A couple of people asked me to do a follow-up to the Secret Santa one-shot, so here it is, set on New Year's Eve.
Why the hell is she here again?
Caroline looks around the crowded room, an unsettling sense of déjà-vu falling over her.
Why has she let herself be blackmailed into accepting Rebekah's invitation? And, most importantly, why has she actually gone through with it and showed up?
It's all Stefan's fault. Again. Matt's too, but she can't exactly blame him, given the fact that she had pretty much invited herself over to his house (the Lockwood's mansion, technically) for the whole past week, since the disastrous Christmas party fiasco at the Mikaelsons'.
She really had no intention of facing Klaus ever again after having involuntarily admitted to him that she felt something for him, and what better way of hiding away from the hybrid than taking residence in one of the few houses that he still had no invitation to come in for?
Not to say that he didn't try to coax her outside, because he did. He practically camped just outside the door for almost two days, but eventually gave up when Matt decided that the situation was becoming way too creepy and called Stefan to come and drag him away with the help of Rebekah.
And, now, all that careful hiding and ignored calls and text messages are just about to have been in vain.
Deep down, though, Caroline knows perfectly well the reason why she eventually caved, the reason why she's currently once again standing in the middle of the spacious living room of the Mikaelson mansion. Because, no matter how much she tried—and she has tried—she just can't seem to suppress her feelings for Klaus, however wrong they might be. And it kills her, hurts her more than anything else has ever hurt before in her whole life, to know that they both have real feelings for each other but are still separated by a tall, too well-built wall that seems to be unbreakable. That's why she's been adamantly refusing to confront him, because she wants it—him—but it's unfortunately not that easy. (Or is it?)
Sighing, she smooths down the pencil skirt of her white dress, unsure on how to proceed. For once, she actually wishes Kol or Rebekah were here, harassing her with their nosy, annoying personalities. Or better, she wishes Stefan hadn't immediately left to go greet she doesn't even know who, pretty much ditching her. It wasn't very much like Stefan.
Eventually, she decides her best option is to find herself something to drink, although she has no intention whatsoever to get even remotely tipsy after her last experience.
Yeah, let's not go there again.
But, obviously, the universe hates her—as if the previous years of death and mayhem around her hadn't been enough of a warning of that already—because she hasn't even ordered her first drink that a way too familiar, deep accent reaches her ears.
"So, she lives."
Caroline doesn't even turn around, the obviously hurt tone of his voice already too much for her to bear.
"Klaus," she sighs, her shoulders slumping in defeat. It was only a matter of time before he found her anyway—this is his home, after all. "Don't do this, please."
"Do what?" he laughs dryly, taking the seat next to hers and focusing his intense gaze on the soft features of her tired face. "You've been avoiding me for a week."
"With good reasons," she stresses, not daring to turn her head to look at him.
"Oh, yeah? Please, let me hear these 'good reasons', sweetheart," he mocks. "For I only believe that you're a coward."
Caroline immediately stiffens, both her hands tightening in fists on the counter. She remains silent, but it's not too much of a problem, really, because Klaus isn't instead done yet.
"Do you know how even harder it is for me now to stay away from you? To not take you in my arms, to not kiss you?" he asks bitterly, his voice slightly huskier than before as he leans closer to her. "It was torture before, love, but now that I know that you want to be with me too, it's pure hell."
Caroline grits her teeth together in frustration, gulping in the vain attempt of swallowing down her nerves as well.
She would be lying if she said that she doesn't want all of these things as well, just as much as he does, but she can't let herself be with him, she just can't.
Klaus seems to be reading her mind somehow, because his next question hits right home.
"What is still holding you back, Caroline?"
His voice is pitiful and pained even to his own ears, but he's past the point of caring about that now. All he wants—all he needs—is to finally be with her.
Caroline shakes her head, closing her eyes, cursing herself for the tears that she can feel forming and then run down her cheeks.
"No, please," she interrupts him, looking down at the counter in front of her. "Please, don't make this even harder than it already is."
Klaus' jaw clenches in the barely restrained anger that is building up within him.
"It's not going to get any easier, Caroline, and you know that. Not if we have to avoid each other in order to keep up a somewhat normal life."
"Well, then–then I'll leave," she stutters.
"I'll leave. Mystic Falls," she repeats, a lump immediately forming in her throat at the strained words. And the worst part is that it's not due to the thought of having to leave her childhood town, but to the thought of ever leaving him behind.
"You don't mean that," he replies with wide eyes, his tone incredulous, shocked, hurt—would she really go such a long way just to get away from him?
"I'm sorry, Klaus. I just... I can't do this."
And with that, she just flashes away before he can even blink, leaving him alone in the mist of a crowded room.
