The Next Chapter

Chapter 67

A/N Sorry it took me so long to update this. My brother, sister-in-law, and niece came in from Alabama for Thanksgiving and I wanted to spend all my spare time with them. And I didn't want to give you a rushed chapter. Hope you guys like it!

Chapter 67

Buffy laid in bed and stared at the ceiling. She was in her room at the Gilbert house. Jeremy was in his room sleeping. Elena was in her room writing in her journal after a shower. Buffy had helped her finish burying Connor and then taken her home. Stefan had tried numerous times to talk to Elena, but she wouldn't have anything to do with her. She was getting madder at Buffy for not answering her questions about Stefan, but Buffy couldn't let her know she'd killed the answer to finding her cure.

Damon walked in, closing the door behind him, and slid into the bed next to her. "How is she?"

"How do you think?" Buffy said.

"Well, the good news is: The Brotherhood of the Five has five hunters. We just need one."

"Yes, because finding a lost contact lens in a haystack the size of China is the easiest thing to do."

"We have resources, Buff. We can do it." He kissed her temple. "We're not going to rest until we find this cure."

"Glad you're on board."

"Where you go I go." Buffy was suddenly missing from the bed. "Or not."

He got up to find her out in the hallway knocking on the bathroom door. "Elena? Are you ok?"

"I'm…. I'm fine." Elena called back. "Just…. Dropped my brush."

"It sounded like you dropped yourself. Are you sure you're ok?"

Elena opened the door. "Yeah. I'm fine." She glanced back at the bathroom suspiciously and then closed the door. Buffy raised an eyebrow at her. "I promise. I'm fine."

"Ok." Buffy watched Elena walk into her room and close her door. She glanced at Damon standing in the doorway to their room. He nodded towards the stairs and Buffy followed him down to the kitchen. "It sounded like she fell."

"Maybe she did." Damon said, reaching up into the cabinet and pulling down a bottle of bourbon and two glasses.

"I'm worried about her." Buffy accepted her glass from Damon and they headed out the back door. She settled down on the grass and looked around her. "I don't know what will happen to her if we don't find this cure."

Damon sat down beside her and took her free hand. "She will get through this. Whether we find the cure or not, I promise you that Elena will get through this."

"You saw her today…. After she killed Connor. She's not ok."

"I didn't want to be a vampire." Damon said quietly. "I was just going to fade away."

"I know."

"Hear me out." He took her hand against his heart. "I honestly believe now that I wasn't meant to fade away. That I was meant to become a vampire so I could be here, now…. With you. I've never been big on the whole destiny thing until you walked into my life. So, I think…. Maybe this was meant to happen to Elena. Everything she's going through now will lead to something so much bigger and better later on." He took a large swallow of his bourbon. "Hell, it took my bigger and better almost 150 years to get here."

Buffy smiled slightly. Damon rarely got gushy, but when he did…. "I love you so much."

Damon smiled and set down his drink. He gently held her face between his hands, moving her hair behind her ears. "I love you more than you will ever realize."

"I get glimpses of it." She leaned forward and kissed him. Damon moved onto his side and they laid down together, letting the kiss escalate.

A few hours later, they laid in the grass together staring up at the sky wrapped in each other's arms. It was the first calm, quiet moment they had had in a long time. Of course it would be broken. "You're not here. I…. I've got to be dreaming." Elena said from the kitchen.

"Who is she talking to?" Damon asked.

"Because you're… Because you're dead. You're a ghost. That's gotta be it. You're a ghost, that's what's happening right now. Buffy! Buffy!" Buffy jumped up and threw her clothes back on with Damon right behind her. "You're a ghost…. You're haunting me. You're a ghost. You're haunting me."

Buffy and Damon rushed into the house just as Elena grabbed a knife and stabbed Jeremy in the neck. "No!" Buffy cried. Elena dropped the knife.

