jedi_of_urth: (elena)
[personal profile] jedi_of_urth
Title: To Take Each Step In Turn
Author: [personal profile] jedi_of_urth
Fandom: The Vampire Diaries (TV)
Characters/Pairings: Ensemble, Elena/Elijah, various canon ships referenced
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Past character death and related issues, violence on par with the show, sexualized abuse
Word Count: ~34,500
Summary: Part three of ‘To Find a Light In Darkness’, Elena and Elijah’s break from the world comes to an abrupt end courtesy of the Salvatores, but at least it wasn’t Klaus...
Author's Notes: Great thanks to my always awesome beta, and thanks to those who have waited and encouraged me to continue this series. Hopefully the next one won’t take as long.


To Find a Light In Darkness series master post

To Take Each Step In Turn story master post

Next Chapter

~~~~~~~~~~

Usually Damon would have stopped using bagged blood as his primary food source long before he could get sick of it, but he was definitely starting to get sick of it now. Aside from indulging his own thirst a few times while he tried to help Stefan learn how to control his hunger – and even then only slightly more than could be considered necessary to make his point – Damon hadn’t had his blood from the source is way too long. He was almost tempted to go out hunting animals this morning, at least a deer’s blood would have been hot and he could have felt its heart pumping the blood furiously into his waiting mouth.

But even if he could have stomached deer blood it wasn’t a good morning to try hunting them. They’d be holed up, moving as little as possible in the dreary, cold, snowy morning. So Damon was left trying to figure out the best way to heat his morning blood bag in the kitchen; it still wouldn’t be what he wanted but he was willing to see if it helped.

What he really wanted was fresh human blood. If only... If only Mystic Falls had been more than a two horse town; if only Liz wasn’t still hounding him about suspicious things she’d heard recently; if only he wasn’t supposed to be teaching his little brother control (which had been responsible for those things Liz wanted answers to) and so had to practice it himself; if only Elena didn’t flip out every time they reminded her they were vampires. He was nearly at his wits end playing this part and trying to responsible for so many people. And the more he thought about why he couldn’t go out and have his meal the way he wanted to, the more he really, really wanted to.

It also didn’t help that trying to fix up his bagged blood in some new way was proving to be more of a challenge than he’d thought. His first trial at using the microwave had ruined that glass of blood so that it tasted worse than one of Stefan’s squirrels when Damon finally tried to drink it. Experimenting with a saucepan had only lead to coating the bottom of the pan in baked blood that it would take several washing and meals absorbing the flavor to fix; which wouldn’t have been so bad if it had worked and as long as they only used that pan for him and Stefan, but the end result had tasted burned.

That experiment had also drawn Stefan’s attention and he’d suggested boiling water and using that to heat the blood in the bag. It had worked better than Damon’s previous attempts, but by that point nothing would have satisfied his frustration except fresh blood, and not having it was just yet more frustration.

Taking his glass of moderately-improved blood, he headed for the library. He was slowly getting it put back together after they’d more or less torn the house apart last week in case bad-Ric had managed to hide the white oak stake anywhere in the boarding house. And the last few days, since Elena had banished him from either staying over at her house or showing up first thing in the morning, he’d figured he might as well funnel his energy into cleaning up the mess.

The only good thing about Elena’s decree was that she had banned Stefan too, and that wasn’t completely great. Bad-Ric may be mostly under control these days but Damon still worried about leaving the two of them alone together. And Ric’s drinking – necessary though it was – left the pair of them rather vulnerable to creatures of the night that might come around. (Granted, should Klaus’s hybrids come back to town they weren’t limited to being creatures of the night, but that still seemed to be their preferred time; both sides of their nature were likely more comfortable in the dark.)

