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“Back to running relay for your big brother so soon?”

Klaus's voice is thick with amusement, is meant to be droll, yet there's an edge even he can't hide, the shared sense of having done the same himself many times. His eyes settled on Stefan as he enters the room are not as surprised or fixedly cold as they could be.

They have that in common, first and foremost: burned-in love of a beloved elder brother, love that wouldn't change or go away even when willed, even when dealt with violently. Both of them The Little Siblings Who Could.

So Stefan stands his ground. Squares his shoulders best he can under a tigerseye gaze from another sort of creature entirely. “It's not only for Damon. Alaric's -- was my friend, once. And he's Elena's guardian. I think she's lost enough parental figures for the decade.”

“Going soft again,” tsks Klaus, and he moves from leaning back in his high-backed old-fashioned chair, half a throne, to leaning forward, his forearms elegantly balanced on the wood. “Are we?” One raised eyebrow, nearly a perfect blond triangle, has the question already answered.

Stefan admits, looking at the curlicues of carving that enthrone Klaus and just askew of his eyes, “I'm trying for moderation. Yes.” As though Klaus would have known anything less by the hue of his face and the way he'd walked in.

“Shame,” says Klaus. His eyes reflect the opposite, turning on an electric blue. “You're so very inspiring blooded up, Stefan. In ripping I've still never yet found your equal. You'd go back to trapping rabbits for this slip of a...”

“It's not about Elena,” he says. Not only about Elena. He closes his eyes, and when he opens them Klaus has slid somehow further forward. A man might fall over like that, but he does not. Stefan says, “I'm tired. Tired. Tired of all the killing, the drama, the death, the tears, the blood...” The blood...

“The good stuff,” supplies Klaus with a smirk to rival any of Damon's, but then he draws himself up from the precarious tilt and stares Stefan down with keen awareness and total control. His tone is bound in iron and as old: “I can't quite remember offhand if this eternity ring of your brother's teacher rings a bell.”

That Klaus would know about Damon and Alaric is hardly a surprise, since they hardly hid it and most people know, and Klaus knew most things before they happened. Still he is unsubtly reminding that at least certain Salvatores also consider Alaric a member of the family alongside Elena, just to drive the point home.

The favor being asked, for information, help if help existed, to save Alaric from the psycho Gilbert ring's wrath, is considerable. Made more valuable considering Alaric's emotional value. But Stefan had known all of this when he'd come here. Elijah had admitted him to see Klaus in the parlor with both exquisite eyebrows raised nearly to his exquisite hair-line.

“Could I--” Stefan stops, shuts his mouth, swallows too hard. Then he makes himself say it, for Alaric and Damon and Elena and himself: “Could I help you to remember?”

“Mmm,” says Klaus like that's a word, steepling long fingers. “A more promising proposal.”

His gaze rakes over Stefan with a depth that should hurt but Stefan's too used to it. This, too: “Shall we start with the usual then, mate?”

Stefan won't close his eyes again, won't let his lids fall even though they want to, does all that he can to keep his expression steady and his stare unblinking when he nods, like he's expected this. He's expected this.

So he re-squares his shoulders, and just nods as universally expected. In the chair, Klaus lifts his hips a little, slides unbuckled pants down. Doesn't bother to kick them free or take off his shoes. No underwear as ever. Half-hard already, as Stefan knew he would be. Elegant hand going immediately to elegant cock, stroking under Stefan's watch.

They had done this almost exactly like this almost every night when they'd been together on the road.

In the '20s they had been been laughing, indulgent, overindulgent lovers.

In the present day, after Klaus had seized Stefan's services, he'd made it clear that their relations were to resume, despite the considerable change in scenario and inclination.

There hadn't been another way really, and Stefan had worse things to worry about. They were doing such worse things than things like this, even if every now and then it got as bloody as ripping.

Or every now and then Klaus wanted him to act like they had so long ago, with friendship and affection, and didn't seem to mind that Stefan was acting, and Stefan got to be a better actor. Sometimes those times were worse though.

Sometimes he had tried to derail Klaus with sex, Stefan will admit readily enough, especially if it saved a life or distracted long enough to derail Klaus's plans, if only for an evening. Even at the worst heights of his own frenzy he'd been able to do that.

