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No Matter Above Or Below

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Summary: Caroline Forbes is just past seventeen when her life ends. Five years after Founders' Day, she's being pushed to face her past, accept God, and to get on with her life. Easy for them to say . . . Future AU

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Non-BtVS/AtS Stories > Crossover: OtherEenaAngelFR15867,316052,04917 Oct 1012 Jan 11Yes

Chapter One

Title: No Matter Above or Below
Genre/type: (gen, slash, het, crossover, etc.) het-crossover
Pairing(s)/Character(s): Mentions of Caroline/Matt, Caroline/Damon, and Caroline/Sam
Rating: FR15, at most.
Disclaimer: TVD owned by LJ Smith, and SPN by Kripke
Warnings: (violence, sexual content, death, strong language, etc.) Violence, death, language, and some sexual stuff (but not graphic)
Dedication: To the lovely Aoife, for the beta. And to Marina, for helping me talk it out. You guys put up with a lot to help me get this done, and the fact that it actually got finished is a tribute to your awesomeness.

Summary: (1-3 paragraphs)


Caroline Forbes is just past seventeen when her life ends.

Five years after Founders' Day, Caroline's got herself a brand new life-new house, new dog, and new hangups. Her uncle has died, her friends are scattered, and she's been betrayed by her boyfriend yet again (always a betrayal-but the act itself is always different). She's carved out a life for herself, one that includes her dog, research, and hardly ever leaving the house. Dean says it's not healthy, but Dean's an ass and who cares what he thinks, right?

Sure, things aren't perfect. She's haunted by the memories of her past, can't shake the sadness over having another loved one die, and now her ex-best-friend invades her dreams every night and makes it impossible for Caroline to get any rest. Elena's all doom-and-gloom in the dreams, but Caroline figures she doesn't really have to listen. They are just figments of her imagination, no matter the dread and the intensity of Elena's pleas. Everything will be all right if she just ignores it, but now Sam and Cas are breaking into her house every other day to tell her she can't ignore it anymore. The dreams are starting to bleed into her waking world and Caroline's amazed she's still got a shred of sanity left in her. Elena's begging for help, and Caroline starts to feel like maybe she should help, but she can't.

She can't go back to Mystic Falls, can't even think of it. He's still there, she thinks he will always be there, and she can't handle seeing him ever again.

Damon Salvatore has always been her breaking point . . .

Illustration

Banner by karahalliwell


~*~

The Grill is unchanged these past five years.

The decor is the same (dark tones, modern look, bar scene battling a restaurant atmosphere). Even the people are the same. The bartender has not changed since she was last here, and she still doesn’t have a clue as to the older woman’s name. Matt’s mom was supposed to pick up that job when Ben McKittrick bailed, but she never did. So the twenty-something redhead with the goth-rocker vibe picked up the job.

“It’s good to see you.”

Elena’s voice is warm and her face is earnest. Her whole being pulsates with sincerity. Caroline knows that Elena is indeed glad to see her. But Caroline is not so glad to see her.

“Are we really going to do this again?” she asks Elena, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. Blue eyes scan the area around them, on the lookout for anyone else she knew. There are a lot of people in the restaurant at the moment, but none of them she recognizes. She utters a sigh of relief.

“Caroline, please,” Elena’s eyes water instantly. Caroline huffs and stares determinedly down at the table top. She refuses to give in to the tears. It’s too late for that.

“Elena, really, what is the point?” Caroline gives her former best friend a hard look. “We’ve been over this before. Nothing has changed. I don’t have it in me.”

Elena is quiet for a moment, hands twisting in her lap. A few tears escape this time before Elena draws in a deep breath and tries again. “It’s not about us anymore, Caroline. It has gotten bigger-and they need you here. Please Caroline, this isn’t what your mom would have-“

“Do not mention my mother, Elena,” Caroline’s voice comes through like tiny shards of glass. The anger is still strong, even after all these years. “And who are these ‘they’ that need me so much? Who? Bonnie? Stefan? Or maybe your best buddy Damon?”

“Carol-“

“Or, perhaps it’s your Uncle. How is John?”

His name is the breaking point. Elena’s mouth snaps shut and her eyes droop with untold sadness. There is guilt on that beautiful face, guilt and heartbreak. Caroline almost regrets putting it there. But she has been through too much to give way to regret.

For ten minutes Elena is silent and moping. Waitresses rush by in a flurry of activity, the murmur of other’s conversations rises and falls in pitch as topics are discussed, argued, and then dropped. Someone drops something from the back of the room and then a busboy is scurrying over with a broom and a dustpan. It is all so ordinary and familiar.

“You never used to be this cold,” Elena is the picture of perfect contrition. “I know I had my part to play in it, but this isn’t you Caroline. You had so much life to you. But now, it’s like you’re barely there at all. And I know you don’t want to hear it, but your mother wouldn’t have wanted this for you. She loved you, we all loved you-and I’m sorry that it wasn’t enough to chase back the darkness.”

“Elena, we’re going in circles,” Caroline’s determined to not show any emotion. But if Elena kept on like this, she would fail to keep herself in check. “I’m getting sick of all this.”

Elena looks at Caroline with pity and compassion. The pity is better; Caroline can get angry with that. But the compassion is troubling. Elena has known her too long; she could see through almost all of Caroline’s masks. And Caroline is not in the mood for unmasking.

“I’m leaving,” Caroline tells her primly, gathering some of her old attitude for the delivery. “You shouldn’t come back.”

“You can’t outrun it, Caroline,” Elena ignores her declaration but softens the blow with a smile. “Destiny isn’t something that you can outrun. You can delay it, to the peril of others, but you can’t outrun it.”

This argument is familiar too, but for an entirely different set of reasons. Caroline stubbornly sets her jaw. “I believe in free will.”

“And I believe that deep down, you’re still a Forbes,” Elena shakes her head. “That’s a part of you, Caroline. It always has been and it always will be. Your uncle told you as much.”

“Enough!” The anger is too hot to control. “Just go!”

Elena smiles once more, but this time the smile has more humour than pity. “This is my town, Caroline,” she reminds her.

Caroline narrows her eyes. “But this is my dream, Elena.”

~*~

The sun is shining through the curtains, casting strange shadows across her bed. Caroline rouses feeling less rested than she should. A quick glance at the clock shows her it is seven in the morning. That makes for about six hours, give or take. More than she usually gets. And yet, she feels as tired as ever.

She blames the dreams, and Elena. She isn’t sure what’s wrong with her. She’s been dreaming of Elena for the past six months, almost every single night. The dreams are always the same. Elena comes, they argue, and then she wakes up. Dream-Elena wants something from her, and Caroline can’t quite remember what that is by the time she wakes. But whatever it is, Caroline is not feeling generous enough towards to her former friend to consider it. Be it real-Elena or dream-Elena, Caroline has nothing to offer but anger.

