Chapter Seven

A.N. Hello, my lovelies! Thank you so much to your response for last chapter! I'm so glad the overwhelming amount of Klaroline fluffiness was a happy sight for you as it was for me. There's a bit more this chapter, along with some revealing details, so I do hope you enjoy them.

On another note, if any of you follow me on Tumblr, you know that The Klaroline Awards are being held again this year, and I have been lucky enough to be nominated along with some incredible other writers! Rescue Me has been nominated for Best AU/AH fic, and my fic Borrowed Hearts is up for Best OT3 Fic. I've also be listed as a nominee for best AU/AH author, and my drabble In a Steel Trap is up for Best Romance drabble. So, if you feel I deserve to win, feel free to head over to klarolineawards . tumblr . com (without the spaces) and sound off! If not, I do hope you will still at least cast your vote for one of the other amazing writers and fics that are nominated. You don't have to be a member of Tumblr to vote, and this is a great way for the Klaroline fandom to show their appreciation for each other.

Anyway, off to reading! Thanks to Becky, Leah, and Miranda for their unwavering faith in me, and their invaluable help with this chapter.


"So…you sure disappeared for a bit the other night."

Klaus tried not to groan that amused voice that came from the doorway behind him, instead keeping his gaze fixed on the paperwork in his hands.

He'd known it was only a matter of time until someone had brought up last night and the time he'd spent with Caroline. He'd succeeded in avoiding Elijah's phone calls all weekend, and he'd pawned Rebekah off on Dean when she'd tried to corner him at lunch.

So in hindsight, he really should have seen Stefan coming. After all, his best friend prided himself on finding amusement at his expense. The fact that it was over a girl this time—he was sure it was just the icing on the cake.

"You can ignore me all you want, buddy, I'm not going anywhere."

Klaus sighed, glancing at him over his shoulder. "Don't you have crime to prevent or criminals to arrest somewhere? Has my brother's reins really slacked so much that his deputy is relegated to loitering in doorways?"

Stefan grinned, uncrossing his ankles and pushing away from the door frame. The tan button up shirt of his police uniform stretched across his broad shoulders as he hooked his fingers into his the belt at his waist, one hand resting instinctively on the butt of his service pistol. His heavy footsteps thudded against the floor as he crossed the short distance to Klaus' desk, his lips pursed into a smirk as he shrugged.

"Slow afternoon. Just making my rounds when I realized I never got a chance to even ask about your date last weekend.."

"Were we at the same party, mate?" Klaus asked, laughing as he turned around, placing the small stack of papers neatly onto his desk. "Because as I recall, I arrived alone, and left the same."

"Still doesn't mean there wasn't a date, my friend," Stefan countered. "Cami was watching the two of you like a hawk. She said there was something there, and if that goofy ass grin on your face right now is any indication, I would say her Psych skills are spot on."

"Or perhaps you should tell your girlfriend to stop psychoanalyzing." Stefan merely stared at him, a knowing smile on his face. Klaus sighed, throwing up a hand in defeat.

"What is it you want me to say, Stefan? She's...enthralling. Captivating. With a temper that can rival Bekah's, a fact that should leave you shaking in fear but just...adds to it all. There's something about her..." He trailed off, catching the look in his old friend's eyes, and shook his head. "Go on, then. Mock away, Salvatore, I know you're just dying to get it out."

Stefan only shook his head, smiling. "No," he replied, laughing quietly. "No, I'm just...it's good to see you this way again, Nik. It's been too long." He shrugged. "Anyway, I'm also here to give you these," he said, reaching into the pocket of his brown button up and pulling out three rectangular pieces of paper. "Elijah told me to tell you once again that he's sorry, but with budget meetings and the annual review boards coming up, he can't swing it. And that you'd know all of this if you picked up the phone." He grinned when Klaus merely rolled his eyes, taking the tickets from his grasp and peering down at them. "He also said that you should find someone else to go with you and Declan. Someone blonde and blue eyed, who isn't related to you, and isn't sleeping with me."

"Well, that narrows it down, doesn't it?" Klaus quipped, setting the tickets down on the table and resting his palms next to them. He sighed, raising his gaze. "Thanks for the message, mate. I'll take it under advisement."

Stefan laughed. "Do more than take it under advisement. Actually do it. You only live once, man," he said, turning on his heel and heading towards the door. "Don't blow it."

Klaus watched the deputy sheriff saunter out of his office, a sigh escaping his lips as his gaze dropped once more to the tickets on his desk.

Elijah had procured them for him and Declan months ago after seeing an advertisement, and with his son's constant chatter of sloths day in and day out, his elder brother had thought it would be a wise investment. He had planned to accompany them, hoping to take the title of favorite uncle away from Kol no doubt, but it seemed his duties had taken precedent.

