Chapter 11

Caroline thought Ridley might be up the entire night after sleeping all day but, apparently the enormity of their trip and her sun sickness from earlier in the day were still wearing her down. After all this time helping to raise Bonnie’s descendants and watching them die each generation, she still couldn’t quite get over how truly fragile the human body was.

They excused themselves to retire immediately after dinner had finished, when it was still early evening. At first, they’d headed in the direction of the conference room without windows where Ridley had spent the day but Klaus was quick to follow them, insisting he’d had something much more suitable set up. Ridley and Caroline exchanged confused glances when he started leading them back to the same suite they’d been in the night before but were game to follow him.

When Klaus swung the door to their suite open this time, Caroline had to stop herself from gasping in awe at what awaited them. Beautiful and heavy crushed velvet curtains were meticulously draped over every inch of window surface on their angled walls. Each piece of velvet fabric was a different color but they all matched in rich jeweled tones from royal purple and deep blues to ruby and shimmering emerald fabric. It had been hung in a way that tented out over each of the windows, creating a luxurious ‘harem’ vibe to the whole place.

Turning towards the bedroom, Caroline saw that the massive California King bed had been moved completely out and replaced by a mountain of stylishly organized silk pillows and blankets all thrown over some very thin sleeping mats on the floor. The color scheme was the same as the drapes that had been brought in, with accents of metallic gold fabric brightening up the place.The room was filled to the brim with pillows and gauzy fabrics, just enough so that it looked sumptuous instead of overcrowded.

Low sitting Japanese tea tables had been placed around the room to match their new sleeping arrangement on the floor, ornate pieces of heavy ebony furniture intricately carved and inlaid with opal accents. To complete the look, the hotel’s typical standard lamps had been replaced by dozens of glittering glass and paper lanterns that had been hooked up to dangle from their ceiling. Their suite had been the picture of luxury when they found it the previous evening but, now, it was enchanting.

“Oh my god, Klaus!” Ridley exclaimed first, punching Klaus on the shoulder in a surprisingly affectionate move. Caroline had to bite back a laugh at the look Klaus gave the witch in response. First he was shocked - people didn’t exactly go around punching Klaus Mikaelson after all - but then he began to look infinitely pleased with himself. Caroline knew he wanted to impress her but the fact that making Ridley happy seemed to please him as well honestly touched Caroline.

But of course he’d know the way to get to you would be through Ridley, she couldn’t help but acknowledge. He has a daughter too. He would know.

Ridley leaned up to inspect a beautiful sapphire lantern in the shape of a star hanging from the ceiling, “I mean, I feel like I’m goddamn Sara Crewe from A Little Princess!”

A wicked grin overtook Klaus’s features and his eyes briefly darted away from Ridley’s to catch Caroline’s.

“Yes, well, we were discussing your fondness for that particular novel earlier today,” Klaus admitted. “Hope loved it as well. Much of what you’ll find in the room actually came from our time living in India for a few years.”

Boy was he good.

“Seriously?” Ridley squeaked in excitement. She then really shocked them all by bounding over to Klaus and locking him in a tight hug. “Thank you, Klaus. This is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.” He automatically tensed up in response to her hug and gratitude before lifting up an arm to awkwardly pat her on the back.

The truth was that Ridley and Klaus had both been studiously avoiding speaking to each other since he’d all but abducted her from her room back in Chiang Mai. Klaus had never known how to handle other people’s children. If Hope had insisted on play-dates or sleepovers growing up, he’d made sure to be around only as much as was necessary… children were primarily disgusting, just not Hope.

Now that Hope was eternally stuck in between her late teenage years and young adulthood, he was simply glad that Hope usually left the house to meet up with her friends. It worried him to no end… but at least it didn’t mean pretending to be nice to a bunch of Hope’s friends merely for Hope’s sake. Ridley was going to be different though because, not only was she Hope’s friend, she was Caroline’s daughter. And, up until now, he’d seen Ridley only look at him with the same blatant fear and trepidation that all of Hope’s friends had over the years. That would never sit well with Caroline, so this new display of affection could only work in his favor.

Sure enough, looking over Ridley’s shoulder, Caroline was watching them with warm eyes.

“You’re welcome, little witch,” Klaus replied fondly before releasing her embrace.

