Author's Note: Happy Tuesday! This story has been my brainchild for the past 3 months, and after a long time of trying to sort out the plot, this is the end product. It takes place a few years in the future from the current canon of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, all plot points will slowly be explained.

A massive thank you to Jackie and Mal for reading this first! I hope you all enjoy this.

Disclaimer: God, if only.

Feel it comin' in the air
Hear the screams from everywhere
I'm addicted to the thrill
It's a dangerous love affair

MARCH 2014

'Keep running, keep running. Don't look back.'

Caroline sprinted through the woods, kicking up a small storm in her wake. Faster and faster and faster still, the world around her was a green blur but she didn't care, she pushed her body to the limits of her abilities, and still, it wasn't fast enough. She needed to run, she needed to leave everything behind, she couldn't look back, she could never, ever go back…

With a sharp gasp she skidded to a halt, the memories of the past hour slamming down on her in harsh detail. She stumbled and leaned against a tree for support, gulping down heavy breaths but it wasn't enough, she felt like she was suffocating. With a choked sob, she sank to the ground, bringing up a hand to cover her mouth –

Blood, blood, think of all that blood…

Caroline gagged and keeled over, coughing and sputtering. How had she forgotten her hands were still covered in blood? Horrified, she finally took the time to look herself over, her hands were stained red (forever, most likely) her clothes were covered in the evidence of the terror she had been responsible for. Her heart thrummed against her chest, the panic was overwhelming…

'I can't go back, I can't go back…'

This was the end then, this was where the story of Caroline Forbes screeched to a halt. No more pretty little blonde cheerleader, no more Vampire Barbie, no more of that life she had worked so hard to hold onto. This was where it ended.

The bark of the three scraped against the thin fabric of her shirt as she stretched her legs out in front of her, soft hiccups still rocking her chest. Her hands shook as her fingers sought out the gaudy ring on her left hand. So much power in one little object, so much power to grant and take the life of a vampire…

The sharp snap of a twig disturbed the heavy silence and Caroline whipped her head up. Her heart stopped. Of all the people who could've found her, all the people she had ever expected, he was so far down on that list.

"No. No, no this isn't possible – you're not –" The shock paralyzed her as she stared up at the intruder, who simply sauntered closer with a dark smirk before crouching down in front of her. He raked his narrowed eyes critically over her bloodstained body and he grinned to see the fear and confusion in her eyes.

"Relax, darling. Why don't you tell me what's wrong?"

Caroline stuttered, shaking her head and pressing back against the tree, scrambling to her feet. The man in front of her rose to meet her and in the cold blue hues of early dawn she could see the sharp angle of his features, a face she never thought she'd see again.

He broke the silence with a roll of his eyes and a low chuckle. "Go on darling, ask the question. I can tell you're dying to know."

Caroline found her voice then and gulped down her fear. Whatever death she might face, if it had to be at his hands she was damn well going to hold her head high. But he was right – she was stunned by this turn of events.

"Fine," she said, her voice quiet, but surprisingly steady. "I'll ask it – Kol, how are you alive?"

MARCH 2015

The sun was setting over Bourbon Street, the long rays disappearing over the edge of the old brick buildings, glinting off the skyscrapers in the distance. Slowly the noise rose, the vampires of the Quarter trickled out into the streets, whistling and laughing, the older ones leading the young. Together they drank and reveled, the scent of blood and bourbon wafting through the warm Louisiana air. Music floated out of the bars, and as the sun finally died the night began properly. Though, for all the appearance of it being a normal night in the French Quarter, not all were at liberty to relax.

Striding down the streets away from heart of his kingdom, Klaus Mikaelson allowed himself to enjoy his accomplishments. The city he could proudly call his kingdom was thriving, he had a home, and for the first time in a long time, he had his family by his side, no matter how much it had taken for all of them to come to the tentative truce. Of course, the events that led to the truce – well, they were better left not dwelt upon.

"I do worry when you're quiet, Niklaus."

Klaus rolled his eyes with a smirk as his older brother fell into step next to him, seemingly appearing out of the shadows. "Simply thinking on my victories," said Klaus smugly, not missing the exasperated sigh Elijah gave.

"Humility never did suit you," said Elijah shaking his head. "But where are you going tonight?"

"Lafayette Cemetery, Marcel had something I needed to see, apparently." Klaus was stopped in his tracks by Elijah's hand on his shoulder, he turned to see his brother looking suspicious.

"You as well? He sent me a similar message." Elijah had never cared much for 'ruling' New Orleans, but standing by his brother's side meant he was constantly on the lookout for anything that might threaten the hold the Original family had on the city.

Klaus waved off his brother's paranoia, knowing how every little thing was enough to make him think the sky was going to fall on their heads. "Relax brother, what harm could Marcel possibly do?"

"Need I remind you that he had complete control over this city before it was ours?"

Klaus growled lowly, "Elijah, what can Marcel do? We've spent two years bringing this town under our feet, and we hold the reins of power. Marcel is a figurehead; you know that as well as I do."

"And does he know that? Do you seriously think he is content to do nothing but smile while we pull all the strings?"

