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stargate, DanielJackson

Torment Of Tantalus (chapter 2)

Posted on 2012.10.24 at 14:08
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Klaus sits in one corner, Damon in another, both half thinking of a solution and half wallowing in despair. Klaus’s cell phone rings. Caroline’s name is on the caller ID.


“Don’t call me until you’ve got something useful to say,” Klaus spits out in answer to the shrill ringing.


“Stefan wants to speak to you,” Caroline says, not missing a beat, “I’m putting the phone down right outside the cave.”


“Wait, no,” Klaus refuses, but is cut off.


“Hi, Nik,” Stefan says softly.


“Hello, Stefan.”


“I heard someone mention trying to apologise to people, thought I would call and find out what you think about that,” Stefan says encouragingly.


“It’s pointless,” Klaus states.


“We both know that’s not the issue. What’s the real reason?”


“There’s no other reason,” he insists.


“What are you worried about?” Stefan replies with insistence of his own.


“What if I can’t do it?”


“It’s going to be hard; it’s supposed to be, but I have faith in you Klaus, trust me, you can do it.”


“Forgive me if I’m not convinced by your platitudes,” Klaus replies.


“How you’re feeling now, that’s how you’ve made others feel, remember that.”


“It’s not the same,” Klaus argues.  


“How so?” Stefan asks.


“I don’t think anyone could feel as strongly as I feel for you.”


“That’s sweet. Only you could be that arrogant. It may be time for some serious introspection Klaus; will you do it for me?”


“Okay,” Klaus says hesitantly.


“Good, all I can ask is that you try. Love you Nik.”


“Yeah, me too,” Klaus says as he hangs up.

Klaus takes a breath, before stating, “Whatever it takes.”   


“If it takes killing you to get that barrier down. I will find a way to kill you, and I will do it, and then I will find a way to live with Stefan hating me, because at least he will be alive,” Damon replies, because it’s the truth and it’s always a competition.  



***




One month ago


“Is there any other order of business?” the coven leader Jessica asks.


“I have one,” Tamsin declares.  


“Go ahead,” Jessica says, waving her hand permissively.  


“Klaus is more powerful than ever before; it’s a serious threat that we’ve been ignoring because it’s convenient to,” Tamsin says. 


Ciara, one of the younger witches, sits silent after this line is delivered by the elder witch; the world itself is in the balance here, her next action crucial. The others might think her a foolish youngster if she had brought the important matter of Klaus to their attention. So she had waited, patiently. Now was her chance to prove herself. She listens carefully to the tone around her, and all of the members’ body language; who was for action and who needed convincing. She lets the discussion flow on without her for several minutes.


“He is indestructible and, as it has been mentioned, more powerful than ever. It would not be a wise endeavour to target him,” Jessica decrees sternly.


It is now that she lets her idea be known;  

“We must lead him to seek redemption, it is the only way,” Ciara points out, holding in a scoff at the general surprise that she had a good idea; she has always been underestimated. She receives a few nods of consideration and then moments later a few words of approval.   


“It’s an option.”


“It would definitely be safer than a straight-forward attack.”


“That seems like a rather tall order,” a grey-haired witch rebukes.   


“We will give him no other choice; we will use Stefan Salvatore,” she proclaims quietly, hiding her excitement at the buoying effect the others’ agreement is having.  


“That’s a very dangerous strategy. It could end up with the situation being much more unstable than it is now.”


“It’s only an illusion of stable; we’re just sitting around waiting for the bubble to burst.” 


“You cannot force someone to redeem, they either feel remorse for their actions or they do not,” Jessica says.


Ciara knew it was true, and yet was counting on the others to not listen; as careless as ever in their righteousness;

“It will be real. Klaus will feel the pain of potentially losing Stefan, and he will understand the pain he caused others.”


A vote is taken. She conceals a beaming smile as hand after hand rises in support of her plan, she has waited months for this topic to come up, and the results she has just achieved are only the beginning.



***




“Someone else should go in first,” Klaus states, walking up an unevenly paved path to a house with moss growing up the wall and a door with half the paint peeled off.


