Chapter 5

Road with a Cypress and a Star (1890)

"And putting little white dots on the blue-black canvas – this is not enough to paint a starry sky."

-Vincent Van Gogh


"Hello?"

"Finn? It's Pearl, is this a convenient time to be calling?"

"Pearl, yes, I've been expecting to hear from you. I trust you've received my brother's will?"

"I have, Finn, and that is why I'd like to speak to you. I'm afraid I cannot admit this will for acceptance in its entirety."

"I'm sorry?"

"The will names Niklaus' unborn child with Ms. Caroline Forbes as heir to his paintings, his share in the Leventhorpe-Rath estate and to any royalties coming off LRI Achilles. Heirship to Niklaus' paintings is fine and can be accepted for execution, but as regards to the Rath estate and Achilles' royalties, which I assume is the important matter here… we have a problem."

-o-

If there's anything worse than knocking up a stranger and having to take her to live with you and the regrettably insane group of people you call your family, it's knocking up a stranger and having to witness her throw up in your bathroom like there's no tomorrow. Just ask Klaus Mikaelson, who is currently busy trying to keep himself from grimacing as he watches Caroline Forbes throw up in his Chicago apartment bathroom worse than Pitch Perfect's Aubrey Posen on the most stressful day of her entire life.

He bends down to hand Caroline a glass of water as she reels from vomiting, but his ears are still ringing with the dreadful retching sound that seems to echo endlessly throughout the tiled room. Caroline looks like a mess – her complexion is pasty, her eyes are tired and watery, and strands of limp blonde hair stick to her sweat-damped skin. Don't even get Klaus started on what the bathroom smells like at that moment because the only thing he has to say is that it's a miracle that his lungs haven't collapsed.

"It's okay love, here, rinse your -"

BLEAUUUUUUUURGH.

Caroline retches as another wave of nausea overwhelms her. Klaus flinches again, but he guiltily reaches out to gather her hair and hold it back for her while she throws up yet another time.

And all his life he thought morning sickness was overrated.

He helps her back to bed when she feels better enough to stop throwing up, and for the first time since her disastrous moving in yesterday he's thankful that she did move in with him, even if she had to meet his crazy family as consequence. If anything happened to Caroline while she was alone... let it be made clear that Klaus did not want a kid but as long as it's here, he's bent on looking after it.

"…awful... have to miss work again…" Caroline mumbles weakly as she fumbles with her phone to call her boss.

"Just rest, it's going to get better soon." Klaus says, though he isn't sure who he's really trying to convince – Caroline or himself.

"… really sorry I dragged you into this…"

He forces a tired smile and shakes his head, not wanting her to feel as guilty as he does. Fine, she was the one who didn't know that antibiotics neutralize pills, but he was the one who was sober when it happened.

"It takes two to tango, love." He settles to reply. "I'll go make you some tea, will you be alright by yourself?"

She nods just as Damon picks up on the other line, and Klaus leaves the room quietly. He goes to the kitchen to prepare the dreadful ginger concoction wondering why on earth child-bearing is glamourized to such ridiculous extents in media when every single thing about it seems so horrible in reality. (Did they ever show Kim Kardashian throwing up like that?) What was his own mother thinking, going through all of this not once but six times?

Speaking of his mother... now that Kol and Bekah know about Caroline, Klaus figures that he has to let his mother know that she has a grandchild on the way. If Kol hasn't already told her last night, that is. The youngest Mikaelson son is extremely close to their mother and speaks to her on the phone almost daily, just another one of Kol's many odd and unexpected characteristics.

He hears his doorbell ringing and so pushes himself off the kitchen counter he's leaning on while waiting for the tea to simmer in favor of getting the door. He pulls the board of wood open and is promptly greeted by a sight that makes him want to run back to the bathroom and just watch Caroline throw up again.

"Hello, brother." Kol greets chirpily.

He's holding something – a piping hot bowl of what looks like English tomato soup– in his oven mitt-covered hands (gray and purple argyle pattern, if you have to ask), and Klaus looks at him questioningly. Sure, Kol likes to cook breakfast (and lunch and dinner) for everyone whenever he can, but that – that does not look like breakfast to Klaus.

Kol looks right back at Klaus and answers the unspoken question with an irritably perky grin. "You said Caroline has morning sickness, right?"

The older Mikaelson brother exhales grudgingly before muttering. "Fine." As mentioned before, everything that Kol cooks is utterly wonderful and maybe it'll make Caroline feel better. He turns to Rebekah, who's standing beside Kol, also holding something - a thick bunch of papers.

"What are those?"

Bekah just raises a brow. "Let us in and you'll find out."

He gives up and lets his siblings in. Kol goes straight to the kitchen were he fixes up the tomato soup so Caroline can eat it while it's warm while Bekah plops into the living room couch and throws the papers on the center table.

"What's this?" Klaus asks, taking a seat opposite Her Royal Highness.

"I scourged the internet for everything I could find out about your new flat mate." Queen Bex replies. She picks up one of the papers and reads it. "For example, did you know that she used to date an NFL player?"

Yes, Klaus thinks. That should be the guy whose shirt that Salvatore arsehole made him wear. Brian. Or Bradley. Or something.

Bekah scoffs. "Athlete's girlfriend equals gold digger, Nik. Also, look at this - Ms. Mystic Falls. So she's not just a gold digger, she's also a fake, superficial, narcissistic, twenty three-year-old version of Honey Boo-Boo."

"Rebekah, you're being ridic –"

"Or how about this. She dated the son of Salvatore Development's owner. I bet she got her job only because she was the president's son's girlfriend."

Klaus frowns. Dated the son of Salvatore Development's owner? "What?"

"Here's a picture from the Tribune last year. See, that's your baby mama with the guy in the gray tux. Caption says, 'Ian Somerhalder Foundation Benefit Dinner. Damon Salvatore, son of Salvatore Development Corporation founder Giuseppe Salvatore, with Caroline Forbes."

