A.N. Thank you so much for your responses last chapter! I'm glad you enjoyed the Klaroline first meeting, as it was my favorite to write. This chapter is a favorite as well-we have all kinds of shenanigans happening.
Thank you to my wonderful beta team, Miranda, Becky, Leah and most recently Katie.
"Elijah, of course. She's his fiancee."
If Caroline had the ability to make the Earth swallow her whole, she'd choose this moment to do it.
She watched as the flirtatious, carefree smile disappeared from Klaus' face, replaced with an expression of guarded apprehension and-for a split second-regret. There was a flash of something else in his eyes she couldn't quite place. She could feel an odd tightening in her chest, her own flare of regret, and an overwhelming sense of embarrassment.
She'd just been flirting with Elijah's brother. Unconsciously or not, she flirted with her fake fiancee's brother. Her fake fiancee, who was lying in a medically induced coma just floors above them. With his entire family-not all of whom were on board with their "engagement"-by his bedside.
She was a horrible, awful person.
"Elijah," Klaus said, chuckling sardonically as he looked back at her, his finger tapping against the side of his coffee cup. "Well, when you said you came in with someone, you weren't kidding."
He was eyeing her now, his gaze harsh and calculating, suspicion seeming to radiate from him. She suddenly realized what this must look to him, and she could feel a small twinge of panic.
"Yes, she's quite the surprise, isn't she?" Rebekah said, smirking.
"That's an understatement," Klaus remarked.
"A happy surprise, though, if you ask me." She shrugged when Klaus looked up at her. "She did save Elijah's life, jumping into the attack and all. Call it what you want, brave or foolish, but I suppose it's enough for us to forgive her for being, as Kol has so fondly taken to calling her, 'Elijah's tawdry little secret.'"
Caroline's jaw dropped slightly at the other blonde's words-she sure as hell wasn't tawdry-and across the table, Klaus sighed, giving his sister a stern look.
"They're Kol's words, not mine, Nik," Rebekah defended with a roll of her eyes. "You want to go all reprimanding and grumpy, go talk to your younger brother about it. Which you can do, as Mother sent me down here to find you. Both of you, actually. Lucky me, you were in the same spot."
Klaus smiled, turning glancing at Caroline from the corner of his eye. "Lucky indeed."
Caroline forced herself to smile, laughing quietly, though inside she was a stark contrast to her calm exterior. She was torn between panicking over this new kink in her already disaster filled plan--what kind of brother arrived an hour after his family, I mean seriously-and being completely offended by the fact that this complete stranger had the audacity to judge her.
"Well," Rebekah said, clapping her hands together and stepping away from Klaus' chair. "Mother calls, Niklaus, and I believe you know how she hates to be kept waiting. Let's spare dear Caroline her wrath so early in her relationship with the family, hmm?"
She turned on one stiletto heel and started out of the cafeteria, leaving Klaus and Caroline to stare after her before looking at each other.
Caroline could see a mountain of questions behind his blue eyes-or were they accusations-but she merely cleared her throat and hurried to her feet, pulling her purse onto her shoulder and lifting her coffee cup to her lips. As she turned, she heard the legs of Klaus' chair scrape against the linoleum floor and his footsteps follow her out the door. She tried to keep her steps slow and even, tried to keep her shoulders firm and straight, even though every inch of her was telling her to high tail it out of the hospital and away from Klaus Mikaelson.
"You know, love," his voice said softly right next to her ear, and she snapped her head towards him, her blonde hair whipping across his face lightly. His gaze was locked straight ahead of them, never once glancing in her direction as he matched her step for step. "You were awfully friendly for an engaged woman."
Caroline scoffed, shaking her head. "How would you know how friendly I am to strangers? You didn't even know me ten minutes ago."
"And from what I gather, my family didn't even know you existed a few short hours ago, but lo and behold, Rebekah seems to be your number one fan. Quite peculiar, isn't it? The fact that she didn't even bat an eye that our dear brother's betrothed was chatting so animatedly with another man in the middle of a hospital cafeteria?"
