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Heart Across the Ocean

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A/N Hey guys! I wrote this for Klarosummer Bingo 2019. The prompt was “vineyard.” I got such positive feedback, that I've decided to continue it as a multi chap.

Chapter One - The Vineyard

Caroline Forbes sat on a hill covered in soft green grass surrounded by more grapes than she had ever seen in her life. She took a tip of her chianti and closed her eyes to feel the Tuscan sunset on her face. She looked down at her sketch of the Italian countryside and smiled. She deserved this moment. She had just graduated from Whitmore University in Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing a month prior. Last week she got on a plane for the first time and arrived in Italy to celebrate passing the National Council Licensure Examination with flying colors. At 21, she was a Registered Nurse.

Caroline was blonde with blue eyes and porcelain skin. Her manicured hands flew across the page as she memorialized her view in charcoal. Her career as an artist was at an end as soon as she boarded that plane in Richmond and watched Mystic Falls, Virginia shrink smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared. Since turning 18, she had been employed by the MFPD as a sketch artist… when they needed such a thing in their sleepy little town. When her father passed just after her 5th birthday, he left a small inheritance for her to go to college, but it didn’t cover living expenses. Sketching made up the difference. It was the end of an era. She was out of school and on her own, the whole world at her feet.

During moments such as these, she seriously contemplated what life would be like if she left an ocean between herself and the past. Her life hadn’t always been a happy one. Her mother, Liz, was the town sheriff and almost never home. By nine, she could cook both of them an entire meal with groceries she carried home from the local market. She did all the cleaning, laundry, dishes… all the housework, really. However, no matter difficult life was, she always managed to find a way to see the beauty in everything she touched.

Caroline’s bright energy and joyful spirit were quickly recognized by the boys in her town. She grew up young, losing her virginity at 14 to a local loser, Tyler Lockwood. He got what he wanted and moved on, but she was left with a broken heart. She had friends throughout high school, but once they went their separate ways after graduation, their bond began to fade. She had a boyfriend, Matt, all throughout college. Just before her nursing finals began, she found him in bed with a fellow student in his law enforcement program. That was the end of that. She didn’t need him anyway. She’d never needed anyone. She had herself and that was enough.

Caroline could go anywhere in the world. She didn’t have a lot of money saved up, but she had enough to rent a bedroom somewhere in a new town in a new country and begin her new life. Her next step was to get her master’s in nursing and go into private practice as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. She loved helping people and never wanted to do anything else. After Tyler, she started volunteering at the local hospital and fell in love with medicine. As a nurse, she could go wherever felt the most like home. Why not Tuscany?

Caroline jumped when a man she had never seen before sat down next to her in the grass as though they were the best of friends. He had dirty blonde hair, cerulean blue eyes and a devilish smirk. “Hello, love. Enjoying the view?” he asked casually, sipping a glass of Moscato.

The young graduate stared at him incredulously. Is this how men behaved in Italy? If it was, she was seriously not falling for it. Then again, his accent sure didn’t sound Italian. He sounded British, probably of the London variety. “Do I know you?” she asked skeptically.

“Now you do. Nik,” he said, taking her hand and kissing the back of it before she could object. “And you are?” he asked smoothly, smirking at the way her pupils dilated when he pressed his warm lips to her soft skin.

Caroline pulled her hand away and scoffed. “So not interested. Feel free to leave.”

Klaus Mikaelson smiled at her candor. She had no idea who he was nor did she have a clue how dangerous he could be. He idly wondered if she would still give him such sass if she did. He hoped so. “Why would I leave my own backyard?” he asked, arching his brow.

Suddenly it clicked in her mind that he must be the owner of the vineyard she had been sketching. She glared at him, crossing her arms over her lowcut sky blue tank top that gave him a generous view of her ample cleavage. “Hmph. You’re kind of young to be the owner of a massive vineyard,” she commented, unimpressed.

“I’m 31,” he said, shrugging. She eyed him up and down, pursing her lips as she returned to her sketch. “Overachiever, I guess. Bought the place a few years back and fixed it up. I designed most of it myself, actually.”

“Well then I guess you know where to go to get lost,” she snarked, eyes focused on the page. He smiled in amusement, dimples emerging at her wit. He sat and watched the way her hand moved with such finesse. When she felt him staring, she looked over and narrowed her eyes at him. “See something you like?” she scoffed.

Klaus sipped his wine before setting it down next to him in the fluffy grass. The sun was almost hidden now, its last rays painting the pair in bright pink and orange. “You,” he said confidently, meeting her gaze. “I enjoy you.”

Caroline made finger quotes as she mocked him. “You ‘enjoy me’? What kind of a lame ass thing is that to say to a girl?”

Klaus laughed, smiling at her with those dimples she couldn’t stop glancing at. “Well I was hoping it would sound genuine, love,” he teased.

Caroline rolled her eyes. “If I tell you my name, will you stop calling me ‘love?’” Klaus’ gaze roamed over her curves before returning to her exasperated face. He nodded his head at her in agreement. “Fine. It’s Caroline,” she conceded, uncrossing her arms and sipping her chianti.

“Caroline. I like it. Hello, Caroline,” he greeted her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sweetheart,” he teased. She huffed at the epithet before rolling her eyes and returning to her sketch, intent on ignoring him. Much to her dismay, he stayed with her and watched the sunset over the Tuscan hills. “You’re quite the artist, Miss Forbes,” he complimented, growing tired of the silence.

Caroline dropped her charcoal pencil and gaped at him. “How do you know my last name?” she asked, both shocked and annoyed in equal measure. He picked up a lanyard that had fallen from her pink leather mini backpack and dangled it in the small space between them. At the end of the lanyard hung her MFPD ID card. She reached for it, but he held it just out of her reach. She grabbed at it again, her fingers barely touching it. He held it back so far that he began to topple sideways, and she used the opportunity to jump for her ID.

Unfortunately for the blonde nurse, Klaus had an abnormally rapid reaction time and pulled her down on top of him as he landed on his back in the grass, laughing. Caroline was splayed on top of him, her breasts pressing into his muscular chest. He smirked up at her, his expression mischievous. His arm still held her dangling ID card. “Is this how you tackle your prisoners, officer? Because if it is, remind me to pay a visit to your jurisdiction,” he teased.

Caroline reached for it again and finally snatched it back. Sitting up, she looked over at his stunned expression and her face lit up with the brightest smile Klaus had ever seen. “Mission accomplished!” he joked as he sat up next to her so closely that his olive drab Henley rubbed against her bare shoulder. She raised her eyebrows at him, prompting him to explain. “I made you smile, Caroline,” he pointed out, letting the r in her name roll off his tongue.

Caroline narrowed her eyes at him again, but this time it was in amusement. He was definitely obnoxious, but he had a certain charm about him, too. She rolled her eyes and picked up her sketchpad to show him her drawing. “I’m not a cop, NIK,” she clarified, emphasizing the last syllable of his name with a click. “I’m a sketch artist.” She paused. “Well, I WAS a sketch artist, anyway,” she said, her tone maudlin. “This is nothing,” she added, waving her hand dismissively. “It’s just a simple drawing.”

Klaus stared at her profile as she looked down at her sketch. She was stunning. “Why would you give it up? I’m an artist myself and I can see that you’re a very good one if that’s your idea of a simple drawing,” he complimented.

Caroline smiled and tucked a blonde tendril behind her ear before draining the last few drops of the wine from her class. “I just passed my boards. I’m officially a nurse,” she informed him, pride evident in her voice. “All I have to do now is find a job… whenever I get back to America, that is.”

“Congratulations, Caroline. That’s quite the accomplishment,” he praised, taking note of the way she used the term “whenever” instead of when. If she wasn’t sure when, or better yet IF, she was leaving, perhaps he could persuade her to stay and get to know him. She nodded her head in thanks and the two fell into a comfortable silence as she finished her drawing.

Klaus looked around at the vineyard as dusk settled over the trees, casting the grapes in shades of black and grey, just like her sketch. He stood up and wiped the grass off his jeans before offering her his hand. She looked at him skeptically. He showed her his dimples again as he smiled down at her. “Come on sweetheart,” he said, suppressing a smirk when her eyes narrowed at the pet name. “You’ve come all this way from across the ocean. The least I can do is buy you a celebratory dinner.”

Caroline gave him a bored expression. “I don’t even know you. Why would I have dinner with you?”

Klaus smiled his most charming smile. “To get better acquainted. I’ll tell you about the vineyard and you can show me more of your drawings.”

The blonde looked down at her sketch book and then back up to his hand, squinting her eyes. “What if I don’t WANT to get better acquainted?” she sassed, her bossy tone returning.

To her surprise, Klaus chuckled, not discouraged in the least by her “inner bitch” expression. “Take a chance! Talk to me. Get to know me. I dare you," he challenged, his voice teasing.

Caroline bit the inside of her cheek as she considered his offer. She wasn’t looking for a relationship so soon after getting her heart shattered yet again, but where the harm in letting a hot guy take her to dinner in Italy? “Oh, what the hell,” she said, taking his hand and tossing her mini backpack over her shoulder. He immediately locked her arm in his and began walking them to the vineyard’s restaurant. “Isn’t it kind of cheating if you buy me dinner at your own restaurant?” she teased.

Klaus smiled as he pushed open the heavy wooden door, the smells of Italy floating all around as he led her to a table by the window. He pulled out her seat for her before taking his own. “Tell me where you would prefer to eat instead. I’ll take you,” he offered, his tone teasing but his words serious. “Wherever you want: Rome, Paris… Tokyo?” he asked, throwing in the last one as a joke. She rolled her eyes, smiling in spite of herself as she opened the menu. Klaus smirked, amused, as her face screwed up trying to translate the Italian words.

After looking over everything and having no idea what any of it was beyond various names of pastas, she set the menu down. “You pick,” she ordered him. He raised his eyebrow at her bossy tone, impressed. If she only knew…

“As you wish, love,” he replied. He snapped his fingers and a waiter came rushing over. Klaus ordered something for them in Italian, the words falling off his tongue in a way that made Caroline’s lower belly tighten. If he could do that to the letter r… She shook her head to clear away the naughty images dancing in her mind and found him smirking at her, clearly sharing her line of thought. “So,” he began conversationally, opening up the floor for her to speak.

“So?” Caroline waited for him expectantly. She looked side to side as she tried to figure out what he was staring at before she realized it was her. A pink blush spread across her pale cheeks as she asked, “What do you want to talk about?”

“I want to talk about you,” he replied immediately, stumbling over his words. “Your hopes, your dreams, everything you want in life.” She eyed him suspiciously, but his expression seemed genuine… and… bashful? Caroline took her glass of merlot from the waiter, thanking him. She tasted it, closing her eyes for a moment as she licked the wine off her lips. When Klaus saw her pink little tongue dart out of her cherry lips, he almost dropped his glass as he wondered what else she could do with it. When she opened her eyes, she saw the lust in his own and felt a small jolt go through her. Neither of them said a word as they felt the fire between them starting to ignite…

Their electric bubble was suddenly popped into a million pieces as the room itself ignited in flames. Broken glass flew everywhere, and the air was filled with cries. Before she knew what was happening, Caroline was pinned beneath the table as Klaus instinctively threw himself on top of her just in time as a giant piece of windowpane landed right where she had been sitting. She covered her face with her hands and felt the impact as little shards sliced into her delicate skin.

Bullets whizzed through the air and blood oozed across the floor as bodies dropped all around. Men were screaming in both English and Italian. Guns emerged from more people than Caroline could count. She found herself in the middle of a warzone. Klaus reached down to his boot and pulled out a .22 and shoved it in her hand. “You know how to use that?” he asked, his voice eerily calm. She peeked out from between two fingers and nodded her head. She was an expert when it came to firearms because of her mom. The shooting range was just about the only place they ever spent time together. “Good girl. Keep your head covered and don’t fucking move until I come for you.”

Before Caroline could respond, Klaus pulled a Glock 19 out of the back of his jeans and poked his head out. She couldn’t see anything as she sheltered behind the chair legs, praying no one looked beneath the bloody tablecloth. She heard a gun fire from less than a foot away and knew that had to be Klaus. What the hell had she gotten herself into? Her eyes burned as she choked on the smoke growing thicker by the minute. She could feel the heat from the flames and knew it wouldn’t be long before they reached her hiding place.

Caroline heard another explosion rip through the building and half of the screams suddenly stopped. She frantically dumped out her bag and found her cell phone, several random items clattering to the floor. She sent a text to her mom telling her how much she loved her. Just after she hit send, a strong hand wrapped around her wrist and yanked her so hard from beneath the table that she screamed bloody murder and dropped the small gun to the slippery floor, shattering the screen on her Galaxy.

“What have we here?” a sadistic man with horrible breath asked as he laughed in her shocked face. “Aren’t you tasty?” The casual manner in which he spoke was a stark contrast to the hell fire erupting all around them. Caroline tried to break out of his iron grip, but he only laughed again, his evil cackles barely discernible in the din. He twisted her arms behind her back with one hand and shoved her face first onto the table. She felt him grind into her white denim short shorts from behind. He reached down her camisole and squeezed her breasts hard. She forced herself to relax every muscle in her body as her training kicked in. He violently ripped off her top as she waited for the right moment.

“MIKAEL!” Klaus screamed at the top of his lungs, his voice filled with more hatred than Caroline had ever heard in her life. The man, who must have been Mikael, ripped her up by her hair and spun her around, using her as a human shield. “Let her go,” Klaus growled as he raised his gun and aimed it at the man’s head.

Mikael laughed and it resonated with greater evil than a sound made by the devil himself. “Boy!” he barked. He whipped out his own gun and aimed it at Caroline’s head. He locked her in place with his hand gripping her breast under her simple white bra, flesh on flesh. “Is this little whore your new toy? Has the bastard finally found his bitch?” he spat.

Klaus’ eyes flashed and his fierce gaze looked out of place on such an angelic face. Whoever this guy, Nik, was – he was the devil in disguise. “I swear to whatever Gods of Hell put you on this earth that I will kill you where you stand if You. Do. Not. Let. Her. GO!” Mikael pulled down her cups to reveal her bare breasts to the burning restaurant, flames growing higher by the second. She gritted her teeth as he pinched and pulled her nipples for the younger man to see. He laughed in Klaus’ face as he watched his fury grow. He dragged his hand down her belly and slipped it in her panties and squeezed hard. Caroline didn’t move a muscle, biding her time. Her eyes locked on Klaus’ and she gave him a small nod. She had a plan. Klaus dropped his arm, chest heaving. “Fine. Take her. Kill her. Fuck her. See if I care,” he snarled, his tone frozen as the tundra as he turned his back on them and ran down a hallway. He turned back around, padding along as quietly as he could. He stopped and raised his gun, back to the wall, listening and waiting.

Mikael laughed, his breath nearly causing Caroline to gag. “Look at that!” he spat at her. “He ran from me like the coward that he is.” He sneered at Caroline before violently throwing her down on the floor. “You’re worthless, slut. A useless toy whore,” he growled, kicking her in the ribs.

Caroline used the opportunity to flail her arms right in the direction of her fallen .22. She screamed as shrilly as she could manage. “NO! Please, don’t!” she begged, inching her way closer to her goal. “Don’t hurt me! PLEASE! I haven’t DONE anything!”

“You haven’t done anything yet, little toy, but you will,” he snarled menacingly. “My wife’s bastard may be a coward, but he’s no fool. Klaus will come for you.” Mikael kicked her again and it was the last push that she needed. She closed her hand around the gun as she felt her ribs shatter, but she didn’t let go. “And when he does, I’ll-”

Klaus never heard what Mikael said he would do because his words were cut short by the sound of a gun firing. He rounded the corner just in time to see Mikael’s lifeless body hit the floor, a small hole directly between his dead eyes. Caroline leapt to her feet, bag in hand, gun stuffed in her shorts behind her back. Klaus’ eyes widened in shock as she tucked her breasts back into her bra. “How in the bloody hell did you-”

“I’m a psych nurse. I know how to handle myself around crazy assholes,” she said as she grabbed his hand. “We need to GO!” she commanded, dragging him behind her. He cut her off when they reached the exit, shielding her with his body.

Klaus’ voice was barely a whisper as he struggled to make out what was going on outside. “Listen to me, Caroline,” he began. He pulled a set of car keys out of his front pocket and handed them to her. “There is a car just around the side of the building. I need you to run like hell when I open the door and do not stop until you are far, far away.” She opened her mouth to protest but he cut her off. “Caroline, you can’t BE here! If anyone sees you with me or knows that you know me…” his voice trailed off, unsure of what to say.

Caroline stared at him in disbelief. “Nik, what in the hell is going on? Who was that guy? Who are YOU?”

“Look, just- just run when I open the door and don’t look back.” He gripped the doorknob before turning back to her one last time. “No matter what happens, do not stop running until you get to safety. No one can ever know you were here.” He felt her hand on his shoulder as she started to turn him to face her and he rounded on her, pressing her up against the wall. Nose to nose, he growled, “I am a bad man, Caroline! A very bad man with enemies and you need to RUN!” He opened the door and pulled her out behind him. “NOW!” he screamed over his shoulder as he fired his gun into a man aiming directly at her head.

Caroline did as he said and ran. She flew around the corner and jumped into his black BMW convertible. The wind flew through her blood streaked hair and pelted her face with burning ash as she turned the key. She slammed her boot down on the clutch and threw it in first as fast as the gear shift would go. Chaos reigned all around her. What she guessed were grenades and Molotov cocktails had been thrown in every side of the wooden building. Half of the structure had erupted in burning hot flames of every color.

The BMW screeched around the corner as she floored it. She snuck a peek in the rearview mirror and saw Klaus fall to the ground, a man towering over him with a gun. Without thinking, Caroline threw the convertible in reverse and rammed right into the shooter. She felt the tire roll over him as she hurtled over the door and ran to Klaus. She immediately pulled up his blood-soaked Henley and assessed his injuries. With his Glock still in one hand, he grabbed her hands in his other as she applied pressure and ground out, “Caroline, get the fucking hell out of here!”

“I can’t!” she shouted. “If someone doesn’t stay with you, you’ll die!”

Klaus groaned and threw his head back onto the gravel, coughing as he breathed in the falling ash. “My brother can patch me up. He trained as a doctor. Now go before someone sees you!”

“You’ll never make it to wherever the hell he is. If I don’t hold the pressure, you’re not gonna make it out of this parking lot,” she told him, her voice calm and steady even as her heart was trying to escape her chest. She guessed she had at least three broken ribs herself, maybe more, but her injuries could wait. His couldn’t. A bullet flew overhead as another enemy fired towards them. Caroline would never understand how, but Klaus managed to throw himself on his side and get a shot off. The man fell to the floor clutching his stomach. Caroline took one look at the spray pattern and knew he was dead, but that didn’t stop him from trying to kill them. She ripped the .22 from her waistband with one bloody hand and shot him in the forehead, dead center.

“Caroline, if you’re not going to save yourself then for the love of God let’s BOTH go!” Klaus groaned, holding one hand on top of both of hers. “My men can’t hold them off for much longer and they won’t stop until I’m dead,” he told her, eyes locked together. She looked at him and nodded. She knew they were risking paralysis by moving him, but he was right. If he was the target, the attack wouldn’t stop, and more people would die.

Caroline helped him up, groaning as the pain from her own injuries flared. He moved surprisingly well considering he’d been shot. She steered him to the driver’s side and helped him in. He looked at her incredulously. “You’re gonna have to get us out of here, Nik… Klaus… Whoever the fuck you are,” she said firmly as she crawled over him, pressing her hands down over his wound. She threw one of his arms around her shoulder so she could curl up next to him. She held the pressure with one hand and grabbed the gear shift with the other. They were going to have to do this together. He opened his mouth, but she cut him off before he could protest. “I’m not from this country. I don’t have a clue where the fuck we are, where we need to go or even what side of the road I’m supposed to be driving on. And if I don’t hold the pressure, you’ll bleed out. Now drive!” she commanded, shifting into first.

Klaus did his best to steady his breathing as they flew down the dirt roads and sped away from the vineyard. He steered and worked the peddles as best he could while Caroline shifted. He knew how serious his injury was and could feel consciousness slipping away. He just had to hang on a little bit longer and they would be at his brother’s house. His vision began to blur, and he was getting dizzier by the second. He turned the convertible up a dirt road Caroline wouldn’t have even seen, let alone known led to anywhere in particular. The night was black, but she saw a light in the distance and prayed that it was their goal. “When we,” he panted, “get there,” deep breath, “you need to,” chest heave, “get,” groan, “Kol,” gasp.

Klaus blacked out and his head fell back just before they reached the house. Caroline pulled up the emergency break, shifted gears, and slammed his unconscious foot down on the brake pedal. They came to a screeching halt in front of the house that she hoped was loud enough to get the attention of the occupants. She used her free hand to hold down the horn until people came running outside. “Kol!” she shouted over the commotion. “Which one of you is Kol?”

A handsome man with scruffy brown hair falling just below his eyebrows ran to them. “I am!” he shouted, pulling the door open. “Elijah! Marcel! Help me get Nik inside!” he called out into the night as two more men came rushing out. Kol turned to Caroline and instructed, “We’re going to life him up and I need you to come along and hold the pressure. Can you do that for me, darling?” She nodded her head as they all helped get him up. They moved him inside as carefully and quickly as they could. A girl slightly younger than Kol with bright blonde hair shoved plates and cups and silverware off of a large cherry wood dining table to make room for the injured man. The black man handed Kol the nearest knife and Kol used it to slice open Nik’s shirt. “What happened?”

Caroline held the pressure while Kol began pulling supplies out of a large black leather bag handed to him by an attractive man who looked slightly older than Nik. “He’s got a GSW to the lower right quadrant. It’s through and through, but I think it nicked the superior mesenteric artery,” she said confidently, her voice steady.

“Are you a doctor?” Kol asked as he began to work on his older brother.

“I’m an RN,” she explained.

Kol nodded at her in approval. “Excellent. You can assist. You’re right about the artery. We need to cauterize it now or he’ll bleed out before we can apply sutures. Insert a cath into his left ACA and start him on a bag of lactated ringers wide open.”

The two worked together for hours before finally peeling off their bloody gloves and flopping down on a plush brown suede couch while the others carried Klaus to a bedroom upstairs. Caroline looked around the house for the first time. It was cozy. An older blonde woman had started a fire in the hearth at some point during their emergency surgery. The man from before, Elijah she assumed, offered her a fresh powder blue Henley she suspected belonged to Klaus. She looked down and realized for the first time that she was still dressed in her bloody white bra and shorts. She took the shirt and shot Kol a death glare when she caught him smirking at her just like his idiot brother.

She pulled the shirt over her head and accepted a hot cup of tea from the older blonde. “Thanks… um… what are your names?” she asked as she looked around at the room full of strangers.

“I’m Freya Mikaelson,” she introduced herself, shaking Caroline’s hand before taking a seat on a smaller brown couch. “We’re all Mikaelsons… except for Marcel, obviously,” she chucked, nodding her head at the black man. He nodded at her and flashed Caroline a thousand-watt smile. “He’s kind of an honorary Mikaelson,” she explained. “He’s married to our sister, Rebekah, but she kept our name,” she said, pointing to the younger blonde woman. “This is Elijah and his wife Hayley,” she said, pointing to the man who offered her the shirt standing next to a pretty brunette with almond eyes. “You know Kol already. That’s his wife, Davina,” she introduced as a young brunette with a sexy pout sat on Kol’s lap. “And my wife is Keelin, but she’s out of the country. She works for doctors without borders.”

Caroline humphed. “Damn. Would have been nice if she’d been here,” she commented.

Kol scoffed in mock offense. “You wound me, darling. I thought we made an excellent team!” he pouted. “Ah, well, at least this beauty appreciates my talent,” he teased, pecking his wife on the lips. Turning back to the blonde, he asked, “Now that you know who we are, who are you? And how do you know Nik?”

“Caroline Forbes. I don’t know him,” she explained. “I mean, we just met. I was sketching at his vineyard and he offered to buy me dinner… at his OWN restaurant… which is seriously cheating…” she joked, trying to ease the tension in the room. “But before we even finished our wine the entire place blew up.”

“Forgive me, Caroline,” Elijah began, his tone calming yet formal. “Would you please explain what you mean by ‘blew up?’”

Caroline set down her empty cup before addressing the group. “I mean it literally blew up. Like, somebody threw in a bunch of grenades and Molotov cocktails. The place erupted in flames and men had guns coming out of everywhere and they were all shooting at each other. It was like a warzone. We barely got out, and when we did, he told me to drive and not look back… But then someone shot him, so I ran the guy over with the BMW. I got him up and held the pressure while he drove us here,” she finished, gulping down the lump in her throat.

The room sat in shocked silence. Word had already reached them that there had been an attack, prompting all the siblings to gather at Kol’s house. They didn’t realize the extent of the brutality until that moment. Only one group could have been behind this and they all knew who it was. Elijah spoke again. “I can’t imagine you would have any idea who was behind this, but did you happen to catch any names?”

Caroline nodded her head. “Yeah, actually, there was this guy Nik- Klaus?” she asked with a raised brow.

“Niklaus, but if he told you Nik, use that,” Rebecca said, her tone soft as she spoke her brother’s name.

“Oh, Niklaus. That makes sense,” she said, nodding her head. “Anyway, he got into it with this guy he called Mikael,” Caroline broke off midsentence when there was a collective gasp around the room. “I’m guessing you know him?”

“We do,” confirmed Marcel. “He’s not a good guy, Caroline. You don’t wanna get mixed up with a man like him,” he warned, his tone ominous.

Caroline scoffed. “Well, no problem there considering I killed him, too.”

“What?” Hayley asked, shocked. “Did you just say you… killed… Mikael? He’s dead? You killed him? Mikael’s dead?”

Caroline looked at her as though she were very slow. “Yes,” she confirmed, slowly nodding her head up and down. “Nik and I tricked him, and it gave me a chance to get a shot off. Landed right between the eyes.” She sucked in a breath and rubbed her hand over her ribs. “He got in a few good kicks, though, so I’m pretty sure he had it coming.”

“Yes. Yes, he did, sweetheart,” came an accented voice from the bottom of the staircase. Klaus was holding onto the railing in his bloody jeans and an open black bathrobe, one hand over a giant bandage on his abdomen. Rebecca and Freya ran to his side, but he pushed past them, nodding for Kol and Davina to make room on the couch. They got up and Caroline scooted over to let him sit down. He held up a hand at everyone’s sympathetic and concerned expressions. “I’m fine, alright? I’m fine,” he said firmly. No one said a word. It was obvious that he was the brother in charge.

“Nik, is Mikael…” Rebecca asked, her voice trailing off as she bit her lower lip. Her next words came out as barely a whisper. “Is it true?”

Klaus nodded his head and sighed with what Caroline was quite sure was relief. Whoever Mikael had been, he had clearly been an enemy. “It’s true, sister,” he confirmed. As the news resonated throughout the room, Caroline could feel a heavy burden being lifted from all of their metaphorical shoulders. “But there were others,” he said darkly. He and Elijah shared a knowing look as the heaviness once again settled upon them.

Caroline looked around the room at all the serious faces. “Okay,” she said with sudden cheer in her voice, her Miss Mystic smile firmly in place. “Well, Mikaelsons, this has been so, totally, completely, seriously NOT fun, so I’m going to be going now,” she said, clapping her hands together as she got up. Elijah stepped in front of the door, blocking her path. “If you’ll just excuse me,” she said, trying to push past him. Kol and Marcel came to stand on either side of him. She spun around, hands on hips. “Nik, can you please tell your little minions here to get the hell out of my way so I can go?”

Klaus looked at her and sighed, his expression dark. “You can’t, Caroline,” he said simply, as though that was the end of the conversation.

Caroline scoffed, her mouth falling open. “Ex-fucking-cuse me?” she sassed angrily.

“You were seen, love,” he told her, his voice calm in spite of her growing ire.

“What does that even mean? Who cares if I was seen? I’m on VACATION! I was at a vineyard! There had to have been a hundred people there!” she exclaimed, waving her arms in frustration.

Klaus blinked his eyes and exhaled in an attempt to remain calm. He wasn’t used to having to explain himself to anyone ever. He said she couldn’t go and that was the end of it. Why was she still talking? Didn’t she know who he was? What he could do? To her? He closed his eyes for a moment and took in a deep breath, wincing at the pain. They all noticed, but no one dared to say anything. Klaus was volatile on the best of days… and today was not that day. When he opened his eyes, he locked gazes with her, blue on blue. They stared at each other, each fighting for dominance. A low growl came from the back of his throat before he finally spoke. “Everybody out,” he commanded. Caroline tossed her bloody golden curls over her shoulder and headed for the door. “Not you, Caroline.” She turned to face him, her eyes narrowed as she shot daggers at him. “Sit,” he said firmly.

Caroline walked over to him and stared down at him for a long moment before she eventually sat next to him on the couch. She crossed one bloody knee over the other and crossed her arms over her chest. “So,” she said with attitude, “I take it you’re some kind of… what? Crime lord? Mafia boss? Evil genius?” Klaus smirked at her, his expression softening. She was brave, he’d give her that. She shook her head and made a face at him that clearly indicated she was not amused. “Look, maybe you can boss your family around, but you’re not the boss of me!” she huffed.

“That’s exactly what I am,” he replied, all traces of amusement gone. She stared at him incredulously, her jaw falling open. “I’m the boss. I AM. Me. There is not a person in this house that will not do exactly as I say, when I say to do it and how I say I want it done.” He held up a hand before she could find the words to protest. “If I say you are staying then that means you are STAYING, Caroline. End of discussion.”

Caroline got up and groaned in frustration, her hands balling into fists as she stamped her feet and paced in a circle. “God, you are completely out of your fucking mind! You can’t just KEEP me here like I’m some kind of prisoner!”

“Not only CAN I keep you here. I am GOING to keep you here,” he said calmly, his words emphatic as she paced back and forth. He figured at some point exhaustion was going to kick in, so he sat and waited her out while his words sunk in.

Caroline flopped down on the couch and immediately regretted it as she clutched her ribs, hissing at the pain. Klaus frowned and reached for her, but she smacked his hand away. “Don’t touch me!” she snarled at him. He sat back against the couch and watched her as she palpated her rib cage. She leaned back gingerly as she slowly inhaled and exhaled through the pain until it subsided enough to continue. She lay back against the plush sofa and turned just her head to face him as he did the same, their eyes locking while their bodies ached. “Why?” she whispered so faintly he barely heard her. “Why?” she asked again, shrugging.

Klaus took her delicate little hand in his. “You have to stay because you are in danger, Caroline.” She frowned and wrinkled her nose at him in confusion. “I’m not a good man,” he sighed, rubbing his thumb over her knuckles, although why she allowed it, she would never know. “I won’t get into the specifics of my various enterprises because you do not need to know. All you do need to know is that you ARE going to stay with me now.”

Caroline pulled her hand out of his, scoffing. “Look, I don’t know what kind of game you think you’re playing here,” she began.

“It’s not a game,” he said softly, exhaustion hitting him, too. “I realize you are angry and have questions.”

“You’re damn right I have questions!” she exclaimed.

Klaus ignored her as he continued. “However, I can assure you that I am not exactly thrilled at the idea of having to take care of you, either.” Caroline’s eyes widened at him and he could feel his patience wearing thin. Maybe he should just take her out back and shoot her and be done with it. Or maybe he should take her upstairs and give her a reason to never leave. The latter idea made him smirk for a moment before she shouted at him yet again.

“I do NOT need someone ‘taking care’ of me!” she yelled, making finger quotes in the air.

“The hell you don’t!” he snapped. She shrunk back into the couch, shocked by the sudden mood swing. Hadn’t he just been being nice? “Get this straight, Caroline Forbes!” he yelled. “You are here with me and you shall remain with me because if you do not, my enemies will find you and they will kill you.” She sucked in a deep breath at his candor, shock written all over her face. “You are MINE now. You BELONG to me. I am RESPONSIBLE for you! I ordered you to LEAVE and you came BACK! That means that I have to TAKE CARE of you because you have been SEEN with me!”

Caroline yelled right back at him, adrenaline flying through her veins. “I killed people tonight, Nik! That guy who grabbed me, Mikael? I killed him. The guy who shot you? Killed him, too. How in the hell can you be so sure that anyone who saw us together is still breathing?!”

“Because they sent me THIS!” he screamed, holding his Galaxy up to her eye level. Her face fell and she clapped a hand over her mouth as tears formed in her eyes. There, on the screen, was her Mystic Falls Police Department ID card, and it was splattered with blood that once belonged to the man she murdered. “Do you see what I see, Caroline, hmm?” She didn’t respond, her eyes widening in terror. “I see a card identifying you as a member of a POLICE department! Do you get it yet? Have I gotten through to a brain beneath that pretty little head of yours? My enemies now know your face, your home and your NAME. They will think you an officer working with me against them! Do you have ANY idea how much DANGER you have put yourself in? If you get your way and waltz out that door, there will be a bullet with your name on it waiting just around the corner. I am not keeping you here to IMPRISON you! I am keeping you here to keep you SAFE and I AM doing it whether you LIKE it or NOT!” he finished with a shout.

Once he was finished ranting, he sat back and waited. Long minutes passed, but Caroline still hadn’t said a word. Klaus sighed when he saw the look on her face as tears streamed down her cheeks. He had meant to scare her, yes, but he hadn’t meant to make her cry. Was spending time with him really that awful? Probably. Nevertheless, he wrapped one arm around her, both of them wincing at the pain as she brought her knees up and curled into him. As annoyed as he was, he couldn’t stop himself from gently rubbing her back to comfort her while she cried onto his bare chest. He rested his head back against the couch cushion, rolled his eyes at the ceiling and huffed in exasperation.

What in the hell had he gotten himself into?

Chapter Text

A/N Hey! Wow, thank you SO much to all the people who have supported this story! I suppose I have no choice but to write it as a full fic now… oh woah is me! Just kidding. BTW I should have said this last time but did not because I am a horrible person… Or just forgetful. Whatever. Thank you very much to DarkGlowingLight and UppityBitch for the support conceptualizing this and the wonderful suggestions! Yay teamwork! If you like this, please leave me a review!!!

 

Chapter Two – Freedom Lost

 

Klaus Mikaelson was not amused. He marched Caroline Forbes up the gravel driveway to his family’s home in Tuscany after dragging her back for the third time. Since he’d informed her that she was now his property only one week ago, she had done nothing but make his already difficult life a living hell. They were both still recovering from serious injuries. However, three broken ribs hadn’t stopped her from breaking the window and climbing down the drainage pipe from her third story bedroom. When she made it to the bottom, he was waiting for her with a bored expression on his face.

Klaus held her by the scruff of her neck as he opened the giant oak front door and tossed her inside. She stumbled into the foyer and winced as her injuries caught up with her. “What’s the matter, sweetheart?” Klaus asked condescendingly as he locked the door behind them. He’d had biometric locks installed on every door and window since her arrival and his phone alerted him every time an exterior door or window was opened. Only he and his family could use their thumbprints to come and go as they pleased. The young blonde nurse was trapped.

Caroline fisted her hands and spun around on her bare feet to face him. “YOU!” she shouted. “You are my problem!” She had decided that if she was going to be miserable, so was he. She provoked him every chance she got.

Klaus exhaled and pinched the bridge of his nose. She was giving him a headache. Again. “Actually, Caroline, you are mine,” he said, groaning.

“I’m not YOURS!” she shrieked.

Klaus rolled his eyes and scoffed. “I meant you are my PROBLEM! Not that you are ‘mine,’” he explained, making finger quotes. Her response was a death glare. He smirked as he walked up to her, invading her air space. He put his hands on her hips and pulled her close. When he spoke, she could feel his breath on her lips as his stubble scraped her cheek. “Although you are that, too.” Momentarily caught off guard, her jaw dropped as she stood there, stunned. He eyed her body up and down before whispering into her open mouth, “Say the word and I’d be happy to enlighten you as to all the benefits that come along with being mine,” he whispered huskily, trailing the back of his fingers down her cheek.

Caroline scoffed and shoved him back, intentionally pushing him where he had been shot. “Gross!” she said, disgust written on her face. She didn’t know which was worse: how much she hated him, or how much she wanted him to make good on all of his sinful promises. He was undeterred and smirked at her deviously. “What gives you the right to lock me up and throw away the key when my only crime was saving your miserable life?!”

Klaus rolled his eyes and let out a long-suffering sigh as he pushed past her and flopped down on the couch. He ran his fingers through his dirty blonde curls and groaned in frustration. “My life WASN’T miserable until I met YOU,” he said in a tone that conveyed his annoyance.

