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Treachery

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Previously, in Trials and Tribulations:

Elena raised an eyebrow. “And what do you suggest?”

“A truce.” Klaus said simply. “Between me and my family, and you and yours.”

***

“You think he means it?” Damon asked.

“He seemed genuine enough.” Elena said slowly. “And Rebekah seemed to think he wasn’t going to kill me – she said she’d see me at school.”

“I think he’s honest about the truce.” Katherine offered. “It’s letting me go I don’t buy.”

***

Katherine nodded. “I’m not sorry that I killed you.”

Caroline tilted her head, thinking for a second. “Honestly, Katherine, neither am I.”

***

“Jeremy’s right.” Katherine said, raising her voice a little so the others could hear her. “But Klaus gave me some blood. I’m fine.”

Damon stared at her, not entirely sure he hadn’t imagined the words that had just left her mouth. “I … Klaus saved you?”

“Yeah.” Katherine gave him a smile that seemed to wobble slightly. “Guess he meant it when he said he was letting me go.”

***

“I think it would be better if we went back to just being friends. It’s not you, it’s me. Okay, it is you as well, but in a nice way.”

“Very good.” Tyler said, his smile broadening into a grin. “That’s the easiest relationship break-up I’ve ever been through.”

“Me too.” Caroline agreed, breathing a sigh of relief. “And hopefully we can carry on without things being awkward.”

“Given you started teasing me about other girls before we actually ended it,” Tyler said dryly, “I shouldn’t think that’ll be too difficult.” He smirked. “You’ve never given me a straight answer, you know. What is going on with Klaus?”

Caroline took a gulp of coffee, wishing it was something stronger. “Don’t ask.”

***

“We’d be delighted to attend, Elena.” Elijah told her with a smile. “Would you like us to pass Rebekah’s on to her?”

Klaus smirked. “Haven’t you heard, Elijah? Our baby sister is one of Elena’s bridesmaids.”

Elijah was silent for a few seconds. “How the hell did that happen?”

***

“Unfortunately, I have need to leave Mystic Falls for a while.”

“Oh.” Caroline said quietly, inwardly scolding her stomach for turning over at his words. “Why?”

“Over a century ago, my father forced me to leave my home in New Orleans.” Klaus answered. “It was the last time my siblings and I were together peacefully …”

“And when you daggered Kol.” Caroline finished. “Rebekah told me the story. You blamed Kol’s actions for luring your father there in the first place.”

“It was my city, Caroline.” Klaus continued, neither confirming nor denying his sister’s words. “I ruled it.”

“Knowing you, you still do.” Caroline said slowly. “So … rebellion?”

Klaus smiled, almost coldly, although she knew that wasn’t aimed at her. “Smart girl. There are a few witches plotting against me. I need to … deal with them.”

***

Caroline sighed. “Let me guess. It’s not witches.”

Elijah’s lips twitched. “No, it is not. The ringleader appears to be an old protégé of Niklaus’s – Marcel – and my sources suggest that he has in his possession a white oak stake.”

***

“We need a plan, guys.”

“Yeah, or you guys are screwed.” Jeremy said, frowning.

Damon sighed. “What are you talking about, Baby Gilbert?”

Jeremy’s scowl deepened at the nickname, but he elaborated anyway. “The bloodline curse? If Klaus dies, you all die too, right?”

***

“First of all,” Bonnie said, “Rebekah, call Elijah and Kol and tell them to stay away from New Orleans. As much as I hate to admit it, Damon and Katherine are right – this is going to take a subtle touch.”

Rebekah looked up at her with hope glimmering in her eyes. “Bonnie?”

“I have a plan.” Bonnie confirmed. “And it just might work …”

***

“Welcome to New Orleans, and the crown jewel of the Crescent City, the French Quarter. Jazz and jambalaya, romance, poetry … not to mention the things that go bump in the night.”

The crowd tittered appreciatively, one more so than the others, feeling certain that their guide, like herself, knew only too well that those legends were not just legends.

“Monsters that feed off human blood, vengeful spirits of the dead, and my personal favourite – the witches.”

Oh, yeah, she definitely knows.

Glancing down the street, Caroline slipped out of the tour group and into the throngs of people milling around.

She felt his presence before she saw him, a man out of the corner of her eye. She did not acknowledge him, nor did she confront him, making her way back to the Hotel Royale, letting herself into her suite with a soft sigh.

Her shoes landed with a thud in the corner and she wandered across the room to lean on the balcony fence, gazing out over a city in turmoil. “What have you learned?”

“Marcel suspects nothing.” Her shadow answered. “Only a small circle of his crew have daylight rings, so the majority are confined to a few sanctuaries until the sun goes down. They feed only on tourists, some kind of arrangement they have with the locals. There are no werewolves anywhere near this city and the witches are not allowed to practice magic.”

Caroline turned her back on the vista to survey the hybrid before her. “What do you mean; they’re not allowed to practice magic? How does he stop them?”

“I don’t know.” He admitted. “But one died tonight. Jane-Anne Devereaux. Her body was found in the middle of the street, in the place they call the Cauldron. Marcel and his guys came and took it, so her sister couldn’t bury the body. Apparently they practice ancestral magic, which means …”

“I know what it means.” Caroline interrupted. “Bonnie told me about it. If they don’t bury her body, her sister will never be at peace.” She turned back to the bright lights of New Orleans. “Once we have him, locate her body and bring it to me.”

“Anything else?”

Caroline took a deep breath. “Yes.” She said, after a few moments. “Tell me about the wolves. What happened to them?”

“They were run out of town twenty or so years ago.” He answered. “I heard rumours, before, of a powerful clan – two clans – who lived outside New Orleans, but whatever happened to them, they’re gone now. The bayou’s empty. We checked.”

Caroline nodded thoughtfully.

While it had been agreed that her friends could not accompany her on this trip, she’d had no intention of walking into a potential war by herself.

Klaus’s hybrids, once his temporary death had broken the sire bond, had formed their own pack near Mystic Falls and it was they she had turned to for help.

It had gone … Well, about as well as could be expected really.

None of them wanted anything to do with Klaus now the sire bond was broken, even when she informed them of the bloodline curse tying their lives to his.

In fact many seemed to feel that dying was a small price to pay to rid the world of Klaus for good.

Caroline had not attempted to dissuade them, feeling it akin to suicide, but a small number – about ten – had followed her to New Orleans, finding her at the airport in Louisiana.

Furious with Klaus they may have been, suicidal they were not.

They had made it abundantly clear, however, that they would not take Klaus’s orders.

Not this time.

Still, she would cross that bridge when she came to it.

In the meantime, she wasn’t Klaus, and for a group of people who resented the sire bond, they seemed almost desperate for some kind of leadership or mission.

“So Marcel has the whole French Quarter under his command.” Caroline concluded softly. “The wolves gone, the witches powerless, the humans letting him run riot, and the vampires in a never-ending party. Why go after Klaus now?”

“I don’t think he did.”

This second voice caused Caroline to step back inside, closing the shutters behind her. In contrast to Adrian, who had been in his forties when he turned, Jeanette was young, barely older than Caroline herself.

Sometimes, she marvelled at the fact that they were listening to her, but then she remembered that they probably didn’t know for sure how old she was.

After all, Rebekah looked no older than Caroline. Looks, especially when it came to vampires, could be deceiving.

“What do you know, Jeanette?”

“It’s not a sure thing.” Jeanette warned. “But I’ve heard things. Marcel’s nervous about Klaus’s return. That’s why the stake’s in circulation again.”

Caroline frowned. “But if Marcel didn’t lure Klaus back to kill him, then who did?”

“Maybe whoever your source was?” Adrian suggested.

“Elijah was my source.” Caroline murmured. “But maybe …” She pulled out her phone and dialled Rebekah’s number.

“Have you found him?”

“Hello to you too.” Caroline greeted. “Not yet. Or rather, I know where he is, but I haven’t approached him yet. I’m still figuring out what’s going on. I need Elijah’s number.”

“No need.” Rebekah said. “He’s right here.”

“Miss Forbes?”

Caroline grimaced. “Caroline, Elijah, please. How did you learn of Marcel and the stake?”

“Why do you ask?”

Caroline sighed. “Because my intel suggests that Marcel didn’t lure Klaus here, that he’s worried about Klaus being here. Who was your source?”

“A witch.”  Elijah answered. “By the name of Jane-Anne Devereaux.”

Caroline closed her eyes. “Great. She was killed tonight for using magic.”

“For using magic?”  Elijah repeated.

“Long story.” Caroline said darkly. “I’ve got it in hand. I think.”

“Well, that is comforting. I don’t suppose you can tell us of this plan?”

“Not at the moment.” Caroline said, her hand caressing the weapon lying on her nightstand. “In time.” She hung up the phone, turning once more to her companions. “In which case, we definitely need to procure Jane-Anne’s body. Her sister may be able to give us answers, but we need a peace offering.”

“Do you think she lured Klaus here to kill Marcel?” Adrian asked.

Caroline smiled slightly. “If she did, then she was a fool. We all know Klaus hates being backed into a corner. Any idea when Marcel has this planned for?”

“Not yet.” Jeanette admitted. “They think we’re nightwalkers. They can see we don’t have daylight rings, but we’re not even close to being accepted. As far as they’re concerned, we’re just passing through. As long as we keep to the rules, they aren’t worried, but we could be anyone.”

“We need someone on the inside.” Caroline murmured. “But how?”

“I might have a way.” Jeanette said. “There’s a bloodletting tonight, at the compound.”

“Bloodletting?” Caroline repeated.

Jeanette nodded. “Every so often, the vampires disperse, invite tourists to this big party. As soon as the clock strikes midnight, it becomes an all-you-can-eat buffet. No one dies, they get fed vampire blood, compelled to forget and sent on their way.”

Caroline raised an eyebrow. “And Klaus will be there?”

“Not tonight.” Jeanette answered. “At least, he’s not invited.”

“When has that ever stopped him?” Adrian muttered.

Jeanette gave him a small smile. “But that’s a lot of tourists wandering around New Orleans with vampire blood in their systems. Drunk. Disoriented. Anaemic. Not difficult for one of them to meet with an accident. If we can get there before anyone else does, we might stand a chance of getting a man on the inside.”

Caroline gnawed on her lower lip. “Alright.” She said finally. “Stake it out. Keep an eye on as many of those tourists as you can. Marcel will have people at the morgue, he’ll have some way of distinguishing his guests, so we need to get to them before the authorities. Natural causes, only, alright? Take it from someone who knows, if we turn someone, they will turn against us.”

***

It was a long shot.

But the long shot, amazingly, paid off.

Just before two am, Adrian returned, the body of a young man slung over his shoulder.

“Young.” Caroline commented. “Is this the best we could find?”

“The night’s still young.” Adrian said, dumping the boy on her bed. “Besides, how old were you when you turned again?”

“Seventeen.” Caroline allowed.

“Well, he looks older than seventeen.” Adrian pointed out. “And Marcel has a rule about harming kids.”

“At least he draws a line.” Caroline muttered, brushing boy’s hair from his face. “How did he die?”

“Bit too much to drink, bit too much blood loss, stumbled and fell down a flight of stairs.” Adrian answered,

Caroline’s hand traveled down the side of his face to … “Broken neck.” She concluded. “Quick, at least.” She sat back in the chair beside the bed, reaching for her book. “Thank you, Adrian. See if you can figure out where Klaus is hiding, would you?”

He nodded and vanished as quickly as he’d appeared.

And an hour later, a new vampire awoke gasping on her silk sheets.

Marking her place, Caroline set her book aside, reaching out to him. “It’s alright. Don’t be afraid.”

“Who are you?!” He demanded. “Where am I?! What’s going on?! I …” His hand flew to his neck suddenly, scrambling to find evidence of the bites that had undoubtedly marred his skin earlier in the evening.

“Calm down!” Caroline said sharply.

He fell silent, watching her warily.

Caroline moved to sit on the mattress, tucking her feet up under herself, taking his hands. “What’s your name?”

“Josh.” He answered.

“Josh,” she said, smiling, “I’m Caroline. And I’m really sorry to have to tell you this, but you died tonight.”

Josh laughed shakily. “What do you mean, I died tonight? I’m here, aren’t I? Awake? Alive?”

Caroline glanced at the clock and grimaced. “Listen, Josh, we don’t have much time. You remember what happened tonight? With the vampires?”

Josh nodded, shivering, and Caroline moved a hand to his shoulder, rubbing it gently.

“It’s alright.” She said softly. “They gave you vampire blood to heal you. My guys say you fell down a flight of steps.”

“I remember that.” Josh whispered. “My neck …”

“It broke.” Caroline confirmed. “You died with vampire blood in your system. That leaves you with a choice. You can drink human blood and become a vampire, or you can die for good. Hey!” She cupped his face as he turned away, devastation filling his eyes, and forced him to look at her. “I get it. It’s terrifying. When I woke up, I had no way of knowing. I acted on instinct.”

Josh watched, in horrified fascination, as the veins on her face began to darken, blood filling her eyes as her fangs appeared. “So you’re … you’re one of them?”

Caroline smiled, letting her face relax again. “Not exactly. Let me explain.”

For the next few minutes, Josh was silent while Caroline filled him in on Marcel’s regime and what she had learned.

“You want me to feed.” He guessed, when she paused for breath. “You said I had a choice.”

“You do.” Caroline said firmly. “I do want you to feed. Need you to, in fact, you’re my only hope – but I will not force you. I had that choice taken from me. I will not take it from you as well.”

Josh nodded, his jaw setting. “What do you need me to do?”

“I need to you to go to Marcel.” Caroline answered. “Tell him that you woke up and couldn’t control the hunger – that you attacked someone. One of my guys will take care of that. Marcel will dispatch someone to take care of the damage. You died in a fairly isolated place – it’s not unlikely that you’d wake before the authorities found you. He’ll explain things and take you in. That’s what he does with new nightwalkers. As soon as you find out when they’re going to kill an Original, you call me, text me, I don’t care. Just tell me.”

Josh took a deep shaky breath. “I am totally out of my league.” He warned her. “I’m just a club kid who came looking for a good time.”

“I’m just a cheerleader who wanted to be Prom Queen.” Caroline retorted with a smile. “Newsflash: I totally was. Seriously, though, Josh, you have a choice. But do this, and I swear I will help you. I will make sure you can walk in the sun, I will help you control the bloodlust. My family have a habit of hanging on to the people who help us.”

Josh nodded once again, resolve settling in his face. “What do I need to do?”

Caroline smiled and crossed the room to the mini-fridge, extracting one of the blood bags that she’d packed. “In an ideal world, I’d teach you control before you go, but we don’t have time.” She said apologetically. “That’ll have to come later. You need to get to the compound before the sun rises.”

***

Caroline would be lying if she said she didn’t spend the next few hours in a state of nervous anxiety.

There was every chance that Marcel would reject Josh, would make him work for it.

They didn’t even know what Marcel did with tourists who accidentally transitioned.

Just as Caroline was about to snap and search for Josh, drag him out of the mess she’d dumped him into, her phone buzzed on the nightstand and she snatched it up.

The number was unknown, but the message was undeniable.

It’s happening tonight. Guy called Thomas has the stake. Big gathering at the compound, 10pm. J.

Chapter Text

New Orleans came alive at night. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the nightlife, Thomas hurried through the crowd, ignoring the melee of tourists and locals. He was running late, and tonight was an important night for everyone, even if the guest of honour didn’t know it yet.

Blonde hair up ahead caught his attention – a young woman examining one of the vendors’ carts.

A slow smile crossed his face. Maybe a drink would calm his nerves.

He followed her down the street until she disappeared down a side alley, only to reappear almost instantly, practically running into him.

“Oh!” She stumbled back a few steps, her blue eyes wide. “I’m so sorry! I thought that was the street to my hotel.”

Thomas chuckled. “Understandable. How long have you been in New Orleans?”

“It’s my first night.” She answered, smiling widely.

“Well, allow me to escort you.” He said, offering her his arm. “What hotel are you staying at?”

She gave him the name of a hotel a few blocks over, fortunately in the same direction he was heading. As soon as she touched his arm, he mentally crossed off dinner.

The girl had no heartbeat – at least not a human one.

“How long ago were you turned?”

She jumped at that, looking faintly nervous. “Um … about a year and a half ago. Are you …?”

“No worries, gorgeous.” Thomas said with a leer. “I’m just like you, just a little more experienced. Twenty years in.”

“Wow.” She murmured. “This city seems to be a hub for supernatural activity.”

“That’s because we can blend in here.” He said.

She lowered her voice. “I heard the Original vampires built this city.”

“Maybe they did.” Thomas agreed curtly. “But it’s our city now. They left a century ago. Although,” he added, glancing at her, “one of them’s back.”

She shivered, drawing closer to him, just as he had banked upon. “Is it safe?”

“Oh, don’t you worry about him.” Thomas said smugly. “We’ve got plans.”

“You have?”

“Absolutely.” Thomas wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “You just wait, sweetheart, this time tomorrow, the city will be completely safe, for everybody.”

“How do you know?” She pressed, her eyes wide with fear.

Thomas smirked. “Let’s just say, I’m going to have a ring-side seat.”

“You must be very important then.” She said, the fear in her eyes fading to admiration.

Thomas chuckled. “Not really. I am one of the trusted few though. And they have given me a pretty important job tonight.”

“You could be second-in-command by tomorrow then.” She said, smiling up at him. “Maybe even better.”

Thomas couldn’t help smiling back, preening under her attention. This was better than a drink – the faith of a beautiful girl did wonders for a racing heart.

He wouldn’t be second-in-command tomorrow, let alone in charge, but he would be one step closer to the former.

They had reached her hotel and he was still running late, so he released her. “Here we are.”

“Thank you.” She said, obviously relieved. “I thought I was going to stay completely lost.”

“You know, you’re welcome to come along tonight.” Thomas said.

She shook her head. “I don’t do too well in situations like that. But …” She took a step closer to him, pulling his face down to hers.

Thomas responded to her kiss with obvious enthusiasm, letting her hands roam his body under his jacket.

She pressed against him for a second, and then she was gone, stepping out of his arms. “For luck.”

Thomas smirked at her. “Well, with luck like that, how can I fail?”

“Come and find me afterwards?” She asked. “We can … celebrate.”

“I look forward to it.” He said, his eyes tracing the contours of her body.

“As do I.” She responded, blowing him a kiss as he departed. “It’s just a shame,” she murmured, her hand caressing the white oak stake that now resided in her pocket, “that you’re not going to live that long.”

Of course, Caroline could have found Klaus and tipped him off, but all that would do is provoke a confrontation, one she was sure Marcel had prepared for and one that could destroy the balance in New Orleans.

Bonnie’s plan was far more subtle and hinged on one important factor.

No one in New Orleans had ever seen an Original die.

They would be expecting a run-of-the-mill vampire death, not the flames that had consumed Mikael and Finn.

If all went to plan tonight, Klaus would be left with the upper-hand and the all-important element of surprise.

She arrived at the compound – the ‘Abattoir’ as it was morbidly known – the courtyard packed with vampires, talking and laughing, no sign of the treachery that was to come.

Josh was leaning against a wall by the door. He caught her eye and she slipped through the crowd towards him, passing him directions to the plantation house the hybrids had found. “Run.”

He didn’t need telling twice and she turned her back on his departure, her sharp eyes finding the hybrids dotted around the room, hidden amongst the crowd from Klaus, who was engaged in what looked like a rambunctious discussion with Marcel.

Caroline’s heart ached at the smile on Klaus’s face. Elijah had called Marcel Klaus’s ‘protégé’, Rebekah had turned white at the name, but Caroline still didn’t know the full story of the man who had taken New Orleans in their absence.

She got the feeling it was a tragic tale, but there was no time to dwell on that, because Thomas had just appeared, passing behind Klaus and Marcel several times, just another body in the throng of people, before drawing a stake from his jacket and plunging it into Klaus’s back.

It was almost silly, how easy it was – but then Klaus counted himself among allies, not enemies, and would have been expecting an attack from Marcel, if anyone, not from a nameless vampire behind him.

Klaus let out an unearthly howl, his skin turning grey and dry as he crumpled. Under the roar of the crowd, Thomas screamed as he too collapsed. But masked, too, was Caroline’s whistle, the signal for the hybrids to break the necks of the vampire closest to them and launch vervain grenades into the crowd.

The result was chaos, but Caroline didn’t stick around to watch. This was a battle the hybrids would concede in minutes, vanishing into the night, its sole purpose a distraction for her to grab Klaus’s body and run.

The plantation house was beautiful and ornate, and not unlike the house Klaus had built in Mystic Falls.

The family portraits, however, suggested that this had not been the Mikaelsons’ home during their time in New Orleans, although it had definitely existed back them.

Coughing from one of the rooms drew Caroline’s attention, and she found Josh removing dust sheets from the furniture.

“Sorry.” He said, eyeing the body in her arms. “Isn’t he heavy?”

“Vampire strength.” She said with a smile. “I’m surprised he didn’t do all this himself.”

“Some of the rooms have been cleared.” Josh said. “Is he dead?”

“No.” Caroline answered shortly. “The white oak stake would have killed him, but this isn’t a stake. It’s made of metal to begin with.” She continued, before he could ask. “Soaked in white oak ash and spelled to look and feel just like white oak. There is a set of daggers in existence which, when plunged into the heart of an Original Vampire, essentially kills them until the dagger is removed. And that is what this dagger does.”

“Oh.” Josh said quietly.

Caroline hefted Klaus’s body in her arms, glancing towards the stairs. “Happen to find a clear bedroom since you’ve been here?”

“Just one.” Josh said. “Up the stairs, third floor, sixth on the left.”

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Typical. Thanks, Josh. The others should be here soon. Introduce yourself; they’ll play nice.”

Klaus’s bedroom was exactly as she had expected it to be – not that she had spent any time thinking about what his bedroom would look like. She deposited him on his king-size (what else?) bed with tenderness that surprised even her.

For a split-second, the thought crossed her mind that they would have killed to be in this position a year ago.

But even as it did, her mind dismissed it, and she grasped the stake tightly and pulled it out, rolling Klaus on to his back.

There was a knock at the open door and she turned towards it, seeing Jeanette just outside. “Yes?”

“All’s quiet.” She reported. “They believe him dead. They’ve come to the conclusion that we’re a loyal to Klaus but that they just ran us out of town.”

Caroline’s lips curved in a smile. “Good.”

Jeanette nodded towards him. “Are you sure waking him up’s a good idea?”

“No.” Caroline said honestly. “But not waking him would be worse.” She crossed the room and set both the false stake and the real one on the dresser.

“Oh, and we found the witch.” Jeanette added. “Jane-Anne. We left enough so they knew it was us and didn’t go gunning for the witches. Not much of a peace offering if it gets them all killed. She’s in the drawing room.”

“Thank you.” Caroline said. “Wrap her in a shroud and find out where I can find Sophie Devereaux. Spread the word among the others that if they want this to be the extent of their involvement, they need to leave New Orleans now.”

“We’re not leaving.” Jeanette said firmly. “We started so we’ll finish. But we deal with you. Not him.”

Caroline nodded with a barely-concealed sigh. “Very well. Give us some privacy please.”

The door shut with a sharp snap behind the hybrid and Caroline sighed again. “How do I get myself into these things?” She muttered, rolling her sleeve up. “Alright, Klaus, I need you awake sooner rather than later.”

Biting into her wrist, Caroline held her arm to Klaus’s mouth, letting her blood drip on to his lips and bracing herself for the inevitable.

Within seconds, his fangs sunk into her flesh, and she gasped, werewolf venom flooding her system. It was more potent when coming from a hybrid, even more so from him, the Original, the first of his kind, but she wasn’t worried.

Klaus would never let her die.

Sure enough, just as her vision began to go black, his hand grasped her shoulder and tugged her down to rest in his arms, guiding her lips to his throat.

She bit down eagerly, his blood flooding her mouth. She had tasted her blood once before, after Tyler had bitten her (on Klaus’s orders, a dark voice reminded her), but she had never allowed herself to admit just how intoxicating the taste had been.

He released her, and she him, drawing back to see his face, his eyes slowly fading back from yellow to blue.

“Caroline, what are you doing here? You’re supposed to be going to college right about now.”

Caroline shrugged with a blood-stained smile. “You walked into a warzone without back-up. Someone had to do something.”

“Caroline …” Klaus began, a warning note in his voice, but she held up a hand to stop him.

“Let me sum up. You were lured here on false pretences, possibly by the witch Jane-Anne Devereaux to kill Marcel, who’s banned the witches from using magic on pain of death. Marcel had a white oak stake so Jane-Anne contacted Elijah and warned him, except none of us could get hold of you. Jane-Anne has since been killed for using magic and her body taken from her sister so it can’t be consecrated, which is a big deal if you practice ancestral magic. Most of the hybrids couldn’t care less if you live or die, but about ten heeded the bloodline warning and came with me but they refuse to deal with you. On top of that, one of Marcel’s guys accidentally turned a tourist yesterday and we got to him before they did, and he told me when they were planning on killing you, allowing me to swap out the white oak stake thereby saving your life. Any questions?”

“About a thousand.” Klaus answered. “Starting with, why the hell did you not warn me that Marcel had the stake?!”

“If I couldn’t make the switch, I would have done.” Caroline said unrepentantly, moving to allow him to stand and begin pacing the room. “We couldn’t get hold of you, your phone was out of service.”

“A spell.” Klaus said immediately. “It must be.”

“Yeah, but who?” Caroline asked. “None of the witches can do magic without Marcel somehow finding out.”

“Jane-Anne?” Klaus suggested, but Caroline shook her head.

“No, can’t be. She was killed three days ago, but I’ve been trying to call you for a month.”

Klaus smirked at her. “Miss me, love?”

Caroline averted her gaze, stubbornly ignoring the question. “The switch was Bonnie’s idea. If we could give them some kind of knife or dagger that looked and felt like the stake, that would have the same effect on you as a regular stake would on any other vampire then …”

“But why?!” Klaus demanded.

Caroline rolled her eyes, standing to face him. “Would you just think for a second?! If I tipped you off, you’d confront Marcel. Maybe the city would survive your wrath, but I doubt it. You’d lose before you even began. And even if you didn’t, they’d know. They’d know that there’s a weapon out there that can kill you. That scares you. But think about it. They think they’ve used that weapon against you, the only weapon that can kill an Original. So if you walk back in there, alive, that disappears. The only hope they had of killing you didn’t work, so they have to accept it.” She took a step towards him, lowering her voice. “You’re the Original Hybrid. You can’t be killed.”

Klaus gave her a look filled with admiration. “Caroline Forbes, when did you get so devious?”

“You’d be surprised how devious you need to be to survive high school.” Caroline retorted. “So now what?”

“Well, I think I should talk to my hybrids, don’t you?” Klaus said with a wicked smile.

“Klaus …” Caroline said warningly, hurrying after him. “I told you – they …”

“Not to worry, love.” Klaus said dismissively. “I’ve got it all under control.”

“Yeah, that’s what concerns me.” Caroline muttered under her breath.

The hybrids were gathered in the living room with Josh, who looked about ready to pass out with fear, despite Jeanette (who was fast becoming Caroline’s favourite) standing between him and the others.

“Welcome to New Orleans.” Klaus greeted. “Although I hear that greeting is a little late.”

The room’s atmosphere became cold so quickly that Caroline was surprised they didn’t all get frostbite.

“I am not so blind as to think that I do not owe you all my gratitude.” Klaus continued. “I could apologise for my actions, but that would be insulting your intelligence.”

Caroline blurred to Josh’s side, making him jump with the sudden movement, but he was by far the most vulnerable in the room.

“Instead, I offer a suggestion. You will deal solely with Caroline. I will not seek to command you again.”

“Hang on.” Caroline said. “There has to be a catch here.”

Klaus held a hand out to her. “Long ago, it was widely known that the Queen handled negotiations. I owe you my life. I would be a fool not to heed your counsel. Of course, this does mean you would have to stay in New Orleans.”

“And there it is.” Caroline said with a sigh.

“Believe me, Caroline, I am not happy about that.” Klaus told her. “I would rather you were safe, far away, but you have proved time and time again that you can take care of yourself.”

Caroline couldn’t help smiling. “I should hope so. Now, I suggest that the first thing we do is deal with the witches. We need them onside as soon as possible.”

“You said the witch that lured me here is dead.” Klaus said.

“I did.” Caroline agreed. “I also said that Marcel took her body and she had a sister. We got the body back – Jeanette, any word on Sophie Devereaux?”

“She works at Rousseau’s in the kitchen.” Jeanette answered. “She’s working tonight.”

“Wonderful.” Klaus said. “I suggest we go and speak with her then.”

“Er, Klaus?” Caroline asked. “Are you sure you don’t want to save your big return for something a little more … dramatic? I mean, don’t you want to see the looks on those vampires faces rather than have them hear it second hand?”

Klaus seemed to ponder this for a few minutes. “Now that you mention it, Caroline, that would be altogether more fun.”

“I’ll go and see Sophie.” Caroline said. “See if there’s somewhere more private we can talk. Then you can meet us there with Jane-Anne’s body.”

“Ah, leverage.” Klaus said, nodding. “Devious.”

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Not leverage. A peace-offering. We need to distinguish ourselves from the outset as different from Marcel or we’ll never get them onside.”

“Do we need them onside?” Adrian asked.

“Unless you want to be fighting them for the next century or so, yes.” Caroline answered. “Any Rousseau’s regulars I should be aware of?”

“Marcel seems rather besotted with the bartender.” Jeanette told her.

Caroline grimaced, foreseeing a long discussion with Klaus about the benefits of compelling the poor girl to help them. Still, cross that bridge when we come to it. “Alright, I’ll keep my eyes open. In the meantime, Adrian, James, take Josh under your wing and teach him the finer points of vampirism. Jeanette, I’ll text you the number of a witch in Mystic Falls – call her, fill her in, and ask her if she’s heard anything on the witchy grapevine about New Orleans, focusing on when Marcel managed to clamp down on magic.” She turned to Klaus, who was watching her with a smirk. “Something funny?”

“And you are exceptionally skilled at delegation.” He concluded, his smirk widening into a grin.

Caroline rolled her eyes. “I had to plan a wedding and a prom at the same time, Klaus. Of course I’m good at delegation.”

Klaus chuckled. “Anything I can do, love?”

“Yeah, try not to kill them and see if you can make this place look a little less …” Caroline paused, eyeing the dust sheets that still covered half the room. “Well, a little less like a squatter’s paradise, I guess. I am going to go and see a witch about a broom. It’s an expression.” She added hastily, when Josh opened his mouth. “Witches don’t actually have brooms.”

“Bummer.” Josh muttered. “They totally should.”

“He’s right.” James agreed. He and Jeanette were the youngest of the hybrids, the closest to Josh’s age.

“He is.” Caroline said, zipping up her jacket. “Jeanette, when you call Bonnie, ask her if it’s possible to make a broom fly. She shouldn’t be too surprised, she’s known me all her life.”

“Caroline!” Klaus called after her as she made for the door. “You are joking about the broom, aren’t you?”

Caroline rolled her eyes again. It was a familiar expression, when dealing with the Original Hybrid. “No, Klaus, because Quidditch is my top priority.”

Klaus looked bewildered. “What the bloody hell is Quidditch?”

Caroline sighed. “And someone educate him while I go and rescue my sanity while I still have any left to salvage.”

There was a small possibility though, as she stepped out into the night, that she was a little too late on that front.

Chapter Text

Rousseau’s was somewhat of a hub in the French Quarter. Caroline had to fight her way through the crowd to get to the bar, her eyes scanning every face, her ears honing in on every heartbeat, reassuring herself that she was the only vampire in the room.

Despite the manic crowd, the bartender was in front of her almost as soon as she got to the bar, her nametag identifying her as ‘Camille’. “What can I get you?”

“Actually, I was hoping to talk to Sophie Devereaux.” Caroline answered. “Is she here?”

“Yeah, and you’re in luck.” Camille answered. “She’s just gone on break. She’ll be in the alley out the back.” She gestured towards a side door and Caroline thanked her, resorting to another battle to get back out of the bar.

Just as Camille had predicted, Sophie was in the alleyway, kneeling beside some lit candles, her lips moving in a silent prayer.

Caroline stopped just inside the alley’s entrance, silently waiting for Sophie to finish.

“What do you want?”

“You’re Sophie?” Caroline checked, taking a step towards her.

“And you’re a vampire.” Sophie said, straightening up to glare at her. “What do you want?”

“I was hoping to talk to you.” Caroline answered, glancing around. “Somewhere more private. My name’s Caroline, I’m a … friend of Klaus Mikaelson.”

“I can’t help you.” Sophie said flatly. “He’s dead. He was killed tonight.”

“Wait!” Caroline called, as Sophie went to go back inside. “Were you hoping it would end another way? That he would kill Marcel? Is that what your sister was hoping for?”

Sophie turned on her with what amounted to a snarl. “Don’t you dare mention my sister! She is dead and …”

“And Klaus isn’t.” Caroline interrupted, taking another step towards her. “Sophie, I think Jane-Anne was reaching out for help, and I want to help you, but I need to know what’s going on. We need to know what’s going on.”

Sophie seemed to deflate. “Look, I don’t see how Klaus can be alive. Everyone’s heard what happened at the compound. I can’t make any promises, but I’ll be at the cemetery in an hour’s time. I need to get back to work.”

