Caroline woke slowly, the regular beeping of a machine disturbing her. Her lashes felt like weights, but they finally parted to take in the muted light in her room. Struggling to focus, she blinked slowly. Once the room stopped wavering, she shifted and groaned at the jagged pain that arched through her body.
There was a sudden warmth on her forehead, the imprint of a hand, and eyes that had squeezed shut cracked open. Caroline swallowed as she looked up at her partner, who was watching her with eyes that faintly glowed in the ambient light.
It was real, then.
"Go back to sleep, Caroline."
Irritation flared in her chest, but it was foggy; a distant emotion she couldn't quite touch. Klaus smoothed back her hair, before stroking her cheek around her breathing tube. "That's the drugs, sweetheart. Go back to sleep, you'll feel better in the morning, I promise."
She instinctively tried to bristle at his words - no promises - but her eyes were so heavy. Without her permission she sank back under the haze of drugs and Klaus' soft, soothing touches.
She didn't dream.
"Look, I'm not arguing with you, Care," Matt said stubbornly from across her desk. "You're right. Someone needs to look for these kids, but I can't do it anymore."
Caroline looked up from her the paperwork she was trying to file and blinked. "What?"
"I can't do this anymore," Matt repeated, looking tired. "You're an amazing partner, and if anyone has a chance to find the kids these cults are eating, it's you. But I'm out."
She lowered her pen, stared at him from bunched brows. "Why?"
"Because we keep finding them in pieces," Matt said flatly. "That last one..."
That last one had left her waking up every night for a week, heaving into a toilet. She'd seen her share of horrible things, but ritual sacrifices in the name of old gods that should've been stamped out of history were horrific. It was why the FBI rotated the teams involved in this kind of caseload between active cases, and the more mundane desk work.
"I don't know how you do it," Matt said flatly. "I don't have your steel, Caroline."
Caroline didn't flinch, long used to the suggestions that she was an iron wall. She wasn't. She just didn't see the point in falling apart at work. That was for the privacy of her shower; she'd gotten good at surviving on minimal sleep. She'd thought Matt had understood that, but looking back she realized there had been fewer empathetic coffees and more disbelief.
"Can you drop off your notes before you go?" She said instead of the words that wanted to fall from her tongue. "I'd like to have your perspective before you leave."
Matt's eyes were dark with relief and she swallowed her hurt. "Yeah, I'll drop 'em off. But you're needed in with the boss. They've got my replacement ready."
Caroline went still, letting a little of the hurt sitting in her chest show at that. "Been planning this for a while, Matt?"
He shrugged, shifting uncomfortable. "Serendipity, Care. There's some British guy, they've sent him over for some sort of liaison program. Seemed like as good as a time as any to make the switch."
"Leaving me hunting a ritualistic serial killer who targets children while training a liaison," Caroline replied, keeping the worst of her bitterness out of her voice.
"You'll whip him into shape, no problem." Matt said as he stood. Shoving his hands into his pocket, he shifted guiltily. "Look, Care... good luck."
"You too," she said, her words sincere regardless of the bind he'd put her into. She waited until he left before dropping her head into her hands. Third partner in as many years. She was going to get a reputation for more than being an ice block, if this kept up. Usually, it didn't bother her. But this case was dragging, and she depended on Matt to ease her out of the worst of her obsession with the details, to help her read the big picture.
To not lose herself.
New partner, new rules. Again.
One more bracing breath and she stood. No point in avoiding it. The sooner she got the new guy up to speed, the sooner she could start hunting again.
Hospital Jello was disgusting. Staring at the wiggling, green substance that she kept pushing around with her spoon, Caroline sighed. The nurses had been by that morning to check her vitals, and she'd finally talked her mom into heading to the hotel she'd checked into, but hadn't apparently stayed at, for a nap. Liz Forbes might've finally retired, but she could out stubborn pretty much anyone.
Caroline finally gave up on eating, stared at the window that had been opened to let in some sunshine. Chewed her lip until she tasted blood. Her mom had asked her when her partner would be by.
"I'd like to met the man who found you," Liz said simply. "Thank him."
Caroline had winced, and let her mom think it was guilt or shame or even pain. From what the nurses had said, Liz had been sleeping in the uncomfortable chair next to her bed for four nights. Apparently, for a while it had been touch and go, and then she'd made an abrupt turn for the better.
"I'm sure he's buried in paperwork, mom. He sent flowers, and his note promised he'd be by."
The words felt heavy on her tongue. Because his promises were dangerous, living things that tried to crawl beneath your skin and dig into your bones. The memory of him in her room was vague, a fever dream she could brush off. Her mom had never seen him, no one remembered him coming by. But Caroline was quite certain her missing partner had been there.
"Good," Liz said as she gathered her things. She paused, dropped a rare kiss on Caroline's forehead. She stepped back and considered her daughter. "You know, when you used to talk about him, I thought you had some sort of schoolgirl crush."
"What?" Caroline choked.
"Don't look so outraged," Liz said with a slight smile. "Things happen with partners. You're either family and each other's backbone, or you fuck each other blind and move on. I used to wonder if that was why Matt walked, but you never sounded like someone scorned."
Caroline gaped at her. "Seriously? Mom!"
"Special Agent Mikaelson, he called me, when you went missing," Liz crossed her arms, gaze going distant. "It was raining in the background, and I could hear the dogs. I knew they'd never find you, if the weather kept fighting them."
She swallowed and Caroline reached for her hand. Liz gripped it firmly, and looked tired. Caroline hated that expression.
"Me too," Liz murmured before she shook herself. "So there he was, this man who you'd talked about, and all I had was your stories and that accented voice promising me he'd bring you home alive. However long it took."
Caroline blinked, tried not to flinch away from those cop eyes.
"When I'm done thanking him, I might slug him."
"You were kidnapped by a serial killer and were nearly part of some sacrificial ritual. Shooting that UNSUB really wasn't punishment enough; I appreciate that he's dead, but this partner of yours could have nicked something vital, let him suffer."
Caroline's mouth went bone dry as Liz left. Because regardless of what Klaus had told the FBI, what had gone into the official reports, he hadn't just shot the man who'd tried to carve her like a turkey. What he'd done had been so much worse.
And she didn't know how to deal with it.
"Do you hate your arteries, love?"
Caroline took another bite of her donut and considered eating another one. This new partner of hers was some sort of health nut. She was pretty sure there was a special circle of hell for them - probably next to the people who kicked puppies and stole from the break room fridge.
"I've been stuck with you for not even a week yet. Just so we're clear - my coffee habits, my food habits and my preference for driving are not up for discussion or debate."
Mikaelson arched an unimpressed brow. "Your driving is a bit tame, but hardly concerning. If I have to worry about my first partner in the States dropping dead of a stroke, it's something I'd like to know."
Caroline swooped the second donut - sprinkles! - and motioned to her office. "I'd like less lip from a mere liaison, but we can't all get what we want. Did you read those files I gave you yesterday?"
Special Agent Klaus Mikaelson wasn't really a newbie, if what she'd gleaned from his file was accurate. He'd specialized in missing persons, had a short stint working with those who handled child abductions. His case closure rate was respectable and absolutely nothing suggested why he'd asked for this posting or who'd he'd pissed off to land him here; as a liaison the FBI, in a department that took a fair share of interdepartmental ribbing for the supernatural aspect of their job.
Mikaelson eyed her donut, rolling his thermos of tea, before he nodded. "Yes."
Caroline sat in her chair, and set her donut down. "Usually I get a lot more commentary than a simple yes. Those aren't light reading."
