Hello again, everyone! Once more I'd like to thank you for your incredibly kind reviews to my previous stories. You've all been so nice and welcoming that I felt I really owed you some real romance – so here it is! Be warned: actual romance is not my strong suit. But I couldn't let this plot bunny go, and I really hope you all will like it.
Thanks for reading as always!
They're all standing in a circle around the bed, looking at him in silence and immobile. Quiet and respectful as if having a wake on his honour.
Well, isn't that a bit ironic?
For the first time in over a thousand years, he is not a corpse.
The heaving movement of his chest is mesmerizing, and Caroline can't look awake. The word haunt her. Human. She wouldn't believe it—shecan't—if she weren't seeing it with her own eyes. His faint, troubled breathing as he fights his way back from unconsciousness and into the world of the living.
He is one of them, now.
If the cure—if the spell—had hit her (but the spell could never have hit her, as it was meant only for him), she'd be mirroring his laboured swallow breaths right now; she feels light-headed, both elated and terrified. Waiting on her toes for him to finally open his eyes—
—because if he doesn't, she cannot even imagine—
—and dreading the minute it happens.
His fury. His fear. His pain.
Rebekah's whimpering voice comes as a strange kind of comfort when she asks, in such a low, trembling voice, "Will he be like he was…before?"
She means, like he was when he was human. It makes her Caroline wonder, will he be a stranger? After such a long time—not really, not long at all—resisting the inevitability of getting to know him; of enduring the onslaught of his persistent, untiring efforts to crawl his insidious, irresistible way right under her skin—it'd feel like a huge waste, she ponders. Losing that man now, that she was finally growing used to him. Being always there.
She is not ready for him to not be there.
It's a thought that should surprise her; scare her—but it doesn't. Not anymore. Now it only scares the thought that he might not wake up—
Kol snorts, loud, and he sounds as unaffected as it is obvious, just by looking at him, that he is not. He cares for his brother, somehow, even if— "Let's hope not," he is saying, his eyes travelling across the room, from Caroline to Elena, to Stefan, to Damon, to Jeremy, to Bonnie. "He won't make it five minutes otherwise, and then, I suppose, neither will you."
Caroline takes in a loud, unnecessary breath; purposefully. The first words Elena had said when Elijah had laid Klaus on the bed had been about the room. It was the same one Klaus had kept her in after she killed the hunter; there were no windows ("To preserve the art," Kol had joked morbidly), so she wouldn't burn herself to death. No wooden furniture, either. Little that could be use as a weapon—even against a vulnerable human.
The anti-suicide room.
Elena is looking intently at Elijah when she asks, nodding towards Kol, "What does he mean?"
"My brother Niklaus," Elijah answers, slowly, eyes locked in hers, "was a very… sensitive man, you could say—"
Kol cuts him off with yet another snort. "He was a cry-baby. With a quick temper, yes, but a cry-baby. If he goes back to being what he was, after a thousand years worth of shameful, unrepentant indulgence in each and every kind and variation of carnage, well," he smacks his lips, "he won't be able to live with it."
Caroline's heart clenches, but Elijah shakes his head quickly, vehemently, and even without saying a word, there is no question that he has no trouble imposing his authority as the older sibling. "He won't be like he was a thousand years ago," he assures them all, like the matter of his younger brother's suicide was an issue of general concern, and not a private, tragic and terrifying matter. "He might be mortal and fragile now," he whispers, eyes back on his sleeping brother, "but a thousand years like the thousand years Niklaus has lived will not be vanished overnight. He is still who he was before the witches hit him."
Unashamed, Caroline finds herself not hating herself one bit, at last, for wishing with all her might and heart that Elijah is right.
But for whose sake, she can't really be sure.
"Is it your turn to babysit me, love?"
She smiles at him from where she's standing on the doorstep to the anti-suicide room, as they all have gotten to call it. Not that Klaus has any intention of killing himself—but it's where he spends most of his time; there are no windows, and it is hidden somewhere in a corner, at the end of some corridor in the west wing of his haunted castle or something. Caroline had asked for a map, at first. A tiny joke that Elijah had only rewarded with a fickler of a smile, the tiniest tug of his upper lip.
