Sweet child of mine
Disclaimer: TVD and The Originals belong to people who are not me.
Lukas is a little bit of everything, to be sure. A veritable hodgepodge of biology, magic and stolen parts. Wolf, witch, human. Light, dark and everything in between. It reminds Caroline, in a whimsical way, of that nineties cartoon. What was it? Captain Planet, a superhero made by combining five rings of power: "Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart." Lukas isn't going to be a blue, super-powered ecowarrior—probably—but he is going to save the world. This little boy is going to grow up with such a burden on his shoulders; a powerful enemy already waiting in the shadows and destiny dogging his heels. He's not even walking yet, but he's inherited a battle that all of them started before he was even born. Hell, it was started long before Caroline's lifetime, long, even, before Klaus became the legendary killer he is.
Silas, Quetsiyah and Amara set this war into motion in the twilight of another age. Ester, Freya and Mikael played their part over a thousand years past; Klaus and his siblings became monsters and spread vampirism across the globe; Katherine was a victim before she was a villain; the sweet Salvatore brothers were poisoned by her darkness and, finally, it came full circle. A group of high schoolers living in the town where so much supernatural history was written. Another doppelganger, another Bennett witch, and a girl who died at the age of seventeen and then became a vampire mother to the most powerful child ever created by good or evil.
It's all connected, of course. Caroline sees that now. She killed twelve witches, sure, but she would have ended up here anyway. This is the convergence of millennia of unnatural power simmering beneath Nature's wary gaze, and none of them are here by chance. She and her friends all contributed to the chaos that has fed Silas's strength and madness. They started it, but they can't finish it. They aren't strong enough to put him down.
Lukas will be, but the battle will take his life.
'I know you're there,' Caroline says, without turning her head. It's been three hours and she must have timed her arrival perfectly because Lukas hasn't stirred or woken crying for a night time feed. If that's even what he does. For all Caroline knows, super-special werewolf babies sleep right through to dawn. That's the point, right? This isn't her world and she doesn't know the rules here.
'Hello, love,' Klaus says, softly. He stays in the doorway, perhaps trying to telegraph a non-threatening presenceand, eventually, Caroline eases herself out of the chair and faces him fully.
'I don't know how this can work.' Caroline crosses her arms. 'I don't know what happens now.' She turns to look at Klaus. 'It can't be like it was before. I can't let myself get caught up in all the anger, and the violence, and the misery that follows your family.'
Klaus looks contrite—not an expression he wears too often. He scratches the scruff on his jaw, an action which Caroline knows from experience is nearly always is accompanied by his best baby blues, so she's not surprised when he deliberately catches her gaze and the full force of his inhuman beauty is suddenly unleashed on her, like he's flicked a switch.
'That's not what I want for you,' Klaus says. 'I just want Lukas to have a mother in his life, and I want you not to miss this chance to experience something incredible. I know you, Caroline, and if you walk away I know how bitterly you'd regret that choice for the rest of your life.' He's suddenly closer to her, without her noticing him move. She finds it one of the most unsettling manifestations of his superior supernatural abilities. 'And you're going to live a very long life. Take it from me, the big mistakes have a way of staying with you.'
'So you finally admit you make mistakes,' Caroline says. Perhaps she's attempting to combat his intensity with a small jest, or perhaps she's genuinely pushing him to react. She's not sure, but his eyes and voice remain as soft as she's ever known when he answers her.
'You and I both know that being immortal doesn't equate to infallibility, love. You want me to say that Hayley was a mistake? Fine. She was. Being with her meant nothing to me beyond instant gratification and, whilst it galls me to stand in front of you and confess that I was momentarily ruled by my baser instincts, if you need to hear it then I won't try to hide it.'
'Klaus—' The Original Hybrid reaches for her hand and Caroline abandons her rebuttal with a hitched breath. Against every instinct, she does not snatch it away from him, but allows herself the moment of unbidden excitement as his hand encloses hers.
'I believe, Caroline, that my feelings for you were painfully clear from almost the first night we spoke. I don't need to remind you how, back in Mystic Falls, you rejected my every advance and chose the Lockwood boy every time. I didn't betray you with Hayley, though I know you feel like I did. I will never betray you, Caroline. Though I can't bring myself to entirely regret a circumstance that created Lukas, of course I wish he had come to us another way. A way that had not caused you the suffering you've endured.'
