"You're scaring her, Damon," Stefan's voice mildly admonished.

"She should be scared," Damon's voice cracked out. "If what we've heard about this guy is true..."

"Elena?" Stefan quietly prodded.

Katherine stared into the blackness that was her closed eyelids, and sank back into the softly inviting cushions of the antique love seat. Once again, she found herself in the company of two chumps who were completely fooled by her act. Acting like Elena was easy, but it was still a boring chore. She pinched at her temple, sighed, and looked up at the chandelier that hung from the ceiling of the Salvatore boarding house. The overcast sky and gray clouds forced a surreal darkness in the foyer, and left Katherine with an uneasy feeling. It just seemed to be one of those days; the kind that she wished she hadn't gotten out of bed. As much as she enjoyed teasing the boys and playing them for suckers, she really didn't want to be with the Salvatores today. Perhaps that was why her thoughts kept drifting back to the real Elena. It was strange, but she felt like she finally had a companion in Elena. She missed her company, her stubbornness, and even her sickeningly altruistic attitude. She missed their challenging conversations, which so often felt like a game of chess. She missed Elena's infrequent, shy smile. But most of all, she missed her sweet, innocent blood. She craved it.

She craved Elena.

"So basically what you're saying is the oldest vampire in the history of time is coming after me?" Katherine finally asked, feigning trepidation.

"In a nutshell," Damon said as he threw back a stiff drink.

"Have some tact, Damon," Stefan admonished. He knelt down beside where Katherine sat. "Look Elena, we don't even know if this Klaus guy really exists. For all we know, it could be some story made up to scare everyone."

"You're being incredibly naive," Damon scowled.

"Damon, this isn't the time for it," Stefan scolded, cracks forming in his calm exterior.

"It's okay, guys. I don't want to be kept in the dark. I want you to tell me everything you find out," Katherine said, abruptly standing up from her seat. "Alright, I'd better get going. I promised Jeremy I'd be home before dark."

"I'll walk you out," Stefan said, rising up from his crouching position. Katherine had to make a conscious effort not to walk with her typically sultry swagger. Stefan followed her up the steps from the sunken foyer. "You know, Elena, I was thinking maybe we could get away. Put all of this doom and gloom behind us for a little while. Maybe go on a little road trip?"

Katherine slung her purse over her shoulder. "I don't think so, Stefan. I'm really busy lately."

"Busy with what?" Stefan asked. "You don't seem yourself lately. You've been skipping classes. If I didn't know better, it seems like you're trying to distance yourself from me."

Katherine did her best Elena-like sigh. "I just need a little time off, that's all."

Stefan crossed his arms over his chest. "Where were you last night?"

"At home," Katherine lied while she visualized what she was really doing: slipping into Elena's bed, putting dreams in her mind, and drinking her blood.

Stefan nervously scratched the back of his head. "It's just that... I went to your house. You weren't there. You told Jeremy you were with me. And you told me you were home with Jeremy. So..."

Katherine gulped hard. Rather than risk getting caught in further lies, she chose to cut and run. She bit her lip and exhaled, trying to mimic Elena's "I can't be bothered with this right now" kind of look. "Sorry, Stefan. I told you I needed some time alone. Please respect that."

Stefan nodded in defeat. "I do. It's just that I thought we were past the point of keeping secrets from each other. Whatever it is, you can tell me."

Katherine sighed. "I can't do this now, Stefan. I have to go." She turned to leave, but Stefan blocked her path.

"Alright. But consider that road trip. I was thinking maybe we could go to that bar in Atlanta again. We had a lot of fun, remember?" Stefan asked. Instantly, Damon's ears perked up at the question and he froze in the midst of pouring another drink. It was a sign. Damon immediately knew what was going on, and what his brother was up to. Stefan shot a furtive glance back down the foyer, and Damon quietly dropped his chin in a stealthy nod.

"Sure, I remember. It was fun," Katherine said hurriedly.

Stefan's smile dropped. "Elena and I never went to Atlanta, Katherine."

Katherine didn't even have a chance to blink before both brothers pinned her against the wood paneled wall; Damon strangled her by the throat, while from out of nowhere, Stefan plunged a stake deep into her stomach. The vile wood hurt like bitter poison burning through her veins as blood spilled from around the wound, soaking and staining the blue cloth of her shirt front. She yowled in agony and wrenched against Damon's choke hold.

"Do we really have to do this dance every time we meet?" Katherine groaned.

