Timeline: still picture these events unfolding on the day that could be between the episode 11 and 12 on Vampire Diaries. And on episode 13 on the Originals.
I follow Elijah at an ultra-slow pace into his study, a spacious room with French-style floor-to-ceiling window that opens out on to a balcony. The first thing I notice is the smell; leather, wood, polish with a faint citrus scent. It's very cosy, and the lighting is soft, subtle. I stand shifting from on feet to the other in the middle of the room, looking around. I'm itching with discomfort; this is seriously rich, seriously over the top Bill Gates style wealthy.
What am I even doing here?
You know very well what you're doing here, my subconscious sneers at me. You've driven all night. No way of backing out now.
On one side of a huge elaborately carved desk is a brocade upholstered armchair for him, on my side a three seater cushioned sofa. He shrugs out of his suit jacket, and carefully places it on the back of his armchair. I notice how he is even yummier in just the simply white shirt and tie. He gestures toward the seat behind me.
"Have a seat."
"Thanks." The soft tan leather creaks as I dump my ass on it.
The second thing I notice is how the air in the study quickly turns stifling. It's one of those hot, humid days great for swimming in the river but hell for anything else. I'm praying my deodorant is a shining example of Truth in Advertising, and also because I'm wearing shorts my legs keep sticking to the leather. Every time I move I'm rewarded with a sort of sticky sound, like peeling tape from a cardboard box, which is just plain gross.
I'm avoiding direct eye contact with him by hiding under a loose lock of blonde hair. While he sits behind a big desk erect and calm—his posture speaking of easy confidence. Military bearing maybe, and I note with a frown that despite having been all wrapped up in a suit he seems to be sweating a lot less than I am.
He casually crosses his legs in a very distinguished manner, silently watching me—I fill my lungs, lower my lashes, and fiddle with the zipper on my bag, hoping he hasn't deciphered that this is absolutely unfamiliar territory for me. I try scouring my brain for a conversation starter.
"Great weather, huh?" The sound of my own voice breaks the awkwardness. A slight smile lifts his lips, as if he is seriously pondering my lame attempt at small talk.
"Let me let in some air." Before I can even process his words his footsteps are echoing on the flagstones.
The moment he pushes the double doors to the balcony apart I'm hit by a blast of cool air so refreshing that I even half close my eyes, savouring the feeling. I barely register him returning to the desk, picking up the telephone and saying what sounds like an order of some sort in French.
When I return to earth and refocus on him, his eyebrows inch up. "You're very quiet, and you're not even blushing. In fact, I think this is the palest I've seen you so far, Miss Forbes," he murmurs. "Are you comfortable?"
I start to nod eagerly and tug on the hem of the cute, white and blue striped denim shorts I'd purchased a few weeks ago from Topshop, but end up staring at the extreme amount of blindingly pale leg I'm offering up. I'm not sure what I hate myself for more; the fact that my first instinct is to wonder if Elijah thinks its too revealing, or that I've gone beetroot red on the face again like the blushing bafoon he thinks I am.
"Would something to drink help?" he asks, sitting back down behind his desk. For one second, I think about asking for alcohol because I'm in desperate need of a little dutch-courage, but I don't have the nerve.
"I'm okay." I take a deep breath, and start a to offer him a smile but I get interrupted by someone entering the room.
A maid with plump cheeks and plumper breasts appears balancing a silver tray. She's mixed race, a little bit Asian for sure, and very pretty. She's got her hair up in a perfect low bun which gives her a bit of a ballerina look, in fact she looks like she'd spent the whole year getting twisted and prodded by her Pilate's instructor and eating nothing but gum.
As soon as she reaches his desk we get hit with a wave of juicy couture and vanilla lotion that's so incredibly good for about twenty seconds, after which point it starts to make me sick. She skilfully places the tray down, then she hooks her hands together behind her and smiles up at him with stars in her eyes. I note with interest the vampire puncture marks on her wrist, and neck. but more interestingly on the cleavage of her left breast.
