Chapter 12

The conversation had waned quickly after that. These emotionally wrought discussions seemed to take a lot out of both of them, even though Klaus would never be left not wanting more. Both of them could tell they were still holding plenty back in their stories. Caroline had never bothered to really answer his question about raising children with Damon, something very much noted by Klaus. He wasn’t going to push it today though, considering her asking about Camille of her own volition seemed progress enough.

Caroline, for her part, could tell that Klaus wasn’t being entirely honest with her about Camille. As genuinely tragic as his tale was, parts of his story just didn’t add up. When exactly had he been married? No one had learned of the marriage until years after Klaus became a widower. He’d apparently kept knowledge of Camille’s existence somehow confined almost solely to New Orleans. But now that she knew it had only been 16 years… just figuring out some possibilities in her head, she realized they must have been married not too far apart from one another.

She’d thought about addressing the topic what kind of touching would be appropriate between them going forward but, after the decidedly heavy turn their conversation had taken it seemed a silly and almost pedantic point to bring up. Caroline decided that she would just have to be strong enough in the moment next time he did something to put a firm stop to it. Easier said then done, she thought as she walked away from him and back into the Luxor. They’d parted by awkwardly thanking each other for the discussion though she could tell Klaus wanted her to stay so they could talk more.

Instead she went to wait out the day by herself. Sunset was still hours away and she wanted to give Ridley time to rest so she wasn’t exactly sure what to do with herself. Klaus had offered many times already to show her the labs he had set up in the Luxor but she was still putting him off, without having a very good excuse today. The truth was that she wasn’t sure she was quite up to spending more alone time with Klaus quite yet, particularly if all of their conversations were going to be about the most painful parts of their pasts.

So for awhile she just roamed the halls of the hotel, getting a sense of who was set up where. It didn’t surprise her that her and Ridley’s suite had been set up directly beneath Klaus’s own, likely due to his overprotective nature. Well, it had certainly come in handy that first morning, that was for sure.

Making her way to the rooms on the north-most face of the pyramid, Caroline could already tell she had stumbled upon the girls’ wing of the household. Her vampire senses were picking up on the sounds of Hope, Rebekah, and Freya talking to one another. Rebekah and she had never gotten along entirely well and Freya was still the coldest of the Mikaelsons but Hope made Caroline feel at ease. Perhaps she could trust in Klaus’s daughter to put everyone at ease from the get-go at the start of Caroline’s stay here for the next six months.

She followed the sounds of their voices to a posh cigar lounge in the hotel that they’d re-purposed into a massive library. There she found Freya and Hope bent over a grimoire together while Rebekah lounged in a leather chair nearby offering advice without getting up to help.

“I’m telling both of you you’ll have more luck looking through the scrolls Elijah collected from Egypt in the 1100s,” Rebekah offered lazily.

“But I’m almost sure I’ve seen something about it in here… the old Native American tribes from this area had several texts on it, we must just be looking in the wrong one,” Freya replied, her tone laced with concentration.

Rebekah noticed her first, “Caroline? Well don’t just lurk there like that, come in for God’s sake,” she snapped at her in typical Rebekah fashion.

Caroline peeked in hesitantly, feeling a bit better when Hope looked up to smile at her warmly, “Sorry, I didn’t want to interrupt anything.”

“We could use a break, actually,” Hope said, waving her in fully.

“Speak for yourself,” Freya replied, without looking up as she grabbed another old hand-bound text and beginning to flip through it.

“Don’t mind her, she just takes a little while to invite people into the fold,” Hope said, waving a dismissive hand at Freya who finally looked up only to silently roll her eyes at Hope.

“No offense taken, totally understandable,” Caroline said, given that she herself was still pretty uncertain of each of the Mikaelsons. “Anyway, what are you all working on?”

“A spell for sandstorms!” Hope replied brightly.

“Sandstorms?” Caroline questioned. “Are those a bad problem here?”