He tilted his head and lingered in her doorway. Something unreadable flickered across his gaze. "You're not what I expected."
"Water cooler gossip suggests you're a bit of a stone wall," he said thoughtfully. "But that's not the case, is it?"
She blinked, startled at the unexpected insight; wondered what he'd seen that'd tipped him off so early. Caroline narrowed her eyes, studied that curious face. Then she shrugged, turning to her emails in a clear dismissal. "Gossip is what it is, Agent. As long as you do your job, we won't have a problem."
She felt him linger. He'd had an intensity she wasn't uncomfortable with, but she was still trying to learn to read. There was a lot going on beneath the surface, and a lot she didn't have a handle on. Agent Mikaelson was on time, organized and he studied everything around him with a gaze that missed little.
Sometimes his eyes bothered her. They'd settle on a fellow agent with something dangerous glinting in the depths. Mikaelson was always polite, but she couldn't shake the idea that underneath that polite facade was a predator.
If her fellow agents took him lightly because of those startling dimples and his accent, that was their fault. Not that she could blame them, there was something disturbingly attractive about Agent Mikaelson. Caroline was pretty sure Lucifer sported a similar pair of dimples, and that both he and her partner used them to distract from the fact that they were considering all the ways to screw you over.
She didn't start typing till he left her doorway, releasing the breath she hadn't been aware she was holding. Dismissing that little flutter in her gut, she dug into the latest hotline report. Mikaelson was a mystery for another time.
Caroline slowly woke from a drug-induced nap to her mother speaking. Blinking awake, she vaguely became aware of the conversation going on around her.
"... thank you enough."
"I'd hardly imagine anyone would leave their partner in the hands of a madman," Klaus' voice responded.
Caroline came all the way awake then. She turned her head until he was in her line of sight. This was the Klaus she knew, with the sleeves of his crisp white shirt rolled to his elbows after a long day, his suit jacket tossed over a chair. He looked vaguely uncomfortable, as if the attention he was being shown was unnerving.
She hoped it was the bible she'd requested.
His gaze met hers, and there was a deep flicker of golden amusement. Caroline scowled at him, which seemed to only amuse the monster she now knew lived behind his eyes even more. For a moment, they just looked at each other, this new truth a vibrant cord between them.
"Looks like she's awake. How are you feeling, sweetheart?" Klaus said finally, his voice low and soft.
"Better, thanks," she muttered, hearing how mulish she sounded. She was too tired to filter properly. She thought she'd care more about being polite once she wasn't fuzzy from her pain meds. Especially since she knew he'd been helping her heal.
"Never a happy patient, my daughter," Liz said in exasperation. "You'll be glad to know the doctors are willing to discharge you in another day."
Caroline turned back to her mom, felt Klaus' gaze scan her even through the layers of blankets. "When is your flight home?"
Liz gave her look. "I'm retired. You're not getting rid of me until you're off the heavy meds."
Which meant she was going to be off those ASAP. She felt Klaus touch her leg, glanced at him. He'd arched a brow at her, tiny flecks of gold in his irises and some of her bones stopped aching. "Take your pain meds, love."
"I don't have much choice. They just keep giving them to me."
Klaus glanced at her mom, offered Liz a melting smile. "Was she always this stubborn, or am I just lucky?"
"I'd blame her father, but she gets it honestly from the both of us."
Caroline was trying not to wiggle her foot; she could feel his touch down to her bones. She glared at him, met a wall of possessiveness in his gaze that stunned her into silence. Caroline licked her lips and reached for something to distract them both.
"Did you file your report?" Caroline demanded, a million questions on her tongue she knew he'd avoid.
"And that's my cue to leave, as I've been expressly forbidden from bringing up work." Klaus eyes told her he knew what she was doing, that he'd let her for now. "Lovely to meet you Mrs. Forbes. Please, let me know if there is anything I can assist with."
Liz smiled and nodded, waited for the door to shut before turning to Caroline with both brows arched high. "When were you going to tell me your partner was in love with you?"
Caroline studied the curved line of Mikaelson's' shoulders, the brutal line of his jaw. Her best friend had once accused her of having the sensitivity of a rock, but even she could feel the way he was nearly vibrating with impotent rage. It wasn't just fury from the small town cops running interference, accidental or not. He'd seen something in those carved lines of the walls, in the terror of the child who was now so carefully sedated.
Whatever he'd seen that she hadn't, it pissed him off. He'd kept his mouth shut for now, and Caroline had decided to let him. That looming glower behind her as she chewed out a few of the unhelpful officers had been very fun.
Again, she wondered why his agency had shipped him to the U.S. Not a lot of departments were happy to have agents who specialized in supernatural bullshit, regardless of what had slowly started crawling out of the woodwork. And the longer she worked with him, the more competent he became.
Who had her temperamental partner pissed off?
Mourning the cookie she'd been holding onto all afternoon, Caroline let her heels clack as she approached him. Regardless of his secrets, for now he was her responsibility.
Klaus looked down, and blinked twice at the Styrofoam cup and cookie she was holding out. He glanced away, tone cool. "I'm fine."
"Look, bub, I had to sweet talk a pimply faced teenager for the closest thing to that God-awful tea you drink; so you're going to drink it, and smile through however bad it tastes. The cookie on the other hand is from my favorite bakery, and should at least make that caffeinated monstrosity go down easier."
He glanced at her, something curious lightening the blue of his gaze, giving them little flecks of gold. "Here I thought you didn't like me, Forbes."
"You haven't tried the tea yet," she deadpanned.
Something eased in his shoulders, and he laughed a little, taking her offering. "Thank you, love."
She wrinkled her nose, but swallowed her usual biting comment on his pet names. His gaze narrowed a little more when she continued to study him. She held his gaze, cocked her head.
"I don't like secrets."
Mikaelson's gaze glittered, even as his mouth curled at the edges. "Is that so?"
Caroline arched a brow. "Is whatever you saw at the scene going to interfere with my case?"
Surprise flashed across his face and then he turned to face her fully. Something hard glittered in his gaze, that danger she'd seen earlier clear in his eyes. "Right now? No."
She considered that, didn't give him the satisfaction of tensing or flinching away from the weight in his eyes. Special Agent Klaus Mikaelson was turning out to be a bit of a surprise. She hated surprises. "If that changes, you let me know. Or I'll have you transferred back to London, with your metaphorical tail between your legs and your balls in your throat."
That danger didn't fade, and it crawled down her spine in warning fingertips. He took a sip of his tea and shuddered, face twisting. "This is horrid."
Caroline dimpled at him. "With a smile, Mikaelson. And it's still probably better than the coffee."
He blinked at the switch to his last name, after weeks of Agent between them. Head tilting, the more volatile edge in his eyes eased and he took a more cautious sip and winced.
"This is shite. Do I assume it's why you're not partaking from your usual?"
"Partly," she said with a shrug. "Plus, I'm hopeful that my presence will keep that cop from baiting you into slugging him."
A flicker of lashes as Mikaelson eyed her. She'd surprised him again. "He'd deserve it."
"Oh yeah," she nodded. "And now that our kid is safe, I'd let you. But he's not worth it."
A bunching of his brows, the line between his them one she was becoming familiar with. Not temper, but a thoughtfulness as he tried to determine her motives. "Not a fan of comeuppance, sweetheart?
Caroline gave him a flat look. "I know you know my name, use it. And the problem you're having is one I find most men have, so I'll forgive you. Comeuppance is a lot more fun when served cold. Let him be petty and territorial. What's important is we made the recovery. And someday, down the line, when a kid's life isn't on the line and we get the chance, we'll feed him his balls."
