let me give your heart a break
A year passes.
She doesn't end up on his doorstep, and she figures she's still got a thousand years to prepare for the inevitable walk of shame her 'showing up on his doorstep' will entail. Things had changed, but not really, just like he'd said they would. Mystic Falls was still a small town in a small county in a small state in a small country compared to the rest of the world. She's tired of the same thing every day; online schooling, shopping to pass the time. She's so over Mystic Falls.
And yet, things are different. She supposes that for every float there must be a drowning, and she's drowning in the memory of Tyler and Elena and Stefan and Damon and—
Caroline sighs, lets her head fall back against the hot rooftop. Mystic Falls stretches before her, looming. The sun beats down, and she can't really tell the difference between hot and cold, but the feelings are reminiscent and it's summer and it's hot. Below, safe on the town streets, she can imagine Tyler parading around with his new girlfriend—the one he'd gotten two weeks after they'd broken up—, Elena and Stefan amicably chatting over a plate of fries at the Grille, Matt forever cleaning the dirty glasses the Grille's customers stack up, Jeremy sweeping the floor beside Bonnie's table every five minutes in a desperate ploy to get her attention, Damon knocking back a few shots at the bar, Katherine skulking along the edge of the town, and where is she? Laying on her roof, thinking of the evil Original Hybrid who had banished himself from Mystic Falls exactly a year and a half ago today.
But her friends...she's so far off their radar. Stefan had all but forgotten her. Bonnie was caught up in her magic. Elena, in her vampire drama. Damon was out of the question. There really wasn't anyone left for her.
No. She couldn't possibly think that. He was out of the question.
Klaus is an enigma, an alien, like ET phoning home or something. She still thinks of him, late at night when she's lying in bed and the only sound that can be heard for miles is the sound of her mother's deep breathing and the tinkling of her princess music box. She thinks of where she would be if she'd just said yes, if she'd taken his hand and let him whisk her away. But she'd said no, several times, and she doesn't know what to think about this regret she's feeling.
She doesn't know how to feel about that, only that she doesn't want to sit here and wonder anymore. Wonder what it would have been like to choose him. To see the world.
So, she stands, brushes off her shorts, and jumps from the roof.
The first thing she packs is the drawing Klaus had given her, so long ago. She folds it, sticks it into the billfold of her wallet, and stuffs it into the bottom of her purse. She doesn't want to look at it, but she doesn't want to be without it either. She's being ridiculous, but she doesn't care.
After five minutes of helter-skelter packing, her single duffel bag is full to the brim. She slings it over her shoulder, and stares at the room for a moment. The room, as of late, has been bare. As if she'd been preparing herself for this moment. She'd taken her pictures and posters and knickknacks down over the course of the last few weeks, and they're all in a box, tucked safely in her closet.
Caroline turns away from her room, wonders what she's doing, but leaves anyway.
The first time that she gets wind of anyone following her is when she's been gone from Mystic Falls for a month. She's in Barcelona, listening to a street performer strum on his guitar. She tips him, and giggles when he hands her a flower from a vase at his feet. There's a camera strapped around her neck, and she snaps a few pictures now and then; of tourists, of sites, of vendors, of the sky. She doesn't want to forget this.
Maybe she'll make a scrapbook or something later, but for now, the card with her pictures on it is her lifeline.
Caroline's in the middle of snapping a picture of a row of bright red roses when a scent, so familiar and potent, wafts by her. Vanilla, cinnamon, leather, earth. If her heart was beating, it would stop. She turns to stone, freezes in her spot like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She feels his eyes on her, and she prays he won't approach. She wouldn't know what to say if he did.
It's just her luck that he slides into the empty space beside her, eyes admiring the same roses she is. He clasps his hands behind his back, muses a moment, and then says, "Fancy seeing you here."
His voice is soft and lilting, but strong and captivating and—
Just how she remembers it.
Caroline ignores him, intent on enjoying her stay in Barcelona for as long as she can. His eyes trail her form, and he says, "The bracelet I bought you would do wonders for that dress you're wearing."
Caroline can't help but let out a light laugh. She looks at him, gulps at his teeth flashing in the sunlight as he smiles, swallows roughly at his arm brushing hers—
She does the only thing she can think of doing in that moment, when she's scared beyond belief, she runs.
