Note: Do me a favor. Go to youtube, search for Falls Apart by Thousand Foot Krutch and listen to it while reading this. (Plus if you know TFK because of Joe Lauzon, drop me a PM and be my new homie.)

-o-

I'll Carve You a Red River

It falls apart, everything around me falls apart, when I walk away from you. (Falls Apart, Thousand Foot Krutch)


The warning comes from Stefan.

"She turned it off."

A witch came to Mystic Falls and tried to take her, the younger Salvatore informed him. Apparently the birdbrained minion of magic let it slip that they were going to use her as additional insurance because they knew that the almighty hybrid couldn't care less about the wolf-girl that carried his child.

She froze for a moment, Stefan said. And then, before the witch could even move a finger, much less conjure the aneurysm that was her only defense against the monster she was attempting to contain, an iron poker had found its way to skewer the wench's mouth shut. Point of entry, the underside of her chin. Point of exit, the crown of her head. (Jesus Christ, Caroline! Damon cried out as blood splattered throughout the room.)

And just like that, sweet little Care Bear was gone.

[A blue-eyed monster smiles charmingly at Damon as she licks the blood that drips onto her hand. She rams the iron rod harder into the witch's skull, twisting the metal slowly, gleefully. Rivulets of blood spurt out of the dead woman's mouth while her engorged eyeballs quiver in a post-mortem vibrato.

"She talks too much, don't you think, Damon?"]

-o-

He'd never have guessed that she'd come to New Orleans. After all, the entire time he was in Mystic Falls, all she ever did was try to avoid him. But then again, one could always argue that those whose emotions were turned off tended to do crazy things.

He picks up her scent the moment he steps into the witches' lair. Lavender and honey, innocence and kindness. Redemption in sky-blue eyes, shell-pink lips and summer-blonde hair. Caroline. His Caroline is here.

That dead thing in his chest begins to thump, thrum, thrash – like a poor little sparrow desperately struggling to flee from the hawk which hovers mockingly above it – when he smells the fateful metallic salinity that laces her sweet scent.

[Someone hums David Garrett's Air by Johann Bach... or perhaps he's imagining it.]

He races to the chamber at the end of the hall and rips the door open. The sight that greets him brings him into a staggered stop.

A hundred bodies. A hundred deaths. A room full of mangled faces and ripped chests, of slit throats and twisted necks, of limbs torn from torsos, of torsos broken into halves, quarters, pieces too numerous to count. The floor is a stagnant river of red and the walls are endless canvases of red and even the ceiling drops gloriously of red. God, all this red. He can hear the spiraling screams even when there is nothing but silence.

(Even Stefan was not this messy.)

In the middle of the room, he finds a lifeless brunette, the same girl who merely a week ago was bared to be the mother of his child. She appears to have been secluded from the rest of the witches, her corpse set smack in the heart of the chamber like a sacrosanct sacrifice to appease a vengeful goddess. Her wolverine eyes are frozen wide open, as is her puckery little mouth – she died mid-scream, he surmises. (And why doesn't he feel the least bit bad about that?)

He grimaces as his eyes trail from her horror-stricken face, down to her ripped-open chest, down to her... carved stomach.

[Oh look, someone cut a grisly heart-shaped hole in her belly. It actually looks kind of pretty – in a morbid kind of way – surrounded by all that blood oozing down onto the pool of dark red surrounding her. You can see her guts from here – are they really supposed to look like soggy Spaghettio's?]

He looks up, stares at the open window in front of him as he hears a faint giggling sound fade out into the oddly red glow of the moonless nighttime sky.

[What was it that Legolas said about red skies?]

-o-

He finally tracks her down in a club midtown, lounging in a booth with a nameless, faceless guy slumped in front of her.

Bright coloured lights dance in the frenzied sea of bodies grinding against each other amid the garish music that blasts throughout the building. Her fangs are sunken deep into the man's neck, her eyes of blue tourmaline closed blissfully as she drains him with mouth and teeth. The intoxicating buzz from her bloodlust draws low, humming moans from her throat – he doesn't even know how he can hear it, but the malevolently melodic sound makes him shiver.

