Still Around

Chapter 18: Hall of Fame

A/N: Oh Halloween.

Disclaimer: I don't own The Vampire Diaries, or the Phantom of the Opera, or Hall of Fame by The Script. I wish I did, but I don't.

You can be the greatest/You can be the best/
You can be the Kong Kong bangin' on your chest

You could beat the world/ You could beat the war
You could talk to God, go bangin' on his door.

-Hall of Fame by The Script

Sara's POV

You know how in movies with those cheesy love triangles, the whole triangle thing is revealed in some big dramatic way and the girl always ends up with the least expected guy? Yeah, I was waiting for the big reveal for weeks, and still nothing. I'd been splitting my time between Stefan and Kol for weeks and I still hadn't come even remotely close to having to make a real decision between the two.

Sure, juggling them was a bit tricky at times, but I didn't think that either was a secret from the other. They were surprisingly civil about it all, neither giving me a hard time about the other. Honestly, it drove me crazy. I was starting to wish that I would be given some reason to have to pick.

It was late October and, naturally, everything Halloween was in full swing. I lost count how many times I had listened to the Monster Mash on the speakers at the school, Thriller along with it. Still, I was somewhat looking forward to attending a charity ball on Halloween as Stefan had agreed to go with me as my date. We still hadn't agreed on our costumes, but the list was definitely getting narrowed down. I wanted to go as a famous couple of some sort, but he thought that we might want to keep it a little more generic.

"Come on," I had shoved him playfully as we met over coffee at a Starbucks on Saturday morning. "Live a little!"

"It's not that I don't live," He shook his head, holding his coffee away from his clothing. "I'm just not sure what kind of a crowd we're going to be around."

"It's a charity ball, Stefan." I rolled my eyes. "The Boo Ball for the children's hospital."

Even though I tried to convince him that we should have a little more fun with it, he wasn't buying it. We had tentatively settled on some sort of royal couple thing, but I wasn't too in love with the idea of having to wear some itchy costume all night.

Despite my apathy towards our costume decision, I was more than a bit disappointed when he called me the week before to tell me that the execs had decided to have some big meeting the night of the ball and there was, and I quote, "no way in hell" that he could get out it.

"I'm sorry; I know you were really looking forward to it." He apologized. "I'll make it up to you, I promise."

"Don't worry about it," I shook my head, though he couldn't see the obvious disappointment on my face. "It gets you out of having to wear some dumb costume all night. Ironically enough, I was just about to call you with a really great idea for us, but I guess it's a moot point now, isn't it?"

"I feel horrible about this," The pain was evident in his voice. "I'm really sorry. If it makes you feel better, I'd love to hear your idea. I'm sure it's great."

"No," I shook my head almost bashfully. "You don't want to hear it. It was…well, silly anyway."

"Oh, come on," He pressed. "It can't be any worse than anything we've already tried."

"Alright," I gave in with a huff. "I was thinking that maybe we could have been Bonnie and Clyde?"

He made a noise on the other end, but I wasn't sure if it was of distaste or amusement.

"Stefan?" I waited. "Are you going to say anything?"

"I think it's a great idea." He finally spoke. "I just wish you wouldn't have to just be Bonnie."

"Yeah, me too." I agreed.

It took me a few days to come to terms with the fact that I would be going alone, but eventually I got over it. That was until I was in the hallways putting up flyers for the Fall Formal that would be held just a few weeks from then, when I ran into the very bane of my existence. Sort of.

"Don't you ever go home?" Kol crossed his arms feigning annoyance as I juggled flyers, tape, and a few folders in my arms.

"I could ask you the same thing," I cocked an eyebrow at him.

His lips twitched upward into an amused smirk. "Are you going to let me help you this time?"

"Perhaps," I nodded. "But only if you promise not to annoy me and throw me to the ground."

"Throw you to the ground?" He scoffed. "Obviously your memory isn't serving you properly, because if it were, you would recall that you weren't watching where you were going and subsequently, you ran into me."

"If you say so," I shrugged.

He let out a little growl. "Oh, give me those." He took the flyers from me.

We worked quickly, he would put up the flyer and I would give him the tape. Occasionally, I had to correct his placement, but for the most part he was an okay flyer-placer.

"Kol, we can't all be six feet tall," I reminded him.

"What, this one's in a perfect spot!" He countered.

"Um, yeah…" I suck a piece of tape onto the back of his red and navy blue plaid shirt where I already had a small collection of unusable tape going. "If you're your height. For us groundlings, it has to be a little bit lower to be at eye level."

"Well fine," He grumbled as he moved the flyer down and taped it.

"That's a good boy," I patted his shoulder, leaving another piece of tape.

"I'm not a dog," he pointed out. "And stop putting tape on me! Look at this! I'm covered!"

He had discovered my little collection. "This is ridiculous." Kol complained as he removed his shirt to take off the tape. I tried not to stare as the light blue t-shirt that he was wearing underneath that clung to his muscular build.

"But we're all done," I pointed out to him innocently.

He glared at me playfully as he removed the last few pieces of tape.

"You're not mad at me, are you?" I pushed him against the wall next to a row of yellow lockers.

"Mad at you?" He cocked an eyebrow at me. "Never."

"Good." I nodded firmly before giving him a quick peck on the lips.

"What was that for?" He smiled a little goofily.

I shrugged. "For being wonderful."

"But I'm always wonderful," He smirked at me.

"Sure you are." I patted his chest and then turned to continue down the hall.

It took him a second before he realized that I wasn't coming back. "Hey, wait!" He ran after me.

I dropped of the last of the files that I needed to review in the main office and clocked out. He waited in the hallway for me.

"Got any dinner plans for tonight?" He asked, taking my hand as I left the office.

"Hmm," I led him towards the staff parking lot. "Dinner with myself, can't cancel that again. And then Criminal Minds is on tonight, can't miss that either, though I think it's a rerun."

"So I take it you're free," He pushed open the door for me and we stepped out onto the pavement.

"I suppose," I nodded. "But it better be a good reason."

We walked down the sidewalk to the parking lot, past the marquee with the giant red and orange phoenix.

"There's supposed to be some big announcement at dinner," He explained as he tapped his wallet against the scanner to unlock the gate.

"That sounds like it'll be good news," I squeezed his hand.

He shrugged. "Sure, I just hate stuff like this. Y'know, all of the…togetherness."

I had to fight off a sigh. I had also spent those weeks trying to get him to open up to me, to no avail. Still, I couldn't just leave him to fend for himself, especially not when his siblings had made a game of making him crack—one that he was surprisingly well aware of.

"Alright," I nodded. "I'll go with you."

I opened my car door and he held it open as I got in.

"Besides," He smirked. "You've become something of a staple, anyway."

I nodded, my brow furrowed in slight confusion. "Good to know."

"Seven-ish, okay?" He told me as I started the engine.

"Alright," I nodded as I began to pull out. He waved before going over to his silver G class Mercedes.

I went home for a few hours to change and unwind before I left for the Mikaelson place. I made sure to stop to pick up some flowers for Mrs. Mikaelson, as it was rude to arrive empty handed to a dinner, regardless of how frequently I had done joined them in the past few weeks.

"For me?" Kol teased as he opened the front door. "You shouldn't have."

I pushed him away. "No, not for you."

"Oh, you've invited Sara," Esther smiled as she came to take the flowers from me. "How lovely to see you again, my dear."

"Likewise, Mrs. Mikaelson," I nodded as Kol placed an arm around me and leaned in to give me a kiss on the cheek. "Kol," I hissed as she turned to go back into the dining room.

"What, she doesn't care," He shrugged.

I tried to keep a straight face as I chastised him. "We need to at least appear to be respectable in front of your mother."

"But being respectable is so boring," He mused.

"My goodness, this is the third time this week alone," Rebekah announced her presence as she came down the staircase.

We had reconciled two weeks ago, after a long and rather tearful apology on her part. Unfortunately, Kol and I had been the root of many of her jokes and the basis for her teasing for the better part of those two weeks. She assured us, however, that she fully approved.

"I swear he's being rude by not just having you move in. You both would save so much on gas." She smiled.

"Hi Rebekah," I gave her a hug.

"Hello, love." Rebekah squeezed me. "I mean, he's got his own bloody house, for god's sake. There's no excuse."

"But if I did that, then you would be there all day, therefore rendering my own house pointless," Kol pointed out to her as we went into the dining room.

"Then why don't you just move in with her?" She smiled menacingly at him and then turned to me. "You can have him, my gift to you."

I was seated in between Kol and Rebekah, with Elijah and Darren on the opposite side of us. The girls in between them, and Klaus and Caroline also on the opposite side. Finn sat at the opposite head as his mother, Sage seated to his left, and their sons Robert and Mikael in between Rebekah and Sage. I was beginning to understand Kol's wariness over all of their "togetherness."

"My, my," Darren shook his head with a smirk. "Kol, you're starting to make us wonder."

"Perhaps it's time you formally introduce us to your lovely guest," Elijah finished his husband's thought.

Kol shot them both a glare from across the table. "Perhaps it's time you mind your own business."

"Ouch, someone's in a feisty mood," Darren chuckled.

Thankfully, they left him alone for most of dinner. I was pretty sure, however, that it was due in part to my death glares at Klaus.

"So Sara, what are your plans for Halloween?" Klaus inquired, trying his best to stay away from Kol.

I glanced over at Kol, before answering. "Oh, I've got this charity ball thing that my parents made me promise to go to. They're in Mexico right now, so I apparently have to go in their place."

"How nice of you to do that," Klaus smiled, his eyes only wavering slightly over to Kol.

I hadn't forgotten what he had shared with me just a few weeks prior. In fact, I had lost quite a bit of sleep over it, but it wasn't something that I could just bring up over dinner.

"Is this the Boo Ball for the children's hospital?" Esther asked from the other side of Kol.

I nodded. "Yes, we try to go to at least one of their events every year."

She smiled softly. "We're big contributors. But this year, Kol will be going in our place, won't you, dear?" She turned to gaze at him.

Rebekah's brow furrowed. "Wait, are you going together?"

"Oh no, I had no idea he was going," I shook my head. What a pleasant surprise.

"Well why don't you?" Esther prodded.

Kol turned to me and spoke quietly. "I was going to ask you if you wanted to go, but apparently you're already going. You're not going to turn me down in front of my family, now are you?"

I smirked at him now. "Yes, of course I would." I whispered to him.

"Of course we'll go together," I told Mrs. Mikaelson. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

"We have to go in costume," He nudged me under the table with his knee.

"Oh, I know." I took his hand. "Don't worry; I have the perfect idea for us."

"Kol hates Halloween," Rebekah piped up beside me. "As to why is entirely beyond me, you'd think he'd love it."

"Yeah, hi, Rebekah?" Kol waved at her as he leaned behind me. "I'm right here. There's no need to discuss me in the third person."

She rolled her eyes. "Oh Kol, you have no idea how much we've missed you all these years without you."

As dessert was passed out, Elijah and Darren exchanged a look before the former called attention. By this point, Leah and Lilah had come over to our side of the table and demanded to sit with Uncle Kol. Of course, Kol obliged.

"Everyone, Darren and I…have an announcement to make." Elijah commanded attention like the Mikaelson that he was.

"After much thought and deliberation," Darren began, fidgeting with his cuff links.

Elijah, too nervously toyed with a button on his dinner jacket. "And countless arguments,"

I had a feeling about what was coming, but I held my breath the same as the others.

