It only lasted a moment.

Milliseconds, perhaps. About five or six hundred milliseconds. Nearly a whole second, he'd say. Odd, that after a century plus of existence he'd be able to appreciate time on such a minute level. Odd, to think he'd care about something that lasted maybe five hundred and fifty-nine (?) thousandths of a second, when he didn't much care about what happened the entire rest of the week gone, or the entire rest of the year gone, or the entire rest of the decade…

Odd.

He found himself frowning when the moment had passed. Confused, and inexplicably disappointed. A little cold, as if he were a baby and some harpy had just snatched his blanket away. A little…aroused? Mentally, if not physically at least. Like that time he'd wandered into Heylon's Catholic Church and found himself wondering if female nuns looked the same under all that cloth as regular females. Was she the same under all those sweater layers and jeans? More curiosity than lust, but...

The look of utter relief on her face did very little in way of soothing his concerns. He felt as if he'd missed an opportunity… As if…

And Jeremy, the little rat brat! Look at that face. Almost as if he's forgotten what I am. I'll–

Woah…

Hmmm?

Was he actually…

No, he wasn't.

He was not. Not again

It always began innocent. It always began with these stupid, stupid, moments! That entire fiasco with Katherine; all because the first time he'd seen her, with her hair a pile of curls, one of those curls had been tumbling down loose to her neck… then her shoulder. That had been what had snared him that time and brought on that century of rage, murder and asshole-ness.

Then Elena. Pretty simple that one. She, being the living image of Katherine but light on the backstabbing, whoring and blood-drinking. A little heavy on the brother-loving though… Cue more asshole-ness.

He had missed the opportunity, he realised, replacing his frown with a decent if half-hearted smirk… It could have gone so much differently. So much better. He could have done this. He could have done that. He should have… But all of that was in the past now. One full second in the past and he couldn't go back to it. Much as he wanted to. Or thought he might want to.

Unless he decided to be an ass about it.

Jeremy was one of those innocents he was supposed to care about as mandated by the Holier-Than-Thou Mystic Falls Council. He could kill the boy, but there'd be finger-pointing and sad-faces after. A pout here, a shaken head there… And she might not take too kindly to that. And he might not be able to compel her to not give a damn, either.

Bonnie…

Was he really going to start this again? Was he that desperate? Katherine. Her look-alike. The bimbo best friend of the look-alike and now the wallflower one? Was he that pathetic? He used to have standards. He used to have purpose in his life.

Elena was to correct the mistake. The ultimate rebound girl.

Caroline was… Well, he'd needed somebody to drink from, and a way to work himself into Elena's house…

But Bonnie… There'd be no defending that in any court.

And he'd have to ascend to even higher levels of… asshole-ness, too. He'd have to do something about Jeremy. For sure. Not kill him, but something equally effective and equally permanent. Then he'd have to… to what? Move? Because he wasn't going to sit around and play the love-struck, high-school-musical-watching, ass-licker in front of everyone else. He wasn't going to have Stefan playing social worker. He wasn't going to talk about it over beers with Alaric down in the Grill. He'd have to move and kidnap Bonnie. And change her into a vampire as well. Keep her seventeen forever.

Spell 'paedophile'.

D-A-M-O-N. S-A-L-V-A-T-O-R-E.

And this wasn't even the good Bonnie. This was the angry one who'd set him on fire and who took a peculiar, disturbing, retrospectively erotic joy in frying his brain every now and again. The good Bonnie he could have seduced with a wink and a snap of his fingers. This one… Why hadn't he gone for her back in the old time days, instead of… Well, instead of getting her grandmother killed and trying to rip her throat out?

Wow. Talk about laying the ground work for a love-hate relationship. He'd bring the love, she'd pack the hate and they'd meet up somewhere in the middle and sex it out. Or he'd pine to death. She'd keep on making signs of the cross when he passed her, and he'd take cold showers. Or hunt down a Bonnie look-alike…

Why, though?

Because of some fake little moment that existed only in his corrupted little mind? Had he no discipline? No control over his cock and his heart?

"Don't touch me like–" she was saying.

Oh yes… she was displeased.

"Calm down, necromancer," he said, going to pains to keep the smirk in place. He was not going to transform into some blushing school-boy caught out with a boner for the math teacher. "Face-touching doesn't even qualify as a feel- up and if I wanted to feel you up, I'd just do it."

Or he wouldn't, and he'd spend the ensuing months and years trying to fix himself in ten billion ways to earn her approval. Dye his hair to suit her handbag. Cut his wrists to fill her bathtub. All in hope for a smile and a promise that she'd love him one tenth of how he loved her. The Damon Salvatore MO, no? Fall ridiculously, embarrassingly in love with someone for no reason and end up holding the shitty end of the stick ten years later. By his luck, Jeremy would propose to her by next week. Next month she'd be pregnant with his kid and no one would care then that he'd had an accidental moment with her when he'd pulled a cobweb off her face.

He should have done it roughly, not so much like a caress. It had been innocent on his part. He'd just been trying to help out a friend, the way he would have pointed out if she'd had something in her teeth. Except maybe his hands had lingered a tad. But he'd wanted to be sure that he'd gotten it all, cobwebs been sticky and clingy, and that her face had gone back to perfect again. And…fuck.

They should have had more lights besides those blasted, fucking, good-for-shit candles.

Or keep the candles and get a mattress with–

"Damon," she scowled. "Can we just focus? Can you stop the touching and use whatever non-Alzheimer riddled portion of your brain to read? Can you do that?" she asked, as if he were retarded. And deaf.

"I don't know," he shrugged. "I'm distracted."

"Damon…" Jeremy growled.

"Okay," Damon got to his feet pouting and dusted off the seat of his pants. He'd had enough for the day. Enough old haunted Witch-House, enough cobwebs, enough candles, enough grimoire-reading, enough chanting, enough pretending to be a living human being, enough drinking out of blood bags. And still not enough. "Necromancer, and co., I need–"

"What?" she asked stonily. "What Damon? There's Klaus and a hurricane of important problems looming over us, but what do you need?"

He smirked. Again. And sat back down. "You're face isn't symmetrical," he said, keeping his face in the book he'd been at for hours on end, straining his vampiric eyes to make out ages-old scratch-marks, "At all. And I hate people with your shit-colour green eyes. And you need to do something with your hair. Curls or straight. Either one is fine, but pick one and commit. And you're not Elena."

"Relevance?"

"I'm just saying. It's not like I have some kind of obsession to be used and abused by each and everybody." And he settled the dusty, old tome of ancient illegal literature more snuggly into his lap. "Don't snap your fingers at me and expect me to jump."

"I didn't snap my fingers–"

"I'm just saying. Don't."