Hello Dearies,

as ever, I thank each and every one of you for your lovely, wonderful and, above all, highly motivating reviews! You're really giving me such a boost, I can't even begin to describe it! I only wish I had the time to write more stories, one can seriously grow addicted to your amazing comments! ;) I would also like to take the opportunity and thank everyone who has favourited, followed or quite simply read the previous chapters. Just... THANK YOU! :)

All right then, final installment is up, and again, my special thanks to DiabolicalBowlerHat... I just LOVE your feedback! XXX

Also, as you may have noticed, I changed the rating to M. ;)

I so hope that all of you who gave the previous two chapters so much support will also like this one. Please enjoy, and once again - I am honestly grateful to every last one of you, more so than I could ever say.

Much love



It had been a week from heaven.

Tokyo took her by storm, in a way she never thought possible. Her first impulse, when after months of tossing and turning and hysterics she had finally decided to follow Stefan's advice, had been Paris. New Orleans was out of the question - it was his home turf, and Caroline wanted to be on neutral territory, so neither Mystic Falls nor Crescent City would do. Paris seemed like a logical choice, given that it was one of the places she had been dying to see ever since she had been a little girl, but after another sleepless night, she had settled on Tokyo. Rationally dealing with the eight hundred pound gorilla, as Stefan had so aptly put it, wasn't prone to be a very successful feat in the city of love, where every corner of every street screamed 'romance', where the light was pink and music lingered in the air at all times. What she had not anticipated, however, was that romance had nothing to do with buildings, rivers and lights - to her chagrin, Tokyo had turned out to be the most romantic place she had ever visited.

Because she was visiting it with someone who made her see the beauty of everything, even of those elements that at first sight did not even seem overly beautiful.

She had expected something along the lines of a car and chauffeur, like the one that had brought them from Narita Airport to their downtown hotel, but to her astonishment, Klaus had insisted on public transportation and walking. He explained that Tokyo was a city that had to be discovered on foot, as otherwise, one missed out on the thousands of little things that constituted the Japanese capital's true charm. And charming it was. It had taken Caroline half a day to fall hopelessly in love with the fascinating fusion of old and new, an attraction that had steadily grown over the week they had spent in the city. In the shadows of towering skyscrapers, she found tiny streets lined with what looked like age-old speciality shops of all shapes and forms, wooden houses with microscopic gardens, little shrines and temples. Right next to the blaring loudspeakers and blinking neon lights of one of the hundreds of crammed electronics shops in the outlandish Akihabara district, she had seen weathered stone steps that led up to a temple so small that no more than one person could fit in at a time. Lights, colours and sounds were everywhere, but only a few yards beyond a crowded main street, there was suddenly peace and quiet. To her utter amazement, the combination of tradition and modernity, while sometimes bizarre and absurd, worked to perfection in this town of a million twists. Klaus had laughed when her jaw had dropped at the sight of an old woman in a kimono, sitting on a bench in front of her house, a bonsai tree on her lap, rusty scissors that probably dated from before World War I in her right hand - and an iPad in her left.

Geez, and all those restaurants! Caroline had shaken her head, muttering that she would probably die of starvation because of her sheer inability to make a choice. When she had moved to Chicago, she had quickly learned that there was more to Japanese food than sushi. But while sushi places could be found at virtually every second street corner in Tokyo, there was such a variety of other dishes, tastes and regional specialities that she asked herself just how anyone could ever keep track of the Japanese cuisine. According to Klaus, statistics said that Tokyo offered eighty thousand eateries, not counting street vendors, and at the end of day three, Caroline was sure that they had visited most of them. Nightlife, too, was of a mind-boggling variety, and she had the time of her life bar-hopping in this exotic town. Klaus seemed to always know where to take her to make her mouth pop open again and again. He had very quickly understood what it was that she liked in bars and restaurants and made a point of showing her places that were absolutely not what she expected. While it did sometimes pull her out of her comfort zone for moments at a time, it expanded her mind and broadened her taste. She understood what he was doing... and she loved it.

For some reason, there was an unspoken understanding not to touch on the infamous gorilla - and not to touch each other. Not once had they kissed, let alone made love. They slept in separate rooms and carefully kept their distance - apart from those fleeting moments when Klaus took her hand. It happened whenever she threatened to be overwhelmed by a new impression, something he seemed to have a built-in radar for. On their first evening, they had stood on the observation deck of the Kenzo Tange-built Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Darkness had already descended on the city, and the world was suddenly filled with billions of iridescent lights that reached all the way to the horizon. It was like an ocean of light in a universe of darkness, and Caroline had been about to grab a handrail for support, feeling her knees go weak at the monumental sight, but Klaus had been faster. He had not said a word as his hand had surrounded hers, warm and reassuring. Thus protected, she had finally invited the view to flood her, taking it all in and allowing her knees the weakness they demanded. He had not caressed her hand or made any other move, he had just held it, and the perfection of the moment still echoed in her system.

But what engaged her mind the most was how they were having fun. Away from their history, from the places that were tainted for them both, a weight seemed taken from their shoulders. They were tourists, enjoying the sights and sounds of one of the greatest cities in the world, and there was no-one to judge her, no-one to condemn her for what she was doing. What they were doing. For when he was not busy explaining what they were looking at, talking about Japan's history or discussing artifacts at Tokyo's National Museum, Klaus could be downright playful, and there were moments when she didn't quite recognise him. One afternoon, they had visited a park when a tall but nonetheless young dog had escaped its owner, racing across the lawn, headed straight towards Klaus. Caroline had assumed it had something to do with the Alpha Wolf thing. To her eternal astonishment, the Big Bad Hybrid had turned into a boy for a few moments, his laughter resounding through the park as he scampered about with the giant puppy. When he had looked up into her face, she had all but recoiled at the genuine delight in his eyes. For a split second, she had closed her face to him, out of old habit, trying to mantle her feelings with disdain. He had seen it, and the bitter disappointment on his features had almost broken her heart. She hadn't apologised, but half an hour later, when they were passing a little bridge crossing a pond, she had wordlessly taken his hand. There had been an almost indiscernible squeeze, and they had walked on in silence.

Then there was that incident at Mitsukoshi, one of Tokyo's most distinguished department stores, where she had virtually never stopped squealing, making him roll his eyes, but she hadn't missed how his lips had constantly twitched. The perfume display had almost made her faint, and she didn't know where to look first. At some point, an elegant, golden bottle of a scent called 'Amouage' had engaged her interest. She had grabbed the tester, spraying some of the ridiculously expensive perfume behind her ear. It had smelled heavenly... and a tad provocative. Caroline had not been above beckoning for Klaus to take a whiff. He had stepped behind her, and with a gesture so tender it turned her limbs into pure jelly, brushed her hair to one side. His cheek had touched hers before before he lowered his face to her neck in slow motion, making her close her eyes and let her emotions run amok for a second. Even more so when he had suppressed a low gasp.

'No,' he had whispered. 'It messes with me, Caroline. It makes me want to make love to you until you are in pieces even more than I already do.'

They had stood like that for a minute, leaning into each other, listening to one another's thundering heartbeat until Caroline finally turned to look at him. His eyes were clouded, his face tense with restrained need. Without hesitation, she took one of the wrapped boxes, gave him a rebellious look and marched over to the cash counter. She had not worn the fragrance yet, but every morning and every night, she opened the bottle to smell it and recall his husky words... and the promise behind them.

And yet, they did not touch.

Now, after a week of amazing city life with thousands of new impressions every day, they were on their way to a tiny village at the foot of Nyutou Mountain, located in northern Japan. It was one of the oldest hot springs in the country, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by forests, small rivulets and little else. Klaus had described it as one of the most traditionally Japanese places, and Caroline was as excited to see it as she was nervous about the conversation they would urgently need to have and had already postponed for much too long. The sparks that had been flying between them were gradually turning into veritable fireworks, and they would have to act on them soon - one way or the other.

As if there were two ways to act on them!

This long train ride from Tokyo was the first opportunity she had to truly think about the past days, and about what they meant.