"We're pleased to announce that there will be a new addition to the family come summertime." They smiled together.

The room erupted. Both were engulfed by family members, so I decided to wait it out until the swarm died out. Beside me however, I found Kol trying to deal with two sobbing little girls.

"What's wrong, girls?" I turned to them.

"We don't want a baby." They cried.

I exchanged an amused look with Kol. This was certainly unexpected.

I took Lilah from him and held her. "Why not, girls? It's not so bad. I promise."

They sniffed. "We don't want a baby." They repeated in between hiccups.

"Hey look," Kol spoke to them in a soothing tone. "I didn't want a little sister, but I still got Rebekah anyway. She's not so bad…usually."

They each gave him tearful looks. "Are you sure?"

"Sure, I am," He nodded. "Don't worry, it'll be great."

"Girls," Elijah and Darren held their arms out to them.

They gave Kol and me one last uncertain look before running over to them.

I went over to give them each a hug. "Congratulations," I said.

"Thanks," Darren squeezed me with one arm. "I think." He looked worried at Lilah in his arms.

"Did they not know?" I asked as I hugged Elijah.

He shook his head. "No, they knew. They just haven't quite warmed up to the idea."

"They'll come around," I reassured him.

"I certainly hope so." He nodded a little grimly.

Following dinner, I went with Kol to his house. The change in atmosphere was almost refreshing.

"So how does it feel to be an uncle again?" I asked him as we took the paved walkway.

He gave me a funny look. "It hasn't been born yet, so I suppose I don't know."

"You know what I mean," I squeezed his hand.

He opened the door for me and followed me into his living room. "As long as it's not like Leah and Lilah, it's all just fine by me. Then again…they could have another set of twins. This could be problematic."

"How so?" My mouth twitched into an amused smile.

He flopped onto the couch. "I don't know that I could handle another pair like them."

I curled into his side, snuggling into his shoulder. "You love them, you know you do."

"I never said I didn't," Kol reached for the remote to the TV on the coffee table in front of the couch.

"Whatever will you do, counting this one and Klaus and Caroline's baby, you'll have six nieces and nephews. And as far as I can tell, they all absolutely adore you." I pointed out to him.

"As long as I don't have to babysit them all at once, it's all good." He put an arm around me as the TV screen lit up.

I reached for the afghan hanging over the arm of the couch and wrapped it around us. "I think we can manage."

"We?" He turned to look at me.

I nodded. Kol's lips slowly turned up into a slow smile.

"I suppose so," he finally responded.

He pressed a gentle kiss to my forehead before tuning into CBS for me.

The big night arrived quickly, and after making many calls to several costume houses, I finally found what I was looking for. Kol and I had agreed on our costume, but decided that we would add an air of mystery by shopping separately. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to see him in his costume.

It turned out that Matt and Rebekah would be joining us after all, so she demanded that I change into my costume with her.

"It'll be just like old times, minus the smelly dressing room and that man whore." She insisted. The 'man whore' in reference to Griffin.

So I found myself, in a beige trench coat and a scarf around my hair to hide any trace of the costume from him, trudging up the grand staircase to Rebekah's wing, garment bag and shoe box in tow.

"Shall I help you with that?" A familiar voice chuckled behind me.

I turned to find him leaning against the wall, still in his usual jeans and faded band t-shirt.

"No, but thank you." I nodded. "Shouldn't you be getting dressed? I expect full on face make up."

He gave me a serious look. "You're joking. Don't worry; I'll be fully dressed before you're even half way done."

I shot him a playful glare. "You better be, otherwise you'll be spending eternity in the dungeons."

With that, I hurried off to Rebekah's rooms, making sure that he wasn't following me.

It didn't take long to dress, though Rebekah did take up a considerable amount of my time with her usual chatter. Her costume however, was the teensiest bit scandalous. She and Matt were dressing for the '20s. Her flapper costume suited her well.

"Oh Bekah, you're looking as scandalous as ever." I remarked as she put on her bright red lipstick.

"And don't you forget it," She winked at me in the mirror.

She came over to me as I was putting on the petticoats, what appeared to be a newspaper in her hands. "Speaking of scandalous, you might want to read this before going out tonight. This is just a fair warning for the possible death threats that you'll be receiving after tomorrow."

"I'm sorry?" I was confused as I took the paper from her hands. I unfolded it to find an article on her engagement party. One of the highlights, however, appeared to be a side panel on Kol. There was a picture of him looking quite dapper in his tux, casually leaning against the railing of the staircase. According to the article, he was "the most eligible bachelor this side of the Mississippi" and any girl that got her hands on him would be "the luckiest woman in the west."

"Good lord," I muttered as I set it down on the table before me.

Her heels clicked as she came over to take it. "I know. Whoever wrote this was obviously biased. They obviously don't know him well."

"Has he seen it?" I asked almost nervously. I certainly hadn't seen it before, but I didn't want him to think that I had. It was no secret that the Mikaelsons came from very old money, but that wasn't at all my reason for being with him.

She shrugged as she sat down on a settee. "Of course he has. He thinks it's the most hilarious thing in the world. He claims he even went to thank the writer."

Now I knew that he hadn't taken it all seriously. "Yeah, sounds about right." I responded sarcastically.

I had only just slipped into the gown when she left to check on Matt.

"I'll be right back," She told me as I was unzipping the garment bag.

I was having a bit of trouble lacing up the back of the dress.

"Bek?" I called out. "A little help here. Rebekah?"

I heard a small gasp behind me and turned to find Caroline standing there stunned.

"You look like a princess," She murmured.

I sheepishly held my dress on with my arms. "Actually, I was going for Christine Daae, but thanks."

"I'll help you," She hurried over and quickly pulled the laces on the bodice and tied me up. "Rebekah's probably held up with Matt.

I turned to find myself transformed. The dress fit well, the off-the-shoulder sleeves lying gracefully on my arms, the sleeves puffed out for a regal effect, and the bodice spreading out into a full shimmering ball gown with starburst beading. She finished it off by tying the blue and gold sash around my waist.

"Where the heck did you find this and where can I get one in my size?" She clutched my shoulders.

I laughed and gave her the name of the costume house that had provided my movie replica attire for the night. Caroline sighed, informing me that she couldn't wait to have her body back. I could only imagine what a bother it must be.

She was quiet for a moment before picking up a box that she had set on the table. "He sent these for you. I hope you don't mind, but I peeked."

I took it from her, cautiously lifting the lid. Kol was always exceedingly generous with his gifts, and this was no exception. I found a pair of golden star earrings that dangled with two additional stars below the stud. Each star had a small diamond laid in the center, giving it that extra shimmer.

"Perfect," I put them into their rightful place on my ears.

Caroline grinned as she stared at me. "My god, I can't wait to not be pregnant anymore so I can wear amazing costumes."

I smiled sympathetically. "Next year, hon."

"I'm gonna go get my camera. There's no way I'm letting you two leave this house without documenting this." She ran off to fetch her camera, leaving me to step into my shoes, and collect my things before I could go downstairs.

I had to admire them for just a minute before I put them on. The satin heels with the white bow were just too pretty to not stare at them for just few seconds before I wouldn't be able to see them all night.

I took one look in the mirror before sending Kol a text, asking him if he was ready for me. When he replied that he was already downstairs with Rebekah and Matt, I picked up my skirt and made my way down the hall.

They heard the clicks of my heels before they saw me.

"Here she comes." I heard Caroline squeal. As to how on earth a pregnant woman managed to waddle her way to their wing of the house, grab her camera, and come back before I did, was entirely beyond me. But Caroline never ceased to amaze me.

There was complete silence as I descended down the steps of the marble staircase. I didn't dare look at Kol until I reached the bottom. Luckily, a gloved hand was extended for me to take, grasping my fingers warmly as I stepped onto the floor.

I looked up to find a very familiar face smiling at me.

"Hi stranger," I grinned at him.

"Hello," He pressed his forehead to mine and then kissed me.

Rebekah interrupted, "A bride and groom already, aren't you supposed to send out invitations first?"

I shot her a look before handing Kol his mask. I was pleased to find that he had stuck as closely to the character as possible, slicked back hair, cape and all.

"Thinking differently, sister?" He asked as I leaned in closer to him so that we could properly display the full costume.

"Clever," She conceded. "Why didn't we think of something cute like that?" She playfully hit her fiancée.

"Because you wanted to be a flapper?" He tried.

"That's not going to cut it next year," She told him sternly.

Caroline insisted upon taking several pictures of the four us, guilting us into it by threatening to cry because of her hormones.

"My, my," Klaus announced his entrance before coming up behind Caroline and wrapping an arm around her. "It seems that this generation enjoys this holiday far too much."

"No, you're just a party pooper and don't like to dress up for Halloween." His wife turned to glare at him.

He scoffed, "Now dear, let's not point fingers. I'm not the one that didn't want to dress up this year. I tried to play nice this year, but you insisted."

She didn't have time to argue because two little tornados swept in to steal everyone's attention, or two little princesses, rather.

"Sara!" They screamed as they ran to touch the skirt of the gown.

The horror on Darren's face was evident as he came in behind them. "Whoa, whoa, no touching the pretty dress," He pulled them away. "I'd rather we not ruin a few costumes tonight."

"It's fine," I waved him off. They had only come to admire the beading. "What's the worst that could happen?"

"You've obviously never had them around delicate things," He explained. "My goodness, you four just went all out, didn't you?"

The girls had begun pulling on Kol's cape. "Uncle Kol, what are you supposed to be? Grooms don't wear capes! You got your costume wrong."

Kol rolled his eyes. "No girls, I'm The Phantom, not a groom."

Their protests began almost immediately. "Aww, why not? At least Sara got it right. Look, she's even got sparklies in her hair!"

"Yeah, at least I got it right," I nudged him playfully.

He grimaced a little. "Next year," He conceded to them. Their squeals of joy were enough of an answer.

"We want to take a picture with the big princess," They pushed Kol out of the way.

"Gee, thanks." He grumbled sarcastically as Caroline showed them how to stand so they wouldn't crush the dress.

"Aww, how come I don't get a cape?" Little Robbie went straight for his uncle's cape.

Kol pulled away in slight horror, before realizing that it was only Robert. "Hey, little man." He patted his seven year old nephew's head.

"Can I have a cape?" He asked Kol seriously.

"But you're Iron Man! Iron man doesn't have a cape," Kol explained to him.

The little boy's brow furrowed as he reached up to scratch his auburn hair, the padded muscles on his costume scrunching up. "But why not?"

"Maybe in the next movie, pal," Kol squeezed his shoulder before pulling him closer to keep him from running everywhere.

"Just one last one," Caroline demanded before letting the girls go. "Big smiles, ladies."

I made sure to smile once more, though my cheeks were starting to hurt.

"Wait!" Robbie ran from Kol's grasp. "I wanna be in the picture, too!"

We had to wait for Caroline to place Robbie just where she wanted him, before we could take the picture. Kol shot me a pair of thumbs up and I stuck my tongue out at him.

"What about me?" Mikael, an eleven year old carbon copy of his father, ran in looking for Robert and upon finding him, realized that he was being left out of this picture.

"Alright, you too, Captain America," Caroline waved him over.

I had an arm around Mikael, my right hand held tightly by Lilah, and my other arm around Robbie, hand grasped by Leah.

"Smile!" Caroline grinned as she snapped the pictured.

It wasn't until the flashes went off simultaneously that I realized she wasn't the only one that had broken out the camera.

