Disclaimer: None of this is mine. Title is from Explosions in the Sky.

A/N: Still AU. Some graphic-y gore in this chapter. I have a sensitive stomach myself, so I tried to make it as un-gross as I could but tread carefully.

Many, many thanks to dhfreak over at tumblr for making a graphic for this story! I love it! (There is a link to the original on my profile, go check it out!)

Again, thanks for reading. I would love a review if you have the time.


the birth and death of the day

8.

The kiss is totally spontaneous and probably a really bad idea considering it's, you know, the end of the world. But it's somehow like a brief timeout from the complete nightmare of the past few weeks—hell, the past few years, if Caroline's being totally honest with herself. So she doesn't protest when Klaus takes over, his hands roaming restlessly down her sides. Amazingly, she's steady, her arms still as they rest on his shoulders. She's up against him and he's just so warm that all the reasons that this is a huge mistake just sort of dissolve in the back of her brain. She kind of lets all the thoughts in her head evaporate so that the world shrinks down to the simplest of all equations and the feeling of his stubble rubbing against her cheek.

But the sound of sirens breaks into her haze and she blinks her eyes open hazily, pulling away. "I have to call Dean," she stammers, backing up and avoiding looking at him directly as she roots in her bag for her phone. "You—you should probably check on Rebekah." Check on the school, she corrects herself silently, mentally ticking off the people she knows weren't there today. Elena, Stefan, Jeremy and she had taken Bonnie out herself. But that leaves Tyler, and Alaric, and everyone else—people she's known since she was basically born, and she wishes fervently that Bonnie's pyrotechnic light show had started already. Her fingers shake as she taps over to her Favorites screen, wholly aware that Klaus's stony gaze is fixed on her.

Dean answers without a greeting. "Where are you?" he demands, his voice urgent enough to make her heart hammer in her chest. She exhales through her nose.

"Safe," she evades, still determinedly staring at the floor. "Dean, the school—"

"Already there," he says and she can hear the sound of the Impala's engine cutting off.

"I'll meet you—" she starts to say and two things happen simultaneously: Klaus's fingers wrap tightly around her free wrist, causing her eyes to fly up and meet his; and Dean says loudly, "Don't even think about it, Caroline."

Her eyes narrow at Klaus as she tries to tug her wrist free of his grip, but he's got, like, a thousand lifetimes on her so she rolls her eyes and gives up pretty quickly. "Dean—"

"Nope," he says and she bristles because she has yet to finish a complete sentence. "Wherever you are is safer than here, Care, so stay there. Got it?"

Caroline isn't entirely sure that's true; especially with the way Klaus is looking at her—like she's either something to be devoured or locked away in a tower for the rest of eternity. She's not entirely sure which is worse, but whatever; she so doesn't have time for this right now. "Dean, it's War," she rushes out and she hears the rustling in the background stutter to a halt. "That's who's at the school, so you better be freaking careful, okay?" Her heart pounds out a nervous tattoo against her sternum. "You have to watch out, okay, you have to stay calm!" She pauses and adds, her voice dropping, "Mom's there, Dean. You have to—just be safe, okay? Please."

Sam mumbles something in the background that she can't quite make out and Dean says slowly, "Okay. Stay where you are, Care, and I'll talk to you when it's done."

Her fingers clench down on the edges of her phone but before she can protest, Dean hangs up and she's left with silence.

"There's something you should see," Klaus says quietly, and before she can protest—before she can even blink, really—he tightens his already iron grip on her wrist and pulls her into the depths of the Mikaelson house.

"The hell do you think you're doing?" she sputters, finally yanking her hand free as his fingers loosen and the look he gives her—whatever, she doesn't really want to analyze it. "This is kidnapping."

"Don't be so dramatic, love," he drawls dismissively, and as Caroline draws herself away from him, her surroundings catch her eye. There's a sturdy, well-worn desk with thick parchment strewn messily across the surface, paintings adorning the walls, and a bed—

"Wait a second," she says and her voice pitches upward several octaves. "Are we seriously in your freaking bedroom right now?"

For someone who just had his tongue in her mouth (for like, half a second, okay, and it totally won't be happening again, so she lets herself off the hook), he brushes her off without hesitation. "Hardly for the lascivious purposes you're currently imagining," Klaus says grimly, opening the doors to his wardrobe—because of course he has a wardrobe instead of a closet—and reaching inside.

Caroline's still sputtering like a fish in open air when he pulls out a long, wickedly curved blade. "Do you know what this is?" he asks her seriously and she blinks at him, because seriously, she cannot keep up with his mood swings. She would bet money that he can't keep up with his mood swings.

"No," she grits out shortly, barely glancing at it and crossing her arms. She's weirdly not uncomfortable in here and it's freaking her out. "Enlighten me."

"Caroline," he says, and the gravity in his voice makes her arms tighten around herself. "This is a scythe."

She blinks, because duh – that much she knows. She's not a total idiot. "Yeah I got that part…" she says slowly. "So what? You murdered the Ghost of Christmas Future. That's totally within your wheelhouse."

Klaus does not laugh, nor does he look the slightest bit amused, both of which scare her way more than the sharply curved blade in his hand. "Caroline," he repeats and the way he's saying her name only adds to the gnawing in her stomach. "Grim Reapers carry scythes."

Ice begins to harden in her ribcage. "I'm aware of that, thanks. So you killed a Reaper," she says faintly, trying to echo her bravado from only moments ago. "Shit happens."

His blue eyes are zeroed in on her and she takes a tiny involuntary step back, away from the intensity. "I didn't kill a Reaper," he says lowly and she feels a chill snake down her spine.

"Klaus," Caroline whispers, "Whose scythe is that?"

His gaze locks on hers and his voice doesn't change in volume, but somehow it feels like he's shouting at her. "Death's."

There's silence and a ringing in her ears, like the kind in movies after a bomb goes off right next to a character's head. She's completely frozen in place, her feet planted in the middle of the room as though they have sprouted roots and trapped her there.

