Chapter 9: A Hole in the World
The only sound she heard, above the din and the roar of battle, was the screams coming from inside that hole in the ground.
"Damon, can you think of anyone who would want to hurt them?"
He paced along the length of the living room, his back taut and rubble crunching beneath his feet like bones.
"No. No one wants to hurt them. It's me they're after." He paused, breathing sharply. His eyes fell on a still-standing vase. Caroline blinked and the vase was shattered in the swift swipe of his hand. Blood dripped through his tight fist. His whole body rocked in pain.
Caroline began to wonder if it was such a good idea to give him so much human blood. But how would she have known? How did anyone know?
"Damon, I know every inch of you is itching for revenge and your vines are singing with energy, but I need you to think." He began pacing again. She pictured a lion trapped in a cage, his ears flat against his skull. "Who could have done something like this?"
"I don't know. I don't know who wants me dead." The pale fingers flexed, roughly, shining brightly against his dark pants. "If I did, don't you think they'd be dead already?"
Caroline sighed. It was like talking to a brick wall. "Damon, go wait in the car."
He froze. "What?"
"You're too emotional. You're not thinking clearly and I—,"
"You're damn fucking right I'm emotional!" Damon roared. He threw the bookshelf to the floor. "Someone stole them from me! Someone came into my fucking home and destroyed it!" He began pacing again, his chest rising and falling in short bursts. Suddenly he turned and threw his fist into the wall. The plaster shattered and a crack jerked sharply up into the ceiling. Caroline stood up, her finger hovering above a small StunBuzz wrist applicator.
"Damon, calm down."
He let out a low growl and when he turned around again, his eyes were fading from black, small tendrils of blood rushing back into his cheeks. Long fangs were retracting into pure white teeth.
Caroline grinned, her head turning slightly. "Ooh, look at Suburban Daddy. Thought you didn't do that any more."
"Things change." He shouldered roughly passed her and stormed up the stairs. "Find something and find it soon."
Caroline watched him go up the stairs, his presence suddenly like a dark, overhanging storm cloud. Hmm, a volatile Damon, this should be interesting . . .
She turned off and headed into the back bedroom. Here it was no different: there had been a violent struggle, fight, and then a loss. Perhaps Quinn had hidden under the bed. Maybe they both had. As Caroline picked her self through the destruction, the faces in her mind lost their features, lost what made them special. They became, like every other case she had ever worked, faceless wooden dolls, moving through the danger and the brutality of their attackers. She walked through the steps of the mother and child, of the ones who wanted to hurt them, searching for anything, a lick of blood here, or a yanked hair follicle. Nothing here.
Back to the foyer, she went, looking at broken glass, and dents in the wall. Under a window, another vase was shattered. A large jagged piece was embedded in the wall, as if someone had jabbed there, missing their target. What Caroline surprised most was that it was clear. Absolutely empty of all DNA traces. The force needed to drive that piece of glass into the wall would have undoubtedly broken skin, and yet, there was none. Caroline narrowed her eyes as she gazed around the living room once again. That was clue one: everything was too clean. Obviously, the whole place was in dire need of redecorating, but it was absent of anything, human or otherwise. Someone, with very fine observational skills, had managed to wipe the place clean.
"Damon, this was professionally done." He met her as he came down the stairs. She held up the piece of glass that had been embedded in the wall. "Someone came through here and cleaned up their tracks. There's no trace of any DNA anywhere. Of Quinn. Of Amy. Of their attackers. Nothing. Who with lots of money hates you?"
"If we went through that list now, we'd be here for hours." He gestured to the mess. "You're telling me there's not even a single hair, a fiber, something that would point us in the right direction."
Caroline sighed and looked at the destroyed living room. "Good news is this wasn't just a dumb mugging. Humans are incapable of being this thorough. Bad news, someone with a lot of magical buff came in here and fucked things up."
She glanced back over her shoulder, to Damon clogging up the stairs. "I'm assuming you didn't find anything either."
He only shook his head, his fist tightening.
Caroline took another big cloth to the background of her mind and finally cleared away Damon's face. This was just another case. Just for money. No emotions. No ties. Nothing. There had to be something here. There always had to be something. A vibrant scene of a redheaded wooden doll fighting an attack replayed in her mind again. The attacker dodged, no matter how fast the woman lunged with her glass dagger. She swung up and down but he just laughed at her.
