AN: Well, all righty then, my peeps! Today is December 1st, so I am hereby starting the Bray-a-palooza. In case you don't know this - and some of you probably don't, because I can't remember if this is common knowledge or just something that's in my head - December 10th is Lila Bray's birthday. This year, my little girl is three years old! (Yeah, I'm aware she's a fictional little girl and if we're being technical, she's Dean and Ruby's little ficiontional girl, but go with the flow.) Naturally, I had to get her a gift. This year it's a bit of a big gift. I was supposed to write about her birth for her birthday, but then this happened (and I have no idea how this happened, by the way) and remember: we're going with the flow.

I'm just going to put this out there now: It's highly unlikely that this story will actually be completed by the 10th of December, but it will be finished. This story is half Bray's birthday present and half my Christmas/New Year's present to my wonderful readers so I hope to at least get it finished by New Year's.

Now, one last thing. Someone told me that their birthday is also on December 10th. Kathy (HopeJalice4ever) was it you? I feel like it was you. Happy Birthday to you! This story is also dedicated to you. I hope you have a great birthday! You get to share a birthday with Bray, you lucky girl. I get to share a birthday with Sting and Kelly Ripa.

All titles from the song ''Dream a Little Dream of Me'' aka the Lila Bray 'verse theme song.

Disclaimer: I own none of the characters you recognize. I do, however, own Lila Bray and all other OC's from the Lila Bray 'verse. Be jealous.


till dawn, dear

Written by Becks Rylynn


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title: while i'm alone and blue as can be
summary: post apocalyptic world. crossover.
pairing(s): mentions of dean/ruby, ruby/damon salvatore, damon salvatore/caroline forbes, stefan salvatore/katherine pierce. hints at caroline/castiel, if you squint and rub your eyes and really want to see it. some possible half invisible hints towards michael(spn's michael)/ruby, but it's another one you have to search for and it'd be pretty definite non-con.
characters: bray. ruby. damon. michael. dean. short appearaces by katherine, stefan, caroline and cas.
genre: horror/tragedy
timeline: um...well, bray's eight (almost nine), so...2016-2017-ish...i think?
spoilers: if you've seen season five of supernatural, you're good. spoilers throughout at least season two of tvd.
warnings: crossover, character death (major and minor), gore, body stealing/possession/vessel-type badness, apocalypse, uncomfortable imagery, major, major angst.
notes: kind of wish i had waited to write this one and stuck it in the middle, because this one is goddamn depressing and it is not the best way to kick off a happy birthday extravaganza. oh, well.

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Her memories of her father are foggy. They're like old pictures that haven't developed properly and are now yellowed with age in addition to being blurry and out of focus. It's as if she's being held underwater and her vision will clear and her memories will be pristine if she can just make it to the surface. She was really little when she lost her dad. Only two and a half years old. Practically a baby still. Her memories of him are flawed. Aged and faded.

What she does remember is that she misses him terribly.

And she's talking about her real father here. Not Uncle Cas, not Damon, not Stefan and certainly not that...that thing that just walked right in and stole her father's face. Like it didn't matter. Like her father was nothing. She is talking about her dad. The man who hung the moon for her.

Dean Winchester.

Daddy.

She does remember that he loves her. That's probably one of the only things that she is one hundred percent certain of. It is crystal clear. Her dad loved her. He loves her so much. Her mom makes sure to tell her that every single night before she goes to sleep.

There are other things she remembers about him, too. They are just little bits and pieces of a map that makes a man, but at least they are something. She remembers the sound of his laughter when he was truly joyful, deep and rich as if it was coming straight from his heart. He liked to listen to old classic rock and he sang along at least half the time, hitting notes incorrectly, voice much too loud. He loved pie, drove with the windows rolled down even when it was cold out because the feel of the wind against his face reminded him that he was alive, drank maybe a little too much, and he used to jump in puddles with her, stomping around in the mud and the rain to make her laugh. His arms were safe. Warm. Smelled like gun powder and whiskey and cheap motel soap. She thinks he might've been more broken than he ever let her see, but he was her daddy and she adored every breath he ever took.

Her memories, as cut and torn as they may be, are the only things she has left of her dad. They are some of the only things that cannot be ravaged by this life and she hangs onto them with everything she has. They help her remember how to breathe on the nights when she can't remember what it feels like to be happy.

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Bray spends her days and most of her nights running.

She gets dirty, stays cooped up in the back of run down and stolen cars, and knows things girls her age aren't supposed to know. She doesn't think this is the way an eight year old should live life. She's not even sure if this can really even be considered living. She has no friends, she only spent three weeks in kindergarten before he released the Croatoan virus in an attempt to get Uncle Sam to show his face, and she hasn't had a true home since she was two.

