Hi guys, I'm sorry this chapter took so long, but I'm been feeling a bit unwell lately, and I couldn't concentrate on putting words together. It isn't much, the chapter, but I hope that you won't hate it too bad. To those of you who like the story and want to read more, thank you for being so kind to let me know, that means a lot to me. To those of you who were disappointed (if you're reading this) and aren't interested, I apologize for letting you down.
Once again, thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoy the chapter!
The stench of blood is overwhelming.
Hayley's eyes flutter closed with every breath she tries to take. She exhales, lengthily and pitifully. Sometimes it stops. Each time, after a few seconds of complete absence of breath, and a heartbeat slowing down so terrifyingly fast, Caroline is almost certain. This is it. She's dying. She's practically dead. It's over.
The child hasn't been born at all, and Hayley is dead.
—Hayley's eyes flutter open one more time, and so it begins again. The same old, tattered song. Such a melancholic tune. The laboured breathing. The spasmodic contortions of pain. The blood pouring out—it smells like a feast, but look at the little wolf. She is just a girl. She is dying. But look at her. She soldiers on through the pain every time, heroically. Doesn't complain once about her fate or the forbidden life inside of her that is killing her slowly, torturously.
It is admirable, deep down—
Elena paces around the room, from one corner to the opposite one; her fingers shake around the phone and she insists, at least once every five seconds. "We have to call an ambulance. We have to take you to the hospital."
Each time she speaks, though, Hayley miraculously gathers enough strength to shake her head, feebly attempt (and fail) to pull herself up, leaning on her forearms on Elena's bed as if she can just stand up and physically fight two vampires and a hybrid while bleeding out to the last inch of her life. Every time, her breathing clots and gurgles loudly, and her throat coughs up a tiny wretched whimper. Always the same words. "No. No. You can't. They're coming."
It sounds gloomier than the prospect of Hayley's death, and of her child's death, right here in Caroline's stupid little dorm room. While they all watch and do nothing. Because—
"I'm calling Meredith," Elena decides, incapable of handling the horror one second longer. She marches out of the room, wielding her cell phone like a handgun. She won't let Hayley stop her this time, and damn it, there's only so much pacing and hair-pulling a vampire can stand before hyperventilation becomes a real issue.
She doesn't protest this time. It seems like she doesn't mind a doctor helping her give birth to her monster baby; she just wants to stay right here where she is. Dying. Painfully, Caroline can only assume. Because they're coming. It's okay if an actual doctor comes too, to try and save her life and the life of her child—for how little long Klaus might grant them, if Hayley survives the labour. If what she said was true.
That Klaus wanted her dead.
Caroline doesn't quite just believe that, you see. In spite of the silvery moonshine reflecting thick and wet from the girl's long eyelashes, the tears pending on the edges of her eyes. Caroline wants to believe. He's going to kill her, they said, again and again and how can she believe—?
That Klaus is the monster that everyone else fears. That he has no conscience. No mercy or compassion. That he would ruthlessly murder the mother of his child can you believe that? For whoever knows what reason, as soon as she's done pushing.
Maybe that is why Hayley isn't fighting for her life.
April rolls about on Elena's desk chair, back and forth, pushing herself with the lower part of her back, her hands fisted around her knees. Her teeth clatter and she shakes her head almost hysterically, because no, no no no. Yes, she took that first aid course in sophomore year, but how can they expect her—? She can't save her. She can't help. She can't do anything. She's only human. She's not even eighteen yet, and look at this mess. Why is she even friends with these people? Why is she here? She can do nothing to help. They are all vampires, for heaven's sake. Can they do something—?
The thought strikes her like a burst of lightning and she opens her big pretty eyes, wide and terrified as she spins around on her chair to look at Tyler, her pretty woollen skirt fisted in white-knuckled handfuls inside her clenched hands.
"Can't you give her your blood?"
She knows what happened at prom. She doesn't remember much of it, but she knows. Rebekah never lies to her. It wasn't even her prom because this is the town she moved back in for some reason, little orphan April whose father committed suicide and mass-murder simultaneously. This is her life now, and senior prom sounded really cool, you know? Until Elena—
—it wasn't Elena, though; they all have explained, not really—
—and she almost died, again; but Rebekah gave April her blood and she saved her and now April knows everything. She remembers things that happen now. She has a pretty vervain bracelet that Matt and Jer gave her as a gift. So she remembers. She knows what these people are, and she knows that they can save humans by feeding them their blood. So why isn't Tyler—?
