A/N:I just wanted to thank Leonie (leetje ) for the excellent graphic she's made, and Briana (stoppunchingmyllama ) and Tanya (klaussdick) for beta-ing and not punching me in the face when I nag them to read/edit this.
They are awesome.
FIVE YEARS AGO.
NEW YORK CITY. THE PLAZA HOTEL. 8:30 PM
The call came during the reception.
She was sitting with Katherine, Bonnie, Jeremy, and Elijah, the latter of the whom was fiddling with his phone. A wealthy businessman, Elijah was known for being notoriously busy all the time, and while he'd put his business to the side for the sake of his sister-in-law's wedding day, Caroline figured that sending out e-mails was probably more enjoyable for him than watching Elena and Damon make their rounds around the room.
Katherine followed her gaze to the newly-married couple. "They are pretty cute, aren't they?"
Bonnie's eyes narrowed at Damon, watching as his arm rested on the small of Elena's back, her mouth curving into a snarl. Caroline pointedly glared at her friend, and Bonnie relented. She knew that Bonnie and Damon had had their issues in the past, but there was no excuse to go and bring up dirty laundry at the wedding. This event had been a long-time coming, and now that it was almost over, everyone could just breathe a little easier. They had all suffered enough drama at the hands of Elena and Damon to last a lifetime.
"I can't believe my sister's married," Jeremy commented, sighing. "I feel so old."
"Excuse you," Katherine said, slapping Jeremy's shoulder. "I don't remember you being this sad when I got married."
"I was a senior in college two years ago! I was young."
"Why is Stefan dancing with my sister?" Elijah asked suspiciously, finally looking up from his phone. He didn't sound angry, just curious. Turning to his wife, he added, "Kat. Why is he dancing with Rebekah?"
"Because she asked him to dance, and he said yes," Katherine replied, as if it was as simple as that.
Elijah paused for a moment, stood up, and then offered his hand to his wife. She smirked at him, putting her hand in his as he led them to the dance floor. Caroline looked around as Bonnie and Jeremy went up to dance, too. She, Matt, and Tyler were the only ones left at the table, and Matt seemed to realize this almost as soon as she did.
"Let's dance, Caroline," he said quickly, pushing off his chair. Tyler scowled at the two of them, but Matt ignored his friend and held his hand out to Caroline. She smiled and took it, and he twirled her around playfully, eliciting a small laugh from her.
"Thank you," she said quietly, as soon as they were out of Tyler's earshot. "Things have been rough since he and I broke up. I don't know, Matt. It's been six months, shouldn't he be less hostile by now?"
"I don't know, Care," Matt told her honestly, pulling her closer. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and his went around her waist. "But let's just have fun tonight and forget about Tyler, okay?"
She laughed and rested her head against his chest, reveling in the fact that he was warm, solid, and there. Tyler had never wanted to dance with her, and they'd never really gone out anywhere as a couple. He'd always been too busy to give any importance to what she wanted to do, and she'd always been too busy to want to go to any of his important events with him. Matt, on the other hand, had been a good friend of hers for as long as she could remember. Now that she was out of medical school and doing her psychiatric residency, she finally felt as if her life was falling into place. She was free of Tyler, she was starting a successful professional career, and she felt unadulterated happiness. This night, with the crazy dancing, the cheesy music, and all of her best friends, was something to be remembered. She wasn't close to getting married anytime soon, but she didn't really want to. She had the rest of her life ahead of her, why rush it?
Her thoughts were interrupted when Katherine and Elijah suddenly pushed past her. She lifted her head from Matt's chest and, at his cue, followed the pair past the doors of the Plaza ballroom and into the plush hallway beyond. Elijah was speaking rapidly into his phone, a worried look on his face, and Katherine was fiddling with hers. If either of them noticed Caroline and Matt, they didn't say anything.
"There's a flight to Heathrow leaving in an hour and a half. It's out of JFK, so we can make it if we leave now," Katherine said, looking up from her phone. Noticing Caroline and Matt, she added, "Can one of you guys get Elena, Rebekah, and Kol? And my purse, too. I have to go upstairs and pack. We need to leave."
They split up, Matt going back into the ballroom to get Elijah's siblings and Elena, while Caroline went upstairs with Katherine to help however she could. They passed Elijah on the way to the elevators, and she was finally close enough to hear what he was saying.
"Nik, calm down. She's going to be fine, Nik. No. Stop. Nothing is going to happen to Tatia. Katherine's already booked the tickets, okay? We'll be there by morning. Niklaus," Elijah said sharply. "Nothing is going to happen to your wife."
Even though she didn't know the woman, Caroline felt a pang in her heart. Minutes ago she'd been thinking about how she had the rest of her life in front of her, and yet Elijah's sister-in-law, who couldn't have been more than four years older than her, was dying. The world was a cruel place.
Katherine didn't say anything in the elevator, just checked her family in for the flight as Caroline looked on. She knew the Mikaelsons were well off, so flying off to London at the drop of a hat wasn't a big deal. Still, she couldn't help but be worried. She didn't know Tatia or her husband, but she did know that her best friend was hurting.