She tries not to voice her discontent because she knows that it's killing her mom that this is their life, but sometimes...sometimes it just gets hard, you know? Sometimes she just wants to stay still. But there is nothing else for her. No other option. No other life. This is the way they survive. This is them outrunning the crumbling of the decaying world.

This is all there is.

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One night, Bray wakes to voices.

Tonight, she is sleeping in a bed for the first time in a week. She has spent the past week sleeping in the backseat of the truck at night while they tried to make their way to Virginia and, hopefully, some sort of safety. They got all the way to some town in Kentucky before Mom finally demanded that they find a place to stay for a night or two so that Bray could have a somewhat restful night of sleep in an actual bed.

As luck would have it, they managed to find a vacant house in a fairly normal looking neighborhood. The house is actually nice, if not a little cold because of the lack of heat. It's well put together, like a regular home, as if the owners went out to pick up the mail and never came home. Bray shudders at the thought and has to tell herself to stop thinking of such things because...because that's probably exactly what happened. She gets to sleep in a comfy bed with fluffy blankets, that's all that should matter right now.

When she goes to sleep, Mom is lying on her back beside her, fingers playing with the chain around her neck that she keeps Dad's ring on. Swallowing, Bray brushes hair out of her face, rolls onto her side and whispers out a raspy, ''Are you okay?''

Mom rolls over to face her with a sad smile. ''I'm fine, baby.'' She leans in close to kiss her daughter's forehead softly. ''Try to get some sleep, okay? We need to leave early.''

So Bray goes to sleep.

And then she wakes up in the middle of the night alone and she can hear raised voices coming from downstairs.

Curious, she slips out of bed, slinks down the pitch black hallway and tip toes down the first few steps to peer into the living room. Downstairs, her mother and Damon are locked in an intense staring match. Her mother looks tired. He looks frustrated.

Bray supposes she should find it odd that even though she's spent the last five years in Damon's company, she still doesn't really know what to call him. Damon Salvatore is an old friend of her mom's and an acquaintance of Dad's. The story goes that before he...went away...Dad had put an emergency contingency plan in motion. He knew what he was doing was dangerous and he knew the risks and he wanted to make sure that his daughter was safe. The plan was that after he was gone, Damon would take on the role of Bray's - and to some extent, Mom's - bodyguard, because he was the only one supernaturally strong enough to do it and if Mom trusted him then that was good enough for Dad.

Bray doesn't think Dad thought about what would happen if Damon fell in love with Mom.

Which he did.

Hard.

Because everybody falls in love with Mom.

It's so obvious. She's eight. She's not a moron. For the past several years, he has been the closest thing to a father figure that Bray will ever have. Almost like a quasi stepfather. He's possibly not the best role model, no, but he's all she's got. But he is not her dad. She has a dad. So it's not like she's going to start calling him Daddy Damon. And he scrunches up his nose and says, flatly, ''don't call me that'' when she calls him Uncle Damon. So he's always just been Damon to her. A good friend. Almost family.

He has always been just a little more to Mom.

Bray doesn't know the whole story, but what she does know, what she has been told - by numerous people - is that Mom had a brief fling with her old boyfriend Damon (apparently they knew each other in the 50's when Mom clawed her way out of Hell briefly and he was stalking The Rat Pack and they wound up in a volatile relationship) right before she got together with Dad. It was never really serious and it was never really healthy, but some part of them loved each other and will always love each other. ''They were star crossed,'' Aunt Caroline has told her. ''Never in the same place at the same time. But that's okay. They both ended up with the people they were supposed to be with.''

Yeah. Right. Mom ended up with Dad and Damon ended up with Aunt Caroline. ...Just two stories that didn't have happy endings, huh? Dad got lost. Aunt Caroline ended her on again/off again relationship with Damon for good when she realized that he had fallen back into love with Mom.

Nothing really ended up the way it was supposed to go.

Bray creeps a little closer to hear what they're saying. She figures they're arguing about stopping. Damon hadn't wanted to stop for the night, insisting that the place was too out in the open and it would be best to just keep going, but Mom put her foot down, saying that they all needed one night of rest. But that's not what they're fighting about. As these things usually go, all of the tension seems to have exploded.

''It's not that simple, Damon,'' Mom's saying tiredly, pulling her sweater tighter across her body.

''Oh, it is that simple and you know it,'' he fires back. ''What the fuck...What is it with you women? You can never see what's right in front of you; you all want more and more and more and nothing I do is ever good enough for you! It's pathetic.''

