notes | au, as the headstone is a key part of raising silas and not just payment for joe from glee. i feel like my kol/rebekah boner is very obvious this chapter. never sorry.

also, about the timeline of this fic: kol has gone after bonnie and jeremy, but not in quite the same context as on the show and klaus has still run tyler out of town. i'll go into more detail on this when we're back in care-bear's pov.

summary | in this chapter, our anti-hero deals with a clingy ex-girlfriend, faeries and, as per usual, sarcasm.




This is how Kol remembers New Orleans:

He was there the day Nik decided to build a city. Bekah had sent him a letter begging him to come visit, that she missed causing trouble with him and Elijah never let her do anything fun and Nik was too busy trying to find the Petrova doppleganger or Katerina or whoever to pay attention to her and oh, Kol, won't you please save me from boredom before I go mental?

So Kol ended up in the middle of bloody nowhere, hungry and covered in dust, at some stupid fort called St. Jean, watching Klaus either charm or compel settlers into helping him because he wanted somewhere to party. Or something.

"Is he drunk," Kol said, leaning over Rebekah's shoulder as she braided flowers into another girl's ink-dark hair. The girl startled easy apparently, because she jumped and unwound a good chunk of Rebekah's work. "Oops."

"Kol," Rebekah seethed, in a voice that reminded him none-too-fondly of their mother. She tipped her head back, the lines in her face softening as she stared at him. "You came."

"You would have sent me a thousand more letters if I hadn't," he said dryly, settling down next to her. It was hot and the sun caught in Rebekah's long, complicated curls as she turned back to watch Nik. "Is he really serious?"

"Quite." She frowned. "I don't know why."

"It's Niklaus," Kol drawled, as Rebekah's friend finally looked up from the grass and caught his eye. He smiled at her, slow, and thought about his teeth in the pale curve of her throat. "Since when does anything he do make sense?"

"You realize I can hear you," Nik called to them, with his back still turned. Bekah snorted, a small little curve to her lips, and Kol rolled his eyes.

Rebekah tapped on the back of his hand with her nail. "How long will you stay for?"

Kol shrugged, because he hadn't really thought about it. "Until Nik burns this whole place to the ground during one of his tantrums?"

"You know," Nik was suddenly looming over them, one of his favourite things to do as of late Kol noticed, folding his arms, "manual labour could do that obnoxious personality of yours some good, Kol."

Kol squinted up at him. "Now I know you're drunk."

Needless to say, he ended up helping, and when the witches came, he left with them, because Niklaus' city of lights and parties wasn't nearly as fun as he'd thought it be, at least not after a decade, and Rebekah very nearly cried but he wasn't the one who'd promised always and forever now was he?

"It's not like I'm dying," he said, as Rebekah sniffled into his shirt. "Bekah, you cry too much."

"Promise you'll come back soon," she mumbled, and she sounded scared, maybe. He understood a little; Nik was off balanced, had been ever since they'd turned, what with running from Mikael and being a hybrid and the doppelganger situation, and his moods swung from how he'd been before, when they'd been human, to violent and murderous and cruel.

Kol was running, if he was being honest. If he stayed he was going to end up in a box like Finn and Bekah was the only one who didn't seem to know it.

He flicked her in the forehead when he stepped back, asked, "why don't you come see me, next time?" like he wasn't trying to think of ways to get her away from their brother and Mikael and the whole mess that was their family. "I'll show you a real party."

She smiled, said yes, and he didn't see her for almost two hundred years.

That New Orleans, the one that had started as a pile of wood and Nik bossing him around and Bekah with flowers in her hair, and then turned into a city of bright lights and his sister laughing against his cheek, is not the one Kol is currently standing in.

"What the hell," he says, when someone drapes a string of beads around his neck for what has to be at least the fifth time. "Why do they keep trying to give me this shit jewellery?"

Behind him, Caroline deadpans, "it brings out your eyes."

Kol honestly doesn't know why he expected to get a straight answer out of her and pawns the necklace off on the next girl who tries to moon after him. Someone bumps into him, and he almost loses his grip on Caroline's hand. She's tried to disappear into the crowd at least three times now, and the fact that they're in public is the only thing that's kept him from snapping her neck. It'd be infinitely less aggravating, he's sure, but he doesn't really want to have Nik find out where he is so soon because somewhere a news headline ends up reading: Guy Lugs Dead Girl Around Like a Bag of Potatoes at Mardia Gras.

