Mother by a Cradle (1887)
"The lamps are burning and the starry sky is over it all."
-Vincent Van Gogh
"Hi. We need to see an ob-gyn."
The receptionist looks up, smiles mindlessly when she is greeted by the sight of a handsome young man in a crisp tailored shirt with the sleeves pulled up mid-arm.
Damon Salvatore looks younger than his age of twenty seven, gratitude to his casually worn dark hair and stunning eyes of clear blue. He is not at all muscular but the confident smirk that graces his taut face sends a message that it's probably not good to mess with him (and it isn't). An expensive Tag Heuer watch adorns his left wrist, but even without this he can hump his way through the greater Chicago metropolis (and he does) because to put it simply, he is gorgeous and he knows it.
Not immune to the Salvatore charm, the receptionist briefly considers flirting, but she drops the idea quickly when she sees a flash of gold from behind Damon. And then the receptionist remembers that he's here asking for a certain kind of doctor - that certain kind of doctor.
"Please fill in these forms." She simply says, handing Damon a clipboard and a pen.
He begins to read the first lines printed on the paper.
Patient's Name. Age. Date of Birth.
He thinks for a moment and then grins as he writes down 'Barbara Millicent Roberts'. He jots down '23' on the next item, remembering that 'the patient' is the same age as his younger sibling, Stefan the Better Brother. However, he can't for his life remember when her birthday is. Funny that he should forget; her birthday last year goes down as one of the most dramatic (he's trying to avoid saying 'worst') days of his life, which the two of them spent at a swanky hotel in Cabo with a lot of guilt (for his part) and crying (for her part) and no sex whatsoever (this is the part that makes him saddest).
"Hey, when's your birthday again?" He turns around and asks.
The receptionist catches a glimpse of the girl behind him and is suddenly glad that she decided not to flirt.
Caroline Forbes is very pretty, to say the least. Waves of sunshine gold hair cascade to her shoulders, gently framing her thoroughly absorbing sky blue eyes. She gives the impression of sweetness and innocence, to which Damon comments that the first might be partly true but the second is definitely not. Today she has on a casual ensemble of a green dress and pastel pink flats, and it is a youthfully refreshing sight, really - but the crease in her forehead and the death glare that she shoots at Damon makes her look downright murderous.
"Seriously, you can't remember when my birthday is?" She cries in disbelief, recalling the past year.
Damon rolls his eyes. "If I knew when it is, I wouldn't be asking you, would I?"
He gets a smack in the arm for a reply.
"Ugh. I don't know why I put up with you." Caroline huffs. She would have said more, but her phone has begun to ring and she fishes it out of her hand bag.
She cringes, feeling a slight nervousness when she sees the name 'Stefan' in the caller ID. She shows it to Damon and takes a second to bite her lower lip before pressing the 'answer' button.
"Hi, Care. Is Damon with you? I've been trying to call him for the past thirty minutes and he hasn't been answering."
"Uh, yeah, he's right here."
She shoves the phone into Damon's hands and the later frowns in confusion before taking the phone to his ear.
"Where the hell are you and why haven't you answered any of my calls?" Stefan practically screams. Damon has to hold the phone away from his ear to save his auditory senses and Caroline knows that he's not exaggerating because she can hear every single word that Stefan said, and her phone isn't on loudspeaker.
"Jesus Christ, Stefan. Take it easy." Damon says, careful not to answer his brother's first question because telling Stefan that he is in a hospital trying to see an ob-gyn with his ex does not seem like a good idea. His hands dig into his pockets in search of his own phone, but he doesn't find it. "Shit, I must've left my phone in the car. What's so important?"
"What's so important? We were supposed to have a phone conference with the lumber subcontractors at four o'clock!"
Damon glances at his watch, which reads 4:30pm and then shrugs half-heartedly. "Oh yeah I completely forgot. Listen, I'll just go get my phone and then I'll call you right away so we can have that conference, okay?"
"Fine, but don't take too long. I swear, Damon, if you don't call me in the next five minutes, you're not going to hear the end of it." Stefan says threateningly before hanging up.
Damon sighs and hands both the phone and the clipboard to Caroline. "You answer the rest. I have to go down to the basement to get my phone in the car."
Caroline looks down at the floor, suddenly feeling guilty. "Damon?"
"I'm sorry you're missing on things just to do this with me. I'm sorry I'm ruining your life together with mine."