''Well, maybe if you weren't such a drama queen,'' she says, rolling her eyes.

''Hey.'' He catches her arm when she tries to move past him, spinning her around to face him. ''You think I don't mean it? I mean it, Ruby. You're not Caroline and I'm not Dean - '' Mom still flinches at the sound of his name '' - but we're all that's left.''

She looks, for a moment, like she's about to give in. But then she shakes her head and pulls her arm free. ''We don't have time for this crap,'' she says shortly. ''I have a daughter that needs protecting and anything else is unimportant. I thought you understood tha - ''

''Shut up.''

''You're the one that wanted to - ''

Damon's arms shoot out and he grabs Mom, yanking her into his chest, hand clapping over her mouth. ''Shut. Up,'' he hisses in her ear. ''Do you hear that?''

And then all hell breaks loose and there is no more running. There is an inhuman screaming noise, screeching and shrieking like a thousand banshees. Bray gasps in pain, hands going to her ears, still out of sight. Damon's eyes flick to the stairs like he knows she's there. All of the glass in the house cracks and explodes at the piercing noise. The door blows open. Bray ducks out of sight, back pressed against the wall, breaths coming in petrified gasps. She is already shaking, trembling knees quaking. She knows who is about to walk through that door. She knows what's coming. When the glass is on the floor and all has gone quiet, Bray presses herself back against the wall and closes her eyes tight.

She stopped bothering with prayers a long time ago.

Slow, calculated footsteps sound; the sound of boots crunching over the broken glass. ''Hello, Ruby,'' It says softly, her name passing through stolen lips in a single breath.

Mom's voice is tight when she says his name, spitting it out like it's acid, ''Michael.''

Bray peeks around the corner just in time to see Damon rush at Michael in a blur of vampire speed, which is not an all around good idea. It is what Damon does. He is selfish and impulsive and reckless and impatient and overprotective and Bray doesn't know what she and her mother will do if he dies. But Michael doesn't kill him. Doesn't waste any time on him, wrapping his hand around Damon's neck and throwing him out the open window. Bray thinks she should run and hide now. She knows she should. It is what she has been taught to do. But...

It's been such a long time since she has seen her father's face. It's not her dad down there. Not anymore. And she knows that. It would be impossible not to know that. But just a minute longer. Just for a second. She looks around the corner.

Mom is looking out the window towards Damon, eyes completely clouded over with terror. She is breathing heavily when she turns back to Michael, eyes ablaze. ''He doesn't have anything to do with this,'' she tells him.

''He's an ant,'' Michael replies. ''Worthless.'' His eyes are surprisingly warm as he looks at her. ''You, on the other hand...'' He smiles. ''I rather like you.'' He is scruffy, unshaven, hair mussed as if he's just gotten out of bed. He's wearing a nice crisp white dress shirt that looks like it should be stained through with blood, and jeans that don't have holes in them. Not like the ones her dad used to wear. There is nothing about him that tells her Dean Winchester is still in there.

Bray has tried to tell herself stories over the years. Stories that give her hope that her dad is still in there. Fairytales about how he's trying to fight his way back to them and someday - some beautiful day - he will come home. But the truth is that he's long gone, leaving behind only Michael and mayhem. She claps a hand over her mouth to quiet her suddenly ragged breathing.

''You look tired,'' he says, caressing Mom's cheek much to her disgust. ''Tell me, my dear, have you been getting enough sleep?''

Mom barely even flinches, her eyes turning vivid black as she sneers at him. ''If you're going to kill me,'' she growls out strongly, ''do it already.''

Michael laughs. ''I don't want to kill you, Ruby.'' He leans in close, almost like he's going to kiss her. His eyes have gone cold. ''But if you don't tell me where Sam is...'' He grins at her, showing off his teeth. ''I do have a temper, you know. I cannot be held accountable for what I do when I'm angry.''

''I don't know where Sam is,'' Mom whispers.

''I'm having a little trouble believing you.'' He closes the space between them and wraps one arm around Mom's waist, pulling her to him as he brushes hair out of her face. ''Let me ask you a question.'' She squirms in his arms and the strong, fierce look on her face slips a little bit, the desperation showing through. Michael is still smiling that eerily calm smile that he has perfected, holding her by the arms and refusing to let her go when she struggles. ''Where. Is. Sam?''

Mom holds steady, meeting his eyes bravely. ''I don't know.''

''You're lying,'' he protests. ''You're always lying to me. It isn't very nice.''