Growing up, Elena and Bonnie had always stuck together, and while the four of them had always been close, Katherine and Caroline had understood each other in a way the other two hadn't. They'd always been ambitious, and in the long run, it had paid off in the form of Harvard. Elena and Bonnie had both decided on NYU, where they'd met Rebekah and Damon, and now, for the first time since they were seventeen, the four of them were finally in the same city again.
"Kat," Caroline said softly, not wanting to startle her best friend. "You okay?"
Katherine gave her the tiniest of nods, but Caroline wasn't convinced. She reached out to wrap her arms around Katherine, but the elevator dinged and the doors opened. They walked to the penthouse suite in silence, and once she opened the door, Katherine instructed Caroline to pack whichever of Rebekah and Kol's things she could get her hands on in two minutes. They were on a tight schedule, and Elijah was supposed to be hailing a cab. There was no time to waste, not if they needed to be in London by morning.
Not if Nik needed them.
She didn't bother to ask who Niklaus was, having seen him once before as the best man at Elijah and Katherine's wedding. She herself had been Maid of Honor, but they hadn't interacted much. By now, she'dforgotten what he'd even looked like.
"Are you done, Caroline?" Katherine asked three minutes later. She walked out of one of the individual bedrooms, one giant black duffle bag in one hand, Elijah's briefcase in the other. "I only packed the bare essentials, we can have everything else mailed or something. Elena will take care of it, or you can. I don't know-"
"I've got everything," Caroline interrupted, holding up the bags in her own hands. "I will take care of everything here, okay? You just get on that flight and take care of your sister-in-law."
Katherine sighed, biting her lip. "It's not Tatia I'm worried about. It's Nik."
Well, that was a whole can of worms that Caroline didn't really want to get into. Whatever was happening with the Mikaelson family should stay within the Mikaelson family. It really wasn't her place to pry.
"Nik and Tatia will both be fine," she reassured. "Now let's get you to your husband, okay?"
Downstairs, a crowd had gathered. Elena was hugging Elijah, tears streaming down her face, and even Damon looked regretful. Stefan was holding a fragile-looking Rebekah, and Kol looked pale and unsteady, ready to fall down any moment. Without anyone having to say anything, Katherine and Caroline could both guess what had happened.
"Henrik called," Elijah said, his voice somber, eyes cold and dead. Katherine put her hand over her mouth, trying to muffle a strangled cry. Elijah reached out and pulled his wife to him, and that seemed to be the cue for everyone else to start moving. Matt and Kol started walking towards Caroline, the latter reaching out for the bags in her hand. He gave her a curt nod, went to collect his sister from Stefan, and followed Elijah and Katherine as they made their way through the lobby to the taxi waiting outside.
Elena fell against Damon. "Is this really happening? Did someone we know really just die on our wedding day?"
Matt wrapped his arm around Caroline. "It isn't their wedding day in London, though, is it?" he whispered against her hair, his lame but good-hearted attempt at lightening the mood.
"Matt," she said warningly. "Now is not the time."
"I know. But God, I don't envy the poor man who just lost his wife."
Caroline smiled bitterly. "The dead get away easy. It's always the living that are left to deal with the pain."
LONDON. CHELSEA AND WESTMINSTER HOSPITAL. 1:45 AM.
Nik sat rigidly, staring at his hands in horror.
Tatia was dying.
His wife was dying.
His wife was dying.
"Nik," a voice said, just above him. "Nik, snap out of it. She's going to be fine."
Nik shook his head free of thoughts of Tatia and looked up to see his youngest brother holding two cups of coffee in his hand.
"Drink up," Henrik said, shoving one of the cardboard cups at him. Nik grabbed the cup as Henrik took a seat and pulled out his phone, probably to call Finn and find out where the hell their oldest brother was. Elijah, Katherine, Kol, and Rebekah had already booked tickets for a flight over the Atlantic Ocean, but Finn should have been at the hospital by now.
His phone rang, some stupid song Tatia had programmed onto it two days ago blaring out, and he slid his thumb across the screen to answer.
"Niklaus, we're on our way," Sage's voice filtered into his ear. "I'm so sorry, we got stuck in traffic and we had to find a last-minute babysitter. Our nanny can't come until morning."
Nik sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. His wife was dying, his eldest brother was stuck in traffic, and he was sitting on an uncomfortable chair with only a thirteen-year-old for company. "Sage, it's fine. Just... just please get here as soon as you can?"
"We're on our way," she promised. "We'll be there soon."
She paused for a second before repeating the same words of comfort everyone had been directing at him. "She's going to be fine, Nik."
He didn't say anything to her, just hung up the phone and stared at the wall. Henrik didn't bother trying to make conversation, since there wasn't anything to say. The last time he'd been in this hospital, in this waiting room, he'd found out his parents had died. That was four years ago, and since then, he'd lived with Nik. The person he was closest to was this brother.
