Fallen

Chapter Four

A.N. Sorry for the wait, my friends. Things got a little crazy, and time got away from me. Headed to work this morning, so I'll keep it short, but once again thank you all for your reviews and favorites and follows! And thank you to Becky and Miranda, for their amazing work and input.

Read, and hopefully enjoy, all!

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The ticking of the grandfather clock created a tranquil rhythm as Klaus concentrated on the sketchpad propped on his knee, his brow furrowed as his eyes followed every scratch of the pencil against the paper. The lines met and curved, the tips of his fingers simultaneously rubbing against them to shade in the appropriate areas. They wound around the shape of a chin, the curve of a neck, the cascade of a never ending curls.

It gave him pause to realize that no matter what he may have set out to draw, it always somehow became the bewitching blonde he'd met weeks ago.

Their paths had crossed several times over the last few weeks. He didn't make a habit of leaving Declan in the care of Cami, but with several big showcases on the horizon at Sire Studios, and Rebekah's blossoming clothing line taking flight, his options were few and far between with regards to child care.

Camille was trustworthy, and a friend-something he had very few of. She was one of the few people outside his siblings he trusted his son with. He never had any qualms of leaving Declan with her, knowing that he would be well looked after-not that much supervision was required. While he and the rest of the Mikaelson clan had managed to be complete tyrants as children, his son had amazingly not inherited that gene.

Klaus couldn't even express how much of a relief that was. Between him and Declan's mother...

He shook the thought away, focusing once more on the drawing of Caroline that begun to manifest on the pad in front of him.

Caroline.

A smile played at his lips as he thought of her. She was intriguing. Beguiling. Entrancing. There was something behind her blue eyes and smile that just seemed to pull him in.

He would be lying if he said he didn't look forward to the afternoons Declan stayed with Cami, because it meant there was a fairly good chance he'd run into her again. And like clockwork, he'd walk through the doors to see the blonde bartender sitting with his son, chatting absently about daycare and graham crackers and, always it seemed, sloths. She seemed to have the utmost patience with him-never prattling him along or drifting away from their conversations. She hung onto his every word, nodding and laughing with him, and Klaus would often just linger in the doorway for a few moments more, watching.

She never spoke much towards him. She never really held his gaze for long either.

But there were moments when she did. She would smile and laugh with him as they waited for Declan to gather his backpack and afternoon snacks, and he would ask her how she liked New Orleans so far or how she was faring alongside Cami on the packed house weekends. She would answer shortly and sweetly, always with the same hesitant look in her eye, always swiping at a strand of hair or twisting her hands in the burgundy apron that tied around her waist. And when they left for the day, she would always smile brightly and tell Declan goodbye, before slowly shifting her gaze to him and offering him a small wave.

He found himself looking forward to that small wave more and more often.

The sound of the front door opening and slamming shut resounded from the front hall, and his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of heavy footfalls echoing against the hardwood floor.

"Daddy!" a high pitched voice called out, causing him to roll his eyes. "We're home!"

Klaus lifted his gaze as his younger brother rounded the corner, his lips twitching into a smirk when he saw his son perched high on his shoulders, a happy grin on his face as his hands held onto his uncle's hair for balance. Kol was grinning, his grip tight on the small boy's legs as they dangled over his shoulders.

"We're no longer amused by Archie and Jughead, and Dr. Seuss just doesn't do it for us anymore. And when I suggested to the librarian that we try for something a bit more mature, she gave me quite the death stare and told me that 50 Shades was far from appropriate for a small child." Kol clicked his tongue. "I'm afraid the city library has been mastered. Off to new ventures."

"New ventures that are sure to only corrupt him," Rebekah said as she made her way into the room, wiping her hands on a dish towel. She rolled her eyes, looking over to Klaus as rested her hip against an armchair. "Why you let him go anywhere with Kol is beyond me, Nik."

"Look, Declan, Auntie Bekah is back from her stay in the seedy underworld of New Orleans," Kol sang, slouching down so the boy could slide over his head and settle on his feet. "Be careful when giving her hug-you may catch something."

Klaus could only shake his head and sigh when Rebekah threw the dish towel at Kol's face, his younger brother laughing as he caught it and began to wrap it around his hands. Sometimes he found himself regretting that every one of his siblings had a key.

