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whiskey dreams

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An icy chill crept up Elena's spine as she unlocked her car in the hospital parking lot. Instinctively, she hesitated, glancing around anxiously before shaking herself out of it. If the past year had taught her anything, it was to never freeze or doubt herself whenever she felt hunted, just act.

She unlocked her door just as a gust of air crashed over her, disturbed by a fast movement only a vampire could make. Terror stopped her heart, and Elena twisted around fast, coming face-to-face with a man. He looked to be in his early twenties with dark hair, mischevous features, a pair of dark eyes that studied her with a leering intensity.

"So you're Klaus' doppelganger," he remarked, a British accent wrapped around his words, and her blood went cold.

She swallowed the panicked lump in her throat, mind flickering to the man who had almost ran down Jeremy and got Alaric instead. One of Klaus' henchmen. Her heart restarted fast in her chest, but her voice came out almost steady. "Who are you?"

"I'm Kol," he stated, looking arrogantly down at her. "But I think you already know the answer to your other question."

Elena stiffened further."Hybrid."

Kol grinned at her, a sharp dangerous expression that kicked her memory violently, daring it to acknowledge the stark terror seeping from the dark corner of her mind where awful memories lurked. "Original." Before her brain could repair itself from the crash of shock, he continued. "Elijah's brother, darling."

The truth connected painfully in her head, and she felt herself go numb from fear, numb enough to wonder how he had been released. Not Klaus or Stefan, could have been Damon or Elijah, but none of that really mattered now. She had to remind herself that Klaus needed her alive.

Trying not to think about what could happen if Kol held Elijah's anger toward Klaus but none of his honor or morals, Elena recovered from the bombshell. "What do you want from me?"

Her voice was slower toward the end, but clipped all the same, strong still.

"I simply want to know all about the girl who has my brother's knickers in such twist," Kol said, cocky grin and crazy dark eyes and a threat in his bared teeth, more Klaus than Elijah.

Confusion furrowed her brow faintly, her own dark eyes remained wary. "You mean Klaus?"

"Oh, him as well," Kol said dismissively, stepping closer, and Elena had to force herself not to move back as skin crawled in discomfort. His smirk broadened. "Now, where can you get a decent drink in this town?"

Elena knew he wasn't talking about her blood, but the words still made her stomach lurch, and her neck prickle from the memory pain of Klaus' bite. But mostly, she felt sickly from the request - the order. She didn't want to be alone with Kol, with any Original, but she could see no way out.

There was nothing she could do to stop Kol, but people would be at the Grill. People who could get hurt, could die, but Klaus' place was an even worse option, and she couldn't offer her home. She refused to invite him inside.

"No thoughts, Elena?" Kol said, a wild light in his eyes. In the next instant, his arm was laced through hers, surprisingly warm through her clothes. It took everything in her not to flinch. "My sister mentioned a little place - of course, she would know, the strumpet - the Grill, isn't it?"

"I won't drink with you if you kill anyone," Elena said abruptly. Kol's gaze turned on her, and she held firm, staring back with a clenched jaw that defied the fear in her eyes.

"I'll kill everyone if you don't," Kol replied chillingly. Still smirking, still wickedly handsome.

Her terror flared but so did her anger, tightening her muscles, even though she wanted to cringe away from this new threat if only from exhaustion. She said nothing, glaring at him. Kol looked back at her, smug enough that she wanted to slap it right off his face.

She had been prepared to die, to let Elijah sacrifice her, to keep her friends safe, but not willing to play nice for Klaus, not ready to take his hand and let him lead her to her death like a helpless lamb. Elena unthreaded her arm from his, stepping back.

He could snap her neck like a twig. There was no bargaining chip or failsafe on her side, no dagger or Salavatore, but if experience had taught her anything, it was to be patient. Somehow, she always survived, while everyone else around her died.

"Get in the car," Elena told him, feeling a hard look haunting her face. "I'll drive."

* * * *

The Grill was closed but Kol broke the lock with ease, whistling cheerfully as he strolled inside. Elena followed warily, faintly relieved. Between Caroline's father and sliding a knife between Alaric's ribs (blood spilling hotly over her hands, just like Elijah's had, like her own before that) she hadn't been able to catch the time.

