katydidmischief: (trees)
[personal profile] katydidmischief posting in [community profile] cjs_own
disclaimer. Not mine. Never have been and I'll only ever be playing in the sandbox.
title. Sub Silentio
rating. PG-13 for Content
characters. Stefan, Damon, Giuseppe, OCs
summary. Something is wrong, that Damon knows, and he's not liking, at all, what he is thinking.
warnings. Abuse.
notes. Written for this prompt at [livejournal.com profile] tvd_kink.

. one .

It's Stefan their father prefers to bestow smiles and praise on – brilliant, sweet Stefan who tells everyone (from the minute he can form coherent sentences) that, someday, he's going to be a doctor and he'll make it so no one dies. He's prim and proper, does everything Giuseppe tells him to do and never, ever argues; he says the appropriate words when their mother is mentioned, asking God in one breath to watch over the woman Stefan never got to meet and bless his father for managing to keep himself sane with two boys in the next.

Damon, contrary to what Stefan thinks, doesn't particularly care. He grumbles and smarts when their father makes comments, but Damon knows his brother is meant for something more than their banal existence here in Mystic Falls: Stefan's meant for the history books, Damon's life is the one fated to be cut short on the battlefield or squandered away in small town politics.

Quite simply, Damon is not special in his own eyes, let alone anyone else. He's okay with it, too – if no one expects greatness from him, then there is no one to disappoint when he fails. In theory.

To Stefan, Damon is the reason the Earth spins and the sun rises. He started following Damon at nine and half months of age, when Stefan realized that his legs would, in fact, support him, and he's never stopped; he's been Damon's shadow for so many years, Damon is actually quite sad when Stefan turns fourteen and is taken into an apprenticeship with the town physician.

He signs up with the Confederate Army not too long after, needing to feel useful, wanted. Without Stefan, he'd admit that he lacks a purpose, no longer having to escort his brother, teach him his place in their society. The Army might ease the listless feeling, the ache in his chest that says, "You shouldn't be sad like this so much," and "You're making the wrong choice," and "This isn't going to solve your problems."

Damon ignores those feelings and proudly takes his marching orders to Giuseppe, who promptly backhands him.

. two .

He sees the Carolinas with his unit, Georgia and Alabama too. They're ordered to head to Mississippi to aid a unit in Corinth, only to be turned back by the time they reach Tupelo with the sad news that the battle was over – the blood had been shed and they were too late to see the Northerners run through. Instead, they're given the news that the unit is to be given leave, everyone dispatched to their homes for a few weeks while the Generals met with the President.

Damon's glad for it: Stefan's letters, sparse as they are, have been coming with longer gaps between each and with smaller and smaller contents. It is unlike the fifteen-year old who is, as their mother had been, verbose – normally it takes effort to stop Stefan once he begins.

Something is wrong, that Damon knows, and he's not liking, at all, what he is thinking. What seems to be written between the lines.

. three .

It's night when Damon finally walks up to the manor. He's tired and hungry and angry, having been ignored by his father in all the letters he'd sent ahead, asking for a carriage to be waiting for him at the encampment in Richmond.

The servants are asleep, the slaves in their quarters; there is a single flickering light that Damon answers like a siren's call, moving quietly down the hallway to the kitchen. There, by the sink, is Stefan with his head down and his back to the door.

He looks... beaten down, broken.

"Stefan," Damon calls when his brother fails to acknowledge his presence.

Stefan jumps. "Damon?" he whispers as he turns, a grin splitting his face. He's across the kitchen in moments, hugging him too tightly.

"Hello, little brother." Damon lets go of Stefan to say something about their father not telling the younger man that Damon was on his way home, when he sees the dark skin around Stefan's eye. "What's this?" he asks.

"This? We had a patient who was fighting us... it's nothing."

Damon's response is to light the candle on the wall, then the one on the small table in the middle of the room: the light forces them both to blink rapidly as their eyes adjust. Then Damon sees red – a fighting patient resulting in a black eye, he'd buy (the battlefield had broken and bloodied even the heartiest soldiers) – but the ring of bruises around Stefan's neck, the split lip, and the downcast expression tell him the truth.

"Was it Dad? Did he do this?"

"No!" Stefan answers, vehemence in his tone. He licks over his wounded mouth and tugs at his sleeves; they, no doubt, cover more injuries.

"Does he know?" Damon asks, settling his hands on Stefan's shoulders and trying, desperately, to keep the simmering rage within him for now, to keep Stefan from knowing precisely how angry he is.

Stefan refuses to look him in the eye.

No, then.

Damon doesn't realize that he's moved or that he's striding toward the stairs (and their father's room) until Stefan's voice penetrates through the haze in his mind. Pleading and begging, saying, "It's nothing, Damon. I have it under control," while he makes no physical attempt to stop Damon.

"This will just hurt, Dad. Please, Damon, leave it alone."

Resisting the urge to scream, Damon growls then speaks. "Fine, Stefan, fine. I won't tell, Dad – but when I find out who did this, if they haven't already been dealt with, I will..."

Stefan's eyes grow worried yet somehow happy. "Will what?"

"Will take care of it," Damon promises.

. four .

