Elena cannot pinpoint the exact day Klaus disappears. All she knows is that one day she wakes up and she doesn't feel that dread that had permeated her life for so many months. The threats stop, the random dead bodies cease to be delivered to either her or the Salvatores front door. She opens her eyes when her alarm goes off, and her first thought isn't about any sort of supernatural dilemma. She just wonders what she's going to wear to school that day.

For the longest time, nobody talks about any of it. Nobody mentions the long string of funerals in the last few months; nobody speaks his name or that of any of the members of the Original family. It's like it never happened. Five weeks fly by, and Elena finds herself submersed in calculus homework, English group speeches and a history report for Ric's class on the similarities between the lives of Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard.

One day, however, as she is searching the Salvatore library for some rare books for her report that she remembers Stefan mentioning Damon had picked up some sixty years back, she hears Damon speaking with Katherine. "I've followed every lead you've given me—which really hadn't amounted to all the much to go on to begin with, let's be honest—and have found nothing. He's gone, it's literally as if he's vanished into thin air," Katherine is saying, sounding to Elena's ears more frustrated as she's ever heard even Damon.

"With any luck, he'll just stay gone forever," Damon says sarcastically, but she hears the note of fruitless hope in his tone.

"Well, we know that isn't the case. I was the one to deliver his parting warning. He's not going to disappear completely until he has what he wants." The two are remarkably alike Elena finds herself thinking as she furrows her eyebrows and listens carefully for Damon's reply.

Damon's voice is heard more clearly because he's angry and yelling now, "He's not getting her, Katherine! I won't let him."

Elena wonders what they're talking about. She assumes it's her—that Klaus wants her—but no one told her that he was still after her.

"Then you should tell your precious Elena that the big bad wolf is out to get her, because she seems to be taking to normalcy a little too well. Everyone's getting careless now—no one even noticed when I played Elena at Caroline's party last week."

Elena thinks back, remembering that party. Vaguely, she remembers having too much cheep beer and laughing too much, but she also starts to remember the 'but I just saw you's and the 'I thought I told you's.

Elena blinks, stunned. How could she have forgotten so easily?

"In the meantime," Katherine continues her tone more flippant now, "I suppose we should just follow their lead. If we can't find him, we should just count ourselves lucky and let it rest. You can't protect her from air, Damon."

Elena walks back to the library to grab her backpack, shoves the books into it without bothering to tell Damon that she's borrowing them, and makes her way to her own house.

-x-

In her bedroom half an hour later, Elena sits against her headboard with her laptop in her lap, staring at her half-finished report. The words won't form, for her mind isn't even on the Tudor period. All she can think about is Klaus. All of a sudden, it's as if he's standing in the room next to her, she feels his presence suffocating her again, her heart pulsing faster in her chest.

She remembers waking that morning, free and happy. Normal. Now she's the human doppelganger again, the blood source, the key to making new hybrids. She's his golden ticket to making an army. How she thought she could live a normal life, she doesn't know.

Her room feels hot and sticky all of a sudden, so she sets her laptop down on the bed and walks over to the window, letting in the cool autumn breeze. That's when she hears it.

A faint but distinct howl in the distance.

She lies awake that night, listening to the cry of the wolf, sure it is him. It only howls three times that night, but those few moments are burned into her brain so clearly it's like a song stuck in her head.

She goes to school the next morning having had maybe three hours of sleep, pays little attention in her classes, sleeps through study hall, and hardly touches her food at lunch.

Caroline looks worried. "What happened at the Salvatore's last night?" she asks. "Did you have a fight with Damon?"

Elena shakes her head. "He was talking with Katherine," she says distractedly, "I didn't even see him while I was there."

Elena hardly registers the look that passes between Caroline and Stefan and Bonnie. "I didn't know she was back in town," Bonnie says offhandedly.

Elena shrugs. "Turns out she's been around since at least the night of Caroline's party." She doesn't explain, wants them to figure it out on their own.

She gets up and leaves before they can start questioning her. She doesn't want to explain that, and she doesn't want to talk about last night.

