put down your sword and crown

or i can break and take it with a smile

"If you lot don't shut up I will hurl this car off a cliff," Klaus snarls, a deep frown etched on his face.

Stefan's decided that Rebekah's finally ready to face the treacherous traffic of the highways, and Klaus doesn't want to put a damper on their little excursions—as he's taken to calling them; Damon's much ruder about it—or anything of the like (especially as any wrong move might result in Rebekah veering them into a truck) but to put it very simply, he disagrees with Stefan. No, Rebekah is not ready to face any sort of traffic that isn't a simulation of Kol running across the street tagging the bumper with his fists, or throwing trees at the windshield. At Stefan's frown, he reasons that it's not Rebekah he's worried about—

It's his car.

While he knows he can just compel Jay Leno to hand over his own car—curse that man for being able to find a Duesenberg so easily in a neighbourhood garage—he likes Ole Betsey. It's his first car, the very one he rolled out of the car dealership in 1926. They say you never forget your first car, and Klaus would rather not put that theory to the test. He doesn't want to have to remember how Stefan had once begged to borrow his Duesy to seduce a rich heiress of noble blood (so to speak); he wants the actual car and not memories of what once was.

And he's not sure Ole Betsey can survive the highway (he doesn't even drive Ole Betsey on the highway!), especially with his sister behind the wheel.

Rebekah doesn't necessarily agree, so Klaus threatens to take the car away for good if she doesn't at least let him demonstrate how to maneuver his car around the heavy traffic.

It's an odd sight to behold: a banged up vintage car (with its side mirror carelessly duct taped back on, one of its hubcaps missing, and a gaping hole in the vinyl top) weaving around shiny Hondas and the occasional Bimmer. Rebekah's trying not to look at her brother's smug face as he expertly cuts across a red convertible (how on earth does Nik manage to make Ole Betsey go that fast without it making that horrid choking noise?) while Kol's complaining (loudly) that this is taking forever.

"Bekah shouldn't be allowed on the streets when people are so accustomed—" Kol makes sure her eyes are on his through the reflection of the rearview mirror—"to seeing her in the corner of one."

"Will you just shut—"

Rebekah unbuckles her seatbelt—

("What do you think you're doing, Rebekah?" Klaus snaps as the car swerves.)


She's on her brother in a flash—

("Get back in your seat, Rebekah," Stefan says, voice a little bit too loud, when the bumper drags painfully along the gravel.)


("That's a nice use of your scarf," Caroline notes.)

She's strangling him now, the terrifying look matching her grip on the red scarf that she has looped tightly around Kol's neck. "Or I will make you."

"Dear sister, didn't you know?" Kol reaches for Rebekah's hands and wrenches them from his neck, and slams her against Stefan—Klaus frantically turns the steering wheel as the car balances precariously on its right-side wheels—hissing through his teeth, "We're already dying. So I say: bring it on."

"I can't believe this," Bonnie says flatly.

"Bonnie!" Elena jumps up from here stool, shock flitting across her face for a split second before stammering, "Why aren't you in school?"

"Why aren't you in school?" The witch's eyes narrow as she asks, a little exasperated, "Why isn't anyone in school?"

"I, um, overslept," Elena replies lamely. "And they're here for coffee."

("Ta da," Damon lilts, raising his mug.)

Bonnie doesn't seem to know how to respond to this, so she backtracks instead. "I came to school today with only half my bio presentation because my partner was absent—"

Caroline gasps, eyes averted with guilt. "I am so sorry, I totally blanked."

"—and knowing my partner for the neurotic never-absent control freak that she is," Bonnie continues, "I was just curious to know where she was. Besides…" Her eyes flick to Elena and pass just as quickly. "You've all been so quiet lately."

"That's what I thought too!" Damon exclaims. "High five, girlfriend."

"Look, I'm sorry," Elena says, "but you haven't exactly been looking for me lately."

"And within reason, considering the circumstances!" Bonnie retorts. She sweeps her arm across the room. "And what's all this?"