The question¸ can't you give her your blood, catches him by surprise. He hadn't even thought—
He doesn't even think about it before he growls like the wolf he is, dropping his two sets of fangs and taking his wrist to his lips. Forcefully, he presses the tender flesh to the awaiting bite of his monster mouth—
Hayley's weak, extinguishing voice cuts like a knife through the silence of the room, and clenching her eyes shut, Caroline crosses her arms over her chest and turns on her feet, incapable of waiting one second longer before walking towards the door. She doesn't go out, but she doesn't need. The door is ajar, open enough that she can see Elena dialling madly on her phone at the other end of the corridor. Can't she locate Meredith? Or is she already on her way, and Elena is trying Damon to reach Damon? Because that would be exactly what they need right now. Damon. Showing up in the fray with his smartass face and his asshole smirk, and acting like the complete jackass that he is in the middle of the crisis.
It's only fortunate that Hayley's whimpering pulls Caroline out of her rightful anger at Damon and the entire mess their lives are right now.
"No…" Hayley is repeating, no no no; her voice a pained, strenuous but constant whimper.
It's hard to ignore. No matter how frequently Caroline averts her eyes, how urgently she looks towards the corridor instead, for some reason unable leave the room. Just in case, she knows. It's her room, isn't it? So, just in case.
She is waiting too.
How pathetic is that?
At least Hayley has the guts to choose death over what could happen if Tyler feeds her his blood, and isn't that commendable? Best case scenario—who the hell even knows? Is it better to die during transition, bleeding out of every orifice in your body? Or is it better to become—?
Tyler has certainly no doubts. He sits on the blood-drenched sheets without flinching and grabs Hayley's hand in his, tenderly but firm. He waits for her to open her eyes before he whispers: "There's Katherine now—"
She closes her eyes immediately, like the silvery pale shade of the moonlight hurts her, and she shakes her head again. Her voice is low and feeble, but her words don't tremble at all when she insists, "No." Her eyes shot open like prompted by a spring, wide and bloodshot and almost mad, and Caroline can see her pulling frailly at Tyler's hand. "Just make sure Rebekah takes her."
Hayley should be healing.
They all know this.
She is supernatural. She is a werewolf. Not as fast as a vampire would heal, yeah; but she should be healing. If Tyler forced the blood down her throat—there's no guarantee that it would work. She isn't healing because she isn't supposed to be healing, and how fucked up is that? Magic; surely. The counterpoint to the silver lining of an expecting wolf bitch: you do not turn under the full moon, and isn't that a blessing? But, no, you fool. If there is no price, there is no reward. You do not turn, you do not heal.
You bleed out your child.
And if she dies with Tyler's blood in her veins. If they dare go to find Katherine—
(—but they can't. They can't. Klaus can't know—)
Hayley would rather die, it seems. And isn't that ennobling, when she was so desperately bartering for her life only a few hours ago? Or perhaps—perhaps she knows she will heal, naturally. When the time is right. When the demon baby is out of her. Obviously Klaus's flesh and blood, in case any incredulous soul harboured any doubts. What else can it be, already trying to kill his own mother in utero?
She's one shallow breath away from death, and yet Caroline's rocklike heart doesn't soften, bitter thoughts spinning madly in her head, driving her insane. She even rolls her eyes, undignified, and moves away from the door and back into the room, her heart constricted into stone because what if Hayley became immortal? What if she were to live forever?
She catches Tyler's desperate eyes, the steely expression in her face unflinching. "Klaus's baby momma would be sired to you—" And Klaus would never forgive such defiance, would he? Tyler making hybrids; others like them but belonging to him— "That'd make for some interesting family dinners, don't you think?"
Tyler's eyes harden like frozen steel, but he doesn't dignify Caroline's jab with a reply. Hayley's chest keeps on heaving, almost unnoticeably. Caroline just watches, her breath catching around a mouthful of venom that she swallows without the need of biting her own tongue. She used to be this crass, before; when she was younger; she used to be so insensitive—so rude and entitled.
Just in case he's listening, she tells herself.
But it's not him—
"Well, we do always save a place for you at the table, Caroline, in case you're curious," a familiar, annoying, too much expected voice speaks suddenly from behind her. "Each day we all wonder, is today the day when Caroline will stop acting like a childish, self-entitled jealous bitch and finally come to join our party in New Orleans?"
