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 glad they were able to leave the mansion without having to deal with Klaus again. She was in no mood or condition to get into another confrontation with Klaus; she was focused on walking out under her own power. She could practically feel the vampire blood working through her system and invigorating her body as a whole; but while it gave life to her muscles, most of them still felt weak and uncertain.

She slid into the passenger seat of Elijah’s car and watched his do the same on the driver’s side. She tried to catch his eyes but he didn’t look her way as he started the engine. “Elijah?” she started; it probably wasn’t safe to talk yet, but they badly needed to.

Elijah shook his head, probably confirming that it wasn’t safe yet, but a part of Elena worried he was giving her the brush off. She couldn’t be surprised if he didn’t want to talk about what had just happened, or if any or all of the topics they needed to discuss were pushed aside. But she wasn’t sure she could let this go.

She wasn’t angry with him anymore, she realized as they started down the long driveway. She was upset with everything about the situation – including him – but she knew he had kept it from being much worse. It didn’t make it okay, but she didn’t need to think very hard to know how easily it could have been far, far worse.

A couple turns down the driveway she tried again; “Elijah?” she whispered. The silence between them was too uncomfortable to carry on.

“I know, Elena,” he said softly.

Elena frowned. “Know what?” Even she didn’t know what she was trying to say, not really.

They reached the end of the driveway and he pulled to stop. Surprisingly, he reached into the breast pocket of his coat and pulled out a cell phone – her cell phone she realized as he passed it to her. She took it, her fingers brushing against his as she did.

“You’re free to call in reinforcements if you wish,” he said. At this point it was hard to say if he kept his voice low out of concern they could be overheard or some other reason; he wasn’t exactly being quiet, he just spoke softly.

Elena looked down at the phone in her hand. Now would be the time for Stefan and Damon to come to her rescue, although they would have just gotten themselves hurt going against Klaus. She could go to them now and tell them what had happened, but Damon would put her under lock and key and she had no idea what Stefan would do. She needed to get some distance before she brought them in on what had happened.

She glanced at Elijah who kept his eyes focused forward on the narrow road that wasn’t technically part of Klaus’s driveway but didn’t get much other traffic (the other sparse residences on this edge of town were much more run down, often old homes that may not even be lived in and hadn’t gotten the upkeep they should in decades). He looked withdrawn but not cold anymore, reserved but not detached.

He expected her to leave, probably even run away screaming. He had expected her to regret it before, after this he must expect her to hate them all again. But she didn’t, and she needed him now more than ever. So she slid the phone, still off, into her pocket. “I want you,” she told him.

He stopped short – not suddenly but not waiting – of the stop sign on the highway and looked at her in surprise. “What are you saying, Elena?”

It wasn’t easy to put into words, but she tried. “You and I...” she started slowly, “we talk things through. We negotiate and work through things together. Don’t we?” He nodded slightly; and though his lips didn’t quite smile, the doubt in his eyes receded a little. “That’s what I need right now. Unless Klaus will get suspicious if you don’t come back?”

“I had no intention of returning tonight,” he informed her. “I find that spending too much time around Klaus, especially when he has friends with him, to be quite tiring.”

“Where were you intending to go?” she asked. He had seemed quite surprised that she might want him to stay with her.

“I still have a house in town,” he said nonchalantly.

Of course he did. He had needed a place to stay last spring while they were dealing with the Sun and Moon Ritual, and he was the type to buy a place outright rather than rent for the short time he’d spent in town. “Can we go there?” she asked; she still wasn’t sure about going home.

Elijah brought his hand up and ran it through her hair, pulling her in to kiss him. It started out light and gentle, but as it lingered he deepened the kiss, growing more desperate. Her hands found their way to his shoulder, kneading slightly at his thick coat as she eagerly kissed him back. She definitely responded to the desperation in his kiss, she needed this and maybe so did he.

Elena opened her eyes as he pulled away slowly; his hand lingering lightly at the back of her neck. “That was what I wanted to do when I saw you tonight; I didn’t want this.”

