Okay, first post in this fandom. First time I'm writing slash. This is me trying to get into their heads and having fun with that. Damon/Alaric, sort of established-relationship-friends-with-benefits-whatever. Let me know what you think.

Set in the break between 2.22 and 3.01, Au-ish, sort of.

Warning: Slash, Damon/Alaric. Don't like, don't read.

Disclaimer: Don't own anything that might seem familiar.

ooOOoo

He wakes to the sound of the shower turning off.

The bed beside him is empty, covers pulled to the side, but the sheets are still warm. He turns his head to blink at the clock and realizes it's way before midnight.

A shadow appears at the door and Alaric slips inside, black towel wrapped around his waist, rubbing a second through his wet hair. Damon watches him, catching sight of one of many drops of water running down the broad chest and can't think of a single reason why Alaric would be out of bed, looking for all the world like he is getting ready to leave.

Alaric has that far-away look on his face, the one he wears when he thinks no one's looking. He moves silently into the middle of the room, looking around listlessly, until he spots his jeans on the floor near the window. He drops both towels at the foot of the bed and walks over, bending forward to pick his jeans up.

In the blink of an eye Damon's out of bed and behind him, fitting himself against Alaric's bare back and just barely avoiding an elbow to the head. Even absentminded as he is, the man still has reflexes.

"Leaving so soon?" Damon purrs against a shoulder, catching a drop of water there with his tongue.

Alaric shivers, then relaxes in his hold, turning his head to the side to look at him over his shoulder. "I have to be back tonight, I can't give them a curfew and then not be there to make sure they keep it."

Damon's expected that answer, has heard variations of it before.

"So you are on a curfew now?" He huffs softly, making sure his breath ghosts over the moist skin before him as he continues, "Tell me, Mr. Gilbert, what are the penalties if you—either of you—break it? House arrest? Kitchen duty? Making sure there's enough alcohol for the next slumber party?"

Alaric flinches guiltily and Damon expects him to turn around and punch him for it. Or at least glare at him. But he doesn't, all he does is sag, leaning back against him, as if there's no strength left to fight. It's not a reaction Damon likes, especially since it's pretty much become Alaric's default setting lately.

"Look, I wanna do this, okay? They are just kids and they are lonely and I think it helps them if I'm around…" His tired voice trails off, but Damon hears the words left unspoken as clearly as if Alaric had said them out loud.

Jenna would want me to keep an eye on them.

He respects that, both Jeremy and Elena have gone through so much more any human at their age should and if he had any idea how to help them he'd probably do the same. The problem is, there is nothing to do at the moment, Stefan is gone, along with Klaus and Elijah, doing who-knows-what who-knows-where. They don't have the slightest idea where to look or even what to look for.

They'd been to Alaric's place after the trio infernale had left town, searching the apartment for clues. All they'd found were bloodstains and empty blood packs. He'd warned Elena, he'd told her that searching for Stefan, trying to find him and his new keeper, will add to the body count. It's suicidal and reckless and a very, very bad idea—but she doesn't listen. True to her rather inconvincible, stubborn self, she won't hear any of it. She is determined to get him back and all he can do, for now, is play along and make sure she stays safe.

He promised to look into whatever brutal killing she dug up on the internet or found in the newspapers or got from Forbes, and he agreed that, yes, he will tell her if he finds anything that could be a lead—but he never does. The few hits he suspects to be Klaus' victims and therefore a track, he keeps from her, tells her, again and again, that it's nothing, just another pointless death in the history of mankind. He doesn't know if she believes him, wouldn't count on it, she's always been too smart for her own good. Fact is, she never says anything and as long as she doesn't run off, he's fine with how it is at the moment.

What he's not fine with is the way Alaric is losing himself more and more in grief and exhaustion. He started drinking himself to sleep days after Jenna's funeral and never showed any indication of bouncing back to his former self. More often than not he would pass out on the couch in the boarding house, sleeping through most of the days and drinking the nights away. He never returned to his apartment to live there, except for a few trips to pick up some personal stuff. He'd hit rock bottom when they talked about some of what had gone down while Klaus had taken his body for a joyride and Damon accidentally found out Alaric had no idea Isobel was dead now, gone for good this time. Her death had got lost in the horrors of the ritual; nobody had bothered to tell him about it. Alaric had taken it like he took everything those days, with another glass of Scotch and a lifeless shrug. And then he'd zoned out on him, drink forgotten in his hand.

That was the first night they'd spent together, and try as he might, he can't remember who made the first move. Not that it matters. It's not true love, it's not walking on sunshine all day and having the time of their lives, it's maybe not even love at all. For his part, he enjoys the presence of someone who actually wants to be with him and does not have to be compelled at the end of the day. Someone who trusts him, trusts him despite everything he has ever done to him. He thinks Alaric is probably grateful for someone at his side who won't use his feelings against him or die on him any second.

And, of course, there's the sex. Who would have thought history teachers could be that bendy?

Speaking of it…

"Tell you what," he mumbles against the tense shoulder in front of him, "you screw the curfew, let me do the same to you and everybody gets to have a good night. I promise to get you back so you can have lunch with your little family tomorrow…"

"Damon…" Alaric starts to protest tiredly, but it's half-hearted at best.

Damon knows he's won then, and continues his caresses, running his hands down Alaric's sides, stopping shy above his waist. "I'm waiting…" he whispers seductively against Alaric's spine, starting to nip at the warm skin there, careful not to break it. Not yet.

He never gets an answer, just another tired sigh. But it's enough.

ooOOoo

Alaric doesn't make the curfew the next night either. Or the nights after that.

Elena comes by a few days later, giving him another case Forbes dug up and apart from the desperate hope literally shining in her eyes, she seems fine. Damon meets her at the door, alone, Alaric sound asleep in his bedroom, for once out of it because of various, extracurricular activities and not a single drop of alcohol.

Elena asks him about Alaric, Damon tells her he's taking a few days off babysitting duty, but he will be fine, eventually. She's worried about him, asks if there is anything she can do to help and he sends her home after she promises to stay out of trouble of any kind. It's not ideal, but it's how they get by these days.

ooOOoo