put down your sword and crown

as i wait for the sunrise, i'm worlds away

I'm in here, she says.

Lavender. He can smell lavender, and peppermint, and… he lifts his nose, his eyebrows coming together in a frown; takes a tentative sniff—citrus.

He hears her voice calling his name from down the hall and walks slowly towards it, clenching and unclenching his fists. The door is slightly ajar and he can feel a thundering in his ears, a rush of blood to the head.

He pushes it open.

The lavender smell is stronger here, and he can taste it on his tongue: heady and sweet. Like a drop of honeysuckle on a rainy morning. He can barely see anything through the steam, but makes his way to the edge of the bathtub. Her fingers splash in the water, and from the foam and the bubbles rose an Aphrodite, of tousled hair knotted at the top of her head and lips laced with a tempting smile.

She gathers up the bubbles and blows them his way. "Care to join me?"

You better not be up to anything iffy—I'm coming in, Rebekah says.

"Rise and shine, you ungrateful troll," Rebekah calls as she nudges the door open with her shoulder. "I don't know why you insis ton having these in be…"

Her fingers go slack and the tray slips: the glass shatters inches away from her toes and soaks her feet in orange juice and the daisies she'd picked flutter to the floor, but she grasps for the bowl of soup before it goes flying because Damon told her he had gone to great lengths to fix it—

(Meaning: he'd stormed into the hospital, grabbed Alaric by the back of his head and forced vampire blood down his throat to heal him—because seriously, ten days to get over a gunshot wound to the chest is just nine days too long—as Stefan finds out one day when he sees Alaric standing in the kitchen.

"Ric," Stefan says steadily, "is there a reason as to why you're wearing a flowered apron right now?"

Alaric looks up from the recipe book, flour smothered all over his chin. "Oh, hey Stefan. Damon pestered me into making French onion soup for his good buddy, or so he said." He scratches absently at his chin with a whisk. "We're out of those big onion things. Do you think Damon would mind if I used, I don't know… All we have is this Fudgelicious cake mix. Yeah, I think I'll just use th—" He stops, catching sight of Rebekah lingering just outside the door, her face stoic but her lips uncertain.

Alaric turns back to Stefan, bewildered. "Am I missing something here?")

—and sets it safely onto Kol's bedside table, flushed. And then she stomps out of the room.

"Kol!" she yells down the hall.

She screams into the kitchen, "Where are you?" but only ends up interrupting an apparently very serious discussion of chilli between Elena and Elijah. She snorts and turns her back on them, zooming through the sitting room and down another flight of stairs.

"You overgrown brat, get out here!" Kicking open the door of the den, she expects to find him drawing moustaches all over her pictures, but the room's empty.

She stands for a moment, still, before breaking out into a run.

Where could he be, he's had a concussion—the heels of her feet thud down on the hardwood floors as she throws the door of the coat closet open and grabs the first one she sees—he couldn't even blink properly yesterday—she does up her buttons haphazardly as she crashes out the front door—Stefan tried to drain him of his blood—she whips her head around, eyes wild, shouting out his name—did the idiot decide to just walk out of the house?—she flashes into the garage, blinking away the rain, but all his cars are still there—it's unsafe, they're unsafe—Kol, goddamnit Kol, where are you?

Stefan, that's enough, Elijah says.

"He bit—you bit hi—Stefan, what are you—" Rebekah has to stop then, because suddenly she's finding that it's getting harder and harder to talk. Something's catching in her throat and pressing down on her chest and hot things are pouring down her cheeks. She doubles over, choking on her own words until suddenly Elijah's face is swimming before her's. He's gripping her shoulders, shaking sense into her, saying something like "Rebekah, breathe. You need to breathe, Rebekah."

She sucks in a shuddering breath, and at the fire alighting in his eyes she exhales it, and when he nods, she takes another breath, pushes that out, sucks in another one. Repeats the process.

"Good, Bekah. Keep doing that," Elijah says soothingly, before turning back to Kol, tending to the two gaping holes in his neck. Stefan's backed against Ole Betsey, blood trickling down his chin. He looks completely aghast.