"Dinner is ready, so I hope you're hungry, Deck," Rebekah said, glaring at Kol before shifting her gaze to the small boy making his way over the couch where his father sat. She watched as Klaus shifted his legs until both feet rested on the floor, and the blonde haired boy climbed up onto the overstuffed cushion.

His small feet dangled over the edge as he looked over at his father, smiling when he reached over and ruffled his hair affectionately before turning back to the sketchpad in his lap. He kicked his legs back and forth, tucking his hands into the cracks between the cushions as he shifted his gaze to Rebekah. "Are we having spaghetti?"

"It is the only thing she can decently make, kid," Kol taunted from his place at the bar, shaking his head as he poured an amber colored liquid from a large decanter into a glass. "How you ever expect to keep a man after your feminine wiles fade away, dear sister, is beyond me."

"Shut up, Kol," Rebekah growled. "At least it's better than that sludge you try to pass off each time you cook. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why Bonnie hasn't completely kicked you the curb after all the times you've eaten her out of house and home."

"More than likely because that's not the only thing I've eaten her out of," Kol quipped happily, saluting with his glass of scotch when his sister's face took on an expression of disgust and disbelief.

"Enough, the both of you," Klaus chastised from his place on the couch, glaring disapprovingly at both of them before looking meaningfully at the boy at his side whose attention was riveted on the Superman watch strapped to his wrist. "Kol, take your inappropriate innuendoes elsewhere if you're set on riling up Rebekah."

Kol scoffed, tossing back the last of his drink as he shook his head. "Kicking me out. And after I slaved the day away with your son, going from place to place, childish expedition after childish expedition. And this is the thanks I get? I'm the good uncle, in case you've forgotten, Nik. Nothing like the lazy ass ones that are Elijah and Finn."

A small, shocked gasp followed his outburst, and Kol turned to look at Declan, who was staring up at him with wide eyes. He frowned, dropping his arms to his sides and letting the empty glass dangle from his fingertips. "What?"

"You said a swear," Declan answered him, a hint of scandalization in his voice.

Kol groaned, throwing back his head, ignoring the smirk that played on both of his sibling's faces. He sighed, pulling out a worn, black leather wallet from the back pocket of his jeans. He flipped it open, clenching the glass in the crease of his elbow as he held it to his side, and quickly slipped out a crinkled dollar bill, rolling his eyes with Rebekah smugly strutted over and plucked it from his fingers. He scowled, returning the wallet to his pocket and taking the glass in his hand again. "That swear jar is the bane of my existence."

"Well, perhaps if you'd learn to watch your mouth around Deck, it wouldn't be," Rebekah said, holding out the dollar to the boy in question, who reached up and folded it carefully into his hands. "And look on the bright side: You are single handedly funding his college education. The rest of our donations are chump change compared to yours."

Klaus shook his head as his younger siblings continued their bickering, closing his sketchpad with a sigh and tossing it onto the side table. He sat back against the cushions, twisting the pencil in his hand. He smirked, watching as Rebekah issued some asinine threat towards Kol's manhood to which their brother simply laughed and cajoled her further, when he felt the slight tugging on his shirt sleeve. He turned, seeing his son staring up at him.

"Are we going to see Cami again tomorrow?" he asked. "I drew Caroline another picture, and I want to give it to her."

At the mention of the blonde's name, his lips quirked up into a smile and he shook his head, chuckling under his breath as he stretched over and placed his pencil next to his sketchpad. "You and Caroline," he laughed, turning back Declan with raised eyebrows. "If I didn't know better, Declan, the way you talk about Caroline would make me think that she's more important to you than the sloths."

"Who's Caroline?" Rebekah asked from across the room as she stood with her hands perched on her hips.

"She works with Cami," Declan answered, sliding off the couch and folding the dollar bill into his pocket. "She talks to me about sloths when I stay with Cami at her job." He turned back to his father. "I'm hungry. Can I go wash my hands so we can eat?"

Klaus nodded, and the three of them watched as he raced out of the room towards the hall bathroom, Rebekah craning her neck so she could peer questionably at her older brother. "Who the bloody hell is Caroline and why am I just now hearing about her?"

