36. In Paradisum

Damon turned up at the memorial because he was expected to show his face, not because he actually cared. It was all appropriately sombre: like the average Lockwood gathering but even less fun. The guests had stopped short of wearing black at Carol Lockwood's request, but it was only when he saw the mayor himself that Damon felt a twinge of genuine sympathy.

She was standing on her own in the entrance hall, wearing a simple grey dress, and compulsively wringing her hands together.

"Carol," Damon greeted her. "My deepest condolences for your loss."

She sniffed, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. "Thank you, Damon."

"If there's anything I can do at all..."

"I appreciate the offer."

She gave him a quick smile and he touched her arm lightly before moving on. He strolled through the grounds with no apparent destination in mind, but he was keeping an eye out for someone. Stefan hadn't bothered to turn up at this particular event, not because he didn't care, but because he couldn't bring himself to. Damon had rarely seen his brother so unhappy; he had gone out animal hunting for the entire day – at least, Damon hoped that he had gone out animal hunting. He'd said something about wanting to retrieve Elena's lost necklace. Damon had no idea why he was so obsessed by the thing, unless he had some bizarre idea that it would help him get Elena back.

He found Alaric by the punch bowl, which seemed appropriate. Not the person he had been looking for, but there was plenty of time. "Hey," said Damon. "Sure that's strong enough?"

Ric laughed. "Yeah, not my usual. Jenna just came over. Apparently Katherine freed her from her compulsion."

Damon frowned. "That seems... altruistic."

In other words, not like Katherine. She didn't do anything if not for her own personal gain. He tried to run through some possibilities of how helping Jenna could benefit Katherine, and came up blank.

"Yeah," said Ric. "She also said that Katherine had compelled her to dump me."

"Ouch. Rough. So, compulsion gone, does that mean you and Jenna are back together?"

Ric folded his arms, his expression wry. "No. In Jenna's words, 'that horse has long since bolted'."

Double burn. Katherine could be harsh.

"Your ex has a funny way with words." He searched around the table. "Forget the punch, Ric, you need something stronger."

Once he had plied Alaric with what he considered the appropriate amount of alcohol, Damon turned his attention to finding the person he really wanted to talk to: Elena. The news about Katherine was still ticking in his head. She was supposed to be long gone. Elena, on the other hand, ought to be here somewhere. She wouldn't miss the memorial.

Sure enough, he found her by the lake. Elena was alone and she jumped when he cornered her, making a face. "Damon."

"Elena," he said. "I heard you dumped my baby bro."

She sighed. "I broke up with him, yes. Don't think that means you can move in on me instead."

He raised his hands. "The thought never crossed my mind. Why'd you do it?"

She narrowed her eyes. "Are you asking on Stefan's behalf?"

"No, just for my own curiosity. You're coming off a little fickle, Elena."

"Right. I thought you'd be happy about it."

"Well, you've sorely misjudged me."

She stared at him. "Is there something you want, Damon? I want to remember the friends who lost their lives because of the sacrifice ritual that I was supposed to die in."

"Oh, you're mad at me," he said. "Is it because I tried to force feed you my blood? Or because I tried to stop you from saving your precious pet Original?"

Or because of a million other things he'd done to her over the last few months. Damon hated apologizing. He had way too much to apologize for, so why bother?

"Try all that and more. You know, I'm really tired at being mad at you, Damon. It's exhausting. Could you maybe try not doing things like that so we can be friends again?"

He raised his eyebrows. "Cranky." But then she gave him her patented annoyed-Elena look – he seemed to have one of those from every person he knew – and Damon hastily backtracked. "I'll try," he said. "Actually, I have a question. A little bird tells me that Katherine freed Jenna from compulsion. Any idea why?"

"You're the one sleeping with her. Why don't you ask her yourself?"

Damon smiled tightly. Of course, Caroline had spilled the beans to everyone she knew. "That was kind of a one night only affair."

"Then I don't know," said Elena. "Maybe Isobel asked her to."

That didn't sound particularly plausible. He shrugged. "Maybe. While I'm here... Can I take a message back to Stefan? He's not doing so well right now."

Guilt flashed across her face. "Tell him... I want us to be friends. I care about him, deeply. I just... need some space. Tell him it's not his fault. Whatever else he feels, he shouldn't blame himself."

"Oh, honey," said Damon. "I've been trying to tell him that for the past century and a half. But thank you. I'll pass it on."