Well, she learned her way around the ridiculously big house, eventually.
After all, Klaus never leaves the mansion; it's too risky, without the protection of his siblings and the Salvatores, and the protective spells that Bonnie has cast all over the area to try and keep Klaus's endless list of enemies at bay. Good thing she has gone rogue, Caroline thinks. Not that simply a few pounds of original (and not-original) vampire muscle and a teenage witch's efforts—Bennet as she might be—are going to cut it in the long run. But for now, until they find a way to revert Klaus to what he was before—
—Regretting you conspired to have all my hybrids killed now, aren't you, mate? Yes, Stefan, I know. Your intention was to free them. Same thing, really. It is sired hybrid power that would have come in handy in the present circumstances—
—Caroline throws his dinner at him before going to sit on the bed and taking a blood bag out of her purse. He struggles to catch it mid-air, and Caroline winces. Sometimes she forgets, and the she remembers, and gets worried sick, and hates herself for it. But she forces herself to go on smiling, finding it isn't that hard a task, after all, when she rolls her eyes at him as he stands up from the armchair where he was sitting, paper bag in hand, and leaves the sketchpad on the nightstand to sit by her side on the bed. He actually kicks his shoes off before shuffling his way back on the bed until his back is resting against the headboard. He pats the mattress by his side, prompting her to sit next to him.
She does (shut up), but eyes his naked feet with a raised eyebrow. "You know you sweat now, right?"
He laughs through an impatient mouthful of chicken Ceasar's sandwich, and she smiles, consciously coyly, tearing off the lid of the blood bag and taking a sip. As her mouth fills with blood, she feels the familiar tightness in her gums; the veins filling and tensing around her eyes—but she buries down the monster. Klaus's eyes are in her, intently and unforgiving; yet he looks surprisingly amused. "You're going to complain about my naked feet which, I must say, do not smell, but you're going to be sipping blood in bed like it's a cocktail? That's disgusting, sweetheart."
She bites her bottom lip, if only not to roll her eyes at him again. "You love blood."
She isn't expecting him to grimace the way he does, like the thought genuinely upsets him. "Not these days, love," he shakes his head. "I'd much rather you've brought a bottle of the fine Champagne I keep downstairs."
Caroline doesn't want to, but her eyes meet his, and her voice comes out breathy and pathetic. "Our thing?"
At that, he smiles, so big and wide and genuine; the grimace long gone and forgotten. She can hear the rapid thundering of his human heart picking up speed as he holds her gaze in his, and she is surprised to find out that she doesn't want to let go. Not ever.
It makes her feel dizzy and faint-hearted, so she takes another long sip of her B+.
They're lying on their sides, facing each other on the bed.
She feels stronger now, steadier after the blood she's drunk. His heartbeat rate has settled a bit.
He gets tired now like he never did before, and even though there aren't windows on the walls, Caroline can tell it's been a long time since night fell upon Mystic Falls. His heart beats slower and gentler with every passing minute; and hers only rattles faster.
It's fitting, she imagines, for what she is about to ask—before he falls asleep.
"Do you really," she begins, stopping to smile at him, to assure him she means well. "Do you really not want to be human? Like, at all? Not even a tiny little bit of yourself is actually taking this as a—I don't know, a second chance?" Impulsively, she presses her hand to his chest; his heart speeds up immediately, pumping stronger beneath her hand, resonating louder to her ears. The story of the stupid hummingbird haunts her, constantly. She recalls the exact words now. How satisfying every day must be. So she adds, "To have to work that hard every day just to stay alive? To be constantly on the verge of death? Isn't that… thrilling? I don't know, isn't it… real?"
His life might be very fragile now; he might be truly on the verge of death—and with him, so are all of them. But he is also truly alive. Again. Like she never will be. She is dead dead dead. And at least for a little while—if it all goes according to plan—he is not.
