: Leave a Light On: Not Quite the BeginningAuthor
: Caroline Forbes, Elena Gilbert, Sheila BennettRating
: FRTWord Count
: A huge thanks, as always, goes to my wonderful beta velvetwhip
. This time more so than others, since she's being forced to read fanfic for a show she has no interest in watching. Though I list Elena, she's only in for a quick scene.
Caroline’s senses slowly came into focus again. The first thing she noticed was that she was lying face down in the grass. Her body felt heavy, almost like she had been drugged with vervain or bitten by a hybrid, and there was a pain in her neck that was all too familiar. She was either a vampire lying in the woods on her eighteenth birthday, or she was a human and suffering from the after-effects of one of Damon’s tantrums.
Opening her eyes and slowly pushing herself into a sitting position, she discovered it was nighttime and that she was at Lockwood Manor. Given the lights and the distant sounds of talking, there was obviously a party going on. A glint of moonlight off something in the grass caught her eye and, as she began to painfully crawl over to investigate, she got an intense feeling of déjà vu. Lifting up the necklace that had caught her attention and running her thumb over the amber jewel in her hand, she felt irritation spread through her. She was human again.
“Not exactly the beginning we were hoping for, is it, Bonnie?”
Standing up with both the necklace and her clutch in hand, she sighed deeply and then shoved all her negativity into a box in the back of her head. She could deal with this; she could make it work for her.
Slipping the necklace into her purse, Caroline went over what she remembered from the night as she waited for Elena to reach her.
“There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
Lost in her memories, she didn’t answer Elena right away, which seemed to worry the other girl.
“Are you okay?”
Shaking her head to clear it of the memories, Caroline turned to her friend. She couldn’t help but smile at what she saw. This was Elena as she should be; human and without the cares of the world on her back. Granted, a bit worried right now and, if memory served, upset at Stefan, but still very human and caring. If Caroline had any say in it, this is how her friend would stay.
“Yeah, I’m fine. In fact, I’m better than I have been in a while.”
She couldn’t stop herself from reaching out a hand to gently squeeze Elena’s shoulder.
“You don’t have to worry about me, Elena. I can take care of myself.”
Her mind jumped around looking for something to distract Elena from the worry and concern her expression was showing. Her mind latched onto the memory that Damon was currently being locked up in the Salvatore basement. Caroline chuckled scrunched up her face in mock embarrassment.
“I may need a ride home, though. My date seems to have pulled a disappearing act.”
The ride to her house was very quiet. She knew Elena had a lot on her mind and was probably very confused about everything. From what she could piece together from snatches of conversation with Stefan and Elena –that now hadn’t yet happened, and she just knew that was going to get confusing as hell –Elena still didn’t know about vampires at this point.
While she would have to find out soon enough, it wasn’t going to be from Caroline. Bonnie, however, was going to have to find out very quickly. A night’s rest, and then she would head over to Bonnie’s and convince her that they absolutely had to visit her Grams. After all, Caroline was a very smart young woman, and smart young women knew when they needed all the help they could get. Thankfully, it was a town holiday that apparently warranted there being a three day weekend.
First item on the agenda: Make sure that whatever hold Damon had on her mind that hadn’t been broken by having a future version of her shoved into this body could be neutralized. Second item: Convince a couple of vampire-hating Bennett witches that her becoming a vampire was all for the best. Third item: Find out where the moonstone was hidden and snatch it up before Katherine could get her claws on it.
Caroline’s mind was preoccupied with the first doppelgänger when Elena pulled up to her house. She said goodnight, got out of the car, and walked toward her front door. As she did so, she mentally weighed the pros and cons of trusting the woman who had, in another lifetime, smothered her in her hospital bed.
If she could somehow manage to trap her in the vampire tomb and then just convince her that her best chance of survival was to cooperate… That could be a long shot. However, none of it could be done in even relative safety until she talked to Bonnie’s grandma and became a vampire again. A good night’s rest was definitely in order, however, rest was something Caroline knew she wouldn’t be getting that night. She had never really developed the ability to sleep on an unfinished plan –at least not until she was falling over and delirious from exhaustion.
Grabbing a pen and notebook from her bedside table, Caroline sat down on her bed and prepared for a long night’s work, making sure to set her alarm clock so she could catch Bonnie early in the morning. First order of business: writing down everything Bonnie and Kol had put in her memory, though Kol’s contribution went on a sheet of paper all its own and was placed in the back of her side-table drawer.
Countless plans were made, revised, and ultimately scrapped. By the time the morning sun began to shine through her windows, Caroline was surrounded by nearly the whole notebook’s worth of crumpled up pages. Her alarm’s buzzing distracted her from the frustration of her current doomed-to-fail plan. After silencing the clock, she quickly gathered all the discarded paper and threw it in the kitchen trash and then grabbed the keys to her mother’s car.
Returning to her room, she picked up the list she had compiled from Bonnie’s information. As she stared at it, she came to the decision that –for now—Bonnie would have to be left out of the loop. Going straight to Sheila Bennett would save her the trouble of having to explain the supernatural world to Bonnie and prove its existence, leaving more time to explain to Sheila that she had been sent back in time as well as to prove that. And, of course, there was the small matter of getting a couple of witches to help her become a vampire.
