Series: The Vampire Diaries (television series verse)
Word Count: 3,055
Characters, Pairings: Stefan/Elena/Damon
Summary: They go in circles: their lives revolve around Stefan’s guilt, Elena’s kindness, and Damon’s anger.
Warnings: Spoilers if you haven’t seen up to 3x09, angst, language, incest, sexual content.
Notes: This was a prompt requested by ever_neutral at the TVD comment ficathon here. Prompt was: Stefan/Elena/Damon: We gladly run in circles but the shape we meant to make is gone. I’m not even going to bother with assuming what happens between Klaus and Stefan in the upcoming episodes, guys. I don’t want to royally screw everything up. This takes place after all that, when Stefan returns. I’ve never written the three of them together before so I was kind of like “WHAT AM I DOING?” while writing this. XD Sorry if it’s awful!
The Stefan that knocks on the door (of his own home, no less) on that cloudy morning nearly a year after he left the both of them is neither the Stefan that she loved (loves, yes… still) nor the Stefan that she feared. This is a Stefan that she doesn’t know—a Stefan who is neither devoid of emotion nor overflowing with it. This is a Stefan whom she’s never been introduced to, whom she never thought she’d see in her lifetime.
This is a Stefan who has come back from the brink of some frightening unknown, and she doesn’t know what to say or do. Her heart is in her stomach and her hand is frozen on the doorknob, her feet planted in place as if she has taken root here (and it’s probably not a terribly inaccurate description).
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, and that sliver of pain that she hears in his tone cuts through her in a way that she never thought a simple apology ever could.
She wants to close the door in his face. She wants to go back into the kitchen with Damon and continue making breakfast just like they’ve done every day since he left them.
But this is his house – his and Damon’s (and not hers) – and so she steps aside and she lets him in (lets him in like she always has and always will), keeping her eyes downcast even while she tries to hold her head high.
The ‘thank you’ he says while he enters is no doubt voiced with genuine gratitude, but it seems out of place and it is cruel in ways that she can’t begin to describe.
She doesn’t have to—she’s sure the tears welling in her eyes say quite enough on their own.
He doesn’t so much sit through his brother’s half-assed explanation as he does pace through it, with a glass of bourbon in his hand and an angry scowl on his face. He hadn’t expected him to come back at all, ever, not in Elena’s lifetime and not in theirs (which is eternity, forever, and he already came to terms with the fact that forever is simply too long to wait). It’s funny that after dealing with his absence, it’s his presence that hurts more than he ever imagined it would.
He wonders if this is karma, or Stefan’s passive-aggressive shit-faced way of paying him back for wrongs of the past (that he still won’t admit to, even if he were seconds away from a dagger going straight through his heart).
“Then you should have fucking let me die!” he yells, interrupting Stefan’s would-be apology, because he doesn’t want to hear it. If his brother is looking for absolution, he won’t find it here.
“She never would have forgiven me for it,” Stefan answers, and both of them glance in Elena’s direction. She sits on the couch, quiet and observant. He’ll never get over how strong she is, even when she’s breaking, even when she’s broken, and when her gaze meets his, it makes him feel a little less like he’s going to fly off the handle and burn the whole house down (and his brother along with it).
In a much quieter tone, Stefan adds, “I never would have forgiven myself for it, either.”
“Of course you would have,” Damon snaps. “All you would have had to do is flip that switch and bada-boom, forgiveness not necessary and not wanted.”
“I made the choice that I made because I didn’t want you to die!” Stefan all but yells, but Damon doesn’t shrink away from the sudden change in volume. Stefan’s need to be heard is nothing in comparison to Damon’s need to be angry. He has every right to be angry, and every individual in the room knows it.
This is like pitting a candle’s flame against a bonfire.
“So glad that your hero complex has made its grand re-entry,” Damon seethes—no yelling this time. He’s not sure he even has it in him anymore at the moment. He needs to be away from his brother; he needs to think, he needs to not think; he needs her touch and her kiss and her unwavering smile.
He also needs his brother, but that’s something he won’t even admit to himself right now, much less to the individuals standing in the room with him.
(He’d find a hell of a lot of irony in this if he was to stop and let himself think about it, but he won’t stop and let himself think about it for even a moment.)
It’s not like he expected to be welcomed back with open arms, and while their reactions to his abrupt re-entry into their lives are understandable (he deserves their anger), he cannot deny that their semi-rejection leaves a bitter taste on his tongue.
They deny him their company on most days, and he expected this too—even when they are in the same room, merely feet apart, it feels as if they are on separate continents. Or rather, it feels like he is on a separate continent on his own, away from them. He supposes this is fitting enough.
There has been a development in their relationship while he’s been away, which also doesn’t surprise him. The chemistry was always there, and so when Elena looks longingly at Damon (like she used to look at him) and when Damon gently touches her cheek or entwines their fingers or kisses her, Stefan is not at all shocked. This was bound to happen eventually, and he knew it even better than any of them.
