The Next Chapter

Chapter 52

Chapter 52

Buffy was putting her hair up in a ponytail when her phone rang. She didn't recognize the number. "Hello?"

"Hello Buffy."

"Elijah. Welcome back."

"You wanted to meet with me?"

"Yes."

"Now. There's a clearing in the woods not too far from your house. It's just east of it."

"I'll be there." She hung up and turned around, heading out of her room and abandoning the ponytail. Damon was downstairs fixing them drinks. "Hey."

"You're hair's a mess." Damon said, kissing her cheek.

"Your fault."

"Had to end your birthday with a bang." He smirked.

"Yeah. Come on."

"Where are we going?"

"To meet Elijah."

"What?"

"He called. Let's go." Buffy led the way out the back door, making sure Stefan didn't hear them. Just as they walked through the tree line, Buffy's phone rang again. "Good morning, Elena."

"Hey. Sorry about dinner last night." Elena said.

"It's fine. It was a bad day."

"We'll raincheck it for another night. Listen, we've got a problem."

"When don't we?"

"Sheriff Forbes came by just now. She found fingerprints on the stake used to kill the medical examiner."

"Rick's girlfriend?"

"Nope. Mine."

Buffy stopped dead and caused Damon to run into her. He bounced off of her and fell to the ground with an annoyed look. Buffy didn't move an inch. "What do you mean?"

"The only clean prints she found on the stake were mine because the stakes are the ones that you made for Alaric and I."

"Making you the prime suspect." Buffy said as she helped Damon to his feet.

"She doesn't think that I did it. She's just trying to find out why someone used one of my family's weapons to kill a Council member."

"Just ask Rick if his dirty little doctor had access to the weapons." Damon said, leaning close to Buffy to speak into the phone. He smirked and kissed her before pulling away.

"You're on speakerphone, dick." Alaric said. Buffy held her phone out and put it on speakerphone.

"I'm just saying…. The first suspect's usually the right one. Don't get so defensive." Damon said.

"Brian Walters was killed days ago. I didn't show Meredith this stuff until last night."

"It wasn't Meredith." Elena said.

"Brian Walters was her ex-boyfriend and Rick saw them fighting that night."

"It's not Meredith, ok? I refuse to believe your love life is that tragic."

"Who else knows about your weapons stash?" Buffy asked.

"A dozen. I've got weapons here, the school, my loft, your car, Damon's car, your house…." Alaric said.

"It's Klaus." Damon said. "He's just screwing with us."

"I wonder if it was Stefan." Elena said. "He was crazy that night. You know, he was trying to get under Klaus's skin…. He was capable of pretty much anything."

"Oh…. Makes me nostalgic for the time when Stefan was a bunny snacking pacifist."

Buffy spotted Elijah. "Gotta go, guys."

"Hey, where are you?" Alaric asked.

"Tea with an old friend." Buffy hung up. "Elijah."

"My favorite Original!" Damon said. "Back from the dead. You clean up nice."

Elijah reached into his inside pocket and produced the note Buffy had left him. "You left something in my jacket pocket."

Buffy smiled slightly. "Sure did. 'Dear Elijah, let's get together and plot the destruction of your brother. Here's my number.'"

Elijah looked Buffy up and down for a moment. "You're different."

Buffy chose not to answer him. "Was I right to un-dagger you or are we going to have a problem?"

"I'm here. Let's talk."

"I'll start with an easy question: Any idea what kind of Klaus-killing weapon could be magically sealed in a mystery coffin?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Buffy nodded. "Thought not. Your brother likes his secrets."

"Yes."

"Let's arrange a sit down then."

"What?" Damon asked.

"You and Klaus with Damon, Stefan, and myself."

"What are we to discuss?" Elijah asked.

"Terms of surrendering the coffin to him."

"What? Have you lost your mind, sweetheart?" Damon asked.

"Damon! Hush." Buffy turned back to Elijah. "Well?"

"I'll call you with the time." Elijah said.

"Thank you." Buffy turned and started to walk off with Damon right behind her.

"The change suits you." Elijah said, causing Buffy to turn back around. "You make an exquisite vampire." He turned and disappeared.

"We are not calling a truce!" Damon said. "Are you crazy?"

"Nope. And we're not calling a truce." Buffy said.

"Then what are we doing?"

"Stalling. Bonnie and her mother are working on getting that coffin open. Willow's sent over some spells to Bonnie for them to work on. If we can get that thing open today, then we've got leverage against Klaus. We win."

"When did you become so devious?"

