The Next Chapter

Chapter 37

Chapter 37

Buffy walked into the house with Angel and shut the door behind them. She'd been with Elena and Angel at Elena's house after the funeral. Damon had left at the graveyard and Stefan had said that he had had to run an errand. Buffy thought it was weird, but she let it go to pay attention to Elena and Jeremy. Angel had stuck with Buffy since he didn't know anyone in town. Dawn was with Willow checking out Mystic Falls before they came back to pack to go to England.

As Buffy was putting her keys in her bag, the smell of burning flesh hit her nose. She looked at Angel with a confused look. He shrugged with a slight shake of his head and Buffy turned to follow the smell. They found Damon standing in front of the large stained glass window, burning alive in the sunlight. Buffy ran over and tackled him away as Angel shut the curtains.

"Damon, what the hell are you doing?" She demanded.

"Get off of me." He tried to push her off, but she was too strong.

"What is wrong with you?"

"He was bitten by Tyler Lockwood." Stefan said, suddenly appearing in the hallway next to them.

"I don't understand…. When?"

Damon lifted his left sleeve up to reveal the nasty looking infection there. "The other night in the woods with Caroline and Matt. He nicked me."

"Damon…." Buffy gently ran her hand down his arm, tears springing to her eyes. "You said you were fine."

"Don't cry." Damon reached up to wipe a tear from her cheek. "I'm not worth it. Just let me go my way."

"No. You're not doing this."

"Just did. You know what happened to Rose, Buffy."

"No. I don't care." Buffy stood up and hauled Damon to his feet. "You're not dying today." She marched Damon past Stefan and Angel and down to the cellar, closing the door behind them. Stefan locked the door and stood outside with Angel.

Damon laughed. "What's the plan, Superman?" He asked.

"I'm gonna find a way out of this." Stefan said. "Buffy…."

"No. I wanted you to lock me in here with him. It's the best place to keep him from running." Buffy said. "Just…. Find a way to stop this, Stefan. Please."

"Oh, right. A miracle cure." Damon snorted. "Good luck with that one."

"I've got Willow and Bonnie looking for something, anything." Stefan said to Buffy, ignoring Damon.

"Always the hero, Stefan. Just tell me good-bye. Get it over with." Damon started coughing and when he pulled his hand away, there was blood.

"Lie still. Conserve your strength."

"Angel, go with Stefan please?" Buffy asked. "Help him?"

"Of course." Angel said. He and Stefan walked away, leaving Buffy and Damon alone. Buffy didn't miss the sad look Angel had given her.

Buffy turned to Damon and sat down in front of him. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"You've been a little preoccupied with another vampire." Damon said.

Buffy looked away. "He was Angelus."

Damon reached out and gently cupped her face, bringing her eyes back up to meet his. "I didn't want to see you cry, either."

"Damon…."

"I don't want to suffer."

"You're not going to…."

"You saw what happened to Rose. She nearly killed Elena. And now you've locked yourself in here with me."

"I can take care of myself."

Damon started coughing again and doubled over in pain. Buffy scrambled over and held him, rocking him through the pain. "I don't want to hurt you." He said when the painful episode was over.

"Then don't." Buffy laid her head on his back and closed her eyes, saying a silent prayer for Damon to get through this thing somehow someway. Buffy leaned against the wall and he laid his head in her lap as she started stroking his hair absently. "You know, you're making me miss that Gone With the Wind screening they're having tonight."

"You could still go."

"Nah. It wouldn't be the same without your quirky Damon comments scattered throughout the three and a half hours."

"I happen to like that movie."

"So you wouldn't talk through it?"

"No." He chuckled slightly as he played with her fingers. "I would enjoy the fact that we were sitting on a blanket watching a classic…. Together." He held her hand up to his face and kissed her palm.

A couple of hours later, Buffy had fallen asleep against Damon's shoulder. She'd been exhausted from no sleep and everything that had happened to her in the last 48 hours. He looked down at his werewolf bite and sighed, groaning slightly from the burning sensation there. He didn't want to wake Buffy, though.

