*It goes without saying that The Originals – the story and all related characters – belong to the writers, cast and crew of the show. I claim no ownership or association to the TV series titled The Originals. This was written by a fan solely for the enjoyment of other fans.*
"You know, it's funny how often a person's sharp tongue can end up cutting their own throat."
– Klaus Mikaelson
The Originals; S02E05
A stranger in a strange land.
Trapped in a waking dream. Adrift. A soul at sea, washing onto alien shores; left to manage before being drawn back out by the inexorable tide . . . only now starting to understand what was even happening to me.
I was alive.
In New Orleans, Louisiana.
Even from the water there was no mistaking it; the city a heady blend of modern architecture and old-style Southern influence. A jewel in the darkness. I leaned on the rail of the ferry, letting the night wind blow through my hair.
No one seemed to notice, or care, that I hadn't boarded with the other tourists. The ferry chugging laboriously across the width of the Mississippi, the water, ink black, frothing at the stern. A shiver lifted the hairs on my neck and I looked quickly over my shoulder, scanning the parked cars, the handful of people milling about.
A stranger in a strange land . . .
I looked out over the frothing black river to the blaze of taillights heading east across the iconic Connection bridge.
New Orleans had been on the list of choices, for my school's senior class trip. I thought about that now.
The vote had come back nearly unanimous for LA and the chance to meet a celebrity. Pity. There was history here, but more than that; a tangible magic. Nothing like what I carried with me, but still – just the barest whisper of . . . maybe . . .
I didn't have to wonder.
In the stories, the books I used to read, the shows I used to watch, there was always that token denial whenever the hero landed in the impossible. And they would always say the same thing: they were imagining things. They must be dreaming . . .
Bullshit. Impossible things were happening to me, and I was awake.
The smell of the river, the feel of the wind cool against my bare legs, tugging at the skirts of my Christmas dress. Deck lights shining off the hoods of passenger cars, and the cold metal of the railing on my arms.
Even the weight of my own body leaning against that railing, fingers absently plucking at flaking white paint.
This was real.
This place. Me.
The ferry's whistle sounded – high and breathy, as we neared the Canal Street terminal.
The problem with having nowhere to be, is that you have nowhere to go.
Tempted by the scents of hot Jambalaya and citrus, lemon and herbs, the steam of crawfish bakes and shrimp fresh from the harbor, slathered in sauces and marinades. I abandoned the river for the unfettered energy of the French Quarter.
The shine of beaded necklaces tossed from wrought iron balconies, while the crowds heaved and surged. Not a festival. This was the festival.
My school's senior class were idiots. Like any of them were really going to be "discovered" while in Hollywood. New Orleans would have made for better memories.
I would have loved to have someone to share this with.
To have come here with friends.
Smoke wafted in my face, mouthwatering, savory, sharpened by the scent of charcoal. Kebabs glistening on a grill, bright red peppers and chicken, dusted with seasonings, and I wasn't ready for the ferocity of that instant clutch in my gut.
It'd been nine days since the Christmas party.
Nine days alone. Frightened. But not so long since I'd eaten; days after being thrust out of my life into whatever the hell this was I found myself on a bare shore while it snowed, watching glaciers bob in a black ocean.
Four days since then and I didn't think I'd been poisoned but I still wasn't sure those were muscles I sucked down. I shivered, a thrill of disgust racing up my spine at the memory. Briny, sandy, raw mollusk.
I would do it again.
Knowing that, having that certainty, was fairly empowering – but also terrifying, knowing that I might have to. Again. At some point. For the first time in my life, I really thought I was going to die. Just freeze there on a desolate shore. The sheer effort of splitting shells off the sharp side of a boulder while my hands burned in the cold . . .
. . . whatever fuel my body absorbed was burned off just getting those shells open.
Barbeque. Those kebobs glistened in the neon glow of a bar sign and I jerked away, moving on before the man at the grill took notice. I stopped by a storefront, the inside dark, closed, and caught sight of my reflection in the dusty glass.
There were bruises on my knees. A leather strap slanted securely across my chest and the bulge of my bag down by my hip. A satchel. That was new. The pins and elastics I pulled from my hair long gone, and so was the polished, painted face of my parents' darling.
I looked cold. Tired.
But not as bad as I expected.
The lovely, crushed-velvet dress I still wore hung like rags off my shoulders. I started to smooth my hands down the front, straightening the limp skirt, but stopped. One ruined dress was quite literally the least of my concerns –
Behind me, over my shoulder, reflected in the window. The tall, lean body of a man standing by a lamppost, arms crossed over a tight chest. Recognition struck like a bolt.
