Chapter Nine – Been A Long Day
It's been a long day and all I've got to say is make it strong
It's been a long week and I'm finally feeling like it's okay to break
It's been a long year and I'm finally ready to be here.
Caroline stopped when she heard someone calling her name behind her, surprised to see Stefan jogging after her. She stopped where she stood, waiting for him to catch up to her. "You didn't have to leave your father-in-law's birthday party for me. I'm fine. Really. I can't believe you left Rebekah alone in that den of lions," she lied unconvincingly as she tried to wipe away the tears before they fell. The effort was in vain, more gathered before she could wipe the previous tears away.
"I wanted to make sure you were okay and got to the train okay. Rebekah is more than capable of handling herself. She can put all of those boys to shame. She told me to go after you while she held down the fort at home. She'll be fine. What about you?" he asked, looking up at her. His eyes racked over her appearance with concern for her and the baby, looking for any sign of pain or stress.
"I'm sorry. I really am fine. It's just the hormones make me cry at the drop of a hat now and it's ridiculous. I thought I was emotional before, but now I feel like the sky is falling whenever anything doesn't go right." She hung her head, trying to keep the tears from streaming down her cheeks.
"Caroline," he said, softly, setting his hands on her shoulders. "None of this is your fault. What Mikael said was anything but true. You know that right?" he asked, looking down at her.
"I know, I know," she said, leaning into him. She thought she was fine for a moment, but then the tears started flowing again. "I'm never going to be good enough for them. I know I'm not a gold digger. I know I didn't do this on purpose, but that's how they are always going to think about me. That I'm just some stupid girl who got pregnant on purpose to trap their son. That I'm not good enough. That my baby isn't good enough. How is that fair? He or she isn't even born yet and they hate it. Maybe they are right about me, I'm just a stupid girl who made a stupid mistake."
"Caroline, you are none of those things and I think you know that. You are smart and talented and successful. You should not let one family's opinion of you change the way you look at yourself." Stefan wrapped his arm around her shoulders as they began to walk to the train station. "And it's not the whole family. Elijah and Rebekah adore you and Klaus is coming around. The others don't know you well enough to have an opinion on you, but when they get to know you better, they will love you too. And that baby is going to be a little Forbes. There's going to be nothing it can't handle."
"I just wish it was easier," she sighed, wrapping her arm around his middle as he walked her to the train stop.
"Well, nothing is easy, but we both know that you are going to rock at this. My niece or nephew will have the best mom in the world," he told her as they stopped in front of the stairs. "Do you want me to take the train with you home? I can meet Rebekah at home later."
"I'm fine, Stefan. I think I can manage the metro home. The stairs are ten feet from my building. I think I can make it." She smiled, "Now go back there before they burn the house down or something insane. They were breaking plates before I left. Make sure your wife is still alive."
"Are you kidding? My wife is probably the one breaking them." He smirked, turning to walk back towards the house.
Caroline watched him for a moment before sliding her hand down the railing as she walked down into the subway. Part of her knew that Stefan was right. It didn't matter what the Mikaelson's thought about her. She knew what kind of person she was. She didn't need to the approval of someone who had tricked her into walking into an ambush and those were the last people that her baby needed in its life.
By the time she made it back to the bakery, Caroline's craving for the chocolate cake she had made earlier had not get subsided. As tempting as her bed upstairs was sounding, chocolate sounded just a little bit better. She headed up to her apartment and changed into a sweatshirt and a pair of sleeping shorts before heading down to the bakery kitchen. She had barely gotten the cake out of the oven when she heard a knock on the door. It was late, she hadn't been expecting anyone, but robbers and serial killers tended not to knock.
Placing the cake on the cooling rack, Caroline wandered into the store front, surprised to see Klaus standing on the other side of the glass door. She raised an eyebrow before walking over to unlock it, "What are you doing? It's freezing out here," she asked, pulling him inside before closing the door and locking it behind him. She looked up at him then, her eyes widening when she saw the dark purple and yellowing marks beginning to form around his left eye. "Are you okay? Did you get mugged?" she asked, wiping the fallen snow off his shoulders.
"Let's just say Mikael and I don't always see eye to eye," Klaus spoke, moving further into the room. "Unfortunately, Finn and Elijah pulled us away from each other before I could get the proper left hook he deserved in." He peeled off his jacket, setting it over one of the chairs at the bar as he looked over at Caroline.
