Paradise for the Lost
a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
—John Milton, Paradise Lost
3 MONTHS LATER
Klaus lies sprawled on his bed and closes his eyes for a hundredth time since... Yes, he's been counting.
Caroline is laughing excitedly, her words echoing in his mind. "Catch me if you can!" She's dancing on the warm sand like a nymph, and sea breeze blows about her frizzy blonde hair as she jiggles around. He sees his hands reaching out, grabbing her by the waist, and he starts spinning them both round and round till she wraps her arms around his neck for support, still laughing like a little girl.
Everything is so bright, almost blinding, and she's so palpable in his hands—like a sleeping pill. Caroline plays with his unruly hair humming some simple melody, looking at him like they were some young newlyweds, oh-so-sweet and crazy in love.
"What's wrong?" She bites her lower lip seeing his confusion. He's frowning, not able to differentiate between illusion and reality.
He's here, she's here. By some weird, unknown power that brought them together in the first place they are together again. His frown disappears, and he cracks a faint smile.
"Everything's perfect." Klaus keeps rocking her gently in his arms. Caroline buries her head in the crook of his neck and sighs. She feels safe, loved, peaceful. Overcome by a sudden wave of emotion, she cups his face in both hands and presses her lips onto his, closing her eyes and feeling his arms tighten around her. He lets her soft lips pepper his face with butterfly kisses till he can't stop himself from taking control and kissing her hard. While his left hand rests on the small of her back, his right hand holds her neck firmly as their lips crash in a hungry, demanding way.
It's been so long since he last kissed her. Two thousand four hundred painful hours. He's been counting.
"I missed you so much." She whispers leaning her head against his and looking deep into his blue eyes as their noses touch. Klaus has to admit he's never been in favour of eskimo kisses, but now it seems incredibly intimate and comforting.
"I promise I'll never leave you again." His lips travel down her jawline just brushing against her skin, and Caroline dreamily closes her eyes reveling in the pleasure that feeling his skin against her skin evokes. She thinks there's nothing that feels more right than his touch on her body. She tilts her head back to give him better access to her neck and then—
—two wickedly sharp fangs tear into her neck, piercing the flesh, causing an unbearable, burning sensation that makes her stiffen in agony, blood flowing down her neck as his teeth sink even deeper, a spasm of panic sweeping over her while he's sucking her dry—
Klaus jumps out of bed covered with sweat, heavily panting.
Caroline wakes up suddenly with a blood curdling, hysterical scream escaping her mouth.
He looks around in panic, desperately trying to come to his senses.
She gasps for air, clutching at her chest.
Bad dream, it was just a bad dream. Again.
As bad as it may be at night, Caroline's quite successful during the daytime. CAROOKIE business is thriving, and Dean makes a good boss and even a better friend.
Three months ago they brought his old family business to life. Now it's called CAROOKIE, a cake shop. They started off with cookies Caroline baked, but then the customers began to literally coming in flocks, so Dean decided to extend the menu. He sent Caroline to a baking course and two weeks later she became a queen of pie and pastry. He couldn't believe his own eyes when customers were spending hours in their small shop chatting and laughing, as if she was adding some special magic to the products. After a month and a half they had to move to a larger place as they evolved into a full-blown cafe. Two weeks later a special LA Times supplement featuring the most trending new places in the city described Carookie as a 'simple, friendly, cozy yet extremely compelling place where a happy hour lasts all day.'
She got her first raise and her first bouquet of roses from Dean. There were more flowers to come.
Don't get her wrong, Dean's a great guy. He helps her re-paint her small flat and rearrange furniture so it looks bigger and brighter. He pays her good money and even hires Elena on a part-time basis so Caroline can have some free time. He teaches her how to drive—
"Where is it?!"
"That big penis on your right!"
—and doesn't get mad when she parks his car on a tree.
He's fun and sweet and caring, and totally infatuated with her. That's right, Caroline might be a little slow on the uptake sometimes, but she's certainly not blind.
"I can't stand it anymore!" With her hands resolutely put on her hips, Rebekah yells at her brothers that are sitting in front of a big flat TV screen, staring thoughtlessly at whatever is currently on.
They don't even blink.
"Are you listening to me? I won't put up with this any longer!"
Ignorance doesn't even begin to describe how they are treating her right now.