She closes her eyes and breathes in deeply before she opens them again. When she does, after the whoosh whisper of someone flashing, Rebekah is already sitting in front of the bed, wearing jeans and a remarkably plain sleeveless cotton shirt and… latex gloves.
She has the cheek to twist her neck and look at Caroline all haughty over her shoulder, smirking almost in amusement. "I suppose today is not that day, is it, Caroline?"
It's been a thousand years.
A thousand freaking years, since Rebekah did this for the last time, and, truth is, she didn't do it that many times.
On the bright side, though? The women her mother used to assist so diligently during their pregnancy and labour, the women that Rebekah used to help and care for, while she learned the trade, so as to one day inherit her mother's role as healer and apothecary of the village—
—well, Rebekah was born and raised in a settlement of werewolves, wasn't she?
Let her brother handle the kind-eyed, vampire-blood-feeder doctor; send her on her merry way back home, before she sees too much. Before she knows the things that will cost her, believe this, her very insignificant human life.
The bleeding wolf bitch?
That, Rebekah can handle. It's nothing she hasn't seen before.
"You're going to deliver the baby?"
This time, Rebekah doesn't bother turning her face around to look at Caroline. She has exchanged pleasantries with April and not so nicely invited Tyler to please step away and refrain from touching anything with his dirty messy paws. But right now, she is focused on the task at hand. Keep Hayley awake and breathing, gathering just the little strength required by a werewolf to push only when Rebekah tells her she absolutely needs to, while Rebekah digs the baby out of her entrails, with the same grace and savoir-faire and calmness she usually employs to dig beating, still bleeding hearts out of people's heaving chests.
"Isn't it obvious, Caroline?" she asks, her words accompanied by a literal grunt that stumbles out of her throat, a mixture of exertion and concentration and sheer annoyance. "As opposed to you and your ridiculous friends, I wasn't born yesterday. Women in the tenth century weren't as utterly useless as you are today. Surely you must know, not everything in life can be done through your stupid phone."
If only she weren't certain Hayley's blood would end up splattered right in her face, Caroline would pull Rebekah's hair so hard she'd break her neck. Or die trying.
Good way as any other to blow off some steam and keep her thoughts from wandering into dangerous territory.
The baby girl wakes up to life, crying her little lungs out, just as the first rays of dawn begin to seep spectrally through the cracks of the window's blinds. The full moon is gone for the month. The windows are half-closed so that Hayley can rest. Most of the room remains under the cover of darkness as the new mother, now healing as a true monster is meant to, finally manages to sit up on Elena's bed. Just straight enough to hand the baby away, pass it to Rebekah as a child shares a toy. Rebekah, once again, doesn't hesitate to hold the child, and carefully nests her on the pouch she has fitted over her stomach.
Enthralled, she caresses the baby's head with the palm of her hand, supporting the weight of the pouch over her arm to press the baby closer to her chest, let the laggard, dull rhythm of her dead heart lull the girl to sleep. Thick tears of happiness and terror have welled up in her eyes, but she doesn't let them fall. She sniffs them away and smiles strangely sympathetic, catching Hayley's big brown eyes with a firm nod. "She'll be alright. I promise."
Hayley returns the nod with an almost imperceptible twist of her chin, her fingers still clenching and unclenching rhythmically over the set of clean sheets she has tucked around herself. "Yeah," she breathes, still pale even as new blood runs faster through her veins again. She manages a small, mindless gesture of her hand towards the child. "How are you going to—?"
Rebekah smiles, her hands careful but strong as iron around the baby. "We have everything we need."
Nik had wanted a compelled wet nurse he could safely and quickly be rid off as soon as her services weren't needed anymore. But it wasn't safe, Rebekeah knew. It wasn't a good idea to get the baby so attached to a stranger that would simply vanish into a pile of bloodless flesh one day, leaving no trace behind after being served for a Sunday family dinner. No—
Rebekah will take good care of her. There are advantages to being born in the twenty-first century after all. She doesn't need to give birth herself to be a true mother. Not even in these first stages she barely remembers—Henrik was only two years young than her. But she has everything she needs. The baby will be safe. She will care for her and feed her and protect her.
"How are you going to name her?"
Hayley's question surprises them all. Rebekah frowns in confusion. Elena snaps her neck around to look at Caroline so fast that they all can hear it crack. Tyler clenches his fists in fury. Even April stirs in her sleep, but after a rugged cough, she continues to sleep mildly peacefully on Caroline's bed. Caroline, howver—
Caroline turns on her feet and walks out of the room.
