These Muscles have Atrophied - TVD - Stefan/Damon
Fandom: The Vampire Diaries
Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no money off this.
Word Count: ~3,400
Summary: Coda to Plan B. He hasn't done this in a long time. He thinks maybe he's forgotten how.
Notes: Hurt/comfort. Beta'd by opheliahyde <3
Damon watches as Elena closes the door, standing in the foyer and staring at the empty spot where she stood for a long time. He can’t bring himself to move, her words echoing in his ears.
It doesn’t matter. She won. Katherine won.
They are all falling apart now, the three of them.
Damon feels something twisting in his gut; it feels vaguely like nausea, like he’s going to be sick, but it goes deeper than that.
He can hear Stefan crying in the next room. It’s softer now, the noise has died down, but now he sounds like he’s choking. Damon doesn’t think he can take it. He doesn’t know what to do—Damon doesn’t fix things, he doesn’t know how; he just destroys them.
And there’s really no fixing this.
He shouldn’t do this. He should stay out of this. Damon would want to be left alone—would happily prefer it if no one was around to witness him falling apart. He wouldn’t want anyone to come up to him and give him their fucking pity.
But it has always been obvious Stefan isn’t him.
Stefan doesn’t look at him when he enters, keeping his gaze averted and staring at nothing, his body hunched over. Damon cautiously sits on the couch and waits for Stefan to react to his presence. He thinks of offering Stefan a drink, but he’s sure Stefan would turn it down.
There is something shattered on his face and Damon has never seen Stefan quite like this. He’s both unbearably young and painfully old in this moment. There’s too much weight on his shoulders, and yet, he looks like a trembling child.
This is what Stefan looks like when he’s had his heart ripped out.
Welcome to the club, Damon wants to say. This is how I always feel.
He doesn’t. Damon thought he’d enjoy it when this day came, but nothing ever works out like he wants it to. He doesn’t want this. He doesn’t like this.
Damon thinks about reaching out to him, but he can’t make himself move, like his body doesn’t recognize the movements required for such an action and the muscles have frozen, atrophied.
He hasn’t done this in a long time. He thinks maybe he’s forgotten how.
They’re silent for a long time, no sounds but the flames crackling in the fireplace and the ragged noises coming from Stefan’s throat as he tries to get himself under control. Stefan doesn’t even glance at him and Damon wonders if he even knows he’s in the room.
“I’m sorry,” Damon finally says, the words rough in his mouth. There’s something low coiling in his gut and it makes him want to throw up.
Stefan’s head darts up suddenly, his eyes wide like a startled animal as he stares at Damon finally. There’s an uncomprehending expression on his face, brow twisted up like he can’t understand the words Damon is saying. His eyes are still wet and reddish. Damon can clearly see the dried tear streaks on his face.
“For my part,” he finishes. “Antagonizing Katherine was stupid. I was so fucking stupid.”
Stefan is still giving him a wide-eyed look, like he isn’t completely present in this conversation. He blinks at him, his Adam’s apple bobbing, his lips twitching as he tries to speak. He digs the heels of his palms into his eyes and it takes Stefan a few minutes before he finally gets words out.
“No,” Stefan says, shaking his head. His voice is weak and wavering, like any minute it’s going to crack under the weight of everything. “It’s…Elena’s right. It doesn’t matter. Katherine won.”
The way he’s speaking—it’s defeated, beaten and worn down and no. No. Damon fights down a vicious growl building in his chest, because no one but him should be allowed to make Stefan feel like this.
Katherine is hurting the both of them, just like she’s always have, and really, Damon was just too pathetic and stupid to realize beforehand.
“Stefan,” Damon says, but he can’t think of anything else to say to him.
“She takes everything,” Stefan goes on in this hollow tone. “And now it’s just—you and me and…” he trails off, losing his voice. Stefan says it like it’s a terrible thing, something undesirable. The words feel like a slap and chase away any pitiful words of comfort Damon had.
“Is that really so bad, Stefan?” he asks, his mouth a hard and unforgiving line, his eyes narrowed. “Just you and me?”
Stefan freezes, gaze fixated on Damon. He can’t tell what he’s thinking. Damon thinks he might have ruined whatever they had been building between them, this delicate peace, and soon, an argument will follow and they’ll fight again and it’s all so fucking familiar.
Stefan’s lips twitch feebly, like he’s trying to smile. He doesn’t manage it, but something in his eyes shifts as he watches Damon.
