Chapter Twenty-nine: but does anyone notice?
Ever since she was a little girl, Caroline always dreamt about having children; her own little family. She loved Mystic Falls so there was really no need for her to ever leave, she had decided. She knew mostly everyone, they were all nice, and her parents were here. Well, until they got a divorce, but regardless, it was still a dream. A very lovely dream. Sometimes at sleepovers, her, Elena, and Bonnie would stay up all night talking about their futures. Elena wanted to be a veterinarian and live in Ann Arbor because she spent a summer up there one year visiting a few cousins and fell in love with the place. Bonnie wanted to go to law school and eventually settle down somewhere in her thirties, get married and fight the judicial system one case at a time. Those were their dreams, and Caroline wanted something small. She wanted to be an event planner, like weddings and Sweet Sixteens and New Years parties and debutante balls and Mystic Falls pageants. After about eight years of great business and perfect weddings, she would have a baby girl and they'd live in Elena's old house because she always loved it. And eventually, she'd be a soccer mom because that was appealing for some strange reason and she'd live out the rest of her days sipping sweet tear in the early evening on the back porch with her husband and watching her grandkids catch fireflies in the yard.
Obviously, she never expected to skip her career altogether and get right to the bun in the oven. And honestly, it's possibly the best thing she's ever done in her life, disregarding the circumstances. Her feet ache a lot more and it seems like she's getting up every ten minutes to pee and she's ten times more irritable than before (if that was even possible). Fortunately, no one really seems to mind, or rather, they just walk on eggshells around her.
But it's spring and the woods aren't covered in snow and frost anymore. Caroline is due in about a month if they've been keeping time correctly and everyone is buzzing and hoping that the baby is healthy and won't come too early. Caroline's never felt more like a queen before than she does right now.
"What's it like?" Elena asks, nodding to Caroline's belly. She looks as if she'll just pop like a balloon. "Like, what's the feeling?"
Caroline begins to answer but then pauses, shrugging. "You'll find out when you have a kid one day," she tells her friend, but Elena rolls her eyes.
"I don't think we can really afford another kid around here," Elena deadpans.
"Well, not here, but in the future. When they've found a cure."
"What's this about a cure?" Rebekah asks, trotting into the bedroom and plopping down on the bed beside Elena.
"Caroline's still thinks that somebody will miraculously save us all from extinction."
The past few months were rough, especially before getting to the bunker, but up until about a month ago Caroline had disregarded any possibility of there ever being a cure. But if there was one thing she learned it was to never give up hope because look at where that got her; she was reunited with her friends, made some new ones, and even found Nik, no matter how tumultuous that might have been. But now she has a regained hope and faith that eventually in the future she and none of her friends will die from this disease. Caroline knows that one day her child will grow up in a world free of zombies, and maybe they won't even ever have to see one. She can only hope.
Lately, the cure has been all Caroline's talking about.
"Well, just think about it. It's totally probable," she argued to Nik one night a few weeks ago. It was close to midnight and she was propped up on a pillow, resting her hands over her stomach. Nik had his back to her, trying to fall asleep because it's been a long day of hunting and he twisted his ankle because he didn't see a fucking branch and got caught up in it and the throbbing still hasn't gone away and that was five hours ago.
"I agree," he responded absently. To be completely honest, he didn't remember what he was agreeing to.
"I just…there have to be scientists and doctors out there still, right? They've probably been working on something ever since this whole thing started. Why wouldn't they?"
"I don't know, Caroline," he mumbled. "But if you want to believe that they're doing such a thing, then who am I to stop you?"
A pause. "You know, I wasn't asking for your permission to believe in something." Caroline turned on her side and promptly flicked off the light, burying her face in the pillows.
Had Nik not been so tired and uncertain as to what she was even angry about this time, then he would've turned around and kissed her until she forgave him, but not enough energy. Not this night.
But that was a few weeks ago and Caroline's about to go on another tangent about this cure unless someone feels like stopping, which they've all learned is pretty useless because the pregnant woman always gets what she wants. Always.
"What if it's out there, though? Like, who's gonna think to look in a secret bunker for survivors? No one. What if we have to go out there and find them?"
