"In the Blood"
Summary: Damon's Theory: "You've finally done it brother, you've actually brooded yourself into a fever."
Rating: T for language (Damon's) and retaliation/brooding (Stefan's), oh hell, they're Vampires, let's just say rating for language and blood and retaliation all around.
A/N: Okay my long awaited character study Harry/Hermione piece is being ridiculously difficult in giving me the ending I want, so this is me penning a distraction. Also I have been fascinated as of late in with just how Stefan and Damon would react if the second would have to care for the first. I would do it for SPN, but I've tortured Sam enough lately, I feel it's Stefan's turn. And, yes that sound is me laughing diabolically.
A/N: This will be set somewhere in season 2, that magical time when Stefan, Elena and company actually gave a crap about going to school.
Oh come on!
"It has nothing to do with you actually caring about him?"
Episode: "Blood Brothers."
Sunlight poured through the opened windows, making the motes of dust flicker, almost hypnotically around the vast leather austere living room.
Not that Damon was paying attention to it. He had seen more than his fair share of dust in 165 years, nothing to wax poetically about. He wasn't that Salvatore brother.
Nope Damon had other things to do with his time. Currently those other things involved him flinging his long frame up over the leather couch and smirk and eye roll his way through the last few chapters of Breaking Dawn
"He takes her to a remote cabin in the woods try on clothes, what a doosh," Damon snorts and flips another page. His eyebrows go up a second later as he continues reading. "Shaking down an entire cabin with sex? Overcompensating much?" Damon shakes his head at the smut that passes for Vampiredom. It was an insult to his race.
The sound of the front door opening doesn't make him look up, just listen for the cadence of footsteps to identify the owner. Heavy somewhat off stomping (Stefan – he could be as lithe as a tree falling when he didn't care.) and lighter heel clicking…Damon's brows furrows…not Elena..higher heels, more make up.
"Does Elena know you're cheating on her?" Damon turns the moment he sees Stefan enter their parlor along with Caroline Forbes in her tight jeans, white sweater, stiletto boots and bobbing blonde hair.
Caroline gives Damon a look, like she wants to chop up his extracurricular parts. "Do you always have to be an idiot Damon?"
"Depends on your definition of Idiot, Blondie," Damon throws back waggling his eyebrows at her, flipping another page in the book he stopped paying attention to a while ago just because he knows ignoring her would piss her off.
"Um, that would be someone who makes lame, stupid comebacks to overcompensate for his own sense of inferiority." Carolyn says with all the grace of a former mean girl cheerleader.
"Ooh sounds kinky," Damon retorts.
"Give it a rest you two, I'm not in the mood your mock foreplay." Stefan says his voice sounding low and a bit gravely.
"Ouch," Damon mocks a hurt voice. "What's got you extra broody this afternoon brother? They turn your favorite hunting grounds into a Nature Preserve?"
"He's sick, Damon." Caroline chimes in like it's obvious.
"What?" Damon closes his book with a thump and throws his legs up off the couch, standing up He rounds on Caroline and his brother. "Vampires don't get sick." He smirks at his brother. "You fake sick for the teachers Stef so you can get in some smut time with Elena?"
He circles Stefan, observing, he leans towards his brother without asking because he never asks about anything .
"Damon what are you doing?" Stefan takes a step back in annoyance.
"Observing," Damon throws back casually, getting so close to Stefan's face he can feel him breathing on his skin "Yep, there is no doubt about it Stefan – you're dead."
"You are such an asshole Damon," Caroline retorts. "Can you act serious about something for once?"
Damon clutches his chest like he's been gravely wounded. "That's a bit harsh. And why are you here anyway? Shouldn't Stefan's eternal love swift him home to the presence of his family for aide and care, not the random Vampirette down the street?"
"Elena doesn't know Damon," Stefan says in answer. "And I don't want her finding out about this."
Damon's face scrunches in confusion. "Finding out about what? You're tawdry affair with the Vampire next door?"
"Still an asshole," Caroline throws back with a flip of her head.
"Guys enough!" Stefan snaps back. "I already have a headache."
Caroline responds with a quick: "Sorry"
Damon responds with a weird look on his face, part annoyance, part rolled eye. "That's it." He takes that step right into Stefan's face again. "What are you not telling me?"
"I'm not not telling you anything Damon," Stefan says in almost exasperation.
Damon's face breaks into a scowled rage. He grabs the color of Stefan's shirt yanks it towards him, the rage on his face breaking into a growl. He ignores Caroline's protesting: "Damon, knock it off!"
"Let's try this again Brother," Damon's voice is low, predatory, but that tone drops when he glances down the side of Stefan's neck, and notices for the first time the coating of sweat that is dripping down the back of it. Damon catalogs this. "You ditch school because you're sick, something you haven't been in 145 years, I'm not buying it Stefan. What. Are. You. Not. Telling. Me?"
"Damon!" Caroline's voice is a growl and she tries to separate Damon's hand from Stefan's shirt. But Damon is refusing to budge, and even her extra Vampire strength isn't working. "Stop it, let go of your brother!"
