"Stop fussing," Damon muttered as he batted at Alaric's fingers on his forehead. The bullet stuck there was killing him, and the vervain coursing through his veins wasn't helping matters either. And, fuck, he needed a drink.

"M'not fussin'." Straddling Damon's hips, Alaric pushed Damon's hands away as he reached for the wound on Damon's forehead.

"Yes, you are. Like a girl." Damon said, trying to turn his head away.

"M'not a girl." Alaric frowned absently. He flashed a grin at Damon, and Damon's chest lurched. "Surely you've noticed that by now."

Before Damon could respond, Alaric grabbed Damon's shoulder to steady him and pushed the other man against the damp rock of the cellar wall, not ungently, and then pressed his index finger and thumb around the bullethole, and squeezed. After a few moments, the bullet started to move, and he got his fingernail under it and pulled it out.

He held up the bullet with smirk. "Got it. Wanna keep it? Maybe if you put it under your pillow, the Bullet Fairy'll come and leave you a quarter."

"Gimme that." Damon scowled as he snatched the bullet from Alaric and then tossed it away. "You're a dick."

Alaric chuckled, but then stopped as he looked down at his fingers. He made a sound of disgust and grimaced.

"I think I got your brains under my nails," he said. "You get shot in the head often? Because that would explain a lot."

Damon's mouth twisted.

"Very funny, Rick. And FYI, I'm so kicking your ass when we get out of this."

If we get out of this, he thought, his stomach twisting. A part of him hoped that the vamps who'd captured them would make good on their threat to hand them over to Klaus so that he could see Stefan and maybe talk some sense into his brother, but another part dreaded Klaus getting his hands on Alaric again. Damon had no idea how he was supposed to protect his friend in this state and he was certain Alaric wouldn't survive another meeting with the hybrid.

"Yeah, well, FYI, we're not going anywhere until that vervain in your system wears off." As Alaric spoke, he pulled his cuff over his hand and raised it to his mouth to spit on it.

"Yes, well, FYI-will you stop that?"

Damon tried to pull away from Alaric's hand as Alaric started to wipe the blood off Damon's face.

"Just hold still, Damon."

Alaric worked quickly and efficiently, cleaning the blood from Damon's face with careful dabs.

"Good as new," he said finally, running his fingers over Damon's forehead, eliciting a shiver from Damon.

"Not quite."

Alaric raised a brow as he adjusted his cuff. "Oh?"

Damon rested his hands on Alaric's hips as he let his head fall back against the wall, giving Alaric a calculating look from under his lashes.


Damon held his breath as he watched the shift of emotions across Alaric's face, first surprise, then suspicion, followed by something undefinable that made Damon's heart stop. A slow smile slid across Alaric's face then, and Damon's mouth went dry.

"Oh, yeah?" Alaric's other hand came up to Damon's shoulder and he interlaced his fingers behind Damon's neck. "Does this help?

Leaning forward, he pressed a chaste kiss to Damon's forehead before pulling away, moistening his lips as he raised a questioning brow.

It was almost the hardest thing Damon had ever done, but he managed not to smirk and ruin the mood. Instead he just nodded and then pointed to his cheek. He could feel Alaric's pulse racing under his thumbs and hear it, too-badumm, badumm, badumm-and it made him giddy.

Alaric's lips twitched, but his face remained earnest. He closed the distance between them again, kissing Damon's cheek. He remained still for a moment and then he dragged the tip of his tongue over Damon's cheekbone to his ear. Damon whimpered, his fingers digging into Alaric's hips. Alaric moved away again, his reluctance almost palpable.

"That better?" he asked.

Damon shook his head. The urge to smirk was gone now. He had the feeling that whatever was about to happen was important. He held Alaric's gaze for another long moment and then pointed his finger at his lips.

Alaric snorted in amusement, shaking his head.

"All right, Indy," he said. "You win." He leaned in again, but then stopped short, his breath teasing Damon's lips with soft puffs of air.

"I think I like you like this," he murmured against Damon's mouth. "You on vervain. It feels like we're equals for once."

Damon pulled back and furrowed his brow.

"We are equals, Rick," he said. "Vampire strength has nothing to do with that." He pulled Alaric closer. "And as for hotness, well, we're about equally hot. I'm a snazzier dresser, though."