[Caroline.]

She slowly opens her eyes. Her lips curl into a sweet smile when she sees him, and she pushes her food away carelessly before wiping her bloodied mouth with the back of her hand.

He wastes no time and grabs her arm roughly, yanking her up from her seat.

"Ouch. Why so angry, love?" she chirps, mocking his term of endearment as she pulls her arms back and easily frees herself of his hold.

His eyes narrow; his teeth clench. "Caroline, as much as I'm flattered that I mattered enough for you to turn it off at the news of another woman bearing my child -"

She laughs as she flips her hair, the sound rich and resonant. "Oh, Nik. I'd hate to break your poor little heart again, but whoever told you that I did it because of you? I just finally got tired of all the drama. Now it's time for some fun."

You got tired of the drama. Really. "Is that why you cut the wolf girl up like that?"

"Well, she broke my neck before, so she had to go the worst way." She shrugs, nonchalant. Then she sighs dramatically. "She really wanted that baby, Nik. I choked her with wolfsbane, I jabbed her throat with a stick twice or thrice and I even flayed her legs, but the only time she actually cried was when I carved out her stomach."

I will not
Let it go to waste
I'm taking all I've got
And leavin' this place
And I will not
Be taking up space
I'll take my best shot
I'm pickin' up the pace

"Ooops, my bad." She laughs again. "I forgot that it's you baby too."

A vein throbs agonizingly in his forehead. No, what does he care about that baby, he never wanted it or its mother -

but for her to let her humanity go and turn into a monster, because of him-

Her mouth opens up into a sensual 'Oh' as he uses his hybrid speed to slam her back ruthlessly against a wall. The plaster cracks in four different places, sending crude fissures spreading out in tapering veins, but too few in the partying crowd are sober enough to notice. Those that do see the blood-drenched dress she's wearing and politely look away.

"Enough, Caroline." he says between clenched teeth, his hands gripping tightly around her wrists.

A moan escapes her lips, half in pain and half in pleasure. She can see flashes of lights flickering all around her, can hear the music pulsating coldly against her flushed skin. Her hear pounds harder. Her head spins faster.

[Oh gods, She feels so fucking good right now. Why did she wait for so long to turn it off?]

She counts the drum beats in her head until she can hum along the unfamiliar song. On the first note that hits crescendo, she opens her eyes and stands on her toes to bring her mouth up to his.

He turns his head away distractedly in a pathetically feeble attempt to resist her. (You call yourself king?) But she's Caroline - knows what she wants and knows how to get it - so her lips end up crashing into his anyway. She pries him open with a tug, a teasing bite, before running her tongue against his teeth. The guttural growl he means to let out melts into a small, choked moan in his throat and he feels something inside him crumble.

Fuck.

He hates it, goddammit, he hates it almost as much as he loves it (Love her, don't you mean?) - hates that she does this to him every single time. She challenges him. Overwhelms him. Breaks him down until he's unable to do anything but submit to her. And then he hates himself all the more because he's not supposed to be some stupid lovesick fool (reserve that for Elijah, thank you very much), but he can't even say no to this shell of the girl who once told him that she knows he's in love with her.

He closes his eyes, helpless to do anything but to surrender. She reeks of blood and death and a faint, familiar scent that he can't quite place, but he doesn't care and he needfully swallows every inch of her that he can get his mouth on. He kisses her, hot and fierce and greedy and reckless, as if each taste of her kiss avenges the cosmos of pride that he laid down before her feet to just feel her lips on his.

(I love you I love you I love you and if I could just let myself say it -)

Her teeth sink into the soft flesh of his lower lip, bated breath hot against his nose. He jerks when he suddenly feels her bite him, hard enough to draw blood.

She grins as she slowly pulls away, licking the blood (his blood) that's trickled down to her chin. "I've always wanted to know what it's like to kiss you."