“I know,” she breathed. She did know it; he never wanted to hurt her. She pulled him forward by his shoulder to kiss him again, starting with desperate and needing as her control of her barely-contained emotions was slipping. His practiced control was slipping too, as his fingers trembled lightly as they stroked her skin so very lightly as if he was afraid to break her but needed to touch her. But from his troubled control, she found a small amount of her own returning.

He made her feel safe enough to fall apart, but she wanted to keep it together a little while longer.

“Your place,” she said once she released his lips; her voice was shakier than she’d have liked, but it still came out as a command she expected him to follow.

He didn’t object to taking orders from her in this.


Nothing in Mystic Falls was very far from anything else, except at the edges of town where development was slower or properties larger. But Elijah’s house was about as far as it was possible to get from Klaus’s mansion. It was in one of the newer developments on the far side of town, where the houses were unconventional designs of late 1970s and 80s. The few minutes it took to get there passed in relatively comfortable silence although Elena’s mind was spinning over what would happen once they arrived.

The house Elijah parked at was a compact two story house with a detached garage in the back of the narrow lot. It was painted a utilitarian off-white with dark green trim that looked somewhat weathered, and today there were icicles hanging from several places along the roof. No one would look at this house and consider that its owner had lived here a thousand years before the house was built. Which had, Elena reflected, probably been part of the intent. When he had first come to town, Elijah hadn’t wanted to draw too much attention to himself; although he had become something of an object of discussion in spite of that.

The house was also much closer to Elena’s own than Klaus’s mansion was, which she was sure had also been intentional at the time. She had always suspected that he had stayed close by after he left her on her own to live her life while they waited on Klaus; their first, uneasy alliance had contained a good deal of suspicion that it wouldn’t last.

Their current alliance was just as precarious, so many factors that could pull it apart. And while the bond between them was so much stronger than it had that first time, there was no way of knowing if it was strong enough to face the storm that surrounded them. Not when there was no guarantee anything could survive such chaos.

There were, of course, no lights on in the house as Elijah pulled into the snow covered driveway, but the neighbors’ lit windows and porch lights provided enough light to see the walkway from the driveway to front door. Elena’s feet sank into the untouched snow as she followed Elijah to the door. From the outside the house looked, if not abandoned, at least rarely lived in.

Inside was a somewhat different story, she discovered as she stepped in after Elijah, her stomach twisting a little at this new step into the unknown. The house certainly didn’t have the air of being abandoned since the previous spring. It was clean and, while not exactly warm, noticeably warmer than the night outside. “Shall I go turn the heat up?” Elijah offered, as if reading her mind. He also smiled just a little and coyly, which made the corners of her lips turn up in response.

“Don’t be long about it,” she replied.

Watching someone use vampire speed to handle common household tasks always threw Elena slightly. Especially in these surroundings; in the mansion or the boarding house it was a more natural fit than in normal sized houses where the juxtaposition of the ordinary and the supernatural didn’t quite fit. But Elijah was only gone a few seconds before he returned to the front landing with her, having turned on a few lights and adjusted the thermostat on his quick trip around the main portion of the house.

“Show off,” she teased, stepping forward and sliding her arms around his neck. He looked confused by her actions, but stood still as she leaned in to kiss him. His arms came up to hold her loosely as her lips lingered against his, but beyond that neither of them deepened the kiss, letting this one remain slow and meaningful rather than lustful or needy.

“I thought you wanted to talk?” he asked after their lips separated, his voice slightly breathy and his eyes lingering on her lips.

Her hand went up slightly so she could rub her thumb in small circles through the hair low on the back of his neck. “I’m not sure what I want,” she admitted.

For a moment he seemed to relax into her touch before he returned to other matters. “Are you angry with me?” he asked, finally looking up to meet her eyes.

Elena tilted her head the other way, considering for a moment. “It sounds like you were doing the best you could,” she admitted. She couldn’t quite tell him she wasn’t angry, but she did understand, and she knew he would understand that in her response.

He took a step away from her, back into the living room, and she let her hands slip from holding him even though she suddenly wanted to hold on even more tightly. They needed to talk, and they couldn’t very well have this conversation standing, kissing in the doorway.