“Alright.” Caroline agreed. “We’ll be there.”

***

“Are you sure she said she’d be here?”

Caroline sighed, leaning against one of the trees outside the cemetery. “She’s probably just running late. The bar was like a nuthouse.”

“It’s been like that every night since I arrived.” Klaus said, looking utterly bored. “I also don’t see why I can’t put her down.”

Caroline rolled her eyes, pushing herself away from the tree trunk. “Hand her to me. We’re not dumping her on the ground.”

“Did you meet Camille?” Klaus asked, transferring Jane-Anne’s shrouded body to Caroline’s arms.

“Yes, she told me where to find Sophie.” Caroline answered. “Didn’t have much chance to talk to her, but she seemed very efficient. Very on the ball, at any rate.”

“Marcel’s quite fond of her.” Klaus said. “Recently, she’s begun to return his interest, and he’s been very distracted.”

Caroline gave him a sharp look, her stomach turning over. “First of all, he wasn’t distracted enough. Second of all, we are so talking about that later.”

“Oh my God …”

“Klaus, this is Sophie Devereaux.” Caroline said with a smile at the witch who had just arrived and stopped dead. “Sophie, Klaus Mikaelson.”

“You’re alive.” Sophie whispered, staring at him. “You’re actually … Holy shit, you can’t be killed.”

“Original Hybrid.” Klaus said with a grin. “Comes with the territory.”

“What’s that?” Sophie asked, turning her attention to Caroline.

“Call it a peace offering.” Caroline said. “Our guys caused a bit of a stir at the compound earlier tonight, found something that we felt should be returned to you.”

Sophie’s face paled slightly and she reached out to pull the shroud back from her sister’s face. “Jane-Anne …” She swallowed hard. “What do you want?”

“In exchange for her?” Caroline asked, frowning slightly. “Nothing. Like I said, we want to talk, but you’re getting her back anyway. One of my best friends is a witch. Quite aside from the fact that you should be able to bury your sister, I know what ancestral magic means.”

Sophie looked around nervously. “The cemetery counts as a home, vampires need an invitation, so Marcel and his lackeys can’t get in, but …”

In an unexpected show of chivalry, Klaus gave her a small bow and a charming smile. “Well, if it’s alright with you, Miss Devereaux, Caroline is certainly far less threatening than I am. So please, accept my condolences, and Miss Forbes, I will see you at home.”

Caroline watched him melt into the darkness with a touch of concern.

“Where’s he going?” Sophie asked.

“I don’t know.” Caroline said. “With any luck, home.” She shook her worry free and turned back to Sophie expectantly.

After all, Klaus had been doing this for centuries. He must have had some tact and subtlety at some point.

In any case, Sophie sighed and jerked her head towards the gate. “Come on, then. I invite you in.”

“Thank you, Sophie.” Caroline said softly. She adjusted Jane-Anne’s body in her arms and followed Sophie into the cemetery and through the tombs.

In the centre, in one of the largest mausoleums, they found a group of witches, all of whom reacted to Caroline’s presence with horror and disgust.

“Don’t.” Sophie warned.

“Sophie!” One of the older witches cried. “How could you?”

“Oh, shut up, Agnes!” Sophie sighed. “She’s not one of Marcel’s and she’s returned Jane-Ann’s body.”

“What does she want?” Another witch asked suspiciously - Caroline recognised her as the woman giving a tour of the French Quarter a few days previously.

“To talk to us.” Sophie said, gesturing to the stone table in the middle of the room.

Caroline took her cue and laid Jane-Anne down, stepping back immediately. “My name’s Caroline Forbes. I want to help.”

“Since when do vampires want to help witches?” The second witch asked, spitting out the word ‘vampire’ like it was filled with poison.

“Since my best friend is a witch.” Caroline answered. “We’ve been best friends since we were born, and far longer than I’ve been a vampire. We met the Mikaelsons through chance, and it’s safer to have them as allies than enemies. Jane-Anne contacted Elijah and warned him that Marcel had a weapon that could kill him. We also believe that it was Jane-Anne who lured Klaus back here. Now I think that was to get Klaus to stop Marcel.”

“Sophie?” Agnes asked. “Is that true?”

Sophie sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

“What’s Klaus going to do to us?” Another of the women asked, sounding scared.

“Nothing.” Caroline said, with almost certainty. “He doesn’t like being forced into things, but he’s angrier with Marcel right now.”

“So he’ll leave us alone?” Agnes said sceptically.

Caroline smiled humourlessly. “Now, I didn’t say that. He will leave you alone as long as you don’t act against him. It’s been my experience that helping Klaus will reap its rewards, but crossing him is the last thing you will ever do. Not a threat,” she added hastily, “just a friendly warning.”

Sophie nodded. “I’ll walk you back to the gate, Caroline.”

Caroline heard the unspoken caution – that the other witches had taken about all they could – and nodded, following Sophie back out into the fall evening.

“I’ll try and talk to them.” Sophie said in a hushed voice. “They really don’t trust vampires, not after … after everything.”

“I don’t blame them.” Caroline said honestly. “I don’t really trust us either.”

Sophie smiled weakly. “But you are one.”

“Only because a vampire killed me to prove a point.” Caroline said. “After another vampire gave me blood to save my life because he fancied himself in love with my best friend.”

“I think we need to become friends,” Sophie said decisively. “Even if just so I can get that full story.”

Caroline smiled. “Catch me alone and ply me with alcohol.” She sighed. “How’s Marcel doing it, Sophie? How does he know when you’re using magic?”

“We don’t know.” Sophie answered. “No one knows.”

***

“She knows.” Klaus said.

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Thank you. I’m aware of that. I didn’t push it. Jeanette, what did Bonnie say?”

“That she has something, but she’d rather tell you in person.” Jeanette answered. “Apparently, it’s a bit complicated.”

“Fair enough.” Caroline said, pulling her phone from her pocket. “Thanks for trying.”

Jeanette nodded and almost glided from the room, leaving Caroline alone with Klaus.

“Well, love,” Klaus said, taking the seat beside her. “What’s our next port of call?”

“You’re going to remove whatever compulsion you’ve put on Camille.” Caroline said flatly, dialling Bonnie’s number. “Or let me do it.”

“But …”

“No.” Caroline said sharply, glaring at him. “This is non-negotiable, Klaus. She has nothing to do with this, and right now, she is trying to work out if she’s going mad, because there’ll be gaps in her memory and she’ll have plans she didn’t intend on making, and she won’t be able to sleep because she’s afraid of what will happen when she closes her eyes.”

“That’s …”

“I will not let you do to that poor girl what Damon Salvatore did to me.” Caroline snapped. “And I swear to God,” she added, when his face darkened, “if you do anything to him – I’ve handled it myself, thank you very much.”

“Am I interrupting something?”

“Sorry, Bonnie.” Caroline said. “Klaus and I were just discussing appropriate distraction techniques.”

“I don’t want to know.” Bonnie muttered.

“You don’t need to.” Caroline assured her. “How’s Mystic Falls?”

“Everything’s fine, but that’s not why you’re calling.” Bonnie responded briskly. “I didn’t need to do that much digging – the New Orleans coven have an old ritual known as the Harvest. Four young witches are chosen, and donate their magic to the ancestors, then the ancestors return the magic tenfold. It’s a way of enriching the coven.”

“Okay.” Caroline said. “And they did it?”

“In a way. It hasn’t been done in centuries.” Bonnie explained. “But according to the grapevine, the elders decided that it was necessary, given the vampire drama.”

“I’m guessing it didn’t go according to plan?” Klaus asked.

“No.” Bonnie said grimly. “The donation is meant to be a cut on the palm with a sacrificial blade. The girls then fall into a deep sleep and are awoken by the ancestors once the ritual is complete. But the elders decided that a full sacrifice was needed. They slit their throats.”

Caroline made a strangled noise of horror, but Klaus was unaffected. “And it affected the ritual?”

“It might have done.” Bonnie conceded. “But they never completed it. The last girl – Davina Claire – was never killed. Marcel and his guys interrupted the ritual, a lot of the elders were killed, and Davina disappeared. In theory, the magic of the girls passes from one to the other until the last releases it to the ancestors.”

“So Davina has the power of four witches.” Caroline concluded softly. “That’s how Marcel knows. She’s telling him.”

“I think so.” Bonnie confirmed.

“There’s no way Sophie doesn’t know.” Caroline said, frowning. “Why not just tell us?”

“Maybe she sensed you wouldn’t want the ritual completed.” Bonnie suggested. “That’s why Jane-Anne risked luring Klaus there – it’s not Marcel, it’s Davina. She knew he’d need Davina to overthrow Marcel, and she needs Davina, because the ritual needs to be completed in order for the girls to wake up.”

“Why was Jane-Anne so worried?” Caroline asked.

“Because one of the other Harvest Girls was Monique Devereaux.” Bonnie answered grimly. “Her daughter.”

Chapter Text

“I’m not going to kill Marcel.”

Caroline blinked at the sudden statement. She had been up with the sun and was sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of blood and a list. Josh was sitting beside her with his own mug, but he wasn’t drinking it.

He was just staring at it and twitching, the veins under his eyes popping with hunger.

“Why are you tormenting the boy?” Klaus continued.

“I’m training him.” Caroline said, still blinking at him in bemusement. “Go ahead, Josh, drink. You’ve done really well. And what,” she added, while Josh drained the mug, “are you talking about?”

“I’m not going to kill Marcel.” Klaus repeated. “I thought about, but I can’t help but feel that discretion is the better part of valour.”

“Oh good.” Caroline said, turning back to the notepad in front of her. “And here I thought I was going to have to convince you.”

“I feel a false sense of security is called for.” Klaus said, filling the teapot. “If he thinks I don’t think he was behind the attack, he should back off. And we’ll have more chance of finding Davina.”

“And less chance of her killing us for killing her ‘saviour’.” Caroline added dryly.

“Well, quite.” Klaus agreed. “Caroline, why is there a mug of tea in the microwave?”

“Because I was heating it up.” Caroline answered, taking a sip of blood. “What do you use the microwave for?”

“Not for heating tea.” Klaus said, giving her a wounded look. “Be glad Elijah isn’t here or you’d be subjected to a three hour lecture on the subject.”

Caroline shook her head, jotting down another thought as it came to her.

“Is that a to-do list?”

Caroline sighed, lifting her head to meet Klaus’s gaze. “I’m sorry, do you keep me around for something other than my organisational skills?”

“You’re making a to-do list.” Klaus said, ignoring her question. “We’re winning back a city, not planning a prom.”

“The principle is much the same.” Caroline said, with a mischievous grin. “They both end up with a king. And there are things we need to do – we need to get Josh a daylight ring for a start. Bonnie’s taking care of that.” She added to him.

“Not yet.” Josh said weakly. “I don’t want to be around people yet.”

“Have to learn how to rip throats out sometime, mate.” Klaus said cheerfully.

Caroline gave him a stern look. “No he doesn’t.  You don’t.” She said to Josh, who looked queasy. “And there’s the small matter of Camille.”

“Camille?” Klaus asked, a little too innocently.

“No.” Caroline said firmly. “We are not compelling her anymore. Either you release it, or I do.”

Klaus sighed. “Fine, go and release it, Caroline. Any other suggestions?”

“I agree with you on Marcel, but I’m going to disagree on Davina.” Caroline said.

“I haven’t said anything about Davina.” Klaus said.

“No, but you’re thinking it.” Caroline said. “We’re not killing her unless we have to and we’re not forcing her to work with us. She’s clearly a very powerful witch, pissing her off is not going to go well. What?”

Klaus was watching her with the same mild amusement that seemed to overtake his expression whenever she got worked up about something. “Nothing, love.”

“It’s not ‘nothing’!” Caroline protested.

Josh made a quick escape.

“I was just thinking,” Klaus said nonchalantly, “there is another similarity between taking New Orleans and prom.”

Caroline sighed, sensing a trick, but asked anyway. “What’s that?”

Klaus placed a steaming cup of tea in front of her, leaning down so his breath caressed her cheek. “You end up Queen.”

***

When Camille finally opened the door, Caroline felt her heart break. The young woman had a wild expression of fear in her eyes, her hair an untamed mess – a far cry from the sharp and put-together woman Caroline had briefly met the night before.

“I’m sorry,” Camille began, her voice trembling slightly, “I really don’t have …”

“I know.” Caroline interrupted. “There’s something wrong. Maybe you keep forgetting what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. Or you find yourself somewhere and you don’t know how?”

Camille turned a dangerous shade of white and Caroline reached out to catch her arm to keep her from collapsing.

“It’s alright.” Caroline said hastily. “I’m here to help you, Camille, but I need you to let me in first.”

Camille seemed to recover a little, although when she spoke, her voice shook. “You can … You know what was done to me?”

“I do.” Caroline said, taking a chance and letting blood seep into her eyes. “The person that did it is far older and stronger than me, but I can help you. If you let me.”

Camille sucked in a breath and took a step back. “Alright. Come in.”

“Thank you.” Caroline said, stepping over the threshold. “My name’s Caroline,” she continued, shutting the door behind her, “and I’m a vampire. I’m afraid you’ve been compelled.”

“Compelled?” Camille repeated. “What do you mean?”

“Vampires have the ability to compel people.” Caroline explained. “Make them think or do whatever we want. Personally, I hate it. I had it done one too many times when I was human.”

Camille seemed to relax, sinking on to her couch. “Then you do know.”

“I do.” Caroline said, sitting beside her. “I brought you something that will stop it happening again, but let’s see if we can fix this first, alright?”

Camille nodded, looking determined. “What do I need to do?”

“Look into my eyes.” Caroline murmured. “And relax.”

It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. A thousand years of practice had left Klaus very adept at compulsion and under normal circumstances, a vampire as young as Caroline would never be able to undo it.

Only his permission made it possible, but even so it was a good couple of hours, before Camille’s mind was completely clear.

As soon as it was, she lapsed into silent sobs and Caroline excused herself to make her a cup of tea. She usually only drank tea when there was no coffee available, but her father (while usually the same in that respect) had always made her tea when she was upset, and it was a habit that she had kept up after his death.

A few sips in, and Camille was calm enough to talk. “Why me?”

Caroline grimaced. “It’s complicated.”

“I deserve an answer!” Camille said, a little heatedly.

“I know.” Caroline said tiredly. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t tell you. I said ‘it’s complicated’. Just give me a minute to figure out how to explain.” She thought for a second. “Okay. Klaus Mikaelson is an Original vampire – makes him stronger, faster and damn near impossible to kill. On top of that, he’s the Original Hybrid – half werewolf, half vampire, all deadly. He and his siblings built this city from the ground up but they had to flee it a hundred years ago. Since then, Marcel has taken over. He’s done something to the werewolves, kills any witch that uses magic, and his vampires get an all-you-can-eat buffet on the tourists. Klaus wants his city back, Marcel’s a little besotted with you, so he compelled you to return his interest so that Marcel was distracted.”

Camille stared at her. When Caroline said no more, she seemed to explode. “That’s it?! What in God’s name made him think that he had the right to – to –to violate my mind and my agency like that?!”

“He’s Klaus.” Caroline said flatly, unable to prevent old bitterness bubbling on her tongue. “As far as he’s concerned, he can do what he likes, when he likes and to whomever he likes.”

“Then why do you put up with it?” Camille asked. “You said that you … that you understood.”

“And I do.” Caroline said. “Before I became a vampire, a man named Damon Salvatore compelled me. He never compelled me not to fear him, just to tell no one and show no fear in public. It wasn’t too bad at first and then … then he compelled me to forget. But not completely. When he wanted me to, I remembered. I would suddenly find him terrifying but be unable to tell anyone. And then he would tell me to do things. And I would do them, not understanding why, just knowing that I had no other choice. He made me feel like I was worthless.”

“What happened to him?” Camille asked. “Who helped you?”

Caroline smiled weakly. “No one. I became a vampire and all compulsion broke. I kicked his ass and called it even. I’d even go so far as to call him a friend now.”

“Why?” Camille asked, her eyes bewildered.

“Because eternity is a long time to hold a grudge.” Caroline answered. “Plus he saved my life. Twice. And that’s just that I know of.”

“And Klaus?”

Caroline sighed, but was unable to hide her smile. “There was a time I wanted nothing more than to drive a stake into his heart, but I couldn’t. Not only are Original vampires not vulnerable to the same weapons as the rest of us, they have a bloodline curse – Klaus sired my bloodline, which means killing him would kill me.”

Camille made a small noise of understanding, and Caroline could have left it there, but she didn’t.

“We formed a truce, my friends and his family, and in time we became friends. I do not and will not condone his actions towards you, Camille, and I hope you accept my apologies in his absence. But he has become family of sorts, and when your family does something inexcusable, you kick their ass for it, but you don’t turn your back on them.”

Camille flinched, and Caroline tilted her head consideringly. “What’s wrong?”

“My brother …” Camille whispered. “My twin brother … His name was Sean, he was studying to become a priest, like our uncle, and then … one day … he … He …” She sucked in a shaky breath and met Caroline’s eyes. “He got his hands on a scythe and murdered the other seminary students. And then he killed himself.”

“Oh my God …” Caroline whispered, horrified.

“He wouldn’t have done that.” Camille insisted. “I mean, he did do it, but … he wouldn’t have … my brother was kind and gentle and …” she choked out a laugh that sounded like a sob. “He wouldn’t even kill spiders! I started studying psychology to find out if there was something that made him snap, but was he under compulsion?”
“I don’t know.” Caroline admitted, taken aback. “I mean, I suppose it’s possible, but … when did this happen?”

“Eight months ago.” Camille answered.

“Then it wasn’t Klaus.” Caroline said with certainty. “He was in Virginia. Not all of his siblings were, but … Elijah would have told him about Marcel and Kol would have killed them himself. He wouldn’t have compelled someone to do it.”

“But it could have been compulsion.” Camille said. “Marcel or … or someone who works for him.”

“It could have been.” Caroline said. “But I wouldn’t be able to say for certain, not without talking to Sean and … obviously I can’t.”

“Could you find out?” Camille asked, steel in her eyes. “Could Klaus find out?”

Caroline sighed. “Yes. He’s playing the long-game, but once he has control, he could compel Marcel to tell him the truth. Most vampires can only compel humans, but Originals can compel other vampires too.”

“Then I’ll distract him.” Camille said.

“Are – are you sure?” Caroline asked, taken aback. “I mean, I wasn’t going to ask you.”

“I know.” Camille said, and now Caroline could hear the note of determination in her voice, the same note that had entered her own when she had first stood up to Katherine. “But my brother is dead. I want to know why.”

“And if we compel Marcel and find out it wasn’t vampires?” Caroline asked. “Then what?”

“Then will you help me find out what it was?” Camille asked.

Caroline smiled. “Of course.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a bottle of vervain and a necklace. “This will protect your mind from compulsion. The necklace contacts the herb form, so I suggest you wear it. A few drops of the liquid in your coffee in the morning also means that if any vampire does decide to take a bite, it’ll hurt them a lot more than it hurts you.”

“Thank you.” Camille said, slipping the necklace on.

“I’ll leave you my number.” Caroline said, jotting it down on a piece of paper. “If you find out anything – or if you just want a chat – call me, okay?”

***

The house was more or less empty when Caroline returned. Josh was in the parlour (what kind of house had a parlour anyway?) with James and Jeanette, and she didn’t want to interrupt their training.

Instead she followed the soft sounds of music up the stairs to the room Klaus had claimed as an art studio.

He didn’t greet her when she entered, and she didn’t say anything, taking a seat on the chaise longue by the window to wait for him to reach a stopping point.

After a few minutes, she realised his eyes were flitting towards her a little too much. “Are you painting me?”

“You’re a rather inspirational subject, love.” Klaus said. “I take it Camille is back to her usual self?”

“Back to her usual self and wants to play distraction.” Caroline confirmed. “She says you could have asked.”

While he painted, she told him about Sean O’Connell and Camille’s desperate search for answers. “I volunteered you.” She finished. “Sorry about that.”

“Not at all.” Klaus said, running his thumb along one of the lines on the canvas. “As I may have said, I find her to be a nice enough girl, the compulsion was nothing personal.”

“Speaking of personal,” Caroline said, “why didn’t I need to talk you into not killing Marcel. Usually you’d have the head of anyone who dared cross you on a stake, paraded through the city for your enemies to see.”

The paintbrush hovered in mid-air for a telling second before continuing its journey to the palette. “I am feeling particularly merciful today.”

“He tried to kill you.” Caroline said softly. “Why are you acting so … lenient?”

Klaus’s jaw clenched. “Did Elijah tell you who Marcel is?”

“One of your ‘protégées’.”  Caroline answered. “But that shouldn’t mean anything. Technically Tyler is one of them, and you were perfectly willing to kill him for a time.”

“And did you mention Marcel in the presence of Rebekah?” Klaus asked.

Caroline thought for a moment, frowning. “I don’t … I don’t think so. I think we just said that someone had the white oak stake. Actually, I think Damon said ‘psychos’. No one mentioned Marcel. Why?”

“I met Marcel Gerard in 1818.” Klaus said, and Caroline settled back, recognising the beginning of a monologue. If she settled into a pose for his work … well, that was just polite, if he wanted to paint her. “He was the illegitimate son of the Governor of New Orleans. In fact, this was the governor’s home.”

Caroline couldn’t help glancing around the room, but didn’t interrupt.

“We were on our way to the funeral of the Governor’s acknowledged son, when I saw the Governor whipping a young slave boy.”

“Wait.” Caroline said, forgetting her silent promise not to speak. “He treated his son as a slave? What am I saying?” She added belatedly. “Of course he did. Sorry, go on.”

Klaus gave her a feral smile. “Something about the young boy caught my interest. He was only eight, but he had fire, determination. His mother had refused to name him until she knew he would survive – not an uncommon choice – so I gave him a name – Marcellus. Warrior. Marcel came to live with us, in the compound. We raised him, tutored him, gave him a home and a family. After a time, he came to love Rebekah as more than an aunt or a sister.”

“And let me guess,” Caroline drawled, “you daggered her.”

“My sister’s been telling tales, I hear.” Klaus remarked.

“Get her drunk enough and she begins ranting about how every time she fell in love you either killed him or daggered her.” Caroline said, rolling her eyes. “Is that what happened to the Governor’s son as well?”

“Lift your chin a little, sweetheart.” Klaus said in response.

Caroline rolled her eyes  again, but followed his direction.

“Thank you. In any case, you are correct in your assumptions. I did dagger Rebekah. In time, I gave Marcel a choice. I could wake her – or turn him.”

“And he chose the turning.” Caroline concluded. “Did she ever forgive him?”

“In time.” Klaus said. “By the time my father came to town, they were as thick as thieves once more. He burned down the theatre. My family and I escaped with our lives. We did not believe Marcel had.”

Caroline frowned, something aching in her chest. Stefan had confided in her long ago how guilty he felt about Rebekah’s sudden displacement when she awoke, even though he himself had no part in it, and could not be held responsible for moving on from a woman he had no memory of.

“But I do remember now, Caroline. When I met her, she was sad. You could see it in her eyes, even when she smiled. Especially when she smiled.”

Six years on, she had still grieved the man she loved.

“But he wasn’t dead.” Caroline said softly. “When did you find out?”

“When I returned to New Orleans.” Klaus said shortly. “The man I took into my home and raised as a son … he had stayed here and taken everything I had built.” He lifted the canvas and turned it to her.

Caroline’s breath caught in her chest. It was a perfectly detailed portrait, but even so …

“It’s beautiful.”

“Merely a shadow of the real thing, sweetheart.” Klaus said with a smile. “Do you think your mother would like it?”

Caroline broke into her own smile. “Really?”

Klaus shrugged. “I feel I should give her something in return for stealing her daughter away.”

“Klaus, she’d love it.” Caroline said softly, not bothering to argue his phrasing. “Thank you.” She took the portrait and studied it. “When you said the compound,” she said, to her own painted face, “you mean Marcel’s place, right? The abattoir?”

“That was our home.” Klaus said darkly. “That ‘M’ he plasters all over the town – it doesn’t stand for ‘Marcel’, it stands for Mikaelson. This is my city, Caroline. And I want it back.”

Chapter Text

St Anne’s Catholic Church was once the heart of the community, so he’d been told.

Still, as Josh looked upon the boarded-up building, he was having trouble believing it. The September sun beat down upon him, yet brought him no warmth, his new daylight ring heavy on his finger.

Caroline’s friend – Bonnie – had sent in a package addressed to him – not her – along with two letters, one from the witch herself, explaining how the ring worked, the other from another of Caroline’s friends, Elena, the most recently turned.

It was the latter that had made him feel better. The way Elena described herself before her parents’ deaths reminded him of himself, and her description of her transition, her choice to feed, and her recovery, brought him peace within himself.

Still, he rarely left the plantation, uncomfortable with the thought of crowds of people. When he did, he often found that James or Jeanette followed him. Sometimes he acknowledged their presence.

Others, like today, he let them shadow him, comforted by their company, yet in no mood to talk.

Jeanette wouldn’t mind, he knew. Her presence was for his peace of mind, he knew. If he asked her to stop, she would. But she could stop him if he suddenly lost control. And she didn’t eavesdrop.

With a heavy sigh, he pushed open the door to the church.

A single candle burned bright on the altar, the priest kneeling before it in silent prayer, and Josh made no attempt to disturb him, moving to sit in one of the pews, his head bowing.

Once upon a time, Sunday meant Church Day. It hadn’t meant that for a long time.

Josh didn’t know how long he sat there, before a weight settled beside him.  He didn’t flinch. Very few people could sneak up on him anymore. He was just glad he wasn’t getting the urge to eat whoever it was. “I’m sorry.” He began, not lifting his head. “I know the church is closed, but …”

“There is no such thing as a closed church.” Father O’Connell said wearily. “Only an empty one. If the sanctuary brings you peace, son, do not apologise for that.”

Josh chuckled bitterly. “It shouldn’t. My parents raised me in the church. And then I told them I was gay and they informed me that I was going to Hell. Even dragged me to confession so the rest of the congregation could tell me that as well.”

“May God save us from half the people convinced they are doing God’s work.” The priest murmured, shaking his head. “Jesus told us to love thy neighbour, to not judge, lest we too be judged.”

Josh wasn’t sure if the priest was telling him that his parents were wrong, or that they just shouldn’t have told him. He didn’t much care anymore.

“Besides,” the priest continued, “nowadays, there is not nearly enough love in the world. Be safe and happy – no one can ask more.”

Josh managed a small genuine smile. “Thank you, Father.”

Father O’Connell clapped him on the shoulder. “I have places to be. Feel free to remain as long as you wish. If I could just ask you to latch the door behind you?”

“Of course.” Josh said, watching the priest leave. He exhaled sharply once the door was closed, leaning forward to rest his forehead against the pew in front.

He still wasn’t used to hearing heartbeats so clearly, clear enough to hear the slight hitch in the older man’s that spoke of an all-encompassing grief.

He hadn’t spoken to his parents since that day. They would never know he was a vampire. Neither would his sister.

Maybe she would see him one day, when she was old and grey, and he was still young, and believe she was hallucinating.

Maybe one day he would meet his own great-nieces and-nephews and have no idea who they were.

Maybe …

His brow creased in confusion as he lifted his head.

Father O’Connell had asked him to lock up, more or less, which implied the church was empty, but … music was playing, somewhere above him.

Josh hesitated. He had never been one to snoop, but … Oh, who was he kidding?

He loved snooping.

He jumped to his feet and headed for the door behind the altar, peeking through it to see a set of stairs. Quietly he climbed up them, finding himself in a corridor leading to an open door.

He was forced to stop in the doorway, unable to step over the threshold, so he waited, his eyes falling on a girl a few years younger than him, standing at an easel.

The classical music was floating from a record player and she was swaying gently to it, while she worked.

Feeling a little like a voyeur, Josh turned to leave, when an agonising pain struck him and he fell to the floor.

It felt as though his head was on fire, tiny little explosions in his brain, and it took a few minutes for him to realise that the girl was now staring at him, her hand outstretched. She was saying something, but it took him even longer to translate the words.

“I said, who sent you?!”

“No one!” Josh gasped out. “I swear! I heard music, came to see who else was here!”

The pain abruptly subsided, and he slumped back against the wall, gasping for unneeded breath.

“Who are you?” She asked, a little less forcefully. “You’re a vampire, did Marcel send you?”

“I told you, no one sent me.” Josh said, struggling to his feet. “My name’s Josh. And I don’t work for Marcel.”

“Then you work for Klaus.” She concluded.

“Look, he didn’t send me either.” Josh said, rolling his eyes and promptly regretting it. “You’re a witch, right? Can’t you – I don’t know – look into my head and find out if I’m lying?”

“No.” She said, looking thoughtful now. “But there is something I can use.” She turned away from him, rummaging in a box below a desk near the window, finally pulling out what looked like a snow globe. “Tell me your full name.”

Josh sighed. “Joshua Rosza.”

“And your age?”

“20.”

She paused. “Is that the age you are now or the age when you were turned?”

“Both.” Josh answered. “I’ve only been a vampire for about two months.”

She frowned. “Are you here to hurt me?”

“No.”

“Tell me a lie.”

Josh raised an eyebrow, but complied. “I like fried chicken.”

The globe in the witch’s hands lit up red and she smiled. “Come inside, Josh. I’m Davina.”

“I thought you might be.” Josh said, finally stepping over the threshold. “Given you’re freely using magic.”

“So no one sent you?” Davina asked.

“No.” Josh repeated. “Look, I came to the church, because I’ve had a crappy few months and I needed a place to think. Then I heard your music and decided to check it out.”

“You like classical music?”

“Not really.” Josh said honestly. “I prefer club music.”

Davina frowned again. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard that.”

“I’m not surprised.” Josh said. “You’re, what, sixteen? Seventeen?”

“Sixteen.” Davina answered. “And you’re only 20.”

Josh smirked. “Touché.”

“Why Klaus?” Davina asked suddenly. “What made you choose him?”

“I didn’t … choose him.” Josh said, grimacing. “Look, no offence, Davina, but that’s nothing I want getting back to Marcel.”

“Look, I’m not going to tell Marcel.” Davina said. “I never see anyone, I’m bored and I’m lonely, and I’m glad he’s keeping me safe, but …”

“Tell you what.” Josh said, an idea striking him. “We’ll make a deal. I promise you I won’t tell Klaus I found you. I’ll come and visit when I can, catch you up with what’s going on, and in return, you don’t tell Marcel anything I tell you, okay?”

Davina gave him a smile. “Deal.”

***

Caroline pinched the bridge of her nose. “Josh, I can hear you loitering. Come in.”

Josh poked his head round the door with a shy smile. “I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“I will thank you for it.” Caroline sighed, closing her laptop. “What’s up?” 

The room was officially Caroline’s office, a name that made her giggle every time someone used it, because what she actually used it for was internet shopping, messaging Mystic Falls, and escaping from Klaus when he got under her skin (which he did, but not as often as she would have expected).

Recently, however, she had signed up for an online college course. It allowed her as much time as she needed and it gave her something to do (overthrowing a regime was surprisingly boring), but that didn’t mean that she didn’t regret it from time to time.

Josh didn’t answer, but held up his phone. Can Klaus hear us?

Caroline raised an eyebrow, but opened her laptop again, gesturing for him to close the door, and opened up the music player. “Better safe than sorry.” She said under the music. “What’s happened?”

“I met Davina Claire.” Josh said.

Caroline’s mouth dropped open of its own accord. “What?”

“I made a deal with her that I wouldn’t tell Klaus if she didn’t tell Marcel.” Josh pushed on. “I trust her. But I don’t want to drag her into this. She’s just a kid.”

“You’re just a kid.” Caroline said, ignoring the fact that she was technically a little younger than him.

“I’m an adult.” Josh argued. “She’s sixteen.”

Caroline closed her eyes. “Crap. I knew the Harvest girls were young, but …”

“She’s sixteen, and she loves classical music, and she paints, and …” Josh trailed off. “She shouldn’t be dragged into this.”

Caroline met his gaze openly. “You’re right. Visit her, when you can. Let her know she’s not alone. She’s been used by enough people. I won’t let Klaus be another one.”

***

Josh’s visits became the light of Davina’s life. She made it very clear early on that she wasn’t interested in dating him and, once he had finished laughing hysterically, he had assured her that she was a little too female to be his type anyway.

So, since neither wanted to give too much away about Klaus or Marcel, they spend most of his visits listening to music or watching TV on his phone.

“You do realise,” Josh said one day, after he had reduced her to breathless giggles by critiquing the physique of every male character in the (cartoon) show they were watching, “that you have your very own stereotypical gay bff, right?”

“No, I don’t.” Davina said, laughter still lighting up her eyes. “You’ve never taken me shopping.”

“Trust me,” Josh said, “you don’t want me to.”

This brought about another bout of laughter, but this one was suddenly cut short when Davina doubled over with a gasp.

Josh was by her side in a second. “Davina? Davina, are you alright?”

Davina waved him off, reaching for the nearest drawing implement, a piece of charcoal. Her desk was beginning to vibrate, so Josh backed off and let her work, watching dark lines and swirls form on the paper, creating no discernible image.

Finally, the charcoal fell from her fingers and she reached for her phone. She sent a quick text, then turned back to Josh. “Sorry about that.”

