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Cold-Blooded Lover

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"Can't trust a cold blooded woman

Boy, don't you lie in her bed

You can't trust a cold blooded woman

She'll love you and leave you for dead

There's one thing you must understand

You can't trust a cold blooded woman…"

-The Pretty Reckless

"Cold Blooded"

Dean Winchester wants to get drunk. Sam's whining like a little bitch, and the ghost they'd just roasted had been one sick motherfucker. So he finds the skeeviest bar around and drags Sam in without a word. Booze and chicks. Perfection. Sam sulks in a corner booth and Dean heads to the bar. That's when he sees her.

She's quite possible the hottest girl he's ever seen. Her legs are long and bare and toned as fuck. She's wearing a tiny black leather mini skirt, and a tank top that's riding up in the back to reveal smooth olive skin. Her hair is long and brown and it slides down her back like a waterfall. She's got on these black leather boots that look like they've been to hell and back, but somehow they just make her more attractive. Her fingers fiddle with the charms on a bracelet she wears. She takes a sip of her drink and glances at a guy in the corner playing pool. She looks down again. Dean wants to fuck her.

She looks younger than him, but that's never stopped him before. The only thing standing in his way was the frat boy creep hanging all over her. Dean stops a few feet down from them, and asks the bartender for a couple of beers.

"Baby, you've got to be the tastiest thing I've ever seen in my life," the creep tells Dean's mystery girl. She flicks her hair over her shoulder and sips her drink. A lazy smile slides across her flawless features. She leans towards the man.

"Why thank you, you're not so bad yourself," she practically purrs into his ear. Dean's eyes widen in disbelief. The man smiles like he won the lottery. In the background, some bottle blonde cheers when the man playing pool wins.

"What's your name, sugar?" the man asks the girl. She smiles and stretches one lithe leg under the bar.

"Ellie," she answers in her sultry voice. Dean takes his beers and leaves, because he can't stand the thought of a goddess going home with a frat boy like that.

~*~*~*~*~*

Dean almost forgets about the goddess at the bar. He's pleasantly buzzed when Sam declares it time to head back to the motel. Dean leaves with little to no protest because he's in a relatively good mood. He absent-mindedly notes that Ellie and her creeper are gone, as well as the man playing pool.

They're walking towards their room when they see a couple canoodling. Sam stops him. They watch in sick fascination. It's the creep from earlier. He kisses his way down the girl's neck and slides his hand along her perfect thigh. It's Ellie. Dean is a little put out by the display, so he doesn't realize anything is wrong until Sam jerks him into the shadows.

"Ow, that hurts. Not so hard," Ellie moans as the guy nibbles at her neck. He grabs her hip and bites harder. She cries out. Blood slides down her chest. The frat boy ignores her whimpers and grinds down on her. Dean and Sam exchange glances, so they miss the figure of the man from earlier, the one at the pool table.

Just as the brothers are about to spring into action the pool player slams a wooden stake into the man's back. Ellie relaxes as he pulls him off and she touches a hand to her neck, wincing slightly.

"Took you long enough," she grumbles at the man. In the back of his mind, Dean notices he has black hair and blue eyes. He smirks at her.

"Sorry, I thought you were enjoying yourself 'Ellie'," he drawls condescendingly. Dean is trying to process what he's seeing. The creature that was feeding on Ellie struggles against his hold. Ellie glares up at the dark-haired man.

"Fuck you," she spits fiercely.

"Maybe later," he retorts with a smirk. She rolls her eyes at him and turns her attention to the creature with the wooden stake in his back. She steps closer and slides a smooth hand along his jaw. It glares at her.

"Oh baby, don't be bitter," she coos with such saccharine sweetness that it makes Dean's skin crawls. "We just want to ask you a few questions," she declares with wide, innocent eyes. The man holding the creature watches her with fascination, as if he'd never seen her before.

"Fuck you, you filthy witch," the creature spits back. Dean flinches when the girl's face goes blank. The creature spits up a bit of her blood and she grins. She leans closer. She pulls a vial from her boot and dips a finger into it. She drags her nail along the creature's jaw and it screams in agony. Dean and Sam can hear the sound of skin sizzling from their hiding space.

"I'm not a witch, baby," she coos. "I am one hundred percent human. My friend on the other hand, he's a lot like you. Just, older. Stronger." The creature's eyes go wide.

"Please, I don't know anything! Leave me alone!" the creature begs. Ellie presses her body close to the creature, dipping her finger back into the vial. She drags it down his neck this time and it screams louder.

"Oh baby, I haven't even started asking questions yet," the girl purrs in the naughtiest voice Dean has ever heard. The girl might be a sadistic psycho bitch, but she was still hot. "So tell me, sexy, where is he?" She asks as she strokes his cheek. She whispers something in his ear that Dean can't hear. When the creature whimpers but doesn't say a word she nods her head at her friend. He smirks and twists the stake in his back. His screams echo off the walls.

"Baby, you know you can't lie to me. I know you work for him. So just tell me where he is, and I'll tell my friend to let you go," she says with wide innocent eyes. Dean almost believes her.

"Look, I don't work for him directly. I'm just a messenger. I go through this guy-" the girl cuts him off.

"Then tell us where to find this guy," she says with an acidic smile. The creature stares at her. She stares back. He tells her. She smiles slow and sweet and brushes her fingers along his jaw.

"Thank you baby," she coos into his ear. She looks at her friend and nods. He jams the stake right through the creature's heart. He tosses the limp body to the ground.

"Good job Elena, didn't think you had it in you," her friend says with a smirk. She smiles back. She places a hand on her wound and hisses. "Here let me fix that," the man says in a softer, more intimate voice. His eyes go black, and veins stick out around his eyes. He opens his mouth to reveal fangs as he bites his own wrist and feeds it to Elena, his hand resting on the back of her head tenderly.

Vampire. Dean thinks distantly. It was unlike any vampire he had ever seen before. Elena moves back and he can see the wound on her throat closing up.

"Thanks," she says breathlessly. The man nods and then drags the body over his shoulder.

"I'll take care of him, you go wash up," the man says and he begins to walk in the opposite direction. Elena waits until he's gone before she lunges for the trashcan beside her and heaves. Blood and bile come up and she gags and sobs.

"I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this," she chants in a low whimper against the metal of the trashcan. Dean wants to say something, but finds he has no words for her. She shivers and stands up straight. Wiping the blood and bile from her mouth, she fishes a motel key out of her boot and walks right past Dean and Sam's hiding spot. She keeps her head held high, half-dried tears travel the perfect curve of her cheekbone, and Dean finally realizes how young she is, she's just a kid really. He wonders how she got mixed up in all this supernatural bullshit and who, or what, she is searching for.

"I know what you're think Dean, and no," Sam says once she's out of earshot. Dean turns to him.

'What do you mean, 'no'? That prick is vampire, she's just some dumb kid, we kill the son of a bitch and send her ass home," Dean declares incredulously. Sam shakes his head at him.

"It's not that simple and you know it. She's in charge, you can see it. That thing, he did whatever she told him too. Clearly there's more to their relationship than meets the eye," Sam says impatiently. Dean stares at his brother like he's never seen him before in his life.

"He's a fucking monster, Sammy. And she's just a kid. We can't just leave them alone. He has to die," Dean argues. Sam sighs.

"Dean, I don't think it's like that at all. He might be a vampire, but she was bleeding all over the place and he didn't even take a sip. Hell, he even healed her with his blood or whatever, Dean, I think they're friends,' Sam explains. Dean glares at him like he's insane. "Look, we're both a little drunk, and we can't deal with this right now. Let's just go to our room and go to sleep. We'll leave in the morning. We can't save everyone, and quite frankly, she looks just fine to me."

Dean wants to argue, but he knows Sam is right. Despite her minor breakdown over the trashcan, there's nothing wrong with the girl, as far as he can tell. Her vampire is taking very good care of her. So Dean lets Sam drag him to their motel room, and tries his best to forget about the mysterious Elena.

Chapter Text

"Every day I wake up

Every day I wake up alone

Every day I wake up

Every day I wake up alone

Let me open up the discussion with,

I'm not impressed with any mother fucking word I say

See I lied that I cried when he came inside

And now I'm burning a highway to Hades

Shut the fuck up!

When I'm trying to think

I got to keep my concentration, give me one more drink

And then I'll try to remember all the advice that my good book told me

And all the lost souls say...

Every day I wake up

Every day I wake up alone

(Kill me, just kill me)

Or get me out of the sun

Every day I wake up

Every day I wake up alone

(Kill me, just kill me)

Someone get me out of sun…"

-The Pretty Reckless

"Kill Me"

Dean barely thinks about Elena until they cross paths again, months later. He's in another dark, dirty bar when he spots her. She's wearing tiny jean shorts and a skintight white tank top; with the same trashed black leather boots. Her charm bracelet jingles merrily over the din. She takes a sip of her drink.

"Sammy. At the bar, it's her," Dean says to his brother quickly.

"Dean, what the hell are you talkin-" Sam begins in irritation, but stops when he follows his brother's line of vision. "Oh," he says dumbly.

"Yeah, 'oh'," Dean retorts sarcastically. She shifts her hips and smacks her lips; Dean is reminded again why he wanted to fuck her so badly. It doesn't matter how young or psychotic she is, she's fucking hot.

"Where's her vampire friend?" Sam asks, Dean tears his eyes off of her mile long legs to scan the bar. He frowns, no sign of the black-haired man from before.

"Maybe they had a fight?" Dean asks hopefully. It would be nice if the girl weren't all wrapped in supernatural nonsense. Dean's not entirely why he cares what happens to her, but he does.

"Yeah, or maybe he's waiting for her outside," Sam points out. Dean nods in agreement, that's possible too. He turns back to her. A man in a suit approaches her. Dean and Sam exchange looks. Elena turns her seductive eyes on him. He places a hand on her leg and whispers in her ear. Elena lets out a chilling laugh.

She leans forward until their lips are almost touching. Whatever she says to him makes him go paler with every brush of her plump lips. He removes his hand quickly and scurries away. Somehow he doesn't fit her criteria. Maybe he's human; maybe he's just not her target. Either way, he's not going to die tonight, not by her hand.

Dean is tempted to go over to her, to talk to her. But he suspects that she would not be very happy to find out that they had seen her torture and kill a vampire. Despite his supernatural expertise, he didn't know a thing about her kind of vampires, and he didn't want to find out how easy it would be for her friend to kill him. So he stays put and watches.

About half an hour later a woman approaches her. Elena licks her lips and flutters her eyelashes in response to the woman's come on. Dean is momentarily stupefied. But Sam stamps on his foot and his brain remembers its priorities.

The woman slides a hand up Elena's thigh, skimming the shorn end of her shorts. Elena rubs her knees together and leans in, giving the woman a nice view down her shirt. If Dean didn't know any better, he would think that Elena was totally into the woman.

When they stand to leave, he and Sam discreetly follow them. Sure enough, the woman can barely keep her hands off Elena as they make their way to the closest motel. The motel is close, so they walk. Dean's unease is mounting. He hasn't seen Elena's vampire anywhere.

The woman shoves Elena against the side of the building and attacks her mouth. Sam pulls Dean into the dark. Normally Dean would be a little more excited to see two girls making out, but all his muscles are tense, waiting for the moment that will surely come.

"Not so hard," Elena whimpers as the woman nibbles on her neck. The woman pays her no mind, Dean and Sam glance around. Elena's vampire friend is nowhere in sight. They turn back to see bits of blood trickling down Elena's throat, staining her shirt. She slowly lowers her hand into her boot. She pulls out a stake and Dean feels his muscles relax. She aims, and slams it into the woman's back. The woman chokes out a gasp and Elena pushes the vampire off her lightly.

"Now that I have your attention," Elena purrs. The woman grasps at her back, but the stake is shortened and angled in such a way that she can't reach it. Dean admires Elena's clever thinking. "How 'bout you do a little something for me, baby?" Elena purrs to the woman.

She's got her fingers tucked into the vampire's belt loops, holding her up. She tugs until the taller woman's ear is aligned with her mouth. Dean and Sam are just close enough to make out what she says.

"I know, that you, are here to see Klaus. So how 'bout this, when he gets here," Elena says in a slow, seductive voice. "You tell him, that the doppleganger, his Elena, is looking for him." Elena presses a kiss to the skin just below the vampire's ear. "Can you do that for me, baby?" she coos. Dean's skin crawls.

"Fuck you," the vampire spits. Elena laughs her high, bone-chilling laugh.

"Why do you all say the same things? You always do what I want in the end, you can't help it," Elena says with amusement. She lets go of one of the woman's belt loops and the woman leans back unsteadily, swaying. Elena ignores her and reaches into her boot again. Dean wonders how many damn things she can keep in her fucking boots. It's a syringe. The woman's eyes widen. Elena smiles an ethereal smile.

"You're going to feel a slight pinch," she coos at the woman as she stabs her in the neck. The woman gasps in pain as she injects it into her flesh.

"Vervain," she moans. She collapses against Elena and Elena pats her hair as she tosses the used syringe into a nearby trash. She wraps an arm around the woman and begins to drag her to the alley nearby. Dean and Sam silently follow her. She pulls out a pair of handcuffs from her damned boots and snaps them around the woman's wrists and a bar on the dumpster. She places the woman in a seated position, with her weight leaned on the stake in her back.

"Don't forget to deliver my message," Elena singsongs to the collapsed vampire. The vampire moans in response and Elena stands to leave. She turns back to the woman.

"Oh, before I forget, those handcuffs are coated with vervain, so I'd refrain from struggling against them too much if I were you, baby," Elena advises with a bright smile. This gives Dean and Sam enough time to tuck themselves into a dark corner. In the back of his mind, Dean wonders what 'vervain' is. But then she passes close by and Dean can smell her perfume—amber – and he forgets all intelligent thought.

Just like last time they find her hunched over a trashcan, puking. There's no vampire to feed her blood, so she stands and pulls her tank top off, pressing the fabric to her neck. Dean temporarily loses control of his lungs. Her red lace bra goes perfectly with her olive colored skin. Her stomach is flat and smooth. There's a tattoo along her rib cage, a quote of some sort but the light is too dim for Dean to read it.

She slips her hand in her boot one last time and pulls out a vial of what is clearly blood. She unscrews the cap and chugs it, grimacing.

"What else do you keep in those damn things?" The words slip out of his mouth before he can stop himself. Sam slams his elbow into his side as she jumps and whips around. The vial drops to the ground and shatters. She holds her bloodstained shirt to her chest. Her eyes are wide and dark.

"Who the fuck, are you?" she gasps. She looks almost scared, and it surprises Dean, because she just took down a vampire all by herself, what can she possibly be afraid of?

"Don't be afraid Elena, we just want to talk," Sam says carefully, putting his hands up in a non-threatening gesture. She glares at them warily. Dean tries his best to keep his eyes on her face and look as harmless as possible.

"No offense, but why the fuck would I want talk to two men I just met in a dark parking lot who just so happen to know my name?" she questions in a skeptical voice. Dean has to admire her gumption; she seems to have it in spades.

"Because we saw what you did to your friend over there, and we want to know why," Dean says in a matter-o-fact voice. Her eyes widen slightly. She studies them warily before slowly nodding her head.

"All right, just let me get a clean shirt," she agrees reluctantly. Sam nods in agreement. "It's this way," she points towards the far corner of the parking lot and they follow behind her. She stops at an ice blue 1969 Chevy Camaro Convertible and pulls a set of keys from her boot to open the trunk. Dean almost groans. Crazy, hot, badass, chick with a sweet ride? Is it possible for her to get any more attractive?

She wipes the last of the blood from her neck, then discreetly wipes the tears from her face and throws her ruined shirt in the trunk. She pulls out a black tank top and pulls it over her head. She then drags out a man's leather jacket and pulls it on. Dean recognizes it; her friend was wearing it when they'd seen him last. Dean can see a duffle bag partially open, and he catches a glimpse of wooden stakes, the edge of a crossbow, a handful of syringes, and half a dozen vials of blood before she slams the trunk shut.

"Cool car," Dean comments lightly. She pulls at the sleeves of her jacket and sets off towards the diner next to the bar.

"It's not mine," she responds shortly. Dean and Sam jog to catch up to her. Dean thinks back to the man who was with her before.

"Is it your friend's?" He asks. She glances at him with a furrowed brow, confusion marring her pretty face. "The man you're traveling with, he's got black hair and blue eyes?" Dean elaborates. Her face hardens.

"Yes it was," she says shortly. Dean catches onto the 'was' and falls silent. When they enter the diner she heads straight for a corner booth. It's late enough that there aren't many other people there besides them. The waitress comes quickly and passes out menus with a bright smile.

Elena scans the menu with a clenched jaw, and Dean is surprised to find that she is even more beautiful under the diner's fluorescent lights. He can see her stunning features clearly. Her eyelashes are longer than he thought possible, and he's not sure if he's imagining it, but he's pretty sure she's not wearing any make up. She sucks her bottom lip into her mouth and he sincerely hates her.

She pushes up the sleeves of her jacket and he takes the opportunity to examine the charm bracelet she's always wearing. It's dull silver, with about a dozen charms. He can make out a fancy cursive E, a silver heart, a masculine J, a ballerina shoe, and a delicate feather. She pulls her sleeve back over her wrist when she sees him looking. He raises an eyebrow at her and flicks her tongue over her top lip and goes back to reading the menu.

He stops looking at her and focuses on the menu; maybe they have pie. Jackpot, apple, blueberry, and cherry. When the waitress comes Dean orders a coffee and slice of apple pie. Sam rolls his eyes at him and only orders a cup of coffee. The waitress frowns at him and turns to ask Elena what she wants.

"Bacon cheeseburger, chili cheese fries, and a strawberry milkshake, please," Elena says in response to the waitress' question. Dean hides a grin. Girl can eat. Which of course makes her even more attractive. When the waitress leaves Elena turns to look at them. Her gaze is calculating.

"So do you want to explain how you know my name?" she asks with a sweet smile. Dean isn't fooled. She's fucking pissed, and more than a little scared. It would be cute if he hadn't seen her seduce and stake a vampire only fifteen minutes earlier. Dean decides to let Sam answer that one.

"Well, a couple of months ago, we were in a bar, and so were you. And when we left, we kind of saw you seduce a vampire, and then your vampire friend came and you guys interrogated him? Because you were looking for someone?" Sam half asks, half explains. "And the vampire you were with, after he killed the other vampire, he called you, Elena."

"So what, you followed me?" Elena questions suspiciously.

"No, in all honesty, both times have been coincidences. The first time we were staying in the same motel. And then we saw you in the bar earlier, and when we realized that your friend wasn't around, we followed you because we thought something bad might happen to you," Sam explains and she looks slightly appeased.

