The Next Chapter

Chapter 59

Chapter 59

Buffy sat in the living room watching Damon pace across the landing leading into the dining room. She was finishing off a glass of blood when Alaric finally picked up the phone. "Where have you been?" Damon asked. "I've been calling you all day."

"Yeah. Sorry about that." Alaric said on the other line. "I…. I just needed to get my head together."

"So I take it Rebekah got the stake?"

"I don't know. I uh…. I woke up alone. There's no sign of it."

"Lovely…. Well, what now?"

"Well, I think I need to get out of town. You know, somewhere secluded. I keep blacking out which means I'm still a threat to everyone."

"I don't know if now is really the best time for you to be going on a spirit quest Rick."

"Eh…. It's just for a couple of days. I'm stocked up on Bonnie's herbs, so I should be fine. I gotta go."

Damon looked at his phone. "He hung up."

"Maybe he's just shaken up by Stefan's beating." Buffy suggested.

"Maybe. But…. I have my doubts."

"I do too." Buffy's phone started ringing and she was suddenly across the room, answering it. "Hello, Elena."

"Hey." Elena said. "Listen, Bonnie can't help, Dawn's working out her classes online, and Rebekah is MIA…. Would you mind coming and helping set up for the dance tonight?"

Buffy glanced at Damon, who obviously looked like he was up to something, and sighed. "Uh…. I'm not sure if I can."

"Come on, Buffy! Please?"

"Ok, but only for a little bit. Damon needs my help with…. something."

"Ok, if it's something sexual I really don't want to know."

Buffy looked at her phone as if it were Elena and it was crazy. She shook her head. "I'll see you in a few minutes."

"Where are you going?" Damon asked.

"Elena wants my help setting up for the decade dance this evening, so I'm going to help."

"You don't want to come with me to snoop?"

"Where are you snooping today, Mr. Salvatore?"

"Alaric's loft. I don't think he was being honest and I want to know what's up."

"Ok…. You snoop. If you find anything, call me."

"You don't want to come with?"

"I can't be in two places at once, Damon." She kissed him gently. "I'll meet you back here later." With that, she was out the door and heading into the woods. She was much faster than a car and cutting through the woods to the school was also much quicker than a car. She was standing behind Caroline and Elena only a few minutes later.

"So Alaric is trying to pull himself together. Why is that a bad thing?" Caroline was asking."I just wish there was something I could do." Elena said.

"Don't worry," Buffy said, making both Elena and Caroline jump. "Damon talked to him this morning. Alaric's going to be fine." It amazed her sometimes how well she could lie to the ones she loved.

"I'm putting a bell on you." Elena warned.

Buffy shrugged. "I'll just take it off. Doesn't go with my outfit." She picked up a heavy looking chandelier. "Wow. So…. Where is this going?"

"Ugh!" Caroline said. "If Rebekah wanted to hang this monstrosity, she should've shown up to do it herself." She handed the chandelier to a passing student. "Just…. No." When Caroline turned, she spotted Jeremy and Matt hanging sparkly stars. "What are you doing? You can't just hang them. They're supposed to trickle down." Matt and Jeremy both laughed, shaking their heads. "Look at them all bromancy."

"Yeah, I asked Matt to help Jeremy readjust." Elena said. "He got him his old job back at the Grill."

"Really?" Buffy asked. "Yay!"

"Yeah. That was nice of him." Caroline said."Jeremy's got a lot on his mind." Elena said. "This whole thing with Alaric has got him really stressed out."

"It'll work out." Buffy said.

"So…. Are you bringing Damon to the dance?" Caroline asked.

Buffy looked at Elena and Caroline. "I didn't know I was coming."

"You have to come. Look how hard I've worked."

"I'm not a student."

"Chaperone! You've done it before."

"Yeah, Buffy." Elena joked, hugging Buffy's waist. "It wouldn't be a decade dance without you. That's why ."

Buffy sighed. "Elena!"

"What?" Elena smiled brightly. "Oh, come on! You enjoy coming to these dances."

The blonde Slayer-vampire rolled her eyes. "I'll see if I can convince Damon. Here's hoping there's something in the attic from the 20s that I can wear."

"Yay!"

