Disclaimer: I own nothing but a much loved DVD of You've Got Mail and too many feelings about Caroline and Klaus on TVD.
Her phone rang out, the Spice Girls singing in Caroline's ear as she struggled to open her eyes. She stretched her arm to reach the offending alarm, groaning as she sat up. The sky was still dark outside, but her brain was slowly waking up for another busy day.
Trudging to the kitchen to start her morning routine, she clumsily filled the coffeemaker for her needed jolt of caffeine. The slow drip gave her just enough time to shower before the carafe was full.
Feeling more awake after her shower, Caroline pulled her damp hair into a neat chignon. Early mornings were rough, but she refused to let that affect her primping for the day. Her yellow sundress automatically brightened her outlook, as did the comfortable flats she slipped on before heading back to the kitchen.
She hummed to herself as she poured fresh coffee into her travel mug, noting the time on the microwave. At nearly 5 a.m., she needed to be on her way out the door. The first sip of light roast was unbelievably cathartic as she set the carafe back on the warmer. Ducking into the bedroom, she placed a kiss on her sleeping boyfriend's temple.
"Caroline," Tyler moaned grumpily, burrowing deeper into the covers.
"Coffee's in the kitchen," she let him know. "Please wash it all out when you're done and don't forget to lock up."
When he grunted, Caroline took that as polite acknowledgement before leaving the apartment altogether. Only a few blocks from her bakery, she often took advantage of the southern New Orleans climate and walked to work. The city was very rarely quiet, but the din became a mild hum as Caroline trekked through the muggy morning, sipping her coffee.
Mystic Bakery was a small storefront, but Caroline felt an immense pride every time she saw the familiar sign hanging from the pastel blue building. She didn't bother to hide her smile as she unlocked the front door, the scent of brown sugar and chocolate engulfing her.
As a drama major at Tulane, she had thought her future was waiting for her in Los Angeles; dreams of a film career or a mildly successful television role put stars in her eyes. Those dreams would keep her up at nights, as well as the insecurities that often plagued a young Caroline when comparing herself to other actresses her age. To combat this stress, she often turned to baking. The sense of control and precise instructions oddly allowed her to relax. Her dorm mates were more than happy to relieve her of the extra calories, though, even begging her to make certain treats on demand. They were willing to pay, of course.
The more "customers" she gained, the more Caroline realized that maybe acting wasn't for her. Instead, maybe she could turn her small-time baking into a new and fulfilling career. She quickly changed her major to business, as well as turning her hobby into a legitimate bakery-by-order. After a scrap with the Health Department and some investment from her dad for new equipment, Mystic Bakery was up and running online.
It only took a couple years to save enough money for a down payment on the storefront; the building owner was ready to retire to Florida, and she gave Caroline a good price in the name of supporting local business. Grateful for the sentiment, Caroline had promised to always do the same. She took the opportunity and ran with it, perfecting the large and industrial kitchen to her exacting standards while filling online orders.
By then, Caroline had already persuaded her best friend to join her in the Big Easy. All it took was the promise of a spare room and study snacks for Louisiana's accounting certification test to get Bonnie Bennett out of their tiny hometown of Mystic Falls, Virginia. With the bakery receiving large orders on a near daily basis, Caroline needed the extra help with the business side of things, especially when it came time for expansion. Opening the store front to walk-ins was a huge step, one Caroline would have never taken without Bonnie's encouragement and numbers sense. Her biggest fear was trying to do too much too fast, especially with the nature of the food industry and how easy it was to fail.
When that train of thought lead to an inevitable panic attack, Caroline often retreated to her stress baking habits. The positive aspect of that was the accompanying sense of calm that warmed her as soon as she entered the kitchen.
That same calm washed over her as she flicked the lights on in the bakery. Every inch of the place was imbued with a piece of Caroline; it was a second home to her. Walking back to the kitchen, she quickly stowed her purse away and reached for her apron. The opening shift was one of her favorites, just a peaceful hour of making muffins with the buttery scent of bread baking.
She had just finished setting the first tray of bagels in the display when a sleepy Bonnie let herself into the shop. "Good morning," Caroline chirped, wiping the flour from her cheek.
"Coffee," Bonnie groaned.
Smiling, Caroline dutifully poured her friend a mug of the bakery's custom blend. "Someone's cranky," she noted as Bonnie sat at the counter. "Why are you even here? I thought you were working this afternoon."
"Morning, Gorgeous," Enzo called, flipping the sign to 'Open.'
