A/N: YAY new fic! I actually wasn't planning on writing a S4-canon fic this summer, but I realized that (at this point) it's pretty much tradition ;)
In all the time that she had known of their existence, they (each and every one of them) had tried to describe to her—over and over again—what it was like to be a vampire.
'Senses are heightened…'
'Personality is amplified…'
Elena closed her eyes and decided to focus on the first statement.
Well, there was the enhanced hearing.
Like that police siren two blocks away—she wouldn't have been able to hear that as a human. A small smile quirked her lips as she remembered pointing out that fact to Jeremy, and his bantering response, "Like Spiderman?"
Too bad that instead of saving the people in trouble, she'd be more likely to rip their throats out.
Elena quickly shook her head to dispel the unsavory thoughts. Okay, moving on to the next sense…
Her eyes popped open to take in the scenery. Sight.
Sure, she'd had 20/20 vision before, but now…everything was clear to the point of sharpness. As if to prove the point, her eyesight honed in on the little girl on the other side of the large pond who had just fallen off her bike.
Elena tilted her head, the girl's wailing reaching her ears at a perfectly reasonable volume—as if she was right next to her, instead of a couple hundred feet away. "Mommy, it hurts!"
The mother rushed forward, kneeling down to help her daughter stand up. "It's okay, baby," she soothed, "It's just a scrape, it'll heal in no time."
Elena took a step forward in spite of herself. She couldn't see the scrape, but…
Oh yes, the third sense.
She had quickly learned that everyone—and not just humans, but even other vampires, werewolves, witches, and hybrids—all carried a unique aura around them. She could finally understand why it was nearly impossible to sneak up on a vampire.
Right now, however, all she could smell was the blood.
Elena quickly turned around to face the trees behind her instead, and gulped in mouthfuls of unnecessary air.
She needed to focus on something else, anything else…Oh, the fourth sense! Elena thought frantically until it finally hit her. The answer was obvious, of course.
She could still eat—anything that she wanted. But it didn't matter.
Because the only thing that she craved was blood. Everything about it called out to her, tempted her…
And it was never enough.
Interestingly enough, she had learned quite a lot about blood over the past week. For instance, she now knew that there were eight different types for humans (A+, O+, B+, AB+, A-, O-, B-, AB-), and that they all tasted slightly different from one another.
She had yet to find a favorite, because right now all she could care about was quenching the ever-present thirst.
I wonder what blood type that little girl is…
Her mouth curled up in distaste at her inner thoughts.
The fifth sense…what was it?
She thought for a second, tightly squeezing her eyes shut to drown out the world around her. There were so many heartbeats, so many noises, it was too much…her nails dug into the palms of her hands and she flinched.
She could just feel so much more—when she walked, it was like the air particles fluttered across her skin. When she ran, there was no resistance. When she…
Try as she might, she couldn't block out Damon's recent "lessons" from evading her mind. Over the past week, he had taken it upon himself to teach her how to successfully adjust to her newly enhanced five senses. The other four had all related to controlling the blood lust somehow, but the fifth sense (touch)—that one had been different.
Subconsciously she licked her lips, still feeling the pressure of his mouth on hers. It had been different from their other kisses. This one, she had felt almost this intense need rising up in her—a need to deepen the kiss, a need to feel his hands on her body, a need to…
Her head whipped around, hearing the wisps of an argument.
"…of course I blame myself! How could I not?"
She sighed wearily and sped off into the woods towards the sounds of raised voices.
Stefan paced back and forth, glancing every so often towards the pond in the distance. "How does it look like it's going?"
Damon was standing in the center of the clearing, his arms crossed. "She's facing the woods...her eyes are shut. She looks like she's in pain." His words were flat, his voice detached. "How do you think it's going?"
"But she hasn't run off and tried to attack anybody, right?" Stefan asked anxiously, "She looks like she's in control?"
"Obviously, or we wouldn't be standing here and discussing it, would we?"
"There's just a lot of people hanging around the pond today...I thought it would be less crowded," he fretted. "This must be overwhelming for her."
"Overwhelming or not, she needs to learn how to be around people." Damon held up a hand before Stefan could respond, "And I mean regular people. The eating, breathing, heart-beating, kind."
Stefan nodded, staring off into the distance. "At least she's comfortable sleeping in her own home. She trusts herself not to attack Jeremy."
"That hardly counts," Damon grumbled, "For starters, Jeremy is just one person—and secondly, he's still wearing that ring. In the back of her mind, she knows that she can't REALLY hurt him. He's like her safety net."
"She'll learn," Stefan glanced at his brother and added seriously, "It's not like there's a shortage of role models for her to look up to."
Damon raised an eyebrow, "Look at you, finally cracking a smile. I was beginning to think that the 'martyr' look had become a permanent fixture on your face."
"Very funny, Damon," he moved away and resumed his pacing, "It's not like you've been your usual sarcastic, one-liner self either."
"Yeah, well, I've kind of had a lot on mind."
Stefan made a noncommittal noise.
"Tell me something," Damon said suddenly, "You hate yourself for letting this happen to her—I mean the fact that she's a vampire, the one thing that she never wanted to become...You hate that her humanity was ripped away from her without her consent. Right?"
His brother stopped and stared at him, his shoulders tensing. "Yes, Damon. We've already been through this."
"So you blame yourself for what she's become."
"Of course I blame myself! How could I not?"
"But," Damon pushed himself off the tree he had been lounging on and walked towards Stefan. "Tell me this. If she didn't have vampire blood in her system—that is, if she had actually fully died with no way of coming back—you would've also blamed yourself. Correct?"
"Because I let her drown," Stefan said quietly, "Because I had to let her make her choice...even if it killed her." He straightened and met Damon's gaze, "So yes, I would've blamed myself then too."
"So no matter what the outcome was, you would've blamed yourself," Damon nodded to himself and turned away, "I guess you do enjoy eternal misery."
"That's not fair, Damon," Stefan shot back angrily, "How would you feel if—"
"Hey, you don't think I blame myself?" Damon growled, "Because I tried to save Rebekah's life? If I had just let Ric kill her then maybe..." His voice broke, and he briefly closed his eyes against the pain associated with bringing up Alaric. He was usually so careful about not mentioning his name...
"After all this time," Elena's voice interrupted his reverie, "You two are still blaming yourselves for my choices."
Stefan frowned, "How much of that did you hear?"
"Enough to know that you're living with this unnecessary guilt. Both of you."
"No, listen to me," she interrupted, "It was neither of your faults that I drowned. You two weren't the ones that caused the car to go over the bridge. That was all Rebekah, okay? It was ALL her."
"And yes," she continued, "There were probably a million events that could've prevented Rebekah from being on that bridge at that time. A million events that we will never know, and a million events that we can no longer change." She stared pointedly at Damon until he met her gaze, and she waited until he had nodded in acknowledgement before she turned towards Stefan. "It was my choice to ask you to save Matt. When my parents drowned, my father took that choice away from me—about whether I should live or die." She smiled at him sadly, "I couldn't be selfish. I had to give that chance to someone else this time, do you understand?"
Damon nodded at Stefan, "So what is it about her?"
"The traits that got amplified," he elaborated, exchanging a reluctant smile with Elena, "Which of her traits was it?"
Stefan opened his mouth to answer, but another voice interrupted him before he could speak.
"I think I can answer that."
All three of them whirled around to assess the new arrival. Damon's expression immediately slipped into a warning glare, and he and Stefan both took a step forward so that they were standing in front of Elena. However, she didn't attempt to move forward, and merely gazed at the vampire standing before them. "Elijah."