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stargate, DanielJackson

Fic; Shadow Self (Chapter Two)

Posted on 2014.07.31 at 20:13
Tags: ,
shadowself copy2
Title: Shadow Self (Chapter Two)
Characters: Stefan, Damon, Giuseppe, Silas
Summary: Set after season 4 with Stefan and Silas.
A different take on the tale of Stefan.
This chapter is mainly flashbacks to Stefan's childhood.
Word Count: 4250
Previous Chapters: Prologue | One |


Stefan opens his mind up, allows the story about the discovery of his powers to flow freely, it’s a risky manoeuvre giving Silas all this information, but though emotionally painful there’s nothing that could do too much damage. It’s likely Silas knows this is all part of his manipulation, but that isn’t really a problem. He takes the longer way back to Mystic Falls, it’s not like Silas would know. Maintaining the little focus it takes to drive he lets the rest of his mind submerge itself in the memories.


----


As he gets older Stefan realises he’s better than most at knowing what people are feeling. He figures it’s just a talent he has, after all people are always saying how smart he is for such a young boy. One sentence changes it all:

“How am I supposed to know what you’re feeling Stefan?”

It’s a casual remark, not meant to mean anything, but it shatters something inside Stefan, brings forth the realisation he had had a feel of for a while. He isn’t like other people. Stefan decides to tell father, father would know what they should do.


----


Stefan hears his father sigh, but feels so much else, there’s a weight, sorrow, a sense of duty, of inevitability.

“I didn’t tell you this before because you were too young, but you are old enough now for the responsibility,” his father stops and gestures for him to take a seat before continuing, “our family line has a complicated history, people holding the power of magic in their blood, every once in a while a doppelganger is born.”

There’s an endless pause wherein the man levels his gaze on Stefan, scrutinising his comprehension. Stefan returns the gaze, hoping to convey his willingness to learn whatever lesson is being taught. Then comes the revelation.

“You are a doppelganger. You are identical to a creature who existed long ago and part of that includes having the same powers.”

“I do not understand father, I thought only demons and the devil’s creatures had powers of magic,” Stefan asks, trying to hide how scared and confused he is. This story sounds as though it’s from one of the tales he hears in church, not of his own reality.

“Well,” his father says, and Stefan can almost feel the discomfort of a lie forming, “there are exceptions.”

He thinks he might be sick; he is a creature, a thing. But he can sense the most important part is yet to come, so he tucks his thoughts away and listens. His father begins what seems to be a very tall tale but is in fact truth. A story of witches and hybrid demons and doppelgangers who can break powerful curses with only their lives forfeit. Stefan takes it in like he does the stories in all the books he loves, giving it the rapt attention of an enthused reader, it’s easier that way. He takes less joy from playing a main character in the story than he would’ve thought.

“Stefan it is important you understand what this role entails,” Giuseppe tells him.

“Katerina ran. And everyone she loved died. So none of us doppelgangers can run,” Stefan says sombrely. But his spirits lift slightly at the pride that radiates off his father at the words.

Tears sting Stefan’s eyes but he keeps them from falling.

“Be brave for me son, you have a chance to do something great, stand tall and be proud,” Giuseppe says.

Stefan nods and leaves the room, his mind in a haze.


----


Stefan thinks over his father’s tale many times during the next few days. He’s alright though, goes through the motions, and considers himself with a detached stance. And he’s alright, of course, until he isn’t.

Stefan runs, far into the forest, further than he has ever gone before, out of the reach of the town’s people’s emotions. Then stops. He searches for his own emotions, but there’s only nothingness.

He begins to cry and doesn’t stop, tears stream down his cheeks and snot pours from his nose, his father would be greatly displeased if he saw him. Then the sky darkens and he runs back to the Salvatore estate.

Damon finds him, Damon always finds him.

In the next moment Stefan is sobbing in his brother’s arms, Damon is at a loss of what to do, has quickly stopped asking him what is wrong when that only riles Stefan further. The sobs eventually calm into sniffles and Stefan hesitates in his efforts to say something, he’s afraid Damon will hate him afterwards, or won’t even see him at all. He whispers the words.

“I’m not real.”


