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

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter


Elena was grateful when Caroline pushed Damon and Stefan out of the way so she could hug Elena Ftightly in relief. “Oh, I was so worried when Mom said you guys thought Klaus took you. Where did they find you?”

“She was at the mansion hanging out with Elijah,” Damon reported snidely as the three vampires all hurried Elena inside.

“You’re kidding.”

“Oh, how I wish I was.”

“Elena, what were you thinking?” Caroline demanded. Elena was already getting tired of that question and she knew she was going to get it several more times before things quieted down.

For now Elena shrugged, still in Stefan’s oversized coat. She didn’t want to lie any more than she had to; but she didn’t think the truth, that she hadn’t really cared what happened at that point, would satisfy anyone. “I didn’t think I’d be gone so long. Sorry for almost getting you in trouble, Ric,” Elena said as they stepped into the living room where Alaric, Bonnie, and Sheriff Forbes were waiting for them.

“I’m just glad you’re safe,” Ric said honestly. “What happened exactly?”

Elena opened her mouth to answer, the lie ready to come even more easily this time, but Damon spoke up first. “We need to get her some extra vervain, because I’m pretty sure Elijah’s been messing with her head.”

“He didn’t compel me,” Elena shot back instantly, with a terrible feeling she was going to be saying that a lot too. “He just...we just talked and I believe him when he said he wants to put a stop to this.”

“Well I don’t,” Damon spat back.

“I’m with Damon,” Bonnie surprised them by saying. “Elena, I don’t know if he compelled you or not, because I think you probably just want to believe him; but I can’t, not after everything he’s done.”

“Thank you Bonnie,” Damon said.

Elena took a step toward her best friend but stopped after one step, instead starting to take off her borrowed coat. Stefan and Damon made her get angry and want to dig in and argue just because she could, but she didn’t want to fight with Bonnie. She really wanted to stop fighting with Bonnie in fact; teaming up to help Alaric and shared grief over Jeremy had only started to bridge the rift between them. And she really didn’t have an answer for Bonnie’s concerns; she and Elijah hadn’t really addressed what had happened with Abby last month.

Finally she took a breath and gave it a shot. “Bonnie, I tried to hate him for that, you know I did. But I know Elijah, and I trust him.” She nervously fidgeted with Stefan’s coat as she set it on the back on the couch; she knew that really wasn’t going to be enough.

“You’ve always trusted him,” Bonnie pointed out. “How many times is he going to screw you over before you realize you shouldn’t give him the chance?”

Elena cast a glance around the room to encompass Stefan, Damon, Caroline, and Alaric. “I don’t just give up on people,” she said with a shake of her head. Couldn’t they understand that by now?

”I don’t believe this,” Bonnie said and collapsed into one of the chairs.

“Oh, it gets better,” Damon cut back in. “Apparently Elijah has some scheme about being able to compel Ric to fix his head.”

“What?” Ric exclaimed.

“And she thought you’d agree to it.”

“Why would I agree to that?”

“That’s why I said she’s cracked or compelled; we’ve got bad-Ric under control we’re not going to let an Original start messing with it.”

“I don’t necessarily agree it’s the best plan, but I’d rather not have to ask if you did something or are just hung over,” Sheriff Forbes put in.

“Stay out of this Liz,” Damon ordered.

The sheriff’s hands went to her hips, not for her gun but in frustration. “What did you say?” she asked coldly.

“He didn’t mean it,” Stefan rushed to say while Damn was still figuring out what had happened. “We’re all a little frustrated right now.”

“Some of us are frustrated for stupid reasons,” Damon said, looking pointedly at Elena. “Some of us were worried sick and some of us are angry we staked her new Original boyfriend.”

Elena folded her arms across her chest and glared back at Damon but inside she was reeling. Had he guessed what had actually happened or was he just being Damon? Still, there was plenty she could say without dignifying his accusation with a response. “I’m angry because you didn’t listen when I told you nothing happened that I needed to be rescued from. I was always perfectly free to leave.”

“He kidnapped you in the middle of the night, I’d hardly call that free to just leave.”

