Caroline gave him the idea, a fact that Damon tried to put out of his mind later. He definitely didn't tell her or even thank her, though he was sure she knew. Just a mere mention on his part, however, would make his sister-in-law even more unbearable than usual, and he wasn't about to do that to himself. He was happy to let Stefan suffer for them both.

On the day in question, Damon sat in front of the fire, his lip curled into a scowl as he clenched the tumbler of whiskey in his hand. The click-clack of high heels entered the room and he looked up to see Caroline standing at the top of the stairs that went into the living room, her eyes on the stack of mail in her hands as she thumbed through it.

"Hi," she said absently. "Where's Rick?"

"He went home." Damon's jaw clenched.

"Home?" Caroline raised her eyes and gave Damon a quizzical look. "But he lives here."

Damon snorted. "No, he doesn't," he said. "Where did you get that idea?"

"Well," Caroline said slowly as she held up her hand and started counting off her fingers. "He's here all the time. His laptop is sitting on the coffee table and it's still running. I found his dirty socks under a sofa cushion the other day." She grimaced at the memory. "And he sleeps in your room every night. Like, actually sleeps. In addition to... that other thing you two are always doing. Loudly, I might add."

Damon stared at her for a moment. "That doesn't mean anything. It's just more convenient for him to stay here after we've had some drinks. Are you saying he should drink and drive?"

Caroline snorted. "He's been staying here for going on five years, Damon. Say what you will. I'm a wedding planner, sweetie, I know true love when I see it. It's so obvious. I mean, you two bicker like an old married couple already. It's adorable. If you make it official, I can get you a special rate on the flowers."

Damon's mouth fell open. He was so flabbergasted that he couldn't even process her claim that he was in love with Alaric at the moment. That was just preposterous. "We do not-"

At that moment, Stefan came up behind Caroline and slid his arms around his wife's waist.

"Hey," he said. "Where's Rick?"

Before Damon could answer, Caroline turned her head to look up at Stefan. "He went home," she said, her voice dripping with disapproval.

"Home?" Stefan frowned. "But he lives here." He looked over at Damon. "Did you two break up?"

"We didn't break up," Damon said, rolling his eyes. "We're not even together."

"Really," Stefan said dryly, raising a brow. "Well, you're not-together very loudly."

Caroline started to giggle, but stopped Damon caught her eye. "Never mind," she said. "We can fix this. What did you say to him to make him leave?"

"I didn't say anything," Damon said indignantly. "He's the one who's an idiot. He says David Lynch is better than Tarantino. Can you believe it?"

"The gall of that guy," Stefan said, shaking his head. "I'm surprised you didn't drain him on the spot."

Damon narrowed his eyes. "Ha, ha, very funny," he said.

At that moment, the sound of wheels crunching in gravel reached Damon ears and his heart leapt. He was back. As footsteps approached the house, they all turned towards the door expectantly. Within moments, Alaric entered, holding up a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a bunch of DVDs in the other.

"Hey, guys," he said, nodding at Caroline and Stefan. He turned to Damon and held up the bottle and the DVDs. "I figure if I have to listen to your verbal diarrhea all night, I need more whiskey. And I brought my David Lynch collection. We're going to settle this once and for all."

"Whatever," Damon said casually, trying to mask his relief. He decided not to remind Alaric that they had more bourbon in the cellar just in case that comment drove him to leave again. He walked over to Alaric as slowly as possible, trying to resist the urge to run and throw his arms around the other man, lest anyone thing he really was in love with Alaric. Which he totally wasn't. Jesus. Couldn't two men be best friends with benefits anymore without everyone assuming they were a 'thing'?

When he reached Alaric's side, he smirked at the other man and gave in to a sudden urge to touch him as he poked his finger into Alaric's chest. "You'll be begging my forgiveness when you realize how much Tarantino rules."

"Yeah, that's not gonna happen, dude," Alaric said. He glanced over at Caroline and Stefan. "You guys comin'?"

"No," Damon said, grabbing Alaric's arm and dragging him towards the stairs. "They're going wabbit hunting."

