“I can help you run, you know.”
Elena jumped at the words, whirling towards the sound with Stefan’s name on her lips. But it wasn’t Stefan, or even Damon, wandering around the Salvatore mansion late at night. Instead it was Katherine lounging in the doorway, eyes reflecting the flickering light of the fire.
“From Klaus. I have successfully eluded him for centuries, after all. It’s true that it's not always been fun, but it's kept me alive. I could do the same for you. If you ask me to.”
“Why would I even trust you enough to try?” Elena asked after a long pause, squaring her shoulders while her eyes continued darting behind Katherine to fruitlessly search for another face.
“Are you still scared of me?” Katherine asked, sounding delighted at the prospect and ignoring Elena's question completely.
She also moved easily from a slouch into a slinking walk forward.
“Stay back-” Elena started to protest, backing away from Katherine until she bumped into the wall beside the fireplace with a gasp.
“Of course you are, I can hear your rabbity little human heart racing away. It’s pathetic, really,” Katherine said with a haughty sniff. “But if you would just put aside your silly fears for a moment-“
“- or I’ll scream.“
“- and focus on more important things, I just want to talk. We’re all alone here anyway. Even if we weren’t, it’s not like they could make it down here in time to stop me from hurting you if I really wanted to.”
Elena stood stunned for a moment, disbelief etched across her features. “Is that really supposed to make me feel better?”
Katherine shrugged, stopping just short of where Elena was standing. “The point is that I'm not hurting you. But what can I say, you feeling better hasn't exactly been high on my priorities list lately.”
“And you expect me to believe that suddenly my safety is?”
“Call it a whim. A fleeting interest. One that might fade if you don’t take me up on it," Katherine said, then paused meaningful to lean in close, "quickly.”
Katherine pouted. “No, it won’t fade? I assure you, I’m very inclined to changing my mind just because I can.”
“No, I won’t go with you.”
“I could force you.”
“You won’t,” Elena said disdainfully. “You would have done it already if you were going to."
Katherine frowned, and then made a quick movement toward Elena only to halt and chuckle when she flinched.
Elena clenched her jaw and raised her chin. "I don’t know why but you want me to go with you willingly, and I won’t. I won’t leave my family and friends behind, and I certainly won’t go anywhere with you.”
Katherine heaved a long suffering sigh and turned away, walking back across the room and toying with the various objects on display as she went.
“I’m not your enemy,” she said at last, cocking a hip and leaning against the back of a couch. The room loomed large between them again, an empty gulf. It seemed oddly appropriate to Elena.
“We’re not exactly friends, either.”
“Oh, but we have more in common than you think. It’s not just the face sharing thing either, it’s also that feeling,” Katherine said, smirking. “The little voice inside you that says something’s missing when you look at Stefan, but also like the world will end if you look away.”
“I don’t know what-“
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. I can see it written all. Over. Your. Face.”
Katherine paused for a moment, toying with a lock of her own hair and smiling at Elena. Waiting.
“No witty come back?” she asked after a long and silent staring contest. “You’re disappointingly easy to read, you know. I would have expected better from someone who looks exactly like me. We have a face that's well built for lying when we need it to.”
Elena just glared harder, then stepped forward and opened her mouth to snap a response. But Katherine blurred forward before she could, making her stumble back against the wall again in surprise and then freeze in place.
Katherine was holding a finger against her lips. Not exerting any pressure, but still effectively stopping her from moving away.
“Don’t lie to me, Elena,” Katherine said bitingly, slowly stroking her finger across Elena’s lower lip. “I bet you thought that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you looked at him was just a vampire thing. Or some soppy, romantic idea you have of love...."
She paused, no longer smiling but also not removing her finger.
"Well. It’s not. I’d say I’m sorry to disappoint, but we both know I’m not. I have many more lifetimes of experiences to compare against, and I promise you it’s just the doppelganger effect," she said, her voice turning sad at the end as she let her hand drop. "It forces us to be just that little bit miserable, just that little bit dissatisfied, without our perfect other half.”
Elena let out a shaky breath and then pulled away, shaking her head.
“Stop playing dumb,” Katherine said with a frown, standing straight for the first time all evening. “I know you know. Klaus or Ric or whatever... I know he told Stefan, and Stefan told you.”
“The only thing I know is that how I feel about Stefan doesn’t have anything to do with magic,” Elena insisted. “I know what compulsion feels like.”
