(Inspired by the Peter Weir film)
Klaus is an art grad student at Hunter College whose student visa is about to expire. Caroline is a journalism grad student and Today Show intern who's dream apartment only accepts married couples. Their marriage of convenience proves to be harder to pull off than they thought when INS comes knocking.
Author's Note: GREETINGS FROM THE KLAROLINE-LESS, REAL WORLD!
First of all, I want to apologize for my extended hiatus; my life has been so chaotic for the past couple months with getting new jobs, settling into those jobs (both in retail), then working through the holiday season. I seldom had time to write or seldom had inspiration, and I told my lovely betas many times that I don't ever want to post just for the sake of posting. I want to post when it's ready and not just ready, but right. But I've put really love and hardwork into this chapter and I hope you love it like I do!
And just since I've been away for so long, here's a quick synopsis of what's happened so far:
Klaroline got married after being set up by their mutual friend Stefan so that Caroline could sign a lease on a beautiful apartment on Central Park West and Klaus could have a green card and stay legally in the US. However, an investigation by INS (Immigration & Naturalization Services) has forced them to co-habitat in Caroline's apartment and become roommates so that they may convince INS that they're married and also in order to get to know each other better.
It started out kind of bumpy with fighting and Klaus seeming to trigger some sort of PTSD reaction from Caroline, but since Klaus showed up (unexpectedly to Caroline) at Elena Gilbert's parents' party and convinced Miranda Gilbert to have her new client, music sensation Bonnie Bennett aka "Bonnie B,' perform at the charity Caroline endorses, they seem to have found common ground and begun to lay out the foundation to not only a healthy, working relationship, but a friendship at that!
By the end of Chapter 6: Klaus and Caroline had shared breakfast and Klaus shared a little about his family, Bonnie B performed at M.O.T.S. (Music of the Streets, an after school program for kids that combines performing and visual arts teaching with childcare that Caroline has volunteered for since she came to NYC), Klaus surprised Caroline by showing up at M.O.T.S. for Bonnie's performance and played with the kids, and Klaroline had lunch with Bonnie before going their separate ways for the day.
So, without further ado...
Klaus angrily threw down his sketchbook and ran his hands through his short, disheveled curls. He'd been sketching for over an hour but he still felt like he was grasping at straws. He had a solid collection to showcase, but according to his advisor he had yet to come up with "the big one," or the star piece of his collection.
He'd been trying for hours to come up with the final piece that would be the culmination of his work, and he just felt like everything he came up with was subpar; not even good enough to hang on the refrigerator.
He growled at himself and leapt out of the chair, storming to the patio and slammed the door behind him. He hit a new pack of American Spirits against his palm and opened it, putting one between his lips, and began fishing around in his pockets for his lighter. With a flick of the metal wheel, soon the cigarette was lit and he took a deep drag off it, then let it out slowly. As the nicotine slowly flooded his system, he sighed contentedly and felt a little more at ease, but gazed down at the cigarette dolefully, the smoke curling into the chilly night air.
It was a terrible addiction he'd picked up at a much younger age than he should have, and it had been a crutch ever since; and now it was a crutch that relegated him to being outside Caroline's home whenever he felt stressed, angry, or just wanted one. But he understood the need for the rule and he respected Caroline's request, especially after she came in from her run a few days ago and the sound of an inhaler's puff drifted from her open bedroom door. It seemed that she had a mild case of asthma, and he didn't want to exacerbate her condition or make her upset.
He took another drag and as the stress over his collection slowly melted away, his self-loathing over his addiction—a weakness—replaced it.
"Is everything okay?"
Klaus whipped around to see Caroline standing in the doorway to the apartment, watching him with a guarded expression. He realized instantly his temper-fueled door slamming was the cause of her presence on the patio and the wary look on her face.
"Yes, I'm sorry. Did I wake you?"
"No, I was up, working on my thesis," she said, stepping out onto the patio and closing the door behind her. She wrapped her long, draping sweater tighter around herself in the chilly night air and studied his face for a while. "You look...troubled."
Klaus snorted at her observation, even though she was accurate, and took a quick drag from the cigarette before putting it out in the coffee can full of sand that Caroline had put out for him on the patio. He didn't want to be rude and smoke around her, and he didn't want her to leave. When he straightened up, he pulled his sweater tighter around his own body before running a hand through his hair.
"Do you...want to talk about it?" she asked and he looked up at her face, seeing genuine concern in her eyes even though her face was painted with encouragement and support.
Ever since Bonnie's performance at M.O.T.S. his and Caroline's relationship had grown and changed. They got along better, and sure their relationship was by no means perfect, but they were vastly different together than they had been originally. He'd come to really enjoy her and her presence, and more so found himself missing her sunny personality when she wasn't around. He didn't know if it was her caring expression or the sheer fact that being around her in general made him fold like a napkin, but Klaus sighed and he suddenly felt the onslaught of frustration, confusion and self-loathing come tumbling out of him in the form of coherent yet babbling sentences.
"My advisor...he said that my collection is good but I need some big, show-stopping piece to tie the whole collection together, and I'm at a loss. Everything else has essentially unfolded in front of me and I've just never had this much difficulty creating something. And I know generally what it should and shouldn't be, but I just can't make it happen..." His last few words were strained as he spoke, as he got more and more frustrated with himself. He closed his eyes and sighed, exasperated and dejected, and rubbed his forehead before gripping onto the patio railing with both hands.
"Hey..." Caroline's voice drifted to him, barely a whisper, and her hand lightly ghosting against his shoulder. Klaus didn't respond and he remained where he was, but his eyes snapped open as he felt something touching his face. What he felt was Caroline's left hand caressing the left side of his face. Her warm palm was lightly pressed to his cheek and when he turned to look at her, her right hand reached up to mirror her left, gently holding his face in her hands. She gazed into his eyes and he tried to find some shred of doubt, some hesitation or jesting, and he found none.
