When Elena looked into the mirror, she saw brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin, an ordinary girl, who doesn’t need make up to be beautiful. Everyone – her mother, her father, Aunt Jenna – said that she was unique, but this is the part of a parent’s job. They didn’t know then that Elena wasn’t so special, that she has a doppelganger who looks exactly just like her.
She never had a problem with her body, she liked how she looked, but finding out that there is an other person who not just resembles her, but they are each other’s spitting image, was like a hard blow to her self-esteem. Because her long, smooth hair, her eyes, cheekbones, everything was just some kind of cruel, cosmic joke. She didn’t inherit these from genes, it couldn’t give her a comforting thought that she has something from her parents, even they weren’t role models and they had their flaws. She couldn’t feel herself belong to anything. She had lots of problems; really, with Stefan going to the dark side, with Klaus threatening her friends, with her mixed-up feelings, but if she had a little free time, a passing moment, when she didn’t have to worry, like in the morning looking in the mirror, this thought caught up with her.
It was like some weed that chokes the life out of beautiful flowers, it ate up all of her blissful moments, poisoned her mind. She felt like something essential was missing from her, like she didn’t even know herself. Because let’s face the fact, nor she, nor Katherine could say, this was their face, their body, just some ancient magic that marked them for the perfect sacrificial lamb.
Of course, on the bright side, this resemblance could be useful in desperate times, like when Luca died, and his father wanted revenge, or when they had The Big Plan to kill Klaus which didn’t go so well.
Even if almost a year have passed since Katherine entered her life, and they know well that if she gained something from it, she liked to pretend to be Elena, Katherine could always surprise them. Now that was something Elena couldn’t stand, every time one of her loved ones mistook Katherine for her, she felt herself less and less, like every occasion fade her identity away little piece by piece. She just couldn’t understand how no one could tell the difference between them, for god’s sake, Katherine was a vampire. Was she really that easily replaceable?
And when she looked at Katherine, all of these things came to her mind, making hard not to stake her right then and there, when one day she stepped into her room and found her ancestor sitting on her bed, a disdainful look on her face.
Elena just sighed, put her messenger bag on the floor and closed the door.
“What do you want, Katherine?” she asked irritably. She didn’t see her since The Big Plan, and was thankful for it. When Katherine arrived, trouble always followed, or things got more complicated. Elena was tired to guess her ulterior motive, to be careful around her, her biggest dream was just to lie down on her bed, and not to fear, worry about the dark thoughts that clouded her mind, and didn’t let any sunshine of happiness in. Elena was confused at best, and she felt more and more numb each day, as if the waves of loss and desperation washed away her spirit and hope.
“Oh, come on, Elena, cheer up,” Katherine said with too much enthusiasm, which caused Elena’s stomach clenched with fear. Her vampire counterpart was in happy mood like this, if she was about to destroy something bloody. Still she fought the urge to run away or to pull a vial of vervain and wolfsbane mix out of her pocket (which was her usual security protocol, a little smaller version of the grenade) and pour the whole thing to Katherine, but probably neither option would do any good, so she just tried to be indifferent, like it was totally natural for her evil doppelganger to show up in her bedroom.
Katherine obviously gave up getting an answer, so she continued. “Look, I’m here because I have good news, girl.”
Elena just raised one eyebrow, because she seriously doubted it.
“Fine.” Katherine sighed dramatically, playing the victim. That, thought Elena, always worked for her. The poor girl, who lost her parents, the lonely, fragile young woman, who desperately needs protection. How many men bought that act, she wondered. “I thought you’ll be interested in your vampire lover’s whereabouts.”
Stefan. She didn’t need to hear his name, instantly knew that’s who she was talking about, and it was just as cruel as if she had stabbed her with a knife. Just one name, hinted, not even said, not even whispered, and it sliced through her heart like a blade made of ice, leaving pain and coldness, spreading through her veins, numbing her whole body. Unfortunately, Katherine noticed her reaction; at least the malicious gleam in her eyes and her lazy smile suggested that.
“So, let’s talk about Stefan, shall we?” Katherine asked, standing up, every movement laced with such grace that it made Elena a little jealous. After all Katherine’s body was just like hers, she saw a version of herself that she despised: a cruel, cold, manipulative, selfish bitch. Yeah, she had to become a vampire to be free from the role of the blood sacrifice, but come on, Elena was in the same situation and chose other options.
