Author: tmbreck / eclectic_tongue / eclectic / Lilbreck
Characters: Alaric Saltzman, Anna Zhu, Ben McKittrick, Bill Forbes, Bonnie Bennett, Caroline Forbes, Elena Gilbert, Elijah Mikaelson, Elizabeth Forbes, Harper, Isobel Flemming, Jenna Sommers, Jeremey Gilbert, John Gilbert, Jonas Martin, Klaus Mikaelson, Luka Martin, Maddox, Pearl Zhu, Sheila Bennett, Stefan Salvatore
Word Count: 5,350
A/N: A huge thanks, as always, goes to my wonderful beta velvetwhip. This time more so than others, since she's being forced to read fanfic for a show she has no interest in watching. Though I list a lot of characters, and some of them actually do get dialog, some of them just pass through. Some of them aren't even conscious. The bump in rating is due to a death that, though in keeping with canon levels of violence, it's different when you read about it.
As Caroline exited the Mystic Grill and started across the street toward her car, she was thinking back on her most recent conversation with Katherine. After her peace offering to Elijah and the subsequent call from Klaus, she needed to talk to someone who truly understood the lengths to which Klaus could go. If she actually trusted Elijah fully, she could have talked to him, but like she had told Katherine, while she might trust him to keep her mother out of Klaus' clutches, she didn't think he'd risk not seeing his family again by completely going against his brother.
Unfortunately, there were far too many things that Klaus could do for either her or Katherine to narrow them down. They wouldn't have any more chances to brainstorm, either, since everyone seemed to be keeping a very close eye on her. She understood that she was taking a risk by confiding in Katherine, but she knew that the others might start to question her judgement if they knew. It might lead someone –specifically Stefan— to take some sort of rash action.
Caroline opened her car door and settled in, trying hard to tamp down her frustration with Stefan. Once, she had seen him as one of her best friends, her mentor even. Now, the break from him being in town had been a welcome relief. But as grateful as she was that Stefan was with Elena last weekend, though –lord only knows what Stefan might have done or said during Klaus' call— she had to admit having him back this weekend was necessary. With Lexi and Lee pumped full of vervain and sent off with more in hand, Stefan's muscle and reflexes would be welcomed when it came to protecting everyone else.
She was trying to come up with a good reason to give Elena for why Stefan wasn't a likely target when Isobel stepped in front of her now-idling car. Like a puzzle piece falling into place, she was hit with the memory of Elena telling them about her mother being controlled by Klaus and taking her. Yet again, the universe seemed to be ensuring things didn't change too drastically by recreating some of the events from the other timeline. This time, however, Isobel wasn't here to deliver a message to Elena. Without the woman having said anything, Caroline already knew that whatever was going to happen was Klaus' punishment for her actions.
Caroline did her best to remain calm despite the dread welling up in her chest as Isobel made her way to the passenger side and got in the car. She handed over her phone when asked for it and watched as Isobel turned it off. She couldn't help the small part of her that wished someone would come along and stop whatever was going to happen. Someone had to have asked John who he got the dagger from and figured out Isobel was under Klaus' control.
Caroline's wild wishful imaginings were interrupted by Isobel's apparent need to bond.
"I've been watching you play at being human. Pretending nothing has changed. All the extracurricular school activities, heading up all those town committees, hell, even becoming a beauty queen. You're holding on too hard to things that don't matter."
Caroline turned a nasty glare on her and retorted, "So I should just let go of any bit of humanity that I have? That humanity is what's driving me to make sure Klaus gets what he wants. I don't think your puppet master would be too pleased if I gave that up."
Isobel seemed unfazed by Caroline's anger, which only frustrated the young vampire more.
"When you become a vampire, you eventually realize that you have to let go of some of the things that seemed so important when you were human. There's far too much waiting for you in the world to be tied down by the petty trappings of a human life. These people will only hold you back and they will never understand that you're so much more than them."
For some reason, Isobel's speech hit a nerve. The woman may have sought to play on some superiority complex she thought Caroline might possess, but she had managed to hit on her big, unavoidable fear of abandonment. It was something that Caroline did not like to think about, and the fact that Isobel was unintentionally probing that particular wound made her want to lash out.
