A/N: This was my favourite chapter to write, out of every single one (and it's also the second last!). Sorry for the extra wait!


35. Power


"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."
– Jimi Hendrix

Awaking in her own body with a loud gasp, Caroline stumbled forward and caught Klaus' head to break his fall. "No, no–" she shook him. "Niklaus Mikaelson, don't you dare do this to me!" She choked, hitting his chest, shoulders slumping. "Come back, Nik – Nik, please." Her trembling fingers rested against his lips – a sob leaving her own as no breath touched her hand. "Please don't do this to me," she cried, lowering to him – resting her forehead on his. "Please love, stay with me. Don't do this to me." Her whole body wrenched inwards – the magnitude of her pain so severe it couldn't escape vocally; it was absolute agony; she'd never felt anything like it in her entire life. "I need you," she gasped. "I need you to stay, please. Please come back to me." Her fingers caressed the length of his cheeks, tears spilling onto his cheeks–

And then it hit her with the force of a freight train.

She could make him stay.

Her sobs and body stilled; her trembling hands fumbled at the buttons of his suit shirt, and she slipped her palm beneath. Finding his still heart, she pressed her lips to his.

Everything.

A millennium-old hybrid walking into her bedroom, vowing that there was a whole world out there for her; that she could have all of it – then, saving her life so she had that chance.

That wounded, unloved soul – staring at her like a blind-man seeing for the first time when she'd entered a room; who'd been besotted with her sass and inherent goodness; the date she'd trembled and giggled with like a schoolgirl on a first date at a pageant; the man she'd seen the good in.

The hybrid who had once been the villain – and instead, given it up, saving her more times than she could count on both hands.

The person who had sacrificed his life's purpose for her safety: who had argued with her, and stuck her in her place when she'd needed to be; who had held her when she'd needed to be held; chasing away the nightmares.

The same man who had kissed her for the first time in a moment of fury, fear and love with the fervour of a man starved a thousand years; who had made love to her each time with as much ardour, passion and care as the very first time he had;...who had held her face as if it were the most delicate china; who had caressed and gazed at it as if it were the most beautiful, irreplaceable thing in the the world.

Niklaus Mikaelson had loved her adamantly, passionately and unconditionally: he had stood through it all with her – and laid down his own life to bring her back.

Klaus was stark to the man he'd once been, but Caroline knew that she loved all of it; all of him; the wounds, and the virtues – she'd seen herself in him; the person who just wanted to be loved, and put first; who'd wanted to be cherished and held, not plagued with the worry and paranoia of rejection or betrayal.

He was her kindred spirit, and the love of her life.

Their souls were intertwined; they had been from the moment they met; they'd been of one heart – one person ever since they'd made love for the first time.

It was through that unwavering belief not only in him, but in them, that she knew her life-force was strong enough for the both of them. A daemon's power greatly derived from a strong will – and in her determination to bring him back, to be with him, to spend the rest of her life with him...; it had never been stronger.

So as her whole being filled with every memory; every moment they'd ever spent together; every element of love, passion, loyalty and faith – so did his.

"I love you. Come back to me," she whispered against his lips, closing her eyes, tears falling on his face, hair caressing his skin. Her power flowed through her palm in snapping currents; a growing, incandescent white light engulfed them.

An arm grasped her back.

Breath flooded into her lips.

Eyes opened against hers.

Caroline's own shot open, mouth dropping – body heaving with disbelief.

He could only stare up at her in astonishment and wonder. It was a long moment before he could formulate a response – lost in his love. He lifted his other hand to her chin. "I knew you'd save me," he whispered. "I knew you'd find a way." Tears slipped from his beautiful, blue eyes.

Cupping his face, she thumbed them away. "God – pressure, much?" She whispered, laughing softly with joy, lips morphing into a stunning smile.

"Not pressure; belief," he corrected her, caressing her back with the hand that gripped it. "And you only proved me right, love."

"Let's not test that again, okay?"

"Duly noted," he responded huskily, pulling his dimpled smirk for her – not giving her another moment to respond, before his hand slipped through her hair, holding the side of her head – bringing her mouth to his. She collapsed against his chest with a gasp, immediately deepening the kiss – but it remained gentle; a tender reconciliation that made all others present turn away, understanding how private and intimate the moment was.

It was Stefan who cleared his throat, forcing the two to finally come up for air.

Caroline helped Klaus up, and both looked to the younger Salvatore.

