Written by helenluvsboo

Her book signings were always nerve-wracking. She worries that faces from the past—unwelcome ones—will rear their ugly heads and proclaim the truth to the world: that Eloise Knight is a fraud, that she is telling the autobiographical tales of Elena Gilbert, three years dead, and passing them off as fiction.

Thus far, no one has come forward to complain about the shameless pilfering from her past life.

She's glad, really, because she killed Elena Gilbert for a reason. Freedom.

Freedom from the past, and from the potential future she could have had if she had stayed on that road. She didn't want to be the rope in the Salvatore Brothers' endless tug-of-war. She did not want to be the sacrificial lamb for some deranged supernatural creature after the blood of the doppelganger. And she definitely didn't want to love any more vampires. Ever.

She has given up on a normal life, she thinks idly, as she smiles at a teenage girl, so young and brimming with life, while signing the book pushed at her with shaking hands. Elena Gilbert cannot have a husband or children. Too much of her stolen when she was young, too much love lost, too many hopes crushed. And she refuses to doom another young woman wearing her face to the hellish life of a Petrova doppelganger.

She writes in the girl's book "Never give up on your dreams. Always fight for them. Never give up. Eloise Knight." The girl takes the book back, and unlike most readers, does not immediately leave to fangirl somewhere else. She stands stock-still, and reads it aloud.

Elena swallows, beating down a pang of regret. She never gave up on her writing dreams, but she gave up on so many other things, things she had longed for… before she grew up. She forces a smile and reminds herself, for the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time, that Elena Gilbert is dead. That she is Eloise Knight now. The teenage girl smiles back, radiating happiness.

"Thank you," she says enthusiastically, as others in line behind her grumble, "Oh, thank you SO MUCH, Miss Knight."

Elena smiles and replies, "You're very welcome," The girl turns and walks away, "Enjoy the book!" she calls after the skipping, retreating back.

"I am certain that I will, Miss Knight."

The voice makes her stop cold. It is so achingly familiar, as if she heard him yesterday. His goodness, his dedication, and his morality are all still overwhelmingly present. Her heartbeat quickens. She once believed that she could, maybe, give him her heart—a schoolgirl's pipe dream—but he never came back to Mystic Falls after his sister nearly lit her on fire and his family nearly died at their mother's hand. She had been sorry, had always wondered what could have been if he had stayed—how differently would her life have turned out?

He was not there when his brother made after her best friend. Poor Caroline. She'd done nothing to deserve Klaus' obsession. She was just herself—a ray of sunshine that Klaus wanted to enjoy. Good, kind, sweet Caroline, who did not deserve to be chased by a monster who enjoyed snuffing out little lights in the darkness.

She has been so angry with Elijah for so long—he was supposed to be the peacekeeper that reined in the chaos his family wrought upon the earth and its people. When he left, they unleashed horrors the world was not prepared for.

She heard later that Elijah had carved stakes from the new oak tree and killed Klaus and Rebekah after their treatment of Caroline and later attempt on her own life. She had not seen him while captive, but the Salvatore brothers told her that he had lead the assault to reclaim her from her kidnappers. Damon said that Elijah staked Klaus himself.

Stefan later told her that Kol met the same end when he tried to gain revenge.

She shook herself out of her musings and slowly turned her head to meet the eyes of the man she knew so well. A good man. A strong man. An honest man.

A vampire.

She presses her lips together to stop the words that want to spill out. She is not that girl anymore, and he is a stranger now.

She speaks to him in her head while her hand reaches out to take the book he offers.

'Hello, Elijah. It has been too long. Too many years. How are you? Why are you here? What do you want? Why haven't you approached me before? Why did you save me all those years ago? Am I important? Do you think I am important? Am I important to you?' she chatters mindlessly in her mind.

She aches to know, but she is not that person anymore. She forces a smile. "Any special requests?" she asks lightly.

"If you could sign the back cover, please," he says, eyes trained on hers, reading her like a book, "I would be much obliged."

She nods and lets the book fall open.

She is unsurprised to see a message already printed there in his neat and precise handwriting.

"Those who would do you harm are coming for you tonight," it reads, "And I will not have you harmed. Come to me, after. I will wait for you to finish."

She forces a smile even as her heartbeat races.

"No problem," she forces a smile that does not reach her eyes—has it ever reached her eyes?

She writes "Thank you. Come to my apartment afterwards." He will know where she lives because he is always meticulous, always thorough, always prepared. She ignores the flickering impulse to write 'Why?' or 'I think I could love you'. No good will come of dredging up old dreams. She tries to sign "Eloise Knight", but it comes out "Elena Gilbert".

She swallows, staring it the page, the shuts the book abruptly and holds it out with a smile, curdled by fear. Three years of freedom from the supernatural, down the drain. How quickly ghosts from the past return to haunt again.

He smiles, genuinely, and she shivers. He notices. He reads her reply silently, and then tips his head.

"Thank you, Miss Knight," he says, locking eyes with her, before spinning on his heel and striding out of the bookshop. She swallows.

And so it begins. She wonders if it ever really ended.

Author note:

Elena's penname was specifically chosen: Eloise is related to helios, the Greek sun god, and Knight for obvious reasons.

Thanks to Albion19 for beta-ing this. It's been so long since I wrote fanfiction and it's the first time I've written for this couple. I didn't want to epic fail. =D