"I'm going to get you some ice. Just stay here," she said, as he sat down on one of the bar stools. She picked up a clean towel, walking behind the bar and scooping some ice onto the middle of it before making it into a pouch. "Here, put this on your eye before you swell up any more than you already are," she said, gently placing it against his eye. He winced when it first made contact with his swollen eye, but put his hand over hers to take the pouch from her. "What are you doing here?" she asked softly once he was situated.
"You left dinner so quickly, I didn't exactly have a chance to see if you were alright."
"Yeah well, your family didn't exactly want me there. I figured the faster I left the happier they would be," Caroline said with a hint of bitterness in her voice.
"Mikael is quite different behind closed doors than his public persona would lead people to believe."
"Well, that's for sure," Caroline laughed humorlessly, wiping away the remnants of her eyeliner and mascara, the bits that had not been washed away from her earlier tears. She looked down at the ground, "Your mother might be worse. I have a feeling this entire evening was a set up. She seemed quite keen on completely blindsiding me and shoving me in the spotlight to be humiliated."
"Esther has always been the perfect politician's wife. She can ram a dagger in your back with a smile on her face. Quite the skill in politics," he said, pulling the ice pack away from his eye to look down at her before she prompted him to put it back.
"It's going to swell up more if you don't keep the ice on it," she warned, before walking behind the bar again and picking up a glass and a dark bottle.
"I'm not an expert, but I don't think you are supposed to drink that while pregnant," Klaus said, watching her carefully.
"It's not for me, it's for you. You're still seething. I can see it all over you. You were drinking bourbon the night we met, I thought this would help," she said, handing him the glass. "And for the record, a glass of red wine every once in a while is actually good for the baby. It helps relieve stress."
He took the glass, taking a sip from it before looking back at her. "You never answered my question."
"That's because you didn't ask one. You said you came to see if I was okay, but you never asked if I was okay." She leaned into the counter.
"I'm fine. It's not the worst thing anyone has ever said to me. I'm a big girl. I can get over it," she said, putting on a little smile. She knew it hadn't been okay, but she also knew those weren't people who were going to change their mind about her and she was just going to have to accept it.
"What Mikael said-"
"We really don't have to talk about it. I promise I'm fine. He's just another politician who thinks his opinion is the end all be all. This town has plenty of them. This one just happens to be the grandfather of my unborn child," she said before wrinkling her nose.
"Step-grandfather," he corrected, "And I think it would be best for everyone involved if the child in question had no contact with Mikael what so ever." He sighed, bringing the glass to his lips again. "And we do need to discuss it. You have every right to know that Mikael and Esther's opinions are theirs alone. They are not widely shared."
His stare was intense. The weight of his words made Caroline's eyes water. It was simple, he had probably meant it to simply make her feel better, but she also knew that he was being honest. He didn't believe any of the things that Mikael had said and if his words did not cement that fact, the black eye that he was sporting did. The two of them weren't exactly on the best of terms but it was certainly better than it had been before. It was a start. One they needed if they were going to raise this child together in a few months. It was a two way street. She knew that from watching her own parents go through it when she was younger and this was the first time it seemed like Klaus was actually putting any effort into it. She quickly got ahold of herself, wiping the corners of her eyes and playing it off like it was nothing, "Thank you. She said softly. She shook her head, trying to shake the thoughts clouding her mind, thankfully the dinging off the kitchen timer got her off the hook. "I have to get that." She moved away from the counter and disappeared into the kitchen, taking the cake off the cooling rack and over to the counter.
"Do you always make a habit of cooking in the middle of the night?" Klaus asked, leaning into the kitchen doorway, the icepack still pressed to his cheek.
"It's not cooking, it's baking," she corrected, "And yes, I do. It calms me. Plus I've been craving chocolate cake since I made it this afternoon. I thought I would get it this evening, but that didn't pan out so I came home and made it for myself. I'm guessing you missed out on the cake too."
"Well, after I caught a right hook, I didn't see the sense in sticking around to see him blow out the candles," he shrugged his shoulders.
"I might be willing to share," she said, placing the cake on the stand so she could begin frosting it. "I might even let you help, maybe, you know if you aren't too worried about getting your Armani dirty."
"It's Hugo Boss actually and there's already blood on it. It won't be of much use now," he said, looking down at the red stain on his grey tie. "Elijah would have my head."