Stefan had always been good but he became truly adept at pleasing Klaus, and it had been madness and terror and wonder. Been to his wonder and terror the best thing in the stretch of the whole abominable werewolf-hunting road trip because then it was only about them and no one else hurt.

When Stefan sinks to his knees on the ground in front of Klaus's chair, it's so known, so reflexive to do, that he has to duck his head, turn his face aside.

Looking down, Klaus laughs low, runs a careless hand through Stefan's hair. “Come now, Stefan love. You know I hate when you look martyred about it unless I've specifically asked you to look martyred about it.”

Stefan knows. Stefan knows everything Klaus loves and hates, has lived to feel them both. He turns his face back in the correct direction and takes the tip of Klaus's rapidly hardening cock into his mouth with something that could pass for enthusiasm or at least deep-seated familiarity.

Lips made just so for blowjobs, Klaus has said more than once. Drawn them, more than once, full lines on charcoal, sketching them as a dark bow while Stefan lay with his face held blankly impassive, an artist's mannequin to shape.

Stefan's studied his own face in the mirror, this face that people seem to want him for: a jaw triangular like Damon's, flat nose, wide brow, unruly hair. More an Ashley Wilkes than a Rhett Butler, Caroline had once observed.

He doesn't look altogether very much like Damon -- rumors had dogged their steps growing up, to see one boy so dark and one so fair, but Stefan's hair had mellowed to sienna in time and then the war had happened and Katherine had happened and everything from the time before that burned.

He and Damon share shapely lips and bright eyes. Those lips wrapping further around Klaus now, taking more of him, Stefan's ever-obedient throat swallowing him down, Stefan's tongue licking all of Klaus's best-loved patterns.

It's not the worst thing he could have asked. Easily could have demanded some cruel sacrifice of Elena, or Damon, and for Alaric they would have done it without pause to consider longer-term ramifications.

Stefan is expendable enough already these days, can do little enough to help, can do little to get through the nights. If some good can come from this, from doing these things with Klaus that he knows how to do better than stay alive, Stefan will do what he can. Owes them all this much.

Klaus twitches his knee which means satisfaction so Stefan bends to suck harder, sealing tight wet heat around Klaus's imposing length of cock. Deep-throats him just exactly the way Klaus likes best, taking him all the way down, thick heavy fullness in his throat and on his tongue, nose to fair groin, lips stretched obscenely over his teeth.

“Ah, Stefan,” Klaus murmurs, trailing graceful fingers along Stefan's neck and cheek, then anchoring them only just tight enough to hurt in his hair. That's the cue for Stefan to look up at Klaus while in motion, so he does, pulling up a little to let his tongue run circles around the rim. “Tell me you didn't miss me a little.”

Stefan is sure to suck extra-hard on the head in the half-second before he frees his mouth to say, with just enough style, “I didn't miss you a little,” which at least ensures he isn't punished for it before he quickly returns to the task at hand. He manages both actions so well that Klaus laughs again instead of hurting him.

He knows more about handling Klaus's cock with lips and tongue and teeth and a firm stroking grip than all the lessons he's learned throughout decades of varied schooling. Klaus's teachings had been more thorough, and the practice so frequent Stefan could do this blindfolded in the dark and has, many times. He is like an elite commando of Klausian cock-sucking. He hasn't missed this, he tells himself. It had been conscripted service, those last months.

Only there had been a few times when it was even harder than the moods where Klaus wanted them to seem like friends in a buddy action horror movie or wanted Stefan to simply act like he wanted it, or didn't.

That was when Klaus really got as close to the Nik he'd been when they'd met, a head-turning young man who wasn't young at all, yet still somehow as uneasy in his own skin as on the day he'd been turned. He'd been on a quest to find and make others like himself for blurred centuries, and through it all had been left feeling alone and restless. Never-ending quests did that. Like a disgraced knight in a fairy tale, Klaus had taken to plundering and accumulating beauty, and had a profound, obsessive appreciation for it. He disliked losing anything in his collection.

Yet in his quietest times all he wanted to do was draw and paint and discuss the men and women who also did so. No hybrids or empire-building or mystic family confined in magic coffins then, just a man who had been a master artist through the ages here and there, and might have been that now if life and death were different.

