Word Count: 4,500
A/N: A great personal thanks to kirythestitchwitch who looked this over and kept me from writing Klaus all over the place. Though I list a lot of characters, and some of them actually do get dialog, some of them just pass through.
Kol sat silently as Klaus yelled, threatened, and generally tried to intimidate the three hybrids he had demanded make an appearance at their home. Normally he would have been tempted to join in. This time, he had more pressing matters on his mind. He was filled with a strange mixture of anger and betrayal and wanted nothing more to vent it out on the source of those feelings.
He hadn't realized the baby vampire had become someone he relied on; someone he trusted. He had just taken it for granted that she would never let him down. The whole situation was leaving a bitter taste in his mouth.
His attention was caught by a movement at the top of the stairs. There Liz stood with her daughter watching the spectacle below. He could easily see confusion and then frustration in Caroline's expression as she took in his brother's tirade.
Caroline's voice was firm and unwavering, as if she expected to be obeyed. Klaus went still and turned toward her with exaggerated care. Kol himself was angry enough at her that he couldn't even find it in him to have sympathy for what she was about to be subjected to.
"Sweetheart, it's best not to interfere in pack business. They need to learn that this sort of thing will not be tolerated."
His voice was cold and carried an edge of violence to it. Though Kol was sure Caroline was aware of how dangerous Klaus was in this sort of mood, she didn't back down. On the contrary, she stood straighter and clenched her fists as if she was fighting the urge to physically attack him.
"This is not pack business, Klaus. This is not your business. This is between me and the hybrids. You have no right to demand anything from them, let alone that they tell you who bit me. It was my life on the line and my call. I told them that I didn't want anyone to find out who did it, and that hasn't changed."
At the mention of her life being on the line, something in Kol snapped. Without waiting for Klaus to answer her, he was suddenly in Caroline's face. He took in her startled expression for a moment, trying to calm himself so he could get out what he needed to say.
"That's just the thing, darling. It was your life on the line, and the call you chose to make was to bloody well throw it away and not ask for the cure. Damn all the promises you made to the Bennett witches. Damn the promises made to the dead coven that sent you back. And damn the promises and deals we made. You were just going to throw it all away and leave me here to deal with the mess."
The feeling of a hand on his shoulder did nothing to calm him. Nor did the look of realization on Caroline's face.
"Kol, she had no way of knowing there was even a cure, let alone that Klaus could help her."
He gave out a bark of laughter at both Elijah's statement and the guilty look that quickly came and went on Caroline's face. Turning to his older brother, he gave what he knew had to be a manic grin.
"That's the beauty of it, Elijah. She knew exactly what the cure was. This wasn't her first time being bit. She chose to die."
Elijah took a step back, though Kol wasn't sure if it was because of his expression, or what he said. Then, a blink and it was no longer Elijah's confused face he was looking at, but Finn.
"You've said enough Kol."
The look Finn gave him clearly showed that he was aware of what was really going on. It was all Kol could do not to turn and sink his teeth into Caroline in a fit of anger.
"If you know, big brother, then she's still keeping things from me. Tell me this, how can you not be pissed? She waltzes into our lives, demanding that we face off against Silas, and here she is bowing out at the first chance she gets."
He whirled on Caroline, ignoring her resigned face, and continued his tirade.
"You selfish child! You have no right to drag people into your plans, make them trust you, and then turn tail and run at the first opportunity. You little coward, I should just rip out your heart now since you're so eager to die."
Oddly enough, it wasn't fear he saw on Caroline's face. She was looking at him with understanding and regret.
"You're right, Kol. I gave up. I was tired, and afraid, and I selfishly didn't think of anyone else. I had no right to do that to you, or Bonnie, or anyone else. I'm sorry."
And just like that, all his rage drained out of him and he was left to face the fact that he had been afraid. For the first time in a thousand years, he was actually afraid of losing someone. Grasping her head between his hands, he dragged her forward until her forehead was pressed against his. He stared into her eyes for a second just breathing.