He preceded her into the living room at normal speed this time, and gestured for her to take a seat. There were two large chairs with their backs to the fireplace, separated from the couch by coffee table that looked far more breakable than Klaus’s. “I did it for a number of reasons,” he told her, measured tones with just a hint of apology for the truth of it.

Elena could have suspected that, he wouldn’t have just been motivated to protect her, but she hadn’t thought about it until now and hearing it stung more than she would have thought. “I get it,” she said, but didn’t sit down. “But what does Klaus think your reasons are?”

“Believe it or not, I was telling the truth that I think to also be his wisest course of action. That abducting you now would hinder his short term goals and be of no help to his long term plans.” Elena did believe it, Elijah was certainly qualified to base his argument on a person’s own interests.

However, Elena didn’t quite believe the story ended there. “Are you really trying to say Klaus was willing to be reasonable about it?”

“Eventually,” he said ruefully. “He, of course, has his own reasons,” he added.

“Don’t we all?” Elena asked him. That got Elijah to turn back and face her, surprise and understanding competing for dominance of his expression. “You had your reasons, I had mine, so of course Klaus had his. I want to know what he thought yours were, because I don’t think you could just tell him to do things honorably and have him listen.”

“Contrary to what Niklaus said in front of you, he has no trouble believing I have his best interests at heart. I always have; and you could say I still do,” he admitted. “Just not the interests he believes.”

“You think he’s forgotten you tried to kill him?”

Elijah smiled, just slightly, at her as he stepped back towards her. “Whatever my feelings towards Klaus, he knows I will do anything to protect the rest of our family; and it’s not hard to convince him that I think his short term goals are aligned with mine. Allowing him to abduct you would have divided your friends’ attention from finding the final stake, which is the most important element right now.”

Elena started to take her coat off, it would take some time to warm up in here, but she needed something to do. Again, she couldn’t be surprised were his priorities weren’t about her, but...but what? All day she had been dealing with her own life; he’d been in the back of her mind sure, but not the most important thing to her.

She hadn’t realized her hurt feelings were showing until Elijah stepped forward and closer to her and helped her shrug out of her heavy coat. “As far as Klaus knows,” he said, emphasizing the words enough to assure her that it wasn’t necessarily the truth, “any other priorities are a distant second; and most likely believes that to be where my concern for his goals lies.”

Elena stepped out of her coat, leaving it in his hand, she turned back around to face him as he neatly placed her folded coat on the back of one of the chairs. “What should I believe?” she asked softly.

He sighed and briefly closed his eyes before answering. “Almost nothing I let Klaus believe was untrue. Remember what I said this morning, the easiest way to make a lie believable is to keep it as close to the truth as possible. The lie in this case being that your fate mattered little to me.” He looked over at her, looking for her to understand.

For once, understanding what he didn’t say wasn’t going to be enough for her. She understood his meaning clearly enough, but given that they were talking about letting people believe things they didn’t actually say, she needed him to say it. “Does it?”

For a moment he looked surprised that she would ask, but then seemed to understand why she had to and his expression relaxed into a slight smile, as he stepped towards her again. “A great deal,” he said, his low and meaningful. He reached out towards her and, after a moment of indecision, laid a hand on her arm. “I trust you could say the same?”

She nodded eagerly. “What? Me screaming at them to stop and my various messages to call me back and let me know you were okay didn’t convince you I cared?” She tried to make a joke of it, but it came out sounding a little angry at being asked.

Still, he gave her a small smile and nodded his understanding along with a light squeeze on her arm. But when her expression grew serious, his matched it. “They wouldn’t listen to me. Elijah. And if I told them the truth it wouldn’t help, it would just make it worse; they wouldn’t even hear me anymore.”

He gently pulled her into another embrace. For a long moment he just held her as she grappled with that element of her life. “They’re not the only ones,” he finally said. No asking her to consider what that meant about her relationship with them, no telling her she should pick him over those who wouldn’t listen; just moving forward, that they weren’t their only problem.

“I kind of knew we weren’t just keeping secrets for the sake of people on my side,” she agreed, bemused but not quite able to smile about it.