Caroline takes a deep breath, and pulls her hand free of Klaus. Stepping back, she bites down on her lip and nods.
'Ok,' she finally says. Klaus stares.
'Yeah,' Caroline says. 'I guess we need to put all that behind us, if we're going to try to do this. What's the point in dredging up the same old grievances time and time again? Hayley's dead. Lukas is still here. He's what matters now.'
It's the first time she's said the child's name out loud, and Klaus tries not to let his hopefulness overtake his face.
'You're staying, then?'
Caroline steadies herself.
'You were telling the truth, about Lukas somehow being part of me?'
'I swear it,' Klaus says. 'You can hear it from the Guardian Spirits themselves, if you prefer.'
'Well then, yes, I'm staying.'
Klaus holds her gaze for a moment, then looks away. It does nothing to conceal the raw emotion on his face. Klaus is, after all, a creature entirely ruled by his emotions. It's what makes him so dangerous.
Caroline turns to look at Lukas and is surprised to find him awake and watching her and Klaus, quietly and intently. She's no expert but she's pretty sure that's not entirely normal for a five-month-old. His eyes are so blue, like Klaus's and Rebekah's. Like Caroline's, maybe. She doesn't know how such a little scrap of innocence can exist in a den of monsters.
The Mikaelsons' world is made of blood, power, vengeance and death-dealing. They rule by fear, and are loyal only to each other. Despite whatever bond seems to exist between her and Klaus, it's not a world Caroline wants to be part of. She's still a new vampire, and being in the orbit of the Original family is, frankly, a strain on her nerves at a purely physical level. She's supposedly a powerful being, yet she's as fragile as a dove next to them.
'I will ensure your comfort here,' Klaus says, as if he's reading her mind. She's always broadcasted her emotions too loudly, worn her feelings for all to see. 'There's a room waiting for you.'
Caroline winces internally. Of course there's a room.
'That's not quite what I meant,' she says. 'When I said I was staying, I meant in the city. Not in your house.'
'This is Lukas's home,' Klaus says, frowning.
'It's pretty normal for separated parents to share custody.'
Klaus's jaw twitches.
'Sweetheart, this is hardly a normal situation. My enemies are everywhere. Surely you can agree that, in these particular circumstances, the enhanced security arrangements of my family home can offer all of us some peace of mind as to Lukas's wellbeing.'
Lukas gurgles around a mouthful of his own toes, apparently unperturbed by the conversation around him. Klaus's annoyed expression melts away, and he smiles at his son. He steps towards the crib, then stops to look at Caroline.
'Do you want to…?' he gestures at the baby.
'No, go ahead,' Caroline says, trying to keep the discomfort off her face. She's staying, she really is, but she's not ready to start playing happy families with Klaus. The hours she spent gazing at Lukas did little to help ease the big ball of darkness in her chest—she doesn't know how it's possible to want something so much and be terrified of it at the same time. She only knows that the last thing she can handle right now is trying to work out how she even starts with Lukas while Klaus hovers over her shoulder, looking at her like she's hung the stars. It's too much.
Klaus picks his son up, and grabs a bottle from a fancy-looking warmer on the side table. Lukas, snuggled comfortably in his daddy's arms, hungrily accepts the offered milk and Caroline suddenly realises Problem Thirty-Two with this crazy co-parenting plan. She is one hundred per cent not ready to deal with the ovary-melting hotness of Klaus cuddling a baby.
'Is my old apartment still available?' Caroline says, somewhat desperately.
Klaus looks up at her, exasperation crossing his face.
'If you really want, sweetheart, then that can be arranged. Or you can choose somewhere new. But I would ask, if it's not completely unpalatable to you…While we sort out some more permanent accommodation, would you stay here?'
She bites her lip. It's always difficult to resist Klaus when he's being courteous. He can play human so well, when it suits him.
'You could spend some time with Lukas. We could talk. Work out how we're going to do this, something that we can both live with.'
Caroline sighs. She doesn't want to stay in this house.
Well, that's not entirely true. Not if she's being painfully honest with herself. There's a part of her that is longing for the life Klaus wants to give her. Mother to that beautiful child. Allied with the strongest clan in the supernatural world. Klaus Mikaelson's, well, whatever she would be to him. She's not kidding herself he still doesn't want her that way, even if Klaus is being damn careful not to frighten her off by pushing his luck right now. By agreeing to stay, she's agreed to something. She's not sure what yet. Part of her wants to find out, but part of her is still angry. Hurt. Frightened.
