She stood outside the mansion and argued with herself over going in versus just running. While she technically did owe Caroline for protecting her and getting Klaus to pardon her –the memory of him actually using that word in the video she received left a burning lump of bitterness and resentment in her stomach—what did that really mean? Katherine Pierce did not get where she was by putting her neck on the line for anyone who came along and helped her. Besides, it's not like anyone would know she abandoned Caroline. The baby vampire had made sure that she had a clear path to leave and never look back. She had never even made Katherine promise that she would show.

That manipulative bitch.

Even as she felt the tendrils of Caroline's reverse phycology closing in on her, she couldn't help but admire the girl. Caroline had pulled her in with her story, made her want the baby vampire to win against the ancient witch, and then said 'yeah, you could totally bail if you want. I'll even make it easy and no one will ever know!' She really was a cunning little brat.

Katherine gave a rueful laugh, straightened her back, and strode to the mansion door, medical bag in hand, ready to play the hero. She opened the door onto a scene of near complete chaos. On the side-lines, looking on in seemingly detached interest, were Rebekah and someone she could only assume was the oldest of Klaus' brothers. As Katherine took in what they were watching, she hoped that she wasn't too late.

Caroline lay on the floor, limbs and body jerking independently of each other. She had begun to froth at the mouth and that mixed with some blood smeared there –someone had obviously figured out what she needed too late—creating a pink foam that slid down her cheek in a pitiful and painful display. Klaus, Elijah, someone she could only assume was Kol, and Sheila Bennett were kneeling around her and arguing save for her mother, Elena, and the youngest Bennett witch. Caroline's mother was sobbing along with Elena, while her best friend was apparently in shock. Someone had to take control. Raising her fingers to her lips, Katherine gave a sharp whistle that drew everyone's attention.

"When Caroline makes a plan to save herself, it's not a good idea to change the party location and not inform everyone involved."

As always, there was a part of her that thrilled at surprising people. Usually, it was because she'd come up with an extremely cunning way to escape and thwart their plans. This time, it just happened to be because she walked right into the lion's den voluntarily. Still felt just as good. Quickly walking forward, she began barking commands.

"I'm going to need you people to hold her down and hold her very still. Also, one of you boys is going to need to open a vein for our girl."

The last was said as she kneeled down to straddle Caroline's stomach. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Stefan begin to let go of Caroline's arm and shoulder to roll up his sleeve. Not surprising in the least. However, even as she pulled out the syringe to take some of his blood, Elijah was there at Caroline's head.

"Use my blood."

Honestly, she wasn't aware he'd become that attached. A smirk formed on her face as she watched him begin to unbutton his cuffs.

"We're vampires, Elijah. We go for the neck."

Without waiting for his reaction, she darted forward and forced his head back to plunge the needle in his carotid artery. She knew full well, of course, that she wouldn't have been able to do so without his cooperation. However, she did take a certain thrill at having him at her mercy like this. Call it payback for the five hundred years that he helped his brother hunt her down. There was no time to dwell on that, though; she had a former baby vampire to save. Silently thanking Caroline for being fond of low-cut tops, Katherine plunged the syringe through Caroline's breast bone and into her heart. Quickly depressing the plunger and pulling the needle back out, she waited.

It didn't take long for her to feel the tension leave Caroline's body and then for the blonde to turn and look up at her. Katherine was almost struck speechless by the look of happiness that Caroline sent her as she whispered "You made it."

She let an indulgent smirk form on her lips as her head tilted.

"It's almost cute how you pretend you didn't completely con me into being here."

Katherine could only shake her head and give a small sigh at Caroline's answering grin, dimmed as it was.

"Humanity is probably a vampire's greatest weakness. Still, I find I can't resist letting it out to play once in a while."

The laugh Caroline gave, while still weak, was slightly stronger than her voice had been. With a small, somewhat fond smile, she replied, "Don't worry, Katherine. No one is going to forget you're a ruthless bitch looking out for your own self-interest."

What should have been an insult felt like a compliment. It was honestly the first time in forever that Katherine could remember having gotten what she wanted out of someone without having to betray them.

"Oh, Care, you and I are going to have one hell of an eternity. Now say goodnight."

And before anyone could react, Katherine reached down and broke the girl's neck with a decisive twist.

