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holding out for a hero

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"Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where's the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream
of what I need."





Damon Salvatore would later like to say that he'd known there was something different about his family growing up, but it was a blatant lie; he'd thought his stern father, sweet but unyielding mother, his studious little brother, and his self were the paradigm of the average American family that lived in Virginia, only lacking a white picket fence and the cute little pooch called Fido. He would find that he was exceedingly mistaken.

What he had known was this:

His father was active in the political atmosphere and had been as far as Damon could remember; his mother had even told him that Giuseppe's numerous trips to Washington DC had taken place long before Damon had been born. The only thing that had changed was that Victoire had stopped going with Giuseppe on his often week long trips. His mother had been Giuseppe's partner in his political progress, but had dropped off the radar when she'd had children, and as far as Damon had ever known, she'd just been a homemaker who was adept at many things moms of his classmates hadn't been.

Both elder Salvatore's were on the town's pseudo council that no one else really knew what they did, along with a few of the other "founding families" such as the Gilbert's, Forbes, Lockwood's, Fell's, and etc. They all had children around Damon's little brother's age; Damon was the one exception except for maybe Logan Fell, who was just two years older than he.

Damon had grown up surrounded by these people in a relatively stagnant atmosphere all his life; things had a routine and it was boring. Then, to be cliché, everything started to change.




Things had started shifting in small town Mystic Falls, Virginia one evening at the Mystic Grill in 2004, when Damon was twenty and just barely shy of the legal drinking age. The Grill was packed with loud and happy bodies, all voices raised as the pool tables and dart boards were used, every single table and booth filled to capacity on that June night.

"I'm gonna need some ID, sweet cheeks," Vicki Donovan's mother said with a simultaneously flat and amused look; she knew that Damon was underage but she wasn't exactly the best influence around town as far as following the rules went.

"Come on, Kelly," Damon leered with a smirk, "You know me. Just this once, let it slide." He was home for summer vacation, thisclose to finishing college to get his father off of his back; two more years and then he was free. Of course his father wasn't going to be happy about the major Damon had finally chosen, but he figured the old man should be glad that his eldest son had even gone to university in the first place; he had wanted to travel first before deciding on anything. But Giuseppe always got what he wanted.

"Sorry, sweetie," Kelly shook her head and the messy knot on the top of her skull came loose, making stringy hair fall around her face. "If I let you off one more time, it'll be my ass out on the street without a job."

"Just give me one glass of bourbon."

Kelly's face went slack and the dimmed light in her eyes went out. "Of course," She murmured, "Right away." She stiffly turned and then glided away to fix him a tumbler of bourbon.

Damon sat on his stool, slack jawed even as Kelly returned and set his glass on the table and moved on to other customers. "What the hell?"

"What was that?" The town drunk asked sleepily next to him and Damon turned to face him.

He snapped, "You didn't see anything."

The drunk snuffled and turned back around, seemingly oblivious to the world.

"Damon?" He turned his head to see his old high school sweetheart, Katherine Pierce standing over his shoulder with slightly rounded eyes. It was surprising; one, because Katherine was supposed to be in New York for an internship, and two, because Katherine Pierce simply had never been surprised a day in her life. "What did you just do?"

"Nothing," Damon snapped and his fists clenched and then he forced his self to relax. Quieter, he reiterated, "Nothing happened, Katherine. What are you doing back in town?"

"I saw you though," Katherine insisted and there was a hungry gleam in her eyes that Damon refused to admit unsettled him. "You're . . . special."

"I am pretty fantastic," Damon attempted with a leer, but Katherine only waved her hands impatiently.

"No you dick, I mean that you're like me."

Damon arched his brows despite himself. "Self-centered? Has a tendency to-"

Katherine rolled her dark eyes and grabbed one of Damon's shoulders and pulled him away from the bar and his hard won glass of bourbon. "Come with me," She hissed and Damon let her lead him away to relieve his curiosity.

As she shoved him into the side alley, he wiggled his brows suggestively. "I didn't know you still felt that way about me, Katherine."

Katherine curled her lip and Damon took the time to look at his old flame; she was still beautiful, maybe even more so; her curves were more defined and her clothing style was better than her little sister's; her long dark hair was curled perfectly and fell down to her back; her rosy red lips were curled into a familiar sneer.

"Are you finished yet?" She snapped and put a hand on her hip. "Never mind, don't answer that." Katherine narrowed her eyes. "You really have no idea what you are, do you." It was not a question.

"Devastatingly handsome?"

"You're special," She insisted.

"You keep saying that but I don't think it means what you think it means," Damon rolled his eyes and drawled. "But please, if you must, clarify."