He opens his mouth to tell her to come with him, to go back to Virginia and sort everything out. But he's cut off by the sound of her carefree laughter.

"You're a sloppy kisser, Nik."

A glass shatters on the floor somewhere, and with it the last standing strand of his patience. He can't – won't - let her succumb to darkness like this. He's not going to lose her.

He pulls her forcefully off the wall and with his hand on her wrist begins to drag her onto the club's exit. Oh yes, he will drag her all the way back to Mystic Falls if he has to. Screw the witches. (They're all dead now anyway.) Screw Marcel. Screw the French Quarter. Hell, screw motherfucking Elijah and his twisted principles about family. Where was the sanctimonious bastard when Kol was burning to his death? Was he in Mystic Falls, screaming beside his brother? No, he was in Panama, busy sticking his Original prick into some hole of the doppelganger slut.

(Sigh. So much for family.)

"Klaus." a voice calls cheerfully from behind him. "Leaving the party early?"

He turns around. His eyes harden and he glares at the person he finds standing in front of him. Dim shadows cover the figure's grinning features, occasionally illuminated by the gaudy flash of strobe lights that pass by, but it's not as if he needs to see the man's face to know who he is.

"I was hoping you'd stay a while, there's someone I'd like you to meet." Marcel says.

"Go annoy someone else, I'm in no mood for games." Klaus irascibly replies. His mighty protege is flanked by a dozen vampires or so, but the Hybrid couldn't care any less. That's the only reason why the fool has the guts to stand up to him anyway – because he has an army around him. Well newsflash, the dastardly dupe can call on all the vampire bitches sucking his balls and they still won't be able to kill him so fuck them.

He turns back to Caroline, his hand still tight around her wrist. "We're going home."

She smiles at him but doesn't move. Something lurches inside his stomach when she looks past him and her eyes land on Marcel.

He feels his hand grasp at an ethereal spectre – half there and half not – for a split second. Literally the next thing he knows, a hiss is torn from his throat and a shooting pain rips through his hand as his own wrist snaps broken. It heals swiftly, of course, but not quickly enough to keep Caroline from blurring away from him so that he's left with an empty grip.

[What did Kol's favourite Among Savages song say again? Oh, it's that You came here with nothing, you're leaving with the same. Guess it's true for most cities, not just New York. Jeez. Whatever happened to the update for Lay All your Love on Me?]

He raises his head, pearlescent canines flashing in livid anger at her defiance. He means to snarl at her, but the white-hot rage that spreads throughout his chest renders him unable to make any sound when he sees Caroline (his Caroline) standing beside Marcel.

And suddenly he realizes not what, but who she smells of.

She's pressed too fucking close against Marcel, her slender elven frame sharply contrasting with his protege's robust built. Her hand rests on his chest, index finger lightly tracing an invisible line across the man's rippling musculature. Marcel smiles fondly at her and mouths a barely heard "Gone for just three hours and I miss you already." as he drapes an arm over her shoulder, staking a wordless claim.

"Thanks, Nik." She says, though there isn't one ounce of gratefulness in her voice. She doesn't even look at him – her eyes are trained only on Marcel. "But I'm already home."

His hands tremble in fury as he watches Marcel brush his thumb playfully against the blonde's cheek. She closes her eyes and inhales hungrily as she grabs at the vampire's hand, tugging his wrist unto her lips and mumbling a soft apology of "Sorry, still hungry" before slowly sinking her fangs into his flesh. Marcel nods at her affectionately, letting her feed off the carmine liquid that flows from his arm, gently pressing his bleeding wrist closer unto her mouth to sate her bloodthrist.

"It's cool, baby. Pietros said you partied hard with the witches tonight." he assures her.

Marcel turns to Klaus, a genuinely pleased expression rendering itself on the King of the French Quarter's face. "I wanted you to meet my queen, but I see you two already know each other."

The hybrid's vision swirls into a dizzying pit of tar black and bursting red. Caroline's fangs sink deeper into Marcel's arm and Klaus has never felt more sick in the thousand years of his existence. She's feeding from Marcel, dammit, and the bloodshot veins that appear below her euphorically closed eyes scream to him just how fucking much she loves it.