"Wait one more with all of you!" Darren pushed Rebekah and Matt towards us, and Leah let go of my hand to drag Kol over.

Kol had Leah in his left arm, his right arm around me. Rebekah was pushed in next to me, Matt to her right with Lilah in his right arm. Mikael and Robert were squeezed into the front in between Rebekah and me.

We took a few more pictures before Caroline finally gave her consent for us to disperse.

"Uncle Kol, do you like my princess dress?" Leah tugged on his sleeve as he put her down.

"Oh yes, you look wonderful," Kol told her. "The glitter on me…not so much." He dusted the silver glitter from her Cinderella dress from his sleeves.

"What about mine, Uncle Kol?" Lilah came up on his other side to show off her pink and purple Rapunzel dress.

"Yeah, you too, Lilah," He nodded before turning back to me.

I smirked at him amusedly. "And what about me, Uncle Kol?" I teased him, hands on my hips.

He gave me a 'really?' look and extended his hand to me.

I shook my head at him. "Oh no, I'm not leaving until I get an answer."

"Uncle Kol, who's prettier, Sara or us?" Leah asked him, her brown eyes twinkling in a way not unlike her father's.

"Yeah, who?" Lilah echoed.

Kol let out a sigh. "Well now you've got me caught between a rock and a hard place."

"We're waiting," Leah tapped her foot impatiently, Lilah crossed her arms.

He looked at me for some help, but I kept my gaze even.

"Girls," He squeaked. "You know I can't answer that…"

Both of them gave him rather menacing looks. "Why not?"

"Because…." He trailed off. Suddenly, there was a mischievous gleam in his eyes. "Somebody," He gave them a wink. "Might get a little jealous, if you know what I mean."

My jaw dropped in feigned dismay, but the girls gasped.

"Uncle Kol!" They shrieked. "You're s'posed to tell your wife that she's the prettiest girl in the room."

"In the whole world!" Leah continued.

"The universe!" Lilah added.

Kol looked thoroughly confused. Apparently it wasn't what they wanted to hear. He shook his head. "I will never understand women."

"You have to 'pologize," They pushed him towards me. "Tell her you're sorry and that she's the most beautifulest girl you've ever seen."

"Alright, alright," He held up his hands in defeat, stopping just short of my skirt.

"I'm sorry?" He smiled amusedly and frankly, I couldn't take him seriously in that mask.

"Apology accepted," I bowed my head in acceptance.

"Alright girls, that's enough terrorizing your uncle for one night," Darren finally appeared to take the two meddling princesses.

"But we want Uncle Kol to take us trick-or-treating," They protested. "Please," They begged, their best puppy looks on display.

Kol exchanged a look with me before I gave him a nod of approval.

"Tell you what," He crouched down to their height. "It's five o'clock right now. We'll be back at about eight, and I'd be happy to take you around the block then. How does that sound?"

"Yay! Okay!" They both threw their arms around his neck in joy.

"Don't worry, Elijah and I will tire them out for you. They won't even make it around the block once." Darren clasped his arm before taking each girl by the hand.

"I found them!" Elijah rushed in, two tiaras in his hands. "Aww, did I miss the pictures?" His face fell a little in disappointment.

"My crown!" The girls ran over to him, taking the tiaras from his hand.

"Yes, next time don't shove them to the bottom of the toy chest, please." He said as he straightened Leah's tiara.

Darren poked him, "Check these four out."

"Wow," Elijah smiled. "You like to go all out, don't you?"

The girls proudly informed him that Kol and I would be returning to trick-or-treat with them.

We arrived at the hospital a little after five thirty, leaving us with just enough time to take part in dinner and mingle with the people there. The ball was held in the new ballroom that had only been completed last year, an addition to the hospital for large events like this one.

Kol and I received quite a few compliments on costume. Surprisingly, Matt and Rebekah's was also a hit.

"Forgive me for not telling you earlier, but you're the 'most beautifulest' girl in the room. Dare I say the universe right now?" He was quite the romantic when he wanted to be.

"Well when you say it like that," I couldn't help but smile. "I suppose I'll just have to forgive you."

A touching toast was given by some of the older patients, in memory of those who had been lost in the past year. I got a little teary eyed, as did Rebekah, but Kol remained rather stoic.

"What's got your knickers in a twist?" I squeezed his hand as his expression had descended into a look somewhere between menace and contemplation. "Kol?" It took him a second before he responded.

"I think I need some air," He slipped away, cape flying behind him. "I'll be back."

"O-okay," I didn't think he wanted to be followed, so I let him be.

It wasn't as though I would have drowned in awkwardness without him, on the contrary, I ran into some friends of my parents, and had quite a lengthy conversation with them. But when he had been gone for the better part of half an hour, I decided to go looking for him.

I stopped to ask Rebekah if she knew where he had gone, but she said she wasn't sure.

"He isn't very fond of this place," She shrugged, her eyes not meeting mine. "Though he has been volunteering here quite often since he's returned, so I'm not sure."

I was a little surprised. He hadn't mentioned anything about the hospital or volunteering. I wasn't sure if I needed to be a bit disappointed that he hadn't told me, after all, if he didn't tell me, it was for a reason, right?

I wandered the halls of the hospital, until I met a nurse. I asked her if she knew who Kol Mikaelson was and whether or not she had seen him. Luckily, she knew who I was looking for and told me that she had just seen him on the seventh floor, where she had just come from. I thanked her and took the elevator to the seventh floor.

When I reached the seventh floor, the silver elevator doors opened, to reveal a brightly lit open reception area. Unfortunately, there was no one at the desk for me to ask about Kol, so instead I picked the hallway to the right and proceeded with my search.

Despite the cheery colors and the brightness of the lights, I couldn't help but feel like they were trying to overcompensate for something. It only took one glance towards the ceiling for me to confirm my suspicions.

The sign read simply "Oncology, 7th floor" in bright blue letters against a yellow backdrop, sorry attempts at making it feel a little more cheery.

The clicks of my heels were the only sounds as I travelled down the hallway of closed doors and windows with blinds shut tightly. I couldn't help but think of the terminally ill children that were most likely concealed from my view, a feeling of nausea threatening to overtake me.

I felt as though I was going to crazy if I didn't find my way out of there, when suddenly I rounded a corner into a large play area enclosed behind glass. The walls were painted to look as though it were a playground outside, and except for the fact that it wasn't outside, it definitely felt that way. There was a jungle gym with a slide and various tricycles and other toys littered the squishy play mat on the floor. In the rear corner there was a huge faux tree built out of some synthetic material meant to resemble bark. The trunk of the tree was hollow for a large seat, several rows of "logs" made from some sort of squishy filling material. It was something along the lines of a forest classroom.

Several children took the spaces on the logs, and others spilled over onto bean bags and the floor. Their attention was captivated by the man sitting in the hollow of the tree, his cape spilling across the seat, a child on either side of him, one of which was proudly displaying the book that was being read to them.

It was only when the little girl sitting to his right tugged on the scarf wrapped around her head that I noticed that most of the children were bald, if not balding, or had scarves around their heads.

"You can go in if you'd like," I jumped as I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to find a kind looking nurse smiling at me. She must've been in her late thirties, maybe early forties, her dark brown locks were pulled into a ponytail with a white ribbon to hold her hair back and smile lines only just creasing the corners of her eyes. "You're with Kol, aren't you?"

I nodded slowly. "Does he do this often?"

She straightened her purple Minnie Mouse scrubs before replying. "He's one of our regulars. The kids love him. We love having him. He's such a wonderful distraction for some of them."

"Some of them?"

She sighed a little, a tired sigh of many years. "Some of those kids in there are in a lot of pain. We try to make them as comfortable as possible, but we can only do so much. Our volunteers are such a big help."

I turned to look at Kol again, but he didn't even notice me.

"I'm Isabella, by the way. I'm the head nurse." She touched my arm gently. "If you need anything, just ask for me. It was nice meeting you, Sara."

I didn't have time to ask her how she knew my name before she hurried down the hall. I decided that it was probably best to make my presence known, so I pushed open the glass door quietly, slipping into the playroom unnoticed.

He was just finishing the book, so they all clapped joyfully. I joined in, applauding politely. It was only then that he noticed me standing awkwardly in the back. I gave him a little wave, but made no move to pull him away.

"I love that story," A little girl in the front commented. "Can we hear it again?"

"We've already read it twice, Anna," Kol reminded her.

"But we like it!" A group of children called from one of the logs.

His lips slowly spread into one of his amused smiles, but he looked at me for approval. "Is that alright?" He asked me, his gaze innocent.

I nodded as I moved to sit in one of the little chairs from a table strewn with crayons, markers, and construction paper. "Sure, I'd love to hear it again."

A young boy of about six popped up beside him. "She said yes, now read it, please."

Kol smiled. "Alright, but only once more. After that, I think it's time for all of you to go back to your rooms, as it's almost your bedtime."

The children gave a whine of protest before agreeing to his conditions. I sat patiently and waited for him to finish the story. It just so happened that it was a fairytale, your typical prince and princess love story, but they loved it anyway.

After the story I went with Kol to lead several of the younger ones back to their rooms.

"Goodnight," He would wave to them as they went off. Once the last one was returned, he took my hand again.

"Sorry I ran off. I just…needed some space for a few minutes."

"It's alright." I shrugged. "I didn't know you did this kind of stuff.

He gave a little shrug of his shoulders. "I do a lot of it actually. I don't mind it, I actually kind of like it."

I nodded. "You're good with this kind of stuff."

"Come on," He squeezed my hand. "I want you to meet someone."

"Oh?" I shuffled along as he pulled me down a different set of hallways.

I had no idea where we were going, but I followed him anyway. We stopped in a much more subdued section of the floor. Gone were the flowers and butterflies that had once adorned the walls. The bright colors were kept, but it wasn't as…juvenile.

It was room 246, the blinds were shut, but there was light seeping through the cracks. Kol knocked and waited to receive a response.

"Come in," A voice called from behind the door, and Kol pushed it open.

"Hey man, how's it going?"

There was a boy of about 17 or 18 sitting on the bed, the hospital gown hanging from his thin frame. His mocha complexion and tight short curls suited his bright smile well.

"Kol, hey!" His face absolutely lit up. "It's goin' alright."

"That's great, are you ready to fly the coop?" Kol clasped him on the shoulder like an old friend.

"Heck yeah, I've been ready for years." I noticed the various machines that were hooked to him, and well…how sick he looked.

"Sorry, I know this looks really scary, but it's not as bad as it looks." The boy acknowledged my presence, his smile fading only slightly. "I'm Perry, by the way. Perry Brown, at your service."

It took me a second to stop staring; I knew it was rude, so I averted my eyes instinctively. "Sorry," I managed.

"Oh, that was rude of me. I'm sorry. Perry, I'd like you to meet my…uhm…Sara." Kol introduced me.

I went over to shake his hand. "Hi Perry, it's nice to meet you."

"This is a real honor," He pumped my arm in his vigorous handshake. "I'm a really big fan."

Now I was surprised.

"I watched the benefit concert that you gave last year for the hospital." He explained. "You're kind of a big deal around here."

"Oh," I nodded. "I don't remember seeing you there. You should have demanded to see me."

He shook his head. "I was on lockdown. No outside world after the transplant, so I couldn't leave my room."

I blinked, trying to take it all in. Just how sick was this poor boy?

"I-I'm sorry," I didn't really know how to respond.

