Chapter 1: Pearl
“Hello?” Alaric called out loudly, his finger pressing the doorbell hard enough that its normally melodious chime became choppy and off-key. “Anybody home?”
After a couple minutes, the door was opened by an attractive, pale woman in a belted woolen dress, looking perfectly alert despite the late hour. “Yes?” she answered, arms crossed and eyebrows arched in suspicion.
“Yes, hello,” Alaric began, before realizing in a flash that he hadn’t in fact planned out what he needed to say. Last time I make a house call after four double whiskeys, he thought ruefully, before trying to explain, “You probably don’t remember me, but I’m Alaric. I’m Damon’s...I was with him earlier.”
A look of comprehension passed over the woman’s pale features, and she gave him a small, enigmatic smile before moving to the side and saying, “Of course, I recognize you now. Would you like to come in?”
Alaric was tempted to make a joke about the irony of a vampire inviting a human inside, but decided against it on the grounds that for one thing, it would be rude, and for another, Pearl was undoubtedly capable of causing him worlds of pain.
Instead, he uttered a simple, “Thank you,” and slipped past her into the house. His eyes immediately darted over the floor of the hallway, searching for the ring he had accidentally left there earlier that evening, the absence of which he had only realized after already drowning his sorrows enough to be well over the legal limit. Consequently, he had been forced to call a taxi to drive him to Pearl’s house, and he was only now realizing just how reckless it had been to strand himself at a vampire nest in the middle of the night with no way home and no guarantee of his safety.
His unease must have shown on his face because Pearl interjected smoothly, “You need not have any concerns for your safety, Alaric. I have no wish to anger your...Damon any further this evening.”
“Oh, I didn’t think,” Alaric began to object, but decided that he was a little too tired not to be truthful and settled instead on, “Thank you.”
“Now, what exactly can I help you with this evening?” she asked, crossing her arms. “I’m assuming by the hour and your...state that this isn’t a social call?”
Alaric blushed a little and muttered, “Sorry about that - I wouldn’t have disturbed you like this if it weren’t important.”
Pearl waved him off with a graceful sweep of her hand and said, “Think nothing of it. Now, what is this important matter that brings you to my doorstep in the middle of the night?”
“My ring,” Alaric said immediately, too preoccupied with its loss to bother leading up to the revelation. “I think I left it here tonight during, well, the brawl, and I need it back as soon as possible.”
“I’m taking it that it has more than...sentimental value?” Pearl asked knowingly.
“You could say that,” Alaric replied, not wishing to give Pearl more power over him than she already had. “Have you seen it?”
“I believe Harper may have said something about finding a ring earlier,” she responded. “Please, make yourself comfortable; I’ll just go and check with him.”
Pearl sped off in a blur that made Alaric’s head spin a bit, causing him to stumble back a step and plop down onto the couch with an inelegant thud. Yes, distinctly too drunk for this sort of thing, Alaric decided as he struggled to right himself on the couch.
It was barely a minute or two more before Pearl blew back into the room, with Alaric’s ring held out triumphantly in her hand. “Is this what you were looking for?”
Alaric nodded eagerly and instinctively held out his palm. When Pearl placed the ring in it, her hand lingered for a few moments on his as she said, “Now, you will be sure to mention my cooperation to Damon. Let him know that helping you with your little problem is the least I can do to make up for what the others did to his brother today.”
Alaric was very confused by this second implication that helping him in any way helped Damon, but he just put it down to the alcohol-induced haze currently clouding his thinking processes and replied, “Er, yes, I’ll let him know.”
“Good,” said Pearl, looking pleased. “Now, if I’m not mistaken, you are in need of a ride home?”
Alaric blushed again and admitted, “Yes, I suppose I am. Wow, I really didn’t think this through, did I?”
“Really, it’s no trouble,” Pearl said smoothly. “I’ll just pull the car around front.”
Alaric quickly closed his eyes this time to prevent another dizzy spell, opening them only when the silence indicated she had gone. He walked slowly through the hallway, which was thankfully no longer littered with dead vampires, toward the front door, and when he opened it, was only slightly amazed to see that Pearl had already managed to pull her Black Jeep up to the curb in front of the house. He stumbled forward, pulled open the door of the car, and made a concentrated effort to get all of his limbs inside the Jeep with a minimum of rearranging.