"Just in time." he says, already reaching for the decanter of cooled orange juice, and pours it into one of two companioning crystal flutes. "Thank you, Anita" He smiles at the maid. I notice that she nearly keels over on the spot, but Elijah doesn't seem to.
"Anything else you want, sir?" Anita asks, her gaze snagged on the Original. The key words in that sentence being 'You' and 'Want' but unfortunately for her there is a silence, during which Elijah actually doesn't even compute her lingering presence. Only when I clear my throat his attention darts to me, and then by default to her toothy smile.
He scratches his jaw in an uncomfortable, almost shy way and answers; "No. That is all."
Anita still hesitates, gaping at him. Definitely not the sharpest knife in the draw, but she seems nice enough, and likely to taste just as nice. He raises his eyebrows to question why she's still standing there. She flushes bright red. "Very well Mr. Mickelson," she stutters, then makes a hasty exit. He frowns, and turns his attention back to what he was doing.
"Freshly squeezed from a local plantation" He is expertly pouring the juice. Ice clinks against the glasses, and a drop of condensation slides from the rim to pool on polished silver. "Would you like to join me?" He sounds so encouraging and charming that it'll be hard for anyone to resist anything he offers, let alone lil-o-me.
"Yeees, please," I'm trying not to dribble. His eyes smile at me as he holds out the glass.
Even the glasses are rich, heavy, contemporary crystal. I check my hand as I take it from him, and thankfully, they've got no signs of visible trembling. I glance, as I sip the deliciously cool and very sweet juice, over the rim of my cup at his smooth-skinned, symmetrical face. Yup, I think. He is good-looking, and his eyes are kind.
I'm about to launch another one of my conversation starters, but before I can zing one he speaks up. "Nicklaus seems to be very taken by you."
His face alight with curiosity. I suck my stomach in, barely daring to breathe. Crap, Where's he going with this? He places his elbows on the arms of the chair and steeples his fingers in front of his mouth. "After everything that's been going on lately I have to admit I didn't see it coming."
I think of several very good comebacks that can put him neatly in his place, but since his place is actually a thousand years above mine on the food chain, I just play stupid; "See what coming?" I ask, thinking; Oh crap. But I do take stock of myself, and use blank face.
It's a good tatic, the blank face, and the best one I can come up with in such short notice. At least even if I feel terrified, I don't actually look it. He really stares at me, squinting slightly like he is figuring something out. Then he slowly smiles with his lips together, and its the sort that closes off his face. The kind that says; I'm not a fool.
"You and my brother." he says in some kind of crusty, not quite British, probably just too many years on Park Avenue accent.
A wave of panic hits me like a shovel to the head. I feel my mouth open and close a few times, all by itself, and just in time I remember that I need to breathe. I'm clearly being put on a spot here, but just as clearly I have to say something.
"Well, I-I, um, ah," I say, quite distinctly. "Um, er, there is no such thing as me and your brother!"
"I'm no fool, Miss Forbes." He stares at me, coolly questioning. "Nor am I blind."
I take a big deep deep breath and make a special effort not to go on the defensive, but since I am who I am I simply can't help myself. "I don't know what you think you're seeing but there is nothing going on between us. And by nothing I mean exactly that, nada. zilch. zero!" I wait a beat to let that sink in some, then I quickly add; "Sleeping with your lunatic of a brother was a colossal mistake, and I want nothing more to do with him."
I take another big deep deep breath, and let out a sharp, loud exhale before I slam back into the sofa for good measure. I don't expect him to respond with high-fives, and he sure doesn't, but the way his eyes are suddenly flat, unreadable, as they stare back into mine like I'm a bug wriggling on a pin sort of terrifies me. After several seconds of watching me wriggling on said pin he suddenly inhales sharply, and I nearly pee myself, mortified at my dumb boldness, now wondering if this is a terminally stupid move.
Why didn't I employ some kind of filter between brain and mouth before I entered this room with this man?
