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 hadn’t entirely nodded off, though her mind had drifted towards sleep; not for very long, but enough that Alaric’s heavy footfalls on the stairs jolted her fully awake again. She sat up in time to see him set a suitcase down by the front door. “Alaric?” she asked, uncertain what was going on.

He walked into the living room to join her, motioning her to remain seated when she started to stand up. He sat down opposite her, but refused to meet her eyes. “I’ll do it,” he said flatly.

“You will?” she asked, sitting up a little straighter to hear what he had to say. “You don’t want to talk about it?”

“I’m not saying I’m happy about it. Whatever it is that makes you trust the guy, I don’t have it.” It was fortunate he wasn’t really looking at her to see the surprised (and slightly guilty) look that crossed over her features. “My instincts are to say no and not even discuss it, but my instincts aren’t the best right now.”

“Ric...” she started, but had no way to comfort him.

“Can you be sure?” he asked. He looked up and met her gaze forcefully before reprising, “Why are you so quick to trust him?”

“Because I have to,” she said, and that was no lie. “Because I need you; and even though you’re trying to protect me from the truth I know how hard you have to fight it now. Do you think I don’t know why you and Damon drink so much at night, or that he hides your phone and keys before he leaves? That I didn’t realize when you made me promise to lock my door that you really don’t think you can trust yourself?”

“I can’t,” he admitted. “I don’t.”

She reached out and took Ric’s hands between hers. “I haven’t given up on you. But I know...what I guess you must have realized; that what we’re doing isn’t enough for you to really feel in control again, and until you do it’s going to control you.”

Ric gave a huff of mirthless laughter. “Actually I just realized it would be pretty hypocritical of my dark side to judge me for doing what I had to to stop a murderer.”

Elena laughed along with him with slightly more humor, though no actual amusement at the idea. But even that only lasted a moment before she continued seriously. “I’ll be there with you every step of the way; if you change your mind and need to talk about it, I’ll listen. I promise I’ll-”

“Actually Elena, I think it’ll be better if you don’t promise that. Because I may not remember what I do when the darkness takes over, but I’m pretty sure that part of me knows and will remember that to try and make you stop, or hurt you with what you’re saying.”

“I’m not just going to let you face this alone,” she told him, shocked that he would even suggest such a thing.

“I’m sure you’ll be there,” he said with a nod and even a slight smile. “But don’t make promises you may have to break.”

The sounded to Elena like a backhanded reference to Elijah, but that may be because she was so familiar with Elijah’s promises, and either way she chose not to address it. “I won’t lose you too, Ric;” – that was a promise.

He nodded and seemed to accept it fully as they sat in silence for a long moment. Finally he sighed heavily and pulled his hands out of her grip. “But you’re going to have to let me go for now, it’s better if I lock myself in the guys’ basement until your new friend can get to work on me.”

Elena nodded her reluctant acceptance, and her eyes glanced at her phone – had she been out enough to miss a call or message of some kind? “Hopefully they didn’t ruin your chances,” she said with a grimace.

Ric nodded towards her phone. “Probably a good thing to know before I blow Damon’s mind. Until we know something, do you want help with what the sheriff was talking about? Arrangements for Jeremy?”

