All the Roads Lead Back to You
by Sandrine Shaw

At sixteen, Elena thinks fate is something you can control. Her life lies vast and uncertain ahead of her, and she wants so many things that it feels like her heart is going to burst with possibilities.

At seventeen, staring at a girl who's wearing the same face, she realizes for the first time that it might not be that easy, that some things might have been written in stone a long time ago and she cannot rewrite them as she pleases.

And still she does her best to side-step fate where she can. She focuses on the differences between herself and Katherine, and tells Stefan about the normal life she wants, and when Klaus holds out his hand, she refuses to take it.

When she wakes up human the night after the ritual, after everything is said and done, when she's mourned her losses and nursed Damon back to health, she dares to feel a little triumphant because she's sure she bested fate, at least this time. It takes all of her stubborn determination to ignore the voice at the back of her head that tells her that postponing something isn't the same as stopping it.

She doesn't live to see her 21st birthday. An accident, stupid and avoidable, and this time Elena is almost, almostgrateful for Damon's blood in her system. She drains the blood bag he gives her and pays no mind to things like fate and destiny because the thirst overpowers everything.

When they finally track down Stefan and Klaus, Stefan looks at her like it's breaking whatever is left of his heart. Klaus, though Klaus looks at her like he's never seen her before and there's something akin to appreciation in his eyes when he steps closer and touches her face.

"Look at that. Our little doppelganger decided to join the game." His hand under her chin forces her to meet his gaze and his thumb brushes against her lips. "I must say, love, immortality suits you."

His eyes bore into hers, and she looks back unblinking. He doesn't see the stake in her hand until it's already buried in his heart. He stumbles back, surprised, and his skin turns ashen.

Elena knows it won't stick, it will buy them minutes at best before he'll be rid of the stake like you'd pull out an inconvenient little splinter in your thumb, and then he'll come after them with a vengeance.

They grab Stefan and run. It's only later that Elena remembers how blue Klaus's eyes were.

Elijah once takes her to his family's old estate. It's all cold, empty halls and decaying walls, silent witnesses to ancient history she feels no ties to until she walks into a room and stares at a life-size portrait of a woman who might as well be her. Except she isn't, of course.

Despite the fact that breathing is a habit rather than a necessity for Elena now, she finds herself gasping for air.

She can't pull her eyes away from the painting, even though something in her wants to run as fast and far away as she can because there it is again: fate reaching out for her with cold, strong hands.

"Who was she?" she asks.

"Her name was Maria Petrova," Elijah says. "He loved her very much."

Elena doesn't need to ask who Elijah is talking about, and she doesn't want to ask what happened to Maria. If the death of the doppelganger was necessary to break Klaus's curse, she can imagine what it must have taken to place the curse on him to begin with. She looks at the smiling face in the portrait and pictures it filled with fear and pain, trapped within walls of flames. It's a vision that's hard to shake off.

"Can we get out of here?" she asks, shivering, and Elijah takes her away.

When eternity lies ahead of you, time passes in a rush. Years fly by and turn into decades, and it all means nothing.

Elena moves quickly through the years and the continents. If she runs fast enough, then maybe just maybe she can outrun fate. She stays with Elijah for a while until she gets tired of how he keeps treating her as if she was something fragile and breakable. She finds Damon and Stefan again and feels comfortable in their presence, enjoying the pretense that nothing has changed since the old days. Once, she even falls in love with a human, and for a precious few years dares to taste normalcy until it slips through her fingers again.

Katherine makes an appearance, or a dozen, always taunting and full of biting cynicism and bitterness, but Elena has stopped being bothered by her. It has taken her some time to figure it out, but by now she knows that becoming like Katherine was never what fate held in store for her.

She hears stories about Klaus, whispered tales told in awe and fear, but he doesn't cross her path again. Not quite.

But sometimes, she feels the strange sensation of being watched. Sometimes she catches a glimpse of blond hair at the edge of her vision, or hears a familiar chuckle somewhere in the crowd. When she does, she stops herself from turning around and forces herself to walk on, as if turning back to look would somehow seal her fate.

At the turn of the century, she returns to Mystic Falls, alone. She doesn't know why she expected it all to be the same when the rest of the world has moved on, but when she finds it a changed town, really a city now, full of tall shiny buildings, she realises that the saying might be true: you can never truly go home again. There's a skyscraper now where the Grill used to be, and the boarding house lies in ruins.

Her childhood home is still untouched, though. When she walks to the door, she finds it unlocked and no invisible barrier holding her back.

Inside, everything is spotlessly clean and frozen in time, as if it was still 2013. She can't make up her mind how to feel about this: it's chilling and heartwarming at the same time.

Upstairs, in her bedroom, she finds a letter sitting on top of her pillow. The writing is clean and immaculate, and she knows who it's from before she even reads the words.

Welcome home, Elena, it says. I expected you back here, eventually. The house is yours if you want. Well, technically it's mine, but feel free to stay as long as you like.

She wants to run. Instead, she stays. She's been running for almost a century now. Maybe it's time to stop.

After all those times he stayed in the shadows, Klaus finally shows himself when Elena goes to find Maria's grave.

It's nothing spectacular, just an old faded tombstone overgrown with ivy. Elena can barely make out the writing, just enough to find out that Maria was barely nineteen when she died.

Elena feels Klaus's presence behind her even before she even hears the rustle of leaves. When she turns around, there he is, all sparkling blue eyes and a smile that's halfway between self-satisfied and fond.

He holds out his hand. "Come on, love. You belong with me," he says.

For a last time, Elena rallies against fate. "I'm not her."

"I know," Klaus says without hesitation, and his hand never wavers.

Elena stares at his outstretched hand for a long moment until, at last, she takes it.