"Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere" Albert Einstein

Chapter 8 – Final Round

A/N – Sorry for the long wait, every time I sat down to write this chapter I couldn’t get the wording right so I moved on to other projects and came back to it after I had time to think it through a little better, and here we are. Hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 8

Klaus sat in his room waiting for day break. He’d given them all the night to come to terms with what was coming, not that any of them knew for certain what awaited them, but he’d still given their little minds time to wonder. It would all be over after today, then they could all move on with their lives and start moving towards the next stage. He kept thinking over and over again how this game had come to be. It hadn’t even been his idea, Kol had been the one to suggest it with a little help from Rebekah. It still amazed him just how quickly his family had welcomed the idea of Caroline becoming a member.

One Month Ago

Klaus settled himself in the living room and waited for his siblings to arrive. Elijah had been a little suspicious at first, until he proved that he was indeed their brother, now he was simply curious. As he always was when he changed hosts.

“What’s with the witch costume brother, not your usual style.”

“Hello to you to Kol. Now that you’re all here I shall explain. I’ve had reason to believe recently that the doppelgänger and her little group of friends had been once more plotting against us. This, witch costume, as you put it was my way of knowing for certain one way or the other. I took Bonnie’s place at their initial planning party a few days ago. Now that I know more, here I am.”

“What have you found out brother?” Ah, Elijah always right to the point.

“Better question, why do we even care? It’s not like they can truly hurt us.” Rebekah snarked, her usual bravado shining through.

Klaus decided against pointing out just how easily they had hurt Finn, he knew that wasn’t what she was referring to. She was referring to the fact that they no longer possessed the only weapon that could hurt them.

“You are forgetting a few things sister.”

“Like what?”

“Such as the fact that they don’t have to kill any of us, merely contain us, much as the elder Bennett did with Mikael years ago.”

“True, but are they after us? Or are they simply after you?” Rebekah countered, knowing full well what the answer was likely to be.

“They are after me, but I believe that after I tell you all that I have learned thus far, you will be more than eager to help me.”

They all sat through is explanation, his description of Caroline and how well she seemed to know them all, but more importantly her assessment about how they felt about one another. There was silence throughout, and once his words stopped his siblings seemed to simply wander away for a time to think. He didn’t begrudge them the solitude, he knew he’d needed it just as badly after everything Caroline had said to him, he understood what they were doing and he was happy to wait for them to come to the same conclusion that he had. Caroline was one of them, always and forever.

Elijah was of course the first to return.

“Are you sure Niklaus?” He didn’t have to ask him to clarify he understood exactly what he was asking.

“She knows us better than I believe we even know each other.”

“How is that possible?”

“I wasn’t sure at first, but I think I understand now. It’s preconceptions you see. We can no longer see each other clearly because past actions and mistakes block our view of one another. Caroline has none of that baggage weighting her down, she sees only who we are now.”

That had been true, a truth that they had all come to themselves over the intervening weeks. Kol had needed time to see it clearly and Rebekah had needed Kol, but in the end they all came to the same conclusion. Caroline was a Mikaelson now, she was family.

It had taken a little getting used to, the idea of caring about another someone who hadn’t been with them from the beginning, but the idea had grown on them. Klaus had taken time each day to tell them each more and more about Caroline, her life and experiences, helping them to understand her as well as she obviously understood them.

Rebekah soon let go of her old animosity towards the woman that was now her sister. She saw their similarities in a new glaring light and she couldn’t wait until that feeling was shared.

Kol saw her as two things. To him she was an opportunity to no longer be the the youngest, an opportunity to be a big brother to someone again. He’d thrown himself into the role with vigor, taking exception to anything negative said against her, if it was said out of true spite. He mostly ignored Rebekah’s playful barbs, seeing them for the affectionate gesture they were. She was also the chance to start again. She was a clean slate for all of them, a new beginning. As they taught her everything that they knew they could experience it all over again and maybe this time they could get it right.

Elijah saw her as their second chance to be a family again. She would be the calming presence that might keep them from imploding again. She was a new hope, but at the same time he saw her for who she was. A baby vampire who need guidance and aide. A girl who needed people who wouldn’t manipulate and guilt her into doing what they thought was best. People who would listen to her, she needed them as much as they needed her.

Klaus only ever saw her as Caroline, and for him that was more than enough.

Now it was time for this game to reach its conclusion so they could move on and start again.