So, instead, he's resorted to keeping a tight grip on her. It's not the worst thing he's ever done, so he isn't complaining.

She is, though.

"Ugh," Caroline mutters, when he drags her to a booth selling trinkets and squints down the mouth of the closest alley. "Is the hand holding really necessary? You're sweaty."

He barely blinks. "Would you prefer a leash?"

Her nails bite into the back of his hand, where their fingers lock together. "They would never find your body."

"Coincidentally," Kol says, shaking his head — no luck, again, god he hates faeries and their ridiculous hidden courts — "they'll never find yours if you don't stop bitching every five seconds."

Caroline scoffs, and he doesn't have to look at her to know she's rolling her eyes. She's always rolling her eyes at him. He's tempted to poke them out, sometimes. "You shouldn't have left your bat back in the hotel room; you aren't nearly as terrifying without it."

Liar, he thinks, right before he drags them into the alley and pins her to a wall by her throat. He's felt her shake around him, the minute little tremors in her hands that she fists in her clothes as she snarks at him. He's seen her stiffen when he moves too fast near her. He knows she's scared. He also knows she hates that she is.

And she's just so goddamn infuriating.

"Caroline, listen," he slides up the length of her and leans in close, palm smoothing down to flatten across her stomach, his other hand dropping to her hip. Anyone who passes by could mistake them for lovers, which is the point, so long as they don't see her wide eyes. "We're going to be dealing with some very loathsome creatures soon. They're conniving and manipulative and ruthless and they quite enjoy making people squirm."

"Sounds familiar," Caroline mumbles, then bites her lip.

"Charming," he says flatly. "My point is, you can't be running your mouth while we're around them. So you're going to be a good girl and shut up and show me some respect and let me do all the talking and, if you behave, maybe I won't compel you once all that vervain is out of your system. Alright?"

Caroline stares at him for a long beat, then goes, "I'd trust Damon Salvatore sooner than I'd believe anything you're telling me, you know that right?"

Kol sighs, because his life is so very difficult sometimes. "It never hurts to try."

And right when he's considering actually snapping her pretty neck like a twig and hiding her body somewhere while he gets the faeries sorted, someone taps him on the shoulder and asks, "did I hear someone say Damon Salvatore?"

Kol blinks at Caroline. She blinks back. He turns slowly while she pries at his fingers, muttering about all the violent men in her life. A girl smiles at him with a hint of fang. "Sorry; I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but he's an ex-boyfriend."

He thinks Caroline might say something like Damon the vampire gigolo strikes again but he's too busy trying to gauge if he needs to kill this girl or not. She's got red hair and sad eyes and she looks a little familiar, he just doesn't know why.

"You are?"

"Charlotte," she says, face shuttering when Caroline stiffens behind him ever so slightly. "What?"

"Nothing," Caroline chokes out, and she sounds somewhere between shocked and curious, her nails dragging across his knuckles.

"While this is all very fascinating," Kol drawls, with what he hopes is the appropriate amount of sarcasm, because he really doesn't have time for any of this right now, he's got an immortal lunatic — who is, for once, not directly related to him — to stop, "we really need to be going."

He's leaning in to compel her to either forget she ever saw them or, if he's being realistic, not to scream while he decapitates her (if there's one thing Nik taught him it was to never leave loose ends) when she puts one small, pale hand on his chest and says, "you're looking for the fey, aren't you?"

Kol glares at her. "Just how long were you eavesdropping?"

She shrugs, half-smiles again in a tired, brittle sort of way. "I was bored."

Caroline stops clawing at him. "Wait so faeries are, like, actually a thing?"

For once, it's Kol's turn to roll his eyes. "Vampires, werewolves, witches, warlocks, doppelgangers and even bloody hybrids show up in your little hick town and you have a problem believing in faeries? Really?"

"Sorry, I seem to have a hard time believing people when the only things that ever come out of their mouths are lies."

Charlotte stares at them like they're either insane or highly entertaining. Kol isn't sure how he feels about this. "I've counted every brick in this city," she tells them, shifting from foot to foot. He gets the impression the reason behind that statement is a long, painful story he really doesn't care to hear about. "I know where it is."

