(mystic falls, virginia: 1864)
"You realize that she will be leaving us soon."
"That fact has crossed my mind, of course."
Katherine walks in the garden before them as the midsummer sun sets, her dress swaying with her movements. Even in the heat, she appears not to be overwhelmed, Stefan thinks, and turns his attention back to Damon.
"You don't exactly seem bothered by it," Damon says.
"Don't misunderstand my words, Damon. I care very deeply for her."
"As do I, brother. But it seems, as with most things involving Katherine, the choice is not ours."
They stare out over the property when Miss Pierce's laugh reaches them both - an innocent scale of notes, provoked by something uttered by her maid. Stefan sighs, brows knitting together, expression unreadable. In that moment, Katherine looks to him from her place standing in the garden, her lips twisting into a slow smile as she bends low, reaching to adjust the hem of her skirt. Damon glances between them, blue eyes narrowing.
"But don't presume to think that you have any greater of a chance than I do," he mutters, before disappearing inside.
(rome, italy: 1928)
"You're hopeless, Stefan Salvatore!"
The summer air is warm on his skin, and his eyes dart around, searching for anyone who might happen to come upon them. It's easy to look anywhere but at Alexandra, long blonde hair flowing loose from her braid as she stands at the edge of the fountain, peeling each of her stockings off one at a time. When his gaze finally lands on her, deliberately locking on her face, she responds with a pout, lower lip sticking out all too dramatically.
"You promised," she whines, throwing one of her stockings at his head. He dodges to avoid the harmless projectile of silk and retaliates with a shove, barely hard enough to send her toppling in - but she overplays it, arms wildly windmilling as she practically jumps in herself with a loud scream. He listens for footsteps, for the sound of the polizia's footsteps on the cobblestone, but hears nothing. Alexandra resurfaces, blinking water out of her eyes.
"Well, now you've gone and gotten my dress all wet," she teases, sticking her tongue out at him. One thing he's learned to expect with Alexandra: she's never been concerned about being perceived as a lady.
"My sincerest apologies," Stefan replies, smirking.
In the span of a blink, she hoists herself out of the fountain, pretending to be angry, and stalks over to him, brushing wet pieces of hair out of her face.
"You promised, because I am your closest friend, that you would jump into the fountain, on your birthday," and here her smirk starts to match his, which unnerves him thoroughly, "naked."
As if by some divine intervention, the Old Town Clock chimes, announcing the midnight hour, and Alexandra snaps her fingers, crowing happily.
"Everything," she murmurs. "A promise is a promise. You've got no chance of opposing me now."
Stefan sighs, shoulders slumping, and lowers his hands to his trousers.
(mystic falls, virginia: 2010)
He closes his eyes.
It smells like death in the tomb, death and rot. No noises. No breathing. No need for it. Not even a simple sign of life. He almost expects to hear rats, but then remembers - if there were any, Katherine would have gotten to them long before now.
He can sense her somewhere behind him, but there are no sounds of her presence, nothing to announce her until she's standing right in front of him, glowing with newly consumed Gilbert blood and looking entirely too pleased with herself.
"Well, I guess it's just you and me, Stefan," she says. He tries not to flinch too obviously when she rests her hand against his chest.
"For now," he evenly replies.
"I know you and Damon have a knack for making idiotic decisions, but this might just take the cake." Katherine chuckles, withdrawing and crossing to a place she's made for herself in the corner, curling up on rock and dirt. "Just face it already. You need to let me go if you're going to have any hope of making it out of this place yourself."
"That's not going to happen, Katherine, and you know it."
"Do you think you can stop me? I've fed now, Stefan. I'm just as strong as you are. Maybe even stronger. And you know who's bound to get weaker first the longer we stay trapped down here," she adds in sing-song, foot idly dangling over the side of the rock beneath her.
Stefan doesn't say a word. He finds a place to sit where he doesn't have to have her in his vision, have her filling his senses and reminding him all too strongly of the doppelganger that lives on the other side, the one he can't protect himself.
"There's no chance for you," Katherine whispers.
He stares into the dark.
"That's where you're wrong."