Caroline pushes down the covers, ignoring the disgruntled sounds coming from Rumsfeld. The big dog opens one eye and seemingly glares at her. This brings a small, but genuine smile to her face. Caroline blows the old mutt a kiss and then gets out of bed. The air hits her bare legs and she shivers, pausing to grab her robe before going to the door. She steps out into the hallway, shrugging the flannel bathrobe over her t-shirt and shorts. She makes for the stairs, Rumsfeld at her heels, having hauled his body from the warm bed. She smiles at his fealty, dropping one hand to give him a loving scratch behind the ears.

They amble into the kitchen, Caroline pausing in the front hall to glance into the library. She had gone to sleep without putting away her research materials and the place is messy enough to cause her guilt. Uncle Bobby would have yelled for hours if he saw the state of the library.

Rumsfeld runs ahead of her, taking his customary spot in front of his feeding dish. Caroline grabs the phone with one hand and opens a cupboard with the other. As she pulls out Rumsfeld’s food she changes the ringer setting, switching it off silent mode. She dumps a generous portion into his dish, scooping up his water bowl to fill it. She sets down the phone, noticing the blinking light on the answering machine as she passes. She presses the button, moving onto the sink while the machine runs through its routine.

First message: “Caroline? It’s Dean. Listen, I know you’re busy but call me.”

Caroline pauses momentarily, the voice on the machine stirring a whirlwind of emotions in her belly. But the moment passes and she goes back to filling up Rumsfeld’s bowl.

Second message: “Caroline? Seriously, call me back.”

She places Rumsfeld’s bowl on the ground and gives the dog a kiss on the top of his head. Rumsfeld, dish full and water at the ready, is the happiest he can be. Caroline moves away from his corner and heads for the coffee maker.

Third message: “Caroline? I get it, okay? You’re mad. I understand. But I’m sorry and I’m trying to make it right. You have to talk to me. What you’re doing-just call me.”

The coffee is percolating and she moves onto the pantry, looking for a suitable breakfast. She passes over old boxes of stale cereal (she should really throw those out) and pulls out a breakfast bar. She tears open the wrapping, eyes on the answering machine as it winds its way to the next message.

Fourth message: “Damn it, Caroline! I’m sorry! How many times do I have to say it? I get that you’re mad, but it’s time to deal with it. I am so sick of all this passive-aggressive bullshit! Bobby would kick your ass if he knew how you were acting! I’m halfway there myself. Call me!”

Dean’s voice is laced with certain menace. She knows he is at the point where he will jump in his car and drive over here, just to kick her ass. The thought amuses her, and chills her. She is not ready for that, not yet.

Caroline takes a bite of her breakfast and goes to pour herself some coffee.

~*~

Caroline Forbes is four-years old and a vision of pink princess bliss. Her dress may be cotton, but it has lace and ribbons and bows. Her stockings are pristine white, encasing little legs still chubby with baby fat. Her sandals are pearly pink with shiny silver buckles that gleam in the sunlight. Her blonde hair is curly, hitting her shoulders and held back from her face by a pink plastic headband. She is the picture of cute; the definition of adorable.

She is also kind of scared because her Mommy was fighting with Uncle Bobby again.

Uncle Bobby doesn’t live in Mystic Falls like Caroline does. He lives farther away, in a place Mommy called Sue Falls or something. Caroline does know that Uncle Bobby lives in a house with a really big yard that’s full of cars. Uncle Bobby’s house is old and kind of dirty looking-on the outside. Inside it’s nice and warm, and there’s this really big library that Caroline loves to walk around. Sure the books Uncle Bobby has aren’t that nice, and some of them have really weird pictures in them, but the library is nice. There’s this couch that is so soft and bouncy that Caroline never hesitates to go running for it. Uncle Bobby never stops her either, even when Mommy starts saying that Caroline should behave herself. The only thing Uncle Bobby doesn’t let her do in the library is read his books. That’s fine with her; Caroline hasn’t learnt to read properly yet, so she couldn’t read them if she wanted to. For her, Uncle Bobby’s library was more of a playground than a library.

But the library is why Mommy and Uncle Bobby are fighting.

“It isn’t healthy Bobby. And it isn’t what she would have wanted-“

“I’m a grown man, Elizabeth. I can make my own goddamn decisions.”

Uncle Bobby uses a lot of naughty words that Caroline isn’t supposed to hear. Mommy gives him a troubled look and then looks at her. Uncle Bobby turns to look at her too and Caroline gives him her best smile. He gives her a smile too, but it’s much smaller than hers. Uncle Bobby never smiles too big. Mommy says it’s because he misses Aunt Karen so much that he can’t smile too big. Caroline thinks that’s the saddest thing she’s ever heard in her whole four-year-old life.

“You’re obsessed Bobby. And hanging out with these people, especially that John fellow, it’s not doing you any favours. And this library? Look at all these books. They are not the books of a normal person.”

“I think normal sailed off the day Karen died. And don’t you criticize me about how I live my life. We might have avoided all this if you had shared more from the start.”

Mommy looks really mad. She looks at Caroline again and then steps really close to Uncle Bobby. “Karen made that choice. And it isn’t the same thing. This stuff, that thing that got her, we’ve never dealt with that before. And I’m sorry that you feel betrayed, but Karen wanted to keep you away from it. She wanted a whole life away from it. That’s why you two moved so far away to begin with.”

“And then we lived happily ever after. Oh wait . . .”

“Bobby, I’m not kidding about this. I won’t watch you do this to yourself, I won’t let you drag my family into it with you.”

“I never asked you or your family to interfere. You feel so strongly about it, there’s the door. But don’t you ever think to order me around, Elizabeth. I’m not one of your Council members.”

Mommy is so angry that her face is red now. She doesn’t even say goodbye to Uncle Bobby, just tells Caroline to put on her coat so they can leave. Caroline is wide-eyed and frightened because even though she doesn’t know what they were fighting about, she knows that it was very bad.

“Goodbye Uncle Bobby.” This goodbye is whispered down at Uncle Bobby’s feet. He kneels down in front of her and Caroline feels the edge of his hat bump the top of her head. Uncle Bobby is serious-looking with a big bushy beard, but Caroline likes that about him. Her Daddy used to have a beard but now he walks around with something called Goat’s Tea on his face. It’s not a real beard and Caroline thinks it looks funny.