After what seemed like a century, she leaned in and kissed him, barely brushing her lips against his, and gazing into his eyes up until the last millisecond. They remained gazing at each other for the longest time until Klaus reached up and placed his hands over top of hers at first before bringing them down to rest on her shoulders. He squeezed them to make sure that she was real, that this was real, and before he knew it, she was leaning in again. This time, there was no mistaking what had happened.
Caroline's eyes danced around his face until she closed the microscopic distance between them to press her lips to his again. When they separated, he gazed at her in wonder and disbelief. She leaned in again, but instead of kissing his lips like she had before, Klaus gasped and he nearly wept as he felt her kiss his left temple, then his nose, then his chin, then his right cheek, then his forehead before pulling back and rubbing her thumbs gently against his cheeks.
Klaus couldn't bring himself to open his eyes though, he was too afraid his tears would fall or she might see the fear and loneliness in his eyes...or both.
"I can't... I can't, Caroline. You're too good, you're so beautiful and good and pure and light and...I am full of darkness... I'm a terrible person, I've done terrible things and...some people just can't be fixed..."
"Shhh," Caroline hushed him, and stroked his face, silently begging him to open his eyes, but he just couldn't do it, not even for her. "I don't believe you. You're hurting, and that means that there's a part of you that's human, Klaus. I've seen it—you love, and anyone capable of love is capable of being saved."
Klaus finally opened his eyes at that moment, letting her wipe away his tears as they fell, and gazed hesitantly into her eyes, ready to take the stab to the back or whatever kind of ambush he more or less deserved to suffer for all the things he'd done. But instead, he saw her eyes shining brightly at him full of hope and trust and her beautiful, full lips gently and gracefully turned into a smile. That smile shone so brightly, it threatened to chase each and every one of his demons away with it's purity and hope.
He didn't want to run anymore; he didn't want to hide anymore, to keep himself from feeling. He'd been so numb for so long, then this beautiful woman appeared in her designer heels, and she completely blew him out of the water. She made him question everything he knew about the world and most of all about himself and he didn't care if it was selfish or ill-timed; all he knew was he wanted her.
He took hold of her face quickly and pressed his lips to hers as she held his face. One of his hands quickly buried itself in her blonde locks and the other pressed to her upper back, both keeping her as close to him as possible.
Soon Caroline's hands slid around his head until her arms were wrapped around his neck, pulling him closer to her as his hands slid from her shoulders to her waist then to the small of her back, pulling her close as well. She gasped and he took the opportunity to deepen the kiss. She swiftly and deftly kissed him back as her hands began to bury themselves in the curls at the nape of his neck.
He needed more of her, he had to have every last bit of her, but that would still never be enough for him. He greedily began devouring her jaw and neck with passionate kisses as Caroline's hands came to grab the fabric of his sweater on his shoulders, and his mouth descended towards her collar bone.
"Klaus... Klaus..." she murmured and gasped, and he continued to explore the smooth skin of her neck and chest, memorizing every inch of it as he peppered her soft skin with kisses. "Klaus? Klaus!"
Klaus opened his eyes and looked at Caroline, but it was no longer the dark of night. Sunlight was streaming in from the patio windows the way it did in the early morning and Caroline was no longer standing a breath away from him. Instead, she was a bit further away from him and holding a coffee mug, an unperturbed expression on her face.
"It's 8:15, I don't think your alarm went off," she said, and Klaus blinked as it started to sink in that she was standing and he was lying on the sofa bed, right where he'd fallen asleep. And that was when he realized:
None of it was real, he'd dreamt it all.
"Is everything okay?" Caroline asked and Klaus half sighed and half groaned. He rubbed his eyes, hoping to wake more but not quite ready to accept what he'd just experienced hadn't been real. He laid back down on the couch and sighed, and Caroline added, "You look...troubled."
Klaus's eyes snapped open and flicked to hers. He gaped as he saw the same look of concern he'd thought he'd witnessed only moments ago. Was he still dreaming? Was he dreaming within a dream? What, was Leo DiCaprio about to come out and talk to him about inception and projections now?!
He slapped his face a few times and opened his eyes again to see Caroline's face now full of reservation and suspicion.
"Okay, I don't know if this is some new way of poking fun at me, but it sucks, and I have to get ready for class," she said seriously, and turned on her heel with her coffee in hand and walked to her room.
Nope, I'm definitely awake, Klaus thought to himself as he sat up and dragged a hand down his face. As he sat and tried his best to sort through his interactions with Caroline and determine what did happen and what didn't happen, Klaus realized the common denominator between them: that look of concern in her eyes. It had been sketched out clearly for him in his dream and then it had presented itself in real life.
She cared about him; deep down, she really cared for him and would be willing and able to help him, whenever and if ever he needed her. He smiled at the thought and slowly crossed to the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee.
Caroline suddenly flew past him and grabbed a bottle of juice from the refrigerator as he was going to put away the half-gallon of milk he'd used for his coffee. He glanced over and saw her stylishly yet comfortably dressed in layers with a grey sweater over a collared shirt and jeans; he was a little surprised by her attire as he remembered her being in her pajama pants and robe only moments ago. He must have taken longer to wake up and work through his thoughts than he'd realized.
"I have a meeting with my advisor before my 9 a.m. and then I'll be back around 1ish after my last class," she said casually as she grabbed a granola bar from the cabinet and slipped it into her bag, tucking the juice under her arm.
"And you don't have any plans for the rest of the day?"
"Nope," Caroline replied distractedly as she checked her phone, sticking it in her bag, and striding towards the door. "So I'll see you later!"
"Goodbye!" Klaus said just as the door closed behind her.
He sat on the edge of the pull out couch, thinking for a moment, before he placed his cup of coffee down and stood to stretch. He put the bed away and walked over to his bag that rested between the couch and wall, reaching in and rooting around to find the henley he'd stashed there in case he hadn't been able to stop by his apartment again. His brow furrowed as he felt something smaller and more solid than the fabric of a shirt. He pulled the item out and smiled as he looked at the photograph he'd taken with his vintage 1943 Kodak bellows camera.