He could ask Rebekah, or even Kol. Though an entire afternoon spent with his siblings sounded much less enjoyable than an afternoon spent with someone else.

And he knew exactly who he wanted that someone to be.


"Did you have fun at your party?"

Caroline smiled across the table at Declan as he sat in his usual booth, a picture book of zoo animals opened in front of him and a juice box in his hand. His short blonde curls looked like they had been tugged on all day, his brown eyes peering over at her as he cocked his head.

"Yeah, I guess I did," she answered, crossing her ankles under the table as she poured salt into yet another salt shaker. She bit her lip as she smiled, thinking back to the end of the evening and her exchange with Klaus on the curbside. She could still feel the heat of his lips against her cheek and the weight of his hand on her lower back, and she fought down the blush she could feel creeping across her face, clearing her throat when she caught Declan's gaze still fixed on her. "What about you? Did you enjoy your night free of your dad and aunt and uncles?"

Declan shrugged, scooting his juice box away from him and curling his fingers around the pages of the book. "I guess so," he said, sighing. "I wanted to go to the party, but Daddy said I'm too little."

Caroline scoffed, shaking her head as she twisted the lid on the salt shaker and reached for another. "Trust me, you had a way more fun night than we did," she said. "I mean, we had to wear stuffy clothes and eat stuffy food, while you got to lounge around in your PJ's all night and not do anything you didn't want to. I mean, that is a pretty great way to spend the night."

His small face lit up and he leaned towards her. "I got to have ice cream for dinner."

"Ice cream for dinner?" she exclaimed, widening her eyes comically and letting her jaw drop. "Man, you were so much luckier than I was."

He nodded. "Yeah, I guess. And Daddy let me have some cake for dessert the next night. Auntie Bekah let me have some for lunch too, but she told me not to tell him, because what he doesn't know won't hurt him, which really just means he won't get mad at her for giving it to me. So don't tell him, okay?"

Caroline giggled, nodding. "My lips are sealed, I promise."

The door the bar opened with a chime, and they both glanced over, Caroline rolling her eyes slightly when she saw Kol stagger in with unnecessary swag, his arms swinging at his sides and a smirk on his face as his eyes landed on them.

"Deck, Deck, Deck, haven't we talked about hitting the bar so early in the day, mate?" he tsked, shaking his head. "I know I said you have to pace yourself, but this is taking it a little too far, don't you think? Not that I can blame you, what with the company you have here."

Caroline's retort died on her tongue when the door opened again, and Klaus quickly stepped through it, his eyes searching the room before landing on their table, and his lips quirked up into a devastating smirk.

She could practically hear her heartbeat rage in her ear, and she cursed herself for reverting back to some school girl who got butterflies every time the handsome jock smiled in her direction.

He was dressed more casually today, she noted as her eyes raked over him. A snug dark brown sweater hugged his torso, coupled with his dark dress slacks and shoes. His curls were in disarray atop his head-much like his son's-and the hint of stubble lined his jaw, his smile growing as he neared their table.

His eyes locked with hers, and she dropped her gaze, smiling as she gathered up the saltshakers and slid them into her arms, sliding out of the booth and heading towards the bar. Kol grinned at her as he slid into her newly emptied seat, sliding towards the middle so he could peer down at the book that lay open on the table.

She heard Declan call out to his father, and Klaus' footsteps quieted as they neared the corner booth. He spoke quietly to his son for a few moments, and she peeked up at them from underneath her lashes to see him kneeling on one knee, his elbow resting on the back of the vinyl seat as he listened to the boy go on about his day.

Declan's attention was briefly diverted when Kol reached over and snagged his juicebox, and as the tow headed child reached across the table to take it back before his uncle could steal a sip, Klaus' head turned towards her and their eyes met again.

She felt that familiar shiver down her spine, and her small smile spread into a grin as she dropped her gaze back to the silver lid she was twisting, shaking her head slightly.

He murmured to Declan once more, and in between the childish bickering that Kol and Declan had suddenly begun engaging in, she heard his footsteps approaching. She tried to school her face into a mask of nonchalance, telling herself to not see just how much he had started to affect her, but when he stopped at the edge of the counter, she lifted her head, her smile spreading across her face once more.

"Hi," she greeted quietly.

"Caroline," he replied, nodding his head slightly as his eyes seemed to scour her face. His lips twisted up into a smirk, and she felt the butterflies soar in her chest. "Thank you for sitting with Declan. I understand Cami had a last minute doctor's appointment, so it's much appreciated."

Caroline waved a hand, shaking her head. "Yeah, it's no problem. I like having him around. He's a good conversationalist."