----


As the weeks go by Stefan adjusts, he tries extra hard to do what he’s expected to because maybe if he acts like enough of an ordinary human he would be an ordinary human. It would all lead up to his sacrifice, and that will be his ultimate human action; doing what needs to be done. After all he’ll never be worth anything more, he isn’t even a proper person, only a mimicry of one. This is the closest he can hope to come.

Besides Katerina ran and everyone died.

So he asks ladies if he could carry their shopping for them to their carriages and pulls out chairs and does far more chores than his father deems befitting a Salvatore. The hardest is curtailing the maelstrom of mess in his bedroom into a semblance of neatness, the room feels wrong this way; without books strewn about the place and obscure ornaments littered upon every available surface.

“May I help you in the apothecary miss Pearl,” he asks one day.

It’s as close to a career in medicine as he’ll ever get. (He’d rather not work with Jonathon Gilbert, not when they both know Stefan won’t be alive to use his teachings, not when Doctor Gilbert gives him those pitying looks).

She smiles at him and nods in understanding. He sweeps the floor and helps her sort the stock, and comes back the next day and the day after that. It becomes a routine. Stefan knows she’s not quite human, like him, well not like him, but they’re kindred spirits. They don’t talk of such things, it’s an unspoken understanding. But sometimes she likes to impart advice.

Her hand’s cold when she places it on his shoulder but her perfumed scent tickles his nose pleasantly and her voice lilts with a soothing calm as she speaks,
“You’re special Stefan, don’t let anyone convince you you’re any less than anyone else, you’re so much more.”

“Thanks Miss Pearl,” he says, he knows it’s not true even if Miss Pearl thinks it is but doesn’t try to contradict her; that would seem rude. Besides, he appreciates the thought, and even though he doesn’t have a mother he thinks she’s the sort of mother he’d like to have if he did have one.


----


He doesn’t know whether he feels anything, he’s only feeling what they feel, he doesn’t feel only knows, knows he should feel guilty and acts that way until he convinces himself he feels it. Until he makes himself feel it, builds these put-together things inside himself.

“Such a good boy, he knows what’s right,” Giuseppe tells the other adults as they talk around him, about him, about the silent obedient little martyr he is. They have said this is who he is, and so that is who he must be. He is well liked because he is good, he will do this good, and he will ensure the safety of their town.


----


He looks down, turns to his brother looking shy and like he knows it’s wrong to ask what he’s about to ask. Because it is wrong and he feels it’s wrong, but the truth of his performance does serve to make it more convincing. He waits, patiently.

“What is it?” Damon asks.

Stefan pauses reluctantly before letting out a half answer, “there are some books I would like to read.”

“Well that’s nothing new,” Damon replies, ruffling his hair.

“These are different…father would not approve.”

Damon gave him a look and he blushes, “that’s not what I meant!”

Stefan knows deep down he’s manipulating Damon to get him the books.

But Katerina ran and everyone died.

He knows doppelgangers are copies that aren’t meant to exist. He wants to help; wants to lessen the burden he has caused with his very existence. He wants to know more, has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, so he’s asking Damon to get him some books father would disapprove of him having, gives his brother a list and knows he will do as he asks if only to go against their father. Knows this is only encouragement of the rift between his father and brother. The rift he had his own hand in.

He feels a pang of guilt at the notion; he had only wanted Damon all to himself, had only wanted Giuseppe all to himself, so when it came time to mediate between them Stefan had been in two minds; fixing the tear whilst all at once holding himself as the stitches, without which they would fall apart, whilst all at once driving the wedge further into the wound with utmost subtleness; with kind words of the other rather than hateful, it drove their anger further. 

Because if Stefan could see sense, why couldn’t the other. He should have left them to themselves.


----


Summer slides into fall and then fall to winter, Stefan’s thoughts and actions swirl in repetitive motion; haunted.

It’s the status quo. Stefan will sacrifice himself and save the town. Stefan will be part of history and make his father proud. He had never thinks of these as choices, just the planned destination of his life. Some fathers planned for their children’s marriages, Stefan’s planned for his death.
Katerina ran and everyone died.

The words follow him around like a shadow, unnoticeable until it does something odd. No one says them, but they’re present in the people’s stares, in their smiles, in their good mornings and good nights.