"So how come you aren't freaking out about the vampires?" she inquires with a raised eyebrow. Dean glances at Sam. This was the hard part, to tell or not to tell. Dean nods once slowly, if they want to know her story, they have to share a bit of theirs.

"You could say, vampires are the least of our problems. Although, we've never seen vampires like the kind you deal with," Sam says evasively. She isn't buying it.

"That wasn't an answer," she observes quietly. So Dean cuts in to elaborate as much as he cares to.

"We're hunters, of all things supernatural. Ghosts, demons, wendigos, you name it, we kill it," Dean explains. She blinks once. Then nods slowly.

"Well I guess if vampires, witches, and werewolves exist, why can't demons?" she says wryly.

"Your turn," Dean declares. She looks at him innocently. He glimpses the tiniest smudge of blood behind her ear, it's kind of endearing. Fuck.

"I just want to skin myself a Hybrid," she says casually. The waitress comes back with their food. Elena grins at the woman and thanks her before attacking the bacon cheeseburger with gusto. Apparently seducing vampires took a lot out of you.

"What exactly is a Hybrid?" Sam asks. Elena finishes chewing slowly.

"No offense, but I'm not going to tell you all my dirty secrets when I don't even know your names," she states with a shrug. She takes another massive bite of her burger.

"I'm Dean Winchester, and this is Sam, my brother," Dean says with a charismatic grin as he takes a bite of his pie. Elena swallows.

"Elena Gilbert," she offers reluctantly. "A Hybrid is half werewolf and half vampire." Dean stares. A fucking Hybrid? Well shit.

"How is that even possible?" Sam says, his voice laced with disbelief.

"It's a long story," Elena snorts. She takes a long slurp of her strawberry milkshake. Straws are most definitely Dean's friends.

"We've got time," Sam says with a shrug. In a split second Elena's face becomes completely blank and she looks down at her hands. Dean realizes that was somehow the wrong thing for Sam to say when he sees that they're trembling. Abruptly she stands up. She pulls out a wad of cash from the pocket of her jacket and tosses a fifty-dollar bill on the table then turns to leave. Dean had been expecting as much.

"If you leave, we're just going to follow you," he says casually. She freezes. He smirks and leans forward. "We know what your car looks like, we'll just follow you around, and good luck trying to lose us," he smirks. "Every time you find the next piece of your little puzzle, your latest victim, we'll kill 'em before you even get a word out of 'em. What do we care if you find your Hybrid? You haven't given us a reason to care."

Dean leans back with a satisfied smirk. She sits down slowly. He can see the muscle in her jaw clench. He knows he has her though. Her plan is too important to her. It's a long time before she actually speaks.

"Once there was a family. They lived in a village in the New World. Their neighbors, the children of the moon – werewolves – plagued the village. So once a month on the full moon, the family hid in the caves with the rest of the village until sunrise.

"The mother was a powerful witch, and she protected them with her magic. There were five brothers and a sister. Their mother who loved them very much. Their father loved them too, but he was very stern, and did not show it well," Elena says, Dean wonders what this has to do with the Hybrids, but he keeps his mouth shut.

"Of the brother's, there was one who could not seem to please him –their father—no matter how hard he tried. He was simply too different: impulsive, brash, angry, but eager to please and to be loved," Dean shifts uncomfortably. "It was through this eagerness that his youngest brother managed to convince him to take him out on wolf night. He wanted to see the werewolves. There was an accident, and the young boy died. The brother cried, and despite all her magic, their mother could not bring the dead back to life," Elena pauses here, and closes her eyes, breathing deeply, as if to gather strength to go on.

"But she could protect the children she had left. So she came up with a plan, and her husband helped her. They fed their children wine laced with blood, and then the father killed them with his sword. The mother brought them back, and the father fed them more blood. The blood of a village girl. The ritual was complete, and vampires were born. They are the original family, the Original Vampires," Elena says and the hair on the back of Dean's neck stands on end.

"Now as you might've guessed, there was something different about one of the brothers, the one who inadvertently started it all. You see, his mother had had an affair with a werewolf, and the brother was the product of this transgression. He was born with the werewolf gene. And as all werewolves are made, so was he. The taking of a human life, which was necessary to his new form. And thus the first hybrid was born. Niklaus," Elena concludes grimly.

"Niklaus?" Sam questions. That isn't a familiar name.

"Most, know him as Klaus," Elena explains with a grim smile. Dean can't quite understand what the story means.

"So their mother just let them run around like animals?" Sam asks in disbelief. A dry laugh falls from Elena's lips.

"Oh no, not at all. She wasn't counting on the bloodlust, the hunger. But she was worried about what Klaus could do more than the others. So she used the blood of the girl he loved to bind his werewolf side. And only through a ritual sacrifice could he undo it. But before she could do anything about the rest of her children he ripped out her heart and killed her," Elena says as twirls her straw in her drink; her face pale, as if she's remembering a nightmare.

"So what does any of this have to do with you?" Dean finally asks. She goes incredibly still. Whatever it is, it's not easy for her to talk about. She seems to force herself to relax, one muscle at a time.

"The girl he loved, her name was Tatia. She'd had a child out of wedlock, so the witches decided that there should be a way to undo his curse, the sacrifice. So they created the doppleganger. Every couple hundred years a descendent of Tatia would be born with her face, and she would be her literal double. And if Klaus found her, and had all the components of the ritual, he could complete it through the drinking of her blood, to the point of death, and he would be a Hybrid again, capable of making other Hybrids."

There's something in her voice: a tremor, a sliver of fear, a certain kind of self-loathing. Dean understands a split second before the words leave her mouth.

"I am the doppleganger."

She says the words the way someone would drop a bomb, with grim precision and resigned acceptance. Dean wonders what it must be like, to not only know you wear the face of another, but to know you were born to be nothing more than a sacrifice.

"So then why are you looking for Klaus, shouldn't you be hiding from him?" Sam asks his voice full of confusion. Why would she go looking for the man who wanted to kill her? She smiles but it lacks any real feeling.

"Oh, it's much too late for that. He's already gotten everything he wants from me," she says bitterly. Dean doesn't fully understand what that means.

"But you're still alive," he says, unsure. She meets his eyes with hers and smiles a bitter smile.

"That is true, but there are ways to bring the dead back to life," she says it lightly, like her chest isn't caving in. "But the cost is predictably high," she murmurs, almost to herself. "Don't worry, I'm still human," she adds with a grim smile. Dean wants to ask her more about it, but he doesn't want to see her cry, because he's really not good with crying girls. Really. That's the only reason he doesn't want to see her cry.

"So you want to kill him because he killed you?" Sam asks incredulously, it doesn't seem like the most logical course of action for a human girl. Her face goes deadly still and Dean knows that there is more to the story.

"No. I want to kill him because he took everything from me," she hisses with lethal fury. Dean's stomach drops. What's her definition of everything?

"Define everything," Dean says carefully. She returns her eyes to his.

"Everyone I love." Her words finally make him understand. This is more than revenge, this is justice. But Dean can't help but clarify.

"There's no one left? You don't have anyone?" he asks quietly. She tilts her head as if contemplating her answer.

"My brother, and an old family friend. That's about it," she says with a shrug.

"And your vampire friend, the one you were travelling with before?" Sam asks tentatively. She tenses.

"Dead. Died like the rest of them," she says numbly, looking down at her hands.

"And how is that?" Dean asks cautiously. She looks down at her glass and touches the base before meeting his eyes again. The amount of guilt in her eyes is overwhelming.

"Protecting me."

So that's it. That's her burden. She blames herself for the deaths of her loved ones. It was a heavy burden.

"Shouldn't you go back to them? I'm sure your brother needs you. You're too young for this," Sam says, trying to appeal to something in her that Dean isn't sure exists anymore. She glances at the clock overhead and smirks.

"As of twenty-eight minutes ago, I'm old enough," she says flatly. Dean glances at the clock, twenty-eight minutes past midnight. "Happy Birthday to me, " she coos sarcastically. "Eighteen is supposed to be a big deal, right?" she asks bitterly. She really is just a kid. She stands and walks away, this time they don't stop her from leaving. Dean finishes his pie and then they leave.

Her story has left him numb. There were many things he wanted to ask her. About her friends and family, how they died. But Dean doesn't want to meet her again. There's something about her that makes him a little crazy, and he'd like to stay as far away from that feeling as possible.

He's surprised to find that she's still outside when they leave. She's leaning against the wall talking on a cellphone and playing with the J charm on her bracelet.

"Thanks Jer," she says with a tired smile. It must be her brother. She chuckles wetly.

"No, I'm not gonna buy you porn just because I'm finally legal," she says in her best big sister voice.

"Too bad, wait your turn, brat." She sounds happy talking to him. It makes Dean's chest ache a little.

"Listen, I have to go, Jer, but I'll call you again soon, okay?" She wipes a stray tear from her eye. She smiles at whatever he says. "I love you too, good night, Jeremy." She hangs up and shoves the phone into the pocket of her jacket.

She sets off towards her car and Dean and Sam watch her leave. They head over to their motel room and Dean tries to shake her from his head. But every single glance, every movement she made, every word she spoke, is engrained in his head.

So maybe he has a bit of a problem.

Chapter Text

"Take a piece of my life

Take a piece of my soul

Take a piece of my face

So I can never grow old

And take a piece of my world

Take a piece of my heart

Take a piece of my brain

So I can never be smart

Everybody wants to see me down

With my body on the dirty ground

Everybody wants

I want you to abuse me, use me, shut up and do me

'Cause everybody wants something from me

Grab me, stab me, go on and have me

'Cause everybody wants something from me

Everybody wants something from me…"

-The Pretty Reckless

"Everybody Wants Something From Me"

The next time they see her, Dean knows something is wrong immediately. They're at a diner about to order when Dean sees her. (Why does he always see her first?)

"Sam, Elena's here. I think something's wrong." The words are out of his mouth before he fully processes that it's her. Sam whips around and almost falls out of his chair when he sees her.

Elena's perched at the counter, her ankles crossed daintily, sipping a blueberry milkshake. She's wearing a pure white sundress and her black leather boots of mystery are nowhere to be seen. Instead she's wearing a dainty pair of pink ballet flats. Her hair is tied back with a pink ribbon and she's got a sickening smile on her face. At least she's still wearing her charm bracelet.

"What the hell happened to her?" Sam asks in horrified amazement. Dean doesn't have an answer for him. This isn't the angry, badass, teenage girl they'd met only a three and a half month before. She looked like a picture out of a girly magazine, all perfect hair and sunny smiles. Dean doesn't like it at all; he doesn't think she can change that fast, let alone give up on her mission.

The waitress says something to her and she lets out a bubbling giggle. Dean remembers her high chilling laugh from before, and he can't decide which is more disturbing. Dean's about to go talk to her, when a beautiful blonde girl approaches her.

The blonde girl wraps one arm around Elena's waist and kisses her cheek sweetly. Elena giggles and turns to kiss her full on the mouth. When she pulls back she looks at the girl with soft, starry eyes. The blonde gazes back at her with such love that it makes Dean's stomach drops. The whole scene is perfect, too perfect. Dean exchanges a weary glance with Sam. They have no idea what Elena is up to, but it's clear to them that she hasn't simply become this lovesick, sweet, teenage girl.

The blonde hops onto the stool next to Elena and steals a sip from her milkshake. Elena giggles at her and plays with the blonde's fingers sweetly, caressing them. The blonde is completely entranced with Elena, and she brushes a bit of stray hair behind Elena's ear, smiling at her.

"What the hell is going on Dean? What game is she playing?" Sam asks in undertone. Elena's behavior has them on edge. Somehow her game has changed, and Dean doesn't like it at all.

"I've got no fucking clue," Dean admits. "Why don't we just wait, maybe follow them when they leave?" Dean suggests; it seemed like the most plausible thing to do. Sam nods in agreement. So they eat their food and watch Elena and the mysterious blonde. They flirt and giggle and coo all over each other, looking like two lovebirds.

Dean feels something hot and uncomfortable in his stomach, and he knows it's jealously. Whatever strange attraction he feels for Elena, it hasn't died in the month since he last saw her. She haunts him.

He thinks about her before he fell asleep. His limited memories of her play on repeat in his head. The look on her face when she told them that all her loved ones are dead. The way she said her brother's name when she was on the phone with him. The smooth expanse of her skin when she'd pull off her shirt and wiped the blood from her neck. The neat angle of the stake she'd slammed into the vampire woman's back. The sultry way she'd lured the man from the bar.

But the image that's burned into his brain is the one of her leaned over the trashcan, puking and crying. It's the only moment in which she looked as young as she actually is. She looked scared and small and so very unsure of herself. Maybe that was the moment he began to really feel whatever he feels for her. When she looked like a human being instead of an immortal goddess out for blood.

Elena is playing with a lock of the blonde's hair when she notices them. She meets Dean's eyes and hers widen considerably. When the blonde turns to look at them Dean gets a good look at her. She's beautiful with wide blue eyes and full pink lips. She glares at him. Elena says something to the blonde and she nods reluctantly. Elena giggles and kisses the girl on her full mouth before bouncing over to them.

"Why hello there, Winchesters, fancy meeting you here," Elena says playfully as she leans down to press a kiss to Dean's cheek. He's startled by her action, but gratified to find that she still smells of amber. At least that hasn't changed. Her breath is hot against his ear, and he fights off a shiver.

"I know what I'm doing, trust me," she breathes and he nods slightly, his stubble catching on loose strands of her hair. She pulls back and straightens to smiles at Sam, sweetly. Dean misses her closeness. To take his mind off of the sudden feeling of loss his eyes latch onto her charm bracelet. This time he can make out a rose charm, a bird, a wolf, and a key. That brought the total to nine charms. There's still a couple he can't see.

"How have you been boys?" she asks with a sweet smile. Sam clears his throat awkwardly and answers.

"Pretty good, how 'bout you El?" he asks, trying to sound natural. Elena smiles at the nickname.

"Wonderful," she says dreamily as she tosses a wink over her shoulder at the blonde. When she turns back there's a brief second of the terrifying emptiness that reaffirms Dean and Sam's suspicions. It's another one of her games. The next second her grin is cheerful and sunny again, as if she hadn't faltered in her charade. They chat uselessly for a couple of minutes, in the way old friends are prone to. Dean can feel the eyes of the blonde burning into his skull. He learns that her name is Rebekah.

"Well I have to get back to my girl, but it was nice seeing you guys," she says perkily as she wiggles her fingers at them and hurries back to Rebekah. The blonde glares at Dean in pure jealously and he tries his best to give her a reassuring smile. She only glares harder. But then Elena's back at her side pressing a deep kiss to her pink lips and she doesn't glance over at them again for the rest of the night. Rebekah curls her fingers around one of the charms on Elena's bracelet, and Elena smiles at her.

Sam meets Dean's eyes and raises an expectant eyebrow. Dean rolls his eyes and grabs a napkin from a table and a pen from his jacket. He scribbles Elena's words onto the napkin and tosses it Sam, picking up his burger and chomping into it. Sam frowns at the words and grabs the pen from the table to write a response. He tosses it back at Dean.

We're still following her.

Dean levels Sam with a look that clearly says 'no shit'. Just because he isn't going to drag her away from Rebekah and lock her in a closet until he's sure she's safe, doesn't mean he trusts her entirely. He's seen what she's done to her other victims after all. Whose to say this girl is any different from the rest of them? A girly dress and perma-smile isn't going to convince Dean that Elena isn't planning on fucking this girl up just as badly as the two previous stakings he'd witnessed her execute.

When Elena and Rebekah finally leave Dean is relieved. He's a little sick of watching them act so sickeningly sweet, and if he's being honest, the jealousy is eating away his stomach. They wait for a bit before they follow them out. Rebekah is twirling Elena 'round and 'round as they make their way across the parking lot. They're in luck, the motel is across from the diner, so they don't have to work hard to follow them.

Dean lets out a relieved sigh when he sees the familiar ice blue car. At least she didn't get rid of her car to help her little good girl charade. The girls giggle and flirt their way to their motel room. Sam and Dean follow behind them silently, hiding in the shadows.

Rebekah slams Elena up against the door of their hotel room and ravishes her neck. Elena leans her head back to give her more access. She slides her fingers through Rebekah's silky blonde hair, and Rebekah moans. Eventually they get the door open and disappear behind it.

Dean and Sam creep closer. They wait for the sound of wood entering flesh. Seconds pass, the sound they hear is much worse. It's the sound of cold metal tearing through skin and meat.

Dean and Sam exchange horrified looks. They hear the sound of glass breaking, and someone gasps in pain.

"Why?" an accented voice gurgles. Dean lets out a sigh of relief, it's not Elena's voice. Elena's high, bone-chilling laugh permeates the air.

"You let him die. You honestly thought I could love you when you let him die?" Elena asks, her voice cold and full of disbelief. The pained gasps gradually stop and a strange silence fills the air. Dean gathers his courage to knock on the door. She opens it quickly and smiles at them oddly. "I told you to trust me," she says ruefully. The blonde is lying in the floor, a knife in her back. Her skin is gray and drawn. She looks like the vampire Elena's friend had killed.

"Sorry, sweetheart, but we couldn't exactly leave you alone, now could we?" Dean asks as he moves into the room to examine Rebekah closer. Sam follows hesitantly. Elena rolls her eyes at them.

"I did just fine," she says stiffly. "Now I'm going to go my clothes, these ones make me feel uncomfortable, don't take the knife out of her. She's not really dead," Elena explains as she grabs her keys from the dresser and strides towards out the door. Dean sits on the edge on the bed gingerly and stares down at the vampire's body. He felt a strange pity for her. Elena had lured her in with her alluring dark eyes and velvety soft lips, and then Rebekah had been deceived and betrayed.

Elena walks back in, wearing the leather jacket and carrying a small bundle of clothing as well as her trusty black leather boots. She raises an eyebrow at a rather squeamish looking Sam and sails right past him into the bathroom, slamming the door shut.

It doesn't take long for her to get dressed. She comes out wearing ripped jeans held together by safety pins, her trashed boots, a tight red tank top, and the black leather jacket. Her hair is free of the ribbon and hangs down her back loose, once again. Dean relaxes a little. At least she finally looks normal. She fiddles with the bracelet she never takes off, and studies him intently. He holds his breath, wondering what she's looking for. Finally she speaks.

"Why the hell are we always running into each other?" Dean lets out a chuckle, she has a point.

"I don't know, sweetheart, maybe the universe is trying to tell us something," he responds flirtatiously. He's been very good about not flirting with her, but damn does she look good, and he's wanted her since he first laid eyes on her, so why not let her know it? She cocks an eyebrow at him and he winks at her. To Dean's utter amazement she bites the corner of her mouth to hold back a smile.

"Like what? 'Dean Winchester is an annoying stalker'?" she retorts quickly. Dean lays a hand on his chest and gasps.

