Author's Note: I was inspired to write this after a long overdue HIMYM rewatch. To those of you who love shows where a group of friends hang out at a bar all day doing nothing, the setting will be familiar.
This fic is basically my baby. I've been working on it off and on for about a year. I didn't want to post it until it had been completed, and now that it has, the updates shouldn't take much time.
I know, I haven't been on this site for years. Well now that this is up, I'm looking forward to publishing more. Please don't forget to review. Constructive criticism is much appreciated :)
It's Tuesday night and all Caroline wants is to get drunk. Not slightly buzzed. Not giggly and tipsy like Stefan's ex, Ivy -she's The One guys- Jenkins. But forget-her-own-name, blackout drunk. So what if the week has barely started and she already wants to go down to the bar and drown herself in alcohol? She doesn't fucking care.
As she's waiting for Katherine to disentangle herself from her latest boy toy, Caroline wonders how her life led up to this. Maybe it started with Stefan asking her to move in. Or earlier, when she came back from Thailand.
She was a straight A girl in school, captain of the cheerleading team, head of a billion organising committees. Miss Mystic Falls two years in a row. But college had made her realise how much of a small fish in a big pond she really was. She'd met Elena, and they had such elaborate plans of opening an event organising company in the big city. At that time, the future seemed unquestionably rosy and conquerable.
Then Elena met the Salvatore brothers, and Caroline found herself an unwilling observer to the teen drama train wreck that was the two-brothers-love-the-same-girl triangle. Before she knew it, Elena had moved in to Damon's apartment in Manhattan and Stefan had disappeared to Italy. Caroline took her own gap year, backpacking across Asia before she returned to New York to work for Meredith Fell's event organising firm.
It was weird how easily they reconnected. Caroline bumped into Elena, who invited her out to drinks for old times' sake. At an Irish bar downtown, she found out that Elena and Damon were, unsurprisingly, still together, and were sharing the apartment with Stefan.
"So it's not awkward, then?" she asked, sipping her beer.
Elena laughed. "With Stefan? No way. He's dating this girl called Phoebe now. Hey, you should stay and meet the gang! They'll be coming down soon."
And that was how she met everyone else. Damon's "Hey Blondie" and Stefan's warm smile and hug was as familiar as home. She remembered Katherine, Elena's cousin, from a few Gilbert family gatherings. She remembered Klaus from Stefan's anecdotes of their childhood adventures. Turned out Klaus too was working in New York.
Soon, Caroline found herself spending more and more evenings at the bar. They must have seemed liked an unlikely bunch of people. Hanging out with your ex is never a good idea, but doing so while dating his brother is insane, especially when said group also includes your cousin and your ex's best friend. If shit were to ever hit the fan, it was clear who would be on whose side. But Caroline fit in perfectly, and it seemed that she was all the gang ever needed; an old friend with ties to both Elena and Stefan separate from their relationship.
That didn't mean there was no residual awkwardness. Despite Elena's assurance of their "chill" living arrangements, she and Damon announced one day that they had found an apartment a few blocks away.
They never really brought up Stefan and Elena's relationship anymore but when Damon insisted it was a good move because it wouldn't be "weird" for Stefan anymore, the gang just laughed and ordered another round. In all fairness Matt the bartender had introduced a new drink they just had to try. They clinked their glasses and changed the subject pretty soon.
And well, that's how Caroline moved in with Stefan. He had an empty bedroom, she was crashing on a friend's couch that perpetually stank of cat pee, and seriously, she would never be able to find an apartment like this with a bar downstairs.
"Here's to even more daylight drinking," she said, toasting her new life.
And that's pretty much how she got to where she was now; on a Tuesday night, the same as every night, getting drunk off her ass.
Later, as she's stumbling her way from the bathroom, Stefan sends her a worried glance. "Are you okay?"
"Not drunk enough."
Klaus pauses in the middle of the story. "Bad day at work, huh?"
"When is it not?"
Katherine slides in besides her. "Guess who has a hot date this weekend? What?" she adds, looking at the expression on Stefan's face.
Caroline doesn't mind. She hasn't come to the bar to wallow in pity. Katherine's exploits are a welcome distraction from the mediocre mess that is her life.
