A/N: Thank you guys for being so patient. Sorry for the long wait. School is really hectic and time-consuming.

Much love to Briana, without whom I would not be able to write this fic. She's amazing.


The thing about having a weekly lunch with five successful, independent, career women was that there was rarely a week when all five of them actually showed up. Most times, having lunch together was decided by Caroline or Katherine sending a mass text to the others asking if they were free on that particular day, and then someone said no. That was okay, considering that they saw each other all the time anyway, but weekly lunch was a time of the week when the five of them could, theoretically, get together without any males getting in the way.

Caroline, Katherine, and Bonnie had already been at Blue Water Grill for half an hour when Rebekah arrived. Elena had excused herself by saying that she'd been hit with inspiration that morning, and, as such, would be holed up at home writing all day. Since they were hungry, they'd ordered for themselves and Rebekah, who showed up just after the waiter served them. By this point, Caroline was already on her second drink.

"Hello," Rebekah said as she climbed the stairs toward them. "I brought someone, I hope you don't mind."

Her youngest brother appeared behind her, hands stuffed in the pockets of his blue American Apparel hoodie. It matched his eyes, and the white lining that was turned outward was almost the color of his teeth, which Caroline could see clearly when Henrik flashed them all a smile. "Why are you apologizing, Bekah? By bringing me, you just made this endeavor actually fun for everyone."

"Don't make me regret bringing you, Henry," Rebekah warned, taking the open seat next to Bonnie. Since they'd planned on being a group of four today, Henrik, a surprise addition, was left without a seat.

"Regret spending time with your youngest, most charming brother, who loves you more than anyone? You would never."

Caroline watched as Rebekah tried to hide her smile. Henrik's words were clearly true. The Mikaelsons weren't all talk when they said "Family Above All." They genuinely meant it.

Henrik looked around for waiters before grabbing a plush chair from neighboring table. He dragged it to the corner between his sister and Caroline, ignoring the latter's shocked look when he took his seat.

"We can just get a bigger table," she told him. "You know that, right?"

"Why, Caroline?" Henrik asked her with a cheeky grin. "Don't you like sitting this close to me?"

"Oh, my God, Henry, she is a decade older than you!" Rebekah said loudly. "Can you not flirtwithher?"

Her brother shrugged in response. "She flirted with me first," he said, glancing at Caroline. The look on his face reminded her of the main character from that new Rapunzel movie that Savannah loved so much. "I'm pretty sure she enjoys this."

Katherine almost spit out a mouthful of her drink as she looked at Caroline. Luckily for the blonde and her new dress, she didn't. "What?"

"Nothing, nothing," Caroline said, waving her hand in the air. "He's just being silly."

Henrik sighed. "Some women just can't handle all of this."

Caroline scoffed. "Oh, please, child, don't."

"You two are really comfortable with each other," Bonnie pointed out. "Why? It's weird."

"My brothers ditched me to go argue about something stupid at brunch on Sunday," Henrik said. "Caroline noticed that I was standing awkwardly by myself, so we started talking. We spent a good twenty minutes discussing our mutual likes and dislikes, and we had a very detailed discussion about pancake syrup."

"All thanks to you." Caroline picked up where Henrik left off, resting her chin on her shoulder to look at Katherine. "You were very thorough with your brunch preparations."

Her best friend shot her a winning smile. "Yes, well, if you're going to do something, do it well."

"Mikaelson family motto," Henrik said. "Or one of them, anyway."

"Why is he here?" Bonnie pointed her thumb at Henrik.

"You are very unhappy to see my today, aren't you, Bonnie?" He looked between his sister and sister-in-law, gauging their reactions. "Rebekah didn't want to cancel on me or you lot, so she brought me to you lot because she couldn't choose. I, however, am insulted that you don't want me here."

"You know that's not what I meant," Bonnie fixed him with a stare. "We're actually going to start planning my wedding today, Henrik, and as an eighteen-year-old boy, you may not be interested."

"Oh."

"Thought so."

"I'm so excited for this, Bonnie," Katherine said as she reached across the table to lay her hand on top of Bonnie's, completely ignoring the scowl forming on Henrik's face. "You're marrying my brother. Oh, my God, this is just- Oh, I am so happy for you. We're going to be related!"

"And yet another one joins the ranks," Caroline joked.

