A/N: This wasn't planned, it just kinda happened. I blame all the lovely reviews and the guys! :D

He wakes up—

—and that's the first thing that doesn't make sense. He shouldn't wake up, he should be dead, and there is no way—

But, apparently, there is, there is a way because he doeswake up and he is still among the not-so-living. He remembers Alaric's face, smiling at him, leaning closer, whispering, calling him a fool and telling him that everything could have been different if he had just asked.

And then nothing

He forces his eyes open, blinking blearily into reality. He is some place cold, uncomfortable, and he feels like he's just been run over by a train. Twice. It smells weird, familiar, but he can't really place it just yet. There isn't much light, but it's enough that his sight can compensate for it. Brick walls, cement floor, cold, stale air… He's in a cellar of some kind, that much he can tell. He groans and lifts his head to look around, and that's when he hears it: A heartbeat, close by, too close—

He frowns, turns his head—and stares.

Alaric is lying on the ground, only a few feet across the room, face turned away from him, a stake protruding from his back. He's wearing the same clothes he'd worn the night before and he doesn't seem to be conscious, his slow heartbeat the only indication that the stake didn't hit anything vital. Nothing vampire-vital, at least. Damon blinks to clear his sight, but the view doesn't change: it is still Alaric, down and out for the count.

Or not.

Damon is about to get off the floor when Alaric suddenly comes to with a strangled gasp that turns into an agonized wheezing. His whole body starts twitching, bucking weakly against the stake in his back. He doesn't seem to be sensing Damon or anything at all at the moment, and Damon slowly pushes himself to all fours, then upright into a kneeling position. Alaric fights to drag in a shuddering breath, letting it out in a hoarse curse.

"That fucking bitch…"

Damon crawls over to him, fists a hand in Alaric's hair and turns his head toward him roughly, glaring down at him.

"What the hell happened to you?"

Alaric blinks heavily, tries to focus on his face and snarls, fangs and all, even as the rest of his body keeps writhing against the stake. He looks incredibly sexy like that, all righteous anger and yet helpless to do anything about it.

"Get it out," Alaric demands breathlessly.

Damon smiles, bending forward to put his face at the same level as Alaric's.

"Beg me for it," he breathes against Alaric's parted lips and the other growls deep in his throat, eyes flashing dangerously.

"Fuck you."

Damon lets go of Alaric's head then, gets to his feet and looks around. They are in a small cell, not unlike the one in the boarding house, the only light coming through a small window in the door.

"Where are we?"

Alaric grunts painfully behind him and fights to get his upper body off the floor, but fails, sagging down to the ground.


Damon growls, rolls his eyes. He should have known…

"Of course."

He walks over to the door, looks through the bars. There's no one outside, everything is silent, except for the ragged breathing behind him. He resists the temptation to let his head drop against the door and turns back toward Alaric, thinking.

"You actually tried to kill me," he says after a long moment, faking surprise, while slowly walking over to where Alaric is lying, squatting down in front of him to have a closer look.

"I wouldhave killed you if she hadn't saved your ass," Alaric grounds out and starts coughing, blood appearing between his lips, running down his chin.

Damon cocks his head to the side, pretending to listen for something, grinning. "Good Lord, Ric, listen to that, it's déjà vu—she actually hit a lung… Remember when I did that to you back then?"

Damon leans closer, resting a hand on the top of the stake, applying just a little pressure, just enough to see Alaric's eyes roll back in his head for a moment before he is back again, panting so hard against the floor his breath sends small clouds of dust into the air.

"After all… those years… you're... still... just... a dick..."

Damon snickers, leaning forward to let his fingertips trace slowly across Alaric's face. It's getting ridiculously hard to keep his hands off the other man, and Alaric's angry glares don't really help against the desire building inside him. It's been way too long...

"You keep saying that to me, but I'm getting the feeling you don't really mean it."

Alaric tries to pull his head back, but lacks the necessary strength and leverage to move, getting nowhere.

"Why don't you just admit how you really feel about me?"

Alaric growls and snarls at him like a vicious dog, eyes flashing angrily as he starts twisting with renewed anger, fighting to get free, but he is too weak: Damon simply puts more pressure on the stake until Alaric slumps to the floor, arching weakly against the wood.