She nodded, and managed a tremulous smile. Damon hesitated for a second. But actually seeing Elena out here alone and vulnerable-looking, he didn't want to press her any further. He nodded back, and took his leave.

"I feel bad for the mayor," said Jeremy. "Stuck here on her own."

"Yeah," Jenna replied. "If I were her, I'd quit. Move back to my family. This house is way too big to live in alone."

She and Jeremy had made the rounds through the house and grounds, and spent a few moments each talking to Carol. Jeremy seemed even more subdued than usual. He had liked Tyler though, she remembered; even though they'd started off hating each other, they'd become sort of friends later on. And of course Matt had been a familiar presence in their lives for years because of Elena.

She shifted, looking at her watch. "Well, I think we've probably shown our faces long enough. Where did Elena go?"

Jeremy looked around. "Dunno."

"I just saw her," Damon said, walking up to them. "How are you doing, Jenna?"

"Great, for a funeral." She raised an eyebrow. "Where did you see her?"

"Answer me a question and I'll tell you."

Next to her, Jeremy muttered something under his breath that sounded like 'douche', and wandered off. Damon watched him go without comment. Jenna adjusted the sleeves on her blouse and folded her arms.

"Okay. Shoot."

"Katherine. Why did she un-compel you?"

"Hey, you slept with her. Ask her yourself."

Damon paused. "Sometimes I'd swear that you and Elena are actually biologically related."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

"You honestly have no idea why she did it? You didn't think to ask?"

"Look, I understand that Katherine is kind of a double-crossing bitch now, but it's not unheard of for people to do nice things. She saved your lives at the sacrifice," Jenna reminded him.

He made an unconvinced sound, but Jenna refused to give up the details. She'd promised Elena that she wouldn't. The important thing was that Katherine was no longer a problem, and she was in full control of her own will again. At least, she took Elena's word for that. Jenna didn't feel much different. She hadn't experienced any sudden feeling pangs for Alaric, and she still had some sympathy for Katherine. Maybe because Katherine reminded her of Elena, which was probably because of the whole doppelgänger thing, but it was hard to disassociate the two.

Maybe that also explained why she'd experienced a bout of righteous indignation when Elena told her that Damon had slept with Katherine. Ridiculous, she thought, even for me.

"...Are you listening?" Damon asked.

Jenna blinked. "Uh."

"If you're picturing me naked, it's okay to admit it." He grinned. "It's happened before."

She was unimpressed. "I think we've reached the part where you cut the crap and tell me where Elena is. Or, you know what, I'll just call her. Annoying vampire problem solved."

When she started hunting around in her bag, Damon gave up. "Fine." He jerked his head. "She's over by the lake. Moping."

"That's a normal reaction when a friend you've known your entire life dies." Jenna snapped her bag shut. "See you around, Damon."

She was getting good at this whole handling vampires thing, if she did say so herself. Jenna left Damon without a backward glance, and headed out to the lake.

It turned out that Damon's description was entirely correct: Elena was standing at the lake's edge, staring disconsolately into the water. Dragonflies hovered over the reeds, their wings flashing in the lengthening rays of the sun, but her niece was oblivious. She looked far away, lost in thought. Time to snap her out of it.

Jenna called out as she approached. "Elena."

Elena looked up and smiled. "Jenna."

"Are you okay?"

Elena frowned. "Have you ever been in a situation when people would normally support each other, but somehow almost every single person you know is driving you crazy?"

Oh. Well, she hadn't expected that. Then again, Elena had just had a conversation with Damon.

"You're not including me in that, are you?"

"No," said Elena. "You're one of the few that aren't; that's why I'm asking. Right now I feel like you're the only sane person in town."

"You know, I'm glad to hear that. Sometimes I feel like the only non-sane person in town. Insane. Whatever. Sorry, that was a terrible joke. Seriously though, was Damon bugging you?"

"I broke up with Stefan. Everyone seems to have taken it personally."

"Oh. Wow. Well, it was a little harsh given the timing, but I get it, Elena. You're grieving; you need some space. You and Matt..."

She stopped. She had been about to mention that Elena had broken up with Matt for the same reason, but that was probably a bad idea for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it was Matt they were mourning here today, and also, way to remind Elena of her dead parents. Jenna couldn't help thinking of Miranda and Grayson too on occasions like this, and it only reminded her of all the pain they had been through as a family.