("Does anyone else here feel like a lamp?" Kol asks his siblings, who either roll their eyes (Klaus) or glare at Bonnie (Rebekah).)

And suddenly it dawns on her. She turns to Elena, a little horrified; a lot betrayed. "You told them."

The shift in the room is enough to make Rebekah ask, "Told us what?"

Elijah immediately steps in between Elena and Bonnie (Bonnie stands her ground). "She only told me. If you want to blame anyone for telling Klaus, blame me."

Kol directs his grim gaze to his brother.

"Nik?" Rebekah questions a white-faced Klaus. "What's Elijah talking about?"

Stefan immediately stands and guides Rebekah to the door. "Come on, Rebekah. We're going driving."

"No, I'm not."

"Oh, yes we are." And with that, Stefan drags Rebekah out the door, leaving Kol to step menacingly towards his older brothers; What do you know that I don't?

"Not that much, apparently," Bonnie scoffs. "I'm done."

She leaves, but not before Caroline pushes her chair back and runs out after her.

Elena just looks stricken.

"Don't forget your gift pack!" Damon calls as Bonnie stomps down the street. "Here, pass it to her." He tosses the Nescafe three-in-one pack to Caroline.

"Urgh, just—just shut up, Damon!" Caroline cries, and tries to keep up with Bonnie. "Bonnie—wait!"

"Look—it's not what it looks li… Will you just hear me out, Bonnie?" Caroline uses her vamp speed to stop Bonnie in her tracks. "I can explain."

"I'm not sure I want to hear it, Caroline." Bonnie's angry now, whirling around to find another path home. "I went to your house and it was empty, so I thought you'd be at the boarding house but guess what—no one's there either."

"Yeah, sorry about that." Damon saunters up easily to the two of them, like they're not running in heels or anything.

Caroline tugs on Bonnie's arm again, helpless, but Bonnie continues as if there had been no interruption by Damon. "And I come over to find you guys bonding over coffee with the Originals? Caroline, just because they're dying doesn't redeem them."

"It's exactly like you said, Bonnie," Caroline says quickly. "They're dying, they know it; they're not causing any harm or whatever."

"Not that we're aware of!" Bonnie snaps. "How do you know they're not planning on just burning this whole town to the ground, turning everything to ash?"

"They're not."

Caroline and Bonnie whip around as Elena approaches them, white flags raised and an apology in her eyes.

Bonnie clicks her tongue, unconvinced.

"They're not going to be any trouble," Elena says quietly. "Elijah promised."

"And that's all honorable and well and fine, but in case you've forgotten, he threatened your life not even a week ago!" Bonnie lets out a sharp gust of wind that evaporates in the cold air. "Sometimes you guys are way too forgiving."

"I'm not," Damon pipes up. "I'm still suspicious of the Originals, but hey—better them killing squirrels than us, right?"

"Shut up, Damon," Elena and Caroline sigh simultaneously.

He shrugs. "I'm just saying I'm not as forgiving, is all. Hell, I still haven't forgiven Bonnie for breaking my Fight Club DVD."

"I will burn your eyebrows off," Bonnie seethes.

"While we're talking about burning," Damon says, serious all of a sudden. "Stefan and I haven't forgotten who they are, and we sure as hell haven't forgotten you and what you're capable of. One wrong move and we bring them down."

"Damon—" Elena starts to say, but Damon waves a hand to silence her.

"Does that plot bunny make you feel better?"

Reluctantly, Bonnie nods. "One wrong move," she repeats for confirmation. "Just one."

"Say the word and I'll do it myself," Damon says firmly.

"Anything you'd like to tell me, Nik?" Kol skulks around the island counter to face his brothers. "What about you, Elijah?"

There's a silence as Elijah and Klaus exchange a long look. Finally, Elijah says, "Esther's plan worked."

"That's impossible," Kol hisses. "Damon killed that insipid witch and the spell failed."