"Your queen," he spits out, the words burning like acid on his tongue. He blurs his way in front of one of Marcel's oh-so-precious inner circle minions and rips out the sycophant's heart, making a show of holding the fresh beating mass of vein and muscle in his bloodied hand. "Let me remind you, steward, that you are no king. This is my kingdom!"

Marcel's eyes harden at the sight of his dead follower. He turns halfway from Klaus to lean in closer to Caroline, as if to shield her away in a cautiously protective stance. "Come on, Klaus. We've been through this. You've made enough mess and I'm running out of patience."

He's almost choked by the overpowering urge to hack the git's skull open with his bare hands – Running out of patience? How dare he speak to his sire like that, the fool'd be but dust in a doorstep if he didn't wake him under his tutelage- but he forces himself to calm down. He can save ripping the ingrate's head off for another time; what's important right now is her.

He drops the minion's heart with a flick of his hand, and it bounces on the floor with a rubbery squelch.

"Hand her to me or I'll wipe this city out of Louisiana's map." he demands. "And you know that I will."

Marcel just shakes his head, knowing better than to give an answer. "Three hundred years and your ass is still stuck up in that high hybrid throne. Give me this, give me that. She's got a head of her own and she can do what she wants so ask her if she wants to go with you."

Caroline looks up at Marcel, pausing from feeding to bring her hunger-clouded eyes boring straight into the fateful blue orbs that define the most powerful being on earth. Klaus holds his breath, for a moment thinking he sees a trace of the humanity she so-treasured flicker in the hazed surface of her eyes - but whatever he saw is quickly replaced by a vain look of self-satisfaction.

"Oh, but I like New Orleans," she says with a smug smile, delighting in the blaze of anger that flares in his eyes as Marcel's arm wraps tight around her waist. "I like being queen."

"Listen to me, Caroline, I don't give a bloody damn about -"

"God, don't be such a sour graper, Nik." She cuts him off with a bored roll of her eyes. "You can always find some other werewolf slut to knock up. There's plenty of them in the outskirts of town."

His nails dig deep into the flesh of his clenched hands. He wants to be angry at her, wants to rip her into shreds and kill her once and for all so she could stop being his goddamn weakness. But he can't.

(And how can he? They both made mistakes. If she'd only said a word about caring this bloody much for him, then he would have faithfully spent the rest of eternity waiting for her to be ready. But she kept quiet and he slept with the werewolf girl and now everything is just so fucked up.)

She finally lets go of Marcel's wrist in favor of waving at a waitress and asking her come over. "Hey, Cami, can we get a drink here please?"

The girl smiles at her and nods, immediately heading towards their direction. The moment she gets there, Caroline grabs the lone shotglass of something from the tray the blonde server holds.

"Here, Nik. I heard you liked to play beer pong when you lived here, I guess that explains how you smoked the entire football team last homecoming. Let's drink to that, shall we?"

She empties the shotglass in a single gulp.

"Also, I heard that you like to get life counseling from random blondes watching street painters, maybe that explains why you're so pathetic. Let's kill to that, shall we?"

She winks at Klaus before turning back to the waitress. Camille, Cami, Chlamydia – whatever her name is – never even sees it coming. She simply drops on the floor, a metallic clang resounding from the circular serving stray as it settles onto the ground beside the waitress' dead body.

He swallows thickly as he stares at the girl's horribly twisted neck. Camille's eyes, frozen in a mute scream, don't even close – they bulge out of their sockets to stare hollowly at the nothingness that is death. Marcel himself smiles, amused, but doesn't say anything.

"I hate psychology majors." She tells his protege, wrinkling her nose in disgust as she looks at her fresh kill. "They read twelve pages of Carl Jung and they think they know everything. Ugh, so annoying."

