(A/N): This plot bunny wasn’t even the first on my list of things to tackle, but every time I sat to write, Damon just popped up in his oh-so snarky way and wouldn’t leave me alone! So, as per his demands as well as your encouragement, this is now my main project.
“Hear your heartbeat
Beat a frantic pace
And it’s not even seven AM
You’re feeling the rush of anguish settling
You cannot help showing them in
Hurry up then
Or you’ll fall behind and
They will take control of you
And you need to heal the hurt behind your eyes
Fickle words crowding your mind”
Poets of the Fall – “Sleep”
Chapter 2: Puppy Chow
Damon turned the car off when they came to a stop at Bella’s house and they sat there for a moment in awkward silence. They’d been quiet for the majority of the ride, Bella softly relaying directions while Damon made odd quips about her Podunk town, as he liked to call it.
When he made no move to exit the car, Bella finally said, “This is my house.”
He turned to her and shot her a don’t-be-stupid look and said, “No shit.”
Bella looked down, embarrassed. “Um, Charlie should be home in a bit, so I’ll get some things together and then you can do your Jedi mind trick thing. It won’t hurt him, will it?”
Damon snorted. “It won’t, but I’ll hurt you if you ever call it that again. I’m way cooler than a Jedi.”
She rolled her eyes and was about to retort when Damon’s head snapped to the left sharply, his eyes fixated on the treeline. His head was quirked slightly and she instantly recognized his expression having seen the Cullens look similar whenever they strained to hear something her human ears could not detect.
Oh no, she thought. Was it Victoria already? Could it be starting so soon? They hadn’t even left town, for chrissakes.
“Go inside, Bella,” Damon ordered.
“W-what is it? What do you hear?”
Quickly, Damon got out of the car and Bella scrambled to follow, tripping over her feet in her haste. He was there instantly, gripping her arm and hauling her towards the house.
“Shut up and go inside. Stay there until I come back.”
Bella bit her lip to stifle the protest poised to fall. She wanted to stay with him and make sure he wouldn’t be hurt from whatever was out there, but Bella had learned the hard way that she was physically no match for the supernatural. So instead of insisting he let her come with him, Bella merely placed her hand on his arm, her fingers finding purchase his leather jacket. “Please be careful,” she said.
Damon frowned at her hand, and then flicked his eyes up to stare at her. His expression was unreadable, his guard clearly up as he studied her for a long, tense moment. Feeling like she may have committed some sort of faux pas, Bella started to move her hand away, fighting the urge blush and look down.
Before she could stammer some sort of an apology for offending him, Damon caught her hand in his and brought it to his lips for a peck. It would’ve been in a politely romantic gesture had he not been sporting his ever constant mocking smirk. “I make no promises, sweetheart. But don’t worry, it’s the other guys you got to worry about.” And with a wink he was gone, running in a blur into the woods to face whatever was out there.
Bella sighed. Already she could tell that Damon was going to be dangerous on more than one level, but she was hopeful about going with him, hopeful that he’d see her as worth the risk he was taking in bringing her. She doubted that he would in the long run and she imagined the thrill she presented would wear off eventually and he’d leave her too.
Still, at least he’d been honest with her from the start. He certainly made no false pretenses about why he was helping her – not for her, but for his own amusement. That boded well for when he’d decide to leave her. Bella had no illusions in what he was doing with her, not like before with Edward who’d fed her honied lies of love and devotion. She’d be able to handle it when he realized she was just a plain, boring human girl and would take his leave. At least, she hoped she could handle it because she wouldn’t really have any choice in the matter. It was bound to happen.
Closing the door behind her, Bella took a moment to organize her thoughts. It’d been an incredibly eventful day and she could feel the beginnings of a migraine stirring at her temples. Laurent had tipped her off about Victoria, she’d learned there was a different kind of vampire, Damon had decided to kidnap her for fun while in the same breath pledging to protect her for the duration of said kidnapping. It was kind of a symbiotic agreement they’d made, Bella suddenly realized, but didn’t have it in her to analyze what that meant about them.