"He is content, because he has no choice otherwise," said Klaus with a dark smile, spinning on his heel as he strode off. Elijah sighed and caught up, and the two brothers stayed in silence as they wound through the dark streets of the Garden district, rounding the corner and finding the old iron gate to Lafayette Cemetery left open. Underneath the arch, two girls turned to face them, and Klaus frowned to see Rebekah and the wolf girl waiting.

"What are you two doing here?" he asked tersely, "is there something wrong in the bayou?" He looked at Hayley expectantly, and the girl rolled her eyes insolently.

"Does something always have to be wrong?" she asked.

"I positioned you as an ambassador to the werewolves in the bayou so that you might successfully keep me informed, so yes, when you show up, I expect things to be wrong."

The girl rolled her eyes again, and was about to respond before Rebekah cut her off. "Sod off Nik, there's no need to get testy. Why are you two here anyway?"

"We're meeting Marcel, if you must know. Why are you here?"

"To meet Marcel," replied Rebekah, "wait, he called you too? What's this about?"

"He said there was something here we needed to see, did he explain this to you?" Elijah was on high alert now, subtly listening for an ambush or an attack.

"He didn't say a word," said Rebekah with a frown, but their confusion was interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. All four tensed and Klaus took a step into the street, Rebekah and Elijah flanking him. As they watched the corner, Marcel rounded it, an easy smile on his face as he quickly strode towards them. Davina was by his side, and Klaus was surprised to her see her here, the young witch rarely strayed too far from the Quarter where she was safe. Now she hugged her arms, the thin cotton of her dress not doing too much against the chill that had settled in the air, and she shot an apprehensive glance at Klaus.

"Why am I here?" she hissed at Marcel, who simply smiled and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, as they stood in front of the Originals.

"What's wrong love, not happy to see us?" asked Klaus sardonically.

"Honestly? No," snapped Davina, lightening up somewhat as she saw Rebekah next to her brother. "Rebekah, do you know why we're here?"

"Not a clue," she said with a shrug, easing her defensive stance. "Marcel, what the bloody hell is this about?"

Marcel didn't explain himself, simply walking past the group and into the cemetery. "You need to follow me," he said as he stood under the iron gates, "there's something you all have to see." His voice was persistent but he made no move to elaborate.

Klaus sent a glance to his brother, their thoughts hanging in the air. Something was definitely happening. And while Klaus was not a fan of walking into traps, the fact remained that he and his siblings could not be killed, so he strode forward, intent on finding out what Marcel was going on about.

"Let's not stand around shall we?" he said jovially and waved them all forward. There was complete silence throughout the cemetery, and no one said a word. Marcel led the way, Davina close by his side, Klaus followed closely keeping an eye on his former protégé, while Elijah and Rebekah brought up the rear, the former keeping his eyes and ears out for any sign of an ambush. They wound through the small labyrinth of mausoleums and graves, finally coming to a stop in front of a large tomb. Marcel reached into his pocket and pulled out an intricate black key, which he used to open the marble door. It swung with a creak and Marcel stepped inside.

The others cast confused looks at each other but the loud scrape of stone brought their attention to the inside of the tomb, where Marcel was moving a giant slab of marble to reveal a stone staircase leading underground. He smiled to himself and looked up at the others, "We have to go down here."

"The hell we do," muttered Hayley, but he ignored her and looked at the Original Family.

"It's really, really important," he implored, and then started down the steps. Davina stuttered, caught between wanting to follow him and her apprehension, but the thought of being stuck up there with Klaus finally tipped the scales and she started down after Marcel. Klaus followed her quickly, ignoring Elijah's protests and within a second he was at the bottom of the stone staircase, which led quite deep underground, finally ending at the mouth of a cavern.

Marcel held a lighter and was walking around the walls, lighting the old torches until the entire space was flooded with light, illuminating the dusty wooden coffins on the ground. Davina and Klaus stood watching Marcel, but he still offered no explanation, simply waiting while the remaining three came down into the cavern, Rebekah with a grimace.

"What the bloody hell is this place?" she asked distastefully, swiping at a cobweb.

"This tomb belonged to the La Bouff family way back in the 19th century," explained Marcel. "Thing is, big ol' Charles La Bouff had a little too much fun with some girls who were definitely not his wife. But he was sentimental and had this place built underground for his illegitimate children. It was the family's greatest secret."

"That's a lovely history lesson, what does it have to do with us?" asked Elijah testily, having had far more than enough of whatever game Marcel was playing. Marcel was perfectly calm though, too calm. If he was indeed planning an attack, he would've betrayed himself somehow, Elijah was sure of it.

"You had to be brought here. It was very important that you were all here so that everything goes according to plan."

The words spurred everyone into action, in a flash Klaus had Marcel pinned up against a wall, his eyes flashing golden and fangs bared. "What game is this?!" he roared. "If this is some ploy to gain power you must be mad to think it'll work!"

"Are you in on this?" asked Rebekah, staring Davina down, her gaze sharp as steel. "After everything I've done to help you over the past two years, this is how you take my family's power?"

"No!" yelled the young witch, looking between Marcel and Rebekah, her fist clenching as she itched to fling Klaus far away from him. "I have no idea what he's doing, I don't know what's going on!"