"I don't know what came over me," he says, staring down at his hands, stained with Kol's blood. He looks like he can't believe what he'd just done. He also looks like he wants to kiss the center of his palm. Lick the blood off his fingers one by one.

Rebekah shudders, and remembers what Elijah said. Breathe.

"Rebekah—" Stefan's reaching for her but she jerks away, shaking her head, no, don't touch me, you bit Kol, you drank his blood, what is wrong with you, oh Stefan what happened, what is wrong with you—"What is wrong with you?"

And she beats her fists, tiny compared to his, against his vast chest and starts in shock—she's over a thousand years older than him and should have knocked him to the ground, across the street, into mouth of the woods by now. But he's looking down at her, an incomprehensible look on his face, like her strikes are nothing more than a gentle breeze.

"He's not healing," Elijah says, and curses under his breath. "I have several theories, but we need the witch to confirm them. Stefan." He looks up at Stefan, a note of urgency in his voice. "Your wrist."

Rebekah looks from Elijah to Stefan to Kol, lying spreadeagled on the ground, face white as a sheet, then back to Elijah.

"No." The trembling starts again. Breathe, she reminds herself. "Kol can heal himself—Kol will heal himself."

Her wide eyes venture back to Stefan, who holds her gaze, however weakly so. She glances at Elijah, who's still reaching for Stefan's wrist with his right hand, his left hand busy applying pressure to the ghastly red blotch on Kol's neck.

"…Won't he?" she asks, and neither of them answer.

The look Elijah gives her tells her everything she doesn't want to know.

It's pretty self-explanatory, Bonnie says.

"The spell Esther was casting was supposed to turn them into human." She casts Damon a hard look, but he's pretty used to it by now. "Until Damon conveniently cut it off."

"That's the thing," Elena speaks up from the back of the room. "It got cut off. What happened?"

Bonnie sighs in frustration. "I feel like we've already had this conversation. What does it matter, anyway? Either way, they're dying."

"Yes, but it would certainly help," Elijah says, his voice akin to the calm before a storm, "if the situation were clearer. I'd like to know what I'm walking into here."

Bonnie bites her lower lip, eyebrows coming together. "The spell is supposed to turn them—"

("And we would also appreciate it," Klaus say, raising his glass of whiskey lazily, "if you didn't talk as if we aren't in the room."

Bonnie ignores him.)

"—human, but it didn't get cut off. It's like I said before, it's slowly drawing the life out of them." But even then Bonnie pauses, running a hand across the Salvatores' mantelpiece. "I don't exactly know how, but it's slowly turning you human in the process."

"Slowly?" Elijah enquires.

"Some parts of you…" Bonnie grabs a letter opener and hurls it straight at Klaus' head, but his sharp reflexes get the better of the sharp blade. "Vampire."

Klaus curses, noting the way the blade vibrates as it's lodged in the wall. He reaches for it and presses his thumb against the sharp end. "And the other parts?"

All eyes turn to Klaus, who has as a trickle of red running down his thumb. It doesn't heal.

"Human," Elijah answers quietly.

We should talk about it, Caroline says.

"There's nothing to talk about." He looks over her shoulder, nose in her hair, and says, "A little more of the yellow, sweetheart."

"Seriously?" Caroline takes a step back and Klaus places his hand on the small of her back to stop her from walking into the jar of water behind her. "No way, that apple does not have red in it." She turns to him and pokes his chest with the end of her paintbrush. "You just want to be better than me."

Klaus smirks, going back to his own easel. "Suit yourself."

She narrows her eyes at him and sticks her tongue out—but when he's preoccupied with his own painting she surreptitiously dabs a few blobs of yellow onto the deformed mass of red that's supposed to be her pile of apples and blends it in. Surprisingly, it doesn't turn orange—it just turns that golden-red hue that she's been trying to copy off of Klaus for the past hour.

She blinks and adds a bit more, a dab of white when needed, peeking over her canvas at the bowl of apples every so often. The skirmish that had been her painting is kind of turning into something she'd show her grandmother and not blush, she thinks, and almost stabs a whole in her canvas when she paints onto it a navy background, flush with pride.

"I told you so," he breathes into her ear.

