A/N: Hello my lovelies! Ready to see whether your conclusions were right? :)
Thank you guys for reviewing. It's the best thing about writing, so spoil me a little or yell at me - anything, just don't leave me here:P
As always, all hail Ashley the Best Beta evah.
used to indicate that a dispute or an issue is no longer in question
Katherine struts into Caroline's office wearing her favorite outfit a'la rockstar, her dark curls bouncing against her back to the rhythm of her steps. She seems unusually stirred, her cheeks aflame.
"Congratulations!" She trumpets and places a magazine on Caroline's desk. The blonde glances at the title and grimaces.
"Stars again? Seriously?"
"Pages six to seven. Page and a half about my divorce, then a half-page article about—wait for it—you!" Katherine explains, not without a tinge of jealousy in her tone.
Caroline grabs the magazine and starts flipping through the pages. Her eyes widen, and she freezes staring at the piece of paper. The headline says, QUEEN OF DIVORCE AND STYLE. And there she is, wearing one of her suits featuring pencil skirt and a pair of platform pumps, her blonde curls loosely falling on her shoulders. Another photo shows Caroline at Carol's charity party and the text compliments on her dress and her impeccable taste in accessories. On the third one Caroline is caught wearing loose black yoga pants and a turquoise sports bra, and the comment says, Stylish even while looking for spiritual balance.
"What the hell is this?" She chokes out. Last time she checked, hogging the spotlight wasn't on her agenda.
"You, my dear, are becoming famous by association." Katherine grins from ear to ear and plops herself down on the guest chair. She finds Caroline's disgust incredibly amusing.
"Oh dear Lord, why are you punishing me?" Caroline shakes her head and covers her face in her hands. No matter how much the short article praises her style as Katherine's attorney, it also invades Caroline's privacy. Thank God they didn't write anything about her impending wedding.
Apropos of the wedding… "Kat, can I ask you something off the record?"
"Shoot." Katherine swivels on the chair.
"Were you sure you wanted to marry Damon? I mean, before you hated him and stuff."
"Honey, I always hated him." Her friend throws her head back laughing. Caroline looks at her dumbstruck.
"So he wasn't your epic love?"
"Of course he was." Katherine sighs, smile disappearing from her face. "That's not the point."
"Okay Kat, I don't get it. Please, speak English."
Katherine seems to think long and hard about something before she finally throws her hands up surrendering to Caroline's perplexed gaze.
"You have to promise me nobody will ever know this." Caroline gives her a solemn nod, so Katherine continues. "I told you I met Damon at a party. That was true, but there was more to it. I went there with Stefan. We were dating at that time."
"What? Like, Stefan aka his brother?!"
"Yes. To cut a long story short, Stefan and I broke up when I fell for Damon."
"But... Stefan was present at your wedding, and he seemed perfectly fine. No broken heart, no brooding stare." Caroline remembers how helpful Stefan was when Matt lost his reckless battle against vodka. Stefan, who went stag to the party, kept her company and even broke his I-shall-never-dance oath and swayed with her once or twice to some wistful ballad. She enjoyed that night thanks to Damon's best man, and even though they didn't exchange numbers, she hoped he'd call her.
"Because he was already over it. We didn't get too serious. Besides, you know how writers roll. Everything can serve as material for their book." Stefan Salvatore, being a photographer's brother, couldn't go down any other path than the artistic one. As an aspiring writer, talented but rather withdrawn from society, Stefan has locked himself up in a cabin in a small town of Mystic Falls, Virginia, to find inspiration for his first book while watching over his brother's pet. Drogo doesn't really admire Stefan the writer, but he's crazy about Stefan the cook. This makes him a perfect companion, even if just to remind Stefan that writers—like any other human beings—actually need food to survive.
"Why did you leave Stefan? He's a great guy."
"He is. I never said he wasn't. Yet they were as different as night and day. Being with Stefan was like a safe haven, in an emotional sense. No ups and downs, just a steady cardiogram line. Damon, though, was giving me a constant heart attack. When I was around him, it felt like there was a thunder raging and crashing around me. I hated him like anything in the world, but at the same time I couldn't stop falling in love him."
Caroline stares at Katherine unblinking and wordless. Her friend's story sounds familiar. As a matter of fact, similar thoughts have been haunting Caroline for a while now—a dark cloud of doubt looming over her head.