It's painfully obvious when he traps her smaller hand against his chest, squeezing it softly. She could have him killed with the flick of her wrist, she realizes, and it's one crazy thought she isn't really ready for. Not that she won't do it; not that she doesn't want to do it (and not just because if he dies, they all die; she's had a long time, and a long, overflowing river of blood passing by them, to come to terms with the very real fact that she doesn't want him gone—at all), but that she can do it.
The realization of his vulnerability, each time it strikes her, always unannounced, never fails to turn her world upside down. It shakes her to the core. It ties a painful knot in her chest; just around her heart, holding it within such a tight grip—so unexpectedly excruciating.
He is only human now; temporary and mortal. It's true and real and terrifying. And she can't even process the thought—
"Whether I die in a day, Caroline, or in fifty or sixty years," he finally answers, in a low deep voice as his long, impossibly warm fingers being to draw idle circles over the ridges of her knuckles, "the day I die is the day you die."
She doesn't care about—
She wants to chuckle out her feelings; laugh it off like it means nothing, what he's just said. But the rhythmic pattern of his fingers on the back of her hand doesn't allow her to dismiss his declaration as nothing a well-rehearsed line, as she would usually do. She tries, though, one last time: "So that's it? You want to be Klaus, the Big Bad Original Hybrid again not for your sake, but for the many lives of those thousands of vampires that will follow you to the grave?"
Unharmed by her brush-off, he only rolls closer to her on the bed; closer, closer.
Of course he might be weaker than her now, a simple human being that she can crush beneath the heel of her leather boot if she wants to (not really, okay, but you get the point), and still remain holding the upper hand—always and forever. He hasn't lived over a thousand years for nothing, after all. So he whispers, low and blatantly seductive, "I've never said anything about the lives of the thousands of vampires I would be taking with me when I go, Caroline. I only spoke of you."
Her stiff, cold dead heart misses a beat, despite the heavy flow of borrowed blood that always pumps, slow and constant and icy through her veins. Her breath catches, and really, how pathetic is it that he's the human now, and she remains the silly school girl with the frantic fluttering heart? She knows that trying to write off his words with a joke coated in fake indifference would be pointless—she has tried to do that so many times before. So instead she chooses to indulge him one more time. Play his game for a little longer, knowing full well that she has literally belowzero chances of winning.
"So you're saying that the only reason you want to live forever is so I can, too?" Her words come out trembling, like her fingers beneath the pressure of his warm, very much alive hand. Whatever attempt at cynicism she tries to pull off, crashes and burns as soon as each pattering breath rolls out of her tongue. But she insists, "Really?"
He nods, finally letting go of her hand to cup her cheek, pulling her almost imperceptibly closer. But closer. "I made a promise to you, Caroline" he says, so firmly and convinced it's impossible to mistrust him. "I don't make promises I don't intend to keep, love. I will show you the world, and I need forever to do that."
To that, and before the irresistible impulse to lean just the extra inch forward and crash her lips to his, Caroline can do nothing but pull away. Barely. Just enough to roll onto her back, and hide her eyes in the endless empty spaces of the ceiling. She can still feel his warmth pressed to her side, but she finds it's a lot easier to keep on pretending to breathe if she isn't looking directly into his eyes. "You're still full of it as a human," she complains—but she knows it's futile.
He chuckles, rolling onto his back as well, and grabbing her hand. They just lie there for a few minutes in silence, fingers entwined and pressed tight, almost forcefully into the soft linen on the bed. Then, Klaus speaks again. "Sometimes, love," he murmurs, "I'm afraid that forever might not suffice."
Her heart positively stops.
His, however, is beating slow and confident, like these sort of forever declarations of love are an everyday occurrence. It makes her feel small and insecure, and as she realizes that she has never wanted him more than she does now, she also figures that perhaps, she's never loathed him harder, either. For how he makes her feel.
It's paralyzing her with terror—lying there immobile, and seeing the very few standing bricks that remain of her barriers crumble to the ground all around her. Melt into ashes and disappear. While she is able—and willing—to do nothing to keep on putting off her inevitable surrender.
