put down your sword and crown

help, i'm alive

One two three days.

Stefan clears his throat, taking a subconscious step back, but Rebekah only follows. "You—you're obviously… You don't know what you're talking about."

"You kissed me," Rebekah insists feverishly. "And then you told me to drive!"

("Dude," Logan Bruno, resident stoner, says. "Not cool.")

Rebekah takes a step closer, but all Stefan does is take another step back, blinking down at her as if stuck in some skewed-up version of a waltz he'd rather not be in. In the back of her mind she can vaguely hear Damon muttering something about sitting her down and making her watch some film called He's Just Not That Into You, but right now all she can see is her finally reaching out (in both the literal and metaphorical sense), and Stefan determined to look the other way.

She should be used to this by now, Rebekah thinks. From the 20's right up to the new millennia, Stefan still pulls the condescension card on her when things don't go his way. She recalls an evening of dinner jackets and curled hair and pearls that gleam in the orange glow of the lamps; an evening of smooth jazz and lazy smiles and drop-waist Charleston dresses. She recalls their first kiss, with her backed up against the brick wall and him running a hand down the small of her back and breathing her in with closed eyes—

and then she remembers how he had denied that very incident when Nik asked about her smudged lipstick and starry eyes.

It's all she can do not to just rip off his stupid beard and stuff it down his throat, but considering the fact that she doesn't have her superhuman (or vampire) strength anymore (and also considering the fact that she really doesn't want her hands anywhere near his beard right now), she does the only thing she deems possible at this very moment.

She grabs the container of glitter from Damon's hands and slams it in Stefan's face. The whole cafeteria erupts with cheers as he doubles over, coughing and spluttering, and Rebekah takes that moment to drag him up by the neck of his shirt to her eye level.

"You listen to me, Stefan Salvatore," she says through closed teeth. "I have sixteen days left to live. You made me think I'd wasted my time on you before, and you're about to do it again." She shoves him away and he stumbles back against Damon (who jerks his head away for fear of getting glitter into his own drawn-on beard). "I won't have it. Not this time."

She stalks out of the cafeteria the same way she came in: with a purpose. Chin up, shoulders back, smile.


One two three four days.

"Good evening."

Caroline looks up from her laptop where she'd been looking through pictures of past proms to see Klaus perched on her windowsill. Rolling her eyes, she closes her MacBook and leans back in her swivel chair. "You've been busy these past two days."

"Rebekah," Klaus says, rolling his eyes as he walks over to where she's sitting. "Stefan's going to have to do something about their situation; I can't be expected to coach her through her driving lessons."

Caroline scoffs, a quiet one. "Aren't you the Brother of the Year?"

Klaus doesn't respond, just runs his finger lightly along her shoulder. "What are you doing?"

"Nothing," Caroline says easily, surreptitiously nudging something deeper under her desk with the toe of her ballet flat. Klaus is walking about her room now, smirking up at the stars on her ceiling and looking curiously over at one of her paintings that he'd overlooked: a crude one, but a very Caroline one, of geese and a farmhouse. He leans closer to look at it, his expression now unreadable.

"You really do miss him," he murmurs, and she wonders if she's supposed to respond, since it seems like he's saying it more to himself than to her. She pushes a lock of her hair behind her ear, and wonders what's left of her life that he hasn't somehow managed to coax out of her. Wonders why he seems to think her experiences just as laudable as his, wonders why he insists on weaving her history with his own rich one. Wonders if he'll take it with him, wherever he goes.

He turns to her then, and Caroline, for some reason, feels some sort of heaviness to come with his next words. Klaus' lips part. "Caroline, do you—"

"I'd love to."


They go on yet another one of their midnight walks (Caroline's not sure when it started to become a thing), and this time they don't even glance at the mouth of the cemetery as they stroll past.

He kisses her later, with the stars bringing out the silver in her hair, with the lazy smile of the moon reflected in the still lake, with her soft sweater scratching against the cool bark of a willow tree he's pushing her up against. She laughs into his mouth and it mingles with his own and bounces off of the silence of the night and it's silly, but she thinks it all feels very much like an 80's movie; the best kind of movie there is.