"Sure thing mom, just as soon as Stefan here spills the truth," Damon throws back. "C'mon Stef, what is it? The bullies at school burn your diary? You and Elena have a fight over the color choice of your make up? You drank some bad puppy blood? What?" As he talked he got more and more into Stefan's face.
"I did Damon," Stefan said.
Damon's face drops to confusion, not sure if Stefan just admitted to wearing makeup. "What-?"
"The stag I took down was lame- there was a bite mark on its leg that I didn't see until later. It looked like something got to it before I did." Stefan says this all at once, not scared not happy, just a fact.
Damon is not processing this for a moment, but it is only because he tries to block it out. His mind functions faster than most CPU drives. He releases Stefan's shirt forcefully making him fall a few steps back. "You idiot!"
"What is it?" Caroline says, tracking Damon than Stefan with her eyes. Stefan hadn't told her anything. He had simply cornered her after their last class and told her he needed a ride home. She had asked what was wrong with his car, but his response was to just ask her again, and throw in a few charmed "pleases" (The boy was from 1865 he had manners) She had relented and had done him the favor because of all he had helped her so much with her transition.
Damon doesn't answer her question and circles Stefan again in complete disbelief. "How could you not notice?"
"It doesn't make the blood taste different, Damon!" Stefan says by way of argument.
"Stefan, what's going on?" Caroline asks, her voice taking on the higher pitch it does when she's nervous about something.
"It seems that Saint Stefan here went and ate dinner without getting the FDA's approval of it not having rabies." Damon's words are a growl, and angry.
"Rabies?" Caroline's voice goes even higher in bafflement. "You ate something with rabies?" She swings her gaze back from Damon to Stefan, to Damon. Her look goes from bafflement to something almost like, fear. "Is he-" the look goes back to Stefan again. "Are you going to be okay?"
"Alright, you enough talk," Damon orders to Caroline. "And you," He points to Stefan "Upstairs I will not have you passing out on our good couch because of your mindless idiocy."
"Damon I'm not passing out-"
"You don't get a vote Stefan, that went out the window when you chowed down on Old Yeller's leftovers. Now go." Damon watches Stefan give him a look of defiance, but he gives him his scowling angered 'I will rip your throat out if you don't obey' one.
Stefan finally relented, tossing his bag on couch and walking up the split level stairs to where his bedroom is. He bangs the door shut almost like a petulant child.
Caroline watches him do this then whips her head back to Damon. "Is he going to be okay?"
"He was just showing me how to hunt," Caroline says, her voice almost a whisper, like a kid admitting that she did something wrong. "I asked him to come with me-"
"Relax Blondie, he's not going to die if that's what you're worried about," Damon walks to his liquor cabinet and pours himself a healthy amount of amber colored whiskey into a highball glass. "The only thing that can kill a Vampire is a stake to the heart."
"So he'll be fine," Caroline says, hoping it sounds like a fact instead of a question.
"Eventually," Damon takes a healthy swallow from his highball glass.
"What's that's supposed to mean?" Caroline retorts.
"Means he'll get all the symptoms – photophobia, hallucinations, convulsions. He'll just get over it a lot faster than humans and get the added bonus of being able to live at the end of it." Damon swallows down another fiery mouthful of his liquor. "It's going to be a great night."
Caroline seems stunned into silence, she just stands there, like a misplaced comic strip character with nothing in her word bubble. Finally she unfreezes herself and pulls out her iPhone. "I've got to call Elena," She dials Elena's number on speed dial.
Damon takes the phone from her and cuts off the call before it can connect. "No you're not."
Caroline reaches for her phone, but Damon keeps pulling it out of her reach. "She needs to know Damon!"
"And I will tell her," Damon insists. "But this is brother business right now Caroline, it doesn't involve her."
"She's his girlfriend!" Caroline yells.
"Good for her, but that's not going to give her brownie points right now."
Caroline's face contorts in rage and she hurls Damon in the wall and has him pinned against the thick mahogany boards.
Her fangs are bared and darkness spiderwebs its way over her eyes.
Damon grabs her by the arms and throws her off of him, smashing her into the coffee table, sending a stack of books there to the floor.
Caroline flips herself up in a rush, blonde hair whipping back behind her. "Damon, you need to listen to me-!"
"I don't have time for your scary Vampire act Blondie," Damon says voice low, threatening. "Doors that way. I'll call you if something fun happens."
Caroline looks like she's about to lunge at his throat. But then something clouds over her eyes before she manages to reign it in. She grabs her messenger bag and purse from where she threw it on the sofa and walks out of the house with an heavy click of heels.
Damon waits for the door slam to shake the Boarding House before pouring himself another drink from the Whiskey bottle, he caps the bottle but takes it with him along with a second high ball glass from the bar. He makes a quick detour to the freezer in the basement before he blurs by the hallway filled with books from floor to ceiling – some more dust than paper – and opens the door to his brother's bedroom.
