(A/N: Written for a comment ficathon at LJ. Prompt: Elijah/Elena - Pretty soon she'll figure out, what his intentions were about. Thank you to angel85qcca for beta reading!)
A Game of Trust
"How long have you known?" he asks at length.
"Since the moment I accepted your deal." She gives him an unimpressed look. "I knew what I was agreeing to."
"You're a smart girl."
Soon to be a dead one. The thought flits across her mind, a retort too sharp and true for her to say out loud.
This is what she has agreed to.
What she didn't agree to, what she doesn't want, is all this attention. If it's not Stefan and Damon taking it upon themselves to go behind her back, it's Bonnie and Jeremy.
She just wants to live her life. That's why she made this deal, so that she can make the most of what time she has left without the threat of Klaus hanging over her. Only Elijah isn't content to simply leave her alone. He's sitting by her window right now, like he's taken up residence.
"You don't need to be here."
"On the contrary, I do. After your little jaunt–"
"No. You don't need to be here, in my house, in my room. You want to watch over me, fine, but do it outside. I'm not gonna trip over a chair and break my neck."
His mouth twitches. "If my company is so unwelcome, I'll spare you the displeasure of enduring it for long."
She's already learned by now to pay close attention to his words. Here, it's the phrase for long and sure enough, his visits don't stop but true to his word, they remain brief. He appears, asks a few cursory questions, then moves on. He greets her always with a deep and satisfied, "Elena," and not once does he invade her personal space or attempt to make his presence any more uncomfortable than it already is.
She's starting to feel like a prized specimen being checked on every day until it's ready to be eaten.
She stays over with Stefan to avoid him. He doesn't mind, but he does wonder.
"Is your aunt cool with you being over here all the time?"
Elena shrugs. "She hasn't stopped me. I just want to spend as much time as I can with you."
(Any night could be her last.)
Uncle John puts a stop to that. He arrives and turns immediately parental on her, practically putting her under house arrest. His presence in the house does nothing to deter Elijah, who turns up as though his visits had never been interrupted in the first place.
"I'm still alive!" she fires at him after a particularly exhausting and difficult day.
"Is something wrong?"
He sounds concerned. Damn him for sounding concerned. She turns away, pressing the palms of her hands against the dresser, and exhales.
"You needn't worry about your friends. It's being taken care of."
So he knows about the werewolves. Of course he does. But he's here, as calm and unruffled as ever, which means that he must have sent someone else to help. Witches. The knot of worry in her stomach loosens slightly, but she doesn't thank him, not yet.
She walks over to sit on the bed. His eyes follow her across the room.
"I notice your father has returned. Shall we add him to our list?"
She only has to think about that for a moment. "No."
She half-expects to find John dead on the kitchen floor the next day, but John greets her with his morning coffee, ring and life intact. She can only suppose that Elijah doesn't see him as a threat.
She ignores him and John doesn't try to make conversation. He's looking at her like he's trying to figure her out. She recognises that expression. It's the same way she looks at Elijah.
Then there's school. It's funny how the normalcy she's trying to preserve feels strange now. Maybe not funny.
"You're not very regular," she complains when he startles her by turning up the moment she gets home from school.
"If I were predictable, you'd avoid me, wouldn't you?"
"Maybe," she mutters. "But I could do with some predictability."
"He has the moonstone," says Bonnie. "He's got Jonas and Luka working for him, there are vampires and werewolves crawling all over Mystic Falls and he has you. All the ingredients to break the curse. So what is he waiting for?"
She sighs. "I don't know."
Caroline and Bonnie look at each other. "Exactly," Bonnie says. "He's got something else in mind and we don't know what he's up to."
"It's way suspicious."
Now they're tag-teaming her. In her kitchen. "He saved your life, Caroline." She holds up a hand as Caroline opens her mouth to protest. "Look, can we not talk about this? I just want one night when we don't talk about this."
They watch a movie instead and Caroline snuggles against her shoulder while Bonnie wraps an arm around her waist. They're teenagers with pizza and pillows, so Elena tries to forget the fact that one of her friends is a vampire and the other is a witch. It doesn't have to define them.
Elena is tired but grinning from ear to ear when she finally waves them goodnight. She pads upstairs, yawning, thinking of a quick shower and bed. When she emerges from the bathroom wearing only a towel, he's there.
She gasps. Her arms cross her chest instinctively, shielding herself. She feels horribly, dangerously vulnerable.
"My apologies." His face is neutral, showing no flicker of either amusement or sympathy. "You were late coming to bed tonight."
