Big Brother Vampire
Disclaimer: Don't own a thing; I'm only borrowing.
Mystic Falls is a town with many secrets; vampires, werewolves, witches and doppelgangers – those are just the tip of the iceberg and truthfully vampires, werewolves, witches and doppelgangers aren't much of a secret in this messed up sinkhole of a town anyway. There are far juicier secrets lurking beneath the macabre underbelly of Mystic Falls.
For example: Damon Salvatore, vampire sociopath extraordinaire, reads self-help manuals.
He also watches Oprah and Doctor Phil and fucking empathises with the screwed up losers too stupid and needy to have the sense not to go on national TV and advertise the fact that they are screwed up pathetic losers. Admittedly he is usually completely wasted when he does this. Wasted, miserable, too apathetic to kill anyone and reduced to waiting for his little brother (who is, by the by, one hundred and sixty-two years old) to come home from school so he can mock him and beg for attention like the love-starved puppy he really is.
See Damon may have an inferiority complex the size of Everest and he may be nearly pathologically jealous of his little brother. He may have almost zero impulse control, numerous anti-social personality disorders and a rampant drinking problem that would have surely killed him by now if he wasn't already one hundred and forty-five years dead – but! But! Damon is a very self-aware vampire.
He knows he has a problem. He knows he has a lot of problems (most of them beginning with the letter "K" and ending in agonising rejection). He is (at least in his own head) totally up front about all the ways in which he is basically a complete failure as a man, a brother, even a vampire, but none of that self-awareness is worth a dime because - and this is the real kicker- he can't fix any of the shit that's wrong with him.
So he reads. He reads books that tell him, in the most impersonal way possible using jargon that would have the author run out of town as a damned quake back in the 1860's that he, Damon Salvatore, is a lonely insecure little man searching for meaning in all the wrong places. This isn't any big surprise, his father was much better at telling him he was worthless back in the day anyway. Father didn't need to resort to flinging psychiatric complexes around either. Nope, none of that hokum for Giuseppe Salvatore; instead he just flat out disinherited his eldest son, packed him off to war and made it real clear that he wouldn't be all that broken up about it if Damon came back dead or not at all.
Sometimes, in between idle musings regards his own rampant narcissism and borderline personality disorders (although, really, borderline? He crossed the bridge into psychosis-ville a loooong time ago) Damon wonders if Stefan really gets it. Does poor martyred soul, ever-suffering saint Stefan actually get the whole point about why Damon really, really hates him (in a totally co-dependent- if-you-die-I-lose-the-only-thing-I-live-for kind of way)?
Damon doesn't think so because really when you get down to it, Stefan is pretty much the biggest hypocrite Damon has ever met (and Damon has met a lot of hypocritical jerks in his time). The whole no human blood fad he's had going for the last few decades only just scratches the surface of his little brother's hypocrisy, but hell, might as well start with that, right?
See Damon knows that the hackneyed tortured soul routine his little brother enjoys so much is just as much an act as Damon's insistence that he's perfectly happy with this endless existence living as a glorified tick riding his brother's back for eternity. Damon is firmly of the opinion that Stefan only indulges in guilt about his (un)life as a Thumper-exsanguinating fiend because it gives him something to do. Living forever is really freaking dull when you don't have a reason to live at all. That's the real curse of vampirism; not the blood drinking, but the complete pointlessness of living forever unable to change, unable to age and grow and mature, yet forced to watch the world change, grow, and mature around you. Damon hates it. As a human man he had lived with the clawing fear that the world moved too fast for him to keep up, no matter how hard he tried to outrun it. He had known even then that sooner or later everything that gave his life meaning (his brother's admiration, the desire in a pretty girl's eyes) would eventually mature into contempt and pass him by. As a vampire that fear is now his constant reality. He has to try so hard just to maintain his brother's animosity; Stefan is always slipping through his fingers.
Stefan, Stefan, Stefan – his little brother really is the better vampire when all is said and done. He's found his reason to exist and he does it so well; subsisting on his own guilt, feasting on his over burdened conscience and drawing people in so, so easily. People love him for his suffering and never call him on the lie. No wonder Katherine wants him back. No wonder Elena loves him more than her own self-preservation.
