Buffy stood at the window looking out at the gardens below. Damon was sleeping in bed only a few feet away. She hadn't been able to sleep at all. Damon still wasn't sure about the whole sire bond thing with Elena. Buffy was pretty damn sure. She'd called Stefan to let him know her theory. He seemed pretty shocked, but eventually accepted it. Caroline said that it made perfect sense. Buffy had thought about calling Klaus, but decided against it. She didn't want to talk about sire bonds and accidentally tip him off to the fact that his hybrids were breaking the bond to him and moving on.
Downstairs, Elena shut the door behind her on her way to school. Willow was making coffee in the kitchen. Elena had talked to her for a few minutes, but it had sounded a bit awkward. Buffy was the only one in the house that hadn't slept.
Damon stirred behind her and looked over at her empty side of the bed. "Babe?"
"Over here." Buffy said.
He turned and saw the look on her face. "You didn't sleep."
Damon sighed and sat up. "Come here." She walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed, curling on leg under her and facing him. "She's not sired to me, babe."
"Yes, Damon…. She is sired to you."
"She's listened to you. You told her not to commit suicide."
"Only because I chose to die in her place and that would make you unhappy." While Damon tried to think of another example, Stefan walked through the front door. "Keep trying, but you'll figure out that I'm right." She got up and headed downstairs.
"Hey." Stefan said, stopping on his way into the library. Buffy followed him in. "You look rough."
"I didn't sleep." She sat down in one of the chairs facing Stefan as he leaned against the railing. "Damon and I argued about it for a while and then he went to bed. He still doesn't believe me."
"Make him believe you."
"Yeah, Stefan," Damon said, walking in as he buttoned his shirt. "How will you make me believe? Clap your hands really loud? I'm not a fairy."
"It was your blood that turned her. She's been different since day one because of you. You can't deny that."
"Sure I can! I finally got Elena to a good place about being a vampire and you can't stand it. She's happy."
"Prove me wrong. Prove us wrong. Tell her it's ok to drink from a blood bag."
"She can't. Her weird doppelgänger body rejected the blood from the bag,""Because you told her to." Buffy said. "Remember? You said that she had to drink warm, human blood from the vein."
"She almost died to make you happy!" Stefan accused.
Buffy stood up and walked over to Damon. She wrapped her arms around his waist and kissed his chest. "Ask her to drink blood from a blood bag. Tell her how happy it would make you if it worked."
Damon groaned. "You are way too good at manipulation."
"I was taught well."
"Fine! But when her body rejects this blood, which it will, your apology is going to be epic."
"I'm talking sexcapades that will bring the roof down and a serious discussion about setting a wedding date."
"Swear or I'm not doing it."
Buffy sighed. "Ok. I swear. But I'm right."
"We'll see." He kissed her forehead and let her go, walking out of the room.
Buffy and Stefan exchanged looks and sighed. "Maybe I should go with him." She suggested.
"You think he'd lie?"
"No. But he'll be upset when he finds out that she's really sired to him. Whether he'll admit it or not, he loves Elena like I love her."
Stefan nodded. "Go with him."
Damon and Buffy walked into the school and searched around for Elena. She was standing with Caroline and Bonnie in the hallway next to some lockers. Caroline was asking if Damon and Buffy minded them crashing at their place. Damon rolled his eyes at Buffy and she smiled slightly. Apparently Elena was planning a girls' night in.
"I can't go home because my brother is trying to kill me and Buffy, so their place is mine now, too." Elena spotted Damon and smiled slightly. "I'll see you in a bit." Buffy followed Damon towards an empty classroom and Elena joined them a moment later. "Oh…. Hi…."
"Hey." Buffy said, crossing her arms.
"Is everything ok?"
Damon smiled and held up a blood bag. "You forgot your lunch."
Elena shook her head and looked at Buffy in confusion. "I can't. You guys know I can't."
"Well, the last time we tried it, the circumstances were less than optimal and I think, maybe, you should just give it another try. See if it works. I really think it will." Elena looked at the blood bag unsurely. "Please? For me?" She looked at him for another moment before opening the bag and sucking in a big gulp. Damon glanced at Buffy as Elena took another, more enthusiastic sip. "You ok?"