“Certainly not. Klaus doesn’t imagine I would care about you, and it’s for the best that it remains that way. He would be suspicious of my intentions and even more dismissive of my wishes than he already is, as he would surely have no respect for our alliance.”

Elena thought again about their past with Katherine; Elijah had cared about Katherine back then but that hadn’t meant anything to Klaus. And in the end, Elijah had cared about Klaus’s wishes more than his own. As if Elena needed more reasons to watch her step in dealing with this family.

She should walk away, that would be the smart thing to do. She could tell him she wasn’t prepared to deal with whatever this was on top of everything else; and that wouldn’t exactly be a lie. It didn’t mean she regretted it or was even deciding against him, she just couldn’t complicate things for now; because what she was already dealing with was clearly more than she could handle and definitely more than she should have to.

Elena knew that was the practical choice, but it wasn’t hers. It was another weight to carry, but she felt strong enough for it as she held him close and drew strength from his solid presence. If one day she did decide against him and went back to Stefan or Damon, she would have to tell them about this (which would probably mean not getting back together with them at that point); but that didn’t really concern her right now.

“I could use a drink,” she eventually muttered into his shoulder.

“Of course,” he replied.

As he stepped back from her again, Elena regretted saying anything that separated them. For now she followed him back into the kitchen and tried to collect herself as he filled a glass of water for each of them – surprisingly the cups were nothing fancy, just plain clear glass. “Do you have anything stronger?” she asked as she took the one he offered her; her fingers lingered slightly against his as the glass passed between them.

“I don’t think that would be wise. You’ve had enough of my blood to recover from what Klaus took, but your body needs time to truly heal.”

Elena frowned but took a drink of water; she had mostly been ignoring it, but she was glad to rinse the taste of blood out of her mouth. He was probably right about recovering from massive blood loss, but the same event caused her to want a real drink. “I feel...” she started to say she felt fine but the last word caught in her throat. “I’m not that bad.” She took another big drink from her glass, and then another before she passed the empty cup back to Elijah. This time his finger brushed against her hand and he gave her an understanding look before crossing back to the sink to refill the glass. “You owe me a real drink at some point though,” she said more lightly.

“Just say the word,” he replied. “Did you want anything else to eat?”

The mention of food made Elena’s stomach turn so she shook her head. “Do you even have anything?” she asked. “How long has it been since you were here?”

“I’ve been by a few times since Damon undaggered me,” he said; he said it casually but to Elena it seemed a little forced.

“As in?”

“I needed fresh clothing at first. And at times I needed space, I doubt it will surprise you that all of us living together was a bit of a trial.”

“And at times you made us all think you were leaving?” she prompted.

“I needed space,” he repeated, and she knew she was included in the people he had needed space from after Esther’s ritual had failed. “It didn’t take long to realize this town was too small to actually find any.”

“I could have told you that,” Elena said bitterly.

“I’ve no doubt you could,” he said, ushering her back out of the kitchen. “But I presumed you would have just told me to get lost.”

Elena chuckled slightly. “You’re probably right,” she admitted without any real humor. Until last night she hadn’t given a lot of thought to what she thought of him, had in fact tried not to do much thinking about him. “So if you weren’t around,” she changed the subject as she sat down on the sofa, “how did you know what was up with Alaric?”

Elijah turned away as he sat down next to her, leaving room for at least a skinny person between them. “Klaus did inform me of some things.”

Elena tensed, knowing what he was getting at. “But not about Jeremy?” she asked awkwardly.

“No,” he admitted, but didn’t look at her.

“Elijah?” she prompted him. There was clearly something he wasn’t saying but felt was important.

He shook his head. “Klaus told me about the difficulties he was having here, including what was going on with Mr. Saltzman. Perhaps if I had paid more attention I would have realized just how frustrated he had become.”

“It’s not your fault,” she assured him, feeling a familiar pang that it was more than likely hers, and this wasn’t helping. “Don’t tell Alaric that part though. He doesn’t need to blame himself for anything else.” At his uncertain look she added, “As much as Klaus keeps on us for the stake, Jeremy’s death was about Finn wasn’t it?”

“Primarily,” Elijah admitted.

“So don’t make Alaric think it’s about him. I’m doing this to help him, remember.”

