Caroline stepped through the brush and scurried after him. She was going as fast as her legs could take her but he was moving faster.

"We need to hurry." He called back, growing annoyed with her constant need for stops to catch her breath. "It's already noon." He pointed up at the sun in the center of the sky above them. "And we have a lot of ground to cover before nightfall."

"I can't go any faster."

"You're fine, just keep up."

She moved a little faster up the steep incline they were walking up. They were twisting through the woods and she heard birds chirping all around. The view was amazing, if only she could rest for a minute to enjoy it.

"Hand." He said, holding his out to her.

"Why?" She said warily.

"We're getting higher up, wouldn't want you trying anything like last time."

"Do I have a reason to?"

"Of course not."

"So tonight we'll meet your brother." She said cautiously.

"Unless he's late again. But I doubt he'll make the same mistake twice if he wants to keep all his organs in place."

"And he's going to want to kill me."

"Probably. But I won't let him."

"You seem awful certain that you can keep him from doing it."

"Sweetheart, Kol is a little runt. He does as I say and if he doesn't, he'll have a serious problem. He knows better than to get on my bad side."

"Why are you protecting me? What difference does it make if he kills me?"

"You don't think I'm capable of anything but evil?"

"I don't understand why you would do something that angers your family when it's pretty clear everything you do is for them or because of them."

"Maybe I wanted to do something for myself just this once. Is that so hard to believe?"

"So that's what I am? Something for yourself? A little toy to play with until you get bored?"

"I don't think of you like that." He said. Not anymore, he thought.

"Then what do you think of me? Because as much as I appreciate still being alive, I'm a little confused here."

"I ... I think you're interesting. You're strong, even though you've been through so much. And you don't even seem to realize how much you're enduring that you don't have to. I want to make it better."

"I don't want your charity. Or anything. There are strings."

"No strings."

"You want me to feel like I owe you something. I already owe you my life. You're just waiting to collect whatever you expect in return."

"No, I get what you're thinking, but I don't want anything like that. I don't want anything forced."

"So this is all because you're nice? Because you're such a good person?" She said sarcastically. "You randomly save people from plane crashes you cause just because you're such a good guy?"

"No! I've never done anything like this! I don't care about anyone!"

"Why did you? You might think I'm strong or interesting now, but you knew nothing about me when the plane went down. Why did you bother?"

"Because you're so beautiful... I didn't want to destroy you in the crash."

It was one of the worst things he could have said. She hated when people reacted to her based on her looks, good or bad. It was why so many people assumed she was shallow or stupid. It was why she got head cheerleader over the girl she knew was just as good but not as pretty. It was why men thought they deserved access to her. Because she was beautiful and men want to own beautiful women. None of them really cared about who she was. She was a puppet to Damon. She thought Tyler was different, but he obviously didn't care about her either. They just wanted the status of a pretty girl, and didn't care about getting to know the person underneath.

"Typical." She muttered.

She sat down on a rock and leaned back on her hands. He would just have to wait. He was tapping his foot impatiently, but she wasn't budging. He had just royally pissed her off. She wanted a moment to seethe at yet another man projecting something on her based on how she looked.

"That's not what you wanted to hear." He said, watching her expression.

She just looked away.

"It's true." Well, mostly. He had pulled her out because she was beautiful. More like ravishing, sexy, intoxicating, couldn't pass up an opportunity to touch her, hoped she might be up for some thank her rescuer sex, but there was no need to add all that.

She rolled her eyes.

"I know more about you now, It's not just that..." He started to add, but he caught sight of something sliding along the side of the rock she was sitting on getting closer and closer to her left arm.

"Caroline, stay very still." He said, his voice low and commanding.

She turned her head sharply to look at him, alarmed by the tone of his voice.

"What?" She said, starting to panic.

He snapped a thin branch off a tree and took a cautious step towards her.

It was slithering closer. He needed to hit it on the first try.

She watched him cautiously walk towards her brandishing the pointy stick. Was he going to stab her?

"Klaus." She whispered, frightened. "What are you doing?"

"Stay still."

"Why?" She asked, her hands gripping tighter on the rock she was sitting on.


She screamed. Then she turned and saw how close it was and flailed a bit. It reacted to her and lunged, sinking it's fangs into her forearm.

