The Next Chapter

Chapter 107

Chapter 107

*Four Months Ago*

Damon lifted his head and looked around. He had landed in the back room of the Mystic Grill. The place was in bad shape, but his body was in even worse shape. It was mutilated and badly burnt laying on the floor not far from him. Buffy had ended up staying in the main room when she'd died.

He got to his feet and spotted the Sheriff's feet. She was trapped under a fallen beam. "Liz! No, no, no, no…." He tried to lift the beam off her, but he struggled to get it up. Alaric was suddenly there, helping him lift the beam. Damon grabbed a large metal something and shoved it under the beam to keep it from falling back down.

"Friendly advice: Don't blow your wife up just to test if she's actually immortal."

"Good to see you too, buddy." Damon laughed. "And that was completely her idea."

"Yeah." Liz began to wake up and started moaning in pain. "I think she's going to be ok. We need to go."

Damon nodded and they headed out. "Where is my wife?"

"She's going to meet us at the cemetery." Alaric caught the look on Damon's face. "I made her leave. She didn't want to go without you."

"You're a dick."

"I missed you, too." They raced back towards the cemetery where only Bonnie was waiting.

"Bonnie!"

"Thank god!" Bonnie said, turning towards them. Alaric made it to her first and Bonnie grabbed him by the arm. He disappeared back into the land of the living.

"Where's Buffy?"

"She made it through." Bonnie assured him.

"Ok."

"Come on." Bonnie grabbed Damon, but nothing happened. She backed up and tried again, but still, nothing happened.

"Well, would you look at that…." The emotions that ran through Damon all at once were staggering. The one that was the loudest was the worry he felt for Buffy. She was going to be so upset. Damon looked at Bonnie who was shaking her head at someone off to his left. "Where is she?"

"She just went to the crypt to see what's happened with the spell."

Damon nodded. He had no idea what he was going to say to Buffy. There was nothing to say to make this situation ok. He wasn't even sure if she would be able to see him. He prayed…. for the first time in a very, very long time…. That she would be able to see him. He couldn't bear leaving her. But if he had to, he wasn't leaving without saying goodbye. The crypt loomed ahead and he steeled himself for what was coming.

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

"Buffy, it's too late." Willow said.

"No. He can't…. He's not…." Damon stepped into the doorway just as Buffy grabbed her head and started crying hysterically. It broke his heart over and over again every time she repeated the word no. Willow tried to comfort her, but Buffy shoved her best friend's arms away. That was when she saw Damon. He was standing just inside the door now and he breathed a sigh of relief that she could see him. "Damon!"

Willow looked around in confusion, not having the same ability to see the dead like her best friend could. "Buffy…." She started.

Buffy ignored her as she walked over to Damon. "Oh my god! You made it! You're back!"

Damon felt horrible and something in his expression made her stop dead just in front of him. "I'm sorry, baby."

"No…." Buffy's choked voice made his stomach turn and his heart clench. She knew now that he wasn't coming back.

He reached out and stroked her hair and face. Sadly, he couldn't actually feel her soft skin and silky locks. "I am so very sorry." He was going to really miss waking up with his mouth full of her hair because they were so wrapped up in each other as they slept.

"You lied to me! You promised me eternity!" Damon felt the beginning of tears well in his eyes. Ghosts could cry. Interesting. "We were supposed to be together forever. Please, Damon…. Please don't leave me. You promised you wouldn't leave me…. Please…."

His stomach flipped again and his heart seized once more. If he wasn't already dead, he was certain this would be giving him an actual heart attack. "I don't have a choice, baby." Damon leaned in and pressed his lips to her forehead. She smelled like heaven. He hoped that wherever he was headed, he could hold onto that smell. He studied her face for a long moment, letting his emotions swell. This sucked! "God, I love you. 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 didn't matter how many times it was said, the sound of his last name at the end of hers made him so very, very happy. "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, wishing that he wasn't the reason for them. "I love you. I love you so much, Buffy." He felt himself being pulled away from her.

"Please…. Please…." Buffy reached out and grasped his hand. She held on for just a moment before the pull became stronger and Damon realized that the Other Side was pulling him away. His fingers slipped right through her hands. "No! Come back to me. Damon…. Please…."

