The Next Chapter

Chapter 104

Chapter 104

Buffy sat on the couch and watched Damon tie up the unconscious Traveler. Stefan and Elena had been nabbed and they had no idea where they had been taken. Luke had disappeared the moment they'd gotten back into Mystic Falls and his sister Liv had fallen off the grid. Jeremy, Bonnie, and Matt had spent their time trying to find Markos and had managed to find a cave full of sleeping Travelers that had taken over people in town. Tyler had also been completely taken over by the Traveler in his head and he was now chained in the basement. After searching for Elena and Stefan, Buffy had gone out and grabbed one of the people that had been standing in the square when Markos had stopped the doppelganger visions.

Damon sprayed water in the man's face to wake him up. "Wakey wakey. Mr…." He grabbed an ID tag from the man's shirt. "Sikes. Head of corporate accounts." The man tried to speak, but Damon had a gag in his mouth. "Oops. Sorry about that! Yeah. Can't have you mumbling any of those annoying Traveler ditties. It's a sure migraine. So, here's the deal. My brother and his girl have both been kidnapped by Travelers and I can't seem to find them anywhere. I mean, like, POOF, gone. Right. So," He came over and laid down on the couch, placing his head in Buffy's lap. "Besides a completely clueless hybrid in my basement and a cave full of sleeping Travelers, I've got nothing to go on except you. So I'm going to need you to tell me where I can find your leader, Markos." The front door opened and Caroline walked in.

"Liv and Luke aren't answering any of my…." Caroline trailed off when she saw who was being held captive in his living room. "Oh my god! Mr. Sikes?"

"You know him?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah! He helped me open my first savings account! He gave me a lollipop."

"Well, unfortunately, Mr. Sikes here is occupied by some low-life Traveler." Damon said. "Buffy and I saw him and his buddies chanting in the town's square last week. I also know that Markos and your Traveler comrades are planning some big, flashy spell to undo some super-boring, ancient, witch curse. And where that sucks for us: it just happens to undo all witch magic, i.e. kill, me and my sexy blonde wife here."

"And me." Caroline added.

"And Blondie number two." Damon stood up, picking up a knife from the side table.

"If you know where Markos took Stefan and Elena, you need to tell us." Buffy said.

"Yep. Sorry. You're going to have to speak up." Damon shook his head. "Hmmm. Nope. Didn't quite catch that either." He shoved the knife into the Traveler's leg, causing the Traveler to mumble in pain and Caroline to cringe. "I think he's trying to say something." Damon removed the cloth from the man's mouth. "Come on, sweetie pie…."

"It doesn't matter where Markos is." The Traveler said. "Nothing you do can stop him now."

Buffy paced the living room while Damon sat on the couch. It had been four days now since Elena and Stefan had gone missing. She was also frustrated because she couldn't contact Willow. She was seeing Enzo hanging around annoying them, but her best friend was missing. Bonnie hadn't seen her since she'd crossed over to the Other Side.

"We can't bring her back if she's not around." Buffy said.

"Maybe she's hanging out with Giles somewhere." Damon suggested. "Or getting lucky with Tara."

"She's been dead a week. Doesn't she know that I can still see her despite that fact? That I need to see her?"

Damon grabbed her hand and pulled her into his lap, wrapping his arms around her. "She'll turn up, babe. I know it."

Buffy's phone rang and she pulled it out of her pocket. "What?" She answered it and heard the operator informing her that it was a collect call from Stefan. "Stefan? Yes I'll accept it!" She turned on the speaker phone and held it out so Damon could hear.

"Buffy?"

"Stefan!"

"Seriously? Collect calls are still a thing?" Damon asked.

"Yeah, well, you know what could have saved you the cost of this phone call?" Stefan asked. "You finding us. How long have we been gone?"

"Four days." Buffy said.

"Four days!? Four days and you couldn't track us down? What did you think? We were having a nice spa getaway?"

"Slow your roll, judgeypants! We've been searching 24/7, ok?"

"Maybe if you would've been a little more perceptive, you wouldn't have gotten yourselves doppelnapped." Damon accused.

A window shattered in the background and Buffy glanced at Damon. "What the hell was that?"

"Travelers drained us of our blood, so we're having to do a little hunting." Stefan said.

"You have Elena participating in squirrel slaughter?" Damon asked.

"Believe me. She's no happier about it than I am."

"She'll shoot your eye out."

