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Chapter 44

Chapter 44

Buffy sat in the passenger's seat and looked over at Damon driving. Katherine had been banished to the backseat. That didn't keep her from talking, though.

"When do I get to ride shotgun?" Katherine asked. "The backseat's getting boring."

"You get to ride shotgun when they can ice skate in hell." Buffy shot back.

"You know, in some dimensions, hell is a completely frozen wasteland."

"Why don't you go there?"

"I don't know how to ice skate."

"It's easy. I'll teach you if it will shut you up."

"If I shut up, then how will you know what I've got planned."

"Because I'll beat it out of you."

Katherine smiled. "You know, I see what Damon sees in you. I'm starting to really like you. I may even consider calling you a friend."

Buffy groaned. "I am not hearing this!"

Damon laughed and took her hand, kissing her knuckles. "Don't worry, babe. Eventually she'll screw up and then you can kill her."

"I never screw up." Katherine said.

"I could pull out a long list of your screw ups." Buffy said. "And I've only known you for a few months."

Katherine rolled her eyes. "If I can't ride shotgun, when can I drive?"

"Oh, just this side of never."

"Why not? It's such a pretty car."

"Because it's my pretty car."

"I'm not a bad driver."

"Katherine, just tell us where to go and sit back and relax." Damon said.

Katherine sighed, but stayed leaned up between the seats. "Are you hungry?" She asked Damon. "Let's stop for a bite. A truck stop for a trucker."

"Oh, stop being cute."

"It's not possible."

"We've been driving around aimlessly for hours. Where are we going?"

"Far enough away so you two can't go running back."

"You don't have to worry. Mystic Falls and us are on a bit of a break."

"You and Mystic Falls or you and everyone else?"

"Let's just say that everyone else and us are having different opinions on how we should behave."

Katherine leaned in closer to Damon and said in his ear, "Let me guess…. Everyone expects you two to be heroes 24/7 and neither of you like to pretend."

Buffy rolled her eyes and grabbed Katherine's neck. "Stop flirting with my boyfriend." She shoved Katherine back into her seat.

Damon laughed. "Sorry, Katherine. You just don't do it for me anymore." He reached over and gently squeezed Buffy's thigh.

She smiled at him and took his hand, keeping it in her lap. When Katherine's attention was diverted out the window, Buffy squeezed Damon's hand. When he looked over at her, she mouthed, "Pull over." Damon smiled slightly and gave an imperceptible nod. Just ahead of them was a rest stop off the interstate. Damon pulled into it and parked.

"Why are we stopping?" Katherine asked as they all climbed out of the car.

"I thought you might want to stretch your legs." Damon said. "Take a break from your sexual tension." Buffy smiled and walked over to Damon's side of the car and away from Katherine. Unfortunately she followed Buffy. "I'm tired of driving."

"My turn." Buffy took the keys and then threw them a few feet away into some trees and bushes.

"Hey!" Katherine protested, heading to go find the keys.

Buffy grabbed Katherine's arm and tossed her against the car. "We're not going anywhere until you spill your guts."

Katherine rolled her eyes and sighed. "Fine." She reached behind her and pulled out Elena's necklace. "Do you recognize this? A little birdie told me that Klaus wants to get his hands on it."

"Why would Klaus want Elena's necklace?" Damon asked.

"Does it matter? He wants it and I have it. That's leverage kids. Always stay one step ahead of your enemy."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"But more importantly, when I stole the necklace from Bonnie I found out something else. Something better." Katherine made her way around to the trunk of Buffy's car.

"Oh yeah? What's that?"

"Are you two willing to do whatever it takes to stop Klaus? No turning back?"

"We're not turning back." Buffy said.

"Good. Because this isn't going to win you any points at home." Katherine popped the trunk and Buffy and Damon exchanged glances. With a sigh, they both walked around to the trunk. Inside was Elena's little brother.

"Jeremy!" Buffy said, making sure he was alive. "Are you kidding me!" She grabbed Katherine and threw her a few feet away to land on a picnic table. Before she could get up, Buffy was across the grass and pinning her back down to the table by her neck. "You have ten seconds to explain to me why Jeremy is unconscious in the trunk of my car."

"What if I told you there was a way to kill Klaus? And not dagger dead. Dead, dead." Katherine choked out.

"Six seconds."

"Do you remember my friend Pearl? Centuries ago, she told me about a vampire who knew how to kill Klaus. Then she wouldn't tell me anymore."

"Why not?" Damon asked, laying Jeremy on an adjacent picnic table.

"Because it was her leverage." Buffy let Katherine sit up. "She knew it was valuable information and wouldn't share it with me."

"This is all just a lovely story, but she's dead." Buffy said, crossing her arms.

"Which is why I never brought it up. She only ever told one other person."

"Who?"

"Her daughter. Anna."

"Also dead."

"Which brings us right back around to…."

"To me." Jeremy said behind them. "Back around to me."

Buffy moved over to Jeremy. "Are you ok?"

"Yeah." He let her help him off the table to sit on the bench.

