The Next Chapter

Chapter 51

A/N Sadly we have to wait another week before we get to see a new episode! Hopefully this will hold everyone over! Enjoy...

Chapter 51

Damon and Elena smiled at each other as they tiptoed into his and Buffy's room. Buffy was still asleep, buried under the covers. Elena had come over early with a cake that she'd made and decorated herself.

"I'm not blowing those candles out." Buffy said from under the covers.

Elena scoffed in surprise and Damon rolled his eyes. "Not all of your birthdays are bad." He protested.

"Yes they are."

Damon walked over to the bed and slipped in next to her. "They haven't had me in them."

"Or me." Elena said as she set the cake down. She walked over to the other side of the bed and joined Buffy and Damon. "You made me celebrate my 18th. I'm going to make you celebrate your 30th. They're pretty big years in a girls' life."

"Ugh!" Buffy poked her head out of the covers. "Please don't remind me that I've officially left my twenties."

"If it makes you feel any better, you're technically still 29. You did die and become a vampire a couple of weeks ago."

Buffy thought about that for a moment. "I can go for that idea."

"Well, if that's all it takes to cheer you up about your birthday, then I'm sending these presents back." Damon said, starting to get out of the bed.

Buffy stopped him. "I still enjoy presents."

Damon smiled and kissed her gently but passionately. "Good." He handed her a Pandora bag. "I had them measure Elena's wrist since hers is pretty close to yours."

"And Damon let me pick out the first bead." Elena opened the gift box that held the bracelet and pointed to the bead. "It's a little witch. It's the closest thing to something supernatural they had other than a jack-o'-lantern."

"And I picked out the airplane." Damon said, fingering the tiny airplane bead. "That was our story to everyone about how we met."

"Travelling." Buffy said.

"At LAX." Damon added.

"What're these for?" She toyed with the cupcake bead and the purse with a pink stone."Well, you love to shop."

"And it's your birthday." Elena said. Damon pulled out another box and handed it to Elena. "I also got you some sparkle to go with that diamond ring Damon gave you."

Buffy pulled out a blue Tiffany's earring box. "Elena…." Inside were two small diamond studs. "They're beautiful. This is too much."

Elena shook her head. "It's not enough. After everything you've done for me and Jeremy…. And everybody…. You deserve so much more." She hugged Buffy tightly.

"Thank you." Buffy turned to her boyfriend and laid her hand on his cheek, stroking gently with her thumb. "And thank you."

"See?" Damon asked, kissing her palm. "It's not a bad birthday."

"The day's not over yet." Buffy eyed the cake with the melting candles. "So, cake for breakfast?"

Buffy and Elena made their way to the old witch house where Bonnie was waiting. Stefan had pissed Buffy off, so now she was bringing Elena in on the plan. Bonnie smiled brightly when she saw Buffy. "Happy Birthday!" She hugged Buffy tightly.

"Thank you." Buffy said.

"Let me see it!" Bonnie took Buffy's hand and inspected the bracelet on her wrist. "It's so pretty!"

"You knew?"

"Oh yeah. Elena and I were talking about which bead to get you. Do you like the little witch?"

"I love it."

"And the earrings?"

Buffy lifted her hair to show of the earrings. "Gorgeous. When did you guys have time to do this?"

"While you were holed up and hiding from us." Elena said.

"When Damon went out to buy the ring?"

"Yes. Though we didn't know he was buying the ring."

"Yeah. He just told us the trip to Richmond was for your birthday present." Bonnie said. "Caroline said she's going to bring you her present later."

"Oh. I still need to give her hers from me and Damon." Buffy glanced at the coffins. "So, any luck?"

"No, but I've been having more dreams."

"What are they?"

"They're always the same. I find the coffin, Klaus shows up and bites me, then I wake up inside the coffin. When I start screaming for help, this woman opens it. I've been having these dreams for days now. It's like the witches are trying to send me a message."

"I just can't believe that you guys have kept this from me this whole time." Elena said.

"Stefan thought if you knew where the coffins were, Klaus could threaten people to get the information out of you." Buffy said. "But I no longer care what Stefan thinks."

Elena nodded. "So these are the rest of his family?"

"Yeah. Elijah and two others." Buffy walked over to the locked coffin. "This one…. Is the one we can't open. We don't know who's in it or what's in it."

"Only that I think my dream's telling me that it will help kill Klaus." Bonnie added.

Buffy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "I owe you a serious ass beating."

