He's like a lost little puppy.
One that's been kicked so many times, it does nothing but cower in a corner, waiting to die.
Dead is how she found him, after Elena had run from the room, searching for their aunt. She pulled him from that bed, the transition already in effect, away from the house and the life he no longer wanted.
He stirs an hour or so before sunrise, groggy and confused, taking in his surroundings with a detached curiosity when she lets him see her. The surprise so clear in his eyes she almost laughs, knowing this is what's most likely to happen every time she is mistaken for-
"Elena?" He asks, rising to his feet. "What the hell?"
Looking around again.
"Where are we?"
"Not important," she replies with a twirl of her finger. "Not Elena," pointing at herself.
She almost laughs again, the way his eyes go all wide and round, no idea who she is but what kind of obvious. He backs away cautiously, as if an extra foot of distance makes any difference in regards to his safety.
"Relax," she says, putting on her best smile.
"Am I," he starts, looks down at his feet. "Am I dead?"
"Somewhere in the middle."
She's on him in the blink of an eye, up by the neck with feet dangling, eyes black and fangs flashed.
"That's the last time you call me that."
Shorts little gasps escape his lips, the struggle for air keeping any acknowledgement of the demand at bay, but he manages to nod and she lets him drop.
"What do I call you then?" Comes out in a wheeze, as he lay there trying to get his breath back.
He stares blankly, and it's a little disappointing her name doesn't strike his heart the way it usually does with others. Guess Miss Gilbert didn't fancy keeping her little brother up to speed, despite his own affiliation with vampires.
"Why did you bring me here?"
She kneels on the ground next to him, a feather light touch to hair that desperately needs a trim, letting the concern she's so good at mimicking shine down.
"You want to turn." She replies, still stroking his hair. "Did you really think that was going to happen with your sister around? Or the Salvatore's?"
One look and she knows he hadn't thought about that at all. Such a lump of raw clay, Jeremy, should be fun molding him. He sits up, folding his hands in his lap, almost bashful.
"I still fe-" he starts, stops and looks away. "Damon said you could turn it off if you wanted."
"Of course you can," she says. "After."
Rising to her feet she backs away a step or two, into a shadowed corner of the room, smiling all the while, the first genuine one she chooses to give. She can feel his eyes searching the darkness; hear the flutter of his heart beating with just the right mix of fear and anticipation, the lost little puppy wagging its tail.
The girl walks silently toward him, his gaze locked on every step of her feet, knowing exactly what she's there for and what he must do. A thin stream of blood drips down the girl's neck, Katherine can see his body react before he fully notices, the hunger starting to take hold.
He hesitates just a second, they all do, the last of their humanity struggling to keep hold but always failing in the end. He rips into the girl's neck, those animalistic sounds of the first feed echoing off the walls.
The body drops lifeless to the floor, the horror at what he's just done starting to show.
"Like a switch," Katherine reminds him calmly, and just like that his face blanks, moving to wipe his mouth he can't help but lick the remains from his fingers.
Looking at him, so young, so new, it stirs something inside she hasn't felt in nearly a hundred and forty years. Not that she's ever wanted a little brother, a family, but something close, something she thought Damon and Stefan could have provided, isn't so hideous a thought it once had been.
She smiles proudly at Jeremy, offering a hand, and when he takes it a plan begins to form.
One sweet little kiss and he knows she isn't his precious Elena. Hands gripping her arms so tight as he forces himself backward, gasping a disdain she knows is all for show.
The way he says her name, so full of longing and regret, just like he used to. It's a clichéd scene, a foggy cemetery minutes away from the breaking dawn, ex-lovers sharing a moment one of them wants and the other doesn't. Pulling from his grip, she refuses to take a step back, letting him be the one to retreat.
He does predictably, forever the mouse to her cat. But he doesn't run, always wanting to believe the good in people, even her. Folding his arms, he waits. For her to offer an explanation, a threat, whatever he expects. He'd always been the difficult one that way, never blinded by love like his brother, needing reasons for actions she never gave a second thought to.
"What are you doing here?" He asks when she doesn't give him any of those things.
"Such a simple question," she replies. "Hardly a simple answer."
He doesn't bait her again, choosing to wait her out as if pouting will get him what he wants. He's changed since she last saw him, perhaps the years had not been so kind, the hopeful light in his eyes that had drawn her so close, must have faded with time.
Or perhaps that pathetic excuse of a copy has got him wrapped around her naïve little finger. The jealousy itself is not surprising, but the strength of it is. That silly little girl Elena Gilbert is nothing in comparison, and yet there she is, deftly handling the Salvatore's simply because she doesn't realize that is what she's doing.
"You want to know why I'm here Stefan?"
