New York. Winter. 1901

The snow is falling around the bustling city of New York, nearing the end of the year. The streets swarm with traffic, however off in Upstate New York, secluded from the city, the traffic is scarce. In this quiet area there stands an old mansion, in which one of New York's most powerful families dwell; The Salvatores.

A black carriage appeared in the front of the mansion, the horses pawing at the snow covered ground. Helena Salvatore stared out the window of an upstairs bedroom. She clutched the lace curtains in her delicate fingers.

"Damon, the Pierce's have arrived. Are you ready for dinner?"

Helena turned her head to find her son boring his cobalt blue eyes into her own sparkling blues.

"Mother, I'm not coming to dinner."

"Damon don't be this way," Helena begged.

"What way? How am I suppose to behave, please enlighten me," Damon replied firmly, pulling at the buttons of his vest.

"Damon, please darling, I understand why you don't want to come down to dinner but I need you to." Helena pushed her motherly influence onto her son, standing from the window seat.

She glided over to him, adjusting his tie. "You are so handsome," Helena smiled.

"Mother, please. I detest that family and Katherine is a shrew," frowned Damon.

Helena chuckled, "She is quite a harpy isn't she?"

"A Harpy is putting it nicely. Why on earth does father want me to marry her?"

Helena seemed to shudder at the thought herself. "She is of noble blood, as are you. It would be a perfect match. Besides, she is very beautiful."

"I don't care about her beauty or nobility. That heart of hers is black and that shrouds her beauty," Damon spat.

Helena grabbed Damon's suit jacket, helping him into it.

"Just come down to dinner, say your peace and then come back to your room and push this from your mind for now."

Damon, placed his hands on the sides of her shoulders, "I'm doing this for you mother, not them."

Helena kissed his cheek, "Thank you, my son."

Helena motioned towards the door, Damon following close behind. The two descended the stairs into the forye, the marble floor glinted in the light that shown through the open front door.

"Ahh there is my son and beautiful wife," shouted Giuseppe Salvatore, "Did you both get lost in that grand room?"

"I wish," mumbled Damon into his mother's back causing her to smile wide.

Helena began to greet their guests, giving kisses and warm embraces to the family.

"Oh Katherine, Rebekah, how beautiful you both look, as always. And Niklaus, always so handsome," Helena flattered them all one by one, her gorgeous smile and inviting presence convincing.

"You, Helena, are the true goddess in the room," Niklaus marveled, placing a light kiss on the back of her hand.

He then turned his attention to Damon, "Brother, good to see you again," he remarked, engaging in a firm handshake.

"Brother? Do you believe that's bit premature Nik?"

Niklaus recoiled locking eyes with Damon, "Just a from of speech; nothing to get riled up about," he smirked.

Damon hated the idea that everyone seemed to push Katherine and him together without any consent from Damon himself. More than this he wasn't all to found of Niklaus or the youngest sister Rebekah. In actuality he despised them all, each coming with their own slew of reasons why.

"Damon," Katherine purred, slinking over to him kissing his cheek, "I've missed you."

"Lady Katherine, I've counted the seconds until we met again," he commented sarcastically, a small smile twitching to his lips.

Katherine's own smile however was large and prominent as she took his hand into hers. He stared down at her satin glove covered hand, wishing she would remove it from him. Just in time, Damon's brother Stefan came barreling through the still opened front door.

"Did I miss dinner," he joked sliding past his mother, father and Rebekah all engaged in conversation.

"You wish," Damon smirked, hugging his brother, abandoning Katherine's grasp on him.

"Stefan, would you accompany me into the study for a few moments?"

Stefan stared questioningly into Damon's eyes, "Of course."

"Excellent," Damon quipped, "We shall return before dinner," he commented towards Katherine and Niklaus.

Katherine's face became sour but she tried to smooth her anger over with a light smile. The boys turned their backs and walked towards the study. Damon opened the large oak doors, beckoning his brother inside before locking the doors tight behind them. He pressed his back against the wood, looking relieved.

"You look pleased," Stefan teased.

"Why must she call to me? Why not you," Damon asked defeated.

"You are the eldest brother, and the most suitable for Katherine," Stefan stated.

"I would rather sear my eyes out with a hot poker than engage in any sort of marriage with that Siren," Damon said disgusted.

"She is quite dreadful, Damon." "I need a drink,"

Damon hurried over to the end table adorned with different glass bottles.

He rummaged through them, bringing one to his nose,

"Bourbon, perfect."

He poured himself a drink and then lifted a second glass towards Stefan.

"No thank you, I'm not in the mood to drink," Stefan said.

"Brother, how at a time like this are you unable to consume alcohol," Damon uttered.

"I don't wish to make fool out of myself at dinner, and you shouldn't either."

