The Next Chapter

Chapter 23

Chapter 23

Buffy sat on Caroline's bed watching her move around her room getting ready for school. The blonde vampire had called Buffy about what had happened with Tyler. Damon was standing in the doorway. He and Buffy had been on the way to a hardware store to find some shelves to store her weapons on in the room they were starting work on to turn into a training room.

"So Sarah attacks Tyler and he pushed her away and she tripped and she fell and she hit her head." Caroline said.

"Does Matt remember anything?" Buffy asked.

"He thinks he blacked out but I think they were both compelled by Katherine. That's why I covered for Tyler and said it was an accident."

"Yeah, I don't understand that." Damon said. "The guy is a tool."

"Well gee…. duh. Tyler getting blamed for Sarah's death just opens up questions that I can't answer and do you really think that's a good idea for him to tell his mom he's a werewolf?"

"Well, no."

"And that werewolf road leads straight to Vampire Boulevard! I thought I was thinking fast on my feet."

"Where is your mom?" Buffy asked.

"Leading the search party for Aimee Bradley. They haven't found her body yet."

"Ah, teens today and their underage drinking." Damon said. "Tragic. Wait, did you see Tyler's eyes turn yellow?"

"They were more gold with amber highlights."

"Hmm…."

"Can he turn into a wolf now?"

"Only on a full moon." Buffy said. "But now he has crazy strength and who knows what else. I wonder how much Mason told him. Does he know about Damon and Stefan?" Caroline didn't answer. She was texting.

"Hey! What did you tell him?" Damon demanded.

"Nothing, really." Caroline insisted. "I don't think he knows much of anything. He seemed really freaked out and honestly, I felt kind of bad for him." She left her room and went towards the front door.

"He's got to know something."

"All right, I'll ask him."

Damon rushed over to her and caught her by the collar. "No, you won't, Caroline! He cannot know about us. The bite from a werewolf can kill a vampire so don't be his friend! Do you understand me?"

"I understand. I'm late for school."

"Right." Damon opened the door for the girls. "If you want to drop the hints to your mom…. Aimee's body is at the bottom of the ravine with a cracked spine. Might save your mom some time."

Buffy's phone went off and she looked. It was a disturbing text message from Stefan. "Damon, we need to meet Stefan at the school."

"What's going on?" Damon asked.

"Elena's missing."

Buffy, Stefan, and Damon were outside the school. "This has Katherine written all over it." Stefan insisted.

"Katherine's in the tomb." Buffy said.

"Trust me. I'm the one who shut her in." Damon said.

"Did you?"

"Did I what, Stefan?"

"Well, I know the hold that Katherine has on you."

"She's in the tomb." Buffy said, splitting the brothers up. "End of story. But she did say something to us right before Damon shut her in. We both thought she was lying."

"What did she say?"

"Elena's in danger."

"What? And you guys didn't think you should ask her to elaborate?"

"Everything she says is a lie." Damon insisted. "How are we supposed to know she was going to start spouting out the truth?"

"We have to go talk to her."

"No, no. Let me tell you how that's gonna go. We're gonna go ask her for help, she's gonna negotiate her release which we're gonna be dumb enough to let her and she's gonna get out and kill us! This is exactly what she wants!"

"I don't really care.""It's a bad idea, Stefan." Buffy said.

"It's Elena."

"I know that! I care about her, too, remember?" Buffy grabbed his arm and stopped him. "Hey! Look, Willow is still here. We can find her without getting anywhere near Katherine."

"Are you sure?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I'm sure she's gonna turn you into a toad when she finds out you're second guessing her abilities."

Willow, Buffy, Damon, Bonnie, and Jeremy were convened in Alaric's classroom. Willow had a map on one of the desks. "How does this work?" Jeremy asked.

"Well, blood magic is a lot more powerful." Willow said. "I'm going to use your blood to draw the energy for the tracking spell. Since you're related by blood, it'll make the connection stronger."

Stefan walked in. "Alaric said we've got to clear out of here within 10 minutes."

