Chapter One.

Libia's eyes were drooping as she pulled up to the school. Her long lashes brushing her cheeks with how tired she was. She knew this day would not be easy. The first day of school never is.

Her hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail, her school uniform messily thrown on. The night before had been filled with nightmares about this day, for Libia Fields was not the best at making friends. In fact, she'd been deemed the loner because she was just too shy to make friends. 

She was pretty, no doubt, with a heart-shaped face, long, wavy, raven black hair and chocolate brown eyes. Of course, she didn't see her beauty as others did. Who does?

If you asked a beautiful woman what she thought of herself - honestly, and with no embellishments - she'd tell you that she thought her butt was too fat, or that her face was too chubby, or that she had no curves or something of the sort. Libia, of course, wore makeup, did her hair when she felt like it, and sat at home watching comedies and reading books when she wasn't in the dance studio or studying. Every girl once or twice a week looks at herself in the mirror and thinks, "I'm fabulous today." and then the next day, they look at themselves and wonder how they came to that conclusion.

And Libia was no different. Of course, the eighteen year old girl had no intentions of making friends this year, as she hadn't every year. But as we all know, intentions are not always set in stone.

So, Libia entered the school, looking in envy at the girls with perfect blond hair and barbie doll complexions. Not knowing that she herself, was getting looks of envy.

She crossed her arms, trying to make herself as small as possible so no one would notice her. A trait she'd picked up from her shy ways. She wished she'd left her hair down, so it could shield her face from the curious on-lookers. Her mother, a boisterous woman with a big personality, had moved Libia here over the summer in hopes for a fresh start, so she had no idea what to expect from these kids, or who to avoid. She had no doubt that these kids knew each other, and that she was as much a stranger to them as they were to her. Already, she could hear people asking about her, hear the whispers, the rumors that had already circulated. Libia, even though she'd moved here in the middle of the Summer, had talked to no one in the town. They'd seen her walking the streets to reach her dance class, or stopping at Starbucks are her way back, and they'd created rumors about her. It was only natural that, since they had no solid facts, they'd let their mouths run as their minds wondered.

Some, although their friends only suggested it, took those wandering thoughts as facts, and passed them from friend to friend. There creating a rumor.

But I digress.

Libia made her way to her first class as the warning bell chimed, having memorized the map in her mind the day before. She would stop by her locker when she needed it, she decided.

She entered her first period, English Lit. It was a class she'd been anticipating to take. What she did not anticipate, was the teacher's obvious excitement to have her here.

"Ah, you must be our new student!" The teacher, Ms. Bakes exclaimed, her eyes alight with glee.

"Yes." Was all Libia was able to say, too shy to look up at the crowd of kids she knew was staring at her.

"Well introduce yourself while I sign the slip!" She insisted, taking the slip from the girl's shaking hands.

Libia's hands began to sweat, and she looked up, finally meeting the crowded room's gaze, before she looked down again. "My n-name is Libia Fields." She said quietly.

"Where do you come from, Libia?" Ms. Bakes asked her, oblivious to the girl's discomfort.

Feeling that she'd be less inclined to bolt from the room in fright if she only addressed the teacher, she answered, "I was born in F-France, but I grew up in...Michigan." She was finally able to answer, almost shrinking back from the audience.

"Wonderful! Take a seat, and Garrison will grab you a book." She said.

She was so relieved to be away from the spot light that she practically ran to the back, plopping down in the corner. For the hundredth time in her life, she cursed her shyness. It crippled her sometimes.

She looked up as a book was set in front of her, and gave a barely-convincing smile to the young man. He smiled back, and then walked back to his seat. When the lesson began, Libia tried to concentrate on it, but their were people staring at her, as if one look at her would tell you her whole life, and put their curiosity to rest. She found herself reading from her text book, just so she'd be able to get her mind off of their prying eyes.

"You look a little flustered." A female voice came from beside her.

Biting her lip, Libia looked up. She found a girl with curly brown hair and blue eyes, crinkling at the sides as she smiled at the petite, shy girl beside her. 

"I...I suppose I am." Libia mumbled.

"I'm Vivi Hallow. Named after the road in front of my house, if you can believe that." Her voice held a cute rasp, and a southern drawl.

"It's nice to meet you." Libia met her eyes briefly, before looking away.

"You're a shy one, aren't 'yah?" Vivi observed. "Well, you don't have to be shy around me, darling. I'm as docile as a teddy-bear." Vivi assured her, setting a hand briefly on Libia's arm before returning to her work.

Libia gave a shy smile, before returning to her work as well. 

After her first class passed without a hitch, she made her way to her second period. She stumbled through the halls as people shoved past her, finding her locker number so she could put her book away. 

She closed her locker, only to be startled when someone appeared from behind it.

"Hello." He greeted smoothly.

Swallowing a gulp of air as she settled her hand over her heart, she only stared at the boy. His blond hair was shaggy, but still attractive, his features defined and masculine. A strong jaw framed two perfect lips, and was peppered with an attractive stubble. He had a straight nose leading up to these deep blue eyes. Libia felt crippling shyness take over, as she averted her eyes.

"H-h-hello." She managed in a barely audible murmur, her hands trembling as she lifted her bag to her shoulder.

In the corner of her eye, she saw his lips turn up in an arrogant smirk. "You must be the new girl." He murmured.

As he spoke, Libia's cheeks burned red, and she tried desperately to think of what to say to him. 

"I am."

And then, with her heart racing, she turned and walked briskly away, fearing she'd say something really stupid to the attractive boy who, for some reason, took it upon himself to speak with her. 

Ugh, Libia you are so stupid! She scolded herself, rubbing her arms uncomfortably.

When she made it to History, pushing into the classroom unceremoniously. Blushing at the attention she drew to herself, she quickly handed the slip to her teacher. Mr. Gates assessed her for a moment, smiling slightly in amusement at how the girl stared down at her shoes. He decided to give her a break, seeing as her hands were trembling at her sides.

"Please sit down, Ms. Fields. There is a book on your assigned desk." He prompted.

Libia let out a heavy breath of relief and rushed to her seat. She refused to meet anyone's eyes, keeping her own trained on her desk as if her life depended on it. She knew that there were people looking at her, and she didn't like it. She had been assigned to a seat in the middle, giviing everyone a perfect view of her. 

"Ah, Johnson, nice of you to join us. Please take a seat."

Without her say, her eyes drifted up at the teacher's voice, and they met the hazel eyes of whom she assumed was Johnson. He wore a charming smile, and his face was the essence of masculinity. His eyes shined with mischief, and ran a hand through his shaggy head of brown hair as he approached.

Oh no. she thought. Don't sit here. Don't sit here!

 She had a sinking feeling that this cute boy was her science partner. Quickly, she averted her eyes, and as she thought, he slid into the seat beside hers, settling his book in front of him.

She didn't speak to him, opening her book to the first page to destract herself.

"Hi, I'm Johnson Braker. You must be Libia." He introduced himself, sticking his hand out.

She looked up at him breifly from under her lashes, carefully taking his hand in my weak grasp. "Fields. L-Libia Fields." She studdered.

"Ah, a pretty name for a pretty girl." He replied smoothly.

To Libia's dismay, she let out a girly giggle. Her face turned cherry red and she looked back down at her book, unable to speak. 

"So, Libia, how's school been treating you so far?" He asked her, oblivious to the fact that she was extremely uncomfortable.

"U-um, fine I guess." She mumbled, shyly folding her hands in her lap as her eyes flitted from his to the desk, over and over again.

Johnson chuckled as he watched the girl struggle to form a sentence, his mind already coming up with a plan. She was beautiful, no doubt. Naive, too. He was going to have fun getting into her innocent pants. All he had to do was put on the charm, and she'd be putty in his hands.

Having slipped in unseen behind Johnson, Damon watched the two from his seat in the back. He knew by the sly smirk that Breaker had that he was going to do something. He always targeted the weak girls. Libia was a prime subject. Damon felt pity for the girl, who would soon turn into Breaker's Guinea pig. She was currently speaking to Johnson, her body exuding a timidness worthy of a rabbit. You wouldn't know it from just looking at her. She was a beautiful girl, even with her hair pulled back into that messy ponytail, almost reaching mid-back. Her wide, chocolate brown eyes were framed with long black lashes. She would make a babe if she dressed properly. Damon smiled slightly at the thought, but quickly dissmissed it. A girl like that wouldn't come within twenty feet of him. Too shy. She proved that from the stunt she pulled a few minutes earlier. 

I am. Was her timid reply. The girl couldn't even look at him. And then she ran.

She ran. He chuckled.

Meanwhile, Libia was trying her best not to stutter as the cute boy talked to her as if she were the most fascinating thing he'd ever encountered, asking where she was from, why she moved, her hobbies, skills, anything and everything. He'd usually just recieve a one-or-two-word answer.

When the bell finally rang, she jumped from her seat like her shoes were on fire and rushed from the room, afraid that she'd embarrass herself if she lingered any longer. To her dismay, her foot caught on the table on her way out, and she went flying forward, only to hit a wall-of-a man. Her brown eyes clashed with familiar blue ones, and her cheeks flushed.

"Better be careful there, sweetheart. Wouldn't want that pretty face of yours to bruise." He chuckled, unable to keep himself from helping her out, he saw the alarm in her face as she tripped, and he wanted to tease her.

He was rewarded with bright red cheeks. "I-I-I'm sorry." She was stumped, she couldn't think of a single thing to say, with her hands still pressed to his chest, and his arms around her waist.

"Not a problem." He shrugged, finally letting her go.

Her hands lingered on his chest for a moment, as she was unwilling to lose the warmth, and, if she was being shamefully honest with herself, she liked the feeling.

Hmm. Damon thought deviously, watching as she lingered, pressed against him. Maybe goody-two-shoes is not as good as she seems.

 Johnson, who'd been watching the whole scene play out, cleared his throat, a little annoyed that Slain had gotton the girl to actually touch him willingly. She didn't even look at him. Johnson wasn't jealous, per say, but he knew Slain was doing this on perpose, as he sent a grin his way.

As if snapping back into reality at the sound of Johnson, Libia sprang away from the man. She felt disbelieving that she hadn't even learned his name yet.

"I have to go." She said, leaning down to pick up the book she'd carelessly flung on the floor when she fell. She quickly stood back up, gave a slight smile of thanks to the boy, and quickly fled down the hall.

Damon watched her go, a plan forming in his head. He knew there was some confidence hiding in that timid little body somewhere. He just had to find it.

Chapter Two.


After a long, long day, Libia ended up jogging home, her headphones in her ear, humming quietly to herself through her heavy breathing. She had to keep in shape for dance class, it was the only rule her teacher gave her.

Besides the fact that she loved jogging because of the wind in her face and the liberation it gave, it made her feel somewhat normal. When she ran, she felt like a regular person, instead of a person so shy she could suffocate with it. Her ponytail bounced behind her, following with the beat of the music. She reflected on the day she had with a shake of her head.

Johnson, the boy in her science class, wouldn't stop following her. He'd walk her from class to class, speaking to her, even though she rarely spoke back. She couldn't count the glares she was recieving from countless girls, and she didn't like it. Many a time she tried to hint that she didn't want the attention, but he wasn't having it. She was just lucky that Vivi had her sit with her and her group of friends. It seemed she was sitting at a table of missfits. All of them greeted her warmly, and she instantly felt okay with them. She knew that if she said something stupid, they'd laugh it off. She was able to relax.

But of course, as soon as she stood from the table and put her tray away, there Johnson was. She was seriously close to just taking off running, extremely embarrassed that she couldn't even look him in the eye. 

She also had a few encounters with the boy who caught her. She later found out that his name was Damon Slain. A strange name. She figured out that she had science, art, math, and gym with him, although they were always seperated into different teams, devided by gender.

Libia sighed, knowing she'd have to go to work tonight. She had the unfortunate night-shift at the twenty four hour grocery store down the road from her house. Usually she always went for the 10:00 or even the 7:00 but sometimes she was forced into the night shift.

She was surprised to see that the house was almost completely free of boxes when she walked through the front door. The living room was completely unpacked, looking nicely decorated, and the kitchen had been set up nicely.

"Mom? Ben?" She called.

No answer. She must have done this before she went to the hospital. Libia's mom worked the night-shift at the hospital. From eight O clock to six she worked. She came home every morning a few minutes before she had to go to school, and usually she just crashed into bed. Libia felt sorry for mom. She tried hard to work for Ben and Libia..

Ben is her older brother. Usually he's out of the house with his friends. After the move, he went out and quickly made new aquaintances. Libia just sat in her room reading.

Libia had no qualms about leaving my home town. After their father left, their mom needed a fresh start, so she applied for a job at the hospital ahead of time, bought a house, and they moved. The only one who had problems was her brother. Ben got his personality from mom. He was a bubbly person that everyone loved, including Libia. Of course, he had good friends back home that he didn't want to lose. Eventually, after one night of seeing their mom come home crying that she couldn't take it anymore, Ben gave in, and agreed to move.

Their house was a nice, middle-class, one story house in a suburban area. The living room and the kitchen were seperated by a bar, and a hallway in the kitchen led to two different bedrooms on either side of the wall, while the master bedroom branched out from a door in the living room.

Right now, all Libia's bedroom held were posters of her favorite dance-style. Hip Hop. Libia, despite her shy attitude, was always obsessed with Hip Hop, even when she was a little girl. Breakdancing, as some called it, made her feel more alive, and less like the shy girl she used to be. She also had pictures up on her wall of her while she did her dance routines. But that was her class back in her home town.

No one, not even her mother knew that she was in this class. She always said that she was going to work when her mother asked. Her mother never came in her room, and when she did, as bubbly as she was, she wasn't vigilant at all. She didn't even notice the pictures. Not even her brother knew. 

Not only was did it make her feel like she was finally doing something on her own, without the judgemental eyes of anyone, but she felt that if her mother knew, she'd make a big deal about it, and Libia hated attention.

She studied for a few hours, and then changed into a black, tight shirt and tan slacks.

After settling her books back on the desk, she grabbed her phone and started out the door. She was startled when she bumped into Ben.

"Oh, hey Ben." She greeted with a small smile.

He smiled back at her. "Hey Libbi. I want you to meet my friend here, Cam. Cam, this is my sister, Libia." Libia looked behind Ben to see a guy around her age, with soft green eyes and blond hair. "It's nice to meet you." She greeted shyly, before turning back to Ben.

"I'm headed to work. Mom needs those energy drinks for her shift tomorrow, so if you drink them tonight, make sure you replace them." She ordered.

"Will do Captain." He saluted her playfully.

She gave a teasing smile as she saluted him back. "See you later. It was nice meeting you Cam." She called in a soft voice, heading down the sidewalk.

"Be careful!" Ben called.

"Ha!" Libia said, rolling her eyes.

After a five minute jog, Libia entered the store, waving to Val, her co-worker to signal that she was off.

Val let out a sigh of relief and waved back, beginning to gather her things. Libia spoke to her for a few minutes, before she left.

She and a few others were the only ones working tonight, and she was mostly just standing at the register, fiddling with the codes for different foods. Someone entered the store, much to her surprise, but she didn't look up as she bit her lip, trying to remember the code for asparagus. 

"Hey Lib, you got a minute to look at this thing?" One of her co-workers, Bennett asked.

Bennett is an old man, his hair shot with grey and his eyes framed with wrinkles. Many times a night he'll ask Libia to look at a machine he's having a problem with - Libia has always had a knack for fixing things. Everything's a puzzle to her.

"Sure Benny." She murmured, walking over to see what was wrong.

She was busy, with wire cutters and a wrench, fixing the coin machine. There was a problem with the screen, every time you would press a button, the backlight would flicker.

"Libia?" She heard the unmistakable voice of Damon.

She paused, looking up. A small smile made it's way to her face, more comfortable with herself when not under the eyes of hundreds of people. "Damon." She greeted softly, her cheeks tinging red.

His eyes flickered to the coin machine. "What are you doing?"

"There's a problem with the coin machine. A short in one of the wires. Needs re-wiring is all." She explained, pushing the panel back into place and shutting the door.

She stood up, brushing her pants off. "What are you doing here so late?" She asked.

He glanced down at the basket he had in his hand. "I'm with a few friends. They dissapeared know how to fix this stuff?" He asked, eyeing her skeptically.

She let out a soft laugh, taking his basket from him and taking it to the register. "Yes. All it takes is a little bit of puzzle-solving and tinkering."

"Huh." He said simply, watching as she began to ring up his items.

She looked up at him, absently sliding a bottle of soda over the scanner. "What?"

"You're one of those people." He said vaguely.

She crinkled an eyebrow, giving him a timidly amused glance. "One of what people?"

"One of those super-geniuses. Tell me - what comes to mind when I say the square root of 35?"

"That's easy, it's five," She answered immediately, and then added, "But I'm not a genius. I just study." She shrugged.

He let out a laugh that was surprisingly loud. "Sure."

She didn't answer, mostly because his laugh was like silk. It sent chills down her spine, but warmth flooded her veins at the same time.

"That's twenty five thirty six." She murmured, glancing up at him.

He pulled out his wallet, handing her a fifty.

"So, I hear that Johnson kid has been following you around like a lost puppy." Damon commented as she counted out the change.

Her cheeks reddened. "I wish he wouldn't."

Damon raised an eyebrow, so she explained, "I don't like attention, especially when jealous girls are involved." She murmured.

Damon was definitely intrigued now by the strange girl. He watched her hair, which she'd let down from it's ponytail, fall over her shoulder as she reached down to grab something from under the counter. The black shirt she wore was skillfully showing off her soft curves. Her eyes - when they met his, which was rarely - were so soft and chocolatey brown that he could get lost in their depths. Right then, he wanted her. Not just in his bed, as he's had many before, but to be his. He wanted her to take the chance with Johnson, so he'll leave her, and she'll come running to him. He knew it was a cruel thing to hope for, but it would be the only way she would accept him. This was a process. Johnson breaks her heart, she runs to Damon, and Damon changes her - for the better - while also, in the process, makes her his. It wasn't going to be easy, but Damon loved a challenge, and it was going to be a damn fun one.

Libia, oblivious to Damon's devious thought process, handed him his change and gave a shy smile. "I hope you find your friends."

He smiled back, although his was much more charming and confident, and it held a secret amusement, as if there was a joke that she was missing.

"Thanks." He replied, making sure their hands brushed when he grabbed the money from her.

Chapter Three.


Three days later, Libia sat with my eyes drooping and her head on her folded arms, staring into the pitch black darkness where her desk should be. She worried she might drool, but sleep was overtaking her, so she was really beginning to not care. 

"Ms. Fields!" She yelped, sitting straight up.

"Y-yes Mrs. Gable?" Libia stuttered, pushing her hair out of her face.

"Rough night I presume?" Her History teacher barked, staring down at her.

She gulped. "U-um...I didn't get much sleep last night and-"

"I don't care!" She snapped, with all the ferocity of a drill sergeant.

Libia could feel herself shrinking. "I expect you to be fully alert and paying attention in my class, Ms. Fields. Sleeping is for your bed!" She barked.

Damon watched with clenched fists as his teacher belittled the fragile girl. He wanted to open his mouth so bad, but he knew that he had to bide his time. Let Johnson deal with this.

"I'm giving you an hour of detention after school."

"An hour!" Libia gasped.

"An hour, Ms. Fields. Maybe you think next time before you doze in my class."

Libia could feel her hands shaking beneath her desk, as her eyes watered. Her mother would kill her. Libia was made a criminal for staying up late for work. She needed this money to add to her college fund. How could her teacher be so cruel?

Libia had a tightening in her chest. She had work after class. She couldn't stay for detention.

"B-but I have work." She squeaked.

"Detention, Ms. Fields!" Her teacher barked once again.

Libia could feel panic overwhelming her. Her manager was strict. He wouldn't put up with something like this. He counted on Libia being a good student, and Libia needed this job. As long as she was on time, he'd work with her school schedule. Not only was college a thing to think about, but she had to pay for her dance class on Friday.

"Mrs. Gable." Libia heard a smooth voice call.

"Yes, Mr. Breaker?" Mrs. Gable asked politely.

"Libia is a good student with top notch grades. She has a job that keeps her up late at night. I'm sure if she could have, she would paid rapt attention to you." Johnson said calmly.

Libia cringed, afraid she'd hear another outburst from the teacher. But Mrs. Gable simply stared at Johnson for a few seconds, and then shifted her gaze to Libia. "I understand. I am sorry for the outburst, Ms. Fields. I won't give you a detention slip. Just please pay attention in my class next time." Mrs. Gable said, her voice calm and collected.

Libia was surprised, blinking away the tears left over from her panic attack. "Th-thank you." She stumbled out, sending Johnson a glance that thanked him way more than words could.

He gave a small smile, nodding once.

The rest of the class went by without a hitch, as Libia made sure to pay rapt attention to her easily-angered teacher.  She was carefully putting her books in her locker, her hair falling in her face to keep the attention away.

"Hey, Libia." Johnson greeted, stepping up to her.

She looked up at the handsome boy, giving a shy smile, the corners of her lips lifting just an inch. "Hi. Listen, thank you so much for what you did in there I really didn't know what I would have done. I really owe you one." She murmured, her eyes shyly flitting back to her locker as she put another book away.

Johnson smiled brightly. It was exactly what he needed to hear. "I have a way that you can make it up to me." He said.

She looked up at him. "Yeah, anything."

Johnson almost felt sorry for the easily trusting girl. Her eyes staring up at him expectantly. It struck him to realize just how trusting this girl really was. She didn't think for one second that he would take advantage of her.

"Come with me to the pizza shop down by Lazarus Street." He said.

Libia was so surprised, that the book she was holding slipped from her hands, falling with a thump to the floor. Neither of them even looked at the book. For the first time, in shock, she was staring straight into his eyes, without looking away.

"I...what?" She stuttered.

He grinned down at her, and her cheeks turned bright red. "Let's shorten it. Will you go on a date with me?"

"I can't tonight." Was her immediate, quiet answer.

The grin didn't falter. "Than tomorrow after school."

Libia thought for a moment. She had dance class on Fridays, but it was early in the morning, and ended rather early.

"I think that can be arranged." Libia nodded, her cheeks going red again.

"Okay." And he leaned down, pressing a lingering kiss on her cheek that had her burning with embarrassment.

He stooped down, grabbing her book and gently settling it into her hands. And then he was gone, melting into the crowd.

"Libbi." Libia turned at her nickname.

"Ben. What are you doing here?" She asked, shoving her books into her locker and closing it.

Had she not been so distracted by the still-tingling kiss on her cheek, she would have seen Ben's panicked expression.

"Mom's home." He said.

She raised an eyebrow, turning to finally look at him. His breathing was ragged, and his eyes were panicked. She settled her hands on his wide shoulders, looking him straight in the eyes. "So what does that mean?"

"It means she's home...and so is Dad."

I could feel my face go pale. Ben wasn't a good peace maker. He would ramble on, and make the situation worse when he's nervous. Libia was more the voice of reason in the house.

Without another word, he grabbed her by the arm and began dragging her away. "I am so stupid. When he got there I started talking about how it was great to see him and then Mom got home early and I started rambling asking mom if she thought it was great to see him too and-"

"Ben. I'm going to have a bruise on my arm if you don't stop squeezing." I rolled my eyes.

His grip loosened, but he was still walking briskly, making me run to keep up.

"Hey, Libia- whoa, what's going on?" Cameron, a friend from her table began running with them.

"Sorry Cam. Can't talk right now. Emergency at home. Will you tell the principle? Thank you!" Libia called, not waiting for an answer.

Damon was distracted from his conversation with his friends when the doors to the school slammed open, and an older guy that Damon hadn't seen came striding out, Libia in tow. Libia was running to catch up.

"Will you slow down, Ben? Mom most likely won't kill him!" She yelled.

The guy, Ben, didn't listen. He kept walking, and Libia huffed, rolling her eyes.

Another guy, Cameron Garb came out, watching Libia with raised eyebrows. He assumed they were friends, as he approached. "You know what's going on?" Damon asked.

"Some kind of emergency at home." Cam shrugged.

"Who was the guy?" Damon watched as he gave her a teasing shove to the car, running around the other side. They burned rubber out of the lot, disappearing down the road.

Cameron shook his head. "Don't know. Boyfriend? Friend? Brother?" He shrugged.


"Slow down!" Libia yelled, holding tightly to the safety bar.

They peeled into the driveway, slamming into a stop. He was out of the car before the keys could be pulled from the ignition. Libia rolled her eyes as he fell back into the car, fumbling with the keys.

"You are such a drama queen!" Libia exclaimed, lugging herself out of the car.

He grabbed a hold of her arm, tugging her to the door.

When the door slammed open, arguing from inside ceased.

Their mother was holding a lamp up, ready to smash it into their father's head.

Libia rushed into the room, gently taking the lamp from her mother's hold. She set it back down on the table beside the couch, stepping between the two and pushing them farther apart. "Okay. Let's be adults here, hmm?"

"Adults my-" She slapped a hand over her mother's mouth.

"Adults." She repeated in a hard voice. "Would you want me to smash a lamp over my ex's head if I suddenly saw him again?" She asked calmly.

She let out a sigh beneath Libia's hand. The responsible, mature young girl was right. Her mother wasn't being a good example. Libia let her hand drop from her mother's mouth, and she led her to the couch, sitting her down.

She then turned on her father. "Now what the hell are you doing here?" Libia asked.

The words were calm, and demanding. Making them more threatening than if she would have yelled them.

Her father straightened his shoulders, giving a small smile to his daughter. She always was the voice of reason.

"I can't visit my children?" He asked incredulously.

Libia sighed heavily. "Couldn't you have called first? You have the right to visit your children, yes. But don't you think a phone call would have been in order, especially after everything you did to a certain woman on the edge inching back towards the lamp behind me?"

Her mother froze, grumbling something about how the girl had eyes on the back of her head. 

"I thought I'd surprise you guys."

Libia, despite how hurt her mother was, couldn't hate her father. She resented him, yes, but she didn't hate him. She grew up with the man. "I called you two weeks before we moved. I never even got to here your voice, save for the damn message tone." She reminded.

He grimaced. "I had some...things going on."

"Right. Things being my half sister and Maria." Ben muttered, leaning against the wall.

"I want you out of my house! I don't want to see those perfectly polished shoes ever again!" Their mother shrilled, tears threatening to pour.

Even Libia couldn't deny the cruelty of her father's actions. The wound was still fresh for her mother, and for him to visit like he hadn't done anything wrong was utterly cold. Libia was reminded, again, how little he loved her mother anymore. It hurt. Libia hated seeing her mother cry. She hated seeing her mother weak, because the woman was always the strong woman that Libia wanted, but didn't have the courage to be. She loved her mother.

"I agree with Mom." Libia stated, planting her feet firmly.


"Why don't you take a walk with me, Dad?" Libia interrupted, knowing her mother was close to the brink.

Reluctantly, he agreed. And a few minutes later they were out on the sidewalk, strolling along.

"Do you realize how unfeeling you seem right now?" Libia asked him, her voice gentle to soften the blow. Libia's father looked at her in surprise. "Mom is trying really hard to get over you, you know. Just because you don't feel anything for her anymore doesn't mean she's the same. Didn't you realize what coming home would do to her?"

Her father looked away, out at the street. His eyes settled on a woman with a stroller, jogging along. "I didn't think-"

"Exactly, Dad. You didn't think. I think you should stay away for a while. At least a few months. Mom can't handle knowing you're here. She's finally starting to get better." 

He clenched his jaw. "I shouldn't have to stay away from my kids-"

She cut him off again, crossing her arms impatiently. "Okay, Dad, let me tell you something - this is a choice that you made. No one forced you to cheat on mom. So man up and reap the consequences. You betrayed her trust, as well as my Ben's and mine. I feel hurt, and resentful towards you right now. We all do. But not nearly as much as Mom. Mom is in pain, Dad. Leave her, me, and Ben alone until we can all find it in our hearts not to hit you over the head with a lamp." She then leaned up, kissed him on the cheek, and left him there.

Her father stared after Libia's retreating figure, shocked. He rubbed his face, remourse weighing his heart. What had he done?

Chapter Four.


Libia hadn't heard from her father, but her mother was now in another bout of sadness. Her eyes were always saddened, and her smile never seemed to brighten her whole face. Libia was beyond angry at her father for showing up unnanounced like that. 

People in school were whispering about the appearance of Ben. Wondering who he was, mostly. Why he was dragging her away. Her friends were the only ones that knew what happened yesterday.

She'd spent her entire day at school excited, getting ready for dance class. Her eyes were brighter, and her smile, too. Everyone seemed to notice the change. Johnson assumed confidently that it was him asking her out on a date that put the light in her eyes. Little did he know, that was far in the back of Libia's mind. Dance always came first, for Libia.

So she skipped from class, smiling eagerly to herself. She'd perposely walked to school, so she could feel the warm air on her skin and warm up before she got there. She loved walking.

Libia looked around to make sure no one could see her, and she started down the sidewalk. No one could know about her danceing. She'd make sure no one knew.

Little did she know, Damon was watching her as she suspitiously swept the area. He was sitting on a bench in the park that stretched out beside the school. He watched with raised eyebrows as she quickly began walking in the direction of the town. Where was she going?

He checked his watch. He had to be in class in twenty minutes. He had plenty of time to drive there. It takes about five minutes to get there by car.

Libia swept into the class, giving a bright smile to her teacher. Her teacher smiled back at the girl. Libia had been a valuable dancer in the teacher's eyes.

"Hello, Ms. Vans." Libia greeted as she headed off to change.

"Hey Libs." She greeted back.

Libia pulled on her tights, and a white T-shirt, pulling her long hair back in a ponytail. 

When she came back out, Ms. Vans stopped her. "We've got a long-time student coming back today, Libs. He'll be your partner, since you're the only one who doesn't have one. I think you and him will really be good together." She explained.

Libia felt her cheeks flame. Dancing with a partner. She'd only ever done that once, and the partner had been gay. He was extremely talented when in the zone, and crazy funny when he just hung out with her.

She swallowed nervously and then nodded, not wanting to dissapoint her teacher.

Well, well, well. Damon thought, a big smile taking over his face as he pulled into the lot and saw Libia through the glass windows. Fragile little Libia's got a secret

He imagined this was the dance partner Ms. Vans was raving about. He just imagined having her in his arms, watching her perfect body move and twist in sync with the music. He wanted her so much more, if that was possible.

So he swung out of his car, walking confidently up to the door.

Libia turned her head at the sound of the door opening, the little bells hanging on the handle jingled and clanked together. Her eyes widened to saucers as they met a tight black shirt, and moved up, meeting those unmistakable blue eyes.

Oh no.

Oh no.

Ms. Vans squealed and hugged the boy, and he smirked at Libia over the over-joyed teacher's shoulder.

"It's so good to see you again." Ms. Vans gushed, pulling back.

Damon grinned down at the woman. "You too."

Ms. Vans rushed over to Libia, dragging her across the room. "Damon Slain, this is your dance partner, Libia Fields. Now be nice to her, alright? You two are a team from here on out." Ms. Vans said, mainly looking at Damon.

Damon gave his teacher an innocent smile. "Who said I wasn't going to be nice?"

Libia was silent, her breathing slightly shallower as she stared up, wide eyed in panic at the boy. 

"Ms. Vans, I need to talk to Damon alone for a moment." Libia murmured, her voice breathless.

Damon casually followed her to a quieter part of the room, and then she turned to him.

"Damon, listen to me, you can't tell anyone about me being here. No one." She insisted, grabbing his arm when he looked away.

He looked at the contact with surprise, electricity zinging through him, making him feel more alive. His eyes trailed up her small arm, then her shoulder, her neck, and then finally, her eyes. She stared at him urgently, although he could see the blush tinging her cheeks pink. He felt...good, knowing a secret that no one else knew. It was something that they shared, and only them.

"I won't-"

"I'm serious, Damon. Not my mother, not my brother. No one can hear a word of this." She interrupted.

Surprising her, he shrugged off the hand on her arm and gripped her biceps, dragging her closer. "I won't. Say. Anything." He said, his voice deep and sinuous.

Libia could feel her cheeks burning, as she stared up at him. "O-okay."

He smiled and let her go. "Come on. Ms. Vans is excited to see what we can do...and quite frankly, I want to see what that tiny body of yours is really capable of." He murmured.

Libia gasped, her eyes snapping back up to his from where they'd strayed to the floor. That was not a sexual innuendo...was it? No. Of course not. Get your mind out of the gutter! She mentally smacked herself and turned away from him.

She walked over to where she'd plugged her phone in, turning on her favorite song to dance to.

Ms. Vans wanted them to dance seperately at first, and then choreograph something later. So Libia closed her eyes for a moment when she took her place in the middle of the wood floors. And then her eyes snapped open with the beat, and she began moving. Her body twisted and her hair whipped around, as she ran forward and dropped, sliding on her knees for a few seconds before she sinuously jumped up, moving her feet expertly.

Damon watched, leaning on the wall beside Ms. Vans, whom was quivering with excitement and pride, as the seemingly quiet, shy, goody-two-shoes girl pulled some moves that could only be explained as sexy. Sexy as hell. She was like a tiger with how effortless the dancing seemed for her.

Before any of them wanted it to, the song ended, and Libia ended her dance in perfect sync. Her chest heaved, and her smile was one of bliss. It struck Damon to realize just how much Libia loved to dance. 

They passed each other, and Damon brushed his hand on her arm and whispered, "Nice job, Babe."

Libia felt a shiver wrack her body, and she blushed.


She was jogging home, her music blasting in her ears. She felt the wind in her face, as she relished in the feel stretching her legs. She decided to forgo the Starbucks route, seeing as she had a date tonight. She felt her gut tighten at the thought, a strange feeling of unease taking over, but she decided it was just nerves. Libia had always had a good sense of intuition. Something she inherited from her mother. About the only thing. Her mother had a strong feeling that her father had been up to something that she wouldn't like. She'd always felt a strong urge to call work and ask if he was still there when he said he'd be staying late. But she didn't for a long time, partly scared of what she'd find, and partly knowing that it was her husband, and that she needed to trust him.

But, Libia didn't want to analize this unease she felt. She simply passed it off as having not been on a date in quite some time.

She arrived home and was planning on going straight to her room, but she was surprised to find Ben slumped over with his head in his hands and his elbows on the counter. His back was to her, but he knew she was there, having heard the door open and close.

"Ben...?" Libia asked softly, settling a hand on his back.

He let out a heavy sigh, saying in a rough voice, "Hey...Libs."

"What's wrong?" Libia asked in concern, hearing the pain in his voice.

"It''s nothin'...just...Dad asked me to move back with get to know my half sister." Ben muttered.

Libia felt anger and pain for her brother. "He has no right to ask that of you!"

"I want to know her, Libia...she's my half sister, but I can't stand the thought of...of them! Together! All lovey-dovey like him and mom used to be." Ben clenched his fists.

"I understand." Libia murmured, wrapping her arms around his waist and lying her head on his back. "I don't want to see it either. But that is our little half sister. No matter where she came from, she's family."

"I won't move back with him. I refuse to do it." He muttered, and Libia felt his back tense with anger.

"You don't have to. Tell Dad that if he wants us to meet her, than he'll bring her here. If he doesn't do that, then we'll arrange a meeting, just her and us. We'll have lunch together, or we can take her to the peir." She murmured to calm him down, patting his chest like she used to do when they were little.

She felt and heard him take a huge breath, and moved back as he stood up. He turned around and enveloped his little sister in a big hug. "Thanks, Libs."

She smiled when he let her go. "No problem. Now I have to go and get ready." She turned to go, but Ben stopped her.

"Get ready for what?"

Libia smiled up at him. "I'm going on a date."

Ben's eyebrows furrowed, and he took the "protective stance." As Libia called it. He crossed his arms, puffed out his chest, and stared down at Libia with a fatherly look of dubiousness. "Who is he?"

Libia giggled. "His name his Johnson Breaker."

"How old is he?" Ben interrogated.

"Eighteen." Libia rolled her eyes.

He narrowed his eyes for a moment, before his stance relaxed slightly. "Okay. If he tries anything I want you to knock him on his ass, kick him in the nuts, and call me, alright?"

Libia had to laugh. This was a lecture he gave every time she went on a date. Even when she was asked by this really nerdy kid, Carl. She was fourteen years old at the time, and she was starting to blossom into a beautiful young lady. Carl had been a good friend, so she kindly accepted his offer to date. He was a nice, shy kid. They dated twice before they figured out that it wasn't working for them.

Ben had told her the exact same motto. Knock 'em on their ass, Kick 'em in the nuts, and call him.

"I promise." She assured.

She turned and ran up the stairs, finally feeling a little bit of giddiness enter her system. She was going on a casual date to this pizza place. So, after showering, she dressed in a red sweater and black jeans, throwing on some flats. She slapped on some eyeliner and some mascara, swiftly putting on some lip gloss. She left her hair down, knowing that she'd need it when she wanted to hide her face from him, and left it naturally wavy.

Libia got her black hair from her mother. Her mother's mother was from India. Both of her granparents are Indian. Of course Libia is only half Indian, with only her exotic black hair to show for it. Sometimes Libia gets tired of her hair, but right now it was her saving grace. She needed it like a blanket of protection.

Her brother was half Indian, but he got brown hair from her father. It was a strange thing. All of the girls on her mothers side of the family have black hair, but the men rarely do.

When a knock came at the front door downstairs, Libia felt herself tense.

She took off downstairs, racing Ben and shoving him away before he could open the door and completely embarrass her. She smoothed her shirt and fixed her hair, and then opened the door.

Johnson smiled in at her, and then raised an eyebrow at her slightly heaving chest, and ruffled appearance.

"Hi, Johnson." She greeted, smiling like an idiot.

"Hey, Libia. Were you running a marathon?" He asked.

"More like wrestling me." Ben muttered, straightening his shirt as he stepped back in the doorway.

Johnson felt himself tense. Uh-oh. Big brother. Not good. He took in the guy as he crossed his arms over his chest, hovering behind Libia. A protective big brother. Shit.

"Remember what I said, Libs?" Ben asked her.

Libia rolled her eyes. "Yes. Johnson, this is Ben, my brother." Libia introduced.

"Nice to meet you." Johnson said respectively.

Ben gave a nod, which intimidated Johnson more. Libia rolled her eyes, stepping out of the house and slamming the door closed behind her.

"Don't worry about him. He does that crap with everyone I associate with." Libia muttered.

Johnson gave a nervous laugh. "Yeah. Let's go."


"So what's your favorite color?" Johnson asked Libia.

They were sitting in the corner of the pizza parlor, sharing a small pizza between them. The parlor wasn't busy, in fact there were only a handfull of people in the restaurant with them. Libia shrugged, swallowing a piece of pizza before speaking, "I'd say it was green. You know, like moss on a tree green. I'd always loved foresty colors and themes. What about you?" Libia took a sip of her drink.

