AN: There comes a point in every author's life where they look at a oneshot turned twoshot turned threeshot and say...fuck it, this little bitch is a multi-chapter. Which is my way of saying this isn't the last chapter. Although it does begin the Vampire Diaries crossover. So enjoy!

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

your words in my memory (are like music to me)

Written by Becks Rylynn

Part Three; in your warm arms

She doesn't plan on staying in Mystic Falls, Virginia. She certainly doesn't plan on stumbling into the realm of the town's biggest kept secrets. Mystic Falls and everything (everyone) that comes with it is totally and completely unplanned.

Her car breaks down just outside of the small town and back at the garage, the mechanic (as he wipes his calloused, rough looking hands off on an oil rag, she has a flashback to a few days before Dean died and everything fell to pieces, when he was working on his car and she was perched on a lawn chair with sunglasses over her eyes and Sam sitting next to her while none of them said a word. It's probably one of the best memories from their entire relationship, and isn't that just fucking depressing?) tells her she's going to have to wait until the next day to get out of town. So it's not really that she plans on staying in Mystic Falls, it's more that she is thrown into the place without her bearings.

She gets a room at the local Bed & Breakfast for the night and worries infinitely when the owner, Mrs. Flowers, insists on carrying their bags up the stairs because she's got to be at least in her eighties. Bored out of her mind and hungry, she makes what is possibly one of the most life changing decisions she has ever made. She decides to take Bray out for lunch at a local restaurant (named The Grill. What an original name).

A boy opens the door for her with a kind smile and a nod. He can't be much older than seventeen and yet there's something decidedly wise about him. Something that tells her he's wise beyond his years. With his dark eyes and his soft, reserved smile, he reminds her very much of someone she used to know. (No, not Dean. The other one.) She offers him a rushed smile at his act of kindness (not many boys his age are that kind, she has come to learn) but when he moves past her, his arm brushes hers and a jolt of electricity runs through her like a current. She gasps in shock and a step ahead of her, she watches him stop in his tracks.

He turns his head slightly, not enough to face her and when she realizes she's still standing there staring at him, she quickly hurries away from him, clutching her daughter just a little bit closer to her body.

Here's the thing: Demons have always been able to sense someone a little less than human. Ruby is no exception. And Golden Boy over there? He's definitely less than human.

(How does she manage to get herself into these situations?)

Halfway through their meal, Bray is chatting away happily to anyone who passes their table and Ruby is spending her time continuously casting suspicious glances in the direction of Mr. Mysterious. Whoever (or whatever) he may be. He joins a young dark haired girl about his age (who is most certainly human, Ruby can tell that just by the tired look in the girl's eyes) and they share a few lovey dovey, vomit inducing, Buffy/Angel looks in the midst of their Very Serious Conversation.

Honestly, Ruby has no idea what he is or what he could be. He looks human, he acts human...Is it possible her senses may be off? No, that can't be it. He's not a demon. She can tell that right away. (Demons can sense other demons from a mile away. The air gets heavier, there is a scent that flows through the wind, your pulse speeds up. It's a fairly animal-like quality, but in all truth, Ruby knows better than anyone that all demons are is animals.) Maybe he's a werewolf? Shapeshifter perhaps?

She looks away from them and back to Bray, smiling softly for her daughter as she leans over to tenderly wipe away a smudge of food from the girl's cheek. ''Don't you worry,'' she murmurs. ''We're going to get out of here as soon as we can, baby girl.''

When she looks back up and towards the object of her scrutiny, her breath catches in her throat and she has to swallow. There is a new person standing next to their table, gazing down at the strange boy with a drink in his hand and a smirk on his lips. He's older, slightly, and something about the way he's looking at the younger one reminds her of...something from her past that she can't quite put her finger - oh. When the older one laughs and tilts his glass to his lips, the younger one seems to sigh and flick his eyes to the ceiling briefly. Ah, right. Of course. They're brothers. Probably should have gathered that from the familiar shape of their jaws.

Ruby cannot hear a word of what they're saying, but she knows they're talking about her. (She knows she's not the only one who felt that jolt.) New Guy looks up, revealing striking eyes that meet hers and she looks away. A moment later, when she finally allows herself to look back, Tall, Dark and Striking is gone and Young and Broody is back in deep conversation with Weary Human Girl, reaching across the table to take her hand. Oh, young love. (Ick.)

With a tired sigh, Ruby turns her attention back to Bray, who now has no one to talk to since the table of teenage girls, who spent most of their meal cooing at her, is gone. Ruby grimaces when she sees that familiar pout on her daughter's lips. It's the same pout Dean showcases right before he loses it completely and punches the wall. It's temper tantrum time. ''Now, I know that look, kid,'' Ruby says calmly as she pulls Bray out of her seat and onto her lap. ''You're about to get Winchester cranky and loud.''

Bray squirms like she's reached the stage where she is endlessly embarrassed of her mother earlier than expected and decides now is the best time to make use of her new favourite word. ''No!'' Awesome. ''No!''

''Lila Bray Winchester, please do not start this.''


''Yes, right. Exactly. No being a brat.'' Ruby scans the room for a waitress, in desperate need of the check (also, someone is staring at her and it is way beyond unnerving) and comes up empty. ...Does anyone actually work here besides the teenage boy with the puppy dog eyes gathering dishes and flinging looks in Weary Human Girl's direction? Seriously, what has she gotten herself into? Dark Shadows meets The OC?

Bray's hand comes up to yank at her mother's hair quite rudely and she lets out a huff when Ruby gently untangles the tiny fist from her hair. In anger, Bray's hand falls to the table, catches a spoon and it clatters to the ground. Ruby bites her lip, but before she can make a grab for it, someone beats her to it. When she looks up, she finds herself staring straight at the brunette girl who is friends with the inhuman version of Dean and Sam. The girl smiles, but it seems a little hesitant as she hands the piece of cutlery back to the flustered young mother. Ruby pauses briefly before she allows herself to breathe out a, ''Thanks.''

''She's beautiful,'' the girl says with a smile, shifting her gaze to Bray. ''Is she yours?''

''She is.''

''How old?''

Ruby wills herself not to frown and look over her shoulder to see which one of them is watching this. ''She just turned one in December,'' she says at last. To sell her clueless act even further, she smiles and fakes a laugh. ''And she's getting more and more like her dad every day.'' Unfortunately.

The girl smiles and stands there awkwardly for a minute and then her eyes dart over Ruby's shoulder. She swallows. Wow. She is really not good at this, is she? Ruby almost feels sorry for the poor human. ''So, are you new in town?''

Ruby sighs impatiently and rises to her feet, holding Bray to her chest protectively despite the fact that Bray does not want to be held at all right now. ''Okay, listen, little girl,'' she snaps. ''We both know what you're trying to do here, all right? So why don't you do us all a big favor, cut the crap and just hurry up and ask me.''

The brunette shuffles from foot to foot and can't look Ruby in the eye. ''Ask you what?''

''Ask me what I am.''

The girl's eyes widen and she takes a step away.

Ruby just feels like she does not have time for this shit. ''I'm not stupid, you know. I'm perfectly aware that your less than human friends sent you over here to play covert operative. And just so you know, honey, you are really bad at it. You most definitely do not have a career ahead of you as a Bond girl. Maybe just stick to looking pretty.''

Her words seem to strike a chord in the girl because suddenly she doesn't seem so meek and there's fire in her eyes. ''What are you?'' She asks bravely. ''What are you doing here?''

''Look,'' Ruby bounces the increasingly cranky Bray on hip, a mess of puffy winter jacket adding at least a pound to the growing toddler's weight. ''I don't know who you are and frankly, I don't care. I'm not here because I want to hurt anyone. I'm not a super villain, okay? My car broke down and my kid is tired of being cooped up in a car. I assure you, I'll be gone by tomorrow.''

Without waiting for a response from Little Miss Nancy Drew, Ruby brushes past her and decides this town is something akin to poison and she needs to leave. Now.