"Where is she?" Stefan demanded.

"She's mine now!" Katherine let out as much of a laugh as she could in spite of the awful pain of the wood piercing her flesh. "What's the matter, Stefan? Jealous that I'm pleasing your woman in ways you never could?" she spat venomously.

"Wrong answer," Damon growled.

Stefan wasted no time. He forcefully yanked the stake out and plunged it into her once again, a little bit higher and closer to her heart. She groaned and began to sweat. It was clear that the brothers weren't playing games. "Each time you don't answer the question, I'm going to stake you another inch higher. That leaves you with three more chances before I reach your heart," Stefan said calmly. "Now, let's try it again: where is she?"

"You boys are so damn hot when you're violent. How about we move it into the bedroom?" Katherine breathlessly teased, but the unflinching brothers didn't appreciate her sense of humor. Stefan angrily pulled the stake free and jabbed her again, another inch higher, as promised. She winced and groaned in agony.

"Last chance," Damon announced with a wild look in his eyes.

"If you kill me, you'll never find her," Katherine growled, taking satisfaction in the subtle concerned glances the brothers shot each other. With a fierce tug, Stefan ripped the stake out and came at her once more. But this time, Katherine met him with a swift kick to the chest which sent him tumbling down the steps of the foyer. As Damon glanced back at his fallen brother, Katherine took advantage of his lapse in attention, twisting the elder Salvatore's arm behind his back, and flipping him into an antique end table, which crashed with an explosive burst of splintered wood and glass. With a huff, Katherine blew the strands of hair out of her face and fled the boarding house, and not a moment too soon. "It's been fun, boys. I'll be sure to send your love to Elena," she snickered on the way out.

Katherine cursed as she fled the boarding house, wiping her bloody hands on the already stained blue shirt and blue jeans of her drab and uninspired "Elena uniform." Her wounds healed themselves in a matter of seconds, like usual, but a hint of pain lingered that was strangely out of the ordinary. Vampires' physical pain is fleeting, under normal conditions. Nevertheless, she shrugged it off, figuring that a good feed was all she needed. As she drove away, she pulled a fresh blood bag out from under the seat and drained it in a matter of seconds, dropping the empty bag to the floor with a satisfying squish. Thirst satiated, she felt better, but still not one hundred percent. The ghost pains in her stomach and the relentless pounding in her temple were troubling. Veering the car down a side street, she suddenly heeded the urge to get home as quickly as possible. But when she arrived back at the house, everything seemed a little bit off. The birds were quiet. The evening skies were still as the sun made its descent into the horizon. The house somehow projected a hollowness, like it was empty; devoid of any signs of life. Something felt decidedly wrong. It was like she could feel the stillness of the crisp air all around her. And it wasn't until she hurried up the front steps, unlocked the door and burst into the house that she understood what her instincts were trying to point out all along.

Car keys hit the marble floor with a clang that echoed through the house, and Katherine's hardened heart sank like a stone at the horrific scene before her eyes. There was blood everywhere. Elena's blood. A winding trail of red stretched all the way down the gray marble stairs, streaking a path across the black and white tiles of the floor, flanked by bloody hand prints along the way. Katherine raced across the room, following the blood trail into the parlor where the rest of the ghastly scene presented itself. The girl was slumped face down on the floor. It had been centuries since Katherine had felt the kind of fear she felt right then, as she knelt beside Elena's body. "Don't you die on me! Don't you dare die on me!" She barked orders at the girl's disturbingly unresponsive body. Katherine cradled the wounded girl into her arms, holding her up halfway off the floor. And finally, the weak but lovely sound of a pulse revealed itself.

Elena's eyes opened halfway. Her shirt front was almost completely soaked in blood, making a purple mess of the finely knit blue cloth. "Katherine?" Elena babbled, halfway coherent. "You came back. I knew you would."

"I'm here," Katherine said with a hushed voice. "Stay with me." The vampire brought her own wrist to her mouth, bit into the flesh, and tore deeply into the artery. The fresh blood flowed deep and red from the wound, and she quickly transferred her wrist from her own mouth to Elena's. "Drink," she encouraged, "drink, damn it!" The vampire pressed her wrist firmly to the girl's lips. Elena hesitantly took her first taste of her ancestor's ancient blood, and then swallowed with a hungry vigor as her body's natural response took over, craving more of what healed her. It was a role reversal and a uniquely satisfying experience for Katherine to feel Elena drinking readily of the sweet stream that flowed from her wrist. And although her hands were covered with Elena's fresh blood, a single thought of indulging never crossed Katherine's mind; she was simply too scared to feel hunger.