“Wow, I’d ask you if you’ve been… but you literally have been living under a rock for years,” Hope replied with a laugh. “Man, if you think that’s the last time I’m going to make that joke, you are sorely mistaken.”

“Very funny,” Caroline replied drolly but mostly joking with her in return. “I mean, I guess when I was still living in the states I knew that they were occasionally a problem out here?”

“Let’s just say now that the environment is still indefinitely screwed, they’re much worse,” Rebekah said, joining the conversation but still not standing to join them at the table. “But don’t worry, you’ll get to see one before the week is up.”

“Probably not tonight,” Hope reassured her, after seeing a hesitant look flash across Caroline’s face. “They don’t usually happen at night unless the weather has been really wacky but it’s been okay recently.”

“So what are you trying to work on a spell for?” Caroline asked.

“Something to control the elements,” Hope said before throwing her a cheeky grin for what she was about to say next. “As you may recall from our time visiting you in Chiang Mai, we’ve already got spells for water down pat.”

Caroline nodded, “Yeah, no arguments here,” she said, remembering the impressive move Hope had pulled at the lake to save them. ”I’ve never seen a spell like that in my life… I thought it was just Biblical, you know?”

“Ancient Sumerian actually,” Freya corrected her. She smiled when she saw a look of confusion pass over Caroline’s features. “They are the oldest known human civilization and they invented irrigation. Do you really think that happened without magic?”

“Hmm, that makes sense,” she replied. Freya was turning out to be a bit abrasive and snobby like Rebekah but, at least she was acknowledging her existence now. Perhaps, like Rebekah, it was just an aspect of her personality you had to take with a grain of salt.

“The land element is turning out to be a bit harder to master,” Hope said. “Even if it is just sand.”

“Speaking of the Dividimus spell we created when the flooding first started,” Freya said, looking up to ask Hope about her trick at the lake one more time as something new occurred to her. “How were you able to use it underground like that? We typically channel the power of the lunar cycle to control a tide.”

“I invoked the spirits of the caves,” Hope said with a shrug, as if it were the most casual thing in the world. Caroline was shocked.

“Who told you about that?” she asked. “Did Ridley or Ko tell you when they realized you were a witch?”

Rebekah rolled her eyes from where she was sitting and answered for her niece, “She probably just sensed it.”

“The Chiang Mai caves have power?” Freya asked, looking between Caroline and Hope curiously.

“Every witch that’s ever come to live with us or been born there has been able to sense it,” Caroline said. “People’s beliefs vary pretty widely across the city so everyone seems to define it differently. Some covens think the power comes from being closer to the core of the Earth itself. Others think it’s because the cave’s are inhabited by the spirits of our ancestors. No one really knows for sure.”

“What did you sense?” Freya asked Hope curiously.

Hope wrinkled her nose in concentration as she tried to put words to the memories. “I did feel closer to the Other Side there. Not like physically closer, just as if it would be easier to connect there,” she began to explain, “And to me the power didn’t feel like it was coming from within the planet, it was much different. I can’t even describe how dark it was down there, Freya, without any access to sunlight. It was almost like the power came from the darkness itself.”

Caroline bit her lip, watching the conversation play out with interest. Hope really did have a sharp intuition. Caroline was no witch herself but, even as a vampire, she could sense the power of the dark in the caves. It was alluring, seductive, and it was why she had been shocked to find herself finding herself more at home there than she had ever been anywhere within just a few months of starting the city.

She hadn’t even fully admit this to herself yet but, as exciting as it was to be back in America and seeing the sun again, she already missed the dark. She missed feeling like her senses were so much stronger that they bordered on unbelievably powerful. She missed the way it felt to see in total blackness - how sounds began to show you shapes and smells gave you a sense of color. The taste of the dank air around you alone could often tell you your location within the underground system. All of that was muted up here by the overpowering radiance of the light.

Klaus had said she was full of light and she wondered if he still thought that. She still had an appreciation for the light, was glad that she was taking this trip to see it again. But she couldn’t deny that the dark was where she felt most at home now.