And then, when he tried to grab her, she cut out, across his face, across his neck. Blood splattered the wall, staining it red. But then a little droplet, a droplet flying high and fast, smattered against the ceiling.
Caroline's eyes ripped open.
"Caroline! Hello? Can we please have one normal conversation?"
She strode off to the window near the kitchen, head rolled back on her neck. Damon followed, yelling about something. C'mon, please, be here, please be here.
"Have you lost that little mind finally? Or have you just gone deaf? C'mon, Caroline, don't act like this now—,"
"Damon. Shut up." She propped one foot on the window ledge, and the other on a very silent Damon's shoulder.
There it was, just a speck in the corner. One little drop that got away. She took out a cotton swab and smeared the speck onto the cotton.
"Caroline, what— what is that?" He asked very, very quietly. His hands were wrapped around her leg, holding her there as steady as a rock.
"Clue Number Two." The blood was bright, fresh. She slowly dropped a dab of it onto her tongue. Immediately, she tasted darkness, hollow and death. It was dead blood, from something that is no longer living. Something that only animates the human form.
"Damon, just how many other vampires are there living in Mystic Falls?"
He frowned. The angered creases in the edges of his eyes faded slightly, as if fear now filled the cracks.
"Just me, as far as I know."
"Well, now you've got at least one more. And I know how to find him."
The headlights to Caroline's car broke through hazy purple twilight like two golden columns ramming into oaken doors. She barreled over thick, moist fog and down black top lanes, back into the grimy underbrush of Mystic Falls. She swung loose when turning and pumped the brakes to cut angles. With every mile they passed and tree shadow they dove under, the blood in her mouth sang brighter. It was sweeter and sharper, wetter. He was coming to life, inside her mouth. Her knuckles went white around the SteeringDisk.
"How much longer?" Damon's plaid shirt rubbed roughly against her leather seating as he adjusted his position. Caroline watched him vaguely out of the corner of her eye. As unsettling as it was to see his vamp face after all these years, it was twice as uncomfortable to see it pop out of the face of a man in red plaid.
"Soon. I think he's somewhere out on the old Falconhead plotting."
"That's where money goes to suburbanize, right?"
"I thought they were abandoned the construction because the foundation wasn't solid."
"Giant old mansions abandoned and out in the backcountry. What more could a vampire want?"
Caroline frowned, tapping her fingers on the Disk. "The vampire that kidnapped Quinn and Amy must have known you were a vampire too. A one Starbucks town like Mystic Falls, it's only a matter of time before two supernaturals meet. He must have been a hired gun, because who wants to mess with the only other creature that could put you in the ground permanently. And hired guns don't live in palatial states like Falconhead. No, I think, by luck, he's at his employer's home right now. Now we don't have to go through the sticky business of getting the name from him."
"Darn. I was so looking forward to cracking some heads." Damon popped his knuckles against his knee.
Between the solid stalks of trees and despite the failing sunlight, a dirt road became visible to their right. It led up to an unfinished road where large, marble homes stood out like diamonds. The blood was practically swimming in her mouth now. Caroline turned off the back road and pulled up under low hanging branch. The tires brushed against thick reeds.
"That one." She pointed up the dirt road to a house at the end of what was probably going to be a very clean cul-du-sac. "He's in there. Now, Damon—,"
He kicked open the door and strode off, towards the white mansion. Caroline huffed and turned off the car. Goddamn it. She grabbed her multi-use belt and leapt out of the car after him.
"Where do you think you're going, genius?"
"To go save my family."
"And you think Mr. Vampire is just going to let you beat him to death?"
"I'd like to see him stop me." Just as he reached the edge of the forest line, she sped up and slammed him into nearby trunk.
"Okay, better question, Bright Eyes." She jerked her head towards the mansion. "How many buddies do you think he's got in there? How many security guards does his employer have stationed around the grounds? How long do you think it will take for them to rip you to pieces?"
"Caroline, stop—," he tried to shove her away but her hand latched onto his throat and held him there. Her fingernails dug into the wood behind him. His eyes bugged out and he clawed at her.
