Summary: "That former image of her – fresh-faced with windblown hair and dancing eyes – had never been fully eroded from his mind, and occasionally intruded on his rigid fortitude and steely purpose, if only for a few seconds." Elijah visits Katherine in the tomb. Mid-Season 2.
Inspired by the prompt: Elijah/Katherine - if I love you, is that a fact or a weapon?
A shout out to flesh and bone telephone, whose amazing Katherine/Elijah fic 'Thirteen Teethmarks' finally persuaded me to get off my backside and write this.
Can also be regarded as the darker sister-story to A Shadow's Slant. Or maybe I'm just too lazy to think up decent titles. Who knows?
A Shadow's Tale
The densely packed earth crumbled between the ancient stones, rich, heady soil spilling to the ground, emanating wetness, every tint and odour felt by his heightened senses. He pressed a hand to the rough surface of the wall, eyes fluttering shut momentarily as he inhaled deeply –
A stirring; tiny pulses of vibration passing through his immovable flesh, running through his sensitive veins. A movement of deeper black in the heavy, compressed darkness of the tomb… Elijah felt a grim smile tugging the stern edges of his mouth.
The only one who had ever escaped him. He could hear her fast, shallow breathing, the rapid beat of her heart pattering a familiar drumbeat of terror that invariably preceded the severance from this mortal plane (all things in good time, he told himself). Oh, she feared him now, and there was a strange novelty in the realisation, anodyne to the wounded pride he had harboured these long years. His head tilted to one side, grave eyes watching her approach through the darkened gloom of the cave, the slow, shuffling sound of her footfalls, such a variance to the sure, seductive step of the Katerina he knew.
She dragged herself along the wall, feral and dangerous. Her bare feet were filthy, and Elijah's natural instincts for order and cleanliness were repulsed (intrigued) by the very sight of her. Dressed in the licentious attire that passed for elegance in this age, the fatal Petrova beauty burned through her darkly-lined eyes, the crimson lips shaped for vice. But his discerning gaze noted that her olive skin was tinged with an unhealthy pallor and her eyes were too wild, too wide. Imprisonment and hunger were taking their toll. Dark hair fell stiff and straight over her thin shoulders, so different from the unruly, wayward curls that he remembered (in former times dreamed of running his hands through) –
Once, he might have felt a melancholic chord of sympathy at the sight of the airy, vivacious girl so accustomed to billowing gowns and exquisite jewels reduced to this ragged state. Now he felt nothing. Guilt had long since passed. She had brought herself to this plight. Not even pity could touch the walls of his stony heart, so unmoved for centuries.
(Yet was that entirely true?) Because that former image of her – fresh-faced with windblown hair and dancing eyes – had never been fully eroded from his mind, and occasionally intruded on his rigid fortitude and steely purpose, if only for a few seconds. But such thoughts were not to be dwelt on. Elijah had learned of the futility of wanting to change the past, and worthless memories made for bitter company. So he immersed himself in his duty, locked his emotions away and preoccupied himself with ideals of honour and loyalty that could make him, if not a good man, then perhaps a just one.
She drew herself up. A pitiful attempt at bravado. Her voice was hoarse and rasping, yet even when ravaged by hunger, the lilting, bewitching cadences were still audible in her throaty tones. "Elijah. Have you come here to gloat?"
He toyed with his cufflinks, a customary habit, calm and unperturbed as he looked at her steadily. The sight of her no longer moved him and he reminded himself once again that only business had brought him here. A tedious formality. "Katerina," he greeted her equably, with a civility that belied the fact that she had been his hunted prey for centuries. "Or – what is it you're calling yourself these days? Katherine… Pierce? Hardly a brilliant disguise. But faking your own death? It was clever, I'll admit –"
"Had you fooled," she muttered resentfully.
Elijah smiled humourlessly. "I've learned not to be too certain of anything where you are concerned, Katerina."
No, he is never so easily satisfied. She has learned that well, after years of blood, years of always looking over her shoulder. He will leave no stone unturned searching for her. She has a sudden, centuries-old memory of stumbling through the smoke-filled corridors of the Tuileries Palace, glimpsing his immaculate, clear-cut form walking undaunted through the massacre taking place around them, pausing every now and then over a dead body, and smiling grimly when he does not encounter the face he seeks. She had escaped, of course – bribing a white-armband to ensure her safe passage from the city – not to see him again for another half-century. But he always finds her eventually. It's pointless to run, she hears him whisper coolly in her mind, just as he had on that fatal night. Klaus will find you, wherever you are. She feels his pitiless smile against her bones. And so will I.
She was still pressed against the wall like a cornered animal, watching him warily, her suspicious gaze never lingering on his for too long. Perhaps she was afraid he would compel her again. The thought was an intriguing one, and Elijah idly allowed himself to muse over what it was she feared. Pain? He dismissed the notion instantly. Vampires healed quickly, and Katerina was stronger than most (indomitable). No. It was loss of control. Vulnerability. How strange then, that they should have that in common, when all else had fallen away between them. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. He would put her in the ground himself, though such thoughts of vengeance had long ago dwindled away to dry, emotionless certainties.
Elijah moved towards her, his even footfalls measured and unhurried. She recoiled from his outstretched hand, a reaction that caused a flicker of amusement to briefly illuminate his coal eyes. Interesting. Perhaps imprisonment had taught her some humility.
