Buffy, Damon, Willow, Tara, Klaus, and Elijah sat around a beautifully arrayed dining table filled with breakfast foods. Kol and Finn were also sitting at the table, but they were chained up just out of reach of the food. They didn't look too happy about it, either.
"We arrive into this world as innocents." Klaus was saying. "Wide-eyed. Vulnerable. It is the job of our parents to nurture and protect us. Unfortunately, our own parents failed miserably at even the most basic of parental tasks. But, we are not beholden to the past they created for us. "Today, a new future awaits. Forget your animosity toward Elijah and myself. Instead, join us against she who truly deserves your ire: our mother." Kol rolled his eyes and Finn looked bored. "Do this and we will welcome you with open arms!"
"Well…." Kol reached for a plate of pastries with his shackled hands, but Klaus pulled it out of his way.
"But, if you continue to oppose us, a denial of pastries will be the least of your concerns."
"If all you wanted was my allegiance against Mother Dearest, you should have said so! Save me a night shackled to the wall."
"Yes, this was Niklaus." Elijah said. "My recommendation was to remove your limbs, one by one, until you comply."
"I seconded that motion." Damon said, popping a pastry into his mouth.
"We've no desire to torture you." Klaus said, standing up. He moved behind Kol and Finn and squeezed their shoulders. "Provided you vow to stand beside us!"
Finn shrugged out of Klaus's grip. "Brothers…. Does that word even apply to us? After all these centuries of betrayal? And has loyalty to you ever rewarded? If so, tell me, Niklaus, where is our sister, Rebekah? She was blindly loyal to you for a thousand years, and now? Nowhere to be found. Where did our sister go? And, how did she escape your vile machinations?"
Klaus laughed at him. "You think me vile? What, then, do you make of the one who cursed us?"
"She was trying to make you mortal again!" Elijah grabbed a knife off the table, clearly suspicious and annoyed by Finn's words. Buffy's hand fell on his wrist to stay him as Finn continued to talk. "And, you both refused her. It only proves how far you've fallen. But, I expect Rebekah will have a different response to her proposal. See, unlike the two of you, she always did cling to her humanity."
"Leave Rebekah out of this." Buffy said calmly. "You go after her, you'll pay for it. Heavily."
"And how did you come to be here, little Slayer?" Finn asked. "You hated my brother Niklaus. You became a vampire to fight him. You couldn't wait to be rid of him. You even worked with our mother to make it so."
"I changed my mind."
"And does your husband share the same sentiment?"
"Do not let him goad you, Buffy." Klaus said. "Neither he, nor Esther, will find Rebekah unless she wants to be found. And she does not."
"Esther is quite determined. She's been searching for Rebekah since the day she returned. I imagine it's only a matter of time."
Elijah suddenly lost his temper. He surged up and grabbed Finn by the collar, slamming him onto the table before tearing into his neck. Buffy and Klaus both grabbed Elijah and pulled him off. They pulled him into the opposite room and Klaus shoved him against a wall. Elijah put his hands up defensively and Klaus backed off. He tugged Elijah's handkerchief out of his jacket pocket and handed it to him so he could clean himself up.
"I enjoy a good blood-letting as much as anyone, but our brothers have power, as well as knowledge of Esther's plans." Klaus said. "We need them alive."
"Imagine what they would do to Rebekah. To Hope." Elijah whispered.
"Rebekah has been cloaked by powerful magic. Focus on the task at hand. We need to persuade our brothers."
"I'm through with persuasion."
"Has the earth shifted on its axis? You needing restraint from me?"
"Look, I can't blame you for wanting to rip them limb from limb." Buffy said. "I wouldn't mind killing them all over again, but Klaus is right. We have to play this right."
Elijah took a deep breath, but before they could head back into the dining room, his phone rang. "It's me." Rebekah said. "I have the baby and we're on the run. Esther found us. We're safe, for now. I've lost her bloody starlings, but I have no idea where to go."