She can tell by the deep, yet intermittent rhythm of his breathing that he is battling off sleep. Bored and inactive as he surely gets being trapped at home all day long, he must also be exhausted, being human and all. Yet he obviously struggles to remain awake, and she suspects it's for her sake. Some misplaced fit of gallantry—a true gentleman, Caroline images, simply does not fall asleep on a lady, a guest come to his house to entertain him. That would be terribly discourteous of him, and God forbid Klaus Mikaelson ever doing anything against his best manners.
She supposes the right thing to do, on her part, would be to leave.
She shouldn't overstay her welcome. She shouldn't be intrusive and rude and simply get in bed with him, just because, and then refuse to leave—forever. Even though that's probably what he wants, okay, yes, but still. She can come back tomorrow, right? It's surely not the end of the world—departing from the comfort of the soft, yet firm mattress beneath her; the squashy bed covers; Klaus's unyielding warmth heating up her cold dead body. The impossibly enticing urge to match her pointless breathing to his; try as hard as she can to make the beating of her dead heart harmonize with the fierce calmness of his living heartbeat. Pretend she's alive too; that they both are. Regular people lying on a regular bed and struggling with the burning feelings threatening to swallow them whole.
It's an odd battle of wills.
He refuses to fall asleep and she refuses to leave. They're stuck—they've been for a long while now—and for as long as they remain that way, they might as well keep on playing. Right?
It's not a thought that Caroline wants or welcomes in any way, but one way or another, she—no, scratch that—they are running out of time. Either Elijah, Kol and Bonnie find a way to revert the spell—a cure for the cure, go figure—or Klaus dies. Sooner or later, he dies. The alternative to his death is the recovery of his power, and more likely than not the return of Caroline's bad conscience.
Good enough an excuse, right?
They're still resting on their backs, fingers interwoven against the mattress, so she turns her head to look at his face without rolling towards him. "You know," she says, chipper and light because that is who Caroline is, "it's a lot easier to like you now."
He raises an eyebrow—and yes, he does roll onto his side, leaning over her and not giving a flying damn that such a unabashed invasion of her personal space might intimidate her a little bit. His voice drops, for good measure. "Is that so?"
She does roll her eyes at him this time, a little bit. "Well, for one you're a lot less pale," she jokes. He smiles warmly at her, doesn't get upset at her apparent deferment, and perhaps that is why she feels encouraged to try again, once more, with a little bit of real feeling behind it this time. "Seriously, though," she says, her voice low and pacifying. "I can trust you now."
She could always trust him before, too. But that is hardly the point.
There's a new appeal to him, she knows; the undeniable appeal of the vulnerable man. But she always favoured the kind that could easily sweep her off her feet, you know? She means that literally, and not just metaphorically. She isn't talking of romantic drawings and shining diamonds and Cinderella waltzes and straightforward promises of everlasting love—not now. Now Klaus is so fragile that anything could break him, shatter him, and make him disappear from her life.
The one thing she knew would be there forever, because once upon a time he was both, immortal and indestructible.
His hand is slick with sweat when he lets go her, popping himself on his elbow to look at her more directly as he asks, "How so?"
Damn it. She misses the warmth of his touch, immediately, and she bites her bottom lip in reprimand. Wrong impulse, she realizes, when his eyes follow her teeth. His heart rate increases alarmingly, loud as a thundering storm reverberating in his chest, and in spite of the overwhelming desire to grab his shirt and pull him on top of her—Caroline manages a loud, ringing smile. "I can hear your heart," she says, and it's an honest answer to his question.
She could hear his heart before, too—but Klaus's heart always beat gentle and monotonous and steady before, regardless of the circumstances. Whether they were dancing close together or he was ripping someone's heart out. After eleven centuries, he didn't need to feed much to keep the blood rushing through his veins at a secure and stable pace. Nor did any of his siblings, for that matter. Their dead bodies had reached a perfect balance, Caroline imagines, after a thousand years mastering the arts of immortality.
