The Things You Miss
For Red.
By Rhiannon.


It was a December wedding. Matt was pretty sure that it had been Alaric's suggestion, with the silver and gold streamers and mistletoe hanging over every door and shadowed corner. Even now, Meredith was not a romantic, and he suspected that she would have been just as pleased with a courthouse marriage.

His eyes drifted across the crowded reception hall to the bride in question, dancing with her head tucked under her new husband's chin. He thought that this might be the happiest he had ever seen her, her eyes closed and a faint smile curving her lips. Alaric of course was much more vocal in his happiness, laughing at every joke and grinning at anyone who even so much as glanced in his direction.

Actually, he was doing it now, beaming at Matt as though he personally was responsible for all of this marital bliss. Matt smiled and raised his hand in a little wave of acknowledgement, then turned away from the happy couple.

The open terrace door on the other side of the room beckoned to him, promising cool air and a chance to escape the crowd for a few minutes. This early in the reception, it was unlikely that anyone else would be out there. His mind made up, he started to weave his way through the crowd. He took a glass of champagne from a caterer in reindeer antlers without really knowing why. The glass of wine that had been served with dinner had been more than enough.

He didn't realize until he had stepped through the double glass doors that he had misjudged the emptiness of the terrace. Near the edge, where the lights just barely touched and the shadows were thickest, stood an even darker shadow, raven head bowed over the railing.

Matt hesitated briefly, then went to join Stefan.

He tucked his hand into his pocket as he stopped beside the other man, and rattled the change there speculatively. Stefan didn't seem surprised that he was there, which meant that he had heard Matt coming... Or the idea to come outside for a breath of fresh air hadn't been entirely his own.

Once the thought might have troubled him. Now the only thing that he found troubling was the fact that it didn't. Wordlessly he offered the champagne flute.

"I don't drink... wine."

Matt gave him a dirty look out of the corner of his eye, and saw Stefan's grin flash white in the darkness.

"It was a lovely ceremony," the vampire said, after a moment's awkward silence. Matt almost laughed at how incongruous the polite little words sounded on Stefan's lips. At the same time, it made him sad. Had they grown so far apart these last couple years that they were reduced to idle small talk? Was there nothing left of the bonds forged when they had been facing Damon, and Katherine, and finally Klaus?

And Elena. Elena too.

"It was," was all he said, and he was surprised to find that his own voice was as carefully neutral as Stefan's.

They both half-turned at a sudden thrill of laughter from inside, and Matt's attention was caught by a small group of women just a few feet beyond the frosted glass panes of the door. The vibrant red and green bridesmaids' dresses looked surprisingly good on cool, auburn-haired Caroline and sprightly Bonny. The same colors should have made Elena look pale and washed out, but as usual she looked beautiful. The ice princess at a winter wedding, surrounded by her court once again.

They bother turned away after minute or two, but Matt saw how Stefan's eyes lingered just a moment longer.

"You're pining for her," he said, and the tone remained polite even though he knew that the words weren't.

Stefan looked startled for a moment, then shrugged and turned back to look over the railing once again. "Aren't you?"

He couldn't respond to that, so instead he followed Stefan's gaze out across the pitch black hotel parking lot and to the highway beyond. "Have you spoken to her?"

"Not any more than I've had to."

Matt didn't press any further. He knew what it was like to have your heart broken by Elena. You couldn't even be angry at her afterwards. You just kept loving her all the same, and wondering if it would every stop, and doing stupid death-defying things simply because she had asked.

"Sometimes I think that none of us have really moved on from those days." Matt said, and laughed softly, although he couldn't hear much humor in the sound. "Take the wedding, for instance. I don't think that Meredith has spoken to Caroline since before college, but she looked her up to ask her to be at the wedding. And Alaric... I didn't know him too well then, and the years haven't really made us closer. But here I am, his best man. I couldn't say no any more than he could have not asked." He looked down, and ran a hand over the rough stone of the rail. "I guess what they say is right. No one ever really recovers from highschool."

Stefan didn't look at him, and his smile was a little sad. "So you're saying that we all need therapy?"

"Yes. No." Matt glanced at Stefan again, and tried not to notice the pale perfection of his profile, the way that his dark hair curled against the collar of his white button-up shirt. "I'm saying that maybe all of us are pining, just a little bit."

"That's hardly a happy thought."

Matt paused, and remembered an afternoon spent pouring over diaries in the library all those years ago. Remembered demanding answers of the man beside him, and getting none... But somehow that had been alright too. "I never claimed to be an optimist." He chuckled softly, and it felt more real this time. "Neither did you."

Stefan smiled, and took the champagne flute from his hand. He took a sip, grimaced, and set it down on the cold stone of the rail. The movement placed his arm against Matt's, but neither of them made any move to correct this. "And what do you pine for? Besides her."

"I don't know. I kind of miss football."

That made the vampire laugh, and the sound seemed precious simply because it had always been so rare. When the silence returned, it wasn't as awkward as it had been, and when another burst of bright laughter reached them from within the hall neither moved to look. It was a long time before Matt turned to go back inside.

He stopped only briefly, one hand resting on the doorknob. "Stefan?"

"Yes?"

"I pined for you."

The words fell into the sudden silence like stones into a smooth lake, and he could practically feel the ripples they left in their wake. He felt strange having said them, and almost opened his mouth to take it back, but... No. It had needed saying.

He saw the startled gleam of Stefan's eyes in the shadows, like a cat's when the light reflected off them. Then he pulled open the door and let himself be swept up in the noise and chaos and a horribly off-key rendition of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" sung by several very drunken groomsmen.

But even in the light and the warmth, with Alaric smiling like he had just won the lotto and Bonnie taking his arm to lead him onto the dance floor in spite of his protests, he couldn't seem to forget the uneasy comfort of a hard shoulder resting lightly against his own, or the flash of a pair of catlike eyes from the shadows.



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