Josh was staring at the easel. “What did they do?”

“Who?” Davina asked.

“The witch.” Josh elaborated. “What spell were they casting?”

Davina shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“But you tell Marcel anyway?” Josh asked.

“Look, I don’t know who’s using magic to track me down and kill me.” Davina said, a little defensively. “Marcel figures that out.”

“No, he doesn’t.” Josh said, frowning. “He just kills them.”

It wasn’t that he expected Davina to laugh it off, but still he couldn’t help feeling relieved, when she stepped back from him, her eyes wide. “No, he doesn’t. He just makes sure they’re not after me.”

“Davina …” Josh sighed. “I’m sorry. I can’t change it. Hadn’t you noticed how the amount of magic is decreasing? Witches aren’t allowed to do magic in the Quarter. When Marcel finds out, he kills them.”

“He’s trying to protect me.” Davina said, her voice sounding a little odd. “I’ll talk to him. He’ll stop.”

“Okay.” Josh said.

Pointing out the naïveté of a witch, after all, was never a wise move.

***

Perhaps Josh should have expected the phone call.

Generally, Davina avoided calling him, preferring texts, which Klaus couldn’t overhear.

Today was different.

He took the call outside the plantation, as close to the boundary as he felt comfortable getting. There was something about the bayou that surrounded the plantation house. The hybrids said the bayou was empty, that the wolves that had once called it home were long gone.

But Josh didn’t like it.

Neither did Caroline, for much the same reason.

It felt inhabited.

Like a hundred eyes were watching their every move.

Even away from prying ears, Josh took a careful look around before answering her call. “You realise how risky this is, right?”

“I need you to do something for me.”

Josh sighed. “Davina … Alright, what?”

“There’s a witch doing magic.” Davina whispered. “I’ll text you the coordinates. Text me when you’re there, then film what happens next.”

“Davina …” Josh repeated.

“Marcel promised me that he wasn’t killing witches unless they were after me.” Davina interrupted. “I need to know he’s telling the truth.”

He wasn’t.

Josh knew that. With a heavy sigh, he agreed, then went to the house to grab his jacket.

It was early evening, and the Quarter was bustling with tourists. The Cauldron was slightly different – the only tourists that entered were on guided tours, the others kept away by magical boundaries in place since long before the Harvest.

Josh kept to the shadows. It was dark enough for nightwalkers to be on the prowl and hopefully no one would notice him.

As soon as he reached the coordinates Davina had given him, he sent her a quick text, then slipped down a side alley to wait.

He didn’t have to wait long.

Shouts soon rent the night air, the witches on the street freezing in petrified fear. Josh quickly focused his phone on one in particular, who looked particularly scared.

Marcel did not keep to the shadows. He sauntered down the street, flanked by his lieutenants. “Well, well,” he said, his voice echoing through the street.

The other vampires had fallen silent, their shouts purely a battle cry, designed to signal the beginning of a hunt.

“What’s your name, sweetheart?” Marcel asked the witch Josh had picked out.

“Katie.” She whispered, trembling. She was barely Josh’s age.

“Well, Katie, you do know the rules of the Quarter, don’t you?” Marcel asked, almost kindly. “No magic allowed.”

“I wasn’t … It was just pest control.” Katie stammered. “My shop’s been overrun by rats, I …”

Marcel grabbed her by the throat, his gentle demeanour suddenly gone. “Then I suggest your replacement buys a rat trap.”

He could have snapped her neck, but all the Quarter knew that Marcel liked to make examples out of the witches that defied his rules, even if was for something as simple as a pest control spell.

At Marcel’s signal, one vampire latched onto her arm, the other onto her throat, her blood dripping down their chins as the girl screamed and screamed.

Only once she was in danger of falling limp in their grasp did Marcel plunge a hand into her chest and rip out her heart tossing it on to the street beside her dead body.

“When are you going to learn?” He asked, shaking his head in mock sorrow. “I always know. Y’all have a nice night now.”

Josh stopped his recording, but didn’t move from his hiding spot. He waited for all the vampires to leave, waited for the witches to finish their vigil and move Katie’s body, and then he ran, blurring through the city until he reached the church.

He stopped outside, loitering out of sight, his eyes fixed on her window. A light flashed three times from inside and he jumped up to her balcony, startling her.

“Finally,” Davina said, by way of greeting. “I’ve been doing that for the last hour.”

“Sorry.” Josh said hoarsely. “I had to wait for the coast to clear.”

“Tell me nothing happened.” Davina demanded. “Tell me Marcel asked her what she did and then warned her off.”

Josh genuinely considered it. He thought about lying to this girl who had become such a close friend over the last few weeks, to spare her the horror of what he’d seen.

But, deep down, he knew he couldn’t.

Someone had to be honest with the poor girl, even if the truth was the last thing she wanted to hear.

He held out his phone. “See for yourself.”

***

Caroline was in her office again, procrastinating on an essay in favour of chatting with Bonnie on the phone.

Bonnie was studying mythology at Whitmore along with Elena (who was studying psychology), and in another world, Caroline would have been with them.

She didn’t mind her lot too much though.

While Bonnie caught her up on college life, Caroline sipped a glass of blood-laced bourbon and gently caressed the petals of the orchid that sat on her desk.

The orchid had been a gift from Klaus, one that had appeared on her desk that morning with little fanfare and fuss.

She hadn’t figured out how to thank him for it yet.

A soft knocking interrupted Bonnie mid-sentence, and Caroline frowned. “Sorry, Bon; give me a second. Come in?”

Jeanette pushed the door open, holding her own phone. “Sorry, Caroline, it’s Josh. It sounds important.”

Caroline sighed. “Bonnie …”

“It’s fine.” Bonnie said, sounding concerned. “Take it.”

Caroline set her phone down and took Jeanette’s. “Josh, what is it?”

“Caroline, I’m at St Anne’s Church, in the attic.” Josh said, his voice barely audible over the sound of halting sobs. “Davina needs you. Now.”

Chapter Text

Caroline’s sudden appearance on Davina’s balcony was nothing less than a huge relief for Josh.

Davina had been in tears since the moment she had seen Katie’s terror, but the end of the video had elicited a furious scream and a burst of magic that Josh had just about managed to duck. Once she was calm enough, he had pulled her into his arms and held her tightly as she shook with tears of anger and grief. She had spoken only to ask for the woman Josh had spoken of only in passing, but with a respect that had clearly made an impact on the young witch.

“Caroline,” he whispered. “I don’t know what to do.”

Caroline instinctively moved to comfort the hysterical girl, but she could not pass through the open window. “Josh, she needs to invite me in.”

Josh nodded, stroking the girl’s hair. “Davina? Davina, Caroline’s here. You asked me to get her, remember?”

Davina lifted her head, tears streaming down her face. Her eyes locked on Caroline’s, and the vampire smiled, trying to hide her sympathy, lest the witch mistake it for pity.

“Hi Davina.” She said quietly. “Would you rather we talk like this or can I come in?”

Davina wiped at her eyes. “You can come in.”

“Thank you.” Caroline pulled a pack of tissues from her purse and handed one to her, before sitting on her other side. “Crappy day, huh?”

Davina choked out a laugh, blowing her nose. “Yeah, you could say that. I thought Marcel was protecting me, and he’s just using me to kill other witches.”

“Well, I won’t say he isn’t protecting you.” Caroline said, a little reluctantly. “Because the witches do want to complete the Harvest, but we’re not going to let them.”

“You’re not?” Davina asked.

“Look, I have friends.” Caroline said frankly. “One of them is a witch and every other witch she has consulted has said that the New Orleans coven plumbed new depths by altering that ritual. It’s supposed to be a cleansing ritual – there’s a purity associated with it. The girls are supposed to enter this enchanted sleep where they connect with the ancestors and receive revelations and so on. Not have their throats slit.”

Davina sniffled, hugging her knees to her chest. “Then why did Mom and Dad let them?”

“I don’t know.” Caroline said softly. “Sometimes, people who love us do strange things, when they think they know what’s best.” She hesitated. “When my father found out what I was … he tortured me, because he thought he could get the monster out of me. My family … most of the families in our town … they had beliefs that had been passed down through generations. And suddenly, his daughter was a vampire.”

“How did you cope with it?” Davina asked.

“I cried.” Caroline answered frankly. “And eventually, he apologised, and meant it. What your parents did was wrong, Davina. But maybe, one day, they’ll realise that.”

“The coven never admits they’re wrong.” Davina muttered. “It’s like a rule or something.”

Hesitantly, Caroline let her arm settle around the girl’s shoulders. “What can I do to help you, Davina?”

Davina seemed to melt against her with the resignation of a girl who had come to expect the worse. “I don’t know.”

Caroline sighed, stroking the girl’s hair, catching Josh’s eye. He looked angry on Davina’s behalf, the same glint in his eye when he had first told her about meeting Davina. The glint that said ‘I’m out of my depth, but hurt her and I’ll fight you’.

Caroline gave him a comforting smile. “Okay, Davina, let me tell you what your options are. Option number one: I do nothing and you stay here. I won’t tell anyone about you; I’ll leave you my number; if you need to talk, I’m here.”

Davina shook her head. “I need to get out of here.”

“Alright then, option number two: I help you get out of town.” Caroline continued. “It might be difficult, because you are only sixteen, but I can help you get somewhere safe. My mom’s still the Sheriff of Mystic Falls, she’d help you. Option number three: I take you home with me. I can’t promise you won’t be asked for help, but I can promise that I will do everything in my power to stop people from making you help.”

“You mean Klaus, right?” Davina asked quietly. “Marcel was behind the plot to kill him, you know.”

Caroline smiled. Klaus’s ‘reunion’ with Marcel had not been in her presence (she hadn’t even met Marcel yet), but she knew that the self-styled ‘vampire king’ was rattled. “Oh, we know. I do mean Klaus. He can be … difficult. I can’t promise he’ll be nice.”

“I don’t care.” Davina said flatly. “I’d rather he be not nice and try to threaten me into helping than pretend to care and manipulate me into it.”

“Well, even so,” Caroline said, “if he threatens you, yell. I’ll deal with him. So, Davina – two or three?”

Davina took a deep breath. “Three. New Orleans is my home. I just don’t think I can fight for it yet.”

“Take all the time you need.” Caroline said, pulling out her phone. “We need to leave tonight.”

“Is that a good idea?” Josh asked. “The streets are crowded with nightwalkers – there’s more chance she’ll be seen.”

“It’s easier to see in daylight.” Caroline answered, dialling a number. “And shadows can be used to help a cloaking spell.”

“I don’t know a cloaking spell.” Davina admitted. “And you can’t cloak yourself anyway.”

“I know.” Caroline said, as the call connected. “Bonnie, it’s me. I need a favour.”

***

Klaus was pacing when they returned, a sign that never boded well. He immediately changed directions when they entered, making a beeline for them. “Where the bloody hell have you been?”

“Out.” Caroline answered shortly, shedding her jacket. “Josh, call Bonnie for me, let her know we’re home.”

“Jeanette said there was an emergency.” Klaus said.

“There was.” Caroline said. “And now there isn’t. Now would you calm down?”

Klaus took a deep breath. “Caroline, the Quarter is not safe. The hybrids can pass for human or nightwalkers, but this …” he took her hand, running his thumb over her daylight ring, “is not something just anyone would have.”

“I know.” Caroline said gently. “That’s why Josh and I are both very careful.”

“Yeah.” Josh piped up. “I don’t have a death wish.”

Klaus refocused over Caroline’s shoulder as Bonnie’s spell lifted. “And who is this?”

“Klaus, this is Davina Claire.” Caroline said. “Davina, this is Klaus Mikaelson.”

No one could ever say that Klaus could not play the gracious host when it suited him, and he gave Davina a charming smile. “Well, it is a pleasure to meet the little witch everyone’s talking about.”

“That nobody’s talking about.” Caroline corrected. “No one will mention her name. Josh, please show Davina to a room.”

“Yeah, of course.” Josh put an arm around Davina’s shoulders. “Come on.”

Klaus watched them go with an almost hungry expression and Caroline put a hand on his arm, gently pushing him into the nearest room with a door.

“Want some privacy, love?”

“Yes, but not for the reason you’re thinking.” Caroline said heavily, closing the door behind her and leaning against it. “I stand by what I said. I don’t want her becoming a pawn.”

“She’s powerful.” Klaus said.

Caroline scowled. “I know. She’s also just a kid. Look, if she wants to help us, great. If she doesn’t, we are not forcing her into it. We’ll just make a powerful enemy and, let’s face it, we don’t need another one.”

Klaus took a step towards her. Once upon a time, it would have been threatening, her back against the door like this, but she didn’t flinch, merely watched him. “You said we.”

“In case you hadn’t noticed,” Caroline said, “I am a little invested in this takeover you have going.”

“Why?” Klaus asked, taking another step towards her. “Why stay?”

“The hybrids won’t follow you.” Caroline answered. “And I have a feeling Josh would follow me as well.”

“No, that’s why I need you to stay.” Klaus said. “Why do you want to?”

Caroline smiled. “Because we’re friends. Because this is important to you. And because I’ve come to like New Orleans. I like Cami. I like Sophie. I don’t want them to get hurt.” She sighed. “I’d ask where this is coming from, but I know you. You’re paranoid, Klaus. You always have been. I can’t blame you, having met both of your parents, but you know me. I may be capable of short-term duplicity, but there’s no way I could keep it up for this long.”

“I know.” Klaus said, resting a hand against the door above her head, looming over her in a way that she found mildly intimidating.

And not in a bad way.

“I spend my days in the company of people I know want to kill me.” He continued. “It is putting me on edge, Caroline.”

“Well, I don’t blame you.” Caroline said frankly. “Maybe you need to show Marcel that you’re not alone here.”

“An army will hardly put him at ease.” Klaus said. “Weren’t you the one who favoured the ambush approach?”

“I do.” Caroline agreed. “But he has to know you’re hiding something. He doesn’t even know where you’re living. That makes people uneasy. So how about we throw a house-warming party? We’ll call Elijah, Kol and Rebekah, and invite the French Quarter. Kind of like you did in Mystic Falls. Yes, it will put him on guard again, but once we then don’t make a move, he should settle. Or he’ll drive himself mad waiting and do our work for us, one of the two.”

Klaus chuckled. “That party was Mother’s work, Caroline, but by all means, love – have at it.”

***

Party planning was, in many ways, Caroline’s forte. She was in her element, drawing up guest lists, arranging caterers, working out which rooms would be used and which would be closed off.

She did not, however, set a date, not until she was prepared enough to do so.

Christmas would be a good time. It gave an acceptable excuse, it would not be a strange thing to throw a party – in fact, it was almost to be expected.

Many of the locals were to be invited, especially those with positions of power in New Orleans, and, of course, Marcel and his crew.

Caroline sipped a glass of blood as she pondered over the guest list in front of her.

Elijah, Rebekah and Kol had already given her their acceptance over the phone and were just awaiting the date. She hadn’t mentioned it to Davina yet, but her invitation was guaranteed. For now, her pen hovered over Sophie’s name, unsure whether or not to scratch it out.

Inviting the witches was a risky move. Their conflict with the vampires promised an uncomfortable evening, and Caroline did so hate uncomfortable parties, even if this was a power play.

On the other hand, not inviting the witches could be considered an insult, and that was the last thing Caroline wanted to do.

With that in mind, she set her work aside and set out for the cemetery.

Many witches came and went, eyeing Caroline with distrust, but they did not approach her and she did not speak to them.

Finally, Sophie appeared at the gates, and she stopped dead when she saw Caroline.

“Hello Sophie.”

“What do you want?” Sophie asked without preamble. “And why didn’t you just come and find me?”

“Because that would be rude.” Caroline answered, leaning against the tree. “I know an invitation technically lasts for all future visits, but it would still be rude.”

Sophie crossed her arms almost defensively. “Thank you. What do you want?”

“We’re planning a Christmas-slash-housewarming party.” Caroline said, addressing one of the gargoyles upon the cemetery’s imposing gateposts. “And I wanted your opinion.”

“I’m not a party planner.” Sophie said, frowning.

“I know.” Caroline said. “I wanted your opinion on the guest list. You see, we’re inviting Marcel and his crew, because we’re trying to convince him that we’re not making a play. On saying that, your coven won’t want to attend. But not issuing an invitation to the witches seems like it could be considered an insult. So, do I issue one or not?”

“Yes.” Sophie answered. “You’re right, the elders won’t accept it. But they’d be more insulted by a lack of invitation than the presence of one.”

Caroline nodded. “I thought so. Anyone in particular I should address it to?”

Sophie grimaced. “Agnes is the eldest, so it should be her, but she won’t thank me for giving you her address so …” She dug in her pockets for a scrap of paper and a pen, and scribbled something on it, before handing it to Caroline. “Address it to her, using those words, it’s a sign of respect, and then have it sent to me at Rousseau’s. I’ll give it to her.”

“Thank you, Sophie.” Caroline said, tucking the paper into her jacket. “There is one more thing.” She added, as Sophie turned to go back inside.

“What?” Sophie asked warily.

“We can’t stop Marcel from killing witches he sees using magic.” Caroline said. “But he has no way of knowing now. You’re safe to practice it out of sight.”

Sophie’s eyes darted around. “You’re sure?”

“I’m very sure.” Caroline assured her.

“Then you know about Davina?” Sophie asked. “You have her?”

“Davina is tucked away safe and has no intention of helping Marcel anymore.” Caroline said.

“That didn’t answer the question.” Sophie said. “You don’t understand, she …”

“She needs to be sacrificed to complete the Harvest so your niece will wake up.” Caroline finished. “I know.”

“How …?”

“I told you.” Caroline interrupted. “My best friend is a witch. And she might not practice ancestral magic, but she does confer with the spirits when she performs larger spells. And every spirit she’s consulted says that the murder of those girls desecrated the ritual. If I thought that convincing Davina to sacrifice herself would end up with all those girls waking up, I would talk to her. But it won’t. I’m sorry, Sophie, but the ancestors won’t wake them up. Davina’s out of the picture. That’s all you need to know.”

As parting lines went, it wasn’t bad.

By the time Caroline got back to the house, it was dark.

Caroline wasn’t afraid of the dark, not anymore, but something about the planation grounds at night made her uneasy. Actually, something about the bayou made her uneasy.

As she walked to the house, something rustled nearby and she stopped, against her better instinct, enhanced sight peering through the darkness.

Everything was silent, but for the faint whisper of the wind through the trees.

Nothing moved.

Smiling at her own paranoia, Caroline turned back towards the house.

And then it happened.

Something heavy landed on her back, knocking her to the ground. She cried out in surprise, then screamed in pain when sharp teeth sank into her shoulder, tearing through her shirt.

Shouts sounded from the house and Caroline reared back, snarling with anger as she threw her attacker off, whirling to confront them even as the hybrids ran from the house.

It was a wolf, she realised as it fled into the bayou, several hybrids hot on its tail, turning as they ran so as to better track it.

“Caroline?” Josh asked worriedly, hovering by her side.

“I’m fine.” Caroline said automatically, lifting a hand to her shoulder. The wound had already healed. “That’s odd.”

“Why?” Josh asked. “We heal fast, right?”

“Well, yes, but … I kind of thought it was one of the hybrids.” She said, following him back into the house. “One of the ones that didn’t come with us, I mean. Hybrid bites don’t heal but it’s not like a regular wolf to attack at random like that. Not like a regular wolf to be this far South either.”

“Could it have been a werewolf?” Josh asked. “Or do they not heal either?”

“No, they do at first.” Caroline said, sinking into one of the chairs in the nearest sitting room. “But it’s the wrong time of the month. We’re at least two weeks away from the full moon.” She grimaced, rubbing her shoulder.

Josh frowned. “Are you okay?”

“I should be fine.” Caroline said. “The bite’s healed, and we’ve established it can’t have been venomous or it wouldn’t have healed.”

“Caroline?”

Caroline looked around, half-expecting to see James or Adrian in the doorway, but there was no one there.

Josh looked too, his brow creasing in concern. “What?”

“Caroline?”

“Do you hear that?” Caroline asked, rising from her seat.

“Hear what?” Josh asked. “The house is quiet.”

“Someone’s calling me …” Caroline trailed off, her breath catching as a man entered the room. “Dad?”

“Caroline?” Josh asked.

“Oh, sweetheart.” Bill Forbes said, caressing a stake. “Look at what you’ve become. It’s alright, honey. We’ll get rid of it.”

“Daddy, please …”

“Caroline, I’m going to get Davina.” Josh said loudly, stepping in front of her.

“No!” Caroline said hastily, her hand flying back up to her shoulder, feeling the wound that had reopened. “Get Klaus, not Davina. It’s the bite, and I’ll want to eat her as soon as look at her. Get Klaus. Quickly.”

Josh nodded, blurring from the room and leaving Caroline alone with her father.

“I died rather than become a vampire,” Bill said, “but you do this with your life.”

Caroline sat down, closing her eyes. Her father was dead; this was nothing but a hallucination.

But that didn’t stop him from talking, telling her how disappointed he was, how much he hated his monster of a daughter.

“Stop it!” She screamed finally, curling in on herself, losing her battle with tears. “You’re not real!”

Hands grasped her shoulders and she fought hard, hardly able to see through the blood in her eyes, when a wrist appeared at her mouth and she bit down hard, her fangs piercing flesh until blood flooded her mouth.

Within a few gulps, her father’s voice went away and her vision cleared so that she could see Klaus holding her.

Releasing his wrist, she choked out a sob and curled into his arms, allowing him to pull her on to his lap.

The hybrids had returned and gathered in the room with Josh, all of them finding some kind of painting or trinket to examine to give Caroline some privacy.

When she finally looked up, her eyes red but dry, the picture made her giggle a little.

The sound made Klaus smile, but his eyes were angry. “What happened, love?”

“It was a wolf.” Caroline answered, her head dropping to rest on his shoulder. “But it wasn’t a hybrid. It healed at first, then opened up again.”

“Does it always happen that quickly?” Josh asked nervously.

“Hybrid bites do.” James answered. “Generally, for a werewolf bite to move that quick, they have to be fully transformed. But it’s not the full moon for two weeks.”

“Someone contact Tyler Lockwood.” Klaus ordered. “Get him to check the hybrids that stayed behind – make sure none of them followed us.”

“It wasn’t a hybrid bite.” Caroline repeated. “I’ve had a hybrid bite, remember? They don’t heal at all.”

Klaus flinched against her. “Still,” he said, “someone call him.”

It was a mark of how much the hybrids had come to care for Caroline that no one argued that they would only take her orders. One of the younger hybrids excused themselves immediately, pulling out her phone.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Josh asked. “I can ask Davina if …”

“I’m fine.” Caroline assured him. “I’m sure she’d help, but I’m okay. I just need to sleep.”

“Alright, love.” Klaus said, standing in one smooth movement, and she wrapped both arms around his neck for balance. “Let’s get you to bed then.”

Caroline laughed weakly against his neck. “Be honest, how many times have you dreamed about saying that?”

“None of them involved you nearly dying, sweetheart.” Klaus said darkly.

Caroline tightened her arms in an approximation of a hug. “I wasn’t scared, you know. The hallucinations got to me a little, but I wasn’t scared. I knew you’d save me.”

Klaus didn’t answer. He carried her to her bedroom, not his (which she’d half-expected him to try) and set her down as gently as one might place a priceless antique. “Did it hurt?”

Caroline rolled her eyes as he tugged the covers over her. “Obviously.”

“Not tonight.” Klaus said, sitting beside her. “When I compelled Tyler to bite you, the venom. Did it hurt?”

“Yes.” Caroline whispered. “I mean, the bite itself was bad, but … it was like a thousand knives shooting through my skin and setting fire to my veins. The hallucinations hadn’t kicked in that fast though – I guess because he wasn’t fully transformed at the time.”

Klaus brushed her hair away from her face. “I am truly sorry for that, Caroline.”

“I know.” Caroline said softly. “You saved my life. You didn’t have to.”

“You intrigued me.” Klaus murmured. “You still do. So full of light, and yet so willing to embrace the darker sides of your soul.”

Caroline smiled. “No offence, but can we do this when I’m not recovering from a wolf bite?”

Klaus shook his head, leaning down to kiss her forehead. “Rest.”

Still a little dazed from the bite and the blood, Caroline caught the back of his neck before he could pull back, tilting her head to place a chaste kiss on the corner of his mouth. “Goodnight, Klaus.”

Klaus gazed at her in something akin to wonder, and for a brief moment, she thought he wouldn’t leave, but then he squeezed her hand and stood. “Goodnight, Caroline.”

Chapter Text

“Please tell me someone has an answer.” Klaus growled.

No one answered him, heads around the room turning to Caroline. She sighed, turning the page of the newspaper. “Please tell him someone has an answer.”

Adrian rolled his eyes. “We don’t. Tyler says none of the other hybrids have left Mystic Falls, which doesn’t surprise me. They just wanted out altogether. It could be a regular wolf cursed to have werewolf venom …”

“Davina says it’s not that.” Josh interrupted. “She sensed a lot of magic last night, thanks to Caroline giving them the all clear, but that kind of spell would be powerful enough to override all of it.”

“She volunteered this information?” Klaus asked, distracted momentarily.

“She likes Caroline.” Josh said.

“Okay, so if it wasn't a wolf and it wasn't a werewolf and it wasn't a hybrid, what was it?” Caroline asked. “Because that was definitely werewolf venom. I thought you said the bayou was empty,” she added to Adrian.

“I thought it was.” He said. “We searched, and found no sign of anyone, just the remnants of the camp of the pack that Marcel drove out of town.”

Caroline sighed. “Take another look. Did you have any luck last night?”

“No.” Jeanette admitted. “None of us got a good enough trace of his scent, he lost us after about a mile.”

“If he is a werewolf, he'll be smart enough not to come back.” James added.

“Yes, but if he is a werewolf, how is he turning when it's not the full moon?” Caroline asked, getting up from her chair as someone began hammering at the door. “Honestly, are they trying to wake the dead?”

“Too late!” James and Jeanette chorused.

Caroline sniggered, and even Klaus cracked a smile as she went to answer the door.

Of all the people she had considered - Camille, maybe, or even Sophie - Kol was not one of them.

“You're keen.” Caroline remarked by way of greeting. “I haven't even set a date yet.” No sooner had the words left her lips, however, than she realised something was very, very wrong.

Kol was leaning heavily against the door frame, his face pale and his breathing heavy. His fangs seemed to flicker in and out of sight, the veins on his face darkening and then disappearing just as quickly.

“Kol?” Caroline asked quietly. “What happened?”

Kol gave her an approximation of his usual charming smirk. “Long story short, I pissed off a witch in Baton Rouge a century ago and her granddaughter got me back for it.” He tried to stand up, but staggered forwards.

Caroline hastily caught him, situating herself under his arm. “Klaus!”

Klaus was at her side in a second, taking Kol’s other arm and helping her half-carry him into the living room, setting him down on the couch, where he settled with a pained groan. “Sorry.” He muttered, almost under his breath. “This place was closest.”

Caroline didn’t answer, speeding to the kitchen for a handful of blood bags and a damp cloth. She might be willing to help Klaus with New Orleans, but she knew better than to get in the middle of Mikaelson family drama.

And those girls’ nights with Rebekah had been enough for her to realise that there was a certain amount of tension between Kol and his siblings.

Once she’d handed Kol the blood bags and settled the cloth on his forehead in an attempt to bring down the fever that prickled over his skin, she hurried upstairs, coming to a stop outside Davina’s open door and knocking.

“Come in.” Davina said, glancing over at her. “Are you feeling better?”

“Much better.” Caroline said, fidgeting with her daylight ring. “Davina, I hate to ask you for help, when I promised I wouldn’t.”

“You didn’t.” Davina said, setting her paintbrush down. “You said that you couldn’t promise that no one would ask for help.”

Caroline shook her head. “I didn’t think I’d be the one doing it.”

“I can’t find the wolf.” Davina told her. “I’d need its blood and we don’t have it.”

“It’s … not me.” Caroline admitted quietly. “It’s Klaus’s brother … Kol. He was cursed in Baton Rouge and we were the closest. I don’t think it’ll kill him, because he’s an Original, but I wouldn’t want to stake his sire-line’s lives on it. I mean, I can call Bonnie, but she’s in Virginia, it’ll take a while, and I just thought …”

“I’ll take a look.” Davina interrupted. “But I can’t make any promises.”

Caroline nodded. “Of course. Thank you.” She led Davina back downstairs to where Klaus was pacing, watching Kol with thinly-veiled concern, which should be anyone’s first clue that something was wrong.

Kol’s vampire visage seemed to have been settled by the blood, which made Caroline feel a lot better about bringing Davina in.

“I’m going to need an empty room.” Davina told her quietly. “Just me and him.”

Caroline nodded, pre-empting Klaus’s reaction with a sharp glare. “Yell if you need us.”

The door closed behind them with a click and Davina took a deep breath, slowly approaching the half-conscious vampire. “Kol? My name’s Davina.”

“Davina Claire,” he said, almost caressing her name. “The Harvest Girl who told the coven where to shove it. You can come closer, darling. I’m not going to bite you.”

A smile threatened to break and she dropped her gaze. “You don’t scare me. I can drop a vampire if I need to.”

“Good.” Kol said unexpectedly, his words slurring a little. “Because most of us are idiots.”

Davina allowed herself her smile, pulling a footstool over to sit beside him. “Are you including yourself in that?”

“Oh, darling, I’m the biggest idiot of the lot sometimes.” Kol admitted, coughing harshly. “You sure you want to help me?”

“I’m not sure I can.” Davina admitted softly. “I’ve never learned to channel my magic, I don’t really know any spells. My magic is instinctive, it comes from my emotions. I want to help you, but I just need some time to get my magic to realise that. So talk to me.”

“What do you want me to say?” Kol asked.

“Anything.” Davina answered. “As long as my magic believes you.”

Kol managed a smile. “I had magic once, you know. I was the only one of my siblings that picked it up. I think Mother was hoping Rebekah would – her little girl following in her footsteps – but Beks was always more interested in watching Nik and Elijah’s sword play than practising magic with us.”

“So you were a witch?” Davina asked, her hands hovering over his chest, trying to find the place the spell had made contact.

“I was.” Kol confirmed, taking her hands and guiding them to a spot just under his heart. “I never did forgive Mother for taking that away from me. I tried for years to try and get that rush back, but it never worked.”

“What did you do then?” Davina asked.

Kol hesitated. “Nothing pleasant, love.” He grimaced, doubling over in pain, veins popping beneath his eyes.

Davina hastily grabbed another blood bag from the side table and handed it to him, watching in morbid fascination as he tore it open and drained it. Once he seemed to have settled again, she pushed gently against his shoulder, forcing him to lie back so she could lay her hands on the cursed spot once more. “Keep talking.”

“Don’t know what you want me to say.” Kol said wearily. “There’s nothing about me that pure magic would find worth saving. I know how it works.”

“Then lie.” Davina suggested, but Kol was already shaking his head.

“My family have their faults, Davina, and so do I.” He said. “I have no problem with lying in general, but lying my arse of to a pretty girl to get her to save me … Well, it doesn’t sit right.”

Davina blushed a little. “I won’t be offended – I’m asking you to lie to me.”

“You’re blushing.” Kol observed. “Surely you’re used to people calling you pretty.”

“No.” Davina admitted, examining his unmarked shirt. “I … I need to see where it hit you.”

Kol smirked, unbuttoning his shirt. “All you had to do was ask.”

Davina rolled her eyes, regaining some of her composure, gently prodding the ugly burn on his skin. “Shouldn’t this have healed?”

“It should, and it does.” Kol answered. “And then it opens up again. Are you telling me, darling, that no one has ever told you you’re pretty?”

“… Yes?” Davina said hesitantly. “Why would they?”

Kol tutted. “What is wrong with boys in this century? When I was alive, it would have been considered nothing less than a crime for a beautiful girl like you to be unaware of that fact.”

“Well, nowadays, people don’t really appreciate random compliments.” Davina said.

“Oh, I don’t mean morons on the street.” Kol said dismissively. “Those aren’t compliments. You must have had friends before the Harvest. They should have said something.”

Davina flexed her fingers, trying to will her magic to respond to her.

“You need a teacher.” Kol said, watching her work. “I can try, if you like. I can’t demonstrate anything, but I’ll do my best.”

Davina looked up sharply. “You promise?”

Something crossed his face, a kind of raw understanding. “You’re scared.” He whispered. “Aren’t you?”

“I don’t get scared anymore.” Davina said firmly.

“Yes you do.” Kol said gently. “You’re scared they’ll take you back. And if they try, you’ll need to fight.” He covered the hand that rested on her chest. “I promise you, Davina Claire, I will do everything in my power to help you learn how to channel your magic properly. And if I can’t, then I promise you that anyone coming for you, darling, will have to go through me first.”

“I’m not scared.” Davina repeated.

“Yes you are.” Kol said, lifting her hand. The skin was unblemished, not even a scar to show for the curse. “Because the symptoms are gone. That promise got through to your magic – and I didn’t even have to lie.”

***

Kol was as good as his word, something that could not often be said about him. The day after Davina broke the curse, he showed up at her door with an ancient handwritten journal.

“It’s a grimoire.” He explained, when she just stared at it. “Not your family grimoire, admittedly, but it’ll do.”