"Tell her to head west." Klaus said. "I'll call Hayley."
"Do not tell Hayley! Esther's too smart for that. The only advantage that we have is that she thinks the baby died. Text me the plans."
Elijah hung up with a sigh. "Klaus, you go. I'll take care of Kol and Finn."
"Splendid. And, in your hands, I assume they'll be dead by nightfall." Klaus said.
"I will show restraint. Buffy will make sure of that. Hope needs her father."
"What she needs…. What we need are more allies to help us defeat our mother. Finn and Kol must be turned to our side. Without their help, there will be nowhere left for Hope to run."
"Niklaus, your child…."
"I have waited months to see my daughter. I can wait one more day." Klaus looked at Buffy. "You go with him. It will look as if you're going back home for Thanksgiving. Damon, Willow, and Tara will need to go on without you before you meet Hope."
"Are you sure?" Buffy asked.
The look on Klaus's face told her he wasn't, but he said, "Give my daughter a kiss from me when you see her. And do whatever it takes to keep her safe."
"Ok. Let's finish breakfast to make this look legit." The three of them walked back into the room. They sat back down and continued their breakfast as Buffy told Willow telepathically that they needed to leave and soon. "Oh, Klaus, remind me before we leave to get more of your werewolf venom cure from you. I'm running low after Katherine's little stunt a while back."
"Of course, love. I do wish you could stay longer. It's been a real pleasure to have you here. I told you that you would enjoy New Orleans."
"I never doubted you for a second. I wish we could stay longer to help out with Stupid and Stupider, here, but Elena is putting together a big Thanksgiving dinner. I can't miss it."
"This is your first Thanksgiving as husband and wife, is it not?" Elijah asked Buffy and Damon.
"It is." Damon said, going along with the flow of conversation. Willow had just told him what was going on telepathically. "If we could go home, I'm sure Buffy and I would be hosting it."
"We're working on it." Willow said. "The Travelers really knew what they were doing with this one spell. But, I guess they would since they were working on it for thousands of years."
"We'll figure it out." Tara said, taking Willow's hand. "We always do."
"What kind of spell?" Kol asked. "Maybe I could be of some assistance?"
"We don't need your assistance." Willow said.
"We should probably be hitting the road soon." Damon said. "Long drive ahead of us. But this was great. Thanks for the food."
"Well, I wanted to send you all off with a nice breakfast." Klaus said. "Hopefully the next time you come to visit, you'll be able to stay longer and actually enjoy New Orleans."
"Without all the annoyances," Buffy said pointedly at Kol and Finn. "I'm sure I'll love New Orleans even more."
Damon stood up from the table and pulled Buffy's chair out for her. Buffy looked at Elijah. "By the way, I've been meaning to ask you if you wouldn't mind coming up to Whitmore soon and helping Alaric out again? He's having a hell of a time getting his bloodlust under control and I don't know what to do with him at this point. Was it different for you guys when you first became vampires?"
"You should go with them, Elijah." Klaus said. "I can handle our brothers while you're gone."
"I mean, I can't blame you for wanting to rip out their throats, but maybe getting away for a couple of days will help you calm down." Damon said.
Elijah looked at Finn and Kol. "I suppose it couldn't hurt." He set down his napkin. "Very well, if Klaus is sure he can handle this, then I'll join you on your journey to Whitmore."
"Great!" Buffy smiled brightly. "We'll go get our things in the car and make room for you."
Buffy and Elijah sat in a booth in a diner somewhere in North Carolina as the sun was setting. Damon, Willow, and Tara had gone on to Whitmore. It had taken some convincing, but they had finally relented. Elijah had almost had to compel Damon, but Buffy had talked him out of it. She now sat across from him shaking her head.
"I've been apart from that man for five months. I hate having to do that." She said to Elijah.
"It was necessary." Elijah assured her. "The less people that know about Hope, the better."