Elena blanched, and recoiled mentally and physically from the idea. “Please,” she said by way of answer. She couldn’t handle that on her own, and she’d much rather have Alaric’s help than Stefan or Damon’s. So far today their help had only made things worse (not that it was the first time).

~~~

For the next few hours Elena and Alaric were constantly on the phone, sometimes at the same time but usually one of them offering support to the one doing the talking. Stu and Jessica Markus, friends of the Gilberts since Grayson and Jess were in med school, were still reeling from Jeremy’s death while he was in their care, but were willing to handle what needed to be handled in Denver – though most things were still going to require Elena to authorize them to make decision on her behalf.

Together they decided to cremate Jeremy’s body, it had already been a week since his death and the “animal attack” had left little enough of his body recognizable that there was no reason to ship what remained back to Mystic Falls to be buried. (And, away from the Markus’, Elena and Alaric could admit that Jeremy would probably have preferred it.) It was hard to accept, Elena wanted the chance to say goodbye, but there wasn’t anything of Jeremy left either way; she knew that, but it still hurt.

The calls to Denver finished for now, they had to handle arrangements in town. Ric suggested that the school might want to have a memorial service, and that would serve for the few non-students who would want to attend. Elena let him handle that part of things and went to call Elijah again, now officially worried something was wrong – surely it couldn’t take this long for him to heal. The last thing she needed was for something else to go wrong today, and she could really use some good news that they were still on track to help Ric (and preferably that she could tell Stefan and Damon that Elijah wasn’t going to retaliate against them, it was better for all of them if it was dropped here).

Elena’s room felt stiflingly hot now; it was still cold and occasionally snowing outside, but the heater had more the compensated for her leaving the window open the night before. This was just the sort of day that used to make her glad her room got so warm, as she could curl up comfortably and waste the winter day away, but she couldn’t enjoy it now and it even felt a little suffocating with so much else going on. Maybe later she’d crack the window open again, but right now she wouldn’t need to worry about it for too long; once Alaric had made arrangements for the memorial she would have to help with the next round of calls to tell people about it. The paper, the school bulletin, and the Council announcements should suffice to get the word out to people in Mystic Falls; but they had other friends and some more removed family who should be told, some of who probably hadn’t even heard about Jeremy’s death yet.

She was not looking forward to those calls. Jenna and John had managed most things after her parents’ accident, and she’d been out of it enough not to have to think about it much. She’d had to make those calls when it came to Jenna and John’s deaths though, almost as full of lies as this round would be except that last time it was weeks after it had actually happened before they could fake a story. The distance hadn’t made it much easier, or at least she hadn’t thought so until now; now the wound was all too fresh to think about without a wave of revulsion welling up inside her.

For now she needed to call Elijah, and she needed to focus on that rather than the steps she couldn’t control. Working with Elijah was something she could do, something that could help make them all safer in the long run; and it help all the more that she felt safer just having Elijah in this with her. She didn’t want to think about losing all that if Stefan and Damon had ruined things with Elijah, but she kept worrying about the ways it could slip away from her. Hopefully the worst damage had been to Elijah’s clothes and a little to his pride (and further damage to her relationships with Stefan and Damon) but she had no way of knowing that until he would talk to her again.

Elena sat down on her window seat where the seeping cold temperature from outside balanced out the nearly oppressive heat inside, and called Elijah. She still hadn’t had a chance to think clearly about the question of them outside of their alliance, but within the alliance she needed to tell him about Ric coming around which should encourage Elijah to get in contact as soon as he could.

It turned out she didn’t have to leave another message about wanting him to call her back, as he answered on the third ring this time. “Elena,” he greeted her, his tone sounding professional rather than familiar, but in truth it was hard to tell with Elijah – especially over the distance of the phone. Even with that, a small piece of her nerves relaxed; he was okay, he was still speaking to her, they still had a chance.

“Hey, how are you doing?” she asked.

“Better than I was half an hour ago,” he replied, sounding a little more relaxed already too. “How was the rest of your day?”

She fought the urge to sigh, but leaned a little more into the cool glass of her window. “Let’s just say I don’t need a reminder why we’re not telling anyone everything.”

“Considering what I saw this morning, I can’t say I’m surprised,” he said. “And I take it from your response that we may speak freely?”

“Yes. But...” she paused as she reconsidered, “we should probably talk about a few other things before we speak too freely.”

“Understood.” It was really hard to tell if he sounded disappointed by that or not. Mentally she decided that some topics could wait until they met in person again because it would surely go better if they could discuss matters face to face.

“I am glad you’re okay,” she assured him. “And assuming the offer stands, Alaric’s on board.”

“That was easier than I expected.”

“He’s not happy about it, but he’s not happy that he’s been killing people either.” She shuddered lightly, and not from the touch of cold glass. “I think we both need to know more about how you’re going to help him.”

Elijah was quiet for a moment before answering. “It won’t be easy,” he said heavily. “And it would take some time to explain. Perhaps it would be better to meet tomorrow and discuss matters at length.”

Elena looked out at the darkening leaden sky, the sun descending behind the clouds. It was nearly the dead of winter and the nights were long so there was still time today, but after everything that had already happened he was probably right to leave it another several hours. Still... “Unless you want to come over tonight, we need to talk about other things too.”

There was an even longer pause this time. “Elijah?” she eventually prompted.

“I would very much like to continue our private discussions,” he said, “but I suspect your friends intend to have you under lock and key tonight.”

She blushed a little, and was actually glad they weren’t together at the moment; it was embarrassing that she got flushed just thinking about more private discussions with Elijah. Not that that was what she had meant when she invited him over, at least not all she had meant, but she definitely wasn’t against continuing their intimate activities. Caroline would have gone for the bondage joke in that too, but Elena let it go. “I don’t think Bonnie trapped me in the house this time-” (not that trapping her in kept him out, which was probably why Bonnie didn’t bother) “-and the guys should worry more about keeping an eye on Alaric than me.” It didn’t mean they would, but she could hope. “And I want to see you.”

“And I you,” he replied softly.

“Then we will, somehow.” He wasn’t wrong that it might be difficult after last night to get a repeat chance, but if they put their minds to it they’d manage it.

“Is there anything else we need to discuss now? Anything that will keep things settled with the others until tomorrow?”

Elena bit the inside of her cheek. It was better to say it now, she supposed. “Elijah...don’t hurt them. I wish I could convince them it was wrong, but they have such tunnel-vision when it comes to protecting me that they won’t see it. They’ll come around, but you can’t try and teach them anything.”

He didn’t respond right away, and she let this silence linger. It wasn’t comfortable, but she figured it was necessary. Finally he responded, “I’ll do it. I knew that for this cycle to end, someone would have to be the first to break it, and I suppose it will have to be me.”

Elena smiled with relief and appreciation. “Thank you.” This was why she always found a way to trust him, because he could be reasonable and respectful, and he always took her seriously. She hoped that whatever else they may be that would stay, it was one his best qualities.

“Then if I don’t hear from you yet tonight, we’ll arrange a meeting tomorrow.”

“I want to see you,” she repeated meaningfully. “I’ll let you know either way.”

“I’ll speak to you later,” he said, careful as always when ‘later’ could mean later that night or the next day.

Elena wondered why he was so unwilling to take her at her word on this, but figured that too would make a better topic to discuss in person. “I’ll see you soon.”

He didn’t linger on the line, and hung up once their goodbyes were said; leaving Elena again alone with her thoughts. There was only so much a phone call like that could do for her state of mind, but it had calmed some of her worries; and it had helped her feel a little less alone. Now, if only she could ensure they would be able continue things later on. If Damon ruined things for them again, Elijah might prove to be the more forgiving party.

