I did it. I went out and partied. Granted, it wasn't exactly an all night long affair since I can't stay out after dark, but the days are long in the summer and with heat like this I could do with a drink. No pregnant = no ban on alcohol.
I kind of didn't tell Dan. I mean, I said I was going out and that I needed his mother to take care of Louis, but I told him it was because I was going shopping. Which was true. I needed to go shopping to buy my going-out outfit. I just didn't mention that last part.
By the way, I am a complete lightweight. The one flaw in my plan: Joyce was there when I got home. Obviously. Well, she got instantly suspicious, but I said that I had a headache from being out in the sun without a hat and she seemed to buy it. It was damn good improvising considering I was drunk.
Anyway. The fun part. The fun part was that I went out to a couple of bars and I met some cool people. I am actually good with people. I mean, they seemed to like me. There was one guy, Julian, who I'd met before! I didn't recognize him at first, but he used to be a work colleague of Dan's and I think I'd only met him once before. Anyway, we talked for a while and had a few drinks. It gets a little hazy after that but everyone had a good time.
It was nice. Nice to talk to an adult who's not Dan and not my mother-in-law. Not that I don't love Dan. But I've been feeling so… trapped.
The moment Elijah stepped beyond the invitation barrier, Elena was there. "Get over here," she hissed, and in a swirl of air they were gone, alighting seconds later on the outskirts of the city, next to a car with blacked out windows. Elena shoved him in unceremoniously.
"Did you kill her?" she asked without preamble.
Elijah blinked. The car's engine thrummed into life; they pulled into the highway. He glanced at the rear view mirror and recognized Dario's profile in the reflection. The other vampire frowned slightly, biting his lip.
"No," said Elijah.
"Did the kids kill her? We used a trigger command–"
"I saw what you did," he interrupted her. "It didn't work."
"What happened? A group of children – children, barely five years old – turned kamikaze on us. Was that your idea?"
She turned her head slightly, adjusting her seatbelt. "I had some input."
"Your input resulted in an unspeakably vile act. Those children were innocent."
Elena laughed. "We're driving out of the city that you destroyed and you're honestly telling me that you've never killed a child? You've never killed an innocent person?"
He couldn't answer that.
"We were following your lead, Elijah. Be ruthless. Make an impact. It worked."
Was there a devil or an angel on his shoulder? No, he was the devil. Every vampire alive was of his bloodline; he had made them. They had all conspired in this.
"I should have given myself up," he murmured. "I let their lives go to waste."
"Well, you didn't," said Elena. "So there's a part of you that wants to live after all. If you'd figured that out earlier, none of those kids would have died."
He leaned back, rubbing his eyes. His skull might have been made of granite, his limbs of stone. The car thrummed softly. Rain spattered against the windows.
"You knew, didn't you," he said. "You knew I'd change my mind."
"Sometimes it takes being at death's door to realize that you really don't wanna go through there," Elena replied. "But no, I didn't know. I hoped. I only got one of the three things I wanted tonight, but at least I got that one."
He glanced at her. "What do you mean?"
"I wanted the witches dead and I wanted Katherine dead. I guess since you failed at the latter, you also failed at the former."
"Failed implies that I attempted to kill her. I did not. I let her go."
"You…" Elena sucked in a breath, looking deeply irritated. In the driver's seat, Dario shook his head. "Of course you did. This stupid idea you have about maintaining the balance. There is no balance, Elijah. Not after what Katherine did. Did you talk to her?"
"We exchanged words."
"What did she say?"
He shrugged. "Nothing of importance."
"Anything she said is important. What did she say?"
"As I was occupied at the time with trying not to cause the slaughter of innocent children, I'm afraid I don't recall."
Elena folded her arms. "Okay. You keep that righteous hat on. I'm sure it'll keep you warm until we get back to the hideout."
They left him alone for two days, during which Elijah avoided all forms of media. It was all too predictable at this point. Finally, when it seemed like he wouldn't kill the first person to step into his room, Lucia took that initial step. She brought him a blood bag. A peace offering, she said.
"For what it's worth," she added, "I'm not proud of what we did to rescue you. It was necessary, but it wasn't pleasant."
"You made your point," said Elijah. "Next time, dagger me."
