Caroline stormed into her house, slammed the door shut and dropped her purse on the floor with a thud. Cheeks still wet with tears, she flicked the switch on the wall and light flooded the kitchen.
"Oh, my God! Tyler?"
Her boyfriend perched in a chair next to the wall, his eyes yellow, feral. Muscles bulged in the black t-shirt he wore, tendons tight, rubber bands stretched close to breaking. Flanking him, stood a hybrid on each side and another perched on a stool, one leg crossed over the other.
"What the hell is going on, Caroline?"
A fist slammed into Tyler's face, and he roared. The call of rage vibrated through the small kitchen and plaster snowed from the ceiling.
"Stop it! Stop it!" Caroline yelled. "Don't touch him!"
"You know this guy?" The hybrid on the stool – who seemed to be the leader - asked with a jerk of his head towards Tyler. "We caught him prowling around outside."
"Let him go. Now."
At her demand, the hybrid stood up from his stool, running his fingers over his chin. "I don't know if Klaus would like that. He said you were to be protected at all costs."
Caroline stood straighter, throwing back her shoulders. "You were told I am to be obeyed too, and if you don't release him it will be your heart that Klaus rips out next."
Her steely countenance impressed the hybrid and he communicated a silent order to his friends. With identical snarls, they stepped away from Tyler, taking positions on each side of the kitchen door with a predatory stance.
"Now get out of my house."
The hybrid in charge shook his head. "I can't do that."
"Do you have any idea what your master will do to you if you defy me?"
Tyler stood up, flexed his muscles and cracked his neck. "What's going on, Caroline? I want answers and I want them now."
"Is he threatening you?" The hybrid leader asked, squaring off against Tyler and fisting his hands at his sides. "Because I can take care of him for you."
Tyler responded in like, taking a menacing step forwards, muscles taunt.
"Hey! That's enough." Caroline inserted herself into the middle of the impending brawl. "You're not helping, Tyler. Just be quiet for a minute and let me handle this."
Both hybrids growled in response, stiff and wary as they eyed each other.
With an angry toss of her head, Caroline faced the hybrid in charge. "I meant what I said. Get out of my house." When the hybrid leader hesitated, she added, "If you don't leave, I'm going to have to tell Klaus that you didn't follow my orders and he will not be happy."
The hybrid hesitated, and she stared him down with her most arrogant queen-like look. The one she hoped said she should be obeyed at all costs or else. To her relief, it swayed him because he bowed slightly and started backing towards the door. Stopping at the threshold, he punched a fist in Tyler's direction, a less then subtle warning. His friends followed him, giving her boyfriend matching threatening glares.
"That's it," Tyler snapped, striding towards Klaus's hybrids.
"No." Caroline stepped in front of her boyfriend, laying a gentle hand on his chest. "Let them go."
Tyler shook off her touch. "Fine, but you need to start talking."
"I'm not sure I know where to start," she sighed.
His eyebrows rose. "Maybe start with why Klaus' lackeys are in your house and why they obey you now? I think that is a great place to start."
"Wait. First, did you break the sire bond?"
"Don't change the subject, Care."
"I need to know." She bit her lip and prepared herself for the worst. Their whole relationship hinged on this one detail. If he still served Klaus, they would never have a chance together. Not unless the original hybrid was dead. She shivered at the thought, the web of ice it spun around her heart, freezing out her remaining anger at Klaus.
Tyler cocked his head, his dark brown eyes searching hers and anxiety knotted her stomach at what he might see written on her face.
"Please, tell me you did," she begged.
A smiled tugged at his lips, flaring into a full-blown grin. "Yeah, I did."
Joy burst inside of her, her happiness for him bringing a grin to her face. Tyler had done what had never been done before. He would now have a chance at a life of his own. They could be together. Forever. Her hand fluttered to her heart at her sudden clarity of what that truly meant. Whatever she had with Klaus, whether he lived or died, it would truly be over.
"Aren't you happy?"
His accusation thankfully yanked her back to reality and she eagerly threw her arms around his neck. "Of course I am. This is the best news I have had in months."
Tyler held her for the briefest moment, his chin resting on her hair, before he thrust her away. "Now, tell me what happened while I was gone."
Her happiness crumbled at his rejection of her affection. Fumbling for the right words, her thoughts a jumble of puzzle pieces, she tried to think of how best to tell him all that had happened since he left.
"Care." Tyler's smile was gone, his mouth now drawn in a stern line.
"Um, maybe you want to sit down? Should we go sit on the couch? The kitchen isn't really great for conversing. The chairs don't let you get comfy enough," she rambled.
"I'm fine right here."
Caroline took a deep breath, preparing herself for the worst. Would he still care for her, want her when he knew the truth? "While you were gone, Klaus got all stalker-like and developed this weird obsession for me."
"Yeah. Um, he thinks he is in love with me."
The corners of Tyler's lips twitched and a bark of laughter followed.
"What?" Caroline blinked in confusion at his reaction.
More laughter followed, deep and uproarious.