He is looming by the balcony doors like an ice statue. He doesn't move at all for a long while, and seems to be watching something in the far-off distance. By either side of the doors are identical tall mahogany tables with fresh flowers in a vase. Not just any old flowers, either. Huge exotic things that I don't know the name of, artfully arranged in minimalist clumps. Their bright colours and delicacy is in stark contrast with him and his sharp edges. So much so that the sight of his silhouette bathed in sun light gives him a very overwhelming presence—even more physically imposing than Klaus, and when I see him briefly close his eyes, and let out a dramatic sigh I get a little more anxious.
"Sorry, I don't mean to be rude." I squeak, not at all sure why I'm apologizing for, but very certain from the tension in the air that I should. Elijah doesn't seem to hear me for a minute. He's closed off, locked behind something I can't penetrate. After a moment he turns, glancing around the room, as if he has been somewhere far from here, as if he forgot I'm still present.
"No, sweetheart, Don't be sorry. Don't be sorry at all." he says, putting his hands in his pockets and leaning back against the frame of the door. He's clearly confident in his own attraction, an Alpha male to his bones. "It seems Nicklaus has been in the habit of having one night stands. I honestly don't know why I'm surprised."
"Not surprise there then," I'm half joking, trying to make light of the conversation, trying desperately to hide the fact that that revelation is stinging like a bitch. He shrugs, as if these things can't be helped.
"Miss Forbes." he says, tilting his head and raising an eyebrow as if he is not quite sure whether to call me that or something more informal, like Caroline. "Tell me about this letter."
"It's from Katherine." I blurt out, happy not to think about Klaus and his can't be helped habits. Anyway for a split second there I swear Elijah looks as if I just shot him on the forehead with a shotgun.
"Katerina," He corrects, keeping his voice low, as his eyes drop briefly. I watch his face working to rearrange itself back to his usual mask of terrifying grumpy authority, but it takes several moments, and in the interval he looks shockingly vulnerable.
"I found it in her bag. I think she wrote it before she died." I add, very carefully now, watching for a reaction for several long seconds, but there is really not much to see any-more. I've not known this guy for very long, but even so, I know something is not quite right, and It feels unsettling to the extreme. I just can't leave it on that note so I try a very lame and pathetic; "I'm sorry for your lost."
I now catch on his face an expression of misery and shame so acute that I'm shocked to the heart. He turns away instantly and examines the yard outside with studious interest, as if he's never seen it before. I see his neck muscles tense, but he doesn't speak, and so I open my mouth to stammer something or other but before I can utter a single meaningless syllable Elijah speaks up.
"Katerina was-" he pauses, and I can tell he is debating whether to say more. There is something more, something else bothering him, but he just draws a long breath. "She a different person to the woman you knew," he finishes with the faintest tremor in his voice.
"I'm sorry," I repeat, meaning it.
"So am I," he agrees, his voice brokers no evasions. He looks at me sideways, out of the corner of his eye, and adds; "You would have liked her." but now there is a very slight, barely detectable, warmer undertone to his voice.
His face, however, appears ghoulish with misery. When I ask him what she was like his entire body visibly sighs. I say nothing, but my expression tells him I'm waiting for an answer. He appears to think about this for a minute, almost as though he is debating which version to tell me, or if to tell me at all. A muscle clenches and unclenches in his strong Harrison jaw.
"She was-" He chokes on the words, then clears his throat."Katerina was-" He tries again, still struggling with what to say next. I feel a jolt of anticipation at his words and the way his gaze roams over my face as he thinks. I even lean forward as well, and when he exhales, I realize he's been holding his breath.
"Earthy," he offers, his dark gaze holding mine.
I want to look away but I'm caught – spellbound by this six-foot-one specimen of pure alpha in front of me. In his eyes I recognize dejection, and it might just be me, but his posture seems physically weighed down. By what I can't say for sure, but I'm guessing love is plays an important part in that weight. I don't understand it. Elijah is a man who is, at heart, a genuinely good person, totally pedigreed and clearly very cleaver. How can he have gone for Katherine? She had the morals and sensibilities of an ally cat.
