Katherine walks through the door without a knock.
Caroline drops the mug in her hand, spilling blood all over the pristine tile of the kitchen floor.
Stefan's smile at her return is almost sincere enough to buy, but she's known him long enough to tell the differences in his expressions, which are real and which are not. When he hugs her she doesn't feel it. Kissing her cheek, is as chaste as a relative.
Caroline's eyes do their best to meet hers, but Katherine can see the fear in them, and allows herself a small bit of satisfaction that she still scares the hell out of vampire Barbie. There's guilt too. Katherine almost laughs at the mere idea that they think they can keep something from her.
The shift wasn't sudden, this she knows. Nor was it casual. Both still cling to their humanity a bit too much for her taste, but it also keeps them from jumping into something without over thinking it to death.
God, she can practically smell them all over each other.
Stepping back from Stefan's embrace, she clasps her hands together and smiles wickedly at the two of them.
"It's good to be home."
The sheets are oddly fresh, though the rest of her room appears undisturbed.
She figures Stefan must have changed them every few months in anticipation of her return. Imagining him here, taking a moment on the corner of her bed, before smoothing his hands over fresh linen makes her smile.
Footsteps in the hall.
Stefan is already in his room, so it must be Caroline pausing ever so briefly in front of her door, before moving along and stopping again in front of Stefan's. Katherine knows she won't dare share a bed with him. Not tonight. Not with a single wall to separate them all.
Finally the shuffling ends, the sound of the third and final door opening and closing, as Katherine lays her head down content.
Stefan and Caroline are both at work.
She wonders why they even bother.
Time isn't all the hard to kill when you have the freedom to do whatever you please, whenever the need strikes. Something, she thinks, they've never truly embraced.
Nosing through the house, she hadn't expected a whole lot of changes in her absence, but is actually surprised that the only noteworthy thing is a new end table in the living room. She shuffles through papers, peers in between Stefan's books, the thought that some kind of hard copy proof something is happening with the two of them has to exist somewhere.
The way they sneak little looks at each other. The inside jokes. Little things that shouldn't matter at all, but she hates being left out.
In Caroline's room, digging through her vanity, only finding make up and pictures from a life long forgotten. Sighing in frustration, she knocks a row of nail polish bottles over and runs a hand through her hair,. This is ridiculous. She's being ridiculous.
It's not as if she expected to find a notebook with Mrs. Caroline Salvatore scribbled on the cover, but wanted to get a hold of something substantial.
Sitting in a chair, glass of wine held lithely between her fingers, she waits for one of them to come home. Pleased that it's Stefan who arrives first, she crosses her legs and takes a sip, lips curling into a grin on the swallow.
"How long? She asks, tilting the glass toward him before bringing it back for another drink. "Did you think you could hide it from me?"
He tilts his head as if thinking it over, dropping his bag and stepping toward her.
"Just because I'm not shoving it in your face," he says, stopping directly in front of her chair. "Doesn't mean I'm hiding anything."
Rising to her feet, smiling triumphant, one hand reaches out to straighten a lapel on his jacket.
"So it's true."
He scoffs and shakes his head, amused that her tricky little ways still have pay dividends.
"I won't lie to you," he replies putting a hand over hers. "We've been through too much for me to-"
He stops, looking down. "You should know that."
She steps closer, flattening a cheek against his shoulder, pulling the one free hand from under his to wrap her arm around him.
"So what?" She asks, teeth catching her lip when he holds her back. "I'm just supposed to accept this?"
"And why would I do that?"
"Because you of all people should understand what it's like to love both."
She kills a pretty blonde waitress and tries not to roll her eyes at just how sickeningly obvious that is.
Spotting her in the pub, sweet burn of whisky on her tongue, thirst quenched but hunger on the rise. Waiting in the brick lined, garbage strewn alley, straight out of a cliché. Snatching the girl by the shoulders, the monster inside hissing with delight, no clever line from her lips just the savory sensation of blood slipping past them.
Just the feed.
Just the kill.
Peroxide locks tickle the back of her hands as the girl's resistance slows to nothing. Gasping when it's over, letting her drop to the ground, Katherine licks her lips then wipes her mouth. Pretty, this girl. Though not as bubbly as Caroline, and probably not as annoying.
She digs through the girl's pockets, taking only the nights tips, and tosses the body in one of the bins.
Her feet are bare, padding into Stefan's room, she slides into his bed without hesitance.
"Hey," he says, eyes still closed, letting her head rest against his chest.
She can smell Caroline's cheap perfume on him, just as she knows he can smell the girl on her. Both keep comments to themselves. His fingers play with the ends of her curls, as she sighs against him. Thinking of St. Petersburg, that bridge, and blondie appearing out of the ether. How much better her life would be had they walked down a different street, crossed some other bridge. She would have him all to herself like she always planned. Like she always wanted.
Though, if she wishes to wax poetic about such things, it's like they were meant to find Caroline. But it's hardly an activity she participates in, and besides, poets rarely convey their literary conviction to real world application. If she recalls, Byron was all hands and crass innuendo.
"I don't like sharing," she says.
"Still making the rules?"