Gritting her teeth, she let out a slow breath as they rounded the corner into the lobby, keeping her gaze on Rebekah's back so she wouldn't throw a death glare in the other Mikaelson's direction. "You're her brother, why would she? And we were not chatting 'animatedly.'"
"Oh, I think there was quite a bit of animation on both our parts, sweetheart."
Caroline halted in her steps, turning towards him with a glare. He met her gaze with an amused smirk, his eyebrows raised, but before she could fire off a single word, a voice called her name from the revolving doors to the hospital, and she breathed a small sigh of relief when she caught sight of a familiar figure making his way towards her.
Saved by a Salvatore.
"Hey, sorry it took so long," Stefan said as he walked up to them, shoving his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket and eyeing Klaus curiously. "There was some kind of construction or something on the main highway, I had to detour."
"No, it's fine," she said, smiling and waving a hand.
"And who might you be, mate?" Klaus asked quietly, looking between Caroline and Stefan with a raised brow.
Caroline could hear the insinuation in his voice, and she tightened her grip around her cup, gritting her teeth as she tried to keep her expression as neutral as possible.
Stefan turned to him, squaring his shoulders and eyeing the other man up and down. It was a signature Stefan Salvatore move-after years of friendship with her and Bonnie, neither of which had older brothers or parents who really paid that much attention, he took it on himself to fill that overprotective role. Any time one of them starting dating someone new-she still felt horrible for Matt Donovan their junior year of high school having to endure Stefan's threatening smiles from across the pool table-or starting spending time with anyone of the male population he wasn't familiar with-poor Professor Atticus Shane, when all he wanted was to guide Bonnie on a brilliant college career path-Stefan made it his business to get across the point that his girls weren't to be messed with.
And Cock in the Henhouse Stefan was front and center in the middle of the hospital corridor.
"Stefan. Caroline's roommate."
Stupid. Stefan. Salvatore.
Caroline closed her eyes as she saw Klaus grin, and she let out a sigh.
"Well...isn't that interesting," he commented, clasping his hands behind his back and rocking back on his heels. "Quite interesting. Tell me, how does Elijah feel about your little roommate arrangement, Caroline?"
Stefan held up a hand, frowning. "Hang on a second, who are you?"
"He's Elijah's brother," Caroline answered, shifting on her feet. "Klaus."
Stefan seemed to realize his slip up then, and how his declaration of the two of them living together could come across to a family that just learned she was "engaged" to their eldest son. He slipped his hand back into his pocket, murmuring a quite "Oh," and throwing Caroline a look of apology, a small wince on his face.
She sighed, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. A click of heels caught her attention, and she turned to see Rebekah striding towards them, a look of impatience on her face as she held her arms out at her sides.
"What the bloody hell is taking you two so long? I won't suffer Mother's temper on my own if you two-"
Her words cut off as she skidded to a halt, her eyes widening when they caught sight of Stefan standing between them. A faint blush appeared on her cheeks, her lips parting as her hands fell to her sides. "Oh...I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were speaking with...someone."
Caroline smiled at her, telling her no apologies were necessary, though her words quieted when she looked over Stefan mid sentence. Her best friend was staring at the new arrival with wide eyes and a growing smirk, his dark brown eyes alight with appraisal as they looked the blonde over with interest. She couldn't help but smile slightly-she hadn't seen Stefan this interested in someone since Elena Gilbert back in high school-and there was no need to rehash that horrible fiasco. Not while Elena was off scouring the globe with Damon Salvatore, Stefan's older and much douchier brother.
"Rebekah, meet Stefan," Klaus chimed in, motioning towards the younger man with a show of his hand. "A friend of Caroline's and, as it would seem, her roommate."
Rebekah shook herself out of her stupor, frowning when her brother's words clicked in her head, and she looked at Caroline in question. "You don't live with Elijah?"
Caroline gaped at her, and she prayed the panic she felt in her chest wasn't written on her face. Damn Klaus Mikaelson. Damn Elijah Mikaelson and his impeccable smiles, and damn her for ever being so stupid to think she could just make up some stupid lie and get away with it. Damn everything and everyone-
"Not all the time. You know, Elijah works some pretty crazy hours, and Care's kind of...left alone during then. So I'm kind of like the uh...the back-up roommate."