She's not lying. She's not telling an untruth to protect Uncle Sam, like Michael probably thinks she is. Mom has no idea where he is. Nobody does. After Daddy... Uncle Sammy kind of fell off the grid, disappearing for good. Damon, who doesn't mince words, has voiced his opinion on the matter several times. ''Kid probably offed himself,'' he shrugs, forgetting all about that pesky sensitivity thing. ''It's what I would do.''

''Shall I try someone else then?'' Michael asks conversationally. ''Hm? What about Castiel? Do you...'' He lets go of her left arm to trail a finger down her cheek. ''...Have any idea where that filthy traitorous prodigal has gone?''

''Kill me,'' Mom snarls out through her teeth. ''Just get it over with. You know I'm not going to help you.''

Michael clicks his tongue in disapproval. ''Now, now, lovely,'' he tsks. ''Such animosity isn't good for your skin. You're going to give yourself wrinkles. How about sweet little Bray?'' His voice is a low purr, barely carrying up to Bray's hiding spot. It sends unpleasant shivers coursing through her body. ''Can you tell me where the little lamb is, lion girl?''

All at once, Mom snaps.

She wrenches herself free of his grasp with some difficulty and then she punches him. From the looks of it, the hit doesn't even bruise him, but it makes Mom grimace. ''I already told you,'' Mom says, voice trembling. ''I don't know anything.''

Maybe the lighting is off or something, because for a second, Bray swears she sees sorrow flashing on Michael's face. It makes him look almost like Dad again. ''You're right,'' he nods slowly. ''You don't. You're completely useless to me. What a shame.'' He shakes his head with a sigh. ''It's too bad, really.'' He reaches out and pulls her flush against him by the back of her neck once more. He tangles his hand in her blond hair and locks eyes with her.

Bray isn't sure what her mother sees in his eyes, but whatever it is, it seems to terrify her. ''Please,'' Mom begs. ''We can't stop you. You know we can't stop you. We're not threats.'' She clutches at his shirt as his free hand rakes over her body. ''I can find Sam for you!'' She gasps out when he yanks on her hair. ''We can...We can track him down for you. Just let us go. You can keep me as leverage, okay? Just let Damon and Bray go. I swear, they won't retaliate.''

Michael ignores her, apparently done talking for the time being. Effortlessly, like she is a feather, he hurls her across the room by her hair. She lands in a crumpled, unmoving heap and he is left holding her knife. With a frown and a huff, he smoothes down his shirt and turns to face the stairs with a great big smile.

Bray isn't quick enough in hiding her face and he sees her, letting out a small joyful laugh at the sight of her. She is struck by the sudden overwhelming feeling that she is going to die. ''Oh, sweetheart,'' his voice, crisp and cold, transforms back into the familiar and warm drawl that sounds just like her dad. ''Don't hide. It's just me.'' Something pulls her out of her hiding spot; something unseen and powerful that she can't fight. She stands frozen in plain sight, unable to move.

''No!'' Her mother's voice shatters whatever control he has over her and when Bray turns her head, her mother is struggling to her feet and her eyes are filled with desperate tears.

It all happens in the space of a blink.

Michael's face (because Dad sure as hell doesn't live there anymore) twists with frustration and he spins on his heel, sending Mom's knife hurtling through the air. And Mom...Mommy... She makes the most awful wet sort of gasping noise as the knife embeds itself into her body and takes her away. ''Is that what you wanted, Ruby?'' Michael asks.

(Bray doesn't know it, but the last thought that goes through her mother's head is that this is somehow fitting. The last two faces she ever sees are theirs.)

''No!'' Sobs climb their way up Bray's throat and she starts to run down the stairs, without giving a thought to the fact that Michael is standing right there. She doesn't even care. ''Mom!'' She doesn't get very far. There is a sudden blur of movement in front of her and then two strong arms wrap around her. The next thing she knows, she's locked in the bedroom with her back pressed against the wall and a frantic Damon has one hand covering her mouth and a finger to his lips. Footsteps sound on the stairs, and even his stupid foot falls sound angry.

''We have to go,'' Damon whispers urgently. ''Now, Bray.''

''No,'' she scratches at his arm when he tries to drag her towards the window, her heels digging into the carpet. She's crying big fat tears and she feels like she can't breathe. ''No...No, Damon, please... We can't leave her here alone. It's cold. She'll...She'll get cold.''

He looks haggard in the moonlight and his voice is rough and growly when he snaps out, ''I made her a promise, Bray, and I fully intend to keep it.'' He grabs her around the waist despite her protests and they are gone by the time the door bursts open.