“I didn’t want to leave,” she shot back at him. “We may have spent half the night arguing but at least he listens to what I say.”

“Unless Damon’s right and that’s just how you remember it when something else happened,” Caroline suggested uneasily.

“Right, let’s not forget that,” Damon agreed.

“Fine. Caroline, see if you can compel me.”

“That wasn’t what I meant,” Caroline quickly back-peddled.

Elena set her face and squared her shoulders resolutely. It wasn’t exactly something she was comfortable with, but it also wasn’t like it would do anything. So far they were all focused on the wrong issue, this was about what they could do to help Ric. And if she needed to prove Elijah hadn’t been in her head so that Alaric would agree to let him in his she could do that. “I put it in the coffee every morning even though I should only need it every couple days right? And it should have been even stronger last night, so if you can’t compel me to get you a sandwich, Elijah couldn’t have compelled me to do anything last night.”

“What if she can?” Stefan asked. Caroline still looked shocked they were discussing this.

That wasn’t a question she had considered. She knew Elijah hadn’t compelled her, he wouldn’t have, but what if Caroline could? “Then I’ll consider that maybe you could be right.” Elijah was right; she did tend to negotiate things didn’t she? But this wasn’t like negotiating with Elijah, those talks always felt invigorating while this was exhausting.

And she would be freaked out if Caroline could make her do anything, but she didn’t think she’d really change her mind about Elijah. But it was true that she’d probably consider it a bit more than she would bother with now.

For a moment all eyes that weren’t on Elena went to Caroline; after a moment the blonde sighed. “Okay, fine, I’ll do it, but this was your idea.” She walked over to Elena and locked eyes with her. “Elena, go break one of the glasses in the kitchen sink.”

“What? No,” Elena said. “What happened to my sandwich idea?”

“I thought surprise would be better,” Caroline said with a happy shrug. “She’s good. Guess that means Damon’s wrong.”

“I still don’t trust Elijah,” Stefan said.

“I agree,” Bonnie said half a step ahead of Damon’s, “Yeah, so he didn’t compel you, he’s still probably lying.”

“Guys,” Ric finally spoke up, “I haven’t showered yet and Elena’s been out all night. Maybe we can take a breather and come back at this later.”

Elena smiled at him, grateful for someone able to see sense. It was a long way from deciding what to do with his situation, and she could use the time to figure out how to persuade him to agree. He would take some convincing when it came to that certainly, but he seemed less likely to fight her than the others. He’d see sense eventually, probably long before Damon could.

Her smile faded at Ric’s next statement though. “Now Sheriff, what did you come over here for in the first place?” No one had explained that part of the morning’s crisis, it hadn’t seemed important, apparently to any of them, until now.

“Oh,” the sheriff said awkwardly. “About that; this morning I had a call from the police in Denver, they haven’t found enough evidence to rule Jeremy’s death anything but an animal attack. The officer I’ve spoken to doesn’t seem convinced but there’s nothing she can do about it. Anyway, they’re ready to release Jeremy’s body so you can have a proper funeral.”

Elena sucked in a breath and had to sit down on the couch. She didn’t even pull away when Stefan reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. She was still mad at him, but the aching numbness that had filled her for the last week came rushing back and she didn’t want to fight him anymore. “Elena, we knew the police wouldn’t find anything on Klaus,” he said gently.

“I know that,” she replied, her voice hushed. Klaus had called to gloat about what had happened within hours of the Denver police reporting Jeremy’s death, he wanted to make sure the message got through even though he would never be found out by the human police. She had fought against it, thinking that Jeremy’s ring should have protected him from Klaus, but eventually the truth of it sunk in; and if there had been any doubt, Elijah’s appearance was clear confirmation of his brother’s guilt.

“Ric, buddy, you’ve got to have some new idea for where that stake is.” Damon had already moved on to another problem at hand. So far they had searched Ric’s loft, Elena’s house, and the Salvatore boarding house top to bottom; Meredith had even checked her apartment in case Ric had come to hide anything there even after they ended things between them; they had checked the Lockwood cellar and the pictograph room, including the tunnel between them; the basement of the police station had been given a look too, and still the stake was missing.

