Title and following lyrics are from Charlie Simpson's song of the same name, which I highly suggest you listen to while reading this. Angst angst angst all the angst, the kind that might kill you (or, you know, someone else). *inserts little angel emoji*
Would you love me any less...
When Caroline is twenty-two, she breaks her ankle while camping.
Stefan and Bonnie—her two best-friends-forever ever since the infamous accident of kindergarten that shall never be mentioned again ever—immediately bring her to the nearest hospital, although they are shooed away as soon as they finally arrive there because she can take care of herself now, thank you veryveryvery much.
Indeed, by the time she's waiting for her X-rays results, she's already on bad puns and jokes terms with two nurses and happily munching on a bag of chips that one of them has brought her from the vending machine. So, yeah... sore leg aside, life is still pretty good.
That's until the British, dimpled jerk happens.
"Cheerleading gone wrong, love?" she hears a sultry, accented voice ask all of a sudden, half startling her back from her reveries.
Lazily, the blonde turns around towards the source of the noise, feeling a mix of annoyed and confused once she spots a tall, extremely attractive—not that she, like, cares or anything—stranger leaning against the door of the small hospital room that they have put her to wait in.
She cocks her head to the side and arches an eyebrow up at him, tight-lipped, mocking smile in place.
"As wrong as your flirting, love."
But her quip doesn't seem to deter him in the slightest, the man's smirk actually widening as he steps fully inside and earns himself a pair of narrowed blue eyes at his nerve.
"Touché," he half ducks his head to hide his amusement—Caroline's glaring intensifies, if possible, at the fleeting sight of his dimples—and moves even closer, until he is all but right in front of her. "I'm Klaus."
"Mmh," she hums, regarding him somewhat spitefully. "And a doctor, I presume?" the question echoes between them in a no-nonsense tone, which makes it rather clear that the blonde isn't interested in witnessing his poor attempts at being charming.
He simply shrugs, however, hands stuffed in his dark jeans' pockets.
"I might as well be, with all the time that I've spent around here."
"Cryptic, much?" Caroline huffs, hating the fact that her curiosity has now been piqued.
Klaus' orbs light up knowingly, and his grin is too contagious for her to remain annoyed.
"Perhaps I could tell you more over dinner?"
She's praying he isn't some kind of hospital serial killer, when she accepts.
"So you were born with it?" she asks, mindlessly letting the delicious spaghetti in her plate twirl around her fork.
It's a week and a half later and Caroline feels ridiculous with the tragically unfashionable, white cast all wrapped up around her tiny right foot, but she and Klaus have been texting and calling each other ever since their first meeting and everything between them just feels so easy; of course, currently, a restaurant would be too much of a challenge for her, but the Brit cooks a mean tomato sauce and her apartment has been deemed cozy enough for a proper first date.
"Does it ever... did it get any better, with time?"
He looks up at her—although his gaze has never strayed too far from her face, in all honesty—and she's grateful that he appears amused rather than peeved by her incessant questioning.
"The condition, or dealing with it?"
"Both?" she tries, hesitant.
Klaus lets out a brief chuckle in response to the awkward shrug of her shoulders, his head half thrown back in hilarity.
"Not quite. But I have learned to live with it, and I do not make it a habit to let other people know so that they will not treat me any differently."
Caroline nods in understanding, knowing that she would act the same way if in his shoes, and then remains silent for a few moments, feeling his eyes piercing through her skin as he observes from the other side of the table.
"Thank you," she says suddenly, voice firm yet full of emotion. There's confusion written along the lines of his furrowed brows, so she promptly elaborates. "For trusting me with it."
For once, there's no trace of cockiness on the Brit's features, his usual smugness replaced by an odd combination of gentleness and intensity as he unabashedly returns her stare.
The words hypertrophic cardiomyopathy swirl around his head like they've already done too many times before in his life, and he privately acknowledges that, as little as they still only know each other, he is literally trusting her with his very heart.
"I told you that we're not going."
Caroline huffs, hands coming up to frame her hips in her signature you will do as I say stance.
"You know why."
"Yes," he sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose in an exasperated motion, "and it's a rather ridiculous reason, love."
"Your health is nothing ridiculous, Klaus!"
He scoffs, the sound laced with bitterness, his eyes turning hard in a way that they rarely ever do when he's around her.
"You think I don't know that? But you're the one person who has never treated me as if I were made of glass and I need that to not change, Caroline."
His voice is strained, choked, like he's barely holding it all together, and the blonde's features immediately soften in response.
"I'm sorry," she relents, walking to where he's standing and carefully taking his hands into hers, fingers intertwining almost on their own accord. "I just refuse to take any chances."
"It's only baseball, love. America's favorite pastime," he grins, neck lowering a few inches until his forehead is resting against hers.
Caroline rolls her eyes. "You hate baseball, anyway; and you also hate my coworkers, whom you would have to play with. I'm sure you don't need me to remind you of what happened the last time you and Enzo were in a room together, do you?"
"No," his smirk widens, cheeks sinking into dimples. "But that poor chap might, perhaps."
"He still has a scar to prove it, so probably not," she admonishes with a glare, although failing to completely rein in her own smile.