(When she finally flags down a busy looking waitress, she is told her meal has already been paid for by someone named Damon Salvatore. She turns and Tall, Dark and Striking grins and tips his glass to her. Her heart beats in her throat.)

Ruby clicks off the bathroom light, stifling a yawn as she tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear. In the portable crib she is quickly outgrowing, Bray is sleeping peacefully with her blanket cuddled into her. Ruby smiles a tired smile and bends to gently brush hair out of her daughter's closed eyes. That's when she feels a cold, frigid January breeze hit her back. She whirls around, narrowing her eyes at the sight of the open window, curtains blowing in the wind. She tenses and angles her body towards Bray. She never opened that window.

Taking a risk, she turns her back on the open window to check on Bray. That's a mistake. There's a blast of icy air that blows her hair into her face and the next thing she knows, there's a strong (too strong) hand clamping around her wrist. She is yanked into a cold body before she has a chance to react and her attacker lets go of her wrist, loops an arm around her waist to keep her against him and claps a hand over her mouth to stifle her surprised yelp.

Now, she has been here before. But not since Bray. There is a strong, inhuman man holding her against him with unnatural strength and her daughter is fast asleep in her crib not even a foot away. Ruby doesn't know her attacker (actually, she has a pretty darn good idea of who it is), she can't calculate what he'll do next. All she knows is that he is strong and dangerous and he is in the same room as her daughter.

''Don't scream,'' he whispers in her ear. The amount of terror that sweeps over her at the knowledge that he could hurt her daughter if she doesn't comply is huge so she nods. He eases up his grip on her and begins to draw her away from him. Just when she thinks he's going to let her go, he whips her around, grasps her wrists and in a total unsurprising turn of events she finds herself looking at Tall, Dark and Striking. Otherwise known as The Mysterious Damon Salvatore. He locks eyes with her (which is more than a little disconcerting) and his voice is again quiet with a certain level of authority when he orders her to, ''Tell me what you are.''

For a brief, painful second, she literally has to fight with herself to keep her secrets from spilling out of her mouth and she doesn't know why. That's when it all catches up to her. The cool touch, the deep stare, the lingering smell of dirt and blood (and is that bourbon?) and the definitive air of danger that surrounds him. Mr. Blue Eyes here is a bloodsucker. She shakes off his attempt at compulsion with ease and the corners of her lips curve upwards. ''You can't compel me,'' she informs him plainly. ''It won't work on me.''

His jaw tightens. ''I don't know what you're...'' He trails off, tilts his head to the side and frowns. ''Why not?''

She shrugs, wrenches free of his grasp and in less than a second, she has him on the floor and she's straddling him. ''Because I'm special.''

He chokes back a laugh. ''You're lying. You're wearing vervain.''


''Well,'' he says. ''You're strong. So I'm going to take a shot in the dark here and say you're...Buffy's long lost twin sister.''

''Sure. You wanna go with that? I can work with that.''

He sneers, kicks her off of him and rolls on top of her, wrapping a hand around her throat and squeezing. ''Let's go with the truth.''

''The truth?'' She gasps out. In an attempt to stop this fucking stupidity, she decides to fuck it. He wants the truth? She'll give him the fucking truth. ''You got it, fangs.'' She closes her eyes briefly and when she opens them, they're as black as oil puddles and she can feel that old familiar power running through her veins like an old friend. He loosens his grip on her and it's enough for her to gain the upper hand. With ease, she uses her free hand to send a right hook to his face and then she kicks him off of her. Either he's surprised, or she really is that strong because he crashes backwards into the end table. The lamp crashes to the ground and shatters. Almost instantly, Bray lets out a frightened wail and - naturally - a cry of one of the only words she knows. ''No!''

''Great,'' Ruby bites out. ''Thanks for that.'' She lets her eyes fall back to blue, sends one last look at the stunned (and slightly impressed?) vampire on the ground and then she makes a beeline for her daughter. She shushes Bray gently, apologizes for scaring her and assures her that everything is all right. However, Bray, the little genius, doesn't exactly seem to believe her discombobulated mother. She clings to her shoulder and continues to mumble groggy whispers of ''no'' into Ruby's shoulder. Ruby cradles her against her chest and takes an instinctive step backwards when he moves towards her.

''What are you?'' He snarls out. ''Why are you here?''

She frowns. ''You don't...know what I am?'' When he presses his lips together and narrows his eyes, she realizes he has no idea what she is. Arching an eyebrow, she studies him for a moment and decides it's not all that hard to figure out what she's looking at. He's got enough confidence in his eyes and his stance to tell her that he's not a young vampire, but hidden somewhere in that confidence is a certain recklessness and cockiness that tells her while he thinks he might know everything...he definitely doesn't. She smirks at him bravely. ''You have no idea what's out there, do you?''

His eyes harden and in a flash, he's behind her breathing down her neck.

''Remember,'' she warns. ''I can take you.'' She dances away from him with an effortless grin, rubbing her daughter's back. ''I'm older, I'm stronger, I'm wiser and I'm a mom. Never mess with a mom.''

''I've heard that, actually.''

Bray pulls away from her mom's shoulder, eyes the strange man with the pretty eyes staring at them and then makes use of the other word she knows. ''Hi.''

It seems to throw him for a loop. He blinks, looks at the little girl, opens his mouth to speak and no words come out. Finally, he clears his throat and nods. ''Hello.''


''Look,'' she purses her lips and takes a breath, meeting his eyes. ''You want the truth? We're passing through. My car broke down and it's in the shop. We'll be out of here by tomorrow and you and your vampire cronies can go back to whatever diabolical plan I'm sure you have. I am not here to screw things up for you, I can promise you that.''

''You expect me to believe that story?'' He asks coldly. ''Your car broke down? Listen, I believe in a lot of things but I don't believe in coincidences.''

''Believe me or don't. That's the truth. I don't know how I wind up in these kinds of situations, I just do.''

He crosses his arms, leans against the wall and stares at her without blinking for an unnerving amount of time. ''You're a brave little thing,'' he says finally. ''Strong too.'' His eyes flicker with passion and rage and arrogance, three things all vampires are bursting with and he pushes off the wall. ''But you're clearly underestimating me. I could kill you in a second. I could do it right now.''

''You don't even know what I am,'' she argues.

''Why don't you tell me?''

She presses her lips together and shakes her head. He laughs a hearty laugh that sends odd feeling shivers up and down her spine. ''Do it,'' she challenges, locking eyes with him. ''Go ahead, fangs. Kill me. Rip my heart out in front of my daughter. Show me what kind of monster you really are.'' It may seem like a very stupid thing to do, challenging him like this. But she sees something in his eyes (something that she's not even sure he's aware of) that makes her Or at least safer than she should feel around a vampire. She's not so sure how she feels about that.

He looks at her, then at Bray, and then his jaw tightens. ''You'll leave.'' He says it like an order, not a question as he begins to back towards the window. ''You'll leave and never come back.''

''Whatever this town is,'' she says, ''it's not my problem.'' For a fraction of a second, she looks down at Bray to make sure she's still doing okay and when she looks up, he's gone and the curtains are swaying in the sudden breeze.

The next day, she gets her daughter into the car and drives.

She has just left Mystic Falls when she is suddenly hit with a wave of guilt. What if those two vampires rip that town apart? Can she live with that? If she does nothing and they slaughter the town, will she be able to live with the knowledge that she could have done something? It is not often that she wishes she could care less and be more like the others. However, this is one of those rare moments where she thinks not caring might make some aspects of her life a little bit easier. (Then again, caring about someone is how she got her daughter and her daughter is the one thing she would never give up.)

With a sigh and a stifled profanity, she turns the car around.

It's not hard to track down where they live. The younger one with the neverending sad eyes opens the door and swallows when he sees her.

''I'm not a hero,'' she says plainly. ''I don't pretend to be. I'm a mom. I leave the heroics for my daughter's father. But I need to know that despite what you are and despite what your basic animal instincts are that you're not going to tear this town apart.''

