put down your sword and crown

i've got nowhere to go, so don't move so slow

In case you've forgotten, Klaus says, I saved you all from being flattened by that truck.

"If it weren't for me, you'd all be nothing but skid marks on the asphalt," he adds with an air of superiority.

Not really, Caroline argues. It's not so much 'saving' as much as vampiring his way to the truck and flicking it to the side of the road with his forefinger. In fact, she says, you probably gave the poor guy a concussion.

"And in case you've forgotten," she continues from the passenger seat, "you might be dying, but you're still invincible. What would probably kill a carful of civilians would probably just leave you with, like, a booboo on your finger or something."

Klaus isn't sure what astounds him more: the fact that she just said 'booboo' or the fact that she's bringing up the curse oh-so-casually. He decides to shrug it off—better this way, no use tiptoeing around each other about it. He marvels once again on how she chooses to view things so... honestly.

"When you two are quite done bickering," Rebekah pipes up from her exile to the backseat, "I'd like to get back to my driving lessons."

"You're having it as we speak, Bekah," Klaus says, pointedly making a U-turn without taking down every pedestrian and his dog. "Observing constitutes as learning."

"In other words," Kol says derisively, "I'd rather die at Esther's hands than yours—at least with her my innards won't be strewn all across the streets of Mystic Falls."

"Pity that truck didn't hit us," she screeches, trying to claw Kol's eyes out as Stefan holds her back, "because your body lying in a pool of blood would have brightened this pathetic town considerably."

Kol's eyes flash. Leaning towards his sister, and says, "Dear sister. This morning," he watches her eyes carefully as he continues (with great pleasure), "I replaced your hair mousse with shaving cream."

Unfortunately, Stefan chooses that moment to flex his cramping fingers.

The car almost topples on its side as Rebekah slugs Kol across the face.

"Did you know I was dying?" Rebekah asks Caroline as the boys argue over what might have caused Ole Betsey to stutter and die by the side of the road. They're perched on top of the seat cushions that Kol had ripped from the car—

("Oh, the engine isn't under the seats?" Kol asks, astonished, as Klaus slumps against his car, his anguish taking over the better part of his ability of speech. "The cushions must have still been warm from Rebekah's backseat antics all those years ago, then."

"Hey, Kol?" Stefan rests an arm on the car, matching the Original's height. "I think it's about time you shut the hell up.")

—chewing thoughtfully on the chocolate-covered strawberries Elena had packed for Caroline.

"Yes," Caroline replies, mustering up the courage to look Rebekah in the eye. "I'm sorry you had to find out this way."

"But you're not sorry we have to die," Rebekah says slowly, catching on.

Caroline shakes her head.

"You think I deserve it, don't you?" Rebekah prompts, her features hardening. "After all the things I've done to Elena." At least the Original has the decency to look ashamed, though her eyes keep burning bright.

Caroline sighs. "I don't think anyone deserves to die for anyone else—but I do think Esther should have tried to find another wa—"

"Well, I don't," Rebekah snaps, and Caroline looks at her, confused. "If I'm to die, I'd rather it be this way. Better to die for my family than to live alone forever." She looks away, picking the chocolate bits off her strawberry. "I've had enough of that." She peeks at Caroline from under her lashes and takes a deep breath. "After Henrik died, we had a little funeral for him. We buried him with his favourite things. Nik put inside Henrik's grave his own dagger, one Henrik had admired so."

"Rebekah, what—"

"Let me finish," Rebekah whispers harshly, casting aside her strawberry altogether. "I thought it was a nice way to remember Henrik, but I didn't want that. As a child, I wanted bright colours at my funeral, and for everyone I know to show up and for—and for people I love to stand up and say lots of things about me. Nice things. But then mother turned us into vampires, and I realized I'll never get any of that."

Caroline bites her lip and reaches for Rebekah's hand, but the Original snatches it away, swallowing. "I've lived a thousand years, Caroline, and I haven't been nice—not even a little, not at all. So no one's coming to my funeral. No one's going to stand up and tell stories and laugh for me and cry for me. No one."

"Stefan would," Caroline says quietly. "He cares about you, in his own way."

Rebekah snorts. "An unshaved beard hardly counts as caring."

