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Chapter Text

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

 The truck made a clunking wheezing sound as we pulled to a stop outside the motel, the engine sputtering like it was on its deathbed. I eyed the dashboard warily, expecting some sort of warning light to flash. When nothing happened, I glanced over at my brother, who was focused on the tourist pamphlet we'd picked up at the last gas station.

He noticed my gaze on him after a moment and gave me in innocent look. “What?”

“This thing's about to have some sort of mechanical seizure, that's what.”

Ezra rolled his eyes. “You worry too much, Zoe. It got us here from Baltimore, didn't it?”

“Yeah...” I admitted. “But that's a long way to go for any vehicle, much less one this...vintage. Besides, it was hardly a straight shot from there to here.” Various detours and backtracks had turned a thousand-mile trip into something closer to fifteen hundred. And as much as I loved my twin, that much quality time together was more than enough. “Thank God we're finally here,” I muttered.

“New Orleans,” Ezra said with a little too much enthusiasm as he flipped through the guide book. “Also called Crescent City, the Big Easy...famous for beignets, jambalaya, gumbo, and the ever popular red beans and rice.”

“We're not here for the food,” I said with a sigh, pulling the keys out of the ignition then frowning as the truck continued to chug for several moments before shutting off with a painful rattle. “I'd really love to find another car, Ez.”

“Just as soon as you find a job to pay for it,” my brother replied evenly. “You know our savings account is almost empty; we can't afford any more hefty expenses.”

“A car that isn't a ticking time bomb is an expense I'm willing to pay for,” I remarked.

“So get a job,” he repeated, turning another page in his book. “Aha! They say the French Quarter is a pretty chill place to hang out. We should check it out.”

“Absolutely not.” I shook my head. “We came here to blend in, remember? Not draw attention.”


“So, you've heard the same rumors I have. And waltzing into the one part of town that's full to bursting with witches is probably not such a good idea. You remember how Seattle went,” I added darkly. “I'd like to avoid a repeat performance.”

He sighed, mood sobering. “Look, Zoe, I know things haven't been easy these last couple years...”

“That's such an understatement I don't even know what to say.”

“...but this time's different. I can feel it,” he added earnestly as he saw my skeptical look. “I know you're leery of trusting gut instinct and all that shit, but something about this place feels right. Don't you feel it?”

I tilted my head for a moment, assessing my feelings. And...yeah, nope. “The only thing I'm feeling right now is sleep-deprivation,” I told my brother curtly. “So let's just grab our bags and turn in for the night, okay? We'll figure out the rest in the morning.”

He stared at me for a moment, frowning slightly, then relented with a shrug. “Fine,” he said, shouldering his door open and stepping out. “I'll go grab the room keys from the desk clerk.”

“Thanks,” I said absently as I craned around in my seat to snag my duffel bag.

I pulled it into my lap and rummaged around until I found what I was looking for. It was a small photo album, just a couple inches thick and a hand-span wide and tall. It was looking a little worse for wear, but tattered or not it was absolutely precious to me. The contents were all I had to remember my family by, the images inside the only ones remaining of my mother, of my father, of me and Ezra as kids....of all four of us together, as a family.

I had one single picture of my mother's brother, but hadn't kept it for any sentimental purpose. It was simply so that me and my brother would never forget the face of the bastard who'd betrayed us so brutally and torn our family apart. He was still out there somewhere, and we needed to be ready for his next move.

From what I could tell he'd ceased doing his own dirty work years ago, having not come after us in person in quite some time. Which didn't mean we were safe, far from it. The assassins he'd hired continued to pursue us with increasing vigor, and would continue to do so until he either rescinded the bounty or pursuing myself and Ezra became too dangerous for them. And while me and my brother had managed to knock off more than a fair number of those who'd come after us, I doubted it would be enough to dissuade a heartless band of magical mercenaries. Our luck was just not that good.

And while my brother and I couldn't be killed, life on the run to avoid endless torture and suffering was definitely not ideal.

For the thousandth time, I wished upon my uncle a terrible death followed by a roasty stint in Hell. This whole blood-soaked mess was all his fault. From beginning to end, all the death, all the pain, all the fear, could be laid at his doorstep.

Just because his precious baby sister Rina, our mother, had married a werewolf, our father Lucas. Sure, it was taboo, especially for a nice woman from a powerful witch bloodline, but really now. Cursing your sister's children to immortality so you could torture them and watch as their mother suffered for their pain? That was just sick, in so many ways.

Dear Uncle Reginald's vendetta had since claimed both Lucas and Rina's lives, leaving me and Ezra as the last of our family. And being ageless and nigh-immortal, it seemed like we'd be around for some time yet. Provided our thrice-cursed uncle didn't find us first. I was pretty sure he'd find some sort of loophole that could enable him to slaughter us if he really put his mind to it, and as much as I hated my life I refused to meet my end at his hands.

I was startled from my reminiscing as Ezra thumped on the driver-side window. “You gonna sit in there all night or what?” he demanded, dangling the keys to the motel room.

“Hell, no.” I stuffed the album back into my bag and stepped out of the car, taking a deep breath of the fresh night air. “Which room are we in?”

“Twelve,” he replied, gesturing vaguely in what I assumed was the direction of our room. We'd begun staying in a single room together just a few weeks ago, when we'd finally realized that constantly moving + no consistent work = serious cash flow problems. Staying in one room instead of two was an easy thing we could do to save a little cash, and for the most part we could co-habitate easily. Being half werewolf tended to make tempers run a little high but we'd managed well-enough in the twenty-something years we'd been on the run together. I wasn't sure if we'd both stay in one piece if another few decades went by like this, but I tried not to dwell on such morbid things if I could help it. I was pushing forty, looked about twenty, had a psychotic uncle who wanted to torture and kill me, and had a loving twin brother in the exact same situation. Our lives sucked big-time, but it could be worse; I could be alone. But so long as I had my brother, everything would be fine.

We entered our motel room and after double and triple-checking to make sure all windows and doors were secure (there was no telling when one of Reginald's little murderers-for-hire would try to make a move), we collapsed into our beds and fell asleep.

Chapter Text

"Our destiny is frequently met in the very paths we take to avoid it."


I woke up the next morning to find the sun shining, the birds singing, and my brother gone.

Which was annoying but not, I had to admit, unexpected. Ezra had always had a tendency to go off on his own without warning once we arrived in a new place, though usually not quite so soon. We'd literally just arrived the night before after all. Would it really have killed him to wait for me, though? Seriously.

Although truth be told, I couldn't really blame him. Our stint in Baltimore had been much rougher on him in the end than me, and though he was good at hiding it I could tell he was still hurting over what had happened there. He hadn't gotten over it by any stretch of the imagination, and his erratic behavior was becoming a little more noticeable with each passing day, with mood swings and suddenly “needing some space”.

Not that I would have handled his situation any better had it happened to me. Having your heart ripped out by someone you'd thought had loved you was definitely a good qualification for needing space. Since I loved my brother and hated to see him hurting, I was trying hard to not overreact when he did things like this.

Which didn't necessarily mean I was happy at being ditched at a cheap ass no-tell motel in a strange city. It just meant that the odds of smacking my twin hard upside the head went down slightly. Very, very slightly. Maybe.

I showered and changed and used my battered Toshiba laptop to take advantage of the motel's spotty wi-fi service while I waited for my brother's return; since he'd taken the truck, I had no way to leave the motel even if I'd wanted to. In the meantime, I could put my time into doing something more productive than shouting obscenities at a twin who wasn't here to hear them.

I scrolled through page after page of apartment listings, trying to find something that would work for us. Our plan was to take refuge here, and hopefully stay here for a good long while; the moving from place to place every few months thing was getting pretty old for both of us. So, we needed an apartment. Something private, but not too isolated. Small, but big enough so we each had plenty of space. Two bedrooms, because after such a long stretch of close quarters living we could both do with some privacy. We may be brother and sister, but there really was such a thing as too close in some situations. I'd seen more of my brother in the years we'd been traveling together than any sister should have to see. Ever. I'd have scratched my own eyes out at times if I wasn't so sure they wouldn't have just healed back to normal again afterward.

So, yeah, an apartment. Finding a good one shouldn't be too hard, right? Wrong.
I became increasingly frustrated as I went through the listings, as good options decreased while the corresponding prices just kept on going higher. The Big Easy, as a hot tourist spot all years, had some of the most outrageous rental prices I'd ever seen. Which was saying something, since me and my brother had been moving all over North America for the better part of two decades, giving me a fairly sizable well of experience to draw from.

I was truly one step away from screaming in total frustration and smashing my computer into smithereens when my wayward brother finally returned. About damn time, I thought irritably.I opened my mouth to snap at him for bailing on me without leaving so much as a note, then stopped as I saw the serious expression on his face.

“What's wrong?” I asked, frowning.

He ran a hand through his hair. “I went to check out the French Quarter,” he admitted after a moment of tense silence.

I was not thrilled to hear that, but held back from scolding him. “And?”

“A witch was killed today. Executed.”

I shot up out of my seat in alarm. “What?”

He nodded glumly. “Yeah. They're holding a vigil for her in a few hours.”

“Who killed her?” I asked, anxious. People died and were killed every day, all over the world, I knew that. It happened everywhere, no matter what city you were in. But this...a dead witch the day after they pull into town? I knew logically it had nothing to do with me or my brother, but it certainly wasn't a good omen.

“I don't know,” Ezra said, shaking his head. “People don't like talking to strangers, and I didn't want to draw too much attention to myself so I didn't stick around too long to ask questions. We can go back and snoop around a little more though, if you want. I don't think we'll get much, but it might be worth a shot.”

I bit my lip, unsure. On one hand, it would be stupid to go out and get involved in something that didn't concern us. On the other hand...if someone was killing witches, we needed to know more. Our mother had been a witch after all, and witch's blood ran in our veins. If New Orleans was no longer safe for witches, we'd need to know it sooner rather than later. “Yeah, let's go.” I closed my laptop and grabbed my jacket.

As Ezra led the way back out to the truck, I wondered if coming to New Orleans had been a bad idea after all. We'd heard rumors over the years, nothing super specific, just that the Big Easy was home to all manner of supernatural entities. Vampires, werewolves, witches. Ezra and I had figured that such a lively bustling city with so much variety would be the perfect place to hide from our enemies.

But if the situation here had somehow changed (and it was looking like it had), this city might not be the safe haven I'd envisioned it to be. Which would be unspeakably disappointing. I was so sick of running. Of hiding, and living in fear. I'd seriously looked forward to settling down here, at least for a little while.

A confrontation with my uncle was inevitable in the end, I knew that with great certainty. But I was totally willing to put it off for as long as possible. And I'd hoped to find a modicum of peace and normalcy before that hopefully far-distant day.

But from the way things were going, it seemed like I would not find that peace in New Orleans after all.

Chapter Text

“Nothing in this world happens by chance.”


Ezra and I split up once we got to the French Quarter, to cover more ground with our investigating. Not that people were eager to tell us much; they were mourning, and we were strangers. We did manage to gather some information though, and regrouped on a street corner not far from where the vigil for the murdered witch was set to begin in a handful of minutes.

“The witch's name was Jane-Anne Deveraux,” my brother told me. “She was killed for doing magic.”

I stared at him, not sure I'd heard that right. “A witch was executed...for doing magic?” I repeated in disbelief. “That's like killing a fish for swimming, or a bird for flying.” Basically, stupid. Witches did magic. Duh. That's just how it was, like how vampires drank blood and werewolves changed form every full moon.

Not that my brother and I were forced to chance once-monthly like regular wolves. Our witch blood seemed to have altered our werewolf condition somewhat; we could shift at will any time, regardless of the moon phases, and had much more control over our wolf forms than our full-blooded werewolf brethren.

“Apparently,” Ezra went on, “witches are now forbidden from practicing their arts.”

“Forbidden?” I scowled. “By who?”

“The vampire king of New Orleans,” Ezra said dryly. “Some guy named Marcel. Word is he also ran the werewolves out of town. They're living like savages out in the bayou now.”

Okay, this was so not good. “We're not staying here,” I said, turning on my heel and marching through the crowd that had gathered to mourn the Deveraux woman.

“But we just got here!” my brother protested, hurrying after me. “Give it a week, at least!”

“No,” I snapped. “We're leaving.” Staying in a city where both witches and wolves were persecuted was nothing short of insane, and I was not in a suicidal mood today, immortality or no.

I was so focused on getting the hell out of the area that I wasn't watching where I was going. I turned my head to tell my Ezra to keep up, and the next thing I knew I was crashing into someone.

A very solid someone, who didn't really seem to budge as I stumbled sideways, dazed.

The stranger's hand shot out, grabbing my elbow and steadying me as I flailed. “You seem to be in something of a rush,” he remarked, smooth voice laced with a hint of amusement.

I glanced at his face and was embarrassed as my heart rate picked up. But not too embarrassed, because he was ridiculously handsome; sexy enough to make any red-blooded woman swoon.

He had dark hair, dark eyes, and the face and body of a male model. Add in the fact he was dressed in a designer suit? Hello, handsome.

But the wolf in me was getting twitchy with having him so close; something about this guy was setting off little alarm bells in my head, and while I couldn't pinpoint the source of my unease, I decided to trust my instincts. I took a careful step back from the handsome stranger.

“My apologies,” he said, seeming to pick up on my unease. “I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“No, it's fine, I'm the one who crashed into you. Sorry about that, by the way, Mr....?”

“Mikaelson,” he supplied with a faint smile. “Elijah Mikaelson.”

The name sounded vaguely familiar, like something I'd heard somewhere and shouldn't have forgotten, but no matter how hard I racked my brain I couldn't seem to remember what it was. I decided not to worry about it; I'd likely never see this guy again. “Well, sorry for slamming into you, Elijah Mikaelson. If you'll excuse me, I need to be going.” I took another step back, looking around for my brother, who seemed to have vanished into thin air.

“Did you know her?” Elijah asked suddenly.

I stared at him in confusion. “Know who?”

“The Deveraux girl. Jane-Anne.”

I had the nagging feeling that there was more to his question than his easy tone would suggest. Since I had no idea what was going on in this city, I wasn't sure how to answer. I didn't want to accidentally embroil myself in a supernatural turn war. I had enough shit to deal with already.

In the end, I opted for honesty. More or less. “No, I never met her,” I replied, and that was the truth. “My brother and I just got into town last night.” Also truth. “We heard about her death on the news, and just felt so bad that we wanted to come pay our respects.” Half-truth? Well, no, that last one was pretty much a white lie. We hadn't exactly heard about it on the news, and paying respects to the murdered witch hadn't really been our reason for coming down to the Quarter, though Ezra and I did feel badly for the loss of life.

“Well, you'll have difficulty paying your respects,” Elijah remarked. “Since the body was stolen a few hours ago.”

I turned around to stare at him, too shocked by this news to mask my expression. “Stolen? By who?”

“Marcellus,” he replied, tone severe.

Marcellus? Who... “Marcel,” I realized. “Vampire king.” I hadn't realized that I'd said that last bit out loud until I saw Elijah staring at me, expression inscrutable.

“What is it?” I asked warily, taking another step back as my hand drifted towards the dagger hidden in my jacket. If he was something inhuman, as I was beginning to suspect, it really wouldn't do much to harm him. But it would still hurt him, and causing him pain might buy me enough time to get away. Maybe.

“Who are you?”he asked, looking at me intently.

Too intently, in fact. I realized that he was trying to compel me. Something that my brother and I had discovered to be ineffective on us. We couldn't be compelled, and I'd never worked out how to pretend it was working on me. Which also meant I couldn't fake it now, unfortunately. The plus side was that now I knew what he was: a vampire. A powerful one, if the vibes he was giving off were any indication. The serious downside was that I'd inadvertently garnered the attention of a powerful vampire. Yay me.

I decided to act stupid in the hopes of losing his interest quickly. “Me? I'm Zoe.” I gave him a bright smile.

His eyes narrowed. “Not what I meant. Who are you?”

I gave him an innocently confused look. “I told you already, my name's Zoe. My brother and I are visiting New Orleans for a little bit.” A very little bit. If I had my way we'd be on the road by nightfall, destination: anywhere but here.

I turned to go, but his hand shot out to grab me by the elbow, this time his grip not so gentle.

“Maybe I'm not making myself clear enough,” he said, his tone dipping dangerously low. “Allow me to rephrase: what are you?”

I tensed, contemplating the logistics of breaking free. On one hand, he was very strong, probably stronger than I was. On the other hand, I didn't think he actually wanted to hurt me; if he meant me serious harm I'd already be in little bloody pieces on the ground. Which left me with a handful of increasingly idiotic options.

I could tell him a lie and hope he bought it; the downside for that being that if I told him a lie and he didn't believe it he might try to kill me.

I could tell him the truth. I wasn't fond of that idea, either, because he would either a) believe me and try to kill me for being an abomination or b) think I was lying and try to kill me for that.

I could try breaking free and running away, but truthfully I doubted I would get very far; I was quick on my feet, but vampire super-speed is whole other level of fast. And if I pissed him off by running, he might try to kill me for that.

As my mind churned out increasingly ludicrous ideas, I scanned the crowd for Ezra. Where the hell was my brother? It was like he'd up and disappeared from the face of the Earth. And his timing could not have been worse. If there was ever a time I needed some brotherly assistance, it would totally be now.

“Well?” Elijah demanded, his grip tightening ever so slightly, bringing what had previously been just discomfort to something closer to pain.

Which set off the wolf in me, the wildness in my blood rising up more suddenly than I was used to, eclipsing my growing anxiety. “I'm complicated,” I growled, meeting his dark gaze without flinching. “Let me go. Now.

He seemed startled by my sudden change in attitude, and released me, more out of surprise than anything, I think. I knew my eyes weren't glowing gold like they sometimes did when my wolf surged (I could sense it when my eyes did change) but something in my appearance must have been strange, because he continued to stare at me, his expression both puzzled and intrigued. “What are you?” he asked again, his tone this time more curious than hostile.

The wildness in me receded as the threat from him diminished. But I still gave the same answer. “Complicated,” I replied evenly, straightening my jacket sleeve where he'd crinkled it.

He opened his mouth to say something more, but the interruption I'd been praying for cut him off.


I spun around, grateful beyond words to see my brother shoving through the crowd to get to me.

“Ezra,” I exclaimed in relief, reaching out for him without quite meaning to; it was an instinctive thing, needing physical comfort from my twin.

He grabbed my hand as soon as he got close enough, pulling me into a tight hug. Then he released me, turning a death glare on Elijah, who was watching us with an inscrutable look on his face. “Stop harassing my sister,” Ezra said, his voice almost a growl but not quite. I doubt Elijah was impressed, but I was warmed by my brother's over-protectiveness. Not that he was wrong to be protective of me; I was out of my depth with this vampire, and we all knew it.

Not that Elijah could actually kill me (I was immortal, after all) but getting hurt still hurts, and if he gave me a fatal injury and I didn't die? Well, that would raise a whole other slew of questions. Difficult, awkward, and all around unpleasant questions, like “hey, why aren't you dying?” and “Cursed to immortality? How does that happen?”. And my personal favorite: “how rich will I be if I tip off your psychotic uncle that you're here?

Take it from me, that's a conversation best avoided.

Which made it priority number one for me and my brother to get away from this handsome vampire before he started asking more questions I couldn't answer.

“It was nice meeting you,” I said to Elijah, and was surprised to realize that it didn't actually feel like a lie to me. Weird.

He arched an eyebrow, clearly not believing me, but nodded. “I”m sure we'll run into each other again.”

Don't count on it, buddy, I thought. I had every intention of being well outside the city limits as soon as humanly possible. But he didn't need to know that, so I pasted a smile on my face, said “Sure,” and proceeded to drag my brother behind me as I fled to the safety of our old battered truck.

Chapter Text

There's no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one thing always leading to another.”


Elijah watched the strange woman (Zoe, she'd called herself) as she left with her brother. He wasn't sure what to make of her, and not just because she'd been immune to his compulsion, something that was virtually impossible.

With dark brown hair that fell to her waist in thick lush waves and enchanting forest green eyes, there was just something about her that piqued his interest. Which was interesting in and of itself, since women in general didn't really capture his attention lately; he was too preoccupied with other things. Like his brother Niklaus, his brother's ex-lover who was impossibly pregnant, the witches who were holding said pregnant girl as leverage to convince him to help dethrone Marcel who -oh what a coincidence- had been turned into a vampire by Klaus himself years and years ago.

It all came back to his little brother one way or another, and as much as Elijah loved Niklaus, there were times like these where he'd love nothing more than to throttle the hybrid for the complications he was causing for all of them.

Complications...Hmmm. Zoe had described herself that way, “complicated.” Since he'd been unable to even identify what she actually was, he couldn't help but agree.

There had been a hum of power around her that had made him think she was a witch of some sort at first, but when he'd caught a whiff of her scent as he'd grabbed her he hadn’t been able to detect the telltale tang of witchcraft. Instead, her scent was something he wouldn't have expected, an interesting combination of strawberries and cream, a delicate scent for someone who certainly didn't make him think “delicate” when he looked at her. Slender, suspicious, and skittish were more what came to mind, although she certainly hadn't been timid or fearful when she'd demanded he release her; she'd almost looked a little feral as she'd snapped at him, her expression almost reminding him of Klaus when his brother got especially prickly about Elijah's hovering.

Yes, complicated was an apt description. If he didn't have to deal with his brother and the witches and Marcel and Hayley, he might have followed after Zoe and her brother just to satisfy his curiosity.

As it was, his obligations to his brother and the pregnant werewolf girl came first, so he shifted his attention back to the task at hand: figuring out what exactly Jane-Anne Deveraux had been doing before Marcel's vampire's had caught up with her. He knew better than to trust Jane-Anne's sister Sophie for the truth; the girl was far from neutral in this situation, and witches could be just a manipulative as anyone else. So he'd have to find out for himself what exactly was going on in New Orleans.

Chapter Text

What one needs to do at every moment in one's life is to put an end to the old world and to begin a new world. ”



I relaxed in my seat as Ezra drove us back to the motel. Putting distance between us and the inquisitive well-dressed vampire was lowering my blood pressure nicely. Then my brother started asking questions.

“So,” he prompted, “who was that?”

I gave an indifferent shrug, hoping he'd drop the subject if it seemed like I didn't care. “Some vampire. He was asking questions about Jane-Anne.”

Ezra slanted me a look that said he wasn't buying my act. “Did he have a name, this vampire?”

“Elijah something-or-other,” I answered absently, suddenly distracted by my phone vibrating in my pocket; no one but my brother had the number and he was clearly not calling me, so who could it be? I fumbled in my pocket, trying to pull it out.

“Elijah something-or-other?” my brother repeated, arching an eyebrow. “You didn't catch a last name?”

“I wasn't really paying attention,” I admitted, still distracted with extracting my phone from an absurdly deep pocket. “I think it was Mitchell or Michaels or something like that.”

Ezra slammed on the brakes so hard I jerked forward then crashed back in my seat, my neck cracking from the sudden whiplash. My phone, finally retrieved, went flying out of my hands to tumble to the floor. “Dude, what the hell?” I demanded.

“Mikaelson,” he said flatly. “Elijah...Mikaelson?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” I yanked at my seat belt, which was taking its job way too seriously and not letting me move an inch for safety's sake. “Stupid child-safety deathtrap,” I muttered, trying and failing to get more slack.

“Zoe,” my brother snapped, his tone frustrated. “Focus, please. Are you sure it was Mikaelson?”

“Yes, yes, I'm sure. Elijah Mikaelson.”

Ezra groaned, the sound so heartfelt that I stopped my seat belt struggles and turned to stare at him. “What's wrong?” I asked.

He looked at me. “You're kidding, right?”

“I tend to smile when I'm kidding, Ezra, so no, I'm not.”

He rolled his eyes. “Mikaelson, Zoe. Don't tell me you don't know the name.”

“It did sound familiar when he said it,” I admitted, “But other than that...” I bit my lip, starting to feel anxious. “Why are you acting this way? Is he someone important, or something?”

“Oh, not really, “ my brother drawled sarcastically. “His family was only the first group of vampires ever created in all of history. Totally nothing major.”

“Oh.” Then it really hit me. “Oh.” I started to feel the first stirrings of alarm. “He's an Original.”

“The oldest of the surviving three, if the rumors are to be believed.” Ezra put the truck back into drive and pulled back onto the road.

I sat back in my seat, too shocked to say anything at first. “Well, crap,” I said at last. “An Original? What's he doing here in New Orleans?”

Ezra shrugged. “I heard a rumor once from a wolf in New York that their family all but founded New Orleans.”

I frowned. “If they founded it, why is this Marcel guy in charge?”

“Who the hell knows,” he grumbled as we pulled into the motel parking lot. “Vampire politics, man.”

So...Mr.-Sexy-Suit-and-Tie was an Original. It might have been stupidly ignorant of me, but I didn't actually know that much about them. I knew the basics, of course: they were the first vampires ever, they couldn't be killed, and pissing them off was pretty much suicide.

That I'd gotten uppity with an Original made my stomach go sour; having done so without even knowing Elijah was an Original at the time just made the feeling worse.

I desperately hoped that we'd never cross paths again.

Chapter Text


"I had a dream, which was not all a dream."

I tossed my duffel into the cab of the truck for the fifth time, only to have my brother haul it right back out again. Also for the fifth time.

"Ezra," I growled, glaring at him.

"Zoe," he said evenly, his tone of voice indicating that he thought I was being completely ridiculous. "You're being silly."

"Silly?" I repeated in disbelief. "Silly?" I shook my head. "Are you freaking bipolar or something? You were the one who was so worked up over Elijah being an Original!"

"I wouldn't call it 'worked up'," he grumbled.

"And now I want to leave," I went on, "get out of the city where witches are being executed, where werewolves have been exiled, where one of the first vampires of all history is living. And you think I'm being silly." I snatched my duffel bag out of my brother's grip and threw it back into the truck. "It isn't safe to stay here, Ezra! There's too much going on!"

"But that's exactly why it is safe!" he argued, expression earnest.

I stared at him. "Come again?"

"Look, Zoe," he said, "With so much other crazy stuff going on, no one would ever think to look for us here. I mean, we tend to ship out when things get complicated, right? And our uncle knows that. He wouldn't expect us to stay here in New Orleans, not with all this drama going on."

I wanted to disagree on principle, but I couldn't help but admit that my brother's logic made sense. In a zigzag squint-to-see-it sort of way, at least.

"Come on, Zoe," Ezra coaxed. "Give it a couple weeks, at least. What can it hurt?"

Well, depending on who I potentially got on the wrong side of, it could hurt a lot. And I'd been battered and maimed enough in my life to know that even though I was immortal, it never got any easier to deal with being in pain, even knowing I'd eventually be all healed up. My brother and I weren't vampires, able to turn off our feelings at will; we still felt everything as keenly as we had before being cursed, whether it was emotions or physical pain. brother was willing to stay here and risk it. My brother, who was still recovering from what had happened in Baltimore all those months ago. Who had every reason and then some to want to play things on the safe side.

And he wanted to stay.

I wanted to argue, say it was insane and stupid and we shouldn't, but in the end I didn't. Ezra obviously wanted to stay pretty badly, and I couldn't seem to say no to my twin.

"Okay," I said, relenting. "We'll stay. For one month," I added sternly. "If I still want to leave after that, we're going. No arguments. Agreed?"

His face lit up like I'd declared Christmas to be a month-long holiday. "You're not going to regret this, Zoe, I promise."

I was pretty sure that I would come to regret it sooner or later, but what the hell. You only live once, right? Even if you're immortal.

I retrieved my duffel bag with a sigh and trudged back into the motel room, glad to have made my brother happy but worried about how easily this could go so very badly wrong.

When I went to bed that night, my dreams were plagued by vicious phantoms. Assassins wielding black daggers, feral wolves on a rampage in the streets, witches hexing left and right. All that and more chased me around in circles within my nightmares. One terrible dream stuck with me, though for what reason I couldn't say. Perhaps the bizarre and unlikely way it had ended.

In the dream I was surrounded on all sides by enemies, villains who were fighting tooth and nail to bring me down. There was blood and screaming and pain. And fighting besides me, trying to protect me, was not my brother Ezra. It was Elijah.

Chapter Text

 "How funny it is that the most unlikely person sometimes becomes your ally."

The next two days that passed by were surprisingly uneventful. Day-to-day activities consisted of me going to look for apartments and employment while my brother acted like a tourist. I would've been annoyed with him, but he seemed to be having such a good time that I couldn't quite find it in me to stay mad at him. I hadn't seen him so cheerful since Baltimore; it was refreshing to see my brother acting more like himself.

That being said, I could have used some help with the responsible-adult things like finding a place to live that didn't charge two hundred dollars a night and smell like baby barf.

I was on my way to check out a studio for rent a few blocks away from the apartment building I'd just finished touring when something totally unexpected happened.

I'd decided to walk over to the studio, since driving the same distance in the mid-afternoon traffic would very like have taken twice as long. In retrospect, I maybe should have bitten the road rage bullet and just driven. Then again, it probably wouldn't have made any difference in the end.

In any case, one moment I was strolling down the sidewalk, immersed in thoughts of square footage and rental deposits, the next moment I was being snatched into a sketchy alleyway in the unrelenting grip of a curvaceous blonde bombshell.

“Where's my brother?” she demanded, slamming me against the wall. “Tell me where he is!”

What. The. Hell.

I felt my wolf rise up inside me, snarling; I took a deep breath, struggling to rein in my temper. I was not a huge fan of being manhandled by strangers in the best of circumstances, which these clearly were not. “Who the hell's your brother?” I snapped, trying and failing to keep my tone of voice level.

“Don't play dumb!” She tightened her grip on me. “I know you know him! You were seen talking together!”

I refrained from rolling my eyes, but only just. I'd been talking to all sorts of people for the past two and a half days, so her statement clarified absolutely nothing.

“A name,” I said, gritting my teeth. “ I need a name.”

“Elijah,” she growled, eyes flashing angrily.

Wait, what? “You're Elijah's sister? You're an Original,” I realized, then frowned in confusion. “Elijah's missing?” In hindsight, I realized that I hadn't seen him around town since the day we'd met; since I hadn't been overly eager for round two, I'd simply been relieved and hadn't thought about it much past that. “Since when?”

She released me, looking puzzled. “You really don't know anything.”

I crossed my arms. “I know plenty of things, thank you. But not where your brother is.” A thought occurred to me. “Who told you to come after me?”

The blonde vampire gave an elegant shrug. “The dead witch's sister, what's her name?” She snapped her fingers. “Sophie, that's it. Said she saw the two of you chatting it up at her sister's vigil and that you might know where he's disappeared to.”

Sophie Deveraux moved immediately to the top of my New Orleans blacklist. Who the hell did she think she was, siccing an Original on me? “I did talk to your brother a couple days ago,” I acknowledged, “but it was a pretty short conversation. Maybe fifteen minutes, tops.”

The vampire looked disappointed. “Damn.”

I relaxed a little, since it didn’t look like she was going to slam me into the wall again. “Sorry,” I offered, then frowned. “What's your name, anyway? You didn't say.”

“Oh, didn't I? I'm Rebekah. You?”

“Zoe,” I said, offering my hand.

She shook it. “You really don't know where my brother is?” she repeated hopefully.

I shook my head. “If I did, I'd tell you.” Something crazy occurred to me, and I blurted it out without thinking. “But I could help you look for him, if you want.”

Rebekah looked startled. “Why would you do that? I thought you barely knew him.”

“Well, yeah, but that's no reason not to help you. I know if my brother went missing, I'd want all the help I could get.”

Rebekah looked at me intently for a moment, as if she was deciding whether I could be trusted or not, then smiled. “In that case, sure. Thank you.”

I smiled back, but deep down I couldn't help but wonder what the hell I'd just gotten myself into.

Chapter Text

Don't be afraid of being different. Be afraid of being the same as everyone else.”

Our first stop was Sophie Deveraux's place, partly because she'd misled Rebekah, which made Rebekah pissed, and partly because that misinformation had led Rebekah to me and I was pissed.

Poor Sophie. Ticking off two immortals with one little lie. I couldn't help but wonder why she'd even bothered lying in the first place. What on earth was she hiding that made her so desperate to send Rebekah haring off randomly?

We entered Sophie's place without knocking and the young witch jumped in surprised when she came out of a back room and saw us standing there.

“I see you found her,” Sophie said to Rebekah.

“I did,” Rebekah said, a too-sweet smile on her face. “You forget to mention the part where she barely even knows Elijah.”

“Really?” She shrugged indifferently. “Could've fooled me. They looked pretty cozy from my viewpoint.”

“If you can call an interrogation cozy, sure,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Look, I really don't know Elijah, but if you have any idea where he actually is, we'd really appreciate it.”

“Don't you think I'd like to find him, too?” Sophie snapped. “He promised to help us deal with Marcel.”

“Only because you're using Hayley's pregnancy to blackmail him!” Rebekah argued, looking annoyed.

Whoa. Pregnancy? “Who's Hayley?” I asked, feeling like I'd missed a step somewhere along the way.

“Some werewolf girl,” Rebekah said, waving a hand dismissively. “My other brother Niklaus knocked her up and now little Sophie here is using the mum-to-be and her unborn baby as leverage to convince my brothers to help her overthrow Marcel.”

My mind wobbled under information overload as I digested all of that. I kept getting stuck on one thing, though. “Wait,” I said, “but you guys are vampires. Vampires can't get people pregnant. It's biologically impossible.”

“But Klaus isn't a normal vampire,” Sophie interjected. “He's part werewolf, a hybrid.”

My brain went curiously quiet as those words registered. A hybrid, I thought, like me and Ezra. Not quite like us, I knew; vampire-werewolf instead of witch-werewolf, but still...the idea that there was someone else who was torn between two heritages was...overwhelming, to say the very least. The implications were staggering. And a baby? Then I frowned. “Why are you blackmailing Elijah if it's Klaus's baby?” I asked Sophie.

Rebekah snorted. “Because Klaus is a selfish wanker who only cares about himself.”

“He didn't believe us about the baby,” Sophie added. “We needed Elijah, the honorable one.”

“The honorable one,” I repeated skeptically, slanting a look at Rebekah. “I wasn't aware there was such a thing as an honorable vampire.”

Rebekah gave a thin smile. “Elijah can be extremely dangerous if you cross him, but he does have a pretty solid sense of responsibility.”

“Huh. Good to know.” I turned back to Sophie. “So, you have no idea where he is?”

The witch shook her head. “The last I saw of him, he was chasing after Klaus. Klaus came back later to pick up Hayley and said that they'd come to an understanding, but I haven't seen Elijah since.”

Rebekah growled. “Bloody bastard,” she hissed. “I'll kill him.”

“Who?” I asked, confused. “Elijah?”

“No,” she snapped, looking furious. “Klaus. I should have realized form the start that Elijah's disappearance was his doing.” She turned back to Sophie. “Thanks for the help,” she said curtly, not sounding sincere at all. “Zoe, let's go.”

I followed after her, not really wanting to argue with an angry Original. I'm not quite that stupid. At least not usually. “So,” I said at last as we walked down the street, “your brother was kidnapped by...your other brother? How does that even work? I thought you guys were invincible or something.”

Rebekah snorted. “Don't I wish. No, there are these magic daggers; they put us into an enchanted sleep. Klaus must have used one on Elijah.”

“He daggered his own brother?” I asked, aghast. I couldn't imagine doing something like that to my brother. Ezra and I had our disagreements, but I loved him more than anything or anyone else; I'd sooner slit my own throat than hurt my twin.

“Oh, trust me, Klaus is not a cute and cuddly little brother. He's daggered all of us at one time of another, even me.”

I did not even know what to think about that, much less say, so I skipped ahead to course of action. “What're you going to do?” I asked her.

Rebekah pursed her lips. “I”ll talk to Nik tonight, and depending on what he tells me...we'll see.”

That sounded decidedly ominous, but I decided not to comment on it. “So...I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then?”

She stopped walking, looking startled. “You're going to keep helping me?”

I scowled. “Of course I am. I said I would, didn't I?”

She just stared at me for a long moment, then gave a dazzling smile that lit up her entire face. “It's not often that people want to help me...just because. Thank you, Zoe.”

“You're welcome, “ I said, feeling a little embarrassed. What kind of life had she been leading, that such a simple kindness could affect her so strongly?

We exchanged cell phone numbers, then went our separate ways.

I hopped into the truck and headed back to the motel, cringing when I realized that I was two hours late. I hoped Ezra wouldn't be too upset with my tardiness. And I prayed that he wouldn't ask for the reasons.

Chapter Text

Fate doesn’t ask you what you want. Fate knows what’s best even if you don’t.”

I was engulfed in a massive bone-cracking hug the minute I stepped over the threshold into the motel room.

“Where the hell were you?” Ezra asked as he held me, his voice a worried growl. “I was scared something had happened to you!”

I flinched, feeling unbelievably guilty. I hated causing my brother to worry, and being two hours late to get back home was definitely worrisome. Especially with a coven of witch-assassins hunting for us, along with whatever other fun surprises our uncle decided to send after us.

Yeah, being late for a check-in was totally not okay.

“I'm really sorry for worrying you,” I murmured, hugging him back fiercely. “I didn't mean to be gone for so long. Time away from me.”

He pulled back and looked down into my face with a frown. “That's not like you,” he remarked. “Did something happen?”

Ah. Crap. Moment of truth. Literally. “Well...” I twisted my hands together nervously. “I was sort of...grabbed off the street? Not by any assassins,” I added hastily. “Just an Original.”

Just an Original?” Ezra repeated in disbelief, then scowled, a hint of overprotective-brother mode creeping into his voice. “That Elijah guy again?”

“Uh, no, actually.” Why was everyone assuming Elijah was interested in me at all? We'd only had that one conversation and I hadn't seen him since. “It was his sister Rebekah.”

My brother looked like I'd clubbed him over the head. “There's another Original in town?”

I chuckled nervously. “Try all three.”


I nodded. “Yep. Elijah, Rebekah, and their half-brother Klaus.”

“Why?” Ezra asked, looking aggravated. “What about New Orleans is so great to warrant the presence of all three Originals?”

“Well, they're the only ones left of their whole family and there's a baby on the way. Bonding time, maybe? Then again,” I added thoughtfully, biting my lip, “if Klaus really is behind Elijah's disappearance, then I guess they're not really getting along that well right now, huh? Hmm...”

Ezra stared at me like I'd suddenly started speaking Welsh. “Elijah's missing?” Then he did a double-take. “Wait, a baby?”

I nodded sagely. “The Mikaelson family is expecting a new addition.”

“But...they're vampires!”

“Ah, yes. But Klaus is apparently half werewolf. So...loophole, I guess?”

Ezra looked stunned. “A hybrid?” he whispered hoarsely.

“Yeah,” I said softly. “Not quite like us, but...yeah.”

He sat down heavily on the edge of his bed, looking shocked. “That's...”

“Yeah,” I said again, because what else was there to say? We'd thought that we were the only “mixed breeds”, so to speak, among the main species of supernaturals. And now to learn of another hybrid, one that probably should have been impossible? Not to mention his baby, which definitely should have been impossible.

“And Elijah's missing?” Ezra asked again, rubbing his face tiredly.

“So Rebekah says, and I'm inclined to believe her; she seemed sincerely worried.”

“And she thinks her other brother is responsible?”

I shrugged. “From what Rebekah said, Klaus doesn't seem to be very people-friendly.” I went on to relay to him what Rebekah had told me, about the mystical daggers and so forth.

Once I was done elaborating on the day's events completely, my twin looked like he was one short step away from a migraine.

“This is completely ridiculous,” he muttered, then shook his head. “What the hell, Zoe? You say you didn't want to get mixed up in anything, then go and get yourself involved with the Originals. Tell me, please, how is that low-key?”

“It's not like I meant to get involved,” I said defensively. “It just...sort of happened. Besides,” I added, “Rebekah needs my help to find her brother.”

He snorted. “I doubt she needs help with much of anything. Can probably snap her fingers and have a whole harem of drooling men ready and willing to do her bidding.”

“Ooookay,” I said, raising my hands in a let's-take-it-down-a-notch gesture. “Let's not judge so harshly; you don't even know her, and it's not her fault she's pretty. Her looks aren't the topic here in any case. Elijah's missing, and she doesn't want to have to find him all by herself.”

“But you said it's probably her other brother Klaus who's responsible for nabbing Elijah, right? Won't rescuing Elijah piss him off?”

“I was trying not to think about that part,” I said with a sigh. Rebekah had said that Klaus wasn't the nicest guy around and I was inclined to believe her about that, too. So, yeah, saving someone Klaus wanted out of the way was probably not the brightest of ideas. All the same...

“I promised Rebekah that I'd help her,” I reminded my brother. “You know I don't break promises.” I'd only ever broken a promise once in the past ten years, and the end result had been so disastrous that it had cemented my word-of-honor convictions even more firmly upon my soul. Promises were to be taken very, very seriously.

I could lie or abuse a loophole along with the best of 'em, but I would sooner let my uncle torture me for the next century than break a true promise.

Ezra looked at me hard for a moment, but he knew better to argue with me about this. “Alright,” he said at last, relenting. “I won't try to stop you. But,” he added, “I'm going with you. I'm not letting you do this alone.”

Chapter Text

"I may fight with my siblings. But once you lay a finger on them, you'll be facing me."

 As was usually the case when my brother did something brotherly, I was torn between wanting to hug him and wanting to strangle him.

On one hand, I loved that he wanted to have my back as I dove headfirst into the Originals' family drama. On the other hand, I'd just gotten my brother dragged into the family drama of a group of siblings notorious for treacherous and violent behavior. Not to mention the apparent penchant for backstabbing.

Yeah...not one of my better decisions, this. Props to my twin for supporting me in such an insanely stupid decision; maybe I wouldn't strangle him after all.

I woke up the next morning, the knot of foreboding in my stomach making me downright nauseous. Ezra, strangely, seemed fairly cheerful given the circumstances; I think he found it refreshing that I'd been the one to get us into a troublesome situation this time instead of him. Not that the bad things that happened to us were always his fault, but he did have a higher percentage than me.

Rebekah called me at seven thirty, and told me to meet her again at Sophie's. “I've had an idea,” she said, “about how to locate Elijah.”

“Klaus didn't tell you where he's stashed him?” I asked.

“No,” she said, sounding disgusted. “He doesn't even seem to care at all. Bloody bastard. So our only option is to find Elijah ourselves.”

“I can be at Sophie's in fifteen minutes,” I replied, deciding not to mention the fact that Ezra was coming with me.

“See you there,” was Rebekah's response, followed by the hang-up click and a mournful sounding dial-tone. There is absolutely no way this is going to end well, I thought glumly.

Ezra rode in the passenger seat while I drove, since I knew where Sophie's was and he didn't. We arrived to find Rebekah waiting for us, leaning casually against a bright red convertible that had probably cost more than a resort house.

“Good Lord,” Ezra muttered, looking annoyed. “Could she be anymore of a stereotype? Sexy blonde vampire with a red convertible?”

I shot him a glare. “She's not actually like that.”

He made a disbelieving sound. “Uh-huh.”

“At least try to behave, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, fine.”

I gave him one last warning look before stepping down out of the truck and waving to Rebekah. “Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” she said back, then frowned as Ezra came around to stand beside me. “You didn't mention that you were bringing company.”

“This is Ezra, my twin brother,” I explained. “He decided to tag along for a bit.”

Rebekah gave a faint smile. “Don't trust me not to eat your sister?” she asked him.

He smiled back a little then seemed to catch himself and schooled his expression back into looking stern and serious again. “Something like that.”

Rebekah looked at him contemplatively for a moment, her head tilted slightly sideways, like a cat watching something that had piqued its interest. “Okay,” she said at last. “The more the merrier. Now, let's go have another chat with our friendly neighborhood witch.”

Ezra and I trailed after her as she led the way into the building. Sophie did not look happy to see us again. Her eyes darted to the phone on the wall and I couldn't help it, I snickered a little. “Who would you call?” I asked, amused. “The cops?”

“I don't think little Sophie's that stupid,” Rebekah said sweetly. “Marcel owns the police force, after all, along with all the other branches of the local government that could potentially impact him. He probably wouldn't like to hear that yet another Deveraux witch was stirring up trouble.”

“I'm not stirring up anything,” Sophie snapped.

“Really?” Rebekah arched an eyebrow. “So you've given up on avenging your sister and overthrowing Marcel?”

Sophie just glared at us. “What do you want?”

“Well, my evil brother refused to talk to me last night, but if I had to guess, knowing Klaus's history, Elijah has a dagger in his chest. It's a magical object, you're a witch. Do a locator spell, locate the dagger, locate Elijah.”

Sophie shook her head vehemently. “No way. I can't use magic. It's punishable by death. Marcel's rules. And don't even think about threatening me,” she added. “I'm still linked to Hayley, so you can't risk hurting me.”

Rebekah pursed her lips. “Luckily for you, Elijah seem to care about that werewolf girl, otherwise I'd break your neck right here.” She turned away to inspect the pictures hanging on Sophie's wall. “How did Marcel get so bloody powerful, anyway? He wasn't like this when I left a hundred years ago.”

Sophie shrugged. “Marcel has a way to tell whenever there's magic done in the Quarter.”

“But he's a vampire,” I objected. “Vampires have no access to magic on their own, the transformation cuts off the connection. He shouldn't be able to sense the magic on his own. So how is he doing it?”

“The 'how' isn't relevant,” Sophie said curtly, slamming that conversational door shut right in my face.

“I'll tell you what's not bloody relevant,” Rebekah snapped, whirling back around. “A coven of witches who can't do magic. Here's an idea: move away.”

“We practice ancestral magic,” Sophie replied. “The cemetery is filled with the remains of our witch ancestors.”

“If you left, you'd be powerless,” I remarked.

Sophie nodded. “If we run, we're leaving our legacy behind. Our home, our family.”

Rebekah snorted. “Well, family is overrated. Look at me. I'm back in a city that's given me nothing but heartache, looking for a brother who's hellbent on protecting a baby I don't care about.”

Sophie looked at her thoughtfully. “I find that hard to believe. You're here, aren't you?”

“I'm here for Elijah,” Rebekah replied. “The instant I find him, I'm gone. He was the one who idiotically believed this baby would be Niklaus's redemption. And now he's missing, probably at the hands of Klaus himself. And you,” she went on, jabbing Sophie in the chest, “were foolish enough to believe that Elijah could convince Klaus to go against Marcel, when everyone knows they have a history.”

Wait, what? The vampire king of New Orleans had a history with the Mikaelsons? I slanted a questioning look at Ezra who shrugged; he obviously had no idea what Rebekah was talking about, either.

“Klaus sired Marcel,” Sophie said, rolling her eyes. “I'm aware.”

Wait, what?!  I opened my mouth to go 'what the hell', but Rebekah had already started talking again.

“You don't understand,” she told Sophie. “Marcel is not just some guy Klaus turned into a vampire. Klaus loved him like a son.” She sighed. “I was there the day that they met. We were burying Emil, the governor’s son...or so we thought. Turns out the governor had another son, from a mother that he owned.” She bit her lip. “Klaus saw himself in the boy. He remembered how our father used to beat him. He, too, was the bastard child of a man who saw him as nothing but a beast. And that is why your plan will fail,” she concluded, fixing Sophie in a pointed stare. “All you've done is bring back together two long-lost souls. Without Elijah between them, who knows what they'll do.” With that proclamation, she turned on her heel and left without another word.

Chapter Text

F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.”

Sophie whirled around to me and Ezra the second Rebekah was out of earshot. “You have to help me.”

I stared at her. “You're kidding, right? Obviously, I'm here to help Rebekah find her brother. Besides, you seem to have pissed off everyone powerful in this city. Klaus, Elijah, Marcel, Rebekah.” I ticked the names off on my fingers as I went. “That sort of track record is not encouraging, Sophie Deveraux.”

“If you'd been more helpful in locating Elijah, we might've considered it,” Ezra remarked, “but there's just nothing we can do for you, sorry.”

She stared at us, horrified. “How can you just leave me to fend for myself like this?”

I snorted. “Please. You've got your coven backing you. It's not like it's you versus the world.”

“Well, that's sure as hell what it feels like!” she snapped. “How can you just turn your backs on us, on our fight? I can tell you're witches, too!”

I went very, very still, and could sense Ezra do the same across the room. “I'm afraid you're mistaken,” I said carefully, keeping my voice even and controlled, my face deliberately blank.

Sophie shook her head. “No,” she insisted, “I'm not. I have a sensor spell on my threshold,” she explained, pointing to the doorway. “It alerts me when a witch who's not in my coven crosses it.”

“Your spell obviously needs some fine-tuning,” Ezra said coldly, tensed as if for a fight.

She gave him a dirty look. “My spell is just fine, thanks. Now stop lying. I know you're both witches. So why the hell are you helping the Originals?”

The wolf in me snarled; it wanted to attack, to eliminate the threat this witch-girl posed, and a dark part of the rest of me felt the same. But she's linked to the pregnant werewolf, I reminded myself. Kill her, and Hayley dies, too.

At which point I would be public enemy number one to the Originals. So I couldn't do anything to Sophie. It was tempting, though. “Rebekah's right,” I told Sophie. “That linking spell really is the only thing keeping you safe right now. But Hayley won't be pregnant forever, so I'd recommend against making any more enemies for yourself.”

She snorted. “Please. What's one more person who wants me dead? You'll have to get in line. And you didn't answer my question. Why are two witches helping the Originals?:”

“Quit while you're ahead, Sophie Deveraux,” I advised. “We don't answer to you.”

With that, Ezra and I left, and upon reaching the street saw that Rebekah's convertible was gone and that there was a note taped to my windshield. Going to find Marcel, it read. I'll text you later. -Rebekah.

“Yeah,” Ezra drawled sarcastically once he read the note, “she totally needs our help.”

I elbowed him in the stomach. “Would you stop? She must have her reasons for asking me to come today.”

“Maybe she's just lonely?” he offered.

I looked at him, surprised. “You think so?”

He shrugged. “Maybe. That's why you're really doing this, isn't it? Because you're lonely?”

“What?” I frowned. “No, that's...” Not totally wrong, I had to admit to myself. “Look, that's not the point,” I said, shaking my head.

Ezra rolled his eyes, but let it go. “You think she was bluffing about the sensor spell?” he asked instead, jerking a thumb over his shoulder to indicate Sophie's place.

I bit my lip. “God, I hope so. But she's not really the type to bluff, is she?”

He sighed. “Didn't seem like it, no.”

“So she knows we've got witch in us,” I mused. “And thinks we're full-blooded witches working for the Originals.”

“That could actually work to our advantage,” Ezra remarked.

“Or go very, very badly if she tells her theories to the wrong sorts of people,” I replied, worried. “If any of the assassins get word that two new witches just popped up in New Orleans? They're not stupid, they'll figure it out eventually.” The assassins were witches, too, which added yet another layer of complication. Because regular assassins weren't enough of a problem already, I thought irritably.

Ezra rubbed the back of his neck, looking stressed. “And here we thought New Orleans was going to be our nice little vacation period.”

I sighed, and hopped into the truck. Ezra followed suit, stuffing Rebekah's note into the glove box. I buckled my seat belt, glared at my brother until he buckled his, then pulled out into the street-traffic, heading in the general direction of the motel.

I was pulling onto a side-street to get around a patch of gridlock that I didn't have the patience for when it happened. One second I was humming to the radio, hands all ten-and-two on the steering wheel, brother by my side, and the next thing I knew, we were being slammed into by a massive black SUV.

It rammed into the truck so hard we went tumbling down the road, the truck flipping over so many times it was like being on one of those hellish fifty mile per hour carnival rides but worse.

My face slammed into the steering wheel at least twice, and the second time I both felt and heard the distinctive crack that meant I'd broken my nose. I also felt some ribs break, in that uniquely agonizing way that ribs do, all stabbing into your lungs and shit. Not to mention where the driver's side of the car had been crumpled in on itself from the impact; I could feel myself bleeding from all the deep gashes I'd gotten from being impaled by angry metal. I was pretty sure I'd dislocated my left shoulder somewhere along the way, too, though I was so muddled I couldn't think of how exactly.

My brother, I knew, was probably not in any better shape than I was. I attempted to twist around to see him, but the sharp shooting pains from all over my body told me that moving right now was not such a good idea. I was also prevented from doing so by the discovery that the place where the door had smashed in on me was pinning me in place, which made trying to move largely futile anyway.

I was halfway content to just lie there and wait for the paramedics to show up; it wasn't our first car crash, after all,. And sneaking out of the hospital later wouldn't be too terribly hard.

All those nice simple thoughts flew right out the window when I saw two Shadow Coven assassins get out of the SUV that had rammed us.

“Shit,” I breathed, trying not to choke on blood from what I suspected was a punctured lung. “Ezra,” I wheezed, reaching towards my brother. “Get up.”

He groaned, clearly not liking the thought of being conscious and being in pain.

But we'd be in a lot more pain if the Coven captured us and delivered us to our uncle. “Ezra,” I said desperately. “Get up. They're here.

Chapter Text

"When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."

 I struggled to disentangle myself from the twisted wreckage of what had previously been our old semi-reliable truck. I felt absurdly guilty for having always complained about the truck's various flaws, but quickly sidelined that spurt of emotion. My brother and I were about to be attacked by two Shadow Coven assassins and we were currently trapped and unable to defend ourselves. It was not the appropriate time to mourn the freaking car.

I kicked at the windshield, which was so cracked and damaged I could barely see though it. I kicked again, trying to knock the glass loose. Instead of the glass breaking, however, I felt my ankle crack, and belatedly remembered that kicking out the door-glass is smarter because it's not as absurdly strong as the windshield. I attributed this stupidity to my concussion and twisted as best I could to slam my elbow into the glass of my driver's side door, which was somehow still mostly intact despite that being the side we'd been rammed on.

The glass erupted outwards, but gravity brought some of the shards back towards me; they came pattering down on my head and sliced itty bitty cuts across my face. “Because I'm not covered in enough blood already,” I grumbled under my breath.

Ezra, beside me, was finally stirring. “How close are they?” he growled, being in a position where he couldn't see the assassins' approach.

“Um...” I craned my neck around, ignoring the jolt of pain that lanced down my spine. And promptly felt an explosion of panic race through me, because the two Shadow Coven witches were closing the distance fast; they were only a few hundred feet away now. “Too close for comfort, brother mine. We need to get the hell out of here.” I grabbed my dagger and cut through my seat belt, crashing to the ground in an undignified sprawl. Very undignified, since one leg was still pinned where the truck door had crumpled in around me.

Before I could do something dramatic like hack my own leg off, Ezra was there, prying my leg out of the remains of the door. “How'd you get free so fast?” I mumbled, concussion and blood loss making my woozy.

“Because I'm cleverer than you,” he replied, tone teasing despite the dire circumstances. I said a few rude words that don't really bear repeating, then let him drag me out of the wreckage and swing me up into his arms. I would have protested being treated like the damsel in distress, but there was no arguing the fact that I'd gotten the worst of it in this crash. A quick glance told me that my brother was also very battered, but not quite so badly as me.

Yay me.

Ezra only managed to carry me for five and half blocks, though, before he had to set me down. A closer inspection of my twin revealed that he'd broken his right ankle.

“Ezra!” I shouted. “Why'd you carry me on a broken ankle?! Idiot!”

“You're welcome,” he snapped, eyes flashing angrily as his wolf surged, brought to the forefront by the emotional cocktail of pain and anger.

My own wolf was one tiny step away from a similar fury, my leash on that side of myself dangerously frayed. “Ahhh!” I snarled, beyond fed up with this whole mess of our lives. A huge part of me wanted to turn right around and go after the assassins that had run us off the road. A teeny tiny part of me pointed out that I was not exactly in peak physical condition and wouldn't be said condition unless I went right to bed and got twenty solid hours of sleep.

The huge angry part of me won without much internal argument, and I whirled around to go make some witch-assassins bleed. Ezra made a sound of protest, but his own injuries seemed to have finally caught up to him and he collapsed to the ground, unconscious once more.

I limped to the mouth of the alley where Ezra had brought us, and was not particularly surprised when the two Shadow Coven witches jumped me.

Before I tell you any more, I suppose I should explain the Shadow Coven a little more.

Basically, they've a group of dark witches, and by that I mean black magic, black hearts, and black souls. They're all evil to the core, with no compassion or mercy at all. They're also all killers. It's a coven of witches who do double-duty as assassins.

And currently, they're employed by my dear uncle Reginald. He's hired them to deliver my brother and myself to him, using any means necessary.

A car crash was actually not too drastic for them; they'd once demolished an entire subway station in an attempt to get at us. Oddly, we'd come out of that better than we had in this little road-rage incident, which I found amusing. Or would find amusing, anyway, once the urge to rip out their throats had been quenched.

In any case, they jumped me the second I stepped out of the alley. There were two, a woman and a man. For further clarification, and to avoid unneeded confusion during the course of this narrative, I have a tendency to call evil male witches 'warlocks'; my brother teases me about it, saying I watched too much Charmed while we lived in San Francisco, but I believe in trying to have as little gender confusion as possible, so there you have it.

The Shadow witch wielded a long black staff etched with symbols of dark power; the warlock had no conventional weapon, but was wearing silver punching knuckles, which gave me pause. I may have mentioned it before, but the downside of being a witch-werewolf hybrid was that, while I did have the perks of both sides, I also had the weaknesses. And some decidedly un-funny genetic quirks, like being allergic to silver. Normal werewolves aren't bothered by it. Me and my brother? Very, very bothered.

A hit from silver knuckles would be extremely unpleasant, and would likely even slow down my overall healing factor. And God only knew what spells were on the witch's staff.

I should have run. Really, it was the tactically smart option.

For better or worse, I am not smart when it comes to tactical retreats.

I attacked.

I slashed at the witch, slicing across her cheek with my dagger, cutting her so deep I could see the white flash of bone. The wolf in me howled in triumph, and I couldn't help but grin in a bizarre sense of exhilaration. I don't consider myself bloodthirsty by nature, but there is an undeniable wildness in me that won't ever be tamed, and it was in situations like this that it rose to the surface. Since these assholes wanted us tortured and killed, I couldn't find it in me to be troubled by how easy it was to maim them without regret.

The warlock with the silver knuckles swung at me, and managed to connect, hitting me on the shoulder. The punch itself didn't touch my bare skin, but I could feel the tingle of the silver even through the fabric of my jacket. Also, it was my dislocated shoulder he hit, which hurt like a bitch.

I retaliated by grabbed his arm and breaking his wrist. Even exhausted and injured, I had werewolf strength on my side; his wrist snapped easily and he screamed in agony. I followed up with a hard kick to his groin and he crashed to the ground bawling like a baby.

I was a little too distracted by the sight of a grown man screaming and writhing on the ground, though, because it gave the witch whose cheek I'd laid open a chance to come at me again. She smacked her staff into my stomach (and my broken ribs, dammit!) and I finally learned what the markings on her staff were.

Fire runes.

Oh joy.

I said several unladylike words as my shirt caught on fire. Then I did the sensible thing, which they teach to all little kids. Stop, drop, and roll.

I dove to the ground, tumbled across the asphalt, then bounced to my feet, sore and covered in dirt and grime, but definitely not on fire anymore.

Then I grabbed the witch's staff, bashed her over the head with it, and snapped it in half, eliminating the magic that was contained within it. Then I stabbed one piece of the staff into the witch's heart, and the other half into the warlock's.

Looks like this round went to me.

Zoe Storme: 1, Shadow Coven: 0.

Chapter Text

Family: an anchor during rough waters .” 

Ezra absolutely hated being helpless. It was at the top of the ever-lengthening list of things he couldn't stand. So when he came to again in the alleyway he and Zoe had taken shelter in and saw that his sister wasn't there, he wanted to shoot himself in the face.

He hadn't been able to block out the pain from all the internal injuries he'd sustained in the crash, and vaguely recalled collapsing and blacking out after Zoe had yelled at him for running five blocks on a broken ankle. Because he'd been too pathetic to cope, though, his twin was now out there somewhere, fighting off psychotic soulless assassins. By herself.

God, there were just some days where he totally hated himself. Today was unarguably shaping up to the one of those. He sighed, trying to sit up without doing more damage to his body. Zoe had definitely looked the part of a car wreck victim, her normally pretty face caked in blood from her broken nose and the cuts from the glass, but Ezra hadn't gotten off lightly, for all that he looked mostly undamaged; he'd stupidly unbuckled his seat-belt before the crash, and had consequently been slammed all over the inside of the truck cab when they'd been hit.

If he'd been human, he'd have already died from massive internal bleeding and organ failure. As it was, he just really wanted to die; every little movement was agonizing and he could feel his body trying to heal the most critical bits of damage with limited success. The curse that kept him and his sister from dying was indisputably powerful...but that being said, it did have a harder time healing some types of injuries.

Gashes, bruises, and things like that were fairly easy to heal, and generally didn't take that long depending on the circumstances.

Broken bones could take longer, depending on the severity, but were also not too complicated.

Internal damage, though...that's where it could get tricky. The human body is simply not built to survive certain things and it knows it. So, yeah. The curse was healing him, but it was an uphill battle; he'd likely still be recovering from this accident weeks from now.

On the plus side , he told himself, it can't possibly be any worse than re-growing your heart.

That had been excruciatingly painful every step of the way, and had taken months. It was why he'd stalled so long on their road trip down to New Orleans; he hadn't wanted to enter a new territory while still in recovery mode. He hadn't told Zoe that, of course; she'd thought he'd already finished healing and was just enamored with hopping all over the map.

He hadn't wanted to worry her, so he'd kept the real progress of his healing to himself. Even now, he wasn't entirely certain of the healing; he still had a massive scar on his chest from the incident in question, and it seemed to show no signs of fading anytime soon like all his other scars had done. Zoe had seen the scar, of course, but didn't seem overly troubled by it, pointing out that if there was ever an injury that would scar, it would make sense for it to be that one; he had, after all, had his heart carved out of his chest.

How in the hell had his body kept functioning all that time without a working heart, anyway? That made no sense.

God, if he ever got his hands on that traitorous bitch Sirena, he was going to tear her apart.

His black thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of his sister, who'd returned to the alleyway and was coming towards him. As she got closer, he was that she was holding her shoulder and seemed to be covered in even more blood than before.

“Zoe?” he said uncertainly.

“I took care of the assassins,” she told him, voice low and hoarse from pain. “Those two won't be bothering us again.”

He nodded; he was relieved at the news itself, but he also couldn't help but feel bad for his sister. He hated that she'd needed to do this, needed to fight and kill just to protect their freedom. Not that he hadn't killed his fair share of assassins, too. And it was hardly the first time they'd clashed with the Shadow Coven. They were both murderers in the name of self-defense, and the fact that it had become so easy for them to kill...well, it worried him more than a little.

“Are you okay?” he asked her.

She hesitated. “I will be,” she said at last.

Knowing that that was the best answer he could hope for, he nodded. “Well, let's get going then. Police'll be here soon. Don't want to answer all those pesky questions, do we?”

Zoe shook her head, and started limping towards the other end of the alleyway. She paused at his side to offer him her elbow. “You look like crap,” she told him, her tone exhausted but affectionate.

“I love you, too,” he grumbled, leaning on her without objection.

It's what they always did when things got rough, emotionally and physically. Leaned on each other. Because that's what family did.

They supported one another.

Chapter Text

When all thoughts are exhausted, I slip into the woods...”

Through some miracle, we made it back to the motel without further incident, though we did have to stick to alleys and side-streets to avoid terrifying the poor tourists. When we did make to back to our room, I was overcome with relief; if we could just rest and regroup, everything would be okay.

This little bubble of optimism popped when my brother puked blood all over the floor.

A distant part of me was thinking Good thing that's hardwood and not carpeting. But mostly I was preoccupied with Ezra and the fact he was throwing up blood.

That spoke of serious internal damage, and I wanted to kick myself for not doing a more thorough inspection of my brother's injuries.

I bolted across the room to help him into the bathroom. He accepted the assistance without objection, collapsing to his knees once we reached the toilet. He gagged, then threw up another mouthful of blood.

My own stomach churned nauseously from worry. I'd been planning to do a short shopping trip to the little pharmacy down the street in the morning, once I'd recovered a bit, but I was rapidly recalculating my plan. Going right now might definitely be better. I could get some painkillers, and gauze to wrap up the worst of our external wounds. And if I could get my hands on a car, I could do even more and swing by the herbal remedy store I'd seen in the Quarter. Because painkillers were all well and good, but my twin and I (Ezra especially) needed something inexpensive and effective to assist in the healing process.

There was obviously not flat-out cure-all for our injuries but through years of trial and error we'd discovered that some herbs aided our healing processes, the most notable of which was shepherd’s purse, which could be helpful in certain situations.

It wasn't really a rare herb, and not particularly effective in medicine for normal humans, but something about our unique genetics made it more powerful for us. If I could get my hands on some, it would help with all the bleeding Ezra and I were dealing with, both external and internal; something to do with how shepherd's purse constricts the blood vessels and slows the flow of blood or some such thing, I don't know.

The main point: if I could somehow get to both the pharmacy and the herb shop, we might just be able to heal within a few days, instead of a few weeks. And since the Shadow Coven had obviously already located us, it was imperative that we not be vulnerable any longer than absolutely necessary.

But there was no way in hell I was hoofing it to the French Quarter from here. It was a ridiculous walk in peak condition, and I'd just been in a massive car accident and fought to the death with two assassins. It was a miracle I was vertical; walking clear across town was totally out of the question. Hell, I'd probably collapse from exhaustion and blood loss halfway there. As much as it rankled, I just wasn't physically capable of it right now. So...I needed a car.

As Ezra left the bathroom and went over to collapse onto his bed, I went and peeked out the window, and was dismayed to see that the only other car in the motel parking lot was the owner's Volkswagen station wagon. Now, don't get me wrong; I love VWs and I love station wagons. But that thing was older than I was and I'd seen turtles that moved faster. Which left me with only one option, really.

I dialed the number Rebekah had left for me on the truck's windshield earlier in the day.

She picked up on the fourth ring, sounding faintly annoyed, like I'd caught her at a bad time. “What?”

“It's Zoe,” I said, muffling a cough as my lungs reminded me that they'd been stabbed into by my ribs. “Are you busy right now?”

“No,” she replied, sounding angry. “I was with Marcel, but he's refusing to give straight answers to any of my questions. I don't know what I ever saw in him. He's an arrogant self-centered ass, just like every other man in the world.”

“I'm sorry to hear that?” I offered, not sure what else to say. “Look, I kind of need a favor if you're not busy right now.” I leaned over my brother and checked his pulse rate. I bit my lip anxiously; it was thready and erratic, and much too fast. “Ezra and I...had some trouble, a little while ago. I need a ride to get some medicine and things. Can you drive me?”

“What happened to your truck?” she asked, sounding both surprised and worried.

“It won't be driving me anywhere anytime soon,” I replied. “If it even drives ever again. Pretty sure it's totaled.”

“Damn,” was all she said in response. “That sucks.”

“Look,” I said, starting to feel more than a little desperate. “Can you drive me or not? Because I'm watching my brother get worse and worse by the minute and I'm not really doing so hot either. I know we just met and you probably couldn't care less about us but I could really use a friend right now. Please, Rebekah.”

A silence so long and still that I began to wonder if she'd hung up on me.

Then her voice came across the line, soft and serious. “I'll be right there,” she promised.

“Thank you,” I whispered, and gave her the motel address.

I tucked my phone into my pocket and sagged down onto the edge of my brother's bed. Help was on the way, in the form of an unpredictable vampire I'd known for less than a day.

Unable to sit still even though moving hurt, I paced the motel room anxiously. As I circled the room over and over again, I hoped and prayed that I hadn't made a mistake in calling her.

Chapter Text

"...And gather a pile of shepherd's purse."

I am not typically a hysterical or weepy woman, but when Rebekah's sleek convertible pulled up outside, I couldn't help but let out a sob. "You're going to be okay," I whispered to my twin as I ran a gentle hand through his hair, flinching when my fingers came away stained red from a gash on his scalp I hadn't noticed before. "You're going to be okay," I repeated more firmly, reminding myself that of course he'd be fine, he was as immortal as I was. I just needed to hurry and get some medical supplies and those herbs, and everything would be fine.

Taking a deep breath to steady myself, I grabbed my battered purse out of my duffel bag, stuffed my wallet and keys inside, then hustled over to the door. I yanked it open to see Rebekah standing on the threshold, hand raised as if to knock.

Her hand froze mid-motion as she took in my appearance, her mouth forming a small 'O' of surprise. "Bloody hell," the Original said, eyes wide. "You 'had some trouble'?"

"Yeah," I said weakly. "Some trouble."

"Your brother?" she asked, peering around me to look into the room. "Oh. He isn't looking so good, is he?"

I swallowed hard. "No, he's not. Which is why we need to hurry. Please, Rebekah, I need to get some supplies right away."

She seemed to hesitate for a moment, then shook herself. "Right, of course. Come on, let's go." She grabbed my elbow and pulled me after her, deftly plucking my motel key from my shaking fingers and locking the door behind us as we left, thoughtfully hanging a Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob as a safety measure against snooping maids. "Where do you need to go?" she asked as we got into the car and pulled out of the lot.

I struggled to get my thoughts in order. "There's a little 24-hour pharmacy not far from here; we'll go there first," I said at last.

"Lovely. And after that?"

"There's an herbal remedies shop I saw the other day that'll have some things I need. It's called...Gai-something-or-other, I think."

"Gaia's Remedies?" Rebekah asked. "Over in the Quarter?"

"That's it! I need to go there, too, after we hit the pharmacy."

Rebekah nodded. "Okay, then. Let's get this little shopping spree started."

Twenty minutes later we left the pharmacy with our arms full of bags that were overflowing with medical supplies. Hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, antiseptic cream, more rolls of gauze than I could count, bandages of all sizes, pain medicine, fever medicine, nausea medicine, sleep medicine, headache medicine. You name it, I bought it, using up a massive chunk of the money I'd originally planned to use on a rental deposit in the near future.

Since I definitely looked the part of an accident victim, it was thanks to Rebekah's compulsion that the store clerk didn't pick up the phone and dial 911 the second my bloody and battered self walked in the door. I managed to stammer out my thanks as we piled the bags into the backseat of the car, but she just waved it off. Then gave me a severe look that had me leaning away.

"What is it?" I asked warily.

"You're shaking like a leaf," Rebekah answered, inspecting me with a critical eye. "And you're pale as a sheet."

"Sh-shock," I replied shakily. "I'm going into shock, I think." Honestly, it was surprising it hadn't hit me before now; it must have been the adrenaline keeping it at bay until now.

"...Are you sure you don't need a real doctor, or something?" the Original asked after a moment of silent driving. "I mean, I'm no expert but you probably need some sort of, I don't know, professional help?"

I gave an undignified snort. "I need professional help, that's for sure. But for now...just get me to Gaia's. Please."

"...Sure thing."

We arrived at Gaia's Remedies what felt like five centuries later, but in reality it was probably only twenty or thirty minutes. Shock and mind-numbing panic have a curious ways of distorting one's perception of time, I've noticed.

In any case, we finally made it. I stumbled from the car and up the front steps to the entry door of the store, my heart pounding in my chest.

"Welcome," chirped the girl behind the counter. "How may I-" a series of rapid blinks as she saw my blood-caked clothes." you?"

"I need some shepherd's purse and horsetail," I said without preamble. "As much as possible."

The clerk stared at me, her expression half alarmed  and half confused. "Uh, okay. Sure. Do you want it dried, or fresh? Powdered?"

"Fresh would be best, but I'll take anything you have," I said, glancing over my shoulder as Rebekah came in. "I need to make a poultice with the horsetail and brew a restorative tea with the shepherd's purse."

"I can put together some things for you," the clerk said uncertainly, "if you want me to."

"That would be fabulous," I said sincerely. "Thank you."

The clerk nodded and went around to a long work table and began preparing the items. Once everything was ready, she packed it all up in a box and passed it to me across the counter. I thanked her, tipped generously, and all but knocked Rebekah over as I spun around and bolted out the door like I had hell-hounds on my tail.

Rebekah's aggravated voice followed after me as the vampire herself did the same. "I know you're in a hurry to get back to your brother," she was saying, "but I really think you need to just take a few minutes to calm down." She grabbed my arm when I didn't respond. "Zoe, seriously. Look at me." Her grip tightened. "Zoe."

I glanced over, not bothering to mask my frustration. "What?" I snapped.

"Just listen to me for a second, okay?" she said. "Look," she went on, "I don't know who you or your brother are. Or why you're here, or why it is that you're able to stand there and talk to me as if you hadn't just been in a fatal car crash a couple hours ago."


"What I do know," she said, speaking right over me, "is how it feels to be frightened for your family. And that panic can cause you to slip up, Zoe, to make mistakes where normally you wouldn't. Like now. If I hadn't been here to compel those storekeepers into forgetting that they saw you all covered in blood, what would you have done?" She shook her head. "Just trust me, okay? And take a second to calm down. You can't help your brother if you're about to spiral out of control yourself."

I opened my mouth, to say what I don't know, when suddenly I crashed into someone else hurrying down the sidewalk.

"Watch it, bitch," the man snapped, and a whiff of his scent -blood, dirt, and death- told me that he was a vampire, though I noticed that he didn't have a daylight ring like some of the others I'd encountered in the city; I briefly wondered if the absence of such a ring was significant, but those thoughts scattered as I was shoved aside from behind from another vampire, who moved to join his friend. "You heard him, girl, move it." Then, to his friend: "Come on, man, let's go. Marcel wants that wolf dusted sooner rather than later."

The other vampire chuckled as he and his partner moved away, apparently dismissing me and Rebekah as threats. "Twenty bucks that I can get the wolf first."

"No way, man. You've bagged more than your fair share of wolf heads already. Let me have this one."

A growl rolled out of my throat before I could stop it. "Rebekah," I began to say, "I know you're not going to like this, but-"

"Put your things in the car," she said, cutting me off, "and let's go after them."

I stared at her stupidly, then hastened to obey, dumping the box of herbs in the backseat along with the other supplies.

"Why are you helping me to help a werewolf?" I asked her as we hurried after the other vampires.

She gave me a funny sideways look. "The way I see it, you were going to go after them with or without me; at least together we'll have a better chance of containing the situation in case they have more friends with them. Also," she added, "there's only one werewolf in all of New Orleans who's pig-headed enough to stroll into the Quarter in the middle of the night when she's supposed to be hiding out somewhere safe."

"Hayley," I realized. "The pregnant girl."

"Yes. And if anything happens to her or her baby this city will drown in a bloodbath in no short order. My brother Klaus may be a bastard through and through but he's more skilled in vengeance than anyone else I've ever met. If something happens to Hayley while she's under his protection, his wrath will be unstoppable."

Note to self: avoid upsetting Niklaus Mikaelson. I had one revenge-obsessed psychopath after me and my brother already. I did not need another.

I paused as we reached Bienville Park and a breeze blew across my face, bringing with is a fresh batch of scents. I'm not always so sensitive to smells, but my werewolf side graces me with better olfactory senses than most people, and with my inner wolf so close to the surface that sensitivity was heightened even further.

Right now, I was picking up the scents of several more vampires in addition to the two we'd already encountered. I also picked up a scent that I thought belonged to the Hayley girl; a faint aroma of wolf and woman, with a slight hint of some sort of sickly sweet perfume. Wait, no...I inhaled again, and scowled. It wasn't perfume I was smelling, it was wolfsbane.

Why does Hayley have wolfsbane? I wondered, beginning to worry. "You should hurry," I said to Rebekah. "The two from before are about to reach Hayley."

Instead of asking 'how do you know that?', Rebekah just gave me an unreadable look and asked "What about you?"

"There are a few more coming around from the other side," I explained. "You go help Hayley, and I'll deal with them."

She eyed me doubtfully. "Seriously? You look like one stiff wind will blow you right over."

"I'm tougher than I look," I assured her. "Now hurry, Hayley needs you."

She hesitated, then she was gone, rushing off in the blink of an eye with her vampire speed.

Which left me to confront the three new vampires who were rounding the corner, eager bloodthirsty grins on their faces.

"Sorry, boys," I said as I stepped into their path, blocking their advance. "No more wolf hunting tonight."

They exchanged looks with each other, then laughed. "And who's gonna stop us, little girl?" one asked, looking amused. "You?"

"Oh, yeah," I said, baring my teeth in a feral smile. "Me."

The first vampire, the one who'd spoken, attacked me first. I managed to hold my own well enough, but I was still wounded from the car crash. I'd fixed my dislocated shoulder, but it still hurt like a bitch and my range of motion with that arm would be limited until I finished healing for real. Add in the broken ribs, the broken ankle, and everything else and I was clearly at a disadvantage in a fight against three vampires in top condition.

Or at least I was in my human form.

My wolf body wouldn't have as hard a time; a shift would boost my healing, and I'd have fangs, claws, and much more mobility.

It was a no-brainer. I shifted, opening myself up to that other side of me, willingly unhooking that mental leash I kept my wolf-self tethered to. I felt the change roll through me like a hot wave, my skin and muscles rippling and shifting as the wolf magic pulsed through my body and changed me into my other form.

As a wolf, I'm average-sized, with brownish-black fur. Pretty standard and normal-looking at a first glance. Not being a massive hulky wolf, I don't necessarily inspire intimidation when in my wolf form. Unless of course I'm up against vampires. Because if they've seen me shift, then they know I'm a werewolf, at least partially. And werewolf bites are toxic to vampires, which is one of several reasons why the two species don't get along so well. Regrettably, my bites aren't deadly toxic since I'm only a half-breed, but a bite from me in wolf form will still poison a vampire and make them pretty damn sick.

Add in the fact that my jaws can crush bone and the odds of this fight suddenly didn't seem so bad.

I sprung up from the ground and locked my jaws around the first vampire's throat. I squeezed until his windpipe shattered and blood gushed from his mouth. Then I dropped his body to the ground and moved on to the next vampire, tearing out his throat in a similar fashion. A strong vampire would eventually recover from these types of injuries, but these vampires seemed too inexperienced, too fresh. Add in the fact that they'd be poisoned from my bite and they were as good as dead.

The last vampire, though, proved himself to be cleverer than his two fallen companions; he was careful to keep his distance from me, not letting me get in close enough to bite him. We circled around each other a bit, looking for each other's openings, until finally I managed to dart forward and nip at his ankles, causing him to stumble. I took immediate advantage of said stumble, and promptly jumped up and ripped his throat out. He gave hoarse scream and crumpled to the ground, even as his blood spurted into the air and matted in my fur.

The hot stickiness of the blood in my fur, combined with the thick iron tang of it hanging heavy in the air should have affected me in some way, made me disgusted, or at least faintly nauseous, but it didn't. And the fact that it didn't should have bothered me too, but that didn't trouble me, either.

I knew the reason, of course. When in my wolf shape, my wolf side is more dominant than my more human half, meaning that things that would like result in alarm or disgust from human-me barely get a passing glance from wolf-me. A wolf is a predator, after all, and a predator doesn't find bloody carnage to be particularly disturbing. Throw in the fact that I have a higher tolerance for bloodshed than most people even in my human shape and it really wasn't surprising that I wasn't feeling much as I stood there with my paws in a pool of a vampire's blood. All the same, I knew that staying in my wolf shape for too long was risky, and not just because of the apathy; if vampires were actively hunting werewolves in the Quarter, then being in wolf-shape was dangerous.

I decided to shift back into my human shape after nosing around the vampires to make sure that they wouldn't be getting up anytime soon. The shift in reverse was much more difficult than my transition into wolf-shape had been; I was going from my strong wolf body back to my battered human one, and as I re-took my usual shape all the pain came rushing right back, the agony of it so intense that it made me double over gasping.

There was one small blessing at least: my clothes came back as my body returned to human shape. I know it makes no sense. They should have been shredded and destroyed when I shifted the first time, right? But for some reason that's not how it works for me or my brother, at least not usually. Our clothes just...vanish, when we change form. There's likely some sort of ridiculous magical explanation for it out there somewhere, but all I know is that when I change into a wolf, my clothes disappear. And if I'm very lucky, they'll come back when I shift back into human form. Not always, though. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

Needless to say, when they came back this time, I was very happy about it. Running around naked in the French Quarter was not my idea of a good time.

After patting myself down to make sure that all my articles of clothing really were present and accounted for and not about to fall apart at the stitches, I broke into a light jog and headed for the direction Rebekah had gone in to find Hayley, not entirely sure what I would find once I got there.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

 "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

 I reached Rebekah in time to see her in the middle of a relatively heated conversation with a woman I could only assume to be Hayley.

"What were you thinking?" Rebekah was saying. "Coming out here in the middle of the night, putting yourself at risk like this-"

"It's my own business," Hayley shouted back. "I won't be controlled by you or your brother or anyone else ever again. I just want to be free!"

I coughed loudly to draw their attention. "Uh, hi," I said as they whipped their heads around to stare at me. "Sorry to interrupt, but those vampires back there," I gestured in the vague direction of the three vampires I'd taken down, "and these ones here," I pointed to the two Rebekah had evidently dealt with, "are going to be missed sooner or later. When Marcel realizes that they didn't come back from their wolf hunt, he'll get suspicious." I looked at Rebekah pointedly. "I'm hoping you have a plan?"

She sighed. "I wasn't thinking beyond needing to protect Hayley and her baby." She shook her head, looking dejected. "I don't see a way around it: we need to tell Klaus."

"What?" Hayley shook her head wildly. "No. No way!"

"Why?" I asked, narrowing my eyes at her. "He's been protecting you, right? And he's the father of the baby you're carrying, doesn't he deserve to know?"

She snorted. "Please. He didn't care about me when we slept together, and he doesn't care now. He's defending a potential weakness, that's all."

"That you and your baby are a weakness implies that he does care," I felt obligated to point out. "Otherwise it wouldn't be a weakness."

The werewolf woman just glared at me defiantly.

I rolled my eyes and looked to Rebekah. "Look," I said, "this whole baby drama really has nothing to do with me. I signed on to help you find your brother Elijah, that's it. So I'll defer to your judgment for how to deal with this mess." I nudged one limp vampire with my boot. "If you think telling Klaus is the best plan, go for it. But do me a favor and drop me off at the motel first; I need to tend to Ezra." A brawl with some of Marcel's vampires hadn't changed my priorities. My brother was still my main concern, and I hadn't forgotten the critical condition he'd been in when I'd left with Rebekah.

"Who's Ezra?" Hayley asked, then frowned at me. "And who the hell are you? Another vampire?"

I made a face. "Hell, no. Do I look like a freaking vampire to you? Jeez."

"Do you really need to sound so disgusted?" Rebekah asked dryly.

I gave her a cheeky smile. "Yep."

She shook her head, looking faintly amused. "You're an interesting woman, Zoe, that's for sure." She looked over at Hayley and sighed. "Alright, I'll drop you off at the motel on our way back."


Rebekah broke several speeding laws on the return trip to the motel, but since she was rushing me back to my badly wounded brother who was in dire need of the medicines I was bringing with me, I voiced no objections whatsoever. Hayley, on the other hand, let out several exclamations of alarm and fury whenever we whipped past a stop sign or through an intersection without stopping, but Rebekah paid her no attention other than an occasional "Hush up, please."

She dropped me in the motel parking lot, promised to call me once the dust had settled, then tore out of the parking lot with a screech of tires.

I didn't bother to watch her headlights disappear into the night, I was already unlocking the motel room door and elbowing my way in, arms full of boxes and bags of supplies. "Ezra?" I called out, dropping my bags onto a nearby dresser and flicking on the light.

My brother was not where I'd left him, in bed. Instead, he was sprawled out on the hardwood floor, curled up into fetal position, his skin deathly pale and his breathing ragged.

"Ezra!" I exclaimed, rushing over to him. Kneeling down, I cradled his face in my hands, alarmed by how hot his skin felt. "Ezra? Can you hear me?"

"...Zoe?" my brother croaked, his voice shaking and weak.

"Yeah, Ez, I'm right here," I whispered. "I'm here."

"You were...gone," he gasped.

"I'm sorry," I said softly, reaching over to snag a bag of pharmacy supplies. "I had to go get some medicine to help you." I pulled out a bottle of painkillers and some fever medicine. "Here, take these; I'll grab you some water." I hurried to the sink in the bathroom, filled up a cheap plastic cup with tap water then hurried up back to my brother, helping to prop his head up so he could sip the water and swallow the pills.

Once I was certain he wouldn't choke on the water, I left him to drink the rest of it on his own and inspected the box the herbalist had given me. Opening it, I saw that she'd been true to her word and had prepared everything I'd needed. I heaved a huge sigh of relief and quickly prepped a couple of horsetail poultices, applying them tenderly to the worst of his injuries. Then I re-purposed the motel room coffee machine to brew the shepherd's purse tea, which filled the motel room with a strange earthy smell. I made sure my twin drank a full cup of the tea before letting him return to bed and rest.

Only once I was sure he was sleeping moderately peacefully did I start to tend to my own injuries. I started off by drinking the shepherd's purse tea and swallowing down some pain pills of my own. Then I set about cleaning out my injuries with hydrogen peroxide and alcohol, biting my lip to keep myself from screaming out as the liquids did their work and burned the dirt and germs from my wounds. Deciding not to bother with the antiseptic cream since I'd have to re-bandage the wounds again in a couple hours anyway, I opted to just wrap everything in gauze and bandages and hope for the best.

Then I collapsed onto my bed and burrowed under my covers, sleep swallowing me up the second my head touched my pillow.

Chapter Text

"Sometimes you have to accept the fact that certain things will never go back to how they used to be."

"This is why I told you never to leave the house," Klaus said angrily, dragging the last of the vampire bodies over into a pile. "Werewolves are banned in the Quarter. I had a plan, and your little nighttime stroll put it all in peril! Leave him," he added, snapping at Rebekah as she made a move towards one of the vampires who was still alive. "You've done enough, don't you think? Leaving a trail of bodies like a road map to my door?"

Rebekah shook her head furiously. "Oh, come on. If Zoe and I hadn't overheard his lot bragging about werewolf heads, everyone here would be screwed. And don't give me that crap about having a plan," she added. "You've had all the time in the world to execute a plan, and no one's seen you do a damn thing! Elijah made a deal to protect your child, so that it could save you from your selfish, rotten self. But you obviously don't give a damn about the child or Elijah, because what have you done to honor it?"

Klaus's eyes flashed angrily. "I have done everything. Let me spell it out for you, shall I? From the day I arrived, Marcel hasn't trusted me. From Day One, he's had his vampires ingest toxic vervain which, as you know, little sister, protects them from my mind control. I needed a spy," he went on, "someone on the inside with me who Marcel would never suspect. So, I created a Day Zero and got there first." He gave a smile that lacked amusement. "Marcel had just lost six vampires, thanks to your little murder spree, and he needed new recruits. So, I made the new one mine, before he'd had even a drop of vervain. But," he added, "we all know the real way to a man is through his heart, so...I paid the lovely Camille a visit."

Rebekah stared at him in silence, shocked.

"And this one," her brother went on, "I'm gonna drain him of vervain, compel him to believe his mates found religion and moved to Utah, so that he can explain to Marcel why he lost five more vampires tonight." He dragged the vampire in question after him as he headed back inside the house. "Now, does anyone have any more questions? No? Good, because I have a few questions of my own. Who is this Zoe you were with?" he asked Rebekah. "You've never mentioned her before."

Rebekah waved a hand dismissively. "Just some girl I ran into the other day."

Klaus narrowed his eyes. "Some girl who just happened to be with you when you eliminated five vampires?"

Rebekah crossed her arms. "Let it go, Nik."

He smirked. "Fine, I will. For now. Because I have a much more pressing question." All amusement dropped from his face as he turned towards the one who'd remanied silent for the entire conversation so far. "Hayley, what were you doing in the bloody French Quarter in the first place? Answer me!"

"Leave her be," Rebekah snapped.

"You wanna know what I was doing?" Hayley said viciously. "I was buying poison, so I could put your little baby out of its misery."

Klaus was on her before she could blink, grabbing her in a fercious grip and pinning her to the wall as she clutched at her throat and gasped for air.

"Nik! NIK!" Rebekah tackled her brother at vampire speed, horrified by his behavior. "Keep your hands off her! She is pregnant, for God's sake!" Then she realized what had set him off, and tried to gentle her tone a little. "All of this bluster about not wanting the child, and then the second she tells you she's ready to get rid of it? It's okay to care. It's okay to want something. That's all Elijah was trying to do, all he's ever wanted for you. All we've ever wanted."

Klaus, looking like he'd been hit with an emotional train, sat down shakily. After a moment, Rebekah sat down beside him.

"I gave Elijah to Marcel," he told her hoarsely.

She stared at him with wide eyes. "What?"

"Marcel was nervous," Klaus explained, clearly trying to justify his actions to her. "It's bad enough one Original returned to town, but two? His crew was getting antsy. He wanted Elijah gone, so... I gave him a peace offering."

"You bartered our brother?" she snarled.

"I have a plan," he insisted. "Gain Marcel's trust, dismantle his empire, honor Elijah's wish that that baby be born." He took a deep breath. "I am executing that plan the only way I know how. If you don't like it, there's the door. See if I care." He waved a dismissive hand at her then rose to his feet, leaving the room without another word.

Rebekah leaned back, arms crossed and expression thoughtful. After sitting there for a moment, though, she re-located to the back porch, thinking that maybe some fresh air would clear out the muddle of her thoughts. To her surprise, Hayley came out to join her after a short while.

"I know you don't know me very well," the werewolf girl said, "... but thanks. I appreciate what you did in there."

Rebekah smiled faintly. "Us girls have got to look out for each other."

"What is it with you two?" Hayley asked suddenly. "You say you hate him, but the way you deal with him, it's so clear. Even when you hate him, you still love him."

Rebekah sighed. "I guess when you spend a thousand years with someone, deciding to quit them is like losing a part of yourself. But sometimes the hate is just... so powerful. Emil wasn't the only boyfriend of mine that Klaus killed. He did it again, and again, and every time I found someone to care about. He just kept doing it until, finally, I stopped falling in love. He said he was protecting me from my mistakes, that no one was ever good enough for his little sister. Until one day, someone was." She swallowed hard. "But that ended even worse than all the rest." She shook her head. "Without Elijah to temper his behavior, there is no keeping Niklaus in check. It was difficult even with him, but with him gone..."

"If you know Marcel has Elijah, why don't you just get him back yourself?" Hayley asked.

"Because it was Nik's idea to give Elijah to Marcel in the first place. And if I cross my brother, there's still a coffin downstairs with my name on it."

Hayley eyed Rebekah for a moment, then reached down and carefully unwrapped something she'd had hidden. As she finished unfolding it, it became clear that it was two silver daggers. "Oh, my god," Rebekah said, shocked.

"I found them under your coffin," Hayley explained. "So, if a couple of antique steak knives were the only things stopping you from getting Elijah back, then here you go."

Rebekah took them, looking awed. After a moment, she looked up at Hayley and smiled. "Thank you," she whispered.

Hayley smiled back. "Us girls have to stick together," she echoed.