Caroline doesn't want it to end.


One two three four five days.

You do realize, Damon says, as he primes the shaver for the inevitable hacking-off of Stefan's beard (because no matter how many times Damon dunks his brother's head underwater; no matter how many times he scrutinizes the way Ariel combs her hair with a fork and tries to do the same with Stefan's beard, the glitter simply would not come out), "You're kind of an idiot."

"What happened to carpe diem?" Damon says.

"What happened to You drive, I drive?" Damon says.

Stefan stares at his brother. "Isn't that a Bieber song?"

"Nah," Damon frowns. "Pretty sure it's not. Anyway, my point is—you brood too much. There's got to be some middle ground here."

"But—" Stefan winces when Damon accidentally jabs the whirring blades against his chin. "It's Rebekah." He says her name laced with a heavy sigh. "How does someone find middle ground with her?"

Damon smiles ruefully, feeling very much like the older brother he sometimes forget he is. "Well, that's for you to dot dot dot, isn't it?"


One two three four days.

Elena holds a purple glitter-pen in her hand, staring dubiously at the graph Caroline's just put before her with a flourish. As it turns out, it takes two days to come up with operation: distract, intrigue and conquer—

("Move, Elena," Caroline whines, grabbing the pen out of Elena's hand to capitalize the header, because "at least this way I know you're dedicated to this plan". Operation: Distract, Intrigue and Conquer (while Keeping Klaus away), she corrects with her flowing script, and Elena fights the urge to roll her eyes.

She fails.)

—because practically everything Elena suggests gets shot down by Caroline, and also to put their plans into action.

Elena's about to tell Caroline that all the spreadsheets and charts really aren't necessary, but doesn't get a chance to because Damon suddenly bursts into the room without knocking (as is his modus operandi) and chokes on the blood bag he's been sipping on.

"Operation: Dick?" he asks incredulously once Caroline's thumped his back hard enough to hurl a whale back into the ocean. Once he had recovered, he straightens up and fixes them with his best (he thinks) debonair smile. "Ladies, if you wanted to seal the deal, tap that thang; go vertical jogging, you know I'm right—"

"Out!" Caroline screeches, launching the whiteboard—which looks suspiciously like the one Stefan has been using for Rebekah's driving lessons—at his face. Damon has time to duck, but not without his blood bag flying out of his hand and splattering across the scented lilac-coloured papers Caroline had spent hours meticulously structuring, restructuring, organizing it by alphabet, and restructuring once again.

Needless to say, Caroline is livid.

(At the expression on her face, Elena quickly exits the room, muttering something about feeding Caroline's goldfish. Caroline's too angry to remember that she doesn't own any goldfish.)

(Caroline's also too angry to pick up on the sounds of Elena practically running out the front door to escape the inevitable face-off that's about to go down.)

"Get your hands off of my notes," she growls through gritted teeth as Damon tries to wipe away the blood with fumbling hands. She elbows him in the stomach as he peers at one of his papers.

"I like how twisty Operation: Dick is," Damon offers as he raises the paper higher. Caroline stands uselessly on the tips of her toes to grasp at it.

"First of all," Caroline begins heatedly, "it is Operation: D.I.C.K. And secondly, get your hands off of my notes."

"Blondie," Damon pauses, bemused, "why do you have a diagram of a stick figure in a suit and why is there…" He squints at the paper once more. "…a headless chicken on the ground next to him?"

"It's not a chicken," Caroline snaps, snatching it out of his hands. She fixes him with a haughty stare and squares her shoulders, matching him height for height. "It's a rollerskate."

"Really."

"Yes, really," Caroline says petulantly. "Now if you'll excuse me—"

"And you're planning on distracting Elijah by piquing his interest in a pair of… Rollerskates."

The way Damon says it makes it sound like such a crude, half-assed plan, but Caroline knows better than to fall into his trap.

"Yes," she snips, making a spectacle of kicking the door open. "Show yourself out."

Damon frowns. "You do realize this is my house?"