Even Caroline has to smile at that. "It was kind of heinous." Biting down on her thumb, she casts a look to where Klaus is standing with Stefan and Kol, gesturing wildly about the engine. "Everything's changed so much these past few days. In another life—" Caroline pauses, chuckling, "and I know how ridiculous this sounds, but in another life we could have been friends. You know," she adds offhandedly, "if you weren't the crazy bitch who tried to kill Elena."

"Multiple times," Rebekah says, sparing a small smile.

"Yeah, that." Caroline brushes her hair out of her eyes and hugs her legs to her chest. "In another life I would've decorated your locker on your birthday, we could pick out what car you wanted to buy, we could've talked about boys..." she trails off, eyes glazing over.

"That sounds nice," Rebekah sniffs. "But I don't think I'd enjoy our girly chitchats about boys. Especially when they involve my brother."

"Who said anything about—"

"He fancies you," Rebekah says matter-of-factly with a roll of her eyes. "Even Kol, with all his mental incapacities can see that. Why do you think he enjoys tormenting Nik about you?"

Sighing, Caroline props her chin on her knees. "You really think so?"

"Obviously." Another roll of the eyes. "But as I said, not a topic I'd want to discuss."

They smile at each other, and it's tight and fleeting, but it's still a smile nonetheless.

I think we should establish a few rules, Damon says with a wave of his fork.

"The first rule of these driving lessons is you do not mention them to Bonnie," he says.

"The second rule of these driving lessons," he continues, raising his fork to silence Caroline (who looks like she's about to say something to kill his buzz), "is you do not mention them to Bonnie."

Elena rolls her eyes, twirling her spaghetti around her fork. "You've been watching one David Fincher movie too many, Damon."

"I have a point though," Damon insists, stuffing a meatball into his face. "If Bonnie knew of the unspeakable things you were doing—"

"Unspeakable things?" Caroline asks drily. "Really."

"—she'd probably flip a few tables and throw a bookshelf at Klaus, like how Kol did two days ago. It was totally cool though." Damon pauses to take a sip of his drink. "LikeKung Fu Hustle."

"I didn't see her today at school," Elena says, frowning.

"She wasn't in Bio," Caroline shrugs. "Did Stefan see…?"

"Going to school would actually require him to get off his ass," Damon interjects, "which he hasn't done much of since. All he does is lurk in the shadows, like a ninj—no, wait. Not nearly as cool as a ninja."

"Do ninjas even keep beards?" enquires Elena. "I swear I saw something… twitching in it yesterday. How long has it been since he showered?"

"I can smell him from here." Caroline shudders. "Like he's in the room."

"That's because I am," Stefan speaks up, sullen.

Elena, Damon and Caroline nearly drop their cutlery as they whip their heads around to see Stefan at the end of the table, picking wearily at his spaghetti. Beard on, shirt stained, eyes dark, alcohol ready in his hand.

Caroline almost reaches out a hand to make sure he's really there, but Damon grabs her arm and shoots her a Don't, you might scare it off look. And he's right—Stefan's looking at them with hollow eyes and looks like someone's glued a dead badger to the bottom half of his face. It's all Elena can do not to grab the bread knife and hack it off of his face. But since they can't do any of that—

all they do is gaze at him with equal parts of fear and wonderment.

At their dumbfounded stares, Stefan explains painstakingly: "I've been here your whole conversation. The whole meal. Even before that, actually, when Caroline and Elena were talking about the Victoria's Secret sale." He turns to Elena (whose eyes are widening in mortification), "And in response to your question, yes, you should get the same panties as Caroline."

"Just not red, though," Damon grimaces. "I like you all black and lacy."

"Shut up, Damon!" Elena snaps, cheeks flaming. She turns back to Stefan and narrows her eyes. "What else have you heard?"

"I now know a bikini wax actually is." Stefan pushes his plate away and cringes. "In excruciating detail."

"You're taking this well," Caroline notes. "At least better than the time I had to explain it to Reb—" Her eyes widen and she pretends to choke on a meatball, but the damage is done. The table falls silent and what little progress Stefan had garnered is dashed when he all but becomes part of his chair—wooden and silent.

The only sound that can be heard is the scrape of Elena's fork against her plate as she asks (tentatively, cautiously), "When was the last time you heard from her?"

"Yesterday." Stefan picks up his fork to stab it through a meatball, his yes trailing to Damon's wine glass – laced with blood – every so often. His brother notices and promptly drains it.