The older Mikaelson takes the printed article from his sister and looks at the photo himself. It's Damon and Caroline, alright, and although nowhere in the article do the words boyfriend or girlfriend appear, the picture does all the talking. The two of them are all smiles, Damon's arm is wrapped tight around Caroline's waist and her head is affectionately tucked into the Salvatore's chest. Not surprisingly they look smashing together, handsome guy, gorgeous girl – but what gets to Klaus is that they look utterly, sincerely, genuinely happy.

He doesn't know what to think. On one hand, Caroline's past relationships are none of his business more than his past relationships are any of hers. On the other hand, it's just – odd? Weird? Awkward? 'Cause Caroline is having his kid and Damon seems intent on tagging along the entire ride, if his viciously protective attitude when it comes to her says anything. Does he still have feelings for her? Does she have feelings for him? Are they getting back together, is Klaus playing some kind of third wheel here, is Damon going to be his son's stepfather? It was Damon who went with Caroline to the check-up with Sage before Klaus learned about her – so if he never got to know that she was pregnant, was Damon planning on…

"There's plenty more here for you to read at your convenience." Rebekah says, tapping a perfectly-manicured finger at the rest of her precious research.

-o-

"Hey."

"…Klaus?"

"It's Kol."

"Oh."

Kol nods as he walks towards Caroline, a breakfast tray with a bowl of tomato soup and a cup of ginger tea in his hands. The blonde smiles weakly at him as he helps her sit up and places the tray in front of her, afterwards taking a seat on the edge of her bed.

"Nik said you've been feeling ill in the mornings so I brought you soup…I mean, I love my brother to death but the pinnacle of his cooking abilities is French toast and sometimes he burns even that…"

Caroline laughs softly, looking down at the breakfast tray and letting the rich aroma of the tomato soup fill her senses. She's been so nauseous all morning that she barely even realized she's already hungry. Kol motions at the spoon as a silent invitation, which she gladly accepts. The soup tastes of the homey English countryside itself and feels even more wonderful when it warms her queasy stomach.

"Thanks, Kol. I feel a lot better."

"Well consider this an attempt to make up for the less than hospitable welcome you were greeted with last night." Kol replies, his broad shoulders rising and falling in an indirectly apologetic shrug.

"Oh…" her voice trails. "It's fine. I understand what it might've looked like to you guys…"

He smiles at her, and there's a warmth in Kol's smile that just makes Caroline think he's a genuinely nice person despite this weird Sherlock meets Michael Westen meets David Garrett meets Mark Zuckerberg meets Gordon Ramsay vibe he projects.

"I'm sorry things were a bit craggy last night." Kol tells her rather sheepishly. "And I know we don't know each other very well yet, but the thing is you're having Nik's kid and that makes you part of the family now. So I just want you to know that I'm here for you if there's anything you need and Finn and Sage are too."

Caroline smiles back sincerely. "Thank you. That means a lot to me."

"And believe me I wish I could say the same about Bekah, but she's a bit distrusting when it comes to girls around us... I don't know, must be what happens when you have four older brothers. But I'm sure she'll come around… maybe next millennium…"

Then blonde stifles a laugh before having at another spoonful of the tomato soup. Well, at least there's one good thing that came out of this pregnancy mess – she gets to eat amazing food that honestly tastes even better than anything she's ever had at those fancy hotel restaurants that Damon often took her to when they were still together. Mental note to self, your next boyfriend should be at least half as good as Kol when it comes to cooking, Caroline thinks.

"Oh Lord –"

She cringes, pale cheeks flushing red in embarrassment when she realizes what she just thought to herself, and suddenly she feels like throwing up again. Here she is in apartment in Lennox that is NOT HERS because she's pregnant from a one-night stand and she's already thinking about her next boyfriend.

You are so gonna be a terrible mother, Caroline. You're gonna be worse than terrible. You're going to be worse than Kelly Donovan!

Kol looks at his brother's baby mama and tilts his head quizzically. "Oh Lord what?"

"Er, oh Lord, four brothers." Caroline reasons out, clearing her throat and searching desperately for words in an effort to continue the conversation. Ugh, anything to keep her mind on sane, reasonable, wholesome topics. "I'm an only child and I can't imagine… are all of you here in Chicago?"

Kol grins, shaking his head. "You really don't know a lot about Nik yet, huh?"

"No, I don't even know what his shoe size is."

"And you're thinking about his shoe size, of all things, because…?"

"Oh, no, I –" Caroline stammers, blushing even harder. Yes, please, why on earth is she thinking about Klaus' shoe size of all things?

"I know, I know, I was kidding." Kol assures her with a good-natured chuckle, deciding against adding that Caroline' obviously already seen what Nik's packing so there's no need to speculate proportions based on shoe size. "You know what, let me give you a crash course about our family…"

Kol moves a bit closer to her on the bed and takes his phone out, pressing a few buttons to show her a photo. It's one of him, Klaus and a guy who Caroline hasn't met. All three men are smiling broadly and they look like they're in some sort of grassy, tree-lined field and… wait, is that a giant orange frog statue behind them?

"That's my eldest brother Elijah. He's a lawyer and he's back home in England helping my Mum run the family business… horse racing…"

Caroline reserves the 'why is there a giant frog behind you' question for later and studies the man in the photo with Klaus and Kol. He's tall, strapping, and carries himself with the same dignified air as Rebekah, but his expression is filled with warm friendliness that seems to be totally absent from the catty Mikaelson sister. With his dark brown hair and gorgeous hazel eyes, it's easy to tag him as Kol's brother, but it's difficult to find similarities between him and Klaus. (Then again, it's not as if Damon looked anything like Stefan.)

"I remember Klaus mentioning something about working with horses the first time we met…" she recounts quietly.

