(A/N): Please forgive this long author's note, but some clarification is necessary...

First, I'd like to thank Kittyinaz – after reading her Bella/Damon ("You're All I'm Asking For"), I simply could not resist writing my own. I highly recommend her stories – any of them, they're all good! – they can be found here on fanfiction, but her unrated versions can be found on her word press, linked on her profile, as well as mine :-)

For Twilight, this takes place after Jacob starts avoiding Bella and she's found by Laurent in the meadow – I've messed with the timeline a bit and instead of this happening in late winter/early spring, I'm setting it in early December. And as for Vampire Diaries, this occurs shortly after Damon opens the tomb and learns of Katherine's betrayal. It is A/U, obviously, and instead of just drowning himself in sorority girls at home, Damon also goes on a little road trip of sin and stumbles upon Bella...

The title comes from Poets of the Fall and their song "Carnival of Rust." Awesome band, and again, thanks to Kittyinaz for turning me onto them!

And on we go...

"It's all a game, avoiding failure, when true colors will bleed
All in the name of misbehavior and the things we don't need
I lust for after no disaster can touch, touch us anymore
And more than ever, I hope to never fall, where enough is not the same it was before"

Poets of the Fall, "Carnival of Rust"

Thirsty for Your Love

She could smell the dead leaves in the air. What had once been a meadow, beautiful and breathtaking when in bloom, was now in the wintertime a deadened clearing that reeked of neglect. There were no flowers smiling at her, no sunlight pulling out the green, blue, and purple hues of the blooms. Everything was gray and brown. Dull and lifeless – just like her. It looked like the vibrant life had been drained away and a haunted feeling settled firmly over her as she saw reflected in nature what she saw in herself.

Bella shivered, moving further into the clearing.

It'd taken much patience and effort to find this place. Jake had helped her out at first, but wasn't returning her calls lately. She imagined he'd gotten bored with her too, and she couldn't really blame him. A part of her felt relieved that he'd pulled away. It was exhausting trying to pretend to be alright when all Bella felt was empty. Soulless.

Dropping to her knees, Bella felt the small pricks from the dead grass even through her jeans. A cool breeze started and even though her body reacted instinctively by shivering, Bella felt numb to the coldness. It was like a fan trying to cool off a chunk of ice – futile.

How had it come to this, she wondered. She was eighteen years old but existentially felt like she'd lived eighteen lifetimes. Perhaps that was childish of her. Maybe she was overreacting in her heartbreak. First love, her mom had told her, was always the hardest to lose.

But it wasn't merely lost to her – it'd been taken. Cruelly, heartlessly, Edward had torn his love away, ripped it from her, leaving a bleeding gaping hole in her chest. Not only that, but he'd taken his family too. It was like they'd gotten a divorce and he'd received sole custody of them, and she had no visitation rights to the people who called her a sister and daughter, respectively.

And lord did it sting knowing she was so easy to cast aside by them all. He'd been the epitome of indifferent as he broke her. Not once in their time together had Bella ever thought him to be the monster he professed to be, not until that day.

It will be as if I'd never existed...

"You lied," she spoke quietly, lost in the memory. "All you ever did was lie."

That was melodramatic, but very true. He'd promise he'd never leave her, told her that he loved her, that she meant more to him than his own existence. And when he got bored, he'd told her she'd forget about him. He'd promised that it would be as if he'd never existed yet she saw him everywhere, was haunted by his words and memory.

She'd swallowed each lie from him, starved for his attention, desperate for his affection.

The hole in her chest fluttered and Bella wrapped her arms around herself in a foolish attempt to hold it together as it cracked under the weight of her grief.

But underneath the sorrow, the beginnings of anger and resentment began to stir. A quiet voice started whispering in the back of her mind – was a man who could abandon her in such a scarring way worthy of her love and devotion? Were the people who called her friend, called her a sister and a daughter, truly her family if they could abandon her without even a goodbye? What kind of family was capable of doing that to one they called their own?