Taking a deep breath, Caroline –still in last night’s party dress—decided to do this one step at a time. Starting with a shower.
During the shower, getting dressed, shoving her to-do list in a purse, and the drive, Caroline kept running over possibilities and ways everything could go wrong. As she pulled into Sheila’s driveway, she came to at least one conclusion: She was going to have to network her cute little ass off to be able to do everything that needed to be done.
Caroline began to feel nervousness balling up her stomach as she made her way to Sheila’s porch. She was sure that karma and the universe were off together having a laugh at her expense. She could clearly remember mocking the older woman; some of that mockery may have involved references to too much alcohol. Caroline had a feeling that there might be apologizing due, possibly even groveling. She could handle that. An awful person she might have been, but she was not about to let her pride get in the way of saving her best friend. And stopping a supernatural apocalypse, too, of course.
Caroline took a deep breath and raised her fist to knock. However, before she could do so, Sheila opened the door with an amused smile.
“Caroline Forbes, what brings you here?”
She had mentally prepared a speech that she was convinced would have the woman in front of her convinced and more than willing to help. Unfortunately, when she opened her mouth, that speech wasn’t what came out.
“Some apologizing. A little bit of groveling. Some outrageous, yet true, tales to tell. And, sprinkled all in there, probably some begging.”
With a raised eyebrow Sheila opened the front door further and motioned for Caroline to come in. Getting in the front door didn’t actually lesson Caroline’s nerves. In fact, it made her even more anxious. She sat down on the couch with what she hoped was a winning smile. When she saw a shot glass set down deliberately on the coffee table accompanied by a very sardonic raised eyebrow, her smile slipped a bit as she realized how true her comments at the front door had been.
Turning her smile back up a few notches, Caroline jumped right in the deep end with, “So, we’ll start right in with the apologizing and work our way to the groveling, then?”
Once she began, the words just kept pouring out. There were times when she wasn’t even aware of what she was saying, she just knew that she had to get the story out. It didn’t seem to have the desired effect on Sheila, however. Aside from a few moments of confusion, and a small moment of pleasure as she drank the tea that she had brought out for both of them, she mostly wore an expression that lived somewhere between amused and contemptuous. When Caroline stopped talking and just looked at her, she put down the mug she had been drinking from.
“So, how exactly did you convince Bonnie to go along with your idea to play a prank on her ‘drunken old grams’?”
Caroline’s confused expression seemed to only anger her, and Sheila stood up and walked around to the other side of the coffee table, as if she need the barrier to keep herself from shaking the teenager. Crossing her arms, she spoke with a pinched expression and an angry tone.
“Do not sit there and even think about lying to me, young lady! I can hear Bonnie’s voice in your words as sure as if she was sitting there with you.”
Caroline could feel the tears start to well up in her eyes as she realized that she was going to get no help here. A night of relentless planning and no sleep left her without the will to push through. Pressing her fingers to her temples, she begged for the one thing she thought that Sheila might help her with.
“You aren’t going to help me because you don’t believe me. I get it, it’s a crazy story. Just… can you at least give me a way not to go running when Damon Salvatore calls?”
Perhaps some of her distress registered as genuine, because the woman across from her looked a little less pissed off.
“He’s been feeding on me, and using me, and…”
She was overwhelmed by memories of painful bites she had been compelled not react to and of the fear she had not been allowed to feel, though it should have been there by all rights. Pushing them down, Caroline continued.
“He’s been compelling me. They’ve got him locked up, but I know he’s going to call for me, and I know I’m not going to be able to stop.”
Looking up at Sheila, she couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
“Please, I don’t want to go to him.”
As much as the part of Caroline that had told Stefan that she wasn’t ‘girly little Caroline anymore’ would like it to be otherwise, she wasn’t faking anything. Right now, the thought of being forced to go to Damon –especially as a human—was absolutely terrifying. She thought she had gotten past this. The nightmares had gone and she pretended that it wasn’t as bad as it had been, just like everyone wanted. She could only blame the sudden resurgence of pain and fear on the shock of being human again.
Her tears continued to stream down her face, even as Sheila crossed over to the couch, sat down next to her, and took her hands. As soon as they made contact, a warmth flooded through Caroline and her eyes involuntarily closed. All at once it seemed as if everything would be all right, because that warmth was familiar. It was summer days and running through the grass pretending she could fly. It was being wrapped up in her mother’s arms for the first time in forever and not having to hide what she had become. It was love and acceptance. It was…
A sudden, startled gasp and the disappearance of warmth interrupted her thoughts. When she opened her eyes, she was brought up short by the wide-eyed shock on Sheila’s face. She was so thrown by that expression that she barely noticed the trembling hands that were making their way to the sides of her head.
With a shaking voice, Sheila explained, “I just need to look into your mind, Caroline. Just… I need to see…”
When it became obvious that the woman wasn’t going to explain what it was she needed to see, Caroline nodded. She had come here for Sheila’s help, after all, even if this wasn’t all the help she had been looking for.
