The Next Chapter

Chapter 122

Chapter 122

Buffy woke up to Hope crying in the bassinet next to the bed. She sat up to realize that Damon wasn't in bed next to her. It had been 24 since Liz had died. Everyone had taken it hard. They'd all come back to the boarding house and tried to comfort Caroline. Buffy had called Klaus to let him know what was going on. He'd promised to come up to collect Hope so Buffy could stay and deal with the funeral and Caroline.

"Hey, sweet girl, what's wrong?" Buffy lifted Hope up. "Shh…." Her diaper was wet. After Buffy had changed her, she took Hope and walked down to see where Damon had disappeared to. All the kids were sleeping in the living room where Caroline had chosen to fall asleep. She heard a fire going in the kitchen and found Damon sitting at the table in front of a pad of paper, a few wads of paper he'd crumpled up, and a pen in his hand. "Hey."

Damon turned to look at her. "What are you two doing up?"

"Hope needed a diaper change. What are you doing?"

He tossed the pen down and sighed, rubbing his hands against his face. "Why did she ask me to write her eulogy?"

"Because Liz loves you and trusts you."

"I don't know if I can do this."

Buffy handed Hope to Damon and smoothed his hair back from his face. "Yes you can. I know you can."

Damon looked down at Hope. "When is Klaus going to be here?"

"In the morning."

"I'm really going to miss having her around."

"Me too." Buffy reached out and gently stroked the back of Hope's head as she fell asleep against Damon's chest.

Caroline walked into the kitchen and looked surprised to see them. "Sorry. Just, um, water."

"Help yourself." Damon said.

She noticed the wads of paper around Damon. "So what are you not writing?"

"You believe your mother entrusted me to eulogize her?"

"That's…. nice, I guess." She filled a glass with tap water.

"I think she's trying to teach me a lesson about my own mom. Was supposed to do the eulogy at her funeral, and I just…."

"We don't have to share."

"Right."

"Caroline…." Buffy started.

"I just mean today is pretty much gonna be the worst day of my life. I'm not sure that I need to start it off by bonding with your husband. No offense, Damon."

"None taken." Damon said.

"Great. Thanks for the water."

As she walked out of the kitchen, Damon turned around and stopped her. "Hey, blondie. Today isn't the worst day of your life. Today and tomorrow, it's a cakewalk. And there will be people day in and day out like they're afraid to leave you alone. The worst day? That's next week when there's nothing but quiet. Just a heads-up."

"Appreciate the tip."

"Sure. Anytime."

Buffy watched Caroline walk out. "I feel like I need to be worried about her."

"She's the most in control person I've ever met. I think she'll be ok."

"I don't know. When my mom died…. I ignored all the pain and sadness…. I shut it all out the day of the funeral. I didn't have the ability to shut it off like she does."

"I don't think she'd ever turn her emotions off."

Buffy looked back at Damon. "I'm not so sure."

Everyone was gathered in the library except for Caroline. She was off somewhere in the house writing a large to-do list. Willow and Tara, and Alaric and Jo were going to meet them later that day. Tyler, Matt, Elena, Stefan, Buffy holding Hope, and Damon were scattered around the room.

"So, what now?" Matt asked.

"What do you mean?" Elena asked.

"What do we do now? We're all adults now. We don't have parents or guardians or family to shield us from everything like we did before."

"Now we deal with the funeral." Buffy said. "And we make sure we're there for Caroline every step of the way. And when that's over, we just need to help Caroline make it through the next day and the day after that and so on until it's easier for her."

"What was it like for you, Buffy?" Elena asked. "Afterwards?"

"Horrible. I had a little sister to look after. I didn't have any family to come help me out. My dad was MIA. All I had were my friends and they were just as lost as I was. But Caroline has all of us. And most of us know what it's like to lose our moms so young. So we need to each be her Giles."

"Her Giles?" Tyler asked.

"Giles was a huge help for me. He pretty much handled everything when I got overwhelmed. Which was most of the time."

"You've all asked what you can do to help." Caroline said, marching into the room with a determined look and a small pile of papers. "There are five day's worth of projects on here. We are going to do them in one. We can break the rules and cut through the red tape. I expect my mom to be properly celebrated and buried by the end of the day."

"Sure, Care." Matt said as Caroline handed out the to-do lists. "Whatever you need."

"Elena, you're coming with me."

"Where are we going?" Elena asked.

"Casket shopping. Let's move!" Caroline nodded and headed out of the room.

Everyone got up except Buffy and Damon and headed out to get working on their chores. Buffy stopped Elena as she walked by. "Elena, keep an eye on Caroline today?"

"Ok." Elena said.

"I'm worried about her. I'd go with you if Damon and I didn't have to watch Hope."