"Oh, I know all that. He's going to demand some more explanations and I'm just not sure what to tell him."
"I doubt he thinks you're having an affair with me."
Buffy laughed. "I doubt that, too, but making him go on without me with an 'I promise I'll tell you about it when I can, but not right now because I said so' isn't going to satisfy him." Elijah's phone began ringing and he pulled it out of his jacket pocket. He smiled slightly to himself, but ignored the call. When he looked back up, he noticed a man sitting at the bar staring at him. Buffy glanced behind her at the man. "What's wrong?"
A waitress came by to refill their coffee cups and Elijah caught her gaze. "Tell me, has there been anyone out of the ordinary today?"
"Just you two." The waitress responded. Elijah smiled and nudged his mug toward her to top off his coffee. When she went to pour it, she accidentally spilled some on his wrist and the sleeve of his shirt and jacket. "Oh, I am so sorry, let me…."
"It's quite all right. Thank you." Elijah dabbed at the stain on his sleeve with a napkin as the waitress refilled Buffy's coffee and walked off.
Buffy watched Elijah closely for a long moment. He seemed to be lost in his own brain, but then his eyes cleared and he looked over at the waitress whispering to the suspicious man at the bar. Both of them were openly staring at Buffy and Elijah now.
"Ok, that's funky." Buffy said to Elijah.
"Yes, it is." He got to his feet and walked over to the man. Instead of compelling him, though, he just ripped into the man's neck.
"No!" Buffy rushed over and pulled Elijah away, but he fought her off. Something must've triggered in him. Something that Esther had put in him. She pulled out her cell phone to call Klaus, but Elijah attacked her again. He managed to get his hands around her neck and twisted. The world went black and Buffy fell to the ground.
It was dark now and Elijah was sitting at his booth as the waitress walked past him. Rebekah walked into the restaurant with Hope in her baby carrier. Elijah immediately stood when he saw her and she smiled at him. When she made it to the booth, she set Hope's carrier on the table and Elijah smiled brightly as he gazed down at her. He wrapped his arms around Rebekah tightly.
"Where's Buffy?" Rebekah asked. "Nic said she would be here."
"She'll join us shortly." Elijah lied. "She had to take care of something back home." Rebekah sat down while Elijah picked up Hope and held her. "Look at you. So big. So perfect. I can't imagine the joy of spending every day with her. It's…."
"Quite lovely. It feels so human."
"Yes…. some would argue the most human of experiences."
"I know I have to give her back to Hayley when the time is right, but she's made me realize how much I want that child of my own, that I know I can't have."
"It's a lovely dream. Unfortunately, it's one that's just beyond our reach, considering the curse of our existence."
"Seems Esther's attacking with her usual fervor."
"Yes, Mother tortured me for days with memories I thought I'd buried long ago. Then, she made an offer…. to make us all mortal again. You see, sister, Mother believes that by placing us in new bodies, we can then reclaim some kind of…. purity. We can begin families of our own again. And, I have to confess, Rebekah…. this invitation, however cruel in delivery, had a certain…. appeal." Rebekah looked at him sympathetically and stretched her arms across the table so she could take Elijah's free hand in her own. He continued to gaze at Hope, not noticing when Rebekah spotted a smear of blood on the sleeve of his shirt. Finally, he looked up and noticed her concern. "You needn't worry. We're safe."
Rebekah licked her lips and put on a fake smile before getting to her feet and grabbing Hope's blanket. "Looks like this little one needs her diaper changed!" Elijah stood so he could hand Hope back to her. "Here, my love." She headed toward the bathroom across the restaurant and noticed a smear of blood on the counter while she passed it.
There was another bloody smear on the door to the kitchen. The waitress was washing her hands at a nearby sink and seemed to have been compelled to ignore the blood. She seemed completely unbothered by it and didn't make a move to stop Rebekah when she opened the door to the kitchen. She gasped when she saw a dozen bloodied bodies strewn around the room. She turned Hope's face away and hid her with her blanket to keep her from seeing any of the carnage. Rebekah backed out and looked back at Elijah who was still standing near their table with his back to them, completely oblivious.