"'Snazzier'?" Alaric asked. "Is that even a word? Is that something people used to say in the olden days?"

Alaric's blush at Damon's compliment, however, belied his teasing words, and Damon felt his chest lurch.

"Shut up," he said. "You promised to kiss it better, so get to it."

Alaric harrumphed as he shifted his weight on Damon's lap.

"Okay. Close your eyes."

"Close my eyes?" Damon raised a brow. "Why?"

"You'll make me laugh otherwise." Alaric tapped Damon's cheek lightly with his fingers. "C'mon, humor me. D'you want me to kiss it better or not?"

Damon let out a dramatic sigh.

"All right." He leaned his head against the wall, letting his lids fall. "Get to it. My lips are going numb from not being better yet."

"Uh huh."

Alaric's hands fell on Damon's shoulders with heavy pressure, and they felt... well, weighty. Portentous. Damon's tongue flicked over his lips, his pulse fluttering as he waited for Alaric to kiss him. He could feel Alaric inching closer and had to resist the urge to open his eyes and thus ruin the moment. Then Alaric's mouth was on his, just a bare whisper of a touch, and Damon's heart seemed to stop.

Then Alaric moved away again, and Damon's eyes's flew open.

"That's it?" he asked. "I don't think so."

Despite being weakened by vervain, he was still able to grab Alaric's arms with some semblance of strength and pull him in again.

"Not better enough," he said, dragging Alaric closer again. His lips were about to close on Alaric's when the other man leaned away again.

"C'mon, Damon," he said. "We already kissed."

Damon snorted as he tamped down the hurt and annoyance rising in his chest.

"Why are you being so weird about this?" he asked. "This isn't the first time we've kissed. Or done other things, for that matter."

Alaric's eyes darkened and Damon realized he'd hit a nerve.

"None of those times count," Alaric said. "We were drunk."

"Rick, we're always drunk," Damon said. "Besides that doesn't make sense. If every time I kissed or fucked someone when I was drunk doesn't count, then that makes me, well, celibate."

His jaw clenched. Who did Rick think he was, anyway?

"All right, fine, you know what?" Damon pushed at Alaric, trying to dislodge him. "We don't have to do anything at all anymore. Just get off me."

Alaric, however, proved unexpectedly persistent. He pushed Damon back against the wall again, using his weight to hold Damon in place. Leaning forward, he nuzzled Damon's cheek and Damon froze.

"I didn't say we couldn't, you know, do stuff sober," he said. "It just... changes stuff. No more excuses. Not even later, when we're drunk again."

Damon stared at Alaric for a long moment, surprised at the turn the conversation was taking.

"Okay," he said, moistening his lips again. "No more excuses. I can live with that. That is, if we do live."

Alaric shrugged. "We've been through worse," he said. "What're a few crazy vamps out to kill us? Well, kill you. I'm just along for the ride."

Damon's chest tightened at the thought of Alaric dying tonight because of him.

"I'm sorry," he said. "It was my fault. If I hadn't opened my big mouth-"

Alaric laughed. "Dude, are you apologizing? That's new."

Damon scowled. "Yeah, it's all part of the kinder, gentler me," he said.

"Taking care of Elena 24/7 is obviously rubbing off on you."

The humor in Alaric's eyes had been replaced by compassion and understanding and Damon shifted uncomfortably. He'd never been 'that guy' and he had no idea what to do about the fact that circumstances were forcing him to take over Stefan's role in their ragtag group of friends or whatever they were, forcing him to be Stefan. He just wanted his little brother to come home and fix things so that Damon could get back to his safe life as the town reprobate. After Damon kicked his ass, of course.

"Anyhow, I'm sure keeping your mouth shut wouldn't have made much of a difference," Alaric continued with a light laugh. "I'm afraid your reputation precedes you." His smile faded. "But I'm glad you regret getting me into trouble along with you."

"Hey," Damon said with a smirk. "That's what friends are for."

"Uh, huh," Alaric said. "I don't think I've ever heard you admit it before. That we're friends."

Damon's brow furrowed. Alaric wasn't make a lick of sense tonight.

