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Fic: Your Honor (19b/20)

Title: Your Honor
Rating: T
Fandom: The Vampire Diaries
Category: (drama, romance, adventure, etc)
Summary: Elena leaves Mystic Falls to protect those she loves, goes into hiding, and seeks a way to pay for the damage she's caused.  Two years later, an unexpected visitor walks into Bree's bar and threatens to destroy the fragile peace she's created.  Elena/Elijah, mentions of other ships
Spoilers: Up to and including 3x15
Warnings: Language, violence
Show/Bookverse: Show 'verse, up to and including 3x15
Disclaimer:The Vampire Diaries belongs to its rightful owners and sadly, none of those people or companies are me. I'm only borrowing them, but I promise to return them once I am finished.

Author's Notes: Thanks to [info]midnight_burn. Mistakes are all entirely mine. Title comes from Bon Iver's 'Blood Bank'.
Previous Chapter

They are wearing flats, whoever is walking towards her door. Their step is firm, and there's a confident bounce to it.

It could have been the granddaughter from the trio of Bennett witches, but they left very quickly afterward.

(That narrows it down to either Caroline or Maggie.)

They don't have a heartbeat.

"It's open, Care," Elena says, because she doesn't need to raise her voice, and sounds that loud are still grating on her ears.

Before, if she couldn't sleep, she'd start to pick on little noises like the old Gilbert home creaking, or water in the pipes; sometimes a cellphone charger would give off a distracting buzz, or the TV in another room emitted a high-pitched whine. Now she hears electricity in the walls, canhear the animals outside in the woods, the trickle of the water starting to flow once more under the ice, the snow melting off of branches...she can hear footsteps and hear the Kralls move around (those left – Peter disappeared, but they have their suspicions he wanted to be turned – the desire to have an eternity to study the world the reason Klaus got to him in the first place – and escaped to do that), and the worst, she can hear the heartbeats of her friends and family.

It's the reason why she moved herself into the guestroom on the other side of the floor, the one beside the study, as soon as she could. Despite Elijah remaining by her side, she couldn't stand to think of what she might do to Jeremy, or Maggie, or Lucy, or Bree. She can hear Matt, but she hasn't seen him.

The last few days have been hard. She's spent time with each of them, trying to talk to them and explain and apologize. Often, her peaked emotions get the better of her and she's forced herself to calm down, to keep from the guilt and defensiveness and hurt from swallowing her whole. It's going to take a very long time to undo the damage she's done to their trust in her, but none of them want to cut her out of their lives.

Alaric is dead; Elena was right when she didn't see him wearing the Gilbert ring - Klaus had pocketed it, Jeremy's too. She and Jeremy have decided to bring him back to Mystic Falls, cremated, but he'll be buried in the Gilbert plot; his family didn't really react when they called them with the news, and it's a way to claim his relation to them. She can't think about his death for too long before getting overwhelmed with grief. The desire to shut her emotions off is too high then. Elijah's brought her back from those dark thoughts more than he should need to.

As for Damon, he's still angry, and he's spending his time in the library, drinking. She needs to be emotionally prepared for that conversation, and she just isn't there yet.

Matt's distance is self-imposed and driven by guilt. Elena feels some of it, too; she saw a chance and acted without thinking of the consequences. As much as she would hate it, she's going to ask Matt if he wants to be compelled to forget.

Caroline opens the door, quietly and slowly, and looks around the study cautiously before entering. Elena can smell the blood in the bags behind Caroline's back – Elena feels the veins around her eyes start to darken and her fangs want to drop, but she controls it. "Brought you lunch!" the blond vampire says, cheerfully, and brandishes two bags. "Thought we could talk."

Out of all of her friends from Mystic Falls, Caroline is the most supportive, and Elena is grateful for that. The bubbly young woman has supplied snacks and blood and company, even when Elena has been at her most sullen.

Elena pats the window bench beside her. "I don't need lunch but talking is good," she says with a smile.

Caroline bites at her lip and looks around. There aren't any blood bags.

"Where's Elijah?" her friend asks, worriedly.

Elena leans back and shrugs. "Not sure, but I told him to go."

