Hey ya'all. Good to see you again. We're back with another little story-looking at about five chapters, I think, but we'll make every one count.

This story is a birthday gift for the lovely onerepublicgirl, who also gave me the idea. I hope it lives up to your expectations, babe. Happy birthday.

Thanks to ElvishGrrl for betaing, and to all of you for reading. Please enjoy.

I check my shopping list one last time: Bourbon. Swiffer refills. Bleach. Scotch. Shampoo. Pop-Tarts

I'm forgetting something. What is it? It's driving me nuts. Don't need much food in the house now—no humans left- and I bought wood polish last week. I need a new case of high ball glasses, but can't get those at the grocery. I make a mental note to order more online. Dammit. I'll probably remember what I need when I'm on my way back from the store.

Isn't my life glamorous? Remember, kids: immortality isn't all orgies and blood baths. Only mostly.

Fuck it. I reach for my jacket and have one arm through the sleeve when I hear the front door creak open behind me. Why do people always come by when I'm trying to leave? I sat around all day, reading and re-alphabetizing the library, and no one would even return my calls. Well, they'll just have to make this quick; I need my cleaning supplies and booze, dammit.

"Let's make this a walk and talk." I finish sliding into my jacket and turn to the door. "I've got places to go, people to eat-" The words dribble off my lips. "Katherine."

She's just standing there, all curls and painted-on jeans, leaning on the door frame with a superior smirk. As always, she looks like the smartest girl in the room, like she knows all my secrets and is just waiting to reveal them one by one. Hell, that's probably true; she's always about five steps ahead. And of course she looks beautiful, even if that tight black t-shirt doesn't reveal quite as much cleavage as I'd like. But skin or no skin, Katherine always made evil look good. It was one of the things I loved most about her.

Loved. Emphasis on the ed. Seeing her, I don't feel much of anything. I'm glad she didn't get herself killed, but other than that? Her presence doesn't even piss me off (much) anymore. I'm mostly cautious, suspicious. Sure, we had a kind-of-sort-of-not-really truce, but Katherine is always dangerous and always has her own agenda. Every time I forget that, I pay a steep price.

"That's all I get? 'Katherine'?" She pouts, puckering her lips in a way I'm sure she thinks is charming. And okay, maybe it is a little, but not on a woman her age. Not on a woman of her unsurpassed bitchiness. "You're making me feel unloved, Damon."

No way in hell am I rising to that bait. "Luckily, you love yourself enough for the both of us," I answer. "What are you doing here?" I've got three guesses, but the first two don't count. She's here for Stefan. As in, "it was always." Huh. Guess I'm still a little bitter after all.

"Coast's clear, isn't it? Heard Klaus is dead once and for all." She steps into the house, wobbling a bit on those stilt-like stilettos. "I hear lots of other things are dead, too," she says with a twisted leer.

I take a step back. Not because I'm intimidated by her, but because you're an idiot if you let Katherine Pierce get too close. "You came to gloat because Elena's turned? I'm surprised, Katherine—I thought you'd be pissed. Gotta say, Elena might make a better vampire than you do."

She laughs, high and thin like a tightrope wire. "Please. I'm not worried about the competition. I'm sure my little doppelganger is still all kittens and daisies. Though- Hm." She pauses, head cocked to one side. "Does she eat kittens now, Damon?" She advances another step, watching me with bright, curious eyes. I frown.

Katherine's eyes are not bright—they're like black holes, sucking in all the light around them. And as for curious? Katherine's convinced she knows everything, so how can she wonder about anything? Katherine doesn't have that way of looking at everything like it's new, like she can see right into your heart and see things you swore didn't even exist. No, Katherine's never looked at anyone with that brightness and warmth. Sure as shit has never looked at me like that.

"Oh, don't pout; Stefan is so much better at it. And kittens aren't half bad in a pinch." She tosses her head, curls bouncing everywhere.

Watching that coquettish little head toss clinches it. It's such an amateur move. Katherine's been playing this game for half a millennium; her tactics are light years beyond look at my shiny, shiny hair! That move right there? Classic teenage girl, not vampy seductress.

Now I'm paying attention, looking for confirmation. And every single detail, from the smell of cucumber melon lotion to the way she's hugging herself with her arms to the way her gaze keeps falling to my mouth, it all points to one thing: Elena Gilbert. But Elena Gilbert wearing a metric ton of black eyeliner, wearing a shirt two sizes too small and a padded push-up bra that makes her boobs look two sizes too big.

What the hell?

None of it makes sense. But then, Elena's decisions have never been logical, and ever since The Night We Don't Talk About, they've only gotten weirder. Despite all the shit that went down that night, all the letting go and never unfalling, Elena didn't choose Stefan. Not really. Pretty much chose herself.

I expected them to be unbearably lovey dovey again, going on and on about how their epic love is now a forever love, but they aren't even together. As far as I can tell, she never even told Stefan she'd planned to choose him for all eternity (or until she died of a heart attack or cancer or Matt Donovan driving off a bridge, whichever came first). It's weird and I don't get it, but apparently I don't get a lot of things about Elena. And fuck if I'll ever tell Stefan. Not my business.

