TITLE: it's not goodbye unless you actually say it
CHARACTERS: Elena Gilbert, Elijah Mikaelson
TYPE: oneshot
GENRE: general, angst, friendship, romance
SPOILERS: "All My Children"
SUMMARY: Instead of a letter, Elijah apologizes in person at the end of "All My Children." Elijah/Elena.
NOTES: Written for an anonymous drabble request on Tumblr. Prompt is the summary.

it's not goodbye unless you actually say it

Elijah would be the first of six people who left Elena to properly say goodbye. For her parents and Jenna, the option was stripped away by death. But Elijah was not so lucky. He had not died. He was not compelled. He honestly had no excuse to leave with little more than a letter to explain himself. And so, he waited, with his back to the curtains on Elena's bedroom window. Waited while his other siblings fled, and while Bonnie mourned the loss of the mother he had killed, and while he remembered every last one of his other kills. He was not Stefan. He did not write a name on a wall for every kill that he made. Instead, he wrote an entry. That was the only time he touched his journal, to immortalize another victim on the pages. In his time, he had filled four books. Four. The thought that he almost had to add Elena to the journal frightened him, and more importantly, steeled his resolve.

The sound of a clicking car alarm brought him back to the present. He need not turn around to know that it was Elena returning home. He could hear the familiar beating of her distressed heart. She unlocked the door sluggishly, dropping her keys into a bowl upon entrance. She took to the stairs without turning on a light. Why should she? There was no one to alert of her presence. No one to care what time she arrived home. It was a sad life she lived, and he only made it worse by inhabiting it. He was making the right decision to leave. He was sure of it. When the door opened, he wasted no time.

"Elena." She glanced up and, much like their first interaction after the sacrifice, a thousand emotions flickered across her face. There was indignation, frustration, fear, relief, happiness, and so much more before she wiped it clean.

"Elijah," she said back sturdily.

He bowed his head, resigned already to how this meeting would go. "Today, I did things that I abhorred to protect the one thing I love the most - my family. If there is anyone in the world who would understand, it would be you. But, I can't ask for you to understand, Elena. I can't ask for you to accept what I have done."

She interjects, "You left me in a cave, underground, with Rebekah." And Elena's voice shakes with barely suppressed fear and rage. "She almost burned me alive, Elijah."

"I know. I was foolish to believe that my sister could control her feelings enough not to harm you. I have always been foolish when it comes to my family, and I cannot allow that weakness to bring you harm. It is for that reason that I must say goodbye."

It takes but a second for his words to sink in to Elena. Instantly, there's a fire in her eyes as her heart picks up its pace. She is angry with his decision. He can tell that before she even begins to speak. Her words only confirm it.

"No. You don't get to walk away, Elijah. You can't. The last time you left Klaus took Stefan, turned Tyler into a hybrid, killed Mikael, and nearly destroyed everything in his quest to make the perfect little army-"

He assures her, "Klaus will be afraid of our mother's return. He will not try anything as drastic again."

Elena shakes her head. "I'm not just talking about Klaus problems, Elijah. I'm talking about everything. I can't lose someone else. I can't take it. If you go, I can't handle it, especially when Bonnie won't speak to me and Damon is lashing out and Stefan…. No. You have to stay here, Elijah. Please."

He won't look at her. He whispers, "I don't trust myself, Elena. Not to hurt you, not to protect you, not to…."

Where his voice is soft, hers is steel. "If you go, I will follow you. I've got nothing to hold me back. I will follow you and whatever happens to me because of it will be on your conscience."

He tells her, "You can't follow me, Elena."

"I can try." And there's no skip in her heart, no hint of anything but the truth.

He tilts his head, frustration slowly building. "Elena-"

"Elijah," she says with a tilt of her own head. He is silent. She matches every word he has, every thought and action. She is his match, and that is why he must go. No matter the cost.

"I am a danger to you, Elena. I have been from the first moment that Rose contacted me. I saw you as nothing but the doppelganger, a way to trap my brother, a cruel joke created by my mother, and most importantly, a copy of Katerina." He pauses. "And of Tatia. She was the original doppelganger, and it is because of my influence that she became the sacrifice that bound our family. I am responsible for her death, and I will not be responsible for yours."

Elena stutters, "Y-you didn't-"

"I did. I hurt her because I cared for her. More than I would care about anyone else for many years."

"Katherine," Elena supplies.

He shakes his head. "You," he corrects. "The only woman I have ever truly cared for outside of Tatia is you, Elena. And I will not allow this part of history to repeat itself. Not for a second time. Goodb-"

"No!" Elena cries. "I don't care if you hurt me, Elijah. Everyone hurts me."

"Then perhaps you're the one who should get away. Go somewhere where my family and Stefan and Damon cannot hurt you. Go somewhere safe."

She tells him, "The only place I feel safe is with you. I need you, Elijah. And I don't have an eternity to wait for you to come back."

"Then don't wait," he says. She opens her mouth to argue again, but he raises a hand. She falls silent at the motion, watches it come towards her and brush back her hair. He meets her eyes, says, "I am so sorry, Elena." And then his lips are on her forehead, warm in a way that shouldn't be possible. Her eyes flutter close to capture the moment. He's gone before she opens them again, leaving behind only a whisper on the wind, a simple and heartfelt "Goodbye."