“Goodbye darling.” Uncle Bobby pulls on a strand of her hair and she gives him a funny look for it. But then Mommy calls her again and she gives him a quick hug and a kiss. She likes Uncle Bobby, even though he and Mommy always fight. She likes him a lot and she likes visiting his house. But that year is the last time Mommy takes her there.

Caroline Forbes is four-years-old when she learns family is conditional.


~*~

Caroline is restacking the books in the library at about one in the afternoon. Her morning has been uneventful. Her breakfast was finished quickly and then came time to take Rumsfeld for a walk. She thinks it would amuse people to see the mighty Caroline Forbes trailing after a scruffy looking dog with a Pooper-Scooper in hand. But what other people think fails to bother her nowadays. Rumsfeld is all she has left, and she would take care of him best she could. And if that means scooping poop, then she’ll scoop poop.

Her arrival home is quiet. Rumsfeld’s let out into the backyard and she goes about transcribing her notes from last night. Then she has no choice but to start restacking the books. It is a long process, because she has pulled many resources from many places. Uncle Bobby’s organizational system can’t be beat, and she remains faithful to it. Restacking takes time, but it fills hours that would otherwise be spent lamenting things that could not be changed.

She is up on the ladder, restacking books from the top shelves when one slips through her fingers. Caroline squeaks in alarm, trying to grab the book before it crashes to the floor but she cannot reach it in time. A hand snakes its way into her vision and catches the book before it hits the floor. The owner of the hand moves so she can see his face and she is treated to the sight of warm blue-green eyes and the sweetest smile she has ever seen.

“Drop something?” His voice is soft and teasing. She allows herself one moment of shock before she snatches the book back from his hand and returns to her stacking.

“Go away Sam,” is all she says. She does not have to look to know that he will not obey her. He has become damn near impossible these past eight months and nothing she says affects him. Caroline considers this unfair since he affects her so greatly.

“We need to talk.” Another voice announces from behind her, a voice she knows well. She slams the last book home and then stomps her way back to ground level. She graces both intruders with a nasty glare and turns abruptly towards the kitchen. It’s time for lunch.

“I don’t need anything from or with you,” she throws over her shoulder. “And I could care less if you need anything from me. You know where the door is, Cas. Let yourself out.”

“So stubborn,” is the only reply, and this too is full of warmth and fondness. The familiarity of the tone and the memories it evokes make her want to tear her hair out and sob herself to sleep. But she doesn’t do that. She swallows her screams before they can erupt out of her throat and turns her attention to making lunch.

“What are we having?” Sam is right behind her and still smiling that ridiculously adorable smile of his. Her eyes flick his way and her heart jumps into her throat. But the past is too close for comfort and the anger is ever present.

She moves to the refrigerator without uttering a word. She hears Sam sigh from somewhere behind her and the sounds of chairs scraping across the floor as her unwanted guests seat themselves at her table. Her hand tightens on the fridge handle as the frustration bubbles close to the surface. Stubbornly she stares at the contents of the fridge, finally grabbing the ingredients for a turkey sandwich. She feels eyes on her back as she moves about the kitchen, silence hanging heavy in the air.

Until: “Will you continue to live in exile for the rest of your life?”

Caroline slams the mayonnaise jar on the counter with more force than necessary. With jerking motions, she pulls out a plate and two slices of bread and determinedly makes her sandwich. She is spreading mayonnaise over the bread when Cas intrudes yet again: “Bobby would be very disappointed with you.”

This makes her laugh, a sharp, bitter sound. “You’re one to be concerned with what would upset Uncle Bobby,” she tosses over her shoulder. “I don’t think you’re in any position to pass judgement-you either, Sam. But then again, that is what you guys do best, isn’t it?”

Sam is suddenly at her back, with his hand on her shoulder. She goes still, stiffer than a statue, and stifles the urge bury a knife into the offending hand. “Would you have preferred that I stayed in Hell?”

The question is meant to shame her. It does the opposite. “I would have preferred that you hadn’t given in to start with. But it looks like what I prefer doesn’t really matter. It’s the story of my life.”

“Caroline-“

“No!” She throws down the turkey and gives up her pretence. She turns on her heel and shoves Sam away from her. “We spent the better part of a year talking about free will and making your own destiny. Was I the only person who believed in it?”

Castiel is looking at her with soulful eyes and it takes a lot of willpower not to scratch them out. “We went through many ordeals last year, and our faith was tested. Perhaps we lost it, somewhere along the way. But our presence here shows how our sacrifices were honoured. He was with us, even if we didn’t feel His presence.”

Caroline glares at both angels challengingly. “Where was His presence when my uncle died?”

Castiel is silent, but his face is disapproving. Sam gives her a pained look. “God isn’t here to stop people from dying.”

She snorts and turns back to her sandwich. “Sure, unless their last name is Winchester.”

“Caroline . . .” Sam appears to be without words and she’s grateful. She desperately needs them to leave, to give her back some semblance of peace. But their visits and her dreams- not to mention Dean’s increasingly aggressive overtures at making contact with her-all these things are crowding her. Caroline feels a tightness in her chest that she knows is more imagined than real, but still she can’t find relief. She thinks that soon she will no longer be able to breathe at all. It’s troubling.

“Please, go away.”

More sighs sound from behind her. Both angels are resigned, but she knows they will leave.

“Dean is coming.” This is Sam’s parting comment. She only shrugs and turns back to making to her sandwich.

Castiel appears at her elbow and places a hand on her back. He gives her a meaningful look and says: “He isn’t the only one.”

They are both gone in a blink of an eye. Caroline gasps in air, her body shaking with relief and despair at their departure. Rumsfeld is scratching at the back door, wanting to be let back into the house. She moves to open the door, Castiel’s final words weighing heavily on her mind.

Caroline shivers in fear, opens the door, and envelops her most loyal dog in a tight hug.

~*~

Caroline Forbes is twelve years old and crouching by the top of the stairs as her parents shouted below. She’s tall for her age, taller than her friends, but everyone says the others will catch up to her soon. It still makes her feel weird and gawky and Caroline desperately wishes that ‘soon’ will end up being sometime this week. With all that’s going with her parents, Caroline just wants to be normal in some small way.

“Don’t even think about it! You do whatever the hell you want with your little friend and his family, but Caroline is not going to be a part of it!”

“She’s my daughter too!” It is unusual to see Dad yell. All her life, Caroline’s father seemed to be the calmest of the pair. He stayed home and took care of the house and Caroline while Mom worked. Caroline never thought it odd until she noticed that it was the other way around with most families. Of course, Mom is the Sherriff of Mystic Falls and therefore far more special than other people’s moms. But looking down at her father now, Caroline understands that years of keeping his cool has led Dad to this breaking point. It is hard enough to be married to a woman as forward and demanding as Mom, Dad wasn’t even allowed to let Caroline share his last name. Imagine her surprise on the day she found out that most children had their father’s last name, not their mother’s. But then again, Caroline’s Mom is the Sherriff and is therefore special.