"You can do things that others can't – you told Kelly Donovan to do something and she just did it . . . robotically, like she didn't have a choice," Katherine stated firmly, "And then you told Alaric Saltzman to forget what he saw and he just turned away like nothing happened."

"Okay, someone's been reading too much science fiction, if you're reading into that."

"Fine. I'll show you," Katherine snapped and then strode forwards until Damon's back was up against the rough brick of the Grill's wall. Her hands came to cradle either side of Damon's neck and he felt something pulse into his skin.

Suddenly, he was overcome with heavy, sultry lust for this woman. He ducked his head and his lips met with Katherine's, persistent and wanting. Lust transformed inside of Damon, twisting inside of him into obsession and love and desire – he'd do anything –

He broke away panting and trying to catch his breath while Katherine stood leaning up against the wall like the cat who ate the canary. "What was that?" Damon demanded as soon as he could breathe properly again.

"That's what makes me special," Katherine said smoothly, "I can make anyone I want love me." Her head tilted, "Or at least lust after me – the longer you're exposed the more obsessive you become. I've found that a man will do anything for someone he thinks he's in love with."

"And you just woke up one morning and discovered you could do this?" Damon asked incredulously and wiped his mouth with his hand. While he found Katherine undoubtedly beautiful, he hadn't been in love with her since their Senior Year in high school. The reemergence of that same feeling – or at least a good imitation of it – was startling.

Katherine shrugged. "I think there was an eclipse that occurred first." Her eyes narrowed. "And I've done some digging since then, Damon. My parents are tangled up in something dangerous – something to do with more people like us."

"Hold on a moment," Damon waved a hand at her, "Just because you're a – a freak now and you saw Kelly Donovan me a free drink just because I told her to doesn't mean that I have the same 'powers'" Damon made sure to put air quotes around powers to convey his disbelief, "now? No thanks and Katherine? Stop taking whatever it is that you're taking that makes you think you're a superhero."

Now that his head was clear, Damon could dismiss the feelings he'd just had for Katherine. It was explainable; she was a hot girl and he hadn't gotten laid in weeks. That was all. He'd been overcome with lust.

Katherine's face hardened and her eyes turned to ice. "You bastard."

Damon pointed a finger at her even as he made his way out of the alley. "I'll have you know that my parents may not have been married when they conceived me, but they sure as hell were married when I was born."

"Damon!" Katherine shrieked, "This is important! Our parents are up to something!"

"Aren't they always?" Damon asked ironically, "Thanks for the bullshit, but no thanks. Have fun in the psych ward." He ducked out of the alley with his hands in his leather jacket pockets, ignoring Katherine's fuming behind him.

But still, his mind lingered on Kelly Donovan and Alaric Saltzman, even when he returned home to the Salvatore Boarding House and his father, brother, and the ghost of his mother.




When Damon graduated college and returned home to Mystic Falls two short years later, he'd come to recognize that Katherine had been right and that he was different. But by the time he'd come to his senses, Katherine had disappeared; she'd simply vanished off of the map entirely and not even her family knew where she was or even if she was still alive.

Damon pushed down any feelings of guilt that rose within him; it couldn't possibly be his fault. She had to have finally pushed the wrong person or gotten mixed up in something over her head. Or, more believably in Damon's opinion, probably sitting on some beach in Europe, sun tanning.

But wherever she was, she'd taken her half-voiced theories with her and left Damon in the dark and by himself. Because surely if she'd been right about the abilities schick, she had probably been correct about their parents being up to something.

So he started to snoop around the town and pretended to have an interest in the Council so that he could gather information so he could discern whether or not his father knew about Damon's ability to compel people to do this bidding.

One afternoon while his father was in DC and Stefan was due at any minute from school, Damon hit the jackpot in Giuseppe's office.

It was a careless mistake made by Giuseppe, one that made Damon suspicious; his father was meticulous and wouldn't just leave stuff sitting out or as the case was, leave one of his important laptops behind with an easy password: Victoire

Damon's ice blue eyes roved the pages, finding unfamiliar things like Primatech and the Company all highlighted; things like test subjects and formulas for something that was unclear. There was a long list of names – of people. Damon frowned and promised that he would return that to. Eventually, he found a family tree – multiples.

They were all for the founding families of Mystic Falls. Damon deftly clicked around until he found the Salvatore file; it ended with Stefan and Damon, but led up through Giuseppe's entire Italian family, and even his mother's French side branched off from Damon and Stefan.

"What is this?" He muttered and ran a hand through his dark shaggy hair.

"Damon? What are you doing in Dad's office?"

Stefan's voice was tinny as Damon squinted and found genetic codes next to each name on the tree – and beside that was tiny abbreviations for – for powers. Abilities.

"The hell?"


Next to Damon's name was typed clear as day; compulsion, gift of persuasion; eye to eye contact necessary. Possible threat.

