Oh boy it's been a while. Hmm, what to say. Well. Yes. Time. Yes. Well. Enjoy.
Caroline was good at her job. No, she was great at her job. She could juggle both the business and personal arrangements of Klaus' life without batting an eyelash. She could navigate the proverbial landmine of his schedule and hold her own alongside his highflying business associates. But Caroline couldn't do her job without one key ingredient. Klaus. She couldn't do her job if he suddenly stopped doing his. Which is exactly what had happened this morning.
"Klaus, I don't know what's going on but you need to call me back." Caroline said, leaving her fourth voicemail in the last two hours. When Klaus hadn't shown up at this office this morning, Caroline had swung by his apartment – determined to pull him out of whatever slump he'd slipped into after he'd stormed out of the office yesterday. All her determination was wasted though because Klaus wasn't there. And he wasn't at the office when she got back either. Caroline tried his cell over and over again but he hadn't taken her calls. Or Jenna's. Or Alaric's. "I've pushed all your morning meetings and covered for you but it would help if I knew where you were. As your assistant, I'm telling you I need you to get your ass in here or at least call to let me know what the game plan is. As your girlfriend," she paused, inhaling a deep breath, "I'm worried. So call me back." Caroline ended the call, tossing her phone back onto her desk with a loud huff.
The phone had barely hit the desk when Alaric appeared in front of her.
"Any luck?" He asked, glancing over Caroline's shoulder at Klaus' office door.
She just shook her head no. Caroline had shuffled off some of Klaus' morning meetings and conference calls to Alaric and he'd handled them with ease but the V.P. was just as eager to know Klaus' whereabouts as she was.
"Let me know if you hear from him." Alaric said lightly, tapping his fingers once on Caroline's desk before spinning and heading back to his office.
Once he was gone, Caroline let out another huff, reaching for her phone again to shoot Klaus a text. She was tapping away fiercely when a shadow fell over her desk. Caroline looked up and stopped short of rolling her eyes when they landed on Elizabeth standing there in her prim suit.
"I need to speak with Klaus." The S.E.C. agent said smoothly, crossing her hands together behind her back as she stared down at the Caroline.
"He's tied up at the moment," She shot back, smiling up at the woman, "across town in meetings." The lie dripped from her tongue easily. "I can pass along a message."
Beth stared at the assistant in silence for a long moment before speaking again. "The message is, if he doesn't sit down to do the intake interview that he's been so studiously avoiding he won't have any morning meetings to attend because he won't have a firm anymore after it's made public knowledge that he failed to comply with the SEC." Her tone was cold but Beth's facial features softened slightly before she continued. "Listen I let it slide last week when he took off for a long weekend but this interview should have been done already." She said, her gaze still fixed on Caroline. "Today." Beth said firmly.
"He'll be here." Caroline replied with a nod.
Beth spun on her heel and strode away. Caroline waited until the other woman was out of hearing distance before reaching for her phone again. Rolling her eyes, she listened to the phone ring four times before Klaus' familiar voicemail picked up.
"Klaus, you need to get here now. The SEC agent is waiting to conduct some intake interview with you and if you miss it…" she paused for a moment before continuing, "just don't miss it. Get here. Now."
Ending the call, Caroline flung the phone back onto the desk before putting her head in her hands. Wherever Klaus was, she hoped he could feel the frustrated vibes she was sending his way.
Klaus couldn't quite feel Caroline's vibes but he could certainly imagine how irritated she was. In the past couple of hours Klaus had done a lot of thinking about Caroline. And about the Salvatores. And Alaric. And Tyler Lockwood. And the 300 other people he employed. He'd done a lot of thinking and it had gotten him nowhere.
The rush of water around him wasn't having the enlightening effect Klaus had hoped for. He'd never used his building's amenities before but at the break of dawn Klaus had gone down to the pool on the first floor. His limbs ached from strenuous use but Klaus kept on pushing, hoping that the physical strain would somehow clear his head and tell him what to do. Klaus had worked hard to get where he was with his firm. He'd worked hard to carve out his own niche in the cutthroat world of Wall Street sharks.
Far too hard to watch it all crumble now.
But Klaus had also worked hard to get where he was with Caroline. He'd worked hard to gain her respect, her attention, her affection.
Coming up for air, Klaus braced his forearms on the expensive marble floor. He couldn't lose his firm, he couldn't lose Caroline.
