The Next Chapter

Chapter 118

Chapter 118

Buffy started to come to and realized that it was exceptionally hot. She opened her eyes slowly and realized that someone was talking. Her hands were bound with vervain soaked ropes and her strength felt drained. Finally, she looked in front of her to see Kai sitting in front of a roaring fire eating food on a plate in front of him.

"You little twerp." Buffy said. "Why am I here?"

"Ah, well I spent eighteen years in abandoned restaurants and now I'm showing off the fruits of my labor." Kai said proudly. She realized they were sitting in the newly built Mystic Grill.

"I don't mean the Grill…."

"You mean here, here? In Mystic Falls?" He was fidgeting and smiling. "Sorry, I'm nervous. You look really pretty."

"Come a little closer and I'll show you how pretty I can be." She yanked at the ropes, feeling the vervain burning her skin. "Why am I here, Kai?""Well, I uh, took the spell keeping supernaturals out of Mystic Falls and I…. like…. Absorbed it? I ate it, I guess. It's cool, huh? First I eat magic and then eventually I lose it. But a huge spell like that? Come on! Magic's oozing out of me. It's all over the place. You know, I didn't quite realize it was so out of control until I met the manager of the Grill a few hours ago. He was all like, 'hey, you can't come in here. We're closed. And you have an unconscious woman over your shoulder.' And I was like, 'don't judge me.' So then I gave him a heart attack…. Or I tried to, but all I did was make him vomit uncontrollably. Which was like, ew…. All right…. Let's stop that. So then I tried again and I think I broke his spine. I mean, I'm not really sure because the third time I tried the spell, he kinda exploded in blood. Whoops."

"Damon's right. You're completely insane."

"Not completely. You know, it wasn't until after my test run with the manager that I realized…. If I start to merge with Jo and my gushing fountains of magic turn her into that guy, then I'm not going to have a twin for the merge. So, Buffy, that is why you're here. Because I need to get my magic under control by practicing with you. Or rather…. By practicing on you. Oh, hey, PS silver lining! After the manager finally stopped thrashing around, I finally managed a cloaking spell. Thank you. It's easy to do and undo." Kai looked over at her and recited the spell. The manager's mangled body appeared in front of Buffy, but she didn't give him the satisfaction of being shocked. She leveled a glare at Kai and calmly crossed her legs. He stared back, obviously annoyed that his little trick hadn't worked on her. "Really? Nothing?"

Buffy shrugged. "I've seen a lot of dead bodies."

"You're too pretty to have seen that much death." Kai shrugged. "Well, Damon didn't tell me much about you. I meant what I said, though. All those pictures…. They really didn't do you justice. You're gorgeous."

"Yeah, thanks. Where is Damon?"

"I don't know. I texted him…. From your phone, of course…. That you had some business to attend to at the dorms with Elena and you'll catch up with him later."

"You know he won't believe that."

"Hence the cloaking spell." Kai smirked at her.

Damon's snoring actually woke him up and he sat up. He was sitting in Liz's hospital room. He'd come there to check on her after getting Buffy's text. "I paid extra for this room to be a single." Liz said.

"Well, you clearly underestimate the number of women who'd die to spend a night with me." Damon joked.

"Well, I'm not dead yet. Any word from Buffy?"

"Oh, I got words. Plural." Damon looked at his phone. "I got, 'Something came up with Elena at the dorm. Can we rain check?'"

"She hasn't called?"

"Nope. And Elena isn't answering." Damon shrugged. "She said she was having a bad day. I don't want to nag and make it worse."

"You don't nag. You should go check on her."

"I will when I leave here."

"Ok. Have you at least managed to patch things up with Rick?"

"Well, baby steps. Step one: allow him to turn my house into Hogwarts. Step two: call in a favor from the Sheriff. Ask her to put out an APB on a super-charged serial killer named Kai Parker."

"Yeah, I already had my guys on the lookout. No one matching Kai's description popped up overnight."

"What the hell is he doing?"

Caroline walked into the room with a clear to-go cup filled with something green. "Bad news is: the employee kitchen didn't have a juicer. Good news is: they do now."

