The Next Chapter

Chapter 20

Chapter 20

Buffy walked through the park and admired the picnic going on around her. Damon had promised to meet her there since she'd woken up and gotten ready first. Somewhere off to Buffy's left, Carol Lockwood was doing a speech.

"You look bored." Stefan said, suddenly standing beside her.

Buffy shrugged. "Yeah. Picnics don't excite me.""Where's Damon?"

"He was still asleep when I left about 30 minutes ago. I managed to get a 'meet you there' before he completely passed out again." Buffy sighed. "I also wanted to get a head start here and talk with Mason."

"Great minds think alike."

"You too?"

"I don't want a feud. I'm just going to get dragged into it and so are you."

"Yeah. With Katherine running amok and wreaking havoc, we just don't have time for feuds. Have you seen him?"

"I saw him earlier moving boxes for Carol. He's probably still over there. Come on." Stefan led the way and sure enough, Mason was still removing boxes from his trunk.

"Stefan right?" Mason said when Stefan and Buffy approached. "The other Salvatore."

"The nice one." Buffy said.

"The one offering an apology." Stefan added.

"Not interested." Mason said.

"Mason…. Look, Damon acted impulsively." Buffy said.

"You think?""If you and Damon keep at each other throats, somebody innocent is going to get hurt and we don't want that. You have family here so we can imagine you don't want that either. You said so yourself. So can we just quit the whole alpha male fighting thing and call a truce?"

"I made that same offer to your boyfriend. He turned it down with a knife."

"He made a mistake." Stefan said. "We're here to make sure neither of you make another one."

"Tell Damon to watch his back." Mason started to move off, but Buffy caught his arm.

She didn't let him budge an inch as she pulled him closer and said, "Ok, considering that you can only worry about that during a full moon? I think it would be wise to remember what I told you. You're not as strong as I am. And when you're not a wolf, you're not as strong as Damon or Stefan. You would've killed Damon by now."

"Don't threaten me." Mason said.

"I'm not threatening you, Mason. I'm just reminding you that it's only one of you. There's two of them and then there's me. I may be smaller than you, but I can rip you to shreds before you could even think about what was happening to you. I think you're the only one that needs to watch his back."

Mason considered what Buffy was saying. "If he comes at me…."

"He won't. Stefan and I will make sure of that."

Mason looked at her for a moment and then shook her hand before walking off. Buffy turned and saw Damon walking up. He smiled at her and kissed her before asking, "What are you two doing?"

Buffy slipped her arms around his waist. "Negotiating peace on your behalf."

"I don't want peace."

"Consider it opposite day." Stefan said.

"Please tell me you two don't seriously think a hand shake just solved our problem?"

"No actually." Buffy said. "I think that the first chance Mason Lockwood gets, he's going to try and drive a stake through your heart. And then through Stefan's because you took it upon yourself to try to kill him."

"As if we don't have enough problems." Stefan walked off.

Damon looked down at Buffy. "I liked your little threat. It was sexy."

Buffy shook her head. "If anybody gets to kill you, it's gonna be me."

"I'm touched." Damon slipped his hand into hers and began to walk. "So, a picnic…. Whatever shall we do?"

"Don't know. I've never really been on a picnic." Buffy paused. "Ok, I have, but it was in a graveyard with my creature of the night boyfriend and it was interrupted by attacking vampires. I was 16."

"Well, let's try to make this one better, shall we?"

"I think we're supposed to be volunteering."

Damon smirked. "So let's volunteer to clean the woods and then do something nasty. I know some old ruins nearby."

Buffy rolled her eyes and spotted Mason talking with Liz. "Oh, that can't be good." She pointed and Damon looked over. "I can't hear them. There's too much background noise."

"I can't either." Damon shook his head. "We should get closer."

"Leave it. Please? If he's trying anything, Liz will show her hand. She gets nervous around real vampires, so if she knows, she's going to act funny."

"I picked a smart one."

Buffy shrugged. "I'm not smart. Just experienced."