Klaus clears his throat. "As long as it isn't my brother."
Katherine shoots him a smirk. "Not this time." He makes a face.
She feels Stefan trying to catch her eye but concentrates instead on Klaus' story she had interrupted before, something about a married woman he had been commissioned to paint a portrait of.
"-then she asked me to set up in the bedroom while she 'freshened up'."
"Did you paint her like one of your French girls?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.
"Well I would have if her husband hadn't barged in-"
They look up to see Damon and Elena standing at the booth. Instantly Caroline knows it's something huge. Not only are they grinning stupidly, but Elena is shyly leaning into Damon, and Damon can't take his eyes off her.
Caroline shifts so that Stefan is in her line of sight.
A cheer goes around their booth. The rest of the bar, used to such outbursts from their corner, ignores them.
"Oh my god, congratulations!"
"Finally, I was wondering when you would succumb to being chained down."
"Hey, the only chaining that is allowed to happen is in the bedroom."
"We're going to let that slide this time. Since, you know, you'll soon be an old boring married couple."
Amidst all the hugs and pats on the backs, Katherine's declarations of an unforgettable bachelorette party, Klaus' promises of lending his contacts in the art and photography industry, Caroline cuts her eyes to Stefan. For someone whose brother just got engaged, his smile is a little too tight around the corners.
"Of course, you'll be the maid of honour."
"Are you sure? Katherine seems to be keen on planning the bachelorette party."
Elena snorts. "Trust me, she doesn't want the work. And she was going to hijack the bachelorette planning anyway. So let her handle that."
"Well, I'll be happy to. Be your maid of honour I mean. I've been mentally planning the colour schemes and centrepieces since forever anyway."
They'd moved the party upstairs after the bar had closed, and the mess in the living room is a throwback to their wild college days. Sometimes when she looks back at those times, she doesn't know whether to envy or pity college Caroline's enthusiasm for life.
Damon and Stefan step out for bagels at Elena's insistence.
"At this time?"
"I'm craving bagels."
Damon shrugs. "Anything for the bride-to-be." And Elena gets such a soppy expression on her face that when she jumps up to kiss him, even Klaus the cynic smiles.
He's currently pottering about in the kitchen, looking for the good scotch Stefan keeps hidden. He hadn't even told Caroline, but if anyone could find it, it would be Klaus. Katherine is sprawled on the couch, snoring softly, her face illuminated by the flickering light of the television. There's a moustache and beard drawn on her with permanent marker.
Elena yawns and covers her mouth, the diamond on her ring glinting in the soft light. "Damon's going to ask Stefan to be his best man?"
"You don't sound sure."
"Well, I'm not sure if he'll say yes."
"Of course he will. He's moved on. And above all, Damon is his brother."
She looks at her hopefully. "You think? I mean, you'll know right? You live with him. You've known him since college."
Caroline coughs. "Don't worry, 'Lena. It'll be fine."
Elena looks relieved as she sinks into the rug. "You know I never brought this up but, well, you and Stefan-"
"What about me and Stefan?"
"Well- I know the way you look at him- or looked at him, I don't know. What I'm saying is, I mean not as if you need my permission or anything-"
"Permission for what, Elena?"
"I'm just saying that it's okay. If you want to. Be with him, I mean."
"Elena you're drunk." She laughs. "Go to sleep. I'll wake you when Damon comes back."
Sitting on the fire escape, Caroline runs Elena's words through her mind.
I know the way you look at him.
It's true she had a bit of an unrequited crush on him in college. Of course, after he met Elena, Caroline gave up any expectation of reciprocation. But they're roommates now, and she's pretty sure she's gotten over her crush. So what if sometimes in the middle of the night, when she can't get sleep, she wants to cross the hall and slip into his bed? She's just lonely, is all.
God, she needs a smoke.
She's aware of what her friends, including Elena, think. That after a string of failed relationships, when they're older and wiser, they'll find their way back to each other. That their paths are destined to cross.
Her friends know her future better than her. Caroline doesn't want to examine how she feels about that.
She hears the scrape of the window opening, and turns to see Klaus squeezing past to sit beside her. Wordlessly he hands her a cigarette. Relief fills her body at the first inhale and she gives him a smile. He hums in response.