He paused and looked thoughtfully into her face. "I believe you're afraid of me," he said softly.
"Not of you," she returned scornfully. It was a lie and they both knew it. "But I know Klaus likes to play with his food."
And there it was. Old blood and old resentment, simmering beneath the surface like an undimmed flame. Her beauty was not unfamiliar to him; those eyes were older than they seemed, darker than they should have been as they gleamed challengingly in the shadowed gloom. A distorted mockery of a dead love's face, one that had had become so bitter, so full of hatred. She had tarnished that image of beauty he had once treasured. There could be no replacement for the pure being that had long since wasted away, that distant, mythical martyr that had set them all on the course of this tragic history. As a man who had always prided himself on his strong instincts, to have seen his admiration so misplaced was a miscalculation Elijah vowed to make never again. It had been a grievous error of judgement, and it had cost him dearly.
Niklaus, of course, had seen sense; in a strange reversal of temperament, he had been the cautious one, always viewing the bigger picture, never allowing sentiment to cloud his views on what must be done. Elijah recalled an evening spent among the assembled nobility, his solemn gaze unconsciously lingering on Katerina's slender profile, entranced by the cascade of dark ringlets dancing around her proudly poised head, when he felt Klaus's hand close upon his shoulder in a grip too hard for tenderness. Unwillingly, he found himself looking into those turbulent eyes with their diabolical gleam. Amuse yourself with her all you like, brother, Klaus had said, smiling. But she is a means to an end – nothing more. Remember your duty, Elijah, and do not allow yourself to become distracted. When the full moon is upon us – she dies.
But Katerina had not died. She had fled. Her refusal to trust anyone but herself proving to be her downfall (that he had tried to save her was a secret he would carry to his grave). And so he had appointed himself judge, jury and executioner, hunting her down with a ruthless tenacity of an avenging angel. It had given him purpose, a moral crusade with which to tether his existence to this mortal plane.
"Have you at least brought me someone to kill?" Her voice. Lower than Elena's, more sultry, the absence of the genteel, precise accent she had adopted in England something he had still not learned to become used to. "Or are you here to kill me?"
Elijah paused before replying, drawing out the moment with agonising slowness before striking with precision (a finely-honed sword).
"You have had five hundred years of borrowed time, Katerina. You must have known it would have to end eventually." He straightened the lapels of his jacket, flicking the bronze fall of hair from his brow. Waited. Toying with her fate. He could taste her fear. Then allowed himself a wry smile. "But not tonight."
Something of her old dangerous fire returned. She stretched, rolling her shoulders back with fluid ease, extending a slender bare leg (it was a different man who had envisioned what lay beneath those voluminous skirts; even one as chivalrous and stoic as him had not been entirely immune to the pleasures of the flesh). Her eyes – a shade darker than Elena's, he thought irrelevantly – narrowed. Lips the colour of burgundy wine. There was dust in her hair and blood on her hands. She was never more dangerous than when cornered.
And it had been a long hunt. From the green pastures of southern England to the seething unrest of pre-Revolutionary France; from the sun scorched, sacred stones of Rome to the neon-swaying buildings of the New World. This endless, bitter pursuit wearing him down to ash and bone and age-old sinew, weighed down with a despairing patience. Bound by a reluctant purpose that he would see through until his last days. He was no longer driven by self-righteous anger and betrayal and retribution. Those days had long passed. There was only duty.
The new millennium suits him. As ever, the years glide off him, leaving no marks on the sharp, clear angles of his face. His elegant features are sharply defined; the hue of his skin a deep gold against the black and ivory of his suit. The smooth movement of his brass-hued hair sweeping over his brow, so bright it looks almost metallic. Smiling and smiling, so calm, so measured, standing there with that magnetic force that makes him so fearful an adversary. The fallen angel on her shoulder. Something about his implacability disturbs her more than Klaus's wild blood-rages. But at least Elijah would grant her the courtesy of a quick, clean death (always so chivalrous, Katherine thinks to herself with a flash of bitterness, so considerate). Klaus wants to make her suffer, and she wonders what twisted sense of loyalty makes Elijah believe that serving Klaus is some noble cause. Both fill her with hatred and fear (and hurt betrayal, not that she will ever admit that), but at least Klaus never pretended to care.
Identical dark gazes met – one passionately resentful, the other pitilessly impassive – each trying to gain the measure of the other. Ancient enemies, modern strangers. So many things remembered between them and hastily pushed aside. He was not the same man he had been five hundred years ago. But then, she was no longer the same girl, no longer the laughing Katerina of bygone centuries that he had once been hopelessly infatuated with. Admiring her from afar, knowing with a pang of despair that she was Klaus's, always Klaus's (as are we all his creatures in this…) He had known all along that she was a lamb to the slaughter, the only surprise being that she had survived this long.
"So, if you're not here to kill me, then why are you here?" She examined a blood-red nail, playing the game of indifference. He had always been better at it than her, but she had truly mastered the power to remain heartless in a way he could never have foreseen. Her dainty foot traced idle patterns in the dust. "Take your time; I'm not going anywhere."
"I've come on business," he said coolly. "Elena informs me that she gave you a volume containing your family history and that of the Petrova line. I should like to have it in my possession."