With the intake of vampire blood, Elena felt a warm calmness wash over her, cradled in the arms of her unlikely guardian angel who was the mirror image of herself. It was a strange feeling, but in that moment, Elena knew that Katherine would have moved mountains to protect her and keep her safe. The girl's eyes sparkled back to life and opened wide, and with a heavy breath, she pushed away Katherine's life-giving wrist.

"What happened?" Elena asked groggily.

"You tell me!" Katherine snapped.

"I don't know, I..." Elena sighed.

"Wrong answer, Elena! Did you try to kill yourself?" Katherine demanded. It was the most logical scenario, yet it was seemingly absurd. She knew very well that Elena was not one to commit suicide.

"No! Someone attacked me," Elena sighed.

"There isn't anyone else in the house, Elena. The doors were locked," Katherine persisted. "Who stabbed you?"

"I don't know," Elena said. "I just remember reading that book you gave me. I was reading, and then..." she shook her head in disbelief. "Then I was on the floor."

"Didn't you see anything?" Katherine prodded.

Elena shut her eyes and remembered. "Stained glass, I think... I remember a stained glass window. But my room doesn't have windows."

"What else?"

"Can't remember..."

"Try harder!" Katherine demanded.

Elena's eyelids suddenly flipped open. "Damon and Stefan," she said in half whisper. No sooner did she say the words that Katherine pulled her into what seemed like a hug. It shocked Elena for a second, until she realized Katherine was just transporting her to the nearby sofa.

"Sit. Stay." Katherine ordered.

"I'm okay," Elena insisted.

"No, you're not! You stay right there," Katherine said firmly. "Don't even try to get up, or I'll knock you back down myself." She knew Elena was telling the truth, and that was disturbing. Elena's wounds were identically placed and inflicted at approximately the same time as Katherine's. It was far too much to be a coincidence. There was more at play here than what could be explained by conventional logic.

Elena watched Katherine step out of the room. It was obvious she was making a phone call. Elena listened intently to Katherine's side of the conversation: "Lucy... we have a problem. Your fancy link spell is still active!" There was a short pause. "Oh really? I got stabbed and the girl nearly bled to death! Explain that!" Silence. Katherine was obviously agitated. "How the hell should I know?" she huffed. "Look, never mind that. I don't care how or why it's happening, I just want you to put a stop to it. Break whatever connection she has with me. Can you do that?" There was a long pause of silence. Katherine sighed. "Fine. Try it. Try everything."

The phone conversation abruptly dropped off and Katherine came back into the parlor with a glass in each hand; red liquid in one, and orange in the other. She very stoically presented the orange juice to Elena, who graciously accepted it and sat up on the sofa, freeing up a spot which Katherine sluggishly slumped into, perching her feet upon the ottoman.

Elena drank her juice, and watched, and waited. Katherine just sat and took a long drink from her glass of blood, staring off at the wall, seemingly in deep contemplation.

"You're... back on the bags?" Elena asked hesitantly.

Katherine squinted at Elena as if trying to find where she got the nerve. "For now," the vampire said dryly.

Elena opened her mouth as if to say something, but decided against it. Though after a minute of silence, the curiosity proved too much. Changing her mind, Elena timidly and quietly attempted the question. "You were really worried about me, weren't you?" Elena already knew it was true; she just wanted Katherine to acknowledge it in some form. She had seen it in Katherine's eyes, and in the way the vampire cradled her and made her drink the blood that brought her back to life.

Katherine's eyes swept downward across the oriental rug that occupied most of the floor space in the room, and she pinched at her temple with her thumb and forefinger as if she was suffering from a headache. "It would have been a terrible inconvenience for you to die on me today." Katherine crossed her arms and glanced over, looking very much like a hardened version of Elena. They were a funny pair, sitting there like two Elenas with their bloody shirts.

"What about you? Are you alright?" Elena asked.

Katherine smirked. "Vampires heal quickly."

"Only on the outside," Elena quietly remarked.

Katherine studied the girl up and down, then shook her head, vaguely smiling, and went back to drinking.

"So did you find out what happened?" Elena asked.

Katherine shrugged her shoulders. "That damned witch must have screwed up."

"But I thought she lifted the spell," Elena said.