"Show me," he says, automatic.

"Please," Caroline adds, kicking him in the shin. He squeezes her side until a bone pops. "Douchebag."

Kol smiles winningly at her. "Now, Caroline, Charlotte's done nothing to deserve such an insult. You should apologize."

Caroline makes a loud, frustrated noise that ends in an almost-scream and tries to punch him. He catches her fist, digs his thumb into the pale blue vein in her wrist. "Remember what I said about behaving?"

"Remember what I said about killing yourself?"

Charlotte giggles, smiling into her hands, and tilts her head towards the other end of the alley. "When you two are done, follow me."

Caroline stops trying to scratch his eyes out — it's a little disturbing how fond she is of going for his face — when he sets the sharp edge of his teeth against the paper thin skin of her inner arm and bites down hard enough to draw blood. She doesn't say anything, just steps away from him while the wound stitches itself back together neatly and scowls.

Kol takes her hand again, fitting their palms together, with enough pressure that the bones grate, marrow to marrow, and trails the bright red of Charlotte's coat around a corner and back onto a less crowded street that reeks of alcohol and sweat.

It's rather convenient, that she'd overhear them and know what they're looking for. That she would want to help anyone who knows Damon Salvatore, of all people. Kol isn't buying it.

Behind him, Caroline murmurs, "don't trust her."

At first, he wonders what brought that on but Caroline seems to know something he doesn't, so he nods to let her know he's listening. He's been thinking the exact same thing, anyway. It's good that, for once, they're on the same side.

Ahead of them, Charlotte weaves through people with a grace and confidence he wouldn't have expected from her and it's yet another reason for him to be on guard.

"When I kill her," he says out of the corner of his mouth, low enough that it's barely audible over the click of heels on the pavement, "do promise me you won't scream too loudly. We're trying to be inconspicuous here."

Caroline, in reply, steps on the back of his shoe. Twit.

Charlotte turns again and Kol stops on the corner. He checks the cross-street; he has vague memories of walking this same road with Nik and Bekah after a night of partying, just before they'd left for London. He's pretty sure he knows where they're going.

"Kol," Caroline hisses, shaking his hand, "that hobo is totally staring at us."

"Of course he is," Kol says, without looking, squinting down the row of buildings to see if Charlotte is waiting for them. She isn't. "Oh, hell."

Caroline squeezes his wrist. "What, did you lose her?"


"Way to go."

Kol briefly entertains the idea of getting her a muzzle. "You were the one who was all don't trust her, why are you complaining?"

It's around then that Charlotte reappears in front of him, frowning slightly. Caroline jumps, jerking his hand, and makes a sound like a squeak. Kol stares, unfazed. "It's going to take more than that to scare an Original, sweetheart."

He watches her face to see if she reacts, but Charlotte only blinks once, twice. Strange. "You stopped following me."

"I'm not an idiot," he says hotly, while Caroline goes I beg to differ under her breath like she isn't right behind him and he can't hear her. "You've got five seconds to tell me why we're going to the cemetery and then I'm ripping your head off."

Charlotte visibly swallows, like she's finally scared, and Kol smirks his cruellest smirk at her, the one Bekah used to say could scare even the gods, because good. "Don't you mean or?"

"No," Kol says, and lets go of Caroline's hand while she starts moving back to give him space; for a moment, the thought she won't run flickers in the back of his head, "I don't."

"The entrance to the court," Charlotte exhales in a rush, glancing between his hands and the needle-sharp points of his teeth, "it's in the cemetery. I told you I would take you there, didn't I?"

"You didn't say why though." Caroline is using what he's assuming is her nasty, uptight, Klaus voice. It's rather grating. "I know about Damon and the sire-bond and how long you waited for his asshole self. Why the hell would you do us any favours?"

Charlotte's expression glazes over, distant, nostalgic. "Because he did me one."

Caroline actually screeches. She's trying to get by him now, so Kol tucks her against him with an arm around her shoulders. His palm flattens against the hard slope of her hip. She looks like she wants to shake Charlotte, or maybe slap her. "He did you a favour? He had you count every brick in the city to keep you off his back!"