There were times she thought of the naive bubble she’d once lived in before coming to Forks and yearned for that blissful ignorance once again. Life was so much easier when the world was small and humans were at the top of the food chain. All she had to worry about was college coming up and making sure dinner was edible when her mom decided to cook for them.
Massaging her temples, Bella moved to the stairs, resigned to pack her meager belongings and leave Forks once and for all.
She froze, her head snapping to the kitchen. There was a silhouette of a man standing close to the backdoor. He was tall and dark, and as he moved towards her, she recognized him instantly.
It was him, but not. He was like Jake to the nth degree. He’d shot up several inches, had muscles where he’d once had scrawny arms and his hair was cropped short and neat in an almost military fashion. And was that a tattoo she saw on his shoulder? He could have easily passed for a man and not the young teenage boy Bella knew him to be.
Instantly she was wary. There was nothing natural about the way he looked – and she doubted something like steroids would have worked so effectively in the few weeks he’d been avoiding her.
She took a step towards the stairs. She’d never make it out the front door before he could reach her, and with Damon outside fighting who knew what, it’d probably be safer if she could make it up to her room and lock herself in there. She didn’t know why she was thinking that way, but something inside her told her something wasn’t right. That she should be careful.
“What are you doing here?”
He either didn’t notice her accusatory tone, or he simply ignored it, because he only smiled in response and took a step further into her house. “I’m here to help you, Loca. Don’t be afraid. I’m here now.”
That made her even more wary and Bella suddenly felt like a cornered animal with no where to run. “You can’t ignore me for weeks and then show up out of the blue like this, Jake. Your actions have spoken clearly and I get it, so just go home. And don’t come into my home uninvited again.”
Jake frowned. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Bells. I’m your friend and I’m here to help.”
Bella stiffened. The hurt and despair she’d lost herself to was still there, but the newly discovered anger and resentment was reigniting and proving far stronger. “Friend?” she hissed, an unfamiliar bitterness tinging the word. “You’ve ignored me for weeks, Jacob Black. Avoided my calls, brushed me off like I was nothing more than a bad habit you suddenly decided to drop – you even had your dad tell me off for you the last time I called. You are a coward, and you are no friend of mine. I have no friends.” And she meant that last part with every fiber of her being. She only had herself she could depend upon – that lesson had been hard learned these past few months.
Anger stiffened him and through a clenched jaw, Jacob said, “You’re mad. I get it. But you don’t know what you’re talking about. You have to come with me Bella, it’s not safe for you here.”
The anger burned brighter. Who did he think he was? What made him think he could ignore her for weeks and then show up out of the blue and order her around without giving her any information?
Abruptly, her anger shifted inwards. She knew exactly why he thought he could treat her this way. It was her own fault because she’d always let herself be ordered around before. All she ever did was let people make decisions for her. Edward practically dictated her whole life while they’d been together, and the rest of the Cullens had been no better.
Alice had constantly used her visions to twist Bella to her will. Jasper had manipulated her emotions plenty of times, usually in an attempt to help, but she’d never asked for his help and he’d never asked her permission before toying with them. Emmett and Rosalie had been the most truthful, particularly Rosalie who never tried to hide her disapproval, but they were also guilty of condescending to her for being a mere human. Even Carlisle and Esme were guilty of the that. It was like they’d wanted her to think she was one of them, but they’d constantly looked down on her for being what she was. They’d used her humanity, something she couldn’t control but they could, against her.
And when they broke her, Bella had latched on to Jake. She’d given him too much power over her well-being and when he’d tired of her, once again she broke. The shattered pieces left by the Cullens had fractured further under his care. Even if she could somehow pull herself back together, the pieces would never fit the same way again. The girl Jacob had known, the little human the Cullens had adopted, was gone forever.
This time, Bella would pick up the pieces herself. Her well-being was her own responsibility and she’d never again allow herself to become dependent on another in such a manner. If it took years, Bella would find a way to forge the shattered pieces of her soul back together and once she did that, she’d never let herself fall again.