"Oh, is that jealousy I hear, Bekah?" Kol taunted, turning and finally returning his glass to its rightful place on the bar. "Well, if you're going to be jealous over someone taking your place in Declan's life, it should be Caroline. She's quite fetching. Not to mention quite handy with a baseball bat." When both of his siblings looked over at him in confusion, he shrugged. "Oh, didn't I mention, Nik? Caroline is Bonnie's new flatmate." At his brother's look of intrigue, he smirked, nodding. "Yes, she nearly took my head off in the middle of the night, thinking I was a prowler. Why a prowler would be looking in the ice box is a still a subject of contention between us, but still..."

"So, what, you just let Declan talk to a complete stranger in the bar?" Rebekah asked incredulously-certainly not with jealousy, because what did she have to be jealous about at all?-as she looked at Klaus again.

Her brother rolled his eyes as he rose to his feet, stretching his arms over his head. "She's harmless, Rebekah."

"Said every victim of a serial killer ever before they were brutally massacred. Do you even know anything about this woman other than that she works with Camille and lives with Bonnie? The latter of the facts you weren't even aware of until just a moment ago."

"Enough, Rebekah," Klaus said, gathering his sketchpad in his hands before heading towards the hallway. "Jealousy is not an attractive color on you."

"I am not jealous!" she cried after him, huffing and slapping her hands against her sides when Kol simply laughed. "I'm not jealous. I'm just concerned. He barely lets anyone within a foot of Declan that's not family or who we've known for years."

"Trust me, Bekah, I don't think you have anything to worry about. Unless the complete eye fuckage that goes on every time Miss Forbes and Niklaus see each other is a cause for concern. In which case, maybe you should worry about Nik. He's been out of the game for quite a bit, he may not even remember what to do."

"What, he has a thing for her?" she asked, unable to mask the surprise in her voice. While she shuddered to ever think about any of her brother's love lives, she had to admit that she couldn't even recall the last time Klaus had even looked at a woman. Declan was always his main concern, him or his art gallery. He always said he never had time or desire to get back into the dating game.

"I think 'thing' is a bit of an understatement," Kol said. "I would say Nik is good and smitten. And I would say the same for Miss Forbes, but she's a quiet little thing. So on her front, your guess is as good as mine, though really, the looks they tend to share speak volumes."

Rebekah murmured under her breath quietly when Kol turned towards the bar again, refilling his glass and humming as he brought it to his lips. She was intrigued, to say the least. Over the last few years, she'd seen several women throw themselves at her brother, and all of them were promptly ignored without a passing thought. "I have obligations, Rebekah," he would always say to her. "I don't have the time or the desire for a relationship."

And yet now there comes someone who not only captures Klaus' attention, but Declan's as well. He was a precocious child, no one could deny that, but that didn't mean he generally went out of his way to get to know new people. He was a bit of an introvert, always preferring to be alone with his books and his drawings. He interacted with his family quite well, and he was very imaginative, but when it came to strangers, Declan preferred to stay close to home.

Until now, it would seem.

She needed to meet this Caroline.

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"So you seem to be settling in pretty well."

Caroline looked over her shoulder as she prepared a tray of drinks, smiling at Bonnie as the other girl sat at the counter. It had been a surprise to see her roommate walk through the door of the bar, her backpack slung across one shoulder, a bright smile on her face as she'd waved and sidled up to the bar. They hadn't seen much of each other in the last two weeks. Bonnie's school load had hit a record high, and when you coupled that with the clinic hours she was required to work before the end of the semester, they had been lucky to pass each other in the hallway.

"Yeah, I hope so," she replied, sliding two bottles of Coronas onto the tray before carefully lifting it in her hands and turning on her heel, smiling as she handed it off to baby faced college senior who stood waiting at the end of the bar. "I mean, I haven't spilled beer on anyone in over a week, so I think I'm getting the hang of it."

Bonnie laughed, nodding. "Well, that's good. But I meant just in general, you know? You're settling into New Orleans pretty well. You don't really have that shocked tourist look about you so much anymore. Sometimes it takes a while to get over all the bright lights and loud music, but you're adapting really well."

Caroline smiled. "Thanks."