"She doesn't even get to choose the name?"
Rebekah stops on her tracks to cast one dirty look in her direction, before almost immediately starting to walk again in the direction of the elevator, her back straight as a pole, the baby sleeping against her chest, unperturbed.
"Why should she? She doesn't want the child. She never did." She rolls her shoulders, and the baby sways a bit in her nest. "She just wants her life. That's why she came here."
Right. Kind of. The problem with Hayley is that she can't be compelled, and she knows far too much. She's a liability, and nobody except the Lockwood pup gives a damn about her in the whole wide world. Who could care a lick if she died? No one. And Nik, well—he doesn't like loose ends, you see. So it's all a matter of time, and they have a lot more than time than Hayley does. They all know: they will regret it if they let her live, sooner rather than later. She must be killed, but Nik, well—the thing is—
He's acting like a complete lovesick fool.
Isn't that ironic? Nik of all choleric mass-murdering monsters, waiting patiently in the car so that he doesn't upset the girl he fancies. Because he's lied to her, and hurt her feelings, and disappointed her pride. How beautifully tragic and poetic and pathetic. She can't help the evil smile curling on her lips, as she turns on her feet to look at Caroline before she even calls for the elevator.
"He's outside, you know? In case you want to talk to him." Caroline crosses her arms over her stomach, balls her fists, taps her foot on the cheap, hideous carpet and doesn't say a word. Rebekah rolls her eyes to the ceiling, as if annoyed, but insists with a chipper tone. "Want me to pass on a message?"
Caroline scoffs loudly, regardless of the sleeping baby. Her bitterness moulds into a dry puff of air that scratches all the way up her throat. "Yeah, you can tell him to go to hell."
This time, Rebekah rolls her eyes all the way through. "You know, one of these days you're going to outgrow this silly tantrum of yours, Caroline. Yes, my brother impregnated some nobody wolf bitch on accident, but, you know, that's hardly the worst thing you're going to have to forgive, is it?"
"Have to forgive?" Caroline's steely expression hardens even more as she clenches her teeth. "I don't have to forgive anything. I don't give a crap that your brother—"
"Yes, Caroline. You don't care that Nik slept with Hayley or that she just popped his baby. That's why you hooked up with Stefan for no good reason except to dig yourself deeper into your anger. That's why you're acting like a callous bitch right now. Because you don't give a crap. "
She almost raises her voice. She only notices half a second too late, the tiny breaths of the little baby pressed against her chest. Barely moving. Not seeing. Not even hearing yet, perhaps. But alive and so fragile, Caroline's petty fit of temper hardly seems to matter at all in comparison. Except because they all know that—
—and how messed-up is that, really?—
—Caroline is the best chance the baby of not becoming a rotten monster just like the rest of them.
Rebekah knows—her family—
They're stuck with bratty, entitled, childish goody-two-shoes Caroline Forbes. It may take him five centuries or more of endless bloodshed and merciless cruelty, but Nik always gets what he wants. Or way or another. And he wants Caroline. But the fates have put a clock on him this time, isn't that fun?
If only so that the new life breathing against Rebekah's chest can be saved, and allowed to extinguish her human days in peace, one sundown at a time.
It seems, the fates have decreed—
—the Mikaelson family no longer has forever.
Not that Caroline gives a damn, you see. She extends her fingers over her hipbones, and juts her chin defiantly, her morning, sleepless eyes glaring at Rebekah with murder. "You can go to hell too."
Not today, Rebekah nods, reaching back with her hand to press the button and call the elevator. Caroline isn't coming with them today.
She sits cautiously on the passenger seat, moving slowly, cradling the pouch in the crook of her arm so it doesn't bounce. She doesn't want to disturb the baby with the awkward movement as she bows her back and bends her knees. She's usually more than graceful and agile in her movements, but it's not safe, she knows. She's been a surrogate mother for ten minutes, and look at the gigantic mess Rebekah Mikaelson is, already screwing it up.
She isn't supposed to be carrying a baby while sitting in the front seat of a car, she knows; even if the driver is the original hybrid and he has super-powerful instincts and reflexes. The slightest bump, a sudden skid, and—
Nik doesn't even look at the baby, and it's hard for Rebekah to focus car safety right now. Not to mention, they have to leave, even if it's not advisable to move infants this young, she knows, but—
Nik doesn't even look at her.