"Bye baby." Damon said just before the Other Side pulled him completely away. It wasn't soon enough, though. He caught the beginning of the blood-curdling scream ripping its way out of her throat. Wishing he could stay somehow, he stood there and waited a moment. Maybe the Other Side would let him see her again. No such luck though. He walked out and joined Bonnie standing in the trees at the edge of the woods. "This place is going down, isn't it?" All around them, huge holes of light poked through. The wind was blowing hard, whipping at their hair and clothes.

"It is." Bonnie said. "I'm sure there are a million people we'd rather be with right now, but…." She reached out and took Damon's hand.

"A couple thousand, at most." He glanced back towards the crypt where his wife was crying.

"Do you think it'll hurt?"

Damon turned his attention back to the large orb of light cutting through the Other Side and shining in his eyes. "I don't kn…." Before he could finish his sentence, the light engulfed them both. He closed his eyes and waited. A moment later, when he heard nothing, he opened them again. They were in the same place they had been. He looked down at Bonnie and realized their hands were still interlaced. They both let go. "Huh. That got awkward fast.

"What happened? Where is everybody?" Bonnie asked, walking away.

"Where are you going? Hey." Damon followed her into the woods, glancing back at the crypt where he'd last seen his wife. They headed into town. That was weird. The place had a no magic barrier. Damon reached up to touch his teeth. "Well, I feel a fang. I'm still a vampire. Either I'm a dead vampire or Mystic Falls is no longer magic free."

"Look."

Damon followed her gaze and saw that she was looking at the Mystic Grill. "I definitely blew that up about an hour ago."

"Why don't we see any people? If we're still on the Other Side, we should at least be able to see the living."

"Where the hell are we? And I don't mean geographically."

"I have no idea."

*Today*

Enzo was kissing his way up a witch's neck in the coat check room of the Hotel Albert outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. "Oh, just lay it down."

"I don't know anything." She insisted.

"You witches are all so monstrously secretive. Lucky for me I'm quite gifted at unraveling the truth." He got on his knees and began to kiss her bra.

"Ok, there's a coven in Oregon. They'd found a way to communicate with their ancestors before it went away. Maybe they know what happened to your friends. They call themselves the Gemini Coven. They're small and weird and they don't like outsiders."

"See? You did know something."

"I just wanted you to work for it."

Buffy took that moment to make her presence known. She cleared her throat, arms crossed. Enzo turned around and smiled. "Well, hello, gorgeous."

"Enzo." Buffy said, leaning against the doorframe.

"I see you've finally ventured out of your little cubbyhole, love. To what do I owe the immense pleasure?""I wanted to know what you've found."

"You could've just picked up the phone."

"I'm turning over a new leaf. Trying to shake off the grieving-wife look and put on the determined-to-save-her-husband look."

"It's an excellent look on you, if I do say so myself."

"Um, should I leave?" The witch asked.

Enzo turned back to the witch. "Not yet. But you can do us a big favor."

*Four Months Ago*

It was now morning in Bizarro World. Damon and Bonnie wandered the deserted streets. They'd been doing that since their arrival. Damon groaned and asked again, "How many more streets are we going to wander?"

"How many times are you going to ask me questions I don't have the answers to?" Bonnie shot back. "There's something weird about these cars."

"Yeah, they're all 20 years old or more and yet they look brand new." He ran his hand over the hood of one of the cars. When he looked up at a house in front of them, his eyes widened a bit. It was the Gilbert house with toys on the lawn. "And that is Elena's not-so-burnt-to-a-crisp house." In the front of lawn, Damon spotted a newspaper on the grass. He leaned down and picked it up, unfolding it. "Look." Damon turned to her and held out the paper.

Bonnie craned her neck and read. "Rare solar eclipse expected to be seen across 12 states?"

Damon rolled his eyes. "The date."

"May 10th, 1994. Is that…. Are we…. But that's impossible." As if to prove her wrong, the sky turned a darker blue. They looked up to see the eclipse blotting out the sun.

"I don't think we should be asking where we are. I think we should be asking when we are." Damon walked over to the house and up onto the porch. The swing was there and he gave it a pained expression.

"What's wrong?" Bonnie asked.

"Just remembering some little moments sitting in this swing with Buffy." He sat down on the swing and put his arm across the back. Closing his eyes for a moment, he imagined Buffy leaning against him with her head nestled on his chest. When he opened his eyes, Bonnie was sitting on the steps. "Where is any booze in this empty retroville?"

"It feels so weird to be back here. I practically grew up on this porch."

"All right, talk me through it."

"Before the Other Side collapsed, my Grams said that she made a sacrifice so that I could find peace."