"Petty trappings of a human life? You mean like the daughter you gave up. The same daughter, by the way, that you're doing your best to lead to her death. That kind of 'petty trapping'? That sounds less like being a vampire, and more like being a complete monster. I'll pass."
She refused to feel guilty about the spark of pain that briefly crossed Isobel's face. The woman had chosen to try and save Katherine over her own daughter, she deserved whatever pain she got.
After that, they continued the ride in silence. It wasn't long before the scenery began to look familiar. A sick sense of dread began to form on Caroline's gut as she realized where they were headed. By the time they reached her father's cabin, it was all she could do not to jump out of the vehicle to see if Klaus had him there. Was this what Isobel had been preparing her for? Was she about to lose someone from her 'human' life?
Isobel didn't say anything as she brought the car to a full stop and got out. Caroline was stepping out herself, eyes on the other women, when Isobel began speaking again.
"When I was human, after I left Elena with Grayson and Miranda, I used to dream that one day I could meet her. I had this fantasy that she would come and find me when she turned eighteen and we could be a part of each other's lives.
"For a little while after I had turned, I still held onto that fantasy. After the first few kills however, I realized that a human family was something a vampire just couldn't hold onto. I'm actually glad Elena never got to meet the woman I used to be. It would make this so much harder."
Before Caroline could ask what it would make harder, Isobel's phone rang. After a glance at the screen, she answered with a quick, "We're here," and then turned the phone on speaker and then set it on the hood of the car.
"Good afternoon, Caroline. I'm sorry I haven't been in contact this past week. You see, I've been trying to come up with a suitable punishment for you. It couldn't be as light as the last one and it couldn't be too severe since you're such a valuable ally. I do believe I've finally figured it out. Isobel, please explain to Caroline her current choices."
When Caroline turned to look at Isobel, she could see the other woman's face was blank, the same as the face of the man Isobel had compelled. Before she even began to speak, Caroline had an inkling of how this would all end.
"If you want the chance to negotiate for Elena's survival, all you have to do is stand here and watch what happens without interfering. If you stop me, or if you leave, there will be no negotiation. Do you understand?"
And just like that, Caroline knew what was going to happen. The universe, much like Klaus, had a twisted sense of humor. Instead of Elena watching her mother burn as a message from Klaus, she would have to be the one to watch.
Her words seem to act as a trigger for Isobel who smiled in something close to relief.
"Tell my daughter that I'm sorry that I was such a disappointment."
With that, she quickly ripped off her necklace and dropped it to the ground. Before it even hit the grass, Isobel was already starting to smolder in the sunlight. As much as she wanted to, she couldn't bring herself to look away. Because even though this was Klaus' doing, it was also her fault. She had crossed Klaus knowing there would be consequences. She had foolishly thought, however, that she would be the only one to pay them.
As Isobel started screaming, Caroline felt tears rolling down her cheeks. She has killed people before, and seen them die in various ways. It felt different somehow to be forced to watch someone slowly burn, all the while knowing that it was her fault. She had killed Elena's mother.
When it was all over and Isobel lay dead on the grass that Caroline used to run and play on as a child, Caroline continued to stare at the smoldering corpse, refusing to let Klaus know how much this had affected her. She waited in silence for Klaus to explain how he was going to make sure this was truly a punishment for her. After all, Klaus knew that she and Isobel were nowhere near close. She didn't have to wait long before she heard a deep sigh from the phone on the vehicle.
"Now, my dear, cunning Caroline, be a good girl and give Elena's mother a proper burial. After you are done, you may turn on your phone. And when you make it back to Mystic Falls, make sure you tell our little doppelgänger the choice you made, and exactly why you made it."
His tone was faux understanding with a touch of genuinely patronizing which grated on Caroline's nerves. Everything in her screamed to lash out at him. She knew that she had to hold her tongue for everyone's sake. His tone turned cold with his next words and Caroline was very glad she hadn't said anything.
"If you or your friends try and cross me again, you will be right back where you're standing now. Only, this time, you will be watching me disembowel your father in front of you. I will then ensure that you are the only thing to survive from your little backwoods town. And I will make sure that ending your existence is not an option for you."
