The Next Chapter

Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Elena looked at Stefan through the bars of the door. "It's so hard to see him locked up like this."

"You're the one who locked him up." Damon said.

"You helped."

"I couldn't have him running around chewing on people while the town was looking for vampires, now, could I?"

"It had nothing to do with you actually caring about him?" Buffy countered.

He smirked. "Your thing, not mine." He walked away and Buffy decided to follow him.

"I heard him talking last night…. To you. But you weren't actually there."

"What was he saying?" Damon asked as they made it upstairs.

"He was asking you not to die." Damon nodded. "What was he talking about?"

Damon sat down and patted the seat next to him. Buffy sat down and turned to look at him. "When our kind of vampire is made…. There's a transition time. If we don't feed on human blood within a certain amount of time…. We just die. Again. I thought Katherine was dead and since I became a vampire to be with her…."

"You were just going to die." Damon nodded. "Then how did you…."

"Stefan. He forced a girl on me and…. Here I am." Damon reached over and grabbed the device that Pearl had given him. "And I still have this to figure out."

"Have you tried opening it?"

Just then, Elena walked in. She saw the device in Damon's hands. "Did you ever figure out what that is?"

"Nope. Whatever it is, it doesn't work." Damon said.

"Pearl didn't say anything else about it?"

"She thought she was stealing his vampire compass, but it was a pocket watch. That Johnathan Gilbert was a crazy scientist. Have you spoken to your uncle lately?"

"I've been avoiding him, actually. That and I've been here most nights."

"So, you'll be here again tonight?"

"Is that a problem?"

"Yes." Buffy said. "You're a complete nuisance. I don't even see my sister this often!"

Elena laughed. "See you later."

Damon looked over at Buffy as the door shut. "Hmm…. Alone at last." Buffy rolled her eyes, but allowed Damon to come in to kiss her. He smiled, but just as his lips met hers, the doorbell rang. "Who could that be?" Damon groaned, getting up. He answered the door and Buffy heard a familiar voice.

"Is this where Buffy Summers lives?"

Buffy's eyes widened and she let out a squeal. "Xander!" She bolted to the door and was on her friend, giving him a tight bear hug.

"Whoa, Buff! I kinda need to breathe!"

She gave him one more good squeeze and then let go. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I was passing through on my way to a job in Kentucky and Willow gave me your address. Thought I'd drop in."

Buffy's smile brightened and she hugged Xander again. "God, I've missed you!" Damon cleared his throat behind them. "Oh, Xander, this is Damon. Damon, this is my friend Xander."

"Hi." Damon said. "I'm going to go take Stefan some…. Food."

"Ok." Buffy watched him go before turning back to Xander. "How long are you in for?"

"Oh, just a day. I need to get back on the road by tonight." Xander looked after where the sulking Damon had disappeared. "Is this a bad time?"

"Uh…. Actually, yes, but you're more than welcome to stay and endure."

"Endure?"

"How much do you know?"

"Oh, just that you're living with two vampire brothers in a small town that's not on a Hellmouth, but has enough Hellmouth-y activity to compete with Detroit."

"Wow. You know a lot."

"Was that Damon one of them?"

"Yes. His brother's name is Stefan. He's…. downstairs."

"Say it like it's a bad thing, Buff."

"Well, it kinda is. He got a taste of human blood recently and it's…. done a number on him."

"Huh?"

"It's about as bad as a raging alcoholic who stopped drinking for about 20 years and then accidently got a hold of some rare, vintage scotch and downed it."

"Yikes."

"Big yikes. We've locked him up downstairs and made him go cold turkey."

"What? No patch?"

Buffy shrugged. "I wish."

Damon came back upstairs. "He won't eat. I just noticed…. What happened to your eye?"

"Tact, much?" Buffy shot at him. Damon shrugged. "The same thing that Pearl did to both of your eyes. Only Xander's human."

"Ouch. Sorry, man."

"Eh." Xander shrugged. "I'm over it. It's only a hassle when I have to renew my driver's license."

Damon's phone rang. "Hello?"

"Hey, it's Alaric Saltzman." Alaric said on the other end. Damon sat closer to Buffy so she could hear better.

"Before I hang up, how did you get this number?"

"Ah, it's a mystery. Listen, I've, uh, been doing some digging on Elena's uncle. You interested?"

"What kind of digging?""I've got an old friend from Duke who studied criminology when we were there together. Let's just say he's become a very proficient digger."

"Well, did he find anything by chance?"

