Author's Note: Hello, yall! Sorry about the wait! Thank you so much for all your support so far! I just love hearing all that you have to say! Your encouragement really helps motivate me so thank you all so much fortaking the time to say something! Two chapters for two stories in one day has got to be a record for me. But I'm exhausted now and going to bed. Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
Caroline can feel the muscles in Klaus's jaw work. She knows, well, that Klaus isn't the biggest fan of being given ultimatums. They give him rashes and invoke a very powerful, very violent knee-jerk reaction that usually ends with people dying - a lot of them - and someone somehow having to make amends where they can. And even then, that usually ends again one of two ways. Either they will be able to make amends and all is forgiven, or they aren't able to and more people end up dead and the horrible cycle continues on and on.
"Caroline," Elena says, taking up the blond's hand once more and giving it a renewed squeeze, cradling her hand close. "Are you okay? How do you feel?"
Exhausted, hurt, and worried Caroline shakes her head, rasping, "I don't know how I feel. My head hurts and I feel weak."
Elena's dark brown eyes shine with worry as her eyebrows pull together. "Come on, let's get you into bed, okay? You... just need to rest." She gives Caroline's hand a small tug and while Caroline doesn't want to leave Klaus's warmth and protective arms, she knows she has to. Something terrible has just happened to her, but she knows how this looks. She knows that she shouldn't be relishing in this feeling. She needs to... she needs to lay down.
"Okay," Caroline whispers, wrapping her hand around Elena's, agonizingly slowly unwrapping herself from around Klaus and brings her legs up closer to her chest to push herself up to her feet. Elena pops up onto her feet without a problem making Caroline feel like she's a thousand years older. She makes it about halfway up with Elena's help, before she tips back again, legs giving out beneath her. Klaus catches hold of her hips, steadying her for the moment she needs to feel the fire spread through her veins and she snaps straight up once more, almost crashing into Elena as she does it.
"Whoa!" Elena says, grabbing hold of her. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Caroline says, nodding. "Can you help me to my bed, please?"
She can't look back at Klaus as she knows he climbs to his own feet. She can feel his hands burning into her hips and once more she's reminded of that night at the Mikaelson ball. The memory is so fresh from reliving it twice no more than an hour ago, that she can't seem to shove it from her mind. The tingling in her hips is hard to ignore as Elena leads her down the hall while Stefan, Damon, and Klaus no doubt decide what to do while they are away.
Caroline lays down in the bed as Elena helps her get comfortable, but the energy drains from her quickly and once she's under the covers, she sinks into her bed and feels her eyes droop.
Elena sits down on the edge of the bed as the two of them listen to the men talk in her kitchen. Despite how tired she is, Caroline can see hear them with crystal clarity even though they are in the next room.
"So, when do we leave?"
"What? You're just going to walk her all the way to New Orleans?" Stefan asks, incredulously.
"Sure," Damon says, "unless you want to leave her to die whatever mysterious death this witch has in store for her. How very unhero-like of you, Stefan. I never thought you were going to be the one to give up."
Stefan groans. "Stop playing around, Damon. I'm not going to let Caroline die. I'm just not a fan of running into the clutches of these witches. Especially if we don't know what they want."
"You know what the easiest way to find out what they want?" Damon asks rhetorically. "You ask them! Preferably with threats and a bit of violence."
"Damon, that's going to be adding fuel to the fire and you know it," Stefan says rationally. "The last thing we want to do is provoke these witches into doing something more to hurt Caroline. They already threatened her, and somehow they were able to get to her enough that she was able to reach back out to them. We have to be smart about this. I'm not going to let Caroline get hurt all because you jumped the gun."
"This is about Elena, isn't it?" Damon asks, sardonically. "You think you can win her back by being her best friend's knight in shining armor, don't you?"
"Enough, Damon," Stefan snaps. "This isn't about Elena, this is about Caroline. She needs us to focus. She needs us to help her, not fight over Elena. I'm doing this because Caroline is my friend and she needs me. Not because of Elena. Not everything I do is for Elena."