"What is this?" Liz asked, looking dubiously at the green stuff.

"It's a kale smoothie. It's good for DNA cell repair and for slowing cancer. Oh, are you warm enough?"

"I'm fine."

"Let me just get you another blanket." Caroline reached over and got out another blanket from one of the drawers.

"So you can literally smother her?" Damon asked.

"I'm just trying to help here, since apparently, modern medicine takes forever. I don't understand why we can't skip all the guess-work and go straight to something that works. Like vampire blood."

"We are not having this conversation again, sweetheart." Liz said.

"Ok, then what do you want to talk about? How the doctors can't operate? How chemo won't work? How radiation won't shrink the tumor? Damon, feel free to jump in with your support here at any time."

"Well, I think that would require you having my support, Caroline." Damon said.

"You don't think that our blood will work?"

"For 170-odd years, I've never known an instance where our blood cured cancer. But hey, sheriff, if you want to be a guinea pig in an experimental study involving weird, unpredictable magic…. Far be it from me to stop you."

"Look, sweetheart." Liz said. "For now, I would like to put my faith in science. Which means going home on doctor's orders, having a nice, quiet day and waiting for more MRI results."

"See? Mommy knows best." Damon said, standing up. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to make sure those witches aren't destroying my house and see where my wife has disappeared to. Bye, bye." He winked at Liz.

"Tell Buffy I'll see her later?" Liz called.

"You got it!" Damon said, walking out. As he headed into the parking lot, he pulled out his cell phone and called Buffy's number. It went to voicemail. "Hey baby, I'm getting worried. Please call me." Getting in his car, Damon drove over to his and Buffy's Whitmore house. Her car wasn't there, but the front door was ajar. "Babe?" He called, walking into the house. The place was dark, but something felt off. Buffy would never leave the door ajar. Not with Kai running around. Damon pulled his phone out again and called Elena. Her phone went to voicemail, too. "Elena, I really need you to call me back. Buffy is supposed to be with you and I'm worried about her. If you're in class, leave it and call me." He hung up and left the house. He had a bunch of witches at his house. One of them was bound to be able to find his wife.

Buffy woke up and realized her hands were bound to the ceiling. As she looked around, she realized she was in the hallway at Mystic Falls High School. Kai stood in front of her staring at the trophy case built into the wall. Elena was sitting on the floor in front of him bound and gagged. Her bindings were soaked in vervain and her skin around them was burned bright red. Her eyes widened when she saw Buffy wake up.

"Why the high school?" Buffy asked.

"They have plenty of restrooms, no flammable surfaces, and everyone's on winter break…. Still." He stood up straight. "You know, it's no wonder America got dumb while I was locked up. They're never in school." Kai looked down at Elena. "Hey, is that you?" He was pointing at a picture of Elena, Bonnie, and Caroline standing with other cheerleaders. "Oh, and there's Bonnie. You guys look so innocent. Smiling, like nothing bad could ever happen to you."

"Why is Elena here, Kai?"

"Well, I can't have your precious husband looking for us. Not yet. So, I snatched her between classes to keep her out of the way. And if you go pop, then I've got someone else to work on." Kai turned to Buffy and walked closer to her. "So, do you mind if I try to turn your blood into acid again?"

"Again?"

"Yeah, that's uh, that's kinda how you got here in the first place. I was trying the whole acid-blood thing and I think I burst a few important capillaries in your brain, because you blacked out." He rubbed his hands together and concentrated on Buffy. "Phasmatos navaro pulsus sanguinox…."

Buffy's blood began to burn slightly and she groaned. "Kai, stop!" Elena started to struggle against her bonds, but they weakened her significantly. "Kai!" Buffy's hand started to burn and she realized her wedding and engagement rings were melting. "My rings. Kai, you're melting my rings!"

Suddenly Elena managed to get to her feet and whacked Kai over the head. Buffy yanked on her chains and pulled herself free, bringing the lights crashing down. She grabbed Elena and they ran into the closest room, slamming the door. Buffy rushed over to the sink and rinsed off the burning metal.

