It's a hundred years later and they still haven't managed to figure out the art of developing flying cars, or anything remotely close to it.
Damon takes great pleasure in pointing this out over breakfast one morning, and Caroline makes a face when his back is turned. Before she can quite finish wrinkling her nose, Stefan points without really looking at her and says, "Jar."
"What?" Scowling, she whacks her fork against the jug of orange juice. "What is it this time?"
"Contradicting a clear-as-cut-glass fact," Damon taunts, already giving a ridiculous display of jazz hands.
"But I didn't even say anyth—"
Damon clears his throat. "'Jeers, leers, shared looks, cutting remarks and-slash-or passive aggressive comments fall under the category of contradiction'," he quotes, hand across his chest like he's reciting the Declaration of Independence or something. When Caroline's scowl deepens, he has the galls to grin and say, "Hey: your rules, not mine."
She huffs and slumps down her chair. "Fine, whatever. Drop a dollar in the stupid thing."
"Already there, sister," Damon calls over his shoulder as he speeds to the living room. There's the tinny sound of metal clinking against metal: one by one, tantalizingly slow. He pokes his head back into the kitchen and says, "This also means you owe me half your savings account."
Caroline shoots a helpless look at Stefan (her puppy-dog-put defense mechanism kicking in), but he's not looking at her anymore, busy as he is with breakfast. When he's done flipping the bacon, he sits down, chuckling in amusement at Caroline listlessly pushing her eggs around on her plate. "I thought you'd have forgotten by now."
"Us? Forget? Never!" Damon cries, as though the very idea of it is scandalizing. He sneaks a fried tomato off of her plate and pops it into his mouth. Caroline wants to slug him across the face, use his own moves—that she's had to painstakingly beg him to teach her—on him, but decides against it because Damon's such a self-righteous twit when it comes to the Jar; she'd probably have to unload a fifty.
"Vampires." Stefan smiles wryly at Caroline and double-taps her temple. "We never forget."
The sad part about it is that it's totally true.
Caroline always makes sure Damon and Stefan are out of the apartment (to do whatever it is they do when they decide Caroline's just one girl too many) by the time the Witching Hour – as Damon calls it – rolls around. Caroline had rebuked him then, rolling her eyes and scoffing Isn't the Witching Hour like, midnight?
Damon had cheekily said, "Yeah, but whenever you need your alone time, which is every single day at this very hour, you get all… scary." He pauses, but because he's Damon and doesn't give a shit, adds: "Like Bonnie on her period."
Caroline chooses to respond by snapping a colorful string of choice words, and Stefan had pointedly shaken that stupid jar under her nose until she'd relinquished the last of her five dollars.
She's not really a pink sort of girl (not anymore, anyway), but she deems the pink of the sky as 'quaint', and when it gives way to a darker velvet color (which she struggles, but decides to call it 'soul-grazing') but when the blue is chased away by shades of purple and dusty white stars, she leans into the banister and doesn't chastise herself when she surmises that this must be how infinity feels like.
Different, she thinks.
Free and unconditional, she thinks.
Out of this world, she thinks.
She'll stay rooted there until the breeze starts to bite her shoulders, or until her ears pick up Damon and Stefan stumbling up the stairs after drinking too much. Then she'll give the railing one last tap, see you tomorrow, and closes the French doors soundlessly behind her.
"We're out of wine," Caroline says absently as Damon enters the room, settling into the couch for a night of trashy soap operas. "And Grace called; she says you're fired. Again."
She flicks through the channels, but when there's no response, she hits mute and cranes her neck around. "Damon?"
Damon's gripping the chair in front of him, an odd look on his face. He tries to look at her, decides against it, and paces the room instead.
A line starts to form between Caroline's eyebrows as she flips around to face him fully. "Damon?" she piques.
He's facing the corner now, pinching the bridge of his nose. Caroline shuts off the TV and crosses her arm over her chest. "Damon. What the hell is up?"
He looks at her. She looks back at him.
Sighing, he cuts straight to the point. "I saw Rebekah." His feet start to move again. The tightness of her shoulders melt away, and she's about to say, You dumbass, you scared me half to death and if he'd said hi or if Stefan had said hi, but it's the twist of his mouth and his incessant pacing that stops her, because no. No way, not now – it couldn't be possible…
Could it, Damon? Her eyes bear into Damon's, begging for an answer she doesn't want to hear, not really. Could it? "You..." she begins, but her voice falters. She clears her throat, blinks rapidly, tries again. "So was she - did she... Was anyone else with her?" she manages to choke out.
Damon's resolute nod makes her face drain of color.
Stefan tries to convince her to get some fresh air, go shopping; eat a croissant or something, after he's tired of her skulking around the apartment for four days straight. Damon takes a different approach to things, choosing to bribe her with Stefan's credit card or 'forgetting' to buy the groceries. It doesn't work, because Caroline goes online shopping for charming printed sneakers and tipless lace gloves and orders take out instead.
