The Next Chapter

Chapter 56

Chapter 56

Alaric was laying down on an MRI machine in the next room as Buffy, Elena, and Meredith looked on. "What are you looking for?" Elena asked.

"I don't know." Meredith said. "A tumor, vascular anomalies, anything physical that might explain his behavior. If it's medical, I can treat it."

"And if it's not medical?" Buffy asked.

"Well, then we'll deal with that too." Meredith looked at Buffy's strained face. "Are you all right?"

"Sorry. This is the first time I've been in a hospital since I was turned. All that fresh blood mixed with death and sickness and…. Cleaning supplies…. It's a little overwhelming."

"You don't have to be here." Elena said without even looking at Buffy.

"I'm fine. Control is key." Buffy looked at Meredith again. "When did you suspect that it was Alaric who was killing all of those people?"

"It was after he told me about his ring." Meredith said. "I remembered a story my grandmother had told me about Samantha Gilbert and her secret journal. I don't know if you know this, but we Fells are notorious busy-bodies."

"But then, why did you protect him?" Elena asked.

"Because I'm a doctor. I don't like to see someone hurt by something they have no control over. And because when he and I first met I felt like…. I don't know, I…. I just kind of want to help him." Alaric's heart rate spiked for a few seconds. Meredith bent down to a microphone. "Everything alright in there?"

"Yeah. Yeah, everything's ok." Alaric said.

"I'm going to go let Damon know we're almost done." Buffy said. She turned and walked out of the room. Once she got outside, she took a deep breath of fresh air.

"You ok?" Damon asked, appearing next to her.

"You failed to mention how awful hospitals smell."

"Sorry. It's an experience and it doesn't really get any better. You just learn to ignore it." He kissed the side of her hair and wrapped an arm around her. "How's Rick?"

"Almost done." Buffy sighed and laid her head on Damon's chest. "Elena's barely said three words to me."

"She doesn't understand that as vampires, we feed on human blood. And after what happened with Stefan…."

"I get it." She was still dejected about Elena coming across her and Stefan feeding off an innocent woman.

"She does need to remember that you became a vampire to keep her safe, so the judgy act can stop in its tracks."

"Don't be so harsh." Her heart wasn't in the scold, though. Damon was right. Elena did forget sometimes that Buffy, Stefan, and Damon were vampires. Hell, Buffy herself forgot sometimes, too. It wasn't until she was around blood or emotional situations that she was reminded.

Damon kissed the side of her head again, lingering there for a long moment to bask in the sweet and sultry smell of her hair. "I'll go get Alaric. You stay out here and breath in fresh air." Damon kissed her lightly and walked into the hospital. Buffy walked over and leaned against her car, staring up at the sun. A few minutes later, Elena came out with Damon right behind her. They obviously didn't see her since they walked right past her.

"Don't worry about him." Damon was saying. "Take him out for chicken soup, get him a martini, make sure he doesn't kill anybody."

"What is wrong with you?" Elena demanded. "How could you and Buffy just go out feeding with Stefan like some vampire pub crawl?" Buffy ducked further down by her car, not wanting Elena to see her and go off on her.

"Oh right. I thought we were talking about Alaric, but of course we're talking about Stefan."

"You stood there and let him and Buffy feed on an innocent girl."

"I didn't let Stefan do anything. If you want to get nit-picky about it, I made him. As for Buffy, she did it willingly. No force necessary."

"Why would she do that?"

"Because we're vampires, Elena. We need human blood to survive. We're predators, not puppies."

"Well, Stefan found a way around it before."

"Stefan has built himself a delusional wagon which he has repeatedly fallen off of. What he needs to learn is control."

"He was able to manage when he was drinking my blood. Small amounts every single day…."

"Ah, yes, back when you two were in love and it was all rainbows and unicorns."

"I'm just saying, maybe you're not the right person to be teaching Stefan or Buffy about self-control." Elena got into her car and gave Damon another death glare before he walked over to Buffy's car. He found her sitting on the ground scowling at the pavement.

"Heard that, huh?" Damon asked, sitting down next to her.

"I know I shouldn't be mad at her reaction, but…. That really pisses me off." Buffy snapped. "You're helping Stefan. She should be happy that someone is! I mean, he's not lasting very long before his next Ripper binge without the help. Anyone can see that. And who knows! Without me learning control…. I could end up on a Ripper binge. I'm glad you're teaching me."

Damon smiled. "She'll come around. She can't stay mad forever."

Construction workers were working on restoring Wickery Bridge while the townspeople milled around the road in front of it. They were there for the Restoration Fundraiser. Alaric, Meredith, Buffy, and Damon arrived and Buffy let out a groan. When Damon looked at her questioningly, Buffy pointed at Rebekah speaking to Carol Lockwood.