"The part where you actually have a theory."

"Well, this clearly isn't peace, otherwise I wouldn't be stuck here with you."

"Rude."

"She must have…. I don't know…. Sent me somewhere. And when I held your hand, it took you with me."

"Well, did she happen to whisper a safe word in her last breaths. A clue, maybe? Witchy path out of here?"

"No, but if we got here by magic, magic should be able to get us out."

"And that frown that's not upside down is telling me what?"

Bonnie stood up and moved towards a glass vase with a candle in it. "Fes matos incendia." They both watched the candle intently, but nothing happened.

"Still can't do magic." Damon saw back on the swing, his shoulders sagging. "Perfect." He looked around. "1994…. Buffy would be, what, 13 years old? She's not the Slayer yet."

"I would be about 2. Elena and Caroline would both still be 1."

Damon leaned forward and leaned his arms on his knees. "We need to get back, Bonnie. I need to get back to my wife."

*Today*

Buffy was driving down a highway with Enzo sitting in her passenger seat. She was on her newly acquired cell phone checking in with Alaric to let him know that she was ok. "Yeah. We're headed to Oregon, I think, to check out some witch coven lead." She was saying."Caroline is offering to come help." Alaric said. "She's worried about you."

"I'm fine. I promise. Caroline should keep working with Willow on the no-magic-bubble over Mystic Falls. Or compelling herself back into college."

"I'll tell her you said that."

"How's Elena doing?"

"She's a little pissed you ran off without saying anything to her, but she understands. You should call her when you get a chance."

"I will."

"I need to get to class. I'll check in with you later, ok?"

"Yeah. Ok. Bye, Rick." Buffy hung up and put her phone in the cup holder.

"Please tell me that you're not hooking up with the teacher." Enzo said."Ew. No." She shot him an annoyed glare. "You're disgusting."

"I'm just looking out for my best friend. Wouldn't want his wife to be moving on to his buddy while I'm trying to bring him back."

"Um, last I checked, I'm trying to bring him back with you. Why would I be doing that if I was 'hooking up' with Rick? When do we exit?"

"Soon."

"Did you make up the 'Gemini Coven' lead? I've never heard of them. Who are they?"

"No idea. That's not where we're headed."

"What? Where the hell are we going?"

"You'll see."

"Enzo, seriously…." Buffy saw the sign that announced they were entering Georgia. She hit the brakes and pulled over.

"What are you doing?" Enzo asked. Buffy ignored him and got out of the car. She walked a few feet away into the field next to the highway. Enzo got out and followed her. "Buffy, what's the matter with you?" When he caught up to her, he realized she was crying. His entire demeanor softened and he gently touched her shoulder. "What's wrong, love?"

"I'm sorry." She shook her head and wiped away the tears. They were quickly replaced by fresh ones. "I was just reminded of Damon and it was completely unexpected."

Enzo looked around. "What reminded you of him?"

"That sign…. The Georgia sign…. I should've recognized the road we were on…." She looked up at Enzo. "Three years ago, Damon kidnapped Elena and I and drove us to this bar just outside of Atlanta. I'd only known him for a couple of weeks and I wasn't his biggest fan…. He'd killed my best friend, Lexi…. But this trip changed something between us."

"You fell in love with him?"

"No." She chuckled slightly. "No…. That wasn't until much later. This trip…. I saw a different side of him. I saw something…. I don't know…. Redeemable in him. Or maybe it was the universe making sure I didn't kill the man I was going to marry. Either way…. I started to care for him. I saved his life on that trip."

Enzo gently gripped Buffy's shoulders. "Buffy, we will get Damon back. Somehow, someway…. I promise you."

Buffy stared at Enzo for a long moment. "Why are you so nice to me?"

"I've got a list."

She gave him a small smile. "What are the top three reasons, then?"

"In no particular order," He ticked off each one on his fingers. "You're my best friend's wife; you're an amazing woman; and I owe you for killing Willow." He smiled at her and Buffy shook her head.

"Yes, you owe me big time. So, where are we going?"

Enzo sighed. "We're going to pay a visit to your brother-in-law."