No, after she died, Elena pulled away from both of us. It wound up being Caroline she leaned on during her transition. And you know? That might have been a pretty good idea. While I still love her so much it could probably be labeled a mental illness, maybe what she needed was some time away from Salvatores. And Caroline isn't the worst vampire in the world, which is something I never thought I'd say.

She hasn't been around much, hasn't called much. And I've tried to be okay with that. She made it pretty clear how she felt about me, and even though Stefan and I wordlessly agreed that our previous agreement was null and fucking void in light of what he'd done, I've kept my distance. Tried to let her make her choice, whatever that is. But it's left the three of us in this holding pattern, all drifting in the same orbit but never touching.

And now here she is on my doorstep, smirking and wiggling and stretching her limited thespian skills to the max. All to convince me she's her own worst nightmare, that she's become Katherine fucking Pierce. Color me confused.

"Did you miss me that much? You're staring," she prods, tapping her foot. I blink. Yeah, I'm sure I was, because seriously, who is this girl and what is she doing here? This is a dangerous, fucked up little game. I need to snap out of it and hop five steps out ahead of her, because as twisted as her playact is, there's no way I'm telling her I've got her number. This is the most fun I've had in months. Not to mention the most I've seen her. I can't send her away just yet.

"Sorry. Just thought we'd seen the last of you. You did blow town like a total coward after Homecoming," I say. Keep it cool, Salvatore. Treat her like Katherine and don't be an idiot.

"Just looking out for myself. It's what I do best," she simpers. The girl is laying it on thick. It'd be hilarious if it weren't so weird.

"True. You know, people say you and Elena are a lot alike." I pause, watching the oh shit roll across her face before she gets it under control. I stifle a grin. "But I don't buy that. I mean, let's face it—you're the biggest self-preservationist in the world. No one is better at saving her own hide than you are. And no one's worse at it than Elena."

Okay, it's not very nice to taunt her directly to her face, but Goddamn, this is the girl who let herself die for her lethally boring ex-boyfriend. Someone has to tell her that it's not okay to roll over and die. Plus, I'm just not a very nice person.

To her credit, she stays in character better than I expected. Guess that bit part in the Mystic Falls High production of The Crucible paid off after all. The words must cut her, but she gives a humorless smile. "She thought she was doing the right thing for someone she loved." She seems to remember herself. "The little idiot," she adds without much conviction.

"Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, Elena loves everyone and everything on the planet." Except me. "She'd have done the same for anyone while refusing to let them repay the favor. Or even understanding why they'd want to." I shrug. "That's Elena Gilbert for you. But you didn't come here to talk about her, did you?"

She licks her lips and looks up at me, expecting me to say something else. But I don't. She's taking the lead tonight; whatever she's looking for from me, I'm not going to make it easy on her. "Of course not." Her lips curl up into a cruel smirk and for just a second, she is Katherine. I don't like that. At all. She raises her face toward me, neck curved alluringly. "Where's Stefan?"

Oh, bitch. I narrow my eyes. "Out. Doing Stefan-y stuff—buying hair gel, saying Hail Marys; fuck if I know." Inspiration strikes. Okay. If she wants to play dirty, I can get down in the mud, too. "I was actually just on my way out for a bite." Or to go grocery shopping at nine p.m. On a Friday. I remember what I left off the list: paper towels. This? This is going to be much better. I smile too broadly. "You hungry, or do you want to wait for Sir Broods-A-Lot?"

She blinks at me, uncertain. "A bite? What, you're going to hold up a blood bank? I heard you'd gone soft, only drank the bagged stuff now." She's struggling to look disinterested. Failing.

"You've been misinformed," I say, shoving the shopping list into my jacket pocket. "I don't kill much anymore—not unless someone's really asking for it—but you know how it is. Sometimes you need the chase more than the blood. You taught me that."

She's going to give it up, isn't she? Going to sheepishly reveal herself as the straight-haired and straight-laced doppelganger, mutter that this was a bad idea and slink home with her tail between her legs. She's never actually going to hunt with me. No way. Not Elena. But she's nibbling on her lower lip and squinting at me. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she was actually considering this. God, I want her to. I want to see what she's like on the prowl, see her when the blood takes over and pounds in her eyes and steals her thought.

I move toward her with measured steps until only the space of a breath separates us. "It'll be just like old times," I say softly. I'm stretching the truth; Katherine and I never hunted as equals. But even when I was still human, her excitement made me feel the blood lust just as strongly as she did. I dip my head, my lips brushing the shell of her ear."You and me in the darkness, listening to the same heartbeat. The way their blood runs faster when they finally see us, all fangs and blood, the way it feels to-"

She takes a stuttering step back, her hand fluttering to her chest like she's got the fucking vapors. "Yeah. I've got it," she gulps. I catch a glimpse of veins beneath her eyes, a flash of fang. "I mean, I remember. Let's do it. Like old times."

