A/N: Still AU. Thank you to BrownieStick and monygrl for second-chapter input. Thanks to those of you who implored me for a second chapter and for the lovely reviews. Still liberties; pairing will be cleared up.

Elijah's welcoming and generous. He offers a variety of clothes that are from the attic, old stuff from some years ago. They're well-made and clean and it doesn't matter that they're five years out of style, because they're new (to them; they haven't got anything of their own now) and comfortable.

She shoves aside the blues and greys, selects a pale green sundress and throws her borrowed clothes aside.

He's not quite so lucky, and settles for a white shirt and black trousers. It's utterly drab, and he's grateful for the pretty green she gets to wear. It makes a nice change of pace from the monochrome.

The housekeeper has instructions to throw away the old clothes. Elijah gives Elena a credit card and tells her wryly (no doubt remembering his sister) not to do too much damage.

She smiles slightly and kisses his cheek, flits out of the house.

0o0o0o0

Enzo's more sedate.

The store they find themselves in is enormous and he fidgets with the sleeves, trying to make eye contact with no-one. She decides the menswear will be quicker and so they head to the elevator. He sits back, is brought coffee, while she peruses the racks and chats about how her boyfriend just doesn't know fashion.

It amazes him how she can put such a normal spin on their situation.

She isn't happy, he knows this, but she's putting up such a good front. His purchases are paid for and they head to the womens' floor, prepared to do battle.

It's surprisingly quick and painless. She piles dresses into her arms, snags some shorts and tank-tops and rejects things with one-word answers. Finding fault in clothes is easy for her, it seems, and he wonders if the ancestor has anything to do with that. "It's too Katherine" is a commonly-used reason for rejecting something, and he decides that whomever she is, looking like Katherine is not desirable.

Bags in hand, they leave for coffee.

0o0o0o0

"You're not happy," he accuses her.

Despite the accusation in his tone, she's unruffled.

He drains his coffee while she mulls over his words, thinking about her reply. It's a sign of how well he's come to know her that he knows she's thinking intensely when she begins twisting her hair onto the back of her neck.

"We are what we pretend to be," she answers at last, and he gets the sense that there's something more to her reply, something that she's leaving off. As is custom, he doesn't press her for further details – if she wanted to give them she would – and she swirls the dregs of her latte, evidently thinking on whether or not she wants to elaborate. It seems that she doesn't though, and so she shrugs, runs a hand through the hair that's just fallen loose, and drops some money on the table.

They leave the café and return to Elijah's.

It's hard to think of it as home, after all.

0o0o0o0

She drops the card on the desk and he raises an eyebrow. The bags they have are few, and he should've realized that she wouldn't just take money. This is them getting the essentials, because they don't intend to stick around too long.

"We don't want to stay in one place," Enzo tells him, and he's not sure if he should feel insulted.

Elena shrugs at him and smiles prettily, modelling a purple dress in the hallway. Over the past few days he's noticed that she shrugs a lot, talks less and considers her every action as if she's trying not to bring down a house of cards.

They converse silently and she frowns, turning away and shutting her bedroom door.

The grinding of Enzo's teeth becomes audible and Elijah starts to join the dots.

0o0o0o0

"Not for too long anyway," she comments randomly.

Enzo's agreement is silent; they still don't talk about the recent events that have brought them here.

He puts the pieces together and wonders how long they'll stay. It's unlikely that she'll want to overstay their welcome and odds are her companion will go anywhere with her. Their bond is a close one, one he doesn't quite understand. It's become obvious that their ghosts are the same, but he can't get a read on Enzo and figure out what it is that happened.

They sit silently over dinner and conversation doesn't stray beyond the food.

0o0o0o0

She peruses books, devouring them so fast he wonders if she reads them, absorbs the text, and moves on. He notices that she isn't picky about what she reads: she makes her way through the alphabet, picking, reading and discarding on a daily basis. Bronte, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Shakespeare, Tolstoy… they all make their way through her line of perusal before she replaces them and picks new ones.