"Never again. You're in this until the bitter end. No giving up, and no taking the easy way. We're partners."
Taking a deep breath, he went one step further and voiced what he had just realized himself, "We're friends, and friends don't abandon each other."
He felt her hands rest against his elbows and she gave a teary nod.
"We're partners and friends. But, for now, I have some explaining to do to your family."
Realization slowly dawned on Kol, and he pulled back to look around at the other people in the room. Liz's expression was somewhere between rueful and amused. Elijah, Rebekah, and Klaus and his damnable hybrids however, all looked confused and impatient. Finn was looking at him with nothing short of contempt.
"That's the problem with you, Kol. You've never had any control."
Before he could lash out at the self-righteous prick, Klaus cut in with a deceptively calm voice.
"Would one of you care to explain exactly what is going on here?"
Behind him he heard Caroline took a deep breath and, when he turned back toward her, she looked ready to take on the world. Her voice matched her change in demeaner.
"First thing's first. Jules, Brady, Tony, I need your word. Whatever you hear goes no further. It's not a secret you'll have to keep forever, just until we get through with this whole Silas situation."
He turned his attentions to the hybrid, ready to convince them any way he need to, though it proved unnecessary. Their expressions were wary, but none of the three hesitated to agree. At that, he heard Caroline mumbling something to herself about band aids, and then take a deep breath.
"I got sent back in time by some dead witches because Silas woke up and we didn't manage to stop him completely."
There was a moment of silence in which Kol had the outlandish hope that it really would be as simple as all that. His family, of course, had to go and ruin it. Over the sound of his sister's snort, Elijah's voice was amused and disbelieving as he asked, "Are you truly expecting us to believe such a fanciful story?"
While Kol could understand his brother's reluctance to believe –he himself hadn't at first—his tone still grated. Apparently, Caroline felt the same way.
"I see. A single witch creating a completely new species, almost unkillable, from members of an already existing species is totally realistic. Somehow, though, an entire coven sending back one person two years in time is totally outrageous. Yeah, I can totally see what you mean."
While that seemed to slow Elijah down a bit, Klaus cut in and asked, "As much as I have trusted you so far, sweetheart, what proof do we have beyond your word that this is true?"
As much as Kol found Finn boring and pointless, he was grateful when his oldest brother interceded.
"I saw in her mind myself, Klaus. She's telling the truth."
He could see on Klaus' face that part of him wanted to believe, but he was still fighting it.
"She could have easily manufactured whatever you saw in her mind, Finn." When Finn looked ready to dispute, Klaus continued, "She has witches working with her, brother. They could have helped."
Kol had finally had enough. With a growl, he threw up his hands and joined the argument.
"Why are you fighting this so hard? She's telling the truth. Before they sent her back, I was there." At Klaus' confused look, he corrected himself, "A version of me was there. He made her promise to get my help and tell me everything. He sent her back with a message for me so that I would know."
Klaus no longer looked doubting. Instead he looked curious. Kol braced himself for the coming confession. He decided to try and cover his guilt and nervousness with his usually cocky tone, but he had his doubts that it would work.
"I… he told her about Henrik. When he died, when he begged you to take him to see the werewolves, he had come to me first. I should have told him no, maybe let our parents know what he was up to. Instead, I sent him to you. I don't even know why I did it since I knew you wouldn't be able to refuse him anything."
He braced himself for Klaus' anger. Instead, the anger came from a completely different source.
When he looked at her, he could see genuine anger on Caroline's face. Once again, he was caught letting people know things he hadn't intended them to. Perhaps Finn was right about him.
No, that just wasn't possible.
"You were supposed to talk with him months ago! You promised me you were going to. You know what, I don't want to hear another word about things I accidentally forgot to tell you."
Before he could defend himself against her entirely justified anger, Klaus was there with his hand wrapped around the back of Kol's neck. When he screwed up the courage to face his brother, he found compassion where he had expected anger.