*Four Months Ago*

Damon had the 90s music turned up in the kitchen and was dancing to it as he flipped pancakes. He had a bottle of bourbon in his hand and was chugging it as he cooked. He hadn't slept well at all. The bed had been too big. Buffy wasn't wrapped in his arms. He didn't even get to dream about her. Instead, he'd laid in the bed and ran through his memories of her. Sadly, the more he did, the angrier he got at the whole screwed up situation. The witch Luke had stopped Liv from doing the spell just before he'd gone through Bonnie. If Buffy hadn't already ripped him to shreds, which he actually hoped wasn't the case, he was definitely going to when he got back to the real world…. In the right time.

After a few hours of tossing and turning, he'd gotten out of bed. Bonnie hadn't been home. He had no idea where she was and he couldn't bring himself to care. Heading down to the basement, he'd grabbed a good bottle of bourbon and headed upstairs. The stupid idea of making pancakes had come to him about a third of the way into the bottle. He was going to pretend that Buffy was here and he was just making her breakfast in bed. Maybe it made him sound crazy, but he needed something to do while he waited for Bonnie to magic them out of there.

Damon flipped the pancakes over and breathed in their scent. Buffy had loved it when he made her breakfast in bed. Blueberry pancakes had been her favorite, but there weren't any blueberries in Bizarro World's fridge. When he finally made it back to her, he was going to make her breakfast every morning for the rest of eternity.

Bonnie cleared her throat and Damon stopped dancing, looking caught. "I didn't know you cooked."

"Only for my wife, but since she's not here…." Damon waved the thought away. "How'd you sleep? Me? Not good. My 1994 mattress was very lumpy…. And empty. Whatcha got there?"

Bonnie looked down at her belongings in her hands. "Oh, Ms. Cuddles, I lost her when I was nine. But I went into my house last night and here she was." She held up the bear and wiggled it around before setting it down and lifting the book in her arms. "I also found this at my Grams's house. Her old grimoire."

Damon walked over to the radio. "Yeah, well I found this." He waved the bourbon around as he took the CD out of the CD played. "Drank it last year when Rick died."

"So we're in this snapshot of another time, or…. something." Bonnie watched Damon twist the CD rack with his hand covering his eyes before picking one at random. "Everything that existed in 1994, still exists."

"For better or for worse?" He kissed the CD in his hand before putting it into the stereo.

Bonnie turned the music off as soon as he'd hit play. "Listen, there was a time when I couldn't practice magic. This grimoire taught me a lot. Maybe I can reteach myself."

Damon turned the radio back on. "If you were still a witch. Which with our luck and your skill…. Probably ain't the case."

"Would a little support kill you?"

"You know, I am acutely aware that we are in some otherworldly time dimension. However, do you ever think for one second that maybe it's you being negative reacting to my natural self negative-ly?"

"You're ridiculous."

"Nope, I'm consistent." Damon put two pancakes onto a plate and set it in front of Bonnie. "Eat your pancakes. Oh, and…." He grabbed the newspaper from the counter and dropped it in front of her. "You can do a crossword puzzle."

"Oh, gee, thanks breakfast with my least favorite person that he made for his wife who isn't dead…. And a crossword puzzle from 1994." Bonnie turned her back to him, opening the paper. "All right, what's a seven letter word for…." Suddenly, the sky darkened like it had the day before. The two of them looked up in surprise.

"You've got to be kidding me. Bonnie, look at the date on that paper."

Bonnie looked down and read. "It says, May 10th, 1994. It's the same day as yesterday. We're living the same day all over again."

"Well that proves it…. We're in hell. Our own personal, custom-built hell. And you're in it with me." Damon raised his bourbon. "Bottoms up."

*Today*

Stefan was hastily chopping cucumbers and mushrooms while he waited for Ivy to return. He put the chopped up veggies in a steaming pan before dropping some cheese in it. He poured wine in the pan, dusted his hands off, and went to the fridge. He opened it and took out a blood bag. He gave a small sigh of pleasure as he squeezed the dark liquid his mouth. Behind him, the door opened and he tossed the blood bag back in the back of the fridge.

He turned around to see Ivy walking in. "Hey."

"Hey." Ivy said. Her confused face made him nervous that she'd seen him drinking the blood.

"Perfect timing, I was just uh…."

"I ran into some of your friends."

"What? Where?"

Enzo and Buffy stepped into the house through the open door. "Stefan!" Enzo cried. "You are a hard man to track down. Uh, I wasn't sure if your new…. friend would invite us in but she said that this was your place. Which means open invitation to all your mates, right? Got any bourbon?"

Stefan looked at Buffy as she surveyed the room with a blank expression. When her eyes finally met his, her face melted into an angry glare. "Buffy…." Stefan started.

