The Weight of Diamonds

As Caroline stood outside of Klaus' mansion, the black velvet jewelry box felt like a lead brick in her hands. It was ridiculous. She knew it only weighed ounces. But still, the box, with its simple white bow and its beautiful diamond bracelet hidden inside, seemed to weigh down not just her hand, but her heart and soul as well.

Tightening her hold on the gift, Caroline whispered to herself, "Get a grip. It's just a bracelet." She nodded her head as if that would make everything better, like that would make the weight in the palm of her hand disappear.

It, however, didn't.

And worst of all, she was still left with the unbearable heaviness of the feather-light box.

Rolling her eyes at herself, Caroline lifted her hand to the door. There was obviously nothing she could do to calm her nerves, so she decided to do what she'd come to do. The sooner this was over with, the better. Maybe then the weight would be lifted from her shoulders.

After taking a deep breath, she pulled her fist back to knock. Before her knuckles could make contact with the wood though, the door swung open. The suddenly opening door shocked her so much that before she could stop herself, she said, "Oh."

Hand still paused mid-strike, she found herself face-to-face with Klaus. "I wondered how long it was going to take you to knock. Loitering isconsidered rude, you know."

"I…." Feeling confused and slightly ambushed, Caroline finally lowered her hand. "How…."

"Vampire hearing." He inclined his head to her conspiratorially. "And in my case, werewolf hearing." Klaus smirked ever so slightly.

"Oh, right." Right. In her obsessing over the jewelry box, she'd totally forgotten about her amped up vampire senses. It seemed impossible, but she had. For a few minutes she'd completely forgotten about being a vampire, about being dead. For a few moments, at least, she'd just been a normal girl again. That realization was sort of amazing, and it made her lip twitch in a tiny smile. It was the first time, in a long time, that she'd felt alive, human.

"Caroline, love." Klaus' voice brought Caroline back to the present. Once again she was dead, stuck in a filler year permanently, and clutching the unbearable weight of Klaus' gift. "You're still loitering." His voice was chastising but also amused. "Do come in." He stepped aside and ushered her over the threshold.

Taking a deep (unnecessary) breath, Caroline pursed her lips. She didn't want to go inside; she knew it was a bad idea. Klaus, after all, had caused somany problems over the past year. He was the reason for so much death and destruction. It seemed like wherever he went, a trail of casualties followed – Jenna, Tyler, the Stefan she'd come to care about…

Herself.

If not for Klaus and his raging battle with Stefan and his psycho-sire bond with Tyler, she'd never have been bitten. She'd never have needed his blood to survive. And he'd never have given her the bracelet.

But despite all of that, despite all of the horrors he'd rained down on them, it was the bracelet and the repercussions of the moment they'd shared that scared her the most. It shouldn't have been. She knew, without a doubt that it shouldn't have been.

But it was nonetheless.

In her hesitation, Klaus seemed to pick up on her fears. "Don't worry; I'm not going to bite you." He smiled, a genuine smile that lit up his eyes. It was meant as a joke, but Caroline couldn't find it in herself to laugh.

Instead, she just said, "I know," even though that wasn't completely true. Part of her, the part that had been saved by him, was completely, one hundred percent sure that he was telling the truth. The rest of her wasn't as easily convinced.

Stepping over the threshold, she thought of her friends and what they would say if they knew where she was. She'd kept her visit and the bracelet a secret from them. Though really, that hadn't been hard since she hadn't heard from anyone since the night before. Not a phone call, voice mail, or even a text. But that didn't change how they'd react if they knew where she was….

Elena would be upset, but she'd get over it quickly. After all, she understood being attracted to someone she shouldn't. As Caroline thought that, she did a quick mental back step because she'd just thought of herself as being attracted to Klaus. But that wasn't the case. At all. She'd gone to return the bracelet and nothing more.

But despite her feelings about Klaus, Caroline knew that Elena would understand.

Even if she didn't exactly like it.

Bonnie, however, wouldn't be so understanding.

Caroline knew, without a doubt, that Bonnie would lose it if she knew where she was. Bonnie's first instinct, when it came to vampires, was hate first and think later. And Caroline couldn't really fault her for that. It was in her blood, her heritage as a witch. That, however, didn't mean that Caroline liked it – Bonnie's initial rejection of her once she'd been changed still hurt a little when she thought about it.

If Bonnie knew what she was about to do though…

Caroline knew that she'd never be forgiven or even trusted again.

Somehow though, that knowledge didn't really bother her. It should have, but it didn't.

She'd come to see Klaus because she needed to see him. She loved Bonnie and Elena and the rest of her friends, but she couldn't live for them or their expectations of her. She needed to live her own life as well.

She'd realized that when she'd told Klaus she didn't want to die.

Caroline had looked their greatest foe in the eye and had decided to trust him with her very life.

