Damon is never gentle.
He digs a wooden bullet out of his wound, and Stefan remembers it's not the first time. There are many times, actually, and Damon is always there.
Sometimes Stefan thinks his brother lurks in the shadows, even before he is shot or about to be staked, just so Damon can be the one to save him – just so he can remind him that neither of them will let the other die at another's hand.
Even Stefan wonders if Damon really means to kill him. They need each other too much; it's one of Katherine's sick jokes, Stefan thinks.
His brother doesn't help him without wanting something: a ring, a meal, a girl – yet, Stefan denies that he will kill Damon in turn. He tries to stop him, and he feels foolish and weak against him, enough to give in to Damon to a point.
He can't deny Damon his pleasures; he hopes someday the preaching will sink in, but even Stefan knows he's hoping too much. To deny Damon anything is cause for more discord, for more havoc and destruction.
So he cannot deny him this.
First, Stefan gets what he knows is coming to him. Damon is no doubt feeling vengeful. Locking your brother away in a room to die is justification enough.
He's whisked off his feet and is slammed onto his back, and he can feel Damon's breath on his neck. Stefan cries when his brother bites, and he tenses and makes sure he never relaxes under Damon's touch. He'll never give his brother that much satisfaction.
He takes and takes, and Stefan feels dizzy, noting he'll have to find a couple deer to make up for this, so he fights him off, punching and scratching, and finally Damon gives way.
"You're such a baby," he quips, and Stefan exhales hard and glares at him. Damon looks down, still smiling as he tries to act petulant. Stefan feels his eyes go hard as he stares at his own blood, dangling from Stefan's bottom lip.
Damon's smile tempers. "Come on. You owe me," he says, dipping down for some more, and Stefan punches him hard in his jaw as Damon backs away.
"You never used to be like this," Damon says annoyed. His voice gets darker, and it flares a memory inside Stefan – a memory of Katherine's laughter and his brother's heat buzzing against his own hot skin. It's a tarnished memory that Stefan never wants to enjoy again.
"You hurt a lot of people," Stefan says in a rasp. "No one owes you anything." He tries to sit up, but Damon pushes him on his back again. The floor in the boarding house has never felt so hard and cold, and Stefan tries not to think about how lonely he is too – even here with Damon – after Elena has rejected him. He looks away from Damon's pierced eyes.
He feels his brother's hands on his face, lightly arranging the strands of his hair in place. Stefan closes his eyes, and then his brother grabs his jaw and squeezes, forcing him to look at him.
"Something's up with you. Did you have a fight with Elena?"
Stefan wishes his eyes weren't so telling. He tries to look away, but Damon is strong, as always. Damon knows how to read him too well anyway.
"Oh, dear," he says with a laugh. "She dumped you. How history is repeating itself."
"Shut up," Stefan says in a strained voice, but as usual, Damon isn't listening. He only cares about what he wants, and what he wants right now is to gloat – and to play.
"I remember the time you came back when Katherine got cross with you. I went to her that night and comforted her. Do you remember? Of course not. Neither one of us was supposed to know, but I knew. Then, after…" he paused with a sly smile. "That night I came back to you."
"You could never have enough," Stefan says sardonically.
"True," Damon admits, and he meets Stefan's anguished gaze. "You never complained."
"It's not like that anymore, Damon. It never will be," Stefan says resolutely. Damon shakes his head.
He dips down and whispers into Stefan's ear. "I don't believe you, and you don't believe yourself."
Stefan blinks and cries when Damon bites him again. He pulls away faster that time, and he hovers above Stefan's lips. "Let me refresh your memory."
"Stop, I don't want this," Stefan says, but the words become meaningless. He stares at the blood dripping down Damon's lips, and he feels his resolve weakening.
Damon's voice is so low it sounds like a curse. "You used to say that back then too, little brother."
Stefan's eyes have already hardened, his fangs are already out. He kisses him first, his teeth grazing over his brother's tongue and clinking with his fangs. Damon readily complies and groans with loss as his brother pulls away to find his neck.
Damon's blood tastes so powerful, more than he likes to admit. Damon sighs as Stefan takes, and Stefan can almost feel his brother smiling. As he takes his blood, he sees them – his victims and the lives Damon stole from them. Stefan feels pity for them quickly, but soon his humanity melts into the dark, and tasting Damon's blood reminds him of what he's denied.
He's a monster, just as Damon tells him every day, and as long as he's around his brother to remind him, atoning becomes that much harder. No wonder Elena is scared. No wonder she won't even believe him.
"No!" He pushes Damon away and his eyes are clear. He can almost feel Elena, see her smile or smell her natural scent. His eyes feel wet, and Stefan can't remember the last time he's cried.
Or when he's cried in front of Damon.
"Gees, you are a buzz kill," Damon says. He lets out a heavy sigh and looks at Stefan with pity. It makes Stefan angry, and he tries to shove him away. Damon still won't let him stand up.
"Let go," he demands, but he can barely hear his own choked voice. Damon purses his lips and still seems intent of keeping his brother down.
"What's your hurry?"
"I want to be away from you," Stefan says. "I don't even know why you're doing this. Didn't you get enough from Vicki and that hunter?"
"This isn't about feeding, Stefan, and you know it." He sniffed. "I'm hurt that you don't want to spend time with me."
"I told you. I don't want to do this anymore," Stefan replied. "Just let it go, Damon."
Damon put up his hands, and finally Stefan is free. He sits up and stares Damon down. Damon still looks eager and playful, yet Stefan sees something else. His brother almost seems disappointed by Stefan's animosity.
Yes, they once in the past had played around like this, but it's not like that anymore. Katherine's death has destroyed that, no matter how many times Damon likes to remind him of when Stefan gave in to him, let him touch him and demanded Stefan to touch him in turn.
Stefan wonders if Damon misses it more than he expects it.
"You used to be fun," Damon says dejectedly.
"Yeah, well, you're not the same either," Stefan says. He glares at Damon and traces his fingers lightly over the gash on his neck. "You used to be much gentler."
Stefan is pleased when Damon's confident smile fades, but Stefan does not stay to tout his victory.
Instead, he stalks off to his room, and for once, Damon doesn't follow. He leaves his brother, and Stefan feels his brother's presence linger downstairs like a ghost. He doesn't even sense Damon leave to go feed, and for the rest of the night, he feels his brother pace around yet he still remains in the house.
Stefan is left with his own thoughts, and he puts Damon out of his mind – or so he tries. Yet, Stefan can only wallow and worry about him, not for his safety but that his brother may be here in Mystic Falls not just for Elena, but for him too.
He hears his brother sigh noisily downstairs, and Stefan knows Damon's waiting for him to come back. He's sure Damon would even take arguing and preaching at this point. However, Stefan is steadfast and refuses to appease him.
He wonders about him though. Is Damon really that lonely? Stefan pulls out his diary and writes. This first line is the truest breath from his heart that it almost scares him.
Damon is still a monster, but I wonder if I was wrong. Maybe he does have some humanity left. If I'm still a monster because Damon is here, then maybe he's still human because I am here.
Katherine was definitely cleverer than she seemed.