Of course, Elena got it anyway. "That was different. Everything feels more complicated now."

"Why's that?" Jenna asked softly.

Elena seemed to struggle with herself for a moment. "Do you think I was wrong to pull the dagger out of Elijah?"

"It's kinda too late for second thoughts, but..." She was stalling. She had to think about it. "I think you did what you felt was right. That's all any of us can ever do."

She watched as Elena considered that, and then her niece gave a small smile. It looked like she'd taken Jenna's words to heart. Jenna thought that Elena was often too hard on herself. They'd all been forced to make difficult decisions in difficult situations; no one could expect a bunch of teenagers to do the right thing under pressure like that.

"Okay," said Jenna. "I actually came over to tell you that we're about to leave, but I seem to have lost Jeremy, so do you want to make your way over to the car and we'll meet you there?"

Elena nodded. "Can you give me five more minutes?"

"No problem. It'll probably take that long to grab him anyway. I'll see you there."

Bonnie wandered around outside, lost in her thoughts. She had drifted away from her friends after they'd laid down flowers for Matt and Tyler, but now she was heading back that way again. The crowds had dispersed; it was easier for mourners to come over to the flowers and pay their respects.

She kept thinking of what they could have done differently, even though she knew it was pointless.

There was one other figure already standing at the memorial. His back was turned, but Bonnie recognized him.


He looked over at her. "Hey."

"Caroline said you weren't coming."

"I thought I should."

She nodded. He was looking down at the flowers. There were piles and piles of them, blooming white and yellow and pink, jostling for space with bouquets, cards and candles, and even a football signed by various classmates. Bonnie hesitated, then bit her lip and walked over to join him.

She looked sideways at him. "I'm surprised you're still here at all. I thought with... what happened with Elena, you'd leave town."

He frowned. "You think there's no other reason for me to stay?"

Truthfully, she didn't. Bonnie got on well enough with Stefan most of the time, and he had made friends with Caroline as well as being on good terms with most of the people in their circle. But he had always been focused on Elena. It was her world that Stefan had entered, and without her, he was... Well, the way he looked now. Adrift. Cut off. Alone.

She spoke softly. "Is there?"

"I don't know. I've thought about it. But I don't want to leave her..."

She made a face. "With Damon?"

"Unprotected," Stefan finished. "Whatever Elena feels about me, I'll always be there for her."

A vampire couldn't throw around the word 'always' casually. And Stefan was anything but casual; he meant it, she could tell that.

She folded her arms. "Was that supposed to sound romantic? Because you basically just said you'd be her stalker."

She kept her tone light, but perhaps Stefan recognized an element of truth in her words. He shook his head. "If she doesn't want me in her life, I'll stay out of it." He had slipped a hand inside his jacket pocket as he spoke, drawing out a necklace – Elena's necklace. Bonnie's eyebrows shot up when he held the necklace out to her. "Maybe you should give this to her."

Bonnie wasn't sure if she wanted that responsibility – foisting a gift on her friend from her ex. She pressed her lips together, but took it anyway. For a short time, there was silence, both of them by some mutual agreement turning to gaze back at the memorial display. The last candle sputtered and flickered out.

She looked up at Stefan, and tried to find some words of comfort. "You know, maybe the whole sacrifice thing overwhelmed her. She doesn't know what she wants."

"You think so?"

"Honestly, I don't know." She curled the necklace in her hand. "I haven't understood a lot of Elena's choices recently."

His jaw tightened just a fraction. "You mean regarding Elijah."

"Elijah and Klaus were the reason I didn't have a mom for over ten years. But what's done is done. I can live with it."

She was glad in the end that nothing had happened to destroy her friendship with Elena irreparably. She was glad that she had a chance to reconnect with her mom. And she was glad that they had destroyed Klaus. Everything else... Well. They couldn't undo it. They'd have to move on, as always.

Stefan gave a slight smile. "I guess I should take a page from your book, huh."

She smiled back. "Careful. My book can be a little dangerous. Witch, remember?"

He nodded, expression turning serious again. "We all owe you a big debt. This was your victory, Bonnie. Thank you."

She could feel the necklace nestled in her hand; it had grown warm from its contact with her skin. They had done all this to save Elena's life. She had never once thought of it as a favour. But it was nice to hear a thank you, all the same. "You're welcome."

Elena stared out at the water, biting her lip. She still felt bad about Stefan. Damon hadn't been the first to nag her about him. It had been happening all week.