"I'm fine." Elena said, pausing in her drinking. "It tastes like blood. Last time it was like hot garbage." She smiled and started to drink again.
"You sure you're ok?"
Elena laughed slightly. "Better than ok! Maybe last time it was a bad batch or something. I can't believe this! I don't have to hurt people anymore!" She smiled and hugged him suddenly. After a moment, she seemed to remember that Buffy was there and backed off. "Sorry.""No. I'm happy too." Buffy said. "You weren't into drinking from humans, so this is good."
"Yeah!" Elena hugged her tightly.
"You should get to class, though. I would hate to have to ground you for bad grades." Buffy smiled slightly as she let Elena go. Elena bounced out of the room with her blood bag and a big grin on her face.
Damon sighed and sagged against the desk. "You were right.""I didn't want to be." Buffy said, moving over to him.
He took her hands in his. "I'm going to fix this."
"It's…. Kind of a long story." Buffy's eyebrow lifted. "One I promise to tell you. Come on."
Stefan walked into the library and found Buffy sitting in a chair staring at Damon as he rifled through trunks of papers and other things he'd collected. From the look on Buffy's face, she wasn't pleased with her fiancé. Stefan sighed and moved over to sit next to her. "What are you guys doing?" He asked.
"Elena's sired. You two were right, I was wrong." Damon said. "Happy?"
"No. I'm not happy. I was looking forward to your guys' wedding." Buffy turned her glare on him and he smiled tightly at her. "So, uh…. What are we going to do about it?"
"I'm working on it." Damon handed Stefan an old postcard. "Here…. Remember that?"
"1942 to be exact."
"What was in New Orleans in 1942?"
"Other than bourbon and beads? Us, Stefan."
"Oh, yeah…. What was the name of that girl you used to hang out with?" Stefan was just poking fun at Buffy's jealousy, but the look she shot Damon said that it was a sore subject.
"She was…. No ordinary girl." Damon said, glancing a little nervously at Buffy. "That was Charlotte. She was crazy about me from the moment we met. So, of course, when she asked me to turn her…. I did." Buffy snorted.
"I take it this story gets a little more involved than I want to know about." Stefan said.
"Uh…. Well…. This one particular night was…. Special." Damon said. "I was arranging a dinner meeting for her and I asked her to watch my drink. I told her to show no mercy. I was just kidding, of course, but…. She killed this sailor for knocking my drink over. That was my first clue."
Stefan looked at Buffy and then back to Damon. "She was sired to you."
Damon sighed. "Ah! Phew! Here…." He handed Stefan a coaster with a name and address on the back.
"Who's Valerie La Marche?" Stefan asked."The witch that I found to help me break little Charlotte's sire bond." Damon stood up. "Pack your bags, little bro. We're going back to Bourbon Street." He looked at Buffy. "I'll pack yours up, too."
Stefan watched his brother leave the room and looked at Buffy. "You're jealous of Charlotte?"
"Not really. She was sired to him." Buffy stood up. "What I'm pissy about is how he broke it off with her."
"He got a witch…."
"No. The witch flaked out on him. So he just left his chippy waiting. We'll probably get down there and she'll still be waiting."
"Ah." Stefan said.
"I really don't like dealing with my significant other's exes. They always end up trying to kill me."
"Charlotte's not as bad as Katherine."
"I'm not just talking about Katherine. Angel's ex tried to kill me…. And Spike's ex tried to kill me."
Stefan smirked slightly. "Well, you're still standing, so Charlotte's got something to worry about."
"She's still sired to him. Which means I'll feel bad if I have to kill her." Buffy headed out of the library calling for Willow to pack her bags cause she was going on a road trip, too.
Buffy, Willow, Damon, and Stefan walked down the crowded Bourbon Street. There were people drinking and dancing in the street. Lights were everywhere. It wasn't even Mardi Gras yet.
"Well, the city's the same." Stefan said. "It's brighter."
"Have you been back here since '42?" Damon asked.
"Nope. Not since I shipped off the join the war effort and you didn't."
"Somebody had to entertain the ladies who'd been left by their menfolk."
"You're such a hero." Buffy quipped. Her cell phone went off and she reached into her pocket to check it.
Damon looked over her shoulder and smirked. "Good news? Elena's at home with the girls where she can't get into any trouble. Bad news? I think she got into the Dom."