"I have no reason not too, other than mother. I plan to become inebriated until life with Katherine becomes somewhat tolerable," Damon breathed.

"We both know that if you keep on like that, you would always be drunk," Stefan smirked.

"Then so it shall be," Damon laughed.

"Boys," Helena's voice came from behind the doors of the study, her knuckles making contact with the solid wood frame. "Open the door please."

"Mother I am not returning to the foryey or the dinning room, unless I am properly sedated," Damon jested.

Stefan twisted the lock open to allow their mother entry. She crossed her arms sliding her way towards Damon.

"Drinking will not get you out of here."

"Yes, but it will allow me to tolerated little miss Katherine," Damon commented taking a large swallow of bourbon, "And the rest of that evil family."

Helena shook her head extending an empty glass towards Damon, "Pour."

He chuckled pouring the sweet liquid into her glass.

She sipped the alcohol looking at both of her sons, "What shall I say? Vomiting? Nausea?"

"What are you going on about mother," Stefan asked.

"Well, in order to get you both out of this mess, I need to come up with something," Helena quipped winking at them.

Damon's chest shook with a deep laugh, taking Helena into his strong arms. "Mother, I love you. Please, do whatever you must to save me from this hell."

"Feel this melody Elena, this is in your blood, feel it," Alaric Salztman proclaimed gazing onto the brightly lit stage.

His hands snaked around the papers; a script he was most proud of writing. Alaric was the director at The Theatre New York, a small company of disheveled folk and passionate players. The theatre was run down but no one ever seemed to mind it at all; they sold out shows most nights. The theatre, were the rich came to watch the poor perform for little pay and even little hope of advancement. Some of the actresses sold themselves on street corners for extra income, while the actors tried to perform handyman tasks during the daylight hours. However, Elena was different, she believed that her situation was not unfortunate at all, but a test in her life. A test she strived daily to overcome, trying to keep a smile on her face and good spirit in her heart. This company was her family, this theatre her home. She owed her life to Alaric and his wife Jenna, for taking her and her young sister Caroline in when they were freezing and starved. In exchange for their accommodation to the ladies, Elena worked for Alaric as his leading lady in almost every production. He acted as the father figure she had never known, and Jenna as her mother. Her eyes saw the world in that of an elder who had seen every avenue and every trade. However, Elena was merely nineteen and Caroline only sixteen, still young with life ahead. She knew this was her only future and her fate but she wished so much more for her young sister, vowing to make a better life for them in any way she could. She pushed herself during rehearsals; sweat dripping onto her olive skin. The theatre was still as they watched Elena move on stage, her voice resounding a symphony of delight and yet stunned sadness. Her eyes gleamed a chocolate brown, as waves of her dark hair cascaded around her face and shoulders. The strap of her dress falling down exposing a bare shoulder as Matt grabbed her waist, accompanying her in this duet. Matt was a young man of eighteen, strong and talented, his charm was undoubtable and genuine. He brought Elena close to his tight chest, his hands encompassing her face, drawing her in for the kiss.

"Bravo, Belicima. Thank you both. Matt I feel your acting getting stronger and stronger by the day. Excellent work," Alaric smiled, "Elena, we are done for the day, rest my love."

Elena nodded hugging Matt, "Brilliant as always, thank you lover."

"It is always a pleasure to kiss your lips. That is only second best to gazing at your presence on the stage," Matt blushed.

She locked eyes with him, "Soon it will be you they watch. This time around they won't be able to take their eyes off you."

Elena winked, making her way backstage and out a side door, leading into the auditorium of the theatre.

"Ric, thank you for today," she smiled leaning her head on Alaric's shoulder.

"Always a joy with you Elena, don't forget you are my star."

Elena's smile warmed her face as she placed a light kiss on Alaric's cheek before turning to leave. She bustled out of the theatre making her way to the tall building across the street where most of the actors lodged. She journeyed up the winding staircase until she reached her door, pushing it open. The smell of incense filled her nostrils and the warmth of the room brought a pink tint to her cold cheeks and hands.

"Caroline," Elena called to her sister, "Caroline have you eaten?"

"Yes, I have. Elena come here and look at the view, it is magnificent today," Caroline proclaimed leaning her frame onto the railing of the balcony.

Elena rolled her eyes, "You always think the view is magnificent, Care." "Well it is, and especially today."

"Oh? And why is that," Elena questioned.

Caroline smiled, "I saw the most beautiful boy today, from this balcony."

"Is that so? Well did you go down and say hello? Or at least wave from your tower Rapunzel," Elena jested, elbowing her sister.

Caroline laughed, her blonded hair blowing in the breeze, "No, I just admired him from affair. He went into the Tanzentic Bookstore a few minutes ago."

Caroline gestured across the street, "His clothes were finally stitched, and I could tell he was from upstate."

