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Hot (Sauce)

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Life's a bitch, and then you die.

Unless you’re the bitch, because then you wake up as a zombie.

Caroline stared at her ceiling, waiting for her alarm clock to go off. She still couldn’t sleep. Ever since she woke up on the beach with shock white hair and a desire to eat brains, her thoughts just ran wild while she was supposed to sleep.

For the millionth time in the months since that dreaded night, Caroline found herself thinking about the infamous boat party that ended in her own zombie apocalypse. She hadn’t even wanted to go, but Stefan insisted she enjoy herself before getting shackled to him in holy matrimony for the rest of her life.

He still regretted that decision, if the broken engagement and months of radio silence was anything to go by.

In the tally her best friend Bonnie often reminded her she kept, Caroline was zero for two in life-changing decisions. The first was breaking Stefan’s heart, the best guy she had ever known, by calling off the wedding. The second was giving up her top-rated surgical residency when the hunger for brains soon outweighed her Hippocratic oath. Rather than hunt for fresh graves in New Orleans’ abundance of cemeteries, Caroline sought easier access to her specific dietary needs by working for the medical examiner’s office.

Her alarm finally sounded, the peppy song playing on the radio too much for Caroline’s more somber self. It did finally give her an excuse to get up, at least. She ignored her mirror and the makeup lying on her vanity; with white hair and too pale skin, the changes were too much for the former beauty queen to accept gracefully. Instead, she trudged out of her room and into the kitchen with her slouchy pajamas tripping around her feet.

“Good morning,” Bonnie said, looking over the blender with an arched brow. “It’s unlike you to be awake before noon anymore.”

If Caroline had trouble adjusting to her new reality, Bonnie somehow took it worse. Of course, she doesn’t know about Caroline’s…condition. All she knows is that her best friend turned her life upside down with drastic consequences and no warning.

“I’m on the day shift now,” Caroline answered with a shrug. She went straight for the fridge, where she pulled out hot sauce, milk, and a couple of eggs. “Kol says I’ve been doing good work.”

“That’s something,” Bonnie tried, though it came out as less than impressed. “You’ll be working with Kol more often, then?”

Caroline almost smiled at the question, knowing that her boss’s position as the city medical examiner often brought him into contact with various lawyers in the District Attorney’s office, like her roommate. Kol, who had become a pretty good friend in a time Caroline had pushed everyone close to her away, was adorably persistent in his courting of the young Miss Bennett. Bonnie often dated more famous, illustrious men, but Dr. Mikaelson had clearly made an impression. “Yeah, it should be fun,” she said, whipping herself some scrambled eggs for breakfast.

“I’ve got to go,” Bonnie said, pouring her power smoothie into a to-go mug. “They’re announcing the Utopium task force today, and I’m hoping to be assigned.”

“Good luck,” Caroline said, focusing on the hot sauce she poured over her eggs. She winced at how dead her voice sounded, still not used to the idea that she was actually dead. Once, she would have cheered Bonnie on with a congratulatory breakfast and celebratory drinks that night. Muttered kind wishes were the extent of her effusiveness anymore.

So much for the bubbly blonde I used to be.

Hot (Sauce)

Two months into her new career, Caroline had fallen into a comfortable routine. Well, as comfortable a routine as one could have when sneaking brains out of corpses for her daily meal, right under the nose of one’s new boss.

They had been working on their latest body, a lovely woman named April who unfortunately passed in a parachute jump gone wrong; Caroline was all but salivating at the thought of a April Caesar salad. As sick as the irony was, she needed the sustenance to maintain her humanity.

“Would you mind closing up for me,” Kol asked, plucking off his rubber gloves before going over to the sink. “I have a meeting upstairs I must attend to.”

“Sure,” Caroline nodded. She was relieved that Kol preferred to let her work alone, especially since it gave her easy access for her lunch. “I’ll take my break after, if that’s all right?”

“Of course,” Kol smirked. “Wouldn’t want to take advantage, would we?” After the cryptic comment, Kol swept out of the lab, leaving Caroline confused.

Too hungry to care, though, Caroline quickly finished up April’s processing and stored her body for the daily incineration later on. “Thank you, April,” she whispered before shutting the drawer. She turned to find the brain still sitting in pan, too ashamed to look back at where the bodies were kept. Instead, she took the brain back to Kol’s office. Her salad was waiting.

When she first realized what she had become, Caroline had vociferously collected every book, movie and graphic novel in the zombie genre. Faced with the impossible, she was only left with the improbable evidence for what she might experience. It was easy enough to talk Bonnie into bingeing The Walking Dead with her at home, and Stefan would never notice that some of his comic books had ended up in her things when she officially moved out. Some of the gorier fare, however, inevitably ended up accompanying her breaks.

Kol thought it was funny, her fascination with such dark themes contradicting her bubbly looks. The look was all she was left with, having been unable to part with her favorite sundresses. Luckily, Kol was a bit of a zombie nut, too. “While I Am Legend is a quality story,” he had advised one late afternoon, “too many people mistake it for the zombie apocalypse hysteria. The creatures are more like vampires, however ridiculous that may be. At least zombies could exist.”

Caroline remembered nearly spitting out her “coffee” - really an extra-spicy gumbo broth - at the comment. Kol didn’t seem fazed in the slightest, so Caroline had begun to finally relax at work.

She queued up Night of the Living Dead and took a bit of her salad. Caroline frowned down at it, missing something.

“Hot sauce, darling?”

Caroline whipped around to find Kol leaning in the doorway, offering her a bottle of her new favorite ingredient. Panicked, she glanced down to her salad peppered with obvious chunks of brain before meeting his glittering eyes.

“Yeah,” he sighed, oddly happy. “I know.”

Hot (Sauce)

Kol was practically bouncing in his seat, taking another vial of her blood. “I kept wondering the best way to bring it up,” he admitted, switching out the test tubes. “I wasn’t sure it outright accusing you of being a zombie would have the adverse effect of you bashing my head in for my brains.”

“Probably a good thought,” Caroline mused distractedly. She hadn’t been able to focus since Kol had caught her, though he immediately started collecting samples from her person. “How did you know?”

“This is a bit embarrassing,” he started, despite looking almost shamelessly proud, rather than embarrassed. “I only have this job because of my big brother, the big bad Lieutenant Elijah Mikaelson of the New Orleans P.D. He’s the stuffy one in a suit upstairs.”

“Where were you before,” Caroline asked. She was surprised to feel curious about her boss’s history, something that probably should have been covered in the two months she had been working for him.

Kol grinned cheekily up at her as he stabbed a new needle in for a saline IV. “Need to keep your fluids up,” he explained. “To answer your question, I was sacked from the CDC. They didn’t appreciate my tenacity for a pet project.”

“Zombies?”

“As a matter of biological warfare gone wrong, yeah,” he confirmed. Leaning back, Kol turned serious. “Unfortunately, the Centers were much more interested in weaponizing such technology rather than learning from it as a matter of prevention.”

“Is that what you’re doing with me,” she asked, looking at the multiple blood samples and nail clippings. “Learning?”

“You’re a doctor, a scientist,” Kol declared. “Surely you enjoy experiments.”

“I do,” she acknowledged. “But this seems dangerous for you.”

“Wouldn’t it be worth it if I could develop a cure,” he asked, distracted as he labeled the various samples. Noting her silence, he looked up with a pensive expression. “You didn’t think you’d be like this forever, did you?”

“Kind of,” she admitted.