“What does Ridley say about it?” Freya asked, turning to Caroline fully for the first time. “You know she’s very powerful. It’s no wonder she’s scared of her power. I haven’t encountered anything like it since a witch from our days in New Orleans named Davina. But Davina had a huge coven surrounding her to help her understand her magic, Ridley isn’t a part of a coven back in Chiang Mai, is she?”

These Mikaelson witches and their intuition, Caroline balked internally. She suspected that Freya hadn’t been told any of that very accurate synopsis explicitly by anyone. Then again, she had gotten a chance to read Ridley that first night at the party. No witch had ever been able to clearly convey to her what reading another witch was like but, Caroline got the impression that it told them a lot.

“Well, that’s just it, she doesn’t say much about it at all because Ridley rarely uses her magic,” Caroline admitted, feeling hopeless again as she did every time she had this conversation. “And no, she’s not part of a coven. She’s been invited to join several and always declined. I had no idea it was because she was scared! No other witch in the city ever mentioned to me that she had more power than seemed normal…”

“Well, she’s perfectly normal,” Freya snapped at her, and Caroline had to hold back a smile. It was the exact kind of thing she might have said if she’d been listening to someone else imply that Ridley having extraordinary power was a weird thing. That honestly wasn’t how she meant it.

“I just meant more than seemed typical for the other Bennett witches in her line,” she explained. “Bonnie’s descendants have all been extraordinary witches and warlocks.”

“All we have to go by is Bonnie, who so much of my family knew personally,” Hope said.

“And the Triplets,” Rebekah reminded her, speaking of Bonnie’s disappeared grandchildren. “We never met them but we heard enough stories to know the kind of power they had. Is what you sense from Ridley comparable to that?”

“She certainly seems more powerful than anything you, Kol, Elijah, or Klaus has ever told us about Bonnie,” Hope said. “And that’s saying something, considering Ridley hasn’t even started really practicing yet. But, what I sense in her is comparable to the stories we heard about the Triplets. We don’t know how true those stories were though…”

“Trust me,” Caroline said. “Whatever you heard about those boys… you don’t know the half of it.” The triplets had been Bonnie’s most difficult descendants. She was also beginning to wonder where Ridley might compare on a scale with Kai or any of the other Gemini coven members but, that was another discussion she wasn’t willing to get into quite yet. Did they even know about any of that?

“Well, that explains why she isn’t using her power then…” Freya said. “She hasn’t had anyone around with the kind of experience she needs to teach her properly. If anyone had been able to sense her true potential, they probably would have been powerful enough themselves to be an appropriate tutor for her. Well, don’t worry Caroline, we can help take care of that.”

And just like that, it seemed she had won over the last of the Mikaelsons. Well, who could ever really say where she truly stood with Rebekah or Kol. Rebekah was either all bluster or she truly was just that disdainful of everyone. Kol was just too insane to ever feel like you knew what he was thinking. He had a history of being quite changeable.

“Thank you, Freya,” Caroline replied, truly touched by the elder witch’s empathy for Ridley’s situation. “I would really appreciate that. I don’t want Ridley to ever feel out of control of her magic… and I never realized how bad things were.”

“And you’ll be pleased to hear that our lessons will have the added benefit of getting Kol and Elijah off her back, for a little while, at least,” Hope added with a knowing wink and Caroline laughed.

It was hours later when Klaus came to find them. Caroline had been helping them dig through Native American texts and scrolls from Ancient Egypt until late in the afternoon to help them with their project. Rebekah had ultimately joined them around the large table they had set up and began teaching Caroline to decipher hieroglyphics - something, it turned out, she had a knack for. More surprising was how nice Rebekah could actually be when she just sat down and made an effort to tone down her snotty attitude for a little while.

Klaus walked through the doors of the library having heard their on-going discussion from much farther down the hall.

“I mean, this definitely seems like some kind of incantation here… the way the same symbol is just repeated again and again, almost in a pattern, like poetry or something?” Caroline said as he entered the room. “And the symbol means… desert land.”