Everyone except Stefan Salvatore.
He met her gaze for a moment before he shrugged, smiling at Rebekah. "We've been friends since high school, and we lived together before she met Elijah. So it kind of just...worked out." He grinned, dropping his gaze before raising his eyes. "I'm sorry...you're Elijah's sister?"
Rebekah nodded, smiling. "Rebekah."
"Rebekah," he repeated softly, nodding as he clasped his hands in front of him. "It's nice to meet you."
Caroline watched with a smile as Stefan and Rebekah seemed to gaze into each other's eyes-exactly how she imagined it in all of those corny trashy bodice ripping romance novels she hid under her pillow to avoid Stefan's teasing. A glance over at Klaus showed the man watching the scene with masked disdain, his lips slightly curled up as he glanced in between her best friend and his baby sister, and she bit back a chuckle, squaring her shoulders and clearing her throat.
Their moment was broken, Rebekah let out a quiet sigh, brushing her hair away from her face and raising her eyebrows at her brother. "RIght, well. Can we go? Everyone's waiting." Her gaze flicked to Stefan again, a dazed smile appearing on her face. She sent her brother one more glare before turning and heading for the elevator.
"Uh, Care, can I talk to you for a second before you go?" Stefan asked.
Caroline nodded, catching her friend's meaningful look, and sighed, turning to Klaus with a faked smile and tilting her head. "Well, should we go? Or do you have more erroneous accusations to make towards me?"
Klaus' lips merely spread into a smile, a small scoff of laughter escaping them as he shrugged. "Well, excuse me for being just a tad suspicious of you, sweetheart, but considering you've appeared to just have fallen out of the sky, you can hardly blame me."
He glanced at Stefan once more before shouldering passed them both, striding towards the elevator where Rebekah was waiting with a tapping foot, her hand flat against the metal doors to keep them from closing. She looked over at Klaus as he stepped through the doors, a question on her lips as she looked back at them. Klaus spoke to her quickly, and she nodded, throwing them one last glance before stepping back and letting the doors slide closed.
Caroline stared after them for a moment before stomping her foot and turning towards Stefan. "You know what, I do kind of blame him."
Stefan looked at her incredulously. "Caroline, you're pretending to be engaged to his comatose brother."
She grumbled, shrugging her shoulders as she lifted her coffee cup to her lips. "Yeah, but he doesn't know that." She rolled her eyes when Stefan simply continued to stare at her, his head shaking in disbelief. "Shut up."
"He looks like that creepy pale guy from Rocky Horror."
"What? I'm just making an observation, Finn."
The quiet bickering greeted Rebekah and Klaus as they made their way into Elijah's room, the latter hesitating in the doorway as his eyes caught sight of his brother's prone form lying in the bed.
He was only vaguely aware of his mother's voice shushing two of his brothers, so distracted at seeing his big brother more frail than he ever had 's always seen Elijah in a certain light: strong, brave, his big brother who would fight any battle that he couldn't finish. He was the moral one of the family; the one you could always count on. He was indestructible.
Look at him now…
He tore his gaze away from Elijah, widening his eyes against the sting of tears he could feel welling-and he would not cry, not now, not here-and met his mother's concerned gaze as she walked towards him, a gentle smile on her face as she reached out and pulling him into a hug, resting her head against his shoulder.
He wrapped his arms around her, inhaling her familiar scent and letting himself be comforted. He kept his eyes away from Elijah, instead glancing over at Kol, Finn and Henrik, all of whom were watching the scene with somber expressions, before turning his gaze towards the lone figure across the room.
His father had his back to him, his arms crossed over his chest as he stared out the large paned window. He didn't even acknowledge that Klaus was there.
As if that was anything new.