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They don't make it to Virginia.

None of them do.

Two days later, Bray and Damon are meeting Stefan and Katherine in Tennessee and Aunt Caroline (the only one who likes being called Aunt) and Uncle Cas are on their way to them from somewhere in Texas, where their search for Uncle Sam has taken them. And Mom is still on that floor of that house in Kentucky, cold and alone.

Bray wishes she didn't know what's going to happen next, but she does. She's going to die. That's it. This is the end. There isn't any hope left for her to find. Not under cushions, not in the stars, and not in her mother's eyes. There is no reason to believe. Her parents' are gone and she loves Damon, but he can't protect her from Michael. Nobody can.

Stefan doesn't look like he has any idea of what to say to her when he sees her and Katherine isn't exactly one for compassion, so nobody says anything at all and Damon and Stefan start making plans right away. Plans to protect her. Get her to a safe house. Keep her alive.

Huh.

Kinda funny, isn't it?

It was always meant to be two brothers and their less than kind/inhuman/Buffy-like companion who kept her alive.

In the run down old shack that Katherine and Stefan have been staying in for obviously quite awhile, Bray quickly excuses herself and locks herself in the dirty bathroom with her bag. She stares at herself in the mirror for what feels like a long time, at her swollen and red eyes, at her trembling lips. She hasn't stopped crying since Mom... Since she... She has to look away from her reflection. With a deep breath, she begins to try to clean herself up the best she possibly can. She washes her face and all the way up to her elbows and she scrubs her hands until they are positively raw. Then she tries to comb out her long unruly blond hair, but the tangles are too thick. She changes her clothes and brushes her teeth, but she still feels dirty in the end.

She feels blood on her hands.

She looks back into the mirror. Everything hurts. She doesn't feel eight years old anymore. (It's not fair.)

''Bray,'' Damon knocks on the door. ''I need to be able to see you.''

There's something strange about that sentence.

She sends one last look at the mirror. She'd like to be able to see Bray, too.

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Everyone will die in the end.

That's just the way it was always going to go. She thinks it might have been fated. You can't run from Michael. When he wants something, he gets it. He took Dad. Mom. He'll get Bray too. She's perfectly aware of that now. It's only a matter of time. She is now convinced that Mom knew that.

Michael finds them in less than a week. He blows through like a storm. A tornado that just sweeps over them and doesn't leave any survivors. Bray is in the bedroom when he comes, rifling around in her mother's duffel bag in search of something to put her hair up with, and then she hears the front door quite literally explode. She can picture it cracking and splintering apart. Instinctively, she abandons her task and starts to race for the open door, but it slams shut and she hears Damon grunt when she throws herself against the door.

''Oh,'' she hears Michael sigh. ''It's just a bunch of blood whores.''

Stefan is the first one to go. Bray can hear it happen through the door. She wagers that Stefan got in Michael's way pretty fast, most likely trying to stop him from entering the house, because she hears his pained grunt and then a ripping sound, followed by Katherine's scream. And then there's a thud and everything goes quiet for a moment.

That's when her self-preservation instincts kick in. Her mother died to protect her and Bray will not let her mother's death be for nothing. If Michael wants her dead, he's going to have to catch her first. She sprints towards the grimy window in the bedroom and pulls desperately at the latch, willing it to open. It doesn't budge; poor thing is completely rusted shut. She hears muffled voices coming from the other side of the door along with what she thinks might be whimpers coming from Katherine. Her heart is racing in her chest. She looks around the room for something - anything - that she can use to break the window and finally finds a heavy flashlight at the bottom of her mother's bag.

She really has no clue what she's doing. She doesn't have any plans or any concept of what's going to happen next. She just knows she has to find a way to stay alive. When she smashes the flashlight against the window, the class cracks. When she swings it a second time, the glass shatters noisily. There is a deafening crash from the other room. Glass cuts through the palms of her hands and then her arms as she begins to lift herself out the window, but she barely feels it, adrenaline pumping through her body wildly. The fresh air that assaults her face is the best feeling in the world. It means some sort of freedom.

Right up until a strong hand grabs onto her ankle and pulls. She screams and tries to hold onto the window ledge, but the grip is too strong. She is yanked back in through the window without any sort of care and her back hits the ground hard. Cold and angry green eyes stare down at her like she is a worm. She is still screaming. He opens his mouth to greet her, lips twitching upwards, but before he can, a dainty hand curls around the collar of his shirt, picks him up, and throws him up against the opposite wall.

