The bartender was reluctant to let him take the bottle but, by God, he deserved more than a few drinks to dull the pain of the day. And then his cellphone rang, bringing more bad news. When he heard Damon had been bitten by a werewolf, Alaric felt a coldness right to the pit of his stomach. It was bad enough losing Jenna only hours before, with Bonnie's spell preventing him from taking any action to save her, but the thought of losing Damon too was even more shocking. Despite the number of drinks he had consumed since hitting the bar, he felt stone-cold sober in seconds.
"What do you need?" he asked Stefan.
By the time he reached the Salvatore house, Ric felt more under control. He made his way down to the cellar, carrying the bottle of whiskey, a glass and Damon's ring. Through the small barred opening he could see Damon slumped on the floor, arm exposed to reveal the poison radiating from the werewolf bite.
When Damon tried to take the blame for Jenna and Isobel, all Ric felt was numbness. Neither were Damon's fault. Jenna had been just one more innocent bystander caught up in Klaus's desire to be both vampire and werewolf. They had all tried to protect her, hiding the existence of the supernatural world from her, and in the end, perhaps that ignorance had killed her. If they had told her everything at the beginning then perhaps she might have been better prepared to defend herself. As for Isobel, well she had spent her life searching for vampires and the means to join them, to become one of them. He could hardly blame Damon for being the one to turn her, for if it had not been Damon then it would have been another vampire--and unlike Damon, that other might have simply drained her and discarded her dead body like so much trash.
As for being in love with either of them--Isobel and Jenna--Ric had his secrets too.
"Neither one of us is drunk enough for this conversation." He took another swig from the bottle and offered a refill for Damon.
The attack came suddenly, but if Damon had meant to kill him then he would have crushed Ric's larynx instantly. Instead, for the first time since they met, he heard Damon beg...to die. His heart almost broke when Damon fell back, uttering one name in despair--Elena. He wished it had been his name falling from Damon's lips. Fetching more blood was the excuse he needed to back away and regain a little control.
Then as always, just as he was preparing to wallow in his growing despair, all hell broke loose and Damon escaped.
By the end of that fateful day, Alaric decided against heading home and crashed down on the Gilbert's couch. Adrenaline had burned off any remaining influence of the alcohol but instead of feeling tired, he still felt wired. Too much had happened in too short a time, and he was still trying to wrap his head around the implications--and ramifications--of the day. People he had come to care about deeply had died or come close to death, or died and returned to life. Others had suffered the same way he had suffered, dealing with loss.
Jenna was dead, and though he mourned her loss, it was his unrequited love for Damon that hurt the most, especially when he could see Damon suffering in the same fashion but for Elena. They were fools--both of them--for wanting someone unattainable, someone who was in love with another, but love was fickle in that respect. Now, as he looked up at the ceiling, he recalled other nights spent alone when he had let himself indulge in fantasy, touching himself with that day's memories of Damon soaring through his mind; a look, a smirk, or the mischievous twinkle in Damon's incredibly blue eyes when he was about to do something incredibly stupid on a whim, or that frown of annoyance that proved Damon cared what happened to Alaric. There were ghost memories of touches too--the press of a hand on his shoulder in passing, the clutch at his arm. On other lonely nights he had focused inwardly on those looks and touches and pretended they meant so much more, letting his hand stroke himself to release with images of Damon in his heart and mind.
But not tonight.
Tonight he had lost too much. He had seen his fantasy tear apart with just one word--Elena--and crash back down to Earth, sinking him to the lowest point in his life, to his nadir of despair. He rolled over and brought the blankets up over his shoulders, dredging up a mockery of a smile. After all, he thought, once you hit rock bottom then the only way is up. Closing his eyes, he let sleep finally claim him.
In the far corner of the room a shadow moved, and Damon stepped out into the weak light cast off by the street lamps outside. He moved in silence until he was standing by the couch, looking down at the sleeping human. If they'd had longer to indulge in their heart-to-heart earlier then Damon had planned to confess that he was the one who had suggested to Bonnie that she weave a spell to stop Alaric from following them. So, not only was he responsible for Jenna's death but he was the one who had prevented Alaric from trying to make a difference. It had come down to making a choice between Jenna and Alaric. For Elena's sake he had wanted to save Jenna, but for his own, he had wanted to keep Alaric safe, and as much as he loved Elena, his selfishness had won that battle.
Jenna or Alaric?
There really hadn't been a choice--it would always be Alaric.
He shivered as the werewolf poison slowly worked its way out of his body, leaving him feeling lightheaded. He had left Elena alone in the house long enough, and knew he should return to watch over her. And yet part of him wanted to stay here with this human.
Time to go.
Damon leaned over and pressed a feather-light kiss against Alaric's temple, and moving with vampire speed, he was gone by the time Alaric's eyes fluttered open at the touch. Katherine was free, Klaus was out there, and Stefan was missing--though if what he understood was true then Stefan was probably with Klaus and blinded with blood lust. By tomorrow he would be strong again, and then he could hunt them down, but for tonight he would focus on the ones who had survived: Bonnie, Jeremy and Elena back from the dead...and Alaric, sleeping safe and warm on a couch in the Gilbert home.