"I quit!" She shakes her fist at them and stomps out of the room, a dark stormy cloud hovering above her head.
"Did you hear something?" Elijah frowns, his eyes fixed on TV. The other brothers shrug.
Rebekah is pacing in Stefan's room fuming and snorting and raging, and poor Stefan feels like he's getting smaller and smaller every minute. It was very generous of Elijah to take them all in to his apartment in New York, but then all three devils started acting weird and detached, leaving Rebekah's temper in Stefan's hands. Of course it feels wonderful having Rebekah back, Stefan's delighted most of the time, but somewhere between Women dress like prostitutes now?! and Come on Stefan, I haven't lived at all! there's that hidden angst, concern for her brothers who have hit the skids some time ago.
"Do you have any idea why they're acting like three-years-old boys on some kind of stupid pills?"
"Well, since you ask, I might have a theory..."
An hour later Rebekah has to pick up her jaw from the floor, because Stefan's story is, to put it lightly, disturbing.
It's almost like when he told her last month that Backstreet Boys were no longer popular or performing exactly when she got all their CDs.
"So that's the girl I've seen Klaus sketching when he thought no one's looking." She nods in recognition for her own spying skills. Nothing escapes her notice. She also saw Kol writing a letter in hiding, and she knew Elijah bought two tickets to Broadway but left them locked in his drawer like some kind of guilty pleasure. Something's going on, and Rebekah is close to discovering her brothers' dirty secrets that seem to have the same roots.
There's more to it than just pleasure when she smiles sweetly at Stefan. She-devil is up to something artfully cunning.
"What about going to Los Angeles for the weekend?"
Klaus hides in his bedroom with his typical excuse that he wants to take a nap, but everybody knows he's actually locking himself up to sketch. Crumpled sheets of paper covering the floor could serve as irrefutable evidence.
"So, you wrote her a letter." Elijah's flicking through the channels.
"Dear Meredith," Kol slurs in a bored tone, "we can't be together, 'cause I'm a monster now, so forget about me. xoxo."
Elijah nods slowly. "Close enough."
"I did nothing. Like a coward." He sighs. There's a ghost of a bitter smile playing on Kol's lips.
"Misery loves company."
"Shut up, The Real Housewives of Miami are starting."
Dean waits for her in the hallway as always before taking her to work. She looks like she hasn't slept at all, and it's not just today. The girl that is a ray of sunshine all day seems to be in a vary dark place when nobody's watching. Dean knows it too well because he's been there after his mother died. But Caroline won't tell him the truth, she just shakes her head and shrugs the question off, like everything's a picnic and nothing hurts. Yet her eyes betray her in every way possible.
"Caroline, let me ask you something." He says as he drives through the city. "Did you scream last night? I mean, not in that sense, rather like you were watching a horror movie or... had a nightmare." He doesn't have a supernatural hearing skills, of course not. Dean just happens to live exactly in the flat above hers. Sometimes Caroline finds it unsettling.
"I, um, I don't know. Maybe." She stutters. "We all have bad dreams from time to time. No big deal."
"From time to time?" Dean purses his lips. "Look, I don't want to be nosy, but it doesn't seem like an occasional bad dream. Did someone... hurt you in the past?"
"I'm sorry, I just worry about you, okay? Don't be mad." He keeps his sad blue eyes on the road, avoiding Caroline's stare.
There's a long pause on her part, that type of silence that brings some perturbing news.
"There was someone. Someone I loved. We both... did bad things. So it was just doomed to failure. I think I'm not over it yet, that's all."
"I'm sure you didn't do anything wrong. You don't do bad things, Caroline, you're like angel or something." A faint smile forms on Dean's face. For him Caroline is flawless. Even customers love her, and CAROOKIE has the highest sales volume when she's working. People come to CAROOKIE not only for something to sweeten their life, they visit Caroline to talk about their daily problems, to share their sorrows or happiness. And she always treats every single customer like they were special. That's the thing about her-being around Caroline makes you feel special.
It's a very busy day at CAROOKIE, and Caroline can't help but wonder how things will look like before Christmas or Valentine's Day. They will need another pair of hands to help, that's for sure. When there are only two customers left in a queue, Caroline lets a sigh of relief.
"Caroline, my dear," an old woman smiles, her wrinkled face lights up at the sight of her favourite cook.