----


Stefan had always been good at making friends and had still always felt alone, now he understands why. None of it was genuine, it wasn’t him they were friends with but the projection he created, he had lied to them, plied them with the echoes of themselves. Stefan is a trick of the light. A shadow.

Stefan could reform into what they needed so easily because he had no original form, no original self; all a series of reflections.


He tests out his powers, he can help people. When he does it makes him feel real. Maybe the lie counts less if he’s helping.

“Hello Stefan,” his friend Jenny greets, walking past.

“What’s wrong?” Stefan asks in lieu of a reply, thus halting her movement; he can feel the sorrow rolling off her in waves.

“Nothing,” she says, reorganising the vegetables in her basket in a flustered manner.

Stefan carefully touches her elbow, urging her to have a seat on the bench. And then sits beside her.

“So what’s going on?” Stefan asks.

She puts a hand against her mouth and moves it to tuck away some hair before finally beginning to speak.

Stefan tunes out her words so he can hear her thoughts, feel her emotions, can intuit what she’s heard from others and what she needs to hear. (Her upset at her brother’s hurtful words of degradation, her frustration and despair at others blaming her for not being a perfect obedient lady, her ire at the untenable situation, her guilt and her fear). Previously he’s done all this unconsciously, grasping only the smallest kernels of information, but now as a conscious action, he’s much better than even his previous excellent performance.

“You’re allowed to do what’s best for you, and if that means distancing yourself from your brother and his ideas then that’s what you should do,” Stefan says.

“How do you always know the perfect thing to say? Thank you Stefan, I needed to hear that. It’s just hard, you know?” Jenny says.

“I know where you’re coming from, I have similar troubles.”

He ponders how much of a lie this is, is it cheating? He couldn’t imagine how hard it must be to be on the outs with a sibling, he and Damon are so close and it would be agonising for that to be torn apart. It doesn’t occur to him that he has similar issues with obeying his father; he doesn’t see it that way and wouldn’t want to disobey even if he could.


----


“I wanted so much to be a real live boy,” Stefan jokes with a self-deprecating tone.

Silas, slipping the context for said joke from Stefan, chuckles too.

“It was a defence mechanism I suppose, to deal with my pending fate.”

“If it was, it’s one you haven’t given up. Still think you’re just reflections, don’t you?”

Stefan bristles before smirking, “Yes, but everyone’s just reflections in the end.”

“And you’re just a little more so,” Silas pushes, pauses, “the five are important?”

Stefan shudders at the lapse, the slip of extraneous information, he needs to keep focused, “let’s get back to the story.” 


----


He has thoughts he’s terribly, terribly ashamed of, just the idea leaves him feeling guilt-ridden and soiled, dirty. The secret is: Stefan wants to live. He wants to grow up and have a family, have an adult job and read more books. It was such an incredibly selfish notion, especially when he’s been given this chance, this shot at a true sacrificial legacy. His self-indulgent wishes make him feel sick. But he wants to live.

But Katerina ran and everyone died.

Damon had just completed his first year at university and Stefan’s thrilled to have him home for the summer.

“I am writing a story, I wonder if I might have your input,” he asks shyly.

“You’re deviating from writing memoirs to write fiction, father will be most displeased, of course I’d be delighted to help,” Damon responds with an air of gentle mockery and mischief.

“The main character has an important duty, he doesn’t wish to let anyone down or lead to anyone being hurt but he wishes to escape his fate.”

“Intriguing,” Damon says, “and does this character happen to be named Stefan?”

He sighs at his brother’s persistent observant bluntness, still certain that Damon knows not the details of his quandary, he says,
“I cannot run. I do not wish to surrender.”

“If you wish to do neither, do neither.”

Stefan sends Damon a put upon expression, as is typical his brother is carefree of consequences; Stefan’s envious.

“That is not an option.”

Damon turns serious, forming a pensive smile, he speaks,
“Stefan, I worry for you. Too often you give yourself unto others, allow them to take more than they should, and find yourself undeserving of what remains. You are a wonderful brother and a wonderful person. So though I do not know what this matter truly is, I hope you heed my advice. Sometimes you have to do the unthinkable. You have to fight. You can fight.”

Stefan looks at Damon in awe; he’s never considered another option. But it’s brilliant, he could go to them and fight, if he fails they would have him and would have no need to seek retribution, and if he succeeds all his family will be safe. 


