02: The First Step

The girl was asleep when Elijah brought her some food. He expected that she’d probably sleep for a long time, but maybe the scent of food would briefly allow her to wake up for him to compel her. Even now, he could see the dark circles around her eyes. She was malnourished, and he found himself afraid for her. If the girl truly was some sort of experiment, and it was likely that she was a successful one, then it was going to take years to get her on her feet. Who knew what the Cullens had done to her? Niklaus’s friend, of course, but surely there was a reason he hadn’t volunteered more information? Embarrassment? Guilt?

As much as Elijah wanted to trust his brother in selecting the right man for the job, he couldn’t. While Elijah was naturally suspicious when it came to his brother’s choices, in the end, everything usually turned out just fine. So why did he feel as if something was amiss?

He had met Carlisle Cullen on a couple occasions over the last decades. As a doctor, he’d been respected. Someone people liked to see, because as far as the humans were concerned, everything would be alright if the good doctor was there. The man was charismatic. Most of the time Elijah wished that he would tone it down some; he made Elijah and Klaus in comparison. He’d never been jealous, but Cold Ones always had something up their sleeves. This, however, he had not foreseen while his brother Klaus had.

Elijah supposed it was alright to have a healthy dose of paranoia every once in a while.

He took it upon himself to bring her meals regularly. The first few times the food was untouched because of her sleeping, but when he brought her breakfast a few days later, dinner from the day before had been eaten. The second thing he noticed that Bella was sitting on her knees in the middle of the room, hands in her lap and looking at her hands, almost as if she was meditating. But she was nude.

He composed himself as he placed her breakfast on the table and quietly observed her. While he had experienced a lot of nude women in his time, this was something different. It felt wrong. The girl looked too exposed. She had bruising all over her body. Thankfully, they appeared to be healing. Her pale skin reminded him of the completion of the cold ones, and her hair looked as if it hadn’t been given a proper tending to for a very long time. “If you get dressed, I could sit here and keep you company for a while. If you’d like.”

She lifted her head ever so slightly before rising to her feet, exposing more of herself to him and he looked away. The moment he did that, he heard her move more quickly to her clothes and dressed. When he turned back to her, she stood with her hands stretched out in front of her, her eyes locked on his, waiting. Anticipating.

“Come, sit,” he said kindly, gesturing to the chair nearest to her breakfast. “Have some food.” Elijah could have sworn she looked relieved when he didn’t move from his spot. Once again, there was a hint of confusion flashing across her face as well, and he wanted to know why. But if she didn’t speak, how was she supposed to tell him? “It’s okay, come,” he gently smiled.

She quietly sat down at the table and looked at her breakfast. In the past few days, they had given her bland but filling meals to make sure that her body would be able to tolerate food. Today, the Cook had made her a small stack of pancakes, drizzled with syrup and dusted with icing sugar. Not missing a beat, she gently pulled a piece of pancake and put it in her mouth.

The look of sheer ecstasy on her face of the taste of the sugary meal broke Elijah’s heart. Had she never tasted something like this before? Oh, the joy of eating new things, Bella was in for one hell of a treat. “Now, Bella,” he spoke calmly and started to compel her when her eyes met his again. “You have nothing to fear from me, Niklaus or Kol. We’re here to help you. Just as Camille and Rebekah. You are safe here. Do you understand?”

Bella nodded quickly before Elijah broke the connection and saw her tuck into her pancakes again. Her shoulders looked less tense than they had been when she’d just sat down, and she was visibly relaxing. “You’re of course free to wander around the house. No one will harm you.”

There was a knock on the door, causing the girl to stiffen momentarily before she looked back at him. “It’s alright,” Elijah assured her before looking at the door. “What?”

“I just wanted to check on our little Poppet,” the voice filtered through the door. “You haven’t driven her mad with boredom yet brother?”

Elijah looked at Bella. “Have I?”

She merely stared at him, not saying a word. Taking her plate, she moved to the other side of the table to put a buffer between him and whoever was at the door as she silently continued to eat.

“Come in, Kol, but leave the door open,” Elijah said, watching the girl. “We don’t want to make her feel crowded.”

He slowly pushed the door open and his eyes swung over the room until they fell on the girl. While he kept a pleasant smile on his lips, his eyes narrowed in their concern. “Hello there Poppet,” he greeted quietly, in a voice that he had used to reassure her after he had found her after several incidents on the Cullen land with the wolf boy.

She smiled a little at him and pointed at her pancakes, causing Elijah to blink. That was more response than he had gotten out of her, other than her looking a little stupefied and naked.