But none of her specialness makes Mom a good wife, or a good mother. She’s gone too much, and when she is home, Mom is quiet and irritable. Mom wants things to be a certain way, expects her family to be a certain way, and she never fails to find something that is not to her liking. Caroline is well aware that she frustrates her mother completely. Caroline is girly, with bubble-gum dreams and pink princess ambitions. Her need to be popular, to have fun, and to be admired irks Elizabeth Forbes in many ways.

Dad is to blame for some of it. She has spent her life with her father, and he’s the one that buys the pink dresses, the strappy shoes, the hair products, the makeup, and whatever else her little heart desires. He is the one that listens to her prattle on about joining the middle school pep squad, about her friends, and even about the first time she noticed a boy without thinking of the cooties first. Dad has given in to Caroline at every corner, fed her dreams of being queen bee, and enabled her quest to the prettiest girl in town. Mom is the only one to ask what Caroline plans to do after the prettiness wears off while Dad quietly assures her it won’t.

That is the key difference between her parents. Mom always looks at rock bottom and Dad always looks to the skies. Not one of them dealt in the happy medium, the middle ground. It’s all or nothing with them, always has been.

But now they are determinedly stuck at the nothing.

“She’s a Forbes!” Mom shouts back, her voice dropping into that deadly low tone she often employs at work. “She belongs in Mystic Falls. Or are you planning on breaking that promise too?”

Dad stops and looks pained. “Elizabeth, she’s a child-“

“Who has had everything handed to her by her over indulgent, faithless father!” Mom’s losing her composure, tears leaking through narrowed eyelids. “You’ll just turn her into a completely useless Barbie replica who believes her looks will get her through life. She needs more than that. She is more than that!”

“And you’re going to give it to her?” Dad is gathering steam and looks ready to go toe-to-toe with his formidable wife for the first time. “You, who’s never around? How are you going to turn her into anything? You’ve been waiting for this opportunity her entire life! Take her away from me and just turn her into another mindless robot, like one of your deputies. Who cares if the girl has dreams of her own? Who cares if she wants something more than what this town has to offer? She’s a Forbes and she has a legacy to fulfill! I won’t do that to my daughter!”

“You don’t have a choice!” Mom is right in Dad’s face and screaming at him. “You can break faith with me, but you know you can’t break with the Council. Caroline’s not going anywhere.”

“Then neither am I.”

Mom laughs, a bitter sound that is cruel in a way Caroline never knew her mother could be. “No, you’re gone. If I have to run you out of this town myself, you’re gone. I won’t have you flaunting your scandals and deviancy around this town. Not while I’m alive.”

“You’re not God, Lizzie.”

“I’m Sherriff, and a Forbes. And that’s a hell lot more than you can say.”

There is more, but she doesn’t stay to listen. Caroline slinks away from the staircase and goes back to her room. She throws herself on her bed, knows her father will be gone by tomorrow, and that her life will never be the same again.

Caroline Forbes is twelve years old when she officially gives up on family, because they have given up on her.


~*~

“All right class, everyone in their seats!”

Caroline blinks and looks down in confusion. She is wedged into a small desk, her knees banging up against the bottom of the desktop. Her eyes wander around the room, she realizes she is back in Miss Sheridan’s kindergarten class, and surrounded by twenty five-year-old Carolines, all pretty in pink with their hands clasped firmly together on top of their desks.

“Thank you class, that was excellent,” Elena is perky and sweet as she takes her place by the front chalkboard. Caroline notes that she is wearing a set of horn-rimmed glasses that she doesn’t need and is clad head-to-toe in awful teacher tweed.

“What the hell is going on?” she demands.

“Okay class, time to review,” Elena continues on as if Caroline hasn’t spoken, as do all the other little Carolines. “We’re going to go over the letters we learned this week. Let’s start off with Caroline. Caroline, what does ‘B’ stand for?”

“Bad dream,” Caroline responds sourly.

“Shhh!” comes the command from the little Caroline on her right. “She didn’t ask you. And stop interrupting so much. We’re trying to learn.” The little Caroline punctuates this remark with a raising of the eyebrows coupled with an impressive roll of the eyes. Caroline feels affronted and glares down at the little-mini-her. The little Caroline only widens her eyes and makes an exaggerated face. Adult Caroline comes to the realization that she was quite a brat at that age.

“Don’t blame her age,” Elena warns from the front and then turns back to her other pupils. “And yes, go ahead Caroline.”

“’B’ is for Bennett,” comes a voice from somewhere in the back.

“Excellent! Carry on, what’s next? Caroline?”

“’D’ is next. ‘D’ is for Donovan!”

“What happened to ‘A’ and ‘C’?” Caroline asks sourly. She is ignored, though little Caroline on her right gives her a very dirty look.

“Good! Next?”

“’F’, ‘F’ is for Forbes!” This is shouted and causes all the other little Carolines to break out into whoops and giggles. Adult Caroline can only roll her eyes while Elena preens proudly by the chalkboard.

“Excellent! Excellent! Oh, yes? Caroline?”

A young Caroline in the row behind her jumps to her feet and says shyly, “’F’ is for Fell too, isn’t it?”

“Of course it is! My, this class is certainly on the ball today. Keep going! What’s next?”

“’G’!” shouts the little Caroline who told Adult Caroline off before. “That’s for Gilbert!”

“’H’ is for Honeycutt!”

“You mean Honeybutt!”

Another eruption of giggles claims the class. Adult Caroline sighs and thumps her head down on her desk.

“’H’ is for Hamilton too!”

“No, that’s ‘L’ for Lockwood-Hamilton.”

“But the last, last name is Hamilton, so it’s ‘H’!”

“Girls, girls! Let’s not fight. You’re both right, in your own way. That’s a good example for both ‘H’ and ‘L’. Now, let’s see if we can do the rest.”

“Lockwood is ‘L’!”

“’M’ for McCullough!”

“And ‘S’ is for so, so many!”

More giggles. Adult Caroline groans. Snotty little Caroline on her right glares.

“Sulez!”

“Saltzman!”

Adult Caroline raises her head and glares at Elena. “Salvatore.”

All the other little Carolines fall silent. A look to her right shows that Snotty little Caroline is no longer sneering, but actually looking quite sad. Elena sighs, puts down her chalk, and walks down the aisle until she reaches Adult Caroline’s desk. Elena squats down and looks into her eyes. “We haven’t done ‘C’ yet.”

“You skipped ‘C’,” Caroline reminds her primly.