"What about you, Elena? Who're you bringing to the dance?" Caroline asked."What do you mean?" Elena swirled a feather boa around her neck. "I thought you, me, and Bonnie were going as girl dates?"

"Bonnie has a date.""What?"

"Jamie called and wanted to see her, so she asked him."

"Hmm…."

"So, here's a thought…. Why don't you ask Stefan?"

Elena looked at Buffy, a little panicked. Buffy kept her face passive as she organized tablecloths. "I can't ask him on a date."

"Why not! Look, you're supposed to be figuring out what you want. Isn't that the whole point of Senior year?"

"Ha!" Buffy laughed. "Mine was just making it through graduation without being eaten by the Mayor."

Caroline shook her head. "I'm sorry, but Stefan is your epic love, Elena. And I'm not going down without a fight."

Elena looked at Buffy. "What do you think?"

Buffy shook her head. "Sorry, Elena. I'm keeping my two cents in my pocket. This is all you."

"You're no help."

"Nope. Not at all." Buffy smiled and picked up the tablecloths.

Stefan walked down the hall towards the living room with a book in his hand. He was glad that Buffy's sudden appearance came with the closing of a door. She was incredibly stealthy and had a tendency to accidentally startle the other vampires in the house. Sometimes Stefan had a feeling that she did it on purpose.

"Hey." He said. "Where've you been?"

"Helping set up for the decade dance." Buffy said, following him into the living room.

"Were you planning on going?"

"I have to. Elena signed me up as a chaperone. Do we have any dresses from the 20s in the attic?"

"Probably. I'll help you look."

"You don't have to. You were getting ready to read…."

"I've read this one before. Digging through boxes in the attic sounds like more fun." Stefan set the book down and led the way upstairs. They'd made it through about twelve boxes when Stefan's phone started ringing. He looked at Buffy. "It's Elena." Buffy nodded and kept looking, adding to the small pile of clothes on her arm. "Hey."

"Hey." Elena said on the other line. "D-Do you have a second?"

"Yeah. Everything all right?"

"Yeah. Yeah. I just…. Um…. I wanted to, uh…. Caroline, Buffy, and I were talking about going to the dance and, um…. Ok, look…. I know we're not a you and I and I know it would be stupid to think that things could go back to the way they were but…. I'm going to the dance and I'd like to go with you."

Stefan looked at Buffy and noticed that she was pretending not to listen, but the smirk on her face told him she knew exactly what Elena was saying and that she'd known this phone call was coming. He tossed an old pillow at her, which she easily dodged, and said, "Um…. I'd love that."

"Ok. Great. Bye."

Stefan smiled and hung up, turning to Buffy. "You knew."

"Of course I knew." Buffy said. "Elena wanted me to make the decision for her, just like you wanted me to make it for you."

"You could've warned me."

"Oh…. What fun would that have been?" She tossed some of the clothes to Stefan. "I found you a great zoot suit, sugar baby."

"That impression was horrible."

"Sorry, but not all of us were around in the twenties."

Stefan grabbed a pretty black, beaded dress out of a box and tossed it to her. "I think you'd look good in that."

"Thanks."

"What are you two doing up here?" Damon asked, walking into the attic.

"Bargain shopping." Buffy said, holding up the dress. "I just need some swanky pearls to go with my dress."

"Please stop doing that impression!" Stefan said, shaking his head with a laugh.

"Uh oh…. Someone's in a good mood." Damon circled his brother. "Did you save a kitten's life today?"

Stefan rolled his eyes. "I'm going to the dance tonight…. With Elena."

"Uck! Really? Don't you know those dances are dangerous?"

"Well, it's a good thing you'll be there, too." Buffy said, tossing Damon a black suit. "Cause you're my date."

"Why are you going?"

"Elena signed me up to be a chaperone…. Again."

"Well, I suppose it's for the best since you're the best thing to protect her. But before you start getting all gussied up, I need to show you something."

"Ok." Buffy looked at Stefan and followed Damon out. "What's the what?" Damon walked over to the counter in the bathroom and picked up Alaric's jar of herbs, holding it up. "He said he took those with him."

"Well, he lied. And he's missing. I went to see Meredith, but she hasn't seen him. No one has."