"We're not out of the thick just yet," he told them – though he couldn't bring himself to grimace; admittedly amazed by the changed man before him, and how much his best friend loved him. "Marcel just called Bonnie; Sophie is dying."

Caroline's lips parted in surprise, realising. "She's linked to me; she'd absorbed some of my power. When I transferred some of mine to Klaus, it must have drained her; she's only human, she couldn't handle it."

"We need to unlink her from you," Davina said, "or you'll die yourself."

Biting her lip, Caroline nodded, extending her palms. "Everyone join hands."

Skeptical, all complied.

Caroline focussed on Cami's house – and all materialised in her white, smoky vapour.

TVD –

Cami, Marcel, Jane-Anne and Monique surrounded the dying witch on the couch, when the victorious entered. Upon seeing them, Marcel ran to Davina, enveloping her in his arms, clutching her to his chest like a father reconciling with his child. Cami ran forward to Caroline, throwing her arms about her friend, and then, stepping aside, looked to Stefan with relief – who offered her a warm smile, and reached out, squeezing her shoulder.

"We did it," he said softly.

"I didn't doubt you would," the bartender responded, mouth pulling in a reciprocating grin.

Davina broke away from Marcel, and moved towards the Devereaux's. "Jane-Anne," she murmured. "We need you to unlink her."

"No; she needs to be sacrificed," Monique voiced. "She can't just die."

"Enough of you." Caroline waved a hand. She wasn't worried about them not agreeing; she would influence their conscience if she absolutely had to; but she preferred it being their choice.

Monique hands went to her lips – which were stuck shut.

Klaus smirked proudly.

Jane-Anne looked to Davina, and then back to her younger sister, tears streaking her cheeks. "She was supposed to bring them back."

"But she is your sister," Davina pleaded with her. "And it's too late for the sacrifice; don't let two people die for no reason."

Sophie let out a pained gasp, gripping her sister's hand. "Unlink me," she choked. "Please, Jane-Anne." Tears dribbled helplessly from her eyes. "I want you to. I want to."

Jane-Anne, bit her lip, shaking her head.

"Please, Janie; I'm your sister; Mom and Dad wouldn't want this; they wouldn't want me to die in pain; please," Sophie pleaded. "You know they wouldn't have wanted any of this; family was always the most important thing to them;...how did you lose sight of that?"

Jane-Anne swallowed hard. "I haven't," she answered, determined. She took Sophie's other hand in hers, and began murmuring. Sophie began chanting with her.

The incantations were different to Bonnie's, Caroline noted: it sounded like an odd mixture of French and various other languages. The murmurs filled the room – the atmosphere became thick with magic; the lights began to flicker, and the walls trembled around them.

The magic leaving Sophie's body was mesmerising; it was a fiery sort of light that built at her fingertips – and as it escaped, hit Caroline square in the chest. She stumbled backwards, but Klaus caught her, arms wrapping about her waist, holding her to him.

"Whew," she gasped, looking up to her hybrid, exhaling heavily as the additional power flooded through her veins. But her attention snapped to Sophie, whose breaths were quickly diminishing.

She detached herself from Klaus, and moved to the witch's side, placing her hand over the one Jane-Anne had let go of. Caroline gave it a squeeze, and the witch's eyes dragged open. "Thank you; not just for that, but for everything else too; for teaching me how to control my magic; for helping me with Katherine; for helping the others save me now; for choosing team good-guys when it counted." She paused. "I know it's been hell, and you haven't exactly earned my friendship; but I haven't exactly earned yours either. And...I understand why you did it; why you had to do this to me; I know you didn't have a choice. We do anything for family; family above all else." Her eyes flickered back to Klaus, Marcel and Davina – before resting on Sophie again. "For that, I admire you so much." She gave her hand another squeeze. "And I forgive you."

The corners of her mouth lifted in a soft smile, and her eyes fluttered closed.

Caroline stood, and flicked her wrist towards Monique – relieving her of her silence. "Come and hold your Aunt's hand; you're her family, and she needs you."

Begrudgingly, Monique stepped forward, and took Caroline's place.

Klaus came to Caroline's side, arm wrapping around her waist. She leant back into him, swallowing hard, letting out an unsteady sigh. Silence filled the room as the two witches quietly cried over Sophie as she slipped away.