And that had changed something inside of her. It had made her death, re-birth, and birthday seem so much more important. She was still part of her little group, but she no longer felt like she just blended in with the crowd. She was stronger now.

More powerful.

More herself.

Feeling that new sense of self-assured self burning brightly inside of her, Caroline turned to face Klaus. She needed to speak first before he could change her mind. "Klaus, I -"

"Leave." Klaus looked her directly in the eyes, his voice an unquestionable command.

Caroline felt herself jerk back, like she'd been slapped. "I'm sorry?"

"Not you, love." He looked from her to the room they'd just walked into. It was filled with people who were busy painting, polishing, and measuring. How she'd missed them before she didn't know. But now the entrance hall seemed to be buzzing with activity even as it emptied.

When the last worker disappeared around the corner, Klaus politely inclined his head toward her. "Now, to what do I owe the pleasure?"

Looking at him, perfect posture and hands clasped behind his back, she couldn't help but think about how proper he was. Almost like Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice or some other British guy from one of those stuffy period romances her mom liked to watch.

But Caroline knew better. Proper though he undoubtedly was, he was also a cold-blooded killer. And she couldn't, no, wouldn't let herself forget that.

"I came to give you this back." Caroline held up the box, and she heard the sound of the bracelet smacking against the lid. It made her sick to her stomach.

"Ah." Klaus nodded, almost knowingly. "May I ask why?" For some reason, his calm made her mad. She didn't like the fact that he seemed to have anticipated this.

As irritation flooded through her, her first instinct was to snap, "No. You may not," before throwing it at him and storming out. She, however, didn't. Instead, she clung to her newly found self as she said, "Well. Among other things, you're the reason Tyler bit me in the first place. Like you said, I'm collateral damage. And all of the stuff with Elena and Stefan and your hybrids…." She felt her voice trail off when she realized she'd begun to babble. "So, it's just… too weird." Caroline held the box out to him.

Klaus nodded like he understood completely. "Ah, I see. You think this is part of some elaborate scheme." He raised his eyebrows like a cartoon villain. "A trap."

"Well…." Caroline shifted her weight, he hand dropping slightly. "Yeah."

"I can understand why you'd think that." It was said so matter-of-factly that Caroline could barely believe it. Since when did the bad guys admit to being, well… bad? "But you have nothing to worry about. It was merely a birthday gift without any underling motive or agenda."

"Right." Caroline felt her temper flare again. Stefan had once told her that heightened emotions came with being a vampire. And what she was feeling was most definitely heightened. "Because you love birthdays somuch." She crossed her arms over her chest, the corner of the box digging into her ribs.

He looked at her as if this should have been obvious. "Yes."

"And because of that, you think it's ok to throw around ridiculously expensive gifts? Gifts that are probably like… a hundred years old or something." When Caroline had first looked at the bracelet, she couldn't help but think that it looked old. Like, a grandma's heirloom, antique kind of old. It wasn't that it was outdated or anything, but it had the same feel as the ring Bonnie had picked out and spelled for her. "For all I know, it belonged to your sister or something." With all of it off her chest, Caroline shook her blonde hair back, waiting for Klaus to respond.

"It is old, quite old in fact. But it's never belonged to anyone." Klaus looked lost in thought and Caroline wondered what he was remembering. "I bought it but never found the right person to give it to."

Caroline raised her eyebrows at him in silent question.

"No." He sounded desolate, heartbroken. "Not even Rebekah." Klaus looked away from her, his eyes staring at something very far away. And, Caroline figured, very long ago.

Klaus' silence bothered Caroline. It was too full and far too painful. "Ok, fine." Her voice was way too loud and hesitant to her own ears, but she couldn't take the quiet anymore. "But it looks really expensive. Like, literally, coated in diamonds expensive."

His gaze snapped back up to her, and Caroline knew his mood had shifted in the opposite direction. "Oh yes, it was very expensive. But what's money to me?"

Caroline rolled her eyes. "Right. Because what's money to you, a super old rich guy."

"Exactly." Klaus chuckled, a velvety sound that was low and deep in the back of his throat. "What's money to me." It wasn't a question. Which made Caroline realize something…

The monetary value of the bracelet meant nothing to him. All that mattered was that it was pretty and he'd thought she deserved it for some weird reason. That knowledge confused her more than the bracelet itself had.

And that left her speechless.

"Umh…." Caroline's mind raced as she struggled to come up with something to say or do. "Well…." She hugged her arms more tightly about her body, causing the box to bite into her ribs again. Of course.It was so obvious. "Oh. Here." Caroline thrust the box towards Klaus again. "I still want to give it back. Even if the money means nothing to you."

Eyeing the box, Klaus stepped forward and took it from her. The moment it left her hand, Caroline felt oddly… light. Too light, really.

Not wanting to think about what that meant, Caroline was about to make a hasty retreat when Klaus spoke.