"You know, for all the years you've been playing Dad, you'd think you'd grow some sense. I'm trying to help you, dumbass, so calm down and let me."
"You're just doing this for money," he gasped, jerking his chin up to let the words escape.
Caroline narrowed her eyes. "Yeah, well, I'm still doing this better than you."
"Yeah, well, I'm still Damon Salvatore." He stopped struggling and glared down at her. His nails bit into her skin but she didn't flinch. "I'm still the vampire that tried to kill you when you first Turned."
Caroline froze. A bullfrog croaked in the silence. They stared at each other, waiting for the other to strike first. Then Caroline moved and threw him to the ground. "Fine, but if you get Staked, it's on you."
Damon coughed and stood up, rubbing his throat. "At this point, I'm looking forward to it."
Night had fallen, a big black cloak draped over the grounds. It was thick, making it hard to see, even for a vampire's sight. The moon and stars had yet to appear. Caroline made Damon lead, hiding from tree, to rubble, to a stack of bricks, and finally behind an abandoned forklift. While he ran, Caroline looked for anything out of the ordinary. A shadow. A movement. Something that was a precursor to an attack. And yet, when they sat only feet away from the cellar door, nothing had made an appearance.
"This is too easy," she muttered to herself.
"What? And you wanted an ambush?" Damon hissed back as he glanced over the forklift.
"It would have been nice. I like to feel welcome." And this wouldn't feel like we're walking into a trap.
"You're right." Damon muttered and sat back down. His gaze jerked up to meet hers. "Something's wrong. The lights are on in the house but I can't hear anything."
Caroline exhaled, not breaking eye contact with Damon. "You might get your wish of bashing in some heads just yet."
She motioned with her head for him to go on. He nodded and quick as lightning, he turned and dove for the cellar door. Which was open. He raised a concerned eyebrow at her. Caroline shrugged tightly. They slipped in through the door. They were in a basement. Their footsteps echoed on the stone floor.
Long wooden shelves occupied half of the floor space. They were filled with canned foods and spices. With boxes of cereal and rice. There were unopened bottles of wine and vinegar. Garlic hung from the low wooden ceiling.
"Somebody lives here." Damon muttered. "Somebody human. Could this guy's employee be human?"
Caroline motioned with a turn of her head and a jerk of her shoulders. "Maybe. I've seem some pretty horrible things happen at the hands of humans, supernatural or otherwise. I just don't know what they would want with you. Besides the possibility that you killed their whole family."
"Unless they were a hundred and five, I haven't done that—,"
"In a long time. I know I got it." She hissed at him. She felt his eyes glaring at the back of her head.
The cellar door opened up into a very clean and chrome-filled kitchen. Everything was spotless as though it had been recently wiped down. Again, not a hair out of place. The kitchen was privy to a very wide and glamorous dining room. The ceiling was outrageously high and in the very center of it, a crystal chandelier hung, its white light bouncing of the red walls. Caroline itched to take out the big battle-axe from her belt. Through every room they passed, she felt as though they were falling deeper and deeper into the belly of the beast. The entire house was furnished, furniture, lighting, the whole shebang. And yet it was entirely empty. As though everyone ever living it had suddenly turned into ghosts.
Finally, through the blood-red dining room, they found themselves in a massive foyer. Two marble staircases curved down on opposite sides from the floor above, like open arms greeting guests. The floor itself was the same type of marble, covered and patterned with giant Oriental rugs. Beyond the two great staircases, a large wooden door was hidden in shadow. Across from them a large square hallway led into darkness.
"Up or down?" Caroline muttered to Damon, who gazed at the open spectacle with visible awe. Something ominous hung in the air, as though a great evil hid in the shadows, just beyond reach.
"I say through the very threatening door." Damon pointed to the shadowy arch beyond the stairs.
"That's where I would keep all of my victims if I was a kidnapper." They strode on, over the large rug between the ends of the two staircases.
And then she heard it. A soft, timid scraping sound.
"Damon, wait." He froze, turning to look at her with wide eyes. "What?"
His eyes grew bigger and immediately, he changed. His body moved as though his skin were vibrating, jerking in every direction to find the source of the noise. They both stood, solid as the pine trees outside, listening, desperate to find the source. Their gazes locked and dropped to the floor in sync.