The blonde stamped her feet and shrieked. “UGH!” She stomped into the living room and headed for the staircase. “Then just let me LEAVE already!” As soon as she put one shoeless foot on the bottom stair, Klaus snapped his fingers and pointed at the spot next to him on the couch. She turned to him, fury evident in the murderous expression on her face. “Oh, you did NOT just snap your fingers at me! Do you seriously think I’m just gonna take a seat because you SNAPPED at me?!”

Klaus glared at her, finger still pointing to the cushion next to him. “No, I do not expect you to take a seat because I snapped at you. I expect you to take a seat because I am instructing you to do so.”

“Ugh!” she exclaimed again. “You are UNbelievable! You just told me I’m making your life miserable, which, me too, by the way, and you want me to cozy up with you? Why can’t I just go if I’m such a problem?” she shouted, hands on hips. Klaus closed his eyes and forced himself to take a deep breath. When he didn’t answer her, she started walking up the stairs… and then she heard another snap. “UGH! STOP SNAPPING AT ME!” she screamed in frustration, fingers raking through her blonde curls. She narrowed her eyes when she heard a low growl emit from the back of his throat. Anyone else would have been dead by now. “If you won’t let me leave, then at least let me go upstairs! There is absolutely nothing to do in this stupid room except talk to you and I sure as HELL don’t want to do that!”

Klaus snapped his fingers for a third time. She screeched again and started stomping up the stairs as dramatically as possible with her feet bare. “Sit. Down. Caroline,” he whispered, his tone so deadly that the blonde felt a cold wave of danger rush down her spine that stopped her in her tracks. She turned around and the look on his face had her obediently walking back down and sitting next to him as instructed. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him with as much hate as she could muster, but she held her tongue. As much as she tried to deny it, and even though she would never let him see it, there were moments that he scared the hell out of her.

Several minutes passed while they glared at each other, neither of them backing down. Finally, Klaus told her, “Frankly, I don’t give a damn if you find my company to be an inadequate source of entertainment, love. If I let you out of my sight, you will try to run. If I allow you to do so, you will be dead by day’s end. For reasons I cannot even begin to fathom, I actually prefer to keep you alive.” He paused for a moment as he thought about it. He had no use for her whatsoever… at least until she gave in to his advances… which she would… and yet she was still alive. Unable to figure it out, he continued. “However, I have been known to change my mind on a whim. So, I suggest you stop testing my patience and do as you’re told; and since I don’t fancy the idea of chasing you down for a fourth time, you are going to sit right here where I can see you until I say otherwise. Are we clear?” he asked as he finished his lecture, his tone unyielding.

Caroline didn’t respond. She just huffed and turned her head up and away from him defiantly. She yelped when he grabbed her by the hair, pulling it hard as he turned her to face him, nose to nose. Looking directly into her eyes, he growled, “I asked, Are. We. Clear?” The blonde sucked in a deep breath as she felt her heart racing. She obediently nodded her head as much as she could while he had it immobilized.

Klaus released her and patted her on the head. “Good girl,” he mocked, his expression dark. Breaking their eye contact, he pulled out his Galaxy and ignored her completely as he checked his texts and emails. She lay back against the fluffy cushions and pulled her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around her knees, her back facing him as she choked down a sob. He looked at her sideways when he heard her sniffle. He huffed out a sigh, annoyed. She was going to be the death of him.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

True to his word, Klaus did not let her out of his sight for the rest of the day and well into the night. Two could play the “make each other miserable” game and he was a very, very sore loser. When she needed to use the bathroom, he walked her there and stood guard outside the door. When everyone gathered for dinner, he sat her right next to him. While everyone else relaxed and had an after-dinner bourbon, she sat with him on the couch and drank the cherry coke he poured just for her, smirking when he handed her the glass. She glared at him in hatred but didn’t say anything, which only added to his entertainment.

As the night progressed, he relented and let her play with his iPad… after he disabled the Wi-Fi. The morning after her arrival, he had purchased a new Galaxy for her so that she could check in with her mother, but when she used it to call an uber, he revoked her phone privileges. She was allowed to use it to call her mother, on speaker, as often as she pleased, provided he was there to supervise. She and her mother weren’t exactly close, and since there was no one else she wanted to call, it had been sitting in his safe untouched for several days.

After responding to his last text, Klaus stood up. When Caroline didn’t, he gently pulled the iPad from her hands and set it on the coffee table. All she did was glare at him. His gaze was stern as he waited for her to get up. When she didn’t, he pulled her up by the collar of her new brown Italian leather jacket. After their arrival, Rebekah and Freya had taken her shopping for an expensive new wardrobe in an attempt to cheer her up… and to replace her only set of clothes that no amount of bleach would ever save. She was wearing the jacket with tight jeans over a cream-colored sleeveless blouse with a keyhole that, to Klaus’ great enjoyment, showed a lot of cleavage. Freya had picked out an expensive pair of leather boots and several pairs of designer sandals as well, but Klaus revoked her footwear privileges when she ran away from the department store.

“Hey!” Caroline yelped in protest as he walked her up the stairs with his fingers wound in her blonde curls. He ignored her cries of protestation and swatted her hands off his arm when she reached back to try and free her hair.

When they got upstairs, Klaus walked right past her bedroom and opened his own bedroom door with his thumb. He pulled her in behind him and pushed her towards the bed before locking the door from the inside. “Take off your clothes and go to bed,” he commanded. Without another word, he pulled off his grey Henley and shucked off his boots and jeans before walking into the bathroom clad only in silky black boxers and his necklaces, one a traditional Roman Catholic rosary and the other a wolf’s tooth on a black cord.

Caroline gaped at him in shock, horrified. He walked out of the bathroom with his toothbrush in his mouth, foam muffling his speech. “Why are you still dressed? I told you to go to bed,” he said sternly. He went back in the bathroom to finish up. When he came back, she was standing by the door, her face livid. He raised an eyebrow at her and crossed his arms over his bare chest, waiting. She wasn’t going anywhere without his thumbprint. She crossed her arms, mimicking his position, and stared him down. His annoyance was morphing into anger more and more by the minute. Why did she continue to defy him? She was making things so much more difficult for herself than they needed to be. All she had to do was everything he said. What was so hard for her to understand? “You try my patience, Caroline. Go. To. Bed.”

“You’re a pig!” she screamed right in his face.

In spite of her close proximity, Klaus didn’t budge. “I told you to go to bed so you can sleep. You are exhausting and I am tired. However, thanks to your ridiculous behavior, I cannot go to sleep until you do, or I run the risk of having to call your very unpleasant mother to notify her that her only daughter has been killed,” he said, his eyes hard and his voice dangerously quiet. He was done coddling her. Anyone else would have been on the floor unconscious a long time ago, if they had even lasted this long.

“MY ridiculous behavior?!” she shouted, spinning around and waving her arms at the electronic lock. “You just told me to take off my clothes and get into bed with you!”

Klaus narrowed his eyes and growled deep in his throat. “Yes, and I suggest you not make me say it a third time. I am done with your games, Caroline. Do as you’re told before I make you,” he ordered, his face a mask to hide his growing rage.

Caroline scoffed. “Before you fucking MAKE me? Seriously?! I think you know damn well that I can handle myself around crazy ASSHOLES who try getting into my pants, or did you forget that I shot the last guy who tried that?”

Klaus began inching his way towards her, his control slipping with every breath. “You don’t have a car or a gun this time, sweetheart. I have been more than lenient thus far. You are running dangerously low on chances. Keep your clothes on if it makes you feel better but get in the damn bed!” By the time he shouted the last word, they were nose to nose. Caroline raised her hand to slap him across the face, but before she could blink, he had her face down on the bed with both hands pinned behind her back. He held her in an iron grip as she struggled to get away. Speaking directly into her ear, he growled, “You will never, ever, EVER even ATTEMPT anything like that EVER again, are we clear?!”

When Caroline buried her face in the mattress and screamed as loud as she could, Klaus realized he’d gone too far. He immediately let her go and wheeled around to face the wall. He punched it as hard as he could and gritted his teeth together to keep from screaming when he felt his knuckles break. His chest was heaving as he looked down and saw the blood dripping down his hand. He closed his eyes and breathed through the worst of the pain. Caroline sat motionless on the bed as she watched him falling apart. Without a word, he walked into the bathroom and collapsed against the stone wall, burying his head in his hands as the blood dripped down his wrist.

What the hell was happening to him?

Caroline’s heartbeat slowly returned to normal as she sat on his bed, one foot dangling off the edge. Was he coming back out? Did she want him to come back out? She looked to the window and seriously considered making a run for it while he was too distracted to chase after her. All she wanted was her freedom. All he wanted was her alive. After a good long while, she sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. She hadn’t meant for him to break his hand just to keep from breaking her. She got up and pulled off her jacket and jeans. She replaced her blouse and bra with a light grey Henley and folded the waistband on a pair of black boxers enough times to fit her small frame.

Taking a deep breath, Caroline peeked into the open bathroom door. Klaus was still sitting against the wall holding his head in his bloody hands with his elbows on his knees. When he didn’t look at her, she rapped lightly on the door jamb. When she still got no response, she sighed and walked in to look for any first aid supplies. She was a nurse, after all. He didn’t have a lot, but she would make do with what he had. She sat down in front of him with her legs crossed beneath her on the cold marble tile and waited for him to acknowledge her. He continued to ignore her until she finally touched his wrist as lightly as she possibly could to get his attention. He glared at her, his face a wall of ice.

Anyone else would have run screaming at that expression, but she wasn’t deterred by that or the low growl that came from the back of his throat when she gently pulled his injured hand into her lap. She cleaned his wounds with alcohol wipes and covered his knuckles in antibiotic ointment and loose gauze. Then she wrapped his hand in an ace bandage as carefully as she could to avoid causing him any more pain than she already had. Once she was finished, she held his bandaged hand in both of hers and stared down at them to avoid seeing the turmoil behind his blue eyes.

At least twenty long minutes passed while they silently processed the events that led them to this moment. When Klaus finally spoke, his voice was so quiet that Caroline barely heard him. “I don’t want you to die.” She looked up at him from under her long lashes but averted her eyes when she couldn’t bring herself to respond. He pulled his hand away and used it to tilt her chin up. “Please look at me, sweetheart.” He gently grazed his shattered knuckles down the side of her face, encouraging her to look at him. She reluctantly made eye contact with him. “You need to stop this behavior and start doing as you’re told,” he said gently but firmly. It was not a suggestion.

Caroline gazed back down at her now empty lap and slowly nodded her head, a single tear falling down her cheek. Klaus sighed and lay his head back against the wall. “I know you’re angry and you think I’m being unfair by holding you captive against your will… and you’re not wrong.” She snapped her head up at his confession and when she met his gaze, she found no trace left of anger, just dismal resolution. “You have every right to be unhappy. Unfortunately, the simple fact is that if I let you leave, you will die. You can hate me all you want if that makes things easier for you, but my decision remains the same. You will stay here where you are safe, and I am not letting you out of my sight until-”

“Until when?” she asked softly, sadly. She shrugged as another tear rolled down from her stormy blue eyes.

Klaus sighed, too. He hated seeing her so miserable and he hated knowing that he was the cause of her suffering. “Until I say otherwise,” he answered. He saw the anger returning to her own eyes. Before she could yell at him again, he interjected, “Now will you please come to bed? I am utterly exhausted, and you don’t appear to be any less so than I.” He stood up and offered her his uninjured hand. “Come. There’s nothing more to discuss. All that’s left is to get some sleep.”

Caroline wasn’t happy about it, but she reluctantly took his hand. He held her hand in his as he walked her to what was now their bed. He pulled down the comforter and gestured for her to get in. Once she did, he turned off the lights and climbed in next to her. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for her to fall asleep. Klaus finally closed his eyes and lay back against his fluffy down pillow just as Caroline rolled over in her sleep, her head resting on his muscled chest. The last thing he remembered was wrapping her up in his arms before falling into a deep, and much needed, sleep.

Chapter Text

A/N Hey readers! A big, big thank you to everyone who has read this story and an even bigger thank you to those of you who took the time to review. Thank you to UppityBitch for her random act of kindness making an aesthetic for this story and tagging it on tumblr. That really helped get my muse spinning on the hamster wheel of creativity. Also, thank you to DarkGhostLight for her CONSTANT support and ideas for this story. They’re both fantastic Klaroline authors and I highly recommend their fics. If you love it, or if you hate it, please let me know! Enjoy!

 

Chapter Three – Port in the Storm

 

Klaus Mikaelson was the most feared crime lord in all of Europe and much of the rest of the world as well, famed for his utter ruthlessness and fierce brutality. He was Hell burned into a human body. Yet in spite of his vicious reputation, he wanted to die. Sweet death sang a siren’s song he longed to follow to the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. He looked at the Tuscan sun peeking in through the small cracks between the billowy sage curtains in what was now their room. Part of him longed for myths like vampires and witches and werewolves to be true so those lemony rays could burn him to ash. Surely immolation was less horrific than this.

Fifteen. This was his fifteenth agonizing day of waking up with Caroline Forbes sprawled on top of him. More than two weeks had passed since he’d sworn to never let her out of his sight, and he had made good on that promise. There were brief moments since then that they didn’t want to kill each other, but those moments were few and far between. Never in his life had he met anyone so simultaneously enchanting yet vexing, arousing yet annoying, infatuating yet infuriating.

Caroline fought him about everything. She fought him about what they had for breakfast. She fought him about what shampoo he used. She fought for the sake of fighting. He wanted nothing more than to shut her up. To tame her. Claim her. He had already named her as his own personal property. His life had become all about keeping her safe. He was the protector she never wanted, the savior she didn’t need, the guard dog she couldn’t train. She belonged to him now, his most precious possession.

Klaus wanted Caroline alive. Caroline wanted time to turn back to before the night her life irrevocably changed. Klaus wanted her. He wanted her to be his because she chose him the way he chose her from the moment he first saw her drawing under the Italian sky. He wanted her then and he wanted her now. He wanted her on her knees bowing down to him as did everyone in his life... although whether they bent the knee out of fear or love was anybody’s guess. He didn’t care why everyone else deferred to him as their leader as long as they did. When it came to Caroline, he cared deeply about her reasoning. He wanted her obedience. He wanted her respect. He wanted her loyalty. But more than anything, he wanted to bring her to her knees so he could fuck the hell out of her.

Klaus ached for Caroline to give herself to him. Sure, he could manipulate and seduce her if he wanted to... or so he liked to tell himself... but that wasn’t enough. He wanted her to look him in the eye, scream his name and beg for more as he held her down and ravished her tiny frame. He touched her every chance he got, and she let him. Their attraction was mutual, their chemistry undeniable, although she did try her best to lie to him, if not herself as well. He’d pass her in their bedroom and a soft caress on her lower back would lead to another accidental touch when she brushed up against his strong shoulder. He’d catch her eye and smirk as she turned away to hide her blush. Then the moment would pass, and she’d hate him again. He was beginning to feel like her constant mood swings were giving him whiplash, although his own moods weren’t any better.

Caroline tried to hate him for all he had taken from her; she tried so hard it hurt almost as much as the truth that she didn’t. She couldn’t, but she tried. She tried to hate him from the minute she woke up until the minute she went to sleep. Every day. Every hour. He’d taken her future and erased her past. He'd halted her career, robbed her of her freedom, captured her life. Yet every move he made was to preserve the same life he had stolen. The way Klaus protected her was fierce, his dedication to her safety unyielding. The bell couldn't ring before his gun was trained on the front door, every visitor at the mercy of his trigger. He would set the world on fire before anyone took his Caroline. She’d never had anyone watch her the way he did when he thought she wasn’t looking. No, she could never hate a man that looked at her like that.

The newly licensed nurse had spent most of her life alone. Her mother had had the emotional availability of a snail after her father died sixteen years prior. What few friends the former Miss Mystic had made growing up had grown apart. She had gone to Italy to find herself, but instead she found a mob boss with anger issues and an obsession with her security. Still, it was getting harder and harder every day to ignore how deeply his affections ran for him to tolerate her constant insubordination. Anybody else would have died long ago for infractions half as infuriating as hers, but his desire overwhelmed his temper every time she opened her mouth.

Every day Klaus woke up, he was painfully aware of just how much he desired Caroline Forbes. Every night the blonde nurse turned her back on him when they went to bed, refusing to even look at him. Every night she was sorry. Every night she was grateful. Every night she hated him. Every night she didn’t. Without fail, every night she rolled over just before falling asleep. She would bury her head in his muscled chest, and he would involuntarily wrap her up in his strong embrace. He held her all night long, terrified this brief taste of happiness was all he would ever have.

Klaus consciously told himself that their nighttime snuggles were because she needed his strength and he owed her his comfort, but unconsciously, he didn’t believe his own lie. Her recurring nightmares of the night they met weren’t why he held her. The most dangerous Mikaelson held her because he needed her comfort, her strength. He held her thinking he wasn’t alone, but still alone. He held her because he was scared. Scared she’d run. Scared she’d care. Scared she’d dare. Scared she’d start to drift away. Scared she’d stay.

Every night, Klaus stared at the moonlight far off in the distance and questioned everything he had ever known, all the while gently running his blood ruined hands up and down her silky skin as her rhythmic breathing lulled him to sleep. Every rise and fall of her shoulders shot through to the heart he buried long ago. His mind spun around and around until sleep came for him. The next morning, both stubborn fools pretended she hadn’t spent the entire night clinging to him the way Moses clung to the improbable hope that one day, he would reach the promised lands. Caroline was his promised land... if only she didn’t provoke him quite so much.

It wasn’t that Klaus didn’t understand her anger. It was that he no longer cared. Half the time he ignored her temper completely while the other half of the time he verbally sparred with her, matching her blow for blow. Neither won. Both lost. Caroline had lost her freedom. Klaus had lost his mind. Why he hadn't put a bullet in her head was beyond his mortal comprehension. A bullet to the brain and peace would once again be his. Well, as peaceful as life could be recovering from an explosion and a shot to the gut.

Elijah Mikaelson had made it clear that Klaus’ time to recoup from his injuries was coming to an end. Every day his siblings pressured him more and more to leave the house and let himself be seen. Rumors were flying around the underworld that he had been taken out in the fire at the vineyard, although the death of Mikael gave pause to those in the know. Mikael’s death was cause for celebration as far as Klaus was concerned, but Caroline hadn’t quite come to terms with her own darkness, so he had done his best to contain his glee.

Klaus groaned when Caroline started to wake up and stretched, eyes still closed. Her nipples stiffened under her paper-thin peach camisole in the cool morning air, one scraping against his bare chest. He had to restrain himself from reaching out and pinching the other one as hard as he could. He knew damn well that she wore those torturous tops and tiny shorts to bed for the sole purpose of taunting him with what she wouldn’t give up. It took everything in him not to throw her against the wall and take what he wanted, but he wasn’t that kind of man. He hated that kind of man. He mercilessly murdered that kind of man.

Caroline yawned and opened her cornflower eyes and looked up at him, vision bleary. He serene face morphed into a scowl when she rolled off of him. “Were you feeling me up in my sleep again?!” she asked dramatically.

Klaus rolled his eyes, his expression bored. “Can we not spend another morning pretending you haven’t been my octopus all night?” he asked, unamused and exasperated by her constant denial of their blatantly mutual sexual attraction.

The pretty blonde scoffed. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she lied, making a face at him. She propped herself up on her elbows, intentionally letting the comforter fall to her waist so he had a perfect view of her breasts beneath her tank top, both nipples standing at attention under his not-so-subtle staring. All it took was a scorching look from him to set her blood ablaze, her mind again wondering what his stubble would feel like against her cheek.

Klaus bit down his laughter at her surprised yelp when he was suddenly on top of her, the very stubble she long for grazing her soft skin dangerously close to the strawberry lips he’d kill to taste. She narrowed her eyes at him and began to open her mouth in protest, but he nipped her lower lip just hard enough to make her jump and squeal, immediately releasing it from between his perfect teeth. “Haven’t I warned you about lying to me Caroline?” he whispered dangerously, his hot breath tickling the side of her mouth as he gazed into her stormy blue eyes, arousal piercing her lower belly. He held her wrists above her blonde curls with one hand a vice, the other trailing down from her temple to her lips. “Fuck!” he shouted, rolling off of her immediately when she bit down on his finger as hard as she could.

Caroline couldn’t help but laugh at his murderous expression as she hopped off the bed. He smirked when she yelped as his hand lightly smacked her ass on her way to the bathroom. Given that the ever-lengthening list of those who wanted him dead was longer than ever, Klaus was more than a little paranoid. His bathroom was the only one in the mansion that had no windows, meaning it was literally the only place he allowed her to go without his constant supervision. At first, she enjoyed her space. However, as their flirting intensified, she occasionally left the door open to taunt him, delighting in his obvious frustration. Unfortunately, her frustration level was on par with his.

The unemployed nurse tossed her clothes out the bathroom doorframe onto Klaus’ plush carpet, the door cracked open. Once steam started billowing out in puffy, aromatic clouds, he took it as his cue to casually waltz in to brush his teeth. His smirk reflected on the oval mirror above the sink at her indignant expression. Caroline poked her head out from behind the foggy glass door that hid very little and snapped at him. “Do you mind?!” she yelled, soaking her towel when she pulled it to her chest. The smell of lavender filled the air as her stress relief body wash poured out of the shower in waves.

Klaus walked over to her, mock concern written all over his handsome face. Before she knew what was happening, he tugged her towel away and looked at it with a dramatic sigh. “Look what you’ve done, sweetheart. You’ve gotten your towel all wet. Now how will you get dry?” he asked sarcastically as he dropped the fluffy dark red towel in the wicker hamper. He crossed his arms over his bare chest, lip twitching up in a devious smile.

Caroline rolled her eyes at him, hiding behind the steamy glass doors, the sound of hot droplets pitter pattering against the dark tile wall. “Just get me another towel and get out,” she ordered him bossily. The push-pull of their relationship drew him in more and more every day. Nobody gave orders to Klaus Mikaelson and lived to tell the tale, and definitely no woman had ever tried. When he wanted a woman, he snapped his fingers and they fell in line in desperate attempts to get close to the dangerous crime lord, their efforts failing as soon as their mutual appetites were sated, and he immediately sent them on their way. Caroline was different. She tolerated nothing and gave as good as she got. Her essence scorched him with blazing fire as she flared against him day after day, igniting hot sparks of arousal deep within his burning heart.

With a playful look of faux indecision, he sighed heavily. “I don’t know, Caroline. You weren’t very nice to me just now, putting your hands on me again and everything. We’ve talked about the way you abuse me sweetheart,” he added as he gave her his best puppy dog eyes.

Caroline rolled her cerulean blues at his annoying flirtation, his flagrant sexuality on an infinite loop. Narrowing her eyes at him, she pointed out, “I didn’t technically put hands on you, you know.”

Caroline's warden sauntered over to the shower, prompting her to close the door almost completely as she glared daggers at him. Although he couldn’t really see anything, he made a show of peeking at her soaking body as hot water cascaded down on her head, melting her blonde curls. The first few days, she hadn’t let him anywhere near her when she showered or changed. He’d made no such efforts in his aggressive quest to make her scream his name.

By the end of the first week, he’d walked in on her often enough that he’d seen what she had to offer several times, and he was a very interested consumer. She didn’t walk around naked or anything comparable, but she wasn’t all that shy, either. In spite of his constant comments and covertly welcome wandering hands, she knew he would never force himself on her, no matter how much he longed to be inside of her. The darkest she’d ever seen him was when she made the mistake of suggesting he would take that choice away from her, too. The room went frigid, her heart a frozen stalactite, his eyes icy as he assured her in his most lethal whisper that he was many things, all of which would get him sent straight to Hell, but a rapist wasn’t one of them. The intensity of his proclamation stole the air from her lungs. She never questioned his intentions again, no matter how clear he was in his pursuits. There were some lines even the terrifying Klaus Mikaelson would never cross, and for that she was truly grateful.

Klaus playfully opened the door just enough to make her reach out to slap his hand away, but he caught her wrist before she made contact, his reflexes lightning. He shook his head and made several tsk tsk sounds as he invaded her personal space. “No, you bit me this time,” he said, his dangerous whisper husky in the scented air. He smirked when her eyes again narrowed into tiny slits. “I assure you, love, if you want me in your mouth, all you have to do is say please,” he whispered into her ear, nibbling on it before pulling back to meet her eyes as her face turned pink in a way that had nothing to do with the shower.

Caroline scoffed and closed the door hard. He narrowly avoiding getting his fingers smashed, for which she was extremely lucky. “Gross!” she shouted from behind the glass. “You’re such a pervert!”

Klaus laughed as he picked up his toothbrush and covered it in minty gel. “Says the woman who showers with the bathroom door open and a man in her bed,” he snarked in amusement.

“It’s not MY bed, Klaus. It’s yours. I’m an unwilling captive,” she sassed, strawberry scented mist mingling in with the lavender of her soap as she effortlessly shaved her legs… amongst other things.

Klaus’ dark blonde stubble framed his mouth full of white foam, giving him the appearance of a wild animal as he used his vibrating electric toothbrush with the blue brush head. Hers was happy pink in stark contrast to her dark, grey world within the safe, sturdy stone walls of her Tuscan prison. “You don’t seem to mind sharing when you throw yourself on top of me every night,” he said mischievously, purposely provoking her. “Although it’s only fair that I tell you: I’m the one on top, love.”

The spacious bathroom was a floral garden when she added the scent of rose shampoo to the already aromatic atmosphere. Lathering her hair in thick, cleansing bubbles, she shot back, “I do NOT throw myself on you! You’re the one always trying to get in MY pants!”

Klaus spit out the foam and rinsed his mouth, a plan forming in his dirty mind. Walking up to the shower, he cracked the glass door and peered in at her. “How fortunate for me that you’re not wearing pants at the moment,” he said seductively, daring her to do something. Anything. She turned the shower head on him, which he anticipated. He quickly snatched it out of her hand, soaking himself and his black silk boxers in the process when he stepped into the shower. “Klaus!” she sputtered as her back rested against the cool tile while he pelted her forehead with hot water, laughing deep in his chest at the way she tried in vain to escape the focused waterfall. “Get out of here! I’m naked!”

“I’m aware, sweetheart. That was the point of joining you in the shower,” he said, barely maintaining his composure.

“OUCH!” she squealed, vehemently rubbing at her eyes. “There’s soap in my eyes! Give it back!” she shouted. Klaus immediately handed her back the shower head, smile forgotten. Concerned, he moved closer and unconsciously put his hands on her hips, her nudity irrelevant. He loved torturing her, but he had no intention of ever hurting her. Since the day he’d taken her for his own, he had been very, very clear that all who tried to do so would be met such ferocity that they would beg for death long before Klaus relinquished them to the land of eternal fire.

Caroline smiled mischievously behind the spray, but Klaus didn’t catch it fast enough to stop her from setting the water to ice and pelting him frozen. He growled when the icy drops hit his still warm skin. She laughed so hard that she left herself open to retaliation. He stole the shower head and pinned her naked body to the tile wall with his chiseled abdomen and pummeled her with a frigid waterfall. She screamed and batted him away, finally connecting with his chest hard enough to push him from the shower. He stripped off his boxers while laughing so hard his sides ached.

By the time Caroline emerged from his massive closet fully dressed, she had resumed her ice queen façade. “You’re a dick,” she sassed. Klaus turned to face the door so she wouldn’t see his jaw lock and eyes roll in frustration. That’s how life was with Caroline Forbes. He’d get a few moments with who he considered the real Caroline before she reverted to his waking nightmare. Mood swings like this made him yearn to take her over his knee and spank some obedience into her mercurial mind. He’d come very close several times but restrained himself to avoid avid retaliation.

The hardened gangster's mood darkened further when he saw his two older sibling’s faces. Arms crossed over her stern chest, Freya said, “We need to talk.” Elijah nodded his agreement, buttoning the button on the jacket of his $9,000 forest green suit. The younger brother’s face darkened dramatically. He knew what they needed to talk about, and it wasn’t good news. He hated murder before espresso.

Caroline rolled her eyes and tossed up her hands. “Seriously?!” she interrupted when Klaus tugged her towards his study. It was the one room in the house that was totally secure, impervious to electronics of any kind, solid steel built into the walls. Klaus turned to glare at her, his silence searing as he roughly grabbed her hand. Caroline pulled her hand away, fists curling on her hips. “Can I at least get some breakfast before you go all evil genius first thing in the morning?” Quieting his siblings with a death stare, he dragged her to the kitchen, fingers wound in her damp curls. He quickly opened the fridge and grabbed the first thing he saw, handing it to her. “Klaus!” she whined, “a tub of cream cheese is not breakfast!”

Klaus turned and invaded her air space, walking her backwards until she hit the island in the center of the enormous kitchen. He stared daggers at her, his own playfulness a thing of the past as he drank in the darkness of his impending discussion. Caroline gulped, leaning as far back as she could. He caged her in between his muscular arms that had murdered so many, nose touching hers as he growled from the back of his throat, “What would you like for breakfast, sweetheart?” His eyes flashed, a feral gleam in their blue haze.

Caroline bit her lower lip, heart racing. He was letting his guard down around her more and more every day, his soft and carefree side popping up when they were all alone. When anyone was nearby, he was the terrifying mafia boss now holding her gaze, his blue eyes fierce. “Can I have a bagel to go with the cream cheese please?” she asked softly. He turned and walked to the bread cabinet and grabbed a bag of onion bagels. She learned early on submission soothed him more than anything else. And she had been told she had control issues.

Klaus pressed it into her chest and barked a command that left no room for discussion. “No more talking.” She nodded her head, taking the bag from her chest as he moved his hand to the back of her neck as he guided her to his study, neither of his siblings saying a word. They knew after her first escape that Caroline didn’t need their intervention. She could hold her ground on her own bare feet. His grip on her wasn’t harsh, but it was clear that he wasn’t in the mood for her attitude when he unlocked the door first with his thumbprint and then with a 12-digit alphanumeric sequence. The three siblings emptied their pockets and left their electronics in a basket hanging on the wall outside the door. Caroline felt a cold wave of anxiety wash down her spine when he didn’t stop to make a show of patting her down for a phone she didn’t have the way he usually did, never missing an opportunity to touch her.

Klaus led Caroline in first, Freya and Elijah close behind. The electric lock loudly sealed them in, a sense of foreboding emitting from the squeaky hinges of the steel fire door. Klaus released his little blonde obsession and snapped his fingers, pointing at the espresso machine. She had to bite her tongue to keep her temper in check. Nothing made her angrier than his damn snapping. His littlest sister assured her that he did it to everybody, but that did little to assuage her fury at the dog-like gesture. Knowing how dark his mood had instantly become, she simply did as he silently instructed and made all of them doppios, hers with a drop of cream and the other three black.

Klaus took the tiny steaming espresso mug from her gently to avoid burning her with flying drops of steamy caffeine. She passed out cups to Elijah and Freya before picking up her own. Turning to Klaus, he nodded his head at the spot next to him on his oversized plush couch. Without a sound, she sat on the giant cushion, back resting against a black pillow, legs crossed beneath her. He moved closer to her and wordlessly wrapped her up in a big fluffy blanket embroidered with a giant red cross. She gave him a quick nod and a small smile, knowing the tiny gesture would make him relax. He always kept this room significantly cooler than the rest of the house. Not knowing they were coming in here today, she was wearing a red halter top and white jean shorts, her shoes still under lock and key, not that she needed them.

Caroline’s relationship with Klaus, whatever it was, was confusing to the new nurse on the best of days, and this was not the best. He was obviously trying to keep his dangerously dark rage in check, yet he took the time to tenderly wrap her up in the warm blanket he ordered specifically for her. They didn’t talk about it, but he’d bought her a lot of things in the last month. He still had the internet disabled, but he bought her her own iPad, a whole new wardrobe, high quality art supplies, all the luxurious toiletries she’d ever wanted, jewelry and more. He’d also made comments about what car he would buy her or what cities he would take her to once everything settled.

Klaus talked about their future like they had one. Caroline had nightmares about their past. Neither of them knew how to come together without falling apart.

Caroline knew better than to confirm her suspicions, but she knew his gifts were all an attempt to alleviate his guilt about getting her mixed up in his violent and murderous world, full of men she shouldn’t know. He wished she’d never known men like him existed. As much as she tried to deny it, she could feel it in her bones that he cared about her very, very deeply and was dead serious when he said he’d kill for her. She sighed and sipped her espresso, conflicting emotions coursing through her veins like wildfire. She subconsciously shifted closer to Klaus and felt his warm hand rest on her thigh as he faced his siblings in high-backed chairs across from them.

“How many?” Klaus asked his brother, eyes darkening as they met Elijah’s chocolate brown orbs. The older brother was reluctant to answer for fear of incurring his younger brother’s wrath. “ELIJAH!” Klaus bellowed when his brother looked away. “I asked you a question,” he snapped between clenched teeth. “How many?” Caroline didn’t know what they were talking about, but there weren’t a lot of things that could have her protector this on edge.

Freya was the first to speak. “The Strix took out two of Marcel’s men and they got away with one of our shipments.” Klaus closed his stormy eyes and took a deep breath, his hand on Caroline’s thigh automatically squeezing tighter than she could handle for long. Doing her best not to grimace, she carefully wove her fingers with his to covertly loosen his fierce grip without upsetting him. Several nerve-wracking minutes ticked by on the antique grandfather clock in the corner while the three others waited on eggshells for Klaus to respond.

Klaus finally spoke, his voice a dangerous growl. “Go on,” he commanded, authority dripping off his tongue.

“Three million euros-” Elijah answered before Klaus cut him off with a snarl.

“I know what the fucking crate was worth you bloody moron! I don’t give a shit about the Goddamn money, Elijah!” he yelled, balling his hand into a fist. “Transfer the funds as planned to the fucking Guerreras before I have Francesca breathing down my neck like the rabid she-wolf that she is,” he commanded with power etched in his gravelly voice. Caroline jumped when porcelain exploded against the heavy-duty wall like the shattered glass at the vineyard, Klaus’ espresso cup breaking into a thousand pieces of regret. “Who did they kill?!” he growled, pulling her closer with a protective arm around her shoulders as though she, too, might disappear if he let her out of his grasp. “Who’s family am I calling today?”

“I’m not sure you’d know them,” Freya began softly.

“I know ALL of them,” Klaus growled, voice croaking as he held his sister’s eyes, waiting for the names of his fallen soldiers. Klaus was Hell given flesh, but fear wasn’t the only reason the world fell to it’s knees. He was viciously loyal to those who offered him submission. There wasn’t a man or woman on his payroll for whom he didn’t personally know the name of their next of kin.

“Oliver and Jackson,” Elijah answered for her. “They were-”

“From the bayou, I know. They grew up with Hayley,” Klaus finished, closing his eyes again to clear his head, emotions destroying him. “Oliver was an only child, but Jackson had a little brother, Aiden. Send someone to Nola immediately. Make sure he’s taken care of,” he said seriously, the angles of his face severe beneath his harsh stubble.

Freya nodded in understanding. “Yeah, of course. I can call Vincent. He’ll have someone there by the end of the day,” she promised gently in an attempt to placate her most volatile sibling before his temper grew.

“Tell him he’s got an hour,” he growled, “or he’ll have me to deal with.”

Freya maintained the same gentle disposition she reserved for her baby brother’s worst moods. “Ok, Niklaus, ok. An hour. I’ll call as soon as I get my phone, alright?”

Klaus nodded his head at her, silently accepting her answer. He buried his face in his hand, subconsciously rubbing Caroline’s upper arm and shoulder up and down with his other. No one said a word as he composed himself, drawing silent comfort from his little blonde possession. She leaned her head against his shoulder and his grip tightened. One thing she had learned about Klaus was that he did his best to pretend he had no emotions at all, but when he did, they were extreme. Rage burned to ash. Despair froze to tundra. Paranoia melted to paralysis. There were no half measures when it came to Klaus Mikaelson. Everything was all or nothing.

Elijah broke the silence when Klaus’ breathing slowed, and his shoulders stopped heaving. “Niklaus, I know you don’t want to hear it, but the time has come-”

“No, Elijah,” he said firmly, forehead still propped up on his hand as his elbow dug painfully into his knee.

“At least hear him out, Nik,” Freya pleaded. “You can’t keep hiding here-”

Klaus sat bolt upright, knocking Caroline’s head off his shoulder, his arm quickly shifting to pull her violently back to him by the waist, fingers pressing into her soft flesh. “I SAID NO!” he screamed, eyes boring holes into his startled siblings. “I’m not leaving her behind and that is the end of it,” he said firmly, regaining control of his volume. Caroline’s mind reeled with questions. Leaving “her” behind? Who did he mean? Was he talking about her? Where did his siblings want him to go and what did they want him to do when he got there?

