I don't care what the world says. In my mind they're gay together and that's just that. Um, yeah, this one's the final chapter...take note of the title. Yep. *Don't throw things at me yet.

Warnings: Ric has a potty mouth.

Disclaimer: I'm writing fanfiction. Enough said.

Dead, Again.

(For Good This Time.)

He's sitting at the island in the kitchen, drinking his morning coffee and wondering what in the hell could possibly go wrong this week in Mystic Falls. Well, more wrong, that is. With the revelation of the original witch's allegiance which Elena had revealed to him last night, he wasn't quite sure whether things were going to get better or worse.

He was glad he hadn't attended the 'Winter Gala' or whatever it was they were calling it, the previous night because from the way Elena spoke Damon had gone completely off the reservation (and from the way she withheld details, a lot had happened between the two of them).

He wanted Elena to be happy, honestly, he did. He was supposed to be her parental figure and want what was best for her, regardless of how it affected him. Though what was best for her was Stefan right…? Come on! A love like theirs never dies right? Or was that just wishful thinking on his part?

He knew that the flame Damon held for Elena still burnt every bit as bright as it always had and to be honest he thought if it came down to a decision between her and himself…he knew who Damon would pick. Alaric was just his dirty little secret…and he hated it.

He wasn't an idiot, he knew the last night they'd been together that his room wasn't the first Damon had been to. He knew that the vampire had visited Elena's room first. He knew that he'd gone to check on her, to make sure she was alright before he'd decided to drop in on Ric. He knew.

But that didn't make it any easier.

He was second best in Damon's eyes, which was ironic because the vampire himself would always be second best in Elena's. Ric sighed out loud, he was trying so hard not to be bitter but it just wasn't going to work.

His coffee was now lukewarm and he frowned, getting up to tip it down the drain. Elena had left this morning with nothing but a short explanation of "going to see Damon" and Ric had watched her rush out the door, leaving him alone to an empty house.

He could see it in his mind's eye, Elena would show up at the boarding house, apologise for whatever it was that she had said or done to upset him and the idiot of a vampire that he was Damon would take her word straight away and continue to be strung along. Alaric loved Elena, she was family, but she really lacked the ability to realise how her actions were affecting others.

The subject of his thoughts stormed through the doorway then, slamming it behind her, boots clunking as she practically ran up the hallway.

"Hey, hey, hey!" He called out after her, darting out into the hall to catch up. He looked up at her as she stopped midway up the staircase, visibly rattled. "What's going on?" He asked, "Did you find Damon?"

He frowned as her expression turned angry and she spat out, "Oh I found him alright, he was just escorting his bed buddy out."

While the rapid beating of his heart went unknown to Elena, along with the sharp contraction in his chest, he couldn't contain the widening of his eyes as he breathed out, "what?" Unable to move from his spot in the hallway, he was glad he hadn't been holding onto his coffee mug still because he surely would have dropped it.

"Yeah," Elena sad sarcastically, before taking a deep breath and visibly calming herself. "I'm sorry, Ric," she said apologetically, "I don't mean to take it out on you."

He finally found a way to move his feet, coming around the hall and up the staircase to stop a few feet in front of her. "No, Elena, it's okay," he said quietly, forcing himself to put on a brave face. For fuck's sake, he thought to himself, he shouldn't be surprised, he shouldn't be upset. He should know better than to get involved with damn vampires by now anyway.

"It was Rebekah," she murmured so softly he almost didn't catch it. His jaw dropped and she raised her voice, stating strongly this time; "He was just escorting Rebekah out…in her clothes from last night."

He was hesitant to broach the subject but now he just had to know. "What happened last night, Elena?" He asked awkwardly, gulping a deep breath of air as he waited for her response.

"Ric…" She looked at him sadly. "I'm just not ready to talk about it, you know?"

He looked up at her with an understanding face. No, I don't know. I need to know what happened last night. While his thoughts ran rampant his mouth formed the words, "sure, Elena." And he reached forward, pulling her into a hug.

As he clutched her tightly he realised the hug was not for her benefit but rather, for his. He was feeling a little…broken. Though he'd never admit it out loud. He just needed to know somebody cared. He didn't want to be alone.

"Thanks, Ric." Elena said, pulling away. "I have to go and see Bonnie and Caroline," she continued up the stairs, oblivious to his inner torment. "We need to talk about Esther."

