This is a post-4x09 one-shot that grew a bit out of hand. Klaus/Caroline + Stefan/Rebekah romance; and a lot of Klaus + Caroline + Stefan + Rebekah friendship. Kind of ;) Hope you like it!
Caroline doesn't want to hear what Stefan has to say, yet that most certainly doesn't keep him from talking on and on, one glass of Damon's best bourbon after another. He mostly babbles, but insists, "What were we expecting, Caroline?"
He's right, of course. Tyler hit first. Tyler had to bear the consequences, and that is the worst part, isn't it? What were they expecting? Tyler's move against Klaus had been brewing for weeks—longer, even. Caroline hasn't forgotten, Tyler's frantic I hate him during the Decade Dance, her promise that it didn't matter, it would never matter how many times she danced with Klaus. She had been so sure, then. She could spend eternity swaying in Klaus's arms and her determination wouldn't ever quiver. She would never stop being repulsed at the monster that he was—that he is.
So what were they expecting?
Stefan won't stop beating himself over it—not for the first couple of days, while Caroline does her best to help out with the funeral preparations, pretending not to be hurt that Tyler isn't picking up his phone. He dodges her, and Caroline understands. She can't even imagine, if her mother—
—she drowns the nausea in yet another mouthful of bourbon.
She understands. It's not her fault, she knows—nor is it Stefan's. Even if he has known Klaus the longest, the closest. Even if they knew—like Tyler knew—that one does not survive for over a thousand years with a supernatural original vampire-vampire-hunter on his track without learning at least a handful of tricks. How to recognize when you're being played by a group of high-schoolers. How to always anticipate betrayal before it can hit you.
It barely lasts for a few days, the process of talking it over before there is yet another crisis twisting their lives around, and they must all move on from mourning, again. Only for a few days, before Tyler transforms and runs, the wolf's howls resonating pained and loud over the silent night-time ghost town. Only for a few days, before it becomes obvious that Klaus has decided to let him go, because forever is a long time to live in fear and alone—
—but those few days Stefan insists, on and on and on; if only, Caroline suspects, so he doesn't think of Damon. Doesn't stop to wallow in that particular betrayal; in that loss, that loneliness without his brother and without his girl that, if he stopped and thought about it, might lead him to bare his fangs and rip away what little collateral, unimportant damage Klaus has left standing in their beautiful, bloodied small town. It's less painful to focus on Klaus's blood thirst, Klaus's crimes, Klaus's pain over a loneliness and a betrayal that have been going on forever.
"After what he did to Katherine," Stefan says, and there's a shiver in his words that makes Caroline suspect he isn't referring only to what happened to her family, but to what happened to Katherine. How she became a vampire to escape Klaus, and yet he managed to make her a monster after all. Massacring everyone she loved.
They all know there are worse things than death. They all knew Klaus doesn't let betrayal roll off his shoulders like he's above those silly little childish games. They knew. They knew—
—and yet they went home and let the horror take its due course without interfering any further than setting up the stage.
"I think he knew," Stefan tells her, weeks later, when the scent of blood has finally dissipated, and the snow dust has melted for good this year. There's a strangely quiet party at the Grill, and Rebekah is sitting on a table, waiting for Stefan to go back to her. Caroline has been watching: Rebekah hasn't cast one glace in Matt's direction all evening, and that is okay. Stefan is old enough to know what he's doing.
All of this has happened before.
So Caroline leans against the bar and raises the wine glass to her lips, easing out a smile. "What are you talking about?"
For a second or two she pretends she hasn't noticed that Stefan expects her to follow his gaze to the figure standing at the other end of the bar, a long enough distance behind her. She noticed his presence the moment he walked in, as always, but it was easier to ignore it than to confront the thought that maybe enough time has passed that he can go into the town's restaurant with his brother, have a drink, kinda-but-not-really crash a small high-school gathering, and no one will really mind. Or care.
She hasn't even tried to listen to what he and Kol might be talking about. But his eyes are glued to her back, and they are burning her.
It makes her realize that he remains incessant in his purpose, and there's a comfort in knowing that he isn't going to give up regardless of how impossible it is, that she forgets. Like what he does and what he wants (from her) has nothing to do with her, really; it's all him. She's not responsible for his actions or his desires.
"I saw him talking to Hayley that night," Stefan finally answers. "He came to me, asked me what we were planning, and I said I had been looking for the sword, that I didn't trust him—"
His words trail off, and Caroline realizes that Stefan is perfectly aware that Klaus can hear every word he is saying, if he wishes to. Immediately her stomach clenches, and she downs the red wine in her cup like it's warm fresh blood and can in fact overwhelm her senses in a way that wine no longer can, pushing away the dread of imminent confrontation, at last—but then, well; nothing really happens. Klaus doesn't attack them from behind, and Stefan only shakes his head. So Caroline focuses on his words, and the name of Hayley reminds her, shockingly and painfully, of the last conversation she ever had with Tyler.
He had been screaming. She had pushed her way across the shreds that remained of his mother's bedroom after Tyler's rage, had tried to talk him into snapping out of a grief she couldn't really understand. He had lost her mother. He had lost his pack. He had sent them all to their death while trying to set them free, believing he was making them be truly alive. And yet he had remained after the others were all gone, the leader of the revolution.
That was his punishment: to remain as lonely as the one who—
"What Hayley did was no different from what you and your friends did, Caroline!" He had shouted at her when she had tried to deflect the blame; put it on the two-faced werewolf bitch who had played Tyler for a fool. The girl he had trusted over Caroline, to soothe him over the pain of his hundred transformations. To hold his hand through the coup that was meant to liberate them from the Big Bad Wolf that was holding them down. "She killed twelve hybrids for her parents, like you killed one for Elena."
It was a punch right into her gut. Like Stefan's words, We've all done horrible things.
Tyler left that night.
No one has seen Hayley since that night, since Stefan saw her talking to Klaus. So, what? Caroline moves closer to Stefan, turning around even more so Klaus is even more behind her now. As if that can prevent him from overhearing. "What are you saying?" she asks, eyes widening as she hints with her face at what she really means. What are you doing?
Stefan doesn't seem to care, however, that they're openly discussing what happened that night, and what Klaus did, right in the town's bar where Klaus can perfectly well hear them. Has it really been enough time so that this is okay? Most certainly not, if you ask Caroline.
"I think he knew," Stefan repeats. "I think Hayley told him what the hybrids were planning, and instead of flashing out to kill them as soon as he knew what they were up to, he came to me. Gave me the chance to come clean. But I didn't, so he gave me a speech about loneliness and memorializing our dead—I should have known he was trying to tell me something beside the obvious."
Caroline nods slowly, but her eyes remain wide open. She'd be worried about Stefan's intake of alcohol and how very little sense he is making, if she believed that his words are even remotely meant for her. Well, no. Maybe they are remotely meant for her, but they're pretty much straightforwardly intended for Klaus. She doesn't understand if it's a peace offering, or if Stefan has decided to openly share the blame with Klaus for what happened the night he murdered Carol Lockwood. Perhaps enough time has gone by that certain things can be said out loud, but Caroline still worries about whether it is too soon or not, for Klaus to put an end to their misery and actually approach them. Confirm that yes, he knew before he talked to Stefan that they were leading him to a trap. Stefan's pretence of genuine team work to find the cure and Caroline's two consecutive glasses of Champagne. It was all a play to get him gone.