“We have discussed this, brother. The word has spread all over Europe, well into our contacts in the Middle East and even parts of Russia that you burned alive in the fire at the vineyard,” Elijah explained seriously. “I realize you’re afraid-”

“I’m not AFRAID of anything!” Klaus spat venomously, eyes flashing as memories of Mikael flooded his mind.

“Concerned then,” Freya interjected, holding her hands up in a calming gesture to placate her brother’s volatile ferocity. “We know you’re concerned about Caroline’s safety. We understand and we all want to help keep her safe, too, but you need to deal with this, Niklaus. With Mikael out of the picture, Tristan has named Lucien Castle-”

In a blink, Klaus was on his feet, menacingly towering over his older sister as she sat straight up in her chair, forcing herself to remain calm as Klaus roared, “DO NOT SAY HIS NAME IN FRONT OF CAROLINE!” Klaus spat with each dire word of his command, tiny droplets of saliva flying into the air above his sister as his rage threatened to devour him whole. Whoever this Lucien was, Caroline could physically feel how much Klaus hated him. Consuming. Blazing. Destroying. Elijah slowly stood up and rested a calming hand on his brother’s shoulder, but Klaus quickly smacked it away so hard that Elijah had to bite back a groan, rubbing his palm in pain. Spinning around, Klaus locked eyes with a stunned Caroline and covered his face with his hands, rubbing his eyes with his palms as he tried to get it together.

Caroline reached out her delicate hand but paused. She cast her gaze to Freya first and then Elijah before she shot her eyes to Klaus, silently asking his siblings what to do. Freya nodded and cocked her head, silently encouraging the fearless woman to go to her little brother’s side. She slowly got up and tentatively reached for his hip, his arms over his chest as he still covered his face, refusing to spill the burning rage from his eyes in front of Caroline. As soon as her hand brushed the fabric of his dark red Henley, he immediately wrapped his arms around her waist in a crushing embrace, burying his face in her neck to hide the anger behind blue eyes, chest heaving as the emotions he could never control began to settle at her touch.

Elijah and Freya shared a small smile and walked out, quietly leaving their little brother with the only person they had ever seen quell his rage. When the door closed behind them, the only noise left in the room was the quiet tick tock of the grandfather clock mingled with the steady rhythm of his slowing heartbeat.

Caroline rested her head on Klaus’ shoulder, arms wrapped tightly around his neck as he clung securely to his life raft. His emotions had been a hurricane swirling above an ocean of anguish for 31 years, leaving nothing but heartbreak and destruction in their unyielding wake. Somehow, amidst the maelstrom of their constant power struggle, Caroline had become his port in the storm.

 

A/N Please let me know what you think!

Chapter Text

A/N Thank you to everyone for the support, but especially UppityBitch and DarkGhostLight for their unending contributions to this adventure. If you like it, please leave me a review! They're great motivators when I get stuck!

 

Chapter Four – Portrait of a Captive

 

Thirty-three. This was now Caroline Forbes’ thirty third day waking up on top of Klaus Mikaelson, her captor... amongst other things that occurred to her first thing in the morning. As she slowly drifted back to consciousness, she was acutely aware of several things: the sound of his rhythmic breathing and steady heartbeat, the smell of his body that was always a fragrant musk of fiery fern and earthy pine, the feel of his bare chest against her toned abdomen where her tiny tank top had bunched up beneath her thinly veiled breasts. Everyday made it harder and harder to deny how strong the attraction between them was growing... if it hadn’t been sizzling below the surface all along, masked by her justifiable rage.

When he’d first taken her in, which amounted to something akin to kidnapping, she had hated him for it. Hating him made it a lot easier to stay angry about the life she’d lost. As the days went on, she reflected on what had actually been taken. She’d broken up with her idiot college boyfriend after he cheated on her. She’d graduated with high honors and passed the nursing boards. Her mother was married to her career as a sheriff, forever missing as many calls as she answered. Caroline had had a few close friends growing up, Elena and Bonnie, but they had all gone their separate ways after high school.

When the fresh graduate had gone to Italy, she’d left America because she no longer had reason to stay. With her nursing license, she could go anywhere in the world and find work doing what she loved. As a psychiatric nurse trained in major mental illness and behavioral disorders, she was even more desirable to hospitals with acute units. In retrospect, she knew he hadn’t taken much of anything. He’d given her protection, possessions, excitement, aggravation, entertainment... and the one’s she didn’t like to think about: affection and companionship. As much as he irritated her to no ends, it was very obvious that he cared for her very much.

Her feelings about the mafia boss were conflicted, to say the least. There were times she thought him a monster, but other times she saw only a man: broken and beautiful. He was a brutal leader, but fiercely loyal to his men. When he’d lost two of his best troops, he’d made the notification call himself. He’d also paid for the funerals, burial, etc. Finally, he made sure the younger brother of the one with living kin would never have to work again. Most of his men and women had no one waiting at the homes they didn’t have, but when someone did, Klaus made sure they were taken care of for life. When Caroline tried to tell him highly she thought of his actions, he’d dismissed her immediately, refusing to look up from his phone.

Klaus was a conundrum. Parts of him were pure evil. Part of him were not. Parts of him were all passion and rage. Parts of him were noble and brave. Part of him adored her. Part of him was terrified of her. She was no less puzzling to him than he was indecipherable to her. She nuzzled her cheek against his chest when she finally forced herself to move. She felt his hand move from her lower back to her shoulder as she pushed herself up, her eyes bleary with what little sleep she got in between nightmares. The smell of burning flesh. The sound of tires. The feel of pumping blood. The sight of raining glass. The taste of crimson copper.

Klaus looked at her patiently, a blank expression forced on his face. He was never sure what condition she would be in when she woke up. Three nights ago, she’d finally admitted to the nightmares he’d been comforting her through every night since her arrival. She’d woken up covered in sweat and screaming as the memory of Mikael’s hands on her body terrorized her slumber. Her gut reaction was to shove Klaus away, but he hadn’t let her. He held her while she raged at him until she broke down and cried her eyes out. When she woke up, he was still there, as he was here today. He would always be there. She just didn’t know that. Yet.

“Good morning,” she said softly, shyly, as she sat up and smoothed down her bright red camisole, nipples hard under his watchful eye.

“Good morning, love,” he returned her greeting, voice gentle. “Any nightmares?” he asked quietly.

Caroline debated the merits of lying to him. She knew he’d know immediately, but she also knew he wouldn’t press it if she did. Emotions were clearly not his strongest suit. Since he often knew not what to say, he said nothing. She pulled her hair into a messy bun as she considered how truthfully she should answer. He’d never given her a reason to lie to him, but she still did, mostly about her feelings for him and about their situation. The truth was that she didn’t hate him anymore, if she ever had. She hated the situation, yes, but not him. She could protect herself, but only because no one had ever tried to do it for her before Klaus. She thought his methods were unfair and extreme, but she had reluctantly allowed herself to acknowledge that she appreciated his intentions.

After a long moment, the tiny blonde exhaled through her nostrils and looked down to avoid meeting the quiet concern in his cobalt eyes. She nodded her head up and down in confirmation. Klaus shifted closer to her and gently ran a hand down her shoulder, soothing her. She rested her head on his muscular shoulder and let him pull her closer, finding comfort in his gentle strength. If anyone walked in at that moment and saw the tender expression on his face, he’d shoot them right between the eyes to keep his growing attachment to this vibrant young woman a secret. Klaus Mikaelson didn’t get attached. He got laid and he got gone.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” he asked in his British lilt, running his palm up and down her arm. She shook her head side to side. No, she didn’t want to talk about what he already knew tortured her nights, staining her dreams crimson with the blood she spilled to protect the man she barely knew but couldn’t live without. She told herself she should have driven off and let him die, but she knew it was a lie. Something about him was magnetic, drawing her in more and more with each passing day. She wondered now and then what would happen if she did have the choice to leave: would she go? Or would she stay and build the life she hadn’t known she’d always wanted?

“It’s nothing new,” she said sadly, sighing heavily as the weight of her trauma crushed her chest. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head, prompting her to get up. At night she could pretend she was asleep when he held her. Once the sun came up, her feelings were too much to think about it. Confusion was their burden to bear. To make it easier, she gently pulled away. Klaus sighed and lay back down, locking his hands together behind his dirty blonde hair, short curls poking adorably up in different directions. Not that she thought he was adorable. Not at all.... Liar.

Klaus shot his eyes to the slightly cracked bathroom door, debating if he wanted to invade her space. He sighed, deciding it was too early in the morning for rejection. He would have her... eventually. The problem the organized criminal had was that the more time went on, the more having her entailed. He still hadn’t left the house even though rumors spread like wildfire that he was a deep-fried corpse after the Strix turned his beloved vineyard into Italy’s largest BBQ.

Klaus’ closest friend and brother-in-law, Marcel Gerard, and his fierce warrior of a youngest sister, Rebekah, had taken a crew of their best soldiers, minions as he called them, and taken out an abandoned house where the Strix were conducting business. Bloody business. They’d left his calling a card, a giant wolf branded mid forehead with the Mikaelson crest, painted in death on the charred remains of the eviscerated structure, but it hadn’t dulled the whispers of Klaus’ demise.

The Strix were a notorious group of various types of organized criminals. Some were human traffickers, using sex as both a weapon and a product for sale. Some ran underground gambling rings. Some bought and sold a variety of illicit substances, adding in whatever weighed the most and cost the least to fatten their profits. Klaus hated them. He said he hated what they did, but Caroline suspected there was more to the story that his well-known hatred for rapists and woman beaters. He was a monster, but not that kind of monster.

The Strix were loosely organized and nowhere near the force that was the Mikaelson family. They consisted of smaller sects led by a psychopath named Tristan de Martel. Tristan's name was thrown around here and there, but the name of his second in command, Lucien Castle, was forbidden. Caroline knew enough to know she didn’t want to know anymore. She had gathered he was a heroin trafficker who had once been one of them, having grown up alongside the younger Mikaelson children. She hadn’t figured out exactly what product the Mikaelson’s were selling, but she’d concluded it wasn’t any of those.

After they both showered and dressed for the day, Klaus followed Caroline down the stairs to what had become the family mansion. Once inhabited solely by his little brother, Kol, and his pretty wife, Davina, the Tuscan villa now housed the entire family since the scent of burning grapes descended on the Italian countryside. “Where is everybody?” Caroline asked as they passed the vacant living room on the way to the deserted kitchen.

Klaus shrugged, opening up his laptop on the breakfast bar. “I don’t know,” he answered, checking his many emails. Global domination was hard work. “Make me breakfast,” he said without looking up.

Caroline closed his laptop on his fingers, his glare failing to move her delicate hand when she dodged the intimidation she didn’t feel at the indignation she didn’t care about. “Excuse me?” she sassed.

Klaus narrowed his eyes and got up, stalking around to her side of the bar. He pressed her up against the bar and caged her in with his arms. “I said,” he whispered huskily, “make me breakfast.”

Caroline scoffed, ducking beneath his arms and hopping up on the bar. “You make me breakfast, King Mafia,” she challenged.

Klaus smiled at her, humor not reaching his steely gaze. “It’s too early in the morning to test me, love. I haven’t had my morning espresso,” he said, handing her a small Bialetti moka.

Refusing to take the tiny stovetop coffee maker, she pushed it back to his chest. “Make your own espresso,” she replied with faux cheer and her dazzling beauty pageant smile. “And make me one while you’re at it,” she added, her tone teasing as she bit her lower lip, waiting for his reply while mirth danced behind her eyes. Her teasing tended to go of two ways. He would decide it wasn’t worth the battle and give in, or she’d end up pressed up against the wall wishing he was on top of her in bed. Klaus held the moka in one hand and pinched her nipple as hard as he could with the other before turning his back to walk to the stove, smirking when she jumped. “Jerk!” she shouted, playfully smacking his back.

Klaus looked over his shoulder, a genuine smile on his face when he saw her trying so hard to look angry and managing nothing but dull disapproval. He wiggled her eyebrows at her suggestively and her face broke out in a grin she quickly suppressed. He filled the moka with grounds and water, setting the stove to high. “What would you like?” he asked, surprising her when he opened the stainless-steel refrigerator, his back facing her as her legs dangled from the high bar, feet bare.

Caroline looked at him hesitantly, waiting for whatever trick he was planning. He turned from the fridge, setting a dozen brown eggs on the light oak island. Eyeing him suspiciously when he added a tray of raw sweet rolls and jam, she asked, “Are you really making breakfast?”

“Well, I had thought to egg a few houses, but I suppose I could cook them instead if you insist,” he said, sighing in faux consideration, lip curling in amusement. He smirked when the young blonde rolled her eyes at him dramatically. “Come,” he said, offering her his lean artist’s hand, “chop some fruit while I make omelets.” Still wary, she took his hand and he helped her hop down, using it as an opportunity to graze his hand down the side of her breasts, laughing when she smacked at him. As usual, she wasn’t fast enough and he spun her around by her hand, pulling her arms across her chest as he held her pinned from behind. “What have I told you about smacking me, Caroline?” he growled in her ear, playfully nipping at her lobe as he peeked down her blue and whitepop V-cut wraparound blouse.

Using her best ‘dumb blonde’ voice, the former cheerleader snarked, “Ummm…. To stop if you call a safeword?”

Klaus bit her neck, erotic pain shooting straight between her legs. “Good girl,” he teased, smacking her ass on the way back to the stove.

Once they were seated and enjoying their breakfast, Caroline turned to Klaus expectantly. “So,” she began, “where are we going today?” she asked with a saccharine smile.

Klaus rolled his eyes, quickly swallowing his bite of sweet roll. “Again with this, Caroline?”

“Everyday with this,” she shot back, taking a bite of her eggs. Klaus was a surprisingly good cook. Who knew the most dangerous man in Europe was a culinary genius?

“And everyday my answer is the same,” he replied, annoyance clear in his tone, sipping his espresso.

“You can’t keep me here forever, Klaus,” she pleaded for the millionth time.

Klaus wiped his chin with his napkin before setting the white linen on his plate and pushing it aside. “Not only can I, I am going to,” he said, turning back to his laptop.

Caroline closed his laptop again. “I want to go outside! I haven’t felt the sun in almost two months, nor have you.”

Klaus glared at her, opening his laptop again. “I assure you I’ve bigger concerns at the moment than my tan.”

“Yeah,” the fearless blonde said sarcastically, “like half the world thinking you’re a crispy critter.”

Klaus turned to her menacingly. “Yes, a belief resulting entirely from my desire to protect you. Rather than yelling at me, you might try thanking for my efforts, without which YOU would be a ‘crispy critter,’” he snapped, making finger quotes.

“Thank you for keeping me alive after I risked my life to save yours, Warden Mikaelson,” she sassed, smiling sweetly when he narrowed his eyes. “Now can we PLEASE go outside?” she begged, desperate to get out of the house. He ignored her, making her whine with a high-pitched grunt. “Stop ignoring me!” she shouted, standing next to him, her face inches from the side of his head while he did just that. Klaus turned to her, pulling a handgun from the back of his jeans and pressing it to her shoulder, expression bored. He threatened to shoot her at least half a dozen times a day. Since figuring out where to find his stash spots, she often beat him to the punch. Murderous threats had become their foreplay. Caroline looked down at the gun and scoffed. “Shoot me there and you’ll just piss me off,” she snarked, pushing it away.

Pressing it back where it was, he smirked dangerously. “What makes you so sure of that?” his silky voice cooed.

Caroline looked at him pityingly. “Because I’m a nurse and I know where to shoot to kill,” she reminded him sarcastically. “Aim there and you’ll get blood all over your fancy artwork when it goes through and through,” she sassed, gesturing at one of his paintings hanging behind them. “Now get that thing away from me or I’ll make sure I land a shot that’ll spare the world a Niklaus Jr,” she threatened, hands on hips.

“You win.” Klaus smiled and shrugged, tucking the gun back in the waistband of his jeans. “I know when I’m beat,” he teased, turning back to his email. “I suggest you learn to do the same,” he said as he cast her a sideways glance.

Never one to do as she was told, Caroline resumed her daily demands to leave the villa. “I know you have a studio in the loft above the guest house,” she pouted. “Davina told me,” she said confidently. She fisted her hands at her side, shrieking when he continued to ignore her. “You could at least take me there! It’s like fifty feet!”

Groaning in frustration, he looked at her menacingly. “You want to go outside, Caroline?” he asked, leaning back on his barstool and crossing his muscular arms over his chest. Caroline’s face lit up, a brilliant star in his night sky. “Fine. I’ll take you to my studio… on one condition,” he said, face morphing into a devious grin. Immediately on alert, Caroline raised a suspicious eyebrow. “You have to model for me,” he replied, his suddenly angelic expression doing nothing to assuage her anxiety at the devil in disguise.

“That’s all I have to do? Pose for you?” she asked warily, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He nodded at her, still smirking. “I know that face. What aren’t you saying?”

“You know me well, sweetheart,” he teased, tapping her nose. “As I said, I want to paint you.” He stood up and once again caged her in with his arms against the bar. He made a show of staring her up and down, lascivious intentions abundantly clear. He moved in closer, whispering sinfully in her ear. “You’re in Italy. We paint our women in the nude.”

Caroline’s jaw dropped and she scoffed, pushing him away from her. “Gross!” she shouted, voice shrilly piercing the quiet Tuscan morning. “I’m not getting naked for you.”

Klaus shrugged, smirking smugly at her as he sat back down. “Have it your way then… although we both know it’s nothing I haven’t seen,” he teased, pulling her blouse forward to look down at her ample breasts.

Caroline batted his hand away lightly, careful not to get pinned again for smacking him. She’d tested him enough for one meal. “You’re a pervert, Mr. King Criminal.”

Klaus grinned, arrogance marring his handsome features, stubble peppering his jaw. “The king whose thumbprint opens the biometric lock, you mean?” he reminded her happy, eyes sparkling with mirth.

Caroline rolled her eyes so hard she made herself dizzy, plopping down on her barstool with an irritated huff. Klaus smirked at her and turned back to his laptop. Caroline crossed her arms over her chest defensively and did the same with her khaki short clad legs, turning her nose up at him, indignation wafting through the air thick with sticky sweetness from their breakfast buns. After several agonizing, annoying, boring minutes, she finally snapped at him. “Fine,” she agreed. His face lit up in an unexpected grin, her answer shocking him. “But,” she said firmly, pointing a finger inches from his face, “not naked.”

Klaus’ grin morphed into an obnoxious smirk, eyebrows wiggling. “I’m afraid that’s the deal, sweetheart. Take it or leave it,” he said smugly.

Caroline shrieked again, the piercing sound reverberating off the high-tech appliances. “You’re incorrigible.”

“And you’re bored,” he pointed out, smiling serenely at her exasperation.

The talented nurse pursed her lips, considering him. How much did she really want to feel the sun? He wasn’t worth it. On the other hand… he was right. It wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen time and time again, touching her silky skin as often as he could in her natural state… an activity she allowed more and more every day as lust threatened to overwhelm logic. “Bra and panties,” she huffed.

Klaus turned to face her, delighted that he was breaking her down. He’d been an artist since he was old enough to hold a paintbrush… although his father tended to break his brushes over his knuckles when he caught him mixing paint. Caroline was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He’d wanted to paint her since the first day he saw her in the vineyard. “Naked,” he repeated, pressing his finger over her cherry soft lips. “However, I will cover you with a sheet so you’re only topless. Final offer,” he said sternly, praying she’d say yes.

Caroline nipped his finger with a sharp bite between her perfect teeth, arms still crossed petulantly. “Deal,” she said, screwing up her face at him, lust secretly tingling in her lower belly and dripping down between her legs.

“Excellent,” Klaus rejoiced, clapping his hands together mischievously. He tapped out a quick text message to his sentries around the villa, ordering them to come to the back door as he escorted Caroline the few feet to the guest house currently occupied by his brother Elijah and his wife, Hayley. Once his troops were assembled, there were a dozen suit-clad men and women waiting at the back door.

Klaus took Caroline by the hand, quickly wrapping her arm around her lower back just in case an enemy lurking in the countryside popped out to snatch away his treasure. Elated to be getting out of the house, she made no objection. Once they arrived at the tiny house, Caroline noticed that they were headed for a staircase leading to separate entrance. Klaus gently pushed her up a few steps, kissing her on the cheek. “Just a moment, love,” he said softly, squeezing her hand gently.

Caroline watched in shock as his face morphed from the tender man who cherished her… when he wasn’t being a pain in the ass… into the fearsome crime lord she hadn’t seen since the night they met. Before she fully registered his transformation, he had a petite black woman with short hair pressed up against the sun kissed stone, his hand crushing her throat as she clutched at his hands in vain, his grip iron. “I don’t care how long you’ve known my brother, Aya. The next time I see this in your hand when you’re supposed to be guarding Caroline,” he raged behind clenched teeth as he ripped her phone away, crushing the glass screen under his boot, “I’ll break off every one of your fingers and feed them to you,” he snarled, growling one last time before he released her.

Caroline raised an eyebrow at him, but said nothing as he stomped up the stairs, tugging her behind him. For a man who cared for his troops as much as she knew he did, he sure wasn’t easy on them. This wasn’t the first time she’d seen him lose his temper at one of his minions, gender be damned. Klaus was an equal opportunity employer, caring only for strength and cunning, valuing loyalty and submission above all. By the time they reached the top of the stone steps, his gentlemanly demeanor returned. He opened the door and gestured for her to enter first with a sweep of his arm.

Klaus watched with a satisfied expression as Caroline took in his studio, supplies and paintings abound. “Wow,” she mouthed, taking it all it. He had canvas after canvas of flawless interpretations of everything from women, who were indeed nude, to the Tuscan countryside to barrels of wine, culminating with one older blonde woman with a kind smile hanging under a soft light. Caroline walked up to the painting and traced her fingers along the thin layer of air hovering over the paint, his elegant brush strokes just shy of her delicate fingers. “Who is she?” she asked quietly.

“My mother,” Klaus said, walking up behind her with his hands clasped behind his back. Caroline looked at him, surprise evident on her face. None of the Mikaelson children said a word about either of their parents. They didn’t talk about their past at all. Time had either forgotten their childhood, or they’d burned the history books.

“Is she…” she asked tentatively, her musical voice trailing off, question unspoken.

Klaus’ face clouded with danger. “Mikael killed her,” he replied, voice laced with hate for the man she killed. Seeing her sympathetic look, he wiped the rage off his face, forcing his calm smile to return. “It was a long time ago,” he said dismissively, taking her by the hand to a large window, sunshine pouring in. “On to more mannered subjects,” he said, a devilish smile on his face. “Like getting you out of these clothes,” he teased mischievously, reaching for the ties on her wraparound blouse.

“I can do it!” she yelped, smacking his hand away. “Turn around,” she ordered, pointing in the opposite direction.

Klaus barked out a laugh. “I’m about to paint you naked, Caroline. I’d say the time for modesty passed long ago.”

Caroline huffed, unwrapping the satin fabric to reveal her lavender bra. “I was promised a sheet.”

“Indeed, you were,” Klaus agreed, crossing his arms to watch her undress.

“You’re staring,” she glared at him.

His face lit up again, quickly reaching behind her and unclasping her bra. “Now I’m helping,” he joked, dodging her hand as she tried to smack him. In her haste to retaliate, her bra fell down one arm, revealing a breast, nipple already hardened into a peach pebble. “And by the looks of it, I’d say you’re enjoying my assistance.”

Caroline glared at him as she pulled down her tiny shorts, holding his eye contact as she refused to wilt under his watchful inspection as his eyes roamed up and down her body, porcelain skin completely on display as she rolled down her tiny lavender lace panties to reveal her bald lips. Klaus locked his jaw to hide his grin... and hold back a comment at the way she rubbed her thighs together, clearly as aroused as he was. “Sheet!” she commanded as she sat on the wooden stool by the window, staring in awe at the beauty of the Tuscan villa, sunlight warming every inch of her bare skin.

“Oh, I’ll have to find one,” he said casually as he pulled out art supplies. “But as you can see,” he said, gesturing at the easel he was setting up, “I’ve already begun working on this. Best finish one task at a time,” he teased, winking at her. He made sure setting up his station took as long as possible, blatantly staring at her hateful glare, legs crossed and arms over her bare chest.

At least ten minutes passed before Klaus walked over to her, smirk plastered on his smug face as he draped a green velvet sheet over her naked form. He locked eyes with her, cobalt on cerulean, as he slowly and methodically arranged the fabric over her shoulder, careful to bare both breasts. She sucked in a deep breath when he intentionally grazed his knuckles over her stuff nipples. He gazed at her, daring her to challenge him, delighted when she didn’t. Curious as to how far he could push his perfect prisoner, he rearranged the sheet over her shoulder and lap over and over, each time slowly running his hand over every inch of pale skin he could justify touching. Her heart raced when he gently ran the back of his nails from her inner arm to her hip, inches from where she wanted him most.

Watching her reaction, he carefully let his fingertips glide beneath the sheet. He leaned in, his mouth brushing hers in a tender kiss she only briefly returned. He rested his head against her forehead, breathing heavily with the effort of restraining himself. He had just touched the apex of her lips and dipped his finger between her wet folds to circle her clit when she grabbed his wrist, gasping at his erotic touch. “Klaus,” she said breathily, lips touching his before shaking her head reluctantly. He looked down at her, expression contemplative.

Caroline didn’t want him to stop… but what kind of woman would she be if she slept with the man holding her hostage? Even if it was for her own safety, she longed for the option to make that call for herself. If he did let her decide her own fate, what would be her choice? Would she stay or would she go? She didn’t know anymore. Life with Klaus Mikaelson was nothing if not dichotomous and confounding at best, maddening at worst.

Klaus felt his stomach drop in disappointment, but smirked anyway, satisfied with how far he’d been able to go. He’d never gotten her to kiss him before. Progress. He felt his cock twitch when she didn’t stop him from circling her slippery bud again as he very slowly pulled his hand away and finished rearranging the dark green velvet, again allowing his hands to wander. When he finished, she glared up at him, the fabric artfully draped over her crossed legs, one hip and thigh revealed as the sheet threatened to glide onto the stone tile. “You totally agreed to that sheet just so you’d have an excuse to feel me up,” she said accusingly.

“You let me,” came his retort, wiggling his eyebrows at her when she did nothing but narrow her eyes. Sitting down on his own stool and dipping his brush into black paint, he quipped, “Do be sure to tell me when you’d like to do more than kiss.” There was a seductive edge to his British accent as he taunted her, the sound rippling through her breasts and tingling her stiff nipples. “You let me do that, too,” he teased with a smirk at her glower, a rosy blush climbing up her cheeks at the truth of his words.

The air tingled with erotic electricity; the room filled with the scraping sound of his brush on canvas as he effortlessly brought her to life. At least he would have a memory of a happy moment when she was long gone, he thought ruefully. Caroline tried to figure out how best to phrase herself, enjoying the stillness of the room as he immortalized her in acrylic. “What if I did?” she asked as casually as she could with bated breath, eagerly awaiting his reply.

Klaus hid the curling of his upper lip behind the canvas as he focused on the line of her breast, paint curving along the image forming before his stormy blue eyes. A bird sang in the distance, filling Caroline with nervous apprehension. “Careful what you wish for, love,” the artist finally replied.

Swish. Tap. Smear. Breath. Beat. Pause. Repeat.

“What does that mean?” Caroline asked suspiciously.

Klaus smirked, pausing with the brush hovering above the canvas to examine the line of velvet dripping onto the floor. “Have you not yet figured out that I’m accustomed to getting my own way?” he asked, eyes glinting with amused mischief.

Caroline gave him a bored expression, her face deadpan. “Gee, I hadn’t noticed.”

Klaus resumed his work, dipping his brush in deep green to recreate the sheet that earned him a kiss. “There’s that fancy education kicking in,” he quipped, ignoring her menacing glare as his eyes remained focused on the way the green blended in with the flesh of her shin. “Sex isn’t any different. If I want something, I take it,” he said, shrugging. “So, unless I hear a no, I do what I want.”

“That your way of saying you like it rough?” she asked sarcastically, the hopeful tone of her voice hidden beneath her faux disgust... but not hidden enough to keep Klaus from seeing how she rubbed her thighs together.

“You could say that,” he answered mysteriously, brush swishing gold onto the canvas. He liked it more than rough. He wanted to throw her up against the wall and make her forget her own name while orgasm after orgasm crashed through her like lightning, stealing her breath away as she screamed his name. He wanted to ruin her for all other men so she would get on her knees only for him until the world exploded. He wanted to explode deep, deep inside of her, marking her with his scent like the wild animal he longed to be as he ravished her senseless.

Caroline bit her lower lip between her puffy lips, still zinging from their sweet kiss, a thought flitting around her mind. “What if you did?” she asked softly, voice colored in anxious curiosity. Klaus had missed her transforming facial expressions in his focus to perfect her image. He raised an eyebrow at her in silent question. “Hear a no?” she qualified.

Klaus peered at her from the side of the canvas, his face advertising the unspoken thought that she was the dull beige in a happy yellow box of crayons. Returning to his work, he answered, “Then I’d stop.” She could hear in his smooth voice that the mafia boss was clearly confused why that wasn’t obvious. He peeked at her stealthily, careful not to let her see how nervous she had just made him. She knew he wasn’t that kind of monster... didn’t she? As soon as he saw the way she was squirming on the stool, clearly hoping for any sort of friction to relieve the tension between her thighs, his own tension melted off his tight shoulders. “Careful there, sweetheart. I’d hate to have to reposition you,” he said from behind the canvas, hoping she wouldn’t take his advice.

Caroline scoffed, heat rising up her body as thoughts of his hands on her tingling skin raced through her mind. A sugary kiss. A rough touch. A violent thrust. Passion. Screams. Can’t breathe. Can’t stop. Contact. Blinking to clear her lust-clouded eyes, she forced herself to suck her teeth at him, obnoxious click flitting through the stillness. “You just want to touch me again,” she sassed, hoping he would make good on his seductive taunts this time.

Setting his brush down, he stalked over to her, resting his fingers on the edge of the green velvet draped over her shoulder. His eyes magnetically attached to her. Emotions blazing. Fires raging. Silence screaming. He slowly lifted his hand to graze the back of her cheek with his knuckle, light peach paint flecked on his skin, the smell of acrylic wafting into her nostrils. He moved closer to her, his thigh touching her bare knee, the other shielded by liquid fabric.

Klaus held her gaze as his stubble tickled her cheek. “Do you want me to?” he whispered. Caroline gulped, acutely aware of her bare nipple scraping his olive drab Henley. Her heart had taken up residence in her throat, evicting her vocal chords. She nodded mutely, minutely, blonde curls bouncing slightly, eyes closing when she felt her lips touch his. He wrapped his arm around her bare back, gently caressing her spine with his palm, slowing parting her lips with his wicked tongue. She pulled him closer with her hand on his hip, relaxing her body into his. Klaus slowly glided his hand up to her breast, kneading her flesh in his strong hand, thumb and forefinger rolling a nipple.

Just as their kiss began to deepen, his lips moving in time with his talented tongue, a loud banging shook the door of his studio. Klaus immediately pulled away; the gun tucked in the back of his jeans trained on the door, his face furious as a tiny red dot illuminated the offensive wood. “NIKLAUS!” Elijah called in between hammering cracks of his curled knuckles as his pounding intensified.

Klaus stormed over to the door, opening it with his thumbprint wide enough to peer at his brother with intense hatred for his inopportune interruption. “The world better be on goddamn fire, Elijah,” he growled, tone vicious, eyes narrowed. Caroline listened as hard as she could, but she couldn’t make out what Elijah whispered to his younger brother. “FUCK!” Klaus roared, slamming the door and stomping over to her, pace lightning. “Get dressed, love. Time to go,” he choked out between clenched teeth, jaw furiously shut tight, failing miserably in his attempt to control the volume of his bellow.

When Caroline was taking too long, Klaus hastily wrapped her top around her, bra unclasped, ties from her blouse dragging on the ground as he tugged her behind him. “Wait, we’re going somewhere?”

“I’M going somewhere,” Klaus corrected. “You’re staying here with my siblings where you’ll be safe.”

“I want to come!” Caroline screeched, adrenaline flowing through her veins. Rapids down a waterfall.

“Not a chance in hell,” he growled, unlocking the back door.

“Klaus! That’s not-” she started before he cut her off, dragging her in the massive Tuscan villa that once again served as her Bastille.

“ENOUGH!” Klaus roared, face twisted and red, veins on his temple visibly pulsing as his heart raced. “I don’t give a fuck WHAT you think it is. I am going. You are staying,” he commanded with a feral snarl. “And Caroline?” he spat, adding an extra gun to his belt and tucking another in the interior pocket of his leather jacket as the fabric flew up his arms. “If I don’t find you waiting for me upstairs upon my return, I will hunt you down to the ends of the earth,” he threatened, his voice eerily calm in spite of his intense rage. His face was an inch from hers where he had her pressed up against the wall. “So, believe me when I tell you that you’d better fucking be here when I get back.” The young nurse saw the evil flash through his eyes as they silently shouted at his older sister and two younger siblings that his menacing warning was more for them than it was for the women whose lips still tingled from his gentle kiss. He waited until she nodded her acknowledgement of his command before slamming the door shut.

Freya bolted the door behind Klaus, Elijah and Marcel. She silently turned to face Kol, Rebekah and a very indignant Caroline, shoving her hands in the back pockets of her tight olive jeans. After they all heard Klaus’ and Marcel’s motorcycles and Elijah’s Bently roar down the gravel path to the main road, they collectively exhaled heavy breaths. “He’s right you know,” Freya said softly, shrugging when she spoke to Caroline. She pulled out her phone to text Hayley and Davina to return immediately from whatever computer system they’d been forcing their way into in the basement of the guest house. Hayley and Davina were both brilliant hackers, Davina focused more on malicious programming and Hayley more on multimedia meddling.

A hand fell to the hip of her khaki shorts when Caroline finally finished putting her clothes in order, avoiding eye contact with the other women. Once she was done, she looked at Freya, bewildered annoyance marring her flushed features. “About what?” she asked. What was right about telling her he’d hunt her down like an animal?

“That you’d better be here when he gets back,” Rebekah added in her Aussie accent, crossing her arms across her chest as she stood beside her sister, both of them blocking the door Caroline couldn’t open. Wasn’t going to open. Didn’t want to open. Not anymore... right? She didn’t know and her inner turmoil was evident on her face when the youngest Mikaelson explained, “We are all better off now that our brother’s in love with you.”

Caroline scoffed. “Hmph. You’re as crazy as he is,” she replied, rolling her eyes as she turned to the couch. Kol took this turn of conversation as his cue to head for the kitchen, away from gossiping girls and gushing estrogen.

For the second time that day, a Mikaelson sibling looked at her like she was a very dim bulb. “Open your eyes, Caroline.” But Caroline never got the chance to see what she never saw because at that moment, several men in black fatigues and ski masks broke in through the windows, bars exploding and glass sparkling in sharp shards raining into the once peaceful villa. Kol raced into the room and was met in the nose with an elbow from one of the masked invaders.

Kol screamed behind his broken nose, blood gushing down his face. He pulled a gun from behind his back and effortlessly shot his assailant in the face. “Get her upstairs!” he roared at Freya as Rebekah’s gunshot joined the din. Freya normally had a sweet disposition, Rebekah a bit rougher around the edges, but in that moment, Caroline saw nothing but the face of Mikaelson warriors as the smell of gunpowder and blood filled the air. Terror reigned as Hell erupted in a violent volcano of vicious violence, the room filled with cries of the dying as the youngest siblings tore their enemies apart.

“REBEKAH!” Kol bellowed when his little sister fell to the ground, blood blossoming on her abdomen. He quickly shot the last man in the head and fell to his knees beside her, assessing her injuries. “Caroline!” he called up the stairs just as Freya was unlocking the door to Klaus’ fortress of a bedroom. “I need help! Freya, get the bag!”

The young blonde nurse flew down the stairs to Rebekah’s side, immediately helping Kol move her to the couch. Freya ran to the kitchen to fetch his medical bag, forever prepared for Mikaelson gunshot wounds. Caroline deduced that getting shot was almost a rite of passage for these people. “FREYA! HURRY UP!” he screamed over his shoulder as he held pressure to the wound. He cursed under his breath when she didn’t reappear after several seconds. Shooting his eyes to Caroline, he gritted out, “Don’t let go.” She nodded her head as he raced into the kitchen for his supplies, her hand quickly replacing his, bright red painting her delicate fingers.