"Oh, little brother, I thought you knew. Henrik told me you sent him when he came to ask me. Have you been feeling guilty all this time?"
Kol's first instinct was to deny any such thing. However, he realistically knew that the fact he had held it as such a deep secret that it could be used to convince him of Caroline's story would prove him a liar. He could only nod. It was a weight had been lifted off him and he was left feeling tired yet somehow content.
That feeling stayed with him even as Caroline told the others about the time travel, the differences between the time lines, and exactly what she had planned. It kept him from snapping at Klaus when his brother made snide remarks about her trusting Kol and not him. It even stayed through the half-hearted nagging she gave him over waiting months to finally confess what he'd done to Klaus. Of course, the hug she gave him after probably helped.
He was brought out of his, for lack of better wording, warm and fuzzy haze by the sound of Caroline's sharp voice.
"I don't want to hear a thing from you, Elijah. You had absolutely no right to go behind my back to get my mother. I don't care how ‘good' your intentions were, it was not your place."
Going by the condescending look on Elijah's face, Kol knew that Caroline was not going to like whatever came out of his brother's mouth.
"Now, Caroline, your mother had a right to know her daughter was in danger. I think you can agree that I did what was for the best."
At this he looked to her mother as if he expected her to back him up. The sheriff, though, appeared to want nothing to do with it.
"Oh, no. You both can just leave me out of this. I'm not going to be a piece of leverage or a weapon in anyone's argument."
Elijah, shockingly, seemed to accept Elizabeth's word as law and simply bowed his head. Caroline, unsurprisingly, couldn't let it go at that.
"There's going to be no argument because it's the end of the discussion. This doesn't happen again."
Seemingly content that she wouldn't get any further argument from Elijah, Caroline turned and, with her arm hooked in her mother's, left the house. While he did love Elijah, Kol couldn't help being amused by how he had been thoroughly put in his place by the Forbes women.
He felt a firm hand on his shoulder – why did his brothers insist on constantly doing that? —and turned to see Klaus standing beside him. While he didn't look angry, his expression was far from pleased. Kol braced himself to try and stop Klaus from chasing after Caroline then and there, but it proved unnecessary.
"Discretion being the better part of valor, I believe I'll hold off on talking to Caroline until she's had time to cool down. Perhaps tomorrow."
Kol could only hope Klaus had cooled down by then as well. When his brother asked if he would like to talk some more, Kol declined, saying he had a lot to think about first. He could only assume that Rebekah was too overwhelmed to say anything about him thinking since she only trailed a hand down his arm as she quietly passed by him. He vaguely heard Klaus talking to the hybrids and saying something about Caroline probably wanting him to apologize or some such nonsense.
His full attention, however, was centered on the way Finn closed in on an unaware Elijah with an almost malevolently gleeful expression. Given his slight flinch, Elijah didn't hear their brother coming until he spoke uncomfortably close to his ear.
"Let this be a lesson, Elijah. Though Elizabeth may have invited you to her bed, you shouldn't expect Caroline to let you play at being her father. Going by the way she has taken pains to hide your… relationship, dear Liz wouldn't be all that eager for you to, either."
Kol watched in stunned silence as Elijah stormed off, nostrils flaring and jaw clenched, while Finn simply smirked and strolled casually out of the house. He had been out chasing down information from witches, true, but how had he completely missed the fact that Elijah and Caroline's mother were sleeping together?
Dread quickly filled him as he remembered that nothing but tragedy befell those his siblings got too involved with. If something were to happen to her mother, Caroline would be beyond devastated. He wasn't very knowledgeable as to what it meant to be actual friends with someone, but he was sure that protecting the family of your friend was part of it. How the hell was he supposed to protect Elizabeth from his own family, though?
The next day, while Kol was still trying to figure out the best way to deal with the Elijah and Elizabeth situation, Klaus was slowly walking toward Caroline's home. It wasn't that he was stalling, per se, just that he was still trying to figure out his priorities for the impending conversation. There were so many little, inconsequential details he wanted but could live without. There were bigger questions, however, that he felt he needed answered before he could continue.