The second his head hit the headrest, Alaric was struck for the first time that night just how tired he was. He had been running on adrenaline since the fight, and now that it was wearing off, his body seemed eager to remind him just how much he’d abused it.
He had just begun to nod off when Pearl spoke. “The Salvatore mansion is on Maple, is it not?”
“Yes, I think - wait, what?” Alaric opened his eyes in surprise and begrudgingly expended the effort necessary to turn and look at Pearl.
“I just wanted to make sure I had the address right,” she replied, misunderstanding the source of his confusion.
“No, I mean, why are we going to the Salvatore mansion? I live at 94 Carnegie Way,” he said, sure that his tired and tipsy brain was just not processing something correctly.
Pearl opened her mouth as if to speak, but upon looking over and seeing his utterly baffled expression, she closed it again and returned her attention to the wheel.
“Pearl, why did you think I slept at the Salvatore mansion?” Alaric asked again.
“Oh, really, it was nothing. A misunderstanding, pay it no mind,” she said, adding quickly, “Turn here, right?”
“Yes,” Alaric replied, but was unwilling to let the matter drop. “I’m sure it’s the alcohol’s fault that this isn’t processing, but what exactly did you misunderstand?”
“I just thought that you and Damon...oh, well, you know...” she trailed off, and Alaric would have sworn that if vampires could blush, she would have been.
“Damon and I what?” Alaric could not think of a single plausible end to that sentence.
“Between the bites on your neck and him trusting you enough to bring you on a rescue mission, I just assumed that you were...well, his,” Pearl explained, still looking as embarrassed as was possible for a vampire.
“What?!” Alaric exclaimed, so surprised that he sat straight up and hit his head on the roof of the car. “No! What? No! No! God, no!”
“I am very sorry,” Pearl said quickly, “Clearly I was mistaken.”
“Me and Damon? I hate him!” Alaric ranted. “He killed me, for God’s sake! He actually stabbed me and watched me die.”
Pearl shot him a slightly perplexed look, but said nothing, content to let him keep talking.
“I mean, okay, I did try to kill him first, but I thought he’d murdered my wife! And he did turn her into a vampire - at her request, but still, it’s just not polite, is it?”
“You two did seem like you made a pretty good team tonight,” Pearl observed, a strange expression passing over her face that Alaric couldn’t quite place in the darkness of the car.
“You sound just like him! He actually gave me this whole speech at the Grille tonight about how he knows I hate him, about how everyone hates him, like that was going to make me feel sorry for him or something! And then, then, he turns to me and says, ‘But you can’t deny - we were badass.’ “
“Badass?” Pearl asked, sounding amused.
“Badass!” Alaric insisted. “As if us killing a few rogue vamps together was supposed to make up for everything else...even if it was the most fun I’ve had in months. And then he sat there smirking at me, like he was just waiting for me to yell ‘Hell yeah we were!’ and give him a high five and count everything else as water under the bridge. It made me so mad I socked him right there in the bar, but God help me if that son-of-a-bitch didn’t just smirk harder.”
“He does seem to have a rather...high opinion of himself,” Pearl said tactfully.
“High?” Alaric exclaimed incredulously, “He thinks he is God’s gift to anyone who has the misfortune of meeting him. I mean, okay, I’ll admit, he’s hot, in a completely insufferable, “I know I’m gorgeous so I can behave like a total dick and still get laid,” sort of way. Sure, it does seem sometimes like he’s spent all of the last hundred and fifty years perfecting that ‘seducing you with the eyebrows’ thing. And, yes, leather jacketed bad boys with killer blue eyes and far too much swagger did use to be far too much my type, but you know, I’m done with that now. Totally over it. Just a phase.”
Alaric paused in his tirade to take a breath before turning to Pearl and asking, “I’m sorry, I got a little lost, what were we talking about?”
“I believe you were telling me that the idea of you being romantically involved with Damon Salvatore was absurd,” Pearl said, and, had he not known better, Alaric would have sworn she was trying hard not to laugh.
“Right,” Alaric said while he did his best to ignore the growing feeling that he’d said something he shouldn’t have. “Well, it is. Completely absurd.”
“Of course,” Pearl said, still smiling enigmatically. Before Alaric could ponder just why she looked so amused, Pearl stopped the car and announced, “Here you are, 94 Carnegie Way.”