He had somehow – inconceivably – not known of the existence of a doppelganger. Supreme in his pride, so assured in his awareness, such an oversight was unpardonable. He needed to be certain there was nothing else he had missed. And there were some elements of the ritual he was certain Klaus had been reticent about – its requirement of being performed at the birthplace of the doppelganger, for one. Elijah was a careful man, scrupulous, and too many mistakes had already been made in this thousand year old saga. And the debacle of Katerina Petrova the gravest fault of all.
"Ah, yes. Elena. The little sacrificial lamb." Wine-dark lips pouted in a mockery of concern. "Tell me: has she succeeded in getting herself killed yet? Or is she too inept even to get that right?"
Elijah merely sighed at her derisive tone, refusing to let her rile him. These paltry tactics were wearisome; her barbs couldn't come close to hurting him. "Elena and I have come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. So long as her loved ones remain safe, she will do nothing until the time is right to confront Klaus."
"And you believe she'll willingly walk up to Klaus and put her neck out – just like that?"
Ah. Of course. How very like Katerina, to be so utterly unable to comprehend the sacrifices one would make for the sake of family. Loyalty; the one thing she had never understood, and the one thing that ruled his entire existence. It was the very height of her narcissism to believe that at heart, everyone was as vindictive and ruthless as her. But this one – new half-millennia, new doppelganger – was different. Elena Gilbert. Kindness in her face and warmth in her eyes. Forcing upon him a reminder of betrayals endured and broken hearts survived. Fated to relive that same misfortune in a bitter cycle of endless repetition.
Elijah wondered whether he would ever become accustomed to the paradox of two doppelgangers walking in the same century. Both a fleeting likeness of – and yet not quite. Comparisons were futile (she is dead and gone, Elijah) and whatever half-formed thoughts or vain hopes he might have harboured of innocence reborn, of guileless laughter and dark eyes unshadowed by bitterness, were well and truly buried. Katerina was not Tatia, and Elijah was unsure whether the realisation brought him more pleasure or pain. He should have known, the moment he set eyes on this terrible beauty, yet still he had fallen hopelessly under the beguiling charm of the Petrova doppelganger, glimpsing within her a small ray of hope in a world full of harsh truths. But he was not here to be made a fool of, not again.
"I believe Elena to be trustworthy. She values loyalty and family and honour; therefore, she will keep her word." As he spoke, his voice changed from its even and composed tones, enriched by a sudden warmth. Katherine flashed upon it in an instant, her face twisting into a snarl. She dragged her sullen, glowering eyes to his and what Elijah saw in them gave him pause. It was dangerous and huge, and yet somehow vulnerable, dark with incredulity and rage.
"Oh, don't tell me you've fallen down to worship at the altar of Elena, as well. It's all Stefan and Damon talk about." A petulant frown creased her brow, the look of a child deprived of its favourite toys. "I'm surprised at you though, Elijah. I would have thought a man of your intelligence would know better by now."
He did not grant her the courtesy or satisfaction of a reply, his level of arrogance not quite high enough for him to feel flattered; there was something more to her careless remark. He took a breath, willing restraint. Reminded himself why he was here. "The book, Katerina. My patience is wearing thin."
"It's pathetic. All of you wanting to be her white knight, so eager to protect her. Don't think I don't know what this is about. Because she's not special, Elijah. She's just new."
Her very vindictiveness was a triumph in itself, though sensibly, he refrained from smiling. A moment of brief gratification, yet oddly unsatisfying, like the bitter dregs of a once-sweet chalice of wine. Still, Elijah played the upper hand while it was afforded to him; refusing to give credence to her accusations that he might have feelings for this girl (didn't she know better by now?) "Must we play these games, Katerina? This jealousy is beneath you."
She arched closer, sinuous and graceful, a serpent looking for the best place to strike. "You know she's going to die, don't you? Klaus will get what he wants, and there's nothing you can do to stop it."
"And yet you still live."
"I learned to take care of myself."
"And look where it's gotten you."
She smiled wickedly. "Take this Compulsion off me, and it'll get me out of your way."
Elijah allowed himself a brief smile. The tedium of centuries had caught up with him (long years of walking through grey space, consumed by the emptiness of it all) and this was a momentary respite from the unrewarding duty that occupied his existence. At the very least, Katerina could always be relied upon to make things interesting.
He hid his secret amusement, regarding her with placid indifference. "And why would I do that? At least here I can be assured you won't cause any trouble."
She shrugged her shoulders. It looked as though she had suddenly lost all interest; her eyes trailed on the ground, lips pressed together in a bitter kind of disappointment, acting as though he did not exist, as though she had lost herself in her brooding thoughts.
And it was then she struck.
Her attempt was valiant, he would grant her that. But really, what did she expect? Even as she flew at him with the speed of a thousand Furies, she was no match for him. Without hesitation or pause, he caught her flailing wrists, locking her smouldering gaze with his. Violently whirled her round, trapping her against the stone. A shower of dirt fell over her dark hair, scattering in earthy clouds over her shoulders. Her back hit the wall, a deep crack rending the stone. For a moment, Elijah was aware of a brief flicker of concern before sternly conquering the weakness (those moments of gallantry would rise up in spite of himself). It had never come to violence between them, but the inherent threat had always been there, beneath the surface. But he had to remember his manners. She had successfully managed to evade him for centuries, after all – a feat not many had accomplished – there was a degree of respect to be had. With a careless motion, he dropped her wrists, stepping back and facing her from a courteous distance.