The house is dark and quiet. Damon and Elena left a while ago, Katherine is still passed out on the couch, and Stefan is sleeping in his room. Being a new teacher, they'd saddled him with all the early morning classes.
"This is the beginning of the end, you know."
"Come on, marriage isn't that bad."
"I meant the group," says Klaus. "Soon, Damon and Elena will move to the suburbs and start popping out babies. At the rate she's going, Katherine will probably get murdered by a jealous wife for seducing her husband. Stefan will eventually find 'The One' until he comes across 'The Next One'. In the end, it'll just be you and I."
"And what if I decide I want to settle down?"
"Really? 2.5 kids, dog, white picket fence, is that what you want?"
She blows out a ring of smoke.
"Or you want to settle with Stefan, is that it? Be one of his 'The Ones'?"
"Shut up." She bumps his knee.
They watch the sun climb up the buildings in silence.
Despite Klaus' ominous proclamations, the next few weeks go by pleasantly. Caroline meets Tyler at the gym. Not only does he have an impressive six pack, he recommends her to his mother, a high-profile socialite. Meredith has never been so pleased with her. Stefan and Valerie are going strong, already past the "I love you" phase. Klaus sells a couple of paintings, not that he needs the money. Katherine goes on a business trip to the Caribbean and come back with a glorious tan. Damon and Elena bask in their shared engagement glow and disgust everyone with their coupley happiness.
They're sitting in their usual booth, straining to hear each other over the din. The bar's more crowded than usual and Caroline scoffs at the "tourists" taking over their place. Damon and Elena bounce early, Katherine leaves for a late-night international conference call. The three of them who stay behind play Pictionary on napkins. Klaus and Caroline bicker over points while Stefan smiles at his phone from time to time.
"What are those two stick figures supposed to be doing?" For someone who is such a good painter, Klaus really sucks at Pictionary.
"Sex. They're having sex, see."
"It looks more like they're killing each other."
Then they start arguing about the logistics of stick figure sex-
"Look, when you draw it like that it just seems like an extra limb."
"I mean, you can show oral sex, yeah."
"Technically, aren't all stick figures clones? That would mean having sex with yourself."
-and it's ridiculous but as the night progresses, she feels herself feeling rather flushed. All this talk about sex and positions is not good for her deprived self. She and Tyler haven't done it yet and it's been over a month. So when she starts becoming aware of the closeness of Klaus' body, and the swift, sharp strokes of his hand when he draws, she knows she has to stop.
Stefan looks up from texting Val. "What, leaving already?"
She gathers her purse and chugs the rest of her drink. "Yeah, I'm going to Tyler's."
Klaus smirks. "Someone's getting lucky tonight."
She tosses them a smile and goes out into the street, pulling out her phone. Tyler's number goes straight to voicemail.
She shrugs and decides to surprise him.
"Keep the change," she tells the cab driver. She just wants to go up and curl into her bed.
The silence of her apartment presses down on her as she unlocks the door. She's startled to see light under Stefan's door.
"What are you doing here?" His book falls out of his hands as he rises.
"I thought I would surprise him. Instead I found him on the couch, his naked ass saluting me." Stefan winces. "And oh, guess who was underneath him? Hayley. That's right, I caught him fucking my co-worker. Surprise."
"Oh, Care." His hand is a warm weight on her shoulder. She would cry but the tightness in her belly that has been building up throughout the night is hard to ignore. His eyes are sincere and kind and she has to keep chanting Valerie Valerie Valerie inside her head in order to not do anything stupid.
"Do you want some soup? There's some left in the fridge I can heat. We can watch a movie."
"No." She shakes her head. "I'm going down to the bar. I need to…unwind."
She's going to fuck the first guy who shows any interest.
Stefan nods, suddenly understanding. He takes a step back and scratches his neck.
"Yeah, that's a better idea."
Klaus takes one look at her face, and immediately dispatches the girl he's talking to.
"Hey, Genevieve, I'll call you later. All right?"
"But you don't even have my num-"
He steers her into the booth and she says, "I don't need pity, Klaus." She's a little irritated that she ran into him in her quest for a no-strings-attached, get-Tyler-out-of-her-mind hookup. That and his cologne is too distracting.