He nodded and silently descended the staircase, back into the living room where he collapsed, boneless, on the couch. He glared at the wall across from him, imagining the ways he could kill Damon. A small part of him wondered what it was that set him off but the larger, more dominant part was screaming why couldn't Damon come to him? Why fuck some original vampire when he was right here – his best fucking friend.

Hate was a strong word, but the feeling was encroaching on him slowly. He was sick of being fucked around by these fucking vampires.

To be honest if he weren't feeling responsible for Elena or if she had someone else to look after her then he would have left Mystic Falls behind already, all the damned town had brought him was trouble.

His cell phone buzzed from his pocket, just as Elena bounded down the staircase and out the door with a "later Ric!" and he sighed, pulling it out and hesitating when he saw the number. Meredith calling.

He was sceptical of Doctor Fell now, to be honest. He had reason to believe she was the one who stabbed him in the gut that night. Logically all the clues pointed to her but he had no evidence.

Then again, this could all just be some crazy coincidence right? Because she didn't seem like a psychopath to him and Ric had definitely seen his fair share to be able to identify one from miles away.

Spontaneously he slid the arrow on his screen across at the last moment, answering the phone on it's final ring.

"Hey Ric!" Her cheery voice called from the other side and he bristled a little at the nickname. What if it was her? What if she had stabbed him and here she was pretending to be all friendly and calling him 'Ric'?

"Hi Meredith…" He tensed as it came out awkwardly and forced himself to relax a little. She didn't seem to notice his slip though.

"So look, I was wondering if you were free to meet today, maybe at the Grill?" He glanced at his watch and noticed it was already afternoon, having woken up late, the morning had flown by and he was a little out of sorts.

He thought about his answer for only a few seconds before blurting out, "sure, why not?" And confirming the details with her before hanging up after a cheerful 'see you soon'.

He didn't want to be alone. He needed someone to talk to – not someone to necessarily confide in because he had no one he could trust with his thoughts anymore but just someone who he could have a conversation with and try and assure himself he wasn't alone.

So he went to the Grill. With Meredith Fell.

He hadn't intended for it to be anything more than light conversation and a drink or two, his suspicions being as they were now, he really didn't want to encourage her to think there was a chance of anything more than friendship between them.

That had been his intentions anyway. How the night had turned out well, that was a whole other story.

He'd been at the bar talking to the not-so-good doctor (if his suspicions were correct) when his cell phone had once again began to buzz in his pocket. Upon drawing it out and reading the name Damon come up in bold across the screen he froze, finger hovering above the arrow and debating whether or not to answer.

He supposed it could be important considering you never knew when a disaster was going down in this town and if it weren't in fact an emergency then he'd just tell Damon to fuck off, plain and simple.

He sighed, answering the call and raising it to his ear.

"Have you seen Elena today?" Are the first words out of his mouth and Alaric considers hanging up right then and there, but he doesn't. He simply grits his teeth and replies with false neutrality.

"No, I haven't seen her since this morning."

Damon grunts from the other end, "well she's not answering her phone."

Alaric's eyes narrow then and he replies sarcastically, "well I'm surprised you have time to call what with all this original sex you've been having."

There's silence on the other end of the line for a moment and he awards himself a point. It's not often that he wins those against Damon Salvatore.

"Ugh, she told you about that?" The wince is audible in his voice and Alaric glares darkly, as if his expression will be visible on the other end of the line.

"Oh she told me."

Damon decides to do what he does best then and ignore the elephant in the room completely, countering with, "did she tell you that she's also having an attack of conscious about this original murder thing?"

"Hey!" He growls, "I'm not gonna judge her for having a conscious." Fucking vampires.

"Well you don't have to judge her," Damon replies, "just tie her up, lock her in a room til this is all over."

He almost lets out a resentful comment of, since when do you care about Elena? You're fucking Rebekah now! But he knows that would just be counter-productive at this point and the last thing he wants at this moment in time is for Damon to know how much he's affected him. He doesn't want the vampire to realise that he's walked all over him – that Ric has let him.

"Well, I would if I could but I can't – I'm busy." He replies and looks over where Meredith is casually listening to his half of the conversation. He's a little creeped out by that and a little suspicious that she seems to know what is bugging him.

Call him crazy but if she knew what she seemed to, about him and Damon, then that felt a little less like women's intuition and a little more crazy stalker.