"It's quite useless fighting me," he said evenly. "You cannot win."
"I can hurt you, though," she gritted, her dark eyes flashing hatred.
Elijah didn't even trouble himself with glancing on her. "You are weak. You haven't fed."
He stated it calmly – as a fact – but she took it as a provocation, a challenge.
There was the glint of bared teeth and flying hair and blood-glazed eyes. She was cunning and unpredictable, but he had learned her tricks. There was little in this world that could surprise him anymore, not even her, though she had proven herself crafty prey. And he, the tired old hunter.
A hand locked around her throat. The tantalising pump of her lifeless blood beating furiously beneath the pads of his fingers was a startling, terrible reminder that she was no longer human (he sometimes wondered whether she thought the price of her survival had been worth paying). She writhed hopelessly, a choking gasp escaping her lips.
He sighed, his grip loosening a fraction. "This becomes tiresome."
A part of him was appalled at how easily he could hurt her, how little it would take to resort to such barbarity. She was weakened, so delicate, her face a Venetian mask of decadence and deceit… why could he not break her, if he truly wanted to? This ridiculous farce could end this very night if he were to simply abandon himself to impulse (just this once) to be rid of the damnable suspense that had haunted him for centuries. There was a perverse satisfaction in the thought of his face being the last thing she saw on this earth, imprisoned on her frozen eyelids forever, just as her image (Tatia's, he reminded himself firmly, never Katerina's) was on his. How very tempting it all was.
Elijah allowed his fingers to slide away, releasing a slow exhalation as his tone returned to that of polite disinterest. "Please don't think make the mistake of thinking that just because I wish you to remain alive for the present, that I will not make you suffer if you so much as think to cross me."
"I thought you were too noble for such brutality," she returned hoarsely, hands still clutching at her throat.
"I think you know better by now," he said, his voice soft and dangerous.
She had once dismissed him idly, laughing off any thought of his being a threat. He was always so polite, so gentle and civilised with her, oddly endearing with his courtly gallantry and acts of thoughtfulness. She had barely noticed him in comparison to Klaus's mesmerizing presence, the wild, unrestrained passion and lethal grace of a prowling wolf that had briefly ensnared her. But still waters run deep, and Elijah is not a man to forget wrongs lightly. Klaus's vengeance is white-hot and furious, but Elijah's is enduring and forever. She can't fight him. No matter how she might scratch and claw, he will remain the same. He will hunt her and haunt her until the day she is too tired to keep running. She'll fall and he'll be there, standing over her with a gracious smile and an outstretched hand. A shudder convulses her body. No. Katherine decides that she will tear him and then herself apart before it comes to that.
Her eyes smouldered like lit coals. But she knew better than to fight him. There was a certain cold exultation in seeing her momentarily cowed. Something to be briefly savoured, granting himself this small luxury. Power was a wayward thing, and once grasped, could not be relinquished lightly. It was one of the few pleasures he afforded himself these days.
Elijah turned his gaze away, smoothing down the crisp, clean lines of his suit, taking the time to wipe the dust from his hands with a pocket handkerchief, the action performed with fastidious care.
Katherine sidled towards him, her slanting eyes holding a gleam of derision in their smoke-dark depths. A smile lifting her curved lips. Provoking. "Does it bother you? Being Klaus's lapdog? Running his errands?"
No need to tell her that he intended to destroy his brother, not carry out his orders. "My relationship with Klaus is none of your concern."
"No? Isn't that the whole reason I'm stuck in this tomb?"
"And yet you remain alive." Elijah smiled coldly, raising a brow in dryly amused irony. "I thought that was all that mattered to you?"
She scuffed her bare foot, stirring a cloud of dust around her legs. "I'm dying of boredom in here."
"Ah." He waited pleasantly for her to continue, determining on saying nothing that would provoke her – now that things were beginning to rouse a spark of interest in him; he preferred not to encourage her anger but instead try to get to the things that tormented her. He watched and waited. An eternity of patience on his side. Eventually, she would stumble.
"No one has been down here for days. Tell me what's been happening."
Elijah did not reply immediately, but began to study their surroundings with idle curiosity, his hand running lightly over the damp wall of the tomb. The stone crumbled lazily to powder beneath his fingers. The pungent aroma of wet earth and decay filled his senses, almost as strong as the distinctive scent of Katerina – Katherine – who watched him with wary uncertainty, dirt staining the back of her thin black dress.
He smiled at her disarmingly. "I have some news concerning an old friend of yours. Trevor is dead."
Not even a flicker of emotion passed across her face at his words. Elijah was not surprised; he would have been incredulous if she had cared. "I hope you weren't too hard on the poor boy. Really, he was quite fond of me. Kind of like a dog, actually."
"I struck his head from his shoulders. It was a quicker death than he deserved."
"How ungentlemanly." Her heavy dark lashes fluttered, and Elijah wondered if this elaborate performance of the Southern belle was what had doomed the Salvatore brothers to falling in love with her. "Anyone would think you were jealous."
"A foolish misconception."
He was lying to her, lying to himself. Yet denial had kept him sane, steady (and he would not falter). Her eyes glinted in the candlelight. He could glimpse a quick, preying intelligence behind that cunning look, something that had no need of physical strength to be deadly. "And yet after five hundred years… you're still chasing me."
