Ordinary Loneliness


Lindsey woke up to an odd feeling. She could feel something on her skin. Damon was running his hand up and down her arm. She shifted. The light was still dim outside. "Something wrong?" she murmured.

"No, I just like the way your skin feels, that's all." She felt him press a kiss to her hair. "It's so soft."

"I stayed out of the tanning beds in high school. No sun damage."

"Smart girl." He held her closer and kissed her neck.

"Damon, come on. Don't do this. Please."

He sighed. "O.K. You're right. Not the time or the place."

"Absolutely not."

"But there's going to be a right time and place, I'm telling you."

"Sure there will be. Going back to sleep, now," she said.

"Want some company in your dream?" his voice tickled her ear.

"Thanks, but no."

"Killjoy," he said, without heat. It was worth a shot. He dozed back off, too.

Lindsey actually got up before Damon, for a change. He was lying on his back, one arm thrown over his eyes, sound asleep. She looked at him and shook her head. She was pretty certain it bordered on illegal for a man to look as good as he did. No man should look that gorgeous with bed head. Or look that gorgeous, period. She went to the kitchen and as she always did, started the coffeemaker. It was going to be impossible to get through the day without a caffeine jolt. She missed seeing a newspaper every day, even though she could find most of the day's news online. Longtime habit, she guessed. She found a box of cereal in the cabinet. It was granola, which she generally loved. She ate a few handfuls, but like everything else lately, it tasted like sawdust. The only thing that had any flavor to her was coffee.

Lindsey thought about her situation as she sat at the table and sipped her coffee. She was beginning to worry about herself. She had gone into a deep depression after her mom died and she was starting to feel the same way she did then: listless, no appetite, teary, anxious – the whole package. Of course, she reasoned, her current situation was enough to send anyone into a tailspin, no matter how mentally healthy they usually were. But she missed her friends, her church family – everything that had meant something to her in the real world. She wasn't sure how to feel about Damon. Obviously, he could be a sweetheart when he wanted to be, and she felt like they had reached some kind of positive place. But who knew how long that would last, or what might set him off? Everything was so uncertain.

She went to dress and Damon finally stirred. "Hey," he said.

"Morning, lazybones. I've been up an hour. Coffee's on."

"Thanks. But I've been awake a long time."

"No you haven't. You were snoring."

Damon glared at her. "I don't snore."

"Yeah, you do. Not loud, but it's audible. You can't snore and be awake at the same time."

"You snore."

She shrugged. "I know it. I never would let them take my tonsils out. That's what you get when you're my age and still have big, ugly tonsils."

He grinned at her, and then stood up in a bone-popping stretch. "Sore shoulder. I must have slept on one side most of the night."

"You did, hanging on to me. And every time I tried to scoot over, you dragged me back. I tried to wake you up enough to make you turn over, but you wouldn't do it."

"You're warm."

"So are you. And as warm as it is outside, sometimes it's a little much. Want me to rub that shoulder for you?"

"I'll be fine – unless you just want to," he said devilishly.

Lindsey snorted. "I was trying to be nice. I didn't think about the healing thing."

Damon grinned at her. "I know. Can you really give a decent massage?"

"Pretty good."

"C'mere and give it a try, then. Wouldn't want to deprive you of a chance to be nice to me."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "All right. Right shoulder?" He nodded. "O.K." She stood behind him as he sat on the corner of the bed and she started rubbing his shoulder. She forced herself to concentrate on easing the tight muscle, and not how delicious his skin felt underneath his fingers. As she rubbed the heel of her hand into the muscle, Damon hissed. "Am I hurting you?" she asked him.

"Yeah. Feels good, though. You are good at this. How did you learn?"

"My dad had bursitis in his shoulders and sometimes, massage was the only thing that gave him any pain relief."

"Oh." Damon wasn't exaggerating. Lindsey was good at getting right to every tight muscle in his shoulder. She moved over to rub between his shoulder blades and then his neck. He could get used to this. Even if stiff muscles never lasted more than a half hour or so, a massage was always welcome.