Still, there was more than a grain of truth in her words. Almost everyone that she was close to was related to Katherine in some way, except Stefan. But then, Stefan didn't really count, since everyone knew that he and Rebekah were going to tie the knot someday soon. It seemed that not only was she the only one in the group not related to everyone else somehow, she was also the only one who was single.

Wait no, Klaus and Kol are both single, she thought to herself. And Klaus' situation also sucked more than hers.

Dead, cheating wife. Trust issues. Daddy issues. Brother issues. Issues, issues, issues, God, the word itself was starting to sound odd in her head.

He was an interesting man, she had to admit, with a broken past. He had a loving family now, but there was so much more under the surface, and she was just itching to find out.

Then again, how deep did his pain go?

The man had had his heart torn out by his wife, and knowing what Caroline knew about him, marriage wasn't something that he took lightly. Just thinking about all of the pain he was feeling made her heart ache for him. Maybe he was her patient, and maybe she was supposed to remain unbiased, but she was only human after all. Not everything could be compartmentalized. She was allowed to feel grateful that she hadn't gone through what he had, and she was sure as hell allowed to feel sympathetic.

He reminded her that very few people were lucky enough to have a life like hers. She had great friends who were always there for her, a family who loved her, and a blossoming career in a profession that she was genuinely passionate about. The only thing that she would complain about was her lack of a love life, but even then, she was lucky. Klaus' lack of a love life was up to him in that he could overcome his issues and start putting himself out there again, but he was emotionally scarred.

She wasn't. This version that she was presenting to the world, it was the best version of herself. She loved herself, and she believed she could have it all, the husband and the career and the kids and the expansive Manhattan apartment.

And, okay, it wasn't like she needed a husband, not in that sense. Caroline didn't need a man to take care of her and provide for her, she could do that well enough on her own, thank you very much. What she wanted was that smile that Katherine had, when she spoke about Elijah and the girls. She wanted to have someone to come home to, someone to wake up to, and someone to build a future with.

And even though marriage was a lot more than small things like fighting over the remote and arguing who had to tell the kids where babies came from, well, she wanted those things to. She wanted all of it, even the fights that would go on for hours.

But wasn't that what love was? Even when you're fighting with the one you love, you know that it's them you want to fight with for the rest of your life, and only them.

What was life without a little flavor?

She could have had it, it wasn't too far out of reach. Matt had started hinting at it, bringing up a future and kids and playing with the ring finger on her left hand. Even Tyler before him, but she hadn't felt that spark she knew she was supposed to feel. She wanted it now, but those were temporary feelings, brought up full force by the sight of Bonnie's shiny new ring.

"What are you thinking about, Caroline?" Katherine's voice brought her out of her thoughts. "You're staring at your drink like it's the most interesting thing in the world."

"No, no," Caroline said as she shook her head, pushing back her hair. "Nothing, just um...You know, I'm the only woman here who isn't related to you."

Henrik smiled at her response. Oh this was too easy, he thought. It was like she was practically asking for it. "Nik's single," he supplied helpfully. "You could always marry him."

Katherine stepped on his left foot under the table, and he had to school his features into a smile to pretend like it didn't hurt. She ignored his obvious amusement at the thought of Nik and Caroline together, clearly not in agreement. "There's always Kol," she said casually, going along with the joke.

Because that's what it had to be, a joke.

"No, not Kol," Bonnie blurted out. Her eyes widened almost as soon as she realized what she'd said, and she awkwardly tried to explain herself. "I mean, Kol and Caroline, you know? They've been friends for...well, a really long time. It would be weird, wouldn't it? I mean, can you imagine? Kol and Caroline?"

Caroline, confused by Bonnie's sudden awkwardness, gave her friends an awkward smile. "Um, I don't plan on marrying any Mikaelsons, or anyone actually, any time soon."

"Only joking," Henrik replied, trying to nudge his elbow in her side. She evaded his blow and stepped on his right foot, not knowing that this left him with two sets of crushed toes. This time, he did grimace. "Bloody hell, woman."

Rebekah, who had said nothing throughout this whole ordeal, ate her lobster bisque in silence. She took a slice of bread and a packet of butter from the wicker basket in the center of the table, spread some butter onto the bread, and then bit into it. A loud crunch emanated from the contact between her teeth and the bread, distracting her table-mates from their conversation. In unison, they all turned to look at her.

