The Next Chapter

Chapter 50

Chapter 50

Buffy laughed as Damon sprayed her with the shower head. She pinned him against the wall by his wrists and he smirked, kissing her hungrily. Buffy let his wrists go and he set the shower head back in its cradle before wrapping his arms around her and spinning them so she was against the wall.

"We are never going to get clean this way." Buffy mumbled through their lips.

"Don't care." He moved his lips down her throat and nipped at the hollow there.

"We're, uh…. We're going to be late…."

"Don't care." Damon said again, crushing his lips to hers.

"I care." Stefan said from the doorway. Buffy let out a yelp and Damon shut the water off as she grabbed them towels from the wrack beside the shower. "We're supposed to meet Bonnie at the old witch house in ten minutes."

"It's called privacy, brother." Damon snapped.

"Would you two hurry up? We have work to do. You know, Klaus isn't going to spontaneously self-destruct."

"Stefan, your hair is going to fall out if you keep up all this worrying." Buffy said, moving past him into her and Damon's bedroom with a towel wrapped around her and her hair dripping on the floor.

Twenty minutes later, Stefan, Damon, and Buffy made their way up to the old house where the witches were burned. "You two didn't say anything to Elena about the coffins, right?" Stefan asked.

"No." Buffy said.

"We said we wouldn't." Damon added.

"I know what you said." Stefan retorted.

"Then why are you asking?" Buffy asked.

"Cause protecting the location of Klaus's family is my number one priority right now and the fewer people who know, the better." Buffy held up her hands and stopped Damon and Stefan in their tracks. "What?"

"Shh…." Buffy looked around the property. "Someone's here."

"Yeah. Bonnie."

Buffy gave Stefan an annoyed look and moved towards the house. "Damon…."

"I'll cover the back door." Damon said, moving off.

Buffy moved into the house, leaving Stefan to cover the front door. She moved quietly through the house, still slightly amazed at her skills as a Slayer turned vampire. She couldn't even hear herself moving. Instead of searching for the intruder, she made her way towards Bonnie's smell. She wanted to make sure the young witch was ok first.

Of course Bonnie was startled when Buffy appeared on the stairs, but Buffy shushed her. She mouthed "stay" at Bonnie before moving off and following the new smell. It led her right back to the front door where a hybrid was making his way outside. Stefan blocked his path and Damon appeared on the other side of him. The hybrid started to turn, but Buffy grabbed his hair with one hand and pushed down on his shoulder with the other. There was barely time for him to scream before his head was ripped off his shoulders.

Stefan shot Buffy, standing a few feet away, a seriously annoyed look. She'd moved out of the way of the spray, but some of the blood had gotten on Stefan. "Show off." He threw at her, kicking the head in her direction.

Buffy shrugged, easily dodging the head. "These hybrids are really bringing down the neighborhood." Bonnie came out onto the porch and gasped at the grisly sight. "I told you to stay."

"I know, but I heard the yell and…. Did you do this?" Bonnie asked.

"Yeah." Buffy looked at her watch. "You need to be at school."

"I know."

"Any luck with getting that coffin open?" Damon asked as Bonnie edged around the blood pool and dead body.

"No. I tried a couple of different spells this morning, but nothing worked. I'm sorry."

"That's ok." Buffy said.

"Oh, don't forget that it's Caroline's birthday today."

Buffy smacked her forehead. "Crap! I completely forgot."

"Well, you've been a little…. Busy."

"No excuse. I'll pick you all up from school this afternoon. We'll have a little party at my house before I have to go to the Council meeting tonight."

"Cool. I'll tell Elena and Matt."

"Listen, uh…. Bonnie, there's something I need to tell you." Buffy gently took Bonnie's elbow and moved her away. "You're not going to like it."

"What happened?"

"Jeremy's going to be leaving town for a while. He'll be staying with Dawn in New York until this whole Klaus thing blows over."

Bonnie looked confused. "Jeremy wouldn't just leave Elena and you to deal with Klaus on your own."

"No. He wouldn't. But I asked Damon to compel him."

"You what?"