“Because it’s the most important,” Elena tells her. “You need to remember it, out of all these things, ‘C’ is most important.”

“’C’ for Caroline?” Caroline guesses, her mood despondent for a reason she can’t name.

Elena smiles. “Always, but for today, ‘C’ is for something else. ‘C’ is for covenant.”

Caroline blinks and frowns. “Huh?”

“Covenant,” Snotty little Caroline repeats with a flip of light blonde hair and another roll of blue eyes. “You should write it down.”

Caroline growls at the obnoxious brat and stares mutinously at Elena. “I was not this annoying at five,” she grumbles.

Elena smiles, laughs, and pats her hand. “Sure.”

Caroline slumps back into her chair. “Is it too much to ask for one night’s rest?”

Another pat on the hand. “Covenant. It’s important.”

~*~

Caroline wakes when Rumsfeld pads to the top of the bed and begins to whine softly in her ear. The sounds penetrate the walls of her dream world instantly, pulling her through the fog and right into consciousness. She’s not immediately alarmed by his actions, however rare they are. Rumsfeld enjoys his sleep time and only willingly interrupts it for something urgent.

“What’s the matter?” she mumbles, pushing away thoughts of Elena and the niggling feeling that she has forgotten something. Rumsfeld immediately stops his whimpers, nudges her cheek with his nose, and then jumps off the bed to go scratch at the door. Caroline shakes her head at this behaviour, turning to check the clock as she pulls herself out of bed. She’s surprised to see it is so late in the morning. She’s been asleep for well over ten hours, but feels as tired as ever. These dreams are slowly but surely sucking the life out of her.

Caroline stumbles out of the covers, pausing only to grab her robe before joining Rumsfeld at the door. After she pushes the door open, the dog bounds out into the hallway and races down the stairs, yipping excitedly. His actions draw a smile from her and Caroline lets herself indulge in a moment of pure adoration for her dog before she follows him down the stairs and into the kitchen.

“Is that seriously what you wear to bed? Dude, we need to have more sleepovers.”

Dean Winchester is seated at her kitchen table, feet up on the edge, newspaper open to the sports section, and looking quite at home. Caroline can only manage to blink stupidly at him, her brain very reluctant to start dealing with all the implications and complications presented in Dean’s appearance. Several scathing recriminations flash before her eyes, but the flood is too large and Caroline’s mouth cannot decide which words to form.

He grins, entirely too pleased by her reaction, and then winks provocatively at her. She remembers his greeting and scowls furiously as her hands scramble to pull her robe close. Though not as scandalous or skimpy as her nightwear had been in her teenage years, Caroline certainly doesn’t go to bed clad head to toe in a high-collared Victorian-styled nightgown. Her t-shirt is plain blue and tight-fitting, riding up to allow her belly button to peek through. Her shorts are black and shorter than the ones she used to wear to cheerleading practice. The summer heat is her excuse for all the bared skin. She has company-appropriate pyjamas somewhere in her closet, but hasn’t had need of them in a long while. Aside from Rumsfeld, she’s basically been alone.

She likes it that way.

Caroline ties her robe together in a tight knot at her left hip. She tosses a “pervert” over her shoulder, taking care that her tone conveys only the highest level of disdain, before turning her back on him completely. She has been ignoring him for the past eight months; she sees no need to stop now. Rumsfeld has no such qualms about Dean’s appearance; he trots over to the man and immediately offers up his head for petting and scratching. Caroline observes this out of the corners of her eyes, turning away quickly when she thinks she is in danger of being caught. She decides to forgo the doling out of dog food as Rumsfeld has left her feeling a little betrayed. She makes for the coffee machine, stopping abruptly when she sees it is already on and brewing away.

“It’s that gourmet import crap you like,” Dean calls from the table. “Fill up and then go get ready. We’re going out for breakfast, or lunch if we can’t find a place still doing breakfast.”

He’s being deliberately presumptuous; it was one of her pet peeves, and he knew it. This whole escapade-breaking into her house, making her coffee, playing with her dog-it is all a blatant attempt to get a rise out of her. And it’s working pretty well.

She grabs a coffee mug from the cabinet, sliding her eyes his way. “How’s Lisa?”

She can be as petty as he can. Dean’s eyes narrow and there’s anger brewing underneath the surface. Caroline’s humming to herself as she pours a cup of coffee and then places the pot back on the counter. She turns around, raises the cup to her lips, and gives Dean a challengingly look over the rim.

“Don’t start,” is his only warning. But his words have the opposite of the desired effect. Caroline feels her own anger (constantly simmering just below the surface these days) start to bubble up inside her.

“I forgot how pigheaded you are,” she sneers. “Of course, I’m not allowed to mention Lisa. I’m not allowed to mention anything of importance because it might make you regret giving up the perfect life that others died to keep safe for you-“

“Caroline, we are not doing this again,” Dean’s eyes warn of danger, but Caroline doesn’t care. He’s the one showing up where he clearly isn’t wanted. He’s the one pushing on the boundaries she has carefully constructed around herself since the moment of her uncle’s death. He should feel ashamed, he should feel guilty. In that moment, Caroline wants nothing more than to rip Dean to shreds and scatter the pieces to the wind.

“But maybe we were wrong,” she continues, slamming her coffee mug forcefully onto the countertop. The hot liquid spills over the rim, burning her hand. But she takes no notice, shaking the coffee off as she stalks to closer to Dean.

“Maybe you never really wanted that life, that stability, that happiness. You’ve always been a love ‘em and leave ‘em type, right?” Caroline’s hands go to the knot she previously tied in her robe, loosening it and pushing it back on her shoulders. The skimpiness of her nightwear bothers her no longer; in fact, it’s just what she needs. She puts one toned leg in front of the other until she is able to press the front of her body flush against his. “Is that why you’ve come back here?” she asks, mouth dangerously close to his. “You come looking for a quick, blonde fix?”

Dean’s face is stony with anger. Caroline wants to push, feels the need to push him, until he surrenders. She snakes her arms around his waist, pulling herself even closer to him. Blue eyes lock on hazel ones, and she ignores the warning there. Caroline goes up on the tip of her toes and presses her mouth against his unwilling lips.

His hands shoot to her arms and grips them painfully. She pulls back and looks at his face, but she sees none of the shame or guilt she had been trying for. Dean’s face is full of wrath and his eyes alight with rage.

“Fine, you want to do this? Let’s do it.” His hands drop to her waist and in the next second she is airborne. Dean dumps her none too gently on the kitchen table and Caroline gasps, more from shock than from pain. Rumsfeld explodes in a barrage of barking, but he obviously cannot decide which human to berate. His barks subside into whines and he scuttles under the table for cover.