"You're lying," she finally accuses weakly, but her voice cracks over the words and she can feel her chin trembling before she snaps her mouth shut. Gotta get home right the fuck now.

"Caroline," Klaus says again, and she wishes he would stop saying her name, especially with that look on his face: like he wants to wrap her in blankets and slay all her dragons for her. She can slay all her own goddamned dragons, thank you very much.

"You're lying," she repeats desperately, hands clenching into fists where her arms are still crossed—a barrier between them. "You...there's no way! You just want to be the hero—" She's completely backed herself into the wall, anger and fear crashing through her because how the hell does Death lose his own scythe? If he's that careless, he doesn't deserve to be Death. "How would you even know?"

Klaus shrugs, his eyes pinned on her. "A crossroads demon was loose with his tongue."

Caroline stares at the weapon, its blade gleaming silver in the bright sunlight pouring in from Klaus's window. The crumbling tome that had sat in front of her on the kitchen table flashes before her eyes. The Blade of Death can End that which cannot be Killed.

"Klaus," she whispers, and before he can respond, she's in front of him, her hands on his face and his stubble prickling her palms. "Please, Klaus, you can't—you can't tell anyone, please." But she knows he will—she hasn't forgotten his words on Dean's fate as Michael's vessel, and she can't bury Dean again. Not again. "I—I'll do anything, Klaus, Paris, Rome, freaking Baghdad, anything. Wherever you want, I'll go, just—" She fights to keep hysterics at bay and it's a battle she's very clearly losing.

His eyes are burning blue flames and there's a long, familiar pull in the bottom of her stomach. "You can't tell anyone," Caroline says again, the edges of unshed tears scraping at her throat. "Dean...he'll die and I—" she cuts herself off when she realizes that she's totally crying and immediately lets go of his face to wipe her own. When she tries to take a step back, he's an immovable force that doesn't let her. His lips brush her forehead and the muscles of his arms move against her shoulder blades.

"It's all right, love," Klaus says softly, almost gently; and a tiny, morbid part of her thinks he could reel in anyone he wanted like that. "Sweetheart, it will be all right."

… … …

Her car is parked neatly in the middle of her driveway when she gets home, with a note from Bonnie stuck under a wiper blade— It's okay, the crinkled notebook paper reads. Caroline stares numbly down at it before crumpling it up and dropping it in the garbage can. Nothing is okay.

The house is quiet as she drops her keys on the small table by the door with a clatter. Her head is fuzzy and there's an unread text message on her phone, but all she wants at this moment is to crawl into her shower and pretend it's all a bad dream.

The water is nearly scalding but Caroline still shivers and stands beneath it until her skin is red and wrinkled.

She's padding into the kitchen in her sweats and socked feet when Adam says, "Hey," from the couch. It makes her jump at least six feet in the air, her hand flying to her chest.

"Jesus God," she mumbles, pushing her wet hair out of her face as her breathing steadies. "Don't do that."

"Sorry," he says, eying her curiously. "You okay? You look…" he trails off and both of her eyebrows rise because yes, Adam, tell me how awful I look right now. "Freaked," Adam finishes cautiously. "You look freaked out."

She exhales. "Oh. Yeah, just a—a scare, I guess." His eyes are fixed on her and she fidgets a little under the scrutiny.

"Can I ask you something?" he wants to know, leaning against the couch with folded arms.

"Um," Caroline shrugs and toes a crack in the wood floor. "Yeah. Sure."

He's quiet for a second and it's on the tip of her tongue to tell him to just spit it out when he does just that. "You guys never told me how D—how John died." His voice is hesitant, careful.

"Uh," Caroline says, wincing a little. "It was, um...a car accident." And technically, she reminds herself as Adam looks down, that's the truth.

"Oh," Adam says doubtfully and she wishes suddenly that he had asked Sam instead of her.

"I'm sorry," she offers lamely, fully aware at just how little those words help. "Do you want—maybe some tea?" She could use a little spiked tea herself, so she doesn't wait for his answer, flipping the stove on and filling the kettle with water.

Adam considers her and when she turns to switch the faucet off, she can feel his eyes still on her. It makes her vaguely uncomfortable, but come on—she just put imagery to his dad's death. He gets a pass.

"You're sure it was a car wreck?" he asks, standing and reaching for the mug on the counter.

Caroline shrugs and watches the teapot. "I mean, I wasn't there," she tells him, crossing her arms as she stares down at the stove. "But the Impala was a mess and Sam and Dean both went to the hospital."

"Still," Adam says and he's at her elbow and the fine hair on the back of her neck tingles a little as it stands at attention. "Are you sure it wasn't something else?"

"Like what?" she prompts. Please don't say demons, please don't say demons—

"Something supernatural," he says, and panic starts to bloom in her stomach. Same difference.

"No such thing," she manages to say weakly and Adam shakes his head.

"Come on, Caroline," he says and his voice is hard. "Aren't you a vampire?"

She barely has time to gape at him before the world goes black.

… … …

The first thing Caroline feels is dust tickling at her nose.

The second is white-hot, searing pain.

There are flames of it wrapping themselves around her wrists and when she tries to move her hands away from the source, she realizes with sinking desperation that she's shackled to something.

"Wouldn't do that," Adam says casually from somewhere across the room; she forces her eyes to focus.

"You're not Adam," she accuses hoarsely, and the Adam thing laughs at her.

"Bravo," he says sardonically as he squats down next to her. "You actually weren't my first choice, Caroline." He eyes the charred skin of her wrists. "But I'll make do."

"First choice for what?" she snaps, pulling against the metal and instantly regretting it as the smell of burning flesh intensifies and black dots her vision. "What are you?"

"Well," Adam says easily, moving into a sitting position on the floor next to her—a cursory glace around tells her they're in the Fell tomb, because of fucking course—and partly rips her shirt. Oh God, oh God she thinks, panic fully swirling and he rolls his eyes.

"Get your mind out of the gutter," he scolds lightly and she barely has time to process that as his finger digs into her side, breaking through the skin and not stopping. She bites down on the inside of her cheeks so hard she tastes blood because fuck giving this monster the satisfaction.