The Slayer turned on Katherine and started to advance. The vampire started to back up until her back was pressed against the car. "You knocked him unconscious and kidnapped him so you could talk to the very dead Anna about some fairy tale that a very dead Pearl told her?"

"Uh, yeah." Katherine said.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "If you weren't semi useful, I'd drive a tree limb through your heart."

"I'm ok, Buffy." Jeremy said.

"Good." Katherine said. "Now…. Talk to Anna."

Jeremy sighed and looked around. "What are you doing?" Damon asked him.

"Trying to contact her." Jeremy said.

"Don't you have to close your eyes or something?"

"I don't know." Jeremy tried closing his eyes, but nothing happened. "This isn't going to work."

A cell phone vibrated and Katherine pulled it out of her skirt pocket. It was Jeremy's cell phone. "I think your witchy girlfriend is worried that you've run away with your ghostly lover." She handed him his phone, but then pulled it away before he could grab it.

"Stop with the teeny bopper drama." Buffy said. "Jeremy, focus, ok? The quicker this happens, the quicker you can go home."

Jeremy nodded. He let out a long breath of air and closed his eyes.

"I'm not helping them." Anna said, suddenly appearing next to Jeremy. Buffy was only mildly surprised that she could see Anna. It wasn't the first time she could see ghosts.

"It's ok to help." Jeremy said. "They're looking for a way to stop Klaus."

"I don't care. Katherine is not a friend to you."

"What's she saying?" Damon asked.

"She doesn't want to help you."

Katherine leaned over to Buffy. "My advice? You want to make an omelet, you've gotta break a few eggs."

"No one asked for your advice." Buffy shot back. She walked over to Jeremy and Anna and sat down. She looked directly at Anna. "Look, Anna. I know you don't trust Damon and nobody trusts Katherine, but you can trust me."

"You can see me?" Anna asked.

"You can see her?" Damon and Katherine asked.

"Yes." Buffy said to all of them before turning back to Anna. "Listen, I want to stop Klaus and if you know how to get that done, then please tell me."

Anna sighed. "Mikael. You're looking for someone named Mikael. And I do trust you. I don't trust your taste in men."

"Yeah, well…. Nobody likes my taste in men." Jeremy laughed and Damon rolled his eyes. Buffy smirked at him before asking Anna, "Who's Mikael?"

"The vampire who hunts vampires. You don't want to wake him. He will kill all of you."

"I'm not a vampire."

"But you associate with them."

"What do you mean 'wake him'?"

"It's time I go find the keys." Damon said, wandering off to the bushes where Buffy had thrown her keys.

"A witch locked him up in a tomb to keep him from hunting vampires a few years ago. He's been asleep."

"That name sounds familiar." Buffy said. "I'd have to check Giles' books, though." She reached into her jacket pocket for her phone, but it wasn't there. "Where's my phone?"

"Do you need to check in with Elena?" Katherine asked.

Buffy broke off part of the picnic table and slammed Katherine down onto it, pressing the broken shard of wood into Katherine's chest. She was tired of the games. "Where's my phone Katherine?"

"Wow, what did I miss?" Damon asked, casually walking out of the bushes with Buffy's keys.

Katherine reached into her pocket and got Buffy's phone out. Buffy unlocked it and saw that she'd missed three calls and had over 15 text messages. "Bonnie and Angel have been trying to reach me."

"What is it?" Jeremy asked.

"It's Klaus."

"No turning back, Buffy." Katherine said.

"Shut up, Katherine."

"Hey! Look at the big picture. The best shot at taking out Klaus is by finding Mikael."

"Jeremy…."

"I'll stay here." Jeremy said. "Anna says she'll help guide me to Mikael."

"Ok. I'm gonna send Angel to meet you. Do you know his number?"

"Yeah."

"Jeremy, I am so sorry about all of this."

"I'm ok. Go. Help Elena." Jeremy hugged Buffy tightly.

"Damon?"

"Let's get gone." Damon said, getting in the car.

"You're gonna get yourselves killed." Katherine called. "The Damon I remember wouldn't have been this stupid!"

"I wouldn't have done it for you." Damon said, shutting his door.

Buffy climbed behind the wheel. "Katherine, if even one more hair on his head is out of place, I'm blaming you and you will not survive it. Got it? And he better be back in time for school." Katherine rolled her eyes and Buffy drove off at top speed.

Damon followed Buffy through town as she tracked down Klaus. They'd started at the school, but there was no sign of Elena or Klaus. Stefan wasn't around either. "Please tell me we're getting close." Damon said.

"What?" Buffy asked. "You're not worried about Klaus taking me?"

Damon stopped and bit his wrist. He grabbed Buffy's arm and spun her around, putting his bleeding wrist to her mouth. She drank down a couple of mouthfuls and shivered. "Now I'm not." He kissed her. "Just don't get killed."

"Same to you." Buffy offered him her wrist and he bit down, taking in his own couple of mouthfuls of her sweet, electrifying blood. They both healed instantly and kept running. Buffy stopped after a few blocks. They were by the hospital. "There."