Chapter Text

"Tough times don't last. Tough people do."

My phone went off in the morning the next day, blaring a jarringly cheerful ring-tone out in the peaceful silence of the motel room.

I groaned and reached for my phone, nearly knocking over the bedside lamp as my fingers fumbled across the top of the little bedside dresser. I finally managed to grab my phone and flipped it open without checking caller ID. "Hello?" I mumbled groggily.

"Zoe?" Rebekah's voice came though the speaker. "Zoe, is that you?"

"Who else would it be?" I asked tiredly, rubbing my eyes. "What time is it?"

"Eight. Are you still in bed?"

I sighed. "Not anymore," I said, sitting up.

"Oh." A few second of silence. "Well, sorry. But I really need your help with something."

I rolled out of bed, stood up, and stretched, flinching a little as my ribs reminded me that even with ten hours of sleep and some herbal assistance I still wasn't healed all the way. I'd planned to sleep the whole day away to get more of a head-start on my healing, but apparently that was not going to happen after all. "What's up?" I asked, going over to check on Ezra, who seemed to be sound asleep.

"Well," Rebekah said, "turns out Klaus gave Elijah to Marcel as a peace offering. He in turn has given Elijah to his little pet witch."

I paused mid-motion, taking a minute to run those words over in my minds again. "Wait, what? Pet witch? But I thought Marcel banned witchcraft?"

"All but hers, apparently. And she's wicked powerful, Zoe, she tossed me around the room like it was nothing. And erased my memory of her location."

My stomach knotted in dread. "Rebekah, that sort of power isn't possible. No single witch should be that strong."

"You think I don't know that?!"

I jerked the phone away from my ear with a scowl. "No need to shout," I said sourly, going over to my duffel bag to retrieve a fresh change of clothes. "Did you tell your other brother about this latest development, or is he still stonewalling you?"

"No, he's on board now. He says he'll do whatever it takes to get Elijah back from Marcel and his witch."

"Well, that's good, right?" I went into the bathroom and peered at my reflection in the mirror, inspecting the fading bruises.

"Yes," Rebekah said testily, "but it's not good enough. We need your help, too, yours and Ezra's."

I straightened up from the mirror with a frown, not liking where this conversation was going. "What did you tell your brother about me and Ezra?" I asked warily.

A long pause that I definitely didn't like. "I mentioned your name last night," Rebekah admitted at last. "Nik asked me about you a little but he was more preoccupied with Hayley at the time, so I never really had to answer him."

"Okay," I said slowly, "so...what's changed? Why do you need me and my brother now that Klaus has agreed to help you rescue Elijah?"

"Because we're up against a witch," Rebekah replied. "It makes sense to have witches of our own, doesn't it?"

My entire body went ice cold. "What did you just say?"

"Zoe," Rebekah said, her voice very soft. "I overheard what Sophie said to you and Ezra the other day. About her detector spell, about knowing you were witches."

"My brother and I are not witches," I said sharply. "Stop it."

"Look, I understand if you're nervous because of the ban on magic-"

"Marcel's stupid ban has absolutely nothing to do with it," I snapped. "Just stop, okay? Let it go."


"Let. It. Go."

A long, long silence. "I'm sorry, Zoe," Rebekah said at last, her voice very soft. "But I can't. I need your help to save my brother."

I struggled to take several deep breaths, doing my best to stave off the panic attack I could feel hovering at the edges of my control. This stint in the Big Easy was not going at all according to plan, and things were slipping so badly out of control it wasn't even remotely funny. "Rebekah," I said hoarsely. "You don't understand."

"So tell me," she replied, her tone gentle yet still firm. "Tell us," she added. "Nik and I will be by in a couple hours to pick you and your brother up. You can explain then."

"I am not explaining shit to you or your brother," I said, feeling more than little guilty about my harsh tone and words, but needing her to stop pushing at me for answers I didn't want to – couldn't – give. My wolf was still close to the surface as well, and that only made my temper worse, my self-control so frayed and threadbare that it was almost nonexistent."What my brother and I may or may not be is of no concern to the Mikaelson family, Rebekah, and I'm sorry if that fucking inconveniences your brother's grand plan for rescuing Elijah, but that's just how it is."

"You're saying you won't help us?" she asked, and now her voice is ice-cold steel.

"That isn't what I'm saying," I said through gritted teeth, horrifically aware of how things would go if an Original decided to consider me an enemy for not rendering assistance when asked. "All I'm saying," I went on carefully, "is that if you're looking for strong witches to help you, my brother and I are not who you need."

"...But you're all we have," Rebekah answered, her tone becoming plaintive. "Please, Zoe...I helped you save your brother, didn't I? me save mine."

Well, damn. She had me there, and no matter how I looked at it, that was definitely a debt that needed to be settled sooner rather than later. "...Come on by," I said with a resigned sigh. "Just give me a little while to brief my brother, okay?"

"We'll be by in a couple hours," she repeated. "Klaus and I have some other things to deal with first, and then we'll come get you and your brother."

"We'll be here," I said, knowing I sounded unhappy about it and not particularly caring what Rebkeah might think about it.

"Thanks," was all she said in response, then hung up.

I stood there for a long moment, just holding my phone and staring at myself in the mirror. "Good job," I told my reflection sarcastically. "Way to play it safe, Zoe, well done." My reflection gave no answer, so I heaved another morose sigh and left the bathroom, bracing myself to wake up my brother and give him the news.

As it turned out, no waking was necessary, since he was standing about five feet from the bathroom door, dressed only in his jeans with his arms crossed and an angry scowl on his face.

"Oh," I said. "You're up."

He said nothing, just looked at me.

I gave a nervous half-smile. "I take it you, uh, heard the call, then." Werewolf hearing does have some sort-of perks, as far as eavesdropping goes. I didn't doubt that my brother had heard my entire conversation with Rebekah, but confirming it still seemed like a good idea, just in case.

"Yeah," was all he said.

Well. I wasn't sure what to do with an Ezra who looked so severe and stern. I made a beeline for the mini-fridge and rummaged around until I produced two cans of soda and a pack of string cheese. I held out the package towards my brother, putting on my best innocent-sister face. "Cheese?" I offered.

He just glowered at me some more, not saying a word.

Abruptly exasperated, I tossed the cheese back in the fridge and set the soda down onto the counter with more force than necessary. "What are you waiting for me to say?" I snapped angrily. "That I screwed up, getting us involved in the Originals' crap? Because I know that already. Or is it that I agreed to keep helping them? Because I'm not thrilled about it, either, but it's not like we have a lot of options."

Ezra took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose, looking pained. "I just...don't know what to think," he said at last.

"About what?" I asked desperately, needing to understand where this quiet fury of his was coming from. "What is it that got you so mad at me?"

He surprised me by shaking his head. "It's not you," he said. "I know it seems like I'm pissed at you, Zoe, but I swear it's not you. It's just..." He sighed and waved a hand around vaguely. "How is it this shit always happens to us? What did we do to deserve all this crap we deal with?" He shook his head again. "It's isn't fair," he bit out, eyes flashing angrily as his wolf surged. "It's not fair, and we don't deserve this."

I swallowed hard, not daring to say anything because I've had those sorts of thoughts for as long as I can remember, ever since everything had fallen apart and our lives had turned into a waking hell. I couldn't risk saying anything, because if I opened my mouth all that would pour out would be agreement, that none of this was fair and that we didn't deserve it and please-God-let-it-all-stop-so-I-can-close my-eyes-without-fear.

Needless to say, saying any of that would totally not be helpful right now, so bit my tongue and held my silence. After a moment, my brother seemed to collect himself, shoving down his despair.

"So," he said, "they're coming here?"

"Yeah," I said. "In a couple hours."

He ran a hand through his hair, leaving it sticking up at odd angles. "If it were anyone other the Originals, I would say we just cut and run, but that's not gonna fly this time, is it?"

I gave it some serious consideration, but in the end... "No," I said, "it's not. There's no running away this time."

He sighed. "Okay, well...what, then? What do we say? How much do we tell them?" He looked at me seriously. "How much is too much, Z? Can we trust them?"

I opened my mouth to say an automatic 'no', then hesitated. Because I wanted to say that yes, we could trust them. But I had no idea where that feeling came from, and I didn't trust it, because I don't trust people. At least not in a good way. I trusted them to betray and back-stab and disappoint me, yes. I did not trust them to be dependable, loyal, or faithful. And I had yet to meet anyone anywhere who I would trust to not sell me or my brother up the river to our uncle at the first opportunity.

That I wanted to say that we could trust Rebekah and her brother troubled me more than a little, but I attributed it to the gratitude I was feeling towards Rebekah for helping me help my brother when I'd been desperate. Gratitude had a way of warping my perspective on certain things, trustworthiness evidently being one of them.

Nevertheless, I was going to tell them nothing more than I absolutely had to. Which would not be very much. Because, after all, they could threaten us until the cows came home, but in the end it wouldn't really matter. Even if they followed through on some terrible and awful threat...we couldn't be killed. My brother and I were immortal, and that wasn't going to change. It sounds stupid, but I almost forget that, sometimes. Yet it was the truth. Ezra and I couldn't be killed.

Bearing this in mind would be important, I figured. And would likely need to be mentioned to the Mikaelson siblings fairly early on. There would be questions, of course, about how Ezra and I had survived a fatal car wreck.

"We'll give them the basics," I decided. "Our bare bones version of the story, and let them draw their own conclusions from there."

"Are we mentioning the wolf aspect of things, or...?"

"No," I say firmly. "We won't tell them anything extra. Just the bit about a crazy evil uncle and needing to lay low. Everything beyond that is none of their business."

"Technically even that much isn't their business," Ezra pointed out, but nodded in agreement for the plan in general. "How long do we have before they arrive?"

"Couple hours," I replied, leaning against the counter, suddenly exhausted. "I guess they had some other stuff to deal with first."

"If it'll be that long, we should rest before they get here," he said reasonably. "No point being dead on our feet for no reason."

"I'm too keyed up to rest," I muttered, but I yawned even as I grumbled, and my brother promptly steered me back towards my bed.

"Zoe," he said, his tone one of brotherly amusement, "get some sleep. I will, too," he assured me, cutting me off before I could even finish opening my mouth to speak. "We both need to get some rest. We'll never heal otherwise," he added, and that shut me right up, because he was right.

If we were really going to join up with Rebekah and Klaus against Marcel and his crew, we'd need to be at our best. Currently we weren't even close. So I set my phone to wake me up in an hour and a half and buried my head under my pillow. It wasn't until I heard my brother lay back down and fall back asleep himself that I was able to fully relax and drift off myself, my dreams full of hectic scattered images of wolves and vampires and fire and darkness.

I woke up just before my alarm went off, feeling somewhat refreshed and rejuvenated, if not completely recovered. Ezra, I discovered, had already woken up, and was in the bathroom taking a shower.

"You okay in there?" I called out anxiously, acutely aware of the fact my brother had looked like death warmed over just a few hours previously.

"All good," he called back, voice half drowned out by the sounds of running water. "Relatively speaking, anyway," he added, his voice full of forced cheer.

I had no good answer to that so I just said "Okay" and set about tidying up our motel room so it didn't look like a total disaster zone. Mostly that involved dumping various articles of bloody clothing into a nearby plastic trashcan and scrubbing at the bloodstains on the wood floor with some extra strength Formula 409 and hoping that the maid service wouldn't feel inclined to swing by while me and my twin had Rebekah and her psychotic brother over visiting.

Given our run of rotten luck lately, I halfheartedly came up with a handful of contingency plans in the event of such a thing happening. It never hurts to be prepared, after all.

In any case, someone knocked on our door roughly twenty minutes later, the sound of it echoing through our room. My heart leapt and pounded in my chest as my anxiety nearly swallowed me whole, but somehow I managed to push the panic away, taking several deep breaths to calm myself. "Be right there," I called out, shooting a glance at the bathroom door, hoping my brother didn't take too long getting out of the shower. I knew it was cowardly, but I didn't want to face two Mikaelsons alone without my twin to back me up.

But there was no point delaying the inevitable, so I headed for the door, opening it with no small amount of trepidation. Standing on our little doorstep was, of course, Rebekah, dressed in designer clothes and looking like the immortal bombshell that she is. Standing somewhat apart from her was a young-looking man who was clearly her brother, Klaus. There was a resemblance between them, marking them clearly as siblings despite the fact that Klaus was supposedly only a half-brother. I think it was something to do with the way they carried themselves, more than their shared genetics; they both have a sort of guarded arrogance to the way they stand and look.

In any case, my stomach knotted with dread as I saw them both standing there, as it sunk in that yes, this really is happening. My voice wasn't as steady as I would have liked it to be when I said "Come in" but if they noticed this they didn't remark on it, just stepping across the threshold into the room. Ezra was coming out of the bathroom just as they were coming into the room, and Rebekah and her brother both paused as my brother very deliberately went into the little kitchenette and retrieved the sodas I'd abandoned earlier. "Drink?" he offered casually, acting as if hosting indestructible vampires was something he did all the time.

"No, thank you," Klaus said, giving a razor-edged smile. "I prefer...stronger drinks."

"You don't say," my brother remarked lightly, tossing me a soda. "Your loss."

I caught the can reflexively, narrowing my eyes at my brother. What the hell was he up to? I set my can of soda down on the nearest flat surface and stepped around the Mikaelsons to stand beside my brother, who was still wearing only jeans, his wet hair messy and dripping onto his bare skin. I couldn't help but notice how the vampires give him a thorough once-over, their gazes lingering on the jagged scar on his chest. I could see the questions in their eyes, but wisely neither vampire mentions it, instead speaking only of the topic at hand.

"My sister tells me you might be of some use to us in retrieving our brother Elijah," Klaus said, clearly lacking the hesitation that was plaguing me and even his sister, who seemed to be very intent on inspecting her manicure and was very carefully not meeting my eyes. Given that I was not sure how I felt about her all but forcing me into this meeting, that was probably best; there's no telling how I would have reacted, not with my wolf still so close to the surface.

"What exactly did she tell you?" Ezra asked, popping his soda open and taking a small sip, eyes never leaving Klaus; clearly he thought that Rebekah's brother was the larger threat in the room, and I felt inclined to share that assessment. There was something about Klaus that made me very uneasy, a sort of contained wildness lurking just under his skin that almost bordered on feral. My inner wolf could sense the wolf in him, too, and it made my skin itch. I somewhat worriedly wondered if he could sense the wolves in me and my brother, but by all accounts Klaus was not terribly in touch with his wolf side. In any case, he didn't seem to be assessing us in a wolf-to-wolf way, more of a potential-frenemy sort of way.

"Well," Klaus said, his voice casual and charismatic, "she mentioned overhearing Sophie Deveraux calling you out for being witches. Something about a sensor spell and whatnot. And about how the two of you denied all of it, but did so in a way that involved never actually admitting to anything"

"Maybe there's nothing to admit to," Ezra remarked neutrally, his expression politely dismissive.

Klaus gave a smile that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. "Oh, but there is. Isn't there?" he went on, turning to look at me rather than my brother. "My sister tells me you and your brother were in quite a spectacular car accident just yesterday. Would you like to explain how is it you not only walked away, but recovered so quickly?"

"We eat all our healthy vegetables and take lots of vitamins," Ezra said testily, shifting position ever so slightly, placing himself between me and Klaus.

The movement did not go unnoticed by Klaus, whose smirk only widened. "Really," he said, sounding amused.

"Really," Ezra said flatly.

The tension in the room was practically a tangible thing, making the air in the room heavy and suffocating. I was starting to feel boxed in, and my self-control, already on tenterhooks, was about to shatter into a million itty bitty pieces. Ezra, evidently seeing something in my face to signal my impending meltdown, put a reassuring hand on my shoulder, and looked Klaus dead in the eye. "If you're looking for powerful witches to help you take down Marcel," he said clearly and calmly, "you've come to the wrong people."

Klaus looked at him very carefully, before glancing over his shoulder at Rebekah. "Yes, Rebekah mentioned that your sister had said much the same thing. But why is that, I wonder? Sophie identified you as witches. Witches do magic. So why is it you refuse? Is it simply that you're refusing to help us specifically?" he went on. "Because I shouldn't need to tell you what happens when someone turns down my offers."

"You haven't actually put an offer on the table," I felt obligated to point out, speaking for the first time since opening the door. I was surprised to find that my voice was steady and even. "So far all you've done is ask questions and not drink soda."

Klaus gave me a smile that was all teeth. "I prefer my drinks stronger," he repeated.

I decided I wasn't going to be intimidated, and gave a toothy smile right back. "Good strong drinks are hard to come by," I said sweetly. "You must go thirsty pretty often."

Rebekah gave a snort of laughter despite herself, and I slanted her a bemused look. "Sorry," she offered, giving me a sheepish smile.

I gave a dismissive wave. "No worries," I told her, although it was pretty much a blatant lie. I had plenty of worries, and baiting her psychotic brother would only add to them but I couldn't seem to help it. I looked back at Klaus. "So, are you going to get on with business, or not? I ain't getting any younger here."

He raised his eyebrows, looking faintly surprised by my forwardness, though that same arrogant smirk stayed in place, like it was superglued to his face or something. "How about this," he said. "The two of you help us get Elijah back, and we won't slaughter you where you stand." His tone of voice was pleasant and easy-going, as if it was the most reasonable offer in the world and we'd be silly not to take it.

I couldn't help it. I burst out laughing.

Both Originals gave me genuinely baffled and startled looks as I doubled over, clutching my stomach with one hand as I tried to muffle my laughter with the other. Even Ezra gave me an are-you-kidding-me look, but I couldn't seem to put a lid on it. I chuckled a little longer, then managed to get a hold of myself. "Sorry," I said, though really I wasn't, "but that's just the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. And I've heard some pretty stupid things."

Klaus arched an eyebrow, his voice taking on a dangerous edge. "Oh?" Just a single syllable, but loaded with menace.

Thankfully, I'd recovered my backbone somehow, and his intimidation games weren't going to make me back down. I put my hands on my hips, giving him an eyebrow arch of my own. "How exactly would you propose to kill us, then?"

"I have a very creative imagination," the Original responded silkily. "I'm sure I could come up with something delightful."

Well, didn't that just sound spectacularly creepy. "I hope your imagination has workarounds for immortality curses," I remarked lightly, my voice overly bright and chipper. "Because I hear those can be a bitch and a half when you're trying to kill someone."

A long moment of complete and total silence as that information sank in. Klaus exchanged an unreadable look with Rebekah, but she only gave a confused half-shrug and glanced over at me, biting her lip. Having run of out of things to say, I looked over to my brother, who looked torn between wanting to hug me and wanting to throttle me. In the end, he gave a little shake of his head, settled for mussing my hair and said, "Way to spill the beans, Zoe."

Chapter Text

"Never mistrust, unless given a reason. "

I gave my brother a rueful smile. "I don't see why we should waste all this time dancing around the issue," I told him, feeling a need to justify my blurting out 'oh, hey, we're immortal, don't bother trying to kill us' to Rebekah Mikaelson and her crazy brother Klaus. "It's not like they wouldn't have figured it out on their own eventually anyway," I added with a shrug. "I mean, we did survive a deadly car crash." We'd also survived the assassins that had immediately followed said crash, but I wasn't going to bring that up unless I absolutely had to.

My brother just heaved a long-suffering sigh, looking amused and aggravated all at once. "You're impossible," he said.

"I am," I agreed, nodding.

We were, of course, putting on something on an act for the Mikaelson siblings. Not lying, of course, we were telling the truth. But we had developed over the years certain patterns and methods for telling others who and what we were. This was the Zoe-blurts-it-out method, obviously. It involved me putting the truth out there and seeing what the response would be. Naturally, we give only one piece of the whole story, and see how things proceed from there.

In this case, the piece of information given is our immortality. I watched Rebekah and Klaus carefully, trying gauge their reactions to this little nugget of information.

"Well," Rebekah said, speaking first and breaking the silence, "that explains how you made it through that car crash. Klaus and I stopped by the police station to sneak a peek at the official accident report," she added in explanation. "And the opinion of the officer who wrote it was that no one should have been able to just get out and walk off."

"Yeah, it was pretty bad," I said noncommittally.

Ezra snorted. "Understatement of the month," he observed.

Klaus wasn't so easily distracted from the topic at hand, paying little attention to our easy-going back and forth chatter and instead cutting right to the heart of the matter. "I don't suppose you'd care to explain how it is the two of you came to be undying?" he asked, his tone of voice indicating quite clearly that evasive answers would not be appreciated. "Witches, after all, are supposed to be just as mortal as any other human."

I exchanged a look with my brother, weighing our options. But in the end, we had to tell them something. "Supposed to be, yes," I agreed, deciding to be the spokesperson for this part of things, at least. Ezra could have easily explained, but his comfort zone in situations like this was more to do with watching and observing, letting me take the lead so that he would be better able to respond to a potential threat. "But our situation is a little bit...unique."

"Unique how?" Klaus inquired, eyes narrowing at me in suspicion.

"Our mother was a witch," I began, deciding to keep the story simple and straightforward, with as little detail as possible. "She had a falling out with her older brother after she married a guy he didn't approve of. Our uncle...well, he's really not very mentally stable and decided to come after our family and make an example of us, for what happens when someone goes against family expectations. He killed our parents and cursed us to live forever."

"How terribly tragic," Klaus said, his tone just short of being outright mocking. "But why would he bother making you immortal if what he wanted was to punish your family? Surely killing you would serve his purpose well enough. Why draw things out?"

"Because he's a psychotic asshole," Ezra replied, evidently done with keeping quiet. "He intends to capture us and torture us for the rest of eternity. A fun-filled family reunion," he drawled sarcastically.

"Which is why we don't advertise our magical heritage," I added more seriously. "If he hears that we're here he'll stop at nothing to catch us."

"So you don't want to help us against Marcel because you're worried your uncle might find you?" Rebekah surmised.

"It's not that we won't help you," I said, taking care to word my reply very carefully. "But we can't help you using our magic. Marcel's pet witch aside, our uncle would know if we used any sort of significant magic and be able to locate us accordingly."

"That doesn't mean we can't help you in other ways," Ezra continued, picking up where I'd left off. "There's plenty we can do to help you retrieve your brother without using our magic. And before you guys get all up in arms over our refusal to help with witchery," he added, "I'd like to point out that we are very out of practice with our magic and would not be of much use in that regard anyway."

A quiet moment as the vampires digested what we'd told them.

"I still think we could use their help," Rebekah said to her brother eventually. "I wouldn't have been able to protect Hayley without Zoe last night," she pointed out when her brother made a face at her words. "At the very least it would help to have more capable fighters on our side, wouldn't it? Marcel has a whole little army of his own, after all."

"Mm," was all Klaus said in response, still just looking at me and my brother in that threat-assesment sort of way. No, I realized suddenly, it wasn't a threat assessment, not exactly. It was more of a how-can-I-turn-this-to-my-advantage sort of thing. If nothing else, Niklaus Mikaelson was clearly not someone to jump into a situation without having some sort of plan, even just a basic one. I found myself not really liking the idea of working together with a clever psychopath. Not that there was much of a choice in the matter, really; it's not like they'd just let us go on our way. It was too late for that.

"Look," I said, crossing my arms and giving Klaus my best no-nonsense look. "You need help getting Elijah back, right? We can help you do that, but on our terms. Understand?"

Klaus gave that infuriating smirk again, the one that made me want to go for my dagger. "Very well. We'll be...a team," he said, giving an exceptionally bright smile that was very obviously false. "Although," he went on more seriously, "I won't allow your personal issues to impact my own goals. Any problems involving your uncle are your own to deal with; I want nothing to do with any of it."

"Fair enough," I agreed, though I was tempted to point out that me and brother were getting dragged into his own personal drama and turnabout was fair play. But I'd probably pushed my luck enough for one day, so I kept my mouth shut. Instead, I turned to my brother. "Anything to add?" I asked him.

Ezra shook his head. "Not really," he replied easily, setting his can of soda down on the counter and snagging a towel from the back of a nearby chair to begin drying his hair with. "Just wondering what exactly the plan is for getting Elijah back from an impossibly powerful teenage witch without us getting flattened in the process."

I muffled a snort of laughter at his casual tone of voice, as if discussing jail-breaking an Original was an everyday occurrence and didn't warrant much excitement. "I think we need more information first on who this witch might be," I said, looking over to the vampires. "We might have a better idea of her capabilities if we know who she is."

"Marcel called her Davina," Rebekah provided. "Beyond that, I don't know much about her. She was just a child, only fifteen or sixteen, I think."

"I can make some calls," Ezra offered. "See if any of my contacts know anything."

I nodded. My brother had a fairly wide range of contacts from our time spent hopscotching across the continent. None were in New Orleans as far as I knew, but information has a way of spreading far and wide, particularly in the supernatural world. If there was information about a too-powerful child witch out there, my brother could find it. "Okay. Anything else we can do right now? Besides gather information?"

"You can move out of this godawful motel room," Rebekah said, giving the room a disgusted look. "Honestly," she went on, "it smells terrible in here and there's no heating or air conditioning. Or anything resembling any sort of civilized habitation environment."

I snickered a little at hearing a phrase like 'civilized habitation environment' come out of the mouth of an Original vampire. "It's not so bad," I felt obligated to say in response.

"We've stayed in worse," my brother added, his tone so sincere it was impossible not to believe him.

Rebekah's face scrunched up as she looked at us. "Well," she said, "that won't do at all." She turned to her brother. "They're coming to stay with us."

Ezra made a choking sound that he hastily turned into a cough, shooting me a what-the-hell look.

I made a flailing motion and opened my mouth to object. "That's really not necessary-"

"But of course it is," Rebekah said, cutting me off completely. "So gather up your things and let's get going."

I whirled on Klaus, since if anyone would be on our side in this, it would be him. But he just gave that little smirk again, clearly seeing and enjoying our obvious discomfort. "I for one will feel better about knowing where the two of you are," he said, voice silky smooth. "It'll make keeping you in line so much easier."

I bit my tongue to hold in a caustic remark about how badly trying to 'keep us in line' would go for him if he dared to try it. Instead I took a deep breath and turned back to his sister. "Rebekah," I said, trying to sound reasonable, "you can't just have us pack up and move in with you."

"Why not?" she asked, looking genuinely confused about there being a problem. "It makes sense for all of us to stay together," she added. "It'll make consolidating information easier, not to mention making plans."

I tried to find some sort of hole in her simple logic but couldn't. Frustrated with how this was all spiraling out of control, I threw my hands up in defeat and stormed over to my bed to stuff my things back into my duffel bag. "Vampires," I sad angrily, in a tone that was not at all complimentary. "You guys are all so..." I made another angry flailing motion with my hands, unable to find a word that really conveyed what I wanted to say.

Rebekah didn't look particularly troubled by my fury and flounced over to help me pack, pausing occasionally to make some remark about different articles of my clothing and offering to take me out shopping sometime for more 'becoming' outfits. Ezra, in the meantime, finished toweling his hair dry and finished getting dressed, keeping a careful watch on Klaus the entire time as the Original hybrid leaned against the wall by the door and watched us all with keen eyes. My brother, for all his easy-going outward behavior, clearly did not trust the Originals any more than they trusted us. Which wasn't terribly surprising, really; like me, my twin is not a very trusting person.

In any case, once we finished getting our things together, Rebekah ushered us all out of the room and set about piling our things into the car they'd driven over, an ordinary looking dark gray sedan.

"No red race car today?" Ezra asked Rebekah, looking amused.

"'Fraid not," she replied breezily. "Your sister bled all over the upholstery and I needed to take it in."

I felt a slight pang of guilt and opened my mouth to apologize, but Rebekah gave me a light nudge in the ribs. "I'm teasing you," she informed me with an impish smile. "Relax."

Not used to being teased by anyone other than my brother, I snapped my mouth shut and just nodded, not sure what to say. This whole morning was so far completely outside of my comfort zone, I was feeling really out of sorts as a result. Needing a few seconds to settle myself, I volunteered to go turn in our room key to the motel clerk while the others finished loading up.

It was supposed to be a simple thing. Go to the office, go inside, give the clerk the key, and thank them for a good stay. Instead, true to my rotten luck, I opened the door and was promptly greeted by a gruesome headless corpse seated behind the desk.

Chapter Text

"Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself. "

I don't know what it says about me that my first thought when confronted with a headless body in the motel office was 'now how am I supposed to check out?'. Of course, my second thought was the more normal 'holy shit, what the hell happened here?!', but still.

I spent a good couple minutes just staring at the body, unable to comprehend that this was really happening. I mean, logically, I knew that this was real. But I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that my life was so screwed up that I couldn't even check out of a motel without serious incident.

"Ezra!" I shouted, my voice coming out sounding a little more alarmed than I would have liked given our Original companions. Having a meltdown over a dead body would more than likely not impress them. Not that I was having a meltdown, mind you, but that certainly could have been the impression they got of me if I wasn't careful.

So I took a deep breath, schooled my features into an expression of casual disinterest and waited for my brother to join me. He did so a few seconds later, coming in the door without bothering to knock, shadowed closely by Rebekah and her brother Klaus.

His quick steps ground to a halt as he saw the body, and he took a moment to impress us all with a wide range of creative curse words. "Why do things like this keep happening?" he complained at last, once he was done cursing up a storm.

"Maybe it's a coincidence?" I offered hopefully, though I really didn't even remotely believe that.

My brother, similarly, let out a disbelieving snort and gave me a look that said I shouldn't even bother considering that as an explanation.

"Yeah," I said in agreement to his silent skepticism, "I don't really think so, either." Which left the question of who had killed this clerk and why.

"I can't help but notice," Ezra remarked a little too casually as he turned to look at Klaus and Rebekah, "that this untimely death happens to coincide with your visit here."

"Oh, please," Rebekah said dismissively. "Why would we bother to kill some random desk clerk? What reason could be possibly have for doing something like that?"

"You're an Original vampire," Ezra replied. "I wasn't aware you made a habit of having actual reasons for killing people."

I sucked in a sharp breath; accusing them of wanton murder was hardly a good way to start of an alliance. "Ezra," I said warningly.

He gave me a look. "Come on, Zoe, let's be real. They suddenly swing on by for a visit, and the clerk is murdered around the same time? What're the odds of that, seriously?"

"Not good," I admitted. "But that doesn't mean they're the ones responsible. Besides," I added, "look at the body." I took a step closer for a more intense inspection myself. "It's not a fresh kill, or even within the last few hours." I gestured to the clotting on the jagged wounds, and the discoloration of the skin. Not to mention the smell. "My guess is that someone killed him either late last night or early this morning."

"But shouldn't someone have noticed something?" Rebekah observed. "I mean, there are other people staying at this motel, aren't there?"

I frowned. "I guess so? There was at least one more car other than ours and the clerk's when we first checked in, but I actually don't recall seeing it yesterday; they might have checked out already."

"Leaving us as the only occupants right now," Ezra concluded, then scowled. "I don't like that," he said. "It makes us the only suspects."

"Not necessarily," I replied. "It looks suspicious, sure, but if the police do investigate...well, obviously we didn't do it, so they can't possibly charge us."

"But that doesn't change the fact that this occurred while you were here," Klaus observed, speaking up for the first time since he'd entered the office with his sister. "Whether they're trying to set you up or not, clearly you were meant to discover the body."

I frowned at him in annoyance, because there was no way to argue that. "I guess so," I said reluctantly, not really wanting to acknowledge the clear truth in his deduction.

"Who would do this to you?" Rebekah asked, looking worried. "Who would do something like this just to get your attention?"

"Maybe it's not to get our attention," Ezra remarked. "Maybe it's just to shake us up. Put us off-balance."

"Could it be your uncle?" Rebekah asked. "Is it possible he's already found you?"

I thought of the Shadow Coven assassins who'd attacked us and made a face. "It's possible," I admitted unhappily. More than possible, even; if two of his hired guns were suddenly taken out of the picture, it would make sense for him to go 'oh, hey, that must be where my long lost niece and nephew are, let's go cause them more trouble'. And it certainly wouldn't be out of character for him to kill an innocent bystander just to make a point.

"Well, then," Klaus said, brushing his hands together to remove invisible specks of dust, "in that case I say we get going and not trouble ourselves overmuch." I opened my mouth to object, but the Original hybrid kept talking without pause. "We have an agreement, if you'll recall," he said pointedly. "Anything to do with your uncle is of no concern of ours. Therefore, this situation," he waved a hand dismissively at the headless body, "is of no relevance to our current goals. So we're going to proceed according to plan, and relocate the two of you to our current place of residence without further delay."

I exchanged a look with my brother, who simply shrugged in a what-can-you-do sort of way and headed for the door without further argument.

I chewed on my lip, frustrated by my inability to deal with this in any sort of productive way. There was nothing I could do to help the man who'd been killed, and nothing I could do to discover who'd done this and why. There was nothing I could do except leave and not look back.

No, I decided, there was something I could do, just a simple thing. I hung up our room key with the others on the little rack on the wall, then used the edge of my shirt to pick up the phone on the desk and dial 911.

"What is your emergency?" asked the operator on the other end. Knowing that they would trace the call and send out a patrol car as a matter of routine, I said nothing, simply set the receiver down on the desk so that the line would stay open until someone arrived. Then I turned and walked out of the office, sliding into the back seat of Rebekah's new car with a heavy heart.

The drive to the Mikaelsons' current home was done in silence, the air thick and tight with tension. When we arrived, I couldn't help but oggle at the massive mansion-sized plantation house. "Wow," was all I managed to say.

Ezra didn't look as impressed, but there was a sort of grudging appreciation in his voice as he said "Nice place."

Klaus and Rebekah just sort of shrugged and headed for the front door, leaving us to get our bags and follow after them.

"Arrogant jerks," my brother muttered, hefting my duffel out of the car and passing it over to me.

"Be nice," I chided. "They could have tried to kill us, like everyone else."

"I'm sure they'll get around to it eventually," he remarked in a low voice. "Probably when we're done being useful."

Not willing to contemplate the likelihood of such an occurrence, I opted to remain silent and heave my bags up the front stairs and into the front hall.

"Let me show you to your rooms," Rebekah said as we came in, her brother having evidently disappeared off to somewhere else in the manor, perhaps to check on Hayley, who was presumably also staying here. "Follow me."

My brother and I trailed after her obediently, offering the usual vocalizations of appreciation when she showed us something impressive about their house. Eventually, we reached the rooms where we'd be staying. "Zoe, you're in this one," Rebekah said, rapping on the door in question. "Ezra, that one's yours," she added, pointing to the one across the hall. "I figured you'd want to stay close to each other, all things considered."

I was touched by this unexpected bit of thoughtfulness. "Thank you," I said sincerely. "We appreciate it."

Rebekah smiled. "It's no trouble. Not like we don't have enough rooms, after all. Anyway," she went on, "I'll leave you guys to get settled, and we'll sit down for a little family meeting later." With that, she left, going back downstairs to do whatever it was Rebekah Mikaelson did with her free time.

I stood there in the hall with my brother for a moment, then rubbed the back of my neck tiredly. "How the hell did this happen," I said flatly.

He gave an exhausted smile. "We've certainly got a unique brand of luck, that's for sure."

"When I agreed to help Rebekah find her brother I did not anticipate having to live with them," I groused, casting an unhappy look around at the opulent hallway we were standing in. "Seriously."

He shrugged. "Well, it can't be helped now. Might as well just go with it, at least for the moment." He yawned unexpectedly and shook his head. "Look, I need more sleep than what I got last night. Let's unpack and relax for a bit, okay? I'm sure they'll come get us if anything happens."

I nodded, knowing that my brother was still healing from the injuries he'd sustained in the car crash and needed as much rest as he could get. "You go sleep," I agreed. "I'll see you later."

He nodded, and went into his new room. I, likewise, opened the door to my new living quarters and stepped inside.

I was rewarded with a room of such magnificence, I had to take a moment and put my head between my legs and just breathe. The floor, a gorgeous gleaming hardwood itself, had a lovely rug laid out, the coloring of it complementing the pale lavender of the walls and the rich deep color of the elegant wooden furniture. The furniture itself was clearly very well-made and very expensive. The wardrobe, the vanity and attached dresser, the four-poster bed covered in luxurious comforters and pillows, the little bedside dresser, the little was all part of a set that was obviously worth more money than I would ever be likely to see, even in my extended lifespan. Throw in the deluxe antique lamps, the lush drapes framing the windows, and the crystal vases of decorative flowers, and I felt totally and completely out of place.

That being said, I was also abruptly exhausted, and that bed looked extremely comfortable. So I set my bag down by the door, hung my jacket on the back of a chair that looked like it was worth more than I was, and sat down gingerly on the edge of the bed, feeling like I was too plebeian to even be breathing the air in this room. I started to relax despite myself, though, so I took off my boots and laid back on the bed, reveling in how soft and plush the pillows and blankets were. I drifted asleep without really noticing it, and didn't wake up until a few hours later, when I heard voices echoing up from downstairs.

Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I slipped my boots back on and went downstairs. I found my brother leaning against the wall, watching as Rebekah and Klaus had some sort of low-key sibling spat.

"I cannot believe you disposed of those vampires without me," Rebekah said, giving a pout. "You know how I love to set things on fire!"

Klaus gave a taunting smirk. "Was I supposed to leave them in the front yard to rot? Besides," he added, "they were my responsibility. They attacked the helpless pregnant girl who's carrying my child!"

Rebekah snorted, rolling her eyes. "Oh, I am so moved by your new-found sense of fatherly duties towards the werewolf carrying your hybrid bun in her oven."

"The werewolf would like to know what the plan is," a new voice called out, and I turned to see Hayley coming down the stairs, a small book cradled in her hands, like she'd been reading upstairs and had come down when she'd heard the Originals talking.

"Well," Klaus said lightly, "that depends what plan you mean, love- my plan for global domination, or Rebekah's plan to find love in a cruel, cruel world?"

Rebekah snatched up a pencil from the desk she was standing beside and flung it at her brother. He snatched it out of the air easily and gave her a look.

"The plan to rescue Elijah," Hayley pressed on, clearly either used to the Mikaelson siblings' behavior or simply not caring. "You know, the good brother? The one who is now in the possession of your mortal enemy after you stabbed him in the back?"

"In the front, if we're being specific," Klaus remarked, giving that infuriating smirk again.

"You two said that you would get him back," Hayley went on. " You even went and got Zoe and Ezra and pulled them into this mess, too. So is there a plan, or what?"

"My thoughts exactly," Ezra remarked. "What precisely are we planning to do?"

We all watched Klaus very carefully, waiting for his answer. In the end, he didn't disappoint.

"Okay. Well, firstly," the hybrid said, "Marcel is not my mortal enemy- he's my friend. Albeit one who is unaware that I'm trying to sabotage his hold over the supernatural community of the French Quarter," he added lightly, "but a friend nonetheless. And secondly," he went on, "I daggered Elijah in order to gain Marcel's trust. If I had known he would place my brother in the hands of a particularly nasty teenage witch, I certainly would have weighed my options a bit differently. And thirdly," he turned to Rebekah and gestured for her to continue, "Sister, please."

"Thirdly," Rebekah said, pitching in without complaint, "the plan, as you have demanded, is for Niklaus to simply ask Marcel for Elijah back."

We all stared at the two siblings in shock, not quite sure what to make of this.

"Uh..." was all I managed to say, while Hayley was somewhat more to the point.

"That's... that's not the whole plan, is it?" she asked, looking extremely uncertain.

"Please!" Rebekah scoffed. "Klaus may be a miserable excuse for a sibling, but there is none more diabolical."

Klaus gave a small smile. "Thank you," he said, looking pleased.

"That's not quite a compliment," I felt obligated to point out, and was rewarded with a very frosty glare that made me cross my arms defensively. "What?" I snapped. "It's not. Besides, as far as plans go, that one sucks."

"She has a point," Hayley agreed.

"That's only the Plan A, love!" Klaus assured her. "There's always a Plan B."

"And what's Plan B?" Ezra asked, looking like he already knew the answer and wasn't going to like it hearing it.

Klaus gave a brilliant smile that was no less unsettling for all that it was clearly genuine. "War."

Chapter Text

"She said that we were doomed to be star-crossed lovers, destined to wonder what might have been."

I walked alongside Rebekah as she dialed Klaus's number. She'd more or less dragged me out on a sudden shopping spree, supposedly to cheer me up about being shanghaied into helping her and Klaus set up some sort of diabolical plan to rescue their older brother. In reality, we were more or less just killing time. My brother was back at the Mikaelson mansion with Hayley, guarding her and keeping her company while the rest of us floated around town waiting for the right time to make a move.

Klaus had evidently decided to answer his phone after all, because the first words out of Rebekah's mouth were "Niklaus, for the love of Mary Magdalene, how long does it take to ask a simple question?"

Thanks to my wolf hearing, I was able to make out his side of the conversation as well, for which I was grateful. Rebekah didn't seem surprised by this and also didn't seem to mind me overhearing, and actually moved closer to me so that we could both hear clearly.

"Much longer than you'd think," was her brother's response, "considering the answer was, as expected, no. Marcel's man, Thierry, is suspicious. He thinks you killed thirteen nightwalkers."

"Well, that's a lie!" Rebekah said, her voice full of mock outrage. "I only killed eight. Zoe killed the other five," she added , flashing me an impish smile.

"Gee," I said dryly, "thanks for that."

"You're welcome," she said lightly, then frowned. "Should we make Thierry the fourteenth?" she asked seriously, directing the question both to me and her brother.

"Absolutely not," was his immediate response. "Marcel is playing friendly. We can't kill the favorite son, or he'll catch onto us."

Rebekah and I both grumbled a little at that. "So, war it is, then?" Rebekah said with a slight sigh.

"Indeed," Klaus replied. "Do you know what to do with the witch? "

Rebekah and I exchanged grim smiles. "I believe we do," I said.

"Good," he said. "You two manage Sophie Deveraux. I'll take care of the next step." With that, he hung up and returned to whatever part of the plan he was working on at the moment; he hadn't told us exactly what his first part of it would be, but I suspected I was better off not knowing the details.

In any case, with the go-ahead from Klaus we abandoned our little shopping spree and moved on to our real portion of the plan. Rebekah texted Sophie the details for a meet-up, and we headed over to the spot in question. We ended up having to wait for over an hour, which Rebekah clearly wasn't pleased about. I wasn't thrilled, either, to be honest, but I did my best to not glare at Sophie as she approached.

Rebekah wasn't as nice. "Oh, so glad you could make it," she said sarcastically. "Elijah only lies daggered and rotting whilst you dilly-dally."

"You're lucky I came at all," the witch snapped. "What do you want?"

"Hayley was attacked last night by Marcel's crew," I informed her, giving her a look that made it clear how we felt about this. "This only could have happened because somebody told him there was a werewolf in the Quarter."

"She only made one stop," Rebekah added, nodding to the shop we were standing in front of, Jardin Gris. "Whoever saw her here ratted her out." She headed for the front door. "Watch and learn."

Sophie trailed after Rebekah obediently, and I pulled up the rear, just in case the witch decided to do something stupid like bolt for freedom.

The witch who ran the shop, a woman named Katie, came out of the backroom carrying a box and smiled when she saw Sophie. "Hey, Soph."

Sophie gave a strained smile back. "Hey, Katie."

Katie seemed to see the additional company for the first time, taking notice of Rebekah, who was looking over a necklace hanging on display. "That's filled with marigold," Katie told her cheerfully, "great for attracting the opposite sex. It would look awesome on you!"

Rebekah gave the necklace a disdainful look before turning to face Katie. "I very seriously doubt that. Do you have any others, one with, say, I don't know... wolfsbane, perhaps?" She gave a charming smile that was a little too razor-edged to be truly friendly.

My inner wolf squirmed a little bit at even just the mention of wolfsbane, but I shook it off.

Katie, meanwhile, had on an expression of confusion. "Wolfsbane?" she repeated. "Why would you want that?"

That was evidently the wrong answer. Rebekah was on Katie with her vamp-speed before the other girl even knew what was happening. One second she was standing there looking baffled, the next she was being lifted into the air in a choke hold by an aggravated Original.

"Please do not play dumb with me," Rebekah said dangerously, then slammed Katie down across a table.

"Rebekah!" Sophie shouted, looking horrified. She moved to intervene, but I quickly stepped in front of her, blocking her path.

"Don't," I said severely.

She looked as if she might argue, but whatever she saw in my face clearly made her reconsider, because she just swallowed hard and took a step back.

"I just sold a werewolf some herbs," Katie gasped out. "That's all."

"Are you lying to me, Katie?" Rebekah asked silkily. "I suggest you answer my question honestly."

Katie struggled futilely, coughing and sputtering. "Sophie..."

Sophie shifted uncomfortably, clearly uneasy with how this interrogation was going. "Just...answer the question, Katie. Please."

Katie swallowed convulsively, eyes darting around fearfully. "Yes," she said at last, giving a regretful sigh. "I told someone. But you don't understand," she added hastily, almost desperately. "I—I love him."

Rebekah seemed to consider that for a moment, then tossed Katie down onto the floor. Katie made a move as if to sit up, but then Rebekah brought her leg over, her stiletto heel pressing into Katie's throat in a clear threat. "And tell me, who is this vampire Romeo of yours?" she asked, her voice pleasant. "Shall I count to three?"

We left the shop a few moments later, all our questions answered. Rebekah dialed her brother once we were a few blocks away.

"Well?" he said.

"You were right about the traitor," she informed him. "Luckily, she's just a kid and she doesn't know anything about us and what we're up to. Do you want to hear the part that's gonna please you the most?" she added slyly, clearly pleased with what we'd learned.

"Oh, do tell!" he said, tone full of anticipation.

Rebekah gave me a look, so I took the leap and provided the answer, leaning closer to the phone to make sure he heard me. "She's in love with someone in Marcel's inner circle," I told him. "Guess who it is?"

"Right-hand-man type, favors silly caps?" he guessed, sounding enormously satisfied with this information.

"Two points for you," Rebekah replied. "Thierry is fraternizing with the enemy."

"Well," Klaus said cheerfully, "that means he just unwittingly became the key to our entire plan."

I snorted. "Lucky him."

Rebekah smiled. "I told you you'd be pleased," she told her brother.

Chapter Text

"Success necessitates sacrifice."

The plan itself was straightforward enough, all things considered. It was actually fairly simple.

What was not simple was convincing Sophie Deveraux to play along.

We'd all reconvened back at the Mikaelson residence, meeting up in the study to discuss the next stage of their plan. Sophie was, true to form, being extremely difficult to handle.

"Are you out of your mind?" she demanded when we told her what we needed her to do for us. "No way."

"It's very simple," Rebekah said patiently. "We need you to perform a teeny, tiny locator spell to help us find our brother."

Sophie shook her head. "No way," she repeated. "Witches who practice magic in this town get caught, and then they get killed."

"Yes, about that," Klaus said, interjecting himself smoothly into the conversation. "It seems you left out a crucial detail when we made our deal. Marcel's secret weapon, the way he knows when a witch is using magic..."

"Girl about yea high," Rebekah provided, indicating said height with her hand, "cute as a button, anger issues?"

Sophie's face blanched white as she realized who they meant. "Davina?" she asked, shocked. "You've seen her? Where?"

"I don't know," Rebekah replied sullenly. "The little brat erased my memory right after she threw me out a window with her bloody mind."

"I don't suppose you'd like to explain how that's even possible," I said to Sophie. "Because so far I'm coming up empty."

She just shook her head, eyes dark and face pale.

"Let me cut to the chase," Klaus said. "Davina has Elijah. You witches, I assume, want to get Davina away from Marcel. We don't know where she is; all our reconnaissance efforts have thus far proved futile. Ergo, we need magic."

"Davina would sense it," Sophie objected.

"Ah, but there's a way to stop that," Klaus replied. "Well, not stop exactly, but after consulting with our own experts," he passed a sly glance to me and my brother,"we've come up with a solution."

"A solution?" Sophie echoed, looking back and forth between us, the confusion clear on her face.

"Yep," Ezra said. "A solution." He waved at me to explain. "Zoe?"

"Davina would be able to sense your magic," I acknowledged. "Unless, of course, another witch— say, a traitor to the cause, Katie for example— was to perform much more powerful magic at the same time."

"That would create a smokescreen," Rebekah finished, "concealing your very small spell from Davina."

"Given the differing energy levels of the spells," Ezra concluded, "she'll never even know you were doing a spell at all, provided we time things right."

"But they'll know that Katie did magic," Sophie protested. "And Marcel will punish her. He'll kill her." She shook her head vehemently. "Katie doesn't deserve to die!"

Klaus slammed him hands down on the table angrily and stood up, expression furious. "Sophie Deveraux!" he snapped. "You're in no position to be so principled. You can't win a war without a few strategic losses, no matter how regrettable they may be. How many times have the vampires been one step ahead, known something they shouldn't? Your sister," he went on, "executed in the public square for practicing magic- who knew she'd be caught? Did she even attempt to flee?"

Sophie swallowed hard. "She was caught hiding in a cargo hold of a freighter before it set sail down the Mississippi." A single tear slid down her cheek.

Klaus pressed on. "And who, pray tell- of Marcel's valued inner circle- manages his business at the docks?"

Sophie took a deep breath, realization crossing her face. "Katie's boyfriend, Thierry."

Several hours later, I was standing in front of a massive mirror, scowling at my reflection.

"You'll never get asked to dance wearing a face like that," Rebekah informed, emerging from the bathroom with her hair curled up into an elegant twist.

I eyed my reflection doubtfully. "This really isn't my sort of thing, Rebekah," I said with hesitation. "I mean, thanks for helping me get ready and everything, but I really just don't think that-"

"Enough of that," she said sternly, taking me by the shoulders and straightening out my posture. "We're going to a party, and you look beautiful. So for the love of God, Zoe, smile."

I did my best, but it was a lackluster effort. Rebekah, unsurprisingly, was not impressed by the grimace I was trying to pas off as a smile. "Sorry," I offered apologetically. "But dresses aren't really my thing."

That being said, the dress was gorgeous. It was a red strapless dress, with the skirt portion made up of black and red material that rippled out in dramatic fringes. It was exactly what I would have thought of if someone had asked me 'what's a masquerade dress look like?'. Rebekah had picked it out especially for me, apparently, and had seemed quite proud to inform me that it was worth almost six hundred dollars. That information had, of course, made me even more reluctant to actually wear the thing, and only a lot of persuasion on Rebekah's part and some blackmailing from my brother had convinced me to finally do so.

Eventually, it was time to go to the party. I followed Rebekah downstairs and soon we were in our car, driving towards the party. I was surprised, however, when we stopped by Rousseau's instead of heading straight to Marcel's.

"What are we doing here?" I asked, confused.

"Picking up the third member of our lovely trio," Rebekah informed me with a wink.

I opened my mouth to ask who she meant, but then a bartender I'd seen around town a few times came out of the bar, looking drop-dead gorgeous in her lovely white angel gown. "Oh," I said instead. " I see." And I did. Word had it that Marcel was more than a little enamored with Camille. Bringing her along would be the perfect distraction. I couldn't help but have some misgivings about her presence, though; it didn't seem fair to use a clearly innocent woman in our plans to overthrow Marcel, especially if the vampire really did care about her.

In any case, we arrived at the gala, dropped Camille off at the entrance so she could explore a bit on her own, then went to park the car. Then we met up with Klaus and Ezra, who'd left the house earlier with the promise to meet up with us here. Klaus was wearing a black suit with a black dress shirt and tie, his outfit matching Rebekah's black peplum cocktail dress. Ezra, similarly, was dressed in a black suit with a red dress shirt to match me; he'd opted out of wearing a tie on the grounds that they made him feel like he was being strangled. Rebekah linked her arm through Klaus's and I did the same with Ezra, and together the four of us swept inside.

"Well," Klaus said, looking around at everything going on, from the acrobats twisting through the air to the exotic animals to the sparkling confetti falling from above, "this certainly is a fitting backdrop for tonight's events, I must say." Then he noticed Camille and his smile faltered. "What's she doing here?"

I frowned, not sure what to make of his reaction. Was that worry in his tone?

Rebekah didn't seem to notice anything strange in her brother's behavior, because she simply gave a light shrug. "What better way to distract Marcel than to put his very human new girl in a room chock full of vampires?" She smiled brightly and crossed the room to go rejoin Camille.

Klaus, looking deeply unhappy with Rebekah's little twist, followed after her with a sigh, leaving me to and my brother to stare after them in puzzled curiosity.

"That was...different," Ezra said at last.

"Uh-huh." I bit my lip. "Klaus didn't seem happy to see Camille here. At all."

"Think he knows her?" Ezra wondered.

"He must," I replied, "otherwise he wouldn't have cared at all, right?"

"Think he has feelings for her?"

"I don't know that an Original is even capable of having real feelings about someone," I grumbled. "From all accounts they're fairly heartless. But keep an eye on her just in case," I added with a sigh. "If she is important to Klaus too and something happens to her both he and Marcel will flip out and that's the last thing we need."

"I'll be on guard," he assured me, squeezing my hand gently in reassurance. "You look lovely, by the way," he added unexpectedly.

I smiled despite myself. "Thanks," I said. "You look pretty handsome yourself."

He gave a rakish grin that caught the attention of several ladies around us, then proceeded to head for the punch bowl to get us some drinks. I watched in amusement as some of the ladies in question less-than-conspicuously trailed after him, cornering him with bright smiles and twittering laughs.

I, meanwhile, settled myself at a nearby table and picked absently at a platter of fruits and crackers as I watched the goings-on of the party. I watched as Klaus extended his arm to Camille and they moved across the room, exchanging pleasant conversation as they went. I watched as Rebekah went to the bar, ordered a scotch, and flirted with Marcel when he came over to call her out on inviting Camille to the party. I watched as Camille noticed Rebekah chatting up Marcel, and the pinched look on her face as she realized that must have been an item in the past. I watched as Klaus cheered her up a bit and I watched as they looked at each other in silence for a long moment. I watched as Klaus seemed about to say something, then cut himself off and stepped away as Marcel began to head over.

I decided some time later that I was tired of just sitting around and watching people, and went to rejoin the Mikaelsons, who were across the room, watching as Marcel twirled Camille around on the dance floor. My brother, bless his heart, was still boxed in by beautiful women trying to get his number. I snickered a bit as I passed him by, and he shot me a dirty look that promised retribution later for not rescuing him from his admirers.

In any case, I came up at Rebekah's side just as Klaus was saying something about Rebekah being evil and Rebekah pointing out that Klaus had wanted Marcel distracted and she'd provided said distraction so he should stop complaining. I was about to interrupt to offer my opinion, that Camille maybe shouldn't have been involved since none of this had anything to do with her, but one of Marcel's other vampires -Diego, I think his name was- came onto the scene and hurried across the room to whisper something in Marcel's ear.

Marcel pulled away from Camille a second later, expression thunderous.

"Our cue to leave," Rebekah remarked, looking over to me for confirmation.

"Yeah," I said. "Let's go." I gave Klaus an awkward little wave and then Rebekah and I were slipping through the crowd, heading back out to the parking lot. I managed to catch Ezra's attention before our exit, and he gave me a nod to show me that he understood. I nodded back, and then we were outside and headed for the car.

Rebekah drove, as usual, with a complete and total disregard for speed limits and traffic laws, and we quickly arrived at the Lafayette Cemetery. We found Sophie outside the mausoleum, where she had set up everything she needed for her locator spell; a map, a bottle of black sand, and a pocket watch. I, personally, would have used a real pendulum rather than a pocket watch, but aside from little things like that she had everything all in order.

She looked over at us as we approached, her expression clearly conflicted. "I'm really not sure about this," she said honestly.

"You're doing the right thing," Rebekah told her. "It's the only way to find Elijah."

Sophie shook her head, looking unhappy. "I'm doing what I have to do," was all she said in reply, then busied herself with chanting the incantation for the spell.

Everything seemed to go well enough to start. But after a short time, Sophie faltered in her chanting, looking confused.

"What is it?" I asked, feeling the first stirrings of real anxiety. "What happened?"

"Something's wrong," she said uncertainly. "Katie's magic stopped. I can keep going," she added.

Rebekah glanced over at me, but I shook my head. "You can't," I said. "She'll sense it." We all knew the she I meant.

Sophie knew, too, but she still persisted. "No," she said stubbornly. "I can find Davina. I just need another moment."

"Rebekah," I began to say, but the Original was already on it. She grabs the map and tosses it off to the side so that Sophie can't continue the spell.

Sophie just stares at her, shocked beyond words. Finally, the young witch swallowed and managed to speak. "Why?" she asked weakly. "We were so close...Why would you..."

"You may be willing to die to get your witch back, but Hayley and the baby will die with you," Rebekah said heatedly. "Elijah will never forgive us, and rescuing him will be for nothing."

"It's over," I concluded, looking at the scattered remnants of the spell. "We failed."

Chapter Text

"Life is not what it's supposed to be. It's what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference."

Rebekah and I were lounging in the living room when Klaus finally returned home for the night. I was reclined on the couch with a Sherrilyn Kenyon book while Rebekah idly played around on the piano and occasionally sipped at her glass of bourbon. Ezra was in the kitchen, cooking like he likes to do after being put in uncomfortable situations with women and personal space invasions. As far as I'm concerned, it's a fairly decent coping mechanism, all things considered. Certainly better than the older methods involving training dummies and exploding shotgun blasts. This time around he was doing something clever with portabella mushrooms and cheese that I had minimal interest in beyond eating it when it was finished.

"Well," Rebekah remarked when Klaus came in, "tonight was an epic failure."

Klaus, however, grinned. "On the contrary, sister. Tonight was a masterpiece."

"Are you mad?" Rebekah demanded. "Katie died before Sophie could complete the spell."

"Oh, I'm well aware," Klaus replied, looking thoroughly unconcerned. "I killed Katie."

I bolted upright and slammed my book shut. "You what?" I snarled.

"There's no way our little suicide witch wasn't gonna try and take out Marcel with her," Klaus explained, seemingly unaffected by my fury and Rebekah's horrified expression. "I saved his life," Klaus went on, "and in doing so, I now have him exactly where I want him."

I had no idea what to say to that, so I opted to remain silent and wait for an opening to throw my book at his head.

Rebekah, however, didn't seem to think silence was the best option. "Sophie trusted you," she said accusingly, jabbing a finger at her brother. "I trusted you! Against all my better instincts."

Klaus looked sincerely aggravated, and slightly offended. "Wake up, Rebekah! The witches are on no one's side but their own. This girl, Davina? That's all they want, and when they have her, what do you think happens then, a truce?" He snorted, shaking his head. "Of course not. They will use Davina's power against all of us."

I felt inclined to agree with that particular assessment, but didn't voice it, not really wanting to agree with someone who'd just murdered a lovestruck witch in cold blood.

"Even if you're right," Rebekah responded, also apparently seeing the point Klaus was trying to make, "the plan was to find Elijah, and you've failed us."

Klaus looked over at me as if to get my opinion, and I just shrugged. "She has a point," I observed. "Rescuing Elijah is our goal, and yet I don't see him here with us."

Klaus shook his head like he was disappointed in us. "Such a disheartening lack of faith," he remarked. "By protecting Marcel," he continued, "I've cemented his trust, so much so that he's agreed to return Elijah to us. And when the time is right, when he has told me everything I need to know about Davina, I will have her for myself."

"That sounds," I said evenly, my voice matter-of-fact, "extremely creepy when said that way. Please rephrase."

He ignored me, as did Rebekah. "I have all the faith in the world that you'll get what you want, Nik," she said to her brother. "You always do, no matter what it costs the rest of us. " She took a sip from her glass of bourbon then slammed it down on the top of the piano. "You disgust me," she hissed at him, then stormed from the room.

Deciding that maybe I should go check on my brother's progress with the stuffed mushrooms, I carefully set my book down on the edge of the couch and headed for the kitchen.

"Wait," Klaus said suddenly, and I froze in place, my inner wolf snarling at having my back to him. I quickly remedied this, turning around so that we were facing each other.

"Yes?" I said politely.

"I'm surprised that you voiced no objections over Katie's death."

"You mean her murder at your hands?" I asked coldly.

He gave a slight smile. "Semantics."

"Specifics," I corrected, then shook my head. "You wouldn't care if I blew up at you over it anyway, would you?"

He seemed to consider that for a moment, then shrugged. "Probably not, no."

"So why ask?"

He looked at carefully. "Because I don't know enough about you," he replied. "I don't know what your endgame is in all this, and that worries me."

"My only goal," I said calmly, "is to keep my brother and myself in one piece and away from our uncle. Beyond that, I'm just killing time."

"Really. I find that hard to believe."

"Believe what you want," I said curtly, turning my back on him. "See if I care."

He didn't stop me again, and I heard him go upstairs even as I went into the kitchen to check on my brother.

"Getting along graciously with our hosts, I see," Ezra said by way of greeting as I came over to watch him stuff mozzarella into massive mushrooms.

I gave an annoyed sigh. "Please don't harp on me about playing nice with the Originals. I'm not really in the mood for it right now."

"Yeah, I heard about Katie," he said. "Can't say that I'm terribly surprised, but still, it sucks."

"It does," I agreed, and leaned against the counter tiredly. "Are we really doing the right thing here?" I asked worriedly. "Helping them get their brother back? I mean, what if all of this only escalates once Elijah is free? What if this all just turns into even more of a bloodbath?"

"Then we'll deal with it," he replied evenly. "Just like we always do. Don't worry, okay?" He looked over me and gave me a faint smile. "You should get some rest," he told me. "You look exhausted."

"So do you," I fired back, then let my voice take on a teasing tone. "Was it really so taxing, letting all those lovely ladies fawn all over you?"

Ezra shuddered in distaste. "Ugh," he said, making a face. "I had to shower twice just to rid of the smell of their perfume on me."

I slapped a hand over my mouth to muffle my laughter.

"Shut up," he said in response to my amusement, tossing a handful of cheese at me.

I gave a squeal as the cheese pattered down on my hair and shoulders and punched him lightly on the arm. "Jerk!"

"Go to bed, Zoe," Ezra said, using his brother-knows-best voice. "I'll see you in the morning."

Sticking my tongue out at him as I brushed cheese from my hair, I left the kitchen and went back upstairs to my room.

Instead of going to bed, however, I hopped onto my laptop and surfed around online, checking out the local news reports on the various incidents around town. I managed to track down a blurb about the motel guy who'd been decapitated, but all it said that the investigation was ongoing and that no details could be released at this time. I searched around some more with no further luck, then ran a search on our car crash.

Similar to the murder, all the report said was that the police were looking into it and couldn't reveal anything more. Frustrated, I logged off and crawled into bed, questions pinging around in my brain like pinballs.

Who had killed the motel clerk? When would the next Shadow Coven assassins arrive? Would they attack us if we were allied with the Mikaelsons? Where was Davina? Why was she with Marcel when he had a ban on witchcraft? Why was Sophie so clearly afraid of Davina? Was Sophie trying to save Davina from Marcel, or use the girl for her own purposes? Did Marcel really value Camille? Did Klaus? Did Rebekah still have feelings for Marcel? Would it impact her ability to think clearly where he was concerned? Would their past history together affect Marcel's ability to think clearly about her? Could we use that to our advantage in case Marcel's deal with Klaus fell through?

And on that note, could we even trust Marcel's promise to Klaus about releasing Elijah? For that matter, could we trust the Originals themselves? I didn't know if I could handle being stabbed in the back again, and knew that my brother certainly couldn't deal with another betrayal, not when he was still recovering from the last one. The most painful one, both emotionally and physically.

I wanted to pull my hair out in frustration. Too many questions, and no satisfactory answers.

I hoped that things would seem better and more straightforward in the morning, but somehow I doubted it.

Chapter Text

"Throw me to the wolves and I will return leading the pack."

"This," I said after Klaus had laid out his plans regarding the music festival for us, "is a terrible, awful idea."

"Seconded," my brother supplied, scowling at Klaus. "It sucks."

Klaus glared at us. "I did not ask for your opinions on the matter," he said irritably. "I'm simply requesting that you be where I need you to be at the appropriate times."

"To corner a little girl and blackmail her into doing your bidding," Ezra said distastefully.

"Your sister is the one who volunteered to help find my brother to begin with," Klaus reminded us pointedly. "It's a little late now to be complaining about the methods."

I wanted to argue further, but he had a point. "Fine," I said, exasperated. "We'll help. We'll be there when you need us to be. Happy now?"

"Ecstatic," he said crisply. "Now, run along and help Cami get ready. Last I spoke with her, she was having some second thoughts about attending tonight's festivities."

"Are you compelling her to help you?" I asked, narrowing my eyes at him.

"Of course I am," he replied easily, his tone unperturbed, though I couldn't help notice the tightening of his jaw as he answered. I wondered if manipulating Camille was really as easy as he made it out to be, or if it was troubling him somehow. Whatever it was, it would pay to bear it in mind for future reference. For now, I just settled for giving him an angry glare coupled with a severe frown.

"Is your sister always so angry?" Klaus asked Ezra curiously, giving me a faintly amused look.

"Depends on what assholes she's dealing with at the time," my brother drawled.

Klaus snorted, then waved a hand at me dismissively. "Get going," he said. "Camille's waiting."

I rolled my eyes and left, knowing that Ezra could look after himself well enough even when dealing with Klaus Mikaelson. I popped upstairs to check on Rebekah, who was now dedicating all her time to tracking down the attic Elijah was being kept in, and double-checked to make sure I could borrow her car.

"Yeah, sure, whatever," was her response, along with a vague wave goodbye. Amused, I thanked her and headed out, reveling in the feel of being behind the wheel again as I raced through New Orleans to pick up Cami. It was a small bit of freedom, but it was freedom nevertheless, and there's nothing I value more highly than my freedom, no matter the circumstances.

Ezra was not sure what to expect Klaus to say to him once his twin was gone. He and the hybrid had really only said a handful of words to each other in the time since he and Zoe had moved into their plantation-style manor house, and frankly Ezra quite liked it that way. His wolf was infinitely more temperamental than Zoe's, and having another male with wolf heritage in close proximity was setting off all his territorial instincts. Spending any extended period of time with Klaus would likely only rile his wolf up more, and he'd end up doing or saying something that would lead to a fight. Things would likely only get worse from there.

So he kept quiet once Zoe left, instead inspecting the itinerary for the annual Dauphine Street Music Festival.

"What do you think?" Klaus asked unexpectedly.

Ezra didn't glance up, because that might mean making eye contact, and that would almost definitely set off his wolf. "About what?" he asked neutrally.

"About my plan," Klaus said, and Ezra could almost hear the Orignal rolling his eyes.

"I agree with my sister," Ezra repeated evenly. "It sort of sucks."

"Well," Klaus replied, not sounding at all offended, "at least is is a plan. Better than whatever it is Rebekah's working on upstairs with those ridiculous pictures of hers."

"Satellite images," Ezra corrected, flipping to the second page of the itinerary to look over the list of vendors and performers. "She's looking at satellite images, trying to locate the attic she found Elijah in before Davina wiped her memory."

Klaus made an unimpressed sound. "Yes, well, you'll pardon me if I think her quest for finding the perfect window shutter is not the best way to go about freeing my brother."

Ezra couldn't help it, he laughed a little. "She is going about it in a difficult way," he agreed. "But she's not on-board with your plan to get Davina on our side, so I think that's about all you can expect her to do at this point."

"I think it's more that she doesn't trust me to put freeing Elijah before recruiting Davina," Klaus said speculatively.

Ezra wasn't going near that one with a ten-foot pole. Instead, he just said "Mm-hmm" and otherwise kept his opinions on the Mikaelson family's dysfunctional behaviors to himself.

"Do me a favor?" Klaus said suddenly, rapping the tabletop to get Ezra's attention.

Startled, Ezra looked up despite himself. "Yeah?"

"Go with Rebekah," Klaus said, seeming serious. "She's more than capable of looking after herself in normal circumstances but the potency of this witch's power troubles me. So go with her, just in case she does find the right attic. Okay?"

Ezra stared at him for a moment, trying to gauge the hybrid's sincerity. "Okay," he said at last. "I'll accompany her. She won't be happy about it, though," he felt obligated to add. "I get the feeling she's an independent woman and likes it that way."

Klaus gave a snort of amusement. "Just tell her I've ordered you to keep an eye on her. She'll be so furious at my overbearing tendencies that she won't have energy to spare being annoyed at you."

"That's assuming she'll believe that I'd follow your orders," Ezra remarked, giving a faintly crooked smile.

Klaus smirked. "There is that."

Ezra shook his head and departed, heading upstairs to hover over Rebekah as Klaus had requested. No, he would likely never follow any real orders given to him by Klaus, but it seemed that the hybrid's worry for his sister was genuine and coming from a real place, so Ezra would humor him in this. He understood, after all, the desire to protect one's sister.

Cami, I decided, was the perfect chaperone for a young teenage witch.

I was keeping my distance, tailing them as they toured around the different booths and performances. I'd helped Camille get ready, had assured her that everything would be fine, and had then kept my distance, just keeping an eye on things like Klaus had asked me to do until the time was right to act.

I still wasn't thrilled with Klaus's plan, but couldn't deny that it was the most feasible option at the moment. So I'd agreed, and now I had to follow through.

Thoughts of the plan and the various maneuvers needed to pull it off vanished as I caught a glimpse of someone flitting through an alleyway across the street. I glanced around, but no one else seemed to have noticed anything.

An uneasy feeling began to gnaw at me, and I picked up my pace to close the distance between myself and Camille, who was only a block or so away with Davina, the two of them oohing and aahing over some guy who was playing a saxophone and a xylophone at the same time. Before I could reach them, however, another dark figure emerged out of nowhere and clubbed me upside the head with something hard and heavy.

I made a strangled sound and toppled sideways, my vision going fuzzy and dark as my eyes started to ring. I crashed to the ground with a grunt, and tried to scramble to my feet only for someone to step down hard on my leg and break my ankle. The same ankle, I feel obligated to add, that had only just finished healing from its last break earlier that morning.

I tried to scream for help, or at least to get someone's attention, but all that came out was a pathetic gurgling sound, like I was choking on my own air or something. And before I could suck in a deep breath and try again, whoever had attacked me stuffed a wad of rank-smelling cloth into my mouth and slapped a piece of extra-strength duct-tape across my lips.

Well, I thought hazily. This isn't good.

Ezra trailed after Rebekah as she entered the seventeenth building on her list of possible locations for where Elijah might be being kept. Through methods she hadn't felt inclined to share, she'd narrowed it down to somewhere in the Quarter. Of course, that had still left them with a wide assortment of buildings to check out, even with Rebekah's specific requirements regarding the window shutters.

This time it was a church, seemingly abandoned. True enough, when they entered, there was only one other person there, a priest who was cleaning up.

"Church is closed," the priest told them. "If you want your horror fix," he added bitterly, "go take a ghost tour."

Ezra frowned, not sure what exactly the man meant by that last bit.

Rebekah, for her part, didn't seem troubled by the priest's unfriendly attitude. "I don't much care for ghosts. I am, however, fascinated by window shutters. My friend and I have been on a town tour of them all day. I noticed the windows of your attic have shutters," she added.

The priest didn't seem to know what to say to that. "Are you really interested in shutters?" he asked at last, clearly skeptical.

"I assure you," Rebekah told him sincerely, "it's my current life obsession." She looked at him more closely. "What's your name?" she asked.

"Father Kieran," he replied. "And the two of you are?"

"Mildly curious," Rebekah responded easily without missing a beat.

Ezra rolled his eyes at her flip response, then frowned again as he saw a wide stain of red on a wall. His wolf growled within him, and he took a deep breath, inhaling the scents in the church.

Sure enough, the red on the wall was blood. "What happened here?" he asked, not sure why he was asking but needing to know.

Father Kieran heaved a deep sigh. "St. Ann's used to be the heart of the neighborhood. It's been abandoned for a while now... since the night of the massacre."

"Massacre?" Ezra repeated.

"Nine seminary students were killed... by one of their own. You're standing on blood," he added to Rebekah, looking pointedly at the rust-colored stains on the floor beneath her feet.

"I'm not squeamish," Reekah replied, unperturbed. "Where's the attic?"

Father Kieran shook his head. "Like I said, the church is closed."

She used her vampire speed to get in front of him before Ezra could stop her. Unable to intervene in time and not sure whether he really wanted to intervene or not, all he could do was watch as she compelled the priest to do as she said.

"Where is the attic?" she repeated.

"Past the sacristy," Father Kieran answered, "up the stairs."

Rebekah gave a bright smile. "Thank you. Now forget we were here." Then she released him and walked away, headed for the stairs that would lead her up to the attic.

"Sorry," Ezra murmured, then brushed past the priest as well to follow after Rebekah.

Once upstairs, they found a door into the attic. Rebekah opened it, and let out a crow of triumph. "I knew it!"

"Nicely done," Ezra said, impressed despite himself. "You really found it."

"I did," she said proudly. "Now let's get Elijah the hell out of here." She made a move to cross into the attic, heading for where Elijah lay silently in the open coffin. But it was like a force-field halted her forward motion; no matter how hard she struggled, she couldn't make it over the threshold.

"Davina must have revoked your invitation from before," Ezra guessed.

"That brat," Rebekah seethed. "Now what do we do?"

As if in answer, Elijah's eyes flew open, and the next thing Ezra knew, he and Rebekah were no longer in the attic, but were instead standing someplace he did not recognize, dressed in clothes he'd never seen before.

"What the bloody hell?" Rebekah blurted out, her thoughts on the matter clearly in perfect in sync with his own.

"Rebekah, language, please!" a vaguely familiar voice said in chastisement.

Rebekah whirled around and let loose an exclamation of joy. "Elijah!" She ran forward and tackled him in a fierce hug before pulling away and swiping away the happy tears under her eyes. "What is all this?" she asked, looking around at the surrounding scene. If Ezra had needed to hazard a guess, he'd have said it was New Orleans a very long time ago; perhaps the late eighteen hundreds sometime, judging from the horse-drawn carriage and the style of the clothing.

"You don't remember?" Elijah replied. "We went to the opera house together. It was your first full day back into New Orleans' society after Klaus removed the dagger from you. It's a memory that only you and I share. Also," he added more seriously, "I needed you to know it wasn't another one of Davina's tricks."

"If it's a memory only you two have," Ezra interjected, "why am I seeing this too?" He let it be known from his tone that he was not overly thrilled with being sucked into a vampiric telepathic conference call.

"My apologies," Elijah said, though he didn't sound particularly sorry. "I was in such a hurry to contact my sister that I did not account for the possibility of anyone else being with her." Then he narrowed his gaze at Ezra. "What are you doing with my sister?" he asked. "Ezra, wasn't it? Zoe's brother?"

"I'm surprised you remember," Ezra said. "We only met for a moment."

"It was a memorable meeting," Elijah responded. "How is your sister?"

Ezra opened his mouth to reply with 'She's fine', then frowned as a sudden and unexpected feeling dread swelled up within him. "None of your business," he said instead, since he wouldn't risk saying that she was okay when she might not be. Now worried about Zoe, he only half-listened to Rebekah and Elijah resume their conversation.

"How are you even awake? " Rebekah asked.

"Davina removed the dagger," Elijah explained with a smile, "unaware that doing so even once would negate the dagger's power. In a few hours, I shall be as good as new!"

Ezra offered the obligatory congratulations about this even as Rebekah nearly jumped with joy. Ezra was glad that Elijah was about to have freedom again at last, but he couldn't shake the nagging feeling that something very, very wrong was going on with his sister.

He reached down into himself and connected with his wolf, being very careful to not let his eyes shift while Rebekah and her brother were in such close proximity. Tell me what you sense, he told his wolf. Tell me what this feeling is.

Danger, his wolf answered. Darkness. Pain.

Whose pain? he demanded. Zoe's? Is Zoe hurt?

Sister, his wolf answered, giving an anxious whine. Danger. Pain.

Chapter Text

"She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails. "

I decided that being abducted was definitely one of the worst life experiences I'd had so far.

First I'd been clubbed over the head, beaten, and gagged. Then I'd been tossed into the back of a really smelly van, and was being driven God only knew where, in the middle of the night. To top it off, no one would likely even notice that I was missing, preoccupied as they all were with their own duties pertaining to the mission tonight. No one would know that anything was amiss until it came time for me to join Klaus and play good cop to his bad cop in convincing Davina to ditch Marcel and come over to our side. I briefly contemplated how badly things could go with that little meeting now that I wasn't around to play good cop, but decided that since there wasn't anything I could do about it at the moment, there wasn't much point worrying about it. Either Klaus would convince Davina in his own way, or everyone would end up dead. The odds were pretty much fifty-fifty, which was better than my own situation at the moment.

I struggled against the ropes binding me, but they'd been soaked in some sort of wolfsbane concoction, and the aconite burned against my skin and weakened me more than I would have liked to admit. As it was, all I could do was thrash around weakly and make sad little moans. After a few moments of this, I stopped trying to struggle free, and instead made a conscious effort to relax my body, trying not to panic as my muscles give little spasms from the wolfsbane seeping into my bloodstream from the skin contact with the rope. My heart rate likewise was getting a little unsteady. My thought processes, of course, were already fairly muddled from the whack upside the head, and my concussed brain was not thinking clearly; the aconite poisoning would certainly only make that befuddlement worse the longer it went on.

I sat in the back of that van for what felt like forever, but eventually the vehicle pulled to a stop. The driver put it in park and pulled out the keys, tossing them into the glove box before hopping out of the driver's seat and coming around to open the back of the van.

"Hello, Miss Storme," my abductor said cheerfully. "Thank you for obliging me with your presence this fine evening."

Had my mouth not been taped shut, I would have had several hundred rude things to say in response to that. As it was, I just glared at him and silently seethed.

He saw my glare and laughed uproariously. "Thinking of escaping?" he asked. "Best stop that now," he advised. "I have more wolfsbane set aside just for you, and some nice silver chains to make sure you don't get away anytime soon."

I growled at him, the sound rumbling up from my chest. The effect was somewhat lessened by the tape, which muffled the sound a bit, but even so it was intimidating enough to make the man take a step back before he recovered his composure and smacked me hard across the face.

"Let's stop with that noise, shall we?" He gave me a charming smile. "No point being unfriendly to each other, is there? We'll be spending a lot of quality time together, after all."

Over my dead body. I growled again.

He hit me again, so hard that my head snapped to the side and my teeth rattled. This, of course, only pissed me off more, and I growled a third time. This time the sound of it was so loud it vibrated off the metal walls of the van and echoed around us.

Seeming to decide that smacking me around wasn't good enough, he drew back his fist and punched me in the face. I toppled over backwards and slammed my head against the floor of the van, my vision going pretty wonky for a second as I struggled to recover from the hit.

My abductor took immediate advantage of my being stunned, grabbing my legs and hauling me out of the van in much the same way a person would haul around a worthless sack of potatoes. He carried me across what seemed to be a warehouse and dumped me to the floor next to a pile of silver chains. I flinched away from the silver, and my captor laughed. "You really are part wolf, aren't you?"

No," I said sarcastically. "I'm part chipmunk." Or at least that's what I tried to say. It came out more like "Mrhm. Auhm praghk chiugmyunk" because I was still ridiculously gagged, but the intent to be snarky was there, at least.

My abductor, of course, found my attempts to speak downright hilarious and spent the next several minutes laughing obnoxiously at me. Once done, he wrapped my wrists in silver chains and hooked them to a thick steel ring embedded in the floor. "There we go," he said in satisfaction once he was done and surveying his handiwork. "Nice and secure. Now, just sit tight while I go finish up your travel arrangements. First class flight, of course," he added with a wink.

I managed to flip him off despite the massive amount of burning pain I was in, but he only laughed some more, then left, whistling merrily as he hopped back into the van and drove away. I caught a glimpse of him talking on a cellphone as he went, but then he was gone out of my line of sight again. He paused only to shut the doors of the warehouse behind him, and then the rumble of the van's engine diminished until it was obvious that he was gone.

Well. This really sucks. I twisted my wrists around, trying to loosen the chains even just a little, but the metal just rubbed against my skin more, burning on contact and leaving angry red welts wherever it touched. Shit. I craned my neck around, looking for some means of escape. Nothing looked particularly promising at first, but then my gaze honed in on an innocuous-looking folding chair a short distance away. Obviously placed there so my captor could amuse himself by watching my struggles, it seemed like my best bet of escape, if only I could somehow reach it and break off a piece.

I managed to crawl across the floor until the slack on my chains ran out, which put me almost within arm's reach of the chair. I strained further against my chains, trying to ignore the agonizing pain racing through my body from the silver. Between that and the aconite poisoning, it was a miracle I was even still conscious, much less fighting for escape. But I'm a Storme, and we're nothing if not tenacious. So I reached out for the chair, and after a lot struggling and muffled cursing, I managed to snag it with the very ends of my fingertips, and managed to wiggle it closer bit by bit until I had it close enough to work with. I wasted no time in inspecting it closely and snapping off a piece that I thought would best serve my purposes.

It wasn't easy flipping the thin strip of metal around to wedge it between two links of the chains wrapping around my wrists, but after a while I managed it. I then applied as much pressure as I was able to on the metal, and after a few moments of struggling the silver gave way, the bright links snapping apart and scattering across the warehouse floor.

I scrambled to get the rest of the chains off of me, and once I was free of them I crossed the warehouse as fast my feet could carry me, not wanting to be closer to the silver than I had to be. My next task as carefully unpeeling the tape from my face and spitting out the rag he'd stuffed into my mouth to muffle me. I tossed the rag away, not wanting to think about how it smelled like motor oil and that fact I'd had it in my mouth for what felt like hours. I crouched down as a wave of dizziness swamped me suddenly and I had to take several deep breaths before I felt steady again.

Once I was sure that I wasn't going to pass out, I did a quick self-assessment, which mostly consisted of checking in with my wolf side, which was dazed but functional. I had no doubt that once the wolfsbane and silver poisoning wore off, my wolfself would be more than ready to start tearing out throats, starting with the bastard who had grabbed me.

For now, though, escape was my top priority. So I took a moment to make sure no one else was around, then slipped quietly out a side door. It took me a moment to get my bearings, but a glance up at the sky and the moon gave me a general idea of at least what time it was and roughly where I was, so I set off in the direction of the Quarter. It would be quite a hike on foot, so I hoped a cab might pass by. Given that I was somewhere in the middle of a deserted industrial area that was probably unlikely, but a girl can hope, right?

In any case, I walked off into the night without looking back, my thoughts now turning to my brother and our allies.

Chapter Text

"Intuition is seeing with the soul."

Ezra allowed Rebekah to usher him out of the church once she was finished her little psychic powwow with her brother Elijah. He'd tuned out most of it, but whatever else had been said while he'd been preoccupied with his sudden inexplicable worry for Zoe, he'd overheard something about protecting Hayley. Which was apparently what they were now going to go do.

"Where are we actually going?" he asked in exasperation as he slid into the passenger seat of the car while Rebekah revved the engine.

"Hayley's at a doctor's appointment out in the bayou," the vampire told him. "And I have a bad feeling."

"If you say so," he replied doubtfully.

The sped out of the city and out to the bayou, parking off the side of the road. They stepped out of the car and almost immediately heard the sounds of fighting.

"Over that way," Rebekah said suddenly, and then sped off into the night.

"We don't all have vampire speed," he shouted after her, but got no response. His wolf gave a growling rumble, unsettled from a lot of different factors, and Ezra took a moment to send a few reassuring feelings that way, in the hopes of keeping that side of himself calm and level-headed. It was likely completely pointless, since if his wolf was going surge out of control no amount of pacifying feelings were going to help, but he figured it was worth a shot.

In any case, he broke into a jog and after taking out a few surprise attacks along the way from people who smelled like anger and magic, he caught up with Rebekah, who was standing with Hayley, five bodies littering the ground around them.

"Remind me to not piss either of you off," he remarked, kneeling down to make sure that the corpses in question were really dead and not just unconscious or faking.

"Who are they?" Rebekah asked.

"Witches," Hayley said, right as Ezra said "Warlocks." They looked at each other, gave mutual shrugs and said "Whatever" in unison.

Rebekah gave an amused little smile, then frowned as she spotted flashlight beams flaring in the distance. "There're more of them. Run!"

Hayley hesitated, unsure. "I can't just leave you!"

"Go!" Rebekah shouted. "Ezra, take her! Get her out of here!"

He wasted no time in complying, grabbing Hayley by the wrist and pulling her after him, away from Rebekah and the approaching attackers. His inner wolf, not liking the idea of being the prey in a hunt, growled in displeasure; Ezra did his best to ignore it and focus on getting Hayley to safety.

As it turned out, though, none of them were going to get very far. Two arrows shot out from the dark and pierced through Rebekah's chest. The Original froze, then crashed to the ground, immobilized.

"Rebekah!" Hayley cried out, making a lunge as if to run back.

"Don't-" Ezra began, but then an arrow was slamming into his chest and he went down hard, too, his mind spitting up flashbacks of the last time something had pierced his chest and hit his heart.

"Aww, sweetie," a honey-sweet voice says tauntingly, "you really thought it was real, didn't you?" Bright summery laughter. "Silly boy."

A series of beatings that leave him broken and bleeding. "As if I'd ever sleep with a monster like you if I hadn't been ordered to." The words cut at him more than the beatings ever could.

"Don't take it personally, though." A patronizing pat on the cheek. "This is my job, after all."

"Your uncle is going to make you regret the day you were ever born," she informs him later on, telling him this as if it's news, as if it's not something he's already known for as long as he can remember.

"Worthless beast," she hisses as she carves out his heart, blood dripping down his chest to splash onto the floor. And no matter how he begs or pleads the knife just plunges deeper and deeper, until all he knows is red-hot pain and the darkness that follows.

"Goodbye, Ezra."

"Ezra!" Hayley knelt down and shook him hard, trying to wake him. But before she could get him to do more than mumble something that sounded like "Sirena, you bitch" an arrow thuds into her shoulder, and everything goes fuzzy and dark as she falls over sideways.

Rebekah woke up first, with no idea how long she'd been out. She sat up, recalled with a twinge of pain that she'd been shot in the chest with extreme prejudice, and promptly yanked the arrows out. Then she looked around, and spotted Ezra out cold a few feet away. She struggled to her feet and went over to him, kneeling down to examine his injuries.

He'd been shot with an arrow, too; it had pierced his chest perilously close to his heart. If he'd been mortal, he'd have already been dead. She pulled out the arrow, but had to leap back quickly as Ezra's eyes flared open and he lashed out.

Rebekah thought for a moment that his eyes had flashed gold, but then she dismissed it as a trick of the moonlight. "Ezra, calm down!" she said, raising her hands in a universal gesture of harmlessness. "It's just me, okay? Just Rebekah."

It took Ezra a moment to calm down, but then he just stared at her, eyes dark and haunted. "Rebekah," he repeated, as if trying to convince himself that it was really her.

"Yes," she said carefully. "Do you remember what happened?"

He blinked at her slowly, as if waking from some sort of nightmare. After a moment, he seemed to come out of whatever dark headspace he'd been in, because he shook his head hard to clear his thoughts and looked back at her with clear eyes. "We were attacked," he replied. "Someone shot us."

"With arrows," Rebekah agreed, handing him the arrow she'd pulled out of his chest.

He took it and made a face of supreme disgust. "It reeks of nightshade," he said, wrinkling his nose.

She didn't bother asking how he could tell, just looked around in growing alarm, realizing with horror that one of their number was conspicuously absent. "Hayley," she said frantically. "Where's Hayley? Hayley!" she called out. "Hayley!"

Ezra stood up shakily, wobbling for a moment before steadying himself. "Call your brother," he told her.

Rebekah paled. "He'll be furious."

"Yes, he will, but he deserves to know. He might be able to help us find her," he added reasonably.

Rebekah cursed but couldn't fault his logic and dialed up her brother. Sure enough, he was livid.

"What do you mean, 'she's missing?'" he snarled once she'd finished explaining the situation.

"What do you think I mean?" Rebekah snapped. "There's blood and bodies everywhere, someone's ripped this lot to shreds," she went on, nudging a ravaged body with her foot, "and there's no smart-aleck pregnant girl."

"Keep looking," Klaus ordered. "I'm on my way."

"Bossy," Rebekah grumbled as she pocketed her phone.

"His pregnant paramour is missing," Ezra observed. "He's allowed to be bossy."

Rebekah just shook her head and started off into the woods again. Ezra, seeing no choice but to follow her and help to the best of his ability, went along.

Eventually, they reached the little clinic where Hayley had presumably been getting checked out by the bayou doctor. Rebekah circled around the room looking for clues while Ezra knelt down by the doctor and looked her over, picking up the syringe that had been dropped nearby and inspecting it carefully.

Suddenly, his inner wolf reared back snarling. Ezra bolted to his feet and whirled around, seeing that Klaus had suddenly joined them without warning.

"Wow!" Rebekah said, giving him a mock round of applause. "You abandoned your quest for power to help out your family! Having an off day?"

Klaus, for once, did not raise to the bait, and instead looked deadly calm and collected. "Who took her, Rebekah?"

"I don't know," Rebekah answered.

Klaus's calm demeanor cracked ever so slightly. "What do you mean, you don't know? And who killed her attackers?"

"I don't know!" Rebekah exclaimed, throwing her hands into the air. "I had an arrow in my heart. If it wasn't Hayley who killed them, then-" Her words were cut off by a chorus of howls echoing through the night. Ezra felt his own wolf stir in response, wanting to let loose a howl of his own, but he stifled the urge and just watched the Mikaelsons for their reactions.

"Lovely," Rebekah said. "Maybe her cousins will know where she is." She swept out of the shack with Klaus hot on her heels, leaving Ezra to pull up the rear. Once outside, they saw Hayley coming towards them, looking dazed and out of sorts, but very much alive and unharmed.

Klaus, initially speechless, rushed over to her side at once. "Hayley!" he said anxiously. "What happened? Tell me what happened."

"I can't remember," the werewolf girl said groggily.

Klaus checked Hayley for injuries, running his hands over her with a quickness that bordered on frantic. "You've completely healed," he said at last. "There's not a scratch on you."

Hayley gave him a confused look. "One of the perks of being a werewolf, remember?"

"No," Klaus said, shaking his head. "Not that fast."

Rebekah came over and wrapped a protective arm around Hayley's shoulders. "Leave her alone!" she snapped at her brother, then frowned in thought. "It's the baby," she realized. "The vampire blood- Klaus's vampire blood- in your system. It can heal any wound. Your own baby can heal you," she declared in amazement, even as Klaus stared at Hayley in something akin to awe, a slight smile quirking up the corners of his mouth.

Rebekah then turned the conversation back to Hayley herself. "How did you escape?" Rebekah asked the young woman. "Outnumbered, unarmed? Those men were ripped to shreds!"

"I think it was the wolf," Hayley murmured. "I think it's trying to protect me."

"Wolf?" Ezra repeated, not sure what, or who, she meant. But his voice was drowned out by Klaus, who had transitioned from worried to furious without taking a deep breath in between.

"The witches were supposed to protect you!" he snapped. "When I get my hands on Sophie Deveraux-"

"It wasn't Sophie," Rebekah said in protest.

"It was Agnes," Hayley added.