"He didn't know the extent of the bond," Charlotte murmurs, then eyes Caroline, oddly thoughtful. "What did he do to you?"

"Nothing," Caroline snarls, which sounds like a very big something and now Kol is definitely paying attention to the conversation. "He's a liar and a manipulative jerk and a dick— and— and where the hell is this damn faerie court?"

"Oh," Kol says, as Charlotte smiles daintily and continues leading them towards the graveyard, "now you trust her not to try and kill us."

"Shut up," Caroline mumbles, shifting against him. Kol curls his hand against the small of her back, fingers brushing the bumps in her spine. "You can take her, if she tries anything."

This is true, Kol concedes, and turns the corner.

The streets are empty, which would be strange except he's seen what magic can do, especially fey magic. Lights flicker as they pass under them, the shadows cast across the pavement flitting in and out of sight. Charlotte stands just beyond an iron gate, at a large tombstone that seems distorted when Kol tries to look directly at it.

Next to him, Caroline inhales. "What?"

Charlotte's mouth quirks at the edges when Kol raises an eyebrow at her as they approach, close-lipped, strained. "This is as far as I go."

Caroline squints at the tombstone and breaks away from him to toe at the dirt with her boot. Half her foot disappears into nothingness, the ground around it rippling outwards; a broken illusion. She yanks her leg back. "I repeat: what?"

"Magic," Charlotte says, whisper soft.

"Faeries," Kol drawls. "Can't imagine what they do when some poor bastard falls in there."

"Can't?" Charlotte muses, "or won't?"

"Little bit of both, really."

Caroline slowly lets her foot disappear again, that furrow that reminds him of Bekah between her brows. "We're going to die."

"Well," Kol muses, the muscles in his shoulders stretching taut as he hunches, watching the nervous flicks of Charlotte's hands against her ribs, "one of us is."

Caroline glances over her shoulder in time to see him rip Charlotte's heart from her chest. The noise she makes catches in her throat, somewhere between a shriek and a whine. Ah, good, Kol thinks, with blood up to his elbow and a lithe body at his feet, she's scared.

"Are you serious?" Her jaw is tight. "Was that really necessary?"

"I warned you." At her disbelieving look, he shrugs. "She became a liability the moment she stopped being useful." He squints when she shivers. "Can't have any loose ends lying about while my brother is hunting us, now can I?"

Caroline startles, like she hadn't thought of that, which is strange. She knows the depth of his brother's affections and she isn't daft, surely she must have expected it. He wonders.

She recovers quickly enough, though. "You couldn't have just like, I don't know, Vulcan mind melded her?" At his blank stare, she grinds her teeth. "Compel. You could have compelled her."

Kol rolls his eyes, nudging Charlotte with the toe of his shoe. Her head lolls, eyes wide and glossy. Caroline flinches. "Nik would have caught on to that in a second. Don't tell me dead bodies scare you?" His voice drops, like he's telling a secret. "You should be used to them by now, what with the Salvatores and my siblings running amuck in Mystic Falls."

"Thanks for the reminder, Bundy," she snipes, nose in the air, skin almost marble white in the sun. It's another pop culture reference he isn't meant to understand, he's sure. "Now what?"

Kol glances between her and the bright spill of Charlotte's hair. Grins.

Caroline's arms windmill when the body hurls past her and into the grave, the arches of her boots digging into the edge of the hole as she throws all her weight forward to balance, bending at the waist. Kol snickers. She launches a tombstone at him. "What is your damage?"

"I needed entertainment." He sidesteps, and the marker splits into chunks of rock against the tree behind him. A bit of bark burrows its way into the side of his neck. He picks it out, impressed. "Oh, good shot."

She doesn't realize he's right next to her until he's gripping her forearm and smiling with all his teeth. "Whatever terrifying thing you're thinking of doing right now? Don't."

"Come now, darling, don't you ever want to live a little dangerously?"

She might say something like, "have you been to Mystic Falls" but he doesn't quite catch it, the wind rushing in a howl up around them when he jumps.




"Oh my God," Caroline says, face down on his chest. Bits of Kol's spine are fusing back together slowly so he can't move, and two of his ribs are poking through his shirt. He pushes on them until they slide and start to heal on their own. "Oh my God, you are a dumbass. How are we going to get back out?"

