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Alaric doesn’t knock. He barrels into the boarding house with murder in his heart and Damon’s calm expression turns to rage as he starts yelling.

“You used Jeremy as bait?” His voice is thunderous. The stake in his hand is itching to pierce flesh. “You used Jeremy as bait? What they hell were you thinking? Were you thinking at all?”

“I was thinking the kid would make great bait,” Damon snarled. “And he’s fine.” He knocks the stake from Alaric’s hand. Alaric doesn’t bother to go after it. He’d be happy enough just clawing Damon’s eyes out.

“You do not use teenagers as bait,” he says, or shouts, as his fist crosses Damon’s jaw. There is a rich, commanding timbre to his voice that he scarcely recognizes. “You have something to deal with, you call me.” He pushes Damon roughly against the wall, hand scrunched in his t-shirt. “Those kids are my job.” He has a tirade prepared. “With Jenna gone…”

He never gets past those first few syllables, because when Damon’s back is slammed against the wall for the second time, he goes suddenly very limp and pliant. His features soften.

“Sometimes I think you do these things just to piss me off.”

Damon’s eyes go wide and black. “Maybe I do,” he says.

Once he’s seen it, Alaric isn’t sure how he could possibly have missed it before. The sudden spaciness in Damon’s eyes, the way the muscles in his face relax so utterly. The swollen bottom lip, the way his tongue darts out to moisten it.

Thirty-five seconds ago Alaric was planning to do his best to actually break Damon’s nose, even if it would only last a few minutes. He’d fantasized about the satisfying crunch of bone.  He’s sort of forgotten entirely that he’s actually angry enough right now to shoot Damon full of vervain and stake him in the thigh.

He puts his hand out and settles his palm against Damon’s jaw.

Perhaps he imagines the tiny mewl Damon makes but he doesn’t think so. He certainly doesn’t imagine the way Damon presses just slightly into his hand, the way his eyes go from spacey to hopeful in less than a heartbeat.

Alaric’s heart speeds up. He thinks Damon knows this, but Damon says nothing, does nothing. Alaric holds his gaze, and lets himself wonder. How far he could take this. Pretty far, he thinks. He’s halfway through imagining Damon with his hands tied behind his back, trussed by the knees and ankles, ass in the air, blindfolded, in front of the fireplace. Waiting. It’s not an image he can dismiss easily.

He pulls back suddenly. All the fight is gone. The hand curled in Damon’s t-shirt has been scrunched so tight that as the blood rushes back it actually hurts.

“I should go,” he says.

Damon’s eyes narrow. Angry? Disappointed? And then they’re blank again. He gives an irritated half-shrug, curls his lip into a sneer. “You don’t have to,” he says, and the implication is clear.

Alaric feels his cock twitch. Treacherous. He shakes his head. “No. I should. I’ll see you. Grill, whatever,” he says, and though his feet weigh forty pounds apiece and what he really wants to do right now is ask Damon if he has any silk rope on hand, he leaves by the front door.

It takes him a moment to calm enough to turn the key in the ignition.

The knock on the window makes him jump. Damon’s jaw is set, lips in a thin, angry line. Alaric winds the window down, and Damon half leans into the car.

“That conversation,” he says, gravel in his voice, “is not over. Not by a long shot.” And then he’s gone again, and Alaric has to leave before he can’t.

--

They don’t discuss it. Things go back to normal, or as normal as they can be, considering. They drink quietly at the Grill. There’s a weekend spent tracking a feral vampire that killed one of Alaric’s seniors, and it’s not a fun takedown, and the bite on Alaric’s arm (would have been his neck, if he hadn’t got his hand up in time) hurts like a motherfucker but it will heal. Without benefit of Damon’s blood.

(Damon calls him an idiot, promises vampire blood is ambrosia.)

But Damon looks at him differently, now. Holds his eyes longer than he ought to. The hunger there is nearly impossible to take.

It’s been so fucking long.

Damon is a vampire. Damon is Damon. Alaric came to Mystic Falls to kill him. And maybe going from there to drinking buddy was a stretch but now, he’s picturing him blindfolded, head in Alaric’s lap, wrists bound behind him, while Alaric reads. He can’t remember the last time he saw someone so hungry for it. Someone so natural. He gets dizzy, sometimes. In class, one of his brighter seniors answers a complicated question about Virginia’s first governors and Alaric barely hears a word, because he’s wondering how sensitive Damon’s nipple are?.

Elena packs her bag slower than usual, and pauses in front of Alaric’s desk.

“Are you and Damon fighting?”

Alaric blinks slowly. “Fighting?”

“He’s weird, you’re weird. Ergo.”

Alaric clicks the end of his pen. Click-click. Click-click. Imagines Damon with his hands and feet tied to Alaric’s bed frame, a spreader bar between his ankles, while Alaric pounds into his ass for as long as he can hold off his own orgasm. Elena’s face becomes a disconnected series of features. Damon’s ankles are suddenly tied to his wrists.

“No,” he says.

She bites her lip. “He doesn’t have a lot of friends.”

The world rights itself, and Alaric chuckles. “That’s because he’s an asshole.”

“He isn’t always,” she says, in that odd, wise voice, and she just goes.

--

Damon gets uncommunicative.

He stops harassing Alaric to meet him for a drink. Elena complains that he’s an immovable blob on the couch, when she visits. That he snaps if he responds at all. She asks again if Alaric knows what’s wrong with him. Alaric knows. He doesn’t want to think about it or discuss it but he knows. He shrugs. Damon has needs and for the first time in who knows how long he has the capacity to get those needs filled.

“Stefan isn’t here, Alaric. Will you talk to him? Please. Things are hard enough…” She doesn’t mention Jenna’s name, but that’s what she is thinking about. It’s been impossibly hard, and she’s trying; heading out to meet Bonnie, and Caroline, for a movie. A thing a nice normal girl does, something that might even tear her attention from her boyfriend’s killing spree up and down the Eastern Seaboard for a few hours. “Please?”

On her tiptoes, she kisses Alaric’s cheek, and heads out the door.

Alaric sits on the couch that also serves, several nights a week, as his bed, for a long time. The sun eventually sets. The sun will do that, given time. He thinks about pouring himself a very large glass of bourbon, but somehow, it never happens.

Around eight he decides he’s not going to get a thing done anyway, and heads for the boarding house. He doesn’t knock; he rarely does, these days, and he doesn’t think Damon would answer the door if he did.

Damon is sitting in the library. At his usual spot on the couch. He turns his head, just a little, when Alaric walks in, and grumbles.