"Oh my god!" Elena sobbed as Jeremy fell to the ground. Buffy and Elena went down with him. "Jer! Jer! Jer! Jer! No, no, no, no, no, no."

Buffy looked down at Jeremy's hand and saw that he was wearing his ring. "Elena, he's going to be ok."

"Jer…." Elena sobbed. Damon came over and held her to him as Buffy held the dead Jeremy in her arms.

Buffy reached over and moved Elena's hair out of her face. "Elena, what happened?"

"I didn't know it was him."

"Obviously. You said someone was haunting you. Who did you see?""The hunter. Connor."

"Connor is haunting you?" Buffy looked around, but she didn't see any ghosts. "Is he still here?"

"No." Elena sobbed. "I'm sorry."

"It's ok." Buffy petted Elena's hair. "Shh, it's ok."

Jeremy was lying dead on the couch while Elena paced in front of him. Buffy and Damon were in the room with her. It was early morning and the sun was out. Jeremy had been out for a while and Buffy was starting to worry. She was also keeping a lookout for any hunter ghosts. To her dismay, she also noticed the tattoo that had formed on Jeremy's hand. It was just like Connor's.

"I can't believe this happened." Elena said. "What am I going to say to him?"

"Thanks for not ditching the family ring after it drove Rick crazy?" Damon asked. "You should have called Stefan."

"I don't want to talk to him. He's been lying to me and hiding things from me. He compelled Jeremy to forget god knows what."

"In all fairness, I mean, I think you killing him kinda trumps that. And you should have called Stefan."

"I don't trust him right now, Damon."

Stefan walked in the house and Elena looked at Damon incredulously as Stefan said, "Hey."

"PS, I called Stefan." Damon said.

Stefan walked over to Elena. "What happened? Why didn't you call me?""I just…. I need to go upstairs and shower. Clean all the blood off my hands." Elena walked out of the room.

Jeremy gasped as he came back to life. "Welcome back." Buffy said, suddenly sitting by his side, moving by Stefan so fast that he didn't notice as he headed for the stairs. "How are you feeling?"

"What happened?" Jeremy asked.

"Long story, buy the e-book." Damon said.

Buffy rolled her eyes at Damon. "Elena got…. Freaked out a bit and you startled her…. While she had a knife in her hand."

Jeremy's eyes widened. "She killed me?"

"She didn't mean to."

He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the couch. "I startled a vampire?"

"She was freaked out already. Hey, did you happen to see Connor's ghost just before…."

Jeremy looked at Buffy like she was crazy. "No."

"Ok, just checking." Buffy glanced at the clock. "Hey, don't you have something with Bonnie at the school today?"

"Oh…. Uh, yeah. That occult thing with her professor guy."

"Why don't you go grab a shirt out of the laundry room and head out?"

"That actually sounds like a good idea." Jeremy stood up and headed out.

Buffy looked at Damon. "I need to make a phone call." She dashed upstairs to grab her phone and was outside in two seconds. With a sigh, she dialed Klaus's number.

"Buffy, what a pleasant surprise!" Klaus said."Doesn't sound like you mean it."

"Why ever not?"

"I don't know. You just sound…. More fake cheerful than usual."

"Well, my plans for a hybrid filled future have been destroyed. It's not exactly a good day. But let's accentuate the positives, shall we? The hunter was one of Five. We'll find another, it may take centuries, but we've got nothing but time, right?"

"Now that voice I know. Who's getting killed?"

"Not your beloved Salvatore brothers, if that's what you're worried about. But I am concerned about your daughter. Have the hallucinations started yet?"

"Actually, that's what I'm calling you about."

"You know about them?""No, but there are two people in this house that can see ghosts and neither of us have, but Elena, who's never been able to, has. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if a vampire kills a magical vampire hunter, there's gotta be some kind of magical repercussion."

"Well, aren't you a smart one? Where are you?"

"I'm at my more modest home."