-x-

She doesn't hear anymore howling in the weeks to come, but she feels the shift in the playing field. He made his move and he's waiting for her to make hers.

She comes to a realization as she stares at her night darkened ceiling—she doesn't have to tell anyone what she heard; he's after her, he wants her, not them. This is her fight.

-x-

When Elena goes to the Salvatore boarding house to return the books she borrowed on Kathryn and Anne, she finds the parlor a mess. Thinking the worst, she investigates—silently. What she finds are two sleeping vampires in Damon's rather large bed.

As she closes his door, she wonders if she should feel jealous of her predecessor. The strange complexity of Damon's affections intrigues her, but she finds that she is not jealous. It started with Katherine, it is only fitting that it ends with her as well.

Elena then thinks of Stefan and Caroline, both on the precipice of admitting their growing attraction for each other. (It was Caroline, after all, who brought Stefan back to them, so it will be a fitting conclusion to their story.)

She distractedly leaves the books on the table on her way out as she wonders if she will always be the pit stop in the love stories of others.

-x-

Christmas, New Years, and Valentine's Day pass in quick succession, and soon the spring weather is upon them. Elena finds a strange enjoyment from walking the few miles home from school in the afternoons.

After a week of walking alone, she starts to feel a strange presence around her. She ignores it for the most part, chalking it up to paranoia. After all, there has been no howling since autumn.

It is only when she arrives home one day to find muddy paw prints on the sidewalk leading to her front door that she starts to worry again.

She looks around frantically, but aside from the telltale paw prints near her feet, she sees nothing amiss. Then, still determined to keep her suspicions quiet, Elena grabs the garden hose and washes the prints away.

She returns to spending her nights listening for howls, but hears nothing.

The worrying is almost worse than the knowing, she decides when she cannot sleep.

-x-

For Elena, the worrying comes to a head when she opens her bedroom door one night after Caroline and Bonnie have left after a studying session and finds a wolf pacing her bedroom floor.

"Wolves aren't domesticated animals," she speaks to it steadily, surprising even herself with her calm demeanor. "They can't let themselves into houses undetected either." The other half of the sentence—but vampires can—remains unsaid, but they both hear it regardless.

It doesn't growl at her and, in fact, it looks to be rather as calm as she.

Elena is acutely aware of how little power she has, even as the only human in the current situation, so she doesn't even pretend otherwise.

She places her school books into her backpack and picks out her close for school the next day before picking up her pajamas. She walks to the bathroom and changes, brushes her teeth and hair, and reenters her bedroom where she finds the wolf curled up on the floor beside her bed.

She should be scared—she should be terrified and running away by now, probably but she isn't and she doesn't. She simply turns out the light and maneuvers her way onto the bed without touching the wolf.

In the morning, Elena wakes pleasantly well-rested for the first time in a long time. She immediately looks to the floor and cannot figure out if she is surprised or not to find that the wolf hadn't moved throughout the night.

It raises its head slightly to turn to her face, tilts its head to the side, and stares at her for a moment before lowering its head again and closing its eyes. She doesn't say anything to it as she gets ready for school, barely spares it another glance.

And when she leaves the house, she doesn't look back at her bedroom window.

-x-

Never does the wolf let itself into Elena's house again. Instead, she'll hear a faint scratching at the back door when she turns off her bedroom light each night. She then turns the light back on, quietly makes her way downstairs to avoid waking her brother, opens the back door, and lets the wolf in.

It hasn't made demands of her yet, and she subconsciously has come to the conclusion that it is best to stay on friendly terms with the wolf until it is no longer safe for her to do so. For that reason, she allows it inside her bedroom each night.

Eventually, it makes its way onto the bed without her permission. She rebukes it for this, but doesn't ask it to go back to the floor, so it stays curled at the foot of the bed.

Elena is not stupid, she knows very well that the wolf is Klaus; but she tells herself that as long as she keeps the wolf and the vampire separate, the wolf poses no harm to her. It certainly seems harmless enough curled up and sleeping at the end of her bed each night.

In fact, it is almost as if it is protecting her. (The small paranoid part of her that has developed after her string of supernatural-related disasters worries what from.)

