Guys. So this is… probably completely AU. And I apologize now, because I have sort of refused to watch the Originals. So brace yourself?
This story picks up a few months after Silas. So Bonnie is still the anchor, there are no Travelers, and I'm pretending that while shenanigans are going down in New Orleans, I am not following the TO storyline at all. So please forgive the butchering of it.
The wood floor was cold underneath her back. Eyes closed, Caroline let the heat of the winter sun warm the air around her. Caroline hadn't done this in such a long time; Liz would take it for what it was and worry, if she was home. The last real earth-to-Caroline moment had been a few months before she turned into a vampire, and had laid there for hours contemplating exactly how she wanted her year to go. Neurotic, crazy, paranoid and stressed she might have been but she'd always tried to find a way to be honest with herself.
She was pretty sure it had started around the time she hit puberty and found herself along more and more often at home. The sun became her confessional, when no one else would listen. She could tell it all the things that she couldn't quite bring herself to confess to her friends, those little truths her mother didn't have time for.
Sighing, Caroline finally cracked her eyes open and stared out the widow she'd thrown wide open. It was different, doing this as a vampire. Letting the morning wash over her. She used to fall asleep like this - cocooned in sunshine and lazy morning warmth. Now, she couldn't quite feel it on her skin, her daylight ring keeping her safe in magic, not heat.
Which was why she'd avoided doing this. Refused to give herself the time to think. Because sunshine mornings left her stark, with no shadows to hide behind. And she refused to lie to herself. Not here. But she wanted to.
Unfortunately, she desperately needed to find her own anchor, to ground herself; even if the sun never settled into her bones like peace anymore. Since becoming a vampire, her life had from dealing with one crisis to the next. Most of them had been life or death. She'd even managed to deal with an honest to God possible apocalypse. Heaving out a sigh, she finally admitted to herself what drove her to lay in the sun and think.
She felt branded.
Months later and she still wore him on her skin. And Tyler... giving herself a moment, she drew in a shaky breath. Tyler had wanted to hurt her. She just didn't know what to do about the fact that it had.
After spending the majority of her existence as a vampire who was dating a werewolf-turned-hybrid she thought she understood the draw of heat. Sexual heat, sexual tension… just the warmth of life that never quite penetrated the protection magic and her vampire skin. Tyler had been good. Hot, a little rough and willing to give her what she wanted. His skin had been so warm that if she pressed against it long enough, it warmed her too.
Klaus was like breathing in the sun.
If she closed her eyes, she could still follow the patterns of his hands and mouth against her skin. Feel the heat of him wrapped around her; how it pushed into her bones. He took, marked and breathed her in like air. Once she'd confessed without admitting anything, he'd taken control and it'd shaken her.
A thousand years of experience focused in on her and she could admit that it had been good. Better than good. It was just... more. Klaus had been confident, had known what he wanted and once he had permission... Caroline felt hot and shaky just thinking about it. But it'd been the slow, soft kisses he'd scattered across her skin as she reeled, the playful scrap of teeth that almost - maybe - left her regretting the promise between them.
Another sunshine confession.
She hadn't been ready. She wasn't ready now. Didn't know if she'd ever be.
What he was offering, what he said he wanted to give her... oh God. How did a girl deal with that? That smirk, the iron in his eyes as he watched her, refusing to bend in the face of her disbelief.
Because she didn't believe him.
Oh, she told him she knew he was in love with her. Had gasped the words like knives, thrown them into the cold between them and hoped they hurt. That he'd chosen to save her...
Maybe it was this illusion of eternity she didn't trust. Maybe it was herself. Caroline Forbes. Second best. Love interest to the most powerful creature to walk the earth.
She doubted it'd sound any better out loud than in her head. Except... she chewed her lip, struggling to find the words. She didn't trust him. Not with the people she cared about. And that was important. Her friends, her family were important. She blew out a slow breath. But she might trust him, a little, to keep her safe. And safe was a big word for her, since Damon. Klaus might turn on her, might bite back harder than any creature she'd ever imagined, but he'd proven just a little that he'd keep other people from hurting her.