A shriek rips from her lips and she slashes her paintbrush across his face. "Boundaries, Klaus," she gasps. "You should be more careful. I could have like, stuck this in your throat or someth—"

"Alright, alright," Klaus says irritably and swipes off the yellow smear, turning away from her. He's pinching the bridge of his nose and she hears deep intakes of breaths every once in a while—he's still getting used to the fact that he has to breathe regularly now.

Caroline wonders how one can adapt to such changes after a thousand years.

But when she thinks about it, the world has changed enough in the last thousand years. It's his turn.

I found the minced meat, Elijah says.

He steps into the room (but just so, his Italian shoes lingering by the doorframe as if to turn away at first notice) and he can't help his sharp tone when he asks, "What are you doing in here?"

Elena's finger freezes on the corner of the spell book and she turns around to face him, trying to stop the sheepish smile from creeping onto her lips. She takes a step closer, prays he doesn't hear the jump to her heart as she says, "I was just looking around. I've only been in here once."

Which is kind of true, if you don't factor in why she's looking around in the first place.

"Esther's reading room," Elijah says shortly. "We don't spend much of our time here." He's looking at the burnt sage on the table, inches away from where Elena's fingers are resting. Dried and withered, and, now that she's really looking, notes that it's starting to collect dust.

"You haven't been in here at all, have you?" she asks, looking around the room, at how the curtains seem to hang limp and the golden glow of the lamps just whisper at the dark corners. "Not since that night?"

Elijah's already out of the room, hands in his pockets. "I see no reason to be."

Elena wants to say: "Well, I see plenty."—

but she swallows it down, brings a smile to her lips as she says instead: "Let's go make that chilli."

Locking yourself in your room isn't going to help, Damon says.

("And don't you dare grow another beard, either," Damon warns. "Remember last time? You fell asleep face first into a sandwich and ants started nesting in there.")

He's sitting on the floor outside Stefan's room, leaning against the door. Stefan's on the other side of the door, head tilted back to stare uselessly at the ceiling.

"I lost control, Damon," Stefan says. He sounds so hollow, and Damon resists the urge to kick the door down. Lets his brother stew it over. Gives his brother time.

Aren't we mature? he notes, taking an unnecessarily large gulp of his whiskey.

"We all do, every once in a while." Damon leans his head back, feels the smooth wood against his hair. "How were you supposed to know thousand year old vampire Kol was going to bleed a pint of of human blood?"

Stefan doesn't answer.

Damon takes this as a sign to continue, "And you stopped. You realized what you were doing and you stopped when Elijah told you to. If that isn't progress, I don't know what is."

"And I'd really appreciate you opening the door," he says.

"It's kind of weird talking to you through it," he says.

"Like we're in an angsty montage of scenes in High School Musical," he says.

Stefan still doesn't answer. Damon swallows his groan (and swallows his liquor instead), fully prepared for an uncomfortable night of throwing Ghandi quotes at Stefan and numbing his ass from sitting in the same position for over five hours now.

This is worse than those tweens waiting out a Bieber concert, he thinks.

He's about to start humming that unfortunately catchy Baby baby baby oh song, but his trail of thought is (thankfully) cut short when he finds himself tumbling backwards onto the floor, staring up at the beginnings of a five o'clock shadow on Stefan's chin.

"Took you long enough," Damon grumbles.

Stefan reaches for his brother, helps him up, but he's the one to say "Thank you."

You're still deflecting, she says.

Caroline's painting stars in the corner of her canvas. Klaus has long given up on molding (or trying to, at any rate) her painting prowess—

("Caroline, there's no such thing as purple horses…"

"I—whatever, you were hogging the brown, okay?"

"…could have just asked, or at the very least used any other colour—"

"What, are you going to tell me how to hold my paintbrush now?"

"Yes, actually. You're holding it too close to the—"

"Leave me alone, Klaus.")

—resolving to just let her be. When she draws a smile onto her smile, he chuckles and looks away, when she dots the back of his shirt with multicoloured polka dots he just shakes his head and squirts red onto her cheeks instead.

"Deflecting what, the fact that I'm slowly turning into something that seems absolutely foreign to me?" Klaus asks calmly, but the streaks on his canvas are stark and vicious. "Or the fact that I have twenty days left to live?" He casts the brush aside and it hits the newspapers covering her carpet with a thud, and she washes it roll away twice before stopping.

