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Sacred and Profane

Chapter Text

Heed the call of the fallen star

Pay blood and fire for thou art,

One soul, split apart,

And in sweet sorrow shall you find

Living, peace and kind.

Despite what people say, there is magic threaded into this world, hidden, deep and glittering like gemstones amongst the soil. And no two bits of magic are the same.

Sometimes, it is as simple as excelling at baking, or making candles light with a breath. Others however, are butchers. Their magic as dark and clotting as the blood they crave, the lives they spill.

Caroline Forbes, however. Not many have that kind of magic. Caroline is a Phoenix. And when she discovers what that means, really means….God help us all.

It begins, as so many things often do, with a mistake.

Haring along the aisles of the shop, Caroline cursed her own fucking luck, glancing up at the ceiling she could have screamed. Because she was in the wrong aisle. Yet again.

Spinning on the spot, gold curls twirling, the vial of snowflakes that had been bobbing along behind her narrowly avoided hitting her in the face. “Dragon scale, dragon scale” she muttered. What had she been thinking, looking for dragon amongst the herbs and flowers?! That was exactly the point, scolded Aunt Tessa in her head, she hadn’t been thinking. Or she would have brewed a fresh batch of the potion last night, like she was supposed to, instead of running ragged around an unfamiliar shop on the way back from college, this close to the deadline.

If she didn’t take the potion by 5.30pm tonight, she was in serious trouble. Shorting out the state of Louisiana trouble.

Not that she personally believed she was capable of such a feat, there was more of pheasant than of Phoenix about her, and even then the supposed capabilities of a Phoenix were so shrouded in darkness that the majority of it was believed to be old wives tales by this point in time. Because of course, Caroline would be the one saddled with the rare brand of magic that was so rare nobody could really tell her much about it. She couldn’t be like Elena, a sanator, with her gift for healing stitched into her hands. Or Bonnie, changing the world one potion at a time. No, Caroline had to have fire in her blood.

Hence the reason she was jumping and jiving around Straw’s Solutions where she didn’t know where anything, like a woman possessed in order to conduct the icy potion that would quiet the volcano of her power from erupting.

Fuck her life.

Dragon scales, dragon scales…aha! There it was, in the middle of an aisle, a tiny section under a ticket that read: Fire beasts and flammables. Pulling to a grateful halt before it, Caroline was so relieved to have finally actually fucking found her bounty that she allowed herself a sigh of relief.

Mistake.

Before her eyes, a hand reached out, yes good, and snatched the vial, the last vial, naturally, off the shelf. Caroline watched as her intended goal was completed.

By someone else.

Fuck my ever-loving motherfucking life. Caroline cursed in the sanctity of her own her head where Liz Forbes thankfully couldn’t hear, safely far away in Virginia.

Without even turning to look at the usurping sneak thief who owned that particular extremity Caroline practically shouted “That’s mine!”

There was a self-satisfied chuckle from her right. “The fact that it’s in my hand and not yours seems to bely the validity of that claim sweetheart”

Caroline sighed at her shoes. Sneaks a glance at his. Black, shiny leather. Unsurprising. “I was clearly reaching for it”

“So was I”

The contents of Caroline’s shopping list that had been floating pensively nearby tremored angrily, bottles clinking.

“Okay, asshole, look-“ she swung round to do just that and promptly forgot whatever she was supposed to be telling him to look at. Because boy, was he something to look at. Watching her with evidently growing amusement going by the pairing of dimples and the twinkle in his eye that he’s sporting, with blonde hair and old blue eyes. The dimples sit above an unfairly kissable mouth, there’s a strong jaw that’s not to be missed. Apart from that he’s like any other art student hanging round the Big Easy, a Henley wrapped around well defined arm muscles and a nice shoulder to waist ratio, plethora of necklaces, dark wash jeans and those leather shoes. Except no art student has eyes that old. Or goes without a coat in this bitterest of Novembers.  Vampire.

Most vampires leave the Quarter coven well and truly alone. And from what she remembers of her childhood in Mystic Falls, the vampires there had left the witches alone too. Co-existence wasn’t always easy, especially now she was living in such proximity to the Mikaelsons and their self proclaimed King of the Quarter, Klaus. But it was necessary for non-discovery by mortals. Living alongside vampires was better than all being burned at the stake together.

He raises an eyebrow at her.

Except sometimes, vampires decide to take ‘age before beauty’ to annoying heights.

“Look, I was here first.” Pathetic argument against his vampiric speed but whatever, she’s on the clock here. And she was here first. She was. “And I can bet you seven ways to Sunday I need that more than you.”

“And how do you figure that?” he glanced at the bottle, then at Caroline, and back again, thoughtfully.  Watching his fingernail tap against the glass idly, Caroline would be so much more annoyed if she didn’t know what he looked like.