Katherine, fangs and all, moves to stand in front of Bray. She has never looked so angry. Bray thinks it's mostly because she spent half of an eternity loving Stefan and Michael just killed him, but it also might be because there is a part of Katherine that is still a mother, no matter how old and shriveled up that part may be. ''You want her,'' she hisses, ''you're going to have to go through me.''

Michael frowns and gets to his feet, straightening his black trench coat. ''I have no problem with that,'' he shrugs.

Bray clutches her injured arm and ignores the way her cheek is stinging from a deep gash across her skin, and begins to crawl towards the door.

''Katerina Petrova,'' Michael says slowly. ''I've heard a lot about you.''

In an instant, Katherine has sped across the room and pushed him back up against the wall. ''All good things, I hope,'' she murmurs breathily.

Two arms come out of nowhere and haul Bray to her feet, dragging her out of the room and towards the front door. Damon, pissed off and glowery, leads Bray to the door and can't even bring himself to look at the gray corpse of his brother, lying heartless on the floor.

''Piece of advice, Ms. Petrova,'' Michael is saying from behind them. ''You probably shouldn't have gotten this close to me. It only makes it easier for me to do this.'' The sound of Katherine yelping in pain has Bray's heart dropping to her stomach. It is followed by the most horrific crunching noise in the world and when she hears it, Bray makes the mistake of looking over her shoulder. She doesn't think she will ever be able to forget the sight of Katherine's body crumpling brokenly to the floor as Michael tosses her head aside.

And then, of course, the door slams shut before they can run free. This doesn't seem to deter Damon, though. Pushing Bray behind him, he turns around to face Michael with a pleasant smirk, as if they're old friends. ''Neat trick,'' he says.

He lets go of Bray's hand.

She gets the sinking suspicion that it's all over.

Damon is grinning, all teeth and arrogance as he sizes up Michael as if the archangel is just another lowly creature that doesn't deserve Damon's attention. ''But you know what, old man? I've got a few tricks of my own.'' He flashes forwards and Michael goes crashing into the wall, practically smashing a hole in the already rotted and unstable wood. ''You're not taking the girl,'' Damon warns. ''I made a promise.''

''You know,'' Michael muses thoughtfully. ''In a lot of ways, Damon, I have a...certain level of respect for you. Everything you do is for love, is that not correct? Look at you.'' He cackles and shakes his head. ''You promised to protect that little thing until the end of the world - you promised to die for her - because you loved Ruby. There's respect in that.'' Michael shoves at Damon's chest. It barely looks like a tap. It's a playground shove. Like a little boy pushing someone into the mud. But it sends Damon up into the air and back down to the ground. He slides across the floor, coming to a stop right next to his deader than usual brother. ''But there is also weakness.''

Whimpering, Bray grapples with the doorknob and tries to turn it, but it won't turn. Michael doesn't want her to leave and so she's not leaving. ''Oh, now,'' the angel in question throws her what looks like an honestly kind smile. ''You just get comfortable, lamb. You and I are going to have a long overdue chat, sooner rather than later.'' He snaps his head back to Damon just in time to catch the fist that is thrown at his face too quickly for Bray to even see. He tilts his head to the side curiously. ''You will lose,'' he warns.

Damon groans when Michael twists his arm back, but doesn't give up. He never gives up. It's what will kill him in the end, Bray suspects miserably. When Damon sends a kick to Michael's legs, the body responds by buckling slightly and Damon uses it to his advantage, sweeping Michael off his feet. Michael goes down hard on his back and then Damon hefts him right back to his feet and throws him. ''Don't be so sure about that, dick.''

Bray tips a table over and takes refuge behind it, shielding both her and Stefan's body from the fight. She knows that if it were her mother's body... She'd want to know that her family was protected. When a body is thrown into the table - and she's not sure whose body it is - she throws herself over Stefan's cold body to protect him. Face buried in the shirt of a dead man, tears begin to prickle behind her eyes and she tries to tune out the sounds of violence that she can't get away from.

What is she supposed to do now?

She squeezes her eyes shut, stifles her sobs, and tries to remember how to wish. If she could have just one wish... She'd wish for things to be different. A different life. A better life.

A final, staggering crash brings her back to her unfortunate reality and she holds her breath. Slowly, reluctantly, she starts to rise to her feet. Is there really anything else she can do now except resign herself to her fate? Look around. There's no one else left to protect her now. She fully expects to see Michael standing there, basking in the glow of being the last one standing. But when she stands and spots Damon standing there, she lets out a cry and races forwards, throwing herself into his arms.

''Come on,'' he says instantly, taking her hand. ''We have to get out of here.'' He throws a look at the broken window, listening for any sign of Michael. ''He's already getting back up.''