He keeps his eyes on the deserted parking lot, moving from row of cheap student cars to row of cheap student cars; and he doesn't even ask. He doesn't say a word. But, of course, as usual, he doesn't really need to. Rebekah knows what he needs to know.
"She's healing," she whispers. He would ne able to hear her even if she just breathed through her mouth, her lips shaping each sound mutely over the unvoiced words. The silence is that thick. "If you don't want any resistance, you should go up now. Your stray dog is there, of course. He might put up a fight, but I don't think Caroline would even frown if you walked in there and ripped Hayley's heart out of her ribcage. Except for the extra set of ruined, bloodstained sheets, perhaps."
At last reacting, he twists his lips into a grimace. Like just hearing about Caroline's anger at the world is too much of an inconvenience. He sighs, too—and finally turns his face to look at her, his tired eyes dropping almost lazily to the living and breathing bundle in her arms.
It's just a newborn baby, undistinguishable from any other specimen of its kind. A tiny mass of soft flesh and reddened, wrinkled skin. They still can't see what colour the eyes are. There's a wisp of brownish hair coating the miniature skull that will fall off in a few weeks, before even. There is no way that any of them can see themselves yet, in the little human baby cradled in Rebekah's arms.
With some luck, or by some miracle, perhaps none of them will ever share much of anything with the little human baby cradled in her arms.
It draws a sad trembling smile on her lips, and she finds herself nodding in an inexplicable gesture of reassurance when Nik raises his eyes to look at her, a slight frown creasing his forehead. "It's a girl," she breathes, a painful knot tying in her throat, and pulling inward from somewhere deep in her chest.
He, once again, doesn't react in any noticeable away, except by simply dropping his eyes to glance at the baby one more time. He's still frowning when he speaks, his eyes glued to Rebekah's pouch. "She's clever. Hayley, I mean. Coming here."
Perhaps, Rebekah thinks. She's only putting off the inevitable. "What are you going to do with her?"
Hayley not only knows about the child. She not only knows about the witches. About Marcel. About the war brewing, seconds away from the point of combustion, down in the haunted, rotten city of New Orleans. Hayley also knows about Caroline. She knows about Mystic Falls. And if they let her live—
Rebekah holds her arms over her stomach, leaning back on the backrest of her seat and holding the baby in her arms. She is weightless as a feather. She is so fragile, so vulnerable and breakable. Should they storm up the stairs and rip out the heart of her mother, for her own good? For the sake of her safety?
Should they just take her like it's theirs, and raise her as one of their own?
Rolling his shoulders and breathing loudly through the nose, he starts the car and doesn't look back. "I'll keep eyes on her."
Rebekah nods, understanding. "She won't stay in Mystic Falls, though."
She won't stay in any place. In the long run, none of them knows much about Hayley, but that one thing they do know.
She won't ever stay in just one place.
Little vagabond wolf girl.
She found Katherine while running from Klaus.
She found Klaus while running from Katherine.
She found Caroline while running from Klaus, again.
But what they can never know—
She found this world while running from her own.
She's clever, he will grant her that.
Not clever enough to keep herself from ending up in the kind of situations in which her little silly life is hanging by a thread, but clever enough to just hang in there, only that extra second needed to jump from one mess into the next.
She hasn't just left, he takes it.
She isn't just running. She hasn't given up.
Call him a man in transition, a monster in transition into the echoes of the man inside, but—
He's sitting this one out.
From the front door of the rundown building, she watches them go.
She shifts on her feet and stares at the sun-rising sky, as his black SUV turns the corner at the end of the street and disappears. She wonders against herself, if maybe he's caught her silhouette in the rear mirror of his fancy car as he drove away. If maybe he was even looking. If maybe he was waiting as he was leaving—
With his sister and his newborn baby girl.
To do the Devil knows what evil. Back to his new life. To a world of his own. To the throne he's so pitifully scrambling for, rumour has it. Leaving the usual mess of blood and fury and putrid anger in his way.
Caroline doesn't care—
"Good riddance," she mutters under her breath, when she can't see him anymore. Each tiny sound trembles weakly as the words leave her mouth, crushed by the weight of nausea and denial. She tastes blood—that hard she bites down her tongue, not believing a thought that crosses through her head.
Thanks for reading, guys. I hope that you liked it, didn't think it was too boring, and weren't too disappointed by the lack of KC interaction. This will be remedied soon, I promise. Next: The originals come up with a plan and Rebekah returns to Mystic Falls to execute it.