Caroline drops the bags on the desk and sweeps around to swiftly sit beside Elena, and takes her hands up. "Elena," she starts, gently, but nervously. "I know this is hard, but it gets easier, I promise. And you know that Elijah is here for you, and so is Stefan, and me, too! You're going to be back to normal in no time." She frowns at her own words and thinks them over. "Okay, maybe not normal normal, but pretty close..."

The brunette cocks her head, confused. "Car, I'm fine."

"Then why are you turning down blood and, and sending Elijah away?"

Elena stares at her for a second, uncomprehending, and then feels her shoulders drop as she puts it all together. "I'm not changing my mind, I promise."

Caroline lets out an unnecessary but dramatic puff of air and throws her arms around Elena. "Oh thank God."

The new vampire pats her friend on the back. "I couldn't send Elijah anywhere, even if I tried. But I did convince him I'm feeling comfortable enough to spend a little time without him here. Rebekah is still missing, and it's been worrying him; he hasn't said anything but I know that's been in the back of his mind. He's got to tell his brothers about Klaus, too." Caroline becomes very still in their embrace, and Elena gives her a bit of a squeeze. "Speaking of, how are you?"

"Fine," responds Caroline, too brightly. When Elena gives her a dubious expression, her attempted look of neutrality vanishes. "Okay, not fine. That guy was horrible, and he did terrible things, but there were times..." she drops her head to the glass and looks out on the grounds. "I know why you guys had to kill him, but I still sort of miss him. He made me feel...special. No one really did that until..."

Caroline trails off, and her gaze slides to Elena, and the young woman gives her a knowing look.

"Until Stefan did?" Elena offers, and Caroline nods curtly before eagerly adding, "But it's not like I set out to steal him from your or anything, I mean, we really didn't-"

"You guys are crazy for one another, and if he makes you feel as special as I know you are, then I'm happy for you." Elena squeezes her hand.

Caroline thanks her, then eyes her slyly. "So...Elijah. That's...how long has that been-"

"Not very long at all."

"As in..." Caroline prompts.

"As in like the last two weeks."

"Yikes," comments the blond, and her friend nods. She and Elijah have only been together for less than two weeks and newly-turned vampire or not, she needs to know she can spend time without him. His presence and his touch and his...everything is addictive, but just like with a lot of things, now, she's going to have to learn control.

Elena's pretty confident that even without an impending crisis, their relationship is going to a strong one; it's a little sad, but her romantic relationship with a 1,000 year old vampire is probably one of the healthiest she's ever had.

She came back for him, for her friends and family.

Her thoughts must be reflected in her expression, because Caroline swallows and says quietly: "I know it's sort of like Vampire Fight Club, but you were gone for a really long time, Elena. If you need to

talk about it, I'm sure you have with Elijah, but-"

"-I saw my Mom and Dad," she says in a rush, her voice wavering on the end and she feels the sting of tears. Yes, she has spoken to Elijah about it, but he barely knew the people she saw in that place in between. Caroline pulls her into another hug instantly. "They were there, and Alaric was, too, and he said goodbye. And my parents said they were proud of me."

She sits back, wiping at her cheeks with rough swipes of her flattened palm. "And Isobell and John, and um, Jenna. They were there. Everybody. Tatia was there, too. She said that I didn't have to come back."

Caroline does a very good job of maintaining her sympathetic expression, but the mention of the Original Doppelganger (a title Elena is not entirely sure now the girl actually should have – she saw a lot of things during her hours dead and it's made her change her thoughts on a lot of things) causes a frown. "Like, you could have remained dead?"

Elena nods. "It was offered, kind of like a gift. I mean, the Petrova Fire ismeant to keep the Doppelganger alive, right? I had to do whatever it wanted, but nature is all about balance. I gave my life to it, and it was willing to give me death. Ultimately, it's supposed to keep a Doppelganger from vampires, and I guess becoming one is part of that."

"But you came back, anyway." Caroline never wanted to be a vampire, and as much as she enjoys her life now, perhaps the chance to not turn would have been one she'd have considered.

"I promised I would protect my family," Elena explains. "And I...it was really peaceful and I felt like," Elena stops, and keeps herself from breaking down once more, "I felt like I could finally rest, you know? But I couldn't leave everyone like that, I couldn't leave Jeremy all alone. I'm his sister, and I haven't done a really good job at that."

