The Next Chapter

Chapter 105

Chapter 105

Stefan's body was lying on a couch in the lounge of the dorms. Elena was crying over his body as Buffy and Damon ran in. They had been discussing Willow and Tara's plan when Elena had called in hysterics. She hadn't been making much sense on the phone, but Buffy had managed to get that they were at the dorms.

Buffy looked in horror at her brother in law's body. "Stefan!" She sat on the coffee table in front of his body and shook him. "Stefan?"

"I didn't know where to bring him and I just couldn't leave him outside." Elena said.

"How did this happen?" Buffy asked in a small voice. Damon looked stricken and Buffy wrapped her arms around him.

"Bonnie has a plan, right?" Caroline said from the corner of the room.

"Yes!" Elena said. "She…. she said that she could bring people back. Tell me that she can bring him back!"

"We'll bring him back." Damon said. "Come on. Let's get away from prying eyes." He kissed Buffy's forehead, making sure she was ok, before he bent down to lift Stefan's body.

Stefan watched the scene play out from the Other Side with Willow and Tara. "Why can't she see me?" He asked, moving in front of Buffy.

"The Other Side is falling apart." Tara said. "Willow's been trying to talk to her for a couple of days, but she couldn't get through." A wind started to kick up and Tara grabbed Willow's hand.

"What is that?"

"It's the wind that comes to take us away. We never know who it's coming for next." Willow said.

"It's pulling me." Stefan panicked as he was pulled against the column. Willow and Tara grabbed his hands as the wind picked up. The pull became more than the two women could hold and Stefan slipped from their hands. Stefan was dragged down the hall in the direction of a window. He was lifted up in the air and grabbed onto a corner to hold himself as Willow and Tara ran towards him.

Lexi appeared and grabbed Stefan. "I got you!" With Willow and Tara's help, she pulled Stefan out of danger. "Looks like I've now saved you from both metaphorical darkness and actual darkness. I think you owe me a beer." She turned to Willow and smiled. "Hey Big Red."

"Lexi!" Willow hugged the tall blonde.

"What are you doing over here?"

"Damon's best friend, Enzo, killed me."

"I'm sorry. How's Buffy? Her brother in law and her best friend both die within days of each other…. I can't imagine how she's coping."

"She's ok, actually." Lexi gave Willow a surprised look. "We've got a plan to bring everyone back."

"Is that possible?"

"We're working on it."

"Who's we?" Stefan asked.

"Bonnie got Enzo to find a dead Traveler willing to help us out." Tara said.

"Enzo? The one that killed you?" Lexi asked.

"Well…. I'm an optimist." Willow smiled nervously.

"I know that voice." Stefan said. "What have you done?"

"Well, if Enzo fails…. I've got a backup."

"Who?"

Damon kicked a wooden chair, smashing it to bits. "Damon, stop." Buffy cried. He was taking apart Elena's dorm in his anger. He took a fireplace poker and broke a flower vase on the mantle before turning around and pointing it at Bonnie. "What happened to the plan, Bonnie?"

"We had a Traveler who knew the right spell." Bonnie said.

"And you lost her!"

"I didn't lose her. She was sucked into oblivion like everyone else on the Other Side."

"Then find another one!"

"Damon, calm down." Buffy said, pushing the poker away from Bonnie.

"It's more than just knowing the spell." Bonnie said. "Markos was able to come back because dozens of Travelers were willing to sacrifice themselves in order to overwhelm me. I doubt they'll be willing to do that for a bunch of supernatural strangers."

"You know who needs motivation?" Damon asked Buffy. He pointed the poker at Bonnie's neck. "You need motivation because if the Other Side goes away, everyone we know there, including you, goes away with it."

"Stop it." Buffy pushed the poker away again. "She knows that."

"My brother is over there."

"I know that!"

Damon threw the poker across the room and Buffy took his hands. "So is Alaric, Buffy. And so is Willow."

"I know."

Enzo cleared his throat. "Let's not forget who else is at the top of the search and rescue list."

Buffy rolled her eyes and Damon looked at her questioningly. "Enzo is here."

Damon looked around the room. "Well, if it's not Mr. Butterfingers himself. How'd it feel to have your only hope of coming back literally slip through your fingers?"

"Hello to you, too, grumpy pants." Enzo shot back.

Willow walked in the room with Tara. "I'm never without a backup plan."

"Are you serious?" Bonnie asked. "You found another Traveler?"

"Well, then get on it!" Damon said to the room.

"Be nice. It's Willow now."

"Sorry."

