put down your sword and crown

up and up we keep on climbing

It's Thursday.

Caroline is late.

For the first time in seven years—when she would watch old movies with daddy late into the night and wake up to Liz quite literally dragging her out of bed—Caroline finds herself kicking off her sheets in a mad frenzy, reaching for her phone to silence the belated alarm all the while cursing the state of her hair.

She's this close to just hurling her phone against her freshly painted wall in despair—because hello, it's 8:43am!—and is dashing about her room, grabbing at her towel and seriously the sub filling in for Ric has a stick up his ass when it comes to second period History and where are her skinny jeans and what the hell why didn't her BlackBerry ring sooner and what is her scarf doing under the—whoops —she finds herself tripping and crashing face first into a pile of throw pillows.

"Good morning to you too," Klaus says, his voice rumbling against her stomach. Caroline feels a flush coming on from the feel of his lips through the thin cotton of her pajamas, but all thought of it is (thankfully) forgotten when her phone beeps again—8:45.

Motherf—Caroline scrambles to get to her feet (to get off of Klaus), but doesn't get far since she finds herself falling all over again when he grabs her ankle.

"You're making me late!" she snarls, kicking at his face. Klaus deflects them easily.

"You made me spend the night on the floor," he says placidly, like that alone justifies what he's about to do next—rolling over so he's on top of her, pinning her on top of the many layers of blankets and plush bears she'd thrown down for him last night.

"I hope you're comfortable," she had said, tone saccharine, as peeked over the edge of her bed to look down on him. Klaus had looked like a sulky child told to go to bed early, the way his face was tucked in between Mr Bear and Mr Caroline (her mother wasn't exactly the most inspiring of people when it came to naming her toys).

"Very," he grumbles, and she thinks it funny, this total one-eighty of emotions, because when she'd finally emerged from her bathroom earlier, he had been sitting in the armchair in the corner of her room, flipping through her copy of The Myth of Sisyphus. With his casual position and his trained eyes, she would have thought him unaffected by the smell of lavender that wafted around her every step, but when she peeked at him over her shoulder, he was gripping the book so tight his knuckles had turned white.

Caroline wants to push him off, but he's surprisingly heavy for a hy—human, she corrects herself—for a human. She thinks it must be especially cold today, because Mom has the thermostat jacked way up, and Klaus' cheeks have a rosy hue to them.

English boy with the lacrosse stick, she remembers her cousin DJ chanting, wayward even in their tween years. His rosy cheeks I'd like to lick, she recalls with the smallest of blushes, and promptly snickers in his face.

Klaus scowls, lifting himself off of her. "What?" he snaps.

"Oh, nothing," Caroline says airily, wriggling free of his feet trapping her against the blankets, even as DJ sings away from the corner of her mind, English boy with the northern eyes, kiss my lips—she blushes—then kiss the skies. "I have to get ready." She glances at her mirror and groans at the way her hair sticks up everywhere. "Does this look salvageable to you?"

But Klaus isn't paying attention anymore. He's frowning down at his phone, muttering something under his breath that even her ears can't pick up. She stays rooted at the spot, wondering if it would be rude of her to just, you know, run off, but he's in a world of his own and she doubts he'd notice if she suddenly screamed or maybe fell out the window or drowned in plush bears or—

"You have fun at school," Klaus says suddenly, finally looking up at her. "I have things to do today, anyway."

And then he's on his feet, paint-splattered jacket already in hand as he walks out the door with his half-assed goodbye. Caroline blinks in the sudden stillness of her room.

It's (still) Thursday.

Elena is frenetic.

"Matt—hey, Matt!"

Matt whirls around, eyes wild, hands behind his back. "I'm not eating the glue again!" he bursts out, before realizing oh, it's not Caroline. He clears his throat and leans back against his locker, the picture of nonchalance. "Hey 'Lena. What's up?"

Elena hitches the strap of her bag onto her shoulder. "Have you seen Bonnie? Caroline says she's supposed to be working on the posters in the library, but she's not there."