She doesn't know if Stefan is expecting her to say something, but she does anyway. "Yeah," she quietly agrees, even if she isn't quite sure what she is really agreeing with. She grabs his hand and squeezes it for good measure, moving away from the bar to make sure that Klaus can see. "It's good to have people you can trust."
Stefan smiles, and he looks proud of her. So she thinks she understood. It is having people they can trust what makes them better Klaus, they both agreed once. That night Klaus was hit with the realization that, once again, as every day in his long long life, he had no one who wouldn't rather see him dead than tolerating his company. He had mistaken Stefan and Caroline's fake camaraderie for genuine camaraderie, and isn't thatironic?
That there wasn't really anything fake about it?
'Ironic' as in 'unfortunate.'
Maybe enough time has passed, after all, that Stefan and Caroline can safely pass on the message. Or tentatively begin to, because in less than a second after Caroline's words about trust, the heavy weight on Caroline's shoulders lift as if by magic, and she has no doubt that Klaus is longer standing at the end of the bar.
He's left, and Stefan's attention is once again back on Rebekah.
It takes Caroline perhaps a bit longer than it should have, to notice the bright fire burning in the girl's eyes. She's glaring daggers at their joined hands, jealous, insecure and territorial like your typical volatile murderous original vampire.
Caroline's drops Stefan's hand like it burns her, and offers a pacifying smile to Rebekah before telling to Stefan to go back to her, and fast. They'll talk about that later, by the way. Stefan and Rebekah and whether slipping back into old habits has the potential to be ultimately and irreparably destructive.
Or maybe not.
Klaus has left, but Kol has remained after all. So when he begins to walk towards the pool table where Bonnie and Jeremy are playing, Caroline decides to follow him. He's been appearing here and there, more often than not as of late. He seems quite determined in demonstrating his interest in Bonnie, and no. Saving her human friend from the skilful bloodied hands of yet another evil vampire seems to Caroline like the biggest mercy she can offer to the world right now—to balance out her vampire karma. She might have lost Elena to Damon's vicious charms. Stefan and Rebekah keep getting more and more dangerously entangled every day. Bonnie simply cannot go down, too.
She can't be the only one forever resisting, can she?
Klaus wasn't supposed to be here.
But if Caroline were to think about it really hard, neither should Rebekah be draped all over Stefan like a skin-tight piece of clothing, refusing to let go. It's embarrassing. She's actually straddling him, and what if Caroline lets out an undignified yelp upon the sight when she finds them? Stefan was supposed to be alone. Damon and Elena were out of town, again, and Stefan had told her to drop by if she was bored. They could hang out.
So how was Caroline supposed to know that Rebekah's presence was to be expected? She hadn't even known how real they were. Yes, they had been kind of getting together from time to time—and by 'getting together' she means, well, something else she'd much rather not picture, thank you very much—and yes, Stefan had kind of told her that the thing between him and Rebekah, whatever it was, might be getting serious. But honestly, who invites her friend to hang out and then waits for her while making out with his sort of girlfriend, given the very complicated set of circumstances surrounding them?
Especially when the biggest and most terrible circumstance of all is also there, uninvited (Caroline can only hope), sitting on an armchair and doodling in his stupid sketchpad like he doesn't have a care in the world. Which seriously, is one big step forward from erasing his chosen brother's memories of him and his sister out of spite, the last time that Stefan and Rebekah had grown… intimate. And now look at him. Like he doesn't mind at all, or isn't grossed out by the ridiculous PDA that luckily for all, stops the minute Caroline decides to make a giant fool of herself by squeaking her way into the Salvatores' living room.
Klaus's eyes are on her immediately. Not just on her, though; in her. She realizes as her gaze gets stuck in his deep blue eyes that he hasn't looked into her eyes since that afternoon at The Grill. They've seen each other all over town, from time to time, and she has repeatedly felt his gaze digging holes in the back of her neck. She's felt him with her, but never until now has she turned around to look back at him.
"Well, this isn't awkward at all." Rebekah's voice cuts through the tension, and Caroline turns to look at her to find out she's taking her time moving away from Stefan. It comes as a surprise that she doesn't sound disdainful, but genuinely amused. She smiles at Caroline, big and warm, and Caroline doesn't know how to react. She remembers waking up tied-up in the back of a van, with her. She remembers what she tried to do to Elena, after killing her. How little all those horrible things truly mean now, in the big scheme of things. How fast their lives are moving.
At least it gives her an excuse to avoid Klaus's eyes, right there only a few feet away, and not have to think about whether she wants to throttle him or burst into tears.
It's easier to glare at Stefan like she's truly angry at his strangely out-of-character shenanigans. "Didn't know you had company," she sing-songs.
Didn't know you were on 'hanging-out-in-my-house' terms with Klaus already. While making out with his diabolical sister. Kind of.
Stefan only smiles, "Hey there, Care"—perhaps as if he knows someone else is meant to explain the situation.
Caroline isn't even surprised that it's Klaus who speaks, the first words he's said to her since they ran out of Champagne and she had to go get herself kidnapped by a group of pissed-off hybrids. That he later on massacred.
"We're all a happy family now, sweetheart," he says, and Caroline has no option but to turn around and look at him. It's only polite, even if she refuses to return his smile when he adds, "Like old times."
"Not exactly like old time, Nik," Rebekah protests.
Caroline feels stupid standing up in the middle of the room when everyone else is sitting down, so she quickly moves to sit on an armchair next to where Stefan is sitting on the couch, which just happens to be as far away from Klaus as it's possible within the confinements of the living room. Unfortunately for her, being away from him means she is sitting right in front of him, so avoiding his intense gaze is kind of impossible. He doesn't stop looking into her eyes even as he bickers with Rebekah.
"Well, you're right, little sister. Let's hope we all learned our lessons for the roaring twenties." His smile grows sharper when he asks, "Don't you agree, Stefan?"
Stephan nods. "Of course. Full disclosure now. I know who you are, your father is dead and I am a vegetarian." He smiles. "And we're all back on vervain, so there's little point in trying to make me forget your sister."
"Oh, Stefan. Don't be a fool. You know that of all the innumerable men my sister has fallen in love with over the centuries, you're undoubtedly my favourite."
"Don't fret, sister. I'm not being mean. You know I couldn't let Mikael get a hold of you." His eyes flash to Caroline, as they do every few words, before they settle on Stefan's amused expression. "But I finally killed Mikael, with your help of course, Stefan, and now we all have a second chance to make things right."
A second chance. Of course he's looking at Caroline when he says that. As if she has anything to do with their weird three-way partnership, or whatever-in-hell happened during the twenties. God even knows. She suspects Klaus isn't even talking of the twenties at all, but she is so notplaying this game with him. If he wants to tell her something, he better say it plainly. She isn't going to guess.
"That's awfully nice of you, Nik. Why is that I don't believe you?"
"Because you have trust issues, Beks." he smirks, and honestly, there's nothing Caroline can do to suppress the snort that comes out of her nose. Wonder what makes you have 'trust issues' after an eternity being dragged around by the Big Bad Klaus and his shitload of emotional instabilities. "You also don't believe I have their best interests at heart, love?"
She frowns, her brows pulling down on her eyes with such strain that she can imagine the stress headache she'd be going through right now, if she wasn't dead. If looks could kill indestructible original vampires, really. He'd be dead right now, and she'd have a lot less problems. Uggh. "What do you even care?" she snaps.
It's loud and angry, and it doesn't fit the scene at all. Honestly, Caroline doesn't freaking get the scene. What is wrong with Stefan? Is really Rebekah that good a lay that he has forgotten what happened the last time they even thought of fraternizing with these people?