Most of the time, she stays under her covers, rolled up like a sushi, and when an exasperated Stefan tries to force her out of bed, she shakes her head adamantly (she wonders if he can see the movement under all the blankets) and stays put.
"You're like a bear in hibernation," Stefan says, nudging the lump on the bed that she's become with his knee. "You need to get out. You're going to lose your job."
"Damon and I can be unemployed together."
"Damon is also trying to grow an unemployment beard."
"At least he's happy."
"You're forgetting that Damon has a one-track mind."
"You're forgetting what he's done," she snarls into her sheets.
There's silence at last, and Caroline blinks furiously, ignores the hotness that seeps into the corners of her eyes. She knows Stefan has his serious vampire face on (she just knows it), and desperately wants him to go away: she really doesn't feel like talking right now.
Please leave, she begs silently, curling further into herself.
In true Salvatore style, he doesn't.
"He offered to buy me a drink yesterday," Stefan says conversationally as he sits by her side, propping an elbow on what he hopes isn't her face. "I let him."
"You le—Stefan!" Her face pops out of her cave after a few moments, and she's spluttering as her hair traps her indignant shriek. "What – is – wrong – with – you?"
Stefan raises his hands, easily deflecting her assaults. "I wanted to know why he's in town, Care." He grasps Caroline's wrists firmly. "Two Originals showing up after being AWOL for a hundred years – can't be a coincidence."
Caroline narrows her eyes at him, but lowers her pillow. "Did you find out what he wants?"
"He just wants to talk." Stefan's eyes flits to Caroline's then to the window in a flash.
Stefan sighs. "To you."
Caroline's back in her cave, pillows crammed tight over her ears. "Nuh uh, no way."
"If he thinks he can just waltz back into our lives after everything he's done, he's got another – another think coming — the nerve of him to think he has so much power – as if!"
She's jumped out of the bed, throwing the window open. "What, he thinks a hundred years is enough? That a drink is enough to make me grovel at his feet to let him apologize?"
"I didn't grovel," Stefan starts to say. "Caroline—"
Caroline slams her fist down on the windowsill. "That asshole's got some nerve."
"Caroline." Stefan has her against the window ledge, shaking her shoulders and unraveling her wits. She swallows a gasp and tries to wrench herself free, but Stefan's older and stronger and has her in a death grip. "Look to me, won't you?"
"Just look at me, Caroline."
"You can't ma—"
"Look at me—"
"—look! Oh come on, Caroline, look there! Quick!"
Caroline tears her eyes away from Tyler's just in time to see a streak of light, then nothing at all. Elena's looking put out; her cries had done nothing to pull the blonde's eyes away from Tyler's rigid shoulders and dark looks. Bonnie's sitting next to her, hand resting lightly on Caroline's, oblivious to her distraction.
"You missed it," Elena says flatly, and falls back against the blanket.
Caroline nudges Tyler lightly with her elbow, Hey, I'm here, everything's alright, before saying brightly, "No I didn't, I saw it." Elena looks unconvinced, so she adds: "Flashy. Really pretty."
"You're a terrible liar," Elena sighs, propping herself up on her elbows.
Caroline tries again. "I saw its tail…?"
"Idiot," Damon says affectionately, knocking her lightly on the forehead. "Stars don't have tails."
"Shooting stars do," Caroline argues, and turns to her left. "Tyler – back me up here."
Tyler takes a second to look away from the night sky. "Yeah, sure—whatever," he says tersely.
"I'm pretty sure they do," she sings; hopes no one notices the strain to her voice. No one does, (thank God) because Elena's tossing a bag of chips to Stefan and Bonnie's arguing with Damon about the speed of light or something (Damon claims he can outrun it).
Caroline throws herself into the argument gratefully, complete with wild hand gestures and animated expressions. "The day you can outrun a freaking shooting star," she declares at last, "is the day Stefan willingly lets you read his journals."
Stefan throws her a look at yet another jab at his habits while Elena giggles and protests, "But the chances of that happening is less likely than flying cars."
"Ah," Caroline raises a finger, raising an eyebrow knowingly. "You're wrong, intel tells me they're coming up with that sort of technology."
"Who's your intel, Matt Donovan?" Damon shoots, disgusted. "No way is that happening. I'd bet a quarter of my savings account that in a hundred years, we'd still be wearing out our tires on solid ground."
"I see your bet, and raise you half my savings," Caroline says promptly. "A hundred years?"
"A hundred years." He whips his head around to make sure Stefan's listening. "Brother, jot this down: Dear Diary, today Caroline made a fruitless attempt of trying to outsmart Damon which will cost her dearly in a century."
"Not unless you forget," Bonnie says, but with reservations. She realizes with a pang that she has no place in this conversation: no way is she going to live to see the new millennia. Elena's silent as she retreats from the volley of words as well, but there's a smile on her face.
Bonnie continues, "A hundred years is a long time. I bet you're going to forget."
