A/N: One quick thing before we start: I've pretty much decided to ignore the whole Hayley baby thing, because, you know, who wants to worry about that?
Thanks! Please leave a review if ya feel like it.
Caroline hated New Orleans.
She hated the sticky, sweltering heat. She hated the feeling of being in an overcrowded nightclub even when you were just walking down the street. She hated the music spilling out of every doorway, mixing until it became an unrecognizable mess of noise. But mostly, she hated the reason why she was here and who she had come to see.
She walked quickly down the uneven streets, trying to avoid the ever-present pushy street vendors while simultaneously pulling down the long sleeves of her jacket (totally impractical in this heat) to hide a jagged bite mark from view. Prickling, hot pain spread from her wrist up to her shoulder. She could practically feel it radiating, getting closer to her heart with every step she took.
She was beginning to lose count of how many times she wished there was some other antidote to this.
It was three in the morning now—this had been the soonest flight—but Caroline knew he'd be awake somewhere. That was one nice thing to count on about vampires—and hybrids. They didn't have to sleep.
The mention of the name "Klaus" provoked widely different reactions from the people—vampires—she met on the street. Some raised their eyebrows, as if they didn't think Caroline seemed worthy to see him in person. Some lowered their gaze and replied tersely that they didn't know where he was—adding, under their breath, that they wished he were somewhere outside the city limits. Or better yet, in hell. Finally, Caroline came across a girl—a new vampire, from the looks of it—who told her Klaus could be found in a particular apartment in the French Quarter.
Of course that was where he'd be. Oldest neighborhood for the oldest vampires. The Originals always seemed to crave a kind of old-world glamour that could not be found in anywhere spacious or light or new. You know, thought Caroline, NICE places.
By the time she was knocking on the door of the apartment, the pain had spread to her neck, hot and stinging so much that it almost made her eyes water. He'd better be here.
After four or five knocks, somebody answered. It wasn't Klaus. Caroline hadn't been expecting anyone else, with Rebekah in Europe and Elijah in Mystic Falls dealing with Katherine. It was a girl she'd never seen before; pale, with wide, dark eyes. Another new vampire.
"Who is it, then?" called a voice from within. Now that Caroline recognized.
Caroline told the girl what her name was, and the girl called back, "She says Caroline. You know her?"
He was at the door in a flash. Before Caroline even had a change to say anything, Klaus was looking in to the other girl's eyes, and telling her, "Thank you, Natalie. Why don't you go hunt?"Compulsion, Caroline thought to herself. Which instantly made her worry if it had been too long since she had taken vervain. Well, it was too late now.
"Okay," said the girl, and she headed downstairs without another thought.
He watched the girl leave, and only when he heard the door shut behind her did he focus on Caroline. "Caroline Forbes," he said, grinning. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
She walked past him in to the apartment, trying not to get too close as she did. He smelled like blood and paint. Two scents that would have repelled the human Caroline. "Don't get excited, Klaus. This is business, not pleasure."
His smile faded, just a little. "Fine. To what do I owe the business?"
Caroline took in the apartment. Olive green walls. Chandeliers. Divans covered with silky red cloth. Wine glasses strewn about—some containing wine, some containing blood. And in the center of the room was a painting that could only have been Klaus's. It was violent and chaotic, with a melancholy blue laced throughout it.
By way of an answer to his question, Caroline turned back around and took off her jacket, throwing it over the divan. She was wearing a white camisole which revealed the small but potent bite on her inner arm. It still prickled painfully.
"Werewolf bite," said Klaus grimly. "Love, have you ever considered hiring a trainer for those things? This is just getting ridiculous."
Deciding not to mention what she was thinking, that most if not all of her previous werewolf incidents had been Klaus' fault in the first place, Caroline said, in a deadpan, "Well, isn't it lucky I've got you. Now, will you help me?"
He didn't answer. Instead, he headed over to a side table stocked with various bottles and poured two glasses of deep red wine. "So how did it happen?" he asked. "You and your high school sweetheart getting a little too adventurous in the bedroom?"
"No," she said, feeling herself starting to blush. "I mean, it was just the wrong place, wrong time."
"But it was Tyler?"
She didn't want to agree with him. But he was right. "It was an accident."
He offered her one of the glasses. "I'm sure it was," he said.
She took the glass, more because she felt like she needed a drink right now than because it was polite.
Klaus took a sip from his own glass, then said, "I'm sure he's absolutely wracked with guilt."
Caroline paused. "Yes."
He gave her an appraising sort of glance. "That doesn't sound very convincing. Don't tell me after I went to all the trouble to bring precious Tyler back for you that now you've gone and—"
"He doesn't know, okay?" She hated that Klaus could tell when she was lying. "I didn't want him to worry. Things have been kind of…weird lately, and I didn't want to make him feel guilty. I got some help to make him forget and send him away from Mystic Falls for a while. We're not together anymore."
She could tell Klaus was trying very hard not to look like Christmas had come early. "I'm very sorry to hear it," he said.
"Oh, no you're not," said Caroline scathingly. "Don't pretend like this isn't great news for you. Tyler's gone and I need your help…I'm sure you've had lots of weird little fantasies that start just this way." She slumped down on the divan, wine glass still in hand. It helped numb the pain in her arm a little.