The younger Mikaelson's eyes light up. "Did he, now."

"He said he was a horse trainer. So do you guys own a stable?"

"Sort of… It's been in my mother's family for… well forever." Kol replies, smiling at Caroline as he tucks his phone back into his pocket. "Elijah, he's very intellectual but he has this affability about him that lets him get along well with other people. Seriously, folks back home adore him like he's Prince William – you know, GQ perfect, can't do anything wrong, and he's not balding so you could even argue that he's better than William. And the rest of us are Harry and Beatrice and Eugenie with all the wild antics and crazy hats."

Caroline bites the inside of her cheeks to muffle a chuckle. She's seen Klaus in a shirt three times larger than his size courtesy of Damon, and it was, lamentably, really funny. Imagine him with an over the top fascinator hat.

"Anyway, next there's Finn. He's a lawyer too. A bit too staid if you ask me, the proper Englishman and everything, but he's really one of the most generous people you'll ever come across."

"And he lives next door with you and Rebekah."

"Yes. Which is awesome because it's easy to talk him into stuff like footing the tab for a Cabo vacation or buying an ice cream compressor from Breville - have you seen those things? They're glorious. But it's also awful since he's a disciplinarian. When I was charged for DUI he insisted he go as my lawyer and the fuck, instead of haggling for a more lenient sentence he bloody told the judge to give me the maximum number of community service hours."

"I guess I can relate to that figure of authority." Caroline tells him. "My mom's the town sheriff back home in Virginia. One time when I was in high school I got drunk and she got the local bartender arrested not even three minutes later."

Kol grins. "We better hope she doesn't get Nik arrested then."

Eeep. Speaking of Klaus and her mom. Caroline still has three months to go, but…

"So then there's Nik…"

She doesn't miss the slight pause that Kol takes, as if he's not sure what to tell her. Her eyes drift towards him and he keeps his silence for a couple of seconds before pursing his lips.

"Nik, he's... he gets a little moody sometimes. Not that he ever goes violent or throws a Charlie Sheen with tiger blood and goddesses, heavens no. But he shuts himself in. And you see him and you talk to him and he looks okay and he talks to you and it seems like everything is fine but you feel that he's not really there and you don't know what he's thinking and you don't know if he's ever going to let you in again."

Caroline looks at Kol. For a moment she sees a trace of wistfulness swimming to the surface of his ever cheerful eyes, but the next second Kol shakes his head and laughs.

There's something heartbreaking about it, how someone who seems so carefree lets himself get affected by an emotional matter, but at the same time it's something that she does not completely understand. Klaus has gone out of his way to do everything for her and the baby, and she has always felt like he's been there for her.

She swallows guiltily as she wonders whether his 'being there' for her was the reason he hasn't been there for his family.

"Sorry, I'm rambling." Kol apologizes.

"No, no, it's okay." Caroline insists. She casts her eyes downward, staring at a carrot cube in the soup bowl, feeling slightly uncomfortable. "Um, so it started when he learned about me?"

"What? Oh, no, don't blame yourself, sweet pea. It's just that Nik's been through a lot in the past couple of years – we've all been through a lot. It's kind of complicated and honestly until now things aren't all that sorted out, but don't trouble yourself with the fuss. Can't be good for the baby."

And then Kol smiles, as if trying to hold on to some faraway memory. "My brother's been a bit distant lately, but believe me, he's a good guy. He's always taken care of me and Bekah, and I know he'll always take care of you. You're family now, Caroline."

-o-

PLEASE DO NOT SKIP THIS NOTE IT IS VERY IMPORTANT

If you're not familiar with equestrian terms, you may find yourself asking some questions when you get to the next half of the story so please take two minutes to read these five definitions.

1. Dressage – described as horse ballet/gymnastics. (Think Anne Romney's horse.) Dressage horses DO NOT jump obstacles but they perform, at the subtlest cue from their riders, a pre-set series of physically demanding movements that must appear supple and refined.

2. Cross Country (XC) – tests the horse's bravery, endurance and trust in its rider by making them navigate an obstacle-filled course which they must finish within time limit. XC is the second phase of Eventing, the triathlon of equestrian sports; the first phase is dressage while the last is showjumping, where horses are required to jump fences of various heights.

3. Grand Prix (GP) – the highest level of competition in dressage. Includes the Olympics and the European/North American Dressage Championships. One of its phases is Grand Prix Kur, a freestyle set to music where riders are allowed to decide the order of moves to perform/add moves other than those required.

4. CCI4* - the highest level of competition in eventing. Aside from the Olympics, there are only six four-star events held every year – Rolex Kentucky, Badminton Horse Trials, Burghley Horse Trials (if a rider wins these three events in the same year he wins the Rolex Grandslam of Eventing title + $350,000), Australian International, Luhmuhlen Horse Trials and Etoiles de Pau.

5. Sire – the father of a horse. Its mother is referred to as 'Dam'. In addition, a female horse is called a mare, an uncastrated male is called a stallion and a castrated male is called a gelding.

-o-

At about ten o'clock in the morning, Damon Salvatore slips out of his SDC office with a short nod of advisory at his ever-so-smitten secretary and makes his way to the nearby Bernard Nadler Dentistry Clinic at Boone Heights, Carlyle Avenue.

His appointment for an oral prophylaxis (aka teeth cleaning, why do people with white coats like using terms that sound so complicated when they mean something so easy) isn't until eleven, but he likes to come in a bit early so he can chat a little with good old Doc Ned before the procedure. What, you thought he'd go to some cleavage-bearing, stilleto-wearing tooth-fairy representative to have her jam funny things into his mouth? No thank you, he'll stick to the nice fatherly man who took out his first loose tooth when he was five and every other tooth that ever had to leave his mouth after that.

He enters the clinic and is greeted by smile from one of Doc Ned's assistants.

