Disclaimer: The characters in this story do not belong to me.

Secrets

Damon had many secrets he kept from his brother. Some were small, others, not so much. He kept some of these secrets because he knew it would hurt his brother. Worse than anything else he'd done in the past.

The evidence of these secrets he had stashed away in a box kept in his closet where he knew nobody would snoop if they knew what was good for them. The box was plum full of pictures, documents, folders, everything that held the "in-between" years as Damon called them. The years he didn't spend following Stefan around the country and cleaning up after each and every murder. Sometimes Damon thought he should just burn the evidence and be done with it, but he never does. Something about those secrets made Damon feel the years weren't completely wasted searching for Katherine.

Sighing, Damon sat down his now empty bottle while staring into the closet. It was only just past noon, but he didn't want to be in the house with the Scooby Gang just downstairs making a ruckus, so he decided to go to the Grill.

Making his way downstairs and throwing on his signature smirk and leather jacket he nodded to the group sitting in the den. "Don't burn down the house while I'm gone," he said sarcastically.

Stefan sighed at Damon's antics. "Don't kill the bartender," Stefan shot back.

"Whoa, making jokes Stefan? I'm impressed," Damon smirked.

Stefan rolled his eyes as Damon laughed and left the boarding house. Stefan turned to look back at the group in the den consisting of Elena, Caroline, Bonnie, Jeremy, Matt, and Tyler.

"One of these days I'm going to stake him," Stefan sighed and placed his arm around Elena.

"Why is he like that?" Elena asked.

"Like what?"

"He's just so . . . so . . ." Elena stuttered.

"An asshole?" Bonnie supplied.

"Yes, an asshole," Elena said and glanced up at Stefan.

Stefan shook his head and looked at the ground. "He wasn't always like that."

"What do you mean?" Elena asked.

Stefan sighed and looked at the fireplace. "When we were human, Damon was the best brother I could ever ask for. After our mother died when I was 9, and Damon was 17, our father shut down for a while. Damon was there for me. Damon was my role model, he was carefree, adventurous, and fiercely independent. He always played with me, told me stories, hell he taught me how to play football. He basically raised me." Stefan paused and looked to the group's semi-shocked faces. "After he left, things were never the same."

"Left? What do you mean?" Matt asked.

"Damon was a soldier. He was in the Confederacy," Stefan supplied. At this, the group looked shocked.

"Damon was in the Confederacy? Oh my god!" Caroline repeated. She looked flabbergasted.

"I didn't peg Damon as the type of guy to be a soldier," Tyler commented.

"It really wasn't his choice," Stefan started again. At this, the teens' shoulders relaxed a bit. "Our father never approved of Damon or anything he did. I'm not sure why. I always guessed it was because he looked so much like our mother and that reminded father of her death. So father sent Damon to war to 'make something of himself.'"

"How old was he?" Elena asked.

"He was 23 when he left, 24 when he got back. I was 15. He was only gone for under a year, but when he came back he seemed. . . Haunted almost. Yet at the same time, he seemed grown. Our father's motives were a failure. Damon stood up to him more, did what he wanted. He actually left the war on his own terms against father's wishes. It pissed him off to no end. The town saw Damon as rebellious," Stefan chuckled at the memory.

"That sounds like him," Elena chuckled too.

"Does he still have his uniform or anything from the war?" Jeremy spoke up.

"Yeah, does he? Or a picture?" Elena asked.

Stefan shrugged. "Possibly. Why?"

"I think it'd be cool to see Damon's uniform. It's kinda cool he genuinely served in the Civil War," Jeremy shrugged.

"Please?" Elena looked up at Stefan with her doe-eyes. Stefan wasn't able to resist those.

"Alright, I guess I can look. Maybe he has something in his room," Stefan said in defeat as he stood up from the couch. Damon is going to kill me for this.

Stefan sped to his brother's room which smelled of bourbon and aftershave, uniquely Damon. Looking around the room, Stefan didn't see much of his past. Just an empty bottle of bourbon on the nightstand next to a well-used copy of Call of the Wild. Damn.

Stefan was about to leave the room when he caught sight of the cracked closet door. After a few moments debating what to do, curiosity got the best of him and Stefan sped to the closet door then pushed it open. I'm going to get staked.

Walking into the closet, he was met with what seemed nothing but black and grey shirts and leather jackets. Rows of black jeans lined the shelves while black riding boots lined the floor next to a box. Wait, a box?

Stefan walked closer to the box that was tucked into the far back corner slightly behind a suitcase. It looked to be poorly hidden.

Stefan pressed his lips into a thin line while he thought. What is in there? It looked to be a pretty good sized box. Was this where Damon kept all of his things from over the years?

After a few minutes of thinking, his thoughts were interrupted by a set of footsteps climbing the steps and bearing Damon's room.

"Stefan?" Elena called and stepped into the room.

"Hold on!" Stefan called back and quickly snatched the cardboard box, which was actually quite heavy, and exited the walk-in closet.

"Whoa, what's that?"

"I don't know, I just found it hidden in the back of Damon's closet. It's heavy," Stefan said and lifted it a couple of times to signal it was indeed heavy.

"Oh well, bring it down if you think it has Damon's Confederate stuff in it. Jeremy seems to be really interested in it. It's refreshing to see Jeremy interested in something other than getting high and skipping school," Elena said with a sorrowful smile.

Stefan nodded and they made their way downstairs to the den. Stefan sat the box on the mahogany coffee table in the center of the group.

"You found something?" Jeremy asked and moved to sit on the edge of his seat on the couch. Elena moved to stand next to Stefan.

"Not sure yet," Stefan replied. With a concerned look, he finally decided to open up the box.

The box was plumb full. From his point of view, Stefan could not see everything that was inside. But on top of the pile sat a folding, metal picture frame. Stefan recognized this particular item as the photographs that used to sit on Guiseppe's desk when he was human. Stefan reached out to grab it and unfolded it for the group to see.

Inside were two photographs of himself and Damon. On the right was the black and white picture of himself smiling slightly. He was wearing a white button down along with a tan vest and tie. On the left was Damon's picture. He was donned in his grey Confederate uniform complete with the hat. He was not smiling.

"Here," Stefan said and handed the picture to Jeremy and Elena. Jeremy seemed fascinated by the photographs while Elena gasped. After a moment they passed it to the rest of the group.

Stefan smiled then turned back to the box. Next on the pile was a large red photo album. Stefan furrowed his brows at the sight. Photo album? Damon keeps more photos?

With a frown, he reached into the box and pulled out the surprisingly hefty photo album. Tyler sat the folding picture on the coffee table.

"What's that?" Tyler asked gesturing to the album.

"Photo album, but I never thought that Damon of all people to keep photos other than those," Stefan said nodding to the folding picture.

"Me neither," Bonnie said with a confused look.

"Well, are we gonna stand around and talk about these possibly incriminating pictures of our resident asshole or look at them?" Caroline said impatiently.

Stefan rolled his eyes and sat down on the couch while the rest gathered around him.

Stefan let out a breath and opened the photo album.

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