As soon as the snake let go he pierced it straight through the middle of it's head with the stick, then stepped on it a few times for good measure.

She looked down, horrified at the bite on her arm and the splattered snake guts at her side.

He grabbed her firmly by the shoulders.

"I told you to stay still! Why couldn't you listen?" He roared.

Her eyes widened in fear. He was so close to her, so angry. Instead of responding, she froze up, anticipating the blow. She was used to punches accompanying anger. When a man yelled at her it meant he was about to hit her.

He saw it and closed his eyes, swallowing as if he was trying to force down the anger.

"Why didn't you listen?" He said, a bit softer this time "Why can't you just do as I say?"

"I got scared!" She protested.

He just sighed and shook his head.

He took a step away from her and dumped out the bag with the first aid kit. Once he was looking away from her he could let his anger show again. He was learning to be careful. He didn't want to scare her or trigger any memory, but he was furious.

She caught it, the way he flung things from the bag as he dug through it, muttering swears under his breath.

"I'm fine." She said weekly. "No big deal, just a little blood. I can walk fine."

"No you're not." He growled.

"Really, I feel fine." She protested, trying to get him to calm down. He looked furious. Why? Did he think she got bitten on purpose? "It didn't hurt that much."

"That snake was extremely venomous."

She felt her heart sink. She looked back down on the little punctures and suddenly they seemed far more frightening.

"No anti-venom, seriously, Bekah?" He muttered as he dug through the kit. "Three types of antibiotics, but no anti-venom?"

"Am I going to die?" She whispered.

"No!" he snapped. "And stop worrying. It'll make your heart rate go up, then it'll go through your system faster."

That only made her worry more. She started taking deep ragged breaths as she prepared to die on that stupid rock.

He dug a tiny razor blade out of the first aid kit.

She wondered if he was going to slit her throat, end it faster.

Before she could protest he was scooping her up and pulling her into his lap. He held out the bitten arm to look at it.

She was hyperventilating, her entire body heaving with each breath.

This was it. It was so stupid that this was how it would end. She would laugh if she wasn't so frightened. She had survived neglect, abuse, heartbreak. She survived a plane crash, endured days in the wilderness with a psychotic criminal, almost kissed him, started to actually not hate him so much. Now a stupid snake bite and it was all over? How anticlimactic.

"Stop." He commanded, trying to hold her still. "I can fix this. I will not let you die."

She didn't understand the words coming out of his mouth. He said it himself. Extremely venomous. No anti-venom in the first aid kit.

"This is going to hurt." He warned.

She nodded, her chest rising and falling rapidly as she panicked more.

He cupped the side of her face.

"You're going to be fine, Caroline. Don't look." He said.

She pressed her face against his chest so she couldn't see what he was about to do with the razor blade pressed against her arm.

She let out a few choice curse words as he dug it in, making an x over each fang mark. Then she felt him lift up her arm and she let herself look.

Thick droplets of blood were forming at the x shaped marks he made. They were starting to drip down the side of her arm. He brought it up to his mouth and sucked hard on the wound, turning to the side to spit out a mouthful of blood before bringing her arm up to his mouth to do it again.

Her heart was slamming though her chest. She was so certain that this would be it. She thought of all the regrets she would have if she died that day. Not traveling more, not spending enough time with the people she loved, not standing up for herself nearly enough. There was one more. Why hadn't she kissed him? When she thought she was going to die, she wished she had kissed him.

The sound of him spitting blood over his shoulder snapped her out of it.

She looked up at his face, her blood smeared across his mouth. He lifted her arm to his lips again and sucked. She could feel his tongue pressing against her skin. His lips were on her. Lips she was just thinking about, wishing she had kissed.

It must have been the adrenaline still running through her from all the fear. That's the only explanation she had for why she felt like her whole body was on fire watching him do it.

Ok, it was kind of a personal thing to do. Intimate, even. Yeah, it was to save her life, but still. He was tasting her blood. His mouth on her skin while she sat in his lap. And the way it felt made it impossible not to think of what it would feel like to kiss him.

She held on to him tighter and pressed her face against his chest again.

He must have mistook it for her getting worried or impatient, because he broke away.

"Just two more times, it should be mostly out, I just want to be sure." He said, before getting back to work.

