Everyone reacts differently when they meet you and your sister for the first time.
Some blink. Some laugh. Some do cartoonish double takes.
You've seen it all before.
But the way Stefan looks at you, at her, it's as if the whole concept itself is brand new.
There's something hidden behind his eyes, though you don't really know him that well, you can see it. A well guarded secret you'll probably never learn. Taking in the two of you, noticing that, except for the slight curl to her hair and taste in fashion, she's your spitting image.
“Katherine,” she says, offering a hand.
Stefan's not so shocked as to be rude, shaking it kindly and introducing himself. You almost sigh at the sight. Knowing the look, knowing how she gets. Taking a breath, you count to ten and put on your best smile.
Katherine loops her arm through yours on the walk home.
“You've been keeping secrets,” she says in a non-accusatory way.
“What are you talking about?”
“Tall, dark, and handsome? You were planning on keeping him all to yourself, weren't you?”
Lips press into a thin line, you try to walk a little faster but she just pulls until you stop.
“I barely know him. We met just the other day.”
“Let me guess,” she says, tilting her head up toward the afternoon sun. “In that creepy old cemetery while gathering your thoughts.”
It's an old trick, being able to read each others mind, you don't even bother to ask.
“God Elena, why do you even go there? It's so morbid.”
“Not quiet enough if you're meeting cute boys and not sharing,” she sing songs as you start up the walk to the house. “Tell me he has a brother.”
Uncle Gray is sitting on the porch with one of his medical journals, and waves as you approach. When you say hello in unison, he just laughs like it's a joke that doesn't get old.
Stefan does in fact, have a brother.
You meet Damon in the foyer of their enormous house, and are immediately drawn in by his ridiculously blue eyes, that seem take in every inch of you. There's some sort of longing in them too, tinging on desperate and remorseful, just like Stefan. You wonder what it was, that gave these Salvatore boys such haunted looks.
When Katherine walks in behind you, those eyes of his widen just the slightest bit, and he covers it up quickly but you know immediately that Stefan didn't tell him about her just for this reaction.
“Well,” he starts with a smile that just oozes with self aware charm. “There's a detail my brother forgot to mention.”
Katherine, as with anything, takes it in stride offering her hand which Damon makes a big show of kissing.
“Katherine,” she says, smiling off the kiss and nodding her head at you. “Elena.”
“So who's older?” He asks with a curious wiggle of his eyebrows.
“I am,” Katherine replies. “By three whole minutes.”
“Well from one older sibling to another,” he replies, pointing an open hand toward the living room. “I say welcome.”
Katherine plops herself on the couch next to you, while Damon chooses a lush looking chair, and Stefan wanders in with a confused tilt of his head, despite the fact that he's the one who invited the two of you over.
Maybe it's because of Damon, the look exchanged between them seems pretty heated, though neither of them say anything to each other. For a long odd stretch it's like you're not even in the same room, and whatever baggage they have with each other, is silently playing out in front of your eyes.
“I'll take a scotch,” Katherine says, pointing at the small table where a few bottles of amber colored liquid are perched.
Shooting a concerned glare is useless, you know, but do it anyway. Damon doesn't move from the chair where he can't stop looking at the two of you, and Stefan's eyebrows lift curiously as to whether she's serious or not.
After a second or so he moves to comply, and it takes all you have not to roll your eyes and sigh, because it doesn't matter who it is, no one can ever seem to say no to her.
Katherine smiles gratefully as he hands her the glass.
You're not happy about the way she looks at him.
“She likes you.”
Perched against a headstone with a blank page of your diary staring back at you, Stefan sitting a few feet away. Head tilted toward the sky, hands clasped atop his knees, he looks like he's napping rather than hanging out.
The white of the paper suddenly becomes the most interesting thing in the cemetery as your cheeks start to flush. You hate this. Hate that she can still make you feel this way, though she's apologized for Matt about a hundred times over, there's still an air of insecurity hanging over your head because of it. And yes, you've forgiven her, even if Matt is the one who gave in, she's the one who pushed.