Caroline growls a curse under her breath. Elena had suggested they organize Operation: D.I.C.K. in the barely-used drawing room of the Salvatore boarding house, since Klaus might swoop into Caroline's room at any given moment and uncover their insidious plans, which is also the case with Elijah and Elena's room (besides, her living room's still in shambles and if it's one thing Caroline hates, it's dust and rubble messing up her meticulous notes).

Before she can think of a snappy comeback, Damon's already launched his emptied blood bag at her head to throw her off, already scooped up an armful of Caroline's notes, to-do-lists, and blueprints—yes, blueprints—on Operation: D.I.C.K. and is already darting away, yelling over his shoulder: "This means I'm privy to anything that goes on under my roof!"

Caroline stands for a moment, stunned, before crushing the bag in her hand and following the scent of Damon's cologne through the dark, twisty halls. She stomps her way upstairs, yelling out taunts ("You can run but you can't hide!" and jeers ("Your new haircut sucks.") in hopes of drawing him out. She hears a flurry of footsteps and vaguely hears him calling out "Kol said it looked rad" and immediately pounces on it, turning a corner. Of course Damon would run straight to his only safe haven—his bedroom.

In her blind rage, Caroline is pretty sure she has enough incentive to outrun Damon, but he's about 146 years faster than her and had also gotten an unfair head start. By the time she'd vamp-sped to his room, Damon is already in bed, calmly perusing her Caroline's Guide to Decoding Operation: D.I.C.K.—so she got a little ambitious and started writing everything in barely-decipherable codes and symbols—guidebook that she'd painstakingly penned in one sitting (and of which Elena had rolled her eyes at).

"You," she snarls, stepping into his room the way a mountain lion might stalk a… mountain goat (because what else is there to eat on a mountain?), flexing her fingers (she still hasn't made up her mind between strangling him, or slamming his face through a wall) and it would have been equal parts menacing and impressive, and Damon probably would have felt a little threatened, had she not tripped over his Persian rug and landed face first on what appears to be a black thong.

"Damon, you slut," she cries, choking on lace and chartreuse.

"Oops." Damon's by her side immediately, but not to help her to her feet as she'd assumed. Her hand flails uselessly in the air as Damon scoops the thong up and nonchalantly flicks it out his open window. "Alaric must have left it here."

"Alaric?" Caroline snorts. "Seriously?"

Damon just waggles his eyebrows. He drops back onto his bed, spreading out luxuriously, and pats the space next to him. Caroline stands her ground, arms stiffly at her sides.

Waits.

"So," Damon says, "tell me again why you've turned my drawing room into a spider's web of yarn and..." He looks down at her guidebook. "...trickery?"

Caroline opens her mouth, thinks it over, and closes it again. Damon's getting nothing out of her. If he has half a brain he would've figured it all out by now, but then Damon's grin registers in her mind and she realises that Damon's enjoying this—that he wants her to admit to her 'trickery', as he calls it.

"You're an ass," is what she says.

"I'm an ass, I'm a creep; ooh Damon's picking on me again." Damon shrugs. "Heard it all. But you know what I haven't heard in a while?" He raises a finger when Caroline looks like she's about to shoot off another insult. "That was rhetorical. Damon, I need your help. Now that's something I'd want to hear come out of that over-used mouth of yours."

Caroline frowns as she makes her way to his bed, carefully collecting her notes. "I don't need your help."

"Really now?" Damon whips out the guidebook once again and peers at the diagram she'd drawn up. "Because it looks like you were planning on clubbing Elijah over the head with a chi—rollerskate. Wouldn't compulsion be easier?"

"Damon!" Caroline gasps, whacking his nose with her rolled-up blueprint. "Even if Elijah can be compelled now, which I highly doubt, we could never do that—it's against everything we stand for!"

A raised eyebrow. "We?"

"Yes, we," Caroline growls. She reaches for her book but still Damon holds it out of reach, that knowing look on his face. "I don't need your help."

"Whatever you say, Blondie," Damon says and sprawls back against his pillows.


One two three four five six days.