Perry shook his head. "No, I'm much better now. I'm going home in a few days."

I nodded, unsure if they were lying to him or if he just hadn't seen himself in a mirror.

"Perry here's our newest addition to the label, aren't you kid?" Kol tried to diffuse the tension.

"Seriously?" His eyes widened in joy. "Really?"

"Yeah man, you've got the okay." Kol nodded to him. "We record next week, if that's cool with your parents."

"You bet it'll be!" His joy was contagious. "This is gonna be amazing!"

I couldn't help but smile. Kol explained to me that Perry had given him a few of the scores that he had written, and his brothers liked it so much that they were going to give him a contract to record them professionally.

"That's great," I nodded in encouragement. I was genuinely happy for him.

We stayed a few minutes more, before wishing him a goodnight. Kol told him that he would be in touch and couldn't wait to meet with him on the outside.

"He seems like a good kid," I nodded as we returned down the hall.

"Yeah, he's…he's great." Kol agreed.

"I can't wait to hear what he's got."

"It's pretty good. The One Last Wish Foundation contacted us just a few months ago, asking if we would be willing to work with him. There was no way we could have turned him down."

I stopped. "The One Last Wish Foundation?"

Kol gave a small nod, turning to me but not meeting my eyes. "When he said he was going home, he didn't mean because he was getting better. Not really."

"Hospice?" I asked quietly, almost afraid to hear the confirmation for this boy that was still so young.

He didn't have to answer for me to know that I was right.

We continued down the hallway, Kol as silent as ever. It was strange to not have him making snide remarks beside me, but considering our current setting, I definitely understood.

We had reached a hallway lined with various frames with pictures of children. I was amused to find that it was something of a hall of fame. In this case however, the children had awards for everything from Best Stick Figure Artist to Bravest Chemo Patient of the Year.

It was picture of a little boy, no more than nine or ten that caught my eye. He had unruly brown hair, a button nose, a mischievous smile, and eyes that struck me as far too familiar. The face overall, was a mini Kol. If not for the darker hair, I might have mistaken him for Kol. It was only when I read the name that I understood.

Best Smile

Henrik Mikaelson

"Kol?" I turned to find that he wasn't anywhere near me, but rather still at the entrance to the hallway. "What're you doing all the way over there? Come here."

His eyes held what appeared to be almost terror. I felt worry begin to crease my forehead as he slowly came over to me.

"Henrik?" I asked him quietly.

He didn't say anything for a long time. He just stared at the frame on the wall, as if wishing it would speak for him, willing it to tell me itself so he wouldn't have to explain.

"That's my little brother," He replied finally, his voice barely above a whisper.

I waited for more, unsure if it would come. I had never seen him this way before. He was so…sad. His eyes had lost all joy and hope, they appeared distant and vacant. It was only when I touched his hand that he came back.

"He was just nine then. He had leukemia." He struggled to put together those two miniscule sentences.

I vaguely remembered Rebekah showing me the family portraits, large oil paintings of each of her siblings hung in one of their private galleries. I had noticed an abnormally empty spot after hers and inquired about it, but she simply said that the painting had been removed. I got the impression that she didn't want to talk about it, so I didn't press for more. This must've been the missing portrait.

I didn't ask him for more, but he continued anyway.

"The doctors said that he would get better, maybe even cured if he got a bone marrow transplant. Siblings are typically better matches than parents, so all of us were tested. It just so happened that I was the closest match. So we did the transplant, it took weeks of preparation, and then months of waiting afterward. It looked like we were in the clear. Henrik was getting better, stronger. He looked healthier overall." He paused to take a breath.

"And then he caught a cold. It was completely out of the blue, the doctors were completely baffled as to how it could have happened. He was under total quarantine. But it happens. His immune system had been destroyed, so there was no way for him to fight it. The infection from a cough that came later spread into his lungs and he got pneumonia. It was all downhill from there. He was such a great kid, he didn't deserve it."

I realized then, that Kol's eyes had welled with tears that were threatening to spill over at any moment. His voice had grown thick with emotion, and no amount of his swallowing was going to help.

"Oh, Kol," I wrapped my arms around him tightly. I felt him shake, before he elicited what sounded like a choked sob. "Shhh," I stroked his hair.

"I wish I could have taken it away," He choked. "I wish I could have done more."

"There's nothing you could have done," I held him tighter in an effort to hold onto his shaking form. "It was out of your control."

"I was supposed to save him," His voice hitched on the last two words. I tried to look at him, but he wouldn't let me. "I was his hero, and I didn't save him."

I rubbed his back, attempting to sooth him. "It's not your fault Kol. He was a sick little boy. There's nothing that you could have done."

"Look at me," I forced him to look at me. It was shocking to see this usually poised, cocky, man so broken. His hazel eyes red and puffy, cheeks stained with tear tracks. "It's not your fault, okay?"

"It should have been me," He said quietly averting his eyes.

So he had finally let me in. He was baring his soul to me, and I began to understand him.

I let him finish, there was no use arguing with him when he was that far gone. He managed to compose himself long enough to make it back to the car. I sent Rebekah a text that we were going home earlier than expected, and that we would be waiting for them back at the house. I was thankful that we had travelled in separate cars.

"Are you sure you can drive?" I didn't want to sound pushy, but I was worried as he closed my door. Even at his lowest he didn't forget his manners.

He nodded as he got into the driver's side. "I'm fine. I'll be okay."

We didn't speak as he drove back to the house. I simply held his hand.

"I'm not ready to go in there yet," He finally spoke as he pulled into his garage.

"Okay, that's okay. We can wait inside. It's only seven thirty." I unbuckled myself and climbed out of the car.

I was able to see just how much he had been affected when he didn't follow me. I went around to his side and opened the door. I reached around him to unbuckle his seatbelt and pulled him down from the car.

"It's gonna be okay," I squeezed him.

He gave a distant nod before going into the house. I followed behind him, making sure to close the garage and lock the door.

He mentioned wanting to be alone for a few minutes, so I took it as my opportunity to go see Alyssa.

"Wait," He stopped me before I could open the door. "You're coming back, aren't you?"

"If you want me to, then yes." I nodded.

He gave a small nod. "Don't take your car, take mine." He pressed his keys into my hand.

I gave him a look of confusion.

"You won't fit in yours with that dress." He explained.

I nodded. "Alright, I'll be back. You do what you need to do."

He didn't say anything; much less acknowledge my presence as I went back toward the garage. Instead he just stood staring out of the picture window at the front towards the main house. Moonlight illuminated the angel of music as he stayed at the window, tears glistening in his eyes. The pain was evident, but he didn't want me there to soothe him. Not yet anyway. I left feeling helpless and a tiny bit unwelcome. I knew he would come around, but I wished there was some way that I could have helped him. Suddenly, I began to understand his feeling of helplessness.

He had been forced to stand around and watch his brother die. For someone like Kol who was so controlling, so demanding, so protective, it must've been excruciating.

The drive to the Salvatore house was short, just a few minutes, pretty fast considering I had to watch for trick-or-treaters. I found a parking spot across the street and sent her a text that I was outside. She came bounding out onto the porch as I walked up the driveway.

"Oh my gosh, you look like a queen," She squealed as she ran to hug me.

I patted her on the back. "Thanks."

She demanded that I give her a 360 degree view, so I had to spin around. Damon came out onto the porch and commented on my costume choice.

"Isn't that a bit much?" He leaned against one of the posts.

I gave him an annoyed look. "It's never a bit much. You don't half-ass Phantom."

"Seems a bit lonely if it's just Christine, though…"

I studied him, but he didn't seem to show any signs of knowing. Still, I couldn't help but be a little suspicious.

"So have you taken the full costume around the block yet?" I turned back to Alyssa. She was dressed in black tights and a black long sleeved top, but she was actually a bag of jelly beans. When complete, she would have clear cellophane wrapped around her to form a sort of bag, inflated water balloons for jelly beans. She had sent me a picture earlier, and it was utterly adorable.

"Not yet, Dad was just about to take me out." She shook her head.

I waved her on, "Well don't let me keep you! Go get your costume on and have some fun!"

"Wait, I want you to see me in it," She instructed me to wait while she went into the house to put it on.

Damon returned with an NYU sweatshirt and a flashlight in his hand.

"You always did love Halloween," He commented softly.

"Not like I loved Christmas, though. I can't wait for that," I reminded him.

He nodded. "Oh yes, I remember now. The Christmas songs year round. They drove me crazy." The faintest hint of a smile traced his mouth.

"Yeah, that definitely still happens," I, too, nodded. "Luckily my mother shares my love for the holiday."

His eyes flashed for a second. Was it anger?

I kicked myself a little, but then I reminded myself that there was no need to please him. He wasn't really my friend, right? Those memories of bygone holidays needed to fade with time. They would have to go away eventually, right? They would stop haunting my present holidays someday.

"Do you remember the year we went to China for the New Year?" He asked suddenly, his gaze distant, as if he was reliving the memory.

I sighed. It would never stop. "How could I forget? It was the coolest New Year ever."

"It was, wasn't it?" He returned to me. His blue eyes held a sort of sadness that was difficult to describe.

"How many kids get to say that they've gone to the big New Year's festival in Hong Kong?"

"Not too many," He agreed with a nod just as Alyssa stepped out onto the porch.

She was closely followed by Stefan, the latter of whom completely caught me off guard.

"Whoa," Stefan stopped dead in his tracks. He was dressed in was appeared to be his representation of Clyde Barrow. It was surprisingly spot on for what I had previously pictured.

I crossed my arms half out of embarrassment that I hadn't come as Bonnie and half due to the gust of wind that had come by and chilled me.

"Uhm…so I decided to go as Christine Daae…" I rubbed my arm nervously, sort of afraid to look at him.

Before I could work up the courage to look at him, he was by my side. His hand gently enclosed over my tricep, warming me instantly.

"We're going to let you two work this out," Damon hurriedly ushered Alyssa past us.

I turned to wave to her. "Bye Lyss, have fun! You look great! Knock 'em dead, kiddo!"

She nodded, but her usually smiling face looked at us with worry.

I grimaced for a second as I realized that I had just used a phrase that I hadn't heard in over a decade. It wasn't something that I wished to repeat, so I made mental note to avoid it.

I gave myself a second to compose myself before turning to Stefan.

"I'm feeling kind of stupid right now…" He stared at his shoes.

I knew I had to do some serious damage control now. "No, why? I absolutely love it!" I hugged him tightly.

He pushed me away, not unkindly, but enough to get the point across.

"Let's not lie to each other," He cut to the chase. "Who went as the Phantom?"

I bit my lip. Alright, so I wasn't giving him enough credit here. He was smart enough to put two and two together, coming to the conclusion that I probably wouldn't touch such an iconic character without the other half. He was also able to see that Kol would have no problem subbing for him if necessary at any time.

"Do I really have to answer that?" I wanted to avoid any mention of Kol if possible.

His eyes glanced at me, though he didn't look up. "Maybe I should have dressed as Raoul…"

I knew it wasn't meant to be funny, but I let out a small snort involuntarily. I apologized almost instantly. "Oh god, I'm sorry. That's not funny. It really isn't. I'm sorry."

He smirked; it wasn't necessarily because he was amused, more because he was accepting his defeat.

"Did you have fun?" He finally looked at me.

How to answer that? I couldn't very well tell him that Kol had suffered something along the lines of a breakdown. "It depends on what your definition of fun is…"

Stefan gave a short nod, his jaw set into his thinking expression. "Judging by your noncommittal answer, I'm going to take that as a no. Good."