But it was still barely 10:30, even with Damon’s kitchen experiments, and Elena’ rule on no vampires except Caroline being allowed in the house before eleven had been one of the few things she’d gotten worked up about since Jeremy’s death; so for now Damon was willing to go along with it unless he had a reason to change his mind. Of course, in his mind she could probably stand to get worked up some more, so each morning he was tempted to call that a reason and go over early just to get a rise out of her, but so far the time or two he’d come close to doing it Stefan had caught him and insisted on following Elena’s rule. Stefan would be there just as soon as he was allowed but he was following the rule to the letter.

Damon hadn’t gotten very much farther on his library clean-up project when his phone rang. He expected it to be Elena or Alaric (after all, unless Stefan was actually calling from the other side of the house, those were just about the only people who ever called him) and so was surprised when he saw Liz’s name on the ID instead. “Morning, Sheriff,” he greeted. He was tempted to start off by saying that whatever it was he didn’t do it but only because he hadn’t done anything – he was drinking bagged blood that was fast returning to room temperature and he was agitated by that fact.

“Damon, I’m calling because I’m over at the Gilberts’ and I can’t get anyone to answer the door. Do you know anything about that?”

That set Damon’s mind spinning. Elena was always up by this point and while Ric would probably still be hung over he ought to be mobile enough to answer the door if Elena was busy in the shower or something. “Nobody but Stefan and me over here, but I can be over in a few minutes to check it out for you.”

“I actually have a spare key to the house that Grayson gave me a while back. I was just hoping you could tell me for sure Alaric wasn’t off the rails again.”

Damon really wanted to tell her that, but he couldn’t be sure. He knew better than anyone, including Elena, that bad-Ric wasn’t completely gone. Bonnie’s herbs kept the bad side from taking over completely, but there were still moments when regular-Ric lost control and he either zoned out or momentarily had to battle for control of a limb or two. That was why the heavy drinking was necessary, it made it harder for bad-Ric to use any bit of control he might manage to get; and the delay should be enough for Ric to get that control back. “He may not always have all his wheels on the track but he’s not off the rails,” Damon said, but he was more worried than he wanted Liz to know.

He really hoped Ric was just passed out and Elena was in the shower, but every reservation Damon had had about leaving Elena and Ric alone together came rushing back now. “Any sign that you’re not their first visitor this morning?” Did he want there to be? If Klaus had gone after Elena last night that would be bad; but if bad-Ric had decided to target her next, and managed to pull it off...

“Not really,” Liz said. “Hold on a second.” He could hear her knock on the Gilbert door, while he used the moment to race off to get Stefan. A couple gestures and Stefan got the message that they needed to go, while Damon listened to Liz calling to Alaric and Elena.

Finally, he could hear the door open. “Alaric?” Liz’s tone changed to concerned and wary rather than trying to just get an answer. “Damon, he looks bad,” she added into the phone.

“Where’s Elena?” he asked, the same question evident in Stefan’s expression.

“I don’t know yet. Alaric, where’s Elena?”

Damon really wished he could see what was going on on the other end of the call. What was wrong with Ric exactly? At the edge of Damon’s hearing he could hear Alaric mumble an answer that sounded like, “Must’ve slept late.” As far as Damon could tell, Ric just sounded hung over, but it was hard to tell from here.

“Damon, I’ll look around, but it’s probably better if you do come over here.”

“You got it, Sheriff,” Damon answered with an ease he didn’t feel. Fortunately he knew where the Sheriff was, and it wasn’t out on the roads waiting to catch him speeding in the snow.

~~~

Elena’s bedroom was still locked from the inside, both the door to the hallway and through the bathroom. They could hear her phone ringing when they tried to call her, but got no response to either the phone or their repeated knocking at the door. Alaric wasn’t too thrilled with the way Liz kept eying him suspiciously as he searched around for the skeleton key they kept in the kitchen, but he did understand it and certainly couldn’t blame her for it.

The fact that she could be right to worry about him gnawed at the back of his mind. He couldn’t know for certain that he wasn’t the reason. He knew he was a crap guardian when it came to keeping Elena safe, but the idea that the other side of him could be responsible for harming her was a horrible but only too possible notion. She had needed him to move back in after Jeremy’s death, and he did everything he could to make sure he wouldn’t make things worse, but he knew there was a chance.