"It's not safe for him here anymore. Leaving will give him the chance for a better life. I know you two haven't really worked out your issues, but I thought that maybe you'd want to say goodbye. Today's his last day at school. Dawn's coming down tonight to pick him up and take him up there tomorrow morning."

Bonnie shook her head. "I don't…. This isn't fair."

"I know. But I can't think of a better way."

Bonnie turned and walked off towards her car. Buffy knew she was trying not to cry. With a sigh, she turned back to Stefan. Damon had disappeared with the body while Buffy and Bonnie had been talking.

"It's for the best." Stefan said.

"I know." Buffy said without a hint of doubt. "He'll be safe." She marched past him and headed back into the house. Down in the basement, she grabbed the coffin's lid and started to yank on it with all her strength. The thing didn't budge. She smashed her fist into it, but it only hurt her hand.

"You're wasting your time." Stefan said behind her. "It won't open."

"I'm getting that." Buffy looked at Damon as he walked in with a shovel. "Did you bury the body?"

"Yeah." Damon said. "Any sign of our little hybrid buddies?"

"Nope." Stefan said. "Just the dead one."

Buffy jumped up and sat on the coffin. "So, Klaus's six siblings. Rebekah is now with Klaus. There was one dead kid in the old world and one dead kid in the new world. Which leaves Elijah and two others. Three sleeping Originals. Four coffins." She patted the coffin under her. "Who's in the locked box, then?"

"No idea." Stefan said, walking up to the coffin. "But Bonnie seems to think that whatever's in here will kill Klaus. So the sooner she can get this thing open the sooner we'll know if she's right."

"Well, you'd think that the spirits of a bunch of dead witches that can make a coffin invisible that they'd figure out how to open one!" Damon said. He looked around him expectantly and then shook his head. "Fine. Don't help."

"You know none of this is going to do us any good if Klaus's hybrid friends find our hiding spot, right? They need to go away."

"Oh, yeah. That's a great idea, Stefan. Let's just ask him to pack a bag and take a long vacation while we're at it. How about you keep the peace? Don't draw attention to the very things we're trying to hide."

"No. I'm not going to play defense. When I have what Klaus wants, he does what I say or I dump his family to the bottom of the ocean."

"And he kills you and everyone you know. Like, I don't know, me and my girlfriend!"

"No. He's bluffing. His family means more to him than anyone else."

"You sure about that?"

"Well, I don't know, Damon. I guess there's only one way to find out, right? Call his bluff."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa…. The only way to call someone's bluff, Stefan, is to be willing to lose everything if you're wrong." Stefan smirked and started to walk out.

"Wait." Buffy said. "I'm coming with you."

Damon turned to his girlfriend as she hopped off the coffin. "Wait, what?"

She shrugged. "I think he's right."

"Thank you." Stefan said.

"You can't be serious." Damon said.

"Well, yeah. Klaus hasn't carted these things around with him everywhere he goes for a thousand years for nothing. It's his family. I'd do anything for you guys. Why is Klaus any different? You just have to…. Call his bluff. Besides, if I go with Stefan to pay a visit to Klaus, it will remind him just how powerful I am when I start tearing his hybrids apart with my bare hands."

"I like the way you think." Stefan said.

Buffy turned to Damon. "I'll see you later?"

Damon sighed. "I guess." Buffy kissed him gently before turning and leaving with Stefan.

Buffy and Stefan strolled into the house that Klaus had claimed and saw one of his hybrids pushing a coffin away. Klaus watched her go before saying, "I'm surprised you're still in town. I gave you your freedom, you could've gone anywhere."

"I live here, Klaus." Stefan said.

"Well, if we're playing this game, then, uh, I was here first." Buffy snickered slightly and Klaus looked at her. "Hello there, darling. Have a twirl and let me get a good look at you." She raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm paying you a compliment. It's something I occasionally do for people I actually like. Becoming a vampire seems to suit you." Klaus moved her hair behind her shoulder and admired the skin on her neck and shoulder. "Though I do miss that sun kissed look your skin used to have."

"Just a reminder that I'm on your level now, dear." Buffy said, crossing her arms.

