(A/N: It's been a while. But I've been wanting to write Elijah/Elena again for ages, and their interaction in Season 4 finally inspired me. This is quite different from anything I've written previously. Much darker, for one. Most of the characters are dead. As for those that aren't... Well, Elena is still without her humanity in this story, which goes AU somewhere around 4x18. There will be eight chapters.
A content warning: many of the chapters contain subject matter that deals heavily with death, grief, violence, and awful, awful behaviour. You will find no morally upstanding characters here. So, on we go!)
What Happened in New Orleans
Well, hello new diary. My name is Megan Fox. This is probably the first time I've decided to keep a diary since I was a kid. Well, I'm forgetful. Neglectful and forgetful, that's me. So I'm hoping that by recording stuff in here, I can preserve a few memories.
Why now? Mostly because of my son. He's a year old now. That's a big milestone. He said his first word ("no" – doesn't that just tell you everything about him) and he's already started to walk. I kind of missed recording all that as it happened. Dan took a picture but that only tells part of the story.
I'm not sure what the next milestone is. Going to school? Riding a bicycle? Stringing together a complete sentence? I haven't done this before. I still feel anxious every time I look at him. I mean, I've read the parenting books and Dan is great, really supportive, but he's new to this whole thing too. I don't have anyone else to ask. Joyce is a bitch and it would be weird to ask John.
I could go online. Join a moms' forum. No, I can't.
Speaking of Joyce… She called again today. She wanted to check what time we were coming over. It's like she doesn't trust us. Me. She insists we come over with Louis every week, I guess to check that he's still alive or something. I didn't accidentally drop him on his head or feed him something that made him choke or some other newbie mom mistake. She gives me really judgemental looks, by the way. I can hear it in her voice too. If she weren't so condescending, maybe I could actually learn something from her.
But screw that. I'm doing fine, I've proven that so far. She can keep on shoving that stick up her ass.
1. The Last Original
"My name is Katherine Pierce, and I'm here to tell you that vampires exist."
The girl's voice rang low and clear. She was beautiful and young – no older than eighteen or nineteen – and she spoke with passionate intensity.
"Good evening, Miss Pierce," said the interviewer, shuffling his papers in anticipation. "Welcome to the show."
"Now, you say you've had direct contact with vampires, is that right?"
Her expression didn't change. "Yes. They killed my parents and they killed my sister. They left their bodies in our house for me to find."
Gasps from the studio audience. Whispers rippled around the crowd. A few of them had tittered at first, expecting yet another loony raving on about vampires, but the girl had flummoxed them. Katherine glanced at the audience. She seemed composed, hands clasped in her lap, a petite but upright figure on the red couch.
The interviewer stumbled over his words. "Oh, whoa. My God. I'm so sorry to hear that."
She nodded stiffly in acknowledgement. It was clear from the outset that the segment was not going in the way the show producers had expected. But they were live, and they continued broadcasting. The interviewer took a moment to formulate another response.
"Um, we're really very sorry for your loss, Miss Pierce. Was it a recent bereavement?"
"It happened two years ago."
More murmurs from the audience. The studio gradually quietened down. They were beginning to sense that something was happening, something that had never happened before.
"Can you tell us what happened?"
"Yes," said Katherine. "I'll tell you everything."
It was a big old house and the basement took up the entire length of the floor. Part of it had once been a wine cellar, and the scent still lingered in the wooden floorboards, the beams and even the cement and stone in the walls: a rich, dusky, old sort of scent. Another part had been converted into a room, perhaps for gambling or playing billiards. Chalk marks dusted the floor. They'd swept the place clean, but history could never be entirely erased.
At any rate, he had resided there for three weeks now without seeing an inch of sunlight.
He was wearing a vest, grey slacks, and his feet were bare. Stubble darkened his jaw. Someone had left a glass of blood on the table by his seat. He left it untouched. A candlestick burned slowly but steadily down.
Elijah picked the candle up out of its holder. The hot wax melted against his hand, sticking to the flesh. He moved his other hand in front of the candle, flexed the fingers and watched how they moved. Silhouetted, they looked like bones. He held the candle flame to his thumb. It wasn't hot enough really, couldn't do much damage. Five seconds. Ten seconds. The flesh started to burn. The flame licked up his palm.
It itched, nothing more. He grimaced, then tossed the candle into the fireplace a few feet away – the only other light source. He flexed his fingers again, the thumb that he had burned, made a shape in front of the fire. It was unblemished. Whole.