"It doesn't matter," he says idly, drawing his finger out. It's covered in her blood and the light bulb goes on when he licks it away.

"Ghoul," she spits out, her siding stitching itself together. Adam smiles almost proudly.

"Very good," he encourages cheerfully and she bites back a moan of pain as he slices into her again.

"Thought ghouls only ate corpses," she grits out, focusing on the hole in her sock and not the horrible burning snaking around her wrists.

Adam shrugs and she tries not to gag at the sight of her skin in his fingers. "We prefer the truly dead," he tells her, taking a moment to savor it and she squeezes her eyes shut briefly. "But I'll let you in on a little secret." He leans in as though they're best girlfriends whispering about crushes on boys and she resists the urge to spit in his face. "Vampires are walking corpses." He grins at her and her stomach rolls. "And they have the bonus effect of regeneration. A never-ending feast, if you will."

Her side is going numb. "Why us? Why my family?" she manages to ask through her clenched jaw.

All the humor leaves his face and a new frisson of fear shoots through her.

"Because," the Adam ghoul hisses at her, blood in his teeth, "John Winchester killed my family."

The pain in her side explodes and she can't hold back the screaming anymore.

… … …

It takes a while for her side to stop healing, but stop it does. Caroline really doesn't want to think what that indicates about how long she's been down here. She can't feel her arms or her ass and every time she breathes, she inhales more dust.

She remembers from Katherine's too-short stint in the tomb that desiccation doesn't actually take that long—a few days without blood at the most. But her muscles are stiff and it takes way more energy than she actually has to move. Desiccation is the only explanation she can thing of and a single dart of her eyes the ground next to her confirm that her blood is pooled around her, tendrils of it slowly inching away. I am going to die here. I'm going to die on this nasty, filthy floor in my sweatpants.

Shit, she really hopes Castiel was right about God.

"I wonder if any of them will notice you're missing," the not-Adam ghoul muses, fingers rattling against his knees as he sits on top of one of the stone slabs. "Or maybe they're all too distracted with the Apocalypse." He grins at her. "I couldn't have asked for more perfect timing. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Maybe you should die in a fire," she retorts, forcing her jaw to move. Not her best comeback, but whatever; the fact that she hasn't passed out yet makes her feel like she's fucking Athena or something.

"You know," he says thoughtfully, tilting his head at her, but his next words are lost as the door to the Fell tomb slams open.

"Back the fuck away," Dean snarls and Sam leans down next to her, his fingers on her forehead. She blinks up at him, vision blurring and he says quietly, "I've got you."

… … …

She sleeps for twelve hours straight and wakes up only because Sam makes her.

"You gotta eat," he says sternly, handing her a blood bag as she rubs her eyelids open.

"Thanks," Caroline mumbles, and Sam sits on her bed, eyeing her as though she's about to shatter. She curls her knees up to her chest. "How did you find me?"

Sam shrugs. "Elena came to the house to talk to you and saw the teapot boiling over." He pauses before adding sheepishly, "Stefan helped—he could smell it. Could smell—you know." He gestures at her aimlessly and yeah, she knows. "You were in pretty bad shape, Care." There's a hardness to his voice that makes her hug her knees tighter. She can only imagine the mess she had looked—sitting in a pool of her own blood, probably with guts hanging out of one side and wrists burned down to the bone. The urge to throw up is almost overwhelming.

"Is Adam dead?" she asks in a small voice. "Real Adam, I mean."

"Probably," Sam says flatly as she sets the now-empty bag on her nightstand. Her stomach twists.

"Did it kill him?" Her heart has dropped through the floor and only sinks further when Sam repeats himself, "Probably." She doesn't continue her line of questioning, mostly because it's fairly obvious that the ghoul thing killed Adam's mom too. Probably.

Caroline rolls out of bed and follows Sam silently down the hall. Her side has long healed but she still feels sharp phantom pains and her hand goes unconsciously to rest where the Adam-thing had — she shudders.

"What happened at the school?" she questions, fingers jittering over the bowl on the hall table where the Impala's keys rest. "Did anyone...is everyone—?"

"Fights, mostly," Sam assures her as he pulls books out of the bag on the floor. "A few kids are in the hospital but nothing more serious than a concussion, maybe some broken bones." He sees the question on her face before she has time to voice it and adds gently, "Your mom is fine, Care. She's filling out paperwork at the station."

Relief, warm and bright, floods through her and Caroline lets herself sag against the wall for a second. "Good," she says quietly, and when Sam opens the first of the thick, dusty books on their table, she tiptoes out of the kitchen.

Caroline finds her bloody clothing in the laundry room, which doesn't really surprise her, despite the rips and tears. What does surprise her is the sight of Dean scrubbing feverishly at the stains, his face pinched in determination. His knuckles are completely white.

"It would be easier to throw them away," she says quietly from the door, arms folded over her chest. He barely pauses at the sound of her voice.

"You like this shirt," he says flatly and she shrugs because seriously, it's just a shirt. A shirt with a giant rip up the side that was made while she was being tortured, nonetheless, so she's not exactly keen to wear it, like, ever again. It's last season anyway, so no tears on her end.

The determined scrubbing continues and the desperation on his face stings at her heart. She rushes over to him and covers his hands with her own. "Dean," Caroline whispers and his hands turn into fists underneath her own. "It's okay."

He shakes his head and pulls away. "It's not though," he says lowly and she hates the look on his face, like everything's falling apart around him. And yeah, it totally is, but—

"It's okay," she says again, and she hugs him—wraps her arms around his middle and lays her head on his chest, listening to his heart's steady rhythm. "I'm okay."

He stays stiff for a few seconds before she feels him relax, his cheek dropping to rest on the top of her head. Caroline hears him inhale like he's about to speak but the home phone starts ringing shrilly before he can get his words out.

For a few seconds Dean doesn't move; but then he kisses the top of her head and goes to where Sam is now speaking in low tones. She is still for a moment as well, then picks up her bloodied clothes and throws them in the garbage.