"I can't believe you broke up with Stefan," Caroline had said. "He's like the perfect guy. Why would you do that?"

Caroline had said a lot. Bonnie talked far less, but the looks she threw at Elena were enough. Once Elena had convinced them that she hadn't in fact moved on to the other Salvatore, they were much more okay with it.

The memorial was overwhelming. She'd had to get away from it all. That was why she had come out to the lakeside, although of course that hadn't stopped Damon or Jenna finding her.

Maybe it wasn't a good idea that she was out here alone with her thoughts again. They were supposed to be leaving. Elena turned away from the lake and started picking her way across the grass, returning her mind to the present, and to Jenna and Jeremy.

She was halfway back when she saw him.

It was only a glimpse, half-hidden in the shadows of the trees, but it was unmistakeable. A figure in a suit... He melted away into the trees the moment she set eyes on him, but she was sure that he was beckoning her.

Elena quickened her pace, hurrying straight towards where she had seen him. The sun was just beginning to set, and the trees cast long finger-shadows over the grass. An ornate white summer house stood surrounded by flowering shrubs, and an old gnarled apple tree spread its branches above it. That was where the path led. She followed it without hesitation, and turning a corner behind the summer house she found an alcove with a white bench half-covered in ivy and honeysuckle, and there Elijah was sitting.

"Elijah," she said.

He stood up when she greeted him, and although he had looked altogether serious and distant a moment ago, his expression softened into a pleased – not quite a smile, but a sort of regard that made her feel breathless and excited all at once.


She shook her head, moving towards him. "I thought you'd gone."

"I know my departure was a little abrupt," he replied. "I had to clear my head. How are you feeling?"

It didn't take long to come up with an answer. "Guilty."

He nodded. "As am I. I spent all those years harbouring murderous intent towards my brother, yet in the final moments of his life, he chose to save me."

Elena could hardly imagine how awful that must feel. "I'm sorry."

"This memorial... The deceased are Klaus's victims?" He phrased it as half-question, half-statement.

Elena nodded. She couldn't find the heart to give him any more details, and Elijah didn't ask.

He bit his lip, and there was something very warm and human about that; Elijah was so poised that any kind of hesitance hinted at a rare vulnerability – no, not vulnerability. Emotion. He was looking at her with compassion, and he didn't need to say anything for her to read the regret in his eyes.

Then he shifted, glancing away, at his feet, anywhere else before looking at her again.

"I have to honour his last request."

Elena's eyes widened. "Klaus's last request?"

He nodded. "Our family. He told me that they are still alive, and that they can be saved."

"You said that Klaus scattered them at sea..."

"So I thought. Now, I'm not so sure."

"You want to look for them," Elena realized.


That was why he had come back. To tell her that he was about to go off on a mission, one that could lead him anywhere, but would certainly take him away from Mystic Falls. She had expected him to leave. Yet it felt like all the breath had been knocked out of her body.

Elena collected herself, stated the obvious. "So you're here to say goodbye."

He nodded. "I don't know how long it will take me to find them. I may be gone for some time, in which case... yes. I wanted to say goodbye."

It could be weeks, months, years, or even lifetimes before he succeeded in finding his family. She might never see him again. Elena let his words sink in, what they meant, what she wanted to do, and Elijah let her; he simply watched her quietly, allowing her the time she needed. She hadn't thought about what she was going to do when – if – she saw him again. But a calm surety settled over her: this, him, she knew how to deal with. She had some semblance of control.

"Okay," said Elena. "Well, then, before you go, I have something to ask you."

He looked amused. "You are ever more demanding, Elena."

"Two things."

There was a glint in his eyes as he prompted her. "Yes?"

"Well, first... I made a deal with Katherine." She told him the story, and Elijah's frown deepened as she explained.

"Why did she go to you?"

"She thinks that I'll be able to persuade you."

"Do you think that?"

There was the faintest hint of a challenge in his voice. This was another of his games, she thought; he liked it too much, the power; the air of indulgence. But Elena had always refused to play by his rules.

She shook her head. "I'm not trying to persuade you. I'm asking you."

It happened that Elena was well-versed in persuading reluctant vampires, out of sheer necessity. Anyone who had spent enough time with Damon had to have that skill. But she didn't try the hand on his arm, or the beguiling eyes, or anything that would seem too obvious. She simply looked at him. Surely he'd see the sense in what she had proposed.

