Title: TheShadows of a Place I Have Been Before
Written for: Speklez
Written By: Silverspoon
Rating: T for violence and language
Summary/Prompt used: 'Knight in shining armour' and photo prompt.
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The Shadows of a Place I Have Been Before
New Orleans, 1725
Humans were peculiar creatures, to Klaus' mind at least. It had been a long time indeed since he had been engaged in the pretense of being one, and his memories of what it had meant to breathe air into his lungs from necessity rather than habit had ebbed away.
Now, at best, Klaus thought of the human race as playthings he could use to stem his boredom and, at worst, he regarded them as food. Blood was capable of sustaining his body but his mind was a different matter entirely, and Klaus had found that periodically engaging with the humans could bring him some degree of entertainment. Without such interactions, the days stretched on endlessly and made him weary. It was far better to scour the underbelly of the city, Nouvelle-Orleans as it had been christened - and to be the advocate of some bare knuckle fight to the death in a seedy tavern- than it was to wallow in the monotony that accompanied immortality.
Whilst Rebekah filled her days with clawing for the attention of young men who were not worthy of her affections and Elijah chased after his own diminished sense of nobility, Klaus watched the humans as they simply existed. Although each life was a mere drop in the ocean compared to that of the Mikaelson siblings, who would live through the rise and fall of empires, Klaus found himself intrigued by what he saw.
Birth and death were of little consequence to him but all the bits in between… oh how glorious they could be! Lust, anger, greed, fear, depravity, and every other blind passion suffered by the human condition had the power to enthrall the hybrid, more than he cared to admit. In the humans he saw watered down versions of his own weaknesses, and to some extent it comforted him to know that not all of what he had once been was eradicated by his supernatural heritage. And on the other hand, their sin was a subject of great amusement to the hybrid.
So as each afternoon dwindled to dusk, and the poor spilled onto the streets like a shower of unpredictable meteorites hurtling towards the heart of the city, Klaus also stepped out into the humid New Orleans night.
His clothing set him apart from most with its fine golden brocade and the polished leather of his boots and belt, but it was his demeanour that truly made Klaus stand out. He carried and conducted himself like royalty, until such a time as he became displeased; then he could easily be mistaken for the most lethal rogue imaginable. As a result, he had garnered quite the reputation for himself over recent months, and that was just how the tempestuous Mikaelson liked it. Respect was something that Klaus was aware could not be bought with any amount of money, but he had discovered through experience that it could be earned by spilling enough blood.
As Klaus strolled down the narrow streets, a cane tipped with a silver wolf's head nestled snugly in one hand, his eyes roved every last inch of his surroundings. He scoured faces and also tuned in to snippets of conversation spoken streets away in a bid to find something to pique his interest. He was on his second loop of the neighbourhood when tedium began to overwhelm him and he impulsively veered towards a tavern set in the middle of a line of buildings. When all else failed, Klaus was not averse to turning to alcohol to dull his boredom.
However, the sound of raucous laughter from within immediately irritated the hybrid, and he allowed his hand to fall away from the door handle. He turned from the tavern with his nose tipped up in scorn and was in the process of making his way back onto the main street when a very pronounced scuffling sound drew his attention to the side of the building. Despite the darkness, Klaus could easily make out the alleyway that existed between the tavern and the cobbler's next door to it. He knew that there were many short-cuts into the French quarter from his current location and presumed it to be one such route. Although tonight he had little vested interest in the geography of the area, Klaus moved closer to the mouth of the alley, intent on investigating it further. Not only was he enticed by the very obvious sounds of a skirmish but there was a familiar and intriguing scent hanging in the air that Klaus could not ignore.
Lingering on the threshold of the alleyway, framed by the dank walls that curved into a slight arch above his head, Klaus stood and surveyed the scene before him with interest. A tall, heavy set man, reeking of booze and ill-intent, stood in front of a woman who had found herself backed up against a wall. His hands continually nipped at her waist and he loomed over her with a drunken sneer. The woman was steady in her resolve and she slapped his fingers away each time they fumbled at the bodice of her gown. The cloak around her shoulders was moth-eaten and thin, and the bonnet she wore was too plain to be considered a fashion statement. Her crimson and purple dress was cut lower than polite society usually made allowances for and, coupled with the fact that the slightly open strings of her corset were peeking out above her cleavage, Klaus quickly deduced that the woman was a prostitute.