"For some reason, I can't see you with someone like Katherine." This comes out sounding like some sort of criticism, but I want it to be more of a compliment.
Thankfully he isn't offended by my compliment, and takes it up for conversation. "To be fair, in the end, neither could I. Not in the long run, anyway. But for a while, it was surprisingly easy to overlook our obvious differences. And we did. We made this time for us, and we were overwhelmingly happy. An interlude, she called it – she was giving me this interlude, giving it to us, and it was clear from the way she said it that she knew it would end. "
"I''ll bet she knew." I nod, knowing that Katherine was always a step ahead. Of course she knew her romance with the Hybrid's brother had a sell by date.
As our eyes holds his expression changes subtly from unreadable to the barest of smiles, though guarded. He doesn't look away, even when I glance into my empty glass and then back at him. "Thank you for listening." he offers finally.
"No problem." I half whisper. His attitude towards me feels unnaturally personal, but I don't mind it. I respect him. I like him. He intrigues me, and maybe I am capable of making friends outside of Mystic Falls, outside my comfort zone.
"I have to apologise." He adds.
I stretch to put my glass down on the desk before answering with what he knows is an obvious attempt to seem casual."For what?"
"For what I said before, about my brother."
The mention of Klaus makes my heart flip in my chest, but I force myself to appear totally unaffected. At first I can't think of anything to answer. "Your family." I try, sounding as if I've emptied a helium balloon. "It's a fair enough that you to what to know what gets up to. I get it. It's fine." I pause, unsure of that's right sort of answer.
"No, it isn't," he sighs in his long-suffering big brother manner. "It was wrong to make assumptions. It's personal. So please accept my apology."
"It's fine," I say, simply because I have nothing better to say.
"But would you at least humour me?" He reaches up and tugs at his tie, clears his throat. I can tell he is beside himself with discomfort. Hesitantly I nod. The question dressed as a statement comes out very softly spoken; "It is fairly obvious my brother cares for you. One simply can't help but wonder if the feeling is a mutual one."
I look down at my hands as I fidget with the hem of my shorts. I practice inhalation and exhalation, over and over, just enough times to seem as if I'm thinking about my answer, and not having a mini-asthma attack. I look back up at him. Elijah's penetrating, brown eyes, like black ice shimmering with interest, focusses on mine; he jolts his head as if to say—well?
"I don't know."
"There is no shame in it." He reassures kindly. Something about his face reminds me of my father. But Daddy is best not remembered, or I'll end up in tears.
"Yes—no, I don't know. Sort of." I blink, annoyed by my epic choice of one syllable words, and almost as soon as I realize what I've just admitted to, I wish I hadn't. Instantly I drop my eyes to the ground in a childish attempt to save face. But I have to look up eventually, and now is as good a time as any so I do .
Elijah stalks towards me so quickly that I don't have time to read into his expression. He squats low before me and swiftly and elegantly he takes hold of my free my hand, pulls it to his mouth, and tenderly plants a kiss the back of it. "You are one brave young woman,"
It's such an old fashioned, sweet gesture I would probably feel the urge to swoon; well, that is if I wasn't so busy perverting over the way his shirt is stretched over his biceps— at the way his black suit pants has gotten all taut over his general thigh area. Then with the instantaneous realisation that I'm in fact staring at his crotch I dart my eyes up to see absolutely no tale-tale sign on his face to indicate he noticed said shamefaced act. No knowing where to stick my head I decide to keep holding my breath until I count all the little flexes in his face in each of his irises. Slowly, I risk one slow breath through my nose. And then another.
"I'm in awe of you." He sounds proud enough to burst, and then he smiles a full blown smile at me.
