Summary: ~ It was just a rehearsal before the grand finale ~ Damon's take on his kiss with Katherine.


He knew it wasn't her.

He didn't know how he knew exactly – perhaps it was the calculating quality in her eyes, or maybe it was the way her body moved; as if she was born to rule the world with everybody at her feet. Elena didn't think like that. Elena's body moved with confidence – but she – she moved with arrogance.

Or maybe, simply put, she lacked that certain something that was undeniably Elena.

Whatever it was that had tipped him off, Damon knew the girl standing in front of him wasn't Elena.

As absurd, as outrageously ridiculous as it was, Katherine had come back. What she hoped to accomplish by coming, Damon didn't know, but he'd be damned again if he didn't find out. However, investigation would come another time.

For now, he just had to work up his acting skills and not let his new acquired knowledge seep into his face. He couldn't afford to let Katherine know that he knew. Not because he was afraid of her reaction, but specifically because he sought it out. He wanted it to be at it's peak, wanted to relish in the shock that would mar her features when she would discover that he knew all along.

Wasn't surprise his middle name, after all?

But for his grand plan to unravel the way he wanted it to, he had to be perfect at pretending not to know. He'd have to pretend that it wasn't the conniving little bitch that was standing in front of him, but her sweet, selfless, and kind look-alike.

Except that she wasn't a simple look-alike. Elena was – and had always been – a person in her own right, with her opinions fully formed and a personality that rivaled his own. She knew what she wanted, knew how to have it and yet, she wasn't one to manipulate, wasn't one to use and discard. And she was brave – so brave, in fact, that she had defied him, countered him, slapped him, for God's sake, when he could have killed her with a simple snap of his fingers.

In a matter of months, she'd garnered his attention, his admiration, his respect, his trust.

His love.

She's nothing like Katherine.

She would never be. She was her own person, with a character that eclipsed Katherine's so much that, now, it was Katherine who had taken the role of doppelganger. A warped physical imitation of the true treasure.

Damon closed his eyes and reeled his emotions in. He had to remember the plan and stick to it. Revenge wouldn't taste as sweet otherwise.

Brushing up his acting skills in a split-second would be impossible. But he was Damon Salvatore, and therefore, 'impossible' wasn't a word that he would associate himself with anytime soon.

One thought kept repeating itself in his mind as he composed himself. His own personal mantra to carry on this act.

Elena is the person in front of me.

Damon's eyes opened, revealing crystal-clear blue irises. He stared at the person before him, replacing subtle details in his mind that were more 'Katherine' with gestures and expressions that made them more 'Elena'.

He figured it would make this whole acting business a bit more easier.

It did.

Though it was glaringly obvious to his mind that it was Katherine standing in front of him and not Elena, his eyes and his heart were seeing different things. They were seeing Elena and he was responding and acting like he would have if it had been Elena. He'd offered to take her bundle of clothes for her to unburden her, a characteristic so gentlemanly and Stefan-like that he would have only allowed himself to do with Elena.

And what was that whole "only trying to do the right thing" act? That was supposed to be only for Elena not for Katherine.

Slowly, another mantra formed itself in Damon's mind.

A rehearsal. This is nothing but a rehearsal.

These gestures, these words he was saying – they were all meant for Elena. But he had been presented with the golden opportunity to practice them with a perfect double image of the person he wanted to express them to. He let his confusion, his change of heart and bewilderment all mesh together into his tone and his words, opening himself up like he had never done.

He was laying his heart on his sleeve – for the wrong person to take or break.

It's just practice.

Maybe he'd get this out differently, or word that particular sentence another way. Maybe next time, he wouldn't be so bold and come out directly and kiss her on the cheek. Maybe he'll wait first, gauge her reaction and then if he liked what he saw he'd do the chaste kissing thing.

He'd let himself get swept up in his own act, gotten into it all so deeply that words that no other being but Elena was supposed to hear were tumbling out desperately from his mouth. All jumbled and messed up and confused.

He'd have to do it better next time.

Yes. Yes, next time, he'd say all of this to the right person. To the woman that had unearthed his heart after one hundred and forty-five years, only to claim it as hers. He'd tell her all of this, just the way he wanted, with more feel and less confusion in between. All the things he said tonight; he would remember them all – his vampire abilities a guarantee of that – and tell her.

The kiss, he supposed, was a longways coming. The look in Katherine's eyes had been a dead giveaway – she had always been bad at concealing her desires.

And she had wanted to kiss him.

He let her, feeling the brush of the lips that he thought he had been yearning for for the past century and a half. But the heightened passion and spark he'd felt then was dead. It was a mere kiss – lust-filled and meaningless – resembling the kisses he'd given to the human girls he'd used over time.

Damon knew that that would be different with Elena when the time came.

This – this speech and those looks and that kiss – it was all practice. A rehearsal before the grand finale, where the stunt double would be replaced by the main actress.

When Jenna walked in on them, Damon sent a private thanks to whatever holy being above, deciding he would come over later on in the night to compel Jenna and make her forget that she'd ever seen him and Elena kiss.

Because it wasn't Elena. And Elena didn't deserve that kind of judgment when she had not done anything.

Damon sighed as he absently watched Katherine walk in a house that wasn't hers, invited in by a person who didn't know who and what she was. His fingers traced the contour of his lips as he walked back to the boarding-house, his heart heavy and aching.

The first part of his plan had backfired on him. He had only meant to not let Katherine know that he knew she wasn't who she was posing as, and he'd had gotten himself swept up in the moment – had drowned into it with an eagerness that had taken him by surprise. Had the only thought of replacing Katherine with Elena done that to him? Was he so anxious to let Elena know exactly how he felt?

It was an odd mix of both, perhaps, Damon mused. Whatever it had been, it had ended up causing him more pain than satisfaction. He must be a greater actor than he originally thought he was, because to have gotten so wrapped up in the moment, to have replaced Katherine so perfectly with Elena despite the glaring differences, to have let himself be so vulnerable in front of the person he loathed the most...

It was only practice.

A practice in which he had lost more than he had gained, and where he had given the most fragile and delicate piece of his heart to the person that deserved it the least. He was an idiot.

The only comfort Damon had was that, in the long run, another opportunity would present itself to him. And when it would roll around, he knew he wouldn't fuck it up.

In fact, he'd make sure that it was better than the first. Practice made perfect after all.

Author's Note: That last scene had me bothered for some time – as it had all of the other Damon and Elena fans out there I'm sure. The people on this show are cruel, cruel people indeed. Since we have a lovely four months before any new episode, I decided to write my take on that scene, since the writers obviously left it to one's imagination. I think that, if Damon's love for Elena is as strong as it's built up to be (and you can see it's been building up since day 1 practically) than it should be strong enough for him to realize that it wasn't Elena but Katherine in front of him. Hope you enjoyed it!