He still hadn't completely sorted his thoughts out when he reached the Forbes home. It was too late to turn back, however, because Caroline herself was sitting on the porch swing in front of her house and had spotted him. She looked… tired. He slowly took the steps one at a time and then gently leaned against the post, feeling the entire time as if any sudden movements would spook her. Perhaps that was why he only raised his eyebrows in question instead of breaking the silence.
She gave small huff of laughter that made barely a sound as she gestured toward the house.
"My mom and I had a very emotional talk last night. There was crying, some yelling, a lot of apologizing. It's like I can still feel it in there and I just needed to get some fresh air. I've… pretty much been sitting here all morning."
She then shook her head like she was clearing the memories out and then looked at him with a mixture of resignation and humor.
"You're not here to listen to me talk about my family issues, though. You're here to ask all those questions you, for some reason, held off on asking me last night."
With a small smile of acknowledgement, he dipped his head and answered her silent question, "I saw that you were in a less than pleasant mood after your confrontation with Elijah, and decided to wait until you were more… amiable to interrogation."
He counted it as a victory that she didn't grow angry at the mention of his brother, only softly laughed at his phrasing. She stood up and walked past him and crossed to her door to lock it. Turning back toward him, she gave him a large smile that he hoped wasn't completely false.
"I doubt my mom would be in the mood to invite you inside even if she was home, so why don't we go for a walk. I know a park near here that has some great benches and should be just about empty. You can ask whatever you want when we get there, though I can't promise I'll answer everything. I will try, though."
The walk to the park was taken in silence and at a human pace. While Klaus was normally inclined to push for answers as soon as he wanted them, he could be patient when the need arose. He had a feeling that if he pushed, he wouldn't end up getting the whole story. Klaus chose to ignore the small voice in the back of his mind saying he might not like the answers and that was why he was taking his time.
As Caroline had predicted, both the park and the benches she led him to were nearly deserted. She sat down on one end of a bench with her body turned slightly toward the other end where he sat. While she didn't look afraid, she did look a bit nervous.
"I won't insult you by asking if you'll be honest with me, love. I'm going to simply trust that you will."
She didn't appear any less anxious, though she did nod her head. There were so many questions he had – most them trivial and not worth the time it would take to get an answer. The one question he promised himself he wouldn't ask was the one that somehow slipped out. He was relieved that his voice didn't show how confused and hurt he was.
"You knew my blood would cure you, yet you didn't call me for help. You didn't ask anyone else to call me. Why would you do that, sweetheart?"
He was left even more confused when she gave a short huff of laughter that sounded uncomfortably close to a sob.
"God, you just love going for the jugular, don't you?"
She shook her head, he could only assume at the questioning look on his face and continued, "You and I, the other version of you, we were friends. We didn't start out that way, obviously, but somewhere during the near-death experiences, conspiring against each other, and occasionally saving each other's lives, we got there."
Klaus could admit that he was fond of the young vampire, but he couldn't imagine the closeness that her tone of voice implied had been between them.
When she turned to stare into the woods behind him and appeared reluctant to go on, he said, "Forgive me, sweetheart, but that does the exact opposite of explain why you would choose to die rather than call me for help."
He could see the pain on her face and hear it in her voice when she said, without turning to look directly at him, "He risked dying while in a weaker body to save me once. When he was sure that he was dying, I'm the one he called for help. Every time I've needed him, he's been there and if it would have been him that was answering, I would have called for help this time."
She seemed unaware of the tears that spilled down her cheeks, though Klaus couldn't seem to look away from them.
"When I got sent back, it was like having everyone I knew die, but then being forced to live with impersonators who just didn't feel right. I can't mourn their deaths because they're right in front of me, but it's not quite them. Bonnie sent me back, but I was left with a version of her that wasn't even sure she could trust me. I had to find a way to get back to a place where my mom wasn't looking at me like a monster anymore.