“I’ve never tried an actual spell.” Davina admitted. “Aside from a locator spell, but anyone with a trace of magic can do that, as long as what they’re tracking isn’t cloaked.”

“Which reminds me.” Kol said, frowning. “You’re cloaked, aren’t you?”

“No, but the witches know where Klaus is.” Davina said, leafing through the book with care. “They’re just not stupid enough to cross him.”

“Uh huh.” Kol said, not sounding convinced. “In any case, the first step to channelling magic is making it do what you want and not what it wants.”

“But the ancestors won’t let me, will they?” Davina asked.

“The bigger spells you do need to tap in to a higher power.” Kol admitted. “But we’re going to start small.” He tossed her a pillow. “We’re starting with that.”

“A pillow?” Davina asked sceptically.

“I started with feathers that had just been plucked.” Kol said. “But we’re fresh out of chickens, so we’re going to use that.”

Davina sighed and handed it back. “Some of us don’t have vampire strength.”

Kol shrugged and, with a flick of his wrist, the pillow had been torn in half, sending feathers all over the floor. “Do you mind if I close this door?”

Davina raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Don’t look so surprised, love.” Kol said, pushing it shut. “I do like to ask permission before I shut myself in with a pretty girl.” He checked the window as well, just to make sure there were no draughts in the room. “Now this will work better if you’re comfortable, so sit down and make sure that you’re relaxed.”

“That’s easier said than done when you’re being watched.” Davina muttered, dropping to sit among the feathers. She closed her eyes, trying to make her muscles unwind from the tense balls of stress they seemed to have formed.

His steps were loud and obvious – intentionally so (another show of consideration she had not expected) – so when she felt him sit behind her, close enough for his chest to brush against her back, she only started a little.

“Relax.” He whispered, his hands on her shoulders. “Breathe with me.”

That wasn’t easy either. The intimacy of the situation seemed to have done a number on Davina’s heartbeat – something she was surprised Kol didn’t comment on – but finally she managed to match her breaths to his, feeling his chest rise and fall against her.

“Good.” He murmured into her hair. “Now find the place magic resides within you. Mine was always somewhere near my stomach. Find it, and let it flow with your breaths. Let it find one of the feathers – just one – and make it float.”

“Why just one?” Davina asked.

“Because floating all of them is channelling.” Kol answered. “Floating just one is control. Now focus.”

Davina nodded, leaning back against him a little for balance (and also because it had been a really long time since she had just had contact with another person, Josh’s hugs not withstanding). Her magic washed out of her with her next breath and she tried to focus it on just one feather.

Kol’s chuckle vibrated through her skin. “Not bad, darling.”

She opened her eyes to see most of the feathers lying on the ground and just one on the ceiling.

“But I did say float,” he continued, “not catapult. So we’ll try again.”

***

The date for the party was set as December 10th, and Caroline soon had a deadline racing towards her. She wasn’t concerned – all the planning had been done and all that remained were the last-minute preparations.

Preparations that involved making up rooms for Elijah and Rebekah when they arrived on December 9th, along with a few others Caroline had invited and would need to stay the night.

Agnes, on behalf of the witches and by way of Sophie, had declined the invitation, more politely than Caroline had expected, but had expressed her appreciation of the offer.

How much of it was genuine and how much was courtesy, Caroline didn’t know – and didn’t much care either.

Camille was coming, as Marcel’s date, something that made Caroline a little nervous. Between the two of them, they had agreed that they should tell Marcel that they met when Caroline arrived in New Orleans (not completely untrue) and that Cami had given her a tour of the city (again, not untrue).

It was better than Camille trying to pretend she didn’t know Caroline and Marcel figuring out that something was going on. He wasn’t compelling Cami – not that it would work now – but Caroline knew better than most what happened when vampires decided their human companions were more trouble than they were worth.

Sometimes, late at night, she could still feel Damon sinking his teeth into her throat, the vervain in her blood her only saviour.

The rest of Marcel’s crew had her a little on edge, but Klaus assured her that they would behave – defend Marcel, yes, but as no one was planning on launching an attack, that shouldn’t be necessary.

Most of their houseguests arrived mid-morning on the ninth, a convoy of rental cars that bypassed the Quarter entirely and pulled up the long gravel drive outside the plantation house.

Rebekah got out first, acknowledging Caroline with a wave and a smile.

“No Matt?” Caroline asked, not bothering to raise her voice.

“Thought about it.” Rebekah said, retrieving her bag from the backseat. “But I don’t really want him to get caught up in it.”

Caroline was relieved despite herself. Hopefully there would be time in the future for Matt to visit her new home, but for now Rebekah was right – if Marcel suddenly decided he wanted Rebekah back, she didn’t want Matt to become collateral damage.

Stefan and Elena were next, the latter blurring over to hug Caroline, leaving her husband to collect the bags.

“Well, hello Mrs Salvatore.” Caroline teased. “How’s married life treating you?”

Elena gave her a wide smile. “Very well. Jeremy and Hayley send their best wishes, but he’s got school and Hayley reckons adding a werewolf to the mix won’t go well.”

Caroline grimaced. “No, it wouldn’t.”

“Tyler’s here though.” Elena added unnecessarily as the man himself appeared. “And Bonnie’s with him.”

Caroline nodded, crossing the drive to hug her other best friend. “Hey, Bon.”

“Hey, how’s Davina?” Bonnie asked.

“She’s doing okay.” Caroline assured her. “Kol’s been … surprisingly helpful.”

“I heard that.” He retorted from somewhere inside.

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Come on inside.” She said to the group as a whole. “Elijah?”

“Following on.” Rebekah said. “He wasn’t in Mystic Falls, so he told us to go on ahead.”

Caroline frowned. There was something in Rebekah’s voice that worried her – a slight tremor that spoke of fear. “Are you alright, Beks?”

“I’m fine.” Rebekah said, managing a passable smile. “Are you going to introduce us?”

Belatedly, Caroline realised that the sitting room she’d led them in to was occupied – Kol and Davina were working on another focus exercise, and Josh was watching them.

At least they had been and he had been before Caroline had interrupted.

“Bekah!” Kol said, jumping to his feet. “All alone for once?”

Rebekah rolled her eyes, embracing her brother. “Trying to keep him safe, actually.”

Caroline laughed. “Davina, Josh, these are my friends from Mystic Falls. This is Rebekah, Klaus and Kol’s sister, and this is Stefan, Elena, Bonnie and Tyler. I’m guessing,” she added, turning to Stefan, “that Damon and Katherine declined because Katherine still has issues with Elijah?”

“Something like that.” Stefan agreed, hugging her now he had two hands with which to do so.

“So,” Josh said with a nervous laugh, “at the risk of sounding rude, who’s what?”

Elena laughed, stepping forward to shake his hand. “Stefan and I are vampires, Beks is an Original vampire, Tyler’s a hybrid and Bonnie’s a witch.”

“Thanks for the cloaking spell.” Davina said shyly.

“Not at all.” Bonnie said with a smile. “You want to show me where you are? I’ll see if I can help as well, while I’m here.”

Rebekah tugged on Kol’s sleeve. “Can you leave them to it?” She asked in an undertone. “I need to talk to you and Nik.”

Kol frowned. “Yeah, of course. Family business?”

‘Family Business’ for Originals rarely meant ‘Family Business’ – just a conversation that should be kept between the siblings and nobody else.

“Yes.” Rebekah hesitated. “But I guess Caroline might be a good idea.”

Hearing her name, Caroline looked over and caught their eyes. Heaving a sigh, she excused herself from Stefan and Tyler and approached them. “What’s happened?”

“I need to talk to Nik.” Rebekah said. “And I want you two there when I do.”

“Alright.” Caroline said, glancing at Kol – but he seemed as in the dark as she did. “He’s in the study, I think.”

She led them up a flight of stairs and along a corridor to a closed door, which she knocked upon before pushing it open.

Klaus barely glanced up at her entrance. “Yes?”

“Rebekah’s here.” Caroline said.

Now he looked up, a rare smile crossing his face. “Little sister.”

“Hello Nik.” Rebekah greeted quietly.

Klaus frowned. “Something’s wrong.”

Caroline pushed the door closed behind them, shutting herself in with the three siblings. “Rebekah, what’s going on?”

Rebekah took a deep breath, her eyes fixed on Klaus. “When we fled New Orleans, when Mikael came here, you blamed Kol.”

Yellow flashed in Klaus’s eyes even as Kol groaned. “For the thousandth time, I was being discrete. Certainly no less discrete than Nik himself …”

“It wasn’t Kol that lured Mikael here.” Rebekah interrupted, her words hurried. “It was me.”

Chapter Text

Caroline’s eyes widened and she took a step towards Klaus, even though the look on his face meant that it was probably the opposite direction she wanted to move in. “Klaus …”

“Caroline,” Klaus interrupted. “If you don’t mind, this is family business.”

Rebekah gave Caroline a pleading look, but Caroline wasn’t stupid enough to argue. She lingered just a moment longer, her eyes searching his for some kind of clue as to his mood. “Please don’t do anything you’ll regret.” She whispered finally, before letting herself out of the study.

As soon as she was more than a few steps away, she blurred downstairs, coming to a halt in the sitting room, startling everyone. “Sorry.” She said absently. “Josh, have you seen Jeanette or the others around?”

“They’re taking another look around the bayou.” Josh answered. “You know, in case.”

The hybrids’ searches were still coming up empty, as though the wolf that had bitten Caroline had vanished into thin air.

Caroline sighed in frustration. “I don’t suppose you’ve come across some empty coffins, have you?”

“Yeah, there are some in the basement.” Josh said with a bemused frown. “Why?”

“I don’t suppose there were any silver daggers down there, were there?” Caroline asked.

“What’s going on?” Elena interrupted.

“Long story.” Caroline answered. “Josh?”

“I don’t remember.” Josh admitted. “I can go and take a look?”

“No.” Caroline said. “No, I’ll go – I’m already caught up in Mikaelson family drama.”

“Care, I’m fairly sure you qualify as Mikaelson family drama.” Tyler said with a smirk.

Caroline made a rude hand gesture that made Davina giggle and Tyler feign insulted shock, and headed for the basement door underneath the sweeping staircase in the entrance hall. Before she could reach it, however, there was another knock at the front door, and there stood Elijah, suit and all.

“Elijah,” Caroline said with a relieved sigh. “Thank God you’re here.”

Elijah raised an eyebrow. “I was under the impression the gathering was not until tomorrow evening.”

“It’s not.” Caroline answered. “But Rebekah dropped a bombshell and she might be facing a century in a coffin. I was just about to see if I could find the daggers, but …”

“Trust me, Caroline.” Elijah said, his eyes fixed on the top of the stairs, as though he could see through walls into the study where his siblings sat. “Preventing Niklaus from carrying out his revenge, as he sees it, will do nothing but alienate yourself from him. And I believe you are his only salvation.”

Caroline rolled her eyes. “It’s not my job to save him, Elijah, but I see your point. They’re in the upstairs study with Kol.” Her phone beeped in her pocket and she checked her messages. “Speak of the devil.”

“Kol is calling you?” Elijah asked.

“Texting me.” Caroline corrected. “I’ve been summoned.”

“Well, then.” Elijah said simply, offering Caroline his arm.

It felt a little like being led to the gallows, Caroline thought, as she allowed Elijah to escort her upstairs.

Klaus wouldn’t hurt her, and neither would Rebekah or Kol, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – be caught in the crossfire.

When they reached the study, Rebekah was in tears. Kol was standing in between her and Klaus, torn between glaring at his brother and comforting his sister.

Klaus had not been yelling, that much was obvious. If he had been yelling, they would have heard him, but Caroline knew from experience that Klaus getting quiet was sometimes more dangerous.

“That’s quite enough.” Elijah announced.

Klaus turned on him immediately. “Have you heard what our sister …?”

“Miss Forbes did not elaborate.” Elijah said calmly. “Only that Rebekah had, what was it? Dropped a bombshell.”

“Our sister,” Klaus said, spitting the word with such venom that Rebekah’s sobs increased, “has just confessed that she was responsible for Mikael coming to New Orleans a hundred years ago.”

Elijah looked taken aback. “Rebekah …” His brow creased in pain and he turned to Caroline. “I believe Kol was correct in his actions, Caroline.”

“Caroline …”

“I know.” Caroline said tiredly. “It’s Family Business.”

“But she’s family.” Kol said sharply. “And if anyone can stop you from daggering Bekah, it’s her.”

“Maybe I don’t want to be stopped.” Klaus growled.

“Alright, enough!” Caroline repeated, raising her voice a little. “All of you, sit down. We are going to do this calmly and rationally, alright?”

The three men sat, Klaus grumbling a little, but none of them challenged her.

“Thank you.” Caroline said, wondering when exactly she’d become a kindergarten teacher.

Be fair – Kindergarten teachers probably don’t have to worry about their charges daggering their friends and leaving them in a coffin for a century.

“Rebekah,” she said gently, sitting beside her. “Can you tell me what happened?”

“She’s already …”

“I’m sorry.” Caroline said sharply, glaring at Klaus. “Did I miss the ceremony when you changed your name to Rebekah?”

Kol sniggered, but she ignored him, turning back to their sister.

“Beks, it’s me. Pretend they’re not here and tell me what happened.”

Rebekah attempted to dry her eyes and took a deep breath. “It started when Nik daggered me when he found out about Marcel and me. I was heartbroken when I woke up. Did Nik …?”

“He told me about the ultimatum he gave Marcel.” Caroline said softly. “To wake you or turn him.”

“I never liked him.” Kol muttered.

Caroline gave him a quelling look, but said nothing, gesturing for Rebekah to continue.

“It took a long time, but I forgave him.” Rebekah admitted, staring at Caroline’s knees. “I’d never stopped loving him, but I knew that Nik would never allow me to be happy. So Marcel suggested that … that he go and talk to Nik and broach the idea of me and him possibly rekindling a relationship. Nik told him that if he even considered it, he’d … he’d …”

“Take your time.” Caroline said gently

Rebekah sucked in another unneeded breath, tears still streaming down her face. “He said he’d dagger me and never let me wake again. And he would have done it, Caroline! He hated the thought of me being happy.”

“I …”

Caroline held up a hand, mildly surprised when she needed to say nothing for Klaus to fall silent. “I see. And then what?”

“Marcel asked me if I knew a way to keep us safe.” Rebekah whispered. “And I thought … Mikael would force us to flee. Probably separately so as not to alert him. So I found a witch and convinced her to look for my father and summon him to town. I thought that Nik would run and then I could double back and we could be together. But Marcel was killed and … and …”

“And now he’s not.” Caroline finished, looking up to meet Klaus’s eyes. She couldn’t read them at all. “Klaus, why are you so against Rebekah being happy?”

“Why am I now the bad guy?” Klaus demanded.

“That’s not what I said.” Caroline said firmly, getting to her feet. “I said, why are you so against Rebekah being happy?”

Klaus sighed. “I was trying to protect her, Caroline. So many men out there are …”

“I know.” Caroline said, rolling her eyes. “The thing is, Klaus, unless you let her make her mistakes, she’s never going to learn how to pick a good one.” She looked over at Rebekah. “In case you were wondering, the one you’ve got now is definitely a good one.”

Rebekah smiled weakly. “I know.”

“I reacted … rashly when I first learned about Marcel and Rebekah.” Klaus admitted. “But I was right. If he truly cared, he would have wanted her awake. But by the time he came to speak to me … I knew what was going on. I gave him my blessing.”

Rebekah’s head shot up. “What?”

“I gave him my blessing, Rebekah.” Klaus repeated. “For the first time in forever, I trusted someone with your heart.”

“Why would Marcel lie to me?” Rebekah asked.

Kol snorted. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the backstabbing little wanker decided that playing prince wasn’t good enough and he figured you were the easiest way to become king.”

Rebekah sniffed angrily. “Sure, rub it in. Stupid little Rebekah, can’t be trusted to make her own decisions …”

“Rebekah,” Caroline interrupted, “please don’t talk about yourself like that. The fact that Marcel acted this way is not your fault. Sure, maybe you should have realised that he was using you, but how were you supposed to? You’d never seen the fall-out of a man attempting to use you before.”

“So this is my fault?” Klaus demanded again.

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Oh, my God, Klaus, get over your freakin’ persecution complex – we are not out to get you! Rebekah shouldn’t have summoned Mikael, but you should have given her the freedom to live – why are you so terrified of Rebekah falling in love?!”

“Because …” Klaus hesitated. “Because she’ll leave.”

“But is that a bad thing?” Caroline asked gently. “Right now, she lives in Mystic Falls. You are in New Orleans. Kol’s only been here a few weeks. Elijah is travelling. And yet, you issued an invitation and here you all are. Family doesn’t mean being in the same place all the time. It means loving each other. And it’s pretty obvious to me that, whatever else, you do that.”

Rebekah stood, crossing the room to round her brother’s desk. “Nik. I’m sorry.”

Klaus sighed. “Rebekah … I’m sorry too.”

Caroline’s mouth dropped open, even as she stepped back to avoid Kol, who had pretended to faint with shock beside her.

Rebekah flinched a little. “Is this the part where you dagger me?”

“No.” Klaus said. “This is the part, sister, where I forgive you.”

“Great.” Kol muttered, getting to his feet again.

“Kol,” Elijah said sternly. “Do not tell me you wanted Rebekah daggered.”

Kol scowled, but didn’t say anything.

“He doesn’t.” Caroline said. “But, Rebekah, you owe Kol an apology as well. He took the fall last time, after all, and spent a century in a coffin.”

“No, it’s alright, Caroline.” Kol said. “I wasn’t expecting an apology. You see, this is how it works. Elijah and Nik and Rebekah made a pact – always and forever. And I was part of that pact when it suited them. The rest of the time … I just don’t matter. Marcel was more important to all of them than I was. Why do you think I resented the little bugger so much?”

“Kol …” Rebekah said, guilt flashing in her eyes.

“It’s fine, Beks.” Kol interrupted, with a ghost of a smile. “I’m used to it now.” He was gone in a blur of colour and Caroline sighed.

“Should have seen that coming, really.” She remarked.

“Do you think he’s right?” Elijah asked, his expression grave.

“I think he was in and out of a coffin far more often than you or Rebekah.” Caroline said. “I think you were far more concerned about Rebekah when the daggers were in play in Mystic Falls. I think when Rebekah told Elena about how the Originals came to be, she only ever mentioned three brothers – not five.” She paused, follow Kol’s path to the now-open door at a far more sedate pace. “I think I can understand why he thinks he is.”

***

By the time the guests began to arrive the following evening, everything was running smoothly.

Marcel arrived with Camille on his arm, dressed in flowing white. Caroline resisted the urge to run straight over to her – she had planned the party, but politics was more Klaus’s area of expertise than her own, and he still had not made an appearance.

She wasn’t worried. She knew full well that the Mikaelsons liked to make an entrance.

***

Upstairs, Kol knocked on Davina’s door.

“Why do you always do that?” She asked, good-naturedly. “It’s already open.”

“This is your sanctuary, darling.” Kol said with a smirk. “It’d be rude not too.”

Davina rolled her eyes. “And how many witches have you used that line on?”

“Ah, wouldn’t you like to know, love?” Kol teased. “I brought you something.”

“What’s that?” Davina asked, only just spotting the box in his hands.

“Well, if Cinderella’s coming to the ball,” Kol said, handing the box to her with a bow, “she’s going to need a dress.”

“Cinderella isn’t coming to the ball.” Davina said. “But thank you.”

Kol frowned, taking a step towards her. “Is it Marcel?”

Davina nodded, taking a shaky breath.

“He’s got Camille on his arm and the city’s human dignitaries here.” Kol said. “Besides, I know my brother raised him better than to cause a fuss at an event like this. This is … neutral ground. It’s bad form.”

“He might have been raised better.” Davina said. “But what about his crew?”

Kol opened his mouth, then closed it again. He hadn’t thought about Marcel’s inner circle, all of whom would be there tonight.

Were already there, in fact.

“You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.” Kol said. “But if you do, I promise I’ll keep you safe.”

Davina looked at the box in her hands. “I’ll think about it.”

“Good girl.” Kol said with a wink.

Davina watched him leave, opening the box to assess the dress inside.

***

“Caroline.”

Caroline glanced up towards the mezzanine at the top of the staircase. Klaus was loitering somewhere in the shadows, and she excused herself from her conversation partner, making her way up the stairs. “You called?”

Klaus smiled at her. “You look radiant, love.”

Caroline blushed a little. “Thank you. And I managed to shop for myself this time.”

“Well, you can’t deny it.” Klaus said, touching the bracelet on her wrist. “I do have good taste.”

Caroline laughed. “And a huge ego. What do you want?”

“To ask you to help me prove a point.” Klaus said softly.

“Oh?” Caroline asked, drawing closer.

“Names are important in my family, had you noticed?” Klaus asked.

Caroline raised an eyebrow. “I’d noticed that the only people who call you Nik are your siblings, if that’s what you mean. And Stefan.”

“Well, I sort of adopted him as another brother in the twenties.” Klaus said, before frowning. “That didn’t help the Kol situation, did it?”

“Probably not.” Caroline agreed with a sigh. “Is that what you mean?”

“It is.” Klaus confirmed. “Marcel knows that as well. He would never have dared use it – even if he was technically part of the family …”

“And if I use it, he knows where I stand?” Caroline guessed softly.

Klaus lifted her hand and pressed a soft kiss against her knuckles. “Do you mind?”

Caroline smiled. “Not at all, Nik. Now the guests are getting ansty, start the party, would you?”

Klaus chuckled, moving to the stop of the stairs. “Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention for a moment.”

If there was one thing Klaus was good at, it was commanding a room. The music stopped, the chatter fell away, and Caroline smiled, seeing the other Mikaelsons poised for their cue.

“I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you this evening. If I may introduce myself to those of you I have not yet had a chance to meet, my name is Klaus Mikaelson. A long time ago, this city was my home and I am delighted to call it so again. Christmas, of course, is a time for family, so it seemed only fitting to invite my family to share in this event. My brothers, Elijah and Kol. And of course, my darling sister, Rebekah.”

Caroline watched Marcel’s face as Rebekah stepped up beside her brothers, Klaus placing an uncharacteristically affectionate kiss on her hairline.

For a moment, she was worried that Klaus would dagger her anyway, but it seemed his actions were purely to rattle Marcel.

It was working. He looked rattled.

“Our family,” Klaus continued, “have a tradition at these parties, to start the evening with a dance. So please,” he extended a hand to Caroline, who stepped into the limelight to take it, “find yourselves a partner, and join us in the ballroom.”

Caroline tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow. “Nicely done.”

The Originals and the Mystic Falls visitors had pre-arranged partners for this part of the evening. Obviously Elena and Stefan would be dancing together, and Tyler and Bonnie had teamed up (the less people who realised she was a witch, the better). Elijah was escorting Jeanette, and Kol and Rebekah were accompanying each other – until Kol’s eyes fixed on something over her shoulder.

Rebekah glanced back to see Davina hovering just out of sight of the rest of the guests, and smiled. “Go on.” She said to her brother, snagging Josh’s suit jacket as he passed. “I’ve got a partner.”

“Erm, I don’t really know how to dance properly.” Josh said apologetically.

“Can you count?” Rebekah asked briskly.

“Yes?”

“Then I’ll teach you.” Rebekah said, taking his arm. “Come on. Keep Marcel away from me and I’ll convince Nik to give you a raise.”

“He doesn’t pay me.” Josh said.

“Then I’ll convince Nik to give you a salary.” Rebekah said, rolling her eyes. “I’m not going to eat you.”

Kol shook his head with a chuckle, jogging to the top of the stairs, his eyes sweeping over Davina. “I must say, darling, that you have surpassed my expectations.” He held out his hand with a smile. “You look stunning.”

Davina managed a small smile, even though he could hear her heart racing. “I half-expected red.”

“Among vampires?” Kol asked, his nose wrinkling. “Give me some credit. Far too cliché. Besides, you look lovely in blue.”

Davina slid her hand into his. “You promise you’ll keep me safe?”

“I promise, darling.” Kol said, tucking her against his side. “Heads will roll the second you’re not.”

***

As the first dance wound to a close, Caroline spun into Klaus’s arms, his hand pressing against her lower back more than a little possessively.

The guests applauded the band, who promptly swung into another number, with a little more beat to it, and Klaus loosened his grip, his gaze fixing on something over her shoulder.

Caroline watched with fascination as he shifted effortlessly into the man she had first met all those months ago (just over a year, her mind whispered, when it felt so much longer). His fangs remained hidden, his smile friendly, but there was something in his eyes that screamed danger and she felt a frisson of fear travel through her, despite the gentleness of his hand on her arm.

“Caroline,” he said, “I’d like you to meet Marcel.”

Caroline turned with as much poise as she could muster at short notice, bestowing the man with a smile.

“Marcel,” Klaus continued. “This is Caroline Forbes.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you finally.” Caroline said. “Nik’s told me a lot about you.”

Something flickered on Marcel’s face, something she couldn’t quite place, but his own charming smile stayed in place as he took her offered hand and pressed a kiss to the back of it. “Charmed, although he hasn’t said much about you.”

“Well, Nik likes to play his cards close to his chest.” Caroline said, nudging Klaus playfully. “Hello, Cami, you look gorgeous.”

“Thank you, so do you.” Camille responded, accepting Caroline’s embrace.

“I didn’t know you two knew each other.” Klaus remarked, for Marcel's benefit.

“Oh, Cami gave me a tour when I first arrived in the city.” Caroline said, shrugging. “And she makes good cocktails.”

Marcel chuckled, and to Caroline’s relief, it didn’t seem faked or uneasy. “So, Klaus, how long are your siblings sticking around?”

“I wouldn’t know.” Klaus answered. “Elijah, I believe, is going back to travelling, and Rebekah has a young man in Virginia that I’m sure she’s aching to get back to …”

“Nik …” Caroline said with a sigh. “He’s my friend.”

“She’s my sister.”

Caroline rolled her eyes and turned to Camille. “You want a drink? We can leave the boys to talk.”

“I’d love one.” Camille said, following Caroline towards the open bar. “Well, that felt awkward.”

“Rebekah and Marcel used to date.” Caroline said in an undertone. “She’s avoiding him.”

“Ah.” Cami’s eyes darted around the room. “There are some other faces I don’t recognise.”

“A few of my friends came down from Virginia.” Caroline explained, handing Cami a glass. “I’ll introduce you at some point, they’re lovely.”

Elated laughter caught her attention and she glanced up, a smile crossing her face, as Kol twirled Davina into a chair, where she just about collapsed, shaking with giggles.

“Enjoying yourself?” She asked.

“Oh, we’re having a blast.” Kol said, tapping the bar. “What’ll it be, love?”

“She’s underage, Kol.” Caroline reminded him.

“So are you.”

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Yes, but I’m not aging, she is. There are a lot of humans in the room.”

“Speaking of,” Kol said, eyeing Camille, “is she compelled?”

She is not deaf.” Camille said tartly.

Kol smirked. “My apologies.”

“Camille, Kol Mikaelson. Kol, this is Camille O’Connell. Officially, she knows nothing.” Caroline said.

“I see.” Kol said, his eyes cutting to where Marcel and Klaus were cutting through the crowd towards them. “In that case, soda it is. You up for another round, darling?”

Davina fanned herself. “Not yet.”

“Best we step out for some air then.” Kol said, pulling her to her feet. “So I can keep my reputation as bodyguard intact.”

Camille seemed to have spotted the same thing Kol had, and set her glass down. “Could you direct me to the little girls’ room?”

“Oh, of course.” Caroline said, pointing to the door. “Through there, take a left, and it’s the third door on the right.”

“Thanks, I’ll be right back.”

“All alone, love?” Klaus asked, not even a second later.

“Only just.” Caroline said, taking a sip of her drink. “Cami’s just popped to the ladies’.” She added to Marcel, who nodded distractedly.

“Who was that with Kol?”

Caroline shrugged. “I didn’t catch her name.”

“It looked like someone I know.” Marcel said, frowning at Klaus. “A witch.”

“Well, they can’t do magic in the Quarter now, can they?” Klaus asked. “So what’s the harm? Kol always did like witches, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Her name is Davina Claire.” Marcel said. “And she’s missing.”

“Now you mention it,” Caroline said, “that might have been the name she mentioned.”

“What are you doing with her?” Marcel asked, taking a step closer to his sire.

Klaus smirked. “Nothing.”

“I …”

“No, really.” Klaus said. “Nothing. Caroline has a habit of adopting strays, and she get so very protective of them.”

“She’s just a kid.” Caroline said, brushing her hair from her face. “And she’s been through enough. And she asked me for help,” she added, when Marcel just stared at her. “Something about being lied to, and witches being killed, I don’t know. She was a little hysterical.”

“Where did you get that?” Marcel asked.

It took Caroline a few seconds to realise that he had been distracted by her daylight ring. “Virginia. About eighteen months ago. There are witches outside New Orleans, you know. And you don’t have the monopoly on the daylight ring spell. We can’t all be hybrids, you know.” She pressed a kiss to Klaus’s cheek that was only partly for show and set her glass down on the bar. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I do have other guests.”

Chapter Text

The evening was, more or less, a resounding success.

Marcel’s vampires behaved themselves, Davina and Rebekah both managed to avoid Marcel completely, and Caroline finally got to meet the man Klaus had once viewed as a son.

Once the last guests had left, in the early hours of the following morning, Caroline traipsed into the family sitting room, which had been shut during the party, and collapsed on to one of the couches. “I’d say that went well.” She commented, lifting her feet up to let Klaus sit beside her and promptly dropping them on to his lap.

He looked amused, but tugged her heels off without invitation and began rubbing her aching soles.

“Well, aren’t you well-trained?” Rebekah said, without any real bite.

Klaus pulled a face at her and turned back to Caroline. “Why do you say that, love?”

“Well, no one’s dead, for a start.” Caroline said. “Which puts it ahead of pretty much every party in Mystic Falls.”

“That’s not true!” Elena protested.

Caroline opened one lazy eye. “Oh yeah? Name three parties that no one died at.”

“Alright.” Elena said. “Give me a minute.”

“The fact that you need a minute proves Caroline right.” Bonnie said.

Elena rolled her eyes. “Alright – the back-to-school party, the day after I met Stefan. No one died there.”

“Vikki nearly did.” Caroline pointed out.

“Yeah, but she didn’t.” Elena said, her brow creasing in through. “Then there was … Okay, the Founders Ball, that year.”

“Only because Stefan spiked my drink with vervain.” Caroline said. “Or Damon would have drained me.”

“But he didn’t.” Elena repeated. “And the …” She trailed off.

“Go on.” Caroline said, smirking. “Name me another one.”

“Decade Dance?” Elena guessed. “Sixties? I know Klaus turned up and was a general asshole, but I don’t think anyone died … did they?”

“I faked my death.” Bonnie offered. “But I don’t think so.”

“See?” Elena said with a grin. “Three parties no one died at.”

“No, I think you just proved Caroline right.” Josh said. “What the hell happened in Mystic Falls?”

“One day, I’ll tell you all about it.” Caroline said, sighing a little as Klaus’s fingers dug into a particularly sore spot. “In the meantime, give me gossip, people.”

“The Mayor’s wife’s having an affair.” Jeanette offered.

“I was thinking more about the vampires,” Caroline said, sniggering, “but I’ll keep that in mind.”

“A lot of them seemed shaken.” Tyler offered. “I don’t think Marcel had told them that Klaus is a hybrid now, although how they didn’t know …”

“I don’t advertise it.” Klaus admitted. “Given the low profile I’m attempting to keep. I wonder why he didn’t tell them.”

Tyler shrugged. “All I know is I was talking to a couple of them – Thierry and Diego? They asked me how I knew Klaus – I told them I was his first hybrid.”

“That’s all you told them?” Caroline asked.

“Hey, you asked for a united front.” Tyler said.

“Thank you.” Caroline said sincerely. “How shaken are we talking here?”

“Difficult to say.” Tyler said. “Normally, I’d say not very, but now Marcel knows that there isn’t a rift in the family, that Elijah and Rebekah will come back if they’re needed and Kol’s here ... the more paranoid he is, it’s likely to escalate.”

***

Rebekah and the rest of the visitors from Mystic Falls departed the following day, and Elijah followed on a day later, both siblings assuring Klaus that they were only a phone call away.

Kol stayed, rather unsurprisingly, continuing to help Davina with her magic, which was only getting stronger.

It wasn’t unusual for the house to be woken by the ground shaking and, though Kol assured everyone (including the witch in question) that there was nothing wrong, his eyes told a very different story.

A week after the party, Caroline sat in her study, finishing an email to her online tutor, keeping half an ear on Kol and Davina’s meditations two floors above her.

The sun had long since set, leaving the room swathed in moonlight, and Caroline bit back a yawn, closing her laptop.

As she gathered her papers together, there was a knock at the door and Adrian poked his head inside. “Sorry, Caroline, but there’s something you need to see.”

“Oh?” Caroline asked, standing to follow him, but he walked to the window, peering out across the grounds to the edge of the forest.

“Out there.”

Caroline narrowed her eyes, just about catching motion along the treeline. A man stood there, unkempt, as though he had been sleeping rough, staring at them.

She frowned. “He looks like Tyler used to after a transformation.”

“He can’t.” Adrian said. “The moon’s full now.”

