She knows she'll always be safe with Klaus.
She's covered in blood but thirsts not, her eyes still clear, her fangs retracted. She's lying on her side, lips parted and stained red as though with lipstick, and tears stream from her eyes to her temple, leaving a clean line. Klaus sinks his fangs into another person's throat and rips it out. Blood rains down on her as if she's in a cheaply made horror film.
He's trying to prove something.
He wipes the back of his hand over his mouth, smearing the blood but not cleaning it. His eyebrows narrow and he moves back to her, lying in the center of the room, weak with vervain. He straddles her and pushes her shoulder down roughly so she's on her back. Caroline gasps and more tears begin to flow.
"Sweet Caroline…" he purrs, and there's something in his gaze that leaves her cold, something in his tone that makes her breath catch, leaving her motionless and tense. "There's no need for tears, love."
And yet corpses litter the gymnasium, corpses of people she had grown up with and known all her life; corpses of those who had wanted her dead, judging by the vials of vervain and the wooden stakes that a few of them still cling to. But she had been a fool to think that she could remain in Mystic Falls as she is, that someone wouldn't notice the way she didn't age. Of course they'd riot, of course they'd come for her, and of course she wouldn't fight them off. These were people she saw every day, always ready with a smile and a compliment. She had resigned herself to death the minute they shoved that needle filled with vervain into her arm, because who would come for her? How would anyone discover she was in trouble? They came for her in the night, awoke her with the pinch of their injection. Quiet, careful, because they knew she must have friends.
And yet he came. He knew, somehow. And he had killed them all before her very eyes. She was painted red with the blood of his victims. And as he stands above her, she can see the wildness in his eyes, the glimmer of excitement, because he enjoyed himself very much, and his chest is still heaving as the adrenaline pumps through his veins, and Caroline can only weep for the deaths of these people who only thought they were doing good.
Klaus bends to his knees, on top of her now, and begins tracing over her stomach, fingering the holes in her nightgown that now clings to her form, wet and heavy with blood. Most of it is hers this time, her chest and stomach riddled with bullet holes, the wooden bullets embedded in her. Klaus still has that hungry look in his eyes, wild from the massacre, and Caroline can't breathe, because she's completely useless right now, and it's not like she could fight him off anyway.
"Don't look so scared, Caroline." He pronounces the syllables of her name carefully. "I'm here to help you, remember? Now, apologies, but this is in the way." He rips her nightgown open and digs his fingers into her bullet wounds, plucking out the bullets. Caroline cries out in agony, but Klaus doesn't stop, and she knows he's just helping and it would hurt either way, but she's so afraid of him and she doesn't trust his eyes looking over her exposed body, and she'd rather it be anyone else here, even Damon.
Klaus isn't acting the way he does around Caroline, not today. He isn't being courteous or charming, he isn't giving her soft smiles, or trying to calm her down and make her feel safe. He had burst into the gym with rage in his eyes, and didn't spare her a single look at he flew between his victims, ending their lives in seconds. And maybe she's foolish to expect him to act caring, particularly in this situation, but he's being rough with her as he's only been once, when Kol was stabbed, and he's speaking in such a serene way that her blood runs cold, and Caroline is frozen in anticipation because she has no idea what to expect from him.
"Klaus…" She chokes out and she can hardly stop herself from sobbing.
"Don't worry, love, I'll have these out soon." His voice is soothing and when he meets her gaze there's a look of mischief in his eyes.
"Klaus, all these people…" She begins crying again, and looks away from him.
"Hey, hey." Klaus grabs her chin and roughly pulls her face to his so that she's looking him in the eye again. "I did it to save you." He sounds angry, almost offended.
"I know, but-"
"But what? Would you have rather died then, Caroline?" His index finger and thumb wedge their way into her stomach, tearing the skin further until he can reach the bullet. He fishes it out and doesn't flinch when she cries out from the pain. "Shall I get a shotgun and riddle you with holes again?" His tone makes her believe he would do it. Klaus stands and steps over her, eyes scanning the floor of the gym until he finds a woman who is breathing shallowly. He grabs her by her ankle and drags her between the bodies of his less lucky victims before lying her down next to Caroline. "Drink," he orders, giving the human woman a kick in Caroline's direction. "You're weak."
Caroline presses her mouth into a hard line and looks at the woman next to her. Her name is Sheila. She works at the grocery store, in the bakery. She makes the most intricately designed cakes Caroline has ever seen. When Caroline was younger, she would give her a cupcake for free whenever she and her mother would go shopping. Sheila's a divorcee, like Caroline's mother, and has a son who went to North Carolina for college and only ever returns for Christmas now.
"Be quick, love, she won't last long."
"No, Klaus." Caroline closes her eyes and tries to ignore the quiet whimpering of the woman next to her.