"You heard me," she grits out. "You should leave."
"I should," he agrees. He turns away from her to look out of the window, which seems like a gesture of respect but he might be able to see her reflection there anyway.
There's a pause where Elena breathes deeply to try and calm herself while Elijah idly rubs a small section of the curtain between finger and thumb.
"Seven," he says, still facing away from her. Then she blinks and he's gone.
The next evening, he turns up at seven exactly. Elena folds her arms. "So now you decide to be regular?"
"Now you haven't gone out of your way to avoid me."
"Maybe if you'd turned up earlier, you could have stopped the werewolves who tried to kidnap me."
It's the first time she's ever seen him look so surprised. She can't help but feel satisfied that she's finally broken his composure. He takes a step towards her.
"Stefan and I were ambushed."
She makes the story short and perfunctory; he doesn't need to know the details. Everything about him seems restrained: his mouth is tight and there's a stiffness about his posture that makes her feel like he's holding something in. She can't quite tell whether it's anger or something else.
"I'm sorry, Elena," he says when she's finished. "I was otherwise occupied. It won't happen again."
"You're not gonna take me away, are you?" It's the fear that always lurks in the back of her mind, that she dare not voice in case he decides it's a good idea.
"Since our friendly neighbourhood lycanthropes have now taken their leave of Mystic Falls, no. Stefan did his job protecting you. However, should you find yourself in trouble again..."
He steps away from her and opens a drawer, handling her things with a disconcerting familiarity. A pen, a scrap of paper torn neatly from a notebook. For a moment or two, the only sound is the scratching of the pen, then Elijah is in front of her again. He slips the scrap of paper into her palm and curls her fingers around it.
She nods. "I know why you weren't there. Stefan told me about Damon."
"They're both safe."
Suddenly conscious of his hand still closed around hers, she pulls away, not meeting his eyes.
When he's gone, she adds the number to her phone, then tears the paper into pieces and throws them away. She tells herself that she won't use it, so not telling anyone doesn't matter.
After school, she heads for the Grill with Stefan and finds Bonnie playing pool with Luka. They laugh at some joke, Bonnie nudges him playfully and then he helps her line up her cue. This is a new and strange development for Elena.
She goes to the one person she knows will know everything about it.
"Oh, she's trying to get to know him," says Caroline. "She's giving him the sex face."
"To gain his trust. Then maybe he'll tell her what Elijah's really up to." She stops and stares at Elena, guilt flashing across her face. "Aaaand I shouldn't have told you that."
Something about that niggles at her, but she can't quite pin it down. She is, however, pissed off. "So you're all going behind my back?"
"It's not like that!" Caroline protests. "We just want to protect you. And that means finding out whether Mr Tried-To-Kidnap-You-Once-Already-Remember isn't going to go back on his word. I mean, he says he's trying to protect you, but what if he's lying?"
"I know he's not lying."
"What, you have a 411 right into his head?" Caroline shoots her a pointed look. "Didn't think so."
Maybe Caroline planted the seeds of doubt into her head. Maybe it's that niggling thought still refusing to form. Or maybe it's because she's now sure that her friends are working together against Elijah and there is no way that can end well.
Either way, she's anxious. She paces up and down her bedroom ten minutes before he's due to appear, sits down and tries to write in her diary but fails (too many secrets, too many things that mustn't be read), and all the while frustration bubbles in her stomach.
She knows that Elijah is keeping things from her. She's asked him questions before and been confounded with vague half-answers and little else. She feels certain that Elijah tells the truth, but only what truth he pleases. What is she supposed to do?
Strangely enough, when Elijah arrives, it calms her. He's a firm, solid presence.
"Something's troubling you," he says softly.
She can't hesitate, or he'll think she's hiding something too. "There are things you're not telling me."
"You're not usually one to be reticent about asking questions. So, ask."
She shakes her head. "What's the point of asking you questions I know you're not going to answer?"
The hint of a smile plays across his face. "Try me."
She hesitates. She has so many questions, she thinks about them all the time, but now he's offering to answer she finds it difficult to pin one down. All right. Start with an obvious one. "Why haven't you taken me to Klaus yet?"
"Because I'm not ready to," he replies smoothly.
"There's something else I need in order to kill Klaus."
"This is between you and me, Elena," he cautions her. "I'm looking for a burial ground. A witch burial ground, to be precise. There is power in the land there which we will need if we are to kill Klaus."