Elena and Bonnie pointed to themselves in surprise, but Buffy shook her head and pointed to the stairs. Stefan was walking into the room. "What the hell are you doing?"

"She needed to know about the coffins."

"And I needed you to keep her out of it."

"Well, I stopped giving a rat's ass what you needed the minute you put her in danger."

Elena looked at Stefan. "So what are you gonna do, Stefan? Are you gonna kidnap me so that I won't tell anyone?"

"Don't tempt me, Elena." Stefan said.

"You do realize that Buffy is going to rip your head off your shoulders if you threaten me again?"

"I think I know who can open the coffin, Stefan." Bonnie said. "And I need Elena to help me find her."

"Find who?" Stefan asked. "What are you talking about?"

"I couldn't place her face at first." Bonnie said, pulling out a small photo from her pocket. "Then I realized…." She showed the photo to Elena.

"Oh my god, Bonnie…." Elena said.

Stefan started to reach out, but Buffy was suddenly in front of him. Bonnie handed Buffy the photo. "Who is this?" Buffy asked.

"It's my mom." Bonnie said.

"Her mom left when she was just a kid." Elena explained. "There's been no sign of her since."

"So let's get cracking." Buffy said. "Elena you and Bonnie go to Liz and get her help while I go get a little special help of my own."

"What are you gonna do?" Stefan asked.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Buffy held out her arms and ushered Elena and Bonnie up the stairs.

Damon glanced down at Buffy as they got out of his car in front of Elena's house. "You know, you still haven't given me an answer to my question."

Buffy shook her head. "Nope."

"Are you ever going to?"

"Eventually."

Damon grabbed her hand and she stopped. "Look, I was serious about it. I love you and I want to spend the rest of eternity with you. Honestly, if it's not what you want, I get it and I won't be mad or upset. But don't leave me hanging."

Buffy smiled slightly. "I'm not the marrying type."

"Neither am I."

"So why did you ask?"

"Because it seemed natural. Even if we never actually get married…. Because, let's face it, we're both dead…. One of us longer than the other….""Yeah, you're birth certificate says 1844. That might look a little suspicious when we go to apply for a marriage license."

He smirked. "It would still be…." Damon had to search for the right word. "Comforting…. To know that we have that title at least. It seems a lot more solid…. And let's face it, better than boyfriend/girlfriend."

"You make a good argument."

"And?"

Buffy thought a second. "Ok. We can upgrade our titles to fiancé." Buffy looked at a squirrel sitting on the tree. "This is my fiancé Damon."

"I like it." He wrapped an arm around her neck and pulled her to him, kissing her passionately.

"Come on. Let's go give Bonnie the good news." Buffy said after a long, breathless moment.

"Which?"

Buffy held up the folder she was holding. "That we found her mother."

"I was bound to see my mother again sooner or later." Bonnie said inside the house.

"Sooner." Damon said as he and Buffy walked in. Bonnie and Elena looked startled.

Buffy held up the folder to show them. "Abby Bennett-Wilson. Monroe, North Carolina. Born in Mystic Falls Hospital. Graduated Mystic Falls High School." She handed the folder to Bonnie.

"A little compulsion to help speed up the research process." Damon said.

"And a little witchy help from England to point us in the right direction." Buffy added. "Willow says hi."

"This is her." Bonnie said, staring at the photograph.

"You guys have a great trip. If anything goes wrong, call me."

"You're not going?" Elena asked.

"Nope." Damon said. "It's her birthday and I'm treating her to a special day, all day to prove that not all Buffy Birthdays are a bad thing."

"And something will come up to prove him wrong." Buffy said.

"You sound so sure."

"Because I am so sure."

"Have fun today." Elena said, hugging Buffy. "I'll see you when we get back. Alaric and I are making dinner for you."

"You guys don't have to."

"I know." Elena and Bonnie waved as they walked out the door.

Buffy's cell phone started ringing just as the door clicked into place. "Hey Caroline."

"Happy Birthday!" Caroline cried on the other end.

"Thank you."

"Where are you? I need to give you my present."

"I'm at Elena's, but I'm getting ready to head to the Grill with Damon for lunch."

"Stay at Elena's. I'm right down the street."

"Ok. I'll see you in a minute." Buffy hung up. "It's a good thing I have her present in my bag."

Buffy and Damon walked into the Grill. Caroline had given Buffy a necklace to match Elena's earrings and Damon's ring. It was a diamond journey necklace with five diamonds that grew in size as they made a wavy line. Buffy had gotten Caroline a pearl necklace and earrings set. She'd spotted it in an antique store and knew that Caroline would love it.