A shadow was thrown up by the flames above the hearth. As often happened, he was drawn to look at it. The shadow's maker was a coffin that rested along the left hand wall. His coffin, the one he had lain in with a dagger in his heart. The top was open, but he had not gone near it. The dead rested. Elijah did not.
He couldn't die even if he wanted to. Certainly no one else in the house wanted him to. For a time he had lacked the will to feed, supposing that he would wither away and go into an unconscious slumber. It would take him longer than other vampires, but he could wait.
They had solved that problem by bringing him a weak and injured girl nearly three weeks into his self-imposed fast. By that time he was ravenously hungry, and Elijah was not used to starving. They all but threw the girl at him, he bled her out until she was dead, and in his anger he killed both the vampires who had brought him his victim.
After that, they were more careful. He was told that they had to move on. He didn't ask why.
Three weeks at this new location, three more weeks without blood, and they had done nothing more than check up on him every couple of days.
Perhaps this time they would let him starve. Elijah closed his eyes and licked dry lips. He could feel the heat of the fire rippling over his skin. The only thing that ebbed and flowed in this drab, dark place.
We stick together as one. Always–
"Why do we always have to run, Elijah?" Rebekah asked. "I'm tired of running."
A thousand years of weariness lay behind her tone, and a thousand years of the same behind his reply.
"We have no choice. We run or we die."
A mantra they had lived by, perhaps more truly than any other. Their surroundings told the full story: a motel room on the outskirts of a nondescript town. Twin beds, clean enough at least. The grime on the radiator was something else. A single naked light bulb hung from the ceiling.
Rebekah had been looking out on to the balcony, but she turned away from it and yanked the flimsy curtain shut. There was nothing to see, outside or inside. Her suitcase lay unopened at the foot of her bed. Elijah hadn't bothered unpacking either.
"This isn't living! This isn't what you promised me."
He picked at the threadbare blanket on his bed. He could find them a better place to stay. That wasn't hard. They were used to living in luxury, even in these times. But the location wasn't the issue, it wasn't why Rebekah's temper had flared up, why she was pacing around.
"You promised me a family. We were supposed to have a family."
She came over to him, sitting down at last, and leaned her head on his shoulder. Elijah held her close. His baby sister, all that he had left in the world.
She sobbed. "I miss Nik."
"I know," he said quietly.
"I miss him, I miss his stupid face."
"Listen, Elijah. Shit has gone so far beyond the fan now. It hit the ceiling, it hit the floor, the entire building is one big pile of shit. There's no cleaning this up."
Elijah wrinkled his nose in mild distaste. "I was under the impression that you were handling it."
He had given Julian orders. Not that the other vampire needed them: Julian was over five hundred years old and extremely well-connected. He ruled over clans of vampires in France, Italy and Spain, and had done well out of the power vacuum that had appeared in recent months, to the point that Elijah had considered putting a permanent stop to his ambition. But Julian was too valuable to remove.
"I can't. There aren't enough of us." Julian spoke with even more vehemence than usual. "You can take down one video, but then someone else copies it and passes it on, and a hundred other people upload videos of their own. The news channels keep finding them. I'd say we've reached the point of no return. We are officially in a shitstorm."
Elijah suppressed a sigh. Julian's wide-eyed stare was beginning to give him a headache.
"What are you doing about it?"
"We're doing everything we can," said Julian, and Elijah's eyes narrowed, "but – my lord – the reason I want to make clear the full extent of this crisis is because our first priority has to be you. You and Rebekah. They know your names. The entire world knows who you are and what that means. You have to go into hiding, now. Disappear. Please."
Disappear. Go into hiding. That meant more than simply running. It meant vanishing off the radar entirely.
He would have to break the news to Rebekah. She was in the hotel bar, scoping out the denizens for someone to eat. He and Julian were on the roof, far away from prying eyes and ears, only the moon watching them overhead.
"We'll help you," said Julian. "I'll have Lucia find a place for you. I'll handpick our best vampires to stand guard. No one else will know where you are."
Elijah nodded slowly. "I want to be kept in the loop. I want full visibility of everything you do."
"Yes. Of course."
"And full control. Remember your vows to me."
For a second Julian blinked. Then he dropped into a crouched bow, lowering his head. "My undying loyalty, for ever."
Elijah gestured for him to get up. "Fetch Rebekah. We leave the country tonight."
He measured time's passing as the fire died down, slowly, into a stupor. The flames flickered behind his eyelids.
"Elijah?" A soft knock at the door to the basement.
He opened his eyes. Light spilled in behind him. He didn't look, but at the top of the staircase would be a woman in her late twenties, a woman with golden tresses and soft cheeks. He had seen her with a curl in her lip and a wicked gleam in her eyes, for Lucia was a vampire, and both her teeth and tongue were sharp.