“No,” he says softly. Stefan chokes on the next word and has to fight to get them out. “No, no it’s not. I—I just didn’t want that to be all there is.”
Damon nods, if a little reluctantly. It wasn’t just supposed to be them, all alone in the darkness. Stefan wanted a life here, but it’s always the two of them at the end of the day. For better or worse—mostly worse—they’ve been each other’s constant throughout all eternity. It’s always just the two of them, drawn and chained together with blood and anger, constantly searching for the broken pieces.
It’s always them and the ghost of Katherine. Elena was supposed to change that. Save Stefan from his eternity of misery with Damon and free him from Katherine—free them both, even, if Damon had his way. But it didn’t matter.
We’re still here, still haunted; only now the ghost has turned vengeful.
“She’s—she’s everywhere, Damon. She’s taking everything and—”
“She wants to ruin us,” Damon says quietly, breaking Stefan’s ramble. His words feel familiar—Stefan said this to him not so long ago, only Damon didn’t listen then. “She wants to break us—you—over and again.”
She’s tired of me, Damon thinks. She wants Stefan because there’s still something good and pure in him, something left to break and tear apart. She’ll love him until there’s nothing left of him. Look at what she’s already done to me.
Damon feels so sick.
“It’s working,” Stefan says, shaking. “Elena’s gone and Katherine is winning and I—”
“No,” Damon hisses, the beginnings of rage flaring up in him. He crosses the floor in a flash and takes his brother’s face into his hands, makes sure Stefan is looking him right in the eyes. Stefan gives a sharp intake of breath and he moves his hands up as if to seize Damon, fingers curling inward, but he doesn’t touch him.
“No,” Damon growls. “We are going to find Katherine and we are going to kill her.”
Stefan’s eyes are blank but for the misery in them, as if that was all that was left within him. If only Elena knew what a wreck Stefan was under all his calm, just like Damon.
“We’re going to kill her, Stefan. Do you understand me?”
Stefan exhales slowly, the air ghosting across Damon’s skin. He grabs on to Damon’s shoulders—his hold is less forceful than Damon’s grip, more clinging for support—and nods almost helplessly.
Damon is starkly reminded of when they were both young and human, how Stefan used to look at him like he had all the answers, used to look up to him like he was worthy of respect and admiration.
“And then you and Elena can get back together and all will be right in the world.”
“No,” Stefan says weakly, shaking his head. “No…Katherine’s caused too much damage. I—we’ve caused too much damage for Elena.”
Damon flashes briefly to the feel of Jeremy’s tender neck in his hands, the pulse beating wildly before Damon ended Jeremy’s life and Elena’s friendship with a too-easy twist of his hands. The feeling in his gut grows stronger, pulling and choking and twisting, and it feels uncomfortably like regret.
His life used to be so much easier before all this.
“No,” Damon hisses, shaking Stefan. “No, you are getting back together with Elena. We are getting Elena back.”
“You love her. And I, of all people, know just how much she loves you.”
Stefan stops in whatever he was saying. He frowns, like Damon just did something out of character, but his eyes are open—Stefan is too torn up by today’s events to hold back. The grip on Damon’s shoulder tightens weakly, like he’s trying to hold on tighter, but can’t.
“I—I thought this—me and Elena, I thought you’d be happy if she—if she didn’t want me anymore.”
He ends the sentence with a whispered hush, voice dying in a choked breath. But there’s no anger or reproach on Stefan’s face, or in his words. It’s more of a calm acknowledgment of what this is, soft and gentle—like he can’t work up any anger anymore, too tired to fight.
Damon always expects anger and fight and stubborn refusal from Stefan, but this is different. There’s a peace here between them—ever since Stefan pulled him out of the flames—and maybe the threads of old camaraderie and it’s a small subtle thing, but Stefan isn’t fighting him anymore.
It’s small and fragile and it could break so easily, like everything else.
“She still wants you, Stefan,” he says in the same hushed tone, somehow afraid of speaking louder, like that would close up the openness on Stefan’s face. “And I honestly don’t know what would make me happy.” Every time Damon got something he thought he wanted, it just made things worse.
“Except Katherine’s head on a silver fucking platter,” he amends. “We will kill her, Stefan. I promise. And then you and Elena—”
Stefan shakes his head, refusing to listen. “She said it was over, Damon. She said we were over and—”
“Okay, shut up.” This was starting to get tiresome and Damon needed to talk to Stefan when he was more reasonable. “Let’s just get you to bed, okay?”