"So, uh…. Next time, dinner?" Alaric asked the woman he was sitting with.

"Yeah. That'd be great." The woman said.

"Take care."

"Bye." She walked off past Buffy and Damon.

Alaric smiled at Buffy. "Hey birthday girl. How's the big 3-0 going?"

"So far so good. I'm still waiting for the badness to start."

"Which it won't." Damon said.

"Yeah. Ok. So, Rick, who was that?" Buffy asked, sitting down in the chair Alaric offered her.

"That was my doctor." Alaric said.

"She's a doctor?" Damon asked, sitting down opposite from Alaric.

"Yeah."

"What's her damage?"

"No damage."

"Come on, Rick. Fact of life: Girl that hot, that smart…. Damage." Damon caught the glare Buffy was shooting him. "You're living proof."

"The bad is about to happen." Buffy threatened.

"Hey. I think you're perfect. Damage and all." He kissed her cheek and she rolled her eyes.

"I have been looking for red flags." Alaric admitted, shaking his head at the couple. "Her, uh…. Her ex called her a psycho case the other day."

"If it comes from her ex, it doesn't count." Buffy said.

"I wonder what my exes would call me?"

"Nothing. They're all dead." Damon said.

"Huh…. Well, her ex is the medical examiner, so…. He's dead adjacent."

"She dated the medical examiner?" Buffy asked.

"Mm-hmm."

"He's not dead adjacent. He's just plain dead."

"What?"

"He was murdered. The sheriff is trying to keep a lid on it because he was staked like a vampire."

"Well, Meredith didn't say anything about that."

"Red flag number two." Damon interjected.

Alaric ignored Damon and looked at Buffy. "Who do you think killed him?"

"I don't know, but if I were a cop, your lady friend would definitely be a suspect." Buffy said.

"We can always check her out for you." Damon said.

"I can handle this." Alaric said. "In fact, please let me handle it."

"Ok." Buffy said. "She's all yours, but if she tries to kill you, I hope she's supernatural so you can come back from it."

Alaric snorted. "Thanks. I'll see you guys later." He stood up and grabbed his bill.

"You know that I'm not going to let him handle it, right?" Damon said as soon as Alaric was out of earshot.

"Well, I'm staying out of it." Buffy said.

"What?"

"It's my birthday and I am relaxing today."

"You don't want to come with me to the hospital to check out Dr. Love?"

"Nope. I'm staying out of it today. I'm avoiding the bad, not looking for it."

"But if I went tomorrow…."

"Which you won't. You're too impatient."

"But if I went tomorrow, then you would go?"

"Maybe." Buffy looked down at the menu.

Buffy walked into her house minus Damon and set down her purse. She'd let him go to the hospital after dropping her off at their house. He'd been itching to go talk to Alaric's doctor friend. Buffy made her way to the stairs and then sighed when a figure dislodged itself from the shadows of the library.

"Maybe I should've stayed human to keep unwanted houseguests out."

Klaus shrugged. "It's a downside."

"What do you want?"

"I just came for a chat."

"I'm not telling you where the coffins are."

"I didn't think you would. And I don't fancy torturing you today. After all, it is your birthday."

"Seriously? You just came by to wish me a happy birthday?" She shook her head. "This is surreal."

"Well, I stopped by to chat with Stefan and then I decided to wait until you got home. Where's your boyfriend?"

"Snooping. Why was Stefan here?"

"He lives here, doesn't he?"

"After that stunt he pulled with Elena he's lucky I don't kick his ass out on the street."

"That was a nasty thing for him to do." Buffy didn't reply. She just stared at Klaus. He smiled. "Well, since it's your birthday, I have a present for you." He held out his hand to her and waited. She sighed and shook her head, taking his hand and letting him lead her into the library. "I know that you lost a lot when Sunnydale turned into a crater, but I managed to dig up something for you." He grabbed a beautifully wrapped present off the liquor table and handed it to her.

"It's not going to bite me, is it? A lot of things in Sunnydale did that."

"I promise. No biting." Buffy nodded and tore open the wrapping paper, purposely destroying it. She opened the box and gasped.