"What kind of girl are you, Elena?" Kol asked brightly, crossing the room and slipping behind the bar. "Whiskey? Beer? Wine?"

Elena stood before the bar, arms crossed over her chest, expression unimpressed. "I'm not much of a drinker."

Kol looked at her. "Sit down, have a drink."

Elena's back stiffened. "Are you trying to compel me?"

"No, darling. I'm trying to remove that stick from your arse." He grabbed two shot glasses, filling them with amber liquid. He flashed her a cheeky grin, and she reached out, reluctantly picking up one of the glasses. He clinked his glass to hers before tossing it back sharply, neck arched.

Less ironically vulnerable, she slugged hers back, grimacing faintly at the deep burn. It had been so easy to do shots once, the instinctive pain soothed by experience. She had been a party girl, bright and bold and flashy, so much more than the tired ghost she felt like now, stretched thin by so many demands.

Elena placed the glass back down, feeling the whiskey sinking in slow, and looked across the bar at him.

"My mother is alive, you know," Kol mentioned, pouring more shots.

The news startled Elena, and her mind span fast. The Original's mother had bound Klaus in the first place - in a ritual that required the blood of the doppelganger. Conflicted, Elena threw back the second shot without Kol needing to threaten someone.

"I didn't," Elena said after, a rasp of drink to her voice. It had been awhile since she had eaten, longer since she had drunk anything stronger than cheap beer. She eyed Kol, watched him doll out two more shots with faint disbelief, seeing the even fainter tension in his jaw.

Kol waited until the two shots had disappeared. "Mother said she forgave Niklaus. Considering he ripped her heart right out of her chest, I'm finding that a bit hard to believe."

Elena's heart had stopped at the first part of his sentence but toward the end, she felt understanding brewing in her face. "So you came to me as someone else your brother has killed, someone who came back."

"Very good," Kol purred, reminding her once again of Klaus. Two more shots were poured. "How did you manage that one anyway, darling? From what I hear, your predecessor was supposed to be the cunning one." Kol slung back the whiskey, slamming the glass down. "It was Elijah, wasn't it?"

Elena shifted, briefly looking away, an old pain flaring up, a sadness darkening her eyes. "No," she offered no further explanation on that subject.

It still felt jarringly wrong to think of her life without Jenna, or how much Uncle John, her biological father, had loved her. Despite all he had done to Stefan and Damon and, god, indirectly Jeremy, she regretted how unkind she had been to him. How she must have hurt him.

"Bet he tried though, didn't he?" Kol remarked, and she had to clear her head a little to catch up. "My brother always was a sucker for girls of your bloodline."

Her arms uncrossed, dropping to her side, and her expression changed with surprise. "You mean the first one? The Original doppelganger."

"Her name, I think, was Tatia," Kol told her uncaringly. He poured himself another shot before picking up hers, moving fluidly around the bar, a flirtatious stalk to his legs. "Never much cared for the girl myself. Too boring, such a prude, a crowbar couldn't pry those legs apart . . . well, not when I knew her, after she had already popped out a brat. Tell me what I want to know, and maybe I'll return the favor, love."

Standing very close, Kol presented the shot to her.

His head was lowered, staring down at her, dark eyes glittering intently challengingly. Elena looked up at him, expression set sternly, trying to judge his sincerity. Mouth frowning, eyes on his, eyebrows sloping downwards in weary skeptism; it was a look she had given Damon what felt like a lifetime ago in Georgia.

Five minutes, Damon had said. Come one, Kol's eyes crooned, play.

Slowly, Elena took the shot, and Kol smirked approvingly as she jerked it back, vision swirling dizzily.


Kol's features shifted, displaying curiosity.

"She won't forgive him," Elena continued. Her head shook slowly, memories swimming back to the front of her mind, just daring her to tempt this Original's temper. Of course, she dared. "It isn't easy to die, you should know that, and to be murdered by someone you trusted . . . " her thoughts flickered to Stefan (Elijah, Rebekah), a sick pain tightening around her throat.

"It's worse," she finished quietly, feeling a ghost of Stafan's tight grip as he forced his bloody wrist to her mouth, remembering the openly vulnerable look on Rebekah's face, and Elijah, his panicked cry, the kind brush of his hand on her hair, repaid with a dagger in his heart. "A lot worse."