"I hate you."

"Sure you do." Damon laughs, patting the back of Alaric's head.

He sits down on the ground then, scooting a few inches back to lean against the wall behind him, stretching out his legs in front of him, crossing them at the ankles. He's tempted to pull Alaric's head into his lap, just to annoy the hell out of him, just because he can, because Alaric won't be able to fight him off right now, but he forces himself to hold back. Not yet. Instead he raises his arms behind his head, lacing his fingers and leaning back against them, pretending to get comfortable.

"What does she want with us?"

"Shewants you to finally get it over with."

Damon can't help the flinch at the voice. He looks up to find Katherine standing outside the door, looking into the small cell through the window, trademark smirk in place as she looks him up and down.

"Hello, handsome, long time no see." Her tone makes the endearment sound like an insult.

"Katherine..." He forces a smile onto his face, knowing she'll see through it. "Still around, getting on other people's nerves?"

She pretends to be pouting, but everything about her tells him that she is seriously pissed about something. "Oh, harsh, Damon. And here I was, expecting a 'thank you' for saving your ass… again..."

He grins humorlessly, doesn't bother to stand up. "Open that door and I'll thank you for as long as you want."

She shakes her head, looking down at the floor where Alaric has finally managed to roll onto his side and is glaring at her stubbornly.

"I would say I'm sorry for the stake, Ric, but I'm not. Consider it a payback for all those years we shared …" She trails off, studying him, but other than a low growl there's no answer from him.

Damon sighs. "What do you want, Katherine?"

Her gaze snaps back to Damon and from one moment to the other she suddenly looks furious. "What I want? What I want, Damon?" For just a second she sounds mad enough to come through the bars of the window, she even grips them and glares at him. "I want my fucking life back! You—both of you—and your sad obsession with each other—I'm sick of it, I'm sick of looking after your asses, saving you from each other—Do you have any idea how patheticyou are?"

Her outburst surprises him and Damon blinks. "What the hell have youto do with anything?"

Alaric groans and rolls his eyes, dropping his head to his arm. "Not that again…"

Katherine barely graces Alaric with a look. "Why do you think he hasn't killed you yet? Why do you think you got away each and every time he had you cornered?"

Alaric raises his head at those words and Damon frowns, tries to remember how their meetings usually ended, but try as he might, he cannot come up with a single one where he had not got himself out of whatever mess he'd been in.

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Katherine looks positively murderous for a second, but then she takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, forcing a smile onto her lips. "Be that as it may… fact is, you won't be getting out of there until you get it over with. Hug it out, fuck it out for all I care, but get it out of your system. I will not spend another century listening to both of you whine and bitch about the other." She stops for a second, glares at each of them in turn. "You want each other so bad? Finally get over yourselves and dosomething about it."

Ignoring their equally dumbfounded looks, Katherine takes a step back from the door, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "Oh, and, by the way, don't think you can just break your way out of this cell once the vervain is out of your system. Ask Ric how vampire-proof this cellar is—he built it himself."

With that she turns and walks away, leaving them behind. "Have a hot night, boys!"

To say he's surprised about that outburst would be the understatement of the century. He has never seen Katherine this passionate—this pissedabout anything ever before and he's actually almost relieved that she has left because he has no idea how to deal with her like that.

"Vampire-proof?" he asks after a moment, just to say anything.

Alaric is shaking with pain by now, but manages to glower at him, raising an eyebrow. His voice is anything but steady, but the tone is angry. "It's our cellar… had it strengthened… you won't get out."

"Strengthened? For me? I'm touched…" Damon looks around, pretending to be impressed with what he's seeing, but then stops when something occurs to him. "Your cellar? As in, your house? You live here?"

In all the years they've hunted each other, he'd never managed to find out just where Katherine and Alaric had set up their home. He had always assumed they never settled down long enough to become permanent residents anywhere.

"Where are we?"

"Not telling you… and I don't live here anymore…" Alaric pants, the stubborn light in his eyes flaring to life once again, the same light he'd had the night he'd tried to stake Damon as revenge for turning Isobel. It's so adorable considering the situation right now, and it brings back a lot of memories. Damon almost feels melancholic for a moment.