The music continues to blare throughout the building, pounding on both mortal and supernatural senses. The hundred other beings in the club – human, vampire, witch – continue to remain oblivious or continue to pretend to remain oblivious to the confrontation that's left two corpses on the cold floor. Blood flows from the body of the vampire whose heart Klaus tore out almost as freely as the vermillion-tinged cocktail that flows from the champagne towers flanking both sides of the club bar.

Marcel just grins at his mon amie.

"Hot damn. You look so fine when you're all riled up." Marcel tells her, smoothing the stray strands of wheat blonde hair which fell to her face in the quarter of a second that it took for her to raise the night's death toll to a hundred and two.

She laughs, and something inside Klaus splinters as he watches her twirl into a girly pirouette so she can wrap her arms around Marcel's neck. She slowly brings her lips unto his ear, but not before casting a coy glance at the Hybrid.

"Let's take this party back to your place and I'll show you fine." she whispers to Marcel, but it's loud enough for everyone to hear.

Marcel fakes a sad sigh. "Now don't be flirting with me to make people jealous, baby doll. You're breaking my heart."

She laughs again, the sound melodious as liquid silver trickling from the sylvan springs of Mirkwood. From where Klaus stands, she's heartbreaking beautiful and he's too fucking far away.

"Let's get out of here." she tells Marcel as she turns around to leave. "I want a hot shower. Witch blood feels really clammy."

Marcel cocks his head back to his mentor, his savior, his sire. He affords him a sincerely respectful farewell nod before he goes to follows his queen.

"Too bad that didn't work out for you, but enjoy the rest of the party. I'll see you around, Klaus."

He just stands there motionless, rooted still in his place, bile rising up his throat in a stale mixture of wrath and remorse. Something awfully putrid seeps its way onto his tongue, erasing what lingering sweetness remains from the kiss she gave him, like the murky gray waves of a hostile sea crashing ruthlessly upon land to erase that one name he wrote on the sand-lined shore that is his heart.

[Vocabulary 101. It's called 'bitterness', you stupid immortal king who wants an heir. God. You're so stupid right now I can't even look at you.]

His vision begins to drip of dark claret as he watches Marcel's group leave. Bloodshot veins appear beneath his rage-filled eyes, pupils narrowing into a single, razor-sharp strip of murderous intent – he doesn't care who or how many fucking people he has to kill, doesn't care if he ends up laying into a red ruin this city that he himself built. He will get her back, even if he has to slaughter every goddamned vampire around her tonight.

He surges into movement just as Marcel places his hand on the small of her back. He will kill the ingrate, goddammit, he will kill him –

A firm grip closes tight on his arm and suddenly holds him back.

"You really think you'll get her to come with you by murdering this entire town?"

Bottle-green eyes gaze inflexibly at Klaus. The hybrid grits his teeth, heaving in long, drawn breaths as he struggles to summon what little self-control remains in his trembling body.

"Take your hand off me, Stefan Salvatore, or I will murder you with this entire town."

Stefan obliges, but not before staring at him long and hard.

"She's not going to go with you, Klaus. She hates you with every ounce of the emotions she turned off. She'd put a stake through her own heart if only to make sure that you suffer for the rest of your life."

A stabbing pain pierces through his chest at the Salvatore's blunt words. The world around him fades into a silent picture of black and white, of bitter smoke and broken mirrors. She hates you.

And worse, he knows just how damned true it is.

"If you want her back, we need a plan." Stefan tells him gravely. Five hours into the French Quarter and already he knows what frail balance of power the supernatural hierarchy in the town hangs on, not missing who are bound, who are under watch, who are free and who give freedom. The vampire Marcel just happens to sit on top of the food chain.

The Original narrows his eyes, red-tinged orbs following his once best friend's line of sight to land on the bar counter, where he spies a familiar olive-skinned witch trading hushed words with a dark-haired Deveraux acolyte.

"Bonnie's here. Abby's going to arrive in a few days and she's bringing Lucy with her. That's three Bennett witches."

Stefan turns to him, a honest expression of hope painted in the blond vampire's features. "I'll do anything for my best friend."