"The faeries will handle that for us," he grunts, catching a whiff of strawberry shampoo.

"Assuming there are faeries, and this isn't just some death trap Charlotte set for us," Caroline grumbles, swatting at his thigh. Kol can feel the places where she's all softness, the length of her settled against him, the pressure of her knees cradling his pelvis. "If we get killed, I'm going to murder you."

He snorts. "I'm going to assume you're fine given you're back to whining and are using me as a cushion."

He can't really see her; there's a faint light behind them, but that's it, and she's just shades of black in the dark. He feels her push herself up on her elbows, their clothes rustling together, and assumes she's glaring at him. "It's your own fault for jumping into the abyss like a maniac."

Kol glowers, estimates where her head is roughly, and reaches up so he can yank on her hair. "Terribly sorry. My hand slipped."

"Upwards?" she hisses, and manages to drag her nails down the side of his face before he sits up and she tumbles off of his lap in what he's sure is the most dignified way possible. "Ugh, why couldn't Elijah have kidnapped me?"

Kol sniffs. "Because he's the moral brother, not the smart one."

"Your broken everything beg to differ on the smart thing, oh wise one."

"Be glad it's considered impolite to kill on fey grounds, otherwise I'd be snapping—"

"My neck? Yes, I know, your threats are so imaginative and original, please, tell me more—"

"I swear to God, Caroline—"

"Dead ones," a voice lilts, high and feminine and sweet. "We've been waiting for you."

"Oh, awesome," Caroline says on a breath, so he knows she's worried, "ominous voices, that's comforting, really."

Kol follows the tremor in her voice and reaches out for her. His hand grazes the cold skin of her elbow. "Caroline, calm down."

"I am calm," she shrills, tense beneath his palm, and then suddenly reaches up to grab his fingers when the room floods with light. His knuckles crack in her grip. "Omigawd."

The room isn't a room, it seems, but a cave, all dirt walls and bones scattered on the floor; crushed skulls and splintered rib cages crunching like rocks beneath their feet. Moss grows in damp, deep crevices. There are spider webs in the loose curls of Caroline's hair. Charlotte's body is a crumple of red waves and pooling fabric in the corner, her spine curving over her legs.

Kol tugs Caroline against his side to distract her. He can't have her falling apart because of a few skeletons. The last thing he needs is a mess of a teenage girl walking into a faerie court with him; they'd tear her apart in a minute.

"Ease up there, grabby," she snaps, trying to shrug him off, even as he's already hauling her down a tunnel lined with torches, the only other way to go besides up. Kol doesn't say anything, just walks to the first split in the tunnel and remembers the stories the witches used to tell him of little girls and boys getting lost in fey mazes and never coming back out. "What?"

"Quiet." There's a faint hum, music perhaps, but he can't tell the direction. "Give me a minute."

He stares at the dirt wall in front of them for a long time, at the bugs crawling in and out of holes, and then finally, finally, there's a faint flicker to his left, just barely in his line of sight. When he turns, it's gone, but he knows the way.


Caroline stumbles after him, strangely quiet, only grumbling when she trips over a rock or her boot catches on something. The deeper they go, the more nature seems to pervade the tunnel. Flowers bloom in small patches, every colour imaginable. Vines tangle across the walls in snarled, ropy twists. Roots arch up from the earth. Some are thick like trunk trunks; others are thin and knotted together, snapping and crackling as they walk.

Caroline says nothing about the abrupt changes; Kol suspects the silence won't last long.

At the third intersection they comes across, she says: "So faeries, huh?"

He catches the slope of a wing when he glances over his shoulder at her and keeps going straight. He thinks she's aiming for casual but her voice breaks at the end, clearly nervous. "Yes."

"What do they look like?"

Kol frowns. "I don't know. Like faeries."

Caroline scoffs. "How do you not know what they look like? Aren't you like some kind of all knowing supernatural encyclopaedia?"

The music's stopped by now, and the tunnels are silent. They haven't heard anything since the second turn and, if Kol's being serious, it's starting to set his teeth on edge. "What on earth gave you that idea?"

"You're a thousand years old," she says wryly. "I think that speaks for itself."