Kol stood up and walked over to her. He crouched in front of her, looking earnest. “Caroline, a terrible thing happened to you,” he said gently. “I commend you for the efforts you have gone to in protecting the public from your situation. Let me do the same by curing you.”

“I’ve given up everything,” she mentioned, as though it were an off-hand observation. “My fiancé thinks I’m going through a mental breakdown before our June wedding, when really, I just can’t bear to turn him into…this. I can’t work with live patients in case of transference.”

“I know,” Kol said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

Caroline followed the motion with her eyes, staring at the hand. Despite Kol’s tendency for lewd and suggestive humor, the hand itself was entirely inoffensive. The comforting gesture what just that, meant for comfort from human to another.

I’m not human.

The thought had occurred to her several times over the last few months, but this was the first time it hadn’t brought the burn of tears to her eyes. This was the first time she could think of her condition as temporary.

“With all the compulsory mechanics out of the way,” Kol said, waving dismissively to the samples, “I’d like the more qualitative context to your zombie status.”

“How I turned, you mean?”

Kol nodded, pulling out a recorder and notepad he often used for autopsies. “So,” he said, focusing on her. “You tie this back to the boat party massacre that occurred in the Gulf on May nineteenth?”

“Yes,” Caroline said, remaining detached as she prepared to dig through the painful memories.

She hadn’t planned to go, but a fellow resident insisted. Caroline looked to Stefan for backup, having been looking forward to their date night. They were going to get ice cream and take a haunted tour of New Orleans.

“Go ahead,” he said, ignoring her pointed looks to the contrary. “You’re going to be stuck with my dumb face for the rest of your life. Sick parties on a boat? A once in a blue moon offer, babe.”

Never wanting to force her presence where it wasn’t wanted, Caroline reluctantly went to the party. She figured at the very least that she’d get to know her resident class, maybe make friends.

The only person she remembered, though, was a mischievous blonde man with dimples like the devil. “You’re a new face on the Gulf,” he had flirted, sex oozing from his British accent. “Why haven’t I seen you at parties before, love?”

Normally, Caroline would just flash her engagement ring before turning on her heel. Something about the guy rubbed her the wrong way, though. “Do you make it a habit of hitting on every new face you see,” she asked. “How successful are you? If I were to poll the party, would the women have a good report on you?”

“I get by,” he said with a smarmy smirk. “Though none have been as beautiful as you.”

Caroline couldn’t hold back her laugh. “Smooth,” she teased, raising her drink with her left hand. “I’ll be sure to let my fiance know about the multitude of options out there for me.”

Then, the screams started.

The guy dragged her underneath a table to hide, leaving a scratch on her arm in the scuffle. Rather than join her, though, he raced out. Caroline didn’t know if he had friends on the boat or what, but people had started going crazy on each other. There was blood and panic, with no way out. The boat shifted suddenly, and Caroline’s head hit the table leg. The blow knocked her out, but the tablecloth was enough to keep her hidden.

The next thing she remembered was waking up on the cold sand, covered with a sheet. The paramedics had assumed she was dead, focusing their efforts on more likely survivors. As she gasped back to life, scaring the daylights out of the workers, Caroline knew something was wrong. All she could focus on was an intense hunger, drawing her attention to an actually dead body lying next her with an exposed head wound.

Brains.

“I didn’t notice the hair until I made it home,” she told Kol absently, still lost in her memories. “It wasn’t that much lighter than my natural shade of blonde, but it was completely noticeable to me. The chalk white skin wasn’t doing me any favors either, so I just let the hair go.”

Kol quickly wrote down everything he could. “You’ve tried the bronzer angle?”

Caroline cocked her head to the side. “Do you ask all the girls about their skin care regimen?”

“A man needs his tricks, darling,” Kol quipped. “I’m really a thousand years old.”

“Funny,” Caroline deadpanned. “Bronzer is too drastic for my lily-white self, anymore. Tinted moisturizers work better for my slightly healthier glow.”

“Interesting,” Kol said, scribbling away. “And what do you think brought about your transition?”

“I had something to drink,” Caroline answered, the question plaguing her thoughts since she started eating brains. “But my only open wound was a scratch on my arm, and I’m pretty sure I got that before the outbreak.”

Kol just shook his head. “Depending on how the virus manifests, it might have been contagious before any symptoms appeared,” he said. “I’ve been working on the assumption that it’s a blood borne pathogen, making the drink the weaker theory. Whoever scratched you is likely the source of your infection.”

“You’ve been working,” Caroline asked, incredulous. “Do yo-”

“What’s a girl got to do to get an autopsy report around here?”

Both doctors stared at each other wide-eyed before turning to the new addition. The woman had a badge hitched to her belt, the stiletto boots somehow more threatening than the gun on her hip. Dressed in all black with the dark brown curls spilling down around her face, Caroline immediately likened her to Black Widow. This woman just looked annoyed, though. “I’m not kidding, I need the report on April Young.”

Realizing that they were just staring at her, Caroline slapped Kol on the shoulder before hustling all her zombie samples out of sight. “Sorry,” Caroline said.

“Don’t be sorry,” Kol said, returning to his light-hearted self once the surprise has settled. “Kitty Kat here just wants to cause us trouble because she’s stuck on the easy cases.”

“You two know each other,” Caroline asked, wondering at the familiar teasing Kol used on the woman.

“She’s dating my big brother,” Kol crowed. “I’ve always wondered if she actually does anything to loosen the stick up his arse, but really, she’s just as fussy as he is.”

“Detective Katherine Pierce,” she introduced herself, nodding sharply as she glared at Kol. “I’m still new to the Homicide Department, and Kol likes to remind me that I only get the bunny shots. Accidental deaths, for one. Tell me about Ms. Young.”

“Her blood analysis showed high concentrations of a drug called Utopium, as well unusual amounts of ketamine,” Kol explained, pulling out the lab work he had completed earlier that day. “Both could have impaired her judgment before the jump, including her ability to pull her chute.”

“You feel comfortable ruling this as an accident?”

Caroline gasped, her vision focusing onto a past event through April’s eyes.

“Accident, shmaccident,” she yelled, popping another tab of Utopium before chasing it with an energy drink. “They pay us to live dangerously, right?”

“You bet, sweetheart.” She recognized that voice, but she couldn’t see who spoke.

A large hand held another bottle of Utopium, and Caroline could only watch as April opened it and greedily swallowed it down.

“Someone was feeding her the drug,” Caroline said, shaking herself out of the vision. When she had been eating cemetery brains, she tried to stick to older people. They mostly died in their sleep, which helped Caroline acclimate herself to the vertigo-inducing side effects. The brains she ate now came from potential homicide victims, though this was the first time her visions led her to further information.

Kat furrowed her brow down at the report. “How do you know that?”

Eyes wide, Caroline realized she didn’t have an answer. Panicked, she looked to Kol, who oddly seemed to understand her dilemma. Curious, as she hadn’t mentioned her visions yet. Nevertheless, she was grateful when he had a response at the ready.

“Caroline’s psychic,” he said confidently. “Strange, I know.”

Clearly unconvinced, Kat raised an eyebrow at the stranger. “Caroline, is it?”

“Doctor Caroline Forbes, my newest resident,” Kol introduced.

And a zombie who ate April’s brains.

“You wouldn’t be playing along for one of Kol’s pranks,” Kat asked, though Caroline clearly heard a warning in there.