"What?" she asked up at them, mouth nearly full. She put her hand over her mouth and chewed some more before swallowing and saying, "Why is everyone looking at me? We should be judging Caroline, her voluntary spinster-ness is quite confusing."

"I'm not voluntarily- ugh, Rebekah. It's just...It's just-"

"It's just what? Too scared to get back in the dating pool after Matty Donovan asked you to be his forever?"

"Wait you were engaged?" Henrik interjected. "Why aren't you now?"

"I was never engaged," Caroline told him before turning back to the group. "Guys, I don't want to talk about it."

"Too bad, I do," Henrik said eagerly, clapping his hands as he leaned forward. "Storytime!"

"She doesn't want to talk about it, Henry, stop it."

"No, no, I know what I'm doing, Katherine. how do you think I get Nik to talk to me?"

"He's your brother, it shouldn't be that hard," Caroline dismissed him with a shake of her head before turning her attention back to her food. Henrik didn't let her be, though, as he continuously poked her shoulder with his forefinger while everyone else enjoyed their meals.

It took her about three minutes to crack. "You're acting like a four-year-old."

"I know, I learned this from Karen."

"Karen does not behave like this."

"She does around me. I'm the fun uncle."

"So is Jeremy," Bonnie cut in with a smile. "She loves bothering him about stuff and he loves playing along."

"See!" Henrik said approvingly, turning from Bonnie to Caroline. "Being annoying works. Now share your life story, Caroline. Come on, you know you want to." He kept staring at her, chin tucked in, amusement in his eyes. He looked so eager that she couldn't resist. Against her better judgment, she started talking.

"Fine! I spent four years in a relationship with Tyler, and then I was single for less than a year before Matt and I got together, and we spent another four years together... Basically, I've spent eighty percent of the last decade of my life in a relationship with someone. I kind of want to take some time for me."

Luckily for her, Rebekah's phone started ringing then, sparing Caroline from having to answer any more of Henrik's questions.

"Hello? Yes, this is she. Yes. Yes. No, that wasn't supposed to be until tomorrow. No, I know this because I called his lawyer an hour ago and- oh are you bloody joking?" Rebekah said furiously. She looked up at everyone apologetically as she pushed up her chair and stuck her phone between her shoulder and her ear. As she picked up all of her belongings and downed the last of her bisque, she hummed sounds of agreement. "Fine, I'll be there in twenty. Don't leave without me."

"Are you leaving, Bekah?" Henrik asked unnecessarily.

"Yes, I'm sorry," she sighed. "There's a thing at work. I know we said that today was going to be just us, but-"

"It's fine, Bekah," he said quietly, waving his hand. He was half-smiling, the right side of his mouth tugged upwards, but Caroline could see that his sister's sudden departure had brought down his mood.

As Rebekah left, Caroline irritation faded and she felt the need to cheer up the teen. Katherine and Bonnie had started discussing the wedding again, Bonnie's awkward outburst about Kol forgotten, but Henrik was starting to grow on Caroline. She couldn't help but want to make him smile up again.

"You alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, why?"

"Just wondering."

"You wonder strange things, Caroline."

"Oh, I don't know. It's part of my charm."

"I'm sorry for bothering you earlier. It wasn't any of my concern, I shouldn't have pried."

"It's okay. You were curious, I was hedging. If I was in your position, I'd have done the same thing."

"You are in my position. With my brother."

"That's different," she said to him, her voice low. "He's my patient. I can't goad him into telling me things."

"So don't goad him. Just show some emotion and he will respond in kind, and before you know it, he'll be telling you everything he wants to keep locked inside."

"I doubt that. How is it that your brother is so," she paused, thinking of a word to describe Klaus. "Stoic, and yet you are the opposite of that?"

"Nik?" Henrik asked in surprise. "Nik's not stoic. He has control issues, maybe. He can come off as kind of stiff initially, but my brother is one charming man. He's also very funny. His personality rubbed off on me, what can you do?"

"What?" Caroline asked in surprise. "Really?"

"Yeah, you spend a lot of time around someone, and you know, you get close. You start acting like them. Especially when it's an older sibling, someone you want to look up to. I dunno, Nik's always been someone I look up to. He's really great in most social situations, he's funny, he's charming, he's attractive-"

"You sound like you're typing out his bio for the eHarmony website."