"You're plenty smart. And plenty experienced. And you've got a surplus of gorgeous. And why am I even telling you these things?"

She smiled up at him. "Because every girl likes to be reassured by their vampire boyfriend who's seen them all."

He kissed her. "And you beat them all out."

"Good answer."

"Come on. Let's go talk to Liz." They walked over to the food table where Liz was gathering a plate of food. "Hey, I saw you with Mason earlier. What was that about?"

"I just asked him to help with the cleanup in the woods." Liz said.

"That's what we're here for. Put us to work. Should we go help him?"

"Oh no. You know, he's…. I'm sure he's fine."

"Are you ok, Liz?" Buffy asked. "You seem really upset."

"It's Caroline. We had a moment."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"No. Thank you. It's just the horrible parental skills paying off in spades." Liz walked off in a rush.

Buffy looked up at Damon. "She knows."

Damon sighed. "Damn. I really do like her, too."

"We're not going to kill her. We're going to figure out a way to make it right."

"I could compel her and beat the crap out of Mason."

"There are more subtle ways than beating the crap out of someone." Buffy spotted Elena with Caroline and started for them. "For right now, we're going to look normal. Hey girls."

"Hey Buffy." Caroline said. Elena walked off to talk to Stefan. She'd been staring at him for a minute before Buffy and Damon had approached.

"What's her problem?" Damon asked.

"Don't worry about it." Caroline said.

"Caroline, what's going on between you and your mom?" Buffy asked.

"Don't worry about it."

"Do you still care about Katherine?" Elena asked Stefan directly.

"Don't be like this." Stefan said. "Please don't turn this into something that it's not."

"So this is not for discussion. That's what you're saying?"

"No. I'm saying that is enough for discussion right now because we have ears on us." Stefan looked over at Buffy, Damon, and Caroline who turned away and pretended that they weren't listening.

"Ok, when?"

"I don't know."

"I saw her Stefan. It's like we're the same person. How could you hate her and be in love with me?"

"You're reaching. I'm not…. I'm not Damon."

"How about we don't bring Damon into this right now?""You know, I can't…. I can't do this anymore, Elena."

"Fine, Stefan. Whatever." Elena walked off.

"Relationships are about communication." Damon said. Caroline left and Buffy shook her head at Damon.

"They're not really fighting." Buffy said.

"How can you tell?"

"I've been in love before and I've had to…. Pretend bad things with him before. They're acting."

"Oh, look! Mason." Damon walked over to where Mason was drinking lemonade.

"Damon!" Buffy looked at Stefan for some backup and they turned and headed after Damon.

"Hello, Mason. Working hard?""Doing my part." Mason retorted.

"I heard you talked to my girl and Stefan."

"Nice guy."

"Yeah, a lot nicer than me."

"Niceness is overrated."

"That's what I think."

"You have a good day, Damon." Mason walked off.

"Please tell me that you were just bonding." Stefan said when he and Buffy walked up.

"So what's up this faux drama in your relationship?" Damon asked.

"What are you talking about?"

"Oh come on, Stefan. You and Elena don't fight, especially not over me."

"Drop it, Damon."

"With pleasure." Damon turned and the little girl handing out lemonade smiled up at him.

"Would you like some lemonade?" She asked.

"Thank you sweetie." Damon took the cup and drank the lemonade. He suddenly spit it out and collapsed onto a bench.

"Damon!" Buffy dropped down in front of him. "What's wrong?"

"Vervain! Vervain!" Damon gasped.

Buffy closed her eyes and shook her head. "He spiked it. Mason spiked the lemonade with vervain to prove to Liz he's right."

"What?" Stefan asked.

"Liz knows about you two. Mason told her." Buffy got up, pulling Damon with her, and got him a bottle of water. "Drink this." Buffy handed the bottle to Damon and he went over to the railing of the gazebo and gargled the water before spitting it out.

"I'm gonna kill him." Damon growled.

Buffy and Stefan blocked him. "Listen!" Stefan said. "Sit! Sit!"