When he looked back to Caroline, she was inspecting the windows. She pulled back the heavy curtains to see what was underneath them. The glass of the windows had been all taped up.

“It’s UV blocking,” Klaus explained of the tape over the glass. “But it was absolutely heinous to look at which is why the velvet was brought up. Although the drapes alone were probably heavy enough to keep the sun out.”

“Thank you, Klaus,” Caroline told him, sincerely, spinning to face him. “You didn’t have to do so much. You didn’t have to do any of this-”

“-I wanted to,” he cut her off. You know I did, he wanted to add but didn’t. “And I assure you it really wasn’t any trouble at all.”

“Thank you all the same,” she said and crossed over the room to meet him. “It means a lot to us. To me.” And on that note she stood up on her toes to place a lingering kiss to his cheek.

In the second she did so, time seemed to slow as Klaus’s mind raced to understand what she was thinking. She was obviously kissing him here because Ridley was still in the room. Surely she had to know that, had they been alone, he’d not be at all content to leave things with just a kiss on the cheek? She knew, right? And here, in front of Ridley, he’d be forced to stay a gentleman and not take things further… not back her tenderly into the wall, not move his lips to capture her own, not grasp onto her hips and lock her to him in an iron grip.

He wanted to do all of those things. As Caroline pulled away, he caught Ridley’s eye over her shoulder. The witch was shooting him a bemused look that suggested she was well aware of the thoughts crossing through his mind. For all he knew, she did know exactly what he was thinking. He knew witches could catch flashes of emotions or thoughts and sometimes even psychic predictions just from touching you. Who knew what she’d seen when they hugged? Freya and Hope had both mentioned multiple times that they sensed Ridley was very powerful but simply hadn’t honed her craft yet.

Not wanting to completely miss a chance to prolong a display of affection, though, Klaus settled for something he’d wanted to do earlier that day in the pool. As she backed away from him he caught her hand a brought her palm to his lips, holding her eyes and relishing in the way her lips parted in surprise at the contact.

“It was my pleasure,” he assured her. “Sleep well, love.”

And then he was out of the room, leaving Caroline standing glued to the spot while feeling like her knees might give out at any moment. Why did he have to go and do things like that?

Damn girl,” Ridley called out from behind her, breaking her trance. “You’re in trouble. He is fucking smooth.”

“Shut up, it’s nothing,” Caroline hissed before adding, “Shut up!” one more time for good measure.

“Whatever, Caroline,” Ridley said with an eye roll before flopping back into the mountain of pillows Klaus had left with them. “Look at all this! He won me over!”

“You don’t know him Ridley, you don’t know any of them…” Caroline warned. “These aren’t the vampires you grew up with in Chiang Mai. Don’t trust any of them for a second.”

That night, like the night before, though she hadn’t mentioned it to anyone after Ridley had gotten so sick, Caroline dreamt of The Black Lake. She was out on the lake, alone, the light from her helmet the online thing guiding her when she heard “Caroline!” It sounded like Klaus calling to her from the shore but she couldn’t see him from that far out. And when she turned to seek him out, instead she was greeted by the unbelievably large head of the serpent from the lake, it’s crooked fangs peeking out from its great silver head, each as long as her torso. It was looking at her like it understood her and she asked “What are you? How are you here?” before the great beast opened its jaws and disappeared under the water, prepared to swallow her whole from beneath.

Caroline had overslept that next morning, of course. Her schedule was haywire. Normally the completely dark room she awoke to would have felt at least a little more like home but the hotel didn’t have any of the sounds the caves did to alert her to morning. She couldn’t hear anyone bustling about climbing up and down the ladders outside their apartment in the cave walls on their way to work. She couldn’t hear the echoing voices of people starting their days in the alleys of her city and getting breakfast. There were no tell tale fluttering of wings as the few bat colonies that had managed to survive this long on the underground bug population came home to sleep for the day.

No, while the hotel room was dark thanks to Klaus’s window fix, it was eerily quiet. When Caroline jumped awake amidst her nest of pillows, momentarily unsure of where she was, it was because of two things. One: the quiet, which she quickly remembered was because there were only several dozen people staying within a hotel meant for hundreds. Two: it smelled very distinctly of… sandalwood?