Stefan is smiling when you look up, eyes alight with amusement. It's enough to make you blush and look back down.
“In case you didn't notice,” he says with a laugh. “Damon couldn't take his eyes off of either of you.”
“So maybe I know a little something about sibling rivalry, and whether or not to be worried they'll step in where you don't want them to.”
It's enough to make you feel the slightest bit better, offering a warm smile when you look up at him again. The sun is starting to sink behind the trees, and Aunt Miranda is not a fan of tardiness at her dinner table.
“It's getting late.”
Rising to your feet and shoving the journal back into your bag.
“I should go.”
Moving to your feet, a jagged edge from the tombstone catches your hand, and you hiss against the sting. A pool of red starts to form in your palm, and you see from the corner of your eye, how Stefan turns quickly away.
“Blood makes you squeamish?”
“Yeah,” he says, tries to laugh but it comes out a groan.
It's almost funny, seeing a boy cringe over a tiny cut, and you move closer to tease him a little more. Brows furrow at the way he seems to turn in on himself, arms lifting to cover his face, and wow he must have a phobia or something because the reaction seems a bit severe.
“Sorry, bad joke.”
His head snaps toward you lightning quick, and your heart freezes in your chest at how his face has shifted, but strangely there's no fear.
It's not the first time you've seen a vampire.
All you wanted was of drink of water.
It's the first thing you think of when trying to remember your mother. That and how cold the tile of the kitchen floor felt against your feet. How confused you were at the sight of daddy backing away from her, his eyes wide and afraid, the words oddly clear.
“What have you done,” he said kind of quiet. Then again. “What have you done?”
She turned to you then, too fast to be normal, her face changed. The eyes as black as night.
“You have to go,” he says, trying to hide his face again.
“Are you going to kill me?”
“What?” He turns back, face normal again. “No, I would never.”
“I thought as much.”
You move closer to him, crouch down and lift your fingers gently to his face where those spidery veins appeared. If he was going to hurt you, he would have done so by now. It's funny that he seems to be the one who's afraid in the moment, like you are the one that can bring harm to him.
Fingers through his hair.
“I know what you are.”
Daddy decorates the room with a strange looking flower and sleeps on the floor between your beds every night after mommy disappears. You don't know where she went, or why, and daddy really doesn't like questions about it. Katherine is undeterred, and asks all the time, until finally daddy slams his hand on the kitchen table one day making the both of you jump.
You remember waking up in the car, Katherine curled up against you, and catching bits and pieces of a conversation daddy was having on the phone. You don't know what exactly he was talking about, but key words and phrases like she actually did it, on the run, and I have to keep them safe make your stomach hurt.
It feels like days before the car pulls up in front of Uncle Gray and Aunt Miranda's house. Which makes sense because they do live in another state, though you can't remember which one. On the porch, you and Katherine standing side by side, daddy puts hands on both your shoulders trying to make you understand why he has to go. But you'll be fine with your Aunt and Uncle. You'll be safe.
You remember chasing after the car, Katherine in tow, shouting for him to come back.
Katherine's arms are around you when your eyes snap open, breath shaking and short, she moves to smooth your hair.
It's hard to a remember a time where she hasn't come to your rescue. Years of night terrors after mom disappeared and dad just left you here. Still shaking you attempt to speak but all that comes out is a strangled sigh. She hugs you tighter, head shifting to rest against your back.
“It's okay Laney,” she says quietly in your ear. “It was just a dream, it's over now.”
You must have really been having a rough time because she hasn't called you that since you were twelve and she decided that you both were too old for nicknames. She doesn't let go, even when you've calmed down, and one hand reaching back for hers.
“Was it about mom?” She asks.
You nod against the pillow.
“I have to tell you something.”
Stefan is the one who seems nervous, which is pretty funny considering. You wonder if his thunder was stolen by your preexisting knowledge, if he had some go to speech about belief's being changed simply because of what he is.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, you watch his expectant eyes for Katherine's reaction who, as usual takes it in stride. Vampires are real? Cool.