Damon isn't sure what to say. He thinks there might be something wrong with how things are being run in heaven, like some angel fell asleep on his job or something, because Caroline doesn't deserve what he thinks is coming to her. And he hates himself because he practically gave her the lighter that burned with dynamite's wick.
"Don't be." He tells her, but he can't even look at her in the eye. "I shouldn't have given you ideas in the first place. It's my life and I shouldn't have tried to make it yours too."
Caroline smiles sadly, and Damon decides that whatever happens after this, he's going to make sure that Caroline has the best of everything that his dead father's money could afford.
The trip down the basement parking is short. It's easy enough for Damon to find his dashing blue Camaro, even catches a wink from a flirty blonde he sees getting into her utterly pink BMW while he's on his way back to the elevator. He looks away immediately because her breasts look five sizes too large for her stick-thin body and her face looks like there's more botox than blood in it. Idly he remembers that Rainey-Harper General has a very reputable aesthetic surgery department.
When he enters the elevator, there's only one other occupant, some stolid looking guy with ash blonde hair. Damon lifts a hand to press floor button number six but it's already lit so he drops it.
The elevator does not make a trip to any other floors so they get to the sixth level relatively quick. The obligatory 'ding!' his heard and Damon prepares to step out of the elevator, but five seconds later and the doors still don't open.
He frowns and pushes the door opening button, but nothing happens. He tries it four more times, gets the same damning result.
"Fuck." He says, turning to the other guy. "We're stuck."
The other guy punches the emergency button and the intercom comes alive.
"Elevator number four, what's your emergency?" A voice from the other line says.
"We're on the sixth floor, the lift is stuck and we can't get out." The guy replies.
Must be British, Damon thinks, considering his accent and his use of the word 'lift'.
"How many people are with you in there?"
"There's only two of us."
"Okay. Keep yourselves calm and don't panic. We're going to send people to fix that right away."
"Dammit." Damon utters, checking his phone which of course has no signal. Stefan is going to kill him if he doesn't get out of the stupid contraption immediately.
Minutes pass but nothing happens. When Damon hears the intercom voice again, he wants to all but scream at it.
"Maintenance is on it but it might take a while. Are you two alright?"
"Yes," Damon replies testily. "But if we're not going to be out of here in the next fucking minute, I need you to get hold of somebody for me. It's a matter of life and death - my life and death."
'The Voice' tries to be helpful. "I'll see what I can do."
"Okay, there's a blonde in the sixth floor reception area. She's wearing a green dress and her name is Caroline. Tell her to call my brother and explain that I'm really stuck in an elevator so I can't get on that godforsaken conference."
"Sixth floor, blonde, green dress, Caroline, got that." The intercom guy repeats. "I'm going to call sixth floor right now."
"Thank you." Damon answers dryly, without a single iota of gratitude in his voice. He closes his eyes and rubs his temples. "I hate this fucking hospital. Two hundred dollar charge to see a doctor and I still get stuck in an elevator? This is impossible. Lord, kill me now."
He shakes his head when he suddenly realizes that he's ranting aloud. The other guy is looking at him like he's insane or something.
"Sorry, rough day." Damon apologizes. "My name's Damon."
His stuck-mate nods. "Klaus."
"OB floor too?" Damon begins. He usually doesn't do this, chatting up strangers, but right now he needs something to distract him from all of this, whatever 'this' is.
"Chauffeur duties." Klaus replies offhandedly. It's his second week.
"Your girlfriend's a doctor or something?"
"My brother had his license suspended for DUI."
"Sounds like a handful." Damon comments, though he's not one to judge because he's been slapped with enough DUI charges to worry about license revocation himself. He shoves his hands into his pockets and wonders why he's suddenly anxious before he shares what he is there for, though Klaus doesn't even ask. "I'm taking my ex-girlfriend for a check-up. I hope to God that it's a false alarm but she might be pregnant."
"Good luck with that, mate." Klaus curtly says, noting Damon's choice of words.
Ex-girlfriend. Americans seem to be very fond of such arrangement: knocking a girl up, not marrying her, splitting up later, finding another girl to marry and creating these very complex family systems. Not that there's anything wrong with that – his family itself is complex.
"I really wouldn't mind a kid." Damon says reflectively, unguarded for a moment. "It's just… it's gonna go hard on her. If it were mine she wouldn't have to worry so much, but –"
He stops himself when he realizes that he's said too many goddamn things.