Fortunately Liz had helped him start a pot of coffee and the smell of the strong brew coming along was helping him wake up, though it did little to quiet his concerns. Normally Elena got the coffee going so he could go straight to drinking it in order to drive back the morning fog of sleep and hangover. He still wasn’t completely coherent as he explained the situation to the Sheriff; that no, he couldn’t prove his bad side hadn’t come out last night, but they were doing everything possible to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Once he finally did remember where the upstairs key was, it was a simple matter to unlock Elena’s door; but Alaric tried to assure himself and Liz that there still should have been no way his dark side could have gotten control long enough to do all that during the night. They found that Elena’s room was cold, the window apparently having been left open a good portion of the night and snow drifting in to slowly melt on her window seat and onto the floor in places. Her bed looked to have been slept in, so she hadn’t vanished as soon as she said she was going to bed; which Alaric knew made him look even more like a suspect. But for all that, there didn’t appear to be any tracks in the snow outside her window; and if she hadn’t gone out that way – willingly or not – what should they check next?

About the time Ric was finally getting to drink his coffee and Liz was calling Caroline and Bonnie to see if they knew or had heard anything, the Salvatores arrived. They didn’t bother to knock at the door; not that they did very often anymore. Liz finished her talk with Bonnie and started to fill the brothers in on what little they knew.

“Come on, it wasn’t Ric,” Damon said. Alaric was glad for Damon’s defense, but he wished he felt as confident. “Bad-Ric couldn’t have gotten control for that long.”

“He’s not supposed to be able to get control at all,” Stefan pointed out, and Liz nodded in agreement.

“It’s Klaus,” Damon said. It was hard to tell if he was upset about Elena being missing, the idea that Alaric might have had something to do with it, the idea that Klaus might have had something to do with it, or something else entirely; but he was clearly on edge. “Who else would it be?”

“I see no signs of a struggle,” Liz reminded him.

“Which doesn’t make it Ric here. She’d have fought him, trying to hold on long enough to make regular ol’ Ric wake up. Klaus just killed her brother, she might not have thought she could fight him.”

“Actually, I agree with Damon,” Stefan spoke up. “I think we should go over to the mansion and see if anyone’s there.”

“And if there is?” Liz asked.

“We kill any hybrids around, stake any Originals, and run like hell before they come around,” Damon said with a shrug. “Come on brother, I like action-Stefan today.”