If she hadn't been expecting it, Stefan's attack would have caught her off guard. However, knowing it was coming, she was able to use his momentum to force his body to flip over her. Before he knew what had happened, he was kneeling with one arm held out behind him while Katherine kept his wrist locked in place.

She was almost surprised he didn't struggle but completely expected his demanding question, "Why did you kill her? She could have stayed human!"

With that, Katherine laughed and all but threw his arm away from her. As he rolled over into a sitting position, she sneered down at him.

"You haven't been paying attention, lover. With that particular witch's brew running through her system, Caroline couldn't have stayed human. I saved her from dying a convulsing mess in her own piss and shit.

"Besides, she's experienced first-hand that monsters are all too eager to torture her and the supposed heroes will do nothing to help her."

Given that guilt that flashed in his eyes for a moment, it was clear Stefan knew exactly what she was talking about.

"She's not like you, Stefan, she's a survivor. She's like me and would never choose to be weak."

She wasn't sure what struck a nerve with Stefan; that she called him out on not helping Caroline, or that there was a "good" vampire that didn't regret being a vampire.

"You don't know anything about her, Katherine. She's not a monster like you."

And, apparently, it was the latter.

"That's where you're wrong, Stefan. I do know, because she told me. This whole thing was her plan. She never even considered trying to stay human."

Finally done with the conversation, Katherine looked around and took in the scene once more. Taking a deep breath, she zeroed in on Caroline's mother… on Liz. The look she was sending Katherine's way clearly said she wasn't shocked by the idea that her daughter was comfortable being a vampire.

"Take good care of our girl, Liz. When she wakes up, let her know I'm off to pick out the best birthday gift ever and I'll see her in a few months."

Katherine had no doubt that Caroline –and by extension everyone else—wouldn't have expected her to do any more than she already had. However, she didn't like owing anyone, so it was time to work on paying back Caroline for what she'd done. Besides, there were more than a few supernatural creatures she had screwed over who she did not want coming back from the other side.

Before anyone could even think to stop her she had sped out of the house and was half way out of town. While her past 'transgressions' may have been forgiven by Klaus, she was still well aware that just being near him was skating on thin ice. She had a feeling that saving his newest little helper would only buy her so much leniency. Hopefully, out of sight would put her out of mind for a while.

What she didn't realize was that there was really no need for her to hurry. No one, save Elijah, seemed to notice that she had left. He spent a few moments staring at the door she had just exited through, trying to reconcile the vampire who had just saved Caroline with the selfish monster he and his brother had helped create. The thought of Klaus had him turning to look once again where Caroline lay, surrounded by more than a few people.

Elijah hadn't been paying attention and apparently missed the beginning of an argument between Klaus and the elder Bennett witch. His brother seemed to quickly end it by rising, Caroline's body draped limply in his arms.

"The girl will remain here. Go or stay, the choice is yours. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must arrange a meal for when she wakes up."

Elijah watched as his brother turned to leave, but his attention was quickly caught by the resigned, yet steady voice of the younger Bennett. "There's probably blood in the medical bag Katherine brought. Caroline always plans ahead."

Kol was quick to pick up the satchel in question, pulling out a blood bag and holding it up.

"Caroline showed me a couple of these before. Only spent a minute trying to convince me to use them before she gave up."

He brought the bag close and made an exaggerated show of smelling it.

"The bags she showed me smelled of chemicals. This, smells of magic."

She quickly snatched the blood bag from him and turned to follow as Klaus went up the stairs, her grandmother just behind her. Kol watched after them, a smirk firmly in place, one which didn't falter when his sister sneered into his ear, "That's right, dear brother, you have been rather chummy with the baby vampire recently. Did you happen to find out what she's trying to weasel from us?"

While Elijah was inclined to ignore his sister's painfully obvious jealousy, Kol appeared to revel in it.

"She and I have grown close this past week. She told me all about her plans for dealing with Silas and what she needs from us both."

When it became obvious Kol didn't intend to continue, Rebekah gave an impatient huff.

"Well, what does the little brat want from me?"

Kol's eyes got wide in faux surprise and he replied, amusement clear in his voice, "Why, dear sister, I wouldn't want to deprive you of Caroline's charming company! I'm sure you'll enjoy it so much more hearing what she wants directly from the source herself."

Elijah watched as Kol gleefully jogged up the stairs after the Bennetts and their sister stormed off deep into the house. Before he could decide if it would be worth it to follow up the stairs and question either Klaus or Kol about Caroline's intentions, he became aware of a still presence beside him. Turning, he found Finn looking at him, a small smile on his face that didn't seem to reach his eyes.