Suddenly Damon’s face flashed in her mind and she knew she wasn’t being completely honest with herself. She was risking herself with Damon, by depending on him even if only for protection and nothing else. But there was a strange sort of affinity she felt with him that told her she was safe. Damon wouldn’t hurt her. Not like that, at least. He was broken too, and if anything, they’d help piece each other back together, or maybe he’d give her the courage to fix herself. Maybe he could show her how to build walls as impenetrable as his own. Bella may be contradicting her sudden vow of independence by thinking this way, but she knew with every fiber of her being that Damon Salvatore was nothing like the Cullens and Jacob Black. If anything he was like her, and knowing she wasn’t entirely alone in this godforsaken world of monsters brought Bella far more comfort than anything else had in a very long time.
With the weight of her realizations, Bella felt herself harden further towards Jacob. Her hands curled into fists, her fingernails biting sharply into her palm as she said, “You don’t understand anything, Jacob, you never did. And I’m not going with you ever again.”
Jake started trembling, like he wanted to leap at her but was restraining himself. “We don’t have time for this, Bella. You have to come with me now.”
Bella moved closer to the stairs. “No,” she said lowly.
“Bella,” he snapped. “Stop being an idiot – you have no idea what’s going on here. You’re coming with me if I have to carry you kicking and screaming over my shoulder. You get me?”
“No!” she shouted, turning and making for the stairs.
But Jake was faster and he tackled her before she made it to the fifth step. They crashed against the stairs together and Bella felt pain ricocheting against her left side, her wrist twinging sharply.
Jake hauled her up, his hands squeezing her wrists as he tried to tug her to the kitchen door.
“Let me go, Jacob Black. You’ve no right!”
“Don’t be stupid, Bella – I’m trying to help you!”
His grip tightened as she fought him.
“Ow! Jake you’re hurting me!”
“Then stop fighting and come with me,” he yelled. “Stop being so stubborn!”
Bella stared at him in horror. He was shaking, his rage barely controlled, and he felt so hot against her, like he was literally burning up with fury. It wasn’t a normal reaction and she had a sudden moment of clarity, realizing that Jake was holding her with an unnatural strength – strength similar to that of a vampire.
No sooner had the realization hit, Bella was startled by the front door slamming open. Damon stood bracing himself with both hands on the frame looking like he wanted nothing more than to launch himself into the room.
“Damon,” she sighed. The sight of him alone brought her immeasurable comfort. Better the demon she knew than the unknown one Jake had become.
“Invite me in, Isabella,” he ordered. His voice was deep and his expression hard. He certainly didn’t look harmed from whatever he’d faced out in the woods and Bella slumped a little in relief. On the contrary, he looked angry but almost happy. Excited from his fight and eager for another.
“Bells, come with me,” Jake said again, giving her wrist a sharp tug.
Bella cried out and Damon roared, “NOW ISABELLA!”
“Come in, Damon, come in,” she gasped, tears pricking her eyes.
Instantly Damon was there and had Jake against the wall. He held him suspended in the air with one hand, sneering at him.
“W-Who are you?” Jake wheezed, his entire body shaking as he gasped for air.
“I’m pissed off is what I am,” Damon snapped. “I suppose those were your puppy pals out in the woods?”
Jake struggled uselessly. “What did you do to them?”
“Relax Fido. They’re fine… mostly. Nothing a trip to the vet won’t fix. They were lucky – I got a bit distracted towards the end there. You alight, sweetness?” His eyes never left Jake, but his head moved slightly towards her.
“Yes,” she said despite the throbbing in her wrist and the aches that resonated from when Jake had tackled her into the stairs.
“Now why don’t I believe you?”
“Leave her alone,” Jake spat, struggling against Damon’s hold.
Damon laughed. “Down boy – you even think of shifting and I’ll rip your fucking throat out, get me? You’re not really in the position to be making orders here. So tell me why you were waiting to ambush my friend here, and if I like your answer I’ll only hurt you a little.”