"You know, uh, why don't you…. Why don't you get the truck? I'll get Elena." Buffy heard Klaus say. She and Damon rounded the corner to see Klaus standing in the parking lot. "Well, look who finally decided to show up to the party."

"Where is she?" Buffy asked, not bothering to stop.

"Elena? Uh, she's making a donation to a greater cause." Klaus grabbed Buffy's arm, pulling her to a stop. "I can't let you interfere." Klaus shoved Damon back. "You either."

"You'll have to kill me." Damon said.

"Oh, I would love to kill you, but, uh, I made a pledge to your brother and unlike him, I keep my word. Although, you know what? Thinking about it now, he really doesn't care that much anymore." Suddenly Klaus let Buffy go and had Damon pinned to the hood of an SUV.

"Damon!" Buffy grabbed Klaus by the hair and slammed his head down into the SUV's hood before throwing him back a few feet. They both looked stunned at the display of power from her. Even Damon's eyes widened a bit as he got off the SUV.

"New tricks, love?"

Buffy smirked, loving that she could move Klaus against his will. She moved down into a crouch, ready to take him on. "Why don't you find out?"

"Oh, I'd love to, sweeting! This is going to be fun." Klaus started to attack, but Damon moved in front of Buffy, blocking her.

"Don't you wanna know about your friend Mikael?" Damon asked before Klaus could touch him or Buffy.

Klaus stopped dead and glared at Damon. "What do you know about Mikael?"

"Just that he knows you're here." Buffy said. She could see the fear creep into Klaus's face.

"You're bluffing." He said.

"Katherine, Damon, and I found him."

"Consider it our leverage." Damon said.

Klaus groaned and grabbed Damon, throwing him face first against a car. He grabbed Buffy's neck and pulled her to him, kissing her. "Until we meet again, love." And with that, he vanished.

"Damon!" Buffy rushed over to him.

"Are you all right?" Damon asked, looking Buffy over. Her neck was starting to bruise a little from Klaus's grip."Yeah. I'm fine."

"Did he kiss you?"

Buffy spit on the ground, wiping her mouth with her jacket sleeve. "Yeah."

"Next time I see him, he's going to be a very dead Original."

"I'll help." Buffy helped Damon stand. "Elena!" She turned and they both ran into the hospital. Buffy searched desperately for Elena through each of the rooms they passed.

"Buffy!" Damon called a little ways down the hallway.

She ran up to the room and over to Elena. The teen looked pale and fragile in the hospital bed. An IV drip was in one arm and a tube siphoning her blood out of her was in the other. She had a bandage on her neck. Buffy let the tears fall as she took the tubes out of Elena's arms.

Elena started to come around. "Buffy?"

"Hi, sweetie." Buffy said, moving her hair out of her face. "We're gonna take you home, ok?" Elena nodded and Damon gently lifted her into his arms.

Buffy held Elena under the blanket Damon had wrapped them in. The teen rested her head against Buffy's shoulder and watched Damon pour bourbon into a glass. He walked over and handed Elena the glass. "Here's some bourbon. It'll help you forget." Elena took a sip and made a face. "It's strong. You know I can help you forget too. At least the memories you don't want to keep."

"No." Elena said. "No compulsion. I need to remember. All of it." She laid her head down on Buffy's shoulder again and Buffy pulled the blanket tighter around them.

Damon held out Elena's necklace. "I stole it back for you."

Elena didn't accept it. "He's really gone this time. I watched it happen. After everything we went through to…. To help him. Now he's just gone." Elena started to cry. "Where were you Buffy?"

Buffy closed her eyes tightly, tears falling down her cheeks to land in Elena's hair. "I shouldn't have left. I am so sorry, Elena. I promise you that I will never leave you again."

Damon reached out and grasped Elena's ankle. "I make that promise too. We were stupid and reckless. Can you ever forgive us?"

Before Elena said anything, Stefan said, "Well, isn't this cozy." They all stood up, Buffy and Damon blocking Elena. Stefan was standing in the doorway to the hallway.

"What are you doing here, brother?" Damon asked.

"Last I checked, I live here." Stefan helped himself to the alcohol. "Klaus is gone. But he's asked me to keep watch on you until he returns." He pointed at Elena. "From now on, you're under my protection. By all means…. Carry on." Stefan walked out of the library, still sipping his drink.

Buffy looked at Damon and then disappeared into the hallway. She suddenly stood in front of Stefan. "Let's get something clear, Stefan. I will revoke your invitation to this house, because it is my house, if you so much as harm a hair on anyone's head. Especially Elena's."

Stefan chuckled. "You won't kill me, little sister."

Buffy moved up to stand toe to toe with Stefan, getting in his face. "Wanna bet? The Stefan I know and love…. You're not him."

"I'm not Angel. You can't shove a soul in me and expect everything to be better." He stepped around her and headed for the stairs.

Buffy looked at Damon and Elena standing in the hallway. "Well, he's not getting my bedroom once he finds that mess you left him." She said to Damon.

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