Her hands slipped to her hips. She had seen Legally Blonde too many times not to win this. “Well, Your Honour, I’m going to die before you, so I’d say my plans are more urgent. They need to take place within the next 100 years whereas you can always reschedule for some time in the next millennium”

The vampire’s face jumped from amused to confused and back again. Caroline rewound that last sentence in her head. Ah. Well, at least this guy put value in human life when he’d thought she was dying. Some vampires would have already ripped her neck open for just blocking the aisle.

“I present my evidence to the prosecution, the age old principle: finders keepers”

Caroline failed to bite back a disbelieving smile. That shouldn’t be adorable. She would not be outdone on the charm stakes. By a damned vampire. She was Miss Mystic Falls, Hecate take it!

“Seriously? That’s what you’re going with?”

“Unless you have a better offer for me love?”

“I will work you any spell you want if you’ll let me have the final ingredient to the one that I need right now”

Now it was the vampire’s turn to look disbelieving. Not that she blamed him. That was one hell of a counter-offer. “That doesn’t harm anybody. Just to be clear.” she stipulated quickly, before she could hand a stranger, and a vampire at that, anything that the aunts could pulverise her with.

For a second, he didn’t actually move. At all. It was as if he’d been turned into a statute wearing designer. Then his mouth moved, opening and shutting silently as he digested her offer. Then in an eruption of movement he threw his head back and laughed, so fast all Caroline saw was a blur of pink, blonde and black. Shit. She’d forgotten they could move that fast.

When he slows down enough to resume human shape, the vampire’s eyes are gleaming kindly at her, evidently pleased. “Actually, I was angling for your name. And cup of coffee. With you. Just to be clear.”

Oh boy, a part of Caroline’s brain registered faintly.

It was a rare vampire who passed over that sort of offer. He might win the charm stakes after all. Especially the way his eyes are twinkling at her, despite the way his mouth’s pressed into a badly suppressed smile. The line of potion ingredients floating behind her jingled in triumphant chorus. She held her hand out for the vial, breathing deeply from her nose and praying he didn’t notice just how warm blooded she was. Her hands were getting hotter. Bad fucking sign.

But rather than handing it over, the vampire took her hand is his, blissfully cool by comparison, and turned it, before bending, pressing his lips briefly to her skin. Caroline inhaled in shock at the gesture. His lips were indeed plush. And heaven, if they felt like that against her hand, God knows what they’d feel like on her mouth.

“Name first” his words tickled the back of her hand

“Caroline.” She focused very hard on not smashing her shopping and not stuttering.

“A pleasure to meet you Caroline. Please, call me Nik.” His tongue clicks on the ‘K’ and she’s not thinking about his tongue, yeah no, so thinking about Nik’s tongue pressing her name into her skin, over and over again. Her fire burns in her cheeks, refusing to be forgotten. Nik huffs a gentle laugh and straightens from the bow he’d given over her hand.

Caroline tasted heat, like she’d just downed a bottle of jalapenos. No! Not now. How was he holding her hand that well, it had gone from the temperature of a freshly brewed cup of coffee to a searing hot pan! Lucky fucking vampires, cool as a cucumber whereas she’s about to start smoking at the nostrils.

Oh sweet Hecate. Please don’t let that happen just because I thought it. Her magic was strangely visual.

“Vial second” she ground out, wrist twisting in his hand so that her palm was face up. Nik watched as the vial wrestled itself free of his fingers to join the rest of Caroline’s potion in floating about them.

“Are you okay there sweetheart?” he asked, leaning perilously close, brow furrowing. Oh please, please don’t do that. I’m sweating here.

“Just,” Caroline swallowed, head bowed, blinking furiously. Her vision was starting to wane, descending into the blackness of dehydration. “Need the potion is all”

A firm hand took hers and something, an arm wrapped round her waist. “Pretty immediately I’d say. Come on.” The shadowy outlines that remained of her vision showed that Nik was leading her towards the checkout.

And into a trap! Screamed Aunt Selene in her head, overcautious to the last. Except her senses felt…serene despite the magic burning through her. Safe. He was genuinely just trying to help.

“By the Huntress!” cried out Agatha, the shop’s owner followed by the rush of her boots on the tile. “Are you alright dear?”. She was aware of someone else bending at a respectful distance, rather than getting in her face. Thank the stars for that. Oh. Probably Nik. She could feel a worried snarl building in his chest from where she was leaning against him.

“She needs her potion now. Have you got a chair? Ring up her items next to mine.” Caroline whimpered in protest because she couldn’t let him pay for her stuff. It was the 21st century for crying out loud. There was the brush of frantic fingers against her curls, “What is it love?” he whispered.

When she didn’t answer, he muttered “Please” at Agatha as an afterthought.

