Klaus is, to Caroline’s great irritation, annoyingly perfect at the whole friends thing.
While he was still in NOLA, he had sent her photos - the bright shine of Mardi Gras beads framed against a sidewalk, smiling faces under half-mask on parade floats, the moon hanging low and huge over the bayou. Little moments accompanied with just a few simple words: “I thought of you when I saw this,’ and somehow he had been right every time. Each image had lit a spark in her chest, seeing the vibrant life of the city reflected on her phone's screen.
And now that he’s been back in town, claiming New Orleans a false alarm, he’s made himself almost indispensable to the Mystic Falls crew - however begrudging their acknowledgment of this may be. Silas is long gone, thanks to Klaus, and Bonnie freed from the anchor with the help of an out-of-town coven he had on retainer.
When she lets herself think about it, she’s surprised at how much time she’s spent talking to him since graduation. He’s an amazing listener, and she finds herself almost wanting to tell him her hopes and her dreams. For now, she’s still sticking with class schedules and history and what’s most historically accurate for Whitmore’s production of Romeo and Juliet, but there’s an ease to their interactions now, a trust that’s still building.
She checks her texts, sees one from a few minutes ago in response to an earlier question:
My vengeance against Katerina is served by watching her hate what she’s become, love. I don’t plan on losing another chance at hybrids. And yes, I’d love to teach you. I’m home now, if you wish to stop by.
She rolls her eyes at the long reply - Klaus would suck at Twitter. But wordiness and Katherine's post-cure fate aside, Caroline's excited about his offer. She’s been taking Art History this semester, and is surprised how into it she is - all those amazing artists and paintings piquing her interest, enough for her to want to try her own hand at it.
Something sparks her memory and she scrolls back through the surprising amount of messages she has with Klaus, coming to a photo she sent of her Art History textbook. The colors are too vivid for anything but oil paint - rich browns and ochres and deep reds - and the caption reads:
The Hermitage - Autumn Landscape - 1578 - N. Mikaelson
Klaus’s response to that text is so...Klaus.
Ahh, is this what one would refer to as my fifteen minutes of fame? I had no idea my artistry was being taught to the unwashed masses (yourself excepted, of course)
She smiles and rereads a few more old messages before locking her phone and tossing it in her purse. It’s time for a painting lesson.
Klaus’ studio is a surprise - airy and bright with dust motes swirling in the sunlight that slants in through the western-facing windows. He follows her eyes as she takes the room in.
“I moved my studio here to capture the dusk light; that golden glow as the sun dips below the skyline is a bit of an obsession of mine." He is in full testing-her-sanity regalia today: low-slung jeans, thin cotton henley that strains across his shoulders, and those mysterious necklaces dipping below his collar. He smirks at her as if sensing her thoughts and slides out a canvas from underneath a drafting table that sits against the far wall, placing it on the easel in front of her.
“So...what do I do?” Caroline asks awkwardly. She touches the canvas in front of her, runs her hand along the rough surface.
His eyes turn thoughtful. "Well, art, to me, is a way to escape from the bindings of thought. To let that which fills your heart emerge unfettered onto the canvas. It is a way to let go.”
“OK. That sounds very Deepak Chopra of you but what the hell do I paint?” Caroline shifts uncomfortably.
Klaus is smirking at her again in that infuriatingly charming way. “Just pick up a brush and try something, love.”
Caroline studies the tubes of paint next to the easel, shoulders already tense. “Seriously? Pthtalo blue? Quinacridone magenta? Why are paint names so weird?”
But Klaus has already put brush to canvas, a curved twist of black, and he responds almost absently. “Art meets science. They’re synthetic pigments." He draws back, staring at the canvas for a moment before leaning in to sweep the brush across once more. “Let go, Caroline.”
She huffs in response and turns to her canvas, squeezing out a glob of paint on a palette bolted to the side of the easel and dipping a brush in. She holds the brush up, bringing it close to the canvas several times but never quite touching. Klaus’ hearing picks up the low grumbling as she mumbles beneath her breath.
“Let go, huh? I could let go if I knew what I was doing!”
He smiles a fond smile and tries again. “When you dream, Caroline, what do you dream of? Aside from me, of course.” He puts both hands up defensively, totally prepared for the brush that sails at his face, snatching it out of the air. Caroline’s scoff can probably be heard in the next county as he continues. “Sorry, couldn’t resist, sweetheart. So when you dream, whether at night or an idle daydream, you let your mind wander. It’s free, for a moment, from the constant thoughts in that beautiful mind of yours.” He sets his brush down, prowls closer and returns her own brush to her easel. “When you paint, you need to be like you are when you’re on the cusp of a dream - in control still, but right on the razor’s edge.”