Elena buried her face in her hands at tried to collect herself after the mention of having a funeral for Jeremy. She didn’t want to think about that, apparently neither did anyone else since they were discussing other hiding place options. She knew he was dead, it was impossible to forget that; so it wasn’t as if it was a reminder that Jeremy’s death was real, it was truly, painfully real no matter how much she wished it wasn’t. But the idea of having a funeral, of it truly being over was too much for her to handle.

“Elena, it’s okay,” Stefan said, moving to sit beside her. Elena looked at him, and wondered if he actually believed that or if he just wanted her to believe it.

It didn’t really matter, she supposed, what he wanted was for her to be okay, and she wasn’t; and he made her feel like she was letting him down because she wasn’t better. She wasn’t going to fight him on it, that would be pointless, and if she jumped on Damon’s attempt to move on to something else she’d have to steer the conversation back to her deal with Elijah and that would be just a different fight. So she made herself stand up and walk toward the kitchen; when more than one person commented on that she shrugged, “I really did want something to eat.”

She didn’t add that they had interrupted her plans for breakfast with Elijah. In fact she tried not even to think it, because when she did she’d have to worry if she’d ever get another chance after the way this time had ended. It was also hard to think that that had been less than an hour ago; it had been a crazy morning, but it would be nice if one day her life could slow down a little.


Once Caroline and her mom left, Elena was able to excuse herself and change out of the clothes she’d been wearing – at least most of the time – since yesterday. As soon as she closed the door to her room she grabbed her phone and texted Elijah to let her know when he was alright. She didn’t actually know how long it took for him to recover from being staked; the only time she’d seen it happen had been the day they met and he hadn’t healed at all by the time she, Stefan, and Damon had left the house; though she did know that when she had removed the dagger from his heart it had taken time for him to regain consciousness. He was probably still lying in the entrance hall of Klaus’s mansion, she couldn’t do anything about that now; but once he came to she wanted him to know she hadn’t forgotten him.

Whatever he thought, she didn’t want to just forget about what had happened, and she didn’t want him to think she’d changed her mind about that. He may act like it wouldn’t bother him, but even when he said he expected her to do it, it was clear that wasn’t what he wanted. What they had done meant something to him, as it meant something to her – just neither of them knew what that might be yet.

She did know better than to expect him to reply right away, even if he had healed from the stake to his heart he could have other things to do. But Elena had to remind herself of that fact several times so she wouldn’t worry Damon had done Elijah serious damage by staking him or that he had changed his mind while she was working to assure him that she hadn’t. Hopefully he was awake and spent his time figuring out how he could best help Alaric and what he would do to stop Klaus once he had the white oak stake; but Elena supposed she didn’t know what he really did with his time. If he was awake, he probably had the time to sort out what he felt about last night, but Elena didn’t; once she’d changed (no word from Elijah yet) she had to go back out and continue discussing things with her friends.

She couldn’t stop herself from walking into Jeremy’s room first though. Standing at the doorway, looking in at the familiar surroundings, her fragile new control started to break. It wasn’t as if she’d ever forgotten about Jeremy last night, but at home the reality of it was here, not in some world she could feel she had separated herself from.

She sunk down to sit on Jeremy’s bed, her head in her hands, her breathing ragged. She’d learn how to live with this reality, if that hadn’t been clear before it was now, but she still didn’t know how to do it. Right now it still seemed like too much to handle.

“You still want to trust Elijah?” Bonnie asked.

Elena looked up sharply at her best friend, surprised by her appearance and the question. “What?”

“Do you think Jeremy would be okay with it?”

It was like Bonnie had struck a blow directly at Elena’s heart. Almost certainly Jeremy wouldn’t be okay with any of this, but he wasn’t here now to be faced with the choices she needed to make. It was hard to say what he’d have said; ‘Don’t work with the Originals’ or ‘Do what you have to to help Alaric.’ He would have seen the hard choice in that.

Sleeping with Elijah he really wouldn’t have understood, but none of them would understand, that was why she wasn’t telling them. “Elijah didn’t kill Jeremy,” she said evenly.

