Disclaimer: The Vampire Diaries does not belong to me. If it did, Matthew Davis would be cooking me breakfast.
A/N:
Yes, events are out of order. It's fanfiction.

Title and chapter titles belong to The Cure, and if you don't know the song, go check that shit out.
Massive thanks to my beta, Saltzatore: she is the queen of all things Dalaric.

Chapter 1 – Every time we do this

Alaric and Damon hid behind the tree line, about thirty yards behind the house they'd been staking out on and off for the last couple of days.

It was unusual to spend this long on a hunt, but there were three vampires inside, and two of them were considerably older than Damon. Katherine's age, maybe. They suspected one might be even older, moved with the predatory grace of something that knows its power is absolute. The third was a baby. Could be felled by a harsh look, probably.

The three of them had been picking off tourists for the last few weeks. Liz had put the pattern together and when she had, she'd called Damon to ask for his help finding them. It that had taken a little while. But they'd found them, and trailed them to this house. Nice big house in the suburbs.

Three vampires and maybe two humans, maybe three. There was the owner of the house, chewed up and compelled, though they suspected he might be dead by now. There was the human the vampires had brought with them. No way to tell if he was compelled or not. The owner's wife, they hadn't spotted. She was probably dead too.

The upside of a tricky hunt was that it gave them a reason to spend a day or two packing vervain grenades and whittling stakes to fit Alaric's nifty crossbow, and for no reason he could articulate, Damon always found this entertaining. While Alaric boiled vervain for the darts, cooking it down until it was strong and dark, Damon had to stay away, which was boring and annoying, but less boring and annoying – and less lethal – than breathing the stuff in. So he'd put up with it.

Plan A involved a sudden burst of ultraviolence and a little bit of luck. Plan B relied on the vervain darts and a great deal of panache. But while plan A was only going to work if the vampires had actually killed the owner, plan B would work either way. So relying on the eternity ring to keep Alaric alive, if necessary, they were going with plan B. Unless circumstances were in their favour.

Whatever. They'd figure it out. Damon hated relying on the ring. If he could swing back around to violence, he would.

The vampires were drunk, partying to eighties metal, not nearly concerned enough about staying discreet. Probably never even crossed their minds that anyone could be looking for them. Certainly no one who could actually do them harm.

"Why are we doing this, again?" Alaric whispered, close enough so Damon could feel his warm breath on his ear. "Instead of backing up Liz's finest?"

Stage-whispered back, "because it's fun. And these guys are douche bags. They're way too close to Mystic Falls and they're pissing me off." Damon licked his lip, smirked. "That music has to stop, too. Good taste demands these guys die horribly."

Alaric shook his head, smiling. "You head around the front and we're set to go," he said, and Damon nodded sharply, disappearing in a blur.

Seconds later, Damon knocked on the front door. It opened, and a confused and pissed-off looking undead redneck – the baby vamp, not more than two years turned – opened it.

"Hi," Damon said. "Someone order a strip-o-gram?" He tested the barrier with his foot. The owners of the house were definitely dead.

The redneck turned to his buddies. Too young, too weak, or maybe too drunk to even tell Damon was a vampire. "One of you order a stripper?" he asked, mouth slack.

Damon wasted no time reverting to plan A, staked the redneck before the other two could react. Pulled the pin on a grenade, throwing it to the next vampire in line and shouting "catch." Stepped back out and away from the door, relishing the screams, covering his face against the poisonous dust for the long seconds he knew it would take for it to settle.

He listened for the delightful wet sound of a stake shot from Alaric's crossbow meeting its mark. Alaric had come in the back door while the vampires were occupied with Damon, and from the sound of it, the stake had hit one of the older vampires through a lung. As the other came out the front door, Damon grabbed his shoulder, launched a long, thin stake up beneath his ribcage.

The vampire started to desiccate instantly, and Damon threw him back inside.

The third vampire, very old, still alive and seriously pissed off, writhed on the ground. Damon crouched at his side.

"You wanna know the secret? Why you're lying there in pain instead of pulling that out?" He frowned, pretended to listen hard. "Okay, 'm gonna take that as a yes. See, we soak the stakes in vervain, and then we dry them out again. So even if my boyfriend here misses your heart, you're left squirming like a slug in the sun." He flashed his prettiest smile, and the vampire tried to lunge at him.

"Dude," Alaric said, frowning. "That's just tacky."

Damon rolled his eyes. "Fine," he said, stepping back, letting Alaric finish. Not flashy. Just efficient.

Alaric's sense of style was seriously lacking.

Damon stepped into the living room. The human – grief-stricken, and clearly not compelled – was crumpled on the ground, crying. Damon felt the ache in his gums, felt the capillaries around his eyes engorge, and was on him in under a second. Fangs at his throat.

"Damon."

That tone. Somewhere between disapproving and sad. It never failed to get Damon to stop what he was doing. He shot Alaric a doleful glance.

"If things were different, he could be me."

Dammit. Teacher's such a smarty pants.

Damon leaned in close to the human, who wasn't even smart enough to look scared – just miserable – and he felt a pang of something like pity. "It's a dumb idea to hang around with vampires, idiot," he said. "Run home. Find someone human to want. Don't show your face in Virginia again."