Once she finishes with the classics she moves on to the penny-dreadfuls and the crime novels, though he finds she discards them quickly. As far as he can discern there's no real pattern or reason to her selections and he realizes that he knows her less now than he did before.

The thought troubles him.

0o0o0o0

It begins with breakfast one morning.

She's reading and Elijah taps away at a sleek device that gleams under the light. It makes noises on occasion, different noises to mean different things, and it's not the first time he realizes the world has gone on without them.

He asks her about the device once they're alone. He remembers clunky telephones with rotating dials, and black-and-white televisions. This item is new.

She's got one of her own, so she grabs it from her desk and teaches him about the mystery of Apple devices. He doesn't see why it's called an iPad – there's no real reason he can see for the i, and she just shrugs and shows him the internet, leaning into her to see better.

This century is fascinating, and it's not long before Elijah finds them curled up as she elaborates on the different functions an iPhone can offer.

0o0o0o0

A fortnight later he gets a call from Niklaus, who tetchily enquires about whether or not he has any clue to the whereabouts of Miss Gilbert.

The female giggle in the background tells him everything he needs to know and he realizes that Miss Forbes is with him – possibly also Miss Bennett, though he doesn't hear her. He grits his teeth quietly, knowing it's futile to try and remain quiet when one's caller is a vampire-wolf hybrid and finds he dislikes the idea of bringing his chaotic brother to this quiet haven.

They'll be there tomorrow, he tells them.

0o0o0o0

The house doesn't surprise her, knowing Klaus like she does, and she grins at Enzo. He looks astonished, as if he'd not realized the decadence available with the Originals.

(later he's reprimanding himself for feeling astonished: the place they're in is not grand but clearly everything there is well-made and expensive)

A blonde girl flings herself at Elena, crying and smiling and coughing. Elijah is indulgent and Klaus looks amused while the blonde tries to hug her friend. Elena stands stiffly, pats her back lightly and steps away.

The second girl – more reserved with very short hair – embraces her tentatively. The embrace is about as warm as the first, and Elijah introduces Enzo to his brother. Klaus seems to size him up, considering him and Elena as if he's trying to pinpoint their relationship.

Elena removes herself from the hugs and glances at Klaus, unsure if he's in a hugging mood. Thankfully he isn't – instead he briefly clasps her hand before ushering them all inside, jovial and welcoming as if they're all long-absent family. It's clear to Enzo that Elena has a history with these people.

Not for the first time Enzo feels out of place.

0o0o0o0

They dine on rich food, dutifully prepared by nameless servants, and Enzo notices that the bottle of wine is older than he is.

The blood provided is fresh and Caroline admits that she doesn't always drink from blood bags nowadays. Elena dismisses it, because nor does she.

Bonnie, he realizes, fits the description of the witch-turned-immortal-ghost, and during the main course her gaze flickers away briefly. After dinner, she doubles over in pain, bracing herself briefly on the couch, and tells them that it always happens.

One story true, he observes.

0o0o0o0

Klaus' vampire face is more canine than others he's seen and it takes his restraint not to snap the delicate wineglass he holds.

Two stories…

0o0o0o0

They return to Elijah's.

She doesn't sleep that night. The bed is too soft, and a few days of a proper bed after years in a cell or chair doesn't make the luxury any easier to accept.

Instead, she drags a blanket to the hard floor, then tosses it aside.

0o0o0o0

He watches old football, and Elijah joins him. They watch as Pele scores goals and he taps his fingers against the armrest, a polite downsized version of applause. Even he recalls who Pele is, and Elijah's smile is one of satisfaction.

He wonders how someone can be so restrained all the time.

Later, he checks the internet and proceeds to do several searches. By the time he shuts the computer, he's well-informed on the past few years and what's changed in the world.

It's lucky he likes a challenge.

0o0o0o0

She realizes the energizing injection has come to nothing.