"Totally Tracy and Hepburn," he heard Stefan mutter as Damon herded Alaric towards his room.

"Who?" Caroline asked. Damon could just picture Stefan's eyeroll, the one that matched his put-upon sigh.

"Never mind, Care. Come on, hunting isn't such a bad idea. I'm starving."

-o-O-o-

After hours of-well, not bickering, because that was not what he and Alaric did, no matter what Blondie said-after hours of-and it also wasn't whining, because Damon didn't whine, and Alaric was full of shit for claiming he did-after hours of-discussing the matter as well as one could with a philistine, Damon finally decided to take the high road (after all, the ear thing in Blue Velvet was kind of cool. He almost wished he'd thought of it back when he was the Big Bad in town). He'd conceded that Mulholland Drive wasn't all that bad (but really only because Justin Theroux looked really hot in those hipster glasses of his, which he wasn't about to admit to Alaric), and Alaric had rewarded him with a blowjob. After the make-up sex that followed, Damon fell into a deep, satisfied sleep.

The next morning, Alaric had already left for work by the time Damon awoke. As he lay in bed listening to his brother at work writing in his room and Caroline foraging in the kitchen, he thought about their conversation from the previous evening.

Both Caroline and Stefan seemed to be under the impression that Alaric and Damon were a... a 'couple' or something, and he had a feeling that if he polled the rest of their acquaintances, the results would pretty much be unanimous with the same results. But that was just ridiculous, right? Sure, they spent all their free time together, not to mention all the couples' things that Caroline always made them do with her and Stefan (in which Damon only took part so that he could needle Stefan and Blondie and see how long it took him to get Alaric to laugh). And it totally made sense for two bros to add casual maybe-not-so-platonic sex to their wingman duties when they weren't getting it elsewhere (and hadn't gotten it for quite some time), right?

A jolt went through Damon as he realized he didn't want to get it elsewhere. And he sure as hell didn't want Alaric to get it elsewhere.

He really only had one option, he realized; only one thing made sense if he wanted to keep Alaric by his side and his side alone for the rest of their lives, which was going to be forever, if Damon had anything to say about it. Why hadn't he thought of this before? It made perfect sense.

Before he could lose his nerve, Damon jumped out of bed, pulling on his robe as he hurried out of his room and down to the kitchen where Caroline sat at the counter, a frown of concentration on her face as she studied the newspaper.

"I need your help," Damon said, stealing the mug of coffee out of her hand and taking a sip. She looked up then, her mouth opening, and he quickly continued before she could squeal in indignation and trigger his special Caroline headache he always seemed to get around her. "We're going to plan a wedding."

-o-O-o-

Two weeks later, they were ensconced in a hotel in downtown Boston, ostensibly on a 'couples' weekend with Caroline and Stefan. Caroline had come through admirably, he had to admit (though not to her face), and everything had gone as planned till now. There was the small matter of Alaric not yet knowing about his upcoming wedded bliss, but Damon was sure he'd find a way to break the news. Preferably before the ceremony.

Alaric was bent over his suitcase, affording Damon with a splendid view his broad shoulders and muscular backside as he started to unpack. Damon swallowed hard as he stared, flexing his fingers. Putting the honeymoon before the wedding was starting to sound like a better idea by the minute. Once Alaric's brain was addled by sex, he'd agree to anything.

"We have to visit my parents while we're here," Alaric was saying.

Damon felt ridiculously pleased that Alaric had made the suggestion himself. "We?" he asked, putting on an innocent air.

"Well, yeah." Alaric paused and straightened up. "I mean, you're my... my..."

"Better half?" Damon suggested.

Alaric laughed. "'Better' is an exaggeration there, dude."

"Whatever," Damon said. "Besides, I've already talked to your parents on the phone. We're practically family."

Alaric turned around, his brow furrowed.

"You've talked to my parents?" he asked, a note of suspicion slipping into his voice. "When?"

"Last..." week "year. When you were dying." He actually talked to Alaric's parents more than Alaric did, but he reckoned that pointing that out was the kind of naggy spouse comment best left till after the honeymoon.