~~~

Elena brought Ric up to speed on the parts of her talk with Elijah that he needed to know about. He didn’t look as relieved as Elena felt to know the deal was still on, but then she hadn’t expected him to. When she pointed it out though, he admitted a part of him had been hoping to be let off the hook. “I know I can’t back out, but I wouldn’t be hurt if it just didn’t work out.”

“It’s going to work,” she assured him. He nodded, probably reassuring himself of that as much as she was reminding herself to believe it.

Elena cut then each a slice of sympathy peach pie before he went over to the boarding house to wait out what was coming. “Do you want me to come with you?” she offered; it would mean not meeting with Elijah, but she would cancel for Ric’s sake if he wanted her there.

“Aren’t you trying to put some distance between you and the vampire brothers?” he asked between bites of pie.

Elena blinked at him in surprise. Had she been doing that? She supposed she had, but she only tried because of how little space they wanted to give her; when Ric said it, it sounded more like she was pulling away from them. But then, wasn’t she doing that too? If she hadn’t been before, continuing things with Elijah probably meant she wasn’t looking to return to either of them very soon. She stabbed at a large peach piece and smeared it around her plate to pick up crust bits. “What makes you say that?”

He finished chewing before responding. “I wasn’t saying anything, but you don’t want to let them help out, you’re trying to keep them out of here more and more of the time and you don’t exactly spend a lot of time with them when they are here. I didn’t say anything because I figured you were just dealing with stuff in your way; but today made me realize that you’re mainly just that way with them.”

“What are you saying?” she asked carefully, not sure where this was going. “How is today any different?”