And that was dangerous to her sanity. Knowing that if she gave him that little bit he'd dig in and claw for more. But no. She'd already given him more. She'd confessed without words her confusion, her lust; she'd shown vulnerabilities and been vulnerable.
May God, gods and whatever roamed the earth be merciful because the rewards for opening just a little, letting him see what she'd held in such an iron grip? It hadn't been just the way he unraveled all her physical defenses. It'd been those heartbeats she'd sank in into him, spent and sweaty against his skin.
The hand wound in her hair.
The way he'd breathed her name.
The way he'd held her.
But then there was Hayley.
Caroline took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Sitting up, she ran her hands through her hair, trying to see how badly she'd flattened it. Satisfied she didn't need to pull it up, she fisted her hands on her knees and glared at the shafts of light on the floor. She hated the wolf. Since she was being honest, she was more pissed that he'd chosen to sleep with Hayley than that he'd slept with someone. She wasn't willing to claim him. Accept him. God, there was so much to accept.
If she'd learned anything about herself in the last six months it was that she couldn't be with someone who didn't love her because of her crazy, not in spite of it. She supposed she could thank Tyler for that; the endless Damon-Elena-Stefan love triangle.
And caring about Klaus meant accepting Klaus. People didn't change, not really. And not after a thousand years. So what was she going to do? Because his promise only bought time. She'd given him an answer, in exchange for what? Years? Decades? He promised not to come here, to let her come to him. But life was a bitch and she lived in karma's favorite kicking spot. How long until something apocalyptic brought him back?
She wasn't stupid. She acted the part, let her blonde hair and body be a distraction. She was neurotic and paranoid; vampirism was like crack for her emotions. What she wasn't, what she had never been, was a dumb blonde.
She knew part of everyone's expectations for her were her own fault. High School had been ... well, she was pretty sure when people said their high school experience had been killer, they had no idea. Even if eventually, she'd settled some. But that didn't mean it didn't hurt that no one really bothered to look, to pay attention to the changes she'd made.
Why did it have to be the supernatural boogeyman who looked at her like she was precious? Like he saw. Like he knew? What did he think he was looking at, when he was with her to make his eyes watch her like that? Why was he willing to let her come to him, to avoid making her choose? How was it her own personal nightmare was the only one who'd never given her emotions an ultimatum? Had set aside his revenge. For her. The man who held grudges for hundreds of years.
No. She wasn't stupid. She'd made her confession with her hands and lips. Had held him and let him see. And if she was honest - completely and totally honest – she'd slept with him because she'd wanted it. Wanted him. Had wanted to see were that electric chemistry would take them.
But she wasn't ready for it. The way it would tie her to him. Klaus played his games on so many levels, she knew she'd only scratched the surface. If she'd given him what he wanted without that promise for space…
But her friends...
She was tired of the drama. She was tired of always fighting for her life. She loved her friends, really loved them. But... Katherine and Silas were dead. Bonnie was the anchor. Klaus was a father. Tyler was gone. Why was it so hard to just let go? Why did she feel so guilty for the lack of guilt?
She was thinking about leaving - for her. But it felt like abandonment. Caroline squeezed her eyes shut.
"It's been a while since you've done this."
Caroline turned to face her mom, brows bunching together. "I thought you'd left."
"Forgot my keys. You must have been thinking hard if you didn't hear me. Want to talk about it?"
Caroline chewed on her lip before motioning her mom to sit. She and Liz had had it out a few nights ago. Her Mom had discovered her stash of acceptance letters from last spring, had demanded to know why she hadn't gone. Why she'd chosen Whitemore.
Everything had come out. Elena. Damon. Her dad. Klaus. Silas. All of it. All of her kills, all of her hurt. Her terror of not being there when her mom needed her. It'd been horrible. When it was over, they'd both been shaky and hurt. Caroline had been trying to decide the best way to give them both space when Liz had finally swallowed hard and nodded.
Caroline sank back into the chair behind her and she licked her lips. "Me too."