"Bonnie?" Matt frowns, tilting his head to the left, as he does when he's thinking. "Oh yeah, she told me she had to rush home or something. Abby stuff." He gives her a tight smile. "Is it like, super important? Because she might still be here. She just left."

Elena all but melts with relief. "Thanks, Matt. I gotta go." She starts to break into a run, but at the last minute, turns back and gestures at the face. "And, uh—you've got a little… just there."

Matt takes a furtive swipe at the glue in the corner of his lips, muttering defensively under his breath as Elena makes her way down the hall and shoulders the doors open. The parking lot's empty—it is third period, after all—but she spots the red of Bonnie's favourite jumper and all but tramples down the stone steps, yelling for her.

Bonnie stops, car keys slung around her fingers. There's a deep line between her eyebrows. "Yeah?"

Elena's slightly out of breath, and leans against the hood of Bonnie's car to catch it. "Do you know anything about Esther's grimoires?"

Bonnie's frown deepens, if possible. "What's this about, Elena?"

"Just—" Elena takes a deep breath, her nails digging into her upper arms. "Please."

"I know that some of the stuff in there dates back to the origins of witchcraft," Bonnie sighs. "Really old magic; dark magic. Things that would take me years, decades even, to master."

Elena feels her heart sink down to her stomach. "Esther's grimoires are still in her reading room." She unwraps her arms from around her torso and plays with the hem of her sweater, unable to look Bonnie in the eye. "I… was looking through them yesterday."

It's good that Elena's looked away, because Bonnie's eyes are sharp enough to cut through bricks. "Why would you do that?"

Elena pauses. She can't exactly tell Bonnie, can she? Not when Bonnie's still so very stung by what had happened to Abby. She looks at her best friend; wants to wrap her arms around her. But she can't, so all she does is bite her lips and look away. "I'm just… looking into something. But I can't really understand it, it's written…" Elena screws her eyes shut, tries to remember what Alaric had told her once, "in Futhark Runes. But there were other symbols too, and I thought you'd understand them, because I sure don—"

"Why would you need to understand it?" Bonnie's frowns further. Elena feels panic rising in her chest as she practically sees the cogs turning in her head.

Bonnie's eyes widen. "No."

"It's not what it looks like—"

"No, it's exactly what it looks like," Bonnie snaps, taking a step back. "I can't believe you, Elena."


The witch just shakes her head, jerking her hand away when Elena reaches for it. "I have to go. Abby needs me, because she was the one who had to die to protect your precious Original friends."

She yanks her car door open and doesn't even spare a glance Elena's way as she slams down on the gas and out of the school compound, her tires screeching the whole way.

Elena's left in the parking lot, ashen. One step forward, two steps back, she thinks.

It's Thursday (and it's dragging on).

Caroline is annoyed.

"I'm not counting or anything," Caroline says testily, tapping her calligraphy pen against the table, "but that's the third time you've sighed in five minutes."

Not that she cares or anything, because as far as she knows, there's no law that states one can't sigh in stages of melancholia. Elena's practically entitled to sighing three, four, five (and the droop of the brunette's shoulders makes six) times in five minutes if she wants.

Caroline's a good friend; she lets it slide—but she's not a good enough friend to let Elena sigh their free period away, totally disregarding the invitations she's supposed to hand-write—

("Hand-write?" Damon splutters, looking down at the stack of stiff, speckled paper and the numerous calligraphy pens Caroline had borrowed from Klaus (read: swiped from his drawer while he wasn't looking).

"Why the hell," Damon continues, "would you want to handwrite two-hundred and sixty two—two hundred and sixty-two—prom invitations when, oh I don't know, printing presses exist?"

"I like the sentimentality of it all!" Caroline retorts, brandishing an envelope in his face and threatening to paper cut anyone within a three-feet radius of her. "What are you doing here, anyway? You don't even go here.")

—for prom. So Elena can sigh all she wants. Just not with their prom—her prom—at stake, and Caroline tells her as much.

"Look , I'm sorry—no offense or anything," Elena says, and tries to subtly word her response. "But don't you think this is a complete waste of our time?"