“I don’t know if I can do that.”
“I believe you can, love.” He lifts his brush again, back at his own canvas, and she watches as his eyes go somewhere far away. She doesn’t want to disturb him again so she leans back in towards her canvas with a sigh.
~Twenty minutes later~
She sighs and noisily clacks her brush against the easel.
“Caroline?” Klaus’ voice is insufferably patient, and something inside her snaps.
“You’re so condescending! Ughh. I can’t do this!”
“I’m not trying to condescend, love. I’m trying to help you.” Klaus ducks his head down to try to meet her eyes. “For me, there is no greater reward than art, and I want to share it with you. But you need to learn to paint from your heart, to help the things that bring you joy and pain flow through the brush.”
“Well, sorry that I don’t have some giant font of manpain to draw from, to paint my feelings out to atone for the gajillion people I’ve slaughtered.”
She regrets the words and the air quotes she makes a moment too late; watches as his eyes glitter coldly and all warmth disappears. His jaw is hard, and a tense silence holds for the unbearable few seconds before he responds.
“What is it, Caroline? Friends or not? Because I don’t think this is how friends treat each other.” His words are reasonable, but his tone is so cutting that Caroline wants to slap him. Instead she calmly grabs a tube of Naples Yellow, squeezes a glob into her palm, walks up to him, and smears the paint slowly across his face. She lets herself watch for a moment as it catches in his lashes, his lids closed instinctively to protect, then vamps out the door just as he opens his mouth to bellow in rage.
“You’ve been spending a lot of time with Klaus,” Elena says from her bed; she’s tapping at her tablet, playing some Bejeweled clone.
Caroline sighs, grabbing a blood bag from the dorm’s minifridge and plopping back down on her own single. Is it ironic that Elena comments on this now or just funny timing? She can never remember the difference. It’s been three days since the painting incident and Caroline knows she needs to apologize. She looks down at her phone, strangely silent these past few days, and realizes with a start that at some point during the year, Klaus became the person she talked to the most.
“You’ve been spending a lot of time with Damon.” Caroline finally responds, throwing the words back.
“Damon didn’t kill Aunt Jenna, didn’t try to kill me.”
And there it is again. Caroline is tired of defending her friendship with Klaus, and finds herself even more on the defensive now that she has an apology to make.
“So it’s just about who a person kills? Lexi and so many others are unimportant because, oh, they’re not someone you’re personally close to?”
Elena shakes her head, the tablet now laying forgotten on the bed beside her. “Damon’s changed, Caroline. I know you refuse to see it, but he has. And Klaus drove away your boyfriend, how is that OK?”
“Thanks for the reminder that Tyler broke up with me to stay with the pack he found, Elena. I really needed ANOTHER example of a boyfriend picking someone else over me.” Caroline shakes her head as if to clear her thoughts. “Look, I don’t want to fight. But I feel like you’re the one who should understand this better than anyone, yet somehow you’re the one giving me the most shit.”
“Uh, pot, kettle?” Elena scoffs, throwing her hands out wide.
“You’re right,” Caroline admits. She looks down at her nails, picking at the pale pink polish. “Look, I can’t...I won’t let go of what Damon did, and I will always be Team Stefan. So I get that you’ll never be Team Klaus but oh my god I can’t believe I’m even talking about teams? Klaus and I are friends. And Damon has a history too and you can’t ju - ”
Elena starts talking over her. “Care, I love you. But it’s obvious to everyone that you guys are more than just friends. Just -”
“I don’t want you to be hurt.” They both finish together, rueful smiles on both their faces.
They both can tell the argument is far from over, but it’s at least over for now. Elena’s phone rings and she answers in a voice that tells Caroline it can only be Damon on the other end, and as Caroline looks down at her silent phone for the tenth time in the past 10 minutes, she realizes how much she misses Klaus.
His face is closed off when he answers her knock, one hand steady on the door as if waiting for an excuse to close it, and she almost turns around and walks away without a word. But she squares her shoulders, knowing she needs to do this.
“I’m sorry. I was a bitch. You were right, I wasn’t being a good friend. I’m just - I'm used to being able to pick up everything I try pretty quickly, and I...have a hard time letting go, and I just got frustrated.” His jaw is still clenched and she sighs. “Look, I really am sorry. And I want to try again. And there’s no one I’d rather have teach me this than you.”
It’s the last sentence that gets him, she knows, because she totally understands that feeling of being valued. ‘We’re the same, Caroline’ , the memory echoes in her head, and something finally clicks into place.