In the picture was a young girl, no more than sixteen and her long, cornsilk locks cascaded over her shoulders and down her back and two young boys, one older than the girl with a rakish smile and one younger with a small timid smile. They were all laughing, but the blonde in the photo didn't know he'd snapped it while they were having a picnic. If she'd known, she would've demanded that he burn it immediately on pain of death, seeing as how she was in the middle of taking a bite of some various picnic fare.
It was one of Klaus's favorite pictures of her, because she was smiling at something that one of her brothers had said or done and it was one of the few times during that period of her life that her smile had fully reached her eyes. Darker days were ahead, no more than a month from the time of this picture and the blonde's world would come crashing down and never be the same again. But in this moment of fleeting happiness, captured through this medium with a glass lens and some film, that happiness was no longer fleeting; it was immortal.
It was in that moment that Klaus got an idea, and it put the biggest smile across his face. He quickly set the picture down and grabbed his coffee mug as he strode to the kitchen.
Caroline had no idea what he had in store for her.
"That'll be it for today, thank you for your time. I'll see you all next week!"
Caroline sighed as she put her laptop and notebook back into her tote, her movements mirrored across the room as her teacher dismissed the class and everyone prepared to leave. As she slid her arms through the sleeves of her jacket, she felt her phone vibrate in the pocket and she smiled when she took it out and looked at the name that lit up the screen. She slid her finger across it, answering the call and pressed the phone to her ear with a laugh.
"Well well well, if it isn't Mr. Salvatore...I thought you died."
"I did," her friend's exhausted voice replied, quickly adding, "you're talking to the spiritual remains of Stefan Salvatore. Please leave your regards and condolences after the beep. BEEP!" She laughed again as she heard him groan in anguish. "I swear to God I'm not going to survive Dr. Verschooris's final, not with Dr. Grismer piling clinic hours on me..."
"You've gotta take a break, Stef," Caroline said as she walked out of the building and past the statue of Thomas Jefferson.
"Oh that's rich coming from you, Miss Workaholic!"
"Hey! I'm not a workaholic...much," Caroline shot back lamely. "Actually I was just about to stop and grab a latte before catching the train home, would you care to join me, Ghost Stefan?"
"A caffeine buzz sounds great right about now," Stefan replied and in the blink of an eye, Caroline and Stefan were at a Starbucks halfway between Columbia and Stefan's hospital.
"Oh god, real coffee," Stefan groaned as he sipped his large French roast. "So much better than that battery acid at the hospital." He sipped again and moaned contentedly while Caroline pressed her lips together in an attempt to keep from laughing.
"Would you like a minute alone there, bud? Or I mean there's a Marriott down the street if you want to get a room so you don't have to go public with your special love at the hospital..."
"Oh man, that's such a good idea," Stefan replied with fake excitement. "Hold on, wait, my face itches..." He reached up and began scratching his face with his middle finger, turning to make sure it was obvious to the blonde who finally couldn't hold back her chuckles.
"Man, I've missed you, Stefano," she laughed as they both sat down across from each other in large, plush armchairs.
"I've missed you too, Carebear," Stefan smiled warmly, but quickly his smile became impish and he quirked an eyebrow at her. "And apparently that's not all I missed..."
"What else did you miss?" Caroline asked as she sipped her chai latte.
"Oh, nothing much, you know..." He started, eyeing Caroline before adding, "...Except my two best friends that are married on the down low moving in and living together!" Caroline started to choke on her latte, and she gasped as the hot beverage scalded her throat.
"Seriously, Care. I heard from Klaus before I heard it from you. And that says a lot, considering you usually tell me everything and Klaus usually tells me diddly squat..."
"I'm sorry, I'm just..." Caroline started and when she realized she didn't know how to finish that sentence, she growled softly in frustration. "Everything just kind of happened so fast and I was so preoccupied with work and the Today Show and...I'm sorry, Stefan."
"Apology accepted," the younger Salvatore murmured, sipping his coffee again before he cleared his throat. "So how's it going? Living with the, what was it that text said? The 'Original Narcissist-Alpha Male?"
"Okay that was a very basic, high school level psyche breakdown, and not my best work at that," Caroline admitted. "I'd like to see you go grocery shopping with him and keep your sanity..."
"So that's a 'No' on domestic bliss in the Mikaelson house then?" Stefan grinned behind his cup.
"It is not the Mikaelson house, it's the Forbes house," Caroline corrected.
"How does your name appear on the deed?" Stefan replied. He smirked at Caroline's silence before adding, "Legalities; they're a bitch, aren't they?"
"Did you just come here to torment me, Stefan?" Caroline asked angrily, throwing up her hands in defeat. "Fine, just get it all out. I'm sure all the sassy and facetious comments have just been piling up and you're just dying to dump them all over me." Stefan merely scoffed and shook his head at Caroline and gazed at her silently for a moment.
"Have you ever thought, Care, that maybe not everyone's out to get you and that maybe you're just too defensive and obstinate?"
Stefan's question hung in the air for a while until Caroline sighed.
"It's been brought to my attention once or twice..."
"I'm betting my initials are beside that diagnosis..." he added, his eyebrows moving upward, as did the corners of his lips.
"Oh what, so now you're a hematologist and a psychiatrist now?" Caroline asked sarcastically, but her tiny smile let Stefan know she wasn't angry anymore.
"I've picked up a few things over the years," Stefan added smugly, "both inside and outside a hospital. Dating Elena Gilbert gives you a unique opportunity to observe codependence and histrionic personality first hand."
"Hey, that's my friend you're talking medical smack about," Caroline said, raising a warning finger to the handsome brunette.
"That doesn't sound like you telling me I'm wrong," Stefan said, raising his eyebrows knowingly as he raised his cup to his lips again. He knew he had Caroline, and so did she, so he commandeered the conversation and redirected it to his original question.
"So...living with Klaus? Hellish, I imagine."
Caroline sighed and finally gave up the information she'd been so reluctant to give. "I mean, it's not completely terrible, he cooks and stuff, but I mean...he's Klaus!"
Klaus growled as he heard his phone trill in the living room, and he quickly poured the pot of boiling water and pasta into the colander in the sink before dashing to answer the ill-timed call.