Caroline felt the back of her calves hit a chair and Nik gently lowered her into it. “Caroline love, you have to help me. What do we need to do for your potion?”

Caroline managed to nod her head to show her understanding. “Insta-cauldron in my bag” She heard Nik rattling around before she could see his blurry black outline return to the front of her nose.

“Water” Agatha murmured from her left, pressing an icy pint glass into Caroline’s hands. “Should help with the dehydration”

“Do you know what’s wrong with her?”

“Fire fever most likely. She’s a clever girl, prepared for it. Hecate knows what she’s been doing to contract fire fever mind you”

Caroline breathed carefully through her nose, letting her curls hide her face. Even among sister witches, it wasn’t a smart idea to identify as a Phoenix.

Nik and Agatha continued to murmur about preparing the potion. “I can do it. But she ought to keep drinking that”

“Whatever you have to do. If you want payment, we’ll discuss it after. Caroline love?”

Caroline hummed over the rim of her water glass, blinking as the black turned into muddy colours.

“So, Antonia Fraser eh?”

Caroline’s eyebrows puckered at the about turn. “The Six Wives of Henry VIII?” Nik clarified.

Caroline sat bolt upright in her chair. “Is chivalry dead?! You only had to find the Insta-cauldron not stalk my book choices”

Nik had the audacity to snicker. “I suppose it is technically. I was, I had to pull the ruddy book out of the way it was taking up so much space. In fact I’m surprised you managed to fit the thing in there.”

A shrug slipped gracefully off Caroline’s shoulder. “You would’ve liked Anne Boleyn, I think. She had your same fire”

For a spilt second Caroline thinks he’s being literal, especially the way the colours have come back full force, like someone’s turned up the brightness on the world. There’s his familiar crop of blond curls, those dimples. How fucking ironic if that was the case, that it was Jane Seymour whose personal badge had been a phoenix.

“That’s my girl” he murmurs, just for her, as the light of recognition comes back into her eyes. She doesn’t even think he knows he’s said it.

“And some sweetness, when she had cause enough for it.” He carried on. Nik was smiling away thoughtfully, like he was talking about a long-lost friend.

He could be actually.

Caroline’s eyes widened as she looked again at the man crouched leisurely in front of her chair, in a way that would have started to irk most human muscles. For all his cropped curls and stylish clothes, that meant he had to be, at least, over 400 years old.

No fair.

You knew Anne Boleyn” she hissed in jealous awe. Nik winked at her.

“News of the King’s Lady was spreading all over Europe. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Turns out she was quite the firecracker”

Caroline lurched for her bag, or tried to, except Nik got there first, catching her round the middle. “Easy there, sweetheart. D’you need more water?” he half turned his head back towards where Agatha was grinding up ingredients into the thermos and chanting vigorously.

“No” she breathed from the awkward half-fireman’s lift she’s suddenly found herself in, the tantalising mixture of wood smoke, petrichor and paint filling her nose from where she’s caught on Nik’s shoulder.

“Although, that is probably a good idea” Caroline’s eyes flickered back to the empty glass in her hand. Her memory danced back to this morning, filling the kettle for her cup of coffee, and to the bath she had run the night before.

Nik just glared at her in disbelief. Oh yeah, sure, fire fever, he’s totally on board with, calling up water though… Swigging it down to keep the fever at bay, Caroline used Nik’s grumpy muttering about ‘sodding witches honestly’ to duck round him and retrieve her booty.

Grabbing her copy of Six Wives, Caroline thumbed through the glossy pages intersected across the chapters till she finds the one she wanted, the famous portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn. Caroline shunts the book under Nik’s stunned nose, finger jabbing at Anne’s picture.

“Is this accurate?”

Nik looks from Caroline, mouth open in a question he’s already forgotten, to Anne, and back again. His mouth lifts in the crooked smile that Caroline’s already beginning to love to hate.

“No. She was prettier than that –“

“I KNEW IT” Caroline declares triumphantly, shooting to her feet like a Jack in the Box holding the book aloft like a trophy, but Nik isn’t finished yet.

“But not as pretty as you”

It’s Caroline’s turn to stop, halted by exactly how determined a flirt he’s being. Her cheeks begin to heat at the look of warmth in Nik’s eye that has nothing to do with Phoenix fire and she drops meekly back into her chair at his instruction to wait for Agatha’s potion. Her eyes find Anne’s staring challenging out at the viewer.

Grudge who grudges it, that’s how it’s going to be, had been her motto. And well, even if you didn’t like Anne, you had to admire her spunk, thought Caroline as her fingers traced over the picture fondly.

“It was said, at the time, that she was a witch too.” Caroline didn’t look up at Nik’s interruption this time, merely nodding along. She can’t look away from Anne’s smile, from the glittering ‘B’ at her throat, the delicate long fingers clasping the rose. Roses for the Virgin Mary. Red for romantic love. For her husband’s Lancastrian blood.