“Fine, I’ll scope it out,” Damon agrees with annoyance.   


“When I said someone else, I meant someone who isn’t you.”


“This is going to suck either way, just get on with it,” Damon says, knocking with the small lion-head knocker.


The door slowly opens to a reveal a chubby woman who looks to be in her fifties and has short cropped hair.


“We would like to talk about your husband, for a new memorial that’s being made to him,” Klaus says softly, smiling his most charming smile.


“Oh, come in,” the woman replies, expression morphing from cheer to sombre, gesturing for them to take a seat.


Klaus killed the woman’s husband. She speaks of the man with fondness in her voice and sorrow in her eyes. Even as her words make him think of Stefan, he still doesn’t care.


“I killed him,” Klaus states.


Her face contorts in lines of anger before dropping towards fear. Klaus has torn out the line before she can reach the phone.


“Wait, stop,” Klaus demands loudly, cutting her off as she runs for the door.


“What do you want?” She whimpers. 


“I’m here to atone,” Klaus murmurs reluctantly. She startles at that, angrily waving a fist in his face.


“Why, so you can feel better? Why should you be able to feel any better after what you’ve done!” she yells. “Get out!”


Klaus supresses the urge to just drink the screeching woman dry, and instead asks softly,


“Listen, I know you have no reason to hear me out, but what about you--don’t you have any questions?”   


“Get out! Get out! Get out!” she yells repeatedly.


Klaus leaves, because compelling her probably wouldn’t be conducive to his purposes.


“I’m so much better at the fake sincerity,” Damon says as they’re leaving.


“Funny. Do you think I’m not trying? I want to care, I just don’t.”


“You’ve been hanging around Stefan too long.”


“These human deaths don’t matter. He would’ve died anyway in a fraction of the time vampires live.”  



***  




At the next place the situation devolves into a guy throwing potted plants and Klaus retaliating by throwing a television, bookshelves and a door.


“As much fun as this is, we’re leaving now,” Damon says. 




***




There is a legend, a story young witches tell each other around campfires, of a witch not quite alive and not quite dead, who has been haunting covens for untold years. It’s said her bones were built from old dark magic, eyes as dark as the world. It’s said her power was too vast for any human heart, and so this creature she became, wielding magic as tempered as the darkest depths of hell.



***




Klaus’s going through the motions, another car ride, another door bell, another house or flat, another phone call measuring the time that’s running out. All he can think about is Stefan.


But he does his job efficiently, he will save Stefan, he always finds a way to make what he wants happen and this is not going to be the one exception. This can’t be the exception. He may not be the best at getting people to love him, but he was already the best at charming them a few centuries back. He imagines Stefan’s voice in his head telling him that’s not really the point here.


He had a reason for killing every one of them (he doesn’t know the names, let alone locations of the pointless kills or snacks). He goes through the motions with words of remorse, trying to feel them when all he can feel is numbness. There is always a clock ticking down, his super-hearing focuses on it almost against his will, bites his tongue to stop himself from breaking the quaint Swiss cuckoo when it announces the hour.  


Their rage and fear and grief and odd piece of grudging acceptance would maybe still amuse him if he wasn’t in the situation he’s currently in. The anger and sorrow these people feel will end, even if it is only with their death. Klaus knows he doesn’t have that luxury, knows what it is to have felt broken for centuries on end, knows he cannot face forever without Stefan.  


The time in between places is taken up finding out where someone is and figuring out how to get there as fast as they can. They stay silent, neither finding words helpful.


When it gets too late to knock on doors, they sleep in the car because they can’t be bothered to find a motel. 



***




The sun rises with wisps of pink and orange adorning the clouds, he can see patches of it through the holes Klaus made in the top of the cave, wonders detachedly whether it will be his last sunrise. Pain lances through his body, winding like spiral fractures. He thinks about the things he should do whilst he’s moderately lucid: he has said goodbye to Caroline, even though she refused to accept it. He should say goodbye to Elena while she’s here; he turns his head to call to one of the girls hovering around, to ask them to get Elena.


“Can you help me?” Stefan asks.


