Story Title: I Dig a Grave, Deep Enough for Two
Character/Relationships: Stefan/Elena, hinted Damon/Elena and Stefan/Damon
Summary: They bicker because the other option just isn't an option.
Rating: PG (b/c apparently I roll like that)
Warnings: no warnings
Notes: R1C1 entry for tvd_las "weapons we wield".
There are days Elena wonders why Stefan hasn’t killed Damon, or the other way around. She remember times where things between them came to a boil and both brothers bit, scratched, injured, but always backed off before anything irreparable occurred. Watching them makes her question why, after all this time spent together leeching off of their joint suffering, one of them hasn’t ended it; why they continue to persist despite the mutual animosity that radiates off them both.
It is only after some time that Elena comes to realize, though they come to blows and bite and claw and spit venom, these superficial injuries are no where near as injurious as the threat of an eternity faced alone with themselves, should it come to anything more.
They are at a stalemate and the more they interact the more Elena can see the cracks in each of their facades. She can see Stefan’s guilt, the longing and shame on his face when he looks at Damon before it hardens over into disgust and barely manageable tolerance. It isn’t until later, when he whispers bits and pieces of their past into her ear that she finally understands. As long as Damon is around, Stefan can not face down his guilt, his selfishness, for keeping his brother. Katherine may have turned Damon but Stefan changed him. Drunk and new Stefan twined fingers in Damon’s hair, drew him back from the second death he longed for because he lost Katherine, killed their father, and Damon was the only thing left in a world that was quickly slipping away. Damon, weak in his immortal coil, who had already lost almost everything.
Elena watches the disgust in Stefan’s face when Damon drinks and only now realizes that it is directed inward, because he was too selfish to finish him then and nothing has changed. He turns away from Damon’s unashamed feeding because every time he sees blood painted lips he remembers brushing thumbs against a defined jaw bone, holding a soft female body between them, whispering how they could do it together when really he meant, “I won’t do it alone.” And Damon knows, delights in it. Every pulse he consumes stabs at Stefan more deeply than any knife could. Damon plays the monster just as easily as Stefan plays the martyr.
It takes longer for Elena to translate Damon’s sarcasm. He hates Stefan, a bitter and cruel hatred, but he still follows; Damon is still seemingly content to be so close to the person he detests. Elena would like to think it is because of her— would like for it to fill some part of a selfish, romantic fantasy she refuses to admit she has. And, she rationalizes, part of it is. She can see that Damon loves just as diligently as he hates. He is at his worst when he sees them together, and through the barbs she can sense the longing for what his brother always had and he is always seeking.
She wonders if Stefan isn’t using her against Damon. His adoration and kindness is the veneer to a more portentous purpose. Every kiss is a jab; Stefan’s subconscious lashing out underhandedly at his brother to remind him of what he has and what Damon has spent forever chasing— happiness. On darker nights, when she is alone with her thoughts, she wonders if Stefan doesn’t blame Katherine for turning him, for being the spring that fed his guilt, leading to his own Frankenstein’s monster. She wonders if this isn’t some form of punishment for her as well.
Damon is cruel and violent in return but not to Elena (never to Elena) because right now she and Stefan are the only things he has left. They represent in one neat package the past love and the present hate that keep him going. Damon may be the older of the two but Stefan would always be the first, the better of them— first to love Katherine, first to be loved, first to turn, first to turn away, and first to find redemption. Damon is forced to give chase, picking at the carrion left in Stefan’s wake. Damon loves his brother just enough to follow and hates him enough to not leave.
Elena watches them continue to damage each other. Stefan’s guilt for not allowing his brother die that night so long ago keeps him, now, from rectifying his past mistakes. And Damon, who lost everything, clings to his revenge and jealousy. They define themselves through their relationship and are sustained by it, even as it poisons them. It is easier to hate each other than it is to hate themselves and Elena loves them both because, in their flaws, she finds their humanity.
Elena is not scared, but she should be. She is the bridge between them. When, not if, the day comes when the odds are suddenly and sharply un-evened—when Stefan decides that the guilt is not worth it and Damon can no longer bear living second to Stefan—their paths of mutually assured destruction will converge and leave all three of them in ruin.