A/N: Set in–between 4x15 and 4x16 (basically what I wish had happened).


now you still speak of day old hate
though your whole world has gone up into flames
and isn't it great to find that you're really worth nothing?
day old hate ––city and colour

The first lesson of vampirism is that the world is simultaneously too big and too small and time runs on too much and too little all at once. No one bothered to fill Elena in on this, but she sees it nonetheless, figures it out for herself eventually, because contrary to popular belief, she has that capability.

The night she burned her life away because there was nothing left to live for, she paid a long overdue visit to Klaus. It wasn't the first time she'd gone against the wishes of the Stefan and Damon, who had advised her to get some sleep in their home, but it certainly seemed like it. She almost felt dirty about rebelling, like she was hiding where she was going simply because she could. Then she remembered that it couldn't possibly be wrong as there were no such thing as mistakes anymore and she could do whatever she wanted – there would be no restrictions or consequences.

When she stepped into his house, it looked absurdly a lot like he had been waiting for her to arrive. If she had her humanity, she might have been uneasy about it. "Klaus," she greeted blankly, strolling in as if she owned the very street he lived on.

Klaus, who had thought of a million and ten different ways to cause Elena pain since she had killed Kol, regarded her with an expression akin to animosity and nothing close to empathy. "Elena," he dragged out the syllable, "I heard down the grapevine about your brother. I would offer my condolences, but that hardly seems appropriate considering our history."

She shrugged. That was his first sign. If he hadn't known any better, he would have assumed that the intruder was Katherine – but he did know better, of course, and Katherine was not Elena. Katherine would never willingly stride in to the depths of a lion's den.

"Has there been an accident?" he raised a brow, remaining seated, "Could it be that the all–knowing, self–righteous, preaching doppelgänger has become mute?"

"Nope," she spoke up, unflinching, unwavering, unfeeling.

"To what do I owe this pleasure? Though I must admit, it's taking a great deal of effort to not rip your throat out right where you stand."

She rolled her eyes. That was his second sign. "There's no place else for me to be at the moment," she shot back, mouth set in a straight line as she took a seat across him without asking. She gestured to the glass of wine in his hand, carrying the aura of having nothing to lose. "Are you going to offer me a drink?"

"I suppose I could. It would only be polite." His stare had turned from amused to confused.

She only went to the effort of conversing again when she found a similar glass in her hands courtesy of him. "Remember when you killed my aunt?"

"Remember when you killed my brother?" he retorted calmly, sounding nearly relieved that she'd finally gotten to the point. He had more control of the situation when he knew what the situation actually was, although Elena's new attitude was becoming increasingly doubtful.

"My brother is dead." She raised her voice slightly, but it stayed unusually detached. Klaus secretly believed that dealing with her hadn't ever been easy, but now she was stone that he couldn't break.

"Well, like I've just mentioned, so is mine, sweetheart. I suppose those who've kept track of the dramatic saga we have running here would consider us to be even," he paused, assessing the lack of anything recognizable on her features. He reckoned he could get to her quicker with words instead of than knives. "It hurts, doesn't it? Knowing he's dead and you can't do anything to bring him back, and the fact that you'll have to live with that weight on your shoulders forever until one day there's an accident or attack and your immortality comes to an end."

"Nothing hurts," she countered. That was his third sign.

He cocked his head to the side. "You switched it off." It was more of a statement than a question.

She couldn't tell whether his voice contained disgust or admiration. Probably neither, because Klaus Mikaelson didn't care about her unless there was something in it for him. Regardless, she didn't care about him either. "Maybe."

"No one informed me that 'maybe' was the new 'yes.' Is that what the kids are calling it these days?" He didn't bother to further investigate and confirm why she had switched it off. The answer was bound to be predictable, like everything about her was.

She drowned half her wine down in a single go. "I don't have time for games."

"Who said we were playing a game?" he feigned innocence, throwing her his most effective doe–eyed face.

"I'm not as fragile as everyone brings it upon themselves to think I am," she told him because he needed to know it – he needed to know it more than Stefan or Damon did on account of the ages he had spent using her as a tool to his selfish advantage. It was a distant memory, one she couldn't manage to react to if she tried, but the shadow of it was still there, lingering behind her eyelids every time she blinked. She was uncontrollable heat and Klaus was the oxygen and fuel that gave her the chance of turning into a raging flame.

"Trust me, love, I'm aware of that," he cracked a wide grin. For a moment, she wasn't a past blood–bag to build his hybrid army or the newest baby vampire in Mystic Falls or a taunting reflection of Tatia Petrova. For a moment, she was the promise of vulnerability, someone he didn't want to see turn to ashes and dust like all the rest, even if that meant showing mercy on his end.

She finished her drink. "Is that why you haven't killed me yet?"

"I prefer not to make my reasoning for that particular decision too public," he replied suavely, "However, don't delude yourself into assuming you could fight me off."

"I could."

"You couldn't."

"You don't know that."

"I know that if by some miracle you could, the Salvatore brothers would come running to your rescue to help you even if you didn't require it. Isn't that the story of your life?" His jibes should have been cutting daggers into her skin, but he could decipher that they weren't, so he opted for something more neutral. "Speaking of which –"

"They don't know I'm here," she interjected, sensing his thought process before he'd announced it.

"That's quite a feat you've accomplished," he pretended to be impressed for her benefit, knowing fully well she wouldn't fall for it, "Just to think that anything could happen to you here and poor Stefan and Damon wouldn't have a clue –"

"I'm not afraid of you," she interrupted again, "Even when I had my humanity, I wasn't afraid of you." She held her empty glass out to him, stretching her legs onto the table between them, and reclined back in the chair she'd quickly turned into her throne.

