Katherine reclined in the hotel room's only chair, a gossip magazine blocking her view of the bed. She looked up occasionally to check that Elena was still breathing, and then resumed mindlessly gazing at the same glossy, colorful page full of celebrity secrets, her mind venturing to the mansion Kol had forced her to flee. She imagined going back once this was all over, when Kol and Klaus had been eradicated or, at the very least, castrated. She also thought of Stefan's fate, wondering if Kol had ordered Damon to kill his own brother, or if Klaus had taken him as a play toy. She hadn't seen Damon in days, not since their arrival at this abandoned hotel, but she suspected he would be filling himself with hatred, be it for himself or for the Original who had compelled him.
Her shift watching Elena was almost up when she felt something change. It wasn't sound or scent that alerted her, but a slight shift in pressure, making her blood chill and her vision sharpen. She stood and crept to the door, staring through the eyehole. She saw nothing. Taking a deep breath, she cracked the door and peered into the hallway.
Her entire mind, every odd and end that formed casual thought and the train of consciousness leading from one idea to another, froze as it was in that moment. She saw Klaus rounding the corner with Stefan at his shoulder and his monster of a brother, Kol, following closely behind. She saw a small device in Klaus' hands, beeping more as he neared the room. He had tracked them here, and he wasn't in a hurry. He knew that there was no escape.
She turned back toward Elena, shutting the door silently. "Sorry, kid. Looks like we're done."
Stefan's thoughts raced as they neared their target. The GPS tracker was beeping frantically, leading the group of three to the room at the end of the hall. The door was shut, locked, and chained. Klaus kicked through it. The wallpaper was peeling downward, roaches scuttled into the dark, dusty corners, and the only window was boarded shut, light peering ominously across the scarred floorboards. He saw his brother first, crouched and facing the corner, his hands covering his face, bloody streaks down his back. Across the room, planks were splintered and painted scarlet, as if he'd been throwing himself into them for days.
"Damon?" he took a step closer, ignoring Klaus' growl. His brother's hands dropped and he stood straight, but he didn't turn around. "Damon, it's me – it's Stefan. W-What are you doing here? Where is Elena? Where's Katherine?"
Klaus was already backing out, "They can't have gone far."
Finally, the elder Salvatore looked back, his face as dark as ever. He stumbled to Stefan and put both hands on his shoulders, shaking his head. "We lost," he said, sighing. The smell of alcohol filled the air. "We lost, and I'm dead, and this is Hell, right?" His hands tightened. He leaned forward a little, pressing his forehead to Stefan's. "I should've been a better brother for you... You deserved so much more. I wish that – I wish that I'd let her come with us. Elena. Now she's dead and it's my fault." Cutting Stefan off before he could speak, he threw himself into the corner and wailed, "Why can't I do anything right? What the hell is wrong with me?"
"Elena's not dead, Damon," Stefan corrected immediately. "She's just not here. You're not dead, either, you're in a crappy hotel in New York City." He pulled his brother out of the corner and led him to the door. Damon shrank away from the faint light of the hallway, leaning heavily into Stefan's hold. "Listen to me: This isn't your fault. It doesn't matter what happens."
Just as Damon's eyes were going to meet his, the hallway door slammed open and Klaus stumbled out, followed quickly by Kol. A moment later Katherine stepped through the threshold with Elena squirming in her arms, her hands set on either side of the girl's head, preparing to snap her neck. The brothers froze where they were.
"Is this what you want, Klaus? You want her blood? You think making more hybrids will make the world a little less lonely for the man who killed his own mother?" Her arms flexed and Elena squealed in pain. Damon made a move toward them and Stefan stopped him, shaking his head. Katherine didn't see them. She didn't see anything through the veil of her own anger. "Do you think that the world will forget what you've done? That the way those hybrids worship you is actually love? You don't know what that word means. It's empty. You're empty."
Klaus stared at her, his eyes narrowed, his lips set in a scowl. "Tell me what you want and you'll have it. If you kill her, I will destroy you."
Katherine smiled venomously. "You know what? I don't want anything. I just want to see you suffer – alone. Now that I think about it the two of us are the same. We're miserable, but we're not brave enough to stop fighting for the lives we don't want. I'll make it easier on you."
Her eyes flickered momentarily to Stefan and Damon, regret flashing through their glassy surfaces, and then she twisted Elena's neck so hard that the snap reverberated off of every wall, chilling Stefan's spine. She shoved the lifeless body at Klaus and then, in the next second, vanished into the room. Kol let out a menacing growl and flashed after her – Stefan heard breaking glass and a groan of pain from the Original. Klaus caught Elena and slipped to the ground with her, his eyes glazing as the future that he'd planned shattered right in front of him. She was dead weight, and he soon shoved her to the cheap carpet.
Stefan and Damon lunged together, gathering her and exchanging looks of horror and pain. Stefan couldn't imagine this being real – he must've been dreaming the encounter, he must've been back at Bonnie's house waiting for the GPS signal to lock on, he must've been killed by Klaus, and now he was experiencing the inner circle of Hell. Staring down at her lifeless face, not knowing if she had vampire blood in her system or if this was the true end, Stefan was filled with insurmountable grief. He heard Damon sob once or twice before he stared, mystified, at the girl they'd both loved. Tears slipped down his own face as he thought of placing a flower on her fresh grave.
The coffin descended two days after Elena Gilbert's death. Stefan and Damon stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the edge, staring downward but seeing nothing. Elijah was near them, a deep, forlorn look on his face, and Klaus stood on the other side, appearing regretful, but relieved. He hadn't let them out of his command, and the brothers were under orders not to attempt to escape. This was Klaus' only mercy, allowing them to attend her funeral only after he'd waited a day and a half for her to awaken. His brother scowled at his side, appearing bored.
"To know that my own brother has plotted against me is not as heartbreaking as Katerina taking the life of such a promising young girl," Klaus said at the end of it all. The grave was filled and a few dozen flowers lay upon it. They were the only ones to attend, and the only ones present. The grave was unmarked, but he crouched to brush a bit of dirt from the plain granite surface.
Damon glared at him through the haze of his grief. "Don't pretend you care."
Klaus shrugged and stepped back, glancing around himself. "It's about time we left, don't you think? Bonnie should be preparing my body now. Come along, boys."
Stefan said his goodbyes in a gentle whisper, stroking the surface of the grave, and then he stood and followed Klaus and Kol to the car. Damon lingered a moment, his hand flat against the dirt, a few tears touching the soil, and whispered, "Elena, I… I love you. I'm so sorry. We'll see each other again, I promise. Goodbye…"