He looks at her for a long time and then offers her a small smile, stepping aside with a quiet, ''Why don't you come inside?''

In Mystic Falls, Virginia, there is a band of Merry Misfits that like to pretend they're superheroes. Damon, Stefan, Caroline and Elena are the ones Ruby is currently entangling herself with. God knows why she's putting herself in this position.

Caroline squeals, ''Oooh, baby!'' when she sees Bray and claps her hands together. Less than two seconds later, Bray is happily showing off to Caroline and in return, Caroline is eating it all up. The girl is seventeen forever and looks pale in the sunshine, but she's harmless. (Besides, Ruby makes sure to stand close enough to Caroline so that if something does happen, she can reach over and rip out Barbie's spinal cord if need be.)

Stefan looks harmless with his soft, gentle eyes and his thoughtful frown but there are shadows he can't control lurking in his eyes. There is something very sad about that.

Elena is young and human, but she looks tired and she frowns much too much and Ruby so badly wants to teach the girl the dangers of premature wrinkles.

And then there's Damon. And Damon's like a thunderstorm. Loud, a little frightening and pretty to look at. (Some might say the same thing about her.)

''I always thought demons were a myth,'' Stefan says carefully, eyeing her warily.

Ruby shrugs. ''Well, you thought wrong. Did you also think there was only one type of vampire?''

Damon hums thoughtfully and tips his glass to his lips. ''I knew that one.''

''Feel proud,'' she tells him. Everyone else looks at her with open mouths and wide eyes. She sighs. ''Seriously?''

''There are other kinds of vampires?'' Caroline asks incredulously.

Ruby shrugs. ''Sure. Just like there are different races of humans, there are different races of vampires.''

''Please tell me none of them sparkle,'' Elena deadpans.

Ruby blinks. ''What?''

''It's from Twilight,'' Stefan supplies.

''I don't know what that is.''

''Lucky you,'' Damon grumbles.

''There's your kind of vampire. Aversion to sunlight and vervain, stake through the heart to kill. And then there are the others. Sunlight can't kill them, neither can wooden stakes. To kill them you have to chop off their heads. They're much stronger than your kind,'' she states bluntly. ''But they're a dying breed. There are much more of you out there.'' She smirks and Bray toddles over to her mother to show her the pen she has stolen off the table. ''You have a lot to learn, don't you, Mystery Inc?''

''Oh,'' Caroline smiles and presses her hands together. ''I get to be Daphne.''

There's a moment of silence and then Damon takes a step towards her and grins from ear to ear. In a complete 180 from the previous night, he towers over her, meets her eyes and says, ''Why don't you stick around then? Teach us a little something?''

She peers up at him curiously and spots the intrigue in his eyes with ease. It's like a light. He finds her fascinating. ''You're flirting with me.''

''A little.''

''Why, you're not much of a monster at all, are you, Mr. Salvatore? You're just a man.''

When his grin fades, she laughs. ''There are three people in this room who would vehemently disagree with you,'' he says quietly.

She tilts her head to the side and lifts Bray onto her hip. ''They must not look at you like I do.''

(This is...going to be something completely different, isn't it?)

(When she is gone, Damon stares after her like he is completely enthralled in her every graceful movement. ''She's a hurricane, isn't she?''

Stefan stands and comes to stand next to his brother. ''Most definitely.''

''She's like a mix of Katherine and Elena,'' Caroline says and then sighs. ''People must fall in love with her so easily.''

Damon smiles into his bourbon. You know, sometimes hurricanes can be lovely. Like they're made of magic. Yes, he has always enjoyed hurricanes just a little bit too much.)

They stay.

They stay because she's not sure if she trusts them and she doesn't want people to get hurt. Becoming a mother has softened her. She cares about things now. Bray seems to like it. There are people here who adore the precious little girl (namely Caroline) and Bray seems to...adore being adored. A lot like her father. (God, she's going to be an annoying teenager.)

Within the first week, she meets countless people who surround the Salvatore brothers. From Tyler the werewolf, who whistles at her and calls her a MILF but eyes Caroline like she's all he sees, to Bonnie, who frowns with slightly judgmental eyes, therefore earning herself a position on Ruby's shit list, to Jenna and Alaric (''call me Ric''), who are not teenagers. Thank fucking God for that. She can't handle all of these teenage hormones flying around.

More importantly, within the first week, she learns she has three vampires watching her back. (She's not sure whether to be frightened or flattered.)

Oh, Lord. What has she gone and gotten herself into this time?

Damon Salvatore has a lot of classic Italian charm bottled up inside of that bad boy persona. One would think that might have died out a long time ago. Then again, in her past life Ruby was what one would call a Southern Belle and occasionally, something still manages to slip through. (Dean used to love it when she called him darlin' usually after sex.)

She runs into Damon an awful lot that first week. So much that she's 99.9% sure none of it is a coincidence. One day, she's out with Bray when the little girl (who loves colors and pretty girly things) insists they go into a flower shop. Ruby humors her daughter and takes the girl inside to see the flowers. While Bray, stumbling along with her hand in Ruby's, fawns over the flowers, Ruby looks up and spots Ole' Blue Eyes Salvatore himself. In a flower shop. In the middle of January. Coincidence? She thinks not. ''You're stalking me,'' she deadpans when he casually strolls up to her.

''Yep.'' He throws an arm around her shoulder. ''Don't act like you don't love it.''

''Why me?''

He shrugs. ''I don't know. Boredom, I guess.''


Damon switches his focus from Ruby to Bray, beaming down at her with ease. ''Well, hello down there, Bray. You look lovely today. How've you been?'' Bray pauses for a moment and then points at the pretty red roses with a smile. Damon nods his approval. ''Very nice. Love the color.''

''Yeah, because it's the color of blood,'' Ruby mutters under her breath.

''Exactly.'' Damon shoots her a cocky smirk and then clears his throat, eyeing Bray for a moment before turning away. ''You know what I like?'' Despite the fact that he's having a very one sided conversation with a one year old, Damon speaks to Bray like she's an old friend as he crosses the room to pluck a single flower from a display. ''This is an amaryllis,'' he informs the girl as if she really cares. ''Roses are fine for Valentine's Day and making up, but this is a flower. It means splendid beauty, you know,'' his eyes slide to Ruby for a second. ''I think that's very fitting, don't you?''

Bray enthusiastically agrees in the form of a giggle. Ruby sighs. She can only watch as he picks up an entire bouquet of amaryllises and strides over to the woman at the cash register who is looking at him like she wants to have his babies. Ruby picks up Bray and looks at her closely. ''Is he flirting with me or you?''

When he approaches them, she licks her lips. For reasons unknown to her, he makes her very nervous. And not in an extremely bad way. ''Here you go.'' Damon smiles widely as he hands the transfixed toddler a beautiful red flower. ''A beautiful flower for a beautiful lady.'' Bray giggles even though she has no idea what that means and Ruby wants to roll her eyes. When Damon looks at Ruby, however, his eyes are just a little bit darker (with something that looks a hell of a lot like lust) and she sucks in a breath. ''For you, Buffy,'' he says, presenting her the rest of the flowers.

Somehow, she manages a smirk as she accepts the arrangement. ''You're mighty suave, aren't you?''

He chuckles. ''Wait until I start speaking Italian. You'll melt. They always do.'' He winks. ''Ciao, bella,'' and then he turns and disappears.

Ruby lets out a breath. ''My, oh, my, Bray. We are in for a world of trouble with that man, aren't we?''

In response, Bray looks at her mother, waits a moment and then takes a bite out of her flower.

He's right, you know.

Damon Salvatore speaking Italian should be illegal because when he does, there is a whole bunch of twisty feelings inside of her that aren't bad (not bad at all) but rather entirely distracting. The first time it happens, she's at The Grill (she still thinks it should have a proper name, by the way) having dinner with Bray when Damon takes a seat next to her, shows off his pearly whites and his distracting eyes and says, ''Posso offriti qualcosa da bere?'' She gapes at him several seconds before he laughs and singsongs, ''I told you so.'' Then he sends her a sidelong glance and scoots closer to her. ''So...can I?''