Liz shook her head. "No. I knew I was making mistakes with you. But you always seemed happy... and I refused to let myself see anything else. Then I felt so guilty about how I handled you turning into a vampire and I... after your dad, I wanted to get it right. But I didn't, did I?"
Caroline swallowed. "You're my Mom."
"But I haven't been a good one."
"Your job's important."
Liz have her a hard look. "So are you."
They'd talked. It wasn't a total fix, that'd take time. But it meant she could sit with her mom in the sunshine and try.
"I'm not certain I want to go to back to Whitmore."
Her mother breathed out a slow breath and nodded. "Good."
Caroline looked at her and tried to fight a smile. "Good?"
"Caroline, you've always wanted to leave the state. It's only now that you've gotten stubborn. Which school were you think of accepting?"
Caroline took a deep breath and reached for the letter she brought downstairs with her. She'd reapplied on a whim, sometime after Katherine's death when New Orleans was still to close. She couldn't bring herself to leave the country, but space had sounded good.
Her Mom took it and blinked. "You want to go to NYU."
Caroline nervously fiddled with a strand of hair. "Do you think I could manage it?"
"I think you'd be amazing."
"No, I mean as a vampire. It'll be harder to get blood bags. I don't need as much sleep, but stress amplifies everything else and..."
"You're worried you'll hurt someone." Liz studied her face. "Stefan assures me your control is amazing."
Caroline fidgeted. "I know. But it might not always be. And being hungry isn't a good idea. Not until I'm older."
Liz pursed her lips. "I can't... I can't condone vampires feeding from people with the intent to kill. But do you actually have to kill?"
"I've been told no." Caroline shrugged, face twisting. "Do you think I should? Go? It's a risk. I might do something stupid, hurt people."
Liz reached out and grasped her hand. "I'd pack your bags for you."
Caroline blinked sudden tears. "I feel like I'm abandoning them. Bonnie is still struggling, Elena is so messed up and Stefan just got his memories back."
"No." Liz said firmly. "Accept."
Caroline laughed and wiped her eyes. "I did. I was just... trying to talk myself out of it. I don't have a place to live, I'm not packed, I don't know what classes to take and I have a week to show up."
Liz blinked. Clearing her throat in an attempt not to laugh, she reached for her phone.
Caroline listened in disbelief as her Mom proceeded to take the rest of the week off. Setting her phone back down, Liz stood with a groan.
"I think it's best we move this to chairs. We have a lot to do if we're going to move you to New York in two days. I say we start with finding you a place to live."
Klaus walked into the tightly packed bar, hands shoved into his pockets. Marcel had moved part of his business operations here and it was time they had a chat. He ignored the blonde bait bartending and whistled a little as he moved easily through the crowd. Later he'd make a point to be seen, to let the force of his presence move people away, but for now...
"Marcel, old friend, pour us a drink."
He knew he'd surprised his protégé, watched him struggle to keep his compose as he cleared the room. Klaus smiled to himself as he stepped into the room, shutting the door behind him. Ah, that was right. He wasn't supposed to know about this one.
"I can't say I expected you to be here." Marcel said calmly.
Klaus smiled. "I'm feeling a tad nostalgic. Thought we'd reminisce."
Marcel's smile slipped as he handed over the tumbler of bourbon. "Memories have a way of biting."
"True." Klaus shrugged. "My past is a touch colorful. Worked well in your favor - although, Bekah seems to be a bit put out by the constant reminders of previous, let's call it history, shall we?"
"She's mentioned it."
Klaus smiled a little. "What were those details… ah, yes? A promise of obedience, spurned love and the gift of vampirism. I'm fairly sure I saw that plot in a paperback Rebekah was recently reading. She threw it at my head, so I can't say I caught the ending."
"Going back to more of your recent history then?" Marcel tipped his drink into Klaus direction. "I'm flattered. Although I would think after a thousand years, there would be better memories to choose from."
"Hmm the early years of being a vampire. Do you remember those days? You've been quite busy since then."
Marcel shrugged, eyes wary, "I took what I had and worked hard. I've earned this life."
