Run Right Back
(Prompt: baroline gtfo of mystic falls post S4 and end up getting into a little bit of magical trouble. when klaus rescues them, he expects gratitude, not caroline chewing him out for "assigning her a stalker" Title from "Run Right Back" by The Black Keys. Rated T.)
It was yet another evening at The Grill, and Caroline was not having a good time. She was sick of watching Damon and Elena make really obvious sex eyes at each other. Seriously, Damon had plenty of rooms. Could they not get one and stop making the rest of Mystic Falls wanna puke? They didn't even need to keep it down since Stefan wasn't around to make things awkward with his brooding face.
No, Stefan had taken off after graduation, being all noble and self-sacrificing.
Hey, there was an idea.
The leaving. Not the martyr thing.
Spinning on her stool, she reaches out to grab Bonnie's arm. "Bon. Let's get out of here."
Bonnie looks every bit as bored as Caroline feels, and her eyebrows creep up, "Like go home? I guess but it's kind of early, isn't it?"
Caroline shakes her head, "No, like out of Mystic Falls. I am so freaking done with this place right now. Tyler's taking his sweet time coming home, my mom's never around because she's covering all the deputies' vacations. I literally ate ice cream for dinner yesterday. I need to do something. I'm thinking road trip?"
"Have you been drinking? I thought the bartender wouldn't serve you during business hours 'cause your mom freaks him out."
She tosses a glare in said bartender's direction though it's completely wasted because he's busy mixing a cocktail. Matt just had to jet off to Europe leaving them completely without an in at the bar. "No, he's still sticking to that. Unfortunately. The only thing I'm drunk on is high fructose corn syrup and the realization that we're wasting our summer. Come on, don't you remember how we used to talk about all the awesome things we were going to do when we graduated? An epic road trip was totally on that list."
Bonnie still looks skeptical, "I don't know, Care. It's kind of last minute."
"So? Do you honestly have anything better to do? I thought I was supposed to be the obsessive compulsive control freak here. If I can roll with a little spontaneity you can too. Let's live a little!" Caroline exclaims, shaking her Bonnie's arm lightly in her building excitement.
It had been a random idea but the more she thinks about it the more she realizes it's a brilliant one. She wants to do it and she wants Bonnie to want to do it too.
Caroline's familiar with Bonnie's caving face and she bounces in her seat when it becomes obvious that she's onboard. "Awesome. You have exactly two hours to pack your stuff up and tell anyone you need to that we're out of here. I will pick you up."
"Two hours? Shouldn't we wait until the morning?"
"Nope!" Caroline chirps, standing up. "Thinking leads to doubts and doubts are not allowed. We're doing this. Pack something cute enough for a club because we are so going to one in an actual city no matter how many people I have to compel."
Bonnie looks like she wants to argue but Caroline's not budging. They were young, and hot, and they were going to dance with cute boys and accept free drinks, damn it. Finally Bonnie sighs, "Alright, fine Caroline. You win."
"I'm going to pretend that's not resignation in your tone, Bon. This is going to be awesome. Just you wait."
Caroline had been right – at least at first. They'd hit up some outlet malls, got themselves some fabulous new clothes to start college in. Found a fair in Tennessee and had a great time on the rides and inhaling fried foods. They even went to The Smithsonian, got a little education in with all their fun.
And yep, clubbing definitely happened, cute boys and all.
Unfortunately, trouble found them. Really, Caroline probably should have expected it. It had been years since she'd lived a bump free life. And of course it couldn't just be regular trouble. It had to be life and death and magical danger trouble.
Freaking witches. Such a pain.
Bonnie Bennett excluded, obviously.
Caroline thought it was pure bullshit that being a vampire made her a target. It's not like she'd asked to be smothered and turned. She was just trying to deal with the life she had now and she was doing a pretty damn good job if she did say so herself. She could have gotten all casual about murder now that she had to drink blood to live but she hadn't. She controlled herself, didn't hurt anyone who hadn't tried to hurt her first. She was maybe a little liberal with the compulsion, but was using it to get into a club really that bad?
Plus, exactly how was she supposed to have known that vampires weren't welcome in Jackson County, Alabama? That it was some coven's turf? It's not like there was a freaking map she could download that told her places she should avoid if she didn't want to face pain and possible death.