She shook her head, but Kol came to her defense instead. “She really does have good instincts about these cases,” he said seriously. “In fact, you should take her along to the crime scene. I’ve got plenty of work here to do.”

Caroline glared at Kol for offering her services, especially when she clearly had more questions for him. She could tell he was hiding something from her. Unfortunately for her, Kat shrugged in acceptance.

“Let’s go, doc,” the detective said, sashaying out of the lab.

Slipping out of her lab coat and grabbing her purse, Caroline looked back to Kol. “Keep me posted on your progress,” she ordered, letting him know that their conversation wasn’t over.

Chapter Text

“They’ve just been holding these people here at the crime scene,” Caroline asked, looking at the miserable and annoyed faces of April Young’s fellow parachute buddies. “It’s been hours since Kol received the body.”

And I ate her brains with my salad.

“The witnesses apparently declined transport to the precinct,” Katherine said, leading Caroline to the taped-off crime scene. “I needed to chat with them a little more to rule them out as suspects. Let me know if you get any hits on your juju.”

Caroline nodded, meeting the eyes of one of the jumpers. She nearly jumped herself when she realized she recognized him.

He was the guy who scratched her at the boat party.

“Umm,” she stammered, “I’m going to start with the blonde guy on the end.”

Katherine groaned. “Shit,” she muttered. “That’s Klaus Mikaelson.”

“As in…”

“As in the ne’er-do-well brother of your boss and my boyfriend,” Katherine explained. “The last I heard, he was low-level dealing for John Gilbert’s Utopium criminal organization.”

“That explains the drugs,” Caroline offered, though she couldn’t look away from the blue eyes piercing through her. He had cocked his head as he regarded her, like he was trying to place her in his memories.

Katherine shook her head. “But that doesn’t explain why he’s here,” she said. “This parachute jump was a sponsored event for M2 Energy Drinks.”

“So,” Caroline asked. “The energy drink probably explains the high ketamine concentrations.”

“M2 is the Mikaelson family business,” Katherine said. “Without getting into too much detail, Klaus is the black sheep of the family. Mikael Mikaelson would never allow him near the company, even for promotions.”

“Yet, I’m here,” Klaus called out, having clearly heard the women discussing them during their walk over. “Katerina, you know I feel a certain joy in subverting my father’s orders.”

“It’s Detective Pierce,” she snapped, crossing her arms. “This is Doctor Forbes, from the medical examiner’s office. We have questions about the events that resulted in April Young’s death.”

“Ah,” Klaus said smirking, dimples deep in his cheeks. “You’re the Caroline my brother raves about.”

Caroline narrowed her eyes. She knew Kol liked her as an assistant, but that didn’t necessarily mean sharing stories with his estranged brother. “I enjoy working with Doctor Mikaelson,” she replied politely. “Are you close?”

“No one keeps secrets better than brothers,” he said, pointedly looking at her tidy braid of white hair. 

Translation: I know you’re a zombie.

Caroline’s eyes widened in shock, but she tried to limit any other reaction, lest Katherine catch on. “Umm, we have reason to believe that the combination of Utopium and M2 Energy Drinks impaired Ms. Young before her jump,” she said, trying to keep her voice level. “Can you think of any other circumstances that might have kept her from pulling her chute?”

“April was an adrenaline junkie,” Klaus answered, eyes glittering with mischief. “She enjoyed the rush that came from a last-minute rescue, and it wasn’t unlike her to put off pulling her parachute. It was just too late this time.”

“Did she seem in her right mind before the jump,” Katherine asked, annoyed that her homicide case was looking like accidental hubris. “Were you feeding her Utopium?”

Klaus jut his chin forward defiantly, scowling at the brunette as he placed a hand over his heart. “I would never dally with drugs,” he insisted. “My saintly brother Elijah would never condone such nasty business.”

Stepping forward, Katherine’s tall boots brought her nose-to-nose with the man. “I don’t know why he and Kol put up with you,” she whispered threateningly. “But if I find any evidence that links you to Ms. Young’s death, I will use it to crucify you.”

“I’m Jesus now,” Klaus joked. “That’s a kind of sacrilege I can get behind. He rose from the dead, you know.” He directed that to Caroline, who stared him down.

“Klaus,” Katherine yelled, forcing his attention back to her. “I mean it. If you have any information that can help us figure out what happened to Ms. Young, you need to share it.”

“She seemed fine,” Klaus sighed, leaning back against a tree. “Blame drugs and M2 all you want, but the girl was used to the stuff. It wouldn’t have phased her enough to keep her from pulling the chute.”

“Fine,” Katherine snapped, moving onto the next witness. Caroline waved her off to stay with Klaus, though.

“So,” he said cheerfully, mindful to keep his voice low enough to prevent anyone from overhearing. “I suppose I should welcome you to Team Z. Kol told me he had his suspicions, but I spotted it right away.  No one’s that pale by choice. How’d it happen to you?”

Caroline opened her mouth, but she was too confused to find the right words. “I- You- Don’t you remember me?”

“Oh, no,” Klaus sighed mockingly. “I’ve been through this before. Some girl shows up, claims that she’s pregnant with my baby. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.”

“No, really,” Caroline insisted. “You flirted with me at the boat party.”

“You were the blonde in the red dress,” he said in sudden recognition.

She nodded. “I was scratched that night, and I woke up like this,” she said. “I could have sworn that you were the one that scratched me.”

“But I wasn’t a z-”

Caroline rushed forward to place a finger on his lips before he could say the word out loud. She backed away as the feeling of his skin rushed through her. 

Has it really been so long since I touched another person?

“Unless it was something I drank, that scratch was my only open wound,” she explained. “Maybe you were already incubating it as a virus before presenting symptoms?”

“So scientific,” Klaus mused. “Talk dirty to me.”

“This isn’t funny,” Caroline snapped. “My life has been turned on its head because of this. Aren’t you the least bit curious as to why this happened?”

“Not really,” Klaus shrugged. “A little bronzer, some hair dye, a brother with a cooler, and my life has been just dandy.”

“Kol gets you…meals?”

“I have a brother who was fired for his research on zombies,” he deadpanned. “I’d have to be brain dead not to call him first.”

Caroline huffed out a disbelieving laugh. “He said he’s been working on a cure,” she said. “You’re his original guinea pig?”

“I believe he’s moved onto rats now,” he quipped. “Or will soon, I tend to tune him out when he gets excitable.”

“Caroline,” Katherine broke in, startling the two from their intense focus on each other. “I need to get back to the precinct, I think we’ve gotten everything we can from the witnesses.”

“Right,” Caroline said, looking frantically between Katherine and Klaus. “Um, we should go.”

“Until we meet again, Doctor Forbes,” Klaus said with mischievous grin and a cheeky wave.

As the women walked back to the car, Katherine pinned her with a suspicious glare. “Don’t be fooled by the dimples and the smooth accent,” she warned. “Klaus Mikaelson is bad news.”

“I know,” Caroline insisted, unable to resist looking back to the devil himself. 

He’s also the only one who understands what I’m going through.

Hot (Sauce)

“You have a brother who’s a zombie,” Caroline said, picking up steam to really yell at Kol. “Not just any zombie, but the zombie who turned me into a zombie. And you let me walk on eggshells for two whole months, when you could have just said, ‘I know what you are, my brother’s one too, and I’m already working on a cure.’”

She hadn’t intended to attack Kol as soon as she returned to the lab. The whole drive over, Caroline had planned out the calm, rational conversation about the fact he hid Klaus from her. Unfortunately for him, he had been called out to another crime scene, leaving her to stew for hours before he got back. The only productive thing about it was that she was a stress cleaner, and the place was spotless.

