A/N: For the lovely earnmysong’s birthday, very belated! Title from “Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)” by Florence + the Machine. Set post-2.22.
Summary: It's Elena's last birthday, and only one person remembers. It's not the person Elena would expect.
It’s her birthday and Elena’s older than she’s ever been. She supposes that’s true of any year, any day, any second, but after spending so much time with people that can’t or won’t die, she’s been feeling ancient and infant at once.
“You should make a wish,” he tells her, and she doesn’t even have to look to know that he’s standing at her elbow, swirling his drink around, clinking ice.
“Looks like you’ve got more ice than drink,” she points out, and he lifts it to her, mostly unironically, she thinks.
“Your birthday,” he says. “Someone should celebrate.”
“Huh,” Elena observes. “Yeah, you’re definitely a pop-out-of-a-cake kind of guy.”
He tips her a wink, too obviously, and lays his hand on her shoulder. “Elena.” His voice is generous, hoarse, and something about it makes her swivel her barstool around and pluck the glass out of his hand.
Her fingers are shackling around his other wrist, and he’s not pulling away.
“You—we should go home,” she tells him, correcting herself quickly, and he laughs at her, his breath whiskey fumes in her face.
“Okay,” he says, letting her lead him out of the Grill and out to the parking lot.
“Elena,” he says again, once she’s got him settled in shotgun, and he’s regarding her seriously, eyes shiny in the dark.
She starts the car, lets her hand brush against his as she’s backing up.
She murmurs his name, hardly a hiss of air behind her teeth. “… Alaric.”
Jenna’s been dead a while. That’s the only way they know how to define the passage of time, rather than in moments and memories and weeks and days. It’s been a while, is all Elena can say when she’s asked, which happens less and less as the while gets longer, older.
“You know,” Elena tells him as they’re driving through empty streets, as she’s not turning her headlights on, as she’s tempting fate for the umpteenth time, except not enough to leave her seatbelt off, “You’re the only one who bothered to tell me happy birthday.”
“Really?” His eyebrows curl together, furrow. “Really.”
There’s silence again, and then: “But Caroline… I mean, God. That girl seems like a walking Rolodex.”
Elena stays deadpan. “What’s a Rolodex?”
Alaric aims a cough into his fist. “Never mind.”
They’re pulling into the driveway before Elena says something again. “No.”
“No what? No shit? Elena…” he’s laughing again, and she’s not sure why. He probably doesn’t, either.
Elena turns off the car. Alaric rolls his head over to look at her, still leaning back against the seat.
“What are you doing?”
“Be quiet.” Her hands are exploring up to his collarbone, checking to make sure that all his physical pieces are still there. No one can give any account for the meta- anymore.
He tastes like whiskey and salt. The ocean’s tide is coming in on his cheeks. Elena leans her forehead into his when they break apart, and he’s overheated.
She draws back from him, pulls a Spock on him with the back of her hand.
“Yeah?” His hair’s in his eyes; he hasn’t had it cut for too long. (A while.)
“You feel warm.”
“Sure you aren’t just used to the Anne Rice set?”
Elena’s breath catches quickly, and she opens her car door and gets out. Alaric soon follows.
“Elena. I didn’t mean it.”
They’re at the door before she says it; she’s fumbling for her keys, dropping them on the porch, her hand shaking as she turns them in the lock. “I know.”
Jeremy’s—somewhere. They’re not sure where. It’s been (a while) a few weeks since they’ve heard from him.
Alaric sleeps in Jenna’s bed, and he and Elena drink coffee blacker than a dead vampire’s heart in the mornings, while they share the obituaries section.
There’s too much whiskey and too many tears and all the unsaid words drown them like they’re suffocating in Scrabble letters, pouring from the chimney like Hogwarts letters.
Elena pours him a shot from the stash she’s got in her bathroom cabinet, watches him consider it, hand gripping the counter edge.
“Come on,” she says. “Just take it.”
He glances at her, skewers her with that half-drunken, half-feverish gaze. He holds the cup up to her, licks his top lip solemnly after. “To Elena, on her last birthday.”
“Not too hopeful for my future, huh?”
“Nah. It’s just accurate. This is the last birthday you’ve had so far.” He’s stepping closer, there’s not enough room and her toes are being crushed under his foot—
“Very aprop—” he cuts her off, taking her face in his hands. This time, he tastes of cherry Nyquil and things she shouldn’t do. Elena would know; she’s addicted to that flavor, and will be until she dies with it running rampant through her veins, when it congeals and stops up her heart.
She’s lying in a dead woman’s bed with her head on the chest of someone else’s boyfriend, listening to wheezy breaths.
She’s not sure how long it lasts, probably—