"Are you ok?" Elena asked, finally pulling the vervain gag out of her mouth.

"That little twerp melted my rings!" Buffy complained.

"I take it those rings meant something to you?" Kai said, entering the room. Buffy pulled Elena behind her. "I never understood sentimental attachments to things, because then it's so upsetting when you lose them."

"Those were my wedding and engagement rings, you dick. That goes beyond sentimental attachment." Buffy growled. She shoved her hand into the sunlight until it caught fire then turned on the gas from the chemistry lab. She turned her flaming hand into a flamethrower and the fire hit Kai. Elena pulled on Buffy and the two of them ran through another door into a classroom.

Buffy looked at Elena. "Ok, you need to leave."

"What? No." Elena shook her head. "I can't leave you here unprotected."

"You've got to go get help. He melted my daylight ring, not yours."

"Buffy…."

"Elena, go! I'll be fine." She shoved Elena away and Elena sighed, using her vamp speed to rush out of the room. Buffy got up and rushed out of the room in the opposite direction. She headed for the basement door through the cafeteria, but Kai appeared in the doorway in front of her.

Buffy began to back up as Kai held his hand out, twisting it to try and break her neck. He was only succeeding in throwing the tables and chairs around. "Really? Damn it." Buffy dodged out of the way of a table and turned to go in a different direction. Unfortunately, Kai succeeded in throwing up a barrier and she slammed into it. He'd put up barriers at all the doors. Finally he managed to break her neck and she fell to the floor.

Willow and Tara were flipping through one of their basic magic books looking for simple spells for Jo to try. They were sitting together on the sofa in the Salvatore Boarding House. Liv was standing off to the side with Alaric. Jo was sitting on the coffee table practicing levitating a book when Damon walked in, breaking her concentration.

The book fell to the floor and Jo said, "That doesn't count. I was distracted."

Damon looked at Liv for a moment. "Are you wearing my shirt?" Liv smiled at him and Damon just shook his head. "Ok, magic camp, find my wife."

"What do you mean?" Willow asked.

"She's missing. She sent me a text last night saying she was with Elena, but now she and Elena aren't answering their phones. I went to our house in Whitmore and the door was open. With Kai running around all juiced up and hating my guts, we need to find her. Now."

"A locater spell? That's simple, right?" Jo asked. "I can do that."

"Actually, from the state of my living room, I'd rather a pro do it." Damon pointed at Willow. "You're the pro."

"I'm the pro." Willow stood up. "I'll grab a map."

Just then, Elena burst into the room. "Elena, what…." Damon started.

"Buffy's in trouble." Elena said. "Kai has her at the high school. He melted her daylight ring."

"He melted her…. I'm gonna kill him." Damon growled. "Ok, I need a witch." He pointed at Liv. "You."

"Why me? Willow's ten times more powerful." Liv protested.

"Because your family is all one with the cloaking spells and Willow needs to stay here and help Jo beat Kai."

"Kai will kill me."

"And if he manages to get his hands on Willow, he'll get even more power and then it won't matter if you're dead because everyone else will be too. Grab your supplies and let's go."

Buffy woke up and realized she was tied to a table in the cafeteria with vervain soaked ropes. She rolled her eyes and looked up at Kai. He was standing over her wearing a Mystic Falls Timberwolves shirt and drinking a soda. "Oh, hello." He said.

"Nice shirt." Buffy quipped.

"Well, thanks. Yeah, somebody burned my other one. Which was awesome, by the way. I am starting to see why Damon digs you so much. You are crazy-pants. Oh, it sucks about that shirt, though."

"I'm confused. You care more about an inanimate object than the people that you kill?"

"Oh. Is this going to be like an episode of 'Ricki Lake' where I come face-to-face with my demons and change for the better?"

"I never really liked that show. I always preferred Jerry Springer."

Kai laughed. "Yeah, that was pretty entertaining."

"Let's act out an episode."

"Come on, you know I'd win."

"Why have I not snapped your neck yet?"