“Yes, pancakes. You like them I see,” Kol nodded. “We shall be sure to add that to regular breakfast menu for you. Perhaps tomorrow we will see if you enjoy waffles with bananas and cream?”

She cocked her head to the side, questioning him for a moment.

“Trust me,” he said, leveling his gaze at her. A promise he had previously made to getting her out though he knew she didn’t believe him even with the Cullens brainwashing in her upbringing. “I want you to choose something for me Poppet…”

She nodded and got to her feet, wiping her hands on the clothes. Elijah made a mental note to get the girl her own clothes seeing as Rebekah wouldn’t like it much if her clothes get ruined in anyway. He watched the girl round the table and stopped a few steps away from Kol, not making eye contact, but waiting for what was to come with her hands behind her back.

Pulling out a color swatch from his pocket he fanned it out for her to see the assorted color combinations. “I want you to choose one or two. Even three if it suits your fancy. Whichever you like best.”

She could choose, she knew that, but what if she chose something they wouldn’t like? She shook her head as she took a few steps back.

“Now none of that Poppet. Come back here. Did I not say that I wanted you to choose something? You agreed. Come now,” he chastised gently, coaxing her back.

She shook her head and mimed that she was painting before pointing at herself. She could paint, and she could do it well, but if she chose the wrong colors, they would be angry with her. There’d be consequences.

Kol sighed, frustrated, but he understood where her issues were rooted. “Very well. Then I will choose for you, and if you don’t like what I select then you will simply have to live with it!”

“Kol,” Elijah warned him upon seeing the girl flinch and back away again.

“Bella knows I would not strike her. I have never laid a hand on her. Quite the opposite,” he muttered as he stared at her. “I will just consult with Niklaus about my little project then. He is more suited anyhow.”

“I know, but who knows what they’ve done to her? With her trust?”

“I’ve been with them for the last few months, with Nik’s friend. I know what they have been doing and before you ask me… No. I won’t tell you,” Kol hissed at him.

“You were inside? I thought you had a fit again and went traveling as you usually do,” Elijah said surprised. “Are you withholding crucial information that will benefit us from knowing to help her?”

Kol scoffed as he looked at Bella. “He’s an idiot. Want him to leave?”

Bella looked between the two, frowning slightly. She refused to answer that question and sighed as she dropped her eyes down to the swatch book in his hand. Turning, she went over to the window and curled up on the slim sill and stared outside.

“I’ll definitely have to get some wood to expand that window sill for you, I often saw you from your window, remember?” Kol said, making a mental note before looking at Elijah with curiosity. “Has Nik come in to see her yet?”

“No. Why would he?” he questioned.

“No reason,” Kol said with a shrug, making his way over to Bella and squatted down next to her, looking out of the window as well. “How about purple walls, red polka dots, and a yellow ceiling?”

She didn’t look at him, but her nostrils flared in her irritation. The thought of such an ugly room only could have been dreamt up by the crazy man.

“I knew you had a spark left inside of you,” he grinned and handed her the swatches. “Have a look at them. I’ll come back later to see if you’ve made a decision. I’m going to find a way to ignite that fire inside of you that they wanted to keep buried. Just you watch me, you little mooner.”

She narrowed her eyes at him and looked at the swatches before hitting him on the head with them, with a slight smile on her lips.

Elijah didn’t know what to think. Why had Kol not told him that he had been around the girl before? Why hadn’t Klaus? Were they both deliberately trying to keep him out of the loop? The girl responded well to Kol, and that was quite frustrating. Was that because they had formed a bond while she was still in there? He quietly got up and left the room, he was going to have a chat with his brother.

Elijah found him in his study, painting. All Klaus did for the last few days was paint. There was no other interest, no looking for more Crescent wolves to kill, only to paint. And highly likely to listen in on whatever happened in Bella’s room. “Why didn’t you tell me you had sent Kol in there as well?”

He did not take his eyes off of the canvas as he scowled. “I hadn’t sent him there with the intention you are thinking of. I only wanted him to check on my wolf as I hadn’t heard from him in some time. It was his own decision to stay,” he responded as he changed brushes. “Contrary to what you may believe, I do not control all my siblings actions. They have minds of their own and are capable of deciding things for themselves.”

Elijah blinked at his brother. “And you did not dagger him? Are you ill, Niklaus?”

Klaus froze at the question, canting his head to the side as he indeed considered it a possibility considering how he’d felt over the previous days. “Perhaps I am,” he muttered. “I trusted him to get the job done. The Cullens were a threat not only to the humans but to the supernatural world. Kol understood that.”

“I’m more worried about what’s to come. What will stop the Volturi from moving into that palace? Are you going to hire an arsonist to burn the place down?”