“Ridley?” Caroline called out into the darkness, trying to force her eyes to adjust. Ridley didn’t answer so Caroline stumbled blindly for a bit until she found a light switch. She turned it on to find she was the only one left in bed. The time on the clock read 6:14 am which meant it was just before sunrise.

Caroline pushed her way out of the bedroom into the main living area of their suite which already had a few lanterns lit for the early morning, though this room was also empty. Ridley was nowhere to be found but, there was hot coffee waiting for her on a table in front of their couch, right next to an incense holder burning some sandalwood scented incense that Ridley must have wanted to try. Pouring herself a cup of coffee, Caroline noted the boxes of different flavors of incense Klaus had left on table. Then, in the corner of the room, she spied a hookah.

She snorted out a laugh to herself before sipping her coffee… really good quality coffee, she hadn’t had this in awhile. Ridley would most certainly not be partaking in the hookah. Caroline still had a sore spot over cancer after what her mother had gone through. But, it still undeniably touched her to know that Klaus was truly trying to provide for Ridley one of the ultimate dreams of her childhood - living in India like Sara Crewe. Caroline had been to India several times over the years and, from what she remembered, it wasn’t quite this luxurious but… well, that kind of would have ruined Ridley’s fantasy if she didn’t get the glamorous side.

Speaking of which, she needed to get dressed and find Ridley. She was sure she was fine and that someone would help her if the impending sunrise made her sick. Caroline was more worried about who, exactly, would be helping her. So, she got dressed as quickly as possible. There were clothes in sizes for both herself and Ridley. Caroline knew that from borrowing swimsuits the other day that she wore nearly the same size as Hope and Ridley was a good match for Freya. She wondered if the extensive wardrobes they’d been supplied with in lieu of having a chance to pack were all borrowed from Hope and Freya’s personal things.

She threw on jeans and a t-shirt with the same large sunglasses from yesterday, not knowing what their plans were yet and what they’d need to be wearing. Then, leaving the room at vamp speed, the same way she’d gotten dressed, Caroline went in search of Ridley. It wasn’t that she was even too worried about her, no matter who she was with. Ridley had proven she could handle herself well enough around Kol last night. Honestly, she was simply anxious to find Ridley because being alone in this massive, brightly lit hotel kind of freaked her out a little bit. It was sort of like being in The Shining.

A hybrid stopped her to direct her while she was looking and Caroline ended up headed for a veranda not too far from where they’d been swimming the other day. The sun was just about to rise. They sky was still a light shade of blue but you could see the cusp of the sun peaking out over the desert horizon in the distance. Out at a beautifully set table with fruits, coffees, teas, eggs, and pastries and, of course, more blood sat Ridley, Elijah, Kol, and Klaus. It was, perhaps, the strangest sight she’d ever seen - Ridley watching the sun rise with the three Mikaelson brothers. She was doing exactly what Caroline had said she shouldn’t do: Ridley was trusting them.

Klaus noticed her first, shooting her a reassuring smile before rising to greet her. The look he sent her made it apparent that he’d basically been present at this breakfast to chaperon his two brothers and monitor their behavior around the still-recovering witch, something Caroline couldn’t help but appreciate.

“Good morning, love,” Klaus said, walking over to kiss her warmly on the cheek. Caroline had to force herself not to press her fingertips to the spot where his lips had softly connected with her skin a second before. How did he make her feel like this every time? She was going to need to have a talk with him about what was going to be appropriate in their working relationship going forward. But, that could wait until later, a less awkward time when other people weren’t around.

“Oh, hey Care, I didn’t want to wake you,” Ridley called out, turning around to face her.

Klaus was pulling out a chair for her now, next to where he’d been sitting. Kol and Elijah were flanked on either side of Ridley.

“It’s no problem,” she reassured her friend as Klaus pushed in her chair behind her and she picked up a croissant for herself. “Are you sure you’re okay to be out here for sunrise, though?”

“I did fine last night during sunset,” Ridley replied with a shrug. She was already wearing sunglasses.

“She’s surrounded by vampires able to rush her back inside the minute she needs us to,” Kol added, in a rare serious tone. He was looking at Ridley very fondly, as if he hadn’t entirely noticed that Caroline had even arrived though he was speaking to her. Enough, Caroline wanted to tell him, You’ve known the girl less than 48 hours. She’s not Bonnie. You goddamn Mikaelson men and your random obsessions.

