I am very proud of this. Which, you know, is a rarity when I write. This is Caroline, Caroline/Damon with mentions of Caroline/Matt friendship, Caroline/Tyler.

Warning: Character death. (I hate myself. I really do. I mean, the kid is my baby, okay. Why I even did it - I'll never know.)

Disclaimer: Excerpt and title from The Great Gatsby. I most certainly do not own the rights to that awesome book. However, I do own a copy of it. Credit to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Also, reference to Little Red Riding Hood. Which, I do not own.


so we beat on, boats against the current.

Caroline read once, somewhere maybe in a book about fairy tales, that Little Red Riding Hood is eaten by a wolf.

She's sure, now, it was a book of fairy tales, because she was such a naïve little girl, that Red Riding Hood. Shelaughs at the ending, a little at the beginning too.

This is hers:

There's a whole lot of blood and Damon's in the shadows, lingering. Matt's on the ground and the blood's coming from him—this Caroline is sure of too. Tyler is there, but you know, not really. He's a wolf and he's growling and he's covered in blood.

Damon told her she could handle this. All of it.

Caroline stands near Matt, only looks at him so she doesn't have to look at Tyler, but the longer she looks, the longer she isn't doing anything and she doesn't even know how this works. She doesn't know how Damon figures she ever could.

Matt makes a gurgling noise and she thinks that's blood coming out of his mouth and if she doesn't do something quickly, he's going to die and he won't come back a vampire or a wolf or anything. He just won't come back. And Caroline can't have that sitting on her shoulders too—she can't be the reason Matt Donovan doesn't live. She can't take that away from him.

She drops to her knees frantically and she pulls Matt's head onto her lap and she wipes at the blood from his mouth. She's crying, she knows, and she wishes it were different—all of this. Her hands shake and they're not supposed to.

She bites her wrist, fangs protruding out of her gums and ripping her own soft skin and then she's pushing her wrist to his mouth, wants to know if this will even work. She frantically turns around in search of Damon, but she can't find him—this is just her luck—anywhere, not in the shadows, not by her side.

Tyler's there though and she has to stop thinking like this—this isn't Tyler, this is another monster and he's taking the only innocent one left.

She holds her wrist to Matt's mouth and her other hand, wrapped tightly around Matt's neck, feels only a faint pulse and she begins to cry more, sticky hot tears. She looks and she can't tell which is his blood and which is hers, so instead she looks away—into his clear blue eyes and she tries to smile for him, tries very hard to smile and tells him it's okay and to ignore the coppery taste and the light and she tells him to come back to her, he can't leave her here.

Damon was wrong; so very wrong.

Matt dies and by daylight Tyler is naked on her porch, curled up, asking what he's done.

–;

She wants to tell him I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.

But words have escaped her—funny, she thinks—so she turns away with tears in her eyes, flashes to the boarding house, looking for comfort or bourbon or something in between.

Damon's there and she thinks that will satisfy something inside of her.

How could you? She'd like to push at his chest. Why didn't you help? She'd like to hit him and throw him and blame him. She doesn't want to be the one at fault. Not anymore.

But she can't do any of that, can't make herself, because she is tired; so very tired of all of the dying and the living and in between. She is tired of the blood on her hands, blood on his hands, blood in Matt's mouth.

He hands her a glass of bourbon after she flops down on the couch. He sits in a corner chair with his eyebrows pinched together and he looks wise. In this moment he reminds Caroline of a professor at the local college and she'd laugh but he's older than the local college so that takes all the fun away.

She sips slowly and looks anywhere but at him, looks at the shelves and shelves of books in front of her. She stands, walks to them, feels his eyes following her, and she runs her fingers along the spines of some.

The smell is old and dusty but the titles are intriguing and lofty and mesmerizing in a way that she's sure only Damon can be. Her eyes roam over the titles only to stop at The Great Gatsby. She smiles, corners of her lips lifting up slightly, of course.

"It's one of my favorites." He says in a measured tone from his chair and then in a flash he's beside her, pulling the book from the shelf. He's close—hand skimming against Caroline's arm as he flips open the cover—and she can easily watch him as he studies the pages, fingers dancing over the edges until he finds the one he's looking for.

Caroline sips from her glass, swallows slowly so the bourbon can burn her throat, and leans against the shelves. She watches his face—the subtle way his jaw clenches and the way his eyes skim over paragraphs, the way his tongue darts out of his mouth to wet his bottom lip when he finds what he's looking for.

He holds the book out for her, finger pointing to the lines he wants her to read, "There," he says in a voice that's foreign to Caroline—wise and thoughtful at the same time.

She holds the book in one hand, bourbon in the other, and skims over the page. Her eyes stop where his finger is and she clears her throat.