Still slightly dazed (oh, calm down, you're embarrassing yourself) and stunned, she clears her throat and looks away. ''Can you what?''

''Buy you a drink. Can I?''

(She says okay. Damn Italian.)

The second time it happens, she's been pulled into the Salvatore Boarding House by Stefan and Elena, who fear that there is another vampire of unknown origin in Mystic Falls and since she's the only one with experience dealing with the other species of vampires, she is dragged into their rag-tag meeting.

When Damon sees her, his first reaction is to whistle and say, ''Ciao, Buffy, fa cosi caldo qui o e la tua presenza?''

Bonnie, Caroline and Elena all turn their attention from Bray (what is it with teenage girls and babies?) to Damon and it is not lost on Ruby that out of all of them, Elena looks like she's the one most likely to dissolve right then and there. Ruby is surprised by how much she doesn't like that. ''I don't know what you just said,'' she monotones.

''He said 'is it hot in here, or is it just you?' '' Stefan translates dryly.

''But,'' she continues. ''You're going to need to stop doing that.''

Damon laughs. ''Go out with me.''

''Excuse me?''

''Go out to dinner with me and I'll stop.''

''Do you even eat?'' She fights back, trying to appear nonchalant.

He rolls his eyes and throws himself down onto the couch next to Bray and Caroline. Babbling cheerily, Bray climbs off Caroline's lap and onto his. ''What am I? A savage? Of course I eat. Come on, go out with me. I know you want to. More importantly,'' he waggles his eyebrows, ''you know you want to. One dinner won't kill you, black eyed demon girl. I'm not even sure you can be killed. And frankly, I find that very attractive.''

She purses her lips, suddenly very aware that they're in a room full of people who are all slinging their gazes back and forth between them like they're watching a tennis match. Seated comfortably in Damon's lap as she plays with his ring, even Bray looks like she's waiting on pins and needles for her mother's answer. ''Why do you even want to go out with me anyway?'' Ruby asks. ''I'd think you of all people would have higher standards. Someone with a little less baggage, perhaps?''

Damon suddenly looks very serious as he leans forwards and stares at her just a tad too intensely. ''Penso che non abbiamo per caso raduno, Ruby.''

Ruby does her best to breathe deeply. ''I can't go out. I have a kid.''

''Bring her. We can go to Chuck E. Cheese and make out in the ball pit. It'll be romantic.''

A small smile manages to dance across her lips before she reels it back in, swallows down laughter and remains stoic. ''No.'' (Caroline, easily the person most fascinated by this chick flick moment, sighs in defeat and relaxes back against her seat.)

Damon, however, does not seem the least bit dejected. ''That's all right. You'll fall in love with me eventually. Isn't that right, bambina?''

Excited to use the new word she's managed to master, Bray perks up and smiles. ''Yeah!''

''Yeah,'' Damon nods and holds his hand out for a high five. ''That's what I'm talking about.''

In the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday while Bray is enjoying her time at her newest daycare, Ruby is seated at the bar in The Grill, scouring the wanted ads for a job. Then (naturally) Damon slides onto the seat next to her. ''Stai da solo?''

Ruby sighs and keeps her eyes on the newspaper. ''Damon,'' she greets tonelessly. Honestly, why this man wants to chase her is beyond her comprehension. It's not like she's the most stable girl out there. (It's also painfully obvious he's got a thing for his brother's girlfriend.) Then again, he is a vampire. Maybe stable isn't his thing.

He leans over to her to whisper Italian in her ear like he's whispering some dirty little secret. ''Stavo sognando di voi.'' The corners of her lips curve downwards and she ignores him. ''I was dreaming about you,'' he repeats in English. ''You were doing very, very naughty things. Sinful things, even. You rocked my dream world, Buff.''

She caps her pen and looks up at him curiously. ''Do you know of any job openings in town?''

His lip curls in disgust, mostly likely at the mere thought of manual labor. ''Why would you want to know that?''

''Because being a mom isn't cheap,'' she informs him. ''That shed some light?'' When he blinks at her dumbly, she shakes her head and rolls her eyes, tossing her pen onto the counter. ''I'm living in a tiny room at a B&B and despite the fact that Mrs. Flowers is about 100 years old, she never misses an opportunity to take my money. And in order to keep feeding and clothing my daughter, I need money.''

He nods, mulls that over and then orders a drink. ''You know,'' he says casually. ''I'm quite rich.''

''Well, congrats on that.''

''I could give you some money. ...If you go out with me that is.''

''That's called prostitution, fangs.''

''Such an ugly word, Ruby.''

''For the last time,'' she says slowly. ''I am not going out with you.''

''Oh, come on! Dare il tuo amore, tesoro mio!''

She gathers the newspaper and slides off the barstool. ''I'll see you later, Damon. Maybe Jenna will help me.''

''Hey!'' He calls after her. ''Need a place to stay? Move in with me!''

She stops in her tracks and turns slowly. ''...Huh?''

He nods. ''Yeah, I'll be your sugar daddy. I'll bet I can even get Bray into the most prestigious boarding school in Mystic Falls. I have a lot of sway here.''

''She's one.''

''It's never too early to plan for the best education possible.''

''Ciao, Damon.''

With Damon Salvatore becoming harder and harder to resist and money becoming tight, Ruby is more and more determined than ever to get a job, an apartment and some space to breathe so she can remind herself why getting involved with him is a bad idea. Because she's starting to forget her reasons. (Dean is still the number one reason, even though she's trying so damn hard to let him go.)

Ric pulls through for her like a big damn hero (a hero who blushes when she declares, possibly a little overdramatically, that he's officially her hero and her new best friend; don't tell Jenna) and gets her a job in the office of the high school. Unfortunately, it means more time away from Bray (and, to a lesser extent, Damon) but it's a job and she takes it without a second thought. The rest of the Scooby Gang becomes a constant though. And thank God for Jenna and Molly's weekly phone calls because with all the teenage crap she finds herself involved in, Ruby's not totally convinced she wouldn't blow her brains out if it weren't for the adult company she finds in Jenna.

She floats along in life and finds that, despite her complaints, she quite likes this place. A lot, actually. It's starting to feel like home to her. Caroline is always willing to babysit when she's not sucking face with Tyler, Stefan's a big sweetheart, Jenna and Ric are wonderful people and when he's not hitting on her, Damon is a great friend. He calms down slightly as time goes on (the Italian dries up and the endless advances dwindle) but he never gives up completely on his mission to get her to go out with him.

All in all, Bray is happy and Ruby is happy and that's great. There's just one problem: Her living situation. There are no good, cheap, safe apartments in Mystic Falls and she's still stuck living with Mrs. Flowers. She's beginning to dread coming home at night because the room is so cramped and Bray hates it just as much as she does. The girl throws epic tantrums when it's bedtime. Ruby's pretty sure that if Bray had to choose between Caroline and Ruby, she'd choose Caroline just because Caroline's got the nice house with the big TV and the big muscle-y boyfriend who can throw her up in the air and catch her. (Ruby's not down with that, by the way, and has on numerous times threatened to put dog boy to sleep if he keeps doing that. One of these days Bray's gonna wind up with a concussion from either bashing her head into the ceiling or being dropped. Well, either that or she's going to end up throwing up on Tyler and wouldn't that teach him?)

Yes, her living situation sucks and yes, she needs to do something about it ASAP, but what can she do? Jenna offers her the spare room in the Gilbert house but to be honest, that house is crowded enough with two teenagers living there and Ric all but moved in. Caroline attempts to offer her a room in her house but Damon shoots that down for her because Liz Forbes is a member of the Founder's Council and apparently, being found out by the Founder's Council (pun not intended) is the last thing Ruby wants. Just when the situation is becoming dire, the Salvatore brothers come to her with a surprising proposition.