Klaus didn't seem to care about identity differences. "Fine! Agnes, Sophie, it's all the same to me! I'll slaughter the lot of them!"

"Not if Elijah gets there first," Rebekah remarked.

"Elijah?" Hayley repeated, expression brightening. "Did you find him?"

"He's been in touch," Rebekah assured her, "and he has a plan."

"All he asks is that we take care of you," Ezra felt compelled to add.

"Great," Hayley said. "That's really great. So...can we go home now? I'd really like to sleep for a few days..."

They all nodded and Hayley stood up. She managed to walk a few paces on her own, then stumbled and collapsed. Klaus caught her and swept her up into his arms before she could hit the ground. "I've got you, love," he promised her. "I've got you."

They trekked through the bayou a bit until they reached the spot where Rebekah and Ezra had parked off the road, then loaded themselves back into the car and drove back towards the city. They'd begun passing through an industrial district when suddenly Rebekah slammed on the brakes.

"What the bloody hell is wrong with you?" Klaus snapped, keeping a tight hold on Hayley so she didn't jerk around from whiplash.

Rebekah didn't respond, peering through the windshield. "Isn't that Zoe?" she said at last.

Ezra was unbuckled and out of the car before anyone else had a chance to speak. Sister, his wolf whimpered. Pain. "Zoe!" he called out.

His sister turned around, putting a hand up in front of her eyes and squinting in the bright illumination from the headlights. "Ezra?" she said in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"We were about to ask that of you," Klaus said, stepping out the car and slamming his door shut. "Where the hell were you when I needed you for back-up?" he added angrily.

That was evidently the wrong thing to say. "Oh, I'm so sorry I inconvenienced you with my absence," Zoe snapped sarcastically. "I was a little busy being abducted at the time!"

"Abducted?" Hayley repeated in surprise as she joined them. "You, too?"

Zoe narrowed her eyes on the pregnant girl. "What do you mean, 'too'?"

"Someone tried to grab Hayley during her pregnancy check-up," Rebekah explained. "We're pretty sure it was something to do with the witches."

Zoe pinched the bridge of her nose as if trying to stave of an oncoming migraine. "Unbelievable," she muttered.

"Who took you?" Ezra asked, his voice coming out more snarly than he would have liked given their present company. "Did you recognize him?"

Zoe shook her head. "No, he didn't look familiar." She winced suddenly and put a hand up to the side of her head, where Ezra noticed a large bloody bump for the first time.

"He hit you?" he growled.

"Repeatedly," his sister replied dryly. "Most of the hits were in the face, actually, but the bruises have already healed." Another wince. "The head wound is a bit more tricky," she admitted. "I think he might have whacked me with something silv-" she cut herself off before saying 'silver' and just shook her head as if she were confused, "with something really solid," she said instead, "because it's not really getting any better. It feels like a concussion. And my ankle's broken again," she added, almost as an afterthought.

Ezra wanted to track this man down and tear him apart slowly and painfully for daring to harm his twin. But there was nothing to be done about it now, so instead of dashing off into the night he took a deep breath to calm down and looped an arm around his sister's waist. "Let's get you back home and into bed, okay?"

She nodded tiredly. "Sounds good."

So he hustled her to the car and tucked her into the backseat next to Hayley, then made sure to keep an eye on her in the rear-view mirror as Rebekah broke every speed limit on the drive back to the Mikaelson mansion.

Chapter Text

"Just like there's always time for pain, there's always time for healing."

 I woke up sometime around three in the morning. And by 'woke up' I mean I jolted awake with my heart pounding and a scream about to erupt out of my mouth.

As I stumbled across the room I managed to swallow the scream and turn it into very panicked hyperventilation instead, but either way it was obvious that sleeping was going to be all sorts of impossible for me tonight.

Normally, I'm not so wimpy about the bad things that have happened and will continue to happen to me. But something about being grabbed off the street so easily had unsettled something deep within me, and I was having a harder time than I would have expected getting myself back to a good place mentally. I went into my bathroom and splashed some cold water on my face, then glanced at my reflection to see if I looked as awful as I felt.

Oddly enough,or perhaps ironically, my outward appearance was normal. I looked a little tired, and very pale, but otherwise fine. The only visible reminders of my abduction were the bruise on my temple from where I'd been walloped upside the head and the tight wrapping around my broken-but-healing ankle.

I stuck my tongue out at the pale Zoe in the mirror and returned to my bedroom. I sat down on the edge of the bed, but couldn't bring myself to try and lie down and go back to sleep. Not when I knew that I'd only wake up screaming again. So I reached for the book on my nightstand, only to remember that I'd left it downstairs. I rubbed the back of my neck tiredly, not liking the idea of roaming around the house and possibly running into someone who'd want to know what I was doing up, but left to go track down my book anyway.

I found it sitting on the couch where I'd left it, and was just turning to go back upstairs to my room when the front door opened and Klaus came in. We both froze upon seeing each other, and just sort of eyed each other warily for a minute. I couldn't help but notice that for all his rugged good looks and aura of dark charisma, Klaus was actually not looking so great right now. Truthfully, he looked pretty upset, his facial expression somewhere between agonized and regretful.

"Oh," was all I managed to say at first. Followed by, idiotically, "Are you okay?"

He gave me a look that told me in no uncertain terms that he did not appreciate being asked that question. "Fine," he said, his cold tone clearly intended to dissuade me from pestering him any more.

My inner wolf gave an little yip of warning, but I plugged along anyway. "Are you sure?" I asked.

His gaze narrowed. "Are you okay?" he asked instead of giving a real answer.

"Fine," I echoed right back at him.

"Really," he said, his tone laced with disbelief.

"Really," I said firmly.

A long, long moment of contemplative silence.

"Do you think we both sound equally transparent when we say that?" he said at last.

I couldn't help it; I was so startled by this thoughtful-sounding comment that I let out a snort of laughter.

Klaus seemed equally startled by my little burst of laughter, and cracked a hesitant half-smile in response. "I thought you'd be sound asleep in bed after your little kidnapping adventure today," Klaus remarked lightly, going over to sit at the piano.

I felt my smile drift off my face as I swallowed hard. "Couldn't sleep," was all I managed to say without sounding strangled.

Klaus paused in running his fingers over the piano keys. "Really," is all he says, but there's no mocking undercurrent in it this time, just a sort of acknowledgment that I'd spoken.

"Mm," was the only response I gave at first, slowly going over to the couch again and perching on the edge, fiddling with the book in my lap. "You were out late," I said at last, figuring that 'where the hell did you go after we got back?' was probably not the best thing to say to the Original hybrid whose house you were staying in.

He gave a little chuckle. "If this is an attempt at interrogation I have to say that your technique needs some improvement."

I rolled my eyes. "I'm just curious where the infamous Klaus Mikaelson wanders off to when he's not busy hatching nefarious schemes."

"Nefarious schemes?" He gave a little laugh. "You make me sound downright diabolical."

"Aren't you?" I shot back challengingly.

"Perhaps," he admitted, fingers running nimbly over the keys to pluck out some complicated sounding melody.

I took a moment to discreetly admire the ease with which he played the piano, then steered myself back to the topic at hand. "So...where?"

"You're like a dog with a bone, aren't you?" he remarked. "Can't let it go."

I shrugged. "Not knowing things troubles me," I replied, which was true enough. "Also," I felt compelled to add, "because you make me extremely nervous."

"So you're keeping tabs on me then?" he surmised, sounding amused.

"I like to think I'm making a fair attempt at it," I responded.

He snorted. "If by 'fair' you mean heavy-handed and painfully obvious, then sure. You're doing fine."

I resisted again the urge to throw my book at him. "You," I told him clearly, "are an asshole."

"Yes," he said agreeably. "I am."

I heaved a sigh, and stood up to go, making sure to tuck my book under my arm so that I wouldn't need to embarrass myself further by needing to come look for it again. I'd almost made it to the stairs when Klaus spoke again.

"Why couldn't you sleep?"

I froze in place, trying and failing to not think about the disjointed nightmares that had catapulted me from my slumber. "No reason," I said, but even to my ears I sounded pathetic.

"Mm," was Klaus's response. "Care to try that lie one more time?"

I was suddenly furious, and subsequently did throw my book at him. He caught it easily before it came anywhere close to doing damage (although being a paperback rather than hardcover, it was doubtful whether it could have done any real damage to begin with), and just arched a reproving eyebrow.

"I couldn't sleep," I told him through gritted teeth, "because I was having nightmares. I don't normally have problems with bad dreams," I added, "but I don't...I don't like feeling trapped." I wasn't sure why I was admitting this to him, to someone who was dangerous and could very well turn into my enemy in the future, but my wolf side didn't seem to mind the slips I was making. Perhaps that side of myself understood something about Klaus that my human half couldn't, something primal that had to do with predators and being cornered, rather than anything noticeable on the surface.

Klaus, surprisingly, didn't take the opportunity to press me for answers. Instead he just nodded, set my book aside, and fiddled around on the piano some more, moving from whatever complicated piece he'd been playing before to something more mellow. "I was...visiting a friend," he said after a moment of unexpectedly serenity, and it took me a moment to realize that he was answering my earlier question.

"A friend?" I repeated with a frown. "Not to sound like a bitch, but I was under the impression that you weren't really the sort of guy who had friends?"

He gave a dark laugh. "I'm not, usually. And I expect if you were to ask this particular person to define our relationship, she would do it with a great deal of swearing and condemnation."

My frowned deepened, and I ran those words over in my mind several times before realizing what – or rather, who– he meant. I literally had to run over in my mind a list of everyone female he could have met since he'd come to New Orleans. Most of them were witches he'd have absolutely no reasons to spend time with unless it was to maim and murder them. So who does that leave? I wondered.

Then it hit me. Being an extremely insensitive goober with no social skills whatsoever, I blurted it right out. "Oh my God, Camille?"

He gave a barely perceptible wince, and his fingers started to hit the keys with perhaps a little more force than necessary. "She prefers to go by Cami."

Which wasn't really an actual answer, but..."That is not a no," I observed.

He just shook his head and didn't say anything else, and it occurred to me that since he and I barely knew each other and totally didn't get along about ninety-seven percent of the time, this conversation was out of the norm is a very extreme sort of way. "Is everything...okay?" I asked with no small amount of hesitation. "With...the two of you, I mean. You and...Cami."

Silence descended, and reigned supreme for so long that I very seriously thought that he just wouldn't answer. Not that I would have blamed him for not answering; I was literally a stranger in his house, and he had no reason to trust me, with anything. For all he knew I could be some sort of double-agent sent to spy on him.

But then he spoke again. "I've been manipulating her," he said at last. "To get closer to Marcel. It's not something I'm proud of," he added, obviously seeing my expression of consternation, "but I decided at the time that it was necessary and...well, it's too late to change things now. In any case," he continued, "today we learned some...very unsettling things about the death of her brother."

"What sorts of things?" I asked, trying to remember what exactly had happened with Camille's brother. Someone, at some point, had mentioned it in passing. Or had I read it in a newspaper article? No, that's wasn't right...Then it clicked. "The seminary student, right? The one who killed everyone and then himself?" Ezra had told me about it, during his explanation of how he and Rebekah had finally located Elijah. Something about a church and window shutters and a priest named Kieran. I'd gone online to poke around a bit more out of curiosity, but had been so exhausted from the day in general I'd given up and gone to bed. And promptly woken up screaming only a couple hours later, which had led me here to actually learn about the incident. I idly wondered if the universe was giving me answers to my curiosity, then decided that, no, it had to be coincidence. The universe didn't like me enough to be that helpful. "I didn't realize the boy was Camille's brother," I said to Klaus, suddenly aware that I had been staring off into space and stuck in my own head for longer than was polite when one is in the middle of a conversation. "I thought the case was closed. though. What changed?"

"We have reason to believe that the witches may have been responsible for his mental break," Klaus said and even with his nonchalant tone and worry-free expression, I could feel the pain radiating out from him, almost like a physical thing. My wolf-half, bizarrely, wanted to go comfort him. I reminded my wolfself that the Original hybrid did not need coddling. My wolf instincts promptly fired back with a bundle of wolfy instincts, to do with pack behavior and the comfort of physical touch. I tamped down on those instincts firmly, burying them down where they couldn't interfere with the here and now.

I refocused on Klaus, thanking my lucky stars that he was distracted enough himself to not notice how truly out of it I was acting. "Is that why you're so upset?" I asked him, still not sure why Klaus was in such pain. "Because Camille's brother was killed by the witches and it hurts her to think about it?" Logically, that might make sense. If she'd already made peace with what had happened, the revelation that it had been foul play would have caused lots of problems.

He shook his head. "No. She already knew, somehow, that he wasn't responsible for his own actions. She always suspected, at the back of her mind, I think." A long pause. "No, I am 'upset', as you put it, because I took the knowledge of that from her memories. And I am not sure whether I had the right."

I stared at him for a full minute, not quite sure how to interpret that. At last, I just asked. "Elaborate, please?"

"I compelled her," he said through gritted teeth, his fingers stilling on the piano keys. "I compelled her to forget what we'd learned about the witches and how they manipulated and destroyed her brother. I wanted her to be happy," he admitted, his voice grudging, like he didn't want to admit that, as if he thought it was a weakness to say the words out loud. "I don't want for her to carry that sort of weight around on her shoulders. She deserves to be happy."

I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to say to that. I am, as I'm sure you've noticed, not really the best person for these sorts of situations. In the end I just settled for "Ah. I see," and held my hand out for my book.

He picked it up, but instead of giving it back he looked at me long and hard for a moment, holding it just out of reach. "I'm not quite sure why I told you any of that."

"Neither am I," I said honestly. "But it seems like you needed to get it off your chest, so..." I shrugged. "It's no big deal. I won't tell anyone anything, if that's what you're worried about."

"No." He shook his head. "No, that's not it." He watched me for another few seconds, then held out my book. "Here."

I hesitated, then grabbed it. "Thanks." I turned to go, but this time only made it a few steps before he called out.

"Do you remember what he looked like?"

I turned around, puzzled. "Who?"

"Your kidnapper," Klaus elaborated. "Do you remember what he looked like?"

My frowned deepened as I cast my thoughts back, trying to recall the hazy events of the evening. "Kind of, yeah. Why?"

"Depending on how much you remember," Klaus said, not quite looking at me and instead seeming to focus very intently on view of the night sky outside the window, "I can do a rough sketch that we can use as a reference going forward. I doubt it will be of much use, honestly, but it might give us an idea of who to keep an eye out for."

I was so shocked by this offer that I stood there speechless. Then I bit my lip, not sure if this was worth wasting him time for. "I really don't remember much," I said uncertainly. "I mean, he clocked me upside the head pretty good, and I'm pretty sure he drugged me at some point. It's all pretty hazy."

"Anything you remember is fine," he assured me. "And we don't need to do it right now," he added, glancing at the clock for what seemed to be the first time. "You need to get some sleep. We can work on the sketch in the morning."

I shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, unsure. "If it's all the same to you," I said at last, "I'd really rather we do it now. It might help me sleep," I added, not sure exactly why I felt the need to say so, but whatever. In for a penny, in for a pound, as the old saying goes.

Klaus looked at me with narrowed eyes for a moment, his expression unreadable. Then he gave a careless shrug and reached for a sketchbook that had been sitting on a table nearby, along with a little mug of pencils and some paperweights.

"What can you tell me about him?" Klaus asked me once he'd shifted his position to face me, sketchpad held loosely in his hands. "What do you remember about him?"

"Not much," I admitted, struggling to think back. "It's all pretty blurry..." I bit my lip. "He was really tall, and really ripped. Like, Dwayne-Johnson-sized, seriously."
Klaus didn't seem to have anything to say to that, just arched an eyebrow at my description before jotting down a note on the edge of his paper. "What else?"

"Uhm..." I racked my brain, mentally trudging through the black miasma that was my memory of the abduction. "I...I don't know," I said unhappily. "I was so out of it...I can't remember." I tugged on my hair in frustration.

"Start simple," Klaus advised, his attitude far more patient that I would have expected; I couldn't help but wonder if he was helping me so intently because he was trying to keep his mind of Camille and the wrong he'd done her. Whatever his reasons, he continued asking me careful questions. "His hair color, perhaps? Or eye color? Did he have any scars or birthmarks that you noticed?"

I chewed on my lip anxiously. "His hair," I repeated slowly, and then smiled a little as I finally remembered through the fog in my brain. "It was reddish-brown," I told Klaus. "And it was pretty short. Not like a buzz-cut, but pretty close. Almost as if he'd had a buzz-cut a few months ago but now he's letting it grow?" I decided that I sounded incredibly ridiculous and that maybe I should shut the hell up. "Sorry," I offered. "I'm not usually this much of a motor-mouth."

"It's fine," Klaus replied, his tone casually disinterested as he began sketching lines lightly onto the paper. "What else do you remember? Eye color?"

I opened my mouth then scowled because it was just a total blank. "I...I don't remember," I admitted. I could remember other little details, like the gag rag that had reeked of motor oil, or the little pile of fast food trash that had been in the back of the van with me, but for some reason I couldn't quite recall the color of my kidnapper's eyes. I scrunched my face up, closing my eyes and struggling to remember. " No, not blue," I corrected immediately. "Maybe gray? No...that's not right, either..." I couldn't help it, a little growl escaped from my throat.

Klaus gave me an unreadable look, but waved a hand dismissively. "Forget the color, then. What about the shape? Wide, skinny? Almond shaped? How far apart were they? Were they symmetrical?"

I stared at him. "I never realized a person's eyes could be so..." I fluttered a hand vaguely, not sure what it was I actually wanted to say.

Klaus just shrugged. "I suppose," was all he said, which was not an answer at all. Not that I could blame him, I hadn't really asked an actual question.

"He was just...ordinary-looking," I said at last, trying and failing to think of a better way to say it. "I mean, he was the size of a house, obviously, but he just...looked totally normal. Not plain, exactly, just...nondescript? Like I wouldn't have looked twice at him if we'd passed on the street, you know?"

Klaus seemed to consider that for a long moment, then gave a brisk nod. "I'll do a few sketches for you and you can go over them and tell me whether certain aspects are right or not," he told me. "It might take a few days," he added. "I am, after all, preoccupied with other matters."

"I'm aware," I replied dryly. "Marcel and the witches and whatever the hell else it is you've got going on."

"I'm a busy man," he said, pulling a mock-offended face at my tone.

"Mm," was all I said back, then managed to give him a strained smile. "Thank you for...trying to help. I...I appreciate it." It was a struggle to get the words out, because I am not really a 'thank you' sort of person. But Klaus wasn't a sit-up-all-night-to-help-someone-else sort of person, so I figured it was only fair that we both act ridiculously out of character.

"You're welcome," Klaus replied, and followed it immediately with "And if you ever mention this to anyone, I will joyfully rip your throat out. Over and over again, since you won't die from it." He flashed an overly bright smile to drive home the threat.

I snorted, pleased that he was back to behavior I could understand. "Duly noted," I responded, then turned to go back upstairs. This time he didn't call me back for anything, so I made it back to my room without further incident.

I sat down on the edge of my bed, looked down at my book, realized abruptly that I was totally exhausted, and that the idea of sleep actually sounded good. I was a little worried about further nightmares, but after a quick inspection of my feelings, I burrowed under the covers, willing to risk it.

I was out like a light barely ten minutes later, and through some miracle managed to sleep through the night.

Chapter Text

"Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime."

Ezra stared up at the ceiling, knowing he needed to get up and join everyone else downstairs, but really not wanting to.

Between all the ridiculously awful things that had happened yesterday, he was just not in the mood for dealing with people. At all. His sister had been kidnapped by some random whackjob. Except it most likely hadn't been a random whackjob and had instead most likely been someone sent by their uncle. He'd been shot with an arrow yesterday while trying to help Rebekah keep Hayley safe. Except he hadn't just been shot with an arrow, he'd been shot with an arrow through the chest. Barely two inches from his heart. The far-too-familiar pain had brought back a cascade of memories. Of Sirena, her smile, her laughter, her bright eyes. The taste of her lips, the softness of her skin, the silkiness of her hair.

The psychotic glee she'd shown when she'd methodically carved his still-beating heart out of his chest and cut it up into little pieces in front of him.

Yeah, those were memories he would've preferred to have kept buried.

Although, he had to admit, they were never far from his mind. It was always a darkness in his thoughts and bearing, a stain that seeped into everything he thought or did, even if he wasn't consciously aware of it.

And yes, he was healed up now, from both Sirena's torture and the arrow yesterday, and yes, Zoe was perfectly safe and right downstairs, exhausted and a little banged up but otherwise fine. But that didn't really make him feel much better, all things considered. Throw in the mystery of the murdered motel clerk and whatever the hell Klaus was doing to overthrow Marcel and destroy the witches and Ezra really did think that sleeping the day away would be a good course of action. Or non-action, as the case may be. Whatever.

As it turned out, though, whether he decided to get up or not wasn't really his decision. One second he was staring up at the ceiling, half-heartedly admiring the fact it was painted like a sunrise, the next second his door was being thrown open and Klaus was coming in, a sketchbook tucked under his arm and a thick phonebook in his other hand.

Ezra bolted upright and snatched his dagger from the bedside table out of habit, springing to his feet before the Original had come even three feet into the room.

Klaus paused mid-step and arched a brow at the blade. "Expecting someone else?"

Ezra took a very deliberate deep breath, struggling to calm his inner wolf, who was snarling at the sudden intrusion. Threat, his wolf growled. Intrusion. Rival. Threat. "It's customary to knock," he told Klaus through gritted teeth.

Klaus gave an infuriating smirk. "In one's own house?" he remarked. "I don't think so."

Threat, his wolf repeated doggedly, followed by Kill.

Enough, Ezra snarled back, and his wolf subsided. Outloud to Klaus, he said, "Fair enough." Then he frowned at what he was carrying. "Did you need something?"

"I need a great many things," Klaus replied. "Most of which you cannot provide any help with."

Ezra carefully set the dagger down, figuring that if Klaus was going to continue being a condescending asshole, then it was maybe better if Ezra wasn't holding any sort of weapon he would be tempted to use. "And you came to pester someone who can't help you because...?"

Klaus gave a wide smirk. "I didn't say you couldn't help me with anything," he responded, "just that you can't be of much use for most of the things I need. Try to keep up."

Ezra took a large step away from where he'd set his dagger down, since the temptation to use it was growing by the second. "Get to the point," he said to Klaus. "I'm not feeling very patient today."

Klaus narrowed his eyes, as if seeing Ezra for the first time. "Yes, I can see that. You're looking a little tense today. Not sleep well?"

Ezra grunted, looking away. "Not really."

"Hm." A moment of thoughtful silence. "Neither did your sister."

Ezra's head snapped back up. "What?"

Klaus regarded Ezra for a few seconds. "Your sister had trouble sleeping last night," he told Ezra. "We spoke a bit after I returned home for the night. Well, more than a bit, really. Perhaps for almost half an hour."

Ezra did not like the idea of Zoe spending any sort of time with Klaus at all, much less talking to him for any prolonged period of time. "What did you talk about?" he asked, trying and most likely failing to sound unconcerned.

Klaus, surprisingly, gave a short bark of laughter. "You should see the look on your face," he snickered. "Are you worried I tried to steal her virtue?"

Ezra snatched up the dagger again in the blink of an eye and was turning it over and over again in his hand, the implied threat loud and clear. "Did you?"

Klaus shook his head, still looking amused. "No," he said. "And since you look decidedly murderous about the topic in general, I'll do my best to avoid mentioning such things in the future."

"That's probably a good idea," Ezra agreed. Zoe was more than capable of looking after herself, but Ezra was her brother and he had all the accompanying big brother instincts; his wolfside took those sorts of things even more seriously, so to say he was protective of Zoe was a massive understatement. It was like saying that the Pacific Ocean was a few drops of water.

"We spoke of her abduction," Klaus told him.

That answer was so unexpected that Ezra actually dropped his dagger, his fingers simply losing hold on it from the numb shock that was suddenly coursing through his body. "What?" he demanded. "She talked about it? With you?"

"No need to sound so outraged," Klaus chastised. "I can think of several people who would have been worse to confide in. Don't you agree?"

Ezra couldn't think of a good response to that, which was likely for the best since all that came out when he opened up his mouth was a sound that sounded somewhat like "Grrrahgnnnzz."

Klaus raised both eyebrows and seemed to be containing some sort of amused response. "How eloquently put. I shall have to record that for the sake of posterity."

Ezra flipped the Original off before he could think better of it, then took a series of quick steadying breaths before daring to speak again. "You spoke with her about her abduction," he repeated, trying to not sound like he was on the verge of completely losing his shit. The idea of Zoe alone with Klaus had already been driving him nearly insane with worry. That his twin had confided in the the Original hybrid...for the love of God, what had she been thinking?

"We did," Klaus said, giving Ezra a funny look, as if somehow sensing how close he was to flipping. "I wasn't doing it for any sort of advantage on her or you," the Original added, watching Ezra's face carefully.

Ezra clenched his jaw. "You'll forgive me if I don't believe you."

Klaus shrugged. "You can believe me or not, it's entirely up to you. But having her preoccupied with what had happened would have impacted her ability to focus on our plans, so I needed to help her move past it. To that effect, I've come up with these." He passed Ezra the sketchbook he'd been holding.

Ezra took it, surprised, and slanted Klaus a questioning look. "What...?"

"Some rough sketches I did," the hybrid explained. "Based on the general description your sister gave me on her attacker, I was able to do five sketches of what he may look like. I had ten," he added, "but I already presented the lot of them to your sister and she narrowed it down to those five." He nodded to the sketchbook. "It isn't much to go on, but if you want the man who tried to take your sister, he looks something like one of those sketches."

Ezra was so overwhelmed that for a moment he could do was stare. Finally, he managed to get his tongue working again. Mostly. Sort of. "I, uh..." he stammered. "That's...this is..." he shook his head. " I really...don't know what to say," he managed at last. "This is...incredible." He swallowed hard. "Thank you."

"I'm not doing it for you," was Klaus's careless response. "Or your sister. I just need the two of you focused completely on our plans for Marcel and the witches, that's all. Better to resolve this matter as soon as possible so that you're not pulled between two obligations."

Ezra smothered a smile; he knew a deflection of gratitude when he heard one. Zoe had practically turned them into an art form; she had never been able to accept someone's gratitude at face-value, and instead felt the need to brush it off or twist it into something else. He knew arguing the point wouldn't help anything, so he just nodded. "Thank you," he repeated firmly.

Klaus rolled his eyes and shrugged, then tossed the phone book across the room.

Ezra caught it out of the air just before it smacked into his shoulder. "And this is for...?"

"Following up leads, of course. I assume you'll want to find this man eventually, and tear him to pieces. It's amazing how helpful a phone directory can be in that regard."

Ezra rolled his eyes and tossed the phone book down onto his bed, and set the sketchbook down on his bedside table with more care. "I have yet to meet a phone book that's worth the trouble of navigating it. But thanks anyway."

Klaus shrugged, looking thoroughly untroubled. "How you go about it is of no consequence to me. Now, on to other matters." Klaus brushed a speck of lint from his sleeve. "I'm off to the bayou to clean up that mess of bodies left over from last night and I'd like some company."

Ezra blinked in surprise. "What's the hurry?" he asked curiously. "And shouldn't you let Sophie have the bodies?" he added. "Assholes or not, they are members of her coven. There are probably rituals she wants to perform for them or something."

Klaus brushed all this aside with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Marcel got word of the witches' deaths. More importantly, he got word that the killings looked like werewolf kills. Since he has a fairly strict anti-werewolf policy in place, he's decided to investigate."

"Oh." Ezra ran a hand through his hair. "Well, that's...not so good."

"No," Klaus agreed dryly. "It's really not. So we need to deal with it before he can trace things back to Hayley and the baby."

"And you want me to tag along because...?"

Klaus shrugged. "No reason in particular. Just thought you might appreciate some fresh air, a chance to take in the sights."

"Uh-huh." Ezra crossed his arms. "I've been taking in plenty of sights since Zoe and I came into town."

"Oh, come on," Klaus said. "A nice little jaunt in the bayou, what could it possibly hurt?"

"It could hurt quite a lot, actually," Ezra remarked. "My last little 'jaunt in the bayou', as you so nicely put it, ended with an arrow stabbing through my chest."

Klaus rolled his eyes. "It's not like it could have killed you."

"Whether it's fatal or not is besides the point," Ezra snapped in annoyance. "I don't take well to being impaled, Klaus. So take a fucking hint and drop the subject."

A long, long stretch of silence while Klaus regarded him with an unreadable expression, somewhere between irritation and bafflement.

"What?" Ezra asked, aggravated. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Nothing," Klaus said, shrugging. "It doesn't matter. Look," he went on, "I've tried asking nicely, but this isn't really up for debate. You'll be coming with me to meet with Marcel. End of discussion."

Ezra crossed his arms. "You could have just said that from the start," he said grumpily, ignoring how his inner wolf was snarling and roaring over being given orders.

Chapter Text

"Feeling lost, crazy, and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty, and reason."

I leaned back in my armchair, watching Rebekah and Hayley chatting as we waited for Klaus and my brother to get back from whatever the hell it was that they were doing.

"I don't care if we have to get you a leash," Rebekah was saying insistently, "that was your last trip to the Bayou. What is it with you and those wolves, anyway?"

"I feel like we're connected somehow. I don't know." Hayley gave a helpless shrug. "Maybe it's just some pipe dream that I have of finding any real family out there. But sometimes, when I feel like it's me against the world, it keeps me going."

Rebekah gave the pregnant woman a sympathetic look and poured her a drink of bourbon.

Hayley just gave her a look and rested a hand pointedly on her belly.

"Oh," Rebekah said, recalling that pregnant girls can't have alcohol, "right. Well," she went on, downing Hayley's bourbon in one go before pouring one for me and then another for herself, "if you ask me, family is a pain in the behind."

Hayley just rolled her eyes, saying nothing.

"And as for being in it alone," Rebekah continued, "how dare you? I don't ruin a perfectly fabulous pair of boots traipsing through the Bayou for just anyone."

"Not to mention the part where you and Ezra got shot," I felt obligated to point out, sipping at my bourbon and trying not to make face.

"And there was that," Rebekah agreed.

Hayley finally cracked a smile. It was tiny, but it was there.

Rebekah beamed back and downed her second bourbon.

Klaus came in a few seconds after she began pouring another round and she jumped in surprise, then let out an exclamation of relief. "Nik! Finally! What-"

Her question was cut off by the very welcome sight of Elijah strolling the door behind Klaus, wearing a wide grin that made his mood at returning easily apparent. Rebekah wasted no time in running across the room and tackling him in a fierce hug. Elijah returned it without objection, then released his sister, taking a moment to smile at Hayley, who smiled shyly back before quietly excusing herself from the room.

Well, I thought, isn't that interesting. I decided to ponder it at another time, however. "Welcome back to the land of living," I said in congratulations to Elijah. "Or living undead, at least," I amended, waving to my brother distractedly as he trudged in behind Elijah, looking worn out.

Ezra came over to me immediately and wrapped me in a hug, taking a moment in inhale my scent in a way that let me know how close to the surface his wolf was. I rubbed his back in steady soothing motions before kissing him on the cheek. "Welcome home," I murmured.

"What a day," was all he said back before pulling away and collapsing on the couch beside me. "If I never have to see Big Auggie's Bayou Bar again, I will die happy."

"A bar?" I repeated, puzzled. "Why were you at a bar?"

Ezra slanted a less-than-pleased look towards Klaus. "Ask our benevolent dictator," he grumbled.

I turned to face Klaus but didn't have a chance to ask anything because Elijah was coming over and my wolf-side was getting skittish underneath my skin.

"Zoe, wasn't it?" Elijah regarded with me a mixture of curiosity and gratitude. "I wasn't expecting to see you again, and certainly not under these circumstances, but thank you for all your help."

"I, uh..." I struggled to think of something to say. "You don't need to thank me," I said at last, trying not to look right at him because he was a little too handsome and it was distracting in the extreme. "I mean, Rebekah just asked me to help, and I said okay. It's no big deal."

"It is to me," he said simply, and then he was gone, headed in the direction Hayley had gone in. I wondered again what was there between the two of them. I hadn't been here from day one, but all everyone seemed to say was how devoted Elijah was to protecting Hayley and her baby. And yet Hayley was Klaus's ex-girfriend, and carrying Klaus's hybrid child. So where exactly did Elijah fit in, exactly? Was he simply dedicated to providing for his younger's brother's paramour and child? Or was it more...personal, for him?

In any case, once he finished saying whatever it was he'd needed to say to Hayley, Elijah gathered us all together in the study to re-hash everything everyone had learned in the past few hours.

"Everything that brought us here to New Orleans was a lie," Elijah said. "This story that Sophie Deveraux fabricated, this struggle for control of the French Quarter, this war between vampires and witches, wasn't over territory at all, this was over Davina."

"The witch girl?" I asked, surprised. "Is she really that powerful?"

"She is," Elijah said with a nod. "But it isn't simply about power." He went on to explain the Harvest and what he knew of the Reaping that followed, and told us about the sacrifices the New Orleans conven had made, the murders of the three young witches. The Klaus pitched in with what he'd learned about how the witches had driven Camille's brother Sean insane in order to distract Father Kieran from interfering in the Harvest, and I couldn't help but notice the fury in his every word. Then Elijah took over again, and explained how one of the girls sacrificed had been Sophie's niece, Monique.

"Eight months ago, Sophie Deveraux and her sister Jane-Anne lost everything," he told them. "Now, four months after that, a young pregnant girl wanders into their restaurant. Suddenly, all hope is renewed. Jane-Anne actually sacrificed her life so that her sister can use you to find Davina. If Sophie Deveraux is successful in capturing Davina, she can return Jane-Anne's daughter back to life. We thought we'd come here to wage a war for power. This is about family. In order to return her niece to life, Sophie Deveraux will fight to the death. That makes her more dangerous than anyone."

"Not necessarily," Ezra countered. "She's not the the only one willing to fight to the death, and I can't help but notice that five out of the six people in this room can't be killed. That gives us a rather significant advantage, don't you think?"

"But it's Hayley who matters most to us," Elijah argued. "And it is her and her unborn child they will target to get to us."

"Not to mention the fact that Hayley and Sophie are still linked," I added, frowning. "A link like that can cause all sorts of trouble for us, since it goes both ways."

"We'll have to come up with a way to negate that bond as soon as possible," Elijah agreed. "For now, just be on the lookout for anything unusual."

Ezra snorted. "We're in the Big Easy, in the middle of a three-way supernatural war over a witch girl who wants nothing to do with any of it. 'Unusual' seems like a relative term."

Klaus rolled his eyes. "Must you debate everything?"

"Yes," Ezra replied easily, "I really must."

I smacked my brother on the arm before standing up and stretching. "Okay, well, we'll all keep our eyes open while we come up with our next move. Now, if no one minds, I need to go run a few errands. I'll be back in a little while."

"Errands?" Rebekah echoed, looking confused. "What errands could you possibly have, it's the middle of the night!"

"Just stuff," I said vaguely.

"Stuff to do with finding your kidnapper?" Klaus asked, arching an eyebrow at me.

I glared at him. "If you didn't want me to go looking for him," I snapped, "you shouldn't have made me those sketches."

Klaus shrugged. "I never said I didn't want you searching for him. But don't you think we have more pressing matters to attend to?"

"Like what?" I said, crossing my arms. "Sitting around and waiting for Marcel or the coven to make their next move? Face it," I insisted, "there's nothing we can do right now until we know more. I might as well put the time to good use and track down the asshole who tried to kidnap me."

"Technically," Rebekah pointed out, "he did kidnap you."

"And I escaped," I snapped.

She shrugged. "Still, his original attempt at abduction was successful. What makes you think round two will go any better for you?"

"Because I'll be on my guard now," I replied. "Besides, I'm also extremely ticked off over it, which gives me an edge."

"Wait a moment," Elijah interjected. "You were kidnapped? When was this?"

"The other night," I said, trying to play it off dismissively. "Whenever that street festival was, with the music. I was tailing Davina and suddenly some guy walloped me over the head and stuffed me into the back of a van."

"While you were following Davina?" He frowned worriedly. "It could be connected to the witches somehow. You should proceed with caution."

I rolled my eyes. "My God, people, relax. I'm not a toddler. I can look after myself." I turned to Ezra, who had spent some time with me going over the sketches Klaus had done; we'd eventually narrowed it down to one visage in particular. "Do you want to come?"

"I am not letting you track down your kidnapper by yourself," was his immediate response, and he stood up. "And this guy more than likely has nothing to do with the witches," he added almost as an afterthought.

"True enough," I agreed. "Could've been a whackjob our uncle hired." I shrugged. "In either case, we'll find out what he knows and then get rid of him. It's all pretty straightforward."

"Until someone clubs you over the head again, anyway," Klaus remarked with a smirk.

I resisted the urge to throw something heavy at him and headed for the front door, marveling at how completely annoying he could be. It was the little brother in him, I figured; he was so used to aggravating his siblings that it was second nature to him now.

"We'll be back in a few hours," I called over my shoulder and then Ezra and I were stepping outside and heading for the rental car Rebekah had picked up for us. It was a dark blue Chevy Cruze that looked completely unassuming and wouldn't draw much attention from anyone at all, which was exactly what we wanted.

I slid into the driver's seat and pulled the folded up sketch out of my pocket. I peered at it intently for a moment, then passed it my brother.

"I've already seen it a hundred times," was his instant response, but he took it and looked it over again anyway before handing it back.

"Any ideas for where to look first?" I questioned, folding the paper back up and putting it in my pocket again before starting up the car and pulling out of the plantation house driveway.

"Well," Ezra said after a moment of silent driving, "do you know how long he took driving after he snatched you? We could use that to get an idea for how far the warehouse was from the street fair."

I frowned, because it was true enough that I hadn't been able to remember where exactly the warehouse had been. I'd been walking for so long after escaping that I'd completely lost track of time and distance. "I'm not sure," I said uncertainly. "I think I was unconscious for part of it." Another idea occurred to me. "Where did you guys pick me up?"

Ezra chewed on his lower lip. "Somewhere on Almonaster, I think? I was still pretty out of it myself," he added apologetically. "I didn't snap out of it until Rebekah almost ran you over and said 'oh, hey, isn't that your sister in the middle of road?'."

I gave a snort of laughter. I couldn't help it. The mental picture his words conjured up was too amusing. "Wish I'd been there."

He rolled his eyes. "Technically, you were."

I just shook my head and focused my attention on the traffic. It was the middle of the night so it wasn't too bad in some places, but certain parts of the city were closed to cars after dark so I had to take a few detours before finally making it to the general area where they'd found me. Since Almonaster was a ridiculously long avenue that stretched across the city, pinpointing a specific spot could be tricky.

"Over there," Ezra said at last as we passed a spot that looked familiar. "I remember that signpost. We passed it just after we found you."

I pulled a quick u-turn and pulled over onto a nearby sidestreet and parked the car, making sure to set the alarm in case any enterprising young car thieves thought a blue Cruze was good pickings. Ezra double-checked to make sure he had his daggers in easy reach under his jacket before stepping out and looking around.

"The scent trail's going to be pretty faint." he remarked worriedly as we walked back to the main street. "A lot of people have come by since then."

"But all in cars," I pointed out. "Most people aren't on foot in this part of town. So hopefully my scent is still lingering around enough for us to track it back to the warehouse."

Werewolves, while not exactly bloodhounds, still have very highly developed olfactory senses. We were planning to locate my scent from when I'd been wandering around and follow it back to where I'd been coming from, the warehouse.

I wasn't sure what exactly we'd find once we located the warehouse, but I couldn't deny that there were quite possibly any manner of clues just sitting around. I was beginning to suspect that the oil on the gag rag had been deliberate, in an attempt to mask my sense of smell, which meant that my kidnapper's own scent was distinctive enough for him to go to the trouble of masking it. Even knowing I was a wolf it was a significant measure to take; most people's scents are unique, but in small, subtle ways. Identifying one out of the almost four hundred thousand people in New Orleans would have been virtually impossible. Which led me to conclude that his scent was so unique that I couldn't possibly mistake it for anyone else. So if I could just find something in the warehouse with his scent on it...well, it would make finding him that much easier.

In any case, we managed to locate my own scent easily enough. Well, Ezra did, at least. Werewolves have trouble identifying their own scents, and I was no particular exception. I knew we were in the right spot, but that was likely because it looked familiar, whereas Ezra took a few careful measured sniffs then nodded. "It was here," he said, then started off down the road.

The problem with our plan, I mused as we trekked down the road, was that it involved hoofing it all the way across town until we found the warehouse. The downside of tracking by scent was that it's not really something you can do while in a car. It's a boots-on-the-ground sort of thing, I suppose. We spent almost two hours following my trail back from where Ezra had picked it up. Eventually, what felt like years later, we reached an intersection that looked more familiar than the rest.

"Down this way," I said, turning onto a smaller deserted street that according to the street sign was called Chickasaw. "It's over here."

We went a couple more blocks, then paused behind an anachronistic telephone booth.

"There," I said, pointing across the street to an ordinary-looking warehouse. "It's that one, I'm sure of it."

Ezra squinted at it. "I can't make out the sign," he said at last, shaking his head. "Paint's too old and faded."

I shrugged. "I doubt it still belongs to the original owner, anyway. And even if it does I wouldn't be surprised if the dude who grabbed me just broke in and made himself at home. He seemed like the type."

Ezra considered that, then nodded. "What do you want to do?" he asked after a moment of contemplative silence as we watched the warehouse.

"Break in and kill him?" I offered hopefully.

"Thought we were supposed to find out who sent him," Ezra remarked dryly.

"Oh, sure, we can ask him," I replied easily. "So long as I can kill him after, I don't care what we do beforehand."

Ezra snorted. "You're spending too much time with Klaus," he muttered, before unsheathing a dagger and moving to cross the street. "Alright, let's do this."

Chapter Text

"The only way I survive is to never stop moving. I make sure I'm always surrounded by others, so I won't have time to think and end up imploding like a dying star."

We managed to break into the warehouse without too much trouble. A padlock and chain isn't really much of a hindrance when you have werewolf strength. Ezra pulled apart the metal links with minimal effort and we strolled right inside. Stealthily, of course.

But our stealth turned out to be unnecessary, because the warehouse was empty. Or at least, empty of our target. There were a few items scattered around, like the pieces of the chair I'd broken during my escape and the oil-stained rag that had been stuffed in my mouth. The chains that had held me were gone, though, so my kidnapper had been back to retrieve those, at least.

Ezra's face took on a decidedly dark edge as he scented the air. I knew what he was smelling, because I could smell it, too, though only very faintly because the scents were mine. My fear, my anger. My pain. Those sorts of things don't seem like they would have a scent to them, but werewolves are surprisingly sensitive creatures, especially when they're closely bonded to the person in question.

"He hurt you," Ezra growled, eyes flashing blue as his wolf surged. That my brother was growling didn't trouble me. That his eyes were flashing blue rather gold, however, did.

Most werewolves, myself included, display gold eyes when wolfing out. My brother, though...well, his situation is a little bit different. He and his wolf, while obviously together in the whole package that is Ezra, have a unique sort of separation between them. I'm not sure how it happened, but it's almost like he and his wolf are two separate personalities, two different identities. It hadn't always been that way, but I think something went a little wonky back when Sirena tortured him, and his wolf side sort of became a coexisting identity within my brother rather than simply an extension of his own self. Like a split-personalities-from-trauma sort of thing. In any case, gold eyes means my brother is wolfish but in control. Blue means he's slipping, that his wolf is more in charge.

"And I'm fine now," I assured him, being very careful to keep my voice easygoing and relaxed.

Another growl.

"I'm fine," I repeated emphatically. "Now stop being a Neanderthal and help me find his scent."

Ezra growled a little more, then subsided, his eyes fading from blue to gold, then back to their normal shade. "Sorry," he mumbled after a few seconds of quiet.

"Nothing to be sorry for," I told him, and meant it. "Now, seriously. Help me sniff out this bastard."

We circled around a bit before locating a glove that had been left behind underneath a pile of trash in the corner. We would have completely missed it, if not for the smell coming off it so strongly.

"This reeks," Ezra announced, picking it up by his fingertips and making a face.

"Like three day old roadkill," I agreed, wrinkling my nose.

"Is that anyway to talk about someone's personal effects?" a familiar voice called out from the door. "Keep up with that sort of cruel behavior and I might cry."

We whirled around and I snarled as I saw him standing in the doorway. My kidnapper.

He gave a wide smile and took a couple more steps inside. "Long time no see, Miss Storme," he said, giving a little bow that looked odd on a man so large. "I see you've brought your brother with you. Thank you for that thoughtful consideration. Getting the two of you at once is more than I'd ever hoped for."

"Who are you?" Ezra growled. "Who sent you?"

The plain-looking man gave a careless shrug. "Does it matter?"

"Tell us!" my brother snarled, eyes flashing gold.

The man put up his hands in mock surrender. "Okay, okay, no need to get so feisty." His smile took on a sharp edge. "Your uncle sent me, of course. As for my identity? My name is Patrick Evans, and I will be your executioner tonight."

I pulled out a dagger and made sure to adjust my footing in case he decided to attack suddenly. "You'll have a hard time with killing us, seeing as we can't die."

He gave that indifferent shrug again. "True enough, but the sentiment is the same in the end. As soon as I deliver you to your uncle, you'll be as good as dead. Or just wishing you were," he added.

Ezra didn't bother waiting for him to say anything else. He just hurled a dagger at him. The blade arced through the air, but Patrick Evans dodged to the side, moving more quickly than I would have expected for a man of his size. But Ezra is faster, and he'd already tossed out another dagger, and this one hit home, slamming into Patrick's shoulder with a meaty thud.

The smell that arose from the wound was enough to make me and my brother both gag and retch. Death. The smell was death, like rotting roadkill in the sun and mildew that hasn't seen the light of day. Like a morgue with no refrigeration, or body that's been waiting to be found for far too long. Death and darkness and decomposition.

"Oh my God," I said, my jaw dropping. "You're a revenant."

A revenant, in case you don't know, is an animated corpse that has been, duh, brought back to life. The word itself comes from the Latin reveniens, which means "returning".

Revenants are different from vampires, though, in that they don't drink blood to stay 'alive'. No, a revenant is deader than dead, and is kept 'alive' only through very dark magic. They're not even remotely alive, not in the ways vampires are. They are honestly just a person that's been brought back to life from whatever state of decay they'd been in; Patrick must have only been dead for a few weeks, since he didn't look too terrible, all things considered. But still. Since you couldn't really kill someone who was already very dead, this complicated things considerably.

Ezra and I had only encountered a true revenant once before, years ago in Chicago. Things had, of course, gone completely to shit, and in the end we'd had to resort to literally tearing the sorcerer responsible apart limb from limb to stop the spell.

Since this revenant was evidently under the control of our uncle, that method was not going to cut it. Even negating the fact we'd need to be close enough to our uncle kill him and break his hold on the black magic, our uncle had made himself immortal as well, rendering any attempts to kill him completely moot.

"Oh, this sucks," I said.

Patrick gave another wide smile. "I can't say that I'm thrilled about being dragged back to this crapsack life," he said conversationally, "but there are some perks to being dead and walking."

"Such as?" I asked warily, taking several careful steps backwards, my gaze never leaving him as I watched and waited for him to make a move.

"I don't need to eat," he remarked. "I can if I want to, of course, but it's not quite the same. I can't taste anything," he went on, "and my body can't digest food anymore, so I have to throw it all back up again. Which causes pieces of my throat to slough off and-"

I gagged again. "I get the picture," I choked out.

Patrick tried to take advantage of my momentary opening, but Ezra was ready for him. He moved to intercept Patrick immediately, slamming into him hard enough to send the larger man staggering back despite the large weight and musculature difference. Not that my brother isn't strong; he's a werewolf and certainly not scrawny. But we were up against a revenant the size of Dwayne Johnson, for crying out loud. It was like tackling a mountain.

Still, my brother is strong, and he was clearly feeling pretty pissed off, so he tackled Patrick and the mountain of muscle stumbled back, looking surprised at the force of the impact. But the surprise didn't last long, and he retaliated by picking up my brother and hurling him across the room. The entire room. My brother crashed into the far wall of the warehouse and I bolted for cover, ducking behind a stack of packing crates and pulling out my phone.

I dialed the first number that popped into my brain and prayed that the person on the other end would pick up.

"Are we playing hide and seek?" Patrick asked, sounding amused. "How delightfully childish of you.
"Fuck you," I snarled and then jumped back fast as the boxes I was crouching behind were shoved over on top of me. I managed to avoid getting crushed underneath them, but only barely. And then Patrick was there, coming towards me faster than he should have been able to move.

"You've reached Rebekah," the voicemail message told me. "Please leave a message and-"

I ended the call then hit redial, making a quick sprint for another stack of boxes. "Come on, come on, come on," I muttered as the phone rang again. "Pick up the damn phone."

Patrick gave a great booming laugh and tossed one of the busted shipping crates in my direction. I leapt sideways and crashed into a pile of abandoned ventilation materials. I tried to struggle to my feet, tripped over an air duct, cursed up a storm, then snarled as the call rolled over to voicemail again. This time I left a message. It said "What the hell are you doing that's so important you can't pick up your fucking phone when I'm about to die?!".

A little melodramatic maybe, but that's how I was feeling.

Patrick, meanwhile, was just pursuing me at his own idle pace, not even seeming to be in a particular hurry. It was like he knew he'd get me one way or the other and for now was just enjoying the chase.

I was abruptly and completely so totally done with this. I looked across the warehouse and saw that Ezra had managed to recover enough to stand, and he was wearing a furious expression that no doubt matched my own.

I snarled at Patrick, and let the shift wash over me. I fell forward onto four paws and wasted no time in lunging towards Patrick. My jaws latched onto his forearm rather than his throat when he blocked my attack, and I nearly let go from the terrible taste of dead flesh. But I hung on, distracting him from the real attack.

My brother came up from behind and stabbed his dagger into Patrick's spine without any hesitation whatsoever. Patrick gasped and staggered. Because while a revenant doesn't truly feel pain, a hit to the spine is nothing to sneeze at, even if you're already a dead man. The magic would eventually patch the wounds enough for him to function again, but for now he was going to be out of action.

Or at least, that's what we'd hoped. Somehow, Patrick managed to recover enough strength to dislodge me from his arm and send me sailing through the air to crash into another stack of packing crates. My brother, similarly, was tossed away without remorse; he crashed into a support pillar with a sharp cracking sound that made me wince.

Patrick couldn't stand up straight and was instead hunched over, his face an expression of agony, his eyes mad with anger and rage. "This isn't over," he warned as he backed up unsteadily towards the door. "I'll find the two of you again, and then nothing either of you do will stop me. Just you wait and see." And then he was gone, lurching out the door to God knows where.

I managed to squirm free from the boxes I'd gotten trapped under and quickly padded across the warehouse to check on my brother. I didn't bother changing back to my human shape because honestly I felt more comfortable in my wolfskin for now. In any case, I reached my brother and nosed at him with my snout, giving a low whine of concern.

Ezra said "Ugh" and pulled himself into sitting position, wincing as he stretched his shoulders. "That...really hurt," he said at last, his breathing hitching in his throat from the pain.

I gave another whine and nuzzled against him, trying to offer comfort.

Ezra gave a soft huff of laughter and wrapped his arms around me, ruffling my fur affectionately. "I'll be fine, Z, don't worry." He pulled back a little to look me in the face. "How 'bout you? Everything okay?"

I gave a wolf sneeze and nipped at his chin.

"Alright, alright." He held his hands up. "You're fine, I should worry about my own injuries, I get it."

I gave a wolfy grin and gently tugged on his sleeve with my teeth.

"Time to go home?" he guessed.

I gave a small yip of confirmation and wagged my tail a bit before heading for the door, making sure to avoid the thick dark pungent blood on the ground from where Patrick's wounds had dripped.

Ezra took one last look around the warehouse to make sure we hadn't missed anything crucial, then followed me out. I stayed in wolf shape for the entire two hour walk back to the car. I probably shouldn't have, but there was something about four legs and a long walk that made it really nice. Regrettably, when I changed back to get into the car and drive home, my clothes did not make the shift with me, and I was left standing buck naked in the middle of a random neighborhood.

My brother, of course, found this gut-bustingly hilarious, and laughed his ass off for a good ten minutes while I ducked into the car, overwhelmed by the awkwardness of it all. I considered throttling my twin, but decided that I wouldn't, since that would require me to get out of the car and I was, duh, still naked.

So I shouted at my brother to get his ass back in the car and drive us home; thankfully I'd had the foresight to give him the car keys and my phone had tumbled out of my pocket sometime after my call to Rebekah but before I'd shifted, so neither of those had vanished off to wherever my clothes had gone. Car keys and cell phones suddenly vanishing are the sorts of things that are hard to explain. That had never actually happened to me, but there was a first time for everything and with my streak of bad luck recently I wasn't going to take any chances.

In any case, we made it back to the Mikaelson plantation house soon enough, and my brother parked the car then tugged his jacket off and passed it back to me where I was crouching down in the backseat, taking full advantage of the tinted windows to hide.

"Thanks," I said, then wrapped myself up at best I could. It was a bit like wearing a leather bathrobe, and yes, it was awkward as hell. Ezra went inside the house first, then reported back that everyone else seemed to have either gone to bed already or gone back out. I seized my chance at once, and bolted inside and booked it up the stairs. I had almost made it back to my room, was really only a few steps away, when Elijah appeared out of nowhere, coming out of a room across the hall so suddenly that I nearly crashed into him.

I managed to stop myself from tripping over my own feet, but only barely. "E-Elijah," I stammered. "What...what are doing here? That's not what I meant," I corrected hastily. "I mean, you live here, obviously, in this house. I just, uh-"

"Are you alright?" he asked, looking at me like he wasn't sure whether to laugh or check for injuries.

"Fine!" I said, a little too quickly and a little too loud. "Totally fine," I insisted in a lower voice, nodding firmly and very deliberately trying not to think about the fact I was standing almost-naked just a few feet away from a sinfully handsome vampire. "Really, really fine. Definitely."

He gave me a once-over, taking in my appearance. Which basically consisted of me wearing only a leather jacket that was wrapped a little too tight around my chest and went only to about mid-thigh. And did I mention the leather? And I was starting to sweat, too, which just made ten times more awkward and uncomfortable; I wanted nothing more than to crawl away and hide somewhere.

"Are you...naked?" he asked, his tone of voice some sort of cross between curious and horrified.

"I, uh...No!" I fussed with the lapels of the jacket and crossed my arms in front of my chest. "I'm wearing a jacket, duh." I gave a laugh that was possibly just a few octaves away from hysteria. "Not naked at all, definitely not."

"And...under the jacket?"

Lacking the mental capacity to come up with a plausible lie for why I was wearing only my brother's jacket in the middle of the night, I made a frustrated and panicky flailing motion, then remembered that I was supposed to be holding the jacket shut. I cursed and managed to wrap it around myself before it could totally fly open, and then made a mad dash for the door of my room before I could humiliate myself further. "Bye!" I chirped to Elijah, then slammed the door shut in his face.

A long silence, and then his voice came through the door, sounding puzzled but also amused. "Good night, Zoe."

Chapter Text

"One rarely falls in love without being as much attracted to what is interestingly wrong with someone as what is objectively healthy."

I leaned against the closed door, trying to stop my heart from pounding itself out of my chest. Interacting with Elijah on a day-to-day basis was one thing. Crashing into him in a dangerous state of almost-nakedness was something else entirely. And it was definitely not something I was ready to handle with or think about.

I wasted no time in shucking off Ezra's jacket and pulling on some of my own clothes. I almost got fully dressed, then remembered that it was the dead of night and settled for some pajamas instead. I actually hadn't even owned a pair of pajamas until Ezra and I had moved in with the Mikaelsons but Rebekah had at some point decided to give me some sort of wardrobe makeover. Consequently, new clothing was sort of just appearing in my closet and dresser every now and again, usually with a note attached reading 'Wear this or else. Love, Rebekah'.

This time, it was a set of red silk pajamas. I'm not a huge fan of silk just because the texture is too satiny smooth for my taste and I feel like a fake when I'm wearing it, but even I had to admit that they were pretty nice. So I put them on and crawled into bed, wishing I could go back in time and leave a spare change of clothes in the car so I could have avoided that whole awkward mess.

I did finally manage to fall asleep, and woke up the next morning feeling fairly refreshed. A little sore from the fight with Patrick Evans the revenant, but otherwise fine. I quickly got dressed, throwing on an old Neil Young t-shirt and a pair of jeans, then went downstairs. When I went in search of someone to talk to, I discovered an interesting scene in the living room.

Elijah and Klaus were seated across from each other, pointedly not looking at one another and instead focusing on the books they were reading. Between them on the table was some poor dead woman who was bleeding all over the floor. Rebekah, meanwhile, was standing across the room, arms crossed with a peeved expression on her face.

"So, this is what you do the first time we're back together as a family?" Rebekah was saying to her brothers, looking thoroughly annoyed. "Vampire book club?"

Klaus didn't look up from his book. "Reading edifies the mind, sister. Isn't that right, Elijah?"

Elijah, likewise, didn't look away from his reading. "Yes, that's quite right, Niklaus."

Rebekah made a sound of exasperation. "And what's this business?" she demanded, waving a hand at the dead girl.

"This is a..." Elijah hesitated as he searched for the right word then waved a hand dismissively. "...peace offering."

Klaus gave a slight sigh. "I presumed, after so much time desiccating in a coffin, that my big brother might be a bit peckish."

"And I explained to my little brother" Ezra countered in annoyance, "that forgiveness cannot be bought. I'd simply prefer to see a change in behavior that indicates contrition and personal growth."

Klaus rolled his eyes, but I couldn't help but notice the slight hint of guilt haunting his face.

"Not this nonsense," Elijah concluded, waving again at the dead body.

Klaus gave a sudden grin. "Well, I couldn't very well let her go to waste, could I? "

Rebekah looked like she was one short step away from throttling them both. "Well, I suppose I'll go fetch the rubbish bin, because she's staining a two hundred-year-old carpet."

Elijah blinked, then glanced down at the rug where the girl's blood has been dripping off the table. "Ah, yes."

Rebekah threw her hands up in the air. "Ugh, you two are unbelievable. Zoe, can you come help me find some cleaning supplies?"

I gave a little jump, startled that she'd noticed me lurking in the doorway. "Uh, yeah, sure." I crossed the room to follow after her, giving the dead body a wide berth.

"We'll need to get a trash can first, I suppose," Rebekah said after a moment, and we changed course to go outside and get one.

I wasn't sure how I felt about stuffing some poor dead woman into a trash can, but I was hardly going to say so out-loud. At least not yet. So I just bit my tongue and followed Rebekah.

"Grab those bags, will you?" she said, pointing to the plastic bags sitting on the shelf near the row of trashcans.

"No problem," I replied, snatching them up as Rebekah started dragging a trashcan back towards the house.

"So," Rebekah said as we trudged back, "I hear you came home in a state of moderate undress last night."

I tripped over a gopher hole and nearly face-planted into the lawn. "Wh-what?" I stammered, managing to regain my footing. "How did you-"

"Oh, please." She snorted. "Elijah mentioned it to me this morning when I came down. He asked if I knew who you were seeing and if it would be a risk to our plans." She shook her head. "Honestly, I never would have guessed you were seeing someone; I'm not sure when you have the time."

I flushed bright red. "I-I'm not seeing anyone," I told her.

She made a disbelieving sound. "Single women don't come home without their clothes, Zoe."

She had a point there, so I struggled to come up with a good cover story. Telling her that I was a wolf-witch hybrid whose clothes sometimes vanished when I shifted back into human form was clearly not the right answer here. Figuring that a hook-up was obviously the best explanation since everyone seemed to think so already, I decided what the hell. "It was just some guy I met at a bar," I lied. "I met him when Ezra and I first got into town and we exchanged numbers and stuff in case we ever wanted to hook up." I shrugged, trying to play the part well. "He seemed like a nice enough guy, and I was feeling lonely last night after Ezra and I wrapped up our search so I went to meet up with him."

Rebekah raised her eyebrows expectantly. "And? Did you two have a fabulous time knocking boots?"

I wrinkled my nose. "No. He turned out to be an asshole. Wanted...well, he wanted me to do shit I wasn't comfortable with." I actually had had a boyfriend like that once, years and years ago, so I drew on that experience to get my tone of voice right. "And when I said no, he got really pushy."

"Did he force himself on you?" Rebekah demanded, dropping the trashcan and whirling to face me. "Because if so I will hunt him down and-"

"No, no, it's fine," I assured her hastily. "I kicked him in the nads and called my brother to come pick me up. He was actually hanging out just down the street and made it to me in record time. Anyway, I was in such a hurry to get the hell out of there I didn't bother to get my stuff, so I just left and borrowed Ezra's jacket to cover me til we got back here." I shrugged again. "It's really not much of a story," I said apologetically.

She narrowed her eyes at me. "You promise he didn't hurt you?"

"I promise," I said, feeling guilty because I was lying to my vampire friend about an imaginary asshole and she believed me. I knew that if I ever had to tell her the truth she likely wouldn't be upset for very long, but still. It didn't sit well with me.

But Rebekah was ignorant of my inner turmoil so after another few moments of thought, she nodded. "Alright. I won't track him down and gut him. Now, let's go get rid of that body and scrub up the blood, shall we?"

I managed a weak smile. "Yeah, okay."

We traipsed back to the house, coming in through the side door in the kitchen.

"Listen," Hayley was saying to Elijah, who had apparently abandoned his book in favor of the werewolf girl's company, "I know I'm the only one in this house that actually drinks milk, but would it kill any of you to make sure it's on the grocery list?"

"Speaking of," Rebekah chimed in as we passed through the kitchen on our way back to the living room, "add bleach."

"And carpet powder," I added. "And maybe some incense to cover the smell?" I frowned as I trailed after Rebekah and got another look at the body, and the massive bloodstain on the heirloom rub. "Then again," I said doubtfully, "maybe we should just trash it all and be done with it."

The vampire crossed her arms and pursed her lips, surveying the situation with an aggravated expression. "My God," she grumbled, "What a disaster."

"The carpet?" I asked, "Or your family?"

She rolled her eyes. "The two aren't mutually exclusive." She heaved a sigh. "Here, help me lift the body. We'll carry it outside for now."

"And put it where?" I demanded, but went to pick up the woman's feet even as I objected.

"We'll toss it in the garden shed for now," Rebekah said, grabbing the other end of the body. "We can go bury it somewhere else once the sun goes down."

I wanted to point out that leaving a dead body in the garden shed for an entire day wasn't really such a grand idea, but figured she'd do it with or without me and at least this way I could make myself useful and stay in the loop.

We passed through the kitchen again on our way out, and of course Rebekah couldn't help but pitch in her two cents into Hayley and Elijah's conversation.

"I am all for it," the blonde Original said as we overhead Elijah remarking that something would need to be done about the witches. "As soon as they're unlinked," she added, referring to the spell that was still conecting Hayley and Sophie, "we get to leave this crap town. Who do we have to kill?"

Elijah seemed to consider this for a moment. "Probably no one," he said at last.

Rebekah snorted and continued dragging the body outside, nodding at me to grab a tarp that was sitting on top of a nearby table. Hayley, meanwhile, was giving Elijah a look of significant disbelief.

"Alright," Elijah amended, "potentially everyone."

I couldn't help it, I gave a small snort of laughter. Before I could actually get dragged into the conversation, though, I grabbed up the tarp Rebekah had wanted, made a vague flailing gesture to encompass our whole situation in general, and headed for the door.

I found Rebekah, sure enough, at the gardening shed. She was casually inspecting the inside, making sure there was enough room for the body. "We can put it behind those stacks of fertilizer," she said as I came over with the tarp. "Here, give me that."

I handed it over without objection, and she wasted no time in spreading it out on the ground and rolling up the body in it. "Shouldn't we put her somewhere she'll be found?" I couldn't help but say. "I mean, people are going to notice she's missing. Friends, family. Don't they deserve some closure?"

Rebekah rolled her eyes at me as she tied the tarp shut. "Honestly, Zoe, don't tell me you're soft-hearted about necessary deaths."

"It was hardly necessary," I argued. "She died because Klaus wanted to share a snack with Elijah in an attempt to bribe him for forgiveness."

Rebekah shrugged. "Well, these things happen. Look," she went on, seeing the look on my face, "I am sorry about the girl, but it's not like I can ride herd on my brothers. I'm the baby of the family, remember? And the only girl left. They don't listen to me."

I grumbled some more, but in the end I knew she had a point. And it's not like my bitching was going to bring the girl back to life.

Back to life. I shuddered as the thought of dead bodies returning to life reminded me of Patrick Evans. I made a mental note to track down his personal information at the next opportunity, as well as look up ways to deal with revenants without killing the warlock behind them.

In any case, we managed to finish wrapping up the body in the tarp and stuffed it very unceremoniously behind a stack of fertilizer and potting soil. I felt guilty, leaving the poor girl crammed away like garbage, but short of taking her somewhere remote and burying her myself, there wasn't much I could do.

"We'll take the body out to the bayou tonight, maybe," Rebekah said as we headed back to the house. "People get lost and go missing there all the time, so even if someone does eventually find the body they'll just think it was a nature hike gone wrong."

"Assuming she's decayed enough for the fang marks to no longer be visible," I muttered.

Rebekah shrugged. "We can mask the bite marks," she said dismissively. "For now, let's focus on the rug."

I sighed and followed after Rebekah as we rummaged around in the cabinets below the sink in search of cleaning supplies. In the end, we managed to find some sort of carpet shampoo and decided to go for it. I tugged on some bright pink rubber gloves while Rebekah put on a matching pair in yellow. Together we knelt down and went to work on the bloodstains.

Ezra rolled out of bed feeling like someone had dropped a house on him.

After he and Zoe had gotten in last night, he'd gone almost immediately to bed. He'd been beaten to hell from the fight with the revenant and exhausted in general. But despite the hours of sleep he'd gotten, he didn't feel particularly rested.

His body was a collection of aches and pains, and the ribs he'd cracked during the fight hadn't healed even halfway. He rubbed his face tiredly as he went over to the vanity mirror hanging above his dresser. He scowled as he saw the shadow of a bruise along one side of his jaw; it was annoying, he had to admit, and painful, but not surprising.

The revenant Patrick Evans had been ridiculously strong for a dead man walking, and his punches had felt like hits from a sledgehammer. And Evans had been quick for his size, too, more agile than Ezra had been expecting. And he'd been aggravatingly resilient. Ezra had needed to stab through the other man's spine just to get him to break off the fight. The attack had succeeded, of course, because even a dead guy with regenerative powers can't fight with spinal damage, but even getting that much of an edge over the revenant had been much harder than Ezra had anticipated.

He ran a hand through his messy hair and flipped off his reflection in the mirror, disliking how battered he looked. Shaking his head in disgust, he went over toe the closet and pulled out a fresh change of clothes. He took a quick shower and was just slipping into his clothes when a knock came on his door. Frowning, he shrugged into his shirt and went over to open it.

To his immense surprise, Klaus was standing in the hall.

Ezra eyed him warily. "Can I help you?" he asked cautiously.

"Not at the moment," Klaus replied. "But I can help you."

Ezra felt his eyebrows rise. "Help me?" he repeated disbelievingly. "With what?"

"Well," Klaus remarked, "I couldn't help but notice you and your sister's arrival last night. She certainly looked scandalous, bolting into the house half-nude like that."

Ezra had an immediate urge to lunge at the hybrid and tear his throat out, but refrained, reminding himself that Klaus was probably not starting this conversation just to drive Ezra up the wall. Although with Klaus it was sort of hard to tell. "And?"

"Well, after the shock of seeing your twin in such spare garments wore off-"

Ezra bit down hard on his tongue to stop the growl growing in his throat from rumbling out.

"-it occurred to me that the two of you left to go looking for her attacker. So, how exactly did you two transition from hunting to date night? For that matter, did you find any leads on the attacker? Or did the two of you just bumble about until you were too bored to continue?"

Ezra's fury subsided as he realized what Klaus was doing. He was, in his own roundabout aggravating way, asking how their search had gone. He'd couched it in his usual jerkass behavior, but after a moment of careful assessment Ezra concluded that the sincerity at the heart of Klaus's questions was...well, sincere.

Huh. Who'd have thought.

"It went well enough," Ezra said carefully, knowing he needed to proceed with caution so as to not reveal too much about his and Zoe's true natures. "As we considered before, the would-be kidnapper was sent by our uncle; his assignment is to capture us and return us to our uncle."

"Whereupon he will shower you with affection and familial joyousness," Klaus drawled, rolling his eyes. "I trust you took care of him."

"Well...that's where things took a turn for the complicated."

Klaus narrowed his eyes. "How so?"

Ezra sighed, running a hand through his hair nervously before gesturing for Klaus to come into his room. "How much do you know about revenants?" he asked the Original, going over to his laptop to pull up the information he'd saved.

"I know that vampires are generally considered to be revenants," Klaus said after a moment, coming in and elbowing the door shut behind him. He frowned. "Is your sister's attacker a vampire?"

Ezra shook his head. "Not quite." He clicked open some files. "Here, look." He pointed to the screen. "Revenants are similar to vampires, in that both groups are no longer alive in the traditional sense."

"But revenants have already experienced death," Klaus continued, looking closely at the information on the screen. "And they've been brought back from beyond."

"With magic," Ezra confirmed. "Very, very dark magic."

"My mother was a dark practitioner," Klaus murmured, leaning around Ezra to scroll down the page. "It's possible the spell she used to make us vampires is similar to the magic used to revive the dead and turn them into revenants."

Ezra shrugged; the distinctions between certain spells and the different types of magic was more Zoe's speed than his. "It's possible," he said noncommittally. "In any case, the guy who grabbed Zoe is, or was, named Patrick Evans. I haven't found out much, but I did find an obituary from about two weeks ago." He tapped a few keys on the laptop and another page popped up. "See? He's been dead already for a while, but someone brought him back. Zoe and I are assuming the sorcerer responsible is our uncle; Evans said our uncle 'hired' him, and he reeked of the sort of bad magic our uncle is proficient at."

"How does one dispose of a revenant?" Klaus asked, straightening up and fixing Ezra in his sharp gaze. "I assume you could not eliminate Patrick Evans last night, which is why you're standing there looking like roadkill."

Ezra glared at him. "I do not look like roadkill."

"Perhaps not road kill," Klaus allowed. "But you do look very grim."

Ezra heaved a sigh, too tired to be overly annoyed with the hybrid's harassment. "It's almost impossible to truly 'kill' a revenant in the traditional sense," he said at last. "They're already dead, after all. The only effectvie way Zoe and I discovered is to eliminate the sorcerer responsible for the spell. Their death causes the revival magic to unravel."

"Wonderful," Klau said. "We'll just kill your uncle, then."

Ezra shook his head. "'Fraid that's not gonna work."

"And why not?" Klaus asked, his tone indicating that he was getting tired of this line of conversation.

"Because," Ezra said patiently, not intimidated by Klaus's dark glower, "Our uncle is immortal, same as me and Zoe. Nothing short of a tactical warhead is going to take him out, and it's better to not even try."

"He's just one man," Klaus scoffed.

"He's immortal," Ezra repeated firmly. "Besides, he has whole legions of devoted lackeys ready to jump at his call. They're very determined, and not to be trifled with." He rubbed at his chest, trying and failing to shunt aside painful memories of his time with Sirena and the aftermath.

Klaus gaze him a shrewd look, but didn't remark on his odd behavior. "Have it your way," he said at last. "If you think we can't take him out, then we'll not pursue that course of action any further for the time being." He glanced back at the laptop screen. "Patrick Evans, you said?"

"Yeah." Ezra shook his head. "From what I managed to find out, he was some sort of special ops guy once; Rangers or Recon or something like that. Then he was a merc for a bit, and then he was dead."

"And now he's still dead, but causing us trouble." Klaus spread his arms dramatically. "What an exciting world we live in!"

Ezra snorted. "Look," he said, "did you need something, or did you really just come to check up on me?"

Klaus wrinkled his nose. "As a matter of fact," he admitted, "I was hoping you could do one small favor for me."

Typical. Ezra rolled his eyes. "What is it?"

"Elijah needs me to accompany him on a trip to see Davina; as a result, I won't be available to protect Hayley until our errand is completed. And Zoe seems to have plans for searching out the person behind the murder of the motel clerk, so she's unavailable as well. Therefore, I was hoping you would help Rebekah keep an eye on her for me while I'm away."

Ezra blinked in surprise. "You want me to help your sister babysit Hayley?" he asked skeptically.


Ezra stared at him. "Seriously? Do you not remember how terrible we were at it last time?" He mimed firing a crossbow with his hands. "Rebekah and I were knocked down dead with poisoned arrows and Hayley was snatched right out from under us. And you're trusting us to look after her again?"

Klaus pursed his lips. "It's not like I have a wide selection of bodyguards to choose from," he replied testily. "Besides, you'll be secure here in the manor; I doubt anyone would be foolish enough to attack us here, even if they did manage to work out our location."

Ezra mulled it over, but in the end there wasn't much for him to argue with; he'd been planning to just stay here for the day anyway, to recover his strength and regroup from the fight with Evans yesterday. "Alright," he agreed at last. "I'll hang here with the girls. Just in case."

"Just in case," Klaus echoed with a faint smirk before turning and leaving the room.

Chapter Text

"Mysteries of attraction could not always be explained through logic. Sometimes the fractures in two separate souls became the very hinges that held them together."

Ezra spent the majority day lounging around in the living room with Hayley, watching re-runs of General Hospital and eating cheddar popcorn until his inner wolf whined in protest. Rebekah spent half her time with them on the couch, complaining about all the stupid love triangles on the soap opera and the other half of the time wandering around the house while on the phone with Zoe, who seemed to be running into multiple dead-ends on her investigation into the murdered motel clerk.

After the conclusion of their latest soap opera binge, Hayley went up to her room and Rebekah slanted her phone so that Ezra could see the screen. "Your sister's coming home," she informed him, just in case he couldn't see the message. "She should be here in a little while."

He read the message again just to double-check, then smiled. The message itself was textbook Zoe, her snarky frustration coming across loud and clear even in simple text; he found himself feeling happy that she was on her way back, but also guilty about feeling happy, because she'd been looking into a murder that was important to her. His inner wolf, unsure what to make of those conflicting feelings, settled for giving a growling grumble before drifting back down into the shadowed recesses of his soul.

Just as he was about to open his mouth to thank Rebekah for letting him know, they heard a shout come from upstairs.

"Hayley!" Rebekah exclaimed in alarm, zooming off before Ezra could react.

He quickly followed suit, though, drawing on his wolf to give himself a boost in speed. He rushed up the stairs and down the hall just in time to hear Rebekah ask Hayley what was wrong.

"Hell if I know," the werewolf responded, looking at the drops of blood on her fingers from a wound on her neck that was already healed. "It felt like I was being stabbed."

The three of them exchanged oh-crap looks as the implications of that sunk in.

"Something must have happened to Sophie," Ezra said after a moment of tense silence.

"But what?" Rebekah asked. "If it were something fatal, Hayley would already be dead!"

"And it's not like Sophie would do anything to endanger me," Hayley interjected. "Me and my baby are her only leverage, she wouldn't risk something happening to us."

"Which means someone else must have done something to Sophie," Rebekah concluded. "And it transferred through the bond to Hayley."

"But why harm Sophie to begin with?" Ezra wondered. "And was Sophie their real target, or do they know about the link between her and Hayley?"

"Well, to figure that out, we'll need to know who 'they' are," Rebekah remarked. "Any ideas?"

I frowned as my phone vibrated in my pocket as I waited for the stoplight to turn green. Expecting it to be Rebekah again, I was surprised to discover that it was one of the contacts I'd enlisted to help me track down whatever asshole had murdered that motel clerk. It was, of course, someone in the know, supernaturally speaking. And this contact, a rookie at a local police precinct, had just sent me a suggestion to look into the local witch coven. They were, according to his sources, very dangerous and in possession of some very dangerous artifacts.

I texted him back a quick thanks, and scrolled through my contacts for Sophie's number. I called it, and scowled when it rolled straight to voice mail. Annoyed, I tried dialing again, but got the same away-from-the-phone-right-now message. Cursing, I left a message for Sophie to call me back as soon as possible, then scrolled through my contacts again. I didn't get far, though, because my search was interrupted by an incoming call.

Niklaus Mikaelson flashed across my caller ID screen and I stared at my phone in surprise. I sat there staring at it so long, in fact, that I completely missed the light turning green and got honked to hell and back by the cars idling behind me. Giving a quick flail of surprise, I waved an apology at them, and quickly sped through the intersection, pulling over to the side of the road as soon I could without causing an accident.

I flipped my phone open after no small amount of hesitation, wondering why on earth Klaus was calling me. "Uh, hi?"

"Where are you?" the Original asked sharply, sparing not even half a second on pleasantries.


"Are you anywhere near Rousseau's?"

I glanced out my windshield and, lo and behold, what d'you know, I was three blocks away. "Yeah, actually. I'm just down the street. Um...why?"

"Because I need you to come and pick up Elijah and myself. And be quick about it." With that, he hung up, the phone connection going dead.

"Son of a bitch," I grumbled, tossing my phone into the cup-holder as I pulled back out onto the road. "What the hell am I, your damn chauffeur?" But I zoomed down the street anyway, and pulled up outside the bar just a few minutes later.

Before I even had time to honk my horn, they were there, slipping into the backseat. I was not thrilled with having two Originals in the backseat where I couldn't really keep an eye on them, but managed to stifle my knee-jerk reaction enough so as to not show my discomfort in any visible way.

"Hey, guys," I said, trying to sound casual. "How's your evening going?"

"We need to find Sophie Deveraux," Elijah said without preamble. "Immediately."

I glanced at him in the rearview mirror. "Why?"

"Because she's been kidnapped," Klaus replied.

"Jesus," I muttered. "What is it, catching?" I shook my head. "Everyone's getting snatched up these days."

"Less commentary, more driving, please, thank you," Elijah said curtly.

I managed to refrain from snapping at him, but only barely. Needless to say, the drive would be a tense one, and I was not looking forward to it.

"Help me carry this?"

Ezra looked up from the comic he was reading to find Rebekah standing at the end of the couch, a basket of apples propped on each hip. "What are you doing with all of those?"

She rolled her eyes at him. "Isn't it obvious? They're apples. You eat them."

"Not a whole basket at once," he countered in a dry tone, setting aside his comic. "Here, give me that."

She handed over one of the baskets. "Put those in the kitchen for me?"

"Sure thing," he said easily. "What about the rest?" he called over his shoulder as he obediently went and set the apples on the kitchen table.

"I was thinking we could take some up to Hayley," she called back. " I don't think she's eaten anything since breakfast, and...well, she is pregnant. You're supposed to eat more when you're pregnant, right?"

He left the kitchen to find Rebekah waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. "I really wouldn't know," he replied, giving a crooked smile. "I'm pretty sure I've never been and will never be pregnant, so I've got nothing personal to offer on that front."

She gave a cute little snort and smacked him on the arm with her free hand. "You're terrible."

He chuckled before he remembered that he was trying to not be too friendly with these vampires, and was rewarded with a warm smile that lit up Rebekah's entire face. "You should smile more often," he said before he could stop himself. "It's a good look on you."

Her lips formed an O of surprise and she looked at him oddly for a moment. "Thank you," she said after a moment of awkward silence. "That's...very kind of you to say."

"It's just the truth," he mumbled, giving a shrug that he hoped came off as careless. He could feel his cheeks warming up a little, and had an uncomfortable suspicion that if he caught a glimpse of his reflection right now he'd be blushing ever so slightly. He gave a short cough. "Let's get those apples to Hayley, shall we?"

Rebekah nodded a little too hastily and began ascending the stairs with elegant fluid steps. Ezra trailed after her, mentally kicking himself for being a socially incompetent goober.

"Time for the demon spawn to snack!" Rebekah declared as she flounced in Hayley's room.

"I really wish you wouldn't call her that," Hayley said, laughing.

"Oh, sorry, have you picked another name yet?" Rebekah held out the basket of apples. "Take one, the plantation's lousy with them."

"I feel fine," Hayley told them as she picked out an apple and looked at it. "Which is weird. I'm sure it's Sophie-related," she added. Clearly, she realized that they were worried about her well-being after that strange moment earlier in the day.

"Then, do me a favor, and don't die on my watch," Rebekah replied. "I'll never hear the end of it."

Ezra snorted. "That's an understatement; your brother will butcher us both."

Hayley gave a hesitant smile before turning back to Rebekah. "You know, when I first met you, I thought you were a real bitch."

Ezra decided not to pitch in with how he'd thought so too, opting instead to just hover in the doorway without really joining in on the conversation.

Rebekah, meanwhile, smiled at Hayley's comment. "What changed your mind?" she asked curiously.

"Oh, I still think you're a bitch!" Hayley responded, laughing. "I've just grown to like that about you."

Rebekah chuckled. "Aw, well, that's sweet of you to say." Her smile faltered and her expression turned more serious. "Remember it when I'm gone."

Ezra looked up sharply at her tone of voice, but before he could ask what exactly he meant by that Hayley beat him to it.

"Gone?" Hayley repeated, looking confused. "Where are you going?"

"I only came to town to make sure everything was okay with Elijah," she reminded them. "He's fine, and he hasn't punished Klaus for daggering him, so... as usual, they'll be thick as thieves, and I'll be left to clean up the mess." She sighed. "It's time for me to fly the coop."

"Oh..." was all Hayley said, looking disappointed.

Ezra, likewise, felt a pang in his chest at the thought of Rebekah not being around anymore; he didn't know where the intensity of the feeling came from, but he didn't like it. The last time he'd felt stirrings of emotion for a woman he'd been carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

An awkward silence descended upon the room, and Hayley fidgeted with the apple in her hands before moving to take a bite. Before she could, however, she made an odd face, looking sick.

"What's wrong?" Rebekah asked with a frown.

"I dunno," Hayley said uncertainly. "Probably morning sickness?"

Rebekah and Ezra exchanged worried looks, and Rebekah placed a gentle hand against Hayley's forehead. "Oh, you're burning up, actually," she murmured worriedly.

Ezra shifted uneasily; something about this felt really not right. His skin had started tingling like he had the beginnings of a sunburn; it was a feeling he recognized, albeit faintly, from a handful of times someone had cast magic around him that he instinctively didn't like. He recalled the stabbing sensation Hayley had claimed to have felt earlier, and his unease grew. "Something's wrong," he said in a low voice. "We need to call your brothers," he said to Rebekah. "They need to know about this."

But Rebekah shook her head. "I tried calling them earlier to get an update on how things were going with Davina, but they have their phones turned off."

Ezra cursed angrily. "Of course they do."

"If you were a group of zealot witches, where would you take another witch you'd kidnapped?"

I scowled at Klaus in the rearview mirror. "Are you seriously asking me that like I should have an answer?"

"You're a witch, aren't you?"

My scowl deepened. "Not like these ones. I think we've firmly established that they're all bat-shit nuts." I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel as we waited for a snail-slow tour bus to trundle through the intersection we were waiting at. "I could try and do a locator spell," I said with no small amount of trepidation, "but I doubt it would do much good. Not only would Davina most likely sense it, there's no guarantee I'd be able to pinpoint Sophie's location; the other witches likely have some sort of shielding in place to prevent exactly that."

"Which leaves us with more traditional methods of searching," Klaus concluded. "Any ideas?"

"What places in the area hold significant value to the witches?" Elijah asked. "Is there anywhere that their coven associates strongly with?"

"Lafayette cemetery," I said immediately. "When Rebekah and I went with Sophie to do a locator spell for you that's where she took us. And it's where a lot of their ancestors are laid to rest. "

"So it's a place of importance to them," Elijah surmised. "Very well, we'll try there first."

We found Sophie in the mausoleum, chained up like a prisoner. The two vampires wasted no time in freeing her from the bonds and I quickly scoped out the area to make sure no one else was lurking around. "What happened?" I asked Sophie once I was done checking the perimeter.

"Agnes stabbed me with a needle," the witch groaned.

"A needle?" I echoed.

"Our coven has some cursed objects that were created a long time ago," she said in explanation. "We use them so we don't get busted by Marcel for doing magic. The one she used is called the Needle of Sorrows," she went on. "It was cursed in 1860 when..."

Klaus cut her off sharply. "Jump ahead a few decades," he said impatiently, "and tell us what it does, love?"

"It has only one purpose," Sophie told them. "To kill a child in utero by raising her blood temperature."

My legs gave out from underneath me and my knees cracked into the stone floor of the masuoleum with a painful thud. "Oh my God."

"It's for a miscarriage," Elijah said, looking horrified. Klaus, likewise, looked equal parts stunned and furious, with more than a little panic mixed in.

Sophie nodded weakly. "Yeah."

"How much time do we have to fix this?" Elijah demanded.

"It will do what it's meant to by tonight's high tide. And believe me," she added, "it will work. I saw her use a similar object on a kid who went mad and killed a bunch of priests."

Klaus's expression turned from furious to downright murderous. "I'd like to have a chat with this Agnes," he said. "Where can I find her?"

"You won't," Sophie said, shaking her head. "There are a thousand places she could hole up to wait it out."

"I could try a locator spell," I offered again uncertainly as I managed to scramble back to my feet. I didn't want to use my magic, but if Hayley and her baby were at risk...

"It might not get us there in time," Elijah said dismissively, shaking his head before turning back to Sophie. "This sort of situation is precisely why we need to unlink you from Hayley. No more danger toward her or the child."

"No, what?" Sophie shook her head. "If I am not linked to Hayley, I lose my leverage on you. We had a deal!"

I had to actually take a few steps back, the fury radiating off of Elijah was so great; my wolf side prowled under my skin nervously, not liking the threat this angry Elijah posed.

"We are not on the same side, Sophie Deveraux," Elijah said, eyes flashing with dark anger. "Our deal no longer stands!"

We left the cemetery as quickly as we'd come, piling Sophie into the backseat with Elijah while Klaus rode up front with me.

"I need you to drop me off somewhere on your way back to the manor," the hybrid said as we pulled out of the cemetery parking lot with a screech of tires.

"This is hardly the time for a midnight snack run," I snapped.

"Drop me off at St. Ann's," Klaus ordered, his tone very much do-this-or-die.

I cursed under my breath, but did as he asked. "What's at the church that can help us now?" I asked him, glancing into the backseat briefly to check on Elijah and Sophie, who were glaring at each other like blows were about to be exchanged.

"If my sources are correct, there will be a group meeting there called the Faction."

I blinked in surprise; I may never have been to the Big Easy before, but even I had heard of the Faction. "They're in charge of keeping the balance in the city, right? They keep an eye on all the supernatural crap and make sure nothing gets too extreme."

"Exactly so," Klaus agreed. "I'm hoping I can persuade them to help me locate Agnes before it's too late. Turn left here," he added as we approached the right street.

"I know where to go," I grumbled, but turned obediently.

Klaus wasted no time in vacating the car the second we rolled up to the church. "Get back to Hayley," was all he said before going inside.

I glanced back at Elijah and Sophie once more before pulling back out onto the street and punching down on the gas pedal. Time was clearly a factor here, and speed limits were the least of my concerns right now.

Ezra paced nervously as Rebekah sat with Hayley, whose condition had been growing steadily worse the more time passed.

His phone vibrated suddenly with an incoming text from Zoe. Or rather, Elijah using Zoe's phone because his sister was driving like a demon and couldn't be distracted. "Elijah will be here any minute," he told the werewolf girl once he'd read the message. "They're breaking all the traffic laws known to man and will be here in record time." He chewed his lip anxiously. "How are you doing?"

"I feel like I've been microwaved," Hayley groaned.

Rebekah dabbed some sweat off of Hayley's brow with a cool washcloth. "Hey! Just because you're carrying a baby doesn't mean you get to act like one! I'm sure my little niece is healing you up as we speak," she added, putting as much reassurance into her tone as she could manage.

Just then Elijah ran into the room. Rebekah stood up to greet him, then froze as she saw Sophie come in right behind him.

"What the hell is she doing here?" Rebekah demanded.

Sophie sighed. "I'm trying to help."

"Help?" Rebekah repeated incredulously. "You're the reason we're in this bloody mess!" She whirled on her brother. "Why aren't we unlinked with this witch already, Elijah?"

"Because Davina hasn't mastered the spell yet," Zoe said as she joined them. "Elijah gave her the spell for the unlinking, but I guess she hasn't nailed it yet, because otherwise this would all be a non-issue."

"Look," Sophie said, "let me try to do something, at least."

Rebekah did not look even remotely agreeable to the idea.

Elijah looked at his sister plaintively. "Rebekah, let her do what she can."

"I may know a way to slow the fever down," Sophie explained. "But I'm gonna need some special herbs. I'll text you a list, and you and Zoe can go get what I need."

"Zoe stays here," Elijah countered immediately. "I need another witch on hand who can sense when the link between you and Hayley has been lifted."

Sophie pursed her lips, like she didn't like the thought of that, but nodded. "Fine, just Rebekah then." She turned to the blonde vampire. "Everything you need to get should be at Jardin Gris. If you get going now you can get everything and be back before they shut the streets down."

Rebekah scowled, like she didn't like taking orders from the upstart witch who'd started all the trouble, but Elijah's nod of encouragement seemed to convince her to play along, at least for now. "Fine," she said with an overly bright smile. "Happy to play the fetch girl." She shoved the damp washcloth into Elijah's chest before she headed for the door, pausing only to glance at Ezra. "You coming?" she asked.

He stared at her stupidly for a minute before answering. "Uh, yeah." He grabbed up his jacket. "Yeah, definitely."

Chapter Text

"And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness."

Ezra rummaged through a box full of different witchcraft odds and ends as Rebekah sorted through an assortment of jars of herbs.

"We have the yarrow and the elderberry flowers," Ezra said, digging through the box and coming up empty. "Dammit, I can't find any peppermint. Or camphor. How about you?"

"Nothing yet," she replied, sliding aside several jars she didn't need.

He cursed, kicking the box aside and moving on to a milk crate containing small paper-wrapped packages tied with string. He sniffed at a few of them, then sneezed when one such sniff sent a sharp jolt of a distinctive aroma straight up his nose. "Found the peppermint leaves," he called out, tucking the little package into his pocket.

"Great," Rebekah said, sounding pleased. "Just one more ingredient and we can leave."

Ezra opened his mouth to say something, but before he could get more than a couple syllables out, his wolf surged up with a massive snarl. Enemy, the wolf growled. Behind.

What? Ezra's heart jumped in his chest as he realized that all the scents of the shop had prevented him from noticing someone approaching and entering the shop while he and Rebekah were preoccupied.

"Isn't this Katie's shop?" a smooth voice asked.

Ezra turned and narrowed his eyes at the newcomer. "Marcel," he said by way of greeting. "What are you doing here?"

"Exactly what I was going to ask the two of you," the vampire remarked, answering Ezra but never looking away from Rebekah. "So, did Katie leave you the keys in her will, or maybe it's just Help-Yourself Tuesday?"

