Or known alternatively as Holy balls, this took longer than it needed to.

Songfic to Velvet Chain's "Strong". I had to reupload because I fixed the ending to where I felt it best suited the characters.

"I'll be right along,
'Cause baby you're so
Strong…"

Elena could feel it, the pulse of her heart speeding up as she ran. She would like to say that she didn't know where she was running, that she didn't know what she was doing. That would imply some innocence in all this, that she had no deliberate intentions of betraying Stefan and Damon. Elena wanted to not feel this guilt. She knows she should not feel this guilt, but when you are loved so much by two people, that it's almost visceral, that it's almost like moisture in the air, you can't help but want preserve it. That love is a part of her regardless of whether she wanted it and she doesn't know what she'd be without it. She hasn't really considered what that would be like, hasn't needed to.

However, this pull that she feels, it's in her heart and her mind. It does more than tug at her heartstrings, shiver through her body. It's in her mind. It washes through and makes it all fuzzy and yet sharper at the same time. It's in her will. It's feels natural, feels so damn right, to be running right now. This draw, this pull is more than just physicality because he's not even here and she feels him. Elena knows where he is and she can't even be sure he's even back in town. Everything about him is just so strong and she needs that. Needs to be more than just a tug toy. Wants to know that feeling of being with someone and be all there. She didn't know that she missed it until he was gone.

"Baby I see - You're vulnerable to me.
That's your power over me."

His back is turned to her, Elena can not see his face, but she knows he knows. It's not even that his head drops, chin to chest or that his shoulders slump. It's not that he sighs and in it, there is a touch of his voice, not broken, but sad. It's a second worth of disappoinment and quiet, like him, but she catches it and it makes her almost want to whimper. But she doesn't, because this is not a moment that she's dreading or scared of. His stance is still rigid, still proper and it reminds her that he's so strong. He's done so much to make her terrified to be alone with him. In a second, he could have her lying on this forest floor, muddy and covered in leaves. Elena considers it for a second, if she could be scared of Elijah.

But Elena's not. He straightens up and regains a poise, a cock to his head. She can almost feel him collect himself and take in a useless breath to harden his features. When he finally turns to face her, sharp and quick and businesslike, she sees that gentle spark in his eye. Elijah gets it when he looks at her, she's seen it before, and he can not help it. His mouth is drawn in a casual, amused smirk and his hand is partly balled at the bottom button of his suit coat. He's showing her he's amused, this is just light fun, but she knows better. Elena's not so naive to not recognize a caring look, a gentle look. She's also not so delusional to deny that this look thrills her. He seems to take all of the breath from her body when he captures her with his eyes. It's not arrogant to recognize that Elijah's only shown this side with her.

"Baby, baby, I know - It's always been so.
Physical love is oh so meaningful for you."

He steps forward, almost sauntering and for a moment she considers just running to him and embracing him. They are so good with their words, always so careful, but she knows if she spoke or if he spoke, they'd both just carefully avoid what she's here for, never facing it and nothing would change. He's never touched her gently and lovingly, she realizes. At least, not in the way Elena wants. Elijah's always so restrained and keeps his distance. If she just hugged him tightly, there's no way he could misunderstand or dodge, right?

Elijah screams propriety, but as she looks into his eyes and he closes in, she knows that because he's the honest and purposeful type, when he did touch or hold her, it would be because he desired to and that she means something to him. She wants him to hold her more than ever in that moment. Elena wants to mean something more than this. She wants to mean something to him because he sure as hell means something to her.

"You write love letters to me - strong.
You know how to talk to me - so strong."

He stops when he's an armlength away from her. Elijah's never had any qualms about personal space when he's aiming to discomfort. He doesn't know that he's close enough for her to grab onto. It would be so easy. But Elena clears that thought and looks up to his face. He's still staring at her, that look even more noticeable at this range. She opens her mouth, coughs once and while her stomach is positively exploding with butterflies, the words come out easier than she would have thought.

"It's been four years since you left. Are you done running now? Have you forgiven yourself?"

Elijah doesn't say anything, but his mouth tightens and Elena wonders if he's just going to leave again. That thought moves her to speak again, a little more desperate.

"I still have the letter you left me. I keep it by my bed so I can remember you and when I start to forget, I read it again. You know, I think about you a lot. It hurt when you left and with the way you did, I missed you."

The tight mouth twitches and she instinctively knows he's trying to not to smile that sad smile. He seems to fill back up, he seems less hollow at her words, but his shoulders are still pushed back and he refuses to reach out to her. Before Elena can stop herself, her hand reaches out and brushes at his suit coat, longing to feel him solid beneath her fingers. His hand twitches, but he clenches it and speaks low.