Possible threat?

He looked and saw his father's name and beside it was a small detailed list; healing, system degradation; skin to skin contact necessary. Ally.

Stefan hovered over Damon's shoulder hesitantly, his hands at his sides. "Damon, what is this?"

"I have no idea," Damon lied, and then found Victoire Salvatore; siren; no physical contact necessary; threat eliminated.

Threat eliminated.

Ice flooded his veins and Damon's heart skipped a beat. What did that mean?

Flashed back to his mother's death her sudden illness "it's a part of life Damon." "Some things are meant to happen." "There was nothing that could have been done."

Except that Giuseppe could apparently heal and destroy a person's organs one system at a time.

Just what had his parents been up to? What had Giuseppe been up to?

"Damon," Stefan's voice was urgent now.

"What?" Damon muttered distractedly.

"Damon, I have to tell you something."


"My name is Claire Bennet and that was attempt number . . . well, I've pretty much lost count."

Utter silence filled the Mystic Grill as the patrons stared at the screen and the impossible girl that was standing in front of the camera lens, blond ponytail swinging behind her. Someone dropped a fork on the wooden floor and the sound echoed in the quiet.

"Must be something in the water up there," Someone joked but it only got a few nervous titters of laughter. Three teenage girls joined the tentative laughter with fake smiles and nervous glances at each other and their friends. At the bar, Damon Salvatore sat next to his little brother, Stefan. They exchanged incredulous looks.

"I could kill her," Damon said lowly and forcefully, "I could kill that stupid little girl for revealing all of us in live national television."

"Damon," Stefan warned.

"And I wouldn't regret one second of it," Damon finished, "Do you know why? Because now we're going to be roundedup like cattle at the slaughter and killed because of that stunt she just pulled."

"You don't know that," Stefan said mildly.

"Don't be naïve, Stefan." Damon said shortly, "It'll be like Nazi Germany all over again."

"It's nice to see that you have such faith in humanity," Stefan deadpanned.

"Hard to when you see the shit that happens every day on the news," Damon snapped back, "and with your own eyes on occasion." Despite having lived with his little brother since the teenager had been born, Damon couldn't believe Stefan's unwavering optimism and faith in people. It would get him killed if given the chance; not that Damon would let that happen. Especially not because of that little cheerleader who'd just jumped off of a cheerleader and got back up again to tell the tale.

"Okay, Damon," Stefan said, conceding, but Damon knew the conversation was far from over. Stefan would probably wax poetically about it in his journal and then after some brooding, open the topic back up for conversation that would devolve into a fight.

"I can't tell if that was a publicity trick of if aliens have invaded," The bar tender, Kelly Donovan, muttered to Damon and Stefan while giving that a sidelong squint, "Who the hell gets up from a fall like that and lives?"

"It was probably for some movie," Stefan suggested gently while Damon rolled his eyes at the woman's obliviousness; her own son was one of them, a "special" with a unique ability. Matt had been careful to keep her out of "the know" though, fearful of her reaction to a son that turn his own skin into metal.

Kelly hummed noncommittally and disappeared to bother Jonathan Gilbert, who sat a bit farther down the bar by himself.

"We'll just have to wait and see how this goes," Stefan hedged warily to his brother as soon as the woman was gone.

"Sure. And when I'm proven right and everything goes to hell in a hand basket, we're getting out of the country," Damon said flatly. "I'm thinking Paris might be nice. Or maybe Prague."

Stefan only rolled his eyes and the Salvatore brothers became quiet in their contemplation of the future – and their place in it.


"We're losing her!"

"Risk of brain damage just increased – Salvatore, get the defibrillator ready!"

Stefan nodded as they wheeled their dying patient into the OR and spun to get defibrillation paddles. He grabbed the equipment and turned back – only for the patient to start to choke on her own blood and cough, sending a fountain of the sticky substance spewing towards him, another doctor, and the nurses in the nearest vicinity, and more importantly, all over their defibrillator.

"Take over CPR," Doctor Fell demanded as she jumped to check out the machine to make sure it was still useable.

"Is that a good idea if she's vomiting blood?" Stefan asked shortly.

"Just do it," Doctor Meredith Fell snarled.

Stefan's face pinched but he quickly made his way to stand on the other side of their patient; the young woman was pale as death, her blue eyes rolled back up into her skull as her heart raced like a baby rabbit's. Stefan chanced a glance around the room, but everyone was otherwise occupied. His own heart rate speeding up, Stefan slipped off one of his plastic gloves and deftly placed three of his fingers against the woman's neck.

He fought back a gasp but the woman couldn't; her eyes flew back open and her whole body shuddered as she tried to grab air inside her lungs. Stefan murmured platitudes to her and turned his body so that the nurses and Meredith only saw his back as he healed the woman.

