*blows off dust*

xx

The world has lost its shine. Cities quickly become boring, his interest lost, his attention fleeting. The excitement of it all is gone. She isn't there to gasp and gaze, to tug on his sleeve and excitedly point to some landmark he's seen a dozen times. He's alone; his greatest fear, his strongest hate. But the only person he wishes to be with is off limits, he's decided. He could track her down. Take her away with him again, willing or not. And maybe that would make him happy for a day or two. She'd be there, at least, even if she was hating him all the while. But he knows, of course, that it wouldn't be right.

When he returned to the hotel that night in Rome, he had hoped that maybe she would be there. Her clothes would be unpacked, her luggage tucked away. She'd smile, maybe. Welcome him back. Be forgiving, understanding. As though he deserved it. As though he was in the right to hurt her, shove her, scream in her face as she flinched and held back tears. Tears of what, he wonders? Fear? Or genuine sadness to be leaving him?

Fat chance, he thinks.

He sat on her bed, staring blankly ahead. The room possessed remnants of her presence - the smell of her perfume hung in the air, the sheets of the bed were disheveled from her sleep. He thought, maybe, he could open the closet and find her clothes hanging there. And the thought propelled him until he was tearing the room apart looking for something, anything, she may have left behind. An article of clothing, a bottle of perfume; anything to serve as a reminder that it was not all a dream, though at times it felt that way. He finds a ring, a simple silver band, sitting forgotten on the dresser. He holds it between and index finger and thumb, wondering it's significance, if any at all. Did she leave it for him? Who gave it to her originally? He pockets it, giving the room one last look before closing the door behind him. He leaves early the next morning, anxious to get away.

Klaus considers buying a ticket to the States, sure that's where she returned to. But he can't, or won't, and tries to think of somewhere he won't be reminded of Caroline. The days turn into weeks as he crawls from one country to another, making his way north from Italy. Colder climates sound nice; the idea of brooding on top of a snowy mountain appealing. In Berlin, he almost forgets himself. Considers a flight to London then New York. A tempting idea after two weeks of her absence. But would she even be in the States? Yes, her mother was there, as were all of her friends, but she knew Mystic Falls would be the first place he'd look. Discovering where Elena or Bonnie are would be easy enough. If she was smart, she would flee to some outlandish place for her own good. Unless…

Unless she trusted him to not pursue her.

He rolls the idea over in his head before booking a flight to Copenhagen. Subconsciously, he fingers the ring in his pocket.

Klaus isn't sure when a month without Caroline passes. He's busied himself with drink of both kinds while occupying a small apartment in a smaller town in the northernmost area of Norway, an Arctic tundra of rock, stone, and snow that gives him little comfort. But he doesn't care, because he isn't thinking of her at every turn, isn't reminded of her at every corner, only dreams of her when his stomach is full of whiskey and the blood of another dead local, his fingers rolling her ring over his knuckles again and again. The people of this place fear him, as he likes, and oh, the amusement he gets when they avoid eye contact with him on the street, moving across the road to avoid him. He is a monster; they believe it and so he plays the role. He feels no remorse as he dwindles the town's population, relishing in it, even. It's rare when her face swims to mind, looking at him with disapproval, disgust.

"That isn't how it has to be," she had said in London. "Not anymore, Klaus."

How he longed to hear her say his name again.

Klaus decides to move shortly after that memory swims to mind, another town tainted by the thought of her. But in truth, he believes anywhere in the world would raise memories and thoughts of her. Caroline's essence follows him; often her scent could be caught, her laughter could be heard, her blonde curls seen before he'd realize it was only a stranger, or his own mind teasing him. He begins to crave isolation for what must be the first time, desperate for an escape. Caroline has unwittingly consumed him.

The nagging urge to track her down grows, Klaus gripping onto his resolve with his finger tips. One month without her. A lifetime, it seems. Elijah finds him the same day he decides to travel to America, his brother's timing impeccable as always.