"Hey! What's so funny?" Caroline slapped at his chest, hard enough to make him cough. "I am totally loveable."
"Of course, you are. That's not why I am laughing."
Caroline crossed her arms over her chest, annoyed with the merriment that still sparkled in his eyes. "Then why are you?"
"No, I don't. " She started tapping her foot. "Why don't you explain it to me?"
"Care, the guy is crazy. He doesn't love you. If anything, he is messing with you to get to me."
She flourished her index finger in front of him to emphasize her next words. "Let me get this right – so basically you are saying that it is inconceivable that Klaus could possibly find me attractive and fall in love with me? Or is it that I am too dumb to realize that he is using me to get to you?
"That isn't what I said," Tyler countered, the wary look on his face the same one he always got when he expected her to blow up at him.
"I know what you said."
Tyler touched her shoulder, placating her. "Any guy would be crazy not to fall in love with you. I don't know what I would have done this last year without you by my side."
"Yeah, I don't know either," she relented; a small smile perched on her mouth.
"Now, don't take this the wrong way —."
Caroline pouted, nothing good ever came from that sentence.
"Is it at all possible that Klaus' sudden obsession with you, this so called love is his way of provoking me. I mean - he knows what you mean to me. How much seeing you together would hurt me."
Would hurt me.
The words pounded in her head, hammering guilt with ever beat. Wasn't that what she had done with her actions? She knowingly cheated on Tyler with her lips, her body, heart and soul. Again and again in a frenzied, uncontrollable rush of lust. How could she possibly have any right to be annoyed with Tyler when he had only drawn logical conclusions? She was a horrible person and she needed to tell him the truth now.
Blinking back the hot beginnings of tears, she looked up at her boyfriend. His concern, the tenderness in which he gazed upon her nearly brought her to the floor in excruciating guilt.
"There is something I need to tell you." Bands of guilt tightened over her heart with dizzying pain and she closed her eyes.
Warm arms enveloped her and she let them. Laying her head on Tyler's chest she breathed in his scent, the musky cologne he always wore. She prayed that once she told him the truth they would still have a chance. If she could just get him to see that all that bound her to Klaus was a centuries old relationship. One that led to her death. Something she wasn't about to have repeated. Whatever existed between her and Klaus, it needed to end now.
"I missed you so much, Care."
Tyler lowered his head, leaning in for a kiss. She knew she shouldn't let him near her without telling him the truth. Yet, she needed this. Surely, his kiss would cleanse her sins; the heat of their connection purifying her blackened soul so she could be his again Caroline parted her lips, eager for the touch of his mouth.
With a little moan, his mouth slashed over hers, his tongue penetrating her lips with the eagerness of a starving man. She tried to kiss him back, but something didn't seem right. The more he kissed her, the less she responded. Passion, electricity, the burning and yearning that always sparked between them died without even a whimper. It was wrong. All wrong and he didn't even seem to notice.
Caroline tried. She forced herself to feel something, anything, other then this deep emptiness inside.
Tyler's insistent lips left her mouth and relief flew through her, bringing with it an overwhelming guilt she didn't know how to carry. It cemented her, drowning her in an ocean of despair.
"Wait, Tyler. We need to talk."
"We'll talk later," he murmured in-between kisses along her jawline, moving further down the curve of her neck.
Fire, white hot and intense, burst through her skin at the site of Klaus's healed bite mark.
Tyler's lips ceased their caresses and with a sharp intake of breath he stilled. A marble statue, his mouth hovered over the exact spot desecrated by Klaus's fangs the night before.
Hot and then cold, so cold chills skittered up her spine came the realization that somehow he knew. Instead of relief, all she knew was despair and more guilt. She should have told him the truth immediately, not letting him find out this way.
He thrust himself away from her with a roar of rage, hurt, pain and betrayal, all intermingling into a sound she knew she would remember forever. With a violence Caroline didn't know Tyler possessed, his fist smashed into the wall alongside her head, his arm sinking all the way in to the elbow. He missed her head by centimeters and she knew it was intentional. Even now, faced with evidence of her unfaithfulness, yellow fire leaping in his eyes, he couldn't bring himself to hurt her.
"Tyler," she whimpered, attempting to touch his chest, somehow soothe the beast within.
"No!" He withdrew his hand from the wall and dust and wood splinters clouded the air. Flexing his fingers back and forth into a fist he started to pace in front of Caroline. Growling, ridges of muscle forming, he appeared to be stretching, transforming into his primitive half.
"I can't believe he did this. I will kill him."
Tendrils of fear snaked their way around Caroline's heart, squeezing, suffocating her. She needed to stop Tyler, keep him from Klaus if he was to live another day. A fight between them would resemble nothing more than that of a boot stomping on an ant.
"Tyler, stop it," Caroline entreated. Striding to a spot directly in front of him, she forced him to look at her.
"Don't come near me," Tyler snarled. He wrapped his hands around her waist like a vise, picking her up like rag doll to move her out of his way.