Damon didn't even compel him. Should have, but Alaric hated that. He'd regret it soon enough, but for now, Damon just let him go. The man scrambled to his feet and ran, and Damon turned off the music.

"See, told you," he said, grinning at Alaric. "Fun."

Alaric rolled his eyes. "Should we call Liz? Get her to take care of the mess?"

"Yep," Damon answered, popping the p. "Because frankly, I can't be bothered doing it ourselves."

He was up in a second, had Alaric's collar bunched in his fists, aimed a searing kiss at Alaric's mouth. Alaric returned it, but pulled away too soon, shaking his head.

"You're way too casual about this, man," he said, twisting his fingers in Damon's belt loops. "One of these is gonna go bad."

Damon scowled. "That's a jinx. I'm gonna have to punish you for that later."

He was giddy, stupid, high from the win. As it turned out, that was the jinx.

Alaric's truck was parked half a mile away, and he and Damon were on foot. This afforded the grieving human companion ample time to get in his car, find them, and then ram them both down. Damon wasn't paying attention; instead he was preoccupied with planning all the things he was going to do to Alaric's naked body when they got back to Mystic Falls, so the crunch of bones and the shrieking of tyres caught him off guard.

His fault. All his fault.

Being hit by a car couldn't kill Damon. Obviously. He'd even lined himself up for it, from time to time. Nothing got humans out of a car and vulnerable like thinking they had just killed someone. It was a classic setup, never failed, and it never took Damon longer than twenty seconds to let his bones knit and get on his feet.

Of course, that didn't mean it didn't fucking hurt. He grunted as he straightened his arms, clicking bones back into place. "Son of a bitch," he muttered. "Ric? How are you doing?"

Twenty seconds for his bones to knit, for the gashes on his ribcage and skull to close, to get on his feet and to get himself well and truly pissed off.

Another two seconds to realise Alaric wasn't moving.

Damon calmed himself, thinking. Supernatural death. That's what the ring is for. He'll take him back to the boarding house and wait it out.

Except.

The human was just a human, no matter who he'd been hanging out with.

Damon dropped to the ground beside Alaric to assess the damage. Touched his face.

"Ric. Say something." Damon fought the urge to shake him, force a response. "Ric!"

Alaric's eyes were open. Blood trickled slowly from his nose, less slowly from his mouth. From cuts and grazes all over his body. But that wasn't even the problem. The problem was a whole lot of internal bleeding, and the heartbeat that was slowing even as Damon listened.

"Don't you dare die on me," Damon said, resting his hand on Alaric's hip, which seemed to be one of the few undamaged parts of his body. Gave a gentle squeeze.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket. Was about to call 911 when he realised there was nowhere near enough time. Called Bonnie instead.

She was sleeping, but she answered. Living in Mystic Falls, you learned to answer the phone by the third ring, no matter what time of the day or night.

"Hello?"

Damon didn't greet her. Just shouted. "You were doing all that research on the eternity rings. Last year. Remember?"

She was silent. "Who is this? What time is it?"

"Jesus fuck, Bonnie. It's Damon. The rings."

He could hear her rub the sleep from her eyes, sit up in bed. "What, Damon? Can this wait?"

"Ric's dying."

"What?"

"He got hit by a car. Not supernatural. What would happen if I killed him?" Damon moved his free hand back to Alaric's face, rolling his chin, seeking some degree of awareness in his eyes. There was nothing.

Bonnie was alert by now, but panicked. "What?"

"If I kill him! Bonnie! Will. He. Get. Better?"

She paused a long moment. "I don't know. From my research… If I had to guess I'd say no. The natural death would take him anyway." Damon was about to throw the phone into the stratosphere when Bonnie finally collected herself properly. "Damon."

"What. Say something useful or you're dead next."

"Get the ring off him. Feed him your blood. If it heals him in time that's great. If it doesn't, at least you can turn him."

If Bonnie was here, he'd drain her dry, out of spite. "What? Don't be fucking ridiculous. Get here now and heal him." Knowing the damage was probably too severe for Bonnie anyway.

"Is there time?"

And that was the kicker; there really wasn't time. Damon knelt at Alaric's side, palpated his ribcage. It felt like a bag of meat and marbles, and touching it should have made Alaric scream, but instead his eyes just got a little heavier, flickered shut.

"Damon. If you love him, you'll do it. Get the ring off him and feed him your blood." Bonnie had a way about her that made people listen. Listen so hard to what she was telling them to do that they would barely hear what she actually said. "I'll meet you at the boarding house." She disconnected and Damon pocketed the phone.

Sick to his stomach, Damon took Alaric's ring from his hand. Tore into his own wrist with his teeth and forced blood into Alaric's mouth.

Alaric wouldn't swallow. He wasn't resisting; he was just almost gone. His eyes were closed, and far too still, but his heart was still beating, however slowly. Three times, Damon felt the skin on his wrist knit closed, and had to start again.

"Ric, you stubborn asshole, just drink," he heard himself mutter.

Felt a rush of gratitude when he realised Alaric had actually started swallowing. Lifted Alaric in his arms and ran all the way to the boarding house. Faster than driving, any day.

Never even noticed he was praying.