"Hello?" Klaus said irritably.
"Hello, brother. I hope I'm not interrupting anything too terribly important."
"As always, Elijah, your timing is impeccable," Klaus replied, holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder as he went back to the pasta in the sink. "I guess I should be thanking you for not calling while I was elbow deep in my quiche mix..."
"You're cooking?" Elijah asked, Klaus noting the suspicion in his brother's tone. "...Why? Or for whom, is the better question."
"None of your business is the better answer," Klaus replied, pouring the pasta into the bowl with the dressing he'd prepared before opening the oven door and checking on the quiche.
"Are you cooking, perhaps, for whomever you're living with since you seldom inhabit your own apartment as of late?"
"You truly dance across the lines between appropriate and stalker with your concern, you know that right?" Klaus replied.
"Really, Niklaus, you shouldn't begrudge the person who was kind enough to indulge his brother's absence and collect his mail for him. We all know how your reclusive state can affect more normal conventions and methods of communication, so I knew after I didn't hear back from you that I should check your mail and your well being."
"Well thank you for that then, brother," Klaus replied distractedly.
"You can thank me by telling me with whom you're staying, Niklaus, since you're obviously not in our renovated guest room..."
"Yeah, nice try, Elijah. I appreciate the effort though," Klaus chuckled.
"You know how secret keeping makes me, Niklaus."
"Paranoid?" Klaus replied.
"'Worried' is the more appropriate term, I believe..." Elijah said calmly. "Don't force me to do something I don't want to do, brother."
"If you trace my cell phone that would be crossing the appropriate-stalker line and buying property in Stalkerville, USA..."
"If I weren't headed into a partners meeting, I'd meet with a realtor. I hear Stalkerville is lovely this time of year," Elijah replied casually. "For now I'll leave with you with some words of wisdom..."
"...That I didn't ask for..." Klaus interjected.
"...And tell you that if you wanted to make a good impression on your host or hostess, you might want to consider doing a little light cleaning, Niklaus."
"Seriously, Elijah? You're going to lecture me on good housekeeping?"
"I'm just saying it wouldn't kill you to run the dishwasher or fold some laundry, brother," Elijah clarified. "I've seen your apartment and I know you don't bother yourself with that sort of thing, but if you're someone's guest, especially a female someone's guest, all I'm saying is that women appreciate men making an effort. The smallest things show that you're trying and appreciative."
"I might respect this wisdom more if I didn't know how whipped Katherine has you," Klaus remarked as he pulled the quiche out of the oven.
"Says the man cooking for his female hostess..."
"Goodbye for now, brother."
Klaus hung up the phone and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. It was the Mikaelson family curse that too much time talking or being around each other induced migraines, stress and anxiety. Elijah migraines were even more annoying than Kol or Rebekah migraines because they were usually brought on by his logic whereas Kol and Rebekah sorely lacked that concept entirely.
He glanced over at the food he had prepared, checking things off his mental checklist, before turning and glancing around the apartment. What did Elijah expect him to do? Wash Caroline's windows? Dust the furniture? Mop the floors? He was her husband of convenience, not her housekeeper.
Still, he hadn't gotten around to putting away the sofa bed. And he'd spread his research books on impressionist artists across her dining room table. He sighed and glanced around, realizing that once again, Elijah proved he knew Klaus better than Klaus knew himself.
"I mean, are we talking about normal, expected guy funk or like...Klaus funk?" Stefan replied, his eyebrows raised, unsure that he wanted to know the answer.
"No, I mean he's been okay, he doesn't treat the apartment like he does his own..." Caroline clarified, swirling her coffee cup. "He cooks and he does the dishes...mostly..." She sipped her coffee and Stefan gave her his 'I-know-something-else-is-on-your-mind' face. "I don't know...I'm trying to not be my normal OCD-control freak on crack self and not sweat the small stuff..."
"...And I'm so proud..." Stefan interjected.
"...And he does his own laundry," Caroline continued, "but I can't help but wonder if it'd kill him to clean up after himself once in awhile. Like, he doesn't just take his shoes off, he kicks them to the other side of the room. He cleans the pots and pans and dishes, but I'm left chipping crud off my stove after a meal. He washes his clothes, but only after I put them in a hamper for him since they're typically strewn across the bathroom or the living room."
"Sounds like typical domestic coexistence to me," Stefan replied with a smirk.
"Problem is, Salvatore," Caroline said, "is that I signed up for marriage, not domesticity..."
"Well, you know it's like they say: When one door opens, another closes. There always has to be a balance."
"Thanks for the wisdom, Yoda. Especially considering you're the one that proposed this fiasco in the first place!"
"Hey, it was a solution to a problem, but I never said it was perfect!" Stefan said, holding up his hands even though a smile danced on his lips. "Besides, I doubt any solution would've appeased you." Caroline scoffed defensively and Stefan quickly added, "I love you, Care, but you're not exactly the easiest person to please. You have very high expectations of everyone, but that's because you have high expectations of yourself. It's just that you seldom let yourself down; problem is, you can't control other people and determine whether they fulfill your expectations or fall short of them. Domesticity aside, marriage-convenient or romantic-is about compromise, and I'm not sure if compromise is in the Caroline Forbes vocabulary book."
Caroline opened her mouth to refute Stefan's observation, but soon she closed it as she realized just how right her friend was. Whether it was in her personal or professional relationships, she expected a lot from people and that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and limited the number of relationships she had in her life. She looked up at her friend uncertainly but instead of seeing smugness or judgement, she saw the warm understanding that had made her connect with Stefan in the first place and she couldn't but smile back at him.
"Looks like I need to work on my vocabulary a little then," she replied, smiling shyly at him and Stefan patted her knee proudly.
"Atta girl..." he murmured before sitting back and crossing his scrubs covered legs, sipping his dark roast.
Caroline sighed as she stepped off the elevator and began rummaging around in her tote for her keys. As she approached her door, her brow furrowed at the soft whirring sound that seemed to be coming from inside the apartment. She cautiously slid the keys into the doorknob and slowly turned them and crept inside.