Stefan and Damon's rooms are both stately and large with a four poster bed in the middle, and in Stefan's case lined with bookshelves along three walls, and an assortment of hand carved walnut tables with potted plants of all things. A guitar sits against one of the shelves, next to that a large antique globe with a stand and axis made of solid brass. On Stefan's roll top cherrywood desk his current leather bound diary sits pen, pen poised in the pages like he was prepared to write his innermost desires in it the moment he got back from class.
"Dear Diary," Damon mocks strolling in and closing the door to the bedroom. "Today I got Rabies from Bambi's Father, and will now suffer the agony of my self-righteous transgressions. It is a horrid thing to undertake-"
"Is your whole 'taking care of me' front Damon? Because I find it somewhat lacking" Stefan ask from where he is leaning back against the mass of pillows on his bed, still dressed, shoes still on, watching Damon walk around his room like a surveyor.
"Is that any way to treat your caretaker baby brother?" Damon returns. He walks by the long full length windows against the west wall. It had a pale blue thick brocade curtain Stefan had picked up from somewhere or another on his travels to be a "better man/Vampire". But normally they were pulled back to let the sunlight pour in. Damon always considered it Stefan's "fuck you" to the rules of being a Vampire.
But right now they are drawn, closed with the clips that hold the fabric tight to prevent slivers of light from entering, making the room shadowy and dark. "Milking it a little aren't we Stefan?"
"The light hurt my eyes," Stefan says simply.
His words make Damon's brow furrow and he steps over the clutter of end tables and collections of junk from all the decades of Stefan's life. He leans over Stefan's bed again notes the accumulation of sweat across his skin. "You've finally done it brother," Damon pulls back, again observation cataloged. "You've actually brooded yourself into a fever. Think that's as much cause for a drink as any," he pours his whiskey into another glass and offers it to his brother.
"Come on Stef," Damon waggles the glass in front of him. "Time to take your medicine." He smiles a'see its good for you' kind of smile.
Stefan pushes the glass away and gives him a 'I don't want any asshole' smile "I don't think Whisky is a Cure All for Rabies Damon."
"Maybe not," Damon agrees. "But just because you have to suffer for your stupidity, doesn't mean you have to suffer sober." He waves the glass again with a grin. "It's fortifying."
"It's making me nauseous," Stefan argues.
"Fine," Damon retorts swallowing from the glass. He sets it down on the nightstand. "It's dinner time in the Sick Bay," he waves a full blood bag of O negative he snagged from the freezer in front of Stefan.
Stefan sits up more, his eyes a bit wide at the full bag of human blood. He fights the pull behind his eyes at the sight of the blood. "Damon, I told you I'm nauseous-"
"Tough, " Damon pours the thick blood into the empty glass, it makes a thick glugging sound. "If you don't eat you're not going to be able to fight this off." He holds the glass up in front of Stefan, waiting for him to take it even though he know he won't do so willingly.
"You lied to Caroline," Stefan says, still avoiding the glass. "You have no idea how this will affect me."
"I had to get her to leave didn't I?" Damon insists. "And it's not like we're going to find out, so what's the problem? Well except for you refusing to take this." Damon says fingers digging into the highball glass, all but throwing it at his brother.
"I'm not drinking that Damon," Stefan's voice sounds weak, but it's still argumentative.
Damon's brother was a stubborn, pig headed one. And it was pissing Damon off "You don't get to be self righteous when you have rabies Stefan." Damon grabs Stefan's hand and shoves the glass in it. "You drink it Brother, or I pour it down your throat."
On any other given day Stefan could take his brother, even on a diet of animal blood they were still pretty evenly matched. But even though Stefan didn't completely admit to it, he was feeling weak, drained. He wasn't up to getting off the bed let alone throwing Damon against the wall.
And Damon stood because he knew it. Stefan grabbed the glass from Damon with a growl and swallowed a few mouthfuls. The blood was warm, viscous, and satisfying, more than Stefan wanted to admit. He could feel his craving for more start to envelop him, but Damon snatched the glass from him like he was a bratty child before he could give himself completely over to it.
"Easy there champ," Damon takes the glass and the bag away "We can't have you wanting to drain the locals after this." He stands up with the bag and the glass, and it is a testament to how tired is Stefan is because he is not standing up to lunge at Damon for the blood because when it came to human blood Stefan was a recovering addict, he didn't know when to let up.
In fact, he seems to be sinking more back into the cushions, doing a pretty good job of looking bedraggled and broody, which was something that only Stefan seemed to be able to pull off.
"Here," Damon grabs Stefan's iPhone from off his desk and tosses it to him. "I'm going downstairs, text if you want another hit."
Stefan doesn't make a move to take the phone, instead a half smile, half wearing sounding laugh pushes from Stefan's mouth. "You better be careful Brother, it almost sounds like you care."
"You're delirious Stef. Rabies will do that to you," Damon volley's back. He is at the door, he opens it, but doesn't leave right away, just standing there, staring. "I'll be downstairs."