Tears were streaming down her face and the fledgling anger really started to kindle, but before the flames could ignite she heard a twig snapping sharply behind her.

Turning, she inhaled as she saw Laurent walking out between the trees some thirty paces away.

"Laurent," she breathed, using a hand to wipe away the tear tracks from her face – the only evidence of her anger and sadness.

"Bella?" he sounded surprised, but happy. Almost gleeful.

He took a step towards her, and Bella hastily scrambled to her feet to face him. A prudent wariness filled her when he smiled at her, exposing his teeth.

"What are you doing out here on your own, Bella? Are you lost?" he asked, clearly amused.

"No, I'm waiting for someone. They'll be here soon." She wasn't sure why she lied, but everything in her screamed to. Perhaps her self-preservation was finally kicking in, for here she was again, alone in the woods with a vampire. Only this time, the vampire had red eyes that were gleaming at her wickedly.

It was obvious he didn't believe her.

"I admit, I'm surprised to find you here," he grinned.

She took a small step back when he advanced, knowing there was no way she could possibly outrun him. "Why? I live here."

Laurent laughed. "But when I went by the Cullen home and found their scent had faded, I assumed they'd taken you with them. Weren't you sort of a pet of theirs?"

The hole in her chest grew and she fought the urge to grab at her heart as it started racing. His head cocked to the side, poised as he listened, and he smiled again.

"Sort of," she said lowly.

His smile widened. "How fortunate that they tired of you."

Every muscle in her body tightened, but she knew not to run. Not only was escape a pointless endeavor, but it'd likely set off the predator in him like it had done to James.

"And how is that fortunate?" she asked.

He took another step, smirking when she couldn't stop herself from retreating back. "Well, it's fortunate for you, my dear. Fortunate that I found you, and not Victoria."

The redheaded vampire's face flashed in her mind. "V-Victoria? What does she want with me?"

But it felt like a fist was squeezing her heart as she remembered that Victoria had been James's mate.

"Oh, I think you know what she wants, my Bella. She's quite... angry with you and your vampire."

She tensed. "He's not my vampire," she snapped.

"No?" he tsk'd in mock sympathy. "Well, it is of no matter. Edward killed her mate. She wants to kill his."

"I'm not his mate," she insisted. "He left. They all did. I was their pet, nothing more."

And even though she became acutely aware of the fact that she was about to die, she couldn't shake the sorrow and pain from the truth of her words.

"I'm afraid she's not in the right mindset to listen to reason, you understand. You really should be thankful that I found you – she wants to make you suffer, Bella. Whereas I will be generous. I will make it quick."

Suddenly, he blurred and was five paces in front of her. She cried out, fear choking her.

"Sh-h, don't be upset, mon petite fleur. This is easier, no? Easier than being left behind, abandoned by the one who was supposed to care for you. It is not your fault, mon amor. And it is not mine. It is simply in my nature, you see? I'm so thirsty..." he hissed the last word.

He stretched out a hand in exaggerated slowness, and instead of moving away as she had been, for one brief second Bella leaned forward. There was an undeniable truth to his words – it wasn't either of their faults. She was a human who smelled tasty and he was a vampire. Really, just bad timing. And if what he said was true, if Victoria was really after her, then dying at Laurent's hands was sure to be a mercy.

Truth of it all, she was tired. Tired of her mom's incessant babbling as she talked only about herself, simply telling Bella cliché sayings about it's better to have loved than lost before drawing the conversation back to her and her husband. Not once did she genuinely try to help Bella with her heartache, never acknowledging the extent of her daughter's hurt.

Bella was tired of Charlie threatening to send her away, saying the same rote over and over again about how no boy was worth what she was putting herself through. And he was right to an extent, but instead of working with her, his solution was to send her away. Leave her like Edward had. It was exhausting listening to her so-called friends talk behind her back in school. And she was weary from waiting on Jake to return her calls even though in her heart she knew he'd written her off for good, just like everyone else.

