The Next Chapter

Chapter 55

A/N I'm back! Hope you all enjoy this chapter. I sure did miss these characters while I was gone.

Chapter 55

"I'm glad he's doing good up there." Buffy said into the phone as Damon walked into the living room. "No, the progress reports are appreciated. No sign of the compulsion wearing off?" Buffy kissed Damon quickly as he walked past to get a glass of blood that she'd left for him.

"Dawn?" He mouthed.

Buffy nodded as she said, "Tell him Elena and I say hi and we all miss him down here. Bye, Dawnie." She hung up and looked at Damon. "Good morning."

Damon wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer. "Morning."

"Sorry I wasn't in bed. I couldn't sleep."

"Not surprising. You don't really need it."

"So, what's on the agenda today?"

"Well, with the Originals scattered like cockroaches, I thought you and I could enjoy the whole day together."

"Oh, I like that plan a lot." Buffy kissed him deeply, but her ringing cell phone put a damper on the mood. "It's Liz." She answered it. "Hey, Liz. What's up?"

"I wouldn't call if this wasn't important." Liz said. "Actually, I wouldn't call you at all in this case, but since it involves Elena…."

"Elena?"

"We brought in Alaric Saltzman last night."

"For what?"

"For the murders of Brian Walters and Bill Forbes and the attempted murder of Meredith Fell."

"Wait…. My super-hearing must be off today…. What did you say?"

"I'm not going to repeat it, Buffy. This is serious."

"Why would you arrest Alaric?"

"The evidence against him is piling up and he attacked Meredith Fell last night."

"I'm coming down there."

"That's not necessary."

"If you've arrested the man that is taking care of my ward's house…. Then yeah. It's necessary."

"Buffy…."

"I'm coming down there, Liz." Buffy hung up and looked at Damon. "They arrested Alaric last night."

"I got that." Damon said. "For what?"

"Liz says he's the murderer."

"That's ridiculous. She should be arresting doctor psycho."

"I agree."

"I'm coming too." Damon said, setting his glass down and following Buffy out.

"I didn't do it!" Alaric insisted through the bars. Liz, Buffy, and Damon stood on the other side.

"You're arresting him for what this nut job Dr. Fell says?" Damon asked.

"No. I'm detaining him." Liz said. "The cell is for his own good." She looked at Alaric. "You were shot. Dr. Fell used vampire blood to heal you."

"Dr. Fell is the one who shot me!" Alaric said."Because you came at her with a knife."

"Yeah, with a knife I had found hidden in her things!"

"Are we just going to ignore the fact that Rick was a victim too?" Buffy asked. "He was nearly shishkabobbed to death, Liz!"

"Well, Dr. Fell suggested that his wounds could've been self-inflicted." Liz said.

"Oh my god, you think I stabbed myself?" Alaric snapped."I think I don't know what to think. I've got nothing except for murder weapons from your stash and a respected member of a Founding family pointing a very long finger."

"She is setting me up! I'm being framed here!"

"Well, that may be so, but I don't have any proof of that."

"Then we'll find some." Buffy said.

"No! Buffy, just stay out of it. You getting involved is only going to make matters worse."

Buffy blinked a few times as she looked at Liz incredulously. "Liz…."

"Don't make me put you in that cell with him."

"Oh, you can try…." Buffy growled, her eyes beginning to change.

"Whoa…." Damon grabbed Buffy and moved her behind him before she could do any more damage. "Figure this out, Liz. We'll stay out of it."

"Damon!" Buffy and Alaric protested.

Damon looked at Alaric. "You're not under arrest yet…. Don't push it."

"The voice of reason doesn't become you, Damon." Buffy said.

"Well, that's your job and you're clearly not up for it right now. Let's go cool off and let Liz do her job." Buffy started to protest, but Damon lifted an eyebrow and widened his eyes at her. She growled at him and stormed out of the jail. Damon sighed, "There goes our romantic day…." And followed her upstairs.

Elena walked in just as Buffy walked up. "Buffy!"

"Hey." Buffy said, breathing deeply to get her emotions in check.

"Were you just with…."

"Rick's fine." Damon said, catching up. "The sheriff wants us to stay out of it."