“I didn’t want to scare you off,” Kol defended, slipping on his lab coat as he prepared a table for the next body that came in. He hadn’t expected the outburst, but he could take it in stride. It was only a matter of time before Klaus made himself an issue. “Nik is a bit of a wanker, but he didn’t ask for this either.”

“He didn’t have to pass it on!”

“He had no idea he was a zombie until he looked in the mirror the next day.”

“Not all of us can pull off the Ghost Barbie look,” Klaus interrupted, striding into the lab. 

“What are you doing here,” Caroline and Kol asked at the same time. She was incredulous, but he was resigned. Having Klaus around for this conversation would be like adding gasoline to the fire.

Klaus shrugged. “They finally released me from the crime scene and I had hoped to entice your lovely assistant into a dinner invitation,” he answered. “It would appear we have a lot in common.”

“A fact your brother decided to actively keep from me, despite knowing what I am,” Caroline cried.

“He came to me for help,” Kol explained. “I had access to brains, and he needed protection. The same protection I’m extending to you, I might add.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” Caroline spat. “It’s not enough that I quit my job, called off my wedding, and have had to hide my condition from my loved ones. No, now I have to be understanding to your family loyalties.”

Both men just stared at her, unsure how to handle her angry speech. She was still panting with the effort. “I can’t even look at you,” she sighed, turning around. “Maybe I should go back on the night shift.”

“No,” Kol insisted, reaching for her arm.

She turned, eyes red and full of rage.

Kol stumbled backwards, hands raised in peace. “I’m sorry,” he said softly, trying to deescalate the situation. “Caroline, you’re safe here. I promise. You’re a good doctor, and I can help you beat this zombie thing. Please, let me.”

Caroline gradually calmed, the blood leaving her eyes as she focused on Kol’s face. “I’m sorry,” she gasped, tears filling her eyes instead. “I’m still figuring this thing out.”

“Me, too,” Klaus admitted, having watched the entire ordeal. “Why don’t we all get to know each other a little better over dinner? We can figure out a plan with this cure business.”

That’s how she found herself fixing three bowls of stir fry, dropping brain chunks into two of them. She had invited them over to the house since Bonnie had already warned her she would be working late. The sensitive conversation begged for more privacy than a restaurant.

A date with two brothers, wouldn’t Elena Gilbert be proud?

Caroline winced at the reminder of Stefan’s ex-girlfriend, whom he had bashfully explained away as his first love that broke his heart with his brother. It wasn’t relevant anyway, given that this dinner wasn’t a date in the slightest. No one brings out the ugly information on a first date.

“So this is the glorious Bonnie Bennett’s home,” Kol called from the living room.

Caroline rolled her eyes as she brought the bowls from the kitchen. “Your crush is cute and all, but I’m still not sure you’re not barking up the wrong tree there,” she said. “And stop perving on her pictures.”

The wall was dotted with various picture frames, which Kol seemed fascinated by. “I didn’t know you were a cheerleader,” he leered, pointing to a photo with her in her uniform.

“In high school,” she answered through grit teeth. “I repeat, stop perving.”

“And this is the bloke you’ve decided not to marry,” Klaus asked, pointing to another picture she had forgotten was even up. It was one from early in her relationship with Stefan, but she remembered already knowing that he was the one. “You look happy.”

“I was,” she said coldly, setting the bowls down on the coffee table. “But we always wanted kids, and I couldn’t exactly give him that family anymore. I definitely couldn’t risk passing this onto him. So, I called off the wedding and returned the engagement ring.”

“I’m sorry,” Klaus said, surprisingly tender with his voice.

“Why not tell him,” Kol asked. “You’ve said you’re keeping it from Bonnie, too. Why not just tell them what’s happening?”

Caroline shook her head. “They wouldn’t have believed me,” she said. “Klaus was lucky to have you.” She gave the other zombie a significant look, who nodded in acknowledgement.

“You have him, too,” Klaus pointed out. “He’s serious about making us a cure, even if it’s mainly to thumb his nose at the CDC.”

Kol stuck out his tongue at the accusation. “I’ve already gotten enough information from Nik’s samples to start reverse engineering the circumstances that caused the zombieism in a rat trial,” he said. “I’m fairly certain it was the combination of Utopium in Nik’s system and the drinks served at the party that served as the fatal cocktail.”

“Brother,” Klaus said, concern furrowing his brow. “The only drinks served at the party were-”

“M2 Energy Drinks,” Caroline finished. “I remember being surprised they had so many varieties available.”

“Was it a sponsored event,” Kol asked. “Nik, you need to stop going to those. Father is going to catch on and throttle you.”

Klaus shrugged. “I get my kicks where I can,” he said. 

“If what you’re saying is true,” Caroline interrupted the family drama, “then Klaus is Patient Zero. The rest of the party… The massacre?”

“An accident,” Kol answered helplessly. “If they had the same combination of Utopium and M2, then it should be an easily repeatable phenomenon. Nik, can you get me more of the Utopium from that night?”

“I’m not hearing this,” Caroline sighed.

“No, this is good,” Kol insisted. “Having the exact formulas available means I can find the cause that much faster, which means a faster cure.”

“But it’ll take me a bit of doing, brother,” Klaus said. “I’d have to go talk to some old contacts for that batch of Utopium.”

“Sounds like a party,” Bonnie said from the doorway, looking harried after a long day of work. She also seemed angry at the topic of conversation. “Anything I can share with the Utopium task force the mayor just announced?”

Klaus’s smile was dark, almost daring Bonnie to accuse him of something. Kol struggled to cut the tension. “You’re looking lovely today, Miss Bennett,” he flirted anxiously.

“There’s stir fry on the stove,” Caroline added, pointing to the kitchen. “We’re talking about work, there’s been a string of Utopium overdoses. Kol wants to find a way to more quickly counteract the effects of the drug to prevent more deaths,” she explained. “Klaus, his brother here, is a bit of a party boy with access to more disreputable types.”

“The DA’s office is always looking for witnesses,” Bonnie suggested, though she still looked suspicious of the unknown character in her living room. “In case you ever wanted to do something good for the city and turn in your disreputable-type friends, that is.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he answered lightly as she left the room.

Caroline quickly finished her bowl of brains and stir fry, gesturing for Klaus to do the same. “We’ll figure this out,” she said clearly, knowing their sensitive conversation would have to wait for another day. “Until then, let’s talk about how Kol is going to crash and burn with Bonnie.”

“I heard that,” the lawyer called from the kitchen, much to Kol’s chagrin.

Chapter Text

“Watch out, it looks like the apocalypse is upon us.”

Caroline looked up, unamused at Kol’s teasing. “It’s not my fault your brother has started hanging around the lab,” she said, carefully slicing the cerebellum in front of her. “You’re the one who offered him my table scraps.”

“I’m hurt, love,” Klaus said, swiping a chunk of brain from her cutting board before popping it in his mouth. “I thought we were getting along.”

Rolling her eyes, Caroline went back to making her lunch. She was well used to Klaus’s familiar flirting in the two weeks since meeting him. “Please don’t mistake my indifference with tolerance,” she said evenly. She rolled thin brain slices into her California rolls, swatting Klaus’s hand away before he could snag one off the plate. “And I said table scraps, not half my meal.”