The silence that follows her outburst is deafening, and even though Caroline stays strong and doesn't pull her eyes away from Klaus for a second, she has no trouble picturing Rebekah's mocking expression, or Stefan's frown. Klaus stops smirking, at least. At last. And damn it, maybe that's enough to justify her refusal to be conciliatory. His eyes grow serious, yet soft, as he quietly speaks. "I do care, Caroline. That was never the problem."
It hits her like a wooden bullet drenched in vervain. But didn't she already know that? He cares. He cares too bad, too much. He cares and doesn't really know how to.
"Of course you cared, Nik. You cared so much I chose Stefan over you that you pulled a dagger in my heard and boxed me up for ninety years." She doesn't even sound angry, or heartbroken, as any normal person would be. She sounds half resigned, and half burning up with snark. "My heart hurts for you."
She's being sarcastic, but that is the tragedy, isn't it? Klaus couldn't have her sister leaving him after a thousand years together. For a vampire she had just met.
Klaus growls, baring his teeth like a rabid dog. The sketchpad falls from his lap onto the carpet, soundless. "I did that for you! Mikael would have killed you both in a second."
Whatever. Caroline wants to roll her eyes. He crossed them before they could cross him. His sister and the friend he wanted as a true brother. He couldn't trust them. Stefan was right. It always goes back to that, doesn't it? It's amazing to see the way the rage dissipates from his features, the second he realizes Rebekah might be taunting him, but she has no intention of fighting with him. Wasn't he all about second chances not five minutes ago?
Stefan's voice seeps through the tension as pacifying as usual. "As you just said, Klaus, we all learned our lessons from what happened in Chicago. We can do it right this time."
Klaus's tiny smile looks almost genuinely glad. "Rebekah will be good for you, Stefan. For all your big talk of everlasting love, I always thought you suffered from the same condition my good brother Elijah does."
Stefan's eyes narrow, his shoulder clench, and that's as long as their peace lasts. A whole thirty seconds. Impressive. This time, Caroline does roll her eyes at Klaus, unabashed. "Seriously?"
Rebekah speaks at the same time, her voice hard and defensive. "And what condition would that be, brother?"
Klaus ignores her, choosing to smile at Caroline instead. "You see, sweetheart. Stefan and my brother are so honourable, so ever ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of true love. But I personally always thought their self-sacrificing martyrdom to be not only ill-starred but also strangely ill-gotten as well. It seems rather superficial of them to be eternally falling in love with a girl with the same face—not to mention all of them are related." Still smiling, his eyes locked on hers, he actually tsks tsks. "That is just creepy."
Caroline hates herself for having to repress a chuckle. She knows that however hard she tries to conceal her amusement, the smile seeps into her eyes, even if her lips remain pressed tightly. It might be because she still isn't really not angry at Elena, after what happened with Damon, or because of the old resentment she used to feel, back when she was brimming with insecurities and petty jealousies. Back when she really believed that Elena Gilbert was worth a lot more than her.
Rebekah scoffs, obviously still expecting the blow to come her way. "Of course, Nik. I forgot that your love for the original doppelganger—and what a strumpet she was—was so pure and strong that you never wanted anything from any of the copies or, you know, any other woman you ever met, except to, well, eat them."
Yeah, that isn't creepy at all, right? Also—what? How is that after months of enduring Klaus's very much not subtle advances this is the first time she's hearing the tale of a great big love in his past—a great big love that, according to Rebekah's malicious implication, Klaus has remained faithful to over the centuries. Is this original doppelganger also a vampire, like Katherine and Elena? Is she still around? No, it can't be. Wasn't the original doppelganger the one Esther used—?
"Oh, I forgot again—" Rebekah's voice sounds positively gleeful. "You ate Tatia too, didn't you? In fact, if memory doesn't deceive me—it's been over a thousand years, after all—we all did."
Caroline can hear the evil smile in her voice, and once again, she doesn't know whether she should be amused that Rebekah isn't letting Klaus get away with teasing her cruelly over her incipient re-found romance with Stefan, or horrified of this tale of eating doppelgangers.
"A drink, anyone?"
Thank God, Caroline sighs. Brilliant as Stefan often is, he has cleverly ignored the bickering siblings in his living room long enough to grab a bottle of expensive scotch—for Klaus's sake, Caroline imagines—and four whisky glasses. It seems that the conversation is heading that way after all, so Caroline nods her head enthusiastically, almost begging for the alcohol. She feels she needs at least three long gulps before she can hear another word about Klaus's prehistoric love life and how he ate the girl he loved. He also kind of ate Elena, didn't he? Katherine seems the feistiest version, for sure. The only one who willingly chose to become a dark creature of the night to spit in Klaus's face what she thought of his precious little ritual.
Caroline would have a great deal of admiration for her, if not for the little detail of how Katherine murdered her because of an old grudge against the Salvatores. The story of her life, honestly.
"Thank you," she says, a little too empathically, when Stefan fills up her glass. She downs it immediately without a wince, quickly extending her hand again so Stefan refills it before he can extend the favour to his other two guests.
Klaus chuckles and Rebekah groans. "I honestly don't see what you see in this peasant, Nik. She has no manners."
Caroline turns her face to her so fast she nearly snaps her own neck which, really, would have been very unfortunate. "Excuse you?"
Both Klaus and Stefan speak at the same time and Caroline smiles because it is Rebekah getting scolded. Who has no matters, then? Caroline has perfect manners, thank you very much. One does not become Miss Mystic Falls being a peasant, as Rebekah says. Not that there is anything wrong with being a peasant, anyway. Damn these European aristocrats and their pathetic snobbism.
Stefan sits back down, far too close to Rebekah for Caroline to be totally okay with it. He raises his glass, as yet another peace offering. "What were we talking about?"
Now, that is definitely the wrong thing to say.
But Klaus smiles, like he hasn't stopped doing all throughout Rebekah's provocations about the original doppelganger and whatnot. "My sister was trying and failing to annoy me by reminding me of how much of a sentimental young man I used to be, when I was human."
Now Rebekah openly laughs. "Right, brother. Because you aren't sentimental now."
"Au contraire, Rebekah." The smile remains relentless on his mouth, but a dark cloud sweeps over his bright blue eyes, covering them in shadows. "As opposed to you—" And his eyes find Stefan, deliberately jumping over Caroline which is such a lame move she cannot believe it has come from him—"I know better now."
Sipping from his glass, Stefan shakes his head and returns Klaus's gaze with as much intensity. "What was that you said about my brother and Elena breaking the sire bond—?"
Klaus eyes narrow, but the wolfish smile perseveres. "You mean when Damon told her he never wanted to see her again and she disobeyed, breaking the sire bond and demonstrating her love for him was genuine? Yeah, that must have stung, Stefan, but I've been informed by quite the rebellious little hybrid that true love is stronger than fake loyalty."
Now his eyes are on Caroline, and really, ugggh.
She is so ready to stand up and kick him in the shin, really. Must he remind them? They all know about Damon and Elena and their star-crossed routine. Also, why oh why is he picking a fight again? Hinting at Tyler and what happened when he broke his sire bond, really—what is wrong with him? Whatever this evening even is, it needs to stop going in circles and just end now. Her eyes turn to Stefan to check whether he's been hit by Klaus's malice and she's surprised to find him unaffected, smiling back at Klaus and proudly raising to the challenge. It honestly makes Caroline feel more concerned about Rebekah's feelings, which is all kinds of messed-up.