"I thought you'd have discarded it by now. The words of a traitor, of someone that's harmed you terribly should mean very little. I should not warrant such consideration and remembrance considering the hell I'd thrown you into."

He seems to want to laugh at this and suddenly the last line of his letter flashes in her mind. Elena knows that not one iota of regret has lessened. He still cares as if it was yesterday, Elijah still cares about her. Elena remembers what he cherished about her then and wants to show him it's still there. She knows that with the way he refers to himself, he's still seeking forgiveness, even if he doesn't expect it. Elena knows what she has to say.

"Elijah, I forgive you. You need to forgive yourself."

He knows just how to get her to be what she loves being. A friend.

"Baby, I'm yours - you know
Because you're so, so strong."

By some stroke of luck or maybe by the will of God, Elena gets Elijah away from the hole leading into the caves and into her car. They sit silently, air pumping out heat that he doesn't need and that she doesn't notice. As she drives, she remembers that she needed to meet with Damon to discuss what was happening with Klaus. He and his sister had since gotten to the tree two years ago and had it destroyed. The spell that bound them together was also long since rendered moot. It seems that even a natural event can't keep a spell lingering on after three years.

It was rather nice how things had worked out and Elena was still suspicious of the convenience, but she chose to enjoy that the spell had not wreaked the havoc she feared it would. Esther was still about and no doubt plotting, but right now, all Elena cared about was that Elijah was there with her, alive and very much in one piece. He was all she could focus on at the moment and when she parked, she sent Damon a sparsely worded text telling him that she couldn't make it. He asked why and she told him a lie, which was easier than it should have been.

She had Elijah back and that's all she wanted to focus on right now. His presence was invading her senses and she delighted in the familiarity and safeness he wrought. As she sat in the silence with him, he looked out the window to the apartment building she now lived in. He didn't look surprised and she knew he wasn't. There was a reason she sensed him here tonight and it's a feeling she's had over the years. He's been watching her and protecting her. Elena knows this. It was just that she couldn't not see him anymore and tonight she didn't fight that desire.

"You would fight for me."

He had nowhere else to go for the night and she wouldn't let him leave. When Elena told him this, Elijah didn't fight it. He just stepped in the doorway at her invitation and removed his coat. She took it from him to hang up and when he passed her to walk into the living room, she was acutely aware of his closeness. She took a breath and turned to offer him something to drink. He smiled and asked for a cup of Earl Grey, which she took to making right away. They had so much to talk about and she was eager to get to it.

When Elena returned with the steaming cup in hand and passed it to him, she had to fight a smile at the contact his fingers made against hers. She felt silly around him, but it just felt so nice. She was about to open her mouth when she heard a sharp knocking at the door. She made to walk over to the door and heard Elijah scoff.

"The youngest Salvatore…"

She wasn't surprised then to see Stefan's face when she opened the door and yet was surprised by the irritation rising in her when he made to come in. She cleared her throat and shook her head. Elena understood his concern. He'd returned to something of the Stefan she'd known before and while she still loved him, she'd not been eager to return to him. He seemed concerned and she knew she had to assure him or he'd never leave.

"Elena, you can't be alone like this. What if he brings you to Klaus? He hasn't made a move recently, but we still don't know what he's up to. He could always…"

"Stefan, please. Elijah's not going to hurt me. We need some time alone."

Stefan considered this and while he knew it to be true was still hesistant to leave her alone. Elijah was still running with Klaus and therefore could turn on her. At that moment, Elijah appeared at her side, her hair rising slightly at his speed. He seemed coiled and Elena wondered where such a quick change had come from. Stefan eyed him and then turned to look at her. Elijah kept his focus on Stefan however and spoke.

"Stefan, I know you care for her, but you should know that I'm here for no secret agenda. She actually brought me here and all I want to do is catch up. So if you would be so kind…?"

He spoke lightly, but she sensed a tighteness in his throat and when stepped in front of her, Elena also sensed a possessiveness. Does he not know about Stefan?, she wondered and then hoped he did. Stefan gave her one last long look, smiled and looked down before turning around. He spoke over his shoulder as he walked away,

"Don't even think about hurting her Elijah or I will have to come find you."

Elijah frowned at this before shutting her door and returning to the chair she'd placed in front of her small apartment's window. He seemed settled into the chair, like a king on his throne and when he turned to look at her, he smiled gently and she knew she was safe.

"You would starve for me."

Shockingly enough, the time passed quickly over the next couple of months. Elena insisted he stay with her, she had a spare room for when Jeremy was in town, visiting from college, but Elijah politely refused. She'd been a little hurt, but understood. They talked whenever he came over, which was usually every evening. She realized she didn't really have a lot to tell him, Klaus' persual of Caroline, Jeremy and Bonnie going away to school, Damon's on again, off again relationship with Rebekah quickly becoming old news.