"Because you're secretly crushing on me?"

"Oh, I'm sure that's it." Buffy said sarcastically. "Look, I know that you're a sociopath and all, but is there anyone out there that you've ever cared about? A goldfish maybe? Sociopaths like goldfish, right?"

"I guess I liked my brother, Joey. We played Dr. Mario together and he'd always win. Actually, one of my favorite memories is when I finally beat him. Of course, my favorite memory is when I finally beat him to death. You don't have to waste your energy trying to change me. If Ricki taught me anything, it's that liking yourself is the most important thing. And I like me."

"Too bad you're the only one." Buffy retorted.

Damon and Liv pulled up to the school and got out of his car. "To think, a day almost went by where I wasn't roped into saving one of your friends." Liv said.

"She's not just my friend, she's my wife. So just do this stupid cloaking spell so I can go grab Buffy and you can get back to wrecking my mansion."

"Fine." Liv started setting up her candles on the hood of Damon's car.

"What are you doing? The back door's right here."

"I'm not going in there."

"What?"

"If Kai even gets a glimpse of me, I'm dead. I'm strong enough to do the spell from out here."

"Whatever. Hope you cloak better than you teach. Cause from the looks of my living room, Jo's not learning very much. Thank god someone had the sense to call in Willow."

"Relax. With a bit of practice, she'll be merge-ready in no time."

Damon turned around when Liv stopped doing the spell. She was gone. "Liv? Liv? Hey! Liv!"

Luke suddenly appeared out of nowhere. "Sorry."

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"She doesn't have time for this. Invisique." Luke disappeared.

"No!" Damon kicked a rock and pulled out his cell phone. "So, Liv's gone. I need a Plan B."

"What do you mean, she's gone?" Willow asked.

"Her wonder twin took her and I can't just go blazing in there. Kai will kill Buffy to spite me. I need a witch."

"I can do it." Jo said in the background.

"No. You can barely light a candle." Willow said to her.

"Cloaking is one of the first things they teach you as a Gemini. I learned it when I was a kid."

"But?" Alaric asked in the background.

"I'll have to stay beside Damon while I do it, which means I'll have to go inside."

"No. Absolutely not. Damon, I'm coming."

"No, Willow." Tara said in the background. "Kai does not need your power on top of the Traveler's spell."

"Let me go in." Jeremy said.

"Let me guess, Jeremy's holding a crossbow." Damon said.

"No one is killing Kai." Jo said.

"Well, we're not letting Kai kill Buffy."

"Nobody's letting anyone die." Alaric said.

"Anyone have any other ideas?" Damon asked.

"Look, I'm coming." Willow said. "End of discussion. No one else has the power to go up against him. Jo's not ready."

"Then I'll go." Tara said.

"Tara…."

"He can't get ahold of your power, Willow. Magically, I'm not that interesting, but I can do the cloaking spell. Buffy needs us and we can't argue about this anymore. Damon, I'm on my way."

Kai sat cross-legged in front of Buffy, watching her. "Ok, now I get what Damon is talking about when I give him my creepy stare." He stuck his finger out in the air and carved a K on Buffy's cheek with his magic. "Stop that."

Kai smiled as the carving healed. He leaned forward, licked his thumb, and used it to wipe away the remaining blood on Buffy's face. "Just working on my self-control."

"Look, I know you're all into the whole torture-Buffy thing, but would you take a time out and get me something to drink? I'm parched."

"Is none of this affecting you at all?"

"Actually, I'm pretty bored."

"Most people would be quivering in fear, but not you. Why?"

Buffy shrugged. "Ever been mentally tortured by your boyfriend for five months?"

"Damon?"

"My ex boyfriend, Angel. He's a vampire with a soul and it used to be when he got too happy, he would lose his soul and turn into his psycho killer evil other half. You're nothing compared to that, Kai."

Kai leaned back against the table behind him and crossed his arms. "So you have type, then? Psycho killers? That's good news."

"Look, you're cute and all, but you look like a thirteen year old. I'm just not into that. I like my psycho killers older than me."