"Well, I had him run a track on John's cell records. He was getting a call from a number…. The same number that Elena dialed to get Isobel. And then the number was disconnected. Isobel knows John."

"Whatever. We knew that."

"Right. Well, after that, he started getting calls from a new number. And I had my friend run a geotrack. Got the address. It's…. It's an apartment in Grove Hill."

"Isobel's in Grove Hill?"

"I don't know. I thought we could take a look and see what we find."

"Perfect. Give me the address."

"Oh, so you and Buffy can go without me? No. I don't think so."

"I'm not going with you. You tried to kill me."

"Yeah, well, you did kill me."

Buffy's phone rang just then. "Yes, Elena?" Buffy said.

"I'm just grabbing some clothes, and then I'll be right over. How's Stefan?"

"You drive. Pick us up in an hour." Damon said, hanging up.

"He won't eat anything." Buffy said to Elena.

"He has to eat. What's his favorite…. Kind of, um…."

"His favorite kind of what?" Damon asked, taking Buffy's phone and putting it on speaker.

"Type of animal blood that he prefers?"

"Ew. Gross."

"Your joking doesn't help.""Helps me. Now, hurry up. Buffy and I can't baby-sit all night. We have things to do."

"I would say, 'drop dead,' but…."

Damon laughed. "Stefan likes…. Puppy blood…. Little golden retriever puppies with cute, fluffy ears. That's his favorite."

"Oh, shut up!" Buffy said, taking her phone back. "Elena, ignore him. But definitely hurry back."

"Ok." Elena hung up.

Buffy looked at Damon. "So we're checking out this address where Isobel might be?"

"Alaric will be here in an hour."

"What am I missing?" Xander asked.

Elena had joined Damon, Buffy, and Xander in the library. "He's just being dramatic." Damon said to her. She'd gone down to talk to Stefan and he was now saying he wasn't going to eat because he wanted to die. "He's not gonna starve himself."

"Why would he say that?" Elena asked.

"He feels bad about hurting that girl." Buffy said.

"It's very typical Stefan martyr stuff. It'll pass." Damon said.

"Will it? Because he seemed to be in lot of pain." Elena said.

"Yeah. Well, that will pass, too, once he eats."

"I didn't mean physical pain."

"I know what you meant."

"Elena, are you going to be ok if we run out? We have to go on an errand with Alaric."

"Yeah. I'll be fine."

Damon helped Buffy into her coat. Before they left, he turned to Elena. "You should, um, you should stay up here. You shouldn't be down there by yourself."

"I'll be fine."

"You know…. You're very trusting of him, given the circumstances."

"So are you. Otherwise, you guys wouldn't be leaving."

"We won't be long." Buffy said. Outside, Xander headed for his car. "Wait, you're not going?"

"I can't, Buff. I've got to get to Kentucky." Xander said. He hugged her tightly. "Don't worry. I'm not disappearing forever. You're my best bud." He glanced up at Damon. "Buff, I see the way you two are looking at each other."

"What…."

"Just…. Be careful. We don't want a repeat of Angelus or Spike." He kissed her forehead. "See you later." Buffy waved slightly as he got in his car and drove off.

"What was that about?" Damon asked.

"He…. worries. My track record with…. Guys…. Well, it's not exactly a good one."

"Is he jealous?"

"He used to be. I don't think it's his excuse anymore."

"What is?"

"Are you guys coming?" Alaric called from his car.

Buffy, Damon, and Alaric walked up to a small house in a quiet neighborhood. "This is the one here." Alaric said. "The records show is was paid 3 months in advance."

"This is where it gets tricky." Damon said. "I may or may not be able to get in." He knocked on the front door.

"Yeah, how does that work? You always have to be invited in?"

"By the owner or the person of entitlement. Short-term rentals and hotels are a bit of a gray area. You kind of gotta play it by ear."

"Could we not kill anyone tonight, please?" Buffy asked.

"You mean, you guys just brought me along for my company?"

Buffy rolled her eyes and broke the lock on the doorknob. The door swung open and she and Alaric walked in. "It doesn't look like anyone's home." Buffy said.

Damon did a little kick over the threshold, then stepped in. "Yeah. I'm good. No permanent resident, apparently." They moved through the house all the way to the back in the kitchen.

Damon went to the refrigerator and checked the contents. Buffy's Slayer senses went off. "Guys, we have company."