Combined with the random attack halfway through the moon’s cycle, Caroline’s gut was beginning to churn. “Go out to him.” She said. “Invite him in for something to eat.”

“Are you sure?” Adrian asked.

“No.” Caroline admitted. “That’s why you’re going and I’m not.”

Adrian chuckled. “Fair enough. I’ll meet you in the kitchen.”

Caroline nodded, following him out of the study and parting ways at the kitchen door. She had to root around in the freezer for a few minutes before she finally found a tub of beef stew among the blood bags, but by the time Adrian walked in with the stranger, she was tipping it into a saucepan. “I’ll just get this heated up.”

“You don’t have to do that.” His voice was rough, like he was unaccustomed to speaking.

Caroline turned on the heat and turned to face him with a smile. “I’m Caroline.”

“Jackson.”

“Jackson,” Caroline repeated. “Won’t you sit down? We don’t bite. Much.”

Jackson cracked a smile that made him look years younger and took a seat at the kitchen table, glancing at Adrian who remained standing against the wall.

“Adrian, relax.” Caroline said, rolling her eyes. “Bodyguard duty isn’t literal. So, Jackson, what brings you here tonight?”

“I wanted to apologise.” Jackson said, steeling himself like he was ready for an execution. “The wolves in this part aren’t exactly on friendly terms with vampires, and one of them attacked you a month or so back. I wanted to apologise.”

“Was it you?” Caroline asked bluntly.

“No, it was one of the others.” Jackson said. “Oliver.”

“Then don’t apologise.” Caroline said, spooning some of the stew into a bowl. “It wasn’t your fault.”

Jackson sighed. “I’m the alpha.”

“Did you tell him to?” Caroline asked.

“No.”

“Then don’t apologise.” Caroline repeated, setting the bowl in front of him. “Just eat, you look half-starved.”

“Hunting’s been bad.” Jackson muttered, diving in.

Caroline’s eyes cut towards the window, wondering how many people in that bayou were just as hungry. There was nothing she could do right now though – with Davina the only human in the house, their volume of food was nowhere near enough to feed a whole pack of wolves.

“How are you human right now?” She asked after a few minutes. “The moon’s full. And you must have triggered the curse, or I’m guessing you wouldn’t qualify as the alpha.”

Jackson wiped his mouth. “Well, that’s the other reason I’m here. See, our pack have always lived in this bayou, always. When vampires first came to town, we were uneasy, but they did their thing, we did ours. But about a decade ago or so, Marcel decided he didn’t like wolves on his doorstep. Never mind the fact that we’d never done a damn thing. He started killing any wolves that set foot in the Quarter. Then any who set foot in the city. And then he got a witch to curse our pack, so our fates are reversed. We are in human form only on the full moon. The rest of the time, we are wolves.”

“Your whole pack?” Caroline asked, frowning. “What about the untriggered wolves?”

“No, they’re still human.” Jackson assured her. “Thank God … when I think about the children going through that …”

Caroline shuddered as well. “Are they safe?”

Jackson gave her a small smile. “As safe as they can be. Even in our transformed states, we recognise kin and pack.”

“You said the curse was the other reason you were here.” Caroline prompted.

Jackson looked highly uncomfortable, but pressed on. “The way I see it – and I wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t desperate – the way I see it, we hate Marcel, and it looks like you do too. We need help and you need backup.”

Caroline smiled. “First of all, yes, we are trying to oust Marcel. I can’t personally say I hate him, just because I don’t know him well enough to have any kind of strong emotion towards him. Klaus definitely does. Second of all, I have no idea how much help we can be, but I will speak to Davina and another witch in Virginia to see if they can find a way to break the spell. We can discuss anything else afterwards. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t need a deal or an alliance to help you – no one should be subjected to this kind of torture.”

Jackson looked startled, and caught Adrian’s eye.

“Yeah, you get used to it.” The hybrid said with a grin. “In the meantime, we can run some food out into the bayou, if hunting’s bad.”

“No offence,” Jackson said, “but I think it’s been proved that, alpha or not, I can’t control all of my pack. A couple of the betas have understandable issues with vampires.”

“Adrian’s not a vampire.” Caroline said with a smile. “He’s a hybrid.”

“A what now?” Jackson asked.

“I used to be a werewolf.” Adrian explained, holding out a hand and letting it slowly turn into a wolf’s paw. “And now I’m a vampire-werewolf hybrid.”

“I’m just your run-of-the-mill vampire.” Caroline added, when Jackson looked at her. “Klaus is the Original Hybrid and … Well, it’s a long story. His blood is the cure for werewolf venom, hence the fact that I’m alright, and werewolf venom won’t affect any of them.”

Jackson nodded, and she could almost see him swallowing his pride. “I’d appreciate that.” He said to Adrian. “Thank you.”

***

Caroline called Bonnie that evening. As well as promising to look into the curse on the wolves, Bonnie was particularly concerned to hear about Davina’s sudden penchant for making the ground shake.

And it didn’t stop at earthquakes, either.

The day after the shaking stopped, the wind picked up, howling and rattling through the chimneys like a restless ghost.

And then came the rain. It started with a shower, which swiftly turned into a downpour. It lashed against the windows and ran through the French Quarter like a river.

After the third day, Caroline gave up pretending the storm outside was anything other than natural and abandoned her laptop in favour of hurrying up the stairs to Davina’s room.

She found Kol pacing the corridor outside, and the sight scared her for reasons she couldn’t quite explain. “What’s wrong?”

“She’s fine.” Kol said, without missing a step.

“Bullshit.” Caroline said bluntly. “First the earthquakes, then the wind, now this rain – it came out of nowhere, Kol; meteorologists across the state are flummoxed – you’re telling me it’s not Davina?”

“No, it is.” Kol said with a sigh. “I was just hoping that maybe I’d misread the signs.”

“Earth, wind, water …” Caroline grimaced. “If she’s cycling through the elements …”

“I know.” Kol said, reaching out to knock on the bedroom door.

Davina opened it immediately, clutching the doorframe like a lifeline, wide eyes fixed on Kol. She looked awful, dark circles under her eyes all the more pronounced for the paleness of her skin. “It’s getting worse.”

“I know, love.” Kol said, gently taking hole of her shoulders to steady her. “Do you know what’s happening?”

“Do you?” Davina challenged, but her voice lacked any real force. “Because you said I was fine.”

“I was hoping you were.” Kol said with another sigh. “It’s the Harvest, darling. The magic was supposed to go somewhere and it didn’t. So it’s building up inside you and …”

“It’s going to kill me.” Davina finished numbly. “Fire comes next, and it’s going to kill me, isn’t it?”

Caroline closed her eyes against her tears. “Oh no …”

“I’m afraid so, Davina.” Kol said softly.

Davina nodded, swallowing hard. “Get me out of here.” She said. “Somewhere isolated, where the backlash won’t hurt anyone.”

Caroline’s eyes flew open. “Davina …”

“It’s okay, Caroline.” Davina said with a small smile. “I think I knew as soon as Monique was killed that it was inevitable. You tried to help me, and you took me into your family, and I will never be able to repay you for that.”

“I didn’t do it for that.” Caroline said, embracing her.

Davina shuddered against her. “I know.” She whispered. “But I wish I could.”

Caroline caught Kol’s eye over Davina’s head and he nodded, disappearing in a blur. When he reappeared, Josh was with him.

Josh took one look at Davina and the colour drained from his face; Caroline loosened her grip and turned the young girl into his arms.

Kol stepped closer to her. “Was that a good idea?”

Caroline nodded, trying to form words around the lump in her throat. “He’s her best friend.” She said finally. “She needs to say goodbye. Where are you taking her?”

“There’s some scrubland to the East.” Kol answered. “Good distance from any settlements, and there’s a lake on one side and a creek on the other, so the fire should be contained. Nik’s out of the house, right?”

“Convincing Marcel that he’s not planning a coup and that we’re not behind the bizarre weather phenomenon.” Caroline confirmed. “Probably for the best.”

The storm was still raging outside and a loud crash suggested that at least one tree had just been uprooted.

“Sorry, darling.” Kol said. “But we need to go.”

Davina pulled away from Josh, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “Find a cute guy for me, alright?”

Josh gave her a very wobbly smile. “I’ll do my best.”

Kol scooped Davina into his arms, and they vanished.

Josh’s brave face crumbled and Caroline caught his arm, squeezing it gently. “Come on.” She said softly. “I know where Nik hides the good bourbon.”

***

At least some of the tension drained from Davina as soon as they stopped in the middle of nowhere. She was still shivering though, so Kol shed his jacket in favour of wrapping it around her shoulders.

“How long do you think it will take?” She asked, her voice deceptively calm. She was swaying on the spot subconsciously and he took her arm to guide her to the ground.

“I don’t know.” He admitted, dropping to sit beside her. “I’ve never seen this before. The ritual’s never been interrupted before. Plus, because they killed the others, the flow of magic is much more powerful.”

“If I just let the magic out, will I be okay?” Davina asked.

“No.” Kol said honestly. “That’s what’s happening now. Whether you hold it in, or let it go … it’s going to kill you.”

Davina nodded, huddling in his jacket against the driving rain. She looked tiny. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Kol gave her a forced smile, lifting her on to his lap. “You won’t, darling. I’m an Original. Short of driving white oak into my heart, you can’t kill me.”

“But the fire …” Davina protested.

“Will burn me.” Kol finished. “I daresay it will hurt like hell as well. But it won’t kill me, and I’ll heal. I’m not leaving you to die alone, Davina.”

“Alright.” Davina whispered, curling into his chest. “Thank you.”

Kol pressed kiss to her hairline and they sat in silence. Slowly the roaring wind was silenced and the rain petered off, like someone in the heavens had turned the water off.

The final phase was about to begin.

Davina let out a soft sigh of discomfort, fever beginning to prick at her skin. The sighs became whimpers and the scrub around them began to steam.

“It’s alright.” Kol murmured, pressing a cool hand to her forehead. “It’ll be alright.”

Davina choked out a sob into his chest. “It hurts … it really, really hurts …”

“I know.” Kol said soothingly, rocking her back and forth. “I know, darling, I know. Just hang on, it will all be over soon.”

“Kol, you’ve killed people before, haven’t you?” Davina asked shakily, pain beginning to course through her.

“Yes.” Kol answered, stroking her hair. “One or two.”

“So you know how to make it painless?” She asked, tears rolling down her cheeks

Kol froze, subconsciously tightening his grip on the girl in his arms. “No. Davina, please don’t ask me to do that.”

“Please!” Davina sobbed, tugging his hand to her throat, where just a quick flick of his wrist would snap her neck. “Please, Kol, it hurts so much, I just want it to be over!”

Kol closed his eyes, resting his forehead against hers. “Alright.” He whispered. “I’ll do it. For you, darling.”

“Thank you.” Davina whispered.

“Let’s get you turned around, love.” Kol said heavily, turning her so she faced away from him. “I need the right leverage, or it’s not going to be quick at all. Are you on vervain?”

Davina nodded. “Caroline puts it in my coffee every morning, why?”

“Well, because if you weren’t, I could have put you in a nice dream.” Kol answered, pulling her back to rest against his chest. “Maybe on a beach somewhere.”

Davina smiled weakly. “It’s the thought that counts. Speaking of thoughts, what’s going to happen to the ritual?”

“Nothing.” Kol said. “They’d need to complete the actual ritual for your death to finish it.”

“So they won’t be able to finish it, right?” Davina asked.

Kol sighed, resting his chin on her shoulder, grateful for the stay of execution, however temporary. “Technically, they could prepare another sacrifice.”

“No!” Davina protested, whirling around to face him and promptly regretting, judging by the cry of pain that escaped her lips.

“Easy, love.” Kol said, steadying her. “They’ve had several months in which to do so, they haven’t done it yet.”

“But they could?” Davina asked, her eyes wide.

“Yes.” Kol admitted.

“Take me back.” Davina said firmly. “Let them do it. I can’t let another girl go through what I did. I can’t. I won’t let them.”

Kol sucked in an unneeded breath. “I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather break your neck.” He muttered. “Davina, are you sure?”

Davina nodded, a familiar determination settling on her features. “I’m just sorry I won’t be able to see their faces when it doesn’t work.”

Chapter Text

Standing outside the cemetery, Kol cradled Davina close to his chest. Her fever was spiking and the grass around him was beginning to smoke. “Are you sure, love?”

Davina nodded weakly, forcing her eyes open to look at him. “Don’t let them bury me here. Please? I don’t want to be anywhere near them.”

Kol’s brow furrowed. “If you’re not buried in consecrated ground …”

“I severed my connection to the coven.” Davina said. “I’ll find peace outside the cemetery. Consecrated ground can be anywhere.”

Kol thought for a second, his eyes falling on the necklace she wore – a Christmas gift from himself. “You have enough in you for one last spell?”

“I think so.” Davina said. “Why?”

“We can spell the necklace.” Kol said, gently tugging it out from under her shirt. “As long as you’re wearing it, the ground will be consecrated.”

“Seriously?” Davina asked.

“It’s an old spell.” Kol explained. “Dates back to before public cemeteries. Witches, obviously, wanted to be buried in consecrated ground, but in those days, you needed a lot of money to be buried in churchyards or cemeteries, so they’d have to make do.”

He showed Davina how to spell the necklace and tucked it away in his pocket, where it wouldn’t get damaged by the ritual.

Then he turned to face the cemetery gates, stepping right up to the boundary line. “Don’t suppose you can invite me in, can you?”

Davina shook her head, letting it loll on to his shoulder. “Not a part of the coven anymore.” She repeated, her words slurring. “Need to find Sophie or … someone.”

Kol frowned. “Sophie!” He called. “My name is Kol Mikaelson! I need to talk to you!”

A few minutes later, his ears picked up the sound of footsteps and Sophie Devereux (he assumed) rounded one of the tombs and stopped dead. “Oh my God.”

“She’s dying.” Kol said bluntly, pretending the words didn’t hurt. “She wants to complete the ritual. You’d better hurry though, or the magic’s going to beat you to it.”

Sophie nodded, stepping closer and holding out her arms. “Hand her over.”

“Oh no.” Kol said firmly. “I’m staying with her. She gave me a last request and I am going to honour it.”

Sophie sighed. “The elders won’t like it.”

Kol rolled her eyes. “I don’t like them, I’m not fussed. I give you my word that I will not enter this cemetery again without another invitation.”

Sophie grimaced. “Alright then. Come in and follow me.”

***

The witches were getting nervous.

Kol lounged against a tomb – the Claire tomb ironically enough – and waited for them to realise what had happened.

Davina and the other Harvest girls were laid out like sacrifices, the other three magically preserved by the strength of the ritual.

Davina’s blood was fresh in the air, but hunger was the very last thing on his mind, though he still itched to heal the gash on her neck that had taken her life.

“What’s wrong?” Sophie asked finally, to one of the elders. “Why aren’t they waking up?”

The elder was staring at the girls. “I don’t know.” She admitted. “Why have the ancestors forsaken us?”

“Because you desecrated a sacred ritual.” Kol answered, pushing himself away from the wall. “That ritual is supposed to be an enchanted sleep, not death.”

“And what does a vampire know about magic?!” Davina’s mother demanded, her voice shrill.

Kol smirked. “I was a witch once, you know. A thousand years ago. I’ve forgotten more magic than you could ever dream of learning. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Davina’s last wish was that I get her away from here and bury her somewhere else.”

“You can’t!” Her mother protested. “She’ll …”

“Consecration spell.” Kol interrupted, kneeling beside Davina’s body. He scraped his finger against the nearest headstone and drew a line of blood along her wound, watching the skin knit together.

For a moment, he half-expected her to open her eyes, but she remained still, never to smile or laugh again.

The beginnings of an aneurism were beginning to creep into his head and he scowled. Thankfully, these witches were used to dealing with regular vampires, not Originals. He scooped Davina up and ran, blurring away faster than the coven could react.

When he arrived at the plantation, Jeanette was outside. He saw her look up, opening her mouth to greet him, when her eyes fell on Davina and her smile vanished.

“What …?”

“Jeanette,” Kol interrupted. “Fetch my brother and Caroline. We need to hold a funeral.”

Jeanette nodded jerkily, holding her arms out. “Give her to me.” She said softly. “Caroline and I will get her changed into something nicer. We can’t bury her like that.”

Kol glanced down, only just realising that, although the wound had healed, her shirt was still stained with blood. Reluctantly, he transferred Davina into Jeanette’s arms, somewhat mollified to see that the hybrid handled her just as gently.

Caroline met them just inside the door, her eyes filling with tears as she choked back a sob. Klaus was at her side a second later.

Catching his brother’s eye, Kol began to recount the afternoon’s events, his voice flat. When he reached the moment the elder slit Davina’s throat, Caroline’s jaw clenched and she turned on her heel, beckoning for Jeanette to follow her.

“Are you okay?” Jeanette asked, once the door of Davina’s room was closed.

“Witches are supposed to be the protectors.” Caroline said darkly. “Not kill the children looking up to them.”

Jeanette laid Davina on her bed, gently brushing her hair back from her face. “It was just like Davina to think of the other girls though.”

“Yes.” Caroline agreed heavily. “They would have taken someone else as well.” She opened the closet and pulled out the blue dress Kol had given Davina before the party. “Remind me to send Sophie a condolences card.”

Jeanette grimaced. “Don’t you think that might come off a little … passive-aggressive? You know, ‘I told you so’?”

“Hmm, maybe.” Caroline conceded, laying the dress over Davina’s empty easel. “I should probably go in person. Here, give me a hand.”

By the time Kol knocked on the door, Davina was lying as though in state, her hands resting on her stomach, and Caroline was just finishing braiding her hair.

Jeanette offered him a smile and slipped out of the room. He pulled Davina’s necklace from his pocket and Caroline lifted her head to allow him to put it back on.

For a few moments, the two vampires stood in silence, gazing down at her.

“I’m sorry.” Caroline said finally. “I know how much you cared about her.”

Kol reached out, gently touching Davina’s cheek. “In a thousand years,” he said softly, “I never met anyone like her.” He let out a derisive laugh. “I thought Nik was mad, you know, when he said that. Joke’s on me, I guess.”

Caroline frowned. “What do you mean?”

“When Elijah un-daggered us,” Kol said, his eyes fixed on Davina, “when Mother threw that party and Nik invited you, I wondered what it was about you that caught his attention. You didn’t – forgive me – seem that extraordinary to me. I couldn’t work out why Nik was so besotted with you, when you were hostile at best and actively plotting to kill him at worst. Usually when a woman refused him, he moved on or killed them, but he just kept trying.”

“I could never understand that.” Caroline said softly. “It scared me a little. It still does.”

“He said you had a ‘light’ about you.” Kol said, shaking his head. “I didn’t understand. Now I do.”

***

Davina was buried behind the plantation house, in the coffin Kol had spent so many miserable years. The fact that Klaus handed it over had come as a surprise to everyone who knew him but (he told Caroline) he could always stick Kol in Finn’s old coffin if he had to (Caroline filed that away to deal with later).

The funeral was quiet and private and, in the aftermath, while Josh and Jeanette planted flowers to serve as a headstone, Kol disappeared as suddenly as he had arrived in New Orleans.

Caroline had a feeling he had gone to question his witchy contacts regarding a possible loophole in the Harvest, which made her a little concerned, but as the days passed and the papers remained void of any massacres in the nearby towns, she slowly let herself relax.

Caroline busied herself with college work and networking. She had no luck in finding Sophie – she had understandably taken some time off of work – but Cami was still there. She had broken things off with Marcel, her desire to help overridden by his increased paranoia.

Caroline still stopped by Rousseau’s regularly, waiting for Sophie to reappear, and it was on one of these days, while she was sitting in a corner booth with a book and a plate of fried chicken, that the hair on her neck began to prickle.

“Can I help you?” She asked, without looking up.

For a brief moment, there was no response, then a tall man folded himself into the bench opposite her, looking a little put out.

Caroline closed her book. “It’s Thierry, isn’t it?”

“That’s right.” He said. “Forgive me, but I got the impression that you were … younger.”

“Young enough for you to sneak up on me, you mean?” Caroline asked. “Firstly, it’s very impolite to ask a lady her age. Secondly, I grew up in a small town and I was the Sheriff’s daughter. You think I don’t know when a man is stalking me?”

Thierry smiled and Caroline relaxed a little, sensing sincerity. “Fair enough. I apologise, I didn’t mean to … stalk you. I was trying to figure out how to ask you something.”

“Go ahead.” Caroline prompted, pulling apart a chicken wing.

“Why is Klaus so obsessed with controlling the city?” Thierry asked bluntly. “Why does he want it so badly?”

“It’s not so much that he wants it.” Caroline said carefully. “It’s that he wants it back. His family built this city.”

Thierry frowned. “No they didn’t. Marcel built it.”

Caroline laughed, though not unkindly. “Right, he built it a hundred years before he was even born. That’s impressive.” She could see the doubt in his eyes, so she pulled out her phone and dialled Jeanette’s number.

“What do you need, Caroline?”

“Jeanette, would you please find me something that pre-dates New Orleans and has the Mikaelson family crest on it?” Caroline asked. “Check Kol’s room if you’re stuck, he’s a pack-rat.”

“Got it.”

Caroline hung up and put her phone away, giving Thierry a smile. “Give her a minute. Anyway, Nik and his siblings came to New Orleans in the 1700s and built the city from the ground up. Marcel was both in the early 1800s and Nik adopted him into the family and raised him like a son. When The Destroyer ran them out of town in 1910, they believed Marcel dead and – well, you know what happened after that.”

“I thought The Destroyer was a myth.” Thierry said.

“I know he was very real.” Caroline said casually. “Nik killed him last year.”

This did not seem to make Thierry any less uneasy for some reason. He was saved from having to respond, however, by Jeanette appearing at Caroline’s side. “You’re right.” She said, handing Caroline an ornate sheathed dagger. “He does stockpile. Style suggests early thirteenth century, traditionally used for status rather than duelling.”

Caroline flipped it over and showed Thierry the embossed ‘M’ on the hilt and sheath. “See? It stands for Mikaelson.”

***

Thierry didn’t ask many questions after that and Caroline put the encounter to the back of her mind, returning to the plantation with Jeanette, who hastily replaced the dagger before anyone realised it was missing.

Caroline returned to her office to edit an essay before turning it in. Klaus appeared in the doorway just as she was beginning to contemplate dinner, but said nothing.

So Caroline followed his lead, submitting her essay and turning off her laptop. Only then did she look up to meet his eyes. “What did you do?”

“Caroline!” Klaus said, with feigned shock. “I’m hurt.”

“You’re watching me work and not making any snarky remarks.” Caroline said. “You must have done something.”

“Well, watching you work is one of the more satisfying things to do with my time.” Klaus said. “I was wondering if you’d like to join me for dinner.”

“Proper dinner?” Caroline asked. “Or ‘I just compelled a couple of tourists’ dinner?”

“Proper dinner.” Klaus elaborated. “I thought we could order in from that restaurant you’re so fond of.”

Only knowing him for as long and as closely has she had allowed Caroline to recognise the nerves he was displaying.

“That sounds good.” Caroline agreed, only just catching the knock at the front door she wasn’t listening for. “Did you already order?”

Klaus frowned, turning towards the direction of the front of the house. “No.”

Josh appeared a second later. “Sorry to interrupt, but a couple of Marcel’s crew are here. They say they want to speak to Caroline.”

“Thierry?” Caroline asked.

“No.” Josh answered. “Diego and Felicia. Why?”

“No reason.” Caroline said, turning to Klaus. “You know we need to …”

“I know.” Klaus said, offering her his arm. “United front?”

Caroline gave him a smile. “As always.”

Josh had showed the two vampires into the living room and they were perched, rather uncomfortably on the edge of the couch.

“Please don’t stand on ceremony.” Caroline said warmly, gliding into the room on Klaus’s arm. “Josh said you wanted to see me?”

The two exchanged a glance and the female – Felicia, Caroline assumed – took a deep breath. “You spoke to Thierry today.”

“I did.” Caroline said, putting a warning hand on Klaus’s arm. “Why?”

“He came back shaken.” Felicia continued. “He went to speak to Marcel but … he lied. He told Marcel he hadn’t told anyone about going to speak to him, but he told us, we were listening. He asked Marcel if it was true the Mikaelsons built New Orleans.”

“I thought that was common knowledge.” Klaus said.

“Apparently not.” Caroline said. “Although I did give Thierry a history lesson earlier. How did Marcel take that?”

“He … He …” Felicia was shaking now, and Caroline rose instinctively, crossing the room to sit on the arm of the couch beside her, resting a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s alright.” She said softly. “We aren’t going to tell him.”

“You don’t understand.” Diego said softly. “Marcel has always preached loyalty. You keep to the rules of the city, you’re fine. You kill another vamp, you get killed. Anything else – you betray Marcel, you attack a local, anything; you get a century in the Garden.”

Caroline sighed. “I’m going to regret this, I know I am. What’s the Garden?”

“It’s a prison.” Klaus answered. “Marcel told me at the time that it was a home he was building for himself and Rebekah.”

Caroline snorted. “Already planning a coup, obviously. So, what, vampires get bricked in and left to desiccate?”

“Something like that.” Diego agreed flatly.

“But Thierry didn’t betray Marcel.” Caroline said with a frown. “He just asked a question.”

“Right.” Diego said. “He’s always operated like that. You have a problem, you’re worried about something, you go to Marcel. He’ll help, he’ll listen. Asking questions is not a crime.”

“But he’s getting paranoid.” Caroline said with a sigh. “And he locked Thierry in the Garden and told everyone else he … what?”

“Attacked a local.” Felicia said angrily. “Like Thierry would do that – he’s not an idiot!”

“But they all believe him.” Diego said, scowling. “Because …”

“Because Marcel has never given them any reason to doubt him.” Caroline finished. “When did Thierry start doubting?”

“We were talking to a guy at Christmas.” Diego answered. “Told us he was a hybrid. Marcel said he was making it up, but it seemed like a pretty big lie to tell.”

“It wasn’t a lie.” Caroline said. “You were talking to Tyler, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Diego said, looking surprised.

Caroline gave him a smile. “I grew up with Tyler. He was Nik’s first hybrid.”

“I was the illegitimate child.” Klaus said, sounding bored. “Son of a werewolf. After Mother cast the immortality spell, turning us into vampires, I trigged my curse and became a hybrid. She cursed me so the wolf side remained dormant, I killed her, Father became the Destroyer and tried to kill us, I broke the curse and killed him.”

“And that’s a thousand years of supernatural history in three seconds.” Caroline said dryly.

“But why would Marcel lie to us?” Felicia asked.

Caroline shrugged. “Maybe he’s worried that your loyalty to him isn’t absolute. I mean, Nik has an army that could kill you all with a bite – maybe Marcel’s worried that will tempt you over.”

“It wouldn’t have been,” Felicia muttered, “but Thierry was his best friend. And look where that got him.”

“Well, in Marcel’s defence,” Caroline said, “it does run in the family.”

“Caroline!” Klaus protested.

“He gets it from you, dear.” Caroline said with a grin. “You don’t react well when you get paranoid either.”

“Then, no offence,” Diego said, “what makes you the better option?”

“Well, I have something Marcel doesn’t.” Klaus said. “Aside from the aforementioned hybrid army, that is.”

“And what’s that?” Caroline asked, frowning. “Because I thought you were talking about them.”

Klaus smiled at her. “I have you.”

Chapter Text

Oddly enough, Klaus’s assertions made sense. While, alone, he was no better option than Marcel – not even he would disagree with that – Caroline was able to – while not control him – give him a reason to be better. He valued her opinions and her input and, together, they presented a much more attractive offer.

However, two renegade vampires does not a rebellion make, and in order to overthrow Marcel, they needed to get into the Garden and find out how many vampires before  Thierry were imprisoned for minor offences.

In order to do that, they needed Kol – another Mikaelson who could do the dirty work and compel the prisoners to tell him the truth, while Klaus distracted Marcel.

Kol’s return, however, was not the quiet event they had hoped for.

It might have been, were it not for the witches.

The taxi dropped Kol at the edge of the Quarter, where he would usually have compelled himself a car right to the front door of the plantation. Frustrated at the necessities of ‘keeping a low profile’, he had compelled the driver to turn off the meter when they started off several hours earlier.

He had spent the journey quiet; the driver had spent it chatting about his new baby. By the time they reached New Orleans, even Kol’s conscience was prickling.

In another time, another life, he would have killed the man to shut it up. But murder was no longer the easy solution it had once been. If he couldn’t bring Davina back, he would ensure that she was avenged, and until that was done, his humanity was staying put.

So instead of ripping the man’s throat out, he handed him more than enough money to reimburse him for the trip and sent him on his way.

It made him feel better than he expected, even being back in the city where everything (it seemed) had been taken from him, time and time again, and he set off in the direction of the plantation.

He was honestly going to ignore the scream, until the scent of blood hit him and magic stirred in the air around him.

Kol turned sharply, his eyes cutting through the dim light of the evening, and landing on a figure down a side alley, her hand outstretched.

He moved before he had really decided to do so, shoving the witch away from her helpless victim and into the wall, but before his fangs could make contact a wave of magic threw him backwards.

He landed sprawled on the ground beside the girl who had been screaming. She was laying still now, her face covered in blood that seemed to have been seeping out of her eyes and nose.

“Sophie …” He looked up at the girl who was moving towards him again, two others behind her. He recognised them now they were together, the other Harvest girls who been laid out like offerings when Davina was killed.

“You’re Monique Devereaux.”  Kol said dumbly, getting to his feet. “But that’s impossible. Every witch I spoke to, every spirit they consulted … they all said it was impossible for you to wake.”

“You should not doubt the ancestors.” Monique said, her voice soft but dangerous.

Kol chanced another look at Sophie. “You know, your aunt fought for you. She did everything for you.” There were more witches arriving now, and he knew better to try to get into a fight with them. “Hey, come on! Since when do witches kill one of their own?”

“She’s a non-believer.” Monique said flatly. “She has to die.”

They’d underestimated him last time. Kol was not going to stick around and find out if they would make the same mistake twice. Grabbing Sophie, he ran, stopping outside the plantation house with an acute sense of déjà vu.

But Sophie wasn’t Davina – her heart still beat in her chest – and he shifted her to free one arm so he could bite into his wrist and hold it to her mouth.

As the blood trickled down her throat, her eyes shot open and she struggled against him, but Kol held her firm. “Just a little more, sweetheart; that’s it.” He murmured.

Once he was satisfied, he set her on her feet, rooting in his pocket for a handkerchief, which he used to gently wipe the blood from her face. “There, that’s better.”

Sophie took a shaky breath. “You saved me.”

“Well, I couldn’t very well leave you there now, could I?” Kol said, leading her to the front door. “Something went wrong with the Harvest. They shouldn’t have been able to come back.”

“I know.” Sophie said, her voice shaking. “I knew as soon as I saw Monique – her eyes were … she wasn’t … she looked …”

But whatever Monique looked like, it didn’t seem that Kol was going to find out. Sophie was on the verge of hyperventilation, and it was with some relief that he opened the door to see Caroline heading towards it.

“What the hell happened?!” Caroline demanded, even as she reached out to Sophie.

Sophie let out a choked sob and just about fell into her arms, and Kol left Caroline to it, turning on his heel. “Josh!”

Josh appeared from the direction of the kitchen and ran to keep up with him as the Original strode back out of the front door. “What’s up?”

“Grab some shovels and meet me out the back.” Kol said grimly. “The other girls have woken up; we need to get Davina out of there.”

***

In the silent darkness, Davina’s own heartbeat woke her with a gasp that wasted precious oxygen. Her hands flew to her throat automatically, but her skin was unmarred.

Magic seemed to thrum around her, a remnant of the unnerving visions she had just experienced, faint and sometimes unintelligible, separated as she was by distance and her own self-imposed exile.

The coffin was silk-lined, but no amount of luxury could change the fact that she was trapped and she tried to fight, but no amount of magic would allow to lift the lid.

“Davina? Davina, if you’re awake and you can hear me, we’re getting you out, darling, just hold tight.”

Kol’s voice was barely audible, muffled by six feet of dirt and soil, but it calmed her racing heart and she tried to breathe as shallowly as she could.

The sounds above her grew louder, the shifting of earth occasionally interspersed with Kol or Josh calling her name. Once or twice, she tried to respond, but her voice was hoarse from misuse, and she doubted even vampires could hear her.

Finally, after what felt like an age, she heard a thud of shovels hitting wood and the lid of the coffin was torn off, letting moonlight and fresh air flood into the coffin.

Just as she took her first real breath, Kol’s face appeared above her and all attempts at keeping her composure flew out of the window.

None of her muscles seemed to want to work, but they didn’t need to; Kol and Josh lifted the coffin out of the hole and Kol immediately lifted her out, allowing her to wrap her arms around his neck and hold on for dear life.

Vaguely, she felt Josh press her hand and heard him say something about getting her something to drink, but the only thing she could really focus on right now was Kol and how his arms enveloped her and shielded her from whatever may come.

Finally, she managed to stop shaking and she lifted her head. Kol pressed a kiss to her temple and released her, just enough to hand her the water bottle he was holding.

“Drink it slowly.” He warned. “Or you’ll just bring it right back up again.”

Davina nodded, although it was hard to take his advice when the first drop of water on her tongue was like nectar from heaven.