Elena placed a hand on Caroline's arm, "Then you mustn't dwell on him sister, he is wealthy and I can assume from my experiences a cad at best."

"You can not assume that Elena, he looked positively delightful. His blond hair was perfectly quaffed and his skin seemed the color of cream."

"You act as if you've found your love, Caroline."

"Maybe I have, I'm in love with the bookstore boy."

Both girls laughed, eyes still fixed towards the bookstore, both seemed content to wait.

"Aren't you the least bit curious to see him? He did enter with another man, very different in contrast," Caroline mused.

"How so? And yes I guess I'm a bit interested," Elena smirked.

"Well, the other man was darker in features, but they laughed as if they were best friends. It brought me a smile just listening to them in the square," Caroline blushed. "Here they come! Look sister!"

"You are as fair a maiden as they come, and your ample bosom draws me in with lust and desire," Damon quoted staring down at the open book, "Honestly brother, you only read this for the lurid descriptions of women."

He winked smacking the book closed against Stefan's chest. Stefan's hands grasped the book, "This is fantastic reading Damon.

"You're just jealous because you can't read."

Damon's deep laugh resounded in his chest, "Of course I can read. It's your jealousy that makes you read those erotic novels."

Stefan stopped Damon from walking, "What jealousy?"

Damon rolled his eyes smirking, "The jealousy you feel towards me and the woman I've seen. The bosoms I have touched that you can only read about."

He laughed, pushing past his brother.

"You're insatiable, my dear brother," Stefan quipped, laughing.

"That I am, and I will always be."

"Yes, until you marry Katherine," reminded Stefan.

"I have no intention of marrying that cow. I will vomit if they were to move onto our estate. I can't endure it, the images."

Damon grasped Stefan's arm, "Kill me now brother, do the honors."

Stefan pushed his arm away, "I most certainly will not."

"Well, we could always just kill Katherine," Damon suggested.

"Have you gone mad?"

"Stef, relax it was merely a joke."

"Damon, I know you. Every joke you tell has an once of truth in it."

"Maybe so, but I'm not a murderer."

Stefan huffed, "Like hell you are! I've seen you put knives at men's throats, guns to their temples at card games they've cheated at. Bar fights, dragging you drunk from the taverns as you cursed like a sailor!"

Damon laughed.

"And yet you laugh as if this is not a problem," Stefan said seriously.

Damon paused in his tracks, locking eyes with Stefan, "I will not murder her, as much as I loathe her, I promise you that."

They continued to walk into the square.

"Do you find me not to be a gentleman, brother? Do I cause too much ill will in your life? You can tell me, I shant be mad," Damon questioned, eyes filled with hurt.

"Ahh, Damon, I didn't mean to upset you. I just know that we are all on edge, especially you. I just do not want my brother to get himself in to deep."

Stefan placed his hands on Damon's broad shoulders, "And Yes Damon. You are quite a gentleman."

They shared a smile and continued on their path, circling back to the bookstore where their carriage waited.

Stefan glanced at the building across the street towering over their heads, "What building is this?"

Damon gazed up with Stefan, "That's were the theatre company, the whores and the gutter rats sleep."

"It looks so unkempt and cold," Stefan shuddered.

His eyes traced the windows leading up towards the fifth floor balcony. That's when they locked eyes, for a moment, Stefan smiled. Hannah's heart jumped and she stepped back from the ledge.

Stefan frowned looking back to Damon, "Shall we go?"

"Yes, we shall."

They pulled themselves up the carriage steps settling inside. Damon removed his hat from his head, setting it to the side. He pulled his gloves off as well, placing them on top of his hat. Stefan mimicked his brother, but kept his eyes transfixed outside.

"Where are your thoughts, Stefan?" Stefan shook his head, making eye contact with Damon.

"I don't know exactly. I saw a young woman gazing from the balcony. Her hair was golden, and she was quite beautiful."

Damon's forehead wrinkled and his eyebrows heightened, "You saw a woman, from the balcony where?"

"The building across from the bookstore."

"The dilapidated building? The one you asked me about?"

"Yes, is there another we spoke of?"

"Don't get snotty, Stefan," Damon quipped.

"Sorry, I just…she struck me. I don't know how to explain it. Her frame seemed so delicate. The way her silk clothing clung to her body…"

"That's your manhood talking Stef, not your heart," Damon laughed.

Stefan frowned, "Not everyone thinks like you brother."

"Oh? How exactly do I think? Please, don't be shy," Damon smirked, as Stefan fumbled with his words.

"You know how you think…with your prick." Damon was taken aback, not expecting such a statement from his demur brother.

"Sweet Stefan, gives me a verbal beating. A curt insult. Bravo," he smirked.

Stefan rolled his eyes, "What ever shall I do with you brother?"

Damon shrugged, "One can only imagine what is in store for me."