“How do you know?” he asks after an elongated silence.
“Our mother is one, too.”
“So you think,” Katherine chimes in.
“It wasn't a dream.”
“I'm not saying it was,” Katherine defends. “But we were what, eight, when she disappeared? Details fade over time Elena.”
“I know what I saw.”
You look at Stefan. He believes you.
“What is your mother's name?” he asks.
Katherine looks at you the second you at her, the thought never occurring that vampires might have social circles.
“Isobel Gilbert,” said in unison.
Stefan smirks and holds back a laugh.
“Do you know her?”
“What about Damon?” Katherine asks.
Stefan blanches at that, head tilting toward the floor.
“I didn't tell him you know about us,” he says after a beat.
“Because I don't know what he'll do,” he says quietly. “Damon, well, he isn't like me. He feeds, and kills, and is every bit the storybook vampire you can imagine.”
That gives you pause, and even Katherine looks a little put out at the revelation. Stefan has no intent to harm, you can tell that just by looking at him, but Damon you only met the once. Those eyes, god, those crazy blue eyes. If his own brother is worried, you and your sister know to be too.
“You have to ask him,” Katherine says regardless. “We have to know.”
Stefan gives in eventually, going to find Damon and warm him up to the idea that his secret is no longer that, leaving you and Katherine alone in his room. You watch idly as she starts to rummage through some of his things, never one to resist a good snoop, and telling her to stop is pointless because she'll do it anyway.
You keep one eye on her, and one on the door, just in case. She's thumbing through a couple of his books when you see a piece of paper flutter to the ground from one of them, and lean forward to see as she bends to pick it up.
Whatever it is makes her shoulders go rigid, and she quickly spins around with her arm extended, a picture held lithely between her fingers.
It takes a second to realize it could be a picture of you, or her, but it looks old. Katherine's fingers tap just below the border of the photo where a name appears to be written.
“What do you think it means?”
“It means,” Katherine starts, stepping close. “They've been lying to us in more ways than one.”
She shoves the picture in her purse, grabs your wrist, and pulls you into the hall.
“We are getting the hell out of here,” she says firmly.
You can hear their voices as you make your way downstairs. Arguing from the sound of it, off in some section of the house you can't pinpoint. The words carry with a freedom that tells you they're well aware you wouldn't be able to overhear up in Stefan's room.
You want to leave, but Katherine puts her finger up to her lips, shuffling closer to the source. It's mostly muffled, the conversation, but it does seem to raise in volume the more heated it gets.
There's two of them. They can't be her.
Brows furrow at the statement, that Stefan's voice is the one that made it. Her, the girl in the picture.
You know what kind of tricks she could pull. Damon's voice now. This is easily something she's capable of.
They're human, Damon. Both of them. And they know what we are, but for whatever reason aren't afraid.
There's a rush of air and a hand on your shoulder, spun around quicker than you blink, and Damon stands in front of you with wild eyes that are no longer blue.
“Yeah,” he says with a flash of fangs. “Maybe they should be.”
“Damon don't,” Stefan warns, taking a step forward.
He doesn't get a chance to play hero, as Katherine smacks Damon right across the face without a second's hesitation, the sound echoing throughout the hall.
“You don't touch her,” she warns moving next to you.
For a second no one moves, everyone stunned at what she just did, especially Damon, whose face reverts back to normal but he still looks like he wants to rip her throat out.
“We're leaving,” Katherine announces, grabbing for your wrist again. “Whatever sick joke is going on here, you can have it.”
Neither boy tries to stop you.
Stefan's eyes catch yours, the apology in them radiating clear, but you look away as Katherine leads you out.
The car tears out of the drive, Katherine behind the wheel with you in the passenger seat, and once there's enough distance from the house, a low shuddering breath escapes your lips.
“Intense,” she finishes, plucking the word straight from your brain.
“I can't believe you hit him.”
“I hope he feels my hand on his face for days,” she replies grimly. “We're no one's victim Elena, no matter what they are.”
“He could have killed you.”