"But you're not going to…. Are you?"Damon took Buffy's hand and squeezed it. "It seems just as good a plan as any."

"Your friend's in jail for murder! You have to do something."

"Thank you!" Buffy snapped.

"Well, I guess I could rip out Dr. False-Accusations' throat or her tongue." Damon said.

"Now there's a plan!"

"You know, I could chew it up into little tiny pieces and feed it to the squirrels."

"Damon!" Elena said.

"Guess us staying out of it suddenly sounds like a good idea, doesn't it." Damon smirked at Elena as Buffy marched out of the jail. "You know, I saved your life last night. You're welcome."

"You know, you could show a little compassion for Bonnie." Elena said, glancing at the closing door that Buffy had just disappeared through.

"I know. You're right. Her and her mom must be really hurting right now. Should I send lasagna?"

"Ok, now you're just being mean."

"I'm mean. You hate me. The Earth is back on its axis."

"You know, if you keep pushing people away, you're going to end up alone. Buffy won't be friendless forever because of you."

"She'll have me. What more will she need?"

"Family." Elena turned and walked out.

Buffy walked into the house and tossed her purse on the sideboard. She heard an incessant rapping coming from upstairs and followed the sound. She found Stefan sitting at the desk in his room tapping his ring against the wood in a nervous fidget. "Hey." Buffy said, startling him. "Sorry. I forget how quiet I am."

"I'm going to put a bell on you." Stefan said, standing up and moving towards her.

"Won't help. I don't move enough for it to actually ring." She was starting to see more and more of the old Stefan coming back and she realized just how much she'd missed him. It was actually enough to make her forget how angry she'd been with him.

"Where's Damon?"

Buffy shrugged. "Don't know. I left him at the jail."

"Mad at him?"

"Alaric was taken in for those Council member murders and Meredith Fell says he attacked her last night."

"Did he?"

"I don't think he did. But she wants us to stay out of it."

"And you don't want to stay out of it."

"Do I ever? But Damon, weirdly enough, does want to stay out of it. What do you think?"

"I think you're capable of making good decisions."

Buffy sighed and sat down in Stefan's vacated seat. "I don't know. Maybe Damon's right.""How bad did those words hurt?"

"Like chugging a 20oz of liquid sunshine without my ring. My emotions are still kinda wonky."

"That's to be expected. You haven't been a vampire for that long."

"It's a bit frustrating." Buffy poked at the journal with the blank entry. "What are you doing?"

"Nothing."

"Hey! Wanna go out on the town with me? I don't want to be cooped up in the house all day."

"I'm hurt." Damon said, walking into the room. "You're asking my little brother on a date?"

"Well, he's closer in age to me than you are." Buffy shot back as Damon went to Stefan's bookshelf.

"What are you doing?" Stefan asked.

"Hey do you remember when we came back from Zachariah's funeral?" Damon asked.

"Vaguely. Why?"

"If memory serves, he wasn't the first Founder's council member killed that year. Or even that month."

"Your point being?"

"I'm trying to remember what year it was."

"1912."

"So much for vaguely." Damon tossed Stefan the journal he'd pulled out.

"What is it exactly that you're doing?" Buffy asked.

"Well, we've got a whodunit on our hands." He smirked at her and she shook her head with a smile. Damon's apologies were always interesting. "So 1912…. Or as I like to call it: The last time Mystic Falls had a serial killer on its hands."

"Oh, I love flashbacks." Buffy said. "Who was Zachariah?"

"He was our nephew and he was one of the ones murdered by the serial killer."

"So, you guys had a sibling?"

"A half brother. Our father had a little tryst with one of the maids. Since Stefan and I were technically dead, the Salvatore name and fortune went to him and then to his son Zachariah."

"Wow."

"That was the first time I saw Damon since he'd turned." Stefan said.

"That was what? Almost 50 years later?"

"Yes.""Talk about a grudge."

"Well, I did promise him an eternity of misery." Damon said."Of which you still haven't owned up to."

Damon rolled his eyes. "What do you say, brother? You wanna go get drunk?"

"That was your plan for today?"