Buffy sighed. "Well, I guess the dance just got a little bit more dangerous."

"We need a plan."

"We need to find Alaric. That's the only plan."

"If he's Psycho Alaric, then we need to find him fast."

"Ok…. I'll go to the dance and keep an eye out for him. His vampire hating self will probably show up eventually since that's where most of the vampires in this town will be. And since you hate going to these things…."

"I'll see what I can find out." He kissed her gently. "Have fun."

Stefan walked by just as Damon headed out. "Where's he going?"

"Alaric's missing." Buffy said.

"What?"

"He's stopped taking his herbs and he's now MIA."

"He was his alter ego when Rebekah took him the other night. Do you think that he's still…."

"I'm guessing since he lied about the herbs. Damon's headed out to see what he can find out."

"What about us?"

"We're still going to the dance. Do you mind taking two girls instead of just one?"

"Not at all. You think Alaric's alter ego will come to the dance?"

"Well, I figure most of the vampires that are still in town will be there."

"Do you think Klaus will?"

"I'm hoping not, but who knows? He seems to pop up randomly."

"Are we telling Elena any of this?"

Buffy took a deep breath. "Um…. Maybe we should give her a little normal time tonight before this whole thing implodes."

"Fair enough." Stefan nodded. "I'll meet you downstairs when you're ready."

Buffy and Stefan stood outside Elena's door and waited for her to answer. Stefan had made a pretty little corsage for Elena. He'd offered to make Buffy one, but she'd declined saying it was a lot more special if he gave one to just Elena.

Elena opened the door. "Buffy. What are you doing here? Where's Damon?"

"Long story." Buffy said. "I'm crashing your date."

"Oh."

"Sorry. I feel bad, but…."

"No, it's ok. It's fine. You look beautiful."

"Thank you."

Elena looked at Stefan. "And you look…. Dapper."

"You look, uh…. Very…." Stefan tried.

"Gorgeous." Buffy finished.

"Thank you." Stefan smirked and looked back at Elena. "You look gorgeous. Here…. I uh…. I got something for you." He held the little corsage up and gently pinned it to Elena's dress.

"Thank you."

"So given our dangerous dance karma, sure you're up for this?"

"Getting out of bed is dangerous these days. But we have to live our lives."

"Hmm…. Who gave you that horrible advice?"

"Some guy I used to date said it once or twice."

"Right."

"Shall we?" Buffy asked.

"We shall." Elena said, smiling. Buffy was happy to see Elena happy. At least it would be a happy beginning to the night. Buffy figured the ending probably wouldn't be so great. Stefan must've seen a look on Buffy's face because when he caught her eye, he looked just as sad and worried as she was.

At the high school gym, the party was in full swing with lots of students dancing to the music, including Bonnie and Jamie. Buffy spotted Tyler with Caroline talking in the midst of the dancers.

"When did Tyler get back?" Buffy asked.

"I didn't know he was back." Elena said. Buffy pointed to where Caroline and Tyler were. "Maybe he figured out how to break the sire bond."

"This could be interesting."

"How so?"

Buffy glanced quickly at Stefan. "I don't know. I was just saying…. Oh, look! Punch." She wandered off towards the refreshment table as Stefan led Elena out onto the dance floor.

"Well, don't you look ravishing?" Klaus said, suddenly standing behind her.

"Klaus." She turned around. "I didn't figure this as your type of deal."

"It's not, really. Rebekah talked me into it."

"Where is your sister?"

"No idea. Probably off with the football star." Klaus glanced at the dancers. "May I have this dance?" He held his hand out to her.

"I'm chaperoning."

"Come on, love. One dance." He smirked. "I promise I won't bite." She sighed and took Klaus's offered hand. He led her out onto the dance floor and Stefan looked at Buffy with a worried look. She shrugged as Klaus turned her into him, taking one hand in his and placing his other at the small of her back. "You would've loved the 1920s, Buffy. The girls were reckless, sexy, fun. They literally used to dance until they dropped."

"I don't suppose that ever happened to their dance partners." Buffy said sweetly.

