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While Caroline hadn't said anything to Bonnie about it, she still wasn't convinced that Damon didn't have something to do with the sudden appearance of the crow at Maddox's place. It hadn't tried to get her to follow it, and it hadn't really done much else beyond watching both her and Bonnie. However, that didn't mean it wasn't somehow trying to carry out its master's last command. Standing in the Salvatore basement with a bottle of blood and a three ounce cup at her feet, staring through the bars of the door at a clearly still desiccated Damon, she still wasn't convinced that wasn't the case. Why else would the bird continue stalking her?

She had managed to convince Sheila that it was important that she call Zach and have him issue her an invitation to the boarding house. The only one who could give her the answers was Damon himself. She wasn't going to underestimate him, however, and she definitely wasn't going to risk Bonnie. The latter was the reason she was skipping school and doing this on a Tuesday afternoon. It was also the reason she had called up Maddox and told him to meet her here.

When she heard him coming down the narrow passageway, she turned her head to watch his approach. His coat was draped over one arm and, if she wasn't mistaken, his shirt was tighter than what he usually wore. He also looked far too pleased to be there.

"As much as I love being at your beck and call, Caroline, is there a reason you wanted to meet me in someone's basement?"

Ignoring the complete lack of sarcasm in the first half of his statement, Caroline chose to focus on the second half.

"You're a witch, Maddox, and I need you to do witchy things for me."

With a bemused half-smile on his face, he asked, "And you just assume I can do whatever you need without any preparation?"

Rolling her eyes, she decided to take the risk of letting him know just how little she believed the story of how Ben and he came to meet.

"Unless you and Ben ran into another witch on the way to Mystic Falls, you're the one who gave him his ring. You not only knew the spell to create a daylight ring, but you also just happened to have a lapis lazuli ring on hand. I think you're prepared for a lot of things."

When she turned back to look through the window again, he came over to stand at her back and see what had her attention. While he was standing far closer than he needed to –though he was smart enough to not actually touch her—she didn't try and put any distance between them. It had been far too long since she had been anything close to intimate with another person.

"I take it this is the Damon you and Bonnie were concerned with the other day? The one somehow connected to the crow that paid us a visit?"

At Caroline's distracted nod, he leaned in slightly past her to get a better look through the bars –or possibly he was just using a flimsy pretext to lean into her without being too obvious. After a moment of thought which ended in a small hum, he turned his head back toward her.

"I could easily get any information you want from him with or without pain. The choice is, of course, yours."

She knew he deliberately pitched his voice low and tilted his head close enough so that his warm breath ghosted over her skin. She wasn't sure if it was some plan that Klaus had or if Maddox was doing this on his own, but she had no intention of ever having sex with him. Still, she didn't bother to try and hide her reaction when she turned her face up toward him, almost letting their lips brush. Yeah, it had been a while.

"I'm a big girl, Maddox. I don't need anyone to do my torturing for me."

She pushed him back slightly so that she could lean down to grab the bottle and cup, and then opened the door and started through. Turning back toward Maddox, she put a hand on his chest when he began to follow her.

"I need you to stay out here and put up some kind of a barrier. If things get out of hand, I don't want anyone to be able to come in or out of here."

When she began to pull away he grabbed her hand, holding it tightly against him, and waited until she made eye contact with him.

"I'll put up a barrier. However, if things 'get out of hand' I can incapacitate him. I won't leave you in there."

Good lord, if he was acting he definitely deserved some kind of award for it. She couldn't help but believe him, and she didn't bother to hide that when she softly said, "Thank you."

He let go of her hand and she softly closed the door. Shutting his presence out of her mind, she cross the small room and sat against a wall opposite Damon. While he was nowhere near as desiccated as Mikael had been, his eyes didn't quickly pop open as the original vampire's had. Instead, she could see him struggling to move his eyelids.

Softly, in a voice even her vampire hearing struggled to pick up, she heard him say, "Caroline."

"Hi, Damon. It's been a while."