"No, what you need is alcohol."
It turns out, she does. She smiles gratefully when he buys the next round. And the next one. And the next.
"I mean, out of everyone, Hayley? I should have suspected something when I first introduced them. He wouldn't have met her if not for me. How fucked up is that?"
"Yeah, Tyler's an arse."
"And no wonder she'd been looking extra smug at work nowadays. What does he see in her? She's not even that hot."
He laughs. "Definitely not."
"You haven't even seen her."
"I trust your judgment, love."
Klaus' British accent becomes more pronounced when he's drunk. He leans his head back on the vinyl and idly plays with the necklaces at his throat. Caroline tries not to notice the skin bared by the first few open buttons of his Henley.
She has a sudden urge to tell him everything. That what she found tonight hurt not only because she liked Tyler. More than that, it hurt because he chose Hayley over her.
"I mean, I try so hard but I'm never enough. Elena just has to bat her eyelashes, and she gets everything. Most of the guys I dated in college were her leftovers. It's stupid and I love her and I couldn't be happier for her but it still hurts, you know?
"And it sucks even more because I'm such a failure. I was supposed to conquer the city but I'm no more than a glorified assistant at Meredith's. The biggest event I organised was something my boyfriend got me. What was the point of moving here?"
All this while Klaus has been gazing at her with an unreadable expression. She thinks she's gone too far. Uh oh word vomit. She doesn't talk to Klaus about feelings. Ever. Or at least when she's sober. Sure, there are times when their friends pass out and the two of them lie on the rooftop, looking at the stars, and talk. Or times when they go to clubs and instead of trying to pick up people they find themselves in a corner spilling their guts amidst the pulsating lights. But alcohol or some other form of intoxication is always involved and her heart sinks when he brushes off his Henley and pushes himself off the booth without a word.
Great, she's probably scared him off. Even Klaus, whom she could always count on to make fun of Stefan's hair with, doesn't want to hang out with a mess like her.
She slams her glass down with a satisfying clunk and sluggishly drags a fry through some ketchup.
"What, you thought I would let you go on without a refill?"
Klaus swaps her empty glass with a pleasantly full one and slides in next to her instead of opposite her. Some of the beer sloshes over her fingers but she doesn't care.
"I'm not usually the one to use cheesy phrases-"
"Then don't." She raises a hand. "I don't want to hear some crap about how I have potential to do great things or how I'm strong, beautiful and full of light. I just want to get wasted and talk about inconsequential shit."
He exhales. "Good, because I hate those cheesy phrases."
And that's how they wind up discussing the various modus operandi Katherine employs to get laid (her favourite is The Damsel-in-Distress); they laugh at how whipped Damon is, and how Stefan will never complete his epic novel (Klaus had once replaced pages of his manuscript with erotic fanfiction). The alcohol keeps flowing and Caroline has trouble remembering why she was so upset in the first place. Soon, the hand that was resting on the booth behind her is drawing circles on her bare shoulder, and Caroline's mind starts going to dangerous places.
He's ridiculously hot, she muses, and probably good in bed. Plus, he'd know how to successfully separate the physical from the emotional. He's exactly what she needs right now.
She must have been staring at him too long, for he pauses in his diatribe against instant coffee ("If you think about it, it's just ground bean powder added to water. Disgusting.") and raises a questioning brow at her.
They're sitting too close to each other, his warm leg pressed against her denim-covered thighs. Unwittingly, her eyes slide towards his lips.
He clears his throat and looks away and it's like a bucket of cold water has been poured over her. She widens the distance between them and pretends to read a text on her phone.
"I should get going. It's getting late." His voice is light and casual.
"Sure," she replies, not meeting his eye. "Thanks…for all this."
Her cheeks are still burning as they pay their tab and she struggles to wear her coat. Cologne and scotch fills her nose as Klaus finally takes pity on her and helps her push her arms through the holes. Then suddenly they're outside in the cold street and he's saying goodnight and telling the driver "81st and 1st", sliding into the backseat so fast that she thinks she imagined him stopping to turn the collar of her coat up, his fingers lingering over her pulse point.