"Oh – we – we couldn't find a dagger." Her tone became apologetic. "The drawbacks of having no witches on our side." She paused. "Elena wants to see you. Is that all right?"
He shrugged. "Where are we, at point five of her ten point plan to royally fuck me over?"
"I'll take that as a yes."
So Elena came in. She wore a long navy coat and there were snowflakes in her hair. The weather had turned suddenly cold.
"Okay," said Elena. "We've established that you want to live. Whatever you say, your actions prove that. So now we can move on to the next step."
"Wait a second," he said. "It's not that simple."
"Yes, it is."
"No, it's – Elena. Do you think I can ignore what you did to save me?"
He couldn't stop thinking about it. He didn't need to watch the news to figure out what the headlines would be, how Katherine and her allies would spin this. They had committed an atrocity.
"You are proof that vampires deserve to die, so how can I justify to myself my own existence?"
Elena sighed. "Oh my god. Okay. Yes, we do terrible things. We're vampires. It's part of the package. I'm not going to justify to you why I deserve to live or why you deserve to live. You want to live. That's enough."
She moved to sit down next to him. Elijah had to make space for her. The curtains were closed, the balcony doors shut. The room felt very small.
He looked at her. "Is it?"
"It has been for a thousand years."
"I had my family then."
She scoffed. "Did they make you feel good? Did they make you feel virtuous? Because if you're protecting your family, you have to be a good person, right? No matter what you do in their name. Family, revenge, honour. That's worth burning cities for. That's worth killing children for. How is this any different?"
He opened his mouth, but no words came out.
"This is my family," said Elena. "I'm doing what I can to protect us. We're your family too. All the vampires. Everyone in your bloodline. Isn't that what you always wanted?"
"You're not my family, Elena."
"We're not biologically related," she conceded. "But we are blood related. When people lose their family, they make their own. They have to."
He looked away. "You'd know."
"It's about time you learned it too." She leaned forward. "Are you still mad at me?"
He sighed. It was difficult to muster up the energy to be angry. What did feelings matter? It wouldn't bring anybody back. It wouldn't solve anything.
"Yes," he said. "But we're still talking."
"Are you ready to move on?"
She was right about one thing. He wanted to live. What must Klaus, Kol and Rebekah have thought as they watched him go meekly to his death like a lamb to the slaughter? Idiot. Sick, grieving, sentimental fool.
Elena was still inches away from him, pressing him gently for an answer. The snow in her hair had melted, leaving it slightly damp. She would be cold to the touch.
He met her eyes. "Tell me what you have in mind."
She stood up, and he watched her walk over to a chest of drawers, leaning against it. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Let's establish a couple of ground rules," said Elena. "One, you're still in an unfit state to lead us. Until that changes, I'm in charge. Okay?"
"Define 'in charge'."
"You do what I tell you, without question."
Not much of a difference there, then. He shrugged.
Elena continued. "Two, you don't ask me to do anything. No requests, orders, bargains or negotiations. We play this game my way."
"As you wish."
"Give me your word."
He tilted his head slightly. "Isn't this negotiating?"
"I said no questions. Give me your word."
His word. The only thing he had left, she'd said. The only thing he could offer her. Perhaps this time he would even keep it.
"I give you my word."
"Good. Okay. We're going out."
"This seems unwise," said Elijah.
"Relax. No one knows your face."
"Yours, on the other hand…"
Elena shrugged. "I changed my hair. Besides, where we're going, it'll be dark enough that no one will notice."
Their destination, it turned out, was a small but popular bar in the centre of town. Neon lights promised all who entered a good time, while the sign by the entrance offered students two-for-one deals on cocktails and other favoured beverages. Outside, a blonde girl in a silver dress and high heels cocked her head at them, and Elijah blinked when he recognized her.
"Elijah." She looked him up and down. "You look the same. I thought you'd be different."
He shrugged. "Same goes with the territory."
Caroline unzipped her shoulder bag, holding up a small mirror to reapply her lipstick. "I already did a sweep," she informed them, "and the bar is vervain-free. Nobody in there will recognize us. Plus there are a couple of guys who are totally hot."
Elena took his hand and pulled him forward aggressively. "You're with me."