"You know," Stefan said. "I don't like your hybrid friends. They're everywhere. Kinda like fleas. I want them gone. We want them gone." Stefan motioned to himself and Buffy.

"Yeah, well, uh, I kind of like having them around." Klaus looked at Stefan but got no response. "You know, I'm hurt. I hoped that, uh, I'd free you and we'd pick up where we left off. But here you are, guzzling vervain like the rest of them, I'm sure. So much for friendship."

"Friends don't strip friends of their free will."

"Ok, granted…. That was a little extreme. I get a little moody. Just ask my siblings. Speaking of whom, isn't it time you handed them over?"

"Klaus," Stefan moved closer. "Get your hybrids out of Mystic Falls or I will remove them myself."

"Hmm…. You see, if you continue to threaten me, I'm going to be forced to retaliate…. Kill people…. And it'll get messy again."

"Do whatever you want. I don't really care. Or you know what? Maybe I do. Yeah, maybe I care so much that I drop Elijah in the Arctic."

"Well, maybe I'd be willing to lose one brother if it meant killing yours."

"You'd never make it past me." Buffy said, stepping up beside Stefan. Klaus looked at Buffy and Stefan, their facial expressions almost exactly alike.

The hybrid that had carted the coffin off walked in. "Is everything ok?"

"Everything's fine, Mindy. Stefan was just leaving after failing to make his point. I've invited Buffy to stay and chat." Stefan glanced at Buffy, but she was smiling.

"Oh, Klaus. I've been meaning to show you something." Buffy said brightly.

"What's that, love?"

"I learned a new trick." Mindy's head was suddenly on one side of the room while Mindy's body was on the other. Once again, Buffy was so fast that she'd dodged the blood spray and now stood on Klaus's other side. "Nifty, huh?"

Stefan chuckled. "Well, one down…. You may want to send the rest of them away before it gets messy…. Er. She really likes doing that trick. That's her second time today."

Buffy smiled and kissed Klaus's cheek before walking away with Stefan.

Buffy strolled hand in hand with Damon up to Founder's Hall with Alaric walking next to them. Elena had called and told Buffy that she, Bonnie, and Matt were taking Caroline to the cemetery to hold a funeral for Caroline's birthday party. Caroline was apparently not feeling the birthday spirit this year."I thought Stefan saved your life." Alaric said to Damon."He did." Damon said.

"And now he's willing to risk it just to see how far he can push Klaus?"

"Seems so."

"Well, is his humanity on or off?"

"I'm thinking there's another option here at play. A bit of a dimmer switch, which is a huge problem."

"Why?"

"Because I can't predict how far he's willing to go until somebody gets killed."

"Suddenly you care who lives or dies?"

"I have a small list."

Alaric huffed. "Talk about humanity dimmer switch."

"Screw you." Damon looked down at his girlfriend. "And what's with you? You're awfully quiet."

"Can't a Council meeting ever just be a Council meeting?" Buffy asked, looking at the sign in front of them that said Wickery Bridge Restoration Fundraiser.

"Has anybody invited you in?" Alaric asked.

"Liz did. Damon told her everything and she's not happy, but she understands." Buffy glanced at the building as they walked over the threshold. "But this isn't a dwelling. It's a public building."

"I'll get us drinks." Damon said, heading off towards the bar.

Buffy and Alaric walked over to a model of the new Wickery Bridge. Buffy gently touched a railing on the bridge. "This is the bridge where Elena and Jeremy's parents died in a car accident."

"Something's up with her." Alaric said. "Elena. Something more than usual. You know what it is?"

Buffy shook her head. "It's probably Stefan. But I'll talk to her."

"Thank you." Alaric looked down at Buffy. "Are you doing ok? Is this…. Too much?" He motioned to the crowd of people all around them.

"No. I'm good. My cravings are surprisingly easy to ignore. I was just panicking before."

"What made you stop panicking?"

"Elena. And Jeremy. I just realized that I became a vampire to protect them and it was the selfless love towards and from them that made me realize that I already knew how to keep everything in control. I was just…. thinking about it too much."

Alaric smiled. "I still think it was extreme."