Wind roared and the door to the Forbes house banged open so hard it left an indentation in the wall behind it. A blur of black formed next to Caroline and cool air flickered over her skin. Before she could react, Tyler released her, leaving her stumbling.
Angry roars and growls filled her ears, wild beasts in a fight to the death. Caroline righted herself, staring in horror at Klaus. His hand clenched Tyler's throat, dangling her boyfriend high in the air.
"You will never touch her again," Klaus snarled.
Tyler's legs kicked out at his captor, his hands tearing at his sire's hold on his neck, a newborn puppy at the mercy of a wolf.
"Let him go!" Caroline yelled.
Klaus turned his head slowly to face her, his pupils spiked in gold. "Not until he learns his lesson."
"What lesson is that? Not to touch his own girlfriend?" Caroline snapped, taking pleasure in the flare of hurt in his eyes. "Let him go, Klaus. I mean it."
"Fine." Faking a polite smile, he elegantly released his hold on his prisoner. Tyler fell to a heap on the ground, sputtering and choking.
Caroline rushed to kneel at her boyfriend's side and he lurched away from her. "I'm so sorry. I will make sure he doesn't touch you again."
With a groan, muscles straining, Tyler staggered upright and faced his sire. "You bit her," he spat.
"I know. And she loved it." Klaus taunted.
"You're nothing but a coward." Tyler wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Going after Caroline to get to me. "
"Is that what you think? That this is all about you?" Klaus laughed and shook his head in disbelief. "Do you want to tell him, love, or do you want me to do the honors?"
"Tell me what?"
Caroline swung her gaze to Klaus, her agitation turning to anger at the smirk on his face. He reveled in this, the torment of Tyler and the exposure of the their relationship. "Don't you dare? Not like this."
"Why not?" Klaus prowled towards her, malevolence in every step. "Isn't it time he knew about our past? How you professed your love for me. How you promised to be mine forever."
Utilizing all her vampire strength and speed, Caroline jumped up and slapped him. The impact shook the walls and floor, sending the dishes from the kitchen shelves to the ground. Klaus didn't even wince. Instead, he caught her wrist on the recoil, lifting it to his lips for a kiss, his gaze steadfastly on her.
Caroline yanked her hand from him. "Tyler. It isn't what you think."
Roaring, her boyfriend didn't give her a chance to explain. He crouched and leapt at Klaus, counting on his Sire's distraction to give him an advantage. The two of them flew through the air, exotic creatures in flight. For a second, they hung suspended above Caroline before they crashed into the kitchen floor, cracking the ceramic tiles.
"Stop it!" Caroline yelled.
Colors swirled and blurred in a tornado of violence and blood, hybrid blood, scenting the air. Caroline's chest tightened, her heart splitting in two different directions, her loyalty and love for Tyler at war with the connection she shared with Klaus. Inhaling though her nose she sought to discover which of the hybrids she had been with now bled. Focusing on the heavy smell of blood, her discovery of the source did little to soothe the battle in her soul.
With a harsh cry, the fight ended as quickly as it began. Tyler lay at Klaus's feet, panting, his head bowed with blood dripping from a cut to his lip.
"You broke the sire bond."
The cold, quiet fury in Klaus' voice terrified Caroline. It was the prelude to what would only be Tyler's death.
"How did you do it?" Klaus demanded, wrapping his fingers around the hybrids throat, he yanked Tyler up from the floor.
"Stop it," Caroline snapped.
"You will have to kill me, because I will never tell." Defiant, Tyler didn't even struggle at Klaus's hold on his neck.
"That is easily done." Klaus tightened his grip, while his other hand plunged into Tyler's chest, tearing fabric, cracking bone and plunging into muscle. Blood spurted, spraying the pale yellow walls of the kitchen crimson.
"Stop it! I mean it!" Caroline yanked on Klaus' arm to pull it from Tyler's body, throwing all of her weight and power into the movement. "You promised not to ever touch my friends again. "
Klaus grimaced, his mouth thinning with frustration as he withdrew his hand from his former hybrid servant's chest cavity. Tyler slid to floor in a bloody heap of limbs.
"Just lay still. Everything is going to be fine," Caroline reassured her Tyler, rushing towards the refrigerator. "I am getting some blood for you."
"Don't bother. He is a hybrid and I didn't take his heart. He will heal fast enough." Klaus picked up a dishtowel crumpled on the kitchen counter, wiping the blood from his fingers with complete indifference before tossing it back where it came from.
Caroline glanced at Tyler worriedly to find it was true. Already rib bones were knitting, pink flesh spreading and stretching to cover the wound. He would be all right. With a sputter, choking, he spit out blood.
"Tyler. Are you okay?" Grabbing a hand towel from a hook by the kitchen sink she knelt next to her boyfriend. Attempting to wipe at the blood still dripping from his mouth she almost cried when he turned his gaze on her. The strange, distant look in his eyes was one she never wished to see on him again.
"I'll be fine now that I don't have to obey a psychotic coward anymore. " Even weak from blood loss and lying before the one thing that could destroy him, Tyler wouldn't back down.
