Disclaimer: I own nothing.
AN: As of writing this I've only seen season 4 through episode 6 "We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes." I've tried to keep things loose enough that I won't directly contradict canon but I hope you'll forgive me if I do.
The light hurts Klaus' eyes. When he moves his arm to block it out so he can keep on sleeping, he discovers that everything hurts. He keeps his eyes shut. Some extra sleep might help.
"Oh good, you're up." Never would Klaus have thought the sound of Caroline's voice bringing him back to the waking world would be unwelcome but today it is a little too high, a little to chirpy, and a little too cross.
"Whatever you need, love, it'll have to wait." He hasn't felt this way since that time in Spain when he was caught off-guard and held in enchanted chains for a fortnight before breaking free and killing everyone within half a mile. That in mind he adds, "I'd like someone to kill, if you wouldn't mind." It made him feel better last time.
Caroline laughs humorlessly and the sound strikes him as ominous. He rolls off the lumpy bed he's been sleeping on and finds himself bound to it. He finally opens his eyes and discovers he's belted awkwardly into the backseat of a car. The light that hurt his eyes is the afternoon sun reflecting off Caroline's hair as she drives. He eases up and looks carefully around the confined space. They are alone. Interesting.
"Where are we?" he asks casually. A ride into the unknown with Caroline isn't something he'd disagree with, though he's not fool enough to think this isn't some ploy to keep him from whatever nefarious scheme of his the Salvatores are angry about now. Still, even if he forces her to turn them around right now that's still a few hours (if the unfamiliar landscape flying by is any indication) alone with her.
He undoes the seatbelt to lean into the front seat and repeats his question.
Caroline screeches and the car veers dangerously to the left before she gets it under control.
"What are you doing? Buckle up! Right now!"
He chuckles. "Pretty as you are, I doubt you'll even have to compel any officer who pulls you over."
He catches sight of her concerned, fearful eyes in the rearview mirror and instantly it all comes back. The Five, the cure, his mother's latest vindictive attack from the depths of whatever netherworld she inhabits. He's human.
He knows he's moving slowly, his fingers have gone numb and he can't quite guide the buckle into its slot, but he feels as though he's moving fast, far too fast. All-of-eternity is very abruptly shortened to until-the-Grim-Reaper-finds-him. With his list of enemies that won't be long at all once word gets around.
"Stop the car," he says and hates how it sounds, small and frightened like he's a child who wants his mummy. Well mummy's the one who did this to him and if she has her way he'll be along to see her soon enough. "Stop the car!" he thunders.
To her credit, Caroline eases to a gentle stop, presumably to keep him from flying through the windshield. Once they've stopped moving he propels himself out the door and heaves bile into the yellowing grass on the roadside. Small stones pebbled with broken glass bite into his palms and he feels the skin break, blood flow. He used to love blood - the taste, the sight, the feel of it. Now even the faintest whiff threatens to turn his stomach again. No wonder Mikael hated him.
Caroline presses a moistened rag to his face and wipes it clean of sick and sweat. She pulls the shards and sharp stones from his palms and wipes the skin clean. She says meaningless phrases meant to soften the blow and somehow guides him to the car. She sits him in the back again, saying something about a suicide seat. She presses some sort of snack bar into his hands and orders him to eat. He barely pays attention but knows the intellectual part of his mind is carefully cataloguing her every action. The smell of her, the feel, the rare pleasure of having her concern focused on him. He had that once but it was all meant for Tyler and though he cherishes the stolen memories, these will be so much more dear to him when he finally rises from his stupor.
The view changes. They pass through unending back roads and detour into a municipality barely large enough to call itself a city. It's long past nightfall when they stop at a cheap motel. The lack of Caroline's presence brings him back and he curses himself for not only letting her out of his sight, but letting one of his few remaining sunsets slip away unseen.
One of those at least, can be remedied. He fights his way free of the seatbelt, throws open the door, and stumbles out, nearly knocking the returning Caroline over. He grabs her by the arms, as much to keep her from moving away as it is a show of anger.
"Don't do that again!" he growls. The difference between the tone of this threat and the same one given yesterday is so great he almost sinks to his knees in despair but adrenaline holds him up.
"Stop that!" Caroline hisses. "Do you want everyone in the city to hear you?" She pulls his hands away from her arms and finds he's still holding the unopened snack bar. "You need to eat," she says, not meeting his eyes. She reaches past him to close the car door before holding up a key attached to a large, plastic keychain with the number four printed on it. "Can you make it to the room all right on your own?"
He reaches for the key and takes her wrist instead. "You're not leaving." Again. He doesn't say it but if the melting ice in her expression is any indication, she knows it's there.
"I drove all night. I've been driving all day. I stole a car. Do you really think I did all that just to abandon you here?"
He doesn't remember any of that. He can only imagine how difficult that must have been on her.
Caroline twists her arm in his grasp. He lets her go and obediently takes the key. She winces and rolls her wrist as she steps back.
"I'm just gonna get us some food. Take-out, so it won't be long. Any preferences?"
He shakes his head. He hasn't eaten in over a day and he was no stranger to hunger while human. Anything will satisfy.
She makes to climb into the driver's seat. "The room's right over there. There's only the one key so…"
"I'll let you in," he says, trying to regain some of his composure.
She nods. They both know the cheap motel locks will be little good against anyone coming after him but leaving the door unlocked isn't an option.