When Klaus was like that he was different. They'd talk for sprawling hours about politics and philosophy and history and literature and science and theater and art, always art, and in every category imaginable Klaus had known and often worked with the names posterity recorded.

Stefan had known his fair share as well, and when it was like that, they traded stories full of excited ideas and the fevered moments where history had changed, and spoke for hours without markers, not even needing the bottles on the table to take away their edge. Occasionally they had coffee.

Those were the times when afterward, feeling bohemian and flush, Klaus would want something very different than the usual. Naked on a bed, or a thick rug, or a blanket in a field under stars or clouds, or a wood floor, or the clay dirt of a road, or the backseat of a string of stolen cars: that was when he'd want Stefan to crawl up over him, to cover him fully nude, come into the cradle of Klaus's muscled thighs and fuck him with the same finesse and awareness of their intellectual debates.

Those times, Stefan did not, could not conceal that he liked it, that he liked this, this rarely seen man, Niklaus Mikaelson the unexpected humanist, that this was what he'd liked first and most. Those times, Klaus was surprisingly pliant beneath him beneath the willful, yielding to Stefan's lead. He seemed almost grateful to get to do that. Holding over him, Stefan would let himself study Klaus's face, since more of his masks were down than usual.

He was the most beautiful man Stefan had ever seen when he'd first seen him. That was his first impression. His internal alarms should have rung with danger but Stefan had only been able to look at him.

A deceptively slimmer build than some men, since Klaus was stronger than anyone Stefan had encountered. Hair like wheat spun into dark gold. Blue eyes so piercing he could take on Damon in competition. High cheekbones that balanced out a triangular jaw, like Stefan's. Low-perched fair eyebrows made to communicate perfect expressiveness. Gently pointed nose over perpetually curved lips, all of him comprised to make him look refined as much as fierce. He was indeed like a knight swung down from a medieval tapestry. In Prohibition-era Chicago.

Those times, harder than the others, luckily rare, Stefan would kiss Klaus like they once kissed. They'd kiss locking more and more together as though the space between them could be transcended. It always could be more though so Stefan would urge Klaus's thighs apart and make him ready more than usual and thrust his own achingly hard cock as deep as deep could be defined without hesitating.

Those were the times they fucked tight and close and clutching and gasping and sometimes kissing, no biting for once, just the slow or fast concerted roll of Stefan's hips and the way Klaus took his cock and wrapped his legs around to meet at Stefan's lower back and didn't take his eyes from Stefan's face. It was that intimate kind of sex where everything just kind of lined up and worked perfectly and felt too good to want to stop.

That scared Stefan, so he usually ended it in another way Klaus liked, gripping to those high-cut hipbones and just hard-fucking with the sort of passion he brought to ripping, fucking them outside of themselves and back to violent normal where it was safer. Klaus would come underneath him and when Stefan looked again his eyes wouldn't be Nik's anymore.

He's sucking with fervor, his mind here and in a hundred places, and if he tightens his hand on the shaft and uses the other to cup Klaus's balls while Stefan keeps working his mouth like this it won't be long.

Klaus knows too of course so he just shifts a little in the seat, speaks around a groan, his hand fisting back in Stefan's hair. Just enough to hurt. “No, no, none of that. Did you think we'd end at the beginning?” he asks, thankfully sounding more turned on than angry that Stefan's used all of his considerable skill in a wildly transparent attempt to bring him off early. “You know me better than that.”

He does. On his knees, Stefan draws back. Klaus's long cock, gorgeously encouraged, bears the fully aroused and straining hallmarks of his labor.

“Tell me, then,” says Stefan. No easy way outs. Still this is nothing compared to what they've done.

“The pool table, I think,” says Klaus. Now he toes free of his shoes, rids himself of pants and shirt. When he stands up, he pulls Stefan with him by the elbow. “You remember the pool table, Stefan.”

It isn't an original choice for them. It had been, precisely, the first place they'd ever made love, and then never quite that again. In the past year it had been a spot frequently revisited -- maybe out of some sense of nostalgia, but mostly because Klaus had a thing about fucking Stefan in places full of compelled people.