"You said it, sister," Damon grumbles, flexing his sore, ink-stained fingers.

As soon as the words leave her mouth, Elena immediately regrets it. Caroline seems to be swelling up, her face flushing and her eyes shining and it's all levels of creepy, especially with the emotions flitting past her face faster than Damon can file nails—which is pretty fast, judging from the way he's pushed his pens aside and is deftly filing Stefan's nails now, since apparently the younger Salvatore had decided to go all hipster on them and forego showering—

( "Stefan?" Elena begins hesitantly, cautiously. I'm not sure, but I think there's a… mushroom in your beard." She pauses, letting this sink in, but Stefan just stares back blankly.

"Did you kn—?"

"He knows," Damon says primly, blowing on Stefan's nails.)

—and had just given up all free will to Damon, who had been grooming and dressing him for the past few days. Which would explain the neon green t-shirt from the 60s and electric-blue skinny jeans.


After shock, betrayal, rage, hurt and numerous other emotions (of which Elena's lost count) flashes across her eyes, Caroline finally settles for scandalized. "Elena Gilbert, are you…intentionally trying to ruin my prom?"

"Woah, Care—that's not what I meant. Not at all!" Elena glances at the Salvatores for support, but they've conveniently looked away.

"Elena," Caroline says again, but with considerable calmness (she doesn't look like she wants to set her hair—or her own hair—on fire, at the very least).

Elena holds her breath.

"Walk with me," Caroline finishes, pushing back her chair and looking expectantly at her best friend.

Well then.

It's Thursday (and it's only just beginning).

Rebekah is impatient.

She checks her phone, pulling her finger down the screen again and again to refresh her inbox, and doesn't stop pacing the room. Every so often she sneaks peeks into the den where Kol was sulking about how the doctors at the hospital had told him not to get into any strenuous activities (read: no more driving lessons with Rebekah).

The den is really the modest way of calling their state of the art black-walled theatre with the plush remote-controlled chairs complete with in-built massagers. Fibre optic lights blinked down from the dark ceiling in flashes of turquoise, fuchsia and gold, making her feel like she's caught in another world, not cold and dismal Mystic Falls.

On the rare occasions where Kol didn't monopolize the room—he'd garnered an unfortunate liking to the dark storylines and flashy cars that was a Christopher Nolan flick—Elijah liked to sit in solitude and watch his black and white Tati films. Finn, on his short stay here, was fascinated not by the screen that ran from floor to ceiling, but by the long line of snack dispensers and adequately-stocked mini-bar in the corner of the room (Kol had insisted). Rebekah would sneak into the den in the dead of the night and slip in those old Disney movies, the ones Caroline had lent her and she'd kept hidden under her pillow for fear Klaus (or worse: Kol) would find them.

Klaus just liked to sit there with a crystal glass of whiskey, and stew.

They're never in that room at the same time. Rebekah's never stopped to consider why.

When it's clear no messages are going to be coming in anytime soon, she lets out a breath of frustration and stamps into the den. "What are you watching?" she snaps at Kol. She flicks her eyes over to the screen—

and promptly shrieks.

"Where did you get these?" comes her shrill voice as she rushes over to the control centre, trying to figure out which of the numerous buttons would eject the CD. Kol continues munching on his popcorn, watching her from the corner of his eyes with disinterest as Aurora twirls around in her forest, singing of true love and her missing prince.

"Hah!" she yells out triumphantly as she all but claws the disc out of 'sliding thing', as she's called it, but her face falls in dismay as the film keeps playing.

"I've got it recorded," Kol says, a hint of a smirk on his lips, "Sixty-two times." He reaches for the remote and turns the volume up louder. "Who knew my volatile sister was so fond of fairytales?" he yells over the noise.

"You lummox." Rebekah slams her fist against the panel but all it does is turn the images on the screen brighter. She rounds on Kol, wants to pummel his face, has half a mind to yank his turban off, but before she can, Kol shakes a large container of—something—under her nose.