"Right now?" Libia nodded in reply. "Brown. Chocolate brown."

Her cheeks turned bright red. "That's nice."

"Yeah. With little specs of gold." He hinted.

Libia couldn't help the giggle, and hid her red cheeks with her hair.

"What flowers do you prefer?" Johnson fired off again.

"Um...I've always been partial to Lilies." Libia answered, playing with the table top.

"Hmm." A slow grin spread across his face. "What is your favorite food?"

"Bacon." Libia answered without thinking, and then she blushed.

"A girl with an appetite. I like it." Johnson replied, taking a bite of his pizza.

Libia laughed again.

"You should laugh more. I like your laugh." Johnson murmured, leaning forward.

Libia felt shyness creep up, as she looked down at her lap. Johnson reached across the table, surprising her by lifting her chin. "Hi." He whispered when her eyes met his.

A slow smile spread across her face. "Hi."

He sat back, his eyes twinkling with an unknown emotion. "What do you prefer, Titanic, or Taken?"

Libia knew what he was asking, suspense, or romance? 

"Taken. It's fun to watch Liam Neeson beat the crap out of people. Gives you a sense of justice." Libia explained.

He grinned again. "I see."

"What about you? You enjoy Titanic on the weekends?" Libia teased.

"You know it. I just love listening to Sarah McLaughlin belt out belt out that beautiful, yet cliche song that everyone and their granny knows."

"It's Celine Dion." Libia pointed out.


Libia had to laugh. And then, as a demonstration, Johnson got up, grabbed Libia's hand, and began dancing with her in the middle of the restaurant, singing the Titanic theme song. Libia was laughing as her cheeks turned incredibley pink and she buried her face instinctually in his chest in embarrassment.


They finished their pizza, and then Johnson stood up. "I'll be right back. I forgot my wallet in the car."

Libia nodded up at him, smiling. He paused for a moment, before he leaned down, and pressed a kiss to her, right on the lips. Libia watched, in a daze, as he exited the building for the moment.

Johnson smiled like the devil as he made his way out. His wallet was in his back pocket. Bailey sat on the hood of his car. "Ready, Babe?" She asked him with a seductive smile.

"Oh yeah." Johnson said, opening the door for her to get in.

Libia heard the roar of an engine. And she looked up...just in time to see Johnson back out of his space, with Bailey Summers, a girl from her school in the seat beside him. He gave her a two-fingered wave, as she stood from her seat.

She just stood there, staring out the window as he laughed, his face cruel, and sped out of the lot. So...all this was for a free meal? A chance to hurt a girl's feelings? 

Well, he did a damned good job. Libia felt her self-esteem drop to zero. Humiliation ignited in her gut, twisting and tightening. She felt tears pour down her cheeks. It had been an experiment, a scam. The bastard had even kissed her! 

She furiously wiped her mouth as she pulled out her wallet with trembling hands. She went up to the counter, cheeks stained with tears, and began pulling out her money.

"Don't worry about it, Hon. It's on the house." 

Libia looked up with her hurt eyes at the italian-looking man behind the counter. His gruff voice was grim, and his mouth was pressed into a thin line. He planned on hunting down that little jerk-off and making him pay every scent.

"Oh, no I couldn't-" Her shaky, almost sobbing reply was cut off.

"Don't you dare pull out that money, Darlin'." This time it was a woman's voice.

Libia looked behind the man to find a petite, rounded woman with fiery red hair and hard green eyes. Her nametag said Jan.

Libia sniffled. "Thank you."

"Do you need us to call someone? Or at least a cab to get you home?"

Libia shook her head. "I'll be okay. M-my house is just a few blocks from here."

The two watched the dejected girl walk from the restaurant, head down, lip between her teeth. Everyone in the parlor was watching, in fact. 

"Crete, get that kid's picture posted up on the wall. I can't wait to kick him out next time he comes." Jan said to her husband.

"Done and done." He replied.

Libia began running as soon as the door shut behind her, her eyes blurry with tears. She only got a few feet before she rammed into a hard body. Arms wrapped around her waist to keep her from falling, and the guy stumbled back a bit.

"I-I'm sorry." Libia sobbed.

"Whoa, whoa. Libia, what happened?" She almost instantly recognized the voice.

"D-Damon?" She asked, looking up with watery eyes.

Sure enough, those familiar blue eyes were looking down at her with questions flooding them, his eyebrows furrowed. "Yeah. What happened?" He repeated.

Libia pulled away from Damon, wrapping her arms around herself. "He ditched me!" She cried.

He raised his eyebrows, having never seen her so out of sorts. "What? What are you talking-"

"I was on a date with Johnson The-Heart Breaker! He got a pizza, we ate it, and then he left! He ditched me. I had ten dollars in my wallet, Damon. Ten fucking dollars! He danced with me, he asked me what flowers I liked...he fucking kissed me! And then...and then..." Libia felt her eyes well up again. "And then he got in his car with Bailey Summers and drove away."

Damon saw red. "He kissed you."

Libia looked up at him, almost unable to see him through her tears. It was a good thing, too. In their close proximity, Libia probably would have turned to ash under his rage-filled gaze. 

"Yes. He kissed me."

Damon clenched his fists and took deep breaths, getting his jealousy under control before he had to rip Johnson a new one. This was his plan, was it not? To get Johnson to screw up, and then move in. But damn it was hard to do.

"Damn sweet-talking moron. 'Brown. Chocolate brown. With little specs of gold.' My ass!" She ranted.

Damon could feel his anger subsiding, and surprise taking it's place. He'd never heard her curse before. It was surprisingly sexy. He'd never even heard her raise her voice as much as she had.

Damon decided it was time to lay his offer on the table. "Gee, Johnson's a real ass, isn't he?" He hedged.

Libia nodded, crossing her arms indignantly. "Not only an ass. An ass-hole!"

"I bet you'd like to get back at him good, wouldn't you?" Damon inched his way towards her.

She was too caught up in her anger and her hurt, glaring angrily at nothing in particular as she crossed her arms. "Got that right. I'm going to kick his ass to Memphis." Libia growled.

Suddenly, Damon grabbed her up. She let out a cry in surprise, and suddenly she was flush against Damon's chest.

His hot breath hit her face, as his blue eyes bored into hers. "How about something along the lines of showing him what he missed?" Damon suggested.

She swallowed thickly, suddenly the quiet girl he met in school. "W-what?"

"Change, Libia. Become someone that Johnson will drool over. Let him know what he missed out on. Be a bad girl." Damon rumbled, the sound of his voice reverberating through her chest.

"A-a bad girl?" She repeated dumbly.

"No more stuttering. No more innocent looks, no more avoiding people. Wear your uniform like you're a model and the school is your cat walk. Put on a smile that says 'Fuck you, world.' Be who I know you are. Who I know you really are." Damon muttered.

"H-how?" Libia whispered, staring up at him with wide eyes.

A slow grin spread across his face. "I'll show you, Babe."

Chapter Five.


Libia pushed away from him. "N-no. I can't. That's not me."

Damon pulled her back, lifting her chin so she looked straight at him. "Don't you want to show Johnson that he can't break you down that easily? You can do this. Show him that he can push you down, but you'll only rise stronger, and better." Damon said.

Libia had to admit. She liked the idea. But what would her brother think? Her mother? Would they approve of this? Of course, she didn't exactly have to tell them.

Yeah. She thought. This could be like my dance class. I could keep this a secret.

But what would her brother say if he knew? Would he approve? Would he think her foolish?

Somehow, Libia couldn't find it in herself to care. She was angry as Johnson, but also hurt. Those emotions were clouding her usually clear thinking process. She wanted him to see that what he did to her didn't affect her like he wanted it to. She wanted everyone to see the confident girl she could become.

So she pulled away from Damon once again, but this time she looked him straight in the eyes. "Alright. What do I do first?" She asked.

He grinned down at her. Mission accomplished.

"A wardrobe change. We start early tomorrow. Make sure you set your alarm for eight and you're ready by nine." He ordered, beginning to drag her across the parking lot.

"Where are we going?" She asked him.

"I'm taking you home." Damon said, as if it were obvious.

Libia opened her mouth to protest, but nothing came out, as they came upon a shiny, poison green sports motorcycle.

" this?" She asked him.

"This is my baby, Babe." He answered, and then he threw his leg over. 

"You weren't driving that earlier today." Libia pointed out.

"I don't normally drive my bike to school, Babe." He answered, using his hold on her hand to pull her closer.

"Um...I'm not getting on that thing." Libia said, taking a step back.

"Oh yes you are. This is the first step in showing Johnson what a badass you can be." He grinned up at her, pulling her back again.

When Libia made no move to get on the bike, Damon sighed. He swung his leg back over, stood up, and swept her legs out from under her. She let out a shriek, and caught her just before she hit the ground.

"Let me go!" She cried, wriggling in his arms.

Damon only laughed, and then he settled her on the bike, taking her hands and wrapping them around his waist.

"You might want to hold onto me, Babe." And then the bike roared to life beneath them.

Libia yelped in fright, as she pulled herself closer to Damon, wrapping her arms around his waist. She could feel him laughing at her, so she lifted her head and cried in his ear, "Quit laughing!"

This only made him laugh harder, as they pulled out of the lot. Libia was glad that her hous was just a few blocks away. She didn't want to be on this death trap any longer than she had to be.

As he picked up speed, Libia began to feel the wind in her hair, and although it was cold, it brought a feeling of exhileration to life that she didn't know was in her. Her stomach dropped when he turned, making a nervous giggle escape. 

She was almost dissapointed when he came to a stop at a stop sign.

"Where is your house?" He called back to her.

"364 Dale Street!" She replied over the noise.

He nodded to himself, and started driving again. Not a minute later, he cruised past her house.

"You passed it!"

"Shit, hang on!" He yelled back.

He slowed to a stop two houses from his original target, and the night was silent once again as he turned the bike off. Libia got off first, and was surprised as Damon got off behind her.

"I'll walk you to the door." He said.

She raised an eyebrow at his innocent expression. Had he...? No. It was an honest mistake that he was just trying to make up for...right?

He unexpectedly tucked her hand in the crook of his arm, pulling her into his side.

She felt her cheeks go red, but brushed the feeling off.

They walked in silence, but it was comfortable. She felt safe at his side, for some odd reason. 

They paused at her doorstep, and he took a look around for a moment. "Your driveway's empty." He pointed out.

Libia nodded. "Yeah. Mom works as the night nurse at the hospital, and my brother is usually out with his friends." She explained as she pulled out her key.

"Ah, Babe, your hair is a little crazy." Damon pointed out.

"Hmm? Oh!" Her cheeks turned bright red, as she ran her fingers through her hair. "Is that better?"

Damon shook his head, and boldly pulled her closer. He threaded his fingers through her hair, carefully dragging them down to smooth the tangles. Her eyes were wide, and doe-like, as they stared up at him.

He never took his eyes from hers, seeming to lose control of himself for a moment. He had no idea what got into him. He just took an opportunity to hold her.

"There. That's better." He whispered, his breath fanning Libia's face.

He took a step back, gave her a blinding smile, and left.

Libia stood still, watching him walk down the sidewalk. He got on his bike, turned to her, and she could have sworn he winked, but she couldn't be sure from this distance.

He sped down the road, and her heart's erratic pumping slowly began to relax. She turned, and a giddy giggle escaped without her consent.

Her mind wasn't even on Johnson anymore.

Her smiled dropped when her brother's angered voice traveled throughout the house.

"What the hell was that?"

"Ben? I thought-"

"You thought what? That I wouldn't see you come speeding down the road on a motorcycle with no helmet on? With some guy?" He growled.

Libia should have known he would wait for her. He always waited for her to return after her dates. 

"No Ben. Where's your car?" She asked.

"A friend of mine had to borrow it for a couple of hours. That's beside the point, Libia." He snapped, taking a step closer. "Who the hell was that guy? Where's this Johnson kid? And why was he touching you like that?" He fired off questions, making Libia grimace.

"That was Damon. Johnson...had an emergency and he had to leave. He didn't have time to take me home, so Damon offered." She lied through her teeth. "Damon's a friend-"

"That move he pulled out there didn't look very friendly! And what the hell do you think you were doing on that bike?" Ben fired off again.

Libia sighed, keeping her voice calm in hopes that he'd lower his. "I would have walked but he insisted. Would you rather I walked this late at night? And as for what he did out there...I have no idea what it means." Libia held back the reflexive smile that wanted to burst forth, keeping her face smooth.

"I have an idea." Ben muttered, finally lowering his voice. "And no, as much as I don't like the vehicle arrangment, I wouldn't prefer you walking."

"Can you do me a favor and don't tell Mom about this? I'd be dead before you could finish the sentence." Libia pleaded.

"Fine. But I don't want to see that kind of thing again. I was this close to opening that door and shoving his face into the concrete." He said, leaning against the wall in a resigned manner.

Libia winced. She wasn't sure, but she had a feeling that she was going to be on that bike again. She knew that wasn't the only thing he was talking about, too. Libia wasn't too sure about that, either.

Never the less, Ben wasn't going to see it again. She gave him a nod in reply. "You got it."

Without another word, Libia sprinted down the hall, entering her room with mixed emotions. Part of her wanted to crawl into a hole and wither into nothing. Another part of her wanted to rise above it all and show everyone just how strong she could be. The part that wanted to crawl into a hole won over for the night. Of course there were no holes nearby, so she chose the next best thing, she crawled underneath the covers and snuggled into her bed, feeling anything but comforted. 

She let tears fall from her eyes and the feelings of humiliation and hurt take hold. She saved her anger and her grudging feelings for tomorrow, where they could fuel her. When she woke up this morning, Libia had no idea that she would be spending a Saturday with a boy who caused her heart to do strange things in her chest. She refused to believe the reaction was anything more than physical attraction. It was an easy explanation - Who wouldn't be attracted to him?

Libia knew that he wasn't attracted to her. It wasn't possible. He was probably just teasing her. Or maybe his actions were innocent. Maybe this was friendly for him.

Libia drifted to sleep in the middle of her wandering thoughts, and the next morning she awoke to her regular alarm. She hadn't turned it off for the weekend because Damon wanted her up early.

Groaning, Libia dragged herself out of bed, stumbling like every morning into the bathroom. She brushed her teeth like a zombie before jumping in the shower.

The scalding hot water managed to get her awake and focused. She stepped out of the shower, lifting her eyes to the window behind her desk. Hers was the last house on the block, and her room faced the street corner. She loved to people watch after studying. Right now she was watching for any signs of the motorcycle.

Libia walked into her closet, languidly picking out her clothing for the day. Her thoughts went back to Damon's words before.

A wardrobe change? Libia thought her wardrobe suited her just fine. She had T-shirts of all kinds, lots of sweaters, jeans, and only a few pairs of ripped shorts that reached a few inches above the knee. She didn't like showing a lot of skin. And she didn't have a lot of dressy, or girly shirts.

Maybe that's what he means. She needs to dress girlier? Libia had no idea what was wrong with her wardrobe.

Maybe she'd call Vivi and ask her what she thought. 

Shaking her thoughts, she grabbed a white knit sweater, throwing on a tank top underneath. She slipped on some dark blue jeans to go with it, along with some white flats.

She swiped on some makeup, just some mascara and eyeliner, and checked the time. It was ten minutes to eight. 

Libia thought this was a good time to check and see if her brother was home. She knew her mother was, but her mother would be sleeping off the night shift. That woman could sleep through an earth quake. Libia made her way through the house, checking in the kitchen. She noticed a note on the fridge.

Had to leave for job interview at Cane's Workshop, be back at 11:00.

- B.

 Libia could tell by how clumsily he'd written it that he'd woken up later than planned and had to leave in a rush. Libia shook her head, smiling. 

She put the note back on the fridge as someone knocked on the door.

Strange. She thought. I didn't hear the motorcycle.

She opened the door, and Damon smiled in at her. "Hey, Babe. Ready?" He asked.

"Hang on, let me write a note for Ben and Mom." She left the door open for him, jogging back to the kitchen and ripping a note from the pad.

Went to the mall with a friend. Should be back sometime tonight.

- L.

Libia stuck the note on the fridge beside her brother's, doubting her mom would be up, but just wanting to make sure. 

"Let's go." Libia said, a little reluctantly.

Damon followed Libia out, and noticed her looking for the bike.

"No bike today, Babe. We're taking the 911." Damon said smugly.

Libia turned to look at him with a raised eyebrow, and he gestured down the road, one house down.

She looked, and her eyes popped. It was a sleek black Porsche 911 Turbo.

"Where do you get all these cars?" She asked him as he pressed his hand to the small of her back, leading her down the sidewalk.

He chuckled, enjoying her awe. "This one's my Dad's. The bike is mine, and the BMW that I usually drive is my brother's."

"You have a brother?" She asked, her eyes wide with curiosity, as he unlocked the car and pulled the door open.

He smiled down at her, staring into her doe-like eyes. "Yeah. And a sister. Carol and Jack, She's sixteen, he's nineteen. I assume Ben's your brother?" He asked her.

"Yeah. He's a year older than me. Speaking of, my brother saw us last night. He didn't much like the idea of me riding on a bike." Libia said, glancing up at Damon.

He closed the door, jogging around to the other side to jump in.

Damon raised an eyebrow at her when he got settled. "I thought you said he wasn't home."

"I thought he wasn't. His car was gone. One of his friends had borrowed it for a couple of hours." Libia explained.

"I bet he wasn't too happy when he saw me." Damon muttered, starting the car up and pulling out.

"Nope." Libia popped the 'P' flippantly as she examined the car.

What neither of them mentioned, was the intamate moment they shared. It was clear without being said that Libia's brother had seen that, too.


When they arrived at the mall, it was already packed, despite it being nine fifteen in the morning. Libia could feel herself closing off, and her shy side was beginning to cover the brave.

She got out of the car with Damon, rushing over to his side as he met her at the back end of the car. Seeing her discomfort, he slung an arm around her small shoulders, making sure she was tucked safely into his side.  Libia felt her cheeks heat up at the contact, but was thankful he understood. She was able to lift her head just a little more, and walk with a longer stride.

"So where are we going?" She asked, her voice back to it's quiet tone.

He glanced down at her, his eyes searching. "Food court, I didn't have breakfast." He muttered.

She nodded, averting her gaze back to the ground.

Meanwhile, Johnson sat in the food court, telling his friends all about the so called "Date" he had.

"I totally got her under my spell. All I had to do was compliment her eyes and bam! She was all mine." Johnson laughed, pulling Bailey closer to his side.

"You might want to watch out, John. My friend Vinny found out from his cousin Jen that her sister Jamie was there, and she saw the little nerd run right into Damon Slain's arms. She said they left on his motorcycle and everything." Daina, Bailey's friend informed.

Johnson furrowed his eyebrows. "He probably took pity on her. She probably begged for a ride." He chuckled, waving it off.

The table laughed, but as the laughter died down, Dan, a friend of Johnson's eyes focused on something behind them. He knudged Daina with wide eyes, and hers grew equally wide as they followed his gaze.


Growing curious, Johnson turned around in his seat, and his eyes bugged at what he saw. Damon Slain had his arm around Libia, and they were laughing at something. Libia looked like she was genuinely having a good time, Damon as well.

"Well I'll be a son of a bitch." Dan muttered.

"What about Mc. Donalds?" Libia suggested as they walked into the food court.

Damon pulled a face, shaking his head. "I don't want to eat food with a creepy clown staring at me." He muttered, pointing to the giant clown face beside the sign.

Libia couldn't help but burst out laughing, imagining the clown eyes following Damon. Damon laughed with her, glad he was able to get her to relax a little.

As his eyes were scanning the court for another option, they landed on Johnson and a few of his other friends. Their eyes were already on the two, and Johnson's mouth was open slightly in surprise.

"Look who it is -  Bozo The Dunce." Damon said, inclining his head in their direction.

He felt Libia tense under his arm as she followed his gaze, and gave her shoulders a squeeze. 

"Let's go get Wendy's. I can deal with a redhead in pigtails staring at me." He suggested, steering her away.

She shot him a thankful smile, as they got in line.

The smile was forgotton, however, as she glanced back to see Johnson getting out of his seat. She prayed that he was just going to leave, but that wasn't the case, unfortunately, as he made his way over.

"Heads up." Libia muttered sullenly.

Damon discreetly glanced back, to see Johnson halfway to where they were. And he acted.

"Libia, kiss me." Damon ordered.

"W-what?" She asked in surprise.

"Kiss me. You want to show him that you're over him. Kiss me." He repeated, turning to her and cupping her face in both his hands.

Libia couldn't think. Before she even had time to blink his lips were on hers, and she was lost. Her eyes fluttered closed, and her mind went blank. She had no idea how to react, no prior training except for one time when she was kissed against her will by this kid named Garth who had gotton rabies from picking up what he thought was a dead racoon the day before. Let's just say it wasn't dead. Libia thought that it was wet and gross and she never wanted to experience it again.

But with Damon, there was no thought. She moved her lips with his on instinct, and it wasn't wet or gross, it was warm and soft. Sparks ignited inside of her, and electricity flowed like blood through her veins. The hair on his chin tickled hers, adding to the experiance, and making her want to be closer to him.

Her hands made their way up his muscular chest, to his neck. She traveled up until she felt the stubble on his chin, and then reached their destination, entangling in his hair.

She needed air, and Damon sensed it, as he pulled away. They were both gasping. Damon didn't expect to have that kind of reaction to their lips meeting. He meant it to be brief, and sweet, but he lost control. He had been thinking about what she said to him the night before. Johnson had kissed her. He wanted her to remember this kiss. This was the kiss he wanted her to think about at night. Hell, he wanted to be thinking about it at night. He loved how her lips were swollen, her eyes glazed as they stared into his.

"That was..." Libia couldn't finish, for someone cleared their throat rather loudly.

They turned their heads, to see Johnson standing a mere feet away from them, with his friends not far behind.

"Oh...Johnson." Libia took a step away from Damon, realizing that she'd pressed herself to him sometime when they were...kissing!

Oh my god. Libia thought, her cheeks flaming. We kissed! and Damon...Damon and I...

 Damon was grinning like a fool, as he looked at the group. "Hey guys. What's up?" He asked casually.

The girls, who were glaring with jealousy at the now quiet girl standing beside Damon, batted their eyelashes at him. Even Bailey, whom was still under Johnson's arm.

"Nothing much. We were just wondering...why you guys were here." Johnson had to swallow mid-sentance, as if his polite tone was painful to use.

Libia jumped in without even thinking. Her anger at Johnson fueling her words. "Well last night, after you left so 'unnexpectedly', I ran into Damon. He was planning on driving me home, but we stopped for icecream first. He asked me to come with him to the mall today as sort of" She smiled sweetly, looping her arm around Damon's.

Damon was nodding, impressed at how well the girl could lie. Make Johnson even angrier that his plan didn't work by telling him that Libia found someone else. Someone better.

Johnson's eyes flashed with indignation. "Huh...I see."

"Well we're just going to eat, and then head off. Bye, bye now!" Libia waved once, and then turned around, pulling him with her to close the gap between them and the line to Wendy's that had been created while they...ahem, kissed.

They ordered their food, and Libia had a huge, liberated smile on her face. "Damon...that felt really good!" She said.

He grinned down at her. "See, Babe? I knew you had it in you." He knudged her playfully.


After eating, they headed to Pacific Sun, where Damon asked her size, shoved her into a dressing room, and began throwing clothes over the door at her. Grumbling to herself, she threw on an outfit.

"Um, Damian! There is something wrong with this shirt." Libia said, tilting her head at the mirror.

"What?" Damon asked. "What's wrong with it?"

"It my bellybutton." Libia said, her tone incredulous.

Libia heard Damon's smooth laugh behind the door. "It's a crop top. It's supposed to do that. Come out, and let me see." Damon demanded.

"And these shorts don't even reach mid-thigh!" Libia exclaimed, ignoring Damon.

"Libia..." Damon held back a groan at the image in his mind. "Let me see."

Hesitantly, Libia unlocked the door. She pulled it open, and revealed herself.

If there were wind in the store, Damon would have fallen over like a piece of precariously balanced wood. He wasn't breathing, he wasn't moving, he was just staring.

Libia was blushing from her heels to her forehead, as his eyes traveled from her bare feet, and up her slender legs. They paused briefly on her stomach, taking in the supple, creamy skin. He noticed a scar leading up from her hip to a few inches below her navel, his fingers itched to trace it. His eyes then traveled up a little more, to the revealing crop top that showed off her perfect breasts, and then finally, he met her eyes.

"Perfect." He breathed.

It was all he could say. All he could think of that would at least explain a tiny bit of what he saw. She was far out of the 'Perfect' league. She was exquisite, beautiful, extraordinary, take your pick. They wouldn't be enough.

Damon's heart was beating out of his chest, and he worried that she could hear it.

All the while, Libia was growing redder and redder. "Sh-should I...try something else on?" She asked Damon.

Swallowing thickly, feeling like he hadn't had water in years, he shook himself from his haze. "Yes. But we're getting that outfit." He muttered.

She was afraid he was going to say that.


The rest of the day went by slowly, and painfully. After finding out that she wasn't allowed to pay for anything, Libia was forced into store after store. The only store he didn't make her go into was Victoria Secret. She refused to even think about it.

They were now on the road, the back of the car filled to the brim with bags and boxes, and Damon was interrogating her. "Have you had any prior boyfriends?" He asked her, flickering a glance in her direction.

"What does that matter?" She asked incredulously.

"Just answer the question!" He chuckled.

"I-I guess...I mean I think I had one before." She shrugged shyly.

The car suddenly jerked to a stop, the tires squealing. Libia caught herself by her hands on the dashboard. "Damon!" She exclaimed, seeing that they'd stopped at a light. Her complaints were silenced, however, as she looked over at him. He had been gaping at her, eyes wide with disbelief.

"You think you had one before? How could a girl like you only have one?" He asked incredulously.

Her cheeks flamed in embarrassment. She was unsure whether he was complimenting her or not.

"I don't know. Everyone always thought I was a know-it-all." She shrugged, her voice quiet.

"You're not a know-it-all. You're just more mature than most of the students out there." He said.

This time, her cheeks were red with flattery. "Thank you."

"Only one boyfriend!" He repeated, aghast.

Libia giggled. "I'm not even sure he was a boyfriend, anyway. I mean, we dated for a few months."

Libia couldn't be sure, but she could have sworn he heard him say, "He was an idiot not to make you his." But she coudn't be sure. He was too quiet.

The drive was silent after that, until Libia noticed that they were no where near her home.

"Where are we going?" She asked him.

He glanced at her, a big smile forming on his face. "Tell me, Libia, have you ever thought of getting a tattoo?"

"Wh-what?" She stuttered, tensing.

His smile grew bigger. "We're getting you a tattoo, maybe a piercing..." He listed, not noticing Libia's growing terror.

"D-doesn't it hurt?" She squeaked.

He looked at her again, and his smile softened. "I'll be right there, Libs. Tell you what, we'll get the piercing first, and then if you're up for it, we'll get the tattoo." He suggested.

"'s this supposed to help me?" She asked him with wide eyes.

"Libs, it seems to me like you've got more problems then just a messed up date. You can't do much for yourself. You won't even tell anyone about your dance class because you're afraid of what they'd say, right?" He asked her.

"Not true!" Very true. She was terrified of what her brother would think.

"Liar." He grinned at her. "Take a chance, Libia. Be free for a while."

"I-I don't think-"

"Haven't you ever seen a tattoo that you've wanted? That you've dreamed of having?" He asked her, serious now.

Libia closed her mouth. There was one that she had saved on her computer. She knew the design, the placement, everything. She was afraid of what her brother would think. She looked up to her brother like a father, and he had high standards for Libia. He always took care of Libia, and steered her away from reckless stuff like this.

But the tattoo...

"Ah! I see the look! You have got one!" Damon accused.

Libia's cheeks flamed. "There is one...but what if my brother sees it? What if he is ashamed of me?" Libia worried.

Damon looked over at her. "Then he wasn't a good brother in the first place."

Libia bit her lip. She couldn't never think of him as a bad brother, but Damon was right, if he shunned her, what did that say about their relationship?

Libia knew her brother. He'd be angry at her at first...very angry...but he'd accept it, because she was his sister, and there was nothing he could do about it.

"He might forbid me from seeing you again." Libia whispered.

Damon snorted. "Would that stop you?"

Yes. "No." She denied.

"Good. Then it won't stop me either."

Libia gulped.

Chapter Six.


"Okay, Babe. You ready?" He asked her, grinning from ear to ear.

Libia gulped as she peered out of the windsheild at the tattoo parlor. "I suppose...but what if-"

"No butts! You're going to go in there, and pierce that pretty skin of yours. And possibly decorate it with a tattoo," He added, pulling the door open.

Libia groaned, getting out of the car. She yelped as he grabbed her hand, as she didn't expect him to be there when she got out. He pulled her shaking form into the tattoo parlor.

"Damon I really think I should wait on the tattoo I've heard stories of people going into shock and passing out-" 

"It'll be fine. It'll be a little bit before the design is finished. Your body will be plenty ready to get the tattoo." Damon waved her off.

"I really don't think-"

"Libia, if it makes you feel better, I'll get a tattoo with you." Damon said.

This silenced her. Damon would do that for her?

"Really?" She asked after a few seconds.

He grinned back at her, but before he had time to answer, a woman came bounding out of a room in the back.

Her arms were covered in tattoos, and she had a cigarrette trapped between her fingers. Her hair was colorful, ranging from Blue, to red, to a sunset-orange, but she made it look good somehow. Her vibrant blue eyes brightened immensely when Damon entered.

"Damon, sweetie! I thought I heard your voice!" The woman exclaimed, jumping over the counter and wrapping him up in a bear hug.

He hugged the tall woman back, picking her up and swinging her like she weighed nothing. "Hey Cass. It's been a while, hasn't it?"

Libia stood to the side, feeling as if she needed to give them their moment of reunion. It was clear that Damon had affection for the woman.

It surprised her that when he set her down, she smacked him on the head. 

"It's been a month! You don't leave your old Aunt hanging for a month!" She scolded.

Damon only grinned at the woman, and then he looked back at Libia, dragging her closer, and into his side. "Aunt Cassandra, this is my friend Libia." He cupped his hand over his mouth and leaned towards his Aunt, "I'm trying to get her to loosen up. She's as uptight as a newly fastened screw." He whispered loudly.

"Damon!" Libia exclaimed, pulling away from him in embarrassment.

Cassandra only let out a hearty laugh as she turned to Libia. "It's nice to meet you, Libia! You can call me Cass." She took her hand and shook it twice, her smile big and friendly.

Libia immediately took a liking to the woman. She reminded Libia of a more vibrant version of her mother. Always smiling, and always taking everyone in like family.

"Alright, so what'll it be, my boy?" She asked Damon, hopping back over the counter.

Damon pushed Libia up to the counter. "Tattoo design. I'm guessing you'll draw it out while Vinny pierces her?" Damon asked.

Cass nodded. "You got it, Dame. We talking bellybutton, ear, vampire bites, angel bites, rhinestones, tongue studs, nose, eyebrow, nipple-?"

"Whoa, whoa! Bellybutton, Aunt Cass, none of that...other stuff." Damon said, shivering in disgust.

"Alright. Bellybutton. Libia, why don't you tell me about your tattoo?" Cass asked, settling her gaze on a now timid Libia.

"I'd like it to be on the back of my right shoulder. It's a Koi fish. The back drop would be grey, and the fish would be sunset orange, but the tail would be yellow. I'd like it to have lotus flowers surrounding and overlapping one of the fins, if possible. Oh, and I'd like it to be splashing through the water." Libia finished.

Cass was taking down notes like a professional, nodding with every pause in Libia's words. "Alright. You got a picture I can go off of? Or do you want this freehand?" Cass asked her.

"Freehand is fine." Libia confirmed.

She did have a picture, and she knew it by heart. But she wanted to see how Cass could improve on it.

"Alright. Let me get Vinny. He's in the back playin' poker with his buddies. It's been a slow day," Cass chuckled.

When they were alone, Damon asked, "A Koi?"

Libia smiled, turning to him. "I was playing around on the internet once, out of lonely boredom. I came across the meaning of a Koi to the Japanese. A Koi means a lot of things, but one of the meanings stuck out to me. A Koi symbolizes courage. They said, "Humans swim through the ocean of suffering without fear. Like a fish swims through water." I've always dreamed of being brave. Of swimming through that ocean of suffering, if you will, without fear. Basically, what this tattoo would mean to me was that I no longer fear judgment, or am afraid to suffer the consequences. The lotuses are a symbol of rebirth. Basically it means that by gaining courage, I'm reborn into a new person," Libia looked shyly away as she explained, "I'm in no way a Buddha or anything, but the symbolism of it all just kind" Libia shrugged.

Damon was speechless. He stared at the tiny girl in front of him in awe. She was so beautiful, and deep. He began to wonder why such a beautiful, mature girl wasn't more confident. How could she be so shy?

Before he could say anything, though, Vinny and Cass came out of the back.

"Alright, Libia, Damon. If you'll just follow Vinny to the back, he'll pierce you. I'll draw out the design." Cass waved them off.


Libia was laughing like crazy as they ran from the ice cream shop, their plastic bowls piled high. the plastic on Libia's back crackled with each movement, and so did the plastic on Damon's bicep as he kept a hold of her hand, and they flat out ran to the car.

"Come on, he's gaining on us!" Damon laughed.

"Get back here!" The guy boomed, and Libia glanced back for a split second.

He had ice cream covering his head and shoulders, and Libia fell into a fit of laughter once again. They jumped into the Porsche, and the car purred to life. He threw it into drive just as the guy got to the car, and Damon sped off.

"You're crazy!" Libia exclaimed, still laughing.

"You're the one that poured his ice cream on him!" Damon accused.

"He called me a bitch! And anyway, you punched his friend first!"

"How was I to know that the short dude had a bodyguard waiting in the wings?" Damon asked.

Libia took scooped out a large bite of her ice cream. "At least we got rid of Johnson. I thought he'd never stop following us." Libia rolled her eyes.

"Did you see his face when I hit that guy?" Damon chortled.

"Yes! He looked like he'd just been given his death certificate!" Libia giggled, covering her mouth to keep from spitting her ice cream everywhere. 

They fell into silence as Damon parked in an empty lot so he could finish his ice cream. The moon was high, being the only thing you could see over the city lights accept the occasional star that shone bright enough. It was about eight at night, and Libia was still sore from the tattoo.

"This has to be one of the funnest nights I've had in...forever." She whispered, leaning her head back against the seat as she set her now empty bowl of ice cream down.

Damon chuckled. "Yeah?"

"Yeah." She confirmed.

Damon studied her face as she closed her eyes. A small smile tugged at her lips. "Even when we got the tattoos?" He asked her.

She opened her eyes and peered over at him, tilting her head against the seat. "Yeah. That was one of the funnest parts." She admitted.

He grinned at her.

"So are you ever going to show me what you got?" Libia asked him, giving him a teasing, but curious smile.

His grin turned lop sided. "When I take you home." He reminded her.

She checked her watch, eight O clock. "Ben is going to be furious with me. I haven't called him." She groaned.

"Do you always have to call him when you go out for long periods of time?" He asked her, starting the car.

Libia sighed. "Yes. He worries about me. He wants me to check in on him every once in a while. It doesn't help that I left my phone at home." Libia rolled her eyes.

Damon laughed. "Make sure you put your sweater back on. Your brother just might murder me." He reminded her.

"Oh. Right. Thanks." Libia smiled at him as she pulled her sweater back on over her tank top, careful not to pull the plastic off.

When they pulled up two houses down, Damon got out with her, and they met at the sidewalk. "Let me see it!" She exclaimed impatiently, tugging lightly on his hand.

Chuckling, with a slight nervous edge, he turned so his arm was facing her, and she looked through the plastic in the limited light of the post above. She gasped, her eyes widening as she gently ran her fingers along the intracate design, circling a beautifully done inscription. 

She looked up at him, her doe eyes wide. "Courage?"

For the first time, his smile was genuine.

"You inspired me."


After a long weekend full of a lot of homework and taking care of her tattoo, Libia walked into school with her new school uniform. New meaning 'Modified.' as Damon had put it. He'd shortened the skirt to just above the knee, he'd put a black belt around the torso to show off her curves, and he'd bought her black, leather, knee-high boots that laced all the way up.

As soon as she reached her locker, her friend Vivi let fourth a cat call. "Honey-Bun, you're smokin'," She grinned.

Libia blushed bright red. "Thanks I guess." 

"What's with the outfit, Hon?"

She hesitated, and then asked, "Do you know Johnson Breaker?"

Vivi's upper lip curled, "Johnson The Heart Breaker. He dated my friend Gabby a while back. literally led her on for two months, and then he came into the cafeteria one day, blatantly making out with Bailey Summers. It broke Gabby's heart. She dropped out of school after that, and her mom home schools her now." She explained.

Libia's stomach tightened with the news, and she let out a heavy breath. "I guess I should have asked you about him, then. He...he took me out, a couple of days ago," Libia twisted her lips into a scowl.

Vivi grabbed her arms, her eyes wide. "Oh my goodness, Honey what happened?"

Libia felt her face warm in humiliation, and her eyes began to sting with anger. "He was a real charmer. We ordered a pizza to share, and he told me that my eyes were beautiful, and then...he ditched me. Made up some shit about his wallet being in his car, walked out, and ditched me so he didn't have to pay for his meal. This Bailey Summers you're talking about was in the front seat."

Vivi shook her head. "Oh Honey. I wish you would have asked me 'bout him first. They don't call him Johnson The Heart Breaker for nothin'," She sighed.

Libia opened her mouth to reply, but was startled when an arm went around her shoulders. "Hey, Babe. Vivi." Damon greeted them.

Vivi glanced from Libia to Damon with her mouth open a little. "Damon?"

He grinned down at the petite girl. "Yeah. What, Libs didn't tell you about our little...agreement?" He asked her.

Libia blushed deep red as the attention turned to her.

"Agreement." Vivi said flatly.

Biting her lip, Libia nodded. " after that whole..disasterous and humiliating date, Damon and I...well...ran into each other. And...he offered to help me get back at Johnson," Libia shrugged.

Vivi looked between the two. "I see. And this explains the outfit?" She asked.

Libia nodded, expecting Vivi to just leave, thinking she was stupid. But, to her surprise, Vivi snorted and laughed. "Well, this will definitely get his attention. I'm startin' to like you already, Darlin'," She said to Damon, lifting her hand so he could give her a high five.

He grinned at her. "Thanks. I try."

Libia was pulled out of her enicial surprise when the bell rang. "See you in class, Libia!" Vivi said, blowing a kiss to her as she hooked her arms with her boyfriend, and walking off.

"Come on, Babe. We need to get to class." He murmured, steering her around.