"There is such a thing as dry-cleaning. You are being a little ridiculous," she said, looking over at him before returning to her work, mixing up the ingredients for her frosting.
"Says the pregnant woman who caught a train in six inch heels earlier this evening." He smirked, pressing the ice pack against his cheek once more as he leaned against the counter watching her work.
"Pregnancy is not an excuse for lack of style despite what most women seem to think," she pointed out. She had never understood the muumuu collection that some women amassed while carrying their children. There were designer pregnancy clothes for heaven's sake. No excuse not to dress accordingly. Heels may have been a little trickier now that her center of gravity was shifting, but she was not going to let that stop her.
"I'll take your word for it. I have not associated with many pregnant women, barring Finn's wife."
"Well, now you'll have a reason to learn these things." She looked back down at the counter, picking up a generous portion of chocolate frosting and plopping it on top of the cake before beginning to spin the stand to frost it.
"Something tells me you will tell me anything I need to know," he countered, pulling the mostly melted icepack away from his eye and depositing the dripping cloth into the sink. He leaned back against the counter, watching her work. The way the frosting knife worked across the cake reminded him of a painting knife against canvas, the motion was almost hypnotic. It was a different aesthetic than he used, but it was still art none the less and something about it intrigued him.
"What your- Mikael said back there, about the baby not being a real Mikaelson, what did he mean? I've gathered that he's not your real father, but all of your other siblings call him father." She was a bit nervous to ask, it was a personal question, but it had been on her mind since she heard him speak earlier that evening. It probably was not any of her business, but the words left her mouth before she could think too much about what was socially appropriate and what was not.
Klaus closed his eyes for a moment, making Caroline wonder if she had crossed a line. It was not a subject he particularly enjoyed speaking about, but he knew if he shut the conversation down completely he would only make Caroline more curious about it. After what she had been through this evening the least he could offer her was an explanation and he felt compelled to give her one. "I am the only one of my siblings that is not Mikael's biological child and he has reminded me of that fact every day of my life. Esther got a bit too friendly with one of the associates at Mikael's law firm back in London and I was the product of that affair."
Caroline's eyebrow rose instinctively. It made sense, but she didn't understand how someone could punish the child in that situation. It certainly wasn't his fault. "If he had such a problem dealing with it, then why didn't they just get divorced? It's not fair to ostracize you for your mother's mistake."
"Mikael was preparing to run for political office in the UK. He could not afford the bad press. Not when his constituents were watching his every move. No one wants to cast a vote for someone who can't manage to keep his own family together and wife in line. They stayed together for his career and it paid off for him."
"All while you got relegated to evil step son. That doesn't seem very fair."
"Life isn't fair, Caroline."
"I'm aware. We all have to deal with the cards we're dealt," she sighed, shaking her head. "What about your biological father? Do you see him?"
"Never met him. Mikael could not have the affair coming to light. The details are always a bit fuzzy, but from what I've gathered he was sent to prison and killed in a scuffle not long after."
She frowned looking up from the cake, "I'm sorry." She walked over to the sink, dropping her used dishes into it before retrieving a knife. "If it makes you feel any better, the alternative isn't any better. My dad took off when I was ten. I've only heard from him a handful of times since then." She took the knife and sliced into the cake she had just spend so much time perfecting. "I don't think he ever wanted to go the husband or dad route. I was an accident, then my parents got married because it was the right thing to do. Nothing like repeating the pattern." She placed the sliver of cake onto it before handing it to him.
"Do you wish he was around more?" he asked curiously, picking up a fork from the counter where Caroline had left them.
She stopped what she was doing to think about the question for a moment. Years ago, she would have said yes. Any kid who grew up without a parent would want them back in their life, but as she got older, she realized the truth of the mater. "No," she said, shaking her head. "It's not what he wanted and he would have resented me if he stuck around just for me. I mean it sucks. I wish I was dealt a different set of cards, but it is what it is. I can't make him do something he never wanted to do. I just wish he'd left sooner to be honest. I know that sounds horrible, but the first ten years of my life I tried so hard to make him like me. I was constantly trying to get his approval and it was an impossible battle. He didn't want to be there. I wish he had never tried to pretend with me. It would have made things a lot easier."
"We're not that different, you and I."
She looked up from the sliver of cake she had cut for herself. A small smile crossing her lips. "I suppose we aren't."