Rebekah snorts. "You say them as if you know who they are; these imaginary people you've fathomed up to make this whole thing seem better than it actually is. Face it, Caroline, we are the only survivors for miles. Possibly even in this state. Going out there again for something so…so absurd would be suicide. Especially with the baby."
Caroline grasps for something, anything. She didn't mean her in particular, but…maybe Elijah, Jeremy, and Nik could go out driving for a few hours just to look around. Supplies were always needed and if they happened to run into anybody along the way, then that would be just an extra bonus.
"You aren't seeing it the way I am," she says, shaking her head. "What happens when the baby gets older? When it grows up and we die? Who's going to take care of it? And God, if something were to happen to us before then?"
"I think you're thinking about this too hard, Caroline," Elena speaks up. "You're completely disregarding the fact that while we're here, the baby will get the best training from all of us. It won't grow up without knowing how to kill and protect itself."
"I know, but—"
"But nothing," Rebekah screeches. "You're worrying over something trivial, Caroline. It makes no sense."
Caroline knows this, of course, but it's all she ever thinks about nowadays and she can't just simply shake that little spark of hope as if it doesn't exist. There are so many what ifs that may never actually become reality because they're all too afraid—too paranoid of what might be out there. They've all seen what's out there, though, so Caroline isn't exactly sure what could be worse than that. And if there's a chance that she won't have to raise her baby in this hole in the ground, then it's worth it.
She just doesn't know to convince anyone to be on her side.
And weeks later, Caroline doesn't need to convince anyone because her beliefs are completely far-fetched and have zero evidence of ever being true. Nik and Elijah agree to leave on a scout for a day. They stay out for nearly twelve hours and come back almost as empty-handed as they left. Elijah says they came across a man walking alone on the road, rolling a suitcase behind him. He appeared as if he had been roughing it on his own for more than a few weeks. He said that he was with a group but that they got separated during a bandit raid at his camp. He was following signs that he knew were specifically for each member of his group to follow for a meet up, but that no one ever showed, his wife Isobel included. He seemed trustworthy and noble, his name was Ric and he used to be a history teacher. Ric didn't know where he was going and he rejected all offers to join Elijah and Nik.
"I've been out here this long so I figure I can manage for a little longer."
Caroline sheds a few tears when Elijah tells them once him and Nik get back to the bunker. That poor man who had lost everything and was now on the road by himself. What would happen to him? Maybe he had already died by now. None of them would ever know.
At night, Caroline stays awake and stares at the ceiling, her fingers tracing tiny little circles in her abdomen and she thinks about everyone that's died and how there may never be an official estimation of all the lives lost. She thinks about how great the scale of the living versus the dead must be and she thinks about how she'll never go to the beach or to Paris or Rome or Tokyo. She thinks about how these beautiful cities are most likely in ruins, she thinks about how the Louvre is in shambles, she thinks about London Bridge blown to pieces, she thinks about the Vatican and the Pope and the undiscovered tribes in the Amazon. She thinks about her mother and how she never said goodbye and she cries because she'll never see her again. She cries because so many people never got to say goodbye to the people they loved. She cries for Damon of all people and how he died to protect Stefan even though he rarely showed how much he loved him. She cries for her father and Steven and how much she resented them both because her mother was the victim in it all. She cries for her unborn child because this isn't fair and it doesn't deserve to live in a world so cruel such as this.
Caroline doesn't know if it's the crying that does it and all the pressure that's just building inside her, but either way, her water breaks and she cries some more.
Compresses. Cold or warm? Both. Yes, just grab both.
Rebekah wanted to be a model when she was little and when she was fifteen she changed it to a fashion designer. Of course, those were unrealistic, but not totally impossible.
She never wanted to be a nurse. It never crossed her mind, but here she is at the sink with a bowl and rags and when Elijah shouted, "Compresses, Rebekah!" at her, she just ran and did what was told and didn't ask questions because it seemed like a stupid question to ask. "What temperature, Elijah?" "What do you mean what bloody temperature? You know what temperature!"
She brings the bowl of cool water and a rag into the bedroom where everyone except for Jeremy is. It's certainly too small and Rebekah is starting to feel nauseous. Elena takes the bowl from her and trots back over to a panting Caroline, dotting the cool rag to her forehead.
"Breathe, Caroline," Elena says, "In and out. In and out."