Elijah stood in the center of the room, barely a foot separating him from Caroline. Niklaus of course had taken up his now customary position at her back, while Rebekah and Kol stood on either side of her. She was surrounded by his family on all sides and yet she did not waver, her gaze held his steadily, and he knew then more than before that she was always meant to walk beside them. She was a part of their family already, now it was only a matter of helping her see it.

“Don’t worry, we’re nearly done now. This will all be over by the end of the day today. Just a few more answers to be given before we continue.”

They all froze, most likely trying to prepare themselves for what they believed was coming next, it was entertaining to watch.

“Kol.”

“Yes, Elijah?” His brothers tone was as mocking as ever. He’d long since given up on getting the proper respect from him.

“Tell me, what do you think of Caroline Forbes?”

“I didn’t think anything of her at first, to me she was just this little blonde baby vamp that my brother was making a fool of himself over. I would watch Nik chase after her through a crowd and find it entertaining, but other than that she never truly registered with me. Until Nik came to us a few weeks ago and told us just how well she understood our family. After I realized she understood me I started thinking about her, trying to put us on an even standing more than anything, if someone understands my motivations and actions so well I want to understand theirs. It was only after I started actively recalling her and thinking about what she’s done that I started to truly form an opinion of her. I think Caroline Forbes is one of the bravest people I’ve ever met. Human, vampire, werewolf, or witch. She tops them all.”

Kol thought she was brave? No one ever thought she was brave. Stupid, occasionally, but never brave.

“Why do you feel that way Kol?”

“Because I’ve known centuries old vampires, and power mad witches alike who would quake in fear at the idea of turning their back on our brother. For most people turning your back on Nik means you don’t see the attack coming in time, because make no mistake if anyone else had done what she had they would have been attacked. At first I thought she’d done it because she was counting on his infatuation with her to keep her safe, to keep to worst of his anger at bay. Then I remembered the look in her eyes as she turned from him in the bar, she’d been acting as a distraction for him so that her friends could dagger me, and at the time I hadn’t even registered the emotion in her eyes. I had been to busy laughing at Niks desperate attempts to gain her attentions. Later while I thought about her I finally placed it, it was resignation mixed with fear.”

That was true, she had been resigned to being a part of the plan, and back then she’d always been at least a little afraid every time she played the distraction for Klaus.

“She fully expected Nik to attack her that night, and she’d known that when it happened there would be nothing she could do to defend herself. Yet, she was determined to play her part, even if it ended up killing her. That is bravery.”

Caroline was stunned, how could Kol think so highly of her? All she’d ever really done was try and trick or kill him and his family. How could he think more of her than most of her friends?That had to be one of the nicest things anyone had ever said about her. She doubted anyone, other than her mother, ever thought of her as brave or really anything truly positive for a long time now. She was never the strong one, not really, she was always just Caroline. Maybe that was part of the problem, all of her friends had known her for so long that they couldn’t see the new her as clearly as others could.

“Rebekah, tell me, what do you think of Caroline Forbes?”

“I hated Caroline from the moment I met her. She was this little baby vampire surrounded by family and friends, nothing about her life had seemed to change by her transformation. She had a control that not only rivaled my own, but surpassed it. She was everything that I wanted to be, she had the life that I wanted but could never seem to hold on to, and I hated her for it. I tried to take her place, to usurp her title as Queen Caroline, I joined every committee and overtook the cheerleading team. I did everything I saw her do, but I did it better, but she was still better than me. She still had her family, Matt, Stefan, everything. The whole school looked up to her and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t surpass her as I wanted.”

Caroline was speechless, not that talking was even an option at them moment. Wow, that wasn’t anywhere near as nice, but at the same time it was. It might not have been a glowing review, but at least it was honest. She could handle someone hating her, especially for those reasons that she understood so well. She’d hated Elena for nearly the same reasons herself not to long ago after all. Until she became a vampire and had seen just how petty and short sighted her hatred was. When Rebekah cleared her throat, preparing to speak again, she realized that she wasn’t done, she still had more to say.

“It was only after I stopped trying to be her that I saw her life for what it was, a mirage. The school still adored her because they didn’t know what she had become. Her family was fractured, with only her mother still remaining by her side, and even she had taken time to come around. She had the boys I liked in her life, but they didn’t treat her like I thought they did, they treated her like she wasn’t a Queen but a pawn. Someone whose support they relied on but to whom they gave nothing in return. After that I didn’t want her life anymore because I already had it. She and I were so similar it hurt to even look at her. So then my feelings shifted slightly and I started hating her for that.”