''You want me to move in with you?'' Ruby asks incredulously, eyes darting back and forth between them. ''Because...Because...really? Do you two have any idea what it's like to live with a baby? Especially my baby? Because let me explain something to you boys; between her father's fire and my attitude, she will explode at the drop of a hat. And I mean that quite literally. She'll interrupt your beauty sleep and your drinking, Damon. Stefan, she'll interrupt your journal time and your brooding over Elena. Not to mention, do you know how difficult it will be to get laid with a baby in the house?''

''Girls like babies,'' Damon interjects.

''Not if it's keeping them from getting laid,'' Ruby points out helpfully.

''Ruby,'' Stefan says gently. ''I don't want to overstep my boundaries or anything need help.''

Ruby sucks in a breath and looks away from them. This would be the part where she gets all bitchy and defensive, right? She's doing the best that she can as a single mother under these circumstances and that has to be enough, doesn't it? But in all honesty, she does need help. (She loves her daughter more than life itself, but she doesn't know what the fuck she's doing half the time.) ''Stefan...''

''A nice place to stay with a fully stocked kitchen and you can save your money,'' Stefan says kindly. ''It'll be good for you. It'll be good for Bray.''

''Seriously, Buffy,'' Damon cuts in. ''Let someone help you for once.''

Ruby looks down at her hands and has to swallow the lump in her throat. ''Why are you doing this for me?'' She asks eventually, lifting her eyes to Stefan.

Stefan's mouth works for a second without any actual words coming out and then he clears his throat and ducks his head like he's embarrassed. ''Because you're my friend,'' he admits quietly.

''Yeah,'' Damon adds on wryly. ''Isn't it obvious with the hair and the brooding? He's Angel.'' He frowns at his own analogy, looking deep in thought as he shakes his head. ''Just don't do that whole sexing thing that Buffy and Angel did because - okay, you know what?'' He looks mildly disgusted, reaching for his drink. ''Forget that metaphor. It did not work out like I planned.''

''Ruby.'' Stefan sighs impatiently, sending his brother a deeply annoyed look out of the corner of his eye. ''Do you accept our offer or not?''

She thinks long and hard about what it would be like to live with the Salvatore brothers and then she makes her decision. ''No.'' It's almost comical to watch both of their faces fall at the same time, their puppy dog eyes coming out full force. It's times like these that it is not hard to see the brotherly resemblance. Ruby smirks brightly and lets out a tiny little laugh escape her lips as they stare at her. ''I'll do it,'' she says. ''But I'm paying you rent and I'm buying my own groceries. I'm not a charity case. Agreed?''

They look at each other slightly awed and then they nod. ''Agreed.''

(Stefan is awkward and tense in her embrace when she hugs him, but he melts like a little boy with his arms around her waist and his face in her hair. Damon looks at her for a long time even after his brother has left and then he steps forwards and presses a kiss to her forehead. ''Gradisco voi di piu e piu,'' he whispers in her ear.)

Bray is utterly thrilled when they move in with the Salvatore brothers because she loves them both and she loves their spacious home even more. It's not as awkward as Ruby suspected it would be. Stefan keeps to himself and since Damon has toned down the flirting, she genuinely enjoys being around him. (And even though he'd never admit it out loud, he is surprisingly great with Bray.) No, it's not as awkward as she thought it would be. More importantly, it's not as awkward as it should be.

She and Damon fall into a sort of pattern. It's a picture of faux domestication and stability that she so badly wants to give Bray. Ruby herself enjoys it so much that she allows herself to forget about Bray's father who is still on her mind every day when she wakes up and the way Damon's eyes gravitate towards Elena Gilbert whenever she's in the room.

He's changing her, this man. She has a dream about Dean the first night in the Salvatore Boarding House and when she wakes up panting and gasping for air with her heart aching in her chest, she does something that she hasn't done in a long time. She doesn't run. (Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knows it is only a matter of time before she stops fighting and gives in to Damon and his charms.)

One day in February near Valentine's Day while she's making Bray lunch and Damon's sitting at the kitchen table with Bray on his knee, Ric and Caroline come tearing into the room like two twin tornados of panic. ''Nice entrance,'' Damon compliments them.

''We need your help,'' Ric says, blatantly ignoring Damon and focusing his attention on Ruby.

''With what?''

''The Valentine's Day dance is tonight and we're one chaperone short.'' Oh, hell no. ''Jenna was supposed to do it, but she's got the flu.''

Ruby looks from Ric to Caroline and then back to Ric. ''You're joking. Please tell me you're joking.''

''Please, Ruby,'' Caroline begs, clasping her hands together. ''My stupid un-fun witch of a principal says if we don't have the right amount of chaperones, the dance will be off!''

''Oh no,'' Ruby deadpans. ''Guess you'll just have to have pre-marital sex and disappoint your parents like normal teenagers.''

''It won't be that bad,'' Ric says half heartedly. ''At least one boneheaded jock always tries to spike the punch and if I confiscate a flask, I'll share.''

''Yeah!'' Caroline nods animatedly. ''That's a good deal, right?'' When Ruby scowls, the smile drops off Caroline's face. ''Okay, I'm gonna level with you here, Ruby. Elena and I have been planning this stupid dance since December and if it gets cancelled, I'll kill myself.''

''You're already dead.''


Ruby sighs and puts a hand on her forehead. ''What am I supposed to do with Bray?''

''Oh, Tyler and I aren't going,'' Caroline says cheerfully. ''We can watch her. He hates these things. We're going to stay in and watch The Notebook.''

''But you just said - ''

''Wow,'' Damon drawls. ''You've certainly got him on a short leash, don't you? He house trained yet?''

''Shut up, Damon,'' Caroline says bitingly.

''At least tell me you're going to have sex after the chick flick.''

''Well, yeah.''

''Doggy style, I'm guessing?''

''Damon!'' Ruby turns to give him a pointed glare, gesturing towards Bray. ''She's one. She can understand what you're saying.''

''Listen, I know what I said,'' Caroline sighs. ''But honestly, I've kinda started to hate those dances. Elena's the boss at the actual party, I just plan it.''

''So, you're making me go instead?'' Ruby yelps.

''Um...pretty much. Does that mean you'll do it?''

''...Fine, but you two so owe me for this.''

''I am forever indebted,'' Caroline nods.

''What she said,'' Ric adds.

(As soon as they're gone, Ruby turns to Damon with a sigh and a grimace. ''I'm going to regret this, aren't I?'')

''Well, look at you all gussied up and ready to paint the town red.''

Barefoot, missing an earring and realizing that she will never be on time for anything ever, Ruby can't help but smirk and send a glance towards Damon. ''Seriously?'' She retrieves her missing earring, resists the urge to cry out a triumphant aha! and levels Damon with an arched eyebrow, hands on her hips. ''Your age is showing, fangboy. Learn some new slang.''

He shrugs and turns his attention back to Bray, who is much too busy playing with her blocks to pay attention to the adult conversation going on around her. ''BRB, loling forever.''

''...You used to have a lot of time on your hands, didn't you?''

The corners of his lips twitch upwards. ''You aren't wrong.''

Ruby turns to look at herself in the mirror, brushing invisible wrinkles out of her red dress. It feels like it has been forever since she has worn a dress. In reality, it actually hasn't been that long. She wore a dress when she spent Christmas with Danny's family. Caroline was very clear about the dress code for this dance. Or as clear as someone can be when they're talking a mile a minute and must be hyped up on something because normal people don't talk that fast. Red is the color of the night and formal wear is a must. ...Why is she doing this again? Satisfied, she whirls around and grabs Bray's jacket. ''Baby, come here.''

There's a blur in front of her eyes and a breeze that sweeps hair out of her face. Pressed up against her back, Damon leans down to whisper in her ear. ''Yes?''