Rebekah gasped in a rattling breath, Death calling her to His skeletal kingdom of eternal oblivion. Caroline held the pressure with one hand, taking Rebekah’s trembling hand in her other as the youngest blonde fell deeper into shock. “It’s ok, Bekah. I’m here,” she said, nurse’s voice in place as she soothed her patient. “You’ll be fine. I’m not going anywhere,” she promised, blue eyes peering into blue eyes. Rebekah inhaled, lungs aching as sticky blood oozed between Caroline’s fingers.

“I’m afraid you’re wrong about that,” came an eerie British accent from behind the two blondes, syringe in hand as he towered over them.

Caroline’s eyes shot met his, and while she’d never seen him a day in her life, she knew him immediately. “Lucien Castle,” she snarled, steeling her face to show him no fear.

“The one and only,” the enemy of her savior confirmed with a menacing smile. A smile that didn’t meet his eyes. Cold, dead, angry eyes. Eyes that held no mercy. Before she could debate the merits of leaving Rebekah to bleed out or staying at her side in an attempt to save at least one of Klaus’ favorite people, Lucien plunged the needle deep into Caroline's neck and pressed down the plunger. The villa began to fade as her drugged eyelids closed against her will, burning ketamine searing her scorched veins. The last thing Caroline remembered was the dying of the Tuscan light, her bright blue eyes eclipsed in deafening darkness as Italy disappeared.

Chapter Text

A/N WARNING: THIS CHAPTER IS VIOLENT!

Ok, you have been warned. If you are triggered by torture, do NOT read this. I will write a brief recap at the beginning of the next chapter for those of you who choose to skip this one.

Thank you so much to everyone who has read, and especially to those of you who have taken the time to review. Feedback is a great motivator!

 

Chapter Five – I Was Feeling Merciful

 

Klaus Mikaelson lost his mind when he realized Caroline Forbes had been kidnapped.

Elijah had seen his little brother ferociously livid plenty of times... more times than he could ever hope to count. He’d seen him torture, maim, kill. None of the Mikaelson siblings were innocent in that respect. Their hands ran red when they faced their enemies; each of their souls drenched in blood. What Elijah saw now was what came after rage. After terror. Beyond the madness. Beyond the darkest parts of Klaus’ black heart was a fury that threatened to burn the world to ash and Diego’s betrayal had struck the match.

There were no sounds. No screaming. No begging. No words. No voice.

Klaus stared down into the unblinking eyes of Marcel’s most trusted lieutenant. His right hand for the last three years. Tall and dark skinned with chocolate eyes and an ivory smile that would never again see the harsh light of day. He was a dead man walking. Or, he would have been if Klaus hadn’t shot him through both of his ankles. Presently, he was kneeling in a pool of his own blood, supported solely by the fierce grip the fearsome crime lord had on his large, puffy afro. The broken man glared defiantly up at his murderer with the eye that wasn’t forced shut by his shattered eye socket.

“Where is she?” Klaus asked, his voice a deathly whisper. That voice. That serene voice. That voice of solace that mollified the journey to the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. Klaus Mikaelson was fire and Klaus Mikaelson was ice. It wasn’t his blazing tantrums that chilled his older brother’s spine. It was this. This frozen tundra of icy stalactites. The Klaus that burned like wildfire was easier to handle in his impulsivity. This was not that man. This was the monster that went bump in the night. This was the man of nightmares. This man WAS a nightmare. This was Klaus at his most dangerous. Controlled. Calculating. Ruthless. Deigo’s fate was determined the minute Klaus shot him to his knees.

There were two things Klaus Mikaelson valued above all else: loyalty and submission. If one of his men, or women, got on their knees to grovel at his feet and kissed his boots; if they admitted their faults; if they begged for mercy; if they suffered their punishment; there was only one thing he would not forgive: betrayal. Diego had betrayed them all. Sold himself to Tristan de Martel for a song in the hopeless hope that he could outsmart the most dangerous man alive. Stupid. Arrogant. Costly. Whatever Klaus’ nemesis had offered him, it wasn’t worth dying for. And Diego would die. Of that there was no doubt.

Klaus sent him to handle a high-value shipment that should have been a simple business transaction. A suitcase full of numbers for a suitcase full of death. Diego was Marcel’s man. Marcel trusted him, which meant the Mikaelsons could trust him. Could. Didn’t. Not all of them. Not the one that mattered. Since the attack on the vineyard, Klaus had graduated from suspicious skepticism to full-blown paranoia.

Klaus had Hayley and Davina digitally tracking his men around the clock. His brother’s wives had hidden microchips and GPS transmitters in every nook and cranny they could possibly find. When the customer called Elijah to inform the Mikaelsons that the product had not been delivered, Klaus flew to his SUV and raced over to the site of the meet-up. Once Marcel got Diego's SOS via text, Klaus commanded the girls to pull up the tracker in Diego's gifted Rolex. As soon as the signal reported that he veered off course, Klaus knew he had betrayed them.

What Klaus didn’t know was how abundantly stupid his Judas would be. Stupid enough to be the brilliant. The criminal king of Italy couldn’t have planned it any better himself. Davina’s computer led them to the slums of Tuscany. Specifically, to a crumbling building that might have been a small cottage once upon a century. Now it was barely a structure at all, the remnants having gone to the elements long ago.

The Klaus’ horror, he could see through the hole where a window had once been that his shipment was on a folding card table in the middle of the filth. Just as he thought, it hadn’t been stolen at all. There was no attack. The entire thing was a ploy to get him out of the villa. For the first time in his life, his hands shook with fear as he pulled out his Galaxy to call Kol. Fortunately, his siblings had been able to stabilize Rebekah after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds, but Caroline had been taken by his archnemesis, Lucien Castle. Before Elijah had a chance to calm his younger brother, Klaus furiously skulked towards the traitor with the sole intent of murdering him as painfully as possible.

As soon as Klaus saw Diego smoking by the window just feet from his not-stolen container, he silently shot the cherry off the traitor's cigarette. Before Diego had had time to see who had managed to enter the building without making a sound, Klaus’ next bullet pierced his medial malleolus. By the time his knee hit the floor, Klaus had taken out both ankles. That was over an hour ago. Diego had more injuries now. He was making his murder much harder than it needed to be. All he had to do was give up the location and his misery would be over. Instead, the young black man fearlessly faced down death in the form of a man. Klaus sighed dramatically and shrugged his shoulders before smashing down the handle of his Glock on Diego’s nose.

The Judas fell to the floor, face breaking on the concrete floor when Klaus connected his boot to the back of his head. He didn’t even blink when blood splashed on the bottom of his dark grey jeans. His face and knuckles were painted red, as were the rest of his clothes, his gun, his belt, everything. Not a drop of it was his own. Diego hadn’t been alone. Half a dozen Strix had the structure surrounded.

It took more than a handful of men to scare off Klaus Mikaelson. It took less than a minute for him to hide in the shadows long enough to shoot two with a silenced .22. When the third spun around to see what happened, Klaus snuck up behind him and punctured his lungs with a slick stab of his favorite KA-BAR BK7. The latter two died before their legs gave out. The former lasted longer than Klaus felt like waiting. So, he gutted him with his already bloody blade. It would have taken hours if Klaus hadn’t reached into his abdomen and ripped out his intestines with his bare hands. He was being generous, really, sparing him the agony of a slow death. Once their leader began picking the lock, Elijah and Marcel had each taken one and tag teamed the last man standing. None of them made a sound.

Klaus paced around Diego in slow, deliberate circles; the apex predator stalking its prey. “Nothing to say, mate?” he asked conversationally, hands clasped behind his back. The traitor stared up at his captor defiantly and said nothing. Klaus smiled his deceptive smile, dimples carved into his angelic face. He crouched down, elbows resting on his knees. He cocked his head to the side and gently dragged a finger down Diego’s shattered eye socket. If anyone were to look in on their scene, they might think Klaus was offering him comfort. Those present knew better. Klaus delicately ran his thumb over Diego's temple and spoke in a soft whisper, cobalt eyes sparking. “We’ll just have to try something else then.”

Diego shot him a look of pure hatred when Klaus walked over to the table and picked up his bloody knife. Tsking, he walked back to the bleeding man and soothed him with deceptively calm words. “Don’t look at me like that, mate,” he said apologetically in his silky accent as he delicately grazed the razor-sharp blade down the black man’s bloody cheek. “All you have to do is tell me where she is and it’ll be over.” He tipped Diego’s chin up to meet his eye, “Give me her location and I’ll make it quick.” He offered his victim a charming smile with deep dimples as he dragged steel across his throat.

“I ain’t giving you shit,” Diego snarled, spitting on Klaus’ boots.

Klaus’ eyes sparkled above his gleaming white teeth. “Fantastic!” he exclaimed gleefully. Turning to Marcel, he commanded, “Marcel, do show Diego why you’re my favorite minion and fetch me a blowtorch.” The honorary Mikaelson bit the inside of his cheek to keep from telling him off in front of the vile man cowering on the floor. Klaus was inherently their leader and had no reason to degrade them as such, but he was in role as the glorious bastard and everyone had to fall in line. Elijah would have done the same, but it was rare he showed his older brother that level of disrespect. Marcel had once made the mistake of undermining his authority in front of the troops. Klaus had turned to him and smiled as he dislocated his jaw with an iron fist.

Looking back at Diego over his shoulder, Klaus added with a wink, “He may be your boss, but he’s my bitch.” The broken man just sneered at him. When Marcel had been gone longer than the few seconds Klaus had anticipated, he pulled out his Galaxy to call him. On the screen was a picture from Marcel of the filet minion meme. It took all he had, but Klaus hid his smirk and slid the phone back in the front pocket of his dark grey jeans. He had expected no less from his cheeky brother-in-law. Falling back into his role, he snarled at Marcel as he ripped the torch from his hand, “Took you long enough.” Turning to Diego, he offered a repentant smile. “So sorry for the delay.”

Klaus madness broke through his dimples once again as he ignited the torch and crouched down in front of Diego. “I know you were hoping I was going to slit your throat,” he said with a knowing nod of his dirty blonde head as he dragged his blade across Diego’s neck in a tender caress. “I’m happy to do so, provided you cooperate.” Holding the blade in the blue flame, he raised his eyebrows at Diego and smirked deviously. “But I have been known to change my mind on a whim. Where’s Caroline?” he asked with a predatory smile as the blade turned bright red. Cocking his head to the side, Klaus asked him inquisitively, “Tell me: what did Tristan promise you?”

Diego spit in Klaus’ face, saliva sizzling on the searing steel. Klaus set down the torch and pointed the blade at his face as he scolded him. “Tsk tsk tsk. That wasn’t very nice, Diego. Here I am trying to do this the easy way and you just keep making things harder for yourself.” Klaus dramatically inhaled and loudly exhaled through his nostrils with a shrug. “Ah, well, I guess this is going to take a while.” Diego’s blood-curdling screams filled the air when the fiery knife touched his bullet-riddled ankle. “Can’t have you bleeding out on me, now can I?” Klaus asked with a cherubic smile as he repeated the process to cauterize his other ankle.

Diego shoved him in the chest, but his tormenter didn’t budge. Only a few seconds had passed by the time Marcel and Elijah had him pinned to the grimy floor. Marcel’s stomach churned as the smell of charred flesh reached his nostrils. Klaus slowly and methodically closed each and every one of Diego’s many, many injuries. He burned everything from his bullet wounds to tiny scrapes on his knees, caring very little for the bits of clothing he charred in the process. The men released his arms and legs when Klaus finally stood and surveyed his work with a smug grin. He set down his knife and torch on the rickety table and nodded his head. “I’m impressed. I thought you’d have broken by now.”

“I ain’t never gonna break for you, pig,” Diego snarled, voice thick with the tears Klaus burned out of him. Diego had begun preparing himself to die like a man the second Klaus’ first bullet ripped through his muscles. He would not give Klaus the satisfaction of breaking him. He would go proudly to his death no matter how grisly his end.

As furious as he was at Diego’s stalling, Klaus smirked when he finally saw his victim flinch in the low light when he unlocked the biometric lock of the steel-lined silver hard case. He entered a 24-digit alphanumeric code into a touchscreen atop a smaller case. Diego gulped when the lid opened and Klaus pulled out a tiny vial of clear liquid.

Crouching down again, Klaus smiled at Diego, chills searing his spine when Klaus pulled the vial across his split lip with a feather-light touch. Diego gulped. Klaus’ grin widened. “Do you know what this is, Diego?” The dark-skinned traitor slowly shook his head side to side, barely able to move between the physical agony and terrified horror surging through him at the sight of that liquid. Klaus looked at it curiously and shrugged with a low hum in the back of his throat.

“I don’t either, truth be told, but I know my brother and his wife had a hell of a time coordinating it’s removal from USAMRIID. I’m always amazed how they do it, really, stealing biological weapons right out from under the American’s noses.” Klaus smirked at the shock he saw on Diego’s face. No one outside the family knew what was really in those cases. Most of them thought the Mikaelson’s trafficked high-end pharmaceuticals. Since Klaus was happy to let them think that, he knew Tristan had told Diego that his employers were really producing upgraded bioweapons. Even Marcel had been shocked when he learned the truth more than a year after he’d married Rebekah. He’d one asked Klaus how he slept at night knowing what his buyers had planned. Klaus had responded that he had no idea what his customers had planned. As long as they paid, he knew better than to ask too many questions of the type of person who would require a product such as his.

“Those rebellious little colonists do love finding new and creative ways of killing the masses,” Klaus said cheerfully, flipping the vial in the air and catching it half an inch from Diego’s fractured nose. “However, I’m quite certain this one is meant for smaller targets. It’s got a much shorter incubation period than it’s cousins Ebola and Lassa.” Klaus’ fascinated expression morphed into an eerie smirk, insanity bleeding into his hardened features. “It doesn’t have a pretty name of its own as of yet, but no matter. I know what it does,” he said with am innocent flash of his pearly whites.

“Would you like me to tell you?” he taunted, gently caressing Diego’s wrecked face and neck with the mysterious vial. “You’ve seen ‘Outbreak,’ right?” he asked with a deceptively pleasant smile. “This is slightly different… although I admit there are many fun similarities,” the madman teased with a playful wink. “You see this,” he continued, holding up the vial right in front of Diego’s functional eye, “won’t take twenty-four hours. After twelve, you will be dead.” He spoke with absolutely no emotion in his tone. He explained the vial of death as a meteorologist would a slow-moving hurricane with bad aim. “Now, fair warning, I have not personally seen it in action,” he admitted, “but my sister Freya assures me it’s quite horrible.” At that, Klaus offered him a sympathetic gaze as he patted Diego on the shoulder, making him flinch as minimally as he could manage.

Diego gulped again, chest filling with anticipatory dread. “She’s quite the brilliant virologist, you see,” he whispered conspiratorially in the dead man’s bloody ear. Pulling back to look Diego in the eye, he continued, “She’s made me a fantastic amount of money over the years with her little adjustments. And, of course, she creates vaccines for our family... Not that that will help you,” he added casually, his falsely innocent face twisting into an evil grin, stormy eyes narrowing. “This tiny vial will liquify your internal organs until they pour out of you. You’ll be drenched in your own bloody entrails before your heart finally stops.”

Klaus let his joy leak into his voice as he happily described what was about to happen to the silent defector. “Would you like to know what else it does?” Diego’s eyes widened just enough for Klaus’ demonic smile to stretch from ear to ear. He had him now. Diego was petrified and Klaus knew it. With the exception of a certain young blonde, nothing brought the mafia leader more joy than inflicting terror upon his victims. Their fear was the air he breathed.

When Diego said nothing, Klaus’ continued his diatribe. “You’ll spike a fever so high you’ll swear your brain will melt out your traitorous ears,” he said with an emphatic trill. “That’s all well and good, but I’ll let you in on a little secret,” he added with a whisper. “My favorite part are the blisters.” He took his time raking his eyes up and down Diego’s broken body before continuing. “Blood pools under the skin and form blisters the size of kumquats. My sister-in-law Sage told me it’s impossibly painful. The rats began chewing off their own arms and legs hours before their deaths.”

His face lighting up in a devilish grin, Klaus patiently ran the tiny glass container down Diego’s blood-streaked face as he waited for a reaction. The doomed man’s blood visibly pulsed through his jugular. It took everything in him to keep from begging for the mercy he knew would never come. Klaus was going to murder him in this room. Klaus knew it. Diego knew it. Elijah and Marcel knew it as they silently observed from separate corners. Standing up to tower over his enemy, Klaus mocked, “Last chance, little turncoat.”

It wasn’t until Klaus gently traced the vial around Diego's bloody lips that he finally responded, his voice barely masking a terrified tremble. “It doesn’t matter what I say. You’ll just kill me anyway; you terrorist fuck.”

Klaus smiled even wider at that. “Very true,” he confirmed with a happy nod. “Although I myself am not a terrorist. I just sell to them,” he explained with a dismissive shrug. “But on to more mannered subjects. If you tell me where Lucien took her, I’ll grant you the mercy of a quick death.” Holding the vial in one hand, he reached behind his back and pulled out his Glock. He pushed the barrel into Diego’s mouth. “What’s it gonna be, mate?” he asked as he held up the vial for Diego to see with his good eye. “Quick?” he asked, releasing the safety on the gun. “Or slow?” he taunted, wiggling the vial mid-air. Diego’s entire body was shaking but he remained resolute in his determination to defy Klaus Mikaelson until the air left his lungs.

Klaus sighed and shrugged his shoulders dramatically as he slowly dragged the barrel out of Diego’s mouth. “Have it your way then,” he said with faux sympathy. He stood over him for several agonizing minutes, delighting in his terror. Without a sound, Klaus shoved the vial in Diego’s mouth so fast that both Marcel and Elijah flinched from their dark corners. Diego bit back as much as he could of his scream when Klaus dislocated his jaw with his fist, shattering the glass between his broken teeth. Diego fell to his hands and knees and furiously spit blood all over the floor, eventually vomiting in his futile attempts to purge the fatal virus.

With a maniacal grin, Klaus pulled a folding chair from the wall, flipped it around, and sat down backwards, crossing his arms on the top of the rusty metal bar. He rested his chin on his arms and wiggled his eyebrows at his victim’s misery. “I’ll ask again, Diego: Where. Is. Caroline?” he growled venomously.

“Go to hell; you fucking bastard piece of shit,” Diego spat, spewing virulent glass at Klaus’ boots.

To Diego’s shock and horror, Klaus burst out laughing. That laugh was what gave Elijah and Marcel nightmares. Before this was over, both men knew Diego would beg for a quick death and Klaus would not grant him his final wish. Diego was going to suffer, and Klaus would make them watch. Challenging Klaus when he was like this was suicide. Diego was already dead no matter what they did. Even if Klaus had a sudden personality change and chose to grant clemency to a traitor for the first time in his life, the virus had a mortality rate of 100%. So, they did nothing.

They knew Klaus well enough to know that he didn’t do things like this solely to punish his enemies. This was a warning: this is what happens to those who stand against Klaus Mikaelson. It was a message all of his men heard loud and clear. As soon as Diego hit the floor, Marcel wordlessly took out his phone and hit record. This wasn’t their first interrogation and it wouldn’t be their last. They all ended the same way: Klaus triumphantly standing over the lifeless body of his foe. Within twenty-four hours, everyone in the organization would’ve seen how Diego died screaming.

“You’re out of your goddamn mind, man,” Diego growled from his bloody puddle.

Klaus vehemently nodded his agreement. Gesturing at his brother and protégé, he replied with a jovial cackle, “I’m quite certain our audience agrees with you. Isn’t that right, boys?”

Marcel flashed his traitorous lieutenant a thousand-watt smile. “Couldn’t have said it better myself,” he laughed, the frigid sound chilling the dying man’s spine.

Elijah rebuttoned the front button of his bloodied navy-blue suit, flicking away an imaginary piece of lint from his striped tie. Without looking up, he nodded his confirmation. “Indeed,” he said simply, voice characteristically formal even as death surrounded him. Elijah was a man who knew the blackest darkness from a life long ago. He didn’t let himself care about people the way he once did. The Mikaelsons knew loss all too well.

Klaus looked at Diego with raised eyebrows and clapped his hands together, the sound reverberating around the crumbling shack. “Well, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I’m sure Elijah can clear my schedule for the next twelve hours.”

After four hours, Diego was drenched in sweat and red lesions were beginning to dot his dark skin with aqueous blood bubbles. Klaus slowly got up and walked to the windowsill. He picked up the gallon of water he and his men had been sharing. He gulped down several mouthfuls, wiping loose drops away with the back of his hand. Peering down at Diego, he said, “You’re looking a bit under the weather, Diego.” Offering up a sympathetic smile that raised bile in the virulent man’s dry throat, he offered him the plastic jug.

Klaus sat down backwards in the chair once more and smiled at the bleeding mess of a man cowering at his feet as he held out the jug. “Thirsty?” he asked politely. Diego eyed him suspiciously, cautiously moving his broken body to look at Elijah. The suited man looked away dismissively. Diego shot Marcel a sideways glance. Marcel smiled eerily and shrugged. “Go ahead. It’s not poisoned,” Klaus taunted merrily, rage hiding behind his stormy blue eyes.

Diego looked between his captor and the jug before slowly reaching out to take it. Klaus smiled at him and rested his chin on his folded forearms. Diego carefully raised the water to his charred and cauterized lips. As soon as the merciful liquid hit his tongue, he choked and coughed up thick, gelatinous globs of crimson death. Marcel finally turned away. This was extreme even for Klaus. Trying again, Diego gingerly swallowed down the few remaining sips before letting it fall to the floor.

“Feeling better?” Klaus asked with faux concern so genuine that Elijah almost questioned his brother’s resolve... almost. Diego glared at him with disdain as his lip curled in disgust. Klaus tsked again and mocked him once more. “Now is that anyway to treat me after I’ve been so generous?” Diego used what little strength he had left to spit blood at Klaus’ leather boots. The murderous man didn’t even blink, just grinned; and on that cherubic face, Diego saw the devil that danced behind the demonic eyes of Klaus Mikaelson.

Gulping down his unholy terror, Diego defiantly growled, “You waste all this time watching a dead man? Real smart, boss man.” Klaus smiled at him, giddy at the progress he was making getting Diego to break. “By the time you find her, there won’t be nothing left of your little blonde bitch.” Diego grinned when Klaus’ smile vanished, his face falling into fury. He didn’t move, but he fisted his hands so tightly that his knuckles turned white. “Lucien gon’ make sure of that.” Klaus’ growled deep in his throat in a feral threat so frightening that Marcel felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “He’ll fuck all three holes before he offs her,” he taunted the man about to kill him.

Before Klaus could get up to start his deadly blaze of destruction, Elijah quickly interjected, “The girls are calling.” Klaus turned to face him, an inferno burning in his chest that could be sated only by gratuitous violence. Elijah held up his palm to stop his little brother from ripping out Diego’s throat with his bare hands. “We may not have to wait, Niklaus,” he implored him in a placating tone as he held up his Galaxy.

Klaus jumped up so fast that the metal chair crashed down on top of what was left of Diego. He ripped his brother’s phone out of his hand in an instant, his face lighting up like an American in a candy store when he saw Davina and Hayley sitting in their computer lab. “Hello, my lovely little lady hackers,” he chirped at his sister in laws. “Tell me you found her,” he commanded with a menacing snarl at the broken man on the filthy floor.

Davina ignored the look of rage on her brother-in-law’s face when she shook her head. “Not yet,” Davina replied, ignoring the look of utter fury on her brother-in-law's face when she shook her head again, long black hair cascading down her back. “Whoever Tristan has working for him is good,” she begrudgingly admitted. The first thing Klaus did when he realized Diego's SOS had been a ploy to kidnap Caroline was call the women, screaming, with orders to track her down. Unbeknownst to her, Caroline was also being monitored. As soon as Tristan realized they were onto him, his own hacker unleashed the virus from hell on the girl’s entire system.

Seeing Klaus’ eyes narrow and nostrils flare, Hayley interjected, “But we’re better.”

“Obviously,” Davina sassed, giving Hayley a high five. “It took a while, but we finally got the trackers back online. It’ll take some time, but we can start going through the signals one by one and get her location.”

“She had one on her?” Klaus asked hopefully, heart hammering in his chest, anxious sweat dripping down his temple.

Hayley nodded her confirmation, fingers flying across the keys as she spoke into her headset. “Yeah, she had a microchip sewn into the lining of her bra.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Klaus mumbled to himself, “Thank God she put it back on.”

Suddenly, Kol popped up on the monitor behind his pretty wife. “I knew you were shagging her!” Turning to Davina, he said knowingly, “Nobody fights that much without a little horizontal tango to balance it out.”

Davina shrugged and nodded, but Hayley smacked the back of Kol’s head hard enough to make him yelp and rub his scalp. “Kol!” she scolded her brother-in-law.

“Don’t get violent on me, darling. You’re the one who bet against me,” Kol said, laughing.

Hayley looked at him like he was out of his mind. “Not now, jackass!” she snipped. Kol delighted in tormenting his older brothers at every possible opportunity, but now was not the time to piss off an already murderous Klaus. “I’ll get you your twenty bucks later,” she whispered conspiratorially from the side of her mouth.

“God, Hayley!” Davina scoffed. “Really?! Don’t encourage him,” she admonished with a massive eye roll as she shoved her husband away in his rolling chair with a manicured hand to his smug face.

Klaus’ booming voice startled the women so much that they simultaneously jumped and instinctively grabbed their headsets. “SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GET ME THE DAMN LOCATION!” With a final snarl at their levity, he tossed Elijah back his phone and smirked menacingly at Diego. He picked up the folding chair and resumed his position, smiling merrily as he rested his cheek against his folded arms, eyebrows rising and falling as his colbalt eyes sparkled. “Tick tock, mate,” he snarked with a musical lilt to his gravely accent.

Klaus locked eyes with Diego and cocked his head to the side. “Once the girls call back, I’m going to go murder Lucien,” he calmly informed his victim. “As soon as I leave, you’ll be left to die a slow and terrible death,” he added coolly, the ice in his deathly voice piercing Diego’s rapidly failing heart. Dropping his gaze, Klaus pulled out his KA-BAR and casually began scraping the bloody grime from beneath his fingernails, intentionally flinging the debris towards the dying man. Looking up at him from beneath his long lashes, Klaus smirked menacingly. “It doesn’t have to be that way, you know.”

Klaus leaned forward and grazed the blade across Diego’s throat. “I could end this right here and now. A flick of my wrist and your suffering will be over,” he tempted in a mocking lilt. “I realize this may come as a bit of a shock, but I can be merciful,” he said with an affirming nod. Diego quietly sneered at him before rolling on his side to vomit the remains of the first of his organs to melt. Klaus released a long-suffering sigh and shook his head. “Well, I tried,” he said with a shrug. Turning to Marcel, he said in a pitying tone, “Some people just can’t be helped.”

Klaus rested his cheek on arms and watched Diego deteriorate for two more hours. The dirty blonde murderer popped up at the sound of Elijah’s phone vibrating. A smile lit up his face, dimples etched behind his stubble when he saw that it was his hackers calling in with what could only have been Caroline’s location. Fear ripped through the infected traitor with such force that he evacuated his liquified bowels in his ruined jeans, the smell of bloody feces filling the Tuscan air. Not one of them bothered to turn around as Elijah answered the video call. Just as Klaus tossed the chair aside and bolted to his older brother’s side, Diego mustered all his strength to call after him, “Wait! Wait, man, I’ll tell you!”

Klaus spun around to face him and raised his eyebrows when his own personal Judas finally broke, gleeful vengeance electrifying his frozen heart. He slowly stalked towards his prey, grinning ear to ear. He crouched down to face Diego and held his wide eye as he called over his shoulder, “Tell me you got it, loves.”

“NO!” Diego croaked in his cracked voice. Vehemently shaking his head, he pleaded, “I’ll tell you. I swear to God, I’ll tell you. Marcel, c’mon man!”

Without taking his eyes off the soon-to-be corpse of his once right hand man, Marcel crossed his arms over his muscular chest and asked, “Where is she, Dee?”

“Already sent the coordinates to your phones,” Hayley cut in. “Lucien’s holding her three kilometers due west. Go get our girl. Davina and I have some fishing to do,” she said with a mischievous smile that mirrored her fellow sleuth. “Whoever this ‘Mohinder’ is, he’s about to go down the rabbit hole.”

“Wrote the code myself,” Davina interjected proudly, brown eyes dancing with a wicked sparkle as her fingers flew, the clicking of the keys clacking in Klaus’ ears. “Now that we snuck past his firewall, all we need is for him to chase me long enough for Hayley to knock him offline and Lucien will never see you coming.”

“Make it happen, sweetheart,” Klaus replied with an approving nod as Diego’s tears began to fall, the horror of his impending demise finally catching up with him. “I don’t want any surprises.”

Hayley scoffed and crossed her hand over her heart in mock offense. “You wound me, your highness,” she snarked. “Just give us three minutes tops. By the time you get there, his monitors will be on an infinite loop while his junior hacker wannabe bitch drowns in so many ones and zeroes that he’ll be dreaming in binary.”

“More like in his nightmares,” Davina chimed in before Klaus cut her off.

“Thank you, ladies,” he said brusquely, ending the conversation. “Off you pop. You’ve work to do,” he commanded pleasantly with a dismissive wave at the screen he couldn’t see as he watched Diego breaking right in front of them. Elijah quickly ended the call and moved to the door, patiently waiting for Klaus to finish. He knew his baby brother too well to think he wouldn’t take advantage of his final three minutes. Right on cue, Klaus wiggled his eyebrows at Diego as he rose to his feet. Shaking his finger at him, Klaus sucked his teeth condescendingly. “You should have taken me up on my offer when you had the chance.”

Diego tried to reason with him, but it was a wasted effort. “Look, I got other shit I can tel-”

“Oh, I’d say it’s a bit late for that,” Klaus said as evil slipped into his silky accent. He picked up the torch and unscrewed the top to reveal the reservoir of butane.

“No, no, no, no, come on, man. Marcel, help me! Don’t let him do this to me!” Diego sobbed as Klaus dripped the accelerant on his face and filthy clothes.

“Don’t look at me, man. You did this to yourself,” Marcel sneered, the combination of liquid bowels and lighter fluid nearly making him wretch.

“Don’t worry, Diego. I’m not completely inhuman,” Klaus cooed as he tossed the torch aside and crouched down. He ran a bloody knuckle comfortingly down Diego’s broken cheek as he reassured him in a gentle tone, “No man should live to see his organs liquify. I’m not a monster, you know?” Diego released a shuddering breath when Klaus pulled out his steel and used the blade to cross his neck. “The butane is for your corpse. Can’t have you spreading that virus all around Tuscany, can we?” he asked with raised eyebrows.

Diego’s shoulders slumped as he closed his eye and prepared himself for the inevitability that his blood would spill when Klaus slit his throat. Elijah bit the inside of his cheek and looked away when he saw the feral gleam in his brother’s eye as he dragged the blade up Diego’s shattered cheek and across the bridge of his broken nose before pulling it away, steel hovering mid-air. His face was completely devoid of emotion when he sliced Diego’s remaining eye in half with a rapid flick of his wrist.

Diego’s shrill cries filled the air as his screams reverberated around the room. Klaus’ face was made of stone as he callously instructed Marcel, “Let the virus run its course. Once he’s dead, set his bloody corpse on fire.”

Marcel walked forward with his arms still crossed over his chest, his nose curled up in a horrified sneer as his former soldier writhed in hemorrhagic agony, bloody vomit and stool flowing out of him in virulent gushes. “Damn, Klaus. I thought you said nobody should go out like that,” he commented over Diego’s pointless screaming. He could cry all he wanted, but it would change nothing. Klaus had given his command and Marcel would obey.

Klaus looked at his brother-in-law incredulously. “I said no such thing!” he defended. “I said no man should live to see it,” he corrected his minion as he gestured at the dying man at their feet. “Now he won’t have to,” he said with an evil grin. “I was feeling merciful,” he explained with a sarcastic hand over his marble heart. “Sometimes generals have to show their soldier’s kindness in spite of their treachery, Marcel, and I am nothing if not benevolent,” he said with faux sincerity. He smirked at his brother-in-law's raised eyebrow. Turning to his victim, he added with a dramatic bow, “You’re welcome.”

Elijah’s phone pinged from the doorway as Hayley’s text confirmed they were in. Diego wasn’t the only man who’d signed his own death warrant. Not only was Klaus going to murder Lucien Castle, he was going to make sure his nemesis died screaming as he begged for mercy that would not come. As far as Klaus was concerned, Diego had gotten off easy. He pulled on his leather jacket as he walked to the open door. With a final nod at Marcel, he added seriously, “Don’t leave until the building burns to ash. The virus is worth nothing if it spreads.”

Once Marcel nodded his acknowledgment, Klaus blew out a deep breath and steeled himself for the bloodbath that was to come. He turned to Elijah and firmly held his gaze, eyes flashing dangerously in the Italian moonlight. The madman’s voice was filled with iron resolve when he growled, “Come along, brother. My Caroline is waiting.” Elijah was right behind him, the door slamming shut as they climbed in their SUV. Klaus fired the ignition and fiercely gripped the wheel as the engine came to life. Facing forward, he pressed the pedal to the floor and muttered more to himself than to Elijah, “If I have to burn this entire city to the ground, I swear to you that I will bring her home.”

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A/N THANK YOU to everyone who has read and especially to those of you who took the time to review. That means so much. Reviews are the best motivator. :)

Big thank you to Uppity Bitch and DarkGhostLight for their ongoing support. Wouldn’t be here without you ladies!

To those of you who chose to skip the previous chapter, here’s what you missed: The Mikaelsons are bioweapons traders. Marcel’s Lieutenant, Diego, faked being robbed of a powerful virus to lure Klaus out of the house to enable Lucien to kidnap Caroline. We see the depths of Klaus’ affections for the young blonde when he violently tortures Diego for her location. Elijah and Marcel watch silently. They have seen Klaus in action, but never with this type of brutality. When Diego holds firm, Klaus infects him with a hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola or Lassa, but with a much shorter incubation period. Freya is a master virologist and has tweaked this version to kill in less than a day. Elijah gets a call from Hayley and Davina that they’ve got a line on the trackers planted in Caroline’s bra, and it’s only a matter of time before they get the exact GPS coordinates. Klaus tells Diego if he gives up the location before the girls come through, he will kill him quickly. If not, he’ll let the virus take hold. Diego finally cracks when the girls call back, but it’s too late. After a vicious final move, Klaus orders Marcel to wait until he dies and set the building on fire to preserve the virus as it’s worth nothing if it spreads. Klaus tells Elijah to come along as they have to rescue “my Caroline.” On the drive, he comments more to himself than to his brother, “If I have to burn this entire city to the ground, I swear to you that I will bring her home.”

 

Chapter Six – Every Kind of Monster

“Are we seriously in a graveyard right now?” Caroline Forbes asked her latest captor, Lucien Castle, with a thoroughly bored expression etched across her pale features, the Italian moonlight reflecting off her blonde hair and casting her in an ephemeral glow. They were in a forgotten cemetery in the countryside outside Tuscany. He had her tied to a stone bench outside a small mausoleum. Ropes criss crossed across her waist and legs, but he’d left her the use of her hands for reasons she didn’t want to think about too closely. “Wait! No. Let me guess,” she snipped, “your master plan is to drown me in so much pretentious symbolism that I’ll spare you the dirty work and kill myself, right?”

Lucien leered at her in a way that had her wishing she could take a swim in a vat of hospital-grade disinfectant. “Tell me, does Klaus often let you speak to him like that?” he asked as he stalked over to her, his face half shaded in the dim light of the old cemetery he’d chosen as a setting for what was sure to be a failed revenge fantasy. “Or does he find other uses for that pretty little mouth of yours?”

“Seriously?” the young blonde snarked, batting away the hand he’d used to trace a finger across her lower lip. “Could you be any less of a stereotype? Are you the ‘clueless and boring’ kind of crazy, or are you the ‘devious hide in plain sight’ kind of crazy? I’m trained to handle both.”

Lucien scoffed, his face twisting into something more sinister than lecherous. “I’m sure your psychiatric specialty comes quite in handy when dealing with a madman such as Niklaus Mikaelson.”

“Says the psycho who kidnapped me,” she snorted, rolling her crystal blue eyes up at the dark sky with an indignant huff. She didn’t have a watch, but if she had to guess, it had to have at least ten or twelve hours since he’d stolen her away from her erotic afternoon in the studio.

He smiled at her without humor as he paced back and forth across the grass. “You mean the second psycho to kidnap you,” he corrected her with a vile twist to his wicked grin.

“Klaus did not kidnap me,” she lied, defensively crossing her arms over her chest as she glared at him. “I dragged his ass out of the fire and landed in one myself. He’s letting me stay with him at a gorgeous Tuscan villa until it all blows over. My days are full of designer clothing and gourmet dining in the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen with the smartest people I’ve ever met. What a hardship,” she said with a sarcastic sneer, her eyes narrowing at her least favorite warden.