"Yeah, that time—" Stefan replies, and he sounds almost amused—"nice how you tried to detour my words. Not working, by the way. Remember what you said?"
It's Klaus turn to conceal his quivering smile with his tumbler as he swallows the scotch so slowly that everyone in the room can hear as it pours down his throat. It makes Caroline squirm, and she adds that to the list of reasons why she hates him. Right next to the massacring of half their town and the eating of his girlfriends.
Gosh, is she drunk already? She can't be. She hates her own thoughts so much.
Klaus is ready for the blow. "What did I say, Stefan?"
Stefan grins in triumph. "You said that, unlike the sire bond—" And hey, who's thinking of the slaughtered hybrids now? Certainly not Caroline, who's having enough of a hard time looking at her drink to dodge the loaded glances Rebekah keeps throwing her way, asking her to pay attention, this is about her after all—
—"real love doesn't go away just because you want it too. So keep on lying to yourself, Klaus. I'm with Rebekah on this. You're really no different now than you were then."
Surprisingly, Klaus doesn't say or do anything. He holds Stefan's gaze in his, and simply keeps quiet and immobile.
Silence gives consent, doesn't it? That's reassuring, Caroline thinks. Klaus can love, after all; those girls he only eats unwittingly.
Isn't that romantic?
Turning doesn't change who you are, after all. Only heightens who you were.
And yet Caroline can't help but wonder how a thousand years of loneliness can affect a monster's allegedly enhanced sentimentality.
Klaus and Rebekah leave shortly after that.
Klaus doesn't take defeat too well, and hey, who's surprised? There's no strained talk of guests overstaying their welcome, but Klaus bends to pick up his stupid sketchpad from the carpet and completely ignores whatever implications one may draw from Stefan's little speech about love and feelings—which really isn't Klaus's style at all. He avoids their eyes—Caroline's especially, which makes her feel weird—and simply stands up. "It's getting late, Rebekah," is all he says, like he's the actual boss of her.
Caroline is expecting another fight, another violent surge of only half-friendly (and actually half-vicious) bantering to follow, when Rebekah refuses to leave her boyfriend—if that is the right word for it, Caroline isn't sure—alone with the cheerleading queen bee for the rest of the evening. Caroline actually has ready a pretty good retort, tired of being silenced and intimated by the unrelenting back and forth of the older, cooler kids around her, when in response to Klaus's directive Rebekah simply stands up from the couch, grabbing Stefan's hand and quite demandingly forces him to walk them to the front door.
Caroline is still processing the whys and wherefores of whatever happened when Stefan returns to the living room, smiling like a damn fool.
"So I guess Rebekah has definitely forgiven you for daggering her after she told you about the cure?" There's no malicious intent in her words, honest to God; despite how her wording makes it seem like it was actually Stefan who put the dagger through her heart, and not her brother. Again.
It's a good thing that Stefan knows Caroline, though. He only smiles, still sheepishly and annoyingly cute. "She understands."
Yeah, well. It seems like Caroline is the only one having problems being so understanding all of a sudden. "She understands what? That you really needed to find the cure to have children and grow old with Elena?"
She doesn't mean for her voice to rise as it does; doesn't mean to sound angry at all, even if she feels angry; but seriously, don't any of her friends know better than sleeping with the enemy and expecting things to be just peachy? Perhaps she's trying to ignite Stefan, to get a reaction out of him that she can deal with from the place she is at right now: back at status quo with the monster who draws her pictures and murders her boyfriend's mother just to make him hurt. Perhaps. She's definitely expecting Stefan to react in anger, to be hurt by the implication that he has either forgotten Elena overnight, or is playing Rebekah in a sickening long game, and the poor girl is too much of a sick love fool to realize she is being manipulated, again.
But Stefan doesn't get angry. He only shakes his head with a calibre of condescension that makes Caroline's veins pull around her eyes. "Things change, Caroline. Elena doesn't want the cure, and—look, when Klaus woke up Rebekah the first time, she asked me if I thought I would ever love someone like I had loved Elena. I told her that I hoped I would. It was a lie, and she caught me immediately." He pauses, and when his eyes open into Caroline's, they're clear and calm. "It isn't a lie anymore, and Rebekah knows that."
It's heart-warming, really, to see genuine hope in her friend's eyes for the first time in such a long time. It makes Caroline feel lighter just to hopewith him. But she stills frowns, because things might change, but it seems to her like too many things are changing at the same time, much too fast for her comfort. "But you're still looking for the cure, right? Rebekah was ready to face Klaus's wrath before letting him find it just weeks ago. So… what else has changed, Stefan?"
He shrugs, like all of this really just rolls off him. He's lost the girl he loved, he's estranged from his brother, and he's starting again with the surrogate family he embraced back when he was a remorseless mass murderer. Nothing wrong with that, right?
"Nine hundred years ago Rebekah betrayed her brothers because she wanted to be human again," he says after a while, sounding almost nonchalant. "They had promised to be together for all eternity, and she chose love with a mortal man instead."
"So?" Seriously. So?
"So she never believed that Klaus wanted the cure just to make more hybrids. I think that now, after what happened with the hybrids he managed to create—" There's a pause, a small grimace, a dropped glance to the floor. Caroline feels that particular stab too. "But even before that, Rebekah always thought that Klaus wanted to find the cure so he could destroy it, so it can't be used as a weapon against him. And Rebekah didn't want the cure destroyed, in case that it happened again, that she fell in love with a human—"
She had been trying to gain Matt's affections, then, and the part of Caroline that still stings when she remembers what Matt had done, after he found out what she was—that part of her feels nauseated at the thought of Rebekah choosing a mortal life with the good man that could have been hers. It makes her burn with misplaced anger. "So what? Now that she's in love with a vampire she's okay with Klaus destroying the cure?"
Too many thoughts are rushing through her head, violent and powerful like the rush of blood that she craves down her throat. She doesn't even register what she's said, at first. In love. That's what Klaus said about Rebekah's feelings, right? Whatever. She knows she's making assumptions that aren't meant for her to make, but after such a long time of thinking about the cure as a possible way out—she can't even process it. The thought of looking for it only to destroy it paralyzes her with fear. Is Stefan okay with that? She might not want the cure right now, might not be ready to—not now. But what happens in a hundred years? In a thousand years? Aren't they exhausted?
She can't even think of having that window closed forever, now that it has been opened. Being alive again. One day. If the chance exists.
"It's not that, Caroline." Stefan's voice sounds dead serious, yet remains calm and ever composed. "No one wants to destroy the cure."
Her voice comes out ridiculously small. "Not even Klaus?"
Klaus is the most immortal of them all. Regardless of what he says, if someone should be exhausted enough so as to wish to be mortal—
"Not even Klaus," Stefan assures her, one hand resting on her shoulder. "If the cure is a weapon, then I imagine what Klaus wants is to get a hold of it so he can use it against his enemies," he explains, grabbing the bottle of scotch again and refilling their glasses. He sits on the couch, closer to her.
"So you don't think he's going to create more hybrids? That he'll force the cure down Elena's throat?"
She's assuming the cure is like cough syrup. It's simpler, even though it most probably will be an ancient spell that will put them all under unconceivable amounts of pain. Retribution. The price to pay to end their curse.
Stephan shakes his head no. "I don't think that's his priority right now."
"No," Caroline agrees. "He's all about second chances with his old happy family these days."