He'd been taken on bar countertops and on Formica diner tabletops while families ate oblivious beside them. Klaus had fucked him in more bathrooms and rest-stop parking lots and public campgrounds than were countable. In a booth at the roadside McDonald's, at the pie-judging contest at a state fair, in an open toll-booth on the road. Stefan had always let him, so that the people watching but not watching wouldn't die.

But the pool table had been their first. There's an elegant antique set-up here at Mikaelson mansion, made of sturdy dark ancient oak and no doubt just the right height for fucking. The cloth running the length is crimson instead of green.

Drawing back, Stefan can't hide the shiver that runs his body's length, but nods. As expected.

Unexpectedly, Klaus says, “So you don't miss me, and perhaps rightly so. Nearly everyone else is gone too. My lot, that. I won't...I won't compel you to make you really want it. That's boring. But...”

Something in the way Klaus's voice trails and then reshapes has Stefan's teeth set on edge, nearly to fang. “I won't make you what you aren't, Stefan, not today. But as payment for my help -- I seem to have recalled a certain book on magical jewellry that might help the history teacher, but its title is damnably obscured--”

“Name it,” says Stefan, for Damon. Thinks about what Damon was like before Alaric and then doesn't want to. With Klaus turning to track his movement, he performs an act he knows to be even more effective than Klaus knows: a slow, careful, offhandedly sexy strip-tease. It ups Klaus's ire to have it done so casually, since he's used to commanding lovers to his exact specifications.

Instead Stefan strips off his t-shirt with brisk efficiency, tugs up the wifebeater underneath with the same assured movement. His body bends and twists as it is bared. Here he knows his attractions to be as considerable as his face, so people tell him, his strongly defined arms and abs like a mythological artist's model, the stand-out vee of his hipbones tapering into pants that he soon peels off.

“So beautiful,” Katherine had said, seeing him uncovered. “I'm going to eat you up.” Elena had giggled. “God, you're almost pretty you're so hot.” Rebekah had swallowed him alive, a snake unhooking its ravenous jaw. Niklaus had done the same, but only with his eyes, then pulled Stefan in.

“I'm going to compel you to remember more of that night,” says Klaus, smooth as silk, and there's no need to ask which night. They're both naked now and nearly to the pool table, where carved balls of ivory probably worth a college scholarship are spread loose on the table, a finished game unracked.

Klaus had restored plenty of memories about their escapades in the '20s but he couldn't account for all of Stefan's lost time, for every shadow and corner and thought. What he'd brought back had been like a fuzzy old-fashioned film reel, playing but often wanting for narrative cards. Stefan remembered it in a rush, everything that had happened, but had trouble sorting through its intricacies.

Stefan leans a hip against the side of the table. Klaus is in front of him, hard as he was in the chair, now inescapably focused.

“Understand,” says Klaus, both hands reaching out to palm their way down Stefan's body, exploring all that he's revealed. “I'm exacting payment here, and punishment for your presumption. I won't be gentle.”

Stefan crosses arms at his chest. Thinks his voice sounds steady. Ready. “Didn't expect anything less.”

“But I want you to remember,” says Klaus. “It's a shame if your memory isn't as sharp as mine is about the pool table. So you'll remember, and you'll tell us a story.”

When he understands Stefan feels his mouth become a straight line but he nods, as expected. “Do it.”

Klaus is closer, his eyes are so big and close and then they flare and

It's the roaring twenties only they'd shut up the club for the night. After compelling the staff to leave them with the best bottles and go away, they made a riotous night of it together in the big dark room, just the two of them. Before that, Stefan had seen Rebekah off to bed. No chaste kisses for her, but the promise of a private visit in the morning. Then back to Nik at the bar where he wanted to be.

They decided to play pool but never made it that far. Stefan watching Nik rub up his stick with a square of blue chalk was enough. They had collided, hard body to hard, and Stefan dragged him into a ferocious kiss.

It had been Nik who broke away, looking shocked and wary and worried. “Stefan. My sister--”

“I do not want her,” said Stefan with formal certainty. “And you want me,” and though it had been a while for him since he'd been with a man and nearly a hundred years for Nik he hadn't been gentle.