"Out loud," his voice is soft and she feels him staring at her, "read it out loud."

So she does. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther."

She looks up at him then, tries to swallow something that's grown in her throat in the last minute, tries to push it down and even out her breathing—

"Tomorrow we will run faster, Caroline. Tomorrow—tomorrow we'll do better. You'll do better." He's right in front of her now, the book pressed between them, and he's looking down at her with that stare of his and his eyes are terribly blue and he wants her to know this. If anything, this. Her eyes search his face; dart from his eyes to his mouth to the smooth surface of his forehead.

Her eyes are glossy and her breath is ragged and how dare he say that to her. How dare he.

Caroline stumbles over her words because she may be angry and she may be breathless and she may want something—she frantically pushes at his chest the worst way she can, says, "I have a funeral to plan," with a hiccup along the way, and Caroline leaves. She leaves.

–;

Caroline calls Kelly Donovan in West Virginia. "Ms. Donovan," her voice is shaky and there's tears in her voice.

That is how the conversation begins and ends. Caroline hangs up and Elena's there running a delicate hand up and over her shoulder, trying to console her, whispering softly in her ear. I love you, it's okay, I'm here, I love you.

Kelly doesn't show up at the funeral and Caroline can't possibly understand how that is. She leans her head against Elena's shoulder and asks her why. Elena, with a shaky voice that's still so unsure of everything, says, "Maybe she just couldn't handle it, Care."

Caroline would laugh but it is humorless and this in not the time for foolishness. But how dare his mother not show up. "She'll regret it, though." Caroline's voice is somber still and her eyes are glossy and she sighs pitifully. Elena nods, squeezes Caroline's hand tightly.

Tyler shows up before the service. He's there in a nice black suit that matches his black hair and this sickening darkness under his eyes. He's there with an apology and tears on his cheeks and he's begging and pleading and shaking and Caroline keeps telling him, "No, no, no." And she has more words for him that are mean and harsh and bitter and they start and finish like: I hate you, I hate you, you fucking monster. How dare you.

Stefan and Damon walk up behind Tyler as he stands in front of Caroline and Stefan places a firm hold on Tyler's upper arm, Damon grabbing the other. And Stefan's voice is calm, but stern, when he says, "Tyler, you need to leave."

Damon bites outs, "Now," and yanks on his arm. As they're pulling him away he says, "I didn't mean to do it. That wasn't me, Caroline. He was my friend."

It reminds Caroline of a scene from some horrible movie with an atrocious plot and a pitiful ending.

She thinks, bitterly, she's right on the money.

–;

"Matt Donovan was a loving son, brother, and friend— "

The only innocent one left.

This man doesn't know Matt, Caroline thinks. He doesn't know that Matt was terrified when he died, doesn't remember the blood everywhere—all around him—or the blood in his mouth, on his tongue, in the crevices of his teeth. He doesn't know anything about Matt—no one does but Caroline because she was there when it happened and she could have saved him; she could have if she hadn't been so scared and shocked and if she had any guts at all she would have pushed aside her feelings and she would have done something to save Matt.

Caroline begins to sob and there's eyes all on her and she thinks little of that in the moment, only that Matt—the only innocent one left—is about to be lowered into the ground and she could have done something about it, but she didn't; not quickly enough, not hard enough, not enough.

Someone's arms go around her as she's hunched over and there's a split second when she thinks maybe it's Tyler, the boy she loves—loved—with the nice black suit and the black hair and the comforting lips near her ear.

But she hates him—he did this, he took their friend and he made him into the one thing he deserved least: an eighteen year old boy—just a boy—who died young and out of breath with barely any mark on the world.

Caroline thinks to correct herself—they did this to him. She's the one who let him die, after all.

It's Damon's arms around her, she then realizes. And it's his lips near her ear trying to calm her, lips brushing against the shell of her ear with words like Care, calm down, Care shhhh, alright, alright.

She almost misses the crucial part—the part where he's lowered into the ground and there's not a sound, just the dirt being thrown on top of the casket—when all of Matt's wishes and dreams and accomplishments are read off on a short list and people begin to walk away, but Caroline, she stays. Because Matt would have stayed for her. For any of them.

She turns—they're all there. Damon's arm is still tight around her.

She'd drop something onto the casket, like a rose or a kiss, but she doesn't; regrets it then and later and the day after that and the one after that.

Caroline is regret tied up in an almost pretty package, but if you look closely—just tearing at the seams.

–;

There's a moment, when everyone's come to her house after the funeral, that Caroline is alone with Damon.

They're in her father's old study surrounded by dust and death and Caroline doesn't quite like it.

