This is different. Stefan(Elena/Damon) + Katherine, actually. So if you don't like what that entails, I won't be offended if you don't read. (However, it's not crude material, just a warning.) Also, it's written from a prompt that I saw and liked.
Beginning lines and title from a poem, Boot Theory, by Richard Siken.
A man takes his sadness down to the river
and throws it in the river but then he's still left
with the river. A man takes his sadness and
throws it away but then he's still left with his hands.
maybe i'll write them a story.
It will be the one in which he loves Elena the right way and he loves her enough. The one in which he loves Damon, his own blood, the right way—but no other way than that—and he loves him enough.
His love will never overlap and his love will not stretch too thin, will not become ragged and bruised, will not consume him and eat his heart until it's running off of borrowed time.
It'll be the right story with the perfect amount of loving Elena and loving Damon so much that there's no room left for him to love himself, not even a little. Because he will not love a monster.
(Damon is the exception—always the exception.)
Stefan remembers a time filled with lust and blood and his brother's name and Katherine all wrapped up in the sheets with him.
Laps at the blood on a girl's neck to forget all that, all over again.
Katherine's face is on Elena's body—or maybe it's Elena's face on—and for one split second Stefan thinks, no, he will not save her. She is a monster and no monster deserves to be saved.
But then, his humanity steals little pieces of him and then he's dragging her out of the car, pressing his mouth to hers, needs to give her air because maybe it is Katherine—maybe she's not a monster anymore—and he can be the hero this time.
He doesn't look at her for long before he's back underwater and trying to save her parents—this isn't Katherine, this is a girl with her face—but he's too late.
He is always too late.
(Elena is the other exception—will always be an exception now.)
His brother consumes him in a way that is bad, in a way that his father would have looked down upon, would have called them monsters—Stefan would try to impress, try to fix it—Father, no, it was just one time.
But then it happens again and again and Katherine's there in the middle, ushering Stefan to his brother, telling him it's okay, with a smirk on her face.
He should have known.
Still kisses Damon roughly because Katherine makes him. It's always Katherine and never him, never Damon.
She did this to us, brother.
Stefan takes this girl with Katherine's face and asks her to be anything but that; begs her to be this and begs her to say that and begs her to love him. Without saying anything.
She becomes Elena—a girl with a face like Katherine, but notKatherine—do you see what he did there?
Because Katherine is a monster and Elena is pure and warm and honest. Elena is everything Stefan wants to be and she does not have a glint in her eyes like Katherine.
But Damon makes her Katherine.
And that's a lie, but Stefan still tells it because he means it.
She resides in the middle and it's all too familiar and Stefan tells himself this is different, shares looks with Damon, asks him late at night, why are you doing this again?
Damon pats his cheek condescendingly and tells him, I'm not doing anything.
Katherine was in the middle and Stefan told her this same thing and she looked at him with veins bulging around her eyes and told him, yes, you are.
He looked to his brother; started in his eyes and ended up somewhere near his lips and then his lips were on Damon's lips.
She is not Katherine, he tells him.
This is different, he tells him.
I love her, he says. His hand is on Damon's forearm in a forceful manner and he tugs his arm the slightest. "She is different," he says through gritted teeth, but with hopeful eyes.
Damon shoves him, face constricted in a way that Stefan tries to forget, but can't ever really—and Damon's mouth is hovering over his, his breath hot, and Stefan's hands automatically latch onto Damon's shirt—just like Katherine taught them—and he's pushing his face towards Damon's and kissing him rough and ragged.
This is something Stefan remembers—will never forget.
We're not though, Damon tells him while pressing a thumb hard into Stefan's cheek. We're not.
Stefan doesn't think they ever will be.
Elena lets him love her in a way that she knows only he can and Stefan is grateful—you're different, Elena—for this.
He kisses her lips and she tastes new and old and used and borrowed all at the same time—
he pulls away quickly, stares at her face; she isn't Katherine but she almost tastes that way—like his brother and him and strawberries—and he gets a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach, crushes her lips with his to make it all go away.
—but Stefan may like it this way.
Elena chooses him, but she's dead, so Stefan doesn't think she really has a choice anymore.
She's a dead ringer for—
Stefan steals sips from Damon's bourbon, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand in a slick manner, watches Damon lick his bottom lip.
Elena is upstairs in his bed and she can hear better and she can move faster and she can drink better than him and she's better than him. She is better than Damon and she can snap her fingers and they'll fall straight to their knees, they know.
Damon laughs at something Elena says and she squeezes between him and the counter and Stefan's sitting at the table watching and there's something in his brother's eyes that Stefan can't quite decipher and a shadow in Elena's smile that he can't quite decipher either—
they kiss and Stefan sees Katherine standing there—or maybe it's a girl with a face like—and doesn't know what he's gotten himself into.
I want both of you, Katherine Elena says.
Stefan loses himself somewhere between KatherineDamonElenaHimself and can't get back out, even when he crawls and digs and covers himself in mud and sweat and false hope.
He can't get out. Smothers himself in Damon and Elena so thoroughly that he can't find himself anymore.
But, maybe, that's okay. Maybe this wasn't the right story. He's messed up again.
Stefan scratches out, crumples it up, and starts over—
It will be the one in which—