A vampire jumped out of nowhere and onto Alaric. He punched the vampire in the gut with some spiked knuckles. The vamp went down, but didn't stay down. He started to attack again, but Buffy tackled the vampire to the ground. He rolled on top and went to bite her, but Damon grabbed him and pulled him off. "All right. That's enough." Damon paused. "I know you."

"Damon?" The vampire asked.

"Your name is Henry. You were in the tomb."

"Yes, sir. What are you doing here?"

"Looking for some answers." Damon sat down in one of the chairs at the table as Henry started pouring blood from a blood bag into two cups. "John Gilbert's been asking questions…."

"How do you know John Gilbert?"

"Well, I've known him for years. He's a good friend. How do you know him?"

"I met him right after I got out of the tomb. He's been helping me out."

"Helping you out how?" Buffy asked.

"Adapting. It's a whole new world…. Cars, computers, . There's so much to learn. He helped me get this place."

"So, do you live here alone or is there someone else here?" Alaric asked.

"That's my friend's very…. Passive-aggressive way of asking, uh, do you know a woman named Isobel?" Damon asked.

"Uh, no. No, I don't know an Isobel. I know John. He's my only real friend. He really showed me the ropes…. how to use a microwave, separate my whites."

"What else do you do for him?" Buffy asked.

"I help keep an eye on things…. You know, with the others."

"The others?""From the tomb. They're still pissed at the founding families for trying to burn them alive. I'm cool, but those tomb boys, they want revenge."

"What does John want with them?" Alaric asked.

"He's just keeping an eye on them, you know? Trying to make sure they stay out of trouble."

"Well, that's John." Damon said. "He's such a do-gooder."

Henry's cell phone went off. "That's John now."

"Oh. Hey, let me talk to him." Damon said. Henry handed him the phone. "All right."

"Yeah." Damon just held the phone and Henry started to get nervous. "Are you gonna answer that?"

"Am I gonna answer that?" Damon asked Buffy. She shook her head slightly.

"What's going on?"

Henry freaked and turned to attack Buffy standing right behind him. "Sorry pal." He looked down to find a stake in his heart. Buffy had barely even moved.

"'Let's not not kill anyone tonight.'" Damon mocked. Buffy shot a glare at him. "Your words. Just pointing that out."

"I'm going to go check the rest of the house out. See if he was lying about Isobel." Alaric said, walking away.

Buffy looked down at the body. "God, I really prefer it when they go poof." She turned to find Damon getting in the refrigerator. "What are you doing?"

"Here." He tossed her a beer.

"Thanks, but I don't need it." She tossed it back.

"Be that way." He made a face at her and she just shook her head and laughed.

Buffy leaned against the counter and watched Damon make himself a glass of blood from one of the blood bags. "Angel used to hate drinking in front of me."

"Why?"

"I don't know. I guess he felt…. Guilty or something for reminding me." She shook her head. "I never forgot, but I never cared really."

"And do you care about me reminding you?"

"Damon, I learned a long time ago to just accept. It doesn't bother me that you or Stefan or Angel drinks blood. It's part of what you are, but it's not who you are."

Damon was standing close enough to reach down and kiss her, but Alaric walked back in. "Find anything yet?" Damon asked.

"No, I looked everywhere. The place is…. The place is clean." Alaric said.

"Well, I found this." Damon tossed him the beer Buffy had turned down. "Behind the blood in the fridge."

"Oh, man, this was a real dead-end."

"I wouldn't beat myself up over it, man. What did you think you were gonna find, huh? Isobel with a cigar and slippers?"

"Oh, man. I…. I gotta stop this. I can't…. I can't keep searching for her."

"Really? After only 2 years? That's actually…."

"Moderately healthy." Buffy finished for Damon.

Alaric laughed and looked at Damon. "What are you going on? 146?"

"Well, I figure the 200 mark is probably a good stopping point." Damon said.

"I mean, no answer is enough. I keep thinking I wanna know why, when, you know, the precise moment. When my wife decided life with me wasn't enough."

"She charmed me, your wife Isobel. She talked a good game, man. She was smart. She had this excitement in her eyes. I probably should have known there was something different about her, some tie to Katherine. There had to be some reason I didn't kill her."

"That's enough, Damon." Buffy warned.

Alaric looked at her gratefully. "I just don't want to waste any more of my life searching for answers that I really don't want. I'm through with Isobel. I…. I'm done with all of this. Yeah." Alaric got up and walked off.

Buffy and Damon walked into the library to find Elena writing in her journal. "Ugh. God. You're still here?" Damon said.