It was my turn to take a step back. I didn't think he was going to play that ruthlessly.

"Not good that you didn't have a good time, but…" He held his hands up to show me that he hadn't meant it in an offensive way. "I'm just…glad I don't have a high bar to exceed."

Well that changed things quite a bit.

"Sorry, just…I'm a little competitive in case you haven't noticed," Stefan shook his head in apology. "Not to make you sound like you're a trophy or anything…"

At this my eyebrows went up. I thought that Kol would argue otherwise.

He facepalmed. "Oh god, what am I saying? You're not…a material possession, if you get what I'm saying. Not that you're not a prize."

"Uh-huh…" I eyed him, feigning suspicion.

"Geez, I'm sorry! I had a few drinks with the executives. I'm definitely starting to feel it now. I'm sorry, I've lost track of where I was going with this."

It was rather amusing to watch him struggle like this. He was kind of cute when drunk.

"You were telling me that I'm no prize," I reminded him with a poke to his chest.

He nodded. "Right, right." He realized his mistake and his eyes widened. "No! That's not what I meant! Ugh…maybe I should just stop."

Now it was my turn to smirk at him. "I think it's best if you stay in for the rest of the night. Get some rest, we can discuss this later when you're thinking properly and not insulting me."

"I'm sorry," He held my shoulders. "I really didn't mean that. I just get the teeniest bit jealous when you're with…what's his name."

"Kol…" I prompted gently.

"Yeah, yeah," He nodded. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have judged you."

I was pulled into his embrace and sheltered from the chilly October air. "Don't worry about it."

"Cassie is coming next weekend for sure. What do you say if you and I meet her in Laguna and stay there for the night? Just you and I and a beachfront room. Even if she decides to postpone again, it'll still be a nice micro-vacation."

I sighed. Why the hell not? If I was going to be a pendulum, I might as well swing all the way. "I'd like that."

I made sure that he got back into the house and was going straight to bed before returning to Kol's. The clock was just chiming eight as I walked back into his house.

"Kol?" I called cautiously as I stepped into the living room.

He hadn't moved from his place by the window. Not an inch.

"Kol?" I asked again as I touched his shoulder. I wasn't sure how he would react, as I had never experienced anything like this. "Are you alright?"

He gave a short nod before turning to me. "Halloween was Henrik's favorite holiday."

"Oh, I didn't know."

Kol shrugged. "I'll be alright. Just give me a second."

I didn't mention the fact that he had the better part of half an hour to compose himself. I didn't know what it was like to lose a sibling, much less mourn the death of someone close, so I wasn't going to push him.

"What time is it?" He asked rather suddenly.

"It's eight." I informed him; apparently he hadn't heard the clock.

He nodded, and moved to take my hand. "I'm sure Leah and Lilah are expecting us. We should go."

I was a bit worried about him, that he could go from this intense pain, to pushing it all aside like it didn't matter. But maybe that's what happens thirteen years after losing your brother. You learn to cope.

It turned out that Leah and Lilah were, in fact, eagerly awaiting our arrival. Now they had their princess tiaras and pink and purple candy buckets in hand.

"Let's go, let's go!" They insisted nearly the second we walked in the door.

Elijah handed me their pink hoodies. "Hold your horses,"

"They've gone all over town," Darren explained. "Frankly, we didn't think that they'd last that long."

"We purposefully left a block untouched, just you. The odds that they'll make it all the way around…" Elijah trailed off as he watched the girls eagerly bouncing up and down.

"Pretty slim," Darren agreed.

"Fantastic, so we'll say about an hour tops?" Kol confirmed with his brother.

They both nodded. "If they make it that long."

Just as we were going to leave, Kol turned back.

"Do you have a torch?" He asked them. "I'm not sure how dark it is in the neighborhood."

Elijah and Darren cackled. "A torch!"

"Oh brother, you spent far too long in England." Elijah slapped him on the back before handing him a flashlight.

Kol grimaced. "Flashlight," He corrected himself as he took it.

"Have fun!" They called to us as we went around the house and down the paved circular driveway.

The girls had no problem informing us just which block it was that they had missed, and as soon as we were past the gates, they led us in the right direction.

When we were about halfway through the block, I began to shiver, wishing that I had brought my coat.

"Are you cold?" Kol had barely finished his question when he was already slipping his cape off.

I welcomed the soft fabric around me, still warm from his body. "Thanks."

The girls insisted upon walking ahead with the "torch," as they now called it. Kol had put an arm around me in an effort to warm me up. Just as Elijah and Darren had predicted, they didn't make it around the block.

"Uncle Kol, will you carry me?" Lilah tugged on the sleeve of her uncle's black tuxedo jacket.

"Me too," Leah demanded, raising her arms in waiting.

Kol and I exchanged a look.

"Sure, but put your jackets on first. It's cold outside." He helped them into their jackets as they each handed me their candy buckets.

"Aww, but I'm a princess," Leah protested as Kol reached around her to zip up the hoodie. His fingers worked expertly on the tiny zippers of their hoodies.

He took one into each arm and carried them easily. "Yes, but you can still be a princess with a jacket on."

They pouted as we returned in the direction we came from.

"Don't give me those looks," He shook his head in amusement. "Your Papa will have my head if you get sick."

By the time we walked back, they were no longer jabbering away, but rather dozing off on his shoulders. The walk wasn't at all far, but the girls were tired out. Elijah and Darren welcomed us upon arrival.

"What did we say, they wouldn't last a block!" Darren took Leah from Kol as Elijah reached over and took Lilah.

"No, but they certainly put up a fight when it came to putting on their jackets," Kol commented as he brushed the glitter from their dresses off of his jacket.

Elijah took the candy buckets from me, gleefully informing me that the girls would be lucky to even see a third of it.

"Oh my," I shook my head. At least they wouldn't be wrecking more havoc upon the Mikaelson Manor than usual due to a sugar high.

Upon returning to the guesthouse, I figured that it would be best to leave him some peace, so I started to gather my things, but he stopped me.

"Don't," His hand came down over mine as I reached for my coat. I looked at him questioningly, unsure if he wanted me to stay longer.

"I…" He paused, unsure of what to say. "I was wondering if maybe you'd like to stay."

My eyebrows went up in surprise. "Are you sure?"

His mouth twitched in uncertainty. "I don't really want to be alone tonight."

I took a breath, unsure of how to respond to this strange invitation. Things were so different from the last time that I had stayed. So much more complicated. Did he really want the company or was he simply looking for a different type of distraction?

"I didn't bring any other clothes," I avoided looking at him.

"This wouldn't be the first time," He shrugged.

I felt horrible for thinking this way, but I just didn't want that to happen tonight. Not like this. What if he just needed someone? Couldn't he just ask one of his siblings? Why wouldn't he let them in, too?

Before I could stop myself, my brain worked faster than my mouth. "I'm not a call girl."

Instantly, I regretted it. I hadn't meant for it to come out like that. It wasn't at all what I meant, not really.

"I'm sorry," I slapped my hands over my mouth. "That's not what I meant."

There was a hurt look in his eyes. "Is that really what you thought I was asking for?"

I couldn't meet his eyes.

"Did you really think that I was looking for sex at a time like this?"

I shook my head. "No, no. Kol, I'm sorry."

He took a step back, not letting me touch him. "Is that really what you think of me?"

This was going to be a tough one to dig myself out of.

"No, absolutely not," I managed to reach out and take his hand. "I just… you never ask me to stay. That's all."

He finally looked at me, though the hurt expression wasn't entirely gone.

"I guess you're right," He gave a slow nod. "If you don't want to stay, you don't have to. I understand if you've already made…other plans."

There was no way that I could leave now, even if I wanted to. He resembled something of a kicked puppy, and I went to embrace him.

"Now where would I go, when I have you here?" I looked up at him.

For a second, his eyes lit up in relief, if not gratitude, before returning to their previous darkened state.

Somehow, we ended up in his room, his lips hungrily attacking mine as my fingers entangled themselves in his hair. It didn't take long for me to be spun around as he pressed light kisses into my collarbone, his fingers travelling down my back as he loosened the corset bodice.

I found myself letting out a gasp, partially because I felt the dress slipping and also because I wasn't counting on him suddenly leaving.

Alright, so he said he didn't want sex, yet here we were. Or rather, there I was, standing alone in his bedroom, my dress halfway off, my shoes long cast towards some other corner.

"Kol?" I called, but he was nowhere to be found.

Just as I was going to go looking for him, he returned.

He apologized for his absence as he reentered. "Sorry, I just remembered that I had something for you."

He held out a flat rectangular black box, a caramel colored ribbon wrapped around opposite edges of the box, a bow tied into the top right corner.

I cocked an eyebrow at him as I noticed the "LA PERLA" logo embossed in gold lettering on the front of the box.

"I know, it looks horrible after what I said, but it isn't what you think it is." He reassured me. "I was actually saving this for…I don't know…a special occasion or something. It looked like something you would wear. I dunno. I suppose you should just have it now, seeing as you probably don't want to stay in that dress all night."

I was shooed into the bathroom before I could as much as pull at the ribbon. Admittedly, I was very intrigued as I set the box onto the granite countertop in front of the mirror. As I pulled at the ribbon and removed the lid, I could feel excitement coursing through me.

It certainly didn't help that he had left me feeling a little hot and bothered, but I couldn't help but find underlying meaning in the contents of the box. I gingerly lifted the delicate silk camisole from the tissue paper, fingering the soft fabric and lace.

When I emerged, clad in the camisole and little shorts, he was stretched out on the grey sheets of his bed. I tried not to stare at the tight heather grey t-shirt that clung to his biceps and torso.

"Hey," He sat up.

"Hi," I gave him a little wave from where I leaned against the doorway. I awkwardly crossed my arms around myself in an effort to stop the goose bumps that were beginning to form on my arms.

My skin felt electrified as he stood to pull me over to him, the palms of his warm hands sent currents through me. He set me gently on the bed before sliding in beside me.

I curled into his side, resting my cheek against the soft fabric on his shoulder, as he reached over to turn off the lights. He made sure that the duvet covered me before putting his arm around me to hold me.

I could feel his heart beating steadily under the palm of my hand on his chest. His distinct scent of musky cologne and aftershave enveloped me, making feel strangely comforted and welcome.

"Thank you," He said suddenly, his fingers gently massaging my scalp. "For staying."

The circular patterns that he was tracing in my hair felt good after having had it pulled back in clips all day.

"Of course," I snuggled in closer.

There was a sense of security that I felt, laying there in his arms. As though nothing bad could ever come to harm me—he wouldn't allow it. In turn, I kept my arm around him, resting on his chest in an attempt to metaphorically block any more pain from him today. The faint beating of his heart under my palm was oddly soothing, a reminder really, that it was real. It wasn't long before his breathing deepened into the shallow breaths of sleep, and he began to snore softly, the sound lulling me into my own slumber.

The morning sunlight filtering in through the curtains gently nudged me awake, though I found that I was quite comfortable and snuggled deeper into the blankets. Kol's soft snores tickled my ear; his arm still wrapped around me, tightened slightly as I moved.

I decided not to wake him and instead stayed locked in his embrace. It wasn't long before he began to stir, awakening with a stretch and a yawn.

"Good morning, sunshine," I turned to look at him.

Surprisingly, I found him to be incredibly attractive with his bedhead and sleepy eyes.