Making sure it sounds sincere, eyes focusing into his, her will projecting truth into the words.
"I came back for you."
Taking a step closer, he doesn't step back, a tiny victory but one she can build on.
"You don't mean that," he deflects.
Another step closer, he still doesn't move.
"You had a century to find me, find Damon, and let us know you were never trapped in that tomb. But you didn't. So why now? Because Damon had finally given up? Because I finally found happiness I didn't think existed?"
"Is that what it is?" She wonders. "Loving a girl with my face?"
"Elena isn't you."
"Oh there's no doubt," she replies with a grin. "But tell me Stefan, doesn't it sting just a little, that every time you look at her, every time you kiss, you have to tell yourself exactly that?"
Hand on his cheek, he remains stone still but doesn't shy away.
"I think I need to meet her."
It's the wrong thing to say, she knows, but necessary to steer the game where she needs it to be. Smacking her hand away and taking the step back he'd been fighting against, "that's never going to happen," he says, putting as much force into his voice as he can muster.
She smiles at the feeble attempt to intimidate her, him thinking there's something that can be done to stop whatever he thinks she might be playing at.
"I think it will," she replies. "I have something she wants."
It takes him less than a second to realize what she means, flashing his speed and pinning her against one of the more extravagant crypts. She lets him keep her there, lets him feel like he's in control.
"You have Jeremy."
She laughs at his intensity, his capacity to care nothing short of devastating for the monsters they are. It makes her wonder how many times he's had the opportunity to push it away and chosen not to.
"Please, you make it sound like I have him chained to a post somewhere."
"What have to done to him?"
Pushing him away with a force that could break bones, she has him pinned to the ground in the blink of an eye, an old position that brings back such fond memories.
"Nothing he hadn't already done to himself," she assures.
Eyes narrow into disbelief, he's choosing to think it a lie even if he knows deep down she's telling the truth.
"You're lying," he says weakly.
Her hands trace his cheeks gently, she has missed him, and up until this point she's never realized just how much before leaning in to kiss, when he turns his head away.
"I don't think I ever loved you," he says softly.
It's meant to sting, and even if she's aware of that fact, it still hits a place inside no switch can turn off.
"You did," she insists, breath warm against his cheek. "And as much as you want to tell yourself it was all compulsion, your heart knows different. You tried to save me, you died for me, if that's not love to people like us then you really have no idea what it means."
To that he has no reply.
She hardly had a chance to look properly, back in the kitchen with John and all the excitement going on, but now that things have slowed and she has time to really take her in, there aren't a lot of ways to describe it. Some strange genetic joke leftover from a family she hadn't kept tabs on in centuries.
Elena Gilbert, her own spitting image.
First thing Katherine does is reach out, a move Elena instantly flinches from, to tuck away a stray lock of hair behind her ear. It's an easy signal: no boundaries here little girl. Stefan no doubt, is lurking behind a tree somewhere, keeping a watchful eye. And Damon clearly wasn't told of this little tryst, he wouldn't be able to keep himself away.
"Where is Jeremy?"
The first thing she says, nothing but concern for her brother, how sweet.
"Asleep most likely," Katherine replies nonchalantly. "Not enough enchanted jewelry to go around these days."
The range of emotions that flash across Elena's face, such a thing to see, surreal the only accurate (if overused) description. Relief that he's not dead like she thought that night in his room, sadness that he's no longer of this mortal coil, and worry that he's taken residence with a vampire most others fear.
"I didn't turn him, no," Katherine assures. "He was already on his way, don't ask me how."
Elena nods numbly.
"Am I going to be able to see him? Or are you keeping him from me?"
"I'll leave that up to him."
She wasn't expecting that answer, Katherine knows, smiling with delight at the look on Elena's face. "I'm not completely a manipulative bitch," she says smoothly. "Despite what you may have heard."
Elena doesn't respond to that, instead asks "why did you want to meet me?"
"Vampires are a gossiping bunch," Katherine replies. "So imagine that you keeping hearing about this girl, who's a dead ringer of you, and on top that has taken up with your old lovers in your old stomping grounds. The question isn't why would I want to meet you, it's why wouldn't I want to rip your throat out?"
Stefan makes himself known then, stepping into her line of vision.
"Tell him to stay put," Katherine warns. "It's just a question."
Elena nods at Stefan, who begrudgingly stays where he is.
"So it's love then," Katherine comments drolly. "Despite what he is."
"Because of who he is," Elena replies defiantly.
Katherine smiles, the response telling in what Elena is willing to accept a lot when it comes to vampires.
"Have you two had the talk yet?" She asks.
Elena's eyes narrow. "Talk?"
"You're not going to be young and beautiful forever," Katherine says with a grin. "But he is. And from what I've seen, as much as it pains me to admit, he won't live without you."