What had been a mere suspicion over the years their paths had not crossed was now a fact, and she knew she would do well to face it: With Klaus by her side, the ever-present hollow inside her vanished. A couple of days after their arrival, when they had taken a side trip to a seaside town named Kamakura that was famous for its forty-three foot Buddha, Klaus had been in the midst of a lengthy explanation on an ancient archive of Buddhist sutras they were looking at when realisation had hit her. She was completely and utterly focused on the contents of his explanation, on the details of the archive before her, and on the questions she wanted to ask him about it. She was interested. The nagging urge to constantly move, to look at a thousand different things at once without ever seeing them, to find yet another and another distraction to soothe her wandering mind was gone. Nothing was missing now, and she could finally cut through all the crap to find the time and the desire to truly absorb the world. And there was no kidding herself about what had been missing before that had made this kind of focus impossible.

So if this meant that her life was incomplete and restless without him, then the thought was disturbing, to say the least. Caroline felt herself struggling to reject the conclusion, although her more mature side was very adamant about how it was the wiser path to accept and find out how to live with it going forward. Stefan had spoken of a half-life, and while she preferred to think of it as three quarters of a life, there was no denying that over the past week, her life had, for the first time ever, felt complete.

Apart from dying to tear off his clothes about fifty times a day, you mean?

Oh, shut up!

The Klaus she had been roaming Tokyo with was the one who had made love to her in the woods back then, the guy who burst with excitement, dreams and ever new plans, and he had added to that by showing her a man who deeply enjoyed sharing his considerable inner wealth and found no greater pleasure than accompanying her on the journey to discovery of what it was that she liked and disliked. He was also a man whose heart she knew she could break with but one word, and the feeling of power that knowledge gave her was almost indecent. She had taken advantage of it in the past, like the day she had, in full awareness of what it would do to him, told him how people who did terrible things were just terrible people. But she had long since passed that stage. Whatever happened in the future, one thing she knew for certain - she would never abuse her position of power again, no matter how much he may come to deserve it at times. No, she corrected herself, he sometimes deserved to pay for what he did, but not with heartbreak. That was no payment, it was cruelty. No-one deserved to have their heart broken as a revenge for something they did. What was more, Caroline felt that even if she tried, she couldn't. Not anymore. She had seen him now. Seen Klaus for who he was, for who he had never ceased to be underneath it all. Everyone knew that she was the one capable of bringing those sides of him to light that had been interred for so long. The question was, could she continue down that road? Was it what she wanted? Was he what she wanted?

Caroline freaking Forbes. Doesn't the answer to that lie in all those times you've read and reread his letter? In how you've not managed to shake him during five years of radio silence? In the way sex with him spoilt you for anybody else? In the way you feel like you could singlehandedly win World War III when he takes your hand? In how you cried yourself to sleep over thoughts of what he must have gone through when his daughter died? Think, girl.

"We are here," his voice abruptly interrupted her inner monologue. He, too, had been silent during most of the ride, and Caroline suspected he had had to face his own inner audit.

When they left the diminutive train station, a black sedan was waiting with a liveried driver who bowed, silently held open the doors for them and stowed their bags once they were seated. Geez, these Originals would have door-to-door service even in the wilderness! She suppressed a grin at the absurd image of Klaus and Elijah hopping off a ship in Antarctica, wearing Armani and Ray Bans and being met by the liveried driver of a midnight black snowmobile. Well, who was she kidding - that probably was how it would happen. It was not a long drive to Tsuru no Yu, and Caroline was secretly sorry when they arrived, as she would have loved to just drive through the breathtaking scenery for hours. The resort was not very big and traditional in the extreme, all ancient woods and weathered stones. It even smelled ancient, but in a pleasant way. No other patrons were to be seen, something that made her frown.

"It's not very crowded, is it?" she demanded, straining her ears for human sounds but coming up empty except for some remote kitchen noises.

"It might have something to do with the inconsequential fact that I rented the entire place," Klaus retorted, biting his lip to hide a grin.

"You did what?"

"Something wrong with your hearing?"

She had to giggle at that. "Umm... why would you do that?"

He took a couple of steps until his face was mere inches from hers. "Because, my lovely Caroline, the traditional way to enjoy Japanese hot springs does not involve the wearing of any kind of garments. And I am certain that you would dislike other men staring at your divinity of a naked body almost as much as I would."

Naked? We will bathe in the nude? Together?

And that thought was all it took to turn her into a bundle of nerves.

Apparently, it was another tradition to submerge in the baths after a lengthy Japanese dinner. It was such fun to try all the mysterious dishes, and every single one turned out to be beyond delicious. Klaus had patiently pointed out to her what it was that she was eating until she told him to stop and just let her enjoy the food. With a raised brow, he hid behind his glass and simply said, "As you wish."

Two courses later, they were served a staggering number of little plates and bowls filled with entirely undefinable stuff. Caroline didn't want to ask him now, even though she was burning with curiosity, and so she just put on a blasé expression and tucked in. Halfway through the bowls, she arrived at two little white balls garnished with scallions and marinated in an indescribably fantastic sauce. After a couple of bites, she no longer cared whether she was about to lose face.

"My God, this is amazing! What is that?" she asked, pleasure written all over her face as she took another bite.

Klaus raised his glass, and with a perfectly straight face, he said, "Cod fish testicles."

It took her less than a second to spit the bite back into the bowl and give a shriek. "No way! I'm eating the freaking balls of a fish? Yuck! Wait a minute, you're joking, right? Fish don't even have these things, do they?"

He inclined his head. "Sorry to disappoint you, my love, but they actually do. Please do not tell me you not only skipped your geometry classes, but also biology?"

"We didn't exactly get into that much detail! Geez, you could have said something!" She took a large gulp of Sake, shuddered - and simply couldn't help but return his wise-ass grin.

For the remainder of the dinner, Klaus reverted to explaining what they were eating, although the fish balls remained the pinnacle of their meal, and more than once, Caroline caught him hiding a loving smile at her reactions. When they were done, it was past ten, and as they were in the middle of a remote mountain area, both darkness and silence were absolute. As were the jitters that had captured her from the beginning of the evening and that had continuously mounted.

"Shall we meet outside in five minutes?" Klaus asked quietly. "You will find a Yukata in your room, a special cotton kimono that is worn on the way to the baths."

Caroline merely nodded and with shaky steps, made her way to her room, covered in traditional tatami mats. In her absence, her bed had been set on the floor, something Klaus had talked about earlier, but she had no patience to take a closer look now. She found the bright white Yukata neatly folded next to the makeshift bed. Very slowly, she stripped off her clothes and desperately tried not to care that her fingers were shaking so badly that she could hardly tie the belt that came with the garment. Swallowing hard, she forced herself to calm down and commanded her feet to move. Her hand was already on the door when her eyes fell on her bag of toiletries. On an impulse, she opened it to pull out the shiny golden bottle of Amouage, and after a brief hesitation, she sprayed it behind her ears, onto her wrists... between her breasts. And she had no idea what the hell it was that she was doing.

Yes, you have. Come on.

When she stepped out of the wooden main building and into the ice-cold night air, she was immediately taken aback by the sheer beauty of what lay before her eyes. The various pools were framed in ancient rocks, and subdued lights were illuminating the water. From it, wafts of mist rose into the pitch-black skies, and the quiet sounds of gurgling water seemed to come from all sides. Bamboo, trees and bushes surrounded the area, and for an instant, Caroline wondered if she would ever see anything so excruciatingly perfect again.

"Lovely, is it not?" a low voice came up behind her.

Klaus was wearing a Yukata himself, albeit a dark blue one, and he looked the picture of ease. Although something inside her doubted he was as relaxed as he wanted to make her believe. And his next words confirmed her lingering suspicion.

"You are wearing that scent," he merely said after inhaling deeply, his tone strained. "Didn't I tell you..."

"It's cold," Caroline interrupted, "get into the water already."

He looked at her for a long moment, searching for something in her eyes. She took a step back and returned his gaze, fearless all of a sudden. Without taking his eyes off her, he shrugged out of the fabric, and she felt her lips part. Talk about excruciatingly perfect. God, he was... he looked even better than he had in her memories, his body hard and lean and sorely tempting. So tempting. So necessary. His eyes were still on her when he stepped into the shallow pool, the water reaching no further than his hips. Then he let himself sink into the spring, closing his eyes and submerging completely for a long while. Caroline understood. He was giving her the space to undress and hop into the pool without him looking at her, and it was that gesture, that unexpected sensitivity that finally cracked her open.

She waited until he surfaced, running a hand through his wet hair. His eyes softened when he saw her still standing on the wooden planks that led to the pools, and widened when she began to slowly undo the belt, letting it drop to the ground. Without a word, she opened the Yukata and slid it off her shoulders. Klaus rose and shook his head, once and as if in pain, and held out his hand. She waded into the water, momentarily distracted by how freaking hot it was, but once her fingers touched his, nothing else mattered.