Hurrying into the restroom, Rebekah bolted the door shut and leaned against it. Before she could move, a groan from one of the stalls alerted her to the presence of someone else. "What the hell?" Buffy's voice sounded from the stall.
"Buffy?" Rebekah asked, opening the stall door to find Buffy crumpled on the floor. She took Buffy's hand and helped her to stand. "Are you all right? Elijah said you were dealing with something back home."
"Nope. Not dealing with anything back home. I was too busy being dead. Elijah broke my neck." Buffy stretched her neck out and brushed herself off. "He attacked some man and when I tried to stop him…." She mimed breaking a neck.
"He's done more than that. There's a kitchen full of dead bodies."
"We need to call Klaus and get away from this mess. I think Elijah's trying to call Esther here." Buffy looked down at Hope in Rebekah's arms and her face softened. "She looks just like Klaus."
Rebekah smiled slightly as she allowed Buffy to hold Hope. "I never thought that you and Klaus would be acting like family and your husband be ok with that."
Buffy chuckled. "He's still getting used to the idea." She kissed Hope's temple as she bounced her lightly and said, "And you are too precious, little one. Your daddy misses you very much."
"You're a natural at that."
"Oh, I love children, but I've never wanted any of my own. Too many issues to deal with." Buffy sighed. "We need to deal with Elijah and get out of here."
Rebekah held her hands out and Buffy handed Hope to her. "Let me change her and I'll go out and break Elijah's neck. You call Klaus and let him know what's going on."
"Ok." Buffy waited until Rebekah headed back out into the restaurant before she called Klaus. She didn't even let him talk. "We have a serious problem."
"What's wrong?" Klaus asked, instantly concerned.
"Elijah killed a bunch people here at the diner and he snapped my neck and lied to Rebekah about it. When has he ever killed when he could just compel? I think he's trying to get Esther's attention."
"Her torture must have affected him more deeply than I'd realized. Where is he now?"
"Rebekah just broke his neck. What do we do next?"
"Get in the car with Rebekah and tell her to go to where we dined the Christmas after we fled Mikael."
"Ok. Klaus….""What is it, love?"
"I need Damon here. I don't know where we're going or when we'll be back and I can't do that to him. Not after we've both spent five months trying to get back to each other. Please, Klaus, I'm begging you. He will never hurt Hope in any way. I swear to you."
"If I say yes, then I'm trusting you to keep him in line."
"Of course I will. And if you want, you can compel him to keep his mouth shut about Hope."
Klaus sighed. "I'm trusting you, Buffy."
"And I know that's not something you do lightly. I swear to you, Damon will be behind me on this 100%." Buffy was getting ready to hang up, but she paused. "Klaus?"
"Don't make me regret it." Klaus hung up and Buffy took a deep breath.
She opened the bathroom door to find Rebekah putting Hope in her carrier and Elijah crumpled at her feet. "Did you speak with Nic?" Rebekah asked."Yeah. He said we need to go where you dined the Christmas after you ran from Mikael."
"That's rather far away from here."
"I think that's the point. But we need to stop by my apartment in Whitmore, first."
"And a husband."
"You can't tell Damon about Hope!"
"It's ok. Klaus gave me the go ahead. Rebekah, Damon was dead for the last five months. I just got him back a few days ago."
Rebekah sighed. "Fine. We'll pick him up on the way. We're putting Elijah in the back."
"If we hurry, we can get him in manacles that are unbreakable before he wakes up. I've got some at my apartment."
"I'm not even going to ask why." Rebekah shook her head and picked up Hope's carrier. "Let's go."