Kol stilled, staring at her. His face was still, concealing something under a thick surface - just not thick enough to hide from a girl who knew more about hiding pain than most ever would. He wasn't breathing, and she felt an ache deep within her, close to her guts, that was pure sympathy for the small falter in his air of fluid cheekiness.

He must have been turned young, maybe even her age, and she felt that cut unwisely into her heart.

"I'm sorry," Elena offered quietly, meaning every letter of it unflinchingly.

Kol's eyes focused suddenly, locking on her with all the terrifying intensity of a hurricane, bearing down on her. "Silly girl," he said, voice low and rough. "You really are." For a moment longer, he held her gaze, dark eyes on dark. Something passed between them, fragile like expensive glass and inexplicable.

She wanted to question why his guard was so loose, but Elena thought she already knew. Elijah loved his family enough to betray his honor, to flip on their deal, and Klaus had caved so quick for Rebekah. For the Originals, family was the only constant through hundreds of years. It mattered, and she, to Kol, was hardly a threat.

Still, his grin returned quick, shutters slamming down hard over his eyes. "I can see why my sentimental brother likes you so much. People say Katerina Petrova was a right slag."

"You seem to hear a lot of things," Elena noticed, voice still intimately low. "How do you know so much about me?" And from who?

"Niklaus, Rebekah, and Elijah couldn't have the rest of us wandering around with no idea about our enemies now, could they?" Kol smirked at her startled expression.

She stumbled mentally at the word enemy, especially in relation to Elijah. Despite everything they had done to each other, her heart still said; ally, friend. He hadn't been her enemy since they had made a deal all those months ago in her bedroom, his protection for her life. A fair trade between equals, not a peace talk between an Original vampire and a seventeen-year-old girl. A respectful negotiation, so rare; so precious, his regard.

Kol continued; "Of course, big brother protested at the whole thing, which says an awful lot about his infatuation with you."

Elena jolted in surprise, leaning back slightly on her heels, eyes narrowing. "Infatuation?"

Kol cocked a brow, smirking at having thrown her off. She assumed he was screwing with her. He had to be because she had never noticed any signs of that from Elijah, just respect and occassional warmth that she could never be fully certain if she had simply imagined or not.

"You don't see it?" Kol asked, a taunt weaving through his voice. He stepped forward, and Elena - Elena didn't step back. She stood, unmoving, snared by his words. He read the lurking fascination off her face, smirk growing, not quite cruel but close. "But you feel it."

Not ready to react to that, Elena turned slightly back to the bar, pouring the shots this time. Kol's fingers brushed hers deliberately as he took the glass from her, eyes locked on hers. Together, they drank, and Elena felt the liquior seeping into her brain.

"You said you would tell me about Tatia," Elena stated, blinking through a faint fog.

Kol arched an eyebrow. "Already did. The prude managed to seduce both of my brothers, and then got herself killed by my allegedly two-faced mother. A thousand years down the line, you're running around repeating her mistakes with a new set of shiny toys."

Elena glanced down at her empty glass, and taking this as a cue, Kol splashed more amber liquid into it. She swished her glass around for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "People always compare me to them, to Katherine, and they always expect me to be unaware of the similarities between us. Only it's them who never notice the differences."

Who are so blinded by their expectations that they never see her coming.

Kol looked startled, but it slid quickly into an arrogant amusement. "Are you telling me off?"

There was nothing grand or notable about her expression, just simple fact. "Yes."

"To an insanity to rival my own," Kol said, grinning manically as he touched their glasses together.

Unable to help herself, Elena slanted him a stern look, to which he continued to smile, feral and sharp-toothed until she tipped the shot down her throat. It burned down her spine, resting in her stomach, but her head felt bruised, higher judgement shrinking.

Look, Stefan, she had called once, flushed and grinning with wildness, so very tired of his cold eyes, desperate to see emotion crack through, no hands!

"Not gonna lie, love," Kol said. Before she can see him move, she felt him, one hand snaking around her waist to pull her close, the other twirling a dark strand of hair around his fingers. Her stomach clenched sickly, and she stiffened in his grasp. "Tatia would never have the balls to scold an Original vampire."