Elijah's mouth twitched. He was fighting not to smile, she could see it, but Elena's gaze remained unwavering. Finally, he broke eye contact, looking down, and shrugged.

"Katerina is very clever," he murmured. He exhaled, looking back up at her again. "Yes. Yes, I will honour your deal. I'll spare her this once."

"Thank you."

Elena meant it. She had denied him revenge on Katherine, she knew that. But family was more important than revenge. She knew he understood that too.

"And your second request?" Elijah prompted.

Elena nodded, taking a breath. This one was a little more difficult. But after his response to the Katherine question, she was fairly sure that she could ask him anything. She didn't reply immediately. Instead, she stepped around him, walking over to the white bench where she brushed a few leaves away before sitting down. There was space for both of them, though the seat was a little rickety, and the ivy was thick. It had its own charm, she thought; it felt secluded, private, and safe; a feeling she had not managed to sustain while she was over by the lake.

She looked up at him, and Elijah understood. He moved over to sit down next to her. It was more cramped than she had thought; their knees were touching. Elena found that she didn't mind.

She paused a moment, breathing in the pollen-scented air. "You know, I thought I was going to die."

The words hung in the air. Elijah said nothing.

"I was prepared for it," Elena continued, her voice wobbling. "Maybe because it was actually the easier option, I don't know. Easier than losing people. Than having to carry on with all these... these holes in your life. It's like they eat away at you. You're not a full person any more, you're not completely you, because all the people who make your life what it is are gone."

Beside her, Elijah was very still. He spoke quietly. "You become a little less than human."

"Maybe. If you shut off the emotions, if you stop letting people in. Isn't that what you did?"

He looked at her. "Is that what you wanted to ask me?"

"No. I want to come with you."

He blinked. She had surprised him, even more than the deal she had made with Katherine.

"To wake your family up," Elena clarified. "I'm pretty sure Jenna won't let me disappear without knowing when I'll come back. But I at least want to be with you when you revive them."

Elijah stared at her. Finally, he spoke. "Why?"

"Because I want to."

It might have been the most honest statement she'd made to him; it certainly provoked the clearest expression she'd ever seen in Elijah's eyes. His lips curved into a small smile.

"But if you need a reason," she went on, "you lost your family. You killed your brother. You've been alone for such a long time, I don't know if... I don't know. But I think you need someone to help you wake them up."

It was as if for one awful second she'd laid him absolutely bare; the smile was wiped from his face; he looked stricken, pale with shock. Elena was afraid that she had said too much. She laid her hand over Elijah's without thinking.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean..."

"No," he said. "You're very perceptive."

"Promise me," she said. "Promise me that you'll take me with you."

He didn't look at her at first. He seemed to have just noticed her hand over his, and he took hold of it, running his thumb over her knuckles. The contact was light, yet she felt it in every one of her nerves. She felt hyper-aware of him: the one button that was casually undone on his shirt, the way his hair hung over his eyes when he looked down, the intense concentration on his face.

Slowly, deliberately, she withdrew her hand and instead brought it up to touch his face. Her fingers found the line of his jaw, and her eyes found his when he looked up at her.

He still looked vulnerable, open; she could see right into him. It was a lie that vampires had no soul, a lie that vampires felt no emotion, a lie that their hearts didn't beat. Even his skin felt warm beneath her fingers. He was an Original. Originals were untouchable. But she had passed that barrier long ago, and as her fingers made light imprints on his skin, she heard his breath catch.

He said, "I promise."

She didn't acknowledge him; she had known, they had both known, what his answer would be. It made no difference, but for the way he was looking at her, his eyes drinking her in. She couldn't see anything else, but she could feel his gaze on her, all of his senses trained on her. And Elena couldn't hold back any longer. Her hand moved down; she grabbed the open collar of his shirt and pulled, pulled him towards her, and at the same time she leaned forward to capture his mouth.

Elijah made a soft sound at the back of his throat, quickly swallowed, and then he sank into the kiss; she closed her eyes, concentrating only on the feel of his mouth on hers, firm and soft and lingering. This, she could lose herself in.

"Ah," he said, when she remembered to let go of his collar.

"This isn't goodbye," she said. "I want to see you again."