Buffy walked up to her apartment and opened the front door. Rebekah was waiting in the car parked in the alley. Alaric wasn't home, thankfully, but Damon was sitting in the living room reading a book. He looked up and smiled brightly. "Hey babe." He set the book down and stood up. "That was fast."
"Hey." Buffy kissed him quickly. "I need to find my anti-break manacles."
"Why?" Damon followed her into the bedroom and leaned against the doorframe as she started searching her closet.
"Elijah needs to be tied up. He broke my neck when I tried to stop him from killing someone. When I woke up in the bathroom, Rebekah was there and she said he'd killed a bunch of people for no reason at all."
"Are you ok?"
"I'm fine now. We're going to keep him restrained until we get where we're going." She pulled the manacles out of a box and shut the closet door.
"You're leaving again?"
"You're coming with me. We need to pack because I'm not sure when we're coming back."
Damon grabbed her arms, stopping her from moving. "Buffy, what's going on?"
Buffy sighed and set the manacles on the bed. "Ok, the real reason I made you guys leave Elijah and I behind at that diner is because we were meeting Rebekah and Hope."
"Who's Hope? Did Vampire Barbie make a new friend?" Buffy lifted her eyebrow at him and gave him a look that told him to think. "Klaus's daughter, Hope?"
"Yes. And you can't, under any circumstances tell anyone. Ever. If you need Klaus to compel you to never be able to tell, then he gladly will."
"Who am I going to tell? The bad parent police?""Don't joke about this, Damon." Her serious tone wiped the joking smirk right off his face. "He killed his real father. He wanted so desperately to know him and he killed him to keep his daughter safe because he didn't know if Ansel could be trusted. He threatened to kill me, but he knew that I would never hurt Hope. I would kill to keep her safe. I fought for her from the very beginning…. I talked him into not killing Hayley and the baby…. And there is no way in hell anyone will ever hurt Hope if I can help it."
Damon took a long moment to process what Buffy was telling him. "So, what? Elijah doesn't want to keep her safe?"
"More than anything, but whatever Esther did to him really messed with his mind." Buffy grabbed the suitcase from under the bed and started throwing clothes into it. "Rebekah and I can explain more to you in the car, but we need to go before he wakes up."
"Ok, but I need to show you something first." Damon went back out to the living room and came back a moment later carrying a stuffed teddy bear. "This was Bonnie's."
Buffy shook her head in confusion. "You stole that from her stuff?"
"No. She lost it when she was little and she found it in our little pocket hell dimension. She carried it pretty much everywhere with her while we were there."
"Why do you have it?" She started packing again and let Damon talk.
"I found it at the crypt last night. I went there to pay my respects and it was just sitting there."
"Bonnie's still alive?"
"That's the only thing I can think of that this bear means. She loved this thing."
"But why would she send the bear instead of herself?" Buffy zipped the suitcase up and picked up the manacles.
"Maybe she planned to, but Kai managed to stop her and she sent the bear to let us know she's alive. I told Willow about it. She's investigating this Gemini Coven that Kai belonged to."
"Alaric investigated them already. There was nothing there." Buffy paused and turned back around to look up at Damon. "No…. Stefan said there was nothing there."
"Why did you say it like that?"
"Because your brother gave up looking for you, remember? Who's to say if he actually investigated it or not? Maybe if he had, he would've found you a lot sooner. The Gemini Coven lead was about a month after you…. Left."
"Ok, let's go protect this baby and we can figure out what to do about this." Damon held the bear up.
"You're bringing it with you?"
He looked down at it sheepishly. "We can pretend it's for the baby."
Buffy smiled slightly. "Her name is Hope."
Damon took her hand and stopped her from walking out. "Hey…."
"Nothing. I just…. Thank you for coming back for me. It means a lot to me."
She leaned into Damon and reached up to kiss him. "I love you and we've been apart for a lot longer than I ever want to be. I'm not allowing it to happen again."
"I love you." He kissed her again, smiling against her mouth.