Klaus wakes up in darkness. At first he thinks night has fallen but when he shifts his weight, light streams through cracks in the sky. He's been buried beneath a blanket of branches, thick with leaves. He moves to tear them away but pain shoots through his right arm just above the elbow. He rolls a little to the right, cradling the arm without actually moving it, and tries again. The pain is just as sharp but this time he expects it and can feel too the heavy numbness beneath his elbow. Slowly he remembers the flight from Isaac as well as his injury - but where is Caroline?
Angry at his lack of answers, he tears through the branches with his left hand. He looks to his right arm in the light and feels his stomach drop deep into the earth. His belt is wrapped tightly around what remains of his arm, tightly enough to stem the flow of blood before the limb would be cut off.
His vision blurs out for a moment and comes back clearer. He can see now that his arm is not gone, only buried.
He digs carefully with his left hand and eventually pulls out his filthy, bandaged, but still whole right. It is discolored and swollen. His useless daylight ring is cutting into his skin, the flesh bulging out on either side of it. The bandages are still moist with his blood but he chalks that up to being buried. That, he realizes with a touch of pride, was to prevent the smell of blood from drawing Isaac - or any forest animal - to him. Clever girl.
Infuriating girl. It's clear she hid him and ran off to draw Isaac's attention. To what purpose? She cannot hope to defeat a vampire, especially one his age. Besides, Isaac is after him. If he doesn't kill her - Klaus fists his uninjured hand at the thought - he'll only drag the information out of her.
She's safe, Klaus realizes because the alternative is too painful to consider. Unless she found some vervain in these woods, Isaac can compel her, which means he would be here by now if he captured her.
Should he stay where he is? Caroline might have been in too much of a hurry to properly remember the location. His traitorous mind points out that if she didn't put it to memory it cannot be compelled from her. Klaus shakes himself. Worrying over her will not help him. If she remembers where he is, it will be safest to stay in one spot, but if she doesn't then she could search the area between the road and the church for hours without finding him.
The church. He will find his way there. It is the last place they were trying to go and she knows there are weapons of a sort hidden away there. It's the logical place for them both to go.
It is slow going. Klaus has lost a great deal of blood and the adrenaline of the chase burned through his breakfast. He snags berries and nuts as he trudges through the woods. The sun is low, meaning he slept most of the day. He keeps it just over his left shoulder as he heads for the road. It's a larger landmark than the church and he is unlikely to miss it.
He comes out of the woods a ways from the turn-off and follows a trail of shattered glass and bits of metal workings. He and Caroline must have crossed the dirt road while running from Isaac but he certainly can't remember it. The truck and van are gone, leaving behind only small debris and cracks in two trees. Someone probably called highway patrol when they found the wreck and couldn't get past. That, or Isaac pushed the cars into the woods to avoid outside interference.
This possibility in mind, Klaus heads back into the woods. He keeps the dirt road in sight, following it at a distance. He finds the van and truck after the first curve. He examines them as best he can through the trees and when several minutes pass with no sign of life, he ventures closer.
Isaac is nowhere to be found. Klaus finds his own blood staining the bumper of the van but a search for possible weapons turns up not even a tire iron. He is just about to leave when something about the van catches his attention. The antenna seems to be the only part of its front half that wasn't destroyed and hanging from its base is a thin, silver band studded with blue. Caroline's daylight ring. She must have worn it out of habit - or perhaps a secret hope that she'll need it again. Klaus pulls the ring over the top of the antenna as he silently berates himself. This means Isaac has her and is waiting.
Klaus walks into the woods, finds a relatively comfortable stone, and sits. He positions his right hand in his lap and twists the ring in his other. He could go. He could walk out of the woods, hitchhike his way to Katerina, restore himself, hunt down Isaac - by which time Caroline will be dead. No one will know but them that he abandoned her to die and of course Isaac will die very quickly after. No one could blame him either, even if they did know. He is one man - one human man - with not a weapon at hand and an arm that he'd be better off cutting off for all the good it will be in a fight.