"You should be nicer to me. I'm leaving town tomorrow." Buffy looked at Klaus in surprise. "I'd invite you to come with me but we both know you're not ready to accept my offer. Perhaps one day, in a year, or even in a century, you'll turn up at my door and let me show you what the world has to offer."

Buffy shook her head. "I doubt it."

"You mark my words. A small town life won't be enough for you."

"And who are you to tell me what I want?"

"Because I know you better than you think I do." He reached up and cupped her face tenderly. "Oh, Buffy…. You have no idea what you're capable of. What power your beauty alone holds over people. It's one of the many reasons why I'm in love with you."

"You can't love."

"I most certainly can." Klaus dropped her hand and let go of her waist, offended. "I look forward to the day you come to me. Until then…." He gave her a short bow and stormed off.

Buffy didn't know what to think. She thought by now that he would be used to her snide comments towards him. But somehow, she was plucking nerves. And it plucked her nerves that she actually felt bad for hurting his feelings. With a sigh, she started to follow him, but Damon walking in distracted her. He found her quickly and walked over to her.

"No sign of him." Damon said.

"Maybe I could call Dawn and see if she knows any tracker spells that Willow may have taught her." Buffy said.

"Or we could just use our resident witch…." Damon glanced at Bonnie.

"That's last resort. She's still pissed about Abby and she blames us."

"We've got to do something, Buffy. He's out there and…."

"What's going on?" Elena asked, walking up with Stefan.

"We've got a problem." Damon said.

"What problem?"

Buffy glanced at Stefan. "Let's go out into a hallway, please." She led the way and let Damon explain to Elena what was going on.

"If Alaric is sick then we need to find a cure." Elena said.

"We tried medicine, we tried magic…." Damon said.

"How about we get him off vervain? Compel him." Stefan suggested.

"What to pretend to be Alaric? The guy that we know is gone. We're talking about someone who not only hates vampires, but vampire sympathizers."

"Which makes one of his most obvious targets you." Buffy said to Elena.

"What…. You think he'd go after Elena?" Stefan asked. Buffy nodded.

"So what are you suggesting we do?" Elena asked.

"I'm suggesting that we put him out of his misery." Damon said.

"What?"

Jeremy, having overheard their conversation when he'd followed them, said, "No! No way in hell!"

"Oh come on! It's what he would want. It's a mercy killing."

"You are out of your mind!"

"Jeremy…." Buffy started.

Jeremy turned around and left. "I've got it." Elena said, following her brother.

Buffy looked at Damon. "I have to agree with Elena. We can't just kill Alaric. There's got to be another way."

"Call Willow." Stefan said. "I'm sure she could find a cure. Better than Bonnie's herbs."

Buffy nodded, pulling out her cell phone. Before she could dial, Jeremy came running back.

"Esther! She's back." Jeremy said.

"What?" Buffy, Damon, and Stefan said.

"She took Elena."

Buffy, Damon, and Stefan moved into action, heading for the exit. Jeremy struggled to keep up as they hurried out of the school. Suddenly Buffy, Damon, and Stefan stopped while Jeremy continued walking. He stopped when he noticed that they hadn't followed him. On the ground, there was a line of salt circling the school.

"Salt." Buffy said. "It's the binding agent for a spell. We're trapped."

Jeremy walked up to them. "I'll go."

"No, Jeremy." Buffy took his arm. "I need you to go warn Caroline, Matt, and Tyler. Damon, get Bonnie. Stefan, stay here and keep an eye out for Esther or any other Originals."

"What are you going to do?" Damon asked.

"I'm going to call Willow and Dawn." They all went their separate ways and Buffy headed into the hallway that they'd just left. To her surprise, Klaus was there on his cell phone.

"Rebekah, call me back immediately! I only came to this ridiculous dance because you begged me to and now you're nowhere to be found." He hung up and looked up, obviously startled to see her.

"We have a problem."

"No, my dear, you have a problem." He started to walk past her, but she grabbed his arm, stopping him in his tracks and swinging him back towards her. For a brief moment, they were pressed up against each other.

Buffy stepped back and looked up at him. "Your mother's back."

"What?"

"She took Elena and she's trapped us here. Humans can cross her barrier, but us vampires are stuck."

Klaus sighed. "What do you propose that we do about it?"