“I didn’t say he did, but he has plenty of other blood on his hands.” Bonnie stepped toward Elena but didn’t take a seat next to her. She was angry, Elena knew she was angry; where Elena had gone numb since Jeremy’s death Bonnie’s reaction had been anger at everything connected with it. Including Elena for sending Jeremy away in the first place; and since things had already been rough between them since Abby had been turned into a vampire everything kept getting worse; and this sure wouldn’t help heal it.

“What do you want me to do Bonnie? If Elijah can help Alaric, I have to take that chance.”

“I thought he was doing better. Damon told us,” she added before Elena had to explain things. “You should have come to me first.”

“I didn’t go to Elijah for help, it just came up while we were discussing things.”

“Did you ask, or did he suggest it?”

“Does it matter?” Elena asked. She probably would have asked the same thing, but she needed a bit of time to figure out how to answer. In truth Elijah had suggested it, but when he suggested the lie he had implied they should say she had brought it up.

“Oh course it does, this is Elijah. If he came in with a plan then you need to make sure you understand it before you agree. If you brought it up, it’s a little less likely he’s trying to trap you, or Alaric.”

“I did tell him about everything that was going on, but I couldn’t have suggested this as a solution.” It was pretty close to the truth, Elijah was right that it was best to stay as close as possible.

“Right?” Bonnie prompted, as if she’d just made a point but Elena didn’t follow her. Bonnie seemed to see that so she explained. “You couldn’t have suggested he solve Alaric’s problem, so this is another deal on Elijah’s terms, not yours.”

Elena stood up and dusted her hands against her pants as she crossed the room. How could she make Bonnie believe her when she wasn’t really wrong about how Elijah worked? “Bonnie you didn’t see him last night,” she started as she turned back around, inwardly reminding herself to be careful if she was going to go this way. “He didn’t come here with some grand plot, he needed me to tell him about what happened with Finn. It was his brother, Bonnie; he wanted the whole story.”

Bonnie shook her head though and followed after Elena, reaching out to brace her in place to make sure she’d listen. “This is Elijah,” she said again, “you can’t trust anything he does.” She looked hard at Elena, both of them on the verge of tears. “But you always act like you can, and people always get hurt when you do.”

Elena pulled away and tried to walk back toward her own room but Bonnie stopped her. “Would you have trusted Rebekah to do this? I don’t think you would and she hasn’t screwed us over nearly as much as Elijah has.”

“People can only screw you over if you trust them in the first place,” Elena retorted quickly. She had screwed Rebekah over, not the other way around.

“Again, I think that’s my point,” Bonnie said, exasperated, bordering on angry now. “You’re smart enough not to trust Rebekah with anything to start with, yet even after everything you keep trusting Elijah.”

“Fine,” Elena said, spinning around to face Bonnie again. “You want me to say I probably shouldn’t trust Elijah? Sure, probably not, but I remember what he’s done Bonnie and I still do. If I can forgive Damon and Stefan and...everyone,”

“Meaning me,” Alaric said from the hallway.

“Ric-” Elena gasped as she came to a halt. She had thought he was still downstairs with the Salvatores, even though he hadn’t showered or dressed for the day yet; maybe he’d finally been on his way to do that only to overhear her and Bonnie arguing. She didn’t think she’d said anything she didn’t want him to hear, but being interrupted was still awkward.

“Don’t stop, I want to hear how this goes. If you can convince her you might still convince me.” Elena had no idea what Ric’s thoughts were at the moment, whether he was hoping she could pull it off or if Bonnie could convince her to drop it so he wouldn’t be the one making a choice about it. She knew he was still troubled by what his dark side had done, but how far was he willing to go to get rid of it permanently? It was easy to say he’d do whatever it took until something like this came to light as a solution.

“Ric, I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t trust him.”

Ric sighed. “I know; but like Bonnie, I just don’t understand why.”

Elena looked between the two of them, a gnawing feeling in her stomach making her well aware she didn’t have a good answer for them. There wasn’t a clear answer to why she trusted Elijah; she couldn’t have given herself one, much less anyone else. But she knew she didn’t have a good reason, and she’d still slept with him, she wasn’t about to start having issues with it now. So she fell back on the same point she’d been making before. “Can you explain why you trust Damon?” she asked Ric.