“Ridley was just discussing her family history with us,” Elijah informed her as Klaus poured her a glass of blood that she did not request but begrudgingly accepted anyway. “But there’s a lot she can’t remember because most of what she knows is a second hand story from yourself.”

“Looking for me to fill in some gaps?” Caroline asked after taking a sip of the blood which was, of course, B positive. “I’m sure you’re well aware by this point that I all but raised each and every one of Bonnie’s descendants. Except for when Bonnie was still alive herself, of course. Anyway, I’ve got the details on the Bennett story even better than Ridley, I’m pretty sure.”

“100% sure, I’ve never been super interested in ancestry,” Ridley replied.

“That’s because you’re only just now coming into your own as a witch,” Elijah told her softly. “It will begin to matter more and more to each day.”

“Maybe…” Ridley gave a half-hearted shrug. “Sometimes I feel like I’m not even all that into my own magic.”

Elijah and Kol both threw her a harsh glare at that statement, as if she’d done something wrong in her parenting to cause Ridley’s disinterest. Caroline put her hands up defensively.

“Hey, don’t blame me. She’s the first of the Bennett witches not latch onto it,” Caroline said. “I don’t know why she doesn’t like using magic.”

“You seemed all too keen to use it on Rebekah when we first arrived in Chiang Mai?” Klaus prompted Ridley with a raised eyebrow.

“That was because she was threatening Caroline,” Ridley snarled, still apparently bitter over the event.

“Well, Hope and Freya will just have to take you into their tutelage while you’re here,” Elijah said decisively.

“Joy of joys,” Ridley replied sarcastically, taking a sip of what Caroline very sincerely hoped was just orange juice after she also spied champagne on the table.

“So, what were you talking about then?” Caroline asked brightly, to interrupt the turn in the conversation that had clearly annoyed Ridley. Ridley had always strangely thought of magic as almost a chore. Caroline had to all but force her to practice it enough to keep it under control when it started becoming noticeable about two years earlier. “Did Ridley tell you about the Bennett Triplets? They disappeared during the First Territory Wars after their parents died. We found their parents’ bodies but the three boys were never found again. It’s quite the mystery.”

It had been 150 years since she and Bonnie had watched Bonnie’s only son and his wife die… and their three triplet boys, only 18, disappear a few days later. She was able to mask the pain she still felt over the event now but she would be lying if she tried to pretend she still didn’t grieve over their losses. The First Territory Wars had taken place in 2070, after the rains had started wiping out the shorelines but nearly two decades before the apocalyptic flooding had started. Bonnie was old at the time, though she’d managed a spell to make sure she didn’t quite look her true age of 78. And then… things had really gone to hell.

"Yes, we heard about the miraculous Bennett Warlock Triplets," Elijah said, pulling her out of her thoughts. Klaus was looking at her as if he knew exactly what kind of dark turn her mind had taken though she was doing her best to appear happy. Elijah continued, "Bonnie’s only grandchildren, am I correct? They died quite young but there were whispers that the triplets were already in the process of forming the most powerful coven of brothers that had ever existed. We’ll never know, sadly.”

“Well, no one can say for sure they’re gone, right? They just disappeared, their bodies were never recovered,” Kol argued.

“It seems unlikely,” Ridley answered. “They were every bit as mortal as me and my mother before me.”

Elijah seemed to sense Caroline’s growing discomfort at the memories and switched to another one of the many interesting Bennett rumors he’d been privy to over the years but not shared until now, “Though rumor has it that Bonnie's birth to the triplets’ father was even more miraculous than the triplets themselves."

Kol quirked an eyebrow, clearly never having been let in on this piece of Bonnie's history.

"Elijah?" he questioned his brother.

Elijah simply inclined his head toward Caroline asking her to verify the rumors.

Caroline did, after exchanging a quiet look to Ridley to ask for permission. Ridley, who shrugged in ambivalence, could have cared less. Bonnie was just some long ago ancestor that she certainly felt no connection to, really, other than through Care's stories.

"Bonnie claimed to have conceived her only son through immaculate conception," Caroline admitted.