''Cute,'' she mutters, pushing herself away from him. ''Bray - '' the little girl looks up from chewing on her toy block. '' - It's time to go, baby. We're going to go see your best friend Caroline. That sound good?'' Bray's eyes light up and she begins to chatter on and on about Caroline. Ruby takes that as a yes, mother, that sounds satisfactory. ''You know,'' she sighs out as she begins to wrestle the little girl into her jacket and shoes. ''I like Caroline just fine. She's a great babysitter. But has anyone ever stopped to think that the only reason she gets along so well with Bray is because she's basically a giant toddler in a woman's body?''

''I've thought about that,'' Damon agrees casually. ''But then I try not to think about it because - hey. I hit that.''

That's about as surprising as something that is not surprising at all. ''Damon, who haven't you slept with?''

''Well, you. For starters.''

She determines that the best course of action is to brush that comment off with a roll of her eyes, still struggling to get the extremely uncooperative Bray ready to go. ''Can't you just watch her?'' She whines after Bray has kicked off her left shoe for the millionth time, still babbling about the apparent awesomeness that is Caroline.

''I'd love to,'' Damon replies easily, slipping into his leather jacket. ''Unfortunately, I have plans.''

''What kind of plans?''

''The secret kind.'' He loops an arm around her waist and pulls her to him, close enough that she can feel his body shaking with laughter. She tenses unnoticeably in his grasp and swallows. He reaches forwards to ruffle Bray's hair with a wink. ''I'll see you later, rugrat. Be sure and make Barbie's life a living hell, okay?'' When he lets Ruby go, hand lingering on her shoulder for just a second too long before he strides out the door, a whoosh of air leaves her lungs and she has to clear her throat. She knows why she can't do this with him. But it's getting harder and harder to follow her own rules.

The Valentine's Day dance at the high school is exactly what it sounds like. A painfully long and humiliating experience for all. With love songs and red roses. There's just no way to get around that. The entire school building and its population has OD'd on the theme. It's all red and pink and white and black and love songs blare too loudly from the speakers and Ruby thinks she might throw up. Ric, on the other hand, has fallen asleep. Everyone who comes in the door is given a single red rose; Ruby has a sudden impulse to throw it on the ground and stomp on it. She discards it hastily onto a nearby table instead. Because she is a mature adult.

The one bright light in this horrific car crash? Before Ric falls asleep, he comes through on that flask thing. She spends most of her time sipping at something that is definitely not the sickeningly sweet red punch being offered. Not enough to get drunk, just enough to make this evening bearable. (Barely.)

Halfway through the evening, Elena approaches her by the punch bowl with a tentative smile and tired looking eyes. ''Hey, Ruby.''

''Elena,'' Ruby greets civilly. ''Where's Stefan?''

Elena shrugs, pouring herself a glass of punch. ''Off somewhere talking to a friend.''

Ruby keeps her body aimed towards the masses of students, but slides her gaze to Elena. When Elena takes a dainty little sip of the liquid, she instantly coughs and sputters and Ruby can't help but snicker. Okay, that was good. She cannot explain her trepidation when it comes to young Miss. Gilbert, but she is sure it is not jealousy. It can't be. ''Well,'' Elena manages to get out, putting a hand over her heart. ''That didn't take long. I wonder who spiked the punch considering Tyler isn't here.''

Ruby grins. ''Yes. I wonder.'' What? She had to do something with the leftover alcohol in the flask. (Also, someone needed to give this shitty party CPR.) She drifts away from Elena and takes a seat at an empty table, only for Elena to follow and sit down next to her. There is a cheesy 80's love song playing and couples all but fornicating on the dance floor. And Elena is terrible at small talk. ''I wonder how many teenage pregnancies will be the result of this night,'' Ruby murmurs idly.

At that, Elena actually laughs (and it's the first time Ruby has ever heard the girl laugh). It makes her tired eyes light up and for the first time, Ruby catches a glimpse of the girl those boys are infatuated with. Before she can say anything, Stefan is weaving his way through the crowd and taking a seat next to Elena as he offers Ruby a smile. ''Are you having fun yet?''

''Oh, loads,'' Ruby nods. ''Can't believe I ever thought this was a waste of time.''

''Eh,'' Stefan shrugs and gazes down at Elena adoringly. ''It's not so bad if you're in the right company.''

Elena blushes and swats at his chest.

''You two are so sweet you're making my teeth hurt,'' Ruby deadpans. She has always hated Valentine's Day. It's a stupid half baked holiday that is just an excuse for men to pretend to be white knights and clingy, needy women to freak out when their boyfriend's don't pay attention to them. So, yeah. She's always loathed Valentine's Day. But it is so much worse now that love has screwed her and all this stupid holiday is doing is making her remember how badly she wants what Stefan and Elena have, no matter how nauseating it is. ''Why aren't you two tearing up the dance floor?'' Ruby asks, cocking her head to the side. ''Why are you spending your time with the MILF?''

Stefan and Elena exchange glances. ''Damon may have asked us to keep you company,'' Elena admits quietly.

Ruby smirks, perhaps a little bitterly. ''Well, Damon's not here.''

Stefan's eyes catch something over Ruby's shoulder and dark, sad, troubled eyes light up with twinkles Ruby knows all too well. ''Actually,'' he says. ''That's not entirely true.'' He gives Ruby one last knowing smile and then plucks a red rose from the table, standing and offering Elena his hand. ''Come on, Elena. Let's dance.'' And then he puts the rose between his teeth and spins her out onto the dance floor while she's giggling madly like a school girl in love.

Based off of Stefan's attitude, Ruby figures she shouldn't be surprised when Damon drops into the now vacant seat next to her. ''It looks like Cupid threw up in here.''

She arches an eyebrow. ''Thought you had plans.''

Damon throws her a lazy smirk and a wink. ''I do.''


Her grip on the plastic cup tightens and she presses her lips together.

''So, why'd you come to Mystic Falls anyway?''

Ruby shoots Damon a look and crosses one leg over the other. For the past half an hour, things have gone from boring to extreme flirting and that little needle is still rising on the scale. If she's not careful, extreme flirting could end in extreme nakedness. To be blunt. ''You know why.''

He rolls his eyes and leans back in his chair. His arm is slung over the back of her chair and her body is nearly leaning into his and she knows this is a very dangerous path she's treading, but she can't bring herself to stop. ''I know why,'' he repeats slowly. He seems to think about that for a minute, looking at her closely like he's trying to read her mind. ''But do I really? Where were you before Virginia?''

She ducks her head and gets flashbacks of Danny and New York at Christmas time. ''New York. We stayed there for Christmas.''

''And before that?''


''Before that?''

''Okay, so we travel a lot,'' she sighs, lifting her head. ''I don't see how - ''


It's not that the question shocks her. That's not why she presses her lips together and doesn't answer him. It's just that she's not exactly sure how to answer it. Honestly, there are a lot of reasons she avoids settling. Because if she settles, she'll be doing just that. Settling. She wants a normal life, she'll admit that. But what she wants is the right normal life in the right town with the right job and the right person to live it with. Mystic Falls has made her wonder about these things. Is she wrong about who she thinks is right? Is this the right life she's been searching for? Is Damon the right guy? Was Dean Winchester just a roadblock on her way to Damon Salvatore? Those are all questions she has been asking herself recently because Damon seems to understand certain things about her that Dean didn't. What do you think that means? ''I wanted to see the world,'' she whispers, staring into her empty cup. (True, but technically still a lie in many ways.)

Damon looks over at her like he doesn't believe her and then lets it go, shrugging and looking back at the teenagers. ''I've seen it,'' he says flippantly. ''It's overrated.''

She laughs lightly. ''That so?''

''Sure. The wonders of the world lose their wonder when you've got eternity to see them. When you know you have all the time in the world, that crazed rush to see things before you die isn't there. Tell me something, Ruby. You're a demon. Will you live forever?''

Honestly? She doesn't know.

''Damon.'' Her voice is low and serious as she leans forwards to place a hand on his knee without even realizing she's doing it, frowning softly. ''Can I ask you a question?''

''You just did.''