"As fun as this has been, I think it is time we ended this little adventure." Klaus crossed his arms over his chest. "Admit defeat. You will stay away from Caroline or I will compel you to forget you were ever together."
"I would like to see you try." Tyler lifted his head, a challenge to his former Sire
"Tyler," Caroline warned.
"Caroline, did you let him drink from you?"
He spoke her full name. No longer was she "Care" to him, the endearment she had come to love. "It isn't what you think and I…I didn't know he was going to."
"But you told him you loved him? Let him feed from you. Like he said. Didn't you?"
Caroline wrung the dishtowel in her hands, twisting and untwisting the thin fabric. "Tyler. Those were two separate things. Let me explain —"
"Was this to get back at me? " he interjected. "For not being there when your father died?"
"No, of course not. How could you even think that?"
"It's the only way I can make sense of it." Tyler's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Why you would have been with him. "
Caroline sighed, lowering her head. "It was just once and it only happened because…" How could she even begin to tell him the truth? How she once loved Klaus centuries ago and overwhelmed with the desire for him that still lingered after all this time she slept with him, let him bite her. "I know it seems like it doesn't make sense, but if you just let me explain."
Tyler struggled to stand up, groaning in pain when he reached his feet. "It's way too late for that."
"Don't say that." Caroline implored. "I need to tell you the truth. Get you to understand. You see, back in the 1500's —""
"I don't even want to know." Tyler started to laugh, the emptiness in his laughter cutting her into millions of little pieces.
"Caroline," Klaus murmured, his voice soft, his brow furrowed as if her suffering caused him pain. She moved to stand up from the floor and he held out his hand to help her up.
She ignored the peace offering, stepping away from him and towards her boyfriend. "Tyler." At her approach, he backed away from her, his face contorted in disgust and a small sob escaped her mouth.
"Get out." Klaus stepped in-between them, facing Tyler. "You are never to come here again," he murmured in a low, hypnotic tone, using compulsion.
Tyler shook his head, a sneer on his lips. "Not until I tell Caroline the truth."
Klaus's eyes narrowed into slits.
"That bite he gave you. It isn't a normal bite. There is something magical —."
"That's enough," Klaus interrupted with a snarl. Stepping closer to Tyler he focused his gaze on his servant hybrid, attempting compulsion again. "Never speak to Caroline again or I will —."
"Sorry. That isn't going to work on me. I have been taking vervain for months," Tyler said snidely, before continuing to address Caroline, "The bite. I think he claimed you. Marked you in some way."
Shock crashed into Caroline, sending her head spinning. "What?"
Klaus hands settled around Tyler's throat again, squeezing. "Maybe I can't kill you, but I can make you suffer. Forever."
Brilliant purples and blues flushed Tyler's face and neck. His fingers clawed at Klaus's hands as his windpipe was crushed. The hissing sound of air brought Caroline back to reality.
"Let him go," she commanded, tilting her head up to give Klaus her coldest gaze.
A slow smirk sprawled across his face. "Of course, love." With a graceful flourish, he lifted each of his fingers one by one from around Tyler's neck.
Gasping, Tyler fell into the wall, using it to prop himself back up on his feet.
With relief, Caroline watched his color return to normal. She needed to get him out of here before he provoked Klaus enough to get himself killed
"You should go."
Tyler stared at her long and hard. "Is that what you want?"
If she agreed, there was no hope their relationship could ever be repaired. Yet, if she ever wanted him to be free of Klaus, happy to live a life of his own, she had to let him go. The knowledge shriveled to a dry husk the remaining piece of her heart that belonged to him.
Klaus stepped towards her, a shadow of darkness at her side and she gave the only answer she could.
Hurt and regret settled on Tyler's face, his eyelids briefly flickering closed at her response. "You will be okay?"
"Go. I can handle him."
Tyler took one last pained look at her. "Be careful, Caroline." Then dragging his gaze from her he pointed a finger at Klaus. "This isn't over. Don't think any of us will let you get away with this."
In a blur her boyfriend, no her ex-boyfriend was gone, the kitchen door swinging on its hinges.
"I apologize for the mess, love."
Caroline whirled to face Klaus. "How could you?"
"I didn't really hurt him. He will be good as new within the hour."
"That isn't what I meant! The bite you gave me. You didn't just drink from me, did you?"
Klaus hesitated, his blue eyes assessing her. "No."
"What did you do to me?" She accused, hands on her hips, fingers digging into her sides to stop her trembling.
"Caroline," Klaus rumbled, a low soothing, lull that had no affect whatsoever on her anger. "What I did, I did to protect you."
"And, that is?"
"I claimed you."
Caroline threw her hands in the air, gesturing wildly. "What does that even mean?"
"When I bit you, I marked you as my consort." At her confusion he continued, "It is a very old rite. One steeped in magic that is rarely practiced anymore. For a vampire and other supernatural creatures, it is essentially a vow to be together forever."
"Oh, God." The heat drained from her cheeks, a shudder of revulsion running through her.
"It's supposed to be an honor, sweetheart."