Rebekah said nothing, and Ezra decided to follow her lead and keep quiet.

But Marcel wouldn't take the hint. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"You know," Rebekah said, her voice too sweet to be anything other than poisonous, "I read if you mix mugwort with sage, you've got quite a vampire-repellent? Wards off even the most resilient pest." She flashed him a bright smile that promised painful things. "Why are you here?"

Marcel gave an expressive shrug. "Just keeping my city safe from thieves and vandals. But," he added, "every time I turn around, I catch an Original with their hand in the cookie jar!"

Rebekah snorted. "Well, luckily for you, your 'cookies' are the last thing on my mind."

"Oh, I can see that!" Marcel replied, walking towards her."Though, I can think of a time when things were different."

"Maybe once," Rebekah remarked. "Not anymore."

Ezra shifted from foot to foot, suddenly uneasy with the atmosphere in the room. There was history between Rebekah and Marcel; he could feel it in the air between them. It made his wolf uncomfortable, too; his wolf wanted to step in between them, keep Marcel away from Rebekah. Ezra couldn't understand the impulse, but with any luck he and Rebekah could extract themselves from this situation before his wolf forced him to act on it.

Thankfully, the next words out of Rebekah's mouth were: "Camphor, found it!"

"Thank God," Ezra murmured.

"Let's hurry and get back," Rebekah said, and then she was on her way out the door, brushing past Marcel without a backward glance.

Ezra quickly slipped out after her, watching Marcel warily out of the corner of his eye just in case the vampire tried something. But Marcel didn't pursue them, just watched them go, looking equal parts confused and suspicious.

I was pacing anxiously back and forth along the edge of the pool as Hayley huddled nearby, wrapped in a towel, shivering. My twin brother was helping Elijah and Sophie with the herbs while Rebekah sat with Hayley.

"Her fever's getting worse," Rebekah said worriedly. "How close are you with those herbs?"

"Just about done," Sophie replied.

Elijah left Ezra and Sophie and came over to Hayley, touching her forehead gently. "She's burning up!" he exclaimed, and proceeded to shrug out of his jacket and roll up his sleeves. "We need to do this now." Without further ado, he jumped into the pool, then turned to help Hayley in, with some assistance from Ezra who braced her from behind just in case she had another dizzy spell.

"I don't see how a midnight swim is supposed to help," Rebekah said, looking frustrated.

"Her temperature is sky-high," Sophie said, bringing the cup of herbs with her as she joined the other two in the pool. "The water, with the help of the herbs, should cool us down." She approached Hayley and handed her the cup. "Drink this."

Hayley sipped at it obediently, making a face at the taste but voicing no complaints.

"You're going to have to get her heart rate down," Sophie added, looking over at Elijah.

"How do you suggest I do that?" Elijah asked.

"Hold her," Sophie replied, her tone matter-of-fact. "It's a natural human remedy to slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure."

"This is never gonna work," Rebekah said worriedly.

"We don't know that," Ezra murmured, brushing a hand lightly across her shoulders in a comforting gesture I wouldn't have expected my brother to give to anyone, much less an Original vampire. "We just need to keep Hayley and the baby stable until Davina works out the unlinking spell."

"Davina will break the link," Elijah said in agreement. "We just need time." He then scooped up Hayley bridal style and held her close in a way that made me oddly tense and unhappy. Which made no sense; why should Elijah holding Hayley affect me in any way at all? I shook my head, dismissing the thoughts from my mind; how I felt about any of this didn't matter right now. Hayley and her baby were the top priority, and everything else would just have to sit on a back burner for the time being.

I prayed hard that Davina would hurry up with that spell, for all our sakes'.

Ezra sat down next to his sister as they settled in to wait, and couldn't help but notice the tense set of her jaw and the lines of tension around her mouth. "What's wrong?" he asked her, his voice barely above a whisper.

She glanced at him then away. "What isn't wrong would be a better question," she muttered, eyes flashing gold for a split second before she wrestled her wilder side back under control.

Ezra blinked in surprise; Zoe, while temperamental, wasn't usually one to let her control slip like that. He figured it wasn't too surprising, though; they were all under a lot of stress right now. "Just try and relax," he advised after a moment a consideration. "Whatever it is that's bothering you, we'll work it out together, just like always."

Zoe just snorted, not saying anything.

Just as Ezra was about to ask again what exactly was bothering her, Hayley gave a loud groan.

"I can't breathe!" she gasped.

"Okay," Elijah said, his grip on her tightening ever so slightly. "Long deep breaths, Hayley. Look at me. Long deep breaths, just focus on the sound of my voice." He lowered his voice to a murmur. "You'll be okay," he told her softly. "You'll be okay."

But things were not going okay. Moments later, Hayley was thrashing madly, and screaming in agony at the top of her voice.

"Godammit!" Zoe exclaimed, bolting to her feet and rushing to the side of the pool. "What the hell is taking Davina so long?!"

Just then, Sophie let out a slight gasp of her own, her body going tense. And then Ezra felt it, that telltale tingle across his skin that signified magic. He could tell from Zoe's reaction that she felt it too; he could see it in the way she tensed up then darted a look over to Sophie to check and see if her instincts were right.

Sophie, of course, noticed them looking at her. "I just felt it lift," she confirmed, and moments later Hayley took a deep shuddering breath as the pain seeped away from her body and her temperature and heartrate began to stabilize.

Rebekah heaved a sigh of relief, and Elijah just looked shocked and relieved. He slowly lowered Hayley into a standing position, but offered no objections when she continued to lean on him for support. Sophie, well-aware of the suspicious looks sent in her direction, took out one of her earrings and pricked her palm with it.

Hayley tensed as she waited for the bond-pain, then relaxed when none came. She and Elijah exchanged relieved looks, and Elijah took her hand in his with a gentle smile. Zoe turned away from them abruptly, going back over to Rebekah and striking up a conversation about something entirely random. Ezra almost went after her, because she really was acting very strangely, but before he could Sophie was following after Elijah as he helped Hayley from the pool, her desperate, plaintive tone cutting through the still night.

"Elijah..." Sophie swallowed hard. "As soon as your brother finds out that the link is broken, he'll kill Agnes. I know you don't owe me anything, but please, don't let him kill her."

Elijah just gave her a look, zooming out of the pool with vampire speed to retrieve his phone form the jacket he'd left on the nearby table.

"Elijah! She's our only access to the power we need to survive. Promise me that you'll stop him!"

He still didn't respond, ignoring her completely as he dialed a number on his phone.

Ezra, with his wolf-enhanced hearing, heard Klaus pick up on the other end.


"It's me," Elijah said without preamble. "Where are you?"

"At church, dear brother, with our elusive witch keeping me company. The Faction came through after all, and I have her here with me now."

"Don't hurt her," Elijah ordered. "I'll be there shortly." He snapped his phone shut then turned to Sophie. "I'll make you one last promise," he told her. "I won't let my brother kill Agnes."

Sophie looked immensely grateful, but Elijah was still curiously expressionless. He simply picked up his jacket and shoes and headed back into the house, presumably to get changed before leaving. Ezra finally went over to his sister, and couldn't help but notice the way her gaze followed Elijah as he went.

Oh, great, he thought unhappily as he realized what her behavior implied. That's the last thing I need, my sister getting the hots for an Original vampire. Seriously. Because their lives weren't complicated enough. He made a mental note to talk to her about it once their current crisis was fully concluded. For now, he settled for huffing in annoyance and motioning for Sophie to get out of the pool.

The witch moved to comply, only to be halted by Hayley on the steps.

"I know you were just using me to save your people," the pregnant werewolf said in a low voice, "but try it again, and I'll kill you." With that, she pulled herself out of the water with some assistance from Zoe and Rebekah, and then followed Elijah's example and went back inside the house.

Sophie heaved a sigh of defeat before hauling herself out of the pool, and Ezra couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She'd lost just about everything, and had no hope for the future.

Kind of like us, he thought glumly, glancing over at his sister as she followed Rebekah and Hayley inside. He gave a sigh of his own before tapping Sophie on the shoulder.

She turned to him with suspicious eyes. "What?"

"Let me drive you home," he said gruffly, figuring it was the least he could do considering the circumstances. "You shouldn't be on the road by yourself this late at night."

She eyed him warily for a moment before giving a slow nod. "Okay," she said at last. "Sure."

I trailed after Rebekah as she followed Hayley upstairs and made sure the werewolf girl got into a hot shower to warm up from the dip into the pool. Once we were sure she wouldn't have a dizzy spell and conk herself on the shower doors, we went back downstairs.

"Well," I said after a moment of curiously tense silence. "That was quite an exciting evening-"

"Sorry," Rebekah said suddenly. "I need to go talk to my brother for a moment. I'll be right back." And then she gone, going back upstairs to find her brother.

I stared after her, totally baffled by her demeanor. "Alright," I called after her, trying not to sound annoyed. "I'll just wait here, then." Crossing my arms I leaned back in the couch and snatched up the TV remote, flipping through channels until I came to a late-night news special.

I watched the news for a bit, then frowned as I scented the salty aroma of tears in the air. Looking up, I saw Rebekah coming back down the stairs, lips trembling and eyes watery.

I bolted up off the couch like someone had electrocuted me. "What is it?" I demanded, rushing over to her. "What's wrong?" I took her by the elbow and steered her into a nearby armchair. "Did Elijah say something obnoxious, because if he did I will beat his ass!"

She gave a shaky chuckle. "No. No, it's alright. It's...nothing he did." She gave a weak smile. "He actually said exactly what I wanted to hear."

My frown deepened. "So why do you look like someone just died?"

She shook her head, sniffling. "I'm leaving," she said, not quite meeting my gaze. "I'm done with my brothers and their games and their drama. So I'm going."

My legs took a time-out form underneath me and I plopped down onto the floor gracelessly. "What?" I croaked, her words not registering in my brain. "But, you can't! It's not...You can't just..." Unable to find the words to convey how totally not okay this was, I just flailed my hands a little, feeling completely helpless all of a sudden. "Rebekah, why?"

She shook her head again. "It's difficult to explain," she murmured, "and as close as you are with your brother, I'm not sure you'd understand even if I did try to explain."

"Try me," I challenged.

She looked at me and gave a tremulous smile. "Oh, Zoe," she said softly. "I just need to be free. I've been chained to my brothers so long. All I want is a chance to be myself, with no obligations or expectations."

"So you're leaving," I said flatly. "In the middle of all this crap, you're just going to up and leave."

She shrugged. "Now that Elijah's back, he and Klaus can handle any threats to Hayley. They don't need me as a babysitter anymore. Which is fine," she said in an uneven voice, "because it was starting to get boring anyway."

I recognized that for a big fat lie, but didn't call her on it; she'd loved looking after Hayley and we both knew it. No point in reminding her of the obvious. "You've told Elijah?" I guessed, assuming that had been what her going upstairs to find him had been about.

"Yes." She swiped at the tears under her eyes. "Yes, I told him."

"And?" I pressed. "What did he say?" I hoped he'd told her to stay.

"He said I could go," Rebekah whispered, another tear sliding down her cheek.

Son of a bitch. I was going to kill him. The second he got back from whatever he and Klaus were doing with Agnes, I was going to tear his head from his shoulders and go bowling with it. Honestly! He was an intelligent and moderately sensitive man with centuries of experience under his belt. Someone like that should know better than to tell their sister she can leave since she's not needed.

But it was too late to fix the damage now, I supposed. He'd said she could go, and if she really did want to be free from her family drama, she was going to go. And I didn't really think anyone could stop her once she'd really made up her mind about it. I doubted that anyone could convince Rebekah of anything once she'd made up her mind.

"Alright," I said at last. "If it's what you really want..."

She remained silent for a moment, then nodded. "It is."

"Okay," I said, and suddenly I discovered that my eyes were hot and watering and my throat was tightening up. Good God, I was starting to cry. I turned away a bit, embarrassed.

"You're free now, too," Rebekah said softly, not commenting on my waterworks. "Our agreement was for you and Ezra to help me find and free Elijah. Well, he's away from Davina now, and you've more than held up your end of our bargain." She took a deep breath. "If you want my advice," she told me, "I'd suggest you and your brother get the hell out of this city before whatever's brewing between Klaus and Marcel blows up and gets everyone killed."

I nodded, still oddly unable to speak. Something about my only friend in New Orleans deciding to just pack it up and leave town was getting to me. Who'd have thought. "You be safe," I said roughly, rubbing at my cheeks a little too hard. "Okay? Look after yourself."

She gave a wry half-smile. "I can take care of myself well enough. Without my brothers to clean up after, I doubt I'll have much excitement to deal with at all." Her expression sobered. "You and your brother look after yourselves as well, Zoe. I hope things go well for you."

"Thanks," I said, swallowing hard. "Are you going to say goodbye to Ezra?"

She hesitated, then shook her head. "I doubt he'd care to hear it," she replied.

I recalled how much time the two of them had spent together, and how considerate my brother had been acting around her in spite of his initial opinions of her. "I don't think so," I found myself saying. "I think he'd very much care to hear it."

But still she shook her head. "No," she said firmly. "It isn't necessary. I'm not a fan of goodbyes, and now that I've really decided to leave, there's no point in putting it off. It's not like anyone other than you and Elijah will ever notice I'm gone anyway." She glanced out the window for a moment as if a sudden thought had occurred to her, then stood up abruptly. "I need to get going," she said, reaching out and squeezing my hand. "Have a good life, Zoe."

And then she was gone, out the door and into the dark night.

Chapter Text

"Never let a stumble in the road be the end of your journey."

Ezra's phone rang just as he was pulling away from Sophie's place. Grumbling under his breath, he flipped it open. "Hello?"

"Is Hayley with you?" Klaus asked, not bothering with any sort of greeting.

Ezra frowned, putting his blinker on for a right turn as he pulled to a stop at a red light. "Uh, no. I was just dropping Sophie off. I thought Hayley was at home with Zoe and Rebekah," he added, flipping off another driver as the other guy cut him off mid-turn.

"Rebekah's left town," Klaus said curtly. "And Zoe's missing as well."

Ezra's vision went a little wonky and he quickly yanked the steering wheel over and slammed on the brakes. "What."

"Hayley and Zoe are missing," Klaus repeated, voice tense and angry. "Elijah and I returned from dealing with Agnes to discover them both gone. We called Rebekah, but she's hell-bent to get out of town and wasn't there when they got taken. Marcel evidently paid the plantation a visit earlier, so our best guess is that he had something to do with it. There was a strange smell in Zoe's room, though, like carrion. I think perhaps he may have enlisted your revenant friend Evans to help him subdue the girls."

Ezra had to set his phone aside for a moment so he didn't crush it in his hand. "I am going to kill him." he growled. "Slowly, and painfully."

"Evans, or Marcel?"

"Both!" he snapped, his wolf surging up on a crest of furious wrath.

A moment of careful silence. Then, "Elijah and I are going to go confront Marcel at the Abattoir. I assume you'll be joining us?"

"I'll be right there," he said, then tossed his phone aside and stomped on the gas, zooming out into the highway with no regard for his fellow drivers and their speed law sensibilities.

I woke up feeling like I'd had too many shots of hard liquor the night before. Trouble was, I hadn't had any drinks the night before. Instead, I'd been shot up with a tranquilizer when Patrick Evans and some random dude I'd never met before had broken into the manor house to snatch up Hayley. Well, to snatch us both, really. Evans was there for me, and the other guy was there for Hayley. I had no idea how they'd managed to hook up, or even who that other guy was or how he'd found us, but honestly I didn't care.

This was twice I'd been abducted since coming to this city, and I was really starting to get sick of it.

I struggled to sit up, only to discover that I was actually in the back trunk of an SUV with my hands bound in silver chains behind my back.

"Oh for the love of..." I thumped my head against the trunk floor in frustration. Then I recalled that I hadn't been abducted alone. I twisted around, trying to get a better look around. Since the person I was looking for was about three inches to my right, I didn't have to look far. "Hayley?"

The werewolf groaned as she woke up. "Ugh...Zoe?"

"Yeah," I said, taking a shaky breath. "I'm here."

"Sorry I got you into this mess," she muttered.

"Pretty sure one of those thugs was after me not you, so it's technically only half your fault," I pointed out.

"Ugh," Hayley said again, followed by, "So that big hulking dude was the one who tried to grab you before? At the music festival?"

I nodded, though I doubted she could see me in the gloom of the trunk. "Yeah, he's the one." I shifted slightly, trying to get some feeling back into my hands. "I didn't get a good look at the other guy, though. You?"

"No," Hayley said with a sigh. "It happened too fast, I didn't see."

I gave a sigh of my own, then craned my neck around. "Think you can kick out that glass?" I asked, seeing the tinted back window of the back of the SUV not far from where we were.

"I can try," she said grimly, then lashed out with her legs, kicking at the glass.

The SUV braked suddenly, and we heard the driver get out and come around the back, presumably to check on all the thump-thumping. The back of the SUV popped open and Hayley went from kicking the glass to kicking the driver. But then she froze, staring at the driver in shock. "Tyler?" she said in surprise.

"Who?" I asked blankly.

"You shut up," he told me, before turning back to Hayley and grabbing her legs, pulling some zipties out of his pocket. "And you..." He shook his head. "Don't try anything stupid, understand?"

She snarled and kicked at him. "Let me go, you backstabbing half-breed piece of shi-"

"Shut up!" he roared, and his face shifted ever so slightly, from an average human appearance to that of something other.

"Oh my God," I said in a stunned whisper. "You're a hybrid. How is that possible?"

The asshole named Tyler ignored me completely, instead dragging Hayley out of the car and slinging her over his shoulder. Then he stormed off into the bayou without looking back.

"Hey!" I shouted after him. "What about me?"

"Oh, don't worry," Tyler called back. "Someone will be here to pick you up in just a little while."

Ezra followed Klaus and Elijah into Marcel's place without the slightest hint of hesitation. His fury was riding him hard and he couldn't find it in himself to give a damn about the scene they were making. He didn't care when Klaus snapped some vampire woman's neck, and he didn't bat an eye when the other vampires closed in around them. He just pulled out a dagger and held it loosely in his hand in a way that made it obvious that he was more than ready to use it if things got dicey.

The other vampires backed off, looking to Marcel for guidance. "What do you think you're doing?" Marcel asked, looking at them with no small amount of hostility in his gaze.

"It appears that we've interrupted a collection of filthy amateurs!" Elijah remarked, looking around at the circle of vampire fighters who'd been brawling just seconds before their arrival. "We've come here for the girls," Elijah continued, raising his voice to make sure everyone heard him. "Give them to us, or we kill everyone here... starting with you," he finished, looking Marcel dead in the eye.

"You three got a lot of nerve," Marcel observed angrily, "coming into my home and making demands."

Klaus gave a fake smile. "Oh, your home, is it?"

"The girls!" Elijah barked. "I will not ask again."

Marcel rolled his eyes. "I assume you're talking about Hayley and her green-eyed friend? Zoe, I think her name was? Who are they, anyway?"

"Hayley's an old friend of mine, and Zoe is a friend of my sister's. You know how sentimental I am about old friends."

"Well, I ain't got 'em," Marcel replied. "And before you start whining, I did pay them a little visit earlier tonight. I was feeling nostalgic, so I took a trip out to the plantation where I used to be a slave. And, imagine my surprise when I realized that the Original family of vampires had taken up residence. Your girl Hayley answered the door, we exchanged hellos, the other girl Zoe made some vaguely threatening remarks to send me on my way, and that was it. You don't believe me? Look around if you really want to, but you won't find them here. So the question that I'd ask is: if Hayley and Zoe aren't here, then where are they?"

"That's an excellent question," Klaus acknowledged. "And you're going to help us find an answer as soon as possible, with no argument."

"And why would I do that?" Marcel asked.

Ezra took a very deliberate step forward, twirling his dagger in his hand with an almost casual air. "Because I'll slice you into little bite-size pieces if you don't."

Marcel's jaw tightened. "I remember you from earlier," he said slowly, narrowing his gaze at Ezra. "You were with Rebekah at Jardin Gris."

"I was," Ezra agreed, deciding not to comment on the aggravating fact that Marcel had Rebekah's scent all over his skin. Whatever was going on between the two of them, it was obvious to his wolf's nose that they'd been intimate quite recently. Neither he nor his wolf liked the thought of that at all, and it was all Ezra could do to keep his wolf from exploding out of his skin and lunging for Marcel's throat.

"Don't think I caught your name," Marcel observed, his tone of voice pointed.

Ezra twirled the dagger again, focused on keeping himself centered and in control. "No," he agreed, "you didn't."

"It's pretty rude," Marcel noted. "To come barging in demanding help without introducing yourself."

Klaus made an impatient noise in the back of his throat. "Must you play at being king of the mountain?" he demanded irritably. "This is Ezra Storme. You'll notice a certain resemblance between him and Zoe? That would be because she's his sister," Klaus said with extra emphasis. "And I should not need to explain to you of all people how dangerous a brother can be when his sister's welfare is at stake." He gave Marcel a look loaded with menace.

Marcel raised his hands in a backing off gesture. "Okay, okay. I got it. No need to get nasty."

"Oh, Marcellus. You haven't seen me at my nastiest yet." Klaus gave an unpleasant smile. "Let's hope things don't get that far."

Patrick Evans arrived to collect me about ten minutes after Tyler took off with Hayley. I, much like Hayley had done with Tyler, kicked and screamed and cursed him out with every vile insult I knew. He just laughed and stabbed me with another needle full of a morphine-wolfsbane cocktail that made me want to hurl up my spleen.

"What a delightful child you are," he said in amusement as I alternated between dry heaving and swearing. "I can see why your uncle desires to spend more quality time with you and your brother."

I groaned in pain then gave a shaky laugh. "Quality time here having the meaning of endless torture." I snorted. "Family fun all the way around, for sure."

Patrick just shrugged and yanked me up off the ground, giving a little smirk as the silver chains wrapped around my wrists sizzled against my skin. "What he intends to do with you once you are in his possession is no concern of mine," he informed me. "I was simply given a task to fulfill, and I have done so."

I slanted him a look. "You haven't done so yet," I countered. "My uncle's locked up tight in his Wyoming compound. It's a long drive from here to Wyoming," I remarked conversationally. "Plenty of time for me to break loose and get away."

The revenant gave an uproarious laugh. "You think he is still in Wyoming?" He chuckled. "Oh, little wolf, how out of the loop you are."

A knot of dread formed in my stomach. "What are you talking about?" I asked warily. "What do you mean, he's not in Wyoming?"

Evans just shoved me down the road. "You'll find out soon enough," he said. "The drive to Baton Rouge is much quicker than the drive to Cheyenne."

Well, I thought. Damn.

Chapter Text

"Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to seek those answers that continues to give meaning to life. You can spend your life wallowing in despair, wondering why you were the one who was led towards the road strewn with pain, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough to survive it."

"Not the most attractive community, are they? " Elijah remarked as he glanced around at Marcel's vampires with a less-than-impressed look.

Klaus arched an eyebrow. "You do realize they can hear you?"

"You do realize I don't care?" his brother shot back. "And would you please sit still?" he added to Ezra, who was pacing back and forth impatiently.

Ezra just glared at him.

Marcel finally returned, the witch Sabine trailing after him uncertainly. "You know, Elijah," the vampire said, "I liked you better in that box." He turned to Klaus. "But Klaus, my sire, you I owe the world, and I always show respect to my elders. If your special lady friends are missing, you could benefit from the help of a witch. And, since I control all the witches in this town, I'll grant you one little locator spell. Sabine's the best guide in the Quarter. Need to find someone? I guarantee, she's your girl." He ushered Sabine forward, then turned to leave.

Klaus frowned, looking confused. "Where are you going?"

Marcel gave him a chiding look. "I hate to cut this short, but the sun's coming up soon. My nightwalkers need to get inside, and I have got a city to run. I leave you to track down your lost sheep." And with that, he was gone.

They watched him leave then Elijah turned to Sabine. "Can you find her?" he asked, and there was no doubting which 'her' he meant; from the start, Elijah's every action had been with Hayley in mind.

But Ezra wasn't there for Hayley. "Them," he corrected sharply. "Both of them." He glared at Elijah. "Hayley and Zoe."

Elijah gave a stiff nod. "Of course."

Sabine looked back and forth between them, biting her lip. "I can try," was all she said.

Ezra swallowed his next comment, which was that she'd better do more than try or else he was going to totally lose his shit and start off a bloodbath the likes of which she'd never seen. He figured it was probably best to keep little things like that to himself for the time-being.

I tripped over a tree root and face-planted into the marshy ground, cursing out Patrick for all I was worth. Since I was doped up with morphine, though, my insults came out more slurred than snarly, and all the revenant did was laugh and yank me back up.

"Is he really in Baton Rouge?" I asked quietly after another long stretch of hiking through the seemingly endless bayou. Patrick didn't need me to clarify the 'he' I meant.

"Your uncle relocated not long after his advance scout team disappeared here in New Orleans."

"Scout team?" I echoed in confusion, then realized what he meant. "Those assholes who ran us off the road." The assassins I'd refused to run from. The assassins I'd killed.

"Yes," Evans agreed. "With the high probability that you and your brother were here, he felt it best if he were...closer to the action, shall we say."

I closed my eyes as a swell of nausea overcame me, both from the drugs I'd been given earlier and the sickening knowledge that my uncle was less than a hundred miles away from where I was currently standing. Good God in Heaven, it was less than a two hour drive to get to Baton Rouge from the Big Easy. If Patrick was serious about his assignment, and I had no reason not to take him at his word, then there was the very horrific likelihood that I'd been seeing my uncle face to face for the first time in decades in just a couple more hours.

My knees gave out from underneath me and I threw up, the disgusting acidic taste of bile scorching my throat and nose as I choked and gagged, my vision going fuzzy as I struggled to get control of myself. Patrick gave me about three seconds to have my meltdown, then tugged me back to my feet and shoved me forward again. I stumbled, my muscles not working right, and fell down again.

"Get up!" he snapped, grabbing a fistful of my hair and yanking me to my feet yet again. "Walk!"

I shook my head numbly. "No," I said hoarsely. "I won't."

"Walk!" he roared.

"I won't," I repeated stubbornly.

He backhanded me and I crashed down to the ground. I was beginning to get very familiar with the ground in this area, and for some reason the thought amused me. I snickered to myself a little. Which of course only pissed of the revenant more. He kicked me viciously in the side before hauling me to my feet and dragging me along after him.

"I am getting you to your uncle," he informed me coldly. "Nothing you try is going to work, so you might as well just give up."

"I'm a Storme," I told him matter-of-factly. "I'll never give up." And then I elbowed him hard in the side and dove into the underbrush. He cursed loudly and stormed after me, his big body thrashing through the scrub bushes so loudly I wouldn't have been surprised if they heard him from miles away. I was, unfortunately, still at a disadvantage from having my hands literally tied behind my back, but I'd work with what I had. And what I had right now was a very good pair of legs. So I ran.

My balance was off and I tripped and nearly fell more times than I could count, but I ran for all I was worth, because there was no way in hell I was letting Patrick Evans take me to my uncle. There was nothing I wouldn't do or give to avoid that fate.


"She's in the back country," Sabine told them once she'd completed a locator spell for Hayley using Klaus's blood. "Way up past Houma, deep in the Bayou."

Elijah didn't look pleased. "I don't suppose you could be more precise?"

"What's the matter, Elijah?" Klaus asked with a smirk. "You're worried a bit of splashing about in the bog might ruin your expensive shoes?"

Elijah slanted him a look. "As a matter of fact," he responded, "after my recent confinement, I could use a decent stroll through the countryside."

"There are stories of exiled werewolves," Ezra interrupted suddenly, recalling some rumors he'd heard from his contacts. "Encampments. If Hayley went out that far willingly, chances are she went to find them."

"But why go now? And why would your sister allow such a thing, much less go along? She knows the danger Hayley is in." Elijah shook his head. "It doesn't make any sense. Your sister didn't seem so irresponsible."

Ezra narrowed his eyes. "Don't you dare blame this mess on Zoe."

"She was supposed to be looking after Hayley," Elijah replied, eyes flashing.

Ezra opened his mouth, to say what he didn't know, but before he could snap back a retort he was cut off.

"Let's not get into it here," Klaus interjected, nodding to Marcel's vampires, who were watching them with keen eyes. "In any case, I doubt Zoe is at fault. Hayley can be very...persuasive when she wants to be. And clearly, she hopes to make the acquaintance of more like herself. I suppose our company wasn't good enough for her," he added, and his tone of voice was light but anyone could hear the bitterness underneath it.

Sabine, meanwhile, was watching them like she thought they were nuclear warheads about to blow at any second. "Do you still want me to do the other locator spell?" she asked uncertainly. "For Zoe?"

"No," Ezra said sharply. "Don't bother. It wouldn't do any good," he explained, seeing the Mikaelsons' questioning looks. "With our uncle searching so hard for us, we have security measures in place to prevent locator spells from pinpointing our locations. Doing one to find Zoe would be a waste of time. I'll know when we get close," he added. "I can sense her within a certain proximity."

"Twin magic?" Klaus said with a smirk.

Ezra just rolled his eyes.

I wandered around in the bayou for what felt like hours. Being drugged and exhausted was not helping my sense of direction in the slightest, and there were too many intense smells for my wolf's nose to do me much good at all other than to tell me that the revenant who smelled like roadkill and motor oil was still chasing after me. Which I already knew, thanks to his loud shouts and curses as he tore through the bayou searching for me.

I found myself praying for someone to come along and save me. Which wasn't like me, I know. I'm not much for being a damsel in distress. I'm in a fair amount of distress fairly often, but usually I'm pretty good at getting myself out of trouble. Just for once, though, I'd have loved for a knight in shining armor to come rescue me from this ridiculous hellhole that was my life. Heck, I'd have settled for an asshole in a taxicab. Just someone, anyone, to give me some freaking support.

There was my brother, of course, but that was different, and he had his own heap of issues to deal with. Between the two of us, we were well on our way to shooting for the Most Screwed Up awards. Although the Mikaelsons were, I had to admit, giving us a run for our money. Who knows. Maybe we'd tie for the grand prize and all go down in flames together.

"Who the hell is Tyler Lockwood?" Ezra demanded as Klaus sniffed at the inside of an abandoned SUV they'd come across in their search of the bayou.

"And why would your little hybrid-sidekick from Mystic Falls have any interest in Hayley?" Elijah asked.

Ezra slanted him an amused look that made it clear he'd picked up on Elijah's answering his question while simultaneously asking one of his own. "And how did me meet up with Evans?" Ezra added, kneeling down to examine a massive boot print in the soil; they'd deduced that Evans had teamed up with the other guy, Tyler, after discovering a familiar van parked back on the road. "And how would they even know where to find the plantation house?"

Klaus shrugged. "Tyler wants revenge because I went after his girl."

Elijah gave his brother a look. "Why do I suspect this is the least of your offenses?"

Klaus simply shrugged again.

Ezra waved a had to get their attention. "Okay, not following. Somebody clue me in, please. Who the hell is Tyler and how does he know you?"

"Back when I had the means to sire hybrids," Klaus explained, "he was my first. Although, I didn't give him much choice in the matter."

"Okay," Ezra said slowly. "So what happened? Because obviously you guys are no longer on the best of terms."

Klaus sighed. "He was loyal in the beginning, but he grew insubordinate, turned my other hybrids against me. I couldn't have that," he went on in reasonable voice, "so I massacred the lot of them. Tyler ran like a coward before I could finish him off."

Elijah gave a sigh of frustration. "Anything else that you would like to share?"

"Well," the Original hybrid admitted, "there was this business with his mum..."

"You killed his mother," Elijah said incredulous. "Wonderful."

"He needed to be taught a lesson!" Klaus said defensively.

"And what lesson will you be taught, Niklaus," Elijah demanded, "if he retaliates by harming Hayley?"

Klaus looked at his older brother carefully for a moment. "So you do care about her," he said at last. "Well, go on, then. Have at it, brother." He waved a hand. "Save her. Claim what spoils you can. I've sampled what she has to offer," he went on, his voice becoming more cutting, "and let me tell you, she is exquisite-

Elijah's jaw clenched as he cut his sibling off. "Niklaus, so help me-"

"Guys!" Ezra snapped, temper flaring up again. "Can we focus?"

They both just stared at him for a moment then Klaus gave a razor-sharp smile. "Absolutely," he replied. "I'll go kill Tyler Lockwood myself." And then he was gone, disappearing with a flash of speed.

"That's not what I meant," Ezra muttered, glaring after him. Deciding that he was fed up with the Originals and all their family crap, he ditched Elijah and struck out on his own, his only thought now to find his sister and cut the revenant who'd taken her into teeny tiny pieces that he'd feed to the gators.

I was running full tilt again when I crashed into someone totally and completely unexpected.

Tyler and I went tumbling down to the ground in a tangle of limbs and cursemwords, and as soon as I saw who it was, my wolf rose up and I lunged at him. "You!" I snarled, latching my hands around his throat. He flailed for a moment, then kicked me in the shin and tossed me through the air, and I recalled that he was somehow a hybrid, and that I should attack with maybe a little more caution.

But who am I kidding? Caution isn't in my nature, so I jumped at him again, growling. We crashed to the ground again, exchanging punches and kicks and snarls. And then Patrick was there, laughing his ass off and saying something about how he wished he'd brought a camcorder. I bit down hard on Tyler's shoulder even as I kicked out at Patrick as he approached, but now that it was two on one, I knew I'd stand little chance of winning, not against a revenant and a hybrid.

But then suddenly there was another hybrid joining the fight. The hybrid, as a matter of fact.

"Klaus," I gasped as he tackled into Patrick without so much as a pause, sending the revenant sailing through the air to crash into a copse of trees. "What are you doing here?"

He kicked at Tyler, sending him staggering back several feet. "I was just trying to have a little chat with our friend Tyler here. Oddly, he didn't seem to want to stay and talk with me."

"Maybe 'cuz he's an asshole," I rasped, rubbing my throat where Patrick had been trying to strangle me just moments before.

Klaus smirked. "You're looking well," he drawled.

"Screw you," I grumbled, followed by, "Have you found Hayley?"

Klaus looked at me in that assessing way of his before answering, his tone strangely flat. "Undoubtedly the noble knight Elijah has found her already and is in the process of remedying all her ills. We'll go join them shortly," he said dismissively.

"Not if I have any say in it," Patrick said, his voice taking on a harsh cast as he ambled back towards us, a Glock handgun in each hand. "That girl is coming with me," he said, aiming one of the pistols at me. "And that's all there is to it."

Klaus arched a brow. "Oh, really," he said. "And who are you to demand her presence?" He shook his head. "No, I don't think she'll be going with you," he continued. "She has a prior obligation to me and my family, as does her brother. Anything their uncle wants from them is going to have to wait until our business here is concluded." He gave a wide smirk at Patrick's startled expression. "You think that she and her brother wouldn't have told us who they were running from? Or that even if they didn't confide in us, we wouldn't find out the truth?" He shook his head again. "Underestimating us was your first mistake."

Tyler began laughing suddenly, his amusement tinged with an edge of hysteria. "What's so funny?" Klaus asked, rolling his eyes.

"Oh, yeah," he chuckled, "they've definitely told you everything." He laughed some more. "No secrets left. No, definitely not."

Patrick, likewise, gave a very disturbing grin. "Perhaps I should share the rest of your heritage with him," he said to me, eyes glinting maliciously. I realized, very suddenly, that things were about to get very complicated.

Before I could do something drastic, though, like grab one of Patrick's Glocks and shoot myself in the face with it to end this misery, my brother arrived on the scene. And by arrived, I mean charged out of the trees like a locomotive and slammed into Patrick with fury radiating off of him like heatwaves.

Klaus, Tyler, and I all took a moment to oggle at this unexpected turn of events before Tyler, seeing an opening to vamoose, bolted off into the bayou. Klaus snarled and moved to chase after him, but before he could, Patrick was grabbing my brother and throwing him across the clearing.

Now, let me get something straight. My brother is not a lightweight. He looks slim, sure, but he's all lean muscle. Add in the werewolf strength, and there's no way Patrick should have been able to toss him around like that. I realized then that Reginald must have given Patrick a magic boost of some kind, because even for a powerful revenant that was beyond what should have been possible.

My brother went soaring through the air and crashed into a very solid tree with a resounding crack that I hoped was the tree protesting the impact and not my twin's spine snapping.

"Now," Patrick said, eyes gleaming as he struggled to catch his breath. "About that secret."

Chapter Text

"A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept."

"Now," Patrick said, eyes gleaming as he struggled to catch his breath. "About that secret." His sick smile widened. "They're not just witches, you see. They're also something else."

Before he could say it, though, my brother shattered our masquerade himself. He shifted, right then and there. As the change washed over him, Patrick backed up a step and I couldn't blame him. My brother, unlike me, is not a small or even average-sized wolf. He is a great, big, hulking beast. Imagine a black wolf the size of the most massive Great Pyrenees in the world, then add on another hundred and fifty pounds to that, and you'll have my brother.

He. Is. Huge. And all that weight rushed right at Patrick, no holds barred.

"We're wolves, too," I said weakly to Klaus as he looked over at me. I took several stumbling steps back because his face was totally blank and I didn't know what to expect from him in regards to our revelation. We'd been keeping it from him, and I knew enough to know he didn't approve of secret-keeping unless it was his own. For now, though, he seemed to be in some sort of shock, so I refocused myself on Patrick.

I expected Patrick to get squished like a bug on a windshield from my brother's attack, but to my shock and consternation, that wasn't what happened. No, Patrick only slid back a few feet, which also shouldn't have been possible. Getting tackled by my brother in wolf form is like being bulldozed by a mountain; there's no stopping it.

And yet, Patrick halted the onslaught, tossing aside his guns and lifting my brother into the air once more, acting as if he weighed no more than a chihuahua puppy. And this time when he tossed my brother, he threw him in my direction, and I barely managed to get out of the way before three hundred pounds of angry wolf landed on me.

Rolling across the ground, I bounced up to my feet with a growl, so totally done with this entire freaking mess. I couldn't shift, though, not with my brother already changed. In case Klaus decided to jump into the middle of things, it would help to have someone on hand with a tongue that worked for talking. My brother, wolfed out like he was, was not going to be able to fulfill such a role.

My eyes suddenly focused on the ground at my feet, where, what do you know, there was a Glock nestled against the toe of my boot. I grabbed it up before I could have any second thoughts and fired it off without hesitation. My aim wasn't the best, but I managed to hit the revenant in the gut and in the shoulder. It wouldn't kill him, for several obvious reasons, but it would at least slow him down. And then Ezra prowled forward again, a menacing growl rumbling out of his chest as he went.

Patrick pulled another gun out of his waistband but Ezra lunged before the revenant could fire off a shot. Ezra clamped his jaws down around Patrick's neck and tore out a chunk of his throat before Patrick could do more than give a hoarse shout.

And then he couldn't do much shouting at all, because my brother had ripped out two thirds of his vocal cords.

Patrick Evens seemed to decide then that maybe it was time for him to leave. Rising to his feet with more speed than any dead man with critical wounds should have been able to, he sprinted for the undergrowth and disappeared. "This isn't over," he gurgled over his shoulder, and then vanished.

Ezra snarled and bounded after him, clearly not on board for letting the revenant get away.

But we still had other problems to deal with, so I ran forward. "Ezra, wait!"

He halted immediately, but growled at me, clearly annoyed at being cut off from the hunt.

"Klaus," was all I needed to say to get his aggravation to vanish, reminding him that we'd had an audience for our little showdown, and before I could say anything else my brother was there, pressing up against me and positioning himself between me and the Original hybrid.

How things went from there, I knew, would be entirely up to Klaus.

"Klaus must have known," Hayley said as she explained to Elijah everything Tyler had told her, making sure to include an explanation about the other werewolf, Dwayne, who'd been used by Tyler in his own hybrid experiment. "That's the only explanation! He could care less about the baby. He just wants her to be born so he can use her to make more sired hybrids. Although, " she added uncertainly, "the way that Dwayne was acting... it was more like he was sired to me."

Elijah sighed, looking troubled by the glaring implications of all of it. "I should take you home," he said at last.

"Are you serious?" she demanded. "Home to what?"

"Look," Elijah said, "regardless of my brother's intentions, mine remain the same. I said that I would protect you. Even, if need be, from Klaus himself."

Hayley didn't seem mollified in the slightest, glaring at him. "I can take care of myself," she told him. "I've done it for a long time." With that, she stood up and walked away.

After a moment, Elijah gave another soft sigh, and followed.

I eyed Klaus warily, waiting for him to make a move to attack.

But no attack came.

He just stood there, looking at us, his face still completely devoid of emotion.

"For the love of God," I said explosively, unable to handle the silence any longer. "Say something!"

Ezra gave a low whine and pressed against my side, probably trying to remind me that blowing up at an overly paranoid Original who had every reason to feel betrayed wasn't likely the best idea.

I buried a hand in his fur and knelt down to wrap my other arm around him, still not taking my eyes off Klaus. "We're wolves," I said again, needing to make sure we got this all settled. "Our mother was a witch who married a werewolf. Her brother didn't approve of her selection; he views werewolves as nothing more than violent beasts. But she refused to give up her husband, and when she became pregnant with me and my brother, the rift between them grew even greater. Eventually, the feud between them took the lives of our mother and father, and yet our uncle still pursues us. He's determined to wipe what he considers 'our stain' from the face of the Earth."

"Hybrids," Klaus said, breaking his silence at long, long last. "You are...hybrids."

There was something in his voice, something broken and lost, that made me want to run over and give him a hug and tell him everything would be okay. But we didn't have the sort of connection that would make doing such a thing safe; I didn't know how he'd react. Or even how I'd react, for that matter. So instead I just nodded, working hard to keep my voice steady and controlled; this conversation could easily go either way, and I needed to proceed very carefully. "We are," I agreed. "Similar to you, but not quite. Our heritage is wolf and witch, with no vampire to speak of."

"Still," Klaus murmured. "I never thought..." He seemed to catch himself and then shook his head. "This is an unexpected discovery," he said, looking at me and Ezra carefully. "And yet looking back I find myself not terribly surprised. The things about the two of you that never sat right with me...well, those things make more sense now that I know the truth."

"I'm sorry we hid it," I said in a rush, knowing how precarious this part of the conversation was. "I am so, so sorry. But we...we've had trouble, in the past, with people finding out who and what we are. My brother and I..." I gave a choking laugh. "Well, I hardly need to tell you that people don't react well to things they don't understand, do I?" He, like us, had lived through the hell of being a half breed. Had, in fact, been living in it much longer than us, for over a thousand years.

"No," he said slowly, shaking his head. "No, you don't." He sighed. "What now?"

I stared at him, then gave a nervous laugh. "I was going to ask you that," I observed. "Are you going to kill us?"

He snorted. "You're still immortal, correct?"

"As far as I know," I acknowledged.

"Then any attempt to end your lives would be an exercise in futility at best."

I swallowed hard, not daring to hope. "You're not...going to hurt us?" I whispered, hating how pathetic I sounded but unable to do anything about it. Ezra, sensing my vulnerability, nuzzled against the side of my neck, his warm wolf breath a steadying comfort.

Klaus watched us carefully, some strong emotion I couldn't name flickering across his face then vanishing so quickly that I wondered if I'd imagined it. "I'm not going to hurt you," he said softly. "We will discus this further later," he added more firmly. "But for now, there's nothing more to say." He looked from me to my brother, whose lip curled back in a silent snarl, making it clear that Original hybrid or not Klaus had better watch his step. My brother, bless his heart, is not one to shy away from a challenge, especially not when he's on four paws with long fangs.

Klaus, thankfully, seemed more amused by my twin's response than anything. "Take your sister home," he told Ezra. "I need to go deal with Tyler and make sure that Elijah and Hayley are truly on their way back as well."

I struggled to my feet, bracing myself on my brother's strong furry back. "You'll be okay on your own?" I asked.

He gave an infuriating smirk, the one that I was beginning to suspect masked a lot of pain. "I'm used to being on my own," he said. "Go home," he repeated, seeing my stubborn expression. "I also cannot be killed, remember? Tyler Lockwood is no threat to me, and your revenant is long gone. Go home," he said for the third time, "and I will speak with you both later."

Recognizing the dismissal for what it was, and not wanting to push our luck, Ezra and I exchanged looks and obeyed, heading in the general direction of the road.

Meanwhile, miles away and deep underground, Rebekah stared at Marcel in shock as he proposed a terrible, impossible idea.

"Do you know how many fools have tried to vanquish my brother?" she hissed at him. "If you stand against him, he will kill you and it will be awful and bloody and I will not stand around and watch." Shaking her head, she turned to go.

"You forget," Marcel said, putting a hand on her arm to stop her. "I have a secret weapon. Davina, the most powerful witch in the last couple centuries! What if she can find a way to kill him?"

"You don't know, do you?" Rebekah shook her head. "You can't kill Klaus! Not without dying yourself. We learned it from the deaths of my brothers Kol and Finn. If an Original dies, every vampire ever made from their line dies with them. Even if you kill Klaus," she said heatedly, "he'll still win! It's been that way for a thousand years, that's his trick. He always wins," she added bitterly.

But still Marcel wouldn't let it go. "There's another way."

"What would that be? " she asked, sounding tired.

"We bury him down here forever."

She stared at him like he totally lost his marbles. "Are you mad?" she demanded. "This little chamber of horrors may work for your riff-raff, but do you really think it will hold my brother?"

"Isn't it worth the risk?" he murmured, reaching up a hand to touch her cheek gently.

She scoffed, pulling back.

"You know I'm right!" Marcel said, eyes flashing. "Klaus will never stop trying to control you!"

But still Rebekah shook her head. "And I'm supposed to believe that, after a century, suddenly you're willing to risk death at his hands to be with me?"

"I want to defend my home," Marcel replied. "I wanna be free. And if that means I get to be with you, all the more reason to bury him. Now, you tell me- what do you want?"

I want to be free, too, Rebekah thought, but said nothing, just stared at Marcel as all the terrifying choices hung above her.

"There you are!" Klaus exclaimed as he saw Elijah and Hayley approach. "I see you've found our wandering stray. Perhaps you could shed some light on the situation. This," he kicked Dwayne's body off the porch of the bayou shack he'd found, "appears to be a hybrid."

"His name was Dwayne," Hayley said.

Klaus rolled his eyes. "Well, whoever it was, I didn't sire him. Any idea how that's possible?"

"As if you didn't know!" Hayley snarled, stomping towards him.

Elijah quickly stepped forward and put himself in front of Hayley, as if to shield her form Klaus.

All of Klaus's good humor dropped away as he realized what was going on. "Ahhh, well, aren't you two fast friends? Oh, come on, then. What kind of horrible accusation have you conspired to levy against me?"

"Tyler Lockwood brought Hayley here to test a theory," Elijah began.

Klaus nodded at him to continue.

"That the blood of her child could be used to sire hybrids. He claims that you knew that," Elijah added. "Furthermore, that you intended to use this knowledge to build an army."

Klaus stood up abruptly, the anger and emotional pain hitting him in a rush. "And, of course, you assume it's true. I mean, why else would I show interest in my own flesh and blood?" he said sarcastically before shaking his head angrily. "A heartbroken little crybaby points his finger at me, and my own brother falls in line, eager to believe it! How quickly you believe the worst, especially when it comes from her." He cast a dirty look in Hayley's direction.

"Oh, spare me your indignation," Elijah snapped. "When have you ever demonstrated any kind of concern towards Hayley or her child, beyond your own selfish pursuits? And what was it you once said to me?" His voice dropped as he impersonated Klaus. "Every king needs an heir!"

Klaus took a deep breath, hoping to tamp down on the pain and anger racing through him, but failing like he always did. "My big brother," he said at last. "So, you doubt my intentions? Well, I can't say I'm surprised, standing next to the noble Elijah, how can I be anything but the lesser brother?" His tone turned bitter, with some self-loathing mixed in there if anyone cared to hear it. "A liar, a manipulator, a bastard." Klaus approached Elijah slowly, very aware of Elijah watching him with both contemplation and wariness, as if the older Original wanted to reconsider his position but didn't trust Klaus enough to really follow through. "That's all I am to you, isn't it?" Klaus demanded. "And Rebekah. And, judging by the way Hayley hangs on your every word, it's clear she feels the same way!" He hesitated as a new thought occurred to him, a terrible thought that ripped its way through his very soul. "No doubt my child will as well," he realized, and there was no masking the pain in his voice.

Elijah's expression changed to something softer, less harsh and judgmental. "Brother, if-"

But it was too late to turn back now. "You've said all that needs to be said, brother," Klaus snapped. He took a few steps back, away from them both, and held his arms out in apparent defeat. "You think I am a bastard? Very well. I'll play the role I've been given." He turned as if to go, but couldn't resist once final attack. And not an attack of words. He used his heightened speed to rush at his older brother before Elijah could react, and bit him hard on the neck, tearing savagely at his throat, knowing that the bite would be toxic from his werewolf side and not caring. They'd caused him pain, so he would give them some agony in return.

He heard Hayley scream, but he ignored it, pulling away and wiping the blood from his mouth with his hand. "You two enjoy each other's company," he told them, not bothering hide his fury. "You'll have much to bond over, once the hallucinations and dementia set in. Consider that bite to be my parting gift to you both."

Elijah choked out something inaudible as Hayley cradled his head in her lap, staring after Klaus with a horrified expression.

Klaus never looked back.

Chapter Text

"What you seek is seeking you."

Ezra was just shifting back into his human form when Klaus knocked on his door. "Come in," he said, hastily grabbing up a towel to wrap around his waist. Unlike Zoe who had pretty good luck with it, he'd never managed to get his clothes to come back after a shift.

Klaus came in, and Ezra took an immediate step back at the look on his face. "You change your mind about punishing us for lying to you?" he asked, re-positioning himself ever so slightly so that he was closer to the dagger he kept under his pillow.

Klaus just looked at him silently for a moment. Finally, he shook his head. "No," the hybrid said in a low voice. "That...isn't what I came to discuss with you. As circumstances would have it, you and your sister's true natures are now low on my list of concerns."

Ezra relaxed, but only a little. "So what's up?"

Klaus sighed. "Elijah and I have had something of a falling out. My sister, likewise, is not particularly thrilled with my behavior of late. She doesn't seem to want in on my plan to overthrow Marcel."

Ezra, having heard that argument between Rebekah and Klaus downstairs a little while ago, made no comment, just nodded. He, after all, was in no position to say things like "she's already sleeping with him" or "I'd really like to castrate him because he's sleeping with her." He honestly didn't understand those impulses himself; it wasn't like he was particularly close to Rebekah, for all that they'd spent hours upon hours of time together in the recent weeks. All he knew was that the thought of Marcel and Rebekah together made him feel like he had fire ants crawling all over his body. His wolf, likewise, growled and snarled at it, and Ezra knew that if he encountered Marcel again he'd have to be careful to keep his wolf on a tight leash, especially if the so-called vampire king had Rebekah's scent on his skin again.

Klaus gave him an unreadable look, then shook his head. "I was going to discuss further tactical options with you, but you look fairly exhausted yourself. We'll resume this conversation in the morning. Make sure you and your sister come down to breakfast." And then he turned and left the room, going back down the hall.

Ezra stared after him, not quite sure what any of that had actually been about. "Okay."

I tossed my alarm clock across the room the next morning when it woke me up. I was so annoyed I didn't even cringe as it smashed into a billion little pieces as it slammed into the far wall.

Groaning, I rolled out of bed and ambled into the shower. I lingered in the hot water longer than I normally would have, arching my back into the hot spray and letting the water cascade down my body. The heat seeped into my sore muscles, loosening the tight knots of sinew under my skin, and I exhaled a sigh of contentment.

Then I recalled the events of the previous day and all my tension came rushing back. I clenched my fists and turned off the water, stepping out and toweling dry so fast it was a miracle I didn't give myself rug burn. I quickly slipped into a fresh change of clothes and tugged on my boots.

Going downstairs, I found my brother in the kitchen, chopping up an assortment of fruit. Once done, he transferred it all to a platter, which he handed off to a server girl I hadn't noticed standing int eh corner. She took it form him, bowed at the waist, then waltzed from the room. As she went, I noticed the bite marks on her wrist and scowled.

"What's going on?" I asked, going over to pull the kitchen knife from my brother's grip and set it on the counter. I knew his coping mechanisms when I saw them, and as much as I approved of this one, I needed answers.

"Just finishing up breakfast," he replied, his voice so even and controlled I knew that something must be very wrong.

I angled my head so as to get a better look at his face. "Ez?" I poked him in the side. "Talk to me. What's up?"

He just shook his head. "I don't know," he admitted, voice hoarse. "But we'd better go join them before they wonder what's keeping us."

I followed after him in confusion, not sure why he was so upset. But then I saw Rebekah seated across the table from Klaus, sensed the tension in the air between them. I exchanged worried looks with my brother before going to sit by Rebekah. Which si when I smelled it. It was faint, the scent barely there, but still I caught it.


I'd met him only briefly the night before, when he'd arrived at the plantation manor unexpectedly. He'd introduced himself to myself and Hayley as an old friend of Klaus's. I'd said thanks for visiting, and warned him that I'd have whipped out a shotgun and blown him away if he hadn't knocked. I'd followed it up with an "I still might shoot you if you don't take off in ten seconds." Marcel, far from stupid, had taken me at my word and gone away.

Even with our one conversation totaling out at maybe fifteen minutes tops, I'd recognize his scent anywhere. It was a mix of vampire and New Orleans and apples and blood and a million other little things that added up to make his own individual scent.

What, I wondered, was his scent doing in the air around Rebekah?

And then I realized what it had to be. Which also explained why Ezra was seated about as far away from Rebekah as he could get without being in another room. My brother, I'd noticed, had a growing fondness for the lovely Rebekah. If his reaction was anything to go by, maybe more than just a fondness. Looking at his face, though, I wasn't sure if he knew why he was so uncomfortable.

With his trauma from Sirena's torture, he might be suppressing any sort of romantic feelings without even realizing it. I found myself wondering what would happen if Ezra realized that he was falling for Rebekah, and then quickly slammed the door on that avenue of consideration. The wounds on Ezra's soul had barely even begun to scab over, much less heal. Pushing him into something like this would be a mistake of epic proportions. My brother was strong, but we all have our limits. Another heartbreak might be the final shattering blow, and I was in no hurry to find out one way or the other.

So I kept my mouth shut and reached for a danish.

"Have you spoken to our good friend Marcel today?" Klaus asked, looking as Rebekah.

"No," she replied, giving him a blank look. "Should I have?"

"He's been mysteriously silent," Klaus observed. "Avoiding me, some might say. I thought perhaps he may have whispered reasons into your ear. Along with all of those sweet nothings," he added with a smirk.

Ezra clenched his glass of orange juice so hard that I worried it might shatter, but he said nothing, and I followed his lead.

"If I see him," Rebekah said sweetly, "I'll be sure to ask if he's still sore at you."

Klaus looked at his sister for another moment, then heaved a sigh. "Let me give a voice to that look in your eyes." His voice took on a mocking edge. " 'My saintly noble brother lies writhing in agony in the Bayou, victim of my bastard brother's bite, when just one or two drops of his blood would ease his pain.'" He gave a short sigh. "That about right?"

"On the contrary, Nik," she remarked coldly, "I am simply enjoying my breaky, waiting for Elijah's healthy return." She flashed a bright smile.

"Oh, come on Rebekah," Klaus said in exasperation. "You've been giving me the devil's eye all morning. Out with it!"

"Perhaps I'm concerned that if I voice my opinion about what you did to Elijah," Rebekah said cuttingly, "I will end up on the wrong side of your toxic hybrid teeth."

"Poppycock!" Klaus said dismissively. "I would never bite you. Elijah made some very offensive accusations about my intentions towards my child," Klaus said explanation. "He deserves a day or two of discomfort. Besides," he added, "you know my preferred method of punishment for your indiscretions is the dagger."

I face-palmed. "For the love of..."

Ezra, likewise, gave Klaus a disbelieving look, like he couldn't believe the Original had actually said that out loud. "Way to be sensitive, asshole."

Klaus tossed half of a croissant at him. "No commentary from the peanut gallery," he said chidingly.

Ezra just rolled his eyes.

Rebekah stood up, gaze never wavering from her brother. "There is something fundamentally wrong with you," she told him seriously. And then she turned on her heel and strode from the room.

Klaus watched her go, looking faintly hurt and annoyed.

"Have some fruit," I offered, nudging a platter of pineapple slices over to him
The hybrid stared at me like I'd lost my mind.

"Pineapple has good health benefits," I informed him sagely. "There are some studies that show it can lower blood pressure."

"Do I look like I need my blood pressure lowered?" Klaus asked dryly.

"Maybe," I acknowledged, then frowned as his words from earlier played back through my mind. Elijah made some very offensive accusations about my intentions towards my child, he'd said. He deserves a day or two of discomfort.

Writhing in agony in the Bayou, he'd said.

Victim of a werewolf bite, I realized with horror. Klaus's bite. "Holy Mother of God," I blurted, erupting out of my chair. "You bit Elijah? And left him behind?!"

Ezra gave me a look that said I should really just stay out of it. "Zoe," he said warningly.

But I ignored my twin. "I can't believe you left him behind!" I snarled.

Klaus's eyes flashed angrily. "I think I missed the part where you get to have opinions about my actions towards my own siblings. Especially given the nasty branches of your own family tree."

I snarled at him, and headed for the door.

Ezra bolted up out of his seat, looking worried now. "Zoe, where are you going?"

"Back to the bayou," I snapped.

He nearly knocked his plate from the table in his haste to get up and jump in my path to the door. "Zoe, you can't," he protested. "We just got back the other night. And there's no way to know when that revenant asshole might make another play for us. We should just stay here and-"

"Get. Out. Of. My. Way," I growled, barely restraining my fury. I didn't like snarling at my brother, but the idea of Elijah stranded in the bayou with just Hayley and hungry gators for company was tripping all sorts of internal hot buttons for me. I didn't understand why Elijah in pain was such a big deal for me; maybe it was because he'd been the first Original I'd met and I felt some attachment to him as a result. Maybe it was because I found him to have incredible fashion sense, in his immaculate suits and crisp dress shirts. Maybe it was because I knew that he was good at heart, despite whatever atrocities he must have committed over the course of his obnoxiously long existence. Maybe it was because he so obviously loved his family and seemed to want only the best for them.

Aw, hell, who was I kidding. It was because he was hot. It was because I, for whatever reason, found him hellishly attractive.

"I am going," I told my brother, "and whoever tries to stop me is going to end up roadkill." I looked my twin dead in the eye, my attitude about ten kinds of not-screwing-around. As the person who knew me best in the entire universe, Ezra understood exactly how serious I was, and stepped aside without further argument, just squeezing my shoulder gently.

I managed to flash him a shaky smile of gratitude, and then I was gone out the door, my only thought getting to Elijah before something else happened to him.

"Here," Hayley, lifting a cup of water to Elijah's lip. "Drink this."

Elijah, pale ans sweaty and clearly miserable, did as she asked, sipping at the water slowly. But he immediately gagged and started coughing. "Forgive me," he muttered. "Please."

"It's okay," Hayley said, setting the cup aside and running a gentle hand through his hair. "There's nothing to forgive. Just...remind me to annihilate your brother once you're healthy."

Elijah gave a weak chuckle. "Yes," he replied, "remind me to remind you to get in line."

Hayley dabbed at his forehead with a washcloth. "Your fever's not getting any better," she said worriedly. " Although I guess it doesn't help that we decided to shack up in a swamp either." She set the cloth aside and went out onto the porch, propping open the door to try and let more of a breeze in.

Elijah watched her quietly for a moment, but couldn't stifle his coughs for long.

Hayley immediately rushed back to his side. "Are you okay?" she asked anxiously.

"I'm fine," he said, trying to be as reassuring as possible given the circumstances. "Please, just...return to your reading." He gestured to the book she'd found earlier, the Bible containing what seemed to be her long lost family tree.

But Hayley shook her head. "I went through the whole thing," she said with a sigh. "It's just a regular Bible. With an entry in a family tree that may or may not be me. But, you know, I've been a little busy worrying about you." She gave him a tremulous smile.

Elijah looked at her plaintively. "Hayley, please. This fever will make me unstable. And once the hallucinations begin, I'll start to see things. You must leave me here."

She gave him a stubborn look he was starting to secretly adore. "I'm not leaving you like this."

Ezra sat back down at the breakfast table slowly, not quite looking at Klaus. He was surprised that the hybrid hadn't tried to stop Zoe from leaving, but damn if he was going to ask the other man about it. As bipolar as Klaus was that conversation could definitely end bloody. So he sat back down and stabbed at a chunk of melon with his fork.

Klaus broke the silence first. "She really is very temperamental, your sister."

Ezra couldn't help it, he laughed. "You of all people have no room to criticize someone else's mood swings. Besides," he added, "she's not wrong. It was a shitty thing to do, leaving him there."

Klaus sighed. "I am aware of that," he replied. "Why do you think I allowed your sister to go off to retrieve him?"

Ezra snorted. "Allowed? I doubt you could have stopped her."

Klaus just smirked. "I can be very persuasive."

"Yeah, I've seen your persuasion," Ezra said, darkly amused. "And it wouldn't have worked on my sister. She doesn't take shit from anybody."

"I have noticed that about her," Klaus observed dryly. He glanced at his watch suddenly. "If you'll excuse me," he said, " I need to be going. I have an appointment to keep."

Ezra gave a careless shrug. "Okay. Whatever. See you later, I guess."

Hayley got sucked into Elijah's memories without meaning for it to happen. She had just been brushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes when her touch had transported her into his mind. She saw a beautiful woman lounging in a porcelain bathtub. Feeling oddly uncomfortable and strangely jealous, she pulled out and away.

Elijah stirred from his fever-sleep. "Celeste?" he murmured, then realized who it was sitting beside him. "Hayley, I'm sorry, " he said, realizing that he must have been hallucinating. "I thought you were someone else."

"Celeste," Hayley agreed, trying not to sound annoyed. "Whoever she was, she was smokin' hot," she observed, trying to add some humor to her voice.

Elijah looked distinctly embarrassed. "Did I let you enter my thoughts?" he asked, looking concerned. "I'm not well. I should go. This is..."

Hayley pushed him back down when he moved to sit up. "This is fine, Elijah," she said soothingly. "You're sick, I'm taking care of you. It's okay."

Elijah managed to give her a weak smile, then frowned as he sensed someone outside. "We're being watched," he whispered, glancing out the door pointedly.

Hayley spun around, then went out the door, looking around. She saw a woman she didn't recognize standing several yards away. Once the woman realized Hayley had spotted her, she bolted, running away.

"Hey," Hayley called out. "Hey!" She glanced back at Elijah, but the Original seemed to have passed out again. Since he seemed to be stable for the moment, she jumped down off the porch and chased after the other woman.

She'd only gone a few hundred feet, though, when she lost the trail. Frustrated, she whirled around. "Why don't you just come talk to me!" she shouted.

Suddenly, two figures dressed in black stepped out of the trees. They were clearly not affiliated with the strange woman who'd been watching Hayley; it was clear from their expensive clothing that they were only in this bayou because they were looking for something or someone they thought was here.

Hayley noticed that they were both wearing signet rings. And what d'you know, both rings were stamped with a sigil she recognized. A thundercloud pierced by a lightning bolt. It was the same as the symbol she'd seen tattooed on the forearm of the one Zoe had called Patrick. A revenant, she and her brother had later explained; a dead man brought back to a semblance of life by their evil psychotic uncle.

Storme, she realized as she looked at the symbol on the rings. It was a crest of some sort for the Storme family. Those rings meant that whoever these two newcomers were, they were allied with or at least working for Zoe and Ezra's uncle.

Hayley looked around nervously, wishing she hadn't gone running off into the bayou with no back up. It had been a really stupid thing to do, and now she had no idea what was going to happen.

I tromped through the bayou with no real destination in mind. I'd started my search in the clearing where we'd fought with Patrick, figuring that wherever Elijah and Hayley were holed up couldn't be much farther away, since it hadn't taken Klaus long to find them, flip his shit, and come back. He did have vampire speed on his side, though, so there was that to consider.

Before I really started to get frustrated, though, I picked up the scent of dark magic on the air. "What the hell...?"

I struck off in the direction the scent was coming from. And what did I discover but Hayley, cornered by two Shadow assassins. "Son of a bitch," I snarled, charging forward.

"Would you guys back the hell off already?!" I pulled a dagger and flung it at the closest warlock. He dodged to the side, but wasn't fast enough to get out of the way before I kneed him in the groin. He went down hard, and I whirled, palming another blade as the second warlock approached. "This is your one warning," I told him. "Leave or die."

Idiot that he was, he didn't take my advice. Fine. He could die like the last ones who'd come.

I turned on my heel, hurled my second dagger through the air; it slashed hrough the air and stabbed into the first warlock's throat, cutting right through his jugular. The second warlock rushed at me then, roaring in outrage. I was out of blades, but not out of ways to attack. And I was too angry to consider the repercussions of what I was doing. My anger was riding me hard, and I couldnt think clearly enough through the red haze of rage to realize that I was breaking own of ny own rules.
Not to use magic.

I shouldn't have done it. Really, it was a bad idea. Using magic was something I'd established as forbidden for myself. I'm a strong witch, don't get me wrong; it's not like overreaching my magic was an issue. But maybe that's part of the problem, too. I'm a strong witch, good at magic. But...too good. It's too powerful, too addictive. After how things had gone so sour the last time I'd been actively practicing, I'd sworn off serious magic.

But it looked like my dry period had come to an end.

I let the assassin-warlock get in just close enough, then let loose with a spell. It was a pretty basic one, of the Latin incantation variety. I could have just whispered the words, I suppose, or even just thought them. But I was furious, and felt like shouting. I wanted to be heard.

"Exsufflo hostium," I roared, and a massive concussive wave exploded out from where I was standing, blowing back the warlock so hard that his spine snapped from the force. And if that hadn't been enough, he flew through the air to crash into a very solid tree, the impact nearly snapping him in half. His corpse crashed to the ground in a sprawling heap, the life clearly gone from his body.

I stood there panting for a moment, then glanced over at Hayley. The werewolf woman was staring at me like she'd never seen me before, her face pale and eyes wide, looking frightened.

"Where's Elijah?" I asked her.

Chapter Text

"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could."

Hayley took me to Elijah without argument, clearly seeing me as someone not to argue with. Or at least someone not to argue with after I'd just killed two assassins without blinking an eye.

We reached the shack she and Elijah had taken shelter in, and my heart constricted painfully in my chest when I saw how ill he looked. Trying to keep my hands from shaking, I knelt down beside him. "How long has he been this bad?" I whispered, touching his forehead gently and finding it scorching hot.

"Not long," Hayley murmured, kneeling down at his other side. "He only started getting really bad a little while ago."

"And you left him alone?" I hissed, resisting the urge to smack her upside the head. "He's done nothing but look after you from day one, and you bail on him?!"

"There was someone watching us from outside," Hayley snapped defensively.

"So let them watch!" I growled. "Who gives a damn?"

Hayley opened her mouth to fire off a retort but then Elijah gave a low, painful-sounding moan and we both froze, our personal differences falling away, buried underneath our concern for the vampire between us. Without stopping to think I pulled him closer, cradling his head in my lap. Hayley gave me a funny look but didn't object, just taking his hand in hers and squeezing gently, rubbing her thumb in slow, soothing circles across his knuckles. Elijah moaned again, thrashing slightly as whatever visions the fever thrust upon him took hold. Before I realized what was happening, those visions pulled me and Hayley in, sucking us in with no regard for personal space or privacy.

The first thing I saw was a very naked woman reclining in an old bathtub. Then I realized it wasn't that the tub was old; this was one of Elijah's memories, a scene from his past.

"Who the heck is she," I grumbled, feeling frumpy in comparison to the lovely goddess in the tub.

"Celeste," Hayley supplied.

"And who the heck is Celeste?" I growled.

Hayley just shrugged. "Someone he cared about, obviously." She nodded to past-Elijah, who was now leaning down and kissing the other woman passionately, their love obvious to anyone with eyes.

I felt like someone had sucker punched me, and my wolf-half snarled and prowled under my skin. Easy, I told myself. Relax. It's in the past. It's already done with, long ago.

And then we were back in the shack in the bayou, the grip Elijah's fever-induced memories had on us falling away as Elijah himself stirred from his uneasy slumber. "Please, Hayley," he said, clutching at her hand like a lifeline, not even noticing me despite the fact I was all but holding him in my lap. "This fever," he groaned. "My mind is flooded with these torturous memories. You have to leave."

"What is your deal?" she demanded. "You don't like people taking care of you?"

"There are consequences for those that care," Elijah said weakly. "I will not have you pay that price."

"So, you're having weird, retro sex dreams?" Hayley said lightly, her tone both serious and teasing. "Get over it," she told him. "I'm staying." A glance over at me. "We're staying," she corrected.

Eliajh blinked up at her, confused. "We...?" he echoed. And then seemed to finally notice me sitting there. "Zoe Storme?" he whispered, looking utterly baffled. "What...are you doing here?"

"You're such an idiot," I told him irritably, feeling inexplicably annoyed with him all of a sudden. "Why wouldn't I be here?"

He just stared at me blankly, and I sighed. "Drink your damn water," I grumbled, picking up the cup and putting it gently to his lips.

He glanced at Hayley who nodded in encouragement, then sipped hesitantly at the water. "Thank you," he said once he was done.

"You're welcome," I sad gruffly, setting the cup aside again.

"You've got blood on your jacket," he remarked suddenly, his gaze riveted on the edge of my sleeve.

I glanced down to see that he was right. "Huh," I said, my voice the very definition of dull surprise.

Hayley glared at me. "Seriously?"

"What?" I said defensively. "It's not my fault the asshole bled on me as I killed him. And you're welcome, by the way, for saving your life. Geez."

"They were after you," Hayley pointed out. "So technically all you did was clean up your own mess."

I resisted the urge to growl at her, but only barely.

Elijah, meanwhile, was looking at us like he'd fallen behind in the conversation somewhere along the way. "You killed someone?" he said uncertainly, looking back and forth between us. "Who was it?"

"Some assassins sent by my uncle to capture me for torture," I said calmly. "Don't worry, I dealt with it."

Elijah frowned faintly, looking troubled, then shook his head and looked back to Hayley. "What about our other visitor?" he asked her. "The woman who was watching us. What does she want?"

"I don't know," Hayley admitted. "I'm guessing she's the one that left the mystery Bible on the doorstep last night. Would be nice if she'd stick around long enough to tell me why," she added, sounding frustrated.

"Hayley," Elijah said seriously, "you came here to gather information about your family, not to play nursemaid to a vampire with a temperature. Please, find her. Learn what you can."

Hayley shook her head stubbornly. "No, I'm staying with you. I won't leave you alone."

"I'm not alone," he told her, his tone gentle. "Zoe is here now, and she can keep an eye on me while you search for answers."

Hayley didn't look at all happy with his logic. "But I really don't-"

"Hayley," he said firmly. "Go."

She set her jaw stubbornly. "No," she told him, not backing down.

I sighed. This was going to be a long day.

Ezra's phone went off as he was in the middle of trying to convince a sketchy blackmarket weapons dealer to sell him an untraceable six-shot revolver. The shifty guy bailed, of course, the second Ezra looked away, and was gone before Ezra could catch him again, disappearing down the street as he merged with the rest of the foot traffic.

Cursing, he flipped his phone open. "What?" he snapped in annoyance.

"You could do to learn some phone etiquette," Klaus remarked. "I believe 'hello' generally comes before 'what' but perhaps that's just me."

Ezra took a deep breath, reminding himself that he needed to be nice to Klaus. Or at least not overly rude. "Hello, Klaus," he said, injecting his voice with false cheer. "How are you?"

"Oh, well enough," Klaus replied in matching tone. "Yourself?"

"Never better."

"Good, good. Now, on to business?"

"Yes, please," Ezra gritted out.

"Well," Klaus said, "I find myself needing to drop by and pay Marcel a visit."

"Okay," Ezra said slowly, not sure where this was going. "And?"

"Things are falling into place," Klaus observed. "A little too neatly, all things considered."

"Why is easy a bad thing?" Ezra asked, exasperated.

"Because it's suspicious," Klaus answered immediately, as if that should have been the most obvious thing in the world. "And on that note, I would appreciate some back up on this little visit."

Ezra frowned. "You want me to be your wingman when you go talk to Marcel?" he asked, wanting to be sure he understood correctly.

"Exactly so," Klaus affirmed. "I'll meet you there in, say, half an hour?"

"I really don't-"

"See you soon," Klaus said dismissively, then hung up.

"Arrogant asshole," Ezra muttered, shutting his phone and rubbing the back of his neck. "Great," he said sarcastically to himself. "This is so totally how I wanted to spend my night. Vampire back-up. Dammit."

He wondered if it wasn't entirely too late to run down the arms dealer again and get that gun.

Klaus spotted Ezra waiting for him and couldn't help but be surprised. "I half expected you not to show," he remarked.

Ezra just frowned at him. "Why wouldn't I come?" he asked, looking puzzled. "You asked me to be here."

Klaus just shook his head. "Well, yes, but normally whenever I ask anyone to do something for me, there's considerable argument and opposition. I'm not used to such obedience."

Ezra bared his teeth in a snarl that Klaus now recognized as a wolf mannerism. "It's not obedience," the witch-wolf growled, eyes flashing gold.

Klaus found that he liked Ezra better now that the other man wasn't trying to hide his true nature. And the same was true for Zoe as well. Klaus hadn't hadn't realized how much of themselves Ezra and his sister had been keeping hidden and subdued until Zoe had finally confessed the truth of their heritage. Now that they didn't seem preoccupied with keeping that secret under wraps, though, Ezra and his sister were both more free with their behaviors. Except, he'd noticed, around his other siblings, which led him to believe that, for whatever reason, he was the only one they'd told.

He wasn't sure how he felt about that. He also wasn't sure, he had to admit, how he felt about their hybrid nature in general. The resemblance of their situation to his own triggered all sorts of uncomfortable feelings, feelings he was going to great lengths to avoid examining too closely.

"Let's get going," he said abruptly, gesturing to the entrance. "Best to get this little powwow over with."

Ezra just gave a shrug and followed after him, pausing only to glance around to make sure they weren't being watched. They reached a courtyard to find Marcel waiting for them. Ezra let Klaus walk forward, opting to hang back on the periphery and keep an eye on things.

"Klaus," Marcel said in greeting.

"You've been avoiding my calls," Klaus observed.

"Little pissed off lately," Marcel said tightly.

"Apologies for my behavior can come later," Klaus replied. "You have something of mine. I want it back."

"Sorry," Marcel said, pulling out a silver dagger, "but I can't do that." He held out the dagger, and then suddenly Rebekah emerged from the shadows and took it from him.

Klaus heard Ezra's sharp intake of breath, but didn't stop to wonder at it. Instead, he narrowed his gaze at his sister. "What is this?" he asked suspiciously.

"Apologies for your behavior?" she said mockingly. "You don't apologize, Nik. You just act. I've had enough." She looked at Marcel. "We have had enough."

"Look at you," Klaus said, voice sharp. "Finally in possession of the one thing that can take you down. How does it feel?"

Rebekah smiled, looking smug. "Great."

Marcel suddenly let loose a piercing whistle. On cue, a dozen of his vampires arrived on the scene, clustering on the balconies above.

Klaus laughed. "So this is it? The evil bastard Klaus has gone too far, must be punished. And by his own sibling, nonetheless. How positively biblical. And you, Marcel, is this," he pointed to the vampires, "your idea of a hit? I taught you better than this paltry excuse for a take-down, " he snarled. "Do you think you can subdue me with this!?"

"No," Marcel said evenly. "But I think I can with this." He whistled again, and more vampires appeared. More than he could count at once, filling in the spaces and gaps on the balconies, until there wasn't a square inch of free room to spare.

Klaus watched them crowd in with expressionless eyes, not speaking.

"Son of a bitch," he heard Ezra mutter, followed by the distinctive sound of a revolver being loaded.

I wasn't prepared for Elijah to lunge at Hayley in his fever, snarling that he was going to kill her. Well, he thought she was Klaus, so there was that, but still. I tried to intervene but he knocked me clear across the room and I hit my head hard against the hard edge of a table. My vision went a little fuzzy and by the time I'd recovered, a stranger was standing over Elijah's inert, staked body, with Hayley gasping for air, hands rubbing her throat.

"Oh, thank you!" Hayley exclaimed. "I thought I was going to die."

I rolled my eyes, pulling myself to my feet. "Who are you?" I asked the stranger, disliking her on principle because she'd just staked Elijah. Sure, he'd been about to strangle the woman he was supposed to be protecting, but these things happen when one is poisoned by a werewolf bite, so I was willing to allow some leeway, all things considered.

The stranger, though, ignored me entirely. Her only interest seemed to be in Hayley. "I'm sure you got questions."

"Only a thousand of them," Hayley said, before going on in a rush. "Like who are you? Why are you following me? Where the hell is everyone? And, if the people in this book really are my family, what happened to them?"

"I'm Eve," the stranger answered. "I'm following you because you brought an Original to Werewolf Country, which is pretty much the same reason why everybody else skedaddled. If you wanna know what happened to the people in that family tree, " she went on, "I'll sum it up nice and quick: Marcel happened."

"What happened?" I asked, frowning. "We've heard rumors, but nothing specific, just that he's responsible."

"He killed most of them," Eve informed us. "Later, the descendants of the ones who dodged death, he strong-armed a witch into putting a curse on them."

I didn't like the sound of that. Curses were serious business, in the worst sort of way.

"What kind of curse?" Hayley asked, looking equally worried.

"Swap nature around," Eve explained. "Inside out. Made it so their natural state is wolves. They only turn back human on the full moon. We're hunted by the marks we carry," she continued, gesturing the the mark on Hayley's shoulder. "That crescent moon birthmark- that's why I got rid of mine. I didn't wanna get found out."

Suddenly, Elijah made a reappearance. Well, not suddenly. A glance outside made me realize that more time had passed than I'd thought; it was growing dark now, the sun setting and the shadows lengthening. "Good evening. Think I might have something which belongs to you," he added to Eve, holding out the stake she'd stabbed him with.

"Are you okay?" Hayley asked anxiously.

Elijah smiled at her. "The wound is healed, the fever is broken, but for some strange reason," he added pointedly, "I have this sharp and lingering sensation in my back."

I rolled my eyes. "If you're well enough to bitch about being staked in the back," I said reasonably, "then you must be feeling better."

He just gave me a look.

I gave him a overly bright smile before heading for the door. "Now that you're ambulatory again, let's get the hell out of here, okay? I've had enough of this place for one day."

"She's right," Hayley said apologetically to Eve. "We really do need to get home. I'll be back though," she promised. "Soon. I need to know more."

"Keep that mark covered," was all Eve said before stepping down from the porch and walking off.

"What happened?" Elijah asked curiously, noticing the change in Hayley's demeanor.

She gave a hesitant smile. "I just met part of my family."

Marcel's vampires surrounded Ezra and Klaus pretty quickly. It was obvious at a glance that they were very, very outnumbered. Klaus, though, didn't seem troubled by this. After a moment of self-assessment, Ezra discovered that he actually didn't care about their odds much, either. Which he supposed wasn't surprising.

He was just an unkillable as Klaus was, and these vampires had no interest in turning him over to his uncle. There was nothing they could do to him that would do him any permanent damage. Still, he was glad he'd managed to purchase the revolver. The weight of it in his hand was comforting, the metal cool against the skin of his palm.

Klaus took a moment to look around at their opponents again, then spread his arms wide. "Let's end this charade, shall we?" He raised his voice to make sure they all heard him. "Vampires of New Orleans! Do recall that I am an Original. A hybrid. I cannot be killed. Eternity is an awfully long time. How long, do you think, Marcel will stay in power? What if one of you lot were to release me, knowing I will be eternally in your debt? Oh, I would pity those of you who dared to cross me. I can assure you, your ends would be spectacular. To borrow a trick from an old friend," he held out a large coin, "whoever picks up this coin gets to live." He dropped the coin to the ground, where it clattered around with a glint before settling. "Now, which of you magnificent bastards wants to join me?"

"Anyone wants that coin," Marcel said without missing a beat, "pledge allegiance to Klaus. Take it now. Go ahead. The choice is yours."

No one moved, and Klaus looked genuinely shocked by the loyalty Marcel's minions were displaying.

Marcel, clearly not surprised, smiled in pride. "Take him," he ordered.

A handful of vampires rushed at Klaus. Ezra fired off two quick successive shots, the vervain-coated bullets tearing through the enemies' bodies and sending them crashing to the ground. Klaus took out the remaining attackers easily, flinging their bodies away from him once he'd finished.

They managed to keep the upper hand for a bit, but then some of Marcel's vampires managed to get chains around Klaus's arms, pulling at his wrists in an attempt to subdue them. For one tense moment, it looked like they might succeed, but then Ezra finished reloading his revolver and took three of them out with rapid headshots that sent them tumbling away like marionettes whose string shad been cut. Klaus finished off the rest easily as his hybrid powers surged, eyes glowing gold as he bit down hard on whatever vampire came near him. The toxicity of Klaus's bite, Ezra knew, would kill just about any of these vampires very quickly. They'd last maybe a couple hours, if they were lucky.

"Marcel!" Klaus roared. "Come and finish this!"

Marcel rushed forward, desperation etched on every line of his fine, but then Rebekah was there, clutching at the vampire in a way that made Ezra want to carve him into gator chow.

"No!" she said frantically to Marcel. "Take the coin!"

Marcel looked at her in shock. "What?"

"He won't stop until everyone is dead," she said urgently. "And he will kill you too. End this. Pick up the coin!"

Marcel considered this for a long moment before lunging forward suddenly.

Ezra brought his pistol back up, aiming it right at Marcel's heart, just in case the vampire tried something. Everyone else in the room went very still as Marcel walked forward, the fighting coming to an abrupt halt. Marcel strode back to the center of the courtyard, bent over to pick up the coin, the straightened, holding it out to Klaus.

Klaus looked decidedly amused. "Well, well, well. The great Marcel, self-proclaimed king of New Orleans, bowing before me."

Looking disgusted with himself, Marcel tossed the coin down at Klaus's feet. "There. I hereby pledge my allegiance to you. You have the keys to my kingdom. It's yours."

Chapter Text

"One should rather die than be betrayed. There is no deceit in death. It delivers precisely what it has promised. Betrayal, though ... betrayal is the willful slaughter of hope."

Klaus stood by the window, turning the dagger over and over in his hand, the agony within him so great that he wanted to scream and rage. But he remained still, kept himself tightly leashed.

Rebekah, one of the two sources of his terrible pain, came into the room behind him. "Elijah's home," she said, her voice cutting into him like a million sharp blades. "There's only one dagger. Which one of us will you be punishing today?"

"I contemplated a game," he replied slowly. "Of eenie-meenie-miney-moe." And then just like that his control frayed, and he sped over to her, grabbing her from behind and pressing the tip of the dagger into her throat. "You betrayed me," he hissed. "My own sister!"

Elijah came into the room. "Niklaus, don't you dare!"

Klaus released Rebkeah, stepping back to instead angle the dagger at his older brother. "Perhaps it should be you, brother!" He didn't bother trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "Stealing my child away with every fawning moment of tenderness you show to Hayley!"

"This has nothing to do with Hayley," Elijah responded tightly.

"It has everything to do with her!" Klaus snapped. "She's adored you since she arrived. And now my child, my blood, will grow up to call you father!"

"Is that what this is?" Rebekah asked. "You are once again worried that you will be left behind?" She shook her head. "Has history taught you nothing? We don't abandon you, Nik," she exclaimed, "you drive us away!"

"Is that so?" he asked thickly. "What have I done lately, other than cooperate?" He gestured to Elijah. "I bow down to you, brother, to make up for daggering you. For the greater good of our plan to reclaim our home." He turned to Rebekah. "Looked the other way, sister, while you repeat the same cycle with Marcel. Falling again for a man you shouldn't be with, while he controls the empire that we built! That he took!" He took a shaky breath. "Now, I make no excuses for past sins. But in the one moment when you two could have chosen to stand by me..." He swallowed hard. "To believe in me. To believe my intentions for my own child were chose to stand against me, to side with my enemies." His voice dropped to a low whisper as he approached Elijah slowly. "I wanted our home back. Now I have it. So, I'm going to live there. And the two of you..." A tear slid down his cheek. "You can stay here together, and rot." He spun the dagger around and held it out to Elijah hilt-first.

Elijah hesitated, then took it. Klaus, with nothing more to say to either of his siblings, brushed past them without another word, not speaking again until he reached Hayley outside, where she sat waiting with Ezra and Zoe.

"You're coming with me, little wolf," he told Hayley.

She scoffed. "Why would I go anywhere with you?"

"Because, Hayley, that child you carry is the only thing on this earth that matters to me. Now you can fight me on this, but you will lose." He opened the passenger side door of the car and held it for her. "As will anyone else who tries to stop you getting in this car."

Hayley bit her lip, looking conflicted. In the end, though, she sighed and did as she was told.

"What about us?" Zoe asked uncertainly, exchanging a worried look with her brother. "We...don't have anywhere to go," she admitted unhappily, shifting from foot to foot uneasily.

Klaus frowned. "You can stay here," he told her.

"Hell, no," Ezra said, an undertone of hot anger in his voice. "After the shit those two just pulled on you? No way."

Klaus stared at them.

"Betrayal is a hot button issue for us," Zoe said, and though her words sounded mild he could sense a familiar sort of fury within her as well. "And I don't think I can stand to be around Rebekah or Elijah right now, knowing that they turned on you so quickly like that." She shook her head as if she couldn't understand. "Family should stick together," she muttered.

Caught completely off guard by this unexpected display of loyalty from the twins, Klaus simply gave a nod and gestured for them to get in the car. Zoe and Ezra complied quickly, slipping into the backseat without any further discussion.

They were ten minutes down the road before he managed to get his vocal cords working again. "Thank you," he said gruffly.

Ezra gave a faint, fleeting smile that vanished as quickly as it had come. "You don't need to thank us for not being assholes," he remarked dryly.

Zoe elbowed her brother in the side, shooting him a chiding look. "You're welcome," she said to Klaus.

They drove the rest of the way in silence, and Klaus found himself wishing he had the sort of relationship with his siblings that Zoe and Ezra had with each other. Things would be so much easier if someone would just be at his side when he needed them.

But it was too late for that now. Those bridges had been burned, shoddily rebuilt, then burned again. And this time, he was done trying to patch things up and redeem himself in their eyes. It was clear to him now, nothing he ever did would be good enough. He would always be lesser to them, a bastard who couldn't be trusted. And as much as that painful truth tore at him, it was the truth. And it was long past time for him to accept it.

I really wasn't sure how I felt about the direction our lives had taken.

Yes, I was sure Ezra and I had made the right decision, leaving with Klaus and Hayley. Klaus could definitely be an arrogant dominating asshole, but any idiot with working eyes and half a brain could tell that he did care about his family. That he already loved the child that Hayley was carrying. So when Ezra and I had seen how quickly his siblings had turned on him, we'd sided with him and left the plantation house. Family betrayals, after all, were something Ezra and I understood all too well; Klaus could hide it behind his devil-may-care attitude, but we could tell he was in pain, and it was a pain my brother and I could relate to.

It seemed like we could relate to Klaus Mikaelson more and more lately, and that was also something I didn't know how to feel about.

I also missed Rebekah. She'd been my only real friend from the start, and not having her to talk to was making me realize how lonely I was; how isolated I'd been before coming to this city. Ezra missed her too, but whenever I asked him about it he just snapped at me and growled about Marcel. Recognizing it as a sore subject, I had started to refrain from talking to him about it.

And then there was Elijah. Not seeing him was a deep dull ache in my chest that never seemed to go away. I had no idea why the separation was dragging me down so much, but I was determined to ignore it. Yes, he was hot, and sure, he could be a nice guy. But if he was the sort of guy who'd turn on his baby brother based on the vengeful vitriol of one of said brother's enemies, then he was not the sort of guy for me. Loyalty was a quality I valued above absolutely everything else, and Elijah had demonstrated a notable lack of that in regards to Klaus. Sure, Klaus had been fucking up his and Rebekah's lives for centuries...but that didn't excuse the betrayal. For someone who'd repeatedly claimed to believe in Klaus and his possible redemption, he'd certainly jumped ship awfully fast.

Yes, I told myself. I was better off without Elijah in my life. Sexy suits be damned.

So when Klaus declared that we were going to have a huge dinner party to celebrate his return as overlord of New Orleans, I pasted on a smile and said "Sure." What better way to distract myself, after all, than with a party?

The Original hybrid eyed me suspiciously, as if he didn't trust my easy acquiescence. "No objections whatsoever?" he asked.

I shrugged. "You wouldn't listen even if I had any," I pointed out, rolling my eyes.

"I might," Klaus replied, feigning hurt before giving that aggravating smirk I'd grown accustomed to. "Possibly. If they were worthwhile."

I rolled my eyes. "Uh-huh. I'm sure you would."

Klaus just gave me a patronizing pat on the shoulder. "Be a good girl and fetch a tablecloth from the linen closet, will you?"

I bared my teeth at him in a sharp smile. "Do I look like your puppy dog, Klaus? Fetch it your own damn self."

He tsked at me. "So rude," he said chidingly, though his tone was teasing. "Your brother should teach you better manners."

"Where do you think I got the ones I have," I shot back, and he laughed.

"True enough," he allowed. "Although I suspect if I asked your twin to fetch something for me, he'd react even more poorly, and I'd have to deal with him lunging for my throat."

"He's not one for taking orders," I agreed. "I'd advise against trying to tell him what to do," I added, looking at him pointedly.

Klaus put on an innocent expression. "Who, me? Give orders?"

I rolled my eyes again and pushed past him. "Which way's the linen closet?" I asked over my shoulder.

He gave an amused chuckle. "Second door down from the kitchen," he called after me. "Except I thought you didn't take orders, either?"

"You're welcome," I grumbled under my breath as I traipsed down the hall and retrieved the tablecloth he'd requested. I passed it off to the maids he'd hired on for the night, and a couple hours later we were all seated around a long table in the courtyard.

After a short time, Klaus tapped his fork against his glass to get everyone's attention. "Let us begin," he said, "with a toast to our shared gift: immortality. After a thousand years, one might expect life to be less keenly felt, for its beauties and its sorrows do diminish with time. But," he went on, "as vampires, we feel more deeply than humans could possibly imagine." He waved at the assortment of servers and waitstaff who were standing nearby, and they obediently came forward, one coming to stand by every guest; the only exceptions were Hayley, Zoe, and Ezra.

A moment later, as Klaus continued speaking, it became apparent why. "Insatiable need, exquisite pain..."The servants slashed knvies across their wrists, filling cups with blood for the vampire guests. "Our victories, and our defeats." Klaus glanced over at Marcel, and for a long moment seemed to be lost in thought. Marcel, likewise, seemed to be off in his own head somewhere, his expression distracted like he had something else on his mind. Given the whiff of Rebekah's scent I'd picked up on his skin earlier, I figured it probably had something to do with her.