"My love, whether or not you believe me... I have never wanted anything the way I want this, not even the first time around. I have missed you, Caroline, more than you could ever know. Gods, I..." Before she could speak or even think, his lips were on hers, and a ludicrous thought raced though her mind.

I've come home.

Klaus kissed her with everything he was, she knew it, she felt it... she needed it as he did. There was despair in the way he crushed her against his chest, pain in the way his lips moved over hers, and fear in the fingers that were trembling when they took possession of her neck and shoulders. Without a warning, she felt the same fear rising inside her, making its way through her soul until she could all but taste it on her tongue - and that was when she saw everything as clearly as if it had been written into the skies with sparkling letters. This was her place. Here, in the arms of a thousand-year-old man who was as terrible as they got. And as right for her as no-one else would ever be. She was the one who right now sent this paralysing fear through their joined systems - the fear of choosing wrong. Of denying what they already were and could someday become.

Would. Would become.

Very gently, she placed her hands on his chest and nudged him only the slightest bit. Klaus reacted immediately and released her, his eyes so bursting with love, lust and terminal fear that Caroline's heart seemed to simultaneously die and explode with joy.

"Klaus," she breathed, letting all those feelings sneak into her voice that she had suppressed for so long, "I want you to put your fears aside, okay? Please."

"I am sorry, my love, but I can't. Not entirely. Yes, I want this, I want you, with every fibre of my being, but some part of me cannot stop thinking of tomorrow. And the day after. Once I make love to you tonight, my beautiful girl, I will be lost for good, and whilst I am prepared to live with the consequences, I also fear them. It is hard to give up on something that for the first time in a thousand years makes you feel like a complete person."

Caroline closed her eyes to rein in the emotions that threatened to drown her. She had given herself five years to forget, to no longer care, to move on. And in those five years, she had only managed to entangle herself more and more in her feelings for Klaus. Not for a minute had she forgotten, she cared more than ever, and yes, she had moved on - towards this. Well. Time for a clean sweep.

"Why would you give up on it, then?" she asked, cupping his cheek and moving closer, feeling him tense.

"Because it is and will always be your choice, Caroline. I will stand back and accept your verdict, as ever, but that does not mean it will not tear me apart."

She leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to his throat, shivering at his quiet moan. And at his honesty. When she retreated, she waited until he opened his eyes and locked them with hers. "Put your fears aside," she repeated, emphasising each word and staring at him until comprehension dawned on his face, followed by blatant disbelief. His eyes pierced her, and she had the unsettling feeling that he truly was staring into her heart. His voice was no more than a rasp when he finally spoke.

"Yes. I will."

With still shaking hands, Klaus pulled her naked body against his, lifted her up and made her wrap her legs around his waist. In less than a second, he had flashed them to the far end of the natural pool, where the light was weakest, sinking into the water until they were both submerged up to their shoulders. His eyes seemed to lose themselves in hers when his hand cupped her cheek and drew her face close. Closing her own eyes, Caroline let go of every thought, every doubt - of everything that was not Klaus, hot water, ice-cold night air, Klaus. Klaus. She felt his thumb trace her lower lip before he pulled it down, forcing her lips to part... and letting his mouth take possession of her. A low moan escaped her at feeling a burst of fire shoot through her body, heating her up in a way that put the hot spring water to shame. His tongue delved into her mouth, dancing with hers in the ancient, timeless rhythm of a man and a woman who were only just learning to wholeheartedly succumb to each other. It was a bone-deep kiss that conquered every last cell in her body, making her feel so suffused with everything erotic that for the first time ever, she allowed and encouraged the wild images of all those taboo, risqué and outrageous fantasies she had worked so hard to subdue all her life. Things a good girl didn't do. Things a good guy would never even think of.

Thank Heavens he's not a good guy.

As if reading her mind, he broke the kiss and stared at her, panting, his eyes in flames. "I shall love you any way you want me to, my beautiful girl. Later. Now I just need to hear you scream, cry and pray my name."

"Words," she hissed, rolling her hips against his in the most provoking move she had ever made, "just empty words. Show me. Show me who you are... Niklaus."

She had no idea where that strange femme fatale behaviour came from, but she no longer cared when a malicious grin split his face, and in less than half a second, he whirled around and slammed her against the rock wall. "No. I'll show you who you are, Miss Forbes."

His mouth crashed down on hers again, and this time, there was nothing sweet or slow about his kiss. This time, he was out for her sanity. His lips plundered while his tongue moved in ways that all but made her mewl. Hot, unbearable desire raced through her, a lust that exploded when she felt his hands on her breasts, kneading, stroking, owning, making her arch her back to give his fingers more to explore. Without so much as a hint of hesitation, Caroline covered his hands with hers, forcing him to cup her breasts more firmly, to tease her nipples and to intensify his sweet, masterful torture. In a lightning-fast move, he reversed the positions of their hands - now she was the one touching her breasts while his hands were on hers, mercilessly using her own fingers to devour every inch of the sensitive skin. Her nipples had grown hard as granite, aching for more of their joint touch as he stopped their movement, spreading their fingers and lowering his head. The moment his tongue swished over her nipple, brushing her fingers in the process, she let her head drop against the rocks and groaned, a sound that she wasn't quite sure had really come from her. Klaus gave a knowing little grin and trapped her against the wall, no longer allowing her to move as his lips closed over her nipple. He let go of her hands to cup her breast, his fingers incessantly caressing her tender flesh while his tongue and his teeth sent her into a storm of little electric shocks with every lick, every bite... Her nipple felt raw and throbbing, and yet, Caroline did everything she could to push her breast deeper into his mouth, half-crazed by the outrageously indecent way he ravaged it. She locked his head against her skin with one hand and let the other glide to her free breast, imitating how his hand had moved over it earlier... until he pushed her fingers away, cupping her breast and letting his own hand play with it, mirroring the sinful movements of his tongue.

And then, without a warning, he hoisted her up onto the ledge of the pool, into the freezing air.

Before she could protest, he cast her a burning look, skimmed his hands along the insides of her thighs and pushed them apart, forcing her to place her hands on the ground behind her so as not to lose balance. His hands were still on her legs when he let his eyes wander very slowly from her face all the way down her naked body... to her centre. A flash of self-consciousness gripped her, but something in his gaze dissolved any shame she might have felt and brought her to the edge of commanding him not to make her wait any longer. The memory of the leaf-covered ground in Mystic Falls came out of nowhere, of his head between her legs and the way she had all but convulsed from pleasure. It had been...

"Oh my God!"

Klaus' lips were on her, his tongue moving over her sex in a languid, tantalising pattern. Time-tested, dizzying, perfect. It took him no more than two, three swishes of that diabolical tongue to make Caroline almost lose her mind. Her arms trembled, unable to hold her up any longer, and she dropped back onto the rocky ground. The onslaught of sensations was not from this world - the cold stone underneath her, the icy air on her body, the hot water washing around her feet that were still submerged in the pool... and his searing mouth doing unspeakable things to her. With every twitch of her hips, every shudder that went through her and every desperate sound she made, his moans grew louder and heavier, driving her beyond the boundaries of sanity and making her crave him with a violence she hadn't thought herself capable of. When his tongue finally... oh, finally!... flicked over her clit, rough and demanding, in a stark contrast to the softness of its previous motions, her back arched from the ground, her cry echoed from the darkness... and she came. So gloriously hard that she found no way of controlling the tremors that shook her body from head to toe. There was a fleeting realisation that Klaus didn't hold her down but let his mouth follow her every move, and the silly question whether gravity had just ceased to exist crossed her mind before she felt herself slowly beginning to descend back to Earth. The impossible explosion of lust turned into a vibrant glow, giving her a warmth that belied how she was lying naked in the cold. With effort, Caroline lifted her head to gaze down at Klaus, expecting him to pull her back into the water and into his arms. She could not have been more mistaken. His face rose for a moment, the victorious grin on it somehow complemented to perfection by the love shining in his eyes.

"It ain't over till it's over," he chuckled, tossing her a look that felt more like he was throwing her a gauntlet. "Sit up." There was nothing she could do, nothing she wanted to do, other than to obey his command. It had been just like that the first time around - no matter how she would never allow him to boss her around in life, she sure as hell melted with desire when he did it in bed. Not that they had ever seen an actual bed. So she did as he asked, feeling him pull her hips even closer to the edge until she was no longer really sitting on solid ground. Dangling was more like it. When she wanted to support herself on her arms, he merely shook his head.