Inhaling deeply, Klaus ducked back under the water, kicking off from the poolside wall. He sliced through the water, ignoring the burn in his tired arms. When he came up for air again at the opposite end of the pool Klaus was greeted by the sight of a tall redheaded woman standing there.
"Hi." The woman grinned down at him, interest sparking in her eyes.
Klaus just nodded at her as he climbed out of the pool. Obviously his time of solitude was up. Striding past the woman, Klaus walked over to the pool lounge chair where his towel and clothes sat.
"I guess I wasn't the only one craving an early morning swim." The woman spoke as Klaus toweled off quickly.
He pulled on his jeans before pulling on his shirt and shoes, swinging his towel over his shoulder.
"Leaving already?" The redhead asked as Klaus turned around again. "You don't need to end your workout. The pool is more than big enough for the both of us." She said with a sweet smile, sliding her short robe off and letting it hit the floor.
"Enjoy your swim." Klaus replied cordially, already striding past the woman.
When the elevator doors opened to his penthouse Klaus was immediately greeted by the sight of Rebekah standing there.
"There you are." She said, taking a step back to let Klaus off the elevator. "I was just about to go looking for you. This has been going off incessantly." Rebekah said, waving Klaus' phone in front of her.
He took the phone, already moving toward the stairs.
"Where've you been anyway?" Rebekah said, following close behind him. "I came down for breakfast and your phone was on the counter ringing over and over again. Wait have you been swimming?" Rebekah said, taking in the wet towel slung over his shoulder. "This building has a pool? How did I not know that?"
"Rebekah," Klaus cut his sister off as he reached his bedroom door, "I have to deal with whatever this is." He waved his phone in the air quickly before ducking into his room and shutting the door.
Looking down at his phone, Klaus scanned the missed calls from Caroline, Alaric, and Jenna before tossing it on the bed. Whatever it was could wait the length of time it took him to shower. It wasn't as if his problems were going anywhere.
Caroline was going through emails when Klaus finally appeared. She was up and out of her seat the moment she saw him stalking down the hall.
"Where have you been?" Caroline asked when he reached her desk. "And what is going on?"
As he strode past her Klaus gestured for Caroline to follow him. She did, shutting the office door behind them.
As Klaus leaned back against his desk, crossing one ankle over the other, Caroline crossed the room to stand in front of him.
"Did you listen to my messages?" She asked but didn't give him a chance to respond. "The SEC agent needs to do some intake interview with you."
Klaus sighed internally. He, of course, knew that the interview had been coming. It was standard procedure with any audit – an interview to gauge how the firm operated.
"What is going on?" Caroline repeated. "I assume it has something to do with the Salvatores." In her head she could still clearly see Klaus storming lividly out of the office yesterday afternoon.
This time Klaus sighed out loud. He still hadn't decided what he was going to do but he had decided a long time ago not to keep anything from Caroline. So he told her what the Salvatores had done.
As he finished explaining Caroline sank into one of the chairs facing his desk.
"Oh my God. That's" she paused, wrapping her head around it, "awful. And conniving. And greedy."
Klaus nodded. "That all seems accurate enough."
Caroline's gaze shot back up to his. "This isn't your fault. This isn't the firm's fault. I know Stefan's your friend but this is just too much. Let the Salvatores pay the consequences for their crimes."
Klaus shook his head lightly. She thought his distress had something to do with not wanting to turn Stefan in. "If the SEC figures this out, the Salvatores are going down either way. It's just a matter of who they take down with them. People don't exactly trust Wall Street lately. The SEC is going to want to string us up right alongside the Salvatores – paint us as the greedy sharks helping the rich get richer at the expense of regular middle class folk. This is dirty business and no one is going to believe the firm was completely blind to what was going on." Klaus himself still couldn't believe it. Trust had clouded his judgment.
"So what now?" Caroline asked, her concerned gaze still locked on him.
Klaus paused, staring back at her in silence for a minute before continuing. "Objectively, our best option would be to admit our mistake before they find out themselves. If we offer up the exec who handled the exchanges we could negotiate to get the firm off with a slap on the wrist." He could see Caroline's lips curling into a frown at the idea and Klaus decided to rip the bandage the rest of the way off. "The exec in question is Tyler Lockwood." That small frown turning into a look that was equal parts shock and disapproval.
Before she could continue Klaus was speaking again. "Given his situation at the time it isn't hard to believe Lockwood had been negligent in his work."
Caroline cut him off. "His situation? You mean the situation where both parents died tragically in a plane crash? That situation? Klaus you can't be seriously considering this?" She asked appalled.