“What do you want?” There’s venom in his tone. Only a small amount. He actually sounds pretty miserable.

Alaric takes a step, and another, until he is standing directly behind Damon’s place on the couch. Damon stills. He’s tense. Not concerned; anticipatory. Alaric stands, and says nothing, and still Damon waits.

Alaric reaches a hand out, and cards it through Damon’s hair. Tugging gently on the ends as he reaches them. There’s a soft expulsion of air, and a murmur, and Damon leans into the hand, just barely. Like he wants to, but hasn’t been given permission.

This is not how these things are supposed to start, but Alaric is dizzy, and he’ll be feeling guilty and backpedalling frantically in a little while but for now, he’s lost to it.

“It’s alright,” he promises, and Damon relaxes into the touch. Needy as fuck, and it’s enough to send a shot of arousal straight to Alaric’s cock.

With a suddenness that surprises even Alaric, he grips a handful of Damon’s hair, and yanks his head back. Damon gasps, and when his eyes meet Alaric’s, they are wide and nearly black, edged in silver.

When he withdraws his hand, Damon murmurs a soft complaint.

Alaric should, he knows, stop right now. Walk away. Come back another time ready to negotiate. But instead he takes his place on the couch. He stares at the fireplace the way he would if it was full of dancing flames, for a minute, three, five perhaps. When he looks up again Damon is staring at him intently, dull hope in his silver eyes.

Alaric raises an arm. “It’s alright,” he says again, though he knows it’s really not. He’s not going to let it get past light touching, not tonight, and he’ll come back better equipped next time.

Damon shifts quickly, with permission granted, with relief in his eyes. Head suddenly resting heavily on Alaric’s thigh. Alaric’s vision blurs, for just a second, such is the force of his need, but he is in control.

He settles his hand over the back of Damon’s head, and Damon stills utterly.

Just the hair. He strokes, and pets, and twists gently on the ends, until stillness gives way to an utter loose-limbed relaxation. Alaric only wishes he could see Damon’s face. If he leans, he can see the very tips of Damon’s eyelashes.

“What do you need?” he asks. Damon doesn’t respond, not right away. “Damon,” Alaric says, and there’s a warning in the tone that surprises him.

“My back,” Damon says, obediently. “Please. Stroke my back.”

He’s so different like this. The angry tension that seems to animate his frame almost all the time has leeched right out of him. Alaric isn’t sure he’s ever heard Damon utter the word ‘please’ without either bitter sarcasm or real rage behind it.

Alaric takes his time. His fingers play over Damon’s neck for a minute or two, and Damon is almost purring; or would, if it took a little less effort. Alaric makes long strokes over his back. A rhythm. Starting on his shoulder. Finishing each time at the hollow at the base of Damon’s spine. Damon’s hand moves cautiously to settle on Alaric’s knee, and his body tenses a moment.

“It’s alright.”

And this is why this shouldn’t be how it starts. But it’s a conversation for another day.

Time passes. How much, Alaric has no real idea. Just they’re finished, sort of. Damon sits up. Eyes wide, looking drugged. Flushed. Turned on, somewhat, lips plump, eyelids a touch swollen. He half-leans against the back of the couch.

It’s going to take him a while to come down.

“Come on,” Alaric says, and he stands, and Damon takes his hand gratefully, and he’s still disoriented and spacey but Alaric manages to get him to the bedroom, and drape him over the bed. Pull his shoes off. He switches on the bedside lamp, switches off the overhead, and settles into an armchair. Damon drags himself up onto one elbow.

“What are you doing?” Confused, surprised.

“I’m not leaving you like this.” Alaric rests his elbows on his knees, leans forward in the armchair.

“Leave?” He’s coming out too fast. “Leave? We’ve barely started, here.”

Alaric shakes his head. “No,” he says. “We’re done, for now.”

Damon lets his head sink back onto the pillow. He’s trying to muster some real irritation, Alaric suspects, but he can’t. Not the way he feels about Alaric right now. Not without permission.

“What do you need?”

Damon frowns, and shrugs, and looks sort of injured.

“Damon,” Alaric says again. “Tell me what you need.” The tone of command is back.

Damon blinks stupidly a few times, and then gives up, closing his eyes. “Sleep up here,” he says. “Please.”

He toes his shoes off, and with Damon draped over his body, Alaric has the best night’s sleep he’s had in months.

--

The following Friday Alaric is sitting in his classroom, a little after five, marking a pop quiz. He’s somewhat pleased by the results, so far. It’s almost as if they’ve been paying attention. It’s not a task that has to be done tonight, really, but if he takes them home they’ll stare at him all weekend, make him feel guilty, and besides, he’s trying to delay his first drink until after the sun sets.

Or at least close.

He sips at a cup of coffee hastily reheated in the microwave. The coffee machine in the staff room is especially calibrated to keep teachers from dozing off in class. Bitter and frighteningly strong.

The beep of his phone draws Alaric’s eye. Text message. From Damon.

Vampires don’t negotiate kink. Vampires /are/ kink.

Alaric reads it twenty times, but doesn’t respond. He returns to the quizzes. A minute or two later, the phone beeps a second time.

I literally felt you read that. Don’t ignore me.

A third beep: Please.

Alaric’s thumb hovers over the ‘answer’ button.

I’m not a vampire, he responds. I /do/ negotiate. So we’re done. Until you’re prepared to discuss this.

He’s sort of impressed by his strength. Because the truth is he doesn’t feel like negotiating either. The thought of flying by instinct is intoxicating. And he knows he can’t hurt Damon physically. But that’s not the point. If they’re not both getting what they need, this is just a catastrophe waiting to happen. Neither of them can afford another one.

He groans, and scrubs over his face with a calloused hand, and returns to the quizzes. It’s impossibly difficult, now, of course, because in Alaric’s head Damon’s hands are bound to his body and he’s lowering himself onto Alaric’s cock, muscles in his thighs screaming. Alaric is barely aware of the groan he utters before his head hits the desk.

--

Damon appears at the loft with a smile on his face, wearing a t-shirt that is criminally small and with his hair a little too messy for coincidence. He heads straight to the kitchen to grab a bottle of bourbon from the pantry, a second glass. He looks more relaxed than he has in a while.

“That stuff will strip paint off a car,” Alaric says. “I was gonna call you. I’m off teenager duty. We could go to the Grill. Further, maybe. That bar off the interstate where you staked the motorcycle rider with the huge beard.”

Damon shrugs and pours himself onto the couch. “Here’s fine,” he says, and it’s not quite as casual as he maybe wants it to be. He hands Alaric the bottle, and grimaces as he sips. “You weren’t joking.”