Klaus laughed, glancing over his shoulder to see his son with his newly reclaimed juice box and his brother sulking in the corner of the booth. "Yeah, uh...family trait. If you haven't noticed." He laughed again, quietly, as he turned back to her, placing his palms on the countertop and leaning against it. "Caroline, I was actually wondering what your plans were for Saturday."

She looked at him, unable to keep the surprise from her face by the way his lips quirked up the slightest bit. Her hands tightened around the salt shaker, her shoulders shrugging as a soft chuckle escaped her lips. "Probably just a...quiet evening at home. One of the first weekends I've had off since I started working, so it looks like I'll be...doing laundry. Very thrilling." She tilted her head, peering up at him. "Why do you ask?"

Klaus sighed, smiling, and he shook his head. "A few months ago, Elijah mentioned this, uh, exhibit, that's coming to the Audubon Zoo. He actually got tickets for myself, Deck, and him, but as luck would have it, being responsible for the safety of the city is a full time job, as if being married to Katherine isn't, and he's not able to go."

"An exhibit?"

"A sloth exhibit," Klaus clarified, nodding when she smiled. "Elijah thought it would be a fun family venture, and given my son's passion for the animal, I have no doubt of it. But with my big brother backing out, I'm a bit wary of tackling Declan and his sheer enthusiasm by myself, so I was hoping that perhaps you'd like to accompany us."

Caroline gaped at him for a long moment before she shook herself from her stupor, tapping her fingers against the glass in her hands. "To the zoo?"

"Yes, not quite a quiet evening at home," Klaus laughed, ducking his head. "I know it may be a bit much to ask, but Declan is quite fond of you, and I know he would enjoy having you there with us…" He lowered his chin and looked up at her, smiling as he shrugged. "As would I."

She wouldn't have been able to stop the smile that stole her face if she wanted to. She caught her lower lip in her teeth, giggling quietly to herself as she shifted on her feet, curling her fingers around the edge of the countertop and lifting herself up slightly. "That actually sounds like it would be a lot of fun."

Klaus' eyes brightened at her words, and his smirk grew into a smile. "So you'll come, then?"

She nodded, humming under her breath. "I will warn you though: I'm kind of a zoo nut. I mean, we're talking food and goofy animal ear hats and feeding the giraffes. There's a chance I'll be more excited than Declan."

He laughed loudly, nodding as he ran a hand through his hair. "Well, I'd best brace myself for the chaos then."

"If you two are done flirting then, I'm bored."

They both looked over at Kol's loud outburst, seeing him sprawled out in the booth, arms crossed over his chest and legs stretched out in front of him, a discontent look on his face as he glowered at the two of them.

Caroline grinned when Klaus sighed, turning towards his brother and waving an arm towards the door.

"You're free to go, have at it."

Kol tossed back his head, groaning. "It's not fun to go alone, that's why I'm tagging after you dolt. Bonnie's locked herself away in the campus library and even my dirtiest text messages aren't penetrating the wall she's built around herself. You're supposed to entertain me, Nik! Keep me out of trouble and all that rubbish."

Caroline laughed at the sheer exasperation that was on Klaus' face when he turned back to her, and she tilted her head. "Who knew you had two children instead of one, huh?"

Klaus sighed, ignoring his brother's tantrum for the moment and reaching out a hand towards Declan. "Declan, come here for a moment, will you?"

The boy nodded, sliding out of the booth and hopping to the floor. He made his way towards them, shoving his little hands into the pockets of his denim blue jeans, and Caroline couldn't help the smile at the sight. He stopped next to his father, looking up at him quietly and shifting on his feet.

"What do you say to Caroline spending the day with us on Saturday?" Klaus asked, resting a hand on the top of his son's head.

Declan smiled, looking over at Caroline before looking at his father once more. "Okay."

"Well, that's good," Caroline said, smiling. "Because your dad has a really special place for us to go, and I'm pretty sure you're going to love it."

He turned back to look at his father with a questioning look in his eyes, and Klaus shrugged, pursing his lips as he smiled. "Well, there's a special exhibit going on at the zoo this weekend, and I thought it was high time that you were finally able to see your favorite up close and in person."

Declan's smile slipped off his face as he stared up at his father, and Klaus and Caroline exchanged a cautious glance at each other as they all stood in silence. Even Kol was peering over curiously, his elbows resting on his knees, eyebrows raised in question at his nephew's sudden mood change.

"What?" Declan finally asked in a whisper, his big brown eyes wide.