Elijah's settled back nice and comfortable against the porcelain of the bathtub, but his mind won't quite do the same. "I don't quite know what to make of this."

Elena just laughs lightly and leans back against his chest, liking the weight of Elijah's chin propped on her head, smiling against the feel of his arm around her stomach. Elena lets her fingers peek out of the bubbles before promptly pulling them back inside the hot water. It's particularly cold today.

"Caroline and Damon were driving me crazy," Elena says, sinking lower into the bubbles. "More so than usual."

Elijah brushes his lips against the back of her head so lightly that Elena's not sure it happened—the only proof of it is the heat creeping up her neck, and not from the water. "But it's understandable, considering the circumstances," Elijah says.

Elena falls silent, and Elijah doesn't push it. As the days go by, Elena finds that they more or less talk (or don't talk, when they're in the bathtub) about anything and everything—but not the things that they really should talk about.

Things like, What's going on?

Between the two of them, Elijah had surprised her by being the one to bring it up. Somewhere between the careless hand-brushing and the nonchalance of her bathtub invitations, a kink had started to form between his eyebrows. When she'd gotten to her room earlier, Elijah was already there like he said he'd be, just flipping through yet another one of her books. He hadn't said anything when she'd gone straight to her bathroom, but he hadn't followed immediately either.

Sometimes she can hear Caroline shrieking into her ear (or smacking her in the back of her head), "Just kiss him already."

But she can't. Not when he looks at her that way, not when she feels like grabbing his hand every single time, don't go. Not when there's so many questions bubbling up her throat that she feels like choking at times.

That still doesn't stop her from wondering. What's going to happen in the end?, she thinks as she falls asleep at night with Elijah's fingers running through her hair. What kind of answer would he give her?

Elena's not sure she wants to find out. So she stays silent.


One two three four five days.

There's that irritating banging sound again, and Rebekah groans because seriously, how hard is it for a girl to get a moment of her own in a house rolling with men? Amelia whines and nudges her cheek with her damp nose and Rebekah spares her a small smile, before screaming at Kol to piss off from underneath her covers.

"Are you doing nasty things to yourself?" Kol calls wickedly from behind the door, and Rebekah seethes, because she can just see that stupid smile lighting up his stupid face.

Not that she's going to fall for his trap or anything. She's not going to give him the satisfaction of knowing he can get under her skin so easily. So she fumes in silence, hugging Amelia closer to her chest. Amelia lets out another whine and squirms away, and Rebekah feels even more pathetic than before. She sighs and feels sleep coming like a heavy veil over her eyes—how odd it was that humans need so much of it—and tries to tune out the sound of Amelia scratching and howling at the door.

Sleep pulls her under.

When she wakes, she's facedown in her pillow and vaguely remembers turning over so she can breathe better—

(Damon had registered his astonishment at seeing them alive every morning.

"Kudos to you guys for not dying in your sleep yet, what with not being used to breathing," he comments as he makes his way to the den. Elijah, straight-faced as always, had sent Damon sprawling face-first into the wall with a casual flick of his finger for that.)

—and takes pleasure in the now-silent room. Her arm brushes against something soft, something warm, and she thinks Amelia must have fallen asleep beside her. She snuggles closer, but there's no tell-tale sound of Amelia's snort.

With her eyes still closed she frowns, poking her fingers into Amelia's fur. Not as long as Rebekah remembers, either.

She opens her eyes.

"Hi," says Stefan's significantly-trimmed beard.

Rebekah's too stunned to shriek. "Wha—how—why are you here?"

"Klaus called me."

Of course. "Why?"

"He said something about not wanting to have to teach you how to drive one more day," Stefan says sombrely, mostly for her benefit.

Rebekah frowns, because that bitch of a brother. "And how'd you get in?"

"Kol picked up a few pirating skills from Finn," Stefan says.

Rebekah glares, because those bitches she has for brothers. The sting at Stefan coming only for Klaus settles in her chest and hums away like some incessant bee, and she wraps her arms around her torso, wishing for Amelia, wishing away Stefan's unreadable eyes; wishing herself away.