It occurs to her later that she hadn't said a word to him, and she doesn't know why, but it gives her a small sense of satisfaction, knowing he's wondering about her right now, just like she's wondering about him.
She doesn't speak to him in Verona.
Doesn't speak to him in Iceland.
Doesn't speak to him in Venice.
Doesn't speak to him in Las Vegas.
Doesn't speak to him in San Francisco.
Doesn't speak to him at all.
And yet, he keeps coming back, showering her with praise and wonder, asking her if she'd accompany him on his next adventure.
She never says yes.
(But she never declines either.)
Rome has the best parties, she finds. The air is crisp and warm, and she breathes it in like she needs the oxygen. She sways to the foreign music, dances with a few locals, enjoys herself. Her feet glide across the stone street, hands reaching up the the golden paper light fixtures tied to the old phone lines above. She wishes America had these kind of celebrations, even though she has absolutely no idea why these people are celebrating.
Suddenly, there's a hand on her waist, leading her back into the throng of dancers. She turns, laughing, expecting a sweet local, but chokes on her laugh. Klaus smiles at her, fingers dancing along her waist. "Dance with me." he murmurs into her hair, and the dancers have stopped to watch them, and she can't exactly run with the onlookers.
The song changes, and she cringes as the crowd cheers. It's a slow song dedicated to lovers. He pulls her close, hand dangerously low on her back, other cradling her hand in his own. They dance, and she's stiff. "Loosen up, love. Let's give them a show." he chuckles, thoroughly enjoying himself.
Caroline stares up at him, wonders how he can be so beautiful and before she can stop herself, "Why do you chase me?" she asks, voice scarcely above a whisper. She's afraid that the sound of her voice, never granted to him in all the years she's been running and all the years he's been chasing, will scare him off. If he's surprised, he doesn't show it. He only dips her, eliciting a loud, joyful gasp from the crowd of dancers that had stopped to watch them. They must think they're watching a pair of young lovers, engaging in foreplay before the big firework show tonight in one of the hotels adorning the beachfront.
She doesn't have the heart to correct their romanticized ideas. Her skin tingles as she grows hyper aware of his hand on her lower back, the other holding hers tightly. She closes her eyes as his face looms closer, his lips─oh god, his lips. She's always loved his lips. Always cherry red because he has the bad habit of biting them, the bottom lip that's a little fuller than the top, so delectable and kissable and she knows he knows how to use them. His lips, truly, are a work of art─meet her neck as he brings her out of the low dip, and the crowd laughs as she slams into his chest, his arms cradling her.
Against her skin, he whispers, "Don't you know?" before spinning her out and into the other dancers. She stares at her feet for an immeasurable moment, wanting nothing more than to look up and meet his gaze, but she won't. She can't. Because no, she doesn't know. (But she really does. She knows why he chases her and why he wants her and why why why. She knows, she just doesn't want to accept the fact that a man─one who can so brazenly kill and not regret it─could be her soul-mate or her vamp-mate or whatever.) She can't love him because he's a murderer and a cheat and if she did (she's not going to admit that falling in love with him would be easy. Like falling asleep.) she would be betraying her friends when her relationships with them are already rocky at best. So she doesn't look up, not until his scent is mixed in with the other dancers. When she does look up, he's gone, and there is no evidence─aside from the burning spot on her neck where he'd kissed her─that he was ever there.
Caroline slides between the other dancers, tears (she doesn't know why she's crying, only that she has to) blurring her vision and making it nearly impossible to see. She collapses in the middle of the empty street, hands splayed out on the asphalt as she sobs, back shaking and breaking and snapping. "I know," she chokes out into the night, "I know."
He loves her. That's why he chases her.
She doesn't know how to feel about the stunning revelation that she's always suspected, so she gets up, musses her hair into a bit of order and wipes away her tears, straightens her dress and walks towards her hotel. Once inside her room, she falls onto her bed, curling into the sheets and slipping into the worst nights sleep she's ever had. She dreams of them, dancing the night away, lips barely brushing, but the contact still makes her dream-self's thighs tingle.
She wakes up, packs her things, and leaves Rome as quickly as she can.
Later, she realizes he was the one to run away.