Sent them crashing into the nearest, best surface, one of the club's ostentatious pool tables, neatly triangled with balls for the next day. Stefan, following an urge better than ripping, sent Nik sprawling across the covered wood hard enough to knock the wind from him and then Stefan went after him and it was so

On the pool table at the Mikaelson mansion Klaus has lifted Stefan easily and pushed him down and back, Stefan sliding across the felt.

True to his word as ever Klaus is not being gentle. He spends a while tightening a too-clever hand on Stefan's cock, twisting roughly and just right -- because Stefan isn't the only one here who knows too many things about them -- and he's also moving into position without much pause or material for preparation. He spit-slicks the two fingers he shoves into Stefan almost as an afterthought.

Stefan's head connects hard against the table. The force of his body's reaction puts it there. At least Klaus has climbed up over him instead of screwing him while standing, an angle that would give him relentless drive and little else.

“So tell us a story, then,” Klaus says, sliding his free hand under Stefan's ass to pull him up and close, so close. “G'on, love.”

“I—I--” Stefan can hardly speak. Three fingers from Klaus and then they're gone soon enough. Then a bit more flared eyes and he can speak. It's all he can do. “I—pushed you down on the pool table--”

“Yes,” says Klaus. “Good.”

“Climbed up over you, ripped off your clothes and -- oh, oh, God --” Klaus has pushed himself halfway into Stefan, enough to pin him into place and not enough for anything else.

“Go on.”

“I -- we kissed, a lot, and I said I wanted to fuck you. I told you how.” Stefan's throat works but feels choked with sawdust, even with the persistent urge of compulsion. “That. That you'd been the first man or woman for a very long time. Ripping was one thing. Sex was even trickier to control.”

“Very good. More.” As though for encouragement more of Klaus's long length eases in. Still he keeps them both back from completion.

“We...we made love on the pool table. Once you agreed I thought we'd just have a good screw, but it was more than that. Switched into something else. Took a long while and we were slow about it and a bit too wide-eyed about the whole thing. Weren't we, Nik?”

Above him, in him to the hilt, Klaus shrugs and shudders a little at the older nickname. They sweat joined on a pool table but different from the past in nearly every way.

Stefan keeps narrating, still half-compelled. “Lots of passionate kissing which I hadn't had in a while either and a lot of looking at each other. How perfect you were. You were such a wonder, I had spent the night planning how you'd end up mine at the end of it. It was so good to have you be that. Christ, how you could take over a room, like there was a spotlight always on you. I'd never thought of drinking from another vampire before but it occurred to me then that I might ask you. I wanted to know what all of you tasted like, even once I'd sampled your sweat and come and --”

“Shh, now,” says Klaus, luckily, cutting off his unbridled speech. Instead he pins Stefan's wrists to crimson above them and fucks him good and deep and hard and fast, as though sex has really been their purpose. But then he says, the hated and longed-for words, “Go on,” and Stefan sees more detail.

“I fucked you so hard at first we pulverized the pool-balls to dust. It'd been too long since either of us had been with a vampire, someone who could match and not break. We were excited about it. After that I calmed down and took you properly. It was good and we both knew. You bent upwards into me and whispered that it hadn't ever been like that for you before.”

Above him Klaus is frozen only half a breath before his momentum in Stefan resumes. “Skip that. Go on.”

Stefan does, like forwarded a tape-player. “I took you properly then. It had been a long while for you but I could see that you wanted me. We'd been silently discussing it for hours, I thought. You took me so well, so ready. We were supposed to fuck but instead we made love on the table.” Above him Klaus's jaw seizes a little and Klaus's angle cleaves deeper, but he says nothing, brilliant face set to show nothing, listening to Stefan's story.

“Go on.”

“There was jazz playing on a little radio by the bar. You felt like nothing I'd felt before and I meant to show that to you. It was some of the best sex of my life. I'd never had a friend who I wanted as a lover like you. I had a friend, a best friend, Lexi, who Damon killed later. She was a friend like no other, but we never screwed. That wasn't us. We were best friends. We--”

“I am truly sorry about Alexia Branson,” says Klaus, and even though he's fucking Stefan in and out and out and in while he says it Stefan doesn't mind, finds himself grateful to the bone to hear the beloved name spoken, to have Lexi brought for even a second out of shadows. Klaus has never mentioned her before. He hooks an ankle over Klaus's lower back, a reflex, unaware he's done it until Klaus is pressed closer. If Stefan put his arms up Klaus would be in them.