Caroline tries to calm herself, but it's really no use because she screams so loud that Rebekah's ears are still ringing after it's over. She leaves the room and makes a mad dash for the bathroom and pukes until the only thing left inside is maybe her pancreas. She feels a warm and heavy hand on her back, but she shakes it off.
"I'm fine," she bites, choking on whatever's left in her throat. "Just go, Jeremy."
"You don't look fine."
Rebekah shoots a glare and Caroline screams again and Elijah's shouting back that she can't push yet and Caroline says fuck you, I am!
Rebekah feels like passing out so she collapses on the floor beside the toilet and tries to tune it out, but with Caroline's vocalized pain and her brother's and Elena encouraging her, "you're doing great, Caroline", it's nearly impossible. She knows she should be in there, doing something, but she really can't. God, how she can't. It's surreal and baffling at the same time. When they first found out Caroline was pregnant, Rebekah didn't know what to think at all. What were they going to do? How would this even be possible? They were screwed, but here they are and there isn't any more time to think.
She fans herself and Jeremy presses a rag to her forehead.
"Think it's a boy or a girl?" he asks her.
She just looks at him.
"I can see the head!"
Rebekah dry heaves.
"I didn't know you were so queasy," Jeremy laughs. "I mean, you've seen zombie guts and brains, but a baby being born is just untouchable territory?"
Rebekah scoffs. "Oh, piss off."
"Sorry, it's just funny." Jeremy smiles, and Rebekah knows he means no harm, but she still wants to smack that stupid sloppy grin off his face. Ugh.
"One more push!"
"Almost, Care! Keep breathing!"
Rebekah covers her face with her hands and Jeremy squeezes her shoulder. "It's almost over."
"Is this place even sound-proof?" Rebekah asks with worry because if not then they're fucked. They probably should've checked that to make sure months ago.
But even if it isn't, nothing can stop the shrill cry of an infant in the next room and the cheer of "it's a girl!"
Jeremy extends his hand out for Rebekah. She takes it, warm and soft, and he pulls her along with him to the bedroom where Caroline is crying and holding a cooing baby while Nik kisses the side of her forehead over and over and Elena is looking on in glee and peace. Caroline looks up and meets Rebekah's eyes.
"Haven," she says. "Her name's Haven."
And it certainly feels like they have their own little safe haven with each other.
Caroline is drained. Emotionally, mentally, and physically drained. Every movement is taxing and just trying to eat something is tiresome after the second bite. She just wants to sleep and the rest of them very well let her, because she deserves it, but she still feels like she should be doing something. Of course, she does breastfeed when Haven is hungry, but anything other than that she just can't do.
She was wary about breastfeeding because of the disease, but if Haven already has it contracted, then there isn't really anything in Caroline that can necessarily harm her. When she cries, and she cries a lot, Nik is the one to soothe her and do whatever it is that needs to be done. Caroline never says it because she knows he'd be embarrassed, but he's ridiculously good with Haven. Like, ridiculously good. She gets this stupid grin on her face whenever he holds Haven and murmurs something to her because who would've thought that Nik was just a big sap who dotes on his daughter like a princess when she's not even a week old yet. And to think that he ever thought he'd be even simpler to Mikael in any way. Not even a chance.
By the start of the second week, Caroline is starting to feel a little more like herself. She's blaming it on the lack of medicine because it wouldn't normally take a woman this long to bounce back, right? She doesn't know and it's probably best not to worry too much about it. Needless stress is needless stress.
So when Haven starts whining for about the fifth time that morning, Caroline says that she can go get her, but Nik insists that she sit and he'll bring Haven to her. She rolls her eyes and watches him go, Rebekah gags in the background.
"I guess I shouldn't mention what Elena told me about you and Jeremy," Caroline offers. "You know, since you're so sensitive to grossness."
Rebekah is silent and Caroline turns her head slightly just in time to see her storm off into the other room, as if there is space to go. The day before Elena had told Caroline she caught Jeremy and Rebekah making out, but it wasn't as if they were really trying to hide (where exactly were they going to hide?). Caroline made a face because Rebekah and Jeremy? Gross. But she supposes it was bound to happen sooner than later. There aren't any other prospects around for either, unless Jeremy turns out to be secretly in love with Elijah and when Caroline says that Elena is in tears from laughing so hard.