Elena nodded again. "You think she's going to do something crazy?"

"Just keep an eye on her."

"Ok." Elena headed out to catch up with Caroline.

Damon stood up. "I'm going to keep trying to write that eulogy. Let me know when Klaus gets here." He kissed Buffy quickly and walked out of the room.

Buffy sighed and looked down at Hope. "Do you want to go walk around the garden?" Hope made a happy gurgling sound. "I'll take that as a yes." She stood up and headed for the gardens. Hope seemed interested in all the flowers that were beginning to bloom early. She liked to reach out and touch them. It surprised Buffy that she never grabbed them. She just wanted to touch the flowers and plants.

They'd been exploring the garden for about twenty minutes when Buffy felt a presence behind her. She turned to find Elijah and Klaus standing near the gazebo. Emotions she'd been suppressing suddenly overwhelmed her. Klaus rushed over to her and wrapped his arms around her and Hope as Buffy began to cry. Elijah came over and took Hope in his arms and Klaus held Buffy tightly.

These two were the only people she would allow herself to lose it in front of. Damon needed her to keep it together so he could keep it together. Caroline needed a strong support to lean on. Hope didn't need to be scared or worried by Buffy's being upset. Everyone else looked up to her as a guiding force to get through this horrible time. Only Liz had seemed to understand how deeply the whole situation was affecting her.

"Shh," Klaus gently rubbed her back. He kissed the top of her head and waited until she began to compose herself.

"I'm sorry. I just…." Buffy took a deep breath. "I haven't had anyone to cry in front of and I saw you and…."

"It's all right, love. I understand." Klaus gently cupped her face with his hands and wiped away the tears with his thumbs. "I no longer need to ask you how you are."

"I'm horrible. Damon is barely keeping it together. He's trying to write Liz's eulogy and he's beating himself up about it. Caroline is handling this about as well as I did. And since I've been through this, everyone has been looking to me to tell them how to cope with Caroline. I haven't had a chance to let it out."

"When is the funeral?" Elijah asked.

"Today. Caroline's got everyone out there using their vamp powers to compel the largest, nicest, and fastest funeral possible."

"Has Hope given you too much trouble?"

"No. She's been perfect. She's helped keep me together when all I want to do is cry. Thank you for trusting me with her."

"She seems to have enjoyed her time with you." Klaus said, taking his daughter from Elijah.

"Yeah. We had fun together. Damon and I certainly enjoyed having her around."

"And Willow…." Elijah started.

"Has already put the strongest and most complicated cloaking spell she's ever done on her. Hope is safe. Any word from Finn?"

"None as of yet."

Buffy nodded. "Good. When this is all over and Caroline is starting to heal, we'll come down and help ward him off."

"You just concentrate on making sure you're healing." Klaus said. "I know losing the sheriff in such a similar fashion to your mother hasn't been good for you."

"No. It hasn't. I'm not sure which is worse…. Knowing your mother's death is coming and not being able to stop it or coming home one day and finding her lying on the couch and there's nothing you could do to save her."

"They're equally awful." Elijah said, kissing the side of her head.

Buffy nodded. "How's Rebekah?"

"She's coping with her new body." Klaus said. "And using her newfound powers to help Kol out."

"Kol?"

"Finn put a hex on him. He's dying."

"Sorry for not feeling any kind of sad for him."

"Don't apologize. You've got enough sadness already and you and Kol have never truly gotten along."

Buffy nodded. "There's no one home but Damon and I. Do you guys want to come in and get Hope's things?"

"Certainly. Lead the way."

As Elijah walked up beside Buffy, Hope leaned over and held out her arms to Buffy. She laughed and took Hope from Elijah. "She really likes you." He commented.

"I really like her, too." Buffy said, kissing Hope's head as she laid it down on Buffy's shoulder. "By the way, she's leaving with a lot more than she came with. Damon and I went shopping."

Klaus laughed and looked at his daughter. "Has your aunt Buffy been spoiling you, little one?"

"Uncle Damon has been the bigger pushover."

"Surprising."

"Isn't it?" They walked into the living room where there were toys sitting on a plush blanket. "Damon!"

A moment later Damon walked into the room with his suit's pants and his white button up shirt on. The shirt wasn't buttoned all the way. "Oh, is it time for her to leave already?"

"Sadly."

"I don't think I can take anymore sad today."

"You and me both."

Damon turned to Elijah and Klaus. "Welcome back to Mystic Falls."

"I'm very sorry for your loss." Elijah said. "I know you and the sheriff were close."

"Thanks."

"How's the speech coming?" Buffy asked, setting Hope down to play with her toys on her blanket.

