Blood drips down your chin as you pull away gasping.
The new hunger inside demands to be sated, pushing away all rational thought, instinct viciously taking over the instant the scent hit your nose.
It shouldn't shouldn't taste, shouldn't feel, shouldn't be this good.
The sensation on your tongue, sickly sweet and sliding down a parched throat, sets your veins alight with life.
Katherine's hand perches on your shoulder, looking up to see her satisfied smile, the thought that you've never seen her so proud. It hits you then, what she did, what you're doing with the body growing ever colder in your arms.
That hand squeezes reassuringly when the shaky breath escapes stained lips.
"Ssh," she says, lowering on her knees, chin replacing the hand on your shoulder and arms hugging you from behind. "Put it out of your mind. You don't have to feel it if you don't want to."
At first, you don't know how that's possible. Every sensation in your body feels as of they're set on fire, so how are you supposed to shut that off as easy as a switch? This girl in your arms was someone's daughter, someone's sister, who had a smile and a laugh. How can you simply not feel the guilt of the life you just took?
You start to shake and Katherine squeezes tighter, clinging to her arms as the tears threaten to spill.
She doesn't say anything more, just presses a light kiss into your hair, and doesn't let go until you've cried yourself dry.
Though it seems silly, it's Stefan's reaction that concerns you most.
You're on even terms with him now, can walk a distance in the shoes he seems to struggle with, but a small part of you thinks what he liked most about your friendship was the human aspect. The part he seems to miss so desperately.
Watching his eyes carefully as they take in the new you, how they darken the slightest bit when the scent of blood catches his attention, you chew on the inside of your cheek and hope he doesn't hate you now.
"Elena," comes out softly as a hand reaches up to cup your cheek.
Damon and Katherine's watchful gaze is locked on the two of you, anticipating.
Somehow he knows, by the tiniest shrug of your shoulders, that what you've become wasn't a choice. He looks to Damon, the blame radiating clear.
"What did you do?" he asks, tone tinged with accusation.
Katherine keeps her mouth shut as Damon lifts both hands in the air.
"Whoa, whoa," he replies with furrowed brows. "Innocent bystander."
"Since when are you innocent?" Stefan shoots back, hands shifting from your cheeks to the sides of your arms.
It's not surprising, his reaction. The brothers history, what you've been told anyway, a constant push and pull with one another, the jealousy of loving the same woman never quite resolved.
"It wasn't him."
Stefan looks back to you, the obvious answer finally dawning. That Katherine's involvement hadn't even crossed his mind says something, though honestly you'd rather not hear, that she has him in a way you're just not going to be able to compete with.
Katherine steps closer, pulling his hands from your arms and holding them in her own.
"It's better this way," she says with a smile that makes you think shark.
You can't go home, but you can't stay here.
Waking up face down in one of the Salvatore's guest beds, your arm reaches for Katherine, who had escorted you up here and stayed until the sandman came calling. Continually acting the older sibling despite the minimal age difference.
Padding barefoot across the hardwood floor, head tilted to listen for any indication that someone is up and about in the giant house. What you hear is a fly somewhere in the room, its buzzing suddenly like thunderclaps, drowning out any chance hearing the others.
Walking along the balcony, hand running lightly against the polished wood, you wonder what time it actually is. No clock in the room where you slept, and apparently none to be seen out here in the hall. Funny to think that this new condition didn't automatically result in staying up all night.
The sitting room is empty, as is the library, and it doesn't take a genius to deduce that Katherine is in Stefan's bedroom. No way are you going back upstairs to check for sure, and are two feet away from the kitchen when Damon appears in front of you with a glass extended in hand.
The smell sends your stomach into knots, reaching out to snatch it from him quicker than you ever thought it possible to move, and gulp the contents down with a disgusting eagerness.
"Easy tiger," he says with that crazy smile, taking the glass back and using his thumb to wipe the excess from the corner of your mouth.
Eyes meet for an awkward second before you look away.