The dilapidated apartment he has been occupying is dark, the only light muted by the filthy windows that face the setting sun. Suitcases sit by the front door, the rooms bare of any personal touch. The furniture, as old and shabby as the building itself, will be abandoned, Klaus neither wanting or needing it. He is sitting on the couch, staring blankly ahead, a glass of whiskey clutched in one hand. Beneath him, a young man lays still, his breathing shallow. Blood is smeared all over his neck. Klaus rests a foot on his chest, leaning back as he takes another sip of the liquor. He'll leave the body to be discovered, he decides. The locals can rest assured knowing that, indeed, a monster had been occupying their small town these last few weeks.

Klaus pours himself more whiskey, checking the time. A bus ticket to the nearest airport rests in his wallet, departure time 8 p.m. A few more hours and he'd be on his way to her, wherever it was she had run off to. He would find her, he knew. He had to find her.

Before that, however, he would finish his bottle of whiskey and put the man out of his misery. Klaus sighs, running a hand through his hair and turning his gaze now to the grimy windows. A lone, dark figure makes its way down the street towards the apartment complex, the street below otherwise empty. The entire town seems to be painted grey, the usual brilliant colors of the setting sun washed out and dull. He'd take Caroline somewhere sunny and warm, he decides. Perhaps South America. She might like that, after a time.

He finishes his drink in one big gulp, letting out a breath. His free hand has returned to toying with Caroline's ring, spinning it around his pinkie absent mindedly. Something in the back of his mind is screaming at him to reconsider, to remember that rational calm he had initially felt at her departure. Remember her tears, how she begged to be let free. Let her return of her own accord, if she will. Don't hurt her again.

Not again.

Klaus stands, still one foot on his victim, who lets out a grunt, though his eyes remain closed. He's gripping the empty glass in one hand, close to crushing it. Suddenly, he throws it, shattering the cup against the bare wall before him. Just as quickly, Klaus pulls the man up by his collar, draining the little blood remaining in his veins from him and tossing his body just as carelessly away. He rubs his eyes, grinding his teeth together in frustration.

There's a knock on his door.

Klaus pauses, his hands lowering slowly as his gazes moves to the front door. Whoever is on the other side is completely silent, save their even breathing. He blinks, eyes flicking to the corpse that sits in a crumbled mess across from him. Perhaps he should remove it from the room, less his visitor be human and draw unwanted attention. But why would a human be visiting him? Why would anyone be knocking at his door to begin with?

Hesitantly, he approaches the entryway; not fearful, but bewildered. Klaus grips the doorknob, straining his ears in a last ditch effort to identify who or what was standing on the other side. He opens it just a crack, his eyes meeting the back of a man's head. As Klaus's brow furrows, the man turns, looking over Klaus quickly before making eye contact.

"Hello, Niklaus," Elijah says, the corners of his mouth turning slightly in an attempted smile.

"Elijah?" Klaus murmurs, eyes wide and slack-jawed. "What are you-"

"May I come in?" Elijah interrupts, eyes flicking down the hallway he just came as if expecting someone to round the corner. He gives Klaus an expectant look. "We have much to discuss."

"Yes, ah, yes of course," Klaus steps aside, Elijah promptly moving past him into the kitchen. He begins looking over the apartment, his expression a mixture of disgust and disinterest. "Why are you here, brother?" Klaus asks as he closes the door, unconsciously locking it.

Elijah seems not to have heard him, however, his eyes eventually finding the discarded body and the broken glass. He says nothing, only stares.

"I would offer you some but I'm afraid I just finished that one off," Klaus says lightly. He remains by the door, his arms now crossed over his chest. Annoyance begins to replace his initial shock at seeing his brother here, of all places.

"Thank you, but I fed before arriving," Elijah says curtly, turning away from the scene to face Klaus. "I hope this hasn't been a habit for you. It's risky, in such a small town," he warns, unnecessarily.

"It wouldn't be the first village to come after me with pitchforks and torches," Klaus smiles, but Elijah's solemn look sobers him. He matches Elijah's frown, furrowing his eyebrows. "Now you know how I hate to repeat myself, brother, so don't make me ask why it is you're here again. And for that matter, just how did you find me?"

"You aren't the only one with eyes in different places, Niklaus," Elijah replies. When Klaus gives him a waiting, look he expands. "A friend in Germany told me there was a rumor that you had passed through, heading north. The population of our kind has only grown, Klaus, and they know who you are. Who we are. Don't seem so surprised that you were easily found." Elijah paused. "Besides, news of unexplained murders in quiet towns practically gave me a direct trail to your front door."