“Doubt that,” she says, tossing a look your way and rummaging for her purse with a free hand. She pulls out the photo and drops it on the center console. “This girl means something to them, so we must mean something to them. And that little sis, is leverage.”
You're glad she's so confident, because this whole situation is spiraling out of control, and all you want to do is take a step back and be able to process. It's quiet for awhile, staring out the window watching the trees pass, wondering what happens next.
“So that's what they look like?” Katherine asks suddenly, keeping her eyes on the road.
Stefan, Damon, and your mother. Black eyes, fangs, and spider veins.
From the corner of your eye, you see it.
The smallest hint of a smile.
Stefan takes the hint and leaves you alone for a few days.
It's nice to be able to think, to breathe, but you still have questions, and still want answers. Back in the cemetery after avoiding it for nearly a week, diary in hand with yet another blank page staring up at you, Stefan appears with a shy wave from the path that leads into the woods. Taking a seat across from yours, he looks like he has a thousand things to say but doesn't know where to start. He looks around quickly, like your sister is hiding behind a crypt just in case one of them showed up, but no. She's off helping Caroline plan for the Founder's Ball.
“She doesn't like it here.”
He nods, idly playing with that garish ring he always wears.
“I don't want an apology. I want you to tell me who the girl in the picture is, and why we look like her.”
He's taken aback at your bluntness, but recovers quickly.
“I honestly don't know why you or Katherine resemble her like you do,” he starts. “But her name was Katerina Petrova, and she was the love of my life.”
Your turn to be taken aback, though it's not really all that shocking, but the honest and sincere way in which he says it hits somewhere inside.
“Damon's too, if you were to ask him.”
Mouth drops open, that really not what you expected to hear.
“She was selfish,” he goes on. “And manipulative. She never cared who she had to step on to get what she wanted.”
“And you loved her.”
You think he would blush if he could, ducking his head shyly.
“Madly,” he replies. “In my own naïve way. I never saw those sides to her until after, all her compulsion worn off, but she was gone by the time I got angry about it. She'd been exposed, had to run, and I guess Damon and I were just too much baggage because she left us behind. We, uh, haven't seen her since. Not for lack of trying.”
Goosebumps raise at the revelation that's she's still out there somewhere, that the possibility of crossing paths some day is something to consider.
“When we met, did you think I was her?”
“Yes,” he admits. “I thought it was just one of the games she liked to play, pretending not to know me, but talking to you for five seconds made me realize you weren't.”
That makes you smile, but...
“Tell me you didn't come back here because of me, of us.”
“This is home, Elena. Our father is buried in the old section of this cemetery, that's the only reason we happened upon each other that day. We were born here, Damon and I, we died here and no matter how far we travel or how long we're gone, we always come back.”
You want so badly to believe him.
“You and Katherine? Let's just call that a pleasant surprise.”
You're about to tell her everything Stefan said, when Jeremy walks into your room looking annoyed.
“Can I have my laptop back now?” he asks impatiently.
“I'm still using it,” Katherine replies.
“You said an hour,” Jeremy shoots back. “It's been two. I need it for research.”
“So do I.”
He glares and crossed his arms.
“Fine,” Katherine sighs, making a big show of handing it over. “There you go egghead, finish your homework.”
The idea of her researching anything is amusing to say the least, as you tilt your head expectantly in her direction, waiting for an explanation.
“I'm curious,” she says with a shrug.
You know what about.
Standing next to Katherine in matching black dresses, completely her idea, you watch as most of the town wanders into the Lockwood Mansion. You wouldn't have even come if it didn't mean so much to your Aunt and Uncle, or that Katherine helped put some of this together.
It's no more different or exciting than last year. Or the year before that. And the year before that.
But then Stefan walks through the door in a smart looking suit, and suddenly the day doesn't seem like a total loss.
“Hey,” he says to the both of you, eyes bouncing back and forth as he gives the once over. “Whose idea was this?”
“Mine,” Katherine says in greeting, “I take it you approve?” She steps forward to kiss him on the cheek, a move he doesn't shy away from, but looks awkwardly at you while she does it.