"Hello Mrs. Lane!" Caroline beams at the lady. "How can I help you today?"
"Marry my grandson, sweetheart. He needs a good girl like you." Mrs. Lane laughs. She's always talking about her grandson, apparently a workaholic with the stock market as his mistress.
"Hmm.'' She knits her brows, pretending to be put in an awful dilemma. ''How about today's Carookie special?" She winks at the customer and packs some freshly baked apple pie. When the woman leaves, Caroline finds herself facing a young, beautiful blonde who's dressed like a celebrity, with an air of refinement and mystery surrounding her. That's intriguing, Caroline thinks, people like that don't stop by CAROOKIE. Anyway, stranger or not, she's a customer too, so Caroline musters her smile number 5 and almost sings, "How can I help you?"
"I'm looking for something that will mend a broken heart of a bloody idiot." The girl says in a posh accent. Yup, Caroline thinks, nobility.
"Well..." She thoughtfully pouts looking down at the counter, "maybe our speciality, Chocolate Chip Carookies? If they can't mend a broken heart, nothing can." Caroline jokes, but she feels the examining stare that makes her hair stand on end.
"Really? Did they mend yours?" The British girl asks, haughtily squinting her eyes at Caroline. The angel gulps, her body getting tense. Even Dean looks up from above the bills he's going through. Energy in the room shifts. Caroline can swear she hears a clock ticking like a bomb.
Rebekah's eyes meet Caroline's, and she sees something she would always notice, even centuries from now. It's loneliness wearing a mask of every day routine, and sense of abandonment dressed as self-reliance. She-devil knows too well how to recognize a broken heart when she sees one.
A few seconds pass, but it seems like eternity. Strained, deafening silence falls over the room.
"No. They didn't." Caroline mumbles, her gaze fixed on the customer. Rebekah nods.
"Good, we couldn't let you marry that grandson, could we?"
Caroline's too stunned to answer.
"Make it three packs of Carookies."
They are standing on a rooftop high above the city, looking at colorful lights blending together, glowing beneath them, and stars twinkling above them—all of them like dying embers in a bonfire.
And they—they are in between.
"Last time we were watching night sky like that was when I asked you to go with me." He says. She's silent, still gazing into colorful space in front of her. "And you made a wish."
"Did it come true?" His voice is soft and soothing. It's been a while since she heard him talking without anger flowing in his veins.
His jaw tightens as he swallows. She's a bitter pill, a reminder of how much he screwed things up.
"I'm so sorry, love." Carefully—almost like she was a piece of porcelain—he takes her hand and gently pulls her closer. A shiver creeps down his spine when he feels her head resting against his chest, and he strokes her hair getting intoxicated by her scent. She smells like strawberries, so fresh and sweet.
The building is a real giant, powerful and sinister, towering over Los Angeles with an army of grotesque gargoyles creeping on every stone ledge. When she pulls away from him, she notices she's standing right on the edge of the roof.
"What—" She shoots him the last scared glance before he pushes her off into the pot of dancing lights, her dress flapping in the wind while she's falling down, his grief-stricken face getting smaller as the distance between them grows, and she's just about to hit the concrete—
Caroline's eyes shoot open. She's clutching at the bed cover, fighting to keep her heart from jumping out of her chest.
Klaus awakens suddenly and sits up straight in his bed, staring in horror at his hands like they didn't belong to him anymore.
This hellish torment seems to have no end.
The first thing that happens in Elijah's apartment when Rebekah's back is Klaus getting hit straight on the head by a flying bag of cookies.
He's been painting for the last two days. The picture is dark and chaotic which doesn't surprise Rebekah at all: the artist at the easel expressing his misery through sharp strokes of a brush. Of course he would never admit that. Officially, it's just a painting.
"Are you out of your mind, Rebekah?!" He growls.
"It runs in the family, doesn't it?" She retaliates swaggering into the living room, facing her furious brother.
"What is it?" Klaus mutters, finally taking a look at whatever attacked him. It's a white cookie back with a pink letters that say, CAROOKIE, LA's sweetest corner.
"From Los Angeles with love." She must derive sadistic pleasure from torturing him, Klaus thinks.
"How nice of you. Now get out of my sight."
"Is this what you told her?"