"She did. Or at least she thinks she did," Katherine said, shaking her head. She brought a finger to her lips and tore it against her teeth, flicking a tiny cut into her skin. Elena winced and looked down as her own finger began to bleed, her wound identical to Katherine's, save for Katherine's cut healing itself, while Elena's remained open. "But this is evidence to the contrary, isn't it?"

"I'd say so," Elena said.

Katherine smirked. "Don't worry. I'm not going to let you die. Not before it's time."

"And you have no problem condemning your own descendant to death?" Elena challenged.

"Better you die than I," Katherine responded dryly.

Elena frowned. "So much for family ties, then."

"We're hardly family in the traditional sense. Don't expect any sympathy from me."

"What do you mean?" Elena asked with a seemingly offended tone. "I thought I was a Petrova."

"Yes... and no," Katherine said enigmatically.

Elena shook her head. "Now I'm confused. How does that work?"

Katherine looked her over. "You want to know who you really are?"

"Yes," Elena said without a second of hesitation.

Katherine drank from her glass of blood, an expression of contemplation on her face. "You have to understand that the doppelganger is a supernatural occurrence. I guess you could call it a curse." She cackled dryly. "Anyway, this 'curse' follows the Petrova bloodline. It's not about genetics, or anything like that. It's about magic, and timing."

"Timing?" Elena repeated.

"Every five hundred years," Katherine began, "a new one shows up. A new one of us. June 22. That's our day."

Elena's eyes opened wide. "We're born on the same day?"


Elena frowned. "Actually, no."

Katherine nodded. "According to the research, Isobel would have given birth to you even if she had been a virgin. Same goes for my mother..." She sipped from her glass of blood while Elena listened attentively. "So we're hardly related in the traditional sense. We're not meant to last. We don't even belong here. We're just freaks. Some witch's idea of a cruel joke." The vampire took a deep drink and sighed with satisfaction. "So there. Now you know who you are. Feel better?"

"Not really." Elena sighed. "But now I see where your cynicism comes from."

"If only you knew the whole of it," Katherine said.

Elena suddenly stood up and began to leave the room.

"Where are you going?" Katherine called after her.

"I want to clean up."

The girl was startled by Katherine appearing in front of her, blocking the path, waving a restrictive finger at her as if she were a misbehaving child. "You've got my blood in your system."

Elena shook her head. "I'm not going to kill myself."

"And you think I'm just going to take your word for it?" Katherine challenged.

"Look, I don't want to be a vampire. It's not a solution. You know that better than anyone. You know I'm not going to kill myself. It's not my style." Elena bravely stepped past the confrontational vampire, only to be stopped by a hand bearing down on her shoulder.

"I do know," Katherine said. "But you know it's not my style to trust anyone. I'll be keeping an eye on you."

Elena nodded in acceptance and marched up the stairs, her footsteps echoing back through the cavernous house.

Katherine kept to her word.

Later that night, Elena lay in bed, reading Carmilla properly, from the very beginning. The flickering light of the lone candle on her nightstand was barely enough to make out the text, but she managed, even though the reading made her sleepy. Her sparse moments of peace and solitude didn't last, however. Katherine was known to be a liar, but where her own security was concerned, she never faltered, and she kept true to her word in watching over Elena.

Elena turned a page and there was a flash in the corner of her eye, and suddenly, the sultry vampire was lounging right beside her on the bed; elbow on the pillows, her chin propped up on her fist, leisurely poised like some goddess captured in sculpture. Elena glanced over from her book to see the familiar delightful, yet somehow malicious smile. Her signature curls that fell about her shoulders carried the trace scent of apple shampoo. Her skin almost glowed beyond the blackness of her loose fitting silken robe that was half obscured in shadow, and Elena's eye was drawn down to the narrow slit of silk which opened up ever so slightly and revealed a path of creamy skin upwards of her thigh, without a single hair to disrupt the smoothness of her bare flesh. Elena quickly averted her eyes from the fleeting nudity, and nervously retreated to her book. Katherine possessed certain charms, and she knew it, and Elena knew it, and Elena was jealous, and Katherine flaunted it more because she knew Elena was jealous, and the resulting tension in the air between them was deliciously tense.

"Did you run out of clean laundry?" Elena proposed sarcastically.

"Problem?" Katherine sang cheekily. "It's just us girls, so..."

"Doppelganger dormitory, apparently," Elena joked, her attention still focused on the book.