Caroline shakes her head, and looks down. "I'm not really sure any of us can stay mad at you, all things considered. I mean," she pauses and takes a deep breath that she pushes back out through puffed cheeks, and she looks up and to the side as she says it. "I was angry, like really angry, for some time after you left. And I think I was angry when I saw you out there with Elijah? I don't know, I was scared for you and all I kept thinking was that you were totally going out there hellbent to protect us, and probably die, and I never got to talk to you, to tell you how much I missed you..."

Caroline keeps babbling even as they hug again, and Elena eventually says that she loves her. Caroline sags a little.

"Just promise me you won't do something like that again, Elena, okay?" There's a true note of weariness in her voice, but relief as well. "I get that you were trying to keep us safe and to stop us from intervening, but we are willing to do things for you because we love you."

Elena wets her lips and gives herself a moment to deliberate on how she's about to word what is about to come out of her mouth. "And I love you guys, too, but sometimes...sometimes, there were choices that I needed to make, and when you guys were helping, you sort of took over the situation. And I guess I should say it was mostly Stefan and Damon, but everyone is so close. If I was going to keep myself hidden from some of my friends, it had to be all of them."

Caroline has been patient while her friend has been speaking, but she now says, as if barely able to contain the word "But we're in this, too! And we didn't get to make decisions, or help you, or...I was so scared for you, Elena. Team Mystic Falls needs to stick together, alright? You can bring your Original arm candy with you, and Mags and her parents, but we'll all keep one another safe."

Elena nods into her friends shoulder. "Promise."

'No More Secrets' is starting to become her mantra.

Flashing Elena a slightly watery smile, Caroline leans over and grabs the blood bags and puts one in Elena's hand. "Now let's drink to that. Maybe this is a little morbid, but you've got to have something for lunch anyway. You and Elijah haven't left this room in hours, and I don't see any blood bags around."

Elena fiddles with the bag; she's blushing. "I'm really...um, I fed," she finally says, simply.

Maggie had visited and left sage burning. It would have been a waste, really.

(That was the excuse they are going with.)

(Because reality was darker: After Maggie visited her – it was the first time Bree and Lucy allowed her to, and the first time Elena felt it was safe – she could help but think about the nightmare she'd had, where her friend was frightened of her. It seemed as if, suddenly, the results of all of her decisions were crushing down on her and she felt horrible, she felt guilt like bile in her throat, she wondered why she had come back, and maybe, just maybe, it would be easier to turn it all off-

And Elijah saw what she was doing, and in one of the few outbursts of anger she had ever seen, threw the book he was reading across the room and moved in a blur of motion to stand before her, and took her by the shoulders. He demanded the she remember their promise, that she had given her word, and he would be damned if he were to allow her to turn off her emotions.

She couldn't keep herself off of him, then. It was as if she'd been trying to claw through him to her emotions, to drag her way back just as she had from that place in between, and he was just as intent with every sharp thrust to pin her to this earth, keep her with him. She'd made her decision to stay with him and he wasn't going to lose her.

And when she had bit down into his neck and felt his blood in her mouth, he had stilled, had crushed her to him, and muttered commands to take everything, take it all, if it meant that she would stay.

No, reality is darker and deeper and Elena doesn't know if Caroline would be able to understand it.)

Caroline stares at her for a second, and then finally seems to take into account the odd angle of the desk, and the books topped off of their typically tidy stacks on top of the chaise lounge. She almost drops her blood bag. "Elena Gilbert, you are kinkier than I am!"

Elena plays with the tail of the blood bag before finally giving in and drinking some.

She wants blood, and when she does (which is just about always), she thinks she might do just about anything to get it, if she let herself go. But living with the Petrova Fire, especially at the end, served as its own strange version of preparing her: it would be easy to let the need loose, to devastate and drain and destroy just because she knows she can, but her nightmare regarding Maggie and her promise to Elijah are always remembered. Elena doesn't need that much once she has it, but she wants more.

And a little of Elijah's blood goes a long way, it seems. Since it was Elijah's blood, willfully and intentionally given, that turned her, her place in the vampire power pyramid is pretty close to the top. There's a lot that goes into the strength of a vampire (vervain exposure, when they fed last, who turned them, how long they've been a vampire, etc) and she's starting to learn a bit.