She felt slightly clammy hands brace on either side of her head, followed shortly by a rush of memories. These memories weren’t of her human life, though. These were memories of seeing Bonnie’s dead body and talking to her in the dream. Those memories came to an abrupt halt, though, as Sheila jerked back.
“You were telling the truth. Oh, good lord, sweetie, you were telling the truth.”
Shaking her head and holding her hand over her heart, Sheila continued, “It wasn’t just you that came back, though. There’s a part of her in you, enough of my Bonnie that I could feel it.”
Caroline didn’t stop herself from reaching out to Sheila and wrapping her arms around the woman’s shoulders when she began to cry, her hand over her mouth holding back sobs. Her own fears about Damon’s inevitable pull on her were quickly buried under the need to comfort someone who felt the loss of her best friend even more keenly than she did.
When she could no longer stand to simply hold Sheila and not do something to ease her pain, Caroline reached a hand up and gently turned her head so that she could stare into her eyes, hoping she would understand how seriously Caroline took the promise she was about to make.
“I’m going to stop it from happening. She’s not going to die. There are a lot of people who aren’t going to die this time, but she is my top priority.”
Collecting herself, Sheila reached out and grasped Caroline’s hand, moving it to her lap, and held it tightly.
“We are going to stop it.”
Standing up and grabbing the mugs that sat on the coffee table in front of them, she started toward the kitchen, turning once to address Caroline.
“First, I’m going to refill our cups and pull myself together, then you’re going to show me that list of yours and we’re going to start planning.”
For the first time since she had set out that morning, Caroline really began to feel hope. She wasn’t alone in this, just like she had promised Bonnie she wouldn’t be. Though, if she understood Sheila correctly, Bonnie had made sure of that by sending part of herself back as well.
Even if Caroline hadn’t been determined to stop Bonnie from dying before this revelation, she would have been now. Along with thoughts of how strong and yet prone to self-sacrifice her best friend was, a new thought began to creep in. The Bonnie who had sent her back was a very different version of the Bonnie she would be interacting with now. While they had been friends before, there was a bond that had developed between them that, while Caroline could still feel it as strong as ever, Bonnie wouldn’t feel at all.
Before she could think too much further on it, Sheila came back in carrying a tray with their mugs, a notebook, and some pencils on it.
“I figured we could write out what we need to do. Unless things have changed drastically between now and when you come from, the Caroline I know is very big on organization and writing out plans.”
There was a more than small part of Caroline that felt like the lowest scum on earth right now. Obviously, Sheila paid attention to what went on in her granddaughter’s life, and Caroline had just dismissed her as a drunken, tin-foil-hat-wearing flake. Caroline took a deep breath and reminded herself that regret did nothing to change the past so it was best to simply change the behaviors that caused that regret.
“First, I should make a list of all the things we need to collect and all the people we need to either keep an eye on or get on our side.”
Eyes widening, Caroline remembered the amber necklace that she still had from the night before. Picking her purse up from where it sat at her feet, she removed the necklace and held it out to Sheila.
“Damon took this from the Lockwood place last night.”
Watching as Sheila gasped and reached out to take hold of it, Caroline continued, “I know it belongs to your family. I also know that it was used to seal twenty some vampires in a tomb here in Mystic Falls almost a hundred and fifty years ago.”
As Sheila looked up, still clutching the talisman in her hands, Caroline decided to take a risk and hope that Bonnie’s gram really trusted her.
“I know you’re going to want to give this to Bonnie, and I totally get that. But we need to find a way to contact Emily and make sure she doesn’t come back to destroy it. She powered up this talisman using a passing comet. The same comet passed over earlier this month, activating the talisman which would enable it to be used to release those same vampires, just as Emily had intended.”
At this, a look of confusion passed over Sheila’s face. Before she could ask any questions, Caroline interrupted her.
“I know, why would Emily want the vampires set free? Apparently, Damon asked her to do this to save Katherine, the vampire I told you about who looks exactly like Elena. In exchange, he was supposed to protect her children.”
Picking up her mug and taking a drink –being human again made long conversations a bit more difficult—Caroline continued her story.
“Anyway, Emily realized… or is going to realize that releasing all those vampires on Mystic Falls is a very dangerous thing. She will then possess Bonnie and destroy the talisman. However, this won’t stop Damon from forcing you and Bonnie to open the tomb without the talisman.”
At this, Caroline stopped. She really couldn’t bring herself to tell the woman sitting next to her that this was how she died. Fortunately, Sheila was both intelligent, and in possession of a cool head.
“I ended up dying from it, I assume.”
Caroline could only nod.
“So then I also assume you have a plan to not only open the tomb, but do it in a way that won’t get a lot of people killed. So, let’s hear it.”
Caroline and Sheila spent the greater part of the afternoon trying to put together workable plans for getting everything they needed and also making those plans work together. They also spent a great deal of time debating who needed to know what, and when they needed to know it. They were both in agreement that Bonnie needed to know everything as soon as possible.
She had a feeling that convincing Bonnie might not be all that easy.