She tugged at a lock of his hair. "There you go."

He worked his shoulders and neck and smiled at her. "That was incredible. Thank you so much." He cocked his head. "I think I heard something in the den. Better go check on it."

"Oh, O.K.," she said. She found an envelope under the door with her name on it.

"Crap," she said.

And finally, she got to see how Damon moved so silently – it was because he could move at a blur. Must be the vampire thing. "What's the matter?" he said, coming into the den, dressed.

"Evaluation day. Oh, joy."

Damon's blue eyes went stormy. "Damn." Suddenly, he grabbed Lindsey and sped with her back to the bedroom. He slammed the door shut.

She was absolutely terrified and looked at Damon with huge, fearful eyes.

He saw the expression on her face and immediately felt guilty. "Shit. I'm sorry about that, but I wanted to tell you something. Don't you admit to having any part in getting those cameras out of here. Put it on me. I can take whatever those bastards hand out. I have before. But don't even act like you had anything to do with it, if they ask – and I'm pretty sure they will."

"All right." She would see about that. She didn't want Damon tortured, either. "Please don't do that to me again, if you can avoid it."

Damon gave her that lopsided grin. "If I can avoid it, I won't. I'm sorry I freaked you out."

"O.K. Let me get my hair brushed and get ready to go."

He nodded and went back into the den.

As she got ready, a vague idea occurred to her on how to get them out of the condo for a while.

At the appointed time, the door swung open and she made the same trip back down the elevator and through the doors.

"Please be seated," the voice said. She sat.

"We are pleased you and Mr. Salvatore seem to have reached a point of civil co-existence."

"It was much easier when he started acting nicely," she said.

"We have noticed he removed the cameras in the bedroom."

Ah-ahh, she thought. You're not getting me that way. "He did."

"For what purpose?"

"He said he wanted privacy in one room."

"This is a research study. The cameras furthered the research."

"Maybe, but it's a little tough to sleep when you know people are watching you. He didn't destroy the cameras. He just disconnected them. They're completely intact."

"He seems to have initiated some physical contact with you. Are you comfortable with this?"

These people clearly had one track minds – and that track was in the gutter. "It's all right, but let me be clear about one thing: I'm not discussing anything sexual with you. Period. I'll talk about my feelings and so forth, but not sex."

"Are you finding enough to do? Are the games and movies sufficient?"

"They're very helpful and we appreciate you providing them, but no, they're not sufficient. Thank you for asking. I think we're both about to go nuts with the enforced confinement."

"What do you suggest?"

She couldn't believe they were opening the door! "Well, with two people living in the unit, and nothing much to clean with that I've seen, I'd say the place needs a thorough cleaning, and while your staff or whoever, is doing that, Damon and I could go to the grocery store and shop for ourselves. I know we'd be watched and all, but it certainly would beat the heck out of looking at beige walls and beige carpet all day."

"We will take it under advisement."

"Thank you. I wish you would. I'd like to ask you a question, though."

"What is your question?"

"How did you zero in on me? I'm not even from Nashville. I was in town for a week."

There was a pause. Lindsey could imagine white-coated "researchers" talking to each other before answering. "You took a survey at the mall."

"You mean the one with the $20 gift card?"


She remembered it. The questions had seemed innocuous enough at the time, although she did remember mentioning to the person doing the survey that her family was mostly gone. Well, hell. "So I did it to myself. That sucks."

"You may go. We will advise you about an excursion outside."

"Thank you," she said and left as quickly as she could. As she walked back, she felt a familiar twinge in her back and midsection. Great. Her period had started. She had taken her last pills a week or so before she was abducted, so this period was off schedule, not surprisingly, and likely to be a lulu, also not surprisingly. She got back to the unit and the door opened.

Damon was on the sofa, as usual. "How'd it go?"

