A/N: Set in the aftermath of 4x23.

the guide to being a dark queen

you will forget eventually
the life that you wasted that led to the sea
fish ––wye oak

The first coherent thought that entered her mind when she opened her eyes was something along the lines of how she was going to kill Elena Gilbert.

It had all occurred very abruptly, in the three and a half seconds of confusion in–between some crusty janitor shaking her awake from the hard ground of the hallway and the horrifying realization that she couldn't match the action of snapping said janitor's neck to the immediate impulse of doing so. That was when her brain jumped to what had happened and more importantly who had made it happen and from then on out she vowed that no matter the means, the end would have to be Elena's dead body.

"What are you doing here, honey?" the old lady asked once Katherine stood up unsteadily, "Graduation was over ten hours ago."

"Nothing," she smiled bitterly in return, focusing on looking at her useless hands, useless body, and practically useless everything, "Absolutely nothing at all. I'll be on my way now."

She walked away without a plan for the first time in centuries.

Klaus heard about the incident before the majority of others did, so of course she sought refuge with the Salvatore brothers.

The true reason behind this was that she'd been running for so long that her vampirism was defined by it, and without the back–up of being invincible and living forever, she was positive she wouldn't last a day in the real world. Things seemed a lot more fragile through mortal eyes.

The reason she gave instead to justify her actions was that she couldn't think of anyplace better to be in order to put a stake through Elena's heart. She spiked her coffee with vervain in the mornings so Damon wouldn't be able to compel her out of it.

"Let's not forget," he reminded her condescendingly whenever he got a chance, "That the only reason you're still breathing and have this comfortable roof over your head is because you're not even a remote threat to us."

"I think you're the one forgetting," she shot back sweetly, "That the real reason I'm alive and will be for quite a while is because Klaus needs me for my new human blood and if he discovers that the infamous threesome of Mystic Falls has taken it upon themselves to torture or murder me, he won't be very happy, to say the least."

"Just because he forgave you for your centuries of deceit so he can use you to his own benefit for now doesn't insinuate that he'll let you off the hook later on. You're never going to be truly safe."

His words stung because they were the truth, and for once she couldn't conjure up a decent response. It had taken a decent number of hours to get accustomed to not having enhanced vision and hearing and speeds of movement, but the lack of compulsion ability she possessed was just the starting of being forced to take her manipulation to a greater level.

Damon walked away with a smirk on his face.

After approximately two days, she discovered that she and Elena had basically switched positions on the playing field. She started taunting her about it on the third day.

"Sweetheart, it's not original if you're doing what I already did decades ago and then maintaining that you haven't been mimicking me to begin with. You've wasted so many precious years trying so hard not to be like me that I believe you've forgotten who you really are deep down inside."

"That might be true, Katherine," Elena countered casually, "But I'm sure you must be enjoying mimicking me since you're the new bloodbag for Klaus's hybrids and there's not a thing you can do to get yourself out of it."

Katherine raised her eyebrows skeptically and opened her mouth a second too late to retort.

"You see it now, don't you? The unfairness of it all," her reflection went on, and Katherine knew that she wasn't simply talking about being a vampire versus not.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Elena laughed. Katherine understood that the girl would be content with killing her and could easily pull it off because although her little brother had turned out alive, there was still obvious anger and animosity evident in her expression reading that Katherine had been the root of all the problems that had ruined her life. If there wasn't the risk of Klaus coming back to rip the town to shreds if his new hybrid–building machine came to harm, Katherine was aware what her fate would be. She was slightly afraid to think about it in too much detail.

Elena walked away with unsung pity in her gaze.

As long back as she cared to remember, everyone who knew Katherine had either despised her or feared her. With zero supernatural capabilities left, she had immediately calculated that there would be a lot of hate going around the table wherever she ended up showing herself. With hate always came a severe lack of trust, and she found herself resenting that more than anything.

"Stefan isn't himself," she noted quickly following her arrival in the Salvatore home, "There's something off about how he's been acting lately."

"Have you ever considered that maybe he just really hates you?" Damon offered without skipping a beat. He kept himself around Katherine as much as possible to keep a careful watch over her, and there was hardly an angle she could use to spin that into flattering herself since everyone saw who he was really hell–bent on keeping safe. "Trust me, that's the likeliest possibility."

"Or there's the fact that Elena chose you. I'm sure that could do a lot to dampen a person's mood," she cocked her head to the side, "I honestly don't know what she was thinking. I never in a thousand years would have chosen you over Stefan."

"Well, you also happen to be a cold–hearted bitch."

"Don't encourage her," Caroline quipped pointedly, sitting as a buffer between the two of them in case of the rare instance that the conversation morphed into violence, "Whatever's up with Stefan, we'll figure it out ourselves. Without her help."

Damon shrugged and left the den with his glass of bourbon to keep him company.

Katherine adjusted her attention to the blonde sitting across from her that she'd once murdered. She reckoned there wasn't going to be much sympathy from that side either, not that she'd been expecting any from anywhere. "You've been spending an awful lot of your spare time here," she began deliberately, "Why is that? Don't tell me you're here to see Elena every single day. What are you looking for with the Salvatores? Is your boyfriend out of town again? That's tragic."

"You don't bother me, Katherine," Caroline replied levelly rather than entertaining her by arguing, "I despise you, but you'll never win because you can't get to me."

Katherine rolled her eyes. "Oh, please, don't play that game. There's nothing any of you would like better than to stab me to death. But you can't, can you? I think that's pure and torturous agony. And who do you have to blame for it? Klaus. Now there's a nice topic of discussion –"

"Don't bring him into it."

"Why not?"

"Because I said so."

"God, you're really far gone, aren't you? Since when does your word go around here? Someone ought to have warned you that this whole thing won't work if you're not a Petrova," she continued icily, "You'll never be good enough for Stefan or Damon and especially not Klaus or Elijah. History doesn't lie, Caroline. It pains me to admit it, but it's always going to be either me or Elena. Then to be realistic, Tyler will break up with you at some point pretty soon down the road, and he's super hot, so I'd definitely consider –"

Caroline walked away, but not before she got a good slap across Katherine's left cheek.

Katherine put her terrible history with Klaus behind and attempted to convince him to take her with him wherever he planned on going once he got bored with New Orleans. She needed some stability and protection to keep herself going and Klaus was the only one she could think of accomplishing that with because Elijah had walked away from her and what they'd had without looking back. Unfortunately, neither seduction nor the utilization of her Petrova doppelgänger blood as an incentive worked to put Klaus under her spell again. She could all but hear the laughter of Damon and Elena and Caroline and all the others she'd wronged in the past echoing in her ears.

Her original mission, too, had been left incomplete. Though she could've taken the necessary steps to make it reality, she recognized that no peace would be achieved from it. Even if she somehow managed to get her revenge by killing Elena, Elena had always been and would always be more alive than Katherine ever was. Katherine slowly realized that she'd been dead for a long time.

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