The corners of his mouth twitched upward into a lazy smile. "'Morning," He mumbled, his voice still thick from sleep.

We stayed like that for a few minutes longer before deciding that it would probably be best to get up. He wanted to shower, so I took the opportunity to make breakfast. I made a batch of pancakes, his in-home stereo system providing a soundtrack as I scrambled around the kitchen in one of his sweatshirts and a pair of his flip flops.

I was just setting the pancakes onto plates as he appeared in the doorway, his hair still damp. He smirked as he watched me deposit a stack of three onto each plate.

"Breakfast?" I held up one of the plates.

He gave a nod as he went to retrieve a glass from the cupboard. "You didn't have to do that."

I shrugged. "Why not?"

As usual, breakfast was quiet, the slow stream of conversation maintained. It was just so easy. It wasn't something that I would have been opposed to becoming a regular occurrence.

We made a good team—he washed, and I dried and put away the dishes. He caught me by surprise as I was putting away the last glass tumbler.

His arms snaked around me in a surprise embrace that I certainly wasn't expecting.

"You're too good for me," He said softly into the hair just above my ear. "You know that, don't you?"

I reached a hand back to cup the back of his neck in an effort to keep him there. The small breath that I released was halfway between a sigh of understanding and of…almost pity.

Of course he didn't think he deserved this. Any of this. He had lived for over a decade with the weight of his little brother's death on his shoulders—a cross he shouldn't have had to bear. The constant shame, guilt, blame he felt had worn him down, warped him into something, someone that he really wasn't. He didn't want to be estranged Kol or secretive Kol; he was like that because it was his way of coping with his guilt. Some people never really make it through the seven stages of grief. Sure, maybe Kol understood that his brother was dead, but he had never really left the guilt stage.

I ran a hand through the soft locks near the nape of his neck. "I'll let you keep thinking that…until you realize otherwise."

I felt his mouth curve up into a slight smile. "Will you come with me?"

"That depends, does it involve real clothing? I don't really think it's appropriate for me to be seen like this," I toyed with the lace hem on my silken shorts, wondering where it was that he wanted to go.

"Hmm, I don't have an issue with it," His fingers met my own as they fingered the delicate hemline. "Though I can see where it might be an issue…"

I gave a small nod.

"Can't you just see the headline? 'Food Empire's Precious Heiress Scandalously Parading Across the Town with Our Most Eligible Bachelor,'" His mocking tone increasing with each word from his fabricated headline.

I rolled my eyes. Of course he was going to rub that in. "Yes, but Daddy will have your head before your mother even sees the paper," I countered. "Probably not such a good idea to threaten Alonso Vallejo's empire in any form."

"I take it you've seen the article, then." His mouth travelled down my hairline and onto my neck, causing shivers to run down my spine.

"Oh yes," I stayed very still just annoy him. "However I'd much prefer it if we appeared to be a bit more respectable, just so that I can rub it the face of all those poor unfortunate girls who have no doubt already pinned said article to their bedroom walls."

"Don't you think they'd be a bit more jealous if I kept you just like this?"

"Perhaps," I conceded a little. "But then you face the risk of my father and your mother. Somehow I don't think that's a risk you'd like to take right now, is it? At least not until you're well into the good graces of my parents."

"I'm sure I could easily charm them."

"I'd like to see you try."

"So invite me over for dinner." He was ghosting light kisses along my bare collarbone.

"Mm," I let out a small involuntary moan. "You're going to have to try a little harder than that."

"I'll find a way," He stepped in front of me suddenly. He was so close; I could very nearly taste his lips on mine. "Don't worry."

I was shocked when he abruptly released me, leaving me trembling in need of his touch. I heard him chuckle as he went down the hall towards the staircase and I let out a growl in frustration.

"You'll pay for that," I growled as I followed him up the stairs.

"I can't wait," He leaned over the railing on the landing above me, a cheeky smile crossing his lips.

We stopped at my apartment first, as he had "graciously" allowed me to return home to change. He casually stretched out onto my couch as I went to take a quick shower.

"I'd say make yourself at home but…" I found him laid out quite comfortably on the long couch, lazily flipping through the channels.

"There's nothing on," He complained, not making any move to sit up.

I rolled my eyes as I whipped my wet hair forward to towel dry it. "What do you expect, it's Sunday morning."

"Hey!" He sat up hurriedly. "I already took a shower this morning. I'm not interested in another one quite so soon, much less with water from your hair."

"Payback's a bitch, isn't it?" I gave him a teasing glare before returning to the bathroom to dry my hair.

It took me about an hour in total, but soon we were on our way to this mysterious place or thing, or whatever it was that he wanted me to see. We took a quick detour just before heading onto the freeway. I found it a little strange that he stopped a local florist, but I didn't say anything. I didn't figure it out until later anyway.

The drive was quiet, though not tensely so. I could sense that he didn't really want to talk about it, so I spared him my questions. The music on his phone blared through the surround sound system in the car, providing an adequate amount of noise to the otherwise silent car.

When the previous vocally heavy song was replaced by a purely piano track, my ears perked up. It was unlike anything we had listened to the past twenty minutes. I only became more intrigued when a string overlay came in.

"Oh, you don't want to listen to that," His hand went to change the track.

I reached out to stop him before he could change it. "Why not? I like it, what is it?"

He grimaced a little. "It's not finished yet."

"That didn't answer my question. What is it?"

"It's a rough cut of the piece that we'll be recording with Perry this week. No vocals yet, but it's fully arranged. It's just a matter of recording."

I gave a satisfied nod. "I can't wait to hear it. Did you write it?"

"He wrote this part actually. I recorded the piano and strings so that he could get an idea of what it was going to sound like. He liked it and asked to help out with the vocals. There are still a few things that I want to change, mainly with the chorus, but otherwise it's ready."

"Do you have the lyrics? Can I see them?" I didn't want to sound pushy, but I was honestly very interested.

He pressed his lips into a line for a second before answering. "Yeah…I'll show them to you later if you really want to see them."

When he turned the corner into the cleanly paved driveway, I became aware that we had arrived. As soon as he drove through the large wrought iron gates, I realized where we were.

Despite the lush green grass and foliage, a sad attempt at making this place seem less foreboding, the air in the car suddenly grew thick with tension.

I had family here, it was nothing new, but this wasn't for me. I had been here dozens of times for various reasons, though this one seemed to be far different from any of the others.

He seemed fairly composed as he drove to the top of the hill where several family mausoleums stood. It took him a second, but eventually he stopped the engine and took the keys from the ignition.

"Kol," I touched his shoulder tentatively. "You don't have to do this if you're not ready."

He didn't look at me as he unlocked the doors and stepped out.

The air was chilly, but not frighteningly so. I pulled my coat tighter around me against the cool November breeze. The leaves were only just beginning to brown, but they would never really change colors like they did elsewhere. This wasn't the fall of my childhood. It was far different.

He seemed a little surprised to find me beside him as he stood in front of the rear passenger door; perhaps he had expected me to wait for him to open my door. I followed his line of vision to the impressively imposing marble and granite building. The family name had been carved into the white stone near the top, as if daring anyone to mistake it for that of another group. Four large pillars guarded the double door entrance, holding up the sparkling domed roof.

"Have you ever been inside?" His voice was low, as though he were struggling.

I shook my head. The one time that I had come here was for Mr. Mikaelson's funeral ten years prior. Rebekah didn't want to go inside, so I had remained outside with her, in an effort to get her to calm down.

His hand was a little clammy as he took mine, leading the way to the sparkling golden doors. The closer we got, the more intimidating it became. I could only imagine how Kol was feeling. If I had been in his position, I probably would have lost it by now.

The three steps up to the doors solidified it. He was going to through with it.

Kol easily pulled the golden metal gates with the large encircled "M" open. The doors didn't even creak. I assumed that Mrs. Mikaelson ensured that it was kept in tip top shape year round. I could imagine that such a monument would ever fall into any disrepair. Behind the metal gates was a second set of doors, this time made from a fine mahogany with frosted glass windows, angels carved ornately into the glass. It didn't surprise me that even in death, the Mikaelson family lived lavishly.

"This will be locked," He muttered to himself, fumbling around in the pockets of his dark gray wool coat. His hand shook slightly as he went to put the key into the lock, fumbling as he turned it.

I had no idea what to expect inside, so I stopped him.

"Wait," I pushed him away from the door, moving to stand in front of him. "Before you go in, you have to promise me that you're ready for this."

He finally met my eyes, his hazel ones filled with a mixture of emotions that I couldn't read. I sent out a silent prayer that I be given the power to understand him despite the fact that there was so much I still didn't know about him.

"I can't let you go in there if you're going to keep blaming yourself for something that you didn't do."

His jaw clenched and unclenched before he nodded slowly.

I took his face into my hands, my thumbs cradling his jaw line. "Promise me," I begged him. "Promise me that you don't blame yourself for Henrik."

"I promise," His voice was barely above a whisper.

I took his hand again, giving it a squeeze to let him know that I wouldn't let go unless he wanted me to.

It wasn't at all what I expected. I've certainly seen my fair share of scary movies with dark and dingy crypts; dust, cobwebs, and darkness reigning over the home of the dead. But this was about the furthest thing from the movies.

The domed ceiling had a glass top, the sunlight streaming onto the marble walls, highlighting the gold lettering used for the names of their deceased family. There was not a cobweb in sight, not a speck of dust marring the pristine resting place.

"Not what you expected is it?" His voice rang through the building.

I hadn't realized that my mouth had fallen open in shock. "It's…wow."

He nodded. "It makes you look at death a little differently, doesn't it?"

Boy did it ever. I studied the names on the crypts as he pulled me along slowly. Apparently "Mikael" had always been a family name, as had Rebekah.

We came to a halt in front of one on the second tier. I could feel him start to tremble a little beside me. I gave his hand a squeeze of reassurance.

Henrik Matthias Mikaelson

Kol brushed the shimmering letter with his fingertips, as if making sure that they were real. He traced over the dates of his birth and death, and I saw that he had been just a baby really. Just nine years old when he died, he was taken too soon. I had never met him, and yet I felt this pain, anger, that he was gone.

"Hey buddy," Kol spoke softly, gently. "It's been…a really long time."

I took the flowers from his other hand and placed them into the ornate holder that hung beside his name. The brightly colored bouquet seemed fitting for this little boy who I imagined would have been overjoyed to see his brother visit.

"I'm sorry…" His voice hitched in his throat, and I turned to look at him, my eyes wide with disbelief. He had promised.

"He doesn't mean that," I spoke up, the sound of my voice surprising me.

"That this took so long," He finished.

I let out a sigh of relief.

Kol bowed his head, staring at his shoes with a slight smile.

"I brought someone I'd you to meet," He took my hand again. "Her name is Sara and…she's pretty special."

Stunned, I didn't know what to say. So I was special, huh?

"She's great. You would have loved her."

I couldn't look at him. The blush on my cheeks seemed to stay permanently.

"I know I do."

I gasped as my head snapped over in his direction. No, he didn't. He couldn't. Not yet.

For once, he wasn't smirking or giving one of his cynically amused looks. His eyes were genuinely sincere. And that frightened me far more than anything else there.

"H-hi Henrik," I sputtered, turning to the gold lettering on the marble. "Your brother's told me so much about you."

I let out a breath in an effort to calm my thundering heart, but it was no use.

"Hey, 'Rik," Kol used a nickname that his family had bestowed upon the child. "Perry is coming soon. Keep a look out for him. Be his big brother like you used to be. He's going to need his friend again."