The two of them were gone as quickly as they had arrived. Liz poured herself a cup of coffee and topped off Alaric’s while they sat and waited. She still had to suspect him, and he wasn’t going to argue with it; but he hated to have to hope Klaus was responsible.

~~~

Elena closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she stepped back from Elijah. She wasn’t ready for this, wasn’t ready to face anyone else. On one hand, being here with Elijah had helped her find some peace within her own heart; but on the other, what had happened here made her regular life even more difficult and complicated. Would the good be enough to help her face the bad?

Another deep breath and she turned, opening her eyes determined to face it. “I guess I should go get that. And hope they don’t think I’m Katherine on sight.” Her freshly washed and unstyled hair had a bit more bounce in it than usual, though nothing like Katherine did on her own; but her friends (how should she define them right now?) had probably convinced themselves she was Klaus’s captive and might believe Katherine was working with him before they realized Elena was here of her own choosing.

“Lead the way then,” Elijah said evenly. He fell in behind her as they walked down the hall and it seemed like a show of support, but as they made their way toward the entryway she glanced back and him and found he had resumed his usual air of calm reserve. She liked the open Elijah she’d had during all this and the idea of losing that Elijah in the face of others didn’t seem like a great prospect to her. And that was if he only retreated to the controlled and mostly indifferent manner he usually displayed, she could get a general reading on regular Elijah; if he settled on the truly cold and superior attitude he was known to use – including when he’d appeared last night – she would be facing this all alone and she really didn’t feel up for that.

By the time they reached the front hall, even Elena could hear Stefan and Damon’s raised voices in between bouts of knocking at the door. “Klaus!” Damon roared, but didn’t follow it up with anything but furious knocking.

“Come on, you can’t hide from us forever,” Stefan added loudly as Elena stepped up to the door. She allowed herself one more deep breath and glance at Elijah – even if he couldn’t obviously reassure her, she wanted to assure them both that they were still facing it together –before she opened the door.

The blast of cold winter air that met her barely had time to register before Stefan practically tackled her as he sped them both across the room. “Guys, I don’t need to be rescued, I’m fine,” she cried out to try and be heard over the flurry of action.

A couple steps behind Stefan, Damon had rushed at Elijah, who easily turned out of the way. “As much as I hate to disagree with you Elena, I’m fairly certain you are not fine. You are however perfectly free to leave with your friends if you like.”

“What the hell?” Stefan said as he turned around to face the Original, and be a better human shield between Elijah and Elena. Elena was rather surprised by Elijah’s joking attitude too; it was not what she would have expected him to pull out in a fight against the Salvatore brothers.

“However,” Elijah continued as he grabbed the stake Damon had thrown at him out of the air, “if they insist on fighting me, I shall be forced to make them leave by other means that may prevent them from driving you home.” Again, Elijah could turn on a dime; and while his words were still mocking, his tone cared deadly threat.

“Why you old sack of...” Damon cried as he rushed at Elijah. This time Elijah didn’t simply avoid him but grappled Damon’s fists before they connected with him...chest? throat? whatever Damon had been aiming for.

“Come on Elena, let’s go,” Stefan said as he reached back for her hand; and on finding it began to pull her towards the door.

“But...Damon...” she started to protest, her feet forced to follow Stefan though she wanted to stay still and break up the fight before it went any further. She didn’t want to see Damon get hurt in a rescue attempt that hadn’t needed to happen.

“I’ve got it,” Damon said, escaping Elijah’s grip enough to come in for a punch to the sternum and Elena heard as much as saw one of Ric’s wrist mounted stakes pop out and into Elijah’s heart.

“Damon, no,” Elena gasped and forced Stefan to let go of her hand as she rushed towards Elijah as his skin grew still and ashen. It couldn’t kill him, she reminded herself of that as tears threatened to leap into her eyes. “No,” she said again, but Damon let Elijah fall and captured her in his arms.

“Now, let’s get out of here before he wakes up,” he said in a voice that made it clear he would hear no arguments.

But Elena had plenty to argue about. “What have you done? Everything was just fine. Elijah and I had a deal-”

“Another one?” Damon said snidely. “’Cause the last few have ended so well.”

Elena tried to force her way out of his arms, which made him fight harder to keep her there. “He wanted to put a stop to all the killing. He thought he could help Alaric. He wasn’t going to hurt any of us,” she cried. There were the tears, angry ones this time. She wondered what Damon would do if she beat her fists bloody trying to get away from him.

“You can’t trust anything he says Elena,” Stefan said, stepping around them to stare at Elijah himself. “Don’t you see that by now?”