Caroline had to stop to avoid smudging her lipstick, holding back a laugh. So they went in, and it had been a while since Elijah had visited an establishment like this. For a vampire, it was an assault on the senses: the smell of alcohol and sweat, the music playing, people talking and laughing, and the sight of so many people packed together, so much flesh on display, warm bodies ripe for drinking. Caroline immediately made a beeline for one of the bartenders – possibly the "totally hot" guy she had mentioned before.
"Would you like a drink?" Elijah asked.
Elena smiled. "Only if it's fresh."
He got her meaning. "I'll see what I can do."
"On the house," Caroline crowed, bringing over three shot glasses to their table.
Well, there was alcohol in front of him and he was in the company of two beautiful girls. Maybe if he drank enough he would forget what had happened in the crypt.
"I'm curious," said Elijah, raising his glass to toast Caroline. "How did you both come to be here?"
"We're best friends," said Caroline. "Duh."
"It's not a long story," said Elena. "Caroline joined the 'my entire family is dead' club, and we went on from there."
"No boring stories," Caroline said, waving her hand. "Mystic Falls is past and we are never going back."
She downed her shot. He didn't pry.
"All right," said Elijah. "The next round is on me. Elena wanted something fresh. What's your taste, ladies? Anyone in this room."
They exchanged glances, both girls' eyes gleaming with predatory interest. Elijah finished his drink as the pair of them whispered, eyeing up the other people in the bar. They selected two men from a group of three: college students by the look of them, laughing and joking about something sport-related. One or two of the men had thrown glances their way, but Elijah guessed that his presence put them off.
He got up and moved over to the bar, ordering a second round of shots. Glancing back, Elijah saw that Caroline and Elena had been left alone. He gave Elena a nod when the bartender served him, and she came over to collect the drinks. Elijah leaned over to whisper in her ear.
"Find somewhere discreet to sit."
After that, it was easy. He compelled the two men to join Elena and Caroline – not that they required much persuasion. The third student, left alone without his friends, attempted to follow and Elijah pulled him back.
"Come with me."
He returned to the girls' new table a few minutes later, carrying a glass of what looked like red wine.
"What's that?" Elena asked, leaning over to take the glass. She was sitting in the first guy's lap. The guy laughed when she took a sip without permission, but he was also looking askance at Elijah.
"Mmm. Not for you."
Meanwhile, Caroline had already taken advantage of Elijah sitting next to her – and therefore shielding her from anyone passing by – to sink her fangs into her guy's throat. He could smell the sudden fresh tang of blood.
Elena handed the glass back to him, her fingers briefly lingering on his. "Not bad." She leaned back into her guy's shoulder, meeting his eyes. "I bet you could do better though."
"Sure, anything you want," the guy replied. He had failed to notice his friend being drained in front of him. Either because he was compelled or too dazzled by Elena's presence. It didn't really make a difference.
Elena wriggled in the guy's lap, ensuring his further attention, and leaned up, one hand moving to turn his cheek towards her. It looked as though she was angling for a kiss, and Elijah was certain that her intended victim believed that, but it wasn't his mouth Elena was paying attention to. She kissed him on the cheek and moved seamlessly to his throat. Elijah suppressed a smile. Nicely done.
He drank the blood in his glass to quench the thirst that had appeared as he watched the two of them. The smell of blood was very strong. Perhaps for the first time since he and Rebekah had gone on the run, Elijah found himself revelling in the moment, his focus entirely captured by the present.
He then made the mistake of looking over at Caroline, who tossed her head back as she finished feeding, fangs showing around her bloody mouth. Her blonde hair caught the dim light, and he was reminded inevitably of Rebekah, the way her long hair shone as the light caught it, the similar satisfied look on her face after she had just fed.
He swallowed. Caroline's eyes focused on him.
"Do you have a napkin?" she asked.
There was one on the table, right next to his elbow. Caroline took the napkin and wiped her mouth, shoving her guy aside. Elijah stood up to allow the guy to stumble past him, and compelled him to forget the encounter before he left.
"Thanks," Caroline said.
He found his voice cracking, and had to clear his throat. "You're welcome."
Rebekah liked to hunt her own food. But sometimes she did ask Elijah to do exactly what he had done tonight: bring over her victim and stand guard while she fed. Kol more often took the wingman role than Elijah did, but of course Klaus had been her most constant companion. He thought of all the years he'd missed. A thousand years they had lived, and yet they had spent so little quality time together. So little.