“Just add it to the pile for us to review later,” Freya requested. “We might have something here. These Navajo texts from a few states away have several spells on sinkholes that involve controlling earth as an element…”

“Sorry to interrupt,” Klaus began as he stepped through the door. They all immediately redirected their attention but none so sharply as Caroline. Her head jerked in his direction at the sound of the voice he almost thought she’d snap her own neck; he had to muffle a laugh at the response. “I just wanted to let you know that it’s almost dusk. Ridley is getting ready, if you still want to visit The Waste?”

Hope was the first to jump up excitedly at that, feeling like it had already been too many nights without Vale, “Yes, of course!”

“Alright then, we’ll meet in the garage in-”

“Wait a minute,” Hope interrupted her father, startled. “You’re coming?”

Klaus blinked back at her, confused. “Of course, I’m coming.”

Hope let out a frustrated sigh, pacing a bit before facing her father again.

“Um, now don’t take this the wrong way but…” Hope began delicately.

“But what?” Klaus demanded.

“Well, I’m just not sure people will get the best first impression of Caroline if she arrives with you,” Hope explained. “It might rub some people the wrong way.”

“Which people?!” he hissed.

Caroline rolled her eyes. “So, I’m getting the picture that Klaus isn’t exactly a beloved and benevolent ruler around here,” she said. Rebekah shot her a sarcastic look suggesting she’d just made the greatest understatement of the year. “If so, all the more reason for him to join us! Sounds like your father could stand to improve his image around here, Hope. Plus, I can speak for myself just fine. I haven’t exactly needed to worry about first impressions in several decades.”

Hope looked extremely insecure about the idea of bringing Klaus with them. Internally, all she could think about was how much she knew the vampires out there couldn’t stand Klaus. Her father expected them to be ready to respond to any command he might have but, at the same time, stockpiled the city’s resources for himself and his hybrids and left her friends in The Waste to fend completely for themselves.

Honestly she was worried about two things. One: Caroline wouldn’t be shown everything she needed to see or they wouldn’t entirely trust her if they thought she was with Klaus. Two: Hope’s friends might be legitimately pissed with her if she brought her family down. She hadn’t returned to visit since they’d been back from Chiang Mai. She was almost positive that they were already upset with her for being the reason Klaus showed up unexpectedly after she left for Chiang Mai. Freya’s aneurysm trick to get everyone to talk wouldn’t have won her any brownie points either.

Sensing at least part of Hope’s hesitancy, Caroline leaned over to pat her on the shoulder.

“Hey, and remember, Ko and I have been working with your friends there for months already over the radio,” Caroline assuaged her worries. “We’ve already started building a relationship. And if they don’t trust me? Well, we’ve got six months to change their minds.”

Hope looked between Caroline and her father, who was glaring at her in a look that was scary enough to make Hope push into her father’s mind to read whatever he was trying to tell her. As clearly as if he was speaking to her out loud his thoughts flooded in: ‘Back off, little girl, you’re lucky enough as it is that you haven’t been punished for your latest stunt with those hooligans in The Waste.’ She made no indication that she heard him save for shrugging off the conversation.

“Well, if we’re going to get there at sundown, we’ll need to get you and Ridley some gear,” Hope said. “Cause what you have on now isn’t going to cut it for the desert.”

“Christ, I feel like we’re going Burning Man!” Caroline commented after Hope had Ridley and herself suited up appropriately for their trip.

“I don’t know what the hell Burning Man is but it sounds awful,” Ridley replied, also taking stock of their new outfits. Hope and Caroline snickered at her in response.

They both had some of the most extreme, heavy-duty goggle Caroline had ever seen resting atop their foreheads. Wrapped around both of their heads was mix of heavy burlap material, tucked a folded to surround them almost like a turban, and several bandannas hanging loosely from the headdress to be pulled up around the nose and mouth if needed. Hope had just finished instructing both of them on the appropriate way to tuck the bandannas into their turbans so they could still breath if a sandstorm hit and Ridley had been loaded up with a canteen of water, just in case.