Bonnie had tried to reason with them but those particular witches really weren't the forgiving sorts. She and Bonnie had been minding their own business, looking for a place to eat lunch, when one of them had grabbed Caroline (in the middle of the street!) and burned some witchy symbol into her arm. She'd thrown him off, rolling her eyes when he'd spat, 'You're dead, vampire.'
Way to state the obvious, buddy.
He'd pulled out a stake, tried to go after her again, but Bonnie had tossed him back with magic.
That had led to a tedious argument about the ethics of calling vampires your friends and how apparently Bonnie was a disgrace to witch kind for choosing to hate vampires on a case by case basis.
In hindsight it had been a classic stalling tactic and Caroline had realized they were being surrounded in the nick of time. She knew Bonnie was powerful and could probably hold her own but Caroline's gut had told her to run.
She'd listened, scooped Bonnie up, and had flashed to their car, breaking all sorts of laws and getting them the hell out of the town. As the distance grew so did the pain in her arm, going from an itch to an ache to a burn. Caroline had gritted her teeth together and done her very best to ignore it and keep her eyes on the road while her foot pressed heavily on the gas pedal.
She'd been losing the battle, her vision starting to blur, when her phone had rung. Bonnie, who had mostly been quiet – her initial exclamations met with terse answers as Caroline focused on fleeing – released her death grip on the center console to check who was calling. "Klaus?" she'd burst out, after a shocked pause. "Why is Klaus calling you?"
Caroline hadn't had the faintest clue, felt her own burst of surprise and confusion. They'd had no contact since her graduation night, where she'd consented to let him buy her a drink (which fine, had turned into a bottle of champagne) since he had a couple hours to kill before his flight back to New Orleans was set to depart.
She'd kept quiet about the hours they'd spent talking, the promise he'd made, only telling her friends that Klaus had set Tyler free. That no, he hadn't asked for anything in return, hadn't even mentioned Elena. They'd grudgingly accepted her words, though Damon had seemed reluctant.
Because apparently everything was about Elena.
Bonnie had been impatiently waiting for an answer while Caroline tried to figure out what to say. When she felt her arms start to shake, noticed that her grip on the wheel was slippery because her palms were sweat soaked, she decided not to question Klaus timing. "I don't know and right now I don't care. Answer it. New Orleans is a lot closer than Mystic Falls and I'm thinking we're going to need a cavalry here."
A few muttered words about how she didn't want to talk to Klaus ever had been said but Bonnie had accepted the call. "What do you want?" she'd bitten out suspiciously.
"Pleasure to speak to you as well, witch. I here you've gotten yourselves into a bit of a mess. Take the next exit. Stop at the first gas station. Help will be right behind you."
He'd hung up after rattling off the instructions, and Bonnie had been left gaping at the phone.
Caroline had checked her rear view mirror, prepared to shift the car into the correct lane. "You're just going to do what he says?" Bonnie had asked, her disbelief clear. "No questions asked?"
Caroline had managed a laugh, dry and pained. "Yeah, I am. I am about ready to bite of my own arm because it hurts that much. We could drive to Mystic Falls but Damon's pretty much our only backup and I'd bet my first year's tuition that he'd high tail it out of town with Elena and hang me out to dry if he got wind of the pack of vampire hating witches that was coming. I have no idea how Klaus knew what happened, and trust me, I will find out and be super pissed about it later. But for now? Right now I trust him to help us."
"I don't trust him."
Caroline had sighed, "And I get that. I'm not asking you to. Just trust me, Bonnie. Do you really think I would put you in danger?"
She'd grudgingly admitted that Caroline wouldn't and had settled back into her seat with an expression of suspicious distaste on her face.
Whatever, Caroline knew she could deal with a mood. She couldn't deal with either of them being dead.
She'd found the indicated gas station easily enough and an SUV – very similar to the kind Klaus had favored - pulled in after them a couple minutes later. Two men and a woman had climbed out and Caroline had instantly knows that they weren't human. They didn't move like it and she'd been wary, her fangs close to dropping. One of the men stayed with the SUV while one had entered the little convenience store attached to the gas station. The woman had approached, her hands plainly visible and expression open and pleasant, "Klaus sent us," she'd told them. "We're here to help you. We're going to take you to New Orleans and get that mark taken care of."