"When I saw that bite, I realized that I was going to have to face up to the fact that the version of you that I could trust, that I could always count on…"
With a sniff, she wiped her cheeks and finally looked at him again.
"Asking my friend to save me, only to have to face a stranger in his place, was just one more loss I just couldn't bring myself to face. I was scared, and tired, and I was just weak."
Klaus was faced with a sight he had never seen; a Caroline on the verge of breaking. Not just scared, but looking so lost and alone. He eased slowly closer to her, half convinced that she would bolt if he made any sudden movements. He lifted his hand to run the back of his fingers along her cheek and gave her a small smile.
"Not weak, Caroline. Never that. You've only faltered a bit. But you will recover, of that I have no doubt. In the short time I've known you, I've come to recognize that you are one of the strongest creatures I've encountered. You shall endure and persevere."
She seemed to drawn comfort from his words and closed her eyes as she leaned into his hand. After a moment, she drew back, shook her head, and gave him a bright, if watery, smile.
"Please tell me nothing else you want to talk about is so… painful."
Giving her an understanding smile, he chose to focus on the only other truly important thing he had questions about.
"You told us that you had managed to stop some deaths and lessen the impact of other things. I know you've done your best to save both Kol and Finn, but is there anything else concerning my family or myself?"
Caroline stared at him for a long moment. He got the feeling that she wasn't trying to remember so much as trying to decide how to tell him something. Once again, he decided that not pushing was his best option, and so he waited. She turned to look back into the woods and took a deep breath.
"If something goes wrong, and Silas does manage to get free, we need to be prepared. He can get in your head, make you see and believe what he wants you to. He can read your thoughts, even your deepest little secrets, and he won't hesitate to twist them to turn your friends and family all against you."
When she turned her gaze back on him, she looked as if she was ready for him to explode.
"It's better that they hear the worst from you, and not from him. You need to tell them what really happened to your mother."
He could feel his body tense up as it prepared to lunge at her. He wanted nothing more than to silence the words she had already spoken. It was only a thousand years of learned restraint that kept her alive.
"And were we that close, dear Caroline, that I would tell you this secret? Tell, me, did I whisper it in your ear, under cover of night, like some morbid bit of pillow talk?"
His words were meant to offend, to strike out at her. While she did seem insulted, she also looked as though she had expected him to do something of this nature.
"First, we were never lovers. Second, you didn't tell me. The story's written on the wall of some hidden cave here in Mystic Falls, along with how your family burned down the white oak that was used to create vampires and a hundred years another grew in its place."
Her expression softened, and her voice became more understanding as she continued, "I get why it happened. I know enough about werewolves and hybrids to understand how it could have happened. I also know that Rebekah, Kol, and Elijah forgave you when they found out. Finn… he was ready to kill you all, but that had nothing to do with how your mother died.
"I'm pretty sure he already knows, though. I think he saw it in my head. I don't think he'll suddenly side with Silas, but you'll probably want to tell him first, just in case."
He had been a fool to believe he could have kept it hidden forever. Granted, a thousand years having avoided Mikael somehow telling the others had made it almost seem possible, especially once their father was dead. But he had to face the truth now and risk losing his family. Despite Caroline's reassurances, he still couldn't bring himself to believe he could be forgiven. Part of him really wished that he still had those damnable daggers.
There was nothing really left he wanted to talk about, not after that startlingly painful revelation. And so, much like their walk to the park, they walked back to her home in silence. He couldn't even find it in himself to be amused by the sheriff's distaste at seeing him with her daughter. On another occasion, he may have even brought up her situation with his brother Elijah –the one they foolishly thought they could keep secret— as proof of her hypocrisy. Now, however, he could only nod his head and quietly turn to leave.
He knew he'd have to face his family with what he'd done, even agreed with Caroline that he should approach Finn first, but that didn't stop him from dreading it. When he walked in his home and was greeted by Kol's teasing smile, he decided to put it off. The truth could wait another day.