"She's up to something." Buffy said. "She's been snooping in places she shouldn't be."

"Tell me again, why are we here?" Alaric asked.

"Rick, the world can't stop just because you're an accidental psycho killer." Damon said.

Buffy smacked his arm as Meredith said, "Do you have any tact whatsoever?"

Carol made her way towards them. "Alaric, I'm glad you're here. Did you bring the sign?" It was clear by Alaric's expression that he was confused. "The restored Wickery Bridge sign? The history department promised me you'd have it today."

"I…. I don't have the sign. Actually it slipped…. it slipped my mind. I've been….. busy."

"Well, it's not an emergency. We'll just um…. unveil it when the bridge is complete." Carol smiled brightly and walked off.

"Get me out of here." Alaric begged.

"My pleasure." Meredith said.

"I'm gonna stick around for a bit." Damon said. He threw an arm around Buffy's shoulders. "Are you with me?"

"Aren't I always?" Buffy asked, wrapping her arm around his waist.

"Taking on the Salvatore name means you're taking on some responsibilities as a Founding family member." He noticed her attention had moved on and she was staring intently across the open area. "What's wrong?"

"Who's that woman staring at you?"

Damon looked over and spotted who Buffy was talking about. "Blast from the past." He started to move, but realized Buffy had tightened her grip and he risked breaking a hip and some ribs if he continued. "That's Sage."

"Sage? As in trashy vamprie who taught you to be a chauvinist, Sage?" The distaste was evident in Buffy's tone. "What is she doing here?"

"Let's go found out." He started to walk again and this time Buffy reluctantly followed. Buffy had imagined Sage looking like a trashy Valley girl, but that was really far from the truth. Sage was beautiful. She was tall with big green eyes and silky red hair. And she looked incredibly sophisticated. No sign of trashy anywhere. It was easy to see why Damon had stuck with her for a while. The pang of jealousy was hard to suppress.

"Damon Salvatore, my favorite student." Sage said.

"Sage, my hottest teacher. What are you doing here?"

"I'm just passing through."

"Oh, come on, nobody just passes through Mystic Falls."

Sage smirked and looked at Buffy. "Damon seems to have forgotten his manners. I'm Sage."

"Sage, this Buffy." Damon said. "She's my fiancée."

"Fiancée? Wow. The Damon I knew wouldn't even think about actually loving another woman."

"That's old news."

"Well, it's nice to meet you Buffy."

"Yeah." Buffy said. "You too."

Rebekah walked up to them saying, "Look what the cat dragged in."

"Easy there, Rebekah. You know she use to beat men for sport." Damon said.

"She always was quite common."

"Rebekah." Sage said. "What a happy surprise."

"What are you doing here Sage?"

"Well, I heard Finn was finally freed from that casket your rageaholic brother Klaus carted him around in."

"Mmm, Finn…. You just missed him. He left town and didn't tell a soul where he was going."

"He probably went looking for me."

"Or quite possibly he forgot all about you."

"I doubt that."

"No? Cause he didn't seem to mention you. Sorry you came all this way for nothing. Have a nice life." Rebekah turned on her heel and walked off.Sage's polite expression melted away. "God, I hate that elitist Original bitch."

"Let's take a walk." Damon suggested.

"All right." Sage allowed Buffy and Damon to lead the way.

"Finn, really?" Damon asked.

"He's my one true love. He turned me so we could be together forever. Then Klaus daggered him and locked him away and I've been waiting ever since. Please don't tell me that you and Rebekah are friends."

"Not in the slightest. Though her brother wants Buffy all to himself."

"Klaus?" Sage asked.

"Unfortunately." Buffy said. "Rebekah's been trying to get me to be friends because she's convinced I'm going to be 'part of the family'."

"Rebekah and Klaus always treated me like some peasant whore. You should watch out for them."

"Ah, she's just lurking around because she wants something from us." Damon said. "Can't figure out what it is though."

"Why don't you get inside her head and find out?"

"Cause it's impossible. She's too strong."

"I bet I could get in there."

"Sage, she's an Original. It's not gonna happen."

"Have you forgotten everything I taught you? Rebekah may be an Original, but she's a girl. You find her weakness and exploit it and I'll walk right in. That is if you want my help."

"Actually…." Buffy said. "I wouldn't hate learning that trick."

"Are you a…."

"Slayer turned vampire."

"Damon!"

"What!" Damon protested. "With Originals crawling all around this town, we had to do something to protect ourselves."

Sage looked at Buffy. "You did this willingly?"