Jane-Anne's head bent to her little sister's chest. "I'm so sorry, little darling," she whispered almost inaudibly. "This won't be for nothing, I swear. Your death won't be for nothing." She swept away the hair from her clammy forehead, and pressed her lips to it.

Sophie's soul left her body.

TVD –

The Mikaelsons and Katherine met them at the gates of The Compound.

"You did it," Elijah breathed, stepping forward – accelerating, and drawing Caroline in for a hug. "What a wonder you are."

"Isn't she?" Klaus boasted in awe, eyes on them as he ruffled Henrik's hair affectionately, and threw an arm about his shoulders.

"Come," Elijah urged, letting go of Caroline, and moving to the Mystic Falls faction – clasping Stefan's hand in greeting, before courteously kissing Lexi and Bonnie's. "There's supper and left-overs from dinner; you must all be starving."

"Don't mind if I do," Lexi chirped, securing a hand around Bonnie's arm, and dragging her past Kol.

"Little witch," the younger Original greeted gently.

Cheeks flushing, Bonnie nodded once as she swept past into the courtyard.

Grinning when her back faced him, he took off after them.

The rest of the party followed suit, and Caroline was about to take up the rear with Klaus, when someone towed her aside. She barely had a moment to open her mouth and express her surprise, when arms flung about her, gripping her tightly. Caroline lifted a hand, patting her former nemesis' back slowly.

"Hey there," she laughed, recovering from her shock. "Miss me?" Much to her surprise, the grip about her tightened – and there was a long moments' silence before she received a verbal response.

"She was going to take my baby," Katherine whispered.

"Oh, so you want it now?"

They broke apart.

"I never didn't want it," Katherine muttered, eyes cast down. "I was just...I'm not good at this."

"You mean looking out for someone else but yourself?"

Katherine's mouth pinched. "Yeah. And I was...after what happened last time; after my baby was taken from me last time, with Isis, I just saw it happening all over again." Her throat was thick; her words, constricted; "I was scared," she admitted with a hasty shrug, looking sideways; as if trying to brush it off.

Caroline softened. "I know you were." She reached out, gripping her arm in support. "Katherine."

"Mmm?" She looked to her at last.

"No one is going to touch that baby, I swear to God," Caroline promised. "I won't let them. Besides; it has a hybrid and a daemon for an aunt an uncle – and a whole family of Originals, witches and vampires for relatives; no one is going to get near it."

Katherine chewed her lip, and looked away, sniffing.

"Katherine Pierce, are you...crying?" Caroline lightly teased, giving her arm a squeeze.

"What?" Katherine pushed her away, discretely wiping her eyes. "No. Ew."

Caroline thought she heard her mutter, 'goddamn hormones' – but she didn't push it.

Katherine swallowed, and tossed her hair about, rolling her shoulders; returning to the vain, bold woman they all knew so well. Confirming this, she looked to Caroline with her sassy smirk. "Now that all this drama is over, we should go out sometime–"

"You're pregnant–"

"Shopping, Caroline Forbes; jesus." Katherine reached out, and looped her arm through the daemon's. "If I'm doing this thing, it's gotta be designer all the way."

Caroline chuckled – eyes flickering to an opening in the dining room, where Klaus looked on; expression surprisingly gentle, considering who she was with.

And then she realised.

He'd forgiven her: he'd forgiven Katherine; he'd accepted her as part of the family; acknowledged that there were important things to worry about than wrecking emotional havoc at his family's expense.

Caroline felt her heart swell, and her throat thicken; it was all she'd ever wanted for him; to accept, to recognise what having a family meant; to realise that he was, and could be loved by so many people. As she strode forward with Katherine, she mouthed a whisper to him; the three words that she now felt liberated speak as she wished; that would never lose meaning, or strength.

I love you.

His silent proclamation came without delay.

I love you too.

TVD –

"You don't have to do that, you know," Kol chided, reaching for the plates in Bonnie's hands. "We have maids."

"I don't mind," she mumbled, tugging back on the China, eyes diverting from his.

He stared at her a long moment, before releasing them – and letting her carry them to the sink. He jumped up on the counter. "So what's the plan?"

"What plan?" Bonnie frowned in question. "It's all over now."

"Exactly."

Puzzled, Bonnie turned.

"What's the plan?" Kol repeated. "What's your plan, now that all of this is over?"

And there it was.

Her shoulders sank slightly; she suddenly looked tireder, weaker, sadder. "I guess I go home; duty awaits in Mystic Falls."