I, personally, did not like the thought of her being in a relationship with Klaus's progeny, although my feelings on it certainly weren't as strong as those of Ezra, who had made a point of avoiding both Rebekah and Marcel since our arrival at the Abattoir.

But if Klaus was serious about mending fences with Marcel then it was likely my brother and I would be seeing more of the former Vampire King of New Orleans. And it seemed like whatever schemes Klaus and Marcel had in mind, they were going to at least play at the reconciliation game.

"To my city, my home again," Klaus concluded, raising his glass as he finished his toast. "May the blood never cease to flow..."

"...and the party never end!" Marcel finished for him, lifting his own glass.

There was a long pause as Marcel's vampires looked at their former leader carefully. Finally, one of them, I think his name was Diego, echoed the toast, albeit unenthusiastically. "To New Orleans."

"To New Orleans!" Klaus repeated, giving a wide grin. The rest of us finally parroted back the toast. "New Orleans," we said, lifting our glasses and tipping back our drinks.

"Now," Klaus went on, clearing seeing this as a chance to speak and be heard, "I understand that some of you may have questions regarding the recent change in leadership, and I invited you here tonight to assure you that you are not defeated. No," he assured them, the look on his face apparently sincere, "my intentions moving forward are to celebrate what we have. What Marcel, in fact, took and built for this true community of vampires."

"What about her?" Diego asked, pointing down the table to where Hayley was sitting, nursing her glass of cranberry juice. "The wolf."

Klaus slanted the other vampire a look that said he didn't appreciate being interrupted. "Had you let me finish, Diego, you would know that there is, of course, one further matter I would like to address."He stood up from his seat and walked over to stand by Hayley. "As many of you know, the girl is carrying my child. Consequently, I trust you will all pay her the appropriate respect." His tone indicated that a lack of respect would result in decapitations and disembowelment. "However," he continued, "I understand that some of you are concerned by this vicious rumor that I intend to use the blood of our child to create hybrids. I assure you I do not."

Hayley snorted. "Father of the year," she muttered, words laced with bitterness and sarcasm.

Klaus looked down at her, looking frustrated and just a little bit hurt, though the latter emotion vanished from his expression before it was really even there. "It appears I will have to earn your trust," he observed. "Very well. We'll eliminate the root of your anxiety. You see, how I can I sire any hybrids if there are no more werewolves alive in the Bayou to turn?" He gave a vicious smile, all teeth and menace.

I realized what he was planning half a second after he spoke, and I felt my body go stiff in outrage and horror. Please tell me he isn't serious about this. He couldn't be...could he?

Hayley caught on just a moment later, her face turning into a mask of alarm and terror. "What? Klaus, no!"

He ignored her completely, still speaking to the vampires at large. "So," he said to them, "eat, drink, and be merry. And, tomorrow, I suggest you have yourselves a little wolf hunt. Go ahead, have fun. Kill them all!"

The vampires dissolved in little chattering groups, all of them muttering and questioning about what had just been said. I could have listened in on their gossip if I'd wanted to, but I was too busy having an internal meltdown to care about what they said. Klaus was sending the vampires to kill the werewolves in the bayou.

Holy Mother of God, what was he thinking? Why would be do this?

What would make him, a werewolf hybrid, want to wipe out the only remaining werewolves in the area? They were already cursed, what more did he want? It's not like they were a threat! They were in hiding for crying out loud, and couldn't even take human form more than once a month! As I sat there and stared at my plate, I realized that I couldn't let this happen.

Yes, Klaus had showed a little bit of kindness towards myself and my brother; he'd forgiven our keeping an admittedly major secret from him, and had even allowed us to tag along with him when he'd left the plantation. But this...this was genocide, plain and simple. I didn't doubt that he had his reasons for it, and to him I'm sure they seemed reasonable, but this...I could not allow this. But if I took action, it wouldn't affect just me. My actions would reverberate, and impact my twin as well. So I had to consider my choices carefully. Unsure of how to proceed, I turned to my right, leaning over to speak to Ezra. To my surprise, he was no longer sitting beside me.

Looking around, I discovered that he was walking around the table, slipping between vampires to approach Klaus. I swallowed hard, not sure what to expect. My brother was walking a fine line lately, and I may not have understood the exact reasons for his instability, but I knew how touchy he was lately. Klaus's little announcement could very well have been the trigger for a very nasty explosion of my brother's more violent side.

I was surprised yet again however, when my brother didn't immediately take a swing at Klaus. Instead, he tapped his lightly on the shoulder, and when Klaus turned to him with an inquisitive expression, all my brother did was say "Can I talk to you in private for a sec?", and his tone of voice wasn't upset or angry in the slightest. Anyone who didn't know him well wouldn't be able to see anything other than a man asking for a word with his friend.

I knew my twin well, though, and that very lack of feeling could be a danger sign, too. He was angry, I could tell; it clear was in he way he held himself, tense and loose at the same time, like he was ready for a fight. It was clear in the way his eyes had just a faint rim of gold and blue around the edges, a warning that his wild side was close to the surface and not in a good way. I rose halfway out of my seat, about to go after them as they left the room, but suddenly Hayley was at my side, tugging on my arm and dragging me away from the table.

"What?" I hissed at her as she pulled me over to a smaller table that held an assortment of desserts and sweet treats.

"What do you mean 'what'?"she snapped back. "You heard what I just heard, right?" Her grip on my arm tightened almost painfully. "He's going to kill all the wolves in the bayou! We need to do something!"

I glanced at her stomach pointedly; she wasn't far along enough to be really showing, but my message was clear. "Hayley, you aren't exactly in prime action girl condition right now."

"Which is why you're going to help me," she said insistently. "Between the two of us, we can warn them. We can save them. We just need-"

"To get away from the building full of vampires?" I drawled. "Who are under orders from Klaus to not let you out of their sight? Yeah, that'll be easy," I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes. "No problem at all."

"Listen, smartass," she snarled, "those wolves in the bayou are my family, understand? I don't even know them yet, but I can't just let them be slaughtered. We need to save them," she repeated emphatically.

I tugged my arm from her grasp, but I didn't really have a counterargument because what she was saying was exactly what I'd been thinking just a few moments before. We couldn't do it by ourselves, though; even with Ezra with us, we wouldn't be able to take down all the vampires without casualties on the werewolf side. Even if Ezra and I fought our hardest, some of the wolves in the bayou would still be killed, because no matter how good we were, we wouldn't be able to protect everyone at the same time, especially not when our first priority would be protecting Hayley. "We're going to need help," I told her, sighing as I realized that I was complicating my life. Yet again.

Hayley's brow furrowed in a frown. "Who?" she asked. "There's no one we can call."

"Elijah," I said after a long moment of thought. "He'll help you. Rebekah, too."

Her frown deepened into a scowl. "But I can't get in touch with them. I already tried calling once, and one of those daywalkers took my phone away."

I rolled my eyes because that was exactly the sort of stupid move a man would pull. "Men," I grumbled, then shook my head. "But whatever. We don't need to call them for them to come."

Now she stared at me in total confusion. "You've lost me," she admitted.

I wrinkled my nose at her. Was she really this dense? "Elijah will come for you," I told her, speaking slowly as if to a child. "Probably very soon. And Rebekah will come with him, because she's your friend. They're worried about you," I added. "They care about you, and they'll be worried about you being here alone with Klaus."

"But I'm not alone," Hayley remarked. "You and Ezra are here with me."

"We don't count," I replied, and talked over her objections. "Elijah doesn't trust anyone but himself to keep you safe, Hayley; he'll be coming for you, to save you from Klaus."

"But I don't need saving!" she exclaimed. "The werewolves in the bayou do!"

I shrugged. "So tell him that when he gets here."

"Can I talk to you in private for a sec?" Ezra asked Klaus once he reached him. He made sure to modulate his voice, to let out none of the wrath and rage that was simmering in his blood show in his demeanor.

Klaus looked over at him, frowning slightly in bemusement but not looking worried. "Of course," he replied, smirk tugging at his lips as he rose to his feet once more and led the way over to a small room adjacent to the main hall. "What do you have to say to me that can't be said in front of the others?" the Original asked, arching an eyebrow. "A love confession perhaps? Because if it is, I must confess that while you are a good-looking fellow my tastes lie in more buxom beauties."

Ezra rolled his eyes, a spark of amusement mixing in with his fury despite the intensity of his anger. He took a deep breath before speaking, to make sure he had a strong enough hold on his temper; he could feel his wolf prowling under his skin, a hairsbreadth away from breaking through to the surface. His wolf had been more active than usual lately, a result of close proximity to many vampires and the fact that every time he encountered Marcel the other man reeked of Rebekah's scent. And just now, with Klaus declaring open season on the wolves in the bayou...Well, it had tripped all sorts of angry switches in Ezra's head, and as a result of the combining factors he needed to be very careful with his actions and reactions. So he took a deep breath. "What," he said at last, "the hell do you think you're doing?"

Klaus narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?" he asked, his voice taking on the barest hint of a warning.

Ezra crossed his arms. "You know exactly what I mean, asshole. What are you doing, putting out a hit on the werewolves?"

The Original's expression went blank. "I don't see where my decisions are any business of yours," he said curtly, moving to leave.

Ezra caught his arm and glared at him. "It's my business," he said through gritted teeth, "because my sister and I are wolves, too. As are you," he added, poking Klaus in the chest with his free hand. "So explain to me what exactly your master plan is here, because I don't see how slaughtering innocents who haven't harmed anyone is going to help anyone."

Klaus wrenched his arm out of Ezra's grip. "Why I ordered it isn't any of your business," he repeated angrily. "Now I suggest you reconsider taking that tone with me before I lose patience with your insolence."

Ezra snorted. "Do you even hear yourself when you talk?" he asked, shaking his head. "I thought I made it clear form the start," he went on. "I don't take orders from you, Klaus, and no matter how much I like you that is not going to change. So you watch your tone with me," he growled, feeling his wolf surge up. "Because I'm not in the mood to take any shit. So I'll ask again: What. Are. You. Doing."

Klaus glowered at him for a long time, and for a moment Ezra actually wondered if the Original hybrid might actually attack him. Lord knew he'd probably attacked others for less. But then Klaus just huffed out an irritated breath and stepped back, crossing him arms and looking at Ezra with an annoyed expression. "You are aggravatingly persistent," the Original remarked, sounding disgruntled.

Ezra shrugged. "I'm a Storme," he replied. "We're stubborn."

Klaus looked at him intently, then shook his head. "You're foolish," he said. "I could have ripped your head from your shoulders and tossed it out a window for speaking to me like that."

Ezra gave a wolfy smile, all teeth and menace. "I'd like to see you try."

Klaus snorted. "Foolish," he repeated.

Now it was Ezra's turn to shake his head. "Stubborn," he insisted. "Maybe a little stupid," he acknowledged with a wry smile. Then he scowled. "And you're diverting the conversation," he said chidingly.

Klaus huffed in annoyance again. "For your information," he said, sounding irritated. "I ordered them to eliminate the remaining werewolves in the bayou so that they would be less inclined to harm Hayley and the baby."

Ezra frowned, trying to wrap his mind around it. Then he got it. "You think they're worried about you using the baby to turn the wolves into hybrids," he said, voicing his realization out loud.

"If those werewolves are gone," Klaus explained, "then there is no one for me to turn. They will stop viewing my unborn child as a threat."

Ezra could see several flaws in that reasoning almost at once, but even so he relaxed just a little. At least Klaus had a reason; even if it was a lousy ill-thought-out reason, it made sense. Sort of. It was something, at any rate. He and his wolf could understand that Klaus wanted to protect Hayley and their unborn child; it was the sort of motivation that made a person do desperate things. So while Ezra didn't like it and didn't really agree with it, he could still understand it. But he also couldn't let it happen. "You realize I can't let you kill a pack of wolves who haven't harmed anyone," he said quietly.

"Technically," Klaus noted, "I won't be killing anyone."

"Semantics," Ezra snapped. "You're the one responsible in the end and you know it."

"And so what if I am?" Klaus demanded. "Would you attack me, Ezra? Would you try to kill me, for the sake of some werewolves you've never even met? Who probably wouldn't do the same for you, if the situation was reversed?"

Ezra growled at him, but said nothing. He didn't want to stand by and do nothing, but he couldn't deny that Klaus had a point. But still..."It's not a choice of you or them," he argued. "Because if it was then we wouldn't even be having this conversation. But that's not what this is about," he went on. "This is about you taking the easy way out."

"The easy way out?" Klaus repeated, disbelief etched onto his face.

"Yes," Ezra said firmly. "The easiest course of action to deal with the suspicion of Marcel's vampires is to remove the root of their suspicions. The wolves in the bayou who could be turned into hybrids are what's worrying them, and the simplest solution for that problem is to kill them. But it's not the only solution, Klaus."

"It's the only option I have," Klaus snarled at him. "I don't have time to waste thinking of an alternative; that is a luxury I cannot afford when Hayley's safety is at stake."

Ezra wanted to argue more, to shake him and shout that there was time enough, that they could find a way. But then he noticed the guilt in Klaus's eyes, and the resignation. He wasn't making this decision lightly, Ezra realized as Klaus broke eye contact and looked away. And he wouldn't be doing it unless he had to. "Alright," Ezra said at last. "I get it. You did what you had to to." He sighed. "But I don't like it."

Klaus snorted. "You're not the only one," he muttered, then glanced back over at him. "What's going on with you lately?"

Ezra gave a little start of surprise. "What do you mean?"

Klaus rolled his eyes. "I know I've been preoccupied with other matters, but even as distracted as I've been it's hard not to notice your descent into some noticeably darker behaviors."

Ezra made a face. "Darker behaviors?" he echoed. "What the hell are you talking about? I'm fine."

"You're irritable," Klaus disagreed. "More on edge. More inclined to pick fights," he added, gesturing between the two of them in acknowledgment of the fact they'd almost come to blows. "Seeing as you spent the first portion of your stay in the city just as powerful but willing to keep a low profile, I'm curious as to what changed."

"Nothing changed," Ezra lied. "I'm fine."

Klaus crossed his arms. "Really," he said disbelievingly.

"Really," Ezra said firmly.

"Hm." Klaus looked at him carefully before speaking again. "I don't suppose it has anything to do with you avoiding Marcellus like he'd contracted the plague, does it?"

Ezra snarled at the other vampire's name before he could stop himself.

Klaus looked faintly surprised by his reaction then nodded. "So it is, then. But why? What has he done to make you so upset with him?" He frowned. "He's not sleeping with your sister too, is he?"

Ezra growled again; Marcel sleeping with Rebekah was what had him so worked up, but the idea of Marcel anywhere near his sister incited similar feelings of fury. "No. I'd rip his fucking head off."

Klaus nodded approvingly. "Can't say I haven't entertained the notion myself, the way he lusts after Rebekah so shamelessly. I don't know what she sees in him, crawling into his bed night after night."

Ezra had to bite his tongue hard enough to draw blood to stifle the rumbling snarl that started to roll up and out of his throat. "Can we talk about something else?" he asked roughly.

Klaus frowned at him. "Your eyes are changing color," he observed.

"Blue or gold?" he asked, realizing that whatever the answer was, he was way to close to losing control.

"Blue around the edges," Klaus replied, looking faintly puzzled. "What does that mean?"

"That I'm about to lose my shit," Ezra answered, shutting his eyes and taking deep breaths. "Dammit. I didn't realize I was this close to the edge."

"I don't understand," Klaus admitted after a moment.

A faint smirk flickered across Ezra's lips at the admission. "It's my wolfside," he explained. "It's extremely strong, and when I'm overly emotional it can...assert dominance, I suppose you could say. Take control."

"Of you?" Klaus asked.

"No," Ezra said sarcastically, "of the itty bitty kittens I keep in my pockets." He shook his head, sucking in air and counting the beats of his heart. "Yes, Klaus, of me."

"No need to get nasty," Klaus said chidingly. "It was a simple question."

"Please stop talking," Ezra implored. "I need to concentrate." If he couldn't get himself and his wolf back under control, the ensuing havoc would be a bloodbath of epic proportions. To his surprise, Klaus heeded his request, subsiding into silence when Ezra wrestled with his inner wolf. It took some doing, but after several moments of silent struggling, he managed to subdue his wolf, at least to the point where he wasn't in critical danger of losing control. "I'm sorry," he said to Klaus once he straightened and opened his eyes. "I didn't mean for my self-control to slip like that." Feeling just a little bit guilty, he looked away.

"Ezra," Klaus said, his voice so sharp it made Ezra look up.

"Yeah?" he asked warily.

"...It's fine," Klaus said, coming over to pat him on the back. "Don't worry about it."

Ezra frowned at him. "I could have lost control and attacked you. That's not fine."

Klaus shrugged. "It's partially my fault, for dragging our argument on as long as I did. And I knew of your dislike of Marcel, even though I don't understand your reasons, so bringing up that particular subject when you're clearly in a foul mood was possibly not one of my finer moments. So. No hard feelings, alright?"

Ezra narrowed his eyes at the Original. "You're really not mad at me?"

Klaus rolled his eyes. "I'm hardly in any position to judge someone for not being able to control their emotions," he observed wryly. "Now, lets get back to the party, shall we?"

Chapter Text

"Losing your life is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is to lose your reason for living."

I grumbled under my breath as I followed Hayley across the compound, the two of us skulking in the shadows as if the vampires would somehow not be able to see us. "This is so freaking stupid," I muttered, feeling like an idiot for even agreeing to this plan.

"Would you stop complaining?" Hayley hissed at me. "We can't sit around forever, just waiting for Elijah to show up and save us. I'm tired of waiting for someone else to fight my battles for me; it's time we saved ourselves, don't you think?"

I bit my tongue to keep from pointing out the fact that only she felt a need for rescue; I was perfectly happy with staying here, and as far as I could tell, my brother didn't mind it either. But I also felt some sort of obligation to protect Hayley, something that likely had to do with those pesky wolf instincts, so I trailed along after her anyway. "I know I said Elijah would be your best bet to save the wolves in the bayou," I told her, "and I still stand by that, but I really don't see how getting caught sneaking out of the compound is going to accomplish much of anything."

"We can't sit around and do nothing," Hayley snapped. "We need to go and warn them that the vampires are going to attack."

I rolled my eyes. "They're not gong to let us just walk out of here, Hayley. They're under orders to keep you under strict surveillance."

And sure enough, just as we were hustling down the steps to a side door or the compound, a pesky vampire cut in front of us, blocking our exit.

"Going somewhere?" he asked.

Hayley took a couple steps back, but I stood my ground, giving an overly bright smile. "We were just going to get some fresh air," I told him sweetly, trying to place his face before recognizing him as one of Marcel's friends, Diego.

"Nice try," the vampire said nastily. "But you bitches aren't going anywhere."

My smile morphed into something less friendly and more predatory. "Are you willing to bet your life on it?" I asked him, deadly serious.

His expression darkened and he took a step in my direction, but before things could really devolve into a brawl something very surprising happened.

Out of nowhere, Elijah appeared, and thew Diego into a wall so hard that his neck snapped. Marcel's friend went limp, his body falling to the ground in a heap.

Hayley looked equal parts ecstatic and horrified. "Elijah," she said to him, "you shouldn't be here. Klaus has his guys watching me."

"I wouldn't worry about them," Elijah said, giving a careless shrug.

I arched an eyebrow. "No? And why not?"

As if in answer Rebekah came around the corner, kicking two more nightwalkers into unconsciousness as she did so. "Because they're lamebrains and we're amazing," the blonde responded with a bright smile.

I laughed despite my misgivings; it was good to see her again, even with everything else that was going on. I'd been missing our friendship, and it had hurt. "Making an entrance as always, I see."

"You love me this way," she teased, winking at me.

I rolled my eyes but gave her a quick hug anyway before I followed her down the hall. "You know it."

Elijah, seemingly satisfied by my compliance with his and his sister's rescue plan, turned around and gestured for Hayley to follow and be quick about it. "Come," he said to her, "we mustn't linger. We'll get you someplace safe."

But Hayley shook her head stubbornly, pulling away. "No, you don't have to worry about me. I'm fine. I've been deemed under protection by the almighty Klaus." She snorted and shook her head in disgust before plowing on with her request. "It's the werewolves who need help," she told the two remaining Originals. "He ordered a wolf hunt as some jacked-up peace offering to Marcel's crew. You have to help them," she said pleadingly.

"Out in the Bayou?" Rebekah asked incredulously, spinning back around to stare at the werewolf woman in disbelief. "Do we look like a bloody vampire-rescue-squad?" she demanded, looking annoyed. "I think you should be grateful we came to save you!"

Hayley looked startled, but she didn't let the other woman's attitude stop her. "Listen. Rebekah. All my life, I've wanted to know who my real family was, and just as I find out that they're out there in the Bayou, Klaus orders them killed." She swallowed hard, tears swimming in her eyes as her desperation rose to the surface. "You wanna help me? Help my people. Please."

Elijah still didn't look convinced. "Our first priority is to protect you," he told the pregnant wolf. "I understand how badly you want to get to know these wolves out in the bayou, but if it places you in danger-"

"I've been in danger from the moment I stepped foot into this stupid city," Hayley snapped angrily. "If I'm going to get killed over something, I'd rather it be because I'm trying to protect my family than just because I got knocked up by your brother!" She whirled to face me. "Zoe, tell him! Tell him he has to help us save them!"

I scowled at her, not quite sure when it had become 'us' trying to save her family; I was starting to notice a pattern of me getting dragged into things that didn't involve me, and I was growing increasingly displeased with it.

That being said, I was pissed as hell over Klaus deciding to slaughter a pack of already cursed werewolves on a whim. So...I sighed, and turned back to Elijah. "We can't just let them be slaughtered," I told him, starting to feel resigned about the fact I was going to end up neck deep in trouble. Yet again. "Even ignoring the fact that they're Hayley's family, they're completely innocent in all of this. They haven't done anything to anyone. They don't deserve this."

Elijah bit his lip, looking uncertain. "But Hayley-"

"Can stay here at the compound while we go warn the wolves in the bayou," I responded, cutting him off before he could finish whatever he'd been about to say. "Don't argue," I added sternly when Hayley opened her mouth to object. "We all know that even if we took out every nightwalker guard here, Klaus still isn't going to let you traipse around town, no matter what the reason. Our chances of success go up if you stay here. With you here, all tucked in and safe, Klaus won't have any reason to wonder what else is going on. He certainly won't be wondering whether or not I've gone off with Elijah and Rebekah, especially since Ezra and I were so vocal about being pissed at them."

"You're angry with us?" Rebekah asked, looking startled, and just a little bit hurt. "Why?"

I couldn't help my frown as I glanced at her. "You really can't guess?"

She shook her head. "Not really, no. I knew you were mad about something, and that it was why you took off with Klaus when he left, but I didn't know exactly why."

I rolled my eyes. "Unbelievable," I said, shaking my head. "Look, never mind about that now. We'll talk about it later. If we want to get to the bayou in time, we need to get a move on." I pinned Elijah in my gaze. "I know you want Hayley safe," I said to him, trying to ignore how my stomach roiled at those words and the truth behind them; some part of me wanted Elijah to worry about me that way. To show me the concern and care that he showed her. But he didn't, and probably wouldn't ever, so I shoved those thoughts to the back of my mind and focused on the here and now. "The best way to keep her safe right now," I told the Original, "is to help me keep those wolves in the bayou safe, because you can bet your ass that if we don't go out there, she will." I jerked my chin in Hayley's direction. "Seriously. Does she look like she's about to let this go?"

Elijah looked back to Hayley, then clenched his jaw in frustration, because it was obvious that I was right. Judging from the unhappy glare he sent in my direction, it was equally obvious that he wasn't thrilled about it. "Very well," he said at last. "I will accompany Zoe and Rebekah to the bayou, and we will warn the wolves of the impending attack."

Hayley jumped forward to wrap him in an unexpected hug. "Thank you," she told him, voice ringing with gratitude. "Thank you."

Elijah hesitated, then returned her hug with a small one of his own, his lips quirking up in a small smile that made me want to snarl and throw things. I refrained, somehow, averting my gaze from the infuriatingly sweet couple and redirecting my thoughts to planning how to warn the wolves in the bayou before the vampires got there.

It was, I realized, going to be a little tricky.

Oh well, what the hell. It wasn't like I was one to balk at a challenge.

Ezra and Klaus were playing a really bizarre game of Go Fish in the courtyard the next day when Marcel came over to them. He took a moment to scowl in confusion at their eclectic assortment of cards before shaking his head and focusing on Klaus. "The humans have called a meeting," the former king informed him. "They're not exactly thrilled with the new status quo."

Klaus barely glanced at his old friend, instead looking intently at the cards in his hand. "How unfortunate for them," he said in a bored voice. "Have any fives?" he asked Ezra, almost as an afterthought.

Ezra handed over a five of spades wordlessly, slanting an unhappy look in Marcel's direction. His wolf did not like being in close proximity to Marcel. At all. Especially with Rebekah's scent clinging to him in all sorts of places Ezra didn't even want to think about. Honestly, he would have rather grabbed Marcel and ripped his throat out than sit there and pretend to ignore his presence. But Klaus and Marcel seemed to be on fairly stable is somewhat rocky ground at the moment, and he didn't want to mess up that balance. At least not right now, with the last bloodbath still fresh in all their minds.

"Look," Marcel said with a sigh, pulling up a third chair and positioning himself next to Klaus. "It's your show now. I get that. But you wanna know how I built what I built?"

"Not really," Ezra grumbled, holding up a four of hearts in a silent question to Klaus.

The Original gave a faint smirk and shook his head, gesturing to the deck of cards sitting between them.

Huffing in annoyance, Ezra drew a card and added it to his hand, still wishing he could be anywhere else in the city but sitting at a table with Klaus and Marcel.

"Politics," Marcel went on, completely oblivious to Ezra's discomfort, or perhaps just ignoring it. "A little diplomacy goes a long way," he told Klaus, "especially with the humans."

"Duly noted," Klaus replied evenly, before glancing at a paper Marcel held in his hand. Glancing at it, Ezra noticed that it seemed to be a copy of an old newspaper. "I haven't thought about this night in ages," he remarked. "1919, the opera house. Just before it burned." He shook his head nostalgically. "This was the end of an era."

Ezra rolled his eyes, and was about to make some sort of snarky comment, but was sidelined by his phone going off unexpectedly. Scowling at a number he didn't recognize, he excused himself from the table and exited the courtyard so that Klaus and Marcel wouldn't overhear the call with their pesky vampire hearing.

"Hello?" he said questioningly.

The honeyed voice that came across the line hit him like a fist in the gut. "Aww, how wonderful, you did pick up. How have you been, sweetie? Still hiding out in fleabag motels like a cheap whore?"

"Sirena," he whispered hoarsely, bile rising up to burn his throat even as his stomach heaved with nausea.

A low sultry chuckle. "Why, babe, you sound so unhappy to hear from me! Did our last night together really leave you so disappointed?"

Memories of his torture at her hands battered at him with a viciousness he almost couldn't handle. The feel of the knives across his skins, the razor-edged whips across his back, the silver manacles around his wrists...the excruciating red-hot agony as her blade had pierced his chest and gone in deep.

"Aww, sweetie. You really thought it was real, didn't you? Silly boy."

Pain, pain, pain, so much pain. He could still remember every single second of it, could still feel the anguish that had ripped through him from the physical and emotional pain she'd heaped on him.

And he'd deserved every drop of suffering, because he'd been fool enough to fall for her trap.

"As if I'd ever sleep with a monster like you if I hadn't been ordered to."

The weight of the memories almost brought him to his knees, his heart pounding so hard in his chest that it wouldn't have surprised him if the damn thing thumped its way right through his skin. "What do you want," he gasped, trying to stave of the panic attack he could feel hovering above him.

"What, you don't think I just want to catch up?" Sirena asked, her tone all false innocence. "Honey, that hurts."

"Fuck you," he growled, trying to focus on his rage rather than his fear.

"You already did, babe," Sirena said with a laugh. "Many, many times. And just like every other man, you let your dick do your thinking for you. Honestly, I wasn't expecting you to be so easy to capture, not with all the bloody stories out there about how you and your bitch sister have evaded being caught before. But all I had to do was give you a little loving and you came crawling right into my lap for the taking. Really, it surprised me. Then again," she went on, "I suppose all animals are easy enough to tame so long as the circumstances are right." Her tone turned cutting. "And you're just another animal, after all. Nothing more than another beast to put down when the day is done."

"Fuck you," he repeated, this time snarling it. "My sister and I aren't rabid animals to be put down at your whim, bitch. I let you close before, but I won't again. So if you're coming after me, bring yourself a fucking body bag because you're going to need it for personal use." He hung up on her before she could respond, and lowered himself into a crouch on shaky legs, taking deep breaths in an attempt to level his heart rate.

His phone rang again as Sirena tried calling back, but he ignored it. It rolled over to voicemail, but the silence following the second call indicated that Sirena hadn't left a message, for whatever reason. After a few minutes of nothing else happening, Ezra took one last deep breath and moved to stand.

As he turned to head back to the courtyard to rejoin Klaus and Marcel, his phone chimed with an incoming text. Meet me for lunch at the Waffle House or the girl dies. It was followed by a picture message showing a young girl, maybe twelve or thirteen, tied to a chair and gagged, with a terrified look in her eyes. Dressed in a school uniform that Ezra vaguely recognized as that of the Lake Castle private school, the girl looked young and small and so, so vulnerable.

His wolf surged up in one massive violent wave, the fury and protective instincts overriding Ezra's own self-preservation and caution. Logically, he knew this was yet another trap; it was obvious that Sirena was baiting him. She was playing on his compassion, his inability to let her get away with ruining someone else's life.

And like an idiot, he was going to walk right into her arms. Again.

Even worse, he'd be doing it alone.

But he didn't see any alternative. Sure, he could tell his sister. But Zoe had her own phone turned off, and he didn't know where she'd gone. Last he'd seen her, she'd been muttering crossly about vampires and pregnancy hormones and general stupidity. She'd taken off somewhere with Rebekah early this morning and hadn't said where she was going or when she'd be back, so that ruled out his twin as back-up.

Which left...just Klaus and Marcel in the other room. And while he might have considered asking Klaus to back him up on this, asking for a favor from Marcel hit all sorts of hell-no-over-my-dead-body hot buttons for both him and his wolf. And there wasn't a good way to ask for Klaus's help without excluding Marcel, not when the two were chatting together so amicably right now. Offending Marcel by not including him would be satisfying to the petty side of Ezra that wanted to hurt the vampire however he could, but he could recognize that it wasn't a good idea for the long-term.

And that left him...pretty much entirely on his own, up against his psychotic assassin ex-girlfriend, who had gleefully tortured and maimed him to the point of insanity in the past and very likely wanted to do the same thing again.

Well, at least he could have lunch at the Waffle House first. That would be a brief bright spot before the bloodbath. He just hoped Sirena would let him finish his Cheesesteak Melt before she gutted him again.


Chapter Text

"Be strong - a phrase that is easy to say but hard to do when you're broken."

"Anything?" Rebekah asked as she looked up to where I was perched in a tree, surveying the area for any sign of the vampires we were expecting.

"Nothing," I said with a sigh, swinging my legs in boredom. Then I scowled. "Wait, hang on." I peered more intently into the distance. "Okay, that asshole Diego from before is here. He's got a few other vampires with him, too." I watched as he ordered them to fan out and find the bayou werewolves. "Looks like they're starting the hunt," I added, looking back down to where Rebekah and her brother were waiting.

"We'd better get moving, then," Elijah said decisively, then vanished, disappearing in the blink of an eye with his vampire speed. Rebekah followed immediately after him, leaving me to scramble down from the tree on my lonesome and follow at a more normal pace.

"Bring me some heads," Diego was shouting at his vampires as they spread out to begin their wolf hunt.

"I'd really rather you didn't." Elijah remarked mildly, startling the other vampire with his unnoticed approach.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Diego demanded, taking another step back as I came to stand in between Elijah and Rebekah and gave him my best start-running-or-die smile.

"We've come to suggest you seek other hunting grounds," Elijah replied evenly.

Diego snorted, not looking concerned in the slightest. "Suggestion noted," he said sarcastically, moving to step around us and continue with his hunt.

Rebekah tsked. "Oh, Diego," she said sadly, giving a little pout. "It would be such a shame to rearrange that pretty face."

I raised my hand like a schoolgirl in class. "I'm willing to partake in that necessary evil, should things get that far. And trust me," I said to Diego with a smirk, "I do not hit like a girl. Neither does she," I added almost as an afterthought as Rebekah took a swing at Diego as he was distracted by me.

He still managed to halt her swing, though, and glared at the three of us in annoyance and suspicion. "What the hell do you care about werewolves?" he demanded.

"They're just so adorable and cuddly," I said sweetly, batting my eyes at him. "We can't let you and your goons slaughter a group of such precious cuties."

Diego gave me a look that said I was ten brain cells short of being a bimbo and looked back to Elijah.

The Original vampire cast me an amused look before responding to Diego's question. "Generally," he replied, "I don't care. However," he went on, "this particular clan is not to be touched." He gave a thin smile. "Goodbye," he added pointedly, when Diego gave no indication of leaving.

After a long moment of looking between the three of us and calculating his odds of success, Diego finally took the hint and backed off. "Fine," he said sullenly. "Nothing here anyway." He whistled to signal his other vampires, who fell back to his position immediately, all of casting displeased looks in our direction. Diego gave them one final glare before leading his troop out of the bayou.

"Ah, great," Rebekah said once it was apparent that they really had left. "I think our job here is done."

I tensed up as the skin on the back of my neck prickled, my inner wolf growling in warning as I sensed someone else close by, watching us. "Not quite," I said warningly, lips pulling down into a frown as I glanced. "There's someone else nearby."

"Over there," Elijah said quietly, nodding to where a vaguely familiar woman stood half-hidden behind a tree, clutching a wooden stake in white-knuckled hands. "We're not here to harm you," he said to the woman, raising his voice to be heard across the distance. "Eve, wasn't it?" he added after a moment of consideration, giving a faint smile. "Hello, again."

It was then that I recognized her as the chick who'd stabbed Elijah in the back with a wooden stake. I decided then and there that I disliked her on principle. Logically, I knew I probably ought to have reserved judgment, especially since Elijah had been out of his mind and on something of a rampage when she'd staked him, but still. The fact remained that she'd staked him and neither my wolf half nor my human half were willing to forgive that anytime soon.

"You're the one from the shack," was all I said in greeting, curling my lip in just the barest of snarls.

Since she was a wolf with a lifetime of experience behind her, rather than an untaught wolf like Hayley or a bundle of identity issues like Klaus, she easily understood the wolf social cue and the fact that it meant that I wasn't particularly pleased with her.

She lowered her gaze from mine almost immediately, acknowledging my dominance in that unique way only wolves utilize, and some of the tension eased out of my body; so long as she understood that I wasn't to be trifled with and that attacking Elijah would bring down my wrath, I was content to let everything else run its course and watch as things unfolded.

Rebekah gave the bayou wolf an assessing once-over. "One of Hayley's litter-mates, I presume?" she sad at last, not looking especially impressed.

"Hayley sent you here to protect us, didn't she?" Eve asked.

"She did," I confirmed, feeling no real need to tack on the fact that I would have come anyway; no point in giving away my soft heart so soon.

Even shook her head, though I couldn't tell if it was in disbelief or simple weariness. "Tell her we appreciate the concern, but we've been looking out for ourselves for a while now. Nobody finds us unless we wanna be found."

Rebekah snorted in amusement. "Well, we found you, so..."

Even gave her a pointed look. "Like I said." She turned to Elijah. "There's something I thought you and your family should know about." And without another word, she took off down a dirt path with nothing in her hands but a thin wooden stake and what seemed to be a map of some kind.

Exchanging puzzled looks, the three of us followed after her, wondering what new development was around the corner.

Ezra looked at the Waffle House menu with his jaw clenched. And it wasn't the indecision between Coke and iced tea that was making him tense. It was that this place was absolutely packed with people. Not only was it a nightmare from a security standpoint (he couldn't possibly keep track of all these people at once and it was making his wolf all kinds of twitchy), the family units gave Sirena plenty of cannon fodder should she decide to turn this meeting into a bloodbath. She knew him well enough to know that he'd protect innocent bystanders rather than himself, and being a completely ruthless bitch with no heart, it wouldn't be surprising in the least for her to twist that to her advantage and use the other restaurant patrons as hostages to force his cooperation.

He glared at his menu with such intensity that he felt certain he could burn a hole it in with his gaze alone. He would have transferred that glare to something else, but his wolf was so touchy and close to the surface he couldn't risk it; if he accidentally met eyes with a stupid human, it could end in some sort of dominance dispute, and his wolf tended to get bloody about those. So he focused on his menu, counting the seconds until Sirena arrived and his world imploded. Again.

He didn't have to wait much longer. Roughly ten minutes after he ordered a tall glass of cold Coke and started sipping at it, the entrance opened with a jingle. A breeze blew in after the woman who entered, and Ezra recognized her scent immediately; the black wig and sunglasses couldn't do anything to mask the scent of honeysuckle and poppies that was uniquely hers.

She approached his table with that seductive saunter that had once made him tense with want. Now all it did was make him sick to his stomach as he remembered all the damage she'd done. Not just damage to his body, but to his mind and soul as well; he knew that something inside of him had been broken when she'd betrayed him and torn him apart, and seeing her in person, even disguised as she was, only served to drive that damage home.

"Hello, darling," Sirena purred as she slid into the seat across from him. "You're looking well."

Ezra curled his lip at her, hyperaware of the fact that lunging across the table and tearing her throat out was probably not the best course of action since they were in the middle of a busy diner. "No thanks to you," he said flatly, waving away the waitress when she came to take their orders. "What are you doing here, Rena? What do you want?"

She gave a simpering smile that made him want to rip her face off. "Why, only to spend some time with you, baby." She reached across the table and took his soda, sucking on the straw in a way that could have been interpreted as flirtatious had he not known what a monster she was on the inside.

"Why. Are. You. Here," he repeated, letting just a little of the wolf creep into his voice and eyes to let her know that he wasn't in the mood for her games.

She gave a little sigh and set the glass back down, flicking her fingernails at him in a gesture of aggravation. "You were so much more fun before I carved out your heart," she complained.

"Sorry to be a killjoy," he told her sourly. "But being tortured doesn't seem to bring out my party side."

Sirena snickered. "Shame. I know playing with you back then brought out mine."

Ezra clenched his hands on the edge of the table to keep himself from doing something rash, like strangling her. "Where's the girl, Rena?"

Sirena gave a careless shrug. "Bound and gagged in the trunk of my rental car. Don't worry, she's perfectly safe. So long as you cooperate, of course."

"Of course," he said through gritted teeth. "And what is it you want my cooperation with?"

She gave a sickly sweet smile that made his blood run cold. "Why, sweetie, I thought you'd never ask. We're going to go for a nice little drive together, just like the good old days."

Rebekah wrinkled her nose at the werewolf encampment. "All these wolves really travel in style, don't they?" she said sarcastically, casting a scathing look at the surrounding trailers and tents, which were all in various states of wear and tear.

"Being on the run isn't glamorous," I said sharply, recalling all the times Ezra and I had hidden out in the middle of nowhere in miserable conditions, all just to keep ourselves free from our uncle. "It's not their fault they're forced to hide out in the bayou. That's Marcel's doing," I added bitterly.

Rebekah looked away guiltily, as if her current relationship with Marcel made her to blame by association.

Elijah, meanwhile, opened the door of one of the trailers and poked his head inside. He came back out a moment later, shaking his head. "Empty."

I huffed in annoyance, crossing my arms. "This is ridiculous. Eve says she wants us to meet this other group of wolves that need our protection and sends us out here to do that, and yet there's absolutely no one around." I kicked at the ground in frustration. "If they really are new to the area, they shouldn't be running around, so where are they?"

"Piled on the pavement perhaps?" Rebekah suggested. "I mean, if they are foolish enough to leave their camp with vampires hunting them, I wouldn't be surprised."

I sighed unhappily at the thought that they might already be dead. "We don't know for sure either way," I said. "And we shouldn't leave until we know."

Elijah gestured for us to continue searching. "So let's proceed then."

Rebekah let out a sound of supreme boredom. "Let's not, and tell Hayley that we did." She passed Elijah a knowing smile. "Then, you get to impress the girl, and Zoe and I can go home. You know how hovels depress me," she added lightly.

I suddenly became very intent upon inspecting one of the other trailers, doing my best to tune out their conversation. Discussion of how Elijah fancied Hayley was probably one the last things in the world I wanted to hear.

But I couldn't ignore Elijah; as much as I wanted to not hear his response, I couldn't block out his voice, either.

"I'm not trying to impress the girl," he replied, though it was clear from the faint smile on his face that even he didn't believe that.

Rebekah, of course, was having none of his denial. "I should bloody hope you are!" she exclaimed. "Or else why are we out here?"

Elijah gave no answer, just shrugging a bit.

His sister rolled her eyes. "Come on, Elijah," she said. "You've fallen for her, admit it! May do wonders for that stick that's lodged up your enduringly stoic arse if you do," she added.

I snorted in amusement despite myself; trust Rebekah to phrase it in the most affectionately offensive way possible.

"If I admit that it's complicated," Elijah said at last, clearly recognizing that his sister was not going to let the subject rest without some sort of answer, "would that suffice? Or are you determined to torment me through this entire endeavor?"

My inner wolf snarled at his almost tacit admission of having feelings for Hayley. My wolf nature didn't like that he cared for her; mine, mine, mine was thrumming through my blood in time to my heartbeat, and it began to occur to me that this infatuation I had on Elijah might just be something a little more serious than I'd realized.

Before I had time to really stop to assess the ramifications of that, though, I heard a low wolf whine, followed by the unmistakable sound of tearing flesh. I whirled around, and saw that the vampire hunting party had returned; one of their number had pinned down a male werewolf and was viciously feeding from his neck.

My vision turned red as a fierce rage took hold of me. A vampire was feeding from a werewolf, and the wolf in me was not going to let such an offensive attack go answered. Before I could second-guess myself, I darted forward and tackled the feeding vampire with all my strength. He went sailing through the air to crash into a nearby tree so hard that we could hear his spine snap before he fell to the ground. I crouched over the fallen wolf protectively, pressing a hand to the gaping wound on his neck in an attempt to staunch the hot blood that was still pulsing out of his body.

Another vampire rushed at me but I lifted my head and let loose a snarl so powerful it made the air around us vibrate. "One step closer and you die a painful death," I growled, feeling my eyes shift just enough to let the vampire know just who and what he was messing with. I no longer cared if Elijah and Rebekah learned that I was a werewolf; with my little display it was all but guaranteed, and I couldn't bring myself to care. I would rather be exposed for all to see than let another werewolf be killed when I could have stopped it. These bayou wolves may not have been my pack, but to a werewolf that doesn't matter when faced with an outside threat; an ordinary wolf wouldn't help a wolf from another pack, but we were human too, and our humanity allowed us to override those instincts. When it's werewolves versus the world, you learn pretty quickly that sometimes you need to band together to survive, even when you usually wouldn't.

The vampire I'd snarled at took several steps back, looking to his leader for guidance. Diego, looking furious at my interruption, strode forward and raised a hand as if to strike me.

Elijah intervened, appearing so suddenly that if I'd blinked I would have missed it. One second he'd been back with Rebekah, the next he was grabbing Diego by the hair and wrenching him away from me. "Darling," he said to Diego in an icy voice, "we need to stop meeting like this. This is how rumors begin!" He released Diego with a shove, pushing him so hard that the other vampire stumbled. "You can go now," he added in what was clearly an order.

And yet none of the vampires moved, just glancing at each other uncertainly. A few of them even looked at the Originals in idiotic defiance, as if not believing in the danger.

Elijah sighed in annoyance. "Perhaps I'm not making myself clear here," he said. "This is a threat." He fixed them in his piercing gaze. "In precisely three minutes' time, your little hunting party will become the prey. Now," he went on, "based on your recent failure to subdue my baby brother Niklaus, despite better than a hundred to one advantage, I suggest you heed my warning."

Diego, looking frustrated and more than a little humiliated, muttered a curse and looked as if he wanted to argue, but I let another growl rumble up out of my throat, underlining Elijah's threat with an implicit one of my own: continue on with this stupidity, and I'll show you what a wolf can really do.

Diego finally seemed to realize that this was not going to end well for him or his cronies. With one final blistering curse that would have made me laugh had I not been so furious, he stormed off with his little hunting party.

"Impressive," Rebekah remarked, giving me and her brother a little round of applause.

"Well," Elijah replied, "I thought the situation demanded something a little dramatic." He paused before continuing. "Although I must admit, your reaction was even more...interesting, Zoe."

I slanted him a wary look, knowing that my eyes were glowing wolf-gold around the edges and not sure how to feel about him and his sister knowing what my brother and I had been fighting so hard to keep secret. "Interesting how?" I asked suspiciously.

"Well, I must confess to my surprise," he admitted. "After this much time in close proximity, I feel as if I should have realized your true nature."

I snorted. "Don't lose too much sleep over it," I advised. "I've gotten good at hiding who I am."

An expression I couldn't identify flickered across his face at my words, but before he could speak again the werewolf I was hovering over regained consciousness with a groan. "We'll discuss this more later," was all Elijah said to me before re-focusing his attention on the werewolf on the ground.

Knowing that an injured wolf wouldn't be comfortable with a stranger so close, I rose to my feet and took a couple steps back; close enough for him to get my scent, but far enough away so as to not be an immediate threat. "How are you feeling?" I asked him, making sure to keep my voice gentle and undemanding.

He struggled to sit up and then hauled himself into standing position through what seemed to be sheer willpower alone; I know that if I were a normal werewolf, having my throat ripped open would have left me lying on the ground in recuperation mode for at least a few hours. "Who are you people?" he asked us, shooting suspicious looks between Elijah and Rebekah, and then giving me a thoroughly bewildered look, as if he couldn't understand what I was doing in the company of two powerful vampires.

I couldn't blame him; I didn't know what the hell I was doing with them, either. I'd already more than held up my half of my original agreement with Rebekah; I should have been long gone by now, and yet here I was. "We're not going to hurt you," I told him instead. "You can relax."

That only seemed to make him tense up more; obviously, he didn't trust my word. "Who are you?" he asked again, his tone a little more forceful this time.

"Zoe," I said shortly, offering my hand to shake.

He eyed me like I was covered in fleas, not moving to take my hand in his. "I'm Cory," he replied flatly, before turning back to the Originals. "And the two of you?"

Elijah looked as if he was about to answer, then frowned as he caught a glimpse of the necklace Cory was wearing; it seemed to be a ring strung on a piece of leather cord, and though it didn't look familiar to me, clearly Elijah recognized it from somewhere, because his jaw tightened and curiosity sparked in his eyes. "I would say the better question is," he said, "who are you?"

Ezra sat in the passenger seat of Sirena's sleek silver Mercedes convertible, wishing not for the first time that he'd just died the day Reginald had cursed him and Zoe; it would have saved him so much pain and despair. He didn't know if he believed in any sort of afterlife, but anything had to be better than what he'd gone through is this blood-soaked joke of a life he'd had since that day.

"Aw, come on, honeybuns," Sirena cooed from beside him. "Why the long face? Not liking the scenery?"

They were zooming down some random road he didn't recognize; a glance at Sirena's GPS told him that they were headed for an isolated marina area but not much else. "The scenery's fine," he replied flatly. "It's the company that's making me ill."

She gave another one of her false pouts, batting her long lashes at him. "You keep saying things like that, you're going to end up hurting my feelings."

"You don't have feelings," he snapped, wishing he had a dagger on him so he could just reach across and stab her in the chest. But she'd made him leave all his weapons behind in the parking lot of the Waffle House. When he'd tried to debate her demand, she'd threatened to strip search him if he tried to hold onto so much a single blade, so he'd chucked them all in one of the dumpsters behind the building without further argument; he rather be dipped in acid and buried alive than have her lay a hand on him again.

The one silver lining was that Sirena had shown him the schoolgirl she was holding captive in her trunk. The girl was unconscious, drugged according to Sirena, but seemed relatively unharmed. She'd be in for a world of therapy once she was freed, but at least she'd be alive.

Provided, of course, Ezra went along with whatever it was Sirena wanted. They weren't driving towards Baton Rouge, where Reginald had supposedly relocated to, so he knew she wasn't taking him to his uncle. Not yet, at least. Which meant that Sirena, psycho that she was, probably wanted some good quality torture time with him.

Because the first time was just so much fucking fun, he thought blackly, struggling to not let the memories rise up and suffocate him.

Sirena heaved a put-upon sigh, as if his surly attitude was a disappoint to her, and reached out to turn on the radio. Charli XCX's Break the Rules immediately started blasting out of the stereo system so loudly that it made Ezra cringe and put a hand to his forehead in a futile attempt to stave off what was going to become a pounding headache if the volume stayed so high.

"Oh, sorry, sweetie," Sirena said, voice dripping with false sympathy. "I forgot, you mutts have such sensitive hearing, don't you?" She tsked. "Well, that's a shame, because I love my music loud, and the driver gets to choose the song." She flashed him a bright smile that promised terrible things. "But maybe you could persuade me to change it?" she added suggestively, licking her lips in anticipation.

The implication there was loud and clear, and it made Ezra want to hurl. He barely managed to bite his tongue and keep his honest answer from spilling out: that he hated her, wanted her dead, and would sooner roll naked in a pool of pit vipers than touch her even one more time. "This song is fine," he said instead, voice strained.

Her expression turned from flirtatious to deadly in the span of a heartbeat, letting him know that even if he hadn't said his true feelings out loud, she was clever enough to know what he really meant. The dark glitter in her eyes made Ezra's stomach do another nauseating flip. "Oh, honey," she told him in a low voice, "you're going to regret that."

Chapter Text

"My only fear is losing you."

I followed after Rebekah and Elijah as they ascended the steps to the plantation house. I should have been returning to the compound to check in with Ezra and tell Hayley about our relative success in protecting the wolves in the bayou. Instead, I was returning with them to the plantation so we could further discuss something unexpected we'd discovered on our little mission.

I wondered what poor person would need to break the news to Klaus. I hoped it wouldn't be me.

Pulling out my phone to call my brother and let him know that I was running late, I gave a puzzled frown when the call rolled straight to voicemail.

"This is Ezra," the recorded greeting said. "I can't answer right now, so leave a message and I'll get back to you. Maybe."

I hung up without leaving a message because, much like Rebekah with her own voicemail messages, my brother never checked them. I sent him a quick text instead, a simple Everything okay? because it wasn't like my twin to have his phone off, then tucked my phone back into my pocket. I chewed my lip a little nervously, a slim tendril of worry starting to wrap itself around my heart, but I shook it off and entered the plantation house.

"I can't believe you never told me that you're a werewolf," Rebekah complained as I joined her at the liquor cabinet. "Honestly, Zoe!"

"What?" I said defensively. "It's not something I advertise, okay?"

"Still. We're friends, right? Friends aren't supposed to keep secrets from each other!"

I crossed my arms and scowled at her scolding tone. "Says the one sleeping with the enemy. How long have you been seeing him, Rebekah? And you never breathed a word of it to me!"

Rebekah slammed her glass down a little harder than necessary. "Because Marcel is not the enemy! And who I see is no business of yours," she snapped. "Don't turn this around on me."

I managed to refrain from snarling at her, but only just. "You're the one trying to pick a fight," I said angrily. "Don't blame me if you can't take the hits."

And just like that, she deflated like a punctured balloon, shoulders drooping as she hung her head. "I am acting horrible, aren't I?" She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Zoe. It's was a shock, realizing that you'd been keeping something like that from me all this time. I'm not...I don't like secrets, not anymore. I've had to live in a tangled web of them for too long, and I just..."

I wanted to stay angry at her, but seeing how tired and sad she looked I couldn't quite seem to manage it. Besides, arguments and secret-keeping aside, she was still my friend. "It's okay," I told her, reaching over to squeeze her hand gently. "I'm sorry I hid it from you. But you have to understand," I went on, needing to explain, "it's not because of you. It's because I just...don't trust anyone, really. Ever. You're my friend, but with everyone in New Orleans hunting werewolves the way they are...and with my uncle being so close now...Ezra and I just couldn't take the chance, Rebekah. We just couldn't."

She gave me a shaky smile. "I do understand, Zoe. You're just trying to keep yourselves safe. It's fine."

She patted me on the shoulder and moved to walk into the living room. "What's not okay," she said, raising her voice to be heard by Elijah who had gone upstairs, "is that now I smell of the bog!"

I laughed at her complaint as I followed after her, then froze in place as I saw Klaus seated behind the piano. Clearly, he'd been waiting for his siblings to return.

"Serves you right," Klaus said to his sister. "For your pathetic attempt to undermine my rule."

I heaved a sigh, walking over to sit on the couch and remove myself from the line of fire as Elijah came and joined us, having apparently heard his brother's voice from upstairs.

"Nik, listen," Rebekah began, but Klaus cut her off.

"When I order werewolves to be hunted to extinction," he said angrily, "I expect you to stand aside and let the blood flow."

I bolted up off the couch. "Does that include me, too?" I demanded, unable to keep quiet. "Because if it's an anti-werewolf policy you're aiming for, we're going to have some problems, you and I."

Klaus waved away my words dismissively. "I don't recall asking for your opinion, Zoe Storme. I don't need anyone's approval for how I deal with the werewolves."

Elijah rolled his eyes. "How delightfully democratic of you," he said sarcastically, before tossing a ring across the room to his brother. "Do you recognize it?" Elijah asked him. "Perhaps you don't," he acknowledged. "It has been a thousand years since you last saw it grace the hand of our mother. The ring was in possession of one of the very wolves whose extinction you just ordered," Elijah explained at his brother's inquisitive look. "So, naturally, I questioned him. He spoke of a legend."

Klaus looked like he wanted to throw the ring he was holding in Elijah's face and storm out, but he stayed. "What legend?" he asked after a long moment.

"A legend," Elijah told him, "wherein long ago, a chief of theirs had fathered a child to a very powerful witch. Their mythology further states that this child, a son, was later transformed into something this clan had never before seen. Something werewolf and vampire."

"Nik," Rebekah said, going over to him. "We're trying to make amends. We found remnants of your family. The bloodline of your true father. And we saved them from being slaughtered at the hands of the vampires you command," she added.

"Niklaus," Elijah said plaintively, "your ambitions have come before this family for far too long. I beseech you please, come home."

"What home?" Klaus snapped. "This pathetic substitute?" He glanced around and scoffed before turning back to his siblings. "You see, despite all your doubts, all your attempts to thwart me, I've reclaimed our true home. I took back the entire city."

That was, apparently, the wrong thing to say because Elijah's eyes turned dark with anger. "You have the audacity to boast of your victory when the mother of your child remains your prisoner?" he demanded.

Aaaaaand there we were. Hayley again. Why, I wondered irritably, was she always the first person on his mind? What about Hayley was so damn special?

Klaus, bizarrely enough, echoed my own sentiments as he sneered at his brother. "It all comes down to the pretty little wolf, doesn't it, brother?" he said snidely.

Rebekah threw up her hands in exasperation, clearly fed up with both of them. "Stop it, both of you!"

Klaus stepped around form behind the piano and set the ring down on top of the glossy black surface. "Even if this is what you say it is," he told his brother, "I have had enough of family to last me a lifetime. Why would I possibly want any more?" He shook his head and moved to leave.

"Wait," I said, grabbing his arm before he could get all the way out the door.

He gave me a glare that could have frozen molten lava. "Let go," he told me, his tone a clear warning.

"Don't give me that look," I snapped. "I'm not trying to pick a fight here."

"So what are you doing, then?" he asked, ignoring the curious looks his brother and sister were shooting in our direction. Obviously they'd expected their brother to storm out and not look back, but me latching onto him had caused a dent in those expectations.

I swallowed hard. "Ezra's not with you?" I needed to be sure, because it was possible that he was still lurking around here somewhere and I just hadn't picked up his scent.

Klaus looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. "No, he's not."

My grip on his arm tightened without me meaning for it to. "When I left this morning he said he was going to stay with you the entire day," I told him, trying to keep calm as the tendril of worry started to turn into true anxiety. "You were going to play cards and shit, and go to some stupid meeting with the Faction. Right?"

"Yes," Klaus said slowly, as if he wasn't sure where I was going with this. "But he left this morning."

My heart pounded painfully in my chest. "What? Why?"

Klaus shook his head. "I don't know. He was with myself and Marcel this morning, at the compound. But he stepped out to take a call and never came back. I had assumed the call was from you," he added. "That you'd called him to ask for assistance with...something."

I arched an eyebrow at that, because it was clear from his tone of voice that he knew damn well that my 'something' was helping the wolves in the bayou. Which meant he'd known of my intentions to go protect them from the start, and had also been aware of the possibility of Ezra leaving to help me do so and didn't seem to mind; I wondered at the implications of that, especially since had made such a big deal out of it with his siblings and yet didn't seem terribly upset at me.

But I put it from my mind for the time being, because I had much more urgent priorities right then. "So you haven't seen Ezra all day?" I pressed. "Or heard from him at all?"

Klaus shook his head, a look of faint worry crossing his face. "No, I haven't." He pulled out his phone and punched in my brother's number.

"I already tried that," I said automatically, but he ignored me, focused on the call.

"He's not picking up," he relayed a moment later, hanging up as his call went to voice mail.

"I told you," I said, chewing on my lip anxiously before turning to Rebekah. "Have you heard from him at all?"

She gave me a totally baffled look. "Why on earth would he be calling me?" she asked.

I rolled my eyes at her obliviousness but didn't explain. If she couldn't pick up on the fact Ezra had a massive crush on her, I wasn't going to be the one to spill the beans. Especially since crazy Klaus had an unsettling habit of attacking anyone who so much as looked at his precious little sister with any sort of romantic interest. "It isn't like him to be out of touch like this," I said instead, looking back at Klaus desperately. "Something's wrong."

To my surprise, he nodded in agreement. "Let's go back to the compound," he said. "Perhaps someone there knows where he went."

I swallowed hard. "Okay."

We were just getting into his car when suddenly Elijah and Rebekah slid into the backseat.

Klaus snarled at them. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"I should think the answer to that would be obvious, Niklaus," Elijah said smoothly, pulling his car door closed. "We're coming with you."

"Why?" Klaus demanded suspiciously.

"Because Ezra is our friend, too," Rebekah told him, reaching across the back of my seat to squeeze my shoulder in comfort. "We'll help you find him."

It seemed like Klaus wanted to argue, but I made a frantic flailing motion. "Can we please just go and find my brother, please? We can all tear each other to pieces later, okay?"

Klaus looked at me, seemed to realize that I was one wrong step away from completely flipping out, and wordlessly put the car in drive and hit the gas.

We arrived at the Abattoir not long after, and I wasted no time in tumbling from the car and bolting into the compound, frantically shouting for my brother.

"Ezra!" I called out, knowing I sounded hysterical and not caring. "Are you here? Ezra!"

I ran up to his room and threw the door open, but he wasn't inside. Judging from the faintness of his scent, he hadn't been here all day. Stepping back into the hall and walking through the rest of the compound, it was the same. His scent was in a handful of places, but nothing even remotely fresh.

As I rejoined Klaus and his siblings in the courtyard, I really truly began to panic. "He isn't here," I told them, fear clawing at my heart as I struggled to not hyperventilate. "He isn't here!"

Klaus vanished, using his vampire speed to investigate himself. He returned a moment later. "I spoke with some of the others," he told us. "They haven't seen him since this morning, when he was with me."

"Could have Marcel done something?" Elijah asked.

"Impossible," Klaus said. "He was with me the entire day."

"You're sure?" I asked.

He considered it for a moment, then nodded. "Yes. We spent the majority of our day dealing with the Faction. He wouldn't have had time to do anything to Ezra ."

"So who the bloody hell has him?" Rebekah demanded, then paled. "Your uncle?" she asked me.

I had to bend over and take deep breaths to stave off the fear that those two little words put in me. But after taking a moment to think it over, I shook my head. "No," I said weakly. "He can't be directly responsible."

"How can you be sure?" Elijah asked.

"Because if he'd taken Ezra," I replied hoarsely, "he'd have already called to taunt me about it. And possibly sent me a hand or something to drive it home."

Rebekah's eyes widened in alarm, but Klaus nodded like he understood. "He wouldn't take Ezra and not brag about it," he concluded.

"Yeah," I agreed weakly.

"So someone else has him," Elijah remarked. "But who?"

I shook my head. "I have no idea. We...We try to lay low, but...well, we have made our fair share of enemies," I admitted. "I thought we'd covered our tracks well enough, but maybe someone found us...?" Then something occurred to me. "I can track his cell phone."

"Really?" Rebekah asked, looking surprised.

"Yeah," I said. "We have this computer program on my laptop, to track the GPS signals of our phones. We only have it as an absolute last resort in case of emergencies, because it's not totally secure and anyone with enough hacking skill could get in and find us using it, but..."

"Do it," Klaus ordered. "And be quick about it."

Normally I would have taken exception to the order and the tone in which it was delivered, but I was so desperate to find my brother I let it slide. I raced for the steps, taking them two at a time and then sprinting down the hall to my room. I hadn't bothered to unpack my things from when Ezra and I had first moved in here with Klaus after that first blowout with his brother and sister, so my laptop was still in my bag. I pulled it out, turned it on, and waited impatiently for my desktop screen to load. Once it did I logged into the compound's wireless internet and pulled up the tracking program.

I typed in the information for Ezra's phone and waited impatiently as the program searched for a match, biting my lip so hard that I tasted the coppery tang of blood. "Please, please, please..." I chanted over and over again, not sure who I was begging but needing to get it out anyway.

Three minutes and forty-two excruciating seconds later, the results popped up on the screen.

I stared at the stated location in complete and utter bafflement. "He's at the Waffle House?" I said in disbelief.

"What's he doing there?"

The sudden voice right behind me startled me so badly that I jumped out my seat so fast that I knocked over the chair in my haste. "For the love of God, Klaus!" I exclaimed, heart pounding. "Don't sneak up on me like that!"

He gave me that annoying little smirk before looking past me to my laptop screen. "What the devil is he doing there?" he asked, leaning forward to peer at the GPS information. "Strange. It says that his location has remained the same for over ten hours."

I scowled. "My brother likes waffles," I said, "but not that damn much."

"That's the location by the I-10 service road," Klaus remarked. "Why go out that far? There are about a dozen other diners closer to here."

"This doesn't feel right," I said fretfully, twisting my hands together nervously. "This isn't Ezra, Klaus, and you know it. He doesn't do things like this. He wouldn't take off without telling anyone. He knows how I freak out if I don't hear from him, and he wouldn't just leave without telling either of us when he planned to spend the whole day with you, helping you deal with the Faction. He wouldn't, Klaus, he wouldn't!"

"Okay, okay, calm down," Klaus said quickly, cutting me off because I'd started yelling. "We'll find him, I promise." He glanced over his shoulder and I realized that Elijah and Rebekah had heard my shouting and come to see what was going on. "We found his last location," he told them, gesturing to the computer screen. "We'll go investigate and proceed from there."

To my immense relief and surprise, they nodded in agreement and headed back downstairs. I took a moment to clear out the GPS program and shut down my computer before following, Klaus close on my heels as if he felt it necessary to keep a close eye on me so I didn't fall totally to pieces.

I didn't bother telling him that no amount of supervision was going to save me from falling apart if we didn't find my brother safe and sound. I had a feeling he probably wouldn't have been surprised even if I had told him; for all that he argued and fought with them, it was obvious that he still loved his brother and sister, and I didn't doubt for a minute that he'd be equally as desperate to find them if our positions were reversed.

We drove from the compound over to the Waffle House by the interstate, pulling into the parking lot and getting out to look around. After walking around a bit, I discovered his latest rental car parked in the corner of a lot, almost entirely obscured from view by the minivan he had parked beside. "I found his car!" I called to the others, and they quickly joined me in inspecting it.

"It doesn't seem to have been tampered with," Elijah remarked after a moment. "He must have left with someone else."

"Maybe he got a hot date?" Rebekah suggested, looking over at me hopefully.

I made a face. "No. He doesn't pick up girls," I told her.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," I snapped. "His last girlfriend betrayed us and strung him up to torture. I'm sure." Annoyed that they didn't trust my own knowledge of my brother, I stormed off, heading for the Waffle House front door. As I reached out a hand to pull the door open, I froze in place as a familiar scent rose up from the metal bar. It was faint, and buried under the scents of the other people who'd come and go through this door during the day, but there was no mistaking that scent. That flowery scent of poppies and honeysuckle that could only belong to one person.

"Oh my God," I whispered in horror. "It's her."

Chapter Text

"The worst kind of pain is when you're smiling just to stop the tears from falling."

Ezra could feel the silver chains burning the skin of his wrists and forearms as he dangled from the ceiling, waiting for his torturer to return, but he was doing his best to ignore the pain of it. He was also trying to ignore the fact that his heartbeat was dangerously irregular from the potent aconite solution Sirena had injected into his bloodstream. He tried to focus his attention other things instead, like wondering where Sirena had taken his shoes and socks.

He knew why she'd taken them, that had become agonizingly obvious once she'd started carving patterns into the bottoms of his feet with sharp silver daggers...he just wondered where she'd taken them. Had she thrown them out, or were his shoes sitting abandoned in some corner somewhere, hidden away in this abandoned building that reeked of rotten fish?

Sirena returned to him from wherever she'd gone and grabbed his chin in an unforgiving grip, her long blonde hair spilling down her back now that she'd ditched the black wig. "You still alive, mutt?"

'Course I am, he wanted to say. Can't die, bitch.

But his lips were cracked and caked in dried blood, and his throat was raw and hoarse from from screaming. So all he managed was a weak croaking sound, and Sirena laughed.

"Aw, poor little mutt," she said, clucking her tongue at him in fake sympathy. "All chained up like a junkyard dog." She laughed again and pressed a hand against his chest, alarmingly close to the jagged scar that telegraphed her original damage to him, all those months ago.

Her nails dug into the fabric of his now-tattered shirt, actually piercing through the cotton to jab into his skin, as she leaned forward to whisper in his hear. Her breath tickled against his skin as she told him in sickeningly descriptive detail all the plans she had for his next round of torture. He tuned her out after she started going on about methodically breaking all the little bones in his hands and feet and what tools she was going to use for it. He didn't particularly want to know what was coming; chained and drugged as he was, there was no way for him to prevent the next round of agony, and it would eventually all heal anyway.

Assuming, of course, that he managed to get the hell out of here at some point. As it was currently, his odds of escape weren't looking so good; if he took too much more damage, his body was going to shut down and go into what he and Zoe called 'recovery mode'; he'd be pretty much comatose, and if that happened, he would be totally screwed. Not only would be be completely at Sirena's mercy, he wouldn't be able to even consider escape, not until his wolf took charge and forced him back to consciousness.

Suddenly, Sirena was in his face and grabbing a handful of his hair, yanking his head up. "Are you listening to me?" she hissed, clearly not happy he'd been zoning out during her villainous monologue.

He curled his lip and growled at her, the angry rumble painful on his raw throat but satisfying as hell.

Sirena flinched briefly, then retaliated by backhanding him, the edges of her silver rings cutting sharply into his skin from the impact. "Stupid mutt," she snapped. "You just don't know when to quit, do you?" She gave one last painful tug on his hair before releasing her hold on him and stepping back. "Well, fine," she said after a moment, giving him a wide smile. "We'll play a little more, and see how defiant you still are after I'm done."

"Sirena?" Rebekah repeated, looking at me in confusion after I'd elaborated a bit on whose scent I'd picked up. "Who the hell is she?" she asked, then recognition lit up her eyes. "Wait. When Ezra got impaled by that arrow in the bayou," she recalled, "he said that name, Sirena. Called her a bitch, I think," she added.

"Bitch is the nicest word I can think of for her," I said angrily. "She's a two-faced backstabbing psycho skank!" I stomped over to the car and yanked open the driver-side door, sliding in and fumbling for the keys Klaus had left resting on the dash. "I'm going to rip her fucking face off for daring to come near him again!"

The Originals quickly joined me in the car, sliding in and shutting their doors as I started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot in a squeal of tires.

"Do you even know where to go to find her?" Elijah asked, his voice infuriatingly calm.

"No," I snapped. "But that's not going to stop me from looking." I heard his sigh and bared my teeth in a silent snarl. "If you have any fucking suggestions, I am all ears, Elijah." Although truth be told, I actually did know where I was going; I was just pissed at being questioned like I was some sort of moron.

Elijah's eyebrows rose at my heated tone, and he exchanged an unreadable look with his sister before turning back to face the front where I was driving with Klaus riding shotgun. "You said she betrayed you once before; what happened?"

I curled my lip at the memory. "She seduced Ezra," I growled. "She was an assassin witch hired by our uncle to capture us and bring us in, but we didn't realize that until it was much too late." I smacked a hand hard into the steering wheel. "She was a goddamn honeytrap, and we fell for it like idiots!"

"Technically," Rebekah pointed out, "only Ezra got snared by the honeytrap. Unless you were sleeping with the bitch, too," she tacked on.

I made a disgusted face. "Ugh, no. Even if I were into women, she's not my type. She was always very...sly. Clever, but not in a good way. We didn't realize it right away, because she's just that good of an actress. By the time I started to really get uncomfortable about having her around, it was too late, and she'd already kidnapped my brother."

"How did she manage that, by the way?" Klaus asked suddenly. "Both this time and before. Because I've seen your brother fight," he commented, "and he is exceptionally ferocious. I can't imagine a single woman, even an assassin with magical support, taking him down alone."

"Because she cheats," I replied sullenly. "The Shadow Coven has developed a unique wolfsbane serum that can completely incapacitate a werewolf. Ezra and I are only half wolf, but the aconite is still very poisonous to us."

"Well, that's not surprising," Elijah remarked. "Wolfsbane can be deadly even to normal humans with the right dosage. Your unique genetics might actually make the serum more effective, rather than less."

I flickered my eyes up to the rearview mirror to glare at him. "Thank you, Elijah. That's exactly what I want to hear right now, that my brother is twice as susceptible to the drugs that Sirena's going to be shooting him up with! Thank you so much for that!"

He pursed his lips and sighed. "I was only commenting on a possible reaction to the serum. I didn't mean to upset you further."

"Well, you did!"

"Can you please watch the bloody road?" Klaus snapped, reaching for the wheel as we careened dangerously close to the center lines.

I smacked his hand away and corrected the car's course. "Don't be such a whiny baby," I snapped. "My driving is fine."

"Says the girl who totaled her Jeep," Rebekah observed dryly.

"We were run off the road by assassins," I countered defensively. "Hardly my fucking fault."

"Do you even know where you're going?" Klaus asked, echoing his brother's earlier question and somehow sounding equal parts exasperated and curious. "Or are we really just going to drive through the city all night, hoping to stumble across your brother and his psychotic ex-girlfriend?"

I gritted my teeth, reminding myself that Klaus wanted to find my brother too, and that being nasty was one of his defense mechanisms. "As a matter of fact," I said, pulling onto a street I remembered, "I do."

He scowled at me, looking confused, but Rebekah spoke up from the backseat.

"This isn't far from where we found you in the road!" she exclaimed.

"Almonaster," I agreed, pressing down on the gas and pushing the car to go a little faster.

"Why here?" Elijah asked, looking out the windows at the scenery we were passing by.

"Because this area is where I was brought when I was kidnapped. And even if Sirena isn't working together with Patrick Evans, at the end of the day they both still work for my uncle, regardless of what they do on the side."

Klaus arched a brow at me expectantly. "And?"

I huffed at him in annoyance. "And I tracked down the ownership papers for that warehouse Evans held me in. It took a lot of digging and no small number of personal favors, but I found out that it's owned by a shell company my uncle uses to disguise his holdings. If Sirena is here on orders from Reginald, and I don't doubt that she is, even if she's going off-script to torture my brother...well, the Shadow Coven doesn't own property, or even rent it. It's against their rules. All the properties they utilize for their operations are provided by whoever hired them."

"Meaning that she has to be using a building owned by your uncle," Elijah realized.

"Exactly," I said. "And I found out about one other building he owns here in New Orleans. It's an old fish packing plant that shut down almost a decade ago; he bought it but never did anything with it."

"You think that's where Sirena's holding Ezra," Rebekah guessed.

"I don't think," I replied. "I know it." I couldn't put it into words, but as soon as I'd calmed down enough to think straight, I'd been absolutely certain of it. Maybe it was the logic of it, maybe it the connection I had with Ezra, that twin bond. But I knew that my twin was in that building.

I also knew that there wasn't anything I wouldn't do to get him out of there.

Ezra gasped for air as Sirena released her iron grip from the back of his head and let him lift his face out of the aconite-laced water she was dunking him in every forty seconds or so. He could feel his skin blistering from the wolfsbane, and his eyes were tearing up and burning so badly it was a miracle he could still see. His wolf half, at first roaring with fury and seething with a need for blood and revenge, had long since retreated deep into his consciousness, that fierce presence just a whisper in the back of his mind, a wounded predator trying to protect itself from more harm. Ezra didn't hold it against his wolf; if he could have run away and hidden, he would have, too.

Sirena made a sound of disgust and kicked him hard in the ribs, knocking him down onto the cold concrete floor in a trembling heap. "God, you're so pathetic. What happened to the mutt who swore to rip my heart from my chest in exchange for the one I took? Or is that another promise you're too worthless to keep?"

He rolled over and managed to lift his head enough to glare at her. "I'm not the one who broke faith," he rasped. "You betrayed me."

She kicked him again, this time hard enough to cave in two of his ribs and make him cough up blood. "What the hell would a mutt know about being faithful?" she hissed. "Nothing! You're nothing but a worthless dog!"

Another savage kick, and then she was hauling him up by his hair again and shoving his head back into the trough of poisoned water. He struggled but couldn't break free; between the wolfsbane injections and the wolfsbane in the water, not to mention the silver chains still wrapped around his wrists, he was the weakest he'd been since Zoe had first rescued him from Sirena's grasp back in Baltimore.

He eventually couldn't hold his breath any longer, and his body's instinctive need to take in air overrode everything else. Of course, he was trapped underwater, so the fierce inhale of his lungs resulted only in choking on more aconite-laced water that burned his lungs and throat like acid. His body spasmed from both the water and the wolfsbane, and his vision whited out for one brief moment as oxygen deprivation hooked its claws into him. Just before he could really truly drown, however, Sirena was yanking him out again, and tossing him back onto the ground with cruel abandon.

He coughed up the water in his lungs, the hacking eventually turning into pained wheezing as the water all came up and he was left with nothing but pain and blood. Panting and wishing he could just die and get it over with, he managed to twist his body around enough so that he could press his forehead into the cool concrete floor. The wolfsbane and silver were making him so feverish that it felt like he had slow-moving lava running through his veins rather than blood. With his skin so hot, the chill from the floor felt like heaven, even though the texture aggravated the blisters on his skin.

But even that reprieve was taken from him as Sirena yanked him back up from the floor and started dragging him back to where he'd been hanging from the ceiling earlier; clearly, she intended to string him up again and bring out some more fun and inventive torture implements.

Please, he thought desperately, please just let this end.

Someone, anyone, please. Get me out of here. Please.

As if in answer to his plea, a sudden bang echoed throughout the warehouse. Another one followed, and after a moment, Ezra realized that it was coming from the metal doors by the delivery entrance. A third bang followed, and Sirena finally released her hold on him to lunge for the computer she had set up on a nearby card table. Sitting amongst the bloody pliers and other assorted tools she'd used on him, the computer was connected to the security cameras on the exterior of the building. Sirena, preoccupied as she was with breaking him, apparently hadn't noticed the approach of a car containing four very pissed of immortals.

He scrambled to his knees to try and see the computer screen and gaped at what he saw.

Zoe was hammering on the metal doors, using a newspaper stand as a battering ram. And the look on her face was terrifying. Even with the poor resolution of the video feed, it was obvious that her eyes were a bright burning gold and her lips curled in an angry snarl. She looked like a wrathful goddess of retribution about to rain hell down upon the world.

He'd never been so happy to see his sister in all his life.

But what really shocked him was who accompanied her. In all his imaginings, he never would have guessed that anyone else would have bothered to come to try and save him.

He certainly wouldn't have bet money on it being the Mikaelsons.

And it wasn't just Klaus, either; Rebekah and Elijah were with his sister, too.


The doors flew open with a screeching sound, and Zoe stormed in with long purposeful strides, tossing aside the newspaper stand as if it weighed no more than a broomstick. "Get the fuck away from my brother," she snarled, eyes glowing gold.

Sirena cursed and snatched up the handgun she'd left sitting on the edge of the card table. "I have to admit," she said with a wild grin. "I wasn't expecting you to find me so soon. Took you, what, four days the last time?"

Zoe let out a fierce battle cry and lunged forward, moving faster than Ezra could track in his miserable state.

But Sirena was quick on the draw, and fired off several shots before Zoe could get close. Most missed, but one hit his sister's leg and another buried itself in her shoulder. She stumbled and nearly fell, but managed to regain her balance, her expression one of fury and pain.

Before Ezra could really process what had happened, Elijah was in front of Zoe, as if he were trying to protect her. Rebekah flanked Zoe on another side, while Klaus had come up beside his brother, eyes narrowed on Sirena in a way that promised terrible painful things.

"Are you alright, Ezra?" Klaus asked, raising his voice to be heard while never taking his eyes off of Sirena.

"Just fucking fantastic," Ezra rasped. "Thanks for asking."

A slight smirk quirked up the corners of the Original hybrid's lips, but it vanished quickly as he focused all his attention on Sirena. "It was a very foolish thing to do," he told her coldly. "Taking one of our number from us."

Sirena sneered at him, not looking intimidated at all. "What does a vampire care about a pathetic mutt like him? Trust me, even if I could kill him, it's no great loss."

Ezra closed his eyes as her words ripped yet another hole in his already shredded soul. He already knew he was worthless, but hearing it from a woman he'd once loved with his entire heart still tore him apart inside.

"Let him go right now," Rebekah said, speaking into the silence. Her voice was shaky but determined, and the sound of it caused Ezra's wolf to stir and reawaken. "Let him go, and maybe we'll let you leave here alive."

Matching sounds of disagreement from both Zoe and Klaus; it was obvious that regardless of whatever Rebekah said, they weren't going to let Sirena go so easily. Elijah just gave a slight sigh, and Ezra opened his eyes just in time to see the eldest of the Originals use his vampire speed to charge straight at Sirena.

The witch screamed, and threw up a spell shield that knocked Elijah back long enough for her to make a mad dash for the doorway.

"Not so fast," Klaus snarled, moving to chase after her.

"Wait," Zoe cried out, grabbing his arm. "I need your help with Ezra."

"Someone needs to go after her and make her bleed," the hybrid argued, his voice a growl.

"You think anyone wants to make her bleed more than I do?" Zoe demanded. "Fuck no. But I need your help with my brother. Come on."

And then Zoe was there, and Ezra could breathe again. His twin knelt down and pulled his head into her lap, running her fingers through his blood-soaked hair. "Oh, Ez..." Tears slid down her cheeks.

"Don't cry,"he whispered hoarsely, reaching up a trembling hand to wipe away a tear. "It's not that bad."

"Yes, it is!" Zoe countered, her voice soft but fierce. "You're all torn up, and it's all that bitch's fault! Again!"

"Enough," Elijah said, kneeling down to pull one of Ezra's arms around his shoulders. "Save this for later. Niklaus," he added, glancing over at his younger brother, who still looked like he wanted to run down Sirena and decapitate her, "get over here. Help me carry him."

Ezra shifted uncomfortably, giving an unhappy little growl at having everyone crowd around him. He was injured and weak, and his wolf didn't like having so many threats so close.

To his surprise, it was Klaus who comforted him in that regard.

"It's okay," the hybrid said, his voice uncharacteristically soothing as he rested one hand lightly on the back of Ezra's neck while he snapped the chains around Ezra's wrists with the other. "You're going to be okay. Just let us get you home, and then we'll leave you alone to heal."

Rebekah opened her mouth to argue but a quelling look from Elijah had her shutting her mouth. After a moment of hesitation, she approached their little huddle and touched Ezra gently on the cheek. "You're going to be okay," she told him, repeating her brother's words with a gentle strength that turned the words into a promise.

And when she said it, he believed it.

Chapter Text

"I can't promise to fix all your problems, but I can promise that you won't have to face them alone."

Getting Ezra back from Sirena's clutches had been much easier than I'd expected. That being said, simply getting Ezra into the car and back to the compound proved to be trickier than any of us had anticipated. Especially since we didn't end up back at the compound at all.

Klaus and Elijah managed to carry him out of the building easily enough, with Rebekah racing ahead to unlock the car while I followed close behind the boys. Klaus and Elijah carefully bundled Ezra into the backseat and I wasted no time in scrambling in after him. Ezra gave a sigh of relief as I joined him, but then gave a low wolf whine when Klaus left and went around to get into the driver's seat. Klaus and I exchanged baffled looks before I realized what it might be.

Ezra was badly injured, and it was true that both he and his wolf would perceive other strong beings as potential threats right now.

But Klaus was also his friend, and wolf enough to maybe be considered pack, at least from Ezra's perspective. That bond might have been enough to made Ezra, and his wolf, want Klaus nearby.

As I sat thinking it over, Ezra gave another plaintive whine which decided me. Scooting over and changing position to make room for Klaus, I quickly waved at him to get in the backseat. "Let Elijah drive," I told him when he gave me a dubious look. "Ezra and I need you back here with us."

An indecipherable look crossed his face as he hesitated, then he gave a crisp nod and passed the car keys to his brother, smoothly sliding into the backseat on Ezra's other side. Elijah and Rebekah exchanged faintly surprised looks, as if they hadn't expected their brother to comply so easily, if at all. Then Rebekah gave an elegant shrug and slid into the shotgun seat. Ignoring her seat belt completely, she twisted around to look at Ezra with worried eyes, her concern clear in her face.

The look on her face was so powerful, I wondered if maybe my brother's crush on her might not be so entirely hopeless after all.

That hope quickly died, though as I recalled what Ezra had just been through. He'd been actively avoiding relationships and even hookups since his first torture session at Sirena's hands; ever since Baltimore, even being approached by a woman was enough to make him uncomfortable. With this latest development...well, let's just say that if my brother were to decide to become a full-fledged recluse, I wouldn't blame him. I also wouldn't be surprised.

Once Ezra slipped into an uneasy slumber (or maybe he was just passed out; either way he needed the rest so I wasn't going to complain), I glanced out the window to see how close we were to the compound. To my alarm, we weren't in the Quarter or even headed in that direction.

"Where are we going?" I asked Elijah suspiciously.

"Back to the plantation house," he replied calmly, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Since returning to the plantation house was not part of my plan, I shook my head. "What? No! We need to get back to the Abattoir-"

"Where dozens of disgruntled vampires are waiting?" he questioned. "Do you really trust them not to attack your brother? With the condition he's in? Not to mention the fact that he can't disguise his werewolf nature right now?"

I bared my teeth at him in a silent snarl, but had to admit that he had a point. Marcel's vampires already disliked my brother for his involvement in Klaus's takeover. If they saw the state he was in now...they'd go for his throat with no hesitation. "Alright, fine," I said at last. "Take us to the plantation house. He and I will stay there until he heals enough to not be helpless."

"Wait a second," Klaus said in objection, just as we were pulling into the driveway. "You can't both leave; I need someone I trust to stay at the compound and watch over Hayley!"

I glared at him. I could understand where he was coming from, especially the implication that he didn't trust Marcel or the other vampires, but that didn't change my position. "And I need to stay with my brother." I kicked open my car door and carefully pulled my brother out with me, wrapping an arm around his waist to keep him upright as he trembled from the exertion.

"You can't stay here," Klaus said angrily, coming around the side of the car to help me walk Ezra inside. "You can't!"

The wolf in me rose to the surfaces, hackles up at the command in his tone. The second we were into the house and had lowered Ezra gently down onto a couch, I spun around to growl at him. "I'd like to see you try and stop me," I snapped.

Klaus growled right back at me, looking furious. "Do you not understand how important it is that I keep Hayley safe?"

"Do you not understand how important it is that my brother is safe?" I shot back. "Because I understand that Hayley is your top priority, Klaus; she seems to be everyone's lately. But my first concern is always going to be my brother, and that's not about to change."

"Nik has a point, though," Rebekah chimed in. "Ezra will be safe enough here with us. But Hayley is surrounded by the enemy, with no one to protect her."

"Whose side are you on?" I demanded, feeling just a little bit hurt by the fact that she wanted me to just abandon my brother there. Okay, yeah, so he'd be there with two Originals to look after him, but I wasn't rational when it came to my brother's safety. If he wasn't with me, I couldn't be sure that he was really okay. And when I wasn't sure that he was okay, I had a tendency to either fall to pieces or go on a massive murderous rampage. Occasionally both.

Since I'd already had my rampage of the day, however, falling to pieces seemed to be my only option right then. It certainly felt that way, when tears of frustration started to burn at the corners of my eyes and my throat started to feel too tight. "I am not leaving my brother here when he's so hurt!" I said, my voice choked. The very thought of it made me feel like someone was wrapping an icy hand around my heart and squeezing with intent to shatter.

And then suddenly Elijah was there, putting his hands gently on my shoulders. "Zoe," he said, his voice low and sincere. "Your brother will be safe here, I give you my word. No harm will come to him, I swear."

I wanted to argue. Really, I did. But something about Elijah and the way he said he really meant it. Like he actually believed that promises were still worth something. His grip on my shoulders helped somehow, too; it was like his touch was grounding me when it seemed like I was about to shatter apart and disappear.

I took a deep breath, and then another. After a few more careful inhales and exhales, I'd managed to level myself out enough to think rationally about the situation. Elijah just waited patiently the entire time, watching me with this look on his face like he was willing to stand there with me all day until I got my shit together. It was...really touching, actually.

That little kindness more than anything else helped me to make up my mind. "Okay," I said slowly. "I'll leave Ezra here. But you'd better keep him safe!" I added fiercely, reaching out to fist my hand in Elijah's shirt without quite meaning to. "If anything happens to him while he's here I'll never forgive you. Never. Understand?"

His eyes were kind and sympathetic as he nodded. "Yes," he said, smiling just ever so slightly as if my threats amused him somehow.

Rather than making me more annoyed, that little smile did strange things to my pulse, and it was then that I noticed the strong steady beat of his heart underneath my hand. Suddenly hyper-aware of the fact that he and I were standing in extremely close proximity to one another, I stepped back. Stepped back so quickly, in fact , that I very nearly tripped over my own feet.

Then my brother groaned from over on the couch and everything else fell away from my mind except the need to make sure he was going to be okay. I hurried over and knelt down, pressing a hand lightly to his forehead. His skin was still hot to the touch, likely the result of the wolfsbane and silver poisoning he'd endured during his captivity. Since there was no antidote for aconite poisoning and no way to counter the silver in his bloodstream either, there was nothing to do but let it run its course until it was out of his system. If he were mortal, undoubtedly he would already be dead, but the immortality curse would keep him alive regardless of how poorly off he was.

I swallowed hard before leaning forward to press a soft kiss into his hair. "You awake enough to hear me, Ez?" I asked in a low whisper.

He blinked his eyes open groggily, eyes hazy with pain and exhaustion. "Mm-hmm," was his only response, but it would have to be enough.

"I'm going to leave you here with Rebekah and Elijah, okay?" I ran my fingers through his hair. "They're going to look after you for me, okay? Ezra?"

My twin scrunched his face up in an unhappy expression before answering. "Don' be separated," he managed at last, his breathing ragged from speaking through his damaged throat.

I wrapped my arms around him in a tight hug, trying to not hurt him by pressing on any wounds but needing to touch him and let him know that I loved him even if I was leaving. "Me neither, Ez. But Hayley's all alone at the Abattoir. Klaus needs help watching out for her, and there's no one else to do it until you get better." I squeezed him even tighter. "You'll be safe here with Elijah and Rebekah," I repeated. "And I'll be back tomorrow to check on you, okay? Promise."

Ezra gave a little sigh and pressed his face into my hair, inhaling my scent. "Okay," he said at last, voice hoarse. "I'll stay here. For now." He pulled away slightly and looked past me to where Klaus was standing, watching us with a shuttered look, his face expressionless. "You look after my sister," he said to the Original hybrid, somehow managing to look stern in spite of the blisters across his cheekbones and the blood streaked across his face. "I'm holding you responsible for her safety."

Klaus snorted. "I think we both know that she's more than capable of looking after herself," he noted.

Ezra growled at him, clearly not liking that answer.

Klaus raised his hands, looking exasperated. "Fine. I'll keep an eye on Zoe. Look after her like she was my own flesh and blood. Happy now?"

Ezra gave an annoyed huff. "Ecstatic."

Klaus rolled his eyes. "Good to see that your charming personality remains intact despite your ordeal," he remarked, and even though his tone was just a little bit nasty and sarcastic I could see the genuine relief in his eyes that Ezra was acting more like himself. I couldn't be sure, but I had a feeling that Klaus had been just as worried about Ezra as I had been.

I pressed one last kiss to my brother's cheek then rose to my feet. "I'll be back tomorrow," I promised again, and it wasn't until Ezra nodded that I turned and left. I still felt utterly wretched in leaving him, but it was the best course of action.

A moment later, I was outside, and Klaus followed after me almost immediately, apparently not interested in speaking with his siblings any further. I slid into the shotgun seat of the car as Klaus got in the driver's side and turned the keys in the ignition. We pulled away from the plantation house, and I couldn't help the low whine that crept up out of my throat as the house got smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. It's wasn't like me to let my more wolfish mannerisms show like that, but leaving my brother behind was making me anxious and unhappy; besides, it wasn't like Klaus didn't already know I was a wolf; for that matter, even his brother and sister knew now. There was no point in hiding anymore.

The Original hybrid shot me an unreadable look, then sighed. "He's going to fine," he said after a moment of tense silence.

"Yeah," I said, but my voice sounded flat and unconvinced even to me.

"Your brother is strong," he continued on as if I hadn't spoken. "He'll pull through."

I just gave a shrug. "Yeah," I said again.

This time Klaus sent a glare in my direction. "Do you disagree?" he asked, his voice cutting.

I wrinkled my nose at him. "No," I replied. "I don't disagree. I didn't see him the last time, Klaus. The last time I got him back from Sirena..." I shuddered. "The torture itself isn't as bad this time, I mean at least she didn't take his heart, but even so..."

Klaus frowned. "Why do I get the feeling that you mean more by 'take his heart' than simply betraying his trust?"

"Because I do mean more," I snapped. "She fucking carved his heart out, Klaus. What, did you think that scar on his chest was simply a fashion statement?!"

A long, long moment of silence, the quiet broken only by the intermittent static coming from the radio.

"Remind me to return the favor to her next time we cross paths," Klaus said at last, and his voice was so deathly sincere that I didn't doubt the truth of his intentions for even a moment.