"I'm not listening to anymore of your 'give peace a chance' crap. He's dead!" Damon tried to get up, but Buffy just shoved him down one handed and pinned him to his seat.

"Ok." Buffy sighed. "I don't like it but he's making open threats now. He could expose you and Stefan to everyone else. We need to put him down."

"All right. Let's do it."

Buffy looked around and spotted Mason. "There. The woods. He's on trash duty. Let's help him." She led the way and the three of them spread out to form a triangle around Mason.

"Don't look so surprised." Damon said. "You knew this was inevitable. Go ahead. Run. We'll give you a head start." Mason bent down and Buffy was the first one shot. She looked down in shock at her stomach as the blood blossomed on her shirt. Damon was suddenly at her side, but more shots rang out and both Damon and Stefan were shot down. Liz and some of her deputies arrived with their guns pointed. "Thank you, Mason." She injected Damon and Stefan with vervain and Buffy with a sedative. The world went dark.

Liz, Mason, and the deputies carried Buffy, Damon, and Stefan down into the Lockwood's old estate ruins. "It's down the stairs to the left." Mason directed.

"Careful." Liz said. "The wooden bullets and the vervain won't keep them down for long. And I'm not sure how long that sedative will work on her. What is this place?"

"Old slave quarters from the original Lockwood house." The deputies and Mason dropped Buffy, Damon, and Stefan on the floor of an old cellar.

"Thank you, Mason. I appreciate all you've done. We've got it from here."

"You're gonna kill them right?"

"Yes. That's why you should go. Here it's the Council, not the law. You can't be a party to this. It's for your own protection."

"Liz, I don't care about…."

"I do and I'm not asking. Goodbye Mason."

"Don't take any chances." Mason turned and walked out.

A minute later, Damon woke up and Liz shot him in the leg. His screams brought Buffy around and she rolled her head over to look at him. "This is how it's gonna work." Liz said to Damon. "Answer me and you don't get shot, understand? How many of you are there?"

"Please…. Please…." Damon tried. She shot him again and he screamed. Buffy fought the drug and the pain in her stomach and tried to gain control over her limbs.

"How did you fool us? How do you walk in the sun?" He didn't answer and she shot Stefan in the chest. "I will drag this out painfully."

"But you're my friend…."

"Our friendship was a lie. Answer me and I'll kill you fast." Damon stopped caring about Liz and reached out towards Buffy. "He's not going to tell us anything. Kill them both. Let's do this. Each with a stake in the heart, then burn them both. I'll deal with her last." A gate somewhere in the cellar creaked. "Check it out." One of the deputies went to check out the creak and Elena hit him with a plank of wood and then ran into the cell. "Elena! What are you doing?"

"You can't kill them." Elena said. "I'm not gonna let you." The deputy Elena had hit came up behind Elena and pushed her into the cellar. All guns were on her now. Buffy groaned and rolled over, holding her stomach. The door to the cellar slammed shut.

"What was that?" A deputy asked.

"Who else is with you?" Liz asked Elena. Buffy knew it was Caroline. She moved fast around the cellar, distracting the deputies and her mother, and then jumped on one of the deputies and sank her teeth in. The other deputy began firing and Caroline jumped behind the deputy she was holding. The gunshots killed him. Caroline moved in front of the shooting deputy and backhanded him. He fell into her and she shoved him down next to Buffy who bashed him on the back of the head, knocking him out cold.

Caroline moved out of the shadows, blood covering her mouth and her face was changed. "Hi mom."

Liz looked like she was about to faint or throw up or all of the above. She sat down on a rock and Caroline moved over to guard her. Buffy crawled painfully over to Damon and Stefan. Elena moved over to help her and then over to Stefan when he started to wake up.

"You need to feed." Buffy said, nodding at the unconscious deputy. Damon nodded and moved over to the deputy's neck. Buffy turned to Stefan. "You need to drink some deputy blood."'