But they filled the time somehow and she realized one evening when they'd been drinking tea that neither of them had spoken for quite a while. Elena didn't remember what being comfortable in silence with someone felt like until now. She knew that she didn't want to forget again. Looking for a topic of conversation, she brought up something she'd wondered about him for a while.

"How come I never see you eat? There was that one time you had that blood bag I gave you, but I've never seen you feed."

He pondered this for a second before answering simply.

"Because I've never wanted you to see me that way. I don't like indulging that side of myself, that only thinks of blood and the hunt. That's just a shadow of who I am."

"But you must feed somehow." Elena askes tenatively, afraid that when he answers, she'll see him covered in blood, like she's seen Klaus, like she's seen Stefan. He only purses his lips and looks into his cup.

"Yes, but you'd be surprised on who is willing to give up their blood. It's distasteful, but I don't have to kill anyone."

Elijah looked at her then and seems to wait for some kind of reply. She only has to think for a moment before she answers with a smile.

"Good. I didn't believe you would be like that. You're not a monster Elijah. I don't see you as a cold killer." She takes a sip of her tea then and misses the longing look on his face, the way he freezes in his appreciation. When Elena looks up again, he is sipping as well and the clock on the wall reads nine, his usual departure time.

"You would suffer for me."

They start to take walks together after the first month. Elijah likes to recount history and sometimes they even travel out of state. Not far, but just far enough to be somewhere new. This is exciting for her, because she's never been anywhere else than anxious. Elena's always been in Mystic Falls, doomed to die there. But he takes her to different cities and towns. No where really big, but places with history and she thinks she likes it better because he seems in his element here, surrounded by history with someone there to listen.

The trips never seem to last long enough and Elena's always at a loss when they get back into town and stop at the Grill. Stefan is there waiting for her, which is to be expected, since they are friends again. When she walks in the door, he stands, smiles and moves to meet her. Elijah is always behind her and when Stefan gets closer to talk to her, she feels him grow more distant. He'll turn to her and say that he's needed elsewhere, that he has something to do. He always leaves and she has lunch with Stefan. It's not a bad time, but Elena feels like something is definitely missing. When Stefan takes her hand and holds it on the table, that hole feels less unbearable. But it's still there.

She turns her head when she swears she feels him there and watching her, but that flash of movement is always vanished when her eyes turn to where she knows he'd been. She is stunned at how much she just knows with him, but doesn't question it.

"You would die for me."

Elijah comes to her one evening and looks to be okay. But when he steps forward and tries to hide the gritting of his teeth, she knows something's wrong. She has has a feeling that it's to do with Klaus, considering that he'd visited her just yesterday at her apartment. He'd been unable to get in, but was able to make his threat clear.

I need more blood, love.

He'd left confidently, knowing he'd get what he was after soon enough. But her worry only grew each moment that'd passed since then. Now, with Elijah sitting stiffly up on her couch, she was even more concerned. She was no fool. She had a good idea of what happened.

"Did he hurt you? Why would he do that?"

Would he hurt Elijah to get me to cave? He would never hurt his brother. Well, maybe never is a strong word, but Klaus didn't want to lose his family. The only reason Elijah would be hurt is if he crossed Klaus.

"What happened? Aren't you healing?"

"…I am, it's just that my brother has a few tricks to make us really hurt. He reacted violently when I expressed displeasure at his current plans. Well, I did more than express it by words." He doesn't go further and Elena didn't really want him to. He didn't deny that his brother hurt him which means he knows she knows. Their honesty is still there, it always has been. Elena feels something swell in her at that, but she chooses to return her attention to him.

He moves forward, elbows resting on his knees and says to the floor,

"I'm not going to let him victimize you anymore."

She wonders again what exactly happened between them, how much hurt had been dealt and why the suit he's wearing now looks like it was just picked off the rack.

"Is there anything I can do?"

Elijah started to rest against the back of her couch again, her sitting next to him with a hand on his shoulder, but he leans into her hand then. It's so slight as he's moving, Elena doesn't know if he knows what he's doing. Without thinking, she slides her arm around the back of his neck to his other shoulder and while he isn't really pressing himself into her, he's definitely closer than before. She closes the gap and while her left hand on his shoulder pulls him over, she puts her other arm across his chest, to his hip and pulls him closer. Elijah makes a noise of protest, but she shushes him and enjoys the moment. After a moment, he relaxes into her, his head under her chin, and she fights the urge to kiss the crown of his head.

"Well, I feel the same way too.
You know I feel that way about you."