"Extreme or not, Klaus was scared of me today. I don't think he realized just how strong I am." Buffy looked around the room. "Where's my boyfriend with those drinks?" She excused herself and wandered off to go find Damon. Eventually, she spotted him staring incredulously across the room. "Hey. Whatcha looking at?" She asked as she took one of the drinks out of his hands. Buffy turned to look at where he was staring and saw Klaus chatting up Carol Lockwood. "You have got to be kidding me."

"Wanna go say hi?" Damon asked. He knew her answer, so he didn't even wait for it. The two of them strolled over and Damon said, "Look at what the cat dragged in."

"Nice vest." Buffy said.

"Oh, thank you very much." Klaus leaned in and kissed Buffy's cheek politely. "It's good to see you again, love. And you as well, Damon. Carol and I were just discussing whether or not you two would be tonight's other big benefactors."

"What do you say Buffy?" Carol asked. "Or should I say the future Mrs. Salvatore?"

Buffy choked on her drink. "What?"

"Klaus was also just telling me that Damon finally put a ring on your finger." Carol took Buffy's hand in hers and examined the ring.

"Isn't it lovely?" Klaus asked.

"It most certainly is."

"Damon, you're a very lucky man. I'm jealous."

"I'm sure you are." Damon said. "Carol, don't take this the wrong way, but do you realize that you've been kissing the ass of an immortal hybrid who ruined your son's life?"

"Oh come now…. Some might say that I saved it, what with all that nasty full moon business." Klaus said. He turned to Carol. "I never had to go through it more than twice, to be honest, but still…. I'm very sympathetic."

"Klaus has promised to protect Tyler, Damon." Carol said. "And our town."

"From who?" Buffy asked. "His hybrids are the ones this town needs protection from."

"Well, I'd have no use for them if your soon-to-be brother-in-law would kindly return my family." Klaus said.

"Not gonna happen." Buffy said, stone faced.

"That's what I thought. Which is why I've come to an agreement with the Mayor. You and the Council stay out of my hair and I'll stay out of yours. Your town gets protected, my hybrids get left alone, and everybody will be happy. All you have to do is stop decapitating my friends for Stefan."

"I'm not doing it for Stefan. I'm doing it because you and your hybrids keep threatening my family."

"Please, Buffy…. Damon, get Stefan under control or the Council will be forced to take action against him." Carol said.

"You've gotta be kidding me." Damon said.

"Oh, come on, mate." Klaus said. "Give peace a chance."

"We will when you will." Buffy retorted. She turned and walked off and Damon sneered at Klaus before following.

Liz caught up with them as they were about to leave. "I hear congratulations are in order."

"What?" Buffy and Damon asked.

"The whole place was buzzing that there's going to be a Salvatore wedding soon."

Buffy shook her head and Damon smirked. "The ring doesn't mean there's going to be a wedding soon." Damon said.

"Well, you guys just take your time. I know you're dealing with some big issues."

"Like Klaus hiding behind the Mayor's skirts?" Buffy snapped. "He's made some deal with her to keep us at bay or else the Council is going to retaliate. Pft! I don't see how. I'm a Slayer turned vampire. Do they really want to go up against me?"

"The Mayor's only looking out for Tyler. For now we have to assume Klaus has her in his pocket."

"Oh, please don't tell me you're going to drink the Klaus Kool-Aid." Damon said."I'm not going to let him hold this town hostage, but I'm also not going to let innocent people get caught in the crossfire of a pissing contest between a hybrid and a vampire."

"Liz, I'm impressed. You're all strong and Sherriff-y."

"I'm not kidding, Damon. You two need to get Stefan to stand down from this one before someone gets hurt." Liz sighed. "Congratulations on the engagement." She walked off.

Buffy looked up at Damon. "When you bought this ring…. That was the last thing I expected anyone to think."

Damon shrugged. "Just go with it. It'll only make it worse to protest too much."

"Did you plan this?"

"What?"

"A sneaky engagement."

"A sneaky engagement? Buffy, I'm hurt! I would never trick you into an engagement. If I wanted to ask you to marry me, I wouldn't do it in a sneaky way."

Buffy crossed her arms. "Then how would you do it?"