----


He leafs through weathered vellum pages, absorbing everything he can, considering, pondering, blinking stinging, scratchy eyes, snuffs candles which are melted to roots as footsteps near and relights them as they drift on past. And he hides the books in dust-moted corners of the library.

Stefan knows that as important as this knowledge is, he also needs experience, practises the fighting stances his brother taught him, runs through the woods under sun-drenched skies, whittles stakes in the dark until his hands spasm, palms callous, and his fingers bloody. Knows it’s still nowhere near enough.


----


It’s an ordinary day at the apothecary; Stefan is meticulously putting together packages for delivery and Pearl is taking inventory, studying each bottle in turn. The shop is empty of customers and this seems as good a time as any for Stefan to talk to Pearl.

“May I speak with you Miss Pearl?”

“Of course Stefan, what’s on your mind?”

“I consider you a friend, which is why I ask, should I fight?”

“Stefan,” Pearl says firmly, they both know who the other is but they do not speak of such things.

“I’m sorry,” Stefan says, pausing before continuing firmly but allowing desperation to seep into his tone, “but I must ask, if I make the wrong decision so many will be hurt and you are so wise, please.”

“No one can make your choices but you. But if you choose to fight I will help you,” Pearl says.

Stefan usually doesn’t read Pearl’s thoughts as a point of respect, but it feels necessary here even as it feels like a betrayal. But he sees that Pearl wants him to fight, wants him to think more of himself, but is unwilling to send him on a fool’s errand. She’s unwilling to set into motion events that would destroy them all. It only leaves him more conflicted; Pearl would know more than anyone a bad idea when she came upon one. He can’t afford to let people be hurt.

“Come here,” Pearl says softly, clearly realising he’s read her, “it’s going to be okay.”

Stefan leans into her embrace and boxes the thoughts away.

“I think I should get ready anyway, for whatever I’m going to do,” Stefan finally states.

(Stefan takes a moment, whilst carefully ensuring he doesn’t hesitate in the story’s pace, to furl and unfurl the tale, re-write an aspect to keep what he needs to hidden, and hopes Silas doesn’t find the holes).

“I can help you; you need to hone your powers.”

“How?”

“The first thing you must focus on is balance and control.”

“If you will help me with this then I will. There’s another matter that I could use your help with.”

“Yes?”

“I need to learn how to survive and there’s only one other of my kind who has done so.”

“Katerina is dangerous, you should not seek her out.”

“You know where she is.”

“I won’t help you find her,” Pearl says sternly.

Stefan knows she’s worried for him but also for herself, he must somehow sway her into cooperation.

“We will all be safer if you come with me. Perhaps we could be allies? Once I’ve mastered my powers I will be stronger, we can help each other. That way everyone will be safe.”

“Stefan, I have no need to strike deals with you, I care for you like a son,” Pearl says.

“I need to find her, and if I do so alone she’ll likely kill me.”

Pearl sighs, conceding reluctantly, “I believe you are right, if you insist on searching Katerina will likely discover it, the scenario will be much better if I’m by your side to advise you.” 


----


A new year dawns, the need to shave comes with it, time’s slipping by too fast for Stefan’s liking, a mere four years remaining before what would come to pass. Freshly calloused fingers run along the luxurious sheets and covers encompassing his body and it occurs to him, as it often did, that he should bask in the comfort while he can. It will soon be gone. But regrettably he couldn’t, body tense and mind strained, by all that could be, all that would be, all the destruction potentially wrought by his hand alone. Guilt threatens to swallow him up and he slips out silently, feet subtle on the cold floor. He has to be ready.

Tendrils reach out, further afield, out past the Lockwood estate and into the town, catching wisps of emotions, barely there traces, drawing closer, tendrils piling in on themselves, curling together into a larger beast, they knot violently against themselves, Stefan keeps pushing. Nearer first, he decides, he’ll hone what’s in his presence. Invisible tendrils swatting fruitlessly with efforts to catch more than the mess of passing miasma. Day after day, closing his eyes, pulling at his mind, Stefan sends the tendrils out. He tires. His nose bloodies itself too often. Knotted tendrils twang and clash and finally silkily glided.