She's not in a mood for another one of those I like you, but it's always going to be Elena talks. God knows she's had enough of those throughout the years. Somewhere in between Klaus and Elijah harping over Katerina and having to endure five hundred years or their unnatural fixation on her, she'd come to realize that her life has been defined by standing quietly by her brothers while the doppelganger pulls and tugs away everything she'd come to care about, like a magician and his tablecloth trick. He pulls so fast the tableware seems not the slightest bit affected, but if you look close enough, or if you cared to look close enough, you'd see. You would see the difference, if you only ca—

"I'm sorry," Stefan says, breaking through her train of thought. He searches her face with his eyes. "You were right."

It takes a while to sink in. Rebekah swallows and hitches her covers higher, so only her eyes and the top of her head are visible. "I was right?"

She forces herself to meet his eyes (and his beard) when he says, "Yeah."

Suddenly she's thankful for the blankets, because she feels heat creeping up her neck and just knows her face is turning that ghastly shade of red again. Stefan slowly pulls back the covers, inch by inch, and traces a finger down her cheek.

"You're warm," he says softly.

Ever so hesitantly, she places her hand over his, keeping it in place. "Still getting used to it."

He rests his forehead against hers, and says, "I love you."

Her heart swells.


When they're finally stepping down the swerve of the grand staircase; when Stefan's trying to tell her how the different gears in modern cars actually work as they enter the sitting room, Rebekah stops mid-"Yes, that's all well and good, but can't we just stamp down on the pedal thing?" and stares blankly at Kol, Klaus, and Damon sitting in a row on the leather couch. Kol looks too pleased with himself; Klaus is slumped in his seat, glowering at the lot of them as Damon leans towards him with a black Sharpie and a critical air to his gaze. Elijah's studying his reflection in the mirror above the mantelpiece.

They all have beards drawn on their faces.

Rebekah turns to Stefan, speechless.

"Beard brothers," Stefan shrugs.


One two three four five six days.

"Ready?" Elena straightens her turtleneck.

"Ready." Caroline nods in confirmation, running a black-painted nail down the length of the brass knocker, mustering up enough willpower to make this plan work—because they haven't exactly got the best track record when it comes to their plans—before banging on it with all her might.

The doppelganger and the baby vampire wait for the usual clatter of footsteps and banging-into-walls (Kol always insists on shoving everyone out of the way on his plight to be the first one to the door) while trying their best not to fidget or look suspicious. Which results in them staring hard at the Brazillian Rosewood before them, determined not to look at each other, their hands set straight and stiff at their sides.

When the door finally swings open, Kol's slightly out of breath, grinning ear to ear with Rebekah following soon after, her hair looking windswept.

"Oh, you two!" Kol exclaims, throwing the door open even further. "I'm afraid we don't have any lessons toda…" Kol trails off, finally noticing the two girls' attire. "Have you joined a cult? Why are you two wearing full-on black?"


"So," Caroline chirps, lifting her teacup to her lips.

"So?" Kol prompts, rubbing the back of his neck.

Truthfully, Caroline hadn't thought about the continuity of her sentence—she'd just said it to cut through the awkward silence filling up the room. She casts a furtive glance at Elena, whose eyes are bugging out at her to say something. Elijah frowns slightly but doesn't say anything; just shifts in his seat and takes another sip of his mint tea.

Rebekah side-eyes Elena (who's sitting way too close to Elijah than she would have ever approved), Amelia's head propped on her knee.

"So!" Caroline says unwaveringly, "Ready for your road test, Rebekah?"

"I think so," Rebekah says, a small, pleased smile on her face. "Elijah, Nik and Kol are coming along. We're actually going in..." she frowns down at her delicate, silver-plated wristwatch, "half an hour or so." The way she raises her eyebrows at Elena, so unimpressed, tells the brunette everything she needs to know—clearly, her being here was a nuisance.

"Are you?" Elena asks anyway, widening her eyes at Caroline. (Of course, Rebekah ignores Elena.)

"Sounds exciting!" She claps her hands again, dropping her teacup in the process. It clatters down onto the fourth century Indian rug, staining the woven threads.