"You told her to make herself at home." Buffy said.
"You told her, so she does, right?" Willow asked. "Don't bitch about missing expensive champagne then."
Buffy and Stefan laughed at Willow and Damon snorted. "The sire bond's not that literal."
"Really?" Stefan asked. "Name one thing that you've asked her to do that you haven't gotten."
"You know what?" Buffy said. "End of the road on this conversation."
"She's right. I'm sorry."
"What did you say?" Damon asked.
"I said I'm sorry. As much as I hate this sire bond thing, I shouldn't really take it out on you. It's not your fault."
"Good." Buffy said. "Great. I'm glad you two are on the same page. Now let's find this witch, get this spell, and get home."
"What? You don't want to see if you enjoy New Orleans enough to consider it for a honeymoon spot?" Damon asked with a smirk.
"One: Not when there's a certain sired ex possibly hanging around in town. And two: Honeymoon's are supposed to be exotic and romantic. This place is neither for me."
"Ok. So I need to look at the rainforest or a private island."
Willow raised her hand and bounced a little. "Oh! Oh! I vote a private island with a rainforest."
Damon pointed at her. "Now that's what I'm talking about. Two points for the maid of honor." Willow beamed and Buffy shook her head at the two of them. Damon stopped in front of a townhouse and sighed. "Well, this is where the witch lived."
"Were you expecting to find the same exact witch in the same exact place?" Buffy asked.
"No, but since I couldn't remember where the store was, I figured it would give us a start."
"Or here's another place to start." Stefan said. "You think Charlotte might be in New Orleans?"
"Uh…." Damon glanced at Buffy nervously. She was watching him with a passive expression on her face. "Yeah…. Maybe…."
"Where was the last place you saw her?"
"The corner of Bourbon and Dumaine."
"He told her to count every brick and every building in New Orleans." Buffy said. "Oh, and he'd meet her on the corner, but he never showed."
"That's just…. Wrong." Willow said.
Stefan nodded and started to walk off. "Where are you going?" Damon asked.
"The corner of Bourbon and Dumaine to see how literal the sire bond is." Stefan kept walking and Damon sighed. He looked at Buffy and Willow and Buffy gestured for him to follow his brother.
"There's no way she's going to be in the same spot." Damon said as he followed Stefan with Buffy and Willow behind him. "Not after 70 years."
"What are we going to tell Elena?" Stefan asked Buffy. "We can't just lie to her."
Buffy shrugged. "Let's just find a way to break the sire bond first. Then I'll deal with that."
"Good answer." Damon said. "Would you ladies care to get a drink?"
"I kind of want to explore New Orleans." Willow said. "It's got so many different types of magic down here. I can feel it on the air."
"I'll join you, Damon." Buffy said. "I think I need one." She took his hand and moved away from Willow.
"I'll stick with Willow." Stefan said. "Let you two love birds enjoy New Orleans together. Maybe the all-powerful witch here will stumble upon the spell we need."
"Au revoir!" Damon said as he and Buffy headed off. Buffy wrapped her arms around Damon's arm and laid her head against his shoulder. Damon smiled and kissed the top of her head. "Lovey dovey all of a sudden? I like it."
"It's exhausting being mad at you." Buffy said.
"So don't be mad at me."
"You don't always make that an easy choice."
"Isn't that one of the many reasons you love me so much, though? I keep you on your toes."
Buffy laughed. "Yeah. That's why eternity with you is going to be so interesting."
"It's good to know that you still want to spend eternity with me."
She stopped and turned to face him. "Damon, I'm not being all cold footed because I don't want to marry you. I do want to marry you. I really, really do…. But I'm being serious when I say that I don't want that special day to be ruined by something crazy happening. We are completely surrounded by crazy at the moment."
Damon gently took her face in his hands and kissed her. "Babe, you are a vampire Vampire Slayer and I'm your vampire fiancé. We are completely surrounded by crazy all the time."
"You know what I mean."
"Yes. I do. But if we keep waiting for the right time…. It might never happen."
Buffy sighed and was about to reply, but a figure darted out and tackled Damon to the ground. He cried out and Buffy grabbed the vampire's hair, hauling her away from Damon. She tossed her a few feet away and then helped Damon to his feet.