Alaric’s taste is somewhat less refined. He likes it cheap. He drinks deep, and sets his feet up on the coffee table.

“I can’t believe you’re going to make me do this,” Damon says. “Boring.”

Alaric says nothing, as Damon stands, and walks to the window. He puts one arm up against it, blocking the glare from the soft light inside the loft. So he can see what? Or is it so that the muscles up one side of his body will be pulled into alignment like that, so that scrap of flesh at his hip will be bared?

And Alaric says nothing.

“I like pain,” Damon says, and that’s of absolutely no surprise. Alaric doesn’t comment. “Bloodplay, though I doubt you… well.” He shrugs, and turns, but doesn’t meet Alaric’s eyes. “Bindings. Any kind. Rope, cuffs, chains. The tighter the better – I prefer not to have to fake it, and if everything’s taut, tight and decent quality I don’t have to.” He does meet Alaric’s eyes then, with a wicked sparkle. “Low range of movement makes it harder to get free. You don’t have to fuck me.” He curls his lip at that. “But I’d rather you did.”

It feels like a speech. Like he’s been repeating it to himself for a while. It doesn’t sound quite like Damon and yet it is, stripped raw.

“I like waiting,” he says. “I mean, I hate it. But it makes me feel calm.” He nods, and drains his glass, and reaches for the bottle to top it off again. His hand is shaking, just a little, and whether it’s nerves, or arousal, Alaric can’t tell. Probably, it doesn’t matter. This sort of honesty doesn’t come easily.

To anyone.

It pays off, though.

Damon rolls his shoulders irritably. “Are you going to contribute to this little tete-a-tete, or are you happy making me do all the work?”

“Hard limits?” Alaric wants to know.

Damon snickers. “Again – vampire, idiot.”

“So I can torture you with vervain? Stake you in the gut?”

Damon falters, and flinches. “N- no,” he says, and Alaric has made his point.

“No bloodplay.” Damon looks disappointed, but accepting. Alaric thinks for a while. “I will fuck you,” he says, and Damon clenches his jaw. “Everything else is fine. I won’t humiliate you. I hate that.” Damon looks relieved. “You can touch me, if you actually can, but you can’t come until I say.” Though Damon barely reacts to this Alaric has actually thrown it in for his benefit; he needs to be granted permission, even if he doesn’t quite know how to say that.

Damon nods, though he still looks tense. And he pays proper attention, after that. He’s not good at saying what he needs, but Alaric suspects it’s mostly because he’s afraid of being laughed at. Alaric is not laughing. Alaric will never laugh at this.

“If I ask you what you need, you tell me, or it’s over.”

“Fun,” Damon says. “Can we talk about bloodplay in a few weeks, if this works out?”

Alaric grimaces. “We can talk. Aftercare’s non-negotiable. You floated off in five minutes the other night. When we do this, we spend the night.” It’s interesting. Seeing Damon stripped bare, psychologically. Being the strong one.

(And again, how has this become Alaric’s life?)

Damon rolls his eyes, but he looks the calmest he has since he arrived. “Fine. Are we done?”

“Safe word.”

“Fucking humans. Have to spoil everything.”

“Pick one, or I’ll pick one for you.”

Damon throws back another glass of bourbon, pours a third. Alaric can’t help but notice the mild tent in his pants. He might not like negotiating but thinking about this is more than enough to get him started.

“How about ‘vervain’? Or is that morbid?” He’s pouring another. That’s four in twenty minutes, not that Alaric is going to comment.

“Works for me,” Alaric says, and stretches out on the couch. A hand behind his head.

Damon turns back to the window. He can’t possibly see a thing, but he stands like that for a long time. “When can we start?”

Alaric has to think. “Not tonight.”

Damon rolls his shoulders again. That electricity rippling across his body. He’s disappointed. That’s good. He has to wait, and it can’t always be naked and bound.

“Okay,” he says, if quietly. “I should go, then.”

“You don’t have to. Nothing else has to change. This time three weeks ago we were drunk and watching that Bourne marathon.” He leans forward, elbows on his knees. Fuck, Damon is going to have to learn to talk, if this is going to work. Without an entire afternoon to practice what he wants to say.

Damon looks doubtful, and very, very young.

“No. I’ll go.” He makes a show of it, though, taking his glass to the kitchen, rinsing it, putting it into the dishwasher. Drying his hands on a dish towel. Alaric watches as he does it.

“Damon,” he says. Damon glances up, but doesn’t say anything.

“Damon,” Alaric says, and it’s a little gruffer. “What do you need?”

“Oh, fuck you. We’re not scening. Don’t make that a thing.” He rolls his shoulders, but makes no move to leave.

“What. Do. You. Need?”

Damon aggressively folds the dish towel neatly in three and hangs it on the rail. “Something,” he says. “Anything. Everything’s a fucking mess and this comes along and I just… fuck, Ric, you could make this easy on me, you know? Just… just like the other night.”

Alaric nods, and a few moments later Damon is back in position, head heavy on Alaric’s knee, and this time, when they sleep, it’s bare flesh against flesh, and it feels fucking glorious. Damon props himself up on one elbow, studying Alaric’s face intently, in what little light is afforded by the moon, filtered and diffused by the streaky clouds. “I didn’t ask about kissing.”

Alaric grins. “Kissing’s fine.” He waits, but Damon seems content to ask. His voice is a little slurred, and not from alcohol. “Why do you trust me? I could kill you.”

“You’ve had dozens of chances, and I’m not dead yet. ’Night, Ric,” he says, and settles in to sleep.

--

Seven o’clock, the next night, Alaric opens the door of the boarding house. Damon has a look about him like he might actually explode. Alaric pushes the door shut with his foot.

He’s not smiling.

“Follow me,” he says, and beckons Damon to the library. He drops his rucksack by the desk. Damon looks intrigued, if nervous, but relief takes over when Alaric pushes everything off the desk. He turns on Damon, twisting a wrist behind his back. Damon doesn’t resist, though he does flinch. Alaric’s putting all of his strength behind it. It hurts. Not enough, but it hurts.

He pushes Damon against the desk, bends him over it. “Don’t move,” he murmurs into Damon’s ear, and Damon stills, nodding just barely. He’s breathing hard. Alaric pulls a coil of silk rope from the bag.

He takes Damon’s other hand, jerking roughly until Damon’s wrists are pressed together behind him, and coils the rope roughly around them. “Tight enough?”