Klaus arched a brow. "You took what I gave you and made it profitable. A talent. So many reach your age and lose all sense. It's nice to see a few pull through. Although I can't say the same for your behavior this last year. Or your followers."
Marcel's expression slipped from his face, eyes narrowing. "Did you come to kill me? Or are these more threats?"
Klaus shrugged. "To scheme against my family is a death sentence; regardless of the time between the scheming and the death. But here is the interesting thing. You've worked hard to rebuild this city, to destroy any obstacles to your rule in the quarter. But I haven't seen any sign of you working against me and mine until recently."
Marcel stared at him, eyes hard. "New Orleans is mine."
Klaus lifted his tumbler and drank. Resting a hip against the desk, he smiled. "I'm not here to take this city."
Marcel emptied his tumbler and refilled it. "Ah, now that I have trouble believing."
"My family, we aren't the kind to settle. What is that charming saying… ah yes, the world is our oyster. Inaccurate, but it conveys a simple enough message. New Orleans is already mine. I do not need a war to prove that."
Marcel smiled, showing the line of his teeth. "Ah, see that is where we continue to differ in opinion."
Klaus shrugged, lifting his glass to consider the amber liquid. "Tell me, old friend. What is the story that has circulated? Why am I here? It has been an interesting ten months or so, I'm curious what the rabble is saying."
"My understanding," Marcel said slowly, eyes narrowed. "Is that New Orleans is a particular favorite of yours. And of course, there is the child."
"Ah, New Orleans. She is a jewel. The food, the culture... the art. I have a great fondness for this city, but only true decedents of the bayou would think this is the only place worth having. I've seen many beautiful cities - some that I've enjoyed more than this one."
He glanced at Marcel and flashed his dimples. "I've burned most of them to ash."
Setting his glass down, he straightened and stared at Marcel. He let the smile leave his face, let the hybrid show. "You've forgotten that I'm the monster in the dark. That my family created the nightmares that live in the shadows. We are the horrors that frighten all the other monsters. It seems that many have allowed my father's hunt to cloud their thinking. That recent ... indulgences suggest that I've lost my edge."
Marcel said nothing.
Reaching up, Klaus cut open his wrist, letting blood drip into the bourbon in the tumbler. "Isn't it interesting? A creature so terrible, an insult to nature's very balance and, yet; life runs through my veins."
"What do you want?" Marcel ground out.
"Fealty. I don't have to own a city when I own the king." Klaus met his gaze. "My blood runs through your veins, which you've seemed to have forgotten. A fact that the rest of my line will be reminded of shortly. But you... you promised me obedience. Some would say I left my sister in a box for you. Perhaps that once, I might have considered you a son. And now you've betrayed me."
"Fealty." Marcel repeated, face hard. "My choices had little effect on yours. I served you faithfully for years."
"And yet," Klaus said mildly. "I never once released you from your vows. Make no mistake. Blood binds. You're young, ambitious. Sadly, still as short-sighted as always. But now that my family is free of its shadow, I think you'll find we are far less willing to overlook those pesky little challenges that crop up every few decades. Hopefully, you'll have the time to learn that lesson."
"Your family is actively working against you." Marcel reminded him.
Klaus laughed. Hands going to his pockets, he kept his smile. "Oh, don't let Bekah's tantrums fool you. She'll light this city on fire and grind its ashes under her heels given the proper mood. And that terrible, endless bond between brothers. Well, it's lasted a thousand years."
Marcel went still, eyes sharpening. "You're not feuding."
"Did you know, Rebekah wants more than anything to find someone who puts her first? Love is such a weakness, and even after a thousand years, a fool can still search. Who knows what would have happened had you chosen her."
Marcel set his glass down, carefully. "I thought you expressed yourself adequately."
"Let me tell you a secret, mate. Daggering my family has always been a temporary measure. Who looks for a monster inside a box?"
Marcel paled. "A red herring."
"I've always liked that about you; your ability to see a little better than others. I imagine it's kept you alive. Such a rare trait. Still, you don't see quite clear enough. Here is what is going to happen." Klaus said. "You'll swear fealty to my family. And we won't crush this city and salt the earth. We'll allow you to continue on as you have. But with a touch more oversight."