Bonnie made an angry face, but Elena thought she’d hit the mark with Ric. He recovered quickly, but she knew that he knew he couldn’t fight her on that point. “So what you’re saying is that you know you can’t trust him?” Ric asked.

“I take offense at that,” Damon said, arriving with Stefan to crowd Jeremy’s room with too many people.

“You probably should,” Ric said with a shrug, “I certainly meant it that way.”

“You’re a dick,” Damon said, but he was grinning.

“You’re a dick,” Alaric shot back. There was no real bite to it, but it wasn’t really a joke either.

“Could all of you go home?” Elena asked, feeling far too crowded in here now. “I know you were all worried, but I’m fine. Right now Alaric and I need to talk about what to do next.”

Damon shook his head. “I don’t trust him to be able to keep you here. Plus Elijah’s been invited in so he could carry you off again.”

“I’m the one he likes,” she pointed out to him. “I’d be more worried about the two of you.”

“You don’t sound worried,” Stefan said, more than a little bitterness giving bite to his simple statement.

Elena rolled her eyes. She supposed she was worried that Elijah would retaliate against them, but she was also still pretty angry at them. And she didn’t think Elijah would do them permanent harm even if he did do something to them, he claimed to want to put an end to the cycle of revenge so he was unlikely to escalate the conflict any more. “I wouldn’t need to worry if you two had listened to me earlier.”

“Do you hear that Stefan? We risk going up against Klaus to save her and now if Elijah rips our hearts out she’ll still be mad at us.”

“Damon that’s not what I meant,” Elena said, almost pleaded. She didn’t want to see them hurt – in any way – but Damon insisted on acting like everything she did hurt him. “It’s just...” she shook her head in frustration, “Elijah wanted peace.”

“So he says,” Stefan said, unimpressed.

“So she says that he says,” Damon added.

“And even if he wants peace who knows what that means to him,” Bonnie supplied.

Elena looked between them, then back at Ric, the closest thing it seemed she had to ally as he was willing to hear her out at least. “Elijah wanted peace,” she repeated. “He didn’t want any more of his family to die, or for them to kill any more of us. He knows Klaus is too powerful for anyone’s good,” that got more attention from her friends than the rest had, but true to her word she stopped short of telling them Elijah hated Klaus; or that Elijah was still figuring out what he would do about Klaus. “I know he isn’t doing this selflessly,” that was directed at Bonnie, “and I know he doesn’t respond well to challenges,” she directed that at Damon, though she was thinking of how Elijah could direct the same attitude to his own family. “I know Elijah, but I trust him because I know him, not in spite of it.”

For the briefest of moments, that shut everyone up. “Now, would you guys go home and let Ric and I talk?”

Alaric nodded this time. “I think we probably should.”

Damon started to shake his head, his eyes bugging out dangerously, but Stefan sighed. “Don’t do anything stupid Elena.” He turned, reluctantly, but he went and Damon followed after another angry shake of his head.

Elena looked pleadingly at Bonnie for a moment but Bonnie made no move to go. “If you decide to go through with this, Alaric would have to stop taking the herbs I gave him. Abby’s mixture had vervain in it and I don’t know if it would work if I made it without vervain.”

“What are you saying Bonnie?” Elena asked.

“I’m saying, the situation is more complicated than you even thought. We could all be at risk if Alaric lets the darkness back in.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Alaric said, clearly encouraging Bonnie to leave him and Elena alone.

“You better,” she warned him, though her parting comment seemed just as directed at Elena.

Elena and Alaric stood in awkward silence while they listened to the others leaving, and it continued after they were alone. “I’m actually going to go shower this time,” Ric finally said. “Even for me it’s pretty late to still be half dressed. We’ll talk after?”

“Sure,” she said, incredibly grateful he understood her need to organize her thoughts. He probably needed to do the same come to think of it.


Elena was cleaning up the dishes from her and Alaric’s breakfast earlier. She was doing it carefully, aware that it would only take so much as a chipped glass for someone to claim she had been susceptible to Caroline’s compulsion and so her opinion of Elijah and his intentions couldn’t be trusted. It wasn’t like they really trusted her opinion anyway, but she didn’t intend to give them any more reason to doubt her.