Blue, blue eyes held hers. "Will we?"
Caroline tilted her head, let the sharp curve of her smile ease. "You did surprisingly well today. I've got no complaints about your effectiveness in the field, Mikaelson. My concerns are with how territorial you are and that you seem to have a secondary agenda."
His lips curved, dimples playful, but his eyes still glittered with amusement and iron. "I'm afraid the territorial bits aren't going to change. Others who are a bit more colorful than you have tried and failed."
When he smiled like that, Caroline wondered just a bit why he kept turning down the numerous offers she'd heard her fellow agents give him. He wasn't her type - to many secrets, he'd as likely bite as he would anything else - but she could see the appeal.
Shaking her head, she straightened and headed down the hall. "I'm out. If you want a cab home, put it on the company card. Oh, and Mikaelson?
He arched a brow as she glanced over her shoulder. There - that was what occasionally made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. That fine edged blade behind his eyes, the arrogance he kept carefully tucked under his skin.
"I'm far more stubborn than these others. No peeing on jurisdictions, capiche?"
"This wheelchair is stupid," Caroline muttered under her breath.
"Hush," Liz said firmly as she wheeled her out. "The only reason you got away with me is because your attitude would try a saint."
"Thank God there aren't any of those in this family," Caroline replied. "Considering the eyes you were making at that nurse."
"Caroline," Liz warned. But then her voice softened. "Are your cuts bothering you? I know the stitches are itchy, but do you hurt?"
"We'll medicate you when we get into the car."
"I said no?"
"I've gotten that 'no' from you since you were five and decided that medication was for babies," Liz said firmly as a they walked out the sliding doors. "Thankfully, I won't have to wrangle you alone."
Liz stopped pushing the wheelchair. "I called for backup."
"My understanding is that you're to avoid stairs and other unnecessary movements for a few more days, sweetheart." Klaus said as he stepped around the side of the four door SUV that was waiting on them. "Don't worry, I won't drop you."
Caroline cut her eyes to her mother who just looked amused. "Traitor."
"You'll have to deal with my driving, of course," Klaus continued as he scanned her mulish face.
She scowled at him. "We're all going to die."
Klaus offered her his hands, lips quirking. "Not if I have anything to say about it."
Liz laughed and patted Klaus arm before opening Caroline's door. She moved several feet away and dug through her bag, giving them a bit of privacy.
"I'll invest in salt shakers," she warned under her breath as she gripped his hand to slowly stand. His hands were warm and steady beneath hers; she'd thought she'd flinch away from him, his touch. Instead, she found herself gripping him firmly, letting him steady her as she eased her aching body. The worst of the lacerations were healing at a remarkable rate, the stitches would come out much sooner than expected.
Moving slowly was still her best bet.
Klaus steadied her, and bent his head. His voice was low, intimately teasing when he spoke. "Can I suggest a squirt gun with holy water? Less clean up."
"Shut up," she growled, looking up into his burning eyes. He let his lashes lower, lips curving into a dimpled smile that made her stomach flip. That was his hunting look.
"Let's get you settled."
Klaus was careful as he helped her ease into the SUV. He waited until her breathing evened out before he touched her chin. Her eyes swung to his, the vibrant gold of his gaze momentarily otherworldly. "I haven't forgotten, Caroline."
Her breath caught in her throat, and his fingers fell away. One last scorching look, and he shut her door. Caroline very carefully didn't look at her mother as Liz crawled in.
"You don't mind stopping so we can pick up a few prescriptions, do you?"
"Not at all," Klaus assured. "Or we could get Caroline tucked in, and then I'd be happy to fetch them."
"Best to do this while she's still excited about being released," Liz said while shaking her head. "Or we'll somehow never make it. She's a bit wiley, my daughter."
"I hate you both," Caroline said irritably.
"I'm fond of her, regardless," Klaus said easily as he pulled out, ignoring her comment. Caroline set her teeth and looked away, studying the cars they passed. Anything to avoid the unholy alliance in the front seat.
"Do you sleep?"
Caroline blinked up from her slice of blueberry pie, and found herself looking at her disheveled partner. His curls were riotous, he was out of his usual suit, and were those necklaces? She was startled, at seeing him in casual clothing as well as by the unexpected skip in her pulse. Her eyes lingered on his throat, and she tilted her head. Was that a rosary?
"Forbes?" He bit her name off, and she sighed. Holding up one finger, Caroline bookmarked the page she was reading on her iPad.
"Of course I sleep, the human body can only be trained to a certain point. Coffee?"
Mikaelson sat across from her, glowering. "We've pulled two consecutive all nighters. You should be unconscious."
"Yet, here we both are," Caroline drawled. "Amazing how that worked out."
"Now I know you're tired," he snapped. His gaze raked down her, as if he could see beneath her wrinkled suit and down the marrow of her bones. That wasn't relief on his face, but there was a quick, golden flash of something she couldn't read.
"You start to drawl when you move past tired. It's cute, but a pretty good indicator of exhaustion," he ran his hands through his hair. "Talk to me."
"Isn't that what we're doing?" She said sweetly, mostly out of irritation that he thought anything about her was cute.
Klaus visibly restrained himself as the waitress walked over for his order. He skimmed his menu with quick eyes, before reining himself in enough to politely request food. Any good will was lost as soon as he inquired about her coffee intake.
"Sugar, she switched to decaf two cups ago. Give the girl a break - she needs the pie. Look at her." The waitress - her nametag said her name was Marie - clucked her tongue. "Too skinny."
"Yeah, sugar," Caroline mocked once they were alone again, grinning at his grimace. "I know how to take care of myself, Mikaelson."
He studied her from narrowed eyes, lips compressed as he sized her up. Caroline waited him out. She'd learned that pushing back left them both irritated and short. And it gave her the opportunity to study her partner, without worrying it'd be misconstrued. Anger wasn't a terrible look on him, after all - he looked far better than she did after two days of cat naps.
Still, she'd never had someone react this strongly to her terrible sleep habits, but Mikaelson had been making an odd effort. She'd first noticed it after she'd called him on his secret agenda, had watched him study her. Caroline wished him luck. Her secrets were buried much deeper than skin deep.
Still, Klaus was turning into a surprisingly good partner. The last few days, she'd turn around and he'd be absently holding out coffee or a power bar. He was carefully - almost deliberately - slotting himself seamlessly into her investigation style. Not even Matt had read her cues so well. He was grumpy, arrogant and occasionally his temper got the best of him, but he'd never hung her out to dry. All arguments were kept in the SUV and he didn't seem to find it in the least intimidating when she took charge.
"Caroline," Mikaelson said slowly, each word spoken with precision, as if he was feeling his way through the sentence. She was startled by the use of her first name. "Talk to me, please."
She ate a bite of pie, just to be contrary. "What do you want to talk about?"
He stapled his fingers and exhaled loudly. Caroline tried not to grin at needling him.
"Insomnia?" Mikaelson asked finally, brow arching in challenge.
"No," Caroline said with a shrug. "I just usually only sleep in four hour bursts. It's fine."
He leaned forward, stared at her. "Nightmares?"
"Not this time," she said honestly. There was no point in denying the horrors that visited, the gut wrenching terror of it. "I'll sleep on the plane. Why are you up?"
His mouth opened and then he shut it. Klaus canted his head, something thoughtful coloring his gaze a darker blue. "Ask me again some other time. But I'd appreciate it if you'd text me about these little pie trips post-cases."
"Fan of pie?" Caroline hadn't thought him the type, with his war on sugar.
