Chapter 7 - safety
Yes, yes, I'm a horrible person, blah blah blah...
So I'm pretty sure this is the end.
Later then, I'll be around.
"Damon, Damon! Where'd you go?"
He ran, not knowing where he was going. A smile plastered onto his young face. Long hair falling into his eyes. He stopped, frowning, and pushed it back. Then he looked around the room, his head darting from side to side, hair falling into his face again.
He giggled, turning and running out of the room, trying a few more before dashing for the stairs.
He slowed down when he reached the top of the stairs, wondering which rooms to try first. Not his fathers' study, or either of their bedrooms... Maybe the spare room at the end? Nodding to himself, he set off in that direction, opening the heavy door when he came to it.
He looked around the room, trying to find any unnatural movement. Finding none, he set about checking under the bed, in the cupboard and in the little space behind the mirror that he always crept into. How come Damon could always find him, but he could never find Damon?
He left this room, checking back down the hall. He called out for Damon, but didn't get a response. He could feel his hands start to tremble, tears start to flood his eyes.
No, he has to be here somewhere.
"Damon!" This time it was a scream. Raw and desperate. He ran down the stairs, almost tripping twice, and towards the kitchens. The maids took no notice of him as he ran and he was sure that Damon couldn't be in there. The maids always let him into the kitchen but they were more suspicious of Damon, afraid that the older boy would cause some kind of trouble. They were both loved equally though, he was sure of that.
He kept running, out the side door, down the white stairs and into the gardens. Everything was still wet, there'd been a thunderstorm the night before. He remembered crawling into Damon's bed, scared of the noise. Damon had wrapped an arm around him automatically, still half asleep.
"What is it, brother?" he'd mumbled, not sounding annoyed in the slightest. "Storm?"
He'd nodded against Damon's shoulder, clinging to him tighter as the storm grew harsh.
"You know I'd never let anything happen to you?"
He nodded again and the arm around him tightened.
"Then sleep, I'm not going anywhere."
And he had, only because Damon had hold him too. Because he trusted Damon more than anyone else. Because they were brothers, and brothers didn't lie.
He shook his head, his hair falling into his eyes again, and continued in his search. The gardens were empty, as was the shed and stable. He couldn't stop the tears now, but didn't stop looking.
He'd run around the entire house before he finally gave up, sitting on their marble steps and crying quietly into his hands. Damon wouldn't leave him, he'd promised. He remembered when his brother promised. Damon had been holding him in the aftermath of their mother's death.
"Damon?" he asked, his voice small and quiet. Damon was walking down the hall, stumbling a little, and he could see tears on his older brother's face. That was the first time he'd seen Damon cry.
Damon hadn't spoken, only took his hand and led him into one of the storage rooms. He locked the door and pulled him into his lap, holding him tightly.
"Damon? What's wrong?" he hadn't been crying then, but the tears in Damon's eyes made tears well up in his own.
"Everything," Damon had whispered softly, brushing his hair back. He watched his brother tremble as he spoke and made sure to keep quiet until Damon was finished.
It's mother... She's gone."
He couldn't stop the question that slipped from his lips.
Damon had held him impossibly tighter and buried his face in his hair.
"To a better place."
Neither of them said anything else, just sitting and holding each other in the dark. They were small and innocent and vulnerable, but they had each other.
When a maid found them in the morning Damon was sleeping deeply, looking peaceful with his brother in his arms. He begged the maid not to wake Damon and she complied, telling him to follow her as she picked up Damon and took him to his room.
When Damon woke, his brother's hand was the first one he'd searched for.
"Damon!" he screamed again, as loud as he could. "Damon..."
He was blindsided when Damon tackled him. He was thrown into the air and spun around, the wind blowing through his hair. Then was giggling madly, all his fears melting away.
When he was pulled down again he found himself in Damon's arms. How does Damon do that? He's only a bit older than me...
"Why so sad, Stef?"
He wiped his face with his sleeve, trying to hide his tears. But Damon knew, Damon always knew.
"... I couldn't find you."
Damon was looking down now, as if ashamed He didn't miss the hurt on his brother's face. Or was it regret? Why was Damon always so sad?
"You found me now," Damon replied, lifting his brothers chin. He smiled, but his eyes didn't sparkle like they usually did. He loved it when Damon's eyes sparkled.