With that, he quickly disconnected, leaving Caroline feeling numb as she stared at the burned corpse of Elena's mother. With a deep sigh, she went searching for a shovel in order to dig yet another grave. She found morbid amusement in the fact that she seemed to be spending far too much time digging graves for vampires that the Mikaelsons killed.
Back in Mystic Falls, Klaus switched off his cell phone and slid it into his pocket, crossing over to where Maddox stood over the unconscious body of Alaric. Perhaps if she hadn't just witnessed Elena's mother burn up in the sun, Caroline would have stopped to remember that, along with Isobel taking Elena before, Alaric's body had also been taken over. As it was, she had no idea that as Isobel had been driving her away from Mystic Falls, Alaric had been on his way to Maddox's home. She also had no idea that Alaric was being prepared for possession even as she was preparing Isobel for burial.
Taking in the tubes and jars of blood hooked up to the self-proclaimed vampire hunter, Klaus rested a hand on Maddox's shoulder.
"Is everything prepared?"
At the witch's nod, Klaus slid his hand to the back of the man's neck and gave a slight squeeze in recognition. He then turned and made his way to the overly large and archaic-looking steamer trunk sitting open in the middle of the room. With a quick, "No time like the present, then," he climbed in and made himself comfortable.
Hours later Klaus was making himself at home in Alaric's body as well as in his house. Going through the man's closet, he began to wonder if he should have chosen a different body. Just as he began to contemplate if anyone would notice if Alaric's fashion sense were suddenly and vastly to improve, the man's phone gave an annoying alert. He gave a small smirk when he saw that it was Bonnie texting him to say that Caroline couldn't be found and they needed him at Pearl's home.
"Looks like it's show time, then."
On his way out the door he made sure to text Maddox, betting on Caroline and Bonnie having not told Alaric that Maddox wasn't to be trusted. When he arrived at Pearl's, Maddox was standing outside waiting for him. When they entered, they were both greeted by Bonnie. Though her look was welcoming when she had seen Alaric, it turned vicious when she spotted Maddox walking in behind him. He could admit that he did feel a bit of alarm for his faithful witch when she came storming toward them, a magic wind beginning to whip the air around her.
"You! I swear to god, if anything happens to…"
Before she could continue, an overly auto-tuned voice singing about a DJ blowing her speakers up stopped the young witch in her tracks. Quicker than he had seen a human move in recent memory, she ran across the room to yank her phone off the table and answer it, the young Gilbert quickly by her side with his hands on her shoulders. As Alaric's lover Jenna made her way over to him, he half listened to Bonnie's end of the conversation.
"Caroline? Where have you been? We were so afraid something had happened to you."
Looking around, Klaus could see that the Bennett witch had managed to gather nearly everyone at Pearl's home. Stefan was huddled on the couch comforting the doppelgänger –and wouldn't his sister just seethe at that sight—while Pearl, Anna, and Harper stood by Sheila Bennett, waiting to hear what Caroline had to say. Next to them, of course, was Benjamin who was glaring harshly at Maddox. Bygones were, apparently, not bygones between the two.
The werewolf, Mason, was unsurprisingly absent, but he was a bit surprised to see that Caroline's mother was not there either. Perhaps she was out looking for Caroline. If she was, he only wished she had taken his brother, Elijah, and his two pet witches with her. The less time spent in Elijah's company, the less chance his brother would somehow suspect anything.
Turning his attention back to Bonnie, he could see by the expression on her face that she was confused and growing more so.
"Yeah, that won't be a problem. Everyone's here already. We thought something happened to you."
Whatever Caroline said very obviously disturbed the witch, but she simply agreed, asked Caroline to hurry home, and then hung up. Looking around at everyone, she gave a wavering smile and, obviously for the sake of those without vampire hearing, explained what was going on.
"Caroline said some things happened to her that she needs to talk to us about. She asked that we all stay here and wait for her because she's going to need some help."