“Yeah,” he says slightly shy.
“I'm glad you could come.”
Of course she's the one who invited him.
Idly shuffling through the party with a cup of punch in hand, you end up in front of the framed guest registry from the inaugural ball, eyes scanning all the familiar names and coming to a halt on a specific two.
“First one was a bit uptight,” Damon says, appearing on your right. “White gloves and tuxedos. So prim and proper.”
You haven't spoken a word to him since he growled in your face with all that vampire fury, and would like to keep it that way, but he just goes on like he doesn't realize you're mad at him or doesn't care.
“If I choose to ignore you, you'll just keep talking won't you?”
“Exactly,” he replies with a wink.
“Then what do you want?”
“A dance. What do you say?”
“I say no.”
“Come on,” he says, offering a hand. “One dance won't kill you. I promise I won't either.”
He does that eyebrow arch, amused glare thing of his, and it's like no isn't even an option. He's so much like Katherine it's not even funny. You concede to the request, he leads to the dance floor and puts his hands only in the proper places. At least he's trying to act like a gentleman tonight.
“I think I owe you an apology.”
“I do. Rage issues, so yes, I'm sorry. Your sister though, ouch. I felt that for days. Also, eavesdropping? Very rude.”
He spins you gently and pulls back.
“Stefan told me about Katerina.”
“Did he?” Damon replies. “I bet he gave you the romanticized short version too. Instead of the one where's she's just a cold hearted bitch who played us against each other for no reason other than she could.”
A hundred and forty-five years, and both of them aren't over her.
“He said she was the love of his life. Yours too.”
Damon laughs. “That she was, but it doesn't make what I said any less true.”
Catching sight of a familiar pair on the other side of the floor, your hand squeezes involuntarily against his. He cranes his neck to follow your eyes and spots Stefan and Katherine dancing in slow circles.
Watching them, how he smiles in a way you haven't seen, how she laughs at something he says and moves to put her head on his shoulder.
“She always gets what she wants,” he says into your ear. “Doesn't she?”
Damon dips you, so that your focus moves back to him, and for a moment loose yourself in too blue eyes.
The way he looks at you.
As if your life isn't complicated enough.
Katherine doesn't come home after the party.
You stare at her empty bed and imagine the worst. She and Stefan dancing all night. A moonlit walk along the Lockwood grounds. A kiss under one of the giant oak trees. Stefan taking her home, to his room, his bed.
Growling, you can't do anything but toss a pillow across the room.
Late afternoon and Katherine still hasn't come home. Uncle Gray and Aunt Miranda are really starting to worry. You call Stefan, but he swears he hasn't seen her since they parted ways at the party, and is there anything he can do?
Night falls and there's still no sign. Caroline's mom comes to the house and asks uncomfortable questions you don't have answers for. It's frustrating how they look at you like all you have to do is close your eyes and feel her presence.
Only when the Sheriff leaves, and the family finally leaves you alone, do you actually try.
All you feel is numb.
Three days pass, and still no one can find her.
You storm over to the Salvatore's house, knowing Stefan isn't there, off being noble and trying to find her himself. A promise he made as soon as he learned she was missing. Damon said nothing, did nothing, but an irking feeling tells you he knows something.
Damon is in the living room sitting on the big chair he favors, with a glass of scotch in hand, like he doesn't have a care in the world. The sight makes you so angry, you pick up the closest thing in reach, and toss it at his head.
“Where is she?”
The demand is met with him making a big show of looking over to the bookshelf where the lamp crashed into it.
“I know you have something to do with it.”
Don't give him room to speak, don't let him make you feel ridiculous for suddenly blaming him.
“So tell me, and do it now.”
“Elena,” he starts, clenching his fists and stops. That wild eyed look of his just making you crazier.
“Please, just tell me where she is.”
You punch at his arms that try to wrap around you, his chest and sides when they enclose you. Shaking and twisting, trying to pull away but he doesn't let you.
It comes out weakly, tears welling to spill down your cheeks and onto his shoulder.