Her wry finish made him lean forward in interest. "But you don't want to," he surmised.

Chewing her lip, Bonnie sighed. "It's not that I don't want to, it's just that–"

"You don't want to," he interrupted simply, eyes wide with sincerity. "You've spent your life – consciously or not – hailing to Elena's beckon call; and while you're reluctant to admit it, for fear of letting her down – coming to New Orléans was a breath of fresh air for you. It was exciting. You liked it." He jumped down from the bench. "For once, men were fawning over you; men, not the said best-friend's little brother." When he saw the hurt and guilt flood across her face, he continued carefully, reaching out, placing a hand on her shoulder: "It's him holding you back; not Elena Gilbert, isn't it?"

Bonnie's eyes locked with his at last, and she pressed her lips together. Yes; though the answer wasn't verbalised, it was clear.

"He, who cheated on you with a ghost, and couldn't find a remorseful bone in his body for it?" Kol remarked. "There's nothing wrong with you moving on from that, little witch. You've finished school; it's time to move on with your life. The lad, on the other hand, is still in school; shouldn't he have high-school sweet-heart, and then go out and discover the world for himself? It's your turn. He'll have his."

Bonnie's lips fell open, stunned by the sense he was making. "You're..."

"Right?" He smirked, winking. "I know, darling; 'tis a rare occasion I'm not."

"–So sure of yourself," she finished, raising an eyebrow disbelievingly.

"What reason have I not to be?" He toyed.

"God," Bonnie scoffed, unable to suppress a smile. "Listen to yourself," she laughed.

"There it is." Kol smiled, hand trailing to her face, fingers to her bottom lip. "A smile. You're allowed to have fun, Bonnie; you've earned it." The smiled turned lop-sided, eyes playfully testing.

Bonnie's fell, and she stared dumbly into his eyes. "Stop flirting with me," she barely whispered, inevitably caught in his spell.

He stepped into her. "What fun would that be?" He murmured, voice husky, alluring. A hair's breadth separated them. He titled his face to hers, nudging her nose with his. His hand itched towards her waist, his eyes teased her; challenged her.

Bonnie threw away her self-restraint, and grabbed the lapels of his jacket.

His mouth fell on hers with a moan, fingers latching onto her hip, hand moving to tangle in her hair. His tongue played at her lips, urging her to open the kiss; she parted them for him, smiling against his mouth – and then, much to both of their surprise, giggled. She was enjoying herself – immensely; and God, it felt good. Kol growled slightly at her show of pleasure in the embrace, and backed her up to a bench–

"Kol Mikaelson," an older, almost parental tone intruded. "Not in the kitchen, please."

Bonnie broke away immediately, embarrassed.

"Gods, Elijah," Kol hissed. "Impeccable timing, as always."

Placing her hands over her mouth, blushing furiously, Bonnie slipped out of Kol's hold, and backed towards the opposite door.

Elijah moved to the refrigerator, retrieving a bottle of water – no doubt for Katherine – before departing. "Goodnight, brother," he called over his shoulder with a chuckle.

Cursing under his breath, Kol took off after the stairway he'd heard Bonnie ascend.

He caught her opening the door to a bedroom, and halted her with an arm in its entryway. "Where do you think you're going?"

She looked to him with that same cocked eyebrow; the challenge. "I need some rest; not all of us are immortal, Kol."

"You don't have to rest alone, you know," he offered, cocking an eyebrow. "It would do you good to release all of that pent up frustration and stress–"

"Stop it."

"Why?"

"Because..." She didn't have an excuse – and wasn't entirely sure that she wanted one.

Fuck it; she didn't need one.

She always had to uphold herself for everyone else – and now...she got it. She understood Caroline; why and how she accepted herself – why she cut herself some slack. Bonnie decided she'd earned a night off, judgement be damned.

"Because the longer you stand out there...," she goaded, determination settling through her in the roll of her shoulders; in the darkening of her eyes; in the confidence of her stance. "The more time you lose in here," she finished, looking over her backward slightly in inclination–

And when she turned back, his mouth was on hers, his body pushing her into the doorframe, hand seeking out the door. They backed in, and it slammed shut.

TVD –

"Well, I think it's a night for me," Marcel proclaimed, standing. Davina had gone to bed long before, when Katherine and Henrik had. He moved to Klaus, extending a hand. "Goodnight, Klaus."

Klaus grasped it, and gave it a shake. "Goodnight, Marcellus."