Caroline barely has time to process this as Dean’s hands find their way to her knees. He slides his fingers to the back of her kneecaps, grasping her calves in a firm hold before yanking her to the edge of the table. Caroline forces back a touch of fear, unwilling to break so quickly. Dean parts her legs and steps in between them, moving his hands back up to her hips before smashing his mouth on hers.

None of it is real. There is no desire behind these actions. It is a play she started and now it has gone beyond her control. She should have known better than to play chicken with Dean Winchester of all people, but her frustration at his intrusion won’t let her back down just yet. She kisses back, mouth grinding against his with painful force. Her hands fly up to his bare arms, nails digging and gouging for blood more so than pleasure. Her resolve is shaking every second this continues. She is naturally stubborn, but Dean can outdo her any day of the week. He will win this battle, she knows he will, but she can’t let it go so easily.

It is only when he starts pushing her back, starts trying to place her back against the table top, that she gives up the fight. She can’t have guys looming over her, can’t stomach it since the days she spent fleeing from the wreckage of Founders’ Day. No matter who the guy, no matter if she wants him desperately; having guys hover over her, granting them the power to hold her down and keep her there, it never ceases to bring forth the memories of that night. It is the only thing she can’t abide; the one thing that she fears above almost all else.

It takes only the first muffled cry to pull Dean back. His lips leave hers and his hands release her hips. Caroline pushes him back as she gasps in much needed air. Dean retreats quietly to the other side of the kitchen, his own chest heaving as he stares her down. Tears of humiliation and frustration prick at her eyes. Her hands shake as she pulls her robe closed again. She finds that she can’t look at Dean and so her eyes drop to the floor. She has messed up once again. Caroline needs to push things, to test the limits. But she never knows when to pull back. She pushes until things are completely out of her control and then she’s left scrambling to gather her dignity. It is her one tragic flaw.

Dean watches her silently; she can feel his eyes on her. The anger and the accusations have boiled away, leaving only awkward tension. Rumsfeld whimpers pathetically from his spot under the table and Caroline feels like an idiot because she’s frightened her guard dog.

She hears a sigh and then footsteps. Dean’s boots interrupt her view of the floor. “I won’t pretend that I don’t miss Lisa if you won’t pretend that this is all a lot more about Sam than it is about me.”

Hearing his name jars her. Thoughts and feelings she wouldn’t even admit to herself filter through her brain. Of course Dean knows. She thinks that he has always known.

“It’s not fair,” she mutters tearfully. She raises her head and looks Dean straight in the eye. “Not at all.”

He raises his right hand to cup her face, callused thumb stroking her cheek gently. “He thinks you’re mad because of Bobby,” Dean reveals with a ghost of a smile.

Caroline snorts and shakes her head. “All those brains but hardly a lick of common sense.”

“And you’re certainly not feeding this suspicion of his in any way,” Dean grins at her. “But you’re right; Sammy’s horrible with the subtext. You should talk to him.”

“I can barely stand to look at him.”

Dean lets out a breath of air, dropping his hand to the table. He leans in close, stops when his forehead touches hers, and gives her a most serious look. “I love you, Caroline Forbes,” he says gravely. “Probably have loved you since I met you. You’ve only been around for five years, you’re not related by blood, and sometimes you talk too much-but I love you. You are the only bit of family I’ve got left and you will not push me out. You’re the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister, asides from Samantha.”

The old nickname achieves what Dean hoped it would. Caroline giggles, a few short giggles that she squashes as quickly as possible. But she can’t keep the smile from her face or the blush from her cheeks. Dean wraps his arms around her and holds her tightly until she relents and hugs him back. He releases her a bit reluctantly, pressing a kiss to her right temple. Rumsfeld pokes his head out, a questioning whine his only contribution. Dean smirks at the dog, stepping back from Caroline before bending down to pat the dog’s head fondly.

“Crazy mutt,” Dean mumbles and Rumsfeld yips in reproach. Caroline feels a smile threatening to break out at the sight of Hunter and dog looking so . . . domestic. Dean catches her eye and it seems he knows what she’s thinking because he coughs and steps back from Rumsfeld. “You can go now,” he tells her.

Caroline blinks her eyes, confused. Dean shakes his head and points to the stairs. “Go get ready,” he clarifies. “I want pie.”

Caroline snorts, but complies by jumping off the table. “Like that’s new,” she shoots at him with piercing look. “And I don’t remember agreeing.”

“Funny, I don’t remember asking,” Dean arches a brow at her. “Go get dressed Caroline. Time to get back to normal.”

“What part of this has ever been normal?”

“Everyone’s got their own version of normal,” Dean shrugs. “Ours is just a bit unique. And you’re not getting out of it. Go get dressed.”

She debates arguing with him, but doesn’t have the stomach for it. Their whole encounter has left her feeling discombobulated and awkward. She’s spent so long being angry at him, for no other reason than he took Uncle Bobby’s death badly. She supposes they have all taken it badly, each in their own way. Her way includes a lot of self-imposed exile and misdirected fury.

“Caroline,” Dean’s voice jars her from her thoughts. She glances up, flashing him a blank face. “Go get changed,” he repeats, this time with barely concealed mirth. She purses her lips, struggles to gather the pieces of her dignity, and flounces up the stairs without another word. Dean’s laughter is loud and meant to follow her up to her room. She grumbles a few curses, not loud enough for him to hear, and stomps into her room.

She peers into her closet before pulling out a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. She remembers when it used to take her a whole hour to decide what she was going to wear. Back when colour coordination and fashion labels were all that kept her apart from the hordes of ‘unpopular’ kids at school. She remembers being so above everyone else, her outfits outshining all others due to her dedication and perfectionism. Every hair was curled and set in the right place, each piece of clothing worked well with the rest, all accessories accentuated what she wanted accentuated, and her shoes were the envy of every teenage girl in Mystic Falls. There’s no point now. Her life is now about comfort, utility, and good running shoes.

She ambles into her bathroom, now looking forward to her outing in spite of herself. She flicks on the light switch and promptly drops her clothes in shock. She’s grateful that her squeak was low pitched enough not to draw Dean’s attention from downstairs. The sight before her is disturbing and sends chills running up and down her spine. She steps forward, shaking hand reaching out to touch the lipstick smeared mirror. Her index finger comes out and begins to trace the letters on the glass. Her eyes drop to the counter and she sees a tube of red lipstick left uncapped next to the sink.

It is her lipstick. And it is her writing. Caroline raises frightened blue eyes and takes in the message she left for herself sometime during the night.

COVENANT.