As a young engaged couple, Caroline and Tyler should be having the time of their life. However, Caroline can't remember when she last felt butterflies in her stomach while being around him. When did she last feel her heart doing somersaults at the thought of him? When did she last scream in pleasure while he was making love to her? When did their relationship become so predictable and boring? Why didn't she notice that Carol is constantly keeping tabs on them? Not to mention that when she thinks about Tyler's stunt last night and the secrets he was keeping from her, Caroline's mind fills to the brim with questions.
She wanted that wedding so much she didn't even think—not for one second—about the man she agreed to marry. It was her fairy tale after all. The queen favored her and the prince was swept off his feet, so why wait? It was perfect timing for a royal wedding. This was what her dreams were made of, right? Caroline was going to wear a crown and live in a castle above the village. She firmly believed in happy endings even though her job provided exactly the opposite. Failed marriage could only happen to other people, not to her, never to her. She hit the jackpot, or so she thought.
Now the prince is losing his charm, the queen more and more resembles a Wicked Witch of the North, and the bride starts to waver.
Seeing the blonde's troubled expression, Katherine frowns, "What's bothering you, Care?"
"I don't know." Caroline tries to shake the nagging thoughts off. "It's just..." She props her head on her hands and closes her eyes, feeling ashamed. "I don't know if I still love Tyler. I don't even know if I ever..." The words get stuck in her throat.
Katherine can barely stop herself from falling off the chair. Caroline Forbes, an embodiment of determination and right choices, is telling her she might have made the biggest mistake in her life?! If Katherine had done her homework and knew who Cicero was, she'd exclaim, O tempora! O mores! Instead, she slaps herself on the forehead and says, "Damn."
"Klaus!" A female voice over the phone sounds overjoyed. "I've been waiting so long for your call!"
"Time zones suck, my dear." He smiles stretching on the leather couch in his office with his feet on the armrest. "How are you?"
"Not bad." He can hear she's excited. "And you?"
"Great, just great."
"I'm telling the truth!" He mocks her.
"No, you're lying to me."
"Klaus!" She shrieks so loud Klaus has to put the phone away from his ear.
"Okay, fine!" He chuckles, but then the corners of his mouth go down. "I miss you, sweetheart."
"I miss you too."
After a short moment of silence filled with sighs and smiles, the playful mood is back. She lets out a small laugh, "Are you coming back for the party?"
"You know I am." Klaus groans. "I can't leave you at the mercy of those bores."
"That's what I wanted to hear."
"Really? And not something like, happy birthday, little sister?"
"No, you'll make up for your absence when you come home." He just knows she has stuck her tongue out at him. "And since we're on the subject... Are you coming alone?"
"I always do, Bekah."
"You know what I mean!" It's so easy to irritate his little sister, Klaus thinks with amusement. "Because, you know, I have that friend, and she would make a perfect date for you, and—"
"Rebekah Mikaelson." Klaus scolds her. "Stop playing a matchmaker. It's no use."
"You aren't sleeping with hookers again, are you?" Rebekah's tone gets suspicious and a little threatening. She spared no effort to help him get out of the woods, so it's only natural that she's oversensitive about her brother's choices.
"No. I keep my promises."
"So… Are you seeing someone?" That's Rebekah for you, he thinks. In a millisecond she turns from irritated to concerned. His sister and her mood swings.
Then a devilish idea comes to his mind. What if he lied to her a little, just to keep her quiet and himself entertained? He would finally live in peace, without Rebekah's checking on him every week to make sure he's a good boy. He loves his sister dearly, but it's high time she stopped meddling.
"Oh my God!" Rebekah squeals with joy. "What is she like?"
"That's all I'm telling you, Bekah." Klaus fakes a serious tone while cracking up inside.
"Klaus! Please! You can't leave me with this!" She begs. "I promise I won't ask about anything more. I will wait till you want to talk. But please tell me just one more thing!"
This is going to be so much fun, Klaus thinks, then says, "She's a lawyer too. Very smart."
"Is she pretty?"
"Rebekah." He warns her, but lets her on, "Yes. Blonde and beautiful."
"I'm already bloody jealous!" She stomps her foot, shivering with excitation.
"You should be." He grins, and hears Rebekah snort. She will get over this. (And over the tiny insignificant detail that he's, in fact, playing her.)
"Have you heard from Stefan?" She asks meekly. Her brother can't help but snicker.
"Still thinking about Mr. Wordy, aren't we?"
"Shut up! Must you laugh at the girl who loves too easily?"
"Calm down, Bekah. I'll ask Damon. He happens to be my client now."
"What? Is he in trouble again?" Rebekah rolls her eyes. She remembers Damon from Nik's university times. She used to visit her brother from time to time, always scowling at Damon's sidelong lascivious glances he was sending her. Thanks to Nik's overprotective nature Damon never laid a finger on her, but God knows how many times he tried.
