Unlike his brother, who had gone so far as to join the Robert E. Lee High School football team in Fell's Church, Damon did not enjoy playing football. He had never liked team sports, even when he was young and alive. The feeling of being an anonymous part of an a group, just one cog in a great machine designed to get a ball from one end of a field to another, felt like an affront to his dignity. It didn't help that Matt - Mutt, Damon now had to remind himself to say - loved the sport. He was the star here on the Dalcrest field; Damon had to give him some credit for that.
But now, some five hundred years after he had stopped breathing, he certainly didn't bother to waste his time watching humans try to get a ball from one side of a field to another.
The crowd, on the other hand . . . he'd found that he liked the crowd at a football game.
Full of energy, they all focused on the same thing and their blood pounded under their skin, flushing their cheeks. He liked the smells of the stadium: sweat and beer and hot dogs and enthusiasm. He liked the cheerleaders' colorful uniforms and the possibility of a fight breaking out in the stands as passions ran high. He liked the brightness of the lights on the fields during a night game, and the darkness in the corners of the stands. He liked . . .
Damon lost his train of thought as his eyes caught on a girl with pale gold hair, her back to him, sitting alone in the bleachers. Every line of that figure was etched in his memory forever: he'd watched her with passion and devotion, and finally with hatred. Unlike everyone else, he'd never confused her for Elena.
"Katherine," he breathed, cutting through the crowd toward her.
No human would have heard him in the crowd, but Katherine turned her head and smiled, such a sweet smile that Damon's first instinct to attack her was swept away by a rush of memory. The shy little German girl who had come to his father's palazzo, so many years ago, back when Damon was a human and Katherine was almost as innocent as one, had smiled at him like that.
So instead of fighting, he slipped onto the seat beside Katherine and just looked at her, keeping his face neutral.
"Damon!" Katherine said, the smile taking on a tinge of malice. "I've missed you!"
"Considering that the last time we saw each other you tore my throat out, I can't say the same," Damon told her dryly.
Katherine made a little face of wry regret. "Oh, you never could let bygones be bygones," she said, pouting. "Come, I'll apologize. It's all water under the bridge now, isn't it? We live, we die, we suffer, we heal. And here we are." She laid a hand on his arm, watching him with sharp, bright eyes.
Damon pointedly moved her hand away. "What are you doing here, Katherine?" he asked.
"I can't visit my favorite pair of brothers?" Katherine said, mock-hurt. "You never forget your first love, you know."
Damon met her eyes, keeping his own face carefully blank. "I know," he said, and Katherine froze, seeming uncertain for the first time.
"I . . ." she said, and then her hesitation was gone and she smiled again. "Of course, I owe Klaus something as well," she said carelessly. "After all, he brought me back to life, and thank goodness for that. Death was terrible." She quirked an eyebrow at Damon. "I hear you'd know all about that."
Damon did, and yes, death had been terrible, and for him at least, those first moments coming back had been worse. But he pushed that aside. "How do you intend to repay Klaus?" he asked, keeping his tone light and almost idle. "Tell me what's going on in that scheming little head of yours, Fraulein."
Katherine's laugh was still as silvery and bubbly as the mountain stream Damon had compared it to in a sonnet, back when he was young. Back when he was an idiot, he thought fiercely. "A lady has to have her secrets," she said. "But I'll tell you what I told Stefan, my darling Damon. I'm not angry with your Elena anymore. She's safe from me."
"I don't really care, to be honest," Damon said coolly, but he felt a tight knot of worry loosen inside his chest.
"Of course you don't, dear heart," Katherine said comfortingly, and when she put her hand on Damon's arm this time, he let it stay. "Now," she said, patting him. "Shall we have a little fun?" She tilted her head toward the football field, toward the cheerleaders shaking their pompoms on the sidelines. Damon felt a soft pulse of Power go out of her, and as he watched, the girl on the far end of the line dropped her pompoms and her smile. With a dreamy, distant expression on her face, she began to move, her body tracing out what Damon recognized as the slow and stately steps of a bassadanza, a dance he hadn't seen for hundreds of years.
"Remember?" Katherine said softly beside him. They had danced this together, Damon couldn't forget, in the great hall of his father's house, the night that he had come home from university in disgrace and first laid eyes on her. He took control of another cheerleader, moved her into the still-familiar steps of the male partner in the dance. Step forward on the ball of one foot, step forward on the other, incline your body toward your partner, feet together, hand to the side, and the lady follows you. He could almost hear the music, coming down the centuries.
The crowd around them stirred uneasily, their attention distracted from the players on the field. The formality of the dance and the blank distance on the faces of the cheerleaders were confusing them. A vague sense of something not quite right permeated the stadium.
Letting out another low, silvery laugh, Katherine kept the beat with her hand as all the cheerleaders paired off, moving in time, the elegance of their steps at odds with their bright, short costumes. On the field, the football players played on, oblivious.
Katherine smiled at Damon, her eyes gleaming with what looked almost like affection. "We could have fun together, you know," she said. "You don't have to hunt alone."
Damon considered this. He didn't trust her; he'd have to be a fool to trust her after all that Katherine had done. But, still . . . "Perhaps it won't be so bad having you back after all," he told her. "Perhaps."