"This kind of reminds me of my brother's Pokemon cards," she had remarked.

Stefan knocks at the frame of the open door and leans in. "Hello," he says, carefully gauging the feel of the room.

Elena offers him a smile. "Hi."

(She pretends to ignore Caroline's not-so-discreet happy thumbs up beside her.)

"Bonnie and the others have something they want to give you," he announces, and seems to study her "if you think-"

"I'm up for it," she assures him, and pushes off of the cushions.

He escorts them to the library, and standing around the desk in the library are Bonnie, Bree, Maggie, and Lucy, who is well healed (with Elena's blood, she insisted on bleeding into a vial and having it given to Lucy). Jeremy jumps off of the couch and she can hear the spike in his heart rate.

Stefan's head turns instantly towards Elena, gauging her reaction to the temptation, and while it's there, Elena pushes it back, locks it in some part of her head and only wants to give her brother a hug. Stefan's hand flutters by her back, but even pressed against Jeremy's shoulder, so close to his neck (when the hell did her baby brother get so tall?), there's no pressure in her gums, or sudden, erratic thoughts to feed. She pulls back, and can't help but give everyone an appreciative smile.

Lucy and Bree sway a little closer to one another, and both take in the sigh of Elena for the first time since she turned. When she had gone to Bree to talk about possibly turning, she had sworn she wouldn't consider the option until she had the woman's permission, since it would mean the bond between herself and Maggie would be broken. Bree admitted that she had been trying to find an alternative way, but was coming to the conclusion that dying was the only way to sever it. And while she'd never make that choice, she wouldn't hold it against Elena, so long as the Gilbert girl kept herself in check.

She looks pretty much the same, she knows, just a little paler. Blushing still happens. Cut her and she'll bleed. She wants them to see these things and know she's still her.

"See, Elena?" Maggie breaks the moment of awkward silence, "I told you your blood really helped Mom."

It's a discrete dig at her mother to say something, and Lucy swallows, thickly, and dips her head. "Thank you, Elena. That was...that was very kind of you."

Bonnie holds up an old wooden box and offers it to her friend. "We told Elijah that we wanted to make you a daylight ring, and he let us look through the family collection-"

"-Told you he was loaded," sing-songs Caroline, and Elena gives her a playful elbow to the rib.

Their friend rolls her eyes and continues. "We um...we thought that maybe he'd want to pick it out, you know, like a..." Bonnie loses the sentence as she tries to think of a way to recover.

Bree beats her too it. "We weren't sure if he was planning on getting you one, soon," she says.

Elena legitimately laughs as she accepts the jewelry box, which seems to shock the others. "We barely just...and that wasn't why he turned me either."

Damon's words about being an undead bride flicker through her head and she wonders if that's close to what they were imagining, that there was some stipulation to him turning her, because there's varying degrees of relief that are evident in slower heart beats, shoulders relaxing, and near-silent sighs.

"We figured you'd want to pick," finished Maggie.

Caroline's hand pops up in the air "And I call dibs on whatever you don't pick; the Salvatore family's choice in rings could double as paperweights – no offense, honey," she adds quickly to Stefan. "Bonnie promised to give me an upgrade when yours is finished."

There's a great deal to choose from, but she finally decides on a simple silver band with a round, domed piece of lapis lazuli in it. It fits well on her right hand middle finger, and the shade of the stone is light but heavily veined. She can't imagine the ring to ever really not be fashionable, and Lucy comments that it's an older piece, judging from the memories she can get from it.

It's only once all four witches are finished with the spell that she realizes her taste in eternal jewelry is only a little different than that of Elijah's.

The glass windows in Elijah's wing of the manor are all UV blocking ones, so she either has to go out onto the little balcony, or leave through the front door. She chooses to test the ring via the latter. Even though she's been missing that feeling of connection with nature, she's missed the fresh air and sounds of the open space just outside the door.

As a group, they all walk to the foyer. Stefan and Caroline both offer to walk out with her, but after she waves her arm out the door in a slant of sunlight between the columns of the front entrance, she tells them she's fine.

Elena takes her first steps back out into sunlight alone.