"I'm so happy that you're here, my son," Esther said as she pulled away from him, resting a hand against his stubbled cheek. "I know it means the world to your brother as well…"
Glancing at the brother in question, he gave a sharp nod, moving towards his other siblings with his mother at his side. "How is he?" he asked, clasping a hand on Henrik's shoulder as he nodded towards Kol and Finn, watching Rebekah sink into a chair next to Elijah's bedside.
"The doctor seems to be quite optimistic," Esther answered, resting her hands against the railing of the hospital bed. The steady beep of the machine sounded in time with Elijah's heartbeat, and Klaus took heart in how steady and strong it sounded. "They say he's quite strong, and very likely to wake up soon. Though it's a bit of a waiting game, I'm afraid."
"Complete imbeciles, the lot of them," Mikael finally sounded, turning towards them with a scoff. "If he were in a decent hospital…"
"Mikael," Esther sighed, shaking her head, a few tendrils of blonde hair slipping out of the pristine bun at the base of her neck. "Dr. Fell seems to be quite capable."
Mikael snorted. "Our definitions of 'capable' differ, my love." He sighed, glancing about the room, carelessly passing his gaze over Klaus before landing on Rebekah. "Where's the girl?"
"Caroline? She'll be right up-she was speaking to someone in the lobby," Rebekah answered. At her father's raised brow, she shrugged, crossing her arms across her chest. "Her roommate showed up."
"Roommate?" Esther asked, frowning. "She doesn't live with Elijah?"
Klaus could hear the confusion in his mother's voice, and he remembered his own from mere moments ago. It certainly was odd, a newly engaged woman not living with the man she would one day call husband. It wasn't the Dark Ages anymore-how often did you hear about a couple not living together before they married?
"From what Stefan said, they lived together before she met Elijah, and only live together now when his work hours get too hectic. It's a very Elijah thing to do-he's a worry wort through and through," Rebekah answered, a hint of fondness in her voice as she glanced at her brother in question.
"Stefan?" Mikael sneered. "So she lives with another man? Well, that's just another indication that the little harlot is milking our son for all he's worth, isn't it?"
Rebekah frowned, shifting in her seat. "I don't think they're involved, Father. Not that I could tell, anyway."
"Which means she's got a thing for the bloke," Kol chimed in, grinning at his sister when she sent him a scathing glare. "Honestly, Bekah, this is a hospital. Can't you scope out your next victim at a less dreary location?"
"Shut up, Kol!"
Their mother opened their mouth to scold them, but at the same moment, Caroline walked into the room, her hands now devoid of the Styrofoam cup and were now wringing in front of her as she smiled uncertainly.
Klaus tried to keep his eyes from traveling across her form, but he couldn't help but notice her beauty. It was what had first drawn her to him in the cafeteria. Her silken blonde hair, blue eyes that he could see sparkle from across the room. She had been stunning.
And then she'd surprised him, seeming to challenge every line he threw at her with one of her own. He'd been enthralled. Taken. Intrigued.
And she was Elijah's girl. Life would be so cruel.
"Caroline, darling!" Kol called out, slipping from his place next to Finn and walking towards her. "What's this we hear about a scandalous roommate situation? Surely you haven't gotten straight laced 'Lijah into the swingers scene? Can you imagine the family newsletter?" His eyes widened in mock horror, his hand resting against his heart as he seemed to stumble back a step.
Caroline's eyes widened, and she laughed. "Who, Stefan? Yeah, there's really no scandal there in the slightest."
Rebekah leaned forward in her seat. "Where is Stefan?" she asked nonchalantly, craning her neck to peer over the other blonde's shoulder.
"Oh, he got a call from work. He's a journalist at the Tribune...he'll be here in just a few seconds."
Mikael took a step towards her. "And who is this Stefan?" he asked coldly, regarding her with disdain. "An old boyfriend, perhaps?"
The smile faltered from Caroline's face at his tone of voice, and Klaus felt a stab of pity for the girl. He was no stranger to Mikael's disdain. He may have been suspicious of her as well, but Mikael's tactics were much worse than his.
"No," she shook her head. "He's just an old friend."