Damon would want him back too except that he never really had him to begin with. Because that's not how big brother/little brother relationships work. Damon understands this in a way Stefan doesn't (Stefan, for all that he is forever going to high school, does not read psychology). Saint Stefan thinks he's forever cursed with the burden of his rabidly psychotic older brother – he's not – and deep down in his hypocritical soul even Stefan-the-liar has to know that. Stefan can kill Damon anytime he wants to. He nearly did after the whole Lexi mess. Not to mention the Alaric thing, and yeah the history teacher wasn't much of a threat (and is a fairly okay guy now that Isobel thing has blown over) but still, Stefan didn't even give him the heads up that Alaric wanted him dead. Stefan basically lies to Damon all the damn time ("I'll help you get Katherine back Damon"/ "I want you gone Damon"). Damon doesn't need his cheap psychology books to tell him that this is not the basis of a very healthy fraternal relationship.
It's completely all on Stefan too.
Damon does not lie to Stefan, after all. He promised him an eternity of misery and he's done his best to deliver. He even told Stefan his plans for Katherine (which was stupid, yeah, but whatever. The whole Diabolical Plan was headed for SNAFU territory anyhow so what the hell.) Damon is always very interested in Stefan's personal life too, just like family should be. He encourages him to be the best he can be (as in a bloodsucking vampire fiend). He lets his little brother drag him into all his dramas (Damon come quick – mystery bad guy of the week has kidnapped another one of Elena's stupid, narrow-minded and judge-y friends – help!) Yet Stefan does not want Damon happy in return. He does not want Damon to hang out with his little human friends (even though Alaric likes him way more than he does Stefan). He does not want to share his toys (or girlfriend) with his big brother. He does not want Damon hosting bacchanalian orgies in the front parlour on school nights. In short Stefan is all about the take and not the give in this relationship.
Still this is pretty normal because Stefan is the little brother. He's just playing his part. From the moment he was born Stefan has been the usurper; the one who pushed Damon into the shadows. The one who was better; the one their father liked. The one Katherine claims to love and the one Elena would die for. Stefan is the one that matters (in all things – always) and Damon – well- Damon is just the big brother. He has only existed these last hundred and forty-odd years as an extension of Stefan.
This is the crux of all his learning; this is what the books have told him: Damon, the real Damon Salvatore, died in 1864. The thing that wanders around wearing his corpse is not that man anymore. He is just his ghost; the ghost of a man who was already obsolete long before he tried to step between his brother and his brother's beloved monster in a vain attempt to make himself matter.
It was Stefan who turned him into this. It was Stefan who would not let him die back when the whole world fell apart in one night of mobs and torches and so many lies he is still drowning in them now. This is where the hatred comes from; not the loss of Katherine, not the taunting memories that come with watching his brother canoodle Katherine's alter ego. No Damon hates Stefan for the one lie Stefan will never feel guilty about.
Stefan told him he wanted them to be brothers forever.
Stefan promised him the world on a mouth-watering crimson wave and then he cast Damon aside. He replaced him with a self-serving guilt that forever excludes everything Damon is, was, and could ever hope to be.
This is why he hates Stefan. This is the misery he wants his brother to know for all eternity. In the end, when all is said and done, Stefan was the only one who has ever really needed him. Needed him to be imperfect; needed him to be the monster in this twisted familial equation, and the cause of all that precious guilt Stefan needs so badly just to survive eternity. And Damon knows this. He has always known. Stefan needs to hate him so that he can tolerate his own unnatural existence. So that's why Damon will keep living this not-life, because even if he hates it, even if it hurts more than dying ever did, being Stefan's big brother is the only thing Damon has ever been even remotely good at.
(And Damon needs so badly to be good at something even if all he can ever be good for is being bad.)
One day, if he's lucky, Stefan will even admit the truth in all its sad, desperate, messed up perfection – and maybe then, just maybe, Damon won't have to hate his lying bastard of a little brother so much.