Willow took Jeremy's hand. "Are you ready?" He nodded and Willow cut into his palm. "Hold the blood drips over Mystic Falls." Jeremy did as he was told and his blood fell onto the map over Mystic Falls. Willow touched the map and it started to glow. The blood drops merged into one and went toward Elena's location. It was right next to a place called Reidsville, North Carolina. "She's there."

"That's 300 miles away." Jeremy said.

"We need a more exact location than that." Stefan complained.

"That's the closest the spell will get. There's some kind of cloak around the place." Willow said.

"How can you tell?" Buffy asked.

"I can feel that spell."

"It's ok. We can map it." Jeremy said. Aerial view will show us what's around there…. Help us narrow down the area."

"Perfect." Buffy said. "Come on guys. Jeremy, call me with whatever you find."

"No, no, I'm coming with you!"

"No Jeremy, you're not."

"No! I'm not gonna just sit here. What if she's hurt? Or worse? What if she's…."

Buffy placed her hands on Jeremy's shoulders. "She's not. Willow, take Jeremy back to his house just in case. I'll call you guys the minute we find her."

Buffy was stretched out in the backseat of Damon's car while Stefan rode shotgun and Damon drove. They'd been in the car for a couple of hours. "Buffy, you sure do like your weapons." Stefan joked.

Buffy shrugged. "A Slayer's best friend. Check this out." She handed Stefan a little bottle with vervain water in it.

"What the hell is that?" Damon asked.

"It's like a grenade, but it's a vervain bomb…. Or a holy water bomb…. Or a holy vervain water bomb. Xander made it for me."

Damon eyed it again. "Weird."

"I think it's pretty cool." Stefan said, handing the little bomb back to Buffy. "How much further is it?"

"About 80 miles." Damon said.

"Who do you think took her?" Buffy asked.

"Someone from Katherine's past. She said she was running from someone. They picked out the wrong girl."

"Thank you guys for helping me." Stefan said.

"Can we not do the whole road trip bonding thing?" Damon said. "The cliché of it all makes me itch."

"Oh, come on Damon. We both know that you being in this car has absolutely nothing to do with me anyway." Stefan glanced back at Buffy and she sat up, leaning between the front seats.

"Keep it up, Stefan." Damon said. "I can step out of helping as easily as I stepped in."

Buffy smiled and scooted behind Damon, wrapping her arms around him and his seat. "No you can't." She kissed his cheek and smiled at Stefan.

Stefan laughed. "Admit it. You're here because, like your girlfriend, Elena has become something more to you."

"Shut up." Damon said. Buffy squeezed harder. "Ow! Strength."

"I know how much I'm applying." Buffy said playfully. "Would you just admit that you like Elena? And you like your brother."

"I can easily not like you." Damon reached behind him and poked her in the side.

"That's not true and you know it. I've grown on you just like you've grown on me."

"Like a fungus!"

Buffy laughed. "Something like that." Damon smiled. He couldn't help himself. When he noticed Stefan staring at him with a smirk, he stopped smiling. "Would you sit back? If I wreck this car, you'll go through the windshield."

"Oh dear! How will my little immortal self ever survive that?" She smiled brightly as Stefan laughed and sat back. "Is this better?"

"Thank you."

Buffy's cell went off. "Wow! I get service in the middle of nowhere. Awesome." She checked the text message. "Willow says Bonnie just sent Elena a message to let her know we're coming."

"Magically?" Stefan asked.

"How else would two witches do it?" Damon started to say something smart, but Buffy clapped a hand around his mouth. "Shush."

"We're getting close." Stefan said about an hour later. "Jeremy said there was an access road just past mile marker 6."

Damon reached behind him, purposely grazing Buffy's leg, and grabbed a blood bag from the cooler. Stefan looked at him as he sipped it. "If you want some, just ask."

"I want some."

"Ah, it's so sweet. You're gonna be all big and strong and save your girl but don't worry, I've got your back. It'll be fine."

"I'm not joking. I've been drinking a little every day. I'm slowly increasing my intake and building up my strength."

Damon looked impressed and handed Stefan the blood bag. "Does Elena know you're drinking blood?"

"I've been drinking hers."