“She’s my friend,” Jake said.
“Really? You got a funny way of showing it, pup,” Damon’s eyes darkened some and quick as a flash he drew back his arm and punched Jake in the jaw. “Now, that’s for tackling her into the stairs. Bad dog. And this,” he threw a kidney shot, “is for her wrist. Speak pup, tell me why you’re here.”
“We caught the scent of a leech circling her house. She’s being hunted by some bloodsuckers and we came to protect her,” Jacob wheezed.
A grin lit up Damon’s face. “And why would she need a guard dog when I’m here?”
Jacob started – growling? Bella wasn’t sure if she’d hit her head in the earlier scuffle, but their entire conversation seemed like something out of a dream. She was so befuddled that she really only took in part of what they were saying.
Moving to sit, Bella cradled her head in her hands and thought harder on what was happening. Certain words popped out as they spoke… Jake had said leech and bloodsucker, hadn’t he? And Damon was making snarky dog references – and what was it he threatened Jake with earlier? You even think of shifting and I’ll rip your fucking throat out.
A memory slowly surfaced. She and Jake were walking along First Beach and she was clumsily flirting her way into hearing the legends of Cold Ones – and shape-shifters. Wolves.
Half of their legends had been proven true, but perhaps the other half…
“Holy shit,” she muttered.
Damon looked at her and quirked a brow. “Princess?”
Bella ignored him and studied Jake while making a mental tally of all the strange things she’d noticed earlier. His new physique, the body shaking as if he could barely be contained, his unnatural strength, and the sheer heat she’d felt radiating from him.
“You shifted, didn’t you? Like in the legends?”
“Oh that’s how it is, huh?” Damon laughed. “She didn’t know? And you wanted to drag her off unawares? Fucking classic.”
Jake looked angry, but also relieved. “I wanted to tell you before, Bella, but I wasn’t allowed. But now that you’ve figured it out you know I can protect you from the vamps. You can come with me and it’ll be like it was before.”
“So forgive and forget, is that it? Never mind the pain I went through because of you.”
Jake shook his head slightly. “I’m sorry, okay? But I did that for your protection. I left you alone because I care about you, about keeping you safe – I’ve always loved you, Bells.”
Bella laughed and it sounded hollow even to her own ears. “Care about me? You abandoned me. You knew what it would do to me, and you left anyway. You don’t care for me and you certainly don’t love me. If you loved me you wouldn’t have been able to stay away. People in love fight for that love, Jake, they don’t surrender it.”
She could feel the heat of Damon’s gaze and glanced at him quick to see him looking at her intently. Bella turned from his gaze feeling naked and raw.
“No,” she cut him off, angrily swiping at her tears. She wouldn’t cry over him anymore. “I don’t want to listen to your excuses. You used to be my friend, Jake, but not anymore. Thank you for your concern, but as you can see, I don’t need your protection. You’re no longer welcome here.”
Jacob looked heartbroken, but Bella couldn’t find it in herself to summon even a drop of pity for the boy. He’d get over it like he had done before.
“Is that it, then? You’re choosing this guy over me?”
There was no hesitation. “Yes. Now get out.”
“Look at me, who wouldn’t choose this,” Damon snarked, shoving Jake to the door and getting in another hit before tossing him outside.
Jake rolled to his feet and looked back at Bella as she stood slightly behind Damon. “When this guy leaves you, don’t expect me to be around to pick up the pieces. I wash my hands of you, Isabella Swan.”
Then he ran off into the woods.
Bella deflated once he was gone. The hole in her chest was burning again. Without Jake’s ignorant comments to spur her on it was harder to hold onto her anger and in its wake was the pain she’d become accustomed to. Perhaps she’d been too harsh on him – unfair considering he’d been dealing with his own issues.
But no, Bella decided. She couldn’t make excuses for him. If he had been even remotely sincere when he gave his half-assed apology, she might have acted differently, but he’d swept her emotions away carelessly like his were the only ones that mattered. She’d been pushed aside again. This was for the best, she decided, and she straightened some once she reached that conclusion.