"Hi Damon!" Arabella beams from behind the reception counter. The dental intern motions for him to take a seat at the receiving area. "Early as usual, so you'll have to wait a while..."

"Thanks A, I'll knock myself out." Damon replies simply. At any other day he might've flashed him an 'I'm-sexy-and-I-know-it' smile that would make her swoon, but you know what – he's tired today. Which is a pretty pathetic thing to say at just ten in the morning. But Caroline couldn't come in because she was having morning sickness (which, of course, she couldn't explicitly say) and Andie stormed into his office to complain about how people can't just be absent when they want to because they're chasing a timeline for a new building's opening, and obviously Damon had to defend Care ("So you're expecting people to know in advance that they're going to be sick the next day?") but Andie won't have any of it because whatever Damon says she'll just reply "Of course you're going to take your 'best friend's' side!" with a special emphasis on best friend, the bitter kind of emphasis that insinuates there's something more than friendship between them.

Ugh. Get him a shot of vodka and tonic right now.

He makes himself comfortable on the leather couch and looks around the room. There's only one other patient waiting in there, this cute girl-next-door in a navy sweater, denim pants and ankle boots. She's young, maybe a college student, totally seems like the outdoorsy type. She looks friendly enough but pays Damon no attention whatsoever because her eyes are trained on a magazine she's reading.

Out of sheer curiosity Damon squints for a view of the magazine's cover - Horse and Hound, the title says - but then his eyes suddenly widen like someone just shoved an iceberg up his very fine ass when he gets to see the rest of the cover.

In front of him is a picture of a huge brown horse jumping a very high, very scary looking hedge with the bright red HSBC logo on it. Mounted on the horse, with an intensively driven, arctic-cold look on his face, is none other than...

"Klaus?"

What the mother-effin hell?

Damon slowly looks up to stare at the girl. She's still bent on reading the magazine and won't even give the Salvatore a one-second glance if his life depended on it.

He starts to scour his surprise-muddled brain for a decent opening line that he could use to start a conversation – he has to get his hands on that magazine, seriously; like what the hell is Caroline's baby daddy doing there - when his phone suddenly sounds off a short but clearly audible incoming email alert tone.

The girl looks up and finally, Damon makes eye contact.

"Hi." He says immediately, willing himself to sound as casual (but still charming) as he can. The text message is promptly forgotten. "Horse and Hound. Barn rat, huh?"

She smiles. "Yeah, sort of. Do you ride too?"

Damon thinks about it. He does. Or, well, did. His father had him and Stefan take lessons one summer when they were kids and had a family vacation at Greenfield Park, but those lessons were on ponies. Buttercream and Butternut, ah, bless their little giddy souls. After that he's never even touched a pair of jodhpurs.

"A bit. Just enough to know about walk-trot-canter and maybe a little show hunting." He replies with a return-smile. The truth is he doesn't even have a single idea what show hunting actually is – is that the one where you jump the pole-y things like in the Olympics or the one where you jump hedges like Mikey Mikaelson's doing on that magazine cover - but he remembers that the trainer who taught him and Stefan how to ride was a show hunter. "I'm Damon, by the way."

"Kaitlin." the girl introduces herself. "I've been doing hunt seat equitation for a while, but I'm starting dressage this term."

Dressage? What the heck is dressage?

"Nice to meet you, Kaitlin. So, I take that you're in college?"

"Uh-huh, second year at Northwestern."

"Ah, the best school in all of Chicago. I went there too. A long time ago." Damon says with a forced though impish-looking grin.

"No way! What did you major in?"

"Managerial Analytics. I barely passed, by the way. I don't even know what I was doing there, I hate spreadsheets."

"Ditto, that's why I went for Journalism. Very little maths."

"So where's your horse boarded?" he continues to ask, trying to steer the conversation towards the magazine. He drapes a stretched arm on the couch's backboard and crosses his legs in an effort to look relaxed and hopefully convince the girl that he's just some guy who wants to chat while waiting at the dentist's. "My last year there the team had to go to Vaughn Equestrian to ride."

The attempt to appear lax seems to work. Kaitlin closes the magazine and faces Damon.

"Ugh, we still do." she says, talking more freely now. "But at least the trainers at Vaughn's are really good. When I told my trainer that I'm thinking about shifting to dressage he lent me this back edition of Horse and Hound -"

Which I now need you to lend me, Damon groans inwardly.

"- because his friend, who's one of the best dressage trainers in England, made a write-up for people who're considering getting into dressage." Kaitlin finishes.

Okay now this is almost painful for Damon, to pretend to be interested in this dressage thing when he has zero idea what it is, but - "Really. Can I see -"

"Miss Kaitlin Thoreaubrad?" Arabella calls out.

"Here!"

"Doctor Nadler will see you now."

No Doc not now I need to have that -

Damon cringes as Kaitlin smiles at him and stands up, his fists balling up his sides in desperation. His eyes are fixed intently on the equestrian magazine the girl is holding, and if he could look any harder he'd be boring holes right through it. Really, the only thing missing is him hissing "My preciousss!"

Ms. Equestrian notices the harrowingly frantic look on the Salvatore's face and frowns slightly in confusion. "Hey, are you okay?"

Damon's eyes barely leave the Holy Grail of Horse and Hound. Maybe if he could make out what issue it is he could have one of those idiots interning in SDC find him a copy -

"Uh, totally, I'm fine. Hey Kaitlin, would you mind if I borrow..."

Kaitlin blinks. She follows Damon's eyes into her H&H.

"This?" she says, gesturing at the magazine.

"Yeah. I just... I'm really interested in that dressage for beginners article you were talking about. I've been thinking about going back on horseback for a while now and dressage is something that's always fascinated me... because..."

"Because?"

Goddammit why on earth did he have to add 'because'?

"...because the horses... they're so…"

Good point, what are the horses like? And what is this dressage thing in the first place, for crying out loud!