His bitterness and hurt at her reaction gave Caroline not even the slightest satisfaction. No. It only sent her anger soaring, a match to gasoline. "How dare you!"
"What? You were already a queen, now I made you my queen, ruler of all vampires, werewolves and hybrids."
"And I am supposed to be honored by this? You really are insane."
"Insane? I'm insane because I recognize what none of your friends or you can see? You were born to rule, to be at my side. Not live out a paltry existence here in this small hick town with some mediocre werewolf."
"I love this so called paltry existence. Everything was perfect until you showed up and that mediocre werewolf, he's not so mediocre that it kept you from choosing to make him a hybrid," Caroline retorted, her chest heaving with fury.
Klaus glared at her. "Something that will soon be rectified once he is dead."
"You will not touch him."
"What's to stop me? The Salvatore boys? They're practically newborns. Your witch? Even with the Bennett line she doesn't have enough power to protect your boyfriend. Or rather he's the ex-boyfriend now, isn't he."
"You promised you wouldn't touch those I loved and I will always love Tyler," Caroline taunted Klaus, knowing her arrow hit its mark when he flinched.
Klaus prowled towards her, elegant in his silky movements, his eyes daggers of ice. "Tell me the truth. You don't love him."
"Why? So you can kill him?" She should have been afraid, terrified at the quiet calm in his voice. He was on edge, his hurt driving him to the cold precipice of rage.
"No. So, I don't."
The lack of flourish as to how he would go about killing Tyler, no mention of ripped hearts or flayed intestines made clear how serious he was. Reality poked at her, needling through her anger and rage, forcing her to recognize that Tyler's life hinged on what she said next. Caroline forced herself to breathe, deep lungful breaths of oxygen she didn't need. "Don't kill him."
"Why shouldn't I?"
"Because — because," Caroline paused, her gaze met his. In his eyes, deep within, she swore she could see a kind of hope. A desperate yearning for something she didn't know she could give him. Her chest tightened, that uncomfortable feeling she always got when she was about to lie washed over her. "I don't love him."
And then she was free. The tightness disappeared, her un-comfortableness draining away until all that remained was peace. She didn't love Tyler. Not anymore. Well, she still cared about him, but it was different then before. "I don't love him," she repeated, more to herself to confirm it, then for him to hear.
"I know, sweetheart."
Klaus smiled, a pleased grin that lit up his face, chasing away the dark. He looked happy, like he had been gifted something of great importance.
"So you won't touch him?"
"He is safe."
"Still, that changes nothing between us." Caroline's anger rose once more, clouding over any lingering peaceful feelings. "You bit me. Marked me like some kind of dog. Like you own me."
"It isn't like that," Klaus argued. "I crowned you, made us a couple in the only way supernatural beings can understand. My mark gives you protection. It is a threat to anyone seeking to harm you that they will have me to reckon with. It also creates a bond between us beyond just the physical."
"We don't need any other ties between us. It is enough that I have been brought back and have all these horrible memories."
"They can't all be horrible." Klaus took another step towards her, close enough his fingertips could graze her cheek. "I know you loved me. You proved it to me. The stolen kisses in the garden, the rides in the woods, the night of the masquerade – in the corridor, my fingers between your thighs."
Caroline jerked her head away bringing a frown to his face. "You tricked me into caring for you. The person you pretended to be…did he even exist? Did you kill him and take his identity?"
"No. It was only one of the many people I played throughout the centuries. And I never tricked you. You fell in love with me all on your own."
"I didn't love you," Caroline retorted and to her frustration she knew he could tell she was lying, so she continued, "I loved the person who I thought you were."
"Is that what you tell yourself to sleep at night? As much as you want to deny the truth, you were drawn to me, to my true nature. You sensed it from the beginning and you could have run away, but you didn't even try. You gave yourself willingly. Light to dark, we were entranced with each other." Klaus moved in, bowing his head, his lips hovered near her ear. "And we still are."
"It has to stop," Caroline whispered, his words freezing her to the spot.
Klaus swept her hair back from her face, his thumb sliding down her neck, a caress that stopped at his invisible mark.
Heat erupted in her core, leaping into her veins, stoking a fire in her blood that only he could quench. "Please. I can't think when you do that."
"Love," he murmured.
Leaning in closer, his head lowered to her neck, the anticipation of the touch of his hot kiss on his bite spiked her lust to a fever pitch. She wanted to claw at his clothes, run her hands over his bare chest, know his body like her own. Somehow sate the deep hunger inside of her for him.
"No," she managed to whimper, and it was enough. Enough to give her the strength to rip herself from the pull of her desire. Caroline flung herself away from him and panting she stared him down. "I will not be manipulated by some stupid magical marking into being with you.
"It's not the mark that drives our passion. That was already there long ago," Klaus returned. "What we feel for each other, that is real and has nothing to do with the bite I gave you."
"Maybe not, but whatever we were, whatever I feel for you now, it doesn't change anything. This has to end."
The haze of desire that clouded Klaus's eyes, abruptly misted away. "That is impossible. We are forever. Eternal."