"That looks worse." Angel said at the door.

"It feels worse." Damon said. "My subconscious is haunting me. Please tell me you have something for that." For the last hour, he'd been having visions of Katherine and himself in the beginning. Elena had even been there, which had been weird. He guessed because of her connection to both Buffy and Katherine.

Angel put a glass of scotch and Damon's ring on the door window. "Double shot." He poured more scotch into the glass.

Damon made sure Buffy was resting comfortably against the wall and stood up. "That's good." He took the glass and his ring. "Oh…. good." Taking a long swig, Damon sighed. "So my brother sent you back here for murder/suicide watch?"

"He's just trying to help and he's worried about her. So am I."

"He's doing what he always does: trying to right the wrongs of the past."

"Aren't we all?"

Damon groaned, biting his lip against the scream that wanted to tear out of him. He settled for, "You should want me dead."

"Why?"

"I stole your girl."

"You can't steal what's not mine."

"You still love her."

"I always will. But she's not mine. Besides, even if she was…. There's nothing I could do about it."

"Pesky curses."

"I will give you the warning, though, that if you hurt her…."

"Hurt her?" Damon snorted. "I'm dying, in case you missed that."

"Willow's not going to let you die because that will hurt her best friend. Stefan's not going to let you die because you're his brother. You've got a lot of love surrounding you, so brace yourself for a miracle."

Damon got closer and shot his arm out to grab Angel's throat. "Kill me. Please."

Buffy was suddenly there pulling him back. "Stop it, Damon." She sat him down and turned to Angel. "Hey."

"Hey yourself." Angel said. "Sorry we woke you. Are you ok?"

"I'm fine."

Damon groaned and this time didn't hold back on the scream. Buffy held onto him and rocked him. "I need blood. I need blood."

"There's a little room down the hallway." Buffy said to Angel. "There's a fridge back there with blood bags."

Angel nodded and left to get Damon blood and Buffy suddenly had an idea. "Damon…."

"Shh." He pushed her up against the wall beside the door, mouthing the word "stay" and went over to lie still on the ground.

"You know, now's not a good time, Sheriff." Buffy heard Angel say. "Trust me."

"Sheriff, over here." A deputy called.

"I wouldn't go in there."

"I just wanna talk to him." Buffy heard Liz say.

"I wouldn't go in there." Angel's voice was suddenly muffled and Buffy heard the door slam. The door to the cellar opened and Buffy could see Liz from where she was standing. Damon had gotten up and hidden with Buffy. The sheriff turned around in confusion and Damon was suddenly behind her.

"Liz."

"No!" Buffy cried just as Damon threw her against the wall. She fell to the floor, unconscious. Damon sped past her in a blur and Buffy heard the deputy get thrown against the wall. "Shit!" She grabbed her cell phone and ran out, calling Stefan to warn him that Damon had escaped. Before she left, she let Angel out of the basement.

"Where did he go?" Angel asked.

"I don't know, but I've got to find him before he accidentally hurts someone." They ran out and got into her car to head to the town square.

Buffy found Elena first. Apparently Stefan had told her about Damon escaping and she was out looking for him too. She'd been to the house, but the sheriff had kidnapped her before she'd gone in and locked her in the courthouse. She'd broken out of the courthouse not too long ago when Stefan had called to let her know that Damon had escaped.

"Elena, please just go home." Buffy begged. "This is too dangerous for you to be unprotected."

"But you're here." Elena protested. "And Angel's searching the town, too."

"I can't watch you and Damon at the same time."

"Buffy…."

Buffy took Elena's shoulders. "I'm sorry, Elena, but no. Just go home. Please. I couldn't handle it if I let anything happen to you."

Elena sighed. "Fine. Will you call me when you find him?"

"Yes. I promise."

Elena nodded and ran off. She made it only a few feet from the sidewalk around the square before she ran into Damon. "Elena." He said.