"Uh…. Yeah." Buffy said. "I haven't had a knockdown, drag out fight with any of them, but I'm looking forward to it."

"Buffy was already powerful before she became a vampire. Longest living Slayer and all…. Now that she's a vampire, she's…."

"Original strong." Sage finished. "So, you're that Slayer."

Buffy shrugged. "That would be me."

"And I think that would be you who has the best shot at exploiting Rebekah." Damon said.

"Why me?"

"Because she actually likes you." Buffy blinked at him for a long moment. "You should take her up on that shopping spree. Wear her out. Invite her back to the house. Hell, compel the staff of a spa to come to the house and have a whole girls' day in."

"How in the world will that do any good?"

"Because her guard will be down. She won't expect you to try anything." Sage said. "And I can show you how to get inside her head."

Buffy sighed. "Ok. But she needs to suggest the shopping spree again. It'll be suspicious if I just walk up to her and ask her."

"Pick a fight with me." Damon said.

"What?"

"You can storm off and Rebekah loves it when we're at odds. She didn't bring up the shopping spree until she knew I was upset about you almost kissing Klaus."

"I did not almost kiss Klaus!" Buffy realized her voice was louder than she'd intended and people were staring. Including Rebekah. "Shut up, Damon!" She turned and stormed off, heading for the refreshment table.

Rebekah slid up next to her. "Trouble in paradise?"

"Oh, he's still pissy about Klaus trying to kiss me."

"Well, he's got to realize that Nic always gets what he wants."

"Not helping." Buffy looked around, her eyes coming to rest on Damon and Sage. "I need to get out of here."

"You never answered my question."

"What question?"

"I asked if you wanted to go on a shopping spree with me."

"Oh." Buffy glanced at Damon talking with Sage. "Yes. Let's go now."

"Now?"

"Yes. Now."

Rebekah shot a smug smirk Damon's way as she and Buffy walked off.

Buffy walked into the house loaded down with shopping bags. Rebekah was dropping her bags off at her house before coming over to meet Buffy. She had actually had a really great time shopping with Rebekah. Their tastes were very similar. When Buffy had suggested the spa day at her house, Rebekah hadn't hesitated. She'd gone and compelled an entire spa and beauty parlor to come over at a certain time with all their equipment.

Damon and Sage were sitting in the living room. "Welcome home." Damon said, coming over to help Buffy with her bags.

"You guys need to leave." Buffy said. "Becks is coming over soon and you can't be here. She'll know something's up."

"I'm being kicked out of my own house?"

"This was your idea."

"And did you seriously just call her 'Becks'?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I'll text you when it's safe to come back." She looked over at Sage. "Quick. Show me how to do that mind reading trick thing."

"It's not a quick lesson." Sage said.

"Make it one. I catch on quick."

Twenty minutes later, Rebeckah rang the doorbell and then walked right on in. "Buffy!" She called.

Buffy appeared in the living room holding a bottle of wine and two glasses. "The spa people are upstairs getting set up. The beauty salon is right here in the living room. And…. More alcohol." She shook the wine bottle and glasses. They'd been drinking champagne and wine all day long with a small break for very large margaritas around lunch time.

"Beautify, drinks, and then relaxation…. I like the plan." Rebekah held up her own bottle. "I stole it from Nik who stole it from a Queen. Not sure which one."

Buffy inspected the bottle. It was seriously vintage scotch. "Yum."

"Let's finish the wine first, then move on to the harder stuff." Rebekah set the scotch down and took one of the offered glasses.

While the manicurist was working on their nails and the stylists were working on their hair, Buffy said, "Hey, Becks?"

"Yes?" Rebeckah said, glancing over at Buffy.

"Have you ever had a sleepover?"

"What's that?"

"Well…. It's a girls' night in. We watch movies and gorge on popcorn and candy and pizza and stay up all night."

"Sounds like fun. What movies are we watching?"

"There's a ton of them in mine and Damon's room. Sometimes we like to curl up and watch old movies."

"Can we not talk about Damon…. Or men in general?"

"Works for me."

"And if we order pizza, Ginos has the best tasting delivery boys."

Buffy smiled slightly. "Oh…. Sure."

"It's ok, Buffy. I know you just started on the control thing, but it's really not that hard. Stefan's just being dramatic. You should come live with Nic and I. We could teach you better than the Salvatores."

"Maybe if things with Damon don't work out."

"Which they won't."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because you're too powerful now. Eventually he won't be enough for you."

Buffy looked down at her nails for a second. "I thought we weren't talking about men?"

"We're not." Rebekah waggled her finger at one of the girls standing around and ordered her to turn on some music.