He catches her meaning, but he's far too classy to take the bait. He doesn't say, we talked about this, Caroline. Doesn't mention Klaus's issues with trust; doesn't name any names—Damon, Elena—to excuse his behaviour. Getting involved with Rebekah; being in friendly terms with Klaus again. Like he doesn't know—like Caroline doesn't have enough information so as to make an educated guess—that if you commit to it, to become someone Klaus can trust, family, then that is forever. A deal with the devil signed willing in blood. Try and run away and he'll murder everyone you've ever met—make you feel just as alone; just as betrayed, for a family bond goes both ways. He'll love you if you love him.
It's a crazy thought, but there's little Caroline can do, except running for the hills, or choosing to play along.
"So how do you imagine it is?" she asks, "an eternity with the originals?"
"Why? Are you actually thinking of accepting my brother's offer?"
Caroline almost screams. Of course when she turns around Rebekah is right there, creeping on her like the dark creature she is and positively cooing. So satisfied of whatever she thinks she has understood from Caroline's words.
She wants to murder the damned original Barbie using just her nails. "What are you doing here?" she hisses.
"Forgot my chem. book," she beams smugly. There's no trace of any chemistry book anywhere to be found in Stefan's living room, obviously, but Rebekah doesn't seem to give a damn about how blatant her lie is, as she walks towards Stefan, dropping a quick kiss on his lips before getting comfortable on the armchair Klaus had been sitting on only minutes ago. "I've decided I'm spending the night, after all. We should bond, Caroline, if you are planning to spend eternity with my family."
Oh, if glares could kill indestructible original vampires.
How much easier Caroline's existence would be. Mostly because she has the pressing suspicion that they're playing her. The fighting, the random conversation about Tatia, the smooth exist after Klaus accepted defeat without throwing a tantrum—she feels like the whole evening has been staged just to get under her skin. And what is worse, she is starting to believe that Stefan is playing along with them, and against her. But no—one look his way confirms that he is as confused about Rebekah's stunt as she is. He's frowning, his shoulders tense, like he doesn't know whether he should say something that might eventually piss off Rebekah—which could potentially be worse for all of them.
In the end he chooses to stand up, eyes still narrowed. "That seems like a good idea, Beks," he says, offering a pacifying yet clearly fake smile. "I'm going to take a walk around the house—just because. I'll let you girls to bond. Please play nice."
With that he's out of the room, and Caroline has no trouble smirking at Rebekah, glad that Stefan is not only on her side, but also that he believes there's something shady going on with Klaus and Rebekah too. He's clearly going to look for Klaus—or so Caroline hopes. Make sure he hasn't returned with his sister, and is hiding behind closed doors, with his ears wide open. So he can use Rebekah to manipulate his way into Caroline's head. Or so he can find out whether they're double-crossing him one more time. Because, you see? Trust is everything, and they've given him even less reasons to trust them that he has given them to trust him—cold-blooded mass murder and all included.
But oh, it wasn't cold-blooded at all, was it?
"So how is it," Caroline asks again, only this time there's even less 'hypothetically speaking' about it that before, "living with your brother for over a thousand years?"
She was always a very curious person, after all, and it's been hard, trying to forget the first time she talked to Klaus, that sad night she was ready to die, feverish and depressed, and he made her want to live—forever. That's it—full disclosure now, Caroline. She has actually thought about it, like a million times a day. She gets extra credit however for smothering the thought each time it assaults her; or better yet, for convincing herself that an eternity with Klaus was what eternal damnation was supposed to be like. Being condemned to hell forever.
Forever, with the most the most terrible monster in the world.
Rebekah, despite appearances, is far too intelligent to take her question seriously. She hasn't lived for over a thousand years for nothing, you see. "You shouldn't say things like that unless you mean them, Caroline. It's hardly a game—not when it comes to Nik."
Ha, tell her something she doesn't know already.
Wasn't she thinking along those lines not minutes ago? If you agree to that kind of deal, it's forever. As in, really forever. Not what poor human souls mean when they say forever. And no, she's not thinking of committing herself to that—but Stefan is, and that grants her the right to at least entertain the thought. She is going to live forever, maybe; and they, the originals and Stefan, are also going to live forever, more than maybe. The world is not so big a place, after all. Not when only a few are sharing it as their playground for all eternity. They're bound to bump into each other even if—
Klaus waited for a thousand years to break the curse. Who's saying he's going to ever grow tired of chasing her?
See, that's the thing—little matters what she feels now (she tells herself, time and time again), because, well—
—forever is enough time for anyone to change their mind.
Caroline can't say that she's surprised when, after not five minutes of sitting alone at the bar of The Grill, he approaches her, sitting on the stool next to hers like they're best friends.
It's been, what? Three days since their little get-together at Stefan's?
Rebekah has been nothing but friendly at school; not one comment out of place, not a milligram of unnecessary snark coming out of her sharp smile. Caroline's grateful for that—it's a lot easier to deal with an affable Rebekah than with the insane erratic version of her that used to stab her friends with pencils in the middle of class—but she still hasn't found the opportunity to resume their conversation about, well—her brother. Before Caroline had time to explain that she did mean her question, about spending an eternity with Klaus, kind of, Rebekah had metaphorically jumped at the jugular, asking very direct and unapologetic questions about the "so-called platonic" nature of Caroline's relationship with Stefan. Rebekah's choice of words had been so undignified that Caroline had been temped to tell her to mind her own business; take advantage of her insecurities and let her believe that maybe, there were things about their friendship that Stefan and Caroline simply preferred to keep to themselves. But in spite of Rebekah's not-so-passive-aggressive interrogation, Caroline had been unable to toy with her. There was something disturbingly familiar in the girl's insecurity. It was clear as day that she was afraid that, no matter what she did or how hard she tried, she would always come in second to Elena. To Katherine. To the doppelganger's face and spirit that her brothers had loved once.
That was bad enough without having to add any other potential threats into the mix, Caroline knows.
She quickly found herself feeling genuine sympathy for the Rebekah. Enough that when she asked Caroline if they were friends now, after their bonding session—which was mostly Rebekah talking about how Stefan was really into her, and she'd stake each and every doppelganger that ever was if they ever dared stand in the way of their love—Caroline had only protested, "You know you killed my best friend, right?"
Rebekah barely shrugged. "You killed my brother. Two of them, actually, but Nik is right. Finn was more fun in a box."
And that is all they talked about the issue, because, point taken, even if Klaus never died, they all believe he did. She can't imagine Rebekah's grief, after a thousand years—
—Caroline didn't find it her to ask, how can she love Klaus so much that she keeps forgiving him, again and again and again, for over a thousand years worth of constant abuse and manipulation.
Well, maybe she can directly ask him herself now.
His voice, so close for the first time in such a long time (it feels to her), sounds exactly like she remembers it: low and deep and soft as velvet. She really wants to punch him when she realizes her greeting has gotten stuck in her throat, along with the useless breath she forgot to let out when he spoke.
