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Laying his hand on Elijah's forehead, Klaus forced his mind deeper, plunging past his brother's mental barriers in an attempt to breach his subconscious.
To bring him home.
"Let me in, Elijah," He panted, feeling the first tingles of pain begin to form behind his eyes. "Let me help end whatever torment mother has forced upon you."
Gasping, he mentally shoved past the increasing pain beginning to tear at his head, determined to save his brother.
He would not leave him alone to suffer!
Just as the taste of blood touched his lips a cold hand broke his concentration, violently jarring him out of his task.
Spinning, defences already raised, Klaus barely managed to control his animal instinct to attack when he caught sight of Hayley's shocked features, shuddering to a stop.
"What are you doing?" She breathed, staring at the blood dripping from his nose with ill-disguised alarm and not a small amount of suspicion as her eyes quickly shot to Elijah's defenceless body laid out on the bed behind him.
Klaus hastily wiped the blood from his face, trying to catch his breath, even as familiar irritation at her obvious, ongoing distrust towards him – even concerning his own brother – quickly reared its head.
An irritation that died a quick, painful death as soon as his gaze caught hers.
She wasn't Hope's mother.
Clearing his throat, he nodded towards Elijah's prone form, "I'm trying to enter Elijah's thoughts to wake him…Ester has locked me out."
He couldn't help watching Hayley, like a specimen under a microscope, as she approached his brother. Watching as she gently lowered the collar of his white shirt to peer at something he couldn't see.
And he realised…he believed his mother.
He'd believed her claim about Hayley merely being a surrogate from the moment he'd heard the words. Because he'd seen the look in Ester's eyes.
To his mother's mind there was no reason to lie.
His daughter was dead.
This earth-shattering knowledge concerning the truth of Hope's conception wasn't meant to serve as anything but another bartering piece in finally convincing him to accept what she offered. To only add to the reasons he ought to trust her. Trust in what she was offering him by re-gifting a mortal life to her children. The same mortal life she'd forcibly stolen from them all one thousand years ago.
Ester had no idea what she'd done.
"Is this rash a side effect of the witchy acid trip he's on?"
Hayley's soft question broke him out of his thoughts with an effectiveness that told him just how much his mind wanted to avoid the topic, and Klaus grasped the opportunity with both hands.
Leaning forward, he pushed aside the material at Elijah's neck, closing his eyes against the sight of the familiar burn mark, admitting, "I haven't seen this since I was a child." At least he now knew what had to be done. "Mikael would return home from battle more blindly temperamental than usual and our mother would use the petals of a rare Merlock orchid to put him to sleep." The explanation rolled off his tongue with an ease Klaus relished in, even as he skilfully avoided the concerned stare of the girl to his left. "She would mend his mind with a spell and then wake him with the roots of the same plant."
Breathing out, he steeled himself before turning to face Hayley, stomach swooping as he locked eyes with her familiar hazel for the first time since his mother had told him the truth.
Hayley was not your daughter's mother, Niklaus.
"If she has access to the plant now, then maybe it also grows in the bayou." Mind ticking over, already mapping his way to the vast area he knew he'd have to search, Klaus continued. "You stay here with your wolves and mind the fort."
Making his way swiftly towards the exit, hating himself for the relief that surged through him at the knowledge that he wouldn't have to look at Hayley or continue to be beset with the unfathomable question of whether he should tell her the truth or keep this painful reality from her until he'd had the time necessary to truly wrap his mind around what it would mean for him, for his family, for…Hope, her voice stopped him.
"I'd rather rip your mother's head off."
Whirling, Klaus closed the gap between them.
"Stay clear of her," He ordered harshly, eyes flashing.
When Hayley's mouth pursed stubbornly and she refused to meet his gaze Klaus felt his anger spike, fear of what she'd find out should she seek out his monstrous mother pulling the cruel words from his throat without remorse.
"What do you think you could do, Hayley?" He crooned softly, stalking forward. "Honestly? Yes, you're a hybrid, but you've barely managed to control your emotions, let alone your impulses." Spreading his arms wide, Klaus laughed sardonically, "Even as a regular mortal, little wolf, you were far more brawn than brain and I simply do not have the time to save Elijah and save you from whatever kidnapping, hostage situation you wind up in this week." Her eyes were wide with shock at his tone, not to mention the genuine hostility that even Klaus could feel saturating the air around him, but he couldn't help it.