Buffy shrugged. "It's always been in me," She grabbed his jacket and pulled Damon to her. "I just needed a good mentor to help me hone my skills." He smirked and brought her lips to his.

Buffy sat in Stefan's room waiting for him to come out of the bathroom. Elijah had called with what time Klaus had agreed to and the details of their plan. Elijah seemed to be on their side once again.

Stefan jumped slightly when he saw her, but she just smiled and tossed him a shirt. "Get dressed. You, Damon, and I are going out."

"Yeah, sorry…. Not interested." Stefan tossed the shirt back to her.

"I didn't ask. Elijah and I have scheduled a very old fashioned sit down with us and Klaus." She tossed the shirt back to Stefan. "Stick with the black since you like to look all villain-y."

Stefan rolled his eyes. "Klaus won't make a deal, Buffy."

"I know. And he doesn't have to. It's called buying time to give our wicked witches a chance to pop the top off the coffin like a can of Coke."

"So, that's your plan? Stall Klaus?"

"You got a better one? Cause we're running out of options. You going all postal on his hybrids did that, by the way."

"So you release an Original to help Klaus out?"

"Un-daggering Elijah was smart, Stefan. After what Klaus did to him, he's in vengeance mode. It's perfect."

"There's nothing smart about trusting Elijah. He screwed us over the last time he helped us kill Klaus."

"The way you've been acting, I trust him about as much as I trust you." She didn't miss the flinch in his eyes. She sighed. "Look, I don't trust Elijah. But he's a lot more reliable than Klaus."

"Why don't you use your new super strength to take Klaus's head off or rip out his heart?"

"Because I'm pretty sure that it won't kill him."

"Then why did you change?"

"To protect my family. I can fight Klaus…. Probably till the cows come home…. But I need whatever's in that coffin to kill him. Now, please, get dressed and get happy. We're going to negotiate a fake truce and I don't want your attitude screwing it up." She walked out of Stefan's room and headed down to her and Damon's.

"How do I look?" Damon asked, showing off his black pants and burgundy sweater.

"Delicious." Buffy smiled.

"Is Stefan coming?"

"I didn't give him a choice." She made her way to their closet and started going through dresses. She grabbed a black dress with a white block of fabric that curved under her chest and went down just the front, creating the illusion of an hour glass figure when she put it on. She grabbed a pair of nude colored heels and left her hair up in the messy ponytail.

"You look nice." Damon said, admiring the tight dress.

Buffy shrugged. "Maybe it'll distract Klaus and make him take the fake truce."

Damon, Buffy, and Stefan waited outside Klaus's house. The place looked good from the outside. The last time Buffy and Stefan had been there, the place had been under major renovations. Now it looked completed.

Elijah opened the front door. "Nicklaus, our guests have arrived." He called.

Damon walked in first, followed by Buffy and then Stefan. Klaus stood off to the side of the foyer. "Damon, Stefan…." He took Buffy's hand with a smile, kissing her knuckles. "My darling." He wound her hand through his arm and held it there like a gentleman. "Elijah tells me you seek an audience. Very bold." He led them to a room just off the foyer where a table for five was elegantly set up and three girls all dressed in black skirts and gold tops stood off to the side. "Let's discuss our agreement like civilized people, shall we?" He gestured to the table, still holding Buffy's hand through his arm.

"It's better to indulge him." Elijah said.

"I didn't come here to eat, Klaus." Stefan said. "In fact, I didn't want to come here at all, but I was told I had to…." He shot a pointed look at Buffy. "Cause you wouldn't hear us out."

Klaus chuckled. "Well, we can sit and eat or I can reach down your throats and pull out your insides. Sweetheart," He held out a chair for Buffy and helped her into it. "You look ravishing tonight, by the way." Klaus looked at Damon and Stefan expectantly as he sat down to Buffy's right. "The choice is yours." Damon sat down on Buffy's left and Elijah sat down to Klaus's right, leaving the chair between Damon and Elijah empty.

"Sit down, Stefan." Buffy said, her tone leaving no room for argument. Stefan glared at her as he sat down.

Klaus smiled. "Girls." Two of the three girls moved off to start serving the food and wine. Klaus looked at Buffy. "I hope you like Cabernet sauvignon."

Buffy shrugged. "I don't mind it."

"What's your preference?"

"A good Riesling, actually."

"That's no problem. I have some down in the cellar." He motioned to the third girl and she disappeared.

"Damon is the red wine drinker of the two of us." She shot him a smile and he returned it, making Klaus glare for a second.

"I'm sure you two have fun trips to wineries."