"'re not in my first class." She pointed out.

He smiled at her. "Nope. But we're dating, right? Shouldn't the guy you're dating walk you to class?" Libia felt her cheeks flame once again, and cursed her naturally shy nature. 

"I...think you're right." She said.

Damon reached down and brushed her hair from her face as they walked, smiling an affectionate smile that Libia could have sworn looked genuine. But she brushed the butterflies in her stomach away. He was acting, obviously. "Of course I'm right. Trust me on this."

She let a smile overtake her face, surprising him, and putting him in a state of awe. "Thank you, Damon. You didn't have to do this, you know," She murmured.

He chuckled, realizing just how clueless she was about how he felt.

"I know, Babe."

Chapter Seven.

Libia furiously wiped her eyes as more of that blasted paint fell into them. Her uniform was covered - ruined. But of course her shirt was fine - left behind in the gym where it had been ripped off of her, and she was very grateful to Damon for making my outfit more girly, making her wear an undershirt. The black boots Damon had given her were filled and squishing with each step she took. She panted out Her humiliated sobs as she ran, tears mixing with the red, white, and blue paint as it ran down her cheeks.

The fresh air did nothing to calm her, as it usually would have. Her chest constricted as her mind involuntarily went through the whole scene, and another sob broke free.


The day went by fairly well. Other than having to sit next to him in class, Johnson and Libia didn't run into each other. Although the mischievous smile he gave her did nothing to calm her anger. 

Damon had to go to football practice today, so he was outside, while Libia had gym indoors. She was surprised, asking him when he'd joined the football team. He said it was a hobby and he wasn't that good. He'd informed her, quite happily, that his practice was only thirty minutes long, while Libia's was forty five, so he could watch her for a little while. Libia was happy too, knowing he'd be there.

So he walked her to class, kissed her on the cheek causing a raging blush, turned and left calling, "See ya, Babe!"

She wanted to swoon at his pet name, yet again, as she ogled his backside while he walked away. Sighing when he was out of sight, she turned and entered the gym. She was slightly late, seeing that everyone was here already. Fortunately their coach hadn't arrived yet, so she moved to sit down. 

Unfortunately, Bailey Summers had other ideas. She stepped in front of Libia just as she took a step forward, causing her to pause. She gave Libia an angelic smile. "Oh my gosh, those boots are adorable!" She gushed.

She laughed, albeit a little nervously. "Thank you."

"And your uniform shirt looks amazing on you!" She said, grabbing the material of her shirt, a little roughly.

"," She hesitated, unable to think of something appropriate to say.

Libia could feel her cheeks turning red as she tried desperately to think of something. Damn her shy attitude!

"You know what would be such a shame?" She mused, her hand tightening on Libia's shirt.

She looked up at her with wide eyes. "Huh?"

"It would be such a crying shame if this shirt...ripped somehow!" She said, her smile turning slightly crazed as she nodded to something behind Libia.

Suddenly, strong arms wrapped around her, and Libia shrieked as they ripped the shirt open, the buttons popping off and falling to the floor. 

"Oops!" She heard Johnson breathe in her ear, and she cringed away, tears filling her eyes.

She was so glad that she had worn an undershirt in that moment, and she silently thanked Damon for altering it and making her uncomfortable with showing so much cleavage, as strange as that sounded.

Johnson let her go, and she let out a cry as she was thrown to the floor. Bailey was on top of her in an instant, as her friends stood around and laughed at Libia's crying form under her. "Uh-oh! I've made her cry. Aw, it's okay, Libs. You can get another shirt!" She told Libia in a baby voice, pinching her cheek with added force as she twisted it.

She squeezed my eyes shut tightly as she let out another pained cry, wishing that she was anywhere but here.

"Come on guys, leave her alone!" Libia heard someone call from behind the crowd, but they ignored him.

"Hmm, I think this outfit needs a little more flare, don't you think Johnson?" Bailey looked up at her boyfriend whom leaned over her shoulder.

Johnson grinned down at Libia cruelly. "I think she does."

Meanwhile, the boy ran from the gym, looking for the guy he knew would help. He'd seen Libia with him. He'd heard about the threats all day, of what he'd do if anyone messed with her. If he didn't help her, then the boy would go and get the principle.

"No, please!" Libia sobbed, as they dragged her to her feet. 

After digging through a supply closet, they came up with the paint for the fourth of July dance next year, red white and blue paint. Three buckets. The lids were popped open, as Libia struggled in Johnson's arms, crying desperately as she begged them to leave her alone.

"Stop. Please!" She sobbed, struggling futilely against him as they brought the cans of paint over to where they stood.

"Damon!" The boy called, making him pause in the middle of the game.

In result, Damon was accidentally tackled to the ground. Laughing, the boys joined in on the dog pile, as Damon groaned and laughed beneath them. He turned to look upside down at the kid who had called his name.


"It's Libia!" He said frantically.

With a strength he didn't know he had, he pushed his mates off of him, staring straight at the boy.

"What about her?"

"Johnson and Bailey have got her pinned. I heard them talking. They distracted the coach with some technical problem because you know he's the only one who can fix those kinds of things. I tried to stop them, but they wouldn't listen!"

The boy watched as Damon took off, rage boiling in his eyes, shaking his body.

Goddammit! Damon raged. He'd wondered why Johnson wasn't at practice. He should have known! Goddammit! Hold on Libia, I'm coming, Baby.

But he was too late. Johnson let go of Libia, and skipped back just as paint was thrown over her head. First the red, then the white, and finally, the blue. I myriad of colors dripped down her body, as she shivered, not from being cold, but from the fear and humiliation that zinged through her. She hugged herself as the gym went silent, shivers wracking her body, as she bit down on her lip hard to keep the sobs at bay. Tears mixed with the paint, and dripped from her face. She flinched as the gym's doors slammed open, unable to move for fear of slipping and humiliating herself further.

"Johnson!" Damon's voice snapped, breaking the silence like the crack of a whip.

And suddenly, Johnson was on the ground, Damon on top of him, repeatedly punching him. This snapped Libia out of her frozen state, and a sob escaped her lips, before she ran, having to dodge the coach as he appeared in the doorway.


She shook her head to get rid of the memory, sobs mixed with panting breaths. If she didn't slow down. she'd hyperventilate, but she couldn't. She couldn't make herself stop.

"Libia!" Damon's voice called, sounding as desperate as she felt.

She didn't stop - couldn't stop. She felt humiliated, and her cheek still ached from where Bailey had pinched it so hard. She heard his footsteps behind her, getting closer. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap....and then suddenly her arm was caught in a warm, but vise like grip.

She refused to look at him, her humiliation growing as she watched the paint drip from her chin, pressing her lips together to hide another sob. To her surprise, he let out a soft laugh, almost sounding disbelieving.

"Oh, Libia. Even with paint in your hair, you're beautiful," He mused.

He pulled her into him, setting his hand on the back of her head so her face was pressed against his chest. She struggled, not wanting to get paint on him, but he held her close. Finally, she broke down, melting into him. 

"That's it, Babe. Let it out. Don't worry about me," He murmured.

So she cried like a baby in his arms, as he held her in silence. She was so damn tired of being weak. Being picked on. So...damn...tired! She wanted to just walk up to Johnson and punch him. To give him as much pain and humiliation as he had given her. 

But the fact of it was, she was as weak as they come. She couldn't even tell her family about one of her absolute favorite hobbies, or the fact that she's wanted a tattoo since she was sixteen. 

"I don't...know're helping me," Libia said between hiccups. "I'll as you," She pulled back, wiping her face with one hand while the other hugged across her stomach.

Damon sighed, lifting his now paint-covered hands and putting them on her face. "You're so much stronger than me, Libia." He shrugged flippantly. "You just don't know it yet."


When they reached her front door, Libia sniffed, wiping her cheeks once more. "Thank you for the ride, Damon. Sorry for getting paint on you...and your car," She grimaced, glancing at the BMW.

He smiled at her. "Don't worry about it. I told you, that's my brother's car, and he's a huge pushover," Damon shrugged.

She studied him. He'd been flippant about the entire situation. She'd have thought, after the rage she saw in his eyes before he tackled Johnson, that he'd be brooding and angry for the rest of the week.

He's hiding it. The thought came out of no where, surprising, but also making Libia study him closer.

Libia's thoughts were correct. Behind the kind smile he gave her, she could see the anger, the almost boiling rage that he hid almost perfectly well from his body language, but his eyes were unable to conceal it fully.

Sighing, Libia wrapped her arms around him.

Damon paused in surprise. Libia's arms came around his waist, and her head laid on his chest. He had the destinct feeling that this embrace was not for her own comfort, but for his.

He had no idea how much he needed that hug, until she gave it to him. A wave of guilt and anger - at both himself and Johnson - crashed over him when those fragile, warm arms tightened around him. Letting out a breath, his calm composure shattered. He gripped her tightly in his own arms, lifting her up so her feet were a few inches off the ground. He buried his face in her neck. Why hadn't he been there? Why had Johnson decided to pull something so cruel, knowing that Damon would pummel him? Why had he done it?

"I'm so sorry, Libia. I'm sorry."

Sighing again, Libia smacked him lightly on the back of the head. "None of this is your fault, Damon. You big idiot."

Both of them were a little surprised at her bold, dry, yet kind words, but Damon only let out a breathy laugh against her neck. "Yeah, sure. I'll agree to make you feel better," Damon muttered.

Rolling her eyes, Libia let him go, and Damon dropped her to the ground carefully.

"Go home and get cleaned up before I smack you upside the head," She threatened, although her voice was soft, making the threat completely unbelievable.

Smiling, Damon shot her a wink that made her knees wobble, before turning and walking off.

Libia smiled and rolled her eyes. She pulled her key from her backpack, which Damon had graciously retreived for her, and unlocked the door. She was surprised to find her mom on the other side.

"So who was he? and what happened to you?" She demanded, not even waiting for Libia to step inside.

Libia tilted her head as she set her bag down beside the door, closing it behind her. "What are you doing here, and awake, Mom?"

"I've got the night off. Plus I heard from Ben that you'd gone on a date with 'some guy named Jacob,' and I wanted to ask you about him. Was that Jacob?" She gestured in Damon's general direction.

Libia was suddenly glad that Damon usually drove his brother's car to school. She didn't think her mother would approve very much if she came home in a motorcycle.

"Does everyone like to spy on me out the window? And his name was Johnson. And no, I doubt I'll be seeing him ever again," She rolled her eyes, heading for her room.

"Then who was that? Why was he holding onto you like his life depended on it?" Mom questioned, following her.

"That's Damon," Libia replied, ignoring the second question.

"And...what happened to you?" She asked.

Libia walked into the bathroom, leaving the door open so she could talk to her while she washed her face off.

"Nothing. Just a school prank that everyone goes through when they're new," Libia lied, washing her hands off as well.

"They pour paint on you? Do you know how expensive those uniforms are? I paid fifty for the whole outfit! Now look at it!" She gestured to Libia's ruined attire, as if she hadn't already seen it.

"I tried to tell them," She lied, "But it's just what every new kid goes through," Libia shrugged.

Mom grunted. "I'll leave you to shower, but we're talking about this Damon character when you get out," She wagged her finger at Libia, "That kid has got it bad for you!"

Libia almost choked on air. "Mom! It's not like that!" She cried.

She smiled knowingly. "Oh? What about you? I've never seen you meet another person's eyes for more than a few seconds, and now you're hugging him as if you'd known him for years!" She pointed at her.

She spluttered, narrowing her eyes at her. "I don't...I mean he doesn't...we're just friends!" She finally cried, before slamming the bathroom door shut.

He laughter faded down the hall, and Libia furrowed her eyebrows. They were just friends, right? Damon was pretending to date her because he wanted to help her get back at Johnson. That was all.

So why did her heart crack just a hair each time the words 'Just friends' passed through her mind?

Chapter Eight.

Libia wiped the steam from the mirror over the sink, grimacing when she caught sight of the bruise that had formed where Bailey had pinched and twisted so roughly. Libia could pass it off as having been accidentally hit with a basketball, her mother would most likely believe that.

Sighing, she stepped out of the bathroom, heading down the hall to her room. She dressed quickly in comfortable shorts and a nice T-shirt, before heading back out to where her mother waited, sipping her decaffeinated tea at the kitchen table.

She walked into the room, and the first thing her mother did was gasp. "Honey! Where did you get that bruise?" She asked in alarm.

"It's nothing, Mom. I just got hit with a basketball in gym. Nothing to be worried about," She assured softly.

Letting out a breath, she sat back. "Alright. Make yourself some tea and sit down. I want to know more about this Damon guy," Libia rolled her eyes, pouring some tea of her own, before sitting down.

"He's really just a friend," Again, her heart lurched painfully when the word passed her lips, confusing her.

Her mother let out a scoff. "Honey, don't give me that Horse Hockey. You don't like to even associate with people. God help you, you got your father's personality. Your brother and I have been trying to get you to associate with people for years, and you just shy away. And now you're hugging this guy like he's your last tie to life?" She scoffed again, "I don't believe it."

Libia stared at her mother, her cheeks reddening with the truth that she couldn't deny. Who was she kidding? She was falling for this guy.

"I'm pathetic, aren't I?" She said quietly, using her tea as an excuse not to look at her mother, as she warmed her hands on the glass surrounding the cup, "I can't even admit it to myself. How can I admit it to him when I'm too shy to let myself accept it? He probably doesn't even like me back," She mumbled, her fingers playing with the handle of the mug.

Her mother sighed. "Honey, you really are blind."

Looking up, Libia raised a puzzled eyebrow. "Huh?"

"He hugged you back, Libia. He held onto you like his life depended on it. You can't tell me that he doesn't like you, because I saw the look in that boy's eyes when he looked at you. It was like he'd just been smacked in the face with a heavy dose of Oh-My-God-I'm-In-Love," Libia giggled at her mother's analogy, shaking her head.

"Yeah right, Mom. Damon? Liking me?" She let out one short, humorless laugh. "Right."

Her mother narrowed her eyes, disbelieving. The girl could be a super model, if she wasn't so shy. Her face was petite, and she knew from experience that when that little nose sniffled and those big, innocent eyes filled with tears, you'd want to either kill the person that hurt her, or kill yourself for being the one that hurt her. The girl puts off this vibe that screams "protect me!"

Libia took a sip of her tea, before looking up at her mother, whom was studying her closely. "What?"

Shaking her head, her mother sighed. "Tell me about Damon. What's he like?"

"Well...he doesn't seem like it at first, but he's...sweet. He helped me...a lot, with school related stuff. He doesn't let anyone mess with me at school. He's got this sense of humor that can either have you looking at him like a mad man, or laughing too hard to stand up straight," Libia paused as she saw the knowing smile on her mother's lips, "What?"

"How long have you known Damon?" She asked, taking a drink of her tea.

Raising her eyebrows in confusion, she shrugged. "I don't know, a couple days I guess?"

The smile widened. "Really? So you've been hanging out with Damon for the duration of those couple days?"

"I guess. What are you getting at?" Libia asked, shaking her head with a confused smile.

"Well, you seem to know this boy pretty well. At least, personality wise," She explained.

Libia stared at her mother for a moment, before it clicked. "Oh no! You've got it all wrong! He's been helping me with some stuff!" Libia exclaimed, laughing at the absurdity of what her mother was implying.

Libia shifted in her chair at the idea that they had been dating. It wasn't true, of course, but she wished it had been. She remembered the way he'd smiled at her in school. It was such a soft, affectionate smile. She wished it had been real. And she hated that she did.

Sighing, her mother stood. "Well, just for the record, he'd be crazy not to like you," Her mother murmured, dropping a kiss to her forehead as she passed.

"Where are you going?" Libia asked, standing.

"I'm headed to the grocery store. We're out of a bunch of stuff," She called.

"Grocery store...oh shit!" She said, not loud enough for her mother to hear.

Libia couldn't believe she'd forgotten. It was a good thing her mother had reminded her, or she would have fallen asleep tonight without a single worry - and she'd be fired from her job.

She had to go at eight tonight. Which means she had two and a half ours to either sleep, study, or watch TV.

In the end, studying won out. It always did. So two hours later, she was throwing on an outfit, and putting her hair back into a messy ponytail.

Putting her headphones in, and calling a quick goodbye to her mother on the couch, she stepped out the door. She jogged down the sidewalk, her ponytail bouncing every which way. Listening to her favorite songs as she came around the corner, seeing the grocery store a block down.

On her way, she passed two men leaning on the wall of a bar, which was bustling on the inside, the doors open. She felt uneasy, but otherwise paid them no mind, as she adjusted her headphones. 

When she came to the grocery store, she shed her headphones, and her purse, setting them in her locker. She headed out, waving to her coworker as she passed.

"Hey Libby. I thought I saw you on the night shift schedule," Benny greeted her with a half hug.

Smiling, Libia nodded. "Yeah. I'm only able to go in early on the weekends," She shrugged.

Shaking his head, Benny let out a laugh. "You work too hard, girl."

Waving him off, she stood behind her register and began turning everything on. "Yeah right, I work five hours a night. That's hardly too hard. You should see my mother. Now that's a hard worker," Libia said, typing a few things in on her keyboard.

Benny shook his head. She never did take the credit she deserved.

After four and a half hours and few customers, Libia yawned heavily, now wishing that it was caffeinated tea or even coffee that her mother had given her. The music playing overhead was almost comical. It didn't fit the monotone persona of the place. 

"Who plays Conga in a grocery store?" She laughed to herself.

Still, just to entertain herself, she danced in her small space, skillfully moving her hips. Her coworker, Lizzy, laughed as she danced as well.

She let out a yelp as Benny pulled her from her space, and they began dancing.

She couldn't stop laughing, as they stumbled through their messy dance. It was nights like these that made working here all the more worth it. When it was slow, the manager didn't mind a few minutes of fun, unless they ignored a customer to do it.

For the end of the song, Benny spun her out, laughing along with her.

She wiped a tear from her eye as her laughter settled down, giving Benny a hug. "That was a wonderful dance, Benny!" She said as she stepped back behind her register.

"Thank you very much, madam," He did an exaggerated bow, chortling affectionately like a good-natured grandfather.

Laughing to herself, she turned back around, only to jump as Damon's face came into view.

"Wow," He chuckled.

Her cheeks turned bright red. "You seem to be here at the most innoportune moments."

"I disagree," He murmured, his eyes twinkling with amusement.

"Hey, Damon! Come over here and look at this thing!" Someone called, his voice slurred and full of amusement.

They both looked to see who it was. A boy stood with a group of guys, all of them laughing at some discovery they'd found. A couple of them were drunk.

She raised her eyebrows. "These were the friends, I'm guessing?" She asked with an amused smile.

Shaking his head, Damon let out a disbelieving laugh. "We go out to have some fun, they get drunk and want to come to the grocery store to mess around," Damon groaned.

Libia tipped her head back, letting out a laugh. 

Damon was caught in that innocent maneuver. Her black hair, which had been pulled back, brushed the hem of her jeans. Her beautiful smile was big and full of life. Her brown eyes seemed to shine. She was gorgeous. His thoughts went back to when she danced with Bennett. The way, even when she stumbled, that her body moved so lithely. He wished that he could dance with her like that. 

Shaking his head as if to clear his thoughts, Damon sighed. "I'm going to have to go and see what they're blabbering about."

Giggling, Libia nodded. "Yeah. You should probably go do that."

Rolling his eyes, he shot her a wink, before heading over to where his friends stood, still laughing about their apparently hilarious discovery.

Libia watched him go with a small smile. She was unaware of her surroundings, until someone stepped in her line of sight. "Hey," Brit, her coworker greeted.

"Hey Brit. I thought you weren't coming until one. It's twelve thirty," Libia reminded her.

"Yeah, I came in early," She explained.

"Ah, so does that mean my shift is over?"

Brit nodded. "Seems like it,"

Smiling, Libia began turning off her station. "Alright. I'll see you tomorrow night, right? You've got the same time as me."

"Yep. See you then," Brit said, waving her off.

Walking back to the break room, Libia gathered her things. She pulled her hair from it's ponytail, letting out a relieved breath as the weight was evenly distributed instead of focused on the back of her head, causing a slight headache.

"See you Benny!" Libia called as she headed for the door.

"Bye sweetheart. Hey you be careful walking home this late, you hear?" He said to her, sternly.

Smiling, Libia waved him off. "I'll be fine."

Still, he watched worriedly as she left the store. She was a beautiful young woman, and that, sometimes, could be a curse. 

Damon also watched as she left, ignoring his idiotic friends who had decided to interrupt his time with Libia to show him some honey-filled plastic teddy bear whom had his head dented in. He felt uneasy, hearing that she had, in fact, walked here.

"Go on, man. I'll keep these idiots in check," His best friend, Neil told him.

Neil had stayed sober, as always, and was the only one, aside from Damon, that wasn't rolling on the floor laughing about stupid shit.

Letting out a breath, Damon nodded, anxious to find her for some reason, as he already began walking. "Thanks, man."

The cool, but muggy night air around Libia was relaxing. She listened to the city sounds, mixed with the sounds of the crickets whom had found their homes in the lawns and patches of grass in front of buildings. Far off, there was the sound of sirens, and the familiar, nightly sound of a distant train horn. It had taken Libia all Summer to get used to those sounds, seeing as her room wasn't exactly sound proofed to it all, and she had lived in a small town without all those sounds. The only sound that she had found really familiar, were the crickets. She had tried to focus on those, like a lullaby.

Now she didn't think she'd be able to sleep without these familiar sounds.

She sighed softly as she walked, passing by the bar again, which was still bustling, though not as busy as before. She wondered if this was where Damon had been with his friends. It struck her to realize that he'd never actually told her about his friends before. In fact, she didn't know much about him at all, save for the fact that he had a brother. Other than that, he's not at the legal age to drink!

Sighing to herself, Libia shook her head of those thoughts.

Let him be. She thought to herself. You have no idea who he is.

She had to work to deny the fact that it hurt her to think that. He wasn't getting to know her because they were dating, or he was interested, he was trying to help her. And it hurt to realize it, even though that had been what she was telling herself all along. There had been a seed of hope in her heart.

She hadn't realized she'd paused her walk in front of Bear Village Park, until she was startled by a footfall behind her. Jumping, she turned to find a man, five feet away.

"Hi," He greeted casually.

Taking a cautious step back, she spoke in a timid voice, "Hello."

"It's a little late to be walking alone isn't it?" He asked her, following with a step forward.

"I...I just got off work. My home is just around the corner," She explained softly.

"Hmm. Beautiful girl like you, working this late? You work at the bar or something?" He asked her, taking a step closer.

Startled, she took two steps back, only to stumble into someone's grasp.

"Stop! Let me go!" She struggled as the man stepped closer, into the light of a street lamp.

Surprised, she paused. They were the two that had been leaning against the wall of the bar.

"It's alright, Baby. Nothing to worry about," The man promised casually, as if his hand wasn't reaching for her shirt.

She let out a cry as lips touched her ear, cringing away. "Leave me alone!" She sobbed, kicking out, and struggling.

The man's hand began to untuck her shirt. As the other man's lips trailed down to her neck. Revulsion wracked shivers down her spine, as she sobbed out her pleas, struggling like a mad woman.

"Libia!" All three of them paused at the enraged voice.

Libia began to sob for another reason. Relief. "Damon!" She sobbed, this time being able to break out of the two's hold that had gone slack in surprise.

She pushed past the man in front of her, but he caught her arm, causing her to shriek, "Damon!"

"Libia!" Damon ran faster, hearing her sobbing, desperate voice calling his name.

He swung the corner, to see two men, one man pushing Libia against a tree, while the other waited for Damon. His gaze went red, and then black dots swirled, and he blacked out.

Libia sobbed uncontrollably as she saw Damon lunge at the man that waited for him. He didn't expect Damon to be as strong as he was, as they went crashing to the ground. Meanwhile, with no regard for his friend, the man in front of her pressed his hand to her throat, before forcing his lips on hers. Still struggling, Libia pulled a bold move and bit down hard on his lip, spitting in his face when he pulled away.

She heard the sound before she felt the slap, as her head went back against the tree. "You bit-!" His words were cut off, as he was pulled from Libia. He was thrown on the ground by Damon, his head smacking the concrete sickeningly. Damon didn't stop there, the man groaned as Damon sat on top of him, reeling his fist back and slamming it down with the force of a sledge hammer. The man was out cold.

Breathing ragged, Damon stood, his back to Libia as his chest heaved and his fists clenched and unclenched repeatedly.

"Damon," Libia sobbed.

When Damon's sight came back to him, the two were lying on the ground, faces bashed in and bloodied, and his fists were bloodied and bruised. Had he done that?

"Damon," Libia repeated, louder this time.

Damon turned, and when he caught site of Libia, his rage was pushed aside, replaced with worry so strong it almost knocked him to his knees. Her cheek was bruised in a handprint, and her clothing was rumpled where they had tried to take them off. Taking three steps, he fell on his knees in front of her, reached out, and pulled her into his chest.

"Baby, I'm so sorry," He breathed as she broke down in his arms.

She sobbed, taking in harsh, shuddering breaths between each one. He held her close, rocking them back and forth. "Shh, Baby. Shh, it's alright now. I'm here Baby. I'm here," He whispered to her as he stood, letting her curl into him and bury her face in his chest.

"I'm gonna take you into the bar and we're gonna call the police, alright?" He said to her in a soothing tone.

Libia only had the strength to nod her head, as her body shut down on her. It took all of a minute to get to the bar, and the whole place went silent when they entered.

"Call the police!" Damon ordered, his voice loud and demanding.

"Oh gosh! I'll get her some water," Bertha, a good friend of his Aunt told him, running to grab a clean glass.

"What happened?" Danny, Bertha's husband asked as he dialed.

"She was attacked around the corner in front of the park. Two drunk idiots. I was lucky I got there in time," Damon answered, sliding onto a stool and helping Libia to sit up on his lap.

Despite the stress, rage and worry the night brought on, it still warmed his heart when she cuddled into him, burying her face in his neck. She still huccupped every once in a while, but her sobbing had died down. He liked to think that she felt comforted with him around.

"We've just had an attempted rape in front of Bear Village Park. An eighteen year old girl named Libia. Description of the men?" He asked Damon.

"They're bloodied and bruised. In fact, they should still be passed out on the sidewalk," Damon answered, taking the water from Bertha with a nod of thanks.

Danny smiled, although it wasn't happy, nor humorous. "That's my boy."

He explained that they should be passed out on the sidewalk, and where to find Libia and Damon, gave his own name, and then hung up. Danny watched as Damon carefully pulled Libia from where she had wilted into him. He had her take long sips of water, wiping the tears from her face as if she were an easily-broken piece of china. In all his years, he'd never seen the boy so tender. He spoke to her in soft tones, as she stared up at him with eyes that were so trusting, you'd think she would follow him off a cliff.

Shaking his head, Danny leaned against the counter across from them with Bertha, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. "Those two are hopelessly in love. And I bet you they don't even know it yet," He said to her.

Chuckling, but hardly with humor, Bertha knudged him. "Like you and I for ten years?"

He shook his head, still disbelieving that he had waited so long to realize it. "Exactly like you and I."

Damon pushed the hair tenderly behind her ear, as she stared up at him. She was in shock, he could see it in the way her eyes were glazed over. He just hoped that this didn't affect her in the long run. He hoped that she could move on, without living in fear.

He would help her, in fact. He would keep her safe. Forever. She wouldn't feel the need to live in fear, because he would be by her side. Always.

He was cut from his thoughts when Libia began to shiver. She began to shiver uncontrollably. She said her first two words since being attacked, "Oh God!"

Libia could feel her revulsion, pain, anger, and fear all come crashing down on her. If Damon hadn't been there...they'd have raped her, and possibly killed her. 

"Oh God!" She repeated, sobbing now as she buried her face in his chest. "I could have been...I was almost...they would have..." Her sentences were incoherent, and muffled in his shirt.

It killed him to see her like this. He rocked them back and forth yet again, his eyes closed as he buried his face in her hair. 

"It's alright Baby. They're gone. They won't hurt you anymore. I've got you Baby. Shh," He murmured to her, his mouth moving down to her ear as he brushed the hair behind it, pressing a kiss to the skin just in front of it.

Danny stood straighter as a policemen entered the bar.

"Danny Fiorelle?" The man asked him.

"Yeah, you got the right guy. This is Damon Slain, and Libia...?" He looked to Damon.

"Libia Fields," He answered idly, still comforting the shivering, crying girl.

"We've got the two in custody, but we're going to have to take you two down and ask some questions. That okay with you?" He asked.

Sighing, Damon crinkled an eyebrow as he gently pulled Libia's face from his chest. "Libs, this man wants to ask you some questions about the men who attacked you. Do you think you're up to it?" He asked her, cradling her face gently in his hands.

Libia wrapped her arms around herself, still shivering. She gave a nod, her lip still quivering.

"Can...can you s-stay with me?" She whispered.

Damon looked at the police officer, whom nodded.

"Of course I can. Do you want me to carry you?" He asked her, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

She nodded, knowing that her legs would be too weak to even try.

Gathering her carefully in his arms, he stood up, coddling her like he would a baby. Nodding to the police officer, he followed him out, Danny following close behind.

Suddenly, Libia jolted in Damon's arms. "I have to call my brother! I was supposed to be home by at least two thirty!" She cried, sniffling.

Damon shushed her, shifting her to one arm so he could coddle her face in his other hand. "Don't worry. I'll call them."

She stared up into his eyes, those deep blue ones calming her almost instantly. It shocked her to feel a warmth flooding her heart. Tender feelings that should not be there for a man she just met fertilized the seedling that had been planted inside her, quickly growing, unfurling it's red, fiery petals and flourishing. This was much more than a simple crush. This was morphing into love. 

The way he held her, comforted her. She even recalled him calling her the pet name 'Baby.'

And she loved it. Was this simply a hero complex? She was seeing him this way because he had saved her from certain violation, and possible death?

That had to be it. She couldn't love him...not now. Not when they had just met.

Sighing, she closed her eyes. If that was so, and this was some sort of damsel-in-distress complex, then why did she feel so right in his arms? His touch on her cheek still tingled, although he'd taken it off seconds ago. What was this, exactly?

She knew for a fact that he did not harbor any sort of infatuation towards her. Despite what her mother said. This was just him, comforting a distraught girl any way he can. He was being the hero she needed him to be. Nothing more.

They sat in the car, Damon studying Libia's face as they drove. She hadn't fallen asleep, he knew it by the troubled look that still marred her features. She was thinking. He hoped that it wasn't of the two that had attacked her, but it was highly likely that she wouldn't just forget it.  It had only happened just fifteen minutes ago.

Her eyes slid open again, catching his own as they stared down at her. She barely managed a small smile. "Are you okay?" He asked in a whisper, tucking her hair behind her ear.

She nodded. "Yes. Thanks to you."

Shaking his head, he looked away. "I should have gotton there sooner," He mumbled.

She lifted a slightly shaky hand, very gently taking his jaw and turning his head down to look at her. "Don't say that, Damon. You were there. That's all that matters to me," She whispered.

He stared down at her, eyes stinging with tears that he refused to shed. "They hurt you. Not just mentally, but physically. All because I-"

"Because I was stupid, and walked home at one in the morning," She interjected. "You saved me from much worse, Damon. And for that, I will be forever indebted to you," She murmured.

He stroked the bruise forming on her beautiful cheek, his anger still boiling under the surface. Idly, she pulled his hand back and examined his bruised, battered knuckles, frowning. He still didn't remember what happened. One minute, he was standing there, watching as they assaulted her in front of him, and the next...he was standing over both of them, fists clenched and bloody.

He noticed, also, that her lips were bruised slightly. Taking his hand from her grasp, he ran his thumb along her bottom lip. "Did he...?"

She nodded. "Don't you remember? You pulled him off of me," Libia reminded him.

He shook his head. "The only thing I remember is one minute I'm standing in front of the guy, the next you're calling my name, and both of them are on the ground," He explained in a whisper.

She didn't answer, as they pulled into the police station. She only cuddled into him, burying her face in his neck and closing her eyes. He held her close, feeling content to have her in the one place he could keep her the most safe, his arms.

"I'm sorry, Libia. If I could have been there with you...they wouldn't have touched you, even if they tried," He whispered to her, as the policeman got out to open his door for him.

"Don't blame yourself, Damon. I don't," She whispered back, her lips moving against his neck, sending tingling warmth down his spine.

Chapter Nine.

Damon sat in the back seat, Libia sleeping, curled up close to his side. Two of his friends had called a cab, but the other three were in with them. Neil drove, while Leo and Dennis sat silently, soberly beside them. 

"Hey man, I'm glad she's alright, at any rate." Neil said, noticing the barely-contained anger in his friend.

Damon tightened his grip on Libia, and she cuddled closer to him in response. "Yeah," He replied, unable to think of another answer.

The car fell into more silence, as they arrived at Leo's house on the way to Libia's. Damon couldn't get ahold of either of the Fields' from Libia's contacts on her phone. He hoped they were home. 

"Hey, I hope she's really okay, man. Sorry about this," Leo told him as he opened the door.

Shaking his head, he grit his teeth, "Don't tell me that. I'm not the one with bruises all over their face," Damon ground out.

Sighing, Leo nodded. "Right. Keep me updated, though. I mean it. I want to know if she's alright."

Damon gave a long sigh, softening his tone. "Thanks man. Sorry. I will."

Leo got out of the car with one more goodbye to the others, walking leisurely up to his house.

When they pulled away, Neil sighed. "I'll drop you off next, Damon, seeing as Dennis is out."

Shaking his head, Damon looked over into the passenger seat. Neil was right, Dennis was passed out cold.

Libia stirred in his arms, mumbling something incoherent before settling back down again, this time with her face pressed into Damon's neck, her breath tickling the skin.

"How did you get involved with this girl?" Neil asked him quietly.

Looking up, Damon raised an eyebrow at his friend from the rear view mirror. "What do you mean?"

Shrugging, Neil replied, "She just doesn't seem like the kind of girl you'd go for. Your usually into the wild types," Neil's eyebrows raised a fraction in the mirror, "She doesn't seem very wild to me."

Damon sighed. "She's not exactly wild, but she's not exactly tame either. She's trapped in a goody-two-shoes family. I wanted to help her out of that. Also...she's different. And before you go calling me on the corny line, it's true. She's innocent, and sweet. Sweet as hell. I guess I need a little innocence in my life," Damon shrugged.

Neil snorted quietly. "Yeah. God knows not a single bone in your body is innocent."

Damon glowered at his friend from the rear view mirror. "Just shut up and drive."

Neil laughed, but did as he was told.

When they arrived at the house, Damon noticed that all the lights were on. In the curtains, he could he a silhouette pacing.

"Uh-oh. You said you couldn't get ahold of them, right?" Neil asked him.

Damon shook his head. "Nope," He sighed, "I just hope her brother doesn't jump me before I can get an explanation out."

With that said, Damon shook Libia gently. "Hey, we're here, Babe."

"Hmm?" Libia came awake, groggily looking around. She sat confused for a moment, before she met Damon's eyes. "Oh. Already?" She mumbled, glancing tiredly out the window.

Damon, despite himself, let out a soft laugh. "Yeah. Already."

"Okay," She whispered, letting Damon open the door and help her out.

She swayed slightly, too tired to hold herself upright. Damon caught her, and chuckled softly as he stopped by Neil's window. Neil unrolled it, peering out at him. "You can go ahead and drop Dennis off. I'll call my brother to pick me up," He told him.

Nodding, Neil waited for them to get around the car and on the sidewalk, before he pulled out and drove off. "Ben isn't going to be happy," Libia mumbled, leaning her temple on Damon's shoulder as he helped her walk.

Damon shook his head, wrapping an arm around her waist and practically picking her up, seeing as her feet dragged anyway. "Why should he be? I wouldn't be surprised if he never let me see you again," He told Libia.

Lifting her head, Libia frowned at Damon. "He's going to worship the ground you walk on, Damon. What I mean is that he's not going to take the news that I got attacked easily. Neither is Mom. You know it's not your fault," Libia told him in a scolding manner, setting her hand on his bicep and squeezing for emphasis. 

Damon shook his head, but murmured, "Sure, sure."

Sighing as they reached the front door, Libia reached out and pressed the doorbell. "Don't you have a key?" He asked her.

She shrugged. "I don't feel like finding it."

He understood that. 

The door flew open without delay, and there stood Ben, seething with worry and anger. "Where have you been? Do you know how- Libia, your face!" Ben rushed out, noticing the bruises she sported.

"I'm alright, Ben. Really-"

"She was attacked. On her way home, two lollygags thought it was a good idea to jump her," Damon cut in before Libia could chicken out with some lame excuse.

Libia winced. She knew how her brother would react. 

And she was right. Ben seethed with anger. His hands clenched into fists, and his body began shaking. He let out a roar and his fist went flying, smashing into the wall beside the door.

Suddenly, their mother appeared in the doorway, calm and collected. She grabbed ahold of Ben and dragged him away, calling back, "Go in the kitchen and get settled. I want the full story when I calm him down!"

He was unsurprised by Libia's brother's reaction. Ben took it better than Damon did. Damon completely blacked out with rage. He stepped through the threshold, holding Libia securely to his side, although she was more alert now. He sat her down on a kitchen stool and turned her chair to face him. Lifting her chin so her face was tilted in the light, he examined her bruises. "Where are your rags?" He asked her.

"Third droor down by the sink," She replied softly.

Words couldn't explain the shock she felt when he briefly pressed his lips to her marred cheek, so warm and soft that she wanted to close her eyes and relish in it. But he pulled away, and she watched as he turned and opened the droor she had directed him to, pulling out a large kitchen towel and opening the freezer. He filled the rag with ice, bunching it up in his fist to create a make-shift ice pack, and approached her. He carefully pressed it to her swollen cheek, his serious, but tender gaze colliding with her wide, innocent one. He pressed his hand to her other cheek, and a soft smile finally showed itself, although it was small.

"I'm glad you're safe, Libia."

She could feel the blood rush to her cheeks, but she doubted it was noticable, seeing that her bruise throbbed anyway.

The coolness of the ice began to seep through the cloth, providing relief from the pain.

"If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be safe, Damon. Remember that," She told him, settling a hand on his chest, over his heart.

Damon dropped his hand from her cheek, and she from his chest, as they heard her mother and brother making their way to the kitchen, speaking quietly.

Damon kept holding the icepack over her cheek, taking her chin to turn her head and asess the damage done to her by Johnson and Bailey earlier that day. His eyebrows furrowed and he sighed heavily. That one really was his fault. If he hadn't joined the football team, he would have been there with her. As soon as he got the time, he was dropping out and taking up gym class again.

"Oh! Are we inturrupting something?" Damon dropped his hand, turning to see her mother standing in the doorway. It amused him slightly to find that her eyes were hopeful.