“She'll come back,” he says quietly.
It doesn't feel like an answer.
Sixteen years and the longest you've even been apart, is when you were thirteen and had your tonsils taken out, and only because the doctor's didn't take well to Katherine's threats when they made her leave.
Sitting on her bed, palm smoothing across the blanket, you keep hoping she'll just show up like Damon said. That she'll laugh and tease everyone about making such a big fuss. It seems less and less likely with every day that passes, but you hope.
There's something poking out from under her pillow that catches your eye, and reaching for it, you see it's the picture of Katerina she took from Stefan. Brows furrow as you hold it between your fingers, wondering why she kept it.
It's late, but you don't want to sleep, don't want to dream.
The tap, tap, tap of fingernails against glass pull you from the nightmare. Little girls in matching dresses running in the woods, Kathy and Laney always together, trying to escape the monster that wears your face. Eyes open to the room bathed in moonlight, a silhouette moving in the shadow spread across your bed just a few feet away.
Katherine's pillow is flush against your cheek, though you don't remember falling asleep on her bed. Tapping again, the silhouette moving once more, you roll over to see your sister on the other side of the window.
For a moment you think it's just a dream, pulling open the window regardless, and feeling the chill against your skin.
“Come outside,” she says in a whisper.
You don't even blink at the request rushing out of the room, down the stairs, and through the front door. She's on the porch waiting, you reach out to touch her and almost laugh with the relief that's she's real. The anger gone, fear subsided, you pull her into a hug.
“Where were you?”
It comes out a sob, pressed against her shoulder, still holding on tightly because you're afraid she'll disappear if you let go.
“I had to take care of something,” she says vaguely. “I'm sorry I couldn't tell you.”
No secrets, you want to yell. That's how it's always been. She doesn't keep anything from you and you don't from her.
“Take care of what?”
She moves to sit on the steps, pulling you down with her, one hand moves to cup your cheek and it's so cold. It hits you swiftly, the cold hands, the fact that she asked you outside instead of just climbing through the window.
You want to scream, to run, to cry. Days of feeling like you lost her, but here she is, yet the feeling is still there.
“I needed it to make sense,” she says, taking her hand back and looking away. “I've been having, I don't know, flashes. People I've never met, places I've never been. Memories that aren't mine.”
“You could have told me. You should have told me.”
She shrugs and you want to slap her.
“How long has this been going on?”
“Since I found that picture.”
You wait, watching as she collects her thoughts.
“It's like I knew her. Right away, I knew all about her.”
She looks back to you.
“It's like I am her.”
The words are a knife pointed straight at your heart. It can't be. It's impossible. A month ago the only monsters were in your dreams. The world made sense.
“You're scaring me.”
“Don't be afraid,” she says quickly. “Whatever happens, whatever I am, don't ever be afraid of me.”
She moves to hug you again, and you let her, because she's your sister. Because you love her. Everything together, always together.
“You were right about mom,” she offers suddenly. “But it's what she wanted. It was her reward.”
Cold kitchen tile, and a thirst for water. Your father backing away slowly, your mother's black eyes.
Your whole body stills.
“How could you possibly know that?”
“I know a lot of things. Things I wish I didn't.”
Idly playing with your hair.
“Katerina was a bad girl, in a bad way, with a lot of bad people.”
Pulling away so that you're eye to eye.
“Lucky for her, she knew many witches.”
One hand, stroking your cheek.
“A lot of them owed her their lives. So she hatched a plan. She was so good at hatching plans.”
The other hand moves to mirror it.
“I don't think any of them included you. But aren't surprises what make life worth living?”
Hands on her wrists, you want to pull away but can't.
“I'm sorry about Stefan, I am. But it was always him. He loved me once, he can love me again.”
Trying to pull away. Have to get away.
“This time will be different. This time will be perfect.”
Her eyes go black as her mouth curls into a hiss, pulling one wrist way and biting into the flesh, she pushes it against your lips.
“Don't worry little sister,” she says sweetly. “It only hurts for a minute.”