laid back a little.
It's uncomfortable and cold and when he can almost hear Caroline shivering in the backseat he almost gives her his jacket. But he's still a son of a bitch sometimes, so he pulls it closer around him and tucks his chin into it.
Caroline doesn't really sleep, just stares out the window and does something childish like count the stars.
In the morning, bright and early, Damon wakes up and Caroline's not in the backseat. He doesn't really worry about her, but if he's going to be stuck with her, he should at least know where she keeps running off to like this.
He gets out, sun burning his eyes, reflecting off his ring, shirt riding up in back. He adjust his shirt and jacket.
"Caroline", he yells, hands formed around his mouth to allow his voice to carry. He doesn't hear anything in reply but doesn't really have to because he sees her blonde hair shining in the sun and he tries to catch up to her.
She's sitting in the grass, a long ways away from where they parked the car off the road. She's wearing a sundress now even though it's cold. But somehow it works with her: the sun and the cold and her hair and her smile.
"I'm starting to feel like this is going to be routine for us." He walks until he's standing right beside her. She looks up at him and he's towering over her, kind of like always, too big too intimidating too everything she's not.
"And what would that be?" She asks, squinting her eyes to see nothing but tall grass in front of her.
"You're always gone when I wake up." He plumps down beside her dramatically. "I always thought it was the other way around with us." And he's bringing it up – the horrible past that picks and prods at them both when they're least expecting it.
She tries to brush it off, "God, you're so crass!" She laughs.
Maybe it's starting to work. Or maybe it's just history. Forgive and forget, or something like that.
Her laugh is loud and sometimes all too annoying and too many different kinds of cute all at the same time. He jokes with her about this and suddenly it feels too normal – like they're not on the run from the tragedy that always seems to lurk just around the corner, like they don't sleep in a car with chills to the bones because they have nowhere to sleep, nowhere to call home.
Caroline notices it before Damon. Her laughter stops short and she's clearing her throat, standing up and brushing grass off of her dress, walking back to the car without another word.
Damon lulls his head around before standing up and retreating back to the car. Because he knows, like Caroline, normalcy is just a page out of a book they'll never get their hands on. So why act like they know when they have no idea at all?
By the time they make it to New Orleans, Caroline has stopped counting the number of rundown diners they've been in. She's certain it's been no less than fifty – always the same order of pancakes for her and black coffee for him.
She's sick of it. And she's tired of it. And she'd like to sleep somewhere other than the backseat of a car. And she'd love to take a long shower, using all of the hot water and scrubbing her skin until it's raw if only to get the stench of the road off of her.
So, she demands that they get a room. A nice room with room service and clean sheets and a lobby full of information about tourist attractions – and she'd actually like to go to some of these attractions.
Okay, fine, whatever, just be quiet, he tells her.
"New Orleans has a lot to offer." The tour guide says.
Why the fuck do we need a tour guide? Damon asks. Caroline chastises him for his language, shushes him for speaking while Horatio, the guide, is speaking, and drags him by the arm when they begin moving again.
The group visits Royal Street and while Caroline oohs and ahhs at the antiques, Damon counts the number of people in the group and wonders if anyone would notice if one of them went missing — he's hungry.
But, obviously, he doesn't do anything about his hunger, simply trails behind the group as they continue onward. He releases a dangerous amount of sighs and grumbles about the stores they walk in and acts as if he's twelve, teasing and annoying Caroline. He's bored, okay.
Finally they make it back to their hotel. Caroline complains about how much her feet hurt and asks Damon for a foot massage, which he instantly dismisses with the flip of his wrist and a scoff, orders them room service before she can start complaining about her lack of nutrition.
Damon and Caroline fall into bed together. Which is distasteful, Caroline says.
Damon rolls his eyes, whatever you say, Blondie. He presses a rough kiss to her lips. Because even in an elegant hotel in New Orleans with fancy wine and a girl with a pretty face and a history of being something he's only dreamed of, Damon is not gentle.
Damon is troubled and dark and has a tendency to ruin any and everything he gets a hold of. It's painful and bitter, but this is what he does. He crawls under your skin and he settles himself deep in your bones, but then sometimes that's not good enough. He is not good enough. And he retaliates, bitterly and harshly, and he ruins you.
"I will ruin you, Caroline," he tells her once in the darkness; his voice bitter to no end, but also sad and lost and Caroline would care, she really would. But Damon ruins her, that night and every night afterward.
Caroline sucks in a deep breath after the kiss; the moment suddenly gone. However, she does not push him off of her, only holds the sheets tighter, cannot—will not—touch him. Will not allow them to break, even in the slightest bit.
Caroline wants to make this better—wants them to be better.
This is how it happens:
"Tell me I look nice," she smirks, teasingly, does a little twirl in her dress, hair down and in curls—beautiful.
"You look beautiful," he says, sitting on the edge of the bed. Caroline bows her head at his comment, a small smile on her face.
She looks up, sighs, smiles, walks towards him, "Thank you." She places her hand out for him, "Shall we?"
He chuckles, grabs her hand and leads her out of the room.
They eat dinner at a very nice restaurant with a waitstaff who has impeccable manners and suggests only the best selection of wines.
Caroline tips her glass towards him a little, smiles at him in a way that bottles up everything she is and gives it to him in the slightest, smallest manner. Damon could take it and run with it. Or, he could look at her in a way that says no, you don't want any of this, chuckle and dismiss the moment.
This is what he does.
When they stumble into the lobby of the hotel, Caroline grabs his hand impatiently, pulls him to the elevator, and when the doors close, she's already flush against him.
He pushes hair out of her face in a manner that is too tender, too soft. Caroline looks up at him with glossy eyes that have too much written in them. Damon looks away suddenly, removes his hands from her waist.
"No," Caroline says in a way that means she may want this, she may need to do this. "Let me do this." Fix you.
And the smile she gives him says: here, everything's here, take it, do something with it. He kisses her tenderly, in the moment, tries to convey to her that she may have to take it all back one day—he won't be able to hold onto it for long.
Caroline kisses him back fervently with confident hands running up and over his shoulders. Tells him, okay, that's okay.
They're on the road again and Caroline's not driving, she's sitting in the passenger's seat as usual. And she's staring out the window and she's thinking about Damon like she shouldn't, but thinking about Damon like she always does.
The road is long in front of them and the yellow lines are fading and Damon's grip on the steering wheel never falters, he never falters. But Caroline, she slips and falls into nothingness.
Damon ruins Caroline, ruins himself. Caroline tries to pick up the pieces, tries to fix him.
This is what they do—they should expect no less from each other.