"Care!" Sam shouts and all of her spidey senses go on high alert because his voice is way too high pitched for everything to be okay. Caroline flashes into the kitchen, gripping the counter so hard a piece of it crumbles to the floor. "What?"

Dean is already shrugging on his leather jacket as Sam says, his face pale, "That was Meredith Fell. From the hospital."

She stares in confusion. "Why is Dr. Fell calling us?" A million scenarios start racing through her mind before they are eclipsed by her mother's face. Caroline's face drains of all color. Please, please, please God don't—

"Move your asses!" Dean yells from the doorway impatiently and Sam says in her ear, "I think...I think it might be Cas."

… … …

It is, but it also kind of isn't.

"There is nothing wrong with me," Castiel growls at Meredith Fell, who rolls her eyes at Caroline as she removes an IV. Caroline watches as the tiny hole vanishes and immediately looks up to see if Dr. Fell saw it. No, Dean's got her completely distracted.

"He's fine," Meredith says dubiously, turning to face the rest of them. "He shouldn't be fine, considering he showed up naked in the lobby, covered in blood and not knowing his own name." She looks down at her clipboard and scrawls something on a sheet of paper before handing it to Sam. "But somehow in the same amount of time it took for me to call you and for you to get here, he's completely healed." She crosses her arms and the look on her face makes Caroline shift uncomfortably. Meredith totally knows something. "You're free to go."

"What in the hell happened to you?" Dean snaps as soon as the door shuts with a soft click. "We thought you were dead!"

Castiel blinks very slowly but doesn't react as though this information is either new or surprising. "I don't know," he says and he holds up his wrist to inspect the hospital bracelet. "Who is John Doe?"

"Don't worry about it," Sam says, handing him a neatly folded stack of clothes. "Get dressed and we'll go."

Castiel looks down at the hospital gown and Caroline says before he can ask, "That doesn't count as clothing."

… … …

"So what do you mean, you don't know what happened to you?" Dean demands almost as soon as they're inside the house.

Castiel isn't short – or technically, the guy he's vesseling isn't short –but Sam's clothes hang off of him almost comically and Caroline is pretty sure Dean planned it that way.

"I mean," Cas says slowly, as though he's explaining physics to a five-year old, "I don't know."

She actually groans aloud because seriously, this is going to go around and around in a giant circle and nobody has the time for it. "Castiel," she interrupts sharply, "Do you remember anything about what happened after you –" Her bravado falters away because she can still see it in her mind—blinding light and then nothing. "We thought you were dead," she says needlessly, and her voice shakes slightly.

Castiel looks at her as though he can see into her brain; some of the old fear stirs in her chest and she shifts uncomfortably. "I was not dead," he says quietly. His eyes pass over each of them, studying them; Caroline almost feels like she's being sized up.

But they must pass whatever test is running through Castiel's angel brain because he sighs and says, "I think I was with God."

Caroline and Sam both freeze but Dean snorts and says derisively, "Must've been some fever dream."

Castiel shoots him a look. "It was no dream."

"God?" Sam repeats, a note of excitement humming in his voice. Caroline just feels as though someone dunked her head in a bucket of ice water.

Castiel nods, his hand going to the back of his neck; but before he can say anymore, Dean cuts in, "Okay, except there's no such thing as God. Give the wheel another spin and maybe buy some vowels this time."

"You make no sense sometimes," Sam mumbles, his eyes still bright with interest and Castiel continues as though neither of them had spoken.

"I don't remember anything," he says seriously and Dean snorts again, but doesn't interrupt. "But I know it was Him."

Sam is looking on interestedly. "What was God like?" he wants to know and Dean rolls his eyes, but doesn't say anything. Castiel's face acquires a far away look.

"I don't know," he says honestly. "There was only warmth."

"Sure you were on the right end of Heaven and Hell?" Dean snarks and Caroline winces.

"Don't talk like that," she chastises softly and he flashes her a guilty smile. She turns to Castiel and asks, "Does that mean you're an archangel now?"

"No," he says immediately. "I am not."

She wants to ask him how he knows, but Castiel isn't finished. "I could have stayed," he tells them quietly, the look in his eyes becoming distant. "The offer was made."

The three of them stare at him and there's a lump in Caroline's throat. "You came back for us," Sam says slowly, exchanging a glance with Dean that Caroline can't decipher.

Castiel blinks slowly. "I came back for cheeseburgers," he corrects gravely and the somber mood is broken when Dean laughs, clapping Castiel on the shoulder.

"Look who's got jokes," he says approvingly before wandering out of the living room. Sam swoops down next to Castiel and starts peppering him with questions about God and Heaven and the Other Side.

That's when Caroline excuses herself. She really doesn't want to debate the possibilities of All Vampires Go to Heaven right this second (or, you know, ever). She just wants to go to bed. Her hand comes up to rest on her side as she moves down the hall.

Longest few days ever.

… … …

It's 3:17 in the morning when there's a knock at the door.

Caroline sits straight up in her bed, sleep falling away almost instantly as her heart picks up speed. Her eyes narrow on the empty driveway plainly visible from her window as her brain rapidly recounts the exact whereabouts of her entire family. Liz is definitely still at the sheriff's station, Sam and Dean are probably prowling around looking for trouble, she's sure; and Castiel is off doing literally only God knows what.

"Calm yourself, Forbes," she whispers, tugging on the fuzzy pink socks she had haphazardly toed off hours earlier in her desperation to curl under her covers. She tightens the drawstring on her pajama pants because they're starting to droop around her hips and if she's about to have to square off with some apocalyptic-bent asshole, she'd rather not have to worry about her clothes falling off. Seriously, she has no idea how Buffy fought entire vampire armies in cute outfits and perfect hair.

There's another, more insistent knock and Caroline grabs the first weapon in her line of sight as she heads towards the door. Please be Elena, she thinks with more than a little desperation, even though she knows Elena is way more than likely fast asleep at her own house.

Still keeping her distance from the door, she peers cautiously through the blurred glass. Dark blonde hair, hands folded behind his back—she groans and opens the door with a glare. Her heart is still hammering against her ribs and she pretends he can't hear it for her own comfort.