“Right,” Alaric said and got down from the car, though he was struck with the unmistakable impression that Pearl now understood something about him that he didn’t know himself. “Well, um, thanks for the ride, and for finding my ring.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Pearl replied, and he could see in the light of the streetlamp that her smile was still infuriatingly sphinxlike. “It was quite...enlightening. Good night, Alaric.” Before he could say anything further, she backed out of the driveway in one fluid motion and drove off into the night.
Yes, Alaric thought, troubled, as he fumbled for his keys, Definitely missing something. But I’m damned if I know what it is.
Chapter 2: Liz
Set during 1x18, "Under Control". When Alaric runs into Damon at the Lockwood party, he realizes his attraction for him can no longer be denied and gets some unexpected, if slightly confused help from Sheriff Forbes.
Alaric nervously ran a hand through his hair, then mentally cursed himself and hoped he hadn’t disrupted the “casually tousled” look he’d just spent twenty minutes perfecting. This was the first proper party he’d been to, well, since Isobel, and he wanted very much not to look like an idiot.
As he stepped through the doorway of the Lockwood mansion, the loud music and buzz of conversation gave him the immediate impression of a party in full swing. Alaric took a deep breath and was just preparing to charge into the fray when he felt someone brush up against him.
“You look hot tonight, Ric,” purred an appreciative voice from just behind his right ear. “Better be careful - your students might start getting ideas.” Of course it was Damon, Alaric thought with a small shake of his head, just...of course.
He was startled to discover that Damon’s voice stirred something deep in the pit of his stomach - something wild and terribly familiar. Alaric instantly flashed back to his freshman year of college, back before Isobel, before he discovered his love of history, before his parents had made it very clear he was there to learn, not party. Through the haze of intoxication and memory, he saw fleeting images of rowdy frat parties, upstairs bedrooms with flimsy locks, and leather jackets and silk boxers thrown carelessly over bedposts.
The sensation of deja vu was so intense that Alaric had to actively suppress the sudden urge to casually inquire as to the number of upstairs bedrooms present in the Lockwood mansion. As he could envision no way of that ending well, he instead summoned up what was left of his self-control and pivoted to face Damon, whom he was surprised to find was mere inches away.
“Damon,” he said in what he hoped was a cool, casual manner, “long time, no see. Staked anyone interesting lately?”
Damon’s eyes flashed - Alaric was pretty sure from amusement rather than hostility - as he leaned forward to whisper, “Oh, no one anywhere near as good as you - there’s really no need to feel threatened.”
Before Alaric could think up an appropriately scathing rebuttal, he heard a pleasant female voice from behind his left shoulder. “Well, what are you boys being so secretive about?” Sheriff Forbes asked teasingly, apparently misreading their exchange as friendly chit-chat.
“Liz,” Damon said brightly, pulling back and shifting his attention, and consequently his magnetism, from Alaric to the sheriff. “May I say you are looking ravishing this evening?”
“Oh, Damon,” she said, laughing and hitting him lightly on the shoulder, “You are such a charmer.”
Damon merely flashed her a wicked grin in response and continued, “And now, if you two will excuse me, I need to locate my brother before he makes a complete fool of himself on the dance floor.” With that, he wound his way back into the crowd, although not without first throwing Alaric a somewhat mischievous glance back over his shoulder.
“Now, Alaric,” Liz said, turning to him, “What’s a nice-looking young man like yourself doing without a date for the evening?”
“Oh, well, you know,” Alaric mumbled, trying to cover his embarrassment by grabbing a glass of punch off a nearby table and taking a sip. “I’m new in town, and I haven’t really had a chance to meet anyone...like that...yet.”
“You can’t fool me, Alaric,” Liz said, giving him a meaningful look, “I know that there’s someone you’ve got your eye on at this very party.”
Alaric choked on his punch. Liz, looking worried, gave him a couple hard pats on the back to clear his airway and added quickly, “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about! Jenna is a lovely girl, and I think you two would be just perfect together!”
Alaric used the time it took to take a few deep breaths to hide his surprise, amusement, and relief at knowing Liz was distinctly on the wrong track. He purposefully plastered a look of bashfulness on his face as he asked, “Gosh, is it that obvious?”