"Do you want to talk to her?"

"Just tell us where you are? We'll come get you." Buffy said.

"I have no idea where we are. We're in the middle of nowhere. Listen, we'll make our way back, but Markos drained most of all our blood and considering the kinds of spells he was able to do with just a little bit of it…."

"Yeah. We know…. Find Markos, kill Markos, save Mystic Falls from becoming Traveler home." Damon said. "It's going to be a busy day for us, Stefan. Time to strap on the hero hair."

"I'll get her home safely, all right?"

"Get both yourselves home safely." Buffy said. "We'll see you soon." Just as she set the phone down, a widdled piece of wood flew by her head and almost landed in Damon's shoulder. She stopped it just before it punctured his skin. "Enough Enzo! We get it."

"He said, and I quote, 'I will find a way.'" Enzo said, appearing by the entrance to the living room. "This doesn't look like finding a way."

"Yeah, well, we've got a list of problems and you're not very high up on it right now."

"The Other Side is on the brink of collapse. I plan on pestering all of you until I'm safely returned to the land of the living."

"I'm sorry. Did you miss the list of problems I mentioned? We've got two missing doppelgangers, a traveler that wants to rid our town of magic, a dead and missing best friend, and the friendly banker, Mr Sikes, in the coat closet. So your escape from the netherworld is going to have to wait till tomorrow." Enzo picked up a bottle of bourbon and chucked it into the fireplace, causing the flames to climb up the wall.

"Don't burn my house down because you're pissy about being dead." Damon snapped. "You deserved what you got. You're lucky that we're even willing to help you."

Just then, Jeremy came in through the front door. "You. You're still on probation." Buffy said. "Where were you?"

"At Matt's place." Jeremy said. "You called?"

"I need you and your x-box buddy to run an errand for me. Come on, let's go." Buffy ushered Jeremy back out of the house.

"What are we doing?"

"You're going to go pick up the UHAUL that Damon rented and bring us the bodies of the Travelers sleeping in that cave."

"What?"

"It's called leverage, Jeremy. If you had been keeping up with your schoolwork, you would know that."

"Hey, my grades are picking up."

"Not enough. And if we don't get this Traveler thing sorted out, you won't have much of a choice except to go to that school in New York because we won't be able to live here anymore."

"What are you and Damon gonna do?"

"Take care of the other problems that are cluttering our lists." She pushed Jeremy towards his car. "Now hurry please."

Buffy groaned as Damon picked up pieces of a broken vase. "Ahh! Great." Damon growled at Matt and Jeremy as they carried yet another Traveler body into the house. "I'm going to add carrying to the list of things you can't do well, but that's ok. You can repay us with your salary from the Grill…. if you want to work a couple thousand years."

"Buffy, are you holding out on Damon?" Matt asked.

"Don't make me relocate your spleen from inside your body." Buffy said. "Just put her on the pool table."

Caroline walked in the front door. "What the hell is going on? Who are all these people?"

"Traveler husks." Damon said. "They've passengered themselves into the beautiful citizens of Mystic Falls, like your buddy Mr. Sikes."

Buffy looked around them and nodded. "Ok, that's all of them." She turned to Jeremy and Matt. "You two make yourselves useful. Patrol the town and call me if you see anything weirder than usual."

"And what are you planning on doing with all of them?"

"Markos put them in a cave, so we're hoping he wants them back." Buffy said. She gave Damon a weird look when she spotted him setting up the girl on the pool table to look like she was making a shot. He smiled and shrugged at her.

"So you think drawing Markos to your house is the best idea?"

"It's the only idea!" Damon said.

"Unless your body snatched ex-boyfriend in the basement can help us." Buffy said.

"Julian is not Tyler." Caroline said. "Therefore, he has no reason to help us. So until I figure out a way to get Tyler back, he's just extra baggage."

"There's no shame in giving up. I mean, aren't we all a little sick of Tyler?" Damon asked.

"You know what? Your whole too-cool-to-care thing is really starting to get old. Just keep your torture happy hands away from Tyler until I figure something out." Caroline turned around and headed down to the basement.

Buffy shrugged and turned to Damon. "Ok, so now we wait."