Caroline curled up next to Elena on the mattress in the middle of the room, "He looked at me."

Elena clutched her sister close, "I know, I saw."

"Elena, do you find him handsome?" Elena smiled down at her sister, so young and pure.

"Yes Caroline, he is quite attractive. But it's time for a rest now."

The room became quiet, before Caroline's tiny voice spoke again like a whisper.

"Why do you hate them?"

Elena's eyes opened wide, "Hate whom?"

"Those from upstate? Why do you have such hatred towards them? I know you don't want me to dwell on the boy in the square. Not because he is a boy and I am your little sister, but because he is wealthy and status prestige."

Elena shuddered against her sister, "They do not respect us, Hannah. They find us filthy, loathsome creatures. To be used and then discarded, for their entertainment, for their pleasure, for labor. We are not their equals; we will always be below and them always above. I know these things sister, I know because I've seen such. I do not which to repeat this."

"You can't hate everyone based on a few in admirable folk."

Elena rose from the bed, tears falling onto her cheeks, "ENOUGH! Caroline, I have indulged your fantasies, and now I'm telling you to stop dwelling, stop asking about them, stop pretending this will be more than it is. We will always be this, and they will always be that. I beg you, enough."

She ghosted towards the balcony, clutching her silk robe close to her chilled frame.

Caroline too stood from the bed, grabbing her coat from the kitchen chair, pulling on her leather boots, "I WILL NOT hate those who have not wronged me. I will not judge those who have not given me a reason to do so. I will not become as jaded as you. Mother would not want it this way."

"MOTHER? You speak of her as if you know! Mother did many things for us before she died. Now, I have done many things to keep us alive. Terrible, disgusting things, that I will not have your ears hear!"

Caroline locked eyes with Elena, twisting the doorknob, stepping out into the hall, "I pity you sister. Hope that I thought you possessed now diminished. No love in your heart, no faith in others to prove you wrong. I'm sorry you've been hurt, but that does not give you the right to hate or judge. Goodnight, I leave you to wallow in your misery."

Caroline slammed the door as she flew done the steps. Elena cried out in agony and upset, as she watched her sister scurry to the theatre. She gripped the balcony rail, stomach in knots.

She looked to the sky begging, "What shall I do? I never wanted to be this way. Please, help me. Mother, please."

With that she sank to the ground, still gripping the steal of the balcony, withering under her pain.

Damon dressed in his nightclothes, settling down onto his bed. Soon, the door to his bedroom was thrust open and his father stood before him.

"Have you lost your mind?" Giuseppe's angry stare met his son's confused eyes.

"Father, whatever do you mean?"

"Don't play stupid, Damon. I am not a fool. I know you were not ill this afternoon, and I know well that your mother shields you boys far too much. You are supposed to be the man, and you will be. Or I shall beat it out of you."

Damon stood, eyes never flinching away from Giuseppe's. "You will not lay your hands on me father. And I will not marry that swine."

Within seconds, Damon felt the hot sting of his father's palm against his cheek. The crack of contact loud and angry, the pain that Damon felt welling inside.

"Do not raise your voice to me son! I am not your brother or your mother; I can not be reasoned with nor talked down upon!"

Silence filled the room, Damon's eyes becoming dark, his body clenched in rage.

"You will marry Katherine. You will produce a son, to inherit all when you are gone. You will merge our two families together and we will all be as one. The blood will remain strong."

Giuseppe turned his back on his son, walking out the double doors of the bedroom, slamming them shut in his wake. Damon roamed about the room for a moment, before lashing out. He slid the books from his desk with force, slamming his wooden chair against the wall, cursing all the while. His rage magnified, his anger unmanageable. Tearing apart his bedroom, before flinging open the balcony doors. Damon stepped outside into the chilled night air, snow falling all around him. His eyes pierced the view, daggers in the moonlight.

"I will not do this. I cannot. I crave for something else, something more."

"Elena! You have been asked to sing at a very prestigious party tonight! Oh how I am so proud of my little darling," Alaric announced beaming with pride as he handed the golden envelope to Elena.

"It's very important for the theatre that you attend and gain the support and intrigue of the Upper East Side. This will also be a great opportunity for you to perform in a new setting, with different people."

Elena peered down at the finely typed invitation; it seemed beautiful but it read more like a command. "This is upstate New York, Ric, how am I to venture?"

Alaric continued to smile, "I'm sending a few of my very best to this event: you, Matt, and Vicki. They are sending a coach to pick the lot of you up and then returning you by morning."

Elena wanted to share in Alaric's enthusiasm but she was more concerned for her state of well-being and the insanity she would feel around the upper elite. The mockery they would make of her, Matt, and Vicki caused bile to form from the pit of her stomach. It was a grand gesture but it truly frightened her.