He walks towards her and his hand hovers centimetres away from her cheeks. She tries not to lean into it.

"I appreciate your peering into my soul or whatever you choose to call it," Klaus says, "but I'd rather just take it day by day."

Caroline swallows, pulling her face away from his fingertips. "What happened to the Klaus who always had a backup plan for, I don't know, just about everything?"

"Can't exactly have a backup plan when you have no plans," he says, his breath—warm now, she realizes. So very warm—tickling her cheeks. "Let's talk about how you're not so innocent yourself, love."

Her throat feels dry. "What do you mean?"

His breath is trailing down to her cheeks now.

"I kissed you yesterday," he says.

"And you kissed me back," he says.

She takes a step back, but all he does is follow. She's not one to back away—she knows it, he knows it. Klaus' eyes narrow. "Why'd you do it? Pity for the dead man walking?"

She gives no answer, so he continues: "Oh how the mighty have fallen, right? Klaus of the ages beaten and battered down to the level of those he used to walk all over."


"I don't need your sympathy," Klaus hisses through his teeth. "I don't need your compassion, and I don't need your pity."

It's funny, how they're standing nose to nose, his eyes bearing into hers: his underscored with a quiet anger and hers speaking volumes of Are you for serious?

"Are you done?" she asks, rolling her eyes. He tilts his head slightly, something like shock flicking across his eyes. "Good. I'm not here because I pity you, alright? I'm here because I want to be." She takes a step closer, so he sees nothing but the blue of her eyes, nothing but the truth in there. "I'm here because, while you don't need my sympathy, you need me."

Klaus looks like he's about to argue, but she silences him with a jab of her paintbrush to his cheek. "You need me. Berate that all you want, but you do. Now pass the red, you're hogging the damned paint again."

And Klaus does, but not without pointing out her apples are beyond saving. He paints over them and she doesn't say a word, just runs a hand down his back, like a silent promise of I'm not going anywhere.

I'm over here, Bekah, Kol says.

She whirls around to find him in the garden, hand outstretched to cup the rain with his palm. She almost wants to giggle at the bandages wrapped around his head—

("You're not going to be pussywhipped into just any typical bandage wrap, my friend," Damon had said, rubbing his palms together. "Yours will be refined, one of its kind, superior in every which way and ultimately—you."

Which is how he ends up fashioning the bandages into a turban for Kol.)

—but doesn't when she notices he's in nothing but a t-shirt and his pajama bottoms. She grips her arms, hugs her coat to her torso closer. "What are you doing out here?"

"I was looking for our dear brothers, but the house is empty." He's still looking up at the sky. "Where are our dear brothers?"

Rebekah steps closer, hesitant. "Nik's at Caroline's house. Eli's cooking with Elena," she practically spits. "Come away from the rain, you'll ruin your bandages."

"I'll be fine," Kol replies. "Damon's got it wrapped up like a tank."

"Come back inside, anyway. It's cold."

Kol looks at her then, raindrops still falling down on his fingertips, a grin on his face. "Exactly, Bek. It's cold."

Rebekah doesn't know how—maybe it's the way he's smiling, or how good the grass feels against her bare feet—but she's suddenly beside her brother with her coat shed, grinning up at the rain. She wants to say how good it feels, the cold on her cheeks and thee wetness in her hair, turns to him to match his smiles, but she slips and grips his hand and he's going down with her, and they slip and slide in the mud, rolling around and fisting at each other's hair and pulling at each other's shoulders: yelling, kicking, laughing.

She slaps his wrist away and swipes at the hair in her eyes. "This reminds me of… Doesn't it feel like—?"

Kol smashes some mud into her mouth, and she splutters and coughs, her sentence cutting short. She looks like she's about to strike him like she did yesterday, but her fist falls to her side when he smiles softly and says: "I know."

You have something on your mind, Elijah says.

The knife she's using to chop up the tomatoes stills, but only for a beat. "Why would you think that?" she asks, and leans over the knife drawer, her hair falling in dark curtains around her face, masking her carefully averted eyes.