"No, but it seems like a pretty good one now. Plus I was hoping he could help us solve a murder." Damon and Buffy both looked at Stefan expectantly.

Stefan, Damon, and Buffy walked into the Grill. Buffy rolled her eyes as she spotted Rebekah sitting with Carol Lockwood. "Oh, She-Devil at nine o'clock." Damon said.

"Do you happen to know who kept the milling ledges during that period?" Rebekah asked Carol.

"Back then all the logging mills were owned by the Salvatores." Carol replied.

Buffy looked at Damon. "My mom would be so happy that I'm marrying into old southern money."

Damon chuckled and wrapped an arm around her shoulders as they made their way to the bar. "So what does a medical examiner, Bill Forbes, and Alaric Saltzman have in common?" He asked.

Stefan started in on his nervous ticking and Buffy's hand shot out to stop him. "Sorry." He said.

"You know, quitting blood cold turkey after a ripper binge might not be the best approach." Damon said, pouring his brother a drink. "Every time you play that all or nothing game, you eventually leave a trail of bodies. So, I'm thinking, now is a good time to pay our old friend moderation a visit."

"They were all on the Founder's Council, Damon." Stefan said. "That's what they all have in common."

"But why them? Huh? Brian Walters and Alaric weren't from founding families. I mean, hey, if you're gonna slaughter Council members, go A-list. At least in 1912 they killed a Salvatore."

Rebekah walked up behind them. "Which Salvatore would that be?"

"Our nephew." Stefan said.

"You had another sibling?"

"I had that reaction too." Buffy said. "His name was Zachariah. The one that was killed. Not the half-brother.""Huh. So, Zachariah Salvatore was your nephew?"

"Well, our father knocked up one of the maids during the Civil War. She had a son." Damon said. "But as far as everyone else knew, Stefan and I were dead. Family name had to go somewhere."

"And, uh, your family owned the logging mills back then?"

"You're full of a lot of questions."

"I'm just researching the town history. I grew up here after all." Rebekah turned her sights on Buffy. "My brother said you two had a lovely chat and that you almost kissed."

"We did not." Buffy protested. Damon scowled at her and she shook her head. "We talked and he leaned in, but there was no kiss."

"Hence the 'almost' part. Look, if you're going to join our little family, then you should probably stop trying to kill us."

"I'm not joining your family. I don't even like Klaus."

"Sure you don't." Rebekah sent a snarky smirk Damon's way before turning back to Buffy. "I want to go on a shopping spree. Since you're the only girl in this town I actually almost consider a friend and you have impeccable taste…."

Stefan suddenly grabbed his glass and the bottle and moved from between Rebekah and Damon to Damon's right side.

"You'll have to excuse my little brother." Damon said. "He's jonesing for some O positive."

"I'm not jonesing." Stefan protested.

"So, did they ever catch the killer?" Buffy asked, avoiding answering Rebekah's question.

"Nope." Damon said. "Wrote it all off on vampires."

"Maybe it was a vampire." Rebekah suggested.

"Yeah. Yeah, maybe it was a vampire, Damon." Stefan said.

"Don't think for a second you didn't cross my mind too, brother." Damon said. "But these weren't your style, were they? Plus there were no other vampires circulating then."

"Well, there was one other vampire. Remember Sage?"

"Oh, right, Sage."

"Who's Sage?" Buffy asked.

"Yes, Damon." Stefan said. "Who was Sage?"

"Sage was…. She…." Damon said. "Sage taught me to be a vampire."

"Is that all she taught you?"

"I knew a Sage once." Rebekah said. "Trashy little thing."

"You really think it was Sage who was killing all those founders back then?" Damon asked.

"Town questioned every grown man in Mystic Falls." Stefan said. "Probably never occurred to them that a woman could have done it."

"Of course not. Women are the ultimate stealth weapon. Why do you think Slayers are all female?" Buffy said.

"So, uh, tell me more about your old relatives." Rebekah said. "I heard they tore down half the woods to build this town."

A bartender gave them a new bottle of whiskey since Rebekah had finished off the other one. She went to grab the bottle, but Damon grabbed it first. "Easy there, lushy pants. It's been a hoot and a half but it's family night and you weren't invited."