Ivy walked over to Stefan and wrapped her arms around his arm. "It looks like you made enough for everyone. Would you two like to join us for dinner?" Ivy asked cheerfully.

"We'd love to!" Enzo said, walking over and throwing an arm around Stefan's shoulders.

Twenty minutes later, the four of them were seated at Stefan's dining room table. Enzo was digging in and Ivy was gingerly picking at her food. Stefan was just pushing his food around the plate since he was unable to find his appetite. Buffy sat across from him with her arms crossed, leaning back against her chair and glaring at him.

"Good stuff, mate." Enzo said.

"So, how do you guys know Stefan?" Ivy asked.

"Uh…." Stefan started.

"He's my brother-in-law." Buffy said, each word like a whip.

"Oh, I didn't know Stefan had a brother…. Who was married." Ivy said.

"It's a very complicated situation." Enzo said.

"I didn't realize that he had met someone." Buffy said, her icy glare not leaving Stefan's face. "Last I was aware, he was supposed to be dating a friend of mine." Ivy almost choked on her food. "How did you two meet?"

"Uh, Ivy's car was in the shop…. where I work." Stefan said, his voice cracking a bit.

"Oh, you work at an auto repair shop, do you?"

"It's…. relaxing."

"Is it? Must be nice."

"Why?" Ivy asked. "What did you used to do?"

"Ah, man of all seasons, jack of all trades." Enzo said. He looked at Ivy for a moment. "You have a lovely clavicle."

"Oh…. Thank you. I think."

"Forgive me, I always notice a woman's neck. I'm a neck person! So is Stefan, right Stefan?"

"Not anymore." Stefan said.

"Ah, well that's silly. You can't just stop being a neck person."

Ivy leaned over to whisper at Buffy, "Is Enzo your husband?"

"No." Buffy said. She was barely containing her fury at Stefan and Ivy was beginning to notice that she hadn't moved a muscle. A normal human would've fidgeted by now.

"Do you believe in the supernatural, Ivy?" Enzo asked suddenly, drawing Ivy's attention from Buffy.

"I've never really thought about it." Ivy said.

"I myself, am I believer. Had to get a witch to do a locator's spell to find my buddy here."

Ivy gave a confused laugh, not sure if Enzo was kidding. "How about we change topics?" Stefan suggested.

*Two Months Ago*

The eclipse was high in the sky, but it was moving out of the way to reveal a bright sun. Damon was behind the counter, flipping pancakes again. It had been his routine now for two months. Two months of agonizing boredom and loneliness. He woke up, grabbed a bottle of bourbon, and started making pancakes.

It may seem crazy to Bonnie, which she loved to point out, but it gave Damon a small sense of peace. He had convinced himself that he was practicing making the ultimate tasting pancakes for when he got back to his wife. When he wasn't making breakfast, he was playing the piano or drawing pictures of Buffy from memory. There was nothing in the house that physically represented her, so he'd started to draw and frame the pictures in his room.

"What's a seven letter word for kill me now?" Bonnie asked from her seat at the table.

"That joke got old six weeks ago." Damon said.

"And so did this crossword puzzle. Every day for two months I've done this stupid thing and I still can't figure out 27 across. Old tongue twister, Eddie turned top 40?" Damon put two pancakes on a plate and circled it with whipped cream. He placed it in front of Bonnie, who grabbed her pencil and stabbed angrily at the pancakes. "And I hate pancakes!"

"Whoa, don't take it out on the pancakes. Those pancakes, like myself, are waiting for you to be witchy to get us the hell out of here."

"You know I've been trying!"

"And failing. Further evidence, we're in hell. Not only am I stuck with you, I'm stuck with the useless version of you."

Bonnie opened her mouth to say something but closed it again. "Did you hear that?"

"What would I have heard, Bonnie? We're the only two people here, we were the only two people here two months ago and the only two people here now!"

"Well I swear I heard something!"

"Maybe it's the sound of existential despair. I was told that's what hell sounds like by my wife's ex-boyfriend. I'd really like to get back before he decides to swoop in and try to steal her away…. Again."

"You know what? You think we're trapped in your hell? I have to spend every day on repeat with the person I like least on this earth! Maybe we're trapped in mine." Bonnie snatched her teddy bear off the table and stomped off.

*Today*

"So, Stefan, tell us," Enzo said. "This house…. Very charming. When'd you get it?" Dinner was over and now everyone was drinking wine. Everyone except Buffy. She wasn't touching anything that came in front of her.