"Night? Ha!" Rebekah smirked. "It's nearly four in the morning."

"There will be no early risers; sleep-ins all-round?" Cami furthered. She'd decided against going back to her own home – Stefan had also had a hand in persuading her; a person had just died in her house. It had taken everyone else a moment to understand the toll that had on normal people. Nevertheless, a merry party member, she'd helped them all work their way through a case of red Château Haut Brion. All were a bit murky in the head; but she, a human – in particular was the most chatty.

The hangover would also hit her the hardest the next morning.

"Amen," Lexi yawned, standing. "Spare room, Marcel?"

"I'll help her find one," Rebekah offered, quickly placing a chaste kiss on her older brother's cheek before joining her.

The three ascended a staircase, and Rebekah dropped Lexi off in a twin single room – where she supposed Cami would later join. Closing the door back out into the hallway, she found Marcel waiting for her. "Lost, are we?"

He laughed quietly. "I think I know where I'm going." He fell quiet a moment, studying her.

Rebekah rolled her eyes, and began walking toward her old room. He caught her arm before she could enter it.

"Bex."

She slowly faced him, heart jumping.

"I know that there's a lotta water under the bridge, but after everything – I just wanted to make sure...you and I weren't–"

"Fighting?"

He almost looked sheepish.

"We've never been 'fighting', Marcel; my brother wanted the Quarter back, and I am loyal to him; now that he technically has it, with Caroline – after all the chaos, I will still stand by him, and if you can't handle that, that's your issue." In an inhale, she seemed to grow taller; stronger. "Thanks to Isis, I now know every part you had in the complications with Silas–"

"I thought you would."

"And what do you want, my silence?"

Marcel didn't answer.

"Nik won't hurt you; he's past that now – and Katherine has never been his favourite person; but she's family now, and so are you," Rebekah murmured. "We're passed damaging one another, Marcellus. You just need to understand that no matter what your deal is with that man, it isn't worth the price of your family, or of that innocent, human baby." She paused, deciding. "I'll tell only Caroline what I know – and she'll stem any tide from Klaus. Is that insurance enough for you?" She gripped the door handle – jumping when she felt his hand in the centre of her back.

"Thank you," he whispered.

Rebekah sighed, turning slightly. "I won't lie for you; but I'm tired of this family fighting. What I'm doing, it's not just for you."

He pursed his lips, and nodded.

She opened the door, inhaling – surprised by its mustiness. "You haven't changed a thing," she breathed.

"It's always been your room, Bekah," Marcel murmured.

She looked to him once more, softening – smiling briefly, tiredly. "Goodnight, Marcellus." The door swung closed.

"Goodnight Rebekah," he breathed on the other side of the panel of wood, knowing that she heard him.

TVD –

"Woah! Woopsie!" Cami spluttered into giggles as she drunkenly stumbled forwards on the staircase.

Stefan looked up from where he sat opposite Klaus. Caroline, who had remained relatively silent the past couple of hours, had quietly excused herself – and it had only been the remaining three left to finish the bottle of wine.

"Go to her," Klaus urged, taking up the beverage. "I'd rather not have any more catastrophes for at least twenty-four hours."

Stefan grimaced, and shook Klaus' hand. "Thank you," he said with absolutely sincerity, pausing, before continuing with more depth; "For what you do – who you are – for Caroline. It's all we ever could have wanted for her; you are all we could have hoped for, for her; and I never thought I would have said that. I know we've had our differences, but I...always had faith in you, Nik." He stepped away, pointing to Klaus' chest. "In the person buried in there. And you being with Caroline" – the arm lowered – "the way that you are with her; I just know that I was right about the good things – and never gladder to be proved wrong about the bad things." He made for the stairs, feeling the gratification and comradeship gravitate towards him from Klaus' aurora of happiness. And, true; he never would have anticipated feeling happy for the man that had once taken almost everything from him; but in a sense, Klaus had opened his eyes to a truth; to a life he never knew he'd been looking for. So while they'd had their differences, he wasn't one to hold a grudge; for Caroline's sake, and his own – he'd leave it behind. It was time to move on: not just from Elena Gilbert, but from Mystic Falls. He'd tell Caroline that he intended to stay a while in the morning; and could only imagine her response.

"I'm not usually like this," Cami loudly apologised, breaking his reverie – waving a hand. "Too much wine turns a very sensible person into a very stupid person."