"Right, she threw you out, because of your obsession with me." He leans closer to Alaric, grinning down at him with a nasty sneer. The old Alaric would have got nervous now, would have shifted, maybe even shrank back a little, an instinctive reaction he could never quite suppress. But this one, vampire-Alaric, meets his gaze head-on, never once looking away despite the wood in his back that must make every breath an agonizing fight. His eyes are cold, murderous—and something else, something Damon can't grasp. Whatever it is—he likes it.

"Tell me, Ric, how's your life as a vampire been so far?"

There is no answer, Alaric doesn't even look at him, no growl, no frown, nothing, he simply lets his head drop back onto his arm and stays silent. Damon sighs. Back to pouting, it seems… Feeling generous, he decides to let Alaric have his break and leans back against the wall behind him, thinking.

For about two minutes.

Then he cocks his head to the side, kicking Alaric's leg with his shoes. "How do you want to do this?"

"Do what?"

Damon grins. "You heard the lady, Ric, she wants us to get it over with... I believe her exact words were 'fuck it out'..." He waggles his eyebrows suggestively, barely holding back a laugh when Alaric looks panicked for a second, so humanDamon feels the slightest sting of regret for turning him. But then it's gone and Damon leans down, getting even with Alaric's face. "I won't spend the rest of my life in here watching you die over and over again."

Alaric growls. "Get... the stake out—and I'll help you... with that."

Damon smiles, runs a hand down Alaric's back, letting it rest on top of the wound. "I don't think so," he whispers and twists the stake, catching Alaric's lips in a bruising kiss when the other opens them to let out a low, keening noise.

Alaric starts fighting, tries to pull his head back, but he can't bring up enough strength to move and so there is no resistance at all when Damon deepens the kiss, exploring Alaric's mouth for the first time in decades, purring softly at the taste of blood. He doesn't stop, not even when he feels a hand clutch the arm that is pressing against the stake. Only when he is satisfied with the kiss does he lean back a little, resting his forehead against Alaric's and his free hand on top of Alaric's hand on his arm.

"I know you want it, Ric, I know you want me as much as I want you," he whispers against his lips, gazing into Alaric's dazed eyes. "Why are you fighting against it so hard? You know you can't win this... I won't let you."

"No..." Alaric gasps weakly, hand clenching, trying to pull his arm away. "No, I don't—"

Damon cuts him off with another kiss. "If I still could, I'd just compel you right now, you are such a thick-headed asshole..."

Alaric coughs, blood dripping from his lips. "Right—back at you..."

Damon doesn't move away, doesn't do anything but look at him. "You'd rather die than admit the truth?"

Alaric huffs. "I've told you the truth; I wouldn't have said no if you'd ask me, but not—not like this..."

"Why? What difference would it have made?"

"It would have been the right thing to do… no more than that, just… the right thing."

He doesn't get it, doesn't get how Alaric can still hang so much onto those humanprinciples, how that can still be a reason that would make him push him back even when it's obvious they both want the same thing.


"Get. The fucking. Stake. Out."

He considers it, then, knows Alaric will continue to be a pain in the ass until he's finally pulled the damned thing out. Not that he blames him, a wooden stake, this close to your heart hurts like a son of a bitch, he's actually surprised that Alaric has stayed conscious for so long.

But still, he hesitates, just for a moment; he doesn't really want to give up what little control he has over the situation—the upper hand he has over Alaric right now. He doesn't know what Alaric will do once he's free, he has no idea if Alaric will eventually admit that he wants him. He knows it's true, he can feel it every time he looks at him, but what if Alaric will never forgive him? Alaric is strong, independent, still clinging to a moral code that doesn't really fit with a vampire's way of life, and even less with Damon's.

It scares the shit out of him, Damon isn't used to that, isn't used to feeling like that anymore, not being in control of someone, especially not someone he wants. The last person who wouldn't bend to his will, who wouldn't be forced into anything had been Katherine and he is not prepared for nor willing to go through that again.

He stares at Alaric for a long time, trying to come up with something to say, some clever words to make him see, and realizes that the more he leaves him hanging, the harder it will get to convince him he was right all along.