Stefan was pouring wine into a glass from a fresh bottle he'd just uncorked. "About a month or so ago." He said. Buffy's angry eyes were still on him.

"No, more than that, remember?" Ivy said. "We met two months ago and you already had it."

"You've lived here for more than two months?" Buffy said, he voice lowering almost into a growl.

"Yeah…. I guess I have." Stefan sat back down. He had no idea what Buffy would do. She hadn't been great at controlling her temper and he'd never seen her go angry this long without snapping.

"I was under the impression that you were living somewhere else doing the job you promised me you wouldn't give up on."

"I've…. moved on from that job."

"Boy, Stefan, I had no idea that was a choice. Move on. Why didn't I think of that?"

"Can we just drop it? I'm happy doing what I'm doing now, and that's all that should really matter, right?"

"What happened to not giving up on your family? What happened to making sure I was ok? This is not ok, Stefan! I am not ok!"

"There, darling." Enzo said, laying a soothing hand on Buffy's arm. "No need to make a scene. Really it's all just some big misunderstanding. Perhaps this will clear it all up." He grabbed his fork from the table and stabbed Stefan's hand to it.

Ivy screamed and looked around for help, but Buffy didn't move. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Stefan growled at Enzo.

"So many secrets…. What are you running from, Stefan?" Enzo removed the fork and the wound healed instantly.

"Um, I-I don't…." Ivy started.

"Enzo, take Ivy upstairs and compel a nice little story for all of this mess." Buffy ordered. Enzo started to protest, but she turned her glare on him.

He sighed and was suddenly standing in front of Ivy. He grabbed her by her chin and caught her gaze. "Calm down, come upstairs with me." Ivy followed Enzo upstairs and Buffy turned back to Stefan. She was still sitting there, but she was now leaning forward with her muscles ready to pounce. "How could you, Stefan? How give up on us? How could you give up on Damon?"

"You don't know what you're talking about."

"You said!" Buffy surged up and Stefan found himself pinned to the wall by his neck. "You said you would never give up on Damon and here you are! Living another life behind my back! Do you realize how betrayed I feel…. By my own brother? You are the one who always cared. You cared more than anyone. How could you just…. You just stopped caring."

"I had to. I had to move on. The months before I moved here, I was following every lead that Alaric sent my way. I spoke to every witch, every shaman, every psychic in 20 countries around the globe, and every lead was a dead end."

"You don't know that! Enzo has another lead, there's this coven in Oregon…."

"The Gemini Coven, yeah I looked into them too. Buffy, there was nothing there. Because there's nothing we can do. Damon and Bonnie are dead. I had to come to terms with that. And once I did, I had to start over. I couldn't just live my life with my old friends, I couldn't just go near Mystic Falls or Elena or…."

"What about me?" Stefan looked away guiltily and Buffy let him go. "You're my brother, Stefan. You made a promise to me and you broke it."

"I had to move on. I didn't have a choice. I had to erase everything."

"Then why did you come back to check on me? If you don't care?" Buffy waited for an answer, but when Stefan couldn't provide one, she shoved him backwards and walked out of the house.

*Today*

Damon sat on the ground in the hallway, throwing a ball at the wall and catching it when it returned. Four months. It had been four months since coming to this mid-90s hell. He was going crazy. Sometimes he got dreams about his wife, but he wasn't always sure if what he heard and saw was actually what she really sounded like and really looked like.

He stopped throwing the ball and looked at it for a long moment before angrily throwing it down the hallway. Getting up, Damon walked into the room that Buffy had once called hers and turned on the light. It looked almost exactly as it had when Buffy had taken it over. She'd eventually changed the decor and then turned it into her personal closet when she'd moved into Damon's room.

He laid down on the bed and turned to look at where Buffy would've been lying next to him. A memory popped into his head and he could hear it being played out.

Damon took her hand and led her over to the bed. "Tell me more about you."

"Why are you so interested in me?" Buffy asked as she climbed up onto the bed and curled up against the headboard.

Damon laid down next to her and stretched out on his back, resting his head on his hands. "You're an enigma. I can't quite figure you out."

"Do you think you will?"

He looked over at her. "I hope I don't, actually.""I'm good at surprising people."

"That I can believe."

Damon felt tears sliding down his cheeks and he pressed his face into the pillow. His heart hurt. He missed Buffy more than he ever thought possible. And he was terrified that he was never going to get to see her again.