The blinding white of winter initially overwhelms her. She can smell the dirt and the snow, can hear the snow melting in the woods and a bird's wings as it flaps. The icicles dripping along the top of the fence are yards off but crystal clear. What she was able to sense as an extension of herself is still there, just...different, external but obviously present. She will deal with the loss. She'll recover.

The sun is warm on her face and arms, bare despite the slight wind and the definite chill. Her breath only clouds in front of her face for the first few experimental outward puffs; her body gradually loses the residual heat from inside the house.

There is the sound of a car approaching, and when it's about a mile away, Elena can make out Elijah in the driver's seat of an expensive and sleek looking car. She takes deliberate steps out of the gate (Mr. Krall had apparently been asked to invite her in as soon as Matt got her to the gates, and despite her being dead, it had seemed to count) and into the field.

The car comes to an abrupt halt while it is still in the tree line, and Elijah steps out of the car, and to watch her over the hood of the vehicle.

She starts to run and without much thought, finds that she closes the mile between them in seconds. Momentum causes her hair to fly forward around her face as she comes to a stop in front of the Original vampire, who has just stepped around the car and out of the tree line.

It's incredible, to see him out here in the sunlight. The little specks of greens and golds in his brown eyes are brilliant and even more obvious than before. His lower lip is slightly chapped from his habit of swiping at it with his tongue. She can smell the faintest scent of Rebekah's perfume, and it lingers on his clothes. He found her, then. She smiles.

Elijah returns the smile but remains incredibly still and seems to drink in her features, as if trying to commit to memory the sight of her here, for the first time since her death, back in the sun. She wants to do the same with the image she sees.

There's a weight off of her shoulders, and she gives a little laugh as they close the space between them. She grabs hold of the lapels of his wool coat and pulls him down towards her for a kiss, and it tastes like sunshine and forever and when they finally part, he takes her hand and they make their way across the field and to the river.

It is only once they are seated on the hill, watching the sun shine down onto the houses and the lives that were going on, unaware, below them, that Elijah brings her hand up to inspect her choice. She can feel the chuff of breath against her neck as he lets out a small chuckle, then leans over her shoulder to give her hand a kiss before pressing his lips to her neck.

"So much for us to see, Elena," he mumbles into her skin, and she leans further back into his embrace. "So much for us to do."

Elena feels a little guilty, because even she's disappointed that she has to remind him. "Any chance we can bring Maggie and the others in these plans? I made a promise and I'm not going back on it."

"Your words with Tatia, in the place in between, it appears she has acted upon them," he replies, and Elena twists sharply around to face him as he continues. "One of Klaus' hybrids was guarding Rebekah's coffin, and he was unable to attack me as he planned."

Elena's panic skyrockets. "Did he-was it the fire again? I didn't feel it, I had no idea."

He shakes his head. "He appeared to have hit a barrier. Healing his injuries will take some time, but those were ones that I myself caused. It seems the Petrova Fire still seeks to protect."

Tatia must have altered the Petrova Fire, calling upon the other Doppelgangers she saw in the in between place to use their power and change the magic. Then her loved ones are still protected even though she can no longer control it.

By the time Elena finally processes this and looks over at Elijah, he has settled back slightly, and is apparently casually studying the landscape below them. "Several of my properties have enough bedrooms to house the whole lot of your friends. Paris might take some time, however, to procure enough space; that apartment is basically a garret, belonged to a writer I admired – I only keep it for sentimental reasons, really. And I believe there is someone renting my home in Syd-"

"Always wanted to stay in an author's apartment," she says, with a practiced lightness. She shifts and ends up beside Elijah, leaning back on her hands as well. His gaze shifts from town below to her, and he watches her face with a neutral expression. "Probably a perfect fit for two," she wonders out loud, giving him a pointed look.

His mouth twitches upward. "I may have the apartment below it as well," he admits, and she shrugs, continuing with the playful exchange.

"Still probably a perfect fit for two."

She holds his gaze for a moment.

Outright smiling, Elijah returns his gaze to the homes and cars, the people and the smoke of their chimneys. "In about a month from now the Bois de Vincennes will be breathtaking."

A month from now would mean enough time to get things back in order, and a change in season.

Elena leans her head against Elijah's shoulder, and hums, content, when he presses a kiss to her hair.

The low notes of her voice sound a bit like "Paris in the Springtime."