"Damon's gone to get Bonnie. I was going to call Willow and see what she can do from her end. Are you still in contact with any of your witches?"

"No. I've been using Bonnie."

Buffy nodded and bit back her snide remark. Throwing around hateful words wasn't going to get anything done. "Well, here's hoping she can break that binding spell." She looked down at her phone and dialed Willow's number. After a few rings, it went to voicemail. She didn't leave a message, instead hung up and called Dawn. Dawn's phone rang once and went to voicemail.

"No luck?" Klaus asked. He was closer than Buffy had realized when she'd gotten on the phone.

"No. Dawn's on the phone and Willow didn't answer."

"Let's go see what Bonnie can do. I'm sure one of them will call you back." He turned and headed down the hallway. Buffy followed at a slight distance. They found the room that Bonnie, Damon, and the others had holed up in. Stefan was lighting candles while Damon stood off to the side of the door. When Buffy walked in, he grabbed her hand and pulled her back towards him.

"What's he doing here?" Damon hissed.

"He came because Rebekah asked him to and then she didn't show up." Buffy said. "He's just as stuck as we are. I ran into him in the hallway and told him what was going on." She looked around the room. "What is going on?"

"Bonnie's trying to break the binding spell. She thinks she knows how to."

"She does this all the time, right?" Jaime asked Jeremy.

"What's taking so long? All boundary spells have a loop hole." Klaus said.

Matt walked in saying, "People are walking right out of the dance, past the barrier."

"Matt and I can leave." Jeremy said. "We can stop Esther ourselves. We just gotta find out where she is."

"No." Buffy said, walking over to Jeremy. "It's suicide."

"It's Elena…."

"And we will save her, but not at the expense of yours or Matt's life."

Klaus grabbed Jamie by the throat and started to strangle him "Suicide would be disappointing me! Go work your magic, witch, or else I'll start killing people you fancy."

"Let him go!" Bonnie cried.

"Not until you get us out of here."

Buffy walked over and grabbed Klaus's arm. It was a struggle, but eventually she won and he lowered Jamie and released him under the pressure of her grip. "Bonnie doesn't give a damn about us, Klaus. The only reason she's helping is to save Caroline and Tyler. If you start killing the people she cares about all willy nilly, she'll tell us all to go to hell."

"Then she needs to figure something out."

"Yeah, we got that." Buffy snapped her fingers. "Jeremy, can you make a blood donation? Bonnie, go grab a map. You're going to try that locater spell that Willow did using Jeremy's blood."

Bonnie walked out to grab a map of Mystic Falls. Damon and Stefan took Jeremy out into the hall with one of Buffy's knives she'd hidden under her dress. Matt went back to check on Caroline and Tyler while Jaime followed Bonnie. That left Buffy and Klaus standing alone in the room.

"I'm sorry I lost my temper." Klaus said. "I didn't realize how mad Bonnie was."

Buffy shrugged. "It's not like you could've known." She paused. "Where were you planning on going, Klaus?"

"Away from here. I thought I was free of my mother and I was ready to take on the world. Make more hybrids with my doppelgänger."

"You were planning on taking Elena?"

"Of course."

"You're not going to touch her. We had a deal."

"A deal that you broke when you and Elijah removed the daggers from the rest of my family."

"You gave us no other options!"

Before Klaus could retort, Bonnie and Jaime walked back in. She set the map down on the table and turned on the lamp. Damon walked in with a vial of Jeremy's blood. "I sent him to go with Matt."

"Where's Stefan?"

"Guarding the barrier."

"I have to do this with you three lurking over me?" Bonnie demanded."You're still mad at me for what happened to Abby." Damon said. "Let me apologize: I'm sorry Elijah forced us to turn your mother into a vampire to save Elena's life. Didn't exactly have a choice."

"There's always a choice. Whenever you make one someone else suffers."

"Let's cut the dramatics and begin, shall we?" Klaus demanded.

Bonnie poured the blood onto the map and began chanting. The blood formed a circular pool that didn't move. "That's not supposed to happen." Buffy said.

"Esther is fighting me." Bonnie said.

"Esther couldn't possibly have this much power." Klaus said. He looked at Buffy. "Unless she's channeling something."