"You look troubled, brother."

Ignoring how unsettled his brother's presence left him, Elijah decided to confide in him.

"Both of our brothers seem to be overly taken with the young vampire. I question her motives."

Finn continued to grace him with an almost blank stare as he questioned, "What is it that drives you to doubt her? Perhaps Klaus and Kol have simply spent enough time in her presence to find reason to trust her."

Elijah didn't bother to try and hide his distaste for that idea.

"Our brothers, especially Klaus, do not trust that easily. I'd wager almost anything that the blood Katherine brought in is from the Bennett witches. They do seem unusually attached to Caroline. Perhaps they provided some magical encouragement to ensure our brothers would trust her."

The laugh that came from Finn was bitter and full of contempt.

"And yet you are somehow immune? Have you considered that you don't trust her because you're jealous of the influence you believe she has on Klaus?"

Elijah noticed that his smile now seemed cruel and his once blank gaze had the look of barely contained anger.

"To be honest, Elijah, I'm not inclined to question the girl's motives or even care if there is some spell on Klaus on Kol. After all, she is the only reason I'm not still confined in that hellish box."

Without waiting for a response, Finn turned and strode deep into the house. He was possibly going to join Sage who Klaus had summoned shortly after returning from his trip to kill their father. No doubt more of Caroline's influence. If only Jonas hadn't left with his children, Greta less willingly than Luka, he could have them look into it. Given Maddox's fascination with the girl, he obviously couldn't be trusted with the matter.

Over the next three and half weeks, Elijah watched as Kol and Klaus seemed to fall more and more under Caroline's spell. Klaus looked almost pleased to hand over the member of Jules' pack he had just turned with the assistance of Elena's blood to Caroline's father in order to break their sire bond. After the ritual the Bennett witches performed to ensure he would no longer need a doppelgänger to make hybrids and his successful turning of Jules and the remaining members of her pack after, his look toward Caroline was full of… intent.

During the time between breaking his curse and ridding himself of the need for a doppelgänger, he could often be found wherever Kol and Caroline were. Kol, for his part, seemed to flirt in an over the top manner. For a while, Klaus would storm off when it got to be too much. After one such incident at a table outside the Mystic Grill which Elijah witnessed – he refused to think of what he was doing as spying on his brothers –, Caroline stared at Kol with her eyebrows raised, as if waiting for something. When Kol gave her a mockingly inquisitive look, she rolled her eyes.

"You need to talk to him."

Kol's expression quickly lost all amusement as he replied with deceptively calm voice, "You need to mind your own business."

Caroline showed no fear as she smiled brightly back at him.

"You're the one who wanted to, in your words mind you, be my new best girlfriend. Well, BFF, this is part of the package. I nag until you do what I think is best, usually because it is."

Kol leaned back, though he did seem a bit more indulgent as he did so.

"If I remember correctly, as my BFF, you were supposed to tell me everything. That includes your involvement with one Katherine Peirce."

It was obvious this was an argument they'd had before, given Caroline's exasperated reaction. Her eyes once again rolling, she threw her hands in the air before she leaned back and crossed her arms.

"I didn't intentionally hide that from you, and I was completely honest when you pointed out that I hadn't told you. Now, stop changing the subject."

With his own eye roll, a habit that he'd obviously picked up from Caroline, Kol responded, "Fine. I'll talk to him."

When Caroline continued to stare expectantly at him, he stood, lightly kissed her forehead, and pointedly said, "I'll just go do that now, then."

Elijah watched Caroline's pleased smile as she finished her meal and tried to calm the burning in his gut. As he strode away he also tried to ignore the voice which suspiciously sounded like Finn telling him it was jealousy he was feeling.

The last straw came when he found out over their mother's freshly bound and sealed remains that Klaus intended that only he, a couple of his hybrids, his pet witch, and Caroline would be off on the hunt for more werewolves. It had been him, not some newly turned vampire too smart for her own good, that had stood by Klaus through so many centuries as he searched for a way to break the curse their mother had placed on him.

When he arrived at home and realized that, as had become his habit over the past month, Klaus had elected to not be near his family, Elijah snapped. He sped over to Maddox's home, not even bothering with a car. His dismissal of the witch was curt and instantly obeyed. Klaus looked almost amused as he appraised his brother and this only enraged Elijah further. His voice, when he spoke, was controlled, but even he could hear the strain in it.