When he was finished, she let him sit her down in the grass so he could get up and rummage through the supplies. She watched in fascination as he absently wiped most of the blood off his mouth with the back of his hand, took a sip of the water bottle to rinse out, and lined up some of the medical supplies.

"Drink." He handed her the water bottle as he busied himself checking her bite marks, applying topical antibiotic, then wrapping it in gauze.

She stayed still, letting him wrap her up.

"Food." He muttered, handing her one of the packets of nasty gel.

She did feel a little light headed, so she slurped it down, chasing the awful tasting goo with some more water.

When she set the water bottle down she noticed he was watching her.

"How do you feel?" He asked, a nervous strain in his voice "Nausea, pain, numbness in your fingers or toes?"

"Fine. A little lightheaded, but fine." She replied.

His shoulders relaxed and he exhaled heavily, he checked her arm again.

She felt a split second of panic as he lunged at her abruptly.

He was hugging her, holding her tight.

She relaxed into it and hugged him back. There was something about the way he wrapped his arms around her. It was urgent, protective, like he was trying to shield her from everything, like he needed to feel her to make sure she was still there.

"I'm sorry I snapped at you." he murmured into her hair. "I was angry that you were hurt, I shouldn't have yelled at you like that."

"It's ok. You saved me. Again." She replied noticing how tight he was still holding her.

He could feel her face pressed against him as he held her close. He couldn't bring himself to let go. He needed to keep her here, flush against him so nothing could hurt her. Keep her safe. How hard was that? And yet he had already failed. He couldn't protect her from a stupid snake, how was he going to take care of her once they were around people again?

She couldn't go back to wherever she came from. Not to whatever American town she came from, to the parents who didn't notice and the friends who didn't do a thing to stop it. To people who made her play nice with her rapist and to a cheating boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend. She said she had ended it. Not that it mattered.

She would never want him. Earlier, when they just left the caves, he thought he saw a chance, just for a moment. He thought he could kiss her, that she would want it. But she pulled away, probably revolted by the thought of him. He wasn't used to the sting of rejection. Most women were more than happy to, well, do a lot more than kiss him. Of course, they never knew about who he really was, save for the few who were part of the underworld themselves. Tatia. A reminder of why he hadn't done more than one night stands in years. He thought she accepted him for who he was, loved him even. Needless to say, it was all a ruse. He learned his lesson.

Caroline was different. She was sweet and genuine and strong and everything he wished he could have. She didn't want him. You're a monster, Niklaus, and she's already had her fill of monsters.

He kept holding her tight. He would keep her close as long as she would allow.

She wiggled a bit, loosening his hold on her. He caught her looking at his face, at his lips. They were probably still stained with her blood. Repulsive monster, he thought, nightmare creature. But she didn't look at him with fear or disgust. He watched in awe as she looked up at him.

"Thank you." She whispered. She was looking at him like he was some kind of hero. Like he wasn't the bad guy.

He just nodded in response. He felt an ache in his chest, like she was pulling on his heart by saying those words, by looking at him like that.

Her thumb traced along the corner of his mouth, wiping away a remaining trace of blood.

Without thinking, he caught it in his mouth, licking off the blood. The taste a reminded of how only moments ago he had his mouth on her skin. Even the coppery tang of her blood was better than kissing anyone else. Sucking poison from her veins was better than a night of debauchery with any other women. Or any other two women for that matter. Or three... there had been that one time with three women at once.

No, this is better, he thought absently, catching her hand against his mouth. Without thinking, he held her palm to his face and kissed it. He glanced over at her, the shocked look on her face as he kissed her hand. There was fear, apprehension, a flicker of lust. He vacillated between being so sure she wanted him too and being so sure she would never ever act on it. He convinced himself that she would come to him, with time, and the next instant he shook his head and realized that he would always be a monster to her. She was ruining him. The one woman he wanted above all else, the only person since Tatia he could possibly imagine being faithful to, and she was so afraid. How could he convince her he deserved a chance? How could he convince himself?

He let go of her hand and loosened his grip on her. He waited for her to pull herself away, put some distance between them after the rather intimate gesture he just pulled. He mentally reprimanded himself for it. Licking blood off her thumb, kissing her hand? Really, Niklaus, have you any shame? Is this what it's come to? Why don't you just get on your knees and beg her? She was probably eager to get away from him after a little stunt like that. He imagined her wanting to go wash her hand, scrub her arm clean of any trace of his mouth ever being there.