Klaus growled again, a low and dangerous sound that set everyone's nerves on edge as they tensed for a fight that could arrive at any moment. "I'll ask you again," said Klaus in a low whisper. "What. Are. You. Doing?"

"It's not his fault."

The penny dropped, and the voice might as well have been a bomb. The tone was so soft and even that for one short moment Klaus thought he must have misheard, because there was no chance, not in the slightest that she would be here, that she would be involved, it was a complete impossibility-

"You can let go of him, Klaus. He doesn't know what he's doing."

Klaus sucked in a breath, his hand dropping from Marcel's throat. He quelled his shaking hands and masked the million emotions he was sure were playing out on his face and with a deep breath he turned to face the entrance to the cavern.

Standing at the bottom of the staircase, hands clasped neatly in front of her, was Caroline Forbes.

"Who the hell are you?" demanded Davina, turning between the Original siblings and Hayley who were staring at Caroline with a mixture of confusion, distaste and complete shock, and Marcel who simply stood against the wall, unmoving.

"Right, sorry, I'm Caroline!" Caroline gave a small half-wave to the witch. "I'm an old friend – we go way back," she added with a sly smile.

The air was too hot, the walls were too close and Klaus felt the seconds stretch on endlessly. A million scenarios flashed through his mind as to why she was here, she had no business -

(Didn't she? Did he dare hope, for the first time in years that one day had arrived?)

"Caroline – " he said, calling her attention to him, but as he bored his gaze into her, she wouldn't meet his eyes. She was very, very nervous about something. He took a step forward and she straightened ever so slightly, still avoiding his gaze, but he was the King of this city and no threats could be made against him, not after everything he had gone through to get it.

"Caroline," he called again, a clear command for her attention. "What is going on here?"

He could see the muscles working in her throat as she gulped down a breath, her jaw tightened, and he clenched his own hands, feeling his nails dig into his palms as he did everything in his power to dispel the thought of him running his lips along the smooth column of her neck, and peppering kisses along that jawline. But those were dangerous thoughts for another time, and so he brought himself back to the present where the shock of seeing an old face was wearing off everybody else.

"What the hell is this?" screeched Rebekah, coming forward to stand by her brother's side. "What could you possibly have to do here, and what in God's name is wrong with Marcel?"

"You're working with her?" Davina asked Marcel, clearly hurt that she had been kept out of this little loop. Instead of answering her though, Marcel simply smiled.

"You had to be brought down here. It was very important."

"What are you talking about?"

"He doesn't know what he's doing," interjected Caroline, taking a deep breath as the attention was focused on her once more. She stared them all down, one by one, before finally speaking again. "He's been compelled."

"That's impossible," Davina spat back immediately.

"Vampires can't be compelled, except by an Original," said Elijah with narrowed eyes. "And I can assure you neither I nor my siblings have a hand in this, so I fail to see your reasoning."

"I spelled him myself," said Davina with a smug smile. "I placed a spell so that he would be protected from the Original family."

"Well – no you didn't," said Caroline, with a small, Mona Lisa smile.

"What the hell do mean-"

"You spelled him against Klaus," Caroline said, glancing at the hybrid again but quickly averting her eyes at the intensity of his gaze, "and against Rebekah and Elijah – but that was it, wasn't it? You didn't spell him against the entire Original family."

"You didn't spell him against me."

Time slowed. Klaus stood rooted to his spot, going over in his mind the hundreds of different scenarios he had immediately conjured to mind when he laid eyes on Caroline, a hundred different ways to explain why she was here and what she wanted. But as footsteps reverberated off stone and a second intruder came down the staircase, Klaus realized that for the first time in a thousand years, he had been completely mistaken. Nothing could have prepared him for this. Nothing could have caused him to properly predict the appearance of the man who now stepped into the cavern, and took his place by Caroline side.

Nothing could have prepared him for the sight of his younger brother.

"Oh my god, Kol!"

"Brother?! But – how-"

The light from the torches slanted across Kol's features, his brother's lips twisted into a familiar smirk as he stared down his family, obviously delighting in their confusion. He offered no explanation to Rebekah or Elijah, instead locking eyes with Klaus, who stood closest. "Long time brother," said Kol, his words heavy with amusement.

Klaus narrowed his eyes and looked between Kol and Caroline immediately on edge from the way they stood side by side. Granted, nothing about their stance indicated that they were together, but Klaus had stood side by side with enough comrades in war over the centuries, he recognized the sign of two people working together. "What the hell is this?" he asked, his voice a low hiss.

"What the fuck is going on?!" Marcel had pushed himself off the wall and was rubbing his head, glancing at Kol as if he were finally realizing what was going on. "Why did I – what the fuck did you do?!"

"Oh dear, it would seem the compulsion is wearing off," said Kol with a light shrug. "No matter, you got them all down here; I suppose that's all that was needed." He spoke with his usual levity, all smirks and snark and a complete air of nonchalance, as if the whole world were beneath his feet.

"What did we need to be down here for?!" screeched Davina, panicked, but before she could get an answer, the sounds of people moving around up above caught their attention, and judging by the way voices were echoing off marble, somebody had found the open entrance of the tomb.