Hmm, when Rebekah found an emotion she liked she clung to it. She could relate, it was so much easier to stick with first impressions, changing what you thought or felt about someone was harder than just keeping steady.

“It was only after Nik came to us recently and told us some things about her that my feelings and views began to change. Even then it was Kol that made me see through my hatred to what I truly felt for her. I admire Caroline Forbes, because no matter how similar our lives are, practically mirror image in places one thing will always be different. How we deal with those things in our lives. I have never had her control, her attitude, about all the twists and turns my life takes. I still want to be just like Caroline Forbes, I probably always will, but now I don’t want her life because we already share it in many ways. Now I want her, oh I don’t know, I just want to be able to handle things with the confidence and grace that she possesses. Hopefully someday I will.”

Caroline didn’t know how to take that. No one had ever really admired her before, at least not in the same way that Rebekah was admitting to anyway. Plenty of people had admired her for shallow reasons, wanting her style or her organizational skills, but no one had ever really wanted to be like her before. She’d never been enviable before, that had always been other people. To think that Rebekah wanted to be like her, it was mind boggling.

“Klaus, what do you think about Caroline Forbes?”

Here we go, more empty flattery and exposition about her light.

“I think that Caroline is the best person I have ever known. She sees a goodness in me that no one had even bothered to try and look for, beyond my family, for at least five hundred years if not longer. Everyone sees the monster, and make no mistake I am a monster, but she sees something more. She sees potential in me, a chance for me to be something more than just what I have become. I think Caroline Forbes is the light that shines in all the dark places of another’s soul. Her humanity and compassion shine so bright that she makes the worst of us think that maybe we could find a glimmer of it somewhere buried deep within ourselves. She makes us think that maybe we could be saved, with her as our savior.”

Or not. This she could believe, this was real. It was truth, it was his truth. He felt about her how she’d once felt about Matt. When she’d first been turned she’d thought that Matt’s humanity could keep her human, keep her grounded, she’d been wrong. She didn’t need him to stay who she was, but his presence did help. Did her presence help Klaus? She’d helped Stefan to keep his control, could she help Klaus find his humanity? Did she want to?

“Now let me tell you what I think of Caroline Forbes.  I think that you are all of those things and so much more. I think that you are brave, loyal, and compassionate. I think you are filled with a grace and poise that has been gone from this world for many years, and that you deserve to be treated as the Queen that you are. I think that you see the best in everyone, even those that others have written off a being without hope of redemption, and I think you do so without conscious thought. I think that you, Caroline Forbes, are the personification of the best parts of us all.”

Caroline couldn’t stop the tears that were rolling down her face. No one in her life, besides her parents had ever seen her like they did. Even her dad had stopped seeing her that way after she became a vampire. They thought she was strong, beautiful, and amazing. They thought of her what everyone else always thought of Elena.

“Now Caroline we have one question for you to answer, but you will answer it about everyone here.”

She pulled herself together, Elijah gave her a moment to stop her tears, and she nodded when she was ready to continue.

“Caroline, what do you think of Alaric Saltzman?”

“I think that Ric is an amazing man. He’s a good teacher, and a good role model. Sure he lost his way for a little while when Jenna died, but who wouldn’t. The important thing is that he found his way back again. He’s brave, fighting vampires when he’s only human. Kind, he helped out Elena and Jeremy after Jenna died even though he didn’t have to, he didn’t owe them anything. And just an all around good guy. This was never really his fight, after he found out that Damon was the vampire that turned Isobel his reason for coming to Mystic Falls was over, he didn’t have to stick around and help us but he did anyway. He did it, for no other reason than because to him it was the right thing to do.”

Alaric had to blink back the tears that threatened to fall. He’d always thought highly of Caroline but to hear that she thought just as highly of him was a surprise. He’d thought he’d pretty much tanked any true respect she and the others had for him after his little break down after Jenna died. He’d drank to much and didn’t set any boundaries for Elena or Jeremy, he’d been lucky he’d managed to keep his job through the whole mess.

“Caroline, what do you think of Matt Donovan?”