"Anyway, I actually did stop by for a reason," Bonnie laughed. "Kol's sister Rebekah called me this morning and asked about doing a kind of girl's night. She lives with their other brother Elijah and his wife, and she says she needs a break for a bit. So I wanted to ask if that's cool with you, that she comes over tonight, and ask if maybe you wanted to join us?"

Caroline looked at her, her lower lip catching in between her teeth.

"I mean, it's nothing major or anything. We literally just sit around and drink and talk. There's no weird voodoo rituals or anything you need to worry about. It's just, you know, fun."

Fun.

That was a word Caroline hadn't thought would apply to her life anymore. She hadn't really imagined girls nights, or dance nights, or grabbing a drink every now and then with a friend. She'd resigned herself to a life of solitude; of always looking over her shoulder and not letting her guard down.

But looking at Bonnie now, and thinking back on how things had been playing out these past few weeks, maybe she wouldn't have to after all.

Like Matt had told her: She could conquer this. She could come out on top.

She smiled. "Yeah. That sounds like it would be fun."

Bonnie's face broke out into a grin, and she tapped the countertop with her fingers. "Great! Oh, I'm so glad you said yes, Caroline. This is going to be so much fun." She laughed, sliding off her stool and to her feet, slipping the strap of her bag over her shoulder. "Now that that's settled, I need to go meet Kol for lunch. He gets super touchy anytime Rebekah gets to stay over and not him, so I need to go handle his baby fit." She rolled her eyes when Caroline laughed, smiling, and lifted her hand in a wave. "Okay, I'll see you tonight, Caroline."

Caroline watched Bonnie make her way to the door just as Cami came out from the stockroom, a smile on her face. She turned to her, opening her mouth to speak, but the words died on her lips when she saw Bonnie stopped in the doorway talking to a uniformed man.

A police uniformed man.

The blood running through her veins turned ice cold, and she could feel her heart stop in her chest as she watched Bonnie laugh and smile with the man, the bronze star on his chest gleaming under the florescent lighting of the bar. The officer's face was stretched into a friendly smile, his tousled dark hair in disarray on his head. He was gesturing towards Bonnie with animated hands, and she was nodding, pointing over her shoulder towards the bar, and when his head turned in her direction, Caroline could swear she felt the color drain from her face.

The officer nodded, smiling once more at her roommate before pulling open the door and holding it for her to exit, letting it close behind him quietly before he turned and made his way towards the bar.

Caroline turned her back to him, closing her eyes and breathing deeply, exhaling slowly in an attempt to calm her frantic breathing. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears, in time with every one of his heavy footsteps that tapped against the wooden floor. She clenched her hands into fists, fingernails digging into the skin of her palm. Dread coursed through her—sheer panic; the fear that her running had come to an end. She'd been found, they'd take her back.

Her hopes were gone.

"You okay?" Cami's voice came suddenly, making her jump and snap her eyes open to look over at her fellow bartender. Cami's face was concerned, her hand reaching out to gently rest against her upper arm as she came to her side. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

Caroline shook her head quickly, forcing a smile onto her face. She hummed under her breath, not quite trusting her voice to remain steady. She stuck her hands into the pockets of her apron, clenching at the fabric inside to keep them from shaking. She forced herself to keep eye contact with Cami, seeing the uncertainty in the other girl's eyes, but once her attention fell on the man she was sure stood just behind her, the older girl nodded, offering her a smile before weaving around her and towards the bar.

"What can I do for you, deputy?"

Caroline made her way to the liquor shelves, reaching out to unnecessarily straighten the various bottles of multicolored liquids, her head turned slightly towards the conversation going on behind her.

"Yeah, actually," the deep voice of the police deputy sounded. "I'm, um…I'm looking for someone."

Her heart clenched in her chest, and she braced her weight against the counter top. In her head, she was calculating her chances of making it out the door or the back exit before she was noticed. Perhaps he hadn't gotten a good look at her just yet. She didn't look the same anymore, after all. No one knew what she looked like now. No one except Matt…

Had they gotten to Matt?

"You don't say?" Cami asked.

The man clicked his tongue, and Caroline could feel him rest his weight against the counter. "Yeah, uh…tall. Blonde. Blue eyed." Panic seared through her chest. She listened as his voice dropped an octave. "Has this nasty little habit of leaving the bed in the morning before I've fully woken up."