Libia almost groaned in embarrassment, as her gaze moved up to Ben, who stood there with his chest puffed out, brotherly mode showing proudly as he scrutinized Damon like a predator watches it's prey.

"Of course not, Mrs. Fields. I'm just tending to Libia's bruise," Damon said smoothly, causing Libia to look at him.

"Don't call me Mrs. Fields. I'll feel old. Call me Sadie," Her mother told him.

"Sure," He told her.

Libia put a hand on his, which still held the icepack. He looked at her, and she indicated that she could hold it herself. He nodded, a little reluctantly, and gently pulled his hand out from under hers.

"So what's this about Libia being attacked?" Her mother asked, pulling out a chair at the kitchen table and turning it to face them as she sat down. Ben followed her lead.

Damon sat beside Libia, facing away from the counter so he could lean his elbows on it. "I tried calling you to tell you what happened. I couldn't get ahold of either of you before her phone died, and I had no way of contacting you otherwise - I didn't have your number. Two hours ago, Libia got off of her shift early and began walking home. I was at the store with a few friends at the time and noticed her leave. Needless to say, I got worried. I had planned on following after her to walk her home, but by the time I found her, it was too late. They were obviously drunk, the two that had attacked her, and they were looking for a good time I suppose. I got there just in time to see Libia being pushed into a tree and then..." He trailed off, and then let out a hesitant laugh, "I don't remember what happened after that. I blacked out. Libia told me that I beat the living hell out of them, but I don't remember. All I remember is one second I'm standing there watching this guy treat Libia like some-," He cut himself off, his fists clenching briefly and his eyes closing as he contained his anger, "And the next," He continued, opening his eyes, "I'm standing over them while they lay on the concrete, out cold. My fists are bloody and bruising, and Libia is calling my name," He finished, shrugging.

The room was silent. Libia's breathing was slightly shaky as the memory she'd tried to keep at bay came back to her. She didn't like to think of the outcome if Damon hadn't been there.

Noticing her anxiety, Damon quickly reached out, taking her free hand and enclosing it in his.  Their eyes met for a long moment, before Libia's breathing slowed to a steady rhythm. She gave him a weak smile of thanks.

"Oh god," Sadie said, suddenly feeling feint.

"Mom?" Ben reached for her as she leaned over, her elbows leaning on her knees.

Libia sprung from her chair in worry, setting aside the ice pack, and hurrying to where her mother sat, hunched and shaking.

She leaned down in front of her, taking her shoulders in each hand. "Mom?"

"My baby!" The calm front she had been putting up crumbled, as she reached out and pulled Libia into her.

"Mom, I'm okay!" Libia assured, alarmed as she squeezed her mother's shoulders in emphasis of her words.

"But you might not have been! You might have been...k-killed! Violated! My little girl!" She pulled her tighter to her chest, causing Libia to pull her mother out of her chair and onto the floor so she could hold her without Libia snapping in half with the force of her arms.

Libia now had the strong front pulled up. She'd had practice with hiding her emotions before, when their dear grandfather died days after their grandmother did. They'd been a second parent to Libia, but she had to be strong for her mother and her brother, knowing that their normally boisterous personalities were also very, very fragile. Sometimes a person could be so naturally happy, that when they fall - they fall the hardest, and shatter. Libia had seen it when her grandparents died, and she had seen it when her dad left her mother. Both times, she'd been the rock holding the family together. This time was no different.

So, she gently rocked her mother, rebelling against the tears that wanted to come. Beside them, Ben sank to his knees, gently setting a hand on his mother's back. Damon could only watch the change he saw in Libia. She looked years older than eighteen. Her face serious and far from the fearful, sobbing girl he'd held in his arms just hours before. It struck him to realize that Libia was used to this. She was used to being the mother figure of the family. She also looked weary, and it was no surprise, either. He wondered how long she'd had to be the parent in the family. How long she'd had to be strong and mature for those who couldn't be. She must have been tired, to take on such a responsibility.


It was hours later that Libia was standing on the doorstep, her shirt stained with her mother's tears, in front of Damon. Damon was waiting for his brother to pick him up, seeing as they'd gone to her home in his friend's car. Neil, she remembered that he'd introduced himself. She could hardly remember the other's names, as the few hours after the attack were spent in an exhausted haze on her part. She only remembered Neil's name because he'd mentioned that he was Damon's oldest friend.

They stared at eachother in the limited, orange light of the corner street post, clashing with the silvery light of the moon. She could barely see his eyes as he was turned away from the light, darkening his face, but she knew he wasn't smiling. She wasn't either. How could she?

"Thank-" She began, but he cut her off.

"If I have to hear "thank you" one more time, I'm going to puke," He muttered.

She knew he was serious, but she was unable to stop a laugh from escaping. "Fine, then what do you want? There is no way that I can pay you back for what you did. I owe you my life. At least let me try and thank you somehow," Libia said, shrugging.

Even in the darkness, Libia could see Damon tense, and wheels began turning in his head. She tilted her own, wondering what suddenly had him thinking so hard.

"You know, there is something...," He trailed off, taking a smooth step forward.

Libia looked up at him. Now that he was blocking the light behind him, she could see his face better. His eyes twinkled with mirth, and it was refreshing to see something other than that serious gaze that he had on, trying to hide the anger that he still felt, but failing. She saw no anger, now, just intent.

"What is it?" She asked him curiously.

"Isn't the damsel always supposed to repay her knight in shining armor with a kiss or some stupid shit like that?" He asked.

Libia paused for a moment, before snorting. "Was that supposed to be romantically witty? Because adding 'some stupid shit like that' kind of ruined it," She informed him.

And then it sank in, and she looked sharply up at him. "What did you say?"

He gripped her face in both of his hands. "This will be enough...for tonight," He murmured, before leaning down, capturing her lips with his.

She gasped, and then her eyes fluttered closed. Was this...for real?

One of his hands gingerly slipped into her hair, cradling the back of her head. 

Yep. This is definitely real. She thought, as the familiar feel of his lips moving slow and steady on hers, and the stubble that tickled her chin caused butterflies to take flight in her stomach, and she shivered. Her hands reached up, cradling his cheeks for a moment, feeling the prickly hair that framed his perfect jaw, before slipping into his hair. Her stomach rippled with desire, and passion, and the nights events melted into the background. His other arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her snug against him. She felt varying emotions pool in her stomach, and flounder through her thoughts. Confusion as to what this meant, excitement and nervousness, as to what this might mean, and finally, the flower blooming in her heart grew tenfold. Ten new buds sprung to life, and began blooming. She was in love. Undoubtedly. 

And this scared the hell out of her.

They both heard the car pull up at the curb, but Damon refused to pull away. Instead, he backed away, pulling her with him until they reached the edge of the porch. Finally, recluctantly, he released her lips. Could this have only lasted a few minutes? It felt as if it had lasted years, and yet she needed more. Staring up at him, eyes wide, emotions on display, she basked in the way he smiled down at her, their faces close enough that their labored breathing mingled together.

"See you tomorrow, Babe," He whispered, running his fingers through the length of her hair.

Mindlessly, she nodded. "Okay."

He loved the way her dazed eyes looked in the moonlight. They shined with so much emotion, that letting her go would most likely kill him. Her hands were still in his hair, and he didn't think she realized that one of them was moving in a soothing rhythm, stroking his hair as if he were her pet. And at that moment, he was. He was putty in her hands, and she wasn't even aware. 

Even though his brother hadn't called to him yet, he knew he was impatient. Damon had to comfort himself with the knowledge that he would see her tomorrow, in order to finally remove his arm from around her waist. The dissapointment in her eyes was enough to drown him. He couldn't help but drop a kiss to her forehead in reflex.

"See you tomorrow," He repeated, and then added in a softer, huskier tone, "Baby."

The force of that single word could have dropped Libia to her knees, if she hadn't been frozen in surprise. With one last wink in the darkness, he turned and began walking to where his brother waited in the car. Libia knew her cheeks were flaming, as her eyes watered from the heat, but she blinked away the meaningless tears, watching him open the door and glance back at her. Even from here, she could see the huge, boyish grin he had on his face. A reflexive smile split her face in return.

"See you tomorrow," She replied softly, even though he'd already gotten into the car.

"What are you smiling at?" Jack asked him when Damon closed the door.

Damon knew that his brother wasn't happy with him for waking him up at four in the morning, but Damon couldn't care less. He simply shook his head, his eyes trained on the black haired beauty still standing on the porch as Jack pulled off.


When Libia awoke the next morning, her bruise was throbbing again, only this time with more force. Groaning, she smacked her hand down on the alarm a few times, before it finally turned off. She rolled over, staring at the ceiling as she tried to blink the blurriness from her eyes.

Beside her, her brother and her mother slept soundly still, her mother cradled soundly to Ben's chest. It was almost comical, this big, twenty year old man cuddling the tiny woman that was their mother to him like a teddybear. But Libia also found it very, very sweet. He almost looked like the little boy she used to know, in his sleep. Her mother used to cuddle him the same way when he'd had a nightmare, which he was prone to. Carefully, she slipped from bed, pulling the covers up over them both. They deserved to sleep a little longer. They'd insisted on sleeping in Libia's bed with her like they used to do on stormy nights back home. It gave Libia comfort.

She went downstairs, picking up the remote for the TV so she could watch from the kitchen while she made breakfast. She turned it on, and was surprised to find her own face staring back at her. An old yearbook photo from two years ago. Libia was smiling hugely in the picture. It was after she'd gotton her braces off, and she couldn't have been happier. But right now, she wasn't happy. Far from it. She was mortified. Splashed across the screen in colors much like police lights, the headline of the news story read LOCAL GIRL JUMPED GOING HOME FROM WORK.

She turned up the sound as the reporter came on screen. "-Recieved news that the girl was alledgedly jumped on her way home from her job. Witnesses say that she was two blocks away from the grocery store which she works, when two assailents approached, one in front, and one behind. One distracted the girl, while the other sneaked up and grabbed her...," Witnesses? What witnesses? As far as Libia knew, there was no one there but herself and Damon. And how did they get her yearbook picture? Those were all left at her home town!

She turned her attention back to the TV, teaming with embarrassment. "-We were told that another man, apparently a friend of the girl, caught the assailents in the act of attempting to rape the girl, and attacked," Libia stepped back as another picture came up on screen. A slightly younger version of Damon stared back at her, eyes bored, no smile evident.

"The two assailents are in custody at this time, and we have been informed that the girl got away unharmed." Two pictures, side by side, flashed up onscreen. The two men that had attacked her, their faces bashed in and bloody, their eyes swollen shut - both of them.

Libia winced. Geez, Damon. How can you not remember doing that?

She sank down on the couch, her appetite forgotten. Who could have reported this? How could they have gotten the story together so quickly - the pictures, the witness accounts, the police reports. How the hell could they have done it so quickly?

Libia picked up her phone from the coffee table, unplugging it from the charger, and finding Damon's number with ease. She typed the message in a daze. 

Did you see it?

 It was seconds later that he texted back.


 Shaking her head, she said,

I'm not going into school today. I'm taking a sick day.

 A minute later, she got a text back.

I don't think I'm going to either. How about we don't go to school together?

 Libia smiled, shivering as she remembered their most recent kiss.

I thought you'd never ask.

Chapter Ten.


When Damon arrived, Libia was wearing one of the outfits he'd bought her. Ben had stumbled through the kitchen in a daze, grabbed an apple, and stumbled out the door, mumbling about college classes. Shortly after, Sadie had come down, dressed in her work uniform, complaining about last minute calls. She'd hugged Libia with all her might, agreeing to the day off. Libia didn't mention the reason for it. She only said that she needed it.

She wore the pair of shorts he'd gotten her, paired with a bright red blouse that was lace and a little low cut for her liking, but still acceptable if paired with an undershirt. 

She jumped up when he knocked on the door, quickly switching off the TV and grabbing her little black purse from the table. She jogged to the door, stopping to steady her breathing and wait for a few seconds so she wouldn't seem so eager. 

Opening the door, she smiled up at him.

"Hi- holy hell!" He exclaimed, taking in her outfit.

Libia frowned, looking down at her apparel. "What?"

Damon couldn't seem to form words. It had been a while since he'd seen her in the clothing he'd gotten her. Her long, slender legs were gloriously shown off, and the red blouse she had on accentuated each curve of her body. Not to mention, she looked gracious in red. Absolutely stunning.

Libia looked up at him, her head tilting as he didn't answer her. His mouth was open slightly, as he took her in.

"Should I change?"

"No!" He exclaimed, startling her. "I You look perfect," She had no idea how much meaning went into those words.

He noticed that her bruises were covered. Not completely gone by any stretch, but not as noticable either. He was glad to see that her most recent bruise wasn't swollen anymore.

"Okay," He clapped his hands together. "Shall we go?"

Nodding, Libia took the hand he offered her, her heart fluttering in her chest when he laced their fingers together. She looked up at him, but he was staring ahead, leading her along as if he weren't causing her a heart attack.

To her disappointment, it wasn't sunny today, as it had been for the past day or so. Clouds gathered above, dark and foreboding, although it still remained warm outside - making the air muggy. "Brace yourselves - winter is coming...back," She mumbled to herself.

Damon stopped in front of his motorcycle, a grin splitting his face as he looked at her. "Did you just-?"

"No!" She exclaimed, shaking her head.

"Sure, sure," He rolled his eyes. "Dork."

Dork? Did he just call me...dork? Libia thought incredulously.

She suddenly felt her mood drop. What was she to him? A friend? But he'd kissed her so passionately the night before. But calling her dork? That wasn't something that boded well in the 'he potentially likes her as more than a friend' evidence list. The name actually made her feel like a ten year old.

Oblivious to her change in mood, he got on the bike, and started it up. The sudden roar of the engine caused Libia to jump, breaking her from her down-in-the-dumps stupor. Carefully, she threw her leg over the back of the bike, sliding close to him and wrapping her arms around his waist tightly. 

Damon couldn't help the thrill that went through him when Libia splayed her hands over his stomach, and he had to work hard not to shiver at her touch.

They went speeding off, and Libia let out a delighted howl at the exileration that raced through her.

Her hair flew behind her, and the wind whipped at her face. She felt alive.

"Where are we going?" She called in Damon's ear.

Grinning, he briefly glanced at her over his shoulder. "Somewhere," He answered vaguley.

Laughing, Libia lightly tapped her forehead on his back. "Jerk!"

He chuckled, gaining even more speed as they zoomed past the traffic light.

It took thirty minutes to get to their destination. They were out of the city, and in an industrial part on the outskirts. Libia's hair was a mess of tangly waves, and she combed her fingers through the strands, trying to detangle it the best she could.

She got off of the bike, looking up at the seemingly-abandoned building they sat in front of. It was an old theater.

"Um...Damon?" She glanced at him apprehensively. "What the heck is this?"

Chuckling, Damon rummaged through a bag on the back of his bike and came up with a flashlight. He came up behind her. "This is fun, Babe. People say that this building is haunted. I want to see if what they say is true," He told her.

"Um. Okay, no," Libia turned and began walking away, but Damon caught her around the waist.

"Come on, Babe! I'll protect you," He murmured, his lips brushing her ear.

"I'd rather not go into an abandoned building. And anyway, it's ten AM! That's hardly scary," Libia told him, trying to pull away.

Damon tightened his arms, turning her around and lifting one hand to her chin. He lifted her face to his. "If I had brought you here at twelve at night, you wouldn't have gone in with me," He told her.

"And what makes you think I'm going in with you now?"

Chuckling, Damon pulled her tighter to him, so her body was flush against his. "Because deep inside, you're as curious as I am to see what's in there," He told her.

Libia shook her head. "I think you're wrong on that account."

Sighing, Damon leaned in close to her, his breath hitting her face, his lips just barely touching hers as he spoke, "Fine, because I'm asking you to, and it'll be no fun if you're not in there with me," He said.

Letting out a huff at his unfair advantage, Libia crossed her arms over her chest, pouting. "Fine. I'll go in the stupid building."

Damon smiled hugely. "Let's go!" 

He suddenly let go of Libia, grabbing her hand and tugging her toward the building. She felt like the cartoon characters that dug their feet into the ground as the other dragged them along through the concrete. She managed to pull Damon to a stop right outside the door, under the old, beaten down overhang. The windows to the ticket counter was clouded up and dusty. Libia suddenly felt like a mouse.

"O-on second thought, you go ahead," Libia took a step back, but Damon dragged her to his side, wrapping an arm around her waist. "Relax. We'll be fine."

Libia was on the verge of shaking, when a thought came to her. "Hey, isn't this breaking and entering?"

Damon looked down at her, and winked. "Maybe."

"Damon-!" Libia exclaimed, but she was cut off when he was suddenly right there, his eyes boring into hers, their lips inches apart.

"We won't get caught. I promise. You've got to break the rules if you want to break free," Damon told her.

Furrowing her eyebrows, Libia struggled to think clearly, "B-but-"

"Shh," He tenderly pressed his fingertip to her lips, silencing her before he began tracing them. "We won't get in trouble - I promise."

She was going to go insane if he didn't back off right then. Literally insane. She'd never been so...constantly touched by a man before. No matter what they were doing, he seemed to always be touching her in some way. Whether it be his arm around her waist, his hand in hers. The way he touched her face all the time, brushed her hair behind her ear. It was all so new to her, so...confusing.

She was only able to nod. Releasing her waist from his grip, he turned to the door with a smile and a wink her way. There was a jagged hole in the glass from previous B&E attempts, so all Damon had to do was reach in and flip the lock. He pushed on the door, grunting as it scraped against the floor and presented plenty of resistance. 

When the door was completely open, Damon stood back, and Libia scurried to his side, wrapping her arm around his own and clutching his sleeve with her other hand as she looked around. It was dark inside, despite the sunlight streaming through the open door. Damon smiled as he turned on the flashlight, threading his fingers through hers. 

It occurred to Libia that she didn't know this Damon at all. There was a defiant glint in his eyes, one that hinted at the "fugitive bad boy" that everyone had said him to be. She didn't know Damon well. She knew his protective side of her, and his playful side, his soft side, and a side she didn't want to see again - his angry side, but she didn't know his rebel side. Did he do this sort of thing often? Perhaps with his other friends?

Libia looked up at him in the darkness as they moved forward. The light briefly illuminated his face as he ran it over the delapidated ceiling, and his grin was one that told her that he was having fun. 

Libia, however, was a little terrified. The thought of being caught, plus the thought of something actually happening partaining to the supernatural was causing her to tremble next to Damon. Libia didn't believe in spirits leaving their body to haunt the place they died, but she did believe in Demons. Her mother was a baptist, and the baptist way was ingrained in her mind. She didn't like messing with things like this.

"D-Damon...I'm not sure-"

"Relax, Babe. I'm right here. If anything happens, I'll protect you. I promised, remember?" He looked down at her in the darkness, his eyes shining with determination. Libia got the feeling that he wasn't just talking about their situation at hand.

Still, she nodded, and he began dragging her forward. Despite his assurances, she still trembled as they went farther into the darkness. Consession counters sat empty and broken. The desplay that used to show candy were bare, the glass broken, browned, and even blackened in some places.

"This place used to be all the rage in my parents youth," Libia noticed a change in Damon at the mention of his parents. He was tense, his eyes showing with a new kind of anger - resentment. "They said that all the classics used to play here - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, House on a Haunted Hill, Romeo and Juliet, yaddy, yaddy," He waved his hand, his muscular arm flexing at the movement. "My parents went to see every showing there was."

"Why is it haunted?" She asked him, imagining some stupid story about the place being built on a burial ground or some idiot bringing a Ouija board in the attic.

They entered a hallway, which led down both ways. A large, colonial 1 was painted above the door on the left, and on the right, was a number two. They walked down the hallway to the left, stopping in front of the two large doors, which used to be painted vibrant red, were now faded and weathered. Their originally golden-painted wooden, swirled handles were now chipped and dirty. 

Damon pressed a hand against the door, and then looked at Libia, before he spoke, "A man climbed up on stage in the middle of The Count of Monty Cristo, claimed that he had nothing else to live for, and shot himself."

Libia gasped, wrenching out of Damon's grasp as if she'd been shocked. Without another word, she ran. She ran back to the open door, her shoes clapping against the dilapidated wooden floor. "Libia!" Damon called her.

She ignored him. Did he really think that she would stay after she'd heard that?

No wonder this place was rumored to be "haunted." This was a hotspot for maniplulative demons to have their way with the history of the theater! With the poor man's story of depression.

She didn't stop, only slowed, as she reached the sidewalk. She walked briskly now, glaring at the ground. She couldn't believe he'd taken her there! She couldn't believe she'd let him lead her into that place! 

She was walking slow enough that Damon easily caught up to her in a jog. She harshly shrugged his hand off of her arm without looking at him.

"Libia, come on!" He grabbed a hold of her arm again, spinning her around.

"Leave me alone!" She told him.

"Libia, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have taken you in there," He lifted her face, but she stared at his mouth instead of his eyes. "Libia," Damon groaned, passing a hand over her forehead and brushing stray hairs from her face. "Look at me."

"Why did you take me in there, Damon? I'm not...I'm not brave like you...not as adventerous. I believe that messing with things like that will bring something bad along with you," She finally whispered.

Damon was silent for a few moments, before leaning his head down until she was forced to meet his gaze, those deep blue eyes warming. "I'm sorry. I had no idea you felt so strong about it. If I had known, you wouldn't have come within a mile of this place," He told her.

As the last words left his mouth, rain began to fall. It was in occasional drops at first, and then suddenly it was pouring. Both of them looked up at the dark sky, and then at each other. Thinking the same thing.

We came on a motorcycle.

"Shit!" Damon exclaimed.

Libia covered her mouth as a loud giggle escaped. They were beginning to soak in the sudden downpour, and it was getting colder, but Libia couldn't seem to care, as more laughter escaped. After a few seconds, Damon joined her. They laughed at their situation at hand, and at the fight they'd just shared. They laughed at their strange friendship, and at everything that had happened recently. They just laughed. Libia took a step forward, but slipped on the now slick concrete. 

"Umph!" She said as she fell into Damon, and he slipped. They went tumbling onto the ground, laughing as they went. 

"Ow," Damon said in a casual manner, blinking as rain fell into his eyes.

Libia could barely hear him over the pouring rain, but could see his lips move as she was above him. Libia's laughter slowly died down, as he lifted a hand to tuck a wet tendril of hair behind her ear. "Are you alright?" She asked him, voice soft.

He stared into her eyes, his own terribly soft. Instead of answering her, he asked, "Why can't I stop thinking about you?"

Libia's heart stopped, before pounding violently in her chest. "What?"

And there it was, that soft, genuine smile he loved to give her. And she loved to receive. "Don't look at me with those big eyes. It's not fair, Baby. Do you know how much power those two, chocolate brown orbs have over me? I'm not sure you should know," He mused.

Libia wrinkled a brow in confusion. Butterflies were now wreaking havoc in her stomach with every tender touch to her face. Every endearing pet name. She was falling, and falling hard. She was unable to speak, unable to move. Her eyes were caught in his, and even when the cold began to penetrate the thin shirt she had on, she could barely feel it. 

"Libia, baby," Damon cooed, smoothly lifting up on one elbow below her, so their faces were inches apart.

Blinking, Libia found herself breathing in his scent. She felt a familiar tickle in her nose. "What?"

Chuckling, Damon grinned slightly. "Can I..."

"Yes?" She hedged, almost too eagerly, as he trailed off.

"I'd really like to-"

Suddenly, Libia felt the tickle in her nose get stronger, she pulled back, covering her face with her hands just in time to let out one hell of a sneeze.

As soon as it happened, Damon seemed to realize where they were. He then realized how cold it was, and that Libia was only wearing that sexy blouse and shorts.

Quickly, he pulled her close to him, easily standing with her wrapped in his arms. "Let's get out of here. I'll call a cab and have the bike picked up later." He told her.

"What about the theater?" She asked him.

"Don't worry. The police come through every week to have it closed up again. We'll wait around the corner," He assured.

Holding her tightly to his chest, he scooped her up in his arms, jogging down to the end of the street, he turned left, finding a suitable bench with a little roof over the top - an old bus stop.

He carefully set her on the dry bench, sitting beside her. As soon as he was comfortable, Libia curled into him. "Wait to call a cab, Damon," Libia sighed, settling her head on his shoulder, and staring out at the sheeting rain. "This is nice."

"You're cold," He said to her, his eyebrows furrowing.

Libia shook her head. "I'm," She told him, cuddling deeper into his side for emphasis.

He stared at her for a moment, deliberating, before he sighed. "Alright. But if you start shivering I'm calling a cab and taking you home."

Libia shook her head, as if arguing with him. She didn't want to go home. She was sure her father had heard of what had happened. He'd be home in hours. Libia didn't want to remember what happened to her. She wanted to forget. In order to do that...she needed Damon.

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and she turned her head so it was buried in his side. She breathed in his scent, setting her mind free of all thoughts but of the man beside her.

Damon could only watch the action, his breath leaving him, and his heart racing. Her warm breath seeped through his wet shirt, the simple action warming his entire body to the core. Her long black lashes were wet against her cheek, and her hair was in wet tresses down her back. She was the definition of lovely.

He found himself lifting his hand and stroking her dark hair, running his fingers through the slightly tangled mess. His eyes followed the movement of his hand, as if it were not his doing. Finally, he knew the answer as to why he couldn't get her off of his mind.

She'd held his thoughts in her hands the day that she ran away from him after class. 

And his love.

Chapter Eleven.


When Libia arrived home, she looked up at Damon. "Thank you. Even though I got wet, I had fun," Libia shrugged with a slight smile.

Damon smiled back. "I'm glad, Babe," He kissed her cheek. "If you need me, I'm a phone call away," He reminded her.

She nodded, smiling. "I know."

He watched her go, hoping against hope that she didn't get sick. It was now cold out, and she was wearing shorts and soaking wet. He could only hope.

Libia entered her home, letting out a breath of relief when silence greeted her. No one had told her father just yet, and her brother and mother didn't seem to be home.

She let herself relax, and then a sneeze wracked her body.

She cursed through her sniffles, wiping her nose on her sleeve as she walked back to her room, grabbing a towel before walking into the bathroom and taking a hot shower.


A week later.

Libia sat waiting for her brother to arrive home, refusing to let her heavy eyes close until his warm presence was in the house. After that night, she hadn't been able to fall asleep peacefully in an empty home. She always had nightmares of someone attacking her in her sleep. Her brother didn't know this, of course. He assumed the first night he'd found her watching TV in the living room that she was worried about him. She didn't offer any explanation, just hugged him and set off to bed without a word.

The Breakfast Club played on low volume, Libia remembering her brother's words to her. 

I'm going to a party, Libs. You don't need to wait up for me tonight.

 She worried about what those words meant. Did that mean he wouldn't be home that night? If so...would she have to endure her never ending nightmares alone? She sniffled, wiping her slightly runny nose with yet another tissue. She'd gotten a minor cold from her night with Damon, but she was getting over it now. 

Her mother took a double shift because the hospital was short on nurses, and she was the only one willing to take it. She needed the money more than the others. So her mother would be working nonstop from eight tonight to twelve tomorrow. She'd be dead on her feet when she finally came back home.

Libia bit her lip as she looked at the clock below the TV. It was already one in the morning, and Ben wasn't home yet. Libia couldn't stay awake much longer. 

Sighing, she blinked back the tears stinging her eyes and stood up, making her way into the kitchen. She glanced out the front window for headlights, or even the silhouette of her brother coming up the sidewalk. There was none. Rubbing her arms with her lip between her teeth, Libia opened the fridge and grabbed a water. She settled down in a stool, and was about to twist the cap off, when there came a knock.

Libia's eyes brightened, and she jumped up from the stool, her water forgotten. She eagerly ran to the door, but when she unlocked it and threw it open, it was not who she thought it was going to be.

Damon stood, a little wobbly, as he looked in at Libia. Libia tilted her head, frowning. Her eyes moved over the bruises he had all over his face. "Damon, your face!"

There was ten seconds of silence. Damon stared into her caring, but confused eyes, and his strength crumbled. He staggered forward, and she caught him in her arms as he wrapped his own weakly around her. He was shaking as she lowered him to the ground, and the heartbreaking gasp that left his lips struck Libia as she realized he was crying.

Libia was so alarmed that she couldn't speak for a second. "Damon," She whispered, lost, "What happened...why are you bruised?"

She smelled the faint smell of alcahol on his clothes, and the way he held her told her that this was a man whom needed nothing but comfort.

"I am ashamed of you, you son of a bitch. How can you be such a dissapointment? Just like your Aunt!" He suddenly sobbed out. "That'sss what they ssaid to me. In front of my fffront of everry one!"

Libia's eyes were wide as they stared blurrily over his shoulder, rubbing his back. "Who said that, Damon?" She whispered.

"Mom...Dad! I came home...fffrom the tattoo parlor. I wass visiting Cass...they found cigarettes in my backpack...kicked me out," His sentences were slurred and his words caught in his breath.

"Cigarettes?" Libia whispered to herself.

"They kicked me out...called me a worthless low life. My dad kept hitting me...and hitting me..." 

"Shh, you don't have to talk about it. It's alright. Come on, Damon. Let's get some ice on those bruises, hmm?"

He let her help him up, and she pulled back so she could put a hand on his cheek, gently moving his face back and forth to assess the damage. His eyes refused to meet hers, downcast to the floor. His broken expression broke her heart. "Come on."

She led him into the kitchen, having to support him some as he stumbled, drunk.

She set him on a stool, and he put his head in his arms on the counter.

She prepared the ice pack, the silence filling the kitchen. She pulled the ponytail holder from her hair to wrap around the ends of the rag to hold them together, and her hair fell around her shoulders in the usual, unkempt waves. Damon moved sluggishly, as he lifted his head, setting his chin on his arms to watch her. His eyes blearily studied her raven hair, blinking slowly.

"You can stay for the night. That's why you came, right?" Libia asked as she turned around to look at him.

He blinked again, unsteadily using his arms to push himself back up. His eyebrows furrowed in thought. "I...I don't...," He scratched his head. Why had he come?

He remembered taking his eleventh shot, his friends cheering on some competitive game of pool going on around him while he himself wallowed in his own pain. And then while he was sitting there, he caught a glimpse of a girl with black hair, and his mind went to Libia. He'd made a resolve to see her...but why? The next thing he knew, he was walking from the bar, stumbling in the direction of Libia's home.

Libia gave a concerned frown. "Come to think of it, I didn't see any head lights. Or even hear a motorcycle. How did you get here?" She asked, making her way towards him and having him turn his chair so she could take care of the bruises.

He didn't answer as she got up on the stool in front of him, shifting so she sat on her knees. She was now level with his face, as she pressed the pack to his cheek. He noticed her attire for the first time. Soft-looking shorts paired with a tank top that showed off her perfectly-healing tattoo.

"Damon?" She asked, her voice soft.

Her eyes shifted from the icepack to his, and her breath staggered. His eyes were filled with tender desire. His need for her was muddling his already befuddled mind. Carefully, he took the icepack from her hand, setting it to the side. He reached for her, and she willingly leaned toward him, her eyes caught in his, completely under his spell.

He pulled her off of the stool she was on, and onto his lap, and her legs straddled him. "Babe," He whispered, his voice desperate, before he slid his hand to the back of her neck, and pulled her face to his, smashing his lips to hers.

She returned his enthusiasm with her own. His lips tasted like tequila, but she was too lost in his touch to care. He groped his hand down her side, slipping it under her shirt as his finger tips grazed back up, causing a shiver to wrack through her. 

She pulled away from him, opening her eyes to look up into his. "Why?" Was all she was able to ask.

He cupped her face in both his hands, staring uncertainly into her big, innocent eyes. Could he really tell her what he felt for her? 

Libia found the turmoil in his own eyes confusing, as she reached up to put her hands on each side of his neck. "Damon, what do I mean to you?" This question had been on her mind since that kiss. She was tired of searching her own mind for the answer.

He pressed his lips into a thin line, before leaning down and pressing his face into her neck. His father's words repeated in his mind, and he shook his head against her skin. If she knew who he really was...she'd hate him. "I can't...please, Libia...just be with me tonight," He mumbled.

For a few seconds, she stared down at his blond head. The man was in pain - that much was clear. It killed Libia to think of what his parents had done to him. Her eyes filled with tears as she whispered, "Let's go sit on the couch, okay?"

He didn't say anything, but he let her pull his face from her neck, and slide from his lap. She took his hands, helping him up from the stool and leading him into the living room. She flipped on a lamp so a small bit of light illuminated the room, and sat him down on the couch, which she'd covered with comforters. He pulled her into his lap again, burying his face in her neck and inhaling her scent. 

"You're not a low life," She murmured, playing with the strands of his blond hair.

He didn't answer, pressing his lips into a thin line.

"To have your parents call you an indication that they have no idea who you really are." She whispered, her other hand lying limply on his chest, feeling his steady heartbeat.

His eyes squeezed tighter, as he wanted to flinch at her words. Why did he think he ever deserved this girl? 

Still, he stayed there, holding her tight to his chest, breathing her scent, knowing that this would probably be the last night he was going to do it...for tomorrow...he'd tell her. Tell her everything. And she would cast him away, just as his parents had done.

He held her closer, pressing a tender, lingering kiss to her neck. "Baby," He whispered.

He pulled his head back to look into her eyes, as she brought her hand up from his chest to cup his cheek. He melded his lips to hers, pulling her closer. Tears filled his closed eyes, at the thought of losing her, but he didn't let them fall, pressing his lips harder to hers as she turned in his lap until her legs were on either side of his. His tongue ran the length of her bottom lip, and Libia willingly opened her mouth. Damon groped his hands down her sides, taking the hem of her shirt and lifting it. She groaned softly when his fingertips trailed back up, circling around to the small of her back and tracing tantalizing circles there. 

Libia had never been this intimite with a man. She'd read about it hundreds of times, and wondered what it would be like, but she never expected the effect it had on her. Her stomach was bubbling with butterflies, her hands had a mind of their own as they slid around his torso, clutching at his muscular shoulders with need and the unmistakable feeling of lust. 

One of Damon's hands slid into her hair, before carefully combing his fingers down the black locks, causing sparks to ignite inside Libia and tingles to race down her back. She shivered almost violently as she moaned in pleasure.

All the while, Damon held her almost desperately, clinging onto every sound, every sweet movement of her body against his. The way her hands clutched fistfuls of his shirt, or the loving, slightly clumsy way she moved her lips against his, inciting tender love and overpowering desire all at once. 

How could he let her go after this?

 When he pulled away, Libia panted for breath, her eyes fluttering open to stare into his, but he pressed his face into her neck again, as if ashamed to look at her. "I'm sorry, Libia," He suddenly mumbled.

She was so confused. Was he doing this because he was drunk? Or was there something else he wasn't telling her? 

Never the less, she didn't ask him about it, only whispered words of comfort, shifting so she sat comfortably in his lap and running her fingers through his hair. She knew the alcahol had something to do with it. He wouldn't be showing this side of him if he were sober. He'd be hiding it. Protecting her from a side of him he didn't want her to see. But a big part of it had to do with his family - his past. Just what happened to him?


She couldn't remember how his head had ended up in her lap, as he laid stretched out on the couch, sleeping peacefully. She only remembered humming softly to him as he buried his face in her stomach, running her fingers through his hair. Now, her eyes fluttered open, staring up at the ceiling. She shifted, sitting up, realizing that she was still on the couch, but Damon's head was no longer in her lap. She began to look for him, but found him sitting with his forehead in his hand, at the end of the couch.

"Hey," She yawned.

He didn't answer her, his eyes closing at the sound of her voice.

She paused in the act of stretching when he didn't move, nor aknowledge her. "Damon?"

He took in a shaky breath, gathering himself. "I...have to tell you something, Libia."

She hesitated, before sliding onto the cushion next to him, settling on her knees. "What is it?"

He clenched his other hand into a fist at his side, his lips pressing into a thin line. He took in a deep breath in through his nose, his fist squeezing tighter as he opened his mouth...and something completely different than he had intended passed his lips.

"I can't see you anymore, Libia."

Even he had to flinch at the words. Where had that come from? 

Libia blinked, and then laughed slightly. "What?"

Still, he decided that his brain knew better than his mouth. 

"I said I can't see you anymore. So...," His fist squeezed so hard that he could have sworn he drew blood, "Don't look at me...," Tighter still, "Don't talk to me...," Tighter, "And don't...try to help me again!"

Veins in his hand burst he squeezed so hard.

Libia sat, dumbfounded, as he abruptly stood. "This will be the last time we speak. Ever." He tried desperately to hide the rough edge in his voice.

"Damon...," Libia whispered, dread filling her heart.

Had this all been some game, just like Johnson? Had she really been played - again? Although this time, instead of feeling humiliation, her heart shattered into a million pieces. Damon...had been special to her. She'd...she'd fallen in love with him!

Damon made the mistake of glancing back at her face as he strode from the living room. She clutched her hand to her chest, eyes filled with tears, face...crumbled.

His breath caught, and he strode from the room.

Libia flinched hard as the front door slammed, signaling that he'd left...without another word.

A sob bubbled up, and she stood, running to her room.

Chapter Twelve.


Dear Libs, I'll be at work all day today and possibly all night. There is a virus going around that is putting people in the hospital, and most of my coworkers have gotten it. You had it when you were young, so you're immune, but keep an eye on your brother for me, he's like me and susceptible to everything.

Love, Mom.

PS: You know you can talk to me about anything, right?

Libia sighed heavily as she read through the letter. Her brother was on his way home from college now. She knew they'd heard her crying in her room, but her mother and her brother knew her. She'd come to them if she needed their comfort. She refused it otherwise. They knew she wouldn't tell them what was wrong until she was ready, either. Still, her mother liked to remind her that she could tell her anything.

Her heart still beat, surprisingly, but she still felt the pain with every thump. She always thought that when people said that they were heartbroken, it was just an expression. It was very literal. Her heart felt like it had been stabbed with a jagged knife, and then had been left to bleed. It'd been a week since the incident with Damon, and she'd sent one of the girls in her dance class up with a letter to her teacher, explaining that she wouldn't be able to make it to class that week. She didn't feel like facing him.

She jumped, pulled from her thoughts as the phone let out a shrill ring throughout the house. Who was calling her home number?

Still, she set down the letter and picked up the phone, checking the ID. 

Her manager's number?


"Libia, thank God. Your brother's here!" Vivi said frantically.

"Vivi? Why are you calling from my work? What do you mean my brother's there?"

"I was buyin' milk for my mom and I was gettin' it checked out and suddenly your brother comes stumblin' in and throws up all over the place and he's lookin' for you and he looks like Death himself!" Vivi finished her ramble.

Libia's heart sank to the floor. "Oh god. Stay right there, I'm on my way!"

Libia disconnected with Vivi, and began to panic. She didn't have a car. Her brother had taken his to college, and her mother had taken hers. "Shit!" She cried.

