There are a lot of people Elena expects to bang on her door, tipsy and annoyed at three in the morning.
Katherine Pierce is not one of them.
“Don’t just stand there all doe-eyed like a Disney princess,” Katherine says, glaring at her. “Invite me in.”
Elena rolls her eyes and steps out of the doorway. “Haven’t you forgotten, Cruella? You don’t need permission anymore.”
Katherine huffs, shoulder-checking Elena as she struts inside. “101 Dalmatians is not a princess movie.”
Elena sighs, closing her eyes briefly. The hard smell of vodka wafts behind her. In the foyer, Katherine’s already complaining about the decor and how she can’t believe her own flesh and blood could have such gauche tastes. Something hot and tight and guilty gnaws at Elena’s insides; it's the same feeling she always gets, around Katherine. She slams her door shut and follows Katherine’s footsteps into her living room.
“We’re barely family,” Elena says, crossing her arms over her chest and her rapidly beating heart. “You’re like, my thirty-times great grandmother.”
Katherine rolls her eyes, kicking her heels up onto the coffee table. “And yet here I am, looking more young and beautiful than ever.”
“What do you want, Katherine?”
She shrugs carelessly. “I got bored at the bar and was looking to see a friendly face.”
“You could’ve just stared at yourself in the mirror,” Elena says. “Isn’t that one of your favorite past times, anyway?”
“Oh, ouch,” Katherine smirks meanly. “Even when you’re trying to be nasty, you’re just a bit too sweet.”
Once upon a time, it would’ve been weird to see such cruel look on her - kind of? - own face, reflected back at her. It would’ve made her feel sick, almost, to think that this is the person - vampire, creature, hellish nightmare - she could be. Someone hard and selfish and needlessly mean.
But now, seeing that look does something else to Elena entirely. It makes her burn up inside, with something she can’t describe as anything other than want. She can’t understand it, exactly, why she feels this way about Katherine. She tries to play it off as jealousy or yearning, maybe; as if it's some kind of oversimplified desire to live the kind of life where she would have no regard for anyone else.
Except she knows that’s not quite it.
Because she’s turned her humanity off and she’s done unspeakable things and none of it has made the shame and desire in the pit of her stomach go away. And she knows, way deep down, Katherine isn’t this - this horrible monster that she tries to play off. Elena looks at her, sometimes, and sees something reflected in her eyes that makes her breath catch. It’s the same look of a scared teenage girl that she used to see in the mirror all the time.
She’s never told anyone this, for obvious reasons. As soon as anyone brings Katherine up, it’s like a free-for-all to bash her. And Elena knows that a lot of it is warranted. But whenever that hot guilt in the pit of her stomach has her speaking out in Katherine’s defense, she just gets a bunch of lectures. And to be honest, she doesn't want to hear them because she's worried that they might be right. And if that's true - well.
Elena gets why no one quite understands why she keeps defending Katherine, after everything she’s done. Bonnie says it’s because she’s kind-hearted, Caroline says it’s because she likes to see the good in people, and Damon says it’s because she’s naive. But deep down, Elena knows it’s for an entirely different reason altogether.
“And why are you so sweet, anyway?” Katherine asks. “It’s sickening.”
“I like the way I am,” Elena lies.
“Of course you do,” Katherine rolls her eyes again.
Elena moves to sit down on the couch, a respectable distance away from her. The television is still on, from when she was watching the local news channel. They sit in silence for a few moments, before Katherine digs around in the pocket of her leather jacket. To Elena’s utmost surprise, she pulls out a tightly wrapped joint and a lighter. Elena’s mouth practically drops open as Katherine smirks, bringing it up to her lips.
“You can’t smoke that in here!” Elena snaps.
Katherine lights the joint anyway and takes a long drag off of it. Elena tries to snatch it out of her mouth, but Katherine just slaps her hands away. She lets out all of the smoke on a strong exhale. The smell of it is way too strong already and Elena wishes she had a candle or some incense nearby.
"I know why you're doing this, but it's not going to help," Elena says. "Smoking weed and drinking like you're still a vampire won't -"
“I just started and you’re already killing my buzz.”