He felt her wounds disappearing, transferring to him. Stefan felt his own breathing stutter and he pulled away, rasping, "She's stable."

"How the hell did you –" Meredith cut herself off and went to attend the woman. Her brows rose and her lips twisted into an incredulous smile. "Without fail, Salvatore, you always surprise me. Get out of here, I've got this covered now." The defibrillator, now useless, was pushed back as Meredith and the nurses took over.

Stefan shot one last glance towards the women and then staggered out of the OR and dragged his body to the nearest restroom. It was empty, thankfully, and so Stefan locked the door quietly behind him and then stumbled to the wall, where he slid down to the floor. He raised his shirt and found large, dark purple bruises littering his chest and abdomen; the area over his heart was particularly tender.

Stefan reached into his back pocket and snagged out the two Aspirin and dry swallowed them. He checked his watch; his shift was over.

He rose to his feet, already feeling better, and stepped back out in the bustling hospital hallways. Stefan strode away and collected his things and shed out of his scrubs, stuffing them in his messenger bag to wash that evening at his home. Stefan's phone flashed; three voicemails. He sighed and listened to the first one as he stepped out and started for the hospital exit.

"Hi Stefan, it's Elena. Don't forget that Jeremy's art gallery presentation is this Saturday and that you have to remind Damon because he's not talking to me today. Make sure that he wears something nice!"

"Stefan! I've called you five times in two days and you still haven't called me back! Klaus asked me out, like on a date! You're his best friend," Caroline had paused here and then amended, "Okay, you're probably his only friend. But that's not the point! I think I actually like him – beep." Stefan had to smile; out of all of his friends, Caroline was the only one to talk all the way to the end of the message without actually being finished.

"Hello, Mister Salvatore, I am Doctor Mohinder Suresh and I would like to meet with you to talk about something of the utmost importance. My telephone number is -, so please call me back so we can discuss when and where is a good time for you. Thank you."

Stefan frowned. That was curious. He shoved his phone back into his pocket and then looked up when he heard a commotion in the hall in front of him; he was at the ER exit where several ambulances were stopping and paramedics were unloading numerous people with burns and wounds from what looked like debris.

He grabbed a nurse and asked urgently, "What happened?"

The harried woman ran a hand through already messy hair; she was clearly one of the new ones. "There was a huge building fire in one of the offices in the city; they're distributing the patients to all hospitals within a five mile radius. There are some ones pretty bad off, and I'm needed, so excuse me." She ducked away and Stefan's lips pressed into a fine line.

His decision was easy.

He ducked behind the receptionist and stuffed his messenger bag there and the rolled up his sleeves and dove into the messy fray, eager to help in any way possible.




When Stefan finally got home it was nine in the morning and he was exhausted and sore. He dropped his messenger bag on the kitchen table of his apartment, grabbed two more aspirin, and fell onto his couch, turning on the TV to see if the situation with the fire had been remedied since his five extra hours at the hospital.

His phone rang at the same time that someone starting knocking on the front door. Stefan almost moaned, but pulled himself together as he answered his phone and strode towards the door.


"Stefan," It was Caroline, "I really need to talk to you-"

"Can it wait until later, Care? There's someone at my door," He asked and then squinted. There was an average height, lean Indian man outside of his door with a black briefcase that was accompanied by another man, this one taller – maybe 6'2", 6'3" – who had dark hair and severe eyebrows.

"Oh, sure," Caroline sighed, "Yeah, I'll you later."

"Thanks. Bye, Caroline." He put his phone away after hanging up.

Stefan opened the door and the first man looked relieved. "Hello, Mr. Salvatore, I – is this a bad time?" He frowned at Stefan and the twenty-eight year old man looked down at his self. He did look kind of rugged.

"It's been a long night," Stefan allowed and had to stifle a yawn. A twelve hour shift plus the extra five hours he'd spent in the ER healing the most wounded ones just enough so that they had a chance to survive, and then using the skills he'd learned at medical school to help others.

"This is a mite urgent, if we could just talk for a moment, and then I'll be out of your hair," The Indian man said and Stefan opened the door to let him and his friend inside. He led them into his living room, where the news was still playing about the fire and his cat, a ginger Persian named Donna, was lying in his previous spot on the couch.

"I'm Doctor Mohinder Suresh," The man introduced with a small smile and stuck out his hand, "This is Zane Tyler from Virginia Beach. I'm a geneticist; I've picked up my father's research on the evolution of human beings and I have reason to believe that you might be one of these gifted people who have already begun to exhibit traits of that evolution."

Stefan thought about his healing that he'd inherited from his father and the compulsion that Damon had started using that was similar to his mother's siren call.