“There is too much publicity surrounding it now. They wouldn’t dare,” he shrugged. “But I have contacts working on getting information out of Italy. It may take some time. Things are going well with your new project?” he asked, his voice sounding unnaturally bitter in his question.

“It would go well if both my brothers wouldn’t be withholding things from me or even do things behind my back to make me look like a bloody idiot,” Elijah muttered.

Klaus let out a breath and shook his head as he dumped his paintbrush in a cup of water. “I did not withhold from you. I knew nothing of the relationship between Kol and Bella. Trust me when I say I’m just as curious as you as to its origins. However, I’m not going to go throwing a tantrum because she happens to like him or be responding to his attempts more. It’s he she knows! If he knows what will help her, then let him. Even if it is just to put a damn bloody smile on her face. From what I’ve been hearing, she sounds like she needs a little sunshine in her life.”

“Let’s discuss how we move things forward over dinner with Cami tonight. If Kol’s able to get through to her, maybe he should be the primary person she has to deal with.”

Picking up a fresh brush, Niklaus started adding in more yellow to his canvas as he thought about what his brother suggested. “We will ask for Camille’s suggestion, but I believe Kol is too close. As much as I hate to say it, I might prefer you to continue as you have. You seemed to have started something of a rapport with her until Kol decided to make his appearance.”

“He appears to have taken it upon himself to make the room more pleasant for her, which frightens me. Kol’s not known to have good taste. Have you heard his godawful music lately?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be supervising his selections. I won’t let him ruin the girl’s personal space with clashing colors,” he smirked as he eyed his painting thoughtfully. “Perhaps I should choose the colors myself and then let him paint when we can get her to leave the room.”

“Well, from the looks of it, she wanted to help to paint.”

“She’s not going to lift a finger,” Klaus frowned as he looked over to him. “She served others long enough. It’ll be completed quickly enough once we can get her out of the room. I should go to the store for the supplies. Anything you can think of she needs in there?”

“Fitting clothes. She wiped her sugary hands on Rebekah’s clothes. If Rebekah had seen her do that, she would have been furious.”

“I’ll get Camille to handle that. My knowledge of women’s clothes is limited to removing them,” he remarked.

“I think that’s what every man’s limitations are when it concerns women’s clothing.” He was slightly concerned about his brother; he was behaving in a different way. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say that his brother seemed to care about this broken girl. Whereas Elijah’s primary goal was to get her on her feet and out of their hair as soon as possible. “I shall ask a few of our realtor contacts in other states to be on the lookout for a home suitable for Bella. Maybe the Salvatore brothers would like another project to pour their hearts into.”

The brush in Klaus’ hand snapped into pieces as he turned to glare at his brother. “Are you that much of an idiot that you would send the girl to those imbeciles? She’ll be fine here.”

Recognition dawned on his face, causing the older man to smile. “You’re not ill, you’re infatuated,” Elijah said with a smirk. “This is interesting.”

“I am not. I haven’t even met the girl,” he denied, turning his attention to his brushes. A frown came to his face as he realized that most had already been damaged or well beyond their use, forcing him to have to go purchase more.

“Why haven’t you?”

Blinking, he wasn’t sure how to answer. “I do not know,” he admitted. “I haven’t gone near her since the first night Kol brought her… I – I can’t get her scent out of my head!”

“Are you afraid you will hurt her, brother?”

“No,” Klaus scoffed. “If anything, that’s the last thing I’m interested in…”

“Then go and meet her,” Elijah said encouragingly.

“This isn’t me Elijah.”

“Meet her, and get it out of your system.”

“Nope. That is something that is out of the question. Especially in her emotional state. I could compel her to forget everything, but it would make me no better than those Cold Ones for taking advantage of her in the way that I may want. I’m going out. I need new brushes, thanks to you,” he grumbled.

“Don’t forget to ask Camille to help you with some comfortable clothes for Bella,” Elijah reminded him with a smile and quickly headed out of the study before his brother would snap something other than paint brushes.

~o.O.o~

“So, how’s she doing?” Cami asked when she started to plate up her food. “She’s been with you guys for a few days now, any signs of improvement?”

Elijah wisely kept his mouth shut about having seen Bella naked. “She seems to enjoy pancakes,” he said evenly as he took a sip of his wine.

“She has a liking to Kol as well. It appears he had befriended her while he spent time within the Cullens’ coven. He had neglected to inform the family that he decided to join my wolf in infiltrating the dancing disco balls,” Klaus murmured.

“Really?” Rebekah said, eyes wide in surprise.