Alaric snorted. "I wasn't dying, I had the flu," he said. He narrowed his eyes as he gazed at Damon for moment. "Wait, is that how you got my mom's chicken soup recipe? I thought you'd been snoopin' in my stuff."

"Of course," Damon said smugly. "Only the best for my less than better half. And I snoop in your stuff anyway. You have cool stuff. Mostly."

"Huh." Alaric seemed to be about to say something more, but then a knock came at the connecting door. Damon called, "Come in," and Stefan entered the room.

"We're about to take off," he said. "I need your birth certificates and stuff."

Alaric frowned as Damon pulled a folder out of his carry-on bag and handed it to Stefan.

"What's this all about? What do you need that for?"

Stefan cocked his head at Alaric and then turned to Damon. "You haven't told him yet?" He rolled his eyes. "Damon..."

"Don't worry, baby brother, it's under control," Damon said hurriedly, pushing Stefan towards the door. "Now go run that errand for me. Be compelling."

"C'mon, sweetie," Caroline said poking her head into the doorway behind Stefan. Her shoulders lifted in an apologetic shrug as she waved at Damon and Alaric with one hand while grabbing Stefan's arm and tugging him out of the room with the other. "I'll explain on our way there."

Damon pushed the door closed with a sigh of relief and turned to find Alaric staring at him, his eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"What didn't you tell me?" Alaric said, his voice lowered to a growl that that made Damon's insides feel all funny.

"Hmm?" Damon feigned confusion for a moment as he tried to figure out a way to break the news of his and Alaric's pending nuptials gently, in a way that would hopefully lead to hot sex and not a shouting matching.

"Damon..."

"I'm getting married tomorrow," Damon said. There. That was a start, right?

Alaric paled and took a step back, grabbing the corner of the dresser to steady himself. "Wh-what?"

"Are you okay?" Damon closed the distance between them and tried to take Alaric's arm, but Alaric pulled away.

"No," Alaric said, staring at a point halfway down Damon's chest. "I mean, yes. Of course. Who is she?"

Damon stared uncomprehendingly at Alaric for a moment and then he widened his eyes.

"Oh!" he said. "There is no 'she'. It's a 'he'. A you 'he', in fact. I'm marrying you. We are getting married. Stefan and Caroline are off compelling public officials to make this thing happen as we speak."

Alaric's mouth fell open.

"Wait a minute," he said. "You organized a wedding-our wedding-without consulting me?"

Damon moistened his lips nervously as he struggled to retain casual attitude.

"Dude," he said. "You're a dude. Dudes don't organize weddings. Of course I didn't consult you. Lucky for you, my brother married a wedding planner."

Alaric sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.

"That's not the point." Alaric looked down and Damon's heart lurched as he waited for the inevitable letdown. "If-when-I get married again, I kinda want my friends and family to be there."

Damon let out a puff of breath. "They are here," he said, holding up his hand as he started to count off everyone on his fingers. "Your parents will be there. I, uh, maybe kind of sort of accidentally outed you to them, by the way." He shifted uncomfortably under Alaric's stare. "Erm, sorry. We're having dinner with them tonight so you can explain yourself." He allowed himself a brief, smug smile and then continued before Alaric could respond. "Jeremy and Bonnie are coming and so's Elena and that redheaded buffoon she married, what's his name? Chump?"

Elena now lived in Charlottesville with a friend of Jeremy, a fellow doctor Jeremy had met during his residency at the hospital in Mystic Falls, and their two children.

"Chuck," Alaric said automatically. They had this exact exchange fairly regularly. "He's a great guy. I like Chuck"

"Everyone likes Chuck," Damon said, rolling his eyes. "Chuck. What a stupidass name. Who calls themselves 'Chuck' nowadays? And all that red hair." He shuddered. "He looks like a Weasley. Do you think he's secretly a warlock? Maybe I should demand to see his wand."

Alaric groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Damon, please don't ask to see Elena's husband's wand at our wedding."

Damon opened his mouth to argue the point and then froze.

"Wait a minute," he said. "You just said 'our wedding'. So you will marry me."