But no – it couldn't . . . that wasn't . . .
I turned around and of course immediately lost him. Between the backwards visual of his reflection and the act of turning, my tired eyes weren't sure where to focus. A float eased past. Tinsel and feathers and the garish faces of exaggerated masks leering down while music blasted over the roar of its own engine.
I had to be wrong.
But I still shoved through bodies, using my hands to wedge between people. Pulse pounding, vaguely worried that I'd be shoved into the street right in front of the parade; I scanned the crowd on the other side of the street.
Too many faces. People everywhere. A dizzying array of color, of light, the glitter of beads and drinks sloshing. The entire Quarter had become one giant carnival ride and it spun! I had to close my eyes, fighting back the burn climbing into my throat.
The man appeared as if by magic, materializing from behind the staccato bursts of firecrackers released on the street, wisps of smoke curling in his hair. My heart missed an alarming number of beats, but I hardly noticed. There was no mistaking it.
I knew that face.
For the first time in nine days – I experienced my first token denial. Impossible. My mind churned, logic offering the possibility that I'd stumbled across the actor, but even as I thought it I rejected the rational; because no human could manifest the sheer magnetic presence of –
He hadn't noticed me.
Blue eyes continued to pass over the crowd. Assessing. A little bored.
Klaus. Vampire. Hybrid.
Our eyes met.
Of course they did, in a crowd of thousands, amidst the chaos, I stood frozen. And I was looking right at him. A mistake. Shit. Passive interest sharpened; Klaus came off the lamppost with a fluid, powerful stride.
I backed into the crowd.
My heart skipped into a gallop and despite the spring cool air, the rain-teased wind, sweat slicked down the centre of my back. What now? I risked a quick glance over my shoulder and saw that lithe, dark form step up onto my side of the street.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
My hand landed on the soft leather of my satchel, the bag bumping as I maneuvered the gauntlet of the festival. The hard weight of the Cube within a hateful reminder of everything I'd lost, of what I couldn't afford to lose . . .
I shoved and shouldered my way through the press of bodies. The crush of people too tight, too close, hot air sawed in my throat. Panic rising. Could he hear it? That rapid-fire drum in my chest.
I risked another quick glance, ice threading through my veins at the sight of him there. Long, dark vampire coming for me with a wolf's ground-eating lope. He was fast in a way that didn't seem to rush, that didn't crowd; an apex predator secure in the kill.
He was also quite a bit closer than I thought.
The crowds were thinning. What had been music forced through speakers and the roar of engines replaced by lighter jazz crooning through open doorways. Wrought-iron balconies draped with greenery, the turn of distant traffic lights.
And in my mind a litany: don't look . . . don't look . . .
Escape. Bars, and some restaurants, were still open.
It shouldn't have surprised me that I never saw it coming; a blur, not even that much, and I was propelled off the street. I felt the impact of shoulders, hips, against unforgiving brick and the air punched from my lungs.
I didn't scream.
Knew better than to call for help.
The man who held me pinned in a narrow alley, arm braced diagonally across my chest, was not Klaus. I sucked in a trembling breath. Elijah.
My god the show really hadn't done any of them justice; there was no mistaking the raw, dark power that coiled beneath the sheen of modern civility. A dragon straining at its chain, scarcely leashed. Those penetrating dark eyes calmer than his brother's sharp expectation; no less deadly.
Klaus swept into the alley seconds behind us with all the flair of a prince; the arrogant swagger of youth, coupled with ageless savagery. Young gods, flitted through my mind and here, at least, the show nailed it.
No. No, I couldn't die here.
I survived two days in subarctic cold on raw mollusk while in a dress. In. A. Dress. For that reason alone, I deserved to survive this. It wasn't fair. I twisted in Elijah's hold, trying to bring my knees up but with the length of his body almost pressed to mine I could hardly move.
"Fine," I gritted, fear and resignation lending surprising strength to my voice, "but I hope my blood gives you anaphylaxis, asshole."
Surprise and genuine amusement lightened the crushing weight in Elijah's eyes, and I could have sworn his grip loosened a fraction.
"Oh good form, luv," Klaus responded. "Most start begging straight away and where's the fun in that? Right then. Where to begin . . ."
Panic crept back in at the silky menace in smirk that pulled at his mouth. I stared as if transfixed, anticipating the sharp slide of fangs and Klaus' dangerous little smile widened further, revealing only human incisors. A tease. A taunt.
He was baiting me.