It was funny. Elena had been right when she had said that he was good at turning off his emotions. It wasn't that he suppressed them. After a thousand years, he had honed and mastered his emotions to the point that he didn't need to control himself: he simply was in control.
And now that had slipped away from him, he didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to do with his feelings, didn't even know how to express them.
No one mourned Mikael or Esther. He had been fine after Finn's death. Fine, relatively speaking, after Kol's. Even after Klaus died, he held Rebekah's hand and told her to run, and run they did.
What did he have left, really? A hunted group of vampires who were so desperate they would go to any length to survive. They couldn't replace his real family.
"Elijah." Long fingers rested on his shoulder. "Come on, we're leaving."
He blinked. Their table was empty. Elena pulled at his hand and he followed her outside, eyes trained on her like some kind of brunette beacon, bringing him back to the present. A few yards away he spotted Caroline nestled under the arm of a different man: young, blond and cocky, wearing a tweed flat cap that he probably thought made him look rakishly stylish but in Elijah's opinion made him look like an idiot.
The moment she saw them Caroline bounced over and gave Elena a quick one-armed hug. "I'm gonna go for a night of meaningless sex. Love ya and leave ya!"
"Make sure you send him away whole in the morning!" Elena called, as Caroline left them with a flirty little wave and a grin. "She kind of has a habit of killing the blond ones," Elena added, by way of explanation. "Especially the ones with blue eyes. It's a thing, I don't know."
Elijah watched the pair of them walk away, Caroline as tall as flat-cap in her high heels.
"Meaningless sex," he repeated. "I could go for that."
Elena laughed. "Really? Okay, no judging. I'll take that as a challenge. Mission: get Elijah laid."
He gave her a deadpan look. "Do you really think it'll be that challenging?"
"Girls don't go for wretched and miserable," Elena replied. "Sorry to say, but you've lost some of your usual charm."
"I could do brooding."
"Yes. Yes, you could." She leaned up and undid the top button of his collar. "Less uptight. More dark and mysterious. Give me your best Blue Steel look."
Elijah had to confess that he didn't know what that meant.
The thing about Elena, when she decided to do something, she got it done.
Rachel was lovely. She was in her late twenties, a lawyer, very sharp and fascinating to talk to. If he hadn't wanted company for only one night, he would have considered getting to know her.
He could sense Elena watching him while they were talking, this time at a hotel bar.
Of course, he was complicit in the entire affair. It had been his suggestion. All he had to do now was start binge drinking – a definite health hazard for the local human population – and he would have reached the bottom of his depressive spiral. The road to recovery couldn't be too far off.
Something like that.
"Sometimes I wonder," said Katerina.
Elijah blinked sleepily, gazing up at her.
She looked at him. "I wonder what you think of me."
He frowned. "You know what I think of you."
Her cheek rested on her hands, half-obscured by her long hair. She lay facing him, and there was a vulnerability in her eyes that he didn't see often. He reached out, brushing a strand of hair away from her face, trying to exude some kind of comfort.
But she looked down, biting her lip.
"I'm not what I was." She picked at a loose thread on the pillow. "You could easily have hated me."
"Katerina," he said. "I could never hate you."
Elijah sat on the edge of the bed in the sterile hotel room, staring into space. He was fully dressed, though the bed was unmade. His partner of the night before had already departed. The only sound in the room was his watch ticking quietly away. Useless seconds wasting into useless minutes. He wasn't getting any older.
The door clicked open.
"Good morning." Elena walked past him and threw open the curtains, giving him a look. "So how are you feeling?"
"I had meaningless sex," said Elijah morosely. "I feel hollow and empty."
The bleak light of day did nothing to revive him. A lump of wood might have been more inclined to move.
"Okaaaay." She frowned, noticing an empty bottle on the bedside table. "Is that vodka? Did you drink an entire bottle of neat vodka?"
"For God's sake." She sank down on to the bed next to him. "You wanted this, Elijah. What do you want? What's gonna make you happy, huh?"
He didn't reply. In truth, the vodka might have been a bit much.
She rolled her eyes. "Do you want to have sex with me? At this point, if it'll help, I'll do it. Now that most of the corpse odour has gone, I wouldn't say no."