Frowning, Stefan continues: "I drove her home. Her hands were shaking too much. When we got back to the Original Mansion—"

("Maison de Mort," Damon interjects."

"—when you got to the Original Mansion?" Caroline presses, making sure the pointy heel of her boot grinds into Damon's shin when she kicks him under the table.)

"—she sort of just… got out of the car, closed it, and walked into her house without a word."

Sighing, Elena pushes her chair back to bring her plate to the sink. "It's a lot to take in," she says over the sound of running water. "Give her time Stefan."

"Because time heals everything, right?" Stefan snaps. "Soon it'll be water under the bridge; just give her time, since it's all she needs."

"You know what I need?" Damon stands and raises his finger. "That was a rhetorical question, which you do not need to answer. I need a drink. Who's with me?"

Elena and Caroline are too busy nattering about what Stefan's scribbling in his journal to respond.

Damon's pretty sure he can smell blood in the air. It's not the 'crap I cut myself' kind like in Biology class (from what little he remembers of school anyway) where DJ McCracken had accidentally poked her thigh with her pen when he'd strolled into class with his letterman jacket. It's more like the 'oops I accidentally slashed my neck with a chainsaw someone call for help' kind, judging by how potent it was.

He blinks, trying to keep his fangs in check, and follows the scent to the alley behind the Grille, where (sure enough) he can see a writhing mass of torn clothing in a pool of blood. And before him, stood Kol, of dark eyes and bloody mouth.

"I knew there was a reason my Spidey senses were particularly tingling tonight." Damon steps closer, knees bent slightly. "Easy now. Ted's wife there just had a baby."

"Don't get your knickers in a twist," Kol snarls, swiping furiously at his mouth with the back of his hand. "I'm not going to kill him." He backs away from the body and seems to melt into the darkness. Damon thinks Kol's run off, but his from the shadows, his voice comes. Soft. Uncertain. "I mean, I was planning on it, but…"

Damon sighs inwardly and unclenches his fingers. After feeding Ted just enough blood and compelling him to think he had accidentally run head-first into a brick wall (repeatedly), he makes him trot along home with a sedated smile on his face.

"I could have done that," comes Kol's voice again. He's slumped against the back door of the Mystic Grille, watching Damon with wary eyes. He pushes away from the door and brings himself to his full height. "Isn't there anything that I can do on my own?"

"Hey. Come on." Damon raise his hands, white flags waving in the night breeze. "Let's get a drink."

"The last two times I've been alone with you, you snapped my neck and had me daggered," Kol spits. "Excuse my French when I say you can go fuck yourself."

"And we were getting along so well over coffee," Damon says genially, but Kol's not paying attention to him anymore—he's staring at Ted, still lumbering down the street.

Damon's face hardens. "Come on, Mikaelson. Let it go."

"I need a drink," the Original says abruptly, turning back to the door. "Something stiff."

I think it's time you go home, Damon says with a set jaw, staring into Matt's eyes.

Matt drops the rag he's holding and nods dazedly, muttering something about checking if the oven's still on. He shoulders past Kol, who (thankfully) barely registers the human he'd attempted to kill two weeks before.

"Leave." Kol picks up Hank the barman by the collar and tosses him aside like a ragdoll. Soon, he's shuffling the bottles around on the shelf, dropping the ones he doesn't quite care for with careless ease. To Damon, he says nonchalantly: "I've always wanted to want to work in a bar."

"I did once." He sidles up next to Kol and grabs the vodka before the Original can toss it over his shoulder. "Back in the 20s. Alcohol was illegal which made it all the more fun."

Kol settles back against the bar and watches blankly as Damon shakes the cocktail shaker with unnecessary flourishes. "Fixed this up for Stefan to help him get through his Ripper days."

He slides the drink expectantly to Kol, who stares down at in incredulously. "It's pink."

"It's a Cosmopolitan," Damon says, just as obviously.

Kol picks up the martini glass, takes a sip, and blanches. "Stefan drank Cosmopolitans to get off his bender?"

"It worked." Damon jabs a finger in Kol's direction. "Don't knock it."

Kol just shrugs and downs the rest of the cocktail with a grimace.

9pm and Damon and Kol have already gone through half the vodka in the Grille, mixing up variations of the cocktail that had been so helpful to Stefan in his Ripper days.