“Did you know her?” Stefan finds himself asking, mind's eye vision filled with her bold bright face and genius eyes, never far away.

Klaus pulls out, reburies himself this time a touch more gently. In the heat of sex he's lovelier than ever, looks forged in fire. Muscles shined with sweat, blue stare intent, honey-gold hair mussed from frequent motion. “Anyone of consequence knew her. She was unique. A gem of a vampire dame.”

“She was,” Stefan says, and though he knows false words can fall easily enough from Klaus's lips they're true enough about Lexi and he chooses to believe them. Under Klaus he feels his body softening to the rhythm of their rut. The blood-colored felt drags repeated friction against his skin but he doesn't care.

Klaus fucks him rough and relentless for a space, hands making bruising imprints that vanish and don't, really. Then he says, “I encountered Miss Branson before I met you. A salon in Europe, mid-war. The Great One, for the decade anyway. Desperate situations led to decadent times. The lady was full of hilarious and horrid tales of weaning her best friend from the ripper's teat. You were all that she talked about. I remember thinking when I met her: oh, you went about it wrong, love.”

Klaus has them at a pace that would be impossible for humans to match. They’re tearing the tense fabric below. Their bodies are atoms smashing. “By your own admittance she didn't fuck you. So there could be none of this. Sex is the best distraction from blood-lust. Sex with a vampire, that is.” The force of his push and pull into Stefan is supernatural then, and despite the old solidity of the oak pool table they could shatter it.

“Tell me the end,” murmurs Klaus, driving ever deeper, and Stefan says, taking up the memory without a beat, “We came like the best kind of sex, and we knew it, eyes watching and bodies together,” and just then Klaus takes to thrusting just right, hitting the spot that drives Stefan to the edge, his murderous artist's hand fitting just right to Stefan's cock.

Stefan's cock has been silent and straining and mostly ignored and makes all of his body arc with Klaus's grab. All it takes is a few assured strokes the way he likes them which Klaus knows too well and he's coming between their motion, making what was hot and slick hotter and slicker. His head is pressed back and his eyes closed for it but Stefan can't muffle the groan.

Klaus grins like he's come himself and like a shark and hoists all of Stefan in closer. Stefan, orgasmic, is gathered. Klaus rides the waves of muscle he provides and throws himself into a shouting finish. Never quiet. Claims and marks what he wants and yells about it. Always.

Klaus coming deep in Stefan is a familiar feeling only they've pushed deeper than usual and Stefan's shoulders would be all marked and burned up from the frenetic friction of the tabletop if he were human. Klaus takes a very long time pulling out, making it a point. He settles next to Stefan, sweat and heat and terrible beauty, head propped up on one hand, the other hand running down Stefan's flank.

Stefan is not shaking. Stefan tells himself he's not shaking. Makes himself turn to meet impossibly blue eyes. Klaus is wearing at least five masks as usual but Stefan knows him well enough to see the satisfaction in the turn of his mouth, which is good for Stefan and hopefully better for Alaric.

Stefan breaks the silence, since he isn't shaking. “That jog your memory?” he says quietly, tightly.

Klaus says, “I could just keep you here forever, you know. Less effort than it takes to blink and you'd never leave, and love me for it.”

Takes a moment for Stefan's breath to steady enough to sound as confident as he wants to feel. “Been there,” he says. “Tried that. Didn't work.” Klaus can never resist even the mildest of goads, and Stefan is a master at knowing how to needle just right. It's a younger brother thing. “Why not try again? Maybe this time it'll take, and we could be Bonnie and Clyde again by Christmas.”

Klaus manages to bestow scrupulous disdain via a single raised eyebrow. “Been there, tried that,” he sings back. “You're enough of a frightful bore under the influence of bunny rabbits and teenagers; compelled you're like a zombie but with fewer conversation skills. No,” says Klaus, his hand repeating its smoothing motion on Stefan's thigh, then ghosting up to settle over the jut of his hipbone, “I'll let you go back to them this time, with a book that might be of some relevance to your brother's pet. It's in Elijah's collection, I've only just recalled.”