A pause. The silence was almost painful (silences were so important, those sins of omission he would never voice aloud). Elijah stared at her, his eyes dark and deliberate with warning, silently willing her to stop, burning with insatiable curiosity for her to go on, his initial purpose in being here almost entirely forgotten.
The derision had left her expression. She was watching him, quietly curious, contemplative. Closer, cautiously. "Deny it all you want, Elijah. But I think you loved me once. Why else would you hate me now?"
"I don't hate you, Katerina," he replied, and it was the truth. He drew a breath, forcing his gaze to meet hers evenly. "In fact…" Feigning nonchalance, quietly certain that his expression did not betray him. "You are nothing to me."
Those words, spoken so steadily – so callously – hurt her more than she could have imagined, more than she wants. His face is smooth as polished marble, his dark eyes impenetrable. She hates that. Her inability to read him. She wants to anger him, to make him feel something. Because this indifference kills her. Hatred is merely love's obsession thwarted, and she can play it to her advantage just as easily. But Elijah is different. He's always been the one in control, and she knows he can see right through to her core, to the scared little girl hidden within, and he doesn't care. His penetrating, discerning gaze stripping away her layers to the child who had shivered in dark forests of Bulgaria, hearing whispered tales of the Vampyre, to the young woman who had tried not to scream when Trevor had told her the stories were true and begged her to flee. Trevor. So sweet. So trusting. So very dead. And at Elijah's hand. For the thousandth time, she wonders whether he was the one who had killed her family, and once again decides that she doesn't want to know. Some questions are best left unanswered.
The cruel necessity of his words would have made his brother proud, had he cared for such things any more (another lie – he had always cared). Elijah hardened his heart, burying that unbidden longing and old regret. He refused to linger in the past (always hovering behind him as a constant reminder), but like her, remained mercilessly in the present. He had hidden his care deep within. Those forbidden thoughts would lie safely in the dark until the right occasion arose for them to awaken once more.
It was those glimpses of humanity that occasionally flashed through the hardened exterior of what she had become that made it impossible for him to entirely relinquish those old stirrings of ephemeral passion. Moved by his former pity for her, his compassion, something beyond rational control. Elijah contemplated her quietly. It surprised him, this sympathy, and so he continued to follow, waiting for something, a sign. A fleeting longing, a breath of something intangible. A girl that had once lived. He wondered if she mourned that life forgotten, forced to live as a shadow of her former self. Such a sorrowful fate for the girl who had brought colour and vivacity to the chill autumnal air, the grey skies; her presence bringing warmth to his world of cold stone walls and death. Elijah paused briefly, the rising tide of memories surging over him –
"It is very different," she said wistfully, long skirts of sumptuous brocade stirring in the sharp, bracing wind. Her slender fingers were idly tearing the petals from a freshly plucked rose. "In Bulgaria, there are high mountains and dark forests where you cannot see the sunlight. But here… all these green fields and open spaces… it is beautiful – don't you think?"
"Yes," he murmured, his deep gaze lingering on her wind-tanned cheeks and tangled curls, the sparkling vivacity in her dark eyes. The sun glancing off her warm skin was a revelation. "The most beautiful thing I have ever seen."
In England she had been beautiful with a wild, rustic kind of loveliness, and even then, dangerous. A rose with hidden thorns. Now she was controlled and cruel, wielding her beauty like a rapier, killing with alluring glances, and leaving a trail of destruction in the wake of her pretty, dainty feet. Even so… to think it should have come to this. Elijah could not deny his culpability in what she had become. His hand was in this. He, and Klaus, and Rose-Marie and the foolish, infatuated Trevor, whose love had gotten him killed. So many regrets.
Yet there was no discernible regret on her upturned face, the candlelight lingering on the achingly familiar contours, creating shadows where none had been before. Shadows of the silent tomb and dark forests he had pursued her through; shadows of the fear, the desire, of searching for her everywhere. She ran a slender hand down the smooth lapels of his jacket. Something (unspoken, unbidden, most certainly undesired) stirred his weary blood to quickening life. Elijah deliberately ignored the sensation (it was easy to pretend no spark of passion lurked within this hollow shell of muscle and bone). Acted as though there was no hunger in the blood. No desire.
"The book, Katerina. I won't ask again."
She lifted a dark brow, a smile of hidden secrets playing around her lips. Coy and arch. Teasing. Always just out of reach. "I have a better idea. Why don't you –" she stretched her arms out and dancingly withdrew a few steps – "come and get it from me?"
But if I catch you, the game will be over.
He searched her face, almost painfully aware of her beauty as it glowed in the dim, ghostly illumination streaming through the open door of the tomb. The light in her eyes was like a candle burning in the dark. He narrowed his intent gaze, looking deeply into those wells of emptiness, when she snapped her head away abruptly as though burned.
"You're compelling me now?"
"Will it stop this childish behaviour?"
In a moment, he had her trapped against the wall. One hand braced beside her head, the other gripping her arm. Her scent was everywhere. A bewitching haze of perfume and rich, heavy earth and dried blood. A trail he had been following for centuries. Crave and hunt, seek and find. He drew a thin breath through his nostrils, mastered his self-control.
She sighed in aggravation. "Don't be dull, Elijah. Even Stefan was more fun than you. At least I could get inside his head."