"Right on schedule!" said Kol happily, turning towards Caroline. "Ready Sweets?"

Caroline took a deep breath and straightened up, her hand curling into tight fists by her side. "As ready as I'll ever be," she said flatly and in the next second had blurred away, up the stairs. Klaus almost unconsciously took half a step forward to follow her, but she was gone and suddenly his brother was directly in his way, Chesire grin firmly in place.

"Sorry brother, but Caroline's got this. Stay and chat! I'm sure you all have a lot of questions."

"What's the hell is happening?" asked Rebekah, her voice a rushed whisper. "Are you a ghost, or a hallucination, what the hell are you?!"

"I'm your brother, Bekah," said Kol, his glee a sharp contrast to his sister's distress. "Alive and in the flesh!"

"No," said Elijah firmly. "You died, we buried you, how are you here?"

"Don't be so narrow-minded 'Lijah! Anything's possible these days." Kol waved off his brother as well and Klaus could swear he was starting to see red.

"Kol, I swear to all that is good and holy, if you don't explain yourself right now-"

But whatever threat had rested on the tip of his tongue was cut short by the cacophony of terrified screams coming just from above their heads, bouncing off the stone and echoing through the cavern, leaving them stunned.

"What in hell…" whispered Rebekah, but Kol interrupted her with a sharp clap of his hands.

"Relax, it's all fine, nothing to worry to worry about!" he said airily. "Let's catch up! Talk about what's been going on here." He looked towards Klaus, "King of New Orleans again, well done Nik. Although you had a bit of a rocky start…" he cast a glance towards Hayley, who, throughout all of this, had been standing towards the back of the cavern, pressed against the wall and avoiding notice. "I have to say, I was a bit disappointed to learn I was never going to become an uncle after all. But then that's what you get for blindly trusting witches I suppose. You can never tell when they're pulling the wool over your eyes." To his credit, Kol dropped the amusement from his tone and regarded his older brother seriously.

Klaus battled the surge of anger he felt whenever anybody brought up the deception of the witches that had led to the revelation his child had never existed in the first place. If nothing else, his ensuing anger motivated his victory against them, he took the city straight from their hands. "And how are you so well informed?" he asked his little brother darkly.

Kol laughed, "I watched it all of course! The Other Side is a boring place, but you lot provided quite the entertainment. What with Rebekah's various love affairs and Elijah trying so desperately to redeem you – it was quite the show."

"Enough of this Kol," said Elijah, coming forward. "Explain yourself right now, tell us how you came back."

"You know what – I don't think I will," said Kol gleefully. "I'm sure the story will come out, but for now, I think watching you all scramble to put the pieces together will be so much more entertaining."

The confusion was interrupted by more screams from up above and Kol frowned, before looking towards Marcel and Davina. "Right, time to get things done – Marcel if you would please? "

"What the fuck are you talking about?" spat the vampire but Kol simply rolled his eyes.

"Time for phase two," he said and like a switch had been flipped, Marcel's eyes glazed over and he straightened up, his motions robotic. He walked up to Kol, who reached into his jacket and pulled out a wooden stake, handing it over. Once Marcel had the piece of wood, he walked towards the edge of the room, near the staircase then turned and faced the group. In a quick motion, he had sunk the stake into his chest.

"NO!" screamed Davina raising her hands to cast a spell that would stop him, but nothing happened, and Marcel kept inching the stake further into his chest.

"You're powerful darling, but I know witches too, and a few happened to owe me a favour. Your magic is no good within the boundaries of this cavern."

"I'll remove the compulsion!"

"You can try – but you won't manage it!" said Kol with a grin. "You don't even know the extent of what I've compelled him to do, you make one move to attack me and he runs, and I guarantee you won't be able to find him in time and remove the compulsion before he's committed no shortage of horrors, to himself and others. Surely you don't want that on your hands?"

Davina sputtered and Klaus could see the young witch hyperventilating, trying to think of a way out of this, but Marcel still had a stake perilously close to his heart and made no move to fight off Kol's hold on him.

He screamed in agony and that was enough to set off Rebekah, "Enough of this!" she yelled, blurring over to pull the stake out herself, but Marcel took one step backwards, up onto the stone staircase and Rebekah was flung back before she could reach him.

"Sorry sister – I couldn't have you interfering either, and I knew you would. I knew you all were liable to ruin my plan and that just couldn't happen." Kol regarded his sister with a hard gaze. "I needed the key players out of the way, so here you are – never fear, it's only temporary."

The thud of footsteps cut off Rebekah's furious retort and soon Caroline came down the stairs, passing Marcel with a nervous glance and standing next to Kol again.

"Caroline…" Klaus could barely form a horrified whisper as he took in her appearance. There was barely an inch of her that hadn't been splattered with blood, her clothes were soaked with it, it covered her neck, her hands and she hugged her arms around her middle, not able to meet his eyes. Kol looked her over with a small frown, and shrugged out of his jacket, wordlessly handing it out to her. She didn't look at him but accepted it, and quickly covered herself up, hiding the worst of the carnage.

Klaus saw all of this happen within a few seconds but he was more than ready to tear his brother's throat out.