"It's coming from under the floor." They muttered in unison. Caroline leapt off the rug as Damon pulled it back. There was a large square cut out in the marble. It was a metal grate covering a hole. It was clear by the hinges on the side that it could be open, but the metal was seared shut, no way of opening it. But it didn't matter any more.
Through the holes in the grate, tiny fingers poked through.
"Damon?" Quinn whispered. Amy gasped from somewhere below.
"Oh my God, Damon, you found us."
Damon knelt down, his eyes bright and glassy. "It's okay, I'm going to get you out of here."
Suddenly, as though an oncoming train had collided with her, a horrible thought sprang into Caroline's mind.
"Damon, we have to go." She grabbed the oblong cylinder from her belt and ejected it into its battle-axe form. Her eyes roaming, she knew something was watching them.
"What? Caroline, we found them. We have to get them out." He wasn't paying attention. He didn't see the danger. He couldn't feel it.
"Something's here. It was waiting for us the whole time."
At then, as though they oozed free of the woodwork, vampire after vampire emerged on the second floor. They hung from the balcony. They sat on the stairs. They appeared in the darkness from the door, from the empty hallway, poured from the blood-red dining room.
"This isn't a prison, Damon." Caroline heard him stand behind her. "It's a stage."
And they attacked. Dark shadows leapt down on them and Caroline swung them in half before they hit the ground. They tore at her hair, at her clothes, but she dodged, and swung and kicked and rolled. She decapitated several and disemboweled others. She tried for the head and jabbed at the heart with the wooden end of the axe. She lost track of Damon. She lost track of the thoughts inside her head. The only sound she heard, above the din and the roar of battle, was the screams coming from inside that hole in the ground. A hole in the world.
She pulled the axe free from the neck of one vampire, blood slashing her clothes, and turned to swipe at one behind her, when she was launched to the side by an attacker she missed. It roared in her face. Using her knee, she knocked it right between the legs. It groaned and with a swift punch, Caroline tossed it off her. She stood up, adrenaline pulsating and blood lust rising, and her face shifted. Fangs protruded from her white teeth and she roared back at the body. She struck down with the end of the axe and the body turned to stone.
She turned low and swept the legs out of three newcomers. She leapt into the air and back-kicked a line of vampires to the floor. She staked another one but as that one fell, one rushed in and knocked the axe to the floor. She lunged for her weapon but it was too late. They dove on top of her, jaw snapping and nails scrapping. They pinned her to the ground, all holding down her limbs. A large vamp, his bicep as big as a python, cracked her nose with his knuckles in a hard punch. Her head knocked against the marble and the world spun. He raised his fist again and again, the world tumbled off its axis. His fist reeled back for a third time, and then a voice called out:
Standing at the top of the staircase, hair cut and manicured as ever, dressed in a suit of all black, Elijah Mikaelson surveyed his carnage with indifference. His dark eyes fell upon Caroline and his head turned as if he were inspecting an interesting species of bug.
"My, my, my, I leave you for a century and this is what becomes of the eldest Salvatore and the werewolf's chew toy." He sighed and walked down the elegantly vast marble steps. "I had really hoped you would have put up more of a fight. Or at least been more discreet about your trail of bodies. I had hoped that the reason behind the rash killings in Mystic Falls would have been a little more . . . challenging."
Caroline searched the scattering of bodies for Damon. He too was being pinned down on the staircase by several vampires. His mouth was oozing blood, as though he had taken a massive bite out of one of his attackers. His eyes were still swirling black pits, the veins beneath them coursing with fresh, angry blood. They were locked tight onto Elijah, every ounce of loathing pricking the Original's face. Elijah slid off the last step with a firm bounce to the ground.
"Can you understand my frustration when I find the little blonde vampire and the Salvatore, with a family?" He sighed and glanced down the grate at the two girls cowering there. One of them whimpered. "So I won't have my fun. But do tell me, how is that you two have so heavily upset the balance of nature within the world?" His gaze swiveled back and forth, from Caroline to Damon, as though he had asked them to dinner.