Klaus keeps his face blank out of civility (Hell, when did he start valuing civility), but if he had it his way he would have told Damon that if he's planning on raising a kid that isn't his, he shouldn't treat the kid like dirt. He holds his tongue because it isn't his place to be giving unsolicited advice to strangers, but he briefly wonders how different his life would have been if some stranger had told his 'father' Mikael those same words.
Then again, he's a fool for even thinking that it would make a difference. Knowing Mikael, the man would have punched a hole straight into the stranger's face and told him to shut up.
"So, you paint?" Damon says, changing the topic.
Klaus looks down at his shirt and notices the smudges of blue for the first time. It annoys him – he never used to be a messy with his pigments.
"Now and then." He replies tersely.
Ding! The two men hear the elevator bell again, and thankfully this time the blessed doors actually open. Klaus glances at his watch (Patek Philippe, a gift from his mother) – they were trapped for almost fifteen minutes.
Outside, two maintenance guys and a nurse meet them.
"Are you okay?" the nurse asks.
"I'm good." Damon says. "Just make sure you fix that thing. If I ever get stuck in your elevators again, I'm going to fucking kill somebody."
The maintenance guys are already on it, putting an 'elevator closed' sign and tapes across the doors to restrict entrance.
Damon turns to Klaus. "See you around then."
Klaus acknowledges him with a nod and walks away.
"Ms. Barbara Roberts?" The receptionist calls out. "Dr. Leroux will see you now."
"That's you." Damon says, rising from his seat. He straightens his shirt, preparing to go in and accompany her like the good ex-boyfriend that he really hasn't been. On second thought, he wasn't even a good boyfriend to begin with.
Caroline does not move. She bites her nails nervously and Damon knows that something is very wrong because the girl takes pride in her perfect French-tips. He's seen her credit card bill and there's a small fortune spent on her nails alone.
"Hey." Damon says softly. "We need to go in."
Caroline glances at him and there's a look of pure fear in her eyes. "I'm dead, aren't I?"
"Not really." The Salvatore replies. "You're going to be fine."
"Mom is going to be utterly shamed. This, barely a year after graduation. And I don't even know who the father is."
Damon shrugs. "If that's what you're worried about, then tell everyone that it's mine."
"Are you crazy?" Caroline almost shrieks.
"No, it makes perfect sense. We were together for a year –"
"Two." Caroline corrects him grudgingly.
"- fine, two years, and who's to say that we didn't hook up sometime after that? Exes do it all the time."
"I'm not making you take responsibility for something you didn't do."
"You're not making me do anything, Caroline. I'm practically volunteering." Damon says seriously. "My inheritance from the old frog will last twenty more recessions even if I stop working right now. I could either spend all of that on my best friends poker and alcohol or spend some of it on your kid."
The blonde smiles, albeit sadly, and everything – the guilt, the pity, the helplessness – makes Damon feel violently ill.
"It won't solve anything, Damon, we're just making the mess bigger."
"Who cares? It doesn't even have to be mine biologically, I just have to sign on the birth certificate as the father and I'm the legal dad."
"What if by some miracle you'll want to settle down – "
Caroline stops herself mid-sentence. Both of them know that there's only one woman Damon might actually want to settle down with. Damon has been in love with her forever, even when he was with Caroline, and the catastrophic break-up they had on Caroline's birthday last year was partly because of her. Unfortunately, the woman is Elena, Caroline's best friend and Stefan's girlfriend. Correction, fiancé. Two weeks ago she accepted Stefan's simple marriage proposal that involved a helicopter and a ten-minute fireworks invasion on the Chicago skyline. There was even an article about it in the newspaper the next day.
"I think we both know that it's not going to happen." Damon says, willing himself to look unaffected.
"Ms. Roberts?" the nurse calls again.
Damon takes her hand and helps her up. "Let's talk about this later. Right now just let the Doc check you up."
"Barbara Millicent Roberts?" Dr. Leroux says, reading the name written on the patient's information paper. "Your parents named you after Barbie?"
Caroline could have wrung Damon's neck then and there, but she settles for kicking him in the foot. This, however, is immensely inadequate to keep the Salvatore from chuckling.
"So what do the test results say, Dr. Leroux?" Caroline asks, her heart pounding.