A barely-restrained sigh weighed heavy in his throat. The Salvatore brothers. Was he never to be rid of them? Mere boys, playing in a history they would have had no part in, were it not for Katerina's diabolical predilection for mayhem. Holding hearts in the palm of her hand, sparking feuds that would last centuries. Perhaps not so much was changed. And yet... in St. Austell, she had been passionate, high-spirited – but never consciously cruel.
She poked him lightly in the chest with an index finger. Glancing up at him, an amused curl on her lips. Curiously, the lightly mocking quality to their exchanges still remained. But the playfulness was gone. Her tone was laced with spite, darkened with bitterness. She sought to hurt, not to tease.
"Elijah the stoic. Elijah the honourable. Have you never imagined what it would be like to lose control?"
It's all a game, of course. She doesn't want him. She doesn't, she doesn't.
He held her firmly away from him, hands framing her small waist – so slight, he had thought that first time looking hungrily at Elena, so breakable, but Katerina, who had never displayed such flashes of vulnerability, was hard right down to the bones. Even as a human, he had never thought her fragile. Her hips shifted slightly, a sigh escaping her parted lips. Elijah told himself there was nothing but trickery in her response, in her stubborn silence; the way she sighed softly and twined her legs tighter around his. It was several moments before he had mastered himself enough to raise his brows in a look of cool inquiry, as though incredulous at her arrogance. Did she really think him so contemptibly prey to emotion?
"Come now, Katerina. We both know this act will get you nowhere."
"Who says it's an act?"
A delicate fingertip traced the strong line of his jaw. Her lips, dark as the juices of an overripe plum, were forbidden fruit, tantalising and oh-so-poisonous. Her shadowy eyes framed by their fringe of heavy lashes. He could not help his desire to bring her forbidden memory, her forbidden face back to his mind. He had been sleeping so long. She could be his resurrection (if she survived – if he allowed her to). He wasn't so far from being a man after all. This desperate longing interfering with all other aspects of his resolution and setting a low blaze rippling along his nervous system, fraying all concept of reason he might have possessed –
Damn her and her intolerable secrecy, her artful means of trying to distract him with her deliciously soft fingers against his jaw, causing him to repress a shudder –
It was not her that he wanted.
He tried to see past the mocking complacency in her expression, but he might as well have tried to see a reflection through a stone wall; nothing but her damnably heavy-lidded gaze and dark eyes that swam in a glorious euphoria of carelessness. Insincere, and beautifully so – until she shattered everything with a whisper.
"I remember the way you used to look at me. Wanting what you could never have. Well, now's your chance."
Elijah remained rigid and unmoving as her hand slid along the hard plane of his cheek in a slow caress. Her voice a soft breath of longing, like the rustling of autumn leaves on an English Oak (overhanging the gardens where she had run, laughing breathlessly with wine-dark lips that invited, glancing over her shoulder with heavy-lashed eyes that ensnared…)
"Не съм забравил, Илия…"
And suddenly, her dark eyes were filled with a soft fire, her lips parted in tender expectancy. The Katerina of five hundred years ago, startlingly human, the young girl with the pure heart and lively spirit. Coquettish and wayward, but never cruel. Tearing down his very heartbeat, the walls of his indifference. Filling an unexplained ache inside him, rendering him numb, yet acutely aware of every sensation. It was on the borders of his mind. The feeling… the feeling of enjoying the simplicities of existence, the illusion of being briefly… alive. For a moment, his breath stopped. He stared at her wonderingly, disbelieving.
"Katerina?" he whispered.
A throbbing pressure blooms in her chest, making it impossible to breathe, impossible to think. Centuries blow away like ashes in the wind. It is 1492 all over again, and he is Lord Elijah, bestowing warm smiles on her, regarding her with tenderness and affection, and a hint of wonder. As though she is some miracle he has long ceased to believe in. A devastating mixture of wrenching heartbreak and pure, unadulterated disbelief. She flinches from his outstretched hand, wild and skittish as a caged animal. Drags in a raw breath. Wary and uncertain. This is not how winning feels. Her bare feet curl around the wet earth, the rough-worn stone, to keep herself awake firmly in reality. She won't believe. She won't believe. She knows Elijah too well. He is cold, cold as stone. And she – Katherine Pierce now – does not feel. She can't love him, can't care about him. She will only use him. There is no other way.
A moment passed – an hour, a lifetime – as he regarded her gravely (hoping beyond hope), allowing his eyes to half close at the sensation of her slender fingers warm against his cold, marble skin.
And she smiled.
She smiled, but all he saw was a smile of sly satisfaction, a smile of triumph. The brief moment of beauty shattered, All at once, Elijah was master of himself again, supreme in his indifference, magnificent in his superiority. Able to strike her down with a searing look and take grim solace, moral pride in her downfall. He spoke with implacable certainty, his voice ringing and measured (a final judgement).
"I do not want you, Katerina. Moreover, I have never wanted you."
"Well," she hissed, "That's too bad."
And she fused her mouth to his.
Once, he had dreamed of this with a kind of Edenic simplicity. To court and win the lady (or maiden, as he had naively thought), imagining her arch, playful spirit softening into surrender as he kissed a burning trail down her olive skin with exquisite slow tenderness, buried his hands in the dark musk of her scented hair spread across the furs in rippling waves. Imagined the polite my Lord turning to pleading gasps of Elijah.