Caroline had caught Bonnie's eye. "I really don't like this, Caroline," Bonnie had said.
Not a surprise. Caroline had known arguing was pointless so she'd climbed out of the car, winced at the complaining Bonnie was doing under her breath as she followed suit.
She'd hugged her arm close to her body, offered a wan smile, "Well, take me to your leader, I guess."
The one man had exited the store with a cooler and two bags of ice, and the slight relief it had offered to her arm had been welcome on the short plane ride. Caroline had quickly ascertained that they were hybrids, wondered if there was any way she could convince Bonnie to keep that info to herself. They'd been working under the assumption that Tyler, and the twelve Klaus had slaughtered for trying to betray him had been all of them. Caroline now realized that was stupid – Klaus wasn't they type to do things by half measures, to not have a backup plan.
Caroline could only imagine the paranoia that she'd have to endure once Damon got wind that some still lived. Maybe she'd tell Tyler someday – he might like to know he wasn't the only one out there once the pain that would come with the reminder of the friends he'd lost was less sharp.
She had no idea how she was going to explain this trip to New Orleans once Tyler returned to Mystic Falls. Hopefully he'd recognize that the situation had been beyond Caroline's control, and his desire to have her alive and kicking would override his hatred of Klaus.
Klaus had yet to make an appearance in the flesh. They'd been escorted to an opulent home in The French Quarter and even Bonnie's eyes had widened as they'd looked around, eager to take everything in. A witch named Sophie had appeared in the study they'd been shown to, had asked to see Caroline's arm. She'd examined it carefully, asked a few questions. Soon enough she and Bonnie were bent over a pile of grimoires, talking spells and curses, leaving Caroline to pace the room and suck down the provided blood bags.
Time got kind of fuzzy then but it had only taken them an hour or two of uninterrupted research time before they'd had a plan, and Sophie had called one of the hybrids in. He'd taken the list of things the witches needed for their spell and left without a word. Everything on it was quickly produced and soon, with a little chanting and some gross concoction dripped over her brand, Caroline had been mark free.
The efficiency was almost impressive. Caroline would have appreciated it more if she hadn't worked out the obvious - Klaus had clearly been stalking her. And yeah, it had been helpful this time. The complete lack of respect for boundaries was still infuriating.
Sophie had invited Bonnie to her restaurant, (had sheepishly apologized to Caroline, explained that vampires weren't exactly welcome in certain places in New Orleans at the moment). She'd said something about other witches who'd love to meet Bonnie, had offered to explain more about the ancestral magic they practiced. Caroline had seen how intrigued Bonnie had been even if she'd been reluctant to leave Caroline.
Caroline had been having none of that. She'd pasted on a smile and insisted that Bonnie go ahead. She had so little opportunity to learn about magic, relied on instinct and raw power (which got her in trouble sometimes – see The Expression incident). Caroline figured encouraging Bonnie to go hang with other witches would be good for her and would maybe soften her up a little.
They were totally still going to have words about the Klaus thing - Caroline's willingness to trust him. Caroline would take any advantage she could get in preparing for that conversation.
She'd continued to pace after Bonnie and Sophie had left though she switched out the blood for some bourbon from the fancy liquor cart that sat in the corner knowing Klaus would show up eventually.
She hadn't had to wait long.
She feels him first, recognizes the faint displacement of air that happens when someone moves at abnormal speed. His eyes are on her. She'd always been able to feel that too.
Caroline keeps her back to him, sips her drink, uses her harshest tone, "Sure you don't want to creep outside the window? I'm pretty sure that's the correct stalker M.O."
She hears the clink of glass against crystal, knows he's following her example. Klaus doesn't seem to mind her ire, his reply holds an edge of teasing, "Ah. I had hoped for a little gratitude for my timely assistance, but…"
Oh, he did not. "Gratitude?" Caroline spits out, whirling. "You have got to be kidding me. How long have you had your minions watching me?"
"Since I left Mystic Falls."