She is perched on the edge of the old desk that she remembers carving nothings into when she was just a little girl, just to hear her father scold her—she's a terrible person, she knows—and Damon's leaning against the huge bookcase built into the wall.

Caroline would think it to be humorous, if in fact, it was. But it's not, so she doesn't say anything, only stares at the marks her heels leave on the hardwood when she scrapes them against it.

Damon sighs and she looks up, catches his gaze for a moment that's only long enough for her to look away with knots inside of her.

She's afraid; afraid he'll tell her things like it's okay or it will be okay, one day or I'm here for you, you know. Caroline doesn't want to hear anything like that, doesn't believe two thirds of it, doesn't want to believe the last part.

He doesn't say anything like that though, doesn't really say anything at all. And Caroline should have known that, she knows; this is Damon:

He walks to her, grabs the end of her black dress and bunches it halfway up her thigh, steps until he can stand between her legs.

Her breath catches somewhere in the back of her throat and she looks up at him with tears in her eyes, doesn't know what he's about to do, doesn't know what she will let him do, doesn't know what is too much and what is not enough. She doesn't know too much of anything. She stares at him and he has hard eyes so she doesn't know what he's thinking or what he's planning. Caroline lets him do what he wants.

Damon, cautiously, raises his hand and sets it on her cheek, rubs his thumb against the softness of her skin for a moment—a tear falls and he wipes it away—before placing his other hand at the back of her neck. His touch is so tender it feels like a ghost—minus the haunting, Caroline already has that—is skimming over every inch of her skin.

He pulls her to him then. Her head buries in his chest and one of his hands knots in her hair while the other runs up and down her back and she can faintly hear his shh beneath all of her tears. Her arms wrap around his middle and she squeezes tight, doesn't want to let go, won't let go.

He whispers I'm here for you so softly she almost misses it, but no, she does hear it. She may believe it this time.

–;

So Tyler leaves and decides to never come back. "Good," Caroline says when Elena tells her this. But there's still this aching hole in her chest where he used to be, right next to the one reserved for Matt Donovan.

–;

Days after the funeral, when she's still cleaning up, Damon shows up at her house.

She tells him things like: I just loved him so much, he was the first boy who ever told me he liked me, loved me, he was my friend, you know, I should have saved him, Matt deserves to be here, I hate Tyler for biting him over and over and over and over again, would my blood even heal him? You—you said I could handle all of this, but, I can't, okay. I can't.

Damon stands still in the foyer, wraps one arm around Caroline soothingly, lets her talk and talk and cry and squeeze his middle until a rib almost cracks.

She finally pulls away and her face is red and stained with sweat, mascara, and tears and she mumbles sorry in a way that's pitiful.

He'd tell her it gets better, but he doesn't want to say something she doesn't want to hear—something he's not sure he means anymore.

So he doesn't say anything—and that's what is best for them, for right now—only tucks his hand in her hair, behind her ear and pulls her to him for a chaste kiss on the cheek.

Caroline would appreciate it if she didn't want more; for them, for right now.

She turns her face and kisses him on the corner of his mouth, tastes something sweet on his lips, kisses him again for another taste.

And he starts, "Caro— "

She finishes with another kiss, her hands on his shoulders as she leans up, then on either cheek and her lips rushing to kiss his again and again. She feels his hand tighten in her hair and it would hurt when he pulls a little, but it doesn't, so.

He responds and Caroline doesn't know when or how, but his jacket is on the floor and so is her shirt and she is in his arms and this is not what she expected, doesn't think this is what he expected either.

"Is this what you meant by running faster and the arm thing?" She asks in between kisses and he hushes her, murmurs not right now against the skin in the valley of her breasts.

Caroline laughs a little because it's a little funny—finally, something is—and pushes his head down further, gasps when his fingers dance over her stomach.

He takes her upstairs and in the quiet of her bedroom he lays her down on her bed, she tells him not to say anything—"just, don't"—tells him don't be so gentle and let me talk.

Damon nods his head as he goes down on her and Caroline moans a little before she starts, "I don't know who you think you are, Damon. I mean," she gulps, "how dare you for thinking you can just come into my life and watch me let my friend die— " Damon stops, begins to pull away, but Caroline shakes her head, pushes his face back. "—and then tell me to read Gatsby because it gets better and we will stretch out our arms farther. You just don't get to do that, okay. You don't."

Caroline comes in silence with her eyes closed and then Damon is hovering over her and he kisses her until she's sure she has lost the color to her lips.

"We will run faster, Caroline. We will stretch out our arms farther. One day, we will."

The corners of her mouth lift up slightly into a smile; she kisses him so he can't see.

She thinks maybe he sees anyway. But she doesn't mind.