"... so strong and incredibly powerful and they push themselves to their limit and that's really what I want for myself." Damon blurts out.

Well, he figures that you have to be strong and powerful and you really have to push your limits if you're jumping all those ridiculous things, right?

He's relieved beyond fuck when Kaitlin nods eagerly.

"I know right!" the girl exclaims. "I mean, a lot of people think dressage horses are slow and weak and stupid because they don't jump sky-high fences like in eventing –"

What? What do you mean 'don't jump'?

" - but they need to be strong and supple and sensitive and refined and let's face it, it's like a billion times easier to ask a horse to jump than to ask for a piaffe, right?"

She hands him the magazine and his hands tremble a little as he holds it.

"Just be here when I get out, okay? I have to give it back to my trainer."

The Salvatore mutters an almost unintelligible 'uh-huh' and Kaitlin smiles at him again before leaving to see Doc Ned. Damon looks down at the cover and Klaus is still here, aquiline eyes seemingly glaring at him, as if demanding Damon to get his hands off of the Mikaelson's picture. The cover story says 'THE STAR OF PAU. Niklaus Leventhorpe-Rath Mikaelson and LRI Achilles win Etoiles de Pau CCI4* 2005'.

He opens the blessed publication and begins to read.

-o-

You know that episode in The Vampire Diaries where Joseph Morgan, almighty hybrid Original asks Candice Accola, small-town girl who always gets tortured, to the Morgan Family's ball and she doesn't have anything to wear (whereas Nina Dobrev, Little Miss Perfect, somehow has a poofy glittery ball gown all prepared for the 'unexpected' occasion) and Joseph so heroically sends Candice a really beautiful dress (which is like a bajillion times better-looking than Nina's) and Candice at first doesn't even want to touch the dress but later she finds herself looking at it intently and starting to consider (just a teeny tiny bit) wearing it to the ball after all?

It's the exact same scenario in the Mikaelson living room as Klaus finds himself looking intently at the stack of papers on the coffee table in front of him and starting to consider (just a teeny tiny bit) reading them after all.

He sighs. This is hardly the way for him to know his child's mother, reading about her in news and website articles. Internet stalking is for people who'd like to know about someone they don't have personal access to, not for a guy sitting in the living room who wants to know something about the girl in his bedroom about five bloody cartwheels away. But on the other hand, it's not like it's the most appropriate thing in the world to just go there and look at Caroline and say "Gurl what's the score between you and Damon?"

"Fine." He mutters under his breath. He does plan to get to know Caroline better as things go along – hell, they're having a child together so they have to work out some kind of amicable relationship here – but maybe this 'research' Bekah oh-so-kindly provided might be a good enough 'primer' about his baby mama. You know, like when you want to buy a car but you don't want to go to the dealer just yet so you read about it first?

Except that whatever happens, Klaus actually has to buy this car and it's going to stay with him for the rest of his life.

He picks out a random sheet of paper from the stack and puts on his glasses to start reading.

Bleacher Report's Top 10 NFL WAGS of 2012

8. Caroline Forbes

Brady Wolfe's new lady has been keeping a low profile since they hooked up this summer – they've only been spotted together twice. Luckily for us, one of those times was at a beach in Florida where she rocked this scorching blue number while soaking up some sun with the Bears QB. Brady, anytime you get too busy to rub sunscreen on those legs, ring us up and we'll be there.

Aside from being a total steal, we also heard that Caroline is no dumb blonde. Word is she graduated from Northwestern with a GPA up in the high three point nines and ya know what, that's what got us to give her spot number 8 on our list even though she's barely been seen at the bleachers. Sexy chick is hot but smart sexy chick is even hotter in our book so we say Wolfeboy should do the world a favor and show her off more often.

Oh. So that was the NFL WAG thing Damon was talking about.

What he didn't talk about was the picture – which Klaus forces himself to refrain from looking at. This is his kid's mom, for Christ's sake, he's got to have more respect for her than ogling at some photo of her in a two-piece.

Okay, Niklaus Mikaelson, turns out this is a really lame excuse to read about Caroline. The logical part of his head starts to tell him. If this article from the Bleacher Report is any indication, he's never going to find anything that would even remotely give him a clue what's between Caroline and Damon now. All he's going to read about is gossip, and that's saying it generously.

He closes his eyes tiredly. He doesn't want to ask Caroline about it directly and he won't find the answers from internet articles, so maybe he just has to play it by the ear. Go on taking care of Caroline while she's staying with him and see what happens with her and Damon as they go along. Perhaps when he and Caroline are closer he can ask her, but for now…

Klaus hears the sound of a door closing and then footsteps walking towards the living room, so he quickly puts the Bleacher Report article back on the paper stack and takes off his glasses. Then he sits back and pretends that he's… er, staring at the wall clock.

"Where's Bekah?"

Kol emerges from the hallway carrying the breakfast tray he brought into his brother's room and makes his way to the kitchen. He places the tray on top of the counter before walking back to the living room, where he leans forward on the back of the couch facing Klaus, not bothering to take a seat.

"She left. Said she has a class this morning." Klaus replies simply. And then, "How's Caroline?"

"She's sleeping. We chatted a bit, she ate the soup and drank a bit of your ginger tea. She hates the stuff, Nik. I'll make a batch of ginger cookies after I get home from the hospital today. Hopefully she'll get those down easier."

The older Mikaelson nods. He's just glad Caroline is doing better. He doesn't know if he can handle the guilt if every morning in the near future turns out to be like this.

"Jeez Nik, don't tell me you actually read all that crap Bekah dug up." Kol says when he notices the papers on the table.

Klaus shrugs and ignores the question.

"Fine, whatever." Kol gives up, uncharacteristically rather quickly. "Look, I have to go now, my shift starts in half an hour. So I know you're probably going to get something from Millesime for lunch for you and Caroline."