Please, please, please say it's negative…
The red-headed doctor smiles. "Congratulations to you and Ken here, you're six weeks pregnant."
Caroline keeps quiet. Inside she feels like the world has come crashing down. She tries to blink away the tears that are starting to blur her sight and succeeds only with a massive amount of self-control.
Damon looks somber and wants to comfort her or something – but he doesn't really know what to do. He had taken it up to himself to act as the pillar of strength that she could lean in for support since suspicions of her gravid condition had arisen, but for the first time, he has to accept that in this heartbreak, he has no part. He is but a bystander who, no matter how much he wants to help her, can do nothing but watch her pain helplessly from the sidelines.
Sensing that the couple is obviously not pleased with the news, the doctor clears her throat and proceeds to speak with a plain rather than jovial tone.
"The baby looks healthy but I'm going to prescribe prenatal vitamins to – "
"But how?" Caroline abruptly cuts in. "I was on the pill."
"Did you miss taking it, even once?"
"No, never. Once a day, at the exact same time."
"Were you given antibiotics six weeks ago, maybe penicillin?"
Caroline takes a moment to think and bites her lip when she remembers. "Penicillin, yes. I was supposed to have my wisdom teeth extracted and the dentist told me to take antibiotics a week before the operation."
"You have your culprit then. Antibiotics such as Penicillin directly decrease the effectiveness of contraceptive medicine. If you take Penicillin while on the pill, you might as well not take any of the latter." Dr. Leroux explains sympathetically.
Caroline swallows. "What are my options then, doctor?"
Damon looks at her like she's crazy, and that's saying something because Damon's bar for 'crazy' is set pretty high.
Dr. Leroux looks down on the positive test results on her table. She's not comfortable with the topic, herself having tried to conceive with her boyfriend for the last two years but to no avail. Nonetheless she tries to be professional. "If you don't want to go on with this pregnancy there are several things you may consider, but I would rather recommend you to another specialist because it's not part of my expertise."
"Wait a second." Damon says, frowning. "Don't tell me that you're seriously considering an abortion?"
"Wow, you have no idea how moral you sound right now." Caroline snaps. "How many women did you sleep with when we were together?"
Damon doesn't even pay attention to the insult, doesn't bother to tell her that he really didn't fuck anyone else when he was still with her. "Oh, Barbie, we both know that my morality went down the drain a long time ago. I'll sleep well at night even if you get rid of the kid. It's you who's the topic here. Will you be able to sleep at night?"
Caroline doesn't say anything but clenches her fists in her lap. She knows that Damon is right – she's really been giving him less credit than he deserved.
The Salvatore turns to the ob-gyn with a grim look on his face that makes Dr. Leroux grateful. At least the baby's father seems like a level-headed guy.
"She needs a lot of time to think about those options, doctor. Eight months if I can have my way and trust me, I will. Just tell me what I have to do, what I have to buy, what she should avoid while she's pregnant." Damon declares.
He turns to Caroline one more time and the blonde swears that she has never been more grateful that she has Damon Salvatore in her life, even if it's just as a friend. "Look, Caroline, I don't want the kid any more than you do, but for God's sake, I can support it. One mistake isn't worth damning your soul to hell for."
Klaus is in the hallway making his way back to the floor's reception area when from the corner of his eye, he spies the sight of a familiar blonde and his heart all but stops.
He can recognize her from miles away because he has been trying to paint her portrait for the last month and a half. He doesn't even know her name, but he knows every line, every curve, every arch and every bend of her body. He met her at a bar six weeks ago and was instantly drawn to her because of her eyes – blue green pools that compellingly drew him towards her, inexplicable, mysterious, primal and almost as if fated. Her eyes spoke to him like the stars spoke to Van Gogh, begged to be rendered in the strokes of a brush.
He does not remember much about that night, but he clearly remembers how he tasted each of her emotions when he tasted her in his bed; sweet and rich and sharp and bitter all at the same time. He didn't even bother going to sleep after the sex-induced slumber had taken over his muse. He went straight to his studio, lashing at blank canvas with a myriad of strokes and colors.
Before that night he hadn't even touched his brushes in two years. She melted the jaded exterior that he had encased himself in since he left London two and a half years ago, and he wouldn't have minded buying her breakfast or something the next day if it weren't for the fact that she was gone when he returned to his bedroom in the morning. The walk of shame – Americans seemed to be fond of that too.