"Hello?" She called anxiously. "What's going-" Caroline began, but stopped as Klaus rounded the corner into the living room, pushing the vacuum back and forth in his path. He'd come from down the hallway and was wearing the Superwoman apron that Stephen had sent her as a gag housewarming gift. She tried to tell him he'd have been better off slapping a Wonder Woman sticker on a fire extinguisher since she was known for setting small fires rather than cooking, but Stephen wouldn't hear of it.
He was very diligent and focused on his task until he looked up and saw Caroline standing there gaping. Her jaw was practically resting on the carpet he'd freshly vacuumed as he quickly clicked the machine off.
"Oh, you're home. I didn't know you were back," Klaus said casually, but Caroline could see the blush on his cheeks and the shock in his eyes, as if he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "How long have you been standing there?"
"Long enough," Caroline smirked, watching Klaus hurriedly unplug the vacuum and recoil the cord as nonchalantly as he could, although he was not as discreet as he'd like to have been.
"Well my brother called and lectured me about good housekeeping..." Klaus babbled as he recoiled the vacuum cleaner's cord distractedly, "And I had been in the middle of cooking-"
"Oh so that explains the apron," Caroline chuckled, her arms crossing. Klaus stared at her for a moment before he looked down at himself and seemed to remember that he was indeed wearing her apron.
"Yes, well..." Klaus muttered, hastily and clumsily removing the apron. Caroline tried her best not to giggle as she watched Klaus tangle himself in the apron, but she finally decided to give him a hand and help him untangle himself. Klaus cleared his throat once he was free of the brightly colored fabric and Caroline took that and the embarrassed blush on his cheeks as a substitute for a thank you before he turned and strode towards the kitchen. Caroline followed, hung the apron back up on its hook, and took a seat at the small table in the kitchen.
"So, what's the occasion?" Caroline asked, letting her bag slide off her shoulder and hanging it on the corner of the chair's back.
"No occasion," Klaus started as he strode to the pantry, "I just thought that while we exchange information in preparation for our interview with INS, we would take advantage of this beautiful day outside..." He turned back to her and she saw Grandma Forbes's picnic basket in his hand and she glanced over and realized there were Saran wrapped bowls and Tupperware containers neatly stacked on the kitchen counter.
"Are you... taking me on a picnic?!" Caroline asked incredulously, although a slight smile played on the corner's of her lips.
"Indeed I am," Klaus said assuredly, striding over and placing the basket down on the table in front of her and turning back to open the refrigerator. "Many of my fondest memories are of the picnics I had with my family when I was younger. Besides, it would be a sin to waste this truly amazing day outside," he said as he rummaged around gathering bottles of drinks that had been chilling. He turned back to her, his arms full of small cans of soda with a dimpled grin, challenging her to try and say no. "What do you say, Caroline?"
For once, Caroline had no idea what to say. There were very few times that she was actually struck speechless, so few that she could count them on one hand; but as she looked at Klaus she really had no words for him. Everything he did surprised her: he had the leaning tower of take-out boxes in his apartment, but was practically a world-class chef in the kitchen; he was slovenly and messy, but meticulous when it came to his artwork; he was so rigid in his opinions and viewpoints, but he was so interested in learning about her and her life and how she got to where she was.
She'd joke and ask him if he was planning on opening the door of the taxi for her too, but then she remembered that pretty much anytime she didn't sprint out of the car while they were together Klaus would open the door for her. She wasn't used to this kind of chivalry and consideration, it was very thoughtful and kind of old school, but Caroline realized...she was kinda digging it.
"I'd say that going to Central Park for a picnic was cliché if it wasn't so ridiculously close and easy to get to..." Caroline smiled as she stood and began retrieve the covered dishes to put in Grandma Forbes' basket.
"Caroline, I know it's difficult for you, but would you please at least try to make an attempt at overcoming your sheltered, uncultured upbringing in rural Virginia and appreciating one of the most important and celebrated pieces of art in the world?"
"I just don't understand why you're making me look at this painting if what's important is the process in which it was made, not the actual painting itself..." Caroline replied pointedly as she and Klaus stood in front of Jackson Pollock's most recognizable painting Autumn Rhythm.
She and Klaus stood in a wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, their first stop after finishing their picnic. Once they'd finished picnicking in Central Park, Klaus talked her into 'a real New York outing,' and they hopped in a cab and Klaus gave the driver their destination.
"Because," Klaus started, patiently explaining to Caroline like a parent would explain the importance of veggies to a small child, "all you see are paint splatters on a canvas. However, I see divergence from the status quo by someone who knew what was expected of him and he not only refused to do it, he worked against it. They say that you're supposed to paint by placing a canvas in an easel, so he put one on the floor. They say you're supposed to place the paint with purpose, so he tossed paint around the canvas arbitrarily. His artwork reflects life because life isn't perfect nor can you plan it out perfectly. There are messy bits, no matter how hard you try to paint something pretty; and when all is said and done, it all ends up being part of the bigger picture."
He gazed at the picture appreciatively, taking in the beauty in all it's masterful chaos, and soon he heard a soft sigh.
"Well when you say it like that..." Caroline teased and he chuckled, his eyes not straying from the picture.
True, Pollock was one of the biggest artistic influences on Klaus's work, but he was one of the few artists that Klaus appreciated studying in an academic sense as well as an artistic one. Caroline's fib to INS wasn't wholly a lie; he did find himself influenced by artists like Degas, but there was some primal part of him that connected to the chaos and uncontrollable quality of Pollock's work and the like. He found the work of artists such as Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline riveting and provocative and they seemed to call to him in ways that Degas and others didn't.
"It's amazing listening to you talk about art," Caroline admitted, tearing her eyes away from the painting to look at Klaus. "You have such knowledge, such...passion. I hope that I have a tenth of the passion that you have for art one day..."
"You're not passionate about journalism?" Klaus asked, his brow furrowing as he turned to study her expression. "Or about The Today Show?"