"Me? I resent your implications Ms. Gilbert!" he responds with hurt eyes. Elena rolls her eyes at him.

"I apologize," she replies sweetly. "Let me amend my statement. Dean and Sam Winchester are annoying stalkers," she states with a satisfied smile. Dean has to laugh out loud. It's the closet he's seen her to playful, he likes it.

"Hey!" Sam exclaims defensively. "We don't actively seek you out, we just keep running into you," he explains stubbornly. Elena smirks at him and moves around him to crouch by Rebekah's body.

"Sure, I believe that. But you did follow me here when I pretty much told you I could handle this. That was a bit too much. I mean, it's kind of weird to be over-protective of a girl you barely know," she responds dryly. Dean knows she has a point. They're definitely way too interested in her considering they'd only officially met once before. She has some strange hold over him, and he can't help it. He wants to be around her.

Elena neatly pulls the dagger from Rebekah's back and rolls her onto her back. She then slides it into the blonde's chest with a grim face. Hesitantly she tucks a strand of Rebekah's behind her ear and for a second she looks very regretful. Then it's as if light shutters out in her and she easily tugs a charm from her bracelet. She shoves it into the pocket of her jacket, and Dean only catches a glimpse of it. It's a silver circle with a cross cut out of it.

"She came to me, ya know. She just showed up one day a couple months ago, babbling on and on about how sorry she was, and how she couldn't save him, how it wasn't her fault," Elena says quietly. She keeps her eyes on Rebekah's body. "She really was sorry, I could hear it in her voice. But she was too much of a coward to save him, and I couldn't forgive her for it." Elena's voice is so soft Dean almost has to strain to hear it. Silently he wonders who 'he' is.

"How did that happen? How did I run out of forgiveness? I'm Elena Gilbert, I can forgive anyone for anything," she declares bitterly.

"But she was sitting there in front of me, and she was so sorry, and I could see if I said it, if I forgave her, than she would be fine. All she needed was my forgiveness. And I couldn't give it to her. So I lied. I let her fall in love with a girl who doesn't exist. Because I couldn't let her love me, but I could tell she wanted to, so I made up someone new. Someone who could love her too," Elena explains carefully, as she fiddles with a safety pin holding her jeans together.

"And then last week, out of nowhere, it occurred to me, that it couldn't end like this. Jenna is dead, John is dead, Caroline is dead, Bonnie is dead, Tyler is dead, Matt's dead, Damon's dead, Stefan's dead, they're all dead and I'm playing house with Klaus's sister!" Elena's voice rises to a shriek at the last word and Dean steps forward, hand outstretched. He stops and moves back, lowering his arm. He's not entirely sure of what she might do to him if he touched her. So he stays away.

"I realized that I couldn't spend the rest of my fucked-up existence pretending to be blissfully in love with someone I hate, so I told her I wanted to go on a road trip and found the dagger in the bag of weapons Damon left me. I hid it under the pillow while she was in the bathroom. God, she always takes so long in the bathroom. She told me to leave before her, she always does. And the rest is history," she concludes with a shrug. She picks at the frayed edge of her jeans.

Dean absorbs the details of her rant. But the parts that stick are the names. Jenna, John, Caroline, Bonnie, Tyler, Matt, Damon, Stefan. It's the first time she's said them out loud in their presence. He clears his throat.

"So why did you have to kill her with a dagger?" he asks. Maybe talking about something else would calm her down. Elena lets out her chilling laugh. He wonders what her laugh sounded like before her life fell apart.

"She's an Original, honey. They don't die like the rest of 'em. There are very few ways to kill Originals, but the easiest is to have one of these handy daggers. You dip it in the ash of the great white Oak tree, and plunge it through their heart. As long as it's kept in their heart, they won't wake up," Elena explains easily. Dean absorbs the information.

"Who did she let die?" Sam asks from across the room. Elena looks up at him, her dark eyes infallible.

"Stefan, he was my boyfriend," she says hollowly. She picks at the edge of her frayed jeans and stares at the floor. Her face is full of regret. She suddenly snaps out of it and rises to her feet. Her eyes lock onto Dean's. "Well it's about time for you boys to leave," she declares briskly. "I need to call someone to help me move her body, so hurry up and get out," she finishes stiffly.

"Hold on, we still have things we nee-" Dean begins but she cuts him off with a look.

"I'm not joking, get out," she says coldly as she gestures towards the door. Dean opens his mouth to argue, but closes it just as quickly. She isn't joking. And despite everything, Dean does not want to find out what she'll do to them if they try to stay. There's something about her that scares him. He has a feeling she could take two fully-grown hunters in a fight, easily. So he simply nods and gestures for Sam to follow him out. They're out the door when Dean turns back to look at her.

"Next time, it won't be so easy to get us to leave, sweetheart," Dean says by way of parting. Elena stares at him blankly.

"Hopefully there won't be a next time, then," she responds coldly as she slams the door in his face. They stand outside and listen at the door. Dean can hear her fumbling with something and then the distinct sound of a phone ringing.

"Come on, pick up, pick up, pick up," she mutters frantically. "Thank God, Alaric, I need your help."

Chapter Text

"(The end is the end)

(Don't bless me father for I have sinned)

Father did you miss me,

I've been locked up a while.

I got caught for what I did but took it all in style.

Laid to rest all my confessions I gave way back when.

Now I'm versed in so much worse,

So I am back again.

And he said

For the lines that I take, I'm going to hell!

For the love that I make, I'm going to hell!

Gettin' heavy with the devil, you can hear the wedding bells.

Father did you miss me,

Don't ask me where I've been.

You know I know,

Yes, I've been told I redefine a sin.

I don't know what's driving me to put this in my head.

Maybe I wish I could die, maybe I am dead!

And he said

For the lives that I fake, I'm going to hell!

For the vows that I break, I'm going to hell!"

-The Pretty Reckless

"Going to Hell"

The next time they see Elena, Sam has a present for her. They'd been questioning a woman at her store about the disappearance of her son when Sam had found it. It was a silver charm, flat and circular with a stag carved into it. Later when the case was over Sam told Dean that it was charm for strength, grace, wisdom, and courage. Dean didn't have to ask to know that it was for Elena. He does ask why that charm, though.

Sam had shrugged and explained that he'd noticed she had a charm of the Guardians of the Four Corners, which was a protection charm, and it had stuck with him. So when he saw the stag charm he figured if they ran into her again, she might like it. And that was the end of that.

~*~*~*~*~*

They're finishing up a job when they hear a crash from a seemingly abandoned warehouse. Being who they are, they go to investigate it and find Elena in the middle of a fight. A man of about fifty has her up against a wall, his hand around her throat. She brings one of her hands up to his and digs her nails into his wrist until blood trickles from the wound. His grip weakens and she takes her chance. She yanks his wrist hard and slams her head into his. He gasps at the impact and staggers back.

Taking her opening she slams her foot into his chest sending him further back. She follows with a clean punch to his jaw and then easily slams her bare knee up to his chin. His head snaps back and she slams her other fist into his gut. His arms go down to protect his stomach and she roundhouses him in the face. The man staggers sideways but Elena shows no mercy and follows him. She slams her fist into his rib cage and he doubles over. His knees weaken and Elena slams her booted heel down on his bended knee. He falls to the floor. Elena lets out a shuddering gasp. The man stays on the floor. He gasps for air; Dean can tell from the way he breathes that she broke his ribs.

Elena raises a shaky hand and rests it in the man's gray hair. He whimpers slightly. "Please," he moans pathetically. Elena doesn't flinch. Suddenly her fingers dig into his skull, fisting his gray hair in her hand and she steadily begins to drag him towards a table in the far corner. The table is full of knives and screwdrivers and other macabre tools. Dean's unease mounts. This is not the vulnerable girl who puked into a trashcan; this is the fierce goddess out for blood.

"Let me go, I promise I won't hurt anyone ever again, just let me go," the man begs as she drags him by his hair. He's too weak to fight back. She doesn't seem to hear him. When she reaches the table she kicks the back of his knees and he falls to the ground, sobbing. She reaches for a particularly sharp butcher's knife. For a second she stares at it. Then she swings it with the precision of an executioner. The man's body slumps to the floor. His head stays in her hand and sways eerily. Dean's stomach lurches. The knife clangs to the floor first, and then she releases his head. It hits the ground with a dull thud.

Absentmindedly, Elena reaches for a spotless white towel and attempts to wipe the blood from her hands. They shake uncontrollably. Dean glances at Sam. His face his pale, but his eyes stay locked on Elena. She's dressed in her usual black leather boots, black jean shorts and a black lace shirt. Her charm bracelet jangles jarringly, the only sound in the empty warehouse. Elena turns and sees them. She smiles at them. Her eyes are oddly calm.

"Hello again," she says in monotone. She seems to be removed from emotion and thought. She sways and Dean rushes forward with Sam not too far behind him. His arms wrap around her, holding her up and guiding her away from the bloody mess that she created. He leads her towards another table, and easily hoists her on top of it. Her body is warm and firm against his. She looks at him with dazed dark eyes and smiles. There's blood flowing from her forehead and rope rash on her wrists. Her lip is bleeding and her collarbone is bruised. Flecks of half-dried blood cover her chest, shoulders, neck, and half of her arms, while her hands are still smeared in blood.

"Hey there," he finally responds with a grin. She blinks at him and raises an eyebrow.

"Why the hell am I always running into you?" she asks as she slumps against his chest, clearly exhausted. He chuckles and tentatively runs a hand through her long dark hair. It's as smooth as silk. He can hear Sam moving behind him. Elena does not pull back, and he's terrified that she can feel his heart pounding.

"What else, sweetheart? It's fate," he teases gently and she lets out a tired snicker. It's the closest he's ever heard to a real laugh coming from her. He finds that it suits her more than her high bone-chilling laugh or her bubbly giggle. Sam returns to his side and silently hands him a wet washcloth. He gently pulls Elena from his shoulder and holds the cloth up in front of him for her to see.

"May I?" he questions softly. Elena gives a weak nod and he tucks his fingers under her chin, wiping the blood from her face gently. She winces when the washcloth comes into contact with her split lip but she nods her head for him to continue when he stops. Once he finishes with her face he hesitantly lowers to her chest. She doesn't stop him and he swallows. He cleans the flecks of blood and dirt from her skin.

He rubs the washcloth all along her arms and she does not protest. Only when he reaches her hands does she stops him. They are drenched in the man's blood and her knuckles are ravaged from the punches she threw.

"That was some pretty impressive fighting, sweetheart," Dean says lightly and she smiles faintly, staring down at her bloodstained hands.

"He was human," she responds. His stomach drops slightly. "I wasn't even looking for a target tonight. I was taking a break. I'm not supposed to meet my next mark for three days. And then he came up to me at the bar, he thought I'd been drinking and offered me a ride home. I don't drink," Elena explains softly. Her voice shakes and she continues to stare at her bloodstained hands.

"He's killed others. On the drive over here he told me all about them. He usually goes for the young pretty girls, the ones who are drunk and stupid but their futures are bright," her voice chokes on the last word. "But he said he had to make an exception for me," she continues bitterly. "He said that when he looked at me he saw a ghost. That I was already dead, and he wanted to help me. He said he could make it all go away, that it wouldn't hurt anymore. Doesn't he know everything always hurts?" Elena questions bitterly.

"He was lying anyway. He likes playing with his victims. He wants them to suffer. He doesn't kill them right away. He likes to cut them up and carve into them and lick the blood from their wounds, he likes to play vampire. I kill vampires," Elena states flatly. A shiver works its way down Dean's spine.

"I wasn't going to kill him. I was just going to knock him out. I just wanted to go home. But then he was on the floor and I was thinking about all the girls he's killed." Her voice is a bleeding wound and Dean can't seem to bandage it up, it just bleeds through the cloth. "They had mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and friends and bright shiny futures. I had all those things. And people like him take them away and I don't understand why-y." Elena's voice is high and hysterical and Dean grips her waist. She finally looks up from her hands and meets his eyes. Hers are filled with unshed tears.

"So I killed him. But I wanted him to be scared, I wanted him to be afraid like them, like all those lovely girls with bright shiny futures," she explains hoarsely. He doesn't blame her. "I've never killed a human before, I thought it would be harder."

"He wasn't human, he was a monster," Dean says firmly. She nods faintly. "He was just as bad as Klaus," he reassures her.

"No, he was worse. Klaus would never deny that he's a monster," Elena explains numbly, shaking her head. He picks up the washcloth and begins to remove the blood from her hands. This time, she lets him.

Sam had remained silent through her explanation and Dean's ministrations. Now he steps forward and pulls the tiny tissue paper package from his pocket. Carefully he unfolds it and pulls the charm out. The weak light hits it and it twinkles.

"May I?" he asks and Elena nods. She holds out her wrist and he carefully attaches it to her bracelet, right next to a bear charm. She sniffs and smiles at Sam weakly. She fingers the charm.

"Thank you, it's beautiful," she murmurs. Sam smiles at her warmly.

"You're welcome," Sam responds.

"You know, all the charms are from my family, so that makes you one of 'em," Elena tells him solemnly. Sam smiles at her widely.

"I'm okay with that," he responds with an easy shrug. Elena runs her fingers over all the charms. She smiles at them and Dean finally asks the question he's been dying to ask her.

"Tell us about them, your family. What happened?" Dean asks in a soft voice. She nods her head placidly like a child.

"My parents died before. Before any of this mess happened. They were driving me home from a party. There was an accident, we went over the bridge into the water, I lived and they didn't," Elena explains. "Then Klaus came along and no one would listen to me and they sent me off to hide because they wanted to protect me," she says bitterly. She fingers the E charm.

"Mattie died first. He was my best friend, my first boyfriend. He was human, and so very naïve and stupid and sweet. He was the football player, but he was more than that, he was a good friend, and just a good person." Her fingers slide over to the next charm, a bird.

"Then Aunt Jenna, she didn't know anything about all this. She didn't know a thing about all the supernatural bullshit but she did her best to hold us together. She tried so hard for us. She was so young and so smart and so not ready to take on being a parent but God, did she try. He ripped out her heart and left it on my doorstep in a golden box." Elena's voice is high and heavy all at once. Her fingers slide over to the wolf charm.

"I finally snuck out and he found me, he promised they'd be okay, that he wouldn't hurt anyone else. But he lied. You see, to complete the ritual he needed to sacrifice first a werewolf, then a vampire, and finally me, the doppleganger. He could've chosen anyone, any werewolf, any vampire. But he chose Tyler and Caroline. He picked them. We all grew up together. Tyler was the Mayor's son. Caroline was the sheriff's daughter. I was the doctor's daughter. We were the darling little angels of the town. Cheerleaders and football players. We were bonded by our positions, by our families. We all were descendants of the town's founders." Her finger twines around the ballerina shoe.

"And Klaus saw symmetry in this. He looked at us and saw morbid beauty in the childhood friends, going to die together. He saw tragic irony in our sacrifice and he loved it," she spits bitterly. Her fingers slip from the ballerina shoe and rest lovingly on the feather.

"Then there was Bonnie. Bonnie was a witch. And she was my best friend. I would've died for her, gladly. But she saw it as her job to kill Klaus. To punish him for all the mayhem and destruction he had caused. So she came when the sacrifice was over, and she attacked him with magic, but he was strong, stronger than ever before and he tore out her throat and left her to bleed. So she died for me instead." Elena's eyes are dazed, her voice flat. Dean's chest aches for her. Her fingers wrap around the bear charm and she tugs at it affectionately.

"My Uncle John, who was really my biological father—but that's a story for another time—he gave his life so that I could keep mine. Bonnie did the spell before she died. I came back and he went away," her tone is clipped, and her fingers slip from the bear charm. They caress the rose charm.

"And then there was Damon. He got bit by a werewolf—werewolf bites are fatal to vampires—so Stefan went to Klaus and begged him for the cure if there was one. He said he'd do anything, anything in the world to save him—he was his brother, you see—and so Klaus gave him the cure—his blood, the blood of the hybrid—and Stefan went away with Klaus.

"So Damon took care of me. He waited patiently for me to grieve, and then he came along when I begged for vengeance. He taught me to fight, he taught me to recognize a vampire, and he always, always protected me. He loved me and I didn't care. I just wanted revenge. But he always protected me, and so the next time he got bitten by a werewolf, there was no Stefan to get the cure. And we hadn't found Klaus. So I protected him. I drove a stake through his heart before he could lose his mind—that's what a werewolf bite does to a vampire, it drives them insane and tears them apart." Elena's voice wavers and her mouth trembles. Her fingers latch onto the key.

"Stefan wasn't who I loved when he died. His lust for human blood had torn his soul apart and turned him into something different, just as Klaus intended. But when Klaus found out that I was alive, he used compulsion—mind control—to force Stefan into the burning sun without protection. So he burned to death. And Rebekah watched." Her fingers grasp for the next charm. It's the heart.

"There's still Alaric though. He was my history teacher. And he dated my Aunt Jenna. After she died he moved in with us. He takes care of Jeremy while I'm gone. He's a vampire hunter too. But he's semi-retired. Trying out the whole parenting thing. He's pretty good at it if I do say so myself," Elena says with a watery chuckle. She grasps the J charm.

"And then there's Jeremy. My little brother. He's awesome. I don't know what I would do without him. He's the best," Elena finishes with a shaky smile. Then she glances up at them and flicks Sam's charm.

"And finally: Sam Winchester. He's this annoying guy who's always showing up with his brother Dean, trying their best to save me even though we all know I can take care of myself," She declares teasingly. Sam laughs at her.

Dean doesn't know how to acknowledge her lose, but he does understand her purpose. Klaus systematically destroyed her family, and she's going to make him pay.

"Need a ride back into town, sweetheart?" Dean asks instead. Elena turns to smile at him.

"That would be very much appreciated, thank you," she says gratefully. He helps her down from the table. They'll drop her off at her car and come back to take care of the man's body later.

Chapter Text

"You don't want me, no

"You don't need me

Like I want you, oh

Like I need you

And I want you in my life

And I need you in my life

You can't see me, no

Like I see you

I can't have you, no

Like you have me

And I want you in my life

And I need you in my life.."

-The Pretty Reckless

"You"

Dean has absolutely no intention of giving Elena a charm. None whatsoever. But the charm kind of just shows up and it reminds him of her and he figures why not? It's a Celtic knot in the shape of a triangle. He buys it from the weird old lady at this Wiccan bazaar that they end up at and she smiles at him like she knows exactly who it's for.

When Sam catches sight of it he smiles and asks Dean if he knows what it means. Dean hesitantly shakes his head. Sam then eagerly explains that it's a triskele, the powerful symbol of the Goddess. Dean holds back a laugh. It was most definitely a charm for Elena.