Damon smirked. "Like this." He dropped down to one knee and took Buffy's hand. "Buffy Summers, you are the only one for me. I love you beyond words and I want to spend eternity with you. Will you do me the honor of marrying me?" Buffy stared down at him wide eyed and he laughed, standing back up as there was a smattering of applause from the small group of people around them. "And that's the part where you would say yes. That's how I would do it." He kissed her gently and she melted.

"You're sneaky."

"Was that a yes?"

"That was a let's go find Stefan and talk to him while I think about it."

Damon thought about that for a second. "Ok." He followed her back into the Hall and let her lead the way. They found Stefan about to cut off a hybrid's head. Damon rushed over and tackled him away.

"What are you doing?" Stefan demanded.

"What are you doing?" Damon hissed. "No dead hybrids at the Founders' party!"

"No. I told Klaus to get his hybrids out of town, he didn't listen, so now I'm saying it louder."

"You don't think there's ten more where that came from? And if you kill them, Klaus won't make twenty more? Have you forgot about Elena's part in all this? Or do you not care if she's a human blood bag for the rest of her life?"

"Protecting Elena is yours and Buffy's problem now. See, I'm not compelled by Klaus to do that anymore."

Buffy suddenly punched Stefan, sending him down the hallway. "Don't give us that crap." She snapped. "You can't just flip your switch. Yours is fried. I've had that figured out for a long time. So don't hand me any bull about how you don't care about Elena anymore. Or Damon or me for that matter. I'm with you on pushing Klaus, but don't you dare bring Elena any more harm. I won't go along with that. To be the villain, you've gotta be smarter and your smart gene seems fried along with your humanity switch."

Stefan stood up with a smirk. "To beat the villain, you have to be the better villain." He turned and walked away.

"That doesn't bode well, you know that right?" Damon asked.

"What's he gonna do?" Buffy asked.

"I have no clue." Damon turned to face Buffy. "Now do you get why encouraging his behavior is a bad idea?"Buffy shrugged. "At least I got to see Klaus with a scared face. I better call Elena and tell her to be on her guard."

"Isn't she at the cemetery right now?"

"I hope they moved the party to our house. Cemeteries at night are no places for parties."

"Why? You used to party there." Damon said playfully.

"Oh yeah. Patrolling till the wee hours on a school night was my idea of a party." Buffy pulled out her cell phone and dialed Elena's number. It took a few rings before the line was answered.

"Hello, Buffy." It was Stefan. "She's a little busy right now."

"Why the hell do you have Elena's phone?"

"Making my next move. Let me ask you something. What's Klaus gonna do when he can't make any more hybrids?"

"Stefan, leave her out of this! If you hurt her I swear to god I will kill you myself. Stefan! Stefan!" Buffy looked at her phone. He'd hung up on her. "Damn it!"

"Why does Stefan have Elena?" Damon asked.

"He's going to kill her." Buffy rushed down the stairs and found Klaus near the bridge model. She grabbed his arm and pulled him towards a side room where no one was. Damon followed close behind and shut the doors behind them.

"What now?" Klaus asked. "You just pulled me away from a fascinating conversation about landscaping the town square."

"Stefan just grabbed Elena." Buffy said.

"Well, he's getting desperate."

"Damn it, Klaus! He's going to try and use her against you. Just do what he says. Get rid of your hybrids."

"Or what? Stefan would never dream of killing her."

"Are you sure about that?" Damon asked. "He just tried to behead someone in the middle of a Council party. He's obviously running on crazy right now."

"Well, crazy or not, that kind of love never dies. He's bluffing."

"Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't. But if you don't want to believe him, believe me. I know my brother better than anyone and right now I don't have a clue how far he's willing to take this. So if he says blink, I suggest you blink."

Klaus just stared at Damon. Buffy shook her head and stepped between them. "Klaus, damn it, please! Don't let him hurt Elena. You're the only one who can stop him right now." He started to say something, but she cut him off. "This is no time to make deals. Stop him."

Klaus sighed and walked outside. Buffy glanced at Damon and then followed Klaus outside. Klaus's phone rang and he picked it up, turning to look at Buffy. "Stefan! How nice to hear your voice."