Klaus glowers at her, hands balling into fists. In frustration, he turns away from her, kicking the corpse of a man (Danny, that's Danny, who fixes cars) so hard, it rolls from him. Caroline flinches. "Why, Caroline? Why won't you drink?" He snaps, turning back to her. "Why were you so ready to die today?" He moves towards her, kneeling beside her. He takes her hand, holding it between his. He brings it to his mouth, his breath hot. "You've lived this life, what, ten years?" He speaks quietly now. "How many times must I tell you you haven't even begun living yet?" Klaus is breathing heavily, nostrils flared, and from the way his grip tightens, if Caroline doesn't give him an answer soon, her hand will be crushed.
Caroline opens her eyes and, dammit, she can't seem to stop crying."You're hurting me, Klaus," she sobs, struggling to pull her hand away. They're looking each other squarely in the eye, Klaus's brow narrowed, still breathing heavily, while Caroline gasps in pain. "Klaus, please!" Her voice cracks and so does something inside him, his grip immediately loosened, her hand dropping to her side. He scoops her up, holding her close to him, and Caroline stiffens, uncertain about being in Klaus's hold.
Neither of them says anything for a long moment and only when Caroline hears the last breath leave the human woman does she return his embrace and sob into his shoulder, hating herself for seeking comfort in him, for being so vulnerable and exposed at his own hands. And he hugs her and pets her matted hair down, whispering, "Hush, hush…" over and over. She wants to hate him for all he's done, not just for tonight, but since he first came to Mystic Falls, but she can't. He's saved her again, how many times has that been now? And she's happy to be alive, though Caroline wonders if her life was worth the cost. Her mother would say it was, of course, as would her friends, and she knows for a fact that Klaus would place her life above thousands of humans, but as the corpse of a woman she has known for what seems like forever lies only inches from her and Caroline is covered in the blood of victims of the man holding her, she knows that had Klaus not come, she would have died, and she knows she would have been ok with it.
"I'm sorry, Caroline, I'm sorry…" He says now, his breath hot on her neck, but he's apologizing for the wrong things. She doesn't care that he was rough with her; she's been through worse with others she loves much more dearly. And maybe that's why she cries, because Klaus doesn't get it and perhaps he never will. He no longer holds a value for human life, but it isn't something she can fault him for, not really. He's lived for centuries, seen millions of faces come and go, and maybe it's easier to not hold humans in high esteem, maybe it's less painful. Maybe Caroline will be like him, if she can survive a few centuries. And perhaps that's what scares her more.
Klaus stands and begins walking from the gym. Caroline hides her face in his chest, unwilling and unable to see what remains of the dead. He takes her home and cleans her up, and Caroline says nothing, and spares him not even a glance. When he lies her down in her bed, he sits next to her, as he did years ago, the first time he saved (spared might be a better word) her life. When he reaches to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear, their eyes meet. Klaus's eyes are soft now, not a trace of the wildness that seemed to consume him earlier to be found, and Caroline can't help but glare, her guard completely up.
Klaus's brow knits and something breaks inside Caroline. She can't stay in Mystic Falls, not after tonight. And Klaus is her ticket out.
"We have to leave." She says without a second thought. "At least, I have to." But that notion scares her, because Caroline hates to be alone, and what does she know about the world? She doesn't know where she would go, if she would even try to start a life again somewhere. The idea of aimlessly wandering the planet, feeding off anyone unlucky enough to cross her path is less than ideal.
"Caroline…" Klaus starts, sounding unsure.
"They know, Klaus! They know about me, about what I am! And when they find those bodies in the morning…I have to leave. It's long overdue, anyway." Caroline sits up and Klaus moves back, hesitant. "Everyone else has left. I stuck around for mom." To live out the rest of her numbered days, she thinks, and it makes her heart hurt. "But it's become too noticeable." She slowly stands, still feeling the after effects of the vervain. Caroline looks around her room, at a loss. What should she take, what should she leave?
"Caroline, are you sure about this?" Klaus is still sitting on her bed. Caroline turns to face him. His expression is stony, concerned, maybe.
Caroline stares back and the events of the night suddenly hit her full force. She had gone to bed without a care in the world. She woke in the hands of humans who wanted nothing more than to drive a stake through her heart. They had carted her off to the school, empty for the summer, and gathered together in the gymnasium. There were thirty, maybe forty of them. And they all looked at her with such hate and disgust. She could hardly process it, drugged and drowsy, and scared out of her mind. She had resigned herself to death as she had done before, when Tyler bit her, when Alaric's alter ego had kidnapped her. She wanted to shut off her emotions, she knew it would be easier that way, but she wouldn't do it, wouldn't lose her humanity, not when she was at Death's door. They had thrown her to the ground, and judging by their ropes and chains they were going to restrain her. Someone got trigger happy and couldn't resist shooting her, and the crowd cheered, drowning out her scream. And almost as though the noise was a signal, Klaus came flying in, killing maybe ten people before anyone realized he was there. And Caroline watched in horror as he took every single one of them down before coming to her, almost driven mad by his slaying. And he saved her. It seemed as though he would always be there to save her, wanted or not.