“For the greater good, sweetheart,” Klaus insisted. “We can’t have me rotting away and giving into the bad guy full time.”

“Have we decided on terminology,” Kol asked, feeding the rats in various stages of the testing process. “I’d like to hammer out the details before I actually start writing my papers.”

“Nerd,” Klaus called out. He laughed at the twin looks of indignation on the good doctors’ faces. 

Caroline sniffed. “I still call it ‘full on zombie mode,’ but to each their own,” she said, shrugging. “Why are you still here, Kol?”

“I’ve been here two minutes, and you’re already trying to get rid of me?”

“Join the club,” Klaus quipped.

“Not helping,” Caroline said sternly, glaring at the slightly orange man. “Kind of like that bronzer you’re using. You really need to switch to a tinted moisturizer.”

“Thanks for the tip.”

“That’s what she said.”

“KOL,” Caroline all but shouted. “Enough with the Abbot and Costello routine. Why are you still here? I swear to God, if you’re standing up my roommate after the quality work I did in talking you up, then-”

“I’m not standing her up,” Kol defended. “I just needed to check on the latest batch of ewoks here, especially if we’re going to have unsavory characters hanging about.”

“If that’s a dig at me,” Klaus pointed out, sneaking the nearest California roll off Caroline’s plate, “you know I love the little buggers. It’s Zombie Barbie you should be worried about.”

“Hey,” Caroline said, affronted. “I’m a scientist, too, and I respect all testing animals.” Both brothers pinned her with an unimpressed eyebrow. “I may respect them more if they stayed in their cages. And you’re avoiding the issue,” she said, looking to Kol. “Are you nervous about your date?”

“Nervous,” Kol scoffed. “Why would I be nervous? Bonnie’s just your roommate. Your incredibly hot roommate who will kick my ass at tonight’s pub trivia contest, despite a near encyclopedic knowledge of the science fiction genre, and will likely see my gobsmacked expression as a sign of weakness and never speak to me again.”

“He’s spending too much time with you,” Klaus told Caroline in an accusing tone. “He never used to ramble like this.”

Caroline just grinned brightly. “I blame Bonnie, she has that effect on men.”

Kol scowled as he fed the last rat. “I hate you both,” he said.

“And Bonnie hates lateness,” Caroline pointed out, “so go get ready for your date.”

“Fine,” Kol sighed, backing away with his hands raised. “I know when I’m not wanted.”

“A first time for everything,” Klaus crowed, an impressed look on his face. “I’m proud of you, brother.”

“And with those heartwarming words,” Kol said as he threw his lab coat in Klaus’s face, “I shall take my leave. Caroline, you have the conn.”

“Aye aye, captain,” she mockingly saluted. As Kol left, she couldn’t stop smiling at his jittery self. “It’s so cute that he’s scared of Bonnie.”

Klaus raised his eyebrows in surprise. “What happened to all the machismo us boys are taught at such a young age? Have women been lying to us all along, that they really want us to be timid little whiners?”

“I’m sure women have been lying to you,” Caroline said pointedly, “but it’s not that we want men to be whiners. It’s just cute to see Kol care so much about his date. I think he and Bonnie would actually be good together.”

“What about you, love,” he asked softly. “Still heartbroken over your engagement?”

“Of course I am,” she spat, surprised he would bring it up. She pointedly never mentioned it if she didn’t have to, which he knew. “I know it’s difficult for you to understand, since all you’ve given up is your penchant for one night stands, if Kol is to be trusted. I gave up my future with the dream guy. You don’t get to ask me about him.”

She had been moving closer to him throughout her rant, until she was nose-to-nose. Her voice didn’t get louder, though. She kept speaking more softly, the last spiteful sentence merely whispered menacingly into his face.

“And here I thought we were friends,” Klaus said quietly, not giving an inch.

The lab door opening loudly took both zombies off guard, and Caroline stumbled backwards. Klaus reached for her arm to steady her, not expecting her eyes to lock on him in surprise.

“Am I interrupting?”

They both looked to find Katherine in the doorway, hip cocked and gaze suspicious. With her clothing and Caroline’s pale aesthetic, Kol had dubbed them “Ebony and Ivory” as they investigated cases. Katherine was still skeptical of her “psychic” powers, but after some decent success, she was willing to use the extra intel.

“What’s up, Kat,” Caroline asked, coughing slightly as she moved away from Klaus.

“I’ve got a lead on the adrenaline junkie case,” the detective explained. “Since Klaus and the other witnesses gave us nothing and the other leads were a dead end, I looked to the next best option - the event’s sponsor.”

“M2 Energy Drinks,” Caroline asked.

“We’re going after Daddy Dearest,” Katherine said triumphantly, turning to Klaus. “Elijah asked me to remind you that the details of the investigation are private, so no rubbing the scandal in your father’s face.”

“No promises,” Klaus scowled. 

Katherine shrugged. “The message has been delivered,” she said. “He also wanted me to invite you to dinner, but I’ll be sure to tell him you politely declined.”

“Have I declined to attend the wedding as well,” Klaus quipped, looking pointedly at Katherine’s large engagement ring she had received just last week. “I have yet to receive an invitation.”

“Because I’m not sending one,” Katherine snapped. “If you want to come, you’ll just have to beg Kol or Caroline to ask you as their plus one.”

“What makes me such a bad wedding guest,” Klaus asked, looking between the women. “Honestly, I’m a good brother.”

“Aren’t you a drug dealer,” Katherine argued back. “Why do you spend so much time in a police department?”

Caroline shook her head, wanting the fight to end before Klaus told Katherine about the zombie issue. Elijah had begged them all to keep quiet, as his fiancee would never let Klaus’s zombie-tied infractions slip by unnoticed, greater good be damned. He was well resigned to his future wife and favorite brother hating each other, but not at the expense of the entire city’s well-being.

“Let’s go to M2,” Caroline said, breaking the weird staring contest the future in-laws were having. “The next shift should be arriving in ten minutes to cover the lab, we can go then.”

Katherine nodded. “I’ll grab my stuff from upstairs and meet you outside,” she said, completely ignoring Klaus as she swept out of the lab.

Acutely aware that they were alone, Caroline quickly packed up her purse and put away extraneous zombie clues for safekeeping in Kol’s office. Klaus just followed her back, intent on finishing their earlier conversation.

“For what it’s worth,” Klaus said, looking down at his shoes, “I am sorry, for everything.”

Her mouth ticked up in a rueful grin. “I know,” she answered. “What matters is that we make it right. Kol will find a cure, and I will help solve this case.”

“What can I do?”

Caroline had never seen Klaus look so earnest before. He was all charm, rarely anything substantive. Yet there he was, looking to her for answers on the greater good in life.

What can you do? Go back in time and don’t turn me into a zombie.

Shaking off her inner monologue, Caroline just looked over to her desk. “I’m out of hot sauce,” she mentioned. “I wouldn’t say no to a refill.” She left to meet Katherine before he could say anything else, but the smirk on his face was nothing less than triumphant.

She had no idea why that idea made her smile.

Hot (Sauce)

“If M2 is the Mikaelson family business, how many Mikaelsons can there be if three sons don’t work there,” Caroline asked, curious that Kol and Klaus had never mentioned the company outside its connection to the zombieism.

Katherine turned a sly eye to the pale girl sitting in her passenger seat. “How much has Kol told you about the family?”

“Hardly anything,” Caroline admitted, looking at the corporate building Katherine had parked outside. “I just know that he was at the CDC until they fired him, and Elijah had to put in a good word for him to join the Medical Examiner’s office. I didn’t know he had more family around other than Elijah and Klaus.”