“Oh please, of course it isn’t compulsion. Even if the bond was likely to work that way, Stefan isn't your soulmate anymore than he's mine.”
Katherine turned away again with a derisive snort, this time throwing herself down on the couch.
“Hang on,” she said slowly, edging forward with a thoughtful frown. “So, wait, let me get this straight.... You believe what Klaus said about Stefan also being a doppelganger but not the part about us being forced to be together? I don’t get it. You’re the one who’s been carrying on this whole time about how you’re destined to be with Stefan.”
“I don’t like to give Klaus any benefit of the doubt, or concede that he might have been useful in any way, but… it makes sense,” Katherine said idly, staring at the ceiling and then turning her gaze unerringly back to meet Elena’s. “He’d be in the best position to have met more of them like he’s met more of us. And if what he said is true, well. Of the three of us, none of us were born in the same time. We’re just odds and ends. Discards. Mismatched dopplegangers alone in a world that we weren’t meant to be alone in.”
When Elena didn’t respond right away, Katherine righted herself with an eyeroll and patted the couch cushion beside her.
“Oh, no,” Elena said, shaking her head twice as hard this time. “No way in hell am I sitting next to you.”
Katherine rolled her eyes even harder.
“If you won’t come to me, you just force me to come back to you,” she huffed and then stalked across the room once more. “Just think about it, Elena. It doesn’t have to be a full blown compulsion if it feels good. He's not quite the right fit, but that magic... like still calls to like. Just like we do.”
“There is nothing ‘like’ about us,” Elena said through gritted teeth.
“Besides the obvious, of course,” Katherine laughed, leaning closer. "Don't try and tell me you don't feel any fascination for me. That you don't share my interest in our similarities."
Elena took a sharp breath in, eyes flickering quickly between Katherine’s in confusion.
“The only thing I’m ‘feeling’ is the urge to throw up on you at the thought of being anything like you.”
“Charming,” Katherine said with a delicate wrinkle of her nose. “And a lie. Revulsion is very, very low on the list of things you’re feeling for me right now. I know, because I’m feeling the same thing for you right now that I felt when I first met Stefan. It’s been so long, I didn’t recognise it at first. But that doesn’t change what it is.”
“You- That doesn’t- But you and…,” Elena stuttered to a stop.
“Yes,” Katherine said in a long suffering tone. “You. And me. And Stefan. And magically connected romantic feelings.”
“You’re insane,” Elena laughed. “You're actually insane. We- You- I don’t believe you.”
“There’s a surprise,” Katherine said wryly. “Fine then, I dare you to prove me wrong."
"How do you expect me to do that?"
“Kiss you?” Elena asked, incredulous. “You have got to be-“
“Kiss me, and if we feel nothing then I'll leave and never return.”
Elena let out a bark of laughter. “This is absurd.”
“It’ll be like kissing a yourself, or a mirror, or a fantasy,” Katherine urged, moving in closer. "Kissing someone who looks exactly like you probably doesn't even count."
Elena's eyes flickered down Katherine’s lips again as she spoke, but then shot away again in a panic as she gave herself a little shake.
“Just one little kiss and then I just might be out of your boring hair again,” Katherine murmured, so close now that they were practically kissing already just from the movement of their lips as she spoke.
Elena groaned in frustration, and lunged across the short distance.
They collided violently. Elena began to move backwards again almost immediately before going perfectly still, eyes open and now wide, and her hands hovering unmoving from where she'd raised them to push Katherine away again.
Katherine made a surprised sound and brought her own hands up to slide into Elena’s hair, and then suddenly everything was moving very, very fast. Elena’s eyelids slid shut, and she thought she heard herself - or was it Katherine - make a hungry noise before losing herself in the rush.
“Well, well, well,” Katherine chuckled as they broke apart, breathless, several long minutes later. “Elena Gilbert is deviant enough to kiss her own doppleganger. I didn’t think you’d actually do it.”
Elena blinked at her in a daze, and then quickly but weakly tried to finish shoving her away. Katherine just laughed louder as she let herself be moved.
“You should really think about my offer. I'm not going to leave you alone now, obviously, and we could help each other. We don't necessarily have to be enemies. As I said, like can call to like in all kinds of interesting ways-”
Slowly her gaze travelled down Elena’s body as she backed away, smirk growing wider with each passing moment.
“- which I think you just proved rather effectively,” she finished and then blurred away, leaving Elena to gasp for breath in an empty room.