He shrugged. “I guess...you’re fighting with them over Elijah; you spent time talking to Elijah and I can’t remember the last time you actually talked to one of them.”

“Are you making this about Elijah?” she asked as if she was surprised. She was surprised, but it was because Ric wasn’t wrong and hearing it laid out like that was uncomfortable for her.

“Maybe.” He paused and shook his head. “Not exactly. Really, are they being that big a jackasses and I’ve been too wrapped up in myself to notice?”

Elena shook her head a little, relieved to be off the topic of Elijah even though the topic at hand wasn’t much better. “I know they’re trying to help,” she said. Even as she said it she knew it was a weak defense and Alaric’s raised eyebrow asked if she had anything better to add.

She didn’t, and she found she didn’t want to talk about it right now either. In a lot of ways they weren’t being any worse than usual, and it just felt more stifling because she was dealing with so much more than them. She still loved them (didn’t she?) but she couldn’t handle them right now.

“Anyway, what I’m saying is you don’t have to come if you don’t want to,” Alaric finally let her off the hook by saying. “And I’m guessing you don’t want them over here either.”

Elena let her fork drop to her plate and reached out for Ric’s hands again. “I’d go with you if you want me there,” she promised him.

“And I’m glad, but it’s not going to be that interesting. Only come along if you don’t want to be on your own.”

There was that factor, living on her own while Ric had been recovering before had been bad enough, and she didn’t long to return to that situation. However, she wasn’t actually going to be on her own tonight either way; so that wasn’t a worry right now. “You call and let me know if you change your mind. But,” she paused for a deep breath before continuing, “if you can keep them from hovering tonight, I’d like that.”

Alaric nodded and focused on finishing his pie and Elena returned to hers. When they’d finished Elena cleared the kitchen island again while Ric stayed in place, still pondering his future obviously. “It’s going to work out,” she told him again as she hugged him tight.

She could make herself believe that much, but there were still plenty of reasons she said that rather than something like ‘It’ll be alright.’

~~~

It was dark out by the time Ric left the house, and the wind had started to pick up again but at least the snow had stopped for now. Elena stood outside on the porch until he was safely down the street and then ducked back in the house.

She shouldn’t call Elijah right away, she ought to wait and see if Ric actually could keep either of the Salvatores from coming to stay with her. But it didn’t take long to realize the last place she wanted to be was alone in her own house; in fact she wasn’t sure she wanted to be here at all. If Elijah didn’t want to meet she was definitely going to end up changing her mind about staying home; and even if he did (she hoped he did) she’d rather go somewhere else than have him meet her here.

Being with him didn’t feel wrong, yet thinking about him in her house was starting to. She didn’t want to enjoy having this house to herself; if she did then it was like she accepted all the loss that had happened to put her in that state. Logically it was foolish, but she couldn’t just act like that yet.

Hadn’t there been a time when she and Matt had raced to enjoy any alone time they could get? It hadn’t always been for coupley stuff, sometimes they just wanted to have some time to just be; without her parents or their siblings around to butt in. It had happened, she could remember it happening, but it felt like it had happened lifetimes ago. (Their siblings and her parents’ lifetimes ago.)

She waited a long hour before she headed upstairs to retrieve her phone. So far it looked like she was in the clear to spend the night how she wanted to. There was no way to be sure if it would last, but she knew what she wanted, or at least who she wanted; and she couldn’t let just the possibility of interference stop her. There was no reason they couldn’t have more time together at the mansion, preferably this time without the yelling first; but whether or not it ended the way the night before had she wanted to spend the time with him.

Halfway up the stairs, a knock at the door interrupted her thoughts. She sighed as she turned around; that took the decision away from her. Someone had been sent to babysit her, to make sure she didn’t do anything they thought she shouldn’t (like what she had been planning on doing). Naturally they would claim it was for her protection, but they were trying to protect her from someone she didn’t need protecting from.

She spun the lock off and opened the door expecting to find Stefan or Damon, or possibly Bonnie and Caroline, or maybe even Elijah not having waited for her to call. Any and all of those options would have been better than what she actually found waiting on her front porch.

Klaus.

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October 2013

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