Damon looked around at all the bodies. "I wonder if we can get them to wake up." An hour later, Buffy and Damon were roaming around the bodies discussing different ways to try and wake the Travelers up. They'd had an argument about the gasoline he'd sprayed on them. Buffy loved this house and she didn't want to have to set it on fire. Damon tapped his fingers on the head of a comatose Traveler. "Nothing." He picked up a fireplace poker to see if that warranted a physical response from the nearest Traveler, but his phone started buzzing before he could. "Salvatore Boring House."

"I'm calling about my people." Markos said from the speakerphone.

"Hey! You found my note! Now listen, don't be offended, but I can't just give them to anyone. So, what do they look like?"

"They're ragged, beaten down by the world, desperate for a home…."

"You just described homeless people, Asians, and Matt Donovan."

"One of them is 5'10, wearing a black coat…. You're standing next to him."

Buffy and Damon looked around for a moment, before Markos walked in through the patio door. "I know the concept of a home is new to you, but it is polite to knock." Buffy said to him.

Markos eyed the room around him. "Nice place…. A little rustic. My tastes are a bit more modern, ironically. Still, good bones and all." He knocked on one of the walls, checking to make sure it's sturdy.

"I think you read the flyer wrong." Damon said. "See, the bodies are the only thing on the bargaining table…."

"And in the attic." Buffy said.

"And in the garage."

"And in the kitchen."

"About that," Markos said. "Please tell me taking hostages isn't your grand plan. It feels a little…. Small. Much like the half-bath off the foyer."

"Funny!" Damon said. "Here I thought you didn't have a sense of humor!" Markos made a face when he got a whiff of the gasoline. "Oh! If you're wondering about the smell, I have your salvation army doused in gasoline and I'm just itching to light a match."

"I'm itching to throw them outside and make a bonfire instead of setting my house on fire." Buffy said.

"You're right!" Markos said. "None of this would be possible without their willingness to passenger themselves into your citizens and help perform my spell." He took out a crucifix-shaped object. "And while I'd like to give them the opportunity to return to their actual bodies," He took the object and crammed it into the artery of one of the Travelers, killing him. "It's not essential to my plan." Buffy and Damon exchanged worried glances. "Did you really think you found the whole of my people? Travelers are everywhere. They're the faces that surround you every day…. the world over…. the ones you don't notice. Because you're too busy making a mess of all you have. They want those things too. A home, a family, a better life…. And they're willing to die for it."

"You want a promised land?" Buffy asked. "I get it. But why Mystic Falls?"

"Mystic Falls is just a means to an end…. Like a small pebble dropped into a very large pond." Markos picked up a piece of ice and dropped it into a drink he had just made for himself.

"Very poetic! No idea what it means." Damon said.

"Once we destroy the spirit magic in this town, the witch's curse will finally be broken, but from there, the spell will ripple outward, unraveling spirit magic as it spreads. Only pure magic, our magic, will remain. My people will be free to go wherever they choose. And when witch magic, and everything it ever created, is gone from this Earth, you will be too."

"I think I've heard about enough." Damon rushed at Markos, but he easily pushed him across the room.

"You underestimate me. I've completely transfused myself with doppelganger blood. I am channeling all the power of my people. You aren't strong enough to kill me anymore!"

"What about me?" Buffy asked, suddenly standing behind Markos. Before she could reach out to snap his neck, she crumpled in pain from the witchy migraine he was inflicting on her.

"You were the only one who could actually stop us. You and your friend Willow. Once we removed Willow from the picture, her protection spells on you died with her." Markos cocked his head, hearing chanting humming in the background. "The spell has begun."

Markos walked away from Buffy and Damon rushed to her side. "Buffy!"

"Where the hell is Willow?" She gritted out.

Markos stopped using the spell and released Buffy. He walked around the foyer, checking the floor plan and admiring the décor. Damon went to the drink cart and began pouring himself and Buffy drinks. "I'd invite you to stay for dinner, but I'm not very familiar with Traveler cuisine." He said, handing Buffy her drink first. "Although I'm sure it involves a lot of trail mix and gruel."

"I think I'll knock this wall down. I love an open-floor plan." Markos said.

"Buffy, he doesn't know I'm here." Julian said down in the basement, knowing Buffy and Damon could hear him and not Markos. "Use the element of surprise. Not sure if you're clever enough to pull it off. Just thought I'd put it out there."

"Well, all I can ask is that you leave me with a couple good bottles of wine." Buffy said. "You know, my husband spent half his life shop-lifting stuff. I assume you want to see the wine cellar?" Markos nodded and they headed downstairs.