"What?" she demands and her skin prickles as Klaus's eyes rake over her. He nods towards the hand at her side as he sweeps inside without waiting for an invitation. She scowls at him.

"Ready to attack the avenging firewood, sweetheart?"

She has no idea what she even grabbed so when she looks down at her hand and realizes it's a fire poker, she has the strongest urge to impale him on it. Instead, she rolls her eyes and drops it onto the coffee table across from where he's now making himself comfortable.

"It's three in the morning," Caroline informs him coolly, crossing her arms and giving him her best Blair Waldorf, give-no-fucks glare. He smiles at her, but it's more a baring of teeth that makes the hair on her arms stand up. "What are you doing here?"

He's still wearing that kind of—okay, totally—terrifying smirk and she thinks maybe she shouldn't have been so quick to let go of the poker.

"It would seem," he says, his voice entirely too casual, "that Death's scythe is missing."

Her heart skips beat and she thinks it might actually stop. "You lost it?" she whispers, staggering backwards slightly. "You lost the only thing that can – oh my God."

Klaus is watching her with this way too intense look in his eyes, like he's trying to decide something and she has no idea what the hell it's about. "Bravo," he says finally and she's heard this tone to his voice before. Just never directed at her. It makes her fight-or-flight instinct come raring in at full force: run, run, run. "Very convincing, Caroline."

She stares at him in open confusion. "You're a crazy person," she says faintly. "What are you even saying?"

He's on his feet in the blink of an eye and Caroline starts to consider her exit strategy. "That which cannot be killed," he says slowly, circling her; she tries to turn with him as he does, but her socks catch on the rug and she trips a little before catching herself.

"Right," she says, a little desperately because there's a feral look on his face that makes all the muscles in her body tense. Adrenaline starts to kick up in her veins. "Michael. We're gonna use it to kill Michael."

"And after that?" he challenges. That gives her pause because she hasn't exactly thought about after. It's almost too optimistic to imagine after and even as it starts to form in her mind's eye, she slams the door shut on it.

"There is no after that," she tells him, her own temper starting to flare – and then it hits her like a ton of bricks and she stops short. "Wait. That's what this is about?" She can't help it—she gapes at him because holy self-absorbed, Batman. "You think we're gonna try to kill you with it?"

"Award-winning performance, love," he says with faux-idleness and for a moment, they both stare at each other in total silence.

Then she lunges for the fire poker; but he's so fast it makes her head spin and when it finally stops, her back is pressed against the wall. His hands are wrapped around her wrists – not so tightly that it hurts but tight enough that she has zero wiggle room. Gritting her teeth, she aims a swift jerk of her knee to the Original family jewels. His eyes darken and he pins his hips against hers, effectively rendering her entire lower half useless.

"Quite the young ingénue you are," he says mockingly and she hates him (but she especially hates herself for forgetting what he's capable of just because of a few secret kisses and a pretty drawing).

"What is your damage?" she snaps at him, struggling in vain against his grip. "Do you think I stole your stupid–" His fingers press down and she cuts herself off, glaring at him.

"I think you know where it is," Klaus says easily, as though he's telling her she might need an umbrella later today. "And I think you're going to tell me."

Her eyes widen and she says quickly, "I'm on vervain." It's kind of a lie though because she can't actually remember the last time she thought to sprinkle it in her tea. Stupid, stupid Caroline, letting your guard down. "Klaus, please! I don't know anything about it!" His eyes soften for a half-second but before she can grab at that, it's gone. "Besides, don't you think we're all little bit, you know, preoccupied to think about offing you? How arrogant are you?"

His eyes are nearly black and his pupils dilate as he says lowly, "Tell me where you were yesterday afternoon."

Her eyes squeeze shut as the words tumble out, her free will slipping through her fingers like sand. "The Fell tomb."

She hadn't thought his voice could get any lower but it does. She can feel it rumbling out of his chest. "And what were you doing there, Caroline?"

Oh, she hates him for making her relive this and she opens her eyes to stare at him in absolute loathing. Her breathing is ragged. "A ghoul," she spits out at him and his eyebrows furrow together. Her head suddenly feels too heavy for her neck as her voice follows his orders, continuing, "It took me there to die." And because she's technically answered his question, her mouth snaps shut. She absolutely refuses to give him more than he demanded. Her brain ticks off a list of people who have taken her free will—Damon, Tyler, Klaus and she wants to aim for his junk again so badly her knee twitches against his thigh.

Klaus lets go of her almost instantaneously, as though she burned him; it's so sudden that she inhales in surprise before her back slumps against the wall, all energy slipping away from her. "You're a dick," she says flatly, her fists clenched weakly at her sides and her knees shaking. She's so, so goddamned stupid—did Damon teach her nothing? A handsome face and some pretty words do not a good person make. "Get out."

There's silence and when she blinks, she's alone.

… … …

It takes her a long time to fall back asleep after that, but when she does, she dreams that she's human again—human and weak and Damon's chew toy. She's completely mesmerized, frozen in horror, as all the scenes that have haunted her worst nightmares play on a loop in her mind.

Are you going to kill me? she asks him. They're on her bed and he's on top of her, the sheets rumpled. There are teeth marks on her shoulder blade. Damon shrugs a little, reaching up to wrap a piece of her hair around his finger. Eventually, he says easily, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. Her eyes fly open, her breath coming in short spurts. She sits straight up in her bed and stares at herself in the mirror on her dresser.

She refuses to be that girl again.

… … …

"What's with you?" Dean asks through a mouthful of blueberry Pop-Tarts. Caroline wrinkles her nose as crumbs fly onto the table.

"Say it, don't spray it," she mumbles, rubbing at her eyes and trying to ignore just how badly she wants a shower. She pulls her hair into a messy knot at the base of her neck. "'M fine. Just some bad dreams." At Dean's suddenly alert expression she adds hastily, "Not doomsday-related. Run of the mill nightmares."

Dean eyes her like he doesn't believe her, but she's saved by her phone ringing. The caller ID flashes Stefan.