"I am older than you. Damon said you were born in 1981. I was born in 1972."

"Ok, let's try this. I'm a married woman now, so my dating days are over."

"Hey, I melted your wedding ring. Nothing's stopping you now."

"Um, there's a few things stopping me. One: I don't like you. Two: I love my husband. Three: I only like reformed psycho killers."

Kai sighed. "Ok, reformed psycho killer." He stood up and grinned at her. "I'll get you something to drink. That's a good start. Sprite? Coke? What kind of soda girl are you?"

"I'd prefer some O negative, but if they don't have that in the vending machine, then a Sprite will be fine."

"I'll see what I can do." Kai turned and headed for the door. "Don't go anywhere." Buffy rolled her eyes and started to work on the ropes.

Damon and Tara walked through the hallway of the high school looking for Kai and Buffy. Tara had a cloaking spell over the two of them. "I can hear Kai yammering." Damon said to her.

"What's he saying?" Tara asked.

"He's hitting on my wife." Damon let out a groan. "I'm going to have to get you and Willow to put a spell on her to make her less attractive to evil people."

"She can't help that she's pretty."

"It's not just that. She literally attracts bad guys. Angelus, me, Klaus, Silas, and now Kai."

"You're not a bad guy."

"I once killed a pregnant woman."

"Buffy wouldn't love you if you were a bad guy. You're not that Damon anymore. Now you're Buffy's Damon and I'm pretty sure you both like it that way."

Damon smiled. "I like you, Tara. Have I ever mentioned that?"

"Not recently."

"It's also great to see Willow happy. I know I don't say it much, but I really like her."

"She really likes you, too, Damon. We both do."

Damon held his hand up and stopped them just as Kai walked around the corner. He took a drink of soda, not noticing them at all, before walking past Tara and Damon to recycle his can. "Ok." He turned and walked away.

"Good job, Tara." Damon said.

"Thanks."

"Since he's out of the way, let's get my wife. She's in the cafeteria." He took Tara's arm and led her into the cafeteria where Buffy was tied to a table with vervain soaked ropes. She was muttering to herself about how annoying Kai was and the things she was going to do to him once she was free. She obviously couldn't see him or Tara.

Tara said a few words and Buffy's ropes disappeared. Damon squatted down in front of Buffy and touched her cheek. "Hey." He said gently.

"Took you long enough." Buffy said, reaching out and taking his hands.

"Sorry."

"Come on, we need to get out of here." Tara said.

"We've got to head for the tunnels. Kai melted my damn rings." Buffy said, showing her empty hand.

"He owes me some serious bank for those." Damon kissed her finger where the rings used to be. "Come on. Boiler room."

Buffy stopped. "Actually, you know what? We need Kai to stop running around kidnapping people and wreaking havoc."

"What do you want to do? Knock him out and keep him as a house guest?"

"Willow and Tara can bind his magic, right? Keep him confined to the basement room until Jo can get powerful enough to defeat him."

"I don't know if that's going to happen." Tara said. "Aside from not being very good at magic, she doesn't have a lot of power. Willow's been assessing her and Jo's not even close to my level and Kai could easily defeat me."

"What level are you?" Damon asked.

"I'm proficient, but I've also been out of commission for a while. This is the first big spell I've done since I came back."

"Is it draining you at all?" Buffy asked Tara worriedly.

"A little bit. So whatever we're doing, we need to do it soon before I get tired."

"Ok, Damon, you get Jo on the phone and have her make a nice coma-inducing cocktail for her twin. Tara, keep up the spell for a little bit longer so he can't see you and Damon."

"What about you?"

Buffy sat back down where she'd been. "I'll pretend to be tied up still and when Kai comes back, I'll knock him out."

"Buffy…." Damon started.

"No time for arguing. He's coming back now." Buffy stuck her hands behind her and waited. Tara and Damon disappeared a few seconds before Kai strolled back in carrying a can of Sprite with a straw in it.

"You know, you may be on to something." Kai said.

"About what?" Buffy asked.