Klaus knew well what had happened to Caroline today, though he failed to see what help she would need. Luckily, he would be here to learn for himself what was going on. And, judging by the array of alcohol to which Jenna was leading him, he would be at least a bit comfortable as he was spying.
He had just gotten settled on a couch with a glass of bourbon in one hand and Alaric's lover tucked against his side when the door opened. The pictures and video feed of Caroline hadn't done her justice. Even in her obviously somber mood, there was a light to her. Perhaps that was what drew all of these people to her and had them ready to follow such a young vampire's plans. If he managed to play his cards right, perhaps he could use that light to his advantage.
For now though, it was time to sit back and enjoy the theatrics. As if he had directed the scene himself, his doppelgänger was the first to reach Caroline. As Elena started rattling off questions, she took a deep breath and held her hand up between then. Dangling from her fingers was Isobel's necklace. At the sight, Elena stopped talking and stared at it before tentatively reaching out to take it.
"Isobel met up with me outside the Grill today. She took me out of town where Klaus called and gave me the choice of having a chance to negotiate with him or saving Isobel. I felt that it was better to save all of us, so I chose to…"
He saw Caroline take a deep breath and fight off the tears before she continued in a voice that only slightly wavered.
"I watched as she took off her necklace and burned up in the sun."
He had to admire the girl. She didn't try and sugarcoat it or paint herself as the victim. She laid out her choice in a straightforward manner, devoid of melodrama or excessive emotion and, as if waiting bravely for her execution, stared silently and straight ahead at no one.
Elena, on the other hand, was all watery eyes and stuttering breath as she searched for something to say. When Caroline looked at her again, she must have seen something in her friend's eyes that gave her a bit of peace.
Taking a deep breath, she said in a watery voice, "I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about this. I didn't know her, and what I did know I didn't like. But still…"
Caroline reached out and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, then glanced toward Stefan and then Jenna as she spoke.
"I'm going to need you two to take Elena home. She's going to need to process, and she shouldn't be alone."
When Elena made to protest, Caroline shook her head and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze.
"What we have to talk about next doesn't have anything to do with you, and you've already got a lot on your plate. Go home and rest."
Watching Elena give into Caroline's gentle demands and walk out with both Stefan and Jenna, he was only mildly surprised that the group bonds hadn't seemed to take even a minor hit from Caroline's choice. He found himself oddly content with that. After all, he didn't need her broken, he just needed her to remember who was ultimately in control. He did have to wonder why she had left out his threat on her father, and if that's what she thought the group remaining in Pearl's home could help with. After Stefan was out of earshot, he quickly discovered that he was only partially correct.
"After I buried Isobel and started on my way here, I turned my phone back on. Almost immediately I got a call from my mother telling me that John Gilbert had called my dad in."
Sometimes, he was truly amazed at how fate seemed to play right into his hands. Most of those gathered seemed at a loss as to what this could mean, but the expression on both the Bennett witches faces told them that they both knew what he did; Bill Forbes was a rather accomplished vampire hunter. Apparently, John hadn't given up on his hopes of getting Caroline out of the picture.
Walking further into the room, Caroline began to lay out a plan that was simple and straightforward. At the same time, she began to move some of the furniture in what appeared to be preparation for a meeting. While she seemed to be looking inward as she went over the details, she took the time to make eye contact with each person as their part in the plan was discussed. He had assumed from other people's descriptions that she was a natural born leader, to see it in action –even on this small of a scale—was a bit impressive.
"I've told them to meet me here. I'm sorry, Pearl, but everyone was already here and it was last minute." The older vampire simply dipped her head in acknowledgement of the apology, but made no protest to her home being invaded nor to Caroline rearranging her home for said invasion.
"When they get here, I'm going to need Jonas, Luka, and Maddox to hold John and my father immobile so that Ben and Alaric can search them for weapons."
She ostensibly was addressing all three, though she turned a pointed look on Maddox as she said, "Please assume that anything I ask you to do comes with the request that you do it with as little pain as possible."
Maddox only smirked at her in response. The boy did love to test the limits. Caroline did not seem to deem it worth taking exception to, as she then turned her attention to the Bennett witches, her demeanor quickly turning slightly imploring.