Damon pauses, and shakes his head, and Alaric pulls the final two coils tighter. There’s a whimper, and Alaric figures he’s met the mark when Damon’s body goes half limp, when the tension in his neck dissolves. He ties off the rope, and steps back.

Damon really is breathing hard.

Alaric is mildly intrigued by this fact. He understands vampires need to breathe to speak, but twice now he’s shared a bed with Damon, and he certainly doesn’t breathe when he’s sleeping. So it’s not necessary, biologically. So why now? Some memory of arousal, an indelible imprint on some part of his brain? Does it just feel good?

Alaric stands, and looks, for a few moments. Damon begins to shake, almost imperceptibly, and Alaric reaches out, touches his hands gently. Damon’s fingers begin to move, reaching for him, but they can’t move far.

Alaric crouches by the desk, until Damon meets his eyes. “You’re doing great,” he says, and Damon blinks slowly. Later, Alaric will kiss him, but not now.

He stands behind Damon again. Strokes his hair, once, twice, and then yanks it roughly, pulls it back until Damon is standing. Damon offers nothing but a soft yelp and a look of sheer ecstasy. He seems smaller, like this. Alaric lets go of his hair, smooths over his face, neck, body, with his hands, until they find his belt. The belt is discarded – though maybe he’ll find some use for it later – and Alaric unfastens Damon’s jeans, pulls them down over his hips. Far enough, for now. Damon is hard, diamond hard, and Alaric offers a few slow strokes before pushing him back down onto the desk. He actually groans, erection trapped cruelly against the corner of the desk.

“Does that hurt?” Alaric asks. Damon nods. “Does it hurt enough?” Damon is more hesitant, now.

“It will,” he says, cautiously. Hopefully. “When you start fucking me.” Alaric traces the shape of his ass with one hand.

“Is that what you want?”

Damon nods. “Yes. Please.”

He lets Alaric help him the rest of the way out of his jeans, and whimpers when Alaric bumps deliberately against him, chafing him against the bevelled edge of the desk. It goes against the grain; Alaric is not built for cruelty, but he understands need, and Damon needs. Damon asked. Scening isn’t about good knots and rough sex; it’s about need. And soothing someone after, drawing them out, is when Alaric actually feels most powerful.

It’s been a damn long time. Isobel was into it until she wasn’t and he’d careened around a few clubs after she’d left, trying to make himself feel something, anything again. Not since. It’s left a hole.

Speaking of holes.

Damon’s legs are shaking. Alaric kicks one foot to the side, spreading them further.

He takes his time, tying Damon’s ankles to the legs on the desk. Firm knots. Pretty knots. He wishes Damon could see. Damon is spread wide. Again, Alaric reflects that this much trust is hard to comprehend, especially from Damon, who trusts so rarely.

“Tight enough?”

“Yeah,” Damon murmurs. It would take some real effort to get free at the point, not that he has any interest in trying.

Alaric slaps Damon’s ass, once, hard. Damon flinches, and gasps, though it can’t have hurt much; just the shock. Alaric soothes the skin with his hand, before delivering a second slap that has Damon rutting his hips against the side of the desk.

“Stop that,” Alaric says.

Damon shivers once, and complies instantly.

Alaric soothes the skin again. It’s enough. Damon is a trembling ball of need already, and he has no interest in testing boundaries their first time. “Ready?”

“Yeah,” Damon groans, and curves his body, presenting his ass like a prize. It can’t be easy, when he’s this tense, but it’s appreciated. Quite a sight. Alaric takes his time, studying Damon as if he’s planning to sketch him later. Lays a hand against the juncture of his neck and shoulders and strokes until Damon’s hands are in the way. He sincerely wishes he’d thought to get Damon’s shirt off him before he bound his wrists. He steps back, unzipping his jeans and pulling his cock out. He’s half hard, and a few well-timed strokes, and the sight of Damon beginning to writhe against the desk, legs spread wide, ass just begging to be fucked, is more than enough to get him the rest of the way there.

Damon’s hips twitch.

It’s almost hard to see him so vulnerable.

Back into the bag, for lubricant. Damon makes a faint noise of approval and anticipation as Alaric pops the cap. Alaric smiles.

Some other time, he’ll be slower, gentler. For now, he slicks two fingers, and with next to no warning, slips them into Damon. Rough. Part way out and he plunges them in again, all the way, and Damon utters some half of a syllable.

“I didn’t say you had to be quiet,” Alaric says, as he works him harder, opening him up, stretching him out. “You can talk.”

“I…” So maybe he just can’t. He’s not all the way there, yet, he’s still present, but he’s not quite coherent, either. Alaric adds a third finger.

“Ric…”

It’s interesting, hearing Damon try to plead and try not to plead, all at the same time.

“Tell me what you need,” Alaric says, as he presses against Damon’s prostate. Damon’s legs are shaking harder, now, and Alaric curves his other hand around Damon’s thigh.

“Fuck me,” Damon says, simply. He sounds drunk.

Alaric, obliging friend that he is, slips his fingers out of Damon. He could take a little longer; Damon is still tight as hell, but it seems they both need him that way. Alaric lubes his cock generously, lines up, and pushes all the way in, smoothly, quickly. The angle is perfect. Damon tenses, and groans, and Alaric knows his own erection is rubbing cruelly against the edge of the desk. His fingers tangle together as if he wants to pull his wrists apart, maybe grip the sides of the desk, but mostly, he’s just being swept along.

“You’re doing great,” Alaric promises, as he shifts his angle a little, and something’s gone just right because Damon has begun writhing. He doesn’t speak – maybe he can’t. But he pants out hot little sounds that make Alaric want to kiss him.

“Hair,” he says, and he sounds drunk.

Alaric grips Damon’s hair, and yanks it back, and the expression on Damon’s face is blissed out, ecstatic. His lips are parted, his face is flushed. His eyes are closed. Spacey. Alaric isn’t going to last. Damon fucks back against him, though it can’t be easy; Alaric picks up the pace, harder, faster, until his hips shudder, and he comes harder than he can remember having come in years.

Damon’s not the only one with needs. Alaric has missed this more than he realized.

Slipping out of Damon, he lets Damon’s head return to the desk. Damon lets out a faint murmur of complaint, but they’re done. With come dripping down his thighs, he’s loose-limbed and relaxed, still with his eyes closed.

Alaric goes back into the bag, and brings out a hand towel. He gives himself a cursory wipe off and re-fastens his jeans. He takes his time cleaning Damon, kisses his thigh. Murmuring. “You did so well. So well.”