“Their father, Mikael, is the CEO of M2,” Katherine explained. “He’s also a total dick who hates that Elijah and Kol don’t work for him. He also hates me for calling him a dick to his face.”

Caroline raised her eyebrows in an impressed fashion. “That’s one way to endear yourself to the in-laws.”

“If I don’t care about making nice with Elijah’s favorite brother, why would I care about a father he despises?” Katherine’s shrug was incredibly nonchalant for such personal information. “I actually find it funny that both Klaus and Mikael hate me, considering they hate each other just as much,” she said. 

“A mutual enemy normally brings people together,” Caroline pointed out as they shuffled out of the car.

“Not Klaus and Mikael,” Katherine said quietly, striding into the building. “Anyway,” she said in a normal voice, “we’re meeting with their eldest brother, Finn. He’s head of Marketing, the department that coordinated the parachute launch.”

“And couldn’t possibly have predicted the outcome,” a smooth, accented voice announced. A tall man who reminded Caroline more of Elijah than Kol approached them in the entry. “Katherine, is the badge really necessary?”

“I’m a city detective here on the clock for official questioning,” she answered sharply. “Elijah might have argued against me hauling you down to the station, but I’m not going to pussyfoot around with this investigation to save your reputation.”

The man looked like he wanted to murder her right there, and likely opened his mouth to berate her until he caught the curious look on Caroline’s face. “Who’s this,” he asked Katherine in a gruff voice.

Rather than let the fight flare up in the public lobby, Caroline ignored his rude inquiry into her presence by offering her hand. “I’m Doctor Caroline Forbes with the Medical Examiner’s office,” she greeted as he reluctantly accepted the handshake. “I work with your brother, but Katherine also lets me tag along to help answer to the crime scene evidence.”

“Finn Mikaelson,” he said with a cursory nod, taking in her shock-white complexion. “Yes, I often forget what Kol does for a living.” He trailed off, creepily staring until Katherine actually snapped to get his attention again. “Yes, let’s head up to my office and deal with your questions. Rebekah is waiting.”

Katherine groaned as Finn led them to the bank of elevators. “Really, you need your baby sister to handhold your for this meeting?”

“I wouldn’t call legal advice from the family lawyer ‘handholding,’” Finn sneered.

“I’d call it chicken,” Katherine muttered.

Caroline stifled a laugh, but she elbowed the detective all the same. Family bickering would do nothing for the case and the victim for whom they were seeking justice.

The elevator ride was tense and awkwardly silent, but they managed the eight flights up without bloodshed. Finn directed them into a conference room where a woman with pin-straight blonde hair and a killer power suit was seated. She didn’t even attempt to welcome them by standing.

“Let’s get this over with,” she snapped, looking down at the folders in front of her. “I have signed affidavits from the other participants in our promotional event, stating that the victim was confident in her parachute skills and they were shocked when her chute didn’t open, despite the earlier check she had completed of her pack. I also have a copy of the liability waiver she had signed before even getting on the plane. As tragic as the accident was, M2 Energy Drinks cannot be held responsible in a civil suit, let alone a criminal one.”

“Even if the energy drinks served on the plane might have impaired her abilities with their too high concentration of dangerous chemicals,” Caroline challenged, comfortably seating herself at the table. Katherine didn’t usually allow her to ask questions first, but she was the doctor. “The amount of ketamine in her blood could be considered toxic.”

“Who are you,” Rebekah sneered.

“I’m Doctor Forbes, the assistant medical examiner assigned to April Young’s death,” Caroline answered as professionally as she could. She wasn’t sure if it was her own inbred politeness or the hard-wired respect drilled into April by a pastor for a father - brains really sucked when they weren’t clear cut on the personalities. Either way, something held her back from getting on Rebekah Mikaelson’s bad side.

“Oh, you work with Kol.”

Well, she didn’t intend to get on Rebekah Mikaelson’s bad side.

“I do,” she answered clearly. “Is that a problem?”

Rebekah glanced over to Finn, who remained impassive. “I believe it complicates your investigation,” she said, looking to Katherine. “What do you want, detective?”

“We cannot rule out that April Young’s death was an accident,” Katherine answered coldly. “The energy drink in her system might only be an isolated circumstance, but I’m sure you understand that we need to follow each lead.”

“Is the ketamine toxicity, as you call it, the official cause of death,” Rebekah asked Caroline in a terse voice. “Or was it the tree branch she impaled herself on a parachute jump gone bad?”

Caroline cocked her head, trying to reconcile the girl in front of her with the friend she had found in Kol. Apart from the accent and youthful face, she couldn’t find any true connection. Honestly, Rebekah reminded her more of Klaus than anyone else. “While the tree branch caused the fatal wounds, the toxicity might have created the situation,” she explained.

“As did the company itself by organizing the event,” Katherine added. “Would anyone here have a motive to hurt Ms. Young?”

“That’s enough,” Rebekah said, closing her folders. “I’ve cooperated with your sham investigation enough, and you have no further cause to demand any proprietary information or access to our staff. If you have any other requests or questions, please contact us through Elijah.”

Katherine narrowed her eyes, but Caroline knew the dismissal was final. “Thank you for your time,” the blonde quickly said, ushering Katherine out. 

“They’re hiding something,” Katherine muttered as they made their way back to the elevators. “I just don’t know what.”

I do, their formulas help create zombies.

Hot (Sauce)

Elijah had expected an irate phone call from his father after Katherine’s visit to M2, a couple of terse brunches with Rebekah. What he hadn’t expected was for a flustered Finn to burst into his office with a packed file of company documents.

“Rebekah needs to retain her plausible deniability and has no connection to this meeting, are we understood,” Finn asked hurriedly. “She remains with the company, while I receive whistleblower protections.”

Shutting his door, Elijah forced Finn to sit down and take a breath. “All right,” he said. “What are you talking about?”

“Father has gone insane, desperate for immortality,” Finn admitted. “He has had our formula developers working under secret orders to find the secret of living forever. I’m worried they’ve done it.” 

Trying to keep his breathing even, Elijah calmly lifted his phone to call down to the morgue. “Kol, do you have a moment to come up to my office? It’s quite urgent.”

Chapter Text

Kol worked endlessly in his office, leaving all the lab work to his assistants. Caroline was worried about him, constantly making sure he ate and slept at appropriate times. She could tell that Bonnie was frustrated with Kol’s inattentiveness, but Caroline was more concerned that Kol lived long enough to earn a second chance with her.

He had come tearing down from a meeting with Elijah, carrying a stack of papers that kept him glued to the information. “Formulas, I have them in all their working stages,” he muttered before going to check on the rats. “I can do this. I can do this.”

And he kept at it for months, trying to counteract the effects of zombieism that turned Klaus and Caroline’s lives upside down. Not that it kept them from living anymore, especially with the real hope of a cure.

“He’s going to cure us,” Caroline said breathlessly, watching Kol inject the rats with his latest attempt. “We won’t have to be these half-dead things anymore.”

“I never thought you were a thing, Caroline,” Klaus replied softly, looking down at her. He had spent more and more time with her, enjoying their banter and her unique brand of sweet rudeness toward him. “Even with this zombie nonsense, you’ve kept this brightness about you. I don’t think anything could take that light away.”

Caroline scoffed lightly. “You can stop flirting, soon we won’t be the last two zombies on Earth.”