"Were you expecting anything else?"

"No."

"Hey Buffy." Elena said as the blonde sat down next to her. "How was the errand?"

"Pointless." Buffy said.

"Although, I think we witnessed the teacher having an existential crisis." Damon added as he sat down next to Buffy and tossed an arm behind her on the back of the couch.

Buffy rolled her eyes at him. "Has Stefan eaten yet?"

"I think he's getting there. But he's got a lot of guilt that he has to deal with." Elena looked at Damon. "And it doesn't help that you've spent the last 145 years punishing him for Katherine getting caught."

"This is my fault now?" Damon asked.

"No, it's no one's fault, Damon. I'm just saying you're not exactly innocent. You've made it your life's mission to make him miserable."

"Let me ask you a question. In all this important soul-searching and cleansing of the demons of Stefan's past, did you ever manage to get the rest of the story?"

"He said there was more."

"Yeah. That's an understatement." He started to leave.

"Damon…." Elena got up and grabbed his arm. "Damon. Tell me." Damon looked at Buffy as if for permission, but the blonde was staring at the fire.

"I had planned to die instead of become a vampire, but my little brother…. He had other plans. He brought me a girl and he tried to get me to feed off her…. But I wouldn't. So he bit into her neck and when the blood started dripping out…. I couldn't resist it. He wasn't the Stefan you know. From the moment Stefan had his first taste of human blood, he was a different person. I suppose I should thank him. It's been a hell of a ride."

"Oh, my god. He said he wanted to die. That's why he won't feed. Now I understand why, but…."

"His choice. If he's stupid enough to make it, so be it."

"Don't do that." Buffy said. "Don't pretend like you don't care." Damon glared at her and Elena walked out.

"I don't care." Damon argued.

"Don't lie either."

He was suddenly in front of her. "This is who am I."

"Is it?" Buffy shook her head. "Since I've been here, I've seen about three or four different Damons and I'm pretty sure I know who you are."

"Oh really?"

"You're not so different from the human Damon I've heard about. You've just buried him deep enough he's hard to see. But I have a gift for seeing people for who they really are. Maybe it's a Slayer thing, but…." She stood up and was barely an inch from him. "I've got you pegged, Damon Salvatore."

He couldn't resist. His lips found hers and he crushed her against him. She pulled him backwards towards the floor in front of the fireplace and before they landed, she flipped and ended up on top, pinning him to the ground and searching for the hem of his sweater. When she couldn't find it, she just ripped it down the middle to expose his chest.

Buffy and Damon sat on the couch facing the fire in the library. He was shirtless since Buffy had ripped off his shirt. They stared into the flames and just sat quietly, Buffy's legs resting in his lap. He wouldn't admit it out loud, but he had never felt more comfortable with another person than he did at this moment. Not even with Katherine.

Elena walked in with Stefan in tow. "I'll be upstairs, ok?" Elena said.

"Ok." Stefan nodded.

"Good night, Damon. Good night, Buffy." The teenager headed upstairs.

"Thank you. Both of you." Stefan said.

"No, Stefan, thank you." Damon said. "You're back on Bambi blood, and I'm the big badass brother again. All is right in the world."

"I mean it. Thank you…. For helping her take care of me."

"You brood too much. Everything on this planet is not your fault. My actions, what I do, it's not your fault. I own them. They belong to me. You are not allowed to feel my guilt."

"Do you feel guilt?"

"If I wanted to, it's there. Emily waited till after I turned to tell me she'd been successful in protecting Katherine with her spell. She didn't want me to know about the tomb. She thought it would impact my decision."

"She didn't want either one of us to turn. She said it was a curse."

"Witches…. Judgy little things."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Cause I didn't want you to know. Cause I hated you, and I still do." Buffy kicked Damon's leg. "Ow!"

Stefan laughed slightly. "I know."

"But not because you forced me to turn."

"Then why?"

"Because she turned you. It was just supposed to be me, Stefan…. Just me."

"Sibling rivalry." Buffy rolled her eyes. "I am so glad my sister and I are girls. Boys are way too complicated." She stood up and hugged Stefan. "I'm glad you're better and so is Damon."

"Thank you."

"I'm going to bed." She kissed Stefan's cheek and walked upstairs. She had just turned out the lights when Damon wandered in.

"I think you may have actually left a bruise on my leg." He said, sliding into bed behind her. "Maybe you should kiss that and see if your super Slayer powers will heal it." Buffy turned and looked at Damon just before his lips found hers.

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