"Of course we're friends," he said, giving Alaric a flirty smile as he slipped his fingers under the hem of Alaric's shirt, grazing the soft skin of his sides. "Friends with... occasional benefits."

Alaric shivered under Damon's touch.

"Yeah, well... what if I want more?"

Damon stopped breathing for a moment, holding completely still as he gazed at Alaric, trying to gauge his thoughts. Alaric's eyes slid away from his, however, fixating on a point above his head, his jaw clenching and unclenching as he waited for Damon's mocking reply. Damon opened his mouth to oblige, but what came out was something completely different, something so incoherent, he wasn't sure himself what he was getting at.

"I, uh, yeah. That would be... okay. Yeah. Maybe, we could... you know... if you want..."

He winced inwardly as he waited for Alaric to start making fun of him for his uncharacteristic loss for words, but the other man just stared at him for a moment and then leaned down, pressing his lips against Damon's. Damon shivered and then held still, just enjoying the feel of Alaric's mouth against his for a moment and then he wrapped his arms around Alaric and pulled him closer, deepening the kiss. Alaric's lips were slow and deliberate on his, not at all like the desperate, hurried kisses that made up their usual drunken makeout sessions.

After a few moments, Alaric broke the kiss, leaning back to gaze at Damon with a dazed look.

"Any better?" he asked, sounding out of breath, and Damon's cock started to harden at the thought that he was the one affecting Alaric like that.

"Now something else hurts," Damon said, pushing his erection against the inside of Alaric's thigh. "I think it's swollen."

Alaric's shoulders started to shake with laughter.

"Dude, seriously?" he said. "What, are you 170 or 17? I haven't heard a line like that since high school."

"You were fucking guys in high school?"

"I was fucking everything in high school. Weren't you?"

Damon snorted. "For one, there wasn't a high school in Mystic Falls back then. And I only had one experience with a guy before Katherine turned me."

Alaric raised a brow. He shifted his weight, rubbing against Damon's erection, and Damon was convinced it was on purpose. "Oh, yeah?"

"George Lockwood. He was my best friend back then." Damon frowned and he looked down at the floor. "It was in Mine Run. It was the first time our regiment had any real losses and the first time I..." He took a shaky breath. "Anyhow, George was there and just as freaked out and one thing let to another..." He shook his head. "He turned out to be a fuckin' asshole."

Alaric snorted. "Not to speak ill of the dead, but if he was anything like our late mayor, I can imagine." He pressed his hand to Damon's cheek, his eyes filled with compassion again. "You okay?"

Damon shivered as Alaric touched him, his hand hot and comforting on Damon's clammy skin.

"You're so hot," he blurted. "I mean your hand. Your hand is hot."

Alaric just stared at him for a moment, his blood rushing to the surface of his skin so strongly that the smell of it made Damon dizzy. Then Alaric started to snicker.

"Uh, thanks?" he said. "I'd return the, uh, compliment, but right now you're not so hot. Temperature-wise. In fact. you're kinda cold, even for a vamp."

Damon snorted.

"And the other kind of hot?" he said.

Alaric laughed and then his face grew serious.

"Yeah. At the risk of stroking your ego, you are that kind of hot." He reached up again to brush his fingers over Damon's cheek. "You're so fuckin' gorgeous, and I have no idea why you give me the time of day. I'm just a scruffy dude with bags under my eyes from too much drinkin'."

Damon just gave Alaric a puzzled look, convinced that the vervain in his own blood was somehow causing Alaric to spout nonsense.

"Well, it so happens I love scruffy drunk dudes," Damon said with a shrug, only partially aware of what he was saying as he pulled the other man closer.

Alaric went still, but he didn't move away.


"I meant 'dude'." Damon used Alaric's inaction to plaster himself against the other man and he nuzzled Alaric's chin. "One dude. You."

Alaric was silent for so long, Damon wondered if the other man had fallen asleep. After a moment, he spoke:

"I don't think I should take advantage of you in this state." Despite his words, Alaric's hands had slipped under the hem of Damon's shirt and were now tracing circles on Damon's stomach.

"Oh, no." Damon shuddered as he pressed into Alaric's touch. "You totally should. You have to warm me up, remember?"