“Tapping into his guilt may be a way to access the damaged portions of his psyche.”

“No,” she interrupted him, shocking him into falling silent. “He’s the closest thing to family I have left Elijah, and I won’t let you hurt him.”

“Well there goes my intention to torture it out of him.” Elena couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, not that she would have liked the joke if it was one; Stefan and Damon had floated the idea once or twice, but she had been confidant neither of them would go through with it and they certainly hadn’t yet.

“Hell no,” she said defiantly.

In the moment of silence following that, she wondered how many people had ever defied him so bluntly and lived to tell about it, but for now there was no danger in his surprised expression.

“At most, I would consider it as a last resort,” he said to break the stand-off.

Elena shook her head. “No,” she said yet again.

“Elena I have no wish to harm Alaric,” he insisted, “but I can’t promise that this will be an easy process.”

She still looked hard at him, but this time he settled in to wait her out. “What happened to neatly?” she asked after another moment; thankfully her voice was still steely rather than frightened.

“We will proceed as neatly as possible, but it may not be enough.”

Elena clenched her jaw a few times, and then found it hard to swallow past the slight lump in her throat. She reached for her glass of water when she realized she could still taste blood when she was paying attention. “So tell me what you’re going to do,” she said, sounding much calmer than she felt.

“I won’t know the answer to that until I know the extent of the damage to his mind.”

Elena pursed her lips; it was a reasonable allowance, but it wasn’t really an answer. “Then take a guess.”

“As we discussed before,” he started slowly, “compulsion will be important. I will need to access the areas of his mind that his conscious mind suppresses.”

“Are you going to have to let bad-Ric out?”

He looked slightly amused by the shorthand they used to discuss the damaged parts of Ric, but picked up on her meaning easily enough not to have to ask. “It would not be ideal, but may prove necessary. If I can get him to consciously access his subconscious memories I’m sure he would be more cooperative than ‘bad-Ric’ as you put it.”

Elena nodded; finally there was an answer she liked, as much as she could like the idea of any of what they were doing. It was necessary, but she had limits on how much was necessary. “And assuming Damon doesn’t dose him with vervain, how long do you think this’ll take?”

“A few days,” he said noncommittally. “Obviously I can’t say anything for certain now, but if we haven’t made significant progress in a week we may have to consider other options.”

He couldn’t be surprised that she was a lot less able to agree to that. “I’m not going to agree to those kinds of things any more next week,” she told him, her voice low and level.

“I do hope it doesn’t become necessary,” he repeated.

“I know,” she nodded. “But as much as I want to find the stake too, you need to know that Alaric is my priority.”

He nodded too. “I know. And while I respect that, it’s not only up to you. Alaric is allowed to say how far he is prepared to go in this.”

“I know that,” Elena said, a little defensively. “And I guess if somehow Alaric would agree to something like that...” she trailed off, even as a hypothetical situation she couldn’t make it sound acceptable. So she shook her head again. “If everything else goes badly, and if he agrees we can talk about it, as long as you don’t compel him into agreeing.” Even that felt like she was giving up more than she wanted to; even that felt like she was putting Ric at too much risk of having to agree later. She’d already pushed him into this first deal, and she didn’t want to have to push further.

Elijah actually smiled at her, a fond and agreeable smile; he really did like it that she talked back to him and made deals. “You always drive a hard bargain,” he said his tone amused but enough shy of being mocking that she knew the difference. “But as I can usually trust you to see reason, I think we can leave this discussion for another time if it becomes necessary.”

That made Elena nervous, and she wasn’t sure why. He wasn’t asking her to agree to anything now, he understood her concerns, and he didn’t seem eager to jump to that level of force; both of them hoped the issue would never have to come up again; but there was no way to know, and just as she may end up pressing Ric to agree to something he wouldn’t have agreed to on his own, Elijah had given her a lot of ground so far and may expect that to make her willing to ‘see reason’ in the future.

She suddenly felt more than a little fidgety and stood up to pace the width of the room. She quickly knew she wasn’t even all that upset with him for bringing it up. She was a little nervous that he might push the issue later, but the worst part was the realization that he was right. She could see a situation where it had to be done, even if she wasn’t sure she could see herself agreeing to go through with it.