"Sloths," Klaus answered, kneeling down so he was level with his son. "The zoo is getting a family of them, and I thought it would be-"

"A family of sloths?" the boy exclaimed, gasping, causing a relieved smile to appear on his father's face. "I really get to see a sloth, in real life? One that I can see and talk to and pet and feed and play with and-"

"I don't know about that-"

Declan's eyes suddenly widened, and he his gaze slid to the side, focusing on nothing in particular as his hands clasped together, rubbing against each other as he pondered the information he'd just been told. "I'm going...to the zoo...to see a sloth," he said softly, his eyes getting bigger with every word.

Caroline giggled, leaning over the counter. "Calm down there, tiger, you still have to make it through the week."

The boy's head whipped towards her, his eyes vivid and frantic with excitement as he met her gaze, his hands flying up to tangle in his hair. "But I'm going to the zoo, and I'm going to see a real sloth." He took a deep breath, bouncing on the heels of his feet. "I'm going to see the sloth, I'm going to get to smell the sloth, I'm going to get to touch the sloth!"

"Declan, you can't-" Klaus tried to explain, but his words were abruptly cut off when, in a flash of movement, Declan thrown himself at his father, nearly knocking him off his feet, and wrapped his arms around him as far as they would reach.

"Thank you, Daddy, this is going to be so wicked!"

Klaus chuckled, balancing his weight on his heels as he wrapped an arm around his son's back, realizing once more just how much he loved the warmth that came with holding the boy so close. He glanced up and saw Caroline watching them with a gentle smile, and he returned it, ruffling his son's mess of blonde curls as he pulled away. "You're welcome, Deck," he said. "But remember, it's not for a few days yet, so try not to work yourself up, alright?"

Declan nodding frantically, grinning, before taking off towards his uncle and launching himself at his legs. "Uncle Kol, I get to go see a real live sloth!"

Klaus stood back up as his son babbled on, and he turned to face Caroline again, seeing her holding a hand to her chest and laughing quietly.

"Oh, my God, that was seriously the cutest thing I've ever seen."

He laughed, shrugging. "Yeah, well, he certainly has that going for him."

Caroline nodding, biting her lower lip as she gathered the salt shakers in her hands. She lifted a shoulder in a half-hearted shrug, looking up at him as she started to turn around. "Like father, like son, I guess."

She caught his wide grin before she turned her head, surprised at her sudden confidence and laughing at the cheesiness that she'd just uttered. She giggled, shaking her head, and pushed the pile of salt shakers onto the back counter.


The week seemed to fly by, the busy nights at the bar passing the time much quicker than she would have liked. Saturday seemed to sneak up on her, and her excitement over a sorta-kinda date with Klaus gave way to panic and anxiety.

Caroline started to worry that maybe she'd been too forward with Klaus during their last few interactions. She'd been surprised herself with how easily she flirted and talked, and she had to wonder if he thought the same. Yes, he had told her he fancied her, but "fancy" could mean a dozen different things. He was British-they had all kinds of different words, like "loo" and "lift."

Just because she took it to mean that he liked her liked her, doesn't mean that he actually did.

"Ready for your date?"

She glanced at the reflection of Bonnie in her floor length mirror, letting out a sigh as she tugged at her yellow tank top again, her blonde hair flying around her shoulders as she twisted on her feet. "It's not a date."

Bonnie smiled, shrugging as she leaned against the doorway to Caroline's bedroom. "If you say so. But for it not being a date, you sure antsy." She pushed away from the door frame, uncrossing her arms as she made her way towards her. "Relax, Caroline. It's a trip to the zoo, with Klaus and the most adorable little boy ever. No uptight restaurants or fancy clothes or anything like that. It's just going to be a day of fun."

Caroline sighed. "I know, it's just…" She scrunched up her face as she took in her reflection, eyeing the yellow tank top she'd paired with her denim skinny pants and sandals.

"You look great," Bonnie answered, as if she could read her mind. "Very nonchalant and non-datey without being too non datey. Not that I understand why you keep insisting it is a non date. I mean...you like Klaus, don't you?" She held up her hands, shaking her head. "And this is coming from your friend, not the girl who's dating his brother."

Caroline's lips turned up at the easy way the other girl referred to them as friends, and she laughed quietly, shaking her head as she dropped her gaze to her feet with a shrug. "Yeah, I guess, I do. I mean...I do, yes, it's just…"

"He won't hurt you, you know."

Her head snapped up at the quietly spoken words, her eyes wide as they met Bonnie's just over her shoulder, and the somber look on the other girl's face caused her chest to tighten in panic. "Wh...what?"

Bonnie shifted on her feet, her dark hair lying in curls around her shoulder, and she held Caroline's gaze in the mirror. "Klaus. You don't have to worry about him. He's a good guy, Caroline." She could see the confusion and panic in the blonde's eyes, and she shrugged. "I just mean, with the story you told me and Rebekah-"

"That story wasn't about me, Bonnie," Caroline protested, fighting to keep her voice steady as she turned around to face her.