Kol’s eyes widened in surprise as did Klaus’s but then Kol broke their silence by letting out a hoot of a laugh. Elijah waited, quietly regarding the story.

"Now I've heard a lot of strange things over the years," Klaus said, "But nothing like that, I'm afraid." Honestly he was surprised he’d never heard these claims Bonnie had apparently made; that was the kind of rumor that circulated like wildfire. They must have kept this story strictly private.

"I can think of some comparably surprising births," Caroline returned with a pointed look in his direction, obviously referring to Hope, making him chuckle. Well, she did have a point then. "A father never turned up either. And believe me, we looked."

"We?" Kol asked, more to amuse himself with Klaus's discomfort than out if real curiosity. Any fool would know who helped her search.

"The Salvatore brothers," she said, snapping at Kol just a little bit. "Obviously. I mean, we never found evidence to support her claims but… we never found anything to conclusively deny them either." Caroline held up her arms in a shrugging motion.

“Very interesting…” Kol said, letting the response hang dramatically before pressing on. “And then her son had three sons. But, if the triplets disappeared when they were young, how did we get fair Ridley here?”

“Well they were all 18 when they went missing in the war. One of them, Soren I think his name was?” Ridley answered, ignoring Kol’s compliment. “Soren had a daughter about two years before the war.”

“Bonnie’s great-granddaughter Eve,” Caroline confirmed. “Soren had her from a one night stand. Her mother dropped her off a year after she was born, in the dead of night, not knowing how to raise her when her magic began firing off at a young age. She was terrified of her own daughter.”

Poor little girl, Klaus was honestly shocked to find himself thinking. He supposed that, somewhere in the arc of this family story, he’d started attributing the features of Hope as a baby to the Bennett line - people who were all essentially Caroline’s children in a way, he was discovering. Hope had started showing signs of her magic before she had been born and her parents had been well-enough versed in supernatural happenings to be proud of and appreciate Hope’s burgeoning power. It did hurt him, in a very unexpected way, to think of one of Caroline’s children going through a similar transition but being only surrounded by fear as she did.

“Two years after Eve was born was when the triplets disappeared and their parents died,” Caroline continued, “Leaving her only with her great-grandmother. But two years after that, Bonnie died. Eve was left to myself and Damon to raise. I’ve been raising a straight line of Bennett daughters ever since.”

Klaus bristled at that and Caroline almost went out of her way to explain. (Bonnie and Damon had their own special relationship, thanks to their time stuck with Kai, separate from his marriage to Caroline. Damon also hadn’t been cut out for fatherhood and had really served the role of a cool uncle more than a father. That fact had been one of the many differences that led them to divorce.) But, right now, this early in the morning, she wasn’t going to go out of her way to explain. Klaus could look put-out all he wanted.

She did, however, end up pouring herself a Mimosa to take the edge off the situation.

Ridley could see things had gotten uncomfortable so she decided to switch topics, “So Hope suggested last night that maybe we go check out The Waste later? I think maybe she just wants to see Vale but it would be nice to see what they have going on out there, right?”

“Later when?” Caroline asked, looking at the sunrise which was already far enough into the sky to have turned it pink and purple. It was stunning and she could tell Ridley was a bit hypnotized by it beneath her sunglasses. Caroline was too, she had to admit. “I already feel like you should be heading back inside for a bit…”

“Stop fussing,” Ridley shushed her, smiling when she heard Kol chuckle. “I’ll go in when I need to. And Hope was suggesting early this evening, that we leave just before sunset. I’ll be fine!”

“Alright,” Caroline acquiesced. “But you’ll be out of the sun all day.”

Next to her she could see Klaus was still tense. She didn’t know if it was still about her ex-husband or if it was about their impending trip to The Waste. She had to assume it was likely both.

Ridley pushed herself probably a bit more than she needed to, staying out through sunrise until a bit after 8:30. At that point, she was starting to feel sick from the sun again and headed up to their room by herself to take a nap and lounge out the day away from the sun. Caroline promised to come check on her later and that promise was quickly echoed by promises of visits from Elijah and Kol, both of which made her roll her eyes.

Just minutes after Ridley departed, Hope arrived at the table, wearing a smug expression.