His eyes turn soft, almost boyish as he marks her sincerity, and he lifts his brows in question. “Now?”
She smiles. “Yeah.”
There’s a blob of green on her canvas and she’s not quite sure if it’s supposed to be a frog or a watermelon, but she’s rolling with it. Slowly. She glances over at Klaus and watches the lean lines of him as he studies his painting, his eyes darting across the canvas. He bends towards the easel and a necklace escapes its henleyed confines and Caroline’s mouth goes dry. Her eyes slide up to his face and he turns his head to catch her gaze just in time, a small smile playing at his lips. It’s as if he knows. And hell, maybe he does, it’s not like he needs a thousand more years to puzzle out that he’s ridiculously attractive. So she smiles at him instead of angrily deflecting like she always does, and something shifts in his face, just for a moment, before it’s drawn back under the slick confines of his dimpled grin.
He sets his brush down and comes up behind her, a soft, considering noise in the back of his throat. She cranes her neck to look at him and he grabs her brush, enclosing her hand in his long fingers, body drawing close, her skin alive from the heat of him at her back.
“Let’s try a little experiment, “ he whispers in her ear and she breathes a shaky assent as he begins guiding her hand along the canvas. The brush swoops in an elegant arc alongside the green blob and something about the shape of the line sparks an idea. She takes control and he cedes it, taking it back a few brushstrokes later when he feels her falter. They trade off like this as a shape emerges on the canvas - a fall of hair, the curve of a shoulder. She goes to sketch out the profile and his grip becomes firm, steering her hand, and she watches as the pert angle of her own nose appears on the canvas. It’s her from behind, head turned as if she’s just heard someone call to her, hair blown back in the wind and longer than she’s ever worn it.
Her hand stills and he lets go, turning her to face him, a question in his eyes.
“It’s just -” she trails off, at a loss for words, her eyes bright with something unnameable. He seems to understand and the side of his mouth curls up softly, his eyes raking over her face, his other hand still nestled in the curve of her waist from when she turned in his grip. She watches, somewhat disbelievingly, as her own hand places the brush on the easel, and in a deliberate move, slides up the thin cotton of his shirt to rest over his heart.
His gaze locks on hers in the space of a heartbeat and then his eyes shine and his mouth slants and suddenly she swears the sunlight streaming in through the windows is making the room way too hot. He marches her back towards a wall where an angled drafting table sits, and she leans against it as his mouth dips to her collarbone, a soft sound escaping her lips. He hears it, of course, and spends the next moment or so relentlessly making her repeat it, his smile curving against her skin.
She pulls him back up for a kiss, and he tugs at her lower lip for a moment before dipping to a spot just below her ear. His hands are everywhere, sliding up the arch of her back, combing through her hair, grazing her breasts, and she can’t get enough, locking her legs around his hips and trying to pull him closer. She thinks they should slow down, but realizes that they've been playing this game for over a year and right now? She really doesn't want to take it slow. At all. She tries to pull him close again, a frustrated noise escaping.
“Sorry, love. I’ve had a good, long while to dream of this very moment, and I'm going to take my time.” Her scoff turns into a sigh as he tweaks a nipple through her tank top. She resolves to turn the tables as soon as she can find room to breathe, but right now every inch of skin is on fire and she just wants and he just gives.
He slides a hand underneath her shirt, gently pushing her down to the surface of the angled table. She idly thinks that drafting tables are just about perfect for this as his mouth slides up like a brand over the plane of her stomach and past her rib cage. His lips tease, soft kisses and flicks of his tongue edging her bra line. She huffs in displeasure and she can feel the bow of his smile when he finally, finally unsnaps her bra and takes a nipple into his mouth, sucking with a slow curl of tongue that sends her hips jolting off the table. His hand curves around a hip, sliding just beneath the band of her jeans, and he brushes a thumb across the soft skin there before unbuttoning her pants, sliding them down her legs and sweeping his hand back up. Caroline toes her jeans off her ankles and holds her moan in just long enough to hear his breath catch at how turned on he finds her. His hand circles up to her clit, teasing, before he dips his fingers again, starting a slow, curling rhythm that has her impatiently straining for more contact, faster, harder.
His mouth lowers to her breasts again, that curling tongue making her shudder. She has a moment to think she might come just from his mouth on her breasts and his fingers deep inside before the orgasm crests, bowing her back as his name escapes her lips.
