Disclaimer: Nope, TVD still isn't mine. Although sweaty, sweaty Alaric last ep was an improvement, still too much clothing for my tastes.

"It's okay, Ric."

Damon hopes he's not lying. Fights the urge to tell Alaric that they've survived worse, and they'll survive this too.

(They haven't survived worse. This is about as bad as it gets.)

"It's not okay, Damon. They're…" Alaric paces, frantic, eyes rimmed in white. He's in pain, has to be, the blow he took to the ribs was vicious, and through his ragged, filthy t-shirt, Alaric keeps ghosting his hand over the scar on his hip; Damon's scar, the impression of his teeth, a series of white lines, marking Alaric as his own.

Alaric's hand always drifts there if he's scared, or tired, or the world is going to pieces; and the world is going to pieces. Outside Damon can hear them howl, and there might be dozens, or it could be hundreds.

Mystic Falls is crawling with hybrids, and Alaric and Damon top the hit list.

The hybrids have the doors surrounded, and there's only so much furniture in this house, though it's all up against the doors now. Not enough to hold them indefinitely.

Alaric's knees grow suddenly weak, and Damon's had enough. Alaric's stronger than this and damn it, Damon needs him strong.

In a second – in less than a second – Damon is in front of Alaric, hands on his shoulders, forcing eye contact. "Ric. Look at me."

Alaric's eyes are still rolling, searching, terrified, but after Damon gives him a quick shake, he seems to become more aware, brow furrowed and a hint of a tear quivering restrained in one eye – but calmer, now, with Damon looking at him so determined.

"We are going to survive this," Damon says, stern and angry, transferring his hands to Alaric's neck, holding him in place, rubbing his thumbs across Alaric's jaw. Alaric's own hands drift to Damon's wrists, and he tries to calm himself.

He can't. Alaric shakes his head. "You don't know that."

Damon nods. "I do. I do know that." He pulls Alaric in for a fierce kiss. "A hundred and fifty years I was alone. Now I've found you, nothing is going to tear us apart. Certainly not a pack of stray dogs."

Alaric shakes his head. "'s not an answer, Damon." He pulls away, needing to pace more, needing to burn off some of that energy, but in a moment, Damon's arms are wrapped around him like narrow steel bands, and he's being pulled to the ground and held, hard. It's not a prelude to anything; Alaric needs to be grounded, contained, and Damon, who knows him better than anyone, knows what to do.

For a moment, Alaric struggles. "Damon! Let me go!" But Damon doesn't budge, holds Alaric until he feels his heart slow, his breathing slow, feels him relax against Damon's body.

"I need you coherent, Ric," Damon soothes. "I need the guy who followed me to Mystic Falls, broke into my house and tried to kill me."

When Alaric sits up, Damon lets him. Alaric breathes, long seconds. "I'm sorry. I'm…" he doesn't want to admit it. "I'm fucking terrified."

"Only an idiot wouldn't be, Ric." Damon leans until their foreheads meet, and then claims Alaric's mouth, as much to reassure him as to show his affection. Not for the first time, Damon wishes he was the kind of… person who could actually say 'I love you' – because he wants to say it now, but saying it now, like this, for the first time, would sound too much like goodbye.

Alaric pulls out of the kiss and sits up. Gets to his knees, and his feet, unfolding like a telescope, looking strong again, and he reaches a hand down to pull Damon up as well.

Nods, determined. "Let's go kill some hybrids."