“No,” Elena answered coldly, she let to be heard all of the bitterness and anger she felt in her voice.
“No?’ Katherine inquired, smiling, like she didn’t believe that.
“No, I don’t want to talk about him.” When Katherine just grinned at her, she went on. “I did everything for him, I waited, I searched for him, I didn’t give up hope, even when he taunted, teased, insulted and laughed at me. I kept thinking this is just Klaus’ work, it’s not really him, and it isn’t. But now, that he is free, it’s up to him, I won’t fight for someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Of course, I’ll forgive him, but first he has to forgive himself and sort his things out.” She paused, realizing who she was talking, who she was sharing her deepest fears and thoughts. “So, no, I don’t want to talk about Stefan.”
Katherine laughed a short, joyful laugh. Elena thought Katherine must be happy to know she can toy with Stefan as long as she wants. Elena knew she was supposed to care about it, but couldn’t, if Stefan could be manipulated by Katherine, then let it be. It was the time when he had to prove his love to her; it was his test, not hers.
“Looks like Damon’s keeping you entertained,” Katherine drawled.
Damon. The other Salvatore brother, Elena didn’t want to think about. She was aware of that Damon loved her, and to be near him was the most selfish thing she allowed herself, because she knew she hurt him in every moment they spent together. This whole situation was a two-edged sword, it cut them deep, and bled them almost dry, but it seemed they had another common streak: the masochism. Like a moth flying to the flame, they sought each other’s company, even if the one didn’t quite give that what the other wanted. It was some kind of twisted need, Damon and Elena had emptiness in their hearts, and they used the other one to fill it up.
Damon, who loved passionately, spent hundreds of years searching for a woman, who toyed with him, used him. This loyalty, love was his motive, this kept him alive, and it was gone in a moment, leaving Damon hopeless and numb, and with no purpose. He needed someone who loved him, and whom he could love, because without it, he would be nothing. And because Elena tolerated him at first, and then they befriended, Elena became his purpose.
The worst thing is that Elena knew this. She didn’t want to hurt anybody, especially not someone as good at heart, like Damon, but she needed a friend, who loved Stefan as much as she did, who wasn’t going to forget about him, gave up on him. Elena feared she’ll forget Stefan, because he’s a vampire, something supernatural, and this fact made their love surreal when they’re not together. She was afraid she was just imagining the whole thing to overcome her pain over the loss of her parents. Of course, Caroline was a vampire and Bonnie was a witch, but they didn’t remind her of Stefan, there was nothing to anchor her memories of him, just Damon. Who understood her, teased her, listened to her, and provided a diversion.
Damon and Elena weren’t lovers, like Katherine and sometimes Caroline and Bonnie assumed. The only kissed they shared was when Damon was dying, and Elena regretted it terribly, because Damon may thought he had some chance when Elena moved on after Stefan. But she wasn’t so sure there would ever be a “when.”
“So…” Katherine’s voice pulled out Elena from her reverie. “If Stefan’s not an option, I have a Plan B.” With that she fished a phone out of her pocket. She called someone, but instead of speaking into it, she held it up for Elena to see the screen.
Elena caught her breath, and dread clenched her chest tight. On the screen, she saw a live video stream, a too familiar figure with dark hair falling into his face. She heard his painful, low moan, but couldn’t notice anything further, just the stain on the hard, concrete floor. The stain almost leaped out of the picture, it was so vivid red in the half-lit room. Elena felt herself blench.
“Yes,” Katherine went on, putting away her phone. “Poor Jeremy thought I was you. Seriously, it’s so easy to be you; it’s not even funny anymore.”
Another score for Katherine, another piece of Elena gone. Her eyes burning with unshed tears, she lifted her chin. Yeah, maybe she couldn’t fight for herself, because seriously, who was she? But for Jeremy, she had to pull herself together.
“I ask you again, Katherine, what do you want?”
A brilliant smile.
“I have a meeting with Elijah.”
“And what does it have to do with me?” Elena asked surprise, she didn’t expect this, didn’t know what to make of it. She didn’t even know that the Originals were on the loose; she believed they were staked by Klaus.
“Elijah, let’s put it this way, doesn’t like me very much.”
Who blames him? Elena thought. She couldn’t name one person, who really liked Katherine, when they got to know her real personality.
“And I need him,” Katherine shrugged. “Well, not him, but his knowledge. That’s why I had him freed by Stefan.” Elena flinched at the mention of him, but it didn’t bother Katherine. “We can’t kill Klaus, and I don’t think there is another miraculous white oak dagger out there, so the best thing we can do is binding Klaus.”