By the time the chill of February gives way to the crisp coolness of March, his focus is far more refined. He’s no longer a beacon merely picking up stray emotions as they pass him, he hooks his mind onto them, tendrils poking deeper, finding the room the emotions sit in and the corridors that hide behind them. He delves, finding treasures from earlier in the day, the week, the month. He’s used to the familiarity of his brother’s mind, could roam even further, though whether this is aided by his own memory he’s unsure. He toes down darkened cobwebbed halls within Damon’s head, reaching back to years gone by. This is a taste of how strong he could become, guilt sits heavy in his chest at the intrusion every time an edge of too personal passes his mind’s eye. But he must continue, he must be strong. He makes an effort not to look.  


----


It’s a week shy of his fifteenth birthday, he’s known of these ungodly powers for four years, and been working on enhancing them for the past two.
His index and middle fingers tap at the rosewood, maintaining a steady rhythm, keeping him grounded as tendrils fly away further than ever before, thicker and more solid, vines where there once were threads, ferreting out something different, something new…

‘I’ll have to go into town to get some milk.’

Nothing important, yet everything, not just ideas extrapolated from emotions, but thought, pure sharp worded thought. 


----


Tendrils spill out slow and cautious, he has never tried to implant a new thought before, he sees them winding and curling in on themselves in his mind’s eye, luring, spinning, churning. The man opposite him blinks startled.

Stefan sighs but refocuses, tries again. Tendrils coil, construct, readying to move the immovable.

The frequency of his taps increase.

He pushes.

He strains, putting in all that he has. The immovable judders minutely. He coaxes further, beads of sweat reddening. Tendrils snap away, disperse. Stefan gasps, eyes thrown wide.

Later sits in his room brooding at his failure.


----


Months slip away and he’s three inches taller by the time he succeeds.

His tapping fingers curl in on themselves producing a harried knocking.

Tendrils dwell in an artisans formation. A thought is planted, settles, and whispers its way home.


----


Being able to actually push a thought into another mind scares him somewhat, even if it’s only a small thought, Stefan has to recognise how powerful he is now. He needs to be careful. He must not abuse these powers; it would be too easy to become corrupted, to do wrong. So he holds himself back, hides his powers away, taking them out only for training, until he has a suitable use for them.

Another meeting between the founders is taking place, Stefan knows they will be talking about him, father always makes sure he’s far enough away to not hear anything, even with his powers. But he needs to know what’s said when he’s not there to be able to help properly, to put his plan in place and ensure it’s resolved without anyone being hurt. Besides, his father doesn’t realise how far his powers have grown. This seems an appropriate instance for the first time he will use the true extent of his powers to accomplish something.

Sitting on his bed, cross-legged, he closes his eyes, allowing the tendrils of his mind to reach out, they find the study without problem, taking in the thoughts and emotions of the people inside. Every thought is sharp now, layered over emotions, everyone is distinguishable now, and he delves deeper than ever before. 

“If any doppelganger’s choice is a forgone conclusion Stefan’s is, because Stefan is Stefan.”

“Yes, Stefan is a boy who will do what is right.”

Because Katerina ran and everyone died.

Because he has raised him into a guilt-ridden youth who will not bring himself to do anything less, Giuseppe doesn’t add. It is not of import, he has done what he had to, what is right, however it may pain him.

The words of his father’s thought imprint clearly on Stefan’s mind, along with the smaller thoughts and emotions that accompanied it. Stefan sinks into the well of them, growing cold at the revelations assaulting him. Even the little Stefan had of his real self wasn’t his own, it’s been moulded that way by his father, he’s nothing of himself, and his father had made him so, had made him into this creature of pain and doubt, betrayal stung white hot beneath his rib cage.



And as the words played again in his mind’s eye, they finally distorted; reshaped themselves.

Katerina ran and she survived.


----


“That’s enough for now, how about some reciprocation?” Stefan says as they drive under the sign welcoming them to Mystic Falls.

“You say that as though you’re not just telling me all this to manipulate me,” Silas replies.

“You say as if you’re not manipulating me too,” Stefan parries.

“Not the best foundations for an alliance.”

“It worked for me and Katherine.”




Comments:


Tenshinrtaiga
tenshinrtaiga at 2014-07-31 21:35 (UTC) (Link)
Super interesting! Wish they were longer but excited for more.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-08-01 06:41 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad it has you excited :)
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