"Can I get you a cup of coffee?" Stefan asked instead of saying anything else, because he sure as hell needed ne to get through this conversation without dropping off to sleep in the middle of it.

"No thank you," Suresh said, but he followed Stefan as he went into the tiny kitchen of his New York apartment and poured himself a mug of cold coffee left over from the previous day. He grimaced, but swallowed it down.

"Who are you, then?" Stefan asked Zane Tyler and the large man gave him a hesitant smile.

"I'm special and I'm traveling with Mohinder to help find others like me," Zane said quietly.

Stefan blinked and looked at the other man; he'd not met anyone with a special ability outside those he'd known in Mystic Falls. "Doctor Suresh," Stefan said, "I want to know what you plan on doing with these 'gifted people.'" Donna the cat meowed from the living room.

"I just want to warn them," Dr. Suresh said calmly, "because there are people after them. These gifted people are important to the further survival of the human race, and I am worried about what will happen to them if they fall into the wrong hands."

"How'd you find me?" Stefan asked intently, "What makes you think I'm one of them?"

"My father, Dr. Chandra Suresh," Mohinder explained, "He had a list of people he suspected of having abilities. He made it from looking at the human genome project. Giuseppe Salvatore was on it from what I can tell, these abilities are hereditary. I did a little research and found that he had two sons."

"And the doctor was the more approachable one?" Stefan asked dryly and thought about Damon in the CIA.

"Your brother wasn't in the area," Mohinder nodded.

"So, are you . . . special?" Zane asked and Stefan frowned at the almost hungry glint in the larger man's eye.

Stefan kept a poker face, even as he thought about the right thing to do. If he and others like him really were in danger, it would be best to find out what exactly was going on so he could warn Damon and his friends. However, he knew it wasn't particularly smart to reveal himself to literal strangers.

As if seeing his struggle, Zane offered, "I can show you what I can do, if that'll help you trust us a little more."

Stefan crossed his arms and eyed Zane and Mohinder carefully, nodding once. "Alright."

"Is there something you don't particularly care for? Something you don't want?" Zane immediately asked and Stefan thought about it.

"Wait here."

He left them in the kitchen and grabbed the necklace that Elena had returned to him when they'd ended their relationship at high school graduation. "You can use this."

Zane eyed the clearly feminine necklace. "Bad break up?"

"Zane," Mohinder warned quietly.

"Something like that," Stefan agreed with Zane and then he waited.

Zane set the silver necklace on the kitchen table and touched it with his pointer finger; then the necklace simply . . . melted into a puddle of silver liquid. Stefan's brows furrowed.

"Your turn." The smile Zane gave Stefan chilled the medical doctor.

Stefan's bruises reminded him of the all of exercise his ability had gotten that day as he shifted and winced. "My father was a healer."

Mohinder perked up and Zane's eyes flashed. "What kind of healer?" The other special demanded.

"He couldn't heal himself, but he could heal everyone else," Stefan explained, "but his . . . gift . . . had a flip side. Giuseppe could also hurt people with his power – he could tear down their bodily systems one at a time until the person was dead. But because he was also a healer, he could turn an – an organ off and on."

"Torture," Mohinder choked, simultaneously amazed and disgusted. Stefan could see the question on his face but chose to ignore it.

"'Had?'" Zane asked.

"He's dead now," Stefan clarified, watching Zane carefully. "My mom was a siren, which I imagine is self-explanatory; she could call people to her with her singing."

"Did you or your brother inherit your parents' abilities?" Mohinder asked curiously.

Stefan licked his lips. "I have empathetic healing, which means I can heal people, but I'm not really making their injuries disappear, I'm transferring some of it to myself. Usually it will manifest into bruises." He rolled his long sleeve shirt and show them his arms and the bandaged lacerations and welts that littered them. "There was an accident this morning and a woman shattered the bones in both of her arms. I made it so that they were only factures and now she'll be able to have basic motor functions back instead of having metal rods for the rest of her life. I have these."

Mohinder looked extremely interested, although Zane's curiosity seemed to have petered off of his ability.

"Sounds painful," Zane lamented.

"Indeed," Mohinder agreed.

"But I help people," Stefan said flatly and then professionally rolled his sleeves back. He looked up at his guests. "Is there anything else?"

"Just keep a look out for others like you and be aware for others looking for you," Mohinder declared, "Not all are just curious or helpful. There's a Company that is willing to do anything to get other Specials into their fold, sometimes just to lock them up."

"Understood," Stefan nodded and then led the men out.

"What's your brother's talent?" Zane asked suddenly and Stefan narrowed his eyes.

He lied. "He doesn't have one."

Zane's eyes widened fractionally but then narrowed. "It must have been difficult to find out everyone else around him was different and he was ordinary."