"Bonnie, Sheila, both of you know my mother and have been around her a lot. Would you be able to tell if she's been… magically influenced of anything of that nature?"
When the two assured her that they would be able to tell if Liz was being magically controlled, she visibly relaxed and then looked at each of the remaining vampires in turn.
"Harper, Anna, Pearl, and Elijah, I'm going to need you to look as intimidating as possible but just stay in the background. We don't have the luxury of being really subtle, but I don't want to have to come right out and say that they're outnumbered and outgunned."
She seemed about to move on when a thought seemed to strike her.
"Speaking of not having the luxury for subtlety, I'm going to need one of the magically inclined among you to open the door from a safe distance. We don't want to risk it in case they decide to attack right off the bat."
When there were no protests, she turned to Jeremy, who was still standing behind the youngest Bennett witch with hands on her shoulders.
"Jeremy, you're here to remind John that there's a hell of a lot more at stake than his ego. Also, I need you to stop Bonnie from giving him an aneurysm when he inevitably pushes too far. His fancy ring might bring him back from the dead, but that's still no reason to go killing him. No matter how much we want to."
The little bit of levity seemed to be the signal for everyone to find what they deemed to be 'their place' in the tableau. Unable to resist some sort of contact with her now that he was physically in her presence –even if it wasn't in his own body—Klaus made his way over to Caroline.
"Bit crowded in here, isn't it?"
For a second she only looked at him in confusion, and then a tired, yet amused smile broke across her face.
"I prefer to think of it as cozy."
Before he could attempt to keep the conversation going, there was a knock at the door and the room went silent. Pasting an almost manic grin on her face Caroline said in a chipper voice, "It's show time, boys and girls!"
With that, the doors were opened, accompanied by a magical gust of wind –purely for effect, Klaus believed— leaving the three humans standing on the other side looking slightly startled. Pearl invited them in with a calm and cultured voice as if they had simply come round for tea. As they cleared the hallway, John and Bill were both brought up short, causing Liz to glance at them in confusion for a moment until her attention was caught by Sheila.
"Sherriff, I'm going to need you to stand right there for a moment. We need to make sure these two haven't done anything to you."
She seemed startled by the request but did as she was asked. At the same time, Klaus moved forward along with Ben in order to check the other two for weapons. They only found a stake on John, but there were a surprising number of weapons hidden on Bill. Had Klaus not been experienced with hunters, he would have missed many off them.
As he handed the last weapon to Ben to be moved to another room, Caroline began speaking in a conciliatory tone as if they hadn't just had to disarm her father.
"I'm so sorry for the awkwardness. We've just had a very trying day. We had to send Elena home with Jenna and Stefan. You see, John, because you tried to get me killed with that dagger, forcing me to have to derail Klaus' plans a bit, he felt that a message needed to be sent. I've just come back from burying Isobel, and Elena's not really sure how to handle that right now."
Bill had turned a confused and slightly angry look on John when Caroline mentioned the attempted murder. It was John's expression, though, that really had Klaus' attention. Apparently, in spite of his hatred of vampires, he still cared for Isobel. Shifting his attention to Caroline, Klaus noticed the dark satisfaction on her face. It didn't really surprise him that she was well aware of the man's lingering affection. He was surprised at how quickly her expression became shuttered as her eyes focused on her father.
"We should probably talk about why you're here, Daddy."
Looking at Lukas and Jonas, she said "Please release them."
Then, turning to look at Maddox, she said in a near-monotone voice, "If either of them makes a move to attack anyone here, immobilize them again. And Maddox? Please make it hurt."
Klaus had seen that cruel twist of Maddox's mouth when he was given an order he would truly enjoy carrying out. Caroline either chose to ignore it, or didn't understand how enraptured his pet had become with her. Klaus hoped that it wouldn't become inconvenient in the future.
As Caroline made her way to the couch she had moved to the center of the room, John and Bill made their way toward the chairs she had set up facing the couch. Both Elijah and Sheila sat on either side of Caroline as if it had all been choreographed. Everyone else arranged themselves around the room in a deceptively casual manner. Klaus made sure that he had a good view of the men in order to see if either would be a problem.