The door closes.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Relax Elena, no need to fly off the handle." Damon has his phone cradled in his ear and is pulling a bundled group of transfusion blood bags out from the freezer. "And next time you see Blondie, tell her for me she has a big mouth." He closed the lid and walked back up the stairs out of the basement.
"She was worried, Damon! And so am I. You should've told me!"
Elena Gilbert was shrill when she was angry. It was almost like talking to Katherine if Katherine had known what a cell phone was back in 1864.
"I'm coming over."
"My brother is indisposed Ms. Gilbert, houseguests would not be beneficial for him at present."
"Damon this isn't funny!"
"I've got it under control, Elena." Damon scans their vast shelved library looking for something – he finally finds the well worn old book spine and pulls it out, placing it on top of the blood pile and walks back upstairs.
"I need to see him Damon! I have to make sure he's okay."
"Trust me he's okay," Damon walks down the hallway of book again towards his brother's room. "I'll call you later."
He ends the call mid Elena's yell of his name and pushes the door to Stefan's room open.
The room smells like too much stale sweat, and the only light on is the standing lamp next to the first post of the four poster bed, making the room even more shadow than light.
Good thing Damon can see in the dark.
Stefan is sprawled horizontally on the bed atop the covers on his back, his eyes are closed, face pinched even in the small amount of light shining. He is down to his white undershirt and boxers and the shirt is yellowed in areas with sweat.
Damon sets down the things he brought on the desk. He snags the rag over Stefan's eyes wordlessly and walks to the adjoining bathroom with it.
"Was that Elena?" Stefan says in almost a whisper. His senses weren't dulled from the toxins; his head is simply pounding like a base drum behind his eyes, making doing simple things hard, let alone trying to use his heightened hearing to listen in on Damon's conversation with Elena.
"She says hey," Damon says as he turns on the tap and soaks the rag in fresh water. "We're meeting up for a sexcapade later." Damon comes out of the bathroom and drops the rag back over Stefan's face like it's an afterthought.
"Your subtly amazes me sometimes Damon," Stefan says with the rag blocking his facial expressions. He reaches up to hold it over his eyes.
"Not my thing brother," Damon argues falling almost lazily into the desk chair. He picks up the book he brought and tosses it on the bed, by Stefan's head. "I brought you Hawthorne, can't have your depressed broodiness falling by the wayside during your covalence."
"I don't think I can read right now," Stefan's argue is barely a whisper, and it sounds painful. "Everything is spinning."
"You do know all this just sounds like you're drunk, little brother, which doesn't warrant sympathy, it just warrants pictures and ads on Craigslist."
Stefan pulls himself to a sitting position with a groan. He is hunched over like an arthritic old man. "You know more about that than me Damon, oddly enough."
"Damn right I do brother, because I don't have a stick permanently grafted up my ass." Damon says with a smirk. "Maybe when this is all over we'll hit up Mystic Grill, make you more fun. A few shots of tequila, few pints of O neg. Though considering you're choice in blood lately, we might just wanna skip that part and go straight to sex with the local women."
He watches Stefan's hand brush the book, like he's contemplating reading it, but can't make up its mind.
Damon can't help his smirk. "Are you going to read it or molest it Stefan, because those are two very different hand gestures."
Stefan doesn't say anything, doesn't even give him any kind of attempted retort. His hand seems to 'slip' on the mattress, sending the book falling to the floor.
Damon's brow knit down, watching this. "Stefan?"
Stefan's eyes go unfocused. "Damon?" He stares at Damon as if in bafflement, then pitches forward.
Damon rushes on him in a blur of wind finding himself now by Stefan who is convulsing on the floor.
"Stefan, Stefan!" Damon grabs his brother's shoulders flipping him over. His brother's thrashing is strong enough to snap one of the legs off the end table. "Damnit!" He pins his Stefan down as much as he can with his weight, jerking with each of his brother's spasms like an abused marionette. "Cmon Stef, snap out of it will you!"
"Oh my god!" Elena Gilbert's voice and the door opening come as one sound.
Damon snaps his head up to her, seeing her standing there next to a shocked Caroline who seemed stunned into silence.
"I told you not to come!" Damon barks.
"Stefan!-" Elena instantly starts to move towards Stefan.
"Stay there!" Damon orders. "He already ripped up the table, it'll be your bones if your closer."
"Damon what's happeing?" Elena cries out.
"What does it look like's happening Elena!" Damon grinds out under the strain of having to try and pin down his brother's weight. "Blondie should've filled you in."
Stefan's body is bucking against Damon's hold like it is connected to a live wire. And it is an unnerving – terrifying if Damon allowed himself to think about it more – thing to witness happening to one's own brother. Especially since Stefan was always a healthy and robust kid, and had that had transcended into that brief bit of manhood he had been allowed before Katherine's Vampire blood and that rifle bullet ended his life as a human.
"I don't understand," Caroline says, from where she' still frozen by the door. "I thought Vampire's couldn't get sick."
"I don't have time to hash out theories about why that's apparently wrong Caroline," Damon says. In the midst of Stefan's convulsions part of the side of his undershirt came away from his skin, revealing something Damon hadn't seen before, because he wasn't one to go poking underneath his brother's shirt.