"Oh, she gets an apology?" Enzo snapped.

"Shut up." Buffy snapped back. "Willow, please tell me that you've found another Traveler?"

"I have and we're already on it." Willow said. "You still need someone to do the spell."

Buffy nodded. "I know just the witch and just the motivation she needs." She turned to Damon. "Get Caroline and Elena to go after Liv and Luke. If she refuses to help, then tell them to kill her brother."

"Vicious." Damon said.

"Necessary." Damon nodded and headed out of the room. Buffy turned to Willow. "My mom and Giles…."

"They've moved on." Tara said.

"I'm sorry." Bonnie said, hugging Buffy tightly.

"No. It's ok." Buffy smiled slightly. "They deserved peace." She took a deep breath. "What about Alaric?"

"Lexi and Stefan went to find him." Willow said. "He's around."

"Ok. Good."

"How are we going to get all those Travelers to kill themselves?" Bonnie asked.

"I'll come up with something." Buffy shrugged. "I got the entire senior class to work together, I'm sure I can convince the Travelers to kill themselves."

Jeremy and Matt stood at the desk in the front of the classroom looking at a map of Mystic Falls. Damon and Buffy walked into the classroom. "Class is in session." Damon announced. "First assignment: Anti-magic perimeter."

"Jer, what do you got?" Buffy asked.

"I walked around Mystic Falls this morning to see where my hunter instincts disappeared." Jeremy said.

"Meaning what, your biceps shrunk, and your brain got smaller?" Damon asked, eliciting a backhanded smack from his wife to his torso.

"Meaning that I have a supernatural urge to kill vampires, so wherever I hated you less, there was no magic."

Buffy looked down at the map of Mystic Falls with the big red circle drawn on it. "The cemetery's outside of the no-magic perimeter."

"A couple of un-populated areas, too." Damon said, pointing them out. "Other than that…."

"Hey, Professor Salvatore, not everyone can see the map." Caroline said from Matt's phone laying on the desk.

"Yeah, don't forget about us." Elena said from the speakerphone.

"Donovan, you had one job." Damon said.

"I'll send you a picture right now." Matt took a picture of the map with his phone and sent it to Elena.

"We should be there." Elena said.

"Nope." Buffy said. "You should not be. You are on witch duty because without crazylocks, no one's rising from the dead."

"So next order of business: Mass murder." Damon said. "Quarterback?" Matt pulled out another set of maps. "Thank you."

"Ok. We got these from the Sheriff." Buffy said. "Apparently there was some truth to her evacuation story. There's a major gas line that runs underneath the town. Now if it did leak, it could be deadly, as in massive explosion kind of deadly."

"We can't blow up our hometown." Matt said.

"Why not?"

"Says the girl who blew up hers."

"Says one of the only people left in this group who can actually live in Mystic Falls."

"We're not blowing up our town." Elena said. "We just need to lure enough Travelers to one spot…."

"How?" Caroline asked. "We can't lure anyone anywhere stuck out here."

"And that's where your mama comes in." Damon said. "She will convince them to gather somewhere inside."

"Meanwhile, Matt and Jeremy at 7:00 will turn on the gas and let it leak." Buffy said. "We'll have about 10 minutes before anyone can smell it. You clear out. Boom! Travelers gone, resurrection spell starts, loved ones return."

"Good? Good. Class dismissed." Damon turned to his wife. "Shall we make our way to the cemetery?"

"Sure." Buffy took his hand and they headed out.

They walked through the woods in silence, just enjoying each other's company. Every now and then, they stopped to share a kiss. Despite the awful things around them, they were together and happy. Finally, Damon stopped and turned to face her. She knew something was up by the look on his face.

"Are you ok?" Buffy asked.

"Operation massacre…. assuming Donovan knows the difference between a water-main and a gas-main…. Yeah, I'm ok." Damon said.

"Then what's with the face?"

"Listen…. I wanted to spare you the gory details and then I figured, well, I'll be lying, and then the whole point of the universe would be moot because you'd be pissed. So here it is: project kaboom needs someone to trigger the explosion, so-to-speak."

"I know." He waited as Buffy worked out what he was saying. "You? No. Damon, no! Absolutely not."

"Go with your first instinct Damon, lesson learned." Damon muttered to himself.

"You can't do that me. I love you. You're my future. Damon, you're the only future I can see anymore."

"Buffy, I've seen it since the second I laid my eyes on you."

"Then don't go on a suicide mission!"

"Listen…. Technically, it's only half a suicide mission because we're going to be bringing people back from the Other Side and I'm going to be with them."