You hear that? Kol's leaving. Thank you, Lord.

"Yes, Kol, I am not letting a pregnant woman starve in my house." Klaus confirms for his brother's benefit.

"I also know that you'll probably order fish, because I know you like yellow fin tuna and because fish is healthy and all that."

"The reminder is much appreciated. Now please go."

"I also know that you probably don't know that pregnant women shouldn't be eating tuna because it has mercury content that FDA considers high for developing babies."

Oh.

Well there goes Klaus' plan of yellow fin tuna for lunch.

Kol grins triumphantly. "So you go ahead and order that yellow fin tuna you like so much, but get Caroline salmon instead. No mercury content warning there."

Klaus purses his lips grudgingly. "Duly noted."

"And I also know that you don't even know that Millesime is not the place to go to for salmon. For yellow fin tuna, acceptable, but for salmon – just no."

"What?"

"It's considerably far from here, unlike Millesime which is just a few minutes' walk, but Adelinde's has the best salmon amandine in Chicago. So I took the liberty of asking a friend to drop by Adelinde's to get some salmon amandine for Caroline and yellow fin tuna for you. Now you don't even have to do anything, just wait for your lunch to get here."

Klaus stares at Kol in disbelief.

"You're totally welcome." Kol beams at his brother before striding out of the apartment.

-o-

To: Damon Salvatore (drsalvatore .us)

From: Alaric Saltzman (ajsaltzman .us)

Subject: Re Caroline

Rose has received the documents from Klaus' lawyer. She's studying the applicable laws so we know what to ask for and what to give, but from what we know Illinois law requires 20% of the non-custodial parent's monthly income as payment for child support. Rose will call you when she's done reviewing the documents.

How is Caroline?

-o-

Muse.

It's a simple noun that comes from the Latin word Musa, the goddesses of art in Greek Mythology. A muse is someone who inspires an artist, who lends him creativity, who lends him the gift of art itself.

An artist does not have to be 'in love' with his muse. He doesn't even have to care about her. He just has to look at her and feel that fateful trembling in his fingers, that blazing eagerness in his chest – the start of a painting, of a poem, of a song.

Klaus takes in a deep breath, open hand feeling a tepid tingling coursing from the tips of his fingers to the planes of his palms as he walks into the room and carefully sits on the edge of the bed's end. Behind him, the door is left ajar, telling in its openness. Klaus didn't mean to stay long – he just wanted to check on Caroline. But he saw her and there was something about the sight of her sleeping that spoke to him and now he finds himself studying her features as she sleeps.

His hands remember drawing the curving outline of her face, the lash-lined arch that begins her eyes, the smooth bow of her shoulders. He remembers all the shades and tints and hues of blue that he blended in an attempt to render the exact blue-green of her orbs. He remembers everything he felt that night he met her – how she made his fingers pine for a brush, crave for colour, hunger for the satisfaction of filling a blank canvas.

She makes him feel it even now, makes him want to grab a pen and start sketching this woman in his bed. And maybe this pile of papers that Rebekah gave him might find better use as sketching sheets, he thinks as he places the papers down beside him on the bed for a moment. In his head he already sees how he wants to draw Caroline now – turned to her side, head cradled by the pillows, eyes peacefully closed. Golden hair falling lightly upon her shoulders, body embraced by the softness of his sheets, right hand holding gently onto the edge of the covers wrapped about her chest. This was what she looked like the last time he saw her that morning before she left his apartment in haste.

He has found his muse… and yet, it doesn't quite feel as good as it should feel like. For all that she makes him feel as an artist, as a man, as himself – she has only made him start a painting. He has never finished anything still.

His thoughts are interrupted when he hears the sound of his doorbell ringing. He stands up distractedly and makes his way out of the room to open the door. The sight that greets him, however, makes him frown in confusion.

"What are you doing here?"

Katherine rolls her eyes, thrusting an Adelinde's paper bag in front of her boss. "Nice to see you too, Klaus. There's your chow. Enjoy. You're welcome."

"You're Kol's 'friend'?" Klaus asks, forehead creasing in bafflement.

"I don't know, your brother just called me all of a sudden and was like 'Hey can you drop by Adelinde's to buy this and that and give it to Nik before lunch?' and I owe him some cab money so I said 'Fine'. Now here I am and if you're not planning to take this stuff then just tell me so I don't waste my time standing her like a goat." Little Ms. Feisty tells him impatiently.

Klaus takes the bag from Katherine but the question and answer portion is not yet done. "Why the bloody hell do you owe him cab money?"

"Because I slept with him like last week and I couldn't find my wallet in the morning." She says with a shrug.

"What?"

Katherine laughs. "Take a break, Klaus. When did you get so gullible? I took a cab to the gallery and it turned out that I forgot my wallet and Kol was there so he lent me forty bucks."

The Mikaelson stares at his favourite employee with obvious distrust, though he doesn't say anything else.

"Oh come on now." Katherine says, rolling her eyes again. "Me, sleeping with your brother – any of your brothers – sadly for them will never happen. I'll never put myself in a situation where there's a one in a billion chance that I'll become related to you."

"Trust me, that's a reassurance much appreciated." Klaus mutters.

"Well, my turn to ask then. Why is Kol asking me to get food for you? Are you on house arrest or something?"

"It's disturbing to think that you care – "

"Oh I do, I'd throw a party if you were to be thrown into jail."

"Find another reason to party if you're so inclined, Katherine Pierce –"

"And who's the visitor? Kol's obviously not going to ask me to buy two meals if you're the only person who's going to eat them."

Klaus suddenly pauses, his eyes narrowing as though an important matter just crossed his mind. Katherine waits for him to make another scathing retort, but it never comes – in fact her boss isn't even looking at her anymore.

