one million invisible lines
It starts with a polite suggestion.
("I want a bloody turn.")
Of course, when it comes to Kol nothing is polite. He prods the back of Rebekah's head with a stick he finds poking out of the leather seats when he wants her to go faster; when Rebekah ignores his questions on when he gets to drive instead, he compels about three girls back to back to get into the car with them (and they somehow inconveniently scratch themselves bloody) and Caroline has to find a way to get the girls safely out of the car before the veins around Klaus and Stefan's eyes gets more creepy-noticeable.
When Kol feels that Klaus isn't paying nearly enough attention to him, he slings his arm around Caroline (Caroline, eyes wide, would swat his arm away but always a beat too late—Klaus narrows his eyes at this) and twirls a finger around her golden hair, remarking, "They're right about you, you are stunning", always with an eyebrow wiggle in Klaus's direction.
(Caroline doesn't dare ask who they are, just as Klaus doesn't roll his eyes when Kol regales them – again – with tales of how Klaus would dotingly tend to his tiny daisy patch because he likes sketching them.)
"Oh, piss off, Kol," Rebekah snaps when Kol prods her with the stick once again. "And stop being such a backseat driver; I know how the door locks work!"
"Really now?" Kol leans forward so his breath is hot against her ear, a devilish grin forming on his face. "I seem to remember a car parked outside the speakeasy on 23rd Street, and a barman named Lesley Parker…"
Rebekah ends up in the backseat, snarling at the back of Kol's head when he intentionally shifts the car so Caroline and Klaus lean heavily against her. Thankfully, Klaus is sitting between them (Wait, why is she thankful? Klaus is arguably worse than Rebekah) and Stefan doesn't comment when Caroline finds her hand gripping Klaus's shoulder more and more. He more or less just does that eyebrow thing of his, If you must, you must and Caroline tries to ignore what it means. She wants to give an offhand comment, but Stefan's already turned to Kol: "We drive on the right side of the road here. I'm pretty sure you know that."
"Pretty sure I don't care," Kol lilts, and he guns it down the road, Ole Betsey groaning the whole way.
When Klaus slams painfully into Rebekah's hip the fourth time, she shoots out a hand to twist Kol's ear ("That hurt, you slag," he snips) and hisses, "I swear, do that again and I will end your life very soon."
Stefan clenches his jaw, Klaus's drawing hand stills, and Caroline looks out the window.
There's a knock on the door and Elijah swings it open to a surprise in the form of a petite brunette in a periwinkle sweater.
("Elena? What are you doing here?")
His mouth is quirked into a small smile and he steps aside to let her in. She shrugs off her coat and Elijah takes it, tucking it into a nondescript closet. "I thought I wasn't seeing you until much later."
"I needed a change of scene," Elena admits, walking to the center of the foyer, eyes reflecting the crystal facets of the chandelier hanging from the ceiling. "All Damon wanted to do was drink, or try to find a way to read Stefan's journals…" Her voice trails off, eyes still glued to the pièce de résistance of the room and she wonders, for a brief second, if Klaus is feeling bitter the hours he had put into building their home, wonders if he (like her) feels like it's hopeless. Like it's all for nothing.
She turns back to Elijah, and tries to channel some Caroline sunshine into her smile.
(It feels more like winter morning, but Elena doesn't think about that either.)
Elijah takes one hand out of his pocket and gives a non-committal wave. "He's off somewhere with Rebekah and Kol." Guiding her to the sitting room, he places a light hand on the curve of her back, never daring to go any lower. "Truthfully, I haven't seen him since yesterday morning. Rebekah seems to be having fun at least," he adds as an afterthought.
Elena keeps her smile on her face. She knows Elijah hadn't meant to bruise, Glad she's having the time of her shortly-cut life. She watches the fond smile playing on his face and twiddles her thumbs together. "What've… you been doing lately?" she asks, after running her eyes over the gilded French furniture of the room.
"You don't have to tread lightly around me, Elena." He nudges the crystal Baccarat bowl filled with her favorite macaroons. "We both know my fate is inescapable. I'd appreciate it if you didn't treat me like I'm made of porcelain."
("We both know you're the fragile one around here," he doesn't say.)
Elena's mouth drops open to stutter a response. "No – that wasn't how—I was just…" She screws her eyes shut, palms coming together in her lap. "Sorry. I actually came today to see if you wanted to do something."
Elijah quirks an eyebrow. "Do something?"
Biting into a pistachio macaroon, Elena nods eagerly. "Anything."
Kol decides he's had enough of tormenting Rebekah in the car.
("You can take over this old farce; you're a better match for it anyway.")
Stefan chuckles when Rebekah chucks the now-useless side mirror at Kol's head (Klaus storms out of the car then, Caroline dragging herself after him to make sure he doesn't snap the necks of any innocent bystanders).