"Cooked fruit is a horror, all of its own," Mikaelson said scathingly. "But if there had been an emergency or a crack in the case..."
She looked out the window, at the empty streets and felt the pie lurch in her stomach. There'd be no break in the case, not for this family. She started when warm fingers curled around her wrist.
"It's fine," she told him, wiggling her hand free. His gaze narrowed and she angled her chin, trying to ignore the buzzing under her skin where he touched her. Mikaelson wasn't tactile, and it surprised her that he'd reached out physically. She wondered if he was always that warm and shook off the thought. She'd process tomorrow, in the safety of her shower.
Not now, in front of her perceptive partner whose eyes saw too much. At least when she slept on the plane, the noises around her would hold the nightmares at bay. But the iron in his gaze had words tripping out before she'd fully thought them through, letting him in just a little.
"I don't like to lose. I'll sleep once I finish putting my thoughts in order."
Once she finished wording and rewording the complaint she was going to file against the Police Chief who'd let jurisdiction become more important than a child's life. She was perfectly aware that cults and sacrifices were insane, she dealt with them on a daily basis. And now a boy was dead and a killer free.
Mikaelson canted his head. He must have read something of her thoughts behind her eyes, because his smile was slow and dangerous; something about that look inviting her to play with him. "And you say I'm territorial."
"You are," Caroline shrugged. "But I'm told that it's a guy thing so..."
"Is being prickly an American female thing, then?" He teased mildly, eyes oddly warm.
"If we're done with the interrogation, I'm going to finish my pie." She turned her gaze back to her iPad and he laughed softly. Amusement softened his jaw, hinted at his dimples; she tried not to think it was a good look.
"What are you reading?" He asked once his food had been dropped off.
"Old newspaper clippings," Caroline said easily. "This particular town has been digitalizing for the past five years. I've gone about ten years back, and planning on reading through any significant murders or disappearances that are older if I can."
"You're looking for patterns," he said slowly. Her gaze flicked up, to see his hunting look was back on his face
"There are always patterns," Caroline dismissed. "I just need to find the right one."
"Sometimes things are unexplainable," Mikaelson murmured, and Caroline shook her head.
"Sometimes things are harder to explain, and we may not like or believe those explanations, but that doesn't make them wrong." Caroline shrugged. "A mad man doesn't need the excuse of demons or old gods to carve someone up, after all."
"Interesting view for an FBI agent," her partner said thoughtfully. "Most Agents prefer to ignore the supernatural altogether."
He wasn't mocking, just curious with those glints of gold in the blue of his eyes. Caroline leaned back and found herself tempted to let him in, just a little. Chewing on her lip, she mentally shrugged.
"My best friend's a witch."
"Wiccan?" Mikaelson asked, face shifting into curiosity.
"Nope, old school witch - ancestral magic, flying feathers, the whole shebang. Doesn't matter an inch if I believe her or not when she's dancing a hairbrush around the room."
He paused in eating, those flecks of gold bright as dawn started creeping across the horizon. "Here I thought the States were a little more civilized with their claims of magic."
"You're from the land of fairies," Caroline replied in amusement. But then she sobered, sighed heavily. "Whatever this is its staying one step ahead of us, finding what makes our UNSUB believe will show us the pattern. It might help us find them. Those officers today, this isn't the first whispering of a cult that they've heard. They just didn't believe it. I want to know what the old rumors, gossip was ages ago. Why this town? Why here?"
"You're an odd duck, Caroline Forbes," Mikaelson said softly.
"When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth," she said with a shrug.
He arched a brow. "A Holmes fan? Why am I not surprised? What else don't I know about you?"
Caroline snorted. "There are things you'll never know, Mikaelson."
A faint, curling smile tugged the edges of his mouth. "We'll see."
His tone made it a challenge.
"I doubt it," Caroline dismissed as she flipped the page with her index finger. "You'll be packed back to London in a few months, hunting your strange English Ghosts, and I'll be breaking in my fourth partner."
Those curious eyes smiled at her. "Eat your pie, Forbes."
"Are you sure you'll be okay?"
"I'm fine, Mom," Caroline said gently. "I'll probably be bored out of mind, but that's why I have Netflix. I've only got to suffer for a week before I'm back on desk duty, and that's a different type of suffering."
Liz sighed. "I wish you'd have someone come stay with you. Klaus has promised he'll swing by soon, but I'd feel better if you'd have someone else here."
She crossed her arms and scowled. "My partner should be doing more important things than checking on me. I'm fine."
"Hmmm," Liz narrowed her eyes. "Did I make it uncomfortable?"
"With him? Hardly. Regardless of what you think you're reading in him, our case is over. With me on desk duty for another six months, they'll either re-assign him or ship him home. So you can stop whatever your cop-heart is thinking, okay?"
Liz arched both brows. "You've thought about this."
Caroline spread her hands. "I'm sorry, but what else have I had time to do, but think? I stopped worrying about Mikaelson and moved to my spice rack the second day I was here. Seriously Mom, there isn't anything there."
"Are you sure, Caroline?"
She flicked a glance over, wondering at her mother's soft question. Liz had her brows tucked together, something Caroline couldn't read on her face.
There was no way to explain what was going on with her and Klaus without confessing everything. Caroline wasn't ready to remember what had happened, to examine the tangled emotions in her chest. That delicate trust, the curious connection with Klaus that had shattered in a span of three days.
Sighing, Liz kissed her forehead. "Fine. I'll drop it, for now. Remember to rub in that oil that Bonnie sent over to help with the scarring, now that the stitches are out. I love you. Promise you'll call me if you need me."
"I will," Caroline said insincerely. Liz rolls her eyes and grabbed her suitcase.
"Couldn't you have taken after your father?"
"I thought I had," Caroline teased as she shut the door, listening to her mother's laugh. She waited until it was quiet, the only poses from her muted TV. Then she walked into her bedroom and peeled off her shirt, studied the thin lines of the knife wounds.
They were faint, the white scars razor thin. In a few weeks, she doubted by one would notice them at all. Swallowing, she pressed her palm to the tight muscles of her abdomen and wondered if she should have asked her mom to stay longer.
Because it was just a matter of time before her partner showed up, and for the first time since her attack, there'd be no barriers between them.
"How'd I know you'd be here?"
Caroline scowled as she looked up from her booth at the local Waffle House. She had an assortment of copied newspaper clippings spread around her, a half eaten plate of French toast at her elbow. She hadn't bothered with washing her hair or doing more than pulling on her favorite jeans and a comfortable t-shirt. Mikaelson was eyeing her with exasperation; those flecks of gold bright in his gaze spoke of his temper as did his tightly clenched jaw.
They stared at each other, the air tense between them.
"I'm pretty sure I made it clear I didn't want to see you," Caroline said flatly before returning her gaze to her notebook. "Go away."
"It's been two days," he growled as he sat across from her. "I thought I'd try my chances."
"You can try again when work requires that I look at you," she said firmly, stubbornly studying the notes she'd been making. "Which I do not want to do right now."
Look at his stupid, handsomely betraying face.
"That's too bad," Mikaelson said softly, voice carrying that familiar, dangerous edge. "Because I'm not leaving."
"You went behind my back," Caroline said letting her words sharpen. Her gaze slammed into his, and the brilliant gold there didn't phase her. "Now, instead of doing my job, I'm stuck on mandatory leave for another week."
"You weren't sleeping," He said fiercely. "You've dropped at least a stone and you blew me off."
"Was it affecting my job?" Caroline asked, words low and furious. She took a careful breath, temper hot and tight in her chest. "And if it was, you should've given me the courtesy of talking to me about it first."