Caroline nodded, needing no further explanation. Lorenzo St. John had started as a part-time hire. His tall and muscular frame was a selling point when Caroline first moved into the storefront, needing the extra strength to stock the store room and make deliveries. He quickly became a great friend to Caroline, whom he affectionately referred to as 'Gorgeous,' and his flirtatious personality easily earned the bakery a lot of regular customers.
While Bonnie had been reluctant to acknowledge his natural charm, Enzo nevertheless managed to eke a date from the ever-stubborn accountant. Apparently, those dates had been going well if Bonnie was accompanying him into work so early.
Raising an eyebrow, Caroline stifled a smile for her friends' sake. Enzo pointedly avoided them at the counter, instead flitting about to ensure the shop was ready to open. Any smugness she felt disappeared, however, when her phone beeped with an alert.
She barely resisted the urge to check her phone, but Caroline couldn't hide the sheepish expression on her face when she met Bonnie's curious gaze. "A text."
Bonnie pinned her with an unimpressed glare. "I have spent more than enough time around you and your incessant texting to recognize your ringtones," she explained. "That sounded suspiciously like a different message."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Caroline said, hustling to wipe down the counter between them.
"Uh huh," Bonnie murmured sarcastically into her mug. "You're not on Tinder, are you? I thought things with Tyler are good."
"They are," Caroline exclaimed, eyes wide. "No, I'm not on Tinder. It's not a guy. I mean, it is a guy, but it's not what you think."
Setting down her mug, Bonnie's face scrunched in confusion.
Embarrassed, Caroline shrank under the scrutiny. "You're going to laugh at me," she muttered, twisting the rag in her hand. "You know that slight obsession I have with the supernatural?"
"I regret ever lending you my copy of Twilight," Bonnie joked. "Hello, it's why you moved to New Orleans, the spookiest party town in America."
"Yeah, well," Caroline stalled, only to launch into the whole story. "Okay, so there's this website, right? NOLA Supernatural Community is basically an online club for historical enthusiasts, and they have these message boards where we can all geek out together. I've been on it for like a year, but I kept falling into conversations with this one guy, totally a pompous ass who always has to be the smartest guy in the room. Except, he's almost always the smartest guy in the room, and he's super passionate about the community and everything in general, and I hate that he's so easy to talk to, but I also kind of can't help it."
Bonnie bit her lip, familiar with her friend's rambling tendencies. The habit only got worse when she was excited or keeping secrets. "What's his name?"
"That's the thing," Caroline sighed. "I don't actually know. The community apparently had some issues in the past, getting dragged through the mud as a bunch of crackpots. To protect members, they require us to only use screen names. I only know him as OriginalHybrid."
"Do you talk to him a lot?"
"Just a few messages a day, not even that sometimes," Caroline admitted with a shrug. "Still, I can't help but feel like I'm cheating on Tyler a little bit, you know? I talk to this guy about everything, including the hobby I'm too embarrassed to share with my own boyfriend. I love Tyler, I do."
Sensing a patented Caroline Forbes freak out, Bonnie quickly set aside her mug to grab her hands. "I know that, Care," she assured her. "Maybe you need to start looking at what you get from this message board relationship that you can't get from Tyler. It might be exactly what you need to take your relationship with Tyler to the next level. He's not exactly shy talking about his perfect political future with a perfect politician's wife."
Caroline blushed. She and Tyler were nowhere near the marriage conversation, though she had grown used to him staying at her place every so often. Before she could dig into those thoughts, though, Bonnie brought up another good point.
"So, who do you think this OriginalHybrid is?"
Shrugging, Caroline felt relieved to finally share this with her friend. "I have no idea. We're intentionally vague on personal details."
"That's sketchy," Bonnie noted.
"No," she immediately denied. "It's to protect me, too. The bakery has started to get some really good press. Do you really want my name to be associated with a supernatural message board?"
Opening her mouth to answer, Bonnie was quickly cut off by the bell Enzo had hooked to the front door. Their part-time girl, Davina rushed in with a look of outrage on her face. "What's wrong?" Caroline asked.
"That construction project we've been taking bets on down the street?" Davina huffed. "It's a Mikaelson Brews! My friend Josh interns with them, and he totally spilled the beans when we were at the bar last night. Can you believe it?"
Caroline groaned in disgust. "You're kidding! Mikaelson Brews is everything that is wrong with this industry," she ranted. "Bakeries are supposed to be about community, lovingly crafting each morsel of goodness for our customers. These huge coffee chains just burst in without a thought for the local businesses, and our customers flock to their mass-produced crap because it's just a little bit cheaper."
"Come on, Gorgeous," Enzo chided from the kitchen, where he had been finishing up the morning batches. "Where's the bubbly optimism that is always bursting from you?"