Kol doesn't reply, just rolls his eyes and knows she can tell he's doing it by the way she huffs and steps on the back of his shoe. It's like he's dealing with a six-year-old sometimes. A six-year-old Rebekah, more specifically. He definitely doesn't miss those years.

A wall crumbles nearby, and there's a shrieking laugh that borders on maniacal. Caroline presses closer to him, whispers, "I think I saw a horror movie like this, once."

"Are you still talking?" But it is rather unsettling.

At the fifth junction, he can't see the wings he's been following. For a long beat, he stares at the wall in front of them, scowling. Caroline shakes his arm suddenly, hissing, "what the hell was that?!"

Kol tilts his head back. "What are you blathering about?"

Caroline nearly dislocates his shoulder, she tugs him so hard. "I thought I heard something behind us, so I looked and, like, there was nothing there, big surprise, we're basically in Friday the Thirteenth so I don't know what I was expecting—"

"Would you get to the bloody point—"

"But when I turned back, like, I don't know, I saw a flash in front of us and this twiggy little bug near your head but then it was just gone and am I going crazy? Is this what a psychotic break feels like?"

Kol stares at her. Turns slowly back towards the wall, and sure enough, for just a split second, he sees stairs and the fey he'd been following. He grins. "Caroline, I could kiss you."

"Oh, god, please don't," she starts, but then they're through the wall and she breaks off abruptly, exhaling as they climb a grand set of stairs carved out of marble, marred with smears of dirt and grass, her boots clicking with every step. "Um."

Kol pauses, six stairs from the top, music and laughter above them, and turns. He puts both hands on her shoulders and looks her straight in the eye. "I am about to tell you some very important things, and by important I mean they'll keep you alive down here, so you need to listen to me, alright?"

She nods once, the blue of her eyes bright even in the dim lighting. Curls her fingers around his wrists almost absently. Kol slips in close, his voice dropping to barely a whisper, the pad of her thumb against the inside of his arm a strange, foreign thing.

"One," he starts, "do not eat or drink anything in there, offered or not. In fact, just don't put anything near your mouth at all. Faeries are a sneaky lot; they'll find loopholes, trust me. Two, let me do all the talking. It'll be better if an Original vampire offends them instead of a baby one." She cracks a smile here, doesn't deny it, which, well, fine then. "And finally, don't wander off. God knows what'll happen to you if you do."

"Great," she says shakily, still close enough that a puff of air caresses his cheek, "this isn't terrifying at all."

Kol tips his chin so they're closer to eye-level — she's short, he's never noticed that before — and half-smiles, the corner of his mouth kicking upwards. "Don't worry so much. You've been dealing with my brother's advances for how long now? You'll do fine."

She huffs a laugh, just a short little burst of sound that makes its way out of her, and glances up the stairs. Some of the life is back in her face; no longer drawn with fear, she looks so young. "Alright. Let's do this."

He's almost tempted to ruffle her hair, like he used to do to Bekah. He settles for squeezing her palm. "Good girl."

Caroline huffs, hands sliding off his wrists in one graceful movement, like she'd never been touching him at all. "Watch it, buddy; I'm not your pet."

Kol half-turns and goes up a step. It puts her head level with his bicep. He squints down his nose at her. "Of course you aren't," he deadpans, "a pet would be more well behaved."

"And less likely to try and kill you," she says without missing a beat, with a sharp grin that exposes the tips of her fangs. His stomach clenches. "We going to stand here all day, or what?"

"By all means, darling," he says. He bows low, arm swept out from his side. "After you."

She snorts. "Always a gentleman."

To say she isn't ready for a faerie court is an understatement. At the top of the stairs she freezes, shoulders tense, all white blonde curls and clenched fingers. Kol braces himself against the noise, the scent of blood and alcohol and magic mixing together and buzzing in his gut. It's a tempting, tempting smell, the sort of thing that could drive a baby vampire mad.

"Um," she half-snarls, grimacing. "Fuck."

The court is just as busy and chaotic as the last time he visited. Tables laid out with piles of food, wrapped in flowers. Pointy eared, needle-toothed, shiny-eyed fey drinking, laughing, dancing with the faint glow of magic at their fingertips as they spin. Kol can see the throne and the wide berth it's being given in the center of the room, carved from bone and bark, vines coiled around the legs and creeping up the sides.