Instead she snuggled closer to him, moving one hand around his waist as she pressed herself against him. Again, the fingers tracing the scars on his back. Tatia had never done that. She was the only one he ever told the true story of them to before Caroline. She had always just avoided them. But now Caroline was here, and she was so different from anything he had experienced. Delicate fingers running along the ugliest memories his body carried. Her other hand, the one he had kissed, was pressed against his chest.

He saw her looking at it, the hand he kissed, and she was blushing, a slight smile on her lips.

There was a chance.

Katherine stumbled a bit as she jumped out of the pickup truck she had snagged a ride into town in. She scooped her bag out of the truck bed and hobbled down the side of the road on her spike heels. The driver didn't even bother to pause as he sped away.

She changed into better funeral attire in a gas station bathroom and walked down the road to the church. It had been months since she spoke to Elena. They weren't exactly close. Not after all they had been through. Dealing with the sudden death of your parents is messy enough, imagine adding in finding out just which twin they preferred at the reading of the will. Elena got the house, control of the trust fund, guardianship of Jeremy. Katherine got a ticket to rehab. They didn't have much of a reason to talk after that fiasco. But when she got the voice mail asking her to come home for Caroline's funeral, she found a way to get back to Mystic Falls.

All the anger came rushing back when she walked into the church. There was a horrible blown up picture of Caroline's senior yearbook picture. That was five years ago, couldn't they find something more recent? And the slideshow was the final straw. How sappy and sentimental. The girl was blown to bits in an airplane explosion, why were they all trying to sugar coat it?

Elena was in one of the front rows, sitting between the Salvatore brothers. Of course. Just like old times, Katherine thought. Jeremy was nowhere in sight.

She watched from the doorway into the church as Liz and Bill Forbes moved around, accepting condolences from friends and neighbors. Elena got up from her seat to say something to Liz and both Salvatore brothers followed. She watched in horror as Damon hugged Liz. It was so fucking twisted. Her sister's whole group of friends was. It figures that Caroline would be the one to die. She was the only one Katherine could actually stand. They had a few mean girl standoffs and blowouts in high school, and while she would complain loudly about the Forbes bitch to anyone who would listen, she respected that the girl could hold her own.

A few years ago, Caroline sent a care package of tabloids, cute pajamas and candy to her when she was stuck for that stupid two month stint in rehab. It was nicer than anything her own sister ever did.

And now Caroline was dead. Why did it have to be her?

She needed a moment before going in, so she snuck off to the bathrooms.

She closed the bathroom door and rummaged through her purse to find the flask. She took a long sip as she leaned against the sink and shuddered as it burned down her throat. It would take more than a few sips to get through today.

The smell of pot wafted through the bathroom and she realized she wasn't alone.

Katherine kicked open the door to the stall and came face to face with a very guilty looking Vicky Donavan.

"Nice, bitch." Katherine muttered.

"Like you're one to talk." Vicky huffed, motioning at the flask. "Looks like I'm not the only one who needed something to take the edge off."

"How's your brother?" Katherine asked, knowing it would get a rise out of her.

"How's yours?"

Katherine motioned for Vicky to hand over the blunt, and Vicky obliged, grabbing for the flask. Katherine took a long drag and Vicky took a sip, then they returned their vices to each other.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. They had been high school nemeses, being the two wildest girls in school, often fighting over boys they both wanted, eventually going after each other's brothers and getting into more fights over that. Some time after high school ended, they formed a strange bond, being the two wild girls the town didn't understand. They both wandered, but when they ran into each other, they usually ended up getting into trouble together. They had woken up in jail cells together more than once, and in strange houses more than they could count.

"So, Caroline's really gone." Katherine sighed. "How's Matt handling it?"

She had messed around with Matt plenty in high school, but Caroline was his real high school sweetheart. She knew he would be devastated.

"Horrible." Vicky answered honestly. "What about Elena?"

"She hasn't said much. Probably the same. But she's sitting next to Damon. Unfuckingbelievable."

"Yeah. Matt told me about it. He saw me flirt with him at the grill once a while back and wanted to warn me."

"He shouldn't be here." Katherine spat.