Caroline's frown was met with Cami's soft laughter, and she hesitantly looked over her shoulder, the panic quickly fading from her body when she saw her coworker leaning over the counter to press her lips against the deputy's. She sighed, relieved, remembering Camille's mention of a sort of boyfriend that had trouble defining their relationship, despite the fact they were both crazy about each other.

The two broke apart, smitten smiles on each of their faces, and the man's eyes drifted towards her. His smile grew, and he straightened to his full height. "Sorry, I really don't usually manhandle the staff here," he laughed, a hint of a blush gracing his handsome face.

"What he means to say is he doesn't usually get CAUGHT manhandling the staff," Cami chimed in. "Caroline, this is Stefan Salvatore. Stefan, this is Caroline Forbes."

The deputy extended his hand, and Caroline stepped forward to take it, wiping any discomfort from her face with a smile. "It's nice to meet you."

"Yeah, you too," he said, dropping her hand and settling his grasp on the gun holster at his waist. "Cami's mentioned you a bit. I'm sorry it's taken so long to stop by and say hello. With Mardi Gras just around the corner, things get a little crazy around here. There's still a few months, but even so, the streets still get a little crazy. As I'm sure you've noticed since you arrived into town."

Caroline nodded, smiling, covering her hand on the counter with her other one and rocking back on her heels. There was still a hint of nervousness as she stood talking to Stefan. His face gave no hint of recognition as to who she really was-nothing but a smile and friendly dark eyes that never left her own, unless it was to peer sidelong at Cami. His stance was relaxed, shoulders hunched slightly as he leaned against the counter. He was carefree, and polite, and there was really no logical reason for her to worry about him.

But she still did. And that was a realization that broke her heart.

Would the doubt and fear ever stop?

"Anyway," Stefan laughed, turning his head to smile at the blonde bartender at Caroline's side. "I was just on a round, thought I'd stop in. Chastise a little bit. Maybe see if you wanted to grab a late dinner tonight."

Caroline silently made her way to the other end of the bar, suddenly feeling like an intruder as Cami giggled and leaned towards Stefan, her eyes shining and smile bright. She couldn't help but smile at the sight.

She remembered those days. The days where one single person could change everything about your mood. Where just a smile or a laugh and a whispered promise in your ear could make your hopes soar and your heart race, and there no greater feeling than knowing you meant something to someone.

She remembered those days, with a pang in her chest, because she also remembered how quickly they faded.

And how fast the darkness moves in.

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Good genes clearly ran in the Mikaelson family.

That was the first thought that popped into Caroline's mind when she'd climbed the stairs to her apartment and opened the door to find Bonnie sitting on the couch with Rebekah, identical margarita glasses in their hands. The young woman clearly shared Klaus' blonde hair and blue eyes, exuding a confidence she'd come to see in each of the siblings she'd met.

"Hey, sorry I'm late," she said, smiling apologetically as she closed the door behind her. "Cami took off a little early, so..."

Bonnie waved a hand in dismissal, setting her glass on the table and untucking her legs from underneath her. "No, it's no problem. Rebekah just got here a few minutes ago, so you haven't missed anything. Bex, this is Caroline," she said, turning to the blonde at her side with a smile.

Caroline slipped her bag from her shoulder, letting it drop onto the side table by the door before crossing the room, taking the other blonde's extended hand in her own. "Hi."

Rebekah smiled, her eyes seeming to take her in slowly, her grip tight as they shook hands. Caroline suddenly felt like she was on display, and she cleared her throat uncomfortably as she dropped her arm back to her side.

Rebekah's gaze met hers once more, and her smile widened the slightest bit, blonde hair falling over her shoulder as she tilted her head. "It's a pleasure," she replied, her accent lilting and graceful. "Thank you for letting me intrude tonight. I do appreciate it." She rolled her eyes, taking a swig of her margarita and looking over at Bonnie. "Really, I love Elijah, but you'd think that after nearly a decade of marriage to Katherine, the two of them would show some restraint. The last thing I want is to hear the two of them pounding away at each other like wild dogs all the time."