The wolf in me liked the promise of bloodshed in his voice, and the human in me couldn't help but approve as well. Sirena was going to be in for a world of hurt if she showed up again, and I found myself looking forward to paying her back for the all the agony she'd caused my brother.

I relaxed into my seat, content in the knowledge that I'd rip Sirena's pretty face off the next time I saw her, then scowled as Klaus took a turn down a street that didn't lead back into the compound. "Now where are we going?" I asked, exasperated with the Mikaelsons and their apparently inability to share travel plans.

"Sorry, love," he said lightly. "One last stop before we turn in for the night. Hope you don't mind."

I just shook my head, because his question had clearly been rhetorical; we were going to run one final errand whether I objected or not, so I just crossed my arms and waited to see what would happen next.

Ezra couldn't quite seem to prevent the tremors that were wracking his body. No matter how much effort he expended, he couldn't stop his muscles from quivering and trembling. He'd needed Elijah's help just to get up the stairs to his room, and wasn't that just spectacularly humiliating. Elijah, gentleman that he was, didn't comment on it one way or the other, simply leaving him to rest and reminding him that he and Rebekah were just a shout away if he needed anything. Ezra had thanked him, and then collapsed onto his bed, determined to suffer in silence and to not ask the Mikaelsons for anything. He was used to handling his pain alone; he didn't need anyone hovering over him.

Sure, it would have been nice if Zoe had stayed, and he missed her like someone had torn half his soul away and dropped it into the Atlantic, but he'd get by. Somehow. Maybe.

His body felt like it was trying to shake itself to pieces and that wasn't so fun, but he wasn't sure what to do about it. The strain on his body was coming mostly from the wolfsbane and silver poisoning combined with the sheer number of wounds all over his body. Some of the smaller less critical wounds had already begun healing, but plenty of the damage Sirena had done wouldn't start healing for at least several more hours, since the aconite would knock his accelerated healing down to almost nothing until the last of the poison worked its way out of his bloodstream.

He was curled up on his bed in a ball of pain when a series of soft knocks echoed on his door.

Struggling to sit up, he winced when the movement aggravated his broken ribs. "Come in," he called out, putting a hand up to massage his throat after speaking since talking still hurt.

To his immense surprise, it was Rebekah who entered, her expression hesitant and unsure. "I came to see how you're doing," she said uncertainly, hovering in the doorway. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Come closer and never leave, was what he wanted to say, because something about having Rebekah nearby made a little of the tension deep inside of his chest ease just a bit, as if her presence was some sort of soothing balm to the wounds on his battered soul. But he didn't dare say that, so he just shook his head. "No," he replied, "I'm fine."

The look of disbelief on her face made it clear she didn't believe him even the tiniest bit. "You're shaking," she told him. "And you look like you're about to hurl."

He rolled his eyes, because it was one of the few things he could do without pain. "I was just tortured by my psychotic ex-girlfriend. I think I'm allowed to look like shit for a day or two."

Rebekah gave a weak smile at his words, then surprised him again by crossing the room to come sit on the edge of his bed.

He froze for a moment, because her scent hit him hard right then, the delicate aroma that was Rebekah washing over him like an invisible wave. Vanilla, with a hint of warm cinnamon. He took a moment to savor it, and couldn't help but notice the absence of Marcel's scent mixed in with her own; had she not spent time with him today? He wondered if they were on the outs with each other again, then quickly crushed down that thought before it could grow. Wondering about things like that would lead only to more trouble. And he'd had more than his fill of trouble; enough of it to last ten lifetimes probably.

So he tried not to think about how close she was sitting to him or how comforting her scent was. He tried just focusing on her lips as she talked, but that was even worse, somehow. So he looked at her hair instead, in the hopes of knocking some sense into himself because Sirena had blonde hair too and obviously that was a trait he should hate since the person he despised the most possessed it. But even as he thought that, he couldn't help but notice that Rebekah's hair was different from Sirena's. Rebekah's had more true gold in it, and yet was somehow softer looking than Sirena's at the same time. And Rebekah's had a gentle wave to it, whereas Sirena's was straight and needed a heavy-duty curling iron and bottle upon bottle of hair spray to achieve even a bit of curl. Rebekah seemed softer compared to Sirena just in general, but Ezra knew that such thoughts were completely ridiculous; he'd witnessed firsthand that Rebekah was capable of just as much cruelty as any other vampire; perhaps even more given her familial influences.

"Shall I run a bath for you?" she asked him suddenly.

He gave a jolt of surprise so severe that it shook the bed. "Wh-what?"

"Shall I run a bath for you?" she repeated patiently. "I know that when I'm feeling completely miserable it seems to help. Besides," she added, "the heat might do your muscles good; relax some of that tension." She reached out to wrap her fingers around his arm as if to point out the fact that he was taut as a bowstring and trembling like a newborn kitten.

He sucked his breath in sharply at the feel of her hand on his arm and swallowed hard. "Okay," he said, because she could have suggested anything right then and he would have agreed without a second thought. He expected his wolf to protest over his easy acquiescence, but to his further shock his wolf just gave a low rumble of contentment, as if Rebekah's attempts to nurse him back into a semblance of normality were completely unsurprising and even welcome.

Ezra felt like someone had transported him in an alternate dimension of some kind as Rebekah smiled and went into his bathroom suite to start filling the tub with hot water. Abruptly exhausted now that she'd left his side, he fell back against his pillows with a weary sigh.

He drifted back asleep to the sound of running water and Rebekah humming as she poured some bubble-bath soap into the tub.

Chapter Text

"We met less than a week ago and in that time I've done nothing but lie and cheat and betray you. I know. But if you give me a chance...all I want is to protect you. To be near you. For as long as I'm able."

When Klaus pulled up to St. Ann's Church, I frowned at him in confusion. "What are we doing here?" I asked him curiously, stepping out of the car and glancing up at the building with a mixture of awe and sadness. This place had a weight to it, a depth. There was joy in this building, but I could smell blood and death and pain as well, and there was something about it that made me twitchy.

"Just come along," Klaus said, leading the way up the steps. "And be quick about it."

I scowled after him and flipped him off in annoyance, but followed anyway.

Imagine my surprise as I watched what happened next.

"I have a favor to ask," Klaus said to the priest at the altar.

The priest, Kieran I think his name was, didn't look away from the candles he was lighting. "I am saying prayers for the dead," he said tightly. "I request a moratorium on favors from the king."

The bitterness in his voice on the word 'king' gave me the distinct impression that he and Klaus were not quite on the best of terms, and I glanced over at the Original questioningly.

Klaus just shrugged before turning back to Kieran. "You'll like this favor," he told the priest. "It involves helping people who need protection."

"And whom, may I ask, do they need protection from?" Kieran asked.

"Me," Klaus replied immediately, and I rolled my eyes because, yeah, that was typical. "You see," he continued, "I recently ordered the slaughter of a group of vagabonds out in the bayou. Turns out, I may have been too hasty. Thing is, if the vampires find out I'm protecting them, it won't sit well."

Kieran sighed. "I think I can arrange something. On one condition," he added.

"Name it," Klaus said immediately.

Kieran hesitated before answering. "For her own good," he said at last, "I believe it is time for my niece to leave town."

"Your niece?" I repeated in confusion, and then I realized who he met.

Cami. The bartender Klaus was so fond of. The one whose brother had been killed by the New Orleans coven. The one who was getting drawn into a web of danger she was only just now beginning to understand.

The one who, if I was right, Klaus was going to compel to forget everything and leave town.
Before I could say anything to argue with either Kieran or Klaus, the Original hybrid was gone, disappearing with his vampire speed. "Shit!" I exclaimed, and sprinted for the doors. If I shifted and ran fast enough, there was a chance I could track down Cami before Klaus. A slim chance, but I'd take it.

"You shouldn't interfere," Kieran called after me. "It's for her own good!"

I ignored him, shucking off as many clothes as I could as I ran down the stairs and into the street so that there was no chance I'd get tangled up in them in case I was unlucky and got one of those rare shifts where my clothes didn't vanish; it almost never happened anymore, but knowing my luck it would be tonight, when I was in a hurry.

I ran right past the car we'd come here in and shifted as I went, transitioning from two legs to four paws faster than I ever had before, my attention focused completely on finding Cami's scent and tracking it. She'd come to here to the church fairly recently; I had gotten a whiff of her scent inside, sweet lemonade and spring grass, and I put my snout to the ground and tracked it down the street as fast as my legs could carry me.

I expected to end up at her apartment, but to my surprise I discovered a fresher scent trail leading to small little convenience store a few blocks away from her building. I padded up to the glass window and peered inside, and, to my immense relief, saw her checking out at the counter, handing over a few crumpled bills in exchange for a small tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

I shifted back just in time to grab her as she came outside. "Camille!"

"Zoe? What are you doing here? And why aren't you wearing any clothes?!"

I cursed at my rotten luck. My tank top and jeans hadn't come back from the shift, leaving me in just my bra and underwear. "Because I have terrible luck," I griped, then remembered that there was something I had to do quickly, before Klaus got to Cami's apartment and realized that she wasn't there yet. He wasn't an idiot, far from it, so eventually he'd track her down. I knew he felt guilty about compelling her all this time and didn't want to do it anymore...but I also knew that he did unreasonable things to try and protect the people he cared about. And it was obvious to anyone who looked closely enough that he did care about Camille. And as clever as Klaus was, he had to have realized by now that as the lone mortal in this war between witches, vampires, and wolves Cami was the most vulnerable by far.

That being said, I wasn't just going to let him compel her and send her away. Even ignoring the fact that he was a better version of himself around her, taking away someone's free will like that was absolutely unconscionable. That sort of brainwashing was one of the few things that crossed a hard line for me.

And because I couldn't allow it to happen, I was going to cross a line of my own.

I reached out and touched my fingertips to Camille's forehead. "I need to do something to you," I told her, "and it's going to be uncomfortable at first, but it won't hurt, okay? I promise."

Cami gave me a look like I was out of my mind, but then realization slowly dawned. "You know what's happening to me," she said. "Why I feel like I'm losing my mind!"

"You're not losing your mind," I told her. "Your mind's just been muddled up a bit. I'm going to take care of it, okay?" I focused on my magic, bringing it up from where I had it hidden deep inside me. "Just take a deep breath, okay?"

She nodded, closing her eyes. "Okay."

It took several minutes, but with a little bit of work, I managed to erase Klaus's prior compulsions on Cami, including the ones to make her forget their little therapy sessions and everything else she'd learned. Basically I reset her back to how she should have without the compulsion. Who was really was, deep down underneath the layers of vampiric hypnotism. I also added another spell, a protection charm, that would prevent Cami from getting compelled again; the charm was similar to the ones Ezra and I used on ourselves to prevent compulsion. Ours were longterm, only needing to be re-cast every decade or so; I couldn't do such a powerful spell on Camille, not with me being so out of practice and with Davina still on the lookout for any strong active magic. So I kept the protection charm low-key and contented myself with the knowledge that even a diluted version should keep Cami safe from compulsion for at least a few more months.

I was sweating buckets but fiercely satisfied by the time I was finished, so happy about my accomplishment that I wasn't even worried when Klaus finally showed up. He stopped in his tracks when he saw me half-naked with Camille, and then his expression turned thunderous when he took in the implications of my being there.

"What have you done?" he demanded.

I opened by mouth to answer, but Cami beat me to it.

"She's protecting me from any more of your memory mojo!" she snapped, striding forward to poke him in the chest. "I'm still mad at you for that, by the way. Furious, in fact. What the hell gives you the right to play games with my memories like that, huh?" She jabbed at him again. "Why do you keep trying to get rid of me, Klaus? You have kept me here for weeks just so someone, anyone, would see who you really are, and now that I have, it scares the hell out of you, doesn't it?"

"If you knew even a fraction of who I am, it would break you in two!" he snarled.

"Then show me," she challenged.

But Klaus shook his head and turned to go.

"Fine," Camille said. "Don't show me now. But don't run away again either!" Her tone turned plaintive. "I know that this isn't easy for your Klaus, God knows it isn't easy for me. But just...erasing the memories of everything that's happened doesn't erase the pain. I know you know that. Just because I didn't remember those things didn't mean they didn't happen. My brother died in an awful way, and whether I remember how he really died or not, it's still there, tearing me apart." Tears slid down her cheeks. "Memories are important, Klaus. And not just the good ones. The bad ones are important, too, because as terrible as they are they still shape who we become." She wiped at her cheeks. "If you take away pieces of my mind...I won't know who I am anymore."

And then suddenly Klaus was there, brushing his fingertips lightly across her jaw. "You're incredible," he told her. "And beautiful, and brilliant. Even if someone were to take away all your memories, that would never change. Because that's just who you are. Camille." He gave a weak smile. "My brave bartender."

"I'm still angry at you," she informed him curtly, crossing her arms.

"I'd be worried if you weren't," Klaus remarked, smiling crookedly.

She gave an annoyed sigh. "Stop it," she told him. "With that crooked smile thing. Seriously."

His smile only widened, but he didn't respond.

Camille rolled her eyes. "Okay, well, if we're done here, I'm doing to go home and drown my sorrows in Haagen-Dasz. Goodnight, Klaus." She turned back to me. "Good night, Zoe. And thank you," she added.

I smiled. "You're very welcome," I replied, feeling pretty pleased with myself.

"Stow that smile," Klaus scolded me as Camille rounded the corner and vanished from view. "For the record, I was considering undoing the compulsion myself anyway. You didn't need to interfere."

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, sure. Whatever."

He gave an exasperated sigh, then shrugged out of his jacket and held it out to me. "Put this on before some street-corner pimp tries to jump us and kidnap you."

The mental picture his words conjured was so amusing I snickered. "I somehow doubt you'd let him take me very far."

Klaus gave me a sly look. "On the contrary, I might let him cross the border with you. Might save me the trouble of punting you across it myself."

I shrugged into his jacket and elbowed him in the stomach. "Oh, shut up. You love me, admit it."

He rolled his eyes. "Yes, like an ulcer I've nurtured my entire life," he said sarcastically. "Just don't know what I'd do if you weren't around to cause me trouble."

I huffed at him but couldn't think of a good enough comeback to bother replying.

We'd walked nearly all the way back to the compound before he spoke again.

"Thank you," he said, his voice such a low murmur that even with my werewolf hearing I almost missed it. "For Camille."

I reached out on impulse and squeezed his hand gently. "You're welcome," I told him.

And then we were...well, home. We entered the compound to find it largely quiet and deserted. With the notable exception of Elijah, who was waiting by the stairs in the inner courtyard.

"Is Ezra okay?" I asked immediately, because I'd thought Elijah would stay back at the plantation house with his sister and my brother. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Elijah said soothingly. "He's perfectly fine. I left him with Rebekah; she promised to keep a close watch on him. That isn't why I came."

"Which leaves only one other reason," Klaus said, tone turning nasty. "Here to visit with the pretty little wolf?"

My stomach churned at the thought of Elijah and Hayley alone together; my wolf, likewise, didn't like the idea of the two of them together, growling deep within my mind. But I bit my tongue and headed for the stairs instead, not wanting to get dragged into this conversation. It had been a ridiculously long day, and I was tired. "I'm going to go to bed," I told them, taking off Klaus's jacket and handing it back as I passed him, trying to not think about the fact that I was prancing up the stairs in just my underwear with Elijah standing not ten feet away.

I hustled myself quickly to my room and wasted no time in burrowing under the covers of my bed and burying my head under my pillow.

Elijah watched Zoe go upstairs, unable to look away from her slim athletic form even though he knew it was beyond rude to stare after her the way he was, especially since she was dressed only in a brassiere and boyshort panties. But something about her graceful prowl and the sleek lines of her body kept his eyes glued to her all the way up the stairs and down the hall until she reached the door of what he presumed was her room. She quickly darted inside and shut the door behind her, and he didn't need to have vampire hearing to tell that she'd shut it a little harder than necessary. He wondered what was upsetting her; did it have anything to do with why she was waltzing in here with her clothes missing?

He shook his head, putting it from his mind for now. He focused instead on answering his brother's question. "Yes," he replied. "I did stop by to see Hayley. She doesn't have much support at the moment, so I wanted to make sure she was alright."

Klaus shook his head, looking aggravated. "Haven't you had your fill of telling me all the ways I've disappointed you, Elijah?" he asked, and there was something in his tone of voice that made Elijah look at him more closely.

"Well," Elijah said after a moment of consideration, "there is something important we neglected to discuss."

Klaus narrowed his eyes at him suspiciously. "And that would be?"

"I accused you of having ulterior motives regarding the child." Elijah hesitated. "I was wrong," he admitted. "I'm sorry."

Klaus stared at him for long moment in silence, his expression guarded but the surprise reflected in his eyes, as if he'd never imagined hearing an apology from his brother. "I imagine that must have been hard for you to say," he said at last.

Elijah sighed, and gave him a small wry smile. "You don't make it easy to love you, brother."

"And yet you're obstinate in your desire to do so," Klaus remarked, and though Elijah could hear the scorn in his tone, there was something else there too...gratitude? Affection? "When you're ready," Klaus went on, "should you be so inclined...both you and Rebekah are welcome to join me and the Storme twins here. It is, after all, our family home."

Elijah was struck speechless, unable to say a single word as Klaus gave him a nod goodnight and disappeared upstairs. That offer from his half-brother was the closest he'd ever seen Klaus come to an 'apology accepted'. He couldn't help but wonder if his brother's redemption might not be such a distant dream after all.

Chapter Text

"Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment."

I woke up to the sound of rapid knocking on my bedroom door. I groaned unhappily because a glance at the bedside clock informed me that it was just after six in the morning; it had barely been five hours since I'd first gone to sleep, for crying out loud.

But the knocking continued on insistently, and I rolled out of bed and padded to the door. "Alright, alright," I grumbled in annoyance. "Keep your shirt on."

The scent of apples and blood pricked at my nose just before I opened the door, and sure enough, there was Marcel on the other side.

"What do you want?" I asked him sourly.

"Have you seen Davina?" he demanded without preamble.

"What?" I rubbed a hand across my face tiredly. "No, asshole, I haven't seen anyone, I've been asleep." I noticed the sharp tang of fear winding its way through his natural scent. "Why, what's wrong?"

"I can't find her anywhere," Marcel replied. "I went to check in on her, but she's not in her room, or anywhere else in the compound. And no one saw her leave." His phone went off, and he pulled it out as he turned and started walking away. "Sorry for waking you," he called over his shoulder, and then he was gone.

I stared after him, both irritated and dumbfounded.

Davina was missing?

Recalling the danger the girl was in from her former coven, I hurried back into my room and snatched up my own phone. I typed off a quick text to Klaus. You still here at the compound? I asked him.

No, came his reply a moment later. Catching up with Cami.

Well, that was...sweet. And I hated to be the bearer of bad news and ruin what was probably an adorably awkward yet happy moment between the two of them, but there were more pressing concerns at hand. Davina's missing, I typed, then hit Send.

My phone ran barely half a second later.

"What do you mean, she's missing?" Klaus snapped as I picked up.

"I mean," I told him, "Marcel's freaking out because she's gone without a trace. I take it you have no idea where she is either?"

"No," Klaus replied. "Last I spoke with her, I was under the impression that Davina was content to remain safe within the compound."

"Well, she is a teenager," I pointed out. "She probably snuck out to meet up with a boy or something."

"I don't want to think she'd be so foolish; there is a fanatic coven desperate to end her life, after all."

"Fair point," I conceded. "So what do you want to do?"

"I'll call Elijah, see if he can join us in searching for her."

"Us?" I repeated with a frown. "As in, including me? Because I thought you wanted me sitting on Hayley for the time-being."

An aggravated sigh. "I do, but Davina's absence is more urgent. We can't allow someone with her power to fall into the wrong hands."

"Okay," I said in agreement. "Just let me put up a protection spell around Hayley's room and then I'll be on my way."

A long pause, then "Thank you, Zoe."

"For what?" I asked lightly, even though I knew; even if Klaus wasn't in love with Hayley, he'd had strong feelings for her once, and she was still the mother of his unborn child. Keeping her safe was important to him no matter how much he pretended otherwise. His gratitude for my protecting her was sincere, but I didn't want to make him uncomfortable by drawing attention to it, so I just ended the conversation with "See you soon" and hung up.

It took me longer than I'd anticipated to set up a protection charm outside Hayley's room, probably because I was still dead tired from the shenanigans of the previous day. Good grief, I thought as I descended the stairs and got into my rental car. Was it really only yesterday? Shaking my head in disbelief, I pulled out into the street and headed for the plantation to check in with Ezra before joining Klaus in his search.

To say that Ezra was unhappy when Marcel showed up at the plantation house was an understatement of massive proportions. He'd rather have been dunked in cow manure than have Marcel anywhere near him when he was still recovering, but since it wasn't his house he couldn't kick the asshole to the curb. Instead, he had to focus on keeping his wolf tightly leashed as Marcel came and joined him and Rebekah in the living room, sitting much closer to Rebekah than Ezra and his wolf would have liked. Seriously, he would have much preferred a larger gap between them. Like maybe a football field at least. Possibly a couple parishes.

"Bekah-" Marcel began, reaching out to cup her cheek, acting for all the world as if Ezra wasn't sitting right there watching every move he made.

To Ezra's surprise, Rebekah batted his hand away, looking annoyed. "Don't," she snapped at him. "You made your choice. You and Klaus are best friends again."

Looking pained, Marcel tried to touch her again. "Rebekah-"

"Stop it!" she said angrily. "You've relinquished the right to touch me."

Ezra's wolf gave a low rumble of satisfaction at the obvious fury in her tone and it was all Ezra could do to bite his lip and keep the pleased growl silent in his throat; it was obvious that Marcel wouldn't so easily forgiven for this latest betrayal of Rebekah's trust.

Marcel opened his mouth as if to say something to try and convince her, but his phone went off suddenly, chiming out a text alert.

"Wonder who that is?" Rebekah said bitterly.

Marcel gave her an exasperated look before checking the message. "Yeah, it's Klaus," he admitted, frowning at his phone a bit before standing up. "Just so you know," he added as he headed for the front door, "Davina is missing and he's helping me to try and find her. If you can spare a moment from your self-righteous indignation, maybe you could give us a hand and ask around." And then he was gone, the door slamming behind him as stormed out.

Elijah entered the room a moment later, shrugging into a new suit jacket as he headed for the door.

"And where are you going?" Rebekah demanded.

"What he said about Davina is true," he told her. "Niklaus just called me. He's looking for her right now, and Zoe is on her way over to pick me up so I can join the search."

Ezra moved to stand. "I'll come, too."

"What? No!" Rebekah grabbed his arm in a tight grip and forced him back down. "Ezra Storme, don't you dare! You're still recovering!"

He shook his head. "I can't just sit here and do nothing," he argued. "Besides, I got some rest and most of the wounds are healing. I'm fine."

"You are not fine!" she snapped. "You still look like roadkill!"

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," he said dryly. "Really, it does wonders for my ego."

She huffed at him in annoyance. "I just don't want you to push yourself," she said, worry underlying her tone of aggravation. "You and your sister both have this ridiculous habit of running yourselves ragged without even noticing it; I just don't want you hurting yourself further when you should be healing."

"Amen to that," his twin's voice said from the front door. Evidently Zoe had arrived sometime during his debate with Rebekah; she was watching them now with an amused expression as she twirled her car keys absentmindedly in one hand. "Seriously, Ez, it's fine. Between me, Klaus, Elijah, and Marcel we should have more than enough manpower to track down Davina. And if it turns out to be anything more than her just running off," she added when she saw him about to argue, "we'll call you. Okay? I promise. Until then, just stay here with Rebekah and get your strength back."

He didn't like it, but in the end he agreed. "Alright, fine. But make sure you call if something happens!"

"Scout's honor," she assured him, raising her hand in a what might have been a salute.

But he knew better. "You're not a scout," he said, rolling his eyes.

She gave him a crooked smile. "Doesn't change the intent," she remarked.

Ezra sighed, then pinned Elijah in a fierce glower. "You keep an eye on my sister for me," he said sternly. "Don't let her do anything reckless."

The eldest Mikaelson nodded. "I'll look after her," he promised. "She won't come to any harm while she's with me."

"She'd better not."

Zoe rolled her eyes at his overprotective brother attitude, then turned to Elijah. "You ready to go?"

He nodded. "Yes. We should hurry," he added. "There's no telling what sort of trouble Davina might have gotten herself into."

"Yeah," Zoe agreed, and then she and Elijah were gone, back out the door and into the night.

Elijah and I met up with Klaus and Marcel back at the Abattoir after scouring the Quarter and turning up a whole lot of nothing. We had looked in every bar and store, and Camille had even reached out to some of her acquaintances to ask if they'd seen Davina anywhere around town.

And still nothing. There was no sign of her anywhere.

"Her violin is missing," Elijah noticed after inspecting her room. "She probably did leave of her own volition."

"What did you say to her in the attic?" Marcel asked suspiciously, referring to the time Elijah had been held prisoner as leverage against Klaus. "She lied to my face so she could stay up there, thinking that you'd help her control her magic." He strode forward to get in Elijah's face. "How do we know you didn't take her?"

"I have no idea where Davina is," Elijah said, "or why she ran away. Can I suggest you take a step back?" he added, his tone turning slightly dangerous. Obviously he didn't like Marcel's little personal space invasion, and I had to admit that I didn't like the attitude Marcel was giving him, either; my wolf instincts wanted me to go over there and take a chunk out of Marcel for daring to accuse Elijah of taking Davina. Elijah could be ruthless when he needed to be, but if he'd promised to help Davina then that's what he was going to do, regardless of whatever anyone else thought about it. He wouldn't have taken her away from the protection of the compound, not with so many crazy witches out to get her.

And sure enough, the next words out of Elijah's mouth were "I can assure you I have absolutely no desire to see that child come into harm's way. She's suffered enough with this Harvest ritual nonsense," proving that even if my infatuation with him was stupid and unreasonable, at least I was still a relatively good judge of character.

Marcel eyed him mistrustfully, but finally stepped back. "Fine. I'll reserve judgment...for now."

Elijah rolled his eyes. "You have my gratitude," he said sarcastically before turning back to me. "Is there any way for you to do some sort of locator spell, to pinpoint her current location?"

I considered it briefly. Very, very briefly. "No," I said, trying to stifle my annoyance at him blowing half of my cover with Marcel standing right there.

Marcel glared at me, apparently ignoring the fact I was a witch to focus on the fact that I was a witch refusing to be useful. "Can't, or won't?"

His tone of voice rubbed me entirely the wrong way, so I gave him a cheeky little smile. "Little bit of both," I said sweetly.

He took a step towards me threateningly, but I quickly raised my hands to ward him off. "Relax, jerk," I snapped. "I'm not being deliberately troublesome. It's the truth. Locator spells have never been something I'm very good at, and I can say with great certainty that the cost of me casting that spell wouldn't be worth the nonexistent results. So, there you go. It's a bit of both."

Marcel still glared at me like he wanted to throttle me, but he let the subject drop. "So what do we do?" he asked, his voice turning just a little more desperate as he turned back to the Original brothers. "Klaus, that girl is my responsibility. If anything happens to her..."

"We'll find her," Klaus said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Don't worry."

I couldn't help the little niggle of anxiety in my gut, though. Sure, it was three immortals and one powerful vampire against whoever had taken Davina, if she'd even been taken. But an intense feeling of foreboding was beginning to creep over me, and I wasn't sure why.

All I knew was that something was very, very wrong.

Ezra got out of the shower to find Rebekah waiting in his room, perched on the edge of his bed with a breakfast tray in her lap.

"Good God," he said in shock, so startled by her being there that he froze in place, acutely aware of the fact that he was, much like the first time they'd met, dripping wet and not fully clothed; this time he had only a white terrycloth towel wrapped around his waist and nothing else, and all of a sudden it was like there wasn't enough air in the room or something. "Don't you people ever knock?" he complained at last, trying to cover his surprise.

She gave him an amused little grin. "I did knock," she informed him smugly. "You just didn't hear it." She wagged a finger at him. "So much for those werewolf eavesdropping skills."

He rolled his eyes, the teasing relaxing enough for him to go over and sit on one of the padded chairs by the desk; the idea of sitting on the bed next to Rebekah was very tempting but with they way her presence affected him it was probably best to keep some distance between them. "What's up with the eats?" he asked, nodding to the tray in her lap.

"Oh!" She gave an odd little blush that made her cheekbones look lovely "I thought you might be hungry, since you didn't eat anything last night. I just sort of threw some things together for you, really," she added. "No big deal."

Glancing down at the plate and seeing a massive omelet, three pieces of sausage, five pieces of bacon and four pieces of toast, he felt inclined to disagree. This wasn't something she'd just 'thrown together', not at all. She'd prepared this meal for him herself, and clearly she'd taken the time to do it right because that omelet looked absolutely perfect and God knew he'd never managed to prepare and flip an omelet the right way in his entire life. "Thank you," he told sincerely, touched by the kind gesture. "That's looks really good."

She gave him a shy smile. "Well, live as I long as I have, you pick up a few handy skills along the way." She set the tray down and stood up. "You go ahead and eat, I'll be back to check on you in a minute."

He raised an eyebrow curiously, wondering where she was going.

"I think I might have left the stove on," she said in explanation, a faint blush of embarrassment tinging her cheeks pink again. "If I don't turn it off and the house burns down, I'll never hear the end of it from my brothers."

He couldn't help the chuckle of genuine mirth that bubble up out of his chest, and the answering smile on Rebekah's face only made him laugh harder.

I was just about to go out into the Quarter to search for Davina on foot again, when suddenly my phone went off, showing a local area code with a number I didn't recognize. Wondering just how in the hell everyone in the world was getting my number when I'd only given it to a handful of people, I answered the call.

"Storme," I said shortly, not in the mood to be polite.

"Why hello, little wolf. You're sounding well."

My stomach dropped like a stone. "Evans," I growled, flailing my free hand to get the vampires' attention.

Marcel gave me an annoyed look, but Elijah and Klaus came over immediately.

"Who is it?" Elijah asked.

"The asshole who kidnapped me," I muttered, covering the speaker with my hand

"The one who teamed up with Tyler in the bayou?" Klaus questioned, tone deadly.

"Yeah." I uncovered the phone and spoke to Evans. "How did you get this number?"

"That hardly matters," Evans said cheerily. "What matters," he went on, "is what you're going to give me in exchange for this pretty little witch I have in the back of my van right now."

My entire body went cold. "You're bluffing," I said automatically.

Evans gave a nasty chuckle. "I thought you might say that," he remarked. "So, here: ask her yourself."

A rustling sound, and then Davina's voice came across the line, weak and shaky. "Hello?"

"Davina?" Marcel zoomed over snatched my phone from my hand. "Are you okay? Where are you?"

"I don't know," she cried. "I just went out to see Tim, I swear, and then this guy grabbed me and knocked me out. I just wanted some fresh air, Marcel, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for this to-"

Her voice cut off suddenly, replaced by Patrick's oily baritone. "As you can see," he told us, "I'm not bluffing. I have your little witch friend, and if you don't meet my demands I'm going to hand her over to that bloodthirsty coven you've been keeping her from all this time. Or maybe I'll deliver her to your uncle, little wolf," he said, directing his words to me. "I'm sure he'll find a way to put such a talented witch to good use."

"If you so much as touch a hair on her head I'll kill you," Marcel snarled. "Let her go."

"I'm not speaking to you, leech," Evans snapped. "Put Storme back on."

Marcel opened his mouth to argue but Klaus quickly intervened, grabbing my phone back and tossing it to me. I took a shaky breath before putting it up to my ear and speaking. "What do you want," I asked flatly.

"What I've always wanted," he replied evenly. "You and your brother in chains."

"My brother's unavailable at the moment," I said. "But if you turn Davina loose...I'll turn myself in."

Klaus spun away from Marcel to look at me in disbelief, anger and alarm warring for dominance on his face. "What do you think you're doing?" he hissed.

I ignored him. "It's a fair trade," I said to Evans. "Me for her. I'm the one you really want anyway."

I could practically hear his slimy smile through the phone. "I knew you'd come around to my way of seeing things, Storme. Fine. We have a deal."

Chapter Text

" Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can't always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith. "

Ezra was just pulling on a sweater when his phone went off. Shrugging into the garment the rest of the way, he padded over to the desk to grab his phone, relieved that the injuries on his feet had finished healing so that he could walk without wincing. "Hello?"

"You need to hurry up and stop your sister from doing something epically idiotic," Klaus said, his voice sharp with urgency.

"What?" his heart pounded in his chest. "Why, what's going on?"

"Patrick Evans has Davina-"

Ezra cursed.

"-and your sister is going to trade herself to him on the condition that he let's Davina go."

Ezra hurled his phone across the room so hard that it should have smashed into pieces from the impact. As it was, it just bounced off the edge of a chair and tumbled to the ground, scuffed but unbroken.

"Ezra," came Klaus's voice through the speaker. "Are you still there?"

No, he wanted to say. No, I'm not here, I'm clearly in hell. Can't you smell the brimstone?

He struggled to keep himself from letting out a massive roar of fury and frustration, and instead concentrated on walking over to pick up his phone. "Where is she now?" he asked, struggling to keep his voice controlled. "Is she still with you?" If she hadn't gone to meet the revenant yet, then there was still a chance avert this trainwreck before it happened.

But Klaus offered nothing helpful on that front. "No. Elijah and I tried to stop her, but she blasted us back with some bloody spell and took off. Marcel, of course, only cares about getting Davina back, so he's absolutely no use at all."

"Is Elijah there?" Ezra demanded. "Put him on."

A moment of silence as the phone changed hands, and then Elijah was there. "Yes?"

"You fucking asshole, what happened to looking after her and not letting any harm come to her?!" he snarled. "I trusted you with my sister's well-being and this is the fucking result? How the hell is letting her run off to that revenant in any way a good idea?!"

"As I'm sure Niklaus has told you," Elijah replied, his voice tight, "your sister used her magic on us, to knock us back and prevent us from pursuing her. By the time we had recovered, she was gone."

"She's driving a outdated Prius for God's sake, how far could she have gotten? Did you assholes even try to chase after her?!"


"You better hope to God he doesn't hurt her, because if he does I am taking it out on you," Ezra threatened. "And trust me, it won't be pretty."

A crackling sound as Klaus snatched the phone back from his brother. "Look, Ezra, I understand your fury, but we need to approach this rationally."

"The hell we do!" he shouted, and then he heard quick footsteps pattering up the stairs; it seemed like Rebekah had heard all his yelling and was coming to investigate.

Sure enough, she appeared in his doorway a heartbeat later, eyes wide. "What's going on?" she asked.

Ezra let out a groan and tossed her his phone. "Ask you brother," was all he said, then went over to pull on his boots. His daggers were still sitting in a dumpster out by the Waffle House, so he'd be going unarmed, but that wasn't going to stop him.

He was going to find his sister, even if he had to rip apart this city to do it.

I knew the fallout from my decision would be immense. Even ignoring the fact that I was driving towards my own doom, my brother and our friends were not going to be at all happy with my decision.

As expected, the second I'd made up my mind to hand myself over in exchange for Davina, Klaus and Elijah had objected. Klaus's argument I had expected; after all, he needed me to watch over Hayley. But Elijah's opposition, especially as strong as it had been, had been a total shock to me. He'd been insistent that I not go, that we could find some other way.

In the end I'd had to rely on a spell to blast them away long enough to make my escape. And even as I drove, they kept trying to call me, so often that I had to access my phone's settings and temporarily block their numbers. And then my brother called, and I had to shut my phone off altogether, because he was probably the one person who could convince me not to do this. And I had to do this.

It was my fault Davina had been taken. If Evans hadn't been so desperate to catch me and my brother again, he wouldn't have resorted to kidnapping an innocent girl we happened to be acquainted with.

So it was up to me to fix it.

Win, lose, or draw, the results of this round would be all on me.

Elijah could barely contain the strange panic that was clawing at his chest. He was managing to keep his outward appearance calm and collected, somehow, but on the inside it was like someone had taken a jigsaw puzzle and tossed all the pieces into the air. Nothing was fitting right, and no matter how he tried he couldn't make the pieces come back together.

The fear wrapping itself around his heart was even worse than all the times Hayley had nearly been killed by the witches. Even worse than the suffocating feeling he'd had in his chest when his brother had daggered him and handed him over to Marcel as a twisted sort of peace offering. Even worse than the bone-deep terror he'd had running through his veins when Klaus had unwittingly caused the bloodthirsty mortals to hunt down his beloved Celeste all those years ago.

This terror was painfully new. And he had no idea what to think of it.

He was fond of Zoe, certainly. She intrigued him, in the way a sleek jungle cat at rest was fascinating; her contrary mood swings, the way she could be spitting verbal bullets one minute and then offering comfort the next...everything he saw of her only made him more curious, more determined to understand her. She was prickly, and difficult to get along with, but even so she'd somehow managed to befriend both Rebekah and Klaus, and Elijah knew that such a feat was difficult to manage, especially where his wayward half-brother was concerned; Klaus let no one in, not even his family lately. But something about the Storme twins was...magnetic. For all their attitude issues and drama, they fit in with Elijah and his siblings somehow. Hell, maybe it was because of their attitude issues and drama that they fit so well. Whatever the reason, Elijah knew that the thought of Zoe being gone forever was one he couldn't bear. Even just picturing it in his mind made his lungs seize up and his heart pound painfully in his chest.

I have to find her. The need to do so was like a burning fire in his blood, the thrum of it urging him to move, to run, to dash through the city until he could find her and bring her home again.

He didn't understand what it was that he was feeling, but he knew he couldn't ignore it.

I turned my phone back on once I was sure everyone had stopped trying to call me. I had a maxed out voicemail inbox, of course, but I ignored it. Instead I scrolled through my recent contacts until I hit the number I wanted.

It rang twice before Evans answered. "Where are you?" he asked.

"Out in the middle of freaking nowhere," I griped, "as per your orders." I stepped out of the car and looked around. I really was out in the middle of nowhere; the only distinguishing feature of the landscape was the fact that I was surrounded by a massive grove of weeping willows, and even so that gave me no frame of reference whatsoever. Even though I'd been in New Orleans all this time, I hadn't bothered to go touring around the countryside, and I'd relied on the car's GPS to get me out here. Besides, it wasn't like those kinds of trees were uncommon in the area; I really could have been just about anywhere.

"Good," Evans said, seeming pleased by my frustration. "Now leave your keys on the hood of the car, along with your phone. And then walk eighty paces into the grove and wait."

"Eighty paces in which direction?" I asked nastily, setting my keys down as requested.

"Dead ahead," was his answer, and then he hung up.

Scowling at my phone and finally second-guessing my wisdom in doing this, I considered...well, reconsidering. But I'd come this far already...I figured I might as well follow through. Davina, after all, was a helpless victim in this; I was the real target. So I set my phone down on the hood of the car beside my keys, and then started walking. I counted off my paces in Latin, mostly just to amuse myself. As I went, my thoughts beat in rhythm to my count, my mind spitting up all sorts of pesky questions that made me doubt my decision.

Unus, duo, tres, quattor...

Was this really a good idea? Was there something else I could have done, other than this, to get the revenant to let Davina go? Some way out that I just hadn't seen?

Quinque, sex, septem, octo, novem...

How did I know that he was even really going to let her go once I turned myself in? I had no guarantees...what if he just decided to keep both of us?

Decim, undecim, duodecim, tredecim, quattuordecim...

What was he going to do with me? Ship me straight to my uncle, or torture me first, to pay me back for the fight he'd lost against me and my brother?

Quindecim, sedecim, septendecim...

God, my brother...what was Ezra thinking? Was he trying to come and save me from myself? Was he mad at Elijah and Klaus for not being able to stop me?

Duodēvīgintī , ūndēvīgintī...

Elijah...what was he thinking, right this minute? Was he upset over my sacrifice? Was he worried about what would happen to me? Did he wish there was another way?

Did he care about me at all?

By the time I finally counted off all octoginta paces, I wanted to scream.

When Patrick Evans dropped drown from the branches of a nearby willow tree and injected me with a needle that reeked of wolfsbane, I did scream.

And then everything went dark.

Chapter Text

" I fell in love with you.

I don't know how.
I don't know why.
I just did."

Elijah was pacing back and forth in the courtyard, only half listening as Klaus and Ezra argued over what to do to find Zoe and bring her back. Their debate escalated until Marcel chimed in that maybe they should just not do anything. At that point Ezra lunged for Marcel's throat, snarling; the witch-wolf even managed to get in a hard punch that sent Marcel careening across the courtyard before Klaus succeeded in peeling him off the former king of the Quarter. Ezra fought against Klaus, though, still struggling to get at Marcel, his eyes glowing an eerie gold-blue that sent a tingle of trepidation down Elijah's spine.

"Elijah," Klaus snapped suddenly, "would you give me a hand here?"

Elijah hesitated ever so briefly, then joined his brother is restraining Ezra until the other man had calmed down. Truth be told, Elijah was grateful to focus on keeping Ezra under control; Marcel's suggestion to leave Zoe to her own devices had made Elijah see red as well, and it had taken all his self-control to keep himself from taking a swing at Marcel, too.

A tense silence descended upon them as Ezra shoved away from both Klaus and Elijah, running his hands anxiously through his hair and leaving it sticking up in odd directions. "I need to find my sister," he said finally, and the desperation in his voice made Elijah wince. Zoe, he realized, was Ezra's entire world. With their parents murdered and their uncle pursuing them with ill intent, Zoe was all the family Ezra had left in all the world. It was no wonder he was so desperate to keep her safe.

Wishing they had something to work with, he checked his phone for any incoming messages from Rebekah, who they'd sent with Camille to investigate in the portions of the city that Elijah, Klaus, and Ezra hadn't checked yet.

No luck yet, was his sister's text response when he asked her for an update. Haven't found anything. Headed back now.

Elijah came dangerously close to crushing his phone in his hand; no news was not the news he wanted to hear.

Rebekah and Cami arrived back at the compound about twenty minutes later, and after checking in and confirming that nothing new had come to light, both went upstairs to keep Hayley company. Elijah couldn't help but notice the looks that passed between his brother and the blonde bartender, but as preoccupied as he was with Zoe's absence, he dismissed it from his thoughts for the moment.

Seven minutes and thirty-four seconds after that, Davina ran into the compound, covered in dirt and scratches and bawling her eyes out. Elijah couldn't do much more than stare at her; he couldn't believe that the revenant had actually kept his word and let the girl go.

Marcel sped over to her at once and wrapped her in a fierce hug. "Are you hurt?" he asked her urgently, brushing her tangled hair out of her face.

"No." She sniffed. "I'm okay. I'm not hurt. I just..." More tears streamed down her cheeks. "I was just so helpless, Marcel. None of the spells I tried to use worked right against him. I couldn't do anything."

"A lot of traditional magic won't work on a revenant," Ezra explained tiredly as everyone shot him questioning looks. "Because they're powered by necromancy, which is antithetical to most magic, it's almost like they're black holes for certain types of spells. Only a powerful witch with experience fighting revenants would stand a chance."

"Does Zoe stand a chance?" Elijah asked, not daring to hope.

Ezra seemed to consider it, pursing his lips. But then he shook his head. "Technically? Yes, she could use her magic against him and maybe win. But she won't."

"Why not?" Klaus asked.

Ezra sighed. "Because Zoe doesn't use her magic unless she absolutely has to. She had...some problems, the last time she got really deep into her magic. So she tries not to use very much of it anymore. She'll do small things, like protection charms and stuff, but nothing major."

"And it would take something major to deal with Evans," Elijah deduced.

"Very, very major, " Ezra agreed. "The magic would need to be a working on par with our uncle, who was the one who revived Patrick Evans in the first place. And he's a powerful motherfucker; Zoe's good, great even, but our uncle...he's on a totally different level."

"So we can't count on Zoe to free herself this time," Klaus remarked. "Pity."

Ezra bared his teeth at Klaus in a silent warning to watch his flippant tone, but Elijah paid it little attention, too preoccupied with the fact that right now, right this minute, Zoe was being held captive and they had no way to go to her and set her free.

"I know where he's taking her," Davina volunteered, "but I don't know how to get in." She gave another choked sob. "I'm so sorry, Marcel," she cried. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen, I swear! I just wanted to go for a walk with Tim."

Marcel wrapped his arms around her again, a look of fierce paternal protectiveness coming over his face. "I know, baby girl," he said soothingly. "It ain't your fault, don't worry."

Ezra had a peeved look on his face, like he disagreed with Marcel's statement and Elijah couldn't help but feel inclined to feel similarly irritated; if Davina hadn't acted so impulsively and childishly, the revenant Patrick Evans wouldn't have had a chance to grab her and use her as leverage against Zoe. Logically, Elijah knew that Davina was still a child, and children sometimes did foolish things. But the fire in his heart didn't want to be understanding, didn't want to forgive. The beast inside of him wanted blood, wanted to rend and tear until the streets ran red and Zoe was safe again.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make myself wake up. I was deeply unconscious, but somehow still aware enough to know that I wasn't awake.

Instead of everything just being shadows and darkness like I would have expected, though, it was like I was stuck in some strange foggy world. I was standing in what seemed to the middle of a lonesome field, dressed in just a tank top and jean shorts, my bare feet itchy in the overgrown grass, with fog pressing in all around me. Reaching out a hand, I was disturbed to see it disappear from view barely a foot from my face; I'd never seen fog this thick or dense in real life, and it made me uncomfortable. I withdrew my hand and crossed my arms, trying to fend off the chill of the damp fog. How the hell was I shivering from the cold when none of this was even real? Thinking about it made my head hurt, so I turned my thoughts to other things.

For whatever reason, my brain decided that thinking of Elijah would be the prefect thing to do right then, and although I wasn't sure I agreed with my subconscious, the dreamscape around me seemed to take my unconscious mind's word as law, because suddenly Elijah's voice was echoing around me from the fog, playing back snippets of conversations we'd had or things I'd overheard him saying. There didn't seem to be any sort of order to it, just a cacophony of chatter that would have been maddening had it not been the voice of someone I cared so deeply for.

"You seem to be in something of a rush."  His first words to me, that day in the French Quarter.

"My apologies,"  he'd told me when I'd reacted poorly to being grabbed so suddenly. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"Who are you?"  he'd asked, looking at me curiously.

"I'm sure we'll meet again," he'd said at our parting. And we had.

More echoes came through the thick fog, the sound of Elijah's voice bouncing all around me.

"I will fight for my family until my last breath,"  he'd declared.

"Darling, we've got to stop meeting like this," he'd said that day in the bayou. "This is how rumors begin."

"I'm not trying to impress the girl,"  he'd said to Rebekah.

"Nobody hurts my family and lives,"  he'd promised.

"We thought we'd come here to wage a war for power. This is about family." It was always about family with Elijah. Always and forever, wasn't that what he and his siblings had promised each other? I couldn't help but wonder, though...did forever really mean always?

And then more snippets closer to my heart began coming out of the blanket of mist, other voices mingling in with Elijah's, all the tones and inflections weaving together and bringing to mind the precious memories that they represented.

"Are you alright?"  he'd asked me, that night I'd come home from fighting Patrick Evans for the first time. "Are you...naked?"  he'd asked after that, staring at me dressed in just a leather jacket because my shift back to human form had left me without my clothes.

"No!" I'd said at once. "I'm wearing a jacket, duh. Not naked at all, definitely not."

"And...underneath the jacket?" he'd replied.

Panicking, I'd flailed madly and bolted for my room-"Bye!"- and slammed the door in Elijah's face.

"Good night, Zoe," he'd said, voice sounding confused but affectionate.

"Zoe stays here," he'd said, when Sophie had tried to send me away with Rebekah when Hayley had been cursed to have a miscarriage.

"We just need time," he'd said not long after that, scooping up Hayley in his arms and walking with her into the cold water of the pool. I hadn't liked him holding her so close, but I'd understood that protecting Hayley and her baby outweighed any of my personal misgivings.

"Holy Mother of God," I'd exclaimed after learning that Klaus had bitten his brother and left him to suffer in the bayou. "You bit Elijah? And left him behind?!"

"Back to the bayou," I'd snarled when asked where I was going; the thought of leaving Elijah, out there and in agony, had been completely unbearable to me. "I am going," I'd said, "and whoever tries to stop me is going to end up roadkill."

"This is your one warning," I had said to the assassins who'd been attacking Hayley and Elijah when I found them. "Leave or die."

"Where's Elijah?" I'd asked Hayley after annihilating the assassins, almost frantic with worry. Because Elijah was important to me, because he mattered, in a way no one had ever mattered to me before. Because if anything ever happened to him, I would shatter into a thousand pieces, even if I didn't understand why.

"Zoe Storme?" Elijah had whispered in confusion after noticing me by his side with Hayley. "What...are you doing here?"

"You're such an idiot," I'd told him. "Why wouldn't I be here?"

"I'm not alone," he'd told Hayley when she'd objected to leaving his side. "Zoe is here now."

I hadn't noticed it at the time, but every little moment between us had been chipping away at the wall around my heart. Every word, every glance. Every time he walked into a room or spoke even just a few words. All those little moments had added up to become something I would never have expected, something terrifying and incredible.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, I'd fallen in love with Elijah Mikaelson.

"Alfred E. Priestley Junior High," Ezra repeated dubiously, giving Davina a look that said he didn't even know what to make of her declaration.

"I know it seems ridiculous," she said defensively. "But I'm sure that that's where that freak is taking Zoe. When one of my spells backfired," she added hesitantly, "I got a glimpse into his thoughts. The school is abandoned," she went on. "It's been deserted for over twenty years now. It would be the perfect place to hide her."

"So what are we waiting for, then?" Elijah asked, heading for the door. "Let's go." It was an enormous relief, to finally have a place to look, to have something to do about Zoe's disappearance. To have a chance to bring her home.

"You're in an awful hurry," Klaus noted in a low voice as he caught up with him as he strode briskly to the car. "Something you care to share, brother?"

"Ask me again once Zoe is safe," Elijah replied curtly, but even saying it, he wasn't sure if he could even put what he was feeling into words if Klaus did ask him again. He couldn't understand the tangle of emotions that was making his heart twist in his chest; he'd never felt this way before, not even once that he could recall.

What was it about Zoe Storme that was making this tempest of emotion rage inside him?

He allowed Klaus to drive, simply because his younger brother had absolutely no regard for traffic laws and didn't seem to be plagued by the distress that was hounding Elijah to the point of distraction.

They arrived at their destination after what might have been both the fastest and longest drive of his life; he knew that Klaus had broken just about every speed limit along the way, but it had still felt like an endless eternity as he'd sat waiting in the passenger seat.

As they all piled out of the car, Elijah wasted no time in entering the dilapidated school building.

Ezra followed close behind, his eyes glowing wolf-gold in the dark. Zoe's brother walked ahead of their little group for a moment, then stopped to stare at an old chalkboard hanging half in and half out of an old classroom. "Well," he said, "that's disturbing."

Puzzled, Elijah joined him, then just blinked in surprise, because written upon the old chalkboard, over and over again, were the words "I will not murder my classmates." And on another chalkboard laying on the floor farther down the hall was a macabre doodle of someone wielding a large butcher knife, accompanied by another stick figure drawn sprawled out another the first, a little speech bubble saying "Help me!" coming from his mouth.

"Gee," Ezra said sarcastically, "I wonder why the school was shut down."

Klaus snorted. "Well, it's reassuring to know that I'm not the only person who had a troubled childhood." He picked up a dusty piece of chalk from the floor and added a little gravestone to the side of the original doodle.

"Seriously?" Ezra asked, rolling his eyes.

Klaus just shrugged.

Ezra shook his head. "Unbelievable," he muttered, then went ramrod stuff, his nostrils flaring as his eyes glowed gold once more, this time tinged with that uncanny blue again. "The revenant is here," he growled. "Zoe, too," he added, and the relief in his voice was obvious. "Their scents are coming from upstairs, but I don't think they're in the same room; his scent is more faint. Farther away, I think."

There weren't words to describe the intense relief that swept through Elijah's body. She's alright. She's here. He repeated those words to himself, over and over again, like a mantra to hold back the fury that was sizzling through his blood and demanding that he track down Patrick Evans and tear the fiend limb from limb.

He raced for the stairs, taking the steps two at a time in his haste to get to her, to see her, to know that she was really there. To touch her, to hold her. To see her give him that look that made him want to follow after her just to see what mischief she'd find next. To see that impish smile that quirked up her lips when she thought of something amusing. To see the fire in her eyes when she lost her temper. To see her stammer with that luminescent blush spreading across her cheeks whenever a rare moment of embarrassment overtook her. To see her laughing, and crying, and shouting.

He needed to see her. Just see her.

He eventually managed to single out the sound of her heartbeat, slow and steady like she was deeply asleep, and he followed it to the room where she was being held, Ezra hot on his heels with Klaus not far behind, pulling up the rear to keep a lookout for Evans since clearly Elijah and Ezra weren't thinking of anything other than getting to Zoe.

They found her in what seemed to be an abandoned nurse's office. She was unconscious on a cot in the corner of the room, one hand cuffed to the rusted metal leg of a nearby desk. Her skin was even paler than normal and her eyebrows were pulled down in a faint frown as if her dreams were troubling her.

"Zoe?" Ezra said frantically, learning over to check her pulse. "Z, can you hear me?"

No response, just Zoe laying there, so deep in slumber that if Elijah couldn't hear the beat of her heart and see the almost imperceptible rise and fall of her chest he'd have thought she was dead. The very thought of it made his own heart seize up in his chest, and he had to take a moment to steady himself.

"He must have drugged her," Klaus said, kneeling down to rip apart the cuffs chaining her. "Whatever it is, it's not like she can die from it, so let's get the hell out of here and worry about it later."

Ezra looked like he wanted to consider arguing, then stiffened. "You're right," he said tightly. "Evans' scent is getting closer. We need to get out of there."

Despite his intense desire to rip the revenant to shreds, Zoe was the priority, and Elijah wasted no time in scooping her up from the cot and cradling her close to his chest. He took a moment to savor the scent of strawberries and cream that was uniquely Zoe's, the aroma one that still surprised him; just as he thought when he'd first met her, he always expected a fierce scent, not something so gentle. But then again, Zoe was a study in contradictions; it was one of the qualities he loved most about her.

He could see the surprise in Klaus and Ezra's faces as they saw him holding Zoe so carefully, but he ignored the questions in their eyes. "We need to hurry and leave before Evans realizes we're here," he said curtly, brushing past them and heading back to the stairs. Every step of the way, he watched Zoe's face, searching for some sign that she might stir and awaken. But she just slept on, lost deep in whatever dream she'd fallen into.

They made it outside without encountering Evans, which Elijah found a peculiar relief; surely the revenant should have been keeping a closer watch on his prisoner? But then again, Evans probably hadn't realized that Davina had probed into his thoughts, wouldn't have expected them to figure out where he was keeping Zoe and come rescue her. Whatever the reason, Elijah couldn't find it in himself to be anything other than grateful.

He gently laid Zoe down in the backseat, making sure to arrange her so that she would comfortable, then he slipped in beside her. Waiting for Ezra and Klaus to climb in and start the car, he took a moment to look down at her face again, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her face with a tenderness he couldn't seem to help. His fingers caressed the edge of her cheek gently, and to his surprise she stirred, ever so slightly, her face turning so that she was leaning into his touch.

"Elijah," she murmured softly, her voice barely audible. For a moment, he thought she was regaining consciousness, but then he realized that she was still dreaming, her heartbeat not changing pace and her breathing remaining even.

She was dreaming, and saying his name.

He took her hand gently in his, and held it the entire drive back to the Abattoir, wondering what exactly the warmth in his chest meant for how things would be when Zoe woke up.

Chapter Text

"When I first met you I never realized how much you would end up meaning to me."

I was told when I woke up that I'd been unconscious for two and a half days. The loss of time disturbed me, especially since I'd spent that time trapped inside my head, mired within an endless fog.

And what I'd learned in that fog absolutely terrified me.

I was in love with Elijah.

And not just a schoolgirl-crush sort of love. After taking a moment to check in with my wolfside and really assess how I was feeling, I'd realized that this wasn't some passing infatuation. This was something else entirely.

Something powerful and deep, a feeling that made me anchored while at the same time flinging me out into space.

If this really was love, I was not sure I wanted it because it made me feel like I was about to completely lose my mind.

It certainly didn't help that barely fifteen minutes after waking up to find Elijah sitting by my bedside, Hayley had come barging into the room, demanding his help with something. And...he'd gone with her.

Ezra had told me that Elijah had sat by my bedside the entire time I'd been unconscious; Klaus had even confirmed it, in a roundabout I-can't-believe-my-brother-is-so-softhearted sort of way. But as much as I wanted to take that as some sort of sign, I knew better.

If I was the one he truly cared for, he wouldn't be jumping at the drop of a hat to do Hayley's bidding.

As I'd figured from the start, Hayley was the one Elijah cared about the most. She was the one he protected and fretted over, the one he brought ginger ale and crackers to when her pregnancy got the best of her and the nausea got to be too much. She was the one he showed such tenderness to.

She was the one he was going to choose, not me.

Not me.

I took a moment to bury my face in my pillow and cry, then sat up and rubbed at my face, wiping the tears away. It was painful to realize that Elijah would never feel me what I felt for him, but that was fine. I'd gone without that sort of love for this long, after all; I could get by without it from here on out, too.

At least that was what I told myself; the ache in my chest where it felt like I'd ripped out my own heart begged to differ, but I focused hard on ignoring that.

Once I'd pieced myself together into a semblance of normality, I got out of bed and got dressed. After finger-brushing the worst of the tangles in my hair, I left my room to see what was going on in the rest of the compound. True to my rotten luck, I was just heading downstairs to get something to eat when I crashed into Elijah.

My heart lifted at seeing him; it seemed that despite my determination to not feel anything, his very presence was enough to affect me.

"Zoe," he said, an expression I couldn't read flitting across his face. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine," I said. "Still a little tired, I guess."

"I see," was his only response.

And so we stood there awkwardly as the silence grew between us. I shifted nervously from foot to foot, unable to think of a single thing to say; Elijah, likewise, looked uncomfortable and at a loss for words.

We remained like that for the span of several heartbeats, and then the silence was broken by the sound of screaming and shouting from upstairs.

Exchanging alarmed looks, Elijah and I both turned and raced back up the stairs. Following the racket to its source, we found Davina in her room, sobbing hysterically as Marcel held her.

"What the hell is going on here?" a familiar surly voice demanded. and I gave a little jump of surprise because I hadn't heard Klaus approaching us form behind; I shot him a chastising glare, which he ignored completely. To my increasing annoyance, Hayley appeared beside him a moment later, peering into the room with a concerned expression.

"She had another vision," Marcel explained quietly once he'd managed to calm Davina down enough so that she wasn't wailing in fear. It took me a moment to realize that Davina had actually fallen asleep in Marcel's embrace, although I suppose 'passed out' might have been the more accurate description.

"She's not normally like this," Marcel said as he picked her up and tucked her back into bed. "But with the other witches so active, it's starting to affect her. And she was already struggling with everything that's going on."

"These drawings," Elijah asked suddenly, going over to Davina's desk, which was piled high with paper, "what are they?"

"She drew those the whole time she was in the attic," Marcel replied. "She said they're different than what she draws when she senses magic." He hesitated before continuing. "These ones," he said at last, picking one up, "she called them evil."

"I wonder if they represent some kind of premonition," Elijah questioned thoughtfully as we all filed out of Davina's room, leaving Marcel along to tend after his ward.

I snagged a handful of Davina's sketches on my way out the door. "Why don't we have a look," I suggested, "and find out?"

Which was how Elijah and I ended up sitting on the floor in one of the unused guest rooms, going through Davina's sketches and trying to put them together in a way that made some sort of sense. After a time, Hayley joined us. I tried not to be annoyed with the way she kept making doe-eyes at Elijah and shooting him looks, but it was hard. The territorial side of my wolf wanted to tackle her and rip out her throat, and the territorial human in me wanted to tackle her and rip out her hair, so I tried to keep my distance from her and focus on the drawings as much as possible. It was, after all, none of my business if Hayley kept flirting with Elijah.

All of these petty preoccupations, however, fell away entirely as we finally got the answer we'd been looking for from Davina's drawings.

"Oh my God," Hayley said in shock. "Isn't that..."

"Celeste," Elijah breathed, staring at the drawing in a combination of horror and awed disbelief.

I, meanwhile, was so stunned that I fell silent, unable to get any sort of sound out of my throat.

Celeste. Elijah's Celeste, the woman he'd loved and lost.

The woman who was apparently, somehow, behind all the trouble with the witches.

"Isn't she dead?" I finally said. "I mean, Hayley and I saw your memories, Elijah, she died." I glanced to Hayley for confirmation, then frowned as I saw her frantically punching numbers into her phone. "What are you doing?" I asked her.

"Come on, Sophie," she muttered, not seeming to hear me. "Pick up, pick up." She cursed as her call bounced to voice mail.

"What is it?" Elijah asked, looking at Hayley with concern. "What's wrong?"

"It's Sophie," Hayley replied, hitting redial and then cursing again when Sophie still didn't answer. Then Hayley flashed Elijah a guilty look. "Don't be mad," she said to him, "okay? But there's something I need to tell you."

He gave her a puzzled look but gestured for her to continue speaking.

"Sophie came to me," Hayley explained, twisting her fingers together nervously. "She said she needed help, needed to find the body of a powerful with and absorb her power."

"Why the hell would you do anything to help her?" I demanded angrily. "She and her coven are the enemy, or have you forgotten that?"

"She said she could undo the curse on my family," Hayley snapped. "Turn them back to the way they were before. So I agreed."

Elijah took a long moment to consider, then slowly nodded. "Go on."

She flushed guiltily. "She said she knew of a witch whose body had...never been found. Because...because you buried her in secret."

Elijah's expression turned downright arctic as the implications of what Hayley was saying began to dawn on him. "You helped her find the location," he realized.

"I went through your journals," Hayley admitted. "I found where you'd written about it, written about her."

"And then divulged this information, my personal information, to our enemies."

Hayley flinched at his cold anger, and even I scooted back a little because the look on his face was absolutely terrifying; his eyes were dark with fury and his jaw was clenched so hard it was like he'd been carved from stone.

"I'm sorry," Hayley said meekly. "Elijah, I'm so sorry, but-"

Elijah just shook his head. "Don't," he said, and his voice wasn't frigid anymore, but pained. "Just...don't." He took a deep breath, obviously wrestling to regain his self-control.

I'd never wanted to strangle someone so badly in my entire life. How could she have done this to him? Betrayed his trust like that, when it was obvious how much he cared for her? How could she be so selfish, hurting him for her own gain?

Okay, yes, technically it had been for the greater good of her long-lost family. Whatever. It wasn't like they'd been in immediate mortal danger or something; there had been time for her to work out another way, a way to help them that wouldn't have involved betrayed the one person who'd put her needs before everything else ever since he'd first met her.

I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my hands, and looked down to discover that I'd clenched my hands so tightly into fists that my nails had dug into my palms, drawing blood.

Elijah, presumably scenting the blood, looked over at me sharply. "Zoe?

"It's nothing," I muttered, scrambling to my feet and bolting for the door. "I'll see you later."

I was down the stairs and out into the street before anyone could give thought to chasing me. Not that I expected anyone to come after me, anyway; Ezra might have, but last I'd seen of him he'd been moderating a sibling quarrel between Klaus and Rebekah. And Elijah certainly wouldn't be following. The person he loved was right there beside him; he wasn't going to waste time running after me.

By the time Elijah realized that Zoe was leaving the compound and not just returning to her room, it was too late to catch her, and he wanted to curse his own idiocy.

Something had obviously been upsetting her, and he shouldn't have let her go running off on her own like that. Especially so soon after getting her back.

"Elijah," Hayley said plaintively, trying once more to apologize. "Please, I just-"

"Not now," he snapped at her. "We'll discuss this more later."

She made a face like he'd slapped her and stood up abruptly. "Fine," she said, looking both hurt and angry. "If that's what you want."

"It is," he said curtly. He honestly did not want to deal with Hayley right now; he was much more preoccupied with Zoe, and how she hadn't been acting like herself since waking up from her deep slumber.

Hayley gave him a furious, wounded look, then stormed from the room like she'd expected a different response than the one he'd given.

He sighed, shaking his head. He didn't know what she wanted him to say; she'd betrayed his trust in a terrible way, and as much as he wanted to be the bigger person and simply let it go, he couldn't. He'd loved Celeste, or at least it had felt like love at the time, and he'd buried her feeling like his heart had died along with her. That Hayley had done this, had trampled all over his feelings...he didn't even know what to think, much less say.

Zoe, he knew, would never have done something like this, not in a hundred thousand years. No, Zoe got by on her own power and wits, never relying on underhanded tricks or deceit. She'd hidden who and what she was, but only out of necessity, and in everything else she was straightforward to the point of brazenness.

He loved that about her, too. It was remarkably refreshing, to have someone in his life who would speak her mind without any machinations or double-meanings to her words. To have someone he knew he could rely on to do exactly what she said she would, regardless of whatever obstacles she encountered.

To have someone he wanted to spend more time with, for no other reason than to simply be with her.

Chapter Text

"Days will pass and turn into years, but I will always remember you with silent tears."

Before I realized it, I'd walked about ten blocks, ending up in a part of the city I wasn't overly familiar with. Annoyed with myself for getting lost, I about-faced and started retracing my steps.

I'd almost made it back to the compound when suddenly the ground lurched underneath my feet like we were in the middle of an earthquake.

But this was no earthquake; I could feel the magic sizzling through the air and shooting through the ground.

Something was wrong. Very, very wrong. And I had a terrible hunch about the source of this power. And sure enough, when I followed my instincts and let my feet carry me to the epicenter of the power, I ended up right back at the compound.


I raced back into the compound, only to crash into Elijah, who seemed to be leaving.

"Davina," I blurted out before he could say anything. "Is she okay?"

"We're not sure," he replied, casting a worried look upstairs. "But since she was vomiting up dirt just a moment ago, I'd wager probably not."

My own stomach gave a sympathetic lurch. "Okay, yeah, that's not good."

"No, it isn't." He looked at me carefully for a moment before speaking again. "I'm going to speak with Sophie, see what she knows about this latest development. Would you care to join me?"

My jaw dropped so fast and so far that I was surprised it didn't hit the ground. I recovered my composure quickly enough, though, and nodded. "Yeah, let's go."

When we found Sophie, she was knee deep in grave dirt and looking exhausted. She was also arguing with someone on the phone.

"No, wait," she snapped. "That isn't part of our deal! I told-" She threw up her free hand in exasperation. "Okay, fine. Whatever. It's not like I have a choice. If I don't do this, my niece will never come back. If digging up some old bones and helping you get what you want means I get Monique back, I don't care about anything else."

"I happen to care," Elijah said, appearing out of the darkness so suddenly that he startled Sophie badly enough that she dropped her phone; it fell and hit the ground sharply, the screen cracking from the impact and then going dark as it met its end.

"Elijah," Sophie said nervously, eyes darting between us."Zoe." She swallowed hard. "I can explain-" she began to say, but Elijah was having none of it, zooming over to her with vampire speed and wrenching her away from Celeste's final resting place.

"You're coming with us," he told her severely.

"So," Elijah said once we'd brought Sophie back to the Abattoir for a friendly little interrogation, "you have stolen the remains of the very person Davina's been drawing for months. Would you care to explain this startling coincidence?"

"I can't," Sophie said, staring at one of Davina's sketches in utter disbelief. "I didn't even know who Celeste Dubois was until-" She broke off with an alarmed look as the house gave a sudden violent shudder. "Was that Davina?"

"Charming little habit she's developed," Klaus said sourly.

Ezra gave the Original hybrid an exasperated look. "It's not like she's doing it on purpose," he said chidingly. "She can't help it."

Klaus just rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"What about the earthquake I felt today?" Sophie pressed, her voice taking on an undertone of urgency that made me narrow my eyes and watch her more closely.

"Also Davina," Rebekah replied. "And she's taken to vomiting dirt as well."

"Oh." Sophie went deathly pale. "We have a huge problem. I thought we had more time, but we need to complete the Harvest now."

"Said the desperate witch conveniently," Klaus noted snidely.

"I'm serious," Sophie snapped. "That earthquake you just felt? It's barely a preview of the disaster movie that's about to hit us."

"Why should we believe you?" Ezra demanded. "You've done nothing but manipulate us from day one."

Sophie made a sound of aggravation. "You've met Davina," she said impatiently. "You know her story. For months now she'd been holding the power of the three girls who were sacrificed in the Harvest ritual. A force that was meant to flow through her and back into the Earth."

"It's too much," I realized. "Too much power for one person to hold."

"It's tearing her apart," Sophie agreed. "And it will take us down with it if we don't do something."

In the end, we had to sedate Davina.

Even with the magic tearing her apart, she wanted no part in the Harvest ritual. She didn't trust it not to be a lie, and I didn't blame her; personally, I thought it was a load of bullshit, too.

Marcel had objected the entire time, refusing to the see the girl he'd taken in be sacrificed.

"I saved Davina from the Harvest," he snapped. "And now you want me to just hand her over?"

"Do you think I'm happy about this?" Klaus demanded, and for all that he was a key facilitator in arranging Davina's demise, I knew that what he said was true; he didn't want to do this. But it was the only choice. "I was willing to chalk up the earthquake to hideous coincide," Klaus went on, "but these winds?" He shook his head. "If Davina is not sacrificed, then every inch of earth that shook, everything that blew about earlier, will soon be drenched in water and consumed by fire!"

"Oh!" Marcel exclaimed sarcastically. "Now you care about the city."

"We ought to," Elijah interjected. "We built it."

"And we all saw it burned to the ground twice," Klaus finished. "I will not let that happen again. Do you understand?"

Marcel just shook his head mutely, looking like he wanted nothing more than to punch Klaus in the face. Not saying a single word, he strode from the room.

Elijah sighed. "Not a people person, are you, Niklaus?"

"Nonsense," Klaus replied immediately. "I love people. Just on my way to warn a couple of prominent ones in case the weather gets out of hand. Care to join me?"

"No," Elijah answered. "Sophie Deveraux shall be consecrating Celeste's remains, and though her actions are reprehensible, I should still pay my respects." He turned to me. "I know it's a lot to ask, but I'd feel more comfortable is you would accompany me, Zoe."

My heart skipped a beat at his words, but I reminded myself sternly that he wasn't looking to me for any sort of comfort; more than likely, he just wanted another witch there to keep an eye on Sophie.

The reason didn't matter, though, because I found myself unable to say no. "Sure," I said. "Whatever you need."

He smiled at me in gratitude, but then all cheer dropped from his face when Hayley popped into the doorway.

"Hey," she said to Elijah. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Just on my way out," he told her curtly, stepping past her without so much as glancing in her direction; he paused only to look back over his shoulder at me. "Coming, Zoe?"

Ignoring the glare Hayley was sending in my direction (seriously, I was lucky she didn't have Clark Kent's laser vision), I followed after him.

I was starting to realize that I'd follow him just about anywhere.

"I don't like this," Ezra said, for what felt like the hundredth time.

Rebekah sighed. "I know," she said, also for the hundredth time.

He was grateful that she wasn't trying to convince him that this was the right thing to do, because he didn't know if he'd be able to look at her the same if she did. But he could tell that she hated this, too; Rebekah had befriended Davina, albeit briefly and tenuously, and he could tell her us-girls-have-to-stick-together outlook had taken a massive blow from the inescapable fact that they needed to sacrifice an innocent girl to save themselves.

"I don't like this," he muttered again.

"I know," Rebekah said tiredly, reaching out to squeeze his hand gently. "I know."

Chapter Text

"I'm not telling you it's going to be easy, but I'm telling you it's going to be worth it."

We arrived at the cemetery to find the witch Sabine already there. Looking down at the covered remains with an unreadable expression on her face, she glanced over at us in faint surprise as we approached. "You don't need to be here so soon," she told us. "It's gonna take Sophie some time to prepare for the consecration."

"We know," I said when Elijah made no move to speak. "That's not why we're here."

"Oh?" Sabine arched an eyebrow. "So why are you here?"

"To pay our respects,"Elijah said softly, kneeling besides Celeste's remains. "I owe her that much."

Sabine watched him for a long silent moment, and something about the was she was looking at him made me really uncomfortable, almost like I had fire-ants crawling over my skin.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of Elijah's phone ringing; my own phone went off a moment later, and after exchanging worried looks, we stepped back and away to answer our calls.

"Hello?" I said questioningly.

"Hey, Z, it's me."

"Hey, Ezra. What's up?"

"Bad news, like always. Marcel took Davina, and we can't track him."

Well, that was inconvenient...but not surprising. "Any idea where he would take her?"

"Not a clue. Klaus and Bekah are checking around, but so far nothing."

I cursed under my breath. "This sucks, man. I want to be mad that he took her, but at the same time I feel guilty because I don't want her to die."

"Yeah, you're not alone in that." He sighed. "Any thoughts on how to find Marcel? Because as much as we hate it, Davina needs to go through with the Harvest, or the entire city will be destroyed."

I thought it over, then cursed again, because there was only one way I could think of that would be guaranteed to succeed. "I'll need to do a tracking spell."

My brother's response was immediate and heartfelt. "Fuck no," he snapped. "Absolutely not."

"It's the only way," I said reasonably.

"The hell it is!"

I took a deep breath and held it to the count of ten, working to keep my frustration in check. It's not like I didn't understand where he was coming from; I did.

The last time I'd been truly magically had been...I couldn't even remember. Five years ago? A decade? I wasn't even sure. But the point was that until recently, I hadn't been using my magic much at all; even our basic protection charms had been done mostly by Ezra.

The reason for this was actually composed of many smaller and more complicated reasons that I didn't like to think about, but one of those notable reasons was that once I started actively practicing powerful magic, I had trouble stopping. I wouldn't describe it as an addiction per se, but it's as good a description as any, I suppose. Among the magical communities, those of us with that needy hunger for magic are called "cravers"; basically it means "magic junkie". And the most interesting part is that most types of magic aren't inherently addictive on their own; it's the environment you work in, and the people you surround yourself with, that can nudge you in that direction. And sometimes, those influences could push a person right over the edge.

In Seattle, I'd very nearly fallen off that edge.

The coven I'd fallen in with had ended up being a not so great influence on me. They hadn't been evil, exactly, but that hadn't had many rules governing their use of magic; they certainly hadn't hesitated to use magic for personal gain. I'd been drawn in by that carefree attitude towards magic; years of being on the run and hiding my magic had left me hungry for a chance to actively practice and not be afraid. And since it had been during a time when our uncle had been engrossed in some other venture, I'd snatched at the opportunity with both hands.

The coven I'd joined had eventually ended up engaging in a fierce competition with another coven, however, and after a massive slaughter that few had walked away from, I'd sworn off magic, and Ezra and I had left Seattle without looking back.

So, yeah. I understood why my brother was worried about me using more magic; I'd already done more lately than I normally allowed myself.

He was worried I might lose myself to that hunger again, and I couldn't say with a hundred percent certainty that he was wrong.

The thought of it worried me more than a little, too.

But no matter how much I wracked my brain, I just couldn't see any other alternative. Ezra could theoretically do a tracking spell, but he was still recovering from his latest round of injuries and we both knew that between the two of us I was stronger magically, even if tracking spells weren't normally my forte. "We need to find Davina," I told my brother. "This is the only way."

I waited patiently as Ezra worked his way through his ever-expanding repertoire of swearwords. "Fine," he bit out once he was done. "If you're sure you can do it."

"Of course I can do it," I said with a scoff. "I'm a Storme."

"Words to die by," Ezra muttered darkly, clearly not feeling as confidently as I did about this course of action.

But there was no turning back now. "We're immortal, sweetie. Death isn't in the cards."

He huffed at me in aggravation, the sound causing my phone's speak to crackle. "Be careful," he told, and then hung up.

I will, I promised him silently, slipping my phone back into my pocket. I turned to explain my plan to Elijah, only to find him already finished with his own phone call and watching me.

"You have a plan," he said, and it wasn't a question.

"I do," I agreed.

"Your brother doesn't seem to approve," he noted and I realized that he'd probably overheard at least part of our conversation. Damn vampire hearing.

"My brother has a tendency to worry about me," I replied.

"He's not the only one," Elijah murmured, then sighed. "Can you really do a tracking spell to locate Davina?"


He arched a brow at my instant response. "You seem very sure of yourself."

"I'm a Storme," I said again, as if that answered everything. And to me, it sort of did. A Storme doesn't give up, and I was no exception. I was not one to shirk from a challenge. I was also not one to fail at a task once I'd set my mind to it.

Elijah gave me an amused look. "Very well, then. Whenever you're ready, begin the spell."

It took me a moment to gather up my magic and shape the energy how I wanted; I had to re-work the parameters of the spell twice, and then finally managed to wrangle up a satisfactory spell.

In the end, I settled for enchanting one of my daggers to act as temporary dowsing rod of sorts, only instead of honing in on water or gold it tracked the magic supernova that was Davina. It was ironically lucky that she was struggling with the surplus of magical energy; without the bright beacon of the excess power, my hastily MacGyvered tracking spell might not have worked.

As it was, we did manage to track down Davina, and as expected Marcel was with her. The only problem was...someone else had found them first.

We arrived just in time to see Sirena Espina blast Marcel away from Davina with a crackling lightning spell that sent him flying through the air to crash into a parked car.

The rage that rose in me at seeing her was so sudden and swift that I didn't even have time to think before my vision turned crimson with fury and I charged at her with intent to kill.

Since I was rushing in without paying attention, of course, I was very nearly flattened by Sirena's next spell, which flung a small station wagon at me. Only Elijah grabbing me and pulling me out of the way saved me from getting turned into a witch-wolf pancake.

"Thanks," I managed to say, struggling to catch my breath.

"You're welcome," Elijah replied. "Please be more careful."

I rolled my eyes. "When have you ever known me to be careful?"

Elijah shook his head with a sigh, but there was a small smile turning up the corners of his mouth. "Never."

"Exactly. So why start now?" I refocused my attention on Sirena. "Besides," I told Elijah, "that bitch needs to die. If I get a little banged up bringing her down, that's fine by me. It'll be worth it."

The Original looked like he wanted to argue, but another lightning strike had us ducking for cover and abandoning our conversation.

"Better for you just to run," Sirena shouted, her voice loaded with gleeful menace. "Run away now, Zoe Storme, before I suck down this girl's power and wash you away like the stain you are!"

Well, I thought, that's poetic imagery. My reply was more succinct and gritty. "Fuck off and die, bitch!"

The next lightning strike came dangerously close to where I was hiding behind a deserted trolley car.

I considered volleying out a few more insults just to see what she'd do, but ultimately I decided against it; we were crunched for time no matter how you sliced it, so the faster we dealt with Sirena's psycho ass, the better off we'd be. Probably.

Offering a silent apology to my brother for all the magic I was about to use, I stood up and stepped out from behind the trolley, putting myself right in Sirena's line of sight.

She gave an almost-hysterical laugh when she saw me. "What are you doing?" she asked me. "Frightened mice are supposed to cower and hide."

"Pity for you," I told her. "I'm not a mouse." I bared my teeth in a feral smile. "I'm a wolf, bitch. And you're my prey of the day."

Lightning crackled on her fingertips. "Do I look like prey to you?" she demanded.

"Yes," I replied immediately. "Because you're note even using your own damn magic for your little light-show. You think I don't know a Storme lightning spell when I see one?" I challenged. "What did you do, con my uncle into teaching you some of our tricks? Or are you just filching pages from his grimoires?"

Her next shot of lightning came flashing straight at me, and if I had been any other person, it would have blasted a hole straight through my chest and left me smoldering heap on the ground.

But I was no any other person. I was Zoe Storme, last daughter of the Storme and Volkov bloodlines. I was a witch, and a wolf, and I was a whole lot pissed off.

I brought up my hand and deflected her blast, the electricity crackling and dissipating under my will. "You'll have to do better than that," I told Sirena, just the barest hint of contempt curling my lips into sneer, "if you want to take on me."

Okay, yes, I was being arrogant. But, seriously. She was using storm magic...against a Storme? For the love of God, what family did she think had created those spells in the first place? Good grief. For someone so deviously intelligent, you'd think she'd know better than to use a brand of magic against me that I'd been familiar with since practically birth.

"Sorry, Sirena," I said, raising my voice to a shout to be heard over the increasing noise of the gusting wind. "But you're going to have to up your game."

She shrieked at me and flung more lightning spells in my direction. "Worthless mongrel," she screamed, her face a mask of fury. "You're nothing but a powerless beast! You're a disgrace to your name!"

My own anger abruptly slammed down on me hard, filling my body with an icy sort of wrath. "What would you know about my name?" I demanded. "I am Zorana Lucille Storme, daughter of Rina Storme and Lucas Volkov. I do honor to my name, and I am far from powerless."

To prove my point, I raised my hands up to the sky and summoned down a lightning strike of my own. Unlike Sirena's attacks, mine wasn't some puny little lightning bolt conjured from thin air. My lightning bolt was summoned from the energy of the atmosphere, channeled in a specific way known only to Storme magicians. I pulled that crackling energy down and wrapped it around myself, and then I formed it with my will and aimed it at Sirena.

She managed to put up a shield at the last minute, so instead of being obliterated she was only sent sailing through the air to crash through a storefront window. Even so, I was savagely pleased with the results of my attack. Before I had a chance to really celebrate, though, suddenly I was hearing the unmistakable crack of a gunshot, and then I was collapsing onto the ground, my knees giving out underneath me as pain blossomed in between my ribs.

I managed to twist as I fell, and it was then I saw Sophie, standing hidden in the shadow of a building across the street, her eyes wide and her hands shaking as she held the gun.

"What the hell?" I gasped, pressing a hand against the gunshot wound. "Sophie? What...?"

"I'm sorry," she stammered, tears sliding down her cheeks. "I have to. I have to. I won't get Monique back without her help. I'm sorry," she added again, as if that made it better.

I let out a slew of blistering curses, then had to stop for breath and clutch at my side because, oh yeah, I'd been fucking shot. By a supposed ally, no less.

Elijah appeared at my side between one blink and the next, and the intense look in his eyes made me need to take another moment to remember how to breathe.

"How badly are you hurt?" he asked, voice rough.

"Not bad," I managed to say after a moment. "Nothing that won't heal. You should take cover again," I added almost as an afterthought, because the little tempest Sirena had kicked up with her weather manipulation was starting turn into a full blown hurricane, and I didn't like the idea of Elijah being exposed to both temperamental magic-fueled weather and whatever Sirena -and Sophie- might do next.

"I'm not leaving you to bleed out in the middle of the street," he replied gruffly, and then he was scooping me up into his arms and I was rendered speechless as he used his vampire speed to rush us over to a more secure position.

If someone had come up to me a year previously and told me that I'd be swooning in a vampire's arms after being shot by a desperate witch, I would have laughed them not just out of the room but off the planet.

And yet there we were.

In any case, Elijah set me down gently on the ground behind a small trinket stand that had, through whatever miracle, not been blasted away during the battle.

"Sophie," I grumbled, "is officially on my blacklist."

"She was already on mine," Elijah remarked. "I was willing to let a few of her trespasses slide because of her motivations...but now that she's harmed you, I find that I'm exceptionally inclined to toss her into the ocean while tied to a heavy anchor."

What did it say about me, that I found the fact he'd murder someone for me unspeakably sweet and endearing? I shook my head, not willing to overthink it at the moment. "We need to stop her. Stop them," I corrected, my mouth twisting into a snarl at the very thought of Sirena. "I can't believe Sophie formed an alliance with psycho Sirena, of all people. I mean, seriously. Of all the rotten luck!"

"You do seem to attract ill fortune," Elijah noted, but his voice held more than a little affection, as if he thought that the fact that me and my twin were walking trouble magnets was amusing rather than horrifying.

I huffed at him in annoyance but didn't debate the point; there wasn't much I could say that would be very convincing, anyway. "What are we going to do to take out Sophie and Sirena?" I asked instead.

"I'm not sure," Elijah admitted. "Sophie I could deal with, but with Sirena backing her up things become much more...uncertain."

I snorted. "That's an understatement," I noted.

He tugged on the ends of my hair in a gesture that felt curiously playful and intimate. "Zoe," he said chidingly. "Be nice."

"Very funny," I replied, rolling my eyes. Then I bolted upright as a massive wave of power rolled through the area. The power had a familiar flavor to it, and I knew at once who it belonged to."Oh, shit. Davina!" I scrambled back to my feet and raced out from our hiding spot to see that the young witch we were all trying to claim was now being held at gunpoint by Sophie, with Sirena smiling like a psychotic Cheshire Cat nearby.

"Let Davina go right now!" I shouted, even as Elijah tried to pull me back to safety. I shrugged him off and sent him a glare that had him sighing and taking up a position to my right, with a look his face like he would have rather had this showdown with the rest of our posse there to back us up.

I couldn't deny that having our siblings there to back us up would have been preferable, but that was out of our control. We had to work with what we had.

Regrettably, what we had was precious little. My magic was running on metaphorical fumes, and Elijah couldn't get too close to the witches without some sort of retaliation.

Add in the fact that Davina's magic was stirring up the already nasty weather into something truly terrible, and it was going to be a really sucky night for everybody. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't think of a way to turn this into a happy ending. No matter what we did, Davina was going to die by the end of the night.

"Fuck," I muttered, and then charged forward with a dagger in each hand, Elijah hot on my heels.

"Stay back!" Sophie screamed, waving her gun around, but I ignored her, closing with Sirena as bloodlust sang through my veins. I wanted to hurt Sirena, to make her suffer and bleed. Sirena still didn't seem to find me much of a threat, because she just cackled and stabbed at me with a funky curved dagger that glinted a strange green-blue when it caught the light. I didn't doubt that it was an enchanted blade of some sort, so I did my best to avoid getting cut.

Sirena and I went back and forth for a bit, jabbing and swiping and dodging as we weaved around each other in a deadly dance that seemed to have no end. Elijah, meanwhile, was trying to get Davina away from Sophie, but Sophie seemed to have picked up some tricks from Sirena, because she'd thrown up a magical shield to repel him and stop him from getting to close.

I was about to make a more aggressive move, like trying to stab Sirena in between the ribs, when suddenly she surprised me and darted away from our fight. Before I could realize what she had in mind, she was already back at Sophie's side and slicing her dagger across Davina's throat in one quick motion.

"No!" I screamed, but it was too late and there was no going back.

Davina's eyes widened in terror before the light faded from them, and then the magic that had been building up and swirling inside of her all this time rushed out of her, leaving only her body behind.

"The power," Sophie gasped as Davina's body fell to the ground. "As is my right as the last surviving witch of my coven, I claim it. I claim it, and with it I call upon the elders to resurrect our chosen ones."

A long, long silence. The air was eerily still, and it was like the whole universe was holding it breath.

And yet nothing happened.

"I call upon the elders to resurrect our chosen ones," Sophie repeated, looking more desperate with each passing second. "Please..." she whispered brokenly, tears once more spilling down her cheeks as she craned her neck around to look at Sirena. "Why isn't it working?!"

Sirena gave a sly smile and tsked at her. "Aw, honey, did you really think I'd keep my word? How adorable."

I cursed as a look of horrified realization dawned on Sophie's face.

"You lied to me?" Sophie said, her face so pale that it rivaled the pallor of Davina's body.

Sirena sneered at her. "Always the tone of surprise when people finally get it. Morons." She snorted. "If it makes you feel any better at all, it's only because I had a more beneficial arrangement with...another party, shall we say. Her offer was much more promising than yours, little hedgewitch. So yes, I used you to get what I wanted." Her smirk widened. "And now I can give her what she wants, and I'll get what I want. And everyone goes home happy!" she said mockingly, clapping her hands together.

Sophie just stared at her in utter agony. "My niece is dead!" she wailed.

"Not my problem," Sirena replied, totally unsympathetic.

My own grief and frustration welled up in me very suddenly, and very powerfully. The surge of emotion brought with it a surge of power nothing like I'd ever felt before. It rushed through my body so quickly and with such ferocity that I was surprised my body didn't blast apart from the force of it. The intensity of it was so great that it actually distorted my perception as well. One moment I was standing frozen in place, staring at Davina's body in horrified disbelief, the next I was standing in the middle of a massive magical shockwave that was arcing straight towards Sirena.

It slammed into her like a tidal wave crashing onto a deserted shoreline. It crashed into her with titanic force and sent her flying backwards so hard that she disappeared into the night, with only her screams echoing through the cold night air to tell us where she'd been. I could still sense her life energy from wherever the hell she'd ended up after the blast, so I knew she wasn't dead. But the energy was wavering and weak, and that meant she'd been badly injured or at least knocked down a peg or two, and I decided that that would have to be good enough for now.

Because that last blast had used up the last dregs of my energy, and I couldn't have pursued her even if I'd wanted to.

I collapsed to the ground as shadows crowded into my vision, turning everything dark and hazy. My body felt like it was about to crumble away into dust, like the blast I'd unleashed had tapped into a level of power I shouldn't have tried to use. But I hadn't used it, not deliberately; my emotions had brought it to the surface, and the energy had used itself.

Before I could really think about the implications of this, the consequences caught up with me, and everything went black.

My last thought before the darkness swallowed me was the hope that Davina knew I'd tried to save her, even if it hadn't worked.

I hoped she knew how sorry I was.

Chapter Text

Chapter 52

"Grief is the price we pay for love."

She was gone.

He'd been trying to protect her, to get her away and keep her safe.

He'd failed. Utterly and completely.

She was gone.

It hadn't been how the Mikaelsons and the Storme twins had anticipated, hadn't gone down like that at all. There hadn't been a nice and tidy ceremony or any sort of order to it at all. Those plans had been shattered to pieces when Sophie had turned on them, siding with some other witch Marcel had never seen before. In the end, though, those differences in execution hadn't mattered, because the ending had been the same. He hadn't been able to stop it, hadn't been able to do anything. Hadn't been able to protect her.

She was gone.

He couldn't stand to stay there with her body, there in the cold empty street with nothing but the icy night air and her corpse for company. Elijah had clearly been devastated by her death, as had Klaus, Ezra, and Rebekah once they'd arrived on the scene, but Marcel hadn't been able to even look at them. It had been their idea from the start, to sacrifice Davina. He couldn't find it in himself to look at them and see the pity and sadness in their eyes that seemed to almost make a mockery of his loss. How could they possibly understand this, understand how he felt as he looked down at her lifeless body and felt his heart crack and shatter into a million pieces.

She was gone.

He couldn't even bring himself to feel the barest stirrings of worry regarding the Storme woman's inexplicable collapse. He knew that he probably should have been at least a little concerned; from Ezra and Elijah's ministrations that seemed to be almost frantic, he could tell this sort of fainting spell was out of the norm and upsetting for the two men huddled around Zoe's unconscious form. But he just couldn't bring himself to feel much of anything at all, just looked away and back down to Davina's body.

She was...gone.