"How convenient," Buffy looked up to see Klaus walking up the sidewalk. "So am I." He hung up and walked over to her. "You look a bit rumpled."

"Well, Elena hallucinated that Jeremy was Connor and she stabbed him in the neck. I've been a little busy and haven't had time to change." She stood up, setting her phone down on the porch. "What do you know?"

"I killed the Original Five hunters. Did Stefan tell you that?"

"He did."

"When one kills a hunter there is a bit of a consequence."

"Like I said, I figured. What kind of consequences are we talking about?"

"The hunters were spelled by witches to kill vampires. If you prevent one from fulfilling his destiny then he'll take you down with him."

Buffy nodded. "Makes sense. What do we do?"

"Connor's death won't prevent him from making Elena his final vampire kill. She'll need to come with me now. I'll lock her up, keep her away from any sharp wooden objects."

"Are you insane? She's not going anywhere with you."

"Well, if we leave her alone, she'll take her own life before the day is out."

"She's strong."

"Is she? Believe me it's for her own good."

Behind them, the front door opened and Stefan stepped out. "What is he doing here?"

"Don't worry, Stefan. I'm not here to kill you." Klaus smiled. "I'm answering questions today."

Buffy looked at Stefan. "Since Elena killed Connor, she's been seeing him…. And talking to him, apparently. Klaus says that it's because he's trying to finish the job he started."

"What do you mean?"

"He's trying to make Elena his last vampire kill."

"How do we stop it?"

"By letting me lock her up and keep her safe." Klaus said.

"No. No way in hell."

Buffy turned back to Klaus, but before she could say anything, the front door opened and Elena ran out onto the porch and stopped. Klaus was suddenly dodging around Buffy and Stefan and grabbed her, carrying her off. Damon walked out onto the porch just after Buffy ran after Klaus. Neither Damon nor Stefan could track her.

"Klaus, stop!" Buffy yelled. She almost ran into him and Elena when he did. That's when she realized they'd run all the way across town and were now standing outside of Klaus's mansion.

"Buffy!" Elena cried.

"I'm glad you managed to keep up." Klaus said, still holding Elena.

"Give her back." Buffy said.

"This is the best thing for her. As her foster parent, that's what you want, isn't it?"

"Then I stay with her."

"What's going on?" Elena asked.

"That was the original plan, wasn't it?" Klaus asked, ignoring Elena. "I take her, you come with?"

"Yes." Buffy said.

"Then let's go." He turned and headed inside.

"Buffy, what's happening?" Elena asked as Klaus drug her into the house.

Buffy sighed as they headed down into the basement. "Klaus is going to keep you safe."

"Safe? Safe from what?"

"Yourself."

"What? What does that mean?" A hybrid opened a door to a room and Klaus drug Elena in. "Let go of me!"

"Certainly." Klaus let her go. "I apologize for the lack of windows. It's to preserve the art. And of course to prevent you from taking off your daylight ring and burning yourself to death in the sun."

"I'm not gonna kill myself. I would never do that."

"Oh, but you'll want to. I did. Problem is I'm immortal."

Elena looked at Buffy and then back at Klaus. "You went through this?"

"Yes, I did. For 52 years, 4 months, and 9 days. I was tormented, in my dreams, in every waking moment, relentless, never ending torture. It was the only period of my life when I actually felt time."

"So, you knew that this would happen if Connor died? That's why you got involved. Did Stefan know too?"

"All he knew was that the hunter had to be kept alive. You should have listened to him when he said he had it covered."

"What else does Stefan know?"

"Well, that's one of life's little mysteries, isn't it?" Klaus backed away and headed for the door.

"Buffy?"

"I'm not leaving, Elena." Buffy said. "I won't leave you. But I don't want anything to happen to you." Elena nodded, trusting Buffy. "Klaus, how did you make it stop?"