Caroline blinks slowly, staring at the downturned face of her friend. Any other time of day, she would be telling Elena how much she still doesn't think that her friend should torture herself with Damon Salvatore any more than she has to, but it feels hypocritical now. Caroline is in a very similar situation. It should be Tyler that she yearns to be with. It should be her friends that she's turning to for help, but against all rationality and reason, deep in her heart, she knows that she wants Klaus. She wants him in this room with her right now and for him to somehow make all of this better.
And Caroline doesn't know why. She doesn't know why her heart yearns for him other than because of what happened earlier. She let him into her heart just a little bit more. She opened herself up to him once more and now she can't shut him out. She knew she should have slammed the door in his face. She knew she should have run away from him that night.
But she didn't. And now here she is.
A moment of silence, then, "Well, Satan? You're quiet," Damon says snidely, annoyed that his baby brother had the audacity to yell at him with a sensible argument. "Lose interest already?"
"Damon," Stefan snaps, also annoyed.
"Listen here, Damon, I assure you there is no interest lost. Simply because I am considering possibilities beyond your limited understandings doesn't mean that I do not see the need for urgency," Klaus says through gritted teeth. "Before we go stomping into this Jane-Anne Deveraux's back yard, we should at least explore our options."
Another moment of silence before Stefan says, "Bonnie? Are you busy? Can you come to Caroline's house as soon as possible? We... have a bit of a problem."
Elena reaches out and touches Caroline's hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. "Bonnie is going to be able to fix this, okay?" She stares into Caroline's half-lidded eyes with her own worried brown ones. When Caroline doesn't respond right away, Elena says, "Okay?" She squeezes her hand again and leans in closer to really stare into her eyes. "Okay, Caroline?"
Caroline nods slowly, mumbling a garbled, "I'm okay."
"So, any ideas that might be able to help Bonnie?" Stefan asks. "I'd like to at least do something rather than just let her figure it all out alone. How about we start with Jane-Anne Deveraux? What do we know about her?"
"She's a witch," Damon offers, then a moment of silence, then, "Well, we can at least guess that she is."
"The French Quarter, she said, not the Cauldron," Klaus muses, but the way that he draws out his words belies his anger, "or perhaps that part comes later."
"I don't remember anything about a witch named Deveraux the last time we were there," Damon says. He claps his hands together and Caroline can hear the placating excitement in his voice that he uses when he's unsure and maybe a bit worried - for her? She must be dreaming. "Well, time to do a little bit of sleuthing, Detective Salvatore."
"Agreed, let's start with that necklace. It definitely looks familiar," Stefan agrees.
Elena pets down Caroline's hair and stands up. "I'll be right back." She walks out of the room and down the hall toward the kitchen. Caroline reaches behind herself awkwardly until she finds the little stuffed animal she was looking for. Ironically, a pretty pink wolf with little fangs. She won it - er, Stefan won it for her - at the last fair while they were hanging out and it is the softest stuffed animal in the world. She loves it.
She wraps it up in her arms, listening to Elena in the other room, "You guys go," she says. "I'll stay here and keep Caroline company. And I'll let Bonnie know what's going on. You guys just see what you can figure out." Then her voice drops low and Caroline has to strain her ears painfully to hear her whisper, "We need to hurry. She... doesn't look so good. I'm worried."
"Excuse me," Klaus says, then she listens as his footsteps make their way down the hall toward her. He stops at her doorway and stares in at her, leaning against the frame. "How do you feel, love?"
Caroline blinks at him, feeling the pounding in her head. She holds her hand out toward him, beckoning him forward. He walks into the room like an elegant wolf, putting her stuffed animal to shame before lowering down onto the bed, leaning over her. They stare at one another for a long time, just staring into each other's eyes until Caroline's vision gets too blurry and she has to blink, but her eyes meet his again.
She feels his hand wrap around her own soothingly. He rubs his thumb against the back of her hand soothingly. She could get used to gentle Klaus. He's a much better company than the other version of himself. She could live in this moment forever, excluding the weakness and fatigue and how bad her head hurts. But she does like this gentleness from the abrasive, rude Hybrid.
"Did you recognize the necklace, Caroline?" Klaus asks softly. Caroline shakes her lightly, eyes blurring again. She closes her eyes tightly then opens them up again, able to see better again. "Not at all?" Caroline shakes her head again.