The pain of it hit him like a ten ton sledgehammer, almost driving him to his knees. But he wouldn't fall here, wouldn't show this weakness here in the middle of the street. So he summoned up what strength he had left at his disposal and used his enhanced speed to get himself back to safe territory.

Whereupon he threw a massive fit and totally trashed the place. It wasn't like he couldn't afford to replace the furnishings scattered around the Abattoir courtyard. Besides, he didn't gave a damn anymore. The whole world could have imploded right that very second, and he honestly wouldn't have cared.

Because she was gone.

He had just flung several tables and chairs around with furious abandon when he sensed someone approaching.

"That won't bring her back you know," Klaus said softly.

Marcel whirled on him, the agonizing grief in his chest sharpening into something that felt an awful lot like a hot, wrathful rage. "This is your fault!" he snapped. "I should never have let you anywhere near her."

"Marcel," Klaus began, but Marcel wasn't in the mood to listen to anything his sire had to say.

"This city was fine before you came," Marcel continued, talking right over whatever Klaus had been about to say. "We were fine! Davina was safe. She was in control!"

"My condolences the girl is gone," Klaus said, "but don't lose perspective. We still have our community. The vampires of this town-"

"I don't care about the vampires!" Marcel shouted, the agony in his chest rising to a painful crescendo. "She is dead! Do you hear me?!"

Klaus sped over to him so quickly that Marcel flinched out of reflex, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath. Then the Original hybrid did something that truly shocked him to the core, and pulled him into a tight embrace.

"I'm sorry," Klaus murmured, holding him close in a hug that Marcel hadn't realized he'd needed.

But he did need it, and so he clung to Klaus as his sobs continued to wrack his body. And Klaus held him, and kept speaking in that soft, gentle tone that he'd heard from Klaus only a handful of times in the past. "You may think I know nothing of your grief," Klaus was saying, "but you are wrong." He pulled back enough to look Marcel in the eye without letting him go completely. "In the days after I fled this city, I thought you were dead. It was years before I could speak your name," he admitted, "so keenly did I feel that loss. I'm sorry," he said again, his voice barely a murmur as Marcel caved and lurched forward, pressing his face into Klaus's shoulder as he let his grief swamp him and wash him away.

Klaus just embraced him, holding him as he felt apart. "I'm sorry," Klaus whispered one last time.

I woke up with a pounding headache and the distinct feeling of having been run over by a rampaging stampede of wild stallions. And possibly a buffalo or two. I struggled to sit up, only to discover that my muscles weren't responding quite the way I wanted. I couldn't seem to do much more than flop around a bit, and even just that much was unbelievably exhausting.

After a few seconds of trying and failing to move more than a couple inches in any direction, I took a moment to assess my surroundings.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered Elijah by my bedside, his head resting on his chest as if he'd dozed off while sitting there. Peering at him more closely, I could see the deep shadows under his eyes, and I wondered how long he'd been sitting there.

Once I'd come to terms with how adorable he looked sitting there snoozing, I looked around and realized that we were back at the Abattoir. Not surprising, really, it was more or less our base of operations now, but I couldn't help but wonder how long I'd been out this time. How much time had I lost, between passing out after that fight and now? A glance out the window told me that the sun was just starting to rise, but that wasn't a huge help, either. Sunrise of what day, exactly? I hated to think I'd lost multiple days again, but the amount of power that had rushed through my body had been immense, and that sort of power always comes with a price. Usually a steep one in the end.

I let myself drift back to sleep, since I didn't really want to think about the consequences of my actions and how long I'd been unconscious. Besides, it wasn't like I was going to be getting out of bed, not feeling like roadkill the way I did. So I went back to sleep.

When I woke up again, I was feeling a little bit better and it was midday, and Elijah was awake and talking with Ezra, who'd pulled up another chair at my bedside. My twin, of course, noticed my return to the land of the living almost immediately.

"Hey," he exclaimed happily. "There she is. We were wondering when you were planning to wake up, sleepyhead."

"Ha ha, very funny," I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes.

Ezra just gave me that smile, the one that said so much without words. The one that told me how much I'd scared him again, how relieved he was to see me awake.

"It is a relief to see you back with us," Elijah remarked, and though his tone was light, I could see the faint worry lines around the corners of his mouth that told me that he really had been concerned about me.

A strange warmth filled my chest and I gave a little smile. "It's good to be back," I said. But then my smile dropped away as I remembered that one of our number had been taken from us and hadn't come back to the land of the living. "Davina..." I murmured, and felt the corners of my eyes prick with unshed tears.

My companions' faces fell as well, smiles turning into frowns and downcast eyes.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there," Ezra said, breaking the silence first. "Maybe if I'd-"

"Don't," I told him, reaching out a shaky arm to clasp his hand in mine. "Don't do that, Ez. There's nothing you could have done, even if you'd been there."

"Davina was going to die regardless of what any of us did," Elijah agreed, regret darkening his eyes. "Your presence wouldn't have changed that inevitability."

"Still..." Ezra sighed. "If I'd been there, I could have distracted Sirena. Then maybe she would have been too preoccupied to steal away the Harvest magic that should have brought Davina back."

"Since that preoccupation would have involved her ripping you to shreds," Klaus said as he entered the room and came to stand just behind where Elijah and Ezra were seated, "I think it's better that you weren't there."

"Amen to that," Rebekah pitched in as she followed into the room after her half-brother. "Seeing you torn up like that once is more than enough. Let's not risk a second round, okay?"

Ezra just shook his head. "But if it could have helped-"

Klaus reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "It wouldn't have. It would have just cost us more."

Ezra had a look on his face like he wanted to argue it further, but then he just sighed and slumped forward, burying his face in his hands. "I just can't believe there was nothing we could do," he mumbled dejectedly.

Rebekah bit her lip, then stepped forward to pull up a chair beside my brother. She fussed with the hem of her skirt a bit as she sat down, and then reached out and threaded her fingers through Ezra's with a shaky smile. "We'll get through this," she told him.

Ezra sighed again, but managed a faint smile in return. "If you say so."

Klaus and I both watched this little exchange with narrowed eyes and contemplative expressions. Before either of us could comment on it, however, Hayley appeared in the doorway.

"Oh," she said when she saw me sitting up. "You're awake. That's...good."

I pursed my lips a little because the way she said it made it sound decidedly not good, like maybe she'd have preferred me to stay down and out for a while. I wasn't in the mood to call her out on it right now, though, so all I said was "I am."

"Oh," she said again, then cleared her throat. "Elijah," she said uncertainly. "Can"

"Perhaps later," he replied, not even looking around to meet her eyes.

An aggravated expression crossed the werewolf's face. "How about now?" she demanded. "Or are you just never going to forgive me for helping Sophie find Celeste's body?"

Elijah said nothing, but his jaw was clenched so tightly I wouldn't have been surprised if he cracked a tooth.

"This isn't the time for this," I said, not wanting to step into the middle of this but also unable to keep my opinion to myself.

"Who asked you?" Hayley snapped. "This is between me and Elijah."

Oooookay...that was totally not the right thing to say to someone with my temperament. "I beg your pardon?" I hissed. "This isn't all about you, Hayley. Davina just died, for crying out loud, show a little sensitivity!" I growled when she looked about to argue. "No, shut up. Whatever you have to say can wait." I turned away from her to look at my brother. "Where's Marcel?" I asked. "Is he...okay?"

Ezra looked at me carefully, as if unsure what to think my little scolding to Hayley. "He's making arrangements for...for the funeral," he said at last, glancing back over his shoulder at Klaus. "As for being okay..."

"He's definitely not," Klaus finished for him. "Last I saw, he was getting very cozy with a bottle of high-proof liquor. Understandable, of course, and I can't blame him for struggling right now." He rubbed his face tiredly. "It will be quite some time before Marcellus recovers from this, if ever."

I just nodded, because what could I say? Marcel had obviously loved Davina. He'd saved her from the witches and kept her safe for all those months...only to have her brutally slaughtered in spite of his best efforts.

I resolved to be nicer to Marcel in the future. He'd need as much support as possible after losing his ward like that.

"I hate to move on to business when we're all in mourning," Rebekah said hesitantly. "But we need to find out...what does Sirena have to do with all of this? I mean, I know Sophie made a deal with her, but...what's her endgame? Why join up with the New Orleans coven when she's working with your uncle?" she asked, looking over at me and Ezra. "Why would she do something like that? And who was this other person she said she made a deal with before Sophie?"

"What concerns me," Klaus said, "is where all that power went. The magic gathered from the Harvest was supposed to resurrect those four girls. But obviously it didn't. So...where did all that power go? Who has it now?"

"Not Sirena," I said after a moment of thought. "I wouldn't have been able to blast her away like I did at the end if she'd absorbed all that power for herself."

"So she was taking it and channeling it to someone else," Ezra concluded.

"But who could it possibly be?" Rebekah asked, sounding frustrated. "Who else out there is after us like this?"

"Could it be your uncle?" Elijah asked. "You mentioned he had relocated from his previous location. Could this be his doing?"

"Evans said he'd come down to Baton Rouge from Cheyenne," I admitted, "but I don't think this is him. Sirena said her when she spoke about this other person. My uncle is many things, but transgender isn't one of them. Besides, if he was in town, he wouldn't waste time playing games like this."

"True," Ezra agreed. "He'd just blast in, grab me and Zoe, then blast out again."

We all lapsed into thoughtful silence as we contemplated the possibilities. Eventually, Hayley spoke again.

"Did we ever find out why Davina was drawing those pictures of Celeste?" she asked. "I mean, she said they were visions of an evil that was after her, right? So, maybe..."

"But that isn't possible," Elijah countered, cutting Hayley off before she could even finish her sentence. "Celeste is dead. We saw her remains with our own eyes."

"Maybe she hitched a ride back from the spirit world and took over someone else's body?" I suggested. "I mean, it would be hard for her, but not impossible, especially if she had some sort of strong motivation."

"Not possible," Elijah repeated, shaking his head. "She would have no reason to come back and do these things."

I bit my tongue, and refrained from pointing out the fact that his brother's indiscretions had led to Celeste getting murdered by an angry mob, and that that was plenty of motivation for revenge; I had a feeling he wouldn't want to hear that right then, so I remained silent.

We were interrupted by the arrival of Klaus's bartender friend Camille, who came in looking like she'd just spent the last couple hours crying her eyes out. "Sorry to barge in on whatever powwow you're having here," she said, voice rough, "but my uncle just called." She glanced over at Klaus. "He says some members of the Faction discovered a couple dead vampires, over at the Cauldron?"

"Ours?" Elijah asked, looking over to his brother for confirmation.

"How the bloody hell should I know?" Klaus said in exasperation. "I can hardly be expected to remember of single face lurking around the city."

"Some king you are," Ezra grumbled.

Klaus whapped him lightly on the back of the head. "Watch it," he said warningly, but there was no real menace in his tone, only annoyance and amusement.

"Marcel would know if anyone's missing," Rebekah interjected. "We should ask him to come with us to help investigate."

"I have a feeling he'd rather be left alone," Elijah observed. "Maybe we should just give him some time."

"Nonsense," Klaus answered. "He can't sit around sulking for the rest of eternity. Here," he added, nudging Ezra with his elbow, "come help me roust him and let's be off."

Ezra gave a long-suffering sigh and rolled his eyes but obeyed, squeezing Rebekah's hand one last time before releasing her and following Klaus out the door and down the hall, presumably to find Marcel.

I watched them go, then leaned back against my pillows with a sigh of exhaustion.

"Still tired?" Rebekah said, looking at me in concern.

"A little," I admitted.

"Well, that's not surprising," Elijah remarked. "You did use a tremendous amount of power during that fight. It might take you some time to recover your full strength." A little mischievous smile quirked his lips. "Zorana."

I groaned and pulled up a pillow to cover my face. "Oh my God," I moaned. "I can't believe I shouted that for the whole world to hear.

"What's going on now?" Rebekah asked, clearly puzzled.

"Zorana Lucille Storme," Elijah said, taking his time sounding it out, as if he were savoring the feel of my name on his tongue.

I just groaned again. "Please, please stop."

"Oh." Rebekah's eyes lit up. "Oh! Is that your full name?"

I threw my pillow at her. "Yes," I grumbled. "And if you call me by it I will hex you eight ways to Sunday."

"Why?" Elijah asked, chuckling as Rebekah pounced on me and lightly walloped me with the pillow I'd tossed at her. "It's a lovely name. Slavic, isn't it?"

"Yes," I huffed. "It was my paternal grandmother's name. It means 'dawn'."

"It's lovely," Elijah repeated.

"Mmm," was my only response.

It's not that I didn't like my birth name, mind you. Truth be told, I loved it. It's just...different. Growing up and going to school with a name like Zorana had gotten me a lot of funny looks, until eventually I'd just started going by my nickname, Zoe. It was easier for people to pronounce, and I didn't have to put up with the whole slew of questions like What's that mean? or What country is that from?. Because explaining that it was my father's mother's name and that we were descended from a clan of revered Russian werewolves was way too troublesome to do with any great frequency. So I'd taken to just introducing myself as Zoe and that had been that.

When Elijah said it, though...well, I kind of liked how my full name sounded coming out of his lips.

Not that I was going to admit that to anyone, though. It was just a little secret I'd keep to myself.

When Elijah repeated my full name again, though, with that sparkle in his eyes that indicated that he was doing it just to rile me, I couldn't help the small smile that crept onto my face.

Chapter Text

"Never give up on someone you can't go a day without thinking about. "

Barely ten minutes after leaving the Abattoir, Ezra was already starting to question the wisdom of dragging Marcel along as he and Klaus investigated the to mysterious vampire deaths.

Marcel was, for one thing, in a spectacularly shitty mood, even by Ezra's standards. It was understandable, of course, and Ezra was willing to cut him some slack given the circumstances. Someone he'd cared for deeply had died in a terrible and awful way, and he was in agony from the loss.

Ezra understood that. He did.

But did Marcel really have to be such an asshole about it?

Okay, so maybe Ezra was inclined to be a little more prickly because it was Marcel, and he didn't like Marcel much just in general. But he was willing to put his own issues aside for the moment, given the givens.

But when they arrived at the scene twenty minutes later and discovered the two dead daywalkers, all Marcel did was look at their corpses blankly before turning right around and walking away. Ezra and Klaus had stopped him and tried to talk him out of bailing, but after a small, heated debate, Marcel had washed his hands of the whole mess, declaring that he didn't care about "vampire hijinks" anymore. And then he'd disappeared without a backward glance, leaving Ezra fuming and Klaus both aggravated at Marcel's behavior and resigned over how there was nothing to be done about it.

They both gave massive sighs, and then returned to the bodies of the dead vampires. Ezra, noticing something that piqued his interest, knelt down to inspect the body. Tilting the head of one of the daywalkers to the side slightly, he noticed a peculiar symbol carved into the side of the dead vampire's neck. It seemed vaguely familiar to him somehow, and not in a good way.

Frowning, he snapped a picture of it with his phone and forwarded it to Zoe, then waved Klaus over for a second opinion. "You ever seen anything like this before?" he asked.

Klaus leaned over and inspected the symbol. "No," he said after a moment, "it's not anything I'm familiar with." There was something a little off in his tone, though, like maybe he wasn't entirely sure.

"Huh." Ezra released his grip on the dead daywalker's chin and the lifeless head lolled to the side. "Me neither."

Rebekah made sure that Zoe was resting comfortably, then quietly slipped out of her friend's room, striding down the hallway and heading for Marcel's room.

Once there, she was stunned to see him sharing a bottle of bourbon with Thierry.

"I thought you were bricked up to starve down in the Garden?" she asked him.

He shot her a dark glare. "Yeah, because of some bullshit your brother pulled," he said in a surly tone. "Tell him thanks for me, will you?"

"I decided to let Thierry out of the Garden," Marcel added, taking a long pull form the bottle of bourbon. "I shouldn't have put him down there in the first place, and after some thinking I realized that he's the only one who's ever really had my back."

Rebekah flinched ever so slightly at the cutting edge in his voice, but covered it by crossing her arms. "So this is how you've decided to spend your time? Drinking the day away with your bestie, when Ezra and Klaus need your help with solving those murders?"

Marcel snorted. "I'm sure they can manage without me."

"You should go help them," she told him sternly. "The daywalkers who died are your people, Marcel."

"Technically," he replied, "they're Klaus's people now. He did take over, or did you somehow miss that from where you were hiding in the shadows?"

She bristled. "Excuse me, I was standing right there beside you, you selfish wanker."

He arched an eyebrow. "Yeah, and you told me to surrender to Klaus. Little late to be complaining about it now, Bekah. What's done is done. Now, if you don't mind, I have some catching up to do with an old friend." He poured Thierry another drink and glanced pointedly at the door behind Rebekah.

She huffed at him in frustration, but didn't bother trying to argue the issue any further. She knew him well enough to know when he was in a stubborn mood; however much she disliked it, he wasn't going to budge and go help Ezra and her brother investigate. So she just gave him one last glare before whirling around and storming from the room, making sure to slam the door very hard behind her.

She was just on her way back to Zoe's room when her phone went off. Frowning, she pulled it out and answered. "Hello?"

"Hello, Miss Mikaelson," an unfamiliar voice said in greeting. "How are you today?"

"Wondering who the hell this is," she replied, letting her annoyance creep into her voice. "You have thirty seconds, and then I'm hanging up."

"You'll be receiving a text message in a moment," the person on the other end told her. "It will be an address. You will go to that address, and you will go there alone."

"And why exactly would I do that?" she demanded.

"Because if you don't, your two little friends are going to meet a rather...unfortunate end. It would be such a pity, too; the one with a baby on the way and the blonde with such a bright future ahead of her. Don't worry," he added, "we're simply observing them for now. But it would be such a shame if anything were to happen to them because of your stubbornness."

Rebekah barely bit back a curse as she recalled that Cami and Hayley had gone out for the afternoon to do some maternity shopping for Hayley; she wanted to kick herself for letting them leave without a proper escort.

"And don't even think about contacting either of your brothers," the stranger said warningly. "We have people monitoring all of you, and we'll know if you do anything other than exactly what we tell you."

"Fine," she said curtly as her phone vibrated to tell her that there was a new text message. "I'll be there shortly."

Ezra was trailing after Klaus as the Original hybrid went inside another local business to question those inside about whether or not they'd witnessed anything useful that he and Klaus could use to figure out who had killed those two daywalkers and why. He hadn't heard back from Zoe yet about the symbol, so that was a dead end for the moment. He would have been annoyed, but he knew that his twin had more than likely fallen back asleep, and he was actually relieved that she was resting for a change.

They were just about to enter a small Postal Annex-type place when a sudden wave of nausea washed over him, making him gag and stumble to a halt, his vision going blurry at the edges.

Klaus continued on for several steps, but after noticing that Ezra wasn't with him anymore, doubled back with an annoyed scowl. "What's the hold up?" he asked, but then his scowl morphed into a slightly less severe frown as he took in Ezra's sickly appearance. "Now what's wrong with you?"

"I have no idea," Ezra told him, voice shaking. "I just feel really sick all of a sudden." And terribly, terribly weak, like someone had drained all the energy from his body. He took a deep breath and tried to assess his condition, but couldn't pinpoint the cause of his sudden sickness; physically, he was fine. Not in peak condition since he was still bouncing back from Sirena's torture games, but nothing was seriously wrong with him.

He was about to dive down into his inner headspace and question his wolf about what exactly was going on, but then the nausea peaked and shattered his concentration, driving him to his knees as he gagged again and struggled for air.

What the hell is going on?

Rebekah tried to scream but couldn't. No matter how hard she struggled, she couldn't even make the tiniest noise. She also couldn't move, couldn't manage even the slightest twitch.

When she'd arrived at the address she'd been given, she hadn't expected to face any sort of significant challenge. She certainly hadn't expected to encounter Alphonz Bellatunde Delgallo, especially since he'd been dead for many, many years.

And she would never have in a million years expected him to trap her in a magical containment circle and suck away her power with some sort of blasted energy-leeching spell.

As her power and life energy was pulled out of her body and into Papa Tunde, she felt herself growing weaker, almost unbearably so. As the spell went on and on and she continued to grow weaker and weaker she had no doubt that if she weren't a true immortal, she would have already died.

As the spell kept going with a sense of endlessness, she really began to wonder if she might not perish anyway.

Ezra, still queasy but somehow ambulatory, wasted no time in bolting up to his room and grabbing his grimoire from his bag the second they returned to the Abattoir. He flipped through it frantically until he found the entry he was looking for. A amalgamation of spells and hexes he'd seen or encountered over the years, his grimoire was more of a witchcraft scrapbook than a true grimoire, but in a situation like the one he was in right then, that was more of a good thing than a bad one, especially since it meant that he had an entry on a series of spells that he himself wouldn't use, but needed to know about just in case.

When he realized that the symbol he and Klaus had seen on the bodies was used in rituals for sacrificial magic, his heart started beating double-time in his chest. Sacrificial magic wasn't exceedingly rare anymore, but it took a certain caliber of warlock to pull it off with any great success. There were only a handful of warlocks in the country capable of doing strong sacrificial magic.

Several of the more notorious ones were already long dead. One of the ones still among the living was dear old Uncle Reginald.

That thought nearly had him hyperventilating, but then he reminded himself that if Reginald were in New Orleans, he or Zoe would have already sensed him, would have picked up the taste of his power from miles away.

So. It wasn't Reginald.

But if not their uncle, then who?

Who had enough power to pull off sacrificial magic like that?

And why the hell was he still so goddamned nauseous?!

Angry and sick, he hauled himself downstairs and all but threw the grimoire at Klaus.

The hybrid caught it easily and arched an eyebrow at him.

"I figured out what the symbol means," Ezra told him.

"So did we," Klaus replied, nodding at Elijah, who was leaning against the edge of a nearby table.

"The symbol the two of you found on those bodies is nearly identical to a symbol similarly used by someone who once stood against our family," Elijah explained. "Long ago, the last time we were in New Orleans. Clearly," he added, "some upstart witch is salvaging old tricks."

"Okay, but then why am I feeling sick?" Ezra asked. "I haven't run into anyone who could have put this hex on me."

"Are you sure about that?" Elijah asked. "It's not possible someone could have laid the spell upon you without your notice?"

Ezra gave him a scathing look. "For your sake, I'm going to pretend I didn't just hear that." He shook his head. "Trust me, no one could do any sort of magic on me without me realizing it. I'm not Zoe, but I'm not a lightweight, either. I've got several layers of protection magic on me to prevent exactly this sort of thing," he added. "Our uncle's pretty fond of sacrificial magic and power transference spells, too, so my sister and I both have precautions in place, just in case."

"So why are you sick then?" Klaus asked. "If you're not the target of such a spell, there's no reason for you to be feeling any sort of effect from it. You couldn't possibly have caught it from those bodies earlier; it's not like the magic is contagious."

"That's true," Ezra admitted. "The only reason I would be impacted from someone else being drained would be if..."

If he was linked to them somehow.

Like his bond with Zoe.

Panicked again, he sought out that bond with his twin, that soul-deep connection that bound them together as blood and pack. To his immense relief, there didn't seem to be anything amiss with his twin; as far as he could tell, she was still asleep, but it was normal, healthy sleep. There was no flavor of dark magic to her energy, no indication that her power was being leeched away.

He withdrew from their bond feeling both relieved and baffled.

Relieved, because his sister was fine.

Baffled, because if it wasn't his sister who was being affected by the power-sucking spell, whose suffering was he sensing?

Who the hell else could he possibly be bonded to?

Chapter Text

Chapter 54

"The sun loved the moon so much that he died to let her breathe."

I woke up feeling like a completely new person; it was amazing how beneficial several hours of uninterrupted sleep could be for a person.

As I got out of bed, though, I couldn't help but notice a feeling of tension hovering the air.

Oh, great, I thought. Now what's going on?

I slipped into some jeans and a Celtic Woman t-shirt, tugged on my boots, then went downstairs. I found my brother in the courtyard with Klaus and Elijah, the three of them poring over an assortment of books that were strew across a folding table that someone had set up.

"Uh, hi guys," I said with a little wave. "What's up with the study group?"

Ezra was across the room in an instant, pulling me close and wrapping me in a tight hug. "You have no idea how relieved I am that you're awake."

"Okay," I said slowly. "Thanks, I guess. But I was just napping. Not really surprising that I'd wake up eventually."

"Well," Elijah remarked, "with someone running about doing magic that sucks away life energy, I think it's not unreasonable to have been concerned."

It took me a moment to process that. And even after turning his statement over in my mind, I was still at a loss. "Wait, what?"

"Klaus and I went to investigate the deaths of those two daywalkers," Ezra began, and I nodded because I remembered them leaving not long before I'd drifted off to sleep again. "When we got there," he continued, "we found this symbol carved onto the bodies." He handed me a scrap of paper that had been wedged between two books.

I peered intently at the little doodle on the paper, trying to place it. It took me longer than I would have liked, but eventually I realized what it was, what it represented. "Sacrificial magic?" I frowned. "But who has enough skill to pull off something like this?" Our uncle had a knack for this type of magic, but I was certain that he wasn't in town. Not yet, anyway.

"That's what we're trying to figure out," Klaus replied, tossing aside one book and picking up another. "So far," he added irritably, "we're not having much luck."

Well, okay then. Deciding to make myself useful, I started to head over and reach for a book to help in the search, then paused and slanted another look at my brother.

I hadn't realized it immediately, preoccupied as I'd been with trying to understand what was going on, but after looking at Ezra more closely...well, it was obvious that he wasn't doing so good. He was paler than normal, with shadows beginning to form under his eyes.

"Oh my God," I blurted, panic blooming in my chest. "Did someone hit you with a power-sucking spell?!"

My twin gave me an insulted look. "Z, seriously?"

I flushed in embarrassment; I knew my brother had protection spells in place against such things, and even if he didn't, such a spell wouldn't have affected him like that. He was a powerful Wiccan practitioner and by no means a pushover. But in my worry, I'd somehow forgotten that my brother was a bad-ass.

"Well, can you blame me for jumping to conclusions?" I demanded defensively, putting my hands on my hips. "I wake up to find the three of you freaking out over some sort of sacrificial power-sucking spell, and you, my beloved brother, just so happen to look like shit at the same time? What the hell else am I supposed to think?"

"Fair point," my brother conceded grudgingly. "But no, it's not me."

"At least not exactly," Klaus tacked on.

My frown deepened in puzzlement. "What do you mean, not exactly? Either he's the target of the spell or he's not; there's not a lot of in between here, Klaus."

Ezra shifted uncomfortably. "Well, uh...that's sort of the thing," he said uncertainly. "I seem to be affected by one of these spells, but not directly."

I pinched the bridge of my nose to stave off the headache I felt building. "Okay," I told them, "you guys have lost me. How can Ezra be affected by a spell that has nothing to do with him?"

"The same way I'd be affected if something like this happened to you," Ezra told me quietly.

I scowled at him, then felt all the color drain from my face as the pieces clicked into place. "A bond," I realized. "You've got a connection to whoever is being victimized by this spell."

"Looks that way, yeah."

Which left the question of who on earth Ezra was close enough with to form that sort of bond. If forced to guess, I would have said Klaus, since he and my brother had formed some sort of odd bromance-y friendship since we'd come here, but the Original hybrid was clearly not the victim of a power-leeching spell; he was just the same as always. I was about to ask my brother who he thought it was when Camille and Hayley finally returned, their arms overflowing with shopping bags.

"Sorry we're late," Hayley said by way of greeting. "Rebekah was supposed to pick us up after lunch, but she never showed up. I don't suppose you guys know where she is?"



Well, crap.

Ezra's entire world came grinding to a painful halt.

Rebekah was supposed to pick us up after lunch, Hayley had said.

But she never showed up.

His inner wolf rose up suddenly and powerfully, letting loose a mournful howl that echoed in his mind so loudly it was surprising he didn't black out from the force of it. He tried to force his wolf back down, feed it reassurances that everything was fine, tell it that there was nothing to worry about at all, but for once his wolf didn't let Ezra push that side of himself away into the back of his consciousness. His wolf pushed back, making it very clear that any efforts to ignore it would be futile.

Ezra didn't know how to feel about that. On one hand, he didn't feel like he was about to lose control and go on a massive killing spree. On the other hand, his wolf was very decidedly not happy, and not being able to subdue that side of himself left him dangerously at risk for a loss of control.

She never showed up.

Something about those four simple words had snapped something inside of him, setting loose a side of his wolf that Ezra had never experienced before. A fierce territorial protectiveness. In some small ways, it was almost similar to his feelings towards Zoe; a need to nurture, a need to keep her safe. But this feeling now was so much more, so much deeper than anything he'd ever felt before. It was there in every beat of his heart, in every breath he took into his lungs.

And it was centered entirely on Rebekah.

She never showed up.

Now that he knew it was her, that she was the one on the other end of that connection, it made the weakness he felt almost unbearable. Because the weakness he was feeling was hers. The helplessness coursing through him was how Rebekah was feeling, right that very moment.

Rebekah, beautiful and bold and courageous.


His wolf gave a menacing snarl, and Ezra didn't try to hush him. He agreed with the sentiment behind the snarl wholeheartedly. He didn't understand why he was bonded to Rebekah, didn't want to examine that connection too closely for fear of what it might really mean, but one thing he knew for certain was that Rebekah Mikaelson was far too magnificent to be the victim of some two-bit warlock trying to build their power.

So he took a deep breath and did something he'd resolved to never try again.

He closed his eyes and let his wolf lead the way.

I knew the second my brother ceded control to his wolf. I saw it in the way his posture changed, and in the way his scent changed ever so slightly; going from Ezra's normal scent to something darker, more predatory. The change became glaringly obvious when my brother opened his eyes and instead of forest green or gold, brilliant wolf blue irises shined out at me.

"Hello, wolf-brother," I said, using a nickname I had given to his wolf after I'd realized the severity of the separation between my brother's two soul-halves. It might have seemed silly, calling my brother by a different name when his wolf was in control, but I couldn't help it. Ezra wasn't entirely Ezra when his wolf was running the show. Wolf-Ezra was different. He wouldn't speak much, if at all. And he operated almost entirely on instinct. He looked at things the way a predator would, splitting people up into two simple groups: potential threats and potential prey. There was a third, more elusive group, for those he considered pack. I was pack. And, as I stood there and watched as wolf-Ezra inspected Klaus and Elijah with that cold wolf gaze and didn't attack, I realized that somehow the Mikaelsons had come to be qualified as pack, too.

Thank goodness for small miracles. A brawl between wolf-Ezra and the two Original brothers would have been massively bloody. Not to mention a waste of time when what we needed to be doing was finding Rebekah.

It hit me, all of a sudden, why Ezra had relinquished control of his body to his wolf-half.

Ezra was bonded to Rebekah. I didn't doubt that, even if I didn't understand how it had happened; his reaction to the spell and his sudden panic had erased any lingering doubts. By relinquishing control, Ezra was allowing his wolf to use that connection, that pack bond, to track down Rebekah. Ezra could have probably found a way to do it without ceding control to the wolf, but it would have taken longer. And any time lost meant that Rebekah was suffering more. So out of his worry for Rebekah, he'd done the one thing he hated most.

He'd given up control.

As wolf-Ezra shifted form from human to a great big hulking timber wolf and loped out the door, I desperately hoped that our latest rescue mission wouldn't end in disaster.

Ezra, despite relinquishing control of his physical body to his wolfside, found himself in more of a partnership with his other half than he'd expected. His wolf could have chosen to shunt him to the side, like Ezra had done to him so many times in the past. But there was no resentment from his wolf, just a strong burning need to get to Rebekah right now and make sure that she was safe. And his wolf knew that there were things Ezra could understand, just as Ezra understood that his wolf could do things that he in his normal state could not.

So he'd let his wolf change their shape, transitioning into his true wolf form so as to track her better and with greater speed. He was distantly aware of his sister and the other two Mikaelsons following after him, with Klaus peppering Zoe with questions about Ezra's sudden switch in demeanor.

He heard Zoe give answers the best she could, and he heard Klaus snap something at her when he didn't like her explanations. Before meeting the Mikaelsons, Ezra and his wolf would have turned right back around and taken a chunk of the other man for daring to take that tone with his sister. But Zoe could give as good as she got, and Klaus was his friend, his packmate. Besides, he knew that sarcasm and biting remarks were a language that both Zoe and Klaus spoke fluently and skillfully, and that getting in between one of their little spats was both pointless and unnecessary; they'd work it out themselves, somehow.

As they hurried down the street and into the docks area, Klaus and Zoe finally cut off their bickering after a stern reprimand from Elijah. Ezra would have thanked the eldest Original brother, but his wolf was too busy racing forward, paws pounding against the cold ground as they approached a series of warehouses along the waterfront.

They finally reached the warehouse where he could sense Rebekah, and for a moment he considered shifting back to human form. In the end, he decided against it. He was stronger in this shape, with claws and fangs.

And he wanted to use those claws and fangs to tear apart whoever had taken Rebekah and hurt her.

I was not thrilled when we reached the warehouse and my brother wouldn't shift back. It's not that I didn't trust whatever balance he'd struck with his wolfside, but he'd been straddling a very fine line all this time, and I was worried that this voluntary surrender of control might have lasting consequences.

Still, I decided to deal with those problems as they happened and focus on the moment. Namely, busting into that warehouse and busting Rebekah out.

We broke in to discover Rebekah trapped in a circle of salt, looking about ten times worse than what I had expected. Her body was shriveled and desiccated like a mummy, as if someone had taken Rebekah Mikaelson and sucked everything out of her. Blood, water, breath. Life.

And imagine our additional surprise when we saw Marcel and his buddy Thierry there as well. Except they clearly weren't on the same team as the dark-skinned man wielding a knife; no, Thierry was laying sprawled on the cold floor with metal spikes pounded into his body to keep him in place, while Marcel himself was pinned by the warlock, who seemed to have been in the process of carving a symbol onto the former king's forehead when we'd barged in.

Instead of looking startled or alarmed by our sudden arrival, the man only smiled. "You're early," he said to us. Then his dark gaze fixed on Klaus. "But still in time to see me destroy one of the few people you've ever given a damn about." He pressed the knife deeper into Marcel's skin, and his grin widened as Marcel let out a shout of pain, his breathing labored.

"Get away from him right now," Klaus told the other man, his tone turning deadly as recognition lit his eyes. "Or I'll give you a second death that will make your first look downright merciful."

Papa Tunde just kept on smiling. "And why should I do that? The deaths of my sons must be avenged. What better way than to destroy the one you consider a son?"

Ezra, with his eyes gold rather than wolf blue, indicating that my brother was back in complete control of himself, charged forward with a snarl. While Klaus and I had been approaching Papa Tunde, my brother in his wolf form had accompanied Elijah to try and reach Rebekah. Out of the corner of my eye, I'd seen them unable to breach the circle of salt surrounding her; some sort of boundary spell, no doubt. My brother, apparently, had taken issue with that and was going to take it up with the guy responsible.

I expected it to be over quickly. I knew my brother's capabilities in wolf form well, and getting tackled by him is like getting flattened by a Mack truck. And on top of that, he was fast. There was no way Papa Tunde should have been able to dodge, much less survive the hit.

But faster than I could blink, the warlock was flinging out a hand and chanting something, and then the next thing I knew, a silver chain had appeared out of nowhere and was wrapping itself around my brother's throat.

Ezra let out another snarl, twisting around to snap at the chain with his teeth. Klaus was there a moment later, yanking the chain apart with his bare hands and freeing my brother. Ezra wasted no time once free, and lunged again at Papa Tunde. Only to freeze when the warlock clenched one hand in a fist and Rebekah's body correspondingly became even more desiccated.

Ezra clearly felt the impact of it at once, his ears flattening back against his skull as a low whine escaped his throat. He even took a few steps backwards, away from Papa Tunde and closer to Rebekah, as if he could somehow stop the spell by being in between them.

It occurred to me that we were at a serious disadvantage.

Papa Tunde obviously had the upper-hand here. He had not only one or two, but three hostages, all of them important to us. He'd chosen well when he'd picked them; Thierry was important to Marcel, Marcel was important to Klaus, and Rebekah was important to...well, pretty much all of us. Marcel was clearly Papa Tunde's focus, though; his capture of Rebekah had served the dual purpose of providing him with a new source of power why simultaneously drawing out Marcel. Papa Tunde had know enough about Marcel to manipulate him splendidly; Marcel, deep in his grief, wouldn't have left the Abattoir for any reason...unless it was to try and save a woman he'd been very intimately involved with. Thierry, playing the obligatory best friend role, had no doubt accompanied his sire in an attempt to talk some sense into him. To no avail, of course. And with Marcel captured as a result, Papa Tunde had acquired everything he'd needed to get us all in one place. Or at least...get Klaus where he wanted him.

Because it was about Klaus, wasn't it? Klaus, who had killed this man's sons.

I probably should have been upset with Klaus for those murders, but I had a feeling that Tunde's sons hadn't fallen far from the family tree; undoubtedly they'd been just as sick and twisted as their father, and had deserved their deaths.

Just as Tunde had deserved his death, the first time around. It should have surprised me, yet another long-dead threat returning to life, but strangely I didn't feel anything about it other than resignation. Clearly, coming to New Orleans had invited the universe to pile this sort of crap on me and my brother. Assassins by the bucketful? Of course. Crazy people coming back to life? Check and double-check. Getting sucked into ridiculously elaborate revenge schemes for no apparent reason? Abso-freaking-lutely.

There were some days when I just wanted to snatch up a sledgehammer and smash everything in sight. This day was definitely heading that direction, no doubt about it.

Before I let my emotions spiral out of control, though, I took a deep breath and focused. Reaching out mentally, I could sense the magic in the circle of salt surrounding Rebekah. Needing to see it up close to get a better feel for it, I edged away from where Tunde knelt beside Marcel and went to join Elijah where he hovered nervously by the circle, as close to his sister as he could get.

"Can you break the boundary spell?" he asked me, voice hoarse with worry and stress.

I reached out a hand and met very solid resistance where I pressed against the air above the salt circle. "I can try," I told him honestly. I was good, but so was Papa Tunde. Not to mention the fact that I was out of practice and still exhausted from my most recent bout of magical mayhem. And as carefully as Tunde had put all of this together, he had to have known that the Mikaelsons had witches of their own; he would have prepared for my presence, my brother's presence. He would have made sure to use a spell that was hard to break.

Or maybe not. As I pressed harder against the invisible barrier, I got a better sense of the underlying spellwork. The deeper I looked, the simpler the spell seemed. And after a moment of thought, the simplicity actually made sense.

Rebekah had never been Tunde's focus; to him, she was just the means to an end, a battery for his magic and a lure to draw out Marcel and Klaus. So it made sense for the boundary spell containing her to be basic; he didn't care enough about what happened to her to make the circle strong.

I realized very suddenly what we had to do to break the spell.

I bolted to my feet and whirled to face Elijah. "Bite me," I said to him.

His eyes widened as he stared at me like I'd just asked him to go dancing through the French Quarter in nothing but a bright yellow tutu. "I beg your pardon?"

"Elijah." I reached out and shook his shoulders gently. "Bite me."

And still all he did was look at me in shock, his mouth even hanging open in what would have been an adorably dumbstruck look had we not been in the middle of a massive crisis.

Losing patience, I shoved my wrist into his face. "Elijah, for fuck's sake, bite me. We can break the spell using witch's blood. The magic in my blood will throw off the balance in the boundary magic and then we can get Rebekah out. So will you please just bite me already?"

He hesitated, then lowered his mouth to my wrist. Another brief pause, and then his lips were brushing against the sensitive skin of my wrist in a way that sent little shivering tingles cascading throughout my body. Then his fangs were piercing my skin, a sharp pain that gentled into a lesser ache, and I could feel my blood leaking from the puncture wounds, dripping down my wrist and along the back of my hand to splatter on the floor.

Not wanting to waste even a second, I pulled away from Elijah and spun back around to the circle of salt trapping Rebekah. I held my wrist above the salt line, and watched with immense satisfaction as the salt line hissed and dissolved when touched by my blood, the magic forming the spell evaporating in similar manner.

I wanted to be thorough, though; I wanted to be absolutely sure that this spell was broken. So I methodically worked my way around almost the entire circle, dripping my blood onto the salt until my hands were shaking and my vision grew fuzzy around the edges.

Blood loss, a clinical part of my mind informed me. You're going into shock from blood loss.

As I approached the part of the circle I'd started at, I tripped over a crack in the warehouse floor, stumbling over my own two feet as I tried to regain my footing. Elijah was there in an instant, wrapping an arm around my waist and saving me from doing graceless faceplant.

But I wasn't the one he was supposed to be rescuing.

"Your sister," I told him weakly, my tongue heavy and thick in my mouth. "You need to...get her out."

"Zoe, you look very pale and your heart-rate is-"

"Forget my heart-rate," I snapped, finding just enough energy left in myself to raise my voice and put some stop-screwing-around-you-moron into my tone. "Go get your sister so we can get the hell out of here!"

He looking at me intently for another second or two, and then he was gone, leaving my side to rush into the ruined remains of the salt circle. He brushed a gentle hand down the side of his sister's face before scooping her up in his arms. Then he was back at my side again, taking my hand in his. And then I was being pulled along as he used his vampire speed to get us out of the warehouse and away from whatever bloodbath was about to go down between our respective brothers and the warlock who'd been foolish enough to threaten the people we cared about.

Chapter Text

"You define what is important to you by what you dedicate your time to. "

Ezra could tell immediately when Papa Tunde's connection to Rebekah was broken; the warlock's power level dropped drastically and he staggered like he'd taken a blow. Ezra wasting no time in seizing the opening such a moment provided; he lunged forward and sank his teeth into the warlock's arm, yanking him away from Marcel with a snarl.

Papa Tunde swiped his free hand at Ezra's snout, his fingers sparking with black fire.

Ezra released his grip on Tunde and bounded back, relieved to see that Klaus had grabbed up Marcel and was hustling his friend towards the exit.

Ezra wasn't going to follow after them at first. He would have much rather remained behind to tear Tunde in little bloody pieces. But then Klaus was telling him not to be stupid, shouting over his shoulder that they could come back and deal with Tunde later.

Ezra didn't want to go, didn't want to listen. Didn't want to let his target get away.

But then he remembered the reason he was there in the first place. Who he was there for.

He snarled at Papa Tunde one final time, then whirled around and ran after Klaus, bursting out of the door like he had hellhounds on his tail.

He caught up with the others just in time to see Elijah load Rebekah into the back seat of a car Zoe seemed to have appropriated from a nearby parking lot. Ezra probably should have let Rebekah's brothers sit with her. It would have been the proper gentlemanly thing to do, letting her brothers sit with her and look after her while she was so weak.

But both the wolf in him and the man in him couldn't stand to stay away; he needed to be close to her.

He briefly considered shifting back to human form, since his wolf form was so ridiculously huge, but he figured Klaus and Elijah probably wouldn't appreciate him being right next to their precious baby sister while wearing no clothes; unlike Zoe who could sometimes, somehow, get her clothes back after shifting, he had spectacularly rotten luck with it.

Besides, Rebekah was trembling and shivering like it was below zero outside and snowing; he figured maybe he could put his shaggy fur coat to some sort of use.

So he hopped into the backseat and snuggled around her as best he could, resting his head on the the seat not far from where her gold hair was splayed across the fabric of the seat. To his immense surprise, Rebekah turned her head to the side so she could see him, her cracked lips curving into a faint smile.

"Ezra," she said, and even though her voice was shaking and weak it was the most beautiful sound he'd ever heard.

He nuzzled his snout against her cheek for a moment, then lowered his head back down onto the seat again. A moment later, he felt Rebekah twin her hands into the thick fur around his neck, her grip surprisingly strong despite the tremors wracking her body. And instead of finding the grip on his fur annoying or constricting, it felt like the most natural thing in the world, as if Rebekah had buried her hands in his fur a thousand times before.

Elijah watched them with pursed lips and a contemplative expression for a moment, but then Zoe snapped at him to get his ass into the shotgun seat and hurry the hell up about it, and Elijah obeyed without argument, pausing only to glance around and made sure that Klaus had Marcel and that they were making a similar getaway.

And sure enough, the Original hybrid had managed to acquire a vehicle of his own and had tucked Marcel into the backseat, along with Thierry, who Klaus had apparently gone back inside to retrieve. Klaus himself paused only long enough to nod at his brother, and then he was hopping into the driver's seat of his borrowed Cadillac and blasting away from the warehouse and down the street with a screech of tires.

And then Elijah was sliding into the rusted out Chevy, and Zoe was following Klaus's example by ignoring all the posted speed limits and paying only the minimum amount of required attention to the various other traffic laws.

They did have to slow down once they entered the city proper though, which was annoying. Ezra wanted to get back t the safety and security of the Abattoir as soon as possible, and he could tell that Zoe and Elijah felt the same. It was clear in the way Zoe drummed her fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, and in the way Elijah's hands were gripping the armrests of his seat just a little more tightly than was necessary.

Ezra just gave a low whine and pressed closer to Rebekah, the knot of tension inside his chest loosening ever so slightly as she tightened her grip on him and buried her face in his fur.

As long as he was with her and she was safe, nothing else mattered.

After navigating a particularly aggravating patch of traffic on the edge of the Quarter, we finally managed to make it back to the Abattoir. And if someone had told me six months ago that I'd be overwhelmingly relieved to return to a place named the Abattoir, I'd have laughed in their faces. But life was funny like that sometimes, wasn't it? Because there was nowhere else in the city I would've rather been right then than back safe in that compound.

In any case, I parked behind Klaus and unlocked the Chevy's doors so that Elijah could retrieve his siter form the backseat. Ezra followed after them, of course; if Ezra let Rebekah out of his sight for more than thirty consecutive seconds in the immediate future, I would be very surprised. Her capture and weakening at Tunde's hands had triggered something inside of my brother, and I had a nagging feeling that I knew what was going on. I did my best not to think about it though, which turned out to be not so hard since I began to grow extremely dizzy and thinking about anything at all suddenly became excruciatingly difficult.

It wasn't until I reached to open my car door and a sharp stabbing pain pulsed through my wrist that I remembered Elijah's bite, and the fact that, oh yeah, I was still bleeding out.

Yes, I know, I'm an idiot.

Elijah tucked Rebekah into her bed with a level of care he hadn't needed to use since they were children, a time so far gone that it was a wonder he could even recall it.

A notable difference between now and then was that his sister was no longer a child. No, she was a grown woman now, beautiful and bold. And so, so precious.

The massive hulking wolf who was curled up on the floor by Rebekah's bed clearly felt the same; Elijah had wondered at Ezra's single-minded determination to find and save Rebekah, but now he was beginning to feel as if he understood. That same desperate need had possessed Elijah as well, after all, when Zoe had been in danger. And that same feeling had kept him at her bedside almost constantly until she'd finally awoken.

So he let Ezra remain in Rebekah's room, because he knew that Zoe's brother would look after her. Elijah closed his sister's door softly behind him and went downstairs, intending to track down Klaus and make sure that his wayward brother was actually looking after Marcel as he'd said he would, rather than rushing back to the warehouse to exact vengeance upon Tunde. Again.

His quick steps came to a sudden halt when he passed by a smaller den-type room and saw Zoe half-unconscious on the floor in front of the little fireplace, huddled underneath a fluffy little blanket that had previously been draped over the back of an armchair.

"Zoe?" he said questioningly, taking a hesitant step inside the room. Then he smelled the blood, her blood, and that single step turned into a sprint. "Zoe!"

She blinked up at him sleepily, the glow from the fireplace making her look younger and softer. "Hmm?"

"Are you hurt?" he demanded, worry making his voice come out sharper than he'd intended.

Zoe just gave a little shrug and snuggled deeper into her blanket, not seeming to care about the fact that she was curled up on a cold stone floor. "Not really," she told him. "Dizzy." She gave a wide yawn. "And sleepy."

"I smell blood," he countered.

"You bit me," she replied, "remember?"

As if he could forget. "It hasn't healed yet? With your recovery speed in the past, I assumed..."

"That the bite would have healed by now?" She gave another unconcerned shrug. "I thought so, too, but I guess my healing abilities are lagging behind a little bit right now. It's fine," she assured him. "It'll heal up by tomorrow or the next day. No big deal."

Elijah couldn't believe her own lack of care over her own condition. "It is a big deal," he told her, frowning. "Did you even bandage it?"

Another infuriating shrug. "I wanted to sit by the fire," she said, as if that explained everything.

He blinked at her, momentarily thrown for a loop. Then, realizing that Zoe might not be firing on all cylinders at the moment, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He went upstairs, retrieved a first aid kit from a guest bathroom, then retraced his steps back to Zoe. She grumbled at him when he took her arm and started tending to the puncture wounds on her wrist, but offered no real resistance to his ministrations. He took that as a win, since an acquiescence of any kind from Zoe was so damnably rare.

He rubbed some ointment on the wounds, and the comfortable silence was broken only by an incredulous remark from the woman in front of him.

"You're putting Neosporin on it?" she asked, looking delighted. "That's adorable."

He chuckled, his heart warming at the teasing light in her eyes. "Well, you said yourself that the wounds won't heal for another day or two. What a shame it would be," he went on lightly, "if you were to succumb to infection during that time."

Zoe snorted in amusement, a smile quirking up the corners of her mouth. "I don't succumb to anything," she replied. "Except maybe food poisoning," she added thoughtfully. "That's miserable. Especially when it's from something with dairy."

Elijah laughed at the expression on her face, and Zoe matched his mirth with a wide grin that made his heart trip all over itself trying to remember how to beat steady. He focused his attention on gently wrapping Zoe's wrist in gauze. "You say the most interesting things, Zoe Storme."

She just smiled at him, a slight flush creeping across her cheeks.

But then her playful expression dropped, her face going carefully blank as she glanced over his shoulder. Concerned by the sudden shift in her mood, he twisted around to see what was making her look that way. To his dismay, Hayley was standing in the doorway, wearing a look on her face like she'd bitten into a lemon.

"Hello, Hayley," Elijah told her politely and gave her a thin smile; once upon a time the smile would have been wider and more sincere, but after Hayley's confession regarding Celeste's remains, Elijah had found it harder and harder to be friendly to the young pregnant werewolf. "Is there something you needed?"

"Uh..." Hayley tore her gaze away from Elijah holding Zoe's wrist and fixed her stare on his face instead. "Yeah, actually." She swallowed hard and seemed to visibly steel herself. "Can we talk?"

Elijah waved at her to speak. "Go ahead."

"In private," Hayley amended, shooting a pointed look in Zoe's direction.

Elijah opened his mouth to reply that Hayley could say whatever she wanted to right then and there or not at all, but before he could deliver his ultimatum, Zoe bolted to her feet. She wobbled a bit but then steadied, and the look on her face was so icy and remote it was almost like looking at a stranger.

"I'm feeling pretty worn out," she said flatly, her voice slightly strained but otherwise emotionless. "I'm going to go rest in my room."

Elijah wanted to protest her sudden departure, or at least offer to carry her up the stairs since the blood loss has clearly left her a little unsteady, but she was pulling away and heading for the door before he could say even a single word.

I tried not to be mad at Hayley.

Really, I did.

I also failed spectacularly at it, because no matter how many deep breaths I took or how many times I counted to ten, I couldn't get my ire to subside. Even the wooziness from the blood loss wasn't distracting me from my fury.

It had been an almost perfect moment. Me and Elijah, in front of a cozy little fireplace, poking fun at each other as he fussed over my injured wrist.

I'd been about to kiss him.

It had taken me some time to work up the courage for it, but I'd finally decided to take the jump and go for it.

And of course Hayley had chosen that specific moment to track down Elijah for a heart-to-heart. And Elijah, gentleman that he was, seemed to have forgiven Hayley for her betrayal already; he'd even smiled at her a little when she came into the room! And he obviously hadn't been about to send her away, either.

So I left.

I strode from the room on legs that were shakier than I would have liked but still reliable. Those legs carried me up the stairs and down the hall to my bedroom, growing steadier with every step.

By the time I reached my room and darted inside, I was feeling more like myself again. My wrist itched underneath the wrapping Elijah had placed on it, but I ignored the sensation; the less I thought about Elijah in any capacity right now, the better it would be for my emotional health and mental stability.

So I went and parked myself at my desk, powering on my laptop and throwing myself once more into the mystery of the beheaded motel clerk.

Chapter Text

"I don't forgive people because I'm weak. I forgive them because I am strong enough to understand that people make mistakes. "

Ezra spent roughly ten hours dozing on the floor of Rebekah's bedroom as a wolf. He would have stayed even longer, but Klaus had finally returned from getting Marcel and Thierry settled in, as well as getting the other vampires sorted out, and it was clear that the Original hybrid wanted some time alone with his sister. So Ezra uncurled from his resting position on Rebekah's rug, shook out his fur a bit, then lumbered towards the door.

He was stopped on his way out, though, as Klaus rested a hand lightly on his head between his ears.

"Thank you for looking after her," Klaus said in a low voice, and his facial expression was so solemn that Ezra didn't doubt the sincerity of his gratitude.

Since he was a wolf and couldn't talk, he just nipped at Klaus's fingers and gave a chuffing sound in reply

A small smile flitted across Klaus's face. "You should get some rest," his friend advised. "It's been a long day, and no doubt tomorrow will likely bring more of the same."

Ezra huffed out a little wolf-sigh of unhappy agreement then padded from the room on quiet paws. Once back in the privacy of his own bedroom, he shifted back into human form and stretched his arms up above his head to try and loosen up some of the tightness lingering in his muscles. He was almost entirely recovered from Sirena's torture, but there were still aches and twinges here and there, as well as a sort of just general weariness.

After a moment of self-assessment, though, he realized that he actually didn't care very much about any of those things right then. No, his thoughts kept drifting back to Rebekah instead; how fragile she'd looked in that circles, how she'd clung to him during the car ride back to the compound.

How he'd surrendered control to his wolf just for an edge to help find her. That, most of all, made both his head and heart hurt.

He'd never, never given up control so completely, not for any reason. There had been a handful of times when Ezra himself had been too weak, too damaged, and his wolf had seized control for the sake of survival. But that had always been a case of the wolf taking control; Ezra had never given it.

But he'd done it for her.

He'd done it for her, with absolutely no guarantee that he'd be able to get control of his body back from his wolf afterward; no guarantee that letting his wolf take over wouldn't erase Ezra himself altogether.

No guarantees whatsoever that he wasn't destroying himself trying to save her.

At the time, those risks hadn't mattered, hadn't seemed important. Getting to Rebekah and making sure that she was safe had been all he'd been able to think of. But now, looking back on it...God, it had been suck a risk.

But worth it, he realized. Rebekah...she was worth it.

And things had turned out well enough this time around. They'd gotten Rebekah back, and Ezra's hold on his wolf didn't seem to be any lesser from the effort earlier.

Which left him with only one real worry.

If Rebekah was put in danger again, would he make the same choice? Would he surrender control to his wolf to keep her safe? Even knowing how much of a risk it could be for his own well-being?

He was more than a little horrified to realize that the answer was...yes. Yes, he would risk it all, for her.

For Rebekah.

I drummed my fingers impatiently on the edge of the desk as I waited for the printer to finish churning out the crime scene photos I'd bribed an NOPD rookie for; the kid had been just enough of a newbie to cave under a delicate combination of threats and bribery, and had agreed to send me the photos after forty minutes of careful negotiating.

I had thanked him, arranged for an Edible Arrangements gift basket to reinforce my gratitude, and then proceeded to spend another four hours poring over the pictures on my computer, hunting for some detail that would point me in the right direction. And after two hundred and forty-seven minutes of zooming, enhancing, squinting, and rotating, I'd found something.

I'd thought it was a tattoo at first, and hadn't paid much attention to it, because this was America and if a nice motel clerk wanted to get some ink on his skin it was nobody's business but his own. But something about it had been nagging at me, and I'd fussed with my computer's picture editing software until I got a better look at the mark from the corpse. And what I'd seen intrigued me.

It seemed to be a coven sigil, a mark that a coven would traditionally use to identify themselves, not unlike a family crest. But this sigil wasn't one I recognized. Which didn't necessarily mean anything; covens pop in and out of existence like boy bands, there one day and gone into oblivion the next. This mark, though, captured my attention, even though the image was out-of-focus and hard to identfiy.

I hadn't realized why it had caught my interest at first, but then I'd seen a circle of thorns wrapped around the main design of the sigil, and it had reminded me of Sirena's personal crest, a winged serpent with thorns wrapped around its body. It was a tenuous connection at best, but it was enough to make me curious. Could Sirena have had something to do with the murder at the motel after all? I'd ruled her out as a suspect initially, even despite her bloody reappearance into our lives, simply because the clerk's death hadn't really been her style.

Something as simply as a beheading wasn't like her. She preferred to use poisons and torture to bring someone down; she liked to see her victims suffer. And a beheading, while gruesome, was a quick end for the victim. No suffering, no prolonged agony. And so I'd drawn the conclusion: not Sirena.

The strange sigil, though, was making me go back and reconsider her involvement. I still didn't think she'd done the kill herself, but it was possible that she'd had a hand in it, somehow.


To say that Elijah didn't want to deal with Hayley right then would have been an understatement. That being said, he did understand that a talk between the two of them was probably a fair bit overdue.

"What did you want to talk about?" he asked her, standing up and brushing himself off from where he'd knelt down beside Zoe; he wished she was here with him now, but she'd dashed from the room as if she'd caught on fire, and he knew her well enough to know better than to chase her down.

Hayley just stared at him with wide eyes, chewing on her bottom lip. "I'm sorry about Celeste," she blurted out at last. "I know you really loved her and that she still means a lot to you, and I shouldn't have gone behind your back to help Sophie dig up her bones."

He let her words hover in the air between them for a moment before speaking. "Is that all?"

She winced a little at his chilly tone. "Elijah, I'm really, really sorry."

He clenched his jaw at the pleading look in her eyes. "Fine, then," he said at last, exasperation lacing his tone. "Apology accepted."

Her face lit up like a Hollywood billboard. "Really? Great!"

He tried to hang onto his resentment, but it was hard to do with Hayley standing there looking so desperate for his forgiveness and acceptance. Still, he wasn't willing to let her off the hook entirely. "I need to know why, Hayley."

Her face fell a little, her excited relief dimming. "Why what?"

"Why did you do it," he told her. "Why, when you knew how much she means to me?"

A long stretch of silence, then "Because...she's gone, Elijah." Hayley swallowed. "She's dead, and she has been for a while. My people, my family? They're here now. And they need my help."

Elijah couldn't think of a good response to that. He hated what she'd done, but she'd done it for the sake of family. Hadn't he done much worse, for his own family? He was, he realized, in no position to judge Hayley so harshly, not after some of the reprehensible actions he'd taken or condoned in the past.

He swallowed hard and shook his head, banishing the echoes of his deeds that were rising in his mind. "I can't blame you for trying to help your people," he said to Hayley.

She gave a weak smile. "Thanks, Elijah. Not that it did me or them any good in the end," she added bitterly.

He frowned. "What do you mean?"

Hayley huffed out an angry breath and reached up tp brush a strand of hair out of her face. "Well, Sophie teamed up with that Sirena chick, right? Ezra's psycho ex-girlfriend?"

"It would seem that way, yes," Elijah agreed.

"So she's our enemy again," Hayley finished. "And enemies don't help each other break curses on the other side's loved ones, do they?" She shook her head, looking furious. "I can't believe I ever trusted her in the first place. You'd think I would have learned my lesson the first time, when she threatened me and the baby." She rested a hand protectively on her belly.

Elijah sighed. "I'm sure Sophie had every intention of trying to help you break the curse on the wolves out in the bayou. But...she's lost her way, I think. And now that her sister seems to be dead permanently..."

"She's not going to want to help anyone with anything," Hayley concluded. "I guess that doesn't surprise me...I just wish there was some way for me to help my family," she added, looking just a little bit desperate and lost. "Even just something small. Anything."

Against some of his better indistinct, he went and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, trying to offer a small bit of comfort. "We'll find a way to help them," he assured her. "Don't worry."

She leaned into him, resting her head lightly against his chest. "You promise?"

"I promise," he told her firmly.

Chapter Text

Chapter 57

"Aphenphosmphobia: a fear of being touched.
Philophobia: a fear of emotional attachment or falling in love."

Ezra was unspeakably relieved when Rebekah finally recovered back to full strength. It had taken two days, and he'd spent almost every minute of those two days one small step away from tearing his hair out in anxiety. Also one small step away from ripping out Marcel's throat because the vampire had taken to treating Ezra like some nobody who had no business being near Rebekah and shouldn't be hovering over the way he was.

She had recovered, though, and was currently deep in discussion with her brothers about how to deal with Papa Tunde. They'd apparently had some run-ins with the guy before and were coming up with a plan of attack for the next time they crossed paths with him.

Ezra, meanwhile, was taking a long hot shower. Since he'd spent the better part of the last two days as a wolf on Rebekah's floor, a nice steamy shower was more than overdue. So he took his time shampooing, scrubbing, and rinsing, relishing in the feel of the water cascading down his skin. Forget the internet, indoor plumbing with hot water was the best human invention ever, period.

He stayed in the shower until the water started to turn lukewarm, then shut off the faucet and slipped out, wrapping a towel around his waist as he went back into his bedroom.

He froze in his tracks like a mouse in front of a cobra when he saw Rebekah sitting on the edge of his bed, apparently waiting for him.

She noticed his presence immediately, of course, and gave him a bright smile that did alarming things to his heart-rate. "Ezra!" she exclaimed. "There you are."

"Here I am," he agreed weakly, suddenly hyper-aware of the fact that he was wearing nothing but a fluffy white towel, as was the norm whenever she popped into his room unexpectedly; seriously, why did these sorts of things always happen to him?! "Did you need something?"

She stood up and walked over to him, her long legs eating up the distance with ease. "I wanted to...say thank you," she told him softly, giving him a hesitant little mile. "I was pretty out of it, but...I know you were there, Ezra. You helped get me out of that circle, and then you stayed with me the entire time afterward."

"Not the entire time," he countered. "Marcel and your brothers kicked me out from time to time."

Her lips curved into a wider grin. "And yet you kept coming back."

He lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug. "I guess I'm a slow learner like that," he remarked, trying to be nonchalant about it.

Rebekah gave him a look that said she wasn't buying it. "Uh-huh. Sure you are."

He smiled at her disbelieving tone of voice before he could catch himself and was rewarded with a startled laugh from Rebekah.

"So you can be in a good mood around me," she said lightly. "I was starting to think that you weren't happy to see me up and around after all."

"Don't be stupid," he told her automatically. And then, more gently and almost against his will, "I'm always happy to see you."

He could see her surprise in the way her eyebrows shot up and in how her lips parted slightly in a little 'o' as if she didn't know what to say. But then her expression softened again, her eyes glowing with warmth. "Is that so," she said softly.

"Yeah," he admitted reluctantly. "It is."

A careful, delicate moment of silence hovering between them, and then Rebekah took one final step forward. She reached one hand up to his cheek while she splayed the fingers of her other hand across his bare chest. And then her lips were on his and it was as if he'd been waiting his entire life for that moment. He could smell Rebekah's scent, and hear the beat of her heart in her chest; he could feel the heat of her body from where she was pressed up against him. And most of all, he could feel and taste her lips. She was kissing him, and it was gentle and demanding all at once, and so, so spectacular and amazing.

She was kissing him, and for just one moment it was absolutely perfect.

Then everything fell apart.

I was in the middle of a phone call with the coroner's assistant when I first felt an unpleasant twanging sensation through the bond connecting me with my brother. Frowning, I glanced over at my door in puzzlement, wondering what was going on and if I should go investigate. Then I heard Rebekah give a cry of alarm, followed by a hoarse wordless shout from my brother, and a much more frightening flurry of emotions came rushing along our bond.

I tossed down my phone and bolted for the door, racing for my brother's room. I crashed into Klaus along the way and we went tumbling down to the floor together, both of us flinging curses and insults at each other like volleys of arrows. After a moment of mutual aggravation, we disentangled ourselves and resumed our dash to Ezra's room. I made it in first somehow, but screeched to a halt barely three steps into the room; Klaus didn't quite manage to stop in time to avoid hitting me and collided into the edge of my shoulder with an 'oomph' and another glare.

The he realized why I'd frozen and he transferred a much deadlier glare to my almost-naked brother, who was pressed up against the far wall with his hands braced on his knees as he took in shallow and uneven gasps of air. Standing several steps again from him was Rebekah, her cheeks flushed and her lips more pink than usual.

"What the hell is going on here?" Klaus demanded. "What are you doing in here?" he asked his sister.

"I wanted to thank Ezra for looking after me while I was incapacitated," Rebekah said quietly, her eyes wide and slightly alarmed as she stared at my brother.

"Is there a reason for why such a conversation had to happen while he was in a state of undress?" Klaus questioned, his voice silky soft with menace.

"Oh, stop it, Nik!" Rebekah turned on him with a glare. "It's really none of your business, anyway."

"Not my business when a man is standing barely ten paces away from my sister with nothing covering him but a towel?!"

I tuned out their back and forth bickering as I realized how really terrible my twin looked.

He was dreadfully pale, his face the color of old chalk, and there was a sheen of sweat across his skin. On top of that, his entire body was shaking violently, and even across the room I could see his pulse pounding erratically in his throat.

"Ezra," I said in a low voice, approaching him with careful, slow movements. "Talk to me. What happened?"

My twin just shook his head, shuddering. "Can't breathe," he wheezed, reaching up a hand to rub at his chest.

"What?" I asked anxiously, darting to his side. "Why? What's wrong?"

He flinched back when I went to touch him and took another shuddering breath. "Don't touch me," he gasped, leaning away from me. "Can't breathe," he repeated a moment later, closing his eyes like he was in pain.

"Ezra..." I murmured, wanting to comfort him but not knowing how; I didn't even know what was wrong. I was helpless to do anything to help my brother and I wanted to scream in fearful frustration.

"I don't understand," Rebekah said suddenly, her voice shaking. "All I did was kiss him. I don't know why he-"

"You did what?!" Klaus snarled, his abrupt fury so great that the windows rattled in their frames.

I jumped immediately in front of my brother as Klaus lunged in his direction, expression murderous.

"You back the fuck off right now," I snapped at him.

"He kissed her!" Klaus roared, and his wrath would have sent any sane person running for cover.

But I am not sane, not when it comes to protecting my brother. Ezra might have been two minutes and forty-two seconds older than me and technically the eldest, but I was just as protective of him as he was of me. "She kissed him," I growled, shoving Klaus back as he tried to step around me. "And for fuck's sake, Klaus, would you stop for a second and look at him? Does he look like he's enjoying the afterglow of a good kiss?!"

Klaus snarled again, clearly not wanting to pay any attention to my words, but then he did look past me to my brother, and some of the fury drained from his face as he saw, really saw, the condition my brother was in. He opened his mouth, but I didn't have a chance to hear what he was going to say next, because a low moan from my brother had me spinning around and refocusing on my twin.

Ezra lifted his head to look at me, and his gaze was gold with blue creeping in around the edges; even as I watched, I could the blue spreading across his irises, heralding an imminent loss of control that I finally understood the cause of. It had taken Rebekah filling in the last missing piece of the puzzle, but now I knew what had caused my brother to slide into a major freak-out.

"Zoe," my brother gasped. "I can't. I just...I can't."

"I know," I whispered, taking a step away and to the side so that he had a clear shot for the door. "Go."

Blue washed though my brother's eyes like a cresting wave and he kicked away from the wall, shifting form even as he bolted for the door. Klaus and Rebekah both jumped farther out of the way as the massive wolf surged past them and sprinted out of the room, and we all remained silence as the sound of his paw-steps grew more distant and then went away completely as he passed out of our range of hearing.

"What the bloody hell was that?" Rebekah asked at last, breaking the brittle silence between us as we stood there.

"That," I replied bitterly, "was Sirena's legacy."

Rebekah brow furrowed in confusion as she and her brother both frowned at me. "What do you mean?" she asked. "Did she leave some sort of hex on him, or...?"

"Nothing so simple," I muttered unhappily. "No," I said, shaking my head, "this isn't something she did to him deliberately. It's just...the result of everything she put him through. It's entirely psychological," I explained. "He's phobic, sort of, about...well, women and kissing and relationships and stuff."

They both stared at me like I was speaking in Sumerian.

"Stop looking at me like that," I snapped irritably. "Is it really so hard to believe, after everything she did to him?"

"Well, no," Rebekah said slowly. "I just didn't realize..."

"That he was really so fucked up in the head from what she did?"

She swallowed hard. "...yeah."

I heaved a massive sigh. "Well, believe it. Why else do you think he's so twitchy around women, like at that masquerade party? Or why he's been single all this time? Did you really never wonder?"

Rebekah just shook her head mutely, a look of mixed horror and pity crossing her face as she turned and looked out the door Ezra had fled through just moments before. Klaus, likewise, no longer looked furious at my brother's actions, and instead looked regretful and contemplative, and I could see what might have been sympathy in his eyes.

But I didn't want to discuss this any further, didn't want to explain how deep the damage ran in my brother's soul. I didn't want to talk about how scared I was that maybe there was nothing to be done about the pain my brother carried around with him constantly, about how someday he might run from that pain and never come home.

I didn't want to think about those things, much less talk about them, so I turned on my heel and strode from the room, not even glancing over my shoulder or pausing for a second as Klaus and Rebekah called after me.

Ezra ran and ran and ran and ran, letting his wolf carry him far, far away from the compound and the people within it. He ran until his paws were sore and blistering, until his lungs felt as if they were on fire, and until his muscles quivered from exhaustion.

When he finally stopped running, he discovered that he'd somehow made it all the way out to Luling. Almost twenty-four miles out from where he'd started, and almost no clear recollection of the distance he'd crossed or the time doing so had taken. Crossing across such a vast distance had to have taken at least several hours even at the fastest pace of his wolf's body, and yet it was all just a hazy blur in his mind. He could recall faint snatches of the run, glimpses of roads and trees and long stretches of grassy land, but he couldn't remember any distinct details of any of it. He'd been too lost in his own head, and his wolf had seized control as it so often did when he lapsed and couldn't handle his own agony. He would have resented his wolf usurping control of his body again, but deep down he knew that his other half was just trying to protect him, to keep him safe in the only way it knew how.

He just wished such measures weren't necessary. He wanted to be strong enough on his own, to not need his wolf to protect him from himself. He wanted to have good moments in his life without needing to worry about the shadows of the past catching up with him and drowning him in pain over and over again, until all he desired was an end to the agony.

He just wanted a chance to be happy...was that really so much to ask for?

Chapter Text

Chapter 58

"Moving on doesn't mean forgetting about things. It just means you have to accept what happened and continue living."

It was, Klaus realized, probably for the best that Ezra didn't return to the Abattoir right away. Because while he could logically understand what was going on with Zoe's brother and knew he shouldn't be overly upset with him for what had happened with Rebekah, emotionally he was not on board with the events of the day.

Rebekah was unspeakably important to him, his precious baby sister who he loved more than words could describe. He'd adored her ever since they were children, and even now with centuries of misunderstandings and bad blood between them, all he wanted was for her to be happy. For them to be a family again.

That being said, his sister had an undeniable track record of falling in with the wrong sorts of men romantically. Not that there was really a 'right' type of Klaus's honest opinion, there was no man good enough for Rebekah. He'd been close to allowing her to settle down with Marcel all those years ago, but even after he'd given their relationship his (admittedly reluctant) blessing, it still hadn't felt...right.

What disturbed him the most now, though, wasn't that Rebekah's kissing Ezra (or at least attempting to) seemed wrong. It was that it didn't seem wrong...which was almost twice as unsettling. He'd never approved of any of the men his sister had taken up with, and he didn't know what to think about how he seemingly lacked that immediate negative reaction when his sister started to show an attraction to Ezra Storme of all people.

Maybe, Klaus thought, he didn't mind because a relationship with Ezra wasn't really on the table; Ezra's inability to handle intimacy had become readily apparent, after that unexpected kiss Rebekah had bestowed upon him, and if Zoe was to be believed Ezra was broken inside in ways that might never fully heal.

Klaus hated that he could sympathize with that broken feeling, that helpless anger that came from knowing that you were never going to be quite right ever again, all because of something another person had done. It made him want to track down Sirena and rip out her treacherous heart, because Ezra didn't deserve to suffer for the rest of eternity from what she'd done, just as Klaus himself hadn't deserved what Mikael had done to him for the circumstances of his birth that he'd had no control of.

Life was, Klaus knew, bitterly unfair about ninety-eight percent of the time and only vaguely less depressing the other two percent of the time. And while Klaus could sometimes find solace in that two percent, in the moments of levity and sincerity he shared with Cami and in the preparations for the birth of his child, Ezra didn't have anything to find solace in.

So he made sure to rein in his wrath where Ezra was concerned. Zoe's brother hadn't initiated that kiss with Rebekah and clearly hadn't enjoyed the aftermath; if anything, the subsequent panic attack had undoubtedly entirely erased any and all pleasure Ezra had gotten from the kiss in the first place.

He made sure to keep those thoughts in mind when Ezra finally did return to the compound. It was difficult, because Klaus's instinctive reaction was still to go for Ezra's throat but he somehow managed to keep that particular violent impulse under control.

It helped, somehow, that Ezra was still in his wolf form when he arrived and that he wouldn't meet Klaus's eyes, his ears drooping slightly as he hesitantly padded over to where Klaus was leaning against the edge of a decorative fountain. Before the twins had come to New Orleans, Klaus wouldn't have thought anything of Ezra's posture and body language, but time with the Storme siblings had him recognizing what he should have already understood from his own long-buried wolf heritage. Ezra, despite being...well, Ezra, was displaying many of the trademarks of submissive behavior. And even as Klaus sat there, scowling at Ezra in frustrated bafflement, the Storme sibling in question finally reached Klaus and laid down at his feet with a low whimper, still not meeting his eyes.

Ezra was doing everything short of rolling over and baring his neck...and Klaus had no idea what to do with any of it. He didn't even understand why Ezra was doing this; Klaus may not have been as well-versed in Ezra's behavior as Zoe was, but he was pretty certain that he understood enough about Ezra to know that this was very drastically (and very disturbingly) out of character. Ezra was not the submissive type, either as a wolf or a man. He could fade into the background if he wanted to or pretend to be unassuming, but at the end of the day Ezra Storme was as dominant as they came. And yet here he was, prostrating himself before Klaus.

Klaus really had no idea what the hell he was supposed to do.

Completely at a loss for what course of action he should take, he pulled out his phone and dialed a number he was surprised to realize he knew by heart.

The person on the other end picked up after only a couple rings. "This is Zoe."

"Your twin is acting bizarre," Klaus informed her without preamble. "I was hoping you could counsel me in how I should respond."

A pause while Zoe excused herself from whoever she'd been talking to before he'd called. "Bizarre how?" she asked a moment later, her voice lowered as if she were trying to not be overheard.

"Just...strange," Klaus replied, then frowned as he heard an odd buzzing sound in the background of the call. "Where are you?"

"Some tattoo parlor on the other side of town," she answered with an aggravated sigh. "It's the fifth one I've been to today."

"Why are you-" He cut himself off. "Never mind. Look," he went on, "Ezra's acting very out of character, and I'm not sure what to do."

"Okay, well, what's he doing?"

Klaus huffed out an annoyed breath. "Acting submissive."

A long stretch of silence. "As a wolf or as a man?" Zoe asked eventually, her voice carefully controlled.

"He's in wolf shape," Klaus replied.

"But his eyes? Gold or blue?"

"Gold," Klaus said immediately, understanding why she was asking. "There's a thin ring of blue around the edges of his irises, but it's Ezra in control, not his wolf. I'm sure of it."

"Well, in that guess would be he's...sort of apologizing?"

"Apologizing?" Klaus echoed.

"Yeah. I mean, he kissed your sister, right? And he knows how protective you are of her, so maybe this is his way of apologizing? Although," she tacked on, "if he's adhering to pack etiquette, he's not apologizing for the kiss itself so much as apologizing for acting out of line."

"Pack etiquette?" Klaus repeated incredulously. "Why on earth would pack etiquette prompt him to do something so ridiculous?"

"It's not ridiculous," Zoe answered. "You're our alpha, right? Of course he's going to be acting a little submissive; kissing the alpha's sister is sort of a big deal. Especially when the alpha himself is a psychotic asshat who tends to murder his sister's boyfriends." A brief pause as Zoe seemed to consider her words. "I say all that with great affection, by the way."

Klaus couldn't seem to say anything at all; his throat felt oddly choked and his brain felt like someone had wrapped it in thick wool. "I'm sorry, what did you just say?"

"That I meant those insults with great affection."

"Before that," he snapped. "That bit of nonsense about being your alpha."

Zoe made an amused sound. "You really are totally clueless sometimes, aren't you?"

He growled at her through the phone. "For someone who doesn't mean to be insulting me, you seem to be taking great in delight in it."

Zoe tsked at him. "It's hard not to, when you get so adorably surly about it."

"Adorably surly?" he snarled.

"Look," Zoe said with a laugh, "don't worry about the wolfy pack dynamics of it right now, okay? You're Ezra's best friend, and he's worried that you're mad at him. So it out, or something. Whatever it is guys do."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Klaus asked in annoyance. "Whatever guys do."

"How should I know?" Zoe asked lightly. "I ain't a guy."


"Look, I gotta go. The artist I was waiting to see just came in and if I don't talk to him now I'm going to spend another two hours sitting here being bored out of my mind. So look after my brother for me, and I'll be home as soon I can, okay? Bye."

"Wait, Zoe-"

But it was too late; she'd already hung up on him.

Aggravated, he pocketed his phone and glanced down at the massive wolf that was Ezra. Zoe's brother seemed to have perked up a bit from having heard his sister's voice from the speaker of Klaus's phone, but he still wouldn't meet Klaus's eyes, his gaze fixed firmly on a patch of floor to the left of where Klaus was standing.

"You're being completely ridiculous," Klaus informed him. "I hate this sort of behavior when Marcellus does it, and I have to say that it certainly doesn't suit you, either."

Ezra snarled a little at the mention of Marcel, but otherwise gave no indication that he'd even heard Klaus speak. Still, it was more of a reaction that anything he'd gotten before. Maybe baiting Ezra would snap him out of this bizarre submissive funk; Klaus hoped so at any rate, because the only alternative was to try to be understanding and supportive and he wouldn't even know what to say to Ezra that would fall under that heading.

So, provocation it was. And Klaus knew just which buttons to push.

"Marcel," he said, putting extra emphasis on the same, "would have given up on this silly behavior already, Not one for genuflecting, my Marcellus. He certainly wouldn't be nosing at my feet like some pitiful peasant begging for scraps."

Ezra lifted his head up with a rumbling growl, his lips curling in a fearsome snarl. But still he wouldn't look Klaus in the eye.

You're our alpha, Zoe had told him.

"Complete and utter hogwash," Klaus muttered, not willing to put much stock into whatever pack behaviors she'd been referring to. "Listen to me," he said to Ezra, "whatever wolf etiquette you're following here? Stop. You know I've no experience in any of that, and no interest to learn it. So knock it off," he snapped, "before I go find Marcel and bring him here to poke fun at you."

That last dig finally got the response Klaus had been trying for. Ezra lunged up from the ground and snapped his jaws at Klaus's arm. Klaus jumped back but not quite fast enough to get away entirely unscathed; Ezra's sharp teeth snagged the edge of Klaus's sleeve and shredded the cuff of his jacket as the tips of Ezra's canines tore into his skin.

"Easy now," Klaus snapped, yanking his arm away with a glare. "Before I forget that I don't want to hurt you."

The wolf that was Ezra gave him a dirty look, one that seemed to convey his opinion on that remark. As if you could actually land a hit on me, that look said, complete with a haughty growling sound.

Klaus just rolled his eyes. "If you're feeling that confident, you must be back to normal." Shaking his head, he headed for the stairs. "I was going to castigate you a bit for kissing Rebekah, but you seem to have done a good job of punishing yourself already."

A strange sizzle of magic in the air had Klaus whirling around to find the source.

He immediately spun right back around when he realized it had been Ezra shifting back into human form. "That couldn't have waited until you were within arm's reach of a pair of pants?" Klaus griped, crossing his arms and not daring to so much as glance over his shoulder.

"You're very bashful for a barbarian," Ezra said, his voice full of wry amusement.

"And you're pushing your luck," Klaus shot back.

"I know," Ezra said, his tone suddenly serious. "I know I am. I just...wanted to tell you that I'm sorry about what happened."

"Not your fault," Klaus replied. "Rebekah kissed you."

"Yeah...but I kissed her back, Klaus." He sighed. "I'm probably digging my own grave telling you this, but...I do have feelings for Rebekah. I care about her, much more that I probably should given the circumstances. I just wanted you to know that. I do have strong feelings for her-"

"Why are you telling me this?" Klaus demanded, cutting Ezra off.

"Because I also need you to understand that I'm not going to try and start anything with her."

"And why not?" Klaus asked. "If you really do care for her."

"Because she deserves better," was Ezra's immediate response. "Because she's a goddess and I'm an asshole. And because I'm broken."

Klaus turned around and narrowed his eyes at the sincere expression on Ezra's face. "You're not-"

"I am," Ezra said firmly. "Sirena broke me, and we all know it. Your sister," he added, "deserves better than me. She deserves someone who can devote his entire heart and soul to her. And that's not me. I don't have much of a heart left to speak of, and my soul's not doing that much better." He shook his head, eyes downcast. "She deserves better," he repeated.

Klaus opened his mouth to disagree and had to actually bite his tongue to keep the words from coming out. What the hell was he doing, instinctively trying to convince Ezra that he was in fact worthy of courting Rebekah? Even as he thought about it and thought about how he should be relieved to learn that Ezra had no intention of trying to pursue didn't feel right. It felt like he was missing something important or letting something slip through his grasp.

He didn't like the feeling, so he just shook his head. "We can talk about it later," he told Ezra, even though he knew that neither of them would broach this topic of conversation again anytime in the immediate future. "Go get some rest. And for the love of God," he added, "put some pants on!"

Ezra just rolled his eyes and jogged past Klaus and up the stairs, casually flipping him off as he disappeared down the hall and returned to his bedroom.

Chapter Text

Chapter 59

"A scar is a tattoo with a better story."

The tattoo artist's name was Devyn, and he had piercings in so many places that he sparkled like a disco ball whenever he turned and caught the light in a certain way.

He was actually fairly attractive, but since my tastes ran as "Elijah" and this guy fell under the heading of "not Elijah", I could appreciate his physical appeal but didn't really have any actual interest whatsoever, even as Devyn gave a suggestive wink as he tried to get me to get some "intimate inking" done. Since my idiotic heart was set on one very particular suit-wearing vampire, I gently rebuffed him and redirected his attention to what I was interested in: a sketchbook displaying some recent design requests he and his employees had done. Several of the sketches and outlines had designs similar to the mark I'd seen on the body of the motel clerk.

"Were these requested by the same person?" I asked Devyn, running my fingers lightly across the page that showed a whip of thorns wrapped around a roaring tiger.

"Nope," Devyn replied, tapping his fingers lightly on the edge of the table. "They were all done by the same artist, though, so if that's the kind of design you're looking for-"

"Do you have his contact information?" I asked sharply, cutting him off.

Devyn looked briefly unsettled by my intensity then flashed another bright smile. "He quit a couple weeks ago, but I can probably find an old phone number or something, sure."

"That would be great, thanks," I answered, then did my best to wait patiently as he went into a little back room and shuffled through some papers.

Devyn returned a moment later, a manila folder held loosely in his long fingers. "I normally wouldn't go handing out persona information like this, but that Bernard guy was such a dick those last few weeks that I can't bring myself to feel guilty."

"He was acting strangely?" I asked with a frown as I took the folder he held out to me me. "How so?"

"Just angrier than usual, like he hated being here and had better thing to do with his time. Kept going on about his girlfriend and how classy she was, how she wouldn't be caught dead coming into a dump like this and that he should follow her example." Devyn shook his head. "I was relieved when he quit, to be honest. He was a good artist, but a pain in the ass to work with."

"I see," I murmured. Then I flipped open the folder to inspect the photo of Bernard and I really did see.

The guy was average-looking at first glance, no memorable features that would make him stand out in any way...except for the very unique tattoo along the side of his neck.

It was a perfect match for the symbol that had been inked into the corpse form the motel.

And with the better resolution on this photograph, I could finally see what the entire sigil looked like; it was a snake curled within an apple, which was in turn encircled by thorns. I still couldn't be sure if this Bernard had any connection to Sirena, but at least I could say for sure that he was involved in the motel murder.

All I had to do now was track him down.

It would have to wait, though. I'd promised Klaus that I'd get home as soon as possible; traipsing all over town looking for this Bernard guy would take several more hours at least, and I doubted that fit anyone's definition of 'as soon as possible'.

So I thanked Devyn again for his help, gave a noncommittal response to an invitation to drop by again sometime, and then I was on my way back to the Abattoir.

I arrived to find the place mostly deserted, with only a handful of Marcel's daywalkers around. "Is Klaus still around?" I asked one of them, because I wanted to have a long overdue conversation with him about werewolves and the parts of our culture he seemed unfamiliar with.

But apparently that conversation would have to wait, because "He left a few minutes ago," the vampire told me. "Went to go check up on his human pet or something."

I bristled a bit at the 'human pet' remark but refrained from snarling at him. "Thanks for your help," I said flatly, then pushed past him and went upstairs to find my brother.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I found him, since he'd muted our connection so that I couldn't sense much from him other than the fact that he was still alive.

I was pleasantly surprised with what I found, though. My brother was in his room, sleeping. In human form and everything. I'd been so worried that this would be it; this would be the time he'd go wolf and not come back to me again. It had been twice as terrifying because I'd known that there was nothing in the world I could do to stop it if it came to that. I'd had no choice but to occupy myself with something else and pray that my brother came home.

And through some miracle, he had.

He stirred a bit in his sleep as I approached, but didn't wake up, just rolled over and burrowed his face deeper into his pillow. He looked so adorable like that, and I couldn't help but smile and ruffle his hair lightly. He mumbled something unintelligible at the touch but otherwise gave no reaction other than a light snore.

Content that my brother was doing okay, I slipped out of his room and headed to the kitchen. I hadn't eaten since the day before because of appetite-killing anxiety, but now that things had settled down a bit I realized that I was starving.

Once in the kitchen, however, I came to an abrupt halt at the sight of Elijah wearing just jeans and a t-shirt while squeezing some oranges for fresh juice.

It was just so unexpected that my brain seemed to almost shut down for a moment. And I don't think it was even that Elijah Mikaelson, an Original vampire who didn't need to eat food or drink anything but blood, was making fresh-squeezed orange juice. It was that he was dressed casually while doing so.

No, really, it was bizarre. He looked good, of course, because he always looks good. It was just different for me, seeing him in jeans and a Doctor Who shirt, when I was accustomed to dress shirts and suit jackets.

He did look really amazing, though.

"Good morning, Zoe," Elijah said when he spotted me hovering in the doorway. He looked surprised to see me but just a little bit pleased, too, although I tried not to read too much into it. "Would you care for some juice?" he asked, holding out the glass pitcher.

"Sure," I said automatically, making myself go and retrieve a glass from the cupboard. "Thanks."

"You're quite welcome," he replied, pouring the juice into my glass before returning to the pile of orange halves in front of him. "How is your brother doing? Niklaus mentioned that he'd returned."

"He's doing fine," I answered, taking a sip of my juice and grinning a little as it turned out to be ridiculously delicious. "He's resting right now."

Elijah nodded. "That's good."


Silence settled in around us, but for once it wasn't strained and awkward. It felt...comfortable, sitting there in the kitchen with him. Familiar, as if we'd done this before countless times. And when I finally finished my juice and moved to the cupboard again to fetch a frying pan, Elijah pitched in without comment by retrieving some eggs and bacon from the fridge. He passed them over to me with an easy smile, and I found myself ensnared by the warmth in his eyes.

"Th-thanks," I stammered, taking the eggs and setting them aside while I tossed the bacon into the pan.

"You're quite welcome," he said again, still smiling that soft smile that made my heart jump all over the place. "Would you like me to make you some toast?"

My hands were shaking so badly I nearly dropped the spatula I was holding. What was wrong with me? "Uh, n-no, that's okay," I told him hastily. "I don't want to put you to any trouble-"

"It's no trouble," Elijah said firmly, and proceeded to pop two slices of bread into the toaster. "You need to eat a good meal and I don't mind helping."

No, I realized, he really didn't mind. Elijah was a caretaker at heart it seemed, the sort of person who devoted himself to and excelled at looking after others. I wasn't sure if it was the older brother in him or if that was just another facet of his personality, but I found it unbelievably endearing.

And so we bustled about the kitchen together, moving around each other with a comfortable familiarity that should have taken years to develop. It was a surprisingly nice feeling, sharing that little domestic moment with him. It made some knot of tension in my chest loosen and ease, as if this sort of tranquility was what I'd been searching for my entire life but never found.

And who knows, maybe it was. I honestly wasn't sure of the last time I'd had that feeling of peace. Of home. The last memory I had of being in a kitchen and feeling so at peace was from my childhood. I'd been about six or so, and I'd been helping my mother make blueberry pancakes for my father and Ezra. Our boys, my mother had always called them. I'd delighted in the process as only a little girl cooking with her mother can. I'd ended up with flour in my hair and buttermilk soaked into the front of my little flower-print dress, but I hadn't minded and my mother hadn't seemed bothered by the mess at all, either. Living well can be messy sometimes, she'd told me. But that doesn't make it any less satisfying.

The pancakes had, of course, been absolutely delicious.

And when Elijah and I finished with the bacon, eggs, juice, and toast, I wasn't at all surprised to discover that the breakfast we'd made together was fantastic, too.

Chapter Text

Chapter 60

"That was how dishonesty and betrayal started, not in big lies but in small secrets."

My brother and I spent about two and a half hours playing Monopoly the next morning, as we waited for Klaus, Cami, and Marcel to return from the re-opening of St. Anne's church that Cami's uncle Kieran had been working so hard for all this time.

I was moving my cat-shaped token across Boardwalk and about to Pass GO when a loud shout of alarm from outside caught my attention. Ezra and I exchanged worried looks before darting across the courtyard and out into the street.

Imagine our immense shock when we saw Papa Tunde laying dead in the middle of a magic circle, his eyes staring sightlessly upwards as the stench of his blood hovered in the air.

"Well," I said after a moment of protracted silence as we all just sort of stared at the dead warlock in his blood-soaked suit. "This changes things a little."

"Someone call Marcel and Klaus," Ezra ordered, approaching the body but being careful not to cross the circle surrounding it.

"Why should we do anything you say?" Diego challenged.

Ezra gave a faint scowl and closed his eyes as if praying for patience. "Because one of our enemies is lying dead outside our door. Because that enemy was a ridiculously powerful warlock who was capable of capturing and sucking energy from an Original. Because whoever killed him and left him here had to have been more powerful than he was. Because that person is probably not on our side, seeing as they've dumped a corpse on our doorstep. And," Ezra added with deliberate emphasis, "because I will personally beat the shit out of you if you don't take out your phone right now and call Klaus." He opened his eyes and glanced over his shoulder, eyes shining wolf gold. "Are those reasons good enough for you?"