"I loved to see you touching your breast, Caroline. Let me see it again." He sounded in full command of himself, but she had been at no loss to hear the slight edge to his voice.

Biting her lip, she cupped her breasts and began to stroke them, a little awkwardly at first, but after a moment, she remembered how she used to do just that in the privacy of her room, imagining they were his hands. The last time no more than a few days ago, in Tokyo. Her eyes on his, she began to touch herself more boldly, circling her nipples with her fingers, cupping her breasts fully again... and feeling ridiculously elated when she heard his breathing quicken. Without taking his eyes off hers, Klaus leaned forward and ran his tongue over her sex, making her gasp at her own reaction. She was still raw and a little hypersensitive, but the second his tongue touched her, all she wanted was more. And he knew. And showed no mercy. Where his lips and tongue had been soft and playful before, they were now on the warpath, bringing her an ecstasy that put to shame everything she had ever known about pleasure. Her own hands on her body, his mouth burning her through and through... it was all beyond her.

His name was all she could remember when she felt another climax approach, and the second she screamed it into the night, Klaus lifted her from the ground, holding her in midair for one incredible, delicious moment before pulling her against him and letting her sink into the hot water. The sudden change of temperature added to the combustion inside her, making her wrap herself around his body, hold on for dear life and quiver through what was pure, undiluted delirium. His arms were encircling her so securely that she knew not even a volcanic explosion would tear her from him now, and there was a slight tremor in his limbs, too. Caroline knew he loved this. Loved to see her come undone under him, to see the effect he had on her. Yet his next words couldn't have been more unexpected.

"My love," he whispered at her ear after pressing a tender kiss to her temple, "everything about you is magnificent, but you brought me to my knees with what you just did to me."

What I did?

Her voice was hoarse, and she was still trembling when she said, "I didn't do a thing but scream your name. Hallucinations much?"

His light chuckle made her touch her lips to his neck. "The power of surrender is entirely underestimated, Caroline. You may believe that what you did was to hand over the reins, but the exact opposite is the case. You have me forever at your mercy with the uncompromising way you gave yourself to me."

Caroline's eyes remained closed, her head resting on his shoulder, when she let his words warm everything inside her and make her mind reel. How did he manage to still make her feel like the queen of the universe when she was writhing in pleasure underneath him?

Got blinders on? He loves you. That's how he does it.

And she wanted to see that love now. She wanted to see that no other woman had ever been or would ever again be capable of making Niklaus Mikaelson succumb to his feelings the way she did. She was ready to become as addicted to his surrender as he was to hers.

'We're the same, Caroline.'

She had no way of knowing where the sudden flash of memory came from, but it was only now that she saw with complete lucidity that he had been right. They were the same in what they wanted from each other, in what they needed. They were the same in their fear of rejection, of betrayal. And they were the same in their surrender.

'I'll show you who you are, Miss Forbes."

She was his equal.

Never, not once in her life, had she felt as tough and strong as she did now that she was naked and exposed in this pool in northern Japan, holding the most powerful man on Earth, being held by him and finally fully understanding who she was.

Leaning back, she took his face in her hands and looked him in the eyes. He was silent for a long moment before a dazzling smile spread on his beautiful face, making his dimples dance. "Found out, have you?"

Her response took him by surprise. Using all her force, she crashed him into the wall and covered his mouth with hers, just as violently as he had earlier. Body, heart and soul - Caroline put everything she was into that one kiss, setting them both on desperate fire in a matter of seconds. When his arms wanted to come around her, she grabbed them and pinned them to ledge with all her might, knowing that she was no match for his physical strength but also sure that none of that mattered right now. Klaus gave a visceral groan and for all but one second, she felt his muscles twitch under her hands. It was new to him, this feeling of allowing someone to have their way with him, but an instant later, she felt him relax. Her heart broke into a gallop when she sensed that he was fighting for his own surrender... and sudden understanding lit up inside her. She could feel the power he wielded over her in giving himself into her hands like that. It was intoxicating.

Releasing his arms, Caroline let her lips wander down to his neck while her hands began to rediscover his lean, sinewy body, tracing his shoulders, his chest... and in the blink of an eye, her mouth was on his nipple. Klaus grabbed the ledge for support, and she felt a shiver run through him when her tongue and teeth began to play, in turns hard and soft, demanding and tender.

"Ah, Caroline... I love that... I love to feel your tongue on me."


Letting her instincts take over, she sank to her knees, her hand on his rock-hard length, and let her tongue run over its tip - just beneath the waterline. His cry was the loveliest sound she had ever heard, filled with greed, lust, and love. She couldn't help but react to the bolt of desire his voice had sent through her, giving in to her urge to do to him what he had done to her. Her lips could not get enough, her tongue tasted every inch of him, and she didn't give a damn about not being able to breathe in the water. Klaus' eyes were closed, he was almost hyperventilating, and with a deep satisfaction, Caroline saw small pieces of rock plunking into the water, so fiercely was he holding on to the wall. She felt him twitch under her ministrations, more and more so, but when she increased her tempo, he reached his limits.

She found herself slammed into the wall again, and his crazed eyes held hers hostage as she felt him hot, hard and beyond ready at her entrance. When he moved with unexpected tenderness, filling her inch by inch, she wound her legs around his hips and gave a long, soft moan at the beautiful fusion of desire and... more. Seeing his almost incredulous gaze sink into hers, she had to battle down a tear that threatened to escape. The first time, back in the woods, had been about pent-up desire, about lust, and even a bit about anger, but today was about something so much deeper and more meaningful that she found it unspeakably hard not to let herself be drowned by what he made her feel. When Klaus was fully buried inside her, he stopped moving, framing her face with his hands. His voice was like velvet when he sent her emotions into the most lovely chaos.

"What is it that you are doing to me, Caroline? What?"

Caroline closed her eyes and did nothing to suppress the single sob that made its way to the surface. "Klaus," she whispered, her feelings threatening to paralyse her, "I..."

He gently placed finger on her lips. "No. Do not say it. Not now. I only want to hear it if you truly mean it, my love. Not in the throes of desire, and not when you have just spent a week flooded by a world of new impressions."

But... oh, right now, I can't think about why he's wrong.

And she had no more time to think, either. Klaus kissed her hard while his hips began to subtly roll against hers. He left her almost completely before thrusting into her again, very slowly, over and over. Her mouth opened as if to scream silent words at the incomparable sensation, and she interlocked her hands behind his neck, staring into the face that was so filled with feelings for her. And with boundless lust. At first, Caroline didn't even notice how his movements gained speed and force, but when the heat spread from her sex into her entire body, she began to suddenly burn like the fires of hell.

"Klaus," she heard herself beg incoherently, "you... oh... I want... more!"

"All of it," he hissed before he began to take her like a madman. She was slammed into the wall by the sheer power of his thrusts, but all of her welcomed each and every one. She held on to him, moving against him as if in despair as he made love to her in a way that defied reality. And she still wanted more. More of that hot, hard length inside her, more of his almost animal groans, more of the way all of this exceeded any dirty thought she had ever had. His thrusts seemed to grow faster and stronger with her every moan, and their eyes were unable to let go of each other. Caroline began to feel herself contract around him, trying to pull him in deeper, to have him melt into her, and she knew he could not only feel how close she was, he could see it on her face.

"Come with me," he ordered, his voice no more than a hoarse scratch, "Now. I need you to. I need you, Caroline."

And that was all it took them both.

Klaus' inarticulate cry fused into hers as thoroughly as they drowned in each other, their joint climax storming through them with the devastation of an avalanche. Caroline could no longer hold herself upright and was about to fall back against the wall when his arms came around her and pressed her against his chest, all the while they were still moving in each other, shaking like leaves, unbelieving in the face of where they had just been together. Klaus' head dropped onto her shoulder, momentary exhaustion on his features, but he never failed to breathe soft kisses onto her skin while he was trying to gather his wits. She ran a hand through his hair, the other lovingly stroking his back, and she felt his hold tighten in response.