Klaus runs the knuckles on the back of his hand against her cheek in a loving gesture that she could melt into. "Are you in pain, love?" Caroline shakes her head a little bit. "Is there anything I can get for you?" He looks at the little wolf for a moment, confused before realizing what it was and a small smile crosses over his face as he says softly, "A little wolf?"
Caroline could lie, say that it was just the luck of the draw, but the truth slips from her lips, "It was the cutest... and I love the color..." She smiles thinly at his own smile and raised eyebrows, giving him a cuter, more open expression. She wished that there would be more times when he felt like he could show this side of himself. She loved it. She wished it was easier to see that smile.
She wished she wouldn't have to have her life threatened for him to be so gentle and kind.
"Klaus," she whispers so softly, it's probably more of her lips moving rather than her really saying anything. "Am I going to die?"
Klaus shakes his head, slowly, staring down into her eyes. He twists around and lowers onto his knees next to her, lowering down until he's eye level with her. "No, love, you aren't going to die."
Caroline snuggles into the little pink wolf, clutching his hand tighter to look at Klaus. She reaches out with the hand not holding onto Klaus's to run the side of her finger against his cheek, staring into his eyes. They're hard, angry, fierce and protective. He looks like he's ready to fight the entire world and that little voice in the back of her head tells her that it was for her. He was like that because of her.
But she also saw the touch of worry, that despite all he knows and all he can do, something bad might happen. And that scares the hell out of her. Someone as great and powerful as Klaus with that touch of fear in his eyes? She is so utterly terrified to see that.
Tears well up in her eyes as she scoots closer to the edge of her bed, staring into his eyes with her own watery ones. She sniffles, blinking rapidly. "I'm scared, Klaus. I really don't feel good. I haven't felt like this since I was human. I feel nauseous and weak and I'm scared." Klaus cups the side of her head, lips pressing tightly together. "I don't want to die, Klaus. Please..." she breathes heavily, hardly able to catch her breath. "I'm so... so scared."
He pushes her hair off of her forehead, gently. "I know, love. But you have my word, I will do everything that I can to make you safe again and make those that dare threaten you pay dearly." His eyes darken with his intent. He really looks like he's going to follow through with his words. And Caroline believes him. He's so sweet to her when she's nothing but rude and mean to him. The only times she ever shows him a touch of kindness is when she's trying to distract him or otherwise inconvenience him for the benefit of herself or her friends.
Caroline closes her eyes. "Okay..."
"I swear to you," he says, leaning forward to press his lips against her forehead before pulling away and standing up slowly, drawing his hand back without her being able to stop him if she even had the strength to do it. He has to go, she knows, if he is going to be able to do anything for her, it's going to be out there, not in her bedroom with her while she struggles not to fall asleep.
Elena's smaller, thinner hand wraps around her own as Caroline's eyes droop closed completely. "It'll be okay, Caroline. The guys will dig up some clues and Bonnie will find a way to help." A pause, then, "She's on her way. She'll be here soon."
Caroline hugs the wolf closer to her chest, nodding her head a bit with all the energy she has left. "Okay..."
"Care?" Someone runs their hand through her hair, pulling her sluggishly from her sleep. "Caroline, can you hear me?"
"Bonnie..?" Caroline mumbles, using all of her strength to open her eyes. She smiles, seeing the beautiful face of her best friend. Her crooked smile is like a breath of fresh air. "Hi, Bonnie! I... missed you."
Bonnie runs her hand over Caroline's forehead, smoothing her hair down. "How do you feel?" Caroline isn't sure what she mumbled but it didn't convince either of them that she was feeling good, or fine. "I'm going to help you, Caroline, I promise. I'm going to try a few spells. Ever since this ordeal with Silas... my magic has been very... strange. Expression... spiritual... I'm more powerful than I was before. I just... there has to be something that I can do with all of it," Bonnie says, pressing her lips tightly together. "I can help. I know it."
Caroline smiles as much as she can. "I know you will. Bonnie Bennett is the greatest witch ever. The best of the best."
Bonnie presses her lips together tighter, nodding slowly. "Get some sleep, I'm going to take a look at this necklace, see what I can figure out."
Caroline nods her head slowly. "Okay..." She believes that if anyone could do anything for her, it would be Bonnie. She meant what she said. She thought that Bonnie really was the best witch around.