The older man pursed his lips, nodding as he shrugged his shoulders, ignoring the warning glare his wife was sending in his direction. "An old friend...one you happen to live with, on your off time with my son. That's an odd arrangement, don't you think?" He glanced around the room before settling his gaze on Caroline. "After all, a man and a woman, living together...old friends or not...things are bound to escalate at some point."
"Mikael," Esther hissed.
"I can promise you they don't," Caroline replied, her eyes narrowed slightly and her jaw clenched. Klaus had to give her props-she had a backbone made of steel.
"Can you? And what good, pray tell, is a promise from you, Miss Forbes? Less than an hour ago, we didn't even know you existed. And now suddenly, you're engaged to our son, a man who is quite well off as I'm sure you know, and we're just expected to bend down and accept it all?"
"I can assure you, my dear, that this family doesn't take lightly to having the wool pulled over our eyes, so whatever little game you and your boyfriend are playing-"
Caroline shook her head. "Stefan is not my boyfriend."
"Father, for goodness sakes, leave her be," Rebekah chimed in.
Mikael looked over at her, his face softening slightly towards her as he tsked. "And of course you're smitten, Rebekah. This Stefan fellow must be a bit easy on the eyes then, hmm?" He shook his head. "Quite an operation-weasling your way into the wallet of one Mikaelson before having your 'old friend' work on my daughter."
"He's not working on anyone," Caroline defended. "It's ridiculous to even think that. Stefan is so far from that kind of person, I mean he's…"
"He's what, Miss Forbes?" Mikael asked.
The walls were closing in on her again. She could feel it-feel the weight of their stares, the judgement that was just looming, and she knew she had to do something.
That...might not have been the best though.
Her declaration caught the eldest Mikaelson off guard, his suspicion giving into a look a confusion as he saw his entire argument refuted. She tried to swallow down the lump of pride that welled in her throat at the realization that she'd trumped the old man, but one glance at Rebekah's stricken face and her pride quickly changed to dread.
"He's gay?" she asked incredulously.
"Well, that would certainly explain Elijah's nonchalance about the whole roommate thing," Kol laughed, nudging Rebekah with his elbow. "Looks like your gaydar could use a tune up, sister." He dodged the shove she aimed at him, chuckling.
Esther clapped her hands together, putting an end to the apparent argument and bickering. "Well, I believe that settles that argument," she said with a sigh, smiling over at Caroline, taking the girl's flustered appearance for nerves as she stood up against Mikael. She bypassed the sheer panic and anxiety that was written across her face. "Now...I think it's time we left. The doctor has assured us that there's nothing we can do here-it's up to Elijah now, and knowing him, he'll awaken shortly and put my nerves to rest. In the meantime," she smiled over at Caroline. "Caroline, would you join our family for dinner tonight?"
"Dinner?" Caroline echoed. Dinner with his family...a family she was lying to, with a father who she was sure saw right through her and a brother she had shamelessly been flirting with minutes ago.
Someone up there hated her.
"Yes. I think we all need a bit of a jovial occasion after the day's events, and what better one that to get to know the young woman who not only saved Eljah's life but captured his heart as well?" She smiled at her, tilting her head to the side. "Do say you'll join us, Caroline."
Caroline's eyes were wide as she nodded, not quite sure what else she could do. She smiled when the older woman let out a pleased sigh, mentally kicking herself for this pure disaster she'd gotten herself into. And glancing over at a sullen Rebekah, one she'd dragged Stefan into as well.
She shuffled off to the side as the Mikaelson family began to gather their things and head for the door. She lifted a hand to her mouth, her teeth beginning to nibble on the nail of her index finger a she watched them. Henrik and Finn smiled pleasantly at her as they left, Kol shooting her a wink and a grin. Rebekah was quiet as she left, offering her a small smile, but Caroline could see the sadness in the blonde's eyes, and she remembered how ardently she and Stefan had looked at each other earlier.
Leave it to her to ruin what could have been great before it even began.
"I think I'll stay a bit," she heard Klaus say quietly, and she looked up to see him sliding into the seat Rebekah had been sitting in, pulling it closer to the side of the bed.