Buffy smirked slightly. "Well, we haven't gone since I turned. Maybe my tastes have altered a bit."

"There's a lovely vineyard in Louisa with this divine dessert wine infused with chocolate."

"Sounds delightful. Damon, we'll have to go sometime."

"Can't wait." Damon said, taking her hand.

Klaus didn't miss his exclusion, but he didn't let it deter him. "I'll have one of my girls bring up a bottle of the Noche Chocolate wine for you to take home."

"That would be lovely." Buffy said. She didn't miss Elijah's smirk. She was playing along with Klaus's civility game and still snubbing him at the same time like an old pro.

The food was finally served and the five of them ate in relative silence except for Stefan. Klaus looked over at him. "You lost your appetite."

"Eat." Damon said. "I thought we agreed that we would leave the grumpy Stefan at home?"

Stefan rolled his eyes and picked up his knife and fork. "That's the spirit." Klaus said. He looked at Buffy. "Isn't this nice? The five of us dining together. It's such a treat. Is this what you had in mind when you pulled the dagger out of my brother?"

Buffy smiled. "Well, I know how he felt about you, so I figured the more the merrier."

"Well, Elijah and I have had our quarrels over the centuries, but we always make it through."

"Kind of like, uh, Rebekah, right?" Stefan asked. "Where is she, by the way? Last I checked she was still daggered because you were afraid to face her."

"If you're referring to the fact that Rebekah knows I killed our mother, I've already come clean to Elijah."

"Hey, Stef," Damon said. "You remember when you killed dad? You might want to dial down the judgment till dessert."

"We're here to make a deal, Damon. It doesn't mean we have to kiss his ass for seven courses." Stefan retorted.

"I'm just saying, we have a long evening ahead of us. Pace yourself."

Buffy's cell phone started ringing in her purse. "Oh, I thought I turned that off." She grabbed it and looked at the number. "It's Caroline."

"Don't answer it." Damon said."Oh, go ahead." Klaus said. "It may be important."

Buffy shook her head and sent Caroline a text saying she'd call her back. "It's ok. My attention is here."

"Stefan, where is the lovely Elena tonight?" Elijah asked.

"I don't know." Stefan said. "Ask Buffy. She's her guardian."

"Not anymore." Buffy said. "Elena's 18 now."

"The way she acts…. You should probably keep a close eye on her. 18 or not."

"Well, if certain people would stop acting like a complete jackass towards her, then she wouldn't have to react to things the way she does."

Klaus chuckled and Elijah looked puzzled. "I'm sorry. You've missed so much. Uh, trouble in paradise."

"Well, he did try to drive her off a bridge." Buffy said, shooting a cold look at Stefan. "I think that constitutes as a category five hurricane in paradise."

"One more word about Elena and, uh, this dinner's over." Stefan said.

"One more snarky comment from you and my salad fork goes through your eye." Buffy smiled sweetly and Klaus laughed loudly at the exchange.

"You know what? It's probably best to put Elena in the 'do not discuss' pile." Damon said, trying to keep the peace. Buffy was still a new vampire, despite how good at it she was, and her emotions could still get out of control.

"You're probably right." Klaus said. "It's just…. The allure of the Petrova doppelgänger…. Still so strong! What do you say, brother? Should we tell them about Tatia?"

"Now why should we discuss matters long since resolved?" Elijah said.

"Oh, given their shared affection for Elena," Klaus motioned to Buffy and Stefan. "And Katerina," He motioned to Damon and Stefan. "Our guests might be curious to learn about the originator of the Petrova line."

"We're not going anywhere Elijah." Damon said. "Please, do tell."

"When our family first settled here, there was a girl named Tatia." Elijah said. "She was an exquisite beauty, much like the lovely Miss Summers here…. Every boy of age desired to be her suitor even though she'd had a child by another man…. And none loved her more than Nicklaus."

"Oh, I'd say there was one who loved her at least as much." Klaus said.

"Wait, so…. You both loved the same girl?" Stefan asked.

"Our mother was a very powerful witch." Elijah said. "She sought to end our feud over Tatia, so she took her. Klaus and I would later learn that it was Tatia's blood that we'd consumed on the night that our mother performed the spell which turned us into vampires. Tatia wouldn't make a decision between the two of us, so for a time Nicklaus and I grew estranged. Harsh words were traded. We even came to blows, didn't we brother?"

"Well, in the end we recognized the sacred bond of family."

"Family above all." Elijah raised his glass to toast Klaus."

Klaus followed suit. "Family above all."