"Are you ok?"
"She kissed me!" Damon cried.
Buffy looked over at the other vampire as she got to her feet and stared at Damon in wonder. "Damon. I always knew you'd come back for me. I must've counted every brick on every building in New Orleans."
"So, literally every brick." Buffy said, looking at her fiancé. "I take it this is Charlotte." Charlotte moved towards Damon and tried to wrap her arms around his neck, but Buffy grabbed her shirt and yanked her backwards.
Damon moved back a step and said, "Charlotte, please tell me you had a full life and you've done something other than counting bricks."
"Of course I have. I'm not crazy." Charlotte glanced at Buffy. "Why won't she let me touch you?"
"Because he's my fiancé." Buffy growled.
"And you really don't want to piss her off." Damon said, dodging around Charlotte to stand behind Buffy. "So, uh…. Why are you still here…. If you've led a full life?"
"You know when someone breaks up with you, and there's this song that reminds you of them? First you hate it, but then it brings back all the good memories of them. Counting the bricks is my song and I've been playing it for decades."
"That's a really long time stuck listening to the same song." Buffy said. "I mean, after so long, Call Me Maybe is going to get really old. And could you stop trying to molest my future husband?" Charlotte dropped her hands and Damon sighed with relief. Then a thought occurred to him and he groaned slightly. "What's wrong?"
"You're not gonna like my idea." Buffy waited for him to continue. "Charlotte, here, knows New Orleans better than anyone in the world."
"Oh." Buffy rolled her eyes. "Well, she's sired to you, so she has to do what you say. Tell her to stop trying to molest you and stay at least ten feet away and I'll go along with this plan."
"Really? That easy?" Buffy shrugged and Damon smiled. "All right. Charlotte, stay at least ten feet from me at all times because Buffy will kill you. It's her job being a Vampire Slayer and all."
Charlotte looked like she was going to cry, so Buffy said, "Ok, five feet. Jeez, I'm such a softie."
Damon smirked slightly and looked back at Charlotte as she moved back five feet. "Good girl. Ok, so…. We need your help finding someone."
Damon and Buffy walked into the magic store and looked around. It was standard fare for a magic shop. Lots of things Buffy remembered being in The Magic Box back in Sunnydale could be seen around this store. She smiled slightly, remembering the days spent there, and wished that Willow was with her. They had texted Stefan and Willow where they were, but the two of them were too far away. They were on their way, though.
A woman walked out from the back. "Can I help you?"
"Hi. We're looking for a witch." Damon said. "Sorry, no time for pleasantries."
"I'm sorry…. I don't understand."
"Look…." Damon spotted a sign behind the counter. "Nandi, is it? Let's skip the part where you pretend that you don't know what we're talking about. We need a spell to break a vampire's sire bond. Now, there was a witch here named Val. Ring any bells?"
"She was my great grandmother."
"She had a grimoire and it had a spell. She said it was dark magic and it required twelve human souls."
"Whoa!" Buffy said. "Back up…. Twelve humans souls? Sacrifices?"
"I was hoping the recipe had changed."
"There's no magic like that here." Nandi said. "I sell herbs and homeopathic remedies and dress it up with a little witchy woo-woo for the tourists, but I don't practice."
"Ok, one: that's a lie. There are things in this shop that aren't just for tourists and suppliers won't sell them unless the owner of the shop knows what they are and what they're for."
"How do you know that?" Damon asked.
"Giles." Buffy looked back at Nandi. "And two: we're leaving because I'm not dealing with human sacrifices." Buffy started to leave, but Damon turned back to Nandi.
"Just tell us where we can find someone like your great grandma who can break the sire bond and won't flake out on us like old Val did."
"Damon!" Buffy snapped.
"There's no one." Nandi said. "All of her stuff is gone. The grimoires, her journals…. We lost it all during Katrina. If a spell like that ever existed, it's gone for good."
"Thanks." Buffy turned and walked out of the door.
Damon sighed and followed her out. "The witch is lying."
"Yeah. I got that part. Did you miss the spiel about me calling her out on that?"
"Come on, Buff! Don't be like that."