"I guess not," Caroline shrugged lightly, glancing back at the Pollack. "I guess they're just goals I've been working towards for so long, they're all I have. I'm working for them, and I'm driven but I'm not-"
"Passionate?" Klaus supplied, understanding her revelation as he saw the wonder and awe on Caroline's face and in her eyes as she gazed at the painting, Klaus's speech on repeat in her mind.
"Yeah," Caroline murmured.
"Well I'm sure you'll find your passion in life soon... Maybe you'll find it when you least expect it."
"Maybe..." Caroline added, turning to Klaus and returning his understanding smile with her own close-lipped smile. "Okay. You picked our first stop, so I get to pick the next destination."
"Alright," Klaus said with a smirk, his best attempt to stifle his smile. "Where to?"
"Klaus, I know you've been in New York for almost four years now, but you've just got to embrace your inner tourist," Caroline said as they shuffled along in the line of tourists gaping and snapping pictures around them.
"I don't know why you insisted on taking the NBC Studio Tour when you work for NBC," Klaus said gruffly, clenching his teeth as the 17-year old with his eyes glued to his phone stepped on the heel of his foot for the millionth time. The kid mumbled a half-hearted apology and went back to his texting while Klaus used every bit of his willpower not to turn and grab the careless teenager by the throat.
"Becaaause," Caroline said, drawing out the last syllable as she tucked her arm through Klaus's, "even though you know someone with connections that can benefit you, you can't always take the easy route! And sometimes it's about the journey, not the destination. Take the time to enjoy things once in a while, Klaus. Take a look around and appreciate where you are before you try to go and get a closer look."
Klaus didn't know what stunned him more, Caroline's ease at their proximity or her incredible wisdom. He realized his gaze had been on the hand wrapped around his arm and he quickly cleared his throat and looked back up and took in the expansive television studios.
"Mighty wise for a hick girl from the 'Middle of Nowhere, USA'," he teased and Caroline chuckled as he quoted her earlier description of Mystic Falls.
"Hey, Middle of Nowhere, USA just happens to be in 'The Mother of Presidents.' I'd seen most of the major historic national landmarks in Virginia by the time I reached middle school! There's Natural Bridge, Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, the Appomattox Courthouse, the-"
"Alright, I get it, you've got culture even in rural Virginia," Klaus said, cutting Caroline off with feigned exasperation and she smiled triumphantly as she glanced over to a hallway on their left.
"And now for the fun part of going on a tour," Caroline said as she broke away from Klaus and the group, allowing people to pass her while Klaus did his best to keep up with her.
"What might that be, love?" Klaus said with a questioning smirk and a quirk of his eyebrow.
"Ditching the group," Caroline said as if she were surprised he asked. "Duh! Come on!" She took off speed walking down the hallway and Klaus followed in hot pursuit laughing after her.
Whenever anyone gave them strange looks, Caroline flashed them her Today Show ID badge and muttered, "He's with me," whilst jerking a thumb back at Klaus while they speed walked away.
"Why are we still rushing?" Klaus asked, glancing at the badge clenched in Caroline's hand.
"Because as a Today Show intern, I only have clearance to the Today Show studios. I'm not supposed to be traipsing around the studios all willy nilly!"
"Ahhh it seems that I was wrong about you after all, sweetheart," Klaus chuckled as they slipped into the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon set. "Even the purest hearts are drawn to darkness..." he added, his voice rumbling with melodrama.
"Hey, I married you didn't I?" Caroline replied, smirking as Klaus laughed sarcastically in her face. They explored the set of the late night talk show for a while, pretending to be the talk show host and camera man and alternating the roles, until they heard a door open and they quickly hid as a security guard entered the studio. They slipped out as quietly as they could and took off running to the lobby as soon as they were out of the studio. They caught their breath and laughed as they glanced back and saw that they'd made a clean escape before turning back to each other.
"Okay," Klaus said with a grin, grabbing Caroline's hand. "My turn to pick the destination." He pulled Caroline out the front doors and before she knew it, they were in a cab headed down 5th Avenue.
"God, I haven't been here in forever!" Caroline said as she turned her face up to the sky and spun around, taking in the sights and sounds around her.
"Washington Square Park has always been one of my favorite places," Klaus said with a contented smile. "Sometimes I'd just bring my sketchbook out here and just watch people and draw the faces around me, getting to know them from afar but them never knowing me."
"Hmm," Caroline murmured with a nod, "the brooding artist's attempt at social interaction."
"Well some of us aren't leaders of each and every club and group, Caroline," Klaus said sternly.
"I wasn't the leader of every group," Caroline replied indignantly. "I wasn't even a member of art club, much less the leader. I wouldn't be caught dead with those losers."
"Oh really?" Klaus smirked, raising his eyebrows.
"Yeah," Caroline challenged him, squaring off to face him, her hands on her hips.
"Well it looks like that's one for the art club losers since the brooding artist got the Homecoming queen."
"Oh please," Caroline scoffed. "You couldn't get me even if you tried."
"Bloody hell," Klaus cursed, gasping. "I thought you were the one with asthma!"
"Is that so?" Klaus smirked and Caroline saw the playfully predatory look on his face and squealed before she took off running, Klaus chasing after her. They were out of breath again soon, Klaus more so than Caroline, and she only halted after he came to a screeching halt, his hands on his knees.
"3 miles every morning, biotch!" Caroline replied triumphantly, stretching out her arms and challenging the winded Klaus. "Plus, I'm not constantly sucking down cancer clouds into my lungs, so that's a plus..."
"Yeah yeah, you're a health nut, it's wonderful," Klaus grumbled as he dragged himself over to a concrete seat and reached into his pocket to take out the toxic vice in question.
"Don't tell it to me, tell it to those poor wheezing organs in your chest cavity, Mikaelson," Caroline said knowingly as she came over to where Klaus was seated as she watched him tap the pack against his palm before lighting up.
"So when did you start smoking?" she asked curiously, taking a seat beside him. Klaus breathed in deeply and blew his smoke away from Caroline before turning back to her.
"I suppose I was about 13 or 14 give or take..."