Buffy and Rebekah were sprawled on Buffy and Damon's bed. The movie was still playing, but Rebekah was sleeping. The mixture of massages, facials, all out pampering, blood, and booze had gotten to her. Buffy was fighting off sleep herself, but once she noticed that Rebekah was out, her adrenaline…. Or whatever passed for it in her now dead body…. Started pumping. She had to go about this carefully.

Slowly, Buffy gently laid her fingers on Rebekah's cheek and concentrated. She hadn't been perfect when Sage and Damon had left, but Sage had been a good enough teacher. It took a moment, but finally images flashed behind Buffy's eyelids. She concentrated harder and the flashes started coming with sound.

Buffy pulled her hand back quickly and shook her head. Rebekah stirred a little, but stayed asleep. After a long moment of figuring out exactly what this meant, Buffy pulled out her cell phone and texted Damon. She grabbed her robe and rushed downstairs.

"You look extra beautiful." Damon said behind her. "Love the hair."

Buffy spun around to find Sage and Damon standing near the door to the basement. "You guys were down there the whole time?"

"Damon didn't want to venture too far." Sage said.

"Well, are you gonna torture me or are you gonna tell me what she's up to?" Damon asked. Buffy glanced back at the stairs and then moved towards Damon and Sage. She pointed down towards the basement and the three of them descended. "Well?"

"There's another tree." Buffy said.

"What tree?" Sage asked as Damon asked, "A white oak tree?"

"That's what she's been hunting for, but apparently it was chopped down a long time ago."

"That's why she's been hanging around." Damon said.

"Why?" Sage asked. "What's so special about a white oak tree?"

"It's the only thing out there that can kill an Original." Buffy said. Her head suddenly whipped around and she looked up the stairs. "Rebekah's awake." She disappeared up the stairs and opened the door to her and Damon's room.

"Where were you?" Rebekah asked, standing up.

"Hungry." Buffy said. "Turns out that pizza isn't as satisfying as it used to be."

"Well, you should've had the delivery boy."

Buffy shrugged. "Wasn't interested."

"You've got to learn sometime."

"I will. Just…. Not with a teenager."

"You and your morals."

"Are you leaving?"

"It's been fun, but I hear your boyfriend downstairs with his little tramp." Buffy heard Damon and Sage downstairs laughing. "I'd rather not stay."

"Oh. Ok."

"But feel free to come over any time for a sleepover at my house. I'm sure Nic would love that." And with that, Rebekah was gone. Buffy heard the front door shut and she made her way to the library where Sage and Damon were.

"Rebekah just left." Buffy said.

Damon was looking for the logging mill records. "Milling records?" Sage asked.

"Our family made one of its many fortunes selling lumber." Damon explained. "It's why Rebekah's been digging around about this stuff. That tree was on our land and milled by our yard. The ledgers will tell me where it was shipped. Business archives should be around here somewhere." He continued looking for the archives and finally pulled out the one from 1912. He flipped through it and found where the tree was shipped to. "You've gotta be kidding me."

"What?" Buffy asked.

"1912. The Salvatore Milling Company chopped down a forest, its most valuable wood came from an old white oak tree that was used to make Wickery Bridge."

"Wow." Buffy suddenly grabbed the book and threw it into the fire. "These aren't public records, so Rebekah's gonna have to chase her tail for a long time."

"So all the wood stripped from the underside of that bridge is basically a weapon that could kill an Original?" Sage asked.

"Yep." Damon said."You see how this could be a problem for me, right?"

"Why? Because of your true love Finn? Let me tell you something, I met the guy. You're not gonna miss him."

Sage rushed over to Damon and pinned him against the wall. Buffy was suddenly there, grabbing Sage by the back of the neck and tossing her across the room like a rag doll. Her eyes had changed and her fangs had dropped. Sage got up, but Buffy growled at her, "I will rip your head off if you take one more step. I've been dying to test out my strength against someone your age."

Damon stepped between the two women. "Alright, let's just take a deep breath and calm down. How about we make a deal? You let us kill Rebekah, we consider Finn untouchable, you guys walk into the sunset together."

"Is that a promise?" Sage asked, keeping an eye on Buffy.

"Yes. It's a promise."

"I accept. Now tell your girlfriend to back down."

Buffy took a deep breath and straightened up from her crouch. "Fine. Damon, let's go gather some tools and head out to Wickery Bridge." She marched out with Damon right behind her.

A few minutes later they came back into the library with Damon saying, "Sage, let's go. We have Originals to kill." Sage wasn't in the library. "Sage?"

"Where'd she go?" Buffy asked.