Opening the bottle of blood she had brought with her, Caroline took a deep drink. The smell of the blood gave him enough motivation to finally open his eyes. For a long moment he stared at her, looking as if he were trying to make some connection that he was just missing. Caroline lifted the bottle and once again took a deep drink. She could practically hear the click in his brain right before he tried speaking again.

"You… vamp…"

Caroline gave a small huff of amusement and then replied, "A lot's changed since you were put down here."

She could see him struggle with his next question and, although she knew what he wanted to ask, she didn't make it easy on him. Instead, she took another drink from the bottle. Normally, she wouldn't drink this fast, but it was really about reminding him she had what he wanted most.

"How long…?"

He gave up halfway through the question, but she decided to answer him anyway. While a large part of her enjoyed seeing him struggle, she didn't have the time to wait for him to force out every word.

"It's been a little over four months now. We opened the tomb, no Katherine. We did get Pearl and Harper out, though. Gave the rest to the council. We still have more vampires roaming around then you'd think would want to be in a town this small. Oh, and there's a really old vampire coming to kill Elena for a ritual. How have things been for you?"

She finished off with her eyes wide in a parody of curiosity. For a good five seconds he genuinely seemed to be trying to process all she had said, but he soon gave up and closed his eyes. His hand, however, twitched a bit as if he were trying to reach out and he gave a croaking, "Thirsty."

Just to be extra irritating –lord knows he deserved that and worse—she gave a giggle before answering.

"Well of course you're thirsty, silly! You haven't had a drop to drink since you tried to kill me! However, you're going to have to promise to give me some answers before I can let you have anything."

At this he feebly nodded. Caroline poured a small amount into the cup she had brought with her and then made her way over to him. Delicately, she began feeding him sips until he was able to move his arms enough to almost grab the cup from her. Before he could do so, however, she moved away. When he whined she responded by tsking and shaking her head at him. She then made her way back to where she had been sitting before.

"Right now, Damon, I need you to answer my questions. The first question, did you kill Isobel Saltzman about three years ago?"

While she knew the answer, it would help establish how willing he was to actually share information. It would also help convince Elena that she needed to finally get around to talking to Alaric about Isobel. His voice, when he answered, was slightly stronger, though it still sounded rusty and pained.

"She asked me to turn her, so I did."

Caroline nodded her head and then pretended to think. She only had one question she was really here for, but if Damon figured that out, he would probably make it difficult to get any kind of an answer out of him. Though she doubted he'd think she'd come down all this way just to ask about a bird.

"The crow. How do you do that?"

For a moment he looked confused, but then his expression cleared and he gave a small smirk.

"You want me to be your Yoda? I can do that."

He shifted as though to get into more comfortable, but was unable to really change position. Giving up, he stared at the ceiling and gave a large sigh before continuing.

"You have to go with a crow or a raven. Something like that. They can recognize people probably about as good as we can. No use getting an animal that can only identify people by smell unless you go around smelling people all the time."

He paused as though expecting a laugh from her. Caroline, however, wasn't feeling amused. Right now, she only wanted to know how bad he had fucked this poor bird up. She quickly found out how long-lasting the fallout from his influence would be.

"You have to get them while they're real young, usually when they first get out of the nest. Then it's just a matter of getting into their heads like you would a sleeping human's. After a while, you become their world and, like with a human whose head you spend enough time in, you get a kind of mind link with them."

If Damon had noticed her look of disgust, he might have stopped. He wasn't looking at her, however, so he kept talking.

"Right now I'm not sure if it's the lack of blood or what, but I can't feel him. Is he still alive?"

At this Caroline rushed at him and grabbed his chin, fingers digging in and leaving bloody wounds.

"The bird is alive and well. However, like everything else you touch, you managed to fuck him up, didn't you?"

Her fingers tightened a little bit more and continued through clenched teeth, "Just like you fucked me up. I can never be who I was before you came into my life, and neither can he. I got stronger, though, better. I'll make sure he does as well. You, on the other hand? You are going to suffer for a good long while."