“Good morning! Just had a bad-ass high five with Ridley in the lobby,” Hope greeted as she sunk into Ridley’s vacated seat between her uncles and poured herself a Mimosa straight away. “Neither one of us said a word, barely made eye contact. We just put our hands up, had a solid high five and, kept walking. It was super cool, I’m sorry all of you missed it.”

Kol snickered, Elijah rolled his eyes, and Klaus sighed before snatching the Mimosa from Hope’s hands.

“Good morning to you too, daughter. I don’t see any reason you need to be drinking quite this early though,” he replied in a huff.

“Hair of the dog, father,” she said, trying to snatch the glass back, unsuccessfully, before shrugging and pouring herself another, “I’m hungover as all hell, Klaus. Let me have one drink in peace.”

Caroline had to hold back a laugh but she was pretty sure her amused smile didn’t go unnoticed by anyone. Apparently Klaus had some of the same trouble with looking nearly the same age as his child as she did - namely, said equally-aged children stopped thinking of themselves as your prodigy and started thinking of themselves as friends.

“Nik, while everyone may think that you’re greatest power is your ability to strike fear into the hearts of every creature that ever has or will live by being the one and only Original Hybrid,” Kol added in a mocking tone, “Hope and I will always know… what is truly terrifying about you is what a bummer you can frequently be.”

On that note, Kol picked up his own Mimosa and clinked his glass to his niece's in a cheers.

“To Klaus, for being the world’s biggest drag!” Hope said and they both took sips of their drinks and Klaus growled in annoyance. Then Hope slammed her glass back onto the table, “And for his next trick, ladies and gentleman,” Hope announced in her best hosting voice, “Klaus will attempt to assume dictatorial power over all of Earth!” She thrust a finger into the air for dramatic emphasis.

“Will I ever make it through one day again in my life without you or Kol heckling me at every turn?” Klaus snarled, sounding more put-out than he actually was. While it did get annoying from Kol after a while, truth be told, Klaus adored Hope’s never ending commentary and felt sure he would miss it very much if she ever outgrew it. She probably wouldn’t outgrow it though; Kol never had.

Caroline snickered at the whole affair and Elijah even looked moderately amused. He may have had a low tolerance for Kol’s shenanigans but apparently he had as infinite a tolerance for Hope as all of the other Mikaelsons did.

Caroline wasn’t exactly sure how it had happened but, in less than an hour, she found herself left alone at the table with Klaus. Hope had left first, giving Kol a noticeably conspiratorial glance and saying she was sorry to dine and dash but she had things to do if they were going to The Waste later that day. Kol had followed her out not five minutes later saying he was going to rouse Rebekah and find Freya who was absolutely always up early and probably just hadn’t joined them for breakfast. This had almost prompted Caroline to ask why their immortal witch sister (And what was the deal with that too? Since when were witches immortal?) was so standoffish but Kol was gone before she could say a word.

Elijah had been the last to leave, luckily handling the situation much more gracefully than their previous companions and not making up some flimsy excuse. Caroline had felt Klaus’s glare towards Elijah asking him to leave. Elijah stood up, taking his cup of tea with him as he did, before saying “Well, I’m sure you both have a lot to discuss about Caroline’s stay here.”

At least someone isn’t bullshitting me at every turn, Caroline thought, annoyed. Well, at least now, she had the opportunity to discuss Klaus’s obvious affections and set some boundaries. She hoped it wouldn’t come off as hypocritical considering she had been the one to kiss his cheek first last night. But she had been thanking him, that was appropriate. The same move to say good morning seemed unnecessary, right?

But before she could say anything, Klaus was already starting in on whatever had soured his mood earlier during breakfast.

“I hadn’t realized that you and Damon had essentially raised children together,” he said darkly, as if she’d really kept something hidden from him.

“First of all, let’s get one thing perfectly straight: I raised those children, not Damon. Second of all: Why am I the one constantly on trial here?” she demanded. “You were married once too! How come we never talk about that!” She shouted more than asked that last part, he couldn’t help but notice.

“Well, love, I had no idea you were so interested!” Klaus replied, pleased. “All you had to do was ask.” If this had been during their time before, when she was still a young vampire in Mystic Falls, he might have chosen now as the time to back her up into a wall and force their bodies together.

He knew she wanted it; could smell it on her and wanted to taste it, badly.