"Well, there are a lot of vampires in the world. A blood vending machine might actually be a huge money making endeavor." He sat down in front of her and held the can out to her. She gave it a look and sniffed the air in front of the straw. "I didn't poison it."

"Just had to check." She leaned forward and put her lips on the straw. When Kai's gaze moved down to her chest, Buffy took the opportunity to use her super-vamp speed and grab the back of his head, slamming it against the table. While he was disoriented, she lifted him up and sank her fangs in, draining him until he passed out.

The whole thing happened in a matter of seconds. Damon wasn't even done with his phone call when Tara uncloaked them. "We'd better move fast." Buffy said. She grabbed a napkin from the condiment and utensil station and wiped her mouth before taking a big sip of Sprite.

"You ok?" Damon asked, hanging up.

"He tasted funny."

"He's been stuck in 1994. He probably tastes like Zima and Gushers. Jo said she'll have some pentobarbital ready to go when we get there."

"Ok. I'll just…. Clean up here until the sun sets, then I'll come join you guys."

"I'll come back and keep you company." Damon leaned down and kissed her gently. He would've made it last longer, but she pushed him back.

"Go. Get him locked up. I'm not going anywhere."

Buffy and Damon were curled up in each other's arms on the daybed in the gazebo back home. It was dark outside now. Kai was drugged and locked up in the basement. Willow was under strict orders to stay away from him.

"So," Buffy said, playing with Damon's wedding ring on his finger. "Assuming that I don't get kidnapped before tomorrow, can we try for that dinner again?"

"Well, I guess we'll find out tomorrow."

Alaric knocked on the doorframe and stepped through the curtain. "Hey, you got a package, Damon."

"Oh, good." Damon took the package from him.

"I didn't know anyone delivered this late." Buffy said.

"Money is a magnificent thing." Damon said as he ripped into the package.

"How are you doing, Buffy?" Alaric asked.

"Very happy to be home. I missed this place."

"I meant: how are you doing after being held hostage and tortured by Kai for the better part of the day, Buffy?"

Buffy laughed. "Peachy keen. I'm a lot more resilient than I look. Mentally and physically."

"Good to know."

"Give me your hand." Damon said, taking Buffy's left hand. He slipped on a new engagement and wedding ring that looked almost identical to the ones Kai had melted. They were soldered together, something Buffy had meant to do but hadn't because she couldn't bear to part with them.

"How did you get them so fast?"

"I called the jewelry store where we got your engagement ring and told them that yours had been lost in a tragic accident and you needed a new one. I threw money at them and they dropped everything and got you a new one put together and messengered over tonight. We'll get Willow to make it your daylight ring again."

"What about the wedding ring?"

"I described it to them and they had one very close to it. The stones are a little bigger than your old one, but I didn't think that would be a problem."

Buffy looked up at Damon. "God, you're amazing."

"And that's my cue to leave." Alaric said.

"No. Stay." Buffy gestured to one of the chairs. "We need to talk."

"Ok." Alaric sat down hesitantly. "What about?"

"Jo's not strong enough, Rick." Damon said.

"Well, she wouldn't lie about it."

"No, we don't think she's lying." Buffy said.

"We're not saying that." Damon added.

"But I spent the whole day with Kai and he's changed the game. He absorbed a spell the size of Mystic Falls and Willow's been measuring Jo's magic today. Tara told us that she's not powerful. She's not going to have the juice to beat Kai."

"Look, we got Kai on ice." Alaric said. "We'll just wait for his stolen magic to drain away and then she'll beat him."

"What if she can't?"

"Well, she has to. She will."

"Well, all right then." Damon said. He lifted his drink from the coffee table. "Here's to women who make crazy, screwed up decisions and loving them more for it." He pulled Buffy to him and kissed her. "I am sorry that I didn't know you were in trouble sooner."

Buffy shrugged. "Kai made it difficult for you to know, but I always knew you'd figure it out. And you did."

"I'm thinking that's my cue to leave." Alaric said, standing up.

"Shut the door behind you." Damon said, hitting the button to make the gazebo more private.

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