“And I’m sure he drags your ass all over that villa... Among other things he does to it,” he replied with a lewd flash of his dark eyes. Caroline opened her mouth to protest, but it closed again of its own accord. Her relationship with Klaus was complicated... and private. He could think what he wanted to think. After the way Klaus had kissed her in his studio, she had no idea what to think herself. What she knew for sure was that Lucien Castle was going to die. The newly certified nurse found it amusing in a morbid kind of way that he was apparently oblivious to his impending demise, fatal arrogance wafting off of him in waves. One thing she had learned about violent criminals in her time spent working with the mentally ill was that they loved to hear the sound of their own voice. She wasn’t the least bit surprised when he began to pontificate about his hatred for her preferred kidnapper.

“I can’t say I would mind having a taste of you myself,” he said to her disgust as he blatantly stared at her breasts. She was acutely aware of just how revealing her blouse really was. She knew that when she picked it out online (as Klaus watched her internet activity like a hawk), but she hadn’t picked it out for this pervert to ogle her in. Klaus’ ogling had become familiar, almost comforting in its consistency. Since the moment they’d met in his vineyard, he’d made no secret of his lusty desire for her. She lied about it to his face, but she loved the way he looked at her: like she was everything. This man didn’t have the right to look at her body like Klaus did. She wasn’t a pound of flesh to the mafia king. She was his entire world. It made her skin crawl as Lucien circled around her while he droned on and on. “But with all the nasty things floating around the Mikaelson villa, you’re just not worth the risk.”

“Remind me to cry about that if I ever figure out why I should give a fuck about your opinion,” Caroline said with a saccharine smile.

“So feisty,” he said with an approving flash of his eyes. “I dare say you’re as bad as he is. Tell me, do you know what it is your beloved Klaus does for a living?” She rolled her eyes at him in response. “I mean, I’m sure you know he’s a criminal, of course, but do you know his product of choice? It isn’t drugs, nor women, nor anything else you could possibly imagine.” He leaned in and quietly tried to shock her with the truth. “He's a terrorist, Caroline. He sells biological weapons to the highest bidder.”

“No!” she gasped in sarcastic horror. “And here I thought all those shots Freya loaded me up with were vitamins!” The eldest Mikaelson had been giving the young nurse injections since the day after Klaus announced to the family that she was now his personal property. No, none of them had told her what was in the syringes, but she wasn’t stupid. Lucien had just confirmed what she already knew. It was a heavy realization, but deep down she’d always known what kind of man Klaus Mikaelson was. What scared her more was how much she really didn’t care what he did for a living. She was a murderer herself now, too. While she didn’t plan on making a career of it the way he had, she couldn't hold his choices against him. From the outside, she knew it looked bad. From inside his bedroom, and in his arms, it was harder to hate him for the things he’d done in the past when he was present for every nightmare.

An evil smile spread across his face. “So, you are vaccinated, then?” he asked deviously, running a hand down the back of her neck. “Maybe we can have some fun after all.” She quickly slapped him away once more, drawing from him a bark of laughter. “Well, perhaps I’ll tell you something you don’t know.” He smirked at her when all she did was raise an eyebrow. He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket and lit one with a wooden match, inhaling it slowly as the smell of sulfur and burning tobacco offended her senses.

“Did you know we used to be friends, Niklaus and I?” he began carefully, pacing around her bench in circles while she silently glared at him. “We all were, actually: Klaus, Elijah, myself and Aurora... or haven’t you heard of his fiancé?” he asked with a triumphant smirk when something akin to jealousy flashed across Caroline’s mask. “She was the love of his life, but he wasn’t hers,” he explained, a sinister edge to his voice. “She was mine.”

“Is THAT what all of this is about? You’re pissed that he stole your girlfriend?” she asked with an exasperated huff, throwing her arms up as she rolled her eyes dramatically. “You really are a walking stereotype. What are you gonna tell me next? That your daddy didn’t love you enough?”

Malevolence flickered behind his black orbs when he smiled again. “My father was quite fond of me, I assure you,” he defended quickly. “And Klaus didn’t steal her. She was meant to be a gift to him from her own brother in the name of forging allegiances between the De Martels and the Mikaelsons. I take it you have heard the name Tristan De Martel?”

“He’s the little bitch that took over for Mikael, that sick fuck,” she replied, eyes widening when she connected the dots. “Your BOSS gave away the love of your life like she was a fucking sheep?! And you still work for him?” she spat incredulously.

“As I said, she was meant to be a gift,” Lucien corrected the young blonde menacingly, the sound of his leather boots crunching the soft grass beneath his feet, smoke spiraling up as he blew rings in the cool Tuscan air. “However, Aurora was a bit like you.”

“Brilliant and good looking?” she interjected, waving her hand in front of her to get rid of the offensive odor.

“Pigheaded. Unable to do as she was told,” he countered. She thought about making a witty comeback, but shrugged in agreement. She was anything but pliable, her strong will something she carried with pride. Maybe Klaus had a type. “We kept seeing each other in spite of Tristan’s directive. Your friend was very ambivalent about the marriage after he and Mikael had their little falling out.”

“You mean when Mikael murdered his MOTHER?” she snapped, an odd sense of protectiveness filling her for the woman in the painting.

“Is that how he tells it? Interesting,” he said ominously. He was baiting her; she knew it, and she wasn’t falling for it. He inhaled a last drag of his cigarette and crushed it beneath his boot inches from her bare feet. “As I was saying, Klaus wasn’t looking too fondly at the prospect of marriage after that, especially when Elijah also lost the love of his life in the aftermath.”

“Mikael killed her, too?” she asked curiously. Who was he talking about? Elijah was happily married to Hayley.

“Well, he certainly tried,” he replied with a noncommittal shrug. “But that’s another story. None of us walked into this life as you did. We were all born into crime families. The Castles were closely aligned with the Mikaelsons for generations. Our mothers were the best of friends. It’s unfortunate that I was her only child. I’m all that remains of my line, but no matter. Tristan sought to join the De Martel empire with ours through the marriage.”

“Guess that kind of messed things up with your girlfriend, huh?” she taunted her captor with a sneer.

“Aurora and I were making preparations to run away together,” he continued as if he hadn’t heard. “As I said, we were born into this. It wasn’t how we wanted to spend our lives. Tristan may be my employer now that my line is all but gone, but he’s hardly my friend. He’s a tyrant who would have sold his sister to a madman just to build his family name. His father’s fortune was nothing compared to what he has amassed in half as many years. She and I wanted a simple life. Marriage. Children. Happiness. That was all. It may not sound like much, but it’s what we wanted.”

The real madman paused to give Caroline a change to sling a barb at him, but she sat on the cold stone silently watching him pace with a contemplative expression as she considered her options. She knew what he was doing. Trying to get her to sympathize with him. See things from his side. Classic serial killer thing to do. Wasn’t gonna happen. Surprise registered on his features when she didn’t comment. She looked at him with a raised brow, encouraging him to continue his tirade. “We had almost enough money tucked away to get out clean. Start over with fresh identities in a new country surrounded by strangers who’d never heard the name De Martel. Unfortunately, Klaus overheard her on the phone while we were making preparations.” He looked to Caroline and waited for her eyes to meet his before whispering, “He killed her.”

It took every ounce of training she had, but Caroline held her head high and maintained her composure. From what she knew of Klaus, it wasn’t difficult to believe that he would murder over a betrayal, but Lucien was hardly a reliable source of information. She schooled her features into a look of bored indifference. “Don’t believe me?” he asked. “Maybe you will when it’s your neck he snaps... not that he’ll get the chance after I take him down when he comes for you. Assuming he comes.”

“Oh, he’ll come,” she said confidently. Of that much she had no doubt. “And when he does? You’re the one who’s getting his neck snapped, not me.”

“Oh, I don’t want him to die, you little minx,” he said with a dark laugh. “At least, not yet. Tristan will get to him eventually, I’m sure. I have other plans for your boyfriend.”

Caroline opened her mouth to say she wasn’t his girlfriend but quickly redirected her thoughts. Instead, she said with an eye roll, “And why do I think you’re about to tell me what they are?”

“That hurts. Am I that transparent?” he asked, hand over his heart in mock offense.

“Yes.”

“Perhaps I am,” he laughed with a conciliatory shrug. “But you’re right. I do want you to know what happens after this. When he comes, I am going to kill you,” he said with a callous detachment that sent chills down her spine for the first time since he’d taken her. “Killing you serves me for a variety of reasons. One, I don’t like your attitude.”

“And here I thought we had a future.”

Ignoring her, he counted on his fingers as he spoke, “Two, I want that bastard to know how it feels to have someone he loves ripped away from him, because God knows he didn’t give a shit about Aurora when he murdered her,” he growled with a feral snarl. “Three, in the moment of shock immediately following your death, I will be able to subdue what’s left of him.”

“Why not just kill him?” she asked with a confused shake of her head. “Why do you want him alive when you think he offed your girl? Which I don’t believe, by the way.”

The anger on Lucien’s face was slowly replaced by an eerie grin. He leaned down and held her eyes as he quietly informed her, “Because I can prove it.” When he saw the conviction on her face finally waver, he stood up and victoriously towered over her. “Tristan will have him killed, but not before I have him locked in a cell to await his due.” He took out his phone and pulled up an audio file. “She called me at the hour of her death. I was convinced at the time that Klaus would be on the other end. When I didn’t answer, it went to my voicemail. This was what awaited me. I rushed over there, but I was too late. She was dead and he was gone, her brother sobbing over her corpse.” He held his phone up for her and watched her face while it played. Her eyes narrowed as she tried to focus on the garbled static. She could hear what was clearly something horrible happening to a woman while she begged for mercy. There was a man screaming in the background, but it was impossible to tell who it was or what he was shouting beyond the name Aurora. The audio cut off before whatever happened reached a conclusion.

After the recording stopped, Caroline looked at him like he was stupid. “Seriously? There’s nothing there. That doesn’t prove anything.”

“Really?” he snapped angrily, shoving his phone back in his pocket. He lit another cigarette and blew smoke at her. “So, you mean to tell me that you didn’t just hear the sound of your precious Klaus murdering the woman I loved?”

“The only word I could make out was some dude saying her name while she screamed. That doesn’t even prove that she died, let alone that the voice belonged to anyone in particular,” she said defiantly as his eyes flashed dangerously.

“I could tell you what was left of her body if you’d like,” he growled.

“I’d rather go deaf, but thanks.”

He ignored her sickly-sweet smile and droned on as she knew he would, “When Tristan found his little sister, there was hardly anything left of her. I was present for her autopsy. More of her bones were broken than remained intact. More flesh bruised than white. She was missing several teeth. The coroner found one in her stomach. He said she probably swallowed it, but I think your lover ripped it out and fed it to her. Those cries you heard were my love begging for mercy that never came. Klaus Mikaelson has never heard of mercy.”

“Oh, I’m counting on that,” she said emphatically.

Lucien smirked at her implication. “If you think there’s a man behind the monster, you are sorely mistaken. He’s a vicious bastard who lives for the kill. He likes to play with his victims before he lets them die, though. Surely, you’ve figured that out for yourself. He likes his little games, doesn’t he, Caroline? Tell me, does he like to play with you?” he asked with a lewd wiggle of his eyebrows as he looked down her shirt. “I’ve heard about the games he plays with women. How he likes it rough. Likes to be in control. Maybe that’s what you like. Is that why you haven’t run? Do you let him tie you up? Take you across his knee? What makes the good nurse behave herself?” he asked with a lecherous leer.

She held his eye unwaveringly, refusing to be cowed by a lowlife scumbag wannabe gangster. “I’m gonna enjoy watching what he does to you,” she said bravely, her tone steadfast as she stared him down.

“Such fire. I bet you are a saucy minx in bed,” he said with a cackle as he resumed his pacing, sucking in smoke. “If that’s your thing, we could have had fun together. It’s a shame you’ll be dead before the night is over.”

Suddenly, Lucien yelped as the cherry from his cigarette flew into his face, the sound of a round from a silenced .22 whispering in his ear as the bullet narrowly missed his cheek. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that, mate,” came the eerily calm voice of Klaus Mikaelson. The horror on Lucien’s face as he realized his men had to have been taken out for his nemesis to have made it this far unheard wasn’t nearly as satisfying to the mafia king as seeing the wide-open grin that split Caroline’s delicate features when she saw her savior slowly moving towards them from behind the mausoleum with his preferred gun drawn, a semi-automatic Glock with a clip she suspected was as illegal as his enterprise.

Lucien was behind her in an instant, his gun trained on her temple. “How good of you to join us, Niklaus,” he said in a deceptively pleasant tone.

“That name is reserved for my family,” Klaus snarled, moving closer.

Lucien feigned offense as he pulled out a large knife and quickly slashed the ropes binding Caroline to the bench. “You wound me. We’re practically brothers, aren’t we?”

“You’re no blood of mine,” the mafia king said menacingly, gritting his teeth when his enemy pulled the young blonde to her feet. “Using a woman as a shield, Lucien? Now that is something your father would do.”

“You would know.” Caroline yelped when he twisted her arm painfully behind her back to gain better leverage to cower behind her as terror and hubris split him in two. She only hoped Klaus would finish the job and blow him to hell. “What are you waiting for, Niklaus? Aren’t you going to shoot me?” he asked triumphantly as he held her pinned to his chest.

She had no idea what they were going on about, but in the moment, she didn’t have time to figure it out. She squirmed around, strategically maneuvering herself in line with the red dot from Klaus’ gun. She saw an infinitesimal narrowing of his eyes as he caught on, his head shaking minutely in negation. “It’s ok,” she mouthed. He shook his head again, ice filling his gut. No. She couldn’t possibly expect him to do it, nursing skills be damned. “Shoot me!” she said fiercely, her eyes conveying the depths of her trust that he knew where to aim.

“You know I’d never hurt you,” he said with a discordant twang, his voice divided between the soft tone he reserved for her and the rage overwhelming him at the man holding her captive.

“Oh, do go ahead and shoot her,” Lucien laughed, oblivious to their unspoken words. “She’s just a woman. We all know what women mean to men like you,” he croaked venomously, hatred dripping off his tongue.

“To men like you and Mikael, yes,” Klaus shot back, disgust filling him.

“Do it, Klaus! Take the shot!” she shouted as she stilled herself against Lucien’s chest.

He shook his head again, this time for both of them to see. “I'm not that kind of monster, love.”

“You’re every kind of monster,” Lucien rapidly countered, his tone suddenly filled with more ice than she’d heard all night. In that moment, Caroline knew for sure that there was more to the story behind Aurora’s death than he’d told her. She had no doubt that Klaus could be a monster, but he wasn’t the kind that hid in her closet. He was never the villain of her story. The look in his eyes told her everything she needed to know. That realization steeled her resolve to stand tall and do what had to be done. The sound of a horrible crack filled the air a millisecond before her scream joined in to create a deafening cacophony that nearly brought the mighty Klaus Mikaelson to his knees.

Her faith in her savior paid off when he registered her actions a split second before her captor. He lunged forward and ripped her away by the wrist she hadn’t just shattered to break the madman’s hold on her. She threw her arms around his neck and buried her face in his chest, inhaling the comforting scent that lay beneath the blood soaking his clothes, not a drop of which she thought were his. Her relief was short lived. Before she knew what was happening, two of his siblings were flanking Klaus on either side. He quickly gave her a tight squeeze and kissed her forehead before shoving her to his younger brother. “Get her out of here, Kol,” he growled, taking off after Lucien with Elijah close on his heels.

Caroline’s jaw dropped in shock, but before she could speak, the medic calmly soothed in a comforting tone, “Easy now, darling. We need to get you patched up. He’s in good hands with Elijah. We have the area surrounded. Lucien won’t make it out alive.” The admirable young woman managed to shake her head a couple of times before breaking down. She finally allowed her tears to fall, and fall they did, as she sobbed into his shoulder as he helped her to his waiting car, his wife ready behind the wheel.

Klaus breathed a sigh of relief when he heard Davina’s engine roar away as his Caroline was taken to safety. He held his gun steady as he furiously chased after Lucien. He watched helplessly as his enemy gunned down two of his men, then a third, as he made his way to the road. A bullet zinged through the air and caught the fleeing man in the calf. He stumbled for a brief moment before a car came into view. Fury blackened him when Klaus saw the face of Tristan De Martel himself in the driver’s seat as the passenger side door of his sports car opened automatically. “NO!” he screamed, firing off several more shots as Lucien climbed in. “LUCIEN! COME AND FINISH THIS!” he bellowed as he emptied his clip at the departing vehicle. Klaus’ guttural scream bled with so much fierce hatred that even Elijah stood back for fear his little brother may turn his rage on anyone available. “I WILL KILL YOU AND EVERYONE YOU’VE EVER MET!” he swore into the silent night as his body trembled, his every shake breathing fire into his blood-drenched soul.

It wasn’t a threat. They were beyond threats. This was war. His words were a promise to his enemies that death would come. If it took until his dying breath, Klaus would have his revenge; and when he did, the world itself would bleed.

 

A/N Whew! That was intense. Please leave me a review if you liked it! I had a lot more planned for this chapter, but I want to leave something for the upcoming event on tumblr, KC Fanfiction Week. Follow me @eliliyah for sneak peaks. Asks welcome! :)

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A/N OMG Thank you soooo much to everyone who reviewed! That was the best response to any chapter I’ve ever posted! It’s so encouraging to know that people are enjoying the story so far. For sneak peeks, make sure you follow me on tumblr at Eliliyah. This update is in honor of our current event, KC Fanfiction Week. Today is day two: dark fanfic. I think it qualifies. ;)

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Chapter 7 – What Words Haven’t Said 

 

To say that Klaus Mikaelson was angry was an understatement. He was livid. Enraged. Furious. And whatever else comes after wanting to murder everyone in the immediate vicinity.

Unfortunately, that immediate vicinity included his older brother, Elijah. “Niklaus,” he said softly as the younger man shook with rage, staring menacingly at the spot where his archnemesis, Lucien Castle, had disappeared with enough vitriol in his gaze to burn a hole in the asphalt. He reached out to touch Klaus’ arm, his shirt still drenched in the blood of their enemies, but retracted his hand when his brother turned to him, eyes flashing with danger. He opened his mouth to say something, but Klaus cut him off.

“Don’t start,” he warned with a fierce growl. He stomped over to the nearest corpse and kicked it petulantly with an angry snarl. “Bloody COWARD!” he screamed over his shoulder at the empty road. “I’m gonna kill him, Elijah. I’m gonna kill him. Then, I’m gonna kill Tristan De Martel. Then, I’m gonna kill every last member of their organization. Then, I’ll move on to their families, and their friends, their neighbors. Hell, I’ll kill their bloody postman if I get my hands on him! I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!” he bellowed at the graves bathed in Italian moonlight, their ethereal glow a stark contrast to his incendiary wrath.

Elijah waited patiently for the furious crime lord to get all of the rage out of his system... or, at least enough to safely get in a car with him. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the boy he helped raise... it was that he didn’t trust this particular version of that boy. Experience was a brutal teacher. He cocked his head at Aya and gestured for her to have their men start piling up the bodies. She was an athletic dark-skinned beauty in her late thirties with the shortest hair he’d ever seen and a shrewd mind. She was one of the many women he’d taken to bed after his love life had fallen apart shortly after he and Klaus had taken over the empire. Before he’d met Hayley three years ago, he’d had the emotional availability of a snow pea and Aya had fallen by the wayside. However, her skills in the field were unmatched and he considered her his own second in command. She’d proven herself a loyal soldier time and again, but more importantly, she could handle Klaus... and was willing to put up with the type of temper tantrum he was currently throwing.

Their remaining troops slowly managed to form a pyre of the dozen or so broken corpses... once Klaus was done kicking and indiscriminately screaming at them as though their dead ears cared what he had to scream, their vacant, milky eyes unable to see his ire. He felt blood pumping through him so ferociously that the drumming of his veins echoed around his skull in a cavernous cacophony. The moon was high in the Tuscan sky before he finally calmed down enough to speak clearly.

“Elijah, do tell me you brought something flammable,” he snarled between clenched teeth.

The older Mikaelson looked at him as though he’d called him the filthiest of epithets. “Niklaus, I understand your rage, but please do spare me your insults,” he replied with regal formality in his normally pleasant accent.

“My apologies, dear brother,” Klaus answered with a humble yet mocking bow. “Please use what I’m sure you have up your sleeve to blow this wretched place to hell.”

Elijah reached into his bloody suit jacket and pulled out a small incendiary device composed of C4 and an even smaller timer. Explosives were his specialty, pyrotechnics a hobby that had become an obsession after he’d shut himself down emotionally. He’d told his little brother in a rare moment of familial bonding that if his heart turned to ash, the rest of the world should burn with it. Klaus hadn’t disagreed. Since then, he’d made good use of Elijah’s fondness for fire.

“Not that I’m ever opposed to a good explosion, but are you sure it’s necessary in this case? Arson seems a tad late,” he commented dryly as he looked over at the rotting pile of human decay. “Also, it’s not like you to deny a grieving family the closure of burying their loved one.”

“I’m covered in Diego’s blood,” Klaus reminded him in a low growl as he spoke the traitor’s name. “Anyone I touched is now a carrier for the virus. There will be a lot more funerals if we don’t contain it now."

“How very humanitarian of you,” he replied as he squeezed a bottle of butane over the bodies, silently agreeing with his assessment.

“Now who is insulting whom?” Klaus shot back, amused in spite of his fury. “I’m a businessman. The virus is worth nothing if it spreads.” He held his brother’s dark gaze and commanded him in a tone that left no room for argument.

“Burn them, Elijah. Burn them all.”

The two men circled the rotting flesh, coating the ground with lighter fluid. The master arsonist pulled out his cell phone and accessed the deep web. Hayley had programmed an app specifically for her firebug of a husband to remotely detonate his little gifts. She had a darkness about her that he’d never seen, a trait that once would have repelled him before his world fell apart. Now, he loved that she was every bit as twisted as the rest of his family... albeit from behind a computer screen alongside Davina. “With pleasure,” he said with a morbid grin as he armed the device. “We have sixty seconds.”

“Best get on with it,” the mob boss replied with an equally evil smirk as their remaining minions scattered in all directions. They walked down the hill to where Aya was waiting to hand off the keys to Elijah’s Bentley Bentayga. She knew better than to get in a car with Klaus right now. “Make sure there’s nothing left,” he said with a mad gleam in his eye before ushering her away as she ran to take cover with the rest of the men and women... The Mikaelsons were equal opportunity employers, caring little for things such as gender, orientation or nationality. If someone could prove themselves, none of them cared much for what they looked like or who they took to bed.

The brothers stood behind the luxury SUV to watch the show, never ones to miss a good inferno. Elijah hummed in satisfaction as the graveyard erupted into a giant blaze, a sickly glow mushrooming overhead as flames covered the entire area, the force of the explosion booming in their ears, their bodies involuntarily buckling as they clung to the open doors to maintain their balance. “I need to get to Hayley,” he said with an uncharacteristic gravel in his voice. Arousal thrummed in his veins as he breathed in the smell of destruction as they sped off into the Italian countryside, soot blackening their faces in the aftermath of the night.

“Step on it,” Klaus snapped tiredly as his adrenaline finally began to recede. “I need to get to Caroline. It's been too long already.”

“It’s been a day, Niklaus,” Elijah reasonably countered.

Klaus turned to face his brother, anger returning full force. “It’s been a LONG fucking day, and half the bloody night!” he shouted. “Don’t test me,” he said after a beat, his voice softer. “I’m in no mood for your rationale.”

“Well, somebody needs to maintain rationality where Caroline is concerned.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he snarled, eyes flashing menacingly.

Elijah sighed, looking ahead to the quiet back roads as he contemplated exactly what he had meant. None of them had dared to broach the topic of their young houseguest… house captive… She’d already brought about such a change in their otherwise vicious leader that no one wanted to see her go, least of all Elijah. His brother’s bedpost had almost as many notches as his gun belt, but more often than not he didn’t even know their names. Didn’t care to ask. They all knew whoever she was wouldn’t be staying the night, let alone coming back. The darkest of them liked it rough and dirty and over as fast as it began... which was about two drinks for most of his so-called dates. He was a smooth talker with a charming accent and come-fuck-me eyes, as Caroline hadn’t definitely never called them in her head when he mentally undressed her from across the room.

Since Aurora had died, Klaus had given up on frivolous concepts like marriage and family. He’d been ambivalent about the whole thing anyway. Her affections for Lucien weren’t exactly a secret. Keeping anything from the observant mastermind was a challenge, and she hadn’t been a genius to begin with. With the exception of the youngest Mikaelson, Henrik, who had died young, Klaus alone remained unmarried. His eldest brother, Finn, and his wife, Sage, had two children they’d had after they’d moved to Catalonia. Freya and Keelin had tried in vitro twice, but it hadn’t taken. Keelin’s friend Vincent was apparently sterile. It had only affirmed Klaus’ suspicions that he wasn’t much of a man from the beginning, and he’d been secretly glad he wouldn’t be tainting their bloodline. When his sister-in-law came back from her post in Africa where she was a physician for Doctors Without Borders, they would try again once they found a suitable replacement donor. Elijah doubted he and Hayley would ever have children, but Rebekah and Kol both wanted families eventually, the former especially. She and Marcel had been trying for years, but with her recent injuries, it may not be possible.

Kol was quick to assure his brothers that Rebekah was stable and in good hands with Freya, a trained virologist. She was brilliant and the most bookish of the bunch. She held both a medical degree and a PhD in microbiology from Oxford where she’d studied alongside Sage before Klaus and Elijah had enrolled to earn degrees in business. Kol had gone to medical school as well, but neither Mikaelson had bothered taking the boards. Hayley held a degree in audio engineering that she’d gotten long before marrying Elijah, but Davina had been a runaway who taught herself code. She’d been a hacker for hire when she met Kol back when they lived in England. Marcel had a few years of college under his belt by the time he left the U.S. Army, but he hadn’t graduated either, not that Rebekah cared as she considered textbooks an allergy. There wasn’t exactly an HR department to check qualifications in the family’s criminal enterprise.

In spite of Kol’s assurances, Marcel had gone straight back to the villa as soon as Diego was a pile of burnt nothingness. Klaus strongly suspected his in-law had shot the traitor in the face as soon as they’d left, but he’d never know for sure. He also didn’t care enough to ask given that it was his baby sister Marcel had run to. The bastard general was a show for the troops to keep them in line. As incorrigible as he could be, he did love his family… as much as he could love anyone… and he did his best to honor their relationships.

Of course, when it came to Klaus, his best didn’t necessarily count for all that much.

It was with all that in mind that Elijah had held his tongue over the last couple of months that Caroline had been under Klaus’ “protection.” Protection was the family’s kinder way of acknowledging that he’d basically kidnapped her and was actively holding her hostage against her will... although, they’d all noticed that she wasn’t exactly fighting him to leave his side anymore. Mostly, she fought him for even just a tiny bit of the freedom he wouldn’t give her.

That was what Caroline gave Klaus that he needed more than anything else: a worthy opponent. She told him what he needed to hear but everyone else was afraid to say.

The bright young blonde told him no. All the time. Day in. Day out. No this. No that. No. No. No. The harder she pushed him away, the harder he tried to win her over. Elijah suspected it had stopped being a game of cat and mouse for his little brother a long time ago, and he was sure that she knew it, too.

In the beginning, of course all Klaus had wanted was to take her to bed. Fuck and forget. That was his way. The story changed when she not only took down Mikael without hesitation, but went back to pull him out of the fire when she’d been free to let him burn. She wasn’t like any woman he’d ever known, or wanted to know. Before tonight, Elijah would have said she’d run given the opportunity, but after the way she spared Klaus having to make an impossible decision, he wasn’t so sure. Caroline Forbes was a force to be reckoned with. If any woman was strong enough to stand at his brother’s side, it was her in all her blonde and bubbly glory.

Elijah drove through the countryside for several long minutes as they rode in silence, the gravel of the backroads he preferred crunching under the tires of his SUV. They were more than halfway home before he finally broke the silence. “Brother,” he began quietly to get his attention. At a raised brow, he continued, “If you really love her-”    

“I didn’t say that,” Klaus immediately interjected, looking away as the moonlight lit their path.
   
He paused a moment to gather his thoughts and had to force back a smile at the obvious deflection. “If you care for her,” he rephrased, “you have to set her free, Niklaus.”   

Klaus glared at him until he returned his attention to the road. After a long pause, he spoke so softly that his words were barely a wisp of a whisper. “I can’t lose her, Elijah.” 
  
“You can’t keep her, either.”  

The blood-soaked murdered ran his fingers through his short dirty blond curls and sighed miserably. “So, I just let her go, then?” he asked, his voice nearly cracking at the mere prospect of saying goodbye.

“No,” Elijah quickly corrected him. “You let her make her own decision.”  

Klaus shook his head dejectedly, propping his elbow beneath the window and staring out at the beauty of rural Italy that had always enchanted him. “She’ll run and be gone and I’ll never see her again.”  

“She won’t, brother,” the elder replied with more confidence than he’d felt before the words had come out. Now they sounded truer than anything he’d ever said.
   
“How can you possibly know what she’ll do?”  Klaus barked in frustrated misery.

Elijah cast his gaze to his passenger, the memory of Caroline’s face when she saw that his fearsome brother had indeed come to her rescue fresh in his mind. It wasn’t one of shock or relief. It was one of victory. In that moment, Elijah knew for certain that she’d never doubted that Klaus would come for her. There was more faith in that smile than hatred could ever rival. A knowing smile played about his lips when he finally replied, “Because you’re not the only one who hasn’t said that.” 

Unsure how to respond, Klaus ran his fingers through his bloody curls and sighed. He stared morosely out the window at the Tuscan countryside as they slowly made their way home.   

When they arrived at the villa at last, the bloodier brother bolted out of the car like he was the one on fire. He ripped the front door open so hard that it would have come off its hinges had he not had it replaced with steel.

“How is she? Where is she? How bad is it?” he demanded of his younger brother.

“Relax, Nik. She’s fine,” Kol answered as he held up his hands in a gesture of calm surrender, blocking the path to the stairs.

“As am I,” Rebekah snapped from the couch where she lay with her head in Marcel’s lap as he stroked her freshly washed hair. “Not that you bothered to ask, you bloody ass.”

“Sister,” Klaus said, eyes widening when he took in the sight of her pale face, IVs hooked into both arms as Freya doted over her, checking her bandages.

“Oh, lovely, you do remember me,” she said with a sarcastic smile. “And here I was planning on changing my name to Rebekah the Forgotten.”

“Bekah-”

She brushed him off with a dismissive wave of her hand, the sudden movement making her wince. “Spare me the faux sentimentality. We all know I’m not the blonde you’re looking for.” He nodded at her, grateful she’d let him off the hook. Compassion wasn’t her style. Normally, she’d have laid on a guilt trip thick enough to earn her a shiny new convertible, but like everyone else, she was glad Caroline had come along. “Fill him in so he can get upstairs, Kol.”

The mobster turned his attention back to the surgeon of the house. “I promise you, Nik. Caroline is fine,” he said calmly and surely.

“What about her arm? I heard it crack, Kol. You can’t tell me she’s uninjured,” he snapped angrily.

“Oh, it’s shattered good and proper,” he confirmed in his British accent. “Be quite a while before her wrist heals. She broke it in three places.”

“I’m gonna kill him,” the dirty blond boss growled, his breath starting to quicken as rage boiled up inside of him once more.

“Of course you are, but not tonight,” Kol countered firmly. “For tonight, she’s patched up as best I could manage without rolls of plaster. In a few hours, I’ll go to hospital and raid the supplies with Marcel and Davina.” The honorary Mikaelson had been special forces. He’d always been sneaky, but his time with the rangers had honed his breaking and entering skills into a fine craft. It was nothing for the raven-haired hacker to knock a security system offline while the men did the deed. Pilfering medical supplies, amongst other things, was a regular occurrence when they couldn’t wait to go through the proper channels. While bullet wounds had never been this common before the war, their company was no stranger to injury. Klaus had a tendency to break bones when he trained his troops in hand-to-hand combat. Not his bones, of course, but bones still had to be set nonetheless. It wasn’t unusual for them to run out of something mid-crisis.

“Can I see her?” he demanded, shocking all of them that he’d bother to ask. Normally, he wouldn’t, but a small, nagging part of him kept replaying Elijah’s words in his head. What if those words had been wrong? What if she took one look at him and was disgusted by the man staring back at her? The monster staring back at her. How would he live with it if she still wanted her freedom, knowing he couldn’t deny her any longer? No, words hadn’t said it... but had they needed to?

“Yes, obviously she wants to see you,” the medic affirmed, rolling his eyes and shaking Klaus from his reverie. “She’s in your room waiting. I offered her something for the pain, but she insisted on waiting up. Stubborn little bird, that one. You’re two peas in a bloody pod,” he added, shaking his head. “But go easy on her, Nik. You’ll have to lay off the whips and chains for a while.”

“Kol, don’t start,” Freya warned, earning her a wink from the mischievous Mikaelson as Klaus narrowed his eyes, his fists curling at the lecherous expression on his little brother’s face. Of all the things on his mind, sex was not one of them. Yes, he’d never tried to hide how badly he wanted to claim her body, mark his territory, but all he wanted in the moment was to see her, to know she was back and safe and HIS... if that’s what she was. If not, well, he still needed to see her.

“Do take our sister’s advice, you wanker,” Klaus snarled, shoving him out of the way hard enough to make him yelp. “And God help anyone who knocks this time,” he shouted over his shoulder as he thundered up the stairs. By the time he got to his door, his chest was heaving all over again. He was a maelstrom of emotions that were too impossibly large to catalogue, let alone process as his heart beat furiously against his ribs. He held his thumb to the lock and slammed the door behind him, startling the young blonde.’

“Caroline,” he choked out, his voice tight like he’d been choked.

“Klaus,” she gasped, her voice a breath above a whisper, his presence the answer to a prayer she’d never speak out loud.

As soon as he heard her call his name, he felt all the anger and anguish leave his body in a whoosh as his lungs audibly emptied. Relief flooded his system when he saw his beautiful angel sitting perched on the edge of their bed, her wrapped arm cradled to her chest in a navy-blue sling. She looked at him from the tips of his hair to the steel toe of his muddy boots. He was covered in blood she knew wasn’t his, most of him also caked in grime, soot from the explosion just the ashen icing on the cake. He reeked of fire and death.

He was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.

Klaus looked at her and the world stopped spinning. She was still wearing the same poplar wraparound blouse and tiny shorts, her feet as bare as ever, and just as dirty as every part of him. Her hair was snarled and frazzled, her face pale from the obvious pain she was hiding. She smelled like a graveyard and resembled its inhabitants after her ordeal. None of that mattered. She was alive and she was here.

She was perfect.

Something in him snapped and his legs moved forward of their own accord. He collapsed on the ground as soon as he reached the bed. He wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his bloody face in her lap, his shoulders shaking and his breathing ragged. The nurse's mouth popped open in surprise, but she had no words. What was the right thing to say when the most notorious and vicious criminal in all of Europe fell to his knees and held on like a child clutching a life raft? She was more than his life raft. Caroline was his life now. She was the sun around which his universe revolved. She was the light. She was his light.

And he’d almost lost her.

Without a clue how to respond to a side of him she was sure no one had ever seen, maybe a side that hadn’t even existed until now, Caroline scooted closer to him and gingerly wrapped her good arm around him as much as she could. She felt his grip tighten around her hips to pull her closer, like he couldn’t stand to be even a breath apart. The intensity of his embrace prompted her to gently rest her cheek on his shoulder blade. She ran her palm up and down his muscular back in soothing circles, quietly shushing him as he clung to her.

“Shhhh... It’s ok, Klaus, it’s ok. I’m here,” she whispered, hugging him tightly. He mumbled something unintelligible but she couldn’t decipher it with his face still hidden. “What?”

He turned his head to the side just enough to free half of his face, still holding her as though she’d float away like a balloon if he dared to let go. “For fucks sake, call me Nik,” he croaked, his voice thick.

“Ok, ok, fine. Nik it is,” she conceded with a chuckle. Klaus pressed a soft kiss to her bare thigh just below the scalloped hem of her khaki shorts, her skin cold against his warm lips that somehow felt like home an ocean away from the life she’d known. He did it again and the reverence in his gentle touch sent a shiver down her spine. When she didn’t pull away, he placed one more just a bit higher before resting his cheek against the soiled denim fabric, inhaling deep in his nostrils everything in the world that was good. Again, she rubbed circles on his back and soothed him. “I’m here, Nik. I’m here.”