She paced, knowing that it would most likely give her an anxiety attack to walk there alone. The first time she'd tried after that night, she got to the end of the street and screamed bloody murder when a car went zooming by and startled her. Not to mention, it was raining again, and the ground was partially freezing because of the cold.

But she had to try. This was her brother, and he was severely sick.

She threw on a heavy coat, and grabbed her house key. Her worry for her brother was overpowering her worry for herself ten fold, as she threw open the door. She jogged out into the weather, trying to comfort herself with the fact that it was raining, and she had less of a chance of being attacked.

She ran as fast as she could, despite that, already shivering. She reached the end of the street, crossing the road without looking, and suddenly heard the screetching of tires. Instinctually, a scream left her lips as she threw up her arms as if to protect herself, falling backwards onto her bottom.

She waited for the impact, but nothing came. She opened her eyes to see a familiar BMW. Her eyes trailed up the hood, looking through the windsheild to find an achingly familiar face.

He got out of the car, as she sat there trembling.

"Libia, what the hell?" He shouted over the noise of the rain.

He kneeled down in front of her, his hair already getting soaked from the rain, falling in his eyes. Libia bit her lip hard, and then a sob burst from her lips.

"I-I-I was trying get to the g-grocery st-store because my brother is-is there and-and I have to get him to the ho-hospital be-because he's sick. And I don't have a car and-and-and-and-"

"Libia...," Damon whispered, pained.

"He's sick...I-I have to-to-to-"

"Shh, come on. He's at the grocery store right? I'll take you there."

Libia sniffled pathetically, her breath hitching. She looked up through bleary eyes at Damon. "But...but I th-thought-"

"Libia, your brother is severely sick, right?" She nodded.

"Then I'm not going to let you take him to the hospital alone."

She hesitated, but eventually her need to go and take care of her brother won out, and she let him pull her up, leading her to the car and opening the door for her.


The ride to the grocery store was silent. Libia refused to look at him, although she knew he was glancing at her from time to time. She immediately threw open the door when they got there, stumbling out of the car and racing for the entrance. The doors slid open, and the first thing she saw was her brother sitting against the wall, grimacing. When he looked up and saw Libia, his worn eyes brightened.

"Libs!" He mumbled.

Libia rushed to his side, pushing all of her emotions to the side as she pressed the back of her hand to his forehead. He was hotter than fire, and his face was pale and sweaty. "How are you feeling?" She asked softly.

"I've been better," He shrugged slightly.

Vivi, who caught site of Libia while she was grabbing some water for Ben, jogged to where they were. "Hey, Hon. I'm glad you could get here."

Libia nodded in greeting to Vivi. "Thank you for calling me."

"Honey, it's the least I could do. This boy looked like he was 'gonna collapse." Vivi waved her off.

Libia nodded in agreement, and then pulled his arm around her shoulders, hauling him up. "Come on, big guy."

"You be careful out in that weather," Vivi told her, and Libia nodded, smiling slightly at Vivi.

"We will."

Ben stumbled a little, and Libia put her hand on his chest as she pulled them both to go a little slower. He was terribly sick.

Ben and Libia had always been close. Since they were young, they'd been attatched by the hip. Libia knew things that no one else in the world knew, and vise versa. She was also the only person he ever wanted near him when he was sick. Libia took care of him through all of his sicknesses. Severe flu, stomach bugs, common colds, Libia was always there to make him eat when he refused to, or to keep his covers on him when he'd try to push them off. That's why, when he got sick this time, he went looking for her. She had told him she might have been working that morning.

Damon waited by the car, his expression serious, but Libia saw something hidden behind his eyes that she couldn't quite discern. He opened the back door so she could put him in. She slid into the back seat with him, instructing him to lie down.

He cuddled his head in her lap, his arm wrapped around his stomach, and he closed his eyes. "Don't open them, alright? I know how sick you get in cars," Libia said, as Damon began driving.

He grunted in agreement, clutching his stomach a little tighter.

Damon watched through the rear view mirror as Libia stared down at her brother with tender concern, his heart throbbed as he remembered that same look on her face as she held him, but he pushed those thoughts away.

"Libia...," Ben mumbled, curling a little tighter as his stomach lurched. 

"What is it? Do we need to pull over?" She rushed out worriedly.

A smile tugged at Ben's mouth. "No...just wondering why you look like that."

Libia tilted her head. "Hmm?"

"Your hair is dripping...and your eyes are still red. Have you been crying...since this morning?" He asked her.

She bit her lip, avoiding Damon's gaze in the mirror. "My hair is wet because I didn't have a car. I was running to the store," Libia told him.

Ben noticed that she didn't answer his second question, as he opened his eyes to peer up at her. He wasn't too sick to notice the hidden hurt deep in her eyes. Left over from something that happened. It confused him, but he knew not to ask her about it - she'd tell him when she wanted to.

"You shouldn't have done that, Libia," He muttered.

"What did you expect me to do, Ben - leave you at the store?" Libia rolled her eyes. "Close your eyes before you get sick."

He thought about arguing with his sister, but he decided against it, and obediantly closed his eyes.

When they arrived at the hospital, Libia helped Ben out of the car, and he leaned his weight partially on her, as his world began to spin. "Whoa," He muttered, disoriented.

Libia watched him closely, as his eyes followed the spinning of the earth. Her eyebrows were furrowed with worry. Cold fear spread through her limbs at how sick he became in just a short time.

They entered the lobby of the hospital, the woman behind the counter looked up, just as Ben let out a sick gag and fell forward onto his hands and knees. "Ben!" Libia cried, as he began choking up.

"I'll get a doctor!" The woman said in alarm.

Damon stood behind them, unable to move as Libia watched her brother vomit all over the floor. He was struck by the sight of it. Was that...blood?

"Oh, God.'re throwing up blood!" Libia was close to crying now, her voice shaking and thick.

The doctor came rushing in, the nurse by his side. "Get him into emergency care, we've got to put him on antibiotics immediately!" He told her, kneeling down beside the boy on the other side of Libia.

Libia pushed herself out of the way, as the nurse leaned down in her place, looping her arm under his. The doctor and she hauled him up, helping him walk - or stumble - down the hall. Libia was trembling in fear for her brother. The cold feeling settling like a sheet over her heart. She took a step forward, to follow them, and her knees buckled.

"Libia!" Damon grunted, lurching forward and wrapping his arms around her from the back, catching her.

"Don't touch me!" She shrilled, breaking from his grasp.

She spun around to face him, her breathing slowly turning into hyperventilation. "Libia...," Damon mumbled, surprise.

"I'm...fine! Why are you here, anyway? Why are you helping me? You got what you want, you don't have to pretend anymore!" She cried.

"Libia-" He was cut off as she lunged forward and her hand whipped out, smacking him.

She had to admit, her hand stung.

He rubbed his jaw, looking at her in surprise, and pain. 

"You had no right to do the things you did, Damon! protected me, made me feel I was finally able to trust someone and then...and then I find out it's all just a ploy. A stupid game you played on an innocent...stupid girl who doesn't know any better!" She ranted, her fists beating his chest, trying to cause him pain.

"Libia, that wasn't-"

"A-and to top it all off, you kissed me! You kissed me it meant something to you! Like I meant something to you! It's so goddamn confusing! What do you want from me, Damon?" She cried.

Damon's fingers wrapped around her wrists, knowing that most of this was caused by the stress of her brother's condition. She would never admit any of this out loud unless she'd been holding it in too long. But also, it was his fault. He'd hurt her, just a short time after she'd been humiliated in assentially the same way. But it was for the best, he decided. She didn't deserve a guy like him. 

But right now, he couldn't leave her like this. If he left her alone, he'd feel like the biggest ass to ever walk the earth, so he pulled her close, and he held her tight against him.

She struggled for a few seconds, wanting to smack him again, but soon her struggles died, and she melted into his arms, crying into his chest. He let his fingers stroke her wet hair, as he buried his face into the top of her head. 

"I'm so sorry," He whispered under his breath, too low for Libia to hear.

"Why, Damon? You can't just...leave like that without telling me why!" She mumbled.

His arm tightened a little. She was right, of course. He owed her an explanation. He'd been planning on telling her anyway, but his stupid self chickened out. 

He opened his mouth to speak, but the shrill ring of his cellphone cut him off. He sighed and reluctantly released her, digging in his pocket and slipping his phone out. He grimaced when he saw the number.

Answering it, he carefully wiped the tears away from Libia's cheeks as he spoke. "Yeah."

"Where the hell are you?" His mother growled at him.

Libia watched his expression darken. Immediately she knew it wasn't someone he wanted to talk to at the moment. 

"A friend of mine needed a ride," He replied vaguley.

She watched his expression as his mother said something else to him. It was strangely cold. Unfamiliar.

"Yeah, I'll be there." He said, and then muttered, "Bitch."

Libia blinked in surprise. She wondered who he was speaking to, that he would be so cold to. He shot her an apologetic look, seeing her surprise.

"No, I didn't say anything. Yeah. Bye."

He stuffed his phone back in his pocket, and unnexpectedly pulled her back into a tight hug. He pressed his lips to her forehead, before he let her go. He turned and strode away from her without a word, and she was stuck watching him go, unable to form a single protest.

She had no idea her mother had been watching the scene, until she turned to follow the hallway where her brother was taken, and found her, shoulder leaning on the wall, eyes narrowed, with an accusing smile that said, 'I knew it!'

Libia's cheeks heated up to melting degrees, as she ducked her head and attempted to walk past her mother.

"Oh no you don't, Libia!" Her mother exclaimed, promptly grasping her arm and dragging her back.

Libia suppressed the urge to groan. "Do you have to be party to all of my drama?" Libia asked her.

"Of course I do - I'm your mother. Now tell me what happened," She demanded.

Libia crossed her arms. "I think we should go check up on Ben-"

"Nonsense. He's fine. I came from there to see where you dissapeared to. Now spill," Her mother told her, leaning on the wall again.

Libia looked around at the open halls, and then groaned. "Can we at least sit down?"


 Her mother set down a steaming, foam cup of coffee in front of her, as they sat in the waiting room near Ben's. He was sleeping now, after having thrown up the contents of everything he'd eaten since he was born.

Sitting down across from her in the comfortable, leather chair, her mother gave her a pointed look.

Libia looked into her mother's eyes, those familiar, warm, sometimes-childish eyes, and suddenly her own filled with tears, and she threw her face into her hands, crying.

She spilled what she could about their strange relationship - never telling her mother about Johnson or Damon's offer to "change her." But the more important things. When he would smile at her, and butterflies would suddenly flutter like crazy in her stomach. The fact that he never seemed to not be touching her when they were together - his arm around her shoulders, his hand grasping hers, brushing the hair from her face. And all the kisses that they shared - her forehead, her cheeks...her lips. Finally, she told her about the night that they had spent together. He'd stumbled into the door, and straight into her arms, drunk. He'd told her about his parents. He'd kissed her like his life depended on it, begging her not to question it. And then...he left her, his words cold, and his face one of stone.

When she was done, sniffling and hiccuping as she wiped her nose, her mother let out a tired laugh, shaking her head. 

Libia looked up with blurry eyes, sniffling. "What?"

"That boy--you know what? He has to tell you on his own. Let me just say, that you mean a lot more to him than he lets on."

Libia wiped her eyes, shaking her head. "But he-"

"He did that to protect you, Libia. Frankly, a man who leaves you thinking he's not good enough, is a man you need to hold on to." Her mother laughed again.

Libia wrinkled her eyebrows. "Protecting me? He's not good enough? What?"

Her mother smiled at her. "Talk to him. Beat it out of him if you have to. It's obvious - painfully so - that the boy cares about you. There's something he's protecting you from, Libia."

Libia blinked at her mother. "Protecting me?" She repeated. "From what?"

Her mother shook her head in exhasperation. "I am not a mind reader!"

Libia held up her hands. "Alright. Alright I get it. But how am I supposed to get him to talk to me?"

Her mother looked down at her cup. "You know him better than I do, Honey."

Sighing, Libia pressed her lips together. She didn't know him well enough.


Libia walked through the halls of her school, heading for lunch. Vivi trailed after her, rambling on about an argument she had with her boyfriend. Libia made an effort to listen, but her mind was shot. Three days ago, her mother had been as healthy as a horse, and now she was sick. Libia had been up all night helping her mother to and from the bathroom in her hospital room, seeing as the hospital was short on nurses. She had a bagel the morning before, but she couldn't remember eating anything after that. 

She'd been nodding in agreement when appropriate, feeling guilty that she wasn't listening. 

She stopped by her locker to put her books away, as her good friend leaned on the locker next to hers. She put them away without looking at them, her eyes unfocused. She noticed that Vivi paused, looking at her expectantly, so she nodded, as usual, as she closed her locker and began walking again.

Vivi's eyes furrowed. "Hon, I just asked you if you thought cheese grew from trees," Vivi told her.

Her cheeks flushed. "Sorry."

"Are you okay, Sweetie? You look pale as a theater performer with stage fright!"

Libia shot her friend a glare, before muttering, "I'm alright. Just tired."

Vivi gave her friend a disbelieving look. "You look like Casper the ghost!"

Libia rolled her eyes as they entered the cafeteria, "My mom has that bad virus, and my brother is recovering. I volenteered as an assistant nurse because they were short on staff. I was up all night with my mom. It's no big deal," Libia shrugged, before she was hit with a dizzy spell, and she stumbled forward a few steps.

Vivi caught her, her eyebrows furrowing. "Libia, Honey, you're dead on your feet."

The dizzyness faded, and Libia straightened. "I'm fine. I've gotten used to the dizziness."

Libia winced. She hadn't meant to let that slip.

"Gotten used to it? Libia, you mean you've been havin' these more than once?" Vivi asked, leading her over to a table and sitting her down.

Libia sighed. "Just...a couple of times...since this morning."

Vivi shot her an incredulous look. "When is the last time you ate?"

Her cheeks went red again. "Um...sometime yesterday...?"

"Libia!" Vivi suddenly shouted, calling everyone's attention.

Libia went redder, as she tried to quiet her friend down.

"Do you realize how stupid that is? You haven't eaten, you haven't slept, my god Libia!" She kept on ranting, and Libia sank deeper into her chair in embarrassement.

She stomped off, still ranting, and Libia covered her heated face with her hands, looking through her fingers as her friend shoved some poor kid out of the way, and started shoveling food into a tray. Libia gulped.

Vivi slammed money on the counter, waving the cashier off when she tried to give her change, and stomped back over to Libia.

She flinched as Vivi slammed the tray down beside her, giving her that motherly, scathing, dissaproving look. "Eat!"

Libia looked at the random foods that had been thrown on the tray, grimacing as her stomach rolled, having shrank from not eating.

"Well...I'm not very-" Vivi cut her off, grabbing a chicken nugget and shoving it into her mouth.

Libia stared up at Vivi with wide eyes, unnaware that she could be so demanding, the girl had only ever been sweet to Libia. Slowly, she started to chew, refusing to let herself register what she was doing. As long as she could fool her mind into thinking she wasn't eating, she could keep the nausea at bay.

At least, she hoped that was the case.

As soon as she swallowed the chicken, Vivi smiled brightly, as if she didn't just turn into Robo-Mom. She plopped down beside Libia, taking a tater tot for herself, and popping it in her mouth. "You should have called me when your mother got sick. I could have volenteered too," She muttered through her food.

Libia shrugged, taking another nugget. "I didn't think about it."

Damon watched from afar, slightly amused at what he'd just seen, and slightly horrified at Libia's appearance. Did she realize how terrible she looked on the outside? Her skin was so pale, she looked like she just came from an extended trip under a rock. He could literally see her shoulders slumping with the weight of the responsibilities she carried. Even so, she was still beautiful.

Libia felt eyes on her back, and she knew who's they were. Was her mother right? Was he only trying to protect her? Or was Libia chasing false hope?

She'd resolved to catch him alone...somehow, and talk to him, but he always seemed to be gone after school. Libia sighed. He was definitely avoiding her. 

Libia had been slowly changing. She wore her hair in a high ponytail today, and she'd wrapped a spiked bracelet around the thick band twice, which Vivi had complimented her on. Her knee high, leather boots sported silver spikes on the toes to match her hair. She felt like biker chick. The thing about all this was, she was much more comfortable in her own skin this way. Despite having to wear the uniform, she made it work, wearing a black, long sleeve shirt underneath it so she could leave the uniform shirt unbuttoned.

This change was all thanks to Damon, of course. She wasn't as shy as she used to be, either. She met eyes with people, was able to talk more freely. 

"Hey, Libia, your phone's ringing," She was pulled from her reverie, suddenly picking up the shrill of her brother's ringtone.

Her breath caught, and she immediately answered the phone. "What's wrong?"

"Libia...Mom has a bad fever. She's halucinating." He told her, his voice shaking and weak.

Libia gave her friend the one minute sign, standing up and heading over to the cafeteria door. "You don't sound too good yourself."

"No I...I don't feel too good either. It's bad, though, Libs. It's not going down."

Libia bit her lip, before saying, "I'll be there in no time. Call me if anything else happens, alright?"

He hummed in agreement, before they disconnected. Libia rushed back over to her table, gathering her things. "Libia, you've had two chicken nuggets!" Vivi protested.

"I'm sorry, but it's an emergency. Will you let the principal know that I left early?" She asked, already feeling exhaustion weigh her shoulders down.

"Honey, you're over working yourself!" She stressed.

"I know that, but it's not a big deal!" Libia cried, her frustration brimming. "I don't have time to worry about myself, and it wouldn't be justified, either. My family is seriously ill right now! The least I can do is be there for them!"

Vivi sat back, surprised at her outburst. She'd never heard the girl's voice get that loud before.

Libia rubbed her temples. "I-I'm sorry. Will you just tell the principle I left early?"

Nodding, Vivi mumbled, "Yeah. Sure thing, Hon. How are you going to get there?"

"I'll take the bus," Libia answered, slinging her backpack over her shoulders.

She began making her way towards the door, when a wave of dizziness, and she stumbled. Vivi lunged to catch her, and Damon stood up abruptly from where he watched.

She shook her head of the dizziness, pushing gently away from Vivi. "I'm fine," She repeated firmly.

Vivi watched her walk away, worry clenching her heart, as a murmer of voices echoed through the on-looking crowd, some worried, some confused. "The girl's too good for her health."

Vivi backed into the table, sinking down in her seat. Everyone watched as Damon walked across the cafeteria, grabbed two large water bottles and a packaged sandwich, paid for them, and then followed Libia. Vivi smiled, comforted by the knowledge that he would be there for her.


She stopped at her locker, stuffing her backpack in with her spare books, and slammed it closed. Libia yelped in surprise as Damon's face came into view. "What are you doing here?" She asked, a hand on her racing heart. 

He sighed, "I'm taking you to the hospital."

For a few seconds, Libia's dead mind jumped to the conclusion that he was taking her to the hospital to admit her, before she shook her head in two quick movements to clear her thoughts. "Oh...thanks," She mumbled.

They walked in silence, the only sound between them was their feet against the hard tile. Libia was dead on her feet, unable to form a word, and Damon was busy watching her to make sure she didn't pass out.

They reached the car, and Damon hurried to open the door for her, helping her in.

"Thank you," She murmured, before he closed the door.

The drive was quiet, as Libia stared out the window. Her fogged mind tried to comprehend that Damon was speaking to her again, but it wouldn't catch up. She was completely shredded. Her eyes drifted closed, as she leaned her forehead on the glass. She had no idea what she was going to do when she reached the hospital. 

"When is the last time you had substantial food?" Damon inturrupted her thoughts, flickering a glance in her direction.

She sucked in a long breath, before muttering as she exhaled, "I think it was...yesterday...sometime...."

Shaking his head, he threw the sandwich he'd bought for her in her lap, and then demanded, "Eat it."

She looked down at the two little triangles of bread stuffed into a tiny plastic box, and for some reason, her heart warmed. "Thank you."

He didn't answer, so she unwrapped the sandwich, and began to eat one of the halves.

"And the last time you had a full glass of water?" He interrogated.

Her cheeks warmed. "Sometime around four last night...?"

Without another word, he threw both waters into her lap as well, and then demanded, "Drink them both."

She looked up at him as she chewed her food, wincing at the brooding look on his face. "Are you angry at me?"

For a second, the brooding expression stayed, but then his face softened, and he sighed. "I'm only angry that you let yourself go without food for so long. Not to mention you dehydrated yourself to the point of dizzyspells!" He slowed down and stopped at a red light, closing his eyes for a moment.

Libia blinked in surprise when he turned his head, and opened his eyes to look at her. Those blue depths were wrought with emotion. "You have no idea how hard it's been, Libia. Watching you from across the room, knowing that I could just walk that short distance and see your soft brown eyes up close. Seeing you smile, and knowing that it wasn't directed at's been agonizing," He murmured.

"Damon...," Libia whispered, the breath stolen from her lungs.

The glow of the green light through the cold fog caught both of their attention, and Damon broke their gaze. The car was silent as they turned into the hospital parking lot, Libia unable to form a word.

He slid into a parking space, turning the car off. Both of them sat in the now dormant car, and Damon refused to meet Libia's eyes. 

"I don't have time for you to explain to me now - I need to make sure my mother's alright...but please, if you want my forgiveness for hurting me, you have to explain to me why you did it in the first place," She said softly. "Damon, you've treated me unlike any other man I've ever met. You've made me feel like I wasn't alone. I know that you left me for a reason. You wouldn't trick me, not like Johnson did. I want to know why you left me...and I want to know the real reason."

they stared at each other for a few minutes, before Damon gave a stiff, reluctant nod.

Libia grabbed her waters from her lap, and opened the door, she paused to look at him. "Are you staying here?"

Another nod.

"Then wait for me in the waiting room. As soon as my mother gets settled, we'll talk."

He gave no indication of consent, only opened his door and got out of the car.  Libia jumped out with him and they jogged to the entrance. Damon pushed open the door and ushered her in, before he ran in behind her.

Libia started for the front desk, but Damon grabbed her arm, and dragged her close.

"Don't push yourself, Babe."

And she felt the familiar warmth of his lips on her forehead.

Chapter Thirteen.


when Libia entered the room, her eyes landed on her pale mother. She sat with her eyes on the wall, following something only she could see. When her eyes met Libia's, she smiled.

"Hey," Her mother crooked.

Libia walked father into the room, making her way to the bedside. "Hi mom. How are you feeling?"

"Like I'm on a bad acid trip. Don't ever do acid, by the way," She chuckled in reply.

Libia smiled. "you're loopy. Did Gwen give you that fever medication?"

"Two of 'em," she confirmed with a nod, and then her eyes followed movement on the ceiling, "it's taking a while, though. I feel like Dumbo when he drank all that booze."

"Are they scary?" Libia asked, with a bit of hesitation.

"Were Dumbo's delusions scary? Of course they were! They really need to get an exterminator in here. This hospital is crawling with bugs." Her mother said thoughtfully.

Libia grimaced. Her mother was loopy, and delusional. Wonderful.

"Hey, am I imagining this, or do you look like you got white washed?"

Libia sighed. "you're not imagining it, mom."

"Honey, you look terrible," her mother admonished, shifting in the bed so she could press her hand to her cheek. "You look like death," She said, her voice blunt.

Libia winced at her mother's honesty. "Thanks mom, that makes me feel a lot better about going out there to talk to Damon."

Interest sparked in the woman's eyes. "Damon's out there?"

She nodded in response. "He brought me here."

Her mother nodded, unsurprised, and picked up the remote for her bed, lying herself down. "He's a keeper," She sighed as she closed her eyes.

"Mom? You alright?" Libia asked, worried at the sudden lethargy in her mother.

"Honey, I'm a mother, I've been trained to hide my fatigue and worry since your brother was old enough to speak. The truth is, I'm exhausted, been so since this freaking fever showed it's face. I was about to give up and close my eyes when you walked in." She met eyes with her daughter. "I didn't want you to see me all tired and worn out. A mother's job is to keep her children happy and worry free. But these drugs are having there way with me. You let me sleep, and go see that boy of yours. I'll be fine."

"But-," Libia started.

"No buts," The woman rolled her eyes at her daughter, "I'll be fine. Go."

Sighing, Libia stood, and leaned down to press a kiss to her mother's forehead. "Get plenty of rest, okay?"

Her mother waved her off, smiling slightly. "Go!"


Damon felt like pacing. How was he going to explain to her why he left?

The waiting room was empty, the overhead TV chattering on about some unimportant event. The depressing overhead lights served to add to the gloom of the place.

Damon was stumped, leaned over on the small cushioned chair, His forehead in his hands as he tried to think clearly about what he wanted to say. He anticipated seeing her face again, but he also dreaded it, knowing that he would have to tell her how he felt about himself, and more importantly...his plan when they first met.

She was going to hate him. He knew that Johnson would hurt her, anticipated it, even. He stood by and watched it happen.

He was scum.

"Why do you look so worried?" Damon looked up at her arrival, swallowing thickly.

"I am."

Sighing, Libia walked over, and sat down beside him.

She looked into his eyes. "I just want to know the truth, Damon."

He grimaced. "That's why I'm worried."

Libia leaned back, and sat with her arms crossed, waiting. He stared down at the floor, hesitant.

"Libia, before I start any of this, I want to make this crystal clear...I have never thought that I deserved you in any way. You are so far beyond my reach that I...can't even imagine why you give me the time of day," he paused, swallowing.

Libia could only blink, staring at his back with shock, her heart fluttering with flattery, but also wanting to question his words. what did he mean by that? did he mean as a friend...or something more?

Before she could think of anything to say, he continued, "I didn't think you needed a guy like me in your life...but I'm selfish. I'm as selfish as they come, and I wanted you in my life. I only realized how much of a mistake I made the night I went to your house drunk. You don't deserve me, and I'll tell you why - when I first met you, and found out that Johnson had interest in you... I formed a plan. I knew Johnson would do the things he did. I knew, and I decided to wait for it.

"I waited for you to go on a date with the guy, waited for you to get humiliated by the creep, so I could swoop in and save you - change you. Have you for myself. I thought that...that it was the only way you'd give me a chance."

Libia sat, wordless, as the room fell into silence again. She opened her mouth, and then closed it again. Damon waited for her to speak, tense, as he dreaded her next words.

"You...thought that the only way I would accept your presence was...if I was vulnerable?"

He flinched, turning to her. "No! I thought...I thought I could...ugh, I don't know what I thought, I just needed you!"

Again, she was taken aback by his words. ""

Damon reached over and grasped Libia's face in his hands. "Libia, I needed you. You were so innocent, so pure-hearted. I needed someone like that in my life. I needed you in my life. I still do!" He said.

She stared into his earnest blue eyes, her own wide with surprise. She hadn't expected what she had just heard at all.


He released her face, and stood, beginning to pace. "Libia, the only thing you've ever been to me, was amazing. I couldn't imagine why you ever looked at me as if I were your hero...when I was nothing but a man desperate to get the attention of a woman who was leagues above him." He paused in his pacing, turning his eyes to a dumbfounded Libia.

Her mind raced, her heart pounded, and she couldn't form a single word. She was confused, and her eyes were filling with tears for reasons that were unknown to her.

She blinked, and warmth streamed down her cheek, quickly becoming cold. Damon immediately leaned down on his knees in front of her, reaching up to press his palm to her cheek, wiping away the tear.

"I'm sorry, Libia...I know I hurt you. And if you want me to leave--,"

"What...are you talking about?"

Damon furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. Libia brought her hands up to his face, cradling it. "Leave? Damon, do you hear yourself? Do you realize how much of an idiot you are?" She laughed at his surprised face. "You really know how to knock a girl on her butt, don't you? Leagues above you? Me? Damon-,"

"Don't deny it, Libia. Don't," Damon paused, and then a sigh escaped his lips. "The truth is, I like you a lot Libia...a lot. I care for you more than I've ever cared about anyone. Did I tell you that my sister kicked me in the shin when I told you what I said to you?"

A startled laugh escaped Libia, and she leaned down, pressing her lips to his. He was so surprised, that it took a moment for him to respond. And then, his mind racing, he wrapped his arms around her, and deepened the kiss.

Libia was almost trembling with nerves, her heart pounding. She didn't realize how much courage it would take to initiate the kiss. And when he didn't respond for the first few seconds, she was sure she had done something wrong, or that he didn't want her that way - that she had misinterpreted his words.

But she found a goldmine of comfort in the arms that began to tighten around her waist, and the warm lips that moved with hers.

"excuse us," Libia felt Damon tense immediately when the woman's voice interrupted the silence, he pulled away, and both of them turned to find a man and a woman.

"Mom. Dad. How did you know I was here?" Libia almost panicked.

Damon had expressed his hatred of his parents many-a-time, when they were together, and now, it seemed, they were putting Libia on their People-We-Hate list as well. aside from her panic, it felt nice to see what features he got from whom. Damon's mother was the one who passed on the blonde locks of his, as they flowed down her back like water. However, her eyes were stark brown. While his hair was silky brown, Damon's father passed on those deep blue eyes. He had his father's strong features, and his mother's lips.

Clutching her waist with one arm, he forced Libia to stand up with him. His muscles were tense, straining. She ran her fingertips between his shoulder blades, trying to calm him some.

"We came to see why we got a call that you had gone "Home" for emergency reasons. We were told by a nice young lady that you had taken a friend to the hospital." His father murmured, flickering a cold glance in Libia's direction.

"Yes. Libia this is my mother, Lisbon, and my father, Rich," He informed her, his voice soft, but she could see the underlying hostility in his eyes.

She rubbed his back meeting his eyes briefly in support, before turning her gaze to his parents. "It's nice to meet you two."

"Wonderful to meet you as well, dear," His mother said, slapping a big fake smile on her face, "Are you currently dating my son?" It was a simple question, but the underlying threat in her tone made her turn her eyes to Damon, and her shy side began to show itself.

In a protective manner, he tightened his arm around her waist, seeing her vulnerable eyes.

"Yes. We are."

Damon turned his gaze back to his parents, and Libia blinked a few times at the joy that swelled in her heart as she processed what he said.

He stared at his parents, daring them to say one negative thing about the girl he loved. But his mother kept that shit-eating smile on her face, and his father only stared in a cold disposition at him - as usual.

The sensation of Libia's warm hand rubbing up and down on his back was like ice cold water on a flame. His anger, and hostility toward his parents was shoved away, and his body relaxed under her touch. He found the slightly smug smile that she let slip quite adorable.

"How...nice." Lisbon cleared her throat. "We would love to get to know you...Libia. Please come to our house one night this weekend for dinner, shall we say...Saturday?"

It looked as if she'd sucked a lemon and sounded as if she'd choked on the juice. Again, Libia looked up at Damon for his opinion on all of this. Damon, meeting his favorite pair of chocolate brown eyes, sighed, but nodded.

"Of course, Mrs. Slain," She said in a quiet voice, turning her eyes back to his mother. "I would love to."

"Good!" She said with more enthusiasm than necessary. "Then Damon, if you would come along, we'd like to...discuss some things with you."

Namely, someone. Libia thought to herself.

"I'm sorry, I can't. I have to take Libia home." Damon said, wanting to scoff at their inconsiderate attitudes.

Damon could see his father grit his teeth. "Fine," He spoke up. "Then we'll speak when you get home. Goodbye, Libia."

And without another word, he dragged his fuming wife away.

As soon as they were out of site, Libia turned her gaze to Damon, who was rigid again. Carefully, she brought her hand up to his face, turning him to look at her. "Damon...?" She asked, her voice small, hesitant.

He met her troubled brown eyes, and his heart sank to the bottom of his stomach. He didn't want her to meet those people. He wanted her to meet his brother, and his sister, who'd already come to adore the girl without having to meet her. He wanted her to see the good part, before she saw the bad.

He helplessly stared into his favorite pair of eyes, and muttered, "That was also part of the reason I left."

Libia's eyes softened, and her other hand found its way to his cheek. "it'll be alright," She promised.

He gave her a dubious look. "You don't know them as well as I do."

"Maybe not," Libia allowed, "But I know you. And if I can deal with you, I can deal with anyone," She teased.

"Yeah...hey!" He narrowed his eyes at her, indignant.

She laughed, pushing away from him. "Alright, take me home, before I get you in more trouble than I'm worth."

He watched her leave the room, sighing. "Come on!" She called behind her back.


"Do I have to?" Damon whined, following behind her as she dug for her keys.

"Yes!" Libia laughed. "Your parents will hate me even more if I keep them waiting!"

He caught her around the waist as they reached the porch step. "Libia," He whined in her ear, "I care more about you than my parent's anger."

Libia rolled her eyes, hiding the fact that her heart was racing and flattery warmed her cheeks.

"Well I care more about your well being than I do myself," She told him, turning around in his arms, and playfully pushing his chest. "Now go."

He put on an exaggerated frown, causing Libia to laugh, before he leaned down to press his lips to hers. "Goodnight, Libia."

"Mmm," She murmured against his lips, "It's only two in the afternoon."

Rolling his eyes, he stepped back, shot her an award winning grin, and bowed from the waist with a flourish, "Then good afternoon...Babe."

Libia laughed. "Whatever. Go home, you can't stall anymore!"

He sighed, but nodded. "I suppose you're right. Bye, Babe." He said to her, letting another grin flash across his face.

"Bye Damon." She murmured.

She backed up until her ankle hit the step, a goofy smile on her face as she watched Damon get into his car. He drove off, and Libia took a deep breath, spinning around and skipping up to her door. She put her key into the lock, but was surprised to find the door unlocked. She looked around, but found no car in the driveway. Suddenly, the door was pulled from her hands, and swung open, her keys jingling in the knob. She swung her eyes from the door, to the familiar face of her father, and her cheeks burned as she recognized the protective-father look on his face.

"Who was that?" Were the first words out of his mouth.

"What are you doing here?" She asked in return.

"I came to...see about something," He muttered, rubbing the back of his neck.

" did you get here? I didn't see a car."

"I was dropped off. Where is your mother?"

Libia felt a pang of annoyance as she glared at her father. "Well if you'd answer your phone you'd know that she's in the hospital with my brother, sick with a virus."

Worry flashed in his eyes, and he furrowed his eyebrows. "When did you call me?"

She sighed, pushing past him. "for two nights about ten times each."

"Well you should have called my home phone!" He said, and Libia turned around to find anger on his face.

"You're really going to blame me for this? excuse me, I've been caring for my sick mother and brother in the hospital every night. And as I recall, you didn't want to give me your home phone number because you thought it would be awkward if your wife picked up instead of you," Libia snapped.

"Don't you talk to me like that, young lady, I am not at fault here either-!"

"Than what are you, huh? Are you the innocent victim here? I'm sure you've been so busy with your new wife and your baby that you've forgotten all about us!"

"I'm trying to include you in my life!" He shouted, "But you keep turning me away!"

Libia grabbed her head with both hands in frustration, and then dropped them, looking at her father straight in the eyes. "I understand that you're trying dad, but you have to lost all of our trust when you betrayed mom's."

He ran a hand down his face, and sighed heavily. "I know I did...I know I did. I'm just...trying to make it right."

Libia sighed. "What are you here for, anyway?

Again, he rubbed the back of his neck, "The one that uh...dropped me off..." He sighed, wincing as he muttered the next words,

"Was your step mother."

Chapter Fourteen.


Ben settled into his seat, looking as if he hadn't slept in days, and in all reality, he'd slept very little. He was still a little weak, as he recovered from his illness, but he was well enough that they sent him home with a bottle of benedrill and an order to sleep.

He didn't look like he'd have much of a problem following those orders.

Libia had been fuming for the past day and a half. Having had a very firm - albeit angry - discussion with her father, and having him storm out, she wasn't in the best of moods. She was tired, and the only thing that helped her through the week was Damon's text. It wasn't anything special, really, just a simple:

Hope you're getting a lot of rest and relaxation, Babe. 

But it was just the reminder of his confession to her in the hospital, that made a smile grace her lips.

They drove in silence for the first half of the trip, and Libia was under the impression that he'd fallen asleep. The car began to heat up, so Libia used the red light as a chance to shrug off her jacket.

She'd almost forgotten about the tattoo that graced her shoulder, so when a gasp filled the car, Libia glanced at Ben with a raised eyebrow.

" that?" He asked her, horrified, staring at her back.

Libia stared at him for a moment in confusion, before it hit her, and her hand flew to her shoulder. She spluttered, "'s a...well sort of a-,"

"A tattoo," He finished, his eyes lifting to hers. "It's a damn tattoo."

Laughing weakly, Libia shrugged. "It's"

"Where and when did you get it?" He asked, his voice calm. Libia had never seen him like this.

"Ah...I-I got it...a few weeks ago," She winced, turning her eyes to the road and using the excuse not to look at him as she drove forward.

"You got it...with Damon?" He asked her, and she grimaced.

"Yes," She squeaked.

He was silent for a moment, before his hand slammed down on the dashboard, causing her to jump, and the car swerved a bit. "Goddammit I knew he was bad news the minute I saw you get off that motorcycle!" He snapped. I opened my mouth to protest, but he kept on. "What else have you done with him? Hmm? Have you done drugs? Did he let you drive his motorcycle? Have you slept with him?"

Libia's mouth dropped open, and the car jolted to a stop. "Excuse me!" She exclaimed, turning to him. "One, I got a tattoo, not a criminal record! Two, Damon has been nothing but sweet to me! Three, drugs? Are you kidding me Ben? And four, Fucking slept with him? Before I met him, I couldn't even meet people's eyes and you accuse me of fucking sleeping with him?" Her voice raised with each sentence, as her face reddened with each stupid accusation.

"You are not going to see him again. This behavior is only going to get worse!" He growled.

"What behavior?!" She yelled, past furious now. "Being happy? Is that really so bad? I'm free, Ben! Do you know how long I've wanted this tattoo? Can't you see-"

"I won't say it again, Libia! The next time I see him, he's getting nothing but a decked face from me!" He shouted back.

Libia was furious, hands holding the wheel in a white-knuckled grip. She knew how weak and tired her brother was, but for him to lash out like that over a stupid tattoo was beyond over protective. She tried to lower her voice back to normal volume.

"I'm sorry I got the tattoo without your permission," She ended up whispering. "But it wasn't Damon's decision. He gave me the choice - no, the chance. And I took it," She looked up at him. "It wasn't inspired or influenced by him, he was just the one person who openly encouraged me to do it."

Libia was brought back to the meaning of her tattoo - courage, freedom. This was the reminder that she had to stand up for myself. She wasn't going to live under the protection of her family forever. She didn't need them to protect her anymore. She had courage.

Ben wasn't seeing reason, however, as he fumed by her side. They didn't speak for the rest of the ride. When they arrived home, they silently walked the pathway to the door, Libia too tired and stressed to deal with his obvious anger. 

She turned to him as he sat down his bag in the kitchen, her eyes hard on his back. 