"Eternity brings things into perspective," Stefan tells her. They're sitting outside of a small café in the center of Paris, trading stories of their adventures during the past six years. Stefan stirs his coffee, staring out into the crowded street. He'd said it simply because he could, and not because anything she said had prompted him. She'd hedged carefully around stories that could potentially bring up the subject of Klaus, knowing full well that Stefan would see right through her lies and would harass her about him. Call her selfish, but she wants to keep her excursions with Klaus a secret.
"I suppose." Caroline agrees, staring down at her own coffee. She's surprised to see him here, so far away from Damon and Elena and their friends. He'd happened upon her when she was catching her flight to Paris, and with a little compulsion for the flight attendants and a bit of shock on her part, he'd boarded her plane with her, calling the window seat as if he hadn't spent the last six years dodging her phone calls and ignoring her emails and pretending she didn't exist.
As if he can read her mind, and maybe he can in a way─he's always been well-versed in Caroline body-language─he says, "Seeing you again, after so many years, was like a breath of fresh air. I needed my best friend back."
Caroline tilts her head. She's not going to forgive him so easily, "You've ignored me for six years─"
He swiftly interrupts her, albeit looking a little guilty, "I've had some things to figure out, just like you. I haven't spoken to anyone in years, not even Damon. And you know how persistent he is. But...like I said, eternity brings things into perspective. You can't run forever, anymore than I can."
Caroline scoffs, "I'm not running." Stefan gives her an 'oh bullshit' look, and she sighs, "Okay, maybe I am running. But it's not like anyone tried to stop me from leaving." she remembers the day she had left Mystic Falls well, and whenever she thinks of it, it leaves a bitter taste in her mouth. She'd tried to say goodbye, but...nobody had seemed to care.
Stefan licks his lips, guilt swimming in his eyes, "Would we have been able to stop you, Care?" he questions, and she smiles because even after all these years apart, he still knows her better than she knows herself.
"No." Caroline allows, and he laughs, reaching across the table and covering her hands with his.
Stefan's eyes are earnest and sincere as he says, "I will always love you, Caroline. You're my only real friend. I know we haven't acted like best friends these last few years, but...I'd like to change that. Let me come with you, wherever you go."
Caroline bites her lip. She's been alone for so long. She doesn't know what she'd do with a companion. But it's Stefan. Sweet, kind, somber Stefan. Could she really say no to him? Looking into his eyes now, she knows that she never could. "Okay." she murmurs, giving his hands a light squeeze. And the beaming smile he gives her leads her to believe that maybe he's just as lonely as she is.
"Oh," Stefan begins as they leave the café, taking the stairs, "I have some, ah, some baggage that will be coming with me."
"What─" Caroline starts, but stops in her tracks as she sees who's waiting for them on the very last step down the stairs. Rebekah Mikaelson leans against a sleek black car, and gives Caroline an award-winning, smug smile. Stefan puts a hand on her back, pushing her forward. "Stefan, I don't think─"
"Relax, Caroline. I'm not going to eat you," Rebekah says, examining her nails, "though I'll admit, the thought has crossed my mind. You're too pretty."
Caroline grimaces, ignores the backwards compliment, and says, "Nice to see you too, Rebekah."
"Ladies." Stefan warns, placing a hand on Rebekah's waist, knowing their amicable greetings are anything but. The slim blonde peppers his cheek with kisses, and he blushes like the forever seventeen year old he is.
"Stefan?" Caroline questions, seeing the easy way the pair leans towards each other, as if Elena had never existed and as if Rebekah had never tried to kill any of his friends.
"Eternity brings things into perspective," Stefan repeats, opening the car door for her.
Once she's situated, Rebekah turns around from her place in the drivers seat, giving Caroline a simpering smile, "Miami or bust?" she questions.
Caroline doesn't understand how Stefan can look past─
"You're doing it again," Stefan interrupts her, laying out on the pink towel beside her. She gives him a funny look, and he lifts an eyebrow, "you're thinking too much."
Caroline snorts and shifts her sunglasses down from her hair, effectively ending their would-be conversation. They both watch Rebekah push sand together, patting it into a sand castle. Her tongue pokes out from between her teeth, and for a moment, she looks like a normal girl, enjoying her beach vacation. And then Caroline remembers; Rebekah is a killer, through and through. (She's choosing to ignore the fact that she herself is a killer, too.) The blonde Original pouts as the water rises, pushing at her sand castle. Stefan sighs suddenly, knowing full well he's not going to get anything more out of Caroline today. He suspects something happened with her and Klaus, courtesy of his sister's blabbering mouth, but he doesn't know the full extent. Caroline likes to keep her inner-turmoil to herself, thank you very much.