They remained like that for a very long while, basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking, and even more so in how they connected now. No words were necessary to make them realise that this was what they had truly been longing for - warmth, intimacy, the feeling of belonging. Something that deep down, Caroline knew they had both only ever found in each other, albeit for no more than minutes at a time. Her stomach seemed to give a little start when she heard him whisper her name against her shoulder, so quietly that she first thought she had imagined it. But the kiss he pressed to her skin was of an intensity that told her she had not been mistaken. It made her dizzy, and all of a sudden, she felt that she needed a break from the way she wanted to just pour out every last bit of tenderness she was capable of. From those feelings she knew were solid and real but she needed some more time to fully accept. So she gave a small chuckle and gently pulled on his hair.

"Can I ask you something?"

He seemed to sense the change in her mood and lifted his face, raising a quizzical brow, his expression neutral. But the hands on her back never wavered in their soft caresses. "By all means."

A mischievous grin split her face. "Do you think we will ever make love in an actual bed?"

"Until the bloody sun rises. Which is when we shall start all over again."

A ray of late afternoon sunlight fell through the wooden blinds, illuminating Klaus' sleeping face. A face so peaceful, so relaxed and content that Caroline could simply not stop staring. She had been awake for about half an hour now, and those thirty minutes had been spent memorising every detail of him. The way his hair was tousled after the countless times she had run her hands through it. The subtle but unmistakable smile on his face that hadn't wavered since she had awoken. His calm breathing that made his chest rise and fall, beckoning her to gently lay a hand on it. His arm around her waist, his fingers spread on her back, holding her securely even in his sleep. The way his entire body posture was aligned to hers. Caroline's sleep had been light, and whenever she had moved, she had semiconsciously felt him follow her motion. Nothing had ever made her feel so cherished and so utterly protected.

Nothing except the night that lay behind them.

He had lived up to his promise of making love to her - in a bed - until the sun rose and then begin anew. Caroline felt a tremor run through her at the memories of what had transpired between them. It wasn't that she had had any inclination to hold back, but even if she had, Klaus would never have allowed her to. As unreservedly as he gave, he demanded to be given. He wanted her every pleasure and emotion, every secret desire she had never dared act out, and he took it all, only to make it his and return it to her, magnified to an extent that left no room for anything else. Caroline had never thought it possible, not in her wildest fantasies, that sex could be like this. Two ravenous bodies, complemented by two even more starved souls that had found each other in a manner too intense and beautiful for words. And apart from the gut-wrenching emotions, it had been insanely hot. Klaus had a way to turn sweet into dirty and dirty into sweet that Caroline thought with a lewd grin was more dangerous than anything one needed a firearms license for. Even now, when she should be beyond sated after countless hours of lovemaking, she sensed heat rise at the mere thought of feeling him so deep and perfect inside her again. Their lovemaking in the woods five years ago that had never left her thoughts for more than a few hours at a time, and that she had believed to be the best sex anyone had ever had, paled like a little fish pond against the vastness of the Pacific Ocean compared to what he had done to her last night. And during the better part of this day.

"Did I have anything to do with that smile?" a sleepy voice suddenly murmured at her ear. She chuckled, shook her head and buried her face in his shoulder, marvelling at how warm and lovely it felt. "Well then, why don't you let me rectify that?"

And without a warning, Caroline found herself flat on her back, her arms trapped in his steel grip, her thighs pushed apart... and his iron length filling her to the hilt. Her low cry echoed from the walls, and in less than a nanosecond, her legs were wrapped around his waist, pulling him even deeper inside her.

"Are you smiling for me yet?" he whispered, his voice weak with desire, a stark contrast to the vicious gleam in his eyes.

Caroline slowly circled her hips beneath him, making him give a shaky moan that went all through her system. "No," she breathed, challenge on her face, "and I have a feeling that I won't be for hours."

"That's my girl."

And just like that, they were lost in each other again.

They had not left the room for two straight days.

Whenever one of them made the halfhearted suggestion to go out for food, blood, or nothing in particular, they merely had to look at each other. Neither of them was yet prepared to face the world, and they did everything in their power to remain in their untainted little bubble of sex and happiness for just another while. Yet as the second day drew to a close, Klaus was just leaving the shower when he found her standing at the window, wearing the Yukata and having her arms wrapped around herself. He detected a light shiver and took a closer look at her face. She was very pale, her features lacking their usual glow, and his eyes closed for a moment. Gods, he was a cretin! She urgently needed to feed, and he had done nothing but think about pleasure, lovemaking and not letting her escape his arms for more than five minutes at a time.

You can be such an asshole, Niklaus Mikaelson. There stands the woman you love, and you are not capable of taking care of even her most basic needs.

Stepping up behind her, he pulled her against his chest and encircled her with his arms, letting the warmth flow from him into her. There was no hesitation as she leaned into him, pulling his arms even tighter around her body and letting her head drop back onto his shoulder. Klaus squeezed his eyes shut and commanded himself to stay focused and not let himself be engulfed by the surge of protectiveness that tried to take him hostage. Very gently, he moved his hands to her hips and nudged her to turn around and face him.

"You need to feed, my love. And you will do so now. I have... never before allowed this, but I want you to feed from me... here." Taking her hand, he placed it on the side of his neck, right on his pulse point, and saw her eyes grow large. Then she leaned forward, took his head in her hands and placed an unbearably tender kiss on the spot he had indicated.

"I'm okay. I'm sure we'll find a hospital somewhere in the area where I can get a blood bag."

"Caroline," he said quietly, "here. Now. From me."

She lifted her face and cast a quizzical look at him before her eyes dropped to his neck. As if in a daze, she nodded and moved forward with some trepidation. One hand at the side of his neck, the other sneaking around his waist to pull him closer, she leaned in, her lips brushing his skin like a whisper of silk, once, twice, until Klaus closed his eyes and gave himself over to the stunning sensation. When he felt her tongue run over the length of his carotid artery, exerting some pressure, his arms came around her and he pressed her to him, trapping her against his chest. Fleetingly, the thought crossed his mind that even his considerable sexual appetite should be completely sated by now, even surfeited, but in this one instant, he saw with frightening clarity that it would take two eternities for him to ever even come close to getting enough of her.

And that was the precise moment when Caroline buried her fangs in his neck.

By all the Gods.

By. All. The. Gods!

His head dropped back, and somewhere on the fringes of his coherent mind, he realised that she had just pushed him into the wall and was moaning against his skin. His entire universe was suddenly centred on a pair of silken lips, a soft tongue... and razor-sharp fangs that took possession of him. The melange was nothing he had ever known - ecstasy, lust, barely discernible pain, and the knowledge that his woman, the love of his life, was devouring his blood with a greed and a ruthlessness that gave him a rare glimpse of the darkness beneath the humanity that was and would always be so dominant in her personality. He loved her light more than anything, and yet, it were the little black places inside her soul, her imperfections, that ultimately made her perfect.

A groan escaped him, pulling a string of answering moans from her and making her press him even more firmly into the wall. His hand was on her hair, urging her head closer and at the same time stroking her satiny strands, when he felt a very familiar impulse swell inside him. It was bloodlust. Pure and simple. The deeply rooted need to sink his fangs into her and take from her what she was taking from him. His eyes on the opposite wall, he let his fangs elongate, sensed the veins under his eyes protrude and opened himself up for his Original powers to flood his body. His grip on her head tightened, and with one fluid movement, he brushed her hair aside, exposed the flawless, lovely neck he knew by now was one of her weakest spots, and lowered his face.


Klaus' fangs had already skimmed her skin when a voice inside his head yelled at him to stop. His hands balled into fists as he conjured everything he had ever learned about discipline, about control and keeping a lid on his needs. He forced his fangs to retreat and wrapped his arms around Caroline, holding on to her for comfort like a drowning man clutches the last remainder of the ship he has just gone under with. As reason returned little by little, he began to curse himself.

How could you have forgotten what you are, you unbelievable simpleton?

Caroline seemed oblivious to what he had almost done to her, submerged in her own, wild need for his blood, so Klaus closed his eyes and rested his cheek against her hair, concentrating on his own breathing and battling down what he had almost allowed to happen. She was drinking his blood already, so she would not have been in any danger, yet for one ephemeral moment, he had entirely put aside the agony his every bite caused her, no matter how briefly. The thought of never being able to indulge in true blood sharing with this incredible woman was not one he appreciated, but if that was the only price to pay for an eternity at her side, he gladly would, a million times over. His urges were something he had learned to control a very long while ago, and albeit being taken by surprise at the sheer strength of this particular desire, he knew he could keep it at bay. He also knew he should right away begin to teach her how to control herself when drinking from another vampire, for something told him that apart from the two times she had drunk from his wrist, she never had - not for pleasure, that was. But he decided against it. This once, he would let her have at him for as long as she needed to. Gods, and how he loved the sensation of her onslaught, let alone the little sounds of pleasure he was certain Caroline did not even realise she was making.