“What? I didn’t think it was that important,” Kol said sheepishly as he tucked into his food. “I saw her a couple of times, thought she looked miserable, and you know me, I hate unhappy girls. So I tried to make her laugh.”

“Do you know what they have done to her?” Nik questioned as he eyed him, sipping on his glass of blood.

“I observed some happenings, yes,” Kol reluctantly replied. “She was constantly told what to do, and there was no room for error or refusal. At one point, the fairy prince started to beat her to a pulp in front of everyone present because she hadn’t eaten in days and fainted while bringing him something. It was then when I lost my cool and hit him in the face. Earned me a stake through the heart. I kept quiet then,” he smirked. “You should have seen their faces when I popped up again on the night of the evacuation.”

Knowing his family as well as he did, Klaus saw there was more between the lines. More than he was saying. “So we have an idea of where to continue in working with her. I bought paints for her room, and I have several canvases completed for the walls. Once we can get her out, we will fix it up. I also got some other accessories to match the scheme that I hope are to her liking, but I digress.”

Cami looked at Kol, silently questioning the man. “She didn’t look that beaten up when I saw her the following day.”

“I had to give her some of my blood when I caught her with Nik’s friend. Not enough to fully heal her, but enough to at least kickstart her healing,” Kol shrugged. “She knows what I am, I think. But she’s not afraid. She knows I’m not like them.”

“Well that’s bloody well and good for her, especially if she is going to be around this family until she is well enough to leave,” Rebekah stated.

“Oh, but she won’t be leaving, sister,” Kol said, a playful smile appearing on his face. “I’m not the only one keeping secrets.”

She looked at him confused, before turning to her other brothers. Elijah having an expression of mixed concern and amusement while Klaus was glaring at Kol. “Oh no, we’re not going to take in a broken human. We are not the Salvatores for heaven’s sake!”

“Stop bringing up those idiots!” Klaus growled as he threw his fork down on his plate, frustrated.

“It is a bit more complicated than you may think Rebekah,” Elijah said slowly as he eyed his brother. “Though I do not know if it is necessarily a bad thing.”

“Oh, please don’t tell me that the mutt side has to do something with it!”

“Hey! Play nice,” Cami said, scolding Rebekah. “Focus. We were talking about Bella.”

“Bloody hell,” Klaus muttered. “I don’t know what this is. I haven’t even laid eyes on the girl! Since I crossed her scent, I’ve been a damn prisoner in this house, unable to leave the vicinity for very long. I was barely able to go shopping for her room without being able to focus that the trip was for her. Do you think I’m pleased about this turn of events?”

“Interesting,” Cami said, looking over at Klaus before looking at Elijah. “I hear the mayor has copies of documents found in the raid. Do you think you could get me those? And whatever research Dr. Cullen may have done? Maybe we can find something there, and if not, we can dig into mythology books or whatever.”

Curious, Rebekah eyed her as he sat back in her chair. “Why?”

“Don’t you want to help your brother, Rebekah?” Cami looked at her. “He’s obviously frustrated about the situation. This can’t be good for any of you.”

She looked over at her brother, who had turned back to eating and ignoring the conversation. Her eyes narrowed as she recalled what she saw of him since their new charge arrived, and she couldn’t say that he was entirely unhappy either. “I don’t know… Maybe it really is a blessing in disguise.”

“In any case,” Cami said as she looked at Elijah and Kol. “I want more information on the girl to work with. Get me those documents.”

“Then by all means, research,” Klaus said as he looked up at her. “But note, the girl stays here. I may be unable to leave without being miserable, but when am I not?”

“Has she been checked out, medically?”

“Do you want to inflict yet another unknown thing on her?” Kol rolled his eyes at Camille. “She’s okay. She’s malnourished, but we’re fixing that. She’s getting stronger; she’s doing well.”

“Elijah’s been bringing her meals,” Klaus added.

“I, too, don’t think it’s a wise idea to bring another doctor in to examine her. If she had any internal damage, the little bit of blood that she drank of Kol would have fixed it. She doesn’t seem to be in physical discomfort.”

Niklaus frowned at his implications of what occurred prior to her coming to their family, his eyes darting over to Kol to try to catch any form of reaction for information. The more he heard about what she endured, it became harder for him to control his emotions.

“Carlisle was a doctor. I heard some rumors that make me vote against any kind of needles or medical equipment,” Kol responded. “We’ll get you those documents.”

“If she likes food so much, try to coax her out of her room with it. Serve it in the courtyard or something. See what she does. Don’t force her; just let it happen,” Cami suddenly said and polished off her plate. “I’ll come by one of these days to see if she wants to talk about things with me, but…”

“Not until you’ve discovered nothing in the documents, got it.” Kol winked at her.

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