“Sure, what do you want?” the girl replies, coming closer.


That’s when he realises she’s human, how hungry he is, how much he wants blood that’s not out of a blood bag. Stefan looks at her, trying to focus, everything hazy, he wanted to ask her something.


“Would you be okay with someone drinking your blood?” he asks.  


Stefan leads the girl into the house, checking one final time that she’s okay with this, pretending he doesn’t know that she’s hoping this will end with him turning her.


“I brought you breakfast,” Stefan declares cheerily as he enters his and Klaus’s bedroom.


Klaus’s grin turns to a quizzical look when he notices that instead of a blood bag, Stefan has brought him a live meal.


“What, you thought I didn’t already know you still regularly drink straight from people,” Stefan asks grinning.


“No, I knew you knew, I’m wondering why you’re suddenly okay with finding and compelling me food,” Klaus states.   


Stefan begins to wonder whether this was a good idea, he wanted to do something special for his husband’s birthday because he knew how special it was to him. But he had also learned from Elijah (and Rebekah and Kol) that Klaus doesn’t like anyone knowing it’s his birthday due to previous disappointments. So he was trying to do something low-key without giving away that he knew. But Klaus doesn’t seem interested in feeding and keeps looking at him strangely.


“What’s wrong?” Stefan asks.


“It’s been a long time since you’ve compelled someone for their blood,” Klaus says pointedly.


“I’m not compelled, I want to do this,” the girl pipes up.


“Of course you do,” Klaus chortles, “only you Stefan.”


Stefan sees Klaus relax, and take hold of the girl’s hand, kissing the back of it, and drawing her closer.


“You were scared I had gone all ripper again!” Stefan exclaims in surprised realisation. “But you love ripper me!”


“Yeah, but then you’ll go all good again, and be all hateful and resentful, and it’s all so boring,” Klaus says nonchalantly.


“You care, that’s adorable.”


“Don’t make me rip your liver out.”



***




It’s mid-afternoon and they’ve barely stepped into a little flat when a 9mm is pointed at them. Klaus is too fed up to not laugh.


After the day they’ve had, the gun isn’t a surprise. The wooden bullets are.


The sound of shots pepper the air, and Damon collapses. Klaus rolls his eyes and throws Damon over his shoulder before speeding off. As he comes to a stop, Klaus drops the vampire on the floor like a sack of rotten potatoes. The bullet wounds can’t be too bad because Damon regains consciousness quickly. Said wounds make for a necessary break, and Damon broaches the subject they’ve been avoiding.


“So that’s four gonna to kill you, five want you to leave them alone, two are glad they don’t need to live in fear anymore, and one decided to forgive you, that’s a promising tally,” Damon deadpans as he hunches tiredly digging bullets out of himself.  


“I’m over a thousand years old, I’m well aware of the consequences my actions have. I’m not a child who needs to be confronted by them to understand. This is not helping matters or making me feel sorry,” Klaus replies with frustration, idly watching Damon remove bullets without bothering to help.


The truth is Klaus is tired of all this. Besides, (even though he won’t admit it) it has been years since he killed anyone; Stefan’s bad influence. He doesn’t like seeing his playthings as people, but he doesn’t like the idea of failing and leaving Stefan to die even more.



***




It’s said if she comes upon you, there will be nothing you can use to fight her, you will be frozen, and she will steal your last breath. You will feel your magic leave you as air leaves your lungs. 




***




“He was a good person; he didn’t deserve to die like that.”  


When he heard those words over thirty hours earlier, he had scoffed, the repetition by others had only bored him. All humans die, and it’s never pretty, and if you think someone is an innocent it’s only because you don’t know them well enough. But somehow this is different, like waking up in the same bed for the hundredth time and realising a painting hook he never noticed has been there all along.


It’s at that moment, hearing the words for maybe the fifth time that day, that something breaks. Everything floods in at once. He thinks of Stefan, the ripper of Monterey, the worst of the worst, but the thing with Stefan was, he always, always tried, always changed himself, moved himself towards some fictional ideal. For the first time Klaus thinks about how Stefan doesn’t deserve this. There’s anger tensing his muscles, he resists the urge to throw something. There’s a deep clenching in his chest and a sting in his nostrils.