Elijah takes a careful step towards his brother, hands held out as if to grasp his shoulders. "Yes, but it the way it failed was in the witches' favour."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means," Klaus says, "that the spell was only prolonged."

Kol looks puzzled, so Klaus continues: "We have twenty-five days to live."

"It's a lot to process," Elijah says as he lays a firm hand on Kol's shoulder. Kol looks as if someone's punched him in the gut, and his hand shoots out to grasp the back of a chair.

"We should sit down and talk this out," he suggests of Kol's ashen face.

"Like hell we should," Kol growls and slams Elijah through the wall, straight into the living room.

"That was a red light, Rebekah," Stefan snaps. "You're supposed to stop."

("This wouldn't be happening if I was still driving," Klaus mutters.)

It's not so much Rebekah driving as much as Stefan grasping the wheel every now and then, and she finds it extremely irritating. How is she supposed to prove to Kol that she's a skilfull driver when Stefan keeps taking over the wheel?

That's when she takes her hand off of the steering wheel, in the middle of the busy street where everyone's moving at 80 miles per hour.

"What do you think you're doing?" Stefan bursts out, grabbing onto the whirring steering wheel.

"You insisted on driving, so I'm letting you," Rebekah replies, nose in the air. "Go on, have fun."

("Yes, sister, you're doing a great job at speeding up this curse," Kol mutters, eyes rolled heavenwards.)

Stefan grabs Rebekah's hands and slams them back on the steering wheel, where they stay—not before making Stefan promise not to mess with the steering wheel again. He rolls his eyes and spits out a Fine.

She looks pleased and Klaus looks relieved, but it's not even five minutes into their deal when Stefan reaches a hand out to nudge the wheel ever so slightly to the left.

"That's it!" Rebekah cries, and eases down the clutch and promptly slams her foot down on the brake. "Stefan: switch places with Caroline."

Where Stefan had worn a begrudgingly impressed look at how Rebekah's remembered how to stop the car before lies a look of disbelief. "What?"

"You heard me." Rebekah leans towards him, sliding her sunglasses down her nose. "Get in the back of the car and switch with Caroline."

"I don't think that's a good idea, Rebekah," Stefan says firmly, jaw set. "Caroline doesn't even know how this car works."

"Hey, I resent that," Caroline snaps, already kicking the door open. She flutters her fingers and throws a charming smile to disarm the loud honks and the long line of angry drivers behind them, but frowns when someone flips here the finger. "There's no need to be rude!"

"For the love of God, Stefan," Klaus says, running a hand through his hair. "Just do as she says and we'll get through the day."

("We might even get through the morning," Kol adds.)

"Honestly, how different from an auto can it be?" Caroline asks as she straps herself in. Stefan doesn't answer, just sits stoically as Kol leans across Klaus to flash a leering smile. Caroline hides hers as she surveys them from the rearview mirror—Klaus sits in the middle, hands crossed on his chest with the stoniest expression in the world, Stefan's trying to blink back his crazy eyes, and Kol's determined to take up as much leg room as possible. Their whole situation just reeks of awkward subtext.

Stefan can't help but be a backseat driver as Rebekah weaves through the cars—hell, he has every right to be; he's her teacher—but Caroline and Rebekah are having too much fun comparing manicures to observe the one-way street they'd veered into.

"Wrong turning, Rebekah!" Klaus snaps, beating Stefan to it.

Rebekah's glancing at Caroline helplessly, How do I turn around?

Caroline just shakes her head, frantic and worried, and clutches her knees to her chest. "I don't know!"

They're weaving blindly through the street—a swerve hear and a jerking stop there, but not even Rebekah's terrified shrieks and Caroline's moans of Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop was enough to slow down the truck thundering down the road twenty feet away.

"Move to the right, Rebekah!" Stefan yells urgently, trying to reach past Caroline's shoulder to grab hold of the steering wheel (which Rebekah had let go) but his arm is blocked by the two girls clutching each other, screaming.

(He doesn't blame them—Kol's got Klaus in a tight hold, yelling his ear off… though now that he thinks about it, mostly to annoy the hybrid.)