It suddenly all made sense. Of course he had known Perry for a long time. He'd probably been in the hospital since Henrik had been there. No wonder he felt obligated to help him, he felt like he owed it to Henrik to do this for him.

"You're still in that Hall of Fame, you know. I wouldn't let them take you down, even if they tried to."

I made a mental note to ask Rebekah or any one of his siblings about Henrik. They'd be more likely to tell me about him than Kol. Not that I didn't trust him to tell me, he probably would, but in his own time, when he was ready to tell me.

"I promise I'll take care of Perry 'til you can do it yourself again. I hope you're not getting into too much trouble…up there. Take care, Buddy." He patted the stone in a sort of goodbye before turning away.

"Bye, Henrik," I gave a little wave, feeling only a little silly after. "It was nice meeting you."

Kol arm wrapped around my shoulders, pulling me closer. I welcomed the soft kiss that he pressed onto my forehead in thanks.

It took me a second to realize that he hadn't moved or looked up; his eyes averted as though looking at it would hurt him.

Mikael James Mikaelson, III

Of course he was intimidated. Kol and his father had always had a rather strained relationship. Most of the little that I had witnessed of it had been their arguments. Mr. Mikaelson was constantly chastising Kol, using his brothers as examples of what he needed to model his behavior on. Sure, Kol was often in trouble for various reasons, but I found it hard to believe that their relationship had been that atrocious so as to keep his son away.

A memory that I had forgotten about resurfaced, and I remembered a particular argument that they had. It had been on a night that Rebekah had insisted upon a sleepover to watch the latest horror movie in her collection. Mr. Mikaelson had always had quite the soft spot for his only daughter and gave his permission for our gathering easily. But the second that Kol came into his study, obviously having been previously summoned, the mood turned sour. Though Rebekah and I had waited down the hall, she was sure that her brother was in for it this time; the shouts were still very much audible. Mr. Mikaelson had questioned Kol about his latest trip to the headmaster's office. Apparently, he was not pleased to hear from the headmaster for a third time in a fortnight and he demanded to know why it was that Kol continued to act out. Kol had argued that he was nothing like his "perfect" brothers and that it would save them both a lot of trouble if they would stop trying to make him like them. Needless to say, it had ended in I-hate-you's and I-hate-all-of-this. I could vividly remember the sound a hand slapping against skin, Mr. Mikaelson shouting, "You will not disgrace this family again. Do you understand me?"

The last thing I remember is Rebekah hurriedly scurrying out of the way to hide us behind a large floral arrangement as Kol hurried by, his cheeks glistening.

I turned to look a much older version of that same boy, his head hanging in shame and defeat, tears threatening to spill over in his sparkling eyes.

"Your father loved you," I held his hand in both of mine. "He might've gotten mad at you, yelled at you, and said many cruel things that I'm sure he regretted later. But you were his son. If he were here, I'm sure he'd tell you that."

Kol shook his head, the tears spilling over with the movement. "You don't know what the last thing he said to me was."

"No," I agreed with him. "But I'm sure that no matter how much you think he hated you, he didn't."

He swallowed and took a shaky breath. "I had gotten into a fight at school that night… I had been set up. The campus police had arrested me and were going to take me down to the station, but they let me call home before they took me. He was so mad—terrifyingly angry. He told me that he wasn't going to help me this time; that I had surpassed the limit and it was time that I learn my lesson the hard way. I begged him, promised that I would never ask for anything ever again. He told me to forget about everything, school, life, and my trust fund if I wanted to be a 'delinquent.' Before he hung up, he informed me that I was no son of his."

Kol barely managed to finish his last sentence before he crumpled to his knees. The sobs wracked his shoulders as he shook violently. Mr. Mikaelson had died of a heart attack, his weak heart most likely unable to handle the news of his son's arrest.

"I'm s-s-sorry, D-d-dad," He was only just able to string together the simple sentence.

Kol wasn't just blaming himself for Henrik's death. I realized it now. He felt responsible for his father's death as well. Considering the circumstances under which it had happened, it wasn't that big of a stretch. Still, I couldn't let him believe that he had killed his father, too.

It was all so clear now. He stayed away from his family because he was afraid of hurting them. It wasn't that he hated them or didn't want to be around them, he was only trying to protect them. Staying far away from them had been his way of protecting them. In his sort of twisted way, he thought he was keeping them safe.

I crouched down to pull him back up with me. "This isn't your fault, Kol."

"Everything I touch, everyone I love gets hurt when I'm around," He growled.

His last word echoed through the spacious building, a strangled cry from a broken boy that had only ever wanted to keep his family safe.

I tried to hold him against me to prevent him from breaking again, but it was no use. He was stronger than I was and he pushed me away. "No, I d-don't want to h-hurt you, too."

I shook my head, my eyes pleading. "Kol, you can only hurt me if you push me away."

He turned away. There was no way that I could undo years of damage, of convincing in just a few minutes. He might never fully accept that he wasn't at fault.

"I keep waiting for it to happen," His voice was regaining its previously steady tone. "I keep waiting for you to be taken away from me, too. It's going to happen. I know it is. It always does. Sometimes I wish that God would just make my life just a little bit easier and just take it all in one swipe. Then I remember that I've never been liked enough to have it that easy."

I vaguely remembered him telling me once that he hadn't set foot in a church in over a decade. That made sense now. He was angry, so very, very angry. He felt as though God had turned His back on him, so in retaliation he had turned his back on Him.

"Why?" I could barely whisper my question. I feared what his answer would be.

He let out a harsh laugh. "I used to ask myself the very same question. But when I got no answers, I stopped asking. There was no one who could answer it, no door for me to bang on and demand an answer."

"God works in mysterious ways, Kol. I'm not going to leave you," I reached out to touch his shoulder. "I'm not going anywhere, not if I can help it."

"That's just it," He shook his head. "You can't help it."

I closed my eyes and took a breath. I hadn't realized just how terribly broken he was. If I previously thought that my life was one big broken mess, I certainly didn't now. At least my parents were alive and well and I didn't have to live with self-imposed guilt. At least my family hadn't suffered any major losses in several years. At least I still had Damon and Alyssa and Stefan and the Salvatores. At least I had Kol.

"No, but I can certainly try, now can't I?" I turned him and forced him to accept me.

We stayed like that for a long time, his arms frozen around me, cold and distant. I don't know how long it was, but when he had finally composed himself, he led the way back to the car. I offered to drive back, but he turned me down for the second time.

The drive home felt eternal with its silence. He wouldn't look at me, not even when he dropped me off. I tried to reach him again as he pulled into the parking spot in the garage, but he recoiled.

"Kol, don't shut me out," I told him before getting out of the car. "Not now, please. It hurts now."

I knew he heard me because the blank look in his eyes shifted to a more pained expression.

"I understand if you want to be alone. Just let me know when you're ready to come back." I willed him to look at me with my eyes, but it was no use.

I shut the door and he retained enough of his sane state of mind to wait until I was inside the building before driving off. I watched him leave through the glass door.

I knew it would be no use to call him later; he would need a little more time than that to heal. But I needed answers now. I went upstairs to check on Sondheim and grab my car keys before heading back to the Manor to see Rebekah.

On my way back down to the car I ran into Mrs. Martinez, my downstairs neighbor. She asked how I had been and how my parents were doing. She lived only with her husband, her son a lawyer in Boston, and treated me like a daughter. We talked for a few minutes until I had to inform her that I was on my way out. She waved me off, telling me to have a nice day, but didn't allow me to leave before she could give me one of her sugar skulls. It was Day of the Dead, she informed me before going down the hallway towards the elevators.

Day of the Dead, how fitting for this day gone sour.

I made sure to park as far away from Kol's guesthouse as possible so that he wouldn't know that I was going behind his back to do this. Rebekah was waiting for me, worry on her face especially after my panicked text.

She took me to her sitting room, offering me some tea to calm me. I accepted, but my hands shook as I lifted the dainty teacup to my lips.

"How bad was it this time?" She asked quietly as she sat down next to me. "He's never really come to terms with it."

"Have any of you?" I didn't mean to snap, but it certainly came out that way. "Sorry, I didn't mean for that to sound harsh."

She shook her head slowly, her eyes settling off in the distance. "No, I know. But I suppose you're right…"

This certainly wasn't going to be easy. I just hoped that she wasn't going to break down on me, too. I didn't think that I could handle two in one day.

Rebekah rose gracefully, crossing the room to the little white intercom receiver on the wall. It took me a second to realize it, but she was summoning her brothers. In just a few minutes, Finn appeared first followed closely by Klaus and then Elijah.

"You guys have to help him," was all I could say. "I can't do it by myself."

The four exchanged a look before Elijah finally spoke.

"It was best that you find out for yourself. We've had theories for years, but I think they've just been proven," He let out a sigh before taking a seat on the white sofa in front of me. Klaus went straight for the leather loveseat, preferring to sit alone, while Finn sat on Elijah's other side. Rebekah resumed her previous position next to me.

"How much do you know, exactly?" Finn's voice was a gentle as ever, always the composed brother.

I shrugged. "Not much, just what he was willing to share with me. The bigger picture, really. I can only imagine how much of it he's keeping buried away."

Finn nodded, "We'll start with Henrik, then."

"The three of us," Klaus gestured to his brothers and himself. "We grew up together. Believe me when I say that Kol was just about the biggest surprise that Mum and Dad could ever have gotten, and Rebekah was beyond shocking. Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined Henrik. Still, I think they found it comforting that there would be a sort of second generation to grow up together. That's how it was supposed to work out anyway, Kol the oldest this time to lead his little sister and brother. In this family, however, things don't tend to work out ideally."

Elijah shook his head. "He'd be twenty two, still idolizing Kol, no doubt. I need a drink if we're going to do this."

He went off to Rebekah's kitchen in search of a drink. He returned with a tumbler of bourbon.

"There was a six year age gap between Kol and Henrik, not you would've believed it had you seen them," Finn sat back, a small smile curving his lips. "That's the same difference between Elijah and me, but I certainly don't think Elijah idolizes me."

"Hell no," Elijah took a gulp from the tumbler.

Finn gave his brother a playful shove, but continued. "Henrik completely idolized Kol. He followed him everywhere, somewhat akin to a puppy. It was…well amusing. You know Kol well enough to know that he doesn't really do…family. For whatever reason, he tolerated Henrik's constant shadow. Looking back on it, it might've been the aftermath of one of Dad's chastisements."

My mind flashed back to that memory of Kol leaving his father's study in tears. Mr. Mikaelson always did have quite the temper.

"Henrik was a good kid," Elijah cut in. "Sure, he got himself into every bit as much trouble as Kol, often times together, but boy could he charm his way out of it. Always had such a big grin on his face, walked straight through hell with a smile, just a generally happy kid. Of course, where do you think he picked up his charm tactics? They did everything together. I'll never forget it, Kol would go out to baseball practice and Henrik would follow close behind, lugging the bag with the bats and gloves in his chubby little five year old hands. He could barely drag it. It was amusing really. Boy, did they love baseball; their life goal was to make it into the MLB hall of fame. They would spend hours on end just throwing the ball around in the back. Once they broke the kitchen window, poor little Henrik took the blame. Imagine Kol's face when Dad decided to put in a diamond out back. It was priceless."

"Whoa, you guys had a baseball field?" I shook my head.