It was a bite mark ringed, puffy. It's very existence was a blaring warning – being a Vampire meant that even the deepest of wounds would heal themselves in a matter of hours – This one seemed to be getting worse, not better.
"Damnit," Damon curses.
"What is it?" Elena circles closer to Damon and her fallen boyfriend, dropping on her knees.
Damon ignores her and shoots his head up to Caroline: " Was he bitten by something?"
Caroline seemed to shrink from the words like they're a slap in the face. "I-"
Elena turns to face her friend, her eyebrows knitting down
"Caroline what is it?"
"What the hell you'd do?"
Damon and Elena's words trip over each other.
"Damon!" Elena says angrily.
"There was a wolf that was hunting the same stag we were," Caroline's words spilled out of her like water from a sieve. "Stefan- he pushed me out of the way-" her voice went up an octave then it hitched. "I didn't know-"
"You didn't know that an hyper aggressive predatory animal that foams at the mouth was rabid!" Damon barks this out like Caroline is the most idiotic thing to walk the earth.
"Damon, leave her alone!" Elena says in defense of her friend. "This isn't her fault!"
"The saliva of a rabid animal has more rabies virus per capita than blood Elena, that's how come Stefan's affected!" Damon yelled. "She was the one he pushed out of the way!" He was angry, angrier than he had been in a long time concerning his only remaining family. And he vented it on the only thing he could. "How is this not her fault!"
Caroline's breath gives a hitch despite her efforts to control it. But the senses you experienced most as human were heightened when you became a Vampire. With Caroline Forbes it was her intense emotions.
Stefan's head suddenly smacked the floorboard with an earsplitting crack.
Elena's eyes went wide at the noise that sounded like he had cracked his skull "Stefan!" she tried once again to reach for him , but stopped herself, like a child who was trying to help in a car accident, but was at a complete loss at the sight of all the blood and gore. "Damon do something!"
Damon snaps his head up to Caroline, seeing the tears on her face. For whatever reason (this is your brother here on the floor- his mind screamed at him) the sight of her crying like some teenage idiot made a red streak of anger burn his way through him. "You don't get to cry Caroline!-I need you to get over here and hold him down."
Caroline looks terrified, like Damon is going to pull warm blood out of her throat with his fangs. She drops her bag instantly by the door and comes around to Stefan's other side.
"Grab his arms," Damon orders, watching Caroline follow that order and holds Stefan's arms down to the floorboard by the wrists.
Damon sits on Stefan pining his legs down with his knees. He brings his wrist up to his mouth and bites into it with his fangs, dripping a crimson stain of blood down his skin.
"Damon what are you doing!" Elena shouts when she sees him draw his arm down to Stefan's mouth.
Stefan's instincts kick in and his starts to suck the blood from Damon's skin, fangs coming out and biting into the flesh.
"Can Vampire blood even fix other Vampires?" Caroline asks, her voice shaking from all of Stefan's thrashing, not admitting that it could also be because of fear.
"I'm going on a working theory," Damon throws out with a grunt at the odd, unnerving sensation of his brother feeding on him.
"Damon stop it!" Elena says, remembering a dark wood where Stefan had almost sucked her dry, where his control had been shattered by his primal instinct."He can't handle that much blood!" It was a dark place that she didn't want to see him go down again.
"This is who we are Elena!" Damon snaps. "You want him Morally Dead? Because I don't!" He gives a guttural cry when Stefan almost severed his hand from his arm, yanking it out of his brother's fangs. He falls back against the bed, and a few seconds later Stefan goes completely still.
"Stefan? Stefan?- Oh my God!" Caroline is freely crying now, terrified, horrified.
Elena grabs Stefan head in her hands, this time Damon does not stop her. "Stefan?" her voice shakes, her fingers glide on the sweat of his face, her heart is hammering in her chest. Her hands slide down his neck, and she feels a beat, a thumping. "Damon, his heart's beating," she says this like relief, like life.
"I know," Damon says, seeing her turn and watch him remove the hand he had laid flat to his brother's chest while she wasn't looking.
Caroline falls back on her knees "I'm sorry," a sob tears from her like a keen. "I'm so sorry," she jumps up to her feet and runs out of the room.
"Caroline!" Elena calls after her. She turns back to Damon, her eyes heavy with emotions like tears.
"I've got him," Damon says, looking down at the still form of his brother. "Go."
Elena lets her hand sweep over Stefan's face. She doesn't want to leave him alone, but looking in Damon's face, she knows she isn't. She gives the slightest nod to him before standing up and running out of the room.
"Caroline!" Elena finds her friend in the hallway filled with bookshelves, pacing, one hand over her mouth. She is shaking like a foliage in a storm, shuddering.
Elena walks over to her, and takes a hold of her shoulder. "Caroline-"
"I'm sorry," Caroline's body shakes with sobs. "Elena, I'm sorry, I'm sorry-"
Elena wraps her arms around Caroline and holds her, hugging her friend, feeling all her shuddering. "It's okay."