It would take centuries for them to desiccate from hunger at their age.
But right now, Klaus doesn't have centuries at his disposal, and yet he looks at her like there's nothing else he'd rather be doing for as long as he has left—and it carves a hole, the way he looks at her, right into her heart.
She puffs, indignant. "I have the worst relationship track record ever, you know?"
He chuckles, and his breath caresses the tip of her nose. "I doubt that, sweetheart. You're eighteen."
Yeah, she's a baby, whatever. She shakes her head on the pillow, because he doesn't understand at all. "No," she says—she can feel the rambling babbling stuttering coming, but she knows that if she doesn't say it now, she might never get the chance. And it's that thought that she can't stand, so she looks at him and offers a small smile. "You know, if I was ever going to fall for you," she whispers, "it was always going to be—" she pauses, again; tries to find a better way to say what she wants to say, but there is none, she realizes: "—well, now."
His eyes widen, and his whole face changes, like he wasn't expecting that at all. "Now?" he repeats, so quietly.
Caroline can't keep on looking at him. The hope, the genuine happiness in his bright-blue human eyes—the mad, mad drumming of his heart. She knows she's going to burst into tears if she keeps on looking at him, losing herself in him—so she rolls away, but just half a body. She moves to lie on her side, her back turned to him. Immediately he wraps his arm around her waist and hugs her to him.
The tears come at last; but at least now he can't see her, right?
She feels him resting his head on the pillow behind her, his moist breath caressing her nape as they both just lie there in silence for a while. Caroline cries without uttering a sound and Klaus simply embraces her—and really, she wants to kick his shin or something, because since when do original hybrids spoon? But he's running his hand through her hair, soothing her like this isn't the most pathetic thing he has ever seen in over a thousand years of life. Her admitting to having fallen for him, and then bursting into tears like the baby she truly is.
But she is not a baby. She isn't weak. She isn't pathetic.
She wants to explain it all to him—that damn it, she doesn't want him to die. That's she's scared. That she really wants him to be the bad bad indestructible hybrid he was only a week before, and live forever, and take her to Rome and Paris and Tokyo and wherever.
"It's such a lame typically-Caroline move," she whimpers. "Of course I can only fall in love with you when you're like," she sniffs, spit and snot, and it's absolutely disgusting, but oh, she so doesn't care. She just admitted to being in love with him. Out loud and with so many words and yeah, she hasn't fallen in love with him now, that part is a lie, but only now can she finally admit it to herself and… damn, what was she saying? "I don't know, when you're dying. Like, you could get pneumonia now, and die."
He laughs, deep and gentle and warm and not condescending at all; right into her neck, and the feel of it comforts her even if it makes her shiver. Because he squeezes her stomach a little tighter, and mutters into the crook of her shoulder. "I spend most of my time in a room without windows, Caroline. I'm not going to get pneumonia."
Well, that's reassuring. Not.
Still, she nods, more for his sake than hers. She's being silly, she knows. But there aren't many ways to confess your feelings to someone like Klaus without making a complete fool of yourself, she figures. She's eighteen. She hasn't lived for over a thousand years learning all the proper ways to seduce and entice—
—she smothers the burning rush of jealousy rippling through her system, squirms even closer to him and smiles as he presses her tighter against him—
—so forgive her if she isn't the queen of smooth and charming.
"It's going to be okay," he assures her, moving his lips over the sensitive skin of the hollow of her shoulder. "They'll find a way to make me strong again."
"I know," she sniffs again and, yes, she knows. The alternative is unbearable and impossible and she won't stand for it. So to lighten the mood and make up for how utterly gross she is being, she adds, firmly but smiling, "I have no intention of sleeping with you until you regain your supernatural abilities, besides. I was promised hot hybrid sex, and I won't settle for anything short of that."
He laughs, again. She's expecting either awkwardness or mock indignation, but he only laughs—
—and, at last, she laughs with him.