"Say whatever you want about my brother, but ordinary he is not," Stefan said wryly and then all but pushed the men out his door. "Have a nice day."

He shut and bolted his door and turned back to Donna, who was meowing plaintively. "Bedtime?" He asked her quietly and the cat jumped up and raced off to his bedroom.




Stefan woke up to the sound of his front door being bashed in. Donna sprang up and tried to hide beneath the bed, but Stefan nabbed her in his arms. "Shh."

"Come out and play, Stefan," Zane's voice taunted. "I know you were lying about your brother. He's got a talent. And I want it."

Heavy footsteps clomped across the floor and wandered the apartment, passed the bedroom door. Not even daring to breathe, Stefan slipped out of his bed and shimmied the lock on his window. He pulled down the fire escape, holding his breath as it screamed from disabuse. The footsteps paused.

"Your talent may be a bit to masochistic for me, but since Mommy was a siren, I bet big brother has something like that. I'd love to collect his gift."

And then started towards his room.

"If you tell me where he is, I'll let you live."

Stefan jumped out onto the fire escape and went down the rusty stairs, jumping the four feet to the ground at the end of them. Still carrying Donna, who was yowling in irritation, Stefan sprinted down the alley and to the street and hailed a cab.

"Where to?"

"Harlem," Stefan spluttered and the cab driver gave him a sidelong glance that conveyed his disbelief.

"You sure?"

"Please," Stefan asked and the man only shrugged and started driving. Behind them, Stefan could hear the fire escape being blasted off its support system on the brick wall and a scream of frustration.

The drive was long, long enough that Stefan realized that he was wearing sweat pants and a white wife beater and holding a ginger cat in his lap. His hair, without its usual product, was in disarray, and his green rose tattoo stood out on his pale shoulder.

"We're in Harlem," The cab driver stated, "Where do you wanna go, pal?"

Stefan rattled off an address and the man took him to a corner house, where he stepped out of the cab. "Wait five minutes and I'll pay you," Stefan reassured him and took Donna up the porch steps.

The neighbors were already gathering and staring at his state of undress, making Stefan flush. He knocked on the door.

"Stefan?" Jeremy's eyes were round.

"Stefan's here?" Bonnie's voice called and then she was standing shoulder to shoulder with her husband, Jeremy Gilbert. "Where are your clothes?"

"I was attacked," Stefan explained and Donna jumped from his arms and ran into the couple's house to play with their small dog. "I need to pay cab fare – I'll pay you back."

"Of course," Bonnie nodded and Jeremy rummaged around his pockets and handed him a twenty. "But then you need to explain what happened."




Later, when he was clothed and Bonnie was on the phone with Elena to tell her to either catch a flight to New York or run as fast as she could in the other direction and Jeremy had to go in to the gallery, Stefan called Damon on his private number.

"What?" The older man demanded.

Stefan licked his lips. "I did something stupid."

Damon cursed. "I just got back from a hard case, can I call you later? I want to get roaring drunk first."

"I told a geneticist about us because he was trying to warn me about the Company and his friend just came back to my apartment."

"The Company?" Damon asked in a strangled voice. "How does your geneticist know about the Company?"

"I have no idea," Stefan said, "but he seemed against it."

"What about his crazy friend?"

"He talked about collecting your ability," Stefan explained, "that's why he came back. I think he was impersonating someone, because Dr. Suresh clearly had no idea when he brought him with him."

There was a moment of silence, then, "He wanted to collect an ability? Those were his exact words?"


"Your geneticist friend might be in danger," Damon said grimly, "because I think his buddy is Sylar."


"We have to do something with the Catalyst," was a common phrase in the Company for the past two weeks, and Victoire was just about done with hearing about it, but considering she was in Japan with the Nakamura's, her children, her husband and about 90% of the rest of the Company, she didn't find that very likely.

"Mom. Mommy. Mom. Mommy. Mother."

Victoire sighed and adjusted the screaming baby in her arms so that he was nursing and the cries quieted. She turned to look at her seven and half year old son who was gazing up at her with big blue eyes and clasped hands.

"Yes, Damon?"

"I'm bored. When is Dad gonna be done talking with those other old guys?" Damon's bottom lip pooched out in a lethal pout.

"It'll be a little while yet. Why don't you go and play with Hiro?" She indicated the little Japanese boy who was focused intently on the game in his Gameboy. The ten year old only paused to push up his glasses on his nose and then his attention was consumed once more.

Damon scowled. "He doesn't know any English except for 'please', 'thank you,' 'I need to go to the bathroom,' and where is the train station?' How are we supposed to play together if we don't understand each other?"

"A valid question," Victoire murmured to herself. "Just . . . just go try, alright baby?"