Damon browsed through the wine. "Here's something you don't see every day." While Markos watched Damon pull out the wine, Buffy grabbed the key to the shackles and closed her hand around it. "I think I won this in a poker game. Or, maybe Stefan brought it back from the war. I don't remember."

Buffy looked around Damon's shoulder. "Oh, Stefan brought that."

"Where is your brother?" Markos asked. "I was hoping he'd be here. The doppelgangers seem to have slipped away without saying goodbye."

"That's a good question. Why don't we find out?"

Markos waited for Damon to walk back upstairs and Damon gestured for Markos to take the lead. "After you." As they walked out, Buffy dropped the key and kicked it under the door into Julian's hands.

"You know, this house has had some renovations in the last couple of years." Buffy said as they walked into the upstairs hallway. "I put in a gym, turned my old room into a big closet…. Nothing you'd be interested in."

"Those things can easily be changed." Markos said.

Damon hung up his cell phone. "Well, Stefan isn't picking up, so…. He might just be out of cell phone minutes."

Markos heard some rumbling in another room. "What kind of game are you playing?" Suddenly, Julian pounced on Markos' back and started biting into his neck.

"It took you long enough!"

Markos flung Julian from his back and Julian ran his fingers over the spot where his fangs should be. "My fangs…. What the hell happened to my fangs?"

"What?" Damon walked a few steps forward, directly into a beam of sunshine, and his skin started to burn.

"Damon…." Buffy moved towards him, but a patch of sunlight hit her skin and burned her.

"We have a problem." Damon said.

One by one, the sleeping Travelers started to wake up. "And what were you saying about this being your home?" Markos asked. Damon doubled over in pain when a pool of blood collected on his shirt. Buffy grabbed her neck as she felt the pain of a broken spine beginning to creep up. "Like I said, this spell will continue to unravel spirit magic as it spreads, which means you're not long for his world. The sun's about to set. Feel free to buy yourself a little time to say your goodbyes. You two and this traitor of yours can try to outrun the spell for a little while, anyway." Julian took off through the front door. Damon and Buffy followed shortly after him, but before they left, Damon took one last look at the place he had called home for over 100 years.

Buffy yanked on Damon's arm and took off with her vampire/vampire Slayer speed. She rushed through the woods, keeping a tight grip on Damon's arm. Not knowing where they were going, they ended up getting lost. By the time they reached a clearing with a road, the sun had set. A car pulled up with Jeremy as the driver. "Jeremy!" Buffy cried.

"Little Gilbert, I have never been so happy to see you." Damon said.

"Get in." Jeremy said. Buffy and Damon climbed in the backseat and Jeremy floored it. "So, because I just saved your asses, does that mean I'm not grounded anymore?"

"Just drive." Buffy said. Jeremy drove them to Whitmore campus and pulled up to where Elena and Stefan were standing with Matt. Buffy jumped out of the car and gave them both hugs. "Are you guys ok?"

"We'll live…. For now." Stefan said, hugging his brother.

"Matt got us blood." Elena said, handing Buffy a bag.

"Good." Buffy turned to Jeremy and Matt. "You two get to head back into town. We need eyes and ears in Mystic Falls. Where are Caroline and Bonnie?"

"They're at the dorm packing." Matt said.

"Ok, we need to get them. I'll call you in a few hours, Jer."

Jeremy gave Buffy a tight hug and handed her the keys to his car. "Be careful."

"You know me." Buffy turned to Stefan and Elena as Jeremy and Matt got in Matt's truck. "Wait here. We'll be back with Caroline and Bonnie." They nodded and she took Damon's hand, heading for the dorms.

"This thing is going to spread." Damon said. "Where are we gonna go?"

"I think I have a way to stop this." A voice said behind them. Only Buffy could hear it, though. She stopped and turned around.

"What?" Damon asked.

"Where have you been?" Buffy asked, walking up to Willow and Tara. She wished desperately that she could hug her best friend.

"I was with Tara. Dying wasn't exactly easy for me."

"I'm sorry. I should've stopped him."

"It's ok. You didn't know and it happened so fast…."

"We'll bring you back. Somehow. I promise."

"Is it Willow?" Damon asked, stepping up next to Buffy.

"Yeah." Buffy said. "She's with Tara."

"We've got a plan." Tara said.

"And they've got a plan."

"I'm glad someone does." Damon said. "What do we need to do?"

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