It's even more embarrassing than if they'd actually kissed. How can she pretend something didn't happen if that something actually didn't?
It's easy for Klaus to act nonchalant as the gang disses Tyler on her behalf. Elena offers to dig up any dirt on him using all her lawyerly resources. Katherine asks if she wants her to trash his car. Damon promises to send over some vintage whiskey. She tells them that she just wants to forget it ever happened. Caroline decides she's going to suppress all that anger and bitterness until those negative feelings presumably turn into a tumour.
There's a dangerous moment when Stefan wants to know what she'd done at the bar last night-
"We just hung out, got trashed," Klaus replies smoothly. "I may or may not have told her about the journals you used to keep."
"No! No one was supposed to know about," Stefan splutters.
Damon fist-bumps Klaus and they all try to coax the diaries' hiding place out of an indignant Stefan.
-and it's all fine except for the heavy feeling in her stomach that maybe she's overreacting. Sure, she and Klaus have always had this flirtatious edge to their interactions, and there was this one time Stefan's date had mistaken them for a couple so they'd played along, acting all obnoxious and coupley, cooing and using silly nicknames till they'd gotten on everyone's nerves. It was all harmless, really.
But now that she knows Klaus doesn't see her that way, she's actually kind of glad nothing happened. If the subject is ever brought up (and she'll do everything possible to never bring it up) she can always dismiss her behaviour as a drunken overture. Now that the night is behind her, she and Klaus can go back to being friends without any messy hormones coming into play.
"Hey, is it only me or is Klaus avoiding me?"
Katherine frowns. "Why would he be avoiding you?"
"The pizza is still disgusting," Stefan mumbles in between bites.
"I know, I love it."
They're in a diner they'd been searching for a long, long time. Caroline and Stefan had eaten lunch here once, when they'd been new to the city, out on one of their weekend college trips. The pizza tasted like cardboard and the soda was flat, but sitting at the window table, watching two homeless bums fight over a joint, they'd finally fallen in love with New York.
"How did you find this place again?"
"This guy was complaining to, uh, Klaus about how bad the pizza was and when he described the place… I just knew."
Stefan wipes his mouth and smiles. "I'll probably get food poisoning but this makes me feel so much better."
Valerie had realised that she was stagnating in her job and wanted to go back to school. That school just happened to be on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
In a way, Caroline kind of admires Valerie. To walk out of a long-term relationship and move to an entirely different continent? She remembers her own trip to Asia and her resolve to do Europe next time. Hah. Next time.
"Val wasn't good enough for you," is what she tells Stefan. "I mean she clearly wasn't as invested in the relationship. It's actually good you found that out now and not later."
"True. I just wonder if I'll ever be enough. For anyone."
Oh, she knows all about not being enough.
"Hey, you will be. You are. I'm Team Stefan, remember?"
"Yes, you are. You always are." He smiles softly.
Caroline looks down and finishes the rest of her pizza.
It's a slow night and the rest seem to be running late. She strikes up a conversation with a dark-haired guy at the bar. Mike the neurosurgeon seems to be promising, and he even laughs at her a Roman walk into a bar joke.
"Hey," -she feels a warm hand on her back- "I have to show you something."
She frowns. "I'm kind of in the middle of a conversation, Klaus."
"It's urgent." And for some reason she allows him to pilot her towards the booth.
(Maybe because this is the first direct conversation he'd had with her since that night.)
"What, Klaus? I was going to ask him out."
He waves a dismissive hand. "Who, that guy? He came in here with his wife the other day. I did you a favour."
She rolls her eyes. "Is that it?"
"No, there's something else."
"So I was thinking of your ramblings that night you dumped Tyler." She nods, suddenly a little nervous.
"What did you do?"
"Nothing. Here." He fishes a glossy business card out of his pocket and passes it over. She reads the printed words silently. It's a huge PR firm, a name she recognises from Meredith's envious ravings.
"Not a lot of people know this but they have a vacant position. I went to art school with this guy. Call him, and send your resume."
"But it's on the other side of the country-"
"Promise me you'll apply."