The ropes on Damon’s ankles are the first to go. The skin is a little chafed, and Alaric soothes it with soft touches. Then the rope on his wrists. With his hands free, Damon pushes himself up to a standing position, and turns around.

His pupils are huge, and he’s shaking a little. He leans into Alaric, and Alaric lets him, puts his arms around him. Always soothing. This is what Alaric loves; bringing someone out of subspace. Taking his time, letting them enjoy it. Long as it takes. “What do you need?”

Damon is quiet. Alaric can wait.

“Do you need to come?”

Damon says “No.” Alaric’s not entirely surprised. Maybe later.

“Where do you want to be?”

“Bedroom,” Damon says, so Alaric leads him there. They stretch out on the bed, under an ancient, faded quilt, Damon curved over Alaric’s body, but he can’t get settled.

“Can you take your clothes off?” Damon asks. Alaric is surprised, but he does it. It’s not even sexual, the sudden need Damon has for skin. Alaric moves his hand over Damon’s back in circles. Damon is entirely limp, but when Alaric touches his hair, he presses up against his hand, just enough so Alaric knows he likes that best.

“Do you need water?”

Damon shakes his head. “Blood,” he says.

This gives Alaric pause. Trust goes both ways, though. So he offers up his wrist.

Damon sits up, just partially, and gazes intently at Alaric, as if he doesn’t quite believe it. “It’s alright,” Alaric says. “Just don’t get greedy, okay? Not much use to you if I’m lyin’ around being dead for the next few hours.”

Damon doesn’t need a second offer. He’s still in subspace, which seems to make it hard to vamp out, but he kisses Alaric’s wrist almost worshipfully, before sinking his fangs into the flesh. It hurts, it does, but not as badly as an unexpected bite, like the one which has almost healed on his arm. And Damon’s mouth moving over the wound is nice, somehow, and Alaric wonders for the hundredth time this week how he’s even gotten into this situation.

--

It’s close to midnight when Damon groggily sits up and switches the bedside lamp on. Alaric shifts as well, sitting up higher against the pillows. Damon looks different, somehow. His face is relaxed in a way Alaric has rarely seen. He’s not smiling, exactly, but his lip curls in something like contentment.

“How are you feeling?” Alaric asks, and Damon snickers.

“Pretty fucking good,” he says. “Didn’t realize how much I needed that…” he slinks, literally slinks, back to Alaric’s side, climbs over him.

It’s a surprise. Alaric has sort of expected this to be something of a business transaction between friends, really, but when Damon kisses up his neck, over his jaw, and finds his mouth at last, he starts to think maybe he’s sunk. He pulls Damon close, and deepens the kiss, and his body starts to warm, responding to each touch.

This is a very different Damon. Aggressively affectionate and entirely present, and Alaric starts to think it might have been a good idea to discuss non-scene stuff back at the beginning but now he’s here, he’s going with it.

“I want to get you off,” Alaric says, and Damon snickers.

“You’d better,” he answers, and it’s sometime after that that Alaric ends up with a mouthful of Damon’s cock. He can’t remember the last time he actually wanted to do this, but he does now, and he swallows, and Damon looks better after than he did before; so they sleep.

--

Alaric gets home from work late, a few days later, after parent-teacher conferences that didn’t end until eight o’clock. He’s debating calling Damon for a drink at the Grill but as he pulls into the driveway of the Gilbert house, he spots the familiar blue Camaro and frowns.

The house smells like Italy, and Damon is leaning over a pot on the stove. Elena is frowning.

“I think he’s broken,” she says, and Damon turns and rolls his eyes, before giving Alaric a hungry smile. “He said he was bored. Which doesn’t explain why he’s cooking for us, instead of munching on co-eds somewhere.” She gives Alaric a suspicious look. “Did you know he could cook?”

Alaric drops his satchel by the counter.

“Don’t complain,” he says. “It was gonna be microwaved leftover Chinese food.” He sits on a stool, and accepts a glass of wine Damon has poured him. It’s all very surreal. After dinner, Damon washes the dishes, as well, and Alaric dries them, while Elena disappears into her room to work on an assignment.

“You didn’t need to do this,” Alaric says, and he immediately regrets it, because Damon tenses up and shrugs. “Thanks, though, it was… wouldn’t think someone on a liquid diet was such a good cook.” Damon relaxes a little again.

“I don’t want to fuck this up,” he says, quietly, and it’s then that Alaric realizes he actually wants a relationship.

How the fuck this happened, Alaric isn’t sure. He dries the dishes, and asks himself what he wants, and he doesn’t have an answer. He glances at Damon, who actually seems to be enjoying himself. Domestic Damon. He flashes back to the scene in the library, and then later.

“What do you need?” he asks, and it’s sort of a test.

Damon flinches, grits his teeth, and in a flash he has Alaric pinned against the sink, kissing him aggressively. Alaric settles one hand on Damon’s hip, and the other on the back of Damon’s neck, and it’s true, he’s sunk.

--

It takes almost an hour to get the knots tied the way Alaric wants them, and Damon doesn’t move a muscle, just watches, or lies with his eyes closed for a while. Naked and spreadeagle on his own bed.

“Tight enough?” Alaric asks, each time, and Damon pulls, a little, and he nods. He’s quite a sight, like this; muscles pulled into line, totally available, totally vulnerable, and totally trusting.

The right wrist is last, and Alaric slips his hand into Damon’s. Damon gives it a squeeze, but he’s already looking spacey, so it’s a weak squeeze. Alaric doesn’t kiss him; it doesn’t fit the mood. He crosses his arms, and stands by the bed, and watches.

Damon is fine, for the first ten minutes or so. He’s half-hard, but only half, and his face is relaxed and eager.

After ten minutes, though, he gets impatient, and begins a bitchy whine, low in his throat. When he opens his eyes, and licks his bottom lip, Alaric only shifts his weight from one foot to the other. He takes a few steps, until he’s standing at the foot of the bed.

“Ric,” Damon complains, but Alaric doesn’t answer.

He continues to whine for another minute or so, and then closes his eyes, sucks it up. Wills himself to relax.

After a few minutes breathing and wanting and being unable to have he’s no longer half-hard; his erection bobs under its own weight, leaking pre-come at the tip.

Alaric takes his clothes off slowly. Damon watches. It isn’t showy, this isn’t a tease, he’s just dragging it out. Damon licks his lips over and over, tugs lightly on his bindings.

Nipple clamps. Damon groans when the left one goes on and actually swears when the right one does. They hurt like hell, but Alaric will soothe him later. His hips buck. Alaric sticks a pillow under his buttocks, lifting him a little way off the bed.

“You’re doing great,” he says.