(Not again, not again, he was not going through another bloody love triangle with a brother, again.)

Kol was still looking over Caroline critically. "Are the vampires-"

"I took care of them."

"All of-"

"Kol. I took care of them." Caroline's voice was as hard as steel and she stared at a spot on the cave wall. Her demeanor was apparently enough to convince Kol that she had succeeded at whatever she had to do, so he turned back to Davina who was staring at the blood on Carolne's hands in horror.

"What did you do?" she asked, terrified.

"Magic requires a bit of sacrifice, surely you know that?" said Kol mockingly.

"Wait –did you just kill people?" asked Hayley from the back, her lips curling in disgust. Caroline kept silent but Klaus was quick to notice the tightening of her jaw and her sharp breath.

"You're not very quick on the uptake are you?" asked Kol before turning back to the young witch. "Come on now pet, we don't have much time. I need your power, and I'm sure you'd like for Marcel here to be free of my control. So come with us, do us a quick favour and everything will work out."

His words were smooth, almost reassuring but Klaus had known his younger brother for long enough to hear the threat in his words. "Nothing is happening until you explain yourself," Klaus snarled, intent on grabbing his brother himself but both Kol and Caroline were quick to step back behind the barrier, and Klaus found himself trapped before the boundary. He sought Caroline's gaze again, but still she looked away, her features schooled into a perfect mask and Klaus rebelled against the ball of desperation growing in the pit of his stomach, wishing he knew what had happened to the girl full of light that he had known. Whatever had happened, here and now was not going to be where he got answers.

Marcel grunted in pain again and Davina cried out. "Stop it, stop, I'll – I'll help you!"

Kol smiled in victory, and turned to Caroline who gave him a quick nod before turning to go back up the stairs. Before she did, she cast one quick look over her shoulders and her eyes met Klaus. He was furious and confused and she gulped quickly before breaking her gaze away and running as fast as she could. At the bottom of the staircase, Kol clapped Marcel on the shoulder, his voice lowering to the steady tone of compulsion.

"Go on mate, remove the stake, but remember your other instructions." He then turned back to his siblings, "As soon as everything's taken care of, the spell will lift and you'll all be free to go home. Take Marcel with you. Now darling, come along." He extended his hand to Davina and she walked forward resolutely, ignoring him and passing Marcel with a pained look. But Kol's warning glare was enough to force her on her way. Before Kol could follow, the voice of his eldest brother called him back.

"Kol, for God's sake, tell us what's happening, what do you need Davina for? We could help you!" Elijah's desperation did nothing to evoke his brother's sympathies, Kol's gaze hardened against the plea.

"Could you? I doubt that. Relax Elijah, everything's going to work out." With that comment, he strode away, up the stairs and nothing more could be heard from him, Caroline or Davina.

Klaus turned towards his siblings, feeling the shock wear off, and he could see that they could were recovering from their stupor.

"Kol's alive," muttered Rebekah, running a hand through her hair. "Bloody hell, Kol is alive."

"It would have taken an impossible amount of magic," said Elijah, the gears in his head turning as he put the pieces together. "And why was Caroline Forbes with him?"

"That wench. He doesn't trust his own family but he enlists her help?!" Rebekah was livid, as she spat out her words. Klaus didn't share his sister's derision but Caroline's presence was another layer to a mystery that he wasn't wholly sure he wasn't dreaming up. There was no way this could be happening; there had been no warning, no indication, nothing

The siblings lapsed into silence again, none knowing what to say. As the minutes ticked by, a cold wind rushed through the cave and the flames of the torches roared high. It was the unmistakable sign of magic and Klaus rushed forward, the barrier had been dropped. All five ran to the top of the steps and out of the tomb where they found no sign of Kol or Caroline – but Davina was there.

The young witch sat on the grass next to a grave, looking exhausted and scared. She startled once the others came out of the tomb and stood up unsteadily, Rebekah running forward to help her. "He asked me to do a spell," she explained, her voice shaking. "I don't even know for what, he just handed me this piece of really old parchment – it looked like the page from a grimoire – and he asked me to perform the spell. And I did, but I don't even know what it was for! Nothing happened, I just felt all this power and then it was over – and he was really, really happy."

The siblings looked at each other, none able to come up with any sort of explanation as to what their brother had done. "What about the 'sacrifice' he was talking about?" asked Hayley, hesitantly standing to the side, looking over the burnt out candles that had been scattered on the ground.

Davina gulped and pointed towards the darkness of the cemetery, just as the vampires all became aware of the overwhelming stench of blood that perfumed the air. With horror, they all looked towards the ground in front of the graves where a dozen bodies littered the grass.

All vampires. And they all looked as if they had had their throats torn out.

"Oh my god…" said Rebekah, her hand covering her mouth.

"Call someone to clean this up," Klaus barked towards Hayley, turning on his heel as he gave his order. This night was one giant confusing mess that he had been nothing more than a pawn in, and that was no role for the King of New Orleans.

"Nik, where are you going?" asked Rebekah.

"Where do you think sister?" he asked harshly. "We need to go home."