"I don't even have enough experience-"
It's the opening of Klaus's exhibition and she's the last to arrive. The dry cleaners had taken their own sweet time with her dress but she didn't want to consider any other option. She'd been looking forward to wearing it since ages; it's midnight blue with a sweetheart neckline, the cinched waist giving way to a full-length skirt with a slit.
As she looks around at the paintings and the proud way Klaus is talking about them to the attendees, she realises that it's all about putting your name on something you've created. Leaving a mark. They ridicule Klaus for having the luxury of being an artist due to his massive trust fund, but when Caroline takes stock of the raw emotion in brave display in front of strangers, she thinks it's much more than a hobby.
Standing in front of a piece simply titled "Snowflake" is where he finds her.
"So, what do you think?"
"Well, it's a snowflake." She doesn't mention how the loneliness beneath the paint makes her insides ache.
"I didn't know my work was so literal."
They turn to see Elena moving towards them, Damon at her side. Her eyes are bright and she's waving at the waiters.
"Free champagne, guys!" It is only then that Caroline notices the tight grip Damon has on his fiancée's waist.
Klaus groans. "How much has she had?"
Damon shrugs not-too-apologetically. "She hasn't eaten anything today."
"When is the baby due?" Elena cheerfully asks a pot-bellied man.
So they spend the rest of the evening shielding Elena from the other guests. They take over a corner table and keep a watch over her. Katherine flirts outrageously with a server to bring them a more substantial entrée because seriously, who eats oysters at an art gallery?
"Here drink this," says Damon. "Yes, I promise it's vodka." He's been trying to get Elena to drink water for the past half hour.
Caroline would help but she's honestly having too much fun seeing Klaus get worked up over any scenes Elena may cause.
We're terrible adults, Caroline realises.
Because instead of retiring home after a night of too much champagne and strawberries, they troop to the bar for a round of even more alcohol. They strike a strange scene, a couple of grown-ups wearing suits and gowns, laughing at the top of their voices, drinking cheap whiskey.
They eventually head upstairs and she finds herself sitting next to Klaus. He's resting his ankle over his other knee and the end of his pants rise up to reveal brightly-coloured socks patterned with cartoon wolves. She finds it fascinating.
Damon and Elena leave before Elena passes out, but not before she pukes all over her lovely red dress. Shoving a sticky Elena into the shower and looking for a clean shirt for her to wear should've been sobering, but Caroline is still pretty drunk as she lingers in front of the refrigerator, wondering if cereal with orange juice would taste good.
"Don't let Stefan see you abusing the cereal like that," remarks Klaus, leaning against the kitchen door. "That man takes his breakfast foods too seriously."
"Well, it's a good thing for us he's sound asleep on his bed." She hadn't meant for it to come out so flirty but in her defence, Klaus had just rolled up his sleeves and opened the top two buttons of his shirt. It's a fact that all men look good in dishevelled tuxes. Nothing to do with Klaus specifically, she tells herself.
"Has Katherine jumped off the fire escape yet?" She'd been threatening to do that for the past half an hour after one of them had apparently offended her Bulgarian sensibilities. Caroline didn't even remember what the issue was.
"Katherine left, remember? Damon said he was dropping her."
Oh. She vaguely recollects Katherine kissing her neck in farewell. Then she realises that apart from an unconscious Stefan, it's just her and Klaus in the apartment.
Caroline clears her throat. "Uh, yeah. I know that. Want some cereal?"
Klaus shakes his head. "I'm just going to have some water."
There's a weird moment when he's staring at her, a peculiar expression on his face. His hand reaches up to tug at his loose bow tie.
She wonders if he wants her to get him water, which obviously isn't going to happen- oh, she's blocking his way to the sink.
But Klaus doesn't wait for her to move out of the way. He places his hands on her waist as he slides past her to the sink. Caroline flushes, and tries to concentrate on gripping her cereal bowl.
"It was a nice exhibition," she says once he finishes drinking water. "I like your paintings."
Klaus hums. He's suddenly standing closer; she can smell the scotch off of him.
"You should do more portraits, though."
"It's hard to find captivating muses."
"What about that wife who watched Titanic too many times?" she jokes weakly in an effort to ignore the way he's idly tracing patterns on her bare arm.