"I didn't ask you because it's not your decision. I'm sorry you don't approve, but build a bridge and get over it, because I like this tattoo!" With that, she clenched her keys in her hand and turned to the door, muttering, "I'm going to the store to get some things."

She was tired, but they needed a few goceries for when their mother returned home, and Libia had to cook dinner. Plus she didn't want to be in the house while Ben built his bridge to get over it. 

The drive was quiet, with little to destract her from her thoughts. She knew she shouldn't have been feeling guilty for speaking to her brother like that, but she was.

When she entered the store, grabbing a basket, her thoughts were so muddled that she didn't notice the person in front of her until her basket rammed into his.

"Umph!" She grunted, and then gasped. "Oh my gosh I'm- Johnson?" Her apology dropped like a sack of bricks.

He ran a hand through his hair, something Libia would have found cute, if she hadn't known who the bastard really was. She hadn't even been paying attention to school drama, her outside life had been so hectic. Johnson had been avoiding her like the plague.

"Libia," He said, laughing nervously as his eyes flitted behind her...looking for something, or someone.

"Don't worry," Libia said with a snort. "Damon isn't with me."

"Oh," Johnson's shoulders relaxed visibly.

Libia moved her basket back, and menuevered it around him. "Bye," She said simply, too tired to look at his face.

But of course, he followed behind her. "Hey wait. What are you here for?"

She felt her head throb with an oncoming headache.

"A harpoon," She muttered in a dry tone.

"Oh...what for?" He asked slowly, leaning his forearms on the basket as he matched her pace beside her.

She rolled her eyes. "To stick you in the eye with."

"Ouch," Johnson chuckled, "You still don't like me, eh?"

"Hmm," Libia said in a thoughtful tone, laced with sarcasm. "I wonder why?"

She abruptly turned left, down the drink isle, causing Johnson to pull roughly to a stop in order to follow after her.

"You've changed, huh?" He commented, watching as she grabbed her mother's favorite energy drinks. 

This made her pause, the only sound being the drinks settling into the basket.

It was true. She smiled at those who smiled at her. She met their eyes with confidence, and even had conversations with some of her customers at the store, instead of just greeting them quietly and getting their groceries through as fast as possible. Plus she'd gotten a lot better at sarcasm.

"And you've gotten a tattoo," He said in surprise. "Have you always had that?"

"Nope," She answered simply, grabbing her favorite soda brand and setting it in the basket before wheeling off.

"And this is...Damon's doing?" He guessed, following along, much to Libia's irritation.

She sighed, turning to him. "What do you-" She gasped, her body freezing as she came face to face with him.

"I have to say...," He breathed, picking up a strand of her hair, "I'm jealous of the guy."

Anger began to boil in the pit of her stomach, and also disgust. "Ugh!" She bit out, raising her foot and stomping her heel hard on his toes. 

"Omph!" He squeaked, lifting his foot up to catch it in his hands as he hopped around.

"That was for being a creep. And this-," She grabbed the lapels of his shirt and pulled him back up, before raising her hand and smacking him hard across the face. "-Is for taking advantage of me at the diner! And also this-," She pushed him back and stomped on his other foot. "Is for the time in the gym!"

Smoothing out her shirt, she watched him sit down and begin massaging his feet. She let out a 'hmph' that she'd always wanted to do, like in the movies, and turned, striding off. 

"Oh!" She called back, feeling brevity  and pride wash over her like a cleansing waterfall. "I'll let Damon know that we...ran into each other. He'll be happy to hear it!"

And with that, she went on with her grocery shopping, grinning from ear to ear as she grabbed everything she needed for dinner. She felt so proud of herself that she was two seconds away from physically patting herself on the back.

After paying for her things, she hummed to herself, digging in her purse as she wheeled out the exit, not paying attention.

She felt the basket crash into another, and heard an audible "Oh!"

Looking up, she let out a frustrated noise. "I'm so sorry, that's the second time I've done that."

The woman looked up, words about to come out, but they died off, and she smiled. "Libia! How's my dear girl?" Cassie exclaimed.

"Cass? Oh, I've been great, just getting dinner supplies. How have you been?" She asked, coming around to embrace the woman in a light hug.

"I've been wonderful! Buissiness is booming and Vinny got me flowers today for no reason!" She giggled.

Libia smiled. "That's sweet of him. I'm so glad you're doing well."

"The only thing is, that darn Damon hasn't been visiting me. I oughta throttle 'im!" She rolled her eyes.

Libia winced, remembering his drunken words that night. They'd forbidden him to see her.

"I wouldn't scold him too much, Cass," Libia suggested softly, turning her eyes down.

"What? Why? What happened?" Cassie asked, suddenly worried.

"He...told me that his parents...didn't want him to see you anymore," She let out a sigh. "Apparently it was a big fight between the three of them."

Cassie's fists clenched. "I knew from the beginning that I should have taken those kids off their hands - hatred only breeds hatred!" She ranted.

"What...?" Libia trailed off, afraid to ask.

"What do I mean?" Cassie asked in my place. She sighed and looked at Libia's groceries. "Do you need help with cooking? It looks like you've got enough for a few people there."

Relief washed through Libia. "Yes, please."

They drove home in Libia's car - Libia promising to drop Cassie back off here when the time came.

When they entered the house, Cassie noticed her tattoo. "Oh! It looks like you've been taking good care of it. Did it itch very badly?" She asked as she set the bags on the counter.

"No," Libia said absently, listening for her brother. "It wasn't too bad. Only for a few days."

She didn't hear any music coming from his room, so he must have been asleep. Good, she thought, I don't want to deal with him.

They began cooking, putting a pot on the stove to boil as Libia oiled a pan and set it on medium heat.

Cassie was standing behind her at the island, grating cheese slow and steady, when she spoke.

"Damon's parents," She began, sighing softly. "Met in high school. They were both still children - wild and rambunctious. They thought they were meant to be together," She laughed softly. "Two kids who believed in fairytails. They got married as soon as they graduated - because my sister's parents were strict enough to force her to wait until adulthood." She thumped the grater a few times with her palm to get the extra cheese, before moving on to the shrimp, as she began to de-vein it with Libia. "After they married, they moved here, from a little town called Joshua in California. They bought a house, and their financial situation after that caused...anamosity between them. I visited a few times was weeks filled with nothing but silence between them. I still don't know how she got pregnant," Cassie nudged Libia with a laugh, "With so much fridgid air in that place, there seemed to be no room for...romance. But apparently they had their good days, because nine months later, I had a nephew.

"After that, however," Cassie sighed, and her eyes saddened. "Their relationship deteriorated. Rich landed a great job, giving them plenty of money to provide for Jack, was long hours, and there was no time for each other. Every time they saw each other, it was a screaming match. Two years later, they seemed to rekindle their relationship, and Damon was born. A year later, their sister Carol as well. But after that...Rich and Lisbon's relationship went downhill. They tolerated each other, but their pent up hatred for each other began to direct to their children. Once Damon called me, a little seven year old boy, to tell me that Lisbon and Rich had locked him in his room without lunch or dinner for spilling milk on the carpet. After that I moved down here to keep an eye on the three. Every time they got too severely punished, I would take them into my home and threaten to take them away forever if Rich and Lisbon didn't clean up their act." She let out a sigh. "They mellowed out after that, but they refused to let me visit for more than a few hours every few weeks. Even when I met Vinny after my tattoo business took off, and we married, they only stayed at our wedding for the ceremony."

She looked at Libia with wythering eyes. "They treat their children like boot-camp delinquents. I don't think those kids have ever heard a word of encouragement from either parent. That's where I come in." A smile replaced her frown, as Libia poured the shrimp into the pan. "Their parents go on trips every once in a while - enough time for me to visit for an extended period of time and encourage the crap out of 'em."

Libia laughed, smiling warmly over her shoulder at the kind woman. "Damon speaks so highly of you. He regards you as the mother he should have had."

Sighing, Cassie poured the creamy white sauce in with the shrimp. "I wish Lisbon would see just how wonderful they are. They're like jobs to her - raise them and get them out of the house, is how she see's it. She doesn't...see them. You understand?" She looked at me.

Libia nodded. "Yes. She sees them as hurdles to jump."

"Exactly," She confirmed, as she turned and began opening the boxes of Penne.

"That makes me sad," Libia murmured.

"Me too, sweetheart. Me too."

They stood in thoughtful silence, as Libia poured in the pasta, and Cassie stirred the sauce. The only sounds were the soft boiling of the water, and the quiet scrape of the spoon in the pan.

"Who's this?" The voice came from the hallway, tired and worn.

Turning their gazes from dinner, they came to rest on Ben, who's hair was a mess, and who's eyes were bleary. 

"Oh gosh. The virus?" Cassie asked, laughing softly.

"Yes. He just got sent home," Libia murmured. "How'd you know?"

"Vinny had it. He looked just like that when he came home from the hospital."

Laughing, Libia gestured to Cassie. "Ben, this is Damon's Aunt, Cassie. Cass, this is my brother, Ben."

"Well hi there!" Cassie exclaimed, grinning. "It's nice to meet the big brother of this fine young lady!"

Libia was giggling as she explained, "We ran into each other at the store and she offered to help with dinner."

"Damon's Aunt?" He asked, turning his eyes to her.

It occurred to her that he may have been a little upset with her still.

"Yeah," She said, clearing her throat. "I uh...hope that's alright?"

Sighing, he nodded. "Yeah, it's fine. I don't think I'll be having dinner though. I still feel a bit...iffy, you know?"

Grimacing, Libia nodded back. "I get it."

After a moment of silence, he looked behind her at Cassie. "It was nice meeting you."

She looked between the two, detecting some bad blood that she wasn't party to.

"You too," She said, reading the tense atmosphere.

He filled a cup with water, before retreating back to his room.

"Something happen?" She asked me, as I returned to stirring the pasta.

I sighed, "He's tired, and I'm tired, and we're both fed up with each other."

"Whoa, what happened?" Cass asked as she turned off the heat under the pan.

"He hadn't...known that I got a tattoo. And he doesn't...exactly approve of them. Now he thinks I'm some delinquent and that...," She trailed off, casting a quick glance at Cassie.

"And that Damon is the one who turned you?" Cassie guessed.

"Kind of...."

Rolling her eyes, she smiled. "He's just being protective. Believe me, Damon may act it, but he's no delinquent. Your brother'll come around."

Libia hoped so - but the way her brother acted just then signified that it would be a while before that happened. 


"By the way, where is Vinny right now?" Libia asked, they'd finished eating, and Libia was taking Cassie back to her car.

"He's visiting friends in the city. He's supposedly staying the night," She snorted a laugh, "But he's been known to get into fights with one of them, so we'll see."

"Oh," She pulled to a stop in the parking lot. "Well you be careful going home. Tell Vin I said hi!"

"Will do. You take care of yourself - and my nephew," She winked, before stepping out of the car.

Libia's cheeks tinged pink, as she was brought back to his words. I need you.

Need her? How could he need her? It seemed like she was the one dependant on him. It still made her heart flutter to realize that he'd revealed his feelings for her - front and center, with no preamble. 

She waited until Cassie started her car up, before waving to her through the windsheild and pulling out. Her eyes were drooping as she drove back to the house, and she had to blink a few times to keep them open. She hadn't realized how tired she'd become.


Meanwhile, Damon laid in his room. His shirt had been discarded somewhere on the floor, as he played with his phone. His parents were downstairs, yelling at each other over something stupid. His sister could be heard playing her video games loudly in the next room, and his brother across from him was blasting music - he suspected to drown out their parent's voices.

His eyes turned from the ceiling to his phone, and he sighed. "Would I annoy her, if I called right now?"

The image of her smiling face was melded into his mind. The way her fingers played between his shoulder blades a few days ago. He needed to speak to her.

Sighing, he picked out her number in his contacts, and with little hesitation, pressed the call button. He pressed it to his ear, waiting impatiently as it rang a few times.

"Hey," She murmured on a yawn.

He was ripped of words, and the only thing he managed to utter was, "Hi."

She laughed softly, and he wasn't aware that his eyes drifted closed. "How are you?"

"I'm fine. My parents are downstairs re-enacting a world war," He said, his voice dry.

"Oh," She murmured, and she sounded worried. "I'm sorry. Is it because of me?"

He felt his heart jump, as he realized that she felt guilty, and his eyes opened. "Of course not, Babe. This isn't exactly an unusual thing," He explained quickly.

"Oh," It was quieter this time, before she murmured, "Damon...?"

"Yeah, Babe?" He asked, his breath catching in worry at the apprehensive tone she took on.

"My brother...found out about the tattoo." He let out the breath he'd been holding, before wincing. "And from the sound of your voice, I'm guessing he didn't take it too well?"

She snorted. "He said the next time he saw you he'd deck you in the face. Oh, and you're not allowed near me anymore."

He winced again, and then laughed. "That doesn't bode well, does it?"

Her giggle was music to his ears. "No."

"What are you up to?" He asked her, rolling over to rest his head on his folded arm.

"Lying down at the moment. It's been a long few days," She told him, and a yawn tumbled through the phone.

He frowned at the exhaustion in her voice, as if just the thought of it made her tired. "What happened?"

She hesitated, before uttering, "After you dropped me off from the hospital the other paid a visit. He was dropped off by none other than his wife. And as I've told you before, I'm...hesitant to meet her."

He nodded, not even caring that she couldn't see it. "You said that it would only hurt worse when you met the woman who replaced your mother."

"Right," She muttered, letting out a heavy sigh. "It's been weighing on my mind quite a bit. Plus mom's bills need to be payed, and my brother's - the hospital pays for most of it because Mom works there, but paying the rest will be a hassle in of itself."

He furrowed his eyebrows, bighting his tongue against the offer he so badly wanted to make. His parents would never approve of paying her bills. And she wouldn't accept it, anyhow.

"I'm sorry," He said, leaving the phone sitting on his cheek as he ran a hand through his hair.

"It's not your fault," She giggled. "In fact...," But she trailed off, seeming to rethink her words.

"What?" He pushed.

"Nothing," She said, and he heard embarrassment in her voice.

"Libia," He groaned, "I'm too curious now."

"I was just going to say that," She paused, and he heard her take in a breath. "That your call...really helped. I just needed talk to. My brother is more exhausted than I am, and...I just have no one to talk to right now." He could almost see her shrugging.

"Oh," He mumbled, his heart pounding with the realization that his call helped her. He never thought about the fact that she might have needed him. "You...have no idea how glad I am to hear that," He whispered.

"That I have no one to talk to?" She asked, and he heard the dry humor in her voice.

"No!" He said, laughing. "No way! I meant that I could help you!"

She laughed with him, and it felt good to just to relax and laugh with her. Their laughter died down after a moment, and Libia sighed. "I'm not very ready for tomorrow."

"Tomorr- oh," He realized, blinking. "Tomorrow. date."

"Yeah," She giggled. "That."

"It'll be alright," He assured. "My brother and sister are great. They're exstatic to meet you."

"Really?" She asked, her voice timid, and he could see her cheeks turn red in his mind. "I can't wait to meet them, either."

"And...," Damon let out a sigh, "Don't worry about my parents. They're just...weird. They'll warm up to you. And even if they don't - it doesn't matter. Because my siblings love you, and I-," His words caught in his throat, and he stared at the wall in shock. He almost let it slip. He almost said the one thing that he'd been too nervous to even discuss with himself about. Quickly, he cleared his throat, and said, "I won't let them make assumptions about you that aren't true."

She fell silent for a few seconds, before her throat cleared and she whispered, "Thank you. I...I should probably get some sleep. Big day ahead - you know."

He sighed, but nodded. "Yeah. I'll see you tomorrow, Babe."


They were both silent for a moment. 

"Damon...can I ask you something?" She whispered.

"Of course," He replied immediately, raising his eyebrows.

She hesitated, before asking, "How are you so brave all of the time?"

He blinked, his mouth dropping open. How was he brave? What was she talking about? 

"Um...I'm not sure I follow," He murmured.

"What I mean do the things you do without fear of the judgement of others?"

He stared ahead for a moment. "I never...really think about it," He admitted. "It's just that I've lived through the judgement of others for so long...I think I've learned to ignore it."

"Oh," She murmured, sighing. "I see."

Damon rolled over onto his back, staring up at the ceiling. "'ve got to realize something about yourself - and I don't think you're going to realize it on your own. You're a wonderful person. You're beautiful, and passionate, and innocent. The only way to show people that - to be brave - is to realize those things...and own them. Wear those traits like bright metals."

His chest felt so much lighter, having told her. He always hated seeing her insecurities. Seeing her wear her hair like a mask to hide the face she should be showing to the world addorned with a bright smile.

She let out a giggle, much to his surprise, and then murmured, "Thank you, Damon."

"Hey, it's the truth," He shrugged.

"I've got a bunch to tell you tomorrow - and before you ask, I'm telling you when I see you because I want to see your face when you tell me how proud you are. And plus I have to sleep," She added, chuckling.

He let out a laugh. "Okay, now I'm curious."

"You'll find out tomorrow!" She sang, before saying, "Now let me sleep, before I sneak out of the house to see you."

Laughing, but secretly dying to make those words a reality, he murmured. "Night, Babe."

"Goodnight," She murmured in a soft tone.

After they disconnected, Damon couldn't shake the smile on his face. 


Libia laid in her bed, eyes closed, a small smile stubbornly keeping itself glued to her face. She didn't mind. It felt good. 

"Thank you, Damon," She repeated to herself, her heart thouroughly warmed.




NOTE: these chapters (all of them) are completely unnedited. So I'm SO sorry for any errors. I'll be editing this one very slowly.

In others news - AREN'T THEY CUTE?!? I'm just sitting here dying of cuteness. wksjfhksjfhskjh

*cue fuzzy warm feelings inside*

Chapter Fifteen.


Libia was bubbling with nerves as she got dressed that morning. She couldn't calm herself. She rushed to find a suitable outfit, throwing her clothes all over the place before settling on a white and black shirt with a lace bottom, a pair of navy blue jeans, and black flats. 

"Okay," She breathed, settling down at her vanity. "Calm down Libs. It's okay. It's just his family. He told you they love you. Don't freak."

After her little pep talk, she pulled her makeup bag closer and began the process of putting eye shadow on. 

Not long after her makeup was completed, as she swiped the last wing onto her eyeliner, her phone vibrated.

She checked her messages and a smile broke out on her face.

Hey Babe. I woke up this morning and found a miracle - Jack was actually dressed nicely! *gasp* of course it was Carol's doing. She told me, and I quote, "Well I want her to think our family at least dresses normally!"

Laughing, Libia texted back a quick reply.

I'm just a bit nervous. What if they don't like me after all?

She stood up, brushing herself off, and left her room, heading for the bathroom. Her brother was in his room, snoring. She smiled, rolling her eyes.

She entered the bathroom and picked up her comb, deciding to leave it down, as she couldn't think to do much else with it. 

When she came back to her room, she checked her phone, and found a text.

Not like you? Are you kidding? They're sitting here worrying you won't like them. I just love teasing them about it.

Libia giggled, and then replied.

Shame on you! And anyway, they have nothing to worry about. I will love them no matter what.

She set her phone down, checking the contents of her purse. It only took a minute for him to text back.

Oh? And why's that?

Because I love you no matter what. She thought, but shook her head, replying,

Because they sound wonderful, and your sister kicked you in the shin once. Who can't not love a girl that kicks you in the shin? >:p

A teasing smile was plastered on her face, as she tucked her phone in her purse. She strolled out to the kitchen and grabbed the sticky pads. She wrote a note for Ben.

I'm going out for a little while. Make sure to take your benedril, and if anything happens, you call me right away. 

PS; yes, I'm going out with Damon. No, I am not grounded - you have no right to do that. And yes, you are going to have to accept this tattoo on my back. And Damon.

Love, L.

Her phone vibrated in her purse, and she pulled it out to see a reply from Damon.

Hey now, that's mean. I'm real broken up. :'C anyway, I'm on my way. I'm still curious as to what I should be proud of you about.

She grinned at the reminder, and bounced around for a second, before replying.

You'll see! And okay, I'll see you in a few.

She waited at the front door, trying desperately to calm her racing heart. Would they be loud and boisterous? Or dry humored like Damon? She knew his parents would have their same...cold disposition that they usually exuded, but his siblings actually had personality, and they seemed very nice from what she'd been told.

When the knock came, she had to force herself to wait, as she smoothed her jeans down and straightened her shirt. She unlocked the door, trying and failing not to sound too hasty. The door swung open, and there he stood, his eyes twinkling with excitement as a crooked smile made it's way to his face at the sight of her. He looked dashing in a dark blue dress shirt, and his regular deep blue jeans. He had been shaving, but his chin was back to it's regular stubble again. His hair was very neat for once, witch made her giggle.

She was rocking slightly on her feet, biting her lip as she smiled shyly up at him. 

"Hey, Babe," He greeted.

"Hi," She replied, stepping out of the door.

She'd expected him to step back to make room for her, but he stayed in place, wrapping his arms around her waist and enveloping her in a hug.

"You look beautiful," He uttered in her ear.

Her cheeks flamed, as she wrapped her arms around him again. "Thank you. I'm guessing Carol dressed you up too?" She teased, pressing a kiss to his cheek.

"Nope. I did it all by myself, like a big boy," He said proudly.

She pulled back, her nerves melting away as she pat his neat head gently. "Aw, I'm so proud!"

Laughing at his playful glare, she turned and closed the door, locking it behind her. He tugged her over to the BMW, playfully shoving her to the passenger side. She laughed as she stumbled slightly, calling back, "You big jerk!"

They settled in, and Damon paused after putting the key into the ignition, turning his head to Libia. "You ready?"

"No. And yes," She admitted. "Your parents...I'm not so jazzed about seeing again," She said honestly, "But Jack and Carol, I'm thrilled about meeting - but also extremely nervous." She shrugged.

Chuckling, he turned the car on, throwing it into drive before reaching over and taking her hand in his. "You'll be fine, Babe. I'll be right there, and they're really not that scary," He winked.

Laughing, she joked, "I don't know, you can be pretty scary, and if you're anything to go off of, I might need to be cautious."

He chuckled and looked at her from the corner of his eye. "You've been able to deal with me pretty easily."

She shook her head, muttering, "Just barely."

Before he could reply, she reached over and turned on the radio. She switched the stations around for a few minutes, settling on some pop hit that she turned down to a comfortable background noise.

They sat in comfortable silence, and Libia realized after a moment that she'd never seen his house before. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye, aware of his thumb rubbing circles along the back of her hand. He stared ahead, a small smile fixed onto his face. She was glad that he was focusing on the good parts of this dinner date - instead of dreading his parent's attitudes toward them.

It took a few minutes to reach his house, on a nice big neighborhood with a lot of expensive housing. His was a white colonial, with white pillars going halfway up the tall house, holding up a balcony on the second floor.

"This is beautiful," Libia breathed, taking in the two white rocking chairs that sat in the shade of wraparound porch, and the dark mahogany front door that contrasted beautifully with the white trim.

"Thank you. It's more like a museum than an actual home, though," He laughed softly.

Her face formed into a frown, and Damon sighed, leaning forward to pull her face around to his. He met her eyes, and his own were twinkling with happiness. "Of course, it'll feel more like a home than it ever has - with you here."

Her cheeks flamed brilliantly, and Damon smiled. "Ready?"

Silent, Libia nodded as she swallowed thickly.

"It'll be fine, Libia," He breathed, pressing a chaste kiss to her cheek, before leaning back and opening the door.

She got out, waiting for Damon around the side as she stared up at the home. It was beautiful...and daunting.

He caught her hand in his, pulling her forward. "Don't panic, Babe. This is my family - not the president."

Her cheeks flamed with embarrassment, as she reached over to smack his arm. "Fine. Next time, you're coming home with me for the family reunion - you can meet my cousin Sherry."

He eyed her as he rang the doorbell. "And I'm supposed to be scared?"

Libia let out a loud laugh, that held an evil tint, before reaching over to lay a hand on his shoulder. "Terrified," She answered in a blunt tone.

She didn't miss his thick swallow, and grinned.

"What," He began, giving her a nervous glance, "Is she protective?"

Libia shot him a mock sympathetic look, patting his shoulder. "She'll grill you like a raw stake."

She couldn't help but burst out laughing at his terrified look, and told him, "Relax, it's not like you're meeting the president."

He shot her a glare, just as the door flew open.

"Damon! Libia!" A girl squealed, and suddenly Libia was engulfed in a hug.

"Carol," Damon groaned.

She ignored her brother, rocking Libia from side to side as she rambled how happy she was to meet her in her ear. Libia looked up at Damon, and he shrugged, mouthing, "Sorry."

She pulled back, exclaiming, "Now let me have a look at you!"

Libia stood with wide eyes as she stared at the petite girl with a wrestler's grip. She had Damon's blonde hair, but she did not posses his deep blue eyes - instead she had large brown ones that anyone would adore.

"Oh my gosh, Damon you're right! We have the same eye color! We're soul sisters," She said in a mystified voice, mouth gaping.

gripping my arm, as I had siezed all movement trying to think of the right response, Damon dragged me into his side.

"That's all well and good but-,"

"Carol! You were supposed to clean up the cat poop hours ago! Mom and Dad will have our heads!" Called a male voice, before a guy appeared. He was messing with a tie that had somehow gotten crooked on his neck, and his brown eyebrows were furrowed as he tried to fix his dress shirt witch was somehow wrinkled up to his bellybutton.

Libia couldn't help but let out a snort, and then a laugh. Damon put his face into the palm of his hand, covering Libia's eyes with the other.

The brown eyed boy looked up at the sound, and a grin overtook his face. "Hey, Damon! Is this Libia? Why are you covering her face?" He asked, walking closer.

Libia was shaking slightly with laughter, as Damon muttered to her, "I'm so sorry."

"You idiot! What did you do to Dad's formal wear?" Carol cried.

"Something was itching, so I un-tucked the shirt but then it got stuck like this and my tie was in the way," He complained.

Groaning, Carol rushed over and yanked his shirt down, but the buttons were caught on each other. She groaned again as she began to untangle them.

"Um...we're just going to go inside," Damon muttered, dragging Libia beside him, who was still shaking with laughter, unable to speak.

"Make yourselves at home! Oh, and Damon, the cat pooped in the foyer so don't step in it!"

A wail left Libia as she couldn't contain her laughter anymore, Leaning heavily on Damon for support.

He led her into the kitchen, and sat her down at the tall wooden table. She wiped a tear from her eye, gasping for air.

"You find this so funny, don't you?" He asked her, trying not to smile, but losing the fight.

"The cat pooped in the foyer!" She laughed, clutching her stomach as another fit gripped her.

Chuckling, Damon nudged her lightly with his shoulder, muttering, "It's not that funny."

Libia wiped another tear from her eye, lying her head on her arms as she breathed deeply, smiling up at Damon. "I like your siblings."

He tilted his head to see from her perspective as he shot her a crooked smile. "Me too."

They smiled at each other for a moment, before the silence was broken by a squeal. "Oh my gosh did I just witness a Damon Smile?" Carol exclaimed.

They looked over, and found both Carol and Jack gaping at them. Damon grumbled something that Libia didn't hear, and she turned to see his cheeks red, as he ducked his head.

"Damon...I've never seen you blush before!" Libia said in awe, before a smile curved at her lips and she tilted her head. "It's surprisingly cute."

He shot her a playful glare, marred by a smile that he tried to hold back. "I'll show you cute," He threatened with little force behind it.

Carol gasped, breaking their stare once again to swing their gaze to her as she checked her watch. "Mom and Dad will be home any minute!" She shoved Jack out of the room, calling, "Make yourself at home, Libia while we take care of everything!"

Gulping, Libia glanced at Damon. "Your siblings, I love. I'm a little scared of your parents, to be honest," She admitted.

He slung an arm over her shoulder, sighing. "Believe me - if I could help it, you wouldn't come within a mile of those two. If you wanted to, we would leave right now, and go spend time with just my brother and sister," He pressed a light kiss to her cheek, causing a blush to flourish up to the surface.

"But they are family, Damon," She reminded softly, "And as scary as they may be, I want to get to know them."

A tight smile pulled at his lips, and she knew what he was thinking. You might regret those words in a little bit.

"Gross, Jack! that stinks!" They heard Carol complain loudly. "Hey, don't come near me with that! What are you-? Ew!" She shrilled, and Libia broke into more laughter.

"Plus, with your siblings and you around, I think I'll be alright." She added, wiping a tear from her eye.

He shook his head in exasperation, before he smiled. "Yeah. We'll protect you."

"I'm counting on you," She nudged him in a gentle manner with her shoulder, shooting him a wink and a smile.

He grinned at her, and her breath caught at the beautiful sight.

"Let's go to my room - we can sit on the balcony until my parents get here," He suggested, his voice soft.

Her heart jumped to heart attack level, and her stomach exploded with butterflies in a single instant, and then she nodded. "Okay."

He led her into the foyer, where Damon's brother and sister were just moments ago, but were nowhere to be found. It was a beautiful room, with large, green plants in every corner, and black and white tile. a large archway led into the living room, where light poured in from large windows. He led her to a large staircase, that wound up and into an open circle in the ceiling - the second floor.

As they ascended, Libia felt her stomach tighten with nerves. Damon's room. Was she really ready for this? This was where Damon slept every night - where he got dressed, did his homework, and relaxed. Would it be messy? Or would it be clean? Would his homework be strewn all over the place, or neatly stacked on a nice wooden desk?

Damon was oblivious of Libia's thoughts, as they reached the top floor. He walked them past their upstairs living area, and down the hallway, stopping in front of his room.

His smile held a bit of an apology to it. "It's a bit of a mess - I didn't have the chance to clean it."

She only managed a shrug, to which he took as a prompt to open the door. He turned the handle, and Libia watched his hand with teeth clenched, as she tried desperately to reign in her nerves.

The door swung open, and she found herself staring at...

"Damon, you call this messy?" She giggled.

His room was spotless, save for a single shirt on the ground. His backpack sat against his glass-top desk, and a few papers were spread out, what she assumed was homework. His cream carpet was without one stain. The only messy thing in the room was his bed, which was adorned with a fluffy black and white comforter, matching sheets and pillows.

"It's huge," She murmured as she stepped inside. "I'd always wanted a big room."

"Why's that?" Damon inquired as he followed her in, closing the door behind them.

"Because then I'd have the free space to dance," She admitted.

A smile curved at his lips. "Speaking of that, we haven't put together a dance yet for Mrs. Vans."

She blinked. "We haven't," She realized, looking at him. "Isn't the debut in two weeks?"

He nodded, taking a few steps forward and catching her in his arms. "Yep."

She set her hands on his chest, her eyes worried as she watched her fingers play with his shirt. "What are we going to do?"

She hadn't even had time to worry about her dance class - not to mention when she and Damon were fighting.

He lifted her chin, leaning down to nussle her neck. "We'll think of something. Two weeks is a long time if we use it right," He murmured.

She closed her eyes, as his warm breath brushed her skin. She'd never been held like this before - never been so intimate. It was so comforting, and it also made her heart pound with nerves. It was all so confusing.

"Why do you make me feel this way?" She whispered to him, as her fingers gripped his shirt.

He shook his head, and his nose brushed her neck. "What way?"

"I feel so right here, in your arms, and yet I'm so nervous. Why is that?"

He closed his eyes at her words, feeling her hands tremble and realizing how much courage it took her to admit those things to him. He pulled back, and she opened her eyes to look at him.

He smiled down at her, a gentle smile that melted her heart and made her want to turn into mush. 

"I don't know, Libia. I feel the same way, and it confuses the hell out of me."

She smiled. "Really?"

"Really," He confirmed, his hand drifting up to her cheek and pressing into the soft skin there. "But I never want it to end."

She blinked as the earnest doubt in her eyes melted into a soft sea of understanding. "I don't, either."

Sighing, he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. Her hands slid up to cup his jaw, feeling the stubble prickle her hands. He groaned as his hands made their way up her back, cupping her neck in a gentle embrace. 

It was gentle at first, their lips moving together slowly and lovingly, and then it deepened, and Damon pulled her even closer, one arm going back down to capture her waist. He lifted the other hand to slip into her hair, running his fingers down the length of it in a slow, soft movement.

A soft moan left Libia, causing Damon to smile against her lips. 

He pulled back, knowing they both needed air, and Libia opened her eyes to stare into his blue depths.

"You have no idea how much I missed those lips," He whispered, planting one more soft kiss on her swollen lips before her cheek.

Her cheeks flamed red, and she realized her hands still captured his face. She took one hand away, but the other slid up, and she ran her fingers through his hair. He closed his eyes, a smile curving his lips. Her fingers played in the strands, and it caused tingles to shoot up his spine. 

"Libia...," He trailed off, before leaning his forehead on hers. "I...need to tell you something."

His eyes slowly opened, and her mouth went dry at the apprehension, the sheer nerves that she saw there in his depths. 

She nodded, clearing her throat. "Go on."

He took a deep breath, and did something very unlike him - he broke their stare. He pulled back from her grasp, taking her hands in his, and holding onto them for dear life. "Libia...I-"

A knock inturrupted their suddenly serious atmosphere, and Damon's eyes closed. Libia furrowed her eyebrows as she called, "Yes?"

"Sorry, Mom and Dad just got home. They're getting out of the car now," Jack called.

"We'll be right out," Libia replied, "Thank you."

He didn't answer, so she turned back to Damon. His eyes opened again after a moment, and he looked up at her. "Damon...?"

A small smile lifted his lips, as he leaned down to capture hers in one last, heavy kiss that made Libia's knees wobble. "Let's go."

"Wait," Libia protested as he pulled her to the door, he didn't stop. "What were you going to tell me?"

"Later," He looked back to wink at her, but his eyes flashed nervously.

She watched his back with furrowed eyebrows as he led her downstairs, but as the front door opened when they reached the bottom steps, Libia's curiosity was replaced by the burning need to run and hide. 

Damon pulled her under his arm, holding her close as if he'd sensed her sudden change. 

In walked the two that Libia dreaded seeing - Rich and Lisbon Slain.

Jack and Carol came to stand by Damon, and Libia sensed a change in all three of them. She watched the light in Jack's brown eyes, which had been so bright when they'd met, dim down nothing, and his hands clasped behind his back as if he were meeting with a drill seargent instead of their parents. Carol wrapped an arm around her brothers, holding onto his sleeve, as she stared down at the ground. Even Damon wasn't as bright as he'd been - tensing up as if for a fight and holding Libia just a little bit tighter.

This wasn't a home, Libia realized. This was a boot camp.

Chapter Sixteen.


The silence when Rich and Lisbon spotted Libia was deafening. She found herself shrinking into Damon's hold as their cold stare bit at her.

"Dad, Mom, welcome home," Carol murmured quietly.

"Yes, thank you Carol," Rich said, his voice cool and collected, with no hint of affection for their youngest daughter.

And suddenly, Lisbon slapped a big, fake smile on her face.

"It's so nice to finally have you for dinner, ah...?"

"It's Libia, Mom, you know this," Damon half-growled.

Quickly, Libia trailed her fingers up his back, finding the familiar spot between his shoulder blades. As her fingers traced the line of his spine, he found himself relaxing without his consent. He almost shook his head in disbelief. The girl had more of a hold on him than he cared to admit to himself.

Libia forced herself to be bold as she smiled politely at the two that approached. "It's nice to see you both again." Of course she was lying through her teeth.

"Ah, yes, you as well," Rich told her, nodding his head, before turning to his oldest son.

"Jackson, did you manage to set up dinner?" He asked him.

It made Libia blink in the realization of the meaning of those words. They weren't polite, or even just a friendly question. They were demeaning and bordering on condescending - as if they didn't expect him to be able to, as if he were so below them that he bordered on being stupid.

She could feel her hands clenching, so she reached behind her and gripped Damon's shirt tightly. She could no longer keep her face polite, so she settled on keeping a smooth poker face.

Now it was Damon's turn to calm her down, sensing her want to speak up,  he moved his hand down to her arm and squeezed softly, before carefully rubbing up and down.

"As a matter of fact," Jack said, his face hard as he stared straight back at his father - accepting his challenge, "The roast is in the crockpot and has been since this morning."

Carol cleared her throat, squeezing her brother's hand once in a warning, before looking up. "It shood be ready in a few hours so...we should all go and sit on the back porch. I made lemonade."

They were all on edge as they watched them walk past, and when they dissapeared into the kitchen, the relief that relaxed everyones shoulders was palpable.

Letting out a deep breath, Carol looked over at Libia with a small smile. "I'll go and get the cups filled. Jack, will you help me?" She looked up at him.

He nodded, rubbing the back of his neck as he glanced at Libia and Damon, who were standing close together. He noticed Libia's hand clasping Damon's shirt in a vice-like grip from behind, and met her eyes with a smile of his own.

"Next time, we should have dinner at your house - Damon says your mom and brother are great people," He murmured.

Libia found a smile on her lips as she nodded immediately in agreement. "It'll have to wait a bit though - my mother and brother are still recovering from that virus."

"Of course," Jack's eyebrows furrowed in worry.  "I hope they get over it okay."

She released Damon's shirt to wave a hand in dismissal. "They're fine. My mom's a soldier and my brother is too hyper to let something like this pull him down for long."

Chuckling at the truth of her words, Damon dropped his hand down and thread his fingers through hers.

"Well," Carol pulled on her brother's hand, leaning slightly around him as she said in an obvious voice, "We're gonna go...get the lemonade ready. You come on out back're ready," She shot Damon a wink, before hightailing it out of the foyer, dragging a reluctant Jack along.

Damon rolled his eyes, but was glad for the alone time with Libia. He turned to her and lifted her face with one hand, taking their intertwined hands and pressing his knuckles to her cheek. "I'm sorry about that. Our parents aren't really...well they're not exactly...," She reached up, planting a finger on his lips. 

"I understand, Damon. They're not any way," She shrugged with a small smile. "I'm glad to at least have met your siblings. They're worth sitting through an awkward silence with your parents."

Laughing, Damon leaned down and planted a warm kiss on her lips. "Thanks Babe."

Giggling, Libia pushed on his chest before he could steal another kiss and began dragging him. "Let's not make them wait too long."

He groaned. "But they just gave us the go ahead to be alone!" He complained.

"That's not why we're here, Babe," She teased him dryly.

"Ooh, you've never called me that before," He said, stopping her with an abrupt pull of her hand and spinning her around to face him. She yelped at the sudden movement, laughing as he enveloped her in his arms. "I think I like it," He whispered in her ear.

She found a confidence in herself that she'd never thought she posessed, as she pulled out of his embrace and shot him a wink. "I'll never say it again."

He watched with his mouth open as she flashed a teasing smile, and then began pulling him along. Who was this new Libia? 

They walked through the kitchen, Damon being led in a slight daze. He didn't notice when she stopped walking.

