Alaric entered the Mystic Grill to find Damon sitting at the bar. Sadly, the vampire instincts made Damon notice him before Alaric could leave again. Damon dared to flash his trademark smirk at Alaric. He had two glasses with bourbon standing in front of him, shoved one to the side and as if that hadn't been obvious enough, he patted on the stool next to him.

A weird mixture of pride and anger forced Alaric to stay, but instead of taking Damon's invitation, he sat down at a table in the darkest corner of the Grill. He stared grumpily at a scratch in the wood in the attempt to scare every possible company away.

"Hi, Ric." He wasn't very successful, because Damon slumped into the seat opposite of him. "I have a drink for you. Don't want to waste it, right?"

Alaric shifted his grumpy stare at the glass Damon put under his nose. Then he shook his head and looked at Damon, not discovering a shimmer of remorse in the blue eyes.

"You think buying me a drink makes up for killing me?" Alaric asked, and from the twitch in his face Damon had truly thought it would be that easy. Alaric snorted. "Well, it doesn't, Damon. I don't want your stupid drink, so please leave now."

Damon moved into a more comfortable position and rolled his eyes. "Come on, Ric. I saw your ring, even checked if it was there. I wouldn't have done it otherwise."

Since Damon didn't want to leave, Alaric jumped to his feet, so forcefully that the table quaked and the untouched glass lost a few drops of bourbon.

"You don't get it," Alaric snapped. "You killed me. It's even worse that it wasn't a kneejerk reaction. You can't just run around and kill everyone that dares to stand up to you. That's not friendship. Hell, I don't even know why I thought of you as a friend."

Damon grabbed Alaric's wrist and kept him from storming away. "You are my friend," he said, and strangely enough it sounded serious. "Please, I don't want to drink alone."

"I rather drink alone than with you." Alaric freed himself with a jerk, only to have Damon's fingers catching his hand. The touch was a bit too low and soft for friends, and under the deep frown Damon's eyes were pleading in a way Alaric hadn't seen before.

"What am I supposed to do?" Damon asked quietly.

Alaric took a deep breath and tried to calm down. He wanted to tell Damon a lot of things about respect and equality, but he felt a sudden exhaustion. How often had Damon promised to change only to fall back into old patterns? He was a lost cause. It was time to admit that. But Alaric was a lost cause, too, and that he couldn't give up on Damon proved that.

"You forget that I'm a vampire," Damon said, tugging at Alaric's hand with a surprising gentleness. "I sometimes lose control. It's my nature."

"Yeah, you always say that. But you have a human side, and I have no clue why you hate it so much."

"I don't –"

"You do." Alaric tried to withdraw his hand, but Damon tightened his grip. As if holding his hand this long wasn't awkward at all.

"I'm not drunk enough to talk about that, yet," Damon muttered.

Alaric sighed. "And I'm too sober to let you hold my hand," he said and sat down next to Damon. They shifted a little, but the distance remained barely existent. Alaric reached for his glass and lifted it to his mouth. Before he could take a sip, Damon let his glass bump against Alaric's. He grinned, and Alaric allowed himself to return a half-smile.

Under the table their hands were still awkwardly intertwined.