She hadn't visited him in weeks.
"I have news," she said. "Good news."
He didn't reply. There was a pause.
"I've brought you a visitor," she went on. "Say hello."
The top step creaked. Someone else had entered the basement.
"Hello, deadbeat dad."
Elijah started. That voice. Surely he must have…
He turned around, leaning over the side of his chair to get a look at the newcomer descending the staircase. Her steps were quick and delicate, her long hair flowing over her shoulders, and she wore a slightly mischievous smile.
The name choked out of his mouth, half-whisper, half-gasp.
She paused to regard him, flicking her bangs out of her eyes. "Nope. Try again."
No. It couldn't be. He stared, disbelieving, slow to react. What was Lucia thinking? Surely a human could not have tricked her, and yet…
"This is Elena Gilbert," Lucia confirmed. "The other doppelgänger."
Said doppelgänger smiled. "Long time no see, Elijah. I like what you've done with the place."
Two nimble steps and she had flicked a lamp switch on, throwing a depressing light on the place. The wooden floorboards were bare except in the middle of the room where a large dark green rug lay limp in front of the fireplace. Plaster was peeling off the walls. As for the furniture, it was makeshift at best: a bed, a wardrobe, a side table, a couple of chairs and lamps all jostling for space. Lucia watched from the doorway above.
But Elijah only had eyes for her, the girl who could not be Elena.
"Impossible," he whispered. He stood up, dust billowing out of the armchair behind him.
Katherine-or-Elena walked around the room, looking around. He catalogued the differences. She didn't walk like Katherine. Her hair was wavy, not curly, and too short to be Katherine's. Katherine did not wear bangs. But it had been months, years since he had seen either of them in the flesh, and Katherine could easily have changed her look to match his memory of Elena. She had been known to impersonate the girl before.
That she would do so here, now, as a human in a place where every vampire wanted her dead, seemed just as impossible as Elena Gilbert being alive. So what phantom was he witnessing?
"Well, I'll let you two catch up," said Lucia. "Elena, come talk to me when you're done."
The girl nodded. "Okay."
Lucia departed, closing the door behind her. Meanwhile, his visitor was still scoping out the new place. He watched silently as she made her rounds, pausing to frown at him when she saw the coffin. Finally she came to a stop in front of him and placed her hand on his chest. Elijah looked down and saw the ring.
"See," she said. "It's me."
He moved to take hold of her hand, but before he could she blurred away from him, disappearing out of his line of sight. Elijah whirled around. There she was, sitting in his armchair, hands curling over each of the arms.
"Vampire," she said. "Katherine is still human." She picked up the glass of blood, sipped it, and made a face. "Stale. No wonder you're not eating. You look awful by the way."
"You're not Katherine," said Elijah. "This isn't another one of your games."
He couldn't quite get his head around it. His mind was sluggish after three weeks without blood. It couldn't be Elena. It couldn't be.
She gave him a somewhat sympathetic look and rose out of her seat. Again, he noted the difference in movement. Katherine would have been lithe and sinuous; this was more natural, spontaneous. Less like a coiled snake always ready to strike, although perhaps all the more dangerous since he couldn't anticipate her.
"Okay, I'll prove it to you." She approached him again, her voice soft. "The first time I met you, I had been kidnapped by Rose and Trevor. They took me to an abandoned house, kind of like this one. They were scared. Then you came in. I saw you at the top of the stairs and then suddenly you were right in front of me. You leaned in and you sniffed my neck. You thought I was impossible then too. What did you say to me?" She put on a quizzical look, scrunching up her nose. "Oh, yeah. Hello there."
It was her. It was really her. The impossible had come true.
He let out a long sigh. "Elena."
She smiled – and he recognized that smile, it was pure Elena Gilbert, simple and warm. "Hi." She wrinkled her nose. "Oh, also? You smell like a corpse."
Katherine dabbed her eyes. Her tale had been a tragic one, and no one could doubt the depth of emotion in those expressive dark eyes. The audience loved her already. They whooped and cheered when she described her escape from the vampires who hunted her. They gasped when she presented photographic evidence of several recently deceased vampires – from faded sepia-toned pictures to modern-day photographs, to the grey-faced corpses laid out in a line, deaths that had mystified humanity for over a year. It was a compelling story, and Katherine told it well. They loved her frankness, her vulnerability, and most of all her courage. She would be praised for all these things and more, called a champion, an icon, a hero, a defender of humanity.
All of that to come.
The interviewer leaned forward.