"Oh, I'm not opposed to him dating," Henrik pointed out. "He is. But that's not the point, he's my older brother. I think he's great. Why wouldn't I want to be just like him?"

Henrik's enthusiasm about his older brother made her think of Savannah, and how cheery the eight-year-old girl was in Caroline's presence. Did her younger sister feel the same way about her that Henrik felt about Klaus?

Tough call, considering the Mikaelson brothers had a lot more history together. Still, Savannah was only eight; there were lots of opportunities for bonding yet.

When Bill and Liz Forbes had separated fifteen years ago, she'd been devastated. Her father had assured her that none of it was her fault, that there was nothing she could have done differently, but she had always wondered. She had always felt inadequate after that, and most of her success today could be attributed to her father's leaving.

He had found found Stephen within a year and a half, and they'd been married soon after. It had taken her a while to come around to the idea that her father wasn't going to come back, but after Stephen had officially become her stepfather, she found herself liking the older man more and more. The few weeks in the summer that she stayed with her father became enjoyable, weekends visiting became time to look forward to. It wasn't a perfect family, but it had come really close to that in her eyes when the two men had adopted Savannah six years ago. She'd been a precious little two year old with chubby cheeks and a small vocabulary, full of light and life, traits that her father said both his daughters had in common.

Despite the fact that the distance wasn't too far, she didn't often have the time to make it out to Jersey. She missed her sister. She loved Savannah.

"You have a sibling?" Henrik guessed correctly, watching the emotions flit across her face. It wasn't that hard of a conclusion to arrive to, considering they'd just been talking about his relationship with his brother. Caroline had the look on her face that Bekah always got when the two of them used to Skype back when he still lived in London, like it was to enough to just see that he was happy, she had to go and do something herself to ensure his every happiness.

"A younger sister."

"How old is she?"

"She's eight. She's adorable, and I love her, but she's a handful. Too smart for her own good."

"She's eight? Christ, and I thought I was an accident."

Caroline couldn't help but laugh. "My dad and his partner adopted her six years ago, when she was two. She is precious, and I love her so much... She's practically the light of Stephen's life."

"You're not jealous?"

"Why should I be? I have a great relationship with my dad, and it's not going anywhere. It's not dependent on Savannah. It's just between me and him, you know?"

Henrik shrugged, looking up at Katherine. Across the table, she and Bonnie had put their heads together and pulled out some bridal magazines, empty plates pushed away. They didn't seem to be paying attention to anything that Henrik or Caroline were saying. "Not really. I was nine when my parents passed away. All I can remember is that er, Mum, she would bake me cookies sometimes, when someone was coming home. I remember Dad asking me about my grades and school and homework. But I don't really think I had a relationship with either one of them. That doesn't come until you hit, like, twelve."

She stared at him, eyes full of emotion, seeing for the first time just how deep Henrik's thought process went. This kid in front of her had been through so much. Losing his parents, living with his brother, suffering the loss of a sister-in-law that he lived with. She didn't know his parents or how they behaved with him, but they'd done a good job with him. So had Klaus, for that matter. The man may have issues himself, but he'd clearly gone out of his way to make sure that Henrik grew up stable and healthy. She'd seen so many different sides of the boy already, from the charming Brit to the wise-beyond-his-years teenager. If he was as intelligent as he seemed, there was no doubt as to how he'd earned his successes.

Some day, some lucky girl was going to be swept right off her feet by this boy. He was just- he was just...

"I don't even have any words for you," she told him with a soft smile. "I think that you are unlike any other teenager I've ever met, and I'm really glad that I know you. But, just in case you ever need someone to talk to, let me give you my card."

She started to go through her purse, but Henrik put out his hand to stop her. "I'm fine, Caroline, honestly. Nik's the one that needs therapy, not me. We all have issues, you know? We've kind of accepted that the entire family is basically fucked up. But as tempting as it may be for you, you can't fix all the Mikaelsons."

"Henrik, that isn't what I meant..."

"Not all of us need to be fixed, Caroline."


"So, I talked to Kol," Klaus said in lieu of a greeting, dropping into his seat. He leaned forward, elbows resting on his thighs, and looked up at her with a smile. It was unusual behavior, to say the least, but she was glad to see that he was actually starting to show some interest in therapy without being prompted.