There's a vampire he knew once, at the side of the room, by a long bench wreathed in brambles, pressing his fangs into his wrist and sucking with a manic look on his face. Caroline sees him too; the sound her jaw makes when she presses her lips together is somewhere between a crack and pop.

He curls his palm around her wrist tight enough that her bones bend. "Breathe, darling."

Caroline sucks in a breath through her teeth, closes her eyes, and exhales. Her wrist twists in his hand, her fingers pressing against his pulse point. "This is intense."

"That's one way of putting it," he drawls, but he eases his grip off her slowly, in case she snaps. He knows about the strength of her control, Nik had never shut up about it. It's one of the only reasons he'd brought her along on this stupid errand; she can take it. "If I'd known all it'd take to get you riled up was some cheap liquor and a pint of blood—"

"Finish that sentence," she says out of the corner of her mouth, shifting towards him as a fey twirls past, red wings fanning out behind it, "and only one of us is walking out of here with all our limbs."

"I love it when you talk dirty," he deadpans, guiding her through the mess of bodies. There's a water imp he fought with once dancing near him, her hair a silver whip as she moves in quick, erratic movements. It snaps against his arm, leaves a wet streak in its wake. "Remember what I said."

Caroline stares at him, then makes a point of pressing her lips together so tightly they turn white. He laughs.

The first step he takes into the empty space surrounding the throne isn't painful, like it had been for him his first time. He pulls Caroline through quickly and puts an arm around her shoulders to keep her steady while she swallows a scream. Afterwards, she squints up at him and hisses, "faeries."

"Right?" he says, and then a sharp pull of magic drags them away from each other and turns them around.

"Dead ones," the queen lilts, black eyes narrowed at him, pale skin tinting green in annoyance, "you certainly took your time."

"Forgive us," Kol says, bordering on sardonic, "some of us were a bit skeptical when we first got in."

Caroline looks like she maybe wants to kick him. The queen, in all her violet-haired, long-limbed glory, looks a bit like she wants to as well. Excellent.

"You have come about the end of days," she says, in lieu of setting him on fire. This is promising. "About Silas."

"Some idiots in some backwater town think he's a myth and are searching for the cure." Kol ignores the pointed glare Caroline shoots his way. "They are alarmingly good at reading maps."

"Oh my God," Caroline finally says, then promptly shuts up again. Kol smiles sweetly at her from across the room. Was she that far away before? Fuck.

"Your smart mouth is what got you into this mess, is it not? You should take care not to worsen your predicament."

"My apologies," Kol says again, with deep sarcasm. "Are you going to help or not?"

The queen laughs, a high pitched screeching sound that makes him wince. "Why on earth should we help you, killer of innocents, monster of the east, Jack The Ripper? How many of us have you killed in your thirst for violence?"

"I take it you didn't let us in here to play nice then," he deadpans, but he's already going through a list of all the things between them and the stairs. "This doesn't surprise me."

"You are quite a skilled liar, Kol, son of Mikael," she lilts, a spark of magic flickering between her fingers before growing into a flame. "But you are not that skilled."

There's a fireball growing steadily in her hand. Kol has an idea of where she's about to throw it, and wonders why every supernatural thing he encounters thinks it can kill him. He braces him as best he can with his limited movement and then—

And then Caroline opens her mouth again. "No offense, but if you're done flirting can we actually, like, talk about Silas?"

The queen's head whirls with such speed it almost looks like it's spun around. "I beg your pardon?"

Caroline parodies the movement of a shrug, her head bending minutely as her shoulders almost shake. "You aren't going to kill him, obviously."

"And how have you drawn this conclusion?" The queen sounds genuinely curious, as opposed to righteously offended, so Kol relaxes just a bit.

"If you were able to stop Silas, you would have done something about my friends already," Caroline says, point blank. "Instead, you're down here getting drunk and waiting for the apocalypse. Kol's the only one making any actual effort to keep the world from ending, which is why you let us in here. Besides, he's an Original; you can't kill him."

"Clever girl," the queen says, and the fire in her hands disappears in a puff of glitter around the same time Kol can move again. "You spoiled my fun."

