Chapter 1: Illusions of My Mind

Damon woke up with beads of sweat lining the crown of his forehead. It was the fourth day this week he woke up from a nightmare. He wiped his face, and got out of bed ambling to the kitchen for a cold glass of water. Ever since they left him he'd been having nightmares of how he could have stopped it, but no matter what he did, the risks he took…they were still gone.

While sitting at the island in his loft apartment, the moonlight cast a beam over a picture of them. They were the best of friends; Mia and Katherine. He smiled sadly. It was taken months before they disappeared, both of them happily posing; Mia with her big smile, and Katherine puckering a kiss for Damon, who was taking the picture.

Finishing his drink quickly, Damon put the glass in the sink and decided to get an early start on his day by taking a shower. He didn't need to be at the Site office until 6:00am but he figured he might as well get all the paperwork sorted out before the crew showed up.

Damon was never interested in the family business. Stocks and shares meant nothing to him…he wanted to get his hands dirty. Literally dirty, not figuratively like his Father and Uncle did, laundering money through the business' charity division. Damon preferred to work hard for the money he earned, and his dedication to his own contracting business was proof of that.

He threw on his jeans and white t-shirt, grabbing his hard hat, vest and stepped into his work boots by the door. He grabbed an energy bar for breakfast and went down the elevator to the car park where his truck was. 'Salvatore Contracting' was scrawled across the side in white over the black coat, and equipment was loaded in the trunk. This was his everyday routine, Sunday through Saturday. Get up and go to work for 6am, leave site at 6pm have a drink or ten at the pub, stumble home, eat, sleep, repeat. Everyday.

It was the only way to get his mind off of the two girls. Work and alcohol were his crutches. It had been two years since they went missing…and about six months ago they had been assumed dead.

Damon spent most of his day working with the crew, instead of sitting in his office. He took his frustrations out on demolition, focusing on the project at hand, and only stopped when the hot sun forced him to drink. He was working himself to exhaustion, hoping that it would make him sleep easier, but his efforts were fruitless. It was nearly 7pm by the time his day was over, truck parked in his garage, Damon walked down the street and he found his usual spot at Bree's Pub at the bar.

Bree sauntered over and moved the bourbon she had already prepared from behind the counter to sit in front of him. "You're late today." She commented wiping the counter.

"Yeah." He mumbled in response. Bree was used to his short one word answers and never questioned him. She knew enough about the man to know that he had a lot of hurt.

Bree nodded. "Let me know when you're ready for another." She moved to the other side of the bar to take the order of another customer.

Damon sighed heavily looking into the bottom of his glass like he was waiting for it to swallow him whole. He was living his life in pointless routine of self-destruction. Was this even really living? He couldn't even remember the last time he made a connection with someone, whether it be sexual, emotional or otherwise. He hadn't even spoken to his own mother in three months. She had been devastated after hearing the news about her only daughter…but Damon had lost them both.

The love of his life and his baby sister…gone. He didn't even think he could feel anymore. He was just numb.

It didn't take him long to polish off his bourbon and Damon caught Bree's gaze and tapped his glass, signally that he was 'ready'. "Thanks." He added. "I'm gonna leave you a nice tip." It was uncharacteristic of him to say more than a few words at a time to her, so naturally Bree was surprised.

Her brows rose. "He speaks!" she teased. "And you always do." She threw a wink at him and poured him an extra shot. "On the house." She moved about flirting with the male customers, laughing and joking with them.

It had been a long time since he laughed like that. Mia was so funny. She always had a quick quip or a witty retort…even when she wasn't trying to be funny she would make him laugh. She had to get it from him.

Damon stayed at the bar until 9:50pm. He was smashed…just the way he liked it. Paying his large bill, that included probably the most deliciously greasy burger he'd ever had, Damon made his way home promptly passing out on the couch, with his shoes still on.

It was probably one of the rougher mornings he'd had recently, but it didn't stop him from getting up when his alarm sounded. It took him a minute to find the motivation to turn it off, before rolling off the couch.

Damon left a trail of clothes behind his as he headed for the shower, moving on auto pilot. He let the water droplets rain over his face as if washing last night's drunken stupor from his skin. He was pretty sure he made a completely inappropriate suggestion to a leggy blonde that slipped into the seat beside him. He couldn't even remember her face. He made the water scalding hot, forcing memories away from behind his eyes.

Damon pounded on the bathroom door that connected his room to his sister's. Why couldn't he have the room with its own bathroom? He was the oldest! But in a way it was easier for him to keep an eye on her. "Seriously Mia! Open the damn door, you've been in there for over an hour!" he bellowed through the thick wooded barrier.

Mia yanked the door open seconds later. "We're getting ready…there's a huge party at Lucy's tonight. It's important we look amazing." She explained in her enthusiastic way, a broad smile putting dimples in her cheeks.

Damon stared out her outfit in disapproval. She was wearing a short black dress that flowed slightly at the bottom, giving it a flirty lift, black strappy heels with flashy gems covering the strips holding her foot in place and a long pendant necklace that fell down the plunging neckline. Her short black bob was parted so her bangs rested on an angle over one eye and fell straight with a blunt cut that was slightly shorter in the back and longer in the front. She had cut it about a week ago because 'it made her look more mature'.