“Come on.” He said, helping her to her feet. “At the risk of propositioning you, let’s get you out of those clothes.”

Davina’s laugh was weak and shaky, but it was a laugh all the same and the answering smile that lit his face did dangerous things to her. “No offence, but I kind of want to burn this dress.”

Kol wrapped an arm around her waist, supporting her when her legs threatened to give way beneath her. “Say the word, love, and I’ll buy you a hundred new ones.”

***

A shower and some clean clothes worked miracles, and when Davina emerged from her bathroom, her hair still damp, she felt as though she had been reborn.

Kol was waiting for her, leaning against the wall with a pensive look on his face. He masked it hastily when he saw her, but she crossed her arms and stared him down.

“Last time you pretended everything was fine, I was dying.” She said. “What’s wrong?”

“Hopefully nothing.” Kol answered. “But I knew you were alive for a reason. Monique and the other two girls tried to kill Sophie Devereaux tonight.”

Davina’s eyes widened as a gasp escaped her. “Is she okay?”

“She’s alive.” Kol assured her. “Although I would hesitate to classify her as ‘okay’. She’s with Caroline right now. But something went seriously wrong, Davina. As happy as I am to see you …”

“We shouldn’t be alive.” Davina finished. “What did they do to us?”

“I don’t know.” Kol admitted. He pushed away from the wall and crossed the room to stand in front of her.

His eyes bored into hers and she fought not to blink; it felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room, the world shrinking around her until they were the only two people left in it.

His hand touched her face, and she blinked, the connection breaking. He was smiling now. “You look like you.” He said softly. “Which is more than what they did.”

“I should go and see Sophie.” Davina said quietly, dropping her gaze. “She knew Monique before. She’d know better.”

For a second, Kol hesitated, then he nodded. “You’re probably right.”

***

It had taken Caroline at least twenty minutes to get Sophie calm enough (and ‘calm’ still wasn’t an accurate description) to tell her what had happened and by the time Davina and Kol entered the room, she was rocking Sophie back and forth, trying to bring her some form of comfort.

Sophie jolted to her feet when Davina entered; Davina stopped dead; and the two stared at each other for several long, silent minutes.

Just as Caroline was starting to worry, Sophie took a tentative step forward. “Thank God,” she whispered, “you’re still you.”

Davina’s breath hitched, but she didn’t say anything.

Sophie shook her head, taking another step towards her. “Davina … I am so, so sorry.”

Davina’s strong façade crumbled and the two witches embraced, tears of both grief and relief dampening their skin.

Caroline moved towards Kol. “Welcome home, by the way.”

Kol rolled his eyes. “And here I thought you said it was quiet. What did you need me for anyway?”

“Tomorrow.” Caroline said firmly. “Tonight, we need to figure out how the hell this happened.”

“I’m at a loss.” Kol said, not bothering to keep his voice down. “I’ve consulted witches who practice every kind of magic, from ancestral, to blood magic, to black magic, to voodoo and everything in between. They all agreed it shouldn’t have happened.”

Sophie released Davina and Caroline promptly swept the girl into her arms. “Oh, thank God you’re alright.”

“Yes, but how?” Davina asked into her shoulder. “Kol just said it shouldn’t be possible.”

“That’s not what I said.” Kol said, dropping into one of the armchairs, and still making it look effortlessly elegant. “I said it shouldn’t have happened. One or more of the ancestors isn’t playing by their own rules.”

“But why?” Sophie asked. “Davina, did you see anything while you were out?”

Davina shivered and Caroline tightened her grip, tugging her over to the couch to sit down. “It’s okay, sweetie, you don’t have to talk about it now.”

“No, I do.” Davina said firmly. “I do need to talk about it.” She took a deep breath. “From what I remember, I couldn’t see them. I could feel the other girls and whoever they were with, but I couldn’t see them. I couldn’t really hear them either, it was like I was underwater.”

“You were separated from the coven.” Sophie murmured. “That’s why you came back you and the others didn’t. They had more influence from whoever it was.”

“But then why did she bring me back at all?” Davina asked.

Sophie shrugged. “Maybe the magic tied you all together. She couldn’t resurrect them without you. She?”

Davina hesitated, thinking for a second. “Yes. Yes, it was definitely a woman. One woman. But I don’t know who she is. I could feel her magic, and it felt familiar, but not from prayers. Not from when we’ve mediated before.”

Sophie frowned. “That’s odd. You’d think one witch strong enough to do this would be at the forefront. But you recognised her?”

“I recognised the magic.” Davina corrected. “I couldn’t see her, remember? Maybe she’s a relatively recent death?”

Out of the corner of her eye, Caroline saw Kol stir in his seat.

“No, that doesn’t make sense either.” Sophie said. “If the other ancestors aren’t involved, they must disagree. She must be old and powerful to override them.”

“But if she’s old I’d know her from meditations.” Davina said.

“Davina,” Kol said urgently, leaning forwards. “Where do you know the magic from?”

Davina sighed. “I don’t know. If I did …”

“Think, Davina.” Kol interrupted. “Where do you know the magic from?”

His unease was catching. Caroline shifted in her seat, turning to Davina, who closed her eyes. After a few seconds, she opened them again, realisation dawning in her eyes. “The grimoire.” She whispered. “It felt like the grimoire you gave me.”

“Kol?” Caroline asked, startled when he leapt to his feet. “What is it?”

Kol ignored her, striding to the living room door and throwing it open. “Nik!” He yelled, his voice echoing around the house. “What did you do with our bloody mother?!”

Caroline jumped to her feet, pulling out her phone.

“Wait.” Kol said sharply. “See if Nik was as stupid as I think he was first.”

“Kol, if your mother’s involved, Elijah and Rebekah need to know.” Caroline protested.

“And they will.” Kol said. “Just wait.”

“That doesn’t make sense either though!” Sophie protested. “Esther Mikaelson died a millennium ago, didn’t she?”

“It’s complicated.” Caroline said with a sigh. “She did die, but the spirits did something that allowed her to be resurrected about eighteen months ago. Then she died again and went … somewhere.”

“I always assumed her body was burned.” Kol muttered. “Unless my brother was an idiot … NIK!”

“Enough with the shouting, little brother.” Klaus said, appearing in the doorway. “What on earth is …?” He trailed off, his eyes falling on Davina, who smiled nervously.

“Yeah, I’m not dead.”

“Nik.” Kol said darkly. “What did you do with mother’s body?”

“I wanted to burn her.” Klaus said, scowling. “But Elijah was rather put out by the idea – he said it was disrespectful, even though she’d tried to kill us. But not even he had the inclination to attend a funeral. So we had her sent back here, to the first place we had really called home.”

Caroline pinched the bridge of her nose. “I assume,” she said, more calmly than she felt, “that I’m calling Rebekah and Elijah now.”

 “You idiot.” Kol said to his brother. “And yes, Caroline, if you don't mind.”

Klaus’s eyes flashed. “Watch your tongue.”

“Or what?” Kol demanded. “You’ll dagger me again? You sent our mother to be buried in consecrated New Orleans soil, Nik – I’ll call you a bloody idiot if I want to; you made her a bloody ancestor – she probably gave the coven the idea to change the ritual …”

“But why?” Davina asked. “If she wanted control of the Harvest girls, she could have done that with an enchanted sleep; she had sole access to them, what did killing us do?”

“It created an extra surge of magic.” Kol said, glaring at Klaus. “And I would imagine that first and foremost on Mother Dearest’s mind is to bring herself back and finish what she started.”

Chapter Text

“We should have done this during the day.” Kol muttered.

“Sure.” Caroline agreed, taking a sip of her coffee. “Except there hasn’t been a cloud in the sky since the Harvest and most of these guys are probably nightwalkers.”

It had been two days since the resurrection, and they were standing beside the cab of a black van, watching the changing of the guard at the Garden from the shadows.

“There are more nightwalkers than day-walkers.” Kol argued. “We’re more likely to be seen.”

“He’s not going to risk day-walkers if he doesn’t have to.” Caroline said. “And no one will miss a couple of nightwalkers.”

“Wait,” Josh said, leaning out of the cab. “Are we killing them?”

“Dead bodies send a message.” Kol said, sounding bored. “He’ll know they’re missing and he’ll know why, but it won’t be confirmed for him what happened or who did it. He’ll get paranoid.”

“Still not comfortable with killing people.” Josh said, grimacing.

Caroline finished her coffee and tossed the cup in the direction of the nearest trash can. “That’s why you’re driving the van, sugar.”

“Caroline, no matter what the history books say, Virginia does not count as a Southern state.” Josh said, his head falling back against the driver’s seat. “But fine. You want me to keep the engine running?”

“No.” Kol said, his eyes darkening as they zoned in on the now-established guards. “Just keep an eye out.”

For all her joking with Josh, Caroline wasn’t really going to participate in this part of the evening. She understood why the guards needed to die, it wasn’t a matter of reluctance, but Kol was, if nothing, a master at his craft, and sometimes one needed to sit back and watch him work.

Not even ten seconds after he left her side, seven of the nightwalkers stationed outside the Garden were dead on the ground and the eighth was pinned to the door with a stake through his heart.

“That’s one hell of a message.” Caroline remarked, approaching him.

Kol shrugged, his face splattered with blood. “Why mess with a good thing, right?”

“It does seem to be your signature move.” Caroline said, following him down the stairs into the gloomy prison. “Certainly worked with Mary Porter, although I totally saw through that.”

“What are you talking about?” Kol asked. “It did work. Stopped you from trying to stake Nik.”

Caroline smirked. “Except that’s not why you killed her, is it? Because if you all knew Nik sired her then it wouldn’t matter if we asked. Admit it, you don’t know whose bloodline we’re from.”

Kol pulled a face. “In our defence, Mary was the sort of girl who wasn’t exactly picky about who fed from her … or anything else for that matter.”

Caroline probably had a retort prepared, but it flew out of her head the second her eyes adjusted to the dark.

There were crudely buried bodies all around them, various body parts sticking up from the floor. Other vampires were partially bricked into the walls and pillars.

“Caroline?”

She spun around, seeing Thierry trapped against one of the pillars. His face was ashen, but he had not yet desiccated like his fellow prisoners.

“It’s alright.” Caroline said in a hushed voice. “We’re here to get you out.”

“Hold up, Caroline.” Kol said, handing her a blood bag and a pipette. “First things first. Give them all enough to wake them up, I’ll follow.” He approached Thierry and caught his gaze. “What did you do to get locked up in here?”

“I asked Marcel if what Caroline told me was true.” Thierry answered, his voice flat.

Caroline shook her head, darting through the gloom and dropping blood into people’s mouths. Once she was certain she had found all of the prisoners, she returned to Kol, who had just finished breaking Thierry out of his pillar.

Handing him the rest of the blood bag, she turned to Kol. “That’s all of them, I think.”

Kol nodded seriously. “Did you check for coffins? Marcel did get half his tricks from Nik, remember.”

“Are you kidding?” Caroline asked. “Look, everyone I can get to is waking up. Everyone else is gonna have to wait because we have about an hour and a half before the next guard comes along and we don’t have an army.”

“Or enough blood bags,” Thierry said dryly, folding up the one he’d just finished.

“That can wait,” Kol said sharply. “You’re the newest, you weren’t going to take long. This isn’t about a coup. It’s about getting in and out as quickly as possible; Caroline’s right.”

“What’s with him?” Thierry asked softly as the Original stalked over to the nearest stirring vampire.

Caroline sighed. “It’s a long story, but we think the Original Witch is either planning on or has resurrected herself. The important thing to ask right now is – are you with us or against us?”

“I’m not against you,” Thierry said hastily. “And I’m not with Marcel; I’m just not sure if ‘with you’ is the best description yet.”

“That’s fair enough,” Caroline said with a shrug. “We haven’t exactly pitched ourselves. Although on saying that, I’m not sure Marcel won’t count ‘not with him’ as being ‘with us’. In the meantime, there’s a van outside that we need to get some of these guys into.”

“Not all of them?” Thierry asked.

“We’re running under the assumption that some of these guys actually did do something to end up here.” Caroline explained. “Most of Marcel’s rules do make sense. So Kol’s compelling them and we’re transport.”

The sound of smashing bricks caught their attention, drawing their gaze to where Kol had just freed another vampire.

“What happened?” Caroline asked.

Kol scowled. “She was Juliet, Romeo was a werewolf, Marcel found out.”

“I remember her,” Thierry whispered. “Marcel said she was planning a rebellion with the wolves.”

“Nah, the wolves have only ever wanted to live quietly in the bayou.” Kol said. “All she wanted was to be with the man she loved.”

“Oh God, I’m getting déjà vu,” Caroline muttered.

“Lockwood?” Kol asked.

“No, Rebekah,” Caroline said sadly. “Isn’t that why she got daggered in the 1800s?”

“Like I said,” Kol said, “Marcel got it from somewhere. You’ve worked miracles, Caroline.”

“Caroline,” Thierry said quietly, getting her attention. His eyes were fixed on the young woman gasping for blood, too weak to move. “I’m with you.”

***

The rest of the mission continued in much the same way and the rest of Caroline’s night was spent in a whirlwind of explanation and comfort and the occasional bout of sarcasm (mainly from Kol).

Like Thierry, they had been betrayed by the man they trusted above everyone else. Unlike Thierry, they had had a long time to come to terms with it, and they were seething with anger.

With the vampires already on board, Caroline left Klaus to deal with them, doling out blood bags as needed. After one too many snarky comments, Caroline forcibly pulled Kol out of his chair and shoved him out of the room. “Go and see Davina,” she snapped. “This whole thing with your mother is making you grouchy.”

Kol scowled but did as he was told. It had only been a few days since Davina’s resurrection, but he already missed her – he hadn’t realised how much time he spent with Davina until he took a step back.

She had Sophie to help with her magic now, after all, and another witch was always going to be more help than a vampire – even an Original former witch.

It wasn’t until he reached her door and lifted a hand to knock that he realised the early hour – the sun was only just beginning to peek over the horizon, its light creeping across the bayou.

He had just turned away, when the door opened, revealing …

No one, actually – Davina was sitting on her bed, pouring over Esther’s grimoire and a handful of papers.

“You can come in,” she said, not looking up.

“Sorry,” Kol said, stepping inside and shutting the door behind him.  “I forgot about the time.” He frowned. “Did you sleep at all last night?”

“A little bit,” Davina said, frowning over the papers she was reading. “I couldn’t really.”

“Nightmares?” Kol asked, concerned.

Davina gave him a small smile. “No. Well, yes,” she amended, “but nothing unexpected. It’s just … I kind of feel like we need to focus on your mother, so a drawn-out fight with Marcel isn’t exactly ideal.”

Kol smirked. “It’s like you’re in my mind, Davina Claire.”

Davina giggled. “So I’m trying to figure out how to break the Crescent Wolf curse. I know Caroline won’t want to make them help – and if anyone can stop Klaus, she can – but it’s always good to have an ace up our sleeves.”

Kol glanced involuntarily at the door. “I don’t know how well the vampires are going to take that.”

“Well, from what I’ve heard,” Davina said, “the wolves never wanted to leave the bayou, so keeping them separate shouldn’t be a problem. If anything, it’ll be the wolves we need to worry about – they never did anything to the vampires.” She set the papers aside and stood up. “Why are you avoiding me?”

“I’m not avoiding you,” Kol said automatically.

Davina gave him a very unimpressed look, crossing her arms over her chest.

“I’m not!” Kol protested. “Sophie is going to be a better teacher than me.”

“Oh.” Davina’s arms dropped to her sides and her heart stuttered. Even though she turned away, he saw the tears that sprung to her eyes.

“What?” Kol asked, taking a step towards her. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Davina muttered. “I just … Never mind.”

“What?” Kol repeated, touching her shoulder. “I’ve upset you, Davina – I’m not an idiot.”

“No, but I am,” Davina said, a little louder. “I just … I kind of thought that you were spending time with me because you wanted to, not because you felt like you had to.”

Kol replayed the conversation in his head and felt a pang of guilt. “Davina … I …”

“It’s okay,” Davina said, turning back to him. The tears were gone and she was smiling again, but he could hear the truth in the way her heart was still off-rhythm.

“No, Davina,” Kol sighed. “You are not an idiot, and I’m sorry that I made it sound that way – of course that wasn’t the only reason I spent time with you. But you’re also right – I have been pulling away.”

“Okay,” Davina said quietly.

“No, I need you to listen to me,” Kol said, taking hold of her shoulders. “I need you to listen to me, because I am about to be more honest with you than I have been with anyone in a very long time. In all the time I’ve been a vampire, I have never met anyone like you, Davina. You are incredible and I never, ever want you to doubt that I care about you a lot, but, darling, I’m … I’m not good for you.”

Davina opened her mouth to argue, but he pressed on.

“I’m a bad person, Davina. I lie and cheat and compel to get what I want, I kill without thinking, and I like it.” He shook his head, taking a step back from her. “You’re sixteen …”

“Seventeen,” Davina corrected.

“You’re young,” Kol said softly. “You deserve …”

“Someone who cares for me?” Davina finished bitterly. “Someone who would treat me like a princess? Someone who’ll protect me? Someone who’ll risk agonising pain just so I’m not alone? Someone who’ll spend all night with me on the verge of a panic attack just so I’ll feel safe? Oh, wait a minute – you did all those things!”

“You deserve someone who doesn’t have a millennium of blood on his hands!” Kol retorted. “You deserve someone who can give you a family, not someone who was responsible for the slaughter of half of yours!” He smiled bitterly when she took an automatic step back as though his words had punched her. “You mean that story didn’t spread down the years? I felt sure that Mary Alice’s brother would have cursed my name for all eternity.”

Davina swallowed. “You …”

“Oh, I didn’t kill her, love.” Kol said darkly. “But if I hadn’t convinced her to help me, she would have lived a lot longer. So would her parents. And her cousins.”

Davina took a shaky breath. “She made the choice to help you, Kol. So did I.”

Kol shook his head. “This family’s poison, Davina. The less ties you have, the better.”

***

With Davina, Sophie and Bonnie all working on the Crescent Wolf conundrum, a solution was reached fairly quickly, and it was the next full moon when the two New Orleans witches met Caroline and Adrian in the entrance hall.

Adrian seemed to have appointed himself Caroline’s personal bodyguard and it was very rare that she left the house without him – unless Klaus was with her.

Tonight, however, Klaus was in the Quarter, pretending that he had nothing to do with the dead nightwalkers – not a hard task, since he had a rock-solid alibi – so Adrian was accompanying the three women into the bayou to find the wolves.

Davina was far more relaxed than Sophie was, but then Sophie had only just stopped flinching every time someone entered a room, whether they were human or not (although ‘human’ comprised of Davina and Sophie and no one else).

“Do we need to take anything with us?” Caroline asked.

“No, just our magic,” Sophie answered, checking her bag. “How many vampires did you rescue in the end?”

Caroline sighed. “Only about eight. Not exactly an army.”

“Better than you had before,” Davina said, glancing up at the stairs as footsteps sounded on the marble.

The female vampire Kol had described as ‘Juliet’ was making her way towards them, a tired smile on her face. “Is this a private party or can anyone join in?”

Caroline smiled at her. “Hi Caitlin. Couldn’t sleep?”

Caitlin shook her head. “Seriously, can I help with whatever you’re doing?”

Caroline grimaced. “I’m not sure that’s the best idea. We’re going into the bayou.”

Caitlin’s eyes widened. “Are you mad?” She demanded. “It’s a full moon!”

“The wolves have been cursed,” Adrian explained. “They’re human tonight; it’s the rest of the month it’s dangerous.”

“We’re going to break the curse,” Davina added. “Need to be out there to do it.”

Caitlin nodded, her face set. “I’m coming with you.”

Caroline opened her mouth to argue, then remembered Kol’s summary of her so-called crime. “How long were you in there again?”

“Twelve years,” Caitlin answered.

“A lot’s happened in twelve years,” Caroline said gently. “How do you know he’s still alive?”

Caitlin looked down. “Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t. But at least this way I know.”

“Alright,” Caroline agreed. “Lead the way, Adrian.”

On the night of the full moon, the wolves gathered in the remnants of their home, deep in the heart of the bayou.

Adrian led them through swampland, over rough terrain, until he came to a stop, gesturing for Caroline to go ahead.

She did not attempt to hide her approach and, when she emerged into the clearing, the wolves were waiting.

Jackson relaxed, moving forward to shake her hand. “Caroline – we weren’t expecting you.”

“Sorry,” Caroline said sheepishly. “But I come with good news. This is Davina and Sophie,” she added, waving to the two girls as they appeared from the bushes. “And they believe they have a spell to break the curse.”

A murmur ran through the crowd and one of the men stepped forwards.

“Oliver …” Jackson said warningly.

Caroline felt a frisson of unease but held her ground, meeting the man’s eyes.

“What’s in it for you?” Oliver asked boldly. “Vampires hate wolves.”

Caroline gave him a benign smile. “I’m not just a vampire. I was a human too. And this … this is inhuman. My mother raised me better than to stand back and watch.” She turned to Jackson. “I do have a question though, about one of your pack. There was a vampire – Caitlin – about twelve years ago and …”

“What happened to her?” Another voice asked urgently.

The crowd parted to allow another man to stumble out into the no man’s land that had formed between her and the wolves.

“Max,” Jackson said with a sigh, “we’ve been through this.”

“She’s not dead,” Max said, stubbornly. “I’d know if she was.”

“She’s not dead,” Caroline agreed. “Marcel locked her in the Garden. We had a prison break. Adrian, let her go before she snaps your neck.”

As Caitlin threw herself into Max’s waiting arms, Caroline stepped to one side, partly to avoid getting flattened, partly to speak to Jackson quietly.

“Please tell me I haven’t just caused problems.”

“Some people won’t be happy,” Jackson conceded. “But I haven’t seen him smile like that since she disappeared, so I’ll deal with them.”

Caroline nodded, glancing at the two witches. “Ladies?”

Davina retrieved a stick from the ground and began drawing a circle in the dirt, and Sophie stepped up beside Caroline, holding out her hand.

“I just need to read you,” she explained. “If the alpha role works the way I hope it does, we can lift the spell on you and it will cascade through the pack. If not, we’ll have to manually remove it from every single afflicted person.”

Jackson glanced at his pack. “Yeah, that ain’t happening in one night.” He grasped her hand and she closed her eyes, murmuring under her breath.

A few moments later, a beautiful smile lit her face and her eyes opened again. “It’ll cascade. All we need you to do is stand in that circle, we’ll say the incantation, and the curse should lift.”

“Should?” Jackson repeated.

“There’s never been a spell like this before,” Davina explained, “so this is a little bit of trial and error. The absolute worst case scenario is that nothing happens.”

“Which we won’t find out until moonset,” Sophie added. “At which point, if it’s gone wrong, Caroline and Adrian are going to grab us and we’re getting the hell out of here.”

Jackson cracked a smile. “Alright then.”

“Jackson …” One of the elders said, stepping forward.

“It’s alright, Grandma,” Jackson said. “I’ll be alright.”

Once Jackson was standing in the circle, Davina and Sophie joined hands and began to chant. The wind in the clearing picked up. The afflicted clan-members began to glow.

Then, just as quickly, the wind dropped and the glow vanished.

“Did it work?” Jackson asked.

Sophie glanced at the sky, where the sun was just beginning to break over the horizon. “We’ll find out soon.”

Caroline tensed, ready to grab the girls and get out of there.

The dawn broke slowly – painfully slowly – and daylight slowly spread over the clearing.

None of the wolves moved.

“At what point,” Caroline said after a while, “would the transformation have kicked in?”

A smile broke onto Jackson’s face. “About ten minutes ago.”

***

Caroline did not push an alliance that night. She accepted Jackson’s thanks graciously, Oliver’s somewhat forced apology a little less so, and gave them a friendly warning that the Quarter was not yet safe.

Other than that, she issued an open invitation to Jackson to discuss some kind of alliance, and took the others home.

She was not expecting anything to happen quickly, but quickly it did.

A few days after the curse was broken, there was a knock at the front door.

Josh was closest – although, he had pretty much willingly stepped into the role of PA/butler/errand boy; he was not a fighter, and he knew that, but this he could do.

He opened the door to a beautifully sunny day, and Jackson and another man Josh assumed was one of the betas.

“Morning,” he greeted with a smile. “How’s the sun?”

Jackson looked up at the sky, shielding his eyes. “Nice to feel it on human skin for once. Is Caroline in?”

Josh tilted his head, listening intently. Davina and Sophie were practicing their magic. Jeanette was making some kind of concoction in the kitchen. Klaus and Caroline were … discussing the care and breeding of orchids. “Yes,” he said, deciding that to ask would be pointless. “She is. Please, come in.”

“Thanks.” Jackson clapped his companion on the shoulder. “This is Aiden.”

Josh automatically stuck his hand out. “Hey, I’m Josh.”

Aiden shook his hand silently. Unlike Jackson, he did not look at all comfortable to be here.

Opting not to push the subject, Josh showed them to the living room and jogged up the stairs to Caroline’s office.

“Come in, Josh,” she called, before he could knock.

Josh pushed the door open with a grin. “You’re good,” he said. “How are the orchids?”

Caroline chuckled, gently touching one of the petals of the new plant on her desk. “He’s spoiling me.”

Josh shrugged. “I think you deserve to be spoiled.”

“You see?” Klaus said triumphantly. “Joshua agrees with me. Which one of us do you need?”

“Well, Jackson asked for Caroline,” Josh answered. “But I guess it might be best if you both go.”

Caroline grimaced. “Thanks, Josh. Tell him we’ll be right down and find out if they want any coffee or anything.”

“You should have him sit in,” Klaus suggested, when he was out of earshot. “He’d probably have a flair for negotiation.”

Caroline raised an eyebrow. “That implies you’re not sitting in.”

“Love, do you really trust me to ‘play nice’, so to speak?” Klaus asked.

Caroline hesitated. “I think you must be capable of it. You can’t have just got by on terrorising people for a thousand years.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised, love,” Klaus said with (Caroline felt) inappropriate cheerfulness.

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Fine, I’ll do the talking. But you should at least come with me.”

“Oh, I will,” Klaus said. “I’m just suggesting you handle the negotiations. You’ve done a good job so far, you may as well keep going.”

Caroline sighed, but agreed.

They reached the living room just Josh was leaving it with an empty tea tray. Caroline silently took it out of his hands and set it on the nearest dresser, before turning him around and pushing him back into the room ahead of them.

“Alright then,” he said. “I guess I’m staying.”

Caroline smiled. “Relax, Josh, we don’t bite. Nik, this is Jackson; Jackson, Klaus Mikaelson.”

The two men shook hands and Caroline took a seat, waiting for the silent posturing to finish. Whatever the two men (alphas, her brain corrected) were looking for, they seemed to find it and be satisfied by it, and Jackson waved a hand at his companion. “This is Aiden, one of my betas.”

Klaus nodded, but Caroline gave the young man a friendly smile. He seemed far more comfortable around them than any other the other wolves she’d come across, but not at ease by any stretch of the imagination.

“So,” she began, picking up her coffee cup, “about that alliance.”

Aiden seemed to tense even more, but said nothing.

“What kind of alliance were you thinking?” Jackson asked.

“Well, I’ve been thinking about it,” Caroline said, “and my first thought was we help you, you help us, but that doesn’t seem a very even exchange.”

“How so?” Jackson asked frowning. “It seems fair to me.”

“Well, yes, on the surface,” Caroline said. “But our biggest issues at the moment come down to Marcel. Now, if Marcel goes after the wolves … unlikely, since to the best of my knowledge, he still thinks you’re cursed, and we come to help – no problem. If he comes after us and you come to help, unless he does that on a full moon, you are rather at a disadvantage.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Klaus admitted, frowning. “Anyone want to be a hybrid?”

“Nik,” Caroline said tiredly, “you can’t make any more hybrids. Elena’s a vampire and you’re fresh out of doppelganger blood. I’m willing to make a promise to step in to help if you ask for it, if you’re willing to make a promise to step in to help if you can.”

“This will probably be temporary anyway,” Josh added. “Once we have control of the city, we’re going to need to renegotiate some kind of peace treaty with everyone.”

“That is true,” Caroline said thoughtfully.  “And there is something else we need to consider – we can’t control every single one of the vampires any more than you can control every single one of the wolves, however hard we try. What happens if someone breaks rank?”

“Again, I think we need to have a mutual trust there,” Jackson answered. “If a wolf breaks rank, you trust me to handle it. If a vampire breaks rank, I trust you to handle it.”

“I think we can do that,” Caroline agreed. “Otherwise we’re just going to end up with reprisals back and forth, and that’s no use to anybody.” She glanced at Aiden. His tension had not eased, but it had changed.

Jackson seemed to notice it too. “Anything to add, Aiden?”

Aiden hesitated. “Why did you help us?” He asked finally. “I know you said it was the right thing to do, but vampires are supposed to hate wolves.”

“Are we?” Josh asked, in surprise.

“Traditionally,” Caroline answered. “It goes back to when Nik’s stepfather slaughtered his biological father and most of the pack along with him. And then wolves developed poisonous venom … or did they always have that?” She added to Klaus.

Klaus looked thoughtful. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I would be inclined to doubt it – why form a defence against something that doesn’t exist?”

“True,” Caroline conceded. “By the time I turned, my sire didn’t even believe werewolves existed, because vampires hunted them so vigorously.”

Josh frowned. “But then surely it should be the wolves that hate vampires, right?”

“It goes both ways,” Caroline agreed. She looked at Aiden. “The basic answer is, I don’t see the point. I grew up in a very small town, the kind where everyone knows everything else. My mom was the town sheriff and her friends from school all had children at the same time. Matt, Bonnie, Elena, Tyler and I grew up together. We went to preschool, kindergarten, school dances, everything. Then I was in a car accident. I woke up and made a miraculous recovery, but the following night, a vampire came into my room and she smothered me to send a message to her ex-lovers. I woke up in transition with no idea what was happening to me.”

“No wonder you insisted on giving me the choice,” Josh said, looking horrified.

Caroline gave him a smile. “Not even a month later, that same vampire compelled a couple of Tyler’s friends to provoke him. One of them managed it. He pushed her, she fell, cracked her head and died instantly. He triggered his curse.”

“I didn’t know Katerina was behind that as well,” Klaus remarked.

“Oh, yes,” Caroline said casually, “she was trying to break the curse of the sun so she needed a vampire and a werewolf to sacrifice. Anyway, what was I supposed to do? Shun one of my best friends because of an ancient grudge and something neither of us had any control over?”

“Jeanette said you used to stay with him during his transformations, before he became a hybrid,” Josh said.

“For as long as I could,” Caroline said softly.

“That was dangerous,” Aiden said unnecessarily. “Really dangerous.”

“The Mikaelsons aren’t the only family with an ‘always and forever’ pact,” Caroline said, smiling. “I just happened to adopt most of mine.”

Chapter Text

It was, perhaps, inevitable.

Following the deaths of eight nightwalkers and the disappearance of just as many vampires from the Garden, Klaus had maintained his innocence – and how could he not, when he had been with Marcel from the time the nightwalkers left to the moment their replacements returned with the news?

But Marcel was, understandably, suspicious.

No matter how quiet Kol was – and he either remained at the plantation or ventured further afield for dinner – or how many times Klaus insisted he was the only Original in New Orleans, Marcel’s paranoia was  slowly growing.

It didn’t take a genius to realise that, sooner or later, something was going to break – and it did.

It was a relatively quiet afternoon and the house was more or less empty. Most of the hybrids were out, in the town or the bayou, and Klaus was at the Abattoir playing nice.

Caroline was taking advantage of the peace and quiet, holed up in her office with a good book and a glass of bourbon.

It felt like forever since she had taken five minutes to herself and now she had a several hours to spend as she pleased.

That should have been her first clue that something was about to go wrong.

As it was, her first clue came when the front door opened and closed, and it was followed by silence.

No one entered the house quietly.

Because it was so large, and several of the occupants (Klaus) were exceptionally paranoid, no one entered the house without loudly announcing their arrival.

As such, the silence put Caroline on edge. She marked her place, downed her drink, and placed both book and glass on her desk, before opening the door and peering out.

Several doors down, Davina and Sophie were doing the same thing.

Caroline gestured for them to stay quiet and shut themselves in, which they hastily did.

Vaulting the balustrade, Caroline landed cat-like in the entrance hall, her eyes scanning the apparently empty rooms around her.

“Nik? Is that you?”

Most vampires, she assumed, did not start their vampire life having to a) avoid being killed by their sire, b) avoid being trapped and manipulated by their murderer or c) trying to distinguish between said murderer and their best friend, much less all three at once.

Caroline, on the other hand, had.

The skills that she had learned during those weeks were almost utterly unique.

And, luckily for her, they were also almost always underestimated.

There were no footsteps, no noise – nothing to telegraph the danger but a simple frisson down her spine that Caroline knew far better than to ignore.

Trusting if it was Klaus trying to scare her (which wasn’t his style) that he could easily overpower her (which he could), she spun around, plunging her hand into the chest behind her, her fingers wrapping tight around an undead heart.

Wide brown eyes met hers and it was with a flood of adrenaline that she pulled back, letting the body fall heavily to the floor.

Any attempts at stealth by the intruders were abandoned now, and Caroline promptly dropped to the floor to avoid a swing, rolling back to her feet with a cheerleader's grace.