Caroline twisted her daylight ring on her finger as she paced the polished wooden floor of the Originals' mansion in New Orleans. It was a beautiful home, and Kol had told her a few stories of the time he had spent there with his family back when they had all lived in the city. She tried to imagine all of them together and happy, but it wasn't the easiest visual to conjure up, considering their penchant for ruining each other's lives.

"Stop pacing Sweets! Have a drink, celebrate – today is a good day!" Kol lounged on a leather sofa, sipping bourbon and looking distinctly at ease whereas Caroline was all nerves.

"How did they take the news?" she asked, "How did they deal with the whole issue of how you came back?"

"Oh that – I didn't tell them."

"Wait, what?!" Caroline cried, rounding on him. "How the hell could you not tell them, don't you think they should know what's going on?"

"Why?" asked Kol, downing his drink and slamming the glass tumbler down with a little more force than necessary. "Why would I tell them, they'd simply go into a panic and accomplish absolutely nothing. I've got everything under control. We have everything under control."

Caroline scoffed, feeling the exhaustion of the past few days, of the past year, catch up with her. "I don't think I'd call what we do 'keeping things under control' she said tiredly. "You need their help."

Kol mulled over her words before standing up abruptly. "Look, the story will come out in time, but I want to make sure I know where all the pieces are on the board before we spill the beans."

"So what happens until then? You just stay here like nothing's happened?"

"Perhaps I want some time to reacquaint myself with my family. Is that so hard to believe?"

Caroline was ready to scoff again, and she nearly did before something about the look in Kol's eyes stopped her. He wasn't laughing now, wasn't mocking her – he looked haunted. And he had every reason to be, she knew that, from the few things he had told her about the Other Side, it was not a pleasant experience. So she refrained from making light of his comment, knowing that even if he would probably dismiss her completely if she brought it up, there was a small part of him that did genuinely want to spend time with his siblings.

(Provided of course, that time didn't result with a dagger to the heart.)

"Besides, I'm sure you and my brother won't mind becoming reacquainted, and I definitely couldn't miss that."

Now Caroline did scoff, but before she could retort the front door of the mansion banged open and Kol turned to Caroline with a now-familiar smirk. "Showtime," he whispered.

The Originals were in the living room in a second, having sensed the intrusion in their home, Marcel, Davina and Hayley right behind them. With an easy grin, Kol strode up to Marcel, looking him straight in the eye. "I release you from my compulsion. You're completely free to do as you wish." As he stepped back, Marcel let out a breath and his shoulders sagged as if a weight had been lifted. He glared at the youngest Mikaelson brother, but Kol simply held his hands up in defense.

"Sorry mate, but you were just collateral. Nothing personal."

Marcel growled but Elijah laid a hand on his arm. "Perhaps you should go for now, Davina looks exhausted." The young witch did in fact look as if she had been through the ringer and so with a parting glare, Marcel scooped her up and darted them out of the manor.

Caroline stood resolutely by Kol's side, now locked in a tense stare-off with those remaining, Klaus, Elijah, Rebekah and Hayley. The heavy, uncomfortable silence was suffocating. The living room was spacious but as Caroline stood there, she felt the walls closing in; the urge to run became overwhelming. She could feel their suspicious gazes on her and forced herself to meet them, remaining as cool and collected as she could possibly manage. As she faced their scrutiny, Caroline could feel her confidence growing. Screw it, she thought. This was not the time to retreat back to the small-town cheerleader she had been when they last knew her, she had been through too much and done too much to ever go back. Let them try to take her down now – she could handle it.

Her gaze flitted to Hayley, and she kept her expression as neutral as possible. There was bile rising in her throat but she forced herself to remain calm, reminding herself that the fact that the wolf was a traitorous, neck-snapping bitch was the reason that her fingers itched to slap her, and that her anger had nothing to do with the whole 'devil-spawn' scenario. Nope. Not at all. She did, however, take note of the fact that Hayley seemed to cower slightly at the combined force of her and Kol's stares and subconsciously took a step closer to Elijah.


If Kol's raised eyebrow was anything to go by, he had noticed the same thing. Caroline turned her focus to Rebekah, but the youngest Original couldn't take her eyes of her newly resurrected brother, her eyes a mix of shock, anger, confusion and …relief? Rebekah valued her family, Caroline knew. Klaus may have been her favourite brother but Caroline suddenly remembered being trapped in her school libaray while Kol and Rebekah worked over Professor Shane, looking for answers on Silas, In their own weird way, Kol and Rebekah made a team. A destructive, terrifying team, but a team nonetheless. Suddenly, Rebekah's gaze turned towards Caroline and the younger vampire just managed to stop herself from taking an involuntary step back. Rebekah looked at her with pure venom and Caroline understood intrinsically that Rebekah resented her for knowing the truth about Kol's life and keeping it to herself.

'Sorry Rebekah, but I made a promise.'