"I didn't see Tyler in there." Vicky mused. "If anyone should be here, it's him."

"Yeah, I didn't see him either. How could someone skip their own girlfriend's funeral?"

"What a dick."

"Total scumbag."

"Give me another sip."

"Yeah, as soon as you pass that over here."

"Ready to go face Mystic Falls?"

"As ready as I'm going to be."

Klaus had lead the way up another steep incline, leading to a jagged canyon that cut across, completely separating the land they stood on from the land in front of them.

She gulped as she looked out at the rickety wood and rope bridge that hung across the canyon. The drop below it was a certain death. It didn't look very stable.

"Last big obstacle, sweetheart. After this, just a short walk."

She nodded. It was starting to get dark. The dusk just made the deep abyss below the bridge all the more terrifying.

"One hand on the ropes, the other hand in mine." He reminded her. "I will not let you fall."

"What if it collapses?"

"It won't."

"But what if?"

"It won't. This is the only way across. The only place where these two land masses meet close enough. We have to take it."

She nodded.

Her stomach was in knots. Every plank looked like it was about to rot and crumble.

He moved on to the first two planks, holding on the the ropes as he leaned with his weight on one plank, then the other.

"We're good." He said, and held his hand out.

She stayed frozen at the edge of the bridge. It was a long fall.

"You can do this." He reminded her.

She swallowed her nerves and took his hand.

The first steps out made her aware of the wind whipping through the canyon between the two land masses. The drop looked even bigger when it was right below her.

"Good, now a few steps forward." He said.

A few more steps. She was getting closer to the middle of the bridge. She could feel it shift and sway below her.

"Klaus?" she squeaked out, her voice trembling from fear.

He held on to her hand tighter.

"You're ok, you can do this." He reminded her.

She followed, holding on to his hand with all her strength. He promised. He promised she would be safe.

A few more steps.

Almost there.

She ran the last few steps off the bridge and collapsed to the ground once they made it to the other side.

He let go of her hand and walked back to the bridge. She watched as he took a few steps back out, and flicked the lighter, catching some of the middle planks on fire. He hurried back off to the side and once he stepped off, he lit the ropes until they broke. She slowly walked up behind him and watched as each rope snapped, as the wood planks crackled with fire.

He felt her hands snake around his waist as the last rope burned and snapped, sending the flaming bridge crashing away from them. He slipped the lighter back in his pocket and wrapped his arms around her. They watched the flaming bridge fall apart.

"I told you I would keep you safe." He said.

"I believe you." She said.

He looked back behind them.

"Turn around" He whispered.

She turned, holding on to him as they shifted to look out at the path before them. There was a walkable trail that snaked down the mountain, and below was the beach.

"That's where we're going." He pointed. "We'll be on the beach in an hour."

"And then the boat, your brother?" she said.

He nodded. "You have nothing to worry about."

She looked out at the ocean, worried.

"He's not going to hurt you. No one is. If anyone comes near you, I'll tear out their throat before they can even touch you."

She looked at him and knew he could. The same hands that were now gently wrapped around her back had probably snapped necks and caved in faces. The finger tracing along her shoulder soothingly had pulled the trigger on others.

He looked out at the ocean. They could see a lot farther out from the high point they were standing on.

"I don't see anything. Looks like he's running late. Typical." he huffed.

They moved down the mountain. She was exhausted, every muscle burning from the climb down, but she wouldn't let it show. She wouldn't ask for another break. It was almost over.

Once her feet touched sand she plopped down and pulled her shoes and socks off, along with the hoodie she was wearing. She stretched out in the warm sand and smiled.

He watched her, enjoying the relief and satisfaction on her face. She was done being dragged around. He didn't want to ever pull her through such filth again. There would have to be some way to make it up to her. What was that spa Mother and Rebekah were always running off to? She would like a day there. Or better yet, he'd bring someone to the house for her.

He pulled off his own shoes and sat next to her in the sand. She sat up and leaned against him, soaking in the sun.

He checked under her bandage to see how the snake bite was healing.

"Does it still hurt?" he asked, tracing along the area.

"No. Thank you again."

"You don't need to thank me."

"You saved my life." She protested.

"It was entirely selfish, I assure you."

"How's that?"

"I don't want to live in a world without you."