"Or should I ask, rather, if you found what you were looking for?"
Am I all that you expected? My reputation precedes me . . .
"I wasn't –" dark eyes narrowed. I turned my face away, a thrill of fear that I would mind controlled, compelled, Elijah's face inches from mine. Don't beg, don't beg. My vision started to swim.
"You have two options, little bird. One, confess, turning over whoever else had a part in what you intended to do tonight. Or two," and here Klaus let the light out of his eyes. Brilliant gold while the veins around them swelled with blood, "well . . . I don't think you'll like two very much."
As far as threats go, that was fairly effective. My head spun. Breathe. Breath –
– eat up the minutes.
In a moment of dazzling clarity, it came to me. Eat up the minutes. Almost impossible to detect, in nine days I'd become familiar with the clean thrum of power that radiated straight through the supple leather of my satchel.
The Cube. My Cube . . . was charging, and that meant the countdown was closing on zero. Minutes. Seconds? A sliver of hope, I could escape. Spirited off to where even the mighty Klaus Mikaelson couldn't follow.
There was a power greater than his.
And it was mine.
"So I . . . confess. And you let me go?"
"That's not how this ends."
Of course not. It was a fool's question – exactly the sort they'd expect from me. I sucked in another careful breath, fighting for calm.
"Promise you won't kill me."
"You don't want me to do that," Klaus crooned, deadly serious "because see, if I let you live, you'll dearly wish that I hadn't . . ."
Oh, I believed him.
It struck me how incredible the situation was – my mind again struggling to reject the reality of what I could not possibly ignore. Klaus. Elijah. Dark eyes narrowed, his face just inches from mine. I could smell his cologne.
This was real.
A grip that could pulverize the bones in my shoulder tightened warningly. I met Elijah's edged stare and doubled-down on what was essentially the truth.
"I came to New Orleans by myself. There's no one else."
"A dangerous gamble, to confess that no one would think to miss you." Velvet-wrapped menace in that soft-spoken threat.
Music drifted lazily in the night, the wind pushing currents of loose sand over sun-bleached asphalt. It tugged at the hem of my skirts, ominously chill. Something seething in me roared, a buffer against fear as I held Elijah's fathomless stare. Klaus' penetrating blue eyes.
"Nobody will miss me. Or else I'm lying to you," I said. "Which is it?"
Brave words. Power thrummed. Mine. Elijah noticed. He glanced quickly down.
Klaus said, "You fled."
It sounded like an accusation.
"Because you were chasing me."
Elijah was searching the ground, my hands clenched in the space between our bodies, his attention landing on the leather satchel down by my hip. Lingered there. Lingered . . .
Intelligent eyes darkened with suspicion as Elijah considered me and I felt him weigh his decision; morbidly, I wondered if I would feel it when my spine broke, the bones in my neck splintering with a careless snap of his wrist.
I'd seen it done hundreds of times before and thought nothing of it but this was different. Real. I could feel the scream roiling in my chest, locked there –
Elijah released me so suddenly that I pitched forward, right back into him. The adrenaline abandoning me and leaving dizzying numbness in its wake. I was breathing. Was I breathing? So close. So close . . .
He set me gently back against the building and in a single deft move slipped my satchel from my shoulders. I didn't dare protest but horror zinged through me, energizing – just – what was left of my strength.
Elijah peeled back the top flap of my satchel, looking inside. The bag hung limply in his strong hands, it's pale, cream-colored leather soft lambskin. He didn't have to search to find it – the bag contained only the Black Cube, nothing else.
The most precious thing I owned.
Too big to stuff in a pocket. Too big to carry in my hands.
Elijah pulled out the Cube and my entire being seemed to sigh at the sight of it; blacker than the empty spaces between the stars. The color of void. To look into it you felt yourself falling forward – there was too little for the eye to focus on, you brought perspective by observing the world around it.
Gave it shape by the line it left against Klaus' navy sweater. The painted plaster of the building behind him. The pale – deathly pale in comparison – curl of his fingers on its surface when Elijah handed it to him.
I licked my lips.
"You were wrong, you know." A ghost of a smile on Klaus' face. He could feel it now too, that curl of power coiling. "You said I had two options," not even trying to hide the waver in my voice. "There's a third."
I took one step.
And pressed my hand to the Cube.
What happened next happened so fast that I would never clearly remember it. Rough hand closed around my wrist. And I hurtled forward, drawn in the wake of an implosion like the sun collapsing into itself – and something different.
A body. A presence. My head full of scents of leather and denim, pine resin, brandy, wolf musk.