There were four of them, not counting the one dead on the floor, and Caroline felt a split-second of fear - her momentary advantage had vanished and she was now well and truly outnumbered.

The four of them rushed her and she braced for impact. Almost simultaneously, two shouts went up from above her, and James and Jeanette landed beside her, their eyes flashing yellow.

Four against three was better odds, but the vampires' intended target soon became clear; James was thrown into a wall, and the vampire he had been dealing with, despite the fatal hybrid bite on her neck, immediately rounded on Caroline as well, ignoring his comrade's trouble with Jeanette.

Caroline just about managed to rip out the heart of one of her opponents, when the other slammed her against the wall, his hand gripping her throat.

"So who sent you?" she gasped out.

Jeanette swiftly dispatched her opponent, leaving a third body on the floor. There were only two standing now, but they were both focusing on Caroline. The one who had thrown James was now approaching her as well, and Caroline had to grab her arm, fighting to keep her own heart in its place.

"Who said anyone sent us?" The one holding her said, smirking. "Maybe we just want payback."

"Right, because the two-year-old vampire is far more dangerous than the hybrid," Caroline growled.

As Jeanette tackled the woman, Caroline kicked out at the man pinning her, forcing him back and away from her.

The sound of the back door being flung open was the only warning before a blur of colour grabbed the woman Jeannette was scrabbling with and effectively relieving her of her head.

Faced with an Original as well, the last attacker decided to make a run for it.

"Dammit!" Kol growled, turning to Caroline. "Are you alright?"

Caroline rubbed her throat. "I'm fine. Shaken, but fine."

"They were after her," Jeannette said, speeding over to James's motionless body.

"Is he okay?" Caroline asked, worried.

"He's okay," Jeannette said grimly. "Broken neck, that's all."

"Well, get him on to a couch or a bed, or something," Caroline said, “make sure his neck heals properly, or we’ll need to break it all over again.”

“I’m sure she knows, Caroline,” Kol said softly.

“What are you doing back?” Caroline asked. “I thought you were in the next town.”

“I was,” Kol admitted. “Davina called me. Is she okay?”

“She should be fine,” Caroline said, following him as he was already heading up the stairs. “I told her and Sophie to lock themselves in.”

“Good,” Kol muttered, knocking on her door. “Davina?”

It opened immediately and Caroline watched the girl visibly restrain herself from throwing her arms around him.

That was interesting.

“Are they gone?”

“They’re gone,” Caroline said quietly.

Davina’s eyes widened. “Caroline, you’re covered in blood!”

“Oh …” Caroline glanced down at her stained shirt. “Yeah … It’s not mine.”

“Are you hurt?” Davina asked, now ignoring Kol. “Do you need some blood or something?”

Caroline took a second to take stock of the situation. “No,” she decided. “I don’t need blood. Just a shower. And maybe a nap.” She rubbed her eyes. “Kol, do you mind getting rid of the bodies?”

Kol shrugged. “It’s fine. Are you alright, Davina?”

“I’m fine,” Davina said flatly. “Just worried about Caroline.” She put a hand on Caroline’s arm. “Come on, let me give you a hand.”

Caroline didn’t need a hand, but she also didn’t want to be alone, and Davina, clearly, wanted an excuse to be away from Kol.

“What’s going on there?” She asked, once they were safely in Caroline’s room.

Davina just shook her head, directing Caroline to the bathroom with some fresh clothes.

Caroline allowed her the distraction – and, anyway, the blood was beginning to seep through her shirt. In fact, once she had tugged it over her head, she tossed it straight into the bathroom trash can.

She felt better after a shower – not amazing, but better – and when she walked back into her bedroom, there was a bowl of burning sage on the dresser.

Caroline gave Davina a knowing look. “Kol?”

“He’s impossible,” Davina said, scowling.

Caroline shook her head. “What’s he done now?”

“Well, he cares very much about me, but this family’s toxic and I’m better off without him,” Davina answered, “except that is not a decision I’ve even had a chance to make.”

“Well,” Caroline said slowly, bending over to dry her hair, “he’s not altogether wrong. But,” she added when Davina opened her mouth to argue, “you’re right. It should be your decision, not his.”

“So what do I do?” Davina asked helplessly. “I really like him, Caroline.”

Caroline straightened up again and came to sit beside her. “Be patient. I know for a fact that saying that Kol cares about you is an understatement. And he has all the self-control of a badly-trained puppy.”

Davina giggled, the frown evaporating from her face, which was what Caroline had been hoping for, but a voice from downstairs made her sigh.

“Nik’s back,” she said, standing up and blowing out the sage. “We are going to have postpone this, just hang tight, okay?”

“Yeah of course,” Davina said, hugging her. “Are you going to be okay?”

“I will be,” Caroline said, opening the bedroom door. “Nik! Stop interrogating your brother; I’m fine.”

Klaus was in front of them a microsecond later, making Davina squeak in surprise, but he only had eyes for Caroline, wide and wild.

Caroline smiled, a little shakily, and nudged Davina’s shoulder. “Go on,” she said softly. “We’ll talk later.”

Davina nodded and disappeared down the corridor, and Caroline, finally feeling her adrenaline seep out of her, wrapped her arms around Klaus’s waist and buried her face in his chest.

After a second’s hesitation, his arms closed around her, anchoring her as she began to cry.

There had been no time for fear in the moment, but now – with the danger gone – it began to permeate every inch of her.

Klaus guided her backwards until her bedroom door was closed and she was sitting on her bed. Still she clung to him, shaking with the relief of survival.

“What happened?” Klaus asked, somehow keeping the anger in his voice from sounding like it was aimed at her.

Caroline lifted her head, took a shaky breath and recounted the events of the last hour, including her belief that they had been sent to kill her in particular.

At this, his arms tightened even more, but she found this comforting rather than oppressing.

“He will pay, Caroline,” he murmured into her hair. “I swear to you now; he will pay.”

Chapter Text

A few days after the attack, the doorbell rang.

Unusually, no one immediately answered it, which was usually Josh’s self-appointed job, so Jeanette heaved herself off the couch to go herself.

Outside one of the werewolves from the bayou loitered on the porch, looking like he hadn’t quite made up his mind when he rang the bell and still hadn’t quite decided if it was the right thing to do.

Jeanette gave him a friendly smile. “Hi Aiden – did you want Caroline?”

“No, I …” Aiden cleared his throat. “I was actually looking for Josh.”

Jeanette raised an eyebrow but took pity on him – he looked exceptionally nervous; all he was missing was a tie to fiddle with and a slightly-drooping bunch of flowers. “Come on in; I’ll go and find him.”

She left him hovering inside the front door while she went in search of Josh. She returned empty-handed and very puzzled.

“He’s not in?” Aiden asked.

“No, he is,” Jeanette said, frowning. “At least, I think he is. He never leaves the house without telling one of us where he’s going … There is one other place I can check; hold tight.”

Jeanette did not expect to find Josh in the silent basement, not least because Klaus had disappeared down there several hours earlier and it had been suspiciously silent ever since.

Still, it was the only place she hadn’t looked and the smell of burning sage when she opened the door told her that she wouldn’t have heard him down here either.

Hearing a faint groan, she closed the door behind her and set off down the gloomy staircase.

She was not surprised to find a vampire strung up by his arms, nor was she surprised when she recognised him as the missing attacker.

She was surprised to find Josh happily helping Klaus drain the man dry.

“Josh?”

“Hey Jeanette,” he greeted, thrusting a wooden pole through the man’s stomach. “What’s up?”

“Have you been compelled?” Jeanette asked, turning to Klaus almost immediately. “Has he been compelled?!”

Klaus sighed. “Jeanette, do you honestly think that I would do that?”

Jeanette scowled. “Yes.”

“Caroline would not be happy,” Klaus reminded her.

Jeanette’s frown deepened, but for other reasons. “No, she wouldn’t. Are you threatening him then?”

“No, I’m here on my own,” Josh said, dropping the pole and turning to her. “He hurt Caroline.”

Jeanette’s gaze turned on the barely-conscious vampire. “That’s true.”

“I need to get the vervain from his system,” Klaus explained. “Then I can compel him to tell us the truth.”

“Then you’re going to kill him, right?” Jeanette asked.

Klaus gave her a feral smile. “Naturally. I’ll do that part myself.”

Jeanette shrugged. “Fair enough.” She turned back to Josh. “You have a visitor.”

“A visitor?” Josh repeated.

Jeanette nodded, grinning. “Yeah, Aiden turned up at the door looking for you.”

Josh reddened. “Oh … did he say why?”

“No, he didn’t,” Jeanette said. “But you might want to change your shirt.”

Klaus chuckled. “Go on, Joshua. I can take it from here.”

Josh looked like he couldn’t decide whether he was grateful or not. Jeanette decided to give him a push. “Yeah, go on, Josh. I’ll help.” He had hurt Caroline, after all.

***

Caroline knew something was going on. What exactly, she wasn’t sure, but she knew it was something, and she was fairly certain it had nothing to do with Aiden showing up at their front door and asking Josh out on a date.

Quite aside from anything else, when Josh appeared upstairs in a tizzy (he objected to the description, but that was definitely what it was), he had blood on his shirt.

She asked.

Of course she asked – she was Caroline Forbes.

He brushed her off with an excuse about an argument with a blood bag.

He was halfway through sponging the blood out at the time, and it didn’t quite smell right, but Caroline let him have it.

This was Josh, after all – the chances of him being involved in anything else and not tell her was minimal.

And then the box appeared on her desk.

Caroline stood inside her office, sipping her coffee, staring at the strange box.

By the time Klaus stopped by, she had been in this stand-off for half an hour.

“Aren’t you going to open it, sweetheart?”

Caroline heaved a sigh. “I know what’s in it.”

“You do?” Klaus asked.

“Well, I’ve got an idea,” Caroline amended, “I’m just mentally flipping a coin as to which body part.” Finishing her coffee and setting the mug aside, she strode to the desk and lifted the lid.

Unseeing eyes stared up at her and she closed her own. “And it’s a head.”

“You know who he is,” Klaus said.

“It’s the one that got away,” Caroline said, putting the lid back on. “And you brought me a severed head.”

“I want you to feel safe here.”

Caroline moved the box aside and turned back to him with a smile. “Nik, I already felt safe. You told me he would pay. I believed you. Believe it or not, if there is anything I have complete faith in in this world, it is your ability to kill people.”

“So you don’t want the head then?” Klaus asked.

“No, I don’t want the head,” Caroline said tiredly. “I’m a little concerned about the woman in your past that makes you think I do want the head.”

With a gust of wind and a blur of colour, the box had vanished and Klaus was sitting across the desk from her with two glasses of bourbon.

“Can I at least offer you a drink?”

Caroline shrugged, taking the glass. “Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere. Did you at get anything out of him before you killed him?”

“Obviously,” Klaus said, “Marcel was behind the attack.”

“Obviously,” Caroline agreed. “Why target me?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Klaus asked.

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Well, yeah, if I die, the hybrids leave, but I didn’t think he knew that.”

“No, Caroline, he targeted you to hurt me.”

“Oh,” Caroline said softly. “Well, I suppose that is the more obvious answer. I’d got used to not being collateral damage. What else did he say?” She asked, before Klaus could respond.

He looked like he wanted to say something else, but conceded. “Marcel doesn’t know about the wolves, and he is planning another attack – one last big push to drive us from town.”

Caroline smirked. “Yeah, that’ll go well.”

Klaus frowned. “Caroline, we are still outnumbered.”

“Not for long,” Caroline said. “The wolves are staying out of town – he’s unlikely to find out any time soon. If he wants to surprise us, he’ll have to come through the bayou, and if he thinks the safest night is when the moon’s full …”

A smirk graced his face and he tapped his glass against hers. “Miss Forbes, you continue to surprise me.”

***

Caroline was smart enough to know when she was being courted – and if anyone ‘courted’ anymore, Klaus definitely did – and she had been expecting it, but she hadn’t been expecting it to happen so slowly.

She had assumed that Klaus would take a mile as soon as she gave an inch, but he hadn’t.

A few evenings after the incident with the severed head (and Caroline could not express enough how much she wished there wasn’t one of those in her life), he popped in to her office to suggest they had dinner Friday night.

She agreed, he kissed her cheek and left, and that was that.

In fact, it had become a kind of tradition for her over the weeks.

Tonight, however, he returned a few minutes later, shutting the door behind him.

Caroline raised an eyebrow. “Are you hiding from someone?”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you something, Caroline.”

Caroline mentally wiped out the rest of her evening’s to-do list and closed her laptop. “Oh?”

“Yes,” Klaus said, rounding the desk to lean against it beside her chair. “You don’t push me away anymore.”

“I haven’t exactly been doing that for a while,” Caroline said gently.

“Yes, but why?” Klaus asked, a smirk playing on his lips. “I thought you made your feelings quite clear in Mystic Falls.”

“That was before the truce,” Caroline pointed out, but he gave her a look that told her he wasn’t buying that particular explanation. She sighed heavily. “Look, what do you want me to say, Nik?”

“I want you to be honest with yourself, love,” he said, his voice dropping to a tone that did dangerous things to her resolve.

“I am being honest with myself,” Caroline said, forcing herself to meet his eyes. “It’s not something you want me to do, Nik. Being honest with myself is more likely to scare me away than lying to myself.”

Klaus frowned. “How so?”

“My parents rarely gave me advice when it came to dating,” Caroline said. “Just rules. Do this. Don’t do that. But they both gave me one piece of advice. My father told me, “Never judge a man by how he treats his friends. Judge him by how he treats his enemies”.”

Klaus flinched, but said nothing.

“I can deal with that,” Caroline admitted. “I think you and I have a lot in common in that respect. I am not a violent person, but I would do anything to protect my family.” She sighed. “But my mother … She always told me never to let myself be anyone’s exception. And I am. I am your exception.”

“Caroline …”

“I am,” Caroline interrupted. “Let’s face it, Nik. I argue with you, I disagree with you, I have downright insulted you, and these are all things that you have killed people for in the past, and yet I’m still here.”

“Caroline …” Klaus said again.

“Don’t say that you would never hurt me,” Caroline said, rolling her eyes. “You had Tyler bite me, remember?”

“And I regret it,” Klaus said fiercely. “I do not believe in regrets, Caroline, but that is the only thing in my life I dearly wish I could go back and change.”

“But that’s only because of how you now feel about me,” Caroline said tiredly. “Not because you realise that dragging an innocent girl into things was a really shitty thing to do. And let’s face it, if you’d had your way, you would never have even met me.”

“Caroline, meeting you was one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” Klaus protested. “How can you …?”

“You remember when Damon showed up at your apartment?” Caroline asked. “Ric’s apartment, I should say, since you’d hijacked it. And he told you that he’d rescued your sacrifices? You ever wonder why?”

Klaus frowned. “Because Elena had vampire blood in her system and didn’t want it, I assume. He was trying to delay the ritual.”

“Then why not kill them?” Caroline asked with a sad smile. “Nik, I was the original sacrifice. How did you never make that connection?”

Klaus opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying to find words.

Finally, Caroline took pity on him, patting his knee. “It’s okay. I’m over it. My point is, you are not incapable of hurting me. It’s just that you love me too much to do so. But lashing out is your instinct. And one day, it is inevitable that I will anger you more than you love me. And when that happens …”

“I will put a dagger through my own heart before I allow myself to hurt you again,” Klaus growled, pushing away from the desk to pace the room.

Caroline let him, blue eyes following his movements as he worked out his frustration.

After a few moments, when it showed no signs of shifting, she stood from her chair and rounded the desk to step in front of him.

He stopped immediately.

“If I am going to be completely honest with myself,” Caroline said softly, “I know I am your exception – and I like it. I just don’t understand it. After a thousand years, why me? I’m just a baby vampire with a neurotic streak.”

“First of all, love, you have never and will never be ‘just’ anything,” Klaus said. “Secondly, age has nothing to do with it. I have met many women throughout my life and no doubt I will meet many more, but none of them have ever held a candle to you. Something about you calls out to me, Caroline. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t understand it. But I love you in a way that never seemed possible.”

Caroline took a deep breath and let herself fall. “I know. I love you too.”

Klaus didn’t smile – truly, genuinely smile – very often, but every time he did, Caroline made a silent promise to make it happen more often. His face lit up as he swept her into his arms, she tilted her face up to his and …

The door flew open.

“Caroline!”

“Kol …” Klaus growled. “You have five seconds before you end up in a coffin.”

Caroline rolled her eyes, but Kol didn’t seem cowed in the slightest. Nor did he seem the least bit interested in what he had apparently interrupted.

“Honestly, Nik, you can kiss her any time, she’s not going to say no. Davina’s missing and I think Mother was behind it.”

Chapter Text

Caroline’s eyes widened and she swiftly switched her attention from Klaus to Kol. “Okay, what happened?”

“Josh found Sophie unconscious near the edge of the bayou,” Kol answered quickly. “Davina was with her when they went out and they were hit with magic.”

“Certainly sounds like your mother,” Caroline mused. “Okay, let’s get a search party together and get Adrian to check with Jackson to see if the pack saw anything.”

“How are you so calm?!” Kol demanded.

“Kol …” Klaus warned.

“I’m calm, because my best friend had a disturbing habit of getting kidnapped,” Caroline said. “Trust me; panicking is not going to find her.”

***

Davina was not panicking.

Admittedly, when she first began to wake, she felt the beginnings of alarm stirring within her. She and Sophie had been walking through the plantation grounds when a magic wave had hit them, and waking up alone and in a room she didn’t recognise naturally concerned her.

However, now that her brain had caught up with her body, she was not panicking.

It was only a matter of time before someone realised she was missing, and if there was anything she was sure of in this world, it was that Kol would find her.

All she had to do was wait.

She was alone, for the moment, and she took the opportunity to examine her surroundings carefully, for anything that might help, if she could get a message back home.

Her cell-phone was missing, unsurprisingly, but she wasn’t bound, either magically or otherwise.

The room looked like the back room of a witch’s shop, but not one Davina recognised, and there were no windows, which ruled out all the stores in the French Quarter.

Slowly, Davina got to her feet, testing her legs. They didn’t give out beneath her.

As though her captor had been waiting for a cue, the door opened and a woman walked in, a witch Davina recognised from the Quarter. But the glimpse she caught through the door before it closed was not her store, but the bayou.

“Lenore?” Davina asked, startled, but then a wave of magic washed over her, making her feel sick with its familiarity. “Esther.”

Esther smiled at her, an unnervingly kind smile. “Hello, Davina. Would you like a cup of tea?”

Davina almost laughed. “Look, no offence, but I wouldn’t take a drink from you if I was dying of dehydration.”

Esther tutted, setting a kettle on the small stove. “Such hostility, Davina. I don’t mean you any harm.”

“Where’s Sophie?” Davina asked.

“Where I left her, I presume,” Esther answered, without concern. “I did nothing to harm either of you.”

Davina folded her arms. “Uh huh.”

Esther heaved the sigh of a mother with errant children. “Davina, if you will not have a cup of tea, at least come and sit down so that we can talk civilly.”

“Most civil conversations don’t begin with kidnapping,” Davina muttered, approaching the small table with some trepidation.

“I do not wish to harm you, Davina,” Esther said, a soft note of warning entering her voice, “but that can change. Sit down.”

Davina did as she was told, taking one of the chairs and folding her hands in her lap so the other woman couldn’t see them trembling. “Why are you … Why are you possessing Lenore? I thought that our deaths gave you enough power to resurrect yourself?”

“Not completely,” Esther admitted. “I had to resurrect my spirit in the body of another witch.”

Davina frowned. “And did Lenore have a say in this?”

“Lenore understands the importance of what I am trying to do,” Esther said, sitting opposite her. “Are you sure you won’t have a cup of tea? You must be thirsty.”

Davina was. “No, thank you. What do you want with me?”

“I need your help, Davina,” Esther said, setting her own cup aside.

Davina steeled herself. “Kol said the last time you came back, you tried to kill your children. I’m not helping you do that.”

“Davina, I am not here to kill my children,” Esther said wearily. “I will admit that when I awoke last time and saw what they had become, I did attempt that, and believe me when I say it was the hardest thing I have ever done. They were my children, and I loved them. Then I turned them into monsters – soulless, heartless creatures who are incapable of love and … Davina, I condemned my children to a living hell.”

“You were trying to save them,” Davina said tentatively. “And … you’re not going to try to kill them again?”

“I am going to save them,” Esther said, leaning forward. “I am going to move their spirits into new bodies, witch bodies. Give them their humanity back.”

“You’re going to body jump them?!” Davina cried, jumping to her feet. “But … But that spell … I mean … where are you going to find witches to agree to it?!” She narrowed her eyes. “You weren’t going to ask, were you? How does that make you any better? You’re talking about killing four people and …” Her blood ran cold. “And what are you going to do with their Original bodies?”

“Destroy them, naturally,” Esther said, taking a sip of tea.

Davina swallowed hard. That would kill every vampire on the planet, including all of the hybrids, Josh, Caroline … All the people who had become her family.

Her heart was racing, but she forced herself to calm down, slowly sinking back into her chair. Angering Esther was not going to help anyone, let alone herself. “Naturally,” she said, hoping the other woman couldn’t hear the sarcasm in her voice. “So why do you need my help? Surely you’re powerful enough to do the spell by yourself. Especially with the other Harvest Girls to help you.” Her eyes darted around the room as she sat down, half-convinced they would appear from the shadows.

“They aren’t here, Davina,” Esther said, as though she had read Davina’s mind. “You have heard of the spell, I assume, from that outburst.”

“I have,” Davina said slowly, thinking through everything she had ever heard, through whispers on the grapevine. No witch would ever think about casting the spell, purely because it did essentially steal the lives from the new hosts. But if she remembered correctly … A smile threatened her composure. “You need them to consent to it, or the spell won’t work.”

“Precisely,” Esther said. “Is something amusing, Davina?”

Her ruse seen though, Davina laughed. “Esther, you are never going to convince your children to agree to this. Klaus alone … He would sooner be dead than human. Witch. Whatever.”

“Well, I’m starting with Kol,” Esther said with a smile, seemingly unconcerned. “And that’s where you come in.”

Davina’s smile vanished as quickly as it came. “Look, however much Kol misses magic – and he does, fine – you took that away from him. He will never come to you for help.”

“Oh, I think he will,” Esther said.

Davina shook her head. “You’re underestimating how much he hates you.”

“No,” Esther said quietly, setting her tea cup down. “You’re underestimating how much he loves you.” Before Davina could move, her hand shot across the table and grasped Davina’s arm.

Her skin burned and she screamed, almost drowning out Esther’s next words.

“A few days of you being unable to look at him with anything less than revulsion in your eyes and he will come begging me for help.”

***

Jackson hadn’t seen Davina.

Neither had the rest of the pack, supposedly.

Privately, Caroline still held reservations about Oliver, but she kept them to herself, and thanked Jackson with a smile.

Kol and the hybrids scoured the bayou, but it was Caroline who found a small shack on the edge of a lake.

There were no sounds from within, but Caroline knew better than to discount it for that. Bracing herself, she nudged the door open.

When there was no smell of burning sage, she relaxed ever so slightly, and poked her head inside.

The room was empty at first glance, but then she caught sight of Davina, sitting at the small table.

Caroline rushed towards her and was at her side before she realised there was something wrong.

Davina’s eyes were glazed over, her body rigid, but her heart racing.

“Davina?” Caroline asked softly. “Davina, can you hear me?”

Davina didn’t even blink.

Caroline tilted her head to catch a hint of the closest person. Quiet voices caught her attention. “Josh,” she called. “Give me a hand please?”

A second later, Josh was pushing open the door, with Aiden close behind.

“Oh, hello, Aiden,” Caroline greeted, as though she hadn’t known they were together.

“What’s wrong with her?” Josh demanded, blurring to Davina’s side.

“I don’t know,” Caroline admitted. “I’m going to try to get into her head, see if I can figure out where she is and what happened. I need you to watch my back, alright?”

Josh nodded. “You got it, Caroline.”

“Thank you.” Caroline took Davina’s hand and closed her eyes, reaching into the young girl’s mind.

It was hard, getting into a witch’s head, as though they had some kind of natural defence against vampires, but Caroline pushed, and pushed, until she was finally confronted with a whirl of colour and sound that finally resolved into a horrific scene.

Davina was pressed against the wall, her face pale and her mouth open in a silent scream. All around her, bodies lay on the floor, men and women, young and old.

Most of them had gaping holes in their throats; a couple of the women’s dresses had been torn as well, and their hearts ripped out.

In the middle of the carnage, Kol was draining another man dry, ignoring his screams.

Caroline grimaced, and moved to block Davina’s view. “Come on, Davina. Come on, wake up now. Come back to us.”

With a gasp, Davina threw Caroline out of her mind, but as she stumbled backwards, the young girl came out of her stupor and threw herself into Caroline’s arms.

Caroline landed on the floor with a bump and hugged the girl tightly, tucking her under her chin as though somehow that would protect her.

“What happened?” Josh asked, dropping to his knees beside them.

Caroline shook her head, getting to her feet without relinquishing her hold. “Tell the others that I’ve found her, that she’s fine. Tell Nik to keep Kol away until I figure out what’s going on.”

Josh nodded and Caroline ran, speeding through the bayou and back into the plantation house.

Up in Davina and Sophie’s room, Sophie had just come around and was arguing with James, who had stayed with her, about going to look for Davina when Caroline arrived.

Sophie sprang to her feet, wide-eyed, but Caroline waved her down, sitting down on Davina’s bed, still cradling the young witch tightly.

“Thank you, James,” she said softly. “I can take it from here.”    

James nodded and slipped out of the room, as Sophie came to sit beside them, taking Davina’s hand. “What happened?”

Davina shuddered against her and Caroline squeezed her shoulder. “It’s alright, sweetheart. Take your time.”

***

When Caroline finally slipped out of the room, leaving Davina in Sophie’s capable hands, she found Klaus in the sitting room with a glass of bourbon, watching Kol pace the room.

As soon as Caroline entered, Kol changed direction. “How is she?”

“She’s fine.” Caroline stole Klaus’s glass and downed it. “Physically.”

“So it was our mother,” Klaus concluded, getting up to retrieve another drink. “What torture did she visit?”

“Well, first of all, we now know what she’s planning,” Caroline said, holding out the empty glass for a refill. “Kol, stay here,” she added, noticing his eyes flicking towards the stairs. “Trust me, you want to give her some space right now.”

“Don’t keep us in suspense,” Klaus said impatiently. “What is that conniving bitch up to?!”

“Well, the good news is that she doesn’t want to kill you this time,” Caroline answered. “The bad news is that she wants to body jump you into witches instead.”

“Excuse me?” Kol asked, finally giving her all of his attention.

“Caroline, what the bloody hell is ‘body jumping’?” Klaus asked.

“It’s essentially moving someone’s spirit into another body,” Caroline said. “She wants to make you all human again.”

“But you’re forgetting the most important part,” Kol said with a smirk. “Mother needs our permission to do the spell. She can’t do it against our will.”

When Klaus laughed, Caroline allowed herself a smile. “Well, there is that. And it does buy us some time. However, she’s targeting you one by one, starting with Kol.”

“Kol would never say yes,” Klaus said dismissively. “He enjoys being a vampire.”

“Not as much as he enjoyed being a witch,” Caroline said, taking a sip of bourbon. “Not to mention she’s taken out some extra insurance.”

Kol’s smirk vanished immediately. “What did she do to Davina?”

“I’m not quite sure,” Caroline admitted. “When I found her, she was catatonic, and when I went into her head … I don’t know if it was a memory or a fabrication.” She held a hand out to Kol. “But you will.”

Kol hesitated, but a glance towards the stairs stiffened his resolve. He took her hand and they both closed their eyes, allowing Caroline to draw him into her mind and show him what she had seen within Davina’s subconscious.

He watched the scene of slaughter with detached interest for a few minutes, before pulling them both out again.

“That’s a memory,” Kol said, sounding tired. “1756 if I remember correctly.”

“Had you just come out of a coffin?” Caroline asked.

Kol shook his head with a humourless chuckle. “No. I was just bored. Why would she show Davina that?”

“We don’t think she’s done,” Caroline said darkly. “We think she’s trying to make Davina either scared of you or hate you. You won’t be able to deal with it, and then you go to her for help.”

“Kol will not …” Klaus began.

“Nik, please,” Caroline said, rubbing her temples. “This has nothing to do with your paranoia.”

“It might be a good idea,” Kol said slowly. “No, think about it Nik. Mother’s a very powerful witch – having a Mikaelson witch on our side would not be a bad thing. I mean, I’m not as powerful as Mother, but I’m closer than others, even Davina. And then once it’s over, you can just pop me back in my body …”

“Except she’s planning on destroying your Original body,” Caroline finished. “And I still don’t know which bloodline sired me, so if we can avoid that particular scenario, that would be fantastic.”

“But what about Davina?” Kol asked. “If she keeps getting images like that …”

“We’ll just have to wait it out,” Caroline said. “Davina seemed pretty insistent on not letting her win.”

Klaus smirked. “I knew there was a reason I liked that girl.”

***

Despite Caroline’s reassurances, Kol shut himself in his room for the next three days, pouring over every magical tome he had managed to get his hands on over the last thousand years.

On the first night, Davina’s screams had ripped through the house, but he had forced himself to stay put, letting Caroline go in his stead.

Her screams were silenced after that, but he could smell the sage and knew that her silence meant nothing.

On the second night, he called Jeremy Gilbert and bugged him until Bonnie stole his phone and agreed to help.

But she couldn’t find anything either.

On the third night, Kol was beginning to consider going to Esther anyway.

However, just as he was about to slip out of the house to find her, there was a quiet knock at the door.

Kol didn’t move. He didn’t even breathe, waiting for Caroline to move on and assume he was sleeping.

But it wasn’t Caroline who spoke.

“Kol? I know you’re awake.”

Kol was at the door in a second, but forced himself to open it slowly, so as not to startle her. “Are you alright, Davina?”

The smile she gave him was tired, but there was no fear in her eyes. “Not really. Can I come in?”

“Yes, of course.” Kol moved aside to let her pass, shutting the door quietly behind her.

Her eyes travelled over the books strewn across the desk and the floor. “Have you slept at all?”

“Have you?” Kol asked in return.

“A little,” Davina answered, rubbing her eyes.

Something inside him ached at the sight and he stepped towards her. “I’m so sorry, Davina. I’ll fix this, I promise – I’ll go to Mother and …”

Despite her fatigue, the glare she gave him was impressive. “Don’t you dare!”

“Davina …”

“No!” Davina interrupted. “No, you’re not doing that for me. Do it for you, fine – I won’t like it, but that’s your choice, but don’t do it for me. I can handle it.”

“Darling, you’re exhausted,” Kol protested. “And you … what you’re seeing …”

Davina’s glare softened. “It’s nothing I didn’t know about, Kol. Your reputation preceded you; I knew you were a psychopath when we met.”

“That doesn’t make it okay,” Kol said, frowning. “It must be …”

“It sucks,” Davina said frankly. “It’s horrible. Everything I’m seeing, everything you’ve done …” Her breath hitched slightly, and it was like a dagger sliding into his heart. “Kol, it’s awful. But then … why am I here?”

Kol hesitated. It didn’t sound like a sudden realisation, like she had walked to his room in some kind of stupor. It sounded like she was asking him. “I … don’t know?”

“Because I was scared,” Davina said softly. “That last nightmare … I woke up afraid. And when I’m afraid … you make me feel safe. You still make me feel safe.”

Slowly, Kol enveloped her in his arms. She relaxed almost immediately, tension draining out of her as she nestled into him.

“I don’t understand,” Kol whispered.

“You would never hurt me,” Davina answered. “Never. And somehow … that makes everything okay.”

Kol pressed a kiss against her forehead. “I can’t promise you anything, Davina.”

Davina pulled back in his arms, looking up at him. “You can promise you’ll never hurt me.”

Kol managed a smile. “Of course, darling. That I can always promise you.”

Davina smiled. “Your mother told me that she turned her children into heartless, soulless monsters who were incapable of love. And in the next breath, she told me that I was underestimating how much you love me.”

He should push her away.

He should stand his ground, remind her that she deserved better, but …

She was here.

She was here, in his arms, telling him that he made her feel safe.

Besides, he was apparently fooling no one.

“You are,” he admitted quietly. “But so is she. Because I swear to you, Davina, I will not go crawling to my mother for help, but I will make her suffer for what she has done to you.”

Davina shivered, but did not pull away. If anything, she moved closer, her eyes fixed on his. “I was underestimating how much you love me. But she was underestimating how much I love you.”

Chapter Text

I may or may not have mentioned that I suffer from anxiety. Recently it has been sky-high, which has resulted in it being exceptionally hard to write.
My brain seems to have settled on CSI: NY again and the rewrite of Kindred Spirits, which - okay, is nice, because it's been a while since my inspiration was there, especially since the show was cancelled.
However, it does mean that inspiration for everything else has dried up. And I could force myself to write, but when my anxiety acts up, that ends up causing panic attacks. You do not want me writing on panic attacks, trust me. 
I have not given up on any of my other stories or series. I just need to give myself a time-out for a bit.

Chapter Text

Davina’s dreams slowly got better, helped by the fact that she was sleeping in Kol’s arms every night.