“She wasn’t of course, despite the King’s love talk and later accusations, as well he knew, given the kind of death that would have merited”

He doesn’t have to say the words. It’s a death that both of their kinds fear even now, when the truth of what they are has faded into stories that belong in the dark.

How relieved Anne must have been not to have been burned at the stake.

Fire, hot and raging bursts through Caroline’s mind, consuming the entire present along with it. The shop’s gone. She’s outside, she knows that but there’s only thick hot smoke choking the air, the kind that comes from bracken, to slow the burn down. Sparks buzz about her head like fireflies. Water! Water! Caroline tries to scream but there’s just ash, thick and coating in her mouth and throat. She can just about see chimneys poking through the sky, no, towers, white and beautiful. The skin of her hands, her face, her legs it feels so tight it’ll crack and she can’t help but wonder if the Phoenix will break free or the pyre will burn through her first.

There’s someone screaming.

Anne! Anne!

“Caroline! Caroline!”  Caroline’s head twists this way and that, searching desperately for one last look, one friendly face, not alone, not alone. Hands, a man’s hands, reach through the flames and tug hard on Caroline’s shoulders.

She falls forward, away from the pyre’s pole…and tumbles through the air, Nik’s arms wrapping around her in a protective cage to fall onto the cold linoleum floor of Strawberry’s Solutions.

They lie there for a moment, legs and thoughts tangled as they both try to come to terms with whatever the hell that was. Caroline brushes her hair, damp with sweat off her face, eyes searching for Nik, only to find him propped up on his elbows looking directly back at her, from where Caroline is sprawled across his chest.

It wasn’t real. None of it had been real. No, Caroline thinks, with a twisted shake of relief. Henry had been merciful in that at least. The swing of a sword, not the burn of the flame. If you could call that mercy.

“Well. The hits just keep coming with you, don’t they?” he jokes lightly. “Literally”

But Caroline can’t laugh, in that moment she can’t even remember what smiling feels like because what the ever-loving fuck was that when its’ at home?

And how had Nik managed to stop it?

Scrambling over him, she starts to move towards Agatha at the counter, who upon seeing Caroline spring into action, screws the top on the thermos gives it a firm shake and holds it out to her.

“Thank you, thank you so much and uh, forget what he said, I’ll pay you for- for all this and um, send me a bill” Caroline garbled as she ripped the lid of the cooked potion before downing it all in one.

Caroline was often nervous around fellow witches, especially the ones she didn’t know all that too well. So even though Agatha didn’t know how she’d contracted fire fever, especially since she lived outside the Quarter, meaning she was in no way bound to honour Quarter coven secrets, such as Caroline herself, Caroline hadn’t exactly had much time or too many options but to trust her.

Or at least that’s the argument that she’ll use to her aunts when she gets home.

Feeling the blessed slushy mixture coating her insides though, Caroline knows that’s not suffered any additional incorrect ingredients. It’s like a long cool drink after a hot summer’s day, lemon and mint slipping over the lava ravaging her system. With the added benefit that it’s so cold, it’s making her sweaty disgusting self, evaporate perfectly.

“Thanks, um thank you for everything” she twirls, nodding furiously at Nik where he’s still reclining on the shop floor watching her curiously, for his utter, unexpected kindness before she barrelled out of the shop. She had to get home. Fast.

Just because seeing things, things that hadn’t happened, in the fire was a new one didn’t mean it was a one off.

Flinging her bag and now empty cauldron into the passenger seat, Caroline set off like the hounds of hell were on her heels.

Lying on the floor of the witch’s shop, Klaus watched in confusion, only really focusing on the back bumper of Caroline’s SUV disappearing around the corner. If it were any other day, he would order the witch – Agatha – he remembered after a moment spent on it, to close her shop and leave him there to mull over what had just happened. What it might mean, a witch with fire fever. Unfortunately, there were things he had to attend to.

So much for coffee.

Caroline had been set to provide a nice distraction, or several hopefully before the fire fever had overtaken her. It had been...unsettling, the protectiveness that had surged up as she took ill. He had to agree with what…Agatha, was muttering to herself. It took quite a girl to hold out against fire fever, not that he’d ever seen it up close before. But all he had known as he watched her struggle with the sickness fighting through her body, was that someone of so full of light, who had smiled and quibbled with him so brazenly unfazed by his species or his status, did not deserve to suffer so.

Even worse had been when she had gone rigid and scalding to the touch in the chair, the plastic starting to melt around her. He’d never seen that before. From the terrified look on her face when he’d pulled her free, neither had she.

Pulling himself upright to collect his purchases, Klaus could only hope that Caroline, whoever she may be, didn’t go far. If the events of the last hour were anything to go by, things were about to get very interesting indeed.