"It's not. I will never be done with it. I am not a nice person and should not have to stand in front of the whole town and pretend to be a nice person. This is Liz having a last laugh from the great beyond."

Buffy shook her head and wrapped her arms around her husband's waist. "You are nice…." She looked up at him and added, "Ish."

"Not helping."

"May I offer some advice?" Klaus asked.

"I'll take anything at this point."

"Keep it simple. It isn't about you, Damon. And it isn't about Sheriff Forbes. It's about Caroline and what she needs to hear."

"That's…. actually really helpful." Damon nodded. "Thank you, Klaus."

"You're welcome. I don't want to keep you on a day such as this, so we should get my daughter packed up and headed home for her glorious return to her rightful place."

"Right." Buffy said.

"We may need to give her a suitcase for her toys and clothes that we bought." Damon said.

"I'll collect. You write." She headed upstairs to get a suitcase for everything.

Buffy looked down at her black dress and sighed. She was standing just inside the back door of the church where Liz's funeral was going to be trying to collect herself. Klaus and Elijah had taken off with Hope and left Buffy and Damon an invitation to Hayley's wedding. Buffy had cried a little while she got dressed, but she'd sucked it up when she'd heard Damon coming to finish getting dressed. This was not the time to lose it.

Elena walked up to her. "Buffy, have you seen Caroline?"

Buffy looked up. "No. What's up?"

"Uh, they're ready to go."

"Ok, I'll find her."

"Where's Hope?"

"Uh…. Her dad showed up today and picked her up."

"Oh. I'm sorry. I know you guys were enjoying having her around."

"Yeah."

"You ok?"

Buffy smiled. "Yeah. I'm ok." She patted Elena's cheek and headed off to find Caroline. It broke her heart when she did find Caroline. She was standing in the side room staring down at her mother's body. Buffy walked up to her and slipped her hand into hers. "Hey."

Caroline looked over at her gratefully. "Hey."

"You ok?"

"Yeah. Fine. All things…. considered."

Buffy nodded. "Ok, well they're ready to start. Do you need a minute?"

"No, I'm ok." She looked down at her mother's body. "I'm gonna be all right, mom. I promise. Everything will be fine after today. I'm ready." They started to head into the main area of the church. "Just…. Please don't leave me."

Buffy turned and hugged Caroline tightly. "I won't."

The two of them met Damon at the front pew and sat down. Six police officers wheeled Liz's casket into the chapel and set it down to rest at the head of the aisle. The pastor came out and took her place at the podium.

"We are here today to pay our tribute and our respect to a pillar of our community, our sister, our protector, Sheriff Elizabeth Forbes."

Caroline's hand tightened on Buffy's hand and Buffy squeezed back. The funeral began to go by in a haze as it blended with the words that Buffy had heard at her own mother's funeral. She couldn't stop the tears that began to form and slide down her cheeks. Damon's arm came around her shoulders and he kissed her temple.

A large group of officers walked up to honor their Sheriff. They placed an American flag over her casket and one of her deputies said into his radio, "Calling Sheriff Forbes. This is the last call for Sheriff Forbes. No response. Radio Number 2-6 is out of service after twelve years and four months of police service. Gone, but never forgotten. Center!"

The officers filed back to their seats and Damon stood up. He gave Buffy's free hand a squeeze and went up to the podium. "Liz Forbes was my friend. In her last moments, she asked my wife and I to pass along a message to her daughter, but I cut her off before she could say too much. I told her she could tell Caroline herself, but she didn't get that chance." Damon looked at Caroline. "Your mom wanted you to know how proud of you she was, and she should be. You're a beautiful, strong woman, a generous friend, and a bright light in a sea of dark. She said you were extraordinary, and you are, and so was she. Liz was a hero to this town. She was a hero to all of you. And she was a hero to me. Goodbye, Sheriff. You will be missed." He looked down for a moment before stepping away from the podium and going back to his seat.

Caroline squeezed Buffy's hand tightly and stood up. "Thank you all for coming. This is for my mom." She began to sing Go In Peace by Sam Baker.

Buffy stood with Caroline as she greeted the last person at the wake. They'd decided to hold the wake at the Mystic Grill after the funeral since it was large and had food. Caroline slumped slightly and let out a breath. "I'm exhausted."

"I can imagine." Buffy said. Caroline nodded and grabbed her coat. "You're leaving?"

"Yeah. I think I've done the whole funeral thing enough for one day."

"You want me to walk you home?"

"No, it's two blocks. I'll be fine."

"I don't think it's a good idea for you to be alone tonight."

"I think that's exactly what I need, actually." Caroline hugged her tightly. "Thank you for everything you did today, Buffy. I'll never forget it."