“You’re that excited to be rid of me?”

She turned to look at him, not expecting the hurt vulnerability in his expression. Klaus had been many things to her, but vulnerable was never one of them. “I don’t know,” she admitted, shrugging. “You’re not the worst friend to have around.”

Klaus smirked at the half-compliment. “Be still my heart,” he said with a wink. Caroline was about to respond when Kol came bursting out of his office, raising a syringe.

“I did it,” he cried, nearly hysterical in his laughter. “I did it. I’ve successfully turned several rats into zombies, then cured them of their zombieism. I did it!”

“Are you sure,” Caroline asked, trying to keep the hope from bubbling up inside her. “You were so intent on doing a bunch of trials.”

“Screw that,” Klaus scoffed, holding out his arm. “Let’s get this over with and finally bring Mikael down.”

Caroline hesitated, knowing only that Klaus hated his father without really understanding why. “Spite is not a good enough reason to haphazardly test a new chemical agent,” she said, reaching out for Klaus’s arm. “What if something goes wrong? This could kill you instead.”

“Then, that’s more information for Kol’s next formula,” Klaus shrugged. “You deserve to be cured, sweetheart, and I don’t mind being the guinea pig.” With that, he ripped the syringe out of Kol’s hand and quickly found a vein to inject himself. All three of them held their breath, waiting for anything to happen. “That’s it? All tha-”

Klaus’s eyes rolled back in his head as he collapsed, Caroline just barely catching his head before it hit the floor. She cradled his head into her lap. Looking up to Kol, she asked, “What now?”

Kol had no idea, and he hoped he didn’t just kill his brother.

Hot (Sauce)

A week later, Klaus was cooking in Caroline’s kitchen. “Are you sure you don’t want me to add a little something extra?”

“No,” she insisted as he doused the shrimp pasta in her favorite hot sauce. “I feel weird letting you handle brain chunks now that you’re human again.”

“You could be human, too,” he pointed out. “And I’m pretty sure I’m inoculated to the oddity of handling brains. Honestly, I’m more weirded out that you’re letting me roam freely about your home.”

“Feel free to leave, then,” Caroline teased, stealing a bite from the pan. “But you’d have to find Kol, since one of us needs to be around you at all times to monitor for adverse effects of the cure.”

“And since he’s on a date with your friend, I’m not allowed to leave, am I?”

“Exactly,” she crowed happily. “Am I really terrible company?”

“No,” he answered softly, reaching up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear. “I’m really going to miss your company when you no longer have a reason to let me stick around.”

“I don’t know,” Caroline whispered as she leaned in. “I’m kind of used to you, now.” She closed that last inch of space, lightly pressing her lips against his.

Klaus fumbled to turn off the stove, quickly grabbing her hip to pull her into him as their kiss deepened. It wasn’t until she felt his tongue tentatively probe her lip that Caroline broke away.

“We shouldn’t,” she whined, lowering her forehead to his shoulder. “I’m still a zombie, and we’re still waiting to see how the cure plays out for you. Who knows what would happen if I accidentally transferred the virus back to you?”

“I’m thinking it’s worth the risk,” Klaus breathed, running his fingers through her curls. 

Caroline laughed, smiling up at him. “You would think that,” she accused, fingering his Henley. “Kol thinks I can take the cure next week, though.”

“I’m going to have to insist that you do,” Klaus said playfully, stroking her back as he held her close. “Though, I think I’ll miss the ice queen coloring.”

She shoved him half-heartedly, secretly excited to get some part of her old self back. “It’ll be nice to be me again,” she admitted with a grin.

Klaus looked over to the living room, where he could just see the photo he noticed on his first visit. “Does that mean going back to your dreamy fiancé,” he asked, tensing up. 

Caroline opened her mouth to answer before closing it again. Her own fairytale romance ended in a zombie apocalypse, but could she still get a happily ever after?

I’d be happy with a happy ending right now.

Shaking off her lusty thoughts, Caroline smiled weakly. “I’m not the same person I was before all this happened,” she answered as honestly as she felt. “Even as much as I loved Stefan, I couldn’t share this with him. That tells me a lot about the relationship I had.”

She reached for Klaus’s hand, lacing her fingers through his. “Our circumstances were unique, to say the least, but I never felt I had to hide anything from you,” she said. “Hell, I never even pretended I didn’t despise you when I did.”

“I remember,” he quipped, arching a brow. “But you don’t anymore?”

“Apparently, not as much as I want to kiss you,” she sighed, smiling mischievously.

“Well, how about that?”

Hot (Sauce)

“Are you ready?”

Kol’s question laid heavily on her shoulders, just as it had been ever since the possibility of a cure had been suggested. She had given up so much to figure out life as a zombie, but what would being human do to change her life again? She loved her job, but she wouldn’t be nearly as effective without the visions that helped Katherine solve cases. 

Stefan had moved on, not that she wanted to get back together with him anyway. Bonnie had already accepted that Caroline had changed, though the blonde knew she would have to explain the full story to her best friend someday. Her mother had no idea any of this was happening, though she appreciated that her daughter had made the move to helping law enforcement. Being a small-town Virginia sheriff didn’t lend to believing the unbelievable, though, so Caroline wasn’t sure the zombie story would go over so well.

She would still have Kol and Klaus, though. The only ones who truly knew what she lost and what she could still gain. And they were there with her in the lab, waiting for her answer.

“Yes,” she said. “I’m ready.”

A while later, she woke to Kol holding smelling salts under her nose. “She’s awake, all the vitals look good.”

“It worked,” Klaus sighed, relieved as he stroked her forehead. “You’ve been out for about six hours.”

“Is my hair blonde yet?”

Klaus laughed while Kol scowled. “Of course, that’s what you’re worried about. I pull of a medical miracle, and you just want to know if your hair is back to normal.”

“You’re the vainest man I’ve ever known,” Caroline teased, sitting up on the couch. “And I’m including your brother in that list.”

“Ouch, love,” Klaus said, playing hurt. “How are you feeling?”

Caroline bit her lip, doing a self-assessment. Blood rushed to her cheeks as she blushed under Klaus’s intent gaze. Arousal sparked deep in her belly from his hand still stroking whatever skin he could find. Excitement bubbled up in her throat as the realization that Kol had actually cured her came forth.

I feel happy.

“Alive,” she answered finally.

Hot (Sauce)

“Kol, what are we doing here,” Klaus asked, trying not to fidget nervously in the M2 conference room. As confrontational as he could be when it came to the family business, he had never actually set foot in the building. He was more than a little uncomfortable, though he would never admit it.

He had put up quite a bit of resistance to the meeting Kol had dragged him and Caroline to. But, his little brother had insisted that their recent struggles were a necessary topic of conversation given the company’s involvement.

Caroline stroked his hand under the table, where she clutched it in her lap. In the week since Kol injected her with the cure, the still new couple had become inseparable. Even holding hands was enough to soothe frazzled nerves and the pain of lost human experience as zombies.

“Now that the cure has been successful, the company needs to go public with the risks of their product,” Kol explained as Finn and Rebekah walked in.

“We’re issuing a full recall of shelved product, as well as offering treatment to those exhibiting the negative symptoms associated with your specific condition,” Rebekah stated plainly.

“Former condition,” Kol corrected. “I’ve been able to develop a cure and administer it with success, both on a multitude of rat trials and on Klaus and Caroline.”

“Which we’ll make clear,” Rebekah said, rolling her eyes. “Honestly, it’s like you all forget I’m a lawyer. I know how to cover my bases.”