Eventually, Elena gets so used to the wolf's presence that she doesn't protest when it stretches out beside her in the bed. Instead, she reaches out hesitantly and strokes its fur. It's so soft and clean that in the darkness it is comforting instead of frightening and she falls asleep with her hand touching the wolf. It's soothing, in a way, to feel it breathing next to her, her hand rising and falling with each breath.

That isn't to say, however, that she doesn't wake up startled when her eyes open to stare at the wolf's eyes, inches from her own.

-x-

She starts taking the shortcut through the woods that her parent's had forbidden her to take when she was younger. She knows now why those warnings were so important and curses her younger self and her friends for being irresponsible enough to ignore their parents' edicts on so many occasions.

Presently the wolf walks beside her, keeping her company as she ducks branches and winds around the path worn from childhood recklessness on her way home after school each afternoon.

It's a quiet journey, for she is still reluctant to speak to the wolf in any capacity other than to chastise it. It doesn't really seem to mind, however.

-x-

Elena wonders if he notices anything amiss the night she removes all traces of Jenna from her room. Pictures get placed in an album, clothes get shoved to the back of the closet, and mementos and birthday gifts and the like are carefully set in boxes and hidden on the highest shelf in her closet.

Having anything of Jenna's in the room where her killer falls asleep each night seems so inherently wrong to Elena after awhile that she takes immediate action. Yet, she can't find it in herself to deny the wolf entrance.

The wolf nuzzles her hand that night, his silent way of asking for attention. It is also an indication of just how perceptive he is, for she only gives the wolf attention when her emotions are somehow heightened.

-x-

Looking back, she really should have seen it coming. After all, nothing says secret in this town for long, and carelessness breeds inevitability in that respect.

One morning, Elena's hand is tangled in the wolf's fur as they both sleep when Jeremy opens the door, waking her. Both Salvatores are behind him, followed closely behind by their paramours of the moment, one of which is her best friend who should know better.

The wolf beside her is immediately as tense as she and she can feel the silent growl against her hand as it turns its eyes slowly to face the intruders.

Elena sits up as calmly as possible. "You all need to leave now," she says evenly, rubbing her eyes to clear away the sleepy fog. She blinks a few times, everyone quickly coming into focus. The wolf moves to stand protectively between her and the people in her doorway.

Damon is immediately on edge, and is ready to charge in and take care of the problem. Both Katherine and the wolf sense this, triggering loud and low growls in the wolf and Katherine pushing her way through to physically restrain Damon. "Well," she says to the shocked and angry crowed in front of her doppelganger's door. "I think we not only found the dilemma, but also the threat."

This time it is Stefan who tries to move closer and Caroline's too shocked to stop him, so it falls to the wolf. The wolf's growls get louder and more threatening the closer the younger Salvatore gets.

Finally, Caroline finds her voice. "Get back, Stefan, it'll bite you!" she shrieks.

Elena just watches the scene in front of her for a little longer.

Stefan ignores both warnings and proceeds, so the wolf snaps it's teeth and quickly moves forward slightly, as if taking Caroline's suggestion and running with it.

Elena moves into action. "Stop," she says soothingly to the wolf, raising her hand and petting its head. She's paying too much attention to the wolf to notice everyone's expressions. The wolf backs down, the growling ceases, but it doesn't move from its protective stance in front of Elena.

"I think I speak for everyone," Jeremy says, his hand still on her door handle, "when I ask, what is going on, Elena?"

"You all need to get out of my room and close the door," she instructs once more.

"Are you aware of just who you are petting so fondly, Elena?" Damon asks.

Elena simply nods, not speaking. She looks at Jeremy and gives him a hard look. "I'll meet you all downstairs in ten minuets."

They all leave reluctantly, and Elena gets out of bed and grabs some clothes to take to the bathroom and change into. When she gets out of the bathroom and makes her way back to her room to finish getting ready, the wolf is pacing her floor, just as when she first saw him. She sighs heavily.

"They'll never understand," she says, looking him right in the eyes. Her fingers graze his fur, closing her eyes at the familiar softness. "I don't even understand."