"I already told you, I ain't working no more tonight," she insisted, her Creole accent as thick as the black ringlets that tumbled down her back from beneath her bonnet. Muttering something unintelligible, the drunk lunged for her again, this time endeavouring to plunge his hand into the mound of her breasts. The young woman only pressed herself further back against the wall and, with surprising speed, delivered a slap to the man's jaw that echoed throughout the alley. Klaus managed to bite back a chuckle as the affronted man dropped back a few paces, his expression bewildered as he clutched his cheek.
"You're drunk, Mr. Martin," the woman hissed, her breath hitching in a betrayal of the unease she felt, "go home… to your wife. Perhaps she'll find it in her heart to oblige your yearnings. Now good night, sir."
Impressed by the woman's show of courage, Klaus smirked and arched a brow, still watching undiscovered from the shadows. However, as the woman began to push herself away from the wall and set off in the opposite direction, Martin lunged forwards and grabbed her. The prostitute cried out, surprised as the man swung her around and pinned her back into place with one elbow wedged at her throat.
"Whores do not get to choose," Mr. Martin spat, leaning over the woman in a hideous display of his superior height and strength. She made a startled choking sound, her ability to breathe clearly compromised, and her fingers fastened around the arm that held her. As the man's other hand bunched up her skirts in a bid to hoist them up above her waist and the woman's breathing grew more erratic, Klaus felt his temper beginning to swell like the rising tide. It swept over his whole body until every last nerve was consumed by the desire to intervene in the injustice he witnessed. Although the situations were only vaguely similar, the million or so times that Klaus had found himself dominated by his monstrous father sprang to the forefront of his mind, fuelling his rage further until he became powerless to act against it. The memory of Mikael's face, cruel and twisted by hatred, mingled with the features of Martin, and Klaus felt his fangs elongating.
When the woman uttered a faint "please" that was so filled with desperation, Klaus found that he was already moving forwards at inhuman speed. He whirled the cane he held around in his hand and brought it down hard on the arm that the man had extended, breaking the bone with an audible crack. Mr. Martin would have fallen to his knees with a scream if it were not for the fact that Klaus caught him by the neck before he hit the ground. With his fingers fastened around the man's throat, Klaus raised him easily aloft, enjoying the way his feet struggled against air to find purchase against the ground that he had been plucked from.
The woman only watched from her position half crouched against the wall, her fingertips massaging her own throat as she coughed.
"Now, Mr. Martin, is that any way to treat a lady?" Klaus scolded, cocking his head to one side as he observed his prey. Martin's eyes grew hopelessly wide as dark veins snaked their way across Klaus' face, communicating not only his anger but also his hunger. He was tearing into the man's jugular with his fangs a mere fraction of a second later, gulping down great mouthfuls of blood that was laced with far too much alcohol and opium to really prove enjoyable. When he had drunk his fill, Klaus dropped the corpse to the ground and fished in his lapel pocket for a handkerchief. The attributes of his vampiric nature melted away as the blood hit his belly, warming him from the inside the way only a hearty meal can. Then Klaus finally cast a glance to where the woman he had rescued had stood. He expected to find that she had long since fled. He was more than a little surprised, and impressed if truth be told, when he found a pair of intense, brown eyes regarding him across the alley. Klaus straightened up and readjusted his neckerchief as he waited for the question he knew must be poised on the tip of the woman's tongue; the question he had heard uttered in fear or shrieked in blind terror so many times over his life; what are you?
Klaus blinked, visibly taken aback when the words spilled from the woman's lips. She cast a glance at the body on the floor and Klaus' surprise was renewed when he found only satisfaction present in her eyes.
"I trust that I do not need to caution you to keep better company in future," Klaus replied, the smile that wove its way across his lips genuine. The woman scoffed and shook her head, her hair bouncing at her shoulders.