"Buffy's not your family."

"An impending wedding says differently." Damon and Stefan walked off with Buffy, taking the alcohol with them. They settled over by the dart boards and Damon picked the darts up.

"So, let's just say this Sage, who you will tell me more about later, was killing everyone in 1912." Buffy said. "Who's doing it now?"

"It's not that psycho, Dr. Fell." Damon said. "She's a woman. There's no way she could stab three grown men."

Damon threw a dart, but Rebekah caught it before it hit the board. "That's a bit sexist. A woman could easily kill a man, with the right motivation."

"I'm with her." Buffy said.

"You just don't give up, do you?" Stefan said to Rebekah.

"Why are you so grumpy?" Rebekah asked.

"He's on a master cleanse." Damon said. "Trying to be a better man and all."

"You know, you were a lot more fun in the '20s."

"Leave him alone." Buffy said.

"Yeah. He's testy when he's being self-righteous." Damon added, meriting an eye-roll from his fiancée.

"I'm not being self-righteous, Damon." Stefan said. "I'm just not interested in slaughtering innocent human beings anymore."

"Oh, ok, fair enough. My mistake." Damon pulled out Stefan's journal from 1912 that he'd brought with him. "You use to be self-righteous. 'Dear diary, Damon has lost his way, though I have pulled my own life together he continues to waste his.'"

Rebekah grabbed the journal from Damon. "Ouch. 'His bitterness consumes him. He is nothing but blackness and vile.'" She closed the journal. "Oh, judgy."

"Well, this is fun." Stefan said to Buffy, the only one on his side.

"You know, if I'm being honest, you didn't seem like much fun either, Damon." Buffy said, going over to stand with Stefan. She smirked and bumped him with her shoulder.

"I wasn't." Damon said. "The woman I was in love with was stuck in a tomb and she wasn't getting out for a hundred years. I wasn't having any fun at all."

"And where does this Sage come in to play?"

"Now, actually. She found me feeding on a girl…. And she taught me that a woman isn't just for food."

"Oh, really. Then what is she for?"

"She's for pleasure."

"Uh huh…. I'm still with Rebekah on this. That's sexist."

"I'm quoting Sage."

"Uh, who you say made you the vampire I first met when I moved here. A chauvinistic jerk. So, what other words of wisdom did the lovely Sage bestow upon you?"

Damon sighed. "She said that a lot of women are hungry for attention. I should want the ones who button themselves up because those are the women that secretly crave seduction. The game isn't winning them over, it's making them beg for it."

"That sounds like Sage alright." Rebekah said.

"How did you know her?"

"She was obsessed with my brother Finn over 900 years ago."

"What? Creepy suicidal guy?"

Buffy gently grabbed Stefan's hand. He'd started his nervous ring tapping again. "Alright, you know what? I need to…. Uh…. I gotta get out of here." Stefan moved slightly towards the door.

"Sure. First, admit you're jonesing."

"Damon, leave your brother alone." Buffy scolded.

"I'm not…." Stefan started to leave, but Damon rushed over and grabbed him.

"Admit it." Damon said.

"Ok, fine, I'm freaking out. I'm ready to eat the entire wait staff. Why do you need to hear me say it?"

"Because I'm feeling a little self-righteous too." Stefan rolled his eyes and walked out of the Grill. Buffy turned to Damon, but he held up his hand. "Nope. Don't yell."

"I'm not going to yell." Buffy protested. "I was going to say we need to help him."

Damon smirked. "Well, you could use this lesson, too. Come on."

"Where are we going? And what lesson do I need to learn?" Buffy followed Damon out after Stefan. Rebekah decided to tag along and walked out with them.

"So he doesn't want to drink human blood?" Rebekah asked.

"Ah, he's an eternally guilty conscience." Damon said.

"Funny. When I knew him in the 20s, he didn't have any conscience at all. One of the things I liked most about it. He can't possibly think he can survive without feeding."

"Oh, on the contrary, he's determined to live his life pursuing one extreme or the other. He's a stubborn one, my brother." Damon glanced at Buffy. "All right, you're up."