She'd been expecting a reaction (a groan at the most), but not, like, utter pandemonium. Honestly, with the way the Originals react, it's like a nuclear bomb dropped onto the roof of their house.

"Eli!" Rebekah gasps, clutching at Kol's arm. Kol jumps from his seat and seems to be beside himself with worry, alternating between shifting from foot to foot to darting about the room in circles. Even Elijah's eyes grow wide at the growing stain, not helped by Amelia lapping it up with her tongue and spreading it further.

"Amelia Mikaelson," Elijah says sharply, already pulling the dog away. "Stop it at once."

Amelia whimpers, and Rebekah seems to shake out of her reverie, wailing something about Klaus and indispensible investments and goddamn you Caroline and killing whole Indian tribes. Kol scurries to the kitchen and comes back, waving around a bottle of Windex, but Rebekah practically swings it out of his grip, and it flies across the room and crashes out the window.

"That won't work, you useless twat," she snarls.

Kol steps closer, narrowing his eyes. "Well, what would you suggest, you back-garden tramp?"

Elena and Caroline stay rooted in their seats, blinking at the spectacle before them.

Elijah crosses the room, muttering something about getting a rag.

At the sharp pinch she feels on her elbow, Caroline all but yelps, "I'll help!"


The kitchen is a much quieter place, and Caroline finds herself crinkling her eyebrows in confusion when she sees Elijah leaning over the sink, pinching the bridge of his nose. He looks troubled, his tie slightly askew (which she can't help but gape at), and since she hasn't exactly been chummy with him since his arrival in Mystic Falls, she wonders if it'd be okay to ask him what's wrong.

But then she shakes he head and tells herself to stop thinking, stop wondering; she's done enough of that (too much of that) lately. So she moves from her spot by the smooth marble island counter and rests a light hand on his arm.

"Is everything okay?"

Elijah blinks twice and seems to remember where he is as he twists the damp rag in his hands.

"Yes, everything's fine." He gives her a glance and says, "Niklaus is really fond of that rug."

Caroline swallows at the mention of him and tries not to look away, holding the Original's gaze. "Where is he, anyway?"

With a non-committal wave of his hand, Elijah says, "Around. Probably getting some errands done before Rebekah's test. Stefan has told us it will take a while."

Caroline's immensely pleased to hear this. She recalls her own driving lessons and snorts inwardly at Stefan's tact—it wouldn't just take a while; it would probably take the better half of the day. She tries not to look too gleeful as she gently pries the rag from his hands—since he looks so distracted—and tells him she'd bring it to Rebekah for him.

(Of course, Rebekah and Kol fight over who gets to clean up the splotch.

"You wouldn't know how to get it out properly!"

"Well, you would know about difficult stains, wouldn't you, you little strumpet?")

When she gets back to the kitchen (with Amelia in tow—apparently even the dog couldn't handle Rebekah and Kol manhandling each other over a stain), Elijah's still staring out the window. Caroline shifts from foot to foot, and says, "Rebekah's going to do fine, you know."

"Mm?" Elijah asks. "Oh. Yes. Of course she is." There's a sound of Rebekah shrieking and Kol grunting and something—the glass from the Rosewood cabinet, probably—shattering from the sitting room, and Elijah shakes his head, somehow managing to give the impression of rolling his eyes without even doing it. "I better make sure Elena's still unscathed."

"Speaking of Elena," Caroline intervenes, leaning against the counter and effectively blocking his way. "She tells me you make a mean chilli."

Elijah looks at her, waiting for her to continue. Caroline suddenly feels very much like a student called before the school's principal.

"I'm really hungry," she continues, looking at him pointedly.

He continues looking.

She presses further, "Like, really hungry."

Right on cue, Amelia lets out a whine.

Elijah sighs resignedly, turning to the Northland refrigerator (the pièce de résistance of the whole room, really, with its glass doors and stainless steel wrap). "I'll get the minced meat."

"Wait!" Caroline barks, and Elijah stops in his tracks. She's rummaging around her bag for something and pulls it out, waving it around triumphantly. "We should wear these while we cook!"