"I'll tell you later," she said and went straight to the bathroom. She looked in all the cabinets and finally found a supply of pads. One pack. If this went like she was afraid it was going to go, it wouldn't be enough. And sure enough, the floodgates opened and she was racked with cramps. She went ahead and took a bath because that much blood wasn't coming off with just toilet paper. As she sat in the warm water, willing it to ease the pain in her back and belly, Damon knocked on the door. Just what she needed. A nosy vampire, and her leaking enough blood to fill a bag already. Every time she had gone off the pill, this happened. Her periods went right back to how they were when she was 13 – hellish. The stress of this situation was probably making it worse, too.

"Are you all right? I smell blood."

Oh shit. She didn't think about him being able to smell it. But of course he could. "I'm OK. I'm in the bathtub." She really didn't want to go over her gynecological history with him.

"There's a lot of blood in there," he said.

"Yes, I know. I haven't been on the pill since I was taken, and I'm paying for it now."

"Oh." Well, at least she didn't have to draw him a picture. "If you need something, call me."

"Thanks Damon. I appreciate it." She sighed in frustration.

Damon poured a giant glass of bourbon and sat on the sofa. Menstrual blood really didn't have much to recommend it, not being pure blood out of the vein. But it still smelled like blood, and that could be a problem. What seemed like an hour later, the bathroom door finally opened and Lindsey made her painful way to the kitchen. She could hardly walk because of the cramps. She looked for something to take, but could find nothing. Oh dear God, please don't tell me I'll have to make it through the next eight days or so without any Aleve. She wasn't much of a drinker, but seeing Damon's bourbon made her think any pain relief was better than none. She poured a glass of the Wild Turkey and choked it down.

She made it to the kitchen table and collapsed into a chair, hurting too much to make it to the bedroom.

Damon heard her and went to the doorway. "What the hell…" he surveyed the scene. Lindsey was at the table, head down, with an empty glass next to her that had obviously had bourbon in it.

"Sorry," she said. "I had to have something for the pain. It's always like this when I'm not on the pill. That's why I'm on it." She raised a pale face to him. "Can you call and ask them to bring a heating pad and a bottle of Aleve? I would surely appreciate it."

"Yeah. Sure."

"Thank you. I need to lie down." She struggled up from her chair and tried to walk past Damon.

"You can hardly stand up. Let me help you."

"No, I…" but he had already picked her up and carried her to the bedroom. He put her on the bed and pulled the comforter over her.

"Stay there. That's an order," he said.

"No dispute," she said tiredly and fell asleep.

Did anyone think about these things? Damon wondered as he watched television, and hoped the powers that be would get that medication up here, pronto. He could hear Lindsey moving around, apparently looking for a comfortable position. Even though she was asleep, she was still hurting. No wonder she drank all that bourbon. Blood might smell heavenly, but what didn't was a human in that kind of pain. They threw off smells that were much less than pleasant. Finally, the door swung open to reveal the requested items in the hallway. Damon went to get them, and fleetingly wondered how fast he could make it out. A person in full body armor, armed with a crossbow loaded with three stakes standing in the hallway answered that question.

"Hiya man. Nice to see you," was all Damon said as he picked up the plastic bag and took it inside. The door closed with a slam. Eventually, they were going to get out of here, though.

He took the pills and heating pad into the bedroom, along with a glass of water. "Lindsey, I've got the pills," he said.

She raised up. "Thank God. And thank you." She took two of the capsules and drank some water. He plugged in the heating pad and turned it on and then handed it to her. She curled up around it. "Thanks," she whispered, before falling asleep again.

It had been 150 years since Damon had voluntarily been around humans who were sick. But Lindsey was really kind of pitiful. He didn't want to think about having to go through all that every month. And no more than she had been eating, she was probably weak anyway. He shook his head. Humans. He guessed he would move to the futon in the office, or the sofa. He couldn't be responsible for his behavior if he slept in the bed with Lindsey. The blood smell would drive him crazy. It was bad enough with her in the next room with a closed door between them.

Suddenly, the phone rang. What the hell? He picked it up. "Yeah?" he said.

There was that voice again. "What is the matter with Ms. Hargrove?"