"Who's this Lesley Parker he keeps mentioning?" Stefan asks, shaking his head.
Before Rebekah can come up with something, Kol calls out: "Her – what do you call it nowadays? Ah yes, her booty call back in the day!"
"I can explain," Rebekah starts, but gets distracted by the upward curve of Stefan's mouth. A grin forming on her own lips, she says, "I haven't heard you laugh in a long time."
The sounds dies down in Stefan's throat and for a second, he looks trapped, and his eyes dart to the road ahead of them where Kol is easily outrunning the 50 miles per hour pace that Klaus is now limiting her to. He clears his throat and says, "Eyes on the road, Rebekah."
Rebekah bites the insides of her cheek and goes back to trying to run Kol over. Stefan finds that when Rebekah has a goal set, she hits a lot less curbs and actually stays in the middle of the road (assuming Kol keeps running in a straight line, of course). "Of course, Stefan," she mutters, rolling her eyes. Her fingers – clad in tasteful leather gloves – wrap firmly around the steering wheel. She remembers to step down on the clutch before making a turn and Stefan sends her an approving nod.
(She tries not to look too pleased and instead fiddles with her scarf.)
There's a loud clang as the bumper scrapes the road (Rebekah counts her lucky stars that Klaus isn't in the car anymore) when Kol jumps into the backseat, grinning. "You know, sister," Kol begins conversationally, running a hand through his windswept hair, "with the amount of times I catch you making eyes at Stefan here, I'm not surprised you've run over every squirrel in this pony town."
Rebekah responds by making a sharp turn, and Kol hastens to steady himself. "Piss off, Kol," she says automatically, noticing Stefan staring out towards the tree line. "Why don't you go make daisy chains with Klaus or something, God knows what they're doing by that stupid stream."
"Avoiding a snapped neck, no doubt," Kol says and darts out of the car before Rebekah can find a stinging retort.
Stefan cracks a small grin at Rebekah's pout. "You're not that bad." At Rebekah's disbelieving sniff, he insists, "You're getting better."
"So are you," she says quietly before she can quite stop herself.
There's a silence, but she thinks she can hear him whisper a thank you before telling her in his steady voice once again, "Watch out for that squirrel, Rebekah."
Caroline dips her feet into the icy stream, toes painted the colors of the edge of the world.
("What do you keep drawing in there?" she finally asks, tired of the sound of pencil against paper.)
Klaus raises an eyebrow. "If I told you, I'd have to kill you." There isn't the slightest bit of a joke in his voice.
"Ooh, ominous." She tilts her head to the side. "Am I in it?"
"I thought you wanted my romantic drawings—" Klaus sneers slightly, "—to leave you alone?"
"So you admit they were romantic?" She shoots, water splashing around her.
"Just as soon as you admit you liked them," Klaus quips right back.
Caroline's perfected her scoff by now and looks away. She doesn't know why she's bringing it up now, doesn't know why she should even care. (Doesn't know why she's been running her fingers over the softening edges of the drawing lately, right as she falls asleep.)
They sit like that for a while, Caroline counting the silver fishes that rush around rocks and occasionally trying to sneak glances at Klaus's sketchbooks – and Klaus, steadily hunched over aforementioned book, not breathing a word.
Later, when she's tired of being ignored, she starts to head back through the trees back to the open road.
(They've been gone awhile anyway, and she doesn't want Stefan to think she's been murdered in the woods by the sociopathic killer they've all deemed Klaus.)
"They weren't romantic, by the way," Klaus finally calls out.
Caroline turns around and slips a little over a tree root. Steadying herself, she frowns and calls back, "What?"
"They're just pictures." Klaus is looking directly at her, brushing himself off and flipping his sketchbook shut. "Just pictures of you."
They end up having dinner at Maison de Mort, as Damon has taken to calling the Mikaelson Mansion.
(As in, "I saw you picking Rebekah up from the House of Doom and Gloom this morning."
"Been stalking me, I see," Stefan remarks. He licks his thumb and flicks to a fresh page of his journal and frowns at the dog-ears that he can't remember being there before. "Have you been reading this again?"
Damon ignores Stefan's question and insists, "No, really. You must be hijacking our mail again, because I seem to have missed the memo that says we're allowed to walk on the lawns of Maison de Mort and not be staked. In the face."
"Since when do you speak French?" Stefan asks absently, jotting down the day's date with his fountain pen.
Damon shrugs. "You guys are never here anymore; I toured France with the Google Maps dude today.")
So when they all trudge, hop or squeeze their way out the window of Ole Betsey – the doors don't open anymore after Kol 'thoughtfully' duct tapes them shut after they keep creaking open – and see Damon resting on the Originals' front porch, the only person who isn't surprised (Caroline), intrigued (Rebekah), indifferent (Kol), or suspicious (Klaus), is Stefan.