"How'd it go?" she asked.

"My brother is far more mature and responsible than I give him credit for."

"Yes he is," Caroline agreed. Everyone underestimated Kol because he was so snarky and witty all the time, but they forgot that underneath that attitude, there was a very perceptive brain. Kol didn't manage to build a successful business and reputation solely with luck. He put in a lot of hard work, constructed a careful strategy, and got the job done. He was her friend, and she was proud of him. "He can be annoying, at times, but he's someone you would want on your side."

"Well, he wasn't exactly on my side before we had lunch together on Wednesday."

"I'm sure that's not true," she said, dismissing the notion with a shake of her head. If there was one thing she knew about the Mikaelson family- and she knew a lot of things about the Mikaelson family- it was that they kept family above everyone else. As brothers, Kol would want whatever was best for Klaus, she believed that without a doubt. "Maybe you just weren't used to tough love."

"Okay, no, it's not," Klaus agreed. "Kol was very understanding, but my issue doesn't really lie with what he and I spoke about on Wednesday. It's about something he said to me during our original fight."

"And what might that be?"

"He said... He said that I never considered the possibility that Tatia's death affected my family, as well. Kol told me that I never realized that when I lost my wife, five years ago, my family lost me."

"Oh."

He didn't really know what to think. When Kol had initially told him this, he'd been hurt, sympathetic, understanding even. And then, after those initial emotions had faded, he felt angry, so, so angry at the fact that his family wanted him to see things from their perspective. Why should he? He had his own pain to deal with. He had his own loss to deal with. Why was he supposed to focus on how Tatia's death had affected everyone else?

"It's not fair," Nik told Caroline. He met her gaze full-on, just so that she could see her reaction. He was disappointed with what he got, however, since she simply raised one eyebrow and tilted her head to the side, looking at him coolly. "What? It's not fair. Why am I supposed to be bothered about how Kol's feeling about any of this? They've all moved on with their lives. They're happy and they have things to live for, and meanwhile, I'm stuck here and everyone's moving on without me, and what is the fucking point? Honestly-"

"I don't do pity parties," Caroline interrupted coolly. "If you want to actually talk about these feelings, if you want to ask my opinion and figure out why you're feeling them, maybe even try to see things from your brother's perspective, that's fine. I can help you with that. But you throwing a tantrum in my office, I can't help you with. I'm sorry."

Her behavior angered him further. "Kol claims that he and my siblings all have issues as well, that I wasn't the only one affected by the behavior of my dead wife and probably even the behavior of my parents, too, so why is it that if they're just as fucked up as I am, why am I the one who has to talk to a therapist about it? I don't see the rest of my family spilling their life stories to strangers who are paid to listen."

Caroline blinked. While she was taken aback by the amount of honesty in his words, she had also hoped that maybe when they got to this point, his thoughts would be a little more coherent and his tone a little less rude. "Well, that's up to them."

"I'm not here of my own volition, Caroline," Klaus said, tapping his pointer finger on the arm of the chair. The heel of his right foot, too, had a rhythm of its own as it went up and down.

"I beg your pardon?" she asked with surprise. It was the first time in this session that she had actually betrayed her own emotions, and, Nik noted, there was more than surprise in her tone. Unless he was mistaken, there was also a little bit of hurt.

She wasn't a robot, he reminded himself, thinking back to his conversation with Kol. She was a human being who had family, friends, and a life outside of this office. She had emotions, just like him, and she'd been nothing but patient and understanding while listening to him talk in his sessions. Caroline didn't deserve to be the punching bag he used to relieve his anger.

Instantly, he felt guilty. "You're right, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."

Caroline looked at him expectantly when he trailed off, wanting him to finish the rest of his sentence. She wasn't going to just let him off that easily. He was going to have to apologize to her, and he was going to have to mean it. She took a deep breath, trying to keep her voice cordial. "As I recall, you were the one that showed up early for sessions that were scheduled on your time at your request. And, on Tuesday, you even said you wanted to take responsibility for your healing process and start paying for sessions yourself," she pointed out calmly, trying to refrain from rolling her eyes at him. Anger was the least helpful emotion that she could be displaying right now, and, as her patient, Klaus didn't deserve it.