~*~*~*~*~*

The next time they see her it's daylight, for once. They're reviewing their latest case when they catch sight of her in a park. She's wearing a red plaid mini skirt, her infamous boots and a black vest. With no shirt underneath. The edges of her red silk bra are visible and Dean swallows uncomfortably. Her stomach is just as firm and smooth as he remembers. Damn, she's just plain unreal.

She leans against a tree and surveys the park with the accuracy of a hunter. Her eyes fix on them briefly and a lovely smile flickers at the edges of her mouth. Dean smiles back at her and waves. She rolls her eyes and returns to her search. They sit down on a bench and watch her. Eventually her eyes lock on her target. It's a tall man with a buzz cut and blue eyes.

Elena keeps her eyes on him until he twitches uncomfortably and he finally turns to look at her. When he sees her he turns very pale. She smirks at him and crooks a finger to urge him closer. Reluctantly he walks towards her. She pushes herself off her tree to meet him halfway. They meet only a couple yards in front of Sam and Dean.

"Hello Brady, fancy meeting you here," Elena coos pleasantly. The man looks down at her. Her eyes are cold as she surveys him. He gulps.

"Elena," he says shakily. "I am so sorr-" she cuts him off.

"I see my reputation proceeds me. Good. But there's no time for apologies, baby. You and I need to have a little chat, come on, take a walk with me," she says with wide, enticing eyes. He nods reluctantly. She sets off at a leisurely pace, her hunter's tread clearly visible, and he follows her uneasily. Without a word Dean and Sam stand to follow them. Brady glances back at them with mounting suspicion.

"Don't worry Brady, those are just some friends of mine," Elena explains. She raises her voice for their benefit. "They're not very good at staying out of my business." Dean laughs and even though she doesn't turn around he's almost certain she's smiling.

They walk in uneasy silence for several minutes but Elena doesn't seem to mind. She hums lightly, politely waiting for her companion to speak. Eventually he speaks. "Elena, I am so sorry about Caroli-" she cuts him off again.

"Don't say her name. You don't have the right," she reprimands stiffly. "Besides, that's not why I'm here, and you should know that. I mean, I can almost forgive you for that. You wanted to save Jules. You convinced Klaus using Ty and Care was just so much more poetic than using Jules and Katherine." Her voice is candid, like she's talking about the weather, not her dead friends.

"But what do you care about Katherine? You just knew he wouldn't see poetry in Tyler, Katherine, and I. You needed a missing connection, something that would interest him more than the three goddesses. And what's better than childhood friends? I suppose I should thank you though, at least Katherine's still alive." Dean doesn't know who Katherine is; Elena never mentioned her name before.

"But that's not why you and I are here. See, I could understand protecting Jules. I could almost forgive you for that. But biting Damon? What the fuck was that for? I mean, why did you need to do that? So he got the better of you once, how was infecting him with werewolf venom supposed to make you a man? You're just a coward with four paws and stupid haircut," Elena spits viciously. Dean finally understands. He's not some random vampire at a bar. He's like Rebekah. It's personal. This is the werewolf that bit Damon.

"Seriously, I want to know. Why did you bite Damon?" Elena demands. Her bottom lip trembles. They've stopped and Elena is glaring up at him. Brady shakes under the heat of her gaze.

"I don't—I don't know Elena, I just, I wanted to—" he stutters out. Elena's expression becomes even fiercer.

"You don't even know do you, you just felt like it. You wanted to kill a vampire and Damon was there. You fucking asshole," Elena spits in disgust. "Did you know?" She demands. He stares back at her blankly. He doesn't understand. "Did. You. Know? Did you know that I needed him?" She accuses fiercely. This is the first time Dean has seen her act emotional during a confrontation. Usually she's stony-faced and seductive, borderline sadistic. She's desperately and unbearably angry now. She stares up at the werewolf. He stares back down at her.

"I thought, I didn't know that you—" he stumbles. He can't seem to talk in front of her.

"You didn't know that I loved him?" Elena supplies bitterly. "Yeah, neither did I," she finishes with tearful eyes. "Neither did I. Not until I was plunging a stake through his heart. And what did it matter then?" She questions softly. She starts to walk again and Brady follows her helplessly.

Dean and Sam continue to trail behind them, Dean swallowing the sour taste in his mouth. She'd never mentioned that she loved Damon before. He thinks about the soft way Damon looked at her, and feels nothing but pity for the black-haired man.

"Elena I—" Brady begins desperately.

"No. You don't have to explain it to me. I've got someone else for you to talk to," Elena interrupts. Her face is composed. "She'll be judge, jury and executioner," Elena quips grimly. The werewolf's face goes pale with understanding.

"Please, not her, please," he begs. Elena smiles at him. She stops, they've reached the parking lot. She points to a black Aston Martin. The silhouette of woman is visible through the tinted glass. There's something distinctly familiar about her shape but Dean shakes off the feeling.

"Katherine is waiting, who knows, she might show mercy. You did save her life, however unintentional," Elena says calmly. And so the mysterious Katherine is mentioned again. Brady trembles and looks as if he wants to bolt. But he glances at Elena who cocks an eyebrow at him. He can't take her. He seems to know that. So he steels himself and begins his death march to the car. Elena watches him with her hip cocked and her arms crossed. The woman in the car wriggles her fingers at Elena and Elena salutes her. When he's securely in the car Katherine zips out of the parking spot at a reckless speed. Elena watches them leave.

"Do you really think she'll kill him?" Dean asks as they come up behind her. She turns back to look at them. Her face is smug. The cat got the canary.

"Nope. But by the time she's done with him he'll be begging for death. Death is too kind for him," Elena explains as she pulls her cellphone from her boot. She glances at the time and frowns then shoves it back into her boot. It's been a month and a half since they saw her at the warehouse. She looks unbelievably tired but still impossibly lovely.

"So who is this mysterious Katherine? You've never mentioned her before," Dean asks casually. Elena smiles up at him mischievously.

"Kat? She's just a friend. We're pretty close, you could say we're like twins." The amusement in Elena's voice is evident. Clearly there's an inside joke somewhere in her statement. He looks at her blankly and she rolls her eyes.

"Katherine was the first doppleganger," Elena explains. "She was born about five hundred years ago and long story short, Klaus almost sacrificed her but she transitioned into a vampire before he could thus rendering herself useless to him, thus invoking his wrath and she's been running from him ever since. She had a brief dalliance with Stefan and Damon, so she's perfectly happy fucking up Brady," Elena finishes with a shrug. Dean nods slowly. Trying to process all of it.

"So if she's a doppleganger, that means she looks just like you?" he questions slowly and Elena nods.

"Yup. Except her hair's curly and mine's straight," she says as she gives her straight hair a gentle tug. Dean nods again. Another Elena running around? What?

"Well that's fucking weird," he says finally. Elena lets out a laugh and this time it's a real one. It's just a beautiful as Dean suspected it would be. "You have a great laugh," he tells her. She blushes pink.

"Thank you," she responds with a shy smile. It was nice to see her act like a normal girl. He pulls the charm from his jacket and holds it up to the sun. It practically sparkles.

"My turn," he says with a smirk. Elena smiles at him and holds out her wrist. He attaches it between the rose and the ballerina shoe. He taps them each, "Damon and Caroline, right?" he asks. She nods, and he smiles "I'm in good company, then." She smiles again.

"Thank you, it's beautiful," she breathes. He nods and then he slides his fingers over to the charm Sam mentioned before. The only one Elena hadn't touched when she told him about her family. The Guardians of the Four Corners. He tugs it lightly.

"Is that Katherine's?" he asks and she nods, smiling softly. She withdraws her arm from his grasp and fiddles with it.

"Katherine," she begins. "She's mostly bitchy and impossible, but I learned all of my best tricks from her, so I can't complain. She gave me that charm to protect me but she swears I'm the biggest inconvenience ever. I think she secretly likes me," Elena confides with a smile. Dean smiles back at her. She holds up her bracelet and flicks his charm. "That makes thirteen. Maybe someday I'll tell you about the idiot who gave me this charm," she finishes cheekily. He smiles at her.

"That would be nice," he responds lightly. She bites her lip and seems to make a decision. She holds out her hand.

"Phone," she commands and with a strange look he complies. She hits a few buttons and then hands it back. She pulls her phone from her boot and types something in. "There. Now I have your number. Since you insist on always trying to save me, I might as well be able to find you when I actually need you," she explains briskly. She begins to walk towards the parking lot, and Dean can see her car parked in the corner.

"See you around," Sam shouts after her. She flicks her wrist in their direction but she doesn't turn back. Dean can't help but smile at her retreating figure. He looks over to see Sam watching him. Sam's face is amused. "You like her," he accuses gleefully. Dean raises an eyebrow at him.

"Took you long enough."

Chapter Text

“I am not afraid
I won't burn out in this place
My intention is to fade and I will, I will

In this house on a hill
The dead are living still
Their intention is to kill and they will, they will
Keep your children safe inside
Out of pocket, out of mind
Until they drink the wine and they will, they will, they will…”

-The Pretty Reckless
“House on a Hill”