I'm overcome with warm thoughts of the way he is smiling at me and of how much I like this very real smile—so different than the ones I've experienced from the other originals. Rebekah often faked hers, and Klaus used his to annoy the living day lights out of me. Elijah's though is something else; its just so warm, and so nice, and so crazy sexy that can't imagine a girl ever resisting. I for one can't possibly, and so in return I blind him with my Miss Mystic Falls smile.
Elijah and I stare at each other in a slow moment of realising we could definitely be friends. And as awkward as his proximity is, I'm intrigued with the possibilities of what this could bring. He kisses my hand again and places it back in my lap, but instead of taking his hand away he blankets it over mine. This leaves me staring at his strong-looking hand, and of course his hands are also amazingly, perfectly, and annoyingly well made. Like the rest of him.
"I'll like to get to know you better." He sounds like he means it too.
"Same," I say looking up. Something tugs in my throat, some stupid little kid thing; my happiness at pleasing him, at being good enough, and interesting enough for him.
Elijah moves away, goes back to striking a pose under the sun, fingers dragging upward on the side of his head. He really is beautiful. I know men aren't supposed to be, but he is. He is frowning out his balcony window, thinking maybe. I'm not as edgy; now its just me sitting in a room with a particularly beautiful man who wants to get to know me better, enjoying a now comfortable silence.
I decide not to interrupt it, but he does to ask; "Miss Forbes, tell me, why be so charitable to the woman who was responsible for your death?"
The sudden change of conversation throws me so I haven't got a practised answer to hand. I stare at Elijah who has turned around, his face surprises me even more than his line of questioning; It's alight with curiosity. "She helped me a little, you know, we had a frenemy thing going for a second there." His eyes does not leave my face, and he is listening to every word I'm saying closely. "To be honest she wasn't all that bad." I add quietly.
It's stupid really, and Elena would hand me my ass if she ever found out I felt this way about her nemesis, but I keep thinking someone owes it to her—to peasant Bulgarian girl, I mean—so Elijah is right, my reasons for coming are predominately charitable. Firstly because she is dead, I'm not and no one else has the heart to do it. Secondly, like Elena she never asked to be the doppelgänger whose blood everyone wants spilled over silly rocks and stuff. Thirdly being suffocated with a pillow was truly a blessing is disguise, and so in some twisted way I want to thank her for it. Now, I could list plenty other lame excuses, but in the end of the day you could simply say I liked her more than i let on.
I look down and away from him, trying to find the right words. "Maybe, if things where different we could have been friends."
"If things where different." Elijah echoes. I look up to see a wistful smile flickering across his face, then it slowly fades away as he stares of into the distance. "Maybe she could have been happy. Married, been a mother...grown old." His voice soft, with a storytelling quality to it. Maybe he is seeing the sunlit land of Bulgaria, her ancestral home – the lemon groves, the hot sun beating down on dusty roads and lush country-land. And his Katerina, dark-haired and lovely, laughing, kissing her husband, playing with her children.
"She nailed two out to three at least." I smile, happy to point out the bright side on everything and anything. He's not at all impressed because he frowns at me, and frowns at me real hard. It' feels as if he's waiting for me to do something, what I honestly can't guess — a circus act maybe. Anyway, I start feel a panic attack coming on when he swaps frown for an end-of-tether type of sigh, seemly exasperated with my inability to perform circus acts on cue.
"Miss Forbes. I'm afraid you've lost me." I exhale with sheer relief. I thought that he got angry at me for being an insensitive idiot, when he is only confused. But I guess that's a easy mistake to make with a man who is as expressive as a plank of wood.
"You know." I let out a long, attention-getting huff and fold my arms to re-muster at least a scrap of confidence while swallowing the lump of fear lodged in the back of my throat. "She did die of old age. And got reunited with her daughter. That's two out of three." Elijah sucks in a breath as though my explanation has startled him, but I don't take any notice because I'm far too busy talking; "but if you count the proposal then it's two and a half out of three." And with that said I swear he's gone completely pale now.