“Bind him?” Elena couldn’t let herself believe that there was any another way to free herself from Klaus’ threatening shadow over her life. And who knew what Katherine’s endgame was?
“Yes, bind him. Like his mother did, you know, something withcy. Elijah the only one who knows exactly what it requires, he’s the only one who saw it all happen.”
It can’t be that easy, Elena thought, there was something that Katherine didn’t tell her.
“Yeah, I know, why do I need you, my dear doppelganger?” Katherine said, like she could read her mind. Or Elena was just like an open book, another piece of her gone, another numbing feeling, she couldn’t even keep her thoughts to herself. “Because Elijah probably wants to capture me, torture me and other unpleasant things, but he agreed that we talk and tells me everything I need to know to stop Klaus. He owes me that much. But I don’t trust him, he is a man of honor, of course, but maybe I angered him enough to lure me into a trap.”
“So you want me to walk into the said trap,” Elena concluded.
“Of course,” Katherine answered cheerily, like a child who got her Christmas present early.
“But he maybe wants to kill you…”
“Oh, no, he wants to do much worse thing, I’m sure.” Katherine stepped in front of Elena; a mere inch was between them. Elena felt like her worst nightmare came true, as if her reflection in some grotesque fun house mirror became a real thing. “He wants me alive. Maybe he won’t try anything, but who knows.” Another shrug, like it didn’t matter how many people wanted to kill her. But after hundreds of years of running, maybe it was a common thing to her. “If he tries anything, compulsion, a little stake, he will know that you are you, and not me. Don’t fear he won’t do any damage that can’t be healed with a little vampire blood.”
Elena knew it was the stupidest thing to agree with this plan, especially if a stake was involved. On one hand, she could say it was because of Jeremy, to help him, to free him. But if she was honest, she knew it had a sicker a reason. She thought that Elijah could easily tell the difference between her and Katherine, she had to believe there was a person in the world, who knows one of them. Because if no one knows who you are, do you really exist at all?
Elijah waited for her in a Victorian manor, somewhere near Richmond. Elena didn’t know if it was his, or he just moved in, like the vampires used to. The furniture and the decoration didn’t give away much, there was nothing personal to them – no picture on the mantel, no books, no clothes on the hanger.
Elena hated her clothes, which Katherine insisted on wearing: the red corset-like top showed too much of her cleavage and the denim skirt was too short. But she endured it, because she had to look like her evil doppelganger.
She knew the door would be open, and she wouldn’t need to play she can’t enter the house, because Elijah said that much to Katherine. Anxiety and trepidation washed over Elena, and dried her mouth, her tongue felt like sandpaper. She couldn’t tell why exactly, she was in some kind of danger, yes, but her life was just like lately. And what was Elijah compared to Stefan filled with bloodlust or Klaus and his hybrids. But in a terrible, twisted kind of way, Elena was glad to be here, to be tested, first time in a long time she actually felt something that wasn’t some dulled, that didn’t washed together like the almost constant hollowness and worry, which was like static in her mind and heart. But this apprehension was like she was still alive, still the girl, who could love, hate, and mourn with fierce power.
At first there was no sign of Elijah, and the thought that this will be really a cruel trap, one she wasn’t likely to escape alive, crossed her mind. But then she heard light footsteps, Elijah purposely making noise, and her heart skipped a beat.
She turned, and tried not to stare, like she was some kind of unimportant little human caught in the deadly web of centuries old vampire’s game. It wasn’t an easy thing to do; she couldn’t look at Elijah, his perfectly dressed figure, his graceful movements like she was ready to use him, like she didn’t respect him.
Oh, Elena could lie easily; she did that quite often, when first she found out about vampires, then werewolves and curses and all. She did that to protect the ones she loved, she of course, lied to Rebekah too, but that also felt wrong. She never pretended to be someone entirely else, but she had to manage it, didn’t she? So she did the best she could, and gave him an ‘I-don’t-care-about-that-maybe-you-want-to-stake-me’ look and said:
“So, are you gonna tell me what needs to be done?”
She surprised even herself, how much she sounded like Katherine. God, who was she really? Some kind of shadow of a girl who lived and died and now was playing games while she was undead.
“Always the impatient, aren’t you?” asked Elijah, with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
“I’m tired of running,” Elena replied, and sat on the white sofa. “I wanna have some fun; I deserve it, after all.”