Damon sighed and then slouched off to play with the older boy. Victoire followed suit and sighed and cradled her other baby boy to her chest. Stefan slipped off to sleep and Victoire covered back up in time to see Noah Bennet striding her way with a baby in his arms.


"Hello, Noah," Victoire smiled.

"I need to speak with Giuseppe and Kaito. Would you mind keeping Claire for a moment?" Bennet's gaze was intense, but his hold on the baby in his arms was gentle.

"Your new assignment," Victoire said knowingly.

"Yes," Bennet agreed without blinking.

"Alright then." Victoire nodded and took the her from Bennet, sliding Stefan over so that both babies had enough room in her arms. Bennet watched avidly. "Hi, there, Claire," Victoire murmured, smiling. The little blonde girl giggled and wiggled in Victoire's grasp, making the French woman hold her tighter. Claire was about a year old, just six months older than Stefan. "You have pretty green eyes, just like Stefan's. Don't you?" She cooed at the little baby, smiling and tickling.

Bennet hadn't left yet. "I got a visitor, a pretty young woman, and she said that the Company wanted to take back Claire for a moment – to do something to her. You wouldn't happen to know what that is, would you?"

The Catalyst, of course.

"No," Victoire said sweetly. Her husband had been talking with Kaito and Kaito's wife about transferring the Catalyst for a while now, ever since Kaito's wife's illness couldn't be healed even by Linderman or Giuseppe. Kaito wanted to use little Claire Bennet, Kaito's wife wanted to keep in it in the family for ten year old Hiro, and Giuseppe wanted to use one of his boys. At the thought, Victoire squeezed the babies closer to her and repeated, "No." The big question was, who was the young woman and how had she known about the catalyst in the first place?

"I think you're lying," Bennet said quietly, his eyes not leaving her face.

"Maybe," Victoire agreed.

"I'm going to take Claire then," Bennet said calmly, "And take that young girl's advice; I'm not going to let them do anything more to her." His eyes searched her face.

"Then why did you come?" Victoire asked.

"I wanted to know if you had any idea about what they were doing," Bennet answered, surprisingly truthful. "You're a mother. Surely you wouldn't let something awful done to a child."

Victoire's smile froze on her face, but she kept it up stiffly. She tilted her head but heard no one coming. She took a breath. "Take Claire and disappear for a couple of days. Tell them you were out of contact or there was a sudden emergency, I don't care, I don't know. If you really want to keep Claire out of this right now, you'll figure something out." Victoire realized that already Bennet was falling in love with his little girl.

Bennet's eyes lit up as he took his adoptive daughter back into his own arms. "So, you do know?"

Victoire diverted his line of questioning. "You do realize that they'll take her back. They'll take her away from you."

"I have at least sixteen years left," Bennet said serenely, "hopefully more."

Victoire nodded slowly and cradled Stefan closer to her breast as Bennet took his daughter and left. Across the room, Damon and Hiro's play got louder. Footsteps approached the door.

"Victoire, honey, bring Stefan back to Ishi," Giuseppe's voice called. "We've come to a decision."


Damon woke up as slender fingers plucked the cannula from his nose and a dark bag was pulled from his face. He blinked the drowsiness away from his eyes and he rolled his head to the left to see that he was just one in a lineup of many seated on a cargo plane.

Memories began to trickle to the forefront of his mind as strength returned to his limbs. A pretty blonde girl was crawling down the aisle, waking up the others, and a young man around Damon's age was trying to stand. Damon rattled his hands but they were locked in chains to his seat. He grimaced.

"Hey, Barbie," Damon croaked and the blonde girl turned to look at him. "Help a guy out of these?"

"We're trying to get out of the sky-"

"I can make the pilot land safely," Damon promised, "I can be very compelling."

Barbie was indecisive for a moment before coming to a decision. "Mohinder, break him out." A lean Indian man nodded and snapped Damon's cuffs.

"Thanks," He smirked and strode to the cockpit. The other young man that Damon had seen earlier was wrestling with some guards, clearing the way. Damon stuck his head in and found two men; the pilot and the man with the horn-rimmed glasses who had been the one to grab him and Stefan out of the Boarding House in Mystic Falls.

"You're going to sit and shut up until I tell you otherwise," Damon snapped the horn-rimmed glasses guy first and the man obeyed – he had to. Damon then turned to the pilot. "You're not going to alert anyone of what's happened and in fact, going to take us somewhere nice and secluded and far away from wherever you'd been instructed to. Got that?"

"Yes," The pilot droned and turned the plane very suddenly in another direction.

"Oh my God," The blonde girl was suddenly next to Damon. "Dad? What are you doing?"

The man didn't answer and the girl glanced at Damon. "What did you do?"