He's filled with the urge to run towards her and drown himself in her eyes again – because bloody hell, he has tried with everything he has to finish her painting but there's just something in her eyes that he can't copy into his canvas without burning with the desire to see his subject again, to look into her eyes and make sure that he immortalizes in canvas everything that is in there.
But because he's Klaus, his cool, detached logic prevails and he knows that there are two things that are very wrong with this picture.
One, she unmistakably came out of Sage's office. Sage, his brother's girlfriend, is an ob-gyn. Two, she was with that guy he got stuck with in the Elevator. Damon, wasn't it?
The realization hits him like a truck.
He wastes not a second longer but allows her collarbone a faint lick before traveling downward and letting his stubbled jaw graze the valley between her breasts. She groans in a blend of pleasure and frustration, the earlier because he feels too fucking good against her skin and the later because he's not touching her in the places where she needs him to.
Her hands fist into his ash blonde locks, guiding his mouth towards the peaks of her breasts, but he growls and pries her hands away to pin them to either side of her head.
"Patience, love." He drawls, though he can hardly control himself as well.
He dips his head low into her chest and finally gives her what she wants. An electric jolt surges throughout her body as his tongue swirls around her, and he smirks as her head rolls back when he bites her gently. He takes his time licking, lapping and luxuriating in her, loving every breathless moan and every needy mewl that he elicits from her. Hell, he hasn't even started actually fucking her.
He lets her hands go and gives her a few minutes to catch her breath because she is going to need it when he moves in to rack more pleasure into her. In the mean time he takes in the flushness of her now sweat-damped skin, the way her bare chest rises and falls rapidly as she breathes - and he can't help but be pleased at the state that he reduced her into.
He decides then and there that he wants this - he needs this.
Opening her eyes, she beckons him to come closer and draws him again into her sweet, sweet mouth, kissing him fervently as she arches her body closer to his to create that deliciously maddening friction. But he pulls back because she closes her eyes when he kisses her and he wants to see – he has to see – those orbs when he brings her into abandon.
He reaches for his wallet, where he has a ready condom in one of the folds. It should be on the bedside table – except that it's not.
Shit. He must have left it in the bar.
She reads through the spike of auburn annoyance in his sky blue eyes and smiles as she soothes him with soft kisses along his jaw, ending by the shell of his ear.
"It's okay. I'm on the pill." She whispers.
He doesn't need to hear it twice.
"I really wouldn't mind a kid. It's just… it's gonna go hard on her. If it were mine she wouldn't have to worry so much, but –"
Damon sees Klaus, nods in acknowledgement as he leads Caroline away from Sage's office and on to god knows where. Klaus is frozen in his place, both his head and heart rate racing as he swallows and tries to decide what to do. A moment later, Damon and his muse disappear.
Klaus numbly makes his way to Sage's office, where his brother's startled girlfriend stares at him in surprise. "Klaus?"
"Caroline – why was she here?" he asks Sage immediately, remembering the name that Damon said when he told the intercom voice to call someone for him.
"Caroline? Who's Caroline?"
"The girl who was here – blonde, green dress, with a guy named Damon."
"So Caroline's her real name. Well, I'm thankful she wasn't really named after Barbie."
"Why was she here?"
Sage looks conflicted. "That's confidential, Klaus. I'm not supposed to divulge information about my patients."
"Why was she here, Sage?" Klaus insists. "Is she…"
The red-headed doctor gives up. "Yes. Why do you want to know?"
"How far along? Six weeks?"
"How did you know? Do you know her or something?"
Klaus doesn't answer. He races out of Sage's office, combs through the whole floor trying to find his golden-haired muse.
She is gone.
1. I don't know where this plot bunny came from but it has been plaguing my mind for a while now so I went ahead and posted it. At four thousand four hundred something words it's almost twice as long as a chapter of Only Red Flames Live Here Now, but the truth is I'm not even sure if I can go on with this because there's something about this story that just bugs me. Anyway, you have been published, plot bunny, so please rest in peace and leave me alone.
2. Speaking of Only Red Flames… yeah no update for the past two weeks and possibly for some more time. I don't know why but after the last chapter I was filled with immense disappointment in myself and what I've done to the story. I'm not abandoning it though – I just need some time to think what I should best do next. Still, I remain grateful to everyone who has supported the story this far. :)
As usual, hope you enjoyed this and have a great week ahead!