She knew Alaric was out of the shower, but he hadn’t come downstairs yet. She wondered what he was thinking, because she had only gotten so far in planning what she’d say to try and convince him. If he didn’t want to see how important this was how could she make him? She couldn’t just let things go on the way they were; she couldn’t have to live with doubting him or watching him doubt himself. He knew what this situation was doing to him as well as she did, so what else did he need to see in order to see what needed to be done.

But beyond that issue, she was also starting to doubt Alaric was the only problem. Right now, her worries about Elijah’s continued commitment to their deal were making themselves known more and more the longer she went without hearing from him. And whatever she felt when it came to Elijah clearly didn’t make him even an ally to anyone else; they still mistrusted him completely. Not without reason she knew, but she could roll with the punches of teaming up with Elijah; no one else would, anything he did that they didn’t like would set them right back to square one...assuming they ever got past it to start with.

She needed to talk to Elijah, see where they stood and what plan he had for how they would proceed; those were the kinds of things they no doubt would have discussed if they actually had spent the night talking rather than screwing. Not that she would trade it, but it complicated things in so many ways.

When her phone finally rang she rushed to retrieve it from the kitchen island, headless of her soapy hands, her heart racing with the thought of talking things through with Elijah. It turned out it was Matt, which calmed her down considerably even if it was a little disappointing; it wasn’t that she didn’t want to talk to Matt, but she needed to discuss matters with Elijah.

“Hey Matt,” she greeted, cradling her phone against her shoulder as she dried her hands.

“Hey, you’re okay then? Caroline called earlier to ask if I’d heard from you; said you were missing?”

“It wasn’t that big a deal,” she said, for what already felt like too many times. “I’m sorry to worry you.”

“You want to talk about it?” Matt asked.

“I’ve been talking about it all morning,” Elena said with a sigh. But she still appreciated that Matt wanted to talk rather than lecture. “And I’m about to have to talk Alaric into something I don’t think he wants to do.”

“Oh, what’s that?”

“I may have found a way to help him out, but I can’t seem to convince anyone to listen to it.”

Matt paused. “Elena, I’m sure he wants this over more than anyone, so you must be asking something pretty big if he’s not going to jump on it.”

“I guess. I mean, I know,” Elena said, fighting another sigh. “I wish things weren’t so bad that I had to ask him to do it.”

“I know,” Matt said sympathetically. “And I’m sure Mr. Saltzman does too, but whatever it is, it’s probably got to be his choice.”

From Bonnie that would have sounded like hidden blame for Jeremy, but Elena didn’t get that feeling from Matt. Matt trusted Alaric would be reasonable, but he trusted her to be reasonable too. He reminded her that she needed to be convincing rather than trying to make the choice for Ric. It wasn’t news to Elena, but she took the reminder as well-intentioned rather than fighting it as she had everyone else’s suggestions.

“I know that I guess, and if he really doesn’t want to I can live with it, so far I just feel like people are saying no because it’s Elijah’s idea.”

“Umm,” Matt stalled. “I thought we were trying to stay away from the Originals?”

“Not you too,” Elena groaned.

“Hey, I’m just saying a few weeks ago you weren’t shedding any tears over this guy, now you’re willing to trust he has some plan for Alaric?”

Elena felt a pang of regret at this reminder, that she had been willing – though not as completely as Matt thought – to see Elijah dead a month ago. She had pushed her regrets to the back of her mind during Esther’s plan and then Stefan and Damon’s, but they had always been there; for now she pushed her regrets about the past away again, but she was very aware she had them. “Yeah, I am,” she answered simply.

“Well, I’d be willing to hear you out if it was me.” Matt’s tone was casual, but Elena heard it a little directed at Damon and Stefan, as if he knew who had made it the hardest for her to make her case with others in the house. “I’d say you could talk to me about it now, but I’m on my lunch break so I don’t have a lot of time.”

“That’s okay, like I said I didn’t really want to talk about it now anyway. I’ll let you know if I need to though.”