Remember the judge, my boy.
"I am remembering the judge!" Klaus snaps, looking down at the dirt and muck at his feet because surely his father has not found a place in heaven. "But what can I do?" He gestures to the trees. "I have nothing to sharpen a branch into a stake with, but with enough force the jagged edge of a broken branch would be just as useful. Yes, father, that sounds perfect, except that I only have one arm and it is mortal!" He is on his feet, yelling at the dust and the bugs as he paces. "I know he is in the church but there's no telling what he's done. He could have found and destroyed every weapon I made and even if he hasn't, I don't stand a chance as I am now. But of course that's what you mean, isn't it? You want me to go in there, go to my death because it is exactly what you have always wanted! I was your son! For every moment of my life while I lived I thought - we all thought! - I was your child, but did you care? Never! I wasn't ruthless enough. I wasn't gracious like Elijah or pious like Finn. I wasn't the leader you were." He is bent in half, hand dangling in the dirt, face so close to the earth dust flies back at him as he yells. "You already killed me once! What will doing it again solve?"
Everything. It will solve everything.
Klaus stumbles back and lands among the roots of an ancient tree. If he goes into that church and dies, he wins. Isaac will die with him because he's part of his bloodline. Caroline will live because she's human.
There is almost no way to lose provided he is willing to die.
It's the sun that finally makes up Klaus' mind. He has to get wherever he's going before it sets and he loses the light.
He sits in the shadows just beyond the tree line, watching while the light fades until even the white church and headstones are almost gone, then as they slowly start to glow in the moonlight. The church doors stand open and he can hear Isaac, not the words he says but the sound of his voice yelling from within. There's a crash of wood and a cloud of glistening white puffs up into the air over the steeple. He's brought part of the roof down.
If Klaus is very lucky he'll have brought it down on himself.
If Klaus is very unlucky he'll have brought it down on Caroline.
It's about time he made his move. He falls to his knees after only three crouching steps towards the church. He looks back at what caused him to stumble and finds the heavy candlestick he brought out with him yesterday. He grins; it's better than nothing after all.
He hefts it in his hand and continues his circuitous path to the doors. He darts from headstone to headstone until there is nothing left but to mount the steps. He spares a moment to loop the free end of his belt and secure the candlestick in it. He makes certain it's resting behind his arm when he stands, he doesn't want Isaac knowing he's coming in with anything other than himself.
A wind whistles through the churchyard as he mounts the steps. He goes slow, allowing his eyes time to adjust to the light and showing Isaac he's in no hurry. Just as he climbs the last step he touches his pocket to feel Caroline's ring inside. At the same moment he sees her hair, illuminated by a beam of moonlight from the hole in the roof. She's awake, sitting on the edge of the dais, and watching his approach in horror. Klaus can see no injuries on her but even his human nose can smell the blood.
"Klaus," Isaac says. He steps out from the shadows, planting himself to block any path Klaus might take to reach her. Klaus smiles.
"Isaac. Long time no see. Last I saw you, you were off on a trip to the East Indies."
"You locked me in a coffin, threw me in the cargo hold of a merchant ship, and compelled the crew to ignore any of my cries for help."
Klaus does not allow himself to look at Caroline but she doesn't seem surprised by the story. Isaac has no doubt spent the better part of the day detailing their history to her.
"That does sound like something I would do," Klaus says. Even without his eyes on her, he can tell Caroline is rolling her eyes.
Isaac's entire body tenses like an animal ready to pounce, only to relax a moment later. His smile shines sharply in the moonlight.
"But things have changed for you since then, I hear."
When Isaac doesn't continue Klaus steps inside, looking casually around the dusty church and counting the weapons Isaac has left untouched. Caroline is trying to communicate something to him with only her eyes, probably a warning to get out already.
"Oh yes," Klaus says, "quite a lot. I broke my mother's curse, settled down in the old hometown, started building a hybrid army-"
"You're human," Isaac says disdainfully when Klaus draws parallel with him.