She was tired of being alone. Of being second fiddle to everyone and everything. Of never being good enough.

Death would be easy – cold and absolute. No more pain. No more tears. Just blessed darkness.

Laurent's hand gently tilted her face up. The cold touch reminded her of Edward's and she found that strangely fitting, like he was the one delivering this fatal blow.

"There's a good girl," he murmured. "Close your eyes and it will be like falling asleep."

A sad hopefulness filled her, a peace that slowed her racing heart and unclenched her muscles. She closed her eyes.

She could sense him leaning forward, feel the cold puff of his breath against her neck... until it was abruptly gone and she was startled by a voice coming directly beside her.

"Not so fast there, Sparkles."

Bella's eyes flew open and took in the man standing uncomfortably close to her right. He was tall and looked to be in his early twenties. His body was lithe but there was an undeniable strength radiating behind his casual pose. Black hair was windswept and untamed and his clothes were as dark and imposing as the expression he wore.

But it was his eyes that truly captivated her. They were arctic blue glaciers, startling in their coldness and incredibly vivid against his dark bangs. Dressing head-to-toe in black made his eyes were all the more shocking and Bella was reminded of a favorite singer of Charlie's, Johnny Cash. The Man in Black.

A strange sense of awareness filled her, like static electricity humming in the air, vibrating along her arm where his body nearly grazed hers. Foreboding warred with anticipation and Bella felt alive and alert in a way she'd never experienced before.

But still, despite the wicked glint in his beautiful eyes, the unique shade of blue told her he was human and now in danger because of his interference on her behalf. She wondered idly how he got there, how long he'd been in the clearing and why Laurent hadn't noticed him before, but in the end it didn't matter. He was in danger because of her.

"You should run," she warned firmly.

His eyes flicked from Laurent to focus on her. A dark brow arched as he studied her and after a moment, the smirk appeared and he turned back to Laurent who suddenly looked wary.

"I never run from a fight, cupcake," he sounded amused, but there was a strong threat under the words clearly directed at Laurent.

"Seriously," she persisted. "You could get hurt."

He snorted. "He could try," he smirked again.

"This doesn't involve you, friend," Laurent spoke. He sounded cautious and placating, confusing Bella even more.

"Oh I'm not your friend," the man smiled brightly. Bella decided it made him look even more threatening than when he smirked.

"There's no need to fight," Laurent cautioned. "I'm doing her a favor, truly. If it's not me, it will be someone else. She's marked."

"Now that sounds like a challenge," the man grinned. He looked excited, eager even.

"Please," Bella tried again. "You'll get hurt. I'm not worth it." She didn't want this man's death on her conscience. The guilt would kill her quicker than Laurent could.

He glanced at her again, and instead of the cold aloofness there was a new emotion in his beautiful eyes. Concern or curiosity maybe? Whatever it was, it was gone before Bella could analyze it and he was looking back at Laurent again, a new hardness in his steely glare.

"Don't worry about me, gorgeous," he said lightly. "You should be more concerned for your friend here. Laurent, is it?"

Bella blushed at the pet name. Really...? So not the time, she told herself.

"It doesn't have to come to a fight," Laurent said. "Just give me the girl."

The stranger's smile widened. "No," he said succinctly.

"We can share her," Laurent offered. But it was as if he knew the answer to that because no sooner had he spoken was he widening his stance, bracing himself. He looked like a jungle cat ready to spring.

The man shifted beside her in response, his body coming between her and Laurent. The static electricity in the air seemed to increase tenfold and the tiny hairs on her arms stood at attention.

"I'm not the sharing type," the stranger grinned again though his voice was decidedly darker, almost growly. Was it just her or did his teeth look slightly longer than before? "Leave now, while you still can."

Laurent sighed. "It appears you cannot be reasoned with."

Next thing Bella knew they were both moving at impossible speeds. There was a mess of growling and snarling, but she couldn't make out who it was coming from. Her human eyes were simply incapable of following them.