"She with him isn't she?"
"Why ask a question if you already know the answer?"
Because you were kind of hoping to be wrong, that's why.
It's the strangest thing, this new aversion to daylight.
You sit on the floor staring longingly at a sunbeam that stretches idly across the room, occasionally sticking out your hand to see how long you can take the sizzle and pop. It's up to eight seconds when Stefan turns a corner and smiles down at you.
"It's not fair you getting to play outside like a regular person."
"Friends in high places," he replies with a shrug before leaning against the wall and sliding down to sit next to you.
Eyes go to his ring, the garish and out of place accessory, what you wouldn't give for one of your own. Stefan sees what you're looking at, a tiny smile appearing on his face.
"I, uh," he starts, reaching into his pocket and pulling out something kept hidden in his palm. "Asked to be the one to give this to you."
Brows furrow with suspicion, but you return the smile and hold out your hand as he requests. He slips a simple silver ring onto your left hand, and guides it slowly back into the sun. Waiting for the pain that doesn't come, you almost laugh out loud at the realization.
You miss this. Him. Though you'd only known each other a few short weeks before the truth and the past came out to haunt you all, there was a friendship steadily building. One you'd come to value greatly.
"Katherine," he says in way that offers no further explanation.
Always looking out, you think.
Stefan's hand still holds yours and you don't want him to let go.
It's the first time in your life you wonder how things would be if you didn't have a sister.
Katherine says the world is yours. You can go anywhere, do anything.
So it's a little confusing when you end up doing nothing but hide away in the Salvatore house. The whole town is still looking for you and Katherine, faces shone on TV screens and milk cartons alike, and it kills to think what it's doing to Aunt Miranda and Uncle Gray. Jeremy too.
Wandering the halls, sticking your nose where it's most likely not welcome just as your sister does, and drinking out of Damon's private stash. Dying sure seems like the better option if eternity ends up being this dull. It does seem like she is waiting for something, Katherine, but never says for what.
You find her in the library one cloudy day, Stefan and Damon both off doing something you're not privy to, and want to make a crack about her being lost when you notice how she's huddled up in a corner, head resting on her knees.
At her side immediately, hand on her shoulder to feel how her body shakes ever so slightly, it's a strange realization that she's crying. Something she hasn't done, at least not so directly in front of you, since you were kids.
When she looks up with red rimmed eyes the sight is so bizarre you actually freeze for a second, unsure how to comfort someone who's always been the rock, always calm and conniving. Sinking to your knees, arms go around her further, taking a page from her book.
Brushing hair behind her ear, fingers looping through the curls, your forehead rests between her neck and shoulder. Her arms wrap around you, for a while just staying that way, huddled against each other.
"Katherine," she says in an odd tone. One that makes you pull back to see fresh tears welling in her eyes. "I'm Katherine."
If your heart still beat, it wouldn't in this moment.
"Of course you are."
It's meant to be reassuring, but your voice shakes anyway.
At the top of the stairs, flipping through one of the old books that are scattered throughout the house, when a bag is dropped unceremoniously at your side.
"Come on," Katherine says without explanation.
For a second you only stare at her, wondering if she's serious, if you actually get to leave the house after days of being stuck. You reach for the bag, standing up faster than you mean to and almost falling down the stairs.
"Where are we going?"
Stefan and Damon, oddly, aren't coming. Something the elder brother clearly takes offense to, those eyes of his pouty and scowling. Neither of them seem set on stopping you, though honestly you expected it. Resting against the car, Damon stands off to the side, while you watch as Stefan and Katherine say goodbye.
Her hands cup his face in a tenderness you don't think she's ever displayed, before wrapping her arms around his waist, head settling comfortably against him. His cheek rests atop her head, eyes fluttering closed.
The first thing Katherine ever told you about being a vampire, is that every sense and feeling is heightened, especially the negative ones. Seeing this display in front of your face, all you want is to turn it off.
"Hey," Damon says, a hand clasping around your wrist. "Be careful."