"You okay?" he asks first, and she feels a rush of warmth at the question.

"Yeah. Thanks, I'm told, to you. In a big way." She pauses. "You keep saving my life, Stefan."

He dismisses it easily. "Don't mention it. Come over," he says seriously and she groans. "Care, it's important."

"It always is," she points out, rolling her eyes at reflection in the kitchen window. The school is closed indefinitely while the sheriff's department investigates what caused half the student body to snap on the other half. Caroline thinks it's pretty clever of her mom: shut down the schools and people are way more likely to peace out when Bonnie's burning blaze of death comes sweeping in.

"I'm serious," he tells her and she laughs a little.

"Must be Tuesday, then."

Dean's still looking at her like he expects her to break down at any minute and she says as she heads out the door, "I'll call you if anything happens."

Caroline stops short when she sees a rose, deeply red and just blooming, resting gently on the driver's seat of her car. Because first of all, her car was locked all night; and second, it's so very Fatal Attraction. Which, okay, that's probably the perfect subtitle to her life, but that doesn't mean she's still not totally creeped out.

Besides, it's going to take a lot more than a stupid flower that some poor hybrid was probably forced to buy for her to forgive him.

She gives it to Elena when her friend opens the door to the boarding house. "For saving my life," she says brightly and Elena gives her a smile that lights up her whole face.

"What are friends for?" Elena says, pressing her nose into the petals. "How are you, Care?"

Caroline shrugs and doesn't answer as she slides through the doorway.

Bonnie is sitting in the middle of the Salvatore living room, green eyes focused on the crackling fire in the fireplace. "It's ready," she says quietly, breaking her intense gaze to look over at Caroline. "We can get everyone out of town now." Bonnie uncrosses her legs and pulls Caroline aside. "I'm glad you're okay," she whispers in her ear before slipping into the kitchen.

Caroline meets Elena's eyes. "Castiel?" she asks, motioning towards the fire. Elena shakes her head.

"The witches," she corrects and Damon snorts from the bottom of the stairs. Neither of them look at him and Elena continues, "Apparently they've decided to step in after everything with War."

"Witches," Damon says disgustedly and Elena rolls her eyes at Caroline.

She ignores both of them and calls Dean.

"Yo amateur hour," he says when he walks in fifteen minute later; Sam rolls his eyes behind Dean's back. "What's up? Got us a blaze, Little Miss Fire Starter?"

"Ready," Bonnie confirms, half-sitting on the edge of the couch. "When do you want to start?"

… … …

"Furthermore, I would advise all residents of Mystic Falls to evacuate to the surrounding counties, who have graciously offered to open their doors…"

"Your mom gives good bullshit," Dean remarks and Tyler shrugs, his eyes not leaving the television screen.

"Must be genetic," Damon says tartly, but no one responds.

"Nice work, Bonnie," Dean says approvingly from the window. Caroline untangles her legs from her current pretzel position and joins him at the glass pane.

It is impressive. The flames are massive and angry as they lick their way up the forest trees and Caroline is suddenly very glad that she has never pissed off a witch.

"Keep those fireballs away from my car, Bonnie," Dean suddenly warns and Bonnie rolls her eyes at him. "I'm serious, Bennett – anything happens to it and I won't be responsible for my actions."

Caroline snickers despite knowing that Dean's definitely not kidding. Out of the corner of her eye she sees Stefan tilt his head towards the hallway oh-so-subtly and she raises her eyebrows slightly in response. When he nods –a barely there jerk of his chin – she squeezes Dean's arm and says softly, "I'm gonna call Mom really quick." He nods, distracted by the towering flames.

Stefan has already disappeared up the stairs and she wrinkles her nose when she realizes he's gone into Damon's room.

"Why'd you come in here?" she demands, making a face at the ornate wooden bed frame. Stefan ignores her petulance and swings Damon's wardrobe open, and seriously what is with these old dudes and their disdain for closets?

But the question vanishes from her mind when Stefan pulls out a wickedly curved crescent-moon blade.

No, no, no, no…

"Do you know what this is?" he asks her, hazel eyes intent on her face. It's exactly what Klaus had asked her and she might actually vomit because everyone wants to use that thing on her brother.

Caroline swallows hard, totally unsure of what to do or what to say – so she plays dumb.

"No," she whispers, shaking her head slowly, eyes never leaving the smooth silver surface. "Is it – is it Damon's?"

Stefan searches her face before he says, "No, it's not Damon's. He—"

"—stole it," Damon drawls from the doorway, eying them with heavy dislike. "Finders keepers, losers weepers."

"From a reaper?" Caroline asks lamely and Damon rolls his eyes at her.

"No, Barbie," he says disdainfully. "From your boyfriend. Big Daddy Hybrid." His ice-blue eyes glint at her. "Been wondering something, by the way—does he make you call him that in bed?" He leers at her and she reels backwards. "Seems like something an egotistical perv with bad taste would do."

"Damon," Stefan says sharply as Caroline flinches. "Shut up."

"Just making conversation, Stef," Damon says with an easy shrug. "And don't pretend like you didn't know about that fine piece of weaponry, Care-bear." The look he shoots her is full of disgust and she wants to ream him with the stupid scythe because he is so not one to judge.

"I'm not apologizing," she snaps, temper flaring. "Don't even pretend like you wouldn't screw us all over to save each other."

Damon ignores her. "Know what they say about laying down with dogs, Barbie," he says scornfully, blue eyes flickering down her legs and back up again.

"And yet amazingly I only got fleas from you," she shoots back and Stefan snorts. "You're not using that thing on Dean."

"Fine," Damon shrugs. "I'll use it on Matt."

Caroline chokes and a voice from the hallway cries out, "What?"

Elena storms in, brown eyes flashing and Damon actually takes a step back as she hits him in chest, the biting laughter gone from his face. "You will not!"

"Elena," Stefan tries to intercede, making as though to grab her elbow; she hits him too.