"Damon…." She caught him when he stumbled. "Hey, come on. Come on. We have to get you out of here. We have to hide you. Buffy was just over this way…."

"Where are we going?" Damon asked. He was back in 1864 and Elena was suddenly playing the part of Katherine.

"Everywhere!" Katherine said.

"Wait for me. I want to come with you…."

Damon pinned Katherine/Elena against a tree. "Hey. Hey. Relax." Elena said. "We need to get you to Buffy so she can get you out of here. She'll take care of you."

"You're faster than I thought." Katherine said.

"Why must you always run from me?" Damon asked.

"Because I know that you will chase."

"Then let me chase you forever. Feed me your blood."

"I will not feed you, Damon. If you want it, take it. It is your choice to make."

"I choose you, Katherine."

"Look at me." Elena said. "Hey. It's Elena. It's Elena."

"Promise me you will not tell my brother."

"I promise. It will be our little secret."

Damon leaned toward Elena's neck. "No. Damon. No."

"I have to…. If we are to be together forever."

Damon leaned down to bite Elena's neck, but Buffy and Angel were suddenly there pulling him away. He snapped out of his hallucination and looked at Elena, realizing it wasn't Katherine. "I'm sorry…."

"Come on, Damon." Buffy said gently, putting Damon's arm over her shoulders. "Let's go home." She looked at Elena. "Are you ok?" Elena nodded.

"Elena, you need to go find Alaric." Angel said. "He's looking for you. I think he went to your house." Elena nodded and watched Buffy lead Damon away before she ran off.

Buffy looked at Angel. "Thank you."

"For what?" Angel asked.

"Helping me find him."

Angel waited until they'd gotten Damon into the back of Buffy's car and were buckled in the front seats before saying, "I'm not gonna lie, Buffy. It doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy to know that you're with a vampire."

Buffy sighed. "Angel, I can't be with a human man. It's just not in my deck of cards. I don't want kids." She snorted. "Raising Dawn was enough for me and now I'm taking on two teenagers…."

"I just never wanted you to be stuck in the darkness."

"My whole existence is rooted in darkness. I've accepted the fact that I can't escape it. I tried to retire, but I ended up right back in the thick of things."

Angel glanced back at the sleeping Damon. "Do you love him?" Buffy kept her eyes on the road and didn't answer Angel's question.

Klaus sliced open his hand and allowed some of his blood to pour into a glass vial as Stefan watched. Katherine was lurking behind them. "There it is." Klaus said. "You want to save your brother? How about a decade-long bender? And I have big plans for you when we leave this town."

"I'm not like that anymore." Stefan said.

"Well, that's too bad. You would have made a hell of a wingman." Klaus began to pour his blood in the sink.

"Wait!"

"Now that's more like it. I want you to join me for a drink." Klaus tossed Stefan a blood bag. Stefan opened it reluctantly and drank a sip. "Finish it. All of it. You do everything I say, and I save your brother. That's the deal." Stefan sighed and downed the rest of the bag. Klaus smiled and tossed him another blood bag. "Again." Once another bag was finished, Klaus tossed him another and then another. After an hour there were about twenty blood bags littering the floor. "You're very cooperative. It's almost as if you're enjoying it." Klaus tossed Stefan another blood bag.

"No more." Stefan said, pushing it away. "Not until you give me the cure."

"Not until we make a deal. It's your choice, Stefan. You can either remain here living your life in Mystic Falls, or you can embrace what you truly are, leave town with me, and save your brother's life." Stefan took the blood bag and drank. "That's the spirit. There's one more thing I want."

"What?"

"Buffy."

Stefan stopped drinking. "No."

"She's part of the deal, Stefan."

"She has nothing to do with this. Leave her out of it."

"I'm sure she'll want to save your brother as much as you do."

"I'm sure she will, but leave her out of this and stay away from her."

"You love her, too?"

"Like a sister."

"And as a family, I'm sure you can speak for one another…."

"I won't make a deal for her. But if I do this…. If I go with you and do what you ask…. You have to stay away from Buffy, too. She'll find a way to kill you and if you piss her off enough…."