Klaus shook his head. "No, we have a baseball field. It's out near the back of the property. Dad wanted it as far away from the house as possible so as to avoid any more broken windows."

"What?" I cried in disbelief. "And you don't use it."

He shrugged. "It's fallen into disrepair, unfortunately. None of us really play and…well, Kol wouldn't go anywhere near it after…after Henrik. He was set to make the varsity team his sophomore year, he had so much potential. He could've been an all-star pitcher but after that last game, he wouldn't even touch a glove. I actually don't think he's played since."

"He wouldn't tell me any of this," I shook my head, trying to take everything in. "Not even if I tried to force it out of him."

Finn stood to walk around the couch arrangement. "That's because the end was pretty traumatic. It was bad for all of us, to have to watch our brother die without being able to help him. I think that's what hurt Kol the most. He was the best match for the marrow transplant; he was going to save Henrik. It was fitting, really, for him to help Henrik. They were like two peas in a pod; surely you've seen the resemblance. The doctors had hyped it up so much that we were sure it was going to work, and for a while at least it appeared that way. He was doing great, it really looked like we were in the clear, but then it all crashed and burned. Somehow he got sick. Once the doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia, we knew it was over. Kol didn't want to give up, but I think that even way deep down he knew that nothing more could be done. They let him out on hospice—Mother didn't want him to go in that hospital. None of us did. So he came home for a while, and Kol held on fiercely. I swear you haven't lived until you've gotten a pep talk from Kol. I think even we started to think, for just a second or two, that maybe it was just a rough patch. But of course, it wasn't. The last night before…he died…it was raining. A sign perhaps?

"Honestly, it was pouring. And," He chuckled a little. "And Henrik insisted that he wanted to go outside and play baseball in the rain. 'Just like the pros,' he said. None of us had the heart to tell him no, so out we trekked to the field. The rain let up for a little while and we were able to play for a short time. The poor kid could barely stand, he was practically skin and bones by the end. But there we were all of us out on that muddy diamond. He kept telling Kol to pitch to him the 'right' way, no need to go easy on him. I'd never seen him so genuinely happy just to have all of us there."

"But like all good things, it had to end," Klaus was staring at the wall as though he was reliving that night. "At one point, Henrik was too weak to make it around the bases and Kol had to carry him around the diamond. He demanded it, really and Kol had never been able to refuse him anything. By then Henrik was so tired and it had started to pour again. We took him inside, tried to warm him up—the poor thing was shivering. That night, however, he was in a worse state than ever, barely able to breathe. I can remember Mum and Dad rushing him to the hospital in a panic. There was nothing they could do, of course, except try to make him as comfortable as possible. I couldn't stand to be in the room. I didn't have the strength to watch him go."

"He begged Kol to stay with him," Elijah murmured softly from his spot across from me. "Kol didn't want to stay either, but he wouldn't refuse him now. He asked that his big brother hold his hand. Kol told him not to worry, that he wasn't going anywhere. Henrik made him promise to stay. By midnight we knew it wouldn't be much longer. I don't know how any of us held it together. He would pass in and out of consciousness, sometimes long enough to send Mother into a frenzy. She held him, you know, in that hospital bed; cradling her child for the last time. I'd never seen Dad get so emotional. He'd never really been affectionate with us, but there he was, soothingly rubbing Henrik's hair so as to remind him that we were still there."

Next to me, Rebekah let out a shaky breath. "He was so tired," She shook her head slowly. "I remember he kept fighting it. The last thing he asked was it was alright if he went to sleep."

She gave small choked sob, the memory too much for her.

"Kol told him that it was okay," Finn confirmed. "That we would still be there when he woke up."

"The sun was only just beginning to rise," Elijah set his tumbler down on the coffee table. "He was gone at sunrise—fitting for the boy who never stopped smiling."

I felt myself let out an involuntary shaky breath.

"Here," Finn was handing me a tissue. I hadn't even realized that I had begun to cry.

I gave a nod in thanks.

There were a few minutes of silence, in honor of Henrik's memory, before they continued. The story of Mikael's relationship with his son was all the more difficult now.

"Dad would always find something to criticize Kol about," Elijah commented on their complicated relationship. "It only got worse after Henrik."

"He didn't…blame him, did he?" I had to ask. It was possible that he had been the root of all of this.

Klaus gave a heavy sigh. "No, not really. I don't think so. Once however, it did slip out. I don't think he meant it, but I'm sure it hurt just the same."

And there it was.

"After Henrik's death, Kol started to act out. Sure, he had always gotten into trouble, but it was becoming much more frequent," Finn perched himself on the arm of the couch on Rebekah's side. "It was as if he were…punishing himself. Regardless, he sure knew how to push Dad's buttons. And Dad would let him have it. It would get really ugly. Only once did Dad outwardly blame him. Kol had been caught in a fight at school, and Dad was livid. The yelling could be heard from all over the house. Kol told him to leave him alone, what did he care, the favorite was dead anyway. That was when Dad snapped, told him that it might not have been the case if it weren't for him. He didn't mean it. He was irrational from the anger, but I think that's what really pushed Kol to the edge. That was when the real problems started."

I was confused. There were more problems? "The real problems?"

Klaus nodded. "Oh yes, he started hanging around all of the wrong kinds of people, getting into all sorts of illegal activity. Once he and a bunch of his hooligan acquaintances were caught tagging the school. That one nearly cost Kol his life when Dad was through with him; didn't let him out of the house for months."

"Dad made him swear never to 'disgrace the family name' again," Elijah nodded. "In the end, it was one of his foolish antics that…broke the camel's back, so to speak. That night that he called to ask Dad to come bail him out after getting arrested for drug possession, Dad lost it. He told him that he was 'no son of his' and he hung up on him. I think the shock of it all was too much…and well…he had a heart attack."

"We called an ambulance, but by the time they arrived, there was little that they could do," Finn sighed. "He died in the hospital on the operating table. I was the one that had to go bail Kol out. I didn't have the heart to tell him right then, though. I didn't think he could handle it, the police had already shaken him up pretty badly."

"Turned out that the drugs weren't even his," Elijah took another drink. "Not that Dad had given him much of a chance to explain. He had been set up, though it didn't matter anymore. It brought back all of the feelings from Henrik's death. Kol checked out nearly the moment we broke the news to him."

Klaus stood, his arms crossed, head bowed in thought. "He blamed himself for it. And sure, to an extent it was his fault, but none of us blamed him. Dad had such a bad temper, it could've have happened at any time. Still, he completely shut down. If there was ever a time that he had been more estranged from us, it was then. When the opportunity arose for him to study in England, he jumped at the chance."

"It was surprising, really," Elijah chuckled slightly. "It had been such a long time since he'd actually focused on his studies, that it was strange to see him so adamant about pursing higher education. We have some family in England, so Mother didn't really put up a fight. He hadn't expressed real interest in anything since Henrik's death, so she wasn't going to say no."

"We never imagined that he would be gone for so long," Rebekah finally spoke. "I guess he just didn't want to be here. This is all just a reminder of what happened. It's not difficult to understand why he would stay away."

I felt as though I finally understood. "He thinks that if he stays away, he can save you from harm. He doesn't want to hurt you."

The four of them nodded. Of course they knew. He was their brother.

"I think he's starting to realize that," Elijah spoke slowly. "But he's worried that if he lets his guard down, chaos will…ensue."

"I can see why," I muttered.

"You've…changed him, you know," Finn nodded at me. "He's…different when he's around you."

"You've civilized him," Rebekah agreed. "Domesticated the wild animal."

I hadn't realized how complicated it all was. The Mikaelson family secrets ran deep and surely these were only a few of their problems. Still, it was comforting to know that some were repairable.

"I wouldn't quite say that," I looked down, the blood rising into my cheeks. "Don't get too excited. I think he's done with me for a while. He started to push me away after the cemetery."

Elijah waved a hand. "Don't worry about it. That's just his way of shielding himself from pain. He'll come around eventually. Just give him a little time."

"I don't have a decade," I grimaced a little. I just hoped he wouldn't leave. I had grown so used to having him, that his absence would definitely cause some pain.

Rebekah shrugged. "If he doesn't come crawling back to you in a week, I'll drag him to you by the hair if I have to."

"Ouch."

"He's my brother. I love him, but he needs you. You make him tolerable and I certainly would like him to stay that way."

"That, dear sister, is true," Klaus agreed with a nod. "I haven't seen him smile like he has in the past month since before Henrik got sick. I, too, would like that too remain."

"Mother likes it when all of us are together," Finn put in his two cents. "It just isn't Sunday brunch until Kol flips out."

Elijah and I exchanged an amused look.

I was genuinely pleased to see that his family was willing to step and help him. Of course, it would take him letting them in for any progress to occur, but it was still endearing to know that they weren't going to abandon their brother. If anything, Kol needed them right now. He needed to know that they didn't blame him. It wasn't his fault, none of it was.

"I think I know a way for you guys to help him," I began. "He said that you were going to bring Perry into the studio this week to lay down one of his tracks. I think it would be really great if it was a family affair. After all, it is one of Henrik's good friends. I don't think Perry would mind, but you'd have to convince Kol to let you on somehow."

And surprisingly, he did. All they had to do was ask.

Because Kol was…avoiding me, Elijah was the one who actually sent me the lyrics. I had to admit, that I got a little teary eyed when reading them. It was a beautiful song, though it turned out that Kol had penned some of the lyrics long ago, before Henrik had died. It remained, however, dedicated to Henrik and then later for Perry, as well as all of the children who had been lost too soon.

I watched the video of the recording that Rebekah had taken the night after they had been in the studio. Honestly, it was perfect. The song was uplifting and empowering, while retaining its special meaning through references in the lyrics. I sort of wished that I had been there to see it live, but it wasn't my place. Kol needed this bonding experience with his siblings without me there to influence it in any way. By the looks of how much fun they were having, it had been effective. They collaborated well and the final product was…well, genius.

"Yeah, you can be the greatest. You can be the best. You can be the King Kong bangin' on your chest," Kol had quite a talent for speaking through his music. It made up for his weakness in public speaking.

"You could beat the world. You could beat the war. You could talk to God, go banging on his door," Perry gave such a distinct sound it the song. He made it unique, like a spoken last speech to his old friend.

"Dedicate yourself and you could find yourself standing in the hall of fame," There it was. Kol had done it. It was like he was sharing a pep talk for his brother with the rest of the world. "And the world's gonna know your name, 'cause you burn with the brightest flame. And the world's gonna know your name. And you'll be on the walls of the hall of fame."

What really made it special was having all of the Mikaelson brothers join in for a sort of chant. "Be students, be teachers, be politicians, be preachers. Be believers, be leaders, be astronauts, be champions, be truth seekers."

It was the perfect way to pay homage to all of the little lives that had been turned out too soon and to remind those that were still fighting to stay strong. A few weeks later when the hospital board heard it, they decided to make it a sort of theme song for the hospital. The Mikaelsons were happy to sign a contract with them for their use of it.

Despite this, it took Kol a while to really even begin to heal. I knew that he needed space, so I tried to not to pressure him into anything. But his absence left me feeling a little empty, like something was missing.

Stefan was a sufficient distraction, though he completed me in other ways. Little did I know, however, that my time as a pendulum would only become more difficult from there.

A/N: Holy cow. What a ridiculously long chapter! I certainly hope you've enjoyed it. Please leave reviews, I promise that I'll respond to every single one! I take all comments, questions, concerns, requests, and protests into consideration.