Buffy stopped and rounded on Damon. He backpedaled a few steps to avoid running into her and to make sure he was out of reach if she tried to slap him. "Human sacrifice, Damon!? Are you serious!?"
"Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures."
"Not that extreme!"
"You killed for Elena. You killed for me. Why is this any different?"
"Because I will not just go grab and kill twelve random people for a spell! One that may not even exist."
"That woman…. She's powerful. Val wasn't her great grandmother. She was her mother."
"I don't care. Magic that dark…. Damon, I've seen what it does to people. My best friend, the most kind and gentle person that I know, flayed a guy alive and almost destroyed the world because of dark magic. It doesn't need to be messed with."
"Maybe she'll have another way. A better way. Can we please at the very least just ask her?"
"Ask? You don't ask.""Ok, then can we please go good cop/bad cop on her and get her to talk? She can give up the spell and Willow can figure it out from there. No human sacrifice, no dark magic included."
Buffy shook her head. "Fine. As long as we are crystal clear that there will be no human sacrifices."
"Deal. Nobody gets killed."
Nandi was doing some work at the counter when Damon entered the shop again. She turned and looked at him. "What are you doing here?"
"Calling you out. You are not Val's great-granddaughter." Damon said. "You're her daughter. You're 80 years old. You don't look a day older 50. You're a practicing witch."
"Get out of my store."
"Give me what I want." He started walking towards Nandi, but she turned and used her powers to try and hurt Damon.
"Ow, ow, oh…." Damon shook his head. "Not gonna work."
Buffy walked in from the back of the shop. "I have a friend who's a powerful witch. I got tired of this other witch using that spell on me and mine, so my witch fixed it. Look, we don't want any trouble. We just need your help. That's all."
"I told you there's no one here who can help you. The kind of magic my mother practiced, it's unnatural. Witches don't even call it magic. We call it expression."
"Is that like black magic?"
"Worse. Channeling the power of human sacrifices calls on darkness that can't exist on this plane without swallowing it whole. She sold him a bill of goods about breaking the sire bond because she wanted access to that power," Nandi turned to Damon. "And you gave it to her when you killed those 12 people."
"Are you saying there's no spell?" Damon asked.
"The bond can't be broken with magic. A vampire only bonds to her sire when she has feelings for him before she turns…. Human feelings. Vampirism only heightens those emotions. You want her free? You have to set her free. Tell her to live her life without you, and never think of you again, to stop caring about you, and then leave her. That's the only way around the sire bond."
Buffy and Damon exchanged looks from across the room. Elena had felt something for Damon before she'd become a vampire. "Thank you." Buffy said, walking past Nandi. She took Damon's hand and led him out of the store.
"Elena…." Damon started.
"From the flirtation, maybe?"
"Can't be. I mean…. Come on! That was a long time ago and she was compelled to forget it." He started to continue, but a thought occurred to him.
"What?" Buffy asked.
"Before you got here…. I did hit on her some."
"That doesn't explain having feelings for you, Damon! That was almost two years ago."
"We just need to ask her."
"You seriously want to ask Elena when she started having warm and fuzzy feelings towards you?"
"It's the only way we'll find out. Sitting here guessing isn't going to help."
"Ok. Fine. But let's put this sire bond work around to the test." Buffy started to walk off, but she stopped. "Do you think…."
"I had feelings for you before you turned me. Why am I not sired to you?"
"Probably because you weren't exactly human before you turned."
Buffy nodded and started to walk off. "Damn. It would explain why I let you get away with murder."
Damon and Charlotte were inside a pub that morning while Buffy, Stefan, and Willow waited outside. Stefan and Willow had enjoyed touring New Orleans while Buffy and Damon had been dealing with Nandi. They were still laughing and talking about the things they'd checked out, but Buffy's ear was on the conversation going on inside that pub.
"So, you're just leaving me again?" Charlotte said.
"No. I need to get on with my life…. With my fiancée…. and so do you." Damon said.
"I don't want to live without you."
"If you want to make me happy you will. You just forget about me. You'll never think of me again, and you'll find someone new, and you'll be happier than ever." Charlotte started to cry. "Please just stop crying."
"I'm never gonna be able to forget about you."
"Yes, you are. And I'm never gonna be happy until you realize that you're never gonna have the life that you deserve if I'm in it. Goodbye, Charlotte." A moment later, Damon walked out and joined them.
