"So now what?" Caroline asks, leaning against the counter in Stefan's kitchen.
The house is empty, his father away on business again, and Damon still stationed in North Carolina. Rebekah never thought to question just how he's been able to stay over so often, content at being able to spend such long stretches of time together, not realizing the alternative was a vacant home surrounded in solitude.
He hasn't said a word, other than the muted request to be taken here, after retrieving the stones. It grows worrisome the way he stares so intently at them, as if he's on the receiving end of a conversation she and Caroline aren't privy to, the rest of the world all but fading away.
"Hey!" Caroline prods, snapping her fingers in front of his face. "Focus. What are we supposed to do with these things?"
She makes like she's going to pry them out of his hands, and Stefan snatches them away so quick Caroline staggers back.
"Seriously?" Comes out incredulous, catching her sister's eye.
Rebekah places a hand on his shoulder, only to flinch as he shrugs away.
"Sorry," he says distantly. "I just-you shouldn't touch them."
"I'm starting to think you shouldn't either," she states flatly.
He doesn't look at her, only at his hands.
"We need to talk to Sheila," Caroline offers. "She's the one who told us to go fetch in the first place."
"Agreed," Rebekah replies.
Stefan doesn't offer an opinion.
Sheila opens the door before anyone can knock, a look of expectation in her eyes.
"Didn't think it would take you that long," she taunts, stepping aside to allow them entry.
"He asked to go home afterward," Rebekah replies.
"And you took him there why?"
Neither she, nor Caroline, have an answer though in hindsight, it does seem counterproductive. They take seats at the kitchen table, Stefan preferring to stand, and Rebekah is not at all surprised to see Bonnie there. They exchange a look, but no words are spoken, the carnival incident still fresh in their minds.
Stefan is still in his catatonic stupor, her concern growing manic with each passing second, but somehow keeping her revere. Sheila looks at him, still clinging to the stones, and reaches out. Caroline opens her mouth to warn her, but a few Latin words uttered, and she successfully places her hands over Stefan's.
Rebekah can see his eyes clear immediately, as he shakes his head and looks around seemingly unaware of where he is or how he got here.
"Welcome back," she responds without a hint of humor. "They're spelled," she goes on, holding up the stones for all to see. "Bonded to the one who will bring their energy's release."
Stefan almost collapses back, Rebekah and Caroline quick to hold him up by each of his arms. They settle him into a seat, Rebekah asking for a glass of water, to which Bonnie obliges. All eyes on him, she'd swear he's flushing with embarrassment, before gulping down the water gratefully.
"They spoke to me," he says to the room. "They said I'm the one."
"The doppelgänger is the key," Sheila offers.
"Yeah," Rebekah inserts. "But what does that mean?"
"It means," Stefan starts, setting the glass down on the table. "That I alone can break the curse."
Everyone jumps as the back door is kicked violently open, Kenneth leaning forward as far as the lack of invitation will allow, an easy grin on his lips.
"Now," he says, gaze focusing on Stefan. "Why would you want to do a silly thing like that?"
Elena is waiting in the living room when they return home with Kenneth's ultimatum, give him the stones or the town would rain with blood, still fresh in their ears. A whole day given to think it over. Stefan takes pause at his friend just standing there, her head tilted anxiously at him.
Her smile is instant, and he moves without a second thought, pulling her into a hug.
"Only you," she says, wrapping her arms around him. "Could ever tell us apart."
"Where have you been?" He asks, pulling back. Something, Rebekah notes, the girl looks disappointed about. Katherine doesn't answer the question, keeping her hands on Stefan's wrists.
"I came for Elena," she says instead, allowing a moment for it to sink in.
"There's no reason for us to stay."
Rebekah holds back a scoff, thinking that there's plenty of reasons to stick it out. Helping one of her so-called best friends survive becoming a sacrificial lamb, the first thing that comes to mind. But of course Stefan says nothing along those lines, never once asking those close to him to put themselves in harm's way. He pulls her into a hug again, chin burrowed into her shoulder, while Katherine whispers something into his ear and Rebekah can't help but listen in.