The truck looms down on them, and Stefan braces himself for the impending collision.

"Stop that!" Klaus thunders as Kol expertly throws knives upon knives at him, alternating between his face and his crotch. "Or I'll stick a da—" A knife whizzes towards his forehead and Klaus punches it into the opposite wall, cursing as his fist splits open for a split moment before healing itself.

"You should have just left that stupid dagger in my heart," Kol spits at him, who's trying to make sure Kol's trail of destruction doesn't (completely) destroy Elena's living room. "Could have saved me the painful experience of seeing you in the sixties—your hair was disgusting."

"You told me it was far out," Klaus snarls, grabbing Kol around the throat and throttling him into a shelf, trophies and books crashing down around them.

"I lied," Kol sneers. "Learned from the best." He swings his fist back, but finds that it's stuck in midair when Elijah has it in his vice grip. He yanks the trashing Kol off of Klaus, who wipes away the trickle of blood down the corner of his mouth.

"We didn't lie," Elijah says calmly, hands still wrapped easily around Kol as though the younger Original isn't thrashing and snarling and spitting out every curse word he's picked up throughout the ages.

Klaus glares at Kol and uprights the coffee table so he can perch on it. "Not technically."

"Don't I at least merit the truth from you?" Kol wrenches himself from Elijah's grip, straightening his jacket. "I'm sick of this – this arrangement you have: the two of you constantly whispering among yourselves, waving me away and leaving me with Bekah. And you raise your eyebrows in wonder; call me immature—you're the one who makes it so." Kol kicks the shelf to the floor, glass and splinters of wood flying everywhere.

"Kol Mikaelson." At the sound of Elijah's cold voice Kol reluctantly lets go of the television he's about to hurl through the window. It drops onto the carpet with a thud. He turns to Klaus instead, the look of disgust on his face growing. "So that's why you've been hugging me lately."

"Believe me, if I knew what I know now, I wouldn't even dream of letting you two feet near me," Klaus says, eyes narrowing. "You're a—"

"Klaus," Elijah warns, and Klaus falls silent.

When both of his brothers seem sedated enough, Elijah takes a seat in the only upright chair in the whole room and surveys his brothers. "What would you like to know?"

"When did you find out?" Kol demands.

Klaus picks his way through the rubble to rest an elbow on the back of Elijah's chair as the older Original leans forward and touches his fingertips together. Klaus is letting him lead for once, and the irony of their role rehearsal is not lost on Elijah—he just hides his smile. "Five days ago."

"Five—" Kol mutters wordlessly, hands itching to throw something, but one look at Elijah's face makes him change his mind. Sullenly, he asked, "Does Bekah know?"

Klaus and Elijah exchange another long look.

Elijah suddenly looks so very tired and so very old. But that's ridiculous, Kol thinks. They all stopped aging a long time ago.

Klaus just sighs. "If she's anything like the Rebekah we grew up with, she's finding out as we speak."

"If I remembered how," Rebekah proclaims heatedly, "I'd stop this bloody car and storm out of it. What were they talking about? What don't I know?"

"Keep your eyes on the road, Rebekah," is all Stefan says.

"Just tell me!" Rebekah slams her fist down on the steering wheel. "What is so important that Klaus and Elijah don't want me to know? I'm their sister, for God's sake."

Stefan seems to hesitate, and Rebekah picks up on it. "Please, Stefan," she begs, voice soft. "Any other thing I'd let go, but this, I just wan—"

"Esther's plan worked."

Rebekah stops short. "What?"

Stefan rubs his eyes tiredly. "Instead of killing you off instantly, the spell's slowly drawing the life out of you in the span between two moons."

"...What?" Rebekah asks again, knuckles white around the steering wheel, and Stefan can't take it anymore.

"You're dying, alright?" he bites out, hands grasped tight around Rebekah's shoulders. "You're dying and you have twenty-five days and there's nothing, absolutely nothing that could turn this spell around." Only this time, he's not saying it with as much warranty as was the case with Caroline. Now, he's saying it as though he's wishing it could all be untrue.