"Hmm, how romantic." Damon looked at Buffy in the rearview mirror. "How come you don't do things like that for me?"

"Because my blood isn't just regular blood." Buffy said. "It's kinda like a power trip for vampires. Angel described it to me once a long time ago."

"What do you mean?" Stefan asked. Buffy took out a knife and poked her finger. The smell of the blood hit the two vampires and their mouths started watering and their eyes began to change. "That smells…."

"Yeah. So…. I hoard my blood. It's nothing personal, Damon, I just…. Well, I don't trust any vampire with my blood." She touched the scar on her neck automatically.

"Did you trust him?" Stefan asked, noticing Buffy's little move.

"Yes. And it nearly killed me."

"I thought Slayers don't scar."

Buffy looked down at her hands, uncomfortable talking about that night and her scar. Especially in front of her current. "He marked me. I…. I didn't know it at the time…. Or for a few months after, but eventually Spike explained it to me. Angel says he did it to protect me."

"From what?"

"Other vampires. He said that no other vampire was ever supposed to touch me again…." Buffy cleared her throat. "In any way." She added quietly. Stefan glanced at Damon. "Yeah…. I got really pissed off at that. I don't take very kindly to my exes dictating my love life. Or anyone else for that matter." Damon smiled slightly.

"Have you talked to him since you moved here?"

Buffy shook her head. "I rarely ever talk to him. It's a can of worms that I'm leaving on the shelf to collect dust. There's mile marker 6."

Damon turned off on the access road and parked about a mile in. Stefan got out and went to the trunk as Damon helped Buffy out of the back. "The house should be behind those trees." Damon said.

Buffy caught up with Stefan, blocking his path. "You're not going in alone. I've got a lot more experience than you do with those sorts of things."

"What is your point?" Stefan asked.

"My point is: whoever has Elena is probably who was after Katherine in 1864…. and before that. So it kinda puts them at 500 years old and strong. Which means I'm the better chance here. Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yeah, I'm certain I want to do it. You're not going in without me."

"If you go in that house, you may not come back out."

"All right, then I won't come out."

"So noble, Stefan." Damon said.

"I can't think of a better reason to die but if you want to stay here, Damon, I totally understand." Stefan turned and left.

Buffy waited on the front porch while Stefan and Damon went inside. They'd heard only two other voices besides Elena's. "What is that?" She heard the male voice say.

"I don't know." Said the British female. Her voice sounded familiar.

"Who else is in this house?"

"I don't know."

Buffy heard the movements and then they were in the foyer in front of the front door. She heard Stefan and Damon moving fast around them with their super speed. "Rose." The male voice warned. Buffy was confused because there was no way this was the Rose that Lexi had introduced to her.

"I don't know who it is." Rose said.

"Up here." Stefan called.

"Down here." Damon called.

There were some more noises and then silence as the male walked around the foyer. "Excuse me." He called. "To who it may concern, you're making a great mistake if you think that you can beat me. You can't. Do you hear that? I repeat, you cannot beat me. So I want the girl. I'm gonna count to three or heads will roll. Do we understand each other?" Buffy decided that was her cue and kicked the doors open. The male turned to look at her. She noticed that he didn't flinch from the sun. "Who are you?"

"The Slayer." Buffy said. "Who are you?"

"I am Elijah."

"How very Madonna of you. What do you want with Elena?"

"That's none of your concern little girl. You have no business here."

"Oh, but I do." Buffy was suddenly standing behind Elijah. She shoved him forwards, but he turned fast and threw out his hand. He connected with her sternum and she heard it crack as she went flying up the stairs. She landed hard on the stairs, feeling some ribs crack with the wood beneath her.

Elijah came and grabbed her by the throat. "You have power." He smelled her hair. "You're the Slayer I've heard tell about. Pity I'll have to kill you for interfering."

"You can try." Buffy kicked out and sent Elijah back down the stairs. His grip didn't loosen, so Buffy ended up tumbling with him down the stairs. They rolled to a stop and that's when his grip loosened enough that she could scramble away. He was on her in a heartbeat and she felt blood trickle down her cheek as he backhanded her across the room.