The girls came back and began to clear the table off. While they worked, Buffy's cell phone vibrated. She checked the message from Bonnie saying they were close and needed just a little more time. Buffy refrained from sighing and smiled up at Klaus when he started to lean over to see what she was doing.

"So why don't we move this evening along and discuss the terms of this proposal?" Elijah suggested.

"It's very simple." Buffy said. "Klaus gets his coffin back. In exchange, he and the entire extended Original family leave Mystic Falls forever. Myself, Damon, Elena, and Stefan live happily ever after. No grudges and I'll even send you, Elijah, an invite to the wedding if I ever decide to have one."

"The deal sounds fair brother."

"I don't think you understand." Klaus said. "Elena's doppelgänger blood ensures that I will always have more hybrids to fight those that oppose me. I will never leave her behind." After a second, Klaus stood up. "Let's say I do leave her here under your protection. How long before one of you turns her into a vampire? Or worse, she gets caught in the cross fire in one of your many battles, Buffy? After all, you still wear the Slayer mantle despite your recent change. You see, each of you believe that you're the one that can protect her and that is simply a delusion. The worst thing for Elena Gilbert is the three of you."

Buffy raised an eyebrow. "Is there nothing you won't do or say to get what you want? Do you honestly believe that I would hurt Elena?"

"Not intentionally, no. But look at your track record. How many friends have you lost in your young life because they followed you into battle? May I remind you of what happened to your friend Xander? Elena would follow you anywhere. It's understandable, but she wants a normal life…. The same as you once did…. But she can never have that with you around."

Buffy stood up and moved towards Klaus. "And you honestly believe that she can have that with you around always wanting a blood donation from her?"

"Yes. I do."

"I would never ask Elena to do anything that would put her in danger."

"Like I said, not intentionally. I know you pretty well by now, Buffy. And I also know that the bad things that happen to your friends are never intended on your part, but in the end…. It's always your fault."

"That's not true."

"It's nothing but the truth."

"I need some air." Buffy said suddenly. She turned on her heel and walked out.

"Buffy…." Damon started as he followed her.

"Let me deal with this." Elijah said, following Damon out after Buffy. He found them waiting outside.

"It's not true what he said. Elena is perfectly safe with you." Damon said, holding her hand and gently rubbing her back. He looked at Elijah. "Did you un-dagger the rest of your family?"

"They should be awake any moment."

"Let's go let them in on the secret." Buffy started back into the house, but Elijah stopped her.

"Allow me. They trust me."

"Rebekah trusts me."

"That may be, but the others don't know you and though you are a vampire, you still exude a Slayer's essence. And a very powerful one at that."

"Oh."

"I'll meet you at the foot of the stairs in a few moments." Elijah disappeared up onto a second story balcony.

Buffy looked at Damon. "Klaus is right about Elena. She'll follow me anywhere and I will end up getting her killed."

"No." Damon said. "Baby, no. Elena is smart. She knows what she's doing."

Buffy shook her head. "She has no idea what she's getting deeper and deeper into. And I feel like I'm leading her by the hand sometimes." She moved away from Damon. "I want her to have a normal life more than she does."

"She'll never have it. She can't. Buffy, if you weren't here…. Elena would probably be dead by now. You've saved her so many times. And those bad things? They would happen to her anyway. She's a doppelgänger."

Buffy sighed. "I just wish I could give her the normal life she deserves. The one I never got to have." She moved towards the door. "Elijah's ready." He met them at the foot of the stairs as promised and they walked back into the dining room together.

"What do you say, Klaus?" Damon asked. "Time for you to put something on the table. We've made our offer. Now you counter."

"Ok." Klaus sat down in the chair Elijah was standing beside. "I offer Elena's future happiness. You see, what she needs right now is to be rid of you lot. And to fall in love with a human…. Maybe that nice football player. You know, the blonde one?"

"Matt Donovan?" Damon asked. "Really?"

"Yeah! Why not? They'll marry. Live a long and fruitful life and pop out a perfect family."

"And you continue the Petrova bloodline." Buffy said. "Every few hundred years you'll have a new doppelgänger to drain and never run out of hybrids. Am I right?"

"Consider it a small return on the investment of her wellbeing. See, after you hand me back the coffin, I'll ensure her safety for the rest of her natural life. You all know it's what's best for her. So," Klaus stood up and moved towards Buffy. "What do you say? Do we have a deal?"

Stefan moved towards Klaus now standing beside the fireplace. "What are you doing?" Damon asked. Stefan ignored him on his way over to Klaus. Klaus held out his hand and Stefan took it after a moment. Klaus smiled.

"Nice try, Klaus." Stefan said. "But no deal."