She looked at him, a bit stunned.

"You don't even know me." She whispered. "Whoever you think I am, I can't be that person. I'm broken. I'm not worth it."

"I know enough. And you're worth so much more than you know."

She watched as he picked up her hand and held it between his own.

Has she ever felt so nervous just from having someone hold her hand? She was so afraid of how easily she was slipping into trusting him. She couldn't stop it even though she knew it would end badly. It always did.

He leaned in a little closer, studying her face.

He was giving her that look again. The one only he could do. The one that made her stomach do a flip flop.

Those danger signs in her mind started flashing again.

He let go of her hand and traced down her hair, his fingers tangling in the soft waves and landing at the back of her neck.

He kept getting just a little closer, trying to read her.

She felt herself shaking as if she had been dipped in ice water. Every nerve in her body was telling her to move away. But something else was keeping her locked in place. It wasn't fear. She knew he wouldn't hurt her.

She placed her shaking hand on his arm, the other one reaching out for his shoulder. She was holding on, hoping he wouldn't let her fall. She knew what he was going to do.

He looked down at her hands on him, back up to her face. She was terrified. But she was in. He had been asking her to take a chance on him, and he thought, if he was reading her right, she might if he acted right now.

Carefully, he lowered his face, tilting, getting closer to hers. He kept waiting for her to pull away, trying to give her every chance. Now he was only a centimeter away, and he paused, expecting her to pull away.

Her hands pulled on him, urging him to continue.

He closed the gap between them, softly, carefully bringing his lips to hers.

A charge shot though her at the impossibly soft touch. She felt every worry melt away. He was holding on to her, so gently, like she was made of eggshells. But there was so much warmth behind it, a longing for more but he was carefully holding back.

She kissed back, applying a little more pressure. She felt his arms tighten around her as he pulled her closer.

He responded by picking up the pace, kissing her harder, with a passion she didn't understand. His hands were moving through her hair, down her back.

She was lost in him. Nothing else existed. What started out slow and gentle was getting more urgent and desperate. She felt his tongue trace along her lip, begging for entrance.

When she parted her lips slightly he greedily invaded her mouth, exploring every inch, his tongue caressing hers. His grip on the back of her neck was firmer, pushing her against him, trying to get as much as possible.

He broke away and scanned her face, checking to make sure she was ok.

When he was met with a smile he dove back in, this time his lips landing on her neck, trailing up and down, licking and sucking as he traveled across her skin.

He was leaning to the side, trying to push her closer to him as they sat next to each other in the sand. He needed to feel more of her. There was never enough.

Before she knew what was happening she was on her back in the sand and he was over her, his mouth now back on hers. He was sliding his hands up and down her sides, kissing her like he needed to prove something, needed to show her.

She tugged on his bottom lip and felt him shudder as she sucked on it. Her hands moved up and down his back, lightly scratching at the scars.

He pushed against her as he kissed back, and she held on to his tighter, feeling the warmth of his skin all over.

She was lost, spinning, falling right into whatever trap he had planned, but she didn't care. She wanted more. She matched each kiss, pulling him closer, trying to touch every inch of skin she could get to.

She felt him pull back a little, returning to softer little kisses, feather light touches, and then he was pulling away, just a tiny bit, leaning his forehead against hers as they caught their breath.

He carefully moved to the side so he was laying in the sand next to her.

She snuggled closer to him and made a line of kisses along his collarbone and shoulder before burrowing her head in his chest.

He looked up and saw the sun setting along the horizon. He looked back at her. What just happened?

He stroked her hair as they stayed close, neither saying anything.

She told him that her last boyfriend cheated on her? She said found him in bed with someone else when she surprised him with a visit. It made even less sense now. How could anyone want anything else after kissing her? How could anything be worth losing her? He would start wars, raise armies for another kiss like that, he would slaughter entire civilizations and burn cities to the ground to get another moment with her.

The perfect silence was enough for now. She had kissed him back, she didn't try to pretend she didn't want to or justify it after the fact. She was just there, next to him, looking at him like she trusted him. She knew the boat was his call. She didn't have a choice. All she could do was hope he wouldn't betray her.

Reluctantly, he broke away and stood up. They had arrived. He saw the white shape of the boat, the silly little pirate flag Kol found so amusing. Several bodies on the docks. They were as close to shore as they could get without getting stuck in the sand.