Marcel's face was tight with anger. "Will I?"
"Come now, haven't I offered you everything you want? You don't have to worry about me coming in to destroy everything you've built, and I don't have to worry about you plotting in the shadows. There are so many other, more dangerous things that I prefer to keep my eye on."
"Just like that?"
"What choice do you have? You can't fight me forever, I'm immortal. You are a pale shadow in comparison. What harm is there in admitting that you were wrong? Take what I am offering you, Marcel." Klaus pushed the bourbon dark with blood across the desk. "The last bargain you made worked out well for you mate; although perhaps you took the lesser choice, I imagine this one will as well."
"You just expect me to lay down, after this last year? To give up?" Marcel narrowed his eyes. "You're losing. We've put down every attempt you've made to seize power."
Klaus let the amusement, the cheerfulness bleed from his face. Iron and nightmares stared at Marcel. His smile was a sharp, painful thing that promised centuries of death.
"What you fail to understand is that you never had anything, old-chap. The world belongs to a few. That list will be greatly shortened soon, so I'd choose wisely, if I were you. Giving you a chance, for old-time's sake. Despite her irritation, Bekah occasionally thinks fondly of you."
"You expect me to take the devil's bargain? This is my kingdom. What is it that you think you'll gain, that I will give you?"
Klaus opened his hands. "Everything. What else is there? And I'll destroy anything and everything I need to get it. Let's not make you one of those casualties."
"I won't be so easy to kill." Marcel said flatly. "And you never give second chances."
Klaus smiled. "I'm feeling benevolent today. But I'll kill you all the same if necessary. It wouldn't be quick or easy. I don't simply destroy my enemies, I ruin everything around them. I'll strip you of your power, I'll break your will, I'll take every last shred of your dignity and pride; use them as the spikes that leave you bloody and broken. Only, once I have taken and destroyed all of it, I'll let you live. Your death will be in inches over centuries. I take betrayal seriously, Marcel. If you remember nothing else, remember that. And make no mistake. You've betrayed me."
Marcel leaned back. "If this was the endgame, then why this past year?"
"It wasn't entirely boredom. A few things came to my attention that needed to be addressed. What you've failed to learn about witches mate, is that they can be a bit uppity. Especially when their precious nature is unbalanced. It's always easier to destroy them from the inside out when they believe they're winning. Best to push them just enough so that when you do destroy them, their own actions have eliminated any chance of their brethren holding a grudge."
"The witches held all the power before I took steps." Marcel snapped.
"Witches go rabid when held too long, and too tightly on a leash. Best just to kill them." Klaus lifted a hand and gestured. "Your choice. Fealty or death."
"Was Rebekah ever in a box?" Marcel asked quietly, face devoid of color.
Klaus smiled. "What do you think?"
There was a long, still pause before Marcel reached for the bourbon and tossed it back. Klaus clapped.
"Good choice. I'd have hated to kill you... just yet. As I've said, your ambition is admirable, if a bit short-sighted. Isn't it nice to know where we stand? Now, let's continue to talk witches."
Marcel curled his hands into fists. "What could you not already know?"
"Hmm. I'm sure you've heard the rumor that I've somehow begot a child with a certain she-wolf? That the mother is now a hybrid and I'm learning the joys of being a father."
Marcel's shoulders were tight. "It should've been impossible."
"Quite right." Klaus sprawled in the chair, eyes dark. "It's amazing what witches will try to sell. How many forget the roots of my childhood. I'd say the continued existence of my family proves how proficient the bitch who birthed me was at magic. I personally wasn't gifted, but you'll find that both Kol and Bekah's have always kept an eye on our magical brethren."
"Kol is dead."
"Interesting." Klaus murmured, eyes hard. "That you believe that my family would let something as paltry as death come between us."
Marcel swallowed. "Death is death."