She couldn’t let anything happen to anyone else she loved, but she just might end up doing it.

She stopped pacing and looked back at Elijah, and he was still sitting relaxed while she worked to control her rising anger. Her breathing was ragged, and whatever the actual temperature was in here now she felt flushed. She ran her hands across her face and pushed back her hair, leaving her hands gripping it there. “And then what?” she asked. “Let’s say just compulsion works; when you have the stake and Alaric is just himself again, what comes next?”

Elijah leaned forward, resting his arms atop his legs as he clearly had to think about the answer. Elena had expected him to have a ready answer, Elijah always had answers in her experience, but he didn’t now. “I don’t know yet,” he admitted, as if it hadn’t already been obvious to Elena before he spoke.

Elena nodded and leaned against one of the large chairs. “Since when do you not have all the answers?” she teased. In a way it scared her that he didn’t have all the moves planned out, but she appreciated his honesty.

“Between your friends and my brother I haven’t had much time to further any plan today,” he reminded her.

He said it lightly enough that she didn’t think it had been meant as a blow but the reminder felt like one. “And Bonnie thought you must already have everything planned out.”

“You should know better than that,” he said as he stood up and strode to stand with her again.

She had opened her mouth to reply – though without a fully formed thought what that reply would be – when her mind caught up with his meaning. None of this was part of any plan; there was no way a plan would have had them standing here right now. They were making this up as they went along, planning together. “I do,” she said as she reached up to stroke his cheek. “I guess the difference is if this messed up your plans or helped you find them.”

He studied her for a moment before stepping back from her touch. “Sit?” he offered gesturing to the chair rather than back to the couch.

“What is it?” she asked, not sitting down yet.

“The answer to your question, or perhaps Bonnie’s question,” he said as he sat down in the other chair, “is more complicated than a simple yes or no.”

Elena sighed, but sat down. “I should be used to that with you.”

He nodded before elaborating. “I had considered that steps like this might be necessary to protect my family. As I said, I knew Alaric was the key, and I was not the first or only one in my family to realize you and your friends may not be able to sort this out. Kol in particular has said we should take matters into our own hands.”

“ didn’t,” she said slowly, prompting him to go on. If he was expecting this to shock or upset her so far, it wasn’t; she knew the Original family well enough by now that she’d expected threats far sooner. The problem was that they skipped over threats and Klaus just went ahead and started killing.

“No, clearly. So you, or Bonnie, were not wrong to assume this was not the first time this course of action has occurred to me. And, with full honesty, it wasn’t a completely spontaneous suggestion this morning when I suggested we work together towards this goal.”

Elena pursed her lips. For the moment the pieces weren’t fitting together anymore; was he trying to say this whole thing had been about renewing their relationship so that they could work together again; and the only surprise was that their relationship was now much more complicated? But that didn’t fit with the way he had approached her, the answers he’d demanded from her, or the fact that he was even now being very direct about it not having been his goal. “How not spontaneous?” she asked.

He shrugged. “It didn’t bring me to your room last night; but I had time to think while you slept last night and I realized that if we were allies again it could be more than friends or with benefits.”

Elena cocked her head at him, a smile slowly growing on her lips until she started laughing. “And you had just enough time to think about it to assume I would fight you on it,” she said, somewhere between a question and a statement.

He smiled a little in response to her laughter. “I couldn’t be certain you would want to discuss anything once you woke up; and even if you did I wasn’t sure you’d be interested in any kind of partnership.”

Elena continued chuckling a moment before she surprised him further by getting up long enough to sit down on his lap. He was just recovering from that surprise as she pulled his head towards her so she could kiss him again; he recovered from that one more quickly as his arms encircled her body and he kissed her back. This wasn’t nearly as restrained as their earlier, almost chaste kiss; this time their bodies melded around each other’s as they held tightly to each other; her hands in his hair, his at her waist while their mouths pressed together eagerly.