"I didn't." Klaus said. "Eventually it just stopped. The hallucinations tend to appear in strange forms." He looked at Elena. "Don't say I didn't warn you." Klaus walked out of the room with Buffy and the hybrid lackey shut the door behind them. Buffy touched the door and sighed. Klaus gently touched her shoulder. "She'll be ok, love."

"I hate this." Buffy turned and looked at Klaus, tears shining in her eyes. "Isn't there anything we can do for her?"

"You've got a powerful witch on your side."

"Willow!" Buffy reached for her phone, but sighed as she remembered she'd left it back at the Gilbert house. "Crap."

"Where is she today?"

"With Bonnie at the school." Buffy looked at the door again. "I won't leave her, but I need to get Willow. She won't trust anyone else though."

"Tell you what, I'll let your fiancé know where you are and have him send the witch somewhere."

"Let me tell him."

"You don't trust me?"

"Never have, never will."

"That hurts me." Klaus said, handing his phone over.

Buffy shrugged and dialed Damon's number. "Klaus! Where are Buffy and Elena? I swear, if you've hurt them…." Damon demanded.

"It's me." Buffy said.

"You're ok! You left your phone, I…."

"Listen, we're ok."

"Where are you?"

"Safe. For now. Damon, Elena's not going to be ok unless we fix this."

"What's happening?"

"When a vampire kills one of The Five, they're haunted by that hunter. They have hallucinations."

"What does that mean?"

"Connor's trying to get Elena to kill herself because he wants one last vampire kill. I need you to get Willow and have her find a way to break the curse. Stop the hallucinations."

"Aren't you coming to help?"

"I'm not leaving Elena with Klaus."

"You let him take her?"

"I let him lock her up so she'll be safe while he explains more to me about what he knows. I promise I'll be ok. If you guys find anything, call this number, ok?"

Damon sighed. He was obviously not happy about the arrangement. "Fine. Just…. Check in every now and then?"

"Ok. I will."

"Hey…. I love you."

Buffy smiled. "I love you, too."

Klaus took the phone and hung up on Damon. "Enough of that. Let's go upstairs, get you a change of clothing, and have a little chat."

Damon sat at Alaric's desk in his old classroom in the dark. He opened up a drawer and found a bottle of bourbon. Taking it out with a smile, propped his feet up on the desk. "You're missing all the adventure, pal." He held the bottle up for Alaric and took a swig. Willow and Bonnie were getting Shane from the exhibit. Willow was starting to be a little wary of Shane, but if he had answers for Buffy, then she was willing to work with him. If he tried anything, she'd magic his ass to the middle of the Congo.

"Shane, this is our friend, Damon." Bonnie said as she, Willow, and Shane walked in. "He's kind of an expert on this stuff too."

"I audited your class." Damon said. "Very enlightening."

"That's right, I remember you." Shane said. "What's your specialty?"

"The origin of the species."

"Ah, I think Darwin would arm wrestle you for that distinction."

"Not that species."

"You're into the monster stuff. All right, awesome."

"I was kind of hoping you might have stumbled upon this at some point, maybe." Damon pulled out the drawing of Connor's hunter's mark and handed it to Shane.

Shane took it and looked at it with a bit of surprise on his face. "This is the hunter's mark. Where did you get this?"

"My fiancée is a Vampire Slayer. She can see the tattoo and looked it up. There's not a lot of information on them and she's curious as to who's encroaching on her territory."

"A real, one girl in all the world, Vampire Slayer? I thought they were legend."

"Not so much."

"And not so much with the one girl part either." Willow said. "I helped her make all potential Slayers into active Slayers."

"You never mentioned any of this before." Shane said.

"Didn't think it was necessary." Shane looked taken aback at Willow's comment, but she just looked at him. He was smart not to say anything else since he was well aware that Willow's powers were the greatest he'd ever seen.

Shane looked at Damon. "Where is she? Can I meet her?"

"She's busy with her adopted daughter. Do you know anything about the hunter's curse?" Damon asked, getting them back on track.