"I believe I tried," Mikaelson snapped.
Her chin lifted, eyes stubborn. "Go away."
She bared her teeth, gaze glittering. "I'll deal with you in a week, Mikaelson."
He made a low, furious noise and his eyes closed. Hurt was a living thing in her chest, her fury from being dressed down by their supervising agent a knot in her gut. But worse was how blindsided she'd been, that moment of complete bafflement before it'd sunk in on her why she'd been called to the floor.
She stilled, eyed him warily. Mikaelson leaned forward, hands clenching on the table between them. That knife edge of danger had shifted to something different, and she couldn't read his eyes. "I should have talked to you, and for that I apologize. I am sorry, Caroline, for hurting you. It won't happen again."
She compressed her lips, glared at him. Caroline struggled with her temper for a moment before she gave up. This wasn't about feelings. "You didn't hurt my feelings, you unbelievable ass. So if you're going to apologize, at least be apologetic for what you should be apologizing for."
Temper lightened his unusual eyes, left his cheekbones stark. For a moment, she could have sworn the air was charged between them. "And what, Special Agent Forbes, should I be apologizing for?"
"For being a shit partner."
She could hear his teeth grinding as he glared at her, eyes hard. "You're wearing yourself down to the bone, losing weight, and while I regret the manner in which I acted, I do not regret acting. Explain to me, Forbes, what do you feel I should do differently? Better? Shall I consult with you from a hospital room when you collapse from exhaustion?"
His words were hard, hammering at her with each bitten off word. Caroline felt the impact of them, the force of his presence as he leaned in, lips tilted in hard smile.
She slammed her notebook down between them. She barely missed flinging her syrup covered fork at him, and met that furious gaze head on. "Want to talk about the secrets you're hiding, Mikaelson? Why someone with your skills is here, mucking about? Care to explain, Special Agent Mikaelson, why your London Office has blacklisted your cases? No? Then get off your gods-be-damned high horse, and pull that stick out of your ass. If you have a problem with me or my work ethic, that's one thing. If you think I'm failing to do my job, that I'm letting the work slip - you take that to our supervisor. But if you ever go behind my back again, if you ever try to pull some personal bullshit into this work arrangement, you won't like it."
His eyes lit with temper as he leaned forward; blue nearly incandescent from those hot sparks. "You don't think this is personal?"
"I don't have to like you to work with you," she dismissed, daring him to argue.
Mikaelson snorted. "You can toss that bullshit at your previous partners, but it won't work with me."
"You're temporary, Agent," Caroline reminded him in icy tones. "So no, I don't have to do anything other than tolerate you to get the job done. And make no mistake, the job is what matters."
"Bullshit," he repeated, words bitten off. "Don't start that with me, because you won't like it."
Caroline smiled sweetly at him, pointed at the door. "The door is that way."
Something she couldn't read flickered behind his eyes - something that ran awareness and a warning down her spine. His grin was dangerous, a near feral thing that left her stiff. "I've warned you, Forbes that I'm a territorial man, and this partnership, all your little quirks, I'm not giving them up so easily."
"You seemed quite willing to throw them away two days ago," she snapped back.
Mikaelson arched a brow, arrogance tilting his chin. "A miscalculation and one I believe I've apologized for - you should take into consideration, Caroline, that I apologize to very few."
"Not from lack of necessity," she retorted.
His smile softened, a hint of amusement coloring the iron of his eyes. "Perhaps, perhaps not. But you must admit that you'd hardly be this riled if our partnership wasn't important to you. If I didn't have discussed my concerns about your health."
"I don't have to admit anything." Caroline deflected, tossing her hair out of her eyes.
Another flash from those eyes. "Should I list all the ways you've shown your hand, love? Those little moments that are the backbone of any partnership. No? Then let's get to the real issue - I hurt you. Deny it all you wish, but I knew I'd miscalculated the moment I saw your expressive face."
Caroline arched both brows in disbelief. "Did you now? How amazing for you."
Mikaelson made a low noise of frustration. "You are the most frustrating woman I've had the pleasure of knowing, Forbes."
"Please, I haven't even been trying." Caroline tilted her head, eyed him. "So let's say I believe you, that whatever self-preservation instinct you might have went off during that fun little dressing down I got. Why are you here two days later?"
"As you said, self-preservation," Klaus said flatly. They stared at each other. Stubborn and tense.
"You went behind my back."
His eyes narrowed at the faintest hitch in her voice, that stubborn angle of her chin.
"It won't happen again."
She caught her lip between her teeth, before she sighed, and looked away. She wanted to be pissed - hold the tight thrumming of anger to her chest. But while she could and would take issue with how he'd handled the situation, she couldn't say he'd been altogether wrong about her, either. She had lost weight. He reached for her wrist, caught it firmly with his long fingers. Her head snapped around.
"Caroline - it won't happen again, I promise."
There was an unexpected weight to his words and she could have sworn the air vibrated between them. Blinking, she stared at those dangerous eyes and finally nodded.
"If it does, they'll be shipping you home in a box."
His lips curled and he released her with a soft laugh. "You're welcome to try."
She rolled her eyes. Scowled, as she drummed her nails on the table. He watched her with curious eyes and she huffed. "I probably owe you an apology as well."
His smile changed, arrogance and satisfaction as he leaned back and motioned between them. "I'm all ears, love."
"Mikaelson, I've told you to stop with the nicknames; I'm not going to be responsible for the harm I inflict if you don't." She warned flatly. His gaze never left hers and she looked upward for patience.
"You weren't wrong, when you said I was pushing too hard," Caroline ground out, pushing her bangs out of eyes irritably. "I do it and I know I do it, so I should have listened. I'm sorry."
He studied her and nodded. "It's Klaus."
Caroline pursed her lips. "That's it?"
His smile turned lazy, dimples deep. "My name. It's Klaus, Caroline. And yes, that's it. I really need to look into these previous partners of yours, they seem awful."
She rolled her eyes and sighed. "I'll think about it. Your name, that is."
"You do that, love." He reached for a menu, glanced over at the waiter who was clearly waiting for the fight to end. "Are we good?
Caroline considered him. He'd hunted her down, instead of waiting for her to have her walls in place. Had apologized. Had expected her to do the same. Finally she nodded. "Yeah, we're good."
Caroline stared at her door with an uncertain expression when she heard the first knock. Klaus hadn't contacted her in the last day, but she'd been expecting him. Running her hands through her bangs, she sighed. Glanced down at herself and shrugged at her FBI sweats and old cheer t-shirt.
Regardless of what her mother thought, she wasn't harboring any romantic thought towards Klaus. Her lack of sleep was strictly from those lingering nightmares and her struggle to deal with Klaus as some sort of Demon. Squaring her shoulders, she finally moved to open the door.
"Matt!" She gasped in surprise, deflating a little to see her old partner standing a little wild eyed in front of her. "I thought you were in New York?"
He ran his hands through his hair. "I heard you were in the hospital."
"Usually folks call or send flowers," Caroline said with a blink. "Are you alright?"
"Can I come in?"
She stepped to the side, and shut her door. Studied her old partner with concerned eyes. He was fidgety, an exhausted energy leaving her usually unflappable ex-partner uneasy.
"Did you come straight from the airport?"
He ran his hands through his hair and nodded. "Yes. It wasn't a bad flight."
Caroline laughed. "That's a pretty good recommendation from someone who hates flying."
"Yeah, yeah," he smiled slightly, eyes scanning her small apartment and Caroline realized she'd never brought him over before. "Water?"