Rebekah releases herself from Stefan's grip and stares down the road. The car had been slowly rolling downhill throughout their exchange, and she wraps her hands around the wheel and turns left. Keeps driving.

"You knew."

Stefan studies her face. "Yes."

"How long?"

"About five days."

She nods and runs a red light, then another one, and another one, and Stefan doesn't say a single word. It's when she turns the miserable car into a one-way street that he rests a hand on her arm, her too still arm. "You're going the wrong way, Rebekah."

At Stefan's gentle tone, her shoulders start shaking, but she looks ahead. The car keeps puttering down the road. It comes as a wonder yet again to Stefan, how Rebekah can forget something as simple as stopping a car.

"What do I do?" she asks suddenly, her voice a little girl's. "What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?"

Stefan wonders what exactly she's talking about, but doesn't take his hand off of hers as he says, Pull up the handbrake, Rebekah.

Step on the clutch, Rebekah.

Ease down slowly on the breaks, Rebekah.

Lips quivering, she finds that Stefan's guided the car to a slow stop. She's not looking at him (not looking at anything, really), but her hands shake and tremble and dampen with the tears that start trailing down her cheeks.


She shakes her head, head still turned away.

Despite his reservations, Stefan reaches for her, but she pushes him away. "Don't, Stefan—not now. Not when I've wanted you to do that this whole time, every single time you say my name."

Stefan blinks. "Reb—"

"I said stop," she snarls, furiously wiping away the tears that keep on coming. "Stop looking at me, stop saying my name like you actually care, because you don't—you've been playing me like the silly little girl that I always seem to become around you and I—I ca—" she hiccups, and Stefan ignores the inner turmoil of his mind and pulls Rebekah to his chest. She doesn't push away this time.

He doesn't say anything to calm the sobbing mess that she's become, doesn't say shh, everything's going to be alright, doesn't give her any inspiring pep talks.

She cries.

He just holds her.

They don't drive for another two days.

Stefan skulks around the house, starts to write in his journal but finds he has nothing to say. He distracts himself by growing a beard, watches too many episodes of Teen Mom with Caroline, eats too much of Elena's leftover brownies, and writes down the things people say to him instead.

She won't talk to any of us, he scrawls as Elijah tells him that Rebekah hasn't left her room since Wednesday evening.

Quit moping, he writes when Damon kicks him off the couch and pushes him to go shower.

His hand moves restlessly, and makes up for his sullenness on Thursday by hounding everyone he knows on Friday, talking to them, pen never once pausing from its skid down his page.

Elena stays over—her house is too much of a mess—and gives him lots of nice things to write about, like She'll come around and Of course she doesn't hate you, how could she hate you when you were only trying to protect her?

She doesn't want to talk to you, he writes as Klaus lounges on the couch next to him. The hybrid looks like he's about to say more, but when Stefan's hand twitches for his journal, all he does is glare. "Are you writing down everything I say?"

(He doesn't write about his conversations with Caroline, the ones where she joins him in the cemetery, where she sits down next to him, where she asks, "Who's attached now, Stefan?" without a single trace of malice in her voice.)

That beard's horrid, he starts to write, but the words never come as his pen clatters against the page, because Rebekah's standing before him, dressed in every colour of the rainbow. Klaus's car keys dangle from her fingers.

"I thought I'd try something new," he says, fingering his chin. He looks up at her, almost in awe, and wants to ask, Are you really here?

Do you know how worried I've been?

Do you know what you do to me?

But instead settles for, "Rebekah, are you sur—"

She has her finger pressed against his lips and a brave smile pasted on hers. "I never start anything I can't finish."

"I guess this means I should shave," Stefan muses, heading for the bathroom. Later, they make their way out of the house—Caroline joining them in the hallway and Klaus and Kol already leaning against Ole Betsey—and down the road.

The sun hangs high and white in the sky, and they roll the windows all the way down.

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