"I know, it was about a 'friend,' you said," Bonnie replied, and Caroline could see the disbelief in her eyes. "But I'm just saying, things like that...even if they don't happen to you, they can make you a little cautious. And you don't have to worry with Klaus."

Caroline stared at her, seeing the concern and seriousness in her eyes, surprised to see no trace of pity. That was an emotion she was quite familiar with-pity. The quiet look in someone's eyes that did nothing much make things worse.

There was no pity in Bonnie Bennett's gaze. Nothing to make her feel like she was being thought less of-or her "friend" was. Nothing to make her feel ashamed or embarrassed.

"I know," she finally answered, wrapping her arms around her midsection, and shrugging.

Bonnie offered her a smile, reaching out and touching her shoulder briefly before she turned and walked towards the door. Caroline watched her go, turning back to the mirror as she nibbled on her bottom lip.

"And, you know for the record?" Bonnie said from the doorway, causing her to look up at her once more. "What your friend did? Getting out and away...she's really brave."

Caroline laughed quietly, running a hand through her hair as she raised her eyes to the ceiling. "Yeah, well, she doesn't always feel like it."

Bonnie smiled, nodding. "She is. And she shouldn't ever forget that."

The dark skinned girl smiled again before tapping her fingers against the doorframe and stepping through it, turning the corner to disappear down the hallway.

Swiping at the tears she could feel burning behind her eyes, Caroline let out a weary sigh, placing a hand over her chest as she leaned against the mirror. She tried to calm her racing heart, staring at her face in the reflection, wondering exactly when she'd feel as brave as Bonnie felt she was.


"Do you think any of them will be eating? I wonder how long they let their toes get. Because they're toes, and not claws, Uncle Kol keeps getting that mixed up. I bet they're all gonna be up in a tree. Or swimming! Did you know that sloths love to swim, Caroline?"

Caroline couldn't help but laugh at the animated way Declan spoke, swinging her arm back and forth as he held her hand.

Despite her earlier nerves, she'd found herself relaxing in the company of the father and son duo. The zoo held the same magic for her as it did when she was a child, the sparkle in her eyes at the sight of various stone animal statues mirroring the sparkle in Declan's eyes.

She actually felt a little sorry for Klaus-he was yanked in every direction it seemed, between her and his son. He accepted it all with a smile though, standing back as Caroline giggled as she fed a giraffe a large carrot and Declan posed under a statue of a roaring lion.

He'd bought her a headband with a pair of yellow lion ears, and Declan had been ecstatic when he was able to sit and have his face painted like a tiger, his smile wide and contagious as he jumped up and down with his orange and black mask.

No exhibit, however, could hold the magic for Declan like the promise of the sloths could, so they found themselves rushing through every animal habitat in search of the Golden Chalice of habitats. They sped through the African cats, barely glimpsing the lions and tigers as they lounged in the sun. The aquarium section of the zoo was a blur as they walked passed the glass walls, eyes marveling at the various colors and shapes they spotted, and even though the penguins got a better share of their attention-because even Declan the Sloth Extraordinaire couldn't just walk past them without stopping for a laugh or two-it wasn't long before they found themselves approaching their destination.

Declan's excited cries grew louder- "The sloths, we're almost there! The SLOTHS, look, look, the SLOTHS ARE RIGHT UP THERE!"-and as if the crowd knew how important the whole situation was to the child, they seemed to part for him, clearing the way until he stood at the edge of the crowd, his eyes wide as he halted in his steps, his hand going limp in Caroline's as his gaze focused on the animals behind the fence.

"I can't believe it," he uttered in wonder, his lips turning up into a slow, pleased smile, completely oblivious to the amused chuckles that came from the adults surrounding him, his chaperones included.

He let out a breath, watching as one of the five sloths slowly made his way across the grassy terrain that had been constructed for them, his movements slow and sluggish. A childish giggle escaped his lips, one of his hands coming up to cover his wide smile, and he bounced on his feet, every nerve of his body exuding excitement. "They're so cool...can I go closer, Daddy?" he asked, looking behind him and lifting his gaze to his father.

Klaus smiled, crossing his arms over his chest and nodding towards the fence.

Declan ripped his hand out of Caroline's as he took off at a run, his sneakers skidding against the pavement as he raced towards the exhibit. The chain rattled as he slammed his hands into it, his fingers wrapping around the links and his face pressing as close as it could get.

Caroline watched him from her spot, smiling and shaking her head as she slipped her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. She looked at her side, noting the fond smile on Klaus' face as he watched his son. It was an expression she'd always found so remarkable-the look of pure adoration and pride; an almost disbelief that someone could feel the vast complexity of emotions they did for another person.