"I know you couldn't, because of her, but for me-"
"I know," he whispers back.
Rebekah wonders if he's always known.
Elena comes into the room then, bag slung over her shoulder, and walks right up to them throwing her arms around both. Rebekah isn't sure how long they stay that way, not wanting to count the awkward seconds she's compelled to keep looking, and they only break apart when Caroline struts in still picking the glass out of her hair from Sheila's half decimated kitchen.
"Okay," she says regarding the three of them with a curious glance. "What'd I miss?"
Rebekah's head rests idly on Stefan's shoulder, listening to the sounds of an encompassing nighttime forest. He's hardly said more than a few sentences since Katherine and Elena walked out the door yesterday, his brow becoming ever more creased and brooding.
Caroline's eyes are everywhere, impatiently waiting for Kenneth to appear out of the ether. He does exactly that a few minutes later, a calm smile present, as if he hadn't promised impending doom mere hours ago.
"I really thought I'd have to track you all down," he says with irritating nonchalance.
She feels Stefan tense at Kenneth's presence, having no clue how he must feel in the moment.
"So you're him," Stefan states, rising to his feet.
"I would say the one and only," Kenneth replies with a shrug. "But that's hardly the case anymore, is it?"
Rebekah and Caroline's eyes meet, the sight of them together not entirely new, but the other comparative moment so brief it never had a chance to register.
Kenneth steps so close they're only inches apart, looking his counterpart up and down, Stefan never flinching.
"Don't let yourself entertain the idea that, just because we share the same handsome face, I won't snap your neck."
Caroline moves the same time as Rebekah, but of course Kenneth is faster than both, pulling Stefan into a headlock.
"Now, now ladies," he taunts. "Let's not let this get messy."
They don't move, and after a moment, Kenneth lets go. Stefan gasps, falling to the ground, and both she and Caroline are at his side instantly.
"What is it about you," Kenneth wonders aloud. "That has these two lovely gals so wrapped around your finger?"
Stefan shrugs them off, rising to his feet again.
"Oh right," Kenneth goes on. "They wish you were me."
"If you really wanted to kill me," Stefan says, voice slightly gruff. "I'd be dead."
"So what do you want?"
"Oh, this has never been about what I want," Kenneth says, clasping his hands together. "It's what she wants."
Great, Rebekah thinks with a roll of her eyes. Another player, another game, with hardly any answers forthcoming.
"So what does she want?" Stefan reiterates.
"Some curses should never be broken," Kenneth answers. "Creatures of the night, and all that."
"And we're just supposed to believe you?" Caroline chimes in. "It's hard to imagine a vampire who doesn't want to walk in the sun."
"Believe what you will," Kenneth responds with a sigh. "I'm just the messenger."
Stefan takes the stones from his pocket and tosses them at Kenneth's feet.
"Are you stupid?" Caroline shouts, while Rebekah's own mouth drops open in shock.
"Honestly," Stefan says, keeping his gaze forward. "I don't care what you do with them. So long as you leave us out of it."
"Ah, there's the rub," Kenneth replies, stooping to pick up the stones. "There's no breaking the curse without the doppelgänger, but there's no destroying these without him either."
The smell of hay is prevalent, eyes fluttering open to three red wood-paneled walls, capped off with a door of bars. Caroline lays a few feet away, unconscious and unmoving, head twisted at an angle that's going to leave her as sore as Rebekah feels when she comes to. Stefan isn't with them, no surprise there, but the sight of Kenneth just past the bars is.
"Morning sunshine," he says with a small wave.
He doesn't answer.
"Where is he?" She asks again.
"With her," he says, leaning closer and running a finger along the bars.
She jumps to her feet quicker than recommended, losing her balance on the uneven ground, head still woozy from having her neck snapped.
"Do I at least get the name of the woman intent on killing my boyfriend?" She asks, lifting herself up and dusting off her hands.
"Love that accent," he deflects. "Have I told you how much I love the accent?"
She shoots him a glare.
"Claudia," he answers, head turning away.
"She told you to come here, didn't she?"
He doesn't say anything.
"I'd gather she was the reason you came around the first time."