"Oh, I'm fine," she clarified with a stern finger pointed at her friend. "Bring it on, Mikaelson Brews. You won't be chasing this bakery away from the neighborhood like you've done countless others."
While Davina righteously nodded along with her boss, Enzo and Bonnie shared a private look of concern. Caroline just went about dusting the shop, muttering about 'chains' and 'monsters,' but they couldn't help but feel like something bigger was coming for their little safe haven.
"Man, I told you coming home was going to be a great idea," Marcel bragged, passing over a cup of coffee. "I can't believe it took you so long to bring an MB to the neighborhood."
Smirking, Klaus accepted the drink. "Blame Elijah," he insisted. "He's the one who insisted on expanding nationwide before adding a third location here."
Mikaelson Brews was the family business, built from his mother's love of specialty roasts and his father's ruthless business acumen. As the Vice President of Development, Klaus was responsible for scouting new opportunities and setting up shop. He enjoyed the travel, but there was something nice about keeping a project at home. This quiet corner of New Orleans was just a few blocks from his studio, not that he had much time to devote to his artwork lately.
His friend shook his head in disappointment. "You blame Elijah for everything," Marcel pointed out.
Leaving Marcel to ponder his sad admission, Klaus entered the construction site on the new Mikaelson Brews location. In the five years since he joined the company, Klaus had grown to take pride in developing a property. It amazed him to see a run down building become something entirely new and somehow familiar. Sometimes, all it took was a coat of fresh paint.
This project was a bit more involved, the entire block needing to be restructured for safety's sake. It took a bit of maneuvering to convince Elijah the investment would be worth the reward. Klaus's less than enthusiastic return to the family fold had put a strain on their brotherly bond, but he made sure to work Elijah's guilt in his favor to devote company resources to rebuilding the block. Not only would it attract similar businesses to invest in the area, but it would likely allow the Mikaelsons to make a tidy profit.
If only Klaus had been that good before running his own business into the ground.
He coughed, needing himself to focus on the project at hand. "So what's the status update?"
Noticing the odd mood, Marcel didn't mention it. "Contractor said the foundation is solid as a rock, and the studs should all be in place according to the floor plans," he explained, checking his iPad for the latest communication. Working for his best friend allowed him a bit more responsibility than most of the deputy directors in the Mikaelson Group, and Marcel lived up to the task. "She wants the plumbing and electrician teams in on the same day next week to start finalizing plans and details, we just need your signature to approve the appointment."
Checking his phone, Klaus nodded only out of habit. "That's great," he muttered. When he saw no new messages waiting for him, though, he looked up to give Marcel his full attention. "When can the plumbers and the electricians start to get things running?"
"I knew you weren't listening to me."
Sheepishly, Klaus put his phone away. "Sorry, I'm a little out of it this morning."
"You have plans with Cami tonight?" Marcel asked knowingly. "I remember Elijah being distracted before he popped the question to Hayley."
Klaus groaned at the reference to his brother's marriage, before he fully processed what his friend was implying. "Wait, I'm not proposing to Cami."
"She wants me to," he answered honestly, rubbing his neck. "I just don't see the point. We're already living together, and I think that's enough for now."
He jumped when his phone beeped, the ringtone assigned to his NOLA Supernatural Community alerts. It figured that as soon as he started to balk at furthering his relationship with Camille, he would get a message from BarbieBlonde. A year of chatting with an anonymous woman, and Klaus had unwittingly developed a deeper connection with this stranger than his own, live-in girlfriend. Unwilling to share that with Marcel, however, he forced himself to ignore the immediate urge to check his phone. "Um, you asked about my plans tonight? I'm taking Kol and Rebekah with me to explore the neighborhood a bit, get a feel for the dynamics."
"Let me guess," Marcel chuckled. "Elijah's idea?"
"'We must be willing to do our part for the business, Niklaus,'" Klaus mocked his older brother's crisp voice. "He wants them to do more than live off their trust funds."
They walked through the site, Marcel taking notes as they found flaws or concerns. "I know Bekah wants to do her event planning thing," he said, more familiar with the youngest Mikaelson than her older brothers liked. Still in college, Rebekah was the baby. They didn't like to remember she was more than that. "Does Kol want to join the Mikaelson Group?"
"Kol wants to drink and party," Klaus snorted, thinking of his youngest brother. "I'm surprised Elijah got him through Vanderbilt."
"Me, too," Marcel admitted. "I guess you could start bringing him along on your development trips, train him as a deputy."
Shaking his head, Klaus bent over Marcel's iPad. "That's what I have you for, mate," he said. "It looks like the project is shaping up, and on schedule, too."