"Tell your hybrids to get out of town, Klaus." Stefan said on the other end.

"Well that's not going to happen till I get my coffins back."

"Ok. Well, then I'm going to drive your blood source off Wickery Bridge."

"I don't believe you Stefan. You won't kill her."

Elena started sputtering and choking from Stefan's end of the line and Klaus looked at Buffy. "What are you doing?" Elena gasped.

"What's going on?" Klaus asked.

"I just fed her my blood." Stefan said. "No more hybrids if she's a vampire."

"You won't do it."

"Really? Try me. Because your coffins are the next to go." Klaus looked at Buffy, actually searching her eyes for what to do.

"Klaus, stop him! Send your hybrids away!" Buffy begged. Her panic level was rising. Elena didn't want to become a vampire.

"Stefan slow down!" Elena begged. "Stefan! Stefan stop it!"

"Klaus!" Buffy demanded.

"Fine! I'll send them away." Klaus said. "You win."

"Stefan! Stefan stop!" Elena screamed. Buffy grabbed onto Klaus's arm, tears falling from her eyes as she looked at him pleadingly.

"Stop the car Stefan!" Klaus growled. There was the sound of screeching tires and Elena screamed, but Klaus sighed with relief and hung up the phone. Buffy let out a sob and covered her mouth. Klaus pulled her to him and hugged her tightly. "Shh…. She's ok." He soothed, stroking her hair gently. "She's ok."

Buffy's cell phone rang and she picked it up. "Hello?"

"It's Liz. I need your help."

"What's wrong?" Buffy sniffed and wiped her face, moving away from Klaus.

"It's Caroline. Tyler bit her." Buffy turned and looked at Klaus, her eyes hardening. "Damon had a cure…."

"It's Klaus's blood."

"What?"

"The cure is Klaus's blood. He'll be right over." Buffy hung up and stared coldly at Klaus. "Tyler bit Caroline. Did you tell him to do it?"

Klaus sighed. "I was trying to make a point to Stefan. And to you."

"This pissing contest was stupid!"

"You went along with his game!"

"I didn't know he was going to go this far! I was convinced he was still the same old Stefan deep down. That he would never, ever hurt Elena like this. I was convinced he would back down before it got this far."

Klaus nodded. "I was too. I'm sorry."

"What?"

"I said I'm sorry. I'll heal Caroline and I'll send my hybrids away."

Buffy blinked a few times before saying, "Thank you."

"I'm not all bad, Buffy." He took her hand and kissed her knuckles before disappearing into the shadows.

Damon walked over to her and hugged her tightly. "Are you ok?"

"We need to go get Elena." Buffy said, still holding onto Damon.

"Where's Klaus going?"

"To heal Caroline. He made Tyler bite her." She shook her head angrily. "This wasn't supposed to go this far."

"I know. No one expected it to. But Elena's all right, isn't she?"

"Yeah."

"And Caroline's going to be fine. And you're going to beat the crap out of Stefan the next you see him, aren't you?"

Buffy laughed. "Yeah."

"Then the world is ok again…. For now." He kissed her gently. "Come on, Mrs. Salvatore. Let's go get your kid." Buffy rolled her eyes and lightly punched Damon's arm. "Ow."

"Thanks for picking me up." Elena said to Damon and Buffy as they walked her to her door.

"Any time." Damon said.

Elena stopped and looked at her front door. "Are you going to be ok?" Buffy asked.

"I'll survive." Elena said. "Somehow I always do."

"You know, Stefan won this round for us today." Damon said suddenly. The two girls looked at him incredulously. "He pushed Klaus to the edge. Klaus blinked."

"Well, his method sucked."

"Still…. We needed it. Klaus has been calling all the shots and Stefan beat him at his own game. He was the better villain."

"Don't sound so impressed." Buffy said.

"Well, I can't help but be a little proud."

Buffy rolled her eyes and turned to Elena. "Damon and I will be over bright and early tomorrow with Dawn." She looked at her watch. "She should be at the house soon. We'll have a big breakfast before she takes Jeremy to New York and then the rest of the day will be just you and me. I'll take you on a shopping spree."