"...Rollerskates?" Elijah asks, quite bewildered.

At his confusion, Caroline beams and explains: "I always did have an A Cinderella Story fetish."


Elijah so has something hot and heavy in his mind, Caroline surmises as she chops up the onions, bringing the knife down harder than necessary to break up the silence stuffing up the room. He'd barely hummed a response when she'd asked how much garlic he needed; just sat there, back straight as he tended to his tomatoes, eyebrows constantly furrowed and eyes never straying from the task at hand as she natters on and on. Every so often Elijah would drop a scrap down at Amelia, or thank Caroline absently for whatever miscellany she'd passed him, but that's pretty much it. She's never heard so much silence in a room.

Which only makes her talk even more.

Ten minutes into their little cooking foray, Elijah is made painfully aware of her fear of moths as she twirls and spins around him in her rollerskates. Thirteen minutes in, and she's revealed that her first ever B was for gym class back in fourth grade, and she'd joined the cheer squad and made sure she was anointed as captain by the end of the semester (to show Coach K. Thomas that she could suck a duck), and by the time the sauce had started to resemble something edible, Caroline had revealed that she used to paint her dog's nails the brightest yellow she could find, until one day it ran away, which while scarring her for life, also managed to instil some sort of inability to see poor defenceless people without having the urge to drop everything and help them and love them and make sure everything was alright and reassure them that nothing bad was ever going to happen to them again ev—

"You really would do anything for Elena, wouldn't you?" Elijah asks, and Caroline finds the grip she has on the stainless steel knife tightening involuntarily. She wonders what he means by it. Maybe it's the way he words it; so calm, yet so sudden—but she's heard enough from Elena to know that Elijah is nothing if not premeditative.

She flicks her eyes downwards, choosing her words carefully. "I'd do anything for anyone I love."

Elijah glides towards her with ease, manouvering himself around Amelia and never once tripping over the rollerskates she'd chosen specifically for him—pitch black, with flames licking up the sides—as he comes to a smooth stop before her. It's unnerving, how silent he is, and she finds herself saying: "Thanks for humouring me. Most people don't."

Elijah quirks an eyebrow. "Oh?"

She looks down.

Surprisingly, Elijah speaks up. "Is that why you do things for people, then? Because you expect something in return?"

She gives a light laugh. "No." Her knife stills as she ponders his question. "I do things for them because I love them. Because I hope, one day, they'll see it." She doesn't dare meet his eyes as she says, "Because I hope, one day, that maybe I'll be just as important to them as they are to me."

Caroline feels his eyes running across her face and her cheeks burn with something that feels a lot like embarrassment—what a stupid, stupid thing to have admitted to an Original. He'd been paying more attention to Amelia than he had her; what makes her think he would actually care?

She meets his eyes and opens her mouth to tell him to just forget it, but the simple act of Elijah resting his hand on her shoulder shocks the words right out of her mouth.

"Caroline," he says, waving Amelia's sniffing nose away, "when you do something noble and beautiful and nobody notices, do not be sad." He reaches a hand down to take the knife from her hands and chops up the rest of the onions for her as he continues, "The sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience is asleep."

He finishes the onions and looks her in the eye again.

"That's gorgeous," Caroline says, stunned. She feels strangely winded. "Who said that? Socrates?"

"John Lennon," Elijah says, and his lip twitches just the slightest.

Caroline doesn't bother hiding her smile—

but then the smile slides off her face as Amelia starts growling. It takes a moment for Caroline to take in the sight of Elijah thumbing the tip of the knife, all trace of humour gone from his eyes, which are still trained on hers.

"That aside, I'm pretty sure there's something you're not telling me."

Elijah glides closer, and even with the sound of Amelia snarling away, Caroline can hear herself gulp.


One two three four five (and a quarter) days.

Under the pretense of joining Caroline and Elijah in the kitchen, Elena manages to slip away quietly while Rebekah and Kol are still going at it. She runs down the hallways as fast as her sneakers can take her—but she ends up doing some kind of weird jogging in between, since she's supposed to be stealthy, after all—not knowing how much time Caroline's managed to steal for her but finding herself in no position to care.