"Before," he informs her calmly. He takes a seat in the middle of the sofa, crosses one ankle over his opposite knee. The relaxed posture makes her blood boil and Caroline sets down her glass before she breaks it. Or throws it. He still reads her far too well, anticipates the demand she'd been about to make. "And my… associates will continue to be on hand."
Caroline shakes her head. "No. Absolutely not."
He attempts to placate her, his expression remaining calm, and Caroline recognizes that he probably doesn't bother with such things very often. "They will not interfere in your life, sweetheart. You'll not even know they're there. Indeed, you had no idea, correct?"
"That doesn't make it okay!" Caroline seethes. "Why would you even…"
"I have enemies," Klaus begins.
She can't stop the snort, "Oh, what a shocking surprise. You? But you're so snuggly."
He ignores her sarcasm, though the slight grimace Caroline detects at her wording sends a small wave of satisfaction through her. "Enemies," he continues, "that have become emboldened by Mikael's death. They were relying on him to eliminate me, you see. But as I've prevailed there are many who are plotting to make my death a reality."
"Um, what does that have to do with me?"
She knows she's playing dumb but it's the only thing she can think to do. Caroline's put a great deal of mental effort into not considering the depths of Klaus' feelings for her – the possibility that they were big and permanent.
Caroline wasn't even sure she could grasp Klaus' version of permanence, the years and decades and centuries in spanned. She wasn't even nineteen.
Thankfully, he keeps it matter of fact. "I have no way of knowing if our… friendship is known to anyone who wishes me harm. I do know that several of those who loathe me would not hesitate to hurt you if they thought it would hurt me."
Suddenly, all Caroline feels is tired. "I am so sick of being collateral damage."
Klaus' bravado softens, "I know. And I will do my best to endeavor that you will never be such a thing again." It's a vow, his eyes as determined and solemn as she'd ever seen them.
Damn it now she's softening. She hated that she could see his point. But Caroline had no desire to be tortured especially by some old ass vampire who probably had a lot of practice. Klaus' attention couldn't be taken back at this point so she needs to make this something she can deal with. "I want to meet them," she demands. "And I want to know exactly what they're telling you."
Klaus smiles though he's smart enough to keep any pleasure at his win off his face, "Would you like me to compel them not to lie to you before you interrogate them?"
Did it make her a terrible person if she said yes?
Caroline does it anyway. "I do. Lending a hand when some nutty witches try to kill me is one thing. Reporting my every move, telling you what I wore, or who I talked to, is another thing entirely. I want a normal college experience."
Klaus nods, "Believe it or not, Caroline, I want that for you too. It's important to you. I understand that. I assume you'd also like to meet those I have stationed near your mother?"
Caroline blinks, shocked. "Wait, my mother gets a hybrid protection detail?"
He appears almost offended, "Obviously. You'd hurl yourself into danger in an instant for her. It's only expedient to ensure you won't have to."
Trust Klaus to frame it as a matter of strategy. "Oh. Well, thanks. For that, I guess."
Klaus smirks, and the teeny bit of warmth that had brewed is mostly evaporated. "Now, was that so difficult?"
"Shut up," Caroline grouses, crossing her arms.
"Sorry," Klaus apologizes though his amusement ruins the pretense of sincerity.
"I reserve the right to revise my list of demands at any point," Caroline declares, narrowing her eyes at him threateningly.
"I would expect nothing else," Klaus says approvingly. "Now, I'm afraid you'll be stuck in the house until you leave, my dealings are a bit… unsettled at the moment. As we've just discussed the importance of keeping a target off your back I'm sure you understand. Would you like to order some food, perhaps? New Orleans has many things I'm sure you'd like. Or I can show you to a guest room if you'd like to call it a night. I'll have a car ready for first thing tomorrow."
Caroline bites her lip, hesitating. She's not sure if it's wise, sharing a meal, a conversation, with Klaus. He has a way of making her enjoy his company even when she knows she shouldn't. He's waiting patiently for her answer, and she's grateful he doesn't try to rush her.
In the end, Klaus giving her the choice is the reason she says yes. Caroline's already going to have to wade through judgement, trot out justifications. Bonnie, Damon and Elena, her mom, Tyler. They're all going to have opinions.
She figures she might as well actually do something to earn the coming censure. Enjoying some great sure to be food was just an added bonus.