"A hotspot?" Buffy asked.

"Get the humans ready. I know where she is."

"The humans? No, no, no, no…."

"What other option do we have? We're trapped. They're not. They win this coin toss." He walked out.

"I hate it when he's right." Damon said.

Buffy and Damon walked out of the school to where Stefan was. Klaus was also standing there giving him a lecture. "You know this is your fault." Klaus said. "You set us on this path when you released my mother. I wonder if revenge will prove worth the cost."

"Oh I'm done with revenge." Stefan said. "As far as Esther…. We've stopped her before, we'll stop her again."

"We're strange bedfellows, you and I. You know, all of this, reminds me of our time together in the 20s."

"You say that like I'm supposed to have happy memories about it."

"Well, there were moments. Real friendship. Brotherhood."

"Well, he already has a brother." Damon said. "Not to be, you know, territorial or anything."

"Oh, no. Of course! The Salvatores. And their unshakeable bond."

Bonnie came out of the school. "It's done. Esther's not fighting me anymore. The boundary spell is broken."

"Thank you, Bonnie. For everything." Stefan said.

"I didn't do it for you."

Buffy, Damon, Klaus, and Stefan disappeared, heading for the old cemetery.

Buffy stood in the old Salvatore crypt with Elena and Alaric. They'd walked into the worst situation possible. Esther had performed one spell to turn Alaric into an Original vampire and another spell to make the last white oak stake completely indestructible for Alaric's use. She'd succeeded in killing Alaric to begin his transformation into a vampire.

"Damon's not going to be happy." Alaric said.

Buffy nodded. "I know, but it's for the best. At least until Jeremy heads off to college."

"Buffy, you really don't have to." Elena protested. "It's not like you're that far away."

"Elena, I'm yours and Jeremy's guardian. With Alaric around…. I could afford to live with Damon. But now…."

Jeremy walked in and said, "Klaus took Esther's body."

"Does he know about the stake?" Alaric asked.

"No, only that she tried to turn you into a weapon and failed." He looked between Elena, Buffy, and Alaric. "What's going on?"

"Listen Jeremy, I'm not gonna complete the transition. My dark side was dangerous enough as a human. I can't be a vampire."

"So what…. We're just gonna lock you in here and let you die? No…. no we can't!"

"Listen, Jeremy, it's the right thing to do, ok. After everything that's happened, after all that I've done…. Maybe I had it coming." Jeremy turned around and walked away.

"Hey, wait, Jer…. Alaric this isn't your fault." Elena said."Please you guys let's not make this any harder than it already is. You two should go. Buffy and Damon are here. They'll make sure it'll all go down the right way." Alaric said. Jeremy started walking, but Alaric stopped him. "Hey, hey…."

"Don't. Don't give me some crap speech about how I need to be the man of the house."

"Ok. I won't." Alaric hugged Jeremy tightly before Jeremy walked away and out of the crypt.

"This is all my fault." Elena said. "You moved out, you gave me your ring back, you didn't want any part in this and I…. I forced you to stay and take care of us."

"Don't do that, ok. Taking care of you and Jeremy has been…. has been the closest I've ever come to the life I always wanted." Elena hugged Alaric tightly as she cried. Alaric looked over at Buffy who was desperately trying to maintain her composure.

"You should go." Alaric said to Elena.

She nodded and walked out of the tomb. Alaric and Buffy followed her. To Alaric's surprise, there was a gathering of people outside the tomb holding candles. Alaric smiled as Elena walked over to Stefan. Standing next to him was Damon, Dawn, Caroline, Tyler, Matt, Bonnie, Jeremy, and Meredith. Buffy walked over to Damon and Dawn and Damon wrapped an arm tightly around her waist. Alaric nodded at everyone and headed back into the tomb.

"You guys should go." Buffy said. "It's going to be a long night."

"It already has been." Matt said.

"I know. I'll text you all when it's over."

With reluctance, Caroline, Tyler, and Bonnie headed to their cars. Matt and Jeremy headed to Matt's truck. Stefan led Elena away, leaving Meredith, Dawn, Damon, and Buffy. Dawn hugged Buffy tightly and promised to see her later before following Stefan and Elena.

"I'll stay for a little while longer." Meredith said.