"We'll be fine."
"That's not what I mean," he goes on, looking at your siblings.
Back to you.
"She's more like Katerina than she realizes."
You've talked about doing this.
Road tripping across the country after graduation, just the two of you.
Katherine drives while you watch the night pass by in an endless streak of black. Hardly any cars or towns pop up along the way, she choosing the most secluded road you've ever been on.
"Where are we going?"
"If I told you that," she replies, never taking her eyes off the road. "It wouldn't be a surprise."
Hours ticks by before the creeping sensation of hunger starts to spread throughout your body in a way so much sharper than a simple pang. The gas station that appears in the distance seems like a mirage at first, the old yellow lights that surround it barely penetrating through the dark. The tank is half full but Katherine pulls up in front the the pumps anyway.
"What are you doing?"
Katherine smiles in that unnerving fashion she's been perfecting since you were little.
You stay in your seat, while she fills up and makes her way inside to pay, but do end up getting out of the car to stretch your legs. Looking up and down the highway, seeing nothing in either direction, you note that this place is quite literally in the middle of nowhere.
Minutes pass and Katherine doesn't come back. You try to look in the windows of the mini mart, wondering why she's taking her sweet ass time, but are unable to see past all the ads plastered to the glass. Waiting another full minute before going to check on her, your eyes take almost as long to adjust to the harsh fluorescent lighting.
There's no one behind the counter, nor in the aisles, as you crane your neck around trying to get the super senses to kick in.
Passing an out of order soda machine toward the back, you peer into the void beyond a cracked door marked Staff Only.
"Come on, this isn't funny."
In front of a rack of snack cakes when you smell it. Blood. So raw and fresh. Feet guide you automatically to the cash register, looking over the counter to see Katherine tearing into the arteries of the attendant. Her head snaps up instantly, the feral hiss and flash of fangs causing you to take a step back.
She regains her composure quickly, head tilting with a satisfied grin.
It's ridiculous, you think, toes curling against the struggle inside to keep the monster at bay. The more you try to resist, the louder his slowly stopping heart beats, the better his blood smells. Katherine's hand reaches out just when it seems like you'll burst from the pressure. Feeling the shift in your eyes, you move faster than you can think, moaning against the sweet light of life that dies against your mouth.
As if this whole excursion wasn't already full of unanswered questions, more just pile up when she drives through the entrance gate. The unasked question of what are we doing here? Hangs in the air, punctuated by a knowing arch of Katherine's brow.
"Trust me," she says, not looking away until you nod a reply.
Trust isn't an issue. It never has been. You know better than anyone who she is and what she's capable of. And no matter what she says or does, you are always forgiving. Because she's your sister, because you love her, because you don't know how to be yourself without her.
It's still early enough that there aren't any staff or students walking around. Katherine, who you know for a fact has never been here before, seems keenly aware of where to go. A left here, a right there, walking up some stairs and into an office that is oddly larger than you would have thought for title posted next to the door.
There are two desks inside though neither one of them is occupied.
"Okay, out with it. Why are we here?"
"Patience," she replies, looking at her nails.
"I've been patient!"
It comes out louder than you mean it to, but once it starts you can't seem to stop, eyes black and fangs flashing.
"You! Do this to me and don't even, you don't even ask. And then we stay locked up in that house for days rotting away, while everyone we love thinks we're missing or dead, and you never give a reason why. Then it's come on let's go in the middle of the night, driving through nothing to nowhere, and you still don't want to tell me anything! No secrets, Katherine. Ever. We promised."
As soon as the rant stops the flush creeps into your cheeks, almost immediately wanting to apologize, you never the aggressor. You don't say you're sorry, and Katherine doesn't look the least bit shocked at the outburst, probably aware of it building inside for awhile now. She takes a step toward you, when the door opens, and suddenly it feels like you're dreaming.
Two words, that's all it takes.
You're eight years old again. Half asleep, thirsty, and barefoot.