She straightened her shoulders. There was more. "Klaus may be gone, but two of his family are still alive. Elijah and Rebekah. This is important. Can you turn the camera directly on me, please? I have something to say."
The interviewer, confused but intrigued, nodded. "Go ahead."
The camera switched to a full-screen shot of Katherine, zooming in on her face. Beautiful, determined, ardent. A face to inspire. A poster-worthy face.
There was the minutest of pauses.
"I have a message for all vampire hunters out there. The vampires I knew were the Originals. The first of their kind. If you kill an Original vampire, every vampire that can trace their origin back to that Original, the entire bloodline, dies. We all saw what happened in New Orleans. No one wants a repeat of that. If you want to rid the world of vampires, here's how you do it. Kill the Originals. Kill Elijah. Kill Rebekah. Cut off the head of the snake. Do that, and vampires will finally be gone for good."
Elijah shook his head. "You should be dead."
"Last I checked, I was."
"No," he said, "you should be dead, you should have died over a year ago when Klaus…"
"Died?" Elena supplied.
"Well, I didn't. Turns out I'm from your bloodline. Lucky me."
She turned away from him, lifting one shoulder in a sort of half-shrug. Elijah frowned at her. It wasn't that he kept precise track of every vampire in his bloodline – hardly necessary now anyway – but Elena had researched her lineage and she had traced it back to Klaus.
"Klaus lied," said Elena, looking at him again. She seemed to have read his mind. "Big surprise."
He shook his head, gathering himself. "You disappeared. Why?"
Elena laughed. "Why? You remember the Katherine interview, don't you? The one that made her instantly famous and forced me into hiding."
The interview that had blown their cover right open. Impossible to forget. He made a face, sinking back down into his armchair again. How many times had he seen that interview replayed, seen her face smiling down at him from television screens, advertising panels, banners on the side of buildings… She was everywhere.
So of course Elena had to be nowhere.
"I remember," he said. "So what brings you here?"
Elena shrugged. "Your good friend Lucia Delaney. I was going to stay off the radar until this whole thing got taken care of, but you guys seem to be having a rough time of it. Lucia found me and asked me to help out, so here I am."
She waved her hands as though that explained everything, but for Elijah it didn't. He had no use for a vampire doppelgänger who was supposed to be dead, particularly not one who had switched off her emotions. His usual guards were tedious enough, and Elena could hardly match their age or experience.
He looked away. "I fail to see how you could help."
She ignored that. He could sense her presence at the edge of his vision. She moved back into his line of sight, deliberately stepping forward so that her shadow fell over him. He gave her a dead-eyed stare. Elena was unimpressed.
"I have to say, Elijah, the scruffy vagrant look? Doesn't suit you. Are you planning to grow a beard next?"
"I'm not planning to do anything."
"Right," she said. "And there we have our problem."
Our problem? His eyes narrowed. "What are you doing here, Elena?"
"We've all heard the news. Vampires dropping dead like flies. The Originals on the run. The world is a mess. Everything's falling apart, and what are you doing about it? You know, I heard you were far gone, but I didn't know you were this bad. You can't even put on a pair of socks."
Her tone was matter-of-fact, but still managed to be disapproving. The old Elena would have shown him some sympathy. This Elena just looked pissed that she had found him in such a pitiful state.
He grimaced. "So you're here to tell me to get dressed."
"And shower, and shave, and then go out there and lead. Fight with us."
She had passion, even without her humanity. Something he lacked.
"Why do you care?"
"I care because like every other vampire left on the planet, my life depends on you. Out there, right now, they're hunting us down. If they get to you…"
"I know," he said. "Spare me the lecture. I've heard it before. Do you think I've been idle in these last two years? I did everything in my power to stop this. I sent in spies to counter the government and the press, I cut off their sources, spread misinformation, killed or compelled every reporter, informant, and conspiracy theorist that heard even the wildest rumour of vampires, and yet the news continued to spread. I personally have killed more witches in the past year than I have in my entire lifetime, and for what? We have reached open warfare, and the witches have the werewolves and the vampire hunters on their side. I am the last piece on the chessboard. With my death comes yours and the death of every single vampire on this earth. I am fully aware of that and your repeating it will not make the slightest difference."
His voice cracked as he finished – his mouth was parched. He had not spoken at such length for weeks.
"That's it?" she said. "We're all doomed? You can't just stop fighting."
"I have nothing left to fight for."
"It's been two months since Rebekah died," said Elena. "You need to–"
His voice was low, but carried enough pained venom that it made her pause for a moment.
She took a breath. "You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. That's why I'm here. I'm going to help you move on."