("Another bet!" Damon pumps his fist into the air. "Stefan, are you getting this?")
"Not likely," Stefan says. "Vampires, we never forget."
There's a snort, and the banter stops as they glance at Tyler, who's scoffing. "Doubt that."
Biting her lip, Caroline catches Damon and Stefan exchanging a look; Elena notices nothing and continues counting the stars, lips moving wordlessly. The whole night has been her attempt at getting them all to bond, rebutting all of Caroline's attempts at trying to get out of it.
Tyler just got back, she protests as Bonnie ushers her from her bedroom.
"He'll live," Elena says, rifling through Caroline's closet for her coat. "Which will it be, navy or grey?"
Sighing, Caroline reaches for her grey pea coat. "I don't want him to be alone tonight."
"Then invite him along." Shrugging, Elena jingles her car keys and Bonnie waits for Caroline's answer, eyebrow raised to shoot off any more negatives.
Caroline lets out a sharp breath. "Fine. Just let me text him."
Bonnie has to leave early, and all the easy laughter disappears along with her. Now they're all sitting in a tense circle, Stefan and Damon talking in voices so low even her ears can't pick it up. She tries nudging closer, but Damon just gives her a look.
"I'm going for a walk," Tyler announces after the silence stretches out for too long. He stands, and Caroline scrambles to her feet.
"I'll come with you!" she chirps.
"Actually—" Stefan starts, but Tyler beats him to it.
"I kind of wanna be alone right now, Caroline."
And she winces. It's not the way he shoots her down, but the way he says her name: rolling the R and heavy with annoyance. She shrugs, Whatever; if that's what you want, and reaches for the marshmallows. When Tyler disappears into the tree line, Stefan's immediately hounding her.
"What were you thinking, Care?" he whispers urgently, shaking her shoulders for good measure. "You know he's not nearly stable enough—"
"You don't know that," she snaps back, shaking his hands off. Elena's staring at all of them with morbid curiosity.
"Guys?" she asks. "What's going on?"
"Nothing, 'Lena," Caroline says quickly. "Stefan here is just a little hungry."
"He's not the only one who's hungry." Damon's on his feet suddenly, eyes alert and feet picking silently through the frozen grass and dried leaves. "Stefan." He quirks his jaw at his brother; Stefan immediately wraps his arms around Caroline, crushing her to the ground as Damon races off into the woods.
"Hey—Stefan!" Elena's on her feet now, eyes wide as she watches Caroline snarling and struggling against the older vampire's vice grip. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Making sure she doesn't do anything she'll regret," Stefan says firmly, hand clamped over Caroline's mouth. He winces as he feels her bite.
In the distance, the woods shiver and a wolf howls.
Caroline lets loose a soundless scream into Stefan's palm.
She remembers a time when things were different, when she could step into her house (her own home) without having to worry if she's remembered to lock the door behind her; when she could walk to school without having to strain her ears for another set of footsteps shadowing her.
Usually (as of late, anyway) she'd never be hanging around the park at dusk; she'd be curled on her windowsill, eyes on the shadows dancing across her drawn curtains. Waiting.
Today, she decides, she wants to be found. With the blood-red sun hanging low in the distance and her nails jagged from all her nervous biting, she waits. The toes of her boots scuff the rough sand beneath her feet as she lets the wind push the swing lightly to and fro—until she realizes it's no ordinary wind.
Klaus stands before her, his casual stance and long-sleeved Henley masking the hum of danger that always seems to charge the air around him. He runs a cold finger down her cheek, but before she can slap it away he's already seated in the swing next to her.
"Not safely tucked in bed, Caroline?"
She doesn't answer, and he lets out a breath of a chuckle. "They say it's going to snow sometime this week."
She grits her teeth, doesn't want to talk to him; definitely doesn't want to discuss the weather. Klaus is looking at her, almost mockingly, so she decides to just ask him: "What's wrong with Tyler?"
"Nothing I can't fix." And then he smiles, a smile that chills her fingers and dries her mouth. She wraps her hands tighter around the rusty chains, stilling them. She wants to ask him what that means, but one look at Klaus tells her he's not going to humor her for much longer. "Is he going to get better?"
She doesn't mean for her voice to sound so soft, but it does.
There's a pulse in Klaus's jaw as he watches her, watches as her lips come dangerously close to trembling and how she's holding herself together (like she's falling apart, tearing at the seams) and he abruptly unfolds himself from the swing. He's moving smoothly; no creaks and most certainly no fumbles. A thousand years of patience and skill wrapped around one movement. "Only time will tell, sweetheart."
He's tilting his face downwards, closer and closer—her breath hitches when she realizes they're nose to nose.
"Do you remember everything I told you, the night of the ball?"
She nods, the hair on the back of her neck standing up when her skin brushes against his. "Y-yes."
"Good." He straightens up, stretches lazily. "The world's going to need some of that light after I'm done with him."
Klaus looks up at the setting sun and with one breath, blows it out.