Bonnie cringed, wrinkling her nose as she shook her head. She shuddered, laughing, and looked at Caroline before rising to her feet. "I probably should have warned you that it tends to be no holds barred around here during girl's night," she laughed, catching the blonde's unsure expression. "Why don't you go get changed, and I'll make a fresh batch of feel good drinks? Then we can really get this party started."

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By the fourth round of margaritas, the nerves Caroline had felt around Bonnie and Rebekah were gone. She could feel herself unwind and relax as she sat on the floor, her back against the couch as she laughed at Rebekah's scrunched face, her blonde hair flying as she shook her head rapidly, slamming the shot glass down onto the table with a groan as she finally swallowed the shot of tequila she had insisted she could do.

"Bloody hell, how does anyone enjoy that," she rasped, taking a large gulp of her lime flavored mixed drink to wash away the burning in her throat. She shook her head again, coughing, and flopped back against the cushions.

"You'd think with your alcohol savvy brothers, you'd be able to handle your hard liquor a little better," Bonnie sang from the chair across from her, her legs dangling over one arm while her head rested against the other. "Apart from Kol of course. He's a lightweight."

Rebekah snorted, the unladylike sound causing Caroline to laugh loudly.

"No, really, you have no idea, Caroline," Bonnie cackled, swinging her legs around and sitting up. "Okay, Kol's lousy alcohol tolerance is legit the reason we met. I was working clinical hours in the ER, it's four in the morning, and from down the hall, all I can hear is this loud, obnoxious screaming. Some douchewaffle, yelling from behind the curtain about police brutality and wrongful imprisonment. So I storm down the hall, because the screaming is making the other patients nervous, and low and behold, the douchewaffle-,"

"Is Kol?" Caroline giggled, sipping graciously at her recently refilled glass.

Bonnie nodded. "The douchewaffle is Kol, with a black eye and a split lip, wasted out of his mind, and handcuffed to the bed rail." She laughed, nodding again when Rebekah and Caroline burst into hysterics. "And right away, he just starts going into how he only had two drinks, and the other guy started it, and he was just defending his family's honor, all of which I tell him is bullshit, because he is bleary eyed with slurred speech and sluggish movements. He was so far gone."

"And yet, he was telling the truth," Rebekah declared.

"He was telling the truth. His blood alcohol content barely registered. He was just a complete and total lightweight, and got into an all out brawl with some idiot over a game of pool, and got arrested."

"By our brother Elijah."

"Hence his outrage at being arrested at all, considering Elijah was very familiar with his lack of tolerance." Bonnie smiled, sighing, and leaned back into the cushions. "He was so fucking adorable though. Just sitting there, like a little kid in time out."

Rebekah grinned, her head lolling against the couch cushion. "And the Mikaelson charm prevailed." She laughed, her blue eyes cloudy. "It is the one thing we all seem to have in common, my brothers and I. The undeniable charm."

"Why was he handcuffed to the bed though?" Caroline asked.

"He took a swing at Elijah," Bonnie laughed. "And Elijah, being not only his big brother, but the sheriff at the time, had no choice. Not that that stopped him. He was still swinging with his free arm."

Caroline stiffened at her last comment, and the grip she had around her knees tightened. "Did he hit you?"

"No, no, of course not. Kol knows better than to hit a woman. Especially me." She smiled. "I can give it as good as I can take it."

She and Rebekah smirked, raising their glasses in unison, before dissolving into inebriated giggles once more, and Caroline sat back against the couch, sighing, as she forced a smile onto her face.

Get a grip, she told herself.

"God, it baffles my mind how any woman could ever possibly stay with a man after he hit her," Rebekah slurred as she recrossed her legs, sloshing her margarita across her lap. "I mean, I couldn't do it. The first time you raise a hand to me, will be the last time you have hands."

Bonnie snorted. "Right, Khaleesi. Not to mention your brothers would be lining up to disembowel and maim them." She shook her head when Rebekah merely shrugged. "Anyway, I totally agree with you, Bex, but I also think that unless you've been in that situation, you just really don't know. I mean, you can sit here now, and say that's the way it'll roll until the cows come home, but until it happens..." She shrugged. "It's hard."

"Not that hard," Rebekah quipped.