Klaus sighed. He knew Stefan was right. The little Slayer had proven herself to be more than capable of ruining his plans. Her track record was littered with the ruined plans of demons and vampires and even a hell god. She'd found a way to kill a hell god, she could find a way to kill him. He would have to find another way to get her to go along with him.

Klaus took the vial with his blood and looked at Katherine. "Sweetheart…. Take this over to Damon and come right back."

"You want me to leave?" Katherine asked.

"No!" Stefan cried.

"Yes and if I were you…." Katherine took the vial and disappeared. "I'd hurry." Klaus sat down on a chair next to Stefan.

"She'll never take it to him." Stefan said. "She'll never take it to him…."

Damon was lying on his bed, sweating and looking deathly ill. It made Buffy's gut wrench at the sight. She took the towel in her hand and gently blotted his forehead. "Buffy…." Damon groaned, waking up.

"It's ok, Damon. I'm right here." Buffy said, sitting down next to him.

"Get out of here. I could hurt you."

"You won't. And I told you…. I'm not leaving you."

"Get out of here." He screamed and coughed, his whole body convulsing with the pain.

Buffy took him in her arms and held him tightly. "Shh…. It's ok. It's ok."

"It's not ok. It's not ok. All those years, I've blamed Stefan. No one forced me to love her. It was my own choice. I made the wrong choice. You tell Stefan I'm sorry. Ok?"

"I'll let you tell him."

"This is even more pitiful than I thought."

"There's still hope." He looked up at her. "Damon…. I want you to try something for me." Buffy pulled her jacket off and helped him sit up. She laid his head on her chest and pushed her sleeve up to bare her wrist.

"What are you doing?"

"My blood…. It's more powerful than anything. It was the cure that healed Angel when he was dying of the Killer of the Dead poison. Everything that's happening to you…. It's just like that poison. I want you to try. Maybe it'll work."

"I can't seem to get enough blood…. I don't think I'll be able to stop." He started coughing again and Buffy wiped the blood up with the towel.

"Damon…." He looked up at her and she gently moved his hair from his forehead. "I trust you. Please, just try…. For me. If it doesn't work, then Stefan and Willow will find something else."

"I don't want to hurt you."

"It's my choice. I trust you." She held her wrist to his mouth, stroking his cheek with her hand. "Damon, I trust you."

He looked up at her with uncertainty, but he knew she was resolved. He sighed and let his fangs drop. His eyes changed and he bit into her wrist, gently holding her arm. Buffy gasped at the almost euphoric pain, but she stayed still. She laid her forehead down on top of Damon'

s head as he pulled her blood into his mouth and let the amazing and powerful taste of it flow around his tongue and down his throat. The jolt he got from it was incredible and for a moment, he actually felt better. After a minute, though, he stopped, scared to drain her too much. He took the towel from her and gently wrapped it around her wrist.

"Anything?" Buffy asked hopefully.

"God…. That's some pretty powerful stuff…. I've never tasted anything like it."

"How do you feel?"

"I don't…. I don't feel any different."

"Then you didn't take enough." Buffy held her wrist up to him again. "Keep going."

"I'm not going to drain you, Buffy. If that little bit of your blood didn't help, nothing's going to." He groaned and coughed again and Buffy squeezed her eyes shut against the tears. He looked up at her. "Why are you crying over me? Please don't. I've made a lot of choices that have gotten me here. I deserve this. I deserve to die."

"No. You don't."

"I do, Buffy. It's ok. Cause if I'd have chosen differently, I wouldn't have met you." He reached up to stroke her cheek and tangle his fingers in her long blonde curls. "I'm so sorry. I've done so many things to hurt you."

"It's ok. I've forgiven you." Buffy took his hand and scooted down the bed to lay down next to him. She placed her forehead against his shoulder and felt the tears start to come in bigger drops.

He began to play with her hair and kissed the top of her head. "Buffy…." She looked up at him and he wiped her cheek with his thumb. "I love you. You should know that."