"The ritual was doomed without a doppelgänger," he says, head tilted in some kind of reminiscence. "And I was to gather the stones once that mistake came to fruition, but I failed."
"So what were we then?" She asks, looking down at Caroline's still frozen form. "Time better spent?"
"You were unexpected," he answers, looking back to her. "Enchanting. I liked the idea of a world with the two of you in it, so I made it happen."
Rebekah has always suspected there to be no true reason, love or otherwise, as to why they were turned. But to hear him admit as much still pings painfully inside her chest.
"I know I've never given you a reason to think otherwise, but I did love you. Caroline too."
"Is that why you fled as soon as you made us?"
"I fled because I couldn't get the stones. Because I wasn't willing to sacrifice my freedom by walking into that tomb. Because my punishment was going to be severe, and the further away I was, the less likely Claudia would have ripped the hearts from your chest."
Liar, she wants to shout. He doesn't care, he never cared. They were pawns to him. Fools in a game he likes to play with his mistress, or master, or whatever the hell this Claudia is to him.
"I'm jealous that you could be so happy," he offers. "For whatever that's worth."
"Considering you're fully compliant is destroying that happiness, I'd say it isn't worth a damn."
He looks to the floor, no snide comment, or clever retort follows.
The wheels in her mind spin in the silence. Worry for Stefan, Caroline, and the true possibility of her own demise. She wants to rips those bars from their hinges, club him across the head, and rescue Stefan from whatever fate is thrust upon him. No chance of it happening, but a girl can dream. She hates feeling so trapped, so helpless. Knowing there's someone she loves in danger and pain, with absolutely nothing to be done about it.
Kenneth looks different suddenly, in this contemplative moment, neither the cocky vampire lothario nor the cunning com man. Rather, this is what the boy he once was must have looked like however many millenia ago.
"This may seem like a stupid question," she starts, breaking the silence. "But you've never struck me as the type to be at anyone's beck and call."
"I didn't hear a question."
"Getting to it. Why do you bow to her?"
"Excuse me?" He shoots back with a scowl. "I bow to no one."
"Sorry, it seems like you do."
"She made me," he says evenly. "She easily could have killed me, but didn't. Instead she let the stones exist for another five hundred years, simply because I asked. There's a certain gratitude in that."
"A valid reason," she admits. "But it doesn't sound like the whole story."
"Okay Freud," he laughs, though not mockingly, a bizarre self depreciating sound that seems so foreign coming from his lips. . "You want inside my head? Fine."
He taps a few of the bars, the sound echoing throughout.
"Everything I do, everything I've ever done, is because sometimes she loves me back."
There's a body in the middle of the floor when she comes to again.
Caroline is no longer out cold, but on her knees next to it. To him.
"No," she whispers desperately. "Please no."
Her fingers go to his mouth, but she feels no breath. To his neck, but she feels no pulse. His eyes are mercifully closed, as the tears begin to spill from her own. A sorrow so overwhelming, it weighs heavy in her bones. The one she's loved more than anything, growing colder by the second. Caroline doesn't say a word, reaching a hand out, and Rebekah falls easily into her sister's arms.
It's then she notices that the bars are open. No need to be held prisoner when the deed is done, now is there?
Caroline's fingers run through her hair, and Rebekah feels a kiss placed atop her head.
"Don't be sad Bekah," she says. "Everything is going to be okay."
"How?" She asks. "How could it possibly?"
"We're not in mourning," Caroline continues. "We're in waiting."
Rebekah pulls away.
"I know I promised I'd never compel him-"
"But I lied," she confesses. "I'm a lying liar, who lies."
"What have you done?"
She looks away.
"Gave him my blood."
Rebekah's insides twist with mixed emotion. Anger, pain, betrayal, and a sudden radiant happiness all twirling in a violent mess.
How could you? She thinks. How dare you? Thank you, thank you, thank you.
She wants to smack her sister. Kiss her, hug her, or snap her bloody neck all over again.
In the end none of those things happen, kneeling next to Caroline she leans over to place a kiss on his still cheek, and waits for the most beautiful boy she's ever met to open his eyes.