"You know, sweetheart? I think I've finally understood what it is about you that I love so much," Klaus says, right after she opens on eye to look at him and check that, for sure, last night was not a dream.
There are no windows; no bright sunlight seeping through the half-open curtains to warm and lighten Caroline's awakening. It's disappointing: knowing it's morning outside but having nothing to account for it.
"Is that what you were doing while I was sleeping?" she mutters, her face still pressed into his shirt as she yawns away the remnants of her heavy, peaceful sleep. With Klaus—which, hey, at least she has something to account for that. His hand is all tangled up in her messy curls—messier than usually in the morning, and it is his entire fault, Caroline is sure. She has drooled all over his chest, and again—there's even more proof. She's slept with Klaus. Well, they've slept on the same bed. All entangled and cuddly and really, it's embarrassing.
But who cares? She doesn't have any plans to move anytime soon. His heart is beating soothingly and steadily beneath her ear and she draws peace from the certainty that, for the time being, he's still alive. Good. His stomach grumbles, demanding breakfast, and she giggles. "Hungry?"
He clicks his tongue, feigning annoyance. "I'm trying to tell you something, love."
She pops up on his chest, head resting on her hand. "Oh, right," she smiles. "Why you love me so much."
The way she's twisting his words isn't lost to him, clearly. He hasn't said anything about loving her, as much loving something about her very much. Well, fine—but Caroline has no intention of going down alone, in whatever this thing between them is. No way in freaking hell.
Luckily for her, Klaus is never going to let her fall alone.
He smiles down at her, warm and tender and so un-hybrid like. He tucks a rebellious stray curl behind her ear, and whispers, "Yes."
He loves her. How did that happen again?
She imagines that, if she was still human, her cheeks would hurt. She's smiling so stupidly; she's sure—giddy and silly and happy as he buries his hand in her hair one more time. "So," she asks, with a small voice, "why?"
"Well," he answers, sounding almost matter-of-factly, "you're so very young, Caroline."
She sits up immediately. That she wasn't expecting. "And you are so very creepy, Klaus."
He snorts, sitting up as well and facing her, eyes bright and burning as they lock on hers. "I'm serious, love. You're not tainted. Your smile is not a mask to keep the darkness at bay. There is just no darkness underneath your light, Caroline, none at all. And yes, it will be there, eventually. The darkness. I can't promise that it won't, but—" he smiles, his hand finding her cheek once again—"I never thought, not once in my life, that I would be so lucky so as to be given the chance of having someone like you in my life."
She cannot believe him.
Mortal; weakened; almost defeated. The very definition of the damsel in distress—the princess locked up in his ivory tower… and he hasn't lost one ounce of his very much supernatural charm. Seriously. She'd rather have him uber-strong and awkward, thank you very much. It'd be less hard—trying to suppress her own also very much supernatural urge to jump his bones and rip off his ridiculously casual-yet-sexy-as-fuck clothes and just have her wicked, wicked vampire way with him.
She'd probably break him—so she'd better not.
Instead, she stands from the bed, shaking her head and breathing slowly to calm herself. She holds her hand for him to take it, and pulls him up without effort. Immediately, how weightless he feels against her vampire strength breaks her heart a little bit, one more time. The heartache sobers her up on the spot.
"Let's go get breakfast," she says, forcing out a bright smile. "It's the most important meal of the day, and it's my duty to keep your human body healthy and strong until Bonnie and your brothers find the antidote or whatever they are looking for."
He nods, enthusiastically, and follows her out of the room and around his mansion—
—not letting go of her hand for even a second until they reach the kitchen.
Thank you for reading! I hope you liked the story. I tried to capture Hummingbird!Klaus in this story, but I must confess, it isn't my favourite version of him, so I apologize for any OCC behaviour that might have resulted from my lame attempts. I'm not above the cheap excuse of blaming OCC-ness on a silly plot device, so if Klaus seemed OCC to you, that's because he's human and mortal and vulnerable in here, duh. ;);) Seriously now – I apologize for any OOC-ness and thank you all for reading as always.
You're the best!