"You're very chirpy for someone who nearly died today," Katherine said, twirling a lock of hair around a finger. "How's the story?"

"Intriguing," Elena said nonchalantly, flipping a page. "Why do you want me to read it, anyway?"

Katherine sighed. "I thought you'd find it relevant to our situation."

Elena flipped a page. "I do; almost frighteningly so. I'd just find it easier to read if you stopped talking."

Katherine yawned and laid her head back on the pillow, stretching herself out on her side of the bed. "I'm bored."

"That's a shame," Elena drawled facetiously, her attention fixed on the page. She savored a few minutes of silence before Katherine started up again.

"Can you still feel me?"

Elena frowned. "What?"

"Can you still feel me?" Katherine repeated.

Elena shrugged. "I'm not sure."

"Can you feel this?" Katherine asked, pinching her own earlobe hard between her thumb and forefinger.

"Ouch!" Elena whined.

"Okay, now we know. I wouldn't have imagined it was so subtle. Can you feel this?" Katherine asked as she lightly brushed her fingers, tickling a spot behind her own knee.

"Stop!" Elena giggled.

"Interesting," Katherine purred, as another idea crossed her mind. She figured she might as well have some fun with this mystical connection while it remained. She ran a cool hand underneath the black silk of her robe, tracing a path past the flat of her stomach, down to the sensitive area of her inner thigh, lingering where she most enjoyed being touched. "What about... this?"

Elena sucked in a quick breath. Question answered.

The shy girl ignored the tease and quickly turned her attention back to the book, figuring Katherine was just trying to get a rise out of her, as usual. Elena didn't want to give her the satisfaction, but Katherine didn't stop. She was too busy giving herself the satisfaction, and Elena could feel it, too. It was the strangest thing Elena had ever felt; the sensation of being touched, without being touched.

The mischievous smile Katherine wore said it all. She brought her fingertips to her lips and licked them before her hand returned beneath her robe, further down between her legs, teasing the folds of flesh where silk met skin, and allowing her fingers to play there. She had never been shy about her body. She knew what she liked and how she liked it, and it never took long to get there. Katherine loved to play games, and this game was deliciously naughty; the very kind she liked best. The faint scent of the girl's arousal was encouragement enough to keep playing.

It quickly escalated to the point where Elena couldn't ignore her own sensations building beneath the sheets. Without a care, she let the book drop off the side of the bed and hit the floor with a clap, as she timidly turned her attention towards the scene next to her. She had never seen another girl touch herself in person, let alone one in her bed at less than an arm's length away. The sight was alluring, arousing, and it stirred something primal deep inside, awakening her inner voyeur; the girl who liked to watch. It was perfectly complimentary. Elena liked to watch, and Katherine liked to show; ever the exhibitionist.

Where Katherine led, Elena followed; the girl's body responded in kind, and they mirrored each others' pleasure, completely drawn in to the unique eroticism of their touchless entanglement. Elena drank up every visual detail of Katherine, who like Carmilla, conveyed an almost ethereal beauty: half-shrouded in shadow; her scarlet painted toenails; her smooth and slender legs stretching across the bed; her hand vanishing into the blackness of her robe between her legs; the constant motion of her wrist; the soft curves of her breasts beneath the thin folds of her robe; the graceful fall of her curls over her shoulders; the flicker of the orange candlelight upon her face; her eyes so dark and wet with desire; the gold chain of her necklace drawn up into her mouth, clenched between the whites of her teeth, biting down as her pleasure peaked; her chest expanding and collapsing with each breath. The sultry vampire wore a teasing smile, and the airy sighs from the sides of her lips became louder and more vocal, almost like a mocking laughter at the sight of helpless Elena clawing her fingertips into the mattress, harder and harder, their breathing heavy as their eyes locked, and muscles tensed and relaxed; synchronistically, synergistically, simultaneously, coming together as one.

Not a word was spoken.

They laid still, their bodies heavy and breathy; quiet in their shared afterglow and flickering candlelight. They were the doppelgangers who weren't supposed to exist together, yet their paths were inevitably intertwined in spite of everyone and everything between them. Elena wasn't sure why she wanted to reach her hand across the bed, but she did it. And Katherine wasn't sure why, but she accepted Elena's hand in her own, and held it. And they became like children seeing the world for the very first time, fascinated by such simplicity, how their fingers meshed and fit together so perfectly.

They both knew it was only beginning. Their world was without end.