He looked at her. "I can't be in an emotionally fulfilling relationship with you if you don't have your emotions on. Therefore sex with you would be equally meaningless."
"Okay, Mr Spock." She sighed. "Don't tell me you haven't thought about it."
"I refer you back to my first point."
"Even drunk you still sound like a lawyer. Good to know."
"I think on balance it's best if I stay away from you," Elijah went on. "As you recall, my tryst with Katherine did not go so well."
"You have thought about this."
"I'm still incapable of killing either of you, despite having every reason to do so. You'll understand if I'm wary."
"Oh, right, so you shouldn't be with a girl unless you're willing to kill her, got it. Rachel had a lucky escape."
"You're mocking me."
"You're drunk. And I'm always mocking you."
He rubbed his eyes. "Could you perhaps leave me in peace?"
"What was it like, being with Katherine?" Elena asked. "Did she make you feel like she understood you? Did she make you feel good about yourself? I could do that too. I know who you are. I probably know what gets you off, but since you turned me down, I guess you'll never find out."
"You're mocking me."
"Yes, you are. Why are you drinking?"
He thought about it. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
Something to do with a depressive spiral. Drink had to be involved for that. What were the five stages of grief again?
Elena sighed, nudging him. "Didn't you feed well enough last night?"
"I didn't feed on the girl, if that's what you're asking."
He'd slept, and he'd dreamt about Katherine. That was messy enough already.
"I thought she seemed perky. Come on, she was a ready meal. Why didn't you kill her?"
"Contrary to popular belief, I don't kill that often."
Not the innocent, at least. He tried to mentally calculate how many humans he had killed in his lifetime. One thousand? Ten thousand? New Orleans had tipped him way over that scale, if he counted himself responsible for every death. Which he was.
Before that, he had made a point of not killing innocents where possible. Sparing human lives, even saving them on occasion. His death count had been lower than any of his siblings except Finn, who had been dead in a box for nine centuries and therefore didn't count. So he could hold himself up as morally superior to his siblings, the noble man of the family.
Well, his mother had ripped that illusion to shreds.
Still, he had let Rachel go. Out of habit, perhaps. It was bad manners to fuck a girl and then kill her.
Elena lay back, stretching her arms over her head. "So how do you decide who to kill?"
He had to turn slightly to look at her. "Convenience."
"Ah. Very honest. I thought you were going to say honour."
Elijah twisted his mouth into a smile. "We're vampires. We eat. Fight. Wage war. Protect ourselves, our power. Kill those who would oppose us."
The truth of his species. The truth of his way of life, for centuries, until the Original family dissolved and all hope of expanding his family had evaporated.
Elena seemed to read his expression. "All the things you're currently not doing."
He shrugged. "I gave my word that I would obey you, Elena. All you have to do is give the order."
"No," she said. "You're not ready. It has to come from you." She held her hand up in front of her. "Pick me up?"
He gave her a look. She was like a child too lazy to move, feet dangling down the side of the bed, her back stretched out over the covers. But she gave him a small smile, eyes big and beguiling, and he reached out to grasp her outstretched hand. She made it hard for him, deliberately refusing to support her own weight so that he couldn't simply pull her to her feet. Instead he had to lift her up completely, Elena clinging with her arms around his neck.
The world spun around him. Elijah blinked. That hadn't happened in a while.
She giggled. "Ooh."
He frowned at her. "Are you drunk?"
"I've had a sudden weakness of the limbs. Save me, Elijah." She pressed her cheek into his shoulder.
"Shut up. I will drop you."
"No, you won't."
Her tone was so certain, it was practically dismissive. He made an annoyed sound, but she was right: he wouldn't drop her. Unless the drink made him lose his footing. He navigated the hotel room door, the corridor and the elevator, all with Elena curled up in his arms, before she declared that he could set her down.
She laughed at him. "You're such a gentleman."
"We need to check out," he said.
He returned the room key and compelled the receptionist not to ask any questions, for Rachel had paid only for herself. Even a relatively simple transaction like this had its risks in this day and age, but Elena watched for any onlookers and the compulsion seemed to work. They departed the hotel.
Elena looked across the street, assessing where they were.
She turned to him. "You know, Caroline and I live not far from here. Why don't you come back to our place?"