They won't be able to keep this pregnancy a secret, Klaus comes to realize. Not that he wants to keep it a secret but… people around Klaus (other than his family) will eventually learn about Caroline and people around Caroline (other than Damon) will eventually learn that she's pregnant.

He's not interested in getting into a relationship with her, all the more that he has no intention of marrying her… so how the hell is he going to spare Caroline from the humiliation of getting knocked up from a one night stand?

-o-

"Ric?"

"Damon. Why'd you call, is something up?"

"Yeah, kind of… Listen man, can you do me a favor?"

"Unless you're going to ask me to hijack a plane, I guess yes. What is it about?"

"Can you ask one of your guys to check out something for me? I need all the info I can get on the Leventhorpe-Rath Mikaelson family. They're from Ascot, in southern England."

"Let me write that down… Leventhorpe-Rath Mikaelson…Ascot, England…"

"I need legit sources, Ric. Anything you can give me that's verified."

"Wait – Mikaelson? As in Klaus, the guy who got Caroline pregnant?"

"Yeah, it's him alright..."

"What's the matter? Is he involved in something shady…"

"I don't know, Ric, I haven't been around him much. But I read something about him… and I just want to make sure he doesn't pull a fast one on Caroline."

-o-

When Caroline wakes up, she's alone in her room and her nausea has settled down to just a slight discomfort. She glances at the clock on the bedside table and lets out a yawn as she sees that it's eleven o'clock. For a moment she considers going to work for the latter half of the day, but then she closes her eyes and decides that she doesn't want to deal with Andie's bitching for this entire day. Ever since Andie and Damon broke up the brunette has been all but hateful to Caroline, graciously taking every opportunity to say something scornful or point out something wrong that Caroline did. And it sucks worse than a cheap vacuum cleaner because Andie is her boss. She doesn't even get the bitch, really – it's not as if she did anything to break her and Damon up, so why is Andie taking it all out on her? If she has an axe to grind, why won't she resign and go look for a job where Damon isn't her employer?

She stretches from her curled up position and flexes her feet. Her toes touch something at the end of the bed.

She sits up and looks at the direction of her feet. There at the bed end is an amassment of papers, which she doesn't remember putting there. She doesn't even remember seeing them before.

She reaches out to grab a page and looks at it. It's a printed picture of her with Damon at one of the corporate parties she attended with him when they were still together.

Why is this here? She thinks.

She takes the entire pile of papers. She skims through the stack and frowns as she realizes that they're all pictures and articles and news clips about her. Local paper mentions from Virgina, society pages from the Chicago Tribune, all those entertainment articles from her break-up with Brady.

What the

Her eyes narrow, her head fuming with annoyance and disbelief at what she just saw. Wow. She moved in with Klaus hoping to know him better so they might hopefully become friends for the sake of their child, but this is how he chooses to get to know her – through internet trash.

Wow. Just wow.

She is so pissed off right now she wants to pack her bags and leave.

-o-

Horse and Hound Magazine, 21-30 June 2005

The Star of Pau

It is a little funny to note that LRI Achilles was originally bred for dressage.

"He comes from a long line of dressage horses, but I don't think he likes flat work that much." Achilles' rider, 21-year old eventer Niklaus Leventhorpe-Rath Mikaelson says with amusement. It's hard to disagree – when the bay Hanoverian was younger, he did every imaginable (and embarrassing) antic in the sandbox: ignoring the halt, making a volte out of a serpentine, hand-galloping down the long side and even practically cantering backwards. The most memorable of all is his first CCI at Faustlinnex, where 'Ace' enthusiastically inducted his rider into the 'Disqualified Because Horse Jumped Out of the Arena' club.

It's not strictly a question of horrid temperament nor sheer incapability. There are days when Achilles is in a good mood, during which you can expect a score below 45. And then there are the days when he decides to do things his way. "He's very spirited, very head strong. Cross-country thrills him to no end and he's keen on jumping as well - I think that's where all the adrenaline during dressage comes from." Klaus will tell you. They've been a team for over six years, and the only reason why they have a roomful of eventing medals is because Achilles is brilliantly consistent in cross country, for all his unpredictability in the flat.

Fortunately, the 17h stallion has seemingly mellowed with the monkeyshines these past few years. Though Klaus says Achilles "still does something to show that he's in control" every so often, he now rides considerably more good tests than bad ones. Take his latest dressage score: a strong 42.3 showing on Friday, which the rider-cavalier pair built on to clinch the championship trophy at this year's Etoiles De Pau CCI*4 Three Day Event held in Pyrenees, France.

It's a spectacular victory that's taken the equestrian world by storm, catapulting Klaus and Ace from kids-to-watch-for into full-fledged eventing celebrity status. Six months shy of his twenty second birthday, Klaus is now officially the youngest rider to win a CCI4* (the former record was held by eventing royalty William Pitt-Fox, who was 25 when he won his first four-star at Burghley in 1994) while ten-year old Achilles ties with Karen O'Pronnor's Theodore as the youngest horse to win a CCI4*. If you think that's impressive enough, wait until you learn that among the 67 other entrants that Klaus and Achilles had to trump on their way to the win includes 18-time CCI4* winner and Pau defending champion William Pitt-Fox, Olympic medalists Stefan Brocolliori, Phillip Cotton, Bettina Hey, Coraline Powell, Mary Queen, Leslie Rule, Grey Teulere and Nicolas Touzisnot.

Team Leventhorpe-Rath's road to their latest win began with a 7th place entry on the dressage scoreboard at Pau Day 1, a performance whom judge Marianne Clangwee described in her comments as "An exceptional demonstration of impulsion." They moved up to third by running one of the six penalty-free cross country efforts on Saturday, which saw William Pitt-Fox retire betting favourite Parklane Falcon after an uncharacteristic refusal at fence 7, and ultimately edged score leaders Oliver Townstart on Sea Vision and Sinead Halbadge on Scottie Harley with a 1.2 time penalty on Day 3's showjumping round to claim this year's Etoiles de Pau crown and the EUR 35,000 prize it comes with.