After a while, her frantic movements slowed, and while she was still clinging to him with all her might, there was less urgency in the way she held him. In a very gradual motion, her fangs retreated, but her lips and her tongue remained on his neck, assaulting him with tenderness rather than greed and despair now. With infinite softness, she licked the last few drops from his skin and pressed light kisses to the spots where her fangs had been buried, before she rose to her full height and locked her gaze with his. The mist that seemed to cover her eyes cleared, and an adorably sheepish smile blossomed on her face.

"Are you okay? I think I... lost it a little bit."

"A little bit?" He chuckled, gave her a wink and breathed a kiss onto her forehead. "If this is your definition of a little bit, I am not certain whether I want to be present when you truly lose it, my love."

Caroline giggled, a sound he had grown to love as an indication that she was completely at ease. "Why do I have the feeling that you wouldn't miss that for anything in the world?" she grinned, leaning in and wrapping her arms around his waist, giving a contented sigh when she felt his arms surround her and draw her nearer. A few moments of silence passed before Klaus bit his lip and took a deep breath.

"There is nothing I could want more than to stay here with you for a decade, forget the world and spend every waking hour making love to you, but I believe that we have already postponed our conversation for too long as it is." Shaking his head, he rolled his eyes at himself. "I can't believe that I of all people am being the voice of reason. Well, I suppose that there must be a first time for everything. Walk?"

She tightened her hold, sending another bout of protectiveness through him. "I don't want to talk yet," she murmured, "I really don't."

"I know. Neither do I. But there are things that need to be said and heard, Caroline, in order for both of us to understand what this is and where we want to go from here." He hated himself for sounding distant and businesslike, so he buried his face in her hair and let his hands wander over her back. "And I hope with every piece of my heart that we will have someplace to go."

There was a low sigh when she nuzzled his neck with her nose. "I wouldn't be here if we didn't."

A broad path led away from the resort and into the forest that covered the steep hills. It seemed an impossible feat to put names to all the shades of green surrounding them, and the air was the crispest and cleanest Caroline had ever breathed. She hadn't known that something as basic as breathing could be described as pleasurable, but every gulp of crystal clear mountain air was a revelation. It felt like she was cleansing her system, washing away everything tainted and impure to make way for a fresh start. The noises of the forest were subdued on this cold day, yet somewhere in the distance, she heard animal paws stomping the ground - and the unmistakable sound of a waterfall.

Klaus' strong, warm hand was holding hers as they made their way up the path, with no particular direction in mind, and Caroline allowed her thoughts to wander. She had still not quite awoken from the daze of two days of almost incessant lovemaking. And while the sex had been beyond words, it had been the tender, intimate moments they had shared that had made her abandon every last reservation. There was that moment during their first night when she had been lying on her stomach, her head resting on her arms, dozing off while Klaus had called reception to have some water delivered to their room. When he had dismissed the employee who had brought two large bottles, he had stretched out next to her, lying on his side, his hand stroking her back so softly that she hardly noticed, and pressed a kiss to her shoulder. 'Will you let me hold you while you fall asleep?" he had asked, sending an explosion of butterflies, warmth and wonder through her. She had not said a word, merely shifting to her side and moving closer so that her back rested against his chest. His arms had come around her, pulling her to him, his happy sigh making her smile. And of course, she hadn't fallen asleep after all. There had been innumerable little moments like that, moments during which she entirely forgot that there were other sides to him than the caring and passionate sex god. She would have to confront those sides now, and while she knew that they were the main reason for the many obstacles they would be facing, she had also understood one fundamental truth. A truth that would make things very easy - and infinitely complicated.

She was irretrievably in love with Klaus. And she truly meant it.

Realisation had first hit her when he had turned to her in his sleep, very early this morning, and murmured her name with an intensity that she had first believed him to be in pain for some reason. She had gently placed a hand on his cheek and whispered, 'I'm here. Just sleep.' He had not awoken but instinctively wrapped his entire body around hers, making it a bit hard to breathe, and gone on to peacefully slumber in her arms. This need for her that seemed to be so deeply rooted in his subconscious, and the way he had relaxed at feeling her close, had almost brought her to tears. She had found herself wanting to give him that peace of mind again. And again. And again. Just as she longed to permanently feel the complete safety and freedom she experienced in his presence. It was addictive. Caroline Forbes was a vampire, strong and provenly capable of looking after herself, something Klaus had always known and never failed to tell her. Yet about one thing, he had been mistaken - she was not fearless. In her early vampire life, too much had happened. Torture, loss, heartbreak, pain, countless dangers... all of it had shaped her, and while she would never shy away from whatever threat needed to be tackled, there was also a deep-seated fear of what would happen the next time a new danger or an unknown enemy knocked at her door. When with Klaus, no such anxiety besieged her. Even during their first encounters, a strange calmness had settled inside her whenever he was near. He was the most dangerous creature on Earth, but he was not dangerous to her, and the knowledge that he would wipe out all supernatural life on the planet before he would let anyone lay a finger on her again was more reassuring than she had initially thought.

Yet it was so much more than the need to feel protected. Klaus challenged her, he engaged her mind in a way nobody else ever had. He wanted her opinion on everything, and even though he had provided exhaustive explanations on all objects of interest they had as yet seen on their trip, he had never voiced his take on things before she had given him her own view or her theories on what things were and why. It seemed unbelievable, but in spite of his thousand years' worth of knowledge and experience, he never once gave her the impression of not taking her seriously. On the contrary. He made her feel indispensable, interesting... and the most beautiful woman in the world. And while everyone was aware that he would let her get away with murder, only Caroline knew that he also mercilessly called her out on her crap - the same way she had always done with him. And the Lord knows someone has to rein you in when you get ahead of yourself at times... even though you're no longer a teenager. Ever since he had set eyes on her in that New Orleans bar, Klaus had been the man she had only ever seen tiny particles of - attentive, funny, mischievous - in a non-bloodthirsty way - charming and downright lovely. But it had not been before this morning that she had finally admitted to herself that she had been in love with that part of him for a very long time.

The question was - how was she going to live with the whole of him? She was only just coming to terms with the fact that she loved Niklaus, the man, and she had to admit that some facets of Big Bad Hybrid Klaus were scorching hot. Others, however, ranged from mildly annoying to downright horrible to entirely unacceptable, and with those, she had to learn to play ball. Still, she understood that it was no longer about deciding if she wanted to be with him, it was about deciding on the how. How on Earth could they make this work?

But no matter how urgently they needed to speak of it all, her first words did not touch on any of it. They were only for him, and she had been burning to say them from the very moment of their reunion in New Orleans. Somehow, though, the moment had never been right. But here, now, away from the world and surrounded by unspoiled nature, they came naturally.

"Tell me about your daughter."

A thick, loaded silence followed her words. Klaus' face contorted into a hard grimace of pain as he let his gaze wander over the cedars, pines and other trees Caroline didn't recognise that framed the pathway. The wind had freshened, ruffling the green and causing fleeting howls every now and then. Together with the low-hanging clouds and the descending dusk, it made for an almost mysterious atmosphere she would have thoroughly enjoyed under different circumstances. Yet she was completely focused on how he had tensed and was obviously scrambling for words. Without thinking, she lifted his hand to her lips and placed a tender kiss on his fingers, lingering for a long moment before she lowered their entwined hands. He pressed his lips into a thin line and squeezed her hand.

"I do not usually speak of her, to anyone."

"First, this is not 'usually', and I hope I'm not 'anyone'."

He gave her a small smile that did almost, but not quite, reach his dimples. "You could not be further from being 'anyone', my love." His sigh was heavy and betrayed just how hard this must be for him. "Very well. You see, it had taken me a while to come to terms with the thought of being a father. When you have spent a thousand years believing yourself incapable of procreating, the news of a pregnancy can come as quite a shock, and at first, I did not react well to it."

Ignoring the sharp pang of pain that still, after all this time, sliced through her at the thought of Klaus sleeping with Hayley, Caroline gave him a quizzical look. "How was that at all possible?"