"H-Her daughter?" The original stutters. He looks so prickly and uncomfortable, that I can't help but gape at him with my jaw practically docked on the floor. I didn't think Elijah Mikaelson was ever capable of something so uncool as stuttering. It suddenly makes him seem so very human.
"Nadia" I offer.
"Nadia" He sounds it like he's tasting the name, and I notice with interest how his slight injection of an accent carries without effort. I can't, however, translate the look on his face to save my life. I'm worried his curiosity is peaked, and he's going to ask a ton more questions. And of course — he does exactly that.
"Now that Katerina is-" He pauses to swallow something lodged in his throat, or maybe it's his way of articulating the word dead without having to say it out-loud. "-what's become of her daughter?"
Without thought I go for a shrug—the dismissive, couldn't-care-less one. The very one that used to make mum want to shoot me. "How should I know?"
"Have you met her?"
"She's a bitch." I say, opting for blunt honestly. "but hey, you know what they say; the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
But honesty is a mistake, there's a instant shift in the atmosphere around him, a dark one. I feel the force of his stare almost as if it has physical form, as if it's a an arrow or a spear. If I didn't know different I'd think I've just dissed his daughter. At any rate it has triggered another mini-panic attack. His back is ram-rod straight but his expression slowly shifts from ticked off to ever so slightly merciful. He looks as though he can't decide whether he's my new best friend, or if he rather decapitate me.
I think he decides to spare me, and like a startled rabbit I watch him return to his seat behind the desk, his movements large and perfectly balanced, like that of a predator, but when in a room like this, he seems more like a wild tiger held in a cage too small for it. He still stares at me squarely on, looking like he's about to ask the most important question of all. I seriously don't think I can handle answering another one without getting myself killed.
"and what of this marriage proposal you speak of?" .
"Oh, that-" I croak, working to keep my breathing in check as I try to curb the larger panic attack hanging over me. His eyes go sharp and assessing, and they bore into my forehead like a drill. I play it off by staring at the air just above his head, and avoid eye contact at all costs as I explain; "Elijah, the thing is, Katherine told me that in confidence. I really really should not have mentioned it."
"Caroline Forbes?" He sounds half like my dad; mainly because he is the only other person to ever use both my names like that. Daddy saved it for especial occasions like Elena's birthday where I pulled her hair for getting the Malibu Barbie I was dreaming of. The booming sound of those two words used to frighten my little soul right out of me—Heck, I'm scared to death right now.
"It's private, Elijah." I say, forming each word carefully so as not to aggravate him, but he is having none of it.
"Either you tell me at your own free will, or I compel it out of you." I stare at him unblinking at what he just said. It's all I can do not to scream; You can't be serious! If only I could—but my voice seems to no longer exist. And to add salt to injury he closes his threat with a clam, and collected; "It's your choice."
"That's not much of a choice." Even though I realize that arguing with him is borderline dangerous at this point, I just can't stop myself. I even go as far as to to fold my arms over my chest whilst the guy keeps on frowning at me like a black cloud. I only get a split second of terrible awareness of what is coming before he descends on me. His hand closes around my chin, holding my head still, and locks his gaze on mine with a steel-laden resolve.
"let me go...Or else," I try, although I know he won't do that. He looks at me for several minutes, silent. The chill in the air has nothing to do with the air conditioning. His cold stare tells me in no uncertain terms that I've no way out.
"Or else?" he mimics, and I can't help but detect a mocking note to it.
"I'll tell Klaus." I blurt without much thought. Anyone else be rolling on the floor with the hilarity at my ever revolutionary threat, but Elijah ever the gentleman, saves me the embarrassment. There is only a bemused glint sparkling in the depths of his dark eyes.
"But I," I release a self-loathing sigh; this is a fruitless argument – I've obviously already lost, "-I promised her."
"Caroline," he starts to compel me in a mechanical monotone – it scrapes across my spine unpleasantly, like a dull nail. My eyes are pinned by his, and I probably can't look away even if I try. "Tell me who proposed to Katerina."