Klaus frowned at her. "I wouldn't be much of a CEO if I wasn't considering it. This is life or death for my firm, Caroline."
Caroline stood up again, crossing her arms over her chest. "Do you hear yourself? You're talking about throwing an innocent man under the bus to save your own skin."
"Innocent?" Klaus pushed off the desk and stood up straight. "Whatever the reasons for his negligence, Lockwood was still the exec on an account running a scam. He should have noticed. It was his job to notice."
"And what about you?" Caroline narrowed her eyes at him. "You're so quick to pin the blame on him but you knew it was a shell company from the beginning and you didn't do anything about it."
"Shell companies aren't illegal." Klaus cut her off but she ignored him.
"You just buried your head in the sand and let your friend Stefan Salvatore do as he pleased. And that's Tyler's fault?"
"Well his name is all over the files so I'm sure the SEC will see it that way." Klaus' voice was cold and empty as he replied.
"If you do this," Caroline's voice was low and she took a step closer to him, her angry eyes locked on his, "if you persecute an innocent man, then you'll become the cliché Wall Street devil everyone thinks you are. And if you're that guy then we…" she trailed off with a shake of her head.
Before he could reply there was a knock at his door. Without breaking eye contact with Caroline, Klaus called out, "come in."
The door swung open and Elizabeth sauntered in, holding a legal pad against her chest.
"I hope I'm not interrupting." She said though her tone made it clear she didn't care if she was interrupting. "I'd like to conduct that interview now."
Caroline stared at Klaus for a moment longer before spinning on her heel. "I'll leave you two to it." She said, crossing the room and exiting the office.
Elizabeth shut the door behind her before walking forward to take the seat Caroline had vacated earlier. Klaus circled his large desk, lowering himself calmly into his chair like he hadn't a care in the world.
"Shall we?" He asked, steepling his fingers and throwing Beth a cool look.
Elizabeth pulled out a small recorder and placed it on the desk between them. "Let's start with you stating your name and position for the record."
Caroline told herself she wasn't going to listen in. She wasn't that person. She wasn't snoopy and invasive like that. Biting on her fingernail, Caroline stared at the phone that served as a connection between her space and Klaus' office. One touch of a button and she could hear whatever was being said in that room through the speaker of his office phone. But Caroline wasn't going to do that because she wasn't nosy like that.
That determination lasted all of five minutes before Caroline temporarily suspended her morals and hit the button, lifting the phone to her ear. Biting on her nails harder now, she listened intently, only half understanding the business mumbo jumbo being exchanged between Klaus and Elizabeth.
Klaus knew the exact moment Caroline started listening in. There was a soft clicking sound from the speaker on the phone and the small red light flickered on to indicate the line between his and Caroline's phone had been turned on. But Elizabeth didn't seem to notice so Klaus continued on as if nothing had happened. He answered her questions succinctly – questions about some of the accounts they ran, questions about his employing methods. And then the moment came.
"To the best of your knowledge," Beth said, still scribbling lightly on her notepad, "has there been any instances of malpractice within your firm?"
Klaus paused for a moment, his head tilting slightly to the side as he drummed his fingers on the arm of his charm. If he was going to save his firm, this would be the time to do it. He could come forward with what he knew about the Salvatores. And about Tyler. Coming clean and sacrificing Tyler was the only way his firm stood any chance of getting through this mess. Klaus wasn't naïve enough or optimistic enough to think the SEC wouldn't find out about the scam sooner or later. And he was betting it would be sooner.
When he took too long to answer, Elizabeth's hand paused over her notepad and her head shot up to look at him. "Mikaelson," she said coolly, "to the best of your knowledge, has there been any instances of malpractice within your firm?"
"No." Klaus replied smoothly, his fingers drumming again.
Cocking her head to the side, Beth stared curiously at him. Reaching forward, she turned off the recorder before speaking again. "Klaus, we go way back." She kept her questioning gaze locked on his. "And I want to protect you in all of this, but if you don't work with me now I'll have to come at you with a sledgehammer later. I don't want to destroy you, I just want to do my job."
"You're fairly confident in my guilt then?" Klaus asked, arching an eyebrow as his fingers ceased their drumming.
"I'm fairly confident I'm here for a reason." Beth shot back.
"So not mere routine?" He shot back, throwing Beth's words from before back in her face.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "You have no idea the strings I had to pull to get this case. You should be thanking me."