He has no right to feel angry or jealous over what has become of them, and it’s surprisingly easy (most of the time) to let both of those emotions go, because neither of them will ever give him more than a cursory glance again if he holds on to something that none of them need.
He watches them sometimes—the way Elena relaxes when Damon holds her, the way Damon seems to forget about everything else when Elena is in his arms, even if only for a brief moment.
The funny thing is that if he were to let himself feel jealous over their little displays of affection, he doesn’t know whom he’d be more jealous of: his brother, or his former girlfriend.
The more he thinks about it, the less funny it becomes.
They watch him watching them (they have their arms around one another and he stands apart from them—they are divided), and he decides that he can wait; if he’s learned anything as a vampire, it’s patience.
He’ll wait for them to come around. He has plenty of time.
Months pass before she lets herself properly speak to him again. It is a muggy summer morning and it is overcast—the clouds above are full with the promise of rain. She doesn’t like the humidity and the coffee isn’t helping cool her off any, but she carefully holds the cup between her hands anyway, because somehow the added warmth feels nice, and the caffeine helps her get started in the mornings.
She doesn’t remember when she started drinking it: before Stefan left, maybe, or after he came back. Or perhaps it’s just one of those habits she’s had for longer than she even realizes, like Damon and his bourbon.
He’s standing in the doorway, back from wherever he’s been. They don’t ask him and he never offers an explanation, but he always comes back. Perhaps it is his way of showing them that they can trust him, she thinks. Perhaps this is his way of showing them that he won’t ever really go away.
“You left us,” she says, and it is not accusing, it is simply a statement of fact. She has pushed past the stage of anger and betrayal and is immersed in something different—familiar and yet completely unfamiliar.
He quietly shuts the door and nods. “I cannot express how sorry--”
She interrupts his apology, because she’s already heard it at least a thousand times, and if he has his way, she’ll hear it a thousand more. This has become their tired little symphony, and she wants to play a different song: “You aren’t the Stefan that I used to know. You aren’t the Stefan that didn’t care about me or anyone else, either.”
She sets the coffee down on the table and crosses the room, moving to stand in front of him. She silently studies his face for a moment, and then she musters a small smile. “I was right when I told him that he’d be the one to save you from yourself.”
His brow furrows and she knows that he doesn’t understand; she can only hope that someday he will.
She briefly brushes her fingers against his knuckles. “I’d like to get to know the Stefan that you are now.”
His nod is the answer to a question that she didn’t (doesn’t, and won’t) ask.
She wonders why letting him go seemed easier than letting him back in.
(Once bitten, twice shy, and all that….)
He’s still angry enough for all three of them, but the fact that Elena has approached Stefan before he himself has (and has actually spoken cordially with him) is proof enough in his book that she has bigger balls than he does (not that he’ll tell her that or anything).
Damon has never been remarkably good at words—that’s always been Stefan’s strong point (pansy that he is), not his. So he mostly lets Stefan do the talking when he finds the courage (and the tolerance) to seek him out, after some prompting from Elena of course.
Of course he apologizes again, and to his credit, Damon does not interrupt him this time. He’s grown tired of his brother’s excuses, his apologies, his reasons… all of which seem to mean so little when he remembers how lost he and Elena were after Stefan up and disappeared. The sting of betrayal has faded in one sense, but is still very much present in another, and while Damon is capable of forgiving, he’s not quite so sure that he lacks the ability to also forget, as Elena does.
As Stefan does.
Patience is also not one of those virtues that he and Stefan share, but he actually sits through Stefan’s whole spiel as he promised himself he would do, gritting his teeth as he is forced to yet again relive the night that his plan went all wrong.
Stefan ends his little tale with: “I did it because I didn’t want you to die, not because I didn’t want Klaus to die. I just didn’t think you needed to be informed of what my motivation was right away. Klaus would have seen right through me if I would have said anything—you know that.”
Yes, Damon does know that, but it doesn’t stop him from irrationally wanting to punch the hell out of Stefan for hiding from him. From them.
“It’s not about that, Stefan,” Damon says, fighting to keep his voice even, fighting to appear nonchalant and unaffected. “It’s about the fact that she believed in you, even when you didn’t give a damn about her. It’s about the fact that you had your own damn agenda and it’s about the fact that you come back here after I’ve had to fucking convince myself to not try to find you. It’s about the fact that we thought you weren’t coming back.”
Stefan says nothing to this; he just stands there and looks at him with those eyes full of regret and Damon knows that his brother wishes that things were different, probably, but he also knows his brother well enough to know that if he were offered the chance to do it all over again, he wouldn’t do anything differently. Because no matter how much Damon has tried to convince him otherwise, Stefan will always feel responsible for him.
And vice versa, because this is their curse. It isn’t the jealousy and it isn’t the anger or the hatred that neither of them can feel for each other (though they most certainly have tried). It isn’t even the shared love they have for the same woman (twice now).