"Did you even bother trying it on?" He opened the box, the hinges creaking in protest. From where she was standing, Caroline could just make out one of the diamond encrusted figure eights. It was sparkling madly in the overhead light. Caroline felt her heart break a little at the sight of it. It really was beautiful. That, however, didn't mean she could keep it.

Caroline tried to speak, but she felt herself hesitate when she said, "… no." She'd wanted to try it on. Oh, how she'd wanted to try it on. But when she'd gone to take it out of the box, she'd heard the charms on the bracelet Tyler gave her jingle.

The tiny metallic clinking had brought back the memory of Klaus fingering one of the charms the night before. And somehow, it had felt wrong for her to take off Tyler's bracelet for Klaus'.

She knew that it was stupid for her to even be wearing Tyler's gift after he'd bit her. But despite what he'd done to her and Jeremy (on Klaus' orders no less), she still cared for him. Caroline still held onto some tiny shred of hope that he could be separated from his sire-bond with Klaus. (As impossible as that was beginning to seem.)

And so, she'd snapped the box shut and placed it back on her bedside table.

But now, both of her wrists were bare; Tyler's bracelet forgotten after it had been taken off before a shower. It was only now that Caroline remembered unhooking the clasp and placing it on the bathroom counter where it still rested.

"Well then…." Klaus reached into the box and pulled out the bracelet, the stays giving easily. It willingly slid from its velvet cushion, almost like it was desperate to be worn. For a moment, he held it dangling between them. It glistened and sparkled as it swayed, and Caroline felt her mouth go dry. When Klaus snapped the box shut with his other hand, Caroline felt herself jump. The involuntary move caused Klaus to chuckle softly.

Caroline felt herself flush furiously, and she pressed her lips together in irritation.

Still laughing, Klaus placed the box on the small table that was under a mirror on the wall. When he turned back to her, Klaus took one more step towards her. "Here." His voice, surprisingly gentle, put Caroline at ease.

Not thinking about all of the reasons why she shouldn't, Caroline reached out, extending her wrist to him. Up till now, the bracelet had felt so awkward and wrong to her. It had seemed like nothing more than a very expensive, very sparkly bribe. Now though, with it hanging before her, she felt… connected to it – like it was really was meant to be hers.

"Let's see now -" Taking hold of the other end of the bracelet, Klaus held it under her wrist. When he pulled the two ends together to buckle the clasp, Caroline closed her eyes.

With a tiny, almost inaudible click, the bracelet was connected, and Caroline felt her eyes fly open. Klaus let it fall on her wrist; the metal was chilly against her cold skin but not uncomfortable. Caroline wanted to hold her hand up, to examine the diamond bracelet against her pale skin.

But Klaus, instead of letting go, took her hand in both of his. His grip was tender, his thumb stroking the back of her hand. The touch was so soft that it was really more of a caress. And that unexpected kindness made Caroline desperate to see his face.

Lifting her eyes, Caroline expected to see Klaus looking back at her, his familiar smirk on his handsome face. What she found, however, surprised her.

Klaus' eyes were glued to her hand and where his fingers were brushing against her skin. To Caroline, it seemed like he couldn't believe the sight. It was almost like he'd never held someone's hand and wanted to memorize every last detail. At first, that feeling made her want to pull away. But when Klaus looked up and met her gaze, she found herself as frozen in the moment as he was.

"Exquisite…" He whispered the word, never once blinking.

Caroline opened her mouth to speak, once, twice… but nothing came out. The way Klaus was looking at her and the way his hand felt against hers…

It was too much.

It made her feel too much.

And she couldn't handle it.

Afraid of the emotions that had welled up inside of her because of Klaus' touch, Caroline pulled her hand away. Klaus let her. For a moment, Klaus stood there, unmoving. When he finally straightened up, Caroline took a hasty step back. "I'm sorry." Before he had a chance to move, Caroline took two more steps away from him. "I… I have to go."

To Caroline's complete surprise, Klaus said nothing. In fact, his expression didn't change at all. She took his lack of response as her chance to leave, to escape.

Turning quickly, she ran to the door and pulled it open.

Before she could make it outside though, Klaus called out to her. "Death really does become you, my dear."

His voice was barely a whisper, but she heard him perfectly.

Normally, when someone would say something like that to her, she'd shake her curls and smile deviously before making some witty remark. She'd wink and pout, pretending to be as beautiful or sexy as Marilyn Monroe. She'd have fun with it, pretending to be someone she wasn't.

But with Klaus, she couldn't find it in herself to pretend.

After what had happened between them, it seemed wrong. Like a lie.

So she said nothing at all. In fact, Caroline couldn't even bring herself to look back.

Afraid of what would happen if she stayed a moment longer, Caroline ran out of the house, the bracelet still clasped around her wrist.

Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- This takes place the morning after Caroline's birthday in "Our Town."
- Quack: Thank you for your help and super speedy beta.
- Reviews are love.