Damon never responds to praise, but Alaric knows he needs it; he hears every day that he’s getting everything wrong. He’s hungry for any kind word. Always.

Alaric is rough with him. Next time, he’ll bind him lying on his stomach. Put the spreader bar between his ankles. Next time, next time. Alaric is addicted. They’ve fallen into a rhythm, in just a few short weeks. Scening every weekend, at the boarding house. Sex later, if Damon wants it. Through the week they manage something, too, and it’s that more than anything else that makes this feel like a real relationship. And it is a relationship. Unexpected and unconventional but they make each other better.

As he grips Damon’s hips, thrusting into him, he watches Damon’s head tilt back, mouth drifting open. His hands close over the ropes, and he shudders. The angle couldn’t be more awkward, and the ropes are screaming, and Damon should be as well; instead he’s found his centre.

“Don’t you dare come,” Alaric says. Damon nods; he’s too far gone to speak. When Alaric comes, and Damon opens his eyes, he looks drugged. There’s barely a ring of silver blue around his pupils.

Alaric takes his time, cleaning Damon up, and at long last he removes the clamps. They hurt more coming off than going on, and Damon rolls his whole body, gritting his teeth. Alaric soothes the angry red nipples with his tongue until Damon is purring.

The ropes take less than twenty minutes to remove, and Damon dozes as Alaric does it. He flexes his aching muscles – they’ll hurt for a while, but not as long as they would if he was human – and when Alaric is done, he curls onto his side to wait.

This takes hours, sometimes. It’s the best part of Alaric’s week, easing Damon out of subspace. Damon’s hair is a mess, and his eyes are coal black, and he seems smaller, somehow, though he’s heavy on Alaric’s body. Quiet words of encouragement, a hand in Damon’s hair. Soft touches.

Alaric feels privileged.

Damon is stronger, better, with this in his life than he is without it. He stops picking fights with Alaric, stops endangering Jeremy. Stops messing with Elena’s torn affections, as well. He’s helpful. Alaric isn’t quite sure what to make of it all. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The shift from enemies to uneasy allies, to friends, was strange enough. But Alaric is beginning to suspect they’re falling in love, and the thought induces panic.

“What?”

Alaric shakes his head clear. “Hmm?”

“Your heartbeat just…” Damon shrugs, but he barely moves. He’s most of the way out, now, though, and his hand finds Alaric’s and he squeezes it gently. “Whatever. I’m tired.”

“Sleep, if you like,” Alaric says. “I’m not goin’ anywhere.”

Damon sleeps.

--

When they’re not scening, things don’t seem from the outside to have changed that much. They drink at the Grill together, and snark, and fight monsters. Damon’s just nicer. Elena remains deeply suspicious, particularly at how much time Damon spends at the house. She starts snooping. When she finds tickets to Chicago, she insists she is going along.

“No,” Damon says. “You’re not. Because you’re dead, remember? Dead girls don’t go to Chicago. You smell like a carnival. Klaus will pick you from half a mile away.” He glares, and Elena glares, and Alaric rolls his eyes.

“He’s my boyfriend, Damon,” Elena says, and she actually stomps her feet.

“Your boyfriend is on a blood binge. And you don’t do as you’re told. Words like ‘stay in the car’ and ‘don’t run into the burning building’ and ‘don’t offer yourself up as a fucking sacrifice’ just go straight over your head.” He does some sort of bizarre hand gesture Alaric isn’t sure he could explain. “And also, no.”

“He’s the love of my life. I’m the love of his.”

“And he’s my brother. If anyone is going to get through to him, it’s not going to be a girl he’s known a year, it’s going to be me. I’m the one he did this for, remember?”

And Alaric is sort of stunned because not so long ago, he’s sure Damon would have taken Elena with him. Fuck, he’s actually getting reasonable.

“I’m gonna find him and talk to him, and Alaric’s gonna be nearby with a dart gun full of vervain in case he gets grabby. And you’re going to be here, safely pretending to be dead.”

Elena cries, and Damon holds her, and promises he’ll do his best.

They fail, of course, and come back despondent, but at least Elena is kept out of it.

--

They drive each other to new heights. Damon admits he loves a spreader bar and Alaric enthusiastically endorses this. A bar between his knees, and another between his ankles. He’s on the floor, handcuffed to the leg of the bed, ass in the air. Effectively immobilized.

Alaric puts the blindfold on him and he begins to shiver.

“I’m here,” Alaric says, as he strokes over Damon’s back. “You’re safe. You’re doing so well.”

Damon shakes and shakes for about ten minutes, but eventually stills to Alaric’s hand, to his voice. It’s the blindfold, Alaric thinks. Sensory deprivation. They haven’t done that before. Everything else is heightened, and that might be why Damon is hard before Alaric even starts with the riding crop. Damon gasps at every stroke, arching his body like a bow. The bruises disappear before they really get a chance to form.

Over and over. Thirty, more. Alaric stops, and unties the blindfold, and Damon’s eyes are red. He’s not exactly crying. But there are tears. Some sort of emotional release. Alaric strokes his back, his ass.

“I can stop,” he says.

“No,” Damon says. “I’m good. Fuck me. Please.”

“You were so good,” Alaric says, and because it’s true, he spreads Damon’s ass cheeks and licks over his rim. Damon’s entire body rolls.

“Yes,” he manages to say, and then, for good measure; “Fuck, yes.” It’s so hot, the way the sound is punched out of him. Alaric takes his time. Shifts his mouth to Damon’s perineum and presses his tongue firmly against it, until Damon is breathing hard again. A broad swipe to the crack of his ass, and then his tongue in a point, pressing into Damon’s sphincter. Damon stops trying to be quiet. Needs do change, sometimes. He swears, he moans, he drops syllables of Alaric’s names from his lips. He starts to fight the handcuffs, until Alaric grips his hair roughly in warning.

Alaric lubricates his fingers and presses roughly into Damon, working him open. Not too much. When he is able to get his tongue into Damon’s ass and fuck him that way Damon actually shouts. It makes Alaric grin. He’s never liked doing this but Damon is different. There is no part of this body Alaric doesn’t want to touch.

“Do you need to come?”

Damon doesn’t hesitate. “Yes,” he hisses, and he nods for good measure.

“You have permission,” Alaric says, and as he slides his cock into Damon’s wet, messy hole, Jesus CHRIST it feels good, he reaches his hand around to jerk him off. He barely has time for a few quick strokes before Damon comes with a shudder.