''Wait!'' She cries out breathlessly. ''What about your brother and Katherine?''

He hesitates for barely a second, but a second is long enough. ''We don't have time to - '' He breaks off quite suddenly in a strangled gasp and his eyes widen as unconceivable pain begins to seep into his irises. Horror creeps into every inch of her as she watches his skin begin to gray, veins breaking out on his face. She lowers her gaze to the stake jutting out of his chest and she screams, hands clapping over her mouth. ''Bray,'' he rasps out, and he falls limply to the ground.

She feels her hysteria begin to grow. ''No!'' She drops to her knees, digging her fingers into Damon's shirt. ''Damon!'' She shakes him fruitlessly. ''Damon, wake up! Wake up!'' She raises glassy and terrified eyes to Michael, who is clapping his hands together like he's ridding himself of vampire germs. He looks positively disgusted at the sight of the corpses surrounding them.

But he smiles when he looks at Bray, disgust forgotten. He puts one hand on his hip and waggles a finger at her. ''I have been looking all over for you.''

She sniffles and scrambles to her feet, stumbling away from him. ''Please,'' she begs, backing away. ''...Don't...''

''You think I'm going to hurt you?'' He looks offended by that suggestion, taking slow and deliberate steps towards her. ''I would never hurt you,'' he says plainly. ''You're too important, lamb.''

''Stop calling me that,'' she whimpers. Her back hits the wall and she gasps, startled. Tears flow down her cheeks as he gets closer and closer and she collapses to the ground, trembling violently. ''W-What do you want with me?''

''I want you,'' he sighs and crouches in front of her, ''to be my leverage. See, if your annoying little - and that's figuratively little, by the way - uncle knows that I have you... Well, he'll come running.''

''No, he won't.'' She shakes her head. ''He won't. He'll know it's a trap.''

''Oh, Bray. Sweet, innocent, naive little Bray.'' He reaches out to touch her cheek and she shrinks back against the wall.

''Please...Please, no...'' His hand comes into contact with her cheek, his rough and calloused hand brushing against her soft skin. All she feels is disgust and contempt and terror. That is not the way a girl should feel when her father touches her cheek. A sob gets caught in her throat like a rock, constricting her airflow.

Something happens when he touches her cheek. The look in his eyes, the eerie calm... It drains away, replaced by panic. ''No.'' He stares at her, an odd and desperate sort of regret flooding through his eyes when he sees the fear on her face. It's entirely out of character for Michael. ''Oh, god...'' His eyes glisten and he practically throws himself away from her, breathing heavily. ''I warned you,'' he growls out with some difficulty, wheezing in pain. She doesn't think he's talking to her anymore. ''I told you... You don't get to touch her...''

Bray struggles to her feet, looking at him apprehensively. No. No, it's a trick. It can't be him. It has to be a trick. She approaches him carefully and hesitantly, mouth gaping in shock. ''...Dean?'' He can barely stand, holding onto the back of a chair for support, body shuddering, back to her. She swallows. ''...Dad? Daddy, is that...is that you?''

He whirls around suddenly and lurches towards her, grabbing her shoulders. She shrieks in shock and fear and his grip on her instantly loosens. ''Lila Bray,'' he breathes out her name like it is the best thing he has ever said. As if it sucks all the air out of him just to say her name. She starts to cry again, sorrow-filled and wistful sobs. Nobody has ever called her Lila Bray. Not since he went away. ''Get out,'' he pleads with her. ''Please... Run... Go as fast as you can, just...just get away from me.''

To her credit, she means to listen to him. She starts to run. She spins away from him and makes a mad dash to the door and she almost makes it outside. Her intent is to get away. But then she stops. She stops because it's her dad. (Besides, she tells herself, what's the point? Michael's going to find her even if she runs.) She turns back for one last look and when she sees him collapse to the ground, back against the wall, struggling just to breathe, she makes a reckless decision that could very well end with her dead. She decides to stay. Rushing forwards, she goes down on her knees next to him. ''Dad,'' she chokes out. ''Oh my god, Daddy...'' She can't see any visible injuries on his body, but he's coughing and can barely breathe. She's willing to bet he has internal bleeding.

''No,'' he gasps out, trying to push her away roughly. ''Stay away. Go... Please, I'm begging you, go. ...He's still here. ...He'll come back.'' He looks at her with dull, tired and broken eyes. ''I can't protect you.''

''I'm staying,'' she says firmly. ''Right here. I won't leave you.''

''You have to,'' he insists weakly.