"That is our friend," she hisses at them and Caroline shoots Damon a triumphant glare. "You know what your problem is, Damon?" Elena doesn't wait for him to answer before she smacks him in the chest again with her small, ineffective fist. "You think we're all disposable because we're human." She shoots a pointed look at Caroline, who stops glaring daggers at Damon to become very interested in the floor, face flushing.

Elena holds out her hand. "Give it to me," she orders, and if looks could kill – and Caroline still isn't sure they can't – Damon and Stefan would both be piles of dust where they stand.

"Elena," Stefan says again, and Elena steps forward, yanking the scythe away from him. She takes Caroline's wrist in her hand and says lowly, "We're leaving."

As Elena drags her towards the back staircase, Caroline tugs on her wrist and says urgently, "Elena. Elena, stop." Elena skids to a stop and turns to face her, her breath coming out in angry pants, her cheeks pink.

"Elena," Caroline repeats gently, motioning to the scythe in her hand. "Dean can't know about that. Not yet." Her teeth worry her bottom lip. "Not until we figure out how we can save them." She takes a ragged breath. "Both of them."

Elena inhales deeply through her nose and considers her before nodding. "Yeah," she says, rubbing the back of her neck with her hand. Her hair falls over her shoulder and she tugs at it absently. "Yeah, you're right." She stares down at the weapon in her hand with distaste. "We'll keep it at Bonnie's house. No one's been invited in besides you."

"And I'm definitely not stealing it," Caroline mutters, arms wrapping around herself tightly. "Elena, Damon stole that from Klaus and he's…not happy about it. To put it mildly."

Elena's eyes narrow on her and Caroline can see the wheels in her friend's turning. "Did he...Care, did Klaus threaten you?" The fury in her eyes makes Caroline laugh, but it's completely without humor. The idea of Klaus letting Elena go at him the way she had just attacked the Salvatores makes Caroline think of a kitten swatting at a rabid wolf.

"It's fine," she finally answers, avoiding Elena's eyes. She knows Elena isn't stupid – knows that she'll immediately pick up on how Caroline didn't answer the question at all. So she shrugs and says nonchalantly, "He…may have thought I took it."

Elena's eyes go wide and she grabs Caroline's forearm. "Are you okay?"

Caroline shrugs in response. "Relatively."

She's dodging the question again, but Elena doesn't push it. She only stares concernedly before saying slowly, "I think you might need to stay with me for a while." The unspoken where he doesn't have an invitation floats between them.

"Oy!" a voice from downstairs hollers and Caroline and Elena stiffen at the same time. "We brought things to roast on your lovely fire!"

"We?" Elena growls under her breath before shaking her head; Caroline feels a tremor go up her spine at Kol's voice. She wonders just how many 'we' consists of. "Let's go hide this thing at Bonnie's before the Originals figure out we have it."

… … …

Caroline follows Elena silently back into the Salvatore boarding house, dancing slightly on her tiptoes to keep her footsteps from falling too heavily. When she nearly trips on the edge of one of Damon's Persian rugs—swear to God, he probably makes love to those things nightly and they don't even fly— Elena raises her eyebrows and smothers a nervous giggle.

Rolling her eyes, Caroline looks up to glare at her friend; but behind Elena, Dean is deep in conversation with Rebekah. Eyes narrowing, Caroline sets her jaw and brushes past Elena to grab Dean's forearm and drag him away.

"Don't talk to her," she orders, not caring that Rebekah can hear her very clearly. "Evil bitches always end up having things for you and I'm not dealing with that on top of your death wish." She pulls him into the kitchen and he smirks at her when she stops.

"I don't have a death wish," he says mildly, before grinning at her. "Nice ninja-sneaking, by the way. You've really taken the Winchester ways to heart." There's a low note of amusement in his voice and Caroline jumps as though he'd pinched her.

"Noticed that, huh?" she says nervously, fidgeting around the Salvatore kitchen table and avoiding his eyes.

"Uh huh. So did the two Muppet babies." He smirks towards the living room where Caroline can hear Rebekah snapping at Elena. "I was covering for you, braintrust. Something about a prom emergency."

She forces a laugh and Dean eyes her suspiciously. "What'd you do, Care." It's not a question but her brain scrambles for an answer anyway.

"Nothing!" she defends immediately, crossing her arms over her chest. "We...look, Elena wanted to make sure people were actually getting out of town. I couldn't let her go by herself, Dean."

He snorts at her, clearly disbelieving and she opts for distraction.

"Dean," she says quietly, and when he looks down at her, his face changes.

"Hey," he says gently, hand going to her shoulder. "It's okay. You're okay, remember?"

Caroline shakes her head, pieces of her hair getting caught in the chapstick she had put on at Bonnie's. "I just feel like we're getting closer to something really bad."

His mouth quirks. "Well, yeah. The world's about to end."

Caroline punches him in the shoulder. "You know what I mean, dirtbag." He rolls his eyes at her, rubbing the spot and she shakes her head.

"No I mean..." she sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. "Dean, don't do anything stupid, okay?" He scowls good-naturedly at her, mood bolstered by the glowing orange outside the kitchen window. "You don't know what it was like here, after you...you know." She bites her lip and his expression becomes more serious. "You were gone, Mom wouldn't look at me, Sam disappeared for weeks at a time, Damon—" she stops the torrent of words and Dean's eyes harden.

"Damon what, Care?" he asks lowly and she waves it away.

"Just...everything fell apart after you left, Dean." Her voice wobbles a little. "Don't do it again."

Dean sighs and says carefully, "I'm trying not to." He ruffles her hair and says quietly, "I love you, Care," before he leaves the room. Taking a deep breath, she starts to head after him when Rebekah appears out of nowhere to corner her. Caroline stumbles back slightly and is immediately annoyed with herself. Back down to no evil slut, Forbes.

"What?" she snaps haughtily, crossing her arms and glaring like a champ. Rebekah looks not the slightest bit intimidated and Caroline keeps a vague insult about the elderly, wrinkles and the millennium Rebekah has under her belt tucked in the back of her mind – just in case she needs it.