"They didn't do it." A female voice answered him. Caroline heard the click of heels as a beautiful woman entered from the dark behind him. It was as though she had materialized out of thin air. Her dark hair was pulled back into a sharp, straight ponytail, the length easily covering over one shoulder. She wore a suit, as black as his. Her brown skin glistened with an alien aura. "They didn't do it because they don't have the power. Not like us."
Bonnie Bennett, power-consumed and absurdly beautiful, stepped behind the Original vampire and put a talon-like hand over his shoulder. She leaned forward and kissed him, hard on the mouth.
She pulled away and licked her lips, like a viper would taste the air. Her unnaturally bright green eyes pivoted, her dark lips so smooth they looked drawn on by chocolate butter, and her gaze fell onto Caroline. Bonnie Bennett's twisted into what some may have called a smile, but it was the most terrible smile Caroline had ever witnessed.
"Release her." When the vampires clamored off her, Caroline realized she was shaking like a tiny dog caught in a rainstorm. She wondered if the wet chill creeping down was from blood or the sudden realization that—
Bonnie smiled again, her head dipping condescendingly. "Honey, I've been a lot more than alive for a lot longer than you can imagine."
"But I saw you die. In the explosion. We never found a—," Sudden tears swelled up Caroline's throat. She was suddenly seventeen again, standing on that grassy hilly and realizing that her life was changed forever. She had lost her best friend and the love of her life, in one foul swoop. She was standing over the Tyler's casket, looking at his bruised and burnt face. She glanced at what should have been Bonnie's but it was too unbearable to stare at empty cream satin. She was again a child and all of her training, all of her walls made of steel and angry sarcasm were crumbling, crumbling down because it didn't matter any more. Bonnie was alive and her entire life was a lie. Out of all that she had seen and done over a hundred years of immortality, this was undoubtedly the most obtrusive and horrible one of all.
Caroline glanced to the floor, her vision wavering and unsteady as tears rushed under her eyelids. The weight of the tears was overwhelming. It pulled her mouth open slightly and words flowed out, uninterrupted. "I should have looked for you. I should have known— should have done— Bonnie, I'm—,"
"Caroline, don't." Bonnie sighed and with a sharp snap of her wrist, the tears swallowed in on themselves and Caroline could breath again. Her eyes were dry. "Don't apologize for what I am. I never have."
"And what is that exactly?" Damon sneered from the stairs. He was still pinned down but the scowl on his face was unmistakable. "What the hell are you?"
Bonnie turned, her eyes glowing. That snake like smile slide across her mouth again. "Powerful."
"That you are, darling." Elijah said behind her. He motioned and the vampires holding Damon slithered away. "Now, can either of you tell me why the devil has Mystic Falls become a center for magical convergence?"
"I'm not telling you a damn thing until you give me the two girls." Damon snapped.
Elijah looked at him as though he had interrupted a very important monologue. Bonnie narrowed her eyes at Damon. "And here I thought in a century you would have experienced some—,"
"Personal growth." Elijah finished the sentence as though he had been the one speaking the whole time. "But what are vampires if not immune to time?"
Bonnie snapped her fingers at a nearby vampire. "Open the grate."
He nodded and bent low and ripped the metal lid off the hole. Damon rushed over and carefully pulled out Quinn and then Amy. As she stood, she leaned forward, as if to kiss Damon, but spotted the blood on his shirt. She pulled away and saw the body at his feet. She turned and her eyes fell on the bloody piles scattered across the foyer. One vampire was still oozing thick blood and as the pool approached her feet, she skittered away with a shriek. She snatched Quinn by the hand and pulled her close. It suddenly occurred to Caroline just how frail mortals were.
"D-D-Damon, did you do all this? How did— what—," her eyes fell onto Caroline, "Why—,"
Elijah's thick eyebrow lifted into the air. "It seems you haven't told your dearly beloved what we are."
All color drained from Amy's face. Quinn started to cry. "We?"
Her tiny voice echoed in the vast, blood-drenched foyer.
The façade was over. Damon was shaking, grabbing and holding on so tightly as his last chance, his final chance was drying out, dissolving into powder that flew away on the wet breath of Quinn's sobs. Caroline was suddenly aware of how cold the room was, even from the very beginning.
"They're lying," he begged. "I'm nothing. Nothing without you."