Klaus suddenly broke Stefan's wrist as he turned him and kicked Stefan hard in the back of the knee, knocking him to the ground. He shoved Stefan's hand into the fire as Elijah rushed Buffy and Damon. He knocked Buffy back a few feet into another room where she landed on a coffee table, destroying it. Damon found himself pinned to the wall by Elijah's hand on his throat.

"What are you doing?" Damon choked out.

Buffy flew back in, but Elijah grabbed her. "Stop this!" She demanded.

"Now bring me my coffin before I burn him alive." Klaus said.

"We'll get it." Damon said, shoving past Elijah and taking Buffy's hand. They moved off into the other room where the rest of the Original family waited to surprise Klaus. Rebekah nodded at Buffy.

"Go with him brother." Klaus said. "And when you return, I will make good on my promise to you and I will hand over our family." Elijah nodded and walked out after Buffy and Damon.

"Go ahead. Kill me." Stefan growled. "I know you'll do it when he brings the coffin."

"You really have given up, haven't you, huh?" Klaus said. "Where's the fight? Where's the ripper?" Elijah, Damon, and Buffy walked back into the room with one of Klaus's girls holding a tray. "Elijah. Why haven't you left?"

"Where are your manners brother?" Elijah asked. "We forgot dessert." He pulled the cloth off the tray and revealed two of the daggers from the Original family.

"What have you done?"

"What have you done? See, I've learned not to trust your vulgar promises, Klaus. We're

doing this on my terms now."

Cole appeared behind Elijah and Klaus panicked. "Cole!"

"Long time, brother." Cole said.

Klaus tried to run, but Finn appeared in his path and grabbed one of the daggers from the tray. "Finn, don't!" Finn shoved the dagger through Klaus's hand. Klaus screamed and tried to run the other way, but Rebekah was blocking his path. "Rebekah!"

She stabbed him in the gut. "This is for our mother." Klaus stumbled back and Cole grabbed him, holding him tightly.

Elijah glanced at Buffy. "You're free to go." Buffy grabbed Stefan and followed Damon out the door. "This is family business."

As soon as the three of them were at the car, Buffy pulled out her cell phone. There was a text from Liz. "Oh my god…."

"What's wrong?" Damon asked.

"Bill Forbes is dead." Buffy held the phone up to her ear. "Liz, what's happened?"

Buffy walked up the stairs at Elena's house and found her sitting next to a dead Alaric. Caroline had filled her in on what was going on with herself and with Elena and told her to go to Elena. Buffy was torn, but she did as Caroline asked.

"Hey."

Elena looked up and sighed. "Buffy….""I'm sorry I haven't been around today." She sat down next to Elena. "He's still out?"

Elena nodded. "Have you talked to Caroline?"

"Yeah. She told me what's going on over there and she also told me about what happened here."

"Will you stay with me until he wakes up?"

"Of course, sweetie." Buffy wrapped an arm around Elena and Elena hugged Buffy tightly, beginning to cry.

"I can't lose any more family."

Buffy closed her eyes, fighting back tears. "I'm not going anywhere." She held Elena until her tears stopped. "Was this Meredith?"

"I don't know."

"I don't smell anybody who's not supposed to be in this house. I do smell a lot of blood and bleach, though."

"Matt and I cleaned up. I guess we didn't get it all."

"It's ok." Buffy pulled out her cell phone and dialed Liz again. "Hey, I know this is a bad time, but what can you tell me about Meredith Fell?"

"I looked into it. Meredith Fell was called into surgery six hours ago. She's been in there ever since."

"She has an alibi?"

"Iron tight. There's an operating room full of witnesses."

"Then who could it be?"

"I don't know. But the attack on Alaric makes this the third member of the Founders' Council and we just cleared our only suspect."

Alaric suddenly gasped as he woke up. Buffy hung up on Liz and helped Alaric to sit up. He rested against her lap, coughing and groaning for a moment. Elena took his hand and held it tightly.

"Welcome back." Buffy said.

"How did your meeting go?" Alaric asked after a long moment.

"Better than expected."

"What meeting?" Elena asked.

"A meeting with Klaus to make a fake truce. That's where Damon, Stefan, and I have been all night. It was a stall tactic so Bonnie and her mother could get that coffin open."

"Did it work?"

Buffy grabbed her ringing cell phone and answered it after the second ring. "Damon?"

"It's open." Damon said.

"What was in it?"

"We don't know."

"What do you mean?"

"Whatever it was…. It's gone."

Buffy looked at Elena and Alaric with wide eyes.

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