As time passed, everyone in the mansion became more on edge – it was unlikely that Esther would just give up, just because Kol hadn’t taken the bait.

Elijah and Rebekah had both been warned of their mother’s plans, but everyone agreed that it was unlikely that Esther would leave New Orleans just yet.

After all, her hold over the coven could well rely on her ability to keep the rest of the ancestors silenced, and no one was sure what would happen if she strayed too far from the city.

The next move was a brazen one and it came from an unexpected source.

It happened on a Thursday, while Klaus was out of the house.

Klaus had been understandably protective of Caroline since Davina’s disappearance – protective yet distant at the same time, despite their heartfelt discussion.

No one believed that Marcel would attack Klaus in the city, even if Klaus had no back-up, not now Klaus was expecting an attack, so Klaus was not concerned about going into the Quarter to shadow Marcel.

He took a kind of twisted pleasure out of irritating Marcel, so Caroline did not bother attempting to talk him out of it.

On this Thursday, since Klaus was out, Caroline took the opportunity to head into the bayou with Adrian to speak to Jackson.

The alpha greeted her with a smile and an invitation to stay for lunch, which she accepted happily.

“So, Caroline, what brings you out here?”

“Well, I wanted to give you a bit of a heads up,” Caroline answered, accepting a plate of home-grown salad from Mary. “We’ve had word that Marcel’s planning an attack on the plantation house and, well, if I were him, I’d come through the bayou.”

Several of the nearer pack-members tensed and murmured among themselves, but Aiden sniggered. “Except he doesn’t know the curse is broken yet, does he?” He asked, when Jackson gave him a questioning look. “So he’ll come through on the full moon. He’ll think it’s safest.”

The tension bled out of the clearing, laughter echoing off the trees.

“That’s not a warning, Caroline,” Jackson said with a grin. “That’s a promise!”

Caroline shrugged with a smile. “Didn’t want to just let it happen without letting you know first. We don’t know when.”

“We’ll keep an eye out,” Jackson promised her. His eyes slid from her to focus on something just past her, and Caroline glanced over her shoulder to see a group of little girls inching closer to them.

“They’re getting used to you,” he murmured under his breath. “They would have kept the kids hidden away a few weeks ago.”

Part of Caroline felt sorry for these girls, but a larger part envied them. They had an extended family like one she had never seen, bonded by something far stronger than she would ever experience.

“How do you get your hair to do that?” One of the girls piped up.

“Laura,” one of the women – presumably her mother – called.

Caroline was gratified to hear that it didn’t sound like a ‘stay away from the vampire’ warning, but a ‘don’t bother the nice lady’ one instead. “It’s alright,” she said, pitching her voice so the mother heard it as well. “It’s a French braid, sweetie – it’s a bit like a normal braid, but you start it higher.” She glanced over to the mother who was watching them. “I can show you, if that’s okay with your mom.”

The girls broke into beaming smiles and the woman nodded, relaxing into her chair and turning back to her own friends.

Laura pulled her hair out of her messy ponytail and plonked herself in front of Caroline. “I’m Laura.”

“I’m Caroline,” she said, carefully untangling one of the knots in the girl’s hair. “Does anyone have a comb on them?”

“I can get one!” One of the other girls piped up, taking off.

Adrian’s phone went off in his pocket, and he checked it, grimacing. “Caroline, Jeanette needs me for something.”

“That’s okay,” Caroline said with a smile. “It’s not like I’m on my own out here.”

“And one of us can walk her home,” Jackson added. “Assuming Klaus is still being paranoid.”

“You heard what happened to Davina,” Caroline said darkly. “It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. Thank you, Jackson; I’d appreciate that.” She smiled as the little girl returned with a hairbrush. “Thank you. Okay, here we go …”

Adrian headed off back to the house, while Caroline taught the girls how to French braid their hair. Of course, once she’d done Laura’s, all of her friends wanted one as well, and Caroline was perfectly happy to oblige.

Caroline loved children and had for as long as she could remember. In fact, one of the best parts of being Miss Mystic Falls was the children who all wanted to be a princess and she had never begrudged them a single second of her time.

She was just finishing with the last of the girls – Melissa – when a shiver ran up the back of her spine.

Her head shot up, her ears settling on the soft snapping of twigs in the woods around the clearing.

“Caroline?” Melissa asked. “What’s wrong?”

Caroline hastily tied off the bottom of her braid and lifted her to her feet. “Go to your mom, Melissa. Something’s not right.”

Catching Caroline’s unease, Jackson got to his feet as well, but before anyone could do anything, something burst out of the undergrowth, heading straight for Caroline and Melissa.

“Jackson!” Caroline pushed Melissa towards her alpha, trusting in him to catch her, just in time for a wolf to land heavily atop her, jaws clamping down on her throat.

His weight was off her in a split-second, before she could fight back, and he had bounded away into the darkness.

“Caroline!” Jackson appeared above her, helping her to her feet. “Are you alright?”

“Is Melissa okay?” Caroline asked.

“Yeah,” he assured her. “Shaken, but she’s fine, thanks to you. Was that a hybrid?”

Caroline touched the wound on her neck, or lack thereof. “No. Hybrid bites don’t heal.” She sighed. “Why is it always me?”

Jackson frowned. “But there aren’t any regular wolves in this area.”

Caroline grimaced, feeling the wound reopen. “Oh, that wasn’t a regular wolf. I’m going to need to head back to the house.”

“I’d better …” Jackson began.

“No,” Caroline interrupted. “The hallucinations are going to start soon, and I’d rather not do anything stupid. What I need you to do is figure out who that was and how they turned in the middle of the day two weeks before the full moon.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Jackson said grimly. “I think I know who it was.”

***

By the time Caroline got back to the house, she was already being followed by both her parents and Damon.

Adrian met her in the entrance hall, his eyes landing on her neck. “Oh God … Klaus is gonna kill me.”

“I should’ve killed you when I had the chance,” Damon said.

“Klaus is not going to kill you,” Caroline said firmly, stumbling into the living room. “Where is he?”

“He’s not back yet,” Adrian answered, following her. “Caroline …”

“Go to my office,” Caroline interrupted. “In the bottom drawer on the right, there’s a false bottom. Bring me what’s in there please.”

Adrian had disappeared before she’d finished speaking, and returned almost immediately, handing her a small vial of blood.

“Like I said,” Caroline said, downing the blood, “it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.”

The room was filling with the hybrids and the vampires from the Garden, all concerned about Caroline.

That concern was slowly making way to anger, and Caroline sighed, catching sight of Josh, who had fought his way to her side.

“Josh, do you mind?”

Josh grinned, letting out a piercing whistle that cut through the irate mutters.

“Thank you.” Caroline got to her feet to address them. “Part of the alliance with the Crescent clan means that we will be allowing Jackson to deal with this himself. I know that you aren’t happy about that, but this is not the time to be …”

“Caroline,” James interrupted from the window. “We have visitors.”

Caroline closed her eyes. “Not now!”

“Oh, no,” James said, “not Marcel. Sorry.”

“Oh, for …” Caroline crossed the floor to join him. “James, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”

James grinned sheepishly. “Sorry,” he repeated.

Caroline shook her head, looking out towards the bayou.

Jackson was making his way towards them, his face grim. Behind him were Aiden and Max, carrying what looked like a body.

“This is not the time to breaking an alliance,” Caroline finished softly. “Especially when they’ve already sorted it.”

“That was quick,” Thierry said, a little suspiciously.

“Jackson had guessed who it was,” Caroline explained, turning away from the window and heading for the front door.

She had reached the door when she realised they were all following her.

With a smile, she turned back to face them all. “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about me, but if Jackson hasn’t brought the entire pack, I don’t think we all need to be there. Adrian, Josh …” she hesitated for a split-second. “Caitlin.”

The three she had named followed her out the front door, while the others fell back.

“No Klaus?” Jackson asked, by way of greeting.

“Not back yet,” Caroline answered. “I had a vial of blood in my desk, just in case.”

Beside her, Caitlin made a move as though she was about to run to Max, but then noticed the body.

To Caroline’s private amusement, on her other side, Josh looked as though he had done the same thing.

Despite his grim expression, Jackson’s mouth twitched in a smile when he noticed who Caroline had brought outside.

Caroline caught his eye and shrugged slightly. Okay, so she was a romantic, even when faced with a dead body.

Speaking of which …

“Oliver?”

“Does it surprise you?” Jackson asked, a little bitterly.

“No,” Caroline admitted. “No, it doesn’t. What happened? How did you get him to admit it?”

“Oh, I didn’t need to try,” Jackson said. “He came to me, challenged me as alpha.”

“Surely he would need the rest of the pack to back him up?” Josh asked, looking from Jackson to Aiden.

“Normally,” Aiden answered, not looking at him. “And we wouldn’t. But he had something …”

“He had this,” Jackson said, holding up a small object. “Said a witch gave it to him.”

Caroline held out a hand and caught whatever it was, holding it up to the light. “A ring?”

“Gave him the same control as a hybrid,” Jackson confirmed. “Said the witch offered him the ring in exchange for loyalty.”

Adrian looked at Caroline. “Esther?”

Caroline sighed. “Esther.”

***

When Klaus returned, Caroline was sitting at the foot of his bed.

“She’s made her next move,” she said by way of greeting.

Klaus was at her side in a second, pulling her to her feet. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, Nik,” Caroline said softly. “Just … very confused.” She told him about her trip to the bayou, Oliver’s bite, and Jackson’s explanation.

Klaus listened quietly and attentively, sitting beside her on the bed. When she’d finished, he asked, “Where is the ring now?”

“Davina and Sophie have it,” Caroline answered. “They’re looking to see if they can recreate the spell. It’s not hybrids, but it’s something. If anything, the wolves would probably prefer it. I think she made the venom more potent as well,” she added. “The hallucinations progressed much faster than last time.”

“Which part’s confusing you, Caroline?” Klaus asked.

Caroline grimaced. “It’s … probably nothing.”

“But …?”

“Why did Oliver attack me?” Caroline asked. “I mean, I thought maybe it was just because I was a vampire and I was there and it was instinct, but … he was watching us, and had been for a few minutes before he attacked.”

“Maybe he doesn’t like you,” Klaus suggested. “He’s obviously an idiot.”

Caroline cracked a smile. “Maybe, but … what’s the point? He’s bitten me before; he knows there’s a cure. He knew it wouldn’t kill me, so why do it?”

“He thought he could take control of the pack,” Klaus said. “Likely it was an alpha move.”

“Against you, you mean?” Caroline asked with a sigh. “I was so enjoying not being collateral damage.”

“How did Jackson win that fight?” Klaus asked. “Oliver certainly had the upper hand.”

“Yeah, but Jackson had the rest of the pack on his side,” Caroline said. “They pretty much ganged up on him and he was arrogant enough to start the fight human. Once they got the ring off, it was all over.”

Once upon a time, Caroline would have spent this conversation pretending he wasn’t as close as he was and pretending that she wasn’t affected by it in the slightest.

Now she didn’t have to.

Giving in, she let herself sag against his side, feeling him draw her closer.

“I’m sick of being collateral damage,” she muttered.

“You are not collateral,” Klaus murmured, stroking her hair. “You are a queen.”

“Not yet, I’m not,” Caroline said.

Klaus was silent for a second. “You usually protest that.”

“Yeah, well …” Caroline lifted her head to meet his eyes. “You asked me to be honest. So I’m being honest. I want to be queen.”

His face lit up in the smile she loved so much. “You will be, love. I promise you.”

Caroline smiled. “Does that mean you’re going to stop avoiding me now?”

“I haven’t been …” He faltered at her raised eyebrow. “Yes, love, I’m going to stop avoiding you. It was torture, and it doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Good,” Caroline whispered, not protesting in the slightest when he tugged her closer.

A few weeks ago, when Davina had disappeared, their first kiss might have been have been soft and tender and gentle, but eighteen days of frustration (yes, she had been counting) had put paid to that idea.

She gripped his shirt, threatening to tear through the fabric, melting into his arms. He kissed her with the same passion and attentiveness he had always shown her since her eighteenth birthday, except where it once caused her fear, it now welcomed her home.

Her back settled into the mattress, his weight pressing down on top of her, and she couldn’t help the way she arched up into him, breaking their kiss with a gasp.

He did not protest, kissing his way down her neck, pausing against her pulse point.

“Caroline …” His words vibrated against her skin. “May I …?”

“Yes …” Her answer was punctuated by a loud moan as he bit down with blunt teeth.

Klaus chuckled into her neck. “I hadn’t finished.”

“I don’t care,” Caroline said breathlessly, tugging his mouth back to hers. “Just … yes.” She gave him a short, sharp kiss, and gave him a cheeky smile, unbuttoning her shirt. “Now stop talking and get on with it.”

Klaus’s eyes darkened and focused on the slowly-appearing skin. “As you wish, love.”

***

Caroline awoke suddenly several hours later.

At first, she did not think twice about it, stretching her pleasantly-sore muscles, her naked body moulding against Klaus’s side.

A second later, when her mind caught up with her, she sat bolt upright, her ears twitching.

The house was silent – too silent. She couldn’t even hear Davina or Sophie breathing down the hall and on a lower floor.

“Nik?” She whispered, nudging him.

He didn’t respond, which worried her even more.

Caroline had no experience in sharing a bed with Klaus, but she was fairly certain that he wasn’t a heavy sleeper.

No one with that level of paranoia could possibly be a heavy sleeper.

Slipping out of bed, Caroline quickly pulled on her panties and Klaus’s discarded shirt, before leaving the bedroom to investigate.

Her first stop was Kol’s bedroom two doors down.

Her knock went unanswered, so she pushed the door open.

He was fully-dressed, thankfully, as was Davina, curled up in his arms.

Caroline was relieved to see Davina’s chest rising and falling with even breaths, but even inside the room, she couldn’t hear them, and neither stirred when she tried to wake them.

Caroline left their bedroom as well, now certain that there was some kind of spell over the house, which had, for some reason, skipped over her.

Downstairs, however, in the parlour, Caroline realised why she was exempt.

The light was on, which she was certain it had not been the night before, and a woman was standing in the middle of the room, a woman Caroline recognised from Davina’s story.

As soon as Caroline stepped over the threshold, she felt the weight of the spell settle on her. Now, she could not run or scream, even if she wanted to.

“Hello, Caroline,” Esther greeted. “I was hoping to speak to you.”

Chapter Text

Caroline’s eyes darted around the room, momentarily ignoring the Original Witch.

They were alone, which made Caroline relax a little, but she knew she was still no match for Esther Mikaelson.

“Relax, Caroline,” the other woman said with a smile. “I only want to talk to you.”

“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” Caroline asked, crossing her arms. She wished she was wearing more than Klaus’s shirt and a pair of panties.

“Now, Caroline, there’s no need to be so hostile,” Esther chided. “I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here to give you something.”

“I don’t want another body,” Caroline said hastily. “I’m perfectly happy with the one I have, thank you. Fangs and all. Besides, taking another body would be stealing a life and I refuse to do that.”

“Hmm.” Esther looked faintly curious. “I wonder, with your eagerness to preserve human life and my son’s eagerness to destroy it, what the two of you ever have in common to talk about.”

“It’s not always easy,” Caroline admitted, “but we manage. Why do you want to give me something?”

“For that very reason,” Esther said softly. “You have taught Niklaus how to love, Caroline, something I thought was impossible.”

“No,” Caroline disagreed. “Niklaus already knew how to love. He loves his brothers and his sister. He loves them so much he never knew how to handle it. I may have helped him figure out how to love more healthily, but quite frankly, you have some nerve to try to murder your children and then break into my home and thank me for doing your job.”

Esther’s smile was hauntingly familiar, even if she was no longer in the body Caroline had known in Mystic Falls. “Perhaps not, but I would like to offer you something in return, Caroline. I am going to give you something you have always desperately wanted, but can never have.”

Caroline took a step back, feeling the magic around her get stronger. “I’d really rather you didn’t.”

The magic gathered in such a great mass that Caroline could almost see if, a split- second before it slammed into her, causing her to double over in pain.

When she looked up, Esther was gone and the stifling silence in the house had lifted.

“NIK!”

Her cry woke the entire house, hybrids and vampires appearing out bedrooms left and right as she dashed upstairs.

She almost collided with Klaus as he blurred out of his bedroom. “Love, what happened?”

“Your mother,” Caroline said breathlessly. “Your mother was here – parlour.”

Davina let out a whimper, clinging to Kol, and he scowled, kissing her head. “Stay with Caroline, Davina.”

Caroline held out an arm to Davina who nestled into her side. “I think she’s gone.”

“We’d better double-check,” Klaus said darkly.

“I’ll come with you,” Sophie said, tying her robe around her waist. “I want to know how she got in.”

“There was a spell,” Caroline said with certainty. “Everything was silent; I couldn’t even hear people breathing. And when I got into the parlour, I couldn’t move or scream or …”

Davina’s arms tightened around her waist.

“We’ll handle it, love,” Klaus said, his eyes softening as he looked at her. “Try and get some sleep.”

“Like that’ll happen,” Caroline muttered, letting Davina guide her towards her bedroom.

“It’ll be like a slumber party,” Davina said, with false cheer. “It’ll be fun.”

It wasn’t fun.

Neither of the girls slept for a second, every tiny noise making them jump.

Finally Sophie returned, looking tired. “Well, she’s gone,” she said with a yawn. “I’ve spelled the boundary line; hopefully we can at least catch her next time.”

“Unless she undoes the spell,” Davina murmured.

“I didn’t say it was flawless,” Sophie said, looking at the two of them in amusement. “Is this a private cuddle pile or can anyone join in?”

“It’s not a cuddle pile with only two of us,” Caroline said with a weak smile, beckoning her to join in.

The three girls curled up together in the middle of Caroline’s bed, surrounded by blankets and pillows, but even shared body heat couldn’t lift the chill that had permeated their home.

“Did she do anything to you?” Davina asked quietly.

Caroline hesitated, long enough to alarm both witches. “I don’t know,” she admitted finally. “I think so.”

“What do you think she did?” Sophie asked.

Caroline breathed a heavy sigh. “She said she wanted to give me something. And then just before she disappeared, this jolt of magic hit me; it … it hurt. Really hurt. And I don’t get hurt often anymore.”

Sophie sat up. “Where was the pain?”

“Right around here,” Caroline said, gesturing to her midsection.

Sophie laid a hand on Caroline’s stomach and closed her eyes, murmuring under her breath. “Well … she did something … I just don’t know what. Davina? You’ve read her grimoire.”

Davina looked startled, but repeated the spell. Slowly, she shook her head. “No, I’ve never seen that kind of magic before. It’s very old and very powerful and … We’ll have to do some research.”

***

Esther vanished into thin air again and Klaus was furious, although overly attentive towards Caroline. No matter how much she assured him that it wasn’t his fault, he seemed determined to make up for this latest incident.

Whatever spell Caroline had been hit with remained a mystery. For two weeks, Sophie and Davina searched through Esther’s grimoire, studying every spell and how it could be amended or changed to see if that would explain the strange magical signature still hanging around Caroline.

Finally, on a Saturday afternoon, they approached Caroline in her office with grim expressions.

“What did she do?” Caroline asked.

“We don’t know,” Davina admitted.

“So they’ve asked me for help,” Kol said, sauntering in behind them. “Not a problem, is it?”

Caroline sighed. “No. At least close the door.”

Kicking the door closed, Kol gestured for Caroline to stand up and come around the desk. “Now tell me exactly what Mother said. Was there an incantation of any kind?”

Remembering her exact words was not easy with Kol staring deeply into her eyes, but she tried. “She … She said that she wanted to thank me for teaching Klaus how to love, and she wanted to give me something I want but can’t have.”

“Were they her exact words?” Kol asked, breaking eye contact and checking her pulse.

Caroline closed her eyes, thinking back. “Something I have always desperately wanted but can never have.”

“I see,” Kol took a step back to observe her fully. “Any symptoms?”

“No,” Caroline answered. “It hurt really badly, what she did, but there’s been nothing since then.”

“Feeding normally?” Kol pressed. “Appetite?”

“Yes and yes,” Caroline said tiredly. “It’s like she hasn’t done anything, Kol. Are we sure she isn’t just faking us out to drive me mad?”

“Maybe,” Kol admitted. “Not Mother’s style though. So … what do you want?”

Caroline blinked. “To know what’s wrong.”

Kol chuckled. “No, I mean the riddle. What do you want so badly that you can’t have?”

“I don’t know,” Caroline said. “I’ve been trying to figure it out, but I can’t. If I was still human, I could give you a list, but she said ‘can’t’ have, not ‘won’t’. I mean, there loads of things I want, but I can get them through compulsion. I wouldn’t, but I could, so that rules those out.”

“Maybe you’re looking at this the wrong way,” Davina suggested. “What can you have as a human, but not as a …?” She trailed off, staring at Caroline, whose eyes widened.

“Children,” Sophie finished flatly. “You can’t have children.” She looked at Caroline too. “Would you say you wanted children?”

“Desperately,” Caroline whispered, her hands folding over her stomach. Then she shook her head. “No. No, that’s ridiculous. Vampires can’t have children.”

“We can’t procreate,” Kol said slowly. “That’s … not necessarily the same thing.”

Caroline returned to behind her desk and took a seat, with far more composure than she actually felt. “Explain.”

“When you die, if you become a vampire or not, your reproductive system stops,” Kol said. “Now, for women, that means there is a very high chance that there is an unfertilised egg somewhere in there. You only turned, what, two years ago?”

“Just over,” Caroline confirmed.

“Right, so recently enough that it’s still viable,” Kol said. “Theoretically – and this is a big ‘theoretically’ – a very powerful witch – like my mother – could take male bodily fluid from within your body, combine it with that egg, pull them down to where they should be, give it a little charge to reactivate everything and boom! Baby. It explains why the girls can’t find the spell either, because it would be pure magic.”

Caroline stared at him for a second. “Kol, that’s … that’s ridiculous. For a start, Nik and I aren’t sleeping together.”

“First of all, I didn’t say Nik,” Kol smirked. “Second of all, you were running around in his shirt that night, we’re not stupid. And thirdly, I didn’t say what kind of bodily fluid. You were bitten that day, weren’t you? Nik’s blood was in your system.”

The room seemed to be spinning around her. Caroline grasped the edge of the desk for support, staring at the grains in the wood as though they would start speaking to her.

If Kol was right, Oliver’s attack suddenly made more sense. He didn’t bite her even though he knew Klaus could heal her – he bit her because Klaus would heal her. Because Esther needed his blood in her body.

“Sophie.”

Caroline was almost embarrassed at the way her voice cracked. But she needed to know for certain before she allowed herself to think any further about this.

Because it was insane. It was the craziest thing Kol had ever come up with, including whatever escapades he had got into over the last thousand years, and Caroline …

Caroline wanted so badly for it to be true.

Sophie approached her slowly and knelt beside her, reaching out a shaky hand to touch Caroline’s abdomen.

For a few seconds the room was silent, while Sophie chanted under her breath.

Finally, she withdrew her hand and looked up into Caroline’s face. “Well, the good news is you’re pregnant. The bad news is … I have absolutely no idea what with.”

Chapter Text

“Pregnant …”

Once the room stopped spinning around her, Caroline became aware of a hand on the back of her neck, holding her head down between her knees.

“Just breathe nice and deeply, Caroline,” Sophie’s voice said. “You’re alright.”

“Vampires can’t hyperventilate,” Kol said.

“I don’t care,” Sophie retorted. “Slowing your breathing down calms you down. How do you feel?”

“Fine,” Caroline said hastily, straightening up. “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure,” Sophie asked, hovering beside her.

“I’m fine,” Caroline repeated. “Just … How certain are you on the pregnancy thing?”

“Very,” Sophie said with certainty. “I mean, a doctor wouldn’t go amiss, because I suppose Esther could have done something to fake a pregnancy – why she’d do that, I don’t know …”

“Why would she cause a pregnancy in the first place though?” Davina asked. “I mean, she thinks she turned her children into monsters and they’re just vampires for the most part. This baby has the potential to be some kind of vampire-werewolf-witch tribrid.”

“Is tribrid even a word?” Caroline asked.

Davina shrugged. “I’m coining it.”

“Look, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Sophie said. “I told you I can’t tell exactly what the baby’s going to be.”

“I’ll make a doctor’s appointment,” Caroline said.

“No, you won’t,” Kol said.

Caroline raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

“Caroline, whatever reasoning our mother has is irrelevant. I can promise you that every supernatural being out there will want to make sure this kid is never born,” Kol said darkly. “And those that don’t will want to use you or the baby to control Nik in some way.”

“Kol, I need to see a doctor,” Caroline protested, her hands covering her abdomen instinctively.

“I’ll take you to the next town,” Kol said. “We’ll compel a doctor to fit you in without an appointment.”

Caroline bit her lip. She hated the idea of compulsion, especially an innocent bystander. But her guilt at the thought of taking another woman’s appointment or making a doctor skip their lunch break was overshadowed by her desperation to know for certain that Sophie was right.

“You’re sure you don’t mind?” She asked him.

“Mind?” Kol asked. “Caroline, it would be my honour.”

Caroline rolled her eyes, looking at Davina. “How do you put up with him?”

Davina just giggled.

***

They didn’t go that day.

If Caroline was pregnant, she had the benefit of knowing exactly when the baby was conceived, and a few moments of research told her that a doctor wouldn’t be able to say for certain either for at least a few more weeks.

So, five weeks after Esther’s visit, while Klaus was out of the house, Kol pulled up the house in a rental car, and Caroline got in.

“Where did you get the car?”

“Next town over, compelled with a fake name,” Kol said. “Now would you relax please?”

Caroline sighed. “I’m sorry – I’ve barely relaxed for three weeks. God knows what Nik thinks is wrong.”

“You still haven’t told him?” Kol asked.

“I’m not saying a word until I’m certain,” Caroline said firmly. “We both know he’s going to freak out.”

“Nik?” Kol asked. “My brother? The very paragon of tranquillity?”

Caroline did not grace him with a response.

They drove through the first two towns they came to, keeping just under the speed limit, and pulled in at a health centre in the third.

The lady on reception greeted them with a smile that disappeared when Caroline asked to be seen that day.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, we don’t take in walk-in appointments here.”

Kol leaned on the counter, glancing down at her name tag. “Would you check again please, Melanie? I’m sure my sister has an appointment.”

His eyes bored into the receptionist’s and, when she finally blinked, she looked down at her computer and smiled. “So she does. Please take a seat; the doctor will be with you in a moment.”

“Thank you.” Kol took Caroline’s arm and steered her to a seat near the door, giving them a clear view of the entire room.

“How likely is it that something’s going to happen?” Caroline asked under her breath.

“Not very,” Kol conceded. “But I’d rather not take chances.”

Caroline nodded. “Just … please be subtle if you have to compel the doctor?”

“Of course I’m going to have to compel the doctor,” Kol muttered. “You’re dead.”

A lady had come out of one of the examination rooms and was standing at the reception desk, having what looked like an argument with the receptionist.

“There’s your doctor,” Kol said, getting to his feet.

“Looks like she should be on a break,” Caroline said.

Kol looked at her face and rolled his eyes. “I’ll tip her. Come on.” He approached the woman with a smile. “Doctor, thank you for seeing my sister on such short notice.”

As soon as she turned to face him, she was caught under his compulsion and within half a second, her put-out expression had become a smile. “Of course. Right this way, please.”

The doctor led them through to an exam room and turned to Caroline. “I’m Dr Chapman, what can I do for you?”

“I’m Caroline and I think I might be pregnant,” Caroline answered.

“Well, you’ve come to the right place,” Dr Chapman said cheerfully. “Hop on to the exam bed and we’ll give you an ultrasound and take some bloodwork.”

“You’ve already taken some bloodwork,” Kol interrupted.

Dr Chapman looked momentarily confused, then her face cleared. “So I have! I’m so sorry, Caroline, my head’s all over the place today.”

Caroline gave a weak smile, laying back on the bed. “That’s fine.”

Dr Chapman smiled at her, turning on the screen beside the bed. “If you can just unbutton your jeans for me and tug them down just a little, and pull your shirt up so I can see your belly – that’s a girl.” She pulled on some gloves and pressed her fingers against Caroline’s abdomen. “Well, it is feeling a little hard, which is certainly a sign of pregnancy. Have you had any symptoms?”

“I’ve been feeling nauseas,” Caroline admitted, “but only since I … took the test.”

Dr Chapman nodded, spreading a soft jello-like substance over her stomach. “A lot of women find that.”

“What’s that for?” Kol asked, stepping forward.

“It lubricates my skin to make it easier for the ultrasound wand to move,” Caroline answered. “Stop being so paranoid, big brother.”

“It also helps the ultrasound waves actually travel through the skin and reach the uterus,” Dr Chapman added. “It was very nice of you to accompany your sister. It’s amazing how many young mothers come in on their own.”

“Well, no one wanted to tell Daddy until we were certain,” Kol said.

Dr Chapman laughed. “Eager father-to-be?”

Kol smirked. “Sure, let’s go with that.”

Caroline gave him a warning look, but was distracted by the picture that flickered on the ultrasound screen.

Dr Chapman moved the wand a few times, then settled. “Well, congratulations, Caroline. I would estimate you at about five weeks pregnant.”

“Oh my God …” Caroline reached out blindly, only a little surprised when Kol took her hand, squeezing it gently.

“Call me insensitive,” Kol said, squinting at the screen, “but where’s the baby?”

Dr Chapman pointed at a small bubble. “Right there. Looks a bit like a peanut. If you want to make another appointment for next week, we might even be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat.”

Caroline swallowed hard, tears of fear and joy burning in her throat. “I …”

“Thank you, Dr Chapman,” Kol interrupted, handing Caroline a tissue to wipe her stomach. “You’re going to print that picture off for Caroline and then we need to go.”

“Of course.” The doctor pressed a button on her computer, causing a still image of the ultrasound to appear out of the printer.

While Caroline tucked the photo away, Kol ushered her out of the building, handing the doctor a bundle of bank notes and compelling her and the receptionist to forget they’d ever been there.

Caroline was completely silent on the ride home and Kol didn’t push her until they pulled up to the plantation house.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m going to be a mother,” Caroline whispered. “I can’t … Is this really happening?”

“It’s happening,” Kol said quietly. “Listen.”

Caroline looked questioningly at him. “I’m listening?”

Kol cracked a smile. “No. Listen. The ultrasound wouldn’t hear a heartbeat for another week. But we can.”

Caroline’s eyes widened and she focused her ears on her midsection.

For a second, there was nothing.

Then, she heard it, a soft fluttering beneath her skin that could only belong to her child. Her hands moved to cradle the spot the sound was coming from, a smile breaking on to her face.

“I’m going to be a mother.”

***

Suspicions confirmed, Caroline had only one thing left to do.

She waited until Klaus returned from the Quarter, then waited until he had started painting, until he had been painting long enough for any anger or frustration to have bled on to canvas.

Then she headed up with two glasses of blood, one spiked with bourbon but her own alcohol-free.

Klaus greeted her with a smile and a kiss, taking the drink she offered him, but his smile faded almost immediately. “What’s wrong, love?”

Caroline did not bother to lie. He would know, and that would not help anyone. “Nothing’s wrong, but I do have something to tell you.”

Klaus set down his paintbrush. “You have my full attention.”

Caroline smiled, a little weakly. “When Esther visited, she cast some kind of spell. Davina and Sophie spent ages trying to figure it out, but they couldn’t so they asked Kol for help. He came up with a theory, Sophie partly confirmed it and … and I fully confirmed it today.”

At his mother’s name, Klaus had stiffened, but he managed to contain himself. “But nothing’s wrong?”

“Well, I don’t think so,” Caroline said slowly. “I’m pregnant.”

For a second, Klaus didn’t react.

To be fair, it had been a thousand years since that was a sentence he was likely to hear.

Then …

“I’m sorry, you’re what?”

“I’m pregnant,” Caroline repeated. “Esther used some kind of pure magic to cause a conception to occur in my body, so I would carry your child. She told me that she wanted to thank me for teaching you how to love, but I doubt that’s her actual reason.”

“Well, of course it’s not,” Klaus said, downing his drink. “I dread to think what she has planned.”

“As do I,” Caroline said gently. “But, Nik, this was not an invitation for a debate.”

“Excuse me?” Klaus asked.

“I’m pregnant,” Caroline repeated. “When I turned, I thought I’d never get to be a mother, and now I am. And whatever twisted reason your mother has, if she, or anyone else, tries to harm this child, I will burn this city to the ground.”

“And she won’t be alone, brother,” Kol said from the doorway.

When Caroline turned, she was met with another surprise. “Elijah, welcome back.”

“Hello again, Caroline,” Elijah said, his eyes settling on her stomach. “I hear congratulations are in order.”

“Thank you,” she said with a smile. “If you listen closely, you can hear the baby’s heartbeat.”

A sudden intake of breath behind her caused her to turn back to Klaus. His gaze, too, was fixed on her midsection, but far more intensely than Elijah’s air of curiosity.

“Nik?” She asked.

Klaus reached out a hand ever so slowly, and she forced herself to remain still, trusting that he wouldn’t harm her – or the baby.

His fingers brushed her stomach, before they withdrew and his eyes met hers.

“Kol’s right,” he said hoarsely. “You won’t be alone, Caroline. I’ll be right there with you.”