Caroline found her gaze fixed on a faded condensation ring on the coffee table as their words poured over her. She could feel every nerve in her body tense as their conversation unraveled, and she prayed that the alcohol she had consumed masked it from her companions. Her fingers were tracing the seams of her jeans as she slunk further back against the couch, and she drew a steadying breath, the words starting to slip from her mouth before she could give them a second thought.

"I had a friend once, who left her husband, because he hit her," she said quietly. From the corner of her eyes, she could see Rebekah and Bonnie turn their heads in her direction, but she kept her gaze on the table top. "They got married young. They were high school sweethearts, and she...really loved him. Though, really, when she thinks back on it, maybe she just loved the idea of him. Of what he represented." She shook her head. "They were fine for awhile, in the beginning. But then it started to get bad, and he started to get angry. It started with a bounced check, or the car running out of gas, but then it was dinner getting burnt or she served the wrong wine or the cabinets weren't straight enough or she...forgot to buy stamps. And when he hit her that first time, she didn't know what to think or do."

"She left, and was determined to not go back, but he came after and apologized. And he was so sincere, and he said such lovely things to her, that she believed him. So she went back home. And then it happened again. And again. And again. And then he almost killed her, when she took too long at the hair salon, and he missed a football game on TV. And she knew that...next time there might not be a next time. There wouldn't be an 'I'm sorry' or an 'I won't do it again, I promise.' But she'd had enough 'almosts' to last a lifetime. So she left again. For good..."

There was silence then, as her words trailed off, and she could feel their eyes on her as she continued to stare at the marred coffee table. Her mind was a hazy hue of memories and fears and new worries, because how could she just let the words out without thinking of the consequences?

Rebekah shifted on the couch behind her, and she saw a slender arm reach for the pitcher of liquor that still sat in the center of the table. "I hope she torched the bastard," she said, her words laced with disgust and anger.

Caroline shrugged one shoulder, her eyes sliding shut as she sighed. "I think she did some damage," she said softly. But then she shook her head, an uncomfortable laugh escaping her lips, and she reached for her own glass. "Nothing like me, trying to take out Kol with a bat in my PJ's."

"Oh please, honey. You could take out Kol with a wooden spoon. He's a total pushover," Bonnie said, rolling her eyes and hugging a throw pillow to her chest.

Caroline laughed with Rebekah, leaning back and watching as the other blonde drained the last of her glass before stumbling to her feet, muttering under her breath about the loo. From where she sat, she could feel Bonnie's gaze bearing down on her. She leaned forward, wrapping her fingers around the slender stem of her glass, and peeked at the woman from the corner of her eyes.

Bonnie sat with the yellow pillow clutched tightly to her chest, her lower lip captured between her teeth as her eyes drifted over her. There was concern and confusion etched across her face, coupled with the familiar gleam of curiosity in her eyes, and Caroline forced her face to remain impassive as she brought the glass to her lips.

She was all too familiar with that stare. It was a lingering stare, one that usually came from people who were concerned, but not quite able to form the question that festered in their heads. They would stare, and gawk, and whisper behind their hands, their gazes searing a path straight through her as she pulled down the sleeves of her shirt or wrapped her arms around her chest. They would follow her with their eyes, pleasant smiles on their faces even as their gaze screamed the opposite.

It was the stares that had gotten to her most of the time.

If only one of those people had said something. Had asked the question that was perched on the edge of their tongue.

If one person had reached out...

The bathroom door flew open with a crack, and both Caroline and Bonnie jumped, whipping their heads around to gawk at Rebekah as she slumped against the wall, her body sliding down to the floor and her blonde hair in disarray, creating a tangled curtain around her face as she mumbled.

"Bloody rabbits moved the couch again," she slurred, curling her legs up into her chest and resting her head against her knees.

Caroline grinned, and Bonnie laughed, both of them rolling their eyes as they climbed to their feet and went to help the boozy blonde onto the couch. As they both slid an arm around her waist and across her shoulder, Caroline let out a breath of relief, hoping that by morning her loose lipped story would be nothing more than a hazy memory.

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Sorry for the lack of Klaroline, but hopefully the little glimpse into Caroline's tragic past makes up for it a little. Next chapter we have Klaroline back together in action, so you won't have long to fear.

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