"Well, that eternal is ending now." Caroline rubbed at the healed bite mark. "I don't care how you do it, but you are removing this consort mark."
"It can't be done."
Caroline's shoved her finger in the air, pointing it at him. "Do you really think I believe that? After everything magical and supernatural I have seen the last few years? It can be removed and you're going to find out how. I refuse to spend eternity as your minion."
"It's not like that," Klaus bit out, his whole body rigid. "It makes you my queen, my equal in the eyes of the world and it carries with it my protection."
"Don't you get it? I don't want to be your anything. After everything that has happened how can you still not understand? We are done. I am done."
Klaus froze. "You don't mean that."
"I do." She steadied herself, standing even taller, all so he wouldn't notice her inner turmoil, how her heart betrayed her will.
"You can't mean that."
Caroline flinched at the hurt tone of his voice, the timbre so soft and broken she could barely hear it. He stared at her, his eyes always filled with life, were dead and empty as a night sky devoid of stars. It was too much.
"You need to go."
"Caroline…love, if you would let me explain about the bite."
"Seriously?" She took all her pain and sadness, twisting it into a force to be reckoned with. "There is no explanation for what you did. What you continue to do." She couldn't look at him, didn't want to see the effect of her words on him. A hard, teary lump formed in the back of her throat and she forced herself to march to the door.
Flinging it open, she stared unseeing into the dusky light left of the day.
He walked towards her, each step eating away her resolve. Still, she didn't bend. She hardened her heart; clad it in steel, so that when he passed by her she felt not even a dent.
"This isn't over," he murmured, not a demand or a threat. For the first time ever it was a request, a plea.
Caroline could take no more and she slowly closed the door. She waited until she heard him give orders to his servant hybrids and drive away before she gave in. Chest heaving, tears burning, she slid to the floor. Burying her head in her hands she cried for the past, the present and what might have been.
It was late. A little past midnight when the sounds of a scuffle outside broke the silence, the rustling so soft she hardly heard it. Not yet asleep, it took only a second for her fight or flight instincts to kick in. Never one to run away, she slid out of bed, aiming for stealthy in her bare feet. Tucking herself into a satin robe, she crept out of her room.
The gentle tapping at her the front door startled her, jolting her nerve endings into an anxious dance. Whoever stood outside must have bested the hybrids Klaus left in charge. Otherwise, they would be a prisoner right now. Which could only mean someone very powerful and strong was at her door. Only, what kind of villain came politely knocking?
The rapping loudened and Caroline couldn't ignore it any longer. Her silky nightclothes swishing around her ankles, she headed towards the door and undoing the lock she peaked outside.
Shadows clung to her visitor and she swallowed dryly, afraid of what kind of monster she faced. They stepped nearer to the door and the clouds slid from the moon revealing a sharp, chiseled jaw and cheekbones.
"Do forgive the intrusion, but I find it necessary that we talk."
Caroline opened the door wider. "Talk? Now?"
He offered her a polite smile. "I can't think of a better time then now. Unless of course you have company besides those unfortunates passed out on your lawn?"
Peering outside, she found her hybrid guards lying like corpses, their necks at strange angles. "No, no. Of course not."
"Won't you invite me in?"
"I…I can't. My mother isn't here."
"Actually, her presence isn't necessary for an invitation. I visited her here once before about a town matter. My request rather is for you. Ms. Forbes, will you allow me into your home?"
Elijah had been in her house before? Caroline processed this strange bit of information. She sometimes forgot how involved her mother was in the supernatural elements of Mystic Falls.
His quiet, mannered voice brought to her attention her rudeness at leaving him standing outside waiting for her answer. "It's Caroline. And, yes. Do come in."
Caroline held the door wider and he stepped inside. In the elegant suit of a gentleman, he radiated power and she would be very stupid to think he was anything but dangerous. Elijah frowned and she took a cautious step backwards.
"Ah. There it is." He pointed to the light switch on the wall. "Might I?"
At her nod, he flicked the switch and light flooded the entryway and kitchen. "So much more civilized than standing in the dark, don't you think?"
"Um, sure." Caroline tensed, her nervousness marching a sickly path to her stomach when Elijah moved further into her house.
He took a few steps, pausing to observe the hole in the wall Tyler left and then he turned his head towards the kitchen.
It couldn't have been more of a disaster. Many of the ceramic floor tiles were cracked and while she had done her best to clean the blood off the walls and floors, a brown tinge remained.
"I see Niklaus has been here."
Elijah stated it so calmly and matter of fact, without any wonder or surprise that her mouth dropped open.
"He does tend to leave disaster in his wake when provoked," he added with a sigh.
"I don't know what I am going to tell my mother when she comes home," Caroline spoke out, her anxiety temporarily easing to be replaced with dismay as to how her parent was going to react.
Elijah tilted his head, a calculating look on his face while he took in all the damage. "Don't worry. I shall take care of it. I will send someone out as soon as we are done here."
"Oh. You don't have to do that."