"You should probably go say goodbye." Buffy said, wanting to speak with Damon alone. Meredith nodded and headed into the crypt. Buffy waited till the door was closed before bringing out the stake.

"What is that?" Damon asked.

"The last of the white oak stakes." Buffy said. "It's the ultimate weapon now.""It can't be destroyed?"

"Esther used Alaric's ring to make it indestructible. That's what the silver running down it is. And as far as Klaus is concerned, there are no more white oak stakes out there."

"Plus one for our side."

Buffy nodded and sighed. "Damon…."

"You're moving out, aren't you?"

"How'd you know?"

"Jeremy and Elena are your kids. With Alaric dying, there's no one left to keep an eye on them."

"Elena says I don't have to."

"We both know you do."

"And you're ok with this?"

"Of course I'm not ok with it. I like my bed." Buffy looked at him, confused. "If you think for a second that I'm spending one night without you, you're insane."

"You would move to Elena's house?"

"I would follow you anywhere."

"I love you."

Damon smiled. "I love hearing that." He kissed her gently. "I love you."

Meredith walked out of the crypt. "I gave him a sedative. He'll fall asleep first. He'll go comfortably."

"Well…. I offered to snap his neck, put him out of his misery but…. he didn't take me up on it." Damon said.

"You seem surprised."

"Well, you just think a guy so used to dying wouldn't want to drag it out."

"Well, it was nice of you to give him the option."

"Hmm…. Apparently my choices have been a little controversial lately."

"You shouldn't leave him alone in there."

"I wasn't planning on it." Buffy said. "Thank you…. For everything you've done for him."

"I'm sorry this is happening." Meredith tentatively hugged Buffy and then walked off.

Buffy looked at Damon. "You up for this?"

Damon held up a bottle of whiskey. "Liquid courage."

Buffy squeezed his hand and led him into the crypt. "It's just us." She said when Alaric looked up.

"Is this the part where you give me a dream? Rainbows and rolling green hills?" Alaric said to Damon.

"I was drunk when I told you that."

"Yeah and I told you I'd use it against you."

"Damn you." Damon smirked and sat down next to Buffy who had gracefully sunk down next to Alaric. "Sorry I killed you. Twice."

"So I actually have to die to get a real apology out of you?"

"Drink?" Damon offered Alaric the whiskey bottle.

"Thanks, but I've been thinking about cutting back."

"Ha, yeah! This stuff will kill ya."

Buffy noticed a tear make its way down Alaric's face. It was enough to bring the emotions to the forefront and she had a hard time pushing the tears away. She grabbed the bottle and took a long swig. Alaric took her hand and held it, smiling slightly at her. "That's not helping." She said."I know." Alaric rested his head on top of hers. "You're the best thing to happen to Jeremy and Elena. I know you don't think that, but it's true. I have nothing but admiration for everything you do for them.""I haven't done much."

"You turned yourself into a vampire to protect them. You made the ultimate sacrifice."

"I think you've beat me in that category." Buffy handed Alaric the bottle as the tears started to fall freely. He squeezed her hand and took a swig.

A couple of hours had passed with Alaric still leaning against Buffy and holding her hand. He had long since gone unconscious from the drugs and was breathing heavily. She felt his body sag and his breathing slow into almost non-existence. The end had finally come and the emotion overwhelmed her. She began to sob, the tears flowing ever more freely. Damon pulled her to him as he stood up and held her tightly. He led her out into the cool night air and they both stopped suddenly.

"What are you doing here?" Damon asked. Bonnie didn't say anything, just walked past them towards the crypt. "Hey Bonnie, what are you sleepwalking or something?"

"Bonnie?" Buffy asked, noticing the blank stare on the teen witch's face.

Bonnie lifted her hands towards them and Buffy and Damon felt their blood cells in their brain begin to explode over and over. They both fell to the ground, screaming in pain, as Bonnie took the stake from Buffy's coat pocket and entered the crypt. She took the stake and used it to puncture her hand. She held her bleeding palm to Alaric's mouth and fed him her blood. He woke up after getting a few mouthfuls and bit into her neck with his newly formed fangs. Alaric stood up as Bonnie passed out and held up the stake.

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