TITLE: on the wanting wind
CHARACTERS: Elena Gilbert, Elijah Mikaelson
TYPE: oneshot
GENRE (darkfic, romance, angst, etc) : romance, friendship
SPOILERS (from the show or books) : Not technically though there might be a small "All My Children" spoiler
SUMMARY: They're walking, shoulders close but not quite touching, her one step behind him, not because she's afraid or because he's protecting her but simply because she can be. Elijah/Elena.

"I admire you, Elena," he says one day. They're walking, shoulders close but not quite touching, her one step behind him, not because she's afraid or because he's protecting her but simply because she can be. She can choose where she is. She actually makes most of the decisions when it comes to the two of them. She can't help but compare this to what she has with Damon, who doesn't let her decide anything, or Stefan, who lets her decide but secretly plans what to do when her plan goes horribly wrong. And it's interesting when she compares and decides that, well, she likes this. The walking, the talking, the simple banter that isn't charged with all of the lies and pain that they've brought each other. It's nice.

"Why?" she asks. What does she have that he doesn't? He has lived more than anyone else on this planet, seen the very best the world has to offer and survived some of the very worst. She doesn't understand.

He thinks for a moment so they're in silence. She can hear the wind whistling through the leaves of the nearby trees. It's calming. "You're strong. You have a sense of what is right and wrong without the emotional attachment that drives so many of us to the incorrect decision. You look at the big picture, Elena, and it suits you. Not that there is very much that doesn't."

Her face reddens slightly. He just complimented her. Where did that come from? So simply, as if it's second nature to say how beautiful she is. It should be second nature for her to hear it by this point. And yet, it's different to hear it from him.

"You're too nice," she says, and it's partially a deflection. It's meant to be a deflection, but she recognizes the truth in it as well. "You've gone through so much, and you're so trusting. So honest. You're pretty strong yourself."

"Some would call that a weakness," he says. She knows who that some would be - his brothers, his sister, his father.

"They're wrong." They have been for as long as she's known them. They act too quickly and too strongly. It only hurts them in the end. Them and Elijah.

"Maybe they are, but they are not the only ones." He means that Stefan and Damon are wrong too. For what she isn't sure. There are so many things that they've done that would seem foolish to the original. She gives Elijah a questioning glance. He responds with "The Salvatore brothers have a habit of improper treatment. Whether that stems from their own personal faults or the situations they find themselves in, they have proven that they do not see the same light that others do. That I do." His gaze connects with hers, and it occurs to her what he means. "I mean no offense to either brother. I simply do not agree with them."

She recognizes in that second how fast her heart is racing. She knows he can hear it. What does he think it means? What does it mean? She's not sure. She's only really sure of the fact that this Elijah and he's done so much for her and he's such a great guy and he's basically saying in his old-fashioned, totally honorable and non-encroaching way that he would treat her better than Damon or Stefan if he got the chance to be with her. Oh, and she's pretty. He said she was pretty. She's not sure she's breathing. Maybe that's why her voice sounds so breathy when she asks, "About what exactly?"

He hesitates. She wonders if this is their moment, their defining moment where he either makes a stand to finally live the life he wants or where he does the honorable thing and doesn't say a word. It's more his moment than hers, but it affects them. She's realizing that if he throws his hat in the ring, if he tries to win her heart, he has a really good chance. But that's only if he allows himself to do so.

"About you, Elena." Just hearing those words makes her heart skip a beat, flutter and flux. She wonders when this started, when some odd unconscious thought about him turned into this physical reaction to his interest. She's come to rely on him so much, for support, for honesty, for friendship, that it isn't that much of a surprise that she might want to depend on him for more. For respect, for connection, for love. "Too often, I have seen you caught in their game of tug-of-war, their eternal struggle to feel secure. They're brothers. They will always want to prove their dominance. To have you would be to say that the one you chose is the strongest, the most worthy. For Damon, it dates back to the respect of his father, to Katerina and her games, to the fact that he began his days as a vampire as moral as Stefan was before Klaus took him and that he has since lost what makes him who he is. He expects to find solace in your arms, Elena, just as Stefan expects to find the key to his control."

"What do you expect?" she asks him. He doesn't miss a beat.

"Conversation, compassion, a way to forget and release myself from the bond with my own manipulative and parasitic brother. But, unlike the Salvatores, I can gain that and so much more through your friendship."

What does Elena gain? From Stefan, she gets an escape from her loneliness, her fear of the unknown and of her own strength. She gets a love that withstands but grows heavier and heavier with each passing obstacle, each new problem. From Damon, she gets a passion like nothing else, a burning fire of rage and love despite the worst in them both. She gets a love that consumes all rationale and reason until it destroys them both. And from Elijah, she gets a balance, a safe place that only feels that way because he is beside her. She gets a love that fosters her mind and soul and awakens pieces of her that she has long since put to rest. The question is: does she want to wake them? "What if I want more than friendship?"

"Then I suggest we turn around and you talk to Damon before he spends another night enclosed in my sister's clutches."

Elena shakes her head, takes a deep breath, and steels herself. "I meant with you, Elijah."

He goes silent. He nods shortly. "I know." The wind now whistles through his hair, coaxing strands up from their tight clump, almost as if nature itself is trying to bring him out of his shell. "It is not a good idea, Elena. It would be better if you chose one of them, or even a human that could take care of you until the day the both of you die."

Elena nods, and his face tightens at the motion. She says, "It would also be better if Katherine stopped pretending to be me, or if Klaus stopped killing people, or if my parents were still alive. But none of that is going to happen. I don't want better, Elijah. I want…." Their eyes meet. Her heart clenches and the word won't come out of her throat. It can't. The small spark of hope dies from his eyes.

"No, Elena, you simply want an easy out. I am sorry that I overstepped today. I will not do so again."

He goes to turn, to head back to where they came before this conversation. She doesn't want to go back. She doesn't want to forget. And maybe she isn't able to say what she wants, but actions do not fail her the same way words do. She steps forward and brings her lips to his. Her hands are there as well, holding him to her, making him accept what he is so quick to deny himself time and time again. She does not have to hold him long before he falters, before his arms enclose her body and the only space between them is the simple flick of the wind, the simple grin of a job well done.

When they part, she is one step ahead of him, in thoughts and recovery. She thinks again about how nice it is to get to decide where she is. And where she wants to be. She says, "Admire me all you want, but don't let that stop you from loving me."

He promises, "I won't."