"How are we going to deal with her?"

The way the words come out, in such a habitual way, makes Damon want to scream. He'd been silent for some time, watching and listening as Stefan and Elena plotted to destroy Katherine, but he came to realize there is nothing he could say. And so he sits, and listens. He wants to forget he ever loved her.

Elena watches him from the corner of her eye - he sees it, even if she doesn't want him to. There's worry there, fear; care. She wants to know if he's alright.

He doesn't quite know himself.

Katherine's back.

The words are odd and fuzzy; he doesn't know what to make of it. For so long, all he's done is search for her. All he's done is hope she's out there, looking for him, or that she'll come back to him somehow. They'd reunite with a kiss and it would be... it would be perfect.

Damon clenches his fists angrily.

It's not how it was going to be.

"Damon?" From the tone of voice, he guesses Stefan had asked him a question but had received no reply. Damon looks up, attempting to visualize indifference. Inside, his heart is beating thundrously, and he wants to scream out loud.

Katherine's back! She's here, she's beautiful, oh, and I love -

"What do you think she's here for?" asks Elena. Her voice is softer and more docile; she doesn't want to scare him away. He wonders what his face must look like. Does he look frightened? Angry? Excited? He doesn't know what he's feeling; how could he know what he projected?

He closes his eyes and memories are there. Katherine, smiling at him. Katherine, her wrist slit open and blood pooling on her pale skin. "Drink," she says. "And I will turn you. Only you."

He could've imagined no better life than to remain by her side forever.

"I don't..." Damon doesn't know how he can even manage to be sitting there. His eyes are downcast, their icy blue color reduced to a dull, slate gray. He didn't think it was possible to want Katherine still, after all she'd done to him, after all the heartache she'd caused. He swallows thickly. "Maybe she's here for me." The hopefulness in his tone isn't lost on Stefan and Elena. They glance at each other uneasily.

Damon looks up. "What if she wants me back?" he whispers.

Stefan says nothing. How could he?

Elena looks away. There is nothing to be said.

In the darkness of his mind, Damon wonders. He reaches out to her, hoping to feel her presence. I don't love you.

He doesn't. It must be true.

But I want you to love me.

She can't hear a word he says, but perhaps it's more for his sake than hers.

I want answers, Katherine.

"How's he holding up?"

It's Elena's voice. Damon is huddled in his bed, hiding from his problems like a child. He wants to be a child; times were so much more simpler back then. It would be cruel to leave his dear brother and his... Elena unsafe and open downstairs, but for the moment, he wants to feel peace.

He can hear Stefan's neck cracking, as if he's rolling his shoulders. "He's..." A pause. "He's not as good as he'd like to think he is."

Damon's eyes are closed. He breathes. It's all he can do, is breathe. Elena can't know; Katherine can't know. If anything, Stefan is only guessing.

I want you to love me.

Damon can practically hear Elena's upset frown. "I'm worried about him," she confesses to Stefan. "He's been waiting for her for so long..." There's another heavy pause, filled with words that should be left unsaid. "He's been searching for her, and here she just is."

"It's not going to affect him so much," Stefan reassures her. "He'll be fine. He's Damon, the self-serving psychopath, remember? He's going to get past this."

Irritation rolls off Elena in waves. Damon can smell it; she's irked with Stefan's calm way of assuring her, she's worried for Damon, she's anxious and upset and scared. The worst part is her fear; Damon can sense it more than smell it. It's everywhere, cloaking the musky scent of the home with its tangy odor.

"You will be the death of me." Damon says this to no one in particular; Katherine or Elena, the words could be for either.

I want answers.

There are footsteps up the stairs. He exhales softly, allowing his eyes to remain shut for only a heartbeat. "Damon?" comes Elena's voice, hesitant yet unafraid, as if she's more worried she'd come across Damon's dead body than his anger. She stands at the doorway, watching him.

Damon cocks his head to the side. "What are you looking at?" The voice isn't hostile, though he initially intended it to be. It is slightly curious; maybe wondrous. "You can take a picture. I won't show up in it, but it'll still show my lovely headboard."

Elena's eyes are soft now. She wants to help; he can see it, feel it, hear it. Every part of her is vibrating with the need to make him feel better.

"I like this headboard." He knocks slowly on the oak wood, whistling quietly under his breath. "Vintage."

"Are you okay?" Elena blurts, deciding to come out with it at last. She looks embarrassed, but not ashamed - what he could come to expect from her. "I know you've been searching for... Katherine... for so long, and -"

"I'm perfectly fine." Damon's words are cold and hard and defiant and they come out too fast to be true.

Elena's face contorts into a mask of frigid indifference, yet he knows she's worried.

Don't worry about me.

"Okay." She pauses, as if she wants to say more. "Katherine..." She inhales a shallow breath. "She isn't me, right? She has nothing to do with me? Just relation, right?"

Damon closes his eyes. Katherine is selfish. She's complicated - he remembers it well. She's uncaring, indifferent, cruel, sadistic, masochistic. Every word he could find in the thesaurus near "bitch" would suffice. Elena is... caring. She felt things. She loved.

"You're nothing like Katherine." He means it this time.

(He imagines what would happen if it had been Elena on the doorstep, and not Katherine. He wonders if that kiss would've happened at all. If he'd be this upset in the morning. But all he can feel is numbness crippling his tendons. Katherine's back. Things were so much more simpler when she wasn't.)