Klaus Mikaelson loved his son with all his heart, that much was obvious to her. And it was almost as if he was surprised by that fact at times.

"Sloths are probably going to dance in his dreams tonight, you know," she said, smiling when he laughed.

"He'll probably have dreams of creating a sloth army to do his bidding after this."

Caroline laughed. "I'm not sure how effective an army of sluggish animals would be. Though that could be their appeal. No one would suspect the cute, unsuspecting creatures who are always smiling. And I mean, I can really just see it now. General Declan leading them on a march towards victory, with Captain Kol at his side."

Klaus groaned, tossing his head back as he laughed. "Just what I need. Kol and Declan on a quest for world domination." He shook his head in amusement, glancing over at her before returning his gaze to his son. "Thank you for coming today, Caroline."

"Thank you for letting me come along," she replied, smiling. "Really, this is...so great. And clearly, you would have been in over your head with just yourself to wrangle Declan, so really it's a win-win."

Watching his smirk appear, she couldn't help but wonder how long he'd been doing things like this by himself. Being a parent. It brought back her questions from that night at Bonnie's party, when he'd been hesitant to answer, and she found herself worrying her lower lip with her teeth as shifted on her feet. "I bet you wish his mom could be here, huh?"

As soon as the words left her mouth, the smile fell from his face and his shoulders tensed. She could see his fingers pressing into the sides of his chest, and even his breathing had seemed to slow, as if he were trying to calm himself down.

"I'm sorry," Caroline said quickly, closing her eyes and waving a hand in the air. "I ramble. And I ask too many questions, and usually the wrong questions. It's really none of my business, and-"

"Caroline," Klaus sighed, relaxing his stance slightly as he gave a shake of his head. "It's fine. Truly." He paused for a moment, his eyes fixed on Declan. "She's dead."

She stared at him for a moment. She had assumed as much, but to actually hear that the mother of the bright little boy who had worked his way into her heart was dead was still shocking to her. She found her heart breaking for the woman who would never get to see this moment or any other in her son's life.

"I'm so sorry, Klaus," she said quietly.

"It was a long time ago, Caroline."

"But still...I mean...losing your wife…"

"She was never my wife."

His words caught her off guard, and she frowned, turning to face him.

Klaus sighed, shrugging his shoulders as he looked at her. "The truth is, we barely knew each other. It was a liquor-fueled one night stand, one I never expected to hear from again. Imagine my surprise when, two months later, she pops back up on my doorstep with Elijah in tow. She'd tracked him down, not knowing how to get ahold of me."

Caroline nodded. "She was pregnant."

"She was pregnant," he confirmed. "I wanted no part in it. But Elijah, my big brother, always the moral one...convinced me I had to. And not just had to, but that I should want to. That despite my loathing of Hayley, and hers of me, we'd created something that night, and the child shouldn't have to be punished for our drunken mistake. So I agreed. Put her up in a small apartment. Had as little contact with her as I could manage."

He chuckled, shaking his head as he ran a hand down his face. "It wasn't easy going. Hayley had a bit of a drug problem, you see. She was quite deep in it, and it was a struggle to keep her sober through the pregnancy. But by some miracle she managed, and then...there was Declan. And suddenly my loathing; my distaste for the entire situation...it didn't matter anymore. Because he was here."

"And...Hayley?" she asked, leaning towards him, her shoulder brushing his.

He shrugged. "She disappeared from the hospital. The nurses said she was gone the second she was cleared, refusing to even see the kid. That's how she referred to him. 'The kid.'" He shook his head, breathing slowly through his nose, and she could see the anger in his face. "She was in the wind after that. Elijah tried to track her down, sending photos of Deck every once in awhile when he managed to track down an address. Despite my being okay with her gone, he believed a child should have a mother. And then one day, the pictures just started being sent back, with no explanation. Elijah managed to get in touch with an old P.I. friend of his, and after some digging, he tracked her down to a morgue in Maine. A drug overdose of some kind."

Caroline could only look at him, a tug of war of emotions warring in her mind. She knew that she should feel sorry for Hayley-addiction was a serious thing-but there was no sympathy in her for the faceless woman. A person's choices define everything about them-the way they handled situations and reacted to them; the choices they made for those around them. And all she could think was that Declan's mother was selfish. She loathed even referring to her as such, because she clearly never considered herself as one. She chose her own wants and needs over those of her newborn son. She chose to look out for herself instead of the one person she should have.