Esther nodded, resting her hands on his shoulders. "But you'll be at dinner?"
He offered her a nod, resting his elbows on his knees and placing his chin on his clasped hands. His gaze briefly slid to her, their eyes meeting, and he nodded again before turning his attention back to Elijah.
There was something sad about that scene...a brother sitting as another's bedside, silent and stoic, though she knew Klaus' eyes betrayed the fury of emotions he was holding back from his family.
She silently wondered if he could see the war going on in her own eyes…
She jumped suddenly when Mikael slid past her, glaring with a sneer on his lips, and she took a deep breath as she lifted her purse higher onto her shoulder, her heartbeat raging in her ears. She felt Esther steering her from the room with a gentle hand on her shoulder, pressing a piece of paper into her hand as they walked.
"We'll see you tonight, Caroline," she said as Caroline glanced down at the paper and saw an address scribbled in an elegant scrawl.
She smiled, nodding again, and watched as the matriarch followed after her family, a long held breath escaping her lips as they disappeared around the corner. She folded the paper in her hand, slipping it into the side pouch of her purse, and glanced over her shoulder into Elijah's room.
Klaus still sat as she'd left him, his head bowed, eyes riveted on his brother's pale face, and something tugged inside her.
"Hey," Stefan said as he came up to her, sliding his phone into his jacket pocket. He looked into the room over her shoulder, placing a hand at the small of her back. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Caroline sighed, turning towards him. "Except for the fact that now I get to have dinner with the whole Mikaelson clan."
She threw up her hands, falling into step next to him as they both headed towards the elevators. "Their mom blindsided me. Mikael was being a serious douche and she defended me and then before I knew it, I was agreeing to dinner." She sighed. "God, Stef, what am I going to do?"
Her best friend sighed, reaching out and hitting the button for the elevator. "I don't know, Care. This goes above and beyond any of your other hairbrained schemes." He cleared his throat, shifting on his feet as his eyes looked up at the illuminated numbers above the doors. "Though since you've spent a while with them and they think you're, you know, gonna be one of them...do you happen to to know if Rebekah is seeing someone?"
A new wave of dread washed over, and she whipped her head towards him, eyes wide as she recalled her panicked outburst moments ago. Oh, he was going to be so mad…
He saw the apprehension on her face, and he frowned, turning towards her. "What?"
She smiled sweetly. "Promise you won't get mad?"
His eyes narrowed. "No."
Sighing, she ran her hands down her face. "Ugh, so when I mentioned that Mikael was being a douche, it was because he found out that you and I were roommates, and he was grilling me on our relationship and how he thought we were basically scam artists, and I just panicked and freaked out and I...may have lied and said you...were...gay."
Stefan Salvatore was a patient man. He had to be, when it came to her. She was infuriating, she knew. That was no secret or denial. But in that moment she could see all the patience he had towards her slip away, and she placed a hand over her mouth as she stared up at him.
"I'm sorry, Stefan, I just panicked! It was word vomit-you know how that happens. I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, no matter how crazy it sounds!"
"You told them I was gay, Caroline?" he asked loudly, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she said, bouncing on the heels of her feet as she faced him. "I'm so sorry, Stefan. I know you like Rebekah, and I'm so, so sorry. Please, please don't be mad. I'm going to fix this, I promise. I just...don't know how."
"Just tell them," Stefan replied, striding into the elevator when the doors slid open.
Caroline groaned, chasing after him. "I can't! Okay, I can't right now. Things are spiraling, and they think I'm their future daughter and sister-in-law, and they like me right now, Stefan. I mean...that's something that people spend years trying to make happen with the families they're marrying into."
"You're not marrying into them! You're entire relationship with Elijah is based on a fib in the heat of the moment."
She stared at him. "Yeah. But they don't know that."
Stefan sighed as the elevator chimed, the doors sliding open to reveal the lobby. "They have doctors for this kind of thing, Caroline." He shook his head as he stomped out of the lift, sliding his sunglasses out of his pocket and onto his face.
Caroline looked after him, blowing out a breath before hurrying after him.
He was right.
She was so fucked.
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