Elena appeared at the top of the stairs. "I'll come with you but just please don't hurt my friends anymore. They just wanted to help me out."

Elijah went up the stairs with his super speed, a very large stake in his hand. "What game are you playing with me?" Elena threw the vervain bomb in his face and it exploded. His skin burned but he healed immediately. He went towards Elena but Stefan arrived and shot him with the compressed air stake launcher that Buffy had borrowed from Alaric. It didn't hurt Elijah at all.

Stefan was going to die when Elijah got his hands on him, so Buffy threw herself up the stairs and grabbed Elijah. She kicked him forward and he broke through the banister and fell down to the foyer floor. Buffy jumped on top of him, but he kicked her away. She landed hard and skidded to a painful stop against the wall by the front doors. Elijah got up immediately but Buffy stayed on the floor. He went towards Buffy but Damon arrived with a massive stake and shoved it through Elijah's heart. He pushed Elijah against the door and pinned him there.

While Elijah died, Damon rushed over to his injured girlfriend. "Buffy…. God…." He gently touched her bruised and cut cheekbone.

Elena rushed down the stairs and dropped down next to Damon. "Oh Buffy…. I'm so sorry. How did this happen? You're so powerful…."

"He was an ancient." Buffy said, shaking her head against the pain. "I'm not as strong as them, but I can hold my own for a little while."

"You've fought one before?" Stefan asked, glancing at Elijah as he helped Damon hold Buffy up.

"Not one like him…. Like the other type of vampire." Damon and Stefan helped Buffy to her feet and she leaned on Damon for support. Her knee was throbbing. "I won, but just barely."

"Should we go to a hospital?" Elena asked.

Buffy shook her head. "I'll heal. I just need to rest." Damon swept her into his arms and the four of them made their way back to Damon's car.

Damon was pouring himself and Buffy glasses of scotch. He was bandaging her up, but her wounded pride had wanted a drink. Stefan walked in. "Hey." Buffy said. "Where's Elena?"

"She's home." Stefan said.

"And you're here why?" Damon asked, handing Buffy her glass.

"Because she wanted to be with Jeremy."

"Here," Damon handed Stefan his glass of scotch and poured himself another one.

"Thanks. Listen, what Rose told Elena about the curse…."

"We'll keep her safe." Buffy said. "I'll be in my room whenever you're ready." She said to Damon, limping out. Damon watched her go with a sad expression on his face. It killed him to see her hurt.

"Hey." Stefan said.

"What?" Damon asked, picking up the first aid kit.

"I'm sorry."

"About what?"

"For being the guy who made you turn 145 years ago."

"Enough Stef, it's late and I've got a girlfriend to doctor. Don't need to rehash that."

"You know what? I've never said it out loud. I guess I just need to say it and you need to hear it. I'm sorry. What I did was selfish. I didn't want to be alone. I guess I just needed my brother." Damon nodded. "Go on. Go help Buffy."

Damon nodded again and went out into the hallway. Buffy was sitting on the stairs waiting. "Hey." He said. "Are you ok? Did you fall?"

She smiled. "No. I just wanted to wait for you."

"Eavesdropping? Isn't that below you?"

Buffy shook her head. "Nope. Plus I was hoping you'd carry me up the stairs."

Damon smiled and bent down, swooping her up in his arms. She giggled and he flew up the stairs. Later that night after she was all bandaged and in one of Damon's button up shirts, they laid in his bed together. He held her tightly and protectively against him, stroking her hair. He wasn't ready to admit it out loud, but inside he knew that he was falling for Buffy. The anger that had welled up in him at seeing her hurt had been overwhelming. A part of him wanted to tell her that, but he wasn't ready to be that guy. He was selfish in his silence. But at the same time, he was being unselfish. Buffy had made it very clear she wasn't looking for love again. He wasn't going to be the one to ruin what they had.

"Damon?" Buffy murmured sleepily.

"Yes?"

"Thank you for saving me."

He chuckled. "Hey, I couldn't let him kill you. The only one who gets to do that is me." She smiled as she drifted off to sleep.

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