She smells flour and processed cheese and twists her head away, grimacing. "What is that?"

"Cheese puffs," Kol says thickly, spraying orange dust all over her pristine... new... white shirt-dress.

Rebekah screws her eyes shut and counts silently to ten, shoving white hot rage in the form of a mirthless scream back down her throat. She really considers just yanking that stupid turban off his stupid head (or shove those stupid cheese puffs up his stupid nose), but a rustling from the darkened corner of the room catches her attention.

No, not a rustling, she realizes—a sniffling. She glances at Kol, but he seems unperturbed; wrapped up in his film. She wades through Kol's snack to the corner of the room and reaches a hand out to touch the darkness, and something pounds in her chest, and for a while she stays rooted to her spot because the feeling is so odd, so foreign, that she forgets to breathe sometimes.

Rebekah, she'll hear Elijah in the back of her mind, and sucks in her breath.

Which is good that she does, really. All the better to scream when something big and heavy and shaggy leaps from the darkness right at her face.

"Kol!" she screams, writhing on the floor as hot and wet and sticky breaths start slapping at her cheeks. "Kol! The time has come; the curse is upon us—I'm dyi… Kol!"

"Shut up, will you?" Kol snaps, stuffing a handful of chips into his face, watching the Prince swoon at the sight of Aurora. "I'm at the best part."

"Motherf—" Rebekah struggles for a while, feels something biting at her nose and slams her fists into her attacker, and she hears a yelp of pain. She immediately snaps her eyes open to find… a dog?

"I—" Rebekah blinks up at the furry thing panting above her, at a loss for words. She sits up and gathers the dog into her arms, burrowing her nose into his soft fur. "Kol, what is this?"

"It's a dog, Bekah." The roll of his eyes just scream Bitch, please and Rebekah immediately resents Caroline for all those episodes of the Real Housewives that she watches with him to unwind (because he usually—or used to—end up bruised and battered with tire marks printed on the back of his shirts) after a long day of driving lessons.

"I know it's a dog," she snaps, tightening her grip around the pet as she trots over to the seat beside Kol, plopping down into it. "Why is it here?"

"Its name is Amelia," Kol snaps back, tearing his eye away from the film long enough to throw her an annoyed glance. As he turns back to the screen, he says absently, "Got her for you."

Rebekah frowns further, scratching the dog—Amelia—behind the ears. It licks her hand eagerly. "Why?"

"For the love of—I am trying to watch this film, Bekah." Kol throws his hands up in frustration and all but punches the pause button on the remote control. The prince and Aurora hover where they are, lips just a whisper away from a kiss. He sighs, running a hand through his hair. "Didn't you always want one?"

She just throws an equally-as-grievanced look back at him. Yes, she'd wanted a pet, but ninety years ago. Back when she had skipped home to find Klaus back from the barracks, safe and unscathed (of course) and had cheerfully demanded a puppy. Klaus had tried all sorts of tactics to talk her out of it like "Aren't you too old for pets?" (condescension), "Isn't Kol trouble enough?" (distraction), "Kol accidentally stabbed himself in the eye, can we take a rain check on that?" (Kol so hadn't, though—Klaus had stabbed it for him).

Undaunted, Rebekah had gone out to buy one herself. She kicked the front door open and dropped the puppy—the most adorable little Beagle she'd set her eyes on—into Elijah's lap, her face alighting with triumph at the expressions (Kol: surprise; Klaus: dismay) on her brothers' faces.

They must be sorely disappointed that they couldn't pilfer this moment of hers, she'd thought as she went to bed with the Beagle (she hadn't figured out a name for it yet) snuggled into her underarm.

Elijah bought her a book of names the next day, although rather reluctantly—she saw it in his eyes as he handed it to her. Before he left the room he had looked her in the eye and said, "Remember what we are, Rebekah—don't get too attached."

She looked at the Beagle, frowning. The Beagle looked like it had a lot of years in it, not likely to die anytime soon. She snorted, settling into a night with a glass of Château Margaux and a burning drive for name-hunting.