With that she stood up, walked over to collect her bottle and cup, and then crossed to the door. Damon called for her as she looked at Maddox through the bars of the small window, silently asking him to take off the spell. He was demanding that she let him out as she pulled the door closed and slide the bolt home to lock it. By the time she and Maddox were walking up the stairs, Damon was begging her to come back. It didn't feel like closure and it didn't bring her peace. However, she had the answer she had been looking for, and that would have to be enough.

She was silent as they left the house and even as they approached their cars. Before she could get into her car however, Maddox grabbed her lightly by the elbow. When she turned to look at him, his expression was almost innocent but there was a definite heat brewing just below the surface. As he began to speak, his hand slowly slid from her elbow toward her hand.

"Since it appears you've got the rest of the day free, you could come back to my place. We could… practice dancing."

Both his tone and his deliberate pause let her know exactly what he was suggesting. And she could do it. She could go back to his place with him and they could have potentially fantastic sex. Of course, the fact that he was human –even with the witchy advantage—also gave her pause. She had never had sex with a human while she was a vampire, and now was probably not a good time to start trying it out. Of course, there was also the fact that he was one of Klaus's pet witches. While she wouldn't get emotionally involved, that didn't mean she felt like letting someone into her bed –or getting into his bed—when it could all end up being part of some scheme.

"That's really not a good idea, Maddox. In the mood I'm in, I'm liable to do some damage."

She could tell by the way he licked his lips and let his eyes briefly dip down to hers that the suggestion of pain really didn't put him off in the least. When she pulled away, although he kept a light grip on her hand until the last possible second, he didn't try and stop her. As she drove off, she could still see him in the rearview mirror, standing just where she left him.

From then on, while he didn't bring it up again, he let her know in subtle ways that his hinted at offer still stood. When they practiced dancing each day after school for the pageant, it was there in his heated looks and low-pitched voice. Of course, Bonnie didn't miss any opportunity to tease her about it and of course Caroline then took to teasing Bonnie right back about how closely she and Jeremy have been working together.

"I'm only answering his questions about witches, vampires, werewolves, and hunters. There's nothing going on there."

The slight smile she tried to hide, however, let Caroline know that her friend was not totally immune to baby Gilbert's charms. And, bonus: this time around he couldn't cheat on her with a ghostly ex-flame! Not that Caroline was pushing for them to get together… too much. There might have been some subtle hinting and enabling, but nothing too obvious. She had refrained from trying to lock them in a closet together, though mostly because she was pretty sure Bonnie would do something witchy and embarrassing to her if she did.

They continued on like that –Maddox with his intense focus on her and Bonnie with the teasing—for the rest of the week. The Miss Mystic Falls pageant came and went and, while Caroline put on a good show of excitement and nervousness during the event and then surprise when she won, it was all a bit of a letdown. Maddox had turned up in a suit that was obviously high quality and tailored which she attributed to Klaus. She wouldn't put it past him to personally pick out clothes for his entourage. Everything went perfectly and, with the exception of Elena not trying to back out and Stefan actually showing up and not trying to kill someone, almost exactly as it had before.

The one glaring difference was Kelly Donovan. Apparently, she had been back for three months and managed to not stir up a mess of trouble, but unfortunately she chose the pageant as the time to break that streak.

The first hint of trouble was when Caroline heard her making some snarky remark about how she didn't see how 'Lezzy' Forbes's daughter managed to beat out Elena. Seriously, what did that woman have against her? She wasn't even dating her son this time around!

The following week Caroline did her best to avoid spending any time with Maddox. It was one thing to flirt with Klaus's minion, another thing entirely to make him think anything was going to happen. Of course, he was either exceptionally dense or exceptionally determined, because he wouldn't stop texting her. Luckily, the calls finally stopped once he realized that she wasn't going to answer when it was him. Other than playing avoid-the-witch, the week was pretty boring. Boring enough, in fact, that Caroline started to feel restless.