“Matt is the sweetest guy in Mystic Falls. He treats everyone pretty much the same, no matter who they are. He thinks that everyone is deserving of respect until they do something to lose it, and even then he always feels that everyone has the right to earn back what they’ve lost. I’ve never seen him hold a grudge for very long against anyone besides Damon, who let’s face it totally deserves it. Matt is loyal and kind almost to a fault. I can’t help thinking that his life would be better if he were a little more selfish, if he was he would have left Mystic Falls by now and never come back. The only thing left for him here besides painful memories and an even more painful future is us, and I don’t think that should be enough to ruin his life.”

Matt couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Caroline thought he was such a good guy, but she was wrong about one thing. They were worth every bit of it, every bad memory, and every new terrifying situation. Did he wish his sister was still around? Of course he did, but that didn’t mean that what he had left wasn’t worth fighting for, that she wasn’t worth fighting for. Because she was.

“Caroline what do you think of Tyler Lockwood?”

“Tyler is a jackass, but then again he’s pretty much always been one. I thought he was a good person, or at least well on his way to becoming one for a little while there, but turns out I was wrong.”

Tyler kept his eyes down, he couldn’t bring himself to look at Caroline because he knew she was right. He was scum for doing what he did to her, he only hoped he had the chance to make it up to her one day. Or that he even had another day, ever.

“Caroline what do you think of Jeremy Gilbert?”

“I’ve known Jeremy since we were all little, he’s always just been Elena’s little brother. Then like overnight, when we weren’t looking he grew up. He became a friend, a boyfriend, a hunter all these things. Now he’s not just little Gilbert, he’s Jeremy. He’s still easily talked into doing things he shouldn’t, and he still gets angry too quickly, but that’s what growing up’s about learning how to not do those things you used to do. He’s been growing up while no one was looking and I think he’s done a good job of it all on his own.”

Jeremy didn’t know what to think. He’d only ever been Elena’s little brother, he didn’t know that anyone besides Bonnie had noticed him becoming anything else. The fact that Caroline had noticed him while he’d pretty much dismissed her made him feel less like the young man he was slowly becoming and more like the boy he used to be.

“Caroline, what do you think of Stefan Salvatore?”

“Stefan helped me when no one else would. When I became a vampire all anyone else wanted to do was kill me or minimize the damage I was going to do. Stefan was the only one who actually explained everything to me. He told me I wasn’t a monster and that I was still me, I was just more of me. He has issues of his own, god does he have issues, but through it all he’s still a good person. Even when he’s been a monumental pain in the ass, or moping about something he still does everything he can to help his friends. Stefan is one of the best friends you could ever have, because he doesn’t judge you or anything, he just helps you.”

Stefan didn’t know what he’d been expecting but that hadn’t been it. Usually when people talked about him they talked about his being a ripper and having zero control, but Caroline hadn’t, not really. She talked about friendship, she talked about caring enough to try. Now that he thought about it he shouldn’t have expected anything else from Caroline.

“Caroline, what do you think of Damon Salvatore?”

“Devil spawn.” That was it, there was nothing more to say. Damon Salvatore equals devil spawn, always had and in her opinion always would.

Damon figured that was progress, used to be she said that calling him the spawn of Satan was an insult to Satan. He was growing on her.

“Moving on then, Caroline, what do you think of Elena Gilbert?”

“Elena has been my friend for a long time, but we’ve never really been friends exactly. We were for a little while when we were younger Elena, Bonnie and I were inseparable. Then life started getting in the way, I started getting insecure and Elena started getting full of herself. Everything had to be about Elena, or for Elena, or because of Elena. After a while we were friends more because everyone thought we were than because of any true affection between us, with Bonnie as a bit of a common ground buffer zone. In fact we were practically frenemies towards the end of my human days. Even now, that hasn’t really changed, everyones world must revolved around Elena or the whole universe will implode. I care about what happens to her, and I would never wish her harm, but she just isn’t the center of my world anymore.”

Elena wanted to yell at Caroline to take it back. To say it wasn’t true, but she couldn’t. So she contented herself with the knowledge that she knew it wasn’t true. Just because Caroline said it, that was her opinion nothing more.

“Caroline, what do you think of Bonnie Bennett?”

“Bonnie has been my best friend for our whole lives. She was the rope in my tug-a-war with Elena, but she always cared about me. Even when I was a vampire and she hated everything about me, I still saw how much she cared. If she didn’t she wouldn’t have helped me no matter what Stefan had said. She’s like this ultra powerful witch, but she’s still the same Bonnie who always had faith in me, even when she thought I was being ridiculous.”