All he wanted was to leave.
Leave her sight, her sound, her presence – to have a small moment to process the fact that Hayley – was – not – Hope's – Mother!
And she was preventing that!
"I mean it, Hayley," The order was low, a growl that Klaus didn't even pretend wasn't his werewolf side coming out to play.
Sometimes, he thought that Hayley conveniently 'forgot' that he was a wolf too.
And an alpha.
Swallowing, avoiding his eyes, the brunette nodded stiffly. "I won't go after her. I promise."
Then he was gone.
Rei groaned as she heaved herself off the worn chaise, smiling gratefully at the healer that mutely raised a hand to help steady her.
"Easy there," He murmured sympathetically, "that leg's going to be tender for a few hours, alright? It was a pretty deep laceration."
"Yeah," She puffed out a laugh, mind flashing back to the witch who'd managed to catch her with the curse.
"I want you to try walking a lap of this room – only this room," The healer added sternly, making her lips twitch with tired amusement, "while I go get you something to eat, alright?"
"No," She shook her head, gently brushing aside his steadying hand as she took tentative steps towards the broad, dusty windows in front of her, "help the others. I know there's still more hurt." When he looked as if he'd still argue Rei caught his eye, narrowing her gaze just slightly. "I appreciate your concern. And your help. But someone else can get me food, you're needed elsewhere…" she trailed off expectantly.
"Randall," He filled in but when an agonised scream ripped through the decrepit sitting room of one of their smaller and less used safe houses, he left with a quick purposeful nod.
Sighing, finally alone, Rei let her body sag against the wall, peering out the cloudy glass panes at the half dead garden outside.
That had been a close one.
…It should never have happened.
Pulling her wand from the back pocket of her jeans, Rei dug deep into her core and spoke the familiar words to a spell she'd mastered at thirteen, smiling at the gentle silver glow that radiated from the giant stag that blazed to life beside her.
"Hermione," She spoke softly, "I'm at Dagforth, Yorkshire, with the others. It was a trap. The Yaxley twins. We lost…" The words stuck in her throat as Rei realised she didn't know how many they'd lost before she'd blasted those wards apart and they'd finally been able to portkey away. To escape. "I don't know," She breathed hollowly. Dragging in a shuddering breath, she rested her forehead against the cool glass, welcoming the bite of cold with a fierceness that surprised her. "The healers stationed here are taking care of everyone, there's no need to send more, we have everything we need for now. As soon as everyone's stable we'll move out." Smiling sadly, she traced a finger along the glass, drawing a star. "…Love you, Mione."
She nodded silently to her patronus and the silvery messenger disappeared without a sound, melting into the walls.
Would this war ever end?
Hayley watched Oliver's body burn with conflicted feelings. On the one hand, he'd betrayed them. Betrayed the pack and everything they'd tried to build only a few months ago. He'd had a direct hand in all those machinations falling to pieces. Yet…he'd come back. At the end, when it was asked of him, he'd helped get those young, untriggered werewolves out of New Orleans…and he'd been killed for it.
Surely he'd deserved more than just Jackson and her at his funeral?
"It's not right," Jackson muttered beside her, the bottle of whiskey in his hand swaying with his arms, "Crescent tradition dictates that your body be burned in the morning, in front of the pack, and no-one turned up," He scoffed, drinking deeply from the bottle. "So much for pack loyalty."
Watching him go with thoughtful eyes, Hayley bit her lip, "They're scared, Jack. Finn Mikaelson has them completely controlled with the moonlight rings. Ollie was a traitor to that."
"He wasn't a t-!"
"To them he was," She interrupted him gently, taking the bottle out of his hands. "You might be mad as hell at them, Jack, but they are still our people. And they need you. They need their alpha."
Stepping around him, Hayley made her way back to the car, shielding her eyes against the feel of depression in the air.
They needed to deal with Finn. Now.