She pushes open the door to Esther's reading room with sweaty palms and heads straight to the shelves by the window, running a frantic finger down the spines of the thick books before remembering with a start that the grimoire she'd been particularly engrossed by had been on the desk—she whirls around, her hair flying about her cheeks, and is prepared to just grab the spellbook and go before realizing her hand is closing around nothing—the only thing left on the desk are the dried sages, and a neat little square where the grimoire used to be.

Upon further inspection, she discovers it's not a neat little square, but a clean spot where dust hadn't managed to settle yet. She stares at it for a fraction of a second before jerking her hand away jsut the slightest. No way, no one had seen, they couldn't possibly have foun—

"Looking for this?"

Elena snaps her head around so fast her neck cricks, but it barely registers in her mind because Klaus is seated in the armchair in the corner of the room, casually licking the tip of his thumb before flicking to the next page of the—of the grimoire.

She swallows, slowly backing away from the desk. "How did you...?"

"Damon—"

"Damon, you slut," Elena hisses before she can quite stop herself.

Klaus raises an eyebrow, looking quite unimpressed. "Are you done?"

Elena just glares and crosses her arms over her chest. "How did you find out?" she asks again.

"Damon told Kol," Klaus drawls, and throws her a look as though it was quite obvious. "And Kol made a vlog about it and uploaded it onto his YouTube account."

"Kol has a—?"

The sentence dies in her throat, because Klaus is suddenly out of the armchair and in front of her, slamming her back against the bookshelf and his lips twisted in a snarl.

"Did you really think we wouldn't find out, Elena?" Klaus says.

"Oh yes, Elijah knows," Klaus says.

"He was quite upset of your snooping around behind his back, to say the least." Klaus says with a smirk, loosening his hold on her upper arms. "Who knows what he'll do in his state?"

It sounds like a threat.

"Elijah wouldn't—"

"You don't know him as I do," Klaus says, his voice sliding like smooth silk. "But you've seen what he's done; what he's capable of, when his restraint..." Klaus lets his sentence hang in the air, relishing in the way Elena's pupils dilate. "...Snaps."

Elena's blood goes cold. "Caroline."

Clearly, this isn't the response Klaus had been expecting. "Excuse me?"

"Caroline's alone with him right now." A strained whisper is all she can manage.

Klaus cuts his eyes to hers. "What?" he asks sharply.

In a movement that seems almost synchronized, the two of them turn on their heels and rush across the room to the door—where they engage in a battle of wills (and rough shouldering) when they both get caught in the doorframe—shoving each other out of the way as they speed deftly down the hallways and jostling each other as they all but trample down the winding staircase, throwing indomitable looks at each other's way every so often; each determined to be the first to reach Caroline.

Elena feels the breath knocked out of her chest as she trips over that damned rug that Rebekah had been so concerned about earlier and tears desperately at the back of Klaus' shirt in an attempt to right herself, and they both end up crashing to the hardwood floor. Klaus lets out a grunt laced with a few choice swear words as Elena scrambles over his back to reach the kitchen.

Klaus shoots his hand out and grabs her ankle and she tumbles down again, and she kicks at his face, momentarily forgetting that he's lost all ability to heal himself at a moment's notice. Kick comes to scratch comes to push comes to shove, and Klaus is this close to reminding her he still has other methods of ripping her heart out and Elena's this close to telling him he has a stupid haircut, when:

"What the bloody hell are you two idiots doing?" Rebekah, who apparently had been sitting on the couch flipping through Vogue all along thereby witnessing their little brawl, blusters.

Klaus and Elena break apart, blinking like deer caught in a headlight, before rushing to their feet and down the hall, no longer looking at each other; only straining their ears for any sign of—

"Elijah," Elena bursts out, her sneakers skidding across the smooth marble.

Because Caroline's crumpled on the ground, something dark and red smeared all over her skin and her clothing, and Elijah's towering over her, one hand gripping Amelia by the neck, her fur is matted with something red, and the other gripping a knife dripping with more of it.


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