"Legend says that if a hunter is killed by that which it hunts, then that person will be cursed to walk the Earth in torment until…."

"Until?" Bonnie asked.

"Until a new hunter is awakened and their legacy is passed on. They're called, well, potentials."

"Like potential Slayers? Only guys?" Willow asked. "Buffy's going to take serious offence to that."

"Buffy…. The Vampire Slayer?"

"She'll take offence to that, too. And you really don't want her to get offended."

Shane nodded. "Listen, I have a bunch of research on it. Why don't I go grab it for you?"

"That'd be great." Damon said as Shane handed the hunter's mark drawing back to Damon. "Hey, thanks."

Shane left the classroom and Bonnie looked at Damon. "How are we supposed to find a potential hunter?"

"Yeah, about that." Damon had pulled out his cell and called Jeremy. "Little Gilbert, your services are needed." He said when Jeremy answered.

Buffy and Klaus walked around the expansive gardens on his estate side by side. He was telling her about his time under the hunter's curse. Buffy listened intently. She was trying to learn anything she could that would maybe help break the curse, but she only found herself feeling bad for Klaus. For everything he'd gone through. The things the hunter put him through were horrible. It also scared the hell out of Buffy that Elena could be going through all of that until they found a cure.

"Buffy?" She looked up and found Klaus standing in front of her with a concerned look on his face. "Are you all right, love?"

"Sorry." Buffy shrugged. "I was just thinking about…. Elena.""Well, you've got Willow on the case. I'm sure she'll think of something. Would you like to talk about something else?"

"What would we talk about?"

"Anything." He slipped his hand into hers. "Tell me more about you."

Buffy thought about pulling away, but she didn't want to upset him. He might get angry, knock her out, and take Elena. "I thought you knew everything about me."

"Not everything is researchable. Like…. I still can't figure out why you love Damon so much."

For a moment she thought about snapping at him. His jealousy towards Damon was unfounded, but then she remembered that she did actually feel something for Klaus and maybe an explanation would help smooth that over. Somehow. "There's not any one reason why I love him. And it's not like I meant to fall in love with him." Buffy noticed the inquisitive look on Klaus's face. "I hated him for a long time. He killed my best friend. But somehow…. In all that hating…. Something happened. Something changed. Something got under my skin. He was…. Different. I saw a different side of him." One look at Klaus's face and she knew she'd said the absolute wrong thing.

"And why is that any different from me? Because he got there first?" He held her hand against his chest where his heart was. A heart she'd literally held in her hand only weeks ago. "Give me a chance to prove to you that I'm different. That I can love deeply and be loyal to you and you alone."

"Klaus…." She let go of his hand and moved away from him a few paces before turning back to him. "Ok, yeah…. I do feel something for you, but it's minute."

"It's still something."

"It's not something you should cling to. It's not hope."

"You came here willingly."

"I came here because you had Elena. I had to protect her."

"I'm trying to protect her."

"I know. And I appreciate that…."

"Why can't you just give me a chance?"

Buffy held up her left hand. "Because I'm engaged. I'm going to marry Damon."

"I can give you bigger and prettier baubles than that measly thing."

"It's not about diamonds, Klaus. It has nothing to do with jewelry at all. The ring is just a symbol."

"Forever is a very long time. People don't realize what they're promising when they wear that symbol."

"I'm not people."

"No, love, that you're not." He moved towards her and she held her ground. "If you have forever, then give me a year to prove to you that I can be everything you need. I'm not even asking you to promise me an eternity. Just a year."

"No."

"What's one year in the infinite years you have ahead of you?"

"A year of causing Damon pain and heartache and irreparable damage to our relationship because I'm out cavorting with you because I'm curious? I can't do that to him."

"You admit you're curious?"

"No!"

"The lady doth protest too much."

"Stop." Buffy looked back towards the house. She'd heard not good sounds coming from inside.

"Make me." He moved closer, but she held out her hand against his chest.