"Hmm? Oh, that was merely a favour."
"Seems like you always fulfil your favours."
"Yes, I try to never leave anyone unsatisfied."
She's about to point out that they're talking like they're in a cheesy porno when Klaus leans in, removes the cereal bowl from her death grip, places it on the counter, and kisses her.
His lips are soft and hesitant at first. Once she gets over her shock and responds enthusiastically, they turn urgent. She finds her back hitting the fridge, his hands roaming all over her body. She doesn't pull away, not even the handle digs into her side. Not even when his thigh slides into place between her legs and makes her gasp.
They're clumsy and sloppy but Caroline doesn't care. They're all tongue and teeth and she even bites him once. There's an embarrassing moment when her hand knocks over the cereal bowl and the spoon ricochets and hits his ribs. But Klaus just ignores the citrus-soaked cereal pooling around his feet and buries his head in her neck.
"You have no idea how much I've wanted to rip this dress off ever since I saw it," he murmurs. The butterflies in her stomach spontaneously combust into fireworks.
"Hey, no ripping," she warns him.
She feels him smirking as he places kisses down her neck. "The whole fucking night, Caroline. That's the only thing I thought about."
Jesus Christ. She's going to explode.
But as he slides down the straps of her dress, her thoughts momentarily flicker with some semblance of rationality. What are you doing? You're kissing the living daylights out of Klaus!
"No more talking," she tells her brain and Klaus. And it's only as they're heading towards her bedroom, bumping into every piece of furniture because they can't keep their hands off each other, does she stop thinking.
It's a good thing the other side of the bed is empty when she wakes up because the first thing Stefan does is knock on her door and ask if she wants waffles.
"What time did you get up?" she asks him.
"Just now." He yawns, running a hand through his hair. "Sleep well?"
"Very. Now I heard something about waffles?"
When they meet at the bar later, for a moment, she's worried that the others might suspect something. But Katherine makes a joke about Elena being out of it last night and the gang teases her about the time she saluted a snooty art buyer and then the conversation smoothly veers towards one of Stefan's students.
"I think she's the one who tripped the fire alarm. She hates me."
"Poor Stefan," Katherine coos. "You and your compulsive need for everyone to like you."
"Hey, that's not true."
"It is," Damon chimes in. "Remember Nick, that bully who stole your lunch every day? You always made sure you carried barbecue fries, his favourite."
"I've never understood why you Americans call it fries," Klaus grumbles.
Then they start arguing about British vs. American English, and it's one of the most spirited debates they've had in a while. There's a lot of table thumping and trash talking involved.
Damon violently waves a fork in the air. "Americans made the language practical! Look at the spellings, they don't match the pronunciations!"
"Americans dumbed things down, if you ask me," Katherine says, knocking back her drink.
"What are you saying, you're American."
"I have family roots in Bulgaria."
Elena rolls her eyes. "That side of the family migrated like a million years ago."
"I think the only thing going for British English is the accent," Stefan notes.
"No, it's true. Even the dirtiest of things sound proper and respectable in a British accent."
Naturally they try out Stefan's theory. First, with Katherine's fake one, and then with Klaus's real one. Of course that leads to them trying out different accents, and Caroline is cracking up so hard she's almost forgotten what they were arguing about in the first place.
She's out shopping with Elena when she almost tells her she slept with Klaus.
Elena is in a confessional mood, and more than once she brings up the second thoughts she's having about her impending marriage. Caroline feels compelled to match that serious admission with one of her own. A secret for a secret.
But she doesn't.
She knows what Elena will say. About messed up group dynamics. How her own failure in love probably spurred her to fall into Klaus's arms. And what about Stefan?
Instead she spends the rest of the afternoon talking to Elena, telling her that it's normal to have doubts (as if she would know; this is just what people say in movies), that she's never seen a more in-love couple than Damon and Elena (true) and that they would be disgusting if not for their combined adorableness.
At the end of it, Elena's in a much better state and Caroline doesn't feel it but it seems as if they've stepped away from a precipice.
It's good she didn't come clean, she thinks as she watches Elena enthusiastically examine china patterns. They were both seriously drunk. What's the point of worrying about an incident that's never going to happen again?