“Wasn’t it enough fun to have both Salvatore brothers?” Elijah inquired, raising one eyebrow. He stepped to the bar, took a glass, and poured himself a drink.
Elena looked at the amber liquid, mesmerized by how the light played on it. She had to concentrate at something, because the whole Katherine and the Salvatore boys thing was a big mess, she didn’t want to talk about, or think about for that matter.
“You sound a little jealous” she said eventually, remembering the fact that Elijah, in fact, wanted to save Katherine a long time ago.
Elijah didn’t seem to be offended; he even smiled, though it was filled with something Elena couldn’t quite put a finger on.
“Katherine, that was a long time ago,” he replied calmly, without emotion. “I learned from my mistakes, like the Salvatores.” He raised his glass, like for a toast, and took a sip. “Though, I’m sure they’re luckier than me.”
Elena couldn’t think anything to say, she was shocked. She wasn’t prepared for the conversation to go this way. With Katherine, of course the Salvatore brothers came up, but with Elijah…
“Oh, don’t be surprised, Katherine,” he went on, rather cheerfully. “I’m sure you figured out a long time ago, why I was drawn to you.”
“Because I look like the Original Petrova,” Elena whispered. She couldn’t believe it, this girl, who was nothing but a mere memory, was everywhere she turned. This mysterious phantom, kept alive by a half a dozen vampires, was the main reason of her current situation. She couldn’t blame some nameless girl, but the Original Petrova haunted her nonetheless from centuries away.
Elena couldn’t do anything else, because Elijah chose that exact moment to attack. She wasn’t sure even Katherine would see him move with her vampire senses. One moment she was sitting on the sofa, in the next she felt herself pressed against the wall. She felt his body hard and tense against hers, his breath tickling her hair and her bare skin. She should be afraid, terrified, she could get killed in an instant, but she just felt the familiar numbness. It was the first time when it occurred to her that maybe she was, in fact, suicidal. Her heart didn’t beat faster, and why should it? After Stefan gave up on her, she felt a searing pain inside her chest, where her heart was, it was so strong, so overwhelming, like the ache was a living thing inside her. As the time passed by, it became the only thing alive inside her, the only emotion she could feel, but that withered with time, too, and she was left with an emptiness so vast and so cold, no one and nothing could fill it. Maybe her heart was really gone, gone with her parents (real and adoptive), Aunt Jenna, Stefan.
“You’re nothing, Katherine.” Elijah’s smooth voice pulled her out of her reverie. It was a miracle how he could be so calm and threatening at the same time. “If you think, it’s for you, then you’re less intelligent than I assumed.”
Elena couldn’t answer, just gasped for breath, but Elijah’s grip was like stone on her throat. She didn’t struggle; there was no use, even Katherine’s strength wouldn’t do any good, and surely Elijah would realize he wasn’t talking with the right doppelganger.
And that was it, Elena thought. She hoped against all hope that Elijah would be able to tell the difference between them, and he didn’t, he couldn’t. The tempting idea to expose her real identity crossed her mind, but she didn’t act upon it. They needed Klaus to be bound, and she needed Jeremy to be freed. At least she could be useful… sometimes… when she pretended to be a girl, she wasn’t. But nobody in the world needed Elena Gilbert, as she was.
With one hand Elijah pinned her to the wall, and with the other he fished out a piece of paper out of his pocket. Without any doubt, Elena knew it had everything listed they needed for the spell or whatsoever. He would give that little white rectangle to her, and it all would be over, and Elena could crawl back into her shell. Or this would be her end. The moments passed by agonizingly slow, and then Elijah raised the paper to eye level.
“This isn’t for you,” he said. “You weren’t the only one who pulled a stake out of my heart.”
Now, that got Elena’s attention.
“Elena.” Elijah answered to the unspoken question.
“But…” Elena croaked. “But she was the one, who staked you in the first place, when she removed it.”
A corner of his mouth quirked up, it was a shocking sight. Elijah was the embodiment of vampires, like she’d read in stories. He was like death itself with his dark clothing, his unnatural motionless posture, his calm, polite manner, like he didn’t feel sympathy; he just kills, when your time is up. And now he stood before her, smiling at her name.