"Until tomorrow night," she murmured disdainfully, and Klaus was horrified when tears began to slide down her cheeks and splash on to the front of her bodice.
"Hush now, love," he stated somewhat awkwardly, moving forward and finding it an instinctive gesture to fold the woman into his arms, "I am certain it isn't that bad."
When she hiccupped a sob in response, Klaus only frowned, stroking her back gently but in evident discomfort. If a woman were to take to weeping at a man's shoulder, it was usually Elijah that could be counted on to fulfil the role in question. Klaus was much more comfortable with breaking necks and tearing out throats, although he supposed he had already done enough of the latter for one evening.
"I'm sorry," the woman finally breathed, extracting herself from Klaus' arms and wiping her tear streaked cheeks hurriedly with the bottom of her cloak, "you must think me a terrible fool."
"Actually, I have you pegged as either rather stupid or rather brave," the vampire countered, pleased when the woman giggled at his words. "What is your name?"
"Desiree," she whispered, her gaze suddenly dropping to her clasped hands and lingering there. "Desiree Viard."
"Well, Desiree," Klaus repeated, smile growing as he tasted the foreign name on his tongue, "I trust that, since you have neither fainted nor run screaming into the quarter, you already know what I am, and most curiously have chosen not to fear it."
"There are worse things in this city," she only replied, her features darkening as she regarded Klaus.
"Is that so?" murmured the hybrid, thoroughly intrigued now by the woman. With a smile, he prodded, "When was the last time you ate?"
Desiree seemed to shrink in to herself, clutching at her own frail shoulders almost self-consciously as she avoided the man's gaze.
"Day before yesterday," she responded, her expression defiant as she added, "but like I told him, I ain't working anymore tonight."
"You misunderstand me, love," said Klaus, "I simply wish to buy you a drink and a hot meal… your first this week, I'll wager. Nothing more and nothing less. What do you say?"
Klaus saw the indecision flicker behind her eyes but there was a definite absence of fear, and so he felt his curiosity deepen. Finally, just when he had begun to anticipate rejection, Desiree bobbed her head and stepped forward. Klaus offered her his arm, and that was how the hybrid came to find himself walking hand in hand through the streets of New Orleans with a prostitute who could barely have been older than seventeen.
True to his word, he bought the woman dinner at the most extravagant local restaurant he could find. He quietly enjoyed the hostile glares shot their way by the patrons, who were loathed to allow a known hooker into their fine establishment. However, there were few as foolish as to argue with a Mikaelson, and Klaus maintained his smug grin as the waiter kept up a steady stream of liquor to their glasses. By the time they came to leave the restaurant, almost an hour after it had been due to close, Desiree was quite intoxicated and even lovelier. Klaus had come to learn that she was an orphan, tasked with taking care of a younger sister who required expensive medical treatment that just could not be obtained on a seamstress' wage. When she spoke of her sister, Desiree's face took on an altogether different appearance; her eyes became more focused and somehow fierce, and her voice grew authoritative in a way that Klaus admired.
By the time she had agreed to accompany him to a hotel in the quarter, and they were kissing their way backwards up a winding staircase, soft brown lips against a pink calloused mouth, Klaus had already made up his mind. Finally, when Desiree fell back against the bed, her resolve all but forgotten, Klaus realised just what the scent that had taunted him all evening was.
He uttered a single word, his eyes wide with shock, "Wolf…"
Desiree, who had been lost in the oncoming moment, (sprawled back against the bed with her head lolling), slowly straightened up and affixed the hybrid with a level stare.
"I was wondering how long it would take you," she replied, and for the first time during the course of the evening, she seemed frightened. Klaus blew out a breath and sunk onto the mattress at the woman's side, his eyes fixed upon her face.
"Do you turn?" he pressed, leaning forwards and capturing one of her hands in his own. He was faintly disappointed when she shook her head.
"My curse has never been activated," she answered, swallowing hard as she finished, "but for the first time ever, tonight I wished it had."
Klaus' eyebrows shot up and he peered at the woman through the dim candlelight.