"What are you doing here?" Caroline asks, and subconsciously finds herself standing in between the two brothers. The older Salvatore didn't seem to see her.
"No way," Damon says flatly. "This is not how you've been spending the last three days, brother." He stands, and he skims over the five of them incredulously. "I mean, Caroline I get, since she has all those I'm-a-girl scout-save-all-the-wounded-puppies tendencies but… you?"
(Caroline curls her upper lip and reveals a fang; Klaus looks mildly impressed.)
"Damon," Stefan says calmly, but his feet are shuffling closer and his shoulders hunch just a tad. "I can explain."
Klaus picks an imaginary lint off his sweater and leans against Ole Betsey. "Before you tear out Esther's begonias, you might want to hear your brother out, Damon." He smiles, revealing his teeth. "It's an interesting story."
"What, that he's been playing Driving Miss Daisy without compulsion?" Damon scoffs. "Cool story, bro. Does Elena know?"
"Of course, because it would matter so much to her." Rebekah says scornfully, bringing her fist down on Klaus's car. (It dents.) "Better alert the media, we need full coverage for when Elena hears about this!"
"Hears about what?" Elena's suddenly standing in the open door, mouth twisted into a charming little o.
Damon and Stefan zero in on Elijah's hand resting lightly on her waist.
Maybe it was the way Elena's lip quivers when she tries to smile, or the way Klaus's stance is mirroring Stefan's – like they're both prepared to lunge for Damon should he say the wrong thing – or how Kol looks like his birthday came earl, that Damon decides to let this temporary insanity slide – for now.
"You're here too?" he asks weakly instead.
"We've been making fudge brownies," Elena says, looking pleased. It's then that they notice the smudges of flour on the tip of her nose and her sweater.
"We?" Kol questions, fusing her eyebrows together.
"Yes, Elena and I," Elijah says, stepping outside to join them on the porch. "They're fudgelicious."
He says it with a straight face. They all stare.
"It's the charming print on the packaging of the instant brownies Elena seems to love," Elijah says to fill the awkward pause, a smile on his face. "We've gone through four of them; the last batch is still in the oven."
"For the love of God," Damon says in one long exhale.
They're looking out the window, the two Originals silhouetted magnificently against the setting sun.
(Klaus explains the little predicament they're in and Elijah laughs, asking if Rebekah's run over any humans yet.)
They're sipping blood from their crystal glasses when Klaus says, "I haven't seen her look this content since before…"
"Since before Henrik died," Elijah supplies.
Klaus looks at him strangely, the thought occurring to him as well. "You remember."
"Of course," Elijah says simply.
Rebekah's wiping down Ole Betsey – on Klaus's commands despite Kol commenting that there was nothing much left of her to wipe down – and her face was free from the scowl it held earlier as her body was enveloped in the orange haze. Fireflies flit around her and the cool air lends a lovely shade of pink to her cheeks, and Klaus years to capture her in that moment with his paints.
Elijah lets out a breath, his face clouding over. "Have you told her?"
That we're going to die? "No."
Elijah waits for him to add, not yet, but it doesn't come. All the way across the house, their sharp ears pick up Damon asking Caroline to pass the salt—
("Your plate already looks like Siberia," Caroline chides. "Your tongue's going to burn right off."
"And miss out on all this riveting conversation?" Damon asks wonderingly. "I guess I'll have to take that risk.")
—and Elena laughing as she piles more brownies on everyone's plates.
Elijah looks weary all of a sudden. "And Kol?"
Side-eyeing his brother, Klaus swigs his drink. "I thought we'd do it together."
Elijah drains his scotch. "Shall we?"
In the garden, they see Kol join Rebekah. She whips the rag at his face, he dodges and tries to upend the soapy water all over her while she runs circles around him, pinching him every so often. Finally they end up rolling and fisting and punching each other in the grass, the sound of their laughter mingles with the low whoops of the evening birds.
Klaus places a hand on Elijah's shoulder just as Kol and Rebekah look up to catch their older brothers' eyes, and they're grinning. Not their usual smiles laced with malice, but the smiles they use to give each other when Henrik was alive, when the most Esther could do to hurt them was forget to pick out their favorite pomegranate seeds.
"Not tonight." Elijah can't be sure, but he thinks he detects the ghost of a plea in Klaus's voice.
"No, not tonight," he agrees. He hesitates before saying, "You're a good man, Klaus."
"You're a good brother," Klaus says hoarsely.
Klaus clasps Elijah's shoulder tighter, nails digging into the fabric of his suit. Elijah looks at him and raises his glass slightly, I'm not going anywhere. Eventually, Klaus's hand falls back to his side.
The two of them stand in companionable silence, watching Kol and Rebekah gather their bearings and finish washing the car until the darkness sets in and the only thing left to see are the sporadic blinking of the fireflies.