“She’s a peculiar thing,” Elijah said. “What she did, she did it for her friends and loved ones, and you on the other hand, just did it for yourself. You know, you all three has the same face, same body, Charlotte, you and Elena. Everyone knows you’re three different people, and yet every single men walks into the trap, aren’t they? It’s a cruel thing, Katerina, a cruel thing, out mother thought a fitting punishment.”
Elijah loosened his grip, and Elena could take a bigger breath, she needed desperately. She didn’t want to hear, how they were the mirror of the same girl, she didn’t need to feel less, because if she would feel any less than this, there will be no Elena Gilbert, just a formless shadow.
“At first, I thought you were like Charlotte. I know now, I was naïve, but your wild-eyed romantic personality charmed me. You know, our mother made the curse to punish Niklaus, he reminded her of her mistake, every time she looked at him. That’s why she’d chosen Niklaus’ first love to be the blood sacrifice and marked the next perfect victim with her face. Just to have Klaus try to kill her over and over again, but Klaus… My eccentric brother… turned his emotions off, and I’m not talking about the vampire switch, he just put up a wall around himself, and when the first doppelganger showed up, after so many years, he wanted the curse off more than Charlotte’s love replaced. But me… I never thought I see her again, and there were you… completely mesmerized by my brother, who couldn’t care less about you.”
Elijah finally focused on her, pulled back out of his reverie. With a vampire’s speed, he tucked the piece of paper in the hem of her top. His hand brushed her bare skin, and she shivered. It was such a long time anyone held her, or even touched her, because with Damon she kept the distance, but even her friends didn’t hug her, they seemed to stay clear of her, like they feared her dark mood was something they could catch, or they just thought she moped about Stefan, and would eventually move on.
Elijah moved as fast as before, and Elena was alone, leaning against the wall, her knees trembling slightly. Elijah stood beside the front door, but before he leaved, looked over his shoulder.
“You know I prayed for Charlotte to be reborn, but you with your selfish attitude crushed that dream, and I’m thankful for that. Because I couldn’t let myself obsess over some illusion, that maybe one day, one of the doppelgangers is really her. Even if Elena is interesting, I can see her as she is, not just some shadow.”
Really? Elena thought sarcastically, because he didn’t really look like he knew who he was talking. But before she could say anything, Elijah was gone.
When Elena looked into the mirror, she saw brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin, an ordinary girl, who was a spitting image of some long dead woman, who died tragically because she loved the wrong man. And yes, Elena loved the wrong man too, that was another common streak with Charlotte.
Elena didn’t really expect what she got when she talked with Elijah, but the feelings he woke in her, was a start. But even Elijah couldn’t tell she was Elena, not Katherine, which made her hate her looks, and that was a first, too.
But something sparked in her, a fiery anger, at the face in the mirror. Without thinking she punched the cool surface and the evil trapped inside it, the ghost of the past. Shiny slivers of glass showered in her room, around her, but the only thing, she noticed was the pain, she felt in her knuckles. Like they were on fire, like she was alive again.
She sucked on her breath, and looked at her hand; it looked as if some gruesome spider spun its red silk over her fingers. She smiled at the sights, because for the first time, in a long time, she felt. Not something bright and happy, but it was real, and that what’s mattered. It was a comforting thought, which the old-Elena (the Elena who had parents) maybe assumed a sick thing, but the new-Elena welcomed it.
She picked up a shard piece of glass, and looked at the face in it. She only saw a fracture, her half face, there was a brown eye, a little bit of cheekbone, but it was not whole, and it wasn’t Katherine’s or Charlotte’s, it was just hers. Because if she just looked this fragment, she could easily pretend that the other half of her face was different. A little harder jaw line, a little bigger nose, nothing out of the ordinary, but different, hers.
The idea came with a shocking clarity: she would make this body hers, truly unique. She raised the glass, and brought down on her wrist, and slashed it. The pain was immediate, flaming, and she smiled gladly, and sighed a relived sigh. This was good, this feeling. Not the most perfect thing, but it was a start; it could be molded into something with time. Maybe she could feel again everything, but today she just had this, and gladly took it.
The wound wasn’t deep, and she didn’t want that anyway, she didn’t want to die, not yet. But it will leave a scar, and that was a good thing, because there wouldn’t be perfect, pale skin anymore, but a white thin line. And that was hers, that was only her, Elena Gilbert, the girl, who broke, and fell into a million pieces, like her mirror, and maybe one day, she would be whole, like her brilliant red blood filled up the space between the glass shards, she could only hope she could fill the gaps in her soul with pain.