“I’ll I’m saying is -”
“Don’t worry about me,” Katherine cuts her off, tone moving from the usual light annoyance to something cutthroat and sharp.
She takes another drag and Elena bites at the skin on her bottom lip. The television drones in the background; the news anchor is talking about how the price of gas has skyrocketed in the past few years. Katherine snorts, mumbling something about how she remembers when there weren’t any cars on the road at all. It’s low and bitter, one of the most honest tones Elena has ever heard come out of her mouth.
Elena finally breaks their silence. “Who did you even buy pot from?”
Katherine rolls her eyes. “You literally must have been the most boring high school student ever if you have no idea where to get pot.”
“Jeremy is annoying but I bet he would at least be fun to party with,” Katherine says.
“If you go anywhere near -”
“Blah blah blah,” Katherine cuts her off, taking another deep drag. "God, Elena. Do you have to be so predictable?"
Elena worries at her lip again and says nothing. She just watches as Katherine holds the smoke in. She turns her head slightly, and their eyes catch. A slender eyebrow arches and then Katherine opens her mouth, just a little bit. The smoke floats out almost gently between her lips; her lipstick is almost blood red. Elena can’t help but think how beautiful and suiting it is, for Katherine; it’s bizarre to say, but she doesn’t think the color would look right on her face.
“You want to take a hit?” Katherine asks.
The question startles Elena. “No!”
“Wait. Is this because you’ve never tried it before -”
“I’ve tried it before -”
“Sure.” Katherine’s eyes narrow and become more calculating. “Have you ever shotgunned?”
Elena feels her pulse quicken, and she tries not to shift and clench her thighs together. She hasn’t, but she knows what it is. She’s caught Jeremy and his stoner friends, way back when, more than a few times. And in theory, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, if it were anyone but Katherine. Doing this with Matt or Caroline or Bonnie could be fun; she imagines them giggling the entire time.
Just like everything else, though, with Katherine - it feels like it would be a breaking point.
“No,” Elena says too quickly. “And I don’t want to.”
Katherine actually laughs in her face. “Sure thing.”
Elena’s tone is defensive. “What?”
“You’re such a goody-goody,” Katherine says. “God, it’s so boring. And so strange.”
She knows she’s being baited, but she can’t help but ask, “What’s strange?”
“That the Salvatore brothers are so obsessed with you,” Katherine says. “The same way they were obsessed with me. How can it be possible, when we’re so completely different? Alpha and omega.”
“I’m alpha, of course,” Katherine says.
Elena’s not sure why this is what does it. But something inside of her snaps; the edges of it are jagged and raw. She clenches her teeth and turns fully to face Katherine, their knees knocking together. Katherine watches her almost silently; there's just one small hum of interest that Elena feels the phantom of reverberate through her.
“Fine,” Elena says. “Let’s do it.”
Katherine scoffs. “This isn’t exactly a plot twist, Elena. Little Miss Perfect deciding to take a walk on the wild side? It’s a played out after school special -”
Elena leans forward, heart pounding but voice like steel. “Katherine.”
Something flicks in Katherine’s gaze, and then she shrugs. Elena purses her lips and watches silently as Katherine takes another drag. Then, very carefully, she places the joint on one of the glass coasters that Elena has on the coffee table.
When she shifts again, it’s to lean in closely. Elena gets another whiff of vodka and some flowery perfume; she briefly wonders if it’s vervain. One of Katherine’s hands squeezes high up on Elena’s thigh; the other one grips at her chin lightly. Elena’s can barely breathe as she stares back at Katherine, her heart pounding with anxiety and something else she'll never even try to name.
When Elena opens her mouth, her lips just barely brush against Katherine’s. She closes her eyes and feels Katherine exhale into her mouth. The smoke is acrid and bitter as she inhales it, but she wills herself not to cough. For some reason - she lies to herself about this, she knows exactly the reason - she doesn’t want to fuck this up. She closes her eyes and Katherine’s lips shift, ever so slightly.
It’s almost like a kiss. It could almost be something slightly tender and completely fucking frightening.
“Well color me surprised,” Katherine says, sardonic as ever as she pulls away, “You didn’t completely fuck that up.”