"No…. Stop. Listen."

Klaus was instantly on alert. They both ran back towards the house to find the door to Elena's room was open and the guard was missing. There was a groan and Buffy found Stefan leaning against a pillar with a lead pipe through his stomach and Elena was gone.

Klaus moved to attack, but Buffy held him back. "Stop!" She rushed over to Stefan and pulled the pipe out. "Are you crazy!? What the hell were you doing?"

"Trying to save Elena." Stefan said.

"So was I."

"With Klaus?"

"Yes. With Klaus. He's been through this, Stefan. He knows what to do. Haven't you talked to Damon?"

"Once I heard Klaus took Elena, I had to save her. I wasn't sure what your angle in all this was."

"My angle, as always, is to protect Elena. Which I can't do now because you've lost her." Buffy took Stefan's phone from him and dialed Damon's number.

"You can rest easy, brother." Damon answered. "We figured out how to solve our little Elena problem.""Really? Because Klaus's phone hasn't rang."

"Buffy? Why are you with Stefan?"

"Because Stefan just broke Elena out of the suicide watch ward of Klaus's house and lost her."

"What? Again?"

"She's in bad shape." Stefan said. "I tried to help her but she attacked me."

Buffy rolled her eyes at him. "I will deal with you later. Damon, we need to find her. Talk her down. Tell Stefan what needs to be done to end this and I'll meet you at her house."

"Buff, I think I need your approval on how to end this."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"Well…. To end the curse…. You have to activate the next hunter."

Buffy blinked. "Jeremy."

"Yeah."

"Can I talk to him?"

"He's with Bonnie. She doesn't like the implications."

"She never does."

"He's willing to help."

"Great. I get to choose between my kids." Buffy sighed. "If Jeremy fully understands what he's getting into, then let him do it. Give him a vampire to kill. I'm going after Elena. I'll meet you at her house." She hung up.

"What can I do to help?" Klaus asked.

"Jeremy needs a vampire to kill. Think you could rustle one up?"

"I've got one handy right here." He gestured at Stefan.

"Preferably not one of my family."

Klaus smirked. "I'll give young Jeremy one of my hybrids. Go save Elena."

Buffy squeezed his hand in thanks and disappeared.

Buffy and Damon headed for Wickery Bridge. It had been Damon's idea to check there. Buffy had wanted to make sure she wasn't at their house or hers before she tried anywhere else. Sure enough, there was Elena talking to one of her ghosts.

"You're…. you're right. I…. I…. I'm sorry I…. Mommy, I didn't mean to disappoint you."

"Elena." Buffy said.

Elena turned and looked at them. "Buffy? Damon?" She turned back to look at her ghost, but apparently it was gone. "How did you find me?"

"Didn't take a genius to figure it out." Damon said. "Third time's a charm."

"You were right, Damon. Vampires kill people. Stefan was right too. I can't live with myself."

"Look at you, being all glass is half empty."

"Can we just go talk about this before you do something crazy?" Buffy asked. Elena turned her head again and nodded. She looked back out at the water as the sun began its slow ascent in the sky. Buffy noticed that her hand was bare. "Where's your ring?" Elena didn't answer. "Where's your ring, Elena?" She looked at the sun. "We need to get you inside. What you're going through is a curse. We know how to break it, but we just have to get you inside."

"Damn it, Elena!" Damon rushed at her and tried to grab her, but she rushed around him and stayed a good distance away. He and Buffy were now on either side of her.

Buffy thought about rushing at Elena as well, but she was afraid Elena might do something stupid. She glanced down at her ring and yanked it off. "Elena…." She moved closer. "I need you to calm down, ok?"

"Please, Buffy…." Elena said. "Let me end this. Put your ring back on."

"No. It's not your time to go."

"It doesn't matter."

"You or me, Elena. That's the choice.""I'm not making that choice."