"That's a distinct possibility. Nonetheless," he went on, hand brushing against her fingertips upon taking the glass from her, "You brought up a valid point. You may not fear me, but I should indeed come up with a decent reason as to why your limbs are still intact. I have a long–standing reputation to uphold, after all." He stood, then, to pour her another drink, and purposely put it down a bit out of her direct arm's length.

"Interesting," she said, appearing to be the most opposite of interested in his words that anyone had ever been. She continued on impulsively, having the nerve and urge to do and say as she pleased. "While we're both conveniently here, allow me make your reasoning clear. You haven't put a stake through my heart because I spark a curiosity in you. Anyone else who killed your brother wouldn't be in any shape to be sitting in front of you, in your house, drinking your goddamn wine. So go ahead and admit that I intrigue you. At the very least, there's no use denying it."

"I wasn't going to deny it." His nonchalance practically floated off him in waves.

"So it's true?"

"For someone who was so immensely sure not two seconds ago, you're rather unsure of yourself now."

"I'm not unsure," she clarified, leaning lower than she needed to in order to retrieve her drink from its place on the table, "It's a fact that I'm double checking."

"Who double checks facts?" he inquired dubiously, following her body movements with a measured glance.

"Caroline would. You're in love with Caroline, aren't you?" she added pleasantly as an after–thought, realizing the power had shifted to her because of her knowledge and her physique, both cards that she'd cleverly played together.

His smile faded. He'd apparently miscalculated, because she was getting less predictable. "Don't push your limits."

"I can do whatever I want," she remarked flippantly, taking a swig from her glass, "I'm free now."

"Go home, Elena, before I change my mind about ending your life."

"I don't have a home."

"I'm fairly positive there are certain arrangements you could make for the night."

She crossed her legs. "I'd rather be here, making you uncomfortable."

He audibly scoffed. "Me? Uncomfortable? You must be joking."

"So you're admitting to loving Caroline? Tough luck," she shook her head in fake apology, "It's all too bad because she'll never stop loving Tyler. But I guess that's what you deserve, isn't it?"

He was on his feet and in her personal space in a flash, arms on the side of her chair and body leaning so close that she could sense his heavy breathing and the anger in his muscles. She didn't falter, noting that he smelled like pine trees and whiskey and unrealistically expensive cologne.

"Do not," was all he got out through clenched teeth before she took a leap of faith and leaned further forward, assuring that their noses were touching.

"You see, this is what I'm talking about," she told him slowly, "You're uncomfortable. I barely said Caroline's name and you're so fucking uncomfortable. That doesn't happen to me anymore when you bring up Stefan or Damon. I don't have to carry that burden around. Everything's so much simpler this way."

He was thrown off again, not used to the concept of Elena Gilbert saying the unexpected. "Are you asking me to turn it off? I hate to break it to you, darling, but to be frank, you wouldn't want to live on a planet where I switched off my humanity."

"I'm not asking you to turn it off. I'm asking you why you've never turned it off," she responded as her hands began to trace patterns up his abdomen and chest, "It just doesn't make sense."

Taken completely aback by her actions, he contemplated giving up – admitting defeat and letting her have whatever it was that she wanted. There was no thrill in that, though, because she would win, and he couldn't have the weight of that on his conscience.

"Yes, it does make sense," he touched his lips lightly to her jaw, her neck, and back to the air in front of her lips, "You feel that, don't you? How much better would that be if you had your humanity intact? Don't tell me you don't remember what it's like. The last I read on the good old gossip columns was that you and Damon Salvatore were sleeping together."

"Are you trying to get me to turn it back on? Because that's not going to happen," she responded firmly, seemingly unperturbed by his not exactly unwelcome touch, "At least come up with a better excuse to get me to talk about where I stand with Damon and Stefan, because this isn't one."

"Oh, believe me, the last thing I want to hear about are your ongoing troubles with Salvatore One and Salvatore Two – whichever one happens to be which at the moment. The more important issue is are you trying to get me to turn it off?" he went on, not moving an inch, "And if so, why?"

"I'm not. I couldn't care less about what you do and don't do."

"I could say the same."

"So we're alright."

He nodded. "Apparently we're alright."

She closed the distance between them without a second thought, knowing that any hesitation on her part that allowed him to think things through could have led to a number of outcomes, not many of them in her favor. If she absolutely had to be doing something in her spare time, it might as well have been kissing him. He was new and wouldn't do anything she said at the snap of her fingers like other boys in town undoubtedly would. He would make her earn it.

She adjusted herself so he could sit down and proceeded to sit in his lap, legs wrapped around his waist and hands fisted in the fabric of his shirt. His tongue was in her mouth until he trailed kisses down her neck, and she found herself moaning though she insisted she didn't feel a single thing. She heard him whisper "You want this," under her left ear and suddenly there was blood flowing from above her collar bone, and then her wrists, and then nowhere as his lips met hers a final time. He disentangled himself from her, and she was numb. His touch had burned her to the point of no return.

"Why did you stop?" she asked despite her immediate best instinct to keep quiet, because it was pathetic of her to have to ask.

"Because I can," he said smugly, "Did you not want me to stop?"

"It doesn't matter to me."

He chuckled, patting the top of her head condescendingly. "Of course it doesn't." It was typical that she would start being obvious about everything again. He was glad he could gain some semblance of normality from that.

She swallowed, defenses up at an all time high no matter how emotionless she was. He raised his glass in her general direction, leaving her to find her own way out. The universe had been restored to its natural balance.

A/N: If you read this far, I'd appreciate a review letting me know what you thought! If you liked this enough to favorite it, please don't favorite without reviewing.