*Today*

Buffy sat in her car, sobbing. Enzo hadn't come out of the house yet. She hadn't been able to stand the sight of Stefan a moment longer. Once the car door had closed, she'd completely lost it. Stefan had been so cold. She'd never seen him that way. Even when he'd shut off his emotions, he'd still cared about his brother and about her.

Suddenly her cell phone started ringing. Without checking to see who it was, she answered it. "Hello?"

"Buffy? I was just calling to see how you were. Is everything all right?"

"Elijah…. Hi. No, everything is not all right."

"Is there anything I can do?"

Buffy let out a choked sob. "Remind Stefan what it means to be a good brother?"

"What has he done?"

"He gave up. He abandoned his home…. His friends…. His brother…. He lost hope."

Elijah let out a sigh. "I'm very sorry, Buffy. That's an unexpected turn of events from Stefan Salvatore."

"I don't know what to do. He says that there's no hope left for bringing Damon back."

"I believe that there is always hope. Never would I have believed that Klaus could truly care for anyone other than himself until you came along. You are constantly pulling off the impossible. I have faith that you will do it again."

Buffy nodded. "How is Klaus?"

"About as well as can be expected under the circumstances. He asks after you every now and then."

"Why hasn't he called?"

"Both of you are going through similar, painful experiences. Why haven't you called?"

Buffy nodded. "Touché."

"I'll see if I can get him to call you soon."

"It's ok. He doesn't have to." Buffy spotted Enzo walking out of the house. "Elijah, I have to go. I really appreciate you calling to check on me."

"You're one of the very few people I call a friend, Buffy. I want to make sure you're all right after the tragedy you've been through."

"Thank you."

"I will talk to you again soon."

"Good. I look forward to it. Bye, Elijah." Buffy hung up and closed her eyes, letting the tears slide down her face unobstructed.

Enzo opened the door and got into the car. "Oh, well that was a bit of a bust." He noticed that she was crying. "Hey, hey." Enzo gently grabbed her face and turned her to him. "I'll be right back."

"No, Enzo…" Buffy shook her head. She set her forehead against the steering wheel and closed her eyes. She knew she should go after him, but a part of her felt like Stefan deserved whatever punishment he got.

Inside the house, Stefan was leaning against the counter. Ivy walked into the room. "Hey, did your friend and sister leave?"

"Yeah." Stefan said. He turned around to find Enzo had Ivy by her neck with both his hands. "Let her go."

"Ok." Enzo snapped her neck, letting her body fall to the ground.

"No!" Stefan rushed at Enzo, but Enzo threw him back to the ground. "I've got a girl out there crying over you, because she cares so much. I'm over here trying to figure out why, because I can't see what's worth caring about. You know Damon once told me that he promised you an eternity of misery. And I remember thinking 'well what could his brother have ever done to inspire so much hatred?' But now I get it. You're not a brother to him. Or to her. Brothers don't give up. So every time I see you doing anything that looks like you've done so, every time you try to start over in a life that's nothing but a lie, I will make you pay. I will be the one to bring you the misery you deserve." Stefan growled and rushed at Enzo again, but he snapped Stefan's neck. "See? We're all still neck-people."

*Today*

Bonnie stood behind the stove mixing beans in a pot. She scooped out two bowls of it and walked over to the table. Damon was sitting down, staring at the fire in the fireplace. She set a bowl in front of him before sitting across from him. Damon unfolded his napkin and Bonnie handed him a spoon. He smiled at her as a thank you and looked down at his food. He didn't bring it to his lips though.

Bonnie looked up at his sad eyes and gave him a sympathetic look. He'd gotten more melancholy in the last few weeks. "I miss them too, you know."

Damon looked up at her and eventually nodded his agreement. Bonnie looked back at her food and began to eat. He grabbed the newspaper on the table and stared at it. "Look who got 27 across."

"I wish. 27 across is a rock I am pushing up an endless mountain."

"It's an old tongue twister Eddie turned top 40. Eddie Vedder…. Pearl Jam. Yellow Ledbetter." He set the newspaper down.

Bonnie grabbed the newspaper and looked at the puzzle. Sure enough, 27 across was filled in with YELLOW LEDBETTER. "Are you messing with me?"

"No. You messing with me?"

"I didn't finish this."

"Well, neither did I."

Bonnie set the newspaper down and looked around. "There's someone else here."

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