“Alright, let’s head to the garage then,” Hope said and began to lead the way, with the two women behind her feeling just a bit ridiculous with their new get-up.

But any embarrassment was quickly dwarfed by what awaited them in the garage beneath the hotel. The place was well stocked with vehicles and military tankers of all types imaginable. And milling about the front of one vehicle in particular were Klaus, Kol, and four hybrids.

“Is this how we’re getting there?” Caroline asked, gesturing to the enormous mode of transport before her.

“What the hell even is this thing?” Ridley intoned. They were both looking up at it warily.

“It’s an old military supertanker from around the time of the First Territory Wars,” Klaus explained, grinning at her stunned reaction. “Modified a bit for our needs out in the desert.”

“Yeah, I’m not sure I ever remember seeing any tankers quite this… tall,” Caroline replied, sounding like she was even hesitant to get in.

But Hope was cheerily jumping upwards to sit on the hood, leaping over five feet into the air to complete the jump.

“Yeah, we souped her up with 66-inch all-terrain tires,” Kol said next, hopping up next to Hope on the hood. “This thing can keep driving in some of the worst sandstorms we have out here.”

“Is it…safe?” Ridley couldn’t help but ask. The three Mikaelsons couldn’t help but laugh back at her.

“Darling, it’s the safest thing you’ll ever travel in in your life,” Kol assured her. “Except for possibly my arms…”

Ridley rolled her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose in a combination of annoyance and amusement at that lame line. Hope, though, punched her uncle harshly in the shoulder.

“Kol, what did she just tell you last night about easing up?” Hope hissed at him.

“She said ‘less is more!’” he defended. “I’ll have you know that was the first time I’ve flirted all day today!”

“Debatable,” Ridley dead-panned, “But should we get going, I’m anxious to see more of Vegas than just this hotel!”

Hope and Kol both took one of Ridley’s hands, grasping her firmly along her forearms to gently pull her up to the car where she promptly disappeared into the tanker. Hope followed her next and Kol went in last. Klaus had just finished instructing his hybrids on which vehicles to follow them in before turning back to Caroline.

“Pretty impressive stuff here,” she said to Klaus amicably, trying to gauge his mood before they walked into a neighborhood of people that purportedly couldn’t stand him. She gestured to the tanker, “Seriously, this is like something out of Mad Max!

He smiled at her, “Hope and Kol both love building and designing things. I’ve given them basically free reign to create whatever they want down here in the garage and… well, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mad Max was very well indeed what inspired most of these.”

He gestured vaguely around the room to other hulking cars, tanks, trucks, and some seriously wicked looking motorcycles. Two of the hybrids were hoping onto bikes now.

Klaus flashed up to the top of the tanker, unwinding the heavy metal entrance to get in. He held down a hand to pull her up but she smugly ignored it and flashed up on her own.

Once the entrance to the tank was open, Ridley and Hope’s laughter bubbled up from inside. Klaus gestured inside: “Ladies first.”

Klaus drove, of course, with Caroline right up front in the seat next to him so that she could look out the expansive front window out onto the desert as it slowly darkened while evening approached. Because of the massive tires on the tank, every time they drove over a dune it felt more like they were flying over it soaring it seemed like over ten feet in the air at times when they crested a particularly high mountain of sand.

She couldn’t help but be nervous at first. 60 years confined to caves had made moving from place to place much slower for the Chiang Mai community and Caroline hadn’t been at these kinds of speeds in years. Ridley hadn’t ever. Looking back to check on her friend though, she saw her hands clasped tightly to Hope’s as the girls whooped and hollered like they might as well have been on a rollercoaster.

“Faster!” Hope demanded and, with a broad smile at her enthusiasm, Klaus pushed the cars speed up to 100 miles per hour.

Kol and the rest cheered in the back as they sped up and even Caroline let out an enthused squeak when they climbed yet another impossibly large dune of sand and sailed over it before landing at the same high speed. Caroline and Klaus caught each other’s eyes and he spared her a private smile.