"Is there a reason, Niklaus, why you would choose to leave me behind on this venture when I have come this far with you in breaking your curse? Would you not have me witness the rewards of all our efforts?"

Klaus approached him with an indulgent smile and his hands, warmer than they had been before his curse was broken, came to rest gently on either side of Elijah's neck.

"Our father may be dead, Elijah, but I do not wish to leave our siblings alone when they know so little of this century. Mikael was not the only threat to our family. I need you to guide and protect them."

Fighting to keep the jealousy out of his voice, he asked, "And Caroline? You've been spending so much time planning with her and not your family. And now you're taking her with you to find more werewolves?"

Elijah could see by his brother's expression that he hadn't managed to completely hide his feelings. Klaus's smile was almost compassionate as he pulled Elijah toward him, resting their foreheads together.

"You don't trust her, brother. I can understand that. I, myself, doubt she is being completely honest about how she has acquired her information. However, I don't doubt her end goal.

"Aside from that, you've seen the people she's drawn to her, how loyal they become. You've always nagged at me, telling me I need to gather allies. She's the perfect ally!"

Finally, Elijah felt he could address a suspicion he had been harboring about the girl.

"Have you considered it could be magic, brother? She is abnormally close to the Bennett witches, perhaps they have… influenced those people who have offered up their loyalty."

Klaus not only appeared unworried by the thought, but a wide and manic grin spread across his face.

"What better reason to ensure she's on our side. If she's loyal to us, and they are loyal to her, we cannot lose! I'm taking her on this trip, isolated from the others, as a means to both learn what she's withholding and to endear myself to her. She is young and impressionable. Charm has been known to go a long way with those that are such."

With a sudden movement, Elijah had Klaus pinned to the wall, his arm pressed against his brother's throat.

"While you are charming her, Niklaus, remember that she is not family. You cannot trust her as if she were family."

A bitter sneer formed on his brother's lips as he replied, "As if family were to be trusted."

Sure that Klaus was referring to their parents; Elijah stared into his brother's eyes to make sure he understood.

"I have never betrayed you, and I never will."

As with so many arguments in the past, Klaus chose to end this one without words. It had been far too long, but the feel of his brother's mouth on his was achingly familiar, as was the anger and roughness of the kiss. He spared no thought for the expensive suit Klaus tore through, he simply gave himself up to his brother's demanding touch. It was only in these moments that he knew he had Klaus all to himself, that there was no other that could come between them.

Over the next week, while Elijah was spying less and insinuating himself in Klaus' activities more, Liz was spending as much time as possible with Caroline. It was something she found a bit difficult given Kol and Klaus' apparent need to always be in her daughter's company. Both of the brothers left her feeling on edge and afraid for Caroline's safety.

Every night, however, they would spend time together, just the two of them. While Caroline promised she would come home safely, Liz still chose to cherish every moment. Too soon, the week was up and Liz was left watching as Caroline loaded up her luggage – "Do you really think I'm heading off for the summer and packing lightly?"— into Klaus' SUV.

Liz was aware that, had Caroline not forbid it, Bonnie, Sheila, and most of the vampire population would have been standing there with her. They were content, for the most part, with the going away party that they had thrown for her. She had not attended, telling Caroline that she had to share her with the world enough; she wasn't up to seeing it play out literally. So, per Caroline's orders, last night and this morning had been just for the two of them. Now, however, she had to say a temporary goodbye to her daughter.

She didn't bother taking down the license plate number of Klaus' vehicle, but only because she had that and a detailed description of his Navigator written down in the house. Her daughter may have told her not to worry, but she wanted the information just in case.

Kol, Elijah, and, oddly enough, Finn were there to see their brother off, though Rebekah was nowhere in sight. She had only seen her once since Caroline's second – third? Did the other timeline count now? – transition. Then it had only been a polite though dismissive greeting once she had knocked on the door before she and Caroline were facing off on the front porch. Though the conversation itself wasn't all that confrontational, and yes she did listen in, their body language was. It didn't seem like this particular Mikaelson sibling was susceptible to Caroline's brand of charm.