"He's getting divorced."
"Wow! Katherine has finally seen through him."
"Since they got married he's been pretty decent, I must say." Klaus admits, still shocked about it. Damon did change when he married Katherine. It seemed like Cupid got him right in the heart. (And then, sadly, kicked his ass.)
"Well, just ask him about Stefan. And be diplomatic about it!" Klaus snorts, imagining his sister brandishing a threatening finger at him right now.
"I will, don't worry sweetheart."
"So... any plans for the evening? Romantic dinner or something?" Rebekah feigns an innocent tone.
Klaus shakes his head, she would make the worst spy in the world. "Well played, Bekah, but I'm not telling you anything."
"Damn you Nik!"
Klaus cackles at her and hangs up.
Caroline waits for Tyler in the park near her office. The sun is slowly setting, and light breeze caresses Caroline's face. Sitting on a swing, she's absently digging in the sand with one of her heels, trying to clear her mind and sort things out. Was her relationship an illusion? Was she just trying to fulfill her dream whatever the cost? She isn't even angry at him, she's rather disappointed. Partially at him, partially at herself.
"Hey." Tyler comes out of nowhere and places a light peck on Caroline's cheek, then sits down on the other swing. "Your message sounded ominous. What's wrong babe? Did I miss some important anniversary?" He jokes, but Caroline gives him such a stern look he stops smiling and swallows hard. He knows that look.
"Why didn't you tell me about your wild high school life?" She asks turning her head away from him, lowering her long thick lashes. Even from this angle Tyler can see she's upset.
"I thought it didn't matter."
"Well, it does." She raises her eyebrows expectantly at Tyler, waiting for him to come clean.
He starts nervously fiddling with his hands. "Caroline, listen to me. When you and I met, my first thought was: she is flawless. Not good, not fine, but simply perfect. My records, on the other hand, were far from it."
"I don't see your point." Caroline crosses her arms.
"My point is, I was ashamed. I did many things you wouldn't approve of."
"Like what?" Stealing your mommy's scotch?
Tyler's silent, waging an inner war. There are many things the Lockwoods keep secret. Facts about Tyler, about his parents, and family feuds. When his father was elected the mayor, all dirty secrets were swept under the rug, and lips were sealed. Their dirty laundry will never be washed in public. Maybe one day, when they're long married, he'll tell her. But not now, not like this.
"People that are to get married don't keep secrets from each other." The blonde says, her tone reproachful and bitter. How many skeletons in the closet does his family have? If she hadn't seen him drunk that night, would she ever know about his past?
"I just don't want you to think less of me."
Caroline slowly and resignedly shakes her head. "Tyler, if you knew me at all you would know I could never hold your past against you."
"You don't know so many things." He sighs. "Just leave it, Care. Like my mother says, whatever happened in the past has to stay in the past."
"You mother told you not to reveal anything to me, didn't she?" Step by step, the pieces of the puzzle start to make sense now. Caroline can't help but feel cheated.
"Yes. But it doesn't matter anymore, right?" He reaches to squeeze Caroline's hand, his eyes full of hope, but she withdraws her hand immediately.
"And Hayley? Does she matter?" Caroline's ice-cold stare makes him purse his lips in consternation.
"No, she doesn't. She never did. She was really fun, but I moved on. I would have dumped her after graduation anyway." He shrugs like it really didn't matter to him. Like that girl was just a toy.
"Because the truth is, I would never marry beneath me." His last sentence strikes Caroline a blow. So this is all about status. He's been brainwashed by his own family. If his mother hadn't given him her permission the night they first met, Tyler wouldn't have even talked to her.
A whole year of romantic dinners for show, expensive gifts, sweet nothings, quick sex at her place—it all looks staged now. A farce in which the main character is a downright fool till the very end. She thinks she's oh-so-smart judging other relationships, making them fall apart in court, while self-righteously believing that her life is different. That she isn't one of those victims of manipulative partners.
Look at you now. You naive, blind girl.
What's killing her is the fact that this enigmatic talk is the most honest conversation they've ever had.
Tired of cryptic answers and manipulation, Caroline decides to play straight with him. "Tyler, I'm afraid we rushed into this whole marriage thing." There, she said it. And it hurts in the way only truth can hurt.
Tyler's left speechless for a moment. Caroline's words slowly sink in, and when they do, he gives her a stunned, frightened look. "No, we didn't. Everything will be fine." He's desperate.
"I realized I don't really know you. I never have, and I'm afraid I never will."
