This is an AU fic of my version based on the first episode of season 3, which by the way, is AMAZING. When I thought I couldn't love Paul Wesley more, he just had to be be breathtakingly heartbreaking in the episode. My only complaint would be the lack of Stefan/Damon scenes, haha. I wanted more from Damon, to see more of his protective side. I wanted more interaction between them, maybe Damon trying to convince Stefan to stay...thus the fic. :P

Anyway, enough of my babbling. Hope you guys enjoy!

He'd been looking everywhere for him. He searched high and low, went after every lead that came his way. It didn't matter if it was small or insignificant, because all he could think of was it could be one step closer to finding Stefan.

And that gave him the will to keep on pushing.

He doesn't care that Elena's mad at him for keeping her out of the loop. He doesn't care if she thinks the worst of him for not caring at all that Stefan's gone. Because the thing is… he does.

He's been called a lot of things in his lifetime, bastard and heartless being some of them, but no matter what, Stefan is still his little brother. He hasn't been able to keep Katherine's words out of his head since that night Stefan saved him, that night Stefan sacrificed himself for his dying older brother. He had spent countless nights staying up, skimming the board over and over again, trying to find any sort of sign as to where his brother could possibly be.

He can't even imagine what kind of price Stefan had to pay to get that cure. And he refuses to think the condition his brother could be in right now. Instead, he focuses everything he has into bringing his brother home.

Because no matter how rough things are between them, Stefan's still the only blood connection he has left and it's his job to look out for the younger vampire.

So yeah, despite what birthday girl thinks, he cares. Which is exactly why he would be the one to find Stefan. The practical part of him wouldn't let Elena get involved because of the risk that Klaus finds out she's still alive. The selfish part of him just wants to be the one to find Stefan.

After all, Stefan is his responsibility. His little brother. His blood. His to take care of.

Just plain his.

And there is no way Elena or anyone else can take that away from him.

So with all his determination and sheer stubbornness at locating Stefan, he can't help feeling very surprised to find himself pinned against the wall by his a lot stronger baby brother while the body of his compelled sort-of girlfriend lies a few feet away.

He didn't expect Stefan to be the one to find him. And he certainly didn't expect his brother to be so cold and…detached.

"I said…" Stefan growls, eyes dark, hand around Damon's throat tightening. Damon stares into his brother's eyes, trying to find a glimpse of the Stefan he knows, trying to differentiate his brother and this killer in front of him.

It's almost funny because Stefan hasn't changed a bit since he left, at least in appearance. And yet, there's this air surrounding him, something that reeks of danger and death, that makes it hard for Damon to deny that the Stefan in front of him now isn't who he was.

It doesn't matter that much to him though, because Ripper or not, it's still his brother. And it doesn't stop relief from rushing through him as the solid weight of his brother against him proves to him that Stefan is alive and well, all things considered. This change in events won't stop him, he thinks resolutely. He is, after all, nothing if not flexible.

He doesn't try to break free. Carefully watching Stefan, he allows himself to relax against his brother's grip and answers back honestly.

"I already tried. But I can't," he says quietly, looking straight into Stefan's eyes. He watches as something indefinable flicker in Stefan's eyes before disappearing. His brother swallows hard and for a split second, the hand choking him loosens before tightening again.

Damon quickly holds back the triumphant smile that tries to make its way to his face.

Good. His brother's still in there somewhere, deep inside.

He can work with that.

Stefan shakes his head, smirking darkly. "You should have tried harder. I'm not going back, Damon. You're wasting your time. I'm perfectly content where I am."

Though it's probably not wise to piss his brother off, he can't help the snort that escapes him. "You honestly expect me to believe that? This is what you want to do for the rest of your undead life? Go around ripping people apart? Follow Klaus everywhere like a lovesick puppy?" He asked mockingly.

This time he gasps as Stefan's tightens to the point where he can't breathe.

Okay, not a good idea to piss him off, he thinks, one hand reaching up to clutch his brother's.

"Don't push me," Stefan snarls, face inches away from Damon. "If you don't stop coming after me, I will kill even more than before and it will all be on you. All these innocent people that are going to die, all because you are refuse to listen to -"

"Then kill them," Damon gasps out. Stefan freezes, his surprise allowing the confusion he must be feeling to shine through his eyes.

"I don't care. I don't care about any of them. Kill anyone you want. I don't give a shit. The only thing that matters is you!" he continues fiercely, voice conveying all the frustrations and anger he's felt all this time, searching for Stefan and failing. "I'm not going to stop until I get you away from that monster. I'm not going to stop until you stop being such a self- sacrificing asshole and I sure as hell am not going to stop until you come home!" By the time his small tirade finishes, he's panting hard, glaring at his brother. Stefan stares at him wide-eyed, looking so bewildered and young it almost hurts. The air around them seems to thicken with emotion, full of unspoken words and unresolved tension.