“You need to rest. After the vervain in the well, you should get some rest.”
“Just…quiet, Stefan and don’t fight me for once.”
He doesn’t. He lets Damon walk him upstairs without a word. He places a hand on Stefan’s back and steers him. Halfway through it, Damon winds up practically dragging him instead as Stefan slumps against him. He walks like he doesn’t want to move, like there is lead in his legs and body, weighing him down.
Damon wraps his arm around Stefan’s shoulder and plants his hand on his chest to keep him steady. Stefan leans into the touch, almost like he’s curling himself around Damon. He makes a noise that would be a purr if he didn’t sound so fucking wounded.
He doesn’t have to force Stefan on the bed—Stefan moves pliant and easy once they get upstairs, letting Damon do what he wishes; it disturbs Damon a bit, how he just acquiesces and lets Damon manhandle him without a word of protest.
He gets Stefan face-up on the bed, his palm still planted on Stefan’s chest, making sure he stays down.
“Stefan,” he says, but Stefan is looking at the ceiling with distant eyes, his mind elsewhere.
“Hey,” Damon says. He grabs Stefan by the chin and drags his attention back to him.
“Stefan, look at me,” he demands.
Stefan does and his eyes are red and raw, brow furrowed, watching Damon with a furious intensity, like he was looking right through him. It’s a piercing stare, one that hits Damon to his bones, unsettling him.
Stefan surges towards him in a blinding rush, clamping his hands around Damon’s face, fingers on his cheekbones, and kissing him hard enough to bruise. He makes a wild noise against his mouth like an animal cry, holding on tightly.
Damon makes a grunt of surprise, shocked that he didn’t see it coming. For a second he just needlessly breathes into Stefan’s mouth, his palm still against Stefan’s chest, but not pushing him away. Stefan doesn’t seem to notice, continues to kiss him like he’s trying to breathe him in.
Sometimes, Damon doesn’t think he can take Stefan’s need for him—that Stefan is either running away, doing his best to distance himself from him, or that Stefan clings to him with a terrifying intensity, too afraid to ever let go. Stefan has never been good at middle ground, bouncing from one extreme to another.
It’s not that it isn’t the same for Damon—it’s that Stefan started this, opened the floodgates and they’ll never be able to close them.
It is muscle and sense memory when Damon leans into the kiss, places his hands on the back of Stefan’s neck and intertwines his fingers in his hair at the nape, falling back into an old rhythm. He misses this, can’t remember the last time it was like this. It’s always a push and a pull between them, anger and bitterness and lust bleeding into one another.
Not now. Not like this. Stefan opens up beneath him and tugs him closer. There’s no fight anymore, just a quiet acceptance underneath the desperate yearning. Stefan’s here, exposed and unguarded.
They haven’t been like this in a long, long time. Damon feels like he’s wandered into an old memory, a little dizzy with it, the feel of Stefan’s lips and hands and his trembling, pliant body throwing him off-guard.
Damon murmurs something meaningless against Stefan’s lips, and then tilts his head to deepen the kiss and swallows down all of Stefan’s moans. He pushes Stefan until he’s flat on the bed again, Damon on top of him and still, Stefan does not let go of him once, making these soft, frantic noises as they kiss. Stefan arches beneath him with another needy moan, like he’s trying to merge himself into Damon, no matter what. He’s moved his hands from Damon’s face to his back, but his grip is still just as tight.
He likes this, having Stefan willing and compliant, makes him grin in an almost giddy fashion. The familiar impulse to fight and bite and tear and fuck rears its head, to mark him all over and claim. He thinks Stefan would let him do whatever he wants, just as long as he didn’t let him go.
This isn’t about Damon, though and for once, that doesn’t bother him—and there’s nothing giddy about the way Stefan is kissing him, just sad and lonely and desperate. He can still faintly taste the salt of Stefan’s tears and if he listens close enough, he can probably hear the sound of Stefan’s heart breaking, over and over.
Stefan whines, low in his throat and the sound is wretched and needy. Stefan’s fingers are shaking as they grip Damon’s back, trembling like he is about to fall apart.
“Stefan, no,” Damon says and tries to pull back.
“Damon,” he whispers. Stefan says the name in a reverent tone—the way little brothers talk about their big brothers, the way Stefan never associates with him—looking up at Damon with a pleading expression on his face.