"That's the choice I make every day." She was suddenly standing next to Elena and her daylight ring was on Elena's hand. Elena tried to yank it off, but Buffy held her hand tightly. "You're life is more important than mine."

"I'm not worth it. You save the world. I just…."

"Elena, you are my daughter. As far as I'm concerned, your life is worth ten of mine."

Elena gasped slightly and looked around her. She closed her eyes and when she opened them, she seemed almost herself again. "He's gone."

Buffy smiled and stepped back. Elena and Damon started to hear a sizzling noise and Elena looked at Buffy. Her flesh was starting to burn. Damon looked over and saw the sun had started to rise. He rushed at Buffy, grabbed her and Elena, and threw all three of them over the bridge and into the water.

Elena woke up in her bed a few hours later. She looked at her hand and saw that she had her daylight ring back on and Buffy's was missing. She slowly started to sit up, almost panicked. "I fished it out of the river for you so Buffy could have her ring back." She turned and saw Damon sitting on her window seat. "Little tip? Vampires hate to swim."

Buffy walked in, wearing her ring and her left ring finger, and set down the tray of hot tea. "How are you feeling?"

"My head's clear." Elena said. "I can remember everything, but not like I lived it…. Like it was a really bad dream. You saved me. Thank you."

"Well, you know what they say about teenage suicide. Don't do it." Buffy sat down on the edge of Elena's bed and took her hand.

Elena smiled. "I just can't believe that I almost…."

"Don't worry yourself." Damon said.

"Yeah, but if it wasn't for you…."

"My fiancée would be dead and you'd be wearing her engagement ring. But I'm over it, so don't worry."

"So listen…." Buffy said. "I want you to know something. I know that you think Stefan's been lying to you, which, he has, and I've helped cover up some of it, but this rough patch that you two have been going through is not what you think. Everything that he's been doing…. He's been doing for you. To help you."

"Help me what?" Elena asked.

"There may be a way out of this for you, Elena." Elena looked at her, obviously confused. "There may be a cure."

"A cure…. For being a vampire?"

"Yes."

"How? When did you find this out?"

"I actually just found out the day before yesterday. And don't worry yourself with the how. We've got that covered." Buffy leaned over and kissed Elena's forehead. "Get some rest. Damon and I are going out."

"Are you coming back here?"

"Of course." Buffy stood up and followed Damon out of the house.

When they reached the sidewalk, Damon turned and pulled her into a tight hug. "Don't you ever do something like that to me again!" He said, shaking her slightly. "When I saw you burning…. It was the worst feeling in the world."

"I'm sorry." She held him tightly. "I didn't know what else to do. I had to make her see that killing herself wasn't an option."

"I need a drink. Let's go to the Grill." He wrapped one arm around her shoulders and they headed off in the direction of the town square. Damon took off his jacket first and then helped Buffy out of hers. They sat down at the bar and he ordered them glasses of bourbon. Buffy noticed him look at the seat next to him as he said, "Make that three." She smiled and took his hand.

Matt walked up and stood on the other side of Damon, blocking his view of Alaric's seat. "You're still saving a spot for Mr. Saltzman, huh?"

"I'd say we're in the market for a new drinking buddy. You're not qualified." Damon said.

"I know that you guys don't like me. But, I dug up some stuff about the explosion at the Young farm, I kind of need to tell someone about." Damon glanced at Buffy and she shrugged. He turned back to Matt and motioned for him to continue. "So, April mentioned that her dad knew that Professor Shane guy. Which wouldn't be creepy, except, he had all that info about the hunter's curse, and we live in a town where, you know, anybody who knows stuff is creepy until proven otherwise."

"You're on the verge of impressing me. Drive it home."

"I got the Sheriff to dig up the Pastor's phone records. Turns out he made like a call a day to the same number the last month he was alive. And on the day that the Council got blown up at the farm, he called it ten times."

"What was the number?" Buffy asked.

"The office of Professor Atticus Shane." Matt said.

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