"What the hell is going on, Damon?" She glanced from Damon, to Caroline, to the immaculate Elijah standing in a pool of fresh blood, to the frightening and beautiful Bonnie who was looking at her nails with some feigned interest. "Please, tell me. Who are these people? Why are they dead? Why are you covered in blood?"
Bonnie sighed and rolled her eyes. "Oh, for God sakes—,"
She snapped her wrist again, and Caroline felt a pull on her bones. She cried a shout of pain as her fangs protruded against her will and the veins cracked beneath her eyes. She heard Quinn scream. It was the most painful sound she'd ever heard.
"DAMON! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU?"
He had thrown up a hand to cover his face, as though he was disfigured, as though he was hideously ugly. "Please— Amy—,"
"I trusted you!" Caroline opened her eyes to see Quinn staring furiously, tears in her eyes, but not at Damon. But at her, at Caroline. "You knew he was different! You knew he was a monster and you lied to me! YOU'RE A FILTHY LIAR!"
"Darling, these are their affairs. We ought not to meddle." Elijah said softly.
Bonnie rolled her eyes and opened her fist. Caroline stumbled as her fangs rammed themselves back up into her jaw. Damon stepped towards the trembling girls, his hands outstretched.
"Amy, please. I'm trying to save you. I really do love you. Both of you."
Amy blinked, as though she had been struck in the face. Quinn turned and buried her face in her mother's stomach. "Damon, I—I—I," she stammered. Damon saw that last bit of imaginary hope gleaming from a place that no one else could see and he grabbed it tight. "Damon, just take us home."
Damon swallowed, her phrase not condemning nor condoning. When she turned away from him, he let his outstretched hands fall. He didn't try to touch her again. Damon led them through the slew of bodies and towards the giant oak door. When they disappeared through it and into the dark, Caroline turned and narrowed her eyes at the two still standing on the stairs.
"The Bonnie I knew would never have caused that much pain to an innocent."
"And the Caroline I knew wouldn't have abandoned her best friend on her wedding day." The cold, wet sensation returned to her back as Bonnie Bennett drove electric green daggers into her.
"We're not finished yet." Elijah said firmly. "We will leave the woman and her daughter alone. But we must speak with the both of you again. And soon. The matter of Mystic Falls—,"
"I don't give a damn about Mystic Falls," Caroline snapped. "You have just destroyed a family and you are too caught up in your own stupid worlds to see that you've killed a man. You're damn right we're not done. We're going to protect Amy and Quinn, put them somewhere safe. And once that's done, I'm coming after you two."
She bent down and picked up her axe. It was still wet with blood.
"Send Damon our regards." Bonnie wiggled her long black fingernails at Caroline, a grotesquely sweet smile plastered onto her thick lips.
The ride back to Amy's house was unbearable. Quinn was still crying softly when Caroline started the car. Damon, his hands in fists, shuddered with the apparent need to console her but locked with the inability to touch her. Amy watched the trees pass with indifference.
The moon followed them, a great eye, a white presence, a full witness to their tragedy. She had seen the moon rise and fall over the past, and she had never been so consumed by guilt under its poignant gaze. She followed up the choppy road, to the center of Mystic Falls. It seemed to take as twice as long to get there. Maybe it was because she was going twice as fast the first time around. Or maybe it was simply that the car was being weighed down under the burden of mourning.
The purple sky was receding into a bright pink morning. As Caroline turned down the street to Quinn's house, the same house that girl with fire for hair had brought her to so many nights ago, the tops of the houses on the street were alight with the sun's cool rays.
Caroline pulled up to the curb and shut off the car. Everyone was caught in the brightness of the day. The light that had fallen onto so many secrets, so many lies the previous night. It dawned a new day, a new era of sadness, loneliness and fear. Amy suddenly jerked as if she had woken up. She gathered a sleeping Quinn in her arms and barreled out of the car. Damon followed.
He raced up behind her, trying to gather her back into his arms. "Amy, please—,"
She turned and with a cracking sound that seemed to resonate across the golden morning light, she slapped him across the face.
"Stay away, you monster."
A/N: Yah, so we got one question answered! Yay! Now here's like 85378 more questions! I told you guys, if you held in here long enough, it would be pretty amazing! Have fun! Thanks for all the reviews, all the encouragement! I couldn't do this without you guys!