Kol had offered his help, but she's told him no in a much ruder fashion, and he stalked off in a huff, telling her she'd be sorry. She went to sleep with the book hanging loose from her fingers are still no name for the Beagle.

Of course, she should have known Elijah wasn't talking about the Beagle's life span. Should've known that the dismay on Klaus' face wasn't because she'd gotten what she'd wanted, again.

Because the next day, Elijah has to hold her as she cries into his shoulder, the Beagle in her arms, not a drop of blood left in its limp body. Klaus sighs resignedly and drains about two bottles of Bourbon before stepping out of the room. Rebekah would have gladly kicked Kol off their ten-story apartment to leave him with injuries that would take ten years to heal properly, maybe even withhold from talking to him longer than that, had Klaus not daggered him first.

The three remaining Originals never mentioned either incident again.

Rebekah peeks suspiciously over Amelia's nose at Kol, but he has his eyes glued determinedly at the paused film.

"You're not going to eat her, are you?" she asks (almost accusingly).

Kol gives his cheese puffs a pointed shake. "For some reason these processed things taste better than blood now."

Rebekah slumps back against her seat, burrowing her face into Amelia—not the Labrador, or the dog that didn't have a name—and says quietly, "Alright."

Kol looks at her, eyebrows furrowed. Alright, as in Alright?

Alright, as in Thank you?

Alright, as in I forgive you?

Rebekah straightens up, and says (louder this time): "Alright."

So Kol just smiles back, "Alright." Because since when do small gestures need big explanations anyway?

"Isn't this touching."

Kol and Rebekah whip their heads around to see Klaus standing just inside the room, a knowing smirk on his face.

"How long have you been standing there?" Kol asks, letting the film play once again.

"Long enough." Klaus gives Amelia a onceover as he walks down the steps to where they're sitting. He has an exasperated look on his face as he pulls his phone out of his pocket.

"Fifty-three messages, Bekah," he snarls, thrusting the phone in her face. "This better be important."

Amelia chooses that exact moment to jump out of Rebekah's arms to throttle Klaus to the ground.

It's Thursday (and it's not going to end anytime soon).

Caroline is exultant.

"So spill," Caroline says as they pull down those prank-posters of RIDICULOUSLY PHOTOGENIC GUY FOR PROM KING and put up the real posters. It takes Elena a while to respond because she's been twisting her fingers into the hem of her sweater the whole twenty minutes that Caroline had been silent, wondering if "walk with me" was actually code for You're being kicked off the prom committee (or worse), There wasn't actually a prom committee to begin with, but you're still being kicked off.

"Huh?" Elena says, as intelligently as she is able to.

Caroline rolls her eyes, balling up the rest of the posters and using her boots to scuff them into a neat pile at her feet. "You've obviously got something on your mind."

Elena sighs, resting her forehead against the worn corkboard. "It's not a big—it's nothing, really."

"So spill," Caroline insists, pulling up a chair and folding herself into it. She nudges another chair closer to Elena with the heel of her boot as an impish smile grows on her lips. "If it's nothing, really."

There's a blush creeping up Elena's neck, which she tries her hardest hide by looking down at her feet, her hair swishing across her cheeks. She peeks at Caroline through her eyelashes. Caroline's still sitting there, ever patient.

"Fine," Elena sighs, slipping into the chair as well. Their ankles knock together, and Caroline jiggles her foot in encouragement.

"Something…" Elena begins, but has to clear her throat before she can go on. Her hands feel clammy all of a sudden, and she wraps them inside the folds of her sweater. "Something happened between me and Elijah," Elena finally admits, chagrined. She pauses, waiting for Caroline to say something, but highly doubts it's going to come anytime soon—

(Because there it is. The power combo. Caroline winces, but Elena's not sure if it's because something so totally happened between her and Elijah and it wasn't exactly beyond her control,or the poor grammar of her sentence.

From the way Caroline's eye keeps twitching to the shelves where all the Longmans and Websters are, Elena's guessing it's the latter.)