"What if something goes wrong?"

"I'm going to take a page from Elena's book, here, because that usually works with you. This is my choice. I need you to respect it."

"That was a low blow."

He gently held her face in his hands, rubbing his thumbs against her cheeks and holding her gaze. "I will make it back to you. I promise." He lowered his lips to hers, kissing her tenderly. She buried herself in his arms, letting him surround her. Damon held her tightly, resting his cheek on top of her head. "I promise you, we will have our eternity together."

Damon sat on the hood of his car outside of the town's city line and drank a bottle of bourbon as he waited for confirmation from Liz. He was focused on the memory of watching Buffy walk towards him in her wedding dress with the most serene smile on her face. It was his happiest memory out of his 173 years. Buffy was back at the cemetery keeping an eye on Liv and Bonnie. Silas was helping out as the Traveler with the resurrection spell. Willow had managed to track him down as the backup Traveler.

His cell phone vibrated in his pocket and he pulled it out. It was the text from Liz. With a sigh, he heaved himself off the hood of his car and slid in the driver's seat. Before he could turn the key, Buffy appeared in the passenger seat beside him. "What the hell are you doing?"

She grinned at him. "So, I figured that now would be the best time to test Klaus's theory about me."

"No, Buffy. The second we cross the border, you're going to feel everything. You're going to have your neck snapped all over again and probably feel going into that portal the second time you died and came back. It's going to…."

Buffy leaned over and kissed him, shutting him up. When she pulled back, she said, "I know what I signed up for, Damon. I'm all in, baby." Damon hesitated, contemplating his next move. "What are you staring at? Drive!" She turned the key in the ignition and Damon slammed on the accelerator, throwing them into Mystic Falls. He sped towards the Grill, taking turns so fast he fishtailed a couple of times. "Hurry! We have to die while we're still vampires, or…" Buffy yelped in pain as she felt the horrible pain in her neck.

"No!" Damon slammed his foot down on the petal and started driving even faster. "We should've taken your car! Come on!"

"Damon…." Buffy said, gritting through the pain.

"I know." Damon took Buffy's hand as they took the turn for the Grill. They braced themselves for impact as the car crashed through the window. Buffy felt herself thrown out of the car just before the explosion happened.

Bonnie stood outside in the graveyard. Suddenly, dozens of Travelers surrounded her. "We meet again…." Markos said, coming to the front. "We can do this all day, Bonnie. Your friends kill me and I come right back through you. I look forward to the deja vu." Markos touched Bonnie and passed through her.

After the last traveler passed through her, Buffy came running up to her. "Bonnie!"

Bonnie turned around. "Buffy! Did it work? Are you…."

"Yes!"

"Yeah?"

"Did Damon…."

"I'm right here." Damon said, running up behind her. "I guess Klaus was wrong about you." He paused. "That's the first time I'm not excited about that."

"Ok. When you guys pass through me, you're going to wake up with your bodies on the Other Side." Bonnie instructed. "I need you to get back here as fast as you can."

"Ok." Buffy looked at Damon and they both touched Bonnie's arms together. When Buffy opened her eyes, she was laying in the charred-out remnants of the Mystic Grill. She stood up and spotted her body lying across the hood of the car, still half in the car and burnt beyond recognition. "Ew."

"Haven't you heard? It's against the law to not wear your seatbelt." Alaric said behind her.

Buffy turned around with a smile. "Alaric!"

"Come on. You gotta go."

"Damon…." She looked around the room for Damon, but didn't see him. "I need to find him."

Alaric stopped her from walking further into the Grill. "No, you need to go home to Elena and Jeremy. I'll find Damon."

"You know I can't leave without him!"

"Go on, Buffy, get out of here. I will find Damon and I will get him to you, ok?" Buffy sighed, looking around the Grill. "Elena and Jeremy need you."

"Fine. Hurry." Buffy turned and ran out of the Grill. She took the fastest route to the cemetery and found Stefan and Lexi standing with Bonnie. "I can't find Damon!"

"You go. I'll wait here." Stefan said.

"No, I'm not leaving without him!"

Lexi turned Buffy to face her. "This place is falling apart."

"I know, but…." Suddenly, Bonnie grabbed Buffy and forced her to pass back through her.

"Buffy! Thank God!" Elena cried.

"No! Bonnie! Why would you do that?! I can't leave without him!" Buffy cried.

"We'll find him!" Bonnie said.

"Wait? What's going on?" Caroline asked. "Who are we missing?"