Three days after Damon gets home, he sees his father for the first time. They talk like proper gentlemen, Giuseppe apparently mellowed some by time though Damon knows this likely will not last – they are too similar to be on friendly terms for too long. Giuseppe tells him about their incoming guest, an orphan named Katherine, and about some of the town news; Damon does not ask about the bruises on his brother's body.

At least, until the fifth day of his leave, when Stefan comes home with blood dripping down the back of his neck. There's a cut in hair that he brushes off as an accident on his way home, saying he'll be fine once the bleeding stops; their father disappears to find linens to hold on his boy's head.

Stefan waits a few seconds before reaching toward the bottle on his father's sidetable, taking a hard swig of the whiskey. He grimaces at the taste (like he always has), settles it back down; he sways as he does so which makes Damon's mouth go taut, lips a flat, white line.

"It's fine," Stefan says.

Damon merely sets his hand onto Stefan's shoulder, guides him to their father's chair and forces him into it. He then pulls Stefan forward and begins to work the already-matting hair, untangling it, until he can see the cut far better than he had when Stefan had briefly moved his hand to show Giuseppe earlier.

It's a clean slice. Too neat for it to be done by glass or by stick; the skin around the wound is pink and unmarred.

This... was intentional and Stefan sat still for it...

He bends in close and, in a soft voice, Damon asks, "Did the Doc do this to you?"

Stefan turns his head to look at his brother; his face remains stoic as he hisses, "I said I'm handling it," and sits up. His fingers go back to his scalp to hold the broken skin closed. "I'm handling it."

Giuseppe reappears then. He hands a clean linen to Damon and says, "Good. Keep him sitting. I'm going to fetch the doctor."

Both boys nod in agreement, though Damon's eyes convey anger at the mention of Doc Rhodes that confuses Giuseppe. But Damon's always been a confounding child (he'll figure out what's upset his older son later, when this particular crisis is over) so he goes without question or pause.

. five .

Giuseppe Salvatore knows how his boys see him, as an unyielding, angry man with little sympathy, and it saddens him whenever he thinks of it. Truly, he wants the best for both his sons and he does love them, even when they fight each other and him. Even when they have their little conversations that leave him on the outside, wondering if he'll ever be close to them the way Damon had once been with his mother.

What neither Damon nor Stefan seem to realize, though, is how much he hurts when they hurt. How he'd do anything for them, die for them, beg on his knees to feed them if he had to; he wants to see them happy and accepted and seeing Stefan coming home bloodied and bruised is not making the knot in his gut loosen in any way.

It is these thoughts that keep him brooding on the way back to the manor, once Rhodes had joined him in the carriage. He barely hears the Doc sputter on about how Stefan was a delicate boy, a bit clumsy, and other prattle; Giuseppe never has liked the man.

When they reach the manor, Giuseppe guides Rhodes from the carriage and toward the front door. He is not expecting Damon to be waiting in the foyer when they enter, nor for the fist that rises and crashes into Rhodes face.

"Damon!" Giuseppe yells, horrified, "DAMON!"

"You bastard," the boy seethes. He's forced the doctor to the floor; he's on top of the man in seconds, unrelenting in his assault and his words moving from hisses to yells. Damon rages and rages, spits out angry, bitter insults, until, finally, Giuseppe and their servant Benjamin can pull the young man free of the elderly Rhodes.

Immediately, Giuseppe demands, "Damon, what in the devil's name has gotten into you?"

"He hit Stefan." Damon breaks free of his father's hold, contemplates a good, swift kick to the old man's gut, but manages to restrain himself. "He hit him and he cut him and he..."

The kick that lands, the feral yell that fills the house, comes not from Damon in the minutes that follow, but from Giuseppe himself.

. six .

By the time Sheriff Forbes arrives, Rhodes is dead, but there's wounds on Master Salvatore and on Damon. And when he gets a good look at Stefan, he doesn't need to ask why; Forbes has known for a while that Rhodes had been doing something furtive in his practice, but he'd never had the reason to ask. He wishes, like hell, that he had before the old man's fingers had latched onto the youngest Salvatore boy.

. seven .

Stefan and Damon have long been abed when Giuseppe bids Forbes a good night. The body had been removed swiftly and Benjamin had directed several of the slaves to begin cleaning the blood from the wood; Giuseppe has only one thing on his mind – to see his boys, to reassure himself that they are here and safe.

He finds them in Stefan's room, curled up in his bed together; they'd done this so often as children that Giuseppe had begun to fear that a rumor would spring up of impropriety and he'd quickly broken it up, locking them into their rooms at night until they'd stopped attempting to sneak into each other's bed.

Now he does not have the will or the heart to make Damon leave. He also knows this pattern will be repeating for several days yet – Damon's protective of Stefan, always has been, and this is his way of keeping even the monsters in their dreams at bay.

Giuseppe turns to leave, only to stop a foot from the bed.

His heart is twisting in his chest, his mind reeling. There will be no sleep for him tonight, not when he cannot stop thinking about how easily and happily he'd believed the lies Stefan had fed him while Damon had picked up on the problem within hours. He cannot stop thinking about how horribly he has failed his sons in this instance.

That ends now, he decides as he settles into the armchair in Stefan's room. Oh, he knows they'll continue to try his patience and he has an inkling of some trouble off on the horizon, but they're his boys and that's what children do.
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