The last person she had yet to look at was the last person she was ready to face but she couldn't help herself. Klaus was still and silent, but she liked to think that she had become somewhat adept at reading his gaze. A stranger would think he was calm, stoic even – but she knew better. He was confused and furious about it; Klaus hated not being in complete control. Kol's secrets were driving him crazy, and she knew, without a doubt, that Klaus considered one of those secrets to be her. He looked at her as if he couldn't believe his own eyes. More confusion, more anger, but also a glimpse of …hope? And as she held his gaze, Caroline felt some of the tension leave her shoulders. Despite everything, despite what they had both done, she still remembers the warm press of his lips against her cheek and the warmth of his arm curled through hers as he walked her through an empty field.

Oh God…she was happy to see him again.

(Out of the corner of her eye, she swore she could see Kol shoot her a quick smirk.)

"Well, this has been quite the night!" said Kol suddenly, shattering the loaded silence. He rubbed his hands together almost gleefully and the three Originals standing across from them shifted so that they stood on the defensive.

Caroline suddenly felt very, very out of place, like she was intruding on something she shouldn't be. What was she even doing here? Truthfully, she supposed that after spending months with Kol, the part of her that still believed in happy endings wanted to see him happily reunited with his family. Well, she wasn't sure how happy they were, but they were definitely reunited. Now was the time for her to quickly leave, go back to her hotel room and make a decision about where she'd go in the morning.

"I think I'll take the West Wing rooms – they aren't being used, right?" asked Kol smugly, knowing full well that the entire wing was empty and perfect for his use. He could see Elijah torn between suspicion and exhaustion, and it was his eldest brother that finally conceded.

"You are free to…you can stay."

"Well of course I'm going to stay!" said Kol happily as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Where else would I go?" he asked, spreading his arms wide and walking forward. "I'm back from the dead, permanently, I've spent months chasing down all manner of demons – I think it's high time I spent time with my family." He stood in front of Klaus now and clapped his brother on the shoulder. "Don't look so shocked Nik! After all, I'm sure you'll appreciate the chance to get reacquainted with – Caroline? Caroline?"

They all realized simultaneously that while Kol had occupied their attention, Caroline had slipped out of the room. It was a measure of how far the young vampire had come, slipping away from four Originals was no mean feat.

"Damn" muttered Kol, frowning. He focused on his senses and smirked as he caught the sound of her heartbeat, not far from the front door. "Oi! Moneypenny!" he called out, flashing out of the room after her. A millisecond of deliberation later, Klaus followed, leaving Elijah to glance between Hayley and Rebekah and sigh.

"Go to bed. Hayley, you can stay in one of the guest bedrooms for the night," he ordered tiredly. "We'll deal with this in the morning."

As they dispersed inside, Kol caught up to Caroline who was halfway down the drive. He curled his hand around her elbow and yanked her around, his grip holding her firmly in place. "Where's the rush, Sweets?" he asked, but instead of teasing her, he sounded deadly serious.

Caroline wanted to squirm under his probing gaze but his grip tightened and she knew better than to try and escape. "It's time for me to go, Kol," she said, feeling so incredibly tired. "What else is there to do? There's nothing for me here."

"I still need your help!"

"You have your siblings now! Just tell them what's going on; they'll be able to do something about it!"

"You seem to have great faith in their abilities," said Kol, smirking. "I'm sure Nik must rank especially high in your esteem."

"I don't think about him," said Caroline through gritted teeth.

"I think we both know that's not true darling," said Kol drily, ignoring Caroline's eye roll.

"You've got to give up on that…" she muttered. "It's not like he still cares about – look, I can't stay, okay? I have to go-"

"Home?" asked Kol, his voice cutting. "Tell me Caroline, what home do you possibly have to go back to?" He spat out the question, and Caroline flinched, willing herself to remain stoic though her eyes burned.

(But she had cried enough, and this was not the time.)

"I don't – I still – Kol, I can't stay!" Her voice verged on slightly desperate as she pleaded for him to see things her way. "Where would I even stay? Here?!" She shot a nervous glance at the mansion behind him. If she took up residence there, she doubted she'd last the night before Rebekah strangled her in her sleep.

Kol sighed dramatically and reached into his back pocket, pulling out a small object – a silver key. He held it up in front of her face, his stern look melting into an easy grin. "Consider this a thank-you gift," he said, taking her right hand and pressing the key into her palm. "688 Royale Street. It's got a fantastic view of the streets of the Quarter, great balcony to watch the Mardis Gras parades. Two bedrooms, if your 'friends' ever visit."

Caroline curled her fingers around the key, feeling the teeth dig into her palm. The slight pain was a welcome indication that this was not, in fact, a dream. "You're giving me an apartment?" she asked incredulously.

Kol's grin widened. "While living with my family was a joy," he explained, sarcasm dripping off his words, "occasionally it suited to have a getaway. Of course, if I ever had company and need somewhere to-"

"Okay, STOP!" cried Caroline, lifting up her hands. "If – and that's a colossal if– if I stay, it probably better that I don't know about what went on in your….clubhouse."

"Well I'd call it more of a bachelor pad…but it's good to know you're staying ,Sweets," he finished with a wink.

She rolled her eyes, "I didn't say I was staying," she muttered, but kept her hand curled around the key, her mind racing. Kol has a point -where could she go? Who was out there? A part of her was irritated that she couldn't just strike out on her own, be independent, but she had to swallow her pride. If she was alone and started to dwell on the past…she couldn't do it. And maybe that made her weak, maybe she was a complete coward, but right now Caroline needed some semblance of friendship.