Unbidden, her mind flashed back to this morning, to the sight of Elijah laying vulnerable on the bed. Trapped in his mind…And to Klaus.
He'd surprised her.
It had been a long time since she'd had Klaus turn those sorts of emotions on her. Long enough that she'd forgotten how threatening he could be. How genuinely dangerous. In fact, the last time he'd turned to her in such a mood was before she'd started showing while pregnant with their daughter. She hadn't enjoyed the reminder of his power. No matter that that power, that darkness, was now always going to be in her favour…the inequality between them, their capabilities, bit at her pride.
She was a Labonair.
One of the last Crescent alphas.
And that meant something.
Yet, this morning, she'd felt…small.
Growling, Hayley yanked open the car door, throwing herself inside as she started the engine.
No matter. She'd show Klaus, show everyone. She was just as capable as the Originals of taking care of herself. Of getting things done. Hayley refused to become dependent on the impossibly older immortals for all her strength. She'd left home at thirteen for Christ's sakes! Learned to live on the road, with nothing to her name, for years! She'd had no help from anybody.
And she'd be damned if that changed now.
Turning the corner, Hayley reached for her phone and selected Aiden's number on the contact list, listening to the ringing tone with chomping anticipation.
"Aiden!" She smirked, "I'm glad I caught you. I need your help."
"Meet me at Marcel's, I'll tell you everything there."
"A thousand years estranged, and you choose to walk in silence," Ansel's voice echoed around them. "Surely you have questions for me."
Closing his eyes, Klaus breathed in deeply, searching for a patience that had never – not even in the best of circumstances – come easily to him.
"Just one," He glared at the trees darkly. "Is there a way to cure Elijah without having to listen to the pointless rambling of an old man?"
His birth father walked quietly past him, eyes twinkling with affectionate, gentle humour at the evidence of one of Klaus' more well-known vices.
"I'm afraid the price of my assistance is conversation," Ansel countered, moving forward to lead the way.
Scoffing, Klaus bent his head to the side, unable to bring himself to follow so easily after the man who was responsible for one half of his very existence. He'd bitten back all his questions, time having numbed him to the importance of the answers more effectively than anything else ever could, yet still…
"You know, I used to tell myself that my real father must've had no idea I existed," He spat. "Otherwise he'd never leave me to suffer under Mikael." Even as he said the words, Klaus surprised himself with how much he truly meant them.
Mikael's abusive tendencies were hardly a secret in their small village. Everyone in their community was afraid of the enduringly angry warrior on some level. But he supposed self-preservation had ensured such wariness in those he'd lived among. A simpleton would have been able to grasp that Mikael's fury was a deep, dark, simmering emotion. One that wasn't going away. How his mother could have loved him was a riddle even he was unable to solve after all these years. And Ester had loved Mikael. Of that he was sure.
But what was Ansel's excuse?
"Ester forbade me from seeing you, so I waited, knowing that one day you would trigger your curse and need your real father," Ansel spoke quietly but with strength. Conviction.
He believed he'd done right.
Klaus watched now as the same blue eyes that had stared back at him from his own reflection all these years squinted at the leaf matter littering the forest floor, watched as Ansel swept his hand across his mouth and betrayed something less than that infuriatingly perfect calm for the first moment since they'd met.
"But when that happened… Mikael found me first." He grimaced lightly before once again meeting Klaus' gaze. "I fought him for you." Ansel spoke those words like it was of the utmost importance that Klaus know that.
That he'd fought for him.
And, in his heart, Klaus supposed he also knew why that fact mattered.
He'd fought for him.
Not his pack.
Not for pride or out of jealousy.
Not for Ester.
…He'd fought for him.
"Well," He drawled slowly, stalking forward, "your grand declaration is just a few years too late."
"You joke, but I know you've always felt a void in your life," Ansel spoke quickly, as if somehow sensing he was getting somewhere and desperate to continue his assault on Klaus' notoriously high emotional walls. "I've watched you from beyond for centuries. You've travelled the world, seen monuments erected, feasted on the blood of history's most extraordinary men, but you've never found true peace."
Words escaped him.