Shaking his head, Alaric snorted and Damon's stomach fluttered.

"Maybe," Alaric said. "But first, on your knees."

Damon gave Alaric a blank stare. "You want me to blow you?"

"No!" Alaric rolled his eyes. "Well, yeah, maybe later, but right now? I want a proper proposal." He grabbed Damon's shoulders and pushed him down. "So, on your knees, Salvatore."

Damon got down on his knees, feeling considerably less ridiculous than he'd expected.

"Alaric," he said. "I..." He cleared his throat, overcome by an uncharacteristic nervousness. "I love you. Even if you have misinformed opinions regarding indie film directors. Will you marry me?"

"Wow," Alaric said dryly. "So romantic. The bit about the indie film directors is a particularly moving touch."

Damon sighed. "Yes or no, Saltzman."

Alaric grinned. "Yes, of course, you idiot." His eyes widened as Damon reached into his pocket and took out a ring, which he held out to Alaric. "An engagement ring? Wow. You sure know how to make a dude feel special." He reached out to take the ring and then froze, the smile disappearing from his face. "Damon... this is a daylight ring."

Damon swallowed hard. Alaric was almost impossible to read at the moment and it was driving him nuts.

"Uh, yeah," he said slowly. "Bonnie made it. Your turning is sort of... well... part of the deal. I don't want you for just the next 50 years or so, Rick, I want you for all of eternity."

Alaric stared at the ring for a long moment, far too long, if you asked Damon. Just when Damon was starting to think all was lost, Alaric held out his hand.

"All right," he said.

Damon let out the breath he'd been holding and gave Alaric a beatific smile.

"Awesome," he said, sliding the daylight ring onto Alaric's finger. "You won't regret it, I promise."

Alaric tugged Damon to his feet and threw his arms around Damon's shoulders. "I already kinda do," he said with a laugh. "And I love you, too. Even if you have abysmal taste in, well, not just indie film directors, but pretty much everything."

"I have bad taste?" Damon cocked his head at Alaric.

"Oh, yeah." Alaric's breath was hot on his neck and Damon shivered as the other man tugged his shirt out of his waistband and skated his fingers up the bare skin of his sides. "Remember that leopard print shirt?"

"Yeah, well, you certainly couldn't wait to get me out of it," Damon growled. "As I recall, that was the first time we slept together."

Alaric chuckled. "Of course I had to get it out of you. I thought I was gonna go blind if I had to look at it one more minute."

Damon snorted. "Too bad you made me burn it. We could make a shrine to our love out of it."

"Uh, huh." Alaric gave him a long look. "What about Clint Eastwood? Can we agree that he's cool, at least?"

Damon nodded. "I think I can live with that."

Alaric grinned. "Good," he said, leaning back against his pillow. "Hmm, Damon Saltzman. Has a good ring to it."

"What? No!" Damon scowled and raised his finger. "If anyone is changing their name, it'll be you."

"I'm not changing my name," Alaric said with smirk. "Besides you're totally the wife."

Damon glared at Alaric. "I. Am not. The wife," he said through clenched teeth.

"Wow, you really shatnered that line," Alaric said blithely. "Mrs. Saltzman."

Damon grabbed Alaric and tossed him onto the bed before crawling onto his fiancé and pinning him to the mattress.

"So, the reception's at your parents' house," Damon said with a casual tone that belied the raging boner in his pants.

Alaric groaned. "I still can't believe you outed me to my parents."

Damon felt a pang of guilt, but he pushed it away. It had, after all, worked out all right. "Yeah. But don't worry. They'd already guessed. Apparently I'm all you ever talk about, which, you know, makes total sense seeing as I'm unbearably hot. They're just happy you're finally settling down again."

"Uh, huh," Alaric said, trying not to grin. He pressed up against Damon's erection. "You know, we should probably save it for the wedding night."

"No," Damon said, leaning in for a kiss. "We shouldn't."

And so they didn't.

-o-O-o-

For the record, Damon did ask Chuck about his wand. Luckily, Alaric distracted everyone by proposing a toast to 'the new Mrs. Saltzman.' And they lived happily ever after.