"I'm good," Matt returned, eyes landing on the wind chimes she'd hung above one of her windows. He stared at it for a long moment. "So that's how you avoided him."
"Avoid who?" Caroline questioned as she opened a water bottle.
The emphasis on the word, the stark terror hand her head snapping around. Ice trailed down her spine as her gaze locked with Matt's. His eyes were threaded with black, face so stark.
It took everything in her, not to step back.
"Why didn't you tell me you knew a witch?" Matt demanded, taking a single step in her direction. "Why didn't you tell me you had protection spells?"
Caroline broke out in a cold sweat. "Would you have believed me?"
Matt clenched his jaw, an edge behind his eyes. "He hunted me, stalked me through my dreams. I couldn't hide. And there you were, stubbornly hunting a monster who wore my skin."
Her lungs and chest went tight, breath tagged in her throat. She could feel the panic edging in, that nightmare terror she'd started battling back during the day and for a moment, she could have sworn her fading scars burned.
"If you'd have told me, I'd have helped." Caroline said, voice steady even as she struggled to hold his darkening gaze.
Matt laughed. "It wanted to kill you. So I ran. And it did me no good."
"Why are you here, Matt. Whatever that thing was, it's dead."
"It'll never be gone," he whispered, voice raw. "It's inside me, Caroline. I hear it all the time. It's tasted your blood, marked your screams - it knows you too."
"You need to fight whatever this is, Matt." Caroline breathed as he straightened, body jerky as he ran his fingers through his hair. "It doesn't have to win."
"If I give you to him, then I'll be free."
The world nearly swam at the inflection of his words, the jagged growl of his tone. She knew that cadence. Had heard it from a monster who'd carved her slowly.
"Well, mate, that going to be an issue, because she's mine," Klaus' voice cut into the air like a blade, voice a growl. "I was wondering where he'd hidden his little seeds."
Caroline blinked rapidly, stepping back to press against her fridge. Matt spun, the blackness of his gaze landing on her partner. Klaus' eyes were moon-gold, lips curling to show the sharp points of his incisors. She could almost see the power under his skin, the way the air had started to burn.
"I need it out of my skin," Matt pleaded, fists clenched tightly.
Klaus clucked his tongue. "Made a bit of a bargain, did you?
Caroline shuddered, arms curling around her waist at his tone. She knew a little what a bargain was and her insides lurched. She couldn't imagine what horror Matt had suffered.
"I can make it better," Klaus told Matt, his smile widening as her ex-partner flinched. "But it'll be my power that carved into your bones, my deal you'll suffer."
"Klaus," she snapped, gathering herself to glare at the monster who stood in her apartment. Those golden eyes flickered to her.
"Come, sweetheart, you can't imagine I'd forgive him coming into my territory, carrying a taint with the intention of harming you? Not when I've held you bleeding in my arms, your skin blackening from his promise of your death?"
Her stomach went tight at the fury, the possessiveness in his eyes. "I'm not yours."
He laughed, hands spreading wide as he let his power crackle through the room. "You carry me in your blood and on your skin. You are mine."
Her knees shook. "No."
That dangerous smile turned liquid, a hot promise that rushed through her stomach in a way that decisively wasn't fear. "Shall we bargain then, Caroline - for Matt's life?"
"Stop being an ass," she managed instead, voice stern. "Matt is my friend and I won't bargain with you."
Another wicked, claiming smile. In two steps, he pressed his hand against Matt's forehead, and Matt screamed. Caroline gasped, as symbols she didn't know crawled across his skin, colored him in golds and black.
"Matthew Donovan - do you wish to serve me or your current master?"
For a moment, the black faded from Matt's eyes, and her friend was staring at Klaus. He looked exhausted, shoulders rounded.
"I just want it to be over," he whispered, voice broken.
The edge to Klaus' smile shook Caroline to her bones. He leaned forward, held Matt's gaze with eyes that were not human, the pupil disappearing behind a blur of gold.
"Say you belong to me."
Caroline shook her head, but held her tongue as Matt broke before her.
"I belong to you."
"Well done," Klaus praised before the air turned nearly too hot. "This will hurt."
Matt screamed, and Carine covered her mouth, shaking. Power moved between them, fire chasing the black along Matt's skin. When it was over, he was sobbing and Klaus shushed him, running a hand over his head.
"There you go mate, a brand new bargain. Let's take this outside, discuss what this means while poor Caroline recovers."
She straightened, glaring furiously at Klaus as he directed Matt towards the door. "Lock the door behind us, will you love?"
"Fuck you, Mikaelson."
"None of that now, love," Klaus said firmly as he opened her door. Golden eyes caught hers as he twisted. "I worked bloody hard to get you to call me by my name, let's not backslide after everything we've been through."
She slammed the bolts into place as he left and pressed against the door, her nerves rattled. Staggering to the couch, she curled under her blanket and shuddered for long moments. Exhaustion was far behind and she fell asleep pretending her cheeks weren't wet.
The knife hurt.
The insides of her cheeks were bloody, from trying to stifle her screams, lips wet with
her blood. Shivering against the long, cold altar she'd been tied to, Caroline cracked open her eyes as the flat metal of the blade ran over her skin. She didn't know the name of the man who'd woken her two days ago to the hot glide of his blade, smile wide and thrilled.
"He won't make it, sweets." His eyes were dark, black bleeding into the white of his eyes in sickly streaks. "Can you feel the way the air hums. He wants you, and then I'm free. Are you ready to belong to him, Caroline Forbes?"
Her insides shook at the use of her name, that horrible tug that dug into her bloody wounds and pulled. She shut her eyes, refused to look at the patterns he'd carved into her flesh; the way she knew her blood would be moving in shapes across her skin. The newest still dripped blood and she knew it was likely that she was losing too much blood. No cut was the same, some were deep and other just skimmed until she bled. She'd fought so hard that first day that she could feel the rawness to her wrists, but nothing she'd done had worked.
Then the whispers had started.
Soft, cajoling voices promises that the pain would stop if she'd just let go. If she'd give in to her captors demands. If she'd just make her bargain.
Thinking of her mother had helped. The strength and stubbornness a balm against the terror. But alone and cold, the scene of her blood and the drip against stone it was thoughts of her partner that had centered her the most. She didn't remember how she was kidnapped, couldn't grasp those details. But somewhere in the blackness, she swore she remembered him screaming her name.
Klaus was looking for her. Her partner, who was the grumpiest, most arrogant man she knew wouldn't stop looking for her. And he might find her body, wrapped in a tarp and disposed the way those children had been, but she would not let him find her like this - eyes black, blade in her hand while she smiled over the corpse of her victims.
It was terrible timing to realize she had feelings for Klaus. Lying in her blood, her tears hot stings against the cut on her cheekbone, and her first thought was she missed her partner. The solid strength of him, that volatile temper that cut through anything in its path. His stubborn, furious care for her.
Another cut, this one across her abdomen and deep. Caroline shuddered with pain, the worst of it threatening to sink her back into unconsciousness and she struggled to keep it. Blacking out wasn't peace, not with what was hunting her.
She'd known, abstractly, that there was a chance that demons existed. Her best friend was a witch and talked to ghosts. Okay, maybe it had been a leap of faith that there were other, darker things in the world, but she'd made that step. She remembered how quiet Bonnie had been when she's asked about some of the symbols she'd seen carved into those kids.
Her friend's firm demand that she be careful.
"Such a pretty little protector - will you hunt his enemies the way you've hunted me?" Hot breath against her skin and she couldn't quite manage to get her lashes open to glare. She knew she was fading. "Come on, pretty girl. Death won't be the escape you think it is."
