Part of the drabble-exchange between ellensmithee,duchessofdisaster and me.


Alaric has changed.

Ten years. The blink of an eye for Damon—and yet they have left their marks on his friend, streaks of grey in his hair, in the stubble on his cheeks. He's moving differently, slower, but you probably wouldn't notice it without enhanced vampire sight.

His eyes are the same, though, dark and wide, surprised at first, then carefully guarded.

Alaric tries a smile, but he's not terribly convincing.

"Damon."

Ten years ago, Damon would have pushed him aside, walked inside, walked by him—or thrown him against the wall—his favorite approach to the more interesting sex-adventures that usually followed.

He doesn't, now. He stays where he is, in front of the door, putting what he hopes is his usual smirk on his lips.

"Ric, long time no see."

Alaric has never been able to hide his feelings from him, at least not very well; Damon has always been able to pick up something, even if it was just an elevated heartbeat or a hitch in his breathing. Right now, Ric is fighting to hold it together and not punch him.

Which, in all fairness, is what he might deserve.

"What do you want, Damon?"

"Well, for starters… how about you invite me in?"

Not that he needs to be invited in, it's still the same place, Alaric hasn't moved, hasn't left Mystic Falls in all those years, not even for a holiday. Damon knows, he's been keeping tabs on him.

But he doesn't force his way in, he remains standing in the hallway. And tries not to flinch when Alaric shakes his head.

"I don't think that's a good idea, Damon."

Fair enough.

Damon nods, takes a step back, tries a smile, figures it looks more like a grimace. "I just want to talk."

"I don't think we have anything to talk about."

Damon knows, outside his line of sight, behind the door, Alaric is gripping the doorknob so hard his knuckles are turning white, but the part of his body that he can see remains purposefully relaxed.

He looks at his friend, for a long time and feels his resolve strengthen, it's ridiculously hard, but he's going to see this through.

"Listen, Ric, back then... I didn't know what I wanted. And it took me a long time to- I know what I want. Now."

Alaric's face doesn't give anything away. "Do you?"

He nods, solemn. Realizes his hands are shaking. "Yes. I do. You, Ric. I want you."

Alaric shifts, his eyes hard, a frown building on his brow. "I know what happened, Damon, I was there."

"What?"

"I was on her wedding, I led her down the aisle… Elena's married now, she's happy—and now… now you suddenly know what you want?"

For a moment, Damon is surprised, doesn't know what Alaric his talking about, can't keep the confusion from his face- but then he gets it.

Alaric has it all wrong. Damon straightens, holds up his hands, needs him to stop talking.

"Ric—"

"I can't do this, Damon, I don't want to do this again. I'm too old for this."

"Alaric—"

Alaric shakes his head. "No, Damon. I can't—I won't let you do this to me anymore, I don't want to spend the rest of my life wondering if you really want me—or if I'm just a replacement until you go back to pining over Elena."

Okay, he deserves this, all of this, all the hurt in Alaric's voice, all the barely controlled misery in his eyes, he deserves this. And more.

"I don't want to be second best to her forever, Damon, I won't."

But he has it all wrong. All wrong.

"Alaric, listen to me—"

Alaric takes a step back, apparently does not want to listen to him.

"Goodbye, Damon."

Damon is fast enough to put his foot in the open door so that it can't close completely. Alaric is hidden from his sight now, behind the door, but he can feel him tense.

"Ric, listen, okay? I didn't know she is married. I—" He takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly. "I didn't... I haven't seen her since I left. Not once. I haven't phoned her. I..." Another deep breath. This is hard. So much harder than he thought. "I haven't really thought about her... a lot..."

There is silence on the other side of the door, but he can hear Alaric's heart race, like it's trying to beat its way out of his chest.

"I'm here... for you, Ric. Because I want you... because I need you. I've missed you. You, not her."

Still silence, Alaric doesn't move, at all.

"Ric..."

The words are gone. He's had them all laid out, had prepared a speech, knew exactly what he wanted to say, what he needed Alaric to hear— but it's all gone now.

And suddenly Alaric is not the only one whose heart is racing.