He follows the direction she indicated and easily finds their room. Had he more strength, were he in anything approaching good humor, he might laugh. Only a few days ago sharing a room with Caroline was high on his list of goals. Now it is simply a necessity for his survival.
It's not until the door is firmly shut behind him that he hears the engine start up and he is somewhat comforted to know she has watched over him. He doesn't reach for the light switch. The curtains are threadbare and too narrow. The shadows are layered in the thin, pinkish light coming through the flowered cloth and a single band slices between the two sections to cut the room in half. Klaus navigates his way over fraying carpet to sit upon the single queen bed.
Things do not look good. He will die. That is an absolute now. Perhaps tomorrow. Perhaps the day after. Perhaps he will be permitted a few decades of torturous waiting. It is more likely though, that he will die before the week is out.
Oh, there are alternatives but none seem likely. He may not be a vampire any longer but he is a werewolf and without him, there is no turning into a hybrid again even if Elena was struck human as well. Which brings to mind another problem, one he selfishly pushes aside in favor of watching the light of the streetlamp turn the white key chain yellow.
He sifts the ugly bobble between his hands, the embossed numeral winking at him as it catches the light. He's always had a special affinity for the number four. It's his after all. Fourth son. Four women to break his mother's curse - three to die, one to live. That had been the plan anyway. And actually it worked out. He never thought of it that way before but even though he lost the witch, the doppelganger lived, which in the end was better. Or it was until she died, until his hybrid army started turning on him. Things probably would have been better if the witch had lived, not that he'd have known.
A gentle tapping from the door startles him so badly he jumps. In this weakened body he's vulnerable and his instincts have already begun adjusting to that reality. Caroline gives him a weak smile and a wave through the break between curtains. He lets her in.
"We should have a system," she says immediately. She flicks on the light without commenting on the dark. She hands him an icy drink as she passes and lays the McDonald's bags on the bed before jumping on herself. When he doesn't move to join her, she pats a spot beside her on the garish maroon comforter. He's struck again by the irony of having exactly what he so long dreamed for when he's in no position to enjoy it. Somewhere his mother is laughing. He obediently sits down and she begins describing the foods as if he's never been to a McDonald's and needs a tutorial.
He cuts her off. "I have eaten fast food before." He pops a fry in his mouth as evidence of his competence. Instantly his stomach feels painfully hollow. He grabs the nearest hamburger and barely manages to tear off the wrapping before taking a bite.
Klaus has eaten in the finest restaurants in the world. He's eaten with kings and emperors. A world-renowned chef once even named a dish after him in deference to his exceptional palette. He has never eaten anything as good as this burger. He actually moans with pleasure, eliciting a giggle from his companion. He quickly grabs for his drink to cover up the faux pas.
"Oh!" she says while he takes his first sip. "I didn't know what flavor…"
He takes a longer sip of what turns out to be a shake and smiles at her. "I cannot imagine anyone arguing with chocolate."
"You're a thousand years old. You have to have met someone who didn't like chocolate."
Reluctantly he stops eating to speak to her. If he has only days to live, his time left in this world measurable by mere hours, he can think of few ways better to spend them than speaking with Caroline, even if his stomach is demanding nourishment.
"I was born on this continent but chocolate was not available this far north, as you should know. Once my family returned to Europe it was several centuries before chocolate was exported from the so-called New world. It was a luxury and universally enjoyed. I can assure you of that since no one would dare tell me they didn't like it when I so obviously did."
She begins to smile and he cannot help but do the same.
"You cannot imagine the feeling. I'd lived hundreds of years and all of a sudden I felt I was truly alive!"
She laughs outright at this. "Not even during my worst cravings did I love chocolate that much."
"That's because you've never lived without it," he teases.
The humor of the moment fades as quickly as it came. She pulls into herself and gives the food her attention. Klaus does the same, satisfying his stomach before attempting conversation once more.
"A system?" he asks.
"Huh?" She munches on another fry while she waits for him to elaborate.
"When you came in," he prompts, "you said we needed a system."
She shifts on the bed, bringing her folded legs around so that she faces him fully. It is most likely a subconscious attempt to gain his attention and thus better her chances of being agreed with, which means she should not be doing it at all. Either she does not truly believe his affirmations of his regard or she is so insecure that she cannot believe even someone as dedicated to her as he is would truly listen to her. Before he would have made it his mission to cure her of either misconception but now, with so little time, he is not sure how even to begin.
"I mean for knocking," she says. "So we know it's really each other and not …" She trails off, reluctant to put a name to all that they're running from.
Klaus shifts as well, matching her posture, and reaches across the short distance to pull one of her hands between them. This is not at all what he wanted. He wanted her, yes, but he wanted power too. Power to keep them both safe and secure. She should not have to want for anything while with him. His fingers find her wrist. The gentle thrum of her heart is not proof - a well-fed vampire has a functioning heart - but her manner is. Her gaze drops and turns away. Her shoulders slump.
"You are cured." He cannot help the sneer on the final word.
Caroline's hand slips from his and back to her lap. He does not follow and does not pursue the matter. If he pushes her, she will push right back and that is not a battle he wishes to fight or a discussion he wants to have.
There are other questions whose answers he could seek without so much risk. Why is she helping him? What exactly happened after he lost consciousness? Where are the others?
Klaus takes another sip of his shake. He does not have much time but the answers will not gain him any more. He eats his meal, stops when Caroline warns him his stomach will turn on him if he goes on. After that he lays on his side and learns the angles of her face from this new perspective.