Slowly, Damon raises a hand to cup Stefan's cheek.

Before he could do that, Stefan recoils away from him like he was being set on fire, releasing Damon. He lets out a small noise of distress as he rakes a hand through his messy hair.

Slumping against the wall, Damon watches his brother warily. "Stefan, please…" he whispers. He hears Stefan take a sharp intake of breath. They both know the word please isn't something that escapes Damon's lips easily. And maybe if Damon was in better state of mind, he'd realize how uncharacteristic he's being. Maybe it's the shock at seeing his brother again. Maybe it's him unable to accept that Stefan killed Andie. But right now he's feeling so tired. It's like everything's been punched out of him and all he's left with is feeling hollow. After months of searching and hoping, Stefan's finally here and yet he's still so far away. And all Damon wants is his brother back.

Stefan stands stiffly in front of him; hands clenched so tightly by his sides Damon can see them turning white. Stefan stares at him, eyes still dark and unrecognizable as ever. Damon merely gazes back at him, saying nothing more. He had said his part. It's Stefan's turn.

"I don't have a home. Not anymore," Stefan shakes his head, glancing away from Damon. The way he says it, so monotonous, like he's been repeating it to himself, convincing himself over and over again, sends a pain so sharp through Damon's heart he's almost convinced he's been shot with a vervain bullet.

Damn it. What the hell happened to his baby brother? What the hell had Klaus done to him?

Pushing back the rage he's feeling at the bastard who took his baby brother away from him, he lets down the remaining walls he's put up around himself.

'Then what am I?" he asked softly.

Stefan's eyes snaps back to meet his. He watches with baited breath as a myriad of emotions passes through Stefan's eyes. Pain, sadness, fear, surprise, hope, regret, and everything in between. They flicker in and out of his eyes so fast he's not sure he's seeing them. For a while there, Damon sees a glimpse of his little brother reaching out to him.

"Stefan," Damon takes one step towards him.

And all of a sudden Stefan's eyes turn hard again.

Heart sinking, Damon can only watch as Stefan slides his mask back on, slipping back into the Ripper that everyone fears so much.

Damn it all to hell! He was so close…

"You should stop with the illusions, brother. It won't do you any good." Stefan says coldly.

"You can run all you want, Stef. But I'm just going to keep following you. And then I'm gonna kick your ass, knock some sense into you and drag you back here." Damon shoots back cheerfully, as though he hadn't just basically bared his soul a minute ago. It took everything in him to keep his voice casual, anything to keep the ache inside him from deepening.

There's nothing he can do, he realizes. He can't force Stefan to stay. He's too strong to fight it over physically. The only thing he can do is hold on to him. Which isn't really all that hard. The big brother in him just refuses to let go.

Stefan's jaw clenches, eyes boring holes into Damon, appraising, judging.

"Let me go, Damon," he repeats again.

Nope. There's not happening. No way.

"I already told you. I can't," Damon shrugs his shoulders. "You're my little brother. You think I'm gonna let you go that easily? You're gonna have to kill me first." He continues bluntly.

Stefan's face twist into a grimace before smoothing again.

"You can't save me, Damon. Not this time." Stefan says softly. No one else would have noticed the tremble in his voice as he spoke, but Damon did. He paid attention.

Of course he did. When has he never paid attention to Stefan?

He knows Stefan, probably better than he knows himself. He knows that Stefan thinks pushing him away is the only way to keep him safe. He knows that Stefan's terrified out of his mind and that he thinks there's no going back.

Well, he'll just have to prove Stefan wrong.

And if Stefan's not strong enough to fight this, then Damon will just have to be strong for the both of them.

"Yeah? Watch me," he replies back stubbornly.

Maybe it's the lighting or Damon's eyes playing tricks on him, but he could have sworn there was a small, fond smile on Stefan's face, though a bit sad. But before he could discern it more closely, his brother disappears in the blink of an eye.


Damon fights back the urge to scream as his brother slips through his fingers once again. He closes his eyes and counts to ten, willing himself to calm down. When he's certain he won't do anything stupid like tear this place apart, he opens them again. He stares at the space where his brother was, as if staring at it hard enough would turn back time, and he could do better to convince Stefan to stay. Finally, he shrugs his shoulders and takes a deep breath.

No matter.

He'd caught Stefan's scent earlier.

Stefan's going to come home, whether he likes it or not.

But first, he needs to take care of Andie's body and hide all the evidence of Stefan's involvement.

After that though, he smirks to himself, he's got a brother to chase down.


Whew, so that's done! Reviews please? With a cherry on top?