"Ah, Caroline, you know me so well," said Klaus. He joined her on the divan and draped his arm over the back. She hadn't meant him to. It was a little too small, which made him a little too close for comfort. "And I suspect you know me so well to think that I'll help you no matter how many horrible things you say to me, because of—"
"Your creepy obsession with me?" Caroline finished.
"I'd prefer to think of it as a 'relentless pursuit of a lofty goal', but let's not quibble. Yes. But you see, I think I'm tired of being so predictable."
She felt a small rush of fear, but then it was gone again. Of course he would save her. He was just stalling, playing. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"I mean, I've helped you several times now and I never seem to get anything in return. I think it's time I got something in return."
"Oh?" she said. She tried to keep her tone neutral. But she added, defiantly, "Haven't we just been over your creepy obsession? You wouldn't let me die."
Klaus put his glass down on the table beside them, his eyes intent. "You're absolutely right, love, I wouldn't."
For one stupid second, Caroline thought that would be the end of it. But then he continued, "But there are a lot of people I would let die. Actually, no, that's the wrong choice of words. I wouldn't let them die. I would kill them."
Caroline took another sip of wine, trying to appear nonchalant. "What are you talking about?"
"There are so many innocents on these streets tonight, Caroline," he said softly, "and I wouldn't feel a twinge of guilt if I ripped every single one of their throats out."
The words sent a shiver down her spine, but she still doubted his sincerity. Klaus would kill, but not randomly, not when he was trying to make a new home here. Right? Still, she played along, seeing where this was going. The sooner she got to the end of this stupid game, the sooner she'd be cured. "Unless…" she said.
"Unless you do something for me."
Her eyes narrowed. "You know, Klaus, if this is another attempt to get me to like you, it's just…sad and pathetic. Even for you." She started to get up, but Klaus caught her by the wrist before she could.
"Don't you even want to hear the rest of the deal?"
"No, not really." She wrenched her arm out of his grasp and was about to storm out—momentarily forgetting, in her disgust, about the cure she needed.
"Because I think you'd find it preferable to a murderous rampage…"
She turned back around again. "No. You know what? This is stupid. I'm calling your bluff. You wouldn't just go out and kill a bunch of people just because I don't agree to do…whatever it is."
"Would you like to know what it is?"
The pain was getting closer and closer to her heart, her head starting to feel warm and foggy. She didn't have time for this. "Ugh, fine, tell me."
"Hmmm. I hadn't really decided yet."
"Klaus!" she whined. She knew what was coming next—the hallucinations, the bloodlust, the delirium. She couldn't tell if she could feel it coming or if it was just her imagination, but either way, this was no time to joke around.
"Well, I'm sorry, love, I am making this up on the spot. I wasn't expecting you, but I can't just let an opportunity like this one slip away." He thought about it for what felt to Caroline like an entirely unnecessary amount of time. Finally he said, "All right. I've thought of it. You spend one day with me here, in New Orleans. If you do, I will be a perfect gentleman and not go on a tourist killing spree."
This caught Caroline by surprise. She had expected a deal from Klaus to be a little more Indecent Proposal. Not that the part about killing innocent people wasn't indecent. "Just…spend one day with you? That's it?"
He got up and stood beside her again. "That's it."
"There isn't any, like, euphemistic meaning I'm missing here? You did say spend the day, not spend the night?"
He shook his head, the beginnings of a smile on his face. "No double meanings. Unless that's what you were hoping for."
"And nobody will get hurt?" Caroline asked.
"Not by me."
"And if I agree you'll stop stalling and help me?"
"Thought you'd never ask," said Klaus.
Caroline weighed her options. She was stuck here until the next flight she could find back to Mystic Falls anyway. Klaus might be lying about the killing spree, but she wasn't prepared to take that chance. And it was just one day. She could get through it.
Klaus grinned in smug way that Caroline was, unfortunately, already very familiar with.
"You're such a freak," she said, but his grin didn't falter.
"Deal, then," said Klaus. "Shall we seal it in blood?" He rolled up his sleeve and, with a flash of fangs and yellow eyes, tore a gash in his forearm.
Finally. Caroline didn't think twice before pressing her lips to the wound and starting to drink. If she'd had another option for a cure, maybe she would have hesitated. Sharing blood with Klaus was always an unsettling experience. Blood was life. It carried memories and heartbeats. When she took blood from Klaus, it was like seeing inside him, just for a moment. Nothing specific—just a blurry snapshot. Colors and shapes and vague feelings, mostly. But Caroline didn't like it. Or, more accurately, she didn't like that she didn't dislike it more.
Klaus never seemed to mind it, either. When she came out of the trance she had been in, his fingers were in her hair, gently pressing her head to his arm. She let go and stepped away once she noticed it.
When she looked down, she saw the bite on her forearm was already starting to heal. Caroline hadn't noticed her thoughts becoming so dull and disorganized before, but now they seemed clearer and sharper. She'd been closer to delirium than she'd thought.
"Thank you," said Caroline, a little awkwardly.
Klaus glanced over at a clock over by the wall. It was nearly six in the morning. It was so dark in his apartment that Caroline hadn't noticed the sun beginning to rise.
"Excellent timing," he said. "Our day starts now."