"Busy doing what?" Damon asks suspiciously and Ric remains silent, refusing to answer.

The fact that he doesn't clues Damon in immediately and Ric marvels at the fact that the vampire knows him so well but still stomps all over him. Maybe he just doesn't care?

"Are you with the sexy, psycho doctor?"

He tries to tell himself that the question isn't how it sounds. That the undertones he's detecting in Damon's voice aren't real and it's all just his imagination, because Damon doesn't care. And it works – for the most part.

It's solid enough for him to say flatly, "goodbye Damon" and hang up the phone.

When Damon next calls him again he really wants to tell him to go to hell but when he hears that Elena has been taken as the official original family hostage he knows he has to put his shit to the side and work with the vampires to save her. The fact that Klaus and Kol had entered the bar earlier should have clued him in to something going on anyway.

He manages to go the entire night as usual, working with the team to get the supernatural crap done but when it gets to the point where he comes face to face with Damon he freezes for a minute, staring blankly into icy blue. He tells himself he's imagining the tinge of regret he sees there and his assumption is made easier by the fact that Damon barely bats an eyelash in greeting, getting straight back to the point of saving Elena.

He tries not to be bitter because that's where his head should be at too, but he's a horrible person.

He obviously wasn't handling it as well as he thought because he went home with Meredith to her apartment. Stupid move he knew. Well at the time he wasn't overly concerned, his mind still going round and round the whole Elena fiasco plus Damon and Rebekah.

He was however smart enough to realise he was in deep shit when he wandered into the kitchen in search of medication and found crime scene documents and missing evidence sprawled across the bench top.

He had his phone in his hand and his finger poised over Damon's name when he heard a gun cock behind him. He turns to see Meredith aiming the firearm grimly.

"You weren't supposed to see that."

He dives to his left as she fires, completely taken off guard but his natural reflexes still kicking in, he's been a vampire hunter a pretty long time now. While his brain was ticking over in slow motion, calculating his next move, a searing pain blossomed in the side of his head causing him to lose all rational thought.

He'd been too late he realises seconds, maybe minutes later as he's sprawled across the hard kitchen floor, hot blood running thickly down his face and onto the ground. He could taste it in his mouth – he was choking on it. He was too late.

He was actually going to die this time, for real. Meredith as far as he knew wasn't any kind of supernatural creature. He was going to die. Shot in the head.

He could register her voice speaking from above him but the world was blurring together and he couldn't process the sounds into words. The only thing he was acutely aware of before he lost consciousness was the blinking numbers on his cell phone a metre away on the floor where it had fallen, the time ticking away on the call he'd just managed to push through as he went down.

His world went black and he knew without a doubt what his one regret was.

Alaric groaned out loud as he opened his burning eyes, his lids twitching as the artificial light above him flooded his retinas. He winced, screwing them closed again, head rolling back. What had happened.

"Ric? Ric!" He wanted to ignore it, he really did. It was Damon and for some reason he was…annoyed with him? Ha, when wasn't he.

"Damon?" He groaned, opening his eyes. As he stared into crystal blue memories of the night came rushing back. Damon slept with Rebekah. Meredith. The grill, Damon and the originals. Meredith's apartment, the pictures – Meredith shot him! Meredith shot him in the head and he died…was she a supernatural creature?

He shoved Damon's supporting hands away, scrambling into a sitting position, eyes darting frantically across the room before settling on a body a few metres away…a headless body to be exact, a pool of coagulated blood surrounding it. Meredith was most definitely dead.

Oh god.

He breathed heavily for a minute, looking over to Damon in panic. "What was she? I'm alive so what was she?" He takes a hand and runs it over his forehead, specifically the right side where he knew a bullet had killed him, clearly not that long ago.

"Ric," Damon says neutrally, "don't freak out." He stares wide eyed at Damon in confusion then. Why would he freak out? Why was Damon even talking like that? Where was the sarcasm? The swagger? What the hell was going on here?

He tried to stand, vertigo taking over once he reached his feet, swaying him from side to side. He felt Damon take hold of his side, steadying him and resisted the urge to look up gratefully, instead focusing on the decapitated body on the ground. He expected to feel bile rise in his stomach at the amount of blood absolutely covering the kitchen floor, but he didn't.