As abruptly as they started, they stopped. She took in the scene before her and found that Laurent was now missing an arm and the strange man was holding it, his mouth opened in a silent snarl.

And the man's face! His eyes were red and black veins seemed to pulse under them – and she could see fangs as he growled ever so slightly. As horrifying as the sight was, she was strangely comforted to see Laurent gasping in pain, clearly worse for wear, and that this strange, otherworldly man in black was obviously winning.

"That looks painful," the man laughed, lifting the arm in his grasp to wave mockingly.

Horrified laughter bubbled within Bella and she slapped a hand to her mouth as it trickled out. The strange man looked at her sharply before smirking again as he tossed her a wink. Clearly she was going into shock if she could laugh at such a dark sight.

Before Laurent could reply, the man blurred into motion again, speeding towards him. There was a terrible wrenching sound and when he stopped, he had Laurent's other arm. He dropped both to the ground, moving again and again until all that remained of Laurent was a mess of limbs tossed haphazardly on top of each other.

It was a terrifying sight, but the man was clearly at ease as he tossed Laurent's head into the pile and reached into his pocket, pulling out a silver zippo lighter. He snapped it open while sparking it to life, his hand hovering over the pile as he pinned her with a look drenched in dark humor. Gone were the red eyes and black veins, and Bella stared wide-eyed into his baby-blues.

"Do you want to do the honors, baby, or shall I?" he lifted a brow in question.

Bella blinked. "Um, n-no," she stuttered. "By all means, you go on ahead."

He smirked, his wrist flicking as he dropped the lighter into the pile. It ignited immediately and a light purple smoke billowed. The smell of Laurent's burning corpse was sickeningly sweet, cloying and tickling her nose.

She sneezed.

"Salute," he said.

"Um, thanks."

There was a rush of wind and then he was in front of her, his chest nearly pressing into hers. Tilting her head back, she looked into his icy eyes but couldn't bring herself to be afraid. Strange creature or not, the man had saved her life. And even if he did decide to kill her now, the idea of death still didn't seem so frightening. Perhaps he'd make it quick and she'd have respite at last.

"Now what to do about you," he murmured to himself, staring into her eyes intently before ducking down into her face, his hand gripping her chin as she flinched away. His hold was tight, but not hurtful, and his fingers weren't as cold as Laurent's even though they were slightly chill against her skin. With his eyes boring into hers she noticed a slight widening of his pupils as he spoke in a firm, hypnotizing voice, "You never came here. You hiked in the woods, but got lost. You managed to find the trail back and you will go home not remembering me, or the vampire Laurent," he said.

He paused, and almost looked uncertain before he added in an even firmer voice, "You'll get over this Edward douche. You'll decide you're better off without him and move on. Do you understand?"

Bella nibbled her lower lip nervously. "Um, no, no I don't." There was not a thing she understood about what had just happened. Laurent was a vampire and this man had laughed as he tore him apart like he was watching the newest rom-com in theaters. Who was this guy – what was he?

The man reared back and for half a second Bella thought for sure he was going to strike her. He looked angry. No, he was beyond angry. He was positively furious, his fangs starting to descend as red started to bleed into his eyes once more.

"Not that I don't appreciate the sentiment," she quickly reassured, taking a small step back. He mirrored the movement and she continued to babble while retreating, "I wish it really did happen like that, but, well, it didn't. And I won't say anything – I'm good with secrets – so I'll go home and pretend all that happened. I swear. I guess that's what you meant, right? Never mind, I'll just leave now. And um – thanks for saving my life."

Bella turned to escape but made it no more than two steps before she crashed into the guy's chest. His hands went to her hips when she started to fall back, and she could feel his fingers clutching her tightly, his pinkies touching her, well, her ass.

She blushed again.

"What a clever little girl you are," he murmured. "Vervain?"

"Ver – what? No, I don't wear any perfume."

His head cocked to the side.

Nervousness made her heart race and even though she knew it would be futile, Bella tried to step out of his arms and make her way back to her truck.