The next cut was a distant pain and Caroline knew she was in trouble. Her thoughts were slipping out of her reach, the cold sinking into her bones. A voice that terrified her was buzzing through her thoughts, and no matter how she tried to avoid it, it kept digging into her skin. She hoped someone other than Klaus found her body.
The world roared.
The sudden heat of it cut through the cold of her bones, shattered that tempting allure that was trying to swallow her. There was a scream, the noise high pitched and furious. There was a scramble of noise, steel against stone, and she waited for the hot rush of pain.
There was a cracking noise, and another roar that burned her ears.
The silence was sudden, and she somehow managed to find the will to crack open her lashes. The creature that tortured her was on the floor, body smoking from what looked like fire. But he was still moving and a sudden shadow had her gaze flickering up. Shock and relief, followed by terror and disbelief flooded her exhausted system.
It wasn't the Klaus she knew.
His eyes were golden, pools of burning power that spilled down his face and crawled across his skin in runes that made her eyes hurt. The lines of his cheekbones were stark with a temper she knew, but the rest of him… Klaus' fingers touched her face, and his voice was an echo through the agony of her body.
Caroline woke abruptly, skin thrumming from her dream. She knew she'd had a nightmare, could almost feel the cold fingers grasping at her. But she couldn't remember the details, couldn't picture what had frightened her so badly she'd snapped awake.
She twisted upwards into a sitting position that had her abdominal muscles burning in protest. She pressed a hand to her stomach with a wince and froze as she took in her position. Klaus had settled on her couch and dropped her legs over his lap.
She'd slept through it.
"What are you doing here?" Caroline hissed, glancing at her locked door. "You don't have a key!"
He reached for her hand, and she slapped at him. "Let me see."
"It's fine," she snarled, trying to figure out how to untangle herself from him and her blanket. Her heart was pounding, but as he caught her wrist, as he pressed the heat of his palm against the burn of her muscles, the blood rushing in her ears wasn't from fear.
"I've repaired most of the damage, Caroline, but you need to be more careful," Klaus warned as his gaze met hers. His eyes were flecked with gold, and his gaze shimmered as he continued to touch her. His thumb was a slow back and forth against her wrist, the heat of him crawling up her sternum.
"The scars will be gone shortly enough," Klaus continued, eyes narrowed. "You're having nightmares. Why didn't you tell me?"
For a moment, it was her partner scowling at her; pissed that she'd broken the unspoken deal they'd had since that night in the Waffle House. But now she knew what those flecks of gold meant, where that territorial instinct came from.
"Gee, I dunno. Maybe I didn't want to talk to you?"
"Rude," he chided, reaching to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "Did you think I wasn't worried about you, Caroline?"
"You knew I was fine."
"I knew you were healing from the physical damage," Klaus replied. "But nightmares tell me you are still hurting, Caroline, and I've promised to not let that happen again."
"Why are you here?" Caroline's asked abruptly, uncertain about the expression in his gaze. What it meant.
"Do you think that all I see when I look at you is a bargain? A promise? Do you really think so low of me, that I do not care about you?" Klaus asked, voice sharp. "Shall I tell you what it did to me, to find you bound and bloodied on that altar, Caroline?"
She stared at him, surprise holding her mute.
He shifted closer, eyes glittering. "So stubborn, sweetheart."
"I'm not," she started, growling out the words as his touch turned from light to possessive, eyes bleeding golden. The words died in her throat.
"No more lies, Caroline. You've been mine since you gave me your precious cookie, since you started to care. Did you think I wouldn't notice that change, that I wouldn't feel the way you looked at me?" His gaze turned scorching, burning through her as he stripped them both with his words. "I've been yours since you snarled at me over half eaten French toast, refusing to let me dismiss your hurt. You claimed me as your partner. You've carried my claim on your skin for weeks; you fought another demon for two days, refused to give him a piece of your soul. We both know if you didn't want me, if you didn't want this, you'd have rejected me just as harshly."
She swallowed, catching her lip with her teeth. Finally, she shook her head, voice holding her confusion when she answered. "I don't understand what this is between us. You're my partner and you're a demon and I don't understand how I'm supposed to accept both."
"Oh, sweetheart," Klaus breathed, bringing her hand to his mouth. "My power terrified you, what I did with Matt - but you don't smell like terror when I touch you."
She swallowed harshly at the knowledge in his gaze and tried to tug free. She fell back in surprise when he let go; he followed her down, somehow managing to press himself between her thighs. She froze, tried to find that horror from earlier. Instead, her blood warmed and she the familiar stirring in her belly. Safe. The heat of him pressing down, the burn if his power turning his skin too warm and she felt safe.
Clearly, she was insane.
"You're a demon," Caroline repeated. "Why would you need to even have this charade? Matt made a bargain, why do you want another?"
"It was a bit of serendipity," Klaus said calmly, seemingly content pressed against her. "The original liaison who they sent over was an agent of the demon who took you. I ate him, and I found myself curious as to why he was looking to turn your department into a hunting ground. We've fought before, this demon and I, and he should never have survived the wounds I dealt to come here. He hunted you once you started on the case, needing the power that comes from corrupting the just. It took me a while to realize you were protected and so delightfully fierce under those prim suits."
"Are you even Klaus Mikaelson?" Caroline asked, brows tucking tightly together. He shifted his weight, a press of heat and muscle against her center, and she nearly shuddered.
"I've taken that name as my own; would you like my true name, little love?" Klaus purred as his head dipped, lips suddenly skimming her throat. A hot stroke of his tongue and she gasped. "I'll gladly paint your skin with it, murmur it along your body until it lingers like a promise."
"Klaus..." She growled, tugged on his shirt to pull him away from her neck. She nearly arched into the soft swipe of his tongue, body clamoring for the assurance of him after such horror. The longer he pressed her into the couch, the more he touched her, and the more the knot in her chest eased.
"Poor little Niklaus Mikaelson, his mother wanted power more than she did a bastard son. It was unfortunate that I needed to eat what was inhabiting the body I needed, but that's life." Klaus eyes flashed with mischief. "Will you let me have a bite, Caroline?"
Caroline flushed at the innuendo in his words. The way her body lit up, that underlying tension she'd been denying since right before her abduction, and later, at the hospital, sizzling between them. Stubbornly, she pushed down the burning in her veins and swallowed before speaking.
"Demons can't just walk around. I know that much. If the demon had Matt, why send in reinforcements?"
"I'd like to meet this witch of yours, Caroline. She does good work." He grinned, eyes warm. "I look forward to you letting me into all those little nuances of your life."
"That doesn't answer my question."
"Your witch did a very good job with her protection spells, sweetheart. He needed the power that corrupting you would bring, and he couldn't get it."
His lips curled with affection and he kissed her chin. The faded cut on her cheek, her throat. Lingered on her rapid pulse.
"What are you doing?" Her voice was breathless, fingers curling into the muscles of his shoulders.
Klaus lifted his head, smiled that slow smile of sin. "Kissing your hurts better. Isn't that the human thing to do?"
Her breath hitched at the rawness in his gaze. Her mother's words echoed in her ears, that fury when he'd found her hurt. The iron and tenderness mingled with possession in his eyes. "I won't bargain with you."
"Caroline, Caroline," Klaus murmured, his tone cajoling - voice whisper soft as he nuzzled her neck. "I don't need your bargain. Not when you carry my promise; when you've claimed me. I want to write my protections across your skin, to stroke your hurts away. Will you let me?"