It's Stefan who finds her several hours later, hiding upstairs near one of the many bathrooms of the Mikaelson mansion.
He gives her a somewhat sympathetic smile as he approaches.
She attempts a small smile, but fails miserably. "Hey."
"What got you hiding up here?" Stefan asks teasingly, hopelessly trying to lighten up her mood.
Caroline gives him a pointed look just as he leans against the wall like she is, their shoulders almost touching.
There's a small pause, neither of them uttering a single word, but then Stefan sighs, almost wistfully.
"I know you have your reserves, Caroline—and I'm not saying that you shouldn't—but I also think that you should give him a chance. You do feel something for him, and it's not just going to go away on its own."
Caroline shakes her head. "I can't."
"Because he's Klaus," she answers, turning her head to look at her friend with raised eyebrows. "And he has done way too much evil that I can't forget about."
Stefan gives her a small, understanding smile. "You don't have to forget, Caroline, you just have to find a way to forgive him for it. We both know that he had his reasons to do all that he has done—he was just trying to protect himself and his family, you should be able to relate to that. Do you think that I just suddenly forgot that Rebekah drove Elena and Matt off Wickery Bridge with the intention of killing them? Or that Elena herself condoned all the bad things that Damon has done and still does?" he pauses for a second. "Of course we haven't. But when you find a person that can potentially make you as happy as Klaus can make you, you have to turn the other cheek sometimes, it won't make you any less of a good person."
Letting Stefan's words wash over her, contemplating them, Caroline sighs.
"So you wouldn't hate me?" she tentatively asks after a moment.
Stefan chuckles. "Of course I wouldn't, Care. Why would you ever think that?"
She shrugs, adverting her gaze. "I don't know. You didn't seem too happy with me on Christmas."
The Salvatore shakes his head, a small smile still playing on his lips. "I was just annoyed with Rebekah, mostly, for helping Kol setting everything up. And with Klaus, because he should have brought you to me when he realized that you were drunk; instead he was just about to take advantage of you."
This time, Caroline giggles as well. "He wouldn't have taken advantage of me," she rolls her eyes.
Stefan smiles at her knowingly. "Only because you wanted it, too."
"I guess I did," she sighs, letting her head fall against the wall. "I guess I do."
"Then what are you waiting for? It's almost midnight, and you know what they say," he winks.
Pushing herself off the wall in an instant, Caroline grins at her friend, ready to flash away, intent on finding Klaus before the clock finally strikes twelve.
"Thank you, Stefan," she says, her words carried in an echo as she has already disappeared.
"Eleven! Ten! Nine!"
It seems too much like a scene just out of some cheesy, end-of-the-year movie, but it's time, and Caroline refuses to wait even just a second more than it's necessary.
She spots Klaus alone in a corner, nursing an almost empty drink, as soon as she arrives downstairs again, slowing down her run for the too many humans present in the loud, crowded room.
Klaus seems to sense her presence—it's another one of their things, she supposes—and their gazes quickly lock together.
He looks as tired as she feels, and disheartened. It doesn't suit him at all, the big bad hybrid crawling in the dark of everyone's nightmares.
There's no time to explain, no time to talk, as she runs towards him at human speed, pushing and pulling at the people around her to make her way.
When she's finally in front of him, she's sort of breathless–
–a sensation that she's not used to anymore, but, if she thinks about it, there are a lot of feelings when it comes to Klaus that she wasn't used to anymore–
–and the beaming smile curving her lips threatens to split her face in two.
He looks utterly confused, and it's adorable and perfect, and she just wants to keep him—every single bit of him—for herself for the rest of forever.
And she can. And she will.
"Four! Three! Two!"
She frames his head between her hands, but when he seems to have finally caught up with what's going to happen,
–she's already kissing him and everyone's cheering and screaming around them.
Their mouths fuse together, lips parting at the same time, tongues meeting eagerly, dancing around each other with lust and greed–
–but their love is anything but a vice.
His arms immediately wind around her small waist, bringing her closer and closer still, caging her in the perfectly imperfect bubble that is them.
After a few moments, their lips separate, and he's looking at her with such unadulterated love and adoration that she just can't understand why she has ever fought this—him.
"I can," she whispers before he can say anything. "It will take some time, but I can forgive what you did. I already am."
Their smiles mirror each other. Genuine, happy.
"And I don't want to change you, but some things will have to change."
He nods immediately.
"They will," he promises her solemnly, and she is sure that he will keep his word. "For you, everything, my love."
Their lips meet once more, and they don't need any more words, they don't need any more promises, for their bodies are sealing the most important one all on their own.
And it's one that is going to last just about forever.