"Now, now – where's your hurry? I just saved your life. Seems like you owe me."

Bella struggled and the man's hands went to her wrists, holding her against his chest. Suddenly he frowned, allowing her to pull back some as he brought her left wrist close to his face, staring intently. He studied the half-moon scar from when James, and then Edward, had bit her. Releasing her other wrist, he brought a hand over and traced the mark with a lone finger, feeling the hard coldness of it compared to the skin next to it on her wrist.

She shivered.

"How did you get this scar?" he asked quietly. "This scar is impossible."

"I – I don't know what you mean. There was an accident and I fell through a window."

He smirked – a favorite expression of his she could already tell. "Speak the truth now."

"I – I am."

Chuckling lightly, he said, "Has anyone ever told you what a horrible liar you are? We'll need to work on that." The last part was said as an afterthought, like a mental note to himself.

"What?" Really, she must sound like a complete idiot to this guy, but she simply couldn't get her mind to wrap around this bizarre situation.

"You don't really believe that I'm going to allow you, a little human girl, to go running around knowing my secret, do you?"

"Are you going to kill me?" she asked, disturbingly not as concerned as she should be with the threat.

"Don't be an idiot. I didn't just waste my time saving your fine ass just to kill you – although I will if I need to."

She didn't doubt him.

"No, I'm going to keep you around for a while, babycakes. You're... entertaining."

Bitterness welled within her. "So you want to turn me into your pet," she spat the last word. Laurent's words still burned in her mind, and Bella would rather die than be somebody's pet ever again. It may have taken a while to appear, but she had too much self-respect to allow that to happen.

"No," he said, his voice uncharacteristically soft. He pulled her closer and stared into her eyes for a long moment so she could read the truth in his gaze. The seriousness left his expression and he smirked once again, saying humorously, "I'm going to turn you into my minion. You'll be my very own personal assistant."

"Are you so desperate for company that you have to resort to me?" she asked. She carried no illusions – Bella knew she was plain and boring. Why this stunning man seemed fixated on her – other than she knew his otherworldly secret – stumped her.


That's all he had to say? Really? Bella rubbed her temples. Give her vampires any day and she'd deal with it, but this guy...

"Come along little girl, time to go." He started tugging her through the forest.

"Um, I parked the other way," she said, stumbling as she kept up with his long strides.

"I know."

"Where are you taking me?" she asked.

"I told you, you're coming with me."



"No," she said more firmly, trying to pull her hand away from him.

"Yes," he said lightly, steadying her when she almost tripped.

"But my dad – I can't just disappear. You can't do this. This is kidnapping!"

"It is," he agreed entirely unconcerned. "Don't worry about your dad. I'll take care of it."

She gasped. "Are you going to kill him? You can't! Please!"

"Relax, I'm not going to hurt him," he said blithely. They'd reached the road and she glanced to the classic Camaro convertible admiringly before trying to break free from his hold again.

"Stop fighting, cupcake. You'll just hurt yourself." He casually picked her up and dumped her into the car, before blurring slightly and appearing in the driver seat next to her. Before she could say anything, the car was started and he was driving towards town.

"Where do you live?"

She crossed her arms and remained silent.

"Don't pout now. We can do this the easy way or the hard – either way, I'll find out, princess."

"You can't do this," she hissed, fear warring with desperation making her heart rate race.

"Relax – it'll be fun."

"I'm being kidnapped by some – some creature! I don't even know what you are, let alone your name!"

"You really don't know?" He asked, genuinely confused.

"I don't know anything anymore! Please, just let me go!"

Sighing, he pulled over. They were still a ways away from town and the street was deserted. With the car still running, he placed his arm along the back of the seat and turned to her, studying her for a long moment with his eyes lingering on the tears slowly spilling over her cheeks. "Your Cold Ones didn't do you any favors, did they, precious?"

Bella sniffed. "What's with all the nicknames?"

He grinned. "I'm trying to find one I like."