She was so honored that everyone was helping her out. It's unusual, seeing that everyone was banning together behind her. She's not used to that. Usually, when everyone is banding together to do something it's typically to save Elena. Not that she minds it all that much, but it's strange to be on the other side of all of this. She used to join with everyone else, jumping to the aid of her friends.
She knew she would do it in a heartbeat, but it's weird that others would do the same for her. She knows that they love her, she does, but the idea that they would all jump to all hands on deck - Damon of all people was the first to say anything, which is odd - is just so weird to her. She's not surprised about Elena, and Bonnie, and even Stefan, but the fact that all of them, including Damon and Klaus, is just leaving her already mushy mind more befuddled.
She hears Elena and Bonnie walk away into the other room to do whatever spell Bonnie has been thinking about doing. Caroline wants nothing more than to close her eyes and fall back to sleep, but she doesn't want to. She pushes herself up against the bedframe, feeling lethargic and tired. She rubs at her shoulders, turning to look over at the window. She feels terrible. She feels like she's dying. Slowly. She looks away from the sunlight and down to her hands, but they feel like her hands. She doesn't feel like she's desiccating.
The light is bright and hurts her eyes to stare into it. She's not sure that the sun has ever been this bright. Even though the sun is setting as night is almost upon them, she feels like it will never stop shining this brightly.
Agonizingly slow, Caroline pulls herself to her feet and walks over to the window, looking out over the same view that she's had her entire life. The backyard, the road, the trees, everything is the same as she has always seen it. Yet it's bathed in this heavy light that is impossible to look at.
Caroline pulls the curtains closed as tightly as they will go to block out as much of the waning sun as possible before walking back to the bed. Her steps are painfully slow and it feels like she has concrete wrapped around her ankles. She falls back into bed and closes her eyes.
"Just a little bit longer, Caroline, I promise," Bonnie says, eyeing the drooping girl with a worried look. "Can you stay awake for a few more minutes? I think I've almost got something."
Elena, who has been helping hold Caroline up, looks at the witch with worried brown eyes. "Maybe that's enough for today. It's late."
Caroline rubs roughly at her forehead, looking over to see that it is well past two in the morning. They woke her up a few hours ago and she's been struggling to remain awake ever since. This has to be an aftereffect of whatever it was that Jane-Anne Deveraux did to her. They've got some helpless updates from the guys, having roped her mom in on it to see what more they could learn.
"One more," Bonnie says, looking back to Caroline, "one more and then I promise we are done for today."
Caroline nods, too tired to really care at this point. At this point, she just wants this aching in her head to go away. She wants to sleep too, but rational Caroline is still in her aching mind reminding her that this was about her life. She had to just let Bonnie do her thing. She trusts Bonnie to help her however she can.
Through half-lidded eyes, Caroline watches as Bonnie performs another spell, holding out for her hand and Caroline places her own in the witch's palm. Bonnie cuts Caroline's palm and drips her blood down onto the necklace before letting her take her own hand back. Caroline wipes out the blood off on a napkin as Bonnie begins chanting with her eyes closed and her hand hovering over the necklace. Caroline blinks a few times, forcing her tired mind to focus on the looks that keep crossing her friend's face.
The shutters of her house start to shake and the fires of all the candles burn brighter and taller and Caroline's head starts to hurt more and more. She lets out a yell of pain as soon as Bonnie stops, the pressure and pounding in her head lessening again. Elena grips her shoulders tightly.
Bonnie looks at her worried and concerned. "Are you okay?"
Caroline rubs at her forehead, nodding. "Yeah. That... ow... that really hurt. Please tell me you got something from that."
"Yeah," Bonnie sighs, looking down at the necklace distastefully as if it insulted her. "We've got to go to New Orleans."
"Really? New Orleans?" Damon says sarcastically, the next afternoon when the boys decided it was time to have another pow-wow to figure out what they discovered while separated. "I wish we had some sort of clue, oh, I don't know, yesterday that we were supposed to do that, Bonnie. Thanks for a whole lot of nothing."
Caroline pulls her eyes away from the necklace that Bonnie told her she had to start wearing yesterday before she finally let her go to bed. Caroline was too tired at the time, but she did notice that when she put the necklace on, she started to feel better. Her headache went away and so did some of her fatigue. No doubt there was a good reason for it.