Damon sighed. "We need to hurry."

Damon drove up to Wickery Bridge where a bonfire was in full blaze. Rebekah stood in front of the bonfire and Buffy and Damon knew it was the wood from the white oak tree. Damon stopped the car and they got out, slamming their doors in frustration.

"Your grand plans always seem to get ruined, don't they?" Rebekah said. "Sorry to disappoint you. Again." Rebekah walked away.

Damon turned around and saw Sage by his car. "You set us up."

"No. I'm just looking out for myself."

"I told you we'd save your creepy boyfriend!"

"And you lied to me, Damon! The Originals are linked. If one dies they all die. If I can get inside her head, don't you think I'd be able to get inside yours?"

Buffy suddenly had Sage by the throat and slammed her against Damon's car. Sage hit back, knocking Buffy back a few feet. Buffy growled, eyes changing and fangs dropping, and attacked Sage. Sage was good, all those years of boxing showing, but Buffy was better trained and in multiple styles of fighting. She quickly had Sage pinned to the ground.

"I'm going to let you in on a little secret." Buffy said. "Your long lost love has a death wish. When Esther linked them together in that spell, he was the one that volunteered to die."

"He wouldn't do that." Sage said.

"He didn't want to live. Not for you. Not for anyone. He doesn't love you, Sage." Buffy smiled cruelly as she hauled Sage to her feet. "When I do find a way to kill the Originals, I think I'll start with Finn. Now get out of my town." Sage, realizing she was strong enough to fight Buffy, but not skilled enough, took off into the woods. Damon walked up to Buffy and she turned on him, still enraged. He held up his hands and Buffy's eyes widened as they changed back to normal. "I'm sorry!"

"It's ok." Damon said, taking her face gently between his hands. "Do you realize you just fought someone who is almost an Original and won?"

Buffy smiled slightly, but it quickly faded. "Well, she's not an Original. That fight wasn't as easy as it may have looked."

"It doesn't matter. She's had training. Rebekah, Finn, Kol, Elijah…. They've never needed the training."

"What about Klaus?"

"I don't know. He's…. unpredictable."

Before Buffy could answer, her cell phone started ringing. "It's Elena." She said, surprised.

Alaric was asleep in his bed the next morning while Buffy sat watch in a chair next to him. Damon was moving around Alaric's kitchen fixing himself and Buffy a drink. She was watching him move around when Alaric said behind her, "What the hell are you doing here?"

Buffy turned around. "Oh, just making sure Bonnie didn't accidentally turn you into a toad or a block of salt or anything like that." Alaric looked confused, so Buffy elaborated. "Bonnie did a spell…. It's really nothing to worry about…. It was just something to keep the, uh…. The psycho killer in you at bay."

Alaric flexed his injured hand and looked at it. "Did something happen?"

"Let's just say you've got an alter ego hell bent on killing Council members." Damon said, walking over with Buffy's drink.

"The plan is," Buffy said gently. "We've packed up some of your stuff and moved you back to your loft. Just for a little bit."

"You know it's like house arrest. Polite."

"Wait, where's Meredith?" Alaric asked.

"She'll be fine, Rick." Buffy said, gripping Alaric's hand as she stood up. "Promise."

"Where are you going?"

"Uh…. I've got to run home really quick and talk to Stefan. Damon will fill you in."

Stefan was in the library having a drink of what smelled like whiskey. Buffy walked in carrying her new weapon. "Little early in the day, isn't it?" She shrugged with a slight smile as she set her package down. "Well, it's five o'clock somewhere, right?"

"Just having a little toast." Stefan said.

"Oh? To what?"

"Control." Buffy nodded proudly. "Why are you in such a good mood? Sage double-crossed you and Damon, the tree's a pile of ash, Alaric's got a psychopathic alter ego…."

"You know, Stefan…. As a Slayer, I make the world a better place by fighting evil. And since I've joined the Salvatore family, that's also extended to a little bit of some philanthropy. You know…. Restoring bridges, landmarks, and…." Buffy smiled brightly as she pulled the cover off her package. It was the Wickery Bridge sign. "Historical signs made of the same white oak as Wickery Bridge."

Stefan got up and looked at the sign. "They think all the wood burned."

"I sold my rage…. Mostly cause I actually couldn't control it once I full on released it…. But you should have seen me! I fought Sage and won! She's, like, 900 years old and I won!"

Stefan smiled slightly at her enthusiasm. He had to admit that he was pretty excited that she could take on someone as old as Klaus and win. He was also excited about the sign. "We have a weapon."

"As Damon would say: The game's back on. Let's go kill us some Originals." Buffy smiled, leaning against the sign.

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