Klaus meets Caroline's eyes for one brief moment as he swings slowly around to face Isaac with a look of cold derision. "And where did you hear this slander? Whoever they are, I hope they're not too attached to their head."
That's a surprise.
"What?" Caroline asks. She's still got her tongue at least.
Klaus only raises an eyebrow. "She has always hated you, ever since you chose that Austrian princess over her. She's probably hoping I'll bring her your head." He smiles pleasantly.
In answer Isaac wraps one hand around Klaus' throat and squeezes. "And how do you plan on accomplishing that?"
"Klaus!" Caroline screams.
Isaac tosses him back. Klaus sails through the air, weightless until the moment he slams into the wall. He hopes the crack he hears is only the boards.
"Your sister," Isaac says as he stalks over a pew towards Klaus, "is just as pathetic as she ever was. She is so torn up over her most recent crush that she practically begged me to kill you, if only I'd let him go."
Klaus marks each of Isaac's steps. When the vampire is only one away from the end of the pew, he lunges for the next row, feels cold metal in his palm. Isaac jumps down and pulls him to his feet, pressing him into the wall with one palm flat on his chest. Klaus cannot breathe.
"Don't worry, Niklaus. I'll only make your death take a day. Maybe two. The girl can watch. I think her screams will be prettier than yours."
Klaus jams the metal pipe from beneath the pew into Isaac's stomach. He runs the second his feet hit the floor, leaping over the back of the first pew to reach Caroline. Part of the railing he tore apart yesterday is pinning her palms to the floor at her sides. If Klaus had both of his hands he could free her but with only one he knows he'll be lucky to get even one of her hands free. He's already heard the snap of the rusted end breaking off the pipe, it's only a matter of seconds before Isaac pulls the remains out and comes after him. He feels the stake budge just as footsteps pound towards him. Instinctively he tightens his grip and it's Isaac's tackle that enables him to pull the stake free.
Isaac lunges for Klaus' throat and Klaus stabs up at him with the stake. It is nowhere near his heart but slides between two ribs to puncture a lung. Isaac wails like an injured animal, bucking up and giving Klaus the opportunity to pull his candlestick free. Caroline comes at Isaac from behind and is swatted back into the wall behind the dais. Klaus rises and in one fluid motion brings the candlestick down on Isaac's head. He does it again and again. He needs to crack the skull. He needs blood to flow. Suddenly Isaac isn't there anymore. Klaus stumbles forward. Isaac has moved around him faster than his human eye could track. Klaus knows a single moment of disappointment. If only he could have gotten a drink of Isaac's blood. Fingers like steel wrap tight around his throat.
"You know," Isaac says through the roar in Klaus' ears, "I think letting you live even one more day would be too kind." He squeezes. The last thing Klaus hears is the bones of his neck cracking.
The light hurts Klaus' eyes. He brings his hand up to block it out and realizes it's his right hand. He pulls it away from his face to examine it. His daylight ring shimmers in the sun. The bandages are gone, leaving no sign of any injury behind.
Confused, Klaus sees he is still in the church. The sun has risen and bright light streams through the ceiling. He turns to his left and sees Isaac's body laying haphazardly against the dais. His head is lying several feet away. Could Caroline have done that?
Klaus sits up quickly, eager to find her. There's a soft thump from his right. Caroline is there. Her hair looks white against the grey of her decomposing skin. Her body is curled alongside his, her hand still clutching at the air where his arm had been.
There is a sound like crying or screaming but Klaus cannot care where it is coming from. He falls atop her, smoothing the hair away from her face. Her skin is cracked and peeling, like a painting in desperate need of restoration. He touches her cheek gently, careful not to disturb the delicate flakes of skin.
He lies beside her as lost memories of their flight from Isaac float to the surface. He remembers passing out in the woods and coming awake to her wrist pressed against his lips.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she whispered, her forehead pressed against his as he drank her blood. He was too lightheaded to realize why.
