A/N: Final chapter! This is going to sound really cryptic and unhelpful, but this chapter is better if you remember the stuff that happened in chapter 4, especially the end of chapter 4. That's all I'm gonna say. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me through this story. It's been fun. One final thank you for favorites, follows, and reviews. Hope you guys like it!
"Do you think she'll come out at all today?"
"I don't know. It's almost better when she doesn't. I can't stand seeing her like this. It's like she's…gone. Dead. I don't know, Elijah…"
"She's in shock. It will pass, you'll see."
"Yes, but if she doesn't…"
Caroline could hear the two of them talking through the door, as she could every day. She ignored them. They always talked about her, and they always said the same things.
It had been a week since everything. Caroline had stayed in one of the spare rooms, avoiding Klaus and Elijah and the world as much as possible. It was easier. She knew sooner or later she'd have to leave. Hell, her freshman orientation was in a few days, a knowledge that she'd kept in the back of her mind all summer. Her mother and Elena had tried to call and ask where she was, but Caroline still wasn't answering. Sometimes these days the sun set and she realized she hadn't said a single word all day.
It didn't make her feel sad, any of this. It didn't make her feel anything.
"Do you want her to stay?"
"Of course I do. I always do. But not like this. It's like she's not Caroline anymore."
She turned away, tuned them out, her face empty of expression. Let them talk—what did it matter?
In the next room, Klaus was pacing back and forth with a kind of mechanical monotony, Elijah standing by, a glass clutched in his hand.
"She's a unique girl," said Elijah pensively, his eyes fixed on the reflections shifting off of his glass. "You know, she told me before that she'd stopped taking vervain. She has a trusting nature."
"If you're trying to twist the knife, Elijah, you know it won't work with me. I'm not one for guilt."
"So, you don't regret what happened?"
Klaus glanced involuntarily over at the painting in the corner, wondering why he didn't just put the damn thing away. "I regret…that I didn't realize how it would affect Caroline. But it worked, didn't it? Marcel is finished, and I'm the king again."
"Yes," said Elijah. "And how does it feel to be king?"
Klaus didn't feel the need to answer that question.
For Caroline, the days ran on and blended together and skipped. But still there was that nagging deadline of a day in the back of her mind, and her phone was ringing more and more often, with messages that were growing more and more frantic: Care, where are you? It's move in in just a few days and I still haven't heard from you…are you still coming?
On a day like the others, in which she was listening to Klaus and Elijah talk on the other side of the door, Caroline suddenly stepped out and stood in front of them. Her sudden presence was enough to make them fall silent.
"I've decided to leave," she said. Her face was blank, her tone matter-of-fact. "There's a flight tomorrow afternoon, at five o'clock."
The two of them looked at each other for a minute, wondering what they were supposed to say.
"Caroline, you don't have to—" Klaus started, but she wouldn't let him finish. She wasn't even cold to him—that would have been better, would have meant that she was feeling something. But she was just…not there.
"I have to leave," she said. "This isn't a discussion. I just wanted to let you know."
And she walked out again.
She spent the rest of the day packing, while life on the other side of the door was strangely quiet. Elijah had gone out, leaving Klaus alone with his thoughts. Caroline would occasionally step outside to get something from another room, and when she passed by Klaus he would often be sitting with his sketchbook open to a blank page, charcoal poised over the paper but never settling, as if he had forgotten what he was about to do.
The next morning was bright and clear, and she woke up slowly, wondering how she would fill the hours before her plane would arrive. She'd finished packing last night, having brought an uncharacteristically small number of things with her. For a while she just lay there, thinking about nothing in particular.
Around noon there came a tentative knock on her door.
It was Klaus, who opened the door before she had a chance to respond, maybe thinking that she wouldn't. His gaze drifted over the packed suitcase and the bare dresser against the wall.
"So, you're packed, then."
Caroline, who sat upright as he came in, gave a slight shrug, but didn't say anything.
Klaus started to say something, something that probably would have been more meaningful than what he finally landed on, which was, "I thought you might like a ride to the airport."
"No, thank you," she said. "I'll just take a cab."
Another pause. Klaus stayed where he was, his hand on the doorknob.
"I wish you'd just be angry with me," he said quietly.
"I'm not," said Caroline.
"Then I wish you'd stay." He knelt down beside her, and with a kind of sudden desperation, took her hands. "Please, Caroline, just stay with me."
She looked down at their hands entwined on her lap. "I can't," she said. Like everything else she said nowadays, it wasn't harsh, or spiteful, or cold. It just was.
She kept her eyes down, not wanting to see the look on his face, so she was surprised when, after a moment's pause, he let out a harsh laugh.