(Who would've thought Kol Mikaelson would ever be considered her friend?)

"Take a look at the place, let me know what you think tomorrow. Goodnight for now darling!" he drawled, spinning on his heel and striding back into the house. Caroline watched him go for a moment then thoughtfully considered the small key in her hand.

'Well, it can't kill me…'

She turned and hopped into her car, driving off towards the heart of the French Quarter.

Kol grinned to himself as he heard her drive off; he was now quite convinced she was staying in New Orleans for a while. The benefit to finding Caroline when he did was that she was the perfect picture of someone who was completely isolated from the world, forcing her to grab onto the offer of help, no matter where it came from. She would become a resident of the city and he would have a decent buffer against his brother. Speaking of which…

"Nik, are you going to hide in the shadows whenever Caroline's around? You're not going to win her over if she can't see you." It spoke to how well Kol knew his older brother that when he felt himself being lifted from the ground and shoved against the wall next to the front door, he was not the least bit surprised. Klaus had his hands wrapped around the lapels of Kol's jacket, his grip unrelenting and his eyes murderous.

"What are you playing at?" he demanded, furious that Kol remained so calm. "How are you alive?!"

Kol just chuckled, seemingly unperturbed by his brother's use of force. "Oh Nik, that's a story that will surely come out with time. But for now, why don't you ask me what you really want to know?" Kol's smirk taunted him. "Ask me about Caroline."

Klaus felt his temper rising and fought to keep himself in check. Caroline was indeed the question he wanted to ask, but the thought of another bloody fight with a brother over a girl caused bile to rise in his throat.

(Besides – Caroline was his.)

"What is she to you?" Klaus demanded through gritted teeth. "A game? A toy? Someone for you to fuck and be done with? I swear to God Kol, she is not one of your whores-"

His enraged rant was cut off by Kol's laughter. Once he had composed himself, he looked at his older brother with something close to pity. "you really don't understand, do you? I never touched her. In fact, you should be thanking me."

"Thanking you?!" asked Klaus, his grip tightening.

"I brought her here, to your doorstep!" I convinced her to stay, right where you'll be able to seek her out – I practically served her to you on a silver platter, so yes, you should be thanking me."

Klaus let go of his brother and stepped back, stunned. "How – how did you even know about her and I-"

"The Other Side is a boring place, brother," said Kol darkly. "I watched you with her sometimes."

"And bringing her here…why?"

Kol considered the question as he started up the Grand staircase, turning a few steps up and facing his dumbfounded brother. "Consider her a gesture of good faith. A peace offering."

"A peace offering?"

"Well alright," conceded Kol, "it's quite a bit more complicated than that now. But at the start, that's what I intended."

Klaus walked up a few steps, stopping just before his brother. "Kol," he said, his voice serious, "what happened to you?"

The smirk dropped from the younger Mikaelson's face, and his eyes hardened. "It's a long story, Nik. Relax – it'll all come out eventually." Without another word, Kol bounded up the stairs and made his way to the empty wing. Klaus remained on the stairs, clutching the banister like a lifeline.

Kol was alive.

Kol was alive.

And one thing was clear: whatever was going on – this was only the beginning.

MARCH 2014

"Looks like you've got yourself into quite the mess," said Kol, looking way too smug for the situation. Normally Caroline would've slapped the smirk off his face but Kol was not Klaus, she didn't know how he would react – she didn't even know how he was alive.

"How – how is this even possible?" she asked, but he offered her no answer, instead looking at her contemplatively.

"I'll tell you what darling – you want answers and clearly need a helping hand. Come with me, and you'll get both."

"No way in fucking hell!" she cried, recoiling back. "Why, why would I go with you?"

"Alright then, run home," said Kol dismissively, but grinned again when he saw the anger fall from her face, only for her to look lost and scared. "You can't, can you? Judging by your current state and the fact that you were a second from pulling that pretty little ring off your finger just a moment ago, I'd say you'd do well to take up offers of help where you can find them."

Caroline was indignant again, but his words hit their mark. "What – what do you even need me for?" she asked him, apprehensively. "Is this – listen, I already dealt with your brother, so I definitely don't need another Original going on about how he 'fancies' me-"

Kol cut her off with a roar of laughter, he almost doubled over from the force of it. "Oh God, no. Do I look like Elijah to you? You're Nik's girl-"

" I am not 'his' girl-"

"Whatever you are, you're definitely not my type. But as long as you're here, I have a proposition for you."

Caroline took a deep breath and regarded him carefully. He hadn't killed her – and out of all her possible options, he might be the only one capable of helping her.

Well then. Looks like this wasn't the end after all.

This was only the beginning.

Can't be scared when it goes down
Got a problem, tell me now
Only thing that's on my mind
Is who's gonna run this town tonight...

So what's the verdict? Confused? This story is my way of bringing together my two biggest wishes for the TVD universe, that Klaroline will happen and that Kol will come back, and I'm really excited for what comes next.

Leave a review and let me know what you thought! Until next time, goodnight!

(Feel free to follow me on Tumblr at hummingbirds-and-champagne)