Now Nik was going through hell, and the last thing Henrik wanted to do was say something stupid or insensitive to cause his older brother even more pain. So they sat in silence for the next thirty-five minutes,(and yes Henrik counted), until Finn and Sage came bursting through the waiting room doors. Sage enveloped Nik into a hug, and he finally broke down. Henrik hadn't seen any of his older brothers cry more than twice in his life: on the day of their parents' death and the subsequent funeral. Esther and Mikael had been lucky enough to go together, but now Nik was going to be alone, left to deal with the hole that his wife left behind.
The group looked up to see a doctor coming towards them from the opposite end of the waiting room. He had a file in his hand, obviously Tatia's, and a grim expression that told them all they needed to know.
"I'm Dr. Reid," he said, extending a hand to them. Henrik stared at his family, and, finally realizing that no one else was going to, shook the doctor's hand. "I was in the operating room with your sister. She has unfortunately fallen into a coma. The next twenty-four hours are crucial, and if she doesn't wake up by then-"
"Sister?" Nik asked in confusion, his brow furrowing skeptically.
The doctor was taken aback. "Yes, Tatia...Mikaelson? She and her husband were admitted about an hour ago-"
"What do you mean 'she and her husband'? I'm her husband."
Reid hadn't been expecting that. "I'm sorry, what?"
He started going through the file, only to decide halfway through that any answers he needed weren't going to be found in there.
"What the bloody hell are you looking for in your stupid files? Tatia Mikaelson is a patient at this hospital, am I correct?" Nik asked, voice low. He stepped closer to the doctor, his eyes alight with a fury that neither of his brothers had seen in months. "You seem to have mistaken my wife with someone else."
"No, actually, sir, she was brought in with another man. The ambulance picked the both of them up from the same car. He said they were married."
He said what? Some other man had claimed to be married to Tatia?
Why the hell was she even with a man who wasn't him in the middle of the night, so close to their home in Chelsea?
Suddenly, it all made sense to him. Her late nights at work and all the traffic she got stuck in when she went to check out a venue. Every horrible excuse she'd ever told him came to mind, every time her smile never seemed to reach her eyes, every time she avoided his touch, every time she looked so lost and alone even when he stood right next to her.
Memories flashed through his mind, things finally beginning to make sense.
'Nik, I've got to work,' floated through his mind. 'I can't help it if they messed up the schedule for the venue!'
'The client just wouldn't stop talking, honestly. I'm so sorry I missed dinner, but I couldn't afford to be rude.'
'Don't stay up for me, I'll be home just as soon as I finish the master plan for the event, alright?'
How many times had she used those excuses, free of suspicion?
She'd been cheating on him.
She'd had another man.
Nik wanted to punch something.
So he did.
He fisted his right hand, brought it up to his mouth in an effort to stop himself from saying something stupid, but finally stopped resisting the urge to lash out. He walked to the closest wall and punched it as hard as he could.
"Sir, you can't-" Reid tried to interrupt.
"You," Finn interjected, cutting the doctor off, and placing a hand on his shoulder. "You just told the man that his wife was cheating on him. Unless you want him punching you, it would be wise that you just kept quiet."
"Finn, stop," Sage said quietly, pulling on her husband's sleeve in an effort to get him to lower his hand. Henrik, meanwhile, ventured over to his grieving brother, who had stopped punching the wall after three good hits. Nik's hand was covered in blood by now, so it was a good thing they were in the hospital.
The dents on the wall, however, weren't something the good doctor Reid could fix.
When Nik woke up the next afternoon, his entire family, nieces included, were in the waiting room with him, his hand was covered in bandages, and his wife was dead.
She had also been cheating on him, he realized, the memories of last night coming back to him as he stared at his bandaged hand, the throbbing pain serving as a reminder to keep his temper in check.
Waking up in the middle of the night to the call from the hospital, rousing Henrik from his sleep, and crying on the phone to Elijah, it all came flooding back.
With a jolt, he realized that his frantic call and Henrik's subsequent news must have ruined Katherine's sister's wedding reception.
They were all still in their formal clothing, having come straight to the hospital from the airport, and Nik suddenly felt so incredibly grateful for their presence. There was a giant hole in his heart and he didn't know what to do with it, what to say.
He said nothing.
"Nik," Rebekah said softly, stepping forward.
"Bekah," he replied, pulling her into his arms. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Bekah. I'm so, so sorry."
She was already crying. "Why are you saying sorry to me, Nik? You're the one who just lost your world."
Nik laughed bitterly, his warm breath hitting Bekah's cheek. "I can't very well say it to myself, now, can I?"
No, she supposed. He really couldn't.
There they were, Henrik thought. Once again, the mighty Mikaelsons, spouses, children, and all, brought together by the most tragic circumstance of all.
A/N: I hope you guys liked it. If you did, please review! I will be posting every Saturday, maybe even sooner, if I get good feedback. Thank you for taking the time to read this fic!
Follow me on tumblr at asecretbrotherhoodhandshake