He doesn’t know how to ask for what he wants—can’t bring himself to ask, always counted on Damon to take the first step, to take what he wants.
Damon wants to make Stefan beg him for it, wants to hear the filthy words leave his brother’s mouth, wants to force Stefan to spell out what he’s asking for. Damon thinks Stefan never will and thinks he should leave Stefan like this and if wants anything, to make him come and take it—that’s always been Damon’s way.
Instead, he leans back down and kisses Stefan fiercely, open-mouth and winding his tongue around his little brother’s. He’s pressed up on top of him, slotting in perfectly against him. Stefan groans and bends beneath him, his body curling into Damon. He has his arms around Damon’s back and his nails are digging into Damon’s neck, refusing to give an inch.
Stefan makes a keening noise of protest when Damon breaks the kiss, tries to pull him back, but Damon presses his lips to Stefan’s neck instead, nuzzling the hollow of this throat before biting down, more gently than he’s used to. He slides a hand down his stomach, and Stefan’s muscles are bunched and coiled up, still trembling like a frightened animal.
“Shh,” Damon whispers into his skin and feels ridiculous for doing so. He doesn’t do this, doesn’t know how to do this. There is absolutely nothing comforting Damon can say to Stefan and this is the best he can do.
Stefan gasps and bucks when Damon gets his hand in his pants and on his cock, heavy and warm in his hand, stroking hard and fast and rubbing the head on the upstroke–that’s one thing Damon never forgot how to do.
“Damon,” Stefan moans, and Damon loves the way Stefan’s voice cracks on his name, has missed hearing that. Stefan’s breath is coming in sharp gasps. The fingers on his neck curl in even tighter, tight enough to draw blood.
“Stefan,” Damon breathes as he mouths and nips at the skin of Stefan’s throat and jaw; it’s all he can say, it’s the only good thing he has. “Stefan.” He whispers, over and over as he fists Stefan’s cock, Stefan slowly crumbling, bit by bit.
Stefan grabs him by the hair and pulls him up, crushing his lips to his. The kiss doesn’t last long, because then Stefan gasping, coming warm and thick all over Damon’s hand, his hips thrusting and his eyes wide and huge and too open, too much as he stares into Damon’s face. Damon has to look away because he always wants Stefan like this, wants to keep Stefan staring at him like this forever, but it’s nearly too much to bear, Stefan’s grief and need and heartbreak all over his face.
“No, no, Damon,” Stefan pants and his hand darts out to drag Damon back, kisses him soft and slow until Stefan’s spasms die down and they’re just breathing into each other’s mouths, Stefan’s eyes never leaving his.
The two of them always wind up here, one way or another.
Damon lets out a shaky breath and starts to pull away. Stefan shifts, moves, his hand going for Damon’s crotch. “I—”
Damon shakes him off, pushes him back down flat on the bed. “Just go to sleep, Stefan,” he says. Damon doesn’t feel like doing this right now, too exhausted and weary to really get anything out of it. Stefan opens his mouth to protest but Damon places more pressure on Stefan’s chest, keeping him still.
There are things Damon should say, reassurances to offer: tomorrow will be a better day, things will get better, it’ll be okay. All bullshit. Damon knows things don’t get any better, that pain just festers and the wound always gets infected.
“We will kill Katherine,” he says. That he can promise. Things probably won’t get better—but it will make them both feel a lot better. “And then things will—”
“Things will what, Damon?”
Stefan doesn’t believe him. Neither does Damon.
“Just go to sleep, Stefan,” Damon says and starts to move off the bed.
Stefan makes a noise in his throat, moves suddenly and sharply, and he has an arm stretched out just for a second, before he pulls back just as quickly. Damon almost misses the action.
Stefan doesn’t say anything about it, even as he swallows hard like he’s keeping himself from speaking. Damon follows his example.
“Go to sleep, Stefan,” he repeats. Stefan finally nods and turns his head towards the pillow and stretches out on the bed, no blanket to cover him.
Damon stands over him for a minute, head cocked to the side as he observes him. He doesn’t head out the door. He turns back around and takes a few steps towards Stefan’s desk, sitting down gently on a chair. He doesn’t make any noise as he does so, but—
“I know you’re still there,” Stefan mutters, the words muffled and his face buried into the pillow.
“Just keeping an eye on you, little brother.”
“I won’t do anything stupid.”
It takes a while for Stefan to fall asleep, but he finally does, settling in. Damon stays long past that point.