~*~

Caroline Forbes is hedging towards her seventeenth birthday and is attending her third funeral in ten months time. First it had been Elena’s parents, then Mr. Tanner, and now Ms. Bennett, Bonnie’s grandmother. The people in her town are dying at an alarmingly fast pace, and Caroline’s concerned because no one seems all that worried by it. Sure, people are sad and shed tears at the appropriate times, but they aren’t fazed by all this. But she is, and she wishes she wasn’t. Caroline wishes for many things, but none of these wishes ever comes true.

She wishes her mother wasn’t her mother-at least, wasn’t the mother that she was, or failed to be. She wishes her father wasn’t so absent all the time, because she’s really missed him this past year. She wishes she wasn’t so selfish, because Elena’s pain from last year only intensifies her irritation with her own parents instead of diminishing it with reflective gratitude. She wishes that she doesn’t go to bed each night, fervently hoping to wake up in Elena’s body so she can be the golden girl for a change.

She wishes Matt wasn’t still in love with Elena, wishes he would look at her like she sometimes catches him looking Elena. She wishes Elena’s parents hadn’t died so Elena would be like she was last year, would still be with Matt, and then maybe Caroline would have ended up with the right Salvatore brother because Elena had been unavailable. She wishes she could remember her time with Damon, because most of that time has become gaping black holes in her memory and that makes her nervous. She wishes she had the nerve to ask him about it, or better yet, ask Stefan about it. She wishes she didn`t feel like something terrible had happened to her that she couldn`t remember. She wishes desperately Damon was just a bad boyfriend, but knows deep down he was so much worse than that.

Caroline wishes for a lot of things, but mostly she wishes that her best friend wasn`t hurting so much right now. The ceremony is over and Bonnie remains at the gravesite whilst her family members walk away. Caroline moves to stand by her friend and frowns when she sees Elena hesitating to do the same. She reaches Bonnie and wishes she was better at comforting people because it seemed like that was all that she was going to do this year. Her hand slips into Bonnie`s, fingers curling around her friend`s in a gentle squeeze that is the best solace she can come up with.

Bonnie raises a tear-stained face towards her and Caroline knows she is supposed to say something comforting at this moment, but she fails. Instead, her litany of wishes come tumbling out of her mouth, starting with her mother and ending with Bonnie`s pain. There isn`t a logical reason for this, but she can`t hold back. Bonnie listens to her with wide eyes and Caroline wishes she could just make herself shut up because none of this was likely to help Bonnie. But her mouth carries on and when she is finished, Caroline falls silent again.

She stays there, standing next to a fresh grave while holding her friend`s hand. Bonnie`s eyes drop back down to where her grandmother had been laid to rest and heaves a great sigh. She tugs on Caroline`s hand and gives her a watery smile. “Can we go to your house?”

Of course they can, it isn’t even necessary to ask. Caroline goes to let Mr. Bennett know and isn’t surprised when he mumbles something like assent. Bonnie spends a total of three days at her house, hiding from the world underneath Caroline’s comforter. If Caroline’s mother thinks this odd, she says nothing about it. Mr. Bennett doesn’t call to check up on his daughter and Bonnie never tries to speak with him.

On the fourth day after the funeral, one day after Bonnie has gone home, Caroline receives a call from her friend. Bonnie tells her that she’s going away, spending some time with her aunt out of state. Bonnie needs time away from Mystic Falls in order to heal. Caroline’s gut reaction is to ask Bonnie not to go. She’s in a new relationship with Matt and things are so uncertain-she doesn’t want Bonnie to be absent. But it isn’t about her and Caroline knows better than to ask.

Bonnie leaves a few days after that phone call. She stops by Caroline’s house on her way to the airport, smiling faintly at the Sherriff before herding her friend up the stairs to the privacy of Caroline’s room. There, Bonnie pushes a small box into Caroline’s hands. Caroline is more than a little confused when she opens it to find a palm-sized, translucent-looking rock.

Bonnie explains that it is a crystal, one that she’s been working on for the past two days. Caroline knows what she means by working on; Bonnie’s witchcraft is an acknowledged, but avoided issue between the friends. Caroline doesn’t pretend to understand and Bonnie doesn’t ask her to try. But today she presents Caroline with a gift wrought from her own magic. Caroline runs her finger down the smooth face of the circular crystal, absently asking Bonnie what it’s for.

“You said you wanted to remember,” Bonnie says with a weak shrug. “If you really want to, then you can. Just prick your finger, place one drop of blood on the surface, and then sleep with it under your pillow for one night.”

Caroline looks at her friend in wide-eyed shock. Her finger lingers on the surface of the crystal and she has to bite her tongue from saying something stupid or hysterical. Bonnie was right; she did say that she wanted to remember. But now that the prospect was before her, Caroline isn’t so sure she can go through with it. Bonnie sees the look on her face and gives Caroline a sympathetic smile.

“You don’t have to,” Bonnie assures. “I’m not sure if you should. I think you’re right and whatever happened with Damon might not be something you want to remember. But it’s your mind Caroline; no one should have the right to take it away from you. It won’t run out, you can keep it forever. If at any time, you really have to know-you can.”

Caroline Forbes is teetering towards seventeen when she decides she will love Bonnie Bennett forever, because Bonnie is the first person that ever really cared.


~*~

Dean stays for almost a full week and it is all Caroline can do to keep from throwing him out the door on the next hunt. Her self-imposed exile has spawned certain habits and behaviours in her, and she has found that she is far more comfortable when she has sole run of the house. Dean is unimpressed by what he calls her ‘hermit-chic’ lifestyle and she knows that he will be back in a short while. She supposes it was bound to happen someday and she knows that she has to work on getting used to having other people in her life once again. But still, the day she watches Dean’s beloved Impala roar out of her drive is the happiest in recent memory.

Dean’s presence has been dangerous. The sleepless nights and the bad dreams were harder to ignore when there was someone else around. Dean makes numerous comments on her sleeping habits, or lack thereof. The dreams with Elena are starting to increase in frequency and Dean claims that he hears her moaning and crying all through the night. Caroline seriously doubts that she’s been crying, but Dean and a pair of wet pillows seemed determined to prove her wrong.

Perhaps it would have been a good idea to alert Dean to her dreams. But Caroline isn’t sure what she could say. Before, she had been dismissing the dreams as a by-product of too much stress in too short a time. The fact that she can’t remember them afterwards left her feeling that they couldn’t be that important. But she has changed her mind since finding the word ‘covenant’ written across her bathroom mirror in blood-red lipstick.

The day Dean leaves, she falls upon her uncle’s library in a flurry of barely restrained panic. She starts pulling books off the shelves before she realizes that she doesn’t really know what to look for. She knows the word, but the most she can come up with off the top of her head is that movie with all the hot guys with magical powers. It takes a lot of restraint, but she pulls back from the urge to rip apart book after book and settles on a quick web search to start with.