Her brain started to haze over, fingers curling into his shirt at the slightest prickle of fang. What he offered was temptation, not just his words but the heaviness of his touch. Regardless of the monster that lived under his skin. Her body trembled as his hand slipped under her shirt to cup her breast.
"Let me help," Klaus coaxed. "I'll wash you clean."
Her neck fell back as he thumbed a nipple, a moan low in her throat. Klaus slid a hand beneath her, cupping her ass as he lifted her hips and rocked. He scattered kisses across the base of her throat, and she could feel them burning after his mouth had left her skin.
"I'm not broken," she managed, fingers digging into his shoulder as she struggled to think.
"No," Klaus agreed roughly. His hands stilled, gaze returning to hers. "You're not broken, love. But I won't let anyone hurt you that way again."
Caroline let one hand drop from his shoulder, carefully touched the corner of his perfect mouth. "Tell me what that means."
Klaus angled his head and ran his fingers down her throat. "When you were abducted, your captor offered the altar your pain and blood as a sacrifice to open enough of a portal that his master could come through. If you'd broken or bargained for your soul, he'd have possessed you and taken your body as his host."
She licked her lips. "The way you stole the body you're in?"
"Not quite," Klaus murmured, "but close. Since you've denied any bargain I might make, but have accepted my promises."
Lips pursed, Caroline narrowed her gaze. "When?"
He smiled, open and affectionate. "Over French Toast, love."
She huffed. "Fine. What does that mean?"
"Demons beguile, we tempt, we can offer any number of sins," Klaus replied. "All of it to find just the right price, so we may walk among you. Then we can soak your skin with the cost, draw out your torment until we are paid in full."
He shrugged, feathered his fingers across her skin. "It doesn't have to be about pain, love. There can be a wealth of pleasure."
She stilled at the low heat of his words. "Why?"
"You are mine," he said firmly, voice nearly harsh. "And you were hurt."
"I'm not your territory," Caroline said in exasperation.
"That," Klaus replied, "is where you are wrong."
"No, I'm not."
He shook his head and leaned until their breaths mingled. "You are precious to me. Let me keep you safe."
"How does that work?" Caroline asked slowly. "Why is that important? You'll be going back to England soon."
"We'll discuss that later," Klaus said. "And it's fairly simple. My promise already lies across your skin. So we just feed it a little."
"Feed..." Her words stuttered as he very deliberately ground against her. Her legs flexed against him, body shuddering a little as he moved against her clit.
"We're not having sex!"
"Unfortunately," Klaus drawled. "Next time."
"Next time? What next time?" Caroline spluttered. "I haven't agreed to this time."
He smiled, slow and dangerous, dimples cutting deep. "Do you trust me, Caroline?"
She took a deep, careful breath. She couldn't refute it. Learning what he was, watching him manipulate Matt into a bargain, it'd rattled her. But he was still right. She swallowed. "Yes."
"And I imagine you plan on continuing to hunt the things that hunt your kind's children."
Her eyes narrowed. "Yes."
He smoothed her lips with his thumb. "Then what can another layer of protection hurt?"
"Bonnie made me a wind chime," she groused. "You're offering... well..."
"Orgasms," he filled in, eyes bleeding gold. "Multiple orgasms. Say yes, little love."
She considered him, everything she's known and learned over the last few months. What her mother had thought. Swallowing, she narrowed her eyes and angled her chin. "If this ends up being something other than a promise, I'll make you regret it."
His eyes went completely gold, the heat of him suddenly so much more against her. "Of course you would."
Her mind went blank as he dipped his head and sucked on her neglected nipple through her shirt, his hips starting a slow grind. She started to burn, sweat beading at her temples and her; her bones heated - each desperate movement ratcheting the coil in her abdomen. It didn't take long before she was panting, body chasing its release as he continued to tease her breasts.
"That's a good girl," Klaus murmured against her damp shirt. "I'm going to have to insist that you come now, Caroline."
Caroline tried to find offense at his tone, the arrogance of his words, but he shifted the angle between them and her world went white at the edges. She sank a little, the after-glow heady after the last few weeks of hurt. Klaus hummed against her and a soft tearing noise had her eyes opening as her shirt fluttered against her ribs, torn down the middle.
"Klaus!" Her word was sharp, but not nearly as loud as she'd have liked. "I liked that shirt."
"You didn't think one little orgasm would be enough, did you?" Klaus purred as he pressed his lips against her sweat damp skin. "If you'd declare you were mine, let me sink into the marrow of your bones, the threads of your soul... but I've no complaints of drowning you in pleasure, either."
Klaus licked her breast, sucked one pert nipple into his mouth and her skin caught on fire. The previous teasing through her shirt did nothing to prepare for the heat of him directly against at her skin. He took his time, lavishing attention on each breast until she was moaning, body shifting restlessly against his. Lifting his mouth offered no relief, as that lingering heat kept her nerves overly sensitive. Her hand clutched at him as he sucked and licked a slow path down her body.
Soft, foreign words brushed against her skin and she trembled as he laved at her belly button. He kissed across her fluttering muscles, lingered on scars in a way that left her wet, words deep and possessive against her skin.
"I'm going to take my bite now," Klaus warned as he glanced up from his lashes, tongue slipping just inside the band of her sweats before hooking his fingers. He caught her underwear, and dragged both down her hips slowly, gaze so possessive as she was laid bare. Klaus dipped his head, letting the fabric bunch at her knees as he sucked her clit into his mouth.
Caroline cried out, hips jerking, but he held her down and used his tongue to drive her to madness. Just as she started to tighten, upper body bowing, he lifted his head and tore her sweats.
"Do you feel my promise on your skin yet, love?"
"What?" she gasped, trying to focus on the otherworldly eyes watching her. The look there shook her, as he licked his lips clean.
When were you going to tell me your partner was in love with you?
"Klaus," she breathed at the unspoken emotions there, her pleasure soaked brain struggling to comprehend what he was showing her. Whatever response she had, however hard her heart was pounding, it disappeared as he licked a line up her slit. The deep, hungry noise he made vibrated against her nerves and her spine went boneless.
He took his time. The softness of his tongue moving in long strokes and quick, brief flicks; until her body was trying to ride his mouth. He didn't let her, holding her hips still until she was tugging desperately at his hair, his name a demand.
Klaus flicked a hot glance up the length of her body and smiled. "There it is."
She glanced at her front and froze, breath leaving her in a rushs. There were symbols gleaming on her skin. Painted in the gold of his eyes, they shimmered against her skin in patterns that left her dizzy.
Her eyes met his and his smile showed the sharpened tips of his incisors. "My promise, Caroline Forbes."
She sucked in a breath, nearly choked on it when Klaus hummed against her clit. Her toes curled, spine arching at each diagonal curl of his tongue.
Caroline came with a scream, body unraveling in tumbling waves that wouldn't stop. Klaus stroked her through it and she cried out as he continued, body tightening suddenly as he slid two fingers inside her, curling them just as he sucked hard.
Lights danced behind her lids and she fell back into the couch, her body humming and utterly sated. Damp lips kissed a slow path up her torso, until he reached her mouth. Then so softly she thought she imagined it in her dazed state, he kissed her. Flirted until her mouth parted on a moan and licked the taste of her along her tongue.
"Now, Caroline. Isn't this better?"
She tried to find her brain as he shifted them, so she that was sprawled over his chest, his erection hard through the pants he wore. He smoothed a hand along her bare back and made a soothing noise.
"Shh, little love. You can ask the rest of your questions in the morning. Sleep. I promise, no more nightmares."
She didn't dream.