This comes about when Enzo opens his wrist to heal a girl after feeding and she feels nothing, there's no urgency that requires her to feed from him.

They hole up alone in the attic and he deduces, from his own history, that it must have been fresh human blood. It's come to nothing, except giving her the strength necessary for them to escape, and she was hungry for a while after the adrenaline wore off. They've been outside long enough now that she's feeding regularly, and they have yet to notice any other side effects.

It's a relief.

0o0o0o0

He stops and listens.

It's a half-conversation behind a closed door, and he guesses they're communicating with expressions as much as they are words. More, even, because words are sporadic and yet chosen carefully, weighted with meaning.

Enzo rarely says a lot at once and yet she knows how to interpret his monosyllables.

They discuss injections and blood (he can tell they're not writing anything, because he doesn't hear the tap of fingers on technology or the scratch of pen and paper) and fall silent.

He hates when they do this, because it does nothing for his understanding of the topic and Elijah hates not understanding something.

0o0o0o0

In the second week, he offers to invite Caroline and Bonnie.

She reacts nothing like he had anticipated. Instead of being eager to see them, she wonders when he got to be on first name terms with them.

He raises an eyebrow, asking again do you want to see them?

No, she decides. She doesn't.

0o0o0o0

They create a cover story to explain why she never got past her first Christmas at college.

She withdrew from school due to illness, they agree, and after her recovery she opted to not return and overtax herself.

It's technically the truth anyway, he reasons, just it's the version they'll tell to humans.

0o0o0o0

Augustine.

It's the only word he picks up from todays' conversation and yet it weighs on his mind.

He considers all the places he's ever heard the word and then mentions it to Caroline, in the hopes that she'll know what it means. From the way her forehead creases up, it's apparent that she does, though Bonnie looks as unaware as he.

"Of all the schools in America we picked the one with the vampire-hating secret society," she tells him ruefully. "It was named Augustine."

He wonders how she escaped detection, yet Elena didn't.

She weaves a tale of dining in the cafeteria, choking down bad food; of carrying paracetamol and wearing her daylight ring so that the lapis lazuli didn't show; of jogging around the campus so as to appear human.

Bonnie nods, agreeing with her, and concedes that she employed similar methods.

Once they became immortal they had to pretend to be mortal, she sighs.

He's suddenly grateful for all the years he's had to pretend at being human

0o0o0o0

The girls are visibly disappointed that Elena doesn't want to see them, and Caroline decides brightly that she just needs time.

Behind her, Bonnie frowns as if to say I'm not so sure.

0o0o0o0

Enzo decides to move on, so he collects a few possessions and selects a place: New York, she tells him, is fun. She's only been there the once and her emotions were off but she remembers liking it even so. The people made it interesting, the city was beautiful at certain times and there was enough food for half a dozen vampires.

He'll take her word for it.

0o0o0o0

She doesn't feel that she can stay here any longer and not be an imposition, so she makes breakfast and gets a job.

The third Wednesday she's here, he comes downstairs to find blueberry muffins on the table (his favourite though he doesn't know how she knows) and her dressed in what's plainly a work uniform. She offers to pay board while she's here, and he can't quite decide if she's serious or if it's the token polite offer.

Don't be ridiculous, he tells her.

She drops the subject.

0o0o0o0

They settle into a domestic routine, and some days she feels frighteningly like a housewife – one who's perpetually eighteen.

These are the days when she texts her workmates, asks if they want to go out. These days are the ones where day bleeds into night and she drinks from the vein in a dark club corner, when she comes home at 2am carrying strappy shoes and tries to smooth smudged makeup back into place. He doesn't mind that she goes out – can hardly set a curfew since she's technically twenty-five and her return home never disturbs him – and so he develops the habit of getting lost in books or work so that he's still awake when she gets in.

They don't ask each other personal questions and they don't volunteer information.