"Your hair looks terrible, do you even own a mirror?" Rebekah doesn't pause for an answer before pushing forward. "Did you have a nice familial chat?" It's a casual question but there's a predatory gleam in her eye; Caroline opens her mouth to retort but a very male and very familiar honey-accented voice from the other room freezes her brain.

The look on her face must change because Rebekah's mouth softens at the corners. "You and I aren't so different, Caroline," she muses pensively and Caroline starts to flare before she continues, "I'm protecting my brother too."

And okay, Caroline knows that but there's a glaring difference there. "My brother isn't evil," she says flatly, setting her jaw. "My brother saves people, and yours just ends them."

Rebekah shrugs, completely unaffected. "Nevertheless. Much like you, I reserve the right to protect my family."

It's eerily similar to what she had said to Klaus and –no. No, no, no, she's not thinking about that because everything is too complicated already without fussing out the particulars surrounding good and evil. Especially in the middle of this topsy-turvy apocalypse where all the good guys are bad and all the bad guys are good. She'll save those philosophical musings for a rainy day when this is all over.

Rebekah considers her thoughtfully and Caroline's about to snap at her to take a picture when Bonnie's panicked voice yells from the living, "Caroline!"

She and Rebekah lock panicked eyes, blue on blue, before tearing from the room. Bonnie is standing at the open front door, Dean and Sam are crowding behind her and Klaus is somewhere in the mix but she still can't think about that, nope. Castiel is hovering, grim anticipation on his face and that means—

Outside on the Salvatore lawn, there's a small crowd of people standing in a line, arms folded and eyes angry. Caroline recognizes some of them, a dull dread settling in her stomach. Michael is in the middle, Matt's smile twisted into a shadow of what it once was. His face is gray, a pallor hanging over his cheeks; her friend has been completely erased. She steps closer to Sam, her shoulder touching his arm as she slides in front and effectively blocks Dean from view. Not like it matters.

In the back of her mind, she thinks with a sinking feeling that she and Elena may have made a fatal mistake, taking the scythe to Bonnie's.

She feels someone at her back and immediately tenses, thinking fiercely that if Dean thinks he's getting past her and Sam, he's seriously deranged; but it's Castiel, pressing cold metal into her open palm. Caroline tenses, fingers wrapping tightly around it. She doesn't give a single solitary shit if it's a fire poker or an Angel-Killing sword because an angelic army composed of people she's known her entire life—her neighbors for God's sake—are here to take her brother to certain death.

Castiel says lowly in her ear, "I will guard Dean," and she nods jerkily, all of her muscles coiling under her skin.

Bonnie's whispering under her breath and no one moves—until all at once, everyone does.

Dean immediately starts protesting as Castiel muscles him away from the doorway, and Kol gives a war whoop that under any other circumstance would make Caroline feel nauseous. But for today at least, he's on her side, and she can't afford the distraction.

Stefan is keeping pace with her, his face vamped out and eyes focused on her next-door neighbor. She shoves the Angel-Killing sword into his outstretched hand and tries not to notice how Mrs. Harris falls to the ground with no life in her eyes. Stefan doesn't look back at her.

Michael's angelic army isn't large but it's effective; she sees Elena screaming from the doorway and realizes faintly that Bonnie must have spelled the house so she couldn't leave—she's definitely the most vulnerable out of all of them. The demons are spilling out of the woodwork, followed swiftly by Klaus's hybrids and the coppery smell of blood is seeping into the air.

Out of the corner of her eye, Caroline sees the Sheriff's car pull up with its lights flashing, and only Liz would think that police sirens would have any kind of effect on a battle literally between Heaven and Hell. She's barely even thought Please, God, no and started to take off in that direction when some minor angel in the body of a neighbor whose daughter used to baby-sit her gets in the way.

She doesn't think, doesn't stop, and doesn't even consider the fact that she has nothing to defend herself with. She's yelling at the absolute top of her lungs for Liz's attention, but the noise of the battle is too loud and Liz doesn't hear her. But Caroline hears her own name being called out. Before she can even register who it is, she feels cold metal in her hand and without hesitation, rams the Killing Sword through Mrs. Peterson. She pushes aside all the guilt and self-loathing because there will be plenty of time for that later, and all that matters right now is that she gets to—

But she doesn't.

Matt—no, not Matt, Michael, never Matt—gets there first.

A pair of arms steel themselves around her before she even realizes that she's literally lunging for Michael; she's stopped seeing her sweet, puppy-eyed ex-boyfriend, the groom in all her fantasy weddings and instead she sees only her mother's—oh God, her mother's murderer.

Because Liz isn't moving and Caroline has to get out of these arms, she has to get there. She can hear herself shouting, but it sounds so far away that if her throat wasn't ripped raw from it, she would think it wasn't her own voice. She tastes salt before she realizes that she's crying and her ribcage grinds violently against the arms that are holding her back; everything is tinged with black and red. Her face isn't her own anymore.

"Stop, Caroline," Klaus orders hoarsely, and she may have actually lost her mind because she's kicking and clawing at him and she just has to get to Liz because her mother—her mother—

"You can't do anything," he says roughly, and he's pulling her back and she hates him so much in this moment because she's still trying, trying so desperately to break free because if she could just get there—

But there's a blinding flash of light with Bonnie's hand is in the middle of a circle of her own blood, and just like that, the battle is over. Caroline's knees give out and she drops to the ground, gripping at Klaus like he's her tether to reality. He's saying things in her ear that she doesn't even begin to process; for all she knows, he isn't even speaking English. Her eyes and mind are full of her mother—Liz motionless on the ground in front of her, Liz baking her seventh birthday cake and letting her lick the bowl clean of chocolate batter, Liz teaching her how to swim, Liz holding her close as they both cried for John Winchester, and then again for Dean.

And it's not a dream.

… … …

tbc.


A/N: I reached 100 reviews! You guys are the absolute best, and I mean that. Seriously, when I wrote the Prologue, I kept thinking how it was total word-vomit and no one would even like it. So thank y'all so, so much.

Don't hate me for this chapter, okay? I have an endgame, cross my heart. Plus first big battle scene!

I would love a review if you have the time.