"If memory serves," he says, hands coming to a stop. "You didn't mind sharing affection between Damon and I."
"That was different," she replies, shifting to meet his eyes.
"Of course it was," he agrees, one hand now moving to caress her cheek. "You were getting everything you wanted."
She leans into his touch.
"I chose you," she says firmly. "In the end. As I have always chosen you."
His smile is faint.
"Forgive me if the hundred or so years after that seem contradicting."
"I don't hate you for it," he interrupts. "Maybe I never did."
They fall silent for awhile.
"It's because I left, isn't it?"
How she loathes the concept.
Caroline nearly drops the tray in hand when Katherine walks into the cafe.
Recovering quickly, she heads for the patrons it was bound for, as Katherine sits at a small table and looks over the menu.
"What are you doing here?" Caroline asks, coming back around.
"Is that any way to greet a customer?" Katherine counters.
The blonde girl only stares down at her.
"Cup of Earl Grey," she continues sweetly. "Oh! And some of those cookie things everyone is so fond of dipping."
It's as if Caroline doesn't believe she's actually placing an order, until Katherine gives a dismissive wave, which results in a fake smile though the eyes burn with irritation.
"Coming right up."
Two minutes later there's a steaming cup placed in front of her, as well as a tiny plate strewn with assorted biscuits.
"Sit," Katherine says, blowing gently on her tea.
"Sit," she repeats, kicking out the chair opposite.
"I think it's time we had a talk, don't you?"
"So you pick here?" Caroline asks, waving a hand around. "Now?"
"Would you rather I corner you in the kitchen and slam your head against the sink?"
The blonde's eyes go wide. Katherine doesn't even bother to look up as she makes the threat, dipping one of her biscuits in the tea and nibbling as if she hasn't a care in the world.
"So tell me, how long did you wait before making your move? One week? Two?"
"I don't know what-"
Katherine's eyes catch hers.
"Lie to me and I'll pull that ring off your finger and toss you outside."
An involuntary gasp escapes Caroline's lips.
"It was months, okay? When it seemed pretty obvious you weren't coming back. At least not any time soon."
Taking a quick glance around, making sure no one is looking for her attention, or that someone can overhear.
"And what's up with that anyway? Just taking off. You know what it does to him."
"I need my freedom," Katherine answers, pausing for a cautious sip of tea. "He understands that."
"Doesn't mean he likes it," Caroline counters. "Or deserves it."
"I bet you loved it," Katherine says menacingly, leaning forward with daggers in her eyes. "Comforting him in my absence, getting to play house in the way you've always wanted since we came here."
"I'm his friend," Caroline insists. "And yeah, I was there when he needed me. And okay, something happened. But you know what? It doesn't mean he loves me any more, or you any less. It just is. So what's so bad about that?"
So many things, Katherine thinks. It's not supposed to be the buxom vampire Barbie that puts a song in Stefan's heart. Nor was it supposed to be that wench Lexi or her pathetic little doppelganger. Oh, there it is. The trump card. Katherine takes her time swirling another biscuit in her tea, leaning back in her chair and taking a bite.
"I wonder what he'd think of you once he's aware you've known Elena is still alive all this time, and off with Damon living their happily ever after, no less."
Caroline balks a second, taken aback by the knowledge she thought she was in sole possession of. Shock on her face that Katherine could know, realization slowly passing over her features that of course she would. Her eyes pinch shut as she takes a breath.
"I think he'd forgive me."
"Are you sure about that?"
"Yeah Katherine," Caroline says with an annoyed tilt of her head. "Just like I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be too happy about you keeping that little fact to yourself either."
She rises from the table.
"Now if you don't mind, some of us have jobs to do."
Caroline walks off before she has the chance to say anything further.
Katherine calmly finishes her tea and leaves without paying
Stefan sits on one end of the couch, Katherine the opposite.
Caroline is on the floor with her back resting against it, wedged nearly between them.
Katherine has the remote in hand, idly flipping channels, watching for every time blondie's arm brushes broody's leg, and it takes all she has not to rip Caroline's head from her shoulders at every tiny smile they think they're getting away with when it happens.
The only good thing to come out of she and Stefan's time of indentured servitude, was that he finally started to look at her as he used to. They way she'd wanted him to for decades.
All the things they have been through, the places they've been, the people they've killed. It couldn't have been just to end up here, stuck in this house, having to watch him cuddle up to a person she only tolerates at his behest.
She can't honestly be expected to take this.
Just because her behavior has calmed ever so slightly the last few years.
It doesn't mean she's tamed. It doesn't mean she's changed.
There just isn't any need to be the selfish, manipulative bitch, when you don't have to run or hide. When don't have to plot, procure, and get the hell out town before it kills you.
When you have exactly what you'd spent all that time searching and fighting for.
It's irksome that Stefan hasn't realized his direct hand in this.
Hell, asking her to do this house, this life, it's like he doesn't know her at all.
Caroline twists around, elbow resting on Stefan's knee, as she blathers on about something so funny that happened on the train home.
Katherine ignores the conversation, keeps her eyes focused forward.
A plan begins to form.