“But you weren’t here. You were gone. I lost you and you were gone.”

“Well, I’m here now,” she promised. She pulled back and used her good hand to tilt his head up to face her, brushing his damp curls off his face as she caressed his temple. “I’m here, Nik. I’m here. I came back, ok? I’m back.”

He sniffed, gulping down his emotions, eyes red-rimmed and stinging with the tears he forced back. “You weren’t supposed to leave in the first place,” he said bitterly. “I told you to be here when I got back.”

“What can I say?” she asked with a wicked grin. “I suck at taking orders.”

“Clearly,” he replied, smirking in spite of himself. He rose to his knees, tucking a dirty tendril behind her ear. He steeled himself for a rejection that didn’t come when he leaned in to kiss her tenderly on the lips. She not only let him; she returned his kiss with a soft press of her own. He pulled her body closer to his, careful not to crush her arm between them. He gently tugged her lower lip down with his teeth just enough to slip his tongue inside her mouth, tentatively caressing it with his own. She sighed through her nostrils and melted into him, slowly exploring his mouth, the taste of his affection tangible.

Elijah’s words came back to him and made his heart skip a beat. He reluctantly pulled back, resting his forehead against hers. “Caroline, I-” he began, but clamped his mouth shut.

He couldn’t bring himself to say it.

Not now. Not knowing that he would lose her. What would be the point? He swallowed hard and leaned in to kiss her one more time before rising to his feet to offer her his hand. “Come,” he said, the bossiness restored to his entire demeanor reflecting in his voice. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

“Look who’s talking,” she said, making a face at him as she dramatically eyed him up and down. “Is literally any of that yours?” she asked, gesturing at all the blood painting his clothes and skin.

“Not a drop,” he said with a smug grin. A genuine smile spread across her face at his incessant arrogance, the rapidity of his mood swing giving her emotional whiplash. It was a welcome dizziness, comforting in its familiarity, as she let him lead her to their bathroom. Obnoxious Nik was easier to deal with than sniveling-at-her-feet Nik. She smiled to herself thinking about the name he’d asked her to call him even when they first met. In the beginning, she’d assumed it was so he could fuck and run. After he’d brought her home, she’d quickly picked up that it was a name reserved for his family and had started calling him Klaus. He hadn’t corrected her until now. Perhaps he did consider her one of them now... maybe she did, too, now.

Klaus gently closed the door behind them, locking it with a click. He turned to her and gently ran his knuckles down the side of her face, kissing her again. He carefully helped her pull off her sling, cringing at the way she winced when a jolt of pain flashed through her shattered wrist. “That was a very stupid thing to do,” he said sternly, voice tinged with thinly veiled anger.

Caroline bristled at his admonishment, her eyes narrowing. “Were you going to take the shot?” she asked with raised brows.

“Of course, I wasn’t going to take the bloody shot,” he retorted, rolling his eyes at her. “It was a ridiculous suggestion. You should know by now that I’d never hurt you,” he said petulantly, a hint of vulnerability flashing across his handsome face.

“Then I guess I did the right thing,” she said with a saccharine smile.

Klaus groaned as he pulled off his bloody Henley that was more muck than olive drab, his skin not faring much better. “Do you ever just shut up?”

“Nope,” she teased, popping the ‘p.’ “At least I haven’t yet.”

“I assure you it would be a lovely change of pace,” he said sarcastically as he began to unknot her blouse.

“Hey!” she yelped when he pulled her shirt open. “Just what do you think you are doing?” she asked accusingly... but did nothing to cover her breasts as they peeked out from the top of her grimy lavender bra, the microchip that had saved her invisible in the lining. He just rolled his eyes at her and tugged off his boots, his socks quickly following suit before he began on his leather belt, brass buckle clattering against the marble tile when it hit the floor with his jeans. “What are YOU doing??” she demanded, hands on hips after she let her shirt fall to the ground.

When he was down to his silky black boxers, he finally turned to acknowledge her with an expression that bordered amusement and irritation. “Sweetheart, I’m filthy. You are filthy. Our clothes need to be burned. When I said we were getting cleaned up, I didn’t mean for us to do it in contaminated scraps.”

“You will just use any excuse to feel me up, won’t you?” she sassed, cradling her wrist to her chest as she unsnapped her bra with her good hand, his gaze dropping automatically to her bared nipples that hardened involuntarily at his inspection.

“Actually, that was the furthest thing from my mind,” he said honestly before he allowed his upper lip to curl up in a smirk. He stepped towards her and placed both hands gently on her hips, leaning in to nibble on her ear before whispering, “But if you have other ideas...”

He barked out a laugh when she shoved him away one-handed. “Gross!” she snapped, trying to maintain a façade of disgust, and failing miserably.

“Me? Gross? Says the girl covered in betadine and cemetery dirt,” he laughed. “Here, let me help you with that,” he said with a gentlemanly bow of his head as he unsnapped the button on her short shorts.

“I can do it!” she scolded, pushing his hand away to rest on her hip as she struggled with the button. “And look who’s talking Mr. ‘I’m-soaked-in-virulent-blood-that-isn't-mine,’” she snarked right back at him, enjoying their push-pull. She saw his face drop from beneath her long lashes, her sapphire eyes barely hiding her amusement. “Yes, Nik, I know what you do for a living. Shocker!” She fiddled with the button for another minute before conceding defeat. “Fine, you can help,” she said, ignoring the stunned look on his face. “And I’ve known for a long time and I don’t care, ok?”

“You... You know... what I... what we... You know?” he stuttered. She looked at him like he was stupid. “How long?” he asked darkly, wondering which of his siblings betrayed his secret.

“Ummm.... since, like, two days after I got here?” she said in a tone indicating she thought he was a 40-watt bulb in an LED fixture. “Jeez, aren’t you supposed to be the brains of the operation? Get over it and help me with this stupid button,” she growled, grabbing his wrist to relocate his hand to her pants.

Klaus frowned as he helped her out of her clothes, barely noticing when her lavender panties hit the marble. “I didn’t want you to know that,” he said quietly, pulling off his boxers on the way to turn on the shower.

“Well, I do. So, like I said: get over it,” she said with finality as she joined him next to the glass doors. He stepped back and raked his eyes over her nude form, cataloguing every inch of her creamy peach skin as he methodically scanned her for injuries. She had a few bruises here and there, but otherwise looked ok.

Growing increasingly uncomfortable under his maniacal scrutiny, she tentatively held her hand under the spray of the three showerheads to test the temperature, stepping into the luxurious cascade when she decided it was warm enough. “Oh my God, that feels amazing,” she moaned when the water hit her filthy flesh. “Seriously, Nik, get over yourself. Are you coming in or what? My hair isn’t going to wash itself,” she pointed out bossily, her attitude snapping his thoughts back into focus. He shook his head to clear out the cobwebs and took in the sight of her injured arm, ignoring that she was entirely naked and asking him to join her in the shower.

“Is it wise to be getting that wet?” he asked, stepping in front of her to shield her from the spray.

She rolled her eyes at him, using it as an excuse to let her topaz orbs rake over his rock-hard abs. She was as acutely aware of his nudity as he was oblivious to hers. “Obviously it would be better if it didn’t, but whatever. I need to not be covered in dead people dirt. Kol hasn’t set it yet. It’ll be more annoying tomorrow when I have to wrap it.”

“I’ll do it,” he said quickly. “I’ll take care of everything,” he added earnestly, gently pulling her to him by the waist and peering into her eyes, the sincerity reflected in his cerulean depths taking her breath away. The witty comeback she’d planned died in her throat when all she managed to do was nod her head. He sighed and wrapped his other arm around her, bringing their bodies as closely together as he dared with her arm in between their bare chests. “I’ve never been one for apologies, love,” he started softly before she stopped him.

“Because you probably suck at them,” she finished for him with a small laugh, her nose crinkling in a way he found mesmerizing as he memorized the faint pattern of freckles marching across her face. “So, just knock it off with the whiny Nik routine. You’re really started to bug me with the emo crap.” Chuckling, he leaned down and kissed her again, her lips parting easily this time. Her tongue moved with more urgency than he could handle, so he kept slowing the pace back down to a leisurely exploration, his palm flat as he stroked her back up and down beneath the steamy water, always stopping just before he got to the curve of her ass.

Caroline felt her frustration growing. What in the hell was going on with him? Hadn’t he just spent every waking moment of the last couple of months trying to get in her pants? Now she was out of her pants, and in his arms, and all he wanted to do was make out like a couple of teenagers. His kisses felt amazing, but they were doing nothing to ease the ache between her thighs. She brought her fingers to his hair and tugged him closer, deepening their embrace, only to have him pull back yet again.

“That’s enough of that,” she said firmly, separating herself from him. She grabbed the shampoo from the ledge and pressed it to his chest. “Now get to work!”

When Klaus smiled at her swiftly turned back, she could just see the dimples etched beneath his stubble. He wrapped an arm around her belly and brought her back to him, nibbling her neck and laving over the bites and nips with his tongue. Just when she relaxed into him, he backed away. “As you wish,” he said playfully, laughing when she stifled a groan. He wanted her. He did. But Elijah’s words were ringing in his ears. So, he settled for doing as she asked and washing her hair. He took his time, never having done this before. He spent long minutes massaging her scalp, carefully lathering every strand of her golden locks and rinsing away the remains of the day. He wanted to banish from her mind every memory of the last 36 hours. It was oddly satisfying to watch all the dirt swirl down the drain and disappear forever.

She gave up and moaned out loud when he slowly and sensually worked conditioner through her curls, careful to coat every inch, occasionally stopping to plant a lingering kiss on whatever part of her wasn’t slick with soap. “Your turn,” she said suddenly, turning to face him, her stiff nipples scraping against the hard planes of his chest, her eyes admiring her favorite of his three tattoos, a feather bursting into a flock of birds. She looked at him sternly and gestured with her good hand to turn around. He raised a questioning eyebrow at her authoritative tone and she responded by batting her eyelashes. “Please?” she added sweetly, for good measure. He smirked down at her but turned around.

No one had ever washed his hair before, either. He wasn’t sure how to react to the oddly intimate feeling of her fingers on his scalp. He looked down and watched all the dried blood and grime falling off his body and vanishing. When the water ran clear, he closed his eyes and relaxed into her careful ministrations. When she finished his hair, she set to work on the remaining dirt on the rest of him. She took her time both because she had only one hand, but also because she was waiting for him to snap out of whatever it was that was holding him back. She wanted to take comfort in him. Wanted to feel connected. Wanted to feel him inside of her... now.

Caroline waited until she had all of him clean before slowly dragging the sponge down his chiseled chest, down his abs, down, down, down... Until he gently took her hand and turned around, minutely shaking his head to tell her no. At her darkening expression, he took the sponge and set it on the ledge. He crowded her against the cool wall of the shower and pressed his body against hers, careful of her wrist. He stared into her sapphire eyes, gauging her reaction to his proximity. His gaze focused on her throat as she gulped, her arm snaking behind his neck to pull him even closer. At the quiet acceptance in her eyes, he kissed her. REALLY kissed her. He parted her lips with his tongue and tasted every corner of her mouth, his hand sliding up her body to wind his fingers in her tangled curls. His other hand settled comfortably on her hip, holding her to him like his life depended on the feeling of his skin on hers.

Making sure she was there. Making sure she was safe. Making sure she wouldn’t leave... but he knew she would leave.

That thought kept him kissing her, and only kissing her. He wanted her, and his body made no mistake about it as his erection pressed into her lower belly, but to even think of giving in and really having her the way he wanted only to watch her walk away... It was worse than anything he’d done to his enemies. If only his body would catch up with his racing thoughts. She felt way too good moaning against his lips, her slippery breasts scraping against his chest as warm water showered over their naked forms, tiny droplets pitter pattering against the marble title surrounding them. She dragged her fingernails down the sculpted muscles of his back, making him shiver in spite of the warmth engulfing him. He finally forced himself to pull back when he’d kissed the breath out of them both, their lungs aching, their chests heaving, his heart breaking.

Caroline slowly opened her eyes and saw the hunger she felt in her core reflected in his, but there was something else there, too. Something dark. Something she couldn’t quite name but instinctively knew she didn’t want to see there ever again. He closed his eyes, their foreheads pressed together as unnamed emotions flowed between them. He reluctantly separated from her and added more bodywash to the bath sponge, building up a thick lather with his calloused palms. She leaned up and kissed him on the mouth, but he gently pushed her away and spun her around. She closed her eyes and focused on the sensations of his hands on her body as he washed away what remained of the filth. She trembled slightly when his thumbs barely grazed over her nipples. He dropped to his knees and picked up each of her feet, scrubbing away all the dirt from the cemetery, her center clenching. He ran the sponge up her legs, focusing more on the task itself than on her skin. She grabbed his hand when he reached her hip. His eyes shot up and saw the feral gleam behind the sapphire as she guided his hand closer to where she wanted him.

Klaus watched her face as he slowly rose to his feet. He set the sponge aside and pulled down the shower head to rinse away all the soap, never peeling his eyes from hers as he sensually guided the water across her naked body. She peered up at him, waiting to see what he would do, eager for him to do something. Everything inside her was coiled into a tight ball of energy just desperate for relief. He continued to stare at her for long moments after he set the shower head back in its cradle on the marble wall, the glass doors fogged with the steam rising steadily around them. She tentatively held her palm to his stomach and slowly moved down until he stopped her again with a small shake of his head, his cock painfully throbbing its protestations. She frowned and nibbled her bottom lip, casting her gaze downwards, an insecurity she’d never felt around him clawing at her. He tipped her chin up until she looked at him again, his stormy eyes searching her face for something she couldn’t name. Apparently not finding it, he leaned down and kissed her once more with feeling, his stubbled jaw dancing against her soft cheek.

When he pulled back this time, his gaze was smoldering as his eyes bore into hers, the heat between them palpable in the small confines of the shower. He wrapped one arm around her lower back while his other hand dragged the backs of his nails down her belly. When he reached the apex of her thighs, he raised an almost vulnerable eyebrow at her, silently asking her permission. She sucked in a deep breath and nodded her nervous approval, arousal flooding her system and blending in with the adrenaline that still filled her, his long since faded as exhaustion threatened to overtake him. He gently parted her smooth lips with his fingers, making her gasp when he found her slippery clit between her velvet folds. She closed her eyes and whimpered at the feather light contact, burying her face in his bird tattoo. Her head shot back up when his hand stilled. He pressed her back against the wall, his hand settling on her hip as he kissed her. When he pulled back, she got the message that if she wanted him to touch her, he wanted to watch her reaction.

Nobody had ever looked at Caroline the way Klaus looked at her. She felt like she was back in his studio with every flaw on display... but he saw only perfection. His gaze softened when he pushed a finger inside her core like she was the most fascinating thing she’d ever seen... because she was. Maybe he couldn’t lose himself in her completely, but if this was what she needed after everything that had happened, he would grant her that. He longed to give her something, anything, to make up for what she’d been through simply for knowing him. If she needed a physical release to free her mind from all the horrors his presence in her life had inflicted, he would be the one to help her find it. Maybe there would be a night that he could join her down the rabbit hole, but this was not that night. He just couldn’t. Not tonight. If this night was all he got, he was going to memorize every last sound and movement to immortalize it in his memory... since this time tomorrow, that’s all she would ever be: a memory.

She wouldn’t stay. He knew that. Had always known that.

But he had tonight.

He had right now. He had Caroline in his arms, his finger expertly moving in and out of her much too slowly as he played with her body beneath the hot water cascading down around them. He teased her with tantalizing touches and delicate strokes, his fingers grazing the smooth skin of her hairless lips as he cupped and squeezed her bare pussy, delighting in her every flinch and twitch. She tried to hold his eyes, but his fiery gaze burned even brighter than the heat between her legs. Eventually, she just had to close them as she gave herself over to his sensual torment. He built her up slowly, slowly, slowly, savoring ever sweet sound she let escape from the back of her throat. She moaned when he added a second finger, his stubble scraping her cheek as he kissed her soundly, tasting her as his thumb circled her little bud over and over.

His free hand fell from her hair to her breast, kneading it over and over before rolling her nipple between his thumb and forefinger. He leaned down to briefly taste her other breast, nipping it tightly between his teeth and drawing out a shudder as her pussy ached for him to go faster. He suckled and bit her other nipple before rising to stare intently at her face as her back arched, encouraging him to play with her breasts. By the time he added a third finger, she was a ball of putty in his arms as everything in her screamed for release. Her moans turned into a steady stream of whimpers and pants as she flew higher and higher, his eyes never leaving her flushed face. Her walls were warm and wet against his fingers as he steadily pumped in and out of her, gulping down his own arousal. It took every bit of control he had not to throw her up against the marble and bury his shaft deep within her center, but he couldn’t let himself give in.

If he set her free and she chose to stay at his side, then he would let go, but not before he knew she wanted him just as much as he’d wanted her from the first moment he’d seen her sketching in the grass of his old vineyard.

He felt her getting close and finally, mercifully, sped up his thrusts until she was keening, completely lost in sensation as lightning built up inside of her and pooled in her lower belly. He added his pinky and the slight burn of the stretch was the last push she needed to ignite. White stars exploded behind her closed eyelids when he finally let her topple over the edge, a powerful orgasm spreading to the tips of her fingers and toes like wildfire, her pussy convulsing all around him. She fell forward and called out his name as he helped her ride out the aftershocks of her warm and wet release, slowly decreasing his pace until he carefully pulled out of her, lightly flicking her clit on the way out just to watch her tremble. He wrapped both arms around her as she shook against his chest, her broken arm cradled beneath her heaving breasts and she buried her face in his tattoo. He held her until her breathing slowed and her heart stopped pounding, his hands exploring the flat of her back and the curves of her ass, his cock begging him to reconsider.

The water ran cold before he finally shut it off. She leaned against the wall as he dried himself off quickly and wrapped a towel around his waist, covering the evidence of how much he craved her body. Moving behind her when she stepped out of the stall, he took his time drying her hair as best he could before winding it into a messy braid that fell well past her shoulders. He carefully wrapped a plush white bath towel around her after removing most of the wet drops from her pale pink skin. He leaned down to kiss her one more time before leading her back to their bedroom. He let go of her hand to open the door to their closet, but she tugged him back to her, shaking her head.

“I don’t think we need them,” she whispered, worrying her lower lip between her perfectly white teeth.

Klaus smiled ruefully at her, pressing a light kiss to her temple. “Perhaps not,” he conceded, stroking her cheek with the back of his finger, “but we do need to get some sleep.” The authoritative finality of his tone had her nodding her head. It was seldom, if ever, that she actually did what he said, but she knew he was fighting some demon in his head that told her not to take her the way she wanted him to. He pulled back the plush comforter as she let her towel fall to the ground. He let her climb in first before tossing both towels into the wicker hamper in the corner. He crawled in beside her, relieved when she didn’t shy away as he took her into his arms. She curled up on his chest and was asleep within minutes.

For the first time since her arrival in the Tuscan villa, Caroline slept the whole night without a single nightmare, but Klaus stared vacantly at the ceiling until the sun came up the next morning, a sense of dread rising in his chest as he agonized about what he had to do.

*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~

A/N Whew! There you have it, folks. They are reunited. I struggled a lot with how to handle this scene. Thank you to uppity bitch and darkglowinglight for all your feedback and support. I’d really love to know what the rest of you thought! I hope I didn’t disappoint! Please let me know in a review. :)

Chapter Text

A/N Thank you so much to everyone for all your kind words and support. Your feedback means a lot to me. I hope this answers some questions... or not. :) I have been anxiously awaiting the introduction of a new character I simply love... although many would say she's someone we love to hate. While I ended up having to split this chapter because it got stupidly long, I'm pretty sure you can guess who she is. Let me know in a review!

Oh, fair warning... This entire story is full of all kinds of triggers. Violence. Assault. Mentions of past rape. Murder. All kinds of stuff that could upset you. If it's going to, please stop reading. 


Chapter Eight – My Father's Son

Elijah and Freya Mikaelson texted their brother Klaus about thirty times before he finally came downstairs alone. Their sources told the crime family that Tristan De Martel and Lucien Castle had fled the country after their failed assassination attempt on the mafia king of Italy, but that did little to assuage Klaus' paranoia that someone might come for Caroline while she was out of arm's reach. It wasn't until Kol returned with medical supplies to properly set the nurse's shattered wrist that the leader of the bioweapons traders agreed to leave her side to speak with his siblings in private. He had a bad feeling when his little brother couldn't meet his eyes as they passed in his bedroom doorway. The feeling of unease only intensified when his little sister, Rebekah, pretended to be asleep when he passed her on the couch. When he walked in to his fortress-like study and saw his eldest brother, Finn, on the screen of Davina's laptop, every part of him went on red alert. Electronics were forbidden in this room for security purposes. There was only one reason his siblings would have broken protocol. Whatever they had to tell him, they were united in their opinion... and it wasn't good.

"Have a seat, Niklaus," Elijah said with his characteristic formality as he gestured to the plush sofa. Freya closed the door behind him and offered up a gentle smile. She held out a demitasse of steaming espresso but her little brother didn't even look at it.

Klaus ignored both of them and crossed his arms defensively over his chest. Elijah took the small mug and settled himself in a chair beside the laptop on the desk, the eldest Mikaelson mirroring him on the other side of the screen. He narrowed his eyes as he took in their grim expressions. None of them said a word as they waited to see which version of their brother was in control: the man or the monster. When he finally spoke, his siblings felt the temperature in the room drop, the hair on the back of their necks standing at attention. Finn even felt a chill creep up his spine along the wire all the way in Catalonia.

"Take her from me and I will tear apart everyone you've ever loved."

"Spare us the dramatics, little brother," came Finn's voice from the computer speakers. The flash of lightning in Klaus' ocean eyes made Freya wince, but he ignored the warning glare penetrating the touchscreen. "You've endangered all of us with your pretty blonde obsession long enough," he said firmly. "We have bigger problems thanks to your little rescue mission."

Finn and Klaus were constantly at odds. The older man felt that he was the rightful heir to the Mikaelson Empire, but the younger brother disagreed. After Mikael had fallen from power courtesy of the king himself, the future of the crime family was settled. Finn moved with his wife, Sage, back to her family's villa in Spain where they now had children of their own. The rest of the siblings had moved to Tuscany. The first few years had been rocky between the two alpha males, but eventually both men realized that family ties were the only ties that bind. Finn had fallen in line and now played a crucial part in overall operations. The family had lost all their connections with Porton Down when they'd fled London. Sage had been an asset in establishing ties with her colleagues at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Finn played the specifics close to the vest, but Klaus trusted the couple enough now that he'd stopped questioning how exactly they got their hands on the biological agents they sent to Freya's lab buried ten feet below the Tuscan villa. It had cost them millions to build and its only rival was Sage's own lab in Catalonia. The brothers would never be the best of friends, but they co-existed well enough that if Finn had something to say, Klaus would at least hear him out. He hoped.

"Remember who you're talking to, brother," the leader of the Mikaelson family warned his elder.

"How could I forget when the name Klaus Mikaelson is all over the radar of every major law enforcement agency in Europe?" he asked pointedly.

The crime lord exhaled hard through his nostrils and ran his fingers through his messy dark blond curls. Sighing, he resigned himself to listening to what his siblings had to say as he settled down on the plush sofa. He was acutely aware that Caroline wasn't sitting next to him as she had been the last time he was in this room. Whatever it was, they needed to make it quick so he could get back to her. "I'm listening," he said gruffly. He accepted the small black porcelain demitasse from his sister and begrudgingly sipped it as his older brother resumed his speech.

"I've spoken to Rebekah at length," Finn began. The youngest Mikaelson was a master manipulator and often had politicians and policemen eating from the palm of her hand... and whispering their secrets in her ear. After her injuries, she was effectively out of commission as far as the field was concerned, but she had Marcel to lead their troops. As long as she had a phone, she could pull her weight from the couch while she recovered from her gunshot wounds. "Reports from the streets remain inconsistent, but the official opinion is that you've resurfaced. With Tristan and his cohorts in the wind, attentions have focused on our family now more than ever."

Klaus snorted derisively and waved his hand dismissively. "Our sweet sister has the means to suppress an investigation."

Elijah cleared his throat to interject. "Rebekah has contacts at both Europol and Interpol, yes, but DIGOS won't be as easily placated," he explained calmly as he referred to the Italian law enforcement agency charged with investigating cases involving terrorism.

"What exactly are you trying to say, Elijah?" Klaus barked.

"I'm afraid we've drawn too much attention to ourselves with recent events," he said solemnly as he held his little brother's stormy gaze.

To their surprise, and also horror, he burst into laughter, the thundering sound filling their chests with dread. A crazed Klaus was a dangerous Klaus and they needed their leader to be the pragmatic dictator they'd all come to depend upon to steer the ship in times of turbulence. "You think I care about the Polizia di Stato?" he scoffed. "We've survived far worse than a few pesky investigators. Let them come. They'll never find anything. The entrance to Freya's lab is so well hidden that even our most trusted Lieutenants can't find the door."

Finn groaned and wiped his palms down over his eyes at their little brother's arrogance. Before he could speak, Freya intervened. "Even if they can't find it, they know where to look, Nik. It isn't just the police we have to worry about."

"Like I give a damn about anyone else!" he shouted, throwing his mug against the wall so hard that it shattered into a million steaming pieces.

"We have enemies, and not just Tristan, but others around the globe," Finn cut in emphatically.

"If they come, we'll kill them, too," he snarled with a menacing glare at the computer screen.

"We can't just kill everyone, Niklaus," Elijah reasonably countered.

"Watch me! I will burn this world to the ground before I let anything happen to this family," he vowed, vitriol bathing his words in a hate that scorched them all.

"It isn't just them, brother," the blonde virologist pleaded with him. "It's DIGOS, Europol, Interpol, our enemies, not to mention every competitor who'd love to get their hands on my research. We need to leave Italy at once. Now. Today."

"And go where, hmm? Just hide in the far corners of the earth and hope no one ever finds us? We are not cowards, Freya." he growled, his temper flaring dangerously close to the boiling point.

"No one is suggesting any of us go into hiding, you twit," Finn interjected, rolling his eyes in overseas annoyance. "There is more than enough room for all of you here in Catalonia. Sage's lab is just as well-equipped for Freya to continue her work."

Klaus got to his feet and sent a table lamp flying. "This is our HOME," he bellowed. "We do not run!"

"It isn't safe for us to stay here," she implored him, her spine straightening when he glared daggers at her. "I love our villa, but it's hardly impregnable. We've all been inside for months, Niklaus. Finn's compound is practically a fortress and well beyond reach of the Italian government. We'll be safer in Spain. If we stay here, it's only a matter of time before someone comes after us."

"And they know you have a weakness," Elijah added quietly before Klaus could argue any further. While those words made the madman hold his tongue, his silence was deafening. The magnitude of their current situation weighed on each of their shoulders as reality sank in.

As long as Klaus held Caroline captive inside the villa, the entire Mikaelson Empire was doomed.

Freya was the oldest of the Mikaelson's seven children with Finn less than a year younger. They had grown up close and remained so in spite of the distance between them. She gave him a look through the webcam that earned her a single nod. She closed the laptop and quietly left the office. While Finn and Klaus' relationship was strained, the beautiful blonde doctor loved her little brother and cared deeply about his happiness. Like the rest of the family, she'd grown very fond of their hostage over the last couple of months and didn't want her to leave. For that reason, they all knew it had to be Elijah who spoke to him alone.

A long time passed after Freya left before the older brother in the room broke the still silence. "I love it here, too, but she's right. We need to take the family and relocate to Spain immediately."

Klaus thought it over as he paced around the desk in circles. Finally, he sighed and sat on the edge of the mahogany. "I let her walk across the yard and she was stolen right from under our noses. How in the hell can you expect me to transport her safely across the border?" he asked miserably, guilt clawing at his chest.

Elijah tilted his head to the side and carefully examined his feared little brother's visage. He was barely in his thirties and had always looked young for his age. Since the fire at the vineyard, his youthful exuberance had been gradually fading to dull exhaustion. The lines on his face were beginning to wither. The strain of his own self-imposed captivity was wearing on him. He wouldn't be able to keep going like this for much longer. Klaus wasn't a man who could be caged, not even by his own command. Something had to give or the entire family would fall. He stood from the sofa and straightened his already perfect tie, a nervous habit he'd developed years before when his own life had spiraled out of control. He looked down at the top of his little brother's sandy blond curls, still ruffled from a restless night. He buried his hands in his pockets as though it would somehow guard him against the attack he knew would come when he resignedly admitted, "I can't."

Klaus' head shot up so fast that Elijah had to take a step back to avoid a broken nose. "What do you mean you can't?" he snarled in a feral growl that left the older man's hair standing on end.

He looked at the explosive creature before him and all he felt was tired. Tempers had been running high for months. All he wanted was for the tension to end, one way or another. He squared his shoulders, refusing to bow down to his brother's fiery stare. Not this time. This time he had to be strong. Fierce. Brave. Hopefully, brave... possibly suicidal... depending on Klaus' mood. "I mean that we and our family will go to Catalonia and Caroline will not be coming with us," he said firmly.

Klaus popped off the desk and was in his brother's face before he could blink. "Wasn't it you who said to give her a choice? What the fuck changed between last night and this morning?" he asked angrily, his hands curling into fists at his side.

Elijah stood tall, refusing to give in without saying what he needed to say. "I do think you should give her the choice," he explained, relief filling him when he saw some of the tension recede from his brother's jaw as he took a step back. Klaus ran his fingers through his unruly locks before audibly exhaling and nodding for him to continue. "In spite of my opinion, you seem determined that she will leave given the chance. While I firmly disagree, the time has come to find out which path she will choose. Finn's compound is more secure than anywhere in this entire country. If she chooses to accompany us on our journey, she will be safe for the time being. If she does decide to go-"

"'If she does decide to go' what?" the crime king spat venomously. "I just let her go? Say, 'Good luck, sweetheart. Try not to get yourself killed when you hitchhike to the nearest airport!?' Oh, that's brilliant, Elijah, bloody brilliant," he ranted, resuming his frenzied pacing. "Even if she manages to make it across the pond, Tristan has her real name and home address! She'd never make it past her own front door! You're out of your fucking mind if you think I'll ever let THAT happen! I haven't spent the last however long keeping her by my side day and night just to walk away now. What kind of a monster do you take me for? Is that what you would do to Hayley? Or Finn to Sage? Kol to Davina? No! None of you would bloody walk away from someone you lo-" The word he couldn't say stuck in his throat and settled as a heavy lump he had to force himself to swallow when he couldn't meet his brother's knowing gaze. "None of you would walk away," he finished instead as he sank down on the couch and buried his face in his hands.

"I'm not suggesting you send her off alone. She knows there's no going back to her old life now, not that I think she'd particularly want to. She travelled across the ocean alone for a reason, Niklaus. I doubt there's anything waiting for her in the states anyway," he said with a sigh as he sat down next to his troubled brother. It was true. She'd come to Italy to decide what to do with her life. Where to live. Who to build a life with. She'd called her mother a couple of times, but that was it. She'd never asked to call any of her friends because she hadn't stayed in touch with any of them anyway. She had nothing behind her and everything ahead. "If she chooses to go, she'd need to start fresh. New name. New history. New life."

Klaus snorted incredulously. "It's not that easy to magically start over, Elijah. Oh, sure, the paperwork would be easy enough. Fake passport, transcripts, enough cash to last her a lifetime. That's just logistics. I'm talking about making sure has a life to live."

"She's certainly proved herself capable as far as I'm concerned."

"Yes, well, yours is not the opinion that matters now, is it?" he snapped back. "I'm not sending her off on her own to get killed, and it defeats the purpose of her starting anew if one of us accompanies her," he pointed out, raking his nails through his hair in frustration.

Elijah sighed. He hadn't wanted to go this route, but Klaus was notoriously stubborn. It would take an extreme suggestion to get through to him, and this was nothing if not extreme. He'd been thinking about it for weeks. Had spent a small fortune figuring out if it was even possible. "I have someone you can call," he admitted reluctantly, his tone guarded.

Klaus scowled at him and threw his hands up in the air in exasperation. Had his older brother lost his damn mind? "Who could we possibly trust with Caroline's safety if not ourselves?"

He took a deep breath and steeled himself for what he hoped wasn't the second biggest mistake of his life. Unable to meet his brother's accusing eye, he cast his gaze at the floor. "Someone who used to be one of us." He swallowed hard as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Now that he'd said it out loud, it sounded even crazier than when it was a wisp of a whisper in the fog of his memory.

Klaus looked at his older brother and something inside of him felt cold. He knew that look. It had been years since he'd seen that expression, but it was one he could never forget. Haunted by the demons of his past that he'd fought so hard to suppress. Realization dawning, he snarled and shook his head vehemently side to side. "No, Elijah. Don't even fucking say her name."

"Niklaus-"

"After what she put you through?" he asked, jumping to his feet and pacing. "Perhaps you've forgotten your wretched existence before you met Hayley, but I've not. You're out of your bloody mind if you think I'm calling HER!" he ranted in a huff.

Forget? How could he ever forget? He wished he could. Tried. Failed. Tried again. Drank. Pain seared him so deeply that arson became the only thing to warm his cold, dead heart. He burned away the part of him that cared about anything at all…

And then there was someone fiery enough to set him ablaze.

Hayley Marshall. She was a backwater kid from the Louisiana bayou who'd gotten herself admitted to Tulane University in New Orleans by hacking into the admission counselor's private network. Rebekah's husband, Marcel, was from the French Quarter and they'd held the wedding on a plantation just outside of the city. The Mikaelsons still had business associates in the area who carried out operations across the Atlantic. Elijah ran into her by chance in an Irish bar called Rousseau's. Something about her intrigued him. For the first time in a long time, he'd gotten a hotel room for two.

When he woke up the next morning to find that his bank account had been remotely emptied, he knew he was in love.

Hayley was a wizard when it came to multimedia, but Davina had her beat hands down when it came to coding. It hadn't taken long to find that she was still nearby… very nearby. When Elijah found her in the penthouse of the same hotel just a few hours later wearing nothing but his favorite tie, she was waiting for him with a suitcase of his own cash. Six months later, the family welcomed a new member when the pair wed in the old vineyard.

Klaus had liked Hayley right away… and Klaus didn't like anybody. He'd watched her breathe new life into his once broken older brother. After long moments of silence, the mafia king looked over at Elijah and finally noticed the pain hiding behind his chocolate brown eyes. He could only imagine how much it had hurt his closest confidant to even suggest this as an option. He hadn't spoken about the woman he'd lost in years. Some things were better left forgotten. He reluctantly sat down, deciding he could at least hear him out. "How in the hell did you even manage to track her down after all this time?" he asked suspiciously.

"It was with great difficulty, I assure you," Elijah replied, averting his eyes to avoid Klaus' knowing stare. There often seemed to be things the leader of their empire just instinctively knew that the others could never dream of. It was what had always set him apart from the rest of them. That, and his utter ruthlessness and total disregard for human life. "That's why she's the perfect person for the job," he said quietly. He finally turned to look at his little brother, lines of anguish carved in his face as the past replayed over and over in his troubled mind. "I trust her with this, Niklaus," he said gravely, swallowing hard. "If anyone can make Caroline disappear, it's her."


Caroline hadn't been too happy when she woke up and found herself naked in bed with the wrong Mikaelson. Fortunately for him, Kol wasn't the lecher that his older brother was. That combined with a healthy fear of his wife's temper had him sitting on top of the covers when she tried to smack him. He was laughing at her from across the room before her hand could connect with his cheek. The grandfather clock told her it was half past one in the afternoon and yet she was still thoroughly exhausted. Apparently, the medic had been patiently waiting for her to wake up for almost two hours while Klaus conversed with his siblings downstairs. He was hardly a gentlemen, but he did politely turn around to let her grab some clothes on her way to the bathroom… after she threw a book at his head. After carefully brushing her teeth one-handed, she pulled on the sky-blue Henley she'd claimed as her own the night of her arrival in the Tuscan villa, pairing it with a pair of light gray cotton pajama shorts. By the time she finished tugging the fabric into place, her arm was throbbing painfully enough to cloud her vision with bright stars.

The pair chatted idly for a while as Kol worked to set the broken bones in her wrist. Several times, he saw her stare blankly out the window at the Italian countryside. "Alright," he finally sighed, "what's on your mind?"

The blonde turned to face him, the blue of her eyes clearly searching for answers he didn't want to give. "Lucien told me about Aurora..." she carefully prodded, wincing when he wrapped the plaster tightly around her broken bones. He looked up at her and raised an eyebrow, silently urging her to continue. "He told me that he was going to run away with her. That he'd been in love with her first... and that Klaus didn't take it very well when he found out. He had a recording. I couldn't really tell who was there, but I definitely heard screaming. He said..." she paused, her voice trailing off as she remembered the sound of static brutality. "He said it was Nik... that he killed her... for betraying him."