0o0o0o0

She cherishes the routine. She hasn't had a real one in seven years (she doesn't count the lab as routine because routine is predictable and the lab was anything but) and so she fixes up daily rituals.

One evening he comes home to find her writing out a timetable before she throws away the page and he wonders again what's happened.

These are the pointless questions though because she'll give useless one-word answers and twist her words until they mean nothing. This way she ensures that he gets the barest information possible, and it's not like Whitmore College's website will advertise what Augustine does.

0o0o0o0

Enzo calls on her fourth Friday in New Orleans, tells her that he ran into the Salvatores. Last he knew Damon was fairly alive – Enzo lost his temper and kicked the crap out of him, while Stefan tried to comprehend that his brother had been tortured for years.

Somewhere around the time he broke Damon's nose, he admits, he let slip that she was in New Orleans, and they're probably on their way now.

She ends the call and texts Elijah to warn him of the pending invasion.

0o0o0o0

He's annoyed to learn that the Salvatores are chasing Elena, even more so that it will bring them to his home. She looks guilty and upset and oddly worried and he covers her hand with his, promising that his annoyance isn't with her.

They all but bang the door down, and Damon's already warmed up to a rant about Augustine and vampire donors and torture and pain. He mediates the argument and watches her face pale.

The silence is as good as confirmation.

0o0o0o0

She stops healing her victims when she feeds.

She's been here six weeks when it occurs to her that she doesn't know the fate of the people from whom she's fed. A college girl, a businessman, a housewife doing grocery shopping, a drunken tourist…

They have one thing in common and it's that she left them with her blood in their systems. For all she knows any of them could've turned, and she realizes now why vampires try to live inconspicuously: so they don't accidentally create dozens of new vampires who don't know the first thing about the supernatural world.

At first she feels guilty when she takes a bit too much and leaves the girl woozy, but she compels the truth into being a nosebleed and the scrape on her neck is from hiking.

Still, she remembers how the blond doctor would create vampires especially for his experiments. He didn't have the right to do that, and she doesn't want to spend years tracing every human she's fed from just to ensure that none of them have become vampires.

0o0o0o0

Stefan is the same as she remembers. He's kind and sweet and tries to coax her to talking about the lab.

She lashes out, snaps that talking about it won't change what happened, won't change her memories, and he backs off. He leaves the next day.

Damon is the same as she remembers. He's cocky and a bit arrogant but can't seem to bring himself to look at her, knowing that she's got the same experiences in her past as he does.

He tells her that he loves her but he doesn't want to be reminded of the lab and so she tells him he doesn't have to stay. She's not sure that she loves him anyway, it's been so long since they saw each other that whatever was between them seems to have gone. He leaves the next day.

0o0o0o0

She works harder, gets a promotion and feels like any other eighteen-year-old when she tells Elijah who the new assistant manager is.

He plays along, treating her like she's eighteen and got her first job (all true, so it's not hard to pretend) and takes her out to dinner to celebrate.

The waitress flirts with him and winks at Elena behind his back and she hides a smile behind her wineglass. She doesn't feel twenty-five, she feels eighteen and suddenly knowing that she won't age doesn't upset her so much.

She can't have the normal human life they both wanted her to have, but she can have a normal vampire life and it can be good if she so chooses.

0o0o0o0

It's her eighth vampire birthday and so he brings her to Greece. It's an impulsive gesture and she absorbs the knowledge they're offering: her very distant ancestor (the true progenitor of her line, she tells him) lived in this region.

He listens intently because this is new to him and he's fascinated by the fact that she's traced her line a thousand years earlier than anyone had thought. Her eyes are alight with excitement and passion as she talks and he watches the various expressions ranging across her face.

A tour guide is talking about the myth of Amara and Silas and Qetsiyah and they stand at the back of the group. Elena quietly corrects her in several places and Elijah can't help but smile.

She begins talking about the myth of the doppelganger and the smiles fade, so they wait until there's a break and slip away.