"Wow," Caroline murmured, watching Klaus take drag after drag from the cigarette between his fingertips. She didn't, however, miss the dolefully ashamed look in his eye as he turned his gaze away from her and looked out to watch the masses passing through Washington Square Park. "Why is that?"
"Well," Klaus started slowly, "my father was not very fond of me, and I started bumming smokes off my older brothers around the same time I started sneaking liquor from the family cellar. Ways to numb the pain of his rejection, I guess..."
"Yeah... I get it..." Caroline said empathetically, looking down at her feet and after a while she realized that his eyes were now turned to her, waiting for further explanation. "My relationship with my dad was...interesting to say the least. When he left me and my mom, at first I felt like if I'd done something, anything differently, he wouldn't have left. I didn't realize how far off I was until I was nearly burnt out in my senior year with nearly a dozen extracurriculars on top of five AP classes and two courses at the community college. The price you pay for a father's love, I guess..."
"I guess so," Klaus murmured, gazing back out at the crowd up people.
"So, do you and your father get along better now, or-"
"Mikael's dead," Klaus said curtly, cutting her off. "Has been for some time."
"Oh," Caroline said quietly, taken aback by both his blunt delivery and the emotionless quality of his voice. Still, she felt compelled to express condolences, be it inherent common courtesy or genuine desire to empathize, and she soon murmured them. "I'm so sorry, Klaus."
"It's in the past," Klaus replied, choosing to state a fact rather than acknowledge her concern or any feeling of remorse. "Besides, the volatile, egotistical alcoholic wasn't a loss really worth mourning. My father hated me for what seemed like a thousand years and the closest he ever got to ending me was the day he died."
She studied Klaus while he begrudgingly opened up to her the little bit that he was, and when she saw his jaw clench, she knew he was locking up like Fort Knox. Still, ever the optimist and fixer that she was, Caroline offered up the only consolation she could in an attempt to unlock the fortress that was the handsome, troubled man sitting beside her.
"Well did you ever consider...sitting down with your father and talking it out?"
Knowing most of the story of her father coming out and leaving, Klaus chuckled dryly and peered up at Caroline and replied with a slight edge of condescension. "I'm afraid my relationship with my father was a little more complex than yours."
Caroline didn't miss the patronizing edge to his reply, even though he had a wry smile playing on his lips and light-hearted chuckle in his voice. Her eyes danced around his face for a moment, taking in the array of emotions that flitted across it and how Klaus did his best to hide them.
"Hm, maybe so...but I let my father go with no regrets..."
Klaus finally tore his gaze away from the throngs of people milling around the well-known plaza, and turned to the blonde on his left. She was now the one gazing out at the sea of people and Klaus took the moment to study her as she had him only moments ago.
There had been the tiniest bit of scolding in her voice, but more than anything, Klaus heard and saw not just pity, but understanding. Once again, the young, vivacious blonde had floored him with the depth of her wisdom and wondered how she so easily seemed to read him like a book, no matter how hard he tried to keep her in the dark about his past.
He often felt the pangs of guilt assault him after he and Caroline shared a moment and she opened herself and her past up more and more to him; he knew he could never, and would never, be that open about himself or his past with her. It was part of him and a time that he'd rather forget ever existed, but even with all the mystery surrounding him, he knew as he gazed at her that this woman beside him was an enigma he'd learn something new about every day he knew her.
His curiosity was piqued, but before he could question her further, he and Caroline both turned as they heard a voice call to them from afar.
Klaus and Caroline looked up and saw a familiar brunette quickly making her way towards them, waving emphatically at them with a dark-haired man following behind her.
"Oh great..." Caroline muttered to herself and Klaus chuckled understandingly.
"Be nice," Klaus muttered back and Caroline threw him a quick, agitated glance before slapping a smile on her face and standing to greet her friend.
"Elena! So good to see you!" Caroline squealed as Elena glommed onto her, giving her an overenthusiastic hug that made her feel like Elena was trying to break her ribcage.
"Yeah, I haven't seen you since my mom's dinner party!" Elena replied, before releasing her and Caroline could've sworn that she shoved her to the side as she moved towards Klaus. "You too, Klaus! How've you been?" Elena said, hugging Klaus and greeting him with the same friendliness that she did Caroline, if not more.
"Hello, Elena. Nice to see you," Klaus said politely as Elena released him but kissed both of his cheeks as if it were the most casual thing.
Caroline was successful at not rolling her eyes, but not at stifling the scoff in her throat as she watched her friend throw herself at Klaus, even with her boyfriend looking on. The awkwardness of Elena's excessive greeting wasn't lost on Klaus and he glanced at the man standing a ways behind the brunette with an uncomfortable smirk and a jealous glint in his eye and quickly cleared his throat. Once Elena gave him enough room, Klaus extended a hand towards the man and offered him a congenial smile.
"Klaus Mikaelson, nice to meet you..." he said as the dark-haired man gave him a knowing smirk and took his offered hand.
"Oh, Klaus this is my boyfriend-" Elena started but the man interrupted.
"Damon Salvatore, pleasure's all mine."
"Oh, Stefan's brother," Klaus commented. "Nice to meet the man behind all the stories."
"I could say the same about you," Damon replied, releasing Klaus's hand to wrap his arm possessively around the brunette who was still making goo-goo eyes at the Brit, and glanced between the two suspiciously. "So what are you two crazy kids up to?"
"Oh, Klaus and I are just doing a little sightseeing," Caroline replied, more to Elena than Damon. As Elena continued to jammer on and on about her favorite places in the city and iconic sites they couldn't miss, Klaus took the opportunity to size up the older Salvatore. He was just as he'd imagined from all of Stefan's stories, and to be honest, Damon shared very few traits with his younger brother. Stefan had lighter hair and green eyes and in contrast, Damon had dark hair and blue eyes; Stefan had squarer, wider features, Damon had narrow features; Stefan had a kind-looking face, whereas Damon implicitly seemed to be scheming and hiding something.