"Ha!" Kol snorted, startling her. "Well, if that's what he told you, he's a right liar as well as a fool. He was just trying to drive a wedge between you two. Probably knew he'd never get away with offing anyone. Tell me you don't actually believe that nonsense about my big brother, darling."

"What?! No, of course not," she swiftly replied. "He's an inept idiot, and he holds people like a girl," she sassed with a pointed nod at her wrist. "If he wasn't such an incompetent moron, he might have stood a chance against Nik. Pretty clear who's the better man," she said with a sly smile as she remembered the way that mad had felt in the shower. "He's a lot of things, true... And I know he's killed people... I've killed people... And I've seen him kill people..." she mused, biting her lower lip between her teeth when sharp pain shot through to the tips of her fingers. "I mean, yeah, he seems particularly upset by betrayal," she went on, trying to distract herself from her injury.

"Obsessed is more like it," Kol said with a grimace as he finished setting the bone. "He's got eyes in the back of his head, that one. He's definitely killed for less, but he didn't kill her. That's for damn sure."

She hummed thoughtfully, thinking about the recording as he packed up his supplies. If Klaus hadn't killed her, and Lucien hadn't killed her... "Then who murdered her?" she asked, morbid curiosity getting the better of her.

He shrugged his shoulders casually as he helped her nestle her arm in a fresh sling. "Nobody," he said simply.

She shook her head incredulously, squinting at him as she processed this new information. "But... she is dead, right?" she asked in bewilderment. She knew Lucien was crazy, but was he so out of touch with reality that he missed that Aurora was still alive? Kol nodded his head in confirmation as he zipped his bag shut. Well, that was one idea dispelled, but she still had plenty more running through her head. "If nobody killed her, how did she die?"

Before Kol could tell her, a smooth British accent answered from the doorway, "Aurora killed herself, love."

In spite of his dark words, Caroline couldn't help but smile when she saw him walking towards her. "Nik," she said as she breathed a sigh of relief. His lean figure moved with the grace of a wild animal and it sent an electric jolt straight to her core. Suddenly, all she cared about what being near him. It had been strange waking up without him beside her. He'd become a part of her in the months they'd been inseparable. He'd somehow infused himself into every fiber of her being. His presence called to her and all she wanted was to answer. She scooted over to make room for him on the bed as the younger man got to his feet. Klaus kissed her temple and placed a hand on the small of her back before narrowing his eyes at the medic. "And it all happened a long time ago. You'd do well to remember that some skeletons are best left buried, little brother."

"That they are," Kol agreed on his way out. Before closing the door behind him, he glanced over his shoulder and winked at the young blonde, a mischievous grin lighting up his face. "Don't worry, darling. We like you much better. You're in good hands with my brother here, but if he tries anything, feel free to use that cast as a weapon."

Caroline laughed, but Klaus only glared at the door for a moment before quickly turning his attentions to the woman he craved. He looked at her and the anger and anxiety he'd felt all morning dissipated. She was alive and she was home.

Home.

Tuscany had become her home, hadn't it? He didn't know. He'd promised Elijah he would think about his suggestion, but he hadn't made any promises. He raked his eyes over her again and again, subconsciously pulling her closer. Unlike all the times he'd tried the same move before, this time, she didn't pull away. Now when she looked at him, she didn't see the tyrant he'd been. She saw the man he'd become. The man who saved her. Twice. He could have let Mikael have her the night the vineyard had been set on fire… but he hadn't. She'd since learned from his reputation that it had been terribly out of character for him. While she'd wondered about it day and night, she knew better than to ask. She suspected that he wouldn't be able to answer that question himself. With so many thoughts running through her mind, she didn't hear him saying her name until he tilted her chin to face him just to get her attention.

"Caroline? Are you alright?"

"What?" she asked, shaking her head to clear out the cobwebs.

Klaus looked her over with concern, gently touching the hard cast now covering her broken wrist. "You look a bit lost, sweetheart. Where were you just now?" he asked softly, tucking a tendril that had escaped from her messy bun behind her ear.

She opened her mouth to say she was fine but closed it again with a frown. He was so full of secrets that she longed to share. How could she ask him for the truth if she wasn't willing to be honest herself? She was conflicted. Twisted. Torn apart like the bodies he'd left behind. She leaned back against the headboard and sipped a glass of juice as she considered her answer. "I was just thinking, I guess."

"About?" he asked with a raised eyebrow as he shifted to face her, his elbow falling across his bent knee.

She sighed and set down her glass. She pulled her knees up to her chin and turned to face him. "When I was in the graveyard with that asshat, he played me a recording," she began timidly, swallowing down her nerves as she peered up at him from beneath her long lashes. She saw the line of his jaw tighten infinitesimally and knew she had his interest piqued, which was what she'd been hoping for. Klaus was a master manipulator… but so was she. If she wanted answers, she'd have to fish them out for herself. "I believe you about how she died, and I get that you don't want to talk about it…" she continued cautiously, checking to see if she had him hooked. She buried her smug satisfaction before reeling him in. "But something bad definitely did happen. I heard her crying for help, Nik. I heard stuff breaking and a guy screaming her name, cursing at her, hurting her. I know you'd never do anything like that, but someone did. Who was it?"

The young blonde watched darkness cloud the criminal's eyes, turning them to stone. Hard and unyielding but blazing with a fury that scorched the deepest parts of her that told her she had nothing to fear from this man. No, he wasn't that kind of monster… but someone was. The dead look in his eyes was familiar, but barely. She'd only seen it one other time: the night they'd met. The fire in the vineyard. The man she had killed. Evil incarnate. Every night he was a demon that danced in her dreams, his background music a symphony of breaking glass and a chorus of crackling wood. She took a deep breath and spoke the name they all feared. "Was it Mikael?"

The rage that crossed his face was so fierce she nearly balked, the growl in the back of his throat feral. A wild animal. A predator hunting for prey. He gazed at her with an icy stare, debating how much he should tell her. If she stayed, she'd find out anyway. If she ran, it'd give her all the more reason to never look back. He got up from the bed and paced around the room. She waited patiently, his inner turmoil palpable as it filled the space between them. He finally stopped and stood in front of the window, his expression faraway as he looked out over the Tuscan countryside he'd made his home. With his hands clasped behind his back, he finally replied in a gravelly rasp, "There's something you should know about Mikael."

She was drawn to his intensity like a moth to a flame. Unable to tear her eyes away from his profile, she told him what she already knew. "He was your father." His eyes snapped to her, her answer a nod. "I kind of figured that. I mean, your last name is Mikaelson," she chuckled, hoping to lighten the load of emotions that had descended upon them. "Mikael Mikaelson. Your grandparents must have hated him."

It had been a stupid joke, but he couldn't stop his lip from twitching just enough for her tension to ease. He resigned himself to telling her the sordid truth, or at least enough of it to sate her infinite curiosity. She had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. In the beginning, he'd banned her from using electronics. As he'd grown to trust her more, he'd let her have free reign of his Kindle. His Amazon account told him most of what she read were advanced texts on various aspects of human behavior. Her interests ranged from neuroimaging studies to interpreting emotions from a scientific perspective. She was as brilliant as he was calculating. If she stayed by his side, they'd be unstoppable.

If she stayed.

He ran his fingers through his hair and down his face, his harsh stubble scratching his palms. He shot her a glance before quietly confessing, "He wasn't my father." Her eyes widened in surprise, shock registering on her face. He walked back to the bed and tucked one leg beneath him as he sat in front of her. "But he did have seven children."

"There are eight of you?" she asked, confused. She knew there had been a brother named Henrik who had died young, but that was only six.

"No," he said, shaking his head. "Well, yes and no," he corrected himself. "I suppose the story starts long before any of us were born," he began with a sigh as he opened the door to a tomb he'd tried to seal forever. Unfortunately, history had a way of repeating itself these days. If she was in, he wanted her all in. "I come from a long line of entrepreneurs."

"Translation: mafia dynasty," she quipped with a smile, earning her a sharp pinch to her left nipple that made her squeak.

"Don't interrupt the king during story time, love," he teased. "But yes, you are correct. My mother, Esther, grew up in London with everything money could buy. As you can imagine, she was bored out of her mind by the time she went off to college. She met Mikael," he said, sneering when he got to that name, "and fell in love with him over a long weekend. They got married not long after and had my sister Freya before their first anniversary. She was smitten with her baby girl, but he flew into a rage that she hadn't had a boy. He wanted an heir, you see. A son. He forced her to conceive again as soon as possible."

"So, Freya and Finn are Irish twins," she said contemplatively. She'd heard the others refer to the two eldest as twins but knew they didn't have the same birthday. Now it made sense.

"Indeed," Klaus confirmed. "He never gave a damn about my mother, or any of us, really. He'd grown up with nothing. When they met, he fell in love with her power, not her. She was a means to an end. That was all. She wanted to leave at one point, but then she found out she was pregnant with Elijah and thought better of it. Esther had a sister, Dahlia, but no brothers. When my grandfather died, that left no one to take over his empire." He held up a hand to stop her before she could pop off. "Spare me the part where you scream about women's liberation. It's chauvinistic and stupid, I agree, but their families were patriarchies. Mikael stepped in and quickly rose to power as one of the most ruthless crime lords of modern time. If you think I'm bad, I can assure you I'm tame compared to that beast," he said emphatically. "He'd always hated me in spite of my being male and the clear leader among my siblings. Age isn't the only factor. Strength and cunning also play a role. I should have been a dream come true… but really, I was his nightmare. I never knew why until I learned how evil he really was."

He paused for a few moments, emotions threatening to overwhelm him as he thought back on the worst day of his life. Caroline scooted closer to him and nuzzled his arm, kissing the inside of his wrist. He pecked her lightly on the lips before wrapping his arms around her before continuing his story. As he spoke, he clung to her like a human security blanket. In some ways, she was his humanity. What there was left of it, anyway, after all he'd seen that terrible day. After all he'd done since. "I told you that he killed her," he said sadly, thinking back to the afternoon they'd spent in his studio. If he did give her the choice, he'd decided it wouldn't be until after he finished his painting. He needed something he could hold onto. Something to remember her by after she inevitably left him alone. "Now I'm going to tell you why," he said heavily.

"Nik, you don't have to," she offered kindly, but he shook his head and tapped her mouth, shushing her.

"The King is speaking," he chided, the hard planes of his face softening as she kissed the tip of his finger. "When I found my mother dying, she finally told me the truth about my father. She told me Mikael had always hated me because I was not his son. She'd had an affair with the husband of her closest friend." Her jaw dropped and again he covered her mouth. "Don't worry, love, it was an arranged marriage. One that was never consummated. Ayana was from a smaller family in a similar line of work. She and my mother grew up next door to each other. My Aunt Dahlia had a mean streak, you see. She died a few years before my mother did. We didn't even go to the funeral. Ayana was more her sister than Dahlia ever was. She came out to her when they were teenagers, but being a lesbian wasn't as easy back then as it is now, and definitely not in a patriarchy. The man she married knew her secret and agreed to keep it as it moved him up the ranks quite a bit."

"Gee, what a guy," she snarked with an eye roll. She jumped when he slapped her ass with his open palm and giggled into his chest when he laughed out loud at her antics. "That's no way to treat a queen, your highness," she sassed, rubbing away the sting of a second slap.

"Well, I was going to finish my story, but if you've got other plans," he teased in a husky growl, nibbling on her lower lip as his nails grazed up her side. She cradled her arm to her chest as she carefully pulled him on top of her, moaning when his tongue slipped past her strawberry lips to massage hers in a deep and sensual kiss. She felt sparks igniting in her lower belly and wrapped her uninjured arm around his neck. He let himself give in for several long minutes as they made out on top of his plush duvet, his erection grinding into the soft cotton of her pajama shorts while wetness pooled between her thighs. When she guided his hand up her shirt to help her tug it off, he snapped back to reality. He pulled back, his chest heaving as he rested his forehead against hers, her stiff nipples scraping against the fabric of his dark gray Henley.

"Later," he promised in a huff when he saw disappointment flicker across her face. He kissed her on the mouth one last time before rolling onto his back and pulling her head to his chest. "My real father was Ayana's husband, Ansel," he continued his tale as he gently ran his palm up and down her bare back, her flesh tingling under his touch. "The affair had been going on for years and they were very much in love. When she found out she was pregnant with me, they made plans to run away together. Unfortunately, Mikael was no fool. In retrospect, I suspect he knew about the affair and let it continue as long as it kept Esther quiet and compliant. It complicated matters when he realized I couldn't possibly have been his. He'd been overseas at the time of my conception," he explained at her quizzical look. "When Esther went to their home on the day they were to leave, she found Ayana unconscious and Ansel dead. Mikael was waiting in the shadows with a warning. He told her he was allowing Ayana to live only as long as my mother kept her mouth shut and never again tried to leave him."

"But that doesn't make any sense," the bright blonde interjected. "If he didn't care about her, why not just let her leave?"

Klaus shrugged. "Honestly, I've wondered that myself. I think he was just hateful and wanted to keep up appearances. Our home was not a happy one, but damned if he let anyone else figure that out. When Ayana woke up in hospital with Esther at her side, she told her to get out. For a time, they were estranged. Ayana sold the house where Ansel had been murdered and moved into a small apartment across town. It wasn't until they were reunited six months later than my mother learned what really happened that night." Caroline looked up at him, desperate for more clues to his past, but her words died in her throat when he couldn't meet her eye. "She was pregnant," he whispered, his voice constricted.

"But you said she was a lesbian," the blonde blurted out before she could stop herself.

That icy stare returned when he confirmed, "She was."

A weight settled in her chest as the truth took root and grew into a pit of nausea that turned her stomach. "Mikael raped her."

Klaus nodded his head as hatred boiled the blood ripping through his veins, his grip on her waist tightening. "Lucien is the product of that rape," he ground out darkly from between clenched teeth.

The nurse dragged in a series of deep breaths as her own heart pounded in her chest. "That's what he meant when he said you were practically brothers," she commented half to herself as she connected the dots.

He snorted, disgust painting his words. "That's why I said he's no blood of mine." She remembered the confrontation in the graveyard and so many things suddenly made sense. "My mother and Ayana were raised Catholic, and for whatever reason, they managed to hold onto their faith even after everything that happened. It was Ansel's birthday when my mother went to light a candle at the church. She found Ayana sitting in a pew in the back and joined her. They watched as the choir rehearsed for Christmas Eve Mass. They were singing 'O Holy Night.' Ansel was born a few days before the holiday. The air was crisp and the afternoon sun filtered in through stained glass windows. The way my mother explained it to me as she lay dying made it sound quite beautiful," he said, sorrow lacing his tone as he painted a picture in his mind of a moment he never knew. "It wasn't hard for Esther to guess how the child had come to be. She offered to help her find a home for it, but Ayana surprised her by telling her she wanted the baby. She'd just found out it was a boy. She said she loved her son in spite of his father's cruelty."

Caroline mulled it over as she idly drew patterns on his chest with her nails. He closed his eyes and let himself focus on the feel of her bare skin brushing against his rough palm. Everything about her was warm and full of light. He had no idea how he could ever go back to life in the dark now that he'd finally seen the sun.

"So, what happened next? Did she ever get to come out of the closet? I mean, with her husband gone, her obligation to the family must have been complete, right?" she asked, her astute observation pulling him from his reverie.

"Ah, if only it were that simple," he answered with melancholy. "Ayana, Ansel and Esther were the only ones who knew of her orientation. If she'd come out, Mikael would have figured out that Lucien was his. That wouldn't have gone well for any of us. Knowing what kind of a madman he was, he probably would have arranged for her to have some kind of accident."

"And then he could swoop in and offer to raise the baby as his own," she snorted in disgust, shaking her head. "Saint fucking Mikael."

"Now you're learning," he praised with a dark chuckle. "Ansel was a decent man. She raised Lucien to believe that he was that man's son. Esther named me Niklaus because that was the middle name of my true father, not that Mikael had a clue. I'm sure they both wished things had been different, but life was what it was. Ayana was diagnosed with cancer about a decade ago. Neither women ever wanted Lucien to know the origins of his conception. She died and was buried along with her secret. At least, that was the plan. She'd left behind a letter in a diary that belonged to my mother. In it, she begged Esther to make sure the truth died with her. Mikael found it, of course. After Ansel's murder, he never trusted her again. It was only a matter of time before he learned about Lucien's parentage once it had been put on paper."

"I'm guessing that's why she died," the blonde commented sadly as she thought about everything Klaus had endured before he was even born.

"He confronted my mother with the truth, yes. She was fool enough to believe he'd show her mercy if only she were honest with him at last." He barked out a dark and humorless laugh, shaking his head as he reflected on his family's history. "Unfortunately, the truth did not set her free. He beat her and left her for dead. In her final moments, I was the one she called. I raced over there as fast as I could. She was barely breathing by the time I found her in the garden behind their mansion outside London. I called for help, of course, but she died in my arms before it arrived."

The blonde captive traced the line of his stubbled jaw with the back of her knuckles and felt something melt inside her when he closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. "Nik, I'm so sorry," she said sincerely. "I can't believe you went through all of that. Your poor mom."

He pulled her hand from his cheek and kissed her knuckles. "I didn't even learn the worst of it until after the autopsy. He raped her first. The coroner told me it was a brutal attack. When I tracked him down, I demanded to know why he'd done that when she had never denied him, but he only laughed in my face. I made it my life's mission to take everything he had, and I did. I took his entire empire and claimed it as my own. It's larger now than it ever was under his rule. I thought I would be happy when he died, but all I feel is relief. I hate what he did. The man he was. The man his bastard son became. I'm glad I'm not his blood. I'd rather be Ansel's bastard than heir to a monster. I've tried to understand why he did the things he did, but all I've been able to figure out is that he did it because that's what monsters do… and Mikael was the king of monsters."

He audibly exhaled and swallowed down the emotions threatening to choke him. They lay there in silence, the only sound in the room the antique grandfather clock ticking quietly in the corner. Half an hour passed before her stifled yawn pulled him from his reverie. He kissed her temple and gently said, "I think that's enough stories for one day. You should rest."

Caroline looked up at him, her vision blurry as sleep beckoned her to the abyss. "I think you were right about what you said in the graveyard," she said quietly, her sapphire gaze flicking to Klaus' matching cerulean. "You're not that kind of monster." She smiled at him and gently squeezed his hand before wrapping his arm tighter her naked shoulders. "Maybe you're not any kind," she added, her breath hot against his lips as she lightly kissed him, eyelids drooping. She pulled one knee up and rested her leg across his thighs, settling her head comfortably against his chest. He stroked her golden curls, lost in thought as she drifted off to sleep. With his mind in a maze, the only constant was a nagging question that just wouldn't go away.

What kind of a devil denies an angel her wings?


A/N Whew! That was already way too long. I'll update again soon. I promise! Please leave me a review and let me know what you thought. I've also been heavily debating how much erotica I want to include in this one. If you know my work, you know I can smut for days… but I don't want to distract from the story. I'd love to hear your opinion. Oh, and don't forget to follow me on tumblr at Eliliyah for sneak peeks. See you soon!

Chapter Text

A/N Thank you so much to everyone for all your kind words and support. Your feedback means a lot to me. It is with childlike excitement that I can say this chapter starts off with the mysterious woman we all love to hate. Please let me know what you think!


Chapter Nine – A Different Kind of Job

Caroline had been napping on his chest for over an hour before Klaus finally mustered the courage to untangle himself from her and silently tiptoe to the bathroom. He splashed some water on his face and groaned when he looked in the mirror. He barely even recognized himself as the man everyone feared. He wondered if they could all see how powerless he really was. He hoped not... but if they could, all the more reason to make the call. He blew out a deep breath and dialed, letting his body sink to the marble tile, his back resting against the cool stone wall.

"Who the hell is this and why do you have my number?" an aggressive female voice answered after the first ring.

"It's a pleasure to hear from you, too, sweetheart," the crime lord replied with clear distaste.

"Klaus fucking Mikaelson?" the voice asked in shock.

"The one and only. Miss me, Katerina?" he asked not-so-innocently as a darkness flooded him. This was a terrible idea. The grating sound in tone was already turning his stomach.

The woman on the other end of the line bristled as she slipped back into her façade as the most elusive assassin in Bulgaria. "Katerina is dead," she said coldly. "Call me Katherine. Or, better yet, don't call me anything. Don't call me."

Klaus could practically hear her finger hovering over the end call button before smoothly replying, "I have a job for you."

"Not interested. Already have one," she said quickly before returning the phone to her ear as interest warred with reason. Klaus was the last man on earth she ever expected to hear from again. Of course, he was only the second to last man she ever wanted to hear from again. Whatever Klaus had called her for was bound to be lucrative. He was a known killer and notoriously ruthless. It had to be someone important for him to contract a hit beyond his own network.

"Word has it you work for the highest bidder," he said in an intriguing tone that promised hearing him out would definitely be worth her time. "Name your price. I'll double it."

"You couldn't afford it," Katherine sassed... but she didn't hang up. "And besides, I heard you were dead," she said, taunting the man across the sea. "Way I hear it; you'd be better off if you stayed that way."

The crime lord's upper lip curled at the implication. God, how he hated this woman. If only ghosts really could stay buried... "There are fates worse than death, in case you've forgotten," he said, the deathly whisper of his voice a clear warning she would never heed. She hadn't been afraid of him seven years ago and she wasn't afraid of him now. Of course, seven years ago she hadn't known that the Mikaelsons were the monsters who went bump in the night.

The mysterious woman hmphed as she reflected on his words. She hadn't allowed herself to even think the name Mikaelson in years, but suddenly all that had happened was fresh in her mind like she'd fled London only yesterday. "Only thing worse than being dead is being in love," she mused to herself. She realized her thoughts had been spoken aloud when she heard his mouth clamp shut on the other end of the line. "Well, that's an interesting development," she commented when a wicked smile curled her upper lip. She carefully stepped over the corpse of her latest mark as she made her way out the door. "Hope you know about coin because this is going to cost you," she said as she stepped out into the Stolipinovo alley hiding her motorcycle. Years ago, she never would have dreamed of spending time in this putrid sea of trash... but years ago, she was someone else. Someone long gone.

"As I said, Katerina," he said, drawing out the vowel sounds in her real name that she hadn't heard in years, "name your price."

"I told you my name is Katherine, jackass."

"Insults will get you nowhere, little bird," he teased in a tone that was anything but playful as he verbally sparred with the last person on earth he wanted to rely on. Unfortunately, her reputation preceded her. When they'd first heard talk of an elusive female assassin, none of them had suspected sweet little Katerina. How times had changed.

Kat scoffed as she fastened the chinstrap on her helmet. "Insults made me rich, Klausy Mousey," she snapped back, his stomach turning at the old epithet he never wanted to hear again. "And if you're interested in my services, you're gonna make me even richer. You want my price? Here it is: ten million euros in my account before I set foot on a train."

"Done," he said immediately. For how deeply he cared for Caroline, Kat was selling herself short. He'd have paid her ten times that to assure the young blonde's safety.

"I'm not finished," she said, the ice in her voice chilling his blood from thousands of kilometers away. He was an idiot if he was willing to pay that much for anyone to die. She'd never made a tenth that much from a single hit. As intrigued as she was, the money wasn't all that mattered in this transaction. "I have one other condition and it is non-negotiable, so listen up." Klaus had never accepted an order in his life, but the pure vitriol in her command would cow even the mightiest king. "I don't know how you found me but I'm guessing that brother of yours had something to do with it."

"Ah, so you do remember Elijah." A sadistic sense of satisfaction surrounded him when he heard the soft sound of her breath catching as poverty surrounded her.

Katherine shook her head to collect herself, burying ancient wounds as she forced Katerina back in her grave. "That's the condition," she growled, teeth clenched, her knuckles white as she gripped the handle of her bike. "You don't say a word about our deal to him. If the job's by you, I don't even want him knowing we're in the same country because we won't be for long. I like to get in and get gone. He so much as comes near me, all bets are off. I'll take your money and disappear for good this time. Got it?"

"And here I was hoping for a family reunion," he replied with a vicious gleam in his eye she couldn't see but knew was there. Some things never changed.

Red flashed in her vision, her temples pulsing as blood rushed in her veins. "I don't have a family," she said with icy resolution so absolute that Klaus withheld his comeback. He'd scared her away once before without even trying. This time around, he needed her to take Caroline with her when she vanished into thin air. "Do we have a deal?"

The sound of his fingers tapping the touchscreen filled the silence before he finally replied, "I have the funds ready to transfer. When we hang up, text me your account number. Then, go directly to Plovdiv Krumovo Airport. I'll have a pilot waiting by the time you arrive."

Kat tapped out a code and hit send before responding, "Send the money first and then I'll hop a train. Planes are too high profile in my line of work."

Her phone pinged and a message told her she was ten million euros richer. That was easy, she thought to herself. "Trains take too long. I need you in Italy as soon as possible," he said in a commanding tone that made her jaw twitch. Apparently, Klaus really wanted somebody dead.

Kat scoffed derisively as she transferred the money to an offshore account. "Somebody certainly pissed you off. Let me guess: you finally found a girl who could stand your psycho family only to watch her meet a bloody end and now you want the guy to pay. Am I right?" she asked, sarcasm coloring her words. He actually chuckled and the sound annoyed her more than the smell of the kerosene trail dripping behind her. "Care to let me in on the joke?" she demanded, irritated already. She should have asked for a hundred million and called it hazard pay for putting up with him.

"Considering you were once a scholar, you certainly aren't very bright," he tsked with a click of his tongue. "No, love, I assure you I can murder my enemies all on my own... but you already knew that. I need you for a different kind of job."

"What the fuck are you talking about? I'm an assassin, oh radiant one. My job is to kill people. Why else did you call me?" she asked, shaking her head in confusion as the smell of squalor turned her stomach. "Not really looking to climb the corporate ladder in your evil little empire," the sexy brunette snarked, the stiletto of her heels crushing a roach scuttling along the street she couldn't wait to escape. As she looked around at the filth of the gypsy ghetto, it occurred to her that a private jet didn't sound that bad.

"I assure you, you're uniquely qualified to fill the position," he explained evasively. "When you land, get a room and rest up. When I see you in person, I'll tell you everything you need to know. I'll meet you on the runway at Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola tomorrow at noon with another plane waiting to get you out of the country. Until then, Katerina," he said with a final smirk. "Ciao."

"It's Katherine, dick!" she shouted at the screen, but he'd already ended the call. With a huff, she tucked her phone into the back pocket of her leather pants. The engine of her bike roared to life as she lit a match and threw it over her shoulder. She was gone before the building behind her burst into flames.


Caroline knew she'd been away from the chaos of hospital life for a couple of months, but she was still a nurse. The sound of retching pulled her from a dreamless sleep. She rushed to the bathroom and found Klaus hunched over the toilet. "Nik?" she called out as she fell to her knees beside him. Her presence infected him and brought on another wave of nausea. Seeing her beside him made his decision to set her free all too real for the mafia king. His agony choked him as he filled the basin a final time before forcing his body to stop. She bombarded him with question after question about what he'd eaten, had he had any alcohol, had he been running a fever and on and on and on.

"Sweetheart, I'm fine," he assured her over and over and over. When she finally stopped fussing, he splashed some water on his face and brushed his teeth. "Come," he ordered in a bossy tone. She crossed her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow at him. He rolled his eyes and held out his hand. "Caroline, my queen, would you please do me the honor of following me to our bedroom?" he asked with a bow as he grazed the back of her knuckles with his raspberry lips. The heat in his eyes was hypnotizing and she followed him in an erotic trance.

The nurse was acutely aware that she was still topless when she caught his eyes raking over her bare breasts. She met his gaze and her pupils dilated as her core clenched in anticipation. She pulled him closer and wrapped her good arm around his neck. Her kiss surprised him so much that at first he didn't reciprocate. "What's wrong?" she asked, pulling back. "Are you still feeling sick?"

"Nothing, love," he quickly reassured her. Her frown told him she wasn't convinced. Before she attacked him with another barrage of medical questions, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her, his tongue parting her lips and exploring every inch of her mouth. She melted into his sensual caress as his hands roamed up and down her back in scintillating touches that burned her from the inside out. His fingers tangled in her hair as he ravished her with hot open-mouthed kisses to her neck. He worked his way down her chest until his lips locked around a nipple, making her squirm when he bit down with just enough pressure to make her moan. He carefully avoided her sling as he moved lower and lower, his knees hitting the plush carpet with a dull thud. When the scent of her arousal filled his nostrils, he forced himself to pull his lips from her belly. He knelt on the ground with his forehead pressed against the stretch of skin just above her cotton shorts, chest heaving as he collected himself.

Her breath hadn't returned by the time he rose to his feet, gently kissing the top of her head as he released her from his arms. She gaped at him when he picked up her shirt from the side of the bed. "Seriously?!" she shouted, angrily stomping her foot as she glared daggers at him. He couldn't stop himself from laughing at her ire, earning him a playful slap to his feather bird tattoo. "Tease!" she griped accusingly.

"Later," he promised, pulling the soft sky-blue Henley over her head, careful not to hurt her wrist. He flashed her his most charming smile, complete with dimples beneath his characteristic scruff. She rolled her eyes at his antics but returned his smile with a dazzling one of her own. He felt his heart clench painfully in his chest and had to look away. He pulled his phone out of his back pocket and launched an app. "Here, give me your hand," he said, throat constricted. She eyed him skeptically but offered him her palm. He pressed her thumb to his screen and a copy of her thumbprint illuminated on the app. He tapped a few buttons and smiled at her. "Try the door."

Caroline's eyes went wide and she scurried the couple of feet to the biometric lock, squealing happily when it opened. "Seriously?!" she shrieked, giddy at her newfound freedom.

"Yes, sweetheart," he smiled with a nod. "You may have free reign of the house. I've programmed you into all the interior locks."

The blonde deflated a little bit at his restrictions. It shouldn't have been a surprise. Nothing had changed. If anything, she'd expected him to be even more maniacal about her supervision. "So, I'm back to house arrest, huh?" she sighed.

"No," he said softly, kissing her forehead. "I've some business to attend to. It won't take long. When I'm done, we'll go back to my studio so I can finish painting you, hmm?" He couldn't stand seeing the disappointment etched on her face, and he had thought about finishing it. As soon as he delivered her to Kat, it was all he'd have left of her.

She knew she didn't have a whole lot of say in the matter, if any, but the interior locks were something. Smiling mischievously, she wiggled her eyebrows at him and taunted, "You'll have to find me first," before running happily down the stairs. While he watched her go with full dimples, he was anything but happy about it. As soon as she was out of earshot, he started making preparations to watch her walk away for good.


A/N I'm sorry! I know this is like a third of what I would normally write, but I've had it sitting for days and I just can't decide what to do about the next chapter! I hope you liked it anyway. I've been dying to introduce Katerina… Or, is it Katherine? What's up with that? Ideas? Thoughts? Comments? Let me know!

Chapter Text

A/N Thank you so much to everyone for all your kind words and support. Your feedback means a lot to me. I’ve really enjoyed hearing your theories and guesses about what will happen when Klaus gives her the option to leave. It’s been a glorious ride... but we are finally here: Caroline’s POV and her decision.

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Chapter Ten – Like You’ll Never See Me Again

The Tuscan villa was enormous. In the months Caroline had been held prisoner, she’d seen most of it, but not all. The rooms she hadn’t seen were the first she chose to explore while Klaus was off doing whatever it was evil geniuses did all day. She spent over an hour wandering around before a grand piano caught her eye. She loved to play, a gift she’d inherited from her father. Bill Forbes had been the sheriff before her mother took over after his death. They’d gone in on a simple domestic disturbance. He never came out. He’d shoved his wife aside and taken a bullet from the gun of a drunken adulterer after he’d been caught having an affair.

Caroline had been five at the time. In spite of her young age when her father passed, she could still vividly recall sitting on his lap as he played her song after song. She was content for hours to listen to the music, occasionally interrupting the melody to bang on the keys to his delight. The piano had become her escape. It had been sixteen years since she’d lost him, but he was there with her when felt hammers on strings filled the air. She wondered what he would say about her current situation.

Had she made her father proud?

She’d always been a relatively good person. She was on the honor roll and captain of the cheerleading squad, as well as the chair of several committees in her small hometown of Mystic Falls, Virginia. She’d even won the title of Miss Mystic in her junior year of high school. She’d mentioned her dad in her submission essay and again when she’d accepted her crown. On occasions like that, she knew he was smiling down at her from somewhere.

Where was he now?

The young blonde certainly wasn’t living the life she’d expected. Life with Klaus had its ups and downs. If she’d ever doubted his desire to keep her safe, she didn’t now. She thought back to the previous night. Her fierce protector drenched in the blood of those who would harm her. She should have been terrified, but all she felt when he walked into their bedroom was relief. They had survived. Again. She hadn’t known what to expect when they were reunited, but it wasn’t the mafia boss falling to his knees at her feet. When they were in the shower, she’d expected a reaction that hadn’t come.

Klaus had spent every waking moment either fighting with her or trying to get her into bed. The fight was worn out of both of them by the time they started kissing. She’d been very clear in her desire to take him up on his hundreds of sinful offers, but something had changed in the day and a half they were apart. Was it her? Was he finally sick of chasing after her? Was he bored now that the hunt was over? Had it been all about the chase this entire time? She hoped not, but it didn’t bode well that he’d given her free reign of the house. She couldn’t help but wonder if he was preparing her to leave the Tuscan villa that had become her home.

Then again, why wouldn’t she leave? She’d certainly tried enough times before he decided not to let her out of his sight. That was back when she’d first arrived. In recent weeks, she hadn’t even thought about leaving, at least not without him. She harassed him daily to take her outside, but she always meant for them to go together. Now, she wasn’t sure she even wanted that. Her feelings about her captor had always been mixed, but after her real kidnapping, she was more confused than ever.

She hummed out loud as she played her favorite instrument and let herself get lost in the music. Her subconscious had a way of finding the right song, like her father was there whispering the lyrics in her ear. She stroked the keys for the better part of an hour before a familiar melody brought her back to the present. She sang along in a sweet, yet soft, soprano. “If I had a highway, I would run for the hills. If you could find a dry way, I'd forever be still, but you're giving me a million reasons, about a million reasons.” Her voice trailed off as she idly listened to the tune. After she’d played through it again, she gently lilted, “I've got a hundred million reasons to walk away, but baby, I just need one good one to stay.”

There were reasons to stay, given the choice. She certainly had no complaints about her accommodations or the way he lavished her with designer clothes and gourmet dining. She had never been a materialistic person, but there was something nice about the way he seemed to enjoy spoiling her. It didn’t take a lot to get her excited since she’d never had much to begin with. She’d caught him eyeing her reactions in fascination more than once. He obviously liked her. Cared for her. Wanted to protect her. But was that all there was to it? A sense of duty because she’d saved his life and by doing so had put her own in jeopardy? She didn’t know what he felt her role was in his life. She didn’t know what he was to her, either.

Thoughts flew around her mind as she picked up the next verse. “Head stuck in a cycle, I look off and I stare. It's like that I've stopped breathing, but completely aware. 'Cause you're giving me a million reasons, about a million reasons. I bow down to pray. I try to make the worst seem better. Lord, show me the way to cut through all his worn-out leather. I've got a hundred million reasons to walk away, but baby, I just need one good one to stay.”

Klaus had other good qualities. Not a lot, true, but some... several of which he showed to only her. He loved his family deeply and he valued his employees to a degree that had been surprising in its intensity when she first saw him breakdown in his study. He was arguably brilliant and an incomparable leader. He was a talented artist. She found her thoughts wandering back to his studio. She had liked posing for him. It had been fun and flirty before they’d been rudely interrupted. There were a lot of things that drew her to him... but were any of them enough? She wished he’d give her a clue about what future he saw for them, if any. Sometimes, he was completely transparent. Others, not so much.

She played through the chorus a few times before continuing. “And if you say something that you might even mean, it's hard to even fathom which parts I should believe, cause you're giving me a million reasons, about a million reasons.” She sighed, pausing her fingers as she thought about her own reasons. She eventually began playing again after deciding it didn’t really matter what she thought. Klaus held all the cards. If only she could keep up with what game they were playing. “Baby I'm bleedin', bleedin'. Can't you give me what I'm needin', needin'? Every heartbreak makes it hard to keep the faith, but baby, I just need one good one, good one, good one, good one, good one, good one...”