Stefan smirked. "Shh; there's a household around us trying to sleep."

"Pfft," Cami smirked. "I don't think many of them will be getting much sleep."

"But for those of them who are," Stefan warned – putting an arm behind her knees, and behind her back, scooping her up – unable to suppress a smile when she squealed. "We best stay as quiet as we can, okay?"

Cami pressed her lips together, nodding – but her composure didn't last long; she broke into a broad smile. "You're so great," she whispered loudly. "There all so lucky to have you." She rested her head against his shoulder, closing her eyes.

"You think?" Stefan had reached the top, and he made for an open door – next to an ajar room, where Lexi lay sprawled on her stomach, steady breaths of sleep showing in the rise and fall of her frame. Stepping inside, there was a small double – and, holding her to him with an arm, pulled back the covers – set her down, removed her shoes, and tucked her in. Just as he was about to step away, she reached for his hand.

"You know what I think?" She mumbled, intertwining his fingers with hers.

He paused – surprised by the sudden clench in his heart. "What?"

"I think you've been taken for granted far too much," she whispered, eyes fluttering between open and closed. "You've got such a big heart, and people don't credit you enough for it." She began to lazily caress his hand with her thumb. "You've been really hurt; I can sense it – I'm a psych student, you know; well, grad student, actually..."

"I know," Stefan chuckled, eyes fixated on their hands.

Cami squeezed it. "Someday you'll be loved like you deserved to be, Stefan Salvatore," she yawned, before meeting his gaze as best she could. "That girl – that broke your heart;...do you still love her?"

"I'll always love her," Stefan whispered. "She's the love of my life."

"And so you should; without her, you wouldn't have known...what something real feels like; what it will feel like...when you find it again," she mumbled, sentences becoming disjointed with sleep. "You'll be happy, one day, Stefan – sooner...rather than later. I just...know it." Her last sentence was almost incoherent, but Stefan understood it.

He went to step away – to move to the room next door – but her hand was fisted around his like an iron grasp. Even through the layers of alcohol swathing her brain, he knew that she was scared; their world had fallen apart – and she too, like him, though surrounded by people, was alone. He kicked off his shoes, and climbed over her, onto the bed – settling down at last, sighing – really sighing...for what felt like the first time in two years. He let his arm fall over her warm, soft waist – and, coaxed by her steady breaths, Stefan fell asleep.

TVD –

Caroline staggered into his bathroom, kicking off Isis' heels, fumbling for the zip on the back of Isis' dress – fingers desperately ripping at it. The emotion swelled from her chest to her throat, choking her – making her gasp for air; it had strangled her for the past couple of hours; when everyone had started celebrating, laughing, and winding down – she'd wound up. She's held it together – smiled as best she could. She wanted to feel relieved; she wanted to feel liberated; but instead, found herself drowning in the horror and reality of what had happened to her. Combined with nearly losing Klaus, the actuality of her past year had wound about her like a thick, suffocating cocoon – until she had at last broken free – excusing herself. And now that she had

She tore the dress from her shoulders, throwing it across the room, tears wracking her body, and then turned the shower faucet on. She heard the bedroom door close.

"Caroline?" Klaus called.

She grasped for the bra clasp, furiously tugging it – but, unable to calm her sobs, she was unsuccessful in her attempt to remove it. In frustration, she struck the tile wall of the shower – before collapsing against it.

"Gods, love," Klaus breathed pitifully, stepping under the spray in his pants – he'd barely had time to remove his shoes, socks and shirt. He reached for the item of clothing, and unclipped it, gently pulling it from her body.

Her hands then grabbed at the stockings and underwear – but his steady hands stilled hers, carefully removing them with the same tenderness. She lifted each leg, allowing him to pull the pantyhose down. Once free of them – of her, Caroline fell back against him with a tired sigh, allowing the hot water to engulf her. He lowered his chin to her shoulder, and wrapped is arms around her waist – just holding her; needing to hold her; hours could have passed and neither would have noticed. When they did eventually break out of their embrace, and Klaus removed the rest of his clothing – they took their time cleansing one other; removing the evil from every dip and curve of each other's bodies, washing away the distraught of the past fortnight. It had almost become routine of them; cleansing one another proceeding horrors they encountered or endured. Though he loved the bare simplicity and intimacy of it, he hated the reason for it – and desperately hoped they weren't given another to do so in the near future.