“Sorry, baby sister,” Klaus drawled. “It’s so hard to remember things when all I associate with you is covering Father’s arse.”

“That’s enough, Niklaus,” Finn snapped. “The news isn’t public yet, but we’ve had Father housebound to Mother’s care. Rebekah and I have forcibly taken his shares in a hostile takeover of the company. I am acting CEO of M2, and things will be changing around here.”

“Starting with the energy drink formulas,” Kol insisted. 

“Then, why am I here?” Caroline’s voice was small, but sure in the chaos that was the Mikaelson family.

Rebekah answered snottily. “We need you both to be the pretty faces of the M2 zombie scourge and cure. Your romantic relationship adds a fairytale we can sell as a positive outcome.”

Klaus sat up. “You can’t trot us out like show ponies,” he argued. “You’re the ones who did this to us, and now you want to make money off our relationship?”

“You’ll be fairly compensated for your pains,” Finn offered. “We’ll even front the costs for an agent to sell your story. You’ll likely make more money than we will with a tell-all.”

“No,” Klaus said mockingly. “You’ll just get the free advertising that comes with the buzz of a narrowly averted zombie apocalypse.”

“Are you not the man to sell it,” Rebekah challenged. 

I definitely see the family resemblance now.

“Ah,” Finn said, opening the door to the conference room. “Here comes your first test.”

Elijah and Katherine walked in, both looking confused at the group. “What’s going on,” Katherine asked. Elijah just looked resigned to the fact that the secret was out.

Kol stood to address Katherine. “We’ve all been lying to you, Kat,” he said without preamble. “In a series of unfortunate events, M2 Energy Drinks turned Klaus into a zombie who required brains to remain sentient. The transition occurred at the disastrous boat party earlier this summer, with a certain batch of Utopium in his system. In the chaos of the party, he scratched Caroline and accidentally transferred the virus.”

Katherine looked over to Caroline, whose more lively complexion was enough to note just how stark her utter whiteness had been. The detective narrowed her eyes as she turned back to Kol. “Go on.”

“This virus can be best characterized as pop culture zombieism,” Kol explained. “Both Klaus and Caroline exhibited symptoms of apathy and rage, extreme paleness, and a desire to eat brains, which they acquired through my lab from unclaimed bodies meant for incineration anyway. Caroline’s visions were not a result of psychic powers, but of the latent memories from brains of the murder victims.”

“Which she ate,” Katherine clarified, remaining calm and skeptical.

“Yes,” Kol nodded, not even a cheeky grin crossing his face. Serious wasn’t an expression Kol wore well. “Mikael has been ousted as the CEO of M2, and Finn here is willing to issue a full recall of the tainted products and offer my treatment to anyone else affected. With his help, I was able to create a cure, which I’ve given to both Klaus and Caroline.”

“And you’re okay?” The question was directed more to Caroline than Klaus.

The blonde nodded, squeezing Klaus’s hand. “I’ve got my color back,” she joked. “I’m so sorry for not telling you the truth, but I haven’t even told my family yet, my best friends. I had a fiancé before all of this, and he has no idea why I broke his heart.”

“But you’re okay,” Katherine asked, noticing how close Caroline was to Klaus. “You can come clean and get him back.”

Klaus went rigid in his seat, but Caroline reached up with the closest hand to hold his cheek. “I’m happy,” she insisted, more for his benefit than Katherine’s. “Klaus and I went through hell together, and we’re both different because of it.”

“You’re taking it public,” Elijah asked, speaking for the first time. “Is that the wisest decision?”

“It’s the best we can do for the company,” Finn answered. “Rebekah says it’s the best way to indemnify us from lawsuit, as long as we’re honest and forthcoming.”

“The more transparent the process, the better it plays in the public,” Rebekah insisted. “It’s even to our benefit that Klaus is one of our victims, family and all.”

Klaus scoffed.

“Come off it, Nik,” Rebekah sneered. “You’re a showman who will be paid to publicly condemn our father. This is actually your dream job.”

Caroline peeked up at Klaus, who was shaking his head in disbelief. “We can walk out now,” she offered, “but do you really want to abandon your family? It’s not an easy road.”

I would know.

Klaus looked at her, blue eyes lost in uncertainty. “I’m not a good man, sweetheart,” he whispered, ignoring his nosy siblings. “What if all the attention leads me back to bad habits?”

Caroline shrugged. “Don’t let it,” she answered. “And let me be there for you, and we’ll get through it together.” When he still didn’t look convinced, she attempted a joke. “Then, I’ll find you some choirboy brains to eat. They should keep you walking the straight and narrow.”

Smiling wanly, Caroline could just see the hint of Klaus’s dimples. He raised their still joined hands to place his lips on the back of hers. “You’re on, love.”

Caroline grinned brightly, sending a wink to Kol. 

We’re going to be okay.

Hot (Sauce)

“Kol, call me back you jerk,” Caroline cried into her phone. “I’m already mad you’re bogarting my best friend, you don’t get to ignore me, too.”

It had been two months since the M2 scandal went public, and she was enjoying her new job in the emergency room of a large hospital. Leaving Kol at the Medical Examiner’s office had been a tough decision, but she didn’t get the same thrill without her extra insight on cases. Her main drive was to help people, and the emergency room always needed extra hands.

Klaus had become quite the talk show darling, using her 48-hour shifts as ideal windows for his travel. He was even writing a book about their experience, hoping to turn it into the next young adult novel craze. Though Caroline hadn’t enjoyed the public eye, Klaus reveled in the attention.

Of course, that only made his smirk that much more smug as he met her on the sidewalk outside the hospital. “Hello, love,” dimples cut deep in his cheeks.

“Your brother is screening my calls,” she whined, reaching for his hand automatically.

“Because he can’t keep a secret,” Klaus sighed.

Caroline snorted. “I’m pretty sure he kept a pretty big one for a long time,” she pointed out, gesturing between the two of them.

“Only because he couldn’t rub it in anyone’s face,” Klaus answered. “Kind of like what he’s doing with his research papers. I don’t know if you’ve read drafts, but he’s filled them with nods to his former colleagues at the CDC.”

“What secret is he keeping,” Caroline asked impatiently. She gasped, “Are you a vampire?”

Klaus actually laughed. “I bought a house,” he admitted. “I’ve had more money than sense with everything going on, and I realized that I wanted a home. A safe place that was just mine.”

“King of your castle,” Caroline exclaimed, familiar with her boyfriend’s need to lay claim to things. “Why is that a secret?”

“Because when I pictured a safe place that was just mine, all I could see was you,” he said, pulling her to a stop from their walk. “Caroline, I want us to start building our lives together, sharing a home. Will you move in with me?”

Her mouth fell open in shock.

“I know our relationship is still new, but I take my commitment to you very seriously,” Klaus said, rubbing her hand with his thumb. “I picked the house with you in mind, and I want it to be ours.”

Caroline pressed her lips together, as though in deep thought. Nodding slowly, she met his almost scared gaze. “On one condition,” she proffered.

“Name it,” Klaus said, sounding so earnest she wanted to take him right there on the street. 

Instead, she settled for a deep kiss. Thoroughly dazed, she stepped back with a brilliant smile. “Promise me that we will always keep a bottle of hot sauce on hand,” she said happily. “I can’t seem to lose my taste for the stuff.”

Kissing her again, Klaus smirked. “I think I know what you mean, love.”