The young woman’s voice trailed off when she heard the man of her thoughts clear his throat from the doorway. She abruptly stopped playing and shot him a death glare, her face reddening at having been caught. How long had he been snooping? “You interrupted Lady Gaga,” she sassed, narrowing her eyes at him.

Klaus walked over to the piano and held his hand out for her. “What’s a Gaga?” he asked, face screwed up in confusion.

They were halfway to the door when she dropped his hand and scoffed. “Only one of the greatest female artists of the millennium!” she practically shouted, rolling her eyes at his vacant countenance. “LADY Gaga has won nine Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, three Brit Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, thirteen MTV Video Music Awards and the inaugural Songwriters Hall of Fame's Contemporary Icon Award,” she rattled off about the megastar.

“Never heard of her,” he shrugged, unlocking the back door as he took her arm in his. Out of the corner of his eye, Klaus saw Elijah walking to the house with a dark briefcase in hand. Hayley was behind the wheel of his Bentley, waiting. The brothers exchanged a brief nod before the former returned his attention to his outraged companion.

“She has multiple Guinness World Records!” the young nurse exclaimed as they strolled across the lawn to his studio, flanked by at least two dozen men and women in black suits. “She has a residency in Vegas! HOW have you never heard of Lady frickin’ Gaga?” He raised his eyebrow at her, his expression mildly amused by her passionate explanation. She strutted through the open door to the loft and snorted at his ignorance. “You have no taste, Niklaus Mikaelson.”

“Well, I like you, don’t I?” he replied smoothly, locking the door and placing his hands lightly on her hips.

She squinted at him but didn’t pull away. “Those dimples do not make up for your musical deficiencies,” she teased, biting her lower lip to hide her smile. She loved his dimples and he knew it.

He stepped closer to her, his lips grazing hers as he asked in a throaty whisper, “How can I acquit myself?”

Caroline leaned into him and snaked her good arm around his neck as he gently parted her lips with his tongue. The way he set her on fire with the slightest touch was high on the list of reasons to never, ever leave. If only he hadn’t been acting so bizarre since they’d come home. “Mmmm,” she hummed into their kiss, “that’s a pretty good way.” His mouth muffled her laughter when he picked her up, her legs automatically wrapping around his waist. He carried her over to the stool by the window and set her down on the wooden seat. He tried to pull away, but she locked her ankles and yanked him back. “Not yet,” she growled bossily as she used her good hand to carefully lift the fabric of her shirt. “You promised to help me,” she teased, nibbling on his lower lip, “and I need help getting naked.”

Klaus pulled his mouth away from hers and barked out a laugh. “I am at your service, my queen,” he joked, bowing dramatically. She giggled when his fingers played with her nipple on the way to pull off the Henley she’d stolen from him. He ran his palms up and down her sides, delighting in the feel of her soft skin as he teased her with barely there caresses. She stood and he eagerly assisted her in removing her tiny cotton shorts. She kicked them aside and wrapped her legs around his hips once more. He ground up against her and she felt his reaction enough to moan into his mouth as his stubble tickled her cherry lips. She pulled his hand from behind her back and guided his fingers between her legs. He nipped her on the neck and pulled back, laughing when she shrieked in frustration. “Later, sweetheart,” he taunted her as he began draping the green velvet sheet over her body, careful to position it exactly as before with both of her breasts exposed. He smirked at the annoyance marring her delicate features when he took a seat in front of his easel. “We don’t have a lot of sunlight left and I’d like to finish this today.”

“What’s the rush?” she asked casually. The artist exhaled through his nostrils and focused on his painting. The swish of his brush on canvas filled the heavy silence that had fallen between them. She knew him painfully well after months attached at the hip. She tried engaging him in small talk, but he was fixated on the image forming in front of him. She resigned herself to sitting still. She knew it was silly, but it still made her uncomfortable when his eyes darted to her briefly as he analyzed her every curve. She’d spent years as a sketch artist and knew what it was like to break an image down into individual lines. Being on display was as erotic as it was nerve-wracking.

A long time passed as she sat there thinking things over. The sun was rapidly fading and he still hadn’t said a word. “Nik?” she called softly to get his attention. He peeked at her from behind the easel. “You’ve been weird ever since we got back. What’s up?” she asked tentatively, worrying her lower lip. “Nik?” she said a little bit louder when he didn’t answer.

Klaus sighed and set down his brush. He’d been finished for a few minutes but didn’t even know where to begin. “Would you like to see your portrait?” he asked, deflecting her question. A wide grin spread across her face as she jumped off the stool and hopped over to him. His breath hitched when the sheet fell to the floor, leaving her nude as she leaned her back against his chest, wrapping his arms around her belly as she admired his work.

Caroline took in the painting and felt dizzy when all the air escaped her lungs in a whoosh. She was beautiful. Her eyes were the color of sapphires and her lips had a rosy hue that blended perfectly with the ivory he’d mixed to paint her face. The lines of her figure were elegant, the strokes of her skin reverent. Her hair glowed with the Tuscan sunshine filtering in through the large window, her radiant corn silk curls cascading down her shoulders in brilliant swirls. The light reflected off the green velvet, making her breasts come alive. He’d portrayed her as a literal goddess.

Was that what Klaus saw when he looked at her?

“Wow,” she whispered.

He kissed her bare shoulder and squeezed her tightly against his chest. “I didn’t do you justice, I’m afraid,” he said apologetically. She turned in his arms and looked at him like he’d grown a second head. She’d never seen that expression before in all the time they’d spent together. “You can sit for me again one day, when things are a bit more settled. If you’d like.” He looked almost shy, possibly anxious as he chewed the inside of his cheek. Something was definitely upsetting her favorite captor, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

“Nik,” she chirped, shaking her head in disbelief, “your painting is beautiful.”

“Sweetheart, your beauty is more than canvas can hold,” he said in a tone dipped in melancholy, his lips touching hers when emotional swelled in his chest. She leaned closer to deepen the kiss and he indulged her, but only for a moment. He pulled back when his phone buzzed in his pocket. Whatever it was, he didn’t like it. She frowned when he turned away to type out his reply. “Come,” he commanded, falling back into his role as the leader of the crime family. “Put your clothes on. It’s time for dinner.” He kept his back to her while she dressed, a faraway look painting his eyes as he stared out the window at the bright oranges and yellows tinting the Italian countryside as the sun dipped below the horizon.

He didn’t want to do it... but this time, he was the one who didn’t have a choice.

“Where is everybody?” she asked when they walked in the back door, again followed along by a ridiculous number of minions in black suits. The Mikaelsons weren’t a typical family that gathered around the dining room table night after night, but it was rare to find the place this empty. She wasn’t surprised by the simple dinner waiting for them on the breakfast bar. The mafia boss had banished most of the staff from the house after Diego’s betrayal. “Nik?” she called his name when he didn’t answer, that same troubled expression on his handsome visage.

Klaus sighed and set down his fork. He ran his fingers through his dirty blonde hair and gazed at her ruefully. “They’ve gone, love.”

“What do you mean ‘gone’?” she asked quickly, nearing choking on her asparagus. “Where the hell did they go?” she demanded, every bit the queen he knew her to be.

Before he could stop himself, his lip curled into a smirk. “Bossy tonight, I see,” he snarked with a raised brow.

The young blonde threw down her fork. She wasn’t having it this time. She turned to face him and admonished him by waving her index finger in front of his face. “Cut the crap,” she said bluntly. “You’ve been acting weird all day. First, you give me free reign of the house. Then, you disappear for like two hours. You’ve spent months trying to get me into bed, and now that I kinda want to, you keep blowing me off!” As she spoke, her vocal pitch rose to a screech while he sat there in stunned silence. Nobody ever yelled at Klaus Mikaelson. No one would dare. “One second you’re all dodgy and the next we’re in your studio like everything is fine, but now you’re telling me everyone is fucking gone?! Where the fuck did they go?” she demanded, poking him in the chest.

“Don’t,” he warned in a gravelly whisper as he grabbed her finger, “do that again.”

Ripping her hand away, she scowled at him and bit back, “Tell me what’s going on and I won’t!” When he didn’t immediately answer, she growled angrily, “Where is your fucking family, Nik?” Her voice echoed around the kitchen in an emotional maelstrom. She hadn’t realized she’d been shouting until the older man narrowed his eyes and stood from his barstool. She knew she’d pushed him too far when he stepped towards her and caged her in with his arms, his palms flat on the bar and his nose brushing hers.

“Calm. Down. Caroline.” Something about the feral flash in his eyes gave the young nurse pause. She audibly exhaled and crossed her arms over her chest as she glared daggers at him... but she didn’t yell again. He pinned her with his fierce gaze until he saw the worst of her anger recede. They were both complete and utter control freaks. Their constant battle for dominance drove them to extremes on a daily basis in a never-ending contest of wills. Caroline would not be cowed and Klaus would not be subdued. In spite of their eternal arguing, on rare occasions, they managed to calm each other down. He was much more vocal about it, but she’d learned that if she silently stared him down long enough, he would eventually relent. He pulled back as if on cue and freed her from the barstool.

“Come with me,” he said with slightly less vitriol. Ordering her around like she was one of his minions was definitely a reason to get the hell away from him at the earliest opportunity. Fortunately, he wasn’t stupid. She waited until he raised both eyebrows at her and offered her his hand as a small concession before following him to their bedroom. It wasn’t an apology, but it would do. She brushed passed him on the stairs so she could unlock the door herself. He blew out a sigh as he closed it behind them. “We should talk,” he said as he averted his eyes.

She glared at the spot next to him when he patted the duvet covering their bed. “Are you going to tell me where everybody went?” she asked skeptically, a sense of foreboding settling as a pit in her stomach.

Klaus looked at her, his face blank, for several long moments before finally answering, “They’ve gone to our brother Finn’s home out of the country.”

“The brother in Spain?” she asked in disbelief. She’d never met the man, but her understanding was that he and Klaus didn’t exactly get along. He nodded his confirmation, prompting her to take the seat next to him.

“Catalonia, to be precise,” he corrected her.

The blonde shook her head, her golden curls bouncing against her shoulders as a million thoughts ran around her head. “For how long?”

He looked at her, frowning. “They aren’t coming back, sweetheart.”

“What do you mean they aren’t coming back? Why not?” she asked incredulously, her stomach turning. She had a good idea but decided to hear him out.

“Because we’ve drawn too much attention. It’s very unfortunate and costly to relocate, but we can’t stay in Italy any longer,” he explained sadly. She knew he loved this country. He’d chosen it himself out of every place in the world the family could have gone when they’d left London. “We have too many eyes on us at the moment. It isn’t safe.” She felt the rest of her anger fade away at his mournful countenance. He drove her to the abyss of madness, but something in her chest ached seeing him genuinely unhappy. “I’ll be joining them tomorrow. I needed the day to settle a few things here,” he added evasively.

“So, we’re going to Catalonia?” she asked, worrying her lower lip. He hadn’t said they. He’d say he was going.

“I’m going to Catalonia,” he clarified, looking away from her stormy sapphire eyes, “but you don’t have to... Not if you don’t want to.” He got up and walked to their closet. She sat on the bed in shocked silence and didn’t move a muscle until he came back with a black leather briefcase. She remained motionless when he gently took her hand and programmed her fingerprint into the biometric lock. “Go ahead, sweetheart. Have at it,” he prodded when she looked at the case and gulped.

Caroline slowly placed her index finger on the pad and the briefcase popped open. She gasped as she roved her eyes over more cash than she’d ever seen in her entire life. Had probably earned in her entire life. Maybe would ever earn. Nursing paid relatively well, but there had to have been €10 million in €500 notes. She knew from listening to Elijah talk currency, a topic that made her mind wander to literally anything else, that the bright pink and purple bills were no longer in production and the last two central banks in Europe had stopped distribution earlier that year. He’d said it was due to concerns about the high-value denominations funding organized crime... which was, of course, true for the Mikaelson family empire. Fortunately, banks still accepted them worldwide.

Once she finally processed the mass of wealth in front of her, she peeked in the top pouch and saw two small .22 caliber handguns and extra bullets. More interesting than that was a small stack of passports. She picked them up and flipped through the different colors and symbols emblazoned on the covers: azure for Iceland, black and silver for New Zealand, navy for Canada, crimson for Japan and deep burgundy for Austria. “Well, what if I want to go to Africa?” she asked dryly.

“Nowhere in Africa is on the Global Peace Index,” he said plainly. She had been kidding, but a quick glance in her direction told her he was very serious. He’d put a lot of thought into this and obviously wanted to continue his protective mission.

She frowned when she noticed a second stack of the same colors tucked into the side pocket of the bottom of the case. “I get that I’m supposed to be Candice Morgan, but Who’s Nina Dobrev?” she asked curiously as she stared down at a gorgeous woman fair skin and long chestnut curls framing her face. “Sounds Russian.” Her taupe eyes were piercing and her dark red smile held a secret that left the blonde wondering what she was hiding.

He smirked with a dark amusement that didn’t meet his eyes. “Bulgarian, actually.” The slight flare in his nostrils and curl of his lip spoke volumes to his constant companion. Whoever this woman was, Klaus did not like her.

“Who is she?” she asked with a little more urgency.

“Her real name is Katerina Petrova,” Klaus replied. “She’s an old... acquaintance... of Elijah’s,” he explained, stumbling over his words. “She’s to be your new bodyguard in my absence. As you can see, you have a variety of countries to choose from and enough money to last a lifetime. There’s also the number for an offshore bank account into which I’ll make regular deposits,” he added, handing her a small black metal card with a long code emblazoned with silver numbers. Before she could interject, he continued at a rapid pace, “Her flight will land shortly. In the morning, I’ve arranged a private plane to deliver both of you to a destination of your choosing. Carrying the weapons won’t be a problem. Knowing Katerina’s reputation, I’m sure she’ll be armed to the hilt. She’s the best of the best, love. She’ll keep you safe,” he promised, resting a hand on her thigh. His touch was scorching as conflicting emotions flooded the young woman in a rush. She looked at him, her lips parted, but no sound came out. He watched her carefully and felt lost as he tucked a stray tendril behind her ear like he’d done so many times before. Like he’d never do again. He swallowed hard before whispering, “You’re free, Caroline.”

She looked down at the passports in her hand and turned them over several times like a deck of playing cards. Making sure this was real. Wishing that it wasn’t. In a breathy whisper, her mouth suddenly dry as the words came out thick on her tongue, she asked, “You want me to leave?”

“I never want you to leave... but I can’t force you to stay, either.” It was a sad admission, but it was the truth. “I want you to choose,” he added softly. “If you come with me to Catalonia, it needs to be your choice. You will always have a home with me... but I won’t stop you if you decide to leave my world behind. It’s up to you, sweetheart.” His words had come out strangled, like he couldn’t bear to speak them aloud. “I should never have taken away that choice.” Again, it wasn’t an apology... but it would do. A chill ran down his spine when she had no reply, nor did she meet his eye.

She stared down at the passports as if they held the answer. She’d fought so hard for her freedom, but now that she had it, she didn’t know what to do. If she left with this Katerina person, where would she go? Who would she be? Who was she now? She wasn’t the girl who got on a plane in Virginia; that was for sure. Apparently, America hadn’t made the Global Peace Index, so she wasn’t going back there, but she had plenty of options. She would still be a nurse. She’d always have her profession. Once that had felt like enough. Now it felt like too much.

Everything felt like too much.

Caroline was torn in half. A part of her wanted to stay by his side and let him show her what the world had to offer. A part of her wanted to pretend his world didn’t exist. Deep down, she knew that wasn’t an option. She would never forget her time in Italy. Somehow, she had become a part of it. Had become a part of him. Or maybe he’d become a part of her. Either way, she’d never forget him. She set them down on his bedside table, their bedside table, and let her eyes linger on the leather covers. She had a decision to make.

The young blonde looked over at her former captor and whispered, “Give me a reason, Nik.”

The criminal king of Italy looked at her and felt a knife plunge into the depths of his chest. Stabbing. Searing. Agonizing. For a man who could talk his way out of hell, not knowing what to say felt like torture. He knew what she wanted. Needed. As much as he wanted her, all of her, something deep inside wouldn’t let him say it. He’d been telling himself for days that it wasn’t true, but even the darkest parts of him knew it was a lie. Then again, all he’d ever known were lies. His entire existence had been a lie. He was a bastard. Unplanned. Unwanted. Unloved. Maybe that was why he couldn’t say what she needed to hear. He didn’t know how to love at all... did he? If he did, and he lost her anyway, what would he have left?

“Caroline, I-”

When his voice trailed off, she knew he couldn’t give her what she wanted. Maybe she didn’t even know what she wanted. She hadn’t said it, either. Maybe she never would. Maybe it wasn’t his job to persuade her to stay. If she stayed, he wanted it to be her decision. Wasn’t that what she’d wanted all along? The right to choose her own path? In a way, yes, but also no. She was now the master of her fate. The captain of her soul. For the first time in their relationship, Caroline was in charge.

There was only one thing left to do.

“Thank you,” she said in a choked whisper... and then she kissed him.

Klaus kissed her back... like his very existence depended on it. Maybe it did. She was his existence. Everything that was good in him was Caroline. She was the very best of him. He couldn’t say the words, but he could show her how he felt. How important she was. He didn’t just want her: he needed her. She was as vital to his survival as oxygen. There were some things that words couldn’t say but only actions could convey. He pushed the briefcase full of cash to the floor and gently pressed her down on their bed, their lips never parting. It was a slow kiss full of emotion, passion, and more than a little desperation. It wasn’t long before she pulled him on top of her completely, the harsh plaster of her cast scraping against his neck.

She wanted this. Had wanted him just like this. She moaned and tightened her arms around his shoulders when his hand snaked up her shirt to find her breast. She arched her back to encourage his explorations, but he was taking his time. Making every moment count. If this was his last chance, he would do whatever it took to make her stay. He savored every touch like he’d never see her again, and maybe he wouldn’t. In the moment, he delighted in the feel of her skin. She was soft against his rough and calloused palms. She whimpered into their kiss when he finally untied the string on her cotton shorts.

The young nurse sat up just enough for the older man to carefully tug his sky-blue Henley over her cast, baring her breasts to him when she fell back again the fluffy mountain of pillows. She quickly returned the favor, awkwardly pulling his shirt over his head with her good arm. Instinct told him to help her but reason told him not to interfere. She was proud even with broken bones. He was the same. In a lot of ways, they were the same. The way their bodies molded together perfectly heightened their already heated connection. Every kiss felt like the last time, and he wanted it to count.

Klaus slowly cascaded his hands all over her body, reveling in the way her peach nipples pebbled under his touch. Every inch of her was on fire before he finally relented and slid her shorts down her silky legs. He smirked down at her when she wiggled out of her panties on her own. He knew how much she wanted him. It was a heady feeling having her crave him so blatantly and unashamedly. Loved having her desperate for him after he’d been for her for so long. He stood long enough to toss his jeans and boxers aside before crawling back on top of her. He kissed his way down her neck and sucked each of her breasts into his mouth, nibbling on her hardened buds. She keened beneath him, writhing around in her attempts to gain any sort of friction between her thighs. He chuckled when she whimpered in frustration, his dimples showing when he tenderly tucked a tendril behind her ear.

The blonde moaned in satisfaction when he finally slid his hand between their glistening bodies and circled her slippery clit with two fingers before pushing them inside of her warm and wet center. He could tell from the way she bucked her hips against him that it wasn’t going to take long to make her fall apart beneath him. He had so many enemies plotting against him and just as many customers breathing down his neck, but in that moment, nothing mattered except giving Caroline Forbes the orgasm of her life. He put her broken arm above her head to give him free reign of her breasts... and to covertly keep from hurting her. He pinned her wrist to the pillow and intertwined their fingers and he held her down. He kissed and nipped his way down her neck until latching his hot raspberry lips around her nipple.

“Nik,” she moaned in a harsh growl as passion overwhelmed her, his fingers speeding up more and more as she approached the edge. He returned his tongue to her mouth as he pressed the heel of his palm down against her pulsing bundle of nerves. In twenty-one years, nothing had ever felt as good as Klaus Mikaelson showing her how he felt. She felt like a thunderstorm, every caress a bolt of lightning. He tasted his name on her lips when she came, wave after wave of pleasure washing over her until she was a quivering mess in his arms.

Caroline lay on the bed with her chest heaving as he gently kissed her face with a reverence she’d never known. They’d talked about sex... many times, although often indirectly. She had been expecting him to throw her up against the wall and ravage her like there was no tomorrow. Part of him had wanted to... but part of him knew he’d never seen her again. This was not that rough and wild beast. This was someone else entirely. The man beyond the madness. Every touch was painted in adoration brighter than the colors of her portrait. He pulled back to look at her eyes, sapphire sparkling in the moonlight. When he finally slipped inside her, it was with a devotion and desperation unlike anything she’d ever felt. He gasped and buried his face in her neck. She threw her head back and moaned when he pushed himself in deeper, the backs of his nails dragging up her thigh as he pulled her legs around his waist. She keened her approbation at the veneration of his expert thrusts. He started slowly and carefully built her up. He was the consummate lover, every stroke designed to make her want him more.

“Caroline,” he whispered into their kiss. “Caroline... Caroline...” he chanted over and over and over as their hips rocked together in unison. Her name was an orison, every syllable an invocation to any God that might be listening to keep her at his side. He was flying higher and higher and knew that she was, too. He brought his thumb to the apex of her lips and gently parted them, rubbing circles over her clit until he felt her explode in a brilliant burst of energy. He increased his pace to prolong her pleasure before following her into the abyss. He spilled inside of her and collapsed against her chest, his lungs fiercely pumping oxygen through his body as he struggled to catch his breath.

There were no words. They’d said them all.

A long time passed before he gently pulled out of her, squeezing her hand one last time before releasing her from beneath the hard planes of his lean and muscular body. She was exhausted. She was hardly a virgin, but that was something else entirely... but had it been enough? Great sex was one thing. Love was another... and he hadn’t said that he loved her. She wanted to believe that he wanted her to stay because a part of her did, too. She rolled onto her side and he immediately pulled her into his strong arms, spooning her from behind. He kissed her neck, leaving a trail of tingles in his wake as his stubbled scraped her sensitized skin. He reached over her and pulled the string on the lamp, casting the room in shadows. Her eyes drifted to the briefcase. It held everything she needed to start over: guns for protection, cash to pay her way in secret, passports to hide in plain sight. Tomorrow, a strange woman would come for her.

And then she would be gone.

Caroline mulled over her options as Klaus drifted off to a peaceful sleep. She rolled over and rested her head on his chest. She idly traced the black lines of his feather bird tattoo as she listened to the steady drumming of his heart. Looking up at him, he looked content for the first time since she’d known him. He obviously wanted her to stay... but why? He hadn’t given her a reason. She’d spared him that when she kissed him.

Maybe she shouldn’t have.

She couldn’t help but wonder if he’d finally slept with her because he was about to be rid of her. Maybe he was the one who wanted freedom. He’d told her the night he’d brought her home that he was her responsibility now. The last thing she wanted was to live her life beside a man who saw her as a duty. Was that all she was to him? It wasn’t the most rational thought she’d ever had, but it plagued her all the same.

For the first time in forever, Klaus slept through the night. He was finally content. Peaceful. There were no nightmares. No haunting memories. Nothing to keep him staring at the ceiling. The thoughts that tormented him hour after hour had finally been vanquished and the world was quiet. With Caroline in his arms, nothing else mattered. It was strange hearing the deep, rhythmic sound of his breathing while she lay in their bed in such turmoil. He was the most perceptive man she’d ever met. He always seemed to know what everyone around him was thinking and feeling, often before they knew it themselves. She tried to sleep, but her mind kept racing around and around. She lay on his chest all through the night and watched the sun rise in the Tuscan sky. By the time the warm rays hit her face, she’d made her decision.

When he woke up the next morning, he was alone.

*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~ .

A/N *The song Caroline played was, “Million Reasons.” The love scene was inspired by Alicia Keys’ iconic ballad, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again.”*

And there you have it folks. This marks the turning point in our story. Things will start picking up from here on out. Thank you to all of you who have been with me on this journey. I’d really love to hear what you thought of this chapter. I agonized over how to handle the love scene since it’s a major milestone in their relationship. I felt like it was really important that they not have sex until Klaus set her free... and she is free. My goal was to honor their relationship while not detracting from the plot. I hope I didn’t disappoint!

Chapter Text

A/N Holy. Fucking. Shit! You guys! This story won the 2019 KC Award for Best Human AU Multichap! I'm absolutely shocked. I can't put into words how much that means to me... and y'all know I can put things into words! Thank you to all of you who voted from the bottom of my heart, and thank you to those of you who take the time to review, and thank you to everyone who just takes the time to read! This story is my heart and soul. Thank you so much for coming with me on this crazy ride! I know some of you aren't happy Klaus woke up to find Caroline gone, but it does have this title for a reason. Keep the faith. The title for this chapter is a lyric from "Try" by P!nk. On with the show!


Chapter Eleven – How the Heart Can Be Deceiving

If ever there was a time Elijah Mikaelson wished he hadn't been so incredibly wrong, this was it. When his little brother called him in a panic, it had taken everything in him not to crash the car as he and his wife neared Finn's complex in Catalonia. He and Hayley had driven through the night with a trailer of the Mikaelson family necessities, most of which were demanded by Freya to continue her work in Spain.

In retrospect, they should have waited for Klaus. The older Mikaelson was used to his little brother's temper tantrums, many of which ended in cold blooded murder. They all knew how to handle that version of the head of the family. The broken man on the other end of the line was a different creature entirely. Elijah had never heard him sound so utterly defeated. Having grown up in a horribly abusive household had strengthened all of the Mikaelson siblings. They could take whatever life threw at them.

That was before Caroline Forbes wandered into Klaus' vineyard.

Elijah had been so sure she would stay. He'd seen how the mafia king of Italy had gone off the rails when she'd been kidnapped by Lucien Castle. Losing their mother hadn't provoked such a rage, nor had losing Aurora. He'd become a different kind of killer that night. He had one purpose, lived for one goal, breathed for one mission: retrieve Caroline and murder all who would harm a single golden hair on her head. None of the Mikaelson clan even wanted to consider how he'd have reacted had she been killed. Lucien and Tristan were lucky he'd chosen to go home to her instead of tracking them to the ends of the earth.

Murdering his enemies would have to wait until he stopped panicking.

Elijah had never known Klaus to care so deeply for anyone. Most of their family had been shot, stabbed or otherwise injured time and again and he hadn't blinked. All it took for his world to turn upside down was waking up alone one time. Caroline was everything and she was gone and he would never be the same. They'd been on the phone for over an hour as Klaus ranted and raved in great detail exactly how he would murder Lucien and Tristan. Elijah could see through his little brother's façade even halfway across Europe. Klaus had an easier time coping with rage than sorrow. They all did. If either man gave in to the grief of their past, they would be lost in infinite agony.

It had taken a long time for the crime boss to finally shed his armor and open up to his elder. At least, he opened up as much as he ever did, which wasn't necessarily saying a lot. Still, it was something. Caroline had come into his life and changed him for the better. If only she had stayed just a bit longer. Klaus choked back his emotions, refusing to let Elijah hear the tear silently rolling down his cheek. "Do you think I'll ever find her?" he asked his big brother, voice barely a whisper.

The older Mikaelson inhaled and exhaled as he thought about what to tell the crime family's distraught leader. He'd done this. He'd told Klaus he needed to let Caroline choose her own path, but this wasn't the one he'd been expecting the radiant blonde to take. He knew what it was like to wake up alone. It wasn't something he wanted for any of his siblings, least of all Klaus. None of them had suffered at the hands of Mikael as he had. Finally seeing him open up to anyone was a miracle and now that miracle was over. He'd finally done something selfless. He'd offered Caroline her freedom and she took it and ran.

If there was any way to convince her to come back, Elijah knew Klaus needed to find her. "I think you have to try," he answered reluctantly as his guilt clawed at him. A monster with no beginning and no end. This wasn't the first time he'd been wrong about a woman's choice. Perhaps experience wasn't the best teacher after all. Neither was he.

Heart clambering in his chest, the criminal king nodded and ended the call. It took everything in him not to throw the damn phone out the window. What the hell had he been thinking listening to Elijah of all people? The man wasn't exactly the patron saint of healthy relationships.

Katherine had been right. The only worse than being dead was... this. Whatever this was.

At least, he thought it was the worst... until he pushed open the door to the kitchen and his racing heart stopped dead.

Caroline Forbes.

She was there.

In his kitchen.

She had stayed.

"I thought you left," he said, astonished.

A small smile played about the nurse's lips as she carefully flipped over an omelet one-handed, her other wrist still in a sling. She cast him a quick glance over her shoulder and her heart fluttered at the look of utter adoration on his handsome face. Turning back to the pan, she shrugged and replied, "I didn't." She'd made her decision and seeing his reaction to her presence told her it had been the right decision. He would have let her go. He cared for her that much. Never again would she have to question his devotion to her happiness. She was free and she had stayed.

That was the end of her captivity.

Klaus stood in shocked silence, his eyes gazing appreciatively over her barely dressed form. She was wearing a plain white camisole and cotton boyshorts. It was simple outfit he knew she wore under her clothes a great deal of the time. As she stood there, safe and sound, in his kitchen, all he could think was that she was ravishing. She was all sunshine hair and soft skin and delicious curves. Being so far from her was almost painful. He shook his head to chase away the darkness of the morning. Suddenly, he walked up behind her and pulled her to his chest. He buried his face in her neck and inhaled the familiar scent of Caroline as she cooked sweet rolls and omelets.

It was the same breakfast he'd made for her the morning of her abduction. It had only been a few days but it felt like so much longer. She needed the comfort that came with the familiarity of the meal, but so did he. She flipped them once before awkwardly sliding them onto two plates with her good hand. The bright young blonde set down the spatula and turned to face him. She hadn't realized how closely he was holding her until she spun around and her lips grazed his. His kiss was hungry as he devoured her mouth with a passion she hadn't known existed before she'd flown to Italy.

The young nurse melted into her former captor and returned his kiss with equal fervor. He wound his fingers in her golden curls and pulled her closer to him with a rough palm on her hip. Their tongues danced together as he slid his hand up her shirt to softly caress her breasts, teasing her nipples with light touches until they stood at attention. He trailed the backs of his nails down her belly, dipping them in the top of her boyshorts. He was about to rip the thing off when a kitchen timer alerted them that the sweet rolls were ready.

Caroline pulled back, her chest heaving as she fought to drag deep gulps of air into her lungs. He smirked at the way her face flushed under his predatory gaze as he eyed her up and down. The timer dinged again, but she was too distracted to notice. He smiled and kissed her on the cheek before leaning down to pull the sweet rolls out of the oven. She handed him a basket from the kitchen cabinet and he deposited the rolls one by one with the spatula. "You know, you're pretty domestic for a mass murderer," she teased as she carried their plates to the breakfast bar.

"I'm a man of many talents," he replied with a mischievous wiggle of his eyebrows as he set down the basket of rolls. He again pulled her to him and nibbled her neck. Whispering in her ear, he added, "Although I think you discovered that for yourself last night." She giggled when he nipped a sensitive spot and turned around to kiss him lightly on the lips. She pulled out a stool first for him and then one for herself, southern manners kicking in. "This is delicious," he complimented as he tasted her homemade omelet. "Perhaps I should start giving the chefs weekends off."

"I like cooking," she replied with a shrug, moaning as she bit into a warm roll with grape jam. "But don't think I'm doing it every day," she added sternly around a mouthful of eggs as she shook her fork at him. "Give the chefs weekends off and you'll get hungry real fast."

Klaus laughed at her look of utter indignation as he finished his last bite. He pecked her on the cheek and cleared their dishes. He washed and she dried and it all felt so normal. He didn't care what she did or didn't do every day, as long as it was with him. After he set the last dish back in the cabinet above the sink, he turned to her and smiled softly as he tucked a curl behind her ear. "So, you're staying, then?" he asked, voice tinged with hopeful vulnerability.

Caroline eyed him speculatively as she mentally rehearsed her answer. She'd stayed up all night thinking how to explain her decision to him. She wanted to be with him, but she couldn't allow him to take more than she wanted to give. "Well," she began carefully as she casually hopped up on the kitchen counter. At least, she hoped she'd managed to pull of casual when her heart was trying to break free of her rib cage. It didn't help that the scorching glances he kept throwing her way were setting her body on fire. "I wouldn't start planning the honeymoon or anything."

The mafia king scoffed, rolling his eyes, a habit he'd picked up in the last few months. "Sweetheart, there isn't a virus strong enough to make me that delirious."

"Hey," she laughed, playfully slapping his chest, "I'm a catch. You could do worse. Besides, I don't even like you," she lied, biting back a smile.

Klaus flashed her his dimples and stepped between her legs, his gaze boring into hers as the feral gleam in his crystal blue eyes made her lower belly clench. "Then why are you here?" he asked with a playful smirk.

The young blonde had had an answer, but the minute she felt his nails graze against the smooth skin of her hips just beneath her camisole, all rational thought left her. "Cuz bad guys," she said breathily, blushing when his palms gently caressed her thighs.

The older man leaned in and his harsh stubble brushed against her cheek, sending shivers down her spine. "I can tell you all about being the bad guy," he whispered huskily in her ear before nibbling it from shell to lobe.

His teeth against her neck felt way too good. She gulped, forcing herself to speak the words she fought all night to find. "Wait." When she gently pushed him back, he looked at her with a raised brow, unsure he wanted to hear what came next. His heart ached as he flashed back to how he'd felt when he'd woken up alone. Black desperation reigned after his heart had been stolen by a thief in the night. As long as she wasn't leaving, he could handle whatever she had to stay. Still, he steeled himself for rejection just in case. "I'm here for now," she said firmly, holding his eye, "but that's all I'm committing to for today. I might leave when this is all over."

"But you might stay," he replied immediately, the tightness in his chest receding.

When he looked at her like that, a perfect blend of masculinity and vulnerability, it was hard to imagine ever walking away. It didn't help that his palms were burning against her skin as he held her petite frame by the waist beneath the fabric of her camisole. "But I might stay," she repeated, smiling shyly up at him from beneath her long lashes. A wide grin split his face in two and everything about the relief she saw wash over him made her heart soar. He wanted her; that much she'd always known. Now she knew that he would take her on her terms, if only for today. Her porcelain features mirrored his smile and her strawberry lips eagerly returned his kiss.

When Klaus kissed her, nothing else existed. There was no war. There was no complicated power dynamic. There was no anything. Just him. Just her. Just the feel of his lips on her skin as he burned a trail down her neck. Last night had been the most amazing night of her twenty-one years, but it hadn't been how she'd pictured a night with Klaus Mikaelson. This was the man she'd been fantasizing about for months. He was fire and he was ice and his touch set her frozen skin ablaze. His hands were everywhere and nowhere, her camisole a memory on the floor as he climbed on top of her on the granite countertop. Her legs automatically wrapped around his waist when he paused just long enough to rip off his steel grey Henley and send it flying to the corner.

Caroline clumsily reached down and started unbuckling his brown leather belt, but he grabbed her wrists, careful not to hurt her broken one, and pinned her hands over her head before she could finish gasping at the sharp sensation of his teeth biting down hard on her neck. "Is this the part where you take what you want?" she panted, flashing back to their time in his studio. She was so close to giving in that day. She'd wanted to, but ambivalence held her back. What kind of woman slept with a man who wouldn't let out of his sight? Not Caroline Forbes. The woman she'd become slept with this man: the one who cared deeply enough to let her go.

Klaus stopped what he was doing and popped up, supporting himself on his elbows. He gazed down at her, his nose scraping against her cheek as his lips brushed her mouth. He wasn't ever going to be the man with the words, but he hoped the sincerity of the sentiment shown in his eyes. "I have what I want," he said seriously, his heart thrumming in his chest.

Caroline smiled up at him and was met with his beautiful dimples. Klaus had her and now everything was perfect. Or, as perfect as things could be with a war raging all around. For the moment, all that mattered was that he had her in his arms. Everything else could wait. He had what he wanted, but more importantly, so did she. She kissed him briefly before adding, "And I have my freedom."


A/N Ok, so, maybe more like, "How the writer can be deceiving." Aren't I just the worst? Yes, I was fucking with you. Sorry not sorry. I absolutely loved all of your guesses! Keep them coming. I have this outlined at around thirty chapters, so we're about a third of the way through as we move on to Catalonia. In our next chapter, we're going to learn a bit more about the mystery surrounding the Strix. More importantly, we'll get to see how Elijah reacts when Katerina gets on that plane... or, is it Katherine? As I said, it's called, "Heart Across the Ocean" for a reason. Didn't say it was a Klaroline reason. ;) Stay tuned to find out why and follow me on tumblr for sneak peeks and aesthetics!