Stefan sits on one end of the couch, a book resting casually in his lap, eyes moving left to right.
Katherine sits on the other end, remote control held lithely in hand, flipping channels as fast a she can blink.
Caroline comes down the stairs, pulling her hair into a loose ponytail, and stops at the sight of the two of them.
"Do I need to bring back anything while I'm out?" She asks.
Stefan looks up, head tilted in thought, before he shakes a no.
Katherine keeps her eyes forward as if nothing was said.
Caroline goes to work.
After eight hours of serving coffee and tea, mostly tea, and playing up the part of the perky American girl to all the customers she's exhausted. All she wants is to get home, have a hot bath, and maybe a cup of B negative if Stefan left her any.
She smells him before he even minds the gap. The long coat, buttoned all the way up, hiding the clothes underneath soaked with blood that isn't his. Her stomach groans involuntarily, hungry in a way that sets her teeth on edge.
No one seems to notice him, seated on a bench closest to the door, legs carefully positioned as to not reveal more of his jeans than needed. He keeps his eyes focused at his feet, just another passenger heading home. If it wasn't for the smell she probably wouldn't have noticed him.
He's calm. Riding public transport while covered in evidence doesn't appear to be cause for alarm. Too calm, in her opinion, for what he'd done. Whoever it was, for whatever reason, she knows that he's done it before and never even gotten close to getting caught.
Her stop comes and goes.
The bath can wait.
He walks at an even pace, out of the station and along the sidewalk. She keeps a safe distance, watching and waiting.
Turning into an alley, she counts to twenty before following, though now the use of stealth is null and void due to the cobblestone lined walk. No matter how soft or slow she walks, her shoes cause echoes. He seems to know she's there regardless of the sound, shoulders rigid in anticipation, a predator just as she.
The alley turns a sharp ninety degrees, and he stops on a dime spinning on one foot with a flash of silver from his hand.
The hiss escapes her mouth as the knife slashes across her abdomen, fangs snarling into now terrified eyes, that widen against the pain in his wrist, where her steely grip holds the attack hand at bay.
"What are you?" Comes out in a strained voice.
She wants to say something clever. Something like: I'm the monster you wish you could be. Or: Someone even you should fear.
But her stomach rumbles again, the lingering scent of his kill coupling with the anticipation of her own.
"I'm hungry," is what actually says, before ripping into his neck.
Stefan isn't on the couch.
Caroline runs up the stairs without a word.
Holding the shirt up, she examines the damage, all the threads even in a clean tear. Telltale of how sharp the knife had been. A shame, she had really liked this one.
There's a spot of blood just under her chin, spotting it in the reflection from the corner of her eye. The guilt swells enough to make her gasp. Who knows how many he had killed, or how many more he would, had she not stopped him. He deserved it, there isn't a doubt in her mind, but the taking of a life is still something she doesn't take lightly no matter how many times the necessity of the act presented itself.
Choosing to forgo the bath, she waits until the shower is hot, almost unbearably so before stepping in to wash it all away.
Stefan is drinking coffee and sitting at the kitchen table.
Katherine is drinking a cup of something else and scanning a news feed on her tablet.
Caroline walks in with her hair still dripping and takes a cursory glance in the refrigerator.
One look at her and Stefan knows something is wrong. When he asks, Katherine looks up from her reading, brows lifting upward and followed by her cup.
"It's nothing," Caroline says with an awkward wave. "I'm fine."
Stefan knows it's a lie but doesn't push.
Katherine doesn't say anything.
Caroline goes back upstairs.
The door creaking causes one eye to peer open though she isn't sleeping. His feet shuffling across the carpet has her shift, making space for him on the bed. His weight sinking into the sheets, the pull of comforting arms, a welcome gesture.
There's nothing romantic about it. Not tonight. Just an extension of the connection they've shared since her heart stopped beating. Still there despite the long absence, renewed the second they happened across each other on that wintery bridge in St. Petersberg. He doesn't ask though the question hangs in the air, the smell of blood all over her skin something no shower could completely wash away.