"What am I doing?" Buffy asked.

Damon saw a woman getting out of her car. "You're going to feed from her."

"Damon…."

"At some point in your life, you're not going to have a blood bank to rely on. Just like Stefan, you need to learn to control yourself. The only way to do that is to feed from a live human." He placed his hand gently on her cheek. "You're not going to kill her and you can use your compulsion to keep her from feeling pain."

Buffy sighed and was suddenly standing in front of the woman. "Sorry about this." She caught the woman's eye and said, "You won't feel a thing" before biting into the woman's neck. The taste of the warm blood was overpowering. This was so much better than the heated up blood bags!

Stefan stopped walking when he smelled the blood and rushed over to Buffy, pulling her off the woman. "Buffy, stop!"

Buffy growled at Stefan, angry that he'd stopped her from feeding, but she remembered herself and took a deep breath to calm herself. She willed her eyes to change back to normal and her fangs to go back up to their normal size. "Good girl." Damon said behind her.

"What are you doing?" Stefan demanded. "She's never had human blood straight from the source! She could've killed that woman."

"No, because she's willing to learn control. Just like you need to. You're not gonna survive this cold turkey thing. You never do. It's time to get that monkey off your back."

"No. No."

"Feed or I'll let Rebekah have her way with her. You know she'll kill her."

Buffy glanced at where Rebekah was now holding the unconscious woman. "Damon…."

"You know I will." Rebekah said.

"Then her blood will be on your hands." Damon said, squeezing Buffy's hand to signal her to be quiet. She hated this, but Damon was right about learning control. For both her and Stefan. The taste of that blood…. "Or you could just have a little drink, save her life. Come on, Stefan. You were the one that said you didn't want any more innocent lives slaughtered. Save her. Go on, have a bite. Buffy snatched, you eat, I'll erase. Hell, I'll even heal her for you."

"Why are you doing this?" Stefan asked. "You know what blood does to me."

"Because you let it control you. You always have. I'm just here to help you learn how to fight it."

"This is rubbish." Rebekah let her fangs extend and got ready to sink her teeth into the woman's already bleeding neck, but Stefan rushed over and pushed her out of the way. He grabbed the woman before she fell and stared at the blood running down her neck. With a pained sigh, he bit down and fed.

"We've got it from here." Damon said to Rebekah. "Go ahead."

"The night's just getting started." Rebekah protested.

"Scram. No one likes a lurker."

"You're a real ass, you know?"

"So I'm told." Rebekah huffed and walked away. Damon turned to his brother. "Alright, that's enough. Come on. You're gonna bleed her dry. You're gonna drain her. Come on." He pushed Stefan off of the woman. Stefan had blood running down his chin and he lunged back at the woman's neck, but Damon pushed him away. "I said that's enough! Hey, you wanna fight hunger or do you wanna fight me?"

Buffy pulled Stefan gently away, still waging her own small battle against the sweet smell of the fresh blood. Stefan took a deep breath, gripping Buffy's wrist tightly. She nodded at him, reassuring both of them that they were strong. That he wasn't in this alone. Damon bit his wrist to heal the woman just as Elena and Matt walked past the alleyway and stopped.

"What are you doing?" Elena demanded. Stefan turned around and Elena saw the blood on his face. Buffy quickly wiped the small trail of blood at the corner of her lips away, but Elena had already seen it. "Buffy? Stefan?"

Stefan wiped the blood off of his mouth as he stared at her. "Elena."

"What are you three doing?"

"Relax, Elena." Damon said. "Just a little experiment. There's no need to make this more dramatic than it needs to be."

"Elena, let's just go." Matt said. Elena just stood there, staring at Stefan. "Elena!" Matt forced Elena to move and she eventually did with Matt following.

"So…. that's gonna take a little time." Damon said. Stefan walked past Buffy and Damon. "Stefan, hey wait! Stefan. Wait!"

Buffy sighed. "That went a little far."

"Ok, maybe it did."

"We should apologize."

"To who?" Damon scowled for a second and then shrugged. "Hey, you did good, though."

"If Stefan hadn't of pulled me away…."