"They're just people," he hedges, and she knows he's talking about the Originals. He stretches his arms above his head as she watches him in amusement, wondering what sort of zen lesson he's come up with now, "granted, they're vampires, and murderers, and thieves, and─I'm sort of ruining my point, aren't I?" he asks sheepishly when Caroline rolls her eyes. "Look, Care, the Originals are over a thousand years old, and I'm not making excuses for them, but morals aren't the same to them as they are to us, is what I'm trying to say." Caroline bites her lip, "I can look past everything Rebekah's done and love her again because I know, that in a thousand years or maybe even less, I'm going to have the same mindset as her. Humans come and go, but us?"
"We're eternal." she finishes for him, looking over at him.
Stefan gives her a little smile, and repeats the phrase he's taken to slipping into their casual conversations, "And eternity brings things into perspective."
Caroline rolls her eyes again, kicking sand at him, "Oh, go play sand castle with your girlfriend," she quips and he jogs away, crashing into the sand beside Rebekah, sending them toppling over into the water. She tunes out their laughter in annoyance, rolling over onto her stomach. The sun beats down on her bikini clad back, and she scans the rows of beach-goers in front of them, looking for─
No, no. He's not here. And even if he is, she won't look for him. She won't let him get close again. She won't let there be a repeat of Rome. She tosses her sunglasses off, pressing her face into her folded arms. She wishes she would have let him love her in Rome. She's ashamed, oh so ashamed, but it's true. They can't play this cat and mouse chase game forever. Her heart can't take it. She lets out a loud breath, closing her eyes. Maybe if she'd given in to him, she wouldn't be having this vampire mid-life crisis. She wouldn't be mentally battling between good and bad, maybe they'd be like Rebekah and Stefan.
"Damn it." she mutters to herself. Damn her for being too good and noble and damn him for being a bad guy and─
She doesn't know what to do.
The way he'd looked at her; like she was precious and wanted and needed and loved. That's all she's ever wanted. To be looked at like that. It's just her luck that it's Klaus looking at her. A part of it wishes it would have been Tyler. Their love story would have been easy. But hers and Klaus'? It's anything but.
Caroline presses her face further into her arms and lets the sound of Stefan and Rebekah's laughter loll her to sleep.
Perhaps it's fate, but the next time she sees him, he's pulling Rebekah into a hug and the blonde is sighing happily. There's something about family, she realizes, watching Klaus step back and admire his sister as if he hadn't seen her in years, that makes you forget all the bad they've done and only focus on the good. She couldn't imagine how many times Klaus had screwed Rebekah over, but there she is, pulling him towards her closet to show him everything she's bought in Hawaii so far. The hotel suite they're in suddenly feels cramped as Klaus' aura cascades over the room.
Caroline watches them, notes how Klaus doesn't glance at her once, and feels her heart drop. She was expecting a look, a hello, something.
But there is only silence from him.
Stefan gets back from his blood bank trip, greets Klaus somewhat stiffly but amicably, and Caroline catches a hint of disappointment in Klaus' eyes, but she doesn't comment on it. Stefan passes a bag to Caroline before ripping his own open and sticking a straw in it for Rebekah to have the first taste. The Original had been slowly weaning off a strictly fresh blood diet, and she was doing surprisingly well. It didn't mean Caroline was going to run around holding hands with her and singing Top 40 songs, but it was nice to see her try for Stefan.
Rebekah daintily sucks down the blood while Caroline rips her bag open, waving away the straw Stefan holds out to her. She tears into the bag with her teeth, holds it high and lets the blood drip down her throat. She's been starving for days now, and the liquid hitting her parched vampire throat elicits a low moan from her her. In embarrassment, she sets the bag down and wipes a hand over her mouth.