He rolled his eyes. "Well, you clowns didn't think to include birth control with whatever you left in this place for Lindsey. She's off the pill now, and she's bleeding like a stuck pig and hurting like hell."

"We did not plan for this," the voice said.

"Tell me something I didn't know." He was on the verge of hanging up again.

"What kind of birth control does Ms. Hargrove use? Find out now."

Damon sneered at the phone, but he got up and went into the bedroom. "Lindsey? The powers that be are on the phone. What brand of pills do you take?"

"Junel," she rasped. "The 21-day pack."


He went back to the den. "Junel. The 21-day pack, is what she said."

"We will send it up."

"Thanks," he said and slammed the phone down. An hour or so later, he was playing solitaire on the coffee table and heard footsteps approaching, and a small blue packet appeared under the door. He went to pick it up and determined it was the pills. He took them to Lindsey and she took one immediately.

"Thank God. It may take a couple of days, but I should be better fairly quickly."

"Good to know," Damon replied.

A couple of hours later, Damon heard Lindsey get up. She headed to the kitchen, but he heard a thump. He ran into the hallway and saw her crumpled there, wan and unconscious. "Damn." He knew his blood would probably help her, but he wasn't about to do it in the hallway where the psychos could observe. He picked her up and took her into the bathroom and closed the doors into the hallway and both bedrooms. He turned on the ventilation fan and the bathtub faucet, too. He put her gently on the floor, propped up against the bathtub, knelt beside her and bit into his palm. When the blood was flowing, he held his hand against her mouth. She batted feebly at him, but he didn't move, and let her drink for several seconds. "Vampire blood heals, Lindsey," he told her. As soon as she roused, he took his hand away and wiped her mouth clean of the blood.

"You feeling better now?"

She nodded. "Thank you, Damon. I suppose I should be grossed out by that, but really, I'm too weak to care. Go get some blood."

"I'm all right, he said.

"I'm sorry. I didn't count on any of this."

Damon sighed. "Don't apologize. Come on. Put your arms around my neck. I'm taking you back to bed." Lindsey reached around his neck and he carried her to bed. She was enjoying the feel of his chest against her body, but refused to dwell on it. When he got her in bed, Damon pulled the comforter around her and said, "You get some more sleep. You'll feel better when you wake up. And then, I'm making you some soup or something, and you're going to eat it, hear me?"

Lindsey nodded wearily and took Damon's hand. He had beautiful hands. "Thanks. For real."

"You're welcome," he said and smiled at her. She was asleep again in a moment.

"Damon, you know you have a streak of mother hen in your nature, don't you?" Lindsey told him when he brought her a bowl of soup and some crackers and insisted she eat every bite.

"So sue me," was his dry reply.

She smiled at him. "It's nice. Sweet."

"I'm not sweet."

"You can be when you want to be."

He knitted his brows and glared at her.

"Oooh. I'm scared now," she said.

"You should be."

"I'm finished. Would you mind taking the bowl to the kitchen?"

He looked a little disgusted but took the bowl and spoon.

"Muchas gracias," she said with a smile.

"De nada." He smiled back. No use being surly just because she figured out where his soft underbelly was. He went into the kitchen and Lindsey grinned. Damon could be a real jerk – and a psychopath -- but there was a nice guy in there. It just took some careful prying to pull him out. And you absolutely couldn't make a big deal out of it. She sat back in the bed and wondered how in the world she could be so sympathetic to someone who had admitted he was a killer and had done very, very bad things. It was the man underneath it all she saw, though. Somehow, when that man looked through Damon's gorgeous blue eyes, Lindsey could see hope and redemption.

She was reading when Damon came back to the bedroom. "Feel better?" he asked.

"Yes. Thank you. Have a seat if you can stand the blood smell."

"I'm good. Just, um, filled up."

She nodded and patted the space beside her on the bed. He sat, with his back against the headboard. "What are you reading?"

"National Geographic."

He peered over her shoulder. "Any pictures of, you know, naked native women?"

Lindsey chuckled. "Not in this issue. I don't think you see as much of that as you used to. It's from 2002, about the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Midway and how they found the Yorktown wreck. Good stuff."