"I'm not sorry," she says softly against him. "Is it bad that I'm not sorry?"
"No," he replies. "You don't have to be."
Her head settles against his chest. He absently plays with her hair.
They do this sometimes.
Stefan is at work.
Katherine doesn't have a job.
Caroline calls in sick.
She spends most of the day curled up in the arm chair she favors, watching old movies. Katherine watches a few, offers an anecdote about Mae West that seems so ridiculous it can't be made up. They're not friends or anything, far from it. Truthfully, Caroline hates being left alone with her. A small part inside still the baby vamp, terrified at what she's capable of.
Katherine is... Different, now. Tamed an inaccurate description because she still kills without mercy, steals what she needs off of victims to make ends meet, and will twist any circumstance her way to get what she wants. Even still, the razor's edge she walked on before is considerably dulled.
Stefan vouches for her. It's the only reason Caroline can accept remaining within walking distance, let alone share living arrangements. They never talk about their time with Klaus. What they did, where they went, what he made them do. She's curious to a point, but actually kind of glad they keep the morbid details to themselves. Whatever it was, they came out of it together and for now, they're going to stay that way.
It's an overcast Saturday afternoon.
She's planting roses in the small garden behind their house, Stefan helps by digging holes, and letting her guide the bulbs in to the soil. Katherine watches from the kitchen.
The whole thing is so oddly domestic.
They're monsters, she thinks. They have fangs. They drink blood. Their eyes go black and they'll live forever. But here they are, playing house, and it's suddenly the funniest thing. She starts to laugh and can't seem to stop.
Stefan waits patiently to be let in on the joke, but she hiccups every time she tries to stop and ends up laughing all over again. Finally he just tackles her into the grass, tickling mercilessly, easily dodging all the defensive blows.
He collapses after awhile, body half strewn across hers, the laughter slowly fading.
Caroline can feel Katherine's eyes.
They're like daggers.
The music is so loud, it's like she can feel more than hear it. She doesn't know why Katherine insisted she come, or why she agreed.
A drink is held in one hand, purchased by a burly man with bottle blonde hair as soon as she approached the bar, and mostly ignored after the first sip. She stands off to the side of the dance floor, watching all the writhing bodies.
Katherine vanished the second they got here, and Stefan hasn't come back from trying to find a bathroom more than twenty minutes ago. She sips the drink, melted ice diluting the burn of the whiskey, when she catches sight of them on the floor.
It's not all that surprising, at least it shouldn't be, but her eyes grow wide anyway. She reminds herself that they've been through something together, something that she's not privy to and may never understand, but still wonders how Stefan can be that way with her. After all she had done to them, never once exhibiting the slight bit of remorse. His hands are everywhere, eyes looking at nothing but her, they kiss like they're the only people in the room. It has purpose, the kiss. Katherine marking her territory.
Caroline wonders if he thinks of Elena.
Mystic Falls is a ghost town in her heart.
She's tried hard not to think about it since leaving all those years ago. Too many memories confined to a few square miles, too many heartbreaks and nightmares. Too much death. Tyler, Matt, Bonnie. Her mother. She stayed long enough to watch them grow old, long enough to watch them all pass, while she stayed the same. Forever the girl they knew once upon a time.
Elena and Damon are out there somewhere in the world.
She's never told Stefan.
She doesn't want to watch another person leave.
Stefan sits on the couch, another book perched on his lap.
Katherine waters the plants in the living room.
Caroline comes down the stairs and grabs her coat from the rack.
A quick once over in the mirror, she grabs her bag from the spot on the floor she'd left it the night before.
"Does anyone need anything while I'm out?"
Stefan looks up considering, and requests a bottle of scotch.
Katherine, without turning from her watering, asks for ice.
Caroline leans down, gives a good-bye kiss on Stefan's cheek, and walks out the door.