"Please don't hate me," Caroline's tears are soaking through Elena's sweater, sadness breaking her like china that was tumbled over by the force of a too strong wind.
Elena's arms draw tighter around her shoulders. "I don't hate you Caroline."
She holds Caroline for a long time.
Some things you can't go back to, some things need left alone
Don't mess with a memories of a life passed on
Oh the tumbling reservations at the heart of my mistakes
Oh some things you can't go back to cause you let them slip away
Stefan is 17 today. He stares at his reflection in the oval mirror that hangs above his bed. 17 does not look much different that 16, his eyes don't look any different, same hair, same everything.
Except today he is a man.
He adjusts the cravat around his neck. It is a deep maroon, and he tucks it into the flaps of his black overcoat. He adjusts the entire ensemble, studying the way it made him look.
Father had given him the new suit as a present for the day. There was an entire list of guests already waiting for his party. All the finest socialites will be there, there will be gifts, toasts in his honor.
And he's already late.
"Careful you don't break the mirror."
Damon is standing there, dressed smartly in navy blue, hands behind his back, poised like a gentleman in the presence of a lady.
"Damon," Stefan says by way of greeting. He stands up straighter, hands in the folds of his new black tailed overcoat with the brass buttons "You think I'll pass?"
Damon studies Stefan like an appraiser. A bit of a smile passes his lips. "You are most defiantly a Salvatore man brother."
Stefan smiles, coming from Damon this compliment means a lot.
"Why aren't you at the party?" Damon asks, "Everyone's waiting."
"I'll be there momentarily," Stefan says. "Why aren't you there?"
"I was waiting for you," Damon says simply. He steps inside Stefan's room and when he gets closer to him his hands come out from behind his back and he holds out a simple square black box. "Happy Birthday Brother."
Stefan takes it from him and pulls open the lid. Inside resting on a layer of black velvet is an exquisite gold pocket watch with his initials carved on the front of its flat surface.
Stefan removes it from its resting place, simply staring at it.
"Stefan" Damon leans over him, seeing Stefan's eyes open, but they aren't focused. "Stefan?" Damon swallows. "You know now would be the perfect time to stop being a lazy ass." The words are angry, but not really.
Damon looks at him expectantly. "You haven't said anything. It tends to put an older brother off if there is no response to his birthday gift."
Stefan opens the pocket watch with a click, seeing the ivory colored face, the sleek black hands already wound to the correct time. On the other side of the clock face, there is something carved into the metal of the watch, a quote:
"Time flies over us, but leaves it shadow behind" Stefan reads the quote out loud. His eyes move over to Damon. "Nathaniel Hawthorne."
"You've gone on about him so much, I figured this was as good as a quote as any." Damon says by way of some kind of response.
A smile pulls at Stefan's face. "You were right," he steps closer to Damon. "Thank you." he hugs his older brother.
They break away and Damon has a mischievous grin on his face. "Come on brother, you've kept enough people waiting for you." He sets a hand on Stefan's back, staring almost proudly at his brother in his finery.
They walk together out of Stefan's bedroom, stopping at the top of the stairs to survey the crowd of people, men in long tails, women with cleavage and swishing silk skirts, sipping Champaign.
"Stefan," their father calls out to them at the bottom of the stairs. Heads turn to the sound of his voice, following it to Stefan's face. "So nice of you to join us."
"He wanted to make an entrance Father," Damon says staring down at their father from the top of stairs.
Giuseppe Salvatore makes an irritated noise in the back of his throat, watching his two sons descend the staircase "In the future Stefan, I expect you to be PROMPT to your own party."
Stefan doesn't have time to answer before he is set upon by a cousin of his father with a: "Happy Birthday Stefan." and a kiss to the side of his face with a gloved hand and a rustle of a satin skirt.
"Thank you," Stefan says with all the politeness bred upon him. He shakes the hand of her husband when it is offered.
"You're a man now son," the husband says in a voice that tries to sound worldly, but is severely lacking. "Any plans to join into your father's business or are you content to live off his generosity forever?"
The question is a loaded one. The cousin-wife looks up to her husband with all the quiet shock of wives who were taught to not question their spouses, no matter what came out of their mouths.
Stefan laughs as politely as his smile, trying to pretend he is amused by this instead of cornered.
"My brother plans to be a renaissance man," Damon says by way of coming to Stefan's aid. "You can't expect him to own to the all the knowledge of industry without first learning what drives men to create."
Mr. Whatever Cousin goes as unruffled as the limits he set upon his class position would allow."I understand that you are planning to don the colors of the Union Damon. Tell me, do you consider it a noble thing?"
"I consider many things noble Sir, being able to celebrate with my brother on his birthday for one." Damon lets the words he does not say hang in the air, lets his "cousin" understand it. A servant comes by with a tray of Champaign glasses. Damon retrieves one of them. "Ladies and gentleman," he says giving a bow like he's holding court, turning round the room "Thank you for coming out to my Brother's Coming out."