The next time they see Elena; it’s a planned meeting. They’re on a stakeout, arguing over strategy, when Dean’s phone rings. He answers without looking and then her warm voice is filtering through the speakers and making his insides all gooey (he is such a loser).
“Dean Winchester,” Elena chimes sweetly. He smiles involuntarily and Sam rolls his eyes. Only one person can make his brother grin like an idiot.
“Elena Gilbert, to what do I owe this pleasure?” Dean questions mockingly, falling easily into their familiar banter.
“I need your help,” she admits. “Can you and Sam meet me somewhere? It’ll be easier to explain in person.”
He smiles, he can’t help it, she needs his help. “Just tell me when and where.”
“You’re the best. Five days from now, noon, meet me in Mystic Falls, Virginia…” she begins, rattling off an address that he writes on the back of a receipt. “See you soon,” she says softly, at the end of the conversation and it turns his insides to mush.
“Yeah, see you soon,” he responds. When he hangs up, Sam is looking at him with an amused smirk on his face. “Shut up,” Dean groans. Sam’s smirk widens.
“I didn’t say anything,” he taunts. Dean glares at him.
“Well then quit thinking so damn loud,” he says.
“Whatever you say, man,” Sam responds, smirk in place.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Dean pulls over across the street from the address Elena gave him. They have an hour or so before they’re supposed to be here, they’d left earlier than usual just in case they got lost. They really didn’t need to; Mystic Falls is a small town.
“So this is it,” Sam says, looking down at the receipt with the address scribbled on the back.
“Yeah,” Dean responds, his focus fixed on the house. It’s large and white with a big porch and a well-manicured lawn. It’s the saddest house he’s ever seen. He’s not sure how, but it is. There’s a sadness that seems to seep out of the woodwork. If a house could be lonely, that’s what he’d call it. But there are houses on either side, with white picket fences and evidence of life. The house he’s looking at has only darkened windows and an empty driveway.
Somehow, it’s haunted, this house in Mystic Falls, and no amount of salt or iron can banish its ghosts. It’s then, with the haunted feeling settling into his bones, that he knows. This is her home. This is where Elena Gilbert grew up; this is where Elena Gilbert learned that life could be far crueler than death. His heart aches for her.
How many occupants of this house are dead and gone? How many would never set foot in it again, how many bittersweet memories haunt the girl who grew up there? More than he can imagine, he’s sure. So why are they here? Why would she return to such a haunted home? He doesn’t have an answer that satisfies.
He glances over at his brother, and he can tell that Sam has come to the same conclusion; this is her home. The home of the girl they never really knew, because maybe the saddest tragedy of all is that while she still lived, the girl she was before had died with all her loved ones. Whoever is left is simultaneously less and more than she could ever be.
“So this is where she grew up,” Sam says softly. Dean glances back at the house. He imagines her seated on the porch swing, laughing, and looks away.
“Yeah,” he responds, something pulling tight and painful in his chest. He’s never really stuck around in one place long enough to call it home, but he can’t imagine why she’d want to come back here. Nothing in him wants to return to the charred remains of the house in Kansas. But then again, he’d been so young when it burned, all his memories are blurred together into a strange warm feeling that makes him both happy and sad whenever he thinks of that place. He still wouldn’t return for all the money in the world.
He can’t look back. If he looks back, he’ll be stuck. He wonders how Elena can look back so casually, how she holds onto the dead so tightly, wearing their love on her wrist, and holding their deaths to her chest like it’s the only thing keeping her alive. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s all that’s left of her, death and vengeance. He thinks of her laugh in the park, and decides that it’s not true. Somewhere beneath the vengeful entity, there’s the girl who loved so fiercely it nearly broke her into unfixable pieces.
The arrival of two more vehicles pulls Dean away from his musings. The first, a white Tahoe, pulls into the driveway of the Gilbert house, and then Elena’s familiar ice blue Camaro pulls in behind it. A tall teenage boy with dark brown hair practically dashes out of the passenger side of the Tahoe, skidding to a stop in front of the driver’s side of the Camaro. He opens the door and pulls Elena out of the car and into his embrace, which she returns enthusiastically. A man with light brown hair steps out of the driver’s side of the Tahoe, and surveys the teenagers in front of him with an affectionate look of bemusement.
Sam and Dean exchange a look and then get out of their car, crossing the street to the trio. Elena spots them over her brother’s shoulder, and she gives them a bright grin, looking happier than they’ve ever seen her. The man regards them warily, and the boy doesn’t seem to realize there is anyone else in the world besides his sister. She’s more covered than they’ve ever seen her, wearing comfy old jeans, a man’s black button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and her trusty boots of mystery. Her abundance of dark hair is pulled into a thick braid, and her charm bracelet chimes merrily around her wrist.
Elena runs her fingers through his hair almost reverently. “Okay Jer, you can let go now, my friends are here, and you’re squishing me,” she teases him sweetly. His grip around her waist tightens, only the very tips of her boots are scraping the ground. His face is half buried in her neck, so his words come out muffled.
“Nope, not yet,” he insists, swaying them from side to side. “I’m still getting used to having you back again, and overbearing brother hugs are necessary,” he claims, still holding her up on the tips of her toes. She laughs and rubs her cheek against his shoulder affectionately.
“I don’t mind the hugs, but it’s very rude to ignore our guests, Jer,” she says with mock-seriousness. Jeremy picks her up fully, and turns around so he’s facing the brothers freeing one of his hands from his sister’s waist to hold out towards the Winchesters.
“Hey, I’m Jeremy, Elena’s brother,” he says with an easy grin, Elena giggles manically at his antics, and the man in the background laughs too. Dean grips the younger man’s hand, and smiles at him.
“I’m Dean Winchester, this is my brother, Sam,” he responds, amused by his refusal to release his sister. Jeremy gives him a knowing smirk, and then turns slightly to shake Sam’s hand too.
“Hey, nice to meet you,” Jeremy says and Sam responds in kind, smiling at him as well. The tall man steps up next to the embracing siblings and offers his hand.
“I’m Alaric Saltzman, their guardian,” he says, shaking their hands. Now that his hand is free again, Jeremy wraps his fingers around his sister’s braid and tugs it affectionately, as she leans back to look up at him.
“You got taller,” she says accusingly. He scrunches up his nose and nods, bumping his forehead against hers. “Will you put me down now so I can say hi to my friends?” she asks, narrowing her dark eyes at him. He smirks and shakes his head.
“No,” he replies simply. She huffs in amused annoyance.
“Fine, then at least turn around so I can see them,” she instructs. He agrees with a half nod and puts his other arm around her waist again, lifting her clean off the ground and turning her to face them. She smiles at them, almost embarrassed. “Hi there, Winchesters,” she greets them sheepishly. Dean laughs at her and Sam gives her an amused smile.
“Hello Elena,” Dean responds in amusement.
“Hey El,” Sam replies still smiling. She half shrugs her shoulders, still wrapped around her brother.
“It’s been a while since he’s seen me,” she explains, still looking slightly embarrassed. It’s actually rather sweet, to see someone so badass and serious wrapped up in an endless hug by her demanding little brother. It’s endearing, to know that she has a soft spot that isn’t fake or calculated.
Alaric closes the door to Elena’s car and then turns to the Gilberts and Winchesters. “We should go inside,” he suggests, directing the statement towards Elena more than anyone else. She nods in agreement, her chin stopping to rest on Jeremy’s shoulder.
“You heard the man, Jeremy, inside,” she orders playfully. Jeremy twists his fingers into her belt loops and hoists her higher in his arms, half hugging her, half carrying her into the house, Alaric trailing behind them. After a moment of hesitation, the brothers follow after them, climbing the stairs and crossing the porch to the front door.
Dean almost hesitates before he steps inside, but stops himself from giving away his wariness. He can’t get rid of the prickly feeling going down his spine; the house is haunted in the strangest ways. Alaric closes the door behind Sam and flicks on the light. White sheets cover all the furniture. Alaric wanders through the living room, past Elena and Jeremy, and into the kitchen.
Jeremy bundles Elena over to the couch, setting her on her feet, but only half releasing her. He uses his free arm to pull the sheet off the couch and then sits down on it, Elena giggling as their legs get all tangled up and she ends up sitting more on him than on the couch. She moves around until her legs are thrown over his, her butt planted on the couch, and her torso half on her brother, and half tucked into his side. She smiles up at him softly. “Welcome home,” she says softly. He smiles down at her sadly.
“Welcome home,” he responds quietly. Dean turns away sharply; it’s a moment too private for an outsider’s gaze. He glances at his brother, who is looking at the pictures on the wall. He shifts his gaze to them as well, needing something else to focus on, other than the tender moment in the living room.
The picture closest to him is a family portrait. A slightly younger Elena sits on the couch with a younger Jeremy seated between her legs. She’s leaned forward, her arms draped around his body and her chin propped on his shoulder. His hands are wrapped around her forearms and they’re both beaming at the camera. Their parents are on either side of Elena, leaning towards their children. Their father has his hand on Jeremy’s free shoulder, and their mother’s hand rests on Elena’s back. They look happy, and excruciatingly normal, like a family taken right out of a picture book.
He turns his head, trying to find something else to focus on, something that doesn’t remind him that the girl talking quietly with her brother in the next room has lost so much more than he can fathom. His eyes land on a photo of a tiny Elena and even tinier Jeremy. She has a tiny white graduation gown on complete with a hat and a blue tassel. She looks to be about five years old, so he guesses that it’s her kindergarten graduation. She’s beaming, revealing her missing two front teeth. Her brother is tucked under her arm, his gaze not on the camera, but his sister. He has a goofy grin and a tiny blue bowtie that matches his sister’s tassel. It’s heartbreakingly sweet, to know that they always adored each other.
A hand touches his shoulder, and he turns to see Elena standing behind him, finally disentangled from her brother. She gives him a small smile. “Hey, sorry about all the mushy family stuff, I didn’t mean to put you in the middle of it,” she apologizes. He rolls his eyes at her.
“Don’t be, it was cute. Looks like the Tin Man has a heart after all,” he teases gently. She laughs softly.
“Only sometimes. I don’t keep it in my chest, though. That would be too risky,” she replies cryptically. Sam finally turns around and joins them. Elena tosses a smile his way. “I’m sure you both want to know why I brought you here, but unfortunately you’re going to have to wait until the rest of the group gets here this afternoon,” she tells them with a gentle shrug of her shoulders, her hands tucked into her front pockets.
“Who else is coming?” Sam asks her.
“Katherine, a couple of friends of hers, the local sheriff, and,” Elena hesitates, “technically Rebekah,” she finishes softly, looking down at her boots. Dean crosses his arms and stares at her blankly.
“Rebekah as in the Original vampire that you seduced and daggered?” Dean questions in disbelief. She nods.
“She’s actually in the back of Alaric’s car, but we’re going to un-dagger her. We kind of need her, for something,” she explains, looking slightly pained, but very determined. Dean laughs in disbelief.
“You’re crazy,” he tells her flatly. “She’s going to kill you as soon as she wakes up,” he insists, worried for the crazy girl in front of him. Elena bites her lip.
“She’ll be very angry with me when she wakes up, yes, but I know what to say to ensure that she’ll help me. Trust me, Dean, I know what I’m doing,” she says softly, meeting his eyes with hers. He softens slightly, still worried, but also confident in her abilities. He half nods, letting her know that he trusts her. She smiles at him.
“We’re gonna order pizza for lunch, do either of you have any requests?” she asks brightly, changing the subject. They both shake their heads, and she leaves to go find the phone. After a second they follow after her and end up in the living room. Jeremy has already turned on the television, some cop drama on the screen.
He looks over at them and gives them a half smile. “Thank God Alaric called ahead and had the cable and everything turned back on, right?” he says casually, indicating with his hand that they should sit down. They do, slightly uncomfortable, but unwilling to let it show. Elena bounces back into the room, flashes a smile at them, and drops onto the couch beside Jeremy.
“Pizza’ll be here in thirty,” she informs them, turning her attention to the television. “What are we watching?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Kat’s here,” Elena hums when the doorbell rings just after four. She stands from her place next to Jeremy and moves to let her in. While waiting for Katherine and her friends, Elena and Jeremy had regaled Dean and Sam with stories about their childhood, Alaric occasionally butting in to add details about them as teenagers.
The siblings were actually quite funny, and Dean had enjoyed getting to know another side of Elena, one that was more playful and less likely to murder you in cold blood. But with the serious look on her face, he can guess that the happy, silly Elena is gone, and in her place is the hunter.
He hears the door open and the low murmur of voices. Elena comes in first, followed by her doppelganger—literally. The vampire who wears Elena’s face is all dangerous, sharp edges, lacking any of Elena’s well-buried kindness. But still, the only discernable difference between the two women is the vampire’s head of lustrous curls. So caught up in his horror at Elena’s double, he hardly notices the other people who crowd into the room. Elena’s double—Katherine—surveys him with obvious interest, he turns his head sharply to examine the rest of her party, and she lets out a small amused laugh. The tension eases from his shoulder slightly. Her laugh is different. Throaty and satisfied, like the world is a joke to her, it lacks the bitterness of Elena’s laugh and the bubbling sweetness of her giggle.
A tall dark-skinned woman stands uncomfortably behind her. She glances at Dean for half a second and then focuses on Elena, and visibly relaxes when Elena smiles at her. Next to her is a thin, petite, elderly black woman with vibrant peroxide hair and a sour look on her face. Even the sight of Elena doesn’t ease the tension in her shoulders. A beautiful woman with tawny hair and sharp blue eyes stands just behind her, looking uneasy and out of place. But it is the last member of the vampire’s group that gives him pause. It’s the werewolf, Brady. He looks thinner though, almost shrunken in on himself, despite his muscles and height. It’s the way he holds himself, hunched over, waiting for a strike that hasn’t come. Carved into his right cheekbone is a sharp P that stands out white against his tanned skin.
Elena turns to the group on the couch and smiles. “I believe introductions are in order?” she supplies, an amused smile twitching at the corner of her mouth. Despite her amusement, the way she holds herself has changed; there is seductiveness to her stance, not unlike her vampire ancestor’s, but with infinite more restraint, like she’s presenting herself as a submissive. She’s pretending to be the flower, but really she is the serpent beneath. It sends chills of warning up Dean’s spine. He doesn’t like this version of Elena, no matter how true it might be.
“This, of course, is Katherine,” Elena says, holding her hands out to present the vampire to them. “And this is Dean and Sam,” she offers to Katherine. The vampire smiles, lazy and predatory.
“Pleasure,” she purrs languidly. Dean and Sam both offer polite greetings that bring a smirk to her face.
“This is Lucy,” Elena continues, gesturing to the tall dark-skinned woman who is looking at Elena like she is her salvation. She tears her eyes off of the human girl to offer them a weak smile. “Lucy, Dean and Sam,” Elena introduces.
“Nice to meet you,” Lucy offers weakly, her smile pained. The brothers both answer as kindly as they can.
“Gloria, say hello,” Elena instructs sternly, looking at the sour-faced black woman. The woman gives Elena a contemptuous look but nods stiffly at the brothers. “Lucy and Gloria are our witches,” Elena tells them, shooting them a small smile, but it doesn’t look like the one she gave them before, full of sweetness and light. This one is fake and calculated to put them at ease and Dean hates it. Gesturing towards the blue-eyed woman, Elena continues the introductions.
“This is Jules,” she says, and Jules gives them an uneasy smile.
“’Lo,” she mutters, distracted and uncomfortable.
“Hello.”
“Hi.” The brothers respond. Turning to the final member of the group, Elena offers him a mocking smirk, her eyes full of contempt and satisfaction.
“And you remember Brady, don’t you, boys?” she enquires, her voice sugary sweet with an almost indiscernible bite of acid. He shivers under her stare and nods weakly at the brothers. Dean almost feels sorry for him, almost. “Jules and Brady are our werewolves,” she continues, turning to look at the group in the living room.
Elena turns back to the group at the door. “Make yourselves comfortable, the Sheriff should be here soon,” she assures them, gesturing towards the living room. In shuffling duos, the witches and werewolves enter the living room. Brady and Jules drop down on the couch, keeping as far away from Jeremy as they can. Lucy and Gloria sit down at the kitchen table. With her charges dispensed, Katherine turns to Elena, and in a surprising move, pulls the younger girl into her embrace.
“Missed you, ‘Lena,” she purrs into the girl’s ear, squeezing her waist affectionately. Elena laughs and all the tension seems to drain from her body. She slings her arms around Katherine’s neck, pressing her body closer to the vampire’s.
“Katherine Pierce can miss people?” she teases, her eyes wide and innocent. Katherine huffs indignantly and pinches Elena’s waist, making the human squeal and jump back out of her embrace.
Alaric stands and interrupts the reunion that is clearly making everyone uncomfortable. “I’m going to get Rebekah,” he tells Elena, avoiding looking at her doppelganger. Elena nods and turns to her brother.
“Jer, help him please,” she requests and he stands and nods.
“’Course,” he agrees, pressing a grateful kiss to the side of his sister’s head as he follows Alaric out the door.
Elena turns back to Katherine who cuts her eyes over to the Winchesters. “So which one is yours, lovely ‘Lena?” she questions, her eyes innocent, her mouth wicked. Widening her eyes she asks, “or have you finally learned from your previous mistake with the Salvatores and they both are?” Dean inhales sharply.
Elena glares at her, “You smell,” she tells her flatly, avoiding the question. Adopting a look of insult, Katherine flutters a hand to her chest in affront. “Go shower,” Elena says, ignoring her theatrics. “You know where it is,” she finishes, flashing her a bitchy smile. Katherine rolls her eyes playfully and goes up the stairs gracefully.
Elena turns back to the Winchesters, ignoring the werewolves on the other couch. “Uh, sorry about her, she just likes fucking with people,” she supplies weakly. Sam gives her an understanding smile, but Dean can’t resist the chance to flirt with her.
“It’s okay, besides, it’s obvious which one you’d pick,” he replies, his voice suggestive and arrogant as he tosses her a wink, but he forgets that Elena is a master at this game. She tilts her head to the side, blinking her eyes at him slowly, chewing on her lower lip.
“Is it?” she questions, her voice raw and silky, drawing a shiver down his spine. He glares at her and she laughs. Before he can scold her for using her skillset on him, Jeremy and Alaric return with a large black duffle bag. Elena shoos Jules and Brady off the couch and they take up residence on the over stuffed armchair, Brady sunk down in its fluff with Jules perched on one of the arms.
Opening the duffle, Elena extracts Rebekah’s gray and lifeless body and carries her to the couch in an impressive feat of strength. Laying her down with gentleness, it’s obvious carrying the original was practically effortless for Elena; she isn’t even out of breath. Elena hovers over her body uncertainly, everyone’s eyes glued to her.
Finally Katherine waltzes down the stairs, not a hair out of place, but looking decidedly refreshed, and everyone moves. Elena turns to look at her and everyone follows suit. Katherine raises an eyebrow at her.
“You sure you wanna bring her into this?” she questions, jutting her chin towards the desiccated original and ignoring everyone else in the room except her doppelganger. Elena raises her chin in response and straightens her back like she’s going into battle and nods shortly.
“Yes, I’m sure,” she replies in clipped tones. Katherine nods once, resigned.
“Then by all means, do the honors,” she mocks, gesturing to the dagger protruding out of Rebekah’s chest as she takes a seat next to Sam. Elena turns and pulls it out without any preamble. She tucks it into the back pocket of her jeans, and then turns back to Katherine.
“Unless someone is willing to tap a vein, I sincerely hope you have some blood bags,” she informs Katherine, an air of stiffness about her. Strangely enough her unhesitant act seems to endear her further to the vampire because Katherine smiles at her approvingly and the stiffness vanishes.
“I have a cooler in my car,” she supplies, going to retrieve it. Elena stands stiffly beside Rebekah, her face emotionless as she examines the blonde. She looks, despite her oversized shirt and casual jeans, like a soldier. It’s fitting really, when her life has been a never-ending war.
Katherine has barely returned when a knock comes at the door. Elena moves at last. “That’ll be Liz, the Sheriff,” she says, moving to answer the door. A small blonde woman in uniform follows Elena into the living room, three male deputies and one female at her heels.
“Everyone, this is Sheriff Forbes,” Elena says by way of introductions, and then she gestures to each individual, giving their name and species, or in the case of the brothers, their occupation. She ends with the Winchesters.
“Dean and Sam, hunters,” she finishes. Liz gives everyone a confident wave before turning to Elena.
Pulling the younger woman into her embrace, she whispers something into her ear that is too low for human ears and that the vampires and werewolves politely ignore. When Elena pulls back Dean catches the slightest shine to her eyes before she transforms back into the cold, precise hunter.
“When Rebekah awakens, we can begin,” she tells the room. Alaric helpfully shows the deputies to the kitchen for a drink, and Elena and the sheriff sink down onto the free armchair, large enough to fit their slight frames easily. Jeremy seats himself on the arm of the sofa next to Dean, his eyes on Rebekah’s slumbering form.
The sheriff grasps Elena’s hands between her own, looking at her with maternal concern. “Are you sure you have to be involved this, Elena?” Sheriff Forbes asks anxiously. “I worry about you,” she admits. Elena meets her eyes dead on, squeezing her fingers affectionately.
“I’m sure,” she says firmly. “I have to do this, for Caroline, for all of them,” she tells her and the sheriff nods reluctantly. Suddenly Dean remembers part of Elena’s story in the cold warehouse.
“Caroline was the sheriff’s daughter,” she told him. Sitting next to Elena is the sheriff, Sheriff Liz Forbes who looks at Elena with sorrowful eyes, still grieving the daughter she lost, the girl Elena also lost. And suddenly Dean knows why they are all here. This is about Klaus. A thrill goes down his spine. This is about killing Klaus. Thrumming with his newfound knowledge, he barely manages to sit still as Elena and the sheriff chat idly about the going ons around town.
But after a solid thirty minutes of idle gossip, a guttural groan comes from the girl on the couch, her eyes flutter open and she glances around the room, her eyes stopping on Elena. Everyone snaps to attention but she doesn’t seem to notice them. She only sees Elena. Her face contorts in rage and just when Dean is worried that they might not be able to stop her, she is seemingly pulled towards the door by an invisible rope. It looks painful, actually, the way she bends and contorts, desperate to get to the door. She rips the door open and throws herself onto the porch, sighing in relief as her body goes over the threshold.
“She hasn’t been invited in,” Jeremy tells them grimly. Dean nods in understanding. Elena stands and follows Rebekah to the door calmly, Katherine ghosting up behind her with a blood bag dangling from her fingertips. Everyone crowds around the door behind the two doppelgangers. Elena takes the blood bag from her and tosses it to Rebekah. The blonde rips into it savagely, draining the contents desperately, her eyes half-lidded in ecstasy, but beneath the pleasure there is hatred, directed at Elena. The girl shows no outward sign of discomfort though, and merely tosses Rebekah another blood bag when she finishes the first. After sucking down the second at a slower pace she drops it to the ground and stands, not bothering to wipe the blood from her face.
“You put a dagger in my back, Elena,” she spits accusingly. Elena looks at her calmly.
“You let Stefan die,” Elena replies, her arms crossed over her chest and her face serene. The Original blanches momentarily, her face stunned, and then her glare returns full force.
“I apologized!” she screeches. “And I didn’t let him die, Niklaus is stronger than me, there was nothing I could do, and you know it,” she whines and Dean is decidedly unimpressed. Elena clearly shares his feelings because she simply meets Rebekah’s eyes.
“You’re stronger than me, and yet I put a dagger in your back, I’m sure you could’ve saved Stefan if you weren’t such a coward,” Elena says coolly. Rebekah flinches at her accusations.
“Why did you wake me?” she asks stiffly instead of continuing their previous argument.
“I need your help,” Elena says. Rebekah gapes at her.
“You honestly think I’d help you?” she sneers. Elena smiles at her, a smile as sharp as a knife and as cold as ice.
“Yes,” she replies simply.
“Give me one good reason,” Rebekah growls, glaring contemptuously at the human she had been so infatuated with prior to her temporary death. Elena leans forward.
“I’ll give you three,” she retorts, holding up her hand. “Elijah, Finn, and Kol,” she says, ticking off the unfamiliar names on her fingers like the smoking gun they are. Rebekah’s face is a war of hope and disbelief.
“What about them,” she stutters out bravely.
“They’re your brothers, and you’d do anything to have them with you again,” Elena states, there is no question in her voice. “And you can have them back, all you have to do is help me kill Klaus,” she tells her, not sugar coating. Rebekah stares at her.
“I don’t know how long I’ve been out, but you’ve gone mad, my love,” she declares, the endearment slipping past her lips absentmindedly, genuine concern for the girl shining on her face. Elena smiles at her pityingly.
“It’s only been a few months,” she tells her. “And I’m not crazy, I’ve been perfecting my plan since your darling brother drained every ounce of blood from my body and left me to die on the cold, hard ground,” she replies bitterly. “It will work.”
Her belief is what sells it. Whatever her plan is, she believes in it with every fiber of her being. And Rebekah believes in her, despite herself.
“Okay,” she says simply. “Name your terms.” Elena smiles a beatific smile.
“You will help me lure Klaus to Mystic Falls, I will get the location of your brothers from him, I will kill him, and you will leave town with your brothers, never to return in my lifetime,” she states simply, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. Rebekah stares at her again.
“You have a deal,” the blonde says. Elena raises her eyebrow. “You have my word as an Original, as Elijah’s sister, that I will help you kill my brother and never return to Mystic Falls as long as you live,” she elaborates. Elena gives her a blinding smile.
“Then by all means, come in, Rebekah Mikaelson,” she invites. And the blonde steps into the house, standing toe to toe with the dainty doppelganger that had broken her heart when she stabbed her in the back—literally.
“Can I have a shower, and some clothes?” she requests, not taking her eyes off of Elena, ignoring the room full of people. Elena nods once.
“Katherine can show you the way to the shower. When you’re done, we’ll go over the plan.”
Rebekah nods and follows Katherine up the stairs. Silence reigns, but Elena turns around and gestures at everyone to disperse. They obey her like soldiers, like she is their confident and trusted general. It’s almost eerie, the way she takes to authority. But Dean supposes some people are just born for leadership, and perhaps this girl who has taken over his brain is one of them.
She sits down in the armchair with the sheriff again, and the sheriff takes her hands into her lap, but this time they don’t talk. Elena stares into the distance, her eyes unfocused. The sheriff stares at the young girl beside her like she is a ghost, and maybe she is.
When at last the vampires return from upstairs, Rebekah is dressed in jeans and a white sweater, her hair pulled back at the nape of her neck. She stares at Elena and Elena stands. With a flick of her wrist everyone falls in line behind her as she leads the miscellaneous group to the dining room. The table seats twenty, and there are sixteen of them. Elena takes the head of the table and Alaric and Katherine sit on either side of her, with Rebekah next to Katherine and the sheriff next to Alaric.
Everyone has thesir eyes trained on Elena, who sits perfectly straight, a commanding air about her. She smiles and begins to tell them her plan.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“Hello Nik,” Rebekah drawls into the phone. She’s perched on the edge of the table in front of Elena, her eyes on the brunette. Dean is standing behind Elena and he can just make out Klaus’s voice.
“Rebekah, finally done with your tantrum, little sister?” he mocks. Rebekah rolls her eyes but answers sweetly.
“I’ve found your precious doppelganger,” she informs him, leaning down to idly tuck loose strand of Elena’s hair behind her ear. Dean can’t see Elena’s face, but he’s close enough to see her shoulders tense, and without thinking he places a comforting hand on her shoulder. Surprisingly, she relaxes into his touch.
“You have Elena?” he asks sharply. “Where are you?” he demands. Rebekah smiles as he walks straight into her trap.
“Mystic Falls, poor thing was awfully homesick,” Rebekah tells him mockingly. The only time her eyes have strayed from Elena was to give Dean a disdainful look after he placed his hand on Elena’s shoulder.
“Show me,” he demands.
“Of course,” Rebekah agrees, pulling her phone away from her ear to snap a picture of the doppelganger. Dean squeezes Elena’s shoulder and then steps out of frame so he won’t be in the picture. Rebekah takes a picture and sends it to Klaus.
“Good job little sister, I’ll be there tomorrow night, don’t lose her,” he commands.
“I won’t,” she says and he hangs up. Rebekah puts the phone down and the room lets out a collective breath of air. Elena gives Rebekah a beastly smile.
“Good job,” Elena echoes, her eyes glittering. Rebekah smiles at her.
“It was truly my pleasure, my love,” she replies, slipping the endearment in once again. Somehow it only makes Dean pity her more, that she can’t seem to let go of the girl who stabbed her in the back.
Elena turns to the room as a whole and smiles. “Klaus will be here tomorrow, until then, rest and review the plan,” she tells them. Turning to the sheriff and her deputies she says, “Sheriff, deputies, you can go home now, we’ll reconvene tomorrow evening.” Sheriff Forbes nods and stands to give the younger woman a hug that Elena returns affectionately.
“Good night Elena, Alaric, Jeremy,” she says as she steps out of Elena’s embrace, nodding goodbye to the room. “I’ll brief the rest of my deputies tomorrow,” she informs Elena and the girl nods. The deputies say their goodbyes and follow her out the door, Alaric trailing behind them to see them out.
“Katherine, will you take the witches and werewolves to the boarding house for the night?” Elena asks. “There aren’t enough beds for them here.” Katherine nods.
“Boarding house?” Sam enquires and Jeremy snorts.
“Yeah, the Salvatore boarding house, it’s not enough that she’s the oldest and inherits all the good stuff from our parents, two century and a half old vampires just had to leave her their massive boarding house and fancy cars and everything else they had,” he complains good-naturedly. Elena sticks her tongue out at him childishly and he returns the gesture.
“Key?” Katherine requests, and Elena nods, pulling her keys from her pocket, selecting a key and removing it from her keychain, handing it over to Katherine.
“No other vampire can enter it, only you,” Elena reminds her and Katherine smiles.
“I’m touched you trust me so much, Elena Gilbert,” she teases and Elena smiles at her.
“Where am I supposed to stay?” Rebekah interrupts before she can respond. Elena turns to her.
“You can sleep in my parents’ room,” she tells her. Katherine hugs Elena and leads her group out the door to a large black SUV.
Elena turns to Dean and Sam, “there are beds in the attic,” she tells them. “Come on, I’ll show you the way.”
They leave the dining room where Alaric and Jeremy are arguing over Jeremy’s involvement in the plan. Elena had specifically stated that her brother was to stay behind, and Alaric had wholeheartedly backed her up, but Jeremy’s fighting them.
Dean and Sam follow Elena up the first set of stairs and then they bypass a couple doors before she leads them up another set of stairs. The attic smells stale and hot, but it’s surprisingly clean, just like the rest of the house.
An old upright piano sits in the far corner, a pile of neatly arranged boxes in front of it. Two twin-sized beds are pushed against opposing walls with pillows and quilts piled high.
“The sheets are clean, we have a cleaning lady come every week, even when we aren’t here,” she tells them, and it makes sense that the house is so clean despite being empty for so long. “I’m gonna go take a shower, my room is the door closest to you if you need anything, but feel free to ask Alaric or Jeremy too,” she tells them, a half smile on her face.
Just when Dean is about to make a joke about showering together, Rebekah appears at the door. She gives him another nasty look and he’s impressed with his own restraint, he hasn’t called her out on them yet. She turns to Elena and gives her a superior smile.
“Which room is mine, my love?” she asks innocently and Dean wonders if maybe she’s using the term of endearment on purpose, to remind Elena that she had loved her.
Elena smiles at the brothers and says, “good night.” Then she turns to Rebekah and gestures for her to follow her. Rebekah tosses Dean one last vicious smile and then follows Elena down the stairs.
Dean turns to Sam and waits for him to say something. He doesn’t have to wait very long. “So are you sure you wanna do this?” Sam asks, and Dean gives him a disbelieving look.
“Yeah, I do,” he asserts. “Don’t you?” he counters, sure of his answer. Sam sighs.
“Yeah, I guess I do,” he admits and Dean knows that. Sam might not feel like he does about Elena (and thank god for that), but he does care about her, he sees her as the little sister he always wanted, an innocent who has been screwed over by supernatural beings and deserves her retribution.
“Just don’t let that blonde Antichrist get to you,” Sam pleads. Dean snorts at Sam’s nickname for her.
“I make no promises, girl’s a piece of work,” he responds. Sam sighs but nods in agreement.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