Libia had just turned the doorknob, when Damon bumped into her, and she tripped. Yelping, the door pushed open, and they stumbled out. Instinctivly, Damon wrapped his arms around her, and kept her upright.

She snorted and laughed, causing Damon to grin. "You totally did that on perpose!" She accused, still laughing.

"Hey!" He complained, "I did not!"

A male voice clearing his throat caused Libia to look up, and immediately she realized that they had an audience. She straightened, and Damon's laughter cut short.

"Sorry," Libia blurted, tucking a stand of hair behind her ear.

She contemplated stepping out of Damon's grasp, but decided as his arms tensed around her that she should stay put. His parents sat at a round outdoor table, across from Jack and Carol, who sipped silently at their lemonade.

Plastering a smile across her face, Damon's mother gestured to the porch swing against the edge of the ledge beside them. Libia hesitated to move, frozen by the stare of Damon's father, who was clearly dissaproving of her. His eyes, so similar to Damon's cut into her skin. Damon managed to drag her along, settling them down on the porch swing. She suddenly wished that she had taken up Damon's offer to go out to eat, just the four of them. 

"Well, Libia, tell us about yourself," Damon's father said, and Libia heard a slightly demanding tone. 

"Ah...well what would you like to know?"

"Grades?" He immediately suggested, and it sounded a bit rude.

Despite her apprehension, she hesitantly answered the question. "I...I get straight A's in all classes."

"Wow!" Carol piped up, smiling. "Adorable, and smart!"

Libia felt her ears heat up. She worked hard to keep her mom from worrying about her. She knew that if her grades fell, her mom would be dissapointed. She hated disappointing her mother.

"What about career?" Damon's mother piped up.

At this, Libia let out a hesitant laugh. "I'm working a part time job at a grocery store at the moment. Career choices...are a little scattered right now." She tried to be as honest as she could, but she could see that they weren't pleased with her answer.

Damon tightened his hold on Libia's shoulders, pressing a kiss to her cheek to reassure her, and she let out a deep breath at the contact. She was fine, she knew that she could do it if he was there with her.

"Well, I do hope you make your decisions soon. Is there anything you like to do, especially?"

Libia hesitated for a moment, before murmuring, "I...I like to dance."

"Dance? As in, Ballet?" 

Libia felt a short laugh rise to the surface, and Damon shook his head. 

"Not exactly. It's...more hip hop."

She felt the dissaproving gaze of Damon's father cut into her again, and knew that the answer she gave wasn't wanted. She winced.

"She's an amazing dancer," Damon piped up, and she could hear the defensive tone behind his voice, "I've seen what she can do. She could be a professional if she wanted."

Jack and Carol stared at Damon as if they were seeing him for the first time. She wondered how he was with them - was he different with Libia? She would have liked to think so, but she didn't want to be conceited. 

"I'm sure," Damon's father muttered, sipping his lemonade. It didn't sound convincing.

Damon looked as if he was ready to leave, so Libia took his hand in both of hers, calming him down some. 

"Ah, Libia, Damon tells me you're amazing with electronics," Carol jumped in, trying to change the subject.

"Oh...yeah. I suppose I have some knowledge about it. My dad was an electrician, and he taught me a few things. Mostly it's like a puzzle to solve for me."

Damon glanced at her. She'd never told him that her dad was an electrician. It made more sense now that he thought about it.

"Oh, how nice," Lisbon murmured, clearing her throat.

Libia shifted uncomfortably. It was silent again, and no one seemed to know what else to talk about. Damon, however, seemed relieved. Did he not want to talk anymore? She looked up at him, and noticed a hint of exhaustion in his eyes. It must have been tiring to hold back all of those thoughts and feelings towards them. Was this how it always was with them?

He met her slightly concerned gaze, and let a small smile slip. No matter how tired he was, he never ceased to smile at her. It was nice.

"Well, Libia, since you seem like a nice girl, I can assume you won't be influincing my son in ways that are unsatisfactory to his maturity?"

She looked at Rich, blinking at his words., not only was he threatening her, he was refurring to his Aunt. Maybe Damon's friends as well. Damon tensed, and even Libia couldn't hold back her protests at that moment.

"Maturity? I'm sorry, I didn't realize that Damon was that easily influinced by outside sources. I always saw Damon as a human being with his own capacity for making decisions."

It was silent yet again - even Damon had been shut down by her words. 

But Libia wasn't done yet.

"If I ever asked something of Damon that turned out to be "Unsatisfactory to his maturity" I'm sure he would decide on his own whether or not he agreed to such things. With all do respect, he is not a ten year old boy, Mr. Slain, he's an eighteen year old man who can do for himself."

Jack's mouth dropped open, and Carol covered her own with her palm as she lowered her head, hiding her smile. Damon stared at Libia as if seeing her in a new light, but she kept her gaze trained on Rich and Lisbon, wanting them to know just how much she disagreed with the treatment of their children. 

Lisbon stood, and Rich followed suit, straightening his shirt.

"Well, I really think that you don't know Damon at all, if you think that's the case. Now if you'll excuse us," Lisbon said, and she couldn't even manage that fake smile of hers.

Both of them went inside, and as they past, Rich sent her a scathing look.

As soon as the door closed, Libia smacked her palm to her forehead. "Oh my god. I thought for sure they'd kick me out."

Damon's mouth had dropped open a little while ago, and he still didn't have control of his voice. Carol stared at Libia, mystified. Jack leaned forward, asking,

"Libia, do you realize you just cause my parents to leave the area? Do you realize you just crushed their pitiful souls?"

She looked up with a worried gaze. She hadn't meant to hurt them. "I did?"

He blinked at her, sitting back with disbelief. Carol let out a laugh that was slightly amused, and slightly incredulous.

Damon shook his head, coming out of his daze as he noticed her worry. "Don't worry, Aunt Cass crushes their souls a lot. It's not that hard to do. You didn't hurt them - you hurt their pride."

"Oh," Libia murmured, slightly relieved, but slightly horrified that she'd hurt them in any way. 

Neither of them called Damon on his lie. It was very hard to break them from their prideful stupor. Cass would have visited a lot more often if that was the case. 

"Libia," Damon said, causing her to look at him. He smiled at her, and her heart stopped. It was a tender smile, a kind of smile that she'd never seen before - it was so loving, so innocent, and so beautiful that she had to hold her breath. "Thank you."

She shook her head, not understanding.

"You stood up for me. Stood up for all of us. You were amazing."

She sucked in a gulp of air, and furrowed her eyebrows. "I did?"

"You have no idea," Carol murmured, still disbelieving. "Absolutely no clue."

She really didn't. She simply said what was on her mind - what had been on her mind since the night that Damon came to her house drunk. Had she really made that much of a difference?

"Geez, Damon. You said she was shy," Jack said to him on a laugh. "How could you lie to us like that?"

Damon shook his head, his eyes never leaving Libia as he watched her cheeks flush. 

Why did he think she was shy again? He didn't know.

Chapter Seventeen.


Dinner was more awkward than Libia could have imagined. Libia wanted to apologize to Damon for creating such a stale atmosphere, but every time she looked at him with eyes that asked if she was at fault, he would roll his own and shake his head as if she were being absurd. And maybe she was, but she felt as if there would be reprecussions for her words - perhaps his parents forbidding him to see Libia ever again. 

The food was delicious, as she made known to Jack many times throughout the meal, whether it be telling him outright, or the indulgent smile on her face every time she'd take a bite. And he enjoyed every minute of praise, grinning as he ate his meal proudly.

Of course his parents simply had to ruin it.

"You could have seasoned the meat a little more." Lisbon murmured.

"The broth tastes store bought," Rich added in after.

Jack's smile faded, as he turned his eyes back down to his food. Libia then didn't regret a single word she'd said to them both. Cassidy was right - hatred only bred hatred, and it was biting into Libia like a rabid dog.

After dinner, Lisbon and Rich excused themselves to their office, and while Jack and Carol cleaned up, they insisted that Damon and Libia go and be alone for a while. And while Libia was hesitant, wanting to help clean, Damon pulled her along nonetheless. He led her back up to his room, ushering her in and closing the door after her. She walked over to his bed, settling down on the matress, which conformed to her position, as she realized it was memory foam. 

"I've always wanted to have a bed like this," She mused, bouncing slightly.

She looked up to find Damon staring at her from a few feet away, as if taking her in. Tilting her head, she smiled and asked,


He shook his head, walking over to where she sat and settling down next to her. 

"I just never thought that I'd actually ever have you in here. It's a strange feeling - you've always seemed like such a far away dream."

She couldn't help but look away, her cheeks flushing. "I'm not that good a person, you know," She murmured. 

He sighed, "Libia, no one's perfect, but compared to me, you're a diamond."

She lifted her hand to his chest, over his heart. It was pounding. So his heart beat as fast as hers in these situations?

"You're not a bad person, Damon. No matter what you say, I'll never believe that."

He smiled down at her as she lifted her gaze to his, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Thanks, Babe."

She laid her head against his chest, as he pulled her completely into his lap. It always made him pause at how small she was - she could curl into his chest with such ease. But she was warm, and soft, and her silky hair against his hand as he stroked the individual strands caused him to shiver slightly. There was no doubt in his mind, he was in love.

"Damon," She murmured on a sigh, and he knew that she was getting tired.

"Hm?" He murmured as he shifted them both so they were lying down.

She settled on his chest, burrying her face into his neck. "Do you think...," Her breath on his collar bone caused tingles to run down his spine. "Do you think that we'll grow apart?"

The question stalled him. He blinked up at the ceiling, processing the words in his mind before asking,

"What makes you think that?"

"What if we're reliving our parent's mistakes? What if we thought that we belonged together, but...we grow apart...grow to hate each other?"

He stared up at the ceiling, feeling the warmth of her tears on his chest. He knew where she was coming from, because he had the same fears. But he pushed past them. He refused to live in the shadow of his parents, in any way.

"That won't happen," He murmured, his voice strong.

"But...," Libia trailed off as he turned them over, dropping her onto the bed, his hands on either side of her head.

"It won't happen - I won't let it happen, Libia. What I feel for you isn't that teenage infatuation that my mother felt for my father. It isn't just carnal desire. Libia I...," She stared up at him, brown eyes slightly reddened and hair splayed around her. His heart lurched. "Libia, I love you."

He said it. His arms shook with nerves and his heart pounded so hard in his chest that his breath was slightly labored. Libia wasn't doing any better. The words swirled around her head, as her lips parted in shock. Her gaze was locked onto his, although she blinked many times. 

"D-Damon...," It was only a whisper. Her heart was soaring, but also weighed down and heavy in her chest as it pounded like a hummingbird's. She tried to grasp the situation at hand, tried to understand exactly what those words meant.

"Damon...," It was all she could say, but this time she said it on a laugh. "Damon!"

He studied her face nervously, wondering if her laughter was a good sign, or a bad sign. 

"Say it again, Damon," She finally said, a smile rising to her face.

He furrowed his eyebrows, heat rising to his cheeks.

"I love you."

"Again!" She demanded, grasping his shirt in her fists.

"I'm in love with you, alright?" He said, wanting her to stop making him say it already.

She let out a giggle that warmed his heart to the core, and suddenly pulled him down, his shaking arms buckling easily to his elbows, as she leaned up, meeting his lips halfway. He couldn't breathe, as he realized what this kiss meant. But as fireworks exploded behind his eyes, he deepened the kiss, and slipped his hand into her hair, cradling her face with his other.

He couldn't stop smiling, and neither could she. She didn't have to ask him any more, for with each time their lips parted, he whispered those sweet words to her,

"I love you." 

She shivered as his fingers ran the length of her arm.

"Libia, I love you."

Even as her eyes were closed, she could see his face so clearly in her mind.

"I'm so in love with you."

Her eyes fluttered open, as he trailed kisses down her neck, whispering his confession with every peck. But as she closed her eyes again, smiling, she heard her phone ring in her pocket. 

Damon paused, as she dug her phone out and looked at the ID. She groaned, bringing Damon back up to press her lips firmly to his again, before pulling away and sitting up.

He sat up with her, eyes dazed as he watched her answer the phone.

"Hello." Oops. she thought, my voice is just a little too rough.

"Libia Fields, where the hell are you?" Ben's voice growled over the other line.

She pulled back the phone and looked at the time, it was only around seven.

"Did you just now see the note?"

"That's not the point!" He said, and she rolled her eyes. "The point is, I told you that you were not allowed to see him anymore! What are you doing - getting another tattoo? Or perhaps he's buying you a new motorcycle."

She looked at Damon, who sat cross-legged in front of her, playing with her fingers with a soft smile on his face.

"Wow you hit the nail right on the hammer, Ben. Yep, he's buying me a new motorcycle. It's a really nice one, too. What kind is it again, Damon?" Libia held out the phone to Damon giving him a wink that said to play along.

He leaned forward into the mic, and without missing a beat, he said, "It's a Honda CBR. Very fast. it fits her well."

She pulled the phone back to her ear. "Well there you have it. A Honda CBR."

She could just feel him fuming on the other end. "Whatever, just get your ass back home before I tell mom what you came home on the night of your date."

Her breath caught, and Damon glanced up at her when he felt the change. He tilted his head in worry.

"Fine," She said to him, showing him through her voice how clearly she didn't appriciate his tactics. "I'm coming home."

She hung up without another word to him, and shoved her phone back into her back pocket.

"Stupid, overprotective...," She grunted in frustration, as Damon smiled a bit sadly at her.

"Time to go?"

Her expression softened. "Yeah. Time to go."

He let out a heavy sigh. "Alright. I'll take you home. But just so you know, I'm not scared of your brother."

"My brother, I'm not worried about. It's my mother I'm worried about," She murmured. "She doesn't know I came home on a motorcycle, you know, that night - if she ever found out...let's just say I like your face the way it is now."

He winced, and then let out a laugh. "Ouch."

She smiled.

When they made their way downstairs, all was quiet. Jack and Carol had probably gone back up to their rooms. She wished she could have said bye to them, but she'd see them again - she'd make sure of it.

Damon draped his coat over her shoulders, as he knew it was chilly outside. She smiled in thanks at him, and he opened the door for her, his hand slipping under the jacket to press to the small of her back. It felt warm.

When they settled in the car, Damon turned to her. "You know, you never did tell me what happened that I should be proud of you for."

"Oh!" She exclaimed, a smile coming to her lips. "I forgot."

He laughed, and waited for her to continue.

"Yesterday, after the fight over the tattoo with my brother, I went to the store to get some things for dinner, and you'll never guess who I ran into - Jackson!" Damon glanced at her, his eyes hardening at the mention of his name. "Don't worry," She assured him, "You'll love this. He was following me around, prattling on about how I'd changed or something, and he came onto me, like, came onto me. It was gross." Damon's fists tightened on the wheel.

"And I should be happy about this, why?"

"Just let me finish," She insisted, so he obediently pressed his lips together. "I did the only thing I thought natural. I stomped him on the foot," Damon's face brightened, and he nodded. "I slapped him in the face," She listed, and he grinned.

"Go on."

"And to top it all off, stomped him in the other foot. It was really quite liberating."

He let out a booming laugh, reaching over and clasping her hand in his. "You're right, I'm so proud I could kiss you!" 

She beamed at him. "See? I knew you'd love it."

"Ah, but am I allowed to punch him the next time I see him?" Damon asked, glancing at her.

"You're allowed to threaten him. I won't have you suspended," She said to him in a motherly tone.

He groaned. "But I really want to punch him!"

"If you punch him, you won't get to protect me at school for at least a week. You can threaten him, that's all."

"Maybe just a smack?" He pleaded.

"No!" She laughed. "I already smacked him hard enough."

He sulked. "You're no fun."

She rolled her eyes. "You're too violent."

"Speak for yourself!" he told her, squeezing her hand affectionately.

She grinned. "Violent and proud of it."

"Yeah, Baby!" He grinned.

When they pulled up to the curb, Libia noticed the curtains twitch. She rolled her eyes.

"Should I walk you to the door, or will I get punched?" He asked, turning off the engine and looking over at her.

"You can get out of the car and see me off. Better not get too close to the house, though."

He snorted, and watched as she stepped out onto the road. He stepped out with her, and they met at the sidewalk.

"Well," She sighed, glancing over at the curtains which she knew her brother was peeking out of, shamelessly at this point. "I'll see you later."

He smiled down at her, "Sooner, I hope."

She smiled, and leaned up to press a small kiss to his cheek. He jutted out his bottom lip comically at the lack of contact, and she laughed.

"He's going to kill you if you do anything else."

He let out a sigh, which sounded a little more like a pained groan. 

"Goodnight, Babe."

"Goodnight, Damon. I...," Her cheeks flamed as she murmured in a shy voice, "I love you."

It was her first time saying it, and it caused her heart to go crazy in her chest. She was just trying to catch her breath against the sudden emotion, when Damon took a step closer, causing her to look up. His blue eyes were determined, and rebelious. He looked absolutely devilish.

"If I die, I die. Let him see how much I don't care."

And then he slipped his hand in her hair, using his other hand to tilt her back onto her heels, pressing his lips to her in a deep kiss that sent tingles from her scalp all the way to her toes, and back up again. She had to grab onto his shirt so she could keep from falling, but his hand splayed across her back, ensuring that she wouldn't fall an inch.

He pulled back, and felt a smile pull at his lips as he took in her expression. Her lips were parted slightly, her eyes molten chocolate that seeped down into his soul and solidified like concrete. He was lost, and he never wanted to find his way out again.

He let her go, just as the door slammed open, pulling them both from their haze. He grinned at her, pressing a quick kiss to her cheek just as Ben came storming out of the house.

"Bye, Baby."

And then, as Libia lifted her hand in a dazed wave, he jumped into the car, turned it on, and pulled off, waving at Ben as he did.

Ben was beyond furious, but Libia was far, far beyond noticing, as she pulled his jacket closer to herself, not even noticing the giddy smile on her lips as she said,

"We should go inside."

And without a moment's hesitation, turned and made her way inside, Ben watching her with incredulous eyes. She almost closed the door on him, as he followed her back in, but he caught it just before it could latch.

"Libia, do you realize how-." His words were cut short, as he came into the kitchen to find Libia putting her fingertips to her lips with a dazed smile.

The night's events took a turn for the best, and Libia could feel herself glowing with happiness. She was in love, and Damon loved her back. She couldn't stop repeating those words in her head, as if saying them made it more real. She was in love, and Damon loved her back. 

"Libia!" She blinked, looking up.

Ben stood across the counter from her, glowering with anger. She blinked back into reality, wondering why in the world he was so angry.

And then she realized that most people didn't share her happiness.

"Ben," She murmured, "Why do you hate him so much?"

His words died in his throat, at her soft inquiry. He furrowed his eyebrows at her.

"Libia, he took you out to get you a tattoo. He rode you home on a motorcycle. He-,"

"Cheered me up after Jackson dined and dashed on me," She murmured, her eyes never leaving his.

It took him a moment, but he settled down in the stool in front of her, eyes losing some of their anger, and being replaced with confusion.

"What? What are you talking about?"

"That guy, Jackson, the one I originally went out with - he charmed me, complimented me, and then made an excuse. He said that his wallet was in his car, so he left to go get it. I saw his headlights come on, and poof! He was gone. I was humiliated, and livid. I left the restaraunt in tears, and ran into Damon. That's why he brought me home that night."

Ben stared down at his fists on the counter top, before looking up and meeting Libia's eyes. "Why didn't you tell me this?"

"It didn't feel right. I didn't want you to worry. Ben, Damon tells me almost every time I see him how little he deserves me. He's never forced me into anything, or influenced me in anyway. He's always been kind to me - too kind, in fact."

Ben put his forehead in the palm of his hand, groaning. "So what you're telling me, is I should be out hunting this Jackson guy down?"

"No need," Libia murmured, "Damon already beat the hell out of him."

He looked up at Libia, sulking. "So I can't do anything?"

"You could go hunt him down if you wanted, but I'm pretty sure he gets the point."

He glared at the counter top, grumbling something about people taking his job from him. 

"So you're, what, his girlfriend now?" Ben asked, not exactly thrilled with the idea.

Her cheeks flamed, as she remembered his words. "I...I think we are."

"You think?" Ben got up from his seat and walked over to the fridge, pulling out a water bottle, "You mean he hasn't specified?"

"Well, he told me he loved me," She said, and Ben choked on his water, taking an agonizing second to swallow before he started coughing uncontrollably.

Libia jumped up to pat him on the back. When he calmed down, he wiped his mouth with a tired grimace. "I'm going to lay down."

She watched him go with a simpathetic smile. This was all too fast for him. 

Libia was wired, though, and sleeping was far from her mind, as she settled down on the couch in the living room, turning on the TV and settling on a comedy that she hardly payed attention to. She was trying to doze, but all that resulted in was her picturing Damon's smiling face, and feeling his lips on hers. She wasn't getting anywhere.

She had just decided to actually pay attention to the sitcom, her phone buzzed at her side. She picked it up when she saw the name, holding it to her ear with a giddy smile.


"Is the cost clear?" He asked immediately.

Libia crooked an eyebrow at the TV. "Well, Ben went to bed a few minutes ago, if that's what you mean."

"That's what I mean," He confirmed, and she could hear his smile. "Come outside."

She pulled the phone back from her ear when he hung up, and screwed up her mouth in a puzzled smile. Still, she stood up and slipped her shoes back on, walking over and unlocking the door as she shrugged his jacket fully on.When she stepped out into the night air, all that she could hear for a moment in the distance was the soft sound of a dogs bark. And then she heard the suttle purr of an engine getting closer, as a car turned around the corner, one she recognized immediately. When it came to a stop in front of her house, she shook her head with a grin as she made her way out to it.

He rolled down the window as she approached, grinning devilishly at her as she leaned into the opening.

"You didn't think I'd just leave after that, did you?"

"If he finds out he'll kill me," She told him, reaching up to play with his hair as she already knew why he was still at her house.

"That's what being bad's all about, Babe," He told her, making her laugh.

"I suppose you're right. Where are we going?"

He was hesitant to say, as he knew that she would remove her hand from his hair to get in the car, and he quite liked the feeling of her soft fingertips on his scalp. But, nonetheless, he gestured for her to get in as he said,

"I'm taking you on a date - a real one."

"A date? Oh, Damon, how romantic," She teased, although her cheeks flamed with happiness at the idea.

He laughed, and nodded, "I'm a real Cassinova. Now get in."

She laughed and walked around to the other side, jumping happily into the car and shutting the door as quietly as she could, while also closing it firmly - she didn't want her brother to hear.

He reached over and grabbed her hand, appraising her appearance.

"I like you with my jacket on. You should keep wearing it."

She tilted her head back against the headrest, eyes closing. "Damon."

"Yeah, Babe," He said as he pulled away from the curb.

"I like it when you call me Baby. You should keep doing it."

Chapter Eighteen.


They drove for a while, and Libia couldn't hardly look at him, in embarrassment for what she had said. She hadn't meant to say it, it just kind of blurted out. He didn't say anything either, but his smile was more than enough of an indicator that he'd heard and aknowledged what she said. 

When the car pulled to a stop, Libia looked out the window and couldn't help but let out a laugh.

"We're having a date in the park?" She asked, quirking a brow.

"Yeah, so?"

"So," She gestured to her coat, "It's cold out!"

"That's why you stick close to me, Baby, I'll warm you right up."

Her cheeks warmed at the name, and she narrowed her eyes at him, "So this is all just an elaborate plan to make me hug you?"

He laughed. "Not exactly. Now come on."

He shut the car off, unbuckling his seatbelt, and watching as she reluctantly did the same.

"What, you don't want to?" He asked, raising his eyebrows.

"I'm warm right now. The prospect of cold doesn't exactly make me happy," She told him as she opened the door.

He let out a laugh that echoed down the street as he stepped out of the car, and she couldn't help the brief smile that pulled at her lips at the sound. She'd never heard him laugh or seen him smile as much as he had in the past few hours.

He met her at the sidewalk, pulling her in close to his side when she shivered. He pulled the hood of his jacket over her head, and she felt swallowed up, as she couldn't see past the piece of clothing in her eyes.

"You're too tall," She complained, "And built."

He laughed again as they walked into the park, his arm draped around her shoulders as she held onto his shirt with her sleeve-covered hand. 

"I'm going to take that as a compliment."

"It's not," She murmured, her voice soft and non-believable. Despite the cold, she was enjoying herself.

She, once again, marveled at the fact that no man had ever been this close to her. She could feel his pulse, even from her hand's position over his stomach, and his warmth seeped through the jacket she wore and into her body. No man had ever even come close to kissing her as he'd done so many times before. To holding her like he'd done in his bed. He'd said to her words that she'd never imagined any man would ever say. It didn't seem real. Perhaps she was dreaming. She peeked up from her hood to look at his face, and he was watching the sidewalk in front of him, shoulders relaxed, eyes soft and casual under his golden hair that she'd managed to mess up while playing with it, a small smile never leaving his chiseled face. How could she dream up something like that?

"Damon," She murmured after a moment, eyes staring at the ground that they walked. The moonlight managed to cast criss-crossing shadows over them from the sleeping trees. It was peaceful.

"Hm?" He asked, as if coming out of deep thought.

"I love you."

Under her hand, she felt his pulse stutter.

"You have no idea how good that sounds, coming from your lips."

She ducked her head, glad for the hood that covered her face, as it was most likely cherry red at that moment. 

"I'm not sure you should know," He continued on, oblivious to her shyness. "What would happen if you realized just how much power those words had over me? It might turn out as my parents said - you could influince me any way you choose...all you had to say was those words."

She looked up as his joking tone turned serious, and met his eyes. He really meant it. He meant every word. 

"Do you really love me that much?" She found herself asking, her voice slightly disbelieving.

He let out a snort, his arm tightening around her. "Believe me Baby, I'd love to tell you that I'd say no to you if you asked me to kill someone - or even myself, for that matter - but the fact is...I wouldn't. I'd do it in a heartbeat."

She swallowed thickly. "So if I ever say "Can I please kill Jackson?", I'd basically be sentencing him to death?"

"If he did something to warrant it, yes, probably," Damon said, eyebrows furrowing as he looked out at the dark field in front of them.

She couldn't help it, she felt it bubble up before she could stop it, and it escaped without consent - her laugh made his footsteps falter.

"What?" He asked as she kept on giggling, "You find my undying devotion funny?" Now that she was actually looking at him, she could see that his cheeks were bright red, and she pressed her palm to her lips, as more giggles escaped.

"I-I'm sorry're just so cute!"

Now she was embarrassed, pulling her hood over her face as she tried to stifle her giggles. But after a second of silence, she heard a groan from his direction, and he wrapped an arm around her waist as the other hand pulled her face up from the hood. He leaned down just in time to catch her lips with his, and she was caught in surprise for a moment. But she responded just as he knew she would, relaxing in his grasp and letting him deepen the kiss.

When he pulled back, he glowered at her, settling his forehead against hers. "You can't throw something like that on me and then hide your face. Your smile is way too precious."

Now her cheeks were burning, as she looked away from him. How could she respond to that?

With a laugh, he pulled her close and then led her over to a nearby bench, settling them down. After a moment, he let out a sigh, and held her closer to him. She pulled up and folded her legs to rest on the bench, as she leaned her weight into his side and cuddled close to him. He smiled. He loved it when she did that. 

But then, as he watched her close her eyes with a tiny smile, his own faded slightly.

"You're still scared, right?"

Slowly, Libia opened her eyes, lifting them to his. He was serious now, although the remnents of his smiling face was still fading. She could see that he didn't want an assuring lie.

She swallowed, closing her eyes again as she buried the side of her face into his chest.

"I...I can't help it."

He knew that. She had every right to be scared. He was too. He knew how vile a relationship could be between two people - how vile a relationship could suddenly get. But now that he was older, he realized that there were always subtle signs that he was too naive to notice in his parents at the time. When one said something wrong, the other would make remarks, degrading each other instead of simply, politely correcting them. When something happened with work, or life in general, they would always shut themselves off to each other - they never communicated. He didn't know how her parents were, but he knew that his and Libia's relationship wasn't like his.

"I can't say what will happen, because I don't know," He began in a low tone, listening to his own heartbeat pounding at her touch. "But I can say that right now, right here, I have absolutely no intention of ever leaving you, and there's no mistaking that feeling. I won't give up on you, Libia. This feeling will not fade."

She lifted her head to look at him, and he met her eyes with so much determination and conviction, that she had no choice but to believe him. Perhaps she was being reckless, and perhaps she'd regret ever meeting him one day, but as it stood at that moment, she loved him so fiercely, her heart couldn't stand it - it wanted to burst from her chest, with how much it ached for the man in front of her eyes. 

"I love you," She told him with a soft urgency in her voice that he couldn't ignore, "Damon, I'm so in love with you."

The words wouldn't stop coming, as she sat up and leaned forward, pressing her lips to his briefly, before letting the words slip out again. It was as if she was trying to relieve the pressure on her heart by spilling it out through her mouth - all of the feelings that had compiled there. With every kiss she confessed her love, and he accepted them one after the other, wrapping his arms tightly around her waist.

"God, Damon," She said once again, her voice breathless, "I can't...I love you...I can't breathe I love you so much."

He slipped his hands into her hair, his heart filling to burst as she reapeated those words over and over, and as much as he loved hearing them, he couldn't control himself. He pulled her close and pressed his lips firmly to hers, kissing her with a fire that he didn't know he posessed. He shifted closer to her, his tongue slipping between his lips and running along her bottom one. She'd never felt such a strange sensation before - his warm, wet tongue persuading her lips open, slipping inside as he began an exploration of her mouth. She couldn't breathe again, but she loved the feeling. His slightly cold hand slipped under her shirt, holding her waist in a more intimate way, and she felt shivers wrack her spine.

She had died and gone to heaven, she was convinced, and she never wanted to be revived.

But the cold harsh reality of life had to rear it's ugly head, as they both needed air. She hated the need for oxygen in that moment, cursing it and it's untimely inturruption.

They sat for a long time on that bench, the two of them catching their breath as they stayed close together, no longer needing the warmth of each other, as they were both burning with heat already.

But as they calmed down, Libia looked up at the moon, and remembered that she had a family that, if they discovered her gone, would be angry if they found her gone. She didn't want to stay out too long, but she also wanted to stay out for eternity, if only it were with Damon. She felt a small smile pull at her swollen lips. She truly was hopeless.

"I should probably go home," She whispered, curling her knees up as she reached up to play with his hair.

He closed his eyes and let her run her fingers through his crazy mane, before murmuring a half-hearted,


She let out a laugh, and then a sigh. "My thoughts exactly."

He laughed, a little breathily, as he peeked an eye open to look at her. Her hair was a mess where he'd gripped it somewhere between kissing her senseless and playing with the small of her back with his other hand. He reached up to smooth it out, and then let out a groan.

"Do you have to?"

The look on his face was pleading, and she couldn't help stare. He looked like an incredibly handsome puppy in that moment, and suddenly telling him that she had to go home was impossible. She really, really was hopeless. She smiled, and shook her head. "No."

"Really?" He murmured, leaning his lips down to the top of her head as he closed his eyes.

"What else do you want to do, though?" She asked, her voice soft.

He let out a sigh that warmed her head briefly, before murmuring, "This late, the only place open would be Mc. Donalds, and a Starbucks. What do you think?"

"Starbucks it is," She said, cuddling into him as a breeze ran through the park.

"Got it," He said, pulling her with him to stand. 

They strolled back to the car, Libia cuddled close under his arm as her nose stung slightly from the cold. She knew that he probably had a smug smile on his face, as she was doing just as he planned in the beginning by bringing her out to the park. She rolled her eyes, but held onto his shirt tightly. When they reached the car, he pulled the door open for her, and she jumped in. She couldn't help but stare at his face as he passed by the front of the car to the drivers side.

His nose was slightly arched forward, only slightly, with eyebrows she could only describe as a man's. His full lips were pulled into a tiny smile. The curve of his jaw made her want to trace the perfectly chiseled edges, and his eyes in the darkness were soft. He looked more relaxed then she had ever seen him, and she was trapped by that peacefulness.

He settled down in the seat next to her with a sigh, reaching over to start the car up. He paused as it purred to life, turning his eyes to hers. 

"You know what? Let's go somewhere."

Her heart studdered in her chest as she felt butterflies take flight in her stomach. She invisioned them driving off together on a road trip or running away to paris or something stupid like that. But quickly, she pushed those thoughts away, knowing he meant something else, and murmured,

"I thought we were?"

He smiled. "I want to be alone with you. I've got a good place, don't worry."

She didn't answer, so he took her silence as consent, and pulled off. They drove down a familiar stip of road, and she felt a smile pull at her lips as he pulled into their school parking lot.

"This is where we're going?"

"Yes, but we're not leaving the car," He replied, ignoring her inquisitive stare as he pulled all the way into the middle of the lot and switched the car to battery. In the soft glow of the dash lights, he looked over at her, and found that the lighting really complimented her eyes. They shined in the dark, and he felt the need to hold her suddenly. 

Refraining, he reached up and pulled the sunroof open.

"Lean your chair back," He murmured, following right after she did. He sat back and looked expectantly up at the dark sky, but frowned. Libia giggled.

"We're in the middle of the city, Damon. You can't see many stars out here," She reminded gently.

He wrinkled his brows, before letting out a sigh, "Well then, we'll just have to go somewhere where there aren't any stars."

"What?" She asked, as he lifted his seat back up and reached over to start the car up again. 

"You heard me. Lift your seat up and buckle up," He ordered, shooting her a grin.

"We're going for a little road trip."



Omigosh can I have a Damon?

So what did you guys think? I'd really appriciate some feedback on the chapter - things you liked, things you didn't like, the works. So please comment and let me know! 

Love you guys, have a purpley panda day. <3

Chapter Nineteen.


"Damon," Libia warned, staring at his face as they cruised through the emptying streets. "You do know that my brother doesn't exactly like you, right?"

"Yes," He said with a nod, "You do know that I don't care, right?"

She couldn't help but laugh. "My point is, that taking me out late at night for hours on end is probably not something he'll appreciate."

He glanced at Libia, and a slow grin rose to his face. She scoffed, how did she know that wouldn't deter him?

"So where are we going on this "Road Trip"?" She inquired, kicking her shoes off and shifting so that her feet were tucked beside her on the seat. 

"Don't know," He murmured, as if musing to himself.

She raised her eyebrows as she leaned her elbows on the center console, putting her chin in her hands, and then laughed. "You're crazy, Damon."

He grinned, "But you still love me."

She blinked , feeling her cheeks warm at the words, and said in a flippant voice, "I guess you're right. Maybe I'm crazy too?"

He looked over at her. She looked so beautiful with her messy hair falling over her shoulder, her legs tucked beside her, and her big eyes looking up at him. She looked more relaxed than he had ever seen her, with that serene look on her face, despite the redness of her cheeks. He felt hopeless against her, and he wondered briefly if this would be the girl he married.

He hoped so.

She decided that she couldn't convince him that what he was doing was a terrible idea, and stayed silent, as she lifted herself back up to a sitting position, getting comfortable for the potentially long ride. He flipped on the radio and turned it up when one of his favorite songs came on.

She closed her eyes with a small smile as the music filled the car with a happy atmosphere, and his hand found hers once again. She felt his thumb stroke the back of her hand methodically, and suddenly she was sleepy. But she didn't want to sleep. She wanted to savor the feeling of his hand around hers, and the overall presence of him. It was overwhelmingly there. She could feel it like a wave. It made her feel safe, happy, and also nervous, and jittery. Love was a double edged sword, and she was balanced right on the tip.

He was having a hard time watching the road, as he wanted to look at her. But he favored her safety more than his own selfish desires, so he kept them glued in front of him. 

"Libia," He murmured as he reached over and turned the radio down, and her eyes opened, glad for the distraction against falling asleep.


"Tell me about your family."

She tilted her head backwards to stair at the ceiling, murmuring, "What do you want to know?"

"What are your grandparents like? Do you have any Uncles or Aunts?"

She smiled slightly. "My mom was an only child, but my dad has four siblings, two older, and two younger. My grandparents on my mother's side were like second parents to me. My grandmother on my dad's side passed away before I was born, and I don't know Grandpa Chris well because dad doesn't talk to him much. Granny Fillis and Grandpa Gray loved us very much. But Granny had been battling with cancer for years, and the treatments were too harsh on her frail body. She died very suddenly, and I think it hurt Grandpa very much, because he fell deep down into depression. I didn't think it was possible to die of a broken heart, but just a year after Granny passed, he went with her. It hit us all hard," She paused to wait for the lump in her throat to clear.

"I'm sorry," He murmured, his voice soft.

She squeezed his hand, which he'd slid back into hers a while ago. 

"Now I have three Aunts - Dani, Janis, and Reese - and one Uncle - Lee - who is the eldest of the five of them including my dad, but dad only speaks to Lee, and Reese. Dani, Janis, Grandpa Chris and Dad had a bunch of drama happen around the time that he married my mom, and they haven't spoken since. To this day, the story of their fight is legendary at our family get-together's, so I'm sure that you'll hear it when I bring you this year-,"

"Wait, you were serious about that?" Damon interrupted, looking at her with an amused smile.

"Of course I was! It's going to be hilarious to watch you sweat - for some reason they're all really protective of me."

He glanced at her, the way her brown eyes seemed to burrow down into his heart and warm him to the core, and how small and fragile she looked beside him. He knew the reason.

"Anyway, my Uncle Lee is a funny guy - He's really witty, and just pops off with jokes that most times aren't appropriate at all to the situations. Aunt Reese has to smack him a lot. She's a lot more conservative and likes to dress me up in fancy clothes when she gets the chance - says I'm the perfect model because I look like a doll," She scoffed, but she had a fond look on her face. She missed them.

Damon wanted to look at her face as she explained, so he pulled into a rest stop as they'd just gotten out of the outskirts of town, and shut off the car, turning to her.

She tilted her head at him, wondering what he was doing, and he held out a gesturing hand. "Go on."

She gave a puzzled smile, but didn't ask, instead continuing like he told her to.

"Now my mother may not have that many siblings, but all of the old friends my mother has from her high school have basically become family to us. Uncle Jason has always come to the reunions and been a big part of our lives. He's always been like a second father to me - giving me advice, taking me out fishing early in the mornings before breakfast at the usual meeting place for the family. He taught me things that my dad never could - not to say that he tried to replace him, or that he was better than him, or anything, it's just that...Uncle Jason became somewhat of a best friend to me. Aunt Izzy has been my mother's best friend for as long as she's lived in our home town. I believe if they had the time they'd make the trip to see each other more often. I know how much mom misses her. Izzy is crazy, and always goes with the flow. She refuses to get married because she says that marriage is a responsibility that she'll take on when she's seen all that she wants to. She comes to every reunion, even when she's all the way across the world, she'll suddenly just pop in and surprise us. I've never seen Izzy without a smile on her face accept for once, after...well after my dad left my mom. She came home after she heard the news, and I remember that's the most serious I'd ever seen her, and the most furious. I hope I never have to see it again. That look on her face, on my mom's's not something that you can just let go, you know?" Libia was suddenly serious, staring out the windshield as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. 