"I do not have ultimate proof, but my theory is that when sleeping with another werewolf, my primeval nature - the wolf - takes over and recognises a suitable mate, hence entirely overriding the vampire side. In addition, my being a direct descendant of the Original werewolf family makes my genes stronger than any other wolf's, which adds to the suppression of the vampire in me. I cannot sire any offspring with another vampire, a witch or a human, though, because my werewolf side needs to be complemented with another werewolf to achieve that. I have tried to find out more, yet it is admittedly difficult."

"But Hayley can't have been the first werewolf in a millennium you had sex with," she murmured, hoping the part of the conversation that dealt with Klaus sleeping with other women would soon be over.

His voice softened as he sensed her discomfort. "No, Caroline, but you need to remember that my werewolf side had been dormant for all that time. Hayley was the first and only after I turned into a hybrid. Be that as it may, I was not overly happy with the news. But little by little, the thought of having a child became less threatening and more appealing, although no-one, not even my siblings, actually believed that there was no ill intent behind my gradually beginning to look forward to fatherhood. So to cut a long story short, the day my daughter was born was the beginning of a nightmare that did not end for a very long time."

"What happened, Klaus?" Caroline whispered, her hand firmly wrapped around his, her fingers softly stroking him.

He ran his free hand over his forehead and closed his eyes for a moment before he returned his gaze to her, a distinct flicker in it. "It began with complications. Hayley slipped in and out of consciousness during her labour, she lost a disproportionate amount of blood, and we were not certain whether she was going to make it through the delivery alive. As you well know, there was no doppelganger blood left to turn her into a hybrid, so had she not been strong enough by herself, she would have died. Very shortly before my daughter saw the light of day, she lost consciousness altogether, but she had been coherent long enough this time to send the baby on her way. So the little one was born, and Rebekah placed her right in my arms." He paused, and Caroline's heart both swelled and broke at the expression on his face. "I... I looked at her, Caroline, as she looked at me, and... I was..."

Caroline halted her steps and without a word, let her arms sneak around his waist, beginning to soothingly stroke his back and gazing up into his eyes with all the calm she could muster. His arms seemed a little unsteady when he returned her embrace and pressed a long, lingering kiss to her forehead before resting his own against hers. After a moment, he continued, his voice barely audible.

"You may know that my brother Henrik died when he was still a young boy. Unbelievable as it may seem, he adored me, and he looked at me with a love and a trust so unconditional that the memory has not left me to this day. No-one has ever seen me like he has. Until the day I held my daughter. She had only just been born, and yet her eyes held the same expression my brother's had. That was the moment when I understood I loved that little girl, in the untarnished, wholehearted way I used to love back in my human days, before I became what I am. It was also the moment when I heard her heartbeat." Klaus had not moved, his forehead still resting against hers. She felt his tension and wished there was anything she could do to ease it. "I have listened to the rhythm of human hearts for a thousand years, Caroline, I hear the most insignificant of irregularities, and I can tell exactly what those irregularities mean. I am even capable of foreseeing the precise hour of death of an ailing heart. My daughter... had mere minutes to live. And there was nothing for me to do but watch her die. Human medicine could not have saved her, turning her was no option for obvious reasons, and not even magic can strengthen a human heart for an extended period of time when it is too weak to beat on its own. So we looked at each other, spending what time we could together, until it was over."

The breath he took was shaky, making Caroline cup his face with her hands and anxiously look into his face - only to have her heart clench in pain at seeing a single tear on his cheek. Without a moment's hesitation, she leaned forward and brushed her lips over his. At first, there was no reaction but a palpable increase of tension, yet it took him no more than a few seconds to yank her against him and return her kiss with a vehemence that took her by surprise. It was none of his erotic, deep kisses that always made her blood boil - it was a gesture of need, of the desperate longing to mute a grief that had not entirely subsided even after so many years. After an instant of feeling a bit overwhelmed, Caroline pushed everything aside and let her instincts guide her, melting into his arms and allowing Klaus to take over. To take whatever it was he needed right now, whatever it was he would have needed back then. And it was as clear as the air around them that what he needed was her. One hand in her hair, the other on her back, he held her so hard that she was on the verge of being crushed, but his lips on hers were soft and almost pleading. Their kiss turned slow, careful, and when his lips began to move over her face, it was Caroline who had to strangle back a sob. He kissed her cheeks, her temples, her brows... and in the end, her eyes, in a way so soft that everything inside her began to cry out. Taking her face in his hands, he waited for her to open her eyes - and what she saw in his features mirrored what it was he had just described a minute ago.

'The untarnished, wholehearted way I used to love back in my human days.'

It was the way Klaus loved her, too.

With her heart in her throat, Caroline covered his hands with hers. "I don't know what to say to you, Klaus. I am so sorry. So sorry."

He nodded. "I have never said a word about how much my daughter meant to me, not even to my siblings, although I have a feeling that they know, and I never intended to, not even to you. But I am finding it unpleasant to hide my feelings when I am in your company, my love, and I believe that you are entitled to the truth."

Giving him a tentative smile, she asked, "What was her name?"

"We had decided to wait until she was born before finally choosing." He didn't say anything further, but something in his voice made her probe.

"You have named her, haven't you? For yourself, for your memories?"

This time, he hesitated for a long while, and when Caroline was about to say something, assuming he would not answer, he said, "Her name is Karys. It is of Welsh origin, and I have always had a fondness for that particular name, although it is rather rare. Maybe because it is rather rare."

"It's beautiful," she murmured, pressing a quick kiss to his fingers, "what does it mean?"

"Love," he simply said.

"Karys," Caroline repeated, her voice a whisper. "I like it. You will take me to her grave when we return, won't you?"

A wild array of emotions danced over his face as he touched his lips to hers. "Yes. I most certainly will."

She looked at him when he released her, and this time, it was her turn to tense as she uttered the words that had earlier crossed her mind. "Have you thought of giving it another try? Of having another child, I mean? Have you considered that?"

Klaus took her hands in his and looked her in the eyes, his gaze very firm. "I have. For all of five seconds. Caroline, the grief I experienced over Karys' death is something I wish never to feel again. And whilst I do not doubt that I would love my child, very much so, I do not believe that being a father is something I am well-suited for. Loving a child does not necessarily imply being a good parent. But first and foremost... do you seriously think that after everything that has happened between us, I would so much as consider another woman to be the mother of my child? With that, my love, I rest my case."

Stop hyperventilating, Caroline.

Resuming their walk, they fell silent, each dwelling on their own thoughts and letting the surroundings work their magic. They were already halfway up the hill when Klaus spoke again.

"You said, 'when we return'. What will happen once we do, Caroline? I stand by what I have said ever since the status quo between us changed. The decision is and will always be yours. However, I do not plan on making it easy for you to decide against me, against us, hence I will start by saying this." He paused and swallowed. "I am a restless man, I always have been. I had to be. My sleep is shallow, my senses are constantly focused on everything that moves or makes a sound, and in the very moment of my arrival at one place, I am already thinking about where I am headed next. Not so now. Not so here. Not so... with you. Whatever little sleep I got was sound as I have never known it, my entire being has been concentrated on nothing but you, and for the first time ever, I feel like I have arrived to stay. Caroline, I could easily spend the remainder of my existence hidden away up here with you, and I would be wanting for nothing. I cannot lose this, I cannot lose you, and I need so much more of you, in every way. So, if you require more time, you shall have it. If you ask not to be confronted with my life in New Orleans and everything it implies, you won't be. I just... need you to be a part of my life. What I am also saying is that I am prepared to pay any price you care to name, but I do not know whether I will be able to do so."

For one second, she was tempted. Tempted to accept the additional time he was offering... and tempted to demand that he stop being what he was, abandon his ambitions and turn into a 'regular' vampire. But that was exactly what teenage Caroline would have done, the girl she had been five years ago. The woman she was now had learned, grown, and understood that no person could ever be truly good or truly evil, just as entirely suppressing someone's nature turned that someone into no-one. And right here, in this very second, her nagging question on how she was going to live with those other sides of him had been answered.

"Five years ago, Klaus, you gave me the space I needed to discover who I am and what I want from life. Well, one of the things I have found out I want from life is you." When he started to speak, she held up a hand. "Let me finish. I know that's a challenge for you, but try this time." He gave her a bright smile at their shared remembrance. "You also promised to go and find the man you were during your human days. That's the guy I am on this trip with, so we know you've definitely found him, and what I'm seeing of him is amazing. Beautiful. I just love to be with him."