Klaus paused, startled by her words. He'd assumed some odd stroke of fate had landed her the case investigating his firm. "Why go through all that trouble?" He asked lightly, genuinely curious. "We didn't exactly part on the best of terms."
Now it was Beth who arched an eyebrow in his direction. "You made plenty of mistakes while we were together but you were never a criminal. I hope that's still true."
"I appreciate the show of faith." Klaus said – and meant it.
"If I asked that last question again, would you change your answer?" Beth asked, throwing him a look.
Klaus barely hesitated this time. "No."
She sighed lightly before continuing. "For the record, I'm sorry about what's coming." Beth said, reaching for the recorder again. "They're questions I have to ask." Before he could reply, she turned the device on and continued. "This past year, Mikael Mikaelson was charged with four counts of fraud and embezzlement. Mikaelson Global Inc. has subsequently been under investigation. Any financial connection between your company and the family dynasty?"
Klaus' gaze hardened and his voice was low when he responded. "My company has no financial ties to Mikaelson Global Inc. But you've probably already been through our books so you already knew that."
"Still, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Beth pushed, not breaking eye contact.
"If you're insinuating I've walked in my father's footsteps –"
"I'm simply addressing the connection." Beth said with a wave of her hand. "Let's talk about Stefan Salvatore. You two have had a rather long friendship in the public eye."
"I wasn't aware my choice in comrades was relevant to your investigation."
"It is when your comrades are also your clients." She said smoothly. "Do you always mix business with pleasure?"
Klaus shrugged lightly. "When it suits me."
"And would you say you're willing to blur the lines of legality for a friend? When it suits you?" She asked, scribbling again on her notepad.
"I'm sure there's an accusation somewhere in there." Klaus bit back.
"Did your good friend and client ever mention that his company was in the red?"
Klaus barely flinched. "No, he didn't. What a shame."
"His company was in a dire financial situation and it never came up in conversation?"
"Their business is just that. Their business."
Elizabeth tilted her head to the side. "Hard times like that can force a man to take drastic measures."
"I wouldn't know." Klaus shrugged again. "My company has only ever been in the black. But you know that too." He smirked.
"Speaking of your company," Beth said, dropping her gaze back to her notepad. "Were you aware that 18 of the companies in your clientele have been under investigation by the SEC or the IRS in the last five years?"
Klaus lifted both brows, genuinely surprised. "My clientele consists of over 1000 companies and I don't make a habit of getting to know each one on a personal level. My firm handles mergers & acquisitions and stock trade, anything my clients do outside of those two avenues is no business of mine."
"So you're unfazed by the knowledge that you work for companies engaging in criminal activity?"
"Allegedly engaging in criminal activity." Klaus corrected. "And like I said, my trade is investment banking. I handle my clients' investments and I don't make a habit of asking about their day to day business practices."
"Money laundering, pyramid schemes, monopolizing patents, fraud." Beth read off smoothly. "Just some of the 'business practices' of your clientele."
"I'm an investment banker." Klaus replied. "I don't care how my clients make their money. I help them turn that money into more money."
Beth just cocked an eyebrow before moving on to the next question. She hammered away at him for another ten minutes – quizzing him on his business practices, on his associates, even on his personal investments. When she was done, Elizabeth shut off the recorder and stood up.
"You should know, that's just a taste of what the D.A. is going to lay on you if this thing goes the way I think it's going." She said, staring down at Klaus. "I don't know what you did or didn't do and there's only so much I can do to protect you. And I mean you not your firm."
"I appreciate that." Klaus said with a nod.
Elizabeth spun on her heel and walked over to the door. With one hand on the handle, she turned to look over her shoulder at Klaus. "For what it's worth, if I were you I'd make sure I had a damn good lawyer on hand."
She turned and left the room. The door had barely shut behind her when Caroline came bursting in. She stood by the door in silence for a moment before shutting it softly and crossing the room to take a seat across from Klaus.
"You didn't tell her about Tyler." Caroline said softly, playing with her fingers in her lap.
"No I didn't." Klaus said, confirming the obvious.
Silence fell again for a few minutes before Caroline spoke. "So what now?"
"I don't know." Klaus shrugged, drumming his fingers on the arm of his chair again.
"You don't know?" She asked, arching an eyebrow. "There has to be something you can do to –"
"There was something I could have done." Klaus cut her off. "That's why you listened in, wasn't it? To see if I'd turn in your little friend. I didn't. Now there's nothing I can do but sit back and wait for the guillotine to drop on my head."