"You're welcome. Honestly, Caroline, I would feel much better if someone walked home with you. If not me, then Elena…."

"I'll be fine, Buffy. Ok? I just had to get through today."

Stefan and Elena walked up just as Caroline walked out of the Grill. "She's leaving?" Elena asked.

"Yeah. Actually, I'm really worried about her."

"She's been through a lot." Stefan said.

"I think she's planning to turn her emotions off."

"She wouldn't do that."

"I think she would. It's what I would've done if I'd had the ability when my mom died."

"I would've, too." Elena said. She reached over and grabbed her coat. "Ok. I'm going to go check on her. Make sure she doesn't do anything stupid." She headed out after Caroline.

"Maybe I should go, too."

"You need to go be with Damon. He's taking this whole thing hard, too." Buffy turned and looked up at her brother in law. "I'll check on them."

"Ok. Thanks. Where is Damon?"

"Last I saw, he was over at the bar."

"Ok."

Stefan placed his hand on Buffy's shoulder. "How are you holding up?"

"I'm fine."

"Come on, Buffy. You may still be getting over what I did when Damon was gone, but I do still know you pretty well. And you can still talk to me."

Buffy sighed. "If you know me so well, how do you think I'm doing?" Stefan held out his arms and Buffy relented, letting him hug her tightly. "I can't lose it. Not yet. Not until I know that Caroline is going to be ok and that Damon isn't going to go crazy with grief because you and I both know he doesn't handle it well."

"That's why you need to go be with him." Stefan kissed the top of her head. "I'll go keep an eye on Elena and Caroline."

"Thank you, Stefan. Not just for this, but for helping Caroline when I was busy."

"No problem. It's what family does."

Buffy gave Stefan one more squeeze and then walked off to find her husband. He was sitting at the bar nursing a bottle of bourbon he'd compelled from the bartender. She wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her chin down on her shoulder blade. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready to go home."

He shifted so he could put his arm around her shoulders. "Thank you!"

As they walked to their car, arms around each other, Buffy looked up at him. "You did good today, Damon. Liz would've been proud."

"You think?"

"Yeah. I really do. And it's because I'm proud of you."

Damon smiled and leaned down to kiss her. They were silent for most of the ride home. When they pulled into their long driveway, he looked over at her. "Hey."

"Hey back."

"How are you?"

Buffy looked over at him. "You sure you want to open that can of worms?"

"Is it a big one?"

"Little bit."

He nodded. "Let's wait until we get in the house, then. It's more comfortable in there."

"Thanks."

Damon parked the car and held the doors open for Buffy. Before he could ask her again if she was ok, she held up her hand and sniffed the air. "Pancakes?" She asked him.

He sniffed the air, too, and nodded. "Who the hell is making pancakes in our house at this hour?" They made their way into the kitchen where the table was set and two plates of pancakes were sitting there. And standing in front of the stove making another plate of pancakes was Bonnie. "Bonnie?"

"One and only." Bonnie said.

Damon opened his arms and Bonnie ran and jumped on him, hugging him tightly. "Oh, you made it!"

Bonnie climbed down and Buffy grabbed her into a tight hug. "Are we glad to see you!" Buffy said.

"What took you so long?" Damon asked, hugging both of the women.

"That is one hell of a story." Bonnie said. "Why are you guys in funeral clothes?"

Buffy and Damon glanced at each other and sighed. "That is one hell of a story." Damon said.

"Tell us yours." Buffy said, pulling Bonnie and Damon over to the table for pancakes. "We haven't eaten much today and I'm starving."

Bonnie nodded. She went over and finished the last plate of pancakes and set them on the table. As they dug in, she started telling them about getting the magic from Nova Scotia, the prison worlds shifting around her when she started the spell, and that she ended up in a prison world from 1903. Bonnie slid a picture frame over to Buffy and Damon.

Damon opened it and shook his head. It was a picture of himself and Stefan. "I don't get it. So you were in our house in a 1903 prison world."

"Watch this." Bonnie went to her bag and pulled out a video camera.

"Where did you get that?" Buffy asked. "I have the one from 1994. It came with us when we got pulled back."

"I know. I got a new one." Bonnie shrugged and sat down next to Damon. "I didn't know it was still on when I got pulled out." The video was like watching The Blair Witch Project as Bonnie ran and the camera bounced.

"Congratulations. You shot some walls." Damon said.

"Just wait."

"Who are you?" A woman's voice could be heard.

"Who are you?" Bonnie's voice said.

"Who is this?" Buffy asked.

"There. Stop."

Damon paused the video on the picture of a woman in late 1800s clothing and who looked a lot like Damon himself. "Oh, my god." He said.

"What?" Bonnie and Buffy asked.

"That's my mother."

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