"I can't remember the last time I begged—actually begged—for something," he said, and his voice was low, as if he was fighting to keep it steady. "It really does make you in to an idiot, doesn't it?—Love?"
"I should…" Caroline said, turning away.
"Wait—" he said. He kept hold of her hand. "You're finished packing. You still have a few hours before you have to leave, don't you?"
"There's one more place I never got to show you. You can't leave New Orleans without seeing it."
"I don't think that's such a good idea," she said. A part of her threatened to feel something again when she thought about all the places he had taken her, all the things he had wanted to share with her. She closed her eyes, and the threat had passed. Numb again.
"It won't take long, I promise."
"You're leaving. I understand. I won't try to change that. Just…let me show you this," he said. "And then it's straight to the airport."
She sighed, checked the time, and looked back at him.
City Park was crowded this time of day, full of people soaking up the last days of summer. Tourists hung around the sculpture garden but Klaus, typically, liked the oldest part of the park, full of huge oak trees that stretched over the sweeping lawn like hands, ready to reach out and grab whoever passed by. A little further along there was a piece of the old bayou, where old stone bridges from the early days of New Orleans remained and the trees trailed their leaves in the still water.
Caroline hadn't said a single thing all the way there or when they arrived. She only seemed dimly aware of what was happening. Her mind was somewhere else.
Klaus stopped them in the middle of one of the stone bridges to look out over the water.
"Now tell me this isn't better than anything they have in Mystic Falls," he said.
She didn't say anything.
After the silence had lasted for a few long moments, Klaus said, "I don't know how to talk to you when you're not insulting me. Caroline, just say something, for god's sake."
"It is pretty," she said finally, but there was no feeling behind it.
He didn't seem entirely happy with that answer, and leaned against the stone wall with an aggravated sigh. "You know," he said, after a pause, "I wanted to show you this place your first day here. I'd thought with the atmosphere and the night air and…I don't know, this city's allure…you might warm up to me." Thoughtfully, he pulled something out of his pocket. It was a silver necklace with a fleur-de-lis charm on it. He let it dangle over the water, glinting in the sunlight. "…And then I was going to give you this, even though you would have said I was trying to buy your affection again, and hadn't I learned by now…"
He held it out to her. "Don't suppose you'd accept it as a going-away present?"
Caroline shook her head. "No, I don't think so."
"I'm certainly not trying to buy your affection now, am I?" he said, the beginnings of a sharp edge in his voice. "Just something to remember this summer by."
"I'll remember it just fine," she said mildly. But Klaus noticed that she shivered a little and her hands clenched as she said it.
He decided not to mention it, and asked, "So, what are you going to do now?"
She looked down at the water, answering slowly. "See my friends. College. The whole life thing." She thought about it for a while, then added, "I'll try, at least."
Klaus's brow furrowed, but he didn't know what to say. They were quiet for a little while longer, looking out over the water.
Eventually Caroline checked the time on her phone and said, "I have to go."
Klaus nodded in a resigned sort of way. But before she could step away from the edge of the bridge, he took her hand and pressed the necklace in to it.
"I still don't want this," she said.
"You can throw it away when you get home. All right?"
He stayed where he was and didn't move until, with a sigh, she closed her hand around the chain.
It was a quiet drive to the airport, as Caroline still didn't feel much like talking and Klaus had nothing more to say.
When they got to the doors, Caroline told him that he didn't have to come inside with her, but he did anyway. She also told him not to wait with her until it was time to board, but he did that, too.
"You know, you can't come with me past the security gate," she told him.
"Of course. You know I'm not one to break rules," he said, with a wry smile.
Despite his sarcastic tone, they waited on a bench just before security. The airport had a high glass ceiling, letting in the bright afternoon light, making it almost difficult to see. Caroline sat with a bland expression on her face, her hands folded on her lap.
In the midst of the silence, Klaus began to speak, as if he were thinking out loud.
"I've been thinking about that first day you came, at the beginning of the summer? When I made you stay with that stupid blackmailing scheme of mine. So childish, I know. That always seems to be my problem, doesn't it? I make rash decisions. I don't think about the consequences my actions might have for me, much less for anybody else. I hope you realize that I was bluffing about killing random people on the streets. I mean, my god, the mess."
She didn't say anything. He kept going, staring off in to the crowd.
"I just had to do something to keep you here. And then when you returned—if we're being perfectly honest, Caroline, I didn't really care why you'd come once I knew. I was just glad to have you here. That makes me selfish, I'm sure. It's just that…it's been so long since before I knew what killing felt like. I think I'd forgotten how horrible it can be. How it can change you. It certainly changed me, and not for the better."