Klaus considered this, nodding. "You never fail to find what you're looking for, do you, Elijah?" He smiled again, finally stepping away from the door. "Come in then, take a seat. I imagine you've tracked me down for a good reason?" He asked, looking over his shoulder as he passed Elijah. Before sitting, he retrieves two glasses, the bottle of whiskey not yet finished. Taking his place on the couch, he pours himself and his brother a drink, offering Elijah, who sits in the stiff armchair to his left, the glass. To Klaus's surprise he accepts.

Elijah takes a sip, staring into his glass contemplatively. He rhythmically taps the rim with his index finger. Klaus cannot recall the last time Elijah struggled to find the right words.

"I've talked with Rebekah recently." He opens, head snapping up to look Klaus in the eyes.

"And how is our sister? Still enjoying her human?" Klaus smirks, shaking his head at the thought. His sister finally found love with a man who never wants to become a vampire. Fools, both of them, he thinks.

"She seemed to be doing well," Elijah thinkst for a moment. "Matthew is healthy and still very much mortal."

"Good for him," he scoffs. "What does Rebekah have to do with you showing up here?"

"She told me something I thought you might want to know." Suddenly, Elijah is hesitant again. "Something to do with Caroline."

Klaus stiffens, his gaze locked on Elijah now, any trace of humor gone from his face. He feels the smirk drop to a frown, his brow knit. It was strange, hearing her name from another's mouth. A phantom made real again. Slowly, Klaus leaned back, never looking away from Elijah. He took a gulp from his drink, the alcohol burning on its way down. When he speaks he hardly recognizes his own voice. "What about her?"

Her. He can't say her name; not loudly, anyway. Not above a whisper, as he is lulled into another dreamless sleep, a bottle of liquor tucked into his arm, and her ring gripped tightly in the hand that doesn't hold a glass. His tounge can't form the syllables, not without his breath catching.

Elijah watches Klaus closely, warily. "Niklaus-"

"What about her, Elijah?" Klaus demands in a low voice.

"She's been to see Bonnie and Stefan," Elijah says. "She's had a lot to say about you." Klaus remains quiet, so he continues. "Rebekah said that Caroline is…" Elijah hesitates, licking his lips.

"What, Elijah?" Klaus prompts, growing impatient.

"She said that Caroline loves you." Elijah falls silent, gauging Klaus's reaction.

Klaus continues staring at Elijah, though it is not his brother he sees. His mind is racing, wondering at the time, how quickly he would arrive to the States. He knew Stefan was in San Francisco, so he'd go there first, if not to find her then to find out where she is.

Where she is.

"Do you know where she is, Elijah?" Klaus says after a long silence.

Elijah expects this. "Yes." He blinks, licking his lips again. "But I won't tell you."

This makes Klaus smile. He knocks back the rest of his drink, nodding his head. "I'm sure you have some misguided reason to think that a wise decision, brother, and I would just love to hear it, but if I were you, I'd save myself some trouble."

"Are you so desperate to see her, then?" Elijah sounds neither intimidated or evasive, instead staring at Klaus with genuine interest. "You'd threaten your own brother just to know where she is? So what? So you might chase her down? I noticed your packed bags, Niklaus. Was this something you were already planning?" Elijah cocks his head to the side.

Klaus's face flushes red with anger and shame, though he'd be hard pressed to admit that. "If what you told me is true, who's to say she doesn't want me to?" Klaus asks defensively. "Maybe she's trying to find me."

"She isn't." Elijah replies curtly. "She is...hesitant to reach out." Another pause. "Niklaus, what happened during the time you were together?"

He glares at Elijah now, silent, unwilling to share a moment of that time with his brother, at least not yet, anyway. Her hesitance makes sense, of course, though that does not stop him from resenting it all the same. He'd like to leave this apartment now, leave Elijah to spout off his reasoning to the corpse because he does not want to hear it. He wants to see her, to speak with her, to touch her. If it were true, if she did love him, then what should stop him?