"You would've pulled away yourself. You're strong Buffy. Stronger than you give yourself credit for."

"I guess I have to be to hang around all this crazy drama." She sighed. "I don't know who I should go after. Stefan or Elena."

"Let Elena cool off. She's not a vampire and she doesn't understand fully what that means."

"I don't think Stefan does either." Buffy said as Damon gently licked away the blood she'd smeared on her hand.

Stefan was sitting in front of the fireplace in the living room when Buffy and Damon walked in. On their way home, Liz had called to let Buffy know that Alaric was out of jail. Buffy looked at Stefan and then pushed Damon gently towards him. She walked over and headed up the stairs.

"They let Rick go." Damon said. "Sheriff Forbes told Buffy that she's out of suspects again, but Rick is in the clear. I know it may not seem like it, but you did really well tonight. And before you know it you're gonna be the king of moderation. Elena will understand."

"Doesn't really matter what Elena thinks." Stefan retorted.

"Uh-uh, none of that. No more no humanity Stefan. There's a road called recovery and we are on it."

Stefan stood up and walked over to Damon. "Why do you even care, huh? I just wish that you and Buffy would go back to hating me. It was a lot easier."

"Buffy loves you. You're not only her friend, but you're like a brother to her. You're her Lexi. Just like she's yours. And can you for one minute actually believe that I'm trying to help you?"

"I don't need your help."

"You don't need my…. Are you kidding me? Do you remember what happened last time you said that?"

"What are you talking about?"

"1912, Stefan. The last time I convinced you to drink human blood. You lost it. Completely. The Founder's Council killer had nothing on you. By the decade's end, they were calling you the Ripper of Monterrey. I let you walk away. I watched you go over the edge and I didn't do anything to stop you."

"You couldn't have."

"Sure I could of. I just didn't want to. But I want to now. And whenever you go too far, I will be there to pull you back. Every second…. Every day…. Until you don't need me."

"Why?"

"Cause right now, you and Buffy are all I've got."

After a long moment, Stefan nodded. "Is that why you asked her to marry you? Because you're afraid she'll leave you?"

Damon glanced at the doorway. Buffy could probably hear him, but he didn't care. "I don't deserve her."

"She loves you."

"She shouldn't, but honestly…. I don't think I could live without her. So, I proposed. I keep waiting for her to wake up one day and realize…."

"She wakes up every day next to you and she knows exactly who you are. Faults and all…. And she still loves you." Stefan sighed. "Buffy Anne Summers is the best thing to happen to this family." He stared at Damon for a long moment and then walked out of the room.

Later that night, Damon sat in the parlor playing the piano for Buffy. It was a talent of his that she'd recently discovered and she had pestered him to play for her. She kept saying something about it was romantic and Twilight-y. He was seriously thinking about taking her book reading rights away.

Stefan walked in with a book. "So I dug into the old family archives from the 1900s." He said.

"So now you want to be helpful?" Damon asked.

"Want me to go back to being mad at you?"

Buffy smiled. "What'd you find?"

"Well, nothing from 1912. They never did arrest anyone for the Founder's murders." Stefan placed the open book in front of Buffy and Damon walked over to sit down next to her. "But, they did get a confession ten years later."

"They did?" Damon asked. "Who?"

"Jonathan Gilbert's granddaughter, Samantha. They assumed she was crazy, locked her up in an insane asylum."

"Then what?"

"Trail ends there. I mean, she was a Founder, you know how they like to look out for their own."

"Samantha Gilbert. That is very weird."

"Why?" Buffy and Stefan asked.

"Because I'm pretty sure I had already killed her."

"So you think Samantha Gilbert is still alive, running around Mystic Falls, killing Founders?" Buffy asked.

"It's not possible. If she became a vampire, we'd know about it, right? You would definitely know about it."

"Then she must have had a ring that brought her back to life." Stefan said. "I mean she was a Gilbert, right? Those rings were passed on for generations."

"Yeah, but even if she had a ring, she wouldn't be alive today. Doesn't protect her from old age."

"Jonathan Gilbert only made two of those rings. Jeremy has one of them and the other's…."

"Alaric's." Buffy finished.

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