She then lay him down right where he sat. She must have belted off his arm earlier because she began burying it right away. She pressed a kiss to his bloody lips before wiping them clean.
"I need you to forget this," she said, looking deep into his eyes, "just for a little while, so I can tell you without you getting angry, okay? Now don't move and go to sleep."
Rage swells in Klaus' chest. If he knew Caroline had healed him, he could have gone out into the road, let himself be hit by a car, and then drained the first human he encountered upon waking. He could have been a hybrid again and killed Isaac before the sun had even set.
"Why couldn't you have just told me?" he asks. His hand ghosts over her cheek, the shadow of a caress. His fingers curl into the hair at the curve of her neck, digging into her rotted flesh until he feels her shoulder blade. "Did you think I would want you any less if I knew you were with me only to preserve your own life?"
He shakes her furiously and her head lolls back like a doll's. He's filled with remorse and carefully rearranges her body as best he can to match the way he found her. He will come back, he promises even though he knows it is most likely a lie. After he drinks human blood to finish his transition and kills to restore his werewolf side, he will gather her up and take her to her mother. She will be buried in a tomb with her vampire hunting ancestors. They at least will be happy. Their daughter will no longer be a blight upon their name.
Klaus fixes a lock of her hair that his breath has blown out of place. He realizes that this image of her, lifeless and rotting, will haunt his drawings for some time. He considers really returning to burn the church to the ground. He's always felt vampires should burn if they are unlucky enough to die.
Klaus bows his head. He is only wasting time now. If he doesn't move soon it will be too late.
He gives her hand one final squeeze goodbye and feels her squeeze back. Wide eyed, he watches Caroline take a single breath which brings life back to her flesh. She blinks at him and smiles sleepily.
"You're okay," she says.
"So are you," is all he can think to say. The color is still coming back to her cheeks, taking them from gray to pale to rosy to a blistering red. Caroline's eyes widen as the scent of burning flesh hits Klaus' nose. In a heartbeat she's against the wall, in the shadows.
"That bastard took my daylight right!" she yells, knocking her head back against the wall in agitation.
Klaus reaches for his pocket but stops at the last second. "Not the end of the world. I'm sure Bonnie will be more than happy to make you a new one."
Caroline pouts. "Yeah, but now I'm stuck until nightfall. Stupid sun," she mutters.
Klaus eases back against the end of a pew, preparing to ask his first question.
"Hey!" Caroline says suddenly. "How did you- ohhh! My blood, right?"
Klaus nods with a small smile.
"Should've known." She has the decency to look sheepish.
"You should have just let me remember," he says. "I could have transitioned and been a hybrid again in a matter of hours and Isaac would have been no trouble at all."
She crosses her arms over her chest and looks away.
"I do understand though. You didn't want to risk dying, nothing wrong with that."
Caroline's gaze swings back to him. "You think- you think I didn't tell you because I didn't want to risk that your stupid bloodline wouldn't come back to life when you did - which, don't get me wrong, really good to know - but do you really think that's why?" She glances at the open doorway, at the light streaming in. The distance between them impassable, she grabs the remains of the pipe he stabbed Isaac with and hurls it at him. It hits him in the chest with little force.
"Then why?" he asks. "Why do any of this, Caroline?"
Caroline deflates a little. "I just- I don't know. I just wanted you to be happy, I guess. You're not happy when you're killing people or when you're trying to get more power - which always seems to end up with you having less power, I've noticed. I figured this was your chance. No expectations, no dietary habits that result in murder, no torturing people - hopefully. … I just wanted it to last for as long as possible."
Klaus tosses her the ring. It is not the answer he would have hoped for but it's honest and it doesn't change the fact that she still chose him.
"Come on." He picks up Isaac's head, a present for Rebekah. "I've got to feed soon and since you've put me in such a good mood I'll even wait until we find a particularly heinous criminal to awaken my werewolf curse."
Caroline catches up to him at the steps and they venture out together.