Despite her wary discomfort, she felt a flush of pleasure rippling through her at his words - at the difference from yet another girl who had owned her face so long ago. It had never been easy to look at Damon or Klaus or Elijah and know that they had seen her body naked, that they knew about the freckle on her hip, the ticklish vulnerablity low on her belly.

Her personality, worn ragged through so much knife-edged pain, was her identity now.

Elena tilted her head away from Kol's hand when it moved from twirling her hair to touching her face, jaw clenching down on a grimace as her skin crawled nervously. "Stop," she said lowly, leaning back into his arm, hoping for it to give. "Let go of me."

Kol stared at her, eyes burning with intensity, features set darkly. Her hair twirled between his fingers one last time before stopping, and a grin carved its way across his mouth, transforming his face into a mixture of malice and charm.

"You're going to be interesting," he predicted, hand curving around the back of her head, reeling her in to kiss her forehead.

Elena inhaled, his aftershave dancing across her senses. It was a heavy scent, attention catching in a pleasant masculine way. Thoughts fluttered through her mind, wondering how he had adjusted to this time so well, wondering how long he had been daggered, wondering at the feel of his thumb on her spine, stroking over her coat.

Suddenly, Kol exhaled a smoky, manic-gleeful chuckle, squeezing his arms around her like a hug, and his lips moved intimately against her forehead, faint stubble rasping. "Like right now, love."

This time, he didn't stop her from pulling back, and frowning at him with wary confusion. "What do you mean?"

Across the room, the Grill doors were pulled open, and a man stepped smoothly into the bar.

Two dark heads turned toward him, but while Kol smirked, Elena inhaled sharply, a mixture of pleasure and shock washing over her face. Tall and lithe, a cool aura of effortless power, dark hair, shorter than she remembered, and an expression a few shades too intense to be mild on a handsome face.


"Kol," Elijah said, a steelly reproach in his tone.

"Brother!" Kol cried, mischievous grin returning his pointed features. "Just in time. Elena and I were about to start another round of shots." His voice held a smug undertone of filthy innuendo.

Kol's words slipped across her mind, and she found herself glancing at the older Original, but Elijah simply arched an eyebrow at his brother, cold disdain in the single movement.

"I believe," he said, the words slow and unhurried, "You were leaving, Kol."

The grin stayed manic and wide but Kol's eyes went hard. "I wasn't."

A chill went up Elena's spine, nerves fluttered in her stomach, and she resisted the urge to shy away, to move from between these two. The feeling increased when Elijah's mouth moved slightly upwards, imitating a smile. It was cracklingly cold and utterly, unflinchingly mild.

"Surely you would not be so foolish as to challenge me, brother?"

"Oh, but look at my examples!" Kol crowed, lifting his arms in a grand gesture. "You and Niklaus, tearing each other to pieces over a pretty girl."

It was a cruel jab, a sharp sneaky thing that, although Elijah made no sign of it, Elena knew must have hit a nerve. She didn't have time to absorb the jibe because at the end of his comment, Kol had twisted toward her, dark eyes flashing vividly.

"It was pathetic, really," he told her, hand shooting out to grasp hers, bring it fast to his mouth and kissing the back of her hand. Elena struggled not to flinch, and she saw Elijah turn to stone, muscles coiled tight. "And I've made such an effort not to turn out like my brothers, but you and I, Elena - "

Over her hand, he met her startled glare with yet another beam. "We will most certainly be seeing each other again."

In the next beat of her heart, Kol disappeared in a blur of vampire speed, flying out of the door, and Elena found herself alone with Elijah.

His eyes were fixed after his brother, dark and disapproving, but when they flickered to her, there was a respectful soften. A veiled relief as he studied her with more intensity in a single glance than Stefan or even Damon had paid her. "Elena. You are unharmed?"

Dazed by the wirlwind of activity, Elena blinked herself out of the shock with admirable ease. "I'm fine." And never leaving the house again without at least one vervain dart. Her eyes darted around the bar before returning to Elijah, a smile reflecting the situation on her face. "It looks like we've got some catching up to do."

Elijah smiled back faintly, far more kind than before, and she felt warmth surging up within her at the sight, further softening her own smile. It was a slow steady heat, a burst of relief and welcome that felt so foreign to her now.

"Yes, I believe so."