This morning she learned why. According to Bonnie, the necklace, Caroline and Jane-Anne Deveraux, probably, are all linked together. The necklace is taking energy from Caroline to help fuel the link, by keeping it on her, she's okay, but when she removes it, it begins absorbing her energy expediently. If she had kept it off for another day or so, Bonnie believes that Caroline would have started to desiccate. Unfortunately for Caroline, Bonnie can't unlike the three of them without all three being together.
Which is why they need to go to New Orleans.
Caroline sits on the couch with her knees pulled up to her chest while Elena sitting next to her on one side, and Bonnie sits on the other. Liz is sitting in her armchair while Damon managed to get his hands on their liquor - and critique Liz and her taste while he was at it - and was standing in the doorway while Stefan leans against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. And Klaus stands on the opposite side of the room from Caroline, with his back to the windows, one arm across his ribs while the other hand cups his mouth and chin in thought.
Caroline and Klaus's eyes meet and she rests her chin on her knees. As the crowd argues with one another on whether or not there was something else that Bonnie could do, Caroline and Klaus just stare at each other. Since getting the necklace on her, she's been able to really think about all of this and all she can think about is that the only sure-fire way of getting to the bottom of all of this is to get to New Orleans.
They all know this, but no one wants to just straight-up admit that there was nothing else for them to do. They know that New Orleans is where they will get their answers, but it almost feels like defeat, admitting that there isn't any other choice.
"Klaus," Caroline says softly. He blinks to show he's listening. "Can you bring me to New Orleans?"
"What?" Damon says, ice blue eyes wide. "You're just going to go offer yourself up on a silver platter?"
"No," Caroline says, annoyed. She turns her eyes to his. She's perpetually exhausted and unable to really sleep and even though the worst part of the headache is over, she still feels the pulsing in the back of her skull and just thinking about eating makes her physically sick to her stomach. "No, Damon, I'm trying to get to the bottom of all of this. I'm tired and hurting and annoyed and sick and I'm done dealing with it. One day was too much. I'll walk to New Orleans if I have to and figure out what in the world that they want from me."
"So you're just going to walk down there and get trapped in the middle of this whole debacle by yourself?" Damon asks, dropping his drink down onto the coffee table in front of him.
"I'm not going to get trapped," Caroline says, wrapping her arms around her legs. "It's the next logical step."
"No, it's a stupid one," Damon snaps.
"Damon, stop," Stefan says, glaring at the side of his head. "I think what Damon is trying to say is that we need to be very careful in how we proceed. There has to be something we can do."
"There is," Caroline says, looking over at Klaus. "I know that you hate being given ultimatums, but I need you to take me there. If your pride won't let you do it because someone ordered you to, then please do it because I'm asking you to." She stares into his eyes. "Please, Klaus. I don't want to die, but I'm scared that I will. She only gave us a few days."
"Caroline," Liz says, her eyebrows pulling together. "Are you sure this is the right thing to do?" She sends a look at the Original in the room, distrustfully, before looking back over at her daughter. "I get that you are scared, but surely there must be something?"
"This is it," Caroline says, still staring into Klaus's eyes. "I'm right, aren't I?"
Klaus sucks in a deep, lungful of breath before letting it out, staring at her through long, thick lashes. He runs his fingers across his cheek, considering before he nods. "Yes. I suppose we must go." He drops his hands to his sides, walking across the room, around the table and sits down on it and reaches out with his hands, placing them on her knees to stare into her eyes. "I will take you to New Orleans, Caroline, and there I will see why they felt the need to go through all this trouble to get me there, and then I will tear them limb from limb."
Caroline crosses her legs and lowers them so that she can see him more clearly. "I'll settle with just figuring out why they did this. We aren't going to have a slaughter spree, Klaus. I just want to know why they did this to me and get them to undo it."
"You won't have to worry about that," Bonnie says, crossing her arms over her chest. "I'm going to be coming with you."
"Bonnie," Caroline starts but Bonnie shakes her head to stop her.
"I'm not going to take no for an answer. Besides," Bonnie sends Klaus a flat look, "I don't trust leaving you alone with Klaus. Who knows what he could do to you?"