0o0o0o0

Caroline is waiting on the doorstep when they return to New Orleans and he's grateful for the seclusion of his house because this way there will be no nosy neighbours wondering about the strange girl who sat on the doorstep for two days.

She approaches Elena tentatively and Elijah decides it's time to proofread the article he's been writing – granted, he lived through the fourteenth century and his memory is perfect – but at least this way it appears that he's a human historian and not someone who's writing a firsthand account of events.

Elena learns that Caroline and Bonnie searched for her, impeded by a lack of magic. She sits silently as Caroline describes the worry and loneliness and the times Bonnie went over to the Other Side to ensure Elena wasn't there. She learns about the times Bonnie would hide out in a dark alcove to talk to the next person to cross over, just to see if they'd ever met her.

The anger dies away and Caroline watches as she curls in on herself, a statue of a vampire.

Her resentment fades and she sits up, shyly hugging Caroline in an unspoken gesture of forgiveness.

They spend hours catching up on the years, but she keeps the majority of the details to herself. Their friendship won't be the same, but maybe they can rebuild.

0o0o0o0

He listens to the frequent typing. She's writing a lot now, and some days she'll mutter to herself about correcting a sentence or why one word is better than another. The writing is fast, as if the words are too fast for her to write and so she's just doing the best she can to keep up.

It's not a journal, he knows that much. A few days after she'd arrived, she came home with a pale-grey journal and elegant purple pen, and he would hear the steady scratching indicating where she was writing.

And yet she types, and he knows that she's just bought a second journal.

He wonders at all this knowledge about her that he's gained and promises himself he'll ask about the typing next time she's around.

0o0o0o0

She comes to realize that knowing something doesn't have to be explicitly told, in words.

She finds this out on what might be a cold autumn day, (she can't really tell, and she doesn't mind that she no longer feels cold) when he asks about the typing.

It's a novel, a tale of being lost and broken and learning how to put the pieces back together. It's decidedly not supernatural – "I'm not looking to write an autobiography," she quips – and he nods in appreciation of the different path she's taking.

She concedes later it would be entirely too easy to write supernatural, a love triangle, but that's already been done and she'd rather do one meaningful thing than several popular.

At least one quote from someone long dead and wise comes to mind about shunning popular for meaningful.

0o0o0o0

Time passes on.

She works and writes and bakes and threatens to open a bakery with the state-of-the-art kitchen when she begins improving.

He teaches her to make difficult things, croquembouche and croissants and lemon meringue pie. She learns baklava, and he declares it better than any in Greece.

Bonnie and Caroline drag Rebekah over one evening and they banish Elijah to his study, watch crappy movies and devour eclairs. She and Rebekah agree to bury the hatchet – it's been almost ten years after all – and the older vampire looks at her appraisingly when Elijah ventures into the kitchen to steal some macarons.

She realizes she doesn't need the Salvatores to be happy.

0o0o0o0

Chronologically it's her twenty-eighth birthday and she resents the doctor for stealing away a quarter of her life.

This time there are no extravagant celebrations, just quiet birthday wishes and a tray of beautifully decorated cupcakes. She spends a few minutes staring at her reflection, superimposing lines around her eyes and pretending her moisturizer is wrinkle cream.

Later she learns that Caroline and Rebekah and Bonnie did the same. They're twenty-somethings trapped in the guise of teenagers, always.

Rebekah tells her that Elijah turned at around twenty-nine, and she can't find the envy she had thought would be there.

0o0o0o0

Enzo shows up a few days after her birthday, slightly drunk and high on good cheer. She learns that his team won the Soccer World Cup and pretends to care.

Elijah seems to read her mind – if nothing else, her mood – and offers Enzo a high-quality beer while they watch the final.

She still can't quite believe someone like Elijah would drink beer, but then she remembers that he's had centuries to adapt and change his tastes.

Ten minutes in, she's bored so she prepares some tea (milk in first) and cucumber sandwiches, brings them to the TV room.