But she was not the same young vampire she’d been back then. This new Caroline had been married, a mother, a ruler. If she was keeping her guard up with him, it was because she’d been through enough in her lifetimes to have a good reason for having her guard up. He’d been the same way himself for so many centuries, until he’d met her and then he’d had Hope. It would take more than appealing to Caroline through lust…

“What would you like to know?” he asked her, with a broad smile, leaning back in his chair easily.

Caroline sighed, not sure she had really wanted to get into this before deciding. What the hell, fair is fair. He got my story.

“Well, were you happy?” she asked, repeating the first question he’d asked her when they’d she’d told her story at XS the other evening.

Klaus started looking into his drink and Caroline didn’t miss the dark look that crossed his features, though he quickly masked it. He couldn’t be quite honest on that front yet. The fact that he’d gotten married less than two years after Caroline wasn’t a coincidence. He’d been heartbroken over losing her. He’d grown to care for his wife deeply over their short life together but she had never been Caroline and the heartbreak had been a constant darkness lingering within him. But it seemed pretty clear that letting her know any of that quite this soon would probably scare her off even more.

“She did make me happy,” he answered, somewhat evasively.

“What was her name?” Caroline asked next.

“Camille,” he replied.

Caroline nodded, feeling unsure of what to say next. Klaus had been adamant that he wanted to have these discussions with her and that alone made this situation pretty uncomfortable for her. Nevertheless, she did feel compelled to ask him…

“No one heard anything about her until after she died,” Caroline told him. “We guessed that was probably on purpose.”

Klaus nodded in response, “She only agreed to marry me after I vowed to let her stay human. She never wanted to become a vampire. Obviously if she was going to remain mortal, I had to keep her protected as I could. I still had many enemies back then.”

Caroline could still barely believe that. It made no sense about Klaus… she knew how he could get obsessive. She’d experienced it first hand. That was part of the reason why his current actions were so confusing to her. If Klaus had been married to a woman and loved her selflessly enough to respect her wishes to remain human and mortal, that was a sign he’d grown up, right? It was also a sign that he’d ultimately moved on from his obsession with her. Then why did so much of his behavior towards her remain very much the same?

“I mean, it’s a little unbelievable that you never turned her,” Caroline admitted. “It just didn’t seem… characteristic of you.”

Marrying Damon Salvatore doesn’t seem very characteristic of you, he wanted to fire back but didn’t. Holding grudges over each other’s pasts was no way to start things with Caroline but he still felt like he had a lot of questions about her marriage. That was why he’d started the conversation, after all, but she’d thrown him for a loop by turning the tables. He was pleased that she was curious about his life after all; that had to be good, right?

Klaus shrugged, unsure of what she was looking for. It had been uncharacteristic but the truth was that so much of him changed after having Hope. Situation had all but forced him into remaining cold and unfeeling for a thousand years. Caroline had been the first to break through. Then, Hope was foisted upon him and the innate bond between parent and child had astounded Klaus, particularly given his own nasty parental relationships. Loving Hope had helped him to learn to love selflessly for the first time in his life and he had grown from it.

Somehow he knew this was the kind of redemption Caroline had always desperately wanted to see in him but when she’d admitted she had feelings for him all those years ago. But there was nothing he could say to her that to prove that he’d changed and that he’d learned how to care for the people he loved properly. He could only hope she would recognize it over time with him.

So instead he answered her, “Part of the reason Camille was good for me was because of her humanity. It was good for Hope to have someone like that in her life too. I knew what I was getting into with her and I knew it wasn’t permanent and that it would hurt when I lost her.”

“But you did it anyway,” Caroline finished for him.

“But I did it anyway,” he agreed. “Though even I didn’t expect it to be as short as it was.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I had known Camille for over ten years by the time we got married. She was 36,” Klaus began to explain. “Only 16 years later, when she was 52, she passed away in a car accident. I didn’t even get the news in time to make it to her to heal her. She died on impact.”

“Klaus, I’m so sorry,” Caroline said. “That’s heartbreaking.”

And Klaus’s voice was genuinely thick with emotion when he answered, “Yes, well, time heals all wounds, doesn’t it?” he asked her.

They held each other’s gaze unblinking for several long moments, well aware that they were thinking the same thing. Like hell it does.

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