"This isn't goodbye, Elena." He breathed her name, voice low and sensual, and kissed her again. If she had doubted before that Elijah felt any desire for her, her doubts vanished now: she wrapped her arms around his neck and Elijah responded, deepening the kiss, drawing her closer. She could smell ivy and honeysuckle, and then the pressed dark-blue linen of his shirt, his expensive suit jacket, the faint scent of cologne, his skin–

She'd climbed into his lap, ran her hands through his hair and moulded herself against every button of his shirt while Elijah's mouth did delightful things to her neck, when her phone buzzed. She felt it in her jeans pocket, and since Elijah's hand was currently gripping her thigh, he felt it too. He stopped, arching away to look at her.

Elena caught her breath, swallowing. "That'll be Jenna. I was supposed to be meeting them... five minutes ago."

She dug into her pocket, Elijah helpfully moving his hands up to her waist. Sure enough, it was a text message from her aunt.

"Family calls," he said. Somehow, his voice remained even. She'd barely managed to ruffle his shirt.

Meanwhile, Elena felt as though she was pent up with too many emotions; she was breathing too fast; she was sure that she looked dishevelled. "Family calls," she agreed.

Elijah had his mission. Elena had – her life, everything. Picking up what was left of it, starting over, whatever she wanted to call it. Family called.

And so they parted.

Two months later.

"Happy birthday, Elena!"

Grinning, Caroline presented her with a cake on which eighteen candles had been perfectly arranged. Her friends gathered around. They were in her kitchen; Elena had been determined to ensure that this occasion was a small affair, made up only of the people she was closest to. Caroline had nevertheless ensured that the house was filled with enough party poppers and streamers to last for several birthdays.

"Make a wish!" said Caroline.

Smiling, Elena closed her eyes for a moment. Make a wish.

She blew out the candles. Her friends cheered; Jenna shoved a glass of sparkling wine into her hand; Bonnie pulled her into a hug, and Caroline immediately started figuring out how to divide up the cake. Jeremy was her unlucky target for cake-cutting duty.

They were a small group.

But, she thought, they were her family.

"You're still wearing the necklace," said Bonnie, later on when they were clearing up. Elena wiped away the last cake crumbs off the counter.

"For protection," she said.

Caroline looked up from her phone. "Oh, come on. You miss him. I can tell."

She shook her head. "Don't read anything into this. I miss him, but not like that. Honestly, I'm glad to have a break from all the drama."

It had been a drama-free summer, for the most part. That helped; it gave them time to begin the healing process. She felt that she could say that this summer had been better than the last one. There had been that incident with Damon, the mayor, and accusations of electoral rigging; and that other incident with Damon's car being stolen (he had insisted that the culprit was Katherine) that was never resolved, and Damon had also been pretty mad at her when he found out that she had allowed Katherine to buy herself her freedom without consulting him first. She didn't regret doing it.

But apart from Damon being Damon, it was quiet.

"The drama wasn't Stefan's fault," Caroline pointed out.

"I didn't say it was."

Bonnie wiped her hands on a tea towel, moving over to nudge Caroline's shoulder. "The important thing is that we made it through. Right?"

"Right," said Elena gratefully.

"So," said Caroline, unperturbed, "how does it feel to be eighteen, Elena?"

"Um..." She was spared from having to think up a reply by her phone ringing. Elena looped her hair behind her ears, and picked her phone up from the counter.

She froze.

"Elena?" Caroline frowned at her. Maybe she could hear that Elena's pulse rate had just sky rocketed.

"I need to take this," Elena mumbled. "Excuse me."

Elena slipped out of the house. She had left a handwritten note for Jenna and Jeremy, explaining where she was going. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she was wearing a light summer dress, since the nights were warm and the days were hot.

A black car was parked outside her house.

Elena turned to lock the front door, fumbling over the keys, and when she turned back to the car, a figure was standing there waiting for her. Her stomach flipped. A full moon shone down over the empty streets, picking out the angles of his face, the cut of his suit. Elena smoothed down her dress, took a deep breath, and hurried over to him.

"Okay," she said, breathlessly; it didn't seem quite right as a greeting, but he was smiling, and then he opened the passenger door for her, and she couldn't quite believe that she was really doing this. She stood there watching him, breathing quick, shallow breaths, taking all of him in.

"You cut your hair," she said, apropos of nothing.

He beckoned her. "Are you ready?"

There he was, in the dark, the Original offering his hand. A man in a suit, a black car, a promise. Elijah.

Take me away.

She nodded firmly. "Yes."