Even if she thought he was being extremely irritating by retreating into his shell and acting like a child, she couldn't tell him that. Those were personal thoughts, and they had no place in the office.

"I said I was sorry, and I meant it."

"I have no doubt that you meant your apology, Klaus, but that doesn't mean that I have to accept it."

"I didn't mean to vent all of my anger to you. It should have been directed to my family and, what, Caroline?" Nik had stopped talking when he saw the look on her face change into outright irritation. Caroline rubbed her face with her hands before massaging her temples. "Wonderful, now you have something to say as well."

"You just... Klaus, do you want to work with me? Do you want to overcome your issues and start healing and get rid of some of this perpetual anger you have?" Caroline asked, gesturing to him. "I mean, you say you want to talk to me about your past and the way it's affected you, and in your defense, you do. I get that it's hard to talk about, Klaus, but I can't help you until you decide that you're not going to just shut down every time I ask you a hard question."

"I do not shut down every time you ask me a difficult question!" Klaus protested loudly, extending an arm towards her in anger. "I cooperate, Caroline."

"You're not supposed to cooperate with me, Klaus. These sessions are supposed to be about you," she blurted out angrily. She took a deep breath for composure, internally berating herself for showing as much emotion as she had during this session. Henrik had given her advice, but he was an eighteen-year-old college student. She didn't want to take him up on it, but there was nothing she could do at this point. It was unusual for her to lose her cool during business hours, yet somehow Klaus seemed to bring out that side of her. He was unlike any other patient she'd ever had, but she wasn't going to give up on him. She wasn't a quitter, and the last thing this man needed was someone else giving up on him and leaving him to his own devices where his trust issues were concerned. "Look, you asked me what distinguishes you and your siblings so much that you're here in therapy and they aren't, right?"

"Yes," he said calmly, resting his hands lightly on the arms of his chair. The tapping of his feet had stopped, too, so she could only assume that his tone correctly relayed his internal emotional state. Hopefully, his 'tantrum' was over. "Everyone's fucked up, so why am I the only one who needs professional help?"

"I can help you answer that question," Caroline told him, tone just as calm as his. "But that would require me to start asking you some heavy-duty questions, and we both know how you handle those."

His reply was short and slightly stiff. "I can take take it, Caroline."

"You're not understanding me. This is going to require you to dig deep and find answers to questions that you don't want to answer. You're going to have to take initiative and start telling me things, and you have to trust me, Klaus. You can't shut down when I start asking you questions, you can't. I'm going to make you talk about things that you want to forget or ignore. Starting now, your grace period is over. Even if you say that you don't want to talk about something, you will have to."

"I know, Caroline. I understand that." He did. He understood what she was trying to say, that she was going to pry open that locked box of hurt and anger hidden within him even if it killed her, and he wanted that. He wanted someone to just keep fighting back and get him out of this horrible funk he'd been feeling for the past five years. He'd living for Henrik instead of himself, all while pining for Tatia. Maybe he was mad at Kol, but a lot of that was just the irritation he felt because some part of him recognized that his brother was actually right.

"I don't think you do, Klaus," she said helplessly. "Especially since this is a unique situation. You see me outside of this office almost as much as you see me inside of it. I need you to be able to trust me and trust that I'm not just going to go telling everyone what I know. I need you to know that I'm not going to hurt you with this. I don't want to hurt you, Klaus, and I just- I keep saying. But that's literally what it comes down to: You need to know that I won't hurt you, and you need to trust me."

"I do," he said hoarsely, staring at her, meeting her gaze head on. She was genuinely worried about how he was going to take this conversation, and it just strengthened his need to prove that, contrary to popular belief, he could actually take care of himself. He could make responsible decisions. He did want to stop the pain. "I know what you're telling me, Caroline. I understand that."

"Okay," Caroline relented. She let out a deep breath and leaned back in her seat, Klaus mirroring her actions in his own chair. He gave her a tentative smile, which she returned, before he started tapping on the arms of his chair again.

"What about when we're with our friends?"

By this point, he was a part of the group. Sociable he was not, but his siblings had made it a point to induct him into their little social circle, and he was grateful for the distraction that the gang provided. While he could do without interacting with some of them, like Katherine's sister, others, like Stefan, had gone out of their way to make him feel welcome. He'd mentioned to Caroline last week that he'd canceled on lunch with Stefan to finish reading a book, but they'd rescheduled it and gone out to lunch today. It had been fun.