"You like history?"

"Oh yeah. My dad was a Civil War buff. We used to joke that if he read too many biographies about General Lee, he was going to start thinking he was the general," she laughed.

Damon smiled. "Lee was a good man."

Lindsey nodded. "He was. Weird to run into someone who actually lived in the same area at the same time."

"So what's your family's history with the Civil War?" Most Southern families had one, he knew.

"Well, one of my great-great grandfathers fought in Virginia. He was just a buck private in the infantry, though. He was conscripted. A Confederate patrol got him, we thing. He was captured after the Battle of the Wilderness and died at Point Lookout POW camp."

Damon grimaced. "That was a horrible place. People yowl about Andersonville, and it was awful, no doubt, but I mean, the guards didn't eat any better than the prisoners did."

"I heard something interesting about Andersonville," Lindsey said.

"What's that?"

"That it didn't get so bad until the Union stopped prisoner exchanges. And they stopped it because they wanted Andersonville to be overcrowded and awful, so the Northern people would be motivated to continue the war. It was deliberate."

Damon looked impressed. "Most people don't know that. We did, of course. You wouldn't believe some of the things that went on. But no matter how bad things got, that bitch Katherine kept herself in silk dresses and leather slippers, some way, though. She wasn't going to dress in rags like the rest of the women, that's for sure."

Lindsey was confused. "Who's Katherine?"

Damon sighed. "I haven't told you, have I? She's the vampire who turned me and Stefan. She just showed up at the house one day, moved in and proceeded to pretty much knock both of us off our feet. She played each of us against the other. Of course, it took a while – and some fairly serious compulsion – for her to get us to the point where we were willing to be turned. I was head over heels in love with her. I really thought I wanted to be turned. Then I was, and thought she got caught in this church fire. Suddenly, immortality didn't seem so great anymore."

"But she wasn't in the fire?"

"Not exactly. Her maid, Emily, was a witch, and arranged to make sure she got in a tomb below the church. So she's been kind of dormant since 1864. Emily did this ring for me so I can go out in the daylight."

"I wondered about that thing. So is Katherine worth all the time you've spent pining over her?" Lindsey asked.

"I don't know how I feel about her. If I can get her out of there, will I still want her?"

"I thought you were in love with her."

Damon looked at her, but her expression was just curious. "I don't know. The farther away I get, the more I realize how bad she was. Ruthless." He shook his head. "I don't have any idea."

"Do you have a home in Virginia?"

"Sort of. My many-greats great nephew used to run a boarding house outside Mystic Falls. Stefan and I both have a room there if we want to go back."

"He doesn't operate it as a boarding house anymore?" Lindsey asked innocently.

Damon looked down. "Bad history," he said, his tone dark.

"Because of you?"

"Yeah. I don't really want to go into details."

"What – you just went on a spree and killed everybody staying there?"

He looked at her, his eyes bleak and haunted. "Yeah. I did."

She nodded slowly. "While your humanity was still switched off."

"Yep. So you can tell I'm not the most trustworthy person in the world. Zach, my nephew, never thought I'd do what I did, for sure. So he hates me. Stefan doesn't hate me, exactly, but he sure as hell doesn't want me around. Suffice it to say, I'm not the most welcome guest."

Lindsey was silent as she digested this information. It didn't surprise her. But she did feel she and Damon had built some measure of trust between them, however fragile.

"And now you hate me, too." He started to get up.

"No." Lindsey took his hand. "I don't hate you. I think you got caught up in circumstances you couldn't control, couldn't deal with. I'm sorry it happened to you."

"I don't want pity," he snapped.

"It's not pity, Damon. It's sympathy. Understanding. Compassion."

"Why are you so nice to me?"

She grinned. "Well, in the beginning, I'll admit it was self-preservation. But now, it's like I told you. I just like you, Damon. You're so smart. And you're funny. Now, you have to be one of the most arrogant stinkers I've ever met, but underneath it, there's something good."

"I'm not a good person, Lindsey. Don't fool yourself. I'm capable of mass murder again."