Elena smiled and nodded. "Ok. That sounds nice."

"I'll just cash in on the title of 'future Mrs. Salvatore'."

Elena shook her head, confused. "What?"

"I'm pretty sure Damon proposed to me tonight."

The teen looked dubiously at Damon. "Really?"

Damon shrugged, a smirk pulling at his lips. Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Now the whole town pretty much thinks there's a wedding in the very near future."

"I love a good party." Damon said, wrapping an arm around Buffy's waist.

"Come on, party boy. Let's let Elena get some sleep. Goodnight, Elena." Buffy tugged on Damon and they headed off.

Elena and Buffy held tightly to Jeremy as he stood in front of the open front door the next morning. They'd just finished a huge breakfast that Damon and Alaric had cooked. Dawn had gotten in not even twenty minutes after Buffy and Damon had gotten home. Now she was helping Alaric load up her car with Jeremy's bags and boxes.

"You guys are going to have to let me go eventually." Jeremy said.

Elena and Buffy pulled back reluctantly. "Be safe, ok?" Elena said.

"Yeah, ok. All right. Look, Dawn's waiting."

"She can wait a little bit longer." Buffy said. "Call us the minute you get in, ok?"

"I will."

"Promise."

"Yeah!" Jeremy laughed. "I promise."

Bonnie ran up onto the porch. "Good. You haven't left yet."

"Hey, what are you doing here?"

"I came to say goodbye." Bonnie reached out and hugged Jeremy tightly. After a long moment, she let him go and joined Buffy and Elena inside the house. Jeremy watched them for a moment before turning and heading off to Dawn's car.

Buffy followed him and Dawn shook her head. "You can't come with us." Dawn said.

"I know. I just came to say bye to you." Buffy said, hugging her sister.

"One of these days we're going to sit down and have a discussion about your decision making. Since the last time I saw you, you've pissed Angel off and run him out of town, you've turned yourself into a vampire, and you got engaged."

Buffy shrugged. "It happens."

"Only to you." Dawn shook her head. "I'll see you soon, Buffy."

"Take care of yourselves."

"I will." Dawn got in the car and she and Jeremy waved as they drove off.

Buffy followed Elena out onto Wickery Bridge. As they'd come back from their shopping spree that afternoon, Elena had asked Buffy to pull over. She'd gotten out of the car and walked out to the middle of the old bridge. The teen stood there and looked down at the water below."You're not planning on jumping are you?" Buffy asked.

"No. I was just thinking about something Matt said last night." Elena said.

"What's that?"

"He said we were stuck in this life. And he was right. I do feel stuck. I feel like I've been holding on to the girl who was supposed to die here with her parents. The girl that had a normal life and didn't fall in love with vampires."

Buffy nodded. "I used to feel that way. One minute I was sitting on the steps of my high school in LA…. Popular, a cheerleader…. I was on top of the world…. And then the next minute it was all yanked out from under me. I felt completely trapped by my life as a Slayer. As a girl who falls in love with vampires and fulfilled prophecies as the Chosen One. But I learned that holding on to that old life…. It only made things worse. You're not that girl anymore and it's ok if you want to let her go."

"Is it? Because I feel like I've disappointed her a little. Like…. Like I disappointed them. My parents."

Buffy shook her head. "Elena, they would be so proud of you."

"How could you know that?"

"Because I'm so very proud of you." Buffy smiled. "Hold on." She disappeared for a second and reappeared holding a bouquet of wildflowers. "Here lies Elena Gilbert. The best daughter and the most amazing friend anyone could ask for." Buffy tossed all but one flower over the bridge and into the water.

She handed Elena the last flower and Elena smiled slightly, throwing the flower in with the others. "May she rest in peace."

Later that evening, Buffy and Damon followed Liz through the woods. "A hiker called it in." Liz was saying. "My guys got here first."

"Another hybrid?" Buffy asked.

"That's what I thought at first." They came to a stop in front of the body of a staked human. "Brian Walters. The medical examiner."

"What's with the stake? He's not a vampire."

"No. This was a murder."

Buffy and Damon looked at Liz in confusion.

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