"But, to be honest, I'm happy for him. I didn't think he'd ever move past Bonnie. Or Anna. Or Vicky."
"Let's not mention Vicky ever again."
It wasn't that Caroline didn't like Vicky, but she was Matt's sister and she definitely didn't want to think about Matt and all those awful things she wished upon him months ago. If there was a God, then she prayed for forgiveness because all those things she said were terrible and made her a terrible person. She felt so guilty and disgusting for wishing anything bad happened to Matt. Of course, what he did was wrong, but it wasn't her place to wish death on him. Deep down, Matt really was a good person. He cared about his sister the most and wanted her to get off drugs, begged her to go rehab, but in the end they both lost that battle and Matt had no family left except for his mom, who only showed up when she felt like it.
When Nik returns with Haven, she's still whining and Nik is cooing her softly and Caroline's heart melts for just about the 100th time that week. Gosh, she's such a dork. Who knew parenthood could make him such a sap?
"Oh what's wrong?" Caroline asks tenderly as she takes Haven into her arms. "Who upset you? Was it Daddy? I bet it was Daddy." She looks up and smirks.
Nik rolls his eyes and sits on the other side of the sofa. "Elijah and I plan to go out today," he informs her. "Perhaps Jeremy will come along, but I wanted to ask your permission first."
Caroline lifts an eyebrow and repositions Haven until the baby is firmly latched to her breast.
"You've never asked my permission before. What's this about?"
"Things are different with the baby. I wouldn't want you to think I was…abandoning you just when—"
"Nik, I think we know you couldn't abandon me even if you tried, which you have."
"I'm joking. God. But go on. I'm fine. Elena and Rebekah are here and I'm completely healthy. If not a little sore, but I'm okay. Really. Just be careful."
Caroline has always feared for their safety, but that fear has tripled since the baby was born. The likelihood of something ever happening where they all have to leave, or worse, where someone actually gets hurt, is small, but it's still in the pit of her stomach. Something could happen at any moment. They could be discovered by a group of bandits. They could all be executed. They could be forced out onto the road with nothing but the clothes on their back; no food or weapons or the RV. And it isn't as if she has even seen any other survivors other than the people she knew back home, but the idea that people are actually willing to go to great lengths for their own well-being even if that means killing an innocent child.
She knows that there are other survivors out there; they've just been lucky enough not to run into any, aside from Frederick. Or maybe unlucky. She doesn't know and may never know. But either way, staying here won't last forever she knows. Nik and Elijah go out hunting once a week because there's no point in eating all the non-perishable food everyday when there are still woodland animals out there and fish to catch. Yes, it's a little dangerous with zombies covering nearly every inch of the forest, but it's all they have. Caroline wishes there was another way, but there isn't.
Nik gets up and kisses her on the temple and walks into the other room. Haven stops feeding and Caroline puts her over her shoulder, rubbing her back gently and humming a song she still remembers. That's another thing she misses: music. Sometimes on the weekends the Mystic Grill would have Open Mic Night and she'd go up there and sing a few songs just because she could. She wasn't the best singer, but she could certainly carry a tune.
Haven hasn't heard music before. She may never be able to and that's depressing in itself. She's heard Rebekah sing to her a few nights ago to calm her, and Rebekah's voice was angelic and gentle like a mother's. Caroline would be lying if she said she wasn't a tiny bit envious. So right now, she softly belts out a lullaby and Haven dozes off after only a few notes.
A/N: I'm trying, guys. I had writer's block for the longest time with this and every time I opened it up I would write something and it'd be garbage, not that what I just put up is any better sigh. I think I promised you two more chapters? I don't know anymore /god/ Someone was supposed to die in this chapter, but I felt like I ended it at a good point so to just jam that in there would be sort of ridiculous. So maybe there will be three in the next chapter? There's guaranteed to be one, though for sure. I'm not sure if the next chapter is the last or not at this point. I'm rambling, sorry. I'll update sooner though since we're literally at the end and I actually have this part detailed ahhh
oh and I realize the whole...birth scene is pretty vague but I didn't want to write about it bc 1) child birth scares me 2) it's gross and 3) pretty sure I would get something wrong hence why Rebekah wants to puke out her insides. Rebekah is me.