"We all know what he wants to do to you," Damon says, smiling wolfishly. Klaus has the drollest look on his face that Caroline would have found somewhat amusing if it hadn't been for the fact that she actually gave him what he wanted, she would have thought that was a pretty good one. But, well, here they are.
"Knock it off, Damon," Elena says, tucking long brown hair behind her ear.
"What? I'm right," Damon says, giving Elena that kicked-dog look that only makes Liz roll her eyes at the sight of it.
Still, try as she might, Caroline can't help but wonder what all they hope to gain from this. Caroline, as she's sure everyone else has started to guess by now, isn't the point of any of this. It's Klaus that these witches are after and they are using Caroline to do it. Caroline's sure there has to be another - easier - way of going about this, but this is the path they've chosen. Still, it sucks that it has to be about her. This is definitely an interesting way of catching Klaus's attention. They had no way of knowing that Klaus and she were sorta friends unless someone said something.
Unfortunately, with their track record, the person who could have spilled the beans could have been anyone. Somehow or another, people seem to like to start something around Caroline's friends, which she doesn't understand. Elena, Damon, Stefan and occasionally Bonnie seem to be at the epicenter of all their problems because someone is still holding onto a grudge or has a bone to pick with them, or wants to use their doppelganger blood for this or that, or wants to use her blood or magic for this spell because Bennett witch of the past did this - it is all insane.
"Bonnie," Caroline says, turning to look at her friend, ignoring that Klaus still had one of his hands on her knee, "thank you so much for being beautiful and wonderful and worrying about me, but don't. I'm okay. We're going to go down there, Klaus is going to puff out his chest and be the big scary Hybrid and then we are going to come back."
Klaus smiles lightly at that, but Bonnie shakes her head, eyebrows pulling together. "I don't know, Caroline. I think it's going to be more complicated than that. When I was trying to sever you from the link I felt something. Something powerful on the other side of it."
"What does that mean?" Stefan asks. "Something like another witch?"
Bonnie rubs her fingers together, looking like she's trying to summon the feeling again from the night before. She thinks about it for a moment, trying to find the words before deciding on, "Sort of. It felt strange though. Like it was a lot of witches. Not just one or two. It felt like... I don't know. A lot."
"How many is a lot, Bonnie?" Stefan asks. "Ten? Twenty?"
"Hundreds," Bonnie says. "It felt like hundreds."
"Ancestors," Klaus says, pulling away from Caroline and standing up, walking across the room once more to stare out the window. At everyone's confused looks, he elaborates, "Witches of New Orleans practice in ancestral magic, pulling energy from the witches before them that passed. They use this to stay linked together and as powerful as they are. A single witch cannot hope to combat the engage them on equal grounds. It isn't possible. Not even for our illustrious Bonnie Bennett." His smile is cold and angry, no doubt hating this more than anyone.
"Well, this sucks," Damon sighs. "So what now?"
"We go," Caroline sighs too, no more happy about this than he is. "Klaus and I will go to New Orleans and get this straightened out."
"Not alone," Stefan says, eyebrows pulling together tightly. "You're talking about going up against a coven of witches, that is not something that we've had any real experience in. And you're going alone. With Klaus? Plus, you're weak and only a year old as a vampire. I am well over a hundred and fifty. I'll come with you."
"And so will I," Bonnie says. "You're going to need my help anyway. A coven of witches or not, I'm the best chance you've got of breaking that spell."
"If Bonnie is going, I am too," Elena says.
"No!" Everyone yells at once, making the brunette jump, her brown eyes wide.
"I love you, Elena," Caroline says, "but you are a newer vampire than I am. If we're going, it should be a small group. Not a whole bunch of us." Caroline rubs at her forehead. "And besides, she told us to come alone."
Elena makes a face at Stefan and Damon. "Wait, what? No, she didn't, Caroline." She looks over at the blond beside her.
Caroline's eyebrows pull together as she stares at her friend, trying to recall yesterday with a bit more clarity seeing as after she got zapped everything felt like she was going through jello. "She didn't? Huh," she murmurs, raising her eyebrows toward her hairline. "The bad guys usually say that. Well, nevermind then. More the merrier, I guess."
So, who all is going with them? Let me know!