"I understand that. But you're not irredeemable."

"How can you say that? Are you just hopelessly naïve or something?" He was getting seriously annoyed.

"Stop being a jerk. And no, I'm not naive. I just believe in grace, that's all."

Damon shook his head. "Knowing what I could do to you, and you call me a jerk."

"You told me you weren't going to hurt me, remember? And yeah, somebody needs to call you on your crap once in a while. It's good for you."

"What if I gave you the same treatment?"

"Go ahead. I guarantee you can't tell me anything I haven't already told myself. I have a knack for self-awareness."

Damon scowled at her. She was probably right. He had found humans like her were frequently their own toughest critics. Didn't mean he wasn't going to try, though. "You're too tough on yourself," he said.

"Am I? How's that?"

"Your self-esteem, body image thing."

She laughed. "I don't think so. Most guys have no interest in looking past the outside. And when they do and find I have a brain, they bug out, anyway. So I'm screwed no matter what."

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but should you determine everything by whether a guy likes you or not?"

"I'm just a realist. When I was in high school, I had male friends, but none of them were interested in dating me. One guy — not a friend — told me if he couldn't find a date for prom, he'd ask me. And that's not the first time something like that happened."

"What a dick."

"Absolutely. He never was anything else."

"What about college?"

She laughed a little bitterly. "I had friends. But dorms are horrible places. Once the word got around that I was pretty much a charter member of the group the frat boys called 'The Dateless Dozen,' I was anathema. I got asked to go places for a while, until I found out it was because I don't drink. I was invited so they could get trashed and have a designated driver. One of the guys told me that one night when I dropped him off at the dorm. He was drunk, but in vino veritas. After that, unless one of them needed my brain for something, I spent a lot of time alone. But when they did need the brain, they paid cold, hard cash for my time. My real friends were on the newspaper staff."

Damon was a little stunned. "So you've never had a boyfriend?"

"One. My friends knew his whole story, but they kept me in the dark because they hoped it would work out between us. Turns out, this guy who told me he loved me, who told me he didn't care that I don't have the body of a supermodel, was using me as a place holder."

"What happened?"

"He wanted the cute blonde, who was always in one stormy relationship or another. He couldn't catch her between boyfriends so he decided to lower his expectations. We'd been friends, and he asked me out on a real date, and we had a great time. We were compatible, and I thought just maybe, he realized that I'd be good to him, that we had a shot at something good. Then, once word got back to her that he was dating someone regularly, the blonde decided she wanted him for herself. She had no interest in him when he was chasing her. But once he wasn't in her circle of admirers anymore, she couldn't stand it. And the first time she winked at him, it was sayonara, and I was right back where I started. Since then, I haven't had the time or inclination to pursue a relationship. And no one has expressed any interest either, so like I said, I'm a realist."

"Wow." Once again, Damon was struck by the fact that there was at least one human on the planet who was as lonely as he was. He was a loner because most people didn't want him around. She was a loner because she didn't want to get hurt again. He put his arm around Lindsey's shoulders. "We're a mess," he said.

"Yep," she agreed.

Damon sighed. "What pisses me off about Stefan is that he has so little room to talk where I'm concerned. He acts all self-righteous about how he's this vampire saint or something. I mean, he does the whole animal blood diet thing now, but he used to be what's known in vampire parlance as a 'ripper.'"

"That doesn't sound good."

"It's not. It's about the worst kind of vampire behavior there is."

Lindsey grimaced. "Really? Do I even want to know about it?"

"Well, it might help you understand some things about the two of us."

"O.K. I know I'll be sorry I asked, but what's a ripper?"

Damon looked up at the ceiling. "Exactly what it sounds like. They feed, then rip their victims apart – like, physically. The blood lust takes over them and they can't control it. Stefan was pretty notorious in California in the 20s. They called him 'The Monterey Ripper.'"

"Eeeewww. Has he always been like that?"