Shutting off the water and stepping out, he retrieved a towel and wrapped it about her, drying her – before fetching one for himself; briefly dabbing himself over, and securing it around his waist. He drew her into the bedroom, slowly guiding her towards the bed, gently urging her to sit down. When she did, he knelt before her, placing a hand on her knee when she wouldn't look at him.

"Love, please," Klaus whispered. "Let me in; let me help you."

Clinging the towel tightly about her body, eyes still cast down, Caroline bit her lip and didn't respond.

"She's gone, love; out of our lives for good."

And that was it. She met his gaze, lip trembling, eyes filling once more – before they broke. Shudders made her shoulders concave; made her whole body shake. He stood, and sat beside her, enveloping her. Comforting her; protecting her as she let it all out.

"I'm not that strong," she croaked at last. "I was so scared over on the Other Side; I've always been so scared, this entire time."

"I know you were; but you still understate yourself, love, and how resilient you are–"

"You helped me pull through all of this." Her tears began to subside, an aching silence thickening the air. "What made you possibly think that I could do it without you?"

He swallowed hard, lump constricting his throat. "Because you underestimate yourself, love; you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. I knew that even if you couldn't bring me back, you would have been okay."

"How? I need you; it's not that I want to be dependent on you to exist; it's not like that...but the thing is...– you're it for me; you're the love of my life," she revealed, voice breaking on her last declaration. "I wouldn't have been okay, because I wouldn't have had you; I wouldn't have had that; we wouldn't have had that. Don't you understand?"

"Of course I do," he whispered, thumbing her lip, caressing her face with his other hand.

"God," she barely breathed. "Then why did you do it? Why would you give up your life?"

"For you," he whispered. "To give you your best chance; to give you a chance; and if I had to choose again, and a thousand times over, that wouldn't change." He guided her to the middle of the bed, and knelt before her, resting his hands on her shoulders. "My millennium of existence counted for nothing, compared to the importance of your life–"

"But it counts for something to me," she cried. "Your life is important to me–"

He pressed his index finger to her lips. "I have lived, you have not. For all the wonders I have experienced, and sins two-fold – I've had a thousand years of it." His thumb played over her bottom lip again. "And you, my darling, have barely begun your life; I never understood it until now; until you;...sacrifice. True sacrifice–"

She began shaking her head, the tears spilling over once more – but he settled her, pressing his lips to her forehead.

"Caroline," he continued in a murmur, drawing back slowly, "finally succeeding in breaking my curse left me without purpose; I had my ill-fated mission for hybrids of course, but it was a hollow fantasy; a surrogate for the life I was too afraid to have, with a real family. The life and person I'd shut away for a thousand years." He reached up cupping your face, the moisture in his own eyes leaking. "Until you." His hands moved to cup her face, brushing back the stray locks. "You; the young woman, who brought a broken family back together. You, who taught a broken man to love. I have so much to thank you for, and I will never be able to say it enough." He took her chin in his thumb and index finger. "So, if I had to make the choice a thousand times over, I would still choose to save you – every time. Because even if I'm not physically with you, I can't bear the thought of a world without Caroline Forbes; it needs you – and without your existence, everyone would suffer for it. And that would just be selfish," he finished in jest.

"And we couldn't have that," she mumbled flatly.

"No, absolutely not." He pulled her favourite teasing eye-roll and shrug.

Through her drying tears, she managed a weak giggle, and pushed her trembling hand over his pectoral, curving it around his neck. Her subtle smiles morphed into an unbreakable gaze. "That's a testament hard to follow," she whispered, kissing his thumb when it played over her mouth again. "But...I love you, Nik. I really do. You are the love of my life; I was a fool for not realising it sooner."

If it were possible, his face further softened – but a smile still ghosted on his lips. "I know."

"Hey–"

He silenced her response by covering her mouth with his, tenderly pulling at her bottom lip, then, drawing back. "I love you," he murmured, holding her gaze. "And I would go to the ends of the earth for you–"

"You already have–"

"The end of...space, then?" He laughed lightly, pursing his lips – eyes round with cheer.

He was achingly beautiful – and her love for him, and his for her still terrified him; she'd never felt anything so intensely, so wholly before – and it consumed her. He consumed her. She reached up to him, lips aching for his.

He met her halfway, still cupping her face as he captured her mouth, applying the most gentlest of pressures – holding the kiss as if it were infinite.

"Time," she whispered against his mouth.

"Mmm?"