She nods. That makes sense, that he needs something more than just for the sacrifice. He's also given her a hint on a possible way to kill an Original, which surprises her. He must know that she's not going to use it.
"Then what about all this time you spend with me?" she asks. "You could be out there looking for the burial ground – I'm not any safer just because you're in my room for five minutes every night. Why all the check-ups?"
"What if I said that I enjoy your company?"
Elena suppresses a shiver at that statement. "I wouldn't believe it."
Despite her quick answer, a small part of her can't help but wonder if it might be in her interest to encourage him. But no. Enjoy isn't the same as care. A vampire enjoys the company of a human every time they feed on one, but it doesn't mean they care. None of Elijah's concern is for her as a person. They have a business arrangement, that's all, and she's the investment he's protecting.
That's all this is.
"Anything else?" Elijah asks.
She shakes her head. She's not sure she wants to know anything else.
Jeremy discovers them. By this time, she's grown used enough to his presence that she asks him a couple of questions about her history homework.
"You lived through it," is her reasoning. "If you have to be here, I might as well make use of you."
He's standing at her shoulder looking over the textbook she's using and shaking his head at all the inaccuracies when Jeremy comes in. She catches her breath. They've been almost interrupted before, but Elijah always, always hears them coming and disappears before she can blink. This time, he hasn't, but he still reacts faster than she does.
Her brother stops dead as Elijah turns to face him, his hand still resting on the back of Elena's chair.
"Jeremy," Elijah greets him amicably.
She can read the look on Jeremy's face like a book. Elena, why the hell do you have a strange man in your bedroom?
So she stands up to pre-empt him. "Jeremy, I can explain–"
Elijah holds out his hand. "I'm Elijah."
Jeremy, to his credit, doesn't flinch, nor does he shake Elijah's hand. He stares at the vampire, his expression incredulous. When he speaks, his voice is low and hard. "Get out."
Elijah raises an eyebrow. "Your brother is quite ill-mannered."
"You're in my sister's bedroom and I'm sure she doesn't want you here, so don't lecture me about manners."
Elena stands there, frozen, even while her heart swells for her brother. Her eyes meet Elijah's and she wonders what he sees there, what he makes of her refusal to answer. She won't apologise for Jeremy. She won't plead with him. But she can't read Elijah's expression either and there's a heart-stopping moment of silence when Elena has absolutely no idea what he'll do.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Elena."
Elijah's expression is inscrutable. He spares one glance at Jeremy as he passes and pats him lightly on the shoulder, then he's gone. Elena lets out the breath she's been holding. She goes to the door and slams it shut before facing her brother.
The questions tumble out of Jeremy's mouth. He wants to know what Elijah was doing here, how long has this been going on, why didn't she say anything–
She finds herself defending his presence. He hasn't harmed her, he's just... checking up on her.
Jeremy doesn't understand. None of them do.
"I apologise for our little encounter yesterday," says Elijah. "It won't happen again."
"Right," she mutters, but she thinks it's too late for that.
"How did Jeremy take it?"
"You saw. Not good. And now everyone else knows and..."
"They don't approve."
"No, they don't."
He lets out a breath that might be something close to a sigh, then stands up and approaches her. His eyes are dark, and once again, unreadable.
"This doesn't change anything."
She's sure that her relief is obvious. "Good. I don't want it to."
He smiles and she notices how the corners of his eyes crinkle. So they agree, even though Elena is fighting an anxiety in the pit of her stomach. She hadn't told anyone about his visits before because she was terrified of what he might do. It occurs to her that Elijah never actually forbid her to do so, nor threatened to hurt anyone if she did. Now she's more worried about how her friends are going to react.
Predictably, Stefan and Damon sit her down in the kitchen for an interrogation.
"And this has been going on for how long?"
They're both mad: Damon in that extremely unimpressed way of his, where every answer seems to confirm to him how stupid she's being, and Stefan full of agitated concern, punctuating every statement with a pointed hand gesture.
"He hasn't made me do anything I don't want to."
"Yeah, except force you into this deal in the first place." Stefan sighs. "I'm staying over with you tonight."
She can tell that he's not going to take no for an answer, so she handles it in her own way. He comes over, cooks for her and Elena turns on some music, playing it loud.
"Since you're here, we might as well have some fun."
"Ah, yes, fun. Remind me what that is again?"
She giggles and nuzzles his cheek. It's all very easy. Just before seven, she excuses herself to go to the bathroom and leaves Stefan preparing dessert.