They end up eating take out with Jeremy and Alaric and Rebekah in the kitchen, and then Sam finds out about the Gilbert journals and practically begs to see them. Jeremy and Alaric are only too happy to show him. Rebekah sneaks off to have some ‘real’ dinner, but only after promising Alaric that she won’t actually kill anyone.
Left to his own devices, Dean finds himself at Elena’s door. He knocks softly and waits until she tells him to come in to open the door. He steps in and the breath is knocked out of him. Her hair is damp and loose and she’s wearing nothing but a pair of tiny blue shorts and a white lace bra; her tattoo stands out against her tan skin. A blush works its way up her neck to stain her cheeks a sweet pink and he smirks. He can’t help it; every time she acts her age he falls a bit harder. And maybe that’s little fucked up, but it’s the vulnerable side of her that has him so fucked in head, not the scary, bloodthirsty succubus, even if she is hot as hell.
Before she can grab a shirt he steps up next to her and boldly traces the words on her ribs. Condemn or crown. She shivers into his touch. “What’s it mean?” he murmurs, his eyes on the words and the way his hand looks against her bare skin, which is silky smooth under his fingers (softer than he could ever imagine).
“It’s a reminder,” she tells him, “to never do anything halfway, especially not revenge. Either go into something whole-heartedly or don’t go into it all,” she explains, curiously still despite the line of goosebumps that follow his fingertips as they lazily trace the words.
“Condemn or crown your hatred,” he agrees and she nods at him.
“Exactly.” She steps backwards, away from him, to pull a tank top over her head, and he misses the silkiness of her skin. He frowns at her, all the signs point to her feeling the same about him, but she’s always pushing him away. She seems to read the question in his eyes because she sighs and sits on the end of her bed.
“I’m not the kind of person you want to be with, not really,” she tells him, staring at her reflection in the mirror. He can’t help it, he laughs.
“Baby, I’m pretty sure I’ve got you beat there,” he responds, amused. She looks at him sadly.
“Silly boy,” she murmurs tenderly and fuck, he can see it in her eyes; she wants him just as much as he wants her but she’s holding back for some stupid reason. “You’re a good guy, Dean, a hero, and I’m just not,” she explains, her voice full of self-loathing. He sits down next to her.
“I’m not a good person, but I think you are,” he says. “You care about your brother, and Alaric, and the Sheriff, even Katherine; although I’m not sure why,” he admits, hoping she’ll laugh. She does.
“If Klaus could bring them all back, I’d do anything he asked of me,” she tells him, her face drawn. “I’d kill, I’d become anything he asked me to be, just to get them back. I’d do it for anyone who could bring them back to life,” she says, desperate for him to understand. “Good people, good people wouldn’t do the things I’ve done and they certainly wouldn’t do the kinds of things I’d be willing to do to bring them back, even for the people they love.”
“Then maybe they just don’t love them enough,” he responds because, yeah, he gets it. If Sam and his dad were dead, he’d do whatever the fuck he had to do to bring them back. “Maybe being good is over-rated,” he offers. She smiles at him, a sad smile.
“I’m not going to change my mind,” she tells him. He frowns at her.
“I’m not going to change my mind,” he counters. He’s not, he wants this, he wants her. All of her, the ruthless seductress, the sad girl, the militant hunter, the brave woman, every version of her that there is. Maybe it was the vulnerable girl that he fell for, but he knows enough about people to know that you can’t just love the easiest parts of them; you have to love all of them, the good and the bad, the sad and the scary.
“You’re very stubborn,” Elena observes, a sardonic smile stretching across her mouth. He smiles at her cheekily.
“Yes I am, so really you should just give up now,” he cajoles. “I promise to make it worth your while,” he flirts, winking at her. She gives him a bitter smile.
“Trust me, you don’t want to be with someone like me,” she repeats. He meets her gaze challengingly.
“Really? Because I’m pretty sure I do, you’re exactly the kind of girl I want to be with,” he counters.
And then she smiles and says, “I’m not a girl, I’m a bloodstain,” with such conviction that it temporarily steals his breath away. “I’m a death sentence, and the closer you get, the faster you die.” Her tone is gentle yet her words are bitter, but Dean just laughs at her.
“I hunt supernatural creatures for a living, baby, I’ve already got my death sentence hanging over my head,” he tells her, but her face doesn’t change, she isn’t going to budge. Still, he doesn’t let that deter him, it might take him a while, and he has no clue what she plans to do after they kill Klaus, but he’s going to try with her, because he’s never felt like this about anyone ever, and he won’t lose that just because she’s scared.
It’s late and the conversation could go on forever, so instead he palms the back of her head and pulls her in for a kiss. It’s the first time he’s kissed her, and he won’t let it be the last. Despite her previous reluctance, she returns his kiss, her mouth soft and warm.
He pulls back and rests his forehead against hers. Her cheeks are flushed, her eyes are dark, and her lips are pink and swollen; she looks beautiful. Dean wants to kiss her again but he restrains himself and stands, kissing her forehead instead, inhaling the clean scent of her damp hair.
“Good night, Elena,” he says, walking out her door.
“Good night, Dean,” she responds.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The day passes slowly, everyone is too restless to sit still, and it shows. Alaric paces and mutters the plan to himself over and over again. In between, Jeremy argues his case, intent on being allowed to participate in the plan, but Alaric does not relent, and Elena won’t even hear him out. Sam is engrossed by the Gilbert journals, and manages to distract Alaric and Jeremy for short bursts of time by asking them questions about it all.
Rebekah makes backhanded comments about everything from the plan to Dean’s flannel shirt and keeps her eyes glued to Elena. Dean observes everyone, his eyes always flickering back to Elena. When Katherine arrives with the witches and werewolves in tow, even she is obviously agitated. She snaps at Rebekah several times for her rudeness – which is glorious only in its irony—but Elena skillfully diffuses the tension.
Elena is perhaps the only member of the group who is not anxious or jittery. She calmly sits, not reading nor talking except to break up Rebekah and Katherine’s fights, simply waiting. Her stillness is almost unnerving, her face eerily serene.
At last, the sun begins to dip low and the Sheriff and her deputies arrive. They go over the plan one last time, and then Elena goes upstairs to prepare. Without a word, Dean follows her, and no one questions it.
When he gets into her room she hardly spares him a glance, stripping off her shirt and skirt. Standing in a matching black lace bra and boy shorts, she surveys her closet.
“What does one wear to kill the man who killed you and most of the people you love?” she muses, and he can’t help but laugh. He sits on her bed and admires the view.
“I don’t know, jeans?” he replies distractedly. Elena scoffs and looks back at him pityingly.
“Oh you have so much to learn,” she says, shaking her head. He raises an enquiring eyebrow out her.
“Oh?” he asks. “Do I? By all means, educate me,” he teases. She gives him a devious smile and puts her hands on her hips.
“What is the most distracting thing about a woman to a man?” she asks him. He gives her an incredulous look, as she stands before him in her underwear.
She smiles, “precisely,” she enunciates. “It’s all about skin, with a vampire. The more skin they see, the more they think about blood, so the more skin I show, the more vulnerable I appear,” she explains and he’s shocked by her logic. She leans down until they’re eye to eye, her eyes dark and dangerous.
“The more vulnerable I appear, the more they let their guard down,” she tells him, her voice velvety, “and that, is when I go in for the kill.” She straightens and gives him an enticing smirk, turning back to her task.
Suddenly all of her short skirts and tight tank tops make sense. She isn’t just using sex appeal; she’s using vulnerability as a weapon. She’s become the perfect weapon, hidden in plain sight.
At last, she makes a decision, opening a draw to pull out a pair of socks. She perches on the bed next to Dean, rolling her socks on, long, black cotton thigh high socks. Then she stands again and pulls out a short, tight jean skirt. It sits low on her hips, revealing inches of lovely, smooth skin between the bottom of her skirt and the tops of her thigh highs. Then she pulls on a dark green V-neck shirt that stops just short of the waistband of her skirt.
She hums contentedly as she grabs her black boots of mystery and places them on a chair. She goes over to her black duffle full of weapons and selects a wooden stake, a syringe of wolfsbane, a syringe of vervain, a vial of blood, and the dagger she pulled from Rebekah’s back. She then goes back to her boots. She grabs them and sits next to Dean.
Smiling up at him she unzips her boots. “I figured you might want to see how I keep so many things in my boots,” she teases, clearly remembering their first meeting. He laughs and nods. Opening the side she shows him a series of pockets, all designed to hold various things, vials of blood, stakes, syringes, and there’s even one for her cellphone.
“That’s ridiculous,” he tells her, shaking his head. She grins and nods in agreement.
“It’s not like I have any room for weaponry in my micro-mini skirts,” she retorts.
He laughs. “That’s true, you don’t,” he agrees. She bumps his shoulder with hers playfully and then turns her attention back to her boots, putting the syringes and other weapons in their places. He frowns, realizing something.
“So is that how you wear your vervain?” he asks, gesturing to the syringe of the aforementioned herb.
She shakes her head, “No, that would be too risky; what if I need to use it on some wayward vampire?” she points out, and he nods in understanding. “It’s in here,” she says, lifting her wrist to show him the heart charm on her bracelet.
“Alaric gave it to me, it’s hollowed out and filled with vervain,” she explains. He touches the charm and nods in approval.
“That’s actually really clever,” he says, impressed.
“Alaric’s really good at those kinds of things, he invented the vervain and wolfsbane grenades,” she tells him and he laughs in delight. He likes the teacher, who is occasionally gruff but obviously very protective of Elena and her brother. He’s glad that she has someone like that in her life. It’s easy to think that she doesn’t need anyone to protect her when she’s always stomping around in her big black boots of mystery with her ruthless determination and ingenious plans, but she can’t do everything, and everyone needs someone to look out for them. Be it a retired History teacher or a smartass little brother.
She pulls on her boots one at a time, zipping them up. Standing, she looks at herself in the mirror, clearly satisfied with what she sees, she lifts her hand to take out her hair tie, her hair spilling down her back and framing her face.
“Perfect,” she murmurs, a satisfied smile pulling at her lips. Her eyes are unfocused, distracted. He can practically see her reciting the plan in her head. He wants all of her attention, even if just for a moment.
He gets off her bed to examine the pictures on her dresser and mirror.
There’s a picture of Elena wrapped around a beautiful blonde girl, the former wearing a vibrant blue gown, the latter, an equally vibrant green one, the blonde wearing a ‘Miss Mystic Falls’ sash over hers, and both girls wearing matching grins.
The blonde appears again, in a group photo, standing between Elena and a pretty black girl with dark green eyes and an infectious grin, a blonde boy next to Elena and a dark-haired boy with sharp cheekbones next to the pretty black girl. Arms are casually thrown over shoulders and wrapped around waists and it speaks of familiarity and easy friendship. The girls are in maroon cheerleading uniforms and the boys in football uniforms.
Elena and the pretty black girl at the beach in bathing suits, laughing, covered in sand, and Elena’s ribcage clear of the swirling script of her tattoo.
Elena in a straight-up Gone with the Wind-style dress, a handsome green-eyed boy in a period appropriate suit standing behind her with his arms around her waist.
Elena in the vibrant blue evening gown, dancing with the black-haired man he recognizes as Damon, an intense look of concentration on her face.
A family portrait, the four of them standing on a dock at a lake, this one not nearly as unnervingly perfect as the one downstairs, with their father’s sunburnt face, their mother’s messy hair, and the two siblings standing side by side with matching Cheshire grins, fully dressed and drenched from head to toe in water.
The next one is right outside on the porch swing, Jeremy and Elena seated on the ground, wrapped in a blanket, and Alaric sitting behind Elena with his arm wrapped around a pretty young woman with a vivacious grin on her face, who has her finger’s tangled in Jeremy’s hair.
A picture of Elena’s tenth birthday, as the banner so proclaims, sitting between her father and a fair-haired, pinched-faced man, the two men looking distinctly uncomfortable, but Elena is grinning from ear to ear, a smudge of icing on her cheek.
“Who’s who?” he asks, gesturing to the pictures. She smiles and begins.
She points to the blonde, “that was Caroline Forbes, the Sheriff’s daughter, head cheerleader, hop scotch champion, and eventual vampire.”
Her fingers trace the pretty black girl’s face, “this was Bonnie Bennett, witch, fierce cheerleader, and the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister.”
She touches the cheek of the blonde boy, “Matt Donovan, quarterback and all around good boy. Human, a dying breed in our circle,” she jokes.
Her fingers trace their linked arms until she reaches the boy on the other end, “Tyler Lockwood, the Mayor’s son, Werewolf, and town jackass with a secret heart of gold.”
Her fingers find the green-eyed boy in the next picture, “that’s Stefan Salvatore, Civil War era vampire, an excellent boyfriend, and a very reluctant dancer.”
She moves her hand to point at the dark-haired man, “and you’ve met Damon, his brother, but there he is again, saving the day, for once.”
She moves onto the family portrait, “my mom, Miranda and my dad, Grayson, and the adorable brat downstairs.”
Then to the picture taken on the porch, pointing to the vivacious woman, “that’s our Aunt Jenna, Mom’s kid sister.”
Lastly, her fingers seek out the picture from her tenth birthday party, pointing to the fair-haired man “and that’s my Uncle John, my dad’s younger brother. Or should I say my biological father? It’s all very confusing.”
He points to a picture of a dark-haired girl, half-hidden behind a newspaper clipping about Caroline winning Miss Mystic Falls. The picture is faded with time, but the girl looks strangely familiar to him. “Who is she?” he asks
Elena smiles at him—a strange, sad smile—and answers, “her name was Isobel, Isobel Flemming, she was my biological mother.”
He frowns at her use of past tense. “What happened to her?”
“The same thing that happened to the rest of them, she died.” The words slip off of her tongue bitterly.
“Was it Klaus?” he asks, already certain of the answer
“Who else?” she replies, her eyes locked on Isobel’s face. She swallows hard and turns to look at him.
“So now you’ve seen my little memorial, are you scared yet?” she questions, her mouth pursed into a teasing smirk, but her eyes tentative, like she’s expecting him to run. Dean Winchester doesn’t run when someone needs him.
“We’re from Kansas, Lawrence to be exact,” he tells her, ignoring her question. He figures since she’s shared so much of her life, he can at least tell her a little bit about his. Then maybe she’ll understand that he’s not going to run. He leans against her dresser, and after a moment, she leans against it too, her eyes on his face. He keeps his eyes fixed on the teddy bear propped on her bed. He’s not very good at talking about this sort of thing.
He tells her anyway.
When he finishes there is a profound silence that seems to stretch on forever. Just when he is afraid that he’s somehow scared her away, she takes his face in her hands and kisses him and all he can think is: finally.
He slides his fingers into her hair and pulls her closer. The sharp scent of vervain and the earthy smell of amber surround him and his world narrows to the girl in his arms. Eventually she pulls back for air, and he reluctantly lets her. Breathless he grins at her, “if I knew a sob story was such a turn on for you I would’ve told you all of that the day we met,” he quips and she rolls her eyes at him. Blindly he reaches for her hand, and she tangles their fingers together.
“Shut up, Dean,” she says affectionately. He grins impishly and leans his forehead against hers, his fingers absentmindedly playing with the charm he gave her on her bracelet. She smiles so softly at him that he can feel his heart swell and if it were any other girl he would have to kick his own ass for being so sappy.
Unwinding their fingers she raises her wrist, flashing the triskele charm at him, she smiles. “Dean Winchester,” she begins, “he’s this guy who doesn’t seem to understand that I can take care of myself, so him and his brother are always trying to save me. He flirts like he breathes, but he’s one of the best people I know. My favorite thing about Dean Winchester is how fast his heart beats when I’m standing too close,” she finishes, and he laughs breathlessly.
Of course she noticed. “You talk like a writer,” he tells her. She smiles again.
“I am a writer—or at least, I was. It’s been a while,” she responds, her smile tinged with sadness.
“You still are,” he tells her seriously. “I don’t think you stop being something just because you don’t do it for a while.”
She grips the edge of his shirt and pulls him down for another kiss and he goes willingly. He would sell his soul to spend the rest of his life kissing this girl.
With great reluctance she pulls away, “we have to go soon, they’re waiting, and this is one execution I won’t miss,” she tells him, a glint of cruelty shining in her dark eyes. Not for the first time he thanks the universe that that sliver of cruelty is not aimed at him.
“Can’t keep ‘em waiting, now can we,” he whispers, more intent on pulling her back into his arms, but she stops him with a firm hand to the chest.
“Dean,” she warns and he groans.
“One more,” he insists, holding up his finger, widening his eyes earnestly. She rolls her eyes and leans up to peck him on the lips, backing out of his embrace quickly.
“Hey!” he protests, catching her by the wrist before she gets out the door and spins her back into him, placing his hands on her face, tilting her head up to look into her dark eyes. He runs the tips of his fingers over her cheek, “you’re so…” he trails off, and she quirks her lips up humorously, amused as he takes in her lovely face. Beautiful, he thinks. “Frustrating,” he says.
She laughs low in her throat and leans into him, burying her face into his neck. She presses a kiss to his pulse point. He can feel her smile against his skin. “I know,” she whispers, her lips caressing his skin and making him shiver. Then she pulls out of his embrace and leaves the room. He has no choice but to follow her.