He turned to her now. "And I don't want you to change that way, love. I wasn't lying when I said your humanity was your strongest suit. You've got to hold on to that for as long as you can."
She still didn't say anything.
"I feel like I'm talking to a shell. Can you understand me, Caroline?"
"I understand you," she said, but it was with a hollow tone which proved that she didn't. "I don't know why you're telling me all this."
"I'm not sure, either," he said. "I just…I know you won't be happy. You're not happy now. You haven't been since before all of this started, and maybe it would just be better—"
She turned to him, finally. "What's the point in talking about it now? I know you want me to stay—"
But she was interrupted by an announcement over the speakers, saying that flight 5407 to Roanoke, Virginia was now boarding.
"That's me," Caroline said, standing up. She started to walk away, but Klaus caught her by the hand before she could get far.
"Wait," he said. He brought her closer, his hands framing her face. He glanced over, beyond the security gate, and then his eyes settled back on her. He seemed to have decided something. "I just want you to be happy."
"I'm going to be late," said Caroline, or at least she started to. She fell silent and froze when Klaus looked in to her eyes.
"I want you to be happy…and that's why you won't remember any of it."
"Listen carefully. When you step off the plane back to Mystic Falls, this is what you will know to be true: You came to New Orleans at the beginning of the summer. I cured you. You left. That is all. When you left home again, it was to spend the rest of your vacation in Mexico, just as you told all your friends you had. The plane you're about to get on will take you from Mexico City to Virginia. Do you understand?"
In a trance, she nodded.
"You spent a summer on the beach, watching the sunsets and the waves crashing and thinking about how your life is just beginning and all the time you have…to do and see whatever you want." He stopped, feeling his voice start to fail him. But he pressed on, "You had a lovely time, though you missed your friends. You're glad to be getting back to them. You're glad to be starting college."
He brushed a piece of her hair away from her eyes. "Is all that clear?"
Again, she nodded.
The announcement over the speakers repeated, which seemed to bring her back to her senses.
"Would you let me go?" she said, suddenly aware of his hands on her. "I have to get on."
He stepped back. "Go on, then," he said, trying to keep his voice from shaking.
By way of goodbye, she only nodded, and then turned and walked through the gate. When she was through she turned back to look at Klaus, sensing that something strange had just happened. But he was already gone.
Klaus's apartment took the worst punishment that day.
It was the emptiness, the silence that he couldn't stand when he got back home. It settled all around him, an unwelcome reminder of things lost. So he smashed a bottle of bourbon on the ground. And when that didn't last he turned over tables and broke chair legs and was on the point of ripping the wallpaper off the walls when Elijah came home.
He looked around the place, forever unsurprised by Klaus's behavior, and said, "Well, at least you left the chandelier."
Elijah sat down amid the debris, and soon Klaus found himself telling him—with a few pauses in which he shattered a lamp and two bottles of wine—exactly what had happened.
When he had finished, Elijah was smiling in a way that made Klaus want to give up on the room and break him instead.
"What are you so pleased about? Do you really hate me so much?" he asked. "You like seeing me in pain?"
Elijah shook his head, the same gentle smile on his face. "Only slightly," he said. "I was just thinking that there may be hope for you yet, brother."
"Oh, god, not that again."
"Something was different with her, I'm sure of it."
Klaus glanced over at the painting in the corner—one of the few things in the apartment he'd left untouched.
For a few long moments, he was at a loss for words. Finally, as he took the portrait off of its mount—to lock it away somewhere, somewhere safe—he said,
It was funny. For Caroline, summer had just flown by, and it all sort of felt like a blur.
Maybe it was just that summer-before-college feeling. When something so big and life-changing is coming, it's hard to focus on the here and now. All she remembered was the sun and the sea and looking forward to everything that was coming.
She was thinking this as she emptied her suitcase on to her bed, wondering how she could have left back-to-school shopping so late, and how she'd have to call Elena—god, it had been forever since she'd talked to Elena—and make sure their bedspreads were color-coordinated.
Among the pile of unfolded clothes hitting her bed, a silver glimmer caught her eye. Caroline couldn't remember what it could be, and rooted around in the pile until she found it again. It was a silver necklace with a fleur-de-lis charm.
She picked it up and held it against the light, and in that moment, she had a kind of déjà vu. It was strange. She didn't know what she remembered, exactly. It was more a feeling. Like being at the top of a rollercoaster…
And it was gone again. She shook her head, coming back to the present. She didn't know where the necklace had come from, but she hung it from the notch over her window, and for some reason, felt like smiling as she watched it swing back and forth, throwing sunlight across the room.