Elijah sipped his beverage and feigned a smile. His waitress was studying him again as if waiting for something, an opportunity perhaps? Clearing his throat, he reached for the cream and turned his attention towards the neon sign outside of his window. It would seem that Agatha's Dive had as much to learn about coffee as it did décor. The rural, off-the-map diner was a magnet for weary travelers, but it lacked the charm of a country novelty. It was just a place in the middle of a festering nothingness where one might go undetected if he so desired, a place he would have never sought had he not been invited.
Elijah glanced at his watch. It was after nine o'clock, a half-hour passed the agreed time. His mystery guest was late. He was a patient man, but he was also a man that valued commitment. His appointment had gone to an enormous amount of trouble finding a witch in his inner circle, one that could get a message to him. It seemed appropriate that he be punctual, but in the 21st-century little things like appropriateness were in short supply.
Bemused, the vampire diluted his charred beverage and stirred.
"Is everything alright?" the waitress asked, suddenly appearing in his peripheral view.
Elijah realized that he was scowling and hurried to recover.
"Everything is fine," he softly smiled.
Relieved, the waitress relaxed and glanced at the register. She was checking to see if her manager was watching. He had warned her several times about flirting with customers, but this one was just too yummy to pass up. Most of the men that wandered in were truckers, dirty old farts, or moody bikers with nothing better to do. Classy, expensive-looking gentlemen were a rare find. She hoped to leave that night with his number.
"I couldn't be sure. You seemed a bit ... distracted. I thought maybe something was wrong. Are you waiting for someone?"
Elijah sat up and straighten his jacket.
"Yes, but I'm afraid they're running late," he replied.
"I thought as much. You don't strike me as the type that has to eat alone," she said, silently hoping that whoever he was waiting for wasn't his girlfriend. "I'm Candice by the way, but everyone calls me, Candy."
Elijah didn't bother pointing out that she had already introduced herself when she took his order.
"Of course ..." he paused, shyly reflecting on her previous comment.
"… and your name?" she asked.
Lifting his cup for a sip, he answered, "Elijah," with a hint of reluctance.
"That's such a nice name," said the waitress, her eyes shining a bit. "… classy sounding."
"Thank you. Honestly, I've never given it much thought."
"Is it biblical? It sounds biblical."
Elijah couldn't be sure, but Candice appeared to be flirting with him. Although he enjoyed the company of women immensely, the centuries old vampire wasn't like his brothers. It took a great deal to peak his interest and even more to hold it.
"Yes. Hebrew, if I'm not mistaken."
Without missing a beat, Candice dove into a discussion about first names, their origins, and meanings. She tried to appear smarter than her uniform suggested, but many of the terms, descriptions, and dates she used sounded a bit out of context. The other patrons, the ones who knew her at least, shook their heads. She was always babbling on about something. Delusional as it may have been, the 30-something year old server hoped to make an impression; one that might prompt the gentleman to ask her out.
Elijah was on the verge of interrupting, when he noticed a man leering from behind the counter. He assumed it was the manager.
"Candice …" he tried, observing the look of annoyance on her employer's face.
"Please – call me, Candy," she said.
Before he could correct himself, the manager spoke.
"Candy," he mocked.
Cringing, the waitress looked back. Her boss was glaring a hole into her forehead.
"Why do I have three orders on standby?" he asked.
"I'm sorry – Joe. I was just …"
"Flirting?" he finished, drawing a snicker from one customer. "How many times have I told you? NOT on the clock!"
Blushing, Candice turned to her new friend and smiled apologetically.
"It was nice chatting with you, but I better get back to work," she told him.
Elijah offered the woman a polite nod and watched her scurry into the kitchen. Although he was relieved to see her go, his reprieve was marred with a pang of pity.
"I'm sorry about that," Joe sniffed. "But I have orders that need to be filled and she'll talk your ear off if you let her!"
"No harm done," said Elijah, pushing his half-drunk beverage aside. "It's time that I left anyway."
With that, the vampire reached into his jacket and removed a fifty-dollar bill. He placed it underneath the cup and stood to leave. He hoped the tip would go towards soothing the waitress's pride. Although he found her less interesting than she found him, she had been pleasant. Elijah shot the manager a half-smile and exited the diner. He had waited long enough. He would not reward the man's tardiness with a minute more of his time.
Maybe I should speak with Claire about scheduling unknowns, he thought, strolling towards his vehicle.
The vampire had just turned the corner when he felt something rush pass. It wasn't a breeze or a bird, but a person – another vampire. The creature had barreled around him and vanished behind one of the cars. Elijah studied the parking lot, lit only by the neon sign and diner windows.
"Show yourself," he said calmly, unmoved the vampire's arrival.
Elijah's request went unanswered.
"There's no need for games," he told the darkness. "If you are the person that requested to see me, I urge you to show yourself. Otherwise, I'm leaving."
Slowly, a pair of heels moved from the shadows. Elijah wheeled around to find a surprising, albeit familiar face in the diner's glow. The woman appeared both apprehensive and confident as she studied his reaction. She was also waiting for something, an invitation or angry welcome? The elder vampire dismantled her fears with a chilly smirk.
"Katerina," murmured Elijah, disguising his surprise with audacity.
Katherine closed the distance between them. She was careful not to move too quickly for fear she might trigger a response from the man known for ripping people's hearts out of their chests.
"Hello, Elijah," she said. "I'm sorry for being late, but I got held up."
Glaring, the vampire traced the contours of her face. The Bulgarian beauty was standing less than two feet away, a millisecond from death if he so desired. A part of him did desire it, but despite his disdain for the woman that had betrayed him, the vampire could not bring himself to end her. He couldn't do it when he found her in the tomb months earlier and he could not do it now, though she richly deserved it.
Elijah averted his eyes and coldly asked, "What is it that you want, Katherine?"
"My freedom," she replied. "That's all – nothing more, nothing less."
Scoffing, he looked back and gawked disbelievingly.
"Is that so? And what makes you think that you deserve it after what you did?"
"What I did?" said Katherine, swelling defensively. "My only crime was not allowing myself to become a human sacrifice! I wanted to live. That's all! Is that so terrible?"
Elijah's face became tight and unreadable, drawing a new look of apprehension from the woman.
"I could have protected you," he seethed, straining to maintain his composure. "I could have saved you, but you didn't trust me! You didn't give me a chance. Instead, you ran away. Afterwards, you tricked Rose into feeding you her blood and kept running! Its freedom you want, is it? What makes you think that Klaus would grant you that? You have wasted both your time and mine if you think that you have anything left to offer!"
Elijah's words had no affect on the vampire barely able to recognize them as an argument. As far as she was concerned, she was doing what she needed too to survive.
"I wouldn't be too sure about that. Do you think I would have risked everything by exposing myself if I didn't have something? You're the only one I can trust. I know that now. Maybe I didn't trust you enough back then, but I know you're a man of your word. If I help you, will you agree to help me?"
Elijah's eyes melded into something less intimating. He looked almost amused.
"Help me? And what is it that you think I need from you, Katerina?"
Katherine braced herself. Elijah would be unable to compel the information from her now that she was back on vervain, but he was no fool. If he was unwilling to work with her and needed it badly enough, he had other – more painful ways of extracting what he wanted. She only hoped the man of honor; the man she knew to be Klaus's brother had survived his long journey across time.
"The Cure – I know where it is," she told him.