The harsh glare planted on Klaus' eyes soften, and the veins below the once-again blue orbs slowly recede. He turns his head to the direction of the club's exit, forcing himself to endure the acrimony that gnaws coldly at his head as he watches Caroline's form, tucked snugly against Marcel's chest, disappear into the crowd.

He looks back at Stefan. He knows that the Salvatore is right – if he wants her back, he needs a plan, and he needs the witches.

His eyes flash the Salvatore the stoic expression of gratitude that he will in his arrogance never word out. Still, he feels fortunate – grateful even – that the vampire honors the genuine bond of brotherhood the two of them shared when first they met that fateful night so many years ago.

But then Stefan reads the unspoken message in his eyes and lets out a sardonic groan.

"Just so we're clear, when I said 'best friend', I meant her." Stefan tells him icily. "Don't tell me you seriously think I'd see you as the victim in all of this. We both know you could've killed that werewolf girl if you wanted to, what's another heart to rip out when you've torn so many? But you didn't. You wanted to have your cake and eat it too. Well guess what. You're The Hybrid, but you still can't."

He finds himself swallowing thickly. He should have been furious at the Salvatore, should've sent him on his long way to hell by adding his undead heart to the so many he's torn that Stefan just spoke about. [You don't talk to Niklaus Mikaelson like that. You bloody don't.] But somehow he does not. He doesn't even have the strength to throw back a scathing answer. (Maybe because everything he said true.)

"You wanted your heir," Stefan tells him. "So someone else got the queen. Sucks, huh? But you deserve it."

A red-haired goth - human - finally notices the two dead bodies on the floor. A shrill scream tears through the club, the sound almost drowned by the beating noise that continues to blast throughout the building. A commotion ensues and amidst all the cries and the shouts and the staggering and the running, his eyes find their way back to Camille's broken body.

It's then that he realizes that he's ready swallow everything – pride, anger, even tears – if only to see Caroline (his Caroline) again. Beautiful, strong, and full of light.

He digs into his pocket instead and takes his phone, dialing a familiar number.

"Elijah. Find Rebekah and be at my house precisely an hour from now. I'm with Salvatore and the Bennett witch, and for the last fucking time if you want us to be a family again you will listen to what they will say."

The music finally stops, replaced by the loud wailing sounds of ambulance sirens. Bonnie turns to their direction as the people begin flocking the club exits, nodding to gesture that they too should leave.

He stands still on his place, taking a deep breath as he stares at the chaos surrounding him. He slowly closes his eyes, trying to remember the warmth of Caroline's smile.

[If only to hold on to something that might keep him alive.]

He will get her back, he promises to her, more than to himself.

He will get her back.

[Sing a song for this weary ranger, o fair elven maiden. The moon called and he answered, but now he has lost his way. The road remains winding and the light of Lothlorien is nowhere in sight; he lays feverish under the starless night skies, his dreams filled only with the memory of your hand in his, his lips on yours. Sing a song for this weary ranger, o fair elven maiden. That even when hope grows dim, the light of the Evenstar may bring him safely back into your arms.]

-o-

A/N:

1. As always, erica-dreams-in-colour at tumblr for gif's, manips, rants and other attempts at relevance; for my multi-chapter fics please see she. dreams. in. colour, links are in my profile page.

2. Dedicated to the wonderful anon who said that she wants Caroline to be queen of NOLA via Marcel so Klaus could pine away and Caroline'd all be like bitch please. Also, credit to teenaystories for that 'He wants the heir, Marcel gets the queen' line. My tumblr friends are awesome. :)

3. As you may have noticed in this fic, I'm in a dark place right now because of 4x20. But just like this chapter's ending, I'm trying to hold on and keep the faith. And I hope that you guys do to.

4. Just to make it clear, Stefan is not helping Klaus redeem himself to Caroline, hence the 'You're not the victim here' line. All Stefan cares about is bringing back Caroline's humanity, and if emotions-on Caroline still wants to be with Marcel then Stefan's totally fine with that.