The elder Salvatore didn't size up Klaus during Caroline and Elena's conversation, but instead seemed to be dedicating the majority of his attention to the brunette beside him. He occasionally glanced over at Caroline, and if Klaus wasn't mistaken, she was intentionally avoiding his gaze by directing her attention exclusively at Elena and himself. Klaus looked between the two of them and wondered what problem Caroline could possible have with him, but then he found himself wondering if Elena wasn't the only one that had history with both Salvatores.
"Well we've got a lunch reservation, otherwise we'd stick around and chat more, but it was so good to see you two!" Elena suddenly said, snapping Klaus out of his thoughts. She quickly leaned in to kiss Klaus's cheek again before kissing Caroline's cheek and hugging her friend tightly.
"You too, have a nice lunch," Caroline replied amicably, hugging her friend back, then gazing at Damon warily as he leaned in towards her.
"Thanks, Blondie," he smirked as he leaned in, platonically touching her cheek with his and giving her a quick embrace. Klaus noticed how Caroline didn't return the embrace and visibly stiffened at Damon's touch, even with her polite and friendly smile plastered on her face. Damon released her and turned to Klaus and this time was the first to offer his hand. "Nice to meet you, Klaus."
"Likewise, Damon," Klaus said, giving him a firm handshake and a knowing smile. Damon looked at Klaus with a curious face, his eyes briefly glancing over at Caroline before looking back at the dimpled, clenched grin on Klaus's face. The pairs parted, walking in opposite directions, and after glancing at the retreating couple that was flagging down a cab, Klaus turned to the blonde at his side that had wrapped her arms around herself as they left.
"So...?" Klaus murmured questioningly at Caroline, whose gaze had been glued to the pavement in front of her. Her blue eyes came up to meet his and gazed at him blankly.
"So what's the deal with you and Damon?" Klaus clarified. "Did he leave you for Elena or something?"
"No," Caroline replied sharply, but then she laughed dryly. "Not that I haven't been a second choice to Elena before, but no."
"Sorry to pry," Klaus said, taking note of her prickly tone, "it's just that one would assume from your unenthusiastic body language that you have some sort of history with Damon..."
"I don't have any history with Damon," Caroline replied as stiffly as she'd treated aforementioned Salvatore.
"That seems rather hard to believe, sweetheart-"
"I said I don't have any history with Damon! Now drop it!" Caroline said firmly, her raised voice cutting Klaus off.
"Of course," Klaus said understandingly, and a tense silence slowly fell over them as Caroline did her best to flag down a cab. After what seemed like a century of silence to both of them, Klaus cleared his throat.
"Well just know that if I had any say in the matter, he never would've hurt you."
Caroline's hand fell as she turned to him, silently taking in his expression before he turned to her and added, "I wouldn't have let him."
She silently regarded him, taking in his expression and his words, the seriousness in his eyes and she knew he was being completely truthful. She thought back to the moment that Stefan had turned her down in undergrad and how politely he'd done it, despite his harshly firm delivery.
Despite what people thought, she knew that he and his older brother had more in common than people realized, and she found herself wondering if Klaus's influence had played any part in Stefan's delivery and his dedication to their friendship. True, Stefan's honesty had stung a bit, but out of all the men that Caroline had pursued and all the turndowns, Stefan's rejection hurt the least. In the end, Caroline was glad that he had turned her down like he had because she may have lost a lover, but she gained one of the best friends she'd ever had in her life.
Klaus gazed back at her unwaveringly as she studied him, but soon lifted an arm and a cab slowed to a stop at the curb beside them.
"Can I at least offer you a drink? Regale you with the tales of some of my own failed relationships?" Klaus offered lightly as he opened the door of the cab for her.
Caroline chuckled at his offer, but glanced around as she thought about his proposition, before looking back at him and taking a deep breath.
"Yeah. Thanks," she murmured hesitantly. As she stepped off the curb and ducked her head into the cab, Klaus smiled contentedly to himself. He had no doubt in his mind that a few short weeks ago, Fort Caroline would've been closed off completely with the kind of emotional reaction she had had moments ago; but now, they were continuing with their special day and Klaus felt so grateful that she chose spending time with him after their recent encounter.
"You know, I don't know why I haven't taken you up on your offer to go out for drinks sooner!" Caroline laughed as she stumbled through the door to the apartment, Klaus swiftly catching her from face planting in the foyer.
"I'm guessing that alcohol tolerance has something to do with your hesitance, love..." Klaus chuckled as Caroline carelessly flicked her shoes off her feet and dropped her bag on the edge of the coffee table, and soon the bag and its contents had spilled onto the floor beside the table.
"That was fun though! I got a lot of good pictures!" She added, not hearing Klaus's spot on deduction, reaching into her coat pocket and brandishing her phone in his face once she'd fumbled with unlocking it for a few seconds.
Klaus chuckled as he looked at the phone's screen, pictures documenting Caroline's various states of inebriation. The pictures started out fairly innocent when Caroline was merely buzzed and had insisted that 'they needed some nice coupley pictures from a form of technology built within the last fifty years.' He'd taken pictures periodically throughout the day with his vintage bellows camera after finding the photograph in his bag, but Caroline seemed to prefer the immediacy of her iPhone; he had a feeling, however, that she'd be regretting some of those photos once she sobered up.
The sound of the apartment buzzer caught both of their attentions, but before he could stop her, Caroline sprinted with surprising coordination to the speaker button.
"Helloooo?!" She sang into the walled microphone, but her sing-songy voice and attitude disappeared quickly as she heard the voice on the other end.
"Hi, sweetie!" Caroline's face became as white as a sheet in less than a second then became as red as the roses on her balcony just as fast.
Author's Note: DUN DUN DUNNNN! Momma Forbes is at the door! Oooh the drama! ;) Please tell me what you guys think! As much as I love to hear "you love it" and "it was great!" I love hearing your specific thoughts, so the longer the review, the better!
Shout out and massive thanks to my beta team: Leah (approvesomuch), Alex (klarolineepiclove), Miranda (livingdeadblondequeen/girl), Katie (hybridlovelies) and Ashley (jomosfamilyjewels). You gals are the reason I'm still in this fandom, still writing, and becoming a better writer with each chapter. :)