Just when she was about to work herself up into a state, however, things picked up again on the curse front. Alaric pulled them into a classroom on the morning they were all supposed to be planning for the Founder's Day float. Apparently, Isobel had ambushed him at the Mystic Grill and demanded he set up a meeting with Elena. After Elena had come out and said that she really didn't have a choice except to meet her mother.

After the others left, Caroline turned to Bonnie and said, "It's kind of surprising."

At Bonnie's questioning look, she got up popped her head out the door, checking to make sure that Stefan hadn't hung back. When she was satisfied he was really gone, she closed the door and sat back down next to Bonnie.

"I've changed some pretty major things already. I even made sure that Katherine knew we were aware that she and Isobel are working together. And yet the same things are still happening, some of them even at the same time as before. I mean, it makes it pretty convenient to plan how to save people, but I still don't get it."

After a moment of thought, Bonnie replied, "Maybe it's the universe's way of trying to make sure things don't get too out of hand."

Caroline couldn't help but wonder if that would mean that the universe would make sure she couldn't save Bonnie. The thought was too painful to entertain, so she forcefully pushed it out of her mind. After all, she had more important things to think about, such as how they were going to handle this meeting with Isobel.

Later that afternoon she found herself sitting with Pearl at a table across the room from where Elena sat alone talking just loud enough for Stefan to hear her at the pool tables. They weren't there for long before Isobel showed up. She wasted very little time in letting Elena know she was aware of the three vampires in the room. Thankfully, this plan didn't call for any major element of surprise. When it became clear that Isobel wouldn't answer any questions and was only there to get the Gilbert device, Caroline walked to the table, followed closely by Pearl.

When they got to the mother and daughter pair, they both took the remaining two seats at the table. Isobel's voice had sounded so smug and condescending from where Caroline had been sitting and, looking at her now, she could see that smugness written all over her face. That, along with the pain and confusion she could practically feel radiating off Elena, really made her want to smack the woman in her face. She somehow resisted the urge.

"Even though I knew better, part of me was really hoping you actually wanted to see Elena. Now that I've completely given up on that delusion, however, we can get down to business. You won't be getting the Gilbert device."

When Isobel made as if to protest, Pearl buried the butter knife she had carried over with her in the other woman's leg.

"You won't be getting anything from us. Well, except some pretty intense pain if you make trouble in this town. There are three witches who would love practice their aneurism-inducing skills on you, so I wouldn't tempt fate."

Pearl removed the cutlery from Isobel's leg and set it on the table between them. Isobel didn't so much as spare her a glance, though Caroline didn't miss her slight wince.

"In fact, we have a small handful of powerful vampires who would also probably love to tear into you. If you want to prevent that, then I suggest you run back to Katherine and let her know I want to talk. I'm willing to do whatever I can to help ensure that, along with all of us, she gets to walk away from this scot free. However, I do need information from her."

After a moment of silence, Isobel raised her eyebrows at Caroline questioningly, to which she shrugged and gestured that the woman could leave. With an expression that barely concealed her anger, she got up and left with a resentful, "It was nice meeting you, Elena."

When it was just the three of them, Caroline reached out to give Elena's hand a comforting squeeze. Catching sight of the now bloodied butter knife, she snatched it up and hid it in her lap too fast for anyone to see.

"Yeah, no one needs to be using that now. We should probably just get rid of it."

Pearl gave a small amused huff and all three of them left the table. Elena, of course, chose to join Stefan and let him comfort her – the poor girl needed it. Pearl and Caroline chose to leave the Grill, parting ways as soon as they passed through the door. On the way home, Caroline tried to figure out what would happen next, and how similar it would be to what had happened before.

Even as Caroline was musing on what changes the universe would and would not allow, Katherine Pierce was driving in an SUV on her way toward Mystic Falls. She had relied on John and Isobel to do damage control for her, and they had failed.

"If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."

Her current lover and key to getting the moonstone slept in the passenger seat beside her, unaware of what plans she had in store for him.

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