She can only nod, a silent hey there, but he doesn't seem to mind. She already has a drink—a soda, really, kind of pathetic—so he orders for himself, on the rocks, and barely wastes a second before attacking. "You know, I always wondered about your silly little plan to take me down last Christmas, which, granted—and this is the funny part—was only the cover story of another plan to sacrifice twelve hybrids so as to resuscitate some old witch, so a wolf girl could reunite with her parents, if I'm not mistaken. Excuse me, the details are all fuzzy. You have to concede such contrivances make little sense to me—"
He's trying to be cute, on top of everything else. He's addressing what none of them have dared to talk about directly and with so many words since it happened—they day she and Stefan agreed to help Tyler take down Klaus, ignorant that the plan was never against Klaus to begin with, but against those twelve poor miserable hybrids who were meant to be sacrificed as pigs in a slaughterhouse. Carol Lockwood was the collateral victim—if Klaus had killed just the hybrids, Caroline knows now, he would have been played like a chess piece by a little slutty wolf girl—a little slutty wolf girl that Caroline's boyfriend had trusted over her.
"—but I honestly don't care about the wolf girl or, well, my hybrids at this point," he continues. His gaze on hers in unshakable, and he looks completely unaffected by what he is saying. Like what happened that night was completely and utterly irrelevant to his concerns. "What I am really curious about is, imagine for a second, love, that there had been a witch. Had you put me in Rebekah's body, where would you have placed my little sister? Now, imagine the plan you thought you were working for was not only real, but also successful. What would you have done with my body? What would have happened when Rebekah woke up in it? Personally, I imagine she would have torn all of you to tiny little shreds, simply for the bad taste required to put me in her body. That's rather—indecorous of you, don't you agree?"
Wow, nice speech.
Now she really wants to punch him, which makes it so much easier to find her voice and load it with as much sarcasm as she can muster. "You've been rehearsing that piece of crap of a smartass speech for the past two months, haven't you?"
He smiles at her, wide and open. "You know me too well, love. Another reason why I don't understand how you could ever think that your wolf boy's impetuous but certainly short-sighted attempt at revenge would end in anything but tragedy for him."
Well, fuck him.
Klaus's dimpled smile brings up memories and feelings she doesn't want, not ever; but not especially when he's talking of Tyler, and what he did to him—so she steels her face and narrows her eyes. "You don't get to talk to me about Tyler."
He raises his hands in mock defeat. "Fair enough, love," he says, fast, as his eyes grow serious and his smile vanishes as quickly as it had burst all over his ridiculous face. "You owe me no loyalty, Caroline. I know that. You did what you had to do. You stood by the boy you love and, believe me or not, sweetheart, I do respect that."
Oh, look at him being such an honourable mass murderer. She wants to roll her eyes, but can't. She's absolutely powerless when the words slip out of her mouth, uninvited and unwanted.
"I didn't," is all she says.
She didn't. She knows she didn't, but Klaus doesn't understand, and at last that picks up his interest. Genuine puzzlement crosses his features, and Caroline realizes that, if they're going to talk about it, she has to be honest. She may not owe him her loyalty (she doesn't) but after what happened, she at least owes him her honesty. So she elaborates, "I didn't do what I had to do. I should have been honest with Tyler. The whole day, we—me and Stefan—we kept trying to put it off and—" The temptation to look away from his inquisitive eyes is overwhelming, but Caroline is strong. She resists as she struggles to say what's on her mind, what's been on her mind, twisting and turning without stop, for over two months now—"we were making excuses, about the sword and the cure and, I don't know. We tried to stop them and they locked us up and, yes, whatever, I know you know all this already, if you know about Hayley's parents and the rest of the deal but, I should say it. I didn't want Tyler to sacrifice himself for his pack. I really didn't give a damn about his pack and I didn't understand, why it was so important to him, because, yes, I know that the freaky sire bond is gross but Tyler broke it on his own, so why was it our responsibility to help them and—"
"Caroline, sweetheart, you're babbling, and you're running out of air." He's not smiling, and that is so weird to her. But he nods in the direction of her soda, and his voice is gentle when he says, "Drink."
He doesn't add, and get to the point, but she still gets his meaning. So with a deep breath to fill up her lungs, so she feels braver and stronger, she finally says what she wants to say. "I didn't—we didn't want to do it. Go behind your back and—and, well, we didn't want you gone. I told Stefan and he told me and I—I should have told Tyler, too."
Klaus doesn't look surprised at all at her confession, and Caroline isn't really surprised, either, at his lack of surprise. He must have known, or else neither she nor Stefan would be alive. Still Caroline is waiting for the kudos she deserves for admitting it to him. It doesn't come, and it irritates her to no end when leaning closer, husky voice dropping even lower, he presses. "What exactly should you have told Tyler, love?"
She doesn't back off. She can't—not now. So she answers unabated. "I should have been honest with him and told him what I thought. That he was getting carried away. That he had done his duty to his pack already. He had set them free, and if they were really free, then they could either fight or flight by themselves. That his vendetta against you was personal and petty and he needed to let it go before it was too late."
Now he smiles, like he knows something she doesn't, and it unnerves her so much that she keeps on speaking. Says out loud what she only meant to think. "That he had nothing to fear. He was free from you and I was his, and it didn't matter how many times you and me danced or drank Champagne, or how many horses you drew me." It works. His eyes snap to hers and his jaw clenches, and for the first time since she felt the prickling in her nape that let her know he had entered the bar, she feels like she might be on her way to one day, eventually, holding the upper hand. So she mentally crouches before she jumps. "It didn't matter how much you wanted me or how hard you tried to get me—"she swallows, breathes in, and jumps—"because I would never choose you."
He dodges her attack with the grace of a billion-year-old original hybrid, rising to the challenge with a deep smiling tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Be grateful that you didn't, then."
God almighty, can she punch him now?
He looks so smug, draining what remains of his sophisticated drink before silently ordering a second round for the both of them, just with a tiny flick of his wrist. Like her intention to dent his unbreakable armour hasn't even registered.
"You see, Caroline," he smirks, looking actually triumphant, "if you had told Tyler what you just said, he would have forgotten all about the plan and come straight to me, mad with jealousy, and he would have tried something that would have ended with his heart crushed in my hand. You can't tell a boy not to kill another boy because you don't care about the second boy, sweetheart. That makes no sense."
She wants to drown in her refilled soda. Or rather, she wants to drown him. It would be really classy, if she threw her drink at him and stormed out. If she could pull if off—which she probably couldn't, because she's eighteen and awkward and has only seen that kind of thing in the movies. Klaus is probably so used to having drinks thrown at his face that he can make it look glamorous. He has a lot more style than she does, and that's yet another reason in her list why this is—and always will be—a really truly bad idea.
Hey, isn't that Kol playing pool with Bonnie in the background? Look at her perfectly valid excuse to leave right now—
"Yes, my brother is here. Don't mind him. He won't try anything foolish under my watch."
"What? You read minds now?"
He chuckles, low and gorgeous, and Caroline hates herself so much for noticing that she gets distracted, and by the time she remembers her intentions to storm out—with or without throwing her soda at him—Klaus's index finger is toying with Caroline's middle finger on the bar, and she is paralyzed on the spot. It takes her at least ten seconds to notice he is talking, eyes fixed on their joined fingers.
"—had told him to leave me alone, Tyler would have died. If you or Stefan had come to me, and told me what he was planning, Tyler would have died. It was the momentary certainty that you and Stefan had betrayed me that signed Carol Lockwood's death sentence."
Caroline pulls her hand away, and Klaus looks up at her. His gaze is clear and open for her to read. An eye for an eye. Klaus had no one he could trust, so neither would Tyler. The only remaining hybrid besides himself.