"So had I not have disposed of Mr. Martin then you…" Klaus began, silenced as Desiree interrupted.
"Would have killed him?" she finished, a sudden bout of hollow laughter bubbling up from her throat. "In a damned second. But I'm glad you got there first. I'm glad it wasn't me."
Klaus fell silent, truly rendered speechless by the woman before him who at first had seemed so helpless and yet now appeared more hopeless than anything.
"Why? Why not activate the curse and be free of all this?" he wondered aloud, shaking his head to convey his lack of understanding, "your strength and speed would be unequalled by any human man… whatever you desired could be yours and no more would you feel the shame of this… this existence. You could live like a queen, as you deserve."
Desiree was silent as the moments elapsed with only the faint sounds of life filtering in from the street outside to punctuate them. Eventually, she raised her gaze and affixed Klaus with a tight lipped smile.
"Sure… I could… but not Marie. Not my baby sister," she replied, her voice almost cracking. She allowed her eyes to fall to her skirt again as she continued, "Her sickness is in her mind. When I have money for the doctor, it's never good news. I promised our Mama that I would take care of her and there ain't nothing on this earth fixing to make me break that promise. So I do what I need to get by and I don't say no more about it."
Klaus nodded, his mind drifting to the words that he and his siblings had written their code by for hundreds of years; always and forever, family above all. He understood – more than anything, he understood.
"So tonight when you showed up, I was grateful," Desiree confessed, her voice small and verging on ashamed, "I was so grateful that you could do what I couldn't. Not because I was scared or because I didn't want to… but because Marie needs me to be this way."
"All this," Klaus began, pausing to gesture to the hotel room with a sweep of his hand, "is your way of expressing gratitude?"
At Desiree's downcast look alone, Klaus had his answer.
"Please, don't be angry… it's the only way I know how anymore," Desiree pleaded, her features drawn together in such earnest that Klaus felt a pang of long suppressed pity seize his heart. Leaning forwards, Klaus made soothing shushing sounds before cupping Desiree's chin in both hands and drawing her close to him for one final kiss. Her tongue poked at his lips hungrily until he allowed her access to his mouth, one hand gripping the back of her head through mountains of curls. They broke apart only when Desiree's need for air thwarted their need for each other, and then Klaus peered deep into the young woman's eyes. She was enthralled within seconds, staring straight ahead and awaiting her instructions.
When he spoke, his voice was soft and gentle, his usual mirthful lilt buried beneath a new undertone of quiet regret.
"You will forget this night just as you will forget me. You know nothing of the body in the alleyway, you were entertaining a wealthy gentleman in the quarter the whole evening. You spent the night together in this hotel and when you woke in the morning, he was gone. There will be enough money on the dresser to pay for your company and your next year's rent, as well as extra for the physician your sister will require," Klaus explained, smoothing his thumb over the back of Desiree's hand as he spoke in a commanding monotone, "although you will not remember me, you will remember your promise to your mother, and you will keep it above all things... until your dying day."
Swallowing hard, Klaus trailed off, pausing to gather his thoughts in order to impart his final instructions.
"Now, you will sleep, far from the place where nightmares are real, or where men in alleyways seek to destroy all that is good within you," he whispered, rising from the bed as Desiree nodded and obediently lay back against the pillows. Her eyelids closed and her breathing evened out, signifying that every word of the compulsion that Klaus weaved had hit its mark.
For just a moment, the original stood and watched the woman's chest rise and fall, comforted by the fact that he had kept her monsters at bay for one night at least.
Leaning over the bed, Klaus brushed a lock of hair away from Desiree's forehead and pressed a chaste kiss against her cheek.
"Rest well, Desiree Viard," he murmured with just the hint of a smile.
When the breeze next rustled through the hotel room from the open window, Desiree was asleep and Klaus was gone.
Just ten years later, when her body was interred into an unmarked plot in a New Orleans graveyard, Klaus walked among the tombstones with Rebekah, before laying a single rose down in offering to the woman he had once thought he had saved from a monster, only to save from herself. He knew then beyond all doubt that some promises were just worth keeping, whether it be always and forever, or simply until your dying day.