He has it all planned out: he's going to wait for nightfall, wait for Alaric to fall asleep and then have another nightmare. He's going to trap him then, roll on top of him, wake him up, immobilize him, and then force him to talk. Maybe even compel him if he doesn't cooperate.

Piece of cake, really, as perfect as a plan gets.

The problem is, Alaric beats him to it.

It's not even dark outside when Damon suddenly becomes aware of a presence behind him. He's in the library, near the fireplace and when he looks over his shoulder he finds Alaric standing in the doorway, watching him. It's the first time in days the other man looks awake and is dressed in clothes instead of his sweatpants and some T-shirt.

"Hey."

His voice is back, mostly. Still scratchy from time to time, maybe even sexy, if the bruises around his throat wouldn't stand out like that against his too pale skin and Damon wouldn't see Elijah's hand squeezing—chokingAlaric every time Damon looks at him—

Alaric takes a step into the room and Damon shakes off the memory, turning around to grin at him.

"The sun is still up and you're awake… I had almost forgotten that it was supposed to be mewho's all tired and wrinkled during the day."

Alaric surprises him with a small grin instead of the ever-present frown, but it's gone a moment later, leaving behind a guarded expression.

"I need to talk to you."

Something in his voice, in his eyes, sends a sliver of apprehension down Damon's spine.

"You still remember how to do that?" It comes out sounding a lot more irritable than he had intended, but if Alaric notices, he doesn't show it.

Alaric slowly walks into the room, stopping behind the couch. He looks over at Damon for a moment, and then drops his gaze, studying the back of the couch.

"I… uhm…" Alaric takes a deep breath and sighs, then looks up again. "I've decided to leave town until this… until Elijah gets this ritual… or whatever it is—until it's over."

There's a pause and Damon has to rerun that sentence in his head to catch the meaning. "You're leaving?"

"I can't stay here for—I don't know how long this is going to take and I can't just stay inside all the time and—I'm going stir-crazy in here." Alaric gestures vaguely at the room and shifts his weight slightly, looking uncomfortable.

"Where are you going?"

Alaric shrugs, shifts again. "I don't know, I—someplace where I don't—where I can get out and do… something. Some town where nobody knows me." He pauses for a second and runs his hand over the back of the couch. "I need to go somewhere where I won't put anyone in danger just because they know me. If someone sees me here and Elijah finds out—someone's going to get hurt because of me… and I can't take that chance."

"What if someone comes after you?"

"Who would come after me?"

"Klaus? What if he finds you?"

Alaric frowns. "That's the whole point of me leaving, so that he won't find out I'm not missing."

Damon shakes his head. "I don't like it." It's a stupid plan—it's not even a plan, it's just stupid.

"I don't have a choice. I can't stay here, Damon. I don't belong here." Alaric sighs, running a hand over his face. He suddenly looks very tired—and lost. "This town… it feels like it's eating me alive, you know? I can't—I just—it's enough, all this, vampires and—and Originals—I can't do this anymore."

Damon's heart clenches painfully; this conversation is taking a turn he is not okay with. Alaric can't be meaning to— "What do you mean?"

Alaric is silent for a long time, studying him, some battle taking place in his head that Damon sees reflected in his eyes—and he knows, suddenly he knows what Alaric is going to say before he opens his mouth.

"It means that if—as soon as—Elijah is done and gets that information out of my head, I don't know if I'm coming back."

No.

"You're kidding." He has to be, he can't be serious about this.

Alaric is still watching him closely, shaking his head slowly. "No, Damon, I'm not, I'm done with this town. I don't belong here, not anymore."

"What about Elena and Jeremy?"

Alaric flinches at their names and looks guilty for a moment, as if it hurts to think about them, but then he blinks and it's gone, replaced by a tired grimace and a slight shrug. "They don't need me, Damon. They're better off without me. Right now they can't know I'm around and—they're going to find a way to handle this. They'll figure something out."

This is getting more and more out of hand; this isn't right, Damon has to stop him, make him think, Alaric can't just leave—

"What about Jenna? You said you owed her."

It's a low blow and Alaric takes a step back, his eyes reflecting so much pain and misery for a second that Damon almost feels sorry for bringing her up. But, again, Alaric clamps down on it, on everything, and his eyes grow hard, even though his voice cracks slightly. "Jenna is dead, she's—she's gone— and me staying or not won't make a difference. It won't bring her back. And with whatever Klaus put in my head, I think she'd want me to stay away from them."

Damon remembers then, remembers Elijah asking Alaric about how whatever Klaus had done to him was affecting him, things no one could see or hear but him—and he frowns. Something about the whole situation doesn't add up, doesn't make sense.

"What's in your head? What's with the nightmares and the voices? What's that all about?"

It's like someone flips a switch, Alaric actually looks startled for a second— and then his face goes blank, just like that, any emotion his face might have held is gone. And all the warning bells at the back of Damon's mind shrill to life.

"That's none of your business, Damon." Alaric's voice is cold, his message crystal clear. Back off.

Too bad that Damon's never cared too much about warnings.

"That's not an answer."

He moves, knocking Alaric backwards and into the nearest wall, trapping him against it with his body. Alaric hisses in pain when his ribs are rattled with the impact and moves to shove him back, but Damon doesn't budge, placing his hands on the wall on both sides of Alaric's head, leaning in.

"I've played nice long enough, now. Start. Talking."