“Yeah, what he said,” Damon nodded. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” He kept a vice-like grip on her wrist as he steered her towards the door.

“Stefan, please,” she pleaded with her ex as he followed them, “at least take the stake out so he knows you didn’t mean it.”

“But we did mean it, Elena” Damon bit out.

“Yeah,” Stefan said with a satisfied grin, “what he said.”

Sometimes, Elena really hated it when the two of them were getting along. “If I had really needed to be rescued it wouldn’t have been nearly that easy for you kill him,” she pointed out, tears still slipping from her eyes. “I wasn’t in any danger until you came and ruined it.”

“Come on, Elena,” Damon commanded her and yanked her forward again. Elena looked down at Elijah’s body as she passed it, too far out of reach for her to pull the stake out of his chest. And it probably wasn’t a very good idea, their quiet morning had not just been interrupted but completely destroyed and the other two needed to get away before he woke up and made them pay for that. I’m sorry, she thought, but didn’t say, and hoped they could work through this again.

Stefan slid his coat around her shoulders as they reached the front door and Elena looked at him in surprise. “Did you lose your shoes somewhere?” he asked just as Elena stepped out onto the snow covered front drive and regretted that she didn’t have any.

“At home,” she said harshly. There was a part of her that wanted to burrow into Stefan’s coat and embrace the memories of better times between them; but another part of her wanted to reject it now on principle no matter how cold she’d be without it. “I didn’t realize I was going to be out all night when I left.”

“All night?” Damon asked.

Elena shrugged inside her borrowed coat, “Most of it. We had a lot to talk about. And it was going just fine until you two showed up.”

“I’m so sorry for coming to rescue you,” Damon spat as he helped her into the back of his car (‘helped’ by basically shoving her into it). “Next time you run off with an Original leave a note so Liz doesn’t want to arrest Alaric again.”

“He’s okay right?” Elena asked quickly. But her worry quickly fell back under her anger. “I swear if you made Elijah change his mind about helping Ric-”

“He was never going to help. He’s just here to try a new track at finding the stake for Klaus.”

“Let’s take it easy okay?” Stefan said, his old, more peaceful personality peeking through. Later Elena would probably appreciate that; right now she wanted him to actually listen to her and not just try and smooth things over. “You’re safe now, that’s what matters.”

“I was perfectly fine before,” she reminded him.

“Didn’t you hear, Stef? She didn’t need to be rescued,” Damon drawled sarcastically. So he had heard her at some point, but at no point had intended to actually listen to her.

Stefan climbed in the backseat with Elena but she scooted away from him; folded her arms and defied him to try and comfort her from his imagined trauma for her. Damon angrily started the car and drove off down the driveway. Elena fumed at Stefan and Damon; Damon fumed at Elena and Stefan; Stefan was fuming but not so much at either of them. “Okay Elena, tell us what happened?” he finally said as they reached the end of the long driveway.

She was tempted to tell them exactly what had happened, because right now she wasn’t in the mood to spare their feelings. But it was a fleeting temptation that she squashed down as she sighed. “He wanted to talk. Just an explanation for what happened.”

“Because obviously you owe him an explanation,” Damon said sarcastically.

Elena half bobbed her head, reluctantly admitting that Damon had a point; a small one that missed a lot of the actual point as far as Elena was concerned, but hopefully by giving that much he’d start to listen. It wasn’t likely but she could hope. “I basically said that too. But Elijah and I both know that this has to stop, we both only have so many people we can lose.” Elena hated the way her voice cracked at the end of that statement, but she still shied away from Stefan reaching out for her hand.

All three of them let silence fill the car after her statement. It went on for a couple minutes of driving down the freshly plowed two-lane highway back into town, none of them knowing what to say next. “So how exactly was he supposed to help Ric?” Damon finally asked as they turned into her neighborhood.

“He’s an Original, he can do things with compulsion most people can’t,” she said fairly nonchalantly. She had never actually gotten so far as to ask for the details, but she couldn’t let them know that, as it was what she and Elijah had supposedly talked about at length.

Perhaps she spoke a little too nonchalantly, as it set Damon off again. “So how do we know he didn’t compel you into agreeing to this? Whatever this is.”

Elena was glad she hadn’t given into the impulse to tell them what had really happened. It was going to be a battle to convince anyone that the deal was made in good faith (the deal she hoped Elijah didn’t consider void after these two had staked him); if they knew the whole truth they’d just be more convinced Elijah had compelled her into things. Particularly things like his bed or giant bath, both of which she wished she hadn’t been forced to leave.

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October 2013

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