Caroline's head snapped back and she threw him a look. "So this is my fault now?"
"You really have no idea." Klaus said with a shake of his head and a cold laugh. "You can't even begin to imagine how serious this all is."
"Don't patronize me." She snapped back. "I've got a fairly good grasp on how serious all of this is, thank you very much."
Klaus shook his head again. "If you understood you wouldn't have shut me down so quickly earlier today. If you truly understood everything that was at stake here, you would have let me do what needed to be done."
Caroline's hands balled into fists. "Are you seriously blaming me for stopping you from sacrificing an innocent man? You're upset with me because I helped you grow a conscience?!"
Klaus let out another harsh, empty laugh. "I haven't suddenly grown a conscience, love. I didn't do what I did because I've seen the error of my ways or to spare Tyler an ugly fate. You haven't guided me towards the moral north or rid me of my, how did you put it, 'cliché Wall Street devil' ways, sweetheart." He said coldly. "You forced me to choose, Caroline." His fingers stopped their drumming as he stared at her. "And you knew I'd choose you."
"Don't lay this on me!" Caroline snapped, her fingers clenching and unclenching. "Your choices are your own."
Klaus sighed, ducking his head quickly and rubbing a finger to his temple. "I don't want to fight with you Caroline." He said, standing up from his chair and walking around the desk. "Cancel the rest of my meetings today and forward all important calls to my cell."
"And can we expect you to actually show up tomorrow morning or should I get a jump start on covering for you there too?" Caroline asked coolly, crossing her arms over her chest.
Klaus didn't respond. He paused by the chair she sat in, bent over to place a soft and somewhat bitter kiss on the top of Caroline's head before standing up straight again and heading to the door. As he rode the elevator down to the lobby, Klaus' mind churned with aggravating thoughts. He had risked his company to keep Caroline and Klaus knew how unwise that was. More than that, Klaus knew himself. He knew if this all went south and he lost his firm, a part of him would never forgive Caroline. He'd have her but they would never be the same. Hell, they may have already changed the moment she gave him that underhanded ultimatum. But fighting with her now would only makes things worse. He was already poised to lose his business, Klaus wouldn't put himself in a position to lose Caroline too. That didn't change the fact that he needed to get away. From her. From his firm. From the Salvatores. He needed a way to shut it all out and to shut it all off.
After cancelling his meetings and shuffling things around to rework Klaus' schedule, Caroline sat back in her seat with a long sigh. She could still see the downcast look in Klaus' eyes before he left the office and Caroline almost preferred the anger he had displayed yesterday. She was getting ready to call it a day and head home when a shadow fell over her desk. Caroline looked up and her eyes immediately narrowed into a scathing glare.
"You." Her voice was low and cold as she stood up to face Stefan. "What are you doing here?"
"Is Klaus in?" Stefan asked, shoving his hands in his pockets and glancing over Caroline's shoulder at the door to his friend's office.
"Even if he were, what the hell makes you think he'd want to see you right now?" She snapped, folding her arms over her chest.
Stefan just sighed. "Do you know where he is?"
"He trusted you." Caroline said, ignoring his question. "And you're going to cost him, literally, everything."
Stefan lifted a hand to rub lightly at his temple. "Caroline, we're taking care of it. Where is Klaus?"
"Why the hell would I tell you?" She bit out.
"Because it's your job!" Stefan finally snapped. "Or are you no longer his PA?"
Caroline cocked an eyebrow. "Mr. Mikaelson is currently indisposed. If you leave a message I'm sure he'll get back to you at his earliest convenience."
"You really want to do this dance with me Caroline?" Stefan asked, throwing her a frustrated look.
"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about Mr. Salvatore." Caroline continued in that falsely sweet voice.
Stefan closed his eyes briefly and when he opened them again he was resigned. "Tell him to call me." He said, already spinning on his heel to leave.
"It's disgusting you know." Caroline said when he was a few feet away. Stefan turned back around to look at her and she continued. "What you and your brother did. You're everything that's wrong with this business."
Stefan just nodded, already turning back around. "Thanks for the input."
Caroline waited until he disappeared from sight before dropping back into her seat. Klaus had said she didn't really understand the scope of what was going on and maybe she didn't but Caroline understood betrayal. And she understood greed. Caroline understood enough of what was happening that there was a gnawing pit of fear and worry in her stomach at what would come next.
I won't tell you which way I end up going but just out of curiosity do we want a damaging play out of the SEC thing or do we want a peaceful resolution to this particular arc? IDK.