She doesn’t consider why she’s looking into this. Her dreams with Elena never raised too many alarms before. But there is this ever present pull to find out more. She shouldn’t bother with all this. It is much easier to chalk it all up to weird dreams brought on by the stress of Uncle Bobby’s death. But whenever she thinks of ignoring the search, a feeling of dread washes over her. She doesn’t want to look into it, but she thinks she doesn’t have a choice.

She spends a couple of hours on the web, stopping only once to take Rumsfeld for his afternoon walk. The dog is disheartened from Dean’s departure and Caroline is starting to feel just a bit jealous of the sole surviving Winchester. She tells herself that she’s concerned with her dog’s welfare when she gives him a second helping of dog food and lets him take a three hour stroll instead of the usual one hour walk. She tells herself it’s not an attempt to buy back some of the love Rumsfeld has been shooting Dean’s way and before he gallops off to the backyard, Rumsfeld surrenders himself to a bout of hugs and kisses that is a smidge over the top. She leaves him trolling the back yard, barking and snapping at butterflies before abandoning them to chase swatches of sunlight across the grass.

Her web search does not yield much information. Most of the hits have to do with the Ark of the Covenant and the first Indiana Jones movie. She browses the sites, noting that the Ark was something made by Moses to hold the original Ten Commandments stone tablets. According to Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford, the Ark is also some sort of weapon. Caroline goes through these sites quickly, already dismissing them as irrelevant. Besides, the talk of God and Commandments is like rubbing salt on open wounds. She isn’t ready to dive back into divine matters yet; in all honesty, she won’t ever be ready to do so again.

She goes back to Google and tries to look up the actual definition of covenant. ‘Contract with God’ is one of the first things that come up. Caroline glares at her computer screen, instantly annoyed with Wikipedia for marching forth with the one explanation she is trying to avoid. Caroline skips down the results page, forgoing sites that have to do with movies, music, and Halo, before settling on the link to the free dictionary. The basic definition is a binding contract, one that is unbreakable due to several consequences. People who enter into a covenant agree to do one thing or abstain from doing something in exchange for protection, power, or whatever else they want.

Caroline snaps her laptop shut, mind buzzing with information. Covenant doesn’t sound too different from a Deal, though the contract holder is more celestial than bottom-feeding. But no matter whether Above or Below holds the contract, Caroline isn’t happy with the way this is turning out. Deals, be they with demons or angels, always end badly. Uncle Bobby would blow his top to see her looking for information on anything remotely resembling a Deal.

The same dread from before returns, stronger than she’s ever felt it. Caroline moans despondently and drops her head into her hands. She feels trapped though she doesn’t know why, but it’s like all the walls are closing in on her.

The knock on her door is so unexpected that Caroline nearly topples out of her seat at the sudden noise. Her surprise quickly turns to suspicion. Caroline gets to her feet slowly, eyes travelling the room before they fall on the shotgun resting against one of the bookshelves. She strides over, quiet as possible, and picks up the weapon. She slowly pumps the barrel, timing it so the clicking noise is mostly covered by the knocking of her unknown visitor. She turns to face the door, her entire body tense as she grips the shotgun tightly in slightly sweaty hands.

Her paranoia is not unfounded. Uncle Bobby had been a legend amongst most Hunters, mainly due to his close association with the Winchesters. Hunters from all over used to come asking for his help. But Caroline has put an end to all such visits after her uncle’s funeral. If anyone wants information, they are to call or email her with the details-they are never to visit. And most people are sensible enough to agree. There are no visitors up here, save for Dean (because of his pigheadedness) and Sam and Cas (who she couldn’t keep out no matter how much she tries).

Even the few demons that came for her after Uncle Bobby’s demise left quickly. Her house is fortified against most demons, with hidden Devil’s Traps almost all over the house and weapons strategically concealed wherever she thought she would need them. Sam says this is paranoia gone haywire. She says nothing in return, but they both know her paranoia serves its purpose.

“Hello?” The knocking pauses and is replaced by an unfamiliar female voice. “Hello? Is anyone in there? My car broke down just up the road . . . I saw your sign-“

It is a perfectly innocent story, but it is pure bullshit. The sign for Singer Salvage Yard is beyond decrepit and Caroline had slapped a ‘closed’ sign on it months ago. Whoever is at her door is new at this, and very nervous from the sound of her voice. Caroline nears her front door, more curious than alarmed for the moment. She’s use to dealing with tricks and scams and plots, but they are usually better thought out than this. This person barely knows what she is doing, and while this amuses Caroline it does not prompt her to put down the gun.

A quick look into the peephole reveals a harried looking girl with dirty-blonde hair and tanned skin. For a second, Caroline remembers Jo Harvelle and compares her to this newcomer. Jo was shorter than this girl, but they share the same build. Slender, willowy-barely solid enough to pose a threat. But Jo was so much more than her appearance, and Caroline learnt long ago to not underestimate anybody.

The girl is nervous, as can be seen from her endless fidgeting. She hops from foot to foot, unaware that she is under scrutiny. Caroline watches carefully for a few minutes, ignoring the girl’s continued knocks and calls for help. The girl dances on and off the welcome mat, trying in vain to peer into the blocked windows. Caroline relaxes as the girl’s left foot moves just beyond the potted fern beside the welcome mat. The pot is her marker for the devil’s trap she has painted on the underside of the porch roof. Had she been a demon, her visitor would have never been able to move beyond the fern.

But that doesn’t mean the girl is in the clear. Caroline waits while the girl carries on for some five extra minutes before she huffs in irritation and moves to the top of the porch steps. “I don’t think anyone’s home,” she calls out to companions that Caroline can’t see. But the mere hint of others raises Caroline’s anxiety. She drops her left hand from the shotgun barrel and moves it to her back pocket, resting it against the bump of her cell phone. Dean will be furious if she neglects to call him. But Caroline doesn’t want to take the risk. Right now it looks as though the girl thinks Caroline isn’t home. She and her mysterious companions might just leave, and then Caroline will call Dean. She just has to wait.

“Seriously, I think she’s out,” the girl continues to say, looking somewhere just to the right of the porch. “Maybe we should come back later.”

“She’s here.”

However unfamiliar the girl is, the voice that finally answers her is far too familiar. Caroline feels her heart come to a complete stop. For one moment, she cannot breathe, she cannot see, she cannot think. Her brain stops and rewinds back nearly six years and she is back in her bedroom, laying on her bed, and watching a monster hover above her.

Damon Salvatore has found her at last.


~*~
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