Chapter Text

"Nights avoiding things unholy

Your hand slips across my skin

I go down on you so slowly

Don't confess none of your sins

Have I lost my mind?

Have I lost my mind?

Follow me down to the river

Drink while the water is clean

Follow me down to the river tonight

I'll be down here on my knees…"

-The Pretty Reckless

"Follow Me Down"

Standing in the woods, it occurs to Dean that Elena might be crazy. It's not the first time he's had that particular thought, but it's the first that it seems to matter. Only a crazy person could come up with this kind of plan—the kind of plan where Elena is both bait and weapon.

She's definitely crazy—crazy enough to know that it will work.

The woods are dark and cold; every breath comes out in a white puff. Dean had realized a couple hours earlier that it's almost Christmas, only days away really. Idly he wonders if this is Elena's Christmas present to herself.

Merry Christmas, Elena, you get to kill the man who ruined your life, cherish the memories. It'll be over before you know it.

He has a syringe full of vervaine in his coat pocket, a stake in his hand, and he's leaning against a tree smeared with Elena's blood. There's a clearing in front of him, where Elena is waiting, blood leaking from her arm, and beyond that, Katherine is waiting with a syringe full of wolfsbane. She's hiding behind a tree smeared with Elena's blood too—they all are.

The smell of her blood overwhelms the scent of the witches, vampires, werewolves, and humans hiding in the forest. It's the perfect camouflage for hunting Klaus's minions. Since Elena is what Klaus came here for his minions are only focused on her. They haven't caught on to the fact that this is an ambush yet. They're dead before they even realize that they're not alone.

Elena is leaned casually against a tree across the clearing, staring out at the lake in front of her, there's a bridge nearby, the one they crossed when they came into town. The crunch of dead leaves and frost underfoot breaks the silence. Elena snaps to attention, meeting his eyes with hers. They both stand tense and silent, waiting.

"She's wounded, what did you do to her?" a man's accented voice accuses.

Dean looks to Elena and mouths, 'Klaus?' Elena nods, something akin to anticipation dawning on her face.

"I did nothing, she was injured when she killed that vampire you sent," Rebekah snaps. Part of it is true, Elena had killed the vampire, but he'd barely had time to touch her, let alone injure her. Elena did that to herself. It's all a part of her plan.

Klaus laughs.

"She's got fire," he says in an admiring tone.

"She's a bloody pest," Rebekah retorts. Klaus laughs again. "She's smeared blood on practically every tree in this bloody forest, how the hell are we supposed to find her?"

Dean holds his breath.

"She does have a heartbeat, little sister." Rebekah scoffs.

"These woods are crawling with your witches, one heartbeat sounds like every other heartbeat," she retorts. Klaus sighs in exasperation.

"Fine, we'll split up, I'll keep going ahead, and you go that way." Dean lets out the breath he's been holding. "Don't let her get away again."

"I won't." Rebekah's footsteps crunch away. Dean focuses on the sound of Klaus walking, circling the tree so that when Klaus steps into the clearing he doesn't see him, only Elena.

Elena is leaned against the tree, staring out at the lake, perfectly at ease. Dean can practically see Klaus's smirk when he spots her. She is all long lines and silken skin, blood splattered across bare skin from the seeping wound on her arm. The blood curls around her wrist in curving loops, like macabre bracelets, glinting bright as rubies under the pale moonlight. She wears her blood in a way that makes her look both terrible and beautiful. Elena turns her head forward to look at the hybrid, perfectly calm. Peering from behind the tree, he sees Klaus sweep his arms out dramatically.

"So all of this—and you don't even try to run when I find you," Klaus says. Elena just looks at him.

"I was waiting for you," she replies. Klaus's shoulders flinch imperceptibly, not the answer he was expecting.

"You could've waited for me at your house with my sister, you didn't need to make a big show of it and run off, I was coming for you," Klaus counters. Elena smiles at last, and Dean loses his breath, she's that beautiful.

"How else was I going to get you alone?"

"So that's what this is all about? Getting me alone?" Klaus asks. Elena nods.

"Of course, I've been planning this moment since the night you killed me," she tells him. Klaus goes incredibly still.

"So all the dead bodies, the messages delivered by half-starved vampires, all of that was for this?" he asks, curious. Elena smiles again, light and angelic. She's been nothing but sweet and soft since the moment he stepped into the clearing.

"Yes," she says simply.

"You're nothing like Katerina, are you?" He paces closer.

"What makes you say that?" She cocks her head to the side, curious.

"Katerina runs and runs and hopes that I'll never catch her, you flit and flirt and wait. You play games."

"Katherine plays games, just not with you," Elena says.

"Why not? I love games," he mocks. Elena smiles.

"Katherine doesn't want to die," she tells him. Klaus moves closer.

"And you do?"

"Sometimes."

There's rawness in her voice that makes Dean believe her.

Klaus changes the subject. "So, my Elena, what do you want with me?" he asks, wary but still relaxed. Elena is only human—a wounded human at that—and she hasn't so much as hinted at any ill intent towards him. He moves closer to her.

"Haven't you already figured that out?" she asks, evading the question. He laughs.

"No," he admits. She smiles in a way that makes her look like a fallen angel.

"I don't have anywhere else to go," she admits. "Everyone is dead, you're all that I have left."

"What about the school teacher and your brother?"

"I sent them away."

"Why would you do that?" The curiosity in Klaus's voice is palpable, he moves closer to her, now there is only a yard of space between them.

"Do you ever get tired of being death?" she asks him.

"No," he lies. She smiles as her eyes say liar.

"I do," she admits. "I get so tired." She stops. Klaus waits for her to continue, but she never does. He changes the subject.

"I hear the delightful Winchester boys are quite taken with you." Dean frowns. How the fuck does he know about him and Sam? "I wonder what it is about you Petrova women that attracts brothers." Surprise flickers across Elena's face. Klaus laughs. "Oh don't look so surprised, sweetheart, I know everything."

"They're nobodies," she lies for the first time since he stepped into the clearing. "Pests who want to save me." She sneers, a tremble in her lower lip, anger lurking. She's a breathtaking actress, convincing in the most horrible way.

"And you don't want their saving?" Klaus enquires, idly stepping forward, his hands clasped behind his back, looking for all the world like a proper gentleman instead of the devil himself. Elena smiles, and if Klaus is the devil then Elena is a siren, luring men to their deaths with nothing but the sound of her voice and those dark, dark eyes.

"I don't need to be saved, I'm right where I want to be." Klaus is right where she wants him, playing a game he doesn't know the rules to and he's none the wiser. Why be afraid when you're the strongest player in the game? Why be afraid when your opponent is a bleeding girl, a ghost of dead-lovers?

That is precisely the moment to be afraid; the weakest player has nothing to lose.

The last remaining tension in Klaus's shoulders drains away and he is perfectly at ease. He gestures towards the bridge.

"What a strange place you picked for this moment," he observes. Elena looks at him, curious but contained, always contained.

"Is it?" she wonders.

"Isn't that where your parents died?" he enquires, but it's clear he already knows that, Dean does not. He knows that her parents died in a car accident, but he never guessed that she would pick that place. In a way, it might be fitting, the bridge is the beginning of her sorrow, and if her plan works out, it will be the end.

"I died there too," she whispers. Klaus stills.

"I was there when you died, love, that's quite a few miles from here," he reminds her candidly. She smiles at him, still relaxed against her tree, ignoring the drip, drip, drip, of her blood hitting the ground.

"People die more than once, people die before their hearts stop beating all the time, you should know that," she chastises. "Living dead boy," she calls him, reminding him that he is neither dead nor alive and that he is both dead and alive all at once. He laughs.

"Yes, how true," he agrees. He's moved closer, there's barely a foot of space between them.

"Are you here to kill me?" she asks, looking up at him through her lashes, looking impossibly young and lovely.

"No, no I don't think I am." He sounds thoughtful. "I doubt your continued life is why my hybrid making attempts have all ended so disastrously, so until I know what I need I will keep you with me, safe."

Safe has never sounded more like a threat. Elena raises her chin, the corners of her mouth quirking up in strange delight.

"How awful for you," she says, lingering on her last word before continuing. "Knowing how you prefer blondes and all," she quips. He tosses his head back and laughs.

"Oh yes, how horrible," he says when he can speak again. "I shall simply have to bear it," he says solemnly. Elena nods in serious agreement. "Don't worry darling, it won't be a burden at all. We both know you're exactly my type."

Elena laughs a laugh that lingers between her bubbling giggle and her bitter laugh—Dean doesn't know if it's real or not. She's blurring lines with deliberate ease, erasing the difference between truth and lie, smearing the horizon between enemy and lover, easing Klaus closer. In this moment, she is at her most mesmerizing, when lies and truths and enemies and lovers are all one and the same.

"Yes, I suppose I am," Elena agrees sedately. Klaus closes that final distance between the two, there is hardly a breath of air between the two and Dean can only see part of her face over his shoulder—an eye, her cheek, part of her nose, the corner of her mouth.

It occurs to him then that Klaus has known her face for a thousand years, has loved her face and worshipped her body. Elena knows that, and she's turned it into a weapon. She's weaponized her body, sharpened her features until a man would cut his fingers if he dared to cup her face between his hands.

Klaus doesn't raise his hands to touch that beloved face, but he drags fingers down her arm and through the blood leaking from her wound, licking the blood from his fingertips. Elena lets out an amused huff of air.

"Delicious," he purrs. Elena rolls her eyes.

"You would know," she deadpans and Dean actively has to hold back a snort of laughter. Klaus doesn't hold back, tossing his head back, he laughs in utter delight. Elena has him completely charmed.

Out of thin air there is a hand touched to Dean's arm, barely felt through his coat. Dean turns his head; it's Rebekah, ready for the next part of the plan. She's pressed close to him, hidden behind his body. The grimace on her face clearly announces her displeasure at being so close to him. He rolls his eyes and cants his head towards the woods. She nods, they are alone. The only people still wandering the woods are their own; everyone else had been slaughtered.

Together, they turn back towards the hybrid and the doppelganger. Listening and waiting for the perfect moment to set the next part of Elena's plan into action. The space between Elena's body and her murderer's is non-existent; every breath presses breasts to chest. This is where Elena thrives, in the press of bodies, the suffocating closeness that mimics intimacy. Elena is always intimate when she goes in for the kill, and this time is no exception.

Rebekah shivers, and Dean looks at her. Her lip is tucked between her teeth. There is a flash of guilt and doubt in her eyes before she releases her lip and clenches her teeth, resolved. Dean couldn't do to his brother what she is about to do to hers, but—

But there isn't a thousand years of betrayal and disillusionment between Sam and Dean. Sam has never killed someone that he loves, has never taken their family from him. He hasn't lived Rebekah's life so he can't say what he would in her position. He turns back to watch the pair in the clearing.

Klaus sweeps Elena's hair back, revealing the graceful curve of her throat, traces the silvery scar of teeth that mar the otherwise flawless expanse of skin. It's a kiss from a lover yet realized—and Dean can see it then, how desperately Klaus wants her in this moment. Elena sees it too, and the curve of that insidious smile rests at the corners of her mouth. She reigns herself in, barely.

"Nice girl, by the way—your sister," she says, her fingers cupped to his elbow, tracing patterns. She looks up at him with raised eyebrows. Klaus snorts.

"Rebekah can be a bit—temperamental," he allows. Elena laughs outright at that.

"What a glorious understatement," she drawls. Pressed against his back, Rebekah is uncharacteristically restrained; the only sign of her displeasure is a slight flare to her nostrils. "Funny though, because I could've sworn Elijah said all your siblings were dead." Elena quirks an inquisitive eyebrow and Klaus twirls his fingers into the silky length of her hair, his head dipped to the side in contemplation.

Dean realizes there is more to this story than he knows. She's never mentioned that she knows any of Klaus's siblings besides Rebekah, but here she is, speaking of Elijah in a comfortable tone, blatant affection for the man apparent in her voice.

"In a manner of speaking, they are dead," he agrees. Elena scoffs.

"I suppose there are all different kinds of meaning hidden in that statement," she teases. Klaus dips his head in acknowledgement.

"They are safe, waiting for a time when I deem it appropriate to wake them," he says simply.

"Safe?" Elena echoes, her fingers tracing infinity signs on the fabric of his shirt.

"Yes, safe in a warehouse far away. Why, are you worried for your dear Elijah?" he asks, sounding forcefully lighthearted.

"No," Elena says with a light shrug, looking down at her idling fingers. "He's with his family, just as he wanted," she says, her lips quirk up mockingly, something unforgiving in her voice. Yes, she is clearly fond of Elijah, but there is something more to the story, something like betrayal and a dagger to the back. Klaus laughs at her statement.

"He is," he agrees. "What would he say if he could see you now?" he mocks. Elena laughs.

"He'd say 'run Elena, run as fast as you can'," she guesses. Klaus trails idle fingers along her jawline; unaware of the razor's edge he's skating.

"Why don't you run then, lovely Elena?" he challenges. Elena smiles and meets it.

"I don't run." Klaus is closer now, his head bent down towards hers, close enough to taste, close enough to kiss, only a breath between the press of mouth on mouth. For the first time since Klaus stepped into the circle, Elena looks at Dean, and Rebekah recognizes her cue. She snags the sleeve of Dean's jacket, dragging him out into the clearing. Her free hand wrestles the stake from his.

"Look what I found, brother," she coos, sneering at him. Dean struggles against her iron grip, the frown on his face very real. Klaus turns from Elena, his hand dropping from her face, his face a mask of impatience.

Behind him, Dean can see Katherine creeping closer; almost pressed to the tree Elena is leaning on.

"What's this, trouble?" Klaus asks, eyeing Dean with distaste, unaware of Katherine. Elena looks at him impassively, only the twitch of her fingers as they slide away from Klaus's elbow gives away her excitement.

"What are you doing here?" Elena asks Dean dully. Her disinterest is feigned but feels intensely real. He doesn't answer, his part isn't a speaking role, and he knows better than to diverge from Elena's script. He feels Rebekah's fingers ease into his coat pocket, closing around the syringe waiting there.

"I do believe the lady asked you a question, perhaps you'd like to answer it?" Klaus asks. There is still barely space between the two, and he seems reluctant to move away from her. It hasn't taken Elena very long to entangle him, but perhaps this is only the short-term game, maybe she began twisting him around her nimble fingers months ago with teasing messages and desiccated corpses. It's a twisted game she's playing.

Dean doesn't respond again, and before Klaus can move from Elena's side Katherine is there, pulling the needle of her empty syringe from his neck, devious delight written all over her face. Klaus convulses, turns to see his assailant in the same breath that Rebekah injects the vervaine into the other side of his neck. He lets out a strangled gasp and slumps against Elena.

Elena brushes soothing fingers over his face, smearing it with her blood, as she makes comforting shushing sounds. "Shhh, it's all right, sh-sh-shhh, it will all be okay," she murmurs tenderly, stroking back his golden curls.

"Did you?" Klaus accuses, grasping at her waist weakly. Elena smiles tenderly, the Madonna alive, and nods her head.

"Good night, Niklaus," she whispers, her fingers fisted into the hair at the back of his head. Before he has a chance to fully grasp her betrayal, she breaks his neck. His body falls to rest at her feet, her blood painted across his lifeless features.

Alaric shuffles up behind them, the rest of their party close on his heels. He grins.

"I taught her that," he crows with fatherly pride. Dean laughs as Sam comes to stand at his side. There's a bruise forming on his cheek and a leaf in his hair, but otherwise he is no worse for wear. The rest of the group is in a similar state, a deputy clutches his arm to his chest, Jules is bleeding from a gash on her head, but that is the worst of it.

Katherine nips at her wrist and offers it to Elena. Elena frowns but takes the proffered wrist. Her mouth closes around the wound and she drinks, her injury healing right before their eyes. Katherine runs tender fingers through Elena's hair, smiling affectionately at the girl. Elena unlatches her mouth from the uninjured wrist and wipes blood from the corner of her mouth. Katherine grabs her wrist in turn and licks all the blood of her arm while Elena giggles at the sensation. It's gross in a way, but why should the blood go to waste?

"Delicious," Katherine purrs and Elena giggles again.