Alaric doesn't back down, not one inch, he stares right back at him, eyes livid, holding his glare easily. He could get away from him any time, all he has to do is slide out of his arms. Damon's not holding him down physically, not yet, but Alaric doesn't move, he remains standing pressed against the wall.

"Get off me, Damon."

"No."

Damon leans closer still, eyes never leaving Alaric's face, studying him closely, gazing into his eyes. "Klaus is in your head, huh? He's in your dreams, isn't he?" This close he sees Alaric's eyes widen fractionally, feels his body tense against him. "What does he do you?"

"Let me go." Alaric's voice doesn't waver, but there's a shiver in his arms that catches Damon's attention.

"No."

"Damon—"

"Relax, Ric."

Just one word, and Alaric settles against him, tension fleeing from his body so fast his knees buckle and he almost goes down. Damon's body pressing against him the only thing that's keeping him upright. He doesn't say a word, but the hurt flashing across his face doesn't need any verbal exclamation. Damon wants to ignore it, wants to put it aside to deal with the situation at hand—but he hesitates… and suddenly all he can think about is how much he hates having that look directed at him.

What the hell

"Damon, please, don't do this..."

This is wrong, this is all so wrong, Alaric doesn't sound like this, he doesn't go quiet and desperate—he doesn't beg. Alaric yells at him if he's pissed at him and compelling him should make him that, should make him angry and furious, but not—not this, he can't suddenly go all disappointed—it just doesn't work like that. Damon wants him annoyed, he needs him madat him for doing that, for overpowering him like this, using his powers on him, he can deal with that, he can push it aside and ignore it and still do what he has to to get his answers, but this—

"Damon, look, I'll talk, but—don't do this to me, not you…"

It's the tone that does it, that pulls him back, makes him study Alaric's face, trying to read him, to make sense of the crestfallen expression, the dejected look in the other man's eyes.

"Then talk, Ric…" he hears himself say and it's so fucking hard to keep his own expression blank, to make it seem like he doesn't really care about what is happening, when… when he does.

There's a long pause and Alaric doesn't look at him, looks anywhere but at him and Damon thinks he won't ever get a single word out, but then he's talking, voice low and hollow and not his.

"I don't remember what the dreams are about, I wake up, I know they are there and I'm scared—and that's it. It's… my mind is just… blank, there's nothing there."

And if nothing makes sense right now, this does. "He's compelled you."

"I know, he's told me to forget—and I do, every night, whatever there is—or was—it's gone."

"And the walking around all night?"

Alaric sighs, a tired sound. "I… when I wake up… I can't calm down, I can't stand sill—I have to move, I know I'm not safe…"

Damon frowns, pulls back a little, surprised. "Not safe? What's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know, it's just a feeling…"

And damn if everything doesn't make a lot of sense all of a sudden. "That's why you think you have to leave, he's messing with your head, he's making you think you're not safe here."

"No, it's not that, it's…" Alaric breaks off, sighing against Damon's shoulder. "Damon, let me go, please, I can't talk about this like… that…"

For a second Damon has no idea what he means with this, but then he remembers the compulsion, realizes Alaric is still slumped against the wall, barely moving, forced into a relaxed posture when his heart is doing its best to beat its way out of his chest. Damon pulls back, making sure to keep him upright when he ends the effect, steadying Alaric when he sags against him and needs a moment to find his balance. Once he is back on his feet, Alaric takes a few steps away from him, but the angry glare Damon expects doesn't come, all Alaric does is roll his shoulders slightly and run a somewhat shaky hand through his hair.

"What is it then?"

"It's everything, every little thing that happened since I came here. I want revenge for my dead wife and then she isn't dead and she uses me and sells me—my body to this vampire and my girlfriend dies and now I have something in my head that might help kill Klaus but I can't live my life anymore because I'm supposed to be deadand you—" Alaric freezes, eyes snapping up to meet his, widening.

"And me?" Damon asks, taken aback by the panicked look on his face.

"Nothing, it's… it's nothing."

"Ric—"

Alaric holds up a hand, interrupting him. "Look, Damon… I… I trust you, okay? I trust you… and that… and that scares the crap out of me because I should have every reason notto and I should be taking vervain every morning and sleep with a fucking stake under my pillow and—but I don't and it scares me, more than anything I've been through and—this isn't me and I need to find out who I am—what's left of me and I can't do that here, with you and the town and the people—I can't."

It's a lot to take in and Damon isn't even sure he gets all of it, all he keeps hearing, over and over again, is that Alaric is leaving—and he has no fucking idea what to think about that. All he knows, all he can think of, right now, is that if he doesn't do something, doesn't say something—Alaric will be gone.

"I need to go."

He doesn't turn to watch him leave, doesn't want to see the door close behind him, couldn't stand to see his shadow disappear under the door—but he hears it, he listens to it, hears every single step that takes him away from the house, every single heartbeat that disappears in the distance.

Every word he never says to make him stay.


A/N: Yes, I know. I can't let it end here, right? It's not fair and I have to be kidding... But it ends here, it was always supposed to end like this. I started planning this story when I started watching the show and just couldn't make sense of Alaric and his relationship with Damon. I wanted to get into his head and try to find out just why he's friends with him. It wasn't supposed to become slash, but the boys had other ideas, obviously.

There will be a sequel to this story, but I'm not sure if it will be posted on this site . The link to my LJ can be found on my profile!