Bonnie could barely breathe she felt so low. She’d been spending so much time and energy worry about and trying to help out Elena that she’d pushed Caroline to the side without a thought. She really wasn’t a good friend, she hoped that Caroline knew how sorry she was.

“Caroline, what do you think of Kol Mikaelson?”

“Kol is a lot like Klaus, in fact I always think of him as mini-Klaus or Klaus jr., he’s contrary just for the fun of getting a reaction. He’s a little boy who never grew up, because he didn’t have to. People grow up so they can survive one thing or another, but Kol became an Original before that really became and issue for him, then he could survive anything just the way he was. Life didn’t matter much to him anymore, the danger and thrill was gone, so he turned everything into a game as a way of making it fun again. I think he could be a hell of a man if he could just stop being such a little boy first.”

Kol was taken aback by her answer, she really did know them. Having her as a member of the family would be so much fun, he could tell.

“Caroline, what do you think of Rebekah Mikaelson?”

“Rebekah is a lot like me, she thinks that if she can find one person who’ll love her unconditionally, in that way that everyone always talks about then she’ll never be alone. Like me though she’s never truly been in love, not really, because she doesn’t love herself enough to love anyone else yet. She’s in love with being in love, she’s in love with that first love feeling, that rush that comes when you find someone who wants to be with you despite your flaws. I would bet she’s never really been alone. She’s always had family or someone by her side for her whole life, so she’s never had the time or space to find herself, to love herself, to see herself through her own eyes rather than what’s reflected back from the person across from her. I think Rebekah has a lot to love to give, she just hasn’t figured out how to give it yet, or who to give it to.”

Rebekah was almost vindicated to realize that she was right. She and Caroline were alike, being on the same side as her for once would definitely be an interesting adventure.

“Caroline, what do you think of Elijah Mikaelson?”

“Elijah is a man of honor, but only when it suits him to be. He makes his deals always making sure to word it just right to leave himself a loophole, an out, for that inevitable moment when having honor doesn’t serve him anymore. Then as he wipes the blood off his hands he consoles himself by say that he obeyed the deal so his honor is still intact. I think he would be happier if he just let his old ideas of honor go and simply said what he meant straight out. How hard would it be to make a deal that says I’ll help you until it’s no longer in my best interests to do so, that’s a deal I bet he could keep. I’m not saying he doesn’t have honor, hell he’s probably the most honorable person I’ve ever met, I just think he would be happy if he was less honorable and more honest. Honest with the people he makes deals with, honest with his family, and most of all honest with himself. I think he lies to himself most of all, every time he tells himself that he’s happy and that family is enough for him when he obviously wants love as much as Rebekah does.”

Elijah hadn’t met anyone who’d understood him so absolutely, and so quickly, in the whole of his life. She saw through all of his misdirections and deals to the man beneath, he didn’t know if he liked it or not. Only time would tell really.

“Caroline, what do you think of Niklaus Mikaelson?”

“Klaus… Klaus is pretty much himself. What you see is nearly always what you get. I think if he was still human he might be a bit bi-polar, but I think in spite of it all he’s still a good person. Everything he’s done, no matter how bad, has had a good reason behind it. Maybe not a justifiable one, but there was still always something there. He wanted to do the sacrifice so he could be whole again, he wanted Elena’s blood so he could make more like him so he wouldn’t be alone and so that when his family eventually found out the truth about Ester and left him like he thought they would he would have another family to surround himself with.  I think Klaus doesn’t love himself any more than the rest of his family does, all of them could benefit from a freaking supernatural therapist, and that what he wants and needs more than anything is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he belongs somewhere.”

Klaus hadn’t thought she’d understood why he’d been so obsessed with his hybrids but he should have guessed that she would. She understood him better than anyone else ever had, including his family. She saw him, saw them all, clearly and she still thought there was hope for them. She still thought they could be redeemed. Now he thought it too, with her help.

A/N – So that’s it for this chapter. Two left the punishment and the epilogue. Drop me a line and let me know what you thought. I tried to keep everyone as in character as I could, but I might have strayed off course a time or two. I thought about having Elijah ask Caroline what she thought of herself, but then I decided that Caroline’s self esteem issues would be better as a part of the sequel.

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