Diego swallowed nervously, the sound distinctly audible as he took an involuntary step back. He hesitated only a moment longer, then whipped out his cell phone and stepped off to the side to make the call.

I silently applauded my brother's display of pseudo-leadership; it wasn't often that he exercised the innate authority that came with his wolf nature and strong personality, but it was always impressive to see. He'd also just clued in Diego to our werewolf blood, but I found that I wasn't terribly troubled by that. The Mikaelsons already knew, after all, and they were the ones I'd been so worried about to begin with. Besides, it's not like our uncle didn't already know where we were; keeping our true identities a secret would be more trouble than it was worth at this point. We might as well just take our chances.

Besides, Ezra had been intermittently lurking around the compound as a wolf the last few weeks, and while the vampires of New Orleans weren't always the brightest of bulbs they weren't quite that dense. It was hard to not notice a massive wolf, so our hidden heritage had been more of an open secret than anything, really.

In any case, the call to Klaus was short and to the point, and after a few minutes Diego hung up and gave us a curt nod. "He and Marcel are on their way back. They're going to pick up Elijah on route, and Rebekah will be coming not far behind them."

"Sounds good," I replied, flashing him a thumbs-up I didn't really feel before going to join my brother at the edge of the magic circle. "Anything interesting?" I asked him.

"You tell me," he said, giving a shrug. "Whoever did this didn't leave much for us to go on. There are some residual traces of magic, but nothing major. The person responsible was good enough to cover their tracks."

I knelt down and reached out my magical senses, but ultimately had to come to the same conclusion. "Alright," I said after a moment, bracing my elbows on my knees as I continued to survey the scene, "well, the Mikaelsons will be here soon, and maybe they'll have some idea of who could be behind this. Maybe another old rival of theirs has rejoined the land of the living or something." I stood up and clapped him on the shoulder. "In the meantime, let's head back inside and finish our game. I was about to buy up the Railroads and bankrupt you."

Ezra let his sister drag him back inside and to the Monopoly table, but even as he rolled his dice and moved his token (and ended up in Jail; typical) his mind was running over all the possibilities for how Tunde had ended up dead and dumped outside the Abattoir.

In the end, Zoe did bankrupt him and claim dominion over the board, and before Ezra could automatically demand a rematch, the Mikaelsons arrived with Camille in tow. Klaus's bartender beau took one look at the body then turned to Klaus.

"I hope you don't mind if I wait inside," she said to him. "I don't mind the blood or the body, I just..."

"It's fine," Klaus assured her, squeezing her hand gently. "I think Hayley could probably use some company; she's been sulking about the last couple days."

Cami gave a small smile and a nod then disappeared inside the compound, the sound of her footsteps echoing through the air before diminishing as she went upstairs.

Elijah, meanwhile, had paused briefly to speak to Zoe, but was now kneeling down beside the circle much as Ezra and his twin had done earlier, peering intently at the body.

"Can I get you anything, brother?" Klaus asked, giving his brother an exasperated yet amused look as he went about his detective work. "A magnifying glass, a pipe perhaps?"

Elijah glanced up at his brother. "You have a theory you'd like to share with us, Niklaus?"

"Back in the day," Marcel remarked, speaking before Klaus could give his own answer, "when the witches wanted to send a threat, they'd just kill a chicken and leave it on your doorstep."

Elijah turned his gaze back to Papa Tunde's body with pursed lips. "It's a rather large and ominous chicken, wouldn't you say?"

Klaus didn't look particularly happy about of it. "Papa Tunde defeated Rebekah with ease, almost got the two of us as well," he pointed out. "If he was supposed to be the prize fighter, why leave him for dead in our front yard?"

"If it is a warning," Ezra commented, "it's an effective one."

"And yet you don't look terribly intimidated," Klaus observed.

"Do I ever?" Ezra drawled.

Klaus snorted.

Zoe wrinkled her nose and shook her head. "I don't know if this was meant as a warning," she said uncertainly. "I mean, obviously it was in the dump-the-body-by-our-home way, but I don't...think that's all there was to this."

Marcel frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Well," she said slowly, "if the goal was to send a warning, any dead body would have gotten the message across. Honestly, the body of someone we cared about would probably be more effective. One of the humans under your protection for example, or maybe even someone like Cami's uncle, who isn't quite involved with us but close enough for his death to hurt and throw us off our game."

"So why kill someone who we're happy to have dead," Elijah concluded.

"Exactly," Zoe agreed, flashing him a grin that said she was pleased he'd caught on. "We all wanted Tunde dead, and they've delivered us exactly what we wanted." She chewed on her lip. "Since I doubt their goal is to make us happy, they must have had some other reason for why it was Tunde, and not just some other person."

No one looked happy at this pronouncement, and they all remained stuck in a silent gloom until Rebekah breezed in a few minutes later.

"Well, don't you all look cheery," she remarked, then plowed on before any of them could speak. "Listen to this," she said. "A girl literally exploded from a grave today as Sabine was giving a tour of the city of the dead. It was Monique Deveraux."

Klaus looked like someone had smacked him upside the head. "What?"

"That isn't possible," Zoe said, looking faintly alarmed. "Dead people do not come back to life."

Klaus gave her a look. "Says the werewolf-witch who, along with your twin, can't be killed. Whose uncle has, in fact, revived a dead man to hunt you down. While in the presence of vampires."

Zoe stuck her tongue out at him. "You know what I mean," she grumbled.

"The tourists thought it was part of the show," Rebekah went on, coming over to stand beside Ezra, "but the witches are celebrating like it's some kind of bloody miracle."

"Maybe it is," Marcel said, looking more alive than he had since he'd lost Davina. "They think that all hope is lost, but now suddenly a Harvest girl is resurrected. This is how we're gonna get Davina back," he finished intensely, his voice shaking with emotion. "Kill the witch who took her place."

"We have a theory on who it might be," a familiar voice called out from upstairs.

Ezra craned his head around and saw Hayley descending the stairs with Cami following not far behind; apparently the two had been comparing notes on the latest development and had come up with something. Ezra couldn't help notice, though, the aggravated look that passed across Zoe's face at the sight of Hayley. His sister, it seemed, still wasn't the pregnant werewolf's biggest fan. Not surprising, he figured, given how she was (seemingly unwittingly) stuck in a pseudo-love triangle with Hayley and Elijah. Not that there there seemed to be much action going on between Elijah and Hayley at the moment; things between the two had gotten notably frosty as of late, and as Zoe's brother who wanted her to be happy, Ezra couldn't help but be pleased at that. Maybe Elijah would finally realize that Zoe, with her fierceness and her loyalty, would be a better match for him than Hayley ever could be.

But that wasn't what he needed to be focusing on now. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he turned his attention back to the conversation at hand.

"It's Celeste," Hayley was saying. "I mean, it's got to be. Davina was trying to tell us," she added, holding up a handful of papers. "She was drawing pictures of Celeste. She was warning us that a great evil is coming."

A moment of heavy silence as they all digested that.

At last, Klaus turned to his brother. "First, Papa Tunde returns to settle old scores, now your murdered lover is back. This isn't witches attacking vampires," he concluded. "They're declaring war on us."

I didn't know how to feel about our latest discovery. Our new enemy was...Elijah's old girlfriend. And we'd discovered this thanks to Hayley, who was clearly still harboring feelings of a more than platonic nature towards Elijah. My Elijah, my wolf half insisted, and I was too frazzled to debate the point with myself right then.

On the plus side, at least my brother wasn't alone in old girlfriends coming back for revenge. Granted, Elijah's ex hadn't kidnapped him and strung him up to torture, but still.

In any case, I somehow got roped in browsing the liquor selection with Rebekah following the tail end of our conversation about witches coming back from the dead and wreaking havoc in the Big Easy. Elijah, for whatever reason, had followed us into the den, his expression inscrutable.

Rebekah, for her part, didn't seem put off by her brother's impressive poker face, just dedicated all her attention to the various high end alcohols sitting in the fancy cupboard. "It's not too early for scotch, is it," she asked lightly, "with all the witchy shenanigans and subterfuge afoot?"

Elijah's expression went from unreadable to faintly exasperated. "It is entirely too early if one intends to drive, yes."

"Funny," Rebekah replied, "I don't have plans to go anywhere." She grabbed two glasses, poured generous amounts of scotch into each, and handed one to me before going to recline on an elegant little couch that seemed to have cushions made of actual velvet. "Zoe and I were thinking of have a nice little girls' night. Drink a bit, watch some old movies."

"Don't be ridiculous," Elijah said. "You need to take Hayley back to the plantation house, so she'll be safe and away from this madness."

"Oh my God," I couldn't help but blurt out, "seriously?" I set my glass down on the edge of a low bookcase. "Everything is going to hell in a hand-basket and you're worried about Hayley?" I couldn't help but give a snort of derision. "For crying out-loud, Elijah, we have bigger concerns than Hayley right now. Like the numerous witches and warlocks who want to kill us dead and dance on our corpses."

Elijah looked equal parts confused and wounded, like he'd expected me to take his side and didn't quite understand why I hadn't. "Hayley is pregnant," he said, eyebrows slanting down in an intense frown. "And she's mortal. Vulnerable. Out of all of us here, she is in the most danger." He shook his head and turned back to Rebekah. "She's not safe here. You have to take Hayley to the plantation house until this is all over."

"I fail to see why she'd be more safe there compared to here," I argued, cutting off Rebekah before she could answer her brother. "There are plenty of vampires here to keep an eye on her. Out on the plantation she'll be in a much less secure area, with considerably less protection. And she doesn't need that much protection anyway!" I added in annoyance. "She's not the target of these attacks, you and your brother are."

"And we've already established that an effective attack would be aimed at those close to us rather than us ourselves," Elijah replied doggedly. "Hayley, as the most vulnerable, would be an ideal target."

"Oh, for fuck's sake," I exclaimed in exasperation. "You keep saying how vulnerable she is, when she's really not. She's pregnant, not comatose! And she's a freaking werewolf, Elijah, she's not defenseless."

Elijah clenched his jaw and crossed his arms. "I don't understand why you're being so unreasonable about this," he said to me.

I threw my hands up in the air. "Of course you don't."

Rebekah raised her eyebrows, glancing back and forth between me and Elijah. "Why do I have the feeling that this is conversation is somehow about more than just Hayley being safe?"

"I haven't the faintest idea," I said coolly, reaching for my previously abandoned scotch and downing it in one fiery gulp. "Clearly, all conversations revolve around Hayley by default. God forbid we actually devote our attention to something besides keeping the pregnant werewolf girl safe, even when everyone else is dropping dead around us. Or coming back from the dead," I tacked on with a razor-edged smile. "Mustn't forget those pesky revivals. But no, you go ahead, focus on Hayley."

Elijah opened his mouth like he was about to argue with me some more, but Rebekah made a quick slashing motion with her hand, a look of faint realization crossing her face as she looked back and forth between us again. "I'll do it," she told her brother. "And you're coming, too," she added to me.

"What?" I squawked indignantly. "No, I'm not."

"Yes," Rebekah said firmly, "you are." She turned back to her brother. "Leave it to us." And then she was grabbing me by the elbow and dragging me from the room.

I considered digging my heels in and insisting I stay behind and not help her take Hayley to the plantation house, but in the end I decided to tag along after all. I had promised Klaus to try and look after Hayley, after all. Besides, if I stayed at the Abattoir, odds were I'd just keep needling Elijah and picking fights, and while doing so was satisfying in an odd sort of way, it probably wasn't really good for either of us right now, not when we needed to focus on the situation at hand.

So I let Rebekah drag me outside to her car; Hayley had gone out to pick up some maternity medications that her clinic physician had proscribed so we'd need to pick her up at the pharmacy. We would have left immediately, but Marcel pulled Rebekah aside before we left, his expression tight and anxious. I wouldn't have thought anything of it at all, to be honest, had he not taken her some distance away, just far enough so that they were out of my range of hearing. I wondered what was so extremely secret that Marcel couldn't risk it being overheard.

Whatever it was, Rebekah didn't look even remotely happy at what he was saying. There was some very fierce scowling and some emphatic head shakes and hand gestures. In the end, they must have come to an understanding about whatever it was, because Rebekah said something and Marcel nodded, then disappeared, zooming off with his vampire speed.

"What was that all about?" I asked casually as Rebekah rejoined me and we slid into her convertible.

"Oh, nothing," Rebekah replied, and her tone voice was just a little too light and bright to be believable, like she was trying to hard to be unconcerned. "Just Marcel being Marcel. Let's get going and pick up Hayley, shall we?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 61

"Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

I sulked during the entire car ride to the pharmacy to pick up Hayley. It wasn't very mature of me, I know, but I felt entitled to my pique. Hayley had once again managed to become the focus on everyone's attention, and it was getting old. And it wasn't even jealousy, at least not mostly. I just genuinely did not understand what it was about this wayward wolf girl that had everyone so dead set on keeping her safe. I mean, yes, she was an innocent, sort of, and yes, she was pregnant. Beyond baffled me, this need she seemed to inspire in everyone around her, a need to go to any lengths to protect her, even despite her own selfishness and stupidity.

Okay, so maybe I was feeling a little extra bitter because the vampire I was overly fond of had a soft spot for her. Sue me.

In any case, we made good time to the pharmacy and picked up Hayley, who slid into the backseat with a bright smile for Rebekah and a glare for me. I decided to ignore her completely, opting to focus my attention on fussing with Rebekah's radio settings instead, spinning the dials back and forth as I scanned the airwaves for a good song.

It was, I realized, going to be an awkward drive home. And an even more uncomfortable night of babysitting after that.

Why did I come to New Orleans again? Oh, right. For safety. I snorted. Talk about a plan that backfired. Not only had my brother and I not succeeded in blending in with the residents of the Big Easy, we'd managed to get ourselves mixed up with the most notorious supernatural family in all of recorded history.

Oh well. At least I had a roof over my head and a few people I could consider friends. Temperamental friends, but friends nonetheless.

I suppose, I thought to myself as I watched the scenery pass us by during the drive, if the only cost I have to pay for this so far is babysitting a surly werewolf...that's not so bad.

I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that the cost in the end would be so much higher than that, but for now I took a deep breath and focused on enjoying the drive home.

Ezra was deeply asleep when Klaus came charging into his room, and, because Klaus was now trusted implicitly by both his human and wolf halves, he didn't come awake until Klaus literally dragged him out of bed.

He came awake with a shout and flailed for a moment. Klaus tried holding onto him for a few seconds but in the end let him tumble to the ground in a tangle of sleep-heavy limbs and bedsheets.

"You suck," Ezra declared, his voice muffled by the comforter he'd face-planted in.

"I do," Klaus agreed with smirk, kneeling down to toss aside a pillow that had somehow ended up on Ezra's back during his little fall.

Ezra groaned and twisted to sit up. "What do you want," he grumbled, rubbing at his face tiredly. "I was asleep."

"And here I thought you were just doing mental gymnastics," Klaus remarked lightly, prodding him in the shoulder when it looked like he was about to fall back down onto the floor again.

Ezra swatted at his hand. "What do you want, asshole."

"I have a lunch date with Camille tomorrow, and I need your help with something."

"If you're already picking out a wedding ring," Ezra said warningly, "I will be morally obligated to thump you upside the head."

Klaus grabbed up the earlier-abandoned pillow and smacked him in the face with it. "Stop being stupid," he scolded. "As much as I like the girl, we're nowhere near that sort of commitment."

"Is it your immortality standing in the way," Ezra asked curiously, "or that fact that you're no-holds-barred insane?"

Klaus walloped him with the pillow again. "Storme," he growled, voice shaking from equal parts aggravation and amusement. "Will you please be serious?"

Ezra relented. "Okay, okay," he said at last. "Fine. I'm listening; what did you need?"

"Her uncle, Kieran," Klaus began, then frowned as if unsure how to continue.

Ezra, meanwhile, sat up a little straighter, letting the blankets wrapped around his shoulders fall away. "Kieran's the priest from that church, right? The one Davina was hiding away in. I was with Rebekeh when she first found it," he reminded Klaus at the vampire's curious look.

"Yes," Klaus said in answer. "He is. The church, as you know, just re-opened, and he's been hoping to use the goodwill of it to bridge the gap between himself and Camille."

"Bridge the gap?" Ezra echoed, scowling in confusion.

Klaus sighed. "Camille is currently very displeased with Kieran," he explained. "He wanted me to erase her memories of everything she'd learned since coming to New Orleans, everything that was keeping her here when she was in such great danger. She is understandably very unhappy about this."

Ezra narrowed his eyes at his best friend. "Tell me you didn't," he said in a low voice.

"I didn't," Klaus assured him, glancing away and then back again. "It was close, though. If your sister hadn't intervened when she did, the situation might have had an entirely different outcome."

Ezra blinked. "Wait, what?" He shook his head. "Zoe got involved with you and Cami?"

"She took exception to the idea of me messing around any more in Camille's mind," Klaus replied, giving a faintly guilty smile.

"Yeah," Ezra said dryly, "I can see how she would."

"In any case," Klaus said, "to get back to the point, Kieran wishes to reconcile with his niece, and I aim to help him achieve his goal."

Ezra arched an eyebrow. "And what brings about this benevolent bit of goodwill?"

Klaus feigned a wounded expression. "You say that like I'm not capable of being a nice person," he said in a hurt voice.

Ezra rolled his eyes. "I am not even going to dignify that with a response."

"Fair enough," Klaus conceded. "It hardly matters why I want to do this, anyway; it only matters that I want it done, and you, being the good comrade that you are, are going to help me."

Ezra had a pretty good feeling that Klaus wanted to do this because he was at least halfway in love with Cami, but he decided against saying anything; Klaus probably already knew the depth of his feelings and was downplaying the situation for some reason. Probably an idiotic reason, but that was hardly Ezra's business. "Okay," he said with a sigh. "What did you need?"

Klaus gave a pleased look at his relatively easy acceptance. "Pick up Kieran from his church. Camille doesn't know it yet, but he'll be joining us for lunch."

Ezra frowned. "You do realize that surprises like that tend to backfire horribly, right?"

Klaus waved a hand dismissively. "Don't be ridiculous. Camille needs to mend things with her uncle, I'm simply facilitating said reconciliation. It'll be a shock for her to see her uncle when she was expecting a quiet meal between the two of us, but I'm sure she'll understand what I'm trying to do."

Ezra made a noncommittal sound. "Women don't generally like it when you turn a lunch date into a family meeting, Klaus."

Klaus crossed his arms in a way that was almost defensive. "You'll excuse me if I don't take romantic advice from the man whose lover ripped his heart from his chest," he snapped.

Ezra winced before he could stop himself, ducking his head and looking away even as he lifted a hand to rub at the scar on his chest. "Fair point," he whispered, trying to ignore the pain and sorrow and shame that were trying to claw up from the bottom of his soul and shred him.

He was about to jump to his feet and bolt from the room because the emotions swirling inside him were nasty and painful and he just needed some air...but then Klaus was there, wrapping a hand around the back of his neck and yanking him into a rough and awkward embrace.

"I'm...sorry," Klaus said in a low voice, his voice hesitant as if apologies were uncomfortable for him. "That was...cruel of me."

Ezra growled at him a little, because fuck yeah, it had been cruel. Klaus knew how fucked in the head he was about Sirena; slamming him with a comment like that was a hit so far below the belt it was practically crippling. But still, Klaus was his friend. His only friend. Practically his brother. So there was really only one response he could give, in the end. "It's fine," he said gruffly, twisting to pull away. His wolf half craved the comfort received in the hug, but he knew that Klaus wasn't so touchy-feely and was probably uncomfortable with the tactile wolf behavior.

"No," Klaus said matter-of-factly, not releasing him. "It's not fine. It was cruel, and unnecessary. I'm sorry," he said again. "I can't seem to help it sometimes," he added.

"Help what?" Ezra grumbled. "Being a total asshole?"

Klaus snorted. "That, too."

Ezra huffed angrily. "It's fine," he said irritably, "I forgive you."

"Do you actually," Klaus asked curiously, "or are you just saying that so we can end this awkwardness hanging in the air?"

Ezra gave a light chuckle. "It's not awkward," he corrected. "It's just...uncomfortable. And I'm no stranger to discomfort," he tacked on absently, "so it really is fine."

Klaus pulled back to look at him intently. Then his gaze dropped to the scar marring Ezra's chest, his expression darkening. "She's going to pay for this," he said softly, reaching out to touch the scar lightly with the tips of his fingers.

Ezra flinched back automatically from the contact, but managed to give a thin smile. "I know," he said.

"I'm serious," Klaus said, and the look on his face was deathly sincere. "If I have to track her down to the ends of the earth and rip her into pieces myself, she's going to pay for what she did to you."

Ezra sighed, even as Klaus's words settled deep in his chest with an unexpected sort of warmth. "You sound like Zoe," he said.

"Of course I do," Klaus answered, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world and didn't need to be commented on. "We're of exactly the same mind when it comes to that old girlfriend of yours."

Ezra snorted. "Why do I feel like the two of you united in anything should be absolutely terrifying?"

Klaus just gave a wicked grin. "I haven't the slightest idea."

Ezra gave him a disbelieving look. "Uh-huh. Sure." Shaking his head, he moved to stand. "I need to run a couple errands for Zoe tomorrow morning," he told his friend, "but I can pick up Kieran after. That okay?"

"Perfect," Klaus said, standing up as well and clapping him on the shoulder. "My thanks to you."

"You won't be thanking me when Cami drags you over the coals for bringing her estranged uncle to your date," he said dryly, "but sure, you're welcome."

Chapter Text

Chapter 62

"Life is crazy...unexpected things happen every day."

"You what?" I said incredulously, unable to believe what I was hearing. "Why the hell would you want to throw a party tomorrow?"

"Think about it," Hayley insisted. "It's going to be a full moon tomorrow night."

I failed to see what that had to do with anything and just stared at her blankly.

Rebekah, likewise, looked entirely at a loss. "You're preggers," she reminded the other woman. "You can't turn."

"No, I can't," Hayley agreed, "but I wanted to invite a few people over. People like me, if you catch my drift."

Ah. Now I understood. Since I wasn't beholden to the magic of the full moon, I'd forgotten its significance to the majority of the werewolf population. And how much more important that moon would be to Hayley's long lost relations.

A look of realization crossed Rebekah's face as well. "Of course," she said. "Every red-blooded American werewolf will be a bundle of fur and sharp teeth tomorrow night, whilst your cursed crescent clan will be-"

"Human," Hayley finished for her. "But only for the one night."

"I don't know if this a good idea," I interjected. "I thought we were supposed to be laying low? I don't think throwing a werewolf kegger is the best way of doing that."

Hayley spun around and pinned me in a fierce glare. "They're my family!" she snapped. "And they're only going to be human for a few hours! I won't have another chance until the next full moon! Besides," she added with a smug little smile, "I already asked Josh to get word to Eve out in the bayou."

I groaned and flopped down onto the couch. "Of course you did." The girl had no self-preservation instinct at all, I realized. It was a miracle she'd survived this long as a lone wolf.

Rebekah slanted me an unreadable look before turning back to Hayley. "Josh isn't dead yet?" she remarked, sounding faintly surprised. "Well, good on him. I love a good survival story."

There was no missing the fact that she'd not responded to Hayley's request at all.

"Rebekah," Hayley said pleadingly, clearly picking up on this, too. "Come on, we can do this. I want to meet my people and you love a good party. Please help me with this."

Rebekah narrowed her eyes at the young werewolf then relented with a sigh. "Well, alright then. I suppose a little get-together couldn't hurt." She tapped a finger on her chin thoughtfully. "We'll need to make some preparations, though. Can't have a proper party without refreshments and music!" She reached out, grabbed Hayley by the hand, and hustled off towards the stairs. "Come on, let's make some calls."

I watched them go from my position on the couch. "We are so screwed," I said to no one in particular.

Ezra woke up the next morning feeling pretty decent. He'd gotten a good night's sleep, hadn't had a panic attack in a while, and was ready to tackle the day.

He quickly got dressed, and double-checked to make sure he still had the list Zoe had given him of things she wanted him to get for her; most of it seemed to be spell ingredients, which worried him a little. He wasn't sure how he felt about Zoe's suddenly rekindled interest in magic, not when she'd been so dedicated to staying away from using it for so long. But a promise was a promise, so he tucked the list into his pocket and called the automated bank menu to make sure he had enough funds to cover all of it.

The shopping itself didn't take long, and after a few hours he had bags full of various herbs, trinkets, and concoctions sitting in the trunk of his borrowed Subaru. Once he was positive he'd gotten everything on Zoe's list, he turned his attention to the next item on his To-Do List: Pick up Kieran from the church and deliver him to Klaus and Cami.

He still wasn't sure of the wisdom of such a move, but there was no denying that there was plenty Kieran and Cami needed to talk about. So he coasted through the city and parked on the street outside of St. Anne's.

The second he stepped out onto the sidewalk, though, a strange feeling prickled over his skin. After a moment of careful assessment, he realized it was magic. Bad, bad, bad magic. He couldn't be sure, but the feeling seemed to be coming from the church. And it felt like poison and pain and madness, which couldn't possibly mean anything good was going on.

Heart pounding, he ducked back into his car, grabbed a few of the supplies he'd just purchased, and turned and raced up the stairs and into the church, pausing for a moment as he crossed the threshold from the wave of residual black energy that slammed into him as he stepped through the door.

What the hell happened here? he wondered. This feeling hadn't been here before, when he'd come with Rebekah. There had been residual energy then, but it had only tasted of things like blood and grief. This, though...this was different.

His contemplations ground to abrupt halt when he saw Father Kieran sprawled in an ungainly heap on the cold church floor.

"Kieran!" he shouted, his exclamation loud and reverberant in the high-ceiling church. He raced down the aisle and dropped to his knees beside the other man. "Father Kieran!"

The priest only groaned, the sound so full of agony that the wolf in Ezra stirred in discomfort, sensing the unnatural magic that driven the man into such a weak state. When the priest spoke, his voice was so thin that Ezra would have missed hearing it entirely if he hadn't had such keen ears. "Who...who's there..."

"It's Ezra," he told the priest. "Ezra Storme. Klaus sent me to pick you up for lunch with your niece," he added, fighting to keep his voice light and conversational as he patted down Kieran, looking for injuries. "And I hate to say it, but I think we're going to be a little late."

"Cami," Kieran breathed, his eyes glassy. "Cami..."

Ezra made a sound of frustration as he finished checking Kieran over; there were no visible injuries, no cuts or scrapes, no bruises or abrasions...there were no marks of any kind on his body. And yet the man practically reeked of black magic, so something had to have happened.

"Cami," the priest murmured again, his eyes fluttering shut as he struggled to breathe.

Ezra pulled back and sat on his haunches, regarding Kieran with a baffled scowl. "What happened to you?" he asked, figuring that maybe just cutting to the chase would be the best course of action.

Kieran just gave another painful wheezing gasp and shuddered, shivering like he was freezing cold. "Bas...Bastiana," he choked out, hands clenching into fists as he trembled. "And...some...some other witch. Hex...Hexed me..."

Well, fuck.

It certainly exclaimed the bad mojo Ezra was sensing. The question now became, what could he do about it? Without knowing the specifics of the curse the witch had laid on him, Ezra couldn't do much in the way of breaking it. Maybe, though...just maybe, he could stall it. Slow it down, until he could get Kieran to someone who could help.

He emptied his pockets and cast an eye over the things he'd brought in from the car. He had a small alabaster statuette of the goddess Eirene, a black onyx pendant, a small packet of agrimony, and a plastic bag that contained a mix of hemlock and fennel.

Oddly, it was precisely the combination of items he would have chosen anyway. Lucky break, that. Or maybe he'd subconsciously sensed what was going on inside the church before he'd raced up the steps and had grabbed the things he'd need. Either way, it was a stroke of good fortune and he sent a quick prayer of gratitude skyward before returning his attention back to Kieran.

"Father Kieran, can you hear me?" he asked, bending over the priest and peering at his face intently. "Can you understand what I'm saying to you?"

It took a moment, but eventually Kieran groaned and nodded, his body still trembling. "I can...I can hear you," he wheezed.

"Okay," Ezra said, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves. "Good. That's good." He glanced at the items he'd set down, a plan already formulating in his mind. He wasn't as good as Zoe, but he was far from inexperienced with magic. With a little skill and no small amount of luck, he should be able to pull something off. "I'm going to try and get this hex to ease up on you a bit, okay?"

Kieran's eyes flew wide open, a look of alarm crossing his ashen face. "N-no m-more magic," he stuttered, feebly trying to push Ezra away from him.

Ezra swatted his hands away. "Relax," he told the priest. "I know what I'm doing."

Kieran didn't look even remotely convinced. "No magic," he said, his voice emphatic despite being barely above a whisper. "Can't trust it."

Ezra snorted. "Trust me, I'm aware. Look," he added, "I'm almost forty years old, man. And I've been exposed to magic and studying the intricacies of it since before I could talk in words more than two syllables long. I know what I'm doing."

Kieran's eyes narrowed in a suspicious glare. "What...what are you?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Ezra said wryly. "For now, let's just leave it at 'I'm the guy who's trying to save your life', okay? Sound good to you?"

Kieran remained silent for so long that Ezra began to worry that he'd somehow passed out with his eyes open. But then the priest took another shuddering breath and spoke. "Do what you can," he wheezed, swallowing hard. "I need...I need to speak with Camille before..." He closed his eyes as if in pain. "Just...before."

Before he died, Ezra realized. Shaking his head, he settled into a more comfortable position and reached for the agrimony and the onyx pendant. "I'll do my best," he promised the other man. "Just hang in there."

I wanted to scream. No, seriously.

I'd thought having magical assassins running me down was bad? Well, as it turned out, being the golden bounty for a psycho coven was absolutely nothing when compared to planning a party for a bunch of werewolves I'd never met and honestly did not want to meet.

And it wasn't just because I thought that it was a stupid idea to throw a kegger when we should have been circling the wagons and hunkering down.

No, it was the wolf in me that was most actively against this little bash we were whipping up. My wolf instincts made me intensely territorial among other werewolves. Hayley was a bizarre exception, presumably because she was pregnant and posed no real threat to me, wolf to wolf.

Klaus was also exempt from this territoriality, because he was the closest thing my brother and I had had to a real Alpha since our father had been killed. Klaus was family...our brother. Even though there was no blood relation, he was our brother. The brother we hadn't even known we'd needed, but the one we were grateful for, because even if your family was crazy, they were there for you when you needed them and even when things got insane it was better than not having any family at all.

These other wolves, though...I had no connection to them, nothing to prevent my wolfhalf from rearing up and ripping their throats out. I considered the plantation my territory, in a roundabout sense, and these other wolves from the bayou would be there tonight, trespassing and trampling all over the place and leaving unfamiliar scents all over everything.

Not to mention the fact that they'd all be looking at me out of the corners of their eyes and muttering about the freakish lone wolf female. A few might even try and challenge me, not realizing that the fact that I made it on my own was because I was more than capable of handing them their asses. And all that was before I even factored in the loud music and the drinking and the general stupidity that accompanied boisterous get-togethers.

This party was going to drive me utterly insane. I found myself wishing that Elijah would be there, because even if I was picking a fight with him, at least I'd be entertained and mildly comfortable in my own skin during the party. As it was, I was going to be miserable and cranky the whole time, and constantly one step away from bashing someone over the head with the nearest heavy object.

Why did I agree to this again? I wondered, then huffed out an angry sigh. Oh, wait, that's right. I didn't.

Ezra finished his incantation and pressed the alabaster statuette into Kieran's hands with a few extra pleas for mercy and peace to the goddess Eirene that the figure portrayed.

It had taken him almost an hour, but with the help of the herbs he'd used and the pendant he'd slung around Kieran's neck, he'd managed to contain whatever hex the witches had put on him. He hadn't been able to remove it, unfortunately; the black magic had dug itself in deep and wasn't letting go, but he'd managed to put in a barrier of sorts between Kieran's psyche and the most potent effects of the spell. It was more of a stop-gap measure than anything, and wasn't by any means a cure. But it was something.

Now all he had to do was figure out what the hell to do next.

He figured maybe giving Klaus and his bartender girlfriend a call might be a good idea. The only problem with that was...the Original hybrid wasn't answering his phone.

Ezra cursed under his breath in annoyance. Trust him not to answer his damn phone when I actually need him for something, he thought blackly, although he had to admit to himself, Klaus was actually usually fairly reliable; he probably just had his phone turned off because he was having lunch with Camille and was likely making some sort of attempt at being polite and gentlemanly.

Under normal circumstances, Ezra would have approved. As it was, he was just aggravated. The timing of it couldn't possibly be worse. Then again, what exactly could he tell Klaus over the phone? Hey buddy, guess what, I have your almost-girlfriend's uncle with me like I promised, but he got hit with a nasty hex before I got here and I think he might he about to lose his mind and implode? Yeah, he had a feeling that wouldn't go over so well.

Of course, now his only option was to toss Kieran into the backseat of his car and go meet up with Klaus and Cami. At the fancy restaurant. Where they were having a romantic lunch date. Great.

This is shaping up to be just a fantastic day, he thought sarcastically, then heaved Kieran up off the ground and headed for the church entrance. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Chapter Text

Chapter 63

"The pain that you've been feeling can't compare to the joy that's coming."

Ezra drove with more care than usual as he wound his way through the midday New Orleans traffic. The last thing he needed was to be pulled over by a traffic cop, who would probably notice that something was off when he saw the clearly-not-right Kieran prone in the backseat. And Ezra wasn't in the mood to deal with any more extra crap on this already unpleasant day.

So he obeyed the posted speed limits and dutifully ignored the assholes who honked at him in a futile attempt to get him to go faster.

"So," he said to Kieran as they sat waiting at an obscenely long stoplight, "is there any particular reason why the witches would come after you?"

Kieran just groaned, and then mumbled a few choice words about witches.

Ezra sighed. Clearly this was going to be a one-sided conversation. "Okay, then," he muttered. "Good talk."

Eventually, they reached their destination. Klaus had texted Ezra the restaurant's address earlier in the day, and when Ezra pulled up outside he couldn't help but scowl.

"Dammit, Klaus. You would take her to the most fancy and expensive place on the street when I need to drag in someone who looks like roadkill," he griped, looking at the front door of Irene's Cuisine in undisguised trepidation. Even ignoring Kieran and the fact that the priest looked like death warmed over, Ezra himself was not exactly dressed for being seen at a fine dining establishment. Wearing a flannel shirt, biker boots, and jeans that had seen better days, it would be a miracle if the maître d' didn't bounce him right back out onto the street the minute he walked in the door.

"Oh well," he sighed. "Doesn't change what needs doing." So what if a snotty restaurant manager tried to bounce him; he was there for something important, literally a life and death situation.

So he took a deep breath, yanked Kieran from the backseat because he sure as hell wasn't leaving the guy waiting alone in the car in his current condition, slung the other man's arm around his shoulders, and began shambling towards the front of the restaurant.

As he'd expected, they didn't get very far past the entrance; a weaselly-looking man in a three-piece suit came bolting into their path almost immediately after they crossed the threshold.

"I'm very sorry...sirs," he said in a condescending nasal tone that instantly rubbed Ezra the wrong way, "but we have recently come under new management and adopted a new policy in regards to proper attire."

"Is that Asshole Speak for dress code?" Ezra asked blandly, giving the host an unimpressed look even as he tried to ignore the haughty stares being directed his way from the other patrons waiting to be admitted.

The host cast a scathing look over Ezra's appearance, curling his lip as his gaze drifted to the barely conscious Kieran. "We also have a very strict policy against serving to those already intoxicated," he said pointedly.

Ezra swallowed his growl. "He's not drunk," he told the host stiffly. "Had a bad reaction to something," he added through gritted teeth. "We're just here to meet with-"

"I am sorry," the host said again with a false smile, "sir. But I cannot allow you any further inside in your current state."

Ezra briefly considered dumping Kieran and the floor and jumping forward to strangle the host, but managed to rein in his temper. Barely. "And that's fine," he snapped. "I'm not here for a meal. We're just here to meet with my brother and his girlfriend, who just so happens to be his," he clapped Kieran on the shoulder, "niece."

The host just shook his head. "I can't let you in."

This time Ezra did growl. "It's a family emergency."

"I'm sorry," the host repeated, not looking sorry at all, "but our rules are here for a reason. I cannot make an exception."

Ezra opened his mouth to argue further, but Kieran chose that moment to make a choking sound and throw up all over the maître d's pristine suit. The look on the host's face would have been hilarious if Ezra had been in the laughing mood; as it was, he just snickered a bit before leaning to the side to see if he could somehow spot Klaus and Cami seated amongst the other diners crammed into the restaurant proper.

"That's enough," the host snapped, shaking in fury as bile and spit dripped down his chest and shoulders and stained his silk tie. "I'm afraid I must ask you to leave. Immediately." He snapped his fingers and two musclebound guys in dress shirts emerged from a side room.

Ezra snorted. "You have bouncers. Actual bouncers. Of course you do."

"Leave immediately," the host said heatedly, "or be escorted out."

Yeah, I'm done with this. "Klaus!" he shouted. "Cami!"

The bouncers crossed the distance, grabbing at Kieran and trying to pull him away and drag him towards the entrance.

"Stop that," Ezra snarled, lashing out and punching one of the bouncers in the jaw and causing the massive man to stumble backwards, dropping Kieran. Then he raised his voice again. "Klaus!"

The second bouncer tackled into Ezra and they went crashing to hardwood floor, Kieran tumbling down to the ground because he was too weak to stand without help.

"What the bloody hell is going on here?" a familiar voice said in annoyance.

Ezra glanced up from where he was pinning the musclebound bouncer in a choke-hold. "Hey, Klaus. About damn time you showed up," he complained, releasing the bouncer and moving to stand. "Sorry to interrupt your date," he added, noticing Klaus's intense glower, "but we sort of have a situation."

Klaus crossed his arms and arched an eyebrow, then finally noticed Kieran slumped on the ground. "What the...?"

"As I said," Ezra replied, going over and tugging Kieran back up off the floor. "We have a situation. Where's Cami?"

"Still at the table," he answered, turning around and heading back into the seating area. "I'll go fetch her."

"Hurry," Ezra called after him, before passing one last look to the maître d'. "I'm sorry, you were saying...?"

The host, pale and wide-eyed, just shook his head frantically. "N-nothing," he stammered. "It's nothing, sir. Please," he added shakily, "have a nice day." And then he bolted for a door marked Employees Only and dashed through without looking back.

Ezra smirked. "You, too."

I wrinkled my nose at the fourteenth keg of beer as one of the hired delivery workers hefted it up onto a table with the rest. "Is this much alcohol really necessary?" I asked disdainfully. "I mean, it's already a party with werewolves. On the night of a full moon. Must we add shameless intoxication into the mix?"

"You sound like Elijah," Rebekah complained. "All negativity and reason."

I scowled at her. "I do not sound like Elijah," I said irritably. "I'm just pointing out that maybe getting a bunch of emotionally volatile werewolves who aren't used to being human anymore drunk isn't the best idea. Or even the best idea's distantly related half-cousin that no one talks to."

Rebekah snorted, glancing up at me from the appetizers she was arranging. "You're being utterly ridiculous," she said with a smirk. "It's just a little party for Hayley to get to know some of her long-lost relatives. What could possibly go wrong?"

I gave her a disbelieving look. "Well, now that you've said that," I said with an aggravated sigh, "only everything." Seriously. She was hundreds of years old. Surely she knew better than to say 'what could go wrong'. There was, in my experience, no better way of daring the universe to dump trouble right into your lap. Shaking my head, I left the expansive plantation backyard and went back inside to check on Hayley, who was currently upstairs and freaking out over what to wear.

"Why are all maternity clothes so freaking girly?" she complained I stepped into her room and stared in alarm at the storm of shirts and dresses strewn all over the place.

I went over to sort through a selection of halter tops. "You do realize that you can only wear one outfit, right?"

She gave me a peeved look. "Yeah, but it has to be the right outfit. I need to make a good impression!"

I bit my tongue and refrained what saying the first thing that popped into my head, which was something along the lines of Since when do you care about good first impressions? and instead said "Maybe don't wear this, then," and tossed aside a sleeveless cleavage-bearing cocktail dress covered in sequins. "You're a mother-to-be, after all."

"Good point," she muttered, and similarly discarded a number of equally risque outfits. "How about this?" she asked after a few more minutes of pawing through piles of clothing.

I glanced at the green blouse and pencil skirt combo she was holding up and sighed, wondering what alternate dimension I'd fallen into that had me and Hayley deciding on outfits together. "Too business-style," I said, shaking my head. "They're your family, not a college review board."

"But we've never met before," Hayley argued. "I want them to take them seriously."

"They're werewolves who have been living like savages in the bayou," I said in exasperation. "If you're trying to impress them, looking like a librarian is probably not going to cut it."

"Well, what do you suggest I do then?" Hayley demanded, throwing the clothes down angrily.

I rubbed my forehead tiredly; the party itself hadn't even started yet and already I was verging on a migraine. Wonderful. " yourself," I said after a moment, trying to be patient because I knew how important this night was to Hayley. "They're your family. They've been wanting to meet you just as badly as you want to meet them, right? So it's just equally awkward all the way around," I reasoned. "My advice is to just be yourself and take it from there. If they like you, great. If not, fuck 'em."

Hayley snorted. "That's...actually pretty good advice," she admitted reluctantly. "...Thanks."

"You're welcome," I replied grudgingly, not entirely sure what to make of our weird little chick flick moment.

I didn't leave, though, even when the opportunity presented itself, and instead stayed with Hayley as she continued to agonize over what to wear. Somehow it transitioned into what would I wear, at which point Rebekah joined us and everything became ten kinds of dress-up crazy.

I cursed as they descended upon me with a dress and make-up, a triumphant gleam in their eyes as they went to work.

"What the hell is happening to him?" Cami asked anxiously as she hovered over uncle, who had passed out during the car ride back to the Abattoir.

Some of the vampires had stared and muttered darkly as Ezra had taken Kieran upstairs to a guest room, but a snarl from Klaus had sent them scurrying for cover without further comment, and no one had bothered them since they'd gotten Kieran into bed.

"I don't know," Ezra said, taking Kieran's limp wrist in his hand and checking his pulse rate. "I found him like this at St. Anne's. He was pretty out of it," he went on, glancing over at Klaus, "but he did manage to tell me it was witches who did this. A hex, he said."

"And is it?" Klaus asked. "A hex, I mean."

Ezra sighed, setting Kieran's arm back down as he stepped aside to let Cami move closer to her uncle. "I'm not sure. It has all the earmarks of a nasty hex, but it feels stronger. It might be an actual full-blown curse," he added in a low voice.

Klaus did not look happy at that pronouncement. "Can you break it?"

Ezra shook his head. "Probably not. I did an emergency block on the spell to keep it from destroying him immediately, but all that does is buy us time. Without more information, there's nothing anyone can do."

"How much time?" Camille asked, turning around to look at them with tears streaking down her face. "How long do we have to find a cure for this?"

"There's no way of knowing," Ezra answered. "If I knew what sort of hex or curse had been cast on him, I could make a guess, but with so little to go on..." He shook his head again. "I'm sorry, Cami, but there's not much I could do."

"Could Zoe fix it?" Cami asked desperately. "She fixed me! She could fix him, too, right?"

Ezra opened his mouth and then closed it, considering.

"Well?" Klaus said.

Ezra heaved a sigh. "I don't know," he admitted at last. "It's possible, I guess, but I don't know. Honestly, when it comes to breaking curses, Zoe and I are about tied in terms of experience. She has more brute force behind her magic, so to speak, but she's not so great at things that require delicate work. And fixing vampire compulsion and fixing a curse are two entirely different things. Undoing a curse this complex," he went on, gesturing to Kieran, "is delicate work. The spell has wound its way into his mind and soul, and it will be incredibly difficult to dig it out without harming him further."

"But could she do it?" Camille pressed. "Could either of you do it?"

"I don't know," Ezra repeated. "We need more information," he said defensively when Klaus stepped toward him with a glare. "Okay? If I try anything right now, with no idea of what I'm up against, I might just make things worse."

"But how do we figure out what spell they used on him?" Cami asked desperately. "The witches sure as hell won't tell us!"

"No," Ezra agreed, "they won't. But Kieran will know," he added. "He'll have heard the incantation the witch used. If I know the incantation, I can work on it from there."

"That's a wonderful idea," Klaus said sarcastically. "Except for the part where the witness is unconscious and not capable of sharing that crucial bit of information with us!"

"So wake him up," Ezra said flatly.

Camille's eyes widened in alarm. "But...he's in so much pain!"

Ezra arched an eyebrow. "So you'd rather he be unconscious and about to die than awake with a hope to live?"

Camille flushed. "That's not what I said," she snapped angrily. "I just..."

"He's right, love," Klaus said, going over to wrap an arm around her shoulders in comfort. "It will be difficult, but this might very well be our only chance to save him. Don't you think that's worth a few moments of pain?"

"I..." Camille blinked rapidly, tears spilling down her cheeks again. "I don't want him to die," she said in a choked voice. "He's the only family I have left."

"So let me try and save him," Ezra told her. "I can't guarantee his survival, but I swear to you that I will do everything I can to get him through this. Okay?"

Camille swallowed hard, and the tension in the room climbed higher and higher as they waited for her answer.

"Okay," she said at last, her voice just above a whisper. "Wake him up. Let's ask him what happened."

Chapter Text

Chapter 64

"The Moon has awoken, with the sleep of the Sun, the Light has been broken, the spell has begun."

I fiddled with the hem of my dress nervously. I wasn't entirely sure how it had come about, but somehow Rebekah and Hayley had teamed up and stuffed me into an (admittedly gorgeous) green cocktail dress that managed to cling to my body like a flattering second skin.

They'd originally wanted to put me into a golden number with white lace, but had then changed their minds at the last minute, opting for a dress that would complement my eyes. I'd never put much effort into wearing things that brought out my 'natural colors', whatever the hell that meant, but there was no denying the fact that the green of my dress drew extra notice to the green of my eyes.

Add in the thick black eyeliner and mascara Rebekah had made me put on and the golden eyeshadow Hayley had brushed onto my eyelids, and I seemed to resemble a strange cross between a forest goddess and a magazine ad. Throw in the ridiculous golden gladiator heels they'd forced me into, though, and I looked like a battle nymph from some MMORPG.

I did enjoy being dressed up, though, even though it took me well outside my comfort zone of jeans and ratty old t-shirts. It was...nice, to be able to wear a different skin, to pretend I was someone different, someone better, from the usual Zoe Storme.

That I looked totally kick-ass, of course, also helped.

"I need some air," Cami said after they had listened to everything Kieran was able to tell them. "I just...I need a minute. Alone," she added, when Klaus moved to stand up and follow her. "Okay? I just...I need a second to get myself together."

Klaus looked hurt, but nodded. "Whatever you need, love," he said tightly. "Take your time."

Camille gave him a tearful smile and then dashed out the door.

Klaus stood there for a moment, until the sound of her hurried footsteps mingled with the rest of the foot traffic outside in the Quarter. Then he heaved a sigh and sat down. "Please tell me you have an idea," he said to Ezra.

Ezra chewed on his lips thoughtfully, running over in his mind what Kieran had told them.

Toursion fou, mort de l'espirit, the witch had said when she'd cursed Kieran. Ezra couldn't be sure, but he was pretty sure the spell had something to do with driving a person crazy and killing their soul. He and Zoe had come across something similar, when they'd drifted through a backwoods town in Illinois where superstition and family feuds had reigned supreme. Needless to say, he and Zoe had gotten the hell out of dodge before they'd gotten too involved, but at least it gave him a frame of reference for what he was up against.

If he was right, though, this hex really did need to be stopped sooner rather than later; if left to incubate in Kieran too long, the magic would eventually affect him permanently, damaging his mind beyond repair.

But hey, Ezra thought dryly, no pressure. "I have a few ideas," he said to Klaus. "And it'll be tricky no matter what, but...we have a chance to save him, I think. Hopefully."

Klaus looked at him carefully, assessing. "Are you sure you can do this? Because we can call Zoe if you'd prefer."

Ezra shook his head. "No," he said emphatically. "We don't need Zoe. Besides," he added, "I don't want to have her use more magic if she doesn't absolutely have to."

"You're worried about her losing control," Klaus realized.

"A little," he admitted. "But as far breaking this curse goes, I seriously don't need the help. It's a job for one practitioner; a second magician around will just mess things up."

"I'll take your word on it," Klaus replied. "Now, what do you need? I assume you can't just wave your hands over the man and cure him."

Ezra gave a faint smile. "You assume correctly," he agreed. "I need a few things."

"Name them," Klaus said immediately.

"A small mirror, a white candle, a cup of water, and a small bowl of natural salt to start," he said, rattling off items without hesitation. "Also some incense; preferably citron or cypress but anything will do."

Klaus arched a brow. "That everything?"

"No," Ezra replied promptly. "That's just everything I need to consecrate the mirror. I also need a bowl of black salt, and something to represent Bastiana. And then we'll need some hyssop, rue, vetivert, basil, and more salt for a purification bath afterward."

Klaus now stared at him like he was a total stranger. "That's quite the list," he said after a moment.

Ezra shrugged. "If I'm really going to do this, I'm going to do it right. And I'm no powerhouse like Zoe; I can't just will something to happen and it does. I need to follow certain rituals, adhere to certain procedures. I'm Wiccan," he explained at Klaus's blank look. "And there are certain ways of doing things when you follow a certain path of this particular flavor of paganism."

Klaus blinked. "If you say so," he said doubtfully. "I'm only familiar with magic of the black variety, so I'll have to take your word on it."

Ezra laughed. "Relax, Klaus. I know what I'm doing. Look," he continued, "I went shopping for Zoe this morning and bought a ton of magical crap. We should have everything we need for the cleansing."

Klaus nodded. "Let's go collect what you need, then, and get started."

"Yeah," Ezra agreed, casting one more look at Kieran before following his friend out of the room to track down the items they needed.

Once they had everything they needed, they returned to Kieran's room. Klaus hesitated after setting down the box of ingredients he'd gathered. "Do you want me to leave?" he asked uncertainly.

Ezra nearly dropped the ceramic bowl of black salt in surprise and cursed under his breath as he caught it. "No, idiot," he said, rolling his eyes, "Of course I don't want you to leave. What would make you say that?"

"Well, if you need to concentrate..."

"I'll focus better if there's someone here I can trust to watch my back," Ezra replied evenly. "And that's you, so suck it up and sit the fuck down."

Klaus smirked and shook his head in amusement. "If you're sure," he said, sitting down in the folding chair by the window.

"I'm sure," Ezra told him, then turned his attention to the task at hand.

First things first, he had to consecrate the mirror.

He took the white candle, the cup of water, the small bowl of white salt, and the incense and arranged them in a diamond on the folding card table they'd brought in from the game room. Lighting the candle and the incense, he took the mirror in his hands, took a deep breath to focus himself, and began.

He started by passing the mirror over the bowl of salt and then turning to face north.

"Powers of the North," he intoned, "Guardians of the Earth, I consecrate this mirror and charge it with your energies. I purify it this night, and make this tool sacred."

He changed position so that he was facing east and holding the mirror in the smoke of the incense.

"Powers of the East, Guardians of the Air, I consecrate this mirror and charge it with your energies. I purify it this night, and make this tool sacred."

He moved again, this time so that he was facing south and holding the mirror above the flame of the candle.

"Powers of the South, Guardians of Fire, I consecrate this mirror and charge it with your energies. I purify it this night, and make this tool sacred."

And then he turned to the west and passed the mirror over the cup of water.

"Powers of the West, Guardians of Water, I consecrate this mirror and charge it with your energies. I purify it this night, and make this tool sacred."

And then finally, he took a step back and raised the mirror skyward towards the heavens.

"I charge this mirror in the name of Old Ones," he declared, "the Ancients, the Sun and the Moon and the Stars. By the powers of the Earth, of Air, of Fire and of Water I banish the energies of any previous owners, and make it new and fresh. I consecrate this mirror," he concluded, "and it is mine."

A wave of energy washed through the room, wrapping around Ezra and the mirror he held in his hands. As the power receded, the mirror glowed a faint blue around the edges and then resumed its normal appearance.

"Impressive," Klaus remarked, and though his tone was patronizing and his trademark smirk was gracing his face as he stood up and came closer, Ezra could sense the genuine spark of admiration in his friend as he watched Ezra.

"Thanks," Ezra replied, "but we're not quite done yet." Holding the mirror in one hand, he carefully moved aside the consecration items and brought over the bowl of black salt. "Now comes the actual breaking-the-hex part."

"What does this spell actually involve?" Klaus asked curiously, watching as he carefully placed the mirror upright in the bowl of black salt.

"It's sort of a reversal," Ezra explained, pulling out a small scrap of paper and a pen and carefully printing Bastiana and toursion fou, mort de l'espirit on it. "We're not so much breaking the spell as bouncing it back at the one who cast it. This paper," he went on, picking it up and placing it in the bowl so that it faced the mirror, "represents Bastiana and the hex she put on Kieran. The consecrated mirror will catch the dark energy from the hex she cast on Kieran and reflect it back at her. Even if she finds a way to negate being hit with it herself, it should still remove it from Kieran. That being said, I'm not taking any chances." He took a step back, lit another stick of incense, and waved it over the bowl and mirror even as he brought the white candle and the cup of water over and placed them on either side of the bowl. "As water meets fire," he chanted, "this spell is undone. As water meets fire, this spell is now broken. As water meets fire," he went on, "this man is now free. Blessings to the gods, so may it be."

Another rush of power coursed through the room, this time so powerful is snatched Ezra's breath away and forced Klaus to take a step back. The energy swirled around the room for a moment, and then descended upon Kieran.

The priest's eyes opened wide as the energy wrapped around him. He bolted upright, gasping, as the magic seeped into his body and went to work against the hex that was poisoning him. The priest cried out and writhed as the hex was purged from his body, and once it was all over, he slumped back down onto the bed, sweating and pale as his chest heaved with ragged breaths.

"Quick," Ezra said, setting down the incense and moving to grab Kieran. "We need to get him into a purifying bath now. We need to be sure the negative energy has been completely purged from his body."

Klaus didn't argue, taking Kieran's other side and helping to carry him into the bathroom where they already had a steaming hot bath waiting. And not just any bath; just as Ezra had declared earlier, this bath contained hyssop, rue, vetivert, basil, and salt. Hyssop for purification and defense, rue for protection, vetivert just as an additional layer of insurance for hex-breaking, and basil to warn off any lingering negative magics. Mixed with the salt, the purification bath was a powerful finishing touch for freeing Kieran for the hex.

Not willing to waste time by pausing to strip him, they hefted Kieran into the bath fully clothed. A sizzle of magic flashed through the air, then subsided as Kieran exhaled a sigh a relief as the remnants of the hex finally left him. The priest leaned his head back against the tiled wall and closed his eyes, murmuring a soft prayer of gratitude.

"Well," Klaus murmured, "looks like we've done it, then."

"We did," Ezra said, bracing himself against the sink because he was abruptly light-headed, exhaustion and the buzz from the magic mixing together in a bizarrely heady combination. "He's free from the curse."

Chapter Text

Chapter 65

"A little party never hurt anybody."

Even as Hayley hung up clothes outside for the wolves to change into when they shifted into their human forms and chattered away excitedly to me and Rebekah how much fun this was going to be and how exciting it was to finally have a chance to meet her real blood family, I couldn't shake the knot of foreboding that was growing in my gut. Well, it was either a knot of foreboding or an ulcer...difficult to say which.

In all seriousness, though, something about this was starting to make me uncomfortable. I tried to put it down to having so many strange werewolves lurking around, but it felt like something more than that.

Something bad was going to go down tonight. I was sure of it. The question just remained...what would it be, and who would it hurt? I resolved to stay as close to Hayley as humanly possible. Protecting her was my mission, after all.

Chewing on my lip nervously as I watched werewolves emerge from the treeline in human skins they hadn't had without the power of the full moon, I fished my phone out of the little sequined purse Rbekah had given me to go along with the dress and heels.

I'd been texting back and forth with Elijah about an hour previously, having opted to give him a head's up about our little party, just so that he wouldn't be taken by surprise when he came home and found a literal pack of strangers in his home.

Our texts had turned from me assuring him I'd look after Hayley to me asking what he was doing; he'd explained that he was investigating something to do with the local coven and how Monique had come back from the dead. He'd mentioned something about doing a ghost tour with a local witch in the hopes of getting her alone to interrogate, and I hadn't heard from him since. It worried me a little, but I reminded myself that Elijah was a big boy; he could take care of himself.

Besides, I realized as I watched more and more wolves spill out of the woods, I had plenty to handle here at the plantation.

A few of the wolves approached me, sniffing at me to catch my scent before extending their hands in greeting. I shook their hands reluctantly, making sure to look every single one of them in the eye until they dropped their gazes. It was something I'd be doing a lot of tonight, I knew; asserting my dominance so they all understood not to mess with me. I normally wouldn't have worried about it so much, but with so many of them around and Hayley so vulnerable, I couldn't afford to be seen as submissive or weak in any way. So I looked them all in the eye, letting my dominant wolf nature show clearly in my gaze.

After exchanging a few more pleasantries with some of the guests, I slipped back inside to find Hayley engaged in conversation with a handsome werewolf man who had dark brown hair and warm eyes. Not wanting to intrude on the moment, I instead drifted into the adjoining room and started fussing with a tray of mini fruit tarts, making sure I still had a good line of sight to Hayley and her companion through the doorway.

"You're Hayley," the man was saying. "I'm Jackson. It's nice to see you again."

"You're the wolf that's been watching me," Hayley realized.

"I gotta keep my eye on you," Jackson replied with a smile. "Precious cargo and all."

"Right," Hayley said, her voice turning slightly sour. "Gotta protect the miracle baby."

"No, that's not what I meant. I don't care about the baby. Sorry," he added quickly, "that came out wrong. I mean, of course I care. You're a Labonair. A baby, it's a big deal. But personally," he added, "my interest is in you."

Hayley looked at him uncertainly. "You don't even know me."

"Our parents knew each other," Jackson replied. "They were of the same people but not the same bloodline. Now, you know how pack hierarchy works, right? Everybody has their part to play, and... we had our part too."

"What part was that?" Hayley asked.

Jackson gave a sad sort of smile. "You were supposed to be my wife," he said.

I nearly dropped the tarts I was arranging, and I could tell from the shocked silence in the next room that Hayley was no less surprised by this latest development.

"I know it's a lot to take in," Jackson said softly.

Hayley gave a shaky laugh. "You think? I just wanted to meet my family. I never imagined I'd meet my husband from some weird-ass arranged marriage."

Jackson sighed. "I guess you don't know about any of this because there was never anyone around to teach you. The Crescents aren't just any pack of wolves," he went on patiently. "The bloodline goes back to the very beginning. Two families, yours and mine. I guess that makes us kind of a royalty," he added with a wry smile.

Hayley snorted. "This is a joke, right? I mean, if you're royalty, where's the throne?"

"New Orleans used to be our town," Jackson said, "but we lost it all because of some infighting. The vampires came after us, and if our families were united we could've taken them. So our parents decided to bring the two lines back together. And you and I were betrothed."

Hayley shook her head in denial, taking several steps away. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice shaking, "but this is ridiculous."

"Look," Jackson said, stepping closer and fixing her with a pleading look, "obviously things didn't work out the way anyone thought they would. Our pack made a huge misstep with the vampires when we refused to back down, and Marcel had us cursed by a witch. You are the last one of your bloodline, Andrea. Or Hayley," he said, correcting himself, "whatever you call yourself. These people will follow you. You can help them; you and what you represent."

Hayley eyed him in open disbelief. "And what is that exactly?" she asked skeptically.

"A time when things were different," Jackson said fervently. "When our people fought back. And after everything you went through to find us..." A gentle smile crossed his face. "You're the one who's gonna break our curse."

I paused mid-motion in my snack preparation and scowled in confusion. There was absolutely nothing Hayley could do to lift the curse; what the hell was this guy talking about?

Hayley, likewise, made a sound of immense confusion. "What are you talking about?" she asked Jackson.

"Your witch friend," Jackson said in explanation, looking baffled by Hayley's lack of understanding. "She told Eve that she was coming here tonight to free us."

I dropped the plate I was holding and snatched up a kitchen knife from the counter, sprinting into the room just in time for Hayley's next question.

"Wait," she said, holding up a hand and flashing me a grateful look as I sidled up next to her and gave Jackson my best warning glare, "what witch friend?"

Jackson took a moment to glare at me in open challenge and I met his glower with an intense look of my own. He might have been bayou werewolf royalty, but I was a wolf of the Volkov bloodline, which went all the way back to Eastern Europe; I wasn't backing down.

Just as things might have come to blows, a fierce wind gusted through the room, slamming shut every single door and window.

Well, shit, I thought, then jumped as my phone went off.

"What's going on?" Jackson asked, wincing as another sharp wind cut through the room and sent several lighter pieces of decorative furniture flying across the room.

"It's a trap," Hayley snapped. "I didn't make a deal with any witch."

A quick look at my caller ID had me flipping open my phone. "Hi, Elijah," I said, my voice full of false cheer. "Now's not really the best time; can I call you back?"

"Zoe," Elijah said, his voice strained like he was in pain, "listen to me. You and Hayley were right. Celeste is back...You...and Hayley...Niklaus,'re danger."

"What?" I ducked as a lamp came soaring at my head. "Elijah, what the hell are you talking about?"

"Celeste," Elijah said again, his voice growing weaker with every word he spoke. "She...wants revenge. She'll hurt me by...hurting you. Zoe," he said, his voice turning harsh, "you must get away."

"Little late for that now," I replied. "The doors have already all been blocked."

"What? Zoe-"

"Here," I said, cutting him off, "talk to Hayley for a second, okay? I have work to do." And without another word, I tossed the phone across the room to Hayley, who caught it with a expression that was half alarm and half confusion.

"Elijah," Hayley said into the phone as I did a perimeter check of the room, double-checking to see if there were any ways out I'd missed seeing, "we can't get out. They're trapping us inside with some sort of spell." A pause. "No, Zoe's checking now." Another pause. "No, I haven't seen her. She went off with some other werewolf earlier."

"Bekah?" I asked over my shoulder as I pounded against the glass of a window to see if it would give way. But it remained strong against my blows; it had to have been reinforced with magic somehow.

"Yeah," Hayley said, coming over to join me. "Elijah said Celeste gave him a choice: save us or save Rebekah."

"Don't take this the wrong way, Elijah," I said, raising my voice so he could hear it even though Hayley still held the phone, "but your girlfriend seems like sort of a bitch."

"Well, what can I say," Elijah replied, voice unsteady even as he tried to be lighthearted. "It seems I have a type."

Hayley and I made identical sounds of indignation and exchanged a mutually exasperated look. "Men," we said in unison.

Then the room went up in flames and I barely managed to throw up a shield before it consumed us.

Jackson stared at the flames with wide eyes, looking terrified. "This wasn't supposed to happen," he said hoarsely.

"Oh, so you didn't really want us all to die horrible deaths?" I snarled. "That's so fucking comforting, thank you!"

"Zoe!" Hayley exclaimed, jumping away from the window as the curtains erupted into flames. "I saw them outside! Three witches," she said, panting for air. "Sirena was there, and two others. I thought I saw Bastiana for a second, but then she collapsed and someone took her away."

"So they're casting a spell to burn us all to death," I concluded. "That's..." I shook my head. "Fuck, what bitches."

"We need to get out of here," Hayley said, her voice rising as panic took hold. "We can't die like this, we can't let them win!"

I ignored her impending hysteria as I tried to summon a rainstorm to put out the flames. But my concentration was shot to hell, and my body was feeling the strain of being trapped in a burning room. It also didn't help that the weather was only slightly overcast outside; whipping up any sort of useful storm out of the patchy clouds would require more time and energy than I had to spare at the moment.

Jackson, showing himself to be considerate and quick-thinking, snatched the flowers out of a vase, poured the water out onto a towel and handed it to Hayley. "Here," he said, "breathe through this."

Hayley obeyed, still coughing a bit from the smell of the smoke but otherwise breathing fine, all things considered.

I, in the meantime, fixed my attention on a nondescript patch of wall slightly to the left of the window. "When I say go," I told my two companions, "you guys make a break for it, okay? Get the hell out of here."

They stared at me like I'd lost my mind.

"Zoe," Hayley said, her voice muffled by the towel, "there's no way out."

"There will be," I said grimly, and collected as much psychokinetic energy into my hands as I could. Not taking even a moment to ground myself for fear of losing the energy I'd summoned, I let it course through me in and erupt from my hands as a blast at the wall.

The energy slammed into the wall, booming like thunder and crackling like lightning as it blew out chunks of brick and plaster. It created a ragged hole just big enough for a person to fit through.

An escape.

"Go," I said, shouting over the roar of the flames. "Get out!"

"What about you?" Hayley asked, jumping back as a burning beam fell from the ceiling and blocked me off from the very exit I'd just created. "We can't leave you here!"

"Yes, you can," I said.

"But Zoe-"

"Jackson," I screamed, "get her out of here right now!"

He obeyed without hesitation, scooping up Hayley in his arms even as she flailed and argued, pounding on his shoulders and demanding that he not leave me behind. She railed and cursed at him even as he rushed through the hole in the wall and vanished into the night air.

It was really damn touching actually, that she cared so much about me getting out; it made me feel like maybe whatever animosity had been between us was gone now. But my job was to protect Hayley, not myself. That she'd made it out was the most important thing.

I fell to my knees as the backlash from the magic hit me, and I dry-heaved as my vision swam with little black spots. I gasped for air, but the smoke choked me, scorching my throat and making my lungs seize up.

Just when I thought it was all over, as the flames hissed and leapt towards me and the smoke snaked its way into my lungs and suffocated me, he appeared, crashing through one of the windows on the other side of the room.

"Elijah," I wheezed from where I lay collapsed on the floor. "You certainly know how to make an entrance."

"Zorana," was all Elijah said, but the look on his face was so intense it was all that needed saying. He swung me up into his arms and then rushed me outside to safety.

He set me down gently on the grass of the lawn and I gasped for air, taking great big heaving breaths to drive out the smoke and ash that was lingering in my lungs. I actually came dangerously close to hyperventilating and passing out, but Elijah braced me from behind and kept me grounded as I tried to regain control of myself.

"Where-" I broke off into a coughing fit and then tried again. "Where are Hayley and Jackson?"

"Over there," Elijah said, nodding to indicate two figures silhouetted against the fiery backdrop of the plantation house.

"Hell of a way to meet your husband," I mumbled, struggling to my feet.

Elijah frowned at me in confusion. "What?"

I shook my head tiredly, then pressed a hand on my stomach as a wave of nausea rolled through me. "I'll explain later."

Elijah pursed his lips like he wanted to debate the issue further, then relented. "As you wish, " he said softly.

I smiled at him weakly, taking note of how handsome he looked even covered in soot and sweat. "Thanks for coming to save me," I said.

Elijah's expression softened. "I will always come for you."

My heart pounded in my chest, unsure of how to take that particular declaration, and I was actually half a second away from demanding some clarification of intent, when a piercing scream cut through the night air.

Whirling around, we darted towards the sound. We arrived just in time to see Patrick Evans knock Jackson unconscious with a swift punch to the jaw and sling Hayley over his shoulder, flashing us an evil taunting grin as he did so.

Sirena was standing not far away, hands planted on her hips as her eyes glowed with an unholy sheen in the light from the fire. "Looks like this round goes to us after all, Storme." She thrust a hand out, shouted an incantation, and then disappeared along with Patrick and Hayley in a brilliant flash of silver light.

I had only one thing to say about this latest development.

"I fucking hate parties."

Chapter Text

"Kiss me in the rain

Love me in the dark

Hold me till the end

And never break my Heart."

We returned to the Abattoir just long enough for me and Elijah to fill in the others and what had happened and to get changed into clothing that didn't reek of smoke and fire and then we were off again.

Klaus was furious over Hayley's abduction, but didn't seem to hold me responsible for not keeping her safe, which was both puzzling and a relief.

"It's not your fault," he had said to me just before I left with Elijah. "You did your best."

"My best obviously wasn't good enough," I had said in response. "So now I'm going to go do my worst."

Klaus had looked at me intently before releasing me. "Be careful," was all he'd said after that, and then he'd retreated upstairs to check on Camille and her uncle, who had apparently just been set free from a murderous hex thanks to my brother.

My brother, bless him, had only wrapped me in a bone-cracking hug before making me promise to not do anything excessively stupid on my quest to save Hayley. He also made me promise to keep an eye out for Rebekah, who had also vanished during the plantation fire. I agreed easily to the second and somewhat reluctantly to the first, because I knew in my heart that if saving Hayley required me doing something idiotic I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Hayley was, I'd realized, my friend. And what kind of friend would I be if I didn't do everything I could to bring her home?

So I jumped into my latest borrowed car, a delightful Chevy Camaro that had a nice throaty engine, and tore down the road with Elijah in the shotgun seat. Hayley had still had my phone with her when she'd been taken, so we were using my GPS tracking program to pinpoint her location. Currently, Hayley and the people who had taken her were on the move, although where they were going...that I couldn't fathom. There wasn't much of anything in the direction they were heading towards, just empty fields and abandoned properties.

Then again, if you needed a place to stash a hostage, maybe an abandoned barn or something would be just the place.

We were just beginning to get close to the cell phone signal when suddenly the program freaked out, flashing pings all across the immediate area before popping up a system failure alert. Signal interference, the alert informed us. Unable to pinpoint exact coordinates. It instead gave us a search zone, with absolutely nothing else to go on other than the last few pings, which had been centered in between a few derelict buildings that looked like collapsing barns from an aerial satellite view.

"Oh," I said in annoyance, "that's just great. Fantastic. They finally stop moving and we can't track them right to their hideout. No, that would be too simple," I said angrily. Then the phone I'd borrowed from my twin went off and I answered it with a snarl. "What the fuck now?" I demanded.

"Why, Zorana," the silky smooth voice from my nightmares said, "is that any way to speak to your beloved uncle?"

My blood went ice cold as I slammed on the brakes and wrenched the steering wheel around so hard it was a miracle I didn't flip the car and land us in a roadside ditch.

Elijah had braced both hands against the dash and was giving me a faintly alarmed look.

I was too busy trying to remember how to breathe to worry about how Elijah was looking at me. My heart was pounding far too hard and fast in my chest and it felt an awful lot like my lungs weren't taking in any air at all. My vision started to go white and frizzy at the edges and my hands were shaking so badly that I nearly dropped the phone.

Then my uncle spoke again and I did drop the phone, as if it were a hot coal and I'd just been burned.

"Zorana," my uncle said, his voice genial, "are you still there, dear niece?"

I made a choking sound that sounded more like a croaking toad than anything, not able to get my voice to work right. Fuck off, is what I wanted to tell him, but the fear that was holding my body hostage wouldn't let me do much more than sit there and shake.

"I thought this was your brother's number," my uncle was saying, carrying on without missing a beat, "but I must say, I'm much more pleased to have reached you. How are you enjoying New Orleans, my dear? Is everything living up to your expectations?"

"Mmraaghh," I managed to gurgle out, and then resumed trying to suck in enough air to form a coherent sentence that didn't sound like Dwarvish.

Elijah, to his credit, hadn't said anything at all, either to my uncle or myself, and had instead stepped out of the car to place an emergency call back to the Abattoir to inform them of this newest development.

"I was thinking of coming to town for a visit," my uncle went on. "It's been so long since I've seen you and your brother, after all."

"Yeah," I croaked. "About sixteen years." The last time Ezra and I had seen Reginald had been when he'd cursed us with immortality at age twenty-two. Before that we hadn't seen him since the deaths of our parents over a decade previously, and we'd gone to great pains to never be within a hundred miles of him ever since.

"You see?" Reginald said. "Far too long for family to be apart."

I made a sound of disagreement, my voice coming back to me just a bit. "On the contrary," I said shakily, "not long enough, all things considered."

My uncle laughed, as if he found me the most amusing person in the world. "Ah, Zorana, how precious you are. Well, I've decided. I'll be coming to New Orleans as soon as my business affairs permit. I look forward," he added, his voice taking on a darker note, "to catching up with you and your brother very, very soon." And then the line went dead as he disconnected the call.

I stared at the phone in horror. God help us, I thought in despair. He's coming.


I startled so badly I nearly hit the ceiling. Literally, I almost smacked into the roof of the car.

"I contacted the others," Elijah said, sliding into the car slowly as if he were worried about me bolting away. "Ezra says you should return to the compound immediately. Klaus agrees," he added. "They don't want you out here if there's any chance of your uncle making an appearance."

When I opened my mouth and spoke, I was surprised to hear my voice come out sounding normal. "No," I said, "we need to find Patrick and Sirena. They took Hayley and probably Rebekah. I intend to end Patrick once and for all," I added darkly, "and Sirena too if I get my way."

"If you're sure," Elijah said uncertainly. "I do agree that we must hurry and rescue Hayley, but..."

I winced before I could stop myself; still, even now, he was more worried about Hayley than anything. I tried not to be bitter. "Then why are we still talking about this?" I asked. "Buckle your damn seat belt and let's go."

Elijah hesitated, then obeyed, pulling his door shut and fastening his seatbelt with a click.

I revved the engine and then we were off again, heading for the first building on the horizon.

It, of course, turning out to be empty. Well, not entirely empty. It had a few zombies inside.

Yes, I do mean zombies. Really. Unlike the revenant Patrick, these were more like the traditional undead, with their flesh rotting and peeling from their bones as their bones creaked and clicked as they twisted around in alarmingly fast shambling movements.

At first there only seemed to be a few of them, but more spilled out of the barn even as we tore the first ones into foul-smelling pieces.

"What is this," I griped as I twisted a zombie's head off its shoulders, "an episode of The Walking Dead?"

Elijah gave a faint snort of laughter but didn't say anything in response, instead focusing on using his vampire speed to eliminate the remaining zombies.

Then we piled ourselves back into the car, drove to the next closest building, and repeated the process.

We did this three more times, driving to an abandoned building and searching it for Hayley only to find flesh-hungry undead creatures inside.

By the time we finished with the latest round, I was feeling pretty pissed off at just about everything. The zombies, my uncle, my life. I was sweating and sore and no closer to anything resembling personal satisfaction at my place in the universe. The only upside so far today was the fact that a rainstorm had moved in and was washing away the putrid zombie blood that had splattered on my skin and soaked into my clothes.

Elijah, intense and focused as always, seemed entirely oblivious to my rapidly souring mood. He grabbed my hand and pulled me back towards the car, not even seeming to notice the rain puddles he splashed across. "Come," he said brusquely, "let's be off and check the next location."

"Can't we at least take a breather first?" I asked irritably, brushing my damp hair out my face with my free hand.

"Don't be ridiculous," was his answer.

"Ridiculous?" I echoed disbelievingly. "Ridiculous?"

"Yes. We need to get to Hayley," Elijah said insistently, pulling me along. "She's been captured by two utter psychopaths. There's no telling what they'll do to her."

Okay, it was a fair point. But even so, I was abruptly a hundred and ten percent done with the all of it.

"I am so sick of this," I snarled at him, going from exhausted to furious in less than a heartbeat. "Why is Hayley always your first priority? Is she honestly the only person you think about?" I demanded. "For the love of God, you've prioritized her above your own brother and sister! And here we are again, risking our lives and sanity because you like the pregnant werewolf's ass!"

Elijah opened his mouth to protest but I talked right over him, my jealous fury and angry fear riding me hard and not letting go.

"And here I am again," I continued angrily, "trying to help you save that ungrateful needy bitch. Because you asked me to, and I apparently don't have the good sense to get the hell out of town to save myself and my brother. Do you get that, Elijah? Because my uncle is coming here to rip me and my brother to pieces and I am staying here because of you. Because I am too fucking in love with you to leave. And the worst part? You don't even fucking see me. All you see is Hayley." I swallowed hard, chest heaving. There were tears sliding down my cheeks but I could pretend that they were raindrops. "So you know what? I'm done. I'm done with your crazy-ass family and this stupid insane city. I'm over all of it, so you can just go fuck yourself."

Elijah stared at me like he was seeing me for the first time. "What did you just say?"

I glared at him, pushing my hair out of my face even as the rain continued to pour down on us. "I said go fuck yourself," I snapped.

"No," he said, crossing the distance between us and putting his hands on my upper arms in a grip that was tight but not unpleasant. "Before that." He lifted one hand to touch my cheek hesitantly. "Zoe..."

I pulled away, heart aching. "It doesn't matter," I said. "Forget I said anything." I turned away and headed for the car. "Come on, we need to hurry and get to Hayley. She's in danger, right?" I reached for the handle of the driver's door, but before I could pull it open more than an inch or two, Elijah was there, grabbing my wrist and pulling me away.

I whirled on him angrily. "What are you doing?" I demanded, then went silent in shock as he shifted position and pushed me up against the car, hands pressing into me with a gentle strength that pinned me without making me feel trapped. My shock deepened further when his hands went to my waist and caressed me through the wet fabric of my shirt. The sensation of his touch through the damp cloth made me shiver and I licked my nips nervously. "Elijah," I said uncertainly. "What..."

He dipped his head down and pressed his lips to mine in answer to my unfinished question, and all rational thought fled my brain at that instant, as his fingers traced invisible patterns along my hips and stomach and filled me with a heat that was both familiar and foreign. His lips were soft and gentle, and I couldn't help but reach up one hand to press against the sinfully attractive muscles of his chest.

The kiss deepened, turning from something unsure and chaste to something more as his tongue caressed my lips and then delved deeper. I let out a soft little moan despite myself and his hands on my waist tightened almost imperceptibly at the sound, pulling me closer to him. I was a little embarrassed at my reaction, but was too preoccupied to think much of it. I was more focused on things like Elijah and how good it felt to have my body pressed up against his. Without stopping to second guess myself, I wrapped my arms around his neck and wound my fingers in his hair, almost plastering myself to him in my need to be even closer. I could feel the heat from his body as I pressed closer, and hear the strong rhythm of his heart. Normally strong and steady, his heart-rate was faster now, and that simple fact pleased me more than words can explain.

I could have stood there forever, reveling in the feel of his hands on my body and savoring the taste of his lips and tongue, but eventually I needed to breathe so I pulled away. Once my lips were unglued form his, I looked at him hopefully but not without wariness. "What was that all about?"

"I should think it would be obvious," Elijah replied, his tone teasing as he lifted one hand to trace my jawline with a featherlight touch.

I leaned into the touch before I could stop myself, then scowled. "But you love Hayley," I argued, loosening my hold on his neck. I repeated it again to remind myself why this was a bad idea that could go nowhere. "You love Hayley."

Elijah hesitated before answering. "I care for her," he admitted at last. "Very much. But this, with you...I had similar feelings around Hayley once, but...never so strongly. Never like this."

"How does it feel?" I asked, my voice just above a whisper. "Tell me." I needed to know, because his answer was so important. Did he feel what I felt? This connection, this need? Because if so...If so...

It would change everything. I knew that my feelings for him were deep, an unrelenting aspect of my emotions. I had been forced to come to terms with that despite the fact I'd been dead certain he would never reciprocate my affections. But now...if there was even a small chance that he felt even a fraction of this, too...

"Like I'm a drowning man and you're the air I need to survive," Elijah murmured, pressing his forehead against mine and closing his eyes like he was struggling to understand. "Like someone ripped out my heart and put it somewhere outside of my control." He opened his eyes and a mischievous smile flickered across his lips. "Like I want to kiss you forever and never stop."

Well. That last bit was definitely something I could get behind. "So what are you waiting for?" I challenged, leaning back in a way that made it extremely obvious that I was wearing only a soaking wet t-shirt and a thin bra.

Elijah captured my lips in a sizzling kiss without another word, his hands running up and down my back in teasing touches that left me craving more. I, likewise, couldn't seem to stop myself from dancing my fingers along and across his chest, flicking at the buttons of his dress shirt in playful annoyance since they were keeping me from real skin to skin contact. Elijah broke away to bury his face against my hair, his breathing ragged and uneven. "You're going to be the death of me," he muttered.

"Technically," I felt obligated to point out, "you're already dead." A wicked smile curved my lips. "Maybe I can send you to heaven," I said suggestively.

He gave a low moan and gave me a look that was half plaintive and half hungry. "Zoe..."

I pulled away just enough to snag the handle of the car door. "Come on, Elijah. There's a perfectly comfortable backseat just waiting to be taken advantage of." I brushed the pad of my thumb across his lips and pressed a gentle teasing kiss against the side of his neck, licking his skin afterward in a way that made him shudder in pleasure and pull me flush against his body.

"Zoe," he said again, and this time there was no mistaking the need in his voice.

We were two of a kind in that department, at least; the hunger I felt for him seemed to go on endlessly. I couldn't imagine myself ever getting enough of touching him, kissing him. Even just inhaling his clean crisp scent was enough to make me feel like I was in paradise.

That being said, his scent was not going to be enough to quell the heat that was rising within me, and judging from the look on Elijah's face..well, he obviously wanted more than foreplay, too. I distantly wondered what had changed, how we had gone from absolutely nothing to this powerful heat between us, but I was too hungry for this touch and care to wonder too deeply. Some part of me knew that this could all be false, and that part of me also couldn't be bothered to care. I had wanted this, wanted him, for too long to do anything else.

So I opened the car door and climbed inside, pulling Elijah in after me.

Chapter Text

Chapter 67

"Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal."

I was in the middle of unbuttoning Elijah's fancy dress shirt when my borrowed cellphone interrupted us, blaring out the chorus of Dani California into the steamy confines of the Camaro's backseat.

I jolted up in surprise, concussed myself on the ceiling of the car for the second time in less than two hours, and snarled out every curse and vile oath I could think of as I scrambled to find the phone and answer the call.

I flipped the phone open a little more roughly than was necessary and practically shouted into the mouthpiece. "What?!"

"Temper, temper," Klaus said in answer, sounding both shocked and amused at my furious greeting. "What's got your fur so tangled up?"

I snorted before I could stop myself; hearing Klaus use a werewolf saying that my brother and I had taught him in passing was just amusing enough to lessen my wrath a little. But only a little. "You're sort of...interrupting something," I replied, exchanging a slightly guilty look with Elijah. We were supposed to be still looking for Hayley, but we'd gotten...sidetracked.

Very sidetracked, I realized, noticing that somewhere along the way my shirt had come off and I was just in my bra and jeans, with my hair a tousled mess and my skin feeling oddly feverish. Elijah looked to be in much the same condition; his hair was sticking out in odd directions from where I'd run my fingers through it and his pale cheeks were flushed; where his suit jacket had ended up, I had no idea.

"Your voice sounds strange," Klaus noted. "Is everything alright?"

"Uh..." I struggled to think of something to say that wasn't Totally great, I was making out with your older brother. "Yeah," I said at last, my answer sounding lame even to me. "Fine."

A moment of silence as Klaus seemed to think that over, and then a crackle of static as he gave a slight sigh; his lack of a reply made it clear that he didn't buy my answer and was giving me a chance to say something more.

But I offered nothing else. "Did you need something?" I asked instead, reaching for my rain-soaked t-shirt and shrugging back into it, trying to not make a face at the chilly dampness as it clung to my skin.

"Not exactly," he said. "I just wanted to inform you of a new development."

"Oh, hell's bells," I exclaimed, finally shifting off of Elijah's lap completely and crawling back up front to the driver's seat. "What now?"

"I've just received a ransom call from a witch calling herself Genevieve," he answered. "She claims to be working with Bastiana and Sirena; she says that she has Rebekah in her custody, and is willing to return her to us if I go to meet with her."

"You realize it's a trap, right?" I said, right as Elijah said "Niklaus, you had better not do anything foolish."

A snort as Klaus absorbed our words. "Look at the two of you, united in your concern for me. It's heartwarming, truly."

"You're such an asshole," I grumbled, even as Elijah just gave that knowing little smile. "Seriously, though," I went on, "you do know it's a trap? Don't you?"

Klaus made a dismissive sound as if he didn't care one way or the other. "I don't doubt that the witches have Rebekah," he said. "I don't know what they wish to accomplish by summoning me to a meeting, but if there's any chance of gaining Rebekah's freedom by going...well, I don't have much of a choice, do I?"

Elijah, in the middle of clambering back into the shotgun seat, gave a little start, looking surprised at his brother's words.

I elbowed him in the side and gave him a chiding look; even as volatile as Klaus could be, did Elijah really think that Klaus wouldn't drop absolutely everything else he was doing to help his sister? If so, he didn't know his little brother well at all. "Take Ezra with you at least?" I said into the phone, not bothering to disguise the worry in my voice.

"Can't," was Klaus's immediate response.

"Why not?" Elijah asked calmly as I just growled incoherently, frustrated beyond words with the idea of Klaus walking straight into a trap with no back-up.

"Because he needs to stay at the compound," Klaus replied reasonably. "I don't want Camille left alone here, and Kieran is still recovering from the hex. I wonder if the reversal has hit Bastiana yet," he added thoughtfully. "If so, it would explain the coven's sudden aggression."

"Who the fuck cares about Bastiana?" I asked, irritated. "If the hex backfired properly, she should go insane and die soon; within a couple days at the most. I'm more worried about all the other witches who want you dead, Klaus. Like this Genevieve chick? Who the hell is she?"

"No idea," Klaus replied, his voice full of false brightness. "Good thing I'll have a chance at a proper introduction soon, eh?"

"For the love of God..." I rubbed my face tiredly. "Please, please don't do anything stupid, Klaus. If they take you out we're all screwed."

"Relax, Zoe," he said. "There's nothing the witches have that can harm me. I'll go meet with this Genevieve woman, retrieve Rebekah, and then return to the compound. Simple."

"I've learned that things rarely go so simply," Elijah remarked. "Niklaus, perhaps it would be better if you wait to meet this witch until Zoe and I return. Then one of us can accompany you to-"

"Don't be ridiculous, Elijah," Klaus said, cutting his brother off. "I can handle a silly little witch on my own. I hardly need my big brother there to hold my hand."

Elijah clenched his jaw, looking frustrated. "Niklaus-"

"Find Hayley," Klaus said flatly. "She's in much more danger than I am. Please," he added hesitantly, "find her for me. She's carrying my child, and if anything happens to her or the baby..."

I swallowed hard, the obvious sincerity in his voice making a lump form in my throat. "We'll find her," I told him, now very definitely feeling guilty for delaying Hayley's rescue with my little make-out session with Elijah. "I promise, Klaus. If I have to tear through the entire coven to get her out, I will."

"We will," Elijah corrected, smiling faintly at me before directing his words to the phone again. "We'll find her for you, brother. I swear."

"...Thank you," Klaus replied after a moment of tense silence. "Brother."

And then the call disconnected, Klaus hanging up on us as he presumably resumed preparations for going to confront this Genevieve person.

"What a night this is shaping up to be," Elijah murmured.

"Blame it on the full moon," I grumbled, turning the keys in the ignition and shifting gears to pull out of the dirt plot we'd been parked in. "I do."

"Because you're a werewolf?" he asked curiously.

"No," I replied, "because it makes all people fucking crazy."

Genevieve chuckled darkly as she looked down at Rebekah's unconscious form. "Oh, Rebekah," she said, her voice soft and deadly. "I'm going to enjoy this. So much."

"Don't destroy her right away," Celeste said warningly. "We need her alive, or else we lose our bait for Klaus."

Genevieve scoffed. "Please. I could chop her into little bloody pieces and he would have no way of knowing it, much less stopping me."

"We cannot be sure of that," Celeste said sternly. "We must not underestimate the Mikaelsons, not this time. Just look at what they've done to Bastiana!" She swept an arm towards another bed pushed up against the far wall.

Almost against her will, Genevieve obeyed, looking over to their coven-sister.

Bastiana, one of witches who had been revived using the magic from the Harvest she herself had begun before being killed by Marcel and his vampires, had been in good health and fairly good spirits only hours before. She had reported back that she'd successfully laid a destructive hex upon the priest Kieran and that if all went well he would be dead and out of their way by the next day.

All had not gone well.

Somehow, the Mikaelsons had found a way to not only break the curse upon Kieran but to cause it to rebound upon Bastiana. At first, the witch had thought it simply exhaustion at first; she had just come back from the dead after all, and had been casting powerful spells right and left since returning to the land of living.

But then she'd begun behaving erratically. Forgetting things, and then lashing out, saying vile things and attacking her own allies in a way that had seemed almost manic.

After thwarting an attempt Bastiana had made at gutting the Shadow witch Sirena and slitting Celeste's throat, they'd had to shoot her up with a heavy-duty tranquilizer and strap her down to the bed they'd carried her to.

It hadn't taken them long, once they had her tied down and quiet, to work out what had happened. They didn't know how it had happened, exactly, but the end result was obvious: Bastiana had been whammied with her own hex. Celeste had theorized that the Mikaelsons had used their allies the Stormes to somehow reflect back the curse, but Sirena had dismissed the idea, saying that neither twin was that good.

Genevieve wasn't sure what to think.

On one hand, it was ridiculous to think that some person who was only half witch could possess enough skill to counter one of Bastiana's spells; Bastiana had been powerful, an Elder of the New Orleans coven. For either Storme sibling to possess enough magic to break the spell, when their power was diluted by their werewolf was ludicrous. Preposterous, even.

On the other hand...Zoe and Ezra Storme had survived this long, presumably from more than just luck; they had to have more than a little natural talent for magic, in spite of their werewolf blood. They were also, if Genevieve wasn't mistaken, descended from one of the most powerful witch bloodlines in the world. Which meant that they were almost certainly related to Reginald Storme, a practitioner so strong and fearsome that even his own allies lived in fear of him.

Genevie kept these thought to herself, however; Celeste was preoccupied with arranging ways to utterly ruin Elijah and Sirena was so intent upon the twins that she resembled a terribly focused rabid hyena. And then there was that strange Bernard fellow Sirena had brought along with her. Covered in intricate tattoos, he'd followed after Sirena in a way that reminded Genevieve of a lovesick puppy, hanging onto the blonde woman's every word as if she were the center of his twisted world.

Sirena had taken Bernard with her when she'd left earlier, on her way to meet up with some undead freakshow named Patrick. Genevieve hadn't personally met Patrick yet, and was rather glad of it. She was willing to partake of dark energy and use black magics, but something about a true zombie disgusted her. It was ironic, really, especially considering her own recent revival, but no matter how rationally she approached the subject, she couldn't stop the nausea in her stomach when she thought of a true revenant being loose on the streets of New Orleans.

Swallowing hard and shoving down her doubts, she turned back to Celeste. "Don't worry," she said, surprised by how steady her voice sounded. "I know what I'm doing."

The Mikaelsons needed to be taught their place. To be shown that they weren't as invincible as they'd thought. To be punished.

"I'm going to enjoy this," she said again, a nasty smile slowly spreading across her face again as she glanced back down at Rebekah. "You should never have crossed me, Bekah."