Before Pau, Klaus and Achilles have had only two other CCI4* showings – a decent 23rd place finish in Badminton last year and an improved 15th place in Burghley this year – but they're fixtures in BE classes and lower CCI and CIC levels, where they have had numerous podium places and top 10 finishes. Klaus has also been a member of the British Young Rider Eventing Team for the past three years, raking in a total of four golds, three silvers and one bronze in the European Young Rider Championships.

Really, the 42.3 figure being the pair's personal best in dressage is just the icing on the cake.

All eyes and ears were on the University of Exeter's Equine Sports Management student during the press conference that followed, but Klaus played the victory down with a short smile. "I think it's more of a stroke of luck. A lot of horses were retired during cross country and some rails were surprisingly knocked down at showjumping, and that let us move up."

In a twist that makes the story even more amusing, there is not a person in this world who could be happier for Klaus and Achilles than champion dressage equestrian Elijah Leventhorpe-Rath Mikaelson, Klaus' older brother. Elijah, who earlier this year smashed the European record for Grand Prix Kur with a masterful 85.54% score at the European Dressage Championships in Hagen, Germany, was present on all three days of Etoiles de Pau in support of Klaus.

"I'm immensely proud of him." The evidently thrilled EDC individual gold medallist said. "Nik has always been persistent at training, but the diligence with which he worked for this is just above anything else I've seen from him."

And Elijah should know. While Klaus has been modest about his victory in France, he isn't the least bit hesitant to credit Achilles' improved dressage performances to training with his brother. He says that Elijah has younger horses schooling below Medium levels, and he and Achilles have been training with them since they started preparing for the transition to four-star two years ago.

How does it feel like to train with a dressage champion? "Elijah is incredibly patient. When he teaches a movement, he doesn't just show it and then make you do it over and over until you get it right. There's always an explanation of the theoretical and practical aspects of the move. I think I learned as much about geometry from him teaching the counter-canter as all those years I spent at Eton. And then he has all these ideas about how to motivate his horses – he just knows how to make them tick. He was the one who suggested that we let Ace tag along to shows where he isn't competing. So I'm doing a shoulder-in or galloping into the water or jumping a 3'3 on another horse at a BE100 and Elijah and Ace are playing around in the showgrounds. At first I didn't have an idea what he was getting at, but when Ace figured out that not every show meant action, he started to calm down. That's when we got better at dressage."

But Elijah is also very focused and very strict when training, it is revealed. Apparently when the older equestrian came back from the European championships, the first thing he did wasn't even unpack his bags. "He literally went straight to the training arena. I was working on my five-step walk backward and I heard someone say 'Nik, Ace's tail is swishing like he's swatting a horde of flies and that's going to get you a 3.' – I didn't even know that he had returned from Hagen until then." Klaus recounted, drawing laughs from the audience, which included the brother in discussion.

Interestingly, the Leventhorpe-Rath Mikaelsons are not the only siblings in this picture. Elijah's best mount, twelve year-old fan favourite LRI Antares (Ari), is half-brother to LRI Achilles. Both stallions are out of the Hanoverian mare LRI Alina, who descends from the powerhouse bloodlines of Abraxas and Nikolino through LRI Aleksandr. Antares, sired by KWPN WEG and GP medallist LRI Linares (LRI Cefiro x LRI Linea by LRI Schubaltz), is registered as a KWPN while Achilles, sired by Baden Württemberg GP champion Aurenheimmer-Michelori (Aurenheimmer-Michelino x Lomnika by Kramnik) is registered as a Hanoverian.

Horsemanship runs deep in the siblings' blood. Their mother, Lady Esther Leventhorpe-Rath Mikaelson, successfully showed up to Prix St George on Antares' damsire Aleksandr while their father, laywer Mikael Mikaelson, is an accomplished eventer who held notable wins in Burghley and Bleinheim before he hung up his competition reins to focus on managing his family's law firm. None of Elijah and Klaus' three other siblings ride competitively, although one of them is a big part of Team Leventhorpe-Rath: violin prodigy Kol Leventhorpe-Rath Mikaelson, who headed for the Royal College of Music this fall, arranges the freestyles for all of Elijah's Kur performances. His last work was the polarizing violin-lead freestyle of the Pirates of the Caribbean's He's a Pirate, which Elijah and Antares performed to at Hagen.

But the brothers' best familial advantage is perhaps in the person of their grandfather, Lord Viktor-Elijah Leventhorpe-Rath, Earl of Reede. The well-known equine enthusiast is Elijah and Klaus' principal patron through Leventhorpe-Rath Investments (LRI), which breeds, trains and owns all of the brothers' horses. Lord Reede currently sits as the Chairman of Ascot Racecourse Ltd., owner of the most famous thoroughbred racing venue in Europe, the Ascot Racecourse. Now valued at close to £750M with reported revenues of £55M last year following its costly 2003 renovation, the track has been privately owned by the Leventhorpe-Raths since 1913 and continues to be the source of the family's fortune.

(Continued at next page)

-o-

A/N:

1. erica-dreams-in-colour at tumblr. Go there for the manip featuring equestrian Klaus and Elijah and violinist Kol. :) Also, she. daydreams. in. colour at FFN. Go there for the first story featuring my dear Leventhorpe-Rath Mikaelson family titled "My Love is a Sonnet of Blue and Gold." Both links on my profile page.

2. Friends. Please forgive me for the non-replies to reviews or for not reviewing your new stories/updates yet. Next Saturday is reserved for a reply and review marathon. :)

3. Next story to be updated is Solstice. Thank you to everyone who's reviewed, favourited and alerted ALL my stories in both my accounts - you guys are the best and I love you! Hugs and kisses from Erica and Kol. :)