Someone bellyfloped off the side, making a big splash.


He waved as he watched his brother approach the beach.

Hayley nodded as Kol pointed out where to stop and she clicked the key and turned off the engine. They looked around trying to spot the figure on the beach.

"Maybe he didn't get here yet." One of the men offered.

"He's here." Kol said, scanning the land. "He's never late. I just need to find him."

"There." Jeremy pointed.

They saw a figure in the distance stand up. He must have been lying down on the beach earlier, making it impossible to see him from the distance.

"I think I'm going to go greet the prodigal son." Kol joked and stood on the edge of the boat. "Lockwood, Gilbert. Go down and find some food and a celebratory drink for our favorite wolf. I'm sure he's famished." He smirked over at Hayley. "Knowing Niklaus, I'm sure he wouldn't refuse the company of a lady either, after all it's been days."

"Pass." She said dryly and made a face at Kol.

Koll shrugged. "Suit yourself. I'm sure we can stop somewhere on our way home so he can scratch that itch."

He bellyflopped off the side of the boat.

They all watched as he popped above the water's surface again.

"Well?" He asked.

"I give it an 8" one of the men shrugged, absently cleaning the AK-47 he had taken apart on one of the tables on the dock.

"8 and a half" the other offered.

"6" Hayley offered.

"You're quite the spitfire. I can see why Lockwood's so enamored." Kol shouted back up.

"Just go get him so we can get out of here." She shooed him.

Kol muttered something about pretty little things with sharp tongues as he waded towards the island.

Below deck Jeremy and Tyler were rummaging through the fridge for some food.

"I've never met this brother" Jeremy said. "Is he like Elijah? I met him a few weeks ago. He seemed... reasonable."

"I don't know Elijah." Tyler shrugged. "But Klaus can be a little moody. You can't joke with him like we do with Kol. He's the best at what he does, but he knows it, and he expects people working for him to to bring their best. You don't want to disappoint him."

"Have you met the mother yet?" Jeremy asked.

"Nah, I don't rank that high. I've heard she's pretty terrifying."

"Yeah me too."

"So have you been home recently? I haven't seen anyone in months, well, except Care."

"Yeah what happened with that?"

"I thought I could keep the whole Hayley thing separate, you know how we basically have to have a double life with this stuff, but they ended up coming face to face. It was stupid."

"You picked Hayley?"

"Caroline didn't exactly give me a choice. She left as soon as she saw."

Jeremy nodded. He didn't agree with Tyler's decisions, but he wasn't exactly one to judge. He had made plenty of his own mistakes when it came to girls.

"Well, to answer your question, I haven't been home in about a month. Actually, it's been a while since I've talked to anyone. Elena keeps calling but I've been ignoring it. If she's coming to me about whatever she's worried about with Katherine, she's got the wrong guy. I'm just as bad."

"Katherine's in trouble again?"

"She's always in some kind of trouble. Always showing me up by managing to be the most reckless."

"That's why you joined up? To piss off your family? Be badder than Katherine for once?"

"Well that and a chance to see Damon Salvatore squirm."

"Yeah, fuck that guy." Tyler muttered.

"What about you?" Jeremy asked.

"I don't know. It's like.. this fits me, you know? I'm good at it."

"And the pretty brunette driving the boat doesn't hurt, either."

"Yeah." Tyler laughed.

"Champagne?" Jeremy asked, passing the bottle in the back of the fridge to Tyler.

"Why not?" Tyler shrugged. "I have a feeling boss man will be in the mood to celebrate."

Kol had almost made it to shore when he noticed the second person on the beach. He picked up instantly on the way Niklaus positioned himself between the two of them, as if he was trying to block her.

Well, well, what do we have here? Kol thought.

"Kol, so nice of you to make it almost on time." Nik said sarcastically.

Under other circumstances, he would have wrung his neck for his tardiness, especially considering Kol's tardiness had gotten him into this mess in the first place. However, it was hard to be mad when all of Kol's mistakes had led to him meeting her. Even the extra time they had to wait for him to show up today gave him a chance to finally make a move. And she kissed back. She kissed him like no one else. It was hard to be mad, but Kol needed to learn.

"You look like hell, Niklaus."