She looked unbelievably gorgeous in this moment. Her cheeks were flushed from laughing and gasping alongside Hope and Ridley and her blonde curls were bouncing delicately around her face every time the car jostled them. Her eyes sparkled with mirth. It was all he could do not to reach out and grab her hand, wanting to somehow show her how much her happiness meant to him… but he already needed to start thinking about cooling his demeanor down before they arrived.

Rumors about Caroline were likely already running a muck since the party at XS, there wasn’t much he could do about that now. But he needed to be smarter about showing his affections for Caroline going forward. At the end of the day, he would never entirely trust that someone wasn’t plotting against him to hurt the ones he loved. That kind of lingering paranoia was just in Klaus’s nature. And, so far, it had almost always come in handy.

“God, it really is like Mad Max out here,” Caroline breathed as their vehicle began to slow as it pulled up to the neighborhood. You could see the shanty town that made up The Waste from the window, looking like a derelict and tortured Burning Man for prisoners. The comparisons she’d been making earlier in the garage had not nearly prepared her for the town that awaited them. It really did look like something out of a desert survival movie.

“I love that movie,” Hope said behind her.

“Really? Me too! That’s a little before your time,” Caroline said, surprised.

“Come on,” Hope chided with a teasing grin, “You were born less than 25 years before me. We’re both over 200 now, we’re practically the same age.”

“Gods don’t remind me,” Klaus growled lowly.
Hope couldn’t suppress her victorious smile. Going out of her way to make Klaus feel uncomfortable was one of her life’s missions.

Stepping out of the tank, Caroline was unsure of where to look first. On one hand, being this far out of the city and into real desert left her with a view of the biggest open expanse of space she’d seen in years. The darkening desert stretched out endlessly in front of her for miles and miles. And even when her eyes got to the line of the horizon, above the land the sky opened up into another endless view. Stars were starting to peek out and twinkle as the sun finished setting and Caroline was once again struck by the beauty she’d been missing in the caves all these years.

Looking over, she could see Ridley was thinking the same things. Only Ridley looked even more emotionally wrought by the desert vistas than Caroline was. Caroline abruptly realized that, for a young witch who had grown up in a tightly packed system of already very narrow caves, seeing a site like this would be quite moving. Moved, was exactly the word Ridley would have described about seeing the desert and night sky like this. Having never left Chiang Mai, Ridley had honestly never had a real perspective on how big a place the world really was until right now.

The thought brought tears to her eyes and, seeing that, Caroline immediately made a move to go comfort her friend. Before she could though, Kol had tucked Ridley into his side, comfortingly stroking her arm. Caroline’s first thought was to be annoyed with him taking advantage of the situation but Hope put out a hand to stop her from doing anything. For once, Hope believed Kol’s intentions might be genuinely altruistic.

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Kol asked Ridley, not saying anything to make her emotional response seem out of the ordinary.

“Yeah, it really is,” Ridley said, lifting her hands to wipe away her tears. “I’m sorry, I’m being silly-”

“No,” Kol stopped her. “You’re not being silly at all. It is beautiful. No one should be afraid to cry at beauty.”

Turning from the pair, suddenly feeling like she was intruding on a private moment, Caroline turned towards the second thing that had caught her attention: The Waste.

The town was apparently nothing more than a mass of tents upon tents upon tents… clearly several hundred of them. Some of set-ups were single-person camping tents and others were much larger, more heavy-duty constructions made from light reflecting material that very well may have come from NASA itself. Dozens of people were bustling about the desert shantytown - all wearing goggles and bandannas or similar protective gear, most of them covered in a fine dusted layer of red-golden sand - and they were now beginning to collect to see who had arrived.

“Oh! There’s Vale!” Hope called out excitedly and began rushing over to the edge of the town where a few people were waving her over.

Not everyone at The Waste appeared so enthused though. Many of them were pointing with concerned expressions. And her vampire hearing was strong enough to pick up multiple untrusting murmurs of the name “Klaus.”

Hope had been right. They weren’t happy he was here.
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