Looking to Damon she found him hovering nearby, watching her. When their eyes met, he seemed to read her, nodding slightly as though in approval of her decisions.
There was a beat of silence before Bella said, “So that whole inviting in thing is true, then?”
Damon quirked a brow at her as if to say really, that’s what you want to talk about. Nonetheless, he answered, “Yes. Most of the myths got it right with us. Stakes, daylight…”
“How are you out in the day?”
“I’m just that amazing,” he grinned.
It was Bella’s turn to lift a brow. Rolling his eyes, Damon held up a hand and she noticed the ring he wore, glinting softly at her. “The stone – lapis lazuli – it’s spelled.”
Bella took a deep breath. “Spelled? As in a witch?”
Damon smirked, nodding.
“Right. Of course there are witches. Obviously right? I mean, there are vampires, and shape-shifters, so naturally there are witches.”
“You alright there, sweet pea?” He didn’t sound concerned, but rather amused.
“Perfectly fine. My world just keeps getting bigger and I keep getting smaller.”
Damon laughed. “And that’s why you’ve got me. There’s nothing bigger than me,” he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Laughter bubbled out of her. “I’ll take your word on that, big boy,” she snorted.
He grinned at her as she tried to stifle her slightly hysterical giggles. The adrenaline was wearing off and she wouldn’t be surprised if she was going into a mild state of shock.
“Are you alright?” she managed to ask once she’d calmed down some.
He frowned. “I’m as perfect as I always am. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well, you were out there fight shape-shifter wolves, right? You didn’t get hurt, did you?”
“Please,” he sniffed indignantly. “It takes a lot more than overgrown puppies to hurt me.”
Bella smiled. “I’m glad you’re alright.”
He gave her another one of those searching looks, like he was trying to determine her angle or whether she was telling the truth. All it did was reinforce her earlier sentiment. Damon was obviously not used to someone worrying about him. Bella imagined he’d been lied to before, probably in a similar manner as her, and it’d made him question everything and everyone since. But instead of feeling sorry for him, Bella only felt a strong sense of kinship, and maybe some envy. She wanted to be able to read through people’s lies like he seemed to be able to now. Perhaps he’d teach her if she asked him nicely.
After he seemed to determine she was being honest, he broke his stare and changed the subject. “I was right about you, wasn’t I, hot stuff?”
Bella blushed. “Um, what?”
He smirked at her. “You’re just fascinating for a human – bit of a danger magnet, huh? Cold Ones, vampires, wolves… you’re going to be trouble, I can tell.”
She bit her lip and looked down. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
It was happening already, her heart started to race in fear. Damon was realizing she wasn’t worth the effort, that she simply had too much baggage. He was going to change his mind about bringing her with him, and now that Jake had truly written her off she’d be a ridiculously easy target for Victoria. Charlie was in danger if she stayed with him, so she’d have to go on the run. She’d become just another teenage statistic about a kid running away and disappearing. If she was lucky, she’d be able to find odd jobs and wouldn’t end up sleeping on the streets, freezing and starving to death.
Damon’s face was suddenly before hers as he crouched in front of her. His eyes were wide and serious and his lips were quirked in a softer version of his usual smirk. “I’m not sorry,” he said firmly. “I like causing trouble.”
A cautious relief filled her. He said that now, but only time would tell. But at least he was still taking her away from Forks.
“Where exactly are we going, anyway?” she asked. “You never said.”
Damon stood again. “Mystic Falls, Virginia. But we’ll take the long route – you ever been to Vegas, little girl?”
Bella’s eyes widened and she shook her head.
“That’s a must then. We’ll use your womanly wiles to distract other poker players and then we’ll hit the bars and get bombed. What do you say?”
He shot her a winning grin that made him look softer and younger than he’d ever had, almost playful.
“But I’m not twenty-one.”
He snorted. “You’re however old I tell them you are, sweetness.”
“I – I’ve never been drunk before,” she confessed.