It’s their bond—the twisted, dysfunctional affection that they have for one another and will not openly admit to even on the best of days. ”You know, when all is said and done, there’s nothing more important than the bond of family.” And yeah, maybe she was right about that. Hit-the-nail-on-the-head, painfully right.
“I’ve been chasing after you for over a century-and-a-half, baby brother,” Damon sighs—and yes, he’s tired. Tired in a way that only years upon years multiplied by infinity can make you. Right now, he’s especially tired of the fact that they’ve all been running ever since Stefan’s been back. They’ve been running and getting all of nowhere.
“I know,” Stefan replies, voice hoarse with an emotion that Stefan is genuinely letting himself feel, but Damon is not brave enough to identify it.
He presses a hand to Stefan’s shoulder, and realizes this is the first real contact they’ve had in a while. “Perhaps it’s time for you to chase after me for a change.”
And perhaps it’s time for him – for all of them – to stop running in this endless circle they seem trapped in.
They run in circles, Stefan notices. He doesn’t know if the shape they were meant to make is a triangle or some distorted heart, but whatever they were meant to make (to become) is lost in what they are now. What they are is a vicious cycle in and of themselves, and it all boils down to (and revolves around) Elena’s kindness, Damon’s anger, and Stefan’s guilt.
There is a moment in which they reach a breaking point: They stop running and they look, really look at what they were and what they are and what they’d like to be. Soul-searching takes place within a matter of seconds—Damon and Elena are on one side of the room and Stefan is on the other, which is not different or unusual or new.
What is different (and unusual, and refreshingly new) is the fact that this time, they reach out for him.
He is hesitant and maybe even a little afraid in his own way, but he goes to them. He takes Elena’s outstretched hand. He takes Damon’s offered hand as well, and the circle that they make now is a hell of a lot better than the ones they’ve been running in for months upon months now.
Forgiveness is not spoken but is rather shown in Elena’s soft touches and Damon’s aggressive kisses. Emotion (he remembers how Katherine called it a weakness, and sometimes he is inclined to agree but tonight is not one of those nights) makes them frantic and modesty is not the word of the evening—there is no place for it here, not after all the months they’ve been incomplete.
They barely make it to Damon’s bed, and what transpires is awkward and beautiful and wrong and right and everything that Stefan needs and wants right now. He doesn’t even mind when Damon’s fangs sink into his neck, and he certainly doesn’t mind when Elena straddles him and he feels her moist heat against his aching arousal—he only realizes how much he’s missed the feel of her when she sinks down onto him, inch by careful inch.
They change positions more than once, and Stefan really isn’t all that surprised to learn that his brother’s hands and his brother’s mouth can make him gasp and shudder in the same way Elena’s hands and mouth can. Perhaps this is what others would call graceless experimentation, but to Stefan, this is perfection, plain and simple.
Some minutes (or hours, he’s lost count) later, they lay in a tangle of limbs and bedsheets, and they’re all touching one another somehow—Elena in the middle and he and Damon on either side of her. He half-expects his brother to begin fussing about the mess of blood and other bodily fluids that are on his bed, but he doesn’t. Their silence is one of contentment.
As Elena drifts off to sleep and Stefan and Damon’s eyes meet over her crown of disheveled brown hair, Stefan wonders if this haphazard non-shape is in actuality the shape that they’re meant to make.
He thinks that maybe it is.
Elena shifts between them and Stefan opens his eyes (not that he was sleeping, just resting), not surprised to find that Damon’s eyes are already open. His older brother waggles his eyebrows suggestively and Stefan rolls his eyes but he smiles all the same because he can and because it is real and not forced.
“Goodmorning,” he says to Damon and to Elena, and he admits to himself that he feels better right now than he has in what feels like forever.
This is what forgiveness feels like, looks like, tastes like, smells like, sounds like.
Unlike his little brother, he doesn’t feel the need to feign sleep right now. His eyes are open long before Elena stirs, because his mind is heavy but his heart is light. He’s never thought of himself as being very good at sharing, but it’s easy with her and with him. And maybe it should feel extremely weird and uncomfortable, but it doesn’t. This surprises him less than it probably should.
Elena is warm and Stefan is here--open and vulnerable and very real. He waggles his eyebrows at his brother and even though Stefan rolls his eyes, he also smiles.
Some things are contagious.
“Goodmorning,” he tells them, and he actually means it.
She wakes up mid-morning sandwiched between them, and thinks that it’s not a bad way to wake up at all. She’s sore, but she expected that she would be and she doesn’t regret it—it’s a good kind of sore, after all.
They tell her goodmorning and she looks at each of them; she touches Stefan’s face and then Damon’s, and she smiles wider than she’s smiled in a long time.
“Goodmorning,” she replies, and it’s not breathtaking or earth-shattering.
She knows now that it doesn’t have to be.
I feel so nervous posting this that it’s ridiculous. This fic! It wanted to give me so much trouble. I think it deserves to sit in the corner and think about what it’s done, or something. ^^;;;