His lips are a measured line. “And I'll wait, Stefan. I'll wait for the times in between when you're interesting. Like this. Like when you'll snap and feed and rip. I'll be there for that, and when it happens again, and the next time, and the time after that. I'm very good at waiting. It has been my life's employment.”

“Then this'll be your masterwork,” Stefan says, dry, to deflect the announced implications. Katherine had spent five hundred years running from Klaus's relentless obsession for slighting him. Stefan has earned a similar attention. His slight was a different one but is more persistent. It meant a future of crossing paths with Klaus until one or both of them are gone.

Once one of the good-bad nights on the road had been so good they'd come with the car echoing with their moans, all of Klaus wrapped around Stefan and the kiss when they kiss slow and deep and intimate. The windows were fogged with their bodies' generated heat like a scene from a movie about a drive-through. Even after they pulled apart they stayed together, foreheads touching, sometimes lips.

Then Klaus had nearly ruined it by going from deliciously accommodating to spectacularly pissy like a switch flipping. His moods were a circuit breaker on perpetual haywire. “Who are you thinking of?” he'd demanded to know.

Stefan had only grunted confusion. Far too used to it by now that the few times when it seemed like his world hadn't completely ended were usually directly followed by a fight or a disaster. “Who, what?”

“When you look at me the way you just did. That way, sometimes.” Stefan knew the look. Klaus needn't elaborate. That way like the person on the other side of Stefan's gaze was precious and beautiful, a marvel. That way like he'd never seen anything he'd wanted so much in his too-long life before and never would again.

It was easy and not to answer, so he'd made it mean, let it hurt Klaus if Klaus was still a thing that could be hurt. “You,” Stefan had said, and at Klaus's incredulous sneer spoke before he could interrupt. “I think about Nik. Nearly a hundred years ago. That's who I wish I were fucking, since you asked.”

For a very long time Klaus had been quiet under him, the sweat cooling, his visage cold. Then his head had canted back and he'd laughed nearly as loud as they'd moaned. “A paradox for the ages,” he said, around more laughing. “I like you best when you're in a gorgeously violent state you now detest, and you now prefer the side of me most milquetoast and deplorably weak.” Someone had probably told him that once. It had the ugly ring of repetition. “Star-crossed we are, mate.”

They're something, all right. Stefan pushes himself up on his elbows and then up and away from the pool table, leaving Klaus there in elegant debauched sprawl. He shrugs into his clothes with the heavy weight of oceanic eyes touching everywhere.

“Thank you for helping Alaric,” Stefan says. He's looking at his shoelaces as he ties them. “If it ends up helping, Damon'll throw you a parade and Elena'll probably organize a blood personal drive.” It's easier to just keep talking about the people they know and the insane events that marked life in Mystic Falls than raise his eyes again to the sight of Klaus on the table, how he lay with legs still just a little spread, how the felt made his hair staticky and spiky. The wine-dark surface is torn now in too many places to count by their impact.

Klaus says, “Just the once, then.”

It could almost be half a question, if Klaus asked questions. Sometimes he did so teasingly, or as a demand, but actual inquiries and requests are not something he is used to making anymore, too few and far between.

This they did so rarely its number could not be counted on one hand. Stefan's gaze snaps over to Klaus, and it takes a while, longer than too long, but then he nods.

As expected.

He closes his eyes, and when he slowly opens them again it is Nik who is on crimson. His skin is like cream against it, and his answering smile when Stefan looks at him is incandescent. The unreserved smile that could transform his face and power a city, plus the sideways twist of mouth that was Stefan's alone, that only Stefan got to see when they were alone, the smile that said Jesus fuck this is everything it's supposed to be, everything they told us it could be.

Stefan is halfway between the pool table and the parlor door. Nik grins, glowing in afterglow, more finely made than all the art he's made or studied.

“I missed you,” Stefan tells him.

On the table Nik dips his head in a nod. Won't stop smiling and somehow manages to deepen it when Stefan speaks. His eyes are a boundless blue, deeper than seas, excited and curious and adventurous and full of their future.

For a moment while they both see what they want, they are everything they were and nothing they will be.

“I always miss you,” Stefan says, and when he blinks, Klaus has turned away. Stefan turns as well, and goes to see Elijah about a book.