The expression on his features turned into one of nameless wonder as he took her hand and wordlessly kissed it. His eyes were shining the way they had when he had first seen her at his family's ball, ages ago, and Caroline briefly remembered how that look on his face had turned her into a nervous wreck, although she had incessantly told herself it was nothing but her revulsion that had shattered her stomach into pieces that night. And every time she saw him after that.

"Klaus, I want to see more of you. Of who you really are beneath all the megalomania and the King of New Orleans drama."

This time, his smile was tight and uneasy. "I anticipated this. The price you are asking is for me to entirely renounce who and what I am. Correct?"

"I'm asking you to be who you are with me, to be yourself, more often. Tell me this - do you have to make a conscious effort when we are together? An effort to keep yourself in check, to control your anger and whatever it is that drives you all the time?"

There was a short silence while he considered her question. "No," he finally admitted, "not in the very least. Apart from controlling the driving urge to rip off your clothes twenty-four seven, that is."

Caroline grinned. The second-long respite from all the heavy talk felt good. "Don't you dare start to control that!" she commanded, her tone imperious, making him chuckle. Oh, how she loved that smile! Don't get sidetracked now. "Anyway, you see what I'm getting at, right? During this past week, you didn't have any reason to be the Big Bad Hybrid, and all I'm asking is that you take that path as often as you can. As long as you or your family are not being threatened and nobody openly defies your rule, keep a damn lid on the bloodshed." She drew a breath. "My first impulse was to ask you to only ever turn into everyone-trembles-at-my-name Klaus when your family is in real danger, but I think I understood that being feared and being King is important to you. I don't really get that, given that the whole wide supernatural world knows who you are, but it looks like it has become a part of your personality over the years, so I will have to find some way for me to live with it. So here's how. I'm not telling you to stop being Big Bad, Klaus. I'm telling you that I'll call you out on your bullshit. Every single time you screw up, and we both know you will. I'll never tire of it, and you'll have hell to pay. I'll yell at you for all the Americas to hear, you'll sleep in the doghouse, we won't be on speaking terms for weeks at a time, I'll shred your favourite Henleys, and I'll have your siblings dagger you until you come to your senses." She took a step towards him and ran a hand over his cheek. "But one thing I won't do. Not ever. I will never betray you, Klaus, and that is a promise. I've made my choice, here and now, and I'll stand by who I've chosen. I'll stand by you. Today, tomorrow, and in ten thousand years."

He knew her well enough to see that she meant every word. His voice was hoarse when he said, "Why are you choosing me, Caroline?"

For a split second, her old insecurities bubbled to the surface. Did he suddenly have second thoughts? Didn't he want her to choose him? She examined his face, searching for clues, when he took her hand and placed it on his chest, right over his heart, covering it with his. That was when she understood - he was the insecure one in this scenario. He had lived through a thousand years of mistrust because somewhere deep down, he believed he wasn't worthy of anyone's affection, and that was not something he would shed just like that. Well, she could only truly prove herself to him over time, but she could at least try to give him a little reassurance now.

"I am choosing you, Niklaus Mikaelson," she smiled, "because you've always treated me with respect. I'll file what you did to me when you were trapped in Elena's house under temporary insanity due to grief so your record remains clean. I'm choosing you because you keep me on my toes in a way no-one else ever has. Because you make me feel infinitely safe, warm and treasured. Because you can be such a jerk. Because you make me laugh. Because you make me cry. Because you didn't leave my head, not even after five years of never laying eyes on you, and I doubt you ever will again. Because I just can't believe that you are really that freaking good in bed and I'll need you to prove it to me again every single day." His face had split into the single most lovely smile she had ever seen on him, and Caroline couldn't help but move into his arms and kiss him, long and lovingly. They were both a little short of breath when she broke the kiss and gave him another smile. "And because I know that you love me."

Klaus tightened his hold and rested his forehead against hers like he had done earlier. "I do. The Gods know I do, Caroline." He leaned back and let his gaze wander over every detail of her face. She closed her eyes and let his words echo through her system, letting them fill her up and sway and glow like an ocean of warm, liquid gold. So this was what epic love felt like... glorious, universal, eternal. And outrageously difficult. Caroline felt a sudden bout of gratefulness at having found what she knew was most rare in this world. The real thing, with all its ups and downs. No matter how hard it was going to be at times, it was the real thing, for both of them. And they would bloody well make it work.

"Well," Klaus murmured, his lips at her ear, "would you like to know why I chose you, a long time ago?" She could only nod. "At first I thought it was your light, and up to a point, it was. You held a beauty for me I had lost all hope of ever finding. Your potential, everything you carried within you that was trying so hard to find its way to the surface, intrigued me to no small extent. And yes... you were also a challenge, I have to admit that, a challenge I was dead set on mastering. And then I discovered that smart mouth of yours, the moments of insane fearlessness whenever you faced me. It irritated me to the same degree I loved it. I found myself wanting to intimidate you, to make you as afraid of me as everyone else was, but to my eternal surprise, I found that I hated the thought of you fearing me. Anyway, I am digressing. I chose you, Caroline Forbes, because apart from Elijah, you were the first person in a thousand years - and maybe even before that - who took the pains to look beyond the war zone that I am. I do not care that it began as a repeated ruse to distract me. Others have attempted that, successfully sometimes, but no-one's eyes ever saw what yours did. And I fell in love with you for good when I heard your heartbeat the day of the pageant I escorted you to. When I told you about the hummingbird. Your heart sounded just like that little bird's, Caroline. Do you recall what I said?"

Her voice was barely audible. "You said that it was the only time you thought about being human."

With a nod, he brushed his knuckles over her temple. "Yes. It still is to this day, my love - I do not wish to be human. Not then, not now, not ever. But on some very rare occasions, I do recall that a long time ago, I was. Whenever I hear your heart beat like that, I do remember. And I will tear and feather you if you ever mention this again, even to me."

Torn between a giggle and the stupid tears that were welling up behind her eyes, she swallowed. "Okay. Just promise me one thing."

"Anything on Earth," he said solemnly.

"Swear to me that you will burn my Miss Mystic application."

A beautiful, dimpled smile played around his lips. "I promise to aspire, inspire and perspire in my endeavours to do so," he nodded, biting his lip to stifle a laugh.

With mock outrage, she stemmed her hand into her hips, giving him a glare. "I'll tell your sister that you didn't lend me the prom dress but that you gave it to me for keeps because you think she looks fat in it!"

Now a gleam of real panic flashed through his eyes, making her burst into giggles after all when he held up his hands in defeat. "All right, all right. I will burn the bloody paper, and you may witness the ceremony. Something I already know by heart and that I can use against you as I please is not worth dying over."

They burst into laughter, and Klaus ran a gentle hand through her hair before he leaned down to kiss her lightly. Caroline's eyes closed when she broke the kiss and took him into her arms, her head against his chest, giving a contented sigh. For a while, they just stood like that, holding each other, feeling the consuming happiness that came with a new start, with a love that was only at its very beginning and that they both knew would still grow... and last. Without thinking, she moved her face and kissed the curve of his neck.

"I love you, Klaus."

In a movement too fast for her to discern, he flashed to a fallen tree trunk, sat, and pulled her onto his lap, cradling her face in his hands. The longing in his eyes was unlike anything she had ever seen. "Look me in the eyes when you say it."

She fixed her gaze on his, letting herself be filled with all those crazy, wonderful, undying feelings she was only just beginning to discover. "I love you. We will make our way through everything else, but this is what matters. You and me."

Caroline saw a hint of pain on his face. He knew she was speaking the truth, but then... he was still Klaus. And his next words confirmed her suspicions. "We both know that however much I have fought and will continue to fight for it, I do not deserve your love. Not truly."

"Maybe not. But you have it anyway. You have me. And someday, who knows, you might even deserve it all."

His lips covered hers, shy and hesitating, his kiss of a sweetness that made her heart ache a little. Until she reminded herself that all of this, all of him, belonged to her. Now, and for all times to come.

With some reluctance, Klaus let go of her lips and kissed her eyes, something she had grown to adore more than anything else. He searched her face again for a long time, and his voice was low but firm when he spoke again. It was a quote by Edmund Spenser she remembered from 'Sense and Sensibility'. And she wondered if anything could ever describe the two of them more aptly.

"For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought."


The world was all before them, where to choose

Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.

They hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,

Through Eden took their solitary way.

- John Milton, Paradise Lost