“Well, maybe not to the layman, but remember, being observant is an important part of my job as sheriff. And if I can’t pick up something as obvious as sexual tension, then I should just turn in my badge right now.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” Alaric couldn't help but agree.
“I mean, can you imagine the repercussions of this town having an unobservant sheriff? It would be utter chaos!” Liz let out a hearty laugh at the prospect, and Alaric joined her after pausing for a second to think, Yeah, that just about sums it up.
“But seriously, Ric, you should talk to the girl! Look at her, poor thing, Carol Lockwood’s got her cornered over there by the mantle.”
Before Alaric could stop her, Liz had lifted her hand in a friendly wave and called out, “Jenna! Yoo-hoo! Hey, honey, come and say hello!”
Alaric saw a look of relief and anticipation passed over Jenna’s face as she caught sight of him, and could only watch with growing dread as she made her excuses to Carol Lockwood and wound her way through the crowd over to them.
“Hello, Liz,” Jenna said with a smile, “You look so pretty tonight!”
“Thank you, honey, you’re so sweet,” Liz said, shooting a meaningful look at Alaric. “And talk about gorgeous, my God, that dress! Doesn’t she look gorgeous, Ric?”
“Ravishing,” Alaric said automatically, and had to suppress the urge to smack himself in the forehead when he realized he’d stolen Damon’s’ line.
Jenna blushed, and the way she was looking at him made Alaric feel guilty for not feeling the same. Well, he thought to himself, maybe if I tried...
“Ric, you bad boy,” came an all-too familiar voice, “Keeping all the beautiful women to yourself over here.” Damon slid himself between Liz and Jenna and draped an arm over each of them, though his gaze remained on Alaric.
“At least one of you two gorgeous creatures has to join me for a dance,” Damon murmured persuasively.
“Oh, I am quite happy that my days of feeling obliged to dance at these things are over, thank you very much,” Liz said with a laugh.
“How about you, Miss Sommers?” Damon turned his attention to Jenna.
“Well,” she said hesitantly, her gaze drifting slowly toward Alaric, “all right.”
Damon took Jenna by the hand and led her toward the increasingly drunken crowd of Mystic Falls denizens rocking out to “White Night” by the Postelles. Alaric watched, mesmerized, as Damon whirled Jenna around at speeds just bordering on supernaturally enabled.
Liz, entirely misinterpreting the source of his fascination, gave Alaric a light pat on the arm and said comfortingly, “I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Just trying to make you jealous, I suspect.”
Alaric nodded aimlessly, but his attention was entirely fixated on Damon, specifically the way his hips were swinging side to side in his tight black jeans. It was only a moment later that he actually registered what his companion had said. “Wait, jealous?”
“Trust me - the little show they’re putting on? Definitely for you.”
When Alaric looked back up at Damon, he was shocked to find the other man’s eyes staring directly into his. Although Damon continued to gyrate around an apparently oblivious Jenna, he never tore his eyes from Alaric’s. My God, Alaric thought, amazed, she’s right. He’s doing this for me.
As Liz continued to chatter about Jenna, Alaric found himself wishing he could be happy with a nice, normal girl like her - settle down, have a couple of kids, take it easy. And maybe if it weren't for immortal bad boys in tight black jeans, he'd have a shot at that longed-for normalcy. But as it was...
"Ric, can I give you a little friendly advice?" Liz asked, her voice slightly hesitant.
"Well, it's looking like I might need it," Alaric said truthfully, adding a little laugh. "Hit me."
Liz repositioned herself so she was between Alaric and the object of his attention, and Alaric forced himself to shift his gaze to meet her eye.
"The last guy I looked at like that ended up asking me to marry him a year later. And even though that didn't turn out so well in the end, I know that not taking a chance on him would have been the biggest mistake of my life."
Alaric felt strangely touched; Liz's information might be a little off, he thought, but her sentiments were still valid.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is...life is short; you don't want to miss out on something truly amazing just because you were scared of what would happen."
Alaric considered this for a moment, unable to stop himself from stealing another glance at Damon, whom he was perplexed to see was now dancing strangely provocatively with his brother.
"You know something, Liz," Alaric said, a grin spreading slowly over his face, "You are absolutely right. This could be something fantastic, and I think it's about time I stopped kidding myself and started doing something about it."