"We are immortal; and I will follow you to the end of time," Caroline whispered, fingers seeking out the towel tied at his waist. She loosened it, unravelled it.

"And I you," Klaus murmured, breath hitching as she discarded the thick cloth.

"I was hoping you would say that."

He thumbed away the rest of her tears, forehead resting against hers. "Did you even doubt I would?"

"What do you think?"

He drew the towel from her shoulders, letting it fall to the floor – and tugged the cover beneath them, pulling it over them as she fell back against the pillows, and he settled above her. "I think," he teased, lowering his mouth to the hollow of her throat, and placing brief peppering kisses slowly up her neck – "that you are the Yin to my Yang–"

"Oh no, stop," she breathlessly laughed.

"You are my sunshine–"

"Stop it–"

"My moon–"

"Seriously?"

"My sense of direction; the Marco to my Polo–"

"Oh my God!" She laughed loudly.

"My reason; the Leonardo to my Da Vinci–"

"I going to hit you," she spluttered, gasping for air.

"My artist's muse; my inspiration; you are the David to my Michelangelo–"

"No, no! Make it stop," she giggled senselessly, weakly swatting him. "That one barely made sense!"

"My light," he whispered sincerely, reaching her mouth – gaze locked on her. "My love. My undoing."

"You're just sounding like some clichéd romance novel now," she jested – but her eyes were round with adoration, heart swelling with the effort he'd made just to make her laugh. To make her happy. Even if it had been ridiculous. Ridiculously sweet.

"And there it is," he breathed, caressing her face. "She's back."

"She never left you," Caroline whispered, fingertips stroking the length of his cheek. "I was with you."

"A couple of days ago," he posed, voice husky, "I was pulled from a hellish nightmare. I could have sworn–"

She smiled softly, nodding once – slowly, holding his eyes.

"It was you," he breathed.

"Who else?" She chuckled.

He smothered her mouth with a kiss in response, hand settling on her naked hip – running up her side, halting at the round of her ribs, and raising her to his chest. Pressed against him, feeling him hard against the inside of her thigh, a whimper escaped her lips – and her legs parted around him, bending and rubbing against his hips. He adjusted his position, rocking his body into hers – moaning deeply when she jerked against him in response; and when he drew back to slide against her – he lost all restraint and instead found her, plunging in fully with one thrust. She cried out against his mouth in surprise; at the sensation of him filling her; at the realisation of how simply feeling him within her filled the void and horror days past had left.

He made her lose herself in pure pleasure; there was no villain around the corner ready to rip them apart; there was just what lay ahead – and even if the world was a mess, and they had to fix it (and they would) – for that moment with him, she could just let go, completely, without feeling as though it would be taken away from them.

She threw an arm around her neck, and let her head fall back in response to the euphoria of each pound. Her toes curled into the sheets; her free hand alternated between grabbing his neck, shoulder and back; her grip tightened as he pushed into her to the hilt each time. She knew how much he needed her – just as much as she did him – and so her responses were passionate in kind; her movements slightly rougher; urgent.

While words meant so much – and so many had been spoken between them (so many declarations of belief, trust and love)...this was different; it was sharing absolutely; letting the other feel the immensity of every emotion.

As they built to a punishing pace and grew closer, his hand found her between them, thumb circling her, eliciting cries that entwined with his hoarse grunts and throaty moans. His body arched upwards into her, and she met him, rising against him, hands dropping to his lower back – pulling him as close, legs lifting, wrapping about him – taking him as deeply as she could. Her lips found his, holding a searing, bruising kiss.

After a thrust, he pulled back, almost withdrawing from her completely. She went to make a sound of protest – but he slammed back into her, and her walls shattered, clenching and fluttering around him as she tumbled over the edge with a cry; muffling it against his lips. She smiled as she felt him thrust quickly and deeply into her, before suddenly collapsing with his own release. He buried his face in her shoulder, panting against her clammy skin – resting his forehead against the rise and fall of her chest; against the thunder of her pulse; revelling in how alive and real she was – and at last, his, completely.

She reached for the sides of his face, guiding him to look at her – and brushed away the damp hair that clung to his forehead and temples. "If this has proved anything," she whispered breathlessly, "come hell or high-water, we can't be separated."

He kissed her, and it was everything; it was expressing his gratefulness for her; for choosing him; for choosing a life with him, and what-ever that entailed.

"I wouldn't want it any other way."