"But is it really final?" Klaus smiled. "Witches hold grudges. I don't particularly care for them, but wiping them out tends to make others grumpy. You've got a tight leash on them right now. No, no don't look so pale. Your little witch - what was her name? Ah yes. Davina. She's fine. For now."
"She's under my protection."
"How touching. I don't care. Here is what I care about." Klaus settled himself more comfortably in his chair. "Who thought to lure me into this city? Their bait was atrocious."
"But apparently effective."
Klaus looked amused. "Not perhaps, in the way they expected. Tell me, Marcel? Do you realize how easily they played you? I'm flattered that I'm such an insecurity for you, but before this nonsense with the child I could have cared less what you did. Driving witches to be so desperate they go looking for leverage on monsters is never smart. As I said, short-sighted."
Marcel unclenched his jaw. "So it seems."
"I'd blame Katherine, but she's very dead. That one was clever. Although it's possible she played her part in this before her death."
"I don't know who drew you back. I've tried to find them."
"Someone does know. You'll find that they are regretting their decision to ask me to destroy you. It is interesting that they know our history and that they immediately assumed I'd side against you. No, Katherine played her part. I do not like to be played. Pity she died so quickly." He shrugged one shoulder. "It is short-sighed on everyone's behalf. Before this mess with the child, before the witches decided to draw me here I had no interest in what you were doing. Let's say my family had chosen to settle? Once I was assured of your loyalty, I would have kept an eye on you, but no. Why fight an unnecessary war?"
Marcel's knuckles were white. "And now?"
"Send the witches a message for me. I want the name of the witch who started this, and I want everyone who agreed to this asinine plan. Tell them I know the child isn't mine and that Haley is dead."
Marcel finished his drink. "Or what?"
Klaus stood. "Or I'll purge the city of witches. They have until dawn. These games have gone on long enough. I've already let any outside witches who might be tempted to throw in their lot what the consequences will be, as well as the type of magic being practiced here. It should buy you some time to deal with the situation you created with that little witch of yours. Let's consider it… a gift."
Marcel stared at both empty tumblers in front of him, face pale. "Why your blood? Why offer that to me. Why advise me on Davina, when you'll simply kill me later?"
Klaus tilted his head, expression unreadable. "Blood is life. Particularly mine. Tonight, you affirmed an oath. I take those seriously. If you even think of betraying me or my family, I'll destroy you, bleed you dry of vervain and let you watch complacent as I destroy everything you've ever loved. I might even let you help."
Marcel said nothing as Klaus stood.
"As for killing you later, right now I still have use of you. You've built this quarter, this city into a place vampires travel from all over the world to see. Right now, that makes your useful. I'd make sure you never stop being useful, Marcel." He smiled at way Marcel clenched his jaw. Good. Then we understand each other. Still, I need a day or do to wrap a few loose end up."
Klaus paused, hand on the door. "If I were you, I'd watch my tongue in the coming days."
"If that is your price for my life." Marcel said, face set into harsh lines.
Klaus laughed and left. He paused and considered the woman behind the bar. Long, blonde hair. A smile that could catch a man. A lovely face. This was the reason for Hayley's death. The reason Tyler was being watched. Which one had told the witches of his attraction, his feelings? Who'd thought he'd be so easily baited? His past was a bloodied ground littered with the bones of those who'd professed to love him. Only his siblings had survived... and a baby vampire who'd refused to cower.
Marcel was both right and wrong. He knew every name and face of the vampires he'd shared his blood with. The price they'd all paid. And the one whom he asked for nothing at all. Perhaps he didn't realize it the first time, but for her it was promise. The only vampire he'd saved twice. Caroline might not have realized that promise, might have stubbornly refuted it, but it ran through her veins.
And a devil's promise was so much more than a bargain.
Before morning he'd either have assumed control of the city or he'd turn it into a killing field. Elijah and Rebekah were prepared for both. Once he had this sorted, maybe they'd settle for here few years. Holding his phone, he stared at the number he promised not to call. Wondered. Closing his eyes, he gave himself a moment to remember the feel and taste of her. Caroline.
Then he shut his phone and went to work.
There were witches to kill, after all.