Elena realizes that maybe this isn't such a good idea, considering Klaus' proposal, but it's too late now. She's paused to think and he's gained the upper hand. She then thinks on Elijah's pain and realizes it wasn't wrong at all. If he'd not fallen asleep on her couch, he'd no doubt be next to her now. Klaus just eyes her amused. He is at her door again and when she'd opened it enough to where he could see his brother, he'd only grinned. She told him simply,

"Don't hurt Elijah because of me. I'll give you my blood, just don't do it again."

He stares at her for another second before laughing. He doesn't seem hurt in the slightest, but then again, he's probably fed in the last six hours since Elijah'd left him.

"Do you even know why he faced me? My foolish brother came to me, looking to make a deal. How like him. You Petrovas are his poison. Always wanting to save them. Like flies to honey."

Despite the strong bond they had, she was still surprised at this revelation and more so by the fact that she became happy at it. She must have looked surprised because Klaus grinned at her.

"Could you honestly not tell? I've seen him with Tatia, the love of his life, and he's done more for you when he's dead."

She fights back the delight that he would put himself in harms way for her. That's a terrible thought, she tells herself. You shouldn't be happy at that. But she can't fight what she feels. He cares about her. He put himself in danger for her. She wants to argue that this is Klaus, he could be tricking her, but she so badly wants to believe it's true.

Elena can only be happy at that because she feels the same way. That's why they're at this point now. When Klaus reaches to take her arm, she can almost focus on the thought of Elijah's sleeping and peaceful face. She knows this is wrong. He got injured trying to prevent this. Klaus is saying something about not being barbaric, there are painless ways to do this and he really only needs a little. She wants to find it disturbing, but then Elijah is there in front of her and she can only see him.

He is facing his brother down and speaks harshly. There is no light in his eyes, just a coldness.

"Niklaus, leave."

Klaus drops his hand back to his side and smirks. Looks around jovially and speaks with an amused tone.

"You see brother. I'm actually quite torn. I'm actually wanting to see a lovely lady about now, but it's all business, business, business here."

He pauses again and his smile gets wider, if that's even possible.

"Since I get what I want anyhow, I'll leave you for tonight. I have more fun things in mind for my evening. Enjoy yours brother."

Elena doesn't know whether to thank Caroline for this change in Klaus or be concerned for her friend. Knowing Klaus' intentions though, she's not worried for Caroline's safety. Just her sanity. Elijah turns to her and before she can look at him, she dodges around him to close the door. She faces it and lets out quietly against it,

"Thank you, Elijah."

Not wanting to deal with the hurt that she might have caused him and knowing he wouldn't openly admit it anyway, she starts to trek back through the living room, heading towards her bedroom. She figures by him seeing the late time, he'd show himself out. He won't stay, even if she asked, so she doesn't bother. But then Elijah's voice cuts into her exhaustion, clearly and sharply.

"Wait."

She turns to him, afraid of his anger, but ready to defend her almost choice. Elena almost bumps her nose into his chest, startled by his sudden and soundless jump to right behind her. She takes a step back and catches something shifting in his gaze, something seeming to focus. She opens her mouth to ask what, but he speaks before she does. He only softly says,

"You don't need to endanger yourself on my account. …I just got you back. I don't want to see you harmed. …I want to see you safe."

Elena feels a blush coming on when his words bounce around in her head and smiles at the thought that he's not upset at her for what she might have done, just that it would have been for his sake. Elijah doesn't seem to understand why she would do it for him. She sees the 'please, be careful' floating between them, directed by his eyes focused on her face. He doesn't want to do anything to lose her, but he's also trying not to control her. It's how their relationship has always been, respectful and balanced, but she feels something more from him with the weight of his gaze. Elena figures out then she has become something more, she's gotten what she wanted without even realizing it. It's been there for a long time and she wonders why it's taken this long to see it clearly. Her need to protect to him and want to have him near is reciprocated in full.

When he leans forward slowly, with no obvious hesitation, and touches his forehead to hers, she just closes her eyes and feels something click into place. It should feel wrong, but he's made the move and therefore Elena knows that he's being honest with himself and allowing himself this moment. He wants to be here. It's small and innocent and something not that game changing, but she feels it in her soul, like she's always done with him. When she doesn't pull away and in fact steps a little closer to place her hands on his shoulders, Elijah relaxes and closes his eyes. She feels his mouth tighten and he keeps it closed off, sealing off any sound he might make.

She hears his unspoken words as clearly as if he'd said them aloud. He doesn't know that Elena wants to hear those words from him. She hopes that he feels the words in return with the way she's holding him. She'll say them to Elijah as many times as it takes.

I need you. I'm not letting you go.

"I know you're mad about me.
You've shown me because you're so, so strong."