There is a quiet chuckle of laughter, including from Stefan himself. Damon was a bit of a show boater.
"And what is a celebration without presents?" Damon is facing Stefan again, with a package in his hand wrapped gaily in ribbon, no doubt by one of the female servants, because Damon hadn't had a upbringing to wrap presents.
"Happy Birthday Brother."
Stefan takes the package from him. "But you've already given me a present-"
"Father helped with this one Stefan," Damon says, he keeps the package held in front of him. Judging by the look on their father's face, he wasn't happy about the monetary amount of 'help' he had to give his son to afford a second present.
But Damon hadn't thought about that. Father had thought of the original present, saying it was 'traditional and practical' which it was -A watch was all fine and well, for a train conductor. However, Damon knew his brother better than their father.
"Don't keep us in suspense Stefan!" A friend from Stefan's school days calls out from where he is standing with a group of other young men.
Stefan takes the cue and opens the package and a book bound in brown leather is revealed inside, the title scripted across it in gold letters:
"The Scarlet Letter."
Stefan stares at the book in shock. "Damon," He runs his hands along the spine reverently. He flips open the first page, eyes darting over the neatly printed words like a hungry man devouring food. He closes it again, eyes on his brother, who is watching him with a smile at his awe.
Stefan does not know what to say. He wishes to hug his brother, but it would not suit in public, especially in front of their father. Instead he places a hand on his shoulder, the embrace transferring to his fingers: "Thank you."
Damon's smile grows brighter: "How about a reading Brother?"
There are hearty "Hear Hears, and "yes do!" 's from their friends.
"I'm not as good as my Damon I'm afraid." Stefan says. He holds the book out to Damon bee shingly. "Please brother, as a last gift?"
Damon makes a big deal with shaking his head like he is annoyed. "Only because it is your birthday little brother." He takes the book with great spectacle amidst a rain clatter of chuckles at his last remark. He opens it to a passage anyway and begins to read from it:
"It is to the credit of human nature that except when selflessness is brought into play, it loves more readily than it hates-
"Hatred by a gradual and quiet process will eventually be transformed to love," Damon throws the book down on the floor.
"Can't believe I bought you that book in the first place." he says to Stefan's still form that he had flung back on the bed. "Hawthorne's a major chick lit author." He takes a swallow of his whiskey, watching the fall and rise of Stefan's chest. Funny how he is waiting for the breaths of someone dead, counting it with the ticking of the wooden table clock Stefan had long ago stolen from their Plantation house back in Virginia.
Damon swallows another gulp of his liquid dinner, then stands up from the chair he had thrown himself in. He shuffles to the bed and drops in the empty space not occupied by his brother.
"Now would be a really good time to stop being Rip Van Winkle Brother, I'm getting bored."
Stefan's only response to this was breathing.
Damon rolls his eyes. "But of course you've always got to be the difficult one." He inspects the wound at his side. Elena had insisted on bandaging it, and it really hadn't changed at all, it was still red, and present. Damon wraps it back up with a sigh."You had to go and be the martyr didn't you?" He swings his feet up over the bed and leans back until he is lying beside his brother.
The bedroom door pushes open, Elena stands in the doorway. Her eyes survey the scene. "How is he?"
"The same," Damon answers her, watching her walk into the room without invitation. "How's Barbie?"
"She's downstairs," Elena answers, sitting on the edge of the bed next to Stefan's hip. "She didn't want to go home."
"Nothing like a house of convalescing vampires to keep the evening alive." Damon responds, watching Elena smooth a hand through Stefan's hair.
"I hate seeing him like this-"
"I know." Damon says back.
Elena continues to card her fingers through Stefan's hair, roaming it down his face, that was pale, not pale like Vampire pale, paler, like someone gravely ill. She turns to her boyfriend's older brother: "You saved his life."
"Don't act so surprised," Damon says." He is my brother after all-"
"Meaning you love him?" Elena finishes. She watches as he watches her back.
Damon doesn't scowl, doesn't say anything, just stares at her. "It's late, you should probably go to sleep."
"Only if you do," Elena insists.
"I don't need sleep," Damon insists back.
Elena doesn't counter. She goes to the cherry wood wardrobe and pulls out an extra blanket she knew to be in there from her previous nights spent in this room.
Damon watches her "You know its kinky how well you know you're way around Stefan's bedroom."
Elena doesn't counter. She spreads it out over Stefan and herself, and lays down in the space allowed next to him. The book Damon has discarded is lying next to her elbow, and she picks it up, reading the title.
"Birthday gift," Damon insists, and there is a pause, a moment where he is staring both at the book and at his brother in equal measure.
Elena hands it back to him. "It'll be okay Damon."
Damon watches her lie close to Stefan and close her eyes.
Damon sits awake in the silence. Elena had switched off the light before falling asleep, but Damon can still see through it all. He doesn't sleep, he watches. Not noticing that moment of watching turning to watching over by a hand going unconsciously to his brother's shoulder.