"I told him to shut up until I could deal with him," Damon said, "Now, what did you know about this?"

"Nothing," The girl swore and she glanced at her father again. "I had no idea he was in on this."

"Tell me the truth."

"I didn't know," She muttered.

"Okay, thanks," Damon smirked and went back to find his brother. He heard the shriek of indignation behind him.

"So you can just tell people what to do and they do it?" She demanded when she caught up with him. The other young man who'd taken out the guards looked up sharply and the one called Mohinder gave them a curious glance. A big guy lifted his head and narrowed his eyes.

"Yup, let's move on," Damon said, "I'm Damon Salvatore and I'm looking for my baby brother."

"Over here," He heard Stefan mutter and Damon loped over to the other side of the plan where Stefan was healing a couple of passengers. "Finished," He smiled weakly at them and staggered away."

Damon clasped a hand on his shoulder. "Take it easy."

Stefan rolled his eyes. "I'm fine. Those people weren't."

"Then sit down while you're healing them," Damon snapped.

"Hey, Damon," The young man earlier interrupted and walked towards him and clasped hands – there was barely a tingle and then he backed up.

"What was that?" Damon demanded and tried to shrug off Stefan's restraining hand on his shoulder.

The man raised his hands in a nonthreatening manner. "I'm Peter. I can mimic other's powers, but I've got to have contact. I'm going to ask the guys up front a few questions."

Damon sniffed. "Ask next time, dick."

Peter nodded and disappeared, only to be replaced by the blonde Barbie. "I'm Claire."

"Hi Claire," Stefan smiled. "I'm Stefan."

"Do you think you could take a look at a friend of mine?" Claire asked Stefan and he nodded. Damon watched as she led him over to a Japanese man. "He's having nosebleeds and we're not sure . . ." Their voices got lower and Stefan placed a soothing hand onto the Japanese man's temple.

Everything was still except for the few people still waking up until Stefan's hand dropped and he fell backwards. Damon frowned and headed over.

"Stef?" He bent down and found that Stefan's nose was bleeding but the Japanese man was right as rain now, or at least better enough to be concerned for a stranger. "Stefan."

The teenager blinked and put a hand to his own head and wiped the blood from his nose on the back of his hand. "Ow."

"You okay?" Damon demanded.

"Yeah, yeah I'm fine," Stefan reassured him.

Peter's low voice called back from the cockpit, "We're landing, guys, so hold on tight."

"Well, I need a drink," Damon muttered.

Stefan grimaced as he sat up with Claire's help. "Sounds good to me." The plane shuddered and then took a dive, making all of the passengers grab on to each other and the walls of the tin plane. It was a rough land, but they were all unharmed as it came to a stop. The door of the plane opened and light streamed in.

"Great," Damon drawled. "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, kids."

"We out of gas, the pilot says," Peter said, joining Damon at the opening.

Outside, desert was all the eye could see for miles.


+ One

"You're very . . . special, aren't you?" The man was over six foot and prowled like a hunter – an experienced hunter.

But he wasn't half the monster that the Ripper was, who killed for fun and games. Stefan arched his brows as they circled each other, neither giving an inch.

"So my friends tell me," Stefan agreed with a wicked grin. Having his humanity turned off was such a gift; he planned to enjoy it to the fullest.

"You can heal," The man continued, "I want that. But the girl I was planning on getting that power from is a bit difficult to get to. And then I found you."

Stefan's gums itched with the desire to release them and to tear into the man's flesh. He licked his lips. Klaus and Rebekah would be back soon.

"You've got healing, strength, superior senses, mind compulsion . . ." The man grinned, "The list goes on. So, if you would just hold still . . ." He lifted his finger and Stefan felt his skull opening up and blood dripped down his face.

He held in a scream.

Sylar frowned. "I can't – there's something off about you. I can't – I can't take your powers." He twitched his hand and Stefan flew across the room as Sylar advanced on him. "Why can't I take your powers?"

Stefan smiled through a bloody mouth. "Because I'm not human." And he sprang, burying his teeth into Sylar's neck, tearing and severing veins and arteries. Sylar's head dropped and rolled across the room and his body fell to the floor in a crumpled heap.





"Another of Stefan's victims?" Damon frowned when he saw the man's decapitated head.

Next to him, Sheriff Forbes made a noise that sounded like a stifled gasp.

"What?" Damon demanded.

"If your brother killed this man, he probably just did the only good thing he'll do while he's with that hybrid monster," Liz regained her composure and pointed at the body. "This is Sylar. He's on the top of every single wanted list in the country; he's a brutal serial killer."

Damon cocked his head to the side.

"Way to go, Stefan," He muttered.

"Bag him and tag him!" Liz shouted to her deputies, "And somebody call the Feds to tell them we got their boy!"