Damon spoke again, more serious than before, his eyes downcast.
He realized that his cheeks might still be wet. Is that why Damon is sad?
He didn't hesitate, nodding madly and giggling when Damon smiled, properly this time. He wrapped his arms around Damon's neck and hugged him tightly, feeling his brother hug him back.
Then Damon started tickling him and he squealed madly. This was his brother, his world, his Damon. The one who loved him unconditionally.
"Come on Stef, I've got a surprise for you," Damon whispered, as if telling him a secret. He put him down and grabbed his hand, squeezing tightly. He squeezed back and Damon smiled again.
And together, they ran inside.
The only thing that Stefan was aware of, was his brothers' limp body, resting in his arms. The blood, both dry and partly dry, from Damon's back soiled his clothes, leaving them a dark red. He felt the wetness of his own cheeks but did nothing to wipe them dry. Damon's head was resting against his shoulder, his mangled back against his arm. The heavy weight was so unfamiliar to him, and yet it felt right.
The only thing that Stefan felt, aside for the physical things, was a overwhelming need to protect his brother. To hold him and tell him that he was okay. That everything was okay. This was accompanied with a deep sorrow. It was resting at the surface of his emotions, breaking through whenever he remembered what had happened or thought of better times.
Damon was his to protect and care for.
Damon was all that mattered.
Stefan was in the same position as he had been earlier, cradling Damon to his chest. His cheek was against his brothers forehead, his eyes closed tightly. He wasn't going anywhere for a long time. Or at least, he didn't think so.
The sound of wood hitting the ground and rolling was like thunder in his ears.
When he opened his eyes, the first face his saw was Klaus's shocked one. The original's mouth hung slightly agape, his eyes wide. He stood, unmoving, staring at Stefan.
No, not at Stefan.
When Stefan looked down, Damon's eyes met his own. They weren't the bright blue that he remembered, but it didn't matter. He looked awful, but that didn't matter either. Because the stake was on the ground beside them and Damon's chest was unmarked.
...well, there wasn't a pice of wood impaling his heart and that was good enough for Stefan.
"Stef...?" Damon croaked, his voice barely audible. He was completely still, his face clammy and pale. Stefan shushed him softy, trying not to move him and jostle his injuries.
"...s-sorry... couldn't... I..."
"Hush..." Stefan whispered, cutting of his strangled gasps. "You did it, Damon. Everything's okay now. We're okay."
Damon didn't reply, letting his eyes flutter closed as Stefan ran gentle fingers through his dark hair, the stench of blood still heavy in the musty cellar. He was happy to ignore it for now, putting all of his trust in Stefan.
And Stefan was perfectly happy sitting there, holding his brother and stroking his hair. Damon was quiet in his arms, his shallow, irregular breathing the only sound he omitted. They could've sat their for hours, both enjoying each others' company as well as the relief that came from almost a week without freedom.
Damon was the one to break the silence, his voice barely audible, his words broken and harsh.
"S-stef...h-home...w-w-want to...go h-home..."
Stefan leaned down, pressing his lips against his brothers forehead.
"Let's go home."
Stefan held Damon as he drifted away.
Klaus didn't stop him as he slowly stood, his brother in his arms. Katherine didn't say a word. He didn't so much as glance at either of them, his eyes fixed on Damon. He left the cellar and walked through the forest, all the way to the Lockwood's property. He kept going even then, following the road at a normal pace until he reached the boarding house. He kicked open the door, not bothering to close it afterwards, and went straight to his own room, avoiding Damon's and the bad experiences that came with it. He placed Damon on the bed, lying beside him, and wrapped his arms around his brother. He rested his head in Damon's hair and held him tightly, as close as possible.
He told Damon that he loved him, always and forever.
It didn't matter that they were both filthy and covered in Damon's blood, or that Damon was still dangerously ill, so much so that Stefan didn't know how to help him. He didn't know where to start. A human would surely be dead by now, the fever killing them long ago. Stefan remembered the last time he had slept with his arms around his brother, over a century in the past. He remembered what it was like to be loved, and to love someone unconditionally in return. In that second, nothing mattered except Damon. Nothing else in the world.
Because, for the first time in a long time, Stefan felt safe.