With pride, Klaus pecks it into full bloom.
"Well, then," one of his eyebrows raises expectantly, "I guess you'll just have to convince me that we should stay home instead?"
The blonde hums thoughtfully against his lips, pretending to be considering his proposal as she starts walking them backwards until her legs finally hit the leather of the couch behind her.
"I'm sure I'll be able to think of something."
(You were born with an honest heart,
and it carried me from the start.)
Rounding the corner into the hospital room that the nurse pointed her to—it's been over two years, ever since she has first set foot in that place—Caroline is nearly breathless.
And while she expected to feel better at the sight of Klaus still alive in front of her, as her gaze sweeps over her fiancé's form lying limp and helpless on the bed, attached to countless tubes, wires and monitors, the frantic and scared pounding of her heart only worsens.
She harshly swallows the lump that is stuck in her throat and turns to Rebekah.
"What... what happened?"
The other blonde briefly looks up at her, eyes red with tears and her usually flawless, pale complexion marred with fear and anxiety.
"I–I don't know," she lightly shakes her head to herself, voice wavering. "He was just messing around with Kol and Henrik and then... one moment he's fine, the next he's falling to the ground, gasping for air, and none of us can do anything to help him. We should have been prepared," her tone suddenly becomes a tad louder, gradually angrier, "we knew this could happen, we—"
"It's not your fault, Rebekah. There was no way you could have foreseen or prevented any of this," Caroline gently touches her friend's arm, the two girls' gazes meeting meaningfully. "What did the doctors say?"
"That he was lucky. One more minute without oxygen to his brain and there would have been nothing for them to do."
The words hit her like a punch straight to the stomach and, in a sort of trance-like state, Caroline can only nod.
There's a part of her, deep down somewhere, that wants to say that's what they should be focusing on and be grateful for—the being lucky, the positive aspect of it all—but how is she supposed to try and give somebody else hope when she's not sure she would be able to believe it herself?
What they are living... it's worse than a nightmare; it's the beginning of the end.
But it's actually a dream, for a little while.
With a smile on her face, Caroline buries her worries underneath months of meticulous wedding planning and then a few weeks of blissful honeymoon around the world—Rome, Paris, Tokyo, he had cheekily promised to take her to only on their second date so far back in time now—and ultimately the proper start of their life together.
She's a much better and more experienced journalist now, and he's finally almost ready to open up his own art gallery. They are working it all out, somehow. They are happy.
And, two years in, they are even ready to welcome a precious third member into their family.
"Just breathe, love," Klaus tries to reassure his wife. "It's all going to be fine."
Of course, the blonde's response promptly comes in the form of a skeptical scoff.
"Easy for you to say. You're not the one who will have to push another human being out of their body in the coming days."
"You could always—"
"I am not getting a C-section, Klaus."
Knowing going over the topic again would only stress his wife out even further, the Brit lets out a heavy sigh and concentrates back on the road instead.
"Why are we still not moving?" Caroline suddenly asks, sounding less exasperated than she actually feels, craning her neck to look at the many other cars piled up in front of them. "We should have been at the hospital twenty minutes ago, already."
"There has probably just been some minor accident."
"Ugh," she leans back against the passenger seat with a pout, arms crossed over her chest and protruding stomach. "Dr. Laughlin better not give my room to somebody else in the meantime."
Despite himself and the situation that they are in, Klaus finds himself chuckling wholeheartedly at her adorableness.
"I am pretty sure that's not how it works, love. I could give her a call, however, if it'd make you feel better, and tell her that we're on our way?"
A smile immediately breaks across Caroline's face, all traces of anxiety and irritability finally leaving her features.
"Yes, please! How much longer can we really remain stuck here for, anywa—"
The windows' glass shattering all around them is the last thing that Klaus sees and feels before a sudden darkness engulfs him.
Loud noises. Loud voices. A blinding light and a terrible ache in his chest.
"He's awake! Sir, please keep talking to me, do not close your eyes."
Breathing is nearly impossible. "Where—where is my wife?"
"Right beside you, Sir. We're bringing you both into the OR."
"She's—" he swallows thickly, voice cracking as he fights the fatigue that he's feeling to stay awake, "she's pregnant."
"We're aware. We'll do our best, but we have to separate you now."
Some distant sort of alarm goes off then; and it's one that he knows all too well, one that he has had connected to his own heart many times before.
"Everyone, I need a defibrillator right this instant! She's going into cardiac arrest!"
His head tilts to the side almost on its own accord, and the nurse ordering him to stay still easily fades in the background as his eyes find Caroline's body torn and bloodied, terrifyingly motionless on the stretcher next to his.
He reaches out with one arm, the limb shaking as he desperately tries to get closer to the blonde love of his life. It's both tears and blood clouding his vision now, marring his face, tainting the lingering taste on his lips of the kiss that the two of them shared before leaving for the hospital only a few hours ago.
Gaze trailing down to her stomach and then up to her face again, it's not memories but what their future should have been like that flashes painfully through his mind.
"One more. Clear!"
She was supposed to be the one with the stronger heart, wasn't she?
... if my eyes became weak,
if I could no longer hear you speak?