I don't wanna be a witness to a path that's overgrown
I don't wanna see this house not be a home
'Cause time has taken toll on what we couldn't see
No I don't wanna be a witness to the end of you and me
How am I gonna make each moment better than the last
How am I gonna make it better if I can't go back."
"Was it a good birthday Stefan?" Damon sits with his brother on the steps of their house, catching a late evening breeze. The party goers are disappearing in strings behind carriages and footman. The Champaign is long gone and they are sipping lemonade from simple glassware as they had done when they were boys.
"It was brother," Stefan says gazing off into a point in the night before redirecting his gaze to Damon. "You helped make it so."
"Befalling to female thinking in your old age Stefan?" Damon says.
Stefan laughs and shoves playfully at his brother. And Damon lets it cool his senses like the breeze. He slings an arm causally around Stefan's shoulders like he had wanted to do inside and they stay out there until night turns to day.
Stefan wakes up just before dawn to find a partial sentry around him – Damon there beside him, asleep, like he hadn't done since they were kids. The place next to him was ruffled, like someone else had been there, and left. But right now it was Damon.
Stefan studies this anomaly for a moment before getting up with a weary stretch of overworked muscles. He remembers little about the other night, it comes through in faded patches and dreams of his past, so he doesn't know what he can trust of it.
He wanders to the bathroom and strips for a shower, taking a good 20 minutes under the hot spray to wash off what felt like a year's worth of dried sweat from his body. When he's done he climbs out and wraps a towel around his waist.
When he opens the door he comes face to face with his brother who was standing just on the other side of it.
"Damon!" Stefan snaps, hand instantly going to his towel to prevent it from slipping. "What the hell are you doing?"
"You're alive." Damon says with his ever present smirk.
"Good for you for figuring that out," Stefan returns. "Can I get dressed now?"
Damon holds up his hand. "Please do, this is the total opposite of my fantasies" He lets Stefan push past him in irritation and loot around in his closet for clean clothes.
"So how's the bite mark?" Damon says.
Stefan comes out of the closet in a pair of jeans, buttoning an olive green shirt closed. "What are you talking about?"
"Don't play that Stefan," Damon says. "Malibu Vampire spilled the beans last night when you were seizing from rabies venom."
"It wasn't a big deal," Stefan finished buttoning his shirt up like it's a casual conversation.
"You didn't see you last night Stefan," Damon growls. "You don't get to say what's a big deal!" He takes a step closer to Stefan, than another. "Do you have any idea how stupid it was to run into the mouth of a rabid wolf?"
"What was I supposed to do Damon?" Stefan throws back. "Let it attack Caroline?"
"You're supposed to drink human blood like a regular Vampire!" Damon throws back, back to being a step in front of Stefan's face. "If giving you my blood hadn't worked-"
Stefan's face drew into shock "You gave me your blood?"
"Don't change the subject!" Damon yells, then his voice drops low, but still heated: "Your actions have consequences Stefan. Contrary to popular belief, being a martyr does not just envelope your life. Maybe understand that before you wear Superman's cape again Brother."
"Damon-" Stefan draws out his brother's name slowly, trying to get him to come down off his anger. "I'm fine, alright?" He watches Damon blink, only his brother would have a way of blinkingly angrily at him.
"Thank you." Stefan says after the silence goes on for another minute
Damon looks at him cockeyed "For what?"
"For taking care of me." Stefan says.
Damon wrestles with this statement for a moment. "It's too early for this conversation Stefan, plus I'm not your girlfriend." He turns around to leave.
"No you're right," Stefan says. "You're my brother." He watches as his words turn Damon around to face him again. "So thank you."
"You need to eat Brother," Damon changes the subject "You've got to build your strength up so you can write about your emo adventures in your diary."
Stefan shrugs that dry smile of his and walks past Damon who follows him a step afterwards leaving the rumples mess of a room to the dust and the light.
Caroline is at the base of the steps him "Stefan, oh my god, are you okay?" and as soon as she's Stefan she throws her arms around "I'm so so sorry!"
Stefan offers her a hug in return. "I'm alright Caroline, it's fine." he pulls away and gives her a reassuring smile.
"Are you sure?" Elena has taken a hold of his arm and hugs him next as soon as he releases Caroline.
Stefan folds her into his arms. "I'm sure." he pulls back and kisses her then moves back into the embrace when she instigates it.
"Thank you for taking care of me."
"I love you Stefan," she says in answer, arms going up by his neck. She feels her hands in his hair. "He loves you too." Elena whispers this into his shoulder.
Stefan blinks and finds his eyes going up to his brother, finding Damon doing the same.
They watch each other.
Nothing is said.
Oh the tumbling reservations at the heart of my mistakes
Oh some things you can't go back to 'cause you let them slip away
Oh some things you can go back to, cause you let them slip away…"
I may have stretches some theories as to Stefan being able to get Rabies, but I am going on the idea that Rabies toxin is a blood disease, and thus could possibly stay inside a vampire's system even if it didn't kill them.
Lyrics used are from: "Can't Go Back" By: Rosi Golan from the "Vampire Diaries Season 3 Soundtrack"