"So let's be grateful, Caroline." His voice is so low and soft that she is sure no one else can hear him—except his brother, probably. Whatever. Caroline doesn't understand why he's chosen to have this conversation in the town's bar, where anyone could hear his tale of how and why he murdered the mayor. Maybe it speaks of his arrogance, or his indifference, or his lack of fear when it comes to taken responsibility for his actions, horrible as they may be. "Any alternative scenario to what happened that night would have ended in Tyler's death. That would have been better for Tyler, yes, but worse for you, my dear, and I don't want you hurt. So let's be grateful that you were too afraid of your feelings for me to either talk about them out loud, or do something about it and come to me with the truth. Thanks to that, your boyfriend kept his life."
—too afraid of your feelings for me.
Well, bite me, Caroline thinks.
If he thinks, even for a moment, that she is going to shy away because he's mentioned 'feelings', he'd better freaking think again. Her voice doesn't falter when she tells him, eyes steady on his, "I don't have feelings for you."
There's not a trace a doubt in the sound of her voice, and she isn't going to give up—even when he reaches out to sink his hand in her hair, gentle but demanding. Strong. She feels the tips of his fingers brushing over her scalp, and her skin burns. But when he says, so quietly, "Let's go for a walk," —
—she forgets the fire, and how dangerous it is to play with it.
She follows him outside and doesn't really give her actions a second thought.
"It's much too soon, Caroline, to talk about this," he says, after they have only walked a few steps in the direction of the town square.
He isn't taking her away from civilization, which comes as an unexpected relief. Still, she hesitates—whatever he has planned, perhaps it's better if there isn't anyone around to see.
To see her being lead away by the Big Bad Wolf like a stupid gullible Red Riding Hood who doesn't know better than talking to enthralling but dangerous strangers, that's it.
Except Caroline Forbes knows a whole lot damn better than Little Red Riding Hood.
"To talk about what?"
Klaus barely spares a glance her way. "You and me."
"Who's talking about you and me?"
"We are," he says, and then he sits down on a bench, and she can't do anything but follow suit and sit by his side.
"No, we aren't and, didn't you want to go for a walk? This isn't walking."
He smiles at her in response, one more time, and this time his smile is so wide and big that for a second she believes he's faking it, and she feels temped to breathe out, relieved. But then he speaks, his voice soft and tender and exactly like girls are always warned the wolf's voice would sound, if he were to try and lead them astray—
"I can take care of you, Caroline—no, let me rephrase that—" his little grin quivers, at last, and Caroline shivers as he says, "I want to take care of you."
He doesn't say it, but the tacit forever resonates louder than the offer of care and protection.
I want to take care of you. Caroline hardly thinks that is what this is about—is that what he wants from her? No. What he's saying is only what he's offering in return.
So all Caroline can do is ask the first question of the long list of questions she has piled up in her head. "Why?" she asks.
She lets other questions for a later date, like how often in your eternal life do you pull of this kind of thing, getting obsessed with a young naïve vampire and offering her the world and care and protection for as long as she wants it? It'll be hard to get him to trust her and not kill people out of spite if she can't trust him in return.
But how can she?
"I already told you," he says, his charming smile back in place. "Because I want to. When one is burdened with living forever, one has to learn how to do only the things he wants to do. And I want to take care of you. I want you to be with me."
She cannot be imagining the trembling in her heart, can she? She has to close her eyes before she says, "What happens if I don't want to be with you?"
Still his smile perseveres, and he leans closer on the bench. "You're so young, Caroline. Forever will have a bearing upon your soul, believe me. Now you're so attached to your human family, your human friends—" His hand grabs hers, and she can do nothing to stop it. She doesn't want to stop it. "Your human family will pass away, Caroline. Your human friends will grow old and leave you behind. Before you know it, you'll lose all awareness of the passage of time and you will barely notice them—humans and their silly little habits—unless you're hungry. The day will come, sooner than you are expecting, when you will realize that you no longer care for any human being on this earth. All those you loved will be long gone."
The words are harsh, but he's speaking gently to her. He's telling her nothing she doesn't already know. Her mom will die someday. Bonnie will leave for college; she'll find a man and she'll get married and have kids and move on with her life. So will Matt—the good hometown boy that could have been her future of two-point-five children and a white picket fence. Perhaps he'll marry April. Or Elena, if in the end she chooses her humanity over Damon. Stefan won't ever leave his brother, no matter what. They're in this forever. He's already chosen Rebekah, it seems, and—
—Caroline could be a part of that.
She could take the cure, if they ever find it, and hope for the best at her second chance of being alive. Or—
—she could try her hand at forever.
See her family fade; her human friends move on and live and die.
Let Klaus take care of her.
"The things that seem so important now, Caroline—your friends, your town, what is considered right and wrong in your quirky local community—" his smile deepens for a second, before he squeezes her fingers in his—"those things will fade, and you will remain."
She will remain. A century from now. A thousand years from now. A thousand centuries from now. Will she ever remember what it felt like, the thundering of her beating human heart, when Matt kissed her on the stage? Will she remember the warmth of her dad's embrace? The lilac smell of her mother's shampoo?
"Will I become like you?" Her voice comes out so small that at first she believes he hasn't heard her. But that is not possible, of course. Yet he doesn't say anything, and Caroline wonders if maybe he's taken it as an insult. So she tries to explain, the best she can. "Rebekah reminds me of myself sometimes," she says. "She's fiery and reckless and comes out as very aggressive sometimes, but she's very insecure. She's afraid she'll never be good enough for anyone, always second best. She feels that it'll never be her no matter how hard she tries, and I—I can sympathize with that."
Is that her best case scenario? A thousand years from now—will she be a watered down version of Rebekah Mikaelson?
"Rebekah is not so bad," Klaus says, raising an eyebrow, "but don't tell her I said that or she'll be insufferable. You, however—" his whole face softens, and Caroline remembers it then, so loud that she almost believes it's real, the thundering of her human beating heart. "You'll never be second best for me, Caroline. That is a promise, and I don't make promises I can't keep."
She actually raises her free hand in frustration. "You don't even know me!"
How is she supposed to resist his super-romantic onslaught forever? How!? She knows her resolve is quivering, that it has been shaking for a while now. She's determined to fight it for as long as she can, but how much longer is that going to be? She's growing tired, and the more tired she grows, the less terrifying the prospect of becoming someone like Rebekah, a thousand years down the line, becomes in her book. Rebekah kills and hurts when she feels she has to, or needs to, or wants to—but she never stops feeling, never gives up on loving. Random, terrible men she's always falling in love with. Stefan. Her family. Her dearest half-brother Nik most of all.
"I never knew Caroline before she died, that's true," Klaus says, after a few seconds of silence. "But I see you now, love. I see you much more clearly than you see yourself, and I know what you can be—what you will be. And the thought of not being there with you—well, sweetheart. I must confess it drives me crazy."
Seriously. If vampires could blush.
She feels about to catch fire, wishing for all that is worth that she could feel the bitter cold of the late winter night on her cheeks, so she could blame it on the whether, the shivers going down her spine. So she could catch a break from the overwhelming heat she feels coming from him. She shakes her head at him, this close to admitting defeat. "You never desist, do you?"
He lets go of her hand with a soft laugh, shrugging his shoulders. "For eleven centuries my only concern was to protect my family from those who wanted to see us killed, and my only mission to break the curse that had been cast on me by my own mother. I've learned that patience and perseverance are not incompatible virtues, if the goal is worth it."
"Yeah," Caroline chuckles, in spite of herself. "You're quite the virtuous man."
"I'm not a man, Caroline."