"Buffy." Willow and Tara were standing behind Buffy and she turned.

"You guys made it." Buffy said. She looked at Tara. "Welcome back to the land of the living."

"You too." Tara said, hugging Buffy. "Where's Damon?"

"Alaric promised he would find him. I wasn't going to leave, but…."

Bonnie started coughing up blood and Elena went to her. "Are you ok?"

"Oh my god! Bonnie?" Caroline said. Bonnie almost fell to the ground, but Stefan suddenly appeared, holding her up.

He looked around, startled. "No. No. No."

"Stefan!" Elena cried, rushing into his arms.

Stefan shook his head. "I was just trying…."

"What's wrong?"

"She fell…. I was just trying…."

"What?"

"Damon…." Stefan looked at Buffy. "He's not there yet."

Tears welled up in Buffy's eyes. "This is not happening."

"It's ok. I can do this." Bonnie said. She turned around and said, "I can hold on. I have to. Just come through. We have to finish this! Lexi! Come on! It's you turn!" She looked stricken for a moment, but then her face lit up. "Thank god!"

Alaric suddenly appeared and Buffy looked at him expectantly. "He was right behind me." He assured her.

"She made it through." Bonnie said to Damon. "Come on." She reached up to grab Damon's arms, but Damon didn't appear.

"Where's Damon?" Buffy looked up at Bonnie. "Where is he?" Bonnie shook her head and Buffy looked at her in bewilderment. She turned and ran towards the crypt. She rushed in and found the place empty.

Liv was gone.

Buffy's entire world came crashing down on her as she realized that the spell had been stopped before Damon could come through. Willow appeared in the doorway behind Buffy and she turned to the newly resurrected witch. "We need to start the spell again!" Buffy cried. "Willow, you…."

Willow walked towards her best friend in the entire world and took her hands. "We can't. That was our one shot."

"No…. Willow, Damon is on the other side! We have to…"

"Buffy, it's too late."

Buffy shook her head, the tears beginning to fall. "No. He can't…. He's not…." She grabbed her head and started crying hysterically, repeating the word no over and over again and unable to stop herself. She shoved Willow's comforting arms away and spotted Damon standing just inside the door. "Damon!"

Willow looked around in confusion. "Buffy…."

"Oh my god! You made it! You're back!" She moved towards him, but his pained face stopped her in her tracks.

"I'm sorry, baby." Damon moved towards her and Buffy realized she was seeing him on the Other Side.

Buffy's voice was tiny and choked up as she said, "No…."

Damon reached out and stroked her hair and face. "I am so very sorry."

"You lied to me! You promised me eternity! We were supposed to be together forever. Please, Damon…. Please don't leave me. You promised you wouldn't leave me…. Please…."

"I don't have a choice, baby." He leaned in and kissed her forehead. "You are, by far, the greatest thing that ever happened to me in my 173 years on this Earth. I get to die knowing I was loved not just by anyone…. But by you, Buffy Anne Salvatore. It's the epitome of a fulfilled life. It's never gonna get any better than this. I peaked." He wiped the tears from her face. "I love you. I love you so much, Buffy."

"Please…. Please…." Buffy reached out, but she couldn't hold his hand. It slipped right through her hands. "No! Come back to me. Damon…. Please…." She heard two final words before he faded from her vision.

"Bye baby."

A blood-curdling scream tore its way out of her throat and she collapsed to the ground in a tiny ball, gripping her hair in her fists and hiding her face in her forearms. She felt a hole in her very heart and soul rip away with the scream. A piece of her life was cleaved away from her and she was left alone and distraught, suddenly drowning in the misery of the loss of her beloved Damon.

"Buffy…." Willow came over, but Buffy shoved her away. Willow didn't know what to do. She just stood there and cried, watching over her best friend. Alaric appeared in the doorway with Tara, Stefan, Elena, and Caroline coming in behind him. They realized that the raw scream had come from Buffy who was rocking herself in a ball on the floor and crying uncontrollably.

"Oh no…." Tara said.

Willow turned to her. "I don't know what to do." She cried. "I don't know…." Tara pulled Willow to her as Stefan walked over to Buffy. Elena began to cry and Alaric hugged her tightly.

Stefan squatted down in front of Buffy and she looked up at him with sorrow filled eyes. It was all too much for Stefan to bear. He didn't know how to stay strong for her because he was just as alone and distraught without his brother as she was. "He's gone, Stefan…." She sobbed. "He's gone…." Stefan fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around her. The last two Salvatores let their grief overcome them as they sat on the floor of the old crypt and wept.

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