"It is the least I can do." Then with a small nod of his head, the matter apparently settled, he turned his attention to her.
His dark brown eyes sized her up, rather like she was a strange specimen under a microscope. Or a puzzle he had yet to solve.
Fear crept inside of her, a thief stealing the little courage she had. She locked her knees together to keep from trembling, but she must have a little because her robe slipped from her shoulder revealing the spaghetti strap of her pale, ivory nightgown.
Elijah stepped forward and instinctively, prey facing a predator she backed away. One step and then two, before she realized how futile that was. An Original, he could easily have snapped her neck by now if he wished. Bolstered by that knowledge, her head jerked up and she stood still, facing him head on while he continued to advance towards her.
"So brave," he murmured. "I see it now. What a fool I was." With a wry twist to his mouth, he reached out to her.
Caroline stilled, ice encasing her, freezing her to the spot. If she still needed oxygen, she would have lost all ability to draw a breath when with deft fingertips he pulled her robe back up over her shoulder, covering her.
"You have nothing to fear from me, Caroline." Settling the thin, satin fabric closer to her neck, he startled. His eye went wide, pupils darkening with astonishment. "Niklaus."
The soft, shocked whisper of Klaus' formal name haunted her. It took on a life of its own, evoking centuries of pain, loss and regret. A single finger ghosted over her healed bite mark and fire leapt under her fragile skin. Elijah knew.
"Forgive me," he said at last, his hand drifting away from her neck. "I haven't seen a consort mark in centuries."
"You know what this is?"
"Yes. I am familiar with this kind of marking."
Elijah's cautious tone, the curious way he looked at her, like she was a delicate and rare piece of porcelain prickled her with annoyance. "What is it with this bite? What does it mean?"
Always cool and unruffled, Caroline could tell her questions unsettled Elijah from the slight, hardly noticeable twitch of a vein in his forehead.
"He didn't tell you?"
"Maybe? Kind of? But, I'm not sure I can trust what he said. Especially, since I would have never known about it if Tyler hadn't noticed."
Elijah glanced at the kitchen, comprehension registering on his face. "Hence the destruction of your home."
"That wasn't," Caroline paused, replaying the events of earlier in her mind, acknowledging her guilt. "It wasn't entirely because of that. I played a part in some of this."
He arched an inquisitive brow at her, waiting for her to continue.
"I cheated on Tyler with Klaus." There she had said it. Confessed her guilt out loud, laying herself bare to Elijah, the penitent to a priest. She didn't understand why she did since he had no reason to offer her understanding, absolution or condemnation.
"From what I know of my brother, you never had a chance to do otherwise." Elijah smiled down at her with a sad, knowing smile. "His tactics of persuasion are legendary and when it comes to his obsessions – we all are pawns to his will. He manipulates our weaknesses, bending and shaping them to his advantage, until he can move us into play."
None of that erased the sooty taint on her soul, but it offered her a kind of atonement, lightening the weight of her guilt. "So we really are all a chess game to him."
"You have played it with him, then?"
"Yes." Caroline halted the shiver of the memory teasing the edges of her consciousness. She wouldn't think of the intimacy of that day, their passionate kiss, his wrist to her mouth, the sweet nectar of his blood flowing down her throat. Not with Elijah standing right in front of her.
"Then you understand that it all comes down to the Queen."
"Yes. I remember that. She holds the most power."
Elijah graced her with an approving nod, a teacher pleased at the student. "The king lives and dies by her and so does my brother."
"I'm sorry. I'm not understanding?"
"Niklaus has done something I never thought to see. Using the laws of our kind, he has bitten you and marked you as his consort, his Queen."
"I get the biting part. But what does that have to do with what you just said? He said he did it to protect me."
"Yes, but it is so much more than a mark of protection, Caroline," Elijah paused, his voice deepening, his features solemn. "For him and to everyone else supernatural it means that the two of you are one. He values you as much as he values his own life. You are the Queen to his chess game, the most powerful piece in his life and anyone who moves against you, moves against him."
"I…I didn't realize that." This revelation, the evidence of how much she meant to him frightened her, trapping her in a golden cage of his design. Yet, even as the bars closed in on her, she reveled in the power she had over him, the evidence of his affection.
"There is something else," he cleared his throat and rested his gaze on her. She stared back at him, captivated by the intensity in his eyes. They burned into her, reminding her eerily of the madness she sometimes glimpsed in Klaus. "From now on, until the end of time, you are one of us. Family."
Family. With Elijah, it was a religious vow and the enormity of it terrified her. From what she understood, the Originals rabid devotion to each other, even in the midst of their dysfunction was legendary. The alpha and omega, where one began the other ended.
"I'm having the mark removed."
Silence filled the entryway, seconds seeming like minutes before Elijah spoke again, "Have you told my brother this?"
"Yes, earlier tonight." Her voice caught, snagging on the memory of the look of devastation on Klaus' face, the light snuffed out in his eyes.
"It didn't go well."
Elijah grimaced. "I don't even want to imagine the damage he is doing to our home right now."