Buffy allowed the tears to fall as she looked at him. "I love you, too, Damon." He smiled slightly.

"What took you so long?" He tried to laugh, but he was getting too weak.

"I've been so scared to tell you and now…." She sighed slightly, "Love and me…. We're not compatible. Every man I've ever loved has left me. I've been so scared to say it out loud because I was scared you would leave me if I did."

"I never would have left you. I'm in too deep."

"What took you so long?"

"Buffy, I'm not the type of guy who falls in love. Not anymore." He fought back the cough and lowered his voice to a whisper. "The only other person was Katherine and she manipulated me. But there's just something so…. Different with you." Damon gently laid his hand on her cheek and stroked his thumb back and forth. She closed her eyes and luxuriated in the feel of it. "From the moment we met…. I had to have you. Maybe it started out as an obsession because you refused to have anything to do with me…." His eyes seemed to get far away as he remembered his time with her. "You were so gorgeous standing in the library with your hair wet from a shower…." His lips curled into a smile at the memory of his first glimpse of the blonde in his arms. "That night in the tomb…. when you kissed me…. It changed everything for me." Damon looked back at Buffy, coming out of the past. "You changed me." He smiled slightly. "You're my first, real love."

"No manipulation required." Buffy stared into his eyes for a long moment, holding his hand tightly. "Why is it that imminent death brings out the truth?"

"Because there's no more room for lies and secrets anymore." Damon held her to him and breathed in the scent of her hair. "You should have met me in 1864. You would have liked me."

"I like you now. I love you. Just the way you are." Buffy touched his cheek, running her fingers over it gently before entwining her fingers in his hair as she stared into his eyes. He managed a smile and she leaned in to kiss him gently.

"Thank you." He said, holding her hand tightly to his chest.

"Well, it's me you should be thanking." Buffy shot out of bed and dropped into a defensive crouch. "I mean, I'm the one who brought the cure." Katherine said.

"I couldn't stop her." Angel said, standing behind Katherine.

"How'd she get in?" Buffy asked.

"Your little sister invited me in." Katherine said.

"Dawn's here?"

"She's downstairs." Angel said. "This one promised a cure and Dawn didn't hesitate to invite her in."

Katherine walked over, past Buffy, and sat down next to Damon. "You got free." He said.

"Yep. Finally." She made him drink the blood in a vial she was holding.

"And you still came here?"

"I owed you one."

"Where's Stefan?" Buffy asked.

"He's paying for this." Katherine held up the vial. "He gave himself over to Klaus. I wouldn't expect him anytime soon."

"What do you mean 'he gave himself over'?"

"He just sacrificed everything to save his brother, including his precious Elena." Katherine tossed Buffy the vial. "And because I almost like you…. You should know that Klaus may come for you. He's intrigued by you, Buffy. He likes to collect the things he's intrigued by. Stefan managed to keep you out of the deal Klaus wanted to make with him for the cure, but Klaus won't stick to his word. At least not for long." Katherine waited a beat before turning and disappearing.

Damon started to sit up and Buffy moved over to help him. He looked up at her in confusion. "What did she mean by that?" He asked.

"I don't know." Buffy said. "How do you feel?"

"Klaus wants you?" Angel asked.

Buffy waved the question off, but Damon said, "Buffy, what did she mean by that?"

The Slayer sighed. "He said as much at the quarry the night of the ritual, but I didn't take him seriously. I thought it was just a threat."

"Why didn't you say anything?" Damon asked.

"Because I didn't believe him. He likes causing jealousy in you and I thought that's what he was doing."

"He can't have you."

"I'm not sure we can stop him."

"We'll find a way." Angel said.

"What about Stefan?"

"Stefan's a big boy." Damon said. "He can handle himself."

"Damon…."

Damon took Buffy's hands. "He'll be fine, Buffy. He got into this mess, he can get himself out. Right now you've got other things to concentrate on."

Buffy sighed. "So what do we do now?"

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