Noting Klaus's silence, Elijah continues. "Fine, keep your secrets. I simply wanted to request that you do not pursue Caroline, not now, at least."

Klaus smirks again. "Telling me what to do now, are you, Elijah?"

"A fruitless venture, that." Elijah's eyes soften suddenly, their usual cool and critical edge gone. "I want only to offer advice, Niklaus. I don't...I don't want to see you destroy a good thing." He pauses, taking another sip of his drink. "I want you to be happy, brother."

Klaus's temper flares, slamming his empty glass down on the coffee table and leaning in to be closer to Elijah. "What makes you so sure I would 'destroy' this, hm?" He asks in a low voice. "What do you think I'll do, Elijah?" Klaus slams his hand to his chest, voice rising. "Do you think I'll drag her away with me?" He can't admit to planning to do just that, should he have to. Not now, with Elijah verbalizing the very fears he'd been battling with for the past month. Of course he was going to destroy this. All he seemed to know was destruction. With Caroline, it was always one step forward, ten steps back. And who was ever to fault but himself? How could she love him when it seemed he did nothing but hurt her? How mad she drove him, with her morals and values, so different from his own, so illogical, they seemed.

His thoughts returned to the morning in Tokyo, a scene that had replayed itself in his head over and over these past weeks. The maid he had compelled to stay, the veins he had opened to drive Caroline into a frenzy. How he longed to see her lose control, then, to become the monster she had accused him of being time and again. It was petty, cruel. The lie, that it made no difference to him whether she drank from the girl or not, the manipulation so that she would blame herself. What was the matter with him? Was he always to hurt her, one way or another? Was this his curse?

How could she love him?

Elijah does not say anything, bracing himself against Klaus's anger. He watches as his brother stands, moving to the window that overlooks the streets below. Klaus runs his hands over his face, breathing deeply before letting out a slow, long sigh. "Am I to hurt her for all eternity, brother?" Klaus asks mournfully, keeping his back to Elijah.

Elijah is only caught off guard for a moment at this sudden change. "Clearly," he starts, eyes moving to the floor as his mind wanders. "You did something right before she left you." Elijah nods his head, licking his lips again. "She needs time, Klaus. I believe you do, too."

Klaus closes his eyes, thinking of Rome, now. His rage had driven him to hurt her, then. To threaten her. That stolen kiss was wrong, of course. Terrible timing. Yet he could not help himself, in that moment. Love is a vampire's greatest weakness, he had once said. It made him irrational, reckless. He wanted her then, in every way possible. And he would have taken her, had she been anyone else. But he let her go. He let her leave.

Because she was Caroline. Pure, good Caroline. He longed to only do right by her, truly he did. But how hard that proved to be. That night, in that moment, in the dim light with her taste fresh on his lips and tears running down her face, he couldn't stand himself. He couldn't stand what he was doing despite every instinct of his telling him to take her.

Klaus turns, eyes passing over Elijah to the luggage by the door. His bus ticket burns a hole in his pocket, tucked away in his wallet. His tools of destruction. Shame washes over him. His hand subconsciously plunges into his pocket, gripping her ring tightly in his fist.

"What would you have me do, Elijah?" Klaus looks to his brother, tears threatening to fall.

Elijah stands, moving towards Klaus. Gingerly, he places a hand on Klaus's shoulder. "I never thought you'd ask," he says, the hint of a smile on his lips.

xx

Alright. So, it's been a while. I'm sorry for the delay. I'm not nearly involved with the fandom as I was initially; I haven't watched season 5 yet or any of The Originals, so I'm pretty out of the loop. As well, I lost a lot of interest in, well, everything for a while. I feel like I owe you guys a conclusion, so I promise this fic will never truly be abandoned, even if updates are few and far between.

I want to go back and tweak some earlier chapters. Last chapter especially has some errors that need fixing, so expect notifications for that.

For those of you who came back to read, thanks for sticking around. I hope this update was to your liking. Klaus deserved a little insight I thought, so here we are. It'll be Caroline next chapter, so no worries, you will be getting that meeting that's been so prolonged. I think maybe three more chapters are left, should I follow my plan. Hopefully it won't be too long next time.

Thank you guys for everything.

-Reels