''Be serious here for a second. Just a second, all right?'' Her fingernails dig into his knee slightly; he doesn't appear to notice. ''Do you ever get lonely?''

His jaw clenches and those piercing blue eyes that have a tendency to look right through people seem to deflate in defeat. For about a second. Then he's all calm and control as he shakes his head and looks away from her. ''No.'' (She's pretty sure that's a lie.) ''Do you?''

She looks away. ''No.'' (Liar.) She stays quiet for a moment and then his fingers brush across hers. Startled, she realizes her hand is still on his knee and now there's electricity shooting up her arm and down the rest of her body. She draws her hand back quickly and when she meets his eyes, she catches sight of a flare of something that makes his lips twitch. Her gaze travels over his shoulder just to get away from those striking eyes of his that could unravel her with one deep stare. Her eyes land on Ric, awake and alert, talking to a familiar woman who is not supposed to be here. Jenna. And she doesn't look the least bit sick.

Oh, Caroline. You cunning vampire Barbie, you.

Ric coughs on his drink when he sees her approaching them. ''It was Caroline's idea,'' he yelps as Jenna pats him on the back.

''For the record, I didn't want to fool you,'' Jenna starts. ''But I did agree with Caroline when she said you were avoiding the issue. I'm only here because I got bored and I figured someone should probably be here to be the designated driver know...keep Ric from falling asleep.''

Ruby scoffs, letting her hands fall to her hips. ''What issue am I supposedly avoiding?''

''The Damon issue.''

''What Damon issue? There is no Damon issue. We're friends.'' Ruby pauses, her frown deepens and she leans a little closer to Jenna with a disbelieving raised eyebrow. ''And don't you hate him?''

''I don't hate him,'' Jenna responds calmly, sipping at her drink. ''I just dislike him incredibly strongly. But see, here's the thing.'' She shoves her drink at Ric and wraps an arm around Ruby's shoulder, turning her around so they can stare at Damon in the distance. ''You're not my teenage niece who is dating his brother. You're a grown woman who obviously has something with the man. Think about it. You seem to have this weird way with him. You make him almost...tolerable. You could actually be good for each other. The bad boy meets the good girl - '' (The what now? The good girl? Never heard that one before. Seriously.) '' - and falls madly in love. She changes him, makes him a better person, yada, yada, yada. It's an age old cliché - ''

''Uh, don't movies like that usually end with one of them dying?'' Ric interrupts. When both women throw him a glare, he holds his hands up and takes a gulp of Jenna's drink. ''Okay then. Never mind. I'll just be standing here, drinking my booze.''

''That's my booze, and their story doesn't have to end like that. You two could shake it up a little.'' Jenna giggles quietly and shakes her head, drawing her hand away to pat Ruby on the shoulder. ''And okay, so you're a mom. So what? Does that mean you can't find happiness?''

Wow. Jenna is...saying a lot of things, isn't she? Possibly some things Ruby doesn't want to hear right at this particular moment when she is trying so hard to resist his allure. Damon looks up, catches her eye and there's sparks. Fucking hell, there's sparks. ''I should call Caroline and check on Bray,'' Ruby mumbles. She ignores Jenna's weak protests, misses the look on Damon's face when she looks away from him quickly and turns to escape. It's something she is incredibly used to. Escaping. It's something she does so often that it has become something of a second nature to her. Unlike all the other times, when she has had a clear running path, this time someone gets in her way. She bumps into someone before she can make it to the door and she looks up into the eyes she is trying to avoid. Damn vampires and their superspeed. ''Can you not do that please?'' She crosses her arms over her chest defensively. ''It's disturbing.''

He smiles easily and holds his hand out to her. ''Balliamo?''

She resists the urge to bite down on her lip. ''Damon...'' You're blocking my escape route.

''One dance,'' he says, taking her hand the second she uncrosses her arms. ''It won't kill you. Don't be such a killjoy.''

''Damon.'' She sighs like this is some huge burden as he leads her onto the dance floor, but she places a hand on his shoulder anyway. ''If I had said no, you would've dragged me out here anyway, am I right?''

Damon laughs, looking down at her. ''Yeah, you're right. Well, come on. You can't go to a dance and not dance. That's just wrong.''

He makes her smile. Dangerous boy. She's been here before. Her mind is going back and forth between the pros and cons of Damon Salvatore and she has been here before. The last time she developed a mental pro/con list, he wound up getting torn to shreds, she wound up knocked up and it all eventually ended with harsh words and a stupid fucking silver ring. Pro/con lists can only mean bad things. (Hey, at least with Damon she doesn't have to worry about the whole getting knocked up part.) ''So,'' she smiles and hopes it's convincing. ''How do you know all this Italian anyway?''

''Salvatore is an Italian name, you know.''

''I know, but - ''

''My mother taught me,'' he says before he twirls her. ''Before she died, she'd sit down with me every day and teach me. After she died, I taught Stefan.''

''Your father didn't?''

His eyes darken for a moment, but that smirk still remains firmly planted on his lips. ''My father wasn't...the nicest guy.''

A frown tugs at her lips. So...a bad boy with a surprising soft side who has a classic car, a leather jacket, a younger, brooding brother, a dead mother and some heavy duty daddy issues? Oh, god. She has a type. That's embarrassing.

''Plus,'' he continues. ''I spent a few years in Italy awhile back so I guess some things stuck. Now,'' his smirk widens and he leans closer, just close enough to make her breath catch. ''If we're going to talk about the past, let's talk about yours.''

She chuckles nervously. ''Oh, let's not go there.''

''Hey, I talked about my dead mother. You at least have to tell me how you ended up with a kid because - and don't take this the wrong way - you don't exactly seem like the maternal type.''

Well, that is true. She does generally hate all kids who aren't her own ('cause her kid is awesome) because they're loud and messy and they get into things they shouldn't and they kind of smell. ''I got pregnant and then nine months later, Bray made her grand entrance after torturing me for three days. I thought she would never come out. That's about it.''

''Hmm...and Bray's dad? Where does he fit in?''

''He doesn't,'' she answers shortly.


''No. He just...had some things to do that didn't involve me and Bray. He's not a bad guy, really. He's actually a good guy. He's just - '' She stops herself short, sucking in a breath and shaking her head. ''Why do you even want to know? You have zero interest in other people, Damon.''

''I have interest in you,'' he shoots back quickly. ''That's why I want to know. I want to know I'm not getting in between a relationship.'' He pauses and tilts his head to the side momentarily. ''Not that I would mind terribly if I was.''

Right. The lack of morals and all. Please. If that was the case, he would've fucked Elena into loving him a long time ago. ''Well, you're not,'' she says softly. ''Getting in between anything, I mean. Dean and I aren't...We were never really...We'll never be...'' She trails off and gives up trying to sum up her whatever with Dean in one sentence. That is not going to happen. ''There's nothing to get between.''

''Then why are you still running from me?'' He asks.

If she's not imagining it, he sounds amused, exasperated and slightly desperate all at the same time. She wonders how he does that. ''I'm not running,'' she defends herself. ''I'm right here dancing with you, aren't I?''

''Give it time.''

She stops dancing, body tensing as her hands fall away from him. ''Damon, why do we have to go there? We're friends. We're good as friends. Why can't we just be friends?''

''Because I don't want to be your friend,'' he snarls out through his teeth, eyes darkening in frustration. ''And you don't want to be my friend either. You women,'' he laughs bitterly and shakes his head. ''You all want to be my friend without caring what I want. Do I look like your friend? You're just like Elena.''

She takes extreme offense to that. ''I am nothing like Elena.''

''Really?'' He asks calmly. ''Then prove it.''

She can't find the words to reply to that; they bubble up in her throat and then get lost somewhere on her tongue and she's left standing there staring at him like an idiot, still trying to find the words to say something. That pro/con list in her head is coming along quite nicely. It's too bad she doesn't know whether to root for the pro side or the con side. He is the one to make a move eventually. His hand cups her cheek and he goes in for a kiss. Her brain jumpstarts and she backs away quickly. ''I have to go,'' she manages to get out, desperately trying to get air.