Klaus feels terrible. And he’s relieved.


“Go ahead,” Klaus urges, “do whatever you want to me, I deserve it.”


He has to fight the urge to smile through his nausea. He thinks Stefan would be proud as he passively lets the man skewer him with whatever he has to hand. Klaus heals quickly, but doesn’t think that defeats the point. There’s an unused plank of laminate flooring protruding from his stomach, and he wonders who keeps spare laminate floor panels lying around, it hurts more than the massive plastic thing buried in his back. The blood darkening his shirt is now all over, making the garment look a different colour entirely, instead of just heavily stained. 


He can hear Damon outside making a call, telling them to check again whether the ‘insidious wall has been vanquished.’



***




“Stefan?” Elena asks. She’s shuffling around, he hasn’t seen her shuffle like that for a while, and then Damon’s next to her holding her hand. She shakes it off reluctantly.


“There’s something we have to tell you, Stefan, it’s not for your permission or anything, but you deserve to know,” Elena pauses, “Damon and I are together now.”


“Good. That’s good, I’m glad. Actually I’m seeing someone myself,” Stefan answers.


“Really, who?” Damon asks bluntly.


Stefan twitches his fingers, but then just blurts it out;

“Klaus.”


“Are you insane!” Elena exclaims.


“Did he compel you?” Damon inquires.


“No and no. But I’m happy, I know this is a lot to ask after everything, but can you give it a chance?”


“When did this even happen?”


“It was after we desiccated him wasn’t it; you remembered everything,” Damon states confidently.  


“How did you know?” Stefan questions with surprise.


“You’re obvious when you’re mooning over people.”  


“So…are you guys going to be okay with this?”


“Give us some time, we will be,” Elena says.


“Perfect emotional blackmail timing, Stef,” is Damon’s only response.


“Stefan?” Elena asks again, and suddenly he’s not in the boarding house anymore.


Right, cave, wolf-bite, hallucinations.


He sees her nudge the wall with subtlety as she sits down, and turn her head to hide her disappointment. 


“Where are Damon and Klaus?” Stefan asks, to let them both avoid the subject.


“They’ll be here,” Elena replies with determination.


“They’re off trying to save the day.”


“Not really the type to sit by a bedside.”


“Yeah, boy can we pick’em,” Stefan jokes.


“You should see what my ex was like,” Elena smirks in return.



***




Klaus is on his knees. Well, he’s not actually physically on them, but he is in every other way closer to it than he’s ever gotten.


Let it never be said that Klaus wasn’t one to own his selfishness. This is almost not even about Stefan for him. One thousand fucking years, and Stefan is the only one who truly understands him. He thinks everyone has that right, don’t they, to someone who truly understands and truly loves them. This is what Klaus deserves to have, after everything, it’s not fair that he’s losing it. No one else can get it, what it is to be alone for so long.


Decades and centuries littered about the place. People who try to measure up, only make the absence more stark with their failure.


They go to a witch Klaus knows, one who is somewhat of a specialist about these types of curses.


“Why isn’t it working?” Klaus roars at her.


“You haven’t truly redeemed. Your regret only comes from the desire that Stefan not die not true remorse,” she explains unapologetically.  


“What is this, I can’t, I am sorry, why, make it work, it has to work, I…” Klaus mumbles incoherently for several minutes on end, and then something snaps, and the person who took every bit of pain and used it as fuel takes over.  


“This was all a lie! You think you can mess with me? I will destroy everyone you’ve ever met,” Klaus yells, apoplectic. 



***




Two weeks ago

Ciara follows the orders of the older witch, surreptitiously intertwining her magic with the other witches, allowing her to play with the spell later.


“Very good,” the older witch encourages, while orchestrating her movements with a snooty air.


She smiles slyly, she can’t contradict the spell, but she can make it stronger, putting a back-up for the ‘wall’ in place. She will show everyone how she gets things done, will make it so that there’s no chance of the curse breaking unexpectedly. Then she will be worthy.  