“Caroline.” Her own name has always held such weight in that voice of his, but never like this. It is ragged and full of need; his eyes betraying the same, and Caroline’s never been more turned on in her life. She uses the surge of desire to push through the languid post-orgasm bliss and sits up, sliding her hands up the lean muscle of his chest and raking fingers through his hair. He’s taken aback by her sudden movement and Caroline seizes the opportunity to bring her hands back down to unbuckle his belt that is, maddeningly, still holding his pants up. She lifts off the table and pushes him back, dropping down to her knees and looking up at him through her lashes. She knows he’s letting her take the lead, feels that tension coiled in his thighs as she slides her hands up, and decides to see just how far she can push it; unbuttoning his jeans and pulling the zipper down, palming his erection when she finds nothing but skin. He shifts them so he’s the one leaning back against the drafting table, angling so that he can see her, and she keeps her eyes locked with his as she grabs the base of his cock and pulls a few times, watching his breath catch as she finds the right level of friction. She thinks about teasing him, decides to surprise instead, taking him in her mouth as far as she can without choking, hollowing out her cheeks as she sucks and swirls her tongue around his cock. His belt buckle clinks as she starts a rhythm, jeans still pulled taut around his thighs.
“Fuck, Caroline. That’s it. Do you know how often I’ve dreamed of this? My cock heavy in your mouth, your eyes blown with lust, your thighs sticky with the release I’ve teased from you?”
Caroline moans around his cock and traces her tongue on the underside of the tip, smiling when he stops talking to let out a garbled noise. She gives another long, slow lick before dipping lower, taking a sac in her mouth and tugging gently, laving it with her tongue. She sees a hand sweep at the table and hears the clatter of pencils as they hit the floor; she’s circling her tongue and thinks that maybe she’s tortured him enough, licking back up his shaft, ready to take him in her mouth once more.
Her time’s clearly up though - Klaus surges forward, grasping her shoulders and pulling her up his body before twisting her to land on the drafting table and shoving his jeans off. His eyes are wild, the wolf barely held in check, and Caroline’s mouth goes dry when he speaks in a voice on the low edge of a growl.
“I need to hear you scream,” he says and acts without further preamble, her wet folds welcoming his cock as he enters in one smooth thrust. He lies thick within her for a moment, then pulls back and surges forward and Caroline can do nothing at first but moan her approval. She regains her senses enough to claw at his back and the first draw of blood releases his monster; she sees his eyes flash for a moment, the wolf unchecked, and then she is face down on the table, her torso angled up, and he is fucking her so hard that she barely feels the sting of hair pulled taut in his grip, her back arching with his powerful thrusts.
She’s soclose and he must know it, because his voice rumbles again.
“Touch yourself. Use your fingers to make yourself come as my cock fills you and you clench around me like a silken vice. Touch yourself as my voice rolls over you - did you think I didn’t notice your arousal spikes when I say filthy things to you? When I say your name? Car-o-line,” he stretches her name out and time seems to pause, her hand that rushed to obey stills over her clit, and she sinks into the hard wood of the drafting table with a choked cry; ass still in the air as he continues to pound into her. He flips her then, hooking her legs over his shoulders and sliding back into her wet, welcoming heat once more. Pushing at her calves, he bends her almost in half, her limbs pliant as she recovers from her second orgasm. The change in position brings her ridiculously close to a third before she can even blink, and she’s crying his name out again - and when did that start exactly? - before his own wrecked voice brings her gaze back to his. The violence in his amber-flashing eyes has her answering with her own monster, the black veins spreading beneath. He lifts up for a moment and her legs slide down to lock behind him. His head tilts as he leans in towards her, bringing his neck close while still pulling her hips to meet his own relentless rhythm, and she sinks her fangs into his neck, almost losing the suction as the first taste of blood hitting her tongue unhinges her. She thinks she hears him roar her name, is too caught up in the pleasure to really notice; the taste of him - all of him - thick in her throat as her veins sing.
It’s a few moments before she even remembers to breathe, finally shaking her head to clear the languid haze. She watches the corded muscles in his forearm as he pushes off the table to standing, stares as his tongue slides slow across his lower lip. His gaze has lost none of its hunger and she’s pretty sure her own face is a reflection.
“You know we’re nowhere near done, right love?”
She says it before she can even think. “We better not be. I have a few dreams of my own I’d like to play out.”
Her eyes widen and so does his grin, but she finds she’s not as embarrassed as she expects. After all , she thinks as she stands, knees shaky, they’re three orgasms beyond the need for a confession. Her eyes take in the room, the graphite scattered across the floor, her tank top draped over the ceiling fan, her painting - their painting - and she can only think of one thing to say.