He sends her a look that can only be described as pleading, something so wildly out of character for Damon Salvatore it makes her heart break just a little. She turns away when she can't bear to look at him anymore and she runs. ''And there she goes,'' she hears him say softly, almost regretfully.

Her throat is beginning to hurt.

''Hey, Caroline.''

She means to chew the vampire girl out for her attempt at playing matchmaker and its disastrous consequences, but for some reason she can't bear to upset the girl. She imagines Caroline upset and it's just not something she wants. She's not sure why that is. In an empty and darkened classroom, Ruby leans back against a desk and tries to control the aching in her throat.

''Oh, hi, Ruby!'' Caroline chirps. ''How's the dance going? Are you having a good time?''

''It's...It's fine.''

''...Are you okay?'' Caroline asks, her cheerful voice shifting into a concerned murmur. ''You sound funny. You're not...You're not mad at me, are you?''

Ruby licks her lips and looks down at the floor at the sound of the girl's sheepish voice. ''I'm not mad at you. Listen,'' she clears her throat and attempts to smile weakly even though Caroline can't see her, fingers gripping the cell phone perhaps a touch too tightly. ''I just called to check on you guys. Bray's not being too much trouble, is she?''

''Oh, no! Of course not.'' Caroline's voice is light and happy. Ruby swears she can hear the smile in her voice. It makes a choked laugh escape her lips. ''Bray's wonderful. She's passed out on the couch with Tyler right now. We watched Bambi. It was a very emotionally draining experience for the both of them. I'm going to start calling Tyler Thumper from now on.'' There's a pause on the other line and then a small, high pitched giggle. ''I probably shouldn't have shared that.''

''Great,'' Ruby laughs. ''I'm glad you're having fun.''

''Well, you should be having fun too! Go dance or something. This is supposed to be your fun night out.''

''I'll try,'' she lies.

''That's all I ask.''

''I won't be home late. Hey, if she wakes up don't let her eat a bunch of junk, okay? Give her an apple or something.''

''Will do. I'll see you later. Try to have a nice time, Ruby.''

''Bye, Caroline.'' Ruby ends the phone call and the small smile lingers on her lips for a moment before it falls away. She thinks she has just put her finger on why she doesn't violently dislike Caroline Forbes. Sure, the immortal seventeen year old can be tiring and often times annoying and neurotic, but she is the quintessential teenage girl and teenage girls were built with one purpose and one purpose only. To test their parents patience. But Caroline is also sweet and funny and loyal and a good friend and strong and most importantly, she reminds Ruby of her daughter. That is where the soft spot comes from. Caroline reminds Ruby of Bray.

She sighs heavily and brings a hand up to massage her temple. Her eyes are like shutters; they try to shut out the world, but that only leaves her with the movie playing behind her eyelids of the look on Damon's face when she ran. That pro/con list just keeps getting longer and longer. She knows this feeling. This twisting inside of her. Like she needs him. (And as a general rule, her motto is that she is Ruby and she doesn't need anyone except her daughter. So you can see why this feeling would be disconcerting to her.) She has felt it before. Once. And when it was taken away from her, it very nearly broke her into a million little pieces. She can't go through that again. She cannot allow herself to be put through that again. She keeps her heart in a locked box to protect herself from the Deans of the world, don't you see?


Someone always has to come along and break through, isn't that right? Isn't that the way it goes? Even if there's Dean and Elena, heart can still bleed for others, can't they?

''Would it be so bad?''

Ruby looks up sharply, a strangled gasp escaping her throat.

Damon is leaning against the doorframe, trying too hard to look careless. There is a certain twinge of vulnerability in his eyes that he has never let her see before and she doesn't know how to react to it. ''To be with me?'' He levels his gaze with her, mouth drawn into a tight line. ''Would it be such an awful thing?''

''Damon - ''

He pushes off the door, lips twisting into an offended scowl. ''You all think I'm so horrible. Not worth it, not good enough. And I get that. I'm the bad guy, I'll admit that. When there's Stefan to go for, why would anyone choose me? But you...'' He shakes his head. ''Ruby, come on. Look at us. We're the same.'' He grasps her arm gently, pulling her towards him. ''We could be''

''So what?''

He blinks, looks at her for a second like he's battling with himself about something and then he steps forwards and kisses her. His hands grip her wrists like he's trying to keep her from pushing him away and her back is pressed into the desk, but she still kisses back because she can't seem to make herself do anything else. She kisses back because he makes her forget. But then, of course, she has to remember. She wrenches free of his grip easily, pushes at his chest and stumbles away from him. ''No. No.''

''Why?'' He demands. ''Why not? What's stopping you?'' His eyes flash and there's a glimpse of fangs as he steps towards her, one hand outstretched like he wants to grab her and never let her go. ''They don't love us, Ruby!''

She bites down on her lip hard enough to draw blood, heart thundering in her chest, eyes burning painfully.

He doesn't seem to notice. ''They don't love us. Elena, Dean...they don't...We're the second choices, don't you see that? I'm second to Stefan; you're second to whatever the hell that idiot left you and his kid for. And...And they're not here. He's not here, Ruby, and neither is she. I'm here. We're here. That has to mean...We have to mean something to someone! Why can't we mean something to each other?''

Neither of them says anything for a long time. He's catching breath he doesn't need and she's trying to blink away any and all traces of tears. She doesn't think about it for a surprising amount of time. Mostly because she has spent the last few weeks thinking about it. She reacts on impulse and gut instinct instead. It's what she's good at. It's what she used to do all the time. When he says her name quietly, she darts forwards and catches his lips in her own. He kisses back instantly, hand coming up to tangle in her hair. Her fingers move from grasping his shirt to curling in his hair and his free hand slips around her waist, pulling her closer. Try to have a nice time, Ruby, Caroline had said.

Well, okay, Caroline. She's having a nice time.

They're replacements, you know. For Elena and Dean. They both know that. But he's right. Elena is off somewhere with Stefan, basking in the glow of the younger Salvatore's love and shamelessly flaunting it in Damon's face like a vicious bitch and Dean is off somewhere saving the world, drinking much too much and pretending he doesn't have a daughter out there who needs him as much as he needs her. But Damon and Ruby? They're right here and they're lonely.

And what's the harm in a little companionship? What's the harm in finding someone who makes you feel like you matter? Like you're wanted? Frankly, Ruby's beginning to think it's about time she got a little something other than the memories of Dean's broken promises.

(That may be true. But how long do you think they can keep this up?)

end part three

AN: Much like Ruby, I think I have put my finger on why I adore Caroline Forbes so much. Before Dianna Agron became teenage Lila Bray in my mind, Candice Accola was who I saw as Bray. Therefore, she now reminds me of her. Also, yay! Ruby's finally allowing herself a smidge of happiness. I think it's about time. I'll admit, there was Danny but she never really gave her heart to him. different. He's not Dean. But he's definitely something. Okay! I'm going to stop babbling now and get back to work on the next chapter of Queen of Hearts because I have been neglecting that poor beast.

One more thing. Wow, there was a lot of Italian in this chapter, wasn't there? I'm going to be honest with you. I don't speak Italian. I got most of it off of a website. And yes there are quite possibly some mistakes, but you know what? I like it. I'm going to keep it in there. And I'm going to give you all the translations of everything Damon said in Italian. So here yo go:

Ciao, bella
Hello (goodbye), beautiful

Posso offriti qualcosa da bere?
Can I buy you a drink?

Fa cosi caldo qui o e la tua presenza?
Is it hot in here, or is it just you?

Penso che non abbiamo per caso raduno
I think we haven't met each other by chance

Little girl

Stai da solo?
Are you alone?

Stavo sognando di voi
I was dreaming about you

Dare il tuo amore, tesoro mio
Give your love, my treasure

Gradisco voi di piu e piu
I like you more and more


There we go! I think I got them all. If I missed a translation, let me know.