Klaus' her slowly turns to Rebekah, and his eyes pierce her like a voodoo doll.
"What did you say?"
"She almost deceived me, that Caroline. She was close, but I've been through too much to let someone pull the wool over my eyes."
"How dare you meddle in my affairs?" He approaches her absolutely seething. "HOW. DARE. YOU."
Yet Rebekah looks unfazed by his boiling rage as she stabs him in the back once more saying, "She's devastated. Good job, big brother. Give her more time, and her boss who's drooling over her will eventually get to comfort her."
"It means nothing to me!" He brandishes the brush at her, splattering paint all over her face and her expensive clothes. Rebekah raises a mocking eyebrow at him. He'll pay for damaging Chanel later.
"Did you forget I always know when you're lying? Always."
He can barely talk through his gritted teeth. "I should have never undagger you. Love messes with your head, little sister. Your loverboy Stefan makes you unbearably sentimental."
"Go right ahead." She challenges him keeping her head high. "Laugh at the girl who loved too easily, and live your miserable life of a man who couldn't love at all."
His clenched fist start trembling, but words get stuck in his throat. He struggles to articulate anything that would have some sense, but he's left with nothing to say. Seeing him so distressed, Rebekah's angry expression turns into a worried frown.
"I just want my brothers back, Nik."
When Klaus gets on the plane, still gloomy and angry, he discovers that he has, in fact, a company. His seat is exactly between Kol's seat and Elijah's seat.
"What are you doing here?" He groans raking his fingers through his short curls. "Wait, let me guess."
Kol and Elijah give him exactly the same jaded and desperate look of someone who's walking the plank on a sinking ship.
"So I thought."
Watching sunsets on the beach usually helps Caroline clear her mind. Not caring about her white dress getting dirty she sits down on warm sand and hugs her knees. There's something nostalgic about sunsets. They seem like the saddest goodbye even though you know the sun will be back again in the morning.
She just can't shake these dreams off. They look so real. Surreal, yet incredibly tangible—when she touches him, when he kisses her... and when he hurts her.
After that British girl's visit, Caroline gets even more confused. Everything about the posh customer reminds her of three devilish brothers. Her posh attitude was so Elijah, her cheekiness—so Kol, and her temper—so Klaus. But it makes no sense. Caroline doesn't even know if they are alive, or whether they got back to Earth or stayed in Hell. She hasn't heard from Stefan either.
At first the dreams weren't so violent. In the beginning it was just his blurry face floating somewhere in space. But as days went by, Caroline's dreams became heartbreakingly realistic and more violent.
Is is what he told her? I will hunt you down and make you pay. Is it his revenge?
She told him she forgave him, but months later when she looks back on what happened she's not so sure any more. If he'd really loved her, he would've found another way to save his sister. He just selfishly assumed Caroline was his for the taking. It's not love, it's ownership.
She was his only hope, but he let his wounded pride take control of his actions. He chose the easiest way out over her own good. If she hadn't found Elijah, he wouldn't have known about Kol being alive, and Klaus wouldn't have learned about the other solution. Yet she loved him, she still does.
He's a sinner to her saint.
"Ugh!" She groans irritated with all these thoughts nagging her. She gets up and brushes down her dress, ready to go, when some odd feeling tells her to turn around. Caroline screams in terror when she sees a pair of familiar blue eyes boring right into her. As if on cue, her heart starts racing uncontrollably, her breathing becomes quick and erratic.
Klaus keeps his head low staring at her from under his lashes. His face looks as guilty as when he pushed her off the rooftop in her dream. Caroline's eyes widen in panic. Oh no. Please no.
He takes a step towards her opening his mouth to speak—
—but before he can utter anything Caroline's fist collides with his nose as she punches him hard on the face. He staggers backwards, stunned by the blow.
And then she starts blindly running for her life.
A/N: Klaus just keeps getting hit in this chapter, doesn't he? Team Barbie!
CAROOKIE was coined by my lovely Lysa aka irrationallyrational :) Her carookie drawings are just awesome!
I didn't lie to you when I said this story was ending soon. This was probably the penultimate chapter (because I'm still not sure about the epilogue), and the next is the final one... Dun dun dun!
BTW, I love when you guys talk to me on tumblr, anonymously or not. Don't stop, I get high on your messages and go out on the streets to hug random people.