Elijah is waiting for her. She walks up to him and presses a finger to her lips, indicating the door that leads downstairs. He nods once.
"Clever of you to use the music." His voice is so soft that she barely hears him and she tucks her hair behind her ears and tilts her head up to listen. "I assume he's here to intercept me?"
She nods. "I'm covering you this once. But I shouldn't have to. Why didn't you hear Jeremy coming anyway? You always hear them."
"I was... distracted."
"My history book's that fascinating?"
He doesn't reply, merely looks at her, like he's drinking her in with his eyes. She feels acutely human under his gaze, and even more acutely physical: aware that her life is this fragile body of blood and bone, the quickening of her heart, the breath in her lungs. Her body is the vessel that he's going to tear apart.
She breaks the moment by dropping her eyes, arms folded defensively. "You'd better go before Stefan wonders what's up."
He leaves, she takes a few seconds to breathe, and then she goes back to dessert like nothing happened.
She breaks her vow and calls him.
He answers at once. "Elena?"
"I'm not in trouble. I just wanted to tell you – Stefan and I are going away for the weekend. So I won't be at the house."
"Where are you going?"
"It doesn't matter. Stefan's with me, I'll be fine."
There's a short pause, then: "Enjoy your weekend, Elena."
"Elijah..." The next words tumble out of her, hurried and grateful. "Thank you."
She imagines his mouth curling upwards, that wry amusement in his eyes. "You're welcome."
The weekend turns out to not be fun. On the first day, Stefan finds out that Elijah intends to kill her in the sacrifice. When he tells her this, she's silent.
Realisation dawns on Stefan's face. "You knew all along, didn't you?"
He doesn't take it well.
On the second day, she discovers that Damon is attempting to kill Elijah with an ancient silver dagger that can kill Originals. Two phone calls later, she knows that the attempted murder failed and all her fears have come true.
When Damon arrives, he's looking over his shoulder even as she invites him into the lakehouse.
"He'll come after you, Elena," Damon urges her. "We need a plan, now."
She wants to scream at him, scream at both of them, because they have monumentally fucked this up and her carefully laid plan to save all their lives is in tatters. She and Elijah had an understanding. All they had to do was live their lives. That's it. That's all she wanted.
"We still have the dagger," says Stefan. "But neither of us can use it."
He looks at Damon who is twirling the blade between his fingers. "Elena can."
Stefan shakes his head. "No. It's too risky."
"And how else are we going to kill him? Elijah's out there right now and when he finds us, he'll have both our heads and then he'll take Elena away and kill her."
She can't take it anymore. "Shut up! Shut up, both of you. Neither of you get to decide what I'm going to do, do you get that?" She glares at them, then holds out her hand. "Now give me that dagger."
She's all poised to use it, to lure him in. All she has to bargain with is her life, so she does: she stabs herself and there's a horrible gasping moment of pain, a horrified cry from Elijah, then she forces the promise out of him and stumbles into his arms. Her hand fumbles for the dagger that will kill him–
His hand is in her hair, everything feels slippery, there's so much blood–
The next second his wrist is at her mouth and the iron tang of blood goes down her throat; she's limp in his arms and she can't feel the dagger, where did it go... She blinks, clarity returning to her vision, and sees Elijah's dark eyes boring into her. He looks at her with a face like stone.
She twists, cries out to Stefan and Damon.
"Don't leave the house–"
That's all she has time to say before he takes her away.
Her shirt is soaked with blood. He removes his jacket, drapes it around her shoulders, then bundles her into a waiting car. It's dark all around them. She thinks for the first time that she can make out the veins beneath his eyes.
"Your blood is far too precious to spill," he tells her. "You are not to harm yourself again, do you understand me?"
He presses her down against the cold leather seat, one hand at her throat. Her breath comes shallow and fast. He's never been this physical with her, not since the first time they encountered each other at the abandoned house. She understands that the boundaries between them have changed. All she has left is defiance.
The silence lengthens.
His voice is like cold steel. "Do you understand me?"
"I understand." She gulps in air as his grip loosens and finds the courage to question him. "So what was the point of all this? The visits, the deal we made?"
He tips up her chin. "So that I could gain your trust, Elena. Do I have it?"
"I knew that you'd do what you promised," she whispers. But she's trembling, both at his proximity and the understanding behind his words. He's drawn her in, placed her on his side, even instilled a kind of loyalty.
She thought she had him figured out. But he was figuring her out too. Elena Gilbert doesn't hurt the people she cares about.
She can't hurt him either.