Stefan and Rebekah are ignoring her, giggling about something, but Klaus—
Klaus is watching her, but more accurately, he's watching her lips. His eyes flick up to meets her when he sees that she's noticed him staring, and he grins smoothly, teeth flashing in the Hawaiian sun pouring in from the window. Without a word, he's in front of her, reaching out and scraping his thumb, so lightly, over her lips. His thumb is coated in blood when he pulls it back and still not saying anything, he puts it in his mouth, and sucks the blood off with his eyes on her the entire time.
Heat rolls down her spine and pools in the pit of her belly, and her knees quiver. His smile turns sinister and smug. "I'm—I'm going to go down to the beach." she whispers to know one in particular, still staring at Klaus. She darts from the room before anyone can respond and grabs her bikini. She changes as quickly as she can and hops from her bedroom's balcony.
Caroline stares out at the surf, watching the fit Hawaiian boys catch wave after wave. She holds her own board awkwardly, chewing her lips. She doesn't know how to surf, and Stefan had promised to teach her, but he's busy with the Terrible Two. She's always wanted to do it, though, so she watches the surfers and memorizes their movements.
The air shifts around her, and she stiffens when a smooth familiar voice comes from beside her, "I could teach you." Klaus offers, watching the surfers just as she is. To his credit, he doesn't ogle her in her cherry red bikini, just stares straight ahead, as if he knows it makes her uncomfortable. She doesn't know why, but that makes her feel light, knowing he's doing that for her.
She, on the other hand, can't stop checking him out. Perpetual five o'clock shadow sprinkles his chin, cheeks, and neck. His shirt is gone and his board shorts are a deep midnight black. She swallows as he rakes a hand over his chest, scratching. A thousand years had done his body good. Caroline tears her eyes away just as he looks at her, eyebrows raised, and she realizes she hadn't answered his question.
Eternity brings things into perspective, Stefan whispers in her ear.
She turns to him, watches him watch her, and then after a slow measured moment, nods wordlessly.
With a grin, he takes the board from her, tucks it under his arm, and scoops up her now empty hand with his own empty hand. The contact doesn't make her shiver like she's thought it would. His hand is cool on hers, as every vampires is, but she thinks she likes his hands best of all. He leads her to the waters edge, and she surprises herself by keeping her hand in his.
Klaus explains the basics, but she's too busy watching his lips brush together as he speaks to pay attention, and when she gets out on the water and onto her pink board, she topples over and into the water. She breaks the surface and listens to Klaus laugh so hard he bends over in the shallow water and clutches his knees. "You weren't listening to me, were you, sweetheart?" he chuckles.
She spits water out of her mouth, "You're just a horrible teacher."
Klaus flicks water at her, eyes her mouth, and then, so softly she thinks she might have imagined it, "The things I could teach you, Caroline."
The words and the sexual implications make her toes curl into the sand, and she thrusts her board at him before they engage in kinky underwater sex. "I'm sorry. Explain it to me again."
After an hour, she gets the hang of it and Klaus floats by her as she lays on her board, tiredly drifting along the waves.
He breaks the cool silence, asking, "Still curious as to why I chase you?" and it's when he talks like that that she remembers he's a thousand years old. Sometimes she forgets and he'll say things a particular way in his smooth accent and she'll realize that he's killed more people than how many pairs of shoes she owns.
Which is a lot.
Caroline lifts her head, looks at him, chews her lip, and then, "I already know."
Klaus floats closer to her, propping his crossed arms up on the edge of her pink board. "Do you?" he questions, eyes on locked on hers.
"You're in love with me." she says simply.
His eyes light up, and one side of his mouth lifts into a sweet smile, and she's never had this kind of an urge to kiss him before. "Maybe you do know." he allows quietly.
"I don't know why though," Caroline rambles, "I'm annoying and neurotic and insecure and—"
"And beautiful and strong and full of light and completely ruining the moment." he finishes for her, eyebrows lifted in amusement.
Caroline laughs a little, and suddenly, all of the worries she'd had about their possible relationship—the betrayal, the guilt—all vanish because he loves her.
Somebody loves her.
"Are we going to try this?" she asks, hand reaching out to close over his.
His answering smile is enough to convince her that yes, yes they are, and it's going to be everything she's ever wanted and more.
Klaus grabs the end of her board, tips her off of it and into the water before he tosses it away. On instinct, she reaches for his hand and lets him paddle them to shore after she settles onto his back.
Once they're in shallow water, he picks her up and carries her to shore and into something she'd like to think of as eternity.