Elijah mock-reprimands her for the milky tea, and it's beginning to feel like a family.

0o0o0o0

She finishes her novel within three months and prints out a stack of paper. Elijah offers to read it, but she refuses, and tells him that if it gets anywhere he can read the first copy.

(Well, third, she wants Caroline and Bonnie to be the first to read it)

She does her makeup carefully, dresses to look a little older, and then gives the agents the impression of an eighteen-year-old trying to look professional.

It clearly works, because soon enough she's got an agent raving about the intelligence and style of a new author, only eighteen and yet clearly brilliant. She picks out a pseudonym, makes it known to Elijah and Rebekah, Klaus, Caroline and Bonnie.

(She can't have other high school friends picking up on her lack of age after all)

They go out to dinner and toast to being prodigies and brilliant. She realizes that she doesn't feel bad for the age deception, because she is eighteen in looks and no-one will be convinced that her thirtieth birthday is approaching soon.

At home she maps it out. She'll let people fawn over her at twenty when she releases the second novel, and maybe at twenty-three she'll enlist the help of the other girls to "look her age."

Eventually she'll become a recluse, compel away notices of age among the humans she still has to deal with, and keep writing. In time people won't even know if she's alive, because she can't stay eighteen publically for the next forty years.

0o0o0o0

Caroline and Rebekah tell her they do the same. Together they're the creators of a thriving fashion line, sisters and prodigies who've loved fashion since they were little and decided to work together doing what they loved.

This is their backstory and so she adopts a very similar one for herself.

0o0o0o0

Bonnie tells her the story she's created for herself: another prodigy who sped through school, accelerating a year here and skipping a semester there. She teaches now, following the footsteps of Grams, and compulsion is the key to her colleagues never noticing how young she is.

Her students only see her for a few months, and she's developed a few little quirks to cope with being the anchor.

There isn't much you can do with a degree in the occult, she adds, and steps outside to meet another ghost.

0o0o0o0

She looks around one Christmas, in her thirty-fifth year on earth, and realizes that they've become family. It's sort of a dysfunctional one, wherein she has sisters and a brother. Somewhere along the way Klaus softened his attitude and accepted her as a sister, as did Rebekah.

Elijah is not a brother to her though, and she wonders how he sees her.

They all accompany Caroline to Mystic Falls for Liz's funeral and later she clings to Elena and Bonnie first.

They're all orphans, but they're orphans together.

0o0o0o0

She learns that after her disappearance Jeremy vanished and has yet to be found. They search the baseball teams, comb art galleries and combine different names trying to find him. Middle name, mother's maiden name, her biological family's name… they mix them in every combination and find him in Berlin, unmarried and running an art gallery.

He's a ladies man and seems world-weary but when his sister sets foot in the gallery he drops a wineglass and loses out on a sale.

His life is here, he tells her, but they promise to visit as often as they can.

She promptly updates her passport with a new identity.

0o0o0o0

Jeremy comes to them next Christmas, and he looks pleased to see everyone – even Klaus, though he first threatens to feed Klaus his own heart if he hurts anyone.

Klaus just laughs it off, promises he'll behave and offers a red wine.

He's not blind though, he can see there seems to be something between Elena and Elijah and he stops to wonder when it became "Elena and Elijah."

Caroline rolls her eyes conspiratorially when he asks. They're alone in the kitchen and he forgets about the supernatural hearing of everyone else, so he feels free to ask. The others don't often venture into the kitchen after all.

"Oh, I think it's been that way for a while now. They just don't realize," she informs him, and shoves two bottles of wine into his hands.

0o0o0o0

They're right though. Jeremy meets Bonnie's new boyfriend, Andrew, who happens to be a vampire. Rebekah is with Stefan and he's noticing pairs around the room: Klaus and Caroline, Bonnie and Andrew, Rebekah and Stefan, Elena and Elijah. Somehow the last two gravitate towards each other, and he watches them behave as if they're together.