“So the plan is set, and the spell is in place--are we sure the barrier will work as we desire?” the coven leader asks.


“Yes, as soon as Klaus repents, the barrier will disappear,” the elder witch confirms.


“Good. Then we must plan to capture Stefan.”



***




“Klaus, Klaus, I’m sorry, please come back, I’m sorry, don’t be angry, I’m sorry, sorry, Damon, come stay with me, I’ll do better, sorry, so sorry,” Stefan whimpers in confused delirium.


Elena runs into the cave, forcing herself to stop before she reaches the barrier, she speaks softly,

“Hey, it’s okay, Stefan, none of this is your fault, they’re just away because they’re trying to help, everything’s okay, no one is angry with you.”


“Don’t go, please don’t, come, I need you, I’m sorry, I’ll do whatever you want, sorry,” Stefan continues crying and begging. 


Elena tries to soothe him, but nothing works.



***




“Get back here,” Elena orders as soon as Damon answers the phone.


“We’re trying to save the day Elena, no time to babysit.”


“He’s scared and confused, and he’s blaming himself for your absence; he needs you here, both of you. I know this is hard, Damon, but sometimes there’s no saving the day. I know you, Damon; you won’t forgive yourself if you’re not here at the end.”


Damon hangs up the phone.


“Not quitting,” Klaus announces, as Damon simultaneously says, “Not giving up.”


They smirk at each other. And keep driving.



Elena calls again ten minutes later and doesn’t bother to argue, she knows them better than that. She leaves Stefan on the line, probably half for the purposes of a goodbye and half for emotional blackmail. A tinny distant sound comes over the phone; it’s full of half-formed pleas and painful mewling. The line remains open, and the sound carries on, unending.


Damon stares straight ahead vacantly. Klaus lets the car roll to a stop.


Both of them sit perfectly still, turning the car around means Stefan is actually going to die, no ifs, buts, or maybes to save him. It would help if one of them wasn’t one of them, neither he nor Damon are the type to readily accept surrender. Klaus would probably tear off the steering wheel his fingers are clenched around if they didn’t need the car to drive back.



***




“I was assured this would work as we required, what has happened?” Jessica demands.


“We don’t know, we’ve tried taking it down ourselves using the precautions we put in place but nothing’s working.”


“You made it weak, I fixed it,” Ciara asserts.


“What did you do? You must reverse it.”


“I made it so the barrier wouldn’t dissipate, and it can’t be reversed.”


“You foolish child, you do not understand the retribution Klaus will seek, you have doomed us all.”


“Oh, I understand perfectly well. I did not do this for you, I did it for the witch with bones of dark magic.”


“You betray your sisters for a witches fairy tale.”


Her mother told her it was just a story. Her grandmother told her it was quite a new story at that, the untold number of years being closer to fifty. She knew different, she felt it, deep down in her very soul.



***




Damon and Stefan sit silently on the ground, alone together. This is what they do. Occasionally having conversations through body language alone. Klaus can’t help the strong pang of jealousy; he and Stefan could read each other very well, but he had hoped to one day master wordless communication of this level. As he approaches, Damon slowly stands and leaves, locking eyes with his brother for one final moment.



***




Stefan’s eyes are closed; they have been for a while, but his hand is still up against the barrier; seeking warmth that isn’t there. Klaus places his hand in the same place; it could look like they were touching. He listens to Stefan’s heart, so slow now, he’s angry, unrelentingly angry, it feels wrong that his anger alone can’t bring down the barrier.


“It’s going to be okay,” Stefan rasps.


“Fuck you, ripper,” Klaus barks out a half choked laugh.


Stefan’s lips pull up in an attempted smile, his hand now sliding down. Klaus listens for the next heartbeat, but it doesn’t come.



***




The story says this witch was once pure but plagued by dark forces which her magic could not quell, so she reached inside herself, to her own darkness, to destroy the dark forces, but as she used more of herself, she reached deeper and deeper, into darker and darker depths, until her entire being was inverted, until she became darkness itself.



Chapter Three





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