"Like you didn't know he was freaking out," Caroline grins crookedly, playfully even. Kol wants to shake her for being so stupid, she could have gotten herself killed mouthing off to the queen like that, could have gotten herself imprisoned

"We know the location of Silas' headstone," the queen says in a whisper, "those who would seek it are nowhere near yet. So, as payment for our aid, we request you both do something for us."

"Done," Caroline says, without even looking at him. Kol balks.

"There are creatures out there who are devouring my courts, one by one. I wish for you to find them, kill them, and bring me their heads."

"Cute," Kol mutters. Caroline digs her elbows into his ribs. When did they get next to each other? He needs to be more alert. "Alright."

"Once you have slayed the monsters, we will tell you where Silas' headstone is. Should we feel those who search are uncomfortably close to him, we will act accordingly."

"Uh," Caroline mumbles, "did she just threaten to kill all my friends if we aren't quick?"

"Essentially," Kol snorts.

"You shall go to the place known as Philadelphia," the queen carries on, like they aren't talking about her under their breath, and Caroline actually snickers next to him. Kol is trying to keep a straight face, given they aren't quite out of the woods yet, but it's proving to be a challenge. "There, my court shall aid you."

"Can we go now?" Kol says, bored. Caroline makes a strangled noise next to him and buries her face in her hands. "Clock's ticking and all that, you know."

The queen glares at him and taps one long nail against her thigh. "Do you agree to these conditions?"

"Yes." Kol stares at the ceiling in annoyance.

The queen's eyebrows quirk. She's probably just drawing this out to piss him off. "Do we have your word?"

"You have my word," Kol says tightly. "Now let's get on with it, shall we?"

"We'll be waiting." The queen smiles, a slow, dangerous curl to her mouth that sets Kol's teeth on edge, and snaps her fingers. The room erupts into light, so bright and quick that he hisses and closes his eyes. Next to him, Caroline squeaks.

When the it fades, they're standing in the parking lot of their motel right next to the car. They both stare at it, blinking hard.

"Uh," Caroline finally says, "how the hell?"

"Faeries," Kol sighs, by way of explanation, disappearing into their room to grab his bat. He isn't worried about her running; she wouldn't make it very far in the half a second he leaves her alone, after all. When he comes back out, Caroline is already sitting in the car, slumped down in the seat with her legs stretched out on the dash.

He spends a minute taking in how relaxed she looks, the difference between this moment and four days ago when she'd been pressing herself against the glass like a frightened animal. She's still in the shorts she'd been wearing when he'd taken her. She has small ankles, he notes absently — small ankles and bony knees. Like a little girl.

Which she is, he supposes. She's barely eighteen. Still in high school. Just a kid.

Nik, he thinks, watching her fiddle with the radio, bright red nails tapping against a pale thigh, you're a filthy old man.

He's sliding into the driver's side when she goes, "if the faeries don't want Silas to rise any more than you do, why do you have to do them any favors? Why wouldn't they just destroy the headstone?"

Having to explain this over and over is getting rather tiring. "Because they're faeries and they like to play games, make people suffer, etcetera, remember?"

Caroline folds her hands in her lap, black elastic snapped around the delicate bones in her wrist, her spill of white-blonde hair tumbling over one shoulder. "I don't think we qualify as people."

Kol lifts a brow, amused. "Oh it's we now, is it?"

She stares at her boots on the dashboard and he thinks, if she were capable of it still, she'd be blushing. "I'm maybe being persuaded by all this supernatural craziness that there's more going on than anyone back in Mystic Falls knows."

"And we have a winner!" Kol slow claps, tone dry. "Someone give the girl a prize."

Caroline sighs, clearly exasperated, while he adjusts the rear-view mirror, but he doesn't even care because finally she's starting to believe him. The engine roars to life. She presses her forehead against the window and mutters, "is this what you feel like whenever I make fun of you?"

"Like what?"

"Angry and amused and impressed but mostly homicidal?"


Caroline sighs again, then turns to him with a wicked smile. Her voice lilts a little when she says, "shall we go to the place known as Philadelphia?"

"And slay the monster who doth devour thy fey court?" Kol replies, toneless. Caroline giggles next to him. "Why not?"

"Oh, god, she really is going to set us on fire next time."

"Probably," he agrees, with almost a laugh, and drives.