Never in his mind had it been like this. The taste of her was sharp, metallic. Embers and crushed petals, a bittersweet draught, vinum de vite. An invocation of lost things. He felt his suit crease beneath her hands, the press of her lithe body already sliding a tantalising rhythm against his. The ravaging, bruising force of her little mouth against his, provoking and teasing – oh, she was good at this, at knowing how to undo a man, take her lovers apart, piece by piece. His fingers instinctively curled around her wrists, too strong for tenderness. His mouth brushed feather-light across her lips, then angled her face up to kiss her in earnest, slow and firm with just a hint of cruelty in his control.
Her long dark hair fell over the front of his shirt and he allowed his hands to tangle in the long strands (now this he had envisioned) just hard enough to make her breath catch, a small sound of desire. Elijah tore his mouth from hers, a mouthful of bone-dry air doing little to calm his shattered equilibrium. He felt her shift against him, long legs clinging deliciously to his marble torso, her dark head dipping to kiss her way down the rigid tendons of his throat. His eyes closed, refusing to expose the darkening of lust that would betray him. This could not be. He would not allow it. His hand slid deliberately along her bare skin, pausing between her breasts – she hissed a breath – lingering over the cavern of her heart. He could pull it from her chest and end this now. Ultimately, a decision would have to be made. He could destroy her, or himself.
He chose his own destruction.
The searing heat of her mouth closing over flesh, sucking. Elijah inhaled slowly, swallowed. Smoothing his hands over her hips, handling her with frightening ease. His awareness drowned in the silken feel of her skin against his, of her nihilistic despair matching his own. A deep, slow languor. He could sink into this, allow it to drown him. His indifference withered to ash, burned away in the wake of emotion, so raw and real –
He did not want to desire her as he did, but there was nothing he could do, and he was deluding himself that the spectre of Tatia (resurrected in Elena) was to blame. Perhaps it was; or perhaps it was merely the forgotten part of his masculinity coming to claim dominion over this strange half-life of his. But he was certain she could not hope to fathom the control she wielded over his mind. He silently vowed she would never learn of the power she wielded in her very existing, even as his will blurred, his long-dormant blood igniting to life beneath marble flesh (lain under centuries of stony sleep). Passion to passion. Never a man to do things by halves, was it not hopelessly inevitable that he should have fallen so completely (so unwisely)? How incredible, how inevitable it all was. She couldn't, simply couldn't be here, couldn't be touching him like this, not when she was an unbearable, devastating replica of the one being he had irrevocably and hopelessly…
She held him to her, possessively, ravenously. The blood circulated his veins in slow, languid currents. The long-ago, hazy dreams of slow seduction he had dwelt on in bygone centuries dispersed and reshaped themselves into vivid images of driving into her on the ground atop a layer of drenched dirt, the light of the candles flickering over her bare skin, her fingers clenching and unclenching around the iron railings as blessings and curses rolled off her tongue in breathless rapidity (so very like Katerina, ever dancing the line between the divine and the diabolical). She growled as he rocked his hips into hers, smooth and methodical. Her nails dug into his skin, scoring the taut column of his throat while his flesh sank beneath the sharp pressure of her teeth. With that sudden red flash of pain (it would heal, but that was hardly the point), his illusions died all over again. The Katerina of old would never have enjoyed inflicting pain, never relished in extracting pleasure from violence. The present rushed back with the hard, bright dystopia of clarity, overwhelming him with a fatalistic resignation. He had thought he was beyond feeling pain where Katerina was concerned, but it seemed fate had proven him wrong a second time. This was an ending, not a beginning.
Too late to resurrect those old emotions now, too late to feel guilt over a past they had already discarded. He felt it as though from a great distance – an inward convulsion – muscle and bone locking together in rigid unassailability. Strands of burnished hair fell over his brow that he brushed aside with casual impatience. Narrowed his merciless gaze at her lust-blown eyes. And pushed.
Her back slams painfully against the stone, the breath leaving her body in a rush. She slides down the wall, her heart thudding, mouth full of the taste of him. Poisoned, yet again. Messy hair and clenched fists betray her, and she inwardly curses herself for playing a game she cannot win. Whatever vestiges of feeling he might have had for her in the past are gone, because he will continue on sedate and untouchable, while she is burned and branded, never to be free of him. If he is fighting an internal battle, it is an invisible one, because other than a flash of gold in his dark eyes, his expression is chiselled in stone, rigid and unmoving. Humiliation burns in her lowered face as she silently vows he will pay. When she gets out this tomb – and she will get out, Isobel and that fool John Gilbert will see to that – there will be retribution. Blood for blood. And never again will she give him the chance to taste her.
Elijah felt his breathing accelerate, the beginnings of a slow, burning rage eating away at the edges of his self-control. "You overestimate yourself, Katerina. Do you think me one of the Salvatore brothers, to be toyed with for your amusement?"
She drew herself up, the silky lengths of dark hair falling over her face, a vile reincarnation of agonising perfection –
The air rippled around him as she drew closer in an instant, bristling and defiant. "Kill me then," she whispered against his mouth, wine-drenched lips hovering a breath away. "You must have wanted to after all these years. You could rip the heart right out from my chest. After all, that's what you've always wanted, isn't it? My heart?"