"No. I'm gonna be fine. It's gonna take a little bit longer." Stefan said.

"Buffy's right you know." Caroline said. "If it's ever time to break your diet…."

"He said he didn't want it, ok?" Elena snapped.

Damon rolled his eyes and helped Buffy sit up. "Are you ok? Let me see." He checked out her stomach and back. "It went all the way through and missed the major organs, but it's already healing up." He brushed the hair out of her eyes and looked desperately in her eyes to make sure she wasn't going to die. "Are you ok?"

Buffy nodded. "I'll live."

"This is a most unfortunate situation." Damon said, getting to his feet. "Two deputies dead and you…." He looked at Liz as he helped Buffy to her feet. "You shot my girlfriend…. Who's not a vampire, by the way. What am I gonna do with you?"

"You won't tell anyone, will you?" Caroline begged. "Mom? Mom? Please. Look, I know that we don't get along and that you hate me but I'm your daughter and you'll do this for me, right? Mom, please. He will kill you."

"Then kill me." Liz said.

"No!"

"I can't take this. Kill me now."Damon moved over to Liz and bent down. "But you were gonna drag it out so painfully." He grabbed Liz up suddenly.

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no!" Caroline screamed.

"Damon, don't!" Buffy cried, wincing in pain at her sudden movement.

"Relax guys. No one is killing anybody." Damon said. He looked at Liz. "You're my friend." He looked at the deputies and sighed. "We gotta clean this up."

Buffy sat on her bed and allowed Stefan to finish bandaging her stomach up. "Thank you." She said.

"You're welcome." Stefan said. "Are you ok?"

"Yeah. It's mostly healed now. The older I get, the faster I heal. Thank god." She dropped her t-shirt down over her stomach. "And speaking of…."

"Don't."

"Stefan…. You need to learn to control it. Drinking human blood is the only way you're going to bounce back from things like tonight."

"I don't know how."

"Didn't you say that Katherine is immune to vervain now because she ingested a little every day? Well…. Apply that to blood. You don't have to tap a vein in someone. You can drink out of the blood bags downstairs." She stood up. "Think about it, ok? I was worried about you tonight." Buffy walked out and headed down to the cellar where Liz was on the phone. She moved over to Damon and he wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders.

"A stomach bug." Liz was saying. "Yeah, it came on fast. I'll definitely be out tomorrow." Damon made a noise to get her attention. "Or longer. I'll text you. Yeah. Good night." She hung up and gave the phone to Damon.

"Thank you." Damon said. "It's not exactly the Ritz, but it's secure. I brought a good thread count…. And once the vervain is worked out of your system, I will compel you, you will forget everything, and you will be a free woman." Caroline was at the door with a suitcase for her mother.

"Can you keep Caroline far away from me please?" Liz asked. "I don't want to see her."

"She's your daughter, Liz." Buffy said, glancing at Caroline.

"Not anymore. My daughter's gone."

Buffy walked over in front of Liz and carefully squatted down in front of her. "You really have no idea how wrong you are about that. And just so you know, she didn't ask for that to happen to her. She's suffering too." Damon helped Buffy up. "Think about that, ok? A daughter needs her mother. I'd give anything to have mine back. Even as a vampire."

Buffy laid on Damon's chest and sighed as he played with her hair. "Is what you said down there true?" He asked quietly.

"What?" Buffy asked, looking up at him.

"About your mother?"

"Yes. My dad may be a total flake, but my mom…. She made up for it. She made everything better. She was the strong one."

Damon stroked her cheek. "You're strong."

Buffy sighed. "What are we going to do about Mason?"

"Kill him before he kills us." Damon sighed. "How's your stomach?"

"Healing." Buffy gently fingered the bandages around her abdomen. "It'll be better by tomorrow."

"Good. This 'no vigorous activity' is a real bitch."

She laughed. "Well if that's all you want me for, then I'm going back to my room."

Damon pulled her back to him. "Shut up." He kissed her and then wrapped her in his arms as they drifted off to sleep.

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