Alaric can’t wait long. He pulls out in time to shoot his load across Damon’s hole, just because he wants to see what it looks like. Damon shudders when he does it. He goes very, very still when Alaric cleans him up with a warm, wet face cloth. He seems disappointed when the handcuffs come off, less so when Alaric removes the spreader bars.

He rolls onto his back. Alaric struggles to get him onto his feet to lie on the bed. He is shaking again. Deeply in it. Alaric offers up a wrist, which he doesn’t always do, but after a session that intense it seems the best way to maintain the intimacy. Damon bites shallowly, drinks lazily, while Alaric plays with his hair.

“That was really something,” Alaric says, and it takes a while to realize he’s actually shaking too. Damon grips his hand weakly, and their fingers do a strange, shuffling dance.

--

Stefan’s humanity has been off for about a week when Damon knocks on the door of Alaric’s loft. Alaric opens it and Damon is drunk, drunker than Alaric has ever seen him. He staggers into Alaric demanding to be fucked into a wall, and Alaric pulls him to the couch, instead.

Damon pulls at Alaric’s clothes, and there’s a desperation to it that scares Alaric so badly he actually has to pull himself away.

“What? This isn’t what we do,” he says, and Damon has actual tears in his eyes again when he opens them.

“I need something. Anything. Please,” he says, “Please, Ric. Hurt me. Something.”

Alaric feels physically ill.

“I’ll hold you. That’s all. You’re vulnerable.”

“I’m a fucking vampire, Ric, we don’t do ‘vulnerable’,” he says, and Alaric wishes there was a mirror handy because he wishes Damon could see his face right now. The white of his eyes show all the way around. Alaric puts out a steadying hand, but Damon isn’t looking at him any more.

“How much have you had to drink?” Damon stands, and heads for the door. Alaric grabs his arm. “Don’t leave, man, just… talk to me.”

“We don’t do that, either,” Damon says, with gritted teeth, but he doesn’t leave.

“We can,” Alaric says. Quietly. De-escalating. Damon needs to calm, and he can’t do it himself.

Damon pulls his arm away, but he still doesn’t leave. “I fucked up,” he says.

“No. It’s not your fault. And we’ll get Stefan back. I have no idea how, but we will.” Damon doesn’t believe it; Alaric can see the dull acceptance there. It’s more like grief than fear. Damon stumbles – Alaric can’t even imagine how much he’s had to drink. He’s seen Damon put away two bottles of bourbon in a night and still get himself hard.

“I need something,” he insists again, and it’s definitely not their dynamic but Alaric pulls him in close, warms him with a loose embrace.

“I’ll hold you,” Alaric promises. “But I’m not fucking you in this state. And I’m definitely not scening. Okay? You need to calm down, sleep this off…”

“Vampire, idiot. It’s not like you can actually hurt me.” Damon’s voice is muffled against Alaric’s shoulder.

“Maybe not physically.” Alaric drops his arms. “But you’re a mess right now.” The stink of bourbon rolls off him in waves.

Alaric leads Damon to the bathroom. Damon rolls his eyes, but lets Alaric strip his clothes off, lets him run the water hot. He goes loose-limbed when Alaric follows him. Co-operates when Alaric lathers him up, running firm hands over Damon’s body, clearing away the miasma of bourbon and misery. His eyes get dark and try to close. He’s already drifting off. He doesn’t need pain; he needs to be soothed.

Alaric wonders if he actually knew that when he walked in. Maybe, maybe not.

He leans up against Alaric, slick as a seal. The water is hot and the pressure is high and as it rolls over his back and shoulders, Alaric plays with the ends of his hair.

It’s an interesting combination of sensations; the cold tile against his ass, crazy impulsive vampire gone all floppy against him, the steam building in the tight space. “I fucked up,” Damon says again.

“What do you need?”

Damon stands under his own power again, and turns off the shower. “Sleep. And you.”

They sleep with limbs tangled, and Damon is almost sane in the morning.

--

It’s Saturday night, and Damon is calm, so they’re scening.

Alaric is missing the boarding house already. His own place doesn’t have the same feel to it, but Stefan and Rebekah make it impossible for them to do this there; Alaric doesn’t know how Damon’s coping with it, day to day, but he can’t relax within a mile of the place, and it’s not his carpets that are getting stained by dead co-eds.

Status quo is all Damon’s managing for now, but they’ve debated a few different next steps to take. Things will fall out as they fall out.

Damon is nude, sitting backwards on a chair, chin resting lightly on the back rest. His arms are bound from elbow to wrist. No skin shows between the coils of rope. He’s so relaxed he looks like he could drift off to sleep.

A few nights ago Damon had whispered to him about the peace he feels under a blade. The stillness, he said, is incomparable. He’d asked politely, negotiated like a fucking adult, and Alaric agreed. He wasn’t expecting to be anticipating it the way he is now.

Alaric is sharpening an old-fashioned cut-throat razor, and his heart is beating so hard he thinks it must be the only sound Damon can hear. The harsh overhead lights are out, but there are a dozen candles lit. Damon brought them, and the razor, and after a drink, and a little extra negotiation, they’d started.

Alaric continues to sharpen the blade. The sound of the metal against the stone is calming. Shhh. Shhhhh.

The plug in Damon’s ass is new. Holding him open until Alaric is ready to fuck him. It’s big, but Damon said he wanted that stretch and burn, as Alaric opened the skin on his back.

They don’t speak. This feels right. They’ve both said what they need to. Alaric takes a couple of small steps, and presses his hand to Damon’s cheek. Damon leans into the touch, and he opens his eyes for a moment, just long enough so Alaric can see he’s already under. He’d started to drift off while his arms were being bound. He’s had a bad week, and he’s so fucking needy right now that it makes Alaric’s back teeth ache. He leans down to kiss Damon’s forehead. He wants to ask one more time if Damon is sure about this, but Damon is sure.

Alaric leaves his clothes on, knowing full well he’ll probably have to throw out this t-shirt.

He sits on a chair positioned behind Damon, and spends a few minutes stroking down over the skin. Damon lets out a sigh; contentment, perhaps, but anticipation, as well.

“I need this,” he says, and Alaric calms a little as well.

He places the blade high up on Damon’s shoulder, and tests how much pressure is required to break the skin; not much. A spot of bright red appears, and Alaric moves the blade, watching the skin open up. A short cut, only a couple of inches, and Damon moans, shivers. “Yes,” he says, and it so quiet Alaric almost misses it, over the rush in his ears. As the blood spills down over Damon’s back, and the cut begins to close itself, Alaric can’t help himself – he presses his mouth to the bright red, and tastes it. There’s blood over his chin, and firecrackers going off in his head, and Damon moves his arms as if he wants to reach for Alaric but he can’t.

“Not too much,” he warns, sluggishly. “Don’t want a coked-up Dom cutting me into ribbons.”

Damon’s back suddenly looks like a blank canvas. Alaric presses the blade against the skin a second time, closer to the spine, and opens a gash that runs a good four inches. Damon’s hips rock against the chair, and he shudders, as the plug shifts inside him. This time there is a lot more blood, and Alaric spreads it with his fingers, tracing patterns he can’t name or explain into the flesh. He’s feeling a little spacey himself, now, partly from the blood in his system, partly from arousal. His cock is half-hard, but he ignores it, for now. It shouldn’t be this pretty, blood across flesh, but it is.

Alaric is glad for the candles.

“More?” he asks, ask the wound knits shut. He traces where there should be a fine pink line, but there is only perfect skin, dark and sticky with drying blood.

“More,” Damon agrees. A little further left, and that same length, about four inches. Might be a little deeper than the last. The wound gapes, and Damon groans, and rolls his body, and shivers, and again Alaric spreads the blood with his fingertips.

His dick hurts, and wants, and he ignores it, cruelly trapped in his pants. Alaric reopens the wound as it tries to close up, and the thick scent of pre-come wars with the scent of blood. Alaric reaches around, smearing blood over Damon’s erection. A slow stroke. “Do you want to come?”

“Not yet,” Damon says, so Alaric withdraws his hand.

He cuts and cuts and spreads the blood thickly over the flesh. Twice more he leans to press his tongue to it. Damon squirms, and breathes heavily, and occasionally mutters a throaty “yes”, but that’s all. It’s intoxicating, and Alaric suddenly understands Things about life, and blood, and connection, and why Damon likes to bite him after they’ve fucked; it’s as intimate as you can get, being inside someone’s veins. He’ll let Damon bite him tonight. Hell, he’ll ask Damon to bite him tonight. He imagines Damon’s eyes will go wide. Not permission, a request.

A little further left. Damon’s back is covered in gore, and Alaric is so turned on he can’t keep the blade straight any more. “I have to stop,” he says, and after a moment’s hesitation, Damon nods.

Alaric closes the blade, and sets it aside, and with his clean hand, he cards through Damon’s hair. His vision is distorted, and he’s shaking a little. Something about the way Damon tenses his neck tells Alaric he’s hoping Alaric will yank his head back, but Alaric has caused enough pain. He’s done with it, for now. They stay like that a few minutes, until Damon begins to shiver.

Alaric helps him to stand, and then to kneel by the couch. “You’re doing so well,” he says, and his voice sounds sort of cracked.

He undresses slowly. Damon barely moves. His eyes are closed, and his lips are parted slightly, and he’s still breathing pretty hard. Alaric strokes himself a couple of times, for good measure, though he’s hard and aching. And the thought of Damon’s ass being held open for him for a good couple of hours is far too appealing. He lubes up, and carefully works the plug free. Damon only murmurs, until Alaric pushes into him, and then he moans. Alaric grips his hips as he begins to thrust in earnest. The blood spreads even further. Finger prints on Damon’s skin, like he’s been marked and claimed.

“You’ve been so good,” he says, as he presses a hand to Damon’s shoulder, holding him down. “Don’t fuck it up now. Don’t you dare come.” Damon grimaces, and fucks himself back against Alaric’s cock, with more energy than Alaric would have thought he could muster, but when Alaric comes, Damon slumps, and he’s done. Sex is scarcely the point, on a night like this; it’s just the last step. It completes their dance, in a way, symbolizes the shift in attention, from driving Damon down into subspace, to readying to bring him back out of it.

Alaric leaves him on the coach for long enough to wet a few towels. Warm, almost hot, comforting. He places one over Damon’s back, to loosen up the blood that has dried on his skin. “You did so well,” he says, as he tucks a strand of hair behind Damon’s ear.

He cleans Damon’s ass, the come spilling down his thighs. Damon murmurs something incomprehensible. Still so far under. Alaric takes his time. There’s a lot of blood to clean up, but he’s mindful that Damon is still bound. And he’s in a weird headspace himself. This will not be a regularly scheduled event.

It takes almost half an hour to clean Damon’s skin. Damon sighs, from time to time, but mostly he is silent, floating. He staggers when Alaric helps him to his feet and guides him to the bed. He lays him down, and sits beside him, one leg dangling off the side, as he loosens the knot and begins to uncoil the rope. It has bitten into Damon’s skin, and it’s an angry red. Alaric warms a little massage oil between his hands, and rubs Damon’s arms gently until he starts to respond, and takes Alaric’s hand, tangling their fingers loosely together.

“What do you need?” Alaric asks, and Damon shifts sideways on the bed, patting the mattress. He curls half onto Alaric’s body when Alaric props himself against the pillows.

Alaric pets him gently, transfixed by the flames that are still flickering by the couch, until time loses all meaning. Stroking from his neck to the curve of his ass, rhythmic. Playing with his hair. An hour. Two.

“I love you,” he says, and Damon moves his hand, closing over Alaric’s body in a loose embrace.

“I know,” Damon says, and Alaric doesn’t think he’s ever heard him so secure, so sure of anything before.

“I don’t know when that happened.”

Damon props himself up on one elbow. There’s not a lot of light, but from what Alaric can see he looks exhausted, and content. Alaric moves to lie down properly, pulling Damon into his arms.

“Well, you’re sort of an idiot,” Damon says, as he settles into place. “You probably should have seen that coming.” He leans into Alaric’s arms, kisses his jaw, finds his mouth. “I want to bite you,” he says, rolling onto Alaric’s body, straddling his hips.

“I want you to,” Alaric agrees, and Damon presses his lips to Alaric’s throat. Alaric makes a quiet sound of encouragement, but Damon keeps moving, kissing down his body, squirming and repositioning himself until his lips find the hollow of Alaric’s hip. There, he sinks his fangs in, and drinks harder than he usually does. Alaric groans.

It’s a shock, but only for a moment, and Alaric pets Damon’s hair encouragingly until Damon pulls away. He’s sort of disappointed when the wound heals quickly. He’s still got plenty of Damon’s blood in his system. But he likes the idea of a scar there, perfect replica of Damon’s teeth. Next time.

“Do you want to come?”

Damon resettles over Alaric’s side. “In the morning,” he said. “Goodnight.” And then, “I love you too.”

They sleep under the glowing candlelight, and Alaric thinks Damon is probably right. He’s an idiot.

But he doesn’t much care.