Marcel nodded. "It might be time to announce," he suggested. "While getting to the know the neighborhood is a good start, they also need to know you."
His phone practically burned in his pocket, the unread message taunting Klaus. BarbieBlonde would probably agree with his partner. Her responses were always alight with enthusiasm, often a passionate defense of supporting the local New Orleans. That was partially why he remained so strict with the anonymity clause of the supernatural community; he knew if BarbieBlonde recognized his name, she would paint him as a soulless Mikaelson like his father.
He was not Mikael Mikaelson, and the last thing he wanted for BarbieBlonde to see him that way.
Even after a year of near constant conversation, Klaus still felt silly only referring to his unnamed friend by a screen name. He knew so much about her, her hopes, her dreams, everything she wanted in life - but only in the most vague terms. It was maddening, truly, but also necessary.
He was too attached, he knew that. Camille would likely have a field day with his willingness to share with a complete stranger, when it was like pulling teeth for him to share anything with her. It wasn't personal, Klaus rarely opened up to anyone. Call it his artistic spirit, but he cared more for the muse than the introspection.
As a psychiatrist, his girlfriend disagreed wholeheartedly.
But it wasn't Camille he was concerned about when discussing the new shop's announcement with Marcel. No, he wondered what BarbieBlonde would have to say about his mass-marketed experience taking over yet another city block that just needed a bit of love.
It was with her in mind that he fought to restore the buildings to their original designs, with as few indulgences to modernization as possible. She was the reason he sought local online shops looking for a storefront, wanting to give them the opportunity to expand as well. A part of him dreamed one of those shops might be hers; it was entirely possible, since he had no idea what she did outside of running her own business.
Wouldn't it be something if he could support her, even in such a roundabout way?
"You're right," he said, agreeing with Marcel. "The neighborhood does need to know us, just not tonight. Tonight shouldn't be about the Mikaelson name. It needs to be about learning what the Mikaelson name might be overpowering when the announcement does go out."
"That was…deep." Marcel almost seemed impressed, which put Klaus on edge. "What's gotten into you?"
Sipping at his coffee, the dimples in his cheeks were the only sign of Klaus's smile. His other hand fell to his thigh, lightly tracing the shape of his phone through his jeans. "Let's just call it inspiration."
"Whatever, man. We should finish the walkthrough, remind you exactly what you're working for," Marcel said, clapping his friend on the back. "Elijah might have dragged you back to the company, but this is all you. You should be proud."
"I am," Klaus answered easily, though his face had gone slack at the advice.
"I just mean, with your gallery and—"
"I'm proud, Marcel," Klaus bit out. "I've opened successful Mikaelson Brews before, but this one is special. We're building this from the ground up, seeing it through the whole way. It's as much of a legacy as I'm ever going to have."
Marcel shrugged. "I don't know about that," he said. "I'm going to go check with the crew, see if they have any other updates for us while you're here."
"Okay," Klaus agreed, immediately pulling out his phone to open the app he used for the community message board. It had been a whole ten minutes, a lifetime really, since BarbieBlonde texted him. Their private chatroom often fired back and forth, a more common occurrence now that he was based full time in New Orleans.
BB: You know, I like to think I can be easygoing and adaptable, but do you ever have those days where you get news, and you just know that everything is going to change?
Smiling down at his phone, Klaus recognized her rambling associated with a particularly agitated state.
OH: Change can be good. It can be an opportunity to learn and grow.
BB: Oh, bite me. Change sucks. Why can't things just stay good and happy and copacetic? This never-ending search for growth is just a recipe for disaster.
OH: Or maybe it's the human condition.
BB: Good, then we're doomed.
OH: When did I become the cheery one? Are you okay, sweetheart?
Her instant replies suddenly stopped, and Klaus wondered if he had said something wrong. His use of pet names had been a point of contention during their first, antagonistic conversations, but that hadn't been an issue in months.
When she did finally answer, her curt tone had him frowning.
BB: Fine, thanks. Got to go.
Not wanting to explain his confused pout to Marcel, Klaus slipped his phone back into his pocket. Knowing BarbieBlonde, she would rant about whatever was bothering her at a later time. Until then, Klaus had plenty of work to do before unleashing his siblings upon the neighborhood.
A/N: Hello, lovelies! This project has been a long time coming, and I'm finally posting in hopes of gaining some motivated followers to encourage me to KEEP WRITING. Teamwork makes the dream work, and I need all the help I can get. Let me know what you think, and you can always hit me up on AO3 or Tumblr at the same username. Cheers!