"The only moments of joy in your life, however fleeting, have been simple pleasures." Klaus watched with honest shock as a gentle, wrinkled smile took over Ansel's face, affection blazing from those eerily familiar eyes. Eyes staring at him. "As you climbed the Himalayas. As you tended to your horses. Quiet days, teaching that boy Shakespeare."
"Stop," He denied.
"I watched you paint. I watched you feel your unborn daughter's kick."
Impossibly fast, Klaus shoved Ansel back, snarling.
"I said, stop," He spat through gritted teeth, unimaginable pain gripping his heart as he placed a threatening hand on his father's shoulder, dangerously close to the alpha's neck. "You say Ester forbade you from coming near me, from telling me the truth. What I want to know is…how could you have let her?"
"She was your mother," Ansel breathed, but there was an apologetic look in his eyes. "I thought she knew best."
His hand fisted in the shirt at his father's throat. "Just like that? You never fought her on that decision? Never pressed?"
"She was married, Niklaus. To have given you up…she wasn't willing to do that. And even if she were, Ester would have been risking Mikael taking your siblings from her."
Mouth twisting with disdain, hating the weakness of that answer, Klaus shook his head, letting Ansel go with a shove.
Staring up at the blue sky, he couldn't help the question that left him next.
One that had been stalking his thoughts since he'd spoken to his mother.
"When did you realise that I wasn't Mikael's child?"
Ansel didn't question the inquiry and for that, if nothing else, Klaus was grateful.
"When Ester told me."
His gaze snapped down. "She told you?"
"Yes," Ansel nodded solemnly.
Why would his mother dare to chance that his real father might claim him? Might destroy her marriage? Her life? Why tell him the truth?
"I imagine…because only the true parents of a child can grasp the joy of their existence. And she wanted to share that with the one person who'd feel her joy as strongly as she did."
The idea of his mother being overtaken by joy to the point that it influenced her unending pragmatism seemed ridiculous, but he nodded silently, accepting the theory for what it was: a lover's wishful thought.
"Do you ever…" Breaking off, Klaus rubbed his eyes, angry that he – someone that was so good with words - couldn't seem to find them in this moment."I don't know how you felt watching Mikael raise me in your place. Honestly, I don't even care. But-"
I merely want you to understand some of my own desperate feelings at that moment I realised you weren't Mikael's, my son...despite your own loss, the death of your child means that you never have to live with the guilt of denying your daughter her real mother. Not as I was forced to.
Resolute, Klaus turned to face Ansel, gripping him with his gaze. "Do you think it would have been easier if we'd never known the truth?"
The alpha's brow twitched, confused by his question.
"Imagine, for a moment, that vampirism had somehow cancelled out my wolf side a thousand years ago." He wanted to laugh at his own absurdity, his own desperation. But he needed this answer! "That Ester had never told you that I was yours... Do you think it would have been better if you'd never known I was your son? To have lived your life, probably a very happy life, without ever having to live with me as a complication?"
Because he was now faced with exactly what his mother had been all those years ago.
An inconvenient truth.
And Gods, but he wanted to rip his own heart out for even thinking those words.
He hadn't really thought Ansel would say anything else. Not with so far-fetched a query. He didn't live in 'what ifs' either.
What he didn't expect was the anger.
"No, Niklaus. There was never I time I wished I didn't know the truth. No matter how inconvenient," Ansel spat with disgust, "you say the truth of your birth was, I never saw it that way. I loved you. I still love you. You're my son. And I would never suffer anyone taking that away from me."
The fierceness, the possessiveness…it was all too familiar.
Klaus' spine straightened with unease, his stomach curling with coldness.
He was sick of this conversation.
Running his tongue along his teeth, Klaus suddenly scoffed. "A millennium of observing me…were your eyes closed as I slaughtered whole villages? Fed my way through thousands of innocents?" Taking perverse pleasure in describing his sins, in testing the strength of Ansel's seemingly loving regard, Klaus continued with a feral grin, "Because, let's face it, I have a tendency to play with my food."
He moved closer with unbearable slowness, ears ringing with the sounds of bayou around them, refusing to relinquish control of Ansel's gaze.
"Have I made you proud…Father?"