For a moment, he was tempted. At the very least, it would serve as a punishment for her insolence. He didn't want this to endure. With an exerted iron will of control honed over millennia of practice, Elijah reined in his emotions. Forced himself to go through the banal motions of existence. Inhale. Exhale. Taking the time to elaborately straighten his shirt collars, smoothing down his silken tie. His half-lidded gaze fell on the iron railings lining the tomb's interior. It would have been the easiest thing in the world – the work of seconds – to wrench one from the ground and plunge it deep into her chest. But in the end, it was cruelty, not mercy, that stayed his hand. Niklaus would have his own ways of dealing with Katerina. And he was not here to settle old feuds. He had his own priorities (keep Elena safe).
Her taunting words lingered in his mind. He both wanted to tear her heart out and shut his eyes on this entire error, and yet he wanted to comprehend the mystery of her being, strangely – he wanted to know how… how she was possible – how she could live always running from him, how she could act as she did (what he had made her) … think and believe what she did. What had turned her from an innocent child to something so monstrous?
"What happened to you?" he murmured.
She visibly seethed under his judgemental silence, the disapproving expectancy. A part of him silently mourned the loss of her innocence, that precious candour and artless exuberance that had been twisted into something beyond recognition. Someone that burned instead of laughed. That lovely, careless youth had died. He had destroyed an innocent girl, and for what?
His damn self-assurance, so certain in his morals and rights, always hiding behind that façade of nobility. She finds herself enraged at that calm certainty, as though he is following some grand plan. Cutting his way through her dearly-bought existence like a flaming sword. Yet she knows he will not kill her, not even now. Instead, he watches her, always so disapproving with his profound wisdom and buried grief and burning resolution. She hates how he makes her feel, like a victim. No one else has ever held such power over her. Once, his presence had offered a sense of peace, but that time is long gone. She's had death on her heels for as long as she can remember and it's not her fault. She didn't choose to be born with a dead love's face, didn't choose to be banished or hunted, or left with nothing but hatred and the blood of her long-dead family on her hands just for running. She just wants to survive, and she doesn't think it fair that the universe should keep punishing her for that.
"Elijah, wait –"
He might have mistaken that look for vulnerability, had he not known better by now. More lies. And yet… a weakness inside him, some part of that moral code he lived his existence by, still continued to want hopelessly. Elijah watched her perceptively, trying to stare past her face, trying to search for something, someone, a remnant, perhaps, of the girl that had briefly charmed him.
"Just let me out. Forget everything else, just let me go –"
Forget everything else. The tragedy of it all was that he never could. Try as he might, he could never quite rid himself of the first memory of her, dressed in claret brocade, tight curls framing her face like a porcelain doll, rosebud lips half-parted. The girlish hand he had raised to his lips. Recollections to be dwelt on like guilty pleasures.
She stepped towards him with that elfin, fleet-footed lightness that imbued her movements with all the airy grace of a dancer. That delicate, bewitching poise. A playful charm that invited and enticed. She was laughing behind her fingers. "Then you'll have all eternity to chase me."
Elijah felt his jaw tighten, a mask of superiority on his hollowed face. No; she would never learn, never change. She had burnt that bridge the night she had fled. He was unforgiving. And the truth was, he would never let her out of this tomb. Her true nature would reveal itself if he waited long enough; Elijah knew the subtleties and rewards of simple patience, and tonight he had relied on his knowledge only to find it proven once again when she shot him a sudden, fiery look. "Get me – out – of this tomb," she hissed.
Weighing her fate in the balance, wielding the power of life and death over her existence had once been a much-awaited reward. So why did it only fill him with such bitterness? He sighed, his voice dry and emotionless. "The time for pleading mercy is long since passed."
"I'll make a deal with you –"
(Sleek dark hair and solemn, earnest eyes, the same yet different… Are you negotiating with me?)
"You have nothing that I want." His eyes were resolute as glass. Yet behind the outwardly cool façade was a well of emotion almost unheard of in his composed, undemonstrative nature.
"I'll help you protect Elena," she said quickly. "Every Vampire working for Klaus is going to be heading to Mystic Falls. Think how much safer she'll be if they find me instead –"
"Not good enough. I know you too well, Katerina. You would flee the moment I let you out of this tomb. I have spent too long searching your whereabouts to lose you again."
Elijah knelt down and picked up the heavy tome lying on the ground, tucking it neatly beneath his arm. In a less preoccupied mood, his astuteness would have noticed the lack of dust and the worn, faded quality of the pages indicated it had been read many times (seeking for something that could never be reclaimed).
She grasped his shoulders tightly with dirt-knuckled hands, her eyes haunted and desperate, dark hair falling wildly over her shoulders. Her body – painfully thin, withering away from hunger – pressed against him so close that he could feel the bones of her hips, the startling visibility of her collarbones, her trembling shoulders.
"Elijah, please, I'm begging you –"
I'm begging you. And suddenly she was the scared little girl of five hundred years ago, with torn skirts and bloodied feet, running for her life, while he relentlessly pursued her (hating Klaus and hating her and hating himself most of all for this bitter task he must see through to the end).
For the first time in all the long years spent on this earth, Elijah finally felt the weight of his thousand years of existence, the terrible burden of immortality. He was filled with a weariness he did not know he possessed, a hidden sorrow he had no right to feel. It couldn't be helped. He shook her off in a motion of cold contempt (if only she knew…), turned his back and echoed the same words he had said to her half a century ago.
"I truly am sorry, Katerina."
And Elijah walked away, leaving her alone in the dark, with only the shadows for solace.
So, writing this kind of killed me? However, you can undagger me by leaving a review.