Chapter 1: The Call
The muffled notes of his ringtone broke him out of his reverie. He was standing in front of his easel with paint splattered hands trying to decide if his current project was rubbish or worth salvaging. He let himself admit that he'd been distracted lately. Although he could not say exactly why. It was a feeling in his gut. A ghost of breath along the back of his neck. Tremors that woke him from his sleep. Something, somewhere was wrong.
"Yes, yes...hold on" he spoke to the incessant little device while hurriedly wiping his hands. Assuming it was Elijah on the other end, no one else called him at this time of the morning before the sun had even graced the world with it's presence, he dug the phone out of his pocket and swiped the screen not bothering to check the display.
"Yes?" he inquired exasperatedly.
He was met with silence. Then the intake of breath and what sounded like a muffled sob.
"Hello?" he ventured a little more forcefully.
"Klaus?" the noise that came through the speaker was little more than a broken whisper. He could taste her pain on his tongue and a leaden weight of dread settled in his gut even as his heart clenched just at hearing her say one simple word.
"Caroline? Sweetheart, what's wrong?" his mind was racing with a thousand different scenarios. What had those lunatics in Mystic Falls gotten dragged into now? Her reply was nothing but jagged breathing. "Caroline, please talk to me!"
The pleading edge in his voice must have snapped her out of her trance because she answered, "My m-mom died." It came out choked. Like it had taken whatever strength she had left just to utter those words. Klaus was no stranger to pain, his own and that of other people. Of course he spent more time inflicting pain than helping anyone through it and in the face of the devastation in Caroline's voice the Hybrid felt a tumult of emotions explode inside his chest...honor that she'd called him...confusion because they hadn't spoken in so long...fear because he had no idea of how to help her...and something else...something that seemed too much like joy just at knowing that when she really needed someone, she had chosen to call him.
"What can I do?" he breathed knowing in that moment listening to her fall apart hundreds of miles away he'd do anything she asked.
"Break your promise."
The breeze was cool on her bare arms and legs. After finishing the required paperwork at the hospital, everyone decided to head to the boarding house. It was mostly a blur to Caroline. Too many, "How are you feeling?" and "What can I get you?" and "You need to think about making arrangements" and "I'm so sorry" for her to be able to think straight. Of course she was trying not to think at all. She was afraid if she did that the weight in her chest would suffocate her completely. Sitting on the back porch watching the sun fade from the sky, she could still hear the murmurs of her friends in the house behind her. She'd needed a moment to herself and had slipped away to shower and change into a borrowed tank top and shorts for the evening. Then after pausing on the stairs had chosen to head out back not ready for another round of questioning just yet.
Inside, Stefan couldn't help but check his phone again. He kept re-reading the texts he'd received not an hour ago.
Mate, do you know where Caroline is? She's not answering her phone. -K
It's really not a good time for her right now Klaus. She probably doesn't want to talk to you. -S
Stefan, if you know where she is, tell me. I didn't come half-way across the bloody country to leave before I know she's ok. -K
Wait, why are you in Mystic Falls? I thought you told her you'd never come back here. -S
She asked me to. -K
...her phone is dead. She's at the boarding house. -S
Stefan knew that she and Klaus had sporadically kept in touch since their encounter last year, but he'd never imagined that she would call him during a time like this. The crunch of gravel in the driveway and quick steps to the door were proving him wrong.
He opened the door just as Klaus raised his hand to knock. The two men stood glaring trying to discern the others intentions. Stefan felt obligated to protect Caroline even if that was from herself and Klaus was going to get to her even if he had to go through everyone in this house to do it. Seeing the resolve, but more importantly the concern written all over Klaus's face, Stefan stepped to the side and quietly said, "She's on the back porch."
Klaus nodded his thanks and strode off in the direction Stefan had indicated paying no mind to the startled gasps from the guests of the house.
Elena quickly rushed to Stefan's side, "What the hell is he doing here?!" she hissed.
Stefan barely spared her a glance as he made to follow Klaus. "Caroline wants him here," he said in a tone that left no room for argument. The others merely looked on in varying degrees of worry and disgust, but no one said anything further.
Klaus slowed his pace as he reached the back of the house. He could see her now through the glass of the door. She sat on the top step with her back to the house. His breath caught in his throat at how the sun's dying light turned her damp hair from platinum to gold and his heart clenched again at the hunch in her shoulders. Even without seeing her face, it was obvious how the grief was threatening to cripple her. Swallowing past the lump in his throat and with a deep breath, he quietly pushed open the door and made his way to the broken beauty in front of him.
She didn't turn at his approach. She assumed it was Elena or Stefan coming to check on her. She stiffened only slightly when there were suddenly legs on either side of her and strong arms hauling her back until she was completely enveloped and her back was flush with a warm chest.
She turned into him winding her arms around him underneath his jacket. Her face snuggled against the soft material of his gray henley as she inhaled his scent. He still smelled the same. He was here. She was safe. Her hold around his waist tightened and with a shuddering breath she let herself fall apart.