There was sympathy for Declan, however. Bright, beautiful Declan, whose zest for life and pure childishness that had been a beacon for her in the last several months. She wondered how many times he'd asked his father or one of his uncles why he didn't have a mommy like other kids. She wondered if he even realized his life was different from his friends with two parents. She knew that Klaus' siblings played a large part in the boy's life: maybe he just thought it was normal as anyone else's.

"He got her eyes," Klaus' voice spoke through her thoughts, and she raised her eyes to his again, seeing him looking at Declan once more. "I hope to God that's the only thing he gets from her. Lord knows he's getting enough from me. I mean, I'm not much of a father, but I'm the only one he's got."

There was a such a sadness to his voice. As if he honestly believed he was no good for his son. That he was lacking as a father, and that realization cut Caroline to the core.

She slid her arms around her midsection, lifting a shoulder as she sighed quietly. "You're right," she said, looking over at him when he turned to glance at her. "No one's better off without their parents. And from what I see...Declan has got a lot of love in his life." She giggled as she bumped her hip against his own, smiling up at him.

Klaus held her gaze as she spoke, a flurry of emotions passing through his blue orbs, and she could feel that familiar flutter in her chest.

His lips pulled up into a grateful smile, and she found herself returning it, letting out a quiet scoff as she shook her head, but before before either of them could say another word, Declan's excited voice cut through the crowds towards them.

"Dad! Dad, come look! It's a baby sloth!"

Klaus smiled, chuckling softly under his breath. He reached over, gently grazing the skin of Caroline's arms with his knuckles, a quiet thank you, tilting his chin down to peer into her face. He watched the faint blush stain her cheeks, and her smile turn flustered.

He held her gaze for a moment longer before pulling away, smiling once more and heading towards his exuberant son. He felt his chest constrict when Declan reached for his hand, pulling him towards the fence and pointing towards the small infant sloth crawling across its mother's back.

He settled his hands on his son's shoulders, leaning down and resting his chin on top of his head, letting his content smile spread across his face.


The ride home was much quieter than the ride to the zoo.

Declan's incessant chatter was now replaced by his quiet snores as he slumped over in his booster seat, his chin pressed into his chest, blonde curls falling across his forehead as his hands lay limp in his lap.

Caroline had giggled and smiled every time she caught sight of him in the rearview mirror, looking over to see Klaus shaking his head with a knowing grin. Mikaelson men slept like the dead, according to him. They could fall asleep anywhere and sleep through anything, and he proceeded to regale her with the numerous situations a teenage Kol had found himself in when he'd first discovered the joys of alcohol in high school and their morning after effects.

They'd dropped Declan off at Klaus', leaving him in the care of Rebekah-who'd been grinning a tad too cheekily at Caroline when she spotted her in the car-after Klaus insisted he would drive her home. There was no sense in her paying for a cab when he was just as willing and capable, he insisted, shooting her a stern look when she made to unbuckle her seat belt and slip out of the car.

Caroline unlocked the door to her apartment, flicking on the lights as she stepped through the doorway and held the door for Klaus to follow. His towering frame looked odd in the small apartment amongst the framed flowered art work and bright colored furniture, but she found it almost comforting as well.

She tossed her keys into the bowl on the side table, slipping her bag off her shoulders and draping it across the coat hook that hung from the door. When she turned, she found Klaus standing between the kitchen and living room, his eyes taking in every decoration and knick knack with a small smile, and she was suddenly saddened that she could take credit for any of it.

"So...this is it," she said, laughing softly as she held her arms out at her sides. "Casa de Forbes and Bennett. And occasionally Mikaelson, as your brother and sister tend to just pop up all the time."

Klaus smiled. "We do that sometimes."

"Yeah." She nodded, smiling, making her way towards him slowly. She could feel a tension between them now. Different from how it was in the beginning, when she was cautious and hesitant around him. Now it was thick and heavy, as if their eyes were speaking the volumes to each other their words couldn't fathom. "So, um...thank you again for today. I had a really good time. Better than I have in a long time."

"Thank you for coming," he replied, laughing uncomfortably as he ran a hand through his curls. "And I'm sorry, for unloading on you, when you asked about Declan's mother." He sighed, meeting her eyes. "It's not a tale I enjoy telling."

She nodded. "I wouldn't imagine it would be...does Declan know? About his mom?"

"He knows she's dead. That she's passed, as Rebekah prefers to say. The circumstances of her death, though, no. He's too young to understand. To even fathom…" He shook his head. "I dread the day I have to explain it to him. How she died and...why she was never his mother to begin with."