He doesn't say a word but leans forward, pulling the stake out and throwing it aside. Alaric gives a strangled groan and collapses to the floor, eyes closing. Damon leans back, watching how the body in front of him slowly relaxes into unconsciousness, how the pained face relaxes and the hands fall open, fall away from his arm. He gets to his feet, taking a few steps back, moving to the other wall across the room, watching.

It doesn't take long for Alaric to start moving again, the blood finally stops flowing from the wound as it heals and he twitches, opens his eyes, looking up at him, cold eyes staring into Damon's. He remembers a time when those eyes would twinkle at him and Alaric would be smiling, all relaxed and trusting—but that's gone now. Silence falls between them, getting longer, until he can't stand it anymore.

"How are we going to get out? Any secret emergency exit you never mentioned to her? Cause this would definitely be a case of emergency…"

Instead of an answer, Alaric's eyes stray to the stake in the corner of the room and Damon tenses.

But Alaric doesn't go for it, he simply shrugs. "Katherine's calling the shots, we won't be getting anywhere until she gets what she wants."

"I won't apologize for turning you-" he starts, and that's about as far as he gets. Alaric is fastnow, before Damon can react the other is on him, slamming him back against the wall behind him, face inches from his as his angry eyes glare into Damon's. Alaric isn't exactly stable on his feet and Damon can see how badly the blood loss is affecting him, but Alaric stands his ground, hands fisted in Damon's collar, pressing him against the wall.

"That is not what I want to hear from you," Alaric hisses through clenched teeth, anger radiating off of him in waves. "I was ready to be turned—maybe not that night—or that soon, but I wanted it, I wanted to be with you—but not like that! I never wanted to be your—your immortal plaything—"

Damon cuts him off by reversing their position, pushing Alaric into the wall so hard his head cracks against the bricks. "You were never a plaything for me! I wanted you—I wantyou, Ric—"

"I don't believe you, all you've ever done is take whatever you want or whoever you want, no matter if they want it or not!"

Damon barely refrains from underlining his words with a few good punches. "For fuck's sake, you sound like a whiney girl! And you know what, you're wrong, I didn't take everyone I wanted, I never turned Elena—"

"Exactly, you never did that to her, because you knew she didn't want this, you respected her decision and you never would have done anything to hurt her—"

"I didn't turn her because I didn't want to spend eternity with her!" The words are out of his mouth before he can stop himself and they both fall silent. Alaric is staring at him, confusion and pain chasing each other in his eyes. The anger from before seems to be gone and Damon lets go of his collar, takes a step back, out of his personal space. Alaric sags against the wall and runs a hand through his hair.

"I will never be sorry for turning you," Damon says again, softer now, and Alaric sighs, shaking his head.

"This has to stop," Alaric says softly, and Damon can't help but tense in alarm, gaze flicking to the stake in the corner. Alaric doesn't stop looking at him, face unreadable. "If this—if you want this—usto work—"

Damon doesn't let him finish his sentence, he crowds the other man against the wall, hands on either side of his head, face inches from Alaric's, lowering his voice to a warning growl. "Don't fuck with me, Alaric."

Alaric holds his gaze, dark eyes staring into icy-blue, unwavering. "I mean it, Damon, if you're serious about this—about us—you will have to treat me like an equal."

We were always equal, is what he wants to say, it lies on the tip of his tongue, almost gets out—but it would be a lie and even though he hates to admit that, even to himself, he can see that now.

"What's in it for me then?" he asks softly instead, somehow unable to admit defeat, even now

Alaric's eyes narrow—and soften, grow less cold, less dead, and, instead of answering, he fists a hand in Damon's collar and pulls him closer, leaning his head in to claim Damon's lips. Damon is surprised, doesn't move at first, lets Alaric set the pace, fighting against the impulse to pull him closer. It's not long until Alaric pulls back sligthly and looks at him, pulling his lips into a grin that slowly creeps into his eyes. Damon can't help but smile back.

"Is there any chance you installed a camera here? We could give her one hell of a show..."

Alaric stares at him, speechless for a second, then laughs, shaking his head. "No, no camera, but the cell isn't sound-proof..."

Damon's grin turns into a smirk. "Well, then let's hope she's listening right now because I'm going to make you scream…"

And he does.