"Klaus…." Buffy was staring at a framed picture of her, her mother, and Dawn. It had been hanging on the wall in the living room. Underneath that was a framed picture of her, Xander, Willow, and Giles all sitting in the library at Sunnydale High School. She remembered taking that picture. It was just before they'd cleared out the library to blow up the school and the Mayor. Buffy still had her bandage on her neck from Angel's bite. "How…."

"I had some friends of mine do some digging through some photo labs in California. They managed to find these negatives at one of them. Did you know they kept copies of those things?"

"Why did you do this?"

"I told you…. Because I do actually like you and…."

"You're not all bad." Buffy shook her head, looking at the pictures. "I don't know what to say."

"'Thank you, Klaus' would suffice."

"Thank you, Klaus."

"And maybe a hug?" Buffy glared at him. "Oh well…. It was worth a shot. There's a card in there. It contains a disc with more of those lost pictures on there."

"I never thought I'd see these pictures again."

Klaus smiled slightly. "So, what did your boyfriend get you?" He fingered the bracelet and its four beads. "A charm bracelet?"

"It's a Pandora. It's expensive and it means a lot to me."

"Yes, well…. We can all get you pretty, shiny, expensive baubles, but in the end you're a sentimental girl. Presents with deeper meaning make you happiest."

"The bracelet has a deeper meaning to me. I love it."

"But you love the pictures more."

"This isn't a contest. There is no contest."

"Isn't there?"

"I love Damon. I choose Damon. Why does everyone question that?"

"Ah, Angel…. He was quite selfish in asking you to run away with him. Oh well…. One less suitor for your heart for me to contend with."

"Stop it! You're not a contender for my heart. There is only one person that I love and there is only one person that I'm choosing. And it's not you. Please leave."

Klaus smiled. "I'll see you soon, love." And with that, he was gone. Buffy shook her head angrily and took a few deep breaths. After trying to call Damon unsuccessfully, she set the pictures down on the table and marched to the front door. Grabbing her purse, she raced out the door and over to Alaric's apartment.

"Buffy…." He was surprised by her sudden appearance. "What's wrong?" He stopped pumping weights and sat up.

"Klaus. Damn him!"

"What's he done?"

"He's just…. Ugh!"

"Ok…. Calm down. Your emotions are getting crazy…."

"I know that!"

"Breathe, ok?"

Buffy took another few deep breaths and sat down. "I love this bracelet."

"Ok."

"I love Damon."

"I know."

"Why is he trying to make me question myself? My decisions?"

"We're starting to get somewhere."

Buffy sighed. "When I went home, Klaus was there. He had a birthday present for me."

"You're still alive, so it wasn't anything bad."

"It was pictures."

"Pictures?"

"Yes. Pictures that I'd lost when Sunnydale collapsed. Pictures of my mom and Giles and…. He somehow found them and gave them back to me."

Alaric shook his head. "Wow."

"Yeah."

"He's trying to get under your skin. You can't let him."

"He's trying to break Damon and me up. He wants me for himself."

Just then, Damon opened the door and walked in. "Sweetheart, what are you doing here? I thought you were at home pampering yourself till I got back."

"Well, the house was a bit infested." Buffy said with a sneer.

"What happened? Are you ok?"

"I'm fine. It was Klaus. He's a real jerk."

"Uh, yeah."

"What are you doing here?" Alaric asked."Just looking for a bunny. You're good…. For now."

"You still obsessed with Meredith? I mean, don't you have an Original vampire to worry about?"

"You know, you might want to continue your work out. You're gonna want to buff up if you start dating this one. Self-defense and all…."

"What is your problem?"

"Your doctor vervained me. And then she blood-jacked me."

"What?" Buffy asked.

"When did you even see her?" Alaric asked.

"When I went to the hospital to accuse her of killing her ex-boyfriend." Damon said, sitting down next to Buffy. "Which, by the way, very sensitive subject."

"It usually is." Buffy said.

"Damon!" Alaric said. "What the hell are you doing, huh?"

"Why are you mad at me?" Damon asked.

"I told you I'd handle this!"

"I proved your theory. Diagnosed psycho case. You're welcome." Damon looked at Buffy. "What happened with Klaus?"

"He's still trying to get between us." Buffy said.

"Big surprise. When's he gonna realize that I win that battle?"

Buffy shook her head. "I think never."

"What are you going to do about the present he gave you?" Alaric asked.

"He gave you a present?" Damon asked.

"Yeah. I don't know what to do about it. I mean…. I never thought I'd see any of those pictures again. I can't just…. throw them out."

"Even though they're from Klaus?" Alaric asked.