She knows that she will never be Klaus's equal. In brutal, animalistic terms. He is an original vampire; her powers will never rival his. How could that ever be the basis for love.
Yet, in the thoughts that she cannot even speak aloud, Caroline knows it's not just Lukas she wants. It's a situation so fraught with complexity that she doesn't know how to navigate it. Where does she even start with Klaus? She's only just begun to realise how big Klaus's world is. How many his enemies number. How far his influence reaches. How can things like love, parenthood and family sit alongside supernatural grudge matches, killing and powerplays?
But. She's already agreed to stay. Does sleeping in this house even make a difference? Is it just her fear that makes her want to keep him- them—at arm's length?
'Ok,' Caroline finds herself saying. 'That sounds… I can stay for a few nights. To talk.' She bites her lip. 'We can work out the rest.'
Klaus visibly relaxes. He nods, and directs a small, joyful smile to the baby. Caroline realises Lukas has stopped drinking, is now just wriggling, cradled against Klaus's chest.
She takes a deep breath.
Reaches out her arms.
'Temporary truce?' Klaus says, knocking on her bedroom door with the hand not holding a tall glass of green-veggie smoothie. 'I come bearing gifts.'
'Gimme,' Caroline says, by way of reply, reaching for the smoothie and sucking down a massive gulp through the fat straw.
Her eyes track Klaus as he skirts around the bed, where Caroline is propped up against a mountain of pillows, and sits on a barrel chair by the window.
'Fuck,' Caroline says, when she's finished off half the smoothie. 'I need this like I used to need blood. I know it should be disgusting, but I can't stop myself. Just like when I first turned.'
Klaus chuckles softly, always pleased to get a non-combatant word out of her, these days.
'You'll be back on blood soon enough, sweetheart.'
'Yep,' Caroline's eyes harden again. 'Any day now.'
Klaus hums an agreement, and watches as the woman he loves angrily slurps down green sludge.
'Are you frightened?'
The question must take Caroline by surprise. For a moment she looks truly seventeen—that innocent creature he had first met.
'No,' she says, at length. 'Not of pain, if that's what you mean.' She slurps some more. 'I mean, I'm not looking forward to it.'
Klaus looks down at his hands, before seeking out Caroline's sapphire-blue eyes once more.
'Aren't you even slightly looking forward to meeting him?'
Caroline blinks, then reaches for the magazine she'd discarded when Klaus has disturbed her.
'No,' she says. She flicks over a page, then two, without reading them. 'Was there anything else, Niklaus?'
'I just wanted to see how you are. You were quiet at dinner.'
'I'm fine. Elena will be back soon, she's meeting Damon.' Caroline's lips quirk upwards, but it's a tired and joyless approximation of a smile. 'She thinks I don't know. She doesn't want to make me feel bad.'
No-one who had half a heart would want to make Caroline feel any more miserable than she was right now, Klaus thinks bitterly.
'The doppelganger is a good friend to you,' he allows.
'Saying her name won't kill you.' Caroline's glowering into her magazine again. 'Would you mind leaving me in peace?'
Klaus stands—a smooth motion that has him over by the door before Caroline can work herself up into a proper temper. He didn't come in here to fight. She's just so full to the brim with anger at the moment that one wrong word can send her bubbling over. He wants to meet his child, but he doesn't want to send her into labour because she overexerts herself arguing with him about the bloody doppelganger.
'Klaus?' Caroline's voice is quiet, but it still stops him in his tracks, as he's about to leave.
'Yes, love,' he says, turning back to her. She looks tiny on the giant four poster bed, a fragile little thing wrapped around the contrasting roundness of her full belly that he can't help enjoying the sight of. He reminds himself that Caroline Forbes is anything but fragile.
'I am,' she says, raising lidded eyes to meet his gaze, 'a bit frightened. But I'll get him safely here. I know how much you want him.'
'Caroline,' Klaus says, on an exhale. He's stunned. She never stops surprising him. She never stops making him love her more. 'Sweetheart. You know I—'
'Don't,' she says, all steel and guts. 'I can't be your friend right now, Klaus. I can't feel anything good about…This is the most I can give you.'
Her vampire hearing has been gone for days, so she doesn't know that when Klaus shuts the door behind him he stands there, just listening to her breathe, to the two heartbeats within her, until the doppelganger's footfall on the stairs signals time to leave.