All he feel was his mouth aching. He should feel remorse, feel bad for the clearly terrible death Damon had befallen on the doctor for shooting him but he doesn't, he doesn't even feel disgust at the corpse. All he feels is…hungry.

And then it clicks in his head.

"No." He looks up at Damon, the vampire's sad expression cluing him in as he bites his lip. "No."

He shakes his head. "No, no, no, no, no!" He pushes Damon away, nearly choking on his protests.

"You were going to die Ric," Blue eyes pierce into him. "I was too late to save you."

He looks at the body on the floor then back to Damon, covering his face with his hands. "No!" He moans, "I don't want to be a vampire."

Damon pulls his hands away then, "What was I supposed to do? Let you die?" The brunette takes his hand softly, pulling him forward and out of the dead doctor's kitchen.

He pulls him out the door and onto the street. Alaric follows silently, being pulled along by the hand though the darkness, mind whirring. He doesn't want this. He can't do this. He can't.

This was never in his plan.

One minute he's beginning to shake and the next everything is blurring around him and he's being deposited in the boarding house living room. Damon is in front of him then with a blood bag. B positive.

"Drink." He says, holding the plastic bag out toward him and Alaric slaps it away sharply, sending it flying across the room.

"No!" He snarls.

"If you don't drink, you'll die!" Damon yells as if the history teacher isn't already aware of the consequences.

"Then I'll die." He says quietly, pulling his legs up underneath him and sitting back on the couch on his haunches.

Damon stared at him blankly.

"Leave me be, Damon." He stares up at the brunette. "Just leave me to sleep and I won't wake up."

An unidentifiable emotion fills the vampire's eyes then and Alaric barely has time to react before Damon's on top of him, wrenching his mouth open painfully and pouring the contents of the back in, holding his nose together so he has no choice but to swallow.

Alaric snarls, shoving at him but he's no match for Damon's supernatural strength and the vampire barely moves an inch.

When he pulls away, leaving the rest of the bags contents to splash across the ground he allows Ric to shove at him, to punch him and scream.

"Why?" He yelled. "You can't just take my choice away Damon!"

Damon glared back at him, "if you're going to make stupid decisions then you don't get a choice!"

"As if you care!" Alaric exploded. "You're just turning me so that you've always got someone to fuck whenever Elena rejects you!" He glared, "oh wait, you have Rebekah for that now, so I guess I'm useless anyway."

He breathes heavily as he Damon stares back at him icily.

"Fuck you, Ric."

Alaric blinks. Did he seriously think he had the right to be mad at him? Over what?

"You have got to be kidding me," Ric spits out. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't just stake myself as soon as the transition's complete."

The room falls silent.

Alaric glares before turning to walk out of the room. He should know not to expect anything. He was just setting himself up for failure.

"Because I need you." Damon calls from behind him and he freezes with one foot out the door. "I need you Ric."

Alaric turned to face him, unmoved from his position. "And why should I even care Damon?" He asks tiredly, staring into crystal blue and allowing himself to get his hopes up one last time.

Moments later lips are crashing onto his and he moans, but pushes the vampire away reluctantly.

"Please." Damon grits out and Alaric bites his lip.

"No," he says softly, looking to the ground vulnerably.

"I can't do forever with you if you're always going to be in love with her and it's always going to be her Damon."

They both know who 'her' is, it's Elena, it's Katherine and it's everything in between. It's that eternal want for a love that strong and a normal life, the human ideal that he never wants to let go of.

He wasn't sure if the familiar words struck something in Damon or maybe it was the fact that the hunter was close to tears for the first time since Jenna died, but Damon merely looks him in the eye reassuringly.

"She's not always going to be there Ric." Damon murmurs and they both know it's the truth, Elena will never turn – she'll die when her human lifespan runs out or sooner. But the way it's said has Ric's heart clenching. She won't always be there, but he'll love her for as long as she is.

"I don't want to be second best Damon. I can't be." I can't be your dirty little secret on the side anymore.

"You won't be, I promise." They both know that's a lie and that he can't promise that at all, but it's followed up by a quiet plead.

"Stay with me…please."

And he has him. Hook line and sinker.

As usual Alaric caves to the baby blues he's staring into and grips the vampire's arms tightly, telling himself that maybe it'll be different this time around.

It has to be.

A/N: So...?

Maybe an epilogue to come. What do you think?