0o0o0o0

Klaus gets tired of watching them dance around each other and calls an "emergency meeting" at his manor.

They go through a list of equally terrible suggestions: locking them in a room together (either of them could break the door down); faking a life and death situation (Caroline's glare has him retracting that very quickly); "crossed wires" leading to a dinner date (too unpredictable).

Finally they decide that even though it's August they'll go with mistletoe.

0o0o0o0

The mistletoe doesn't work.

They remain oblivious, even when Rebekah forcibly holds Elena under the mistletoe and yells for Elijah's assistance (a chaste kiss on the cheek is the result) and later Rebekah yells at her big brother for being such a blind idiot.

He stares at her, bemused, and pours another cup of tea.

0o0o0o0

They create Plan Alphabet, twenty-five new scenarios in which they hope to create the fourth pair of the Mikaelson family.

Plan B, therefore, involves a formal ball for Caroline's birthday.

(Klaus has been meaning to do this for years, but every year a different plan came up – at least now he has an opportunity)

0o0o0o0

She signs one hundred copies of her third novel and removes one for Klaus' library.

This has become a tradition: they preserve for themselves a copy of art done by Jeremy or Klaus; keep first copies of Elena's novels and Elijah's history articles; sketches or first dresses created by Caroline and Rebekah; records of spells created by Bonnie and performed by young witches that she teaches; new technology developed by Andrew's fledgling company.

The manor becomes an ever-changing museum.

Ninety-nine signed copies go to ninety-nine bookstores: this adds to her reclusive mystique and the others opine it only adds to her authorial appeal.

0o0o0o0

For the first time Elena and Elijah count themselves as formal dates to an event.

Enzo returns to hound them and help the others, and spends the better part of the day giving Elijah insights into Elena's likes and dislikes, learned years ago.

He brings with him his new girlfriend Maria, who integrates quickly into the girls' circle and strikes up new friendships almost immediately.

They decide to stay in New Orleans.

0o0o0o0

The ball is divine, and she knows she shouldn't expect anything less from Klaus. Everywhere she turns are vampires in silk and satin and tuxedos and no two women wear the same dress. Rich perfumes linger in the air and once Elijah finishes the welcome spiel, he moves directly towards Elena for the first dance.

Somehow they miss the smug looks from the others.

0o0o0o0

They wind up standing centimetres apart, and she realizes she doesn't want to step away.

0o0o0o0

Their first kiss is on her best friend's birthday, outside in a lush garden at midnight.

Rebekah decides to save the report back until tomorrow so as not to overshadow Caroline's birthday.

0o0o0o0

She hears one day that the doctor is dead; a "mysterious animal attack." She and Enzo read between the lines and declare it poetic justice. They can't bring themselves to feel bad.

0o0o0o0

They settle into a domestic routine. This time, she doesn't feel like a housewife.

There are the nights when she and the girls – Rebekah, Caroline, Maria and Bonnie – go out dancing. They're perpetually eighteen and nineteen, and when she comes home Elijah listens to her anecdotes of fashion and funny stories and kisses her as if each kiss is their last. She kicks off her heels then, and listens to one of his stories, and wipes away the makeup (he always says she looks better without) and steals one of his shirts for sleeping.

She doesn't have a curfew, because she's entirely too old for it, was too old a decade ago, and some nights they stay in together. When she goes out, he waits up to hear about her night and she decides to keep a limit in place.

There are the days when she bakes and he's her guinea pig as she experiments with recipes she's never heard of. There are the days when she writes or he teaches her: dance, language, science, literature, and eventually she decides to enrol in classes at the university, a different name from her novelist self because there's just so much to learn.

They never talk about what led her to New Orleans, it's their one unspoken rule, and they manage fine.

0o0o0o0

These days are the ones where weeks bleed into months into years and she finds that she's content to be eternal. These days are the ones where she gets an idea of what eternity will look like and she's happy.