“Really?” he drawled. “Clearly you haven’t been living.”
“And you have?” she quipped.
He smirked. “I’m the most living dead person I know.”
“Does that mean you can drink – alcohol, I mean?”
“Eat, drink, sleep, sex – we can do all the fun stuff. Stick with me, baby, and I’ll show you the time of your life,” he promised.
Bella didn’t doubt him.
“I’d be too nervous,” she muttered. “Maybe I could just wait in the hotel room for you or something.”
“You can’t just sit there and wait for life to come to you. You have to go get it.”
When she looked at him Bella could tell he was completely sincere. Maybe that was her problem, she thought. Ever since Edward left she’d kept herself in some sort of stasis of constant depression while waiting for him to magically reappear and fix her broken heart. Then instead of dealing with her heartbreak herself she’d allowed Jake to try and heal her. That had been wrong of her and maybe even unfair, she knew that now. It shouldn’t have fallen to him to put her back together and her dependence on him was what had probably fed his infatuation with her.
It was a harsh truth to accept, but much of Bella’s heartache was her own doing. She’d followed the Cullens blindly, put too much need in Jacob. She molded her life to fit theirs and when they’d left her, not only did she lose her friends, but she’d lost her sense of self.
With Damon it was different, she noted once more. He wasn’t dictating her choices, although he certainly didn’t shy away from getting her to agree with whatever he wanted. Instead he was encouraging her to get out. To try new things, take risks. Edward had treated her like a porcelain doll that could shatter at any moment, never giving her enough credit, but Damon seemed to think she was made of stronger stuff. They’d known each other for all of five minutes and already he gave her more credit that Edward ever had.
And suddenly, Bella wanted nothing more than to prove him right.
A tentative smile stretched her lips. Smiling felt odd and she probably looked a little funny doing it since it had been so long, but for once, Bella didn’t care. “Vegas sounds like fun,” she said.
Damon grinned wickedly. “That’s because it’s the city of sin. No one does sin like me.”
That’s not intimidating at all, Bella thought sarcastically. “Do you know how to shoot Craps?” she asked.
“Of course I do,” he scoffed. “I know everything.”
Bella laughed. “Will you teach me then? I’ve never understood it – I mean, seven’s good, but then it’s bad?”
Damon rolled his eyes and gave an exaggerated sigh. “I suppose I must to keep you from embarrassing me.”
Bella grinned. She still didn’t know Damon very well but she already recognized his sense of humor was not only a weapon yielded to deflect and hurt, but also a way to camouflage his feelings.
“What are you going to make Charlie believe?” she changed the subject, worried about reading too much into her musings.
“The truth, of course. That you couldn’t resist my wicked charms and we’re running off to Vegas to get married.”
“Seriously?” she deadpanned.
“Damon, you can’t tell him that!” she hissed.
“And why not? Some girls just can’t refuse my good looks, my style and my charm and my unflinching ability to listen to Taylor Swift.”
Bella narrowed her eyes. “It’s amazing you can get a girl at all with that kind of an ego. I mean, really, how have you not floated away with the big head of yours?”
Damon glared at her. “You’re one to talk, dog whisperer.”
She scoffed. “What did you just call me?”
He leaned forward and Bella was uncomfortably aware of his lips as they grazed her ear. “You heard me, cupcake. Dog boy was all over you – smart choice in passing that up, by the way, I hear they’re murder to house train. Not to mention the fleas.”
“Jake’s just a kid really,” Bella shifted away. “Just because he’s confused a crush for something else doesn’t mean I have an ego to rival yours, big boy.”
He sniffed. “No one rivals me.”
“Clearly,” she drawled as best as she could.
He gave her an amused look. “Go upstairs and pack. We’ve got a lot of road to cover, sugar.”
She grinned and the memory of him dropping her another one of his winks lingered in her mind long after she’d finished packing a bag and rejoined him to wait for Charlie.
(A/N): Thanks again for reading – I’d love to know what you think if you’re willing to share 😉