"Yeah," He let out a gentle sigh, "I know."

She let out a deep breath, before turning her head to look at him. "The cousins," She continued, "Are who you really need to worry about. Sherry, first and foremost, is a girl I've known since childhood, although she's my second cousin and a good few years older than me, she's extremely protective of me, like, lioness protective. You've been warned."

He furrowed his eyebrows in worry, and she giggled. "Don't worry, I'll protect you."

And then we have Vincent who isn't actually a cousin, but he's a friend of a cousin who lives with said cousin's parents, so he's technically family. Jennifer, who is a sweet girl, can play the piano like no other - she's around eight years old, and I swear the kid's a prodigy. Then there's Chrissy, and she's as sassy as she can be - get's it from her Mom, Reese. Reese brings all of the cousins because they're the children of my fore mentioned Aunt's and Uncles that don't speak to my father anymore - and they like the reunions so they come despite the drama between their Uncle. They feel it's not their problem and I agree. A bunch of childish butt heads if you ask me," Libia shook her head with a roll of her eyes, "They've all got harder heads than a billy goat."

He let out a laugh, and she smiled. 

"I honestly can't wait to meet them, as afraid of this cousin as I am."

She couldn't help but laugh as she grinned over at him, and he laughed with her, relaxing against the seat.

"So, I have to ask, when do you usually have these family get together's?"

"Every year on the fifteenth of October."

He tilted his head.

"But the fifteenth...," He looked at her, "That's in two weeks!"

She smiled, a little sheepishly. "Yeah. We try to do it on a weekend so the kids can come."

He took in a deep breath, and she watched with raised eyebrows, and amused smile on her face.

"Okay. Two weeks. That's enough time...right?"

"Enough time for what?" She asked, taking his hand in both of hers as she tried to contain her smile.

"To prepare for death."

She couldn't help it - she let out a laugh that filled the car.

The next hour was full of light banter, and laughter. Libia teased Damon about the trip in two weeks mercilessly, and he took it like a man...with a pout of his face and the silent treatment. Of course it was only for a few moments, before she leaned over and pressed a kiss to his cheek which caused a smile to appear. 

Libia expressed to Damon that she was just a bit tired, and he thought about it for a moment, before turning the radio up and flipping stations. He settled on a station that was playing a remixed song. It was upbeat, and Libia found herself enjoying the music, as it kept her awake for the rest of the ride.

Damon spotted a rest stop sign. He decided that would be the perfect place.

When he pulled into the stop, it was empty, without a soul in sight. There was little light, just a few to light up the pathways to the bathrooms and such, and he found the place strangely peaceful.

He shut the car off and turned to Libia, but her eyes had already turned up to the sun roof. They were big as they stared through the glass, mouth open in childlike awe. 

"I haven't seen stars like these since the last time I went star gazing with my dad," She whispered, and her voice was nostalgic.

He took her hand, leaning his seat back. "Come here," He murmured to her, using the electronic lever to push his seat backwards so he could stretch his legs out fully. She tilted her head for a second, before climbing over the center console and into his arms, as he made room for her to lay on her back next to him. The seat was cramped, but she didn't mind, and neither did he, as they stared up at the stars. In the silence, Libia could hear his heart beat, and his breathing clearly. She could feel his pulse against her own, and it was comforting. She didn't want it to end. She was glad she didn't stop him from taking her out here. Even though she was nervous, being completely alone with him, she was also more peaceful than she had ever been. 

"You told me that your dad cheated on your mom. Do you...hate him for it?"

She stared up at the big dipper, and he could still see the sparkle of her eyes in the dark. 

"No. I can't hate him. He obviously loves this woman, that he met. I can't blame him for that. But I resent his actions. Despite loving this woman, he still loves my mom too, just not the way he used to. I can see that he still cares for her. That's why I hate how he handled this. He went behind mom's back, instead of being a responsible, mature- no, instead of manning up and telling mom exactly what was going on. The toll it took on mom....," She took in a deep breath. "I don't hate him. I just...don't like him very much right now."

Damon let out a soft laugh, but it was hardly humorous. "I can understand that."

She turned on her side, and just looked at him for a moment. He didn't ask her why. He didn't speak at all. He only stared back, glad to have the chance to take a good look at her face. She had an extra dark freckle on the left side of her chin, and a piece of her hair fell over her face. She didn't seem to notice it.

"Do you have any good memories with your family?" She murmured, reaching up to trace her fingers along his jaw.

He furrowed his eyebrows, not troubled, but thinking, as he reached up to brush the strand of hair absently from her face. 

"I," He murmured, thoughtful, "At least, that I remember clear enough. It was a time when my family least civil, I think. My parents didn't hate each other as much back then, I suppose I could say. I was around four years old. They took us to see my grandparents. It was the first time I'd met them. My grandpa was a stern man, but I remember when he would see me...I don't know, he would soften up. My dad, grandpa and I went out to get food for everyone. But on the way there, the tire shredded. My grandpa always had a spare on hand, because the road was especially rough where he lived. He took me out to help change the wheel, and...I don't know, it was one of the only peaceful times I've ever had. He instructed me with a kind voice, and when I did something right, he would tousle my hair. I felt helpful, and needed. My dad stood behind us smiling at me, like a real father. It may have been a dream...but you know those times where everything gets so soft and peaceful and just feels right? It felt that way, with my grandpa."

The look in his eyes was soft, and they were distant, as if he were staring right through her. 

"What happened? to your grandpa, I mean."

"Dad...changed. You know what he's like now. So did Mom. They cut off ties with anyone who tried to help them - to council them I guess. Our grandparents tried to take us for a while, Jack and Carol and I. That's when they stopped speaking to them. I...haven't seen them in years," His voice was rough, with an edge of thickness. It was painful for him.

She pulled herself close to him, pressing her face to his chest as she gripped his shirt. "I'm sorry," She murmured.

He wrapped his arms around her, holding her to him like a lifeline.

"It's not that I haven't seen them for so long, that's part of it but....why do my parents have to drag us into their sick, twisted lives? Why do we have to be party to their fighting, and screaming? Why do they feel the need to torture us too?" He was venting now, and Libia knew that she had no answer, so she tightened her hold and just let him speak.

"I never wanted this! Why do they think I get drunk? Why do they think I'm such a fucked up child?" She flinched at the word, but never let go or tried to refute his words. "They're insane, and they're dragging us with them!" He held her so tight that she could barely breathe, but she knew that he needed this. 

She encircled her arms around him as best she could, holding onto the back of his shirt as he buried his face in her hair. He wanted to lose himself in her scent. He didn't want to remember any of it. He wanted to forget, if only for a moment.

She lifted her face from his chest after a while of silence, and he pulled back to look at her. Her eyes were soft and worried, and he let out a long sigh before pressing his lips to hers in a brief kiss.

"Hey," He murmured, his voice still slightly rough. "Do you want to dance?"

She raised a brow. "Dance?"

"Yeah," He gestured outside, "Let's dance."

She tilted her head, and then smiled. "I suppose we could."

I would be cold, but she knew that he didn't want to think about it anymore. He wanted to enjoy his time with her.

He flung open the door and got out so she could as well. And as she stood beside him, he sat back in the front seat and switched on the radio, flipping it until he got to a certain song that he liked. He turned it up enough that we could hear it, but not too loud that it was disturbing, and then got out of the car.

Libia was suddenly blushing from her cheeks to her toes, as he backed her out onto the pavement of the wide walkway, and his eyes never left hers. She'd only ever slow danced once, and that was with her cousin at the reunion, when she was fourteen. Damon was not a thirteen year old boy with acne and a goofy smile. He was masculine, and his presence was almost overwhelming. He felt solid and comforting. He towered over her, and she never realized just how much she had to look up when it came to him. She couldn't look away from his eyes, as his hands found her waist, intimately caressing her skin there. She felt nervous as he took her other hand, and she set hers on his shoulder. 

"Damon," She murmured, her voice hesitant as he pulled her close and they began to move.

"Yeah," He whispered, as if afraid to break the peaceful silence.

"Do you think we'll be together for a long time?"

He stared up at the sky as she pressed her cheek to his chest, listening to his heartbeat. He didn't know how to answer. He hoped that she'd be with him for the rest of his life, but would that scare her? He didn't want to make her think about a distant future possibility like that - she'd start thinking about the possible outcomes. One being a broken heart.

So he simply answered, "I hope so."

She squeezed his hand, and smiled against his chest.

"Me too."

Chapter Twenty.

The car slowly slid up to the front of the house. Libia stared at the sun that was still low in the sky, dreading what awaited her arrival. Had they discovered her gone? Would they be waiting? Was she dead?

She looked over at Damon, who was staring over at her already, and then she let out a laugh.

"I stayed out all night."

He let a slow grin overtake his face, and chuckled. "Yes you did."

"I actually sneaked out of the house."

He leaned his head back against the rest with a breathy laugh, "Yep."

"I'm going to die, aren't I?"

"Not if they don't know," He murmured, looking at her from the corner of his eye.

She grinned. "I had fun, Damon."

Laughing, he lifted his head and leaned over the console, grasping her face in his hand and pressing his lips to hers. 

"Me too, Babe."

"Hey, what happened to 'Baby'?" She protested, her voice soft.

"If I called you that now you'd blush and make that face and then I wouldn't be able to let you go." She blushed anyway, and glared at him.

"I do not make a face."

He groaned and pressed his lips to hers once again, "Did I ever tell you that you look really sexy when you're angry?"

With a roll of her eyes she pressed one more kiss to his lips. "I have to go."

With a pout, he fell back in his seat and crossed his arms. "Fine. Leave me. I see how it is."

She stuck her tongue out at him and opened the door. "I love you, you big baby."

He grinned and said, "I love you too, my little rebel."

She stepped out of the car, and then before shutting the door, shot him one more smile, but this time it was sort of an excited nervousness. She almost wanted to get back in the car with him and take a more permanent road trip.

"Bye, Babe," He murmured, his eyes softening.

"Bye, Damon," She said, and then she shut the door softly as not to alert anyone inside the house.

He waited in the car until she reached the porch, and then slowly drove off. This time, she was too nervous to turn and see him off. She got the door open, and peered in, wondering if someone would be there to 'welcome' her, as they always did.

But no one was there. She began to feel excited - had she really accomplished this? Had she really, successfully sneaked out of the house and back in again unnoticed?

She tip toed into the kitchen, hand over her mouth so she didn't squeal in excitement. She was just about to go into the hallway when a voice made her jump out of her skin.

"Did you have fun?"

She let out a yelp and whirled. She had been so delirious with excitement that she hadn't noticed someone sitting at the far corner of the table, slightly hidden in darkness. It was her brother.

"Ben," She said, eyes wide.

"You know, last night," He began, voice low and angry.

"Ben, please just let me-,"

"I thought that maybe I could trust him," He continued despite her plea. "I thought that, even though he seemed a little rebellious, I just didn't know him too well. But after taking off with you, and leaving for the entire night...I think I was right about him," Ben's voice was getting angrier and angrier with each sentence he spat out, and Libia tried again to speak,

"Ben, please listen to me-,"

"I think I was on point!" Suddenly his hand slammed down on the table, cutting Libia off and making her jump in fright. 

"Ben, if you'd just-,"

"What's going on here?" They both looked up as their mom entered the kitchen, looking tired from her night shift as she hurried to tie her robe. She'd obviously just been woken up.

"It's nothing Mom, just-,"

"Libia just came home from her little rendezvous with Damon."

She blinked as she tried to comprihend what her son just said in her tired daze. "What? What are you talking about, Ben?"

"I'm telling you that Libia sneaked out last night and stayed out until now, with Damon."

She blinked again, but this time swung her gaze to a mortified Libia. She didn't want this to happen. She was embarrassed and afraid of what her mother was going to say to her. How many times before had her mother voiced something she dissaproved Libia doing, and how many times had Libia ceased all participation because of it? Anxiety wavered the determination in her heart. Would she leave Damon if told to? Would he let her?

" that true?" Their mother's eyes became sharper as she began to wake up, and Libia knew she was in for it.

But as tears welled in her eyes, she was suddenly furious. Furious at her brother, and for some reason, at her mother. Her hands bawled into fists, and she looked away, saying nothing.

"And, the night that she went out with that guy - Jason or whatever - she came home on a motorcycle. Damon's motorcycle."

Libia lifted her gaze to her brother's, who stared back at her with a leveled, and serious gaze. I'm doing this for you. This gaze said. The betrayal and utter disbelieving anger she felt as she stared at him was overwhelming.

For me? Her mind screamed at him. You're doing this for me? What part of this makes me happy? What part of this helps me in any way? 

"I...I was unnaware that Damon...owned a motorcycle," Libia flitted her stare back to her mother with her lip trembling as she tried to hold in the tears that she refused to let go. She turned her stare back to the ground. "And you...snuck out with him last night," She was oddly calm about this, but Libia knew that wasn't a good sign.

"Did anything?"

Libia whipped her head up, frowning. "No!"

"Then what did you do, Libia?" Ben spat, clearly not believing her.

"Believe me or not," She said in a slow, calculated voice, "I don't think everyone in the world has to have sex to have fun, Ben."

He stood up at that, angry, and her mother clapped her hands together once. "Libia, that is enough."

She sealed her lips, and the room fell in a tense silence, before their mother spoke.

"You're grounded. No cellphone, no computer, and no television. The only place you're going every day is school. Got that? You come straight home, and you go straight there. If I find out you skipped or stayed out later than necessary you're staying home from the reunion. Got that?" Libia didn't respond, but she was satisfied that she got the message.

"And another thing," She said, "You're not to see Damon. I understand that school is a given, but I want you to cut ties with him. This isn't you, Libia," The words that Libia dreaded hearing caused her to flinch. "He may have saved your life, but he's changing you for the worst."

Libia looked up with the last bit of fight she had in her, eyes incredulous. "You can't just-,"

"I can, and I will," She snapped, cutting Libia off.

Libia felt herself retreat back into her hole. It was a familiar feeling that she'd experienced many times before. She could see the dissaproval in her mother's gaze. The look that she didn't know her anymore. She was thinking that this wasn't her Libia. She could feel that look pull up the insecurities that were so familiar. She was close with her family, but at these times, she realized just how little they really knew her. 

Or did they? Was this really the Libia they knew? She couldn't help but feel doubt. Did she make a mistake? Was Libia the mature, sweet girl she grew up to be, or was she the confident, slightly immature girl that Damon had brought out of her? Her mind spun with the doubt that clouded it. The doubt that nothing but her mother's words could bring out of her.

And suddenly she was back to the beginning. She was brought back to square one, where logic ruled and spontaneity was supressed. She was just normal Libia once again.

She lowered her head, murmured a soft, "Sorry," and then made her way past them.

Ben couldn't believe it. He'd seen the change happen right before his eyes, like an illusion brought into the light. The fire faded, the eyes became rounder and more vulnerable, she even looked smaller. When had she begun to look taller? When had that fire lit? When had she gone from his shy little sister to this confident, boisterous person that he couldn't reach? It was like a weight that he'd never noticed was there until it was gone. And suddenly it was so apparent that he wondered how he never noticed it before.

He could feel himself wanting to speak, but what would he say? Would he try to defend her? What words would come out of his mouth if he opened it at that moment? He didn't know, which was why he kept his lips sealed, and simply watched her leave the room.

When they were left alone, Ben looked at his mother, and he knew she'd seen it too. But what shocked him was, that as she stared at the ground, the look she held was not surprise, but guilt.

"I know how free she is," She whispered, and her eyes turned up to him. "I know how free she can be. I made a mistake though, letting her test that freedom. She's more strongwilled than you and I put together - if I let it get any farther, we'll lose her. Just like I lost your father."

Ben watched with wide eyes as she turned and left the room, listening to her footsteps, and finally the door shutting behind her. What had he done? Slowly, he let himself down onto the chair behind him, eyes staring at nothing in particular as they were stuck in their wide-set gaze.

For a long time, he sat staring at the wall, repeating the conversation he'd just heard in his head. He felt as if he'd heard those words many times before, but he couldn't pinpoint where. He tried to remember, but it must have been when he was young, because his memory was fuzzy - it was like trying to pull a file that wasn't there from an empty cabinet.

Finally, he gave up, and pulled out his phone. He dialed the one number he dreaded ever using - his father's.

For a minute, all he heard was the monotonous ring as he waited for someone to pick up, and finally, there was a click.


"Ah...hey dad."

"Ben!" He said, obviously surprised, his voice fading off at the last syllable as he checked the caller ID, "Why are you calling so early, is something wrong?"

"Does Mom have...manipulative tendencies?" He cringed at the word, but it was the only thing he could describe it as.

There was nothing but silence on the other line, before six, flat and blatant words were spoken.

"What did she say to her?"

Chapter Twenty One.


After explaining what happened to Vivi, and getting a wrought-iron talk about how she was who she wanted to be and whoever told her otherwise needed to shut their mouths and sit down, Libia recieved a call from a very distressed Ben.

"Hey, um...," His voice shook, and she knew the tone well.

"What did you do?" She groaned, and Damon looked at her in question.

He cleared his throat on the other line, "I-I kind of met up with Dad...and know we talked...and uh...he asked about D-...Damon...,"

Libia flickered a glance at Damon, and then let out a curse under her breath.

"Why'd you meet with Dad? And why did he ask about Damon? And why didn't you avoid the subject?" She was speaking through her teeth towards the end, and a bit unhappy.

"I-It didn't cross my mind that I'd start babbling!" He exclaimed. "Anyway...well I started babbling. He wants you and Damon over here. Now."

"Now? I'm in school, Ben," She hissed at him.

"I know. I told him that."

Her eyes stared blankly at the wall as a vision of Damon's head on a pike crossed her mind. If her father would pull her out of school, and tell her to bring talked-about boyfriend, she knew that she was done for.

"What the fuck did you say to him?" She was past caring about cencorship just then, and Vivi snorted in laughter. Vivi laughed a lot when she did things out of character. Her other friends were silent as they listened in.

"I-I might have...mentioned the motorcycle...and in effort to evade the question of whether you had been on said motorcycle...I mentioned the tattoo."

"You what?" She yelled, her voice echoing through the room. 

Even Damon jumped at the sudden exclamation.

"I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry! I didn't mean to! I promise I did not mean to!" He pleaded with her, "Look he's getting impatient so please, please just get over here as fast as possible. I'm afraid if I go back in there I'll start babbling and confess some of my indiscretions."

"Oh and God knows we don't want that!" She spat through the phone, voice dripping with cynicism. "I'll be there post haste, my dear brother." She smacked her phone down on the table, fuming.

Damon reached out and touched her arm, and she looked up at him, so angry that tears were in her eyes.

"Can I kill him, please?"

He shook his head. "You'd go to jail, and then you'd have to eat refried beans and play table hockey with a bunch of sweaty old men."

She pouted. "I hate refried beans."

"Can you tell me why you're tempted to go on a murdering spree?" He asked, moving his hand up to her neck where it was tense and squeezing lightly to relieve the pressure.

"He told my dad about the tattoo." She said, a little calmer with the warmth of his touch on her skin.

Damon winced. "And I'm guessing he's not happy."

"Do you like shiskabobs?" She asked him suddenly.

He quirked an eyebrow, but shrugged. "I guess so."

"Well I hope you don't mind becoming one then."

He winced and then smiled. "That bad, huh?"

"Okay, hold on," Vivi inturrupted, and Libia looked over to realize they were all leaning in, staring at her.

"What?" She finally asked when no one said a word.

"You have a tattoo?" They all exclaimed, making her blink.

She furrowed her eyebrows and frowned. Had she ever told them about it? She realized that it never really came up.

"Yeah," She replied, shrugging. "I do."

They all gaped at her and she raised her eyebrows. "Is something wrong?"

Damon grinned at their faces, throwing an arm around her shoulders.

She looked up at him with a frown. "We have to go."

"Go? We?" He asked, raising his eyebrows.

"My dad wants both of us to meet him," She muttered, eyebrows lowering into an upset glower.

He smiled, amazed at how adorable a person could look while angry, but then her words registered.

"Wait...both? As in you and me? Meeting your dad?" He had to swallow, as the words left a bad taste in the back of his throat - he worried that soon the only thing he would be tasting was blood, especially since he knew all the juicy details of his and Libia's relationship.

Vivi laughed out loud, followed suit by everyone else.

"Good luck," She told him with a sympathetic smile.

He let out a grimace, gripping Libia's hand under the table. "Gee, thanks."

They left the school reluctantly, stopping at the front office to explain that there was an emergency. Damon explained that he was Libia's ride, and the principle agreed to let them go - he gave Libia a warning that her attendance record was starting to dwindle, but she only gave him a sheepish smile before exiting the room.

They didn't rush to the cafe, slowing at stoplights to hope that they would turn red - they didn't. They reached the cafe in a little over ten minutes, despite their slow pace, and Libia felt her stomach crawling with nerves. She looked at Damon, and he was staring through the windshield, preparing himself to die.

"Ready?" She asked, and her voice was soft.

He looked at her, her brown eyes glowing in the sunlight that glinted off of his mirror. Her hair was pulled over her shoulder, tumbling down over her chest, and brushing her thighs - they were slightly red from where it had irritated it and she'd itched it absently. He let out a heavy breath, reaching over to take a strand of her hair into his fingers. He lifted his eyes to her and murmured, "One thing before I die," 

He leaned across the seat before she could ask, and he grabbed the back of her head, pulling her into a full-on kiss that never ceased to send chills down her spine. But this time it was slow, without haste or urgency, but a kiss conveying his every feeling to her. 

She felt dizzy when he finally pulled away, and grinned at her, although his eyes were as dazed as hers.

"Let's go. I feel like I can face death now."

Wordlessly, she unbuckled her seatbelt and stepped out of the car, feeling as though she'd just been thrown into the clouds as she stumbled slightly.

With a confident smile, he met her at the front of the car, throwing an arm around her shoulders, and holding her close to him. Where had his nervousness gone? She saw not a hint of fear in his eyes, but only bravery and a steel resolve, clashing with a look for her that she could only describe as infinite adoration.

She could feel his own confidence pouring over her, like a tap turned to full blast. It strengthened her, strangely enough.

Ben watched as they strolled down the narrow sidewalk to the door. He knew she sounded different on the phone from how she was that morning, and as much trouble as he'd gotten them in, he was relieved that she seemed to have talked it out with Damon, and he brought her back to her senses.

That didn't change the fact that he was about ready to punch him. He knew Damon's car, as he'd seen it many times, and the last thing he expected to see as he watched them speak briefly in the car was him...doing that with his sister. 

He knew that - obviously - they did that kind of stuff, but he'd never had the displeasure of witnessing it himself. He didn't like it. In fact it made him angry.

Of course, Ben had hardly noticed the fact that his father had gone dead still, lost in his own thoughts, so when he finally looked up as the door opened, he caught his father's murderous gaze. 

Oh no. He thought, eyes widening. He saw it too.

He was glad, in that moment, for the fact that Maria was pinning him into the booth, as he looked at Damon as if he wanted go valting over the table at him. 

"So," Damon began, standing with his arm securely around Libia, who was staring at her father with a gaze that would kill a lesser man. "I take it you're the famous "dad" I've heard so much about."

And without a word, he knudged Maria, and she took their daughter from his lap where she scrawled away - oblivious. Maria stood for him to slide out of the booth, and he did so, slowly and calculatingly.

He took three steps to where Damon stood, and Damon knew what he was going to do before anyone else - except maybe Ben - did, as he dropped his arm from around Libia's shoulder and pushed her behind him slightly.

And he did exactly as he expected. The punch was so vicious that it knocked Damon back. It rang through the shop, a low thud that resounded in Libia's ears. She stumbled back, trying to catch Damon as best she could to keep him from falling too hard. The patrons of the shop began to murmur in alarmed voices, and one of the employees ran to the back of the shop.

"Dad!" She shrilled, too shocked to say anymore, and he cut her off, anyway.

"You stay away from my daughter," He told him, voice deadly calm, "You low down delinquent."

Libia ignored his words, carefully examining his face as she was knelt down beside him. He looked at her, long and hard, before turning his gaze back to his father with a challenging smirk. "You're gonna have to do more than that," He lifted his hand to his bleeding nose, "That is, if you really want me to stay away from her."

Libia knew that this whole feud was foolish. His father obviously had seen them kissing, and with all of the stuff that he had just been fed, he was in a blind rage. 

"You stop right there!" Libia said, her voice steely and trembling with anger as he took a step forward.

Her father looked at her, his eyes narrowing. 

"And you! I really thought you were more responsible than this, Libia. I genuinely thought that your knew better than to-,"

"To what?" She snapped, cutting him off, "To be my own person? Or perhaps you thought that I would always be the mediator between you and mom's fucked up situation. Maybe you thought I'd always be under both of your thumbs for the rest of my life, cleaning up the mess that you both left behind."

Seeing Damon hurt didn't exactly lift her mood. Her hands were trembling with anger as she carefully brought his face a little to the left to examine the bruise that was forming above his cheekbone. He pulled them away from his face, staying the shaking with his own steady fingers, and carefully standing on his feet, pulling her up with him.

Her father was staring at Libia with a slightly surprised expression. Both Maria and Ben were standing there waiting to jump in if he made another move towards Damon. 

"Libia, you're too good for this," He said to her, ignoring Damon completely this time. "You deserve better."

Libia blinked in bewildered amazement, processing what her father just said. Her mind spun with anger as she clenched her hand around Damon's.

"Did you really just-"

"No, Libia," Damon murmured, cutting her off with a gentle voice. She looked at him in confusion, anger still boiling under the surface. He smiled at her, and it was a little sad. "He's right."

They all stared at Damon, eyes widening in surprise. Even her father froze at the adoring look he held for her - like she was his one and only source of happiness.

"What? Damon, what are you-," She tried again, but he lifted a hand to her face, silencing her.

"You could do better than me. You deserve better than me - so much better."

"Damon," She protested, this time angry at him. "Don't you dare say another word!"

"Libia," He murmured, turning to face her fully, and, to her father's surprise, ignoring everyone else as he let a small grin appear on his face, staring down at her. "I love you."

Her anger was suddenly stunted, eyebrows raising and glare dissapating. "I love you too," She replied, head tilting. She was left wondering why he suddenly felt the need to say those words, when he let her go and turned back to her father.

"Shall we go somewhere else to talk? Seeing as the manager may be on his way to kick us out."

Her father, anger stunted slightly by the surprise, glanced around as he suddenly remembered where he was. He turned around to look at his wife, who held their daughter in her arms. She sucked her thumb as she watched her father with clear and intelligent eyes. Even as a child she reminded him of Libia.

"Yes," He agreed, suddenly reaching up to rub his neck in shame. "Let's...take a walk. Ben, will you stay with Maria for a while?" He asked him, and Ben blinked, glancing at the woman.

She smiled kindly at him, and he realized with a jolt that he couldn't hate her, nor his half sister. He never did. She was a human being who got caught up in a lot of drama thanks to their dad, but she was a sweet woman none the less. 

"Yeah," He hesitated, and then murmured, "I'm sure we can talk or something." 

His father ignored his nonsensical muttering, glancing at his wife and child once more before walking past the two and leaving the cafe.

They glanced at each other with a look that showed a mixture of relief and apprehension for what was to come, before quickly following him out.


So, yeah. It's been a while. A week and a half. Yeah. Sorry for not updating in a while. I've had stuff happening and my cat ran away so we've been looking for him. He came back though! Yay!

Anyway guys, Q/A time!

So what do you think of the news about Libia's mother? What will Libia say when she finds out?

What do you think of her dad's wife? And the little girl? You may not have much of an opinion right now, but I promise you'll see more of them in the chapters to come, and you'll get to know the little girl a lot more. She's freaking adorbs.

I'm bad at relationships between main and side characters so I'm sorry Vivi and her friends are kind of...vague. In revising this story once it's finished I'm going to add a lot more detail to their relationship.

Anyway, I love y'all! Hope you enjoyed and if you find any problems like grammatical or spelling errors please let me know! This chapter is unedited as always so bear with me. c;

Chapter Twenty Two.


Libia stared at her father's back as they walked down the peaceful sidewalk. It was lightly cloudy that morning, and Libia still felt the need for a jacket, but it seemed that to most, this was a good day, as there were people shopping in the strip mall across the street, and browsing the restaraunts for a nice place. Libia's father led them into a park. There was no playground for children in the large park area, but the sidewalk created a complete circle all the way around, and trees dotted the middle, where picnic tables were strewn about.

He hadn't spoken a word, nor did he look at them when he turned into the park. He simply stared at the ground in front of him with his hands in his pockets.

He cut off of the path and made his way over to a picnic table. Damon and Libia glanced at each other, before hesitantly following him.

 He finally looked at them as they settled down across from him. He really examined Libia's face this time, and noticed that despite the tenseness of her forehead and the nervous set of her lips, she looked different somehow. It was strange, like something you didn't notice until it was gone - her eyes were lighter, and she seemed to stand straighter. Ben had said she had changed but...he hadn't mentioned how much.

And then he looked at Damon, the blondie who seemed too big for his britches, at least that's how he saw him. That confident grin he gave him after he punched him - like it was something he was used to. He just didn't trust him. After all, he'd gone and gotten Libia  a tattoo, and she'd ridden on his motorcycle. How do you trust a kid like that with your pride and joy?

"Libia," He murmured, turning back to his daughter.

The leftover anger from before still hung over the air, and Libia now felt a little guilty for the words she'd said back in the cafe. She knew she was right, but it was still a harsh way to say it. She watched as he struggled for the right words.

"I won't try to dictate your life anymore," He said, causing Libia's eyes to widen in surprise. "You're right, you're an adult now. But I won't accept him," He pointed at Damon, "Until I can be sure that he isn't going to ruin your life."

Libia opened her mouth to protest, but he held up a hand, "Moving on - I want to talk to you about your mother."

Letting herself relax slightly at the change of conversation, she furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. "What about her?"

"Your brother explained to me what she said to you. And I think it's time I explain my side of the story."

Libia felt a pang of doubt enter her system as her mother's words once again repeated in her head - this isn't you. She swallowed thickly. 

"Your side?" She asked, and they both noticed that her voice was slightly off.

"Yes. The other reason I left."

She felt nervous suddenly, as if she were standing on a ledge, trying to hold onto anything as not to fall. She wanted to cover her ears, and she didn't know why. 

"You had another reason?"

"One that...might be a little hard to swallow," He reached up to rub the back of his neck, as if he were already exhausted of this conversation. "Your mother and I...we met in college. She was on her way to becoming a doctor, and I was majoring in business at the time. Through the time that we dated, she seemed like the perfect woman to me. She was beautiful, and sweet, and thoughtful. I couldn't find one flaw - not that I ever searched for one. We were in love with the idea of a fairytale relationship. I proposed to your mother after three years of being together, and everything was great.

"But there was something Ginger was hiding from me - something that I never expected. After we got married and settled in, we were a typical husband and wife, arguing about stupid things and hopeful about the future. It was after she got pregnant with Ben that things got...strange. If I stayed out longer than usual, to go out with friends or celebrate a good day, she would get angry at me. I thought that at first it was just something that would pass, that she was stressing out because of the pregnancy. I stayed home more often then not and tried not to upset her too much. But one night I was home late because of a birthday party they threw for a coworker at the office. Ginger started to lecture me, and she told me things like "this isn't you," and "I can't believe you're so irresponsible." I couldn't believe my ears. After that, every time I went out to watch a game with the boys or stayed out longer than usual, she would get angry at me. I didn't want to argue, so I stopped going out. I came home on time, and most times I would just watch games at home. 

"For years it went on like this. I was eventually just like a trained dog - I wasn't sociable at all, and all get togethers were stressful for me. After you were born, I saw myself in you. I loved knowing that we could share likes and dislikes and that we could look at each other and just smile because we knew what we were thinking, but then I realized that Ginger noticed your likeness too. She looked at you like she looked at me sometimes, as you got older. When you would act out, she would give you the same lecture that she gave me. It sickened me, but it was also like looking into a mirror and seeing things in way you didn't before. I wanted to take you and run, but I knew that was no good - I also knew that I couldn't just rip you two away from your mother, as she didn't deserve that kind of treatment." He sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly, running a hand through his hair. "I never wanted to tell you or your brother about this - I thought that I could just let you two love your mother without this standing in the way. I love your mother, I do, but this controlling side of her always stood in front of that like a film in front of my eyes that I couldn't push out of the way - I couldn't look your mother in the eye after realizing that I was being manipulated in such a way. 

"I met Maria on the way to work on a busy Monday morning. She ran into me while carrying coffee, and spilled it all over me. It was scalding hot," He paused to laugh as his eyes softened just a bit, "I was a little annoyed, but I tried not to get snappy at her. I simply helped her pick the cups up, and assured her that I was fine - even though my chest was throbbing. But do you know what she said to me? She looked me straight in the eye and said, "No, you're not. I can see you wincing. If you're angry just say so, otherwise no one will ever respect you."," He let out a soft snort, "At the time it was like a light bulb went on in my head. I felt like all of the chains that had weighed down my back had suddenly fallen off, and I actually thanked her. I'm sure she thought I was crazy."

He focused on Libia and noticed that she wasn't looking at him, but she was staring out at the park with slightly furrowed eyebrows. He realized he'd said too much, and cleared his throat. She was obviously still hurt that he left, and he knew that no matter what her mother did to him, she still felt betrayed - and maybe she always would.

"Libia," he murmured, eyes cast down to the table, "I don't expect you to forgive me. Believe me, there is nothing I want more than your forgiveness, but I know that's impossible. So at least do this for me - Don't let your mother dictate your life like she did mine. What she said to you isn't true as long as you believe it isn't. Neither me nor your mother can tell you how to live your life."

She looked back at him, still trying to process what he was saying. It made sense, and yet, it was like she was rejecting the words. Even as she remembered all of the times she'd stopped doing something simply because her mother had told her that it wasn't like her, she wanted to refute him. She wanted to defend her mother so badly, to say that he was lying, but she only sat with her mouth closed and her eyes glassy. She couldn't say a word. 

Damon watched her face, and he knew she was struggling. She was putting the pieces together in her mind, and with each click of the puzzle, it crushed her even more. She was being hurt by both parents, almost simultaneously. He reached over and slipped his hand into hers, and she immediately returned his grip with her own, tightly as if he were her only tie to the world, and if she let go, she'd be thrust from the earth. 

"I-I," She tried to speak, but there was a lump in her throat. She didn't know why she wanted to cry. She just suddenly felt ill, and anxious, and hurt all at the same time. She swallowed thickly, and tried again, "I need some...some time to think about this."

Her father nodded in understanding, and stood up from his seat. "I'll go back to the cafe."

Damon wondered if he should go as well, but Libia kept a tight hold on his hand, and he knew the answer. 

When he was a ways away, Damon pried his hand from hers with a gentle grip and pulled her into his lap, letting her curl up there. She didn't cry, nor did she speak, not for a long time. She only listened to the peaceful sound of the birds overhead and the occasional chatter of a family passing by on the path not far from where they sat. Damon didn't speak either, he simply let her think and kept his arms secure.

After what seemed like a lifetime, Libia asked, "Do you believe him?"

He ran his hand through the strands of her hair, and murmured, "I don't know, but I really think what you're asking is - do you?"

Her eyes filled and a tear streaked down her cheek. 

"Yeah, I do."


Ben sat across from Maria, and surprisingly, he was having a conversation that didn't happen to be awkward at all. He was relaxed, even when the Libia-Mini-Me came crawling up in his lap and sat quietly, coloring in a picture of a deer. 

"She's really smart, isn't she?" Ben asked, looking up at the woman.

Maria laughed in response, and nodded.  "She always has been. Her babysitter told me that she figured out how to tell time on her watch simply so she could know what time we would get home - so she could anticipate our arrival."

Laughing, Ben shook his head. That was something Libia would do. He watched her color in the lines of the deer perfectly, although she was doing it with a yellow crayon, signifying that while she was exceptionally smart, she was also imaginitive - still a child at heart.

"Her father always said that she reminded him of his daughter, Libia. I must say, just seeing her, I can see why. She has her father's head. I can see it in her eyes - she's as stubborn, and clear-thinking as he is."

Ben let out a soft laugh. She always had been. She thought things through, and always weighed the options before making a decision. Which was why it shocked him to see her with Damon. He didn't see her weighing options or thinking things through with him - he saw her utter trust and blind love that seemed to come out of no where. She didn't have time to weigh options, because Damon swooped in unnanounced and crashed through her carefully constructed walls. She didn't have time to prepare, for there was no decision to be made. 

She was utterly in love, and Ben didn't know how to handle the person that emotion brought about in Libia.

"You might want to be careful with this one," He murmured to her with a soft laugh, "If she's anything like Libia, she'll fight to the ends of the earth to keep something she's passionate about."

Laughing, Maria nodded in agreement.


Libia watched Damon's face, as he stared ahead, lost in thought. They hadn't moved from their postion, and Libia wondered if he was getting uncomfortable, with no place to rest his back. She didn't want to move, though, as she liked this view. He hadn't shaved in a while, she could see by the way his stubble was a little rougher than usual. His blond hair was a mess from the chilling wind, and his cheeks were slightly pink as well. He was holding her close to him, one arm wrapped around her shoulders, and the other draped over her legs, holding her waist loosely.

Her mind still reeled from the information she received, but she had calmed some, with his comforting presence. 

She reached up with one hand and touched his cheek, and he looked down with a blink.

"Hm?" He murmured.

She smiled, although it was small and frail. She lifted her other hand and ran it through his hair, untangling it some.

"What should I do?" She whispered, her fingertips splaying over his cheek.

His eyes softened, and he tightened his hold on her shoulders, reaching up to run his fingers along her hair. "Well you could always just rebel completely and live a life as a delinquent like me. Running the streets, drinking beer, you know."

She let out a laugh, "But where would that leave you? Obviously my father would blame you for my "delinquency" and that shish kabob theory could become reality."

He grinned with a wince. "Owch."

smiling, Libia leaned her head against his chest. "Thank you, Damon."

"Anytime, Baby," He murmured, his hand settling on her neck.



Aw I love them. Don't you?

What do you guys think??? TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS. ALL OF THEM. okay not all of them just the ones about this chapter. BUT ALL OF THE ONES ON THIS CHAPTER.

creeper stuff aside, thanks for reading guys, you know I love you!

See you next chapter!

Em. <3


Publication Date: 02-11-2015

All Rights Reserved

Dedicated to my fans because I love you all and you've given me so much encouragement in my life. I hope you all live your dreams and become published writers, and/or stay avid readers.

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