It's difficult to keep the anger in check when the two of them share a look, the urge to just reach across and snap her little neck so palpable.
"I haven't really thought about it," Elena admits.
Clearly she's lying, but Katherine doesn't call her on it, figuring the thought is already burrowed in her mind somewhere, and now will start to fester away.
"They both love you," she goes on. "Just as they once loved me. And I don't know what to hate you for more, the fact that look like me or the fact that you don't even have to try with them."
Elena is getting uncomfortable now, nervous by Katherine's increasingly aggressive conversation.
"Don't worry that pretty little head of yours," she says, leaning forward to caress Elena's cheek. "I have no intention of harming you."
"At least not today."
He's doesn't hesitate, realizing she's Katherine, lips on hers before she can even speak another word. She knows he needs this, carrying that torch for over a century, thinking her the damsel in distress. Ironic, she muses, that he's the one who fancies himself her white knight.
The color is hardly befitting with the trail of bodies he's left in his wake, but on the other hand, she's a little proud he'd taken to the life as he did. (Even if his M.O. seems to be a near carbon copy of hers.)
Hands don't stop, so confident he still is, but when he moves to cup her face she breaks free.
"Easy tiger," she says, catching a breath she doesn't need.
Eyes so intense when they lock with hers, a thousand questions forming in them, but only one slipping past his lips.
"Where have you been?"
Everywhere the short answer, the details of exactly where and when too vast to even begin to describe.
"What have I always told you?" She asks in return. "A time and place for every thing."
"Time and place," he repeats. "Like Chicago? Say, 1983?"
The memory flashes in her mind instantly, seeing Anna for all of five minutes in that smoke filled dive bar. Good to know she still leaves an impression.
"I kept tabs on you," she offers. "Seemed to be doing just fine on your own."
He says nothing to that, moving to the wet bar and pouring a drink.
"A hundred year vendetta," she continues, sidling next to him for her own drink. "Kind of petty isn't it?"
The glare would be intimidating, if not for the fact that he was acting like a spoiled brat.
"It was his fault you got caught," he mutters. "I took it badly."
"Really? So Stefan was the one to pump himself full of vervain and not your father? He was the one to put me in shackles?"
Damon just stares into his glass, spinning it idly in his hand.
"We haven't seen each other in awhile," she offers. "But I still know you. Spit it out."
He mumbles something she can't hear, the glass cracking in his grip.
"I'm sorry, what?"
"It wasn't supposed to be him," he says louder.
She only stares, unsure if she'd heard right, before laughing softly.
"Something funny?" He retorts.
Placing a hand on his cheek, a gesture he doesn't shy from despite the anger, she waits patiently for him to calm.
"So very much the same boy," she says lightly, stroking her thumb, his eyes drifting closed. "Wanting me all to yourself."
He nods, head leaning forward the slightest bit, expecting a kiss. Moving closer, lips next to his ear, she whispers "It was always going to be the two of you."
Eyes snap open with a jolt, hands on her arms to push away, but she's quicker grabbing his hands to keep him there.
"I wanted you both," she says calmly. "I had you both. If you think that, simply because I chose to compel him and not you, means you were tipped in my favor you couldn't be more wrong."
Smiling at his incredulous look, the fact that he can't believe what she's saying, that it could be true. It never even entered his mind that she might have preferred Stefan's company to his own. And while that's not entirely true, letting him believe it is simply delicious.
"You're a killer Damon," she says. "Tell me, how much fun is the hunt when the prey is so willing?"
Lifting a finger to bop the tip of his nose, she laughs heartily when he growls and breaks away.
"Serves you right," she continues, crossing her arms. "Replacing me with some cheap knock off."
"Elena, Elena, Elena," she cuts him off. "It's a broken record with the both of you."
"Stefan loves her," Damon says with a smirk, some the cocky arrogance returning. "Whatever game you're trying to play isn't going to change that, believe me."
"What about me?"
"Smooth moves on her porch Mr. Salvatore. And don't even think about saying you knew it was me."
Nothing to say to that.
"So, what are you doing here?" He asks after a lengthy silence. "It can't possibly be because you missed me."
"Maybe I'm lonely," she replies. "Maybe I'm bored."
"I'm inclined to believe the latter," he says smugly. "New question, what do you want?"
She downs the ignored drink in her hand in one pull, stepping closer to him again, eyes going dark before she can help it.
"What I should have had from the beginning," she starts, moving closer still. "You, me, and Stefan."
Grabbing his hand, their fingers interlocking.
"And to show what a good sport I can be, I'll even allow the possibility for Elena and her puppy dog little brother."
Lips curling into a smile as her fangs slowly reveal themselves.
"One big happy family."