"I can still hear your heartbeat," Elijah says evenly, stirring the pot bubbling away on the stove. "It's not jumping, nor is it racing away like it does when you're happy."

"It's not as steady as it is when you're sad," he says.

"Your heart beats irregularly, even in the most mundane of situations," he says.

"But today, you've been cautious. Your heartbeat too constant. Almost as if it's too..." He looks at her, runs his eyes leisurely from her feet up to her waist, to her hair flowing over her shoulders, and then finally, her face.

Her knife almost slips, and she grips it tighter, knuckles whitened.

"...slow," he finishes.

She doesn't know how she's going to unlock her throat. She looks down at the tomatoes, scrapes it into a pile with the knife, starts to take a deep breath but then berates herself for trying to breathe normally—trying to breathe normally?—and finds herself at a loss of what to do. At last, she takes a breath and manages to say, "You've done your homework."

"I just listen," Elijah says genially. "Switch?"

"Y-yeah," Elena says, setting her knife down. "Bring the pot here, would you?"

She turns the exact moment he does—they're stuck in the same position as they are yesterday, warm breath mingling in the stillness of the kitchen, her hands against his chest and his eyes locked onto hers.

"Lucky I put the knife down," she tries to joke, but he's not laughing. He looks like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, like a man about to make a decision.

Apparently he's made it.

Elijah grips the handles and is about to set it down on the counter, about to turn back to her, when a blank look crosses his face—suddenly the pot slips from his hand and crashes to the floor, splattering red all over his suit and all over her sweater. Elena gasps as the scalding sauce comes in contact with her skin, and she runs to the sink, turns the taps.

Elijah's beside her now, soaking up a rag and presses it to all the spots she can't reach, disregarding the redness of his own skin. He's still blinking in that dazed sort of way, and Elena marvels at how he's so quick to act even when his mind is elsewhere.

The screaming in her skin stops, and she slumps back against the sink, sauce on her cheeks. "What happened?"

It takes him a while to answer. His hands moves like he wants to raise it, but he doesn't. "Nothing."

I've gotten used to it, Rebekah says.

Sometimes they'll be sitting down to a meal—which Elijah cooks, because for some reason he's always willingly in the kitchen, all domesticated rainbow bliss with Elena—or listening to Rebekah read the Hunger Games aloud while staring out her window, and he'll suddenly set down his cutlery, or be so still she's sure he'll topple over, static and wooden.

He'll look at her when she calls his name, that strange look on his face, and she'll ask: "You felt it again, didn't you?"

"Yes," he says, but when she puts her hands to his chest, guided by his slightly shaking fingers, she feels nothing.

We're going to catch pneumonia, Kol says.

Rebekah notes the glee in his tone and makes another mud angel, as she has taken to calling the number of human-shaped patches dotting their garden. "You're the one who wanted to stay out here."

Kol shrugs, looking like a swamp thing rising from the core of the earth. "The mud's starting to get into my boxers. It's not a particularly nice feeling."

"Be a man about it, Kol." Rebekah sticks her tongue out, tastes the rain. "How's your head?"

"Better." Remarkably, his turban is the only thing about him that's not stained with mud. Rebekah doesn't know what kind of witchcraft Damon had been up to when he'd said, "This isn't your typical bandage wrap—it's a Damon-approved bandage wrap."

"I'd say sorry, but it was all your own fault."

Kol sighs. "I know." He turns to her, lips set in a straight line. "Don't do that again."

"Do what?"

His lip twists like he'd just swallowed a very bitter lemon. "Leave me behind."

"Kol," Rebekah says firmly, "you're my brother. Even if this curse doesn't kill us, I'd probably end up sticking a dagger in you myself. But even then I'd probably lug your ungrateful self around with me, wherever I go."

She sits up, slipping a little in the process. "Always and forever, remember?"

Rebekah reaches a hand out.

Kol takes it.

How the hell did this happen, Damon says.

"I don't really know," Stefan answers and changes to another channel. "The Notebook's on."

Damon sits up straighter, sucking away at his blood bag like it's a juice box. "Want one?"

Stefan's lip curls. "O positive," he says reluctantly anyway.