"That's not true." He's shaking his head in denial, having a hard time accepting this shocking bit of news. "Ask me whatever you want. We still have six months. I'll be an open book for you till then."
"I'm sorry." Caroline looks up holding back tears that are brimming in her eyes. She's not sure whether she feels more sorry for herself, or for Tyler. ''But you can't build a relationship on quicksand.''
"You can't leave me now, Caroline. I love you." His pleading eyes are desperately looking for a modicum of hope in her icy-blues. Maybe she just needs him to talk her out of this crisis. Maybe she's just afraid. Maybe he should spend more time with her watching Casablanca. Maybe it's not a final decision. It can't be her final decision.
Caroline's chin quivers as she whispers, "You are a bit lost. You love a girl your mother chose for you to love. I don't want your family to constantly look over my shoulder." She wishes she could say this looking him straight in the eyes, but she can't. Facing the truth about her life is the hardest thing she's ever done, and she can't stand it anymore. When Tyler doesn't say anything and just keeps staring at the ground, Caroline gets up and walks away, tears running down her cheeks.
Tyler just sits there on the swing shocked, bereft, and heartbroken.
''Cheers.'' Klaus and Damon raise their glasses as they sprawl on the couch in Damon's apartment. Actually, Damon and Katherine's apartment, but let's not be petty. She's moving out anyway.
Speaking of the devil. The key turns in the lock, and a slender silhouette appears in the doorway. Damon raises an eyebrow seeing Katherine who's too preoccupied by her phone conversation that she doesn't even notice two of her least favorite people staring at her from the living room. She heads straight to the bedroom and rummages in the drawers for the last pieces of jewelry she left there.
''You did the right thing.'' Katherine says with heartfelt empathy. ''Yes, I know, but it's better to end this now than run away from the altar, Caroline.''
The name immediately catches Klaus' attention and he strains his ears to listen to Katherine's conversation. As if on cue, Damon puts an index finger to his lips and turns off the light. He's curious about Caroline's predicament as well. They hide sinking further into the couch, praying the she-devil won't catch them in the act.
''Don't cry, honey. I'm on my way with vanilla ice-cream.''
Klaus smirks in the darkness. He just knew she was the vanilla type.
''You are a single woman now. It's a privilege, Care, not a curse. Just look at me!'' Katherine is gesturing energetically while checking herself out in the mirror.
Damon rolls his eyes. A curse? Being with her was a curse! She was his curse! She was sent from the deepest pits of Hell to torment him alive!
Klaus can't believe his ears. Has the warrior princess just dumped her precious prince? That's… interesting. His lips curl into a malicious smile. Very interesting.
''The only thing you'll miss is sex, but come on, we are emancipated women! No one can slut-shame us!'' Katherine lectures her friend while throwing a collection of earrings into her Prada.
Okay, Damon sighs, sex was good. More than good. Unearthly, pure bliss. But it's over, and now it's his time to play a bachelor on the loose. Go on a bender, hit the party, paint the town red, pick a girl and fuck her hard in a rest room. Yes, it's time for him to be back in the game. Yes.
''Of course you don't have to.'' She says reassuringly like Caroline was a scared little girl Katherine wanted to comfort. ''No rush. A short celibacy period has never hurt anyone.''
It's enough for Klaus' imagination to start working. All he sees now is horny beyond belief Caroline Forbes tearing his clothes off and shagging him like there's no tomorrow. And he enjoys every second of it. She pulls at his hair, rubs her tight goddess-like body against him, lets his hands roam freely over her curves… Engrossed in his erotic fantasies about the feisty blonde and whatnot, Klaus doesn't notice Katherine has already left. He squeezes his eyes shut, blinded and taken aback, when Damon turns on the light again.
''That was close.'' Damon breathes out relieved. Katherine's unexpected visit threw him off balance. ''Wanna go whoring?'' He grins.
''It's not really my cup of tea.'' Klaus snorts, amused by Damon's desperation. (Not that he himself had a massive hard-on just a minute ago while thinking about Miss Legally Blonde.)
Damon sulks. ''Yeah. I don't feel like rolling in the hay either.'' Truth be told, Damon hasn't felt like doing anything since Katherine filed in for divorce. Having sex is on the very bottom of his to-do list. Eat, sleep, and survive are his top priorities now. Survive yet another day and not let her break him the way she broke his heart.
Wearing pink pajamas that make her look like cotton candy, Caroline waits in her bed for Katherine to come over and soothe her sorrows. Her face is swollen, her eyes puffy, and she's generally exhausted from crying.