"How'd it go?" Stefan asked.
"I set her free." Damon said, wrapping his arm around Buffy's waist tightly.
"Must've been hard: doing the right thing. Especially when it's not something you want to do."
"Get to the point, Stefan. You don't think I'm gonna be able to do what I need to when I have to tell Elena to stay away from me."
"Well, I mean, selflessness isn't exactly one of your most obvious character traits, Damon."
"Yeah? Well, one of these you're gonna realize you don't know me half as well as you think." Damon whistled for a cab.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I didn't go to Egypt with you because Lexi was right."
"Lexi?" Buffy asked.
"She said that me going to Egypt would've been a bad influence on you. That I was the reason you went all Ripper in 1912 and that I would end up doing it again. So…. I didn't go. I was there…. At the train station…. And I just couldn't bring myself to hurt you like that again. I walked away."
"I didn't know about that." Stefan said.
"Yeah, well, next time I'll hang a billboard."
"I know it may seem like I'm being unfair about this, like I'm upset about losing Elena to you even though that's not actually true, but after all this is over, if she never feels the same way about me as she used to at least it'll be her choice."
"The dreaded C word. I know what I have to do Stefan." Damon got inside the taxi with Buffy and Willow followed them. Stefan climbed into the front seat after a moment and the taxi drove off.
Buffy and Damon walked into their house and found Elena cleaning up champagne bottles from the sleepover. Stefan had gone to Caroline's and Willow had decided to go check on Bonnie. Elena didn't look over at them, but she still noticed that they were there. "Hey." She said.
"Hey back." Buffy said.
"How was your night?" She turned around and looked at them.
"A little bit awful. Yours?"
"So, Elena, um…. we need to talk."
"I know that I'm sired to Damon." Buffy and Damon exchanged surprised glances. "Caroline told me. That's what you guys were doing, isn't it? Is there a way to break it?"
"Not exactly. Can we, uh…. Sit?" Buffy gestured to the couches. Elena took the one across from Damon and Buffy. "Ok, look…. I'm not good at beating around the bush, so I'm going to cut straight to it. Sire bonds happen because the vampire has feelings for their sire before they're turned."
"Oh." Elena looked away guiltily.
"It's ok." Damon said.
"It's not! You're Buffy's fiancé. You're like my step-dad. It's dysfunctional!"
"A little bit." Buffy smacked Damon's arm lightly. "What?"
"Why didn't you talk to me about it?" Buffy asked.
"Because I was scared how you would react. Honestly, it wasn't serious…. I thought…. You know…. Just a crush on my adoptive mom's boyfriend…. He acted so different around you and the way you talked about him…. Yeah, Stefan and I were perfect for each other, but that became the key word: Were. When he turned into the Ripper…. I don't know…. Damon…. You cared for me and…."
"Like a daughter, Elena." Damon said gently.
"I know! I was confused and sad and…. I'm so, so sorry! Now it's led to this…. Mess."
"It's ok." Buffy stood up and walked over to sit next to Elena. She took her hand and squeezed it. "It's not the first time in history something like this has happened." Elena looked at Buffy dubiously. "Ok, human wise…. The crush-on-mom's-boyfriend thing has happened. I'm not sure about the whole sire-bond-making-it-worse thing."
"Is there a way to stop it?"
"Yes. No spell either."
"So, what do we do? Let's do it."
"I have to release you." Damon said.
"But we're not going to do that until Jeremy gets fixed." Buffy added.
"Why not?" Elena asked.
"Because it involves making you leave."
"Not the town or the state or anything, just…. You're not going to be around me." Damon said. "But since you're kind of stuck living here since your brother wants to kill all of us, I don't want to make it uncomfortable for you.""Does that mean that I won't be around you anymore?" Elena asked Buffy, panicking.
"Of course not." Buffy said. "You're not sired to me. But as far as we can figure out, the only way to get around the sire bond is to have you stay away from Damon. At least until we can find the cure."
Elena sighed. "Ok." She placed her face in her hands. "God, I'm so embarrassed."
"Don't be." Buffy looked at Damon as she hugged Elena. "Damon's sexy and he knows it." Elena laughed slightly and Damon smirked.