Damon felt Alaric's facial muscles tighten against his own cheek and then Alaric let out a low chuckle.

"I guess so," he said. "Wouldn't want you to die of pneumonia, now, would I?"

"Oh, yeah," Damon said with a snort. "That's so something I have to worry about." He tightened his grip on Alaric, his eyes falling closed. "Rick... I need you. Please."

A shudder went through Alaric and he turned his head until his lips were poised over Damon's.

"I need you, too, Damon," he breathed. "Need you now."

His mouth crushed Damon's, and he kissed Damon deeply as he maneuvered him onto his back. Damon felt a bit of panic start to rise as Alaric so easily manhandled him in his vervain-weakened state, but he tamped it down, focusing on the sensations instead: Alaric's soft lips on his, his hot fingers teasing Damon's ribs, his sharp hipbones grinding against Damon's thighs.

"Jesus," Damon breathed, suddenly overcome by the feeling that he had to have everything now. Reaching between them, his fingers fumbled at their flies as he released first his and then Alaric's cocks from their jeans, grasping them both with a shaky sigh. Squeezing them together, he started to stroke, grinning when Alaric rewarded him with a sharp intake and a wanton moan.

"God, Damon. I-oh, fuck."

Alaric's whole body went rigid and then he came with a sharp cry, spilling over both their pricks. With a few more come-slickened strokes, Damon found his release as well. Alaric fell onto him and they just lay there for a moment, holding each other.

"Wow," Damon said finally, rubbing Alaric's shoulder as the other man eased off him and tucked their spent cocks back in their pants. "That was fast."

Alaric froze and then he relaxed against Damon again with a soft snort.

"Yeah, well," he said dryly, "I wanted to finish up before you started talkin' again and ruined the mood. Apparently, my timing is excellent."

Damon grinned as he pulled Alaric closer, pressing his lips to the other man's temple. "You know, turning you into a vamp will cure you of that little premature ejaculation problem."

"Ha, ha." Alaric thumped Damon on the solar plexus and Damon winced. He'd forgotten about the vervain again. "I do not have a premature ejaculation problem. And you came at the same time, remember? Jesus." He demonstratively wiped off the remaining semen on his fingers on Damon's shirt.

Damon looked down at his shirt with a grimace. "You know, if we lived in the Harry Potter universe, we could use a spell for that. And for lube."

"Are you saying if you had magical powers like that at your disposal, you'd use them for sex?"

"Well, duh." Damon snorted. "Are you saying you wouldn't? What else would they be good for?" He thought about it for a moment and then snapped his fingers. "Hey? Do you think Judgy knows any good sex spells like that?"

"No," Alaric said. "And you will not ask her. I don't want to find out whether Bonnie can give humans aneurysms, too. Jesus, Damon. Just give it a rest."

Damon grinned and pulled Alaric closer.

"All right," he said. "I was just kidding anyway." His eyes fell closed as he started to doze, feeling oddly content despite the circumstances. Even if they were dead meat once Klaus (and Stefan) got there, at least he'd have spent his last few hours with Alaric.

Alaric curled up against him, rubbing his head against Damon's chin, his hand splayed on Damon's chest. "By the way," he said. "That, uh... that thing you said earlier. You know. About scruffy dudes. I, uh... I do, too."

Damon furrowed his brow as he tried to remember what Alaric was talking about. "You love scruffy dudes?"

"No, you idiot. I love y-"

The rest of Alaric's statement was lost as the door to cell blew open with a resounding crash, splintering against the far wall as Tyler and Caroline burst into the room.

"There you are!" Caroline bustled over with a gleeful bounce. "Typical. You boys just can't stay out of trouble, can you?"

She shook her head, clucking her tongue as she gave them a scolding look. She gave no indication that she'd noticed what they'd been doing just before she and Tyler had found them, but Tyler was trying to hide a smirk with little success.

"Care thinks it's hilarious that she's the one saving you guys for once," Tyler said, reaching down to help Alaric get Damon to his feet as Caroline beamed at them. "And hurry. I think one of 'em might've called for reinforcements before we got 'im."

As they headed out of the house to Tyler's waiting car, Alaric's hand stole into Damon's and squeezed. And for the first time in a long time, Damon felt something akin to hope.