His family was a safety net that he wouldn't want to live without, but Nik was discovering that it was just easier to sometimes be around people who neither knew about nor cared about his failed marriage and turbulent childhood. Sometimes it was easier to smile when no one was expecting you to.

"What about it?" Caroline shrugged. "Treat me like you would treat anyone else."

"...How?"

"What do you talk to other people about?"

Nik's eyes widened, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. Most of his daily interactions outside of work involved his family. He hadn't had much of a social life in London, having pulled away from his and Tatia's mutual friends after her death. Thanks to his siblings' interference, he did have some friends now, but off the top of his head, he couldn't think of any good conversation starters.

"How do we act like you don't know all of my secrets?"

"I don't know all of your secrets. In fact, I don't know any of your secrets."

"You will!" he exclaimed.

Caroline dropped her hands onto the table. She gave him a half-smile, the right side of her lips turning up as she recognized the real problem. He was worried that she would let it slip somehow. "I'm not going to tell anyone that I'm your shrink, if that's what you're asking. You can tell whomever you want, up to you, but I won't say anything."

"Rebekah doesn't know yet."

"Okay."

"I feel like Henrik might talk to you about me."

"Okay."

"I feel like you may use whatever he tells you to psychoanalyze me and try to get me to talk."

"He hasn't told me anything so far," Caroline frowned. "Apart from the fact that you respond to emotion, but that's barely anything-"

"Wait, what? When did you see him?"

"Er, Wednesday? Yesterday? I think it was yesterday. Geez," she hunched over her desk. "Am I that busy?"

"What do you mean you saw him yesterday?" Nik asked as he shifted forward in his seat, ready to jump out of the chair at a second's notice. The session time wasn't nearly up yet, but the process of setting up these boundaries with Caroline had been emotionally exhausting in and of itself. Besides, if she had spoken to Henrik yesterday, then he needed to go have a talk with his little brother.

Both his little brothers, in fact, considering that Kol knew about his psychiatry sessions and was just as likely as Henrik to go blabbering something he shouldn't to Caroline. He needed everyone to keep their mouth shut.

"He came to the weekly brunch thing we do. Rebekah brought him but she had to leave early, and since I could see he was disappointed, I started talking to him about how much he loves his siblings. He really looks up to you."

"Yes," Nik replied incredulously. "He does. Is it possible that I can go early? I know you're punctual and all of that, but there's honestly nothing that I'm capable of talking about right now."

The change in Caroline's mood was instantaneous. Where before she'd been calm and conversational, talking about Henrik and her behavior around him when they were in public, her tone was now sharp, words smooth. "You can't just decide to leave every time you want to shut down, Klaus. You are going to have to actually sit down and talk to me about your life."

"I know," he said to her as he stood up, grabbing his jacket from where it was hanging on the back of his chair. He held out his hands to appease her, wanting to wipe the crestfallen look from her face. "I will. I promise. Tuesday afternoon, I will walk in here and you can ask me anything you want on the topic of my wife. You asked me to trust you, and I did. Now trust me when I say that I will talk about her. Right now, however, I have some brothers to go track down. So please, Caroline, excuse me."

Without waiting for an answer, he pushed back the chair, turned on his heel, and left her office, closing the door behind him. Before he could completely shut it, however, her voice filtered out. "Don't think this is over!" she called behind him, tone accusatorial. "I know what you're trying to do!"

He shook his head as he walked, trying to keep the smile off of his face as he passed Connor to get to the elevators. She thought he wouldn't talk, but he would. He would show her, he would show his family, but most importantly, he would show himself that he could rise to the challenge.


A/N: Again, I'm so sorry about the wait. School makes it hard to write during the weekdays, so I typically only write on Thursdays and Fridays now. You guys can expect updates every second Saturday. Feel free to shoot me an ask/tweet on Tumblr/Twitter (I am sassyklaroline on both).

I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this chapter and the Klaroline build-up. Hopefully no one is getting too impatient; I'd hate for you guys to just be skimming through, looking for Klaroline, and then not find what you're looking for.

No more review templates, sorry. Thank you all so much for your support so far. It means so much, you don't even know. I really, really love you guys.

~Meha