"It seems you invited an awful lot of people to the meeting, sweetheart."
Klaus was impressed that, even with her father's clearly patronizing tone, Caroline didn't react. He well knew how difficult it could be not to lash out when in such a situation.
"I thought it best that you and John both get a good idea of everyone involved in the situation. You're both operating under the illusion that this is a small matter. You have to understand, it goes far beyond some random vampire threatening one or two people's safety. You underestimate how powerful Klaus is, and how far he will go to get what he wants."
Pausing for a moment with her head bowed, Caroline seemed to come to a decision.
"There are ways that we could stop Klaus. There are even ways we could kill him. But I can't let that happen. I need him to break this curse, and I need him alive after.
"After Isobel was dead, Klaus informed me that if any of us cross him again, Daddy, he'd kill you in front of me and then the entire town."
It was not as creative or detailed as his actual threat, but her account did get the basic idea across. The others in the room, though obviously shocked, did not appear to tense up more than they had been, so he could only conclude that there had been no plans to go against him.
"But this goes beyond trying to save you or anyone in this town. I can't explain how it does right now, I just need you to trust me. What I'm doing will save lives. More lives than you can save by killing Klaus or doing whatever it is you're planning on doing to me. Please, Daddy."
Though he couldn't see her face, he could hear the tears in her voice. Whatever expression was on her face seemed to get through to Bill. John seemed less than impressed.
"You can't expect us to believe this bullshit! You're just another power-hungry monster hoping to…"
"Shut up, John."
Bill hadn't raised his voice, but John still stopped mid-sentence to stare at him. When Bill didn't continue, he stuttered out, "You can't honestly believe…"
Clearly having had enough of John, Bill turned a withering glance on him and bit out, "I said shut up, John."
Turning back to Caroline, his voice turned civil, if not warm.
"How can I help?"
Klaus could practically feel the tension leave Caroline's body from where he stood a few feet behind her. He was sure she was relieved, though her tone remained businesslike when she spoke.
"I need you to stay in town. Klaus has already gotten to one person, and we're sure it happened when they left town. I need to know you're here, not holed up in a dungeon somewhere waiting for the moment I slip up. I can't afford that kind of distraction. Other than that, I don't think there's anything…"
Suddenly, her head tilted as she paused. Her voice, when she spoke was distant, as if she was in the middle of coming up with a plan.
"I can't really use you now, but I might need you after the ritual. I'll have to talk to you about it after I've thought it through."
After that, there seemed to be nothing to say. As they stood up, Bill spent a long moment staring at Caroline as if she were a puzzle he couldn't figure out. Klaus could almost understand it; if you spent your whole life hating something, it was probably difficult to adjust to your child becoming that. For the sake of his plans, he did hope it wouldn't become a problem. He was sure Caroline might have an issue helping him if he had to kill her father.
John appeared ready to storm out without a further word. Liz, it seemed, had other plans. It was clear that she had not gotten Caroline's subtlety memo as she had a weapon drawn and pointed right at John's head.
"If you ever try to get my daughter killed, or even so much as hurt, no one will be able to find your body."
As he passed by them, Bill took the time to pause and lay a heavy hand on John's shoulder.
"I can tell you from experience, it's best to believe her when she's got her gun out. She doesn't tend to make idle threats then."
After John gave a shaky nod of his head, Liz lowered the gun and then passed it to Bill. Klaus watched as Caroline arranged for all the weapons to be returned and neatly ushered everyone out of the house. As he walked out the door, he looked back just in time to see Pearl wrap Caroline in a comforting hug. The baby vampire did seem to have a knack for drawing people to her.
Sitting in Alaric's car, he sent out two texts before he began the drive back to the man's apartment. The first he sent to Maddox, telling the witch he would be over tomorrow night. The second he sent to Jenna, asking her to meet him for breakfast. He had two choices; he could either stage a break up which would bring undo attention to him, or he could find a way to switch out her vervain so that he could compel her into believing that her relationship with Alaric was going along normally. While Jenna was an attractive woman, he wasn't inclined to use someone else's equipment in the bedroom. It just seemed a bit too tacky.
Compulsion it was, then.