Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, Klaus wouldn't be acting like a smitten schoolboy around a certain blonde.

Warnings: violence. slash

A/N: a huge thank you to my awesome friend nondescriptf for listening to me rant, and making this so much better thanks to her mad beta skills.

"Where's your date?"

Stefan's voice cuts through the silence of the library; the guests are long gone, the mansion empty of all but family. Klaus grins into his drink, a rush of adrenaline blasts through his system at the sound, and he turns to face his former companion.

"Careful, Stefan. Speak like that and I might be fooled into thinking that you care."

"I've known you long enough to know you're not that stupid." Stefan quips back, but there's a raw edge to his voice; barely audible but telling nonetheless. He's a little off-kilter, which is to be expected after the night's events, and Klaus is not surprised to find him in his library.

Stefan steps further into the room, surveying the art and rows upon rows of books; old tomes, first editions and classics all mixed together. If he recognizes the Seurat landscape to his left - the one which he helped Klaus "rescue" from an exhibition at the AIC a lifetime ago - he doesn't let on.

"Let's not ruin the evening with pointless quarrelling." Klaus suggests, throwing back the last of his scotch and walking over to the bar for a refill. He pulls out another glass, and pours generous sloshes of alcohol into them both. "Tonight is for celebrating, not rehashing the past. Join me for a drink."

"You got everything you wanted," Stefan concedes, ignoring the tumbler held out in his direction.

"Not everything." Klaus replies before he can stop himself, and there it is; the truth he's tried his best to ignore. It should be enough; his family finally reunited and living in the home he has built, yet he finds himself forcing a smile, playing the part he's been longing for with little enthusiasm. Dutiful son, trustworthy brother or charming date, they all feel not-quite-right or right enough.

Things were never supposed to turn out this way; everything blown to pieces by one reckless moment. Turn it off. He might as well burn the whole mansion down, watch it disappear in a cloud of smoke and piles of ashes, for all the contentment he feels seeing Stefan acting like they're enemies. The idea that Mikael was right, that his impulse will forever ruin everything, burns and frays his insides.

In the silence that follows, he leaves both glasses on the table, and walks over to the fireplace, all the while sensing Stefan's eyes following him as he moves.

"You seemed to be faring quite well tonight, from what I could see." Stefan replies, tracing his finger along a row of books.

Bitterness flares up like a tree burning brightly against the night sky, blistering his insides. Hands fisting at his sides, Klaus is unable to keep the angry tremor out of his voice as he speaks. "You've made it unmistakably clear that I can't compete with the doppelgänger's allure, and that you have no desire to let go of the last few week's pointless feuding." He growls, finally meeting Stefan's challenging glare. "Don't mistake the fact that you're still alive for anything other than me abiding by my mother's rules."

Stefan chuckles humorlessly at the threat. "Seems you're on a tight leash. She says jump-"

"The past is in the past." Klaus cuts him off, ignoring the prickle of insecurity at the back of his mind, and chooses to focus on the anger building in his gut. "My mother values family more than she does retribution. The two of you are more alike than you care to let on. Don't think I didn't notice the way you leapt to your brother's side tonight. Damon put on quite the show, didn't he? Between professing his love to your former girlfriend," he emphasizes the last two words, ignoring the acrid taste at the back of his throat when Stefan's jaw tightens at the mention, perhaps he hadn't known, "and breaking Kol's neck like that, I'm surprised he found the time to waltz."

When Stefan jumps him, he's prepared, but allows himself to be man-handled and pushed up against the bookcase; a row of Shakespeare tragedies pressing sharply into his back.

"Shut, up." Stefan snarls, eyes hot with fury.

Klaus laughs, relishing the steady pressure of Stefan's arm against his throat, and the almost giddy sense of relief at the younger man's outburst. They're close; too close for anything to be simple yet they always end up here. Meeting Stefan's eyes Klaus can't keep the smug tone out of his voice, "Here we are again."

Stefan lets him go abruptly, responding only with a half-hearted shrug; the spark gone as quickly as it appeared. It makes something inside Klaus' chest tighten, spreading ice through his veins. He wants to grab Stefan by the shoulders and shake him like a rattle, wants to throw him into the fire, rip him open and disappear inside. Wants it all.

"Why are you here?" Klaus grinds out the words, his voice vibrating with barely concealed anger.

"Maybe I'm hoping you'll actually kill me this time."

The words are uttered quietly; barely audible in the silent room, but might as well have been an explosion of sound. He had expected them, of course, but nothing could have prepared him for hearing the words spoken out loud.

The stake is as unexpected as it is painful; driven into his chest from right below his ribcage. Klaus lets out a choked cry as he crumbles to the floor, hands clutching weakly at the pointed piece of wood still lodged in his side. He can feel every splinter, the way the pointed end is scraping against his heart and the uncomfortable stretch of tissue and muscle. Time slows, trickles past as he rides out the wave of nausea before pulling out the offending stake. It makes a wet sound going out, but he can barely hear it over the furious echo of Stefan's words ringing in his mind.

He rolls onto his back and looks up at Stefan, only to find him staring back; every inch of him screaming for a battle Klaus knows won't happen. Getting to his feet, he tugs at the bloodied tuxedo shirt clinging to his torso, and moves his left arm up and down carefully, feeling the newly healed skin stretch and move over his ribs.


Moving quickly, it's his turn to back Stefan up against the wall, catching the flicker of fear in his eyes easily before the emotion is gone. Stefan's chest is heaving underneath Klaus' crushing grip, every muscle in his body still tense and ready to spring.

It's impossible to say who makes the first move but the kiss is a frenzied blur. Feverish with the need to be closer, Klaus tugs and rips at the hindering layers of clothing, swallowing Stefan's quiet groan in another kiss. Stefan's hand is wrapped around his neck, fingernails digging crescent-shaped marks into his skin, the other gripping his arm hard enough to bruise.

The world shrinks with the first touch of skin; everything fading into the background, growing hazy. The mansion could crumble around them and he wouldn't notice. Nothing has ever felt more like home than this anyway; the shudder running through Stefan, the way his forehead briefly comes to rest against Klaus' shoulder. The mumbled curse and jerk of his hips as Klaus wraps his fingers around him. "Come on, love" he mumbles against Stefan's mouth, "Let go. I've got you." Transfixed, aching with something he hesitates to name, he watches as Stefan slowly comes undone.

The second kiss is unhurried and nearly chaste, a shuddering exhale and a soft press of lips, then nothing for a few peaceful seconds. The outside world comes crashing back as Stefan suddenly straightens where he stands, tugging at his ripped up shirt. Klaus backs away on unsteady legs, rubbing over a quickly healing scratch at the back of his neck. It's his turn to make a move in this intricate dance they find themselves stuck repeating; his time to pretend like it doesn't matter, to turn away. Deceive and betray. But Stefan's challenge from earlier - maybe I'm hoping you'll actually kill me this time - is once again a solid weight in his chest and he's so tired. They both are, and he can't do it; doesn't have enough fight left in him.

"I won't." Klaus speaks slowly and quietly, eyes closed. It's barely a whisper, even though he wants to scream them at the top of his lungs; willing everything else that he can't say into those words. I can't. Not ever. Don't you understand?

He doesn't have to look up to know that Stefan has already left.

(the end)