''No.'' She all but climbs into his lap, wrapping herself up in his weakened embrace and holding on as tightly as she can. ''You can...You can fight him.'' She nods. ''Y-You can fight him off and take back control and - ''

''I can't,'' he whispers. ''I can't, sugar. I'm not strong enough anymore.''

''But you can't leave me again!'' Tears blur her vision and her head begins to hurt from all the crying. ''I can't lose you again, Dad! I don't have anyone else.''

''I'm sorry,'' his voice is soft and breathy. There is a light trickle of blood coming from his mouth and his teeth are coated in blood. ''I'm so sorry. I thought...I thought it was the only option. ...I just wanted it all to be over. I thought he would make it better...'' A fractured dry sob rips out of his lips and he coughs. ''He promised me he wouldn't go after you and your mom...'' His eyes fill with tears and overflow. ''...Your mom... I loved her so much.''

''I-I know,'' she pushes hair out of her face and threads her hand through his. ''Don't try to talk, okay? You're hurt.''

''I'm dying,'' he corrects, ''and I need you to go. Before he comes back.''

''Well, so let him come back!'' She wails. ''Let him come back and take me! I don't have anything else left! I don't mean anything anymore, Daddy. So what's the point? At least if I stay, I'll be with you.''

He looks angry. Not Michael angry, either. This is much more...passionate. Real. ''No,'' he snarls out. ''You'll be with an animated corpse. Listen to me,'' he moves forwards and cups her cheek, bringing his forehead to hers. ''Don't think even for a second that you don't mean anything because you mean everything,'' he squeezes her hand. ''Fucking everything. And I will not let you die because of a mistake I made. I need you to live, Lila Bray. I need you to be brave. Because I love you, my beautiful...beautiful little girl. I love you...and if you die...'' He closes his eyes. Lets out a breath. ''...I know you're scared. ...But you need to be strong. Do it for me.''

She nods shakily, making a half hearted attempt to stop crying. ''Okay.''

''Okay.'' He kisses her forehead gently and draws away from her. His hands fall away from her and he collapses back against the wall. ''Now, go. Quick.''

She stands, even though she doesn't want to, but remains hovering over her father, unable to make herself walk away.

''Go.'' He locks eyes with her, giving her a stern glare. ''Sugar, go!''

She goes. She stumbles back out into the fresh air, the sky quickly brightening overhead as the sun rises. She can barely breathe around her tears and her head is pounding, but she runs anyway, down the steps and out into the trees. She doesn't get far, her clumsy and uncoordinated feet tripping over rocks and branches as she runs through the woods. Sharp branches tangle in her hair as she runs and hit her in the face, scratching her skin. It's not fast enough to outrun Michael, but she has to try. There's a noise from behind her, the snapping of a twig, and she whips around. When she turns back, there is a familiar blonde in front of her. A cool hand latches onto her, lifts her up and then everything is a blur.

It stops within seconds and then she's got her feet planted on a gravel road, far away from the cabin in the woods. Stunned by the unexpectedly fast pace, she collapses to her hands and knees, nauseous and dizzy from the speed. She manages not to puke, blinking away the water in her eyes. She looks up, gulping for breath and meets Aunt Caroline's wet and concerned eyes. The door to a big and old green pick up with a worn paint job slams shut and the second she gets to her feet, Uncle Cas is running towards her and skidding to a halt, falling to his knees in the gravel and pulling her into his arms. He holds onto her forever and when he lets go, Aunt Caroline grabs her in a fierce hug and sobs into her neck. Bray wants to apologize about Damon 'cause she knows Aunt Caroline was still in love with him despite everything, but she can't force the words out.

''It's just you and me now, isn't it, Lila?'' Uncle Cas asks softly.

She meets his eyes and doesn't answer. She thinks this would be the part where she breaks down and cries some more, but she doesn't. She can't. Her eyes have gone dry. She looks back behind her into the trees where she left Damon and Katherine and Stefan and Daddy. She closes her eyes and all she can see is her mother. She gulps and looks down at the ground. She doesn't feel angry. Or scared. Or full of grief. She wishes she did. As it is...

...She can't feel anything anymore.

end part one


AN: I am so very, very sorry about this. My mother has told me I should apologize for this. She read it and she bawled her eyes out twice and now she's trying to wipe it from her memory because it depressed her so much. She doesn't even like Damon and she was crying when he died. Her exact words were, through the tears, ''OH MY GOD, WHY WOULD YOU WRITE THIS? WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HER?'' So, I apologize. I promise the next 'life she never lived' will be at least a little bit lighter.