They watch Noah sweep Allie to his chest and press kiss after kiss on her lips in the pouring rain.

Damon laughs lightly. "I've lost track of how many times we've watched this."

Stefan sets his barely-sipped-from blood bag aside, saving the rest for later. "I haven't. Fifty nine times, brother."

"See, this is why the chicks dig you." Damon kicks his shoes off and rests them on the coffee table. "You remember this shit."

Stefan just watches the movie, fingers resting lightly on the remote control. Damon doesn't know which one's louder—the rain banging against the window, the rain from the movie, or Stefan's silence.

"You can't avoid her forever, you know."

Stefan's jaw twitches. "I'm not avoiding anyone."

"Then why are you here?" Damon grabs the remote control to shut the movie off. A first. "That's got to mean something."

"Doesn't have to mean anything."

"Oh, Stefan," Damon chuckles. "Stefan, Stefan, Stefan. With you, it always means something."

The rain falls on.

Elijah, Elena says.


He's crouched on her windowsill with clouds in his eyes. She gives up on pulling her mess of a hair into a ponytail and lets it fall back down her shoulders in chocolate waves. "What are you—?"

Elijah walks up to her in two great strides, and before she can protest he's already pressing her against his chest, buried in his designer jacket, breathing him in. Just like yesterday, just like in the kitchen, but made different because it's completely warranted and intentional.

He's staring down at her almost expectantly, and she just blinks back. "Elijah—"

"Listen," he says, and there's something about his voice that makes her throat catch.

So she closes her eyes and leans into him, and it's then that she hears it—the steady rhythm of a heartbeat pulsing away, almost like a song.

She's so startled she forgets to step back when she looks up at him again. "Your heart—"

"It comes and it goes," he says, a rare smile breaking out onto his face. "I've been feeling it sporadically throughout the day, but then I realized... it's you. It jumps when you're around."

Elena doesn't quite know what to say to that, but he's looking at her with that same piercing look, right before he dropped the pot of chilli in the kitchen.

He brushes her hair away from her cheeks. "Elena."

"Yes?" she asks, her voice higher than it should be.

"You have minced meat in your hair."

"Oh," is all she can think to say, heat creeping up her neck. She pats her hair, blinks dazedly. "I should—I should go get cleaned up."

"I'll wait," Elijah says.

Somehow I knew it would end this way, Klaus says.

They end up painting a section of her wall, him recreating Manet's post-impressionism works with just the tips of his fingers and her drawing stick figures on pink horses at best. He starts painting the night-time sky on her ceiling, mostly just to show off, and she presses her hands flat against the back of his shirt in retaliation.

He tries to do the same but she's too fast for him (something he still finds unbelievable), so her clothes end up dotted and smudged with his fingerprints, but never his whole hands.

When she steps back to admire his 'work' in the mirror, she sends him a smile that shines through the rainy day. "I'll keep this forever," she promises.

"You have forever," he assures her, and paints stars on her ceiling.

Caroline winds up lying flat on her back on her carpet, laughing up at the universe he's created for her right in her room. When her laughter gives way to slow breathing, and the weak sunlight gives way to the evening glow, she sits up, hands stained and cheeks painted with red.

She pulls her tousled hair into a bun and perches on the corner of her bed, watching as he paints the pale yellow of her room away with his hands.

"Is it cold today?" Caroline asks quietly, fingers knotted in her lap. "I can't tell. Is it cold?"

Klaus shrugs. "It's alright."

Caroline takes in a breath. "Nice day for a bubble bath."


"One of the things I loved most about being human, she says slowly. "Bubble baths on rainy days."

Klaus' hand stills. "I... can't remember the last time I had one."

"That's a shame," Caroline says, stretching lazily. She makes her way across her room, saying in his ear as she passes, "I think I'll have one now, since I'm all dirty from painting."

"You don't have to wait up for me," she says demurely to his frozen back, and slips into her bathroom.

Her porcelain skin shines in the glow of the room lent by the flickering candles. The scent permeating the room seems to center and float around her, and he can feel the warmth of the water from where he's standing.

Elena looks up at him from beneath her eyelashes, doe-eyed and inviting. "Well?"

Elijah loosens his tie.

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