Caroline looked up at him, nodding. "He'll be okay whenever you do," she said. She shrugged, smiling, letting out a quiet laugh. "I mean...he has you as his dad. He is who he is because of you, Klaus. He's smart and well-behaved, and passionate and full of so much to give, and that's all because of you. He's loved, because of you. And trust me, there is no greater knowledge than that. That you are the whole world to one person, and they would do anything for you. YOU are the reason Declan is the amazing little boy he is. Hayley has no effect on him, because you make it so she didn't. You've played both the roles, and he's just...flourished, because of that. So trust me when I say that you are so much of a father, Klaus…you should never doubt that." She placed a gentle hand against his arm as she finished.

She watched as his eyes bore into her own, their deep blue pools turning darker as his gaze grew more intense, glancing between her face and the hand on his arm, and she forced herself to remain still when one of his hands lifted to her cheek, the backs of his knuckles tracing the curve of her cheekbone.

Her breath halted in her throat, her heartbeat raging in her ears. His breath ghosted against her chin as he leaned towards her, his forehead resting against her own, and she felt her eyes close of their volition as she breathed him in.

"Have dinner with me," he said softly.

Caroline's lips parted as she sighed, shaking her head slowly, and she felt his hand slip from her cheek to grasp at her own hand, his fingers wrapping around hers.

She wasn't sure she wanted this. No, she knew she did-but she wondered if she should. She was already so far in over her head with this man and his son. Could she risk falling even deeper; getting even more involved?

"Take a chance, Caroline," he whispered, his nose grazing hers, and she bit back a gasp when his lips touched hers for the briefest moment.

It was just a soft caress, barely lasting a second, but she felt the fire clear down to her toes. The tension seemed to stifle her then, clenching her chest and stealing her breath, and she moved involuntarily, lifting herself up onto her tiptoes and brushing her own lips against his.

She whimpered softly, and she heard the quiet growl reverberate from deep in his chest.

His hands circled around her waist, pulling her into him, and she rested her hands against his chest, fingers curling around the V-neck of his Henley as he crushed his lips to hers. She melded against him, sighing against his lips, and she gasped when his tongue slipped between her parted lips, grazing her own.

His hands splayed across her back, one trailing up to tangle in the blonde curls at the nape of her neck, while her own wrapped around the band of necklaces around his neck, tugging his face even closer to hers.

Her chest burned with the need for air, and she tore her lips away from his to gasp for a breath, a moan escaping her mouth when his lips trailed down her jaw and to the curve of her neck, peppering kisses with every inch he covered.

She tilted her head back, sighing, her fingers sliding into the mess of curls they'd been dying to touch for months, and she closed her eyes as she realized she already had fallen further. There was no going back now, not after she'd seen so much of this mysterious man. Not after she'd learned about him and his son-his family-everything that made him who he was. She couldn't turn back now.

"Well, how's this for an after dinner show?"

Caroline let out a startled squeak at the laughing voice that came from behind them, and she gently pushed Klaus away, her heated eyes locking with his for the brief moment before she turned around, her face turning red once she caught sight of an joyous Kol standing next to an equally mortified Bonnie in the doorway.

She hastily swiped at her smeared lipgloss, closing her eyes when she heard Klaus sigh in irritation next to her, only managing to bring out a loud laugh from his younger brother.

"Please, don't let us interrupt!" Kol exclaimed with a grin, lacing his fingers with Bonnie's as he pulled her into his side. She averted her gaze, shoving him in the direction of the hallway.

"Kol, stop," she hissed before looking over at them apologetically. "I'm so sorry, you guys. I didn't think you'd be back yet. We'll just go, so, just...yeah."

She pushed Kol forwards, her hands against his back, and she rolled her eyes when he craned his neck to keep his brother and Caroline in his sights. "But darling, we'll miss all the fun!"

Bonnie's threats were hushed as she ushered him towards her bedroom, the door slamming shut loudly behind them, and Caroline let out a mortified laugh as she ran a hand down her face.

"Oh my God."

Klaus sighed. "Like I said...we do that sometimes." She laughed, turning towards him, and he smiled, brushing a strand of hair away from her face as he curled a hand around her neck, pulling her towards him again. He brushed his lips against hers gently, feeling her hand curl around the curve of his bicep, and he smiled against her mouth. "Dinner?"

Caroline laughed softly, nodding against him, and pressed her lips back to his.


"Matt, it's me...I know you told me I shouldn't call for awhile, and I promise that I won't. But I just wanted you to know that...you don't have to worry. I'm going to be okay. And…I love you, Matty."


So yes...a few of you called that Hayley was in fact Declan's absentee mom. I know that there has been a lot of discord in terms of that, but I hope you all understand that this was my way of writing an acceptable storyline when it came to the baby plot and Hayley. I'm in no way a fan of either, but I felt it just fit with this. I would like to point out that she is, in fact, dead and gone, and won't be making an appearance. She was purely a plot point, and served no other purpose than to bring Declan into this story.

Do let me know what you all think!

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