Matt didn’t hang up right away, so Elena didn’t either. The silence stretched on a moment longer than was really comfortable, but finally Matt got to what he was thinking about. “I know I’ve said it before, but you’ll let me know if I can do anything right?”

“Yeah,” Elena said quickly, hoping Matt wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it. Focusing on the situation with Alaric and Elijah gave her something to think about besides Jeremy. She could do something about this situation besides feel like the world had fallen apart.

“Okay, I just thought I’d say it. Talk to you later?”

“Yeah,” she repeated and hung up as he did.

There was something wrong when she would rather think about what Matt said about Alaric’s situation that anything else they had talked about. As she went back to the dishes she wondered if she’d been going about the coming argument wrong. Everyone seemed to be focused on the question of if they could trust Elijah, and she’d fallen into the same trap, but the real issue was whether it was worth it to try even if they didn’t fully trust the source. For Elena it was easy, because she did trust Elijah enough, but she could also understand why the others didn’t and still see that they had to try.

Ric was the only family she had, and whatever it took to protect him was a necessary step. Elena would just about trust Rebekah if she had to; not the way she trusted Elijah, or as happily, but she couldn’t ignore a chance to protect someone she loved no matter the source. Admittedly, dealing with someone else she wouldn’t have gotten distracted before getting more details about how they would accomplish it. Now that she wanted and needed those details she didn’t have them, and she wasn’t getting them either.

She dried her hands again when she was finished with the dishes and picked her phone back up. Still no word from Elijah, but she didn’t have to just wait, so she called him. With fewer people, and no vampires, left in the house she didn’t feel quite so nervous about calling him; at least from the perspective of being afraid something would slip out and be overheard. She was still nervous about what he might say, that all this arguing was for nothing because he wasn’t going to keep to their agreement after what had happened with Damon and Stefan that morning. And there were small butterflies just thinking about talking to Elijah again, she wasn’t quite ready to think about that just now though.

But he still didn’t answer. The phone kept ringing until finally the voicemail picked up informing her that she had reached Elijah (he didn’t include a last name) and only a few people had this number so if the caller wasn’t one of them he would not be returning the call so don’t bother leaving a message. Elena only then realized that she had never actually called Elijah even though she’d had his number since the night he saved her from Rebekah. She’d definitely thought about it before, all the times she thought about warning him about the various threats to his life, but she never had.

“Hey, it’s me,” she said once the voicemail beeped. “I hope you’re not still dead; more dead I guess,” she joked lamely. “I hope you’re okay,” her stomach gave a small jump at the idea that he might not be okay, but she couldn’t think about that. “Call me when you can, okay?” Having to leave a message didn’t make her feel any better and it certainly didn’t give her any answers to the questions she needed to ask.

Elena sat down on the couch and let her eyes drift closed as she leaned back into the cushions. She could hear the faint sounds of Alaric still moving around upstairs and the steady hum of the heater, but aside from that it was quiet. The subtle sounds of human habitation were comforting in some ways – Elena had had her fill of living on her own in recent weeks – but they also weren’t enough. What there was kept the house from being silent, but there weren’t the sounds of Jeremy playing his music too loud, of Jenna cursing at her thesis work for the data not fitting together, of Mom organizing things for the next historical society event, of Dad trying to get them all together for a game of Monopoly to pass the snowy day together. Back then Elena would have been on the phone with Bonnie discussing if school would be cancelled tomorrow, or Matt suggesting they all get in his truck and go sledding, or just curled up in the window with her diary and barely aware of all those sounds that had once been part of her everyday life.

Those sounds were all just memories now, and their absence tore at Elena’s heart in this quieter life she had. She ought to be grateful for the quiet, it meant there wasn’t a crisis or a fight to consume her energy, but neither quiet nor noise did much to ease the pain of all she’d lost. The release – in every sense of the word – and...freedom of the night before had given her a brief moment of distance from all that. But that temporary peace was gone now as she tried to collect her thoughts before trying to face anything else about her current world. She didn’t know how to do that, she just kept doing the best she could with what was in front of her. That was all any of them could do she supposed, but it never seemed like enough anymore.

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October 2013

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