That's not true that only the dumped part suffers. It's not like walking out of the door and starting over. It's not like tearing a page out of a book and throwing it away. It's like throwing wood into the fire and watching it burn, listening to its plaintive cracking as it slowly dies in the flames.
She hurt Tyler, and no matter how disappointed in him she felt, she was more disappointed in herself and in her poor life choices.
Caroline was on a constant mission to prove her worth not only as a lawyer, but also as a woman. Professional and composed on the outside, on the inside she was still an insecure neurotic freak on crack. The conviction that her father left her family because of her has been deeply rooted in her mind. Of course it was his father's suppressed homosexuality that finally came to the surface, but still, Caroline felt she let her father down. And now she let herself down by living a lie, telling herself that Tyler and she were a match made in heaven. If anywhere, it was rather made on the set of a crappy soap opera called Love and Deception or something equally cliché.
She's about to get a couple of chocolate bars from a secret stash under her bed when a new e-mail pops up on her laptop screen. Blood starts boiling in her veins when her eyes fall on the sender's data.
From: Klaus Mikaelson
Subject: Well, well, well.
Congratulations on your quick way to the top, love. Half a page about your impeccable style! Who would have thought?
If I put on an Armani, will you save me a dance at the annual ABA party?
Caroline's hands clench into fists, and then she throws herself on the bed in a fit of rage, venting her frustration on the mattress, slamming against it, kicking her legs in the air, and cursing out loud.
''You goddamn son of a bitch!''
Later that night, around 2 or 3 am, a new message shows up in Klaus' inbox.
From: Caroline Forbes
Subject: Re: Well, well, well.
FCUK YOU AN YUR DIMPLES AND YR ACCENT
PS IM NT DRUN
The first thing Klaus does in the morning is spit his coffee on the screen after opening his email box.
Caroline calls in sick to work. Not that she has a boss to answer to, but she should leave the arrangements to Dana, her secretary. Broken marriages, depressed wives, unfaithful husbands and their young lovers will have to wait, because she doesn't feel like dealing with someone's drama right now. She doesn't feel like dealing with life itself right now.
Why won't you just turn off the sun and let the world end?
Her phone buzzes for the fifteenth time today making Caroline vengefully stick it under a pillow. Katherine's been calling her since early morning, probably concerned about her friend's emotional state. The last thing on Earth Caroline wants right now is talk about Tyler. Or about a hit-man Carol Lockwood probably hired to finish Caroline off. Or about a victory party Richard Lockwood will be delighted to throw to celebrate his son's freedom.
Caroline munches at a protein chocolate bar that tastes like chalk mixed with sawdust. There's probably a whole periodic table in it. The phone starts buzzing again. Groaning and casting her eyes heavenwards Caroline grabs the device and rejects the call. Then she texts Katherine, I'm fine. Don't worry.
Taking yet another diet bar from under the bed, Caroline sprawls on the bed and turns TV on. It's past noon already, and for lack of anything better she watches re-runs of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
"Tell'em, Scott!" She mumbles with her mouth full of low-calorie magic when her phone buzzes once more. Has Katherine launched a tele-offensive at her o something? Caroline gives up knowing that it's either five minutes with Kat on the phone or the rest of the day in hiding.
She picks up and grumbles, "Heartbreaker Inc., how can I help you?"
"I SWEAR I WILL KILL HIM THIS TIME! I WILL KILL HIM TO DEATH!" Katherine rages.
"I'm fine, thanks for asking." The blonde snorts, not taking the threats seriously. She can hear loud music and roar of crowd over the phone. That's slightly alarming. "Where are you, Kat?"
"I'm in Vegas."
"What Vegas?" Caroline blinks and makes a face, confused.
"Las Vegas, for God's sake! And I won't let that compulsive gambler leave our joint account at the casino!"
"Damon, a compulsive gambler?!" Caroline chokes on the piece of diet bar, and starts coughing and wheezing. How come she didn't know that? How come everyone, one of her closest friends included, is keeping secrets from her? What the hell is this, the Great Plague of Trust Issues?!
As pissed off as Caroline is right now, she's also aware that Katherine is well-known for her violent temper and tendency to act on impulse. And she seems pretty adamant about stopping Damon.
"When I put my hands on him, he's dead!" Katherine growls and hangs up.
…exactly. What if she crosses the line this time? It's not the courtroom where Caroline can keep her on a leash. Getting Kat out of jail would be slightly more difficult than getting her out of a bad marriage.
Caroline slaps her hand against her forehead. Looks like it's time to set a world record in fast packing.
You better buckle up, because what happens in Vegas doesn't necessarily stay in Vegas! ;)