She rolled her eyes. "Well you sound like Gollum when you use that one," she told him. "And are you going to tell me your name, or even what you are? Why you've decided to kidnap me?" As the questions burst out of her she started feeling more and more hysterical.

"My name is Damon Salvatore, and I imagine you already know what I am. You just haven't really thought about it."

Damon. Wasn't that the name of the kid in The Omen, the devil child? How fitting. And Salvatore... saint. What an odd contradiction.

"My brain feels like scrambled eggs," she finally sighed. "I can't take much more."

He laughed. "Oh pretty girl, we have much more to go through. Best suck it up now and put on your big girl panties."

"What are you – seriously?"

His head cocked to the side as he went through some sort of internal discussion before he abruptly said, "Vampire."

"No you're not," Bella said.

He grinned. "Yes I am."

"You're not a vampire. I know vampires, you're nothing like them."

"I'm a different breed – superior in every way, naturally."

Her heart started racing again and after this afternoon she wouldn't be surprised if it simply burst out of her chest and ran away. The Cullens had never really been forthcoming about the supernatural world. They only gave her information in little spurts, kept her on a need-to-know basis that had been deadly considering her danger magnet tendencies. She supposed it was possible he was telling the truth. And, her heart twitched painfully as she acknowledged this fact, it was even more possible that Edward had kept her in the dark once again. He'd lied to her many times, after all, and a lie of omission was still a lie.

She remembered Damon's fangs, the red bleeding into his eyes and the black veins. He'd moved faster than her human eyes could follow, used superhuman strength to tear apart and kill Laurent. Up until that day she would've thought that the only way to kill a vampire was with another vampire, and perhaps she was still right. The more she thought on it, she was forced to concede he was telling the truth. She supposed if she believed in the one kind of vampire it was possible for there to be another type – not to mention any other mythical creatures she'd read about.

Both relieved and weary from the burden of her acceptance, Bella let out on a sigh, "Figures."

Damon laughed. "That's the spirit, beautiful. Now tell me where you live and I'll compel your father into thinking you're traveling the world to 'find yourself' or whatever and you'll come with me. No bloodshed, scout's honor."


"Yes, mind control fuckery. I can make people do whatever I want. Doesn't work on you though, and you aren't using vervain that I can tell. You are just fascinating for a human."

A lightbulb went off in her head. "That's what you were trying to do in the meadow." She remembered how his eyes had dilated and his voice had taken on a quiet, commanding tone. Then, she recalled how he'd softened a bit as he commanded her to move on from Edward... "You told me to move on," she said quietly. "To forget about Edward. Why?"

He shifted awkwardly and suddenly refused to meet her eyes as he said softly, "You remind me of someone I know." But just as quickly as the vulnerability appeared it was gone as he smirked, "I suppose I was building good karma – I'm not what you call a nice guy."

"Then why are you doing this? You heard what Laurent said – I'm marked. It's only a matter of time before Victoria finds and kills me. She'll kill you too if you get in the way."

He snorted and when he replied he sounded deeply offended. "You think I can't handle some mentally deranged mate looking for revenge? Really, that hurts. Did you not see how awesome I was at killing Laurent?"

Feeling frustrated, Bella snapped, "But why would you? Yes, you can probably handle Victoria easily from what I just saw, but why would you make it your problem?"

"It's like I said," he answered blithely. "You remind me of someone I know and I'm bored. Eternity can be boring if I don't make my own entertainment."

Bella stared at him and he met her gaze head-on. She supposed it was pointless trying to intimidate a vampire, but she knew there was more to it than he was letting on. Was he bored? Possibly. But her reminding her of somebody...

And it hit her like lightning.

He must've been in the clearing, or very close to it, well before she'd arrived. He likely saw her kneeling, figuratively broken and bleeding as she mourned for Edward even as the first stirrings of betrayal formed. She knew he'd overheard the entire conversation with Laurent, and Damon didn't seem the type of man to step in and save someone out of the goodness of his heart. He struck her as someone that was completely self-motivated, which meant that if he was truthful about her reminding him of someone to point where he would act on her behalf, then that someone... was him.