"Yes," Caroline whispers, closing her eyes.
He's standing in a flash, a hand on her cheek, and her eyes open again. Klaus is looking at her as though he is saddened by this. "Do you want me to come with you?"
Caroline's breath catches and she feels overwhelmed. Klaus, the devil himself, if she were to ever give him a face. He would have killed her all those years ago, all to become powerful. But he did kill Jenna. And he tried to kill Elena. And he would have liked very much for Bonnie to be dead. He possessed Stefan, turned him into a monster like himself. He ordered Tyler to bite her, all to see just how strong his sire bond was. But then he came to her door and let her feed from him. And he showered her with gifts she didn't deserve. He talked to her, genuinely fascinated in a way no one ever was, really. He didn't cast her aside as some superficial girl, but maybe that's because she wasn't one anymore. He said she was full of light, whatever that meant. And here he was tonight, genuinely upset that she was ready to die. She hadn't even begun living yet, he said. Caroline didn't know what Klaus wanted from her. Always he had pushed his idea that she would grow bored with her life, that she would want out, want to explore the world. And maybe that was his appeal. He was brutally honest with her, because he had centuries to learn the truth of an immortal life. But he had been so impatient with her. And now he is questioning her, when she is saying what he has wanted to hear for years. That she's ready to go. 'We have to leave,' she had said first. We. And he is looking at her as if he regrets all of his comments, all of his urgings for Caroline to get out of Mystic Falls. As if he is scared she isn't ready. And there's something else. He wants nothing more than for her to say yes, she wants him to come with her. Because he knows she isn't prepared to face the world, not alone. But he's used to being snubbed by Caroline, and for a second, Caroline thinks about doing exactly what he expects, because she doesn't know what a life with Klaus would be like, and isn't sure she wants to find out.
But he's her ticket out. He made that clear years ago.
"Do you want me to come with you?"
"Yes," Caroline repeats, and doesn't fight it when Klaus plants a kiss on her forehead.
They leave as the sun is rising. Caroline leaves her mother a very long note, but still isn't surprised when she gets a tearful phone call. Caroline promises to return, maybe years from now, and her mother tries to understand for her daughter's sake. Klaus smiles as he drives and Caroline stares straight ahead, quiet and cold. Klaus says nothing when she begins crying hours later, but he puts a hand on her thigh and squeezes and in that moment, Caroline thinks maybe things will be okay, because now, as they drive, headed for the nearest airport and a ticket to England, this is when her life is beginning. Her eternity starts now, with the escape of that miserable, beautiful little town, into the hands of a cruel and charming vampire with an unexplained fascination in her. And good thing for it, Caroline figures, because at least she knows she'll always be safe with Klaus. She had learned that he was very good at keeping a hold on the things he cared about.
"How did you find me?" This is the first thing she says to him since leaving Mystic Falls. They're on their flight now. Klaus had them put in first class, of course.
Klaus gives her a smile. "I had an inkling you might be in trouble, you could say."
Caroline quirks her eyebrow, not buying it. "What, did you feel a disturbance in the force?"
Klaus lets out a laugh and Caroline can't help but smile. "My theory is that vampires develop a sixth sense for those they care about."
Caroline stifles a sigh and shakes her head. "Typical vague, supernatural answer for everything, it seems." She blinks and stops smiling, looking at Klaus very seriously now. "Well whatever the explanation, thank you." She almost wants to throw up, thanking him for it. Murdering all those people. But even though she had resigned herself to death, Caroline is still very grateful to be alive.
"Caroline, I hope you realize that you don't ever have to thank me for saving you." Klaus is looking back at Caroline just as seriously and she stiffens, her brow knitting. "Your life is one I won't allow to end anytime soon."
She doesn't know what to say. Klaus smiles at her one last time and then turns away from her, closing his eyes. He doesn't expect her to say anything back, not yet, anyway. He gets it, that she can't trust him, that she won't allow herself to succumb to his charm. And he likes it, the challenge of Caroline, and maybe he's being a little over confident, but he's sure, given some time, if she would only try to get to know him, they could grow to understand one another. And he's willing to wait for her.
"Try to get some sleep, Caroline," he says without opening his eyes. "You've had a long night."
Caroline stares at Klaus for a moment before turning away. Her eyes wander to the window and go out of focus, hypnotized by the solid blue of the sky and the blanket of clouds beneath the plane. Caroline closes her eyes, the hum of the plane, the chatter of the other passengers, and the soft breathing of her companion lulling her to a dreamless sleep.