"Dork," Elena calls her. Now that it's over, she is clearly shaking from the cold, under-dressed for the weather. Dean shrugs out of his jacket and offers it to her and she takes it gratefully. It positively swamps her and she looks adorable. Elena smiles up at him, triumph shining in her eyes. He wants to kiss her, but Rebekah interrupts the moment.

"While this is all well and good, my brother never actually said which warehouse he's keeping our brothers in. You broke your promise," she accuses. Elena rolls her eyes and turns to face the blonde.

"He didn't need to say, as soon as he told me he was keeping them in a warehouse, I realized I already know where they are," she says, smirking. Rebekah gapes at her, shocked.

"And how exactly do you know that?" she questions, recovering her voice. Elena smiles and slips her phone from her boot.

"I had a rather interesting experience in a warehouse in Chicago," she tells her, searching through her phone for something. She looks up for a moment to address Dean, "I'm sure you remember it," she teases. He laughs and nods. How could he forget? It was the only time he's ever actually seen her fight anyone, and hopefully the last. It was kind of terrifying.

"Anyway, I went back to make sure there wasn't any evidence of me being there, and stumbled across something pretty interesting." She's found whatever she's looking for on her phone. "I wasn't sure of what it was until now." She shrugs. Holding out her phone to Rebekah she shows her a picture of a coffin with a stylized M on the lid. "Recognize it?" Elena asks.

Rebekah nods. "Very well," she replies. "Chicago, that makes sense. Nik always did love Chicago," she says to herself. Elena laughs.

"Why do you think I was there in the first place? I was tailing him."

"Do you happen to have an address?" Rebekah demands. Elena smirks and nods. Taking her phone back she sends a text message.

"There you go, I just sent it to you," she says, slipping her phone back into her boot. She turns to Alaric. "You should head home and get Jeremy, I promised he could be there for the finale." He nods and heads out of the woods. Elena turns to address everyone else.

"We should get moving, he won't stay down for long." Everyone nods. As a unit, they begin to follow behind Alaric. Katherine and Brady hoist Klaus's body between them and bring up the rear. Curious, Rebekah asks a question.

"What exactly happened to you in that warehouse in Chicago?"

Elena pauses. Dean holds his breath, wondering what she'll say.

"A crazed serial killer tried to kill me but instead I kicked his ass and cut off his head," she replies casually. Sam quietly snickers while Dean laughs out loud. Elena looks at him and smiles affectionately.

"That's my girl," Katherine says with an amused grin.

"Huh," Rebekah responds. Perhaps she underestimated the girl.

~*~*~*~*~*

By the time Klaus comes to, the ritual is well underway. Already, the witches have spelled the tomb. He cannot escape. The ritual they are performing is a new invention, layering and mixing blood rituals to create an elaborate hybrid spell, one that will hold him indefinitely.

"What are you doing?" he croaks, sprawled across the dirt of the floor just within the tomb. Elena wants him to watch, to be aware of what is being done to him. The vampires had gone first. Rebekah and Katherine spilled blood into an iron pot, binding his vampire side to the tomb. The werewolves went next. Brady and Jules spilled their blood to bind his werewolf side to the tomb. He woke up just as the witches, Lucy and Gloria, were spilling their own blood.

Elena looks over at him and smiles that deadly insidious smile she had hidden from him earlier. Dean is standing next to her; he can see the way her eyes dance with glee in the firelight. He thinks back to the first time he'd seen her and thought of her as a goddess. She has never looked more like one than in this moment, gleaming with triumph.

"Sending you to hell," she replies. She turns back to the ritual. They stand in a circle, blood boiling in a pot at its center. The witches complete their binding, preventing any witch but witches of their bloodlines from undoing the binding. Next they call the humans into the circle.

The spell requires more humans, human blood can sustain an entire race of beings, but it isn't high in magical properties. Sam, Dean, Jeremy, Liz, and Alaric present their wrists. Blood of humans who are also supernatural hunters has a certain kick to it.

That part complete, Rebekah steps in, family blood to damn him. She had given as a vampire first and now she is giving as his kin, demanding that only a member of their family as well as witches from Gloria and Lucy's bloodlines be able to undo the spell.

Finally, as one, Elena and Katherine step into the circle, to seal the spell and bind the hybrid's fate to the doppelganger once more. In the end, even if someone gathered all the necessary blood for the ritual, it would be useless without the blood of the doppelganger.

Once, the blood of a Petrova girl had been used to trap him in his own skin. Once, the blood of a Petrova girl had been used to unleash him on the world. Now two Petrova girls willingly trap him again, this time in his own personal hell.

The ritual complete, Elena makes eye contact with Klaus, and smiles at him serenely. He's sitting up now, leaned against the wall of the tomb.

"You're going to desiccate in there. You're going to feel your veins rub against each other like sandpaper. And one day, you will be so dry you won't even be capable of moving. You will be a living mummy," she tells him, her voice soft and sweet as honey. He trembles with rage as he stands, trying to hide his terror. He sneers and addresses his sister.

"Little Elena Gilbert is my undoing, who would've thought?" he quips, rage burning in his eyes. Rebekah is stone.

"You should not have killed them, brother. You created a monster," she says, eyes cold. He laughs dryly.

"And you helped her, because I killed your precious Stefan, am I right?" he asks, forging on before she can reply. "Another knife in my back, funny how they all bear the family name on the hilt." He sneers again. Rebekah is unrepentant.

"You should not have killed him, brother. You gave the monster a knife." With that, she turns away from her brother. He fixes his hateful eyes back on Elena.

"Let me out, Elena, and I won't slaughter everyone you love," he spits. Elena smiles with dark humor.

"Haven't we already been there, done that?" she quips. He bares his teeth at her, feral.

"Make them undo the bloody spell!" he demands, beating his hands against the border spell. Elena is unmoved by his theatrics.

"No," she says simply. He beats against the boundary of his cage uselessly before he falls to his knees, tears leaking out of the corner of his eyes and spittle coating his chin.

"So this is what you meant when you said you'd been planning this night since I killed you?" he asks, his voice soft, almost defeated. Elena smiles, and it's all the answer he needs.

"Enjoy hell," she says. Jules and Katherine move the tomb's door into place and the witches paint the binding rituals in blood, chanting. The spell is complete, with an extra kick that will repel any potential prey from this place. The tomb is sealed. As long as the spell is in place, Klaus will rot in his own personal hell, alone in the dark.

Elena had only explained the extent of her plan to them the night before; the residual shiver of its cruelty still rested in their spines. Elena is the first to move. She leans against Dean's side, her face content. He smiles and throws an arm around her shoulders, pressing a kiss to the side of her head.

Rebekah looks at her brother's tomb at last.

"How long am I supposed to leave him there?" she croaks, not as unaffected as she had appeared before. Knowing that he can still hear them, Elena makes sure her answer is precise.

"He's serving sentences for his sins, and I suppose since we have been his jury and his judge, then we also have the right to decide how many years he will serve for the crimes he has committed," she responds. Turning so that she is facing into the circle again, she begins.

"I sentence him to five hundred years, the amount of time Katherine spent running from him, and to one hundred and seventy two years for Damon." Elena turns to look at Dean beside her, indicating that he should go next. He thinks for a moment.

"I sentence him to the length of Elena's lifetime, for all the years she will have to live without the ones she loves," he says at last. He turns to Liz beside him. Her answer is instantaneous.

"I sentence him to the rest of my lifetime, a lifetime I should've spent with my daughter, my Caroline." She turns to Katherine. Katherine pauses long enough that Rebekah grows impatient.

"Get on with it!" she snaps. Katherine rolls her eyes but complies.

"I sentence him to nineteen years, the length of time that Tatia lived before she lost her life because of him, I sentence him to the lifetime I should've had with my daughter." She pokes Jeremy in the ribs. "Your turn little Gilbert." He swats at her hand but complies.

"I sentence him to seventeen years for Matt and seventeen years for Bonnie, for the lives he cut short." He looks at Alaric beside him.

"I sentence him to thirty years, for Jenna's lifetime that he cut short," he says, his voice husky with grief. Brady is beside him but he declines a sentencing, he doesn't have any grudges toward the hybrid, he's just here to please Katherine. Lucy, who is beside him, is not as merciful.

"I sentence him to a thousand years, the length of time witches of my bloodline have been fixing his and his vampires' mistakes, and for the ones who lost their lives in the battle against him." Her voice is strong and clear as she condemns him. To everyone's surprise, Jules does have a sentencing.

"I sentence him to seventeen years, for Tyler," she says, adding quietly, "He was just a kid." Gloria clears her throat and speaks with no hesitancy in her voice.

"I sentence him to one thousand years, for all the witches he killed, brutalized, and blackmailed during his wretched life." Sam stares at the fire for a long time, but he speaks.

"I sentence him to the lifetime of every person he has ever killed," he says. When no one else speaks to sentence him, Rebekah sniffs back the sting of tears and nods her head, ready to condemn her brother for the final time.

"I sentence him to one hundred and sixty five years for Stefan, and to all of the combined years that he kept my brothers and I daggered."

"How many years is that?" Dean asks. Rebekah looks at him.

"A very long time," she says. "Some of us only served decades, others?" She shrugs. "Centuries."

Everyone has done their sentencing, so Elena finishes it for them.

"So it is done and he shall serve every day, year, decade, and century for the crimes he committed," she intones, her speech unusually formal, but appropriate for all intents and purposes. Rebekah sniffs again, a tear leaking out of the corner of her eye. She goes from condemning to unsure in a matter of seconds.

"So that's just it, I'm supposed to leave him there?" she snaps at Elena, glaring. Elena stares her down.

"Yes," she says simply.

"How am I even supposed to know how long I'm supposed to wait until I open it? There were an awful lot of 'lifetimes' thrown around, how can I be sure?" She sounds surly, but Elena doesn't let that annoy her.

"Find the average lifetime for each time period," she suggests, shrugging. The purpose of the sentencing hadn't been to give her an exact date that she could release her brother, it was to emphasize that he would be in there for a very long time.

"That's an awful lot of math," Rebekah growls, deliberately contrary.

"Buy a calculator," Elena deadpans.

"You're insufferable," Rebekah hisses. Elena smiles, still comfortably tucked into Dean's side.

"Yes, I am," she says simply. Rebekah stomps out of the clearing intent on getting away from the doppelganger. Elena stops her.

"Rebekah?" she calls. Reluctantly, the blonde stops at the crumbling stairs up to the surface and turns back to look at Elena. "Don't open it," she says flatly. Rebekah nods tersely. Unsatisfied with the girl's response, Elena tries to drive her point home.

"If I have to come back from the dead just to kill you, I will be very upset."

Rebekah laughs, the ire draining from her body. "I swear on my honor as an original that I will not open that tomb, not for several millennia," she promises. Elena nods, satisfied. With one last look, the original leaves them.

~*~*~*~*~*

It's New Years Eve when Dean finds Elena in the Salvatore Boarding House. Katherine left the day after the ritual. She wanted to stay longer, but the witches and werewolves were chomping at the bits to get home—to get away from Mystic Falls really. Since she was heading to Chicago to drop off Gloria, she ended up giving Rebekah a ride. A recipe for disaster if there ever was one.

The Winchesters stayed. Dean was worried about Elena, and that worry grew with every passing day. She withdrew into herself, becoming more and more taciturn and brooding. If she was terrifying and stoic before now she is unnerving and distant. As far as Dean can tell, she hasn't slept since it happened. It's beginning to show.

Her skin is swallow, her lips cracked; she's shrunken in on herself. She has half-moons imprinted under her eyes and a restless jittering in her limbs. She looks not unlike Brady, except there is no fear in her bones. She is unafraid, but scattering into pieces.

She looks ghostly now, frail almost. It's as if the life is slowly draining from her body. It's almost as if she had only been alive to complete her mission, to destroy Klaus as he destroyed her and so many others. Now that she has finished, she is listless and restless all at once. She's falling apart.

The worst part is, she won't let anyone in. She slips out before anyone is awake, wandering the town until it gets dark. She is kind enough to come home then, so no one will worry. Before, there was never any doubt that she could take care of herself, but now she is so distracted, so far into her head, who knows what could happen to her.

They're all worried, Dean, Sam, Jeremy, Alaric, the sheriff. She keeps her distance though. Answers their concerns with vague smiles when she can't escape. She tells them she's tired. It's not a lie, but she'd be less tired if she actually slept.

It's the breaking point; she didn't come home the night before. Frantic with worry, they search the town. Dean is the one to think of the Boarding House. He gets directions from a surly lady at the local bar.

It's a beautiful house, big and old and stately. He finds her in the first living room he comes to. She's curled on the couch, staring into the fire she must've lit, wearing the sweater and jeans she left in the day before, Damon's jacket abandoned on an end table beside her. She rolls something between her fingers.

"Elena?" he says, approaching her carefully. She isn't easily startled, not even with her recent distraction, but just because she is on the edge of what looks like a breakdown, doesn't mean she isn't dangerous.

He is afraid of her. Who wouldn't be?

She doesn't respond to him, just rolls the object between her fingers and stares. He hesitantly sits beside her. He can see what she's playing with now. It's a ring, a big, gaudy thing. It's blue with silver detailing. Her fingers twirl it around and around, tracing the S engraved at the center of it. Her hands move quickly, repeating the motion again and again. He keeps expecting her hands to stumble, the ring to drop, anything but the continuous motion of the ring twirling between her nimble fingers. She never fumbles.

"It didn't make it go away," she says suddenly, breaking the silence. She clamps her hands around the ring and turns her head to look at him. Her dark eyes are almost wild, on the brink of madness. It's terrifying.

"It didn't make what go away?" he asks gently. She gnaws on her lower lip, already torn and bloody from what he suspects was an endless night of contemplation. There is an idea rolling around in her head, eating away at her insides. He's glad she's willing to share it with him at last.

"I always knew it wasn't going to bring them back," she continues as if he hadn't spoken, "but I thought- I dunno, I thought it would help." She blinks back tears, her face tight with pain.

"Help what?" he coaxes gently. She holds his gaze.

"The guilt. I thought it would make it go away. I knew I could never bring them back, but I thought if I hurt him, if I hurt him like he hurt them, then I'd stop feeling so guilty." She's breathing hard and tears are coming fast. Cautiously, he moves closer. She doesn't move away, so he slowly puts his arm around her shoulder. She sags against him, sobbing. Her fingers are clenched around the ring, tucked between her knees.

He runs his free hand through her hair, soothing her as best he can.

"It's my fault, it's all my fault, they're dead because of me," she sobs. He shakes his head.

"No it's not," he insists firmly. She looks up at him. She doesn't believe him.

"Of course it is, they would've lived if it weren't for me," she says with absolute belief. "I'm the doppelganger, all I brought them was death and destruction."

He grasps her face in her hands. There is no sharpness in her features anymore, but she is brittle, falling to pieces in his grasp. He does his best to hold her together.

"You didn't choose to be the doppelganger and you didn't kill them," he tells her. "This is not your fault."

She shakes her head, but he can see it in her eyes, she wants to believe him. He presses a kiss to her forehead.

"One day, you'll believe me," he promises. She rests her forehead on his shoulder. At last her hands open. Her palms are imprinted with the design on the ring. The S is sloppily stamped on the center of her right palm. She's been marked. The ring rests innocently in her shaking hands.

"Who did it belong to?" he asks. She doesn't pretend that she doesn't know what he's talking about. She sits up, pulling out of his embrace.

"This one was Damon's," she tells him, turning it over in her fingers.

"I gave Stefan's to Rebekah, and Liz has Caroline's." She wipes the tears from her face with her sleeve. She straightens her spine and clenches her jaw, and for a second she looks formidable again. The kind of girl you don't want to meet in a dark alley, no matter how beautiful she is. She closes her fingers around the ring again.

"None of them would want you to torture yourself like this," he tells her gently. He didn't know any of them, but it doesn't mean he isn't right. She looks at him with that dead-eyed stare that sends shivers down his spine every time.

"What does it matter? They're dead." Her voice is soft, calm, cold. He doesn't buy it for a second.

"Doesn't change the fact that not a single one of them would want you to blame yourself for something you had no control over." He is stern in his delivery, knowing that with this version of Elena there can be no weakness. She nods her head, placating him halfheartedly. She's pulling away again.

She stands up and walks over to a collection of alcohol in beautiful crystal bottles. She places the ring next to a particularly stunning bottle full of amber liquid. Then she turns back to look at him with intent in her eyes. He stands up too, anticipating something, but not entirely aware of what it might be.

"You and Sam should go now," she says, shocking him. "You have things to do, people to save." She smiles wryly. He starts to protest but she cuts him off.

"I'm going to be fine, Dean," she tells him; there is conviction in her voice. "But I'm gonna have to be fine on my own."

He understands what she means right away. Part of him wants to fight her. The other part knows she is right.

"You don't even know who I am without Klaus hanging over my head. I don't even know who I am without him anymore. Which is massively fucked up, if you think about it too much. I need to figure out who I am. I need to forgive myself and find a way to move on with my life. I held onto him so tightly because he was someone to blame—the right someone to blame, but still.

"I held on because it meant that I didn't have to grieve for all the people I lost. I didn't have time for grief because I was so consumed with hatred. That's why I held onto it so tightly in the first place. The anger gave me something to hold onto while I was drowning in the pain, in the guilt. It twisted me though, turned me into someone I don't know. I have to remember what it's like to be that girl who loved so deeply. She was a good girl, and I know I can never have her back, but maybe I can find a way to bring that part of her with me while I figure out who I am now.

"In some ways, that was the worst part of her—the way she loved. It was the worst part of me, the most reckless, breakable part. It was my fatal flaw, the thing that made me easy to hurt and to destroy. It was also the best part of me." She stops suddenly, cutting herself off. She looks at him, and waits for him to speak.

She looks like she expects a fight. He wants to fight her on this, wants to be there for her, be with her. But—

This is the hardest thing he's done in a while. She's right, though. This is her journey.

"Okay," he says. She looks relieved for a second before another tear slips down her tired face. She swipes it away and nods her head.

"Okay," she repeats. He crosses the distance between them, until there are only centimeters between them. He touches her face, slowly, softly, memorizing the feel of it. She rolls her eyes at him, understanding what he isn't saying. He hasn't said much anyway.

"You'll find me again," she promises. "The universe is trying to tell us something, remember?" he laughs and nods in agreement. He kisses her one more time, soft and long and slow.

Then he walks away. She stops him at the door.

"Thank you, Dean," she says. He looks at her.

"For what?" She smiles.

"For being there even when I didn't think I needed you, especially then." He smiles, doesn't tell her she's welcome. He turns back towards the door and leaves.

~*~*~*~*~*

This isn't the end of their story—it's the beginning. He finds her again at Duke University three years later. He looks up and there she is, across the quad, smiling and beautiful.

He isn't looking for her, but he finds her anyway.