That's when he saw her. Katherine was standing behind her applying lipstick in the mirror. She was wearing a tight wine-red strapless dress that stopped two inches before her knee with a black lace hem around the edge of the skirt. She topped it with matching black lace and satin pumps that accentuated her long legs. But oddly what he loved the most was her hair; it fell in perfectly curled locks that framed her face and cascaded down her back and shoulders like a waterfall of chocolate spirals. He immediately wanted to run his fingers through it. Damon caught her glancing at him out of the corner of her smoky eye slyly, and blessed her with one of his infamous smirks.

Mia's face scrunched in disgust and she slapped him across the chest. "Ew, stop being a creep! Don't you have a date to get ready for?" she stated cheekily.

Damon's eyes didn't leave Katherine's. "Unfortunately." He drawled it out while his eyes drank her in. He winked when a light blush colored her cheeks and she hid a smile. As he headed back into his room he called over his shoulder. "Have a good night ladies…and Mia, there is no way you're leaving this house looking like that!" he heard her growl in frustration before slamming the door.

Damon shut the water off and grabbed a towel from the rack. That was just the beginning of his pursuit of Katherine Pierce. She didn't make it easy for him, which he found a happy challenge. Damon never found it difficult to pick up women; they threw themselves at him. His most difficult problem when it came to women was which one he'd take home first.

But when it came to Katherine, he had broken every rule he made for himself.

8. No dates

7. Never get jealous

6. No gifts

5. Never meet her parents

4. Never let her meet your parents

3. No sleepovers

No weekend getaways

And last but not least…

NO usage WHATSOEVER of the 'L' Word.

It took Damon all of three months to tell her he loved her; his biggest and most important rule broken by one unexpected brunette beauty. He was somewhat surprised when she didn't waste any time in enthusiastically returning the words with a simple smile, like she heard them from him a million times before. It was a shock to no one that he was in love, the way he looked at her made it obvious to anyone with eyes.

They were the 'it' couple. The couple you didn't want to be the third wheel with, the couple that always had to touch each other in some way, the couple that used to make him sick before she came along; together for six years, practically inseparable and completely in love. Of course they had their fights like anyone else. She would be stubborn and go against him and Damon would lash out and drink himself stupid before coming home to 'make it up to her'. She could never resist him, and he could never have enough of her.

Damon missed her like crazy. Living in the apartment they once shared; seeing her sitting on the window bay overlooking the city as she read, or curled up in the corner of the couch watching TV…it was like losing his other half. Now he just seemed to wander through life aimlessly.

His day went by as it usually did and he sighed in relief when he finally sat in his barstool at Bree's. She placed a bourbon in front of him to start his night. Sipping it casually, he watched people filter in and out cheerfully either happy to be off work or in excitement to meet their friends, lovers or dates.

Damon envied them. He had nothing to look forward to at the end of his day except a bottle.

Five bourbons and two hours later, and Damon was nearly ready to go home.

"Do you mind if I sit here?" A voice that sounded hauntingly familiar spoke quietly from beside him. Damon took his time turning to look at her, thinking he may be dreaming or completely insane. When he finally let his eyes settle on the woman, he thought he was indeed insane.

She looked like Katherine; not exactly like her but almost identical. There was a small beauty mark beside her right eye that Katherine didn't have and her cheeks were a little fuller and her hair was long and fell straight in voluminous layers in contrast to Kat's curls.

Damon noticed her uncomfortably shift her feet under his intense scrutiny. "No…" he stated gruffly. "Go ahead." He pulled his gaze away from her and told himself that now would be a good time to leave, but instead found himself reaching over the bar and grabbing the scotch, generously pouring himself a glass of something harder. His mind was subconsciously torturing him by conjuring up an image of his dead ex-girlfriend and the idiot that he was wanted to indulge in it. With his luck it was probably the blonde from last night ready to take him up on his offer.

She laughed in a way that pulled at his heart strings. She sounded like her. "Aren't you supposed to wait for the bartender to do that?"

He swirled it in the tumbler and gulped half of it down. "I'm a regular."

She nodded and caught Bree's attention as she walked by. "Oh, can I get a long island please?"

Bree stopped noticing her for the first time and stared at her in awe for a moment before glancing at Damon, who was completely engrossed in staring down at his drink. "Um sure…right away." She quickly made the drink with practiced ease and expertise and set it down in front of her.

"Thank you." The woman said with a smile. "Hey, you wouldn't happen to know where I could find Damon Salvatore, would you? I heard he comes here."

Bree cast the man in question a subtle glance, and Damon's heart pounded.

Why would she be looking for me? Damon found himself piping up before she could say anything. "Only all the time." It effectively relieved the awkward silence and allowed Bree to move to the other end of the bar unnoticed.

She glanced at him in surprise her brows raise high on her forehead. "You know him?"

He nodded slowly. He was drunk enough to find the situation amusing. He would never remember it tomorrow. "Yup, God only knows why you'd be looking for him…he's a dick." He managed to articulate around his drunken slur.

A frown marred her face. "Well I was hoping he could help me with something."

Damon allowed himself a chuckle. "Don't know how much help he'll be…" he leaned in conspiringly. "He's a little drunk."

It took her a moment to realize that he was talking about himself and when she did her eyes widened. "You're Damon Salvatore?" she nearly whispered.

He rolled his eyes up in exaggerated self-righteousness. "The one and only." Damon refused to look at her directly, mainly because he had convinced himself that this woman looked nothing like Katherine, but his alcohol induced brain combined with recent reminiscing was the cause for the illusion before him. "What can I do for you?" he drawled.

She eyed him warily. "My name's Elena…I was hoping you could tell me about my sister…Katherine."