10:30pm and Damon's doing manly twirls behind the bar, giving out free spirits to whoever would listen to him rant about how Elena likes switching his coffee with decaf.

11:45pm and Kol and Damon are swaying on their stools, arm on each other's shoulders, belting out the chorus of Like a Virgin.

It's around 1am when Kol gives in and admits that Cosmopolitans are the best thing ever. Soon after that, Damon's coughing back his third shot of tequila and declaring himself emotionally bankrupt—the girl he's in love with spends all her time with a vampire who's dying and he's getting drunk with the punk he'd wanted to stake just a few days earlier.

"Four!" Kol hollers, and the two of them throw their heads back and let the tequila burn down their throats.

"I used to think Stefan hated me," Damon slurs. "That's why I like reading his journal—I stopped after finding out he had a one night stand with a three-toed redhead though…"

"My mother tried to have us killed," Kol counters, swinging his martini glass in Damon's direction. He misses by a few feet. "O true miserie! Thy plan hath succeeded."

Damon just nods, face solemn and hair sticking out in every direction. "That's family for you."

"Family." Kol scoffs, slapping his palm on the counter for another Cosmopolitan. Damon drunkenly obliges, splashing in water instead of vodka, an uncut lime and the top of the bottle of cranberry juice. Kol doesn't seem to notice. "We made a pact. Always and forever. But somehow I always seem to get left behind."

Somewhere in the recesses of Damon's mind, he thinks he feels pity—but no, the (very tiny) sober part of his mind argues.

He thinks he can relate, but hell no, he's not nearly drunk enough to take that thought sitting down. He slams some scotch into his mouth and nearly gags, but even that's not enough to drown out Kol's inebriated monologue.

"Why would—why would Nik and Elijah do that?" Kol asks, eyes surprisingly clear for someone who's had thirteen cocktails, four shots and two bottles of gin. "For…" Kol frowns, struggling with her name, and it comes to him a moment later. "For Bekah?"

Damon groans, resting his head down on the bar top. "'Cuz das what people do."

"Wrong!" Kol says triumphantly, hurling his glass at the dartboard. "That's what grown people do. Set aside their own miseries. All that." He rubs a hand over his tired eyes, and Damon desperately presses his Scotch to Kol, but he just waves it off.

"I wanted to prove to mother that she's wrong—I didn't do this to myself." Kol shakes his head and sighs. "Time ravages everything, tears everything apart. I used to think I had all the time in the world."

"It's time's fault," Damon agrees quickly. "Now drink—bottom's up."

Kol downs his shot absently, and Damon groans in exasperation.

"I wanted to prove to her," he says again, "that I'm not the monster she makes me out to be. The monster she wants to stamp out so badly. And now I'll never get to." He slides his glass down the bar and watches as it zooms past the upended bottles and pools of liquor, until inevitably, it slows down.

Damon expects it to drop to the floor and crash into a million pieces, but it never does.


Elijah looks up from the book he's reading to see Rebekah standing uncertainly, just outside his door. He doesn't say a word, just sets his book on his bedside table and smoothes the space next to him. Rebekah all but hurtles towards his bed and settles into his arms, her lips quivering but her eyes quite dry.

"Is it true? What Stefan told me?"

Elijah strokes her hair and lets out a slow breath. "Yes."

She shudders, and he tightens his hold around her shoulder. "And there's really nothing we can do about it?"

He shakes his head. "No."

She lets out a strangled cry, and he just shushes her. "Crying won't change a thing, Bekah."

But it's then that she cries, because Elijah's not one for pet names. "I was learning how to drive," she bites out, ruining Elijah's shirt with her tears. "Now I'll never get to."

Gently, Elijah props her chin up with the flat of his forefinger. "And who's to say you can't?"

She blinks her eyes up at him and sniffles. "But we're dying."

"Doesn't mean we've stopped living."

She sits up, letting out a small laugh. "Is this one of the things you picked up from spending all your time with humans?"

"Bekah," Elijah chuckles, "if you'd only let yourself remember, we were human once too. Don't let Niklaus make you think differently."

"It's so easy to forget," she whispers into his shoulder. Rain's starting to fall against their window, and the situation she's stuck in is still wretched, and will continue being wretched, but with Elijah lying beside her she doesn't feel so alone.

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