Bella stared into his cold eyes. They really were a beautiful and unique shade of blue – far better looking than gold, she conceded. Behind the hardness, lingering underneath the smirks and quips, she finally saw it. The hurt, anger, and betrayal bubbling under the surface... She supposed to others it would be undetectable and his mask would be effective in hiding the pain, pushing others away.

But to someone like Bella who was living with the same pain, there was no hiding. He saw a reflection of himself in her, that's why he saved her – why he wanted to continue saving her. And as they continued their staring contest, Bella began to see a shadow of herself in him too. She wanted to have the walls built as effectively as he did, wanted to mask her pain and hide it from others. Maybe if she pretended well enough, the pain really would disappear and she could be free – not in death, but in life.

Knowing better than to ask him to confirm her revelations, Bella said instead, "If I leave, Charlie would be safe from Victoria because she'll follow me."

It was impossible to tell whether he knew of her epiphany or not, but there seemed to be a shuttering in his eyes, almost like he'd resigned himself to her knowledge. "Yes. Mates are driven to seek revenge when their other half is murdered. She won't ever stop coming for you."

"And you will stop her from killing me?"

Damon smirked. "Since it pleases me, yes."

"And when you get bored? What then? Will you kill me?"

He rolled his eyes. "Then you can go on your merry way a better person for having known me. I won't kill you."

She looked intently into his eyes, trying to convey to him the importance of this moment. "Do you swear?"

Some of the humor left his expression and he met her serious gaze with one of his own. "Yes."

"Say it," she persisted. Bella knew vampires to twist truths and she couldn't be to careful.

Damon smirked at her admiringly, almost like he was proud that she caught that he hadn't sworn to anything specifically. "I swear that as long as you're with me I will protect you from anything that wants to hurt or kill you."

Bella sighed, relaxing back into her seat. For better or worse, she was leaving town with Damon, a strange vampire who for some reason related to her and she to him. Charlie would be safe and Victoria would be hot on their trail, but she had a better chance at surviving with Damon than on her own. There was still a part of her unafraid of death. A large part of her that still welcomed the thought of lying down in a blanket of darkness so she could just stop. Stop feeling hurt, lost and helpless.

But there was a newly awakened part of her that didn't want to yield to the pain and wanted to embrace the betrayal instead. She wanted to build walls like the ones Damon so clearly sported so that she could never again feel what burned in her heart. She wanted to fill in the gaping hole in her chest with cement and never open that part of her to love again.

She was smart enough to know that both parts of her were wrong, that neither option was healthy, but in a moment of clarity, she recognized Damon's offer for what it was. Protection, yes, but also company – comfort in a fashion – from someone who understood what she was going through better than anyone else ever could. Bella didn't know his story, doubted if she'd ever work her way past his defenses to find out, or even if it really mattered in the long run. He was probably using her, but she'd be using him too, wouldn't she? Regardless, she recognized the loneliness in the back of his eyes and knew he could see it in her as well. Instead of being by themselves, she reckoned they'd just be alone together.

Misery loves company.

"Once we're in town, turn left after the diner. I live about three blocks down from there."

Damon stared at her. His gaze seemed to be asking if she was sure and she nodded once firmly, both to reassure him and herself. He inclined his head and pulled onto the road again, his ever present smirk curling his lips.

Bella sighed. "This is a bad idea." But even she could hear the resign in her voice.

Damon laughed, a fire sparking in his eyes as he pinned her with a wicked look and said, "There is no such thing as bad ideas. Just poorly executed awesome ideas."

She couldn't help but laugh at that and in response Damon's smile grew. Hitting the gas, they sped into town, Bella's laughter trailing behind them like her hair as it danced through the breeze.

(A/N): So what do we think? Good enough to carry on, or shall I leave it as an open ended one-shot? Let me know your thoughts, and thanks for reading!

...and yes, I did pull some direct from Damon quotes ;)