"What pictures?" Damon asked.

"Klaus found pictures that I'd lost in Sunnydale. He had his hybrids go to a bunch of photo places in California and he actually found them. I haven't looked at the disc to see what else is on there, but he framed two of them." Buffy sighed. "I can't throw those away."

Damon groaned. "I'll hand him this: He's good. I wish I would have thought of that."

"Damon…."

"No, you know what? Put the pictures up. They're your memories. Just because Klaus gave them back to you doesn't mean that they're anything special to him. Forget that he even gave them to you."

"Are you sure?"

Damon took Buffy's hand. "Sweetheart, it would kill you to throw those pictures away. I don't care that he gave them to you because I know that what we have is stronger than anything he's offering."

Buffy smiled. "Ok. I won't get rid of them." Her cell phone chirped and when she looked at the text, her face fell.

"What's wrong?" Alaric asked.

Buffy looked at Damon. "We've got to get to the coffins. Now."

"Why?" Damon asked.

"Bonnie's mother kidnapped her and she's told one of Klaus's hybrids where the coffins are hidden."

"You're faster than me. Go. I'll catch up."

Buffy nodded and was gone in a flash.

Damon walked down into the basement of the witches' house and noticed that the coffins were missing. He knew that Buffy had only gotten one out since she'd texted him on her way out of town with it. So he knew that Klaus must be waiting.

"What took you so long?" Klaus dislodged himself from the shadows. "Hiding behind your witchy friends and in squalor no less." The candle flames suddenly flared and Klaus screamed, falling to his knees.

Damon looked around and smiled. "Insulting a bunch of dead witches? Not smart. I made the exact same mistake when I came in here."

"Well, you know the funny thing about witches is that living or dead, they care about their own. A hundred dead witches for the thousand living descendants…." He screamed again and grabbed his head. "And I have no problem killing every last one of them if I don't get my coffins back! As we speak, my hybrid friend is prepared to end the Bennett line." The flames died down and Klaus straightened up. "Now…. Please, show me the coffins." The coffins appeared sitting in the same positions they'd been in when Damon had last saw them with the exception of one. "Here we are." Klaus counted them and noticed that one was missing. "Where's the fourth?" Damon didn't answer. "Show me!"

"They can't." Klaus and Damon turned to see Buffy standing in the doorway. Damon smiled and moved over towards her. "It's not here."

"What did you do?" Klaus asked, moving towards Buffy.

She wasn't intimidated. "Bonnie gave me the heads up. I didn't have time to get all four…. I'm a little thing and even with limitless strength and all, my arms are still so short! But I did have time to get one."

Klaus moved closer to her and got in her face. "I will tear your boyfriend limb from limb while you watch. And only then, when he's a writhing mass of blood and flesh and you're begging me to stop, will I rip his heart from his chest."

"Threatening my fiancé?" Buffy laughed and it actually sent cold shivers down Damon's back. She moved even closer to Klaus and said in his ear, "The same rules apply here, love. It's called leverage." She moved back an inch and stared up into his eyes. "I know you want your family back, but something tells me that you want what's in that coffin a lot more." She smirked and patted his surprised face. "See you later." Buffy took Damon's hand and they walked off.

Buffy sat in the living room in front of a roaring fire reading a book. Damon was upstairs taking a shower. Just then, the front door opened and Stefan walked in. "I see you're still alive. I assume Klaus didn't get his coffins."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Don't look so happy. I was only able to get the locked one out in time."

"Probably a good choice."

"I know."

"If you're banking on Bonnie's mother to open it, you're screwed. She doesn't have any powers."

"Doesn't surprise me. It's been that kind of night."

"Is Elena ok? She hasn't called."

"She's fine." Stefan started to walk out, but he turned back around. "I'm sorry."

"What?"

"For what I did to Elena…. I'm sorry."

"You should apologize to her."

"I did." Buffy looked surprised. "We talked."

"Oh."

Stefan walked over and sat down in front of Buffy. He pulled out a little box from his pocket. "Here."

"What is it?" She opened the box and found a little silver suitcase Pandora bead.

"I figured that you'd want something to remind you of Lexi. I heard that Damon got you that bracelet, so I thought this would suffice since you two liked to travel."

"Oh…. Uh…. Thank you."

"Happy Birthday, Buffy." He got up and headed for the door.

"Stefan?"

He stopped and turned. Buffy was holding up a dagger. "Where did you get that?"

"I borrowed it from Elijah." She smirked.

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