—because she can hardly believe it herself.

Finally, Caroline says, "You slept with him, didn't you." so matter-of-factly, that Elena's taken aback.

And also shrill in her defence.

"Wha—no," Elena splutters, nearly sliding off her chair, her cheeks flaring crimson. "Not like that. Nothing even happe—we didn't even kiss, it's just…" She covers her face with her hands. "Something happened. Let's just leave it at that." Again, she peeks at Caroline, but this time through her fingers. "You're so calm about this."

Caroline shrugs. "I kissed Klaus."

Fair enough.

"Is that it, then?" Caroline asks, uncrossing her legs and preparing to stand, but Elena shakes her head, looking absolutely miserably. Caroline lets out a breath. "Oh, 'Lena. What's wrong?"

"I was in Esther's reading room the other day," Elena says, her fingers twisting together. "Just looking around, and Elijah—well, he found me before I could really… I don't know, find anything."

"Why would you need to 'find' anything?" Caroline air-quotes, narrowing her eyes. "Elena—"

"I need your help," Elena presses. "I wouldn't ask this normally, but… I've got a hunch, alright? I need that grimoire, Care." She leans forward to grasp Caroline's hands in her own. "Please."

Caroline's looking at her so disapprovingly that Elena almost winces, but she holds her ground.

After a while, Caroline relents. "What do you need me to do?"

Elena bites her lip, an apologetic look on her face. "Distract Elijah."

Because, duh.

It's Thursday (just scraping the edges of mid-morning).

Klaus is worn out.

The brakes, Rebekah, Klaus snaps.

Are you blind? Did you not see that red li—just—just drive, Rebekah, Klaus snarls.

What the fu—is that another one of my hubcaps rolling down the street? Klaus cries.

What did I say about the brakes, Rebekah? Klaus barks.

Rebekah finds her feet fumbling under Klaus' unyielding gaze, and Ole Betsey lurches forward before coming to a screeching halt. "If I'd known you'd be such an arse about this, I would have asked Eli for lessons instead," she snaps at Klaus, she snaps at Klaus, whipping off her scarf to strangle him with it. "And stop yelling at me!"

"Stop being such a horrible driver," he growls back, deflecting her assault with a sweater-clad arm that is peppered with stray dog hairs that glint in the sun. He finds himself vaguely regretting his remark when Rebekah deflates visibly.

"You think I'm a horrible driver?"

Klaus doesn't answer, just pinches the bridge of his nose.

"Nik?" Rebekah prompts, but all Klaus does is unbuckle his seatbelt.

"Switch with me," he says.

(Klaus still can't believe) it's Thursday.

Rebekah is glum.

"Where are we going?" Rebekah asks sulkily from exile to the passenger seat. She flips her sunglasses to the top of her head, looking around at the wide streets dotted with seemingly random potholes and cardboard cut-outs of pedestrians walking their dogs. She is instantly reminded of Amelia, which cheers her up some, but Klaus' stoic silence is still eating away at her.

"Nik," she says again, "I demand to know—"

"All in due time, Rebekah," Klaus says, resisting the strong urge to roll his eyes. "Shut up for a bit."

They drive on and Klaus makes a turning. They're greeted by tall wrought-iron gates that remind Rebekah eerily of the town's cemetery. Her eyes travel to the sign atop the arc Klaus is currently driving under.


Rebekah's lips part in confusion. "Nik, what is this?"

"You'll see," Klaus says, and eases the car into an empty parking space. He gets out, closing the door gingerly behind him (it still swings uselessly about its catch either way) and looks at her admonishingly. "Well? Aren't you coming?"

Rebekah clambers over the side of the car with little grace, almost tumbling down to the gravel (of course, she'll deny this later), and follows Klaus, looking around in wonder. There are people running about, some in those awful red t-shirts that have Driving Instructor embroidered in yellow across the back, and some who look to be her age (in human form, duh) sitting around, joking; laughing. "Why did you bring me here?"

