Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with TVD. I'm just playing with the characters.
In the crush of the ball it is a simple thing for him to come up behind her, just another body jostling for room amid so many others. Still, her shoulders stiffen when he nears and he takes pleasure in that. There is some part of her that recognizes him before she is even aware of him.
Laurel leaves and purple hyacinths twist in the curls of her hair. He plucks a flower and brings it to his lips as he bends to say, "Daphne, I presume."
She turns away from the smiling young man with too little wine left in his goblet. He sees rage behind her haughty smirk and fear behind her rage.
He smiles, not the kind, gentle expression he once showed her but something distant and cold. He dismisses her young man with a curt nod. Worse than the insult of his easy abandonment is the surge of bodies taking his place. An elbow strikes her back and she stumbles forward into Elijah's arms. They fit around her easily. An embrace. A cage. A noose.
In the constant sway of bodies they are almost dancing. She lifts her face to his like a lover seeking a kiss.
"You think yourself an Apollo?" she asks, mirth chiming in her voice. "You know the stories they tell are not true. You need not hide from mirrors, they will reflect you as well as any mortal man."
One hand rises from her back. She thinks he will break her neck and carry her away, say she has swooned. He is not sure he won't.
The petals of the stolen flower brush her cheek as he twists the stem between his fingers.
"You should not play games," he says, soft and rough.
"We are not playing games, my lord. We never were."
He stiffens as if struck. She takes his lifted hand in hers and turns her face to it, kissing his fingertips. His head dips to meet hers. The crowd shifts around them. His arm loosens. In a breath she is away, stealing through the press of bodies.
She stops at the wide, high doors, looks back at him. She does not smile, nor does he. The crowd shifts. She is gone.
He is graceless and hollow. He cannot even properly lie and it is only happy luck that has the townspeople filling in his blanks so perfectly. They think him a victim as well as they, that he came seeking vengeance, seeking to warn them. He would laugh had he the strength.
She put down roots, deep and strong, and now he stands in the ashes that remain.
Walls and beams left standing are charred a gruesome black. Light streams clear and bright through trees instead of windows. Wind kicks up the dust and ash, filling his nostrils with the scent of a funeral pyre.
"Just like we told you. All dead."
He turns to the careless voice of the man who brought him here. George Lockwood is arrogant and foolish in the way of young men and is absolutely hiding something. Perhaps it is what he keeps touching beside his pocket watch.
Pain makes Elijah care about the useless trivialities of a mortal's lies. "What is that," he says, a demand.
"Just checking the time." The lie is easy and only sparks Elijah's anger. He is upon him in an instant, twisting his arm to near breaking, fangs hovering over his neck. Lockwood is strong, too strong for a mere mortal, and the cause becomes clear as the pale stone falls from his pocket.
Elijah lets him drop beside the stone and looks back to the hollow church. There are mounds of ash vaguely marking the lines of the pews but nothing else inside.
"Where are the bodies?" When Lockwood does not answer quickly enough he asks again, using his fangs for emphasis.
"They burned to dust!" Lockwood cries, fear making him sound like a child.
Elijah laughs. He laughs so long he falls to the ground beside Lockwood and clutches his chest against the joyful pain.
"You believe lies like that, I suppose you will expect me to believe you took the moonstone from Katerina by force." He sees the truth of it in Lockwood's pale face. "Of course. Do the others know she lives?" A shake of the head. "Good. Then this will be easier."
They will account for the moonstone in the ashes by blaming his death on animals. It is gruesome enough to warrant such a label.
He twists the small flower between his fingers, gently plucks off two petals in quick succession.
She loves me.
She loves me not.
The ruse will not last forever. He cannot be the only one to spot her footprints leading away from the ashes and he is much better at hunting than covering up tracks. She will be found. Another petal falls to the ground.
That is the question now. Does he keep following her or let her plan succeed for however long it will? He does not know and plucks another.
It has always been the plan to end her life. Klaus will take her head as penance enough. He may not like it and spend a century or more pouting over the lost toy, but he will accept the reality eventually.
The petal does not even touch the ground before he is pulling another. It would be easier, yes, to kill her if it were so, but she would be dead by now if that were ever the case.
She is not Tatia, he tells himself as he has a thousand times over. It is his mantra even now, though it has been nearly four centuries since it was his first love he wept for in his dreams. He reaches for another petal and finds the hyacinth stem bare.
He steps out from the shadows into the light, calm like a glassy sea that kills sailors without a single wave.
She was wrong, she thinks, on that night so long ago. It becomes a chant in her head as the light blurs into a halo around him. He is Apollo. He is the dark circle the Sun burns onto an eye. He is the scar left on the ground where a vampire is eaten by the light of day. He is the never-ending blackness that any who dare to cross the center of the universe are sentenced to.
With the cut of his eyes he banishes her to the dark, binds her will so that she can only wait in this tomb for her death to find her. It is no less than she expects and yet part of her screams at what is not a betrayal. He made no vows, pledged her no loyalty, and she would never have accepted if he had.
There is nothing left for her but to wait. A day and a night until…
"You should never have come back here."
There is only moonlight now and little of it so deep in the ground. She has never needed to see him to know he was there and is only surprised it has taken him so long to speak.
"I had a plan."
"A poor one."
She has no answer for that, there is no defense for the obvious. She closes her eyes and breathes in the smell of sunshine and flowers that he's brought down into her grave.
She does not need to see the stake to recognize the sound of it falling upon the ground. She pulls her legs closer beneath her as if it is a snake that will strike of its own accord.
She laughs. "You do not know me at all."
"I know Klaus."
She looks towards his voice, counting on the moonlight to sharpen her gaze. "You think after five hundred years I would-"
He is at her boundary in an instant, a dark shape blotting out the moonglow.
"He has had five hundred years to plan your punishment. If you are very lucky it will last only half of that."
She will not. She has fought too hard for her life to give it up so readily. Two and a half centuries of agony is still two and a half centuries of life and she will not let that go.
"Run, Katerina." It is not compulsion, not a release from this cage, but a plea. "Run to where my brother will never dare follow."
He turns away, his footsteps heavy. She can feel the stake's presence as clear as his own and is afraid suddenly to be left alone with it.
"Will you?" she asks though she does not mean to. Were he a man he would not hear but they are both of them monsters and he hears the whisper clear as if her breath fell warm upon his ear. But it is said now and cannot be taken back so she speaks on as if she always meant to. "Will you chase me if I run?"
"The Sun cannot burn forever," he says and is gone from her.