“Don’t ever stop treating me as your partner,” she said breathily after she stopped kissing him. “We were allies first, and if we were nothing else I’d hope we were still that.” They hadn’t been for a while, but it was the thing she had known she missed most when she thought they couldn’t even be that anymore, and what she never wanted to lose again. “And partners is better than allies.”

She was pretty sure she didn’t want to lose any of this, but she wasn’t going to commit to that even if her own mind for now. She didn’t want to lead him on when so far neither of them could really think about what this meant beyond the immediate future.

He brought his outside hand slowly up to cup her cheek, clearly anxious for her reaction until she leaned further into his touch. “Partners is better,” he agreed.

They sat in easy silence for a moment before she brought a hand around to play with his tie. “As your partner,” she teased, “is there anything else you want to tell me about what you’re planning?”

His hand came down to stop hers. “Why Elena, are you attempting to flirt with me for information?” His tone was light and flirtatious, even more than Elena’s own, but she wasn’t sure there wasn’t a little accusation in it too.

“Well,” she said slowly, leaning forward to rest her forehead against his and slowly starting to rub her leg along his, “I’d say I’m more than flirting with you and I am still looking for some answers; if you want to combine the two...” she smiled and shrugged by way of finishing that thought. At the surprised glint in his eye, so close to hers right now, Elena almost started laughing again before she leaned in and gave him a quick kiss. “Don’t worry Elijah, I’m not seducing you for information.”

She said it with a mixture of reassurance and teasing and he smiled slightly, accepting both before his hand left hers and returned to her back. “Good, because I would hate to think you thought you had to.” His tone carried weight and the promise that she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to.

Elena leaned back slightly and stroked her hand down the length of his tie, which caused him to swallow hard. She smiled coyly at him, well aware what she was doing. “We can deal with that later,” she told him.

He smiled and nodded slightly. “If that’s what you want,” he said softly.

“I’m not trying to seduce you for information, I’m just trying to seduce you,” she joked as she started to undo the buttons of his shirt.

Apparently he had decided against the undershirt when he redressed during the afternoon and she smiled more as her hand met the skin of his stomach and chest as she worked her way up his shirt. His eyes dropped to follow the progress of her hand as he sucked in a raspy breath. “I like you with fewer layers,” she continued. Her hand reached the center of his chest, where she could remember a wooden stake lodged there so recently; she brushed his shirt and tie aside and bent low to kiss him there. She didn’t say anything about it, she was getting tired of talking, but she quietly apologized again for what the others had done to him.

After that lingered for a long moment, his hands trailed up her back; one reversed direction part way up and the other came back to her head to guide her back to kissing his waiting mouth; letting her know he understood her and that all was forgiven. That hand then moved down her arm, coming to rest in the crook of her elbow where Klaus had drawn her blood from; his thumb massaging lightly at the now-healed puncture of her skin.

Elena squeezed her eyes closed against a sudden rush of emotional tears. Elijah’s touch was nothing like Klaus’s, so understanding and undemanding; he asked forgiveness crimes she didn’t accuse him of committing. And she knew that was why he’d been so careful about touching her until now, in case Klaus’s touch had soured his. So she kissed him back, deepening the kiss he had initiated as she continued to run her hand across his chest.

They were both breathing heavily as their lips eventually separated. When he saw the moisture still in her eyes, his own turned questioning. “We’re okay,” she assured him. She may not be (he may not be either, he was pretty shaken by everything that had happened), but they were.

Which meant there was a they, an us, a we to be concerned with. That thought just barely registered right now and she pushed thinking about the implications of it out for now, but later she would have to deal with what it meant. “Can we stop worrying about all that other stuff for a while?” she asked him. It wasn’t as desperate as her desire to forget last night had been, but she was more than ready to stop having to think about what had happened, or what was going to happen, for a while and just be here with Elijah.

His seductive smile spread across his lips again but his eyes were gentler and warmer. “Shall we go upstairs then?”

Elena knew if she said yes he’d have her upstairs, on her back, in his bed before she could form another thought. Not that that didn’t sound like a perfectly good idea, but she had a better one. So instead she smiled down at him, her own smile a mix of seductive and teasing. “Don’t be so impatient, Elijah,” she said before kissing him again.

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October 2013

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