Klaus guides her through the glass doors of the lobby and walks across the room, and Rebekah has to fight to keep the unimpressed look on her face. It's a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the parking lot, here in the lobby. She hears the clack of keyboards and smells something sharp and office-like as Klaus pulls her through another set of double-doors.

He raises his eyebrows and she looks over his shoulder—

and almost withdraws from the carnage she sees.

She sees cars everywhere: in the circuit, parked by the mock-hill, in between the poles they have set up, to stimulate pedestrians, she supposes. There are even more cardboard cut-outs of people here, and numerous pot-holes in the ground. But what fascinates her most isn't how the parking spaces line the corners of the circuit, but the sounds of crashing she hears every now and then. She sees cars backing into cars; cars rolling backwards downhill; cars lurching forward and backwards again in quick succession. She sees a boy of about seventeen crying because his instructor had whacked the back of his head with a clipboard. She sees a girl ripping her car door open and shaking her fist at it. She hears another girl yelling in despair, "This wasn't the car I practiced on!". She sees a boy driving straight through a row of cardboard pedestrians. She sees several driving instructors looking like they've been through hell and back.

Rebekah turns to Klaus, and he's just looking at her pointedly.

"These people are terrible." She feels her corner of her lips twitching into a smile as she watched an instructor practically lunge at one of the more dreadful students. And then it hits her. "Stefan is very… patient."

Klaus slaps his palm to his forehead.

Rebekah turns back to the wasteland that is the driving academy, sees a car absolutely ripping across the circuit and crashing into the thicket of trees in the corner of the vast playground, and gasps. "Nik—we have to leave, right away."

It's Thursday.

Stefan is miserable.

Damon keeps enticing him to join in on the cutting of the snowflakes, tries to lure him into his glitter trap, even draws a beard on his own face (and compels Matt to do the same). "Beard brothers," he grins down at them, but Stefan just scrawls out yet another invitation down, calligraphy be damned.

The cafeteria's empty of people save for the prom committee, what with it being fourth period. Stefan's still stationed at the invitations-and-decorations-table because he's been threatened by Caroline, and Damon's there to check on him. Matt should have been there too, but he keeps sneaking off somewhere to "uh… check on the banners. Yeah, that".

The day draws on (and so does Damon, but this time tiny butterflies up Stefan's arm). Damon's about to suggest they just skip the whole thing altogether and get drunk at the Grill since Stefan looks so listless, but then the doors fly open and suddenly Rebekah's standing at the end of the room, eyes bright and searching.


"For the last time, Damon," Stefan snaps, jerking his arm away. "You can't draw a pony on my arm."

"No, bro." Damon grabs his brother's jaw and swivels it to Rebekah's direction.


"Rebekah?" Stefan stands slowly while Damon fusses about straightening his shirt and brushing random odds out of his beard, which Rebekah is trying very hard to ignore (which is a feat, since she has to look Stefan in the eye to talk to him and all that). "What are you doing here?"

Rebekah ignores his question, instead choosing to march right up to him. "You can be so remarkably ignorant sometimes, Stefan Salvatore."

Not the best of greetings after three days of being ignored. Stefan frowns, crossing his arms over his chest. "Really? Well, the drastic drop in squirrel hit and runs beg to differ."

"I didn't mean that," Rebekah scoffs, flicking her hair over her shoulder. The chatter in the cafeteria dies down as everyone focuses on the bickering duo in the centre of the room (which is kind of mostly Damon's doing—he's scurrying around hissing out Dude, you see that? and Fight, fight, fight).

Stefan steps closer, glaring now. "Then what am I oh-so-ignorant about, Rebekah?"

"That you're in love with me," Rebekah declares, her cheeks pinking slightly, but her chin raised high.

Stefan stays rooted to the spot.

"It's true, isn't it?" Rebekah demands, her voice going up just a few notches. Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are bright; frenzied. "You're in love with me."

The cafeteria is as silent as a mausoleum.

Stefan swallows, wants to look away, to the floor, to the lunch lady peering at them from behind the counter; anywhere but Rebekah's eyes, but finds that he can't. "I—"

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