That's it: the heart of the matter. He's not a man. She's not a girl. She still remembers how it was, being girly girl Caroline Forbes. But one day she won't remember, and then—
—she wonders how they do it, Klaus and Rebekah and Elijah too, she supposes from what Elena has told her. Do all those horrible things they do, and yet feel so much, all the time. Why not turn the humanity switch off and just enjoy their massacring in peace?
"But you were a man once," she rebuts, "and your humanity doesn't simply vanish when you become a vampire. You have to turn it off, and you haven't."
It's not a question. There's no doubt about that. If there wasn't anything human in him, he wouldn't be so terrified of being alone. He wouldn't react with so much rage and pain over feeling betrayed. It wouldn't matter that he has no one he can trust—it'd make no difference to his blood thirst.
He doesn't fidget—original vampires don't fidget—but he claps his hands together before he says, "There are only two kinds of vampires, Caroline."
She smiles wide in mock hope. "Good ones and bad ones?"
Klaus acknowledges her lame joke with a small nod before he grows serious. "No, sweetheart, strong ones and weak ones. Those who accept what they are, and those who don't. When you have lived for a thousand years, you'll know that there is no switch—not really. The switch is only a form of denial, a coping mechanism for those who can't reconcile what they are and what they feel."
Well, that's one scary thought.
"But don't worry, love. You're one of the strong ones."
She stupidly wishes he would hold her hand again. "How do you know?"
"I've seen my share of vampires over the centuries, and you, sweetheart, are exceptional."
Now, at last, she rolls her eyes. "Shut up."
"But it's true!" He turns to her, lifting his leg onto the bench and sitting on his foot like an over-enthusiastic child. He takes her hand in his, once again. "And as I promised, I will take care of you, Caroline. Forever."
He's moved forward on the bench, and by the time she realizes what is happening, his face is only inches away from her. It takes a lot of effort on her part not to allow herself to simply go and hide in the intensity of his blue eyes, and whatever, who cares that he's like, the bloodiest murderer to ever murdered? But she stays strong, because Caroline is strong, and instead of leaning even closer she leans back on the bench, turning her body away. She doesn't stop looking at him, though.
"I haven't said yes, and you've already said forever," she begins to say, unsure but determined. She needs to say this. She feels that once they getthis out the way, they'll finally be able to move on. Even if they move only closer and closer and closer until she disappears into him. "I can't say yes, you know that. Not now—and not in any way, either. But—" She adds but, quickly, and when he smiles he smiles so ridiculously happy that she mirrors the gesture, even if it makes her feel silly and light-headed. But. "But I can promise something in return."
He keeps on smiling, despite the warning in his words. "If you promise, Caroline—"
She doesn't let him finish. Doesn't want to imagine the warning morphing into a threat—not now. So she squeezes his hand and nods. "I won't betray you," she says. She promises. "I won't go behind your back. I—I care about you—there, I said it! I care about you enough to admit that I don't want you to—um, I don't want you to not be here. So if my friends, or anyone else in this town tries some funny business against you, I will fight them."
She will. Fight them. For Klaus. The way she didn't dare in Christmas.
With a soft caress of his thumb along the ridges of her knuckles (she isn't trembling, shut up), he stands up, and she follows him. She can't stay seated, looking at him from bellow. That's weird. So what if when she stands up without thinking, she ends up, like, a lot closer to him than she was expecting?
The shock of his breath—why is he even breathing anyway?—on her face sends her reeling, stupidly, and she actually stumbles, which only manages to pull her even closer. Of course (of course!) his arms immediately circle her waist, holding her firmly against him. He could be the gentleman he usually is and hold her away from him, but why would he ever stop being impossible unless he's being forced to play nice, really.
When he speaks, he feels his chest moving against her. That's how close they are.
"You'll fight the bad guys for me?"
Umm, no. Not really. "You are the bad guy."
And truly, she hates herself for the husky little voice that comes out of her throat, positively sultry and shameful. It's all his fault. His impossibly strong arms have no business being wrapped around her. Like he's embracing her or something. Can he please not? She bends her wrists to press her palms to his chest, hoping he'll get the memo and move away. He doesn't. It's a stupid memo, anyway. If he doesn't want to let her go, there is little she can do to pull away. A lot less she can do if it's her stupid treacherous undead body that seems not all too happy at the thought of, you know, stepping back from him.
"Tell your thoughts to be quiet, love. The racket of their incessant fluttering is keeping me from enjoying this right now."
"Shut up," she pleads, and she hangs her head in shame. If only so she doesn't have to look at his stupid and ridiculously handsome face, not two inches from her. Why did she decide heels were a good idea today? But also because, you are the bad guy was such a junior-year Caroline move, she feels pathetic.
To his credit—which damnably keeps on ever increasing—he lets her go just like that, with a smile and a courteous nod. He turns away to begin to walk away, but she grabs his arm—okay, maybe because muscle memory doesn't disappear in just a few months, who would have guessed, and she feels the sharp cool breeze on her skin when he moves away.
He looks at her hand with a question in his eyes, and then at her. She only says, "I will fight them," she smiles a little. "The bad guys. Me and Stefan. And Rebekah, and Elijah and even the crazy one with the pool cue who, by the way, needs to stop bothering my friend, or she'll hurt him. She's a really powerful witch, like Willow Rosenberg powerful, and she really hates vampires. And yeah, I'm sure your brother is, like, the worstvampire on earth. So—"
He looks so amused at her, really. No wonder he enjoys her. "So?"
So she's babbling like a fool. Whatever. Won't stop happening, so he'd better get used to it, if he has plans for forever. "So don't go all emo Edward again." Simple, right? He has people he can trust. "You're not alone."
He's not alone. He never was—not really. He won't ever be.
He nods and she knows he knows, the things she doesn't say. Her hand is still on his forearm, which makes it all the more unfortunate when he turns fully towards her and raises his other hand to cup her cheek. Just like that, they're back in another compromising position, ten yards away from the town square. But oh, he is so not going to kiss her. That's lame and dumb and she won't allow it.
Thank goodness he only speaks. "There's something you should know, love." She already doesn't like it, but as if he'd care about that, right? "If when the time comes to make a decision you decide that you don't want to be with me—" he makes a pause for effect, but he doesn't stop running her thumb up and down her cheek, his eyes digging holes into her soul. Literally. "—it won't make much of a difference to me. I'll respect your decision, love, but I thought it'd be fair to warn you that, were you to choose not to be with me, I'll stay close, to make sure you're alright, yes, but, more importantly, Caroline, you will know I'm around. Just in case you ever change your mind."
Uh. Stalker much?
That's the funny thing about forever, though. It's, well—forever. It never ends.
Sort of like his determination to have her give up to him.
Which is annoying and unnerving and so beyond your typical stalker behaviour that it really makes no sense that her reaction to it is to lean closer, raise on her toes, and brush her lips against his.
It barely lasts a second, the pressure of his lips against hers. But it takes as much strength as Caroline can gather to pull away, not give up just yet—
—(forever is such a long time)—
—and simply let go of his arm and his mouth with a small smile.
"Okay," she whispers, so low.
"Okay," he mutters back, one last smile before flashing out into de night.
She might have kissed him—kind of—but she hasn't signed the deal. Not yet.
It's no mystery anymore, however, that it's only a matter of time; and she wishes she could call up a girlfriend and share the whole story of how she ended up in this mess (forever) with the most dangerous dark creature in the world. But she can't tell Bonnie, and she can't tell Elena, and hey, there's a crazy thought—
—maybe she'll text Rebekah when she gets home.
Thanks for reading!