"More or less, when he's not on the bunny diet. He's got this friend, Lexi, who definitely saved his hide not long after we were turned. She helped him get on the animal diet and helped him control himself. She's an old vampire – over 300 years. They've been best friends for years. Real friends. She tried to help me, once. It didn't go well." He grimaced. He really hadn't intended to go there, but there he was anyway.

"My turn to ask. What happened?"

"Well, we were in New York in the late 70s. 1970s. And she took me on as her next project, at Stefan's request. He was doing well, and she was trying to get me to switch my humanity back on. I didn't want to, but I let her think I had. We slept together and she said she had feelings for me."

"What did you do? I know you did something."

Damon actually squirmed uncomfortably. "Well, I got her on a rooftop and we made out, and then I trapped her on top with just a patch of shade and no daylight ring." All this came out in a rush. "But she lived," he said, seeing the expression on Lindsey's face.

She smacked him in the chest. "You horrible thing! That was so mean! Why did you do it?"

"Because I didn't want to flip the switch. It's tough when it happens. All the shit you did when you were turned off comes back on you and you feel 10 times worse. Besides, I thought Stefan should have come to help me himself, not send her."

Lindsey pursed her lips and cocked her head to one side. She was going to have to think about that. "I'm going to assume the switch is flipped back into the 'on' position at this point."

He nodded. "Yeah, it is. Too risky these days to keep it switched off. Doesn't mean I'm some angel, though. Don't ever get that impression."

"Oh, I wouldn't," Lindsey said dryly. "So the upshot of it is you have a conscience, and it's active, and you can feel the tenderer emotions – you just ignore it most of the time."

Hearing it put that way didn't sound as reasonable as it did when he thought it out inside his head. "Yeah. That's kind of how it is."

"So what makes you morally superior to your little brother? Sounds like he's doing the best he can to hang on to his humanity."

"But he denies what he is!" Damon exclaimed.

"I don't think so. I think he just realizes he can't be the same kind of vampire you are. He has to deal with it in a different way, maybe?"

"He's a killjoy and a complete stick in the mud. Broody as hell."

"Are you two even actually related? You know, genetically?" Lindsey teased.

Damon shrugged. "I've wondered about that, myself."

"Do you even look alike? Even a family resemblance?"

Damon shook his head. "Not really, no. Stefan has dark blond hair and green eyes. Everyone said he looked like Father when he was young, and that I favored Mother. I remember her eyes. They were like mine."

"I know she must have been a beautiful woman."

"She was." He sighed. "I miss her."

Lindsey took his hand. "I know you do. I miss my Mama, too." They sat in silence for a few moments. "How did they get you, Damon? This time, I mean. Where were you?"

"Knoxville. Best I can figure is they had a sharpshooter with a trank gun full of vervain and shot me up with it. I never saw them."

"What's vervain?"

"It's a plant that's a natural vampire repellent, poison. If humans drink it, or keep it on them, they can't be compelled. Makes their blood poison to us, too. It burns a vampire, and if you trank us with it, it weakens us, knocks us out and makes us feel like we're gonna puke. Anyway, I remember passing out and waking up here. And they caught me once before, so I guess they thought they knew what they were dealing with when they got me. I wonder how they got you."

"Funny you should ask. Found that out today. I was at one of the malls here, and there were these people walking around, asking people to take product surveys. They were offering $20 gift cards for any store in the mall. People do that all the time, so I bit. The survey was nothing major. It was like a shopping habits thing. But I mentioned I was in Nashville looking for a job, and somehow it came up that my parents are gone. So I did it to myself, and didn't even realize it."

Damon leaned his head against the headboard and closed his eyes. "Unreal. But totally believable." He looked at Lindsey. "You're tired. I can tell by your eyes. I'll crash on the sofa and leave the bed for you."

"Thank you, Damon. That's sweet of you to do."

She got the lopsided grin. "I have my moments occasionally." He kissed the top of her head. "Good night, Lindsey."

She hugged him. "Good night."

As she went to sleep, she realized she missed Damon's body next to hers. "You're hopeless, Lindsey. Absolutely hopeless," she said to herself.

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