My eyebrows must disappear into my hairline in surprise. Never in my wildest dreams did I think she'd actually come. More than ever, I want to know what she's up to. And I fully intend to find out-after we hunt. But...fuck, I'm such a pussy. "Sure you don't want to wait for Stefan? I'm sure baby brother will be back, nicely morose and ready to shut you down, any time now."

"I'm sure. Like you said, for old time's sake. There'll be time to see Stefan later." She nods firmly, as if convincing herself. Don't know what that's about, but I gave her an out. If she's in, so am I. I step aside and snap my heels together, giving my best Confederate officer bow. "After you, Miss Katherine."

She hesitates only a moment. Then she's heading out the door, pausing only long enough to let her fingers trail across my cheek. Any doubts I'd had about this doppelganger's identity disappear as soon as she touches me. As much as I loved Katherine, as good as the sex was (and it was fantastic), her touch never made me feel like my skin was full of lightning. No, only Elena could do that. Only Elena can do that.

As soon as we step onto the porch, two ridiculously tiny headlights turn into the drive. Stefan's home in his toy car. Great. He's going to ruin everything by calling her out. I remember when Stefan was fun. Sure, he was about twelve years old at the time, but I can promise you, he was fun once. But now? He'll scold Elena and send her home like a naughty toddler and I'll never get to see her with blood dripping from her fangs and lust dripping from her eyes.

My first instinct is to get out of here before Captain No Fun can spoil everything, but Elena's watching the car with rapt attention. Of course she is; she probably wants to see if Stefan's as big a schlub as I am, if he can see through her act. Fuck, for her it's probably another test. "Oh, Damon, I have to be with Stefan because he sees me for who I really am. Maybe if you'd known me first."

I swear, my life is a fucking broken record sometimes.

I fold my arms across my chest and wait for this all to play out to its predictable, depressing conclusion. Stefan unfolds himself from that clown car of his and marches toward us. Uh oh, this is serious—we're at three furrows on his forehead. "What is this?" he asks, his eyes scurrying between Elena and me. They settle on me, because obviously this is my fault. "What's she doing here?"

"She can talk, you know," Elena says with a flounce. "And it's good to see you, Stefan. I missed you." Her voice turns soft on that last bit. It didn't sound that way when she said the same mocking words to me. Of course. "I never unfell for him." Guess not. Even when she doesn't want to be with him, she still wants to be with him.

"Katherine," he says grimly. There's no hint of irony on his face, none of his normal twitchy tells that indicate he's on to her. Does he really not know? No. He's got to be playing her, too. Got to be. But that's not normally his style. Not with her. Or maybe he just needs to see a little more of Elena's Oscar-worthy performance; it took me a minute to figure it out, too. He'll get the picture soon. "Thanks for helping with the coffins; I owe you one for that. But unless you've come to collect on that debt, we have nothing to discuss."

He waits for her demand. But it doesn't come. "I came back to see you, Stefan. Don't you want to come with us? We were just about to go-" she fumbles over the vocabulary. Rookie mistake. Is it feeding, eating, drinking, hunting? "Out," she decides with an expression that's midway between a smile and a smirk. "Cause a little trouble, have a little fun. Don't you want to come?" She starts toward him, but he flinches back.

"No. Of course I don't. I just want you to leave, Katherine." Elena stares at him with round eyes, lips parted to speak words that don't come. He nods stiffly. "Make sure you two clean up your mess," he says with weary resignation. Then he disappears into the house.

We both watch him go, and I wonder who's more surprised at his lack of recognition. I don't get it. How can he not smell her, not hear her, not see that light in her eyes? It's so obvious. But then, Stefan's always seen what he expected to see. I just thought that when it came to her, it might be different. But maybe Stef's got other things on his mind, maybe there's a good excuse. Whatever the reason he couldn't see past the eyeliner and sluttiness, it's hitting Elena hard. She's looking after him with studied blankness bordering on shell shock.

"Katherine-" Oh, forget it. It's not worth it, not worth the hurt this is causing her just so I can see what kind of vampire she makes. We'll abort mission and both pretend this adventure in idiocy never happened. I fling one arm toward the house, toward him. "Do you want to-"

"No. I want to go hunting." Her eyes are wide; her voice is thick. "I want to find something to eat and tear it open and leave a mess for Stefan to clean up." She turns to me, hands balled into trembling fists at her sides. "Can you help me with that, Damon?"

This girl is all Gilbert steel tempered in Petrova fire. I'd almost forgotten. In so many ways, she's the more dangerous doppelganger. I have to remember that going forward. Because we are going forward.

Even though I know our hunting expedition is going to end badly, if I let her wander off on her own with all this anger and hurt and confusion, it'll end worse for some poor jogger or stranded motorist. I won't put her through that. I started this, and now I have to finish it. I want to finish it.

I offer her my arm. She takes it and we walk into the night. "Let's get messy."