"I've been stranded for the past few days, jumped out of a plane, had a beam fall on me in Johannesburg, ended up in the police station surrounded by peasants. What's your excuse?"

Caroline was slowly getting to her feet, eying Kol warily.

"Ah, I see you have a hostage." Kol smirked. "That wasn't part of the plan. She is a pretty little thing. I guess you found something to keep you occupied while you were here."

"Touch her and I'll break your legs." Klaus said quietly, glaring into Kol's eyes, making sure he knew it wasn't an empty threat.

"Is that any way to treat your family?" Kol smirked.

"If you weren't family I would do a lot more. Tell your men to leave her alone or they'll pay with their lives."

Kol sighed. "Well, who is she? How much are we going to get?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Your hostage. How much is she worth?"

"She's not a hostage. There's no ransom."

"She's what, then?"

"Just leave it, Kol."

Kol walked over to Caroline and leaned close, as if he was inspecting her.

"You must be something very special" Kol said in a dangerously soft voice "You see, my brother doesn't usually keep women around for long, and here you are, three days on these islands and he still wants to keep you alive? What's your special talent? You must have have a mouth on you like a vacuum."

Caroline felt her cheeks burn and she glared, wanting to slap him but afraid of what he might do in retaliation.

Klaus caught Kol by the arm and twisted, sending him flying face first into the sand.

He put an arm around Caroline and kissed the side of her face.

"Sorry about him. Sometimes he needs to be reminded of his manners. I'll teach you how to do that move later."

Kol spit out a mouthful of sand.

"What the hell, Nik?"

"Talk to her like that again and I'll make sure to embarrass you in front of your little toy soldiers."

"There's one of your men on board as well. I brought your puppy. You know, the one attached at the mouth to my favorite sniper."

"That puppy could take out any of your men in hand to hand."

"But his shooting's sloppy and he's not the brightest bulb, is he? I'll introduce you to my new council poach. He's quite the shot."

"Sounds like a good choice, but it'll have to wait. I'd like to see Caroline to the boat so she can get some food and rest. It's been a long three days."

"So she has a name. Sweet Caroline it is." Kol purred.

"Do you want to keep all your teeth, Kol?" Klaus warned.

Kol looked her up and down and smiled. "I don't know what your deal is with this one, but I'm going to find out."

"Leave it, Kol."

"Boat's this way, Nik."

They waded out into the water and after they took a few steps, Klaus paused and picked up Caroline, carrying her in his arms as they waded though so she wouldn't get wet.

Kol glanced back at them and raised an eyebrow, but kept trudging through the water. Once his back was turned, Klaus snuck a kiss, earning a smile from Caroline.

She glanced nervously at the boat. As they got closer she could see the outlines of two men brandishing AK-47s patrolling the deck.

"You're safe. They answer to me." He reminded her.

She nodded, but she didn't look convinced.

He kissed her again. How could anyone do anything else when a girl like her let you kiss her?

"I'm not going to let anything happen to you."

She smiled and kissed him back.

"I'm trusting you."

He held her closer and felt her head rest against his chest as they made their way through the water. He had her trust. Now all he had to do was make sure he didn't mess it up.

They reached the boat and Kol hopped up first, offering Caroline a hand up as Klaus hoisted her onto the deck. Klaus pulled himself up behind her and shot Kol another look that said he was watching him.

Caroline looked around, trying not to show how afraid she was of the men with guns.

"Good to have you back, Niklaus." One of them called out.

"Good to be back." He said, scanning the dock. He reached out and took Caroline's hand, a possessive gesture that made it clear she was for him and him alone. "This is Caroline. She is my guest and anyone who is anything but the perfect host to her will have me to answer to. Understood?"

The men nodded as did the girl at the wheel.

Caroline tilted her head. The girl looked familiar, but she couldn't quite place it.

The girl looked back at her, scrunching her brow, as if she was working the same wheels in her mind.

A door flung open and someone came out holding a bottle of champagne and some glasses.

"Hey, boss! Welcome back!" He smiled "Nice to-"

Tyler froze. He looked as if he had seen a ghost. What was she doing here? Why was he holding her hand?

She was frozen in place, her mouth open. She kept blinking, as if she had somehow hallucinated him.

"Tyler?" She gasped.