While Kol was busy flirting with Caroline, making it obvious to everyone that it was primarily to rile up Klaus, Elijah approached Liz. Whereas before his flirting had felt natural and harmless, now it felt like it had a purpose. Given the way she had seen him watching Klaus and Caroline's interactions, she could only assume it had something to do with them. Instead of a quick kiss on the back of her hand, which still managed to catch her breath, he deliberately laid a kiss on the inside of her wrist.

Although a part of her thrilled at the sensation, she was very aware of the near growl that came from Caroline and the answering smirk that came from Elijah. Although he didn't go so far as to let Caroline see it, Liz was still far from amused. While he had appeared entertained by her daughter's reactions in the past, there was a maliciousness in it today that had all her motherly instincts sending up red flags. Apparently, something in her distaste showed, because Elijah's entire demeanor changed, and he nodded apologetically at her. While there was no reason to believe that it was the end of… whatever had been going on, she still felt something in her relax.

Quickly, though, she put the incident behind her as she watched Caroline leaving, going off into possible danger where her mother couldn't help her. She was aware that both Kol and Elijah left immediately after, though it took her a moment to realize that Finn was still standing silently with her. Turning, she saw that he was watching her, not the quickly disappearing cars. When she gave him a questioning smile, he returned an answering smile that looked somehow out of place on his face.

"Sheriff Forbes, I apologize for approaching you today. I'm sure you have enough to deal with."

At his glance in the direction of the now departed cars, Liz gave a rueful huff of laughter and shook her head.

"It's all part of being a parent, having your child go off where you can't watch over them. I'll be fine. Is there something I can do for you?"

At her question, he seemed to draw himself up as if delivering a life or death message. Without knowing why, part of Liz ached for the very serious young-old man standing before her.

"I find myself in debt to your daughter. Intentional or not, she has freed me from an unbearable situation, and honor demands I repay her. However, traveling with my brother would be ill advised for many reasons, so I cannot help her directly. What I can do is be at hand should you need my assistance. I, of course, will offer the same to the younger Bennett, as the both of you are obviously very dear to Caroline."

Having apparently said his peace, Finn turned to leave. Before she knew what she was doing, Liz had called out for him to wait.

"I'm not really clear on vampire politics, or your family dynamics, but I am good at listening. I'm also very well versed on just about all things modern. So, if you need to talk, or have questions about anything… Obviously, you know where I live. Being the sheriff also means that it should be pretty easy to find me if you ever need to."

For a moment he stared at her blankly, and Liz began to feel uncomfortable. Had she overstepped some unknown boundary?

"I am… grateful for your offer. I do have to ask, though, why would you make it?"

Because you look lost. Because you look so lonely it makes me ache. Because my baby is gone and I need to have someone to look after. Because…

But she couldn't say any of those things to him for fear he'd take offense. Not many men like being looked at almost like a stray puppy.

"Probably for the same reason you're doing it. Because it's what Caroline would do if she were here."

This seemed to satisfy him, and he left after she had put her number into his phone, showing him how to do the same. Over the next week she did hear from him; his texts and visits coming only slightly less frequently then Caroline's daily updates. He would often ask about various everyday things such as credit cards, a driver's license, or how to set up and use a bank account. However, he would just as often show up, silently drink the tea she had begun stocking for him, and then just as quietly leave. She knew there was something he wanted to talk to her about, but she didn't press. He just didn't seem ready.

Today, however, he wouldn't be visiting. Kol had called – she didn't even bother questioning how he got her number – and informed her that he had let slip that Caroline was keeping her up to date on the werewolf hunting progress and she should be expecting a visit in a few hours. Liz also didn't question how he knew Caroline was keeping her in the loop. She also wasn't going to question why Elijah wasn't being kept informed.

When she had called Finn – he seemed to prefer that to texting – and let him know that Elijah would probably be visiting, he thanked her and then said he couldn't make it today but would be looking forward to tea tomorrow. Mikaelson family dynamics were yet another thing she wasn't going to question. There was a lot she just wasn't questioning these days. Life was easier that way.

She had just finished putting a kettle on the stove to heat – a new addition to go along with the afternoon tea with Finn – when she heard a knock at the door. Taking a deep breath, she schooled her features into a pleasant expression. Elijah may be under the impression that he was going to come in here, flirt a little, and leave with whatever information he wanted, but Elizabeth Forbes was not here to play cute human pet for any vampire. He would get his information, but there was definitely going to be a price. The thought had her fighting down a sly smirk as she opened the door.

"Good afternoon, Elijah. You're just in time for tea."

~ To be Continued ~