"I'm sorry, but —"
He waved away her apology with an absent minded air and templed his fingers under his chin. "Can we sit somewhere? Converse more comfortably?"
"Of course." Caroline bit her lips as her lack of manners was called to attention once more. Avoiding the kitchen, she took him into the small sitting room, motioning for him to have a seat.
With a grace she couldn't quite believe, he folded himself into one of the wing-backed chairs. She took a seat opposite him, smoothing her nightclothes modestly around her. Memories of Klaus's past visits were everywhere; from the homework perched on the end table he helped her with, to the sketches he drew sprawled out on a pillow on the floor, to the couch where they cuddled and watched a movie together. The impending loss of all of this brought burning tears to her eyes and she blinked them away before Elijah could notice.
"What are your reservations about Niklaus? Trust me, I know my brother can be uncouth and I have no doubt that the circumstances of his marking you might not have been to your liking — although, I have been told it can be highly erotic if done correctly."
A flush of heat rolled down Caroline's neck and across her chest. Erotic? More like mind-blowing, weak in the knees, orgasm by death pleasure.
"I see." The corner of Elijah's mouth tucked into a smile at what she most definitely revealed while saying absolutely nothing. "So, enlighten me, what are you reservations about my brother?"
"Talking about this isn't going to change anything. I have made up my mind."
"Klaus and I…. we can't happen," Caroline sighed. "There are too many differences between us, too much that has happened that I can't overlook. "
Elijah leaned back in his chair, looking every inch a psychiatrist analyzing a patient and Caroline swallowed back a nervous giggle at the insanity of him playing couples counselor to her and Klaus. "I assume you speak of the loss of Jenna? Or does this have something to do with your past life"
"You know about that? How?"
"Rebekah. She is the one that brought me home. She is very worried about Niklaus and the threat to your life. It seems she has come to care very deeply about what happens to you." Elijah tipped his head in Caroline's direction. "Something I can now understand and appreciate."
"I…I didn't realize she cared so much."
"My sister, over the centuries, due to a variety of reasons, has learned never to display her true emotions. Trust me, when I say she will be very pleased with this new development in your relationship with my brother."
Caroline clasped her hands together tightly in her lap. "That's the thing. There is no relationship, can be no relationship. I can't be with him."
Elijah remained silent, ignoring her rising frustration while he waited patiently for her to continue.
"He plays with Elena's life, hijacking her blood supply and is a constant threat to my friends. If they should offend me I can't trust that he wouldn't go out and murder them while I slept," Caroline explained, her voice growing heated. "He did it before to prove to himself he cared about me so what is to stop him from doing something that psychotic again."
"You, Caroline. The answer will always be you." Elijah leaned forward in his chair, his gaze warm, compassionate. "My brother in his entire lifetime has never given anyone as much power as he has you. For the first time, something means more to Niklaus than himself. Give him time, let him learn and grow from your presence – your kindness and love."
"He has already spent way too much time in my presence and what did he do?" Caroline scoffed. "He bit me. He marked me without even asking me and now I am what? His girlfriend? A Queen of this crazy kingdom he is trying to create?"
"More like wife, if you wish to be accurate," Elijah replied, elaborating his words with a dismissive wave of his hand.
Outrage poured through Caroline, her shoulder shaking now with anger. "What?"
"The Consort mark is such a difficult thing to define, but yes, I believe in human terms it would equal wife."
"That's it. This mark is going tomorrow. I don't care what kind of magic it takes. I'll sacrifice a chicken, a goat, anything to divorce myself from him." Caroline shot to her feet, folding her arms together in front of her. "Now, if you don't mind I have heard enough. I would really like to go back to bed."
Elijah couldn't ignore the civilized request. He rose to his feet with an elegant flourish. "Caroline, I know that this is a lot to take in, but I hope you will mull what we have discussed tonight over before making any rash decisions."
Smooth and polite as ever, yet in his tone flashed a hint of steel. It set Caroline on edge. He had not threatened her, but she would be foolish to forget he was an Original and Klaus' brother. She suppressed a shiver and padded to the front door.
"Thank you for stopping by," she said politely, regally, tapping into her manners at last.
Elijah smiled at her and then to her shock, like the courtiers of long ago to their ladies, he took her hand in his. Lifting it to his lips, he pressed a kiss to her fingertips. Over the top of her hand, his gaze met hers.
"Think of the good you could do, the changes you could make at his side."
"If he would listen to me, "Caroline retorted, trying to look away from the Original, but his eyes, they captured her, stabbed into her like a pin through a butterfly.
"Niklaus will never let you go."
Caroline couldn't swear later whether he said it or not, but she knew deep in her heart that he also meant they would never let her go.
Seemingly haven spoken his peace, Elijah released his hold on her and her hand fell to her side.
"I will have more hybrids sent over to keep watch." With those parting words, Elijah departed into the dark.
Tired and weary in mind and soul, Caroline slowly closed the door.
Thanks to my wonderful beta's QueenofKlaroline and Sci-Fi Christian.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter.