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The door to the Salvatore house swings open as I enter. It's a bit dramatic, but Damon isn't around to ridicule me for it.

"Hello?" I call into the empty parlor.

I woke up to a series of texts from Damon and Elena about Alaric. It only took a moment of skimming through them before I rushed over here, knowing I would probably be more help to him than anyone right now.

Stefan appears around the nearest corner when he hears my arrival. He's not exactly thrilled to see me, but at least he's able to put aside our Mikaelson-related differences to work together on this.

"We've been waiting for you," he greets, half-heartedly. "Damon probably left you a billion messages."

I nod, "He did. Sorry, I've been busy."

My embarrassed brain flashes my intimate moment with Klaus last night. In other words, the endless thoughts that spiraled afterward about possibly being with him kept me from sleep. If I had woken up earlier and seen what happened, I would have been here much sooner.

"How is he?" I whisper as he leads me down to the cellar.

Stefan shakes him head, "He's still Alaric, which is only making him hate himself more."

Alaric's kind, handsome face pops into my mind and I try to picture him as a villain, but with no success. I care about him in my own way, which means that I have a terrible need to protect him, so for him to be going through some kind of magical turmoil... it breaks my heart.

My thoughts are put on pause when we reach the cell door. Its old, harsh metal is hardly an encouraging place for Alaric to deal with all of this. The hinges even squeak in retaliation as Stefan forces it open for me.

"Is this all really necessary?" I question immediately.

"I said the same," Stefan claims, gesturing inside.

Alaric is laying on the cot provided for him, but it's obvious that he's not fallen asleep yet. When he sits up to meet me, his posture is unusually slouched and his face tired. I try not to stare, but it's hard when I've only ever seen the light in his appearance.

"Clara," he tries to smile for me, but it doesn't reach his eyes, "hey."

My heart drops a little at the sight, "Hey, Ric. How are you feelin'?"

He has been asked this question too many times—I can see it on his face. Each and every one of us just wants him to get his part of the task over with so Klaus doesn't take matters into his own hands. It's obvious now after looking at him: nobody wants it more than Alaric.

"Like myself," he hums, knowing it's not the answer we are looking for.

In his endless messages, Damon explained everything that he kept from me about Alaric. Last time we talked, the doctor he was seeing had been murdering people, but that actually turned out to be Alaric's psychotic alternate ego. Now, that version of him has hid the last white oak stake that Klaus has ordered Damon to retrieve, but he can't do that until evil-Alaric tells us where that is.

This is exactly why I don't want to tell Klaus about what is going on. I know him: he will take the shortcut to get the answers he needs, but that surely means torturing it out of Alaric, which is not an option. I don't have much experience with this kind of stuff whatsoever, but I can at least try to take a less painful route.

I lightly clap my hands together, "Let's do this then."

Stefan helps me set up the cramped cell so that Alaric can lay down while I try to get into his head. They've tried compulsion, which was unsuccessful, so I am going to go for a different form of mind control that might just provoke the evil bastard into coming out of hiding.

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