Katerina Petrova was proud, above all; she was proud and she was used to having her own way, and Damon Salvatore's new-found indifference to her was an insult she would not bear.

She watched him from the other side of the Mystic Grill. He was alone; he was always alone when she saw him outside of the Salvatore mansion — and that was the company he chose over hers.

He would never love her the way he had loved her before, and she would rather die than have him do it: to love her with all the wide-eyed and unseeing naïveté of his youth. The way he had kissed her back then had been tender and worshipful; he had looked at her and seen a marble goddess; he had raised her up onto a plinth and gently spread out her wings within a framework of see-what-you-will: she had been his manic pixie dream girl. And she had never loved him, not for a moment, but it didn't matter: he had deserved to be broken for daring to love her in that way. How dare any man love a woman in that way? — but how dare Damon not love her at all?

Nobody would ever love her as she was. Not since her mother had anybody seen the ebb and the flow of her, the burning sun and the scorched desert and loved her still in spite of her imperfection. Now Damon saw her as she was and he hated her — and she hated him for it.

He was looking at her; their eyes met for a cool moment. Damon understood her. Damon understood her better than Stefan, Elena, or Klaus. Damon saw the whole of her: not just the villain or the Petrova doppelgänger or the woman with music in her eyes and her laugh and comets' tails in her hair; he saw the lost child, and the dust in her chest, and the cold emptiness of her eternity; he saw her desperation and her passion; he saw the music and the marble and the darkness too: Katerina Petrova. He saw her in her completeness, and he hated her — and that was something she would not bear. Better to be Stefan and to see in her merely a temptress and sociopath; better to be Klaus and see a broken toy to be thrown away; better to be Elena. Better to misunderstand and hate; it was the hatred bred from understanding she could not take.

In the evenings Damon and Katerina would find themselves together and alone more often than not, and they would drink; they would drink without talking, without the exhaustion of performance. There was no love there, but sometimes when Damon got very drunk he would pull Katerina up and they would dance; then he'd hold her close to him and bury his face in her neck, his mouth against her collar bone and his lashes brushing her cheek, and Katerina would wonder which he was trying to make himself believe: that things were as they had been between them in 1864 or that she was Elena. (Elena will never dance with you like this, you have to realise this. Elena will never dance with anybody like this.) Then sometimes she would tilt his head in her hands and try to kiss him, to prove that he still wanted her, and sometimes it almost seemed as if he was going to let her — and then he would push her forcefully away from him and disappear to some other part of the mansion, leaving her to lie on her back on the floor and stare at the ceiling until she fell asleep.

(There was some of the old tenderness to Damon still, though; bespoke by half-memories of being carried through the mansion and mornings-after where she found herself in her own bed.)

"How can you dare not to want me?" she said to Damon one evening, breaking their covenant of silence.

"Because I know you," he said, with a factuality which was crueller than any of his sarcasm or malice.

That evening she left him by the fire, and shed tears over him for the first time in the length and breadth of her existence: tears of rage, tears of frustration, and tears of self-approbation. How could anybody want you, knowing the whole of what you are? he had said to her. He had looked into her and seen the vast expanse of her soul — and in all of her countries, all her passion-stained lands, he had seen nothing worth taking: not in the villainess, not in the manic pixie, not in any part of her. There was nothing there. How dare he? How dare he see nothing in her where other men had seen a queen and he himself a goddess? How dare he turn her away, and away, and away, when she was the one person who understood him?

No, it was an insult she would not bear. Not she: not Katerina Petrova; she was over five hundred years old and he was just a child; she was made of the dirt and the rain; she had eluded one of the old powers of the Earth for hundreds of years; she had bent witches and vampires and men and women to her will: she would not take this insult from Damon Salvatore: he was nothing, he had been nothing to her for over a century, and he would realise that he was nothing to her still. There was no love there.

She spent evenings on the hunt now: she was Katerina Petrova, bringer of death; she was Katerina Petrova, endless child; she was a black stain on the town; she was nothing, she was everything. The only thing she had ever been good at was hurting people. When she was a human she had hurt people by mistake, and as a vampire she had learnt to relish it: it was better to inspire fear than to be afraid, and if you have to do the one you may as well do the other.

Damon never tried to stop her — but then, he was killing again too. That was something Stefan and Elena had failed to notice about him, but Katerina had seen him come home with the colour in his cheeks and something of regret and fire and life about his eyes and she knew what he had been doing.

"What will Elena and Stefan say when they find out what you've been up to?" she asked one day as he walked past her. He stopped and turned around, and then walked up to her. He leant in very close and put his mouth by her ear, and she smiled.

"At least in my case it will be a disappointment," he said quietly, and turned to leave.

For that she put a knife in his back, just to remind him that he couldn't walk away from her.

"Yes," she said, as she held him to the floor, his hand in hers, her foot against his shoulder blade (and she had the satisfaction of dislocating it with a wrench). "It will be a disappointment." Then she threw his arm down and walked away from him.

But she didn't tell them.

Katerina waited for Damon in his room that night, sitting at the end of his bed. He walked in late, with his shirt half falling-open and an ice pack pressed to his shoulder where she had popped it out of its socket. He stopped when he saw her, and threw the ice pack onto the bed next to her. "Get out, Katherine," he said, his voice flat.

She ignored him. "You hurt my feelings, you know," she said, "when you spurned me."

He half-smiled. "You spurned me first," he said, and then, more seriously, "Call it even."

"Only because I didn't want you," she said. "You're just being stubborn."

He was heated now. "I just have a little bit too much self-respect to be at your beck and call when you couldn't care less if I lived or died," he said, "so get out."

Katerina stood up and walked over to Damon. "How can I make it up to you," she said, walking behind him and leaning up to whisper in his ear, "if you won't let me kiss it better?" She put her arms around him, resting her face against his back and her hand over his heart.

He put his hand over hers and she pressed her face into him.

"You can't," he said; she felt the rumble of his voice in his chest. He pulled her hand away and, shaking her off, turned to face her. "You can't make it up to me," he said, "and I don't deserve it anyway." He shook his head. There was no maliciousness to it, just sobriety. "Just leave, Katherine." He added, softly, "Please."

For a moment, Katerina didn't know what she was going to do. Then, "You don't get it," she said slowly. "I do care about you, Damon." He just stared at her; he looked as if he would laugh if he could but he didn't. Katerina put her hand on his shoulder and, very slowly, leaned up to kiss him on the cheek tenderly like he used to do to her — and he let her. She felt his hand, tentative, on her back and ran her fingertips over his closed eyes and down his cheek; then she kissed him, just once, on the mouth.

Then, pulling away, she turned and left him.