The Next Chapter

Chapter 74

A/N Sorry it's taken me so long. I started my new job this week (yay!) and it's jam packed. So much to learn! My brain is excited by the prospect of learning new things in my career. Plus I've been housesitting for my parents and my mom's computer is dead as doornail. It wouldn't be so bad if she didn't live so far away from my house. *sigh* But I'm finally back at my house (yay! I missed my bed!) and I hammered down tonight to get you this chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter 74

Damon was sharpening a knife on the beach with Buffy sitting next to him. He glanced over at her and smiled slightly. Her face was turned up towards the sky and she was leaning back like she was sunbathing. Her eyes were covered by her sunglasses, but the set of her mouth told him she was distracted and not in a good way. "What are you thinking?"

"I was thinking 'why couldn't they have hidden this cure in Hawaii or an island off the coast of Italy?'" Buffy said. She looked over at Shane. "Where the hell did you take us anyway?"

"Two hundred miles off the Nova Scotia mainland." Shane said. "If you recall, the whole point was to hide the cure on the world's most obscure, desolate island."

"Oh yeah?" Damon said. "I thought the whole point was that no one found Silas, the oldest, deadliest freak in the world."

"Yeah, that too." Shane held out sunscreen and offered it to them. "Sunscreen?"

"Is that a joke?" Buffy asked, one eyebrow raised over her sunglasses.

"Right." Shane wandered off and Damon shook his head.

"Can we kill that guy when this is over?" He asked."You've got my vote." Buffy said. She glanced over at Stefan who was tying a knot in some rope while Rebekah was standing there glaring at Elena as she walked past.

"You know, you're not really helping." Stefan said.

"You're perfectly capable of tying a knot." Rebekah said.

"You giving Elena the evil eye? It's not really helping."

"She killed my brother, tried to get you to put a dagger in my back. She's lucky all she's getting is the evil eye."

"Actually, I killed your brother." Buffy called. "I came up with the plan and I handed Jeremy the white oak stake. You want to hate someone, hate me. Leave Elena out of it." She smiled brightly at Rebekah.

"I already hate you."

"Beks, why don't you just admit that you're jealous of Elena because Stefan loved her and not you and get it over with?" Rebekah growled and rushed at Buffy. Buffy was faster and she suddenly had the white oak stake out and pointed at Rebekah's heart. "Try me, princess."

"You wouldn't."

"Oh, wouldn't I? I've just spent an ungodly amount of hours cooped up in a van with you alternating between complaining and glaring at Elena and then complaining some more about being on a boat. My tolerance only stretches so far." Rebekah backed down. "Smart girl." Buffy twirled the stake expertly and stuck it back in her bag.

"Looks like someone forgot her team-building exercises." Damon said as he smirked at her.

"Stefan just brought her here to make it seem like he's moving on. With any luck, we'll only have to tolerate her for a few more days and then we'll find the cure and never have to deal with her again."

"Human Rebekah…. I can't imagine her without fangs."

"You know, you guys have never talked about what you'll do with the cure, once we find it. Will you take it?" Elena asked them.

"I don't like to speculate." Damon said at the same time Buffy said, "I seriously doubt it."

Damon looked at Buffy. "You don't want to?"

"I haven't been human in a very long time. I doubt I'd even know how to do it." Buffy said. "Besides, you met me post-Lexi, remember?"

"I think Lexi would've taken the cure." Stefan said.

Buffy shrugged. "Maybe. Maybe not. But she helped me accept who and what I am and…. I love it. I wouldn't give it up for anything."

"You wouldn't even give up the vampire part?" Elena asked."No. It's not so bad." She shrugged and headed over to see what Willow was doing with Jeremy. "You know, he's underage, Will."

"And I'm gay." Willow shot back as she took another picture of Jeremy's tattoo.

"That's…. comforting." Jeremy said.

"Are you saying I'm not hot?" Jeremy blushed and Willow laughed. "Boy, I have come a long way from high school.""So, what have you got figured out?" Buffy asked.

"These symbols must have been left for the hunters, so they could find the cure. And this must be the story of Qetsiyah and Silas. According to Professor Shadypants, Silas asked Qetsiyah for help making a spell for immortality. She helped make him immortal, only to learn that he planned to use the same spell on another women, not her. When she found out, she wigged."

"So, Qetsiyah killed the other woman?" Jeremy asked.

"Yes. Silas was immortal so she couldn't kill him. That's why she trapped him in a cave and buried him alive instead."

"Does it say anything about the Hunter's purpose in all this?"

Shane came up behind them with Bonnie. "I was wondering when you'd ask. Qetsiyah created a cure for immortality and then she buried it with Silas, hoping that he'd take it and die, and end up on the other side with her for all eternity. But he wouldn't give her the satisfaction. So, many centuries later, her descendants created the hunters to find him, cure him, and kill him. You know what? I'll explain on the hike. Come on. We gotta get going."

Damon walked over with Willow and Buffy's backpacks and Elena trailing behind him. "Ladies." He handed over their bags to them and Jeremy put his shirt back on.

Shane took the lead with Bonnie right behind him. Elena joined Jeremy behind them with Buffy, Damon, and Willow grouping up third. Rebekah and Stefan took up the rear. Buffy kept a close eye on Shane. Willow had brought up her worries about Bonnie's newfound abilities. Expression was a dark form of magic and she had a spell ready to bind Bonnie's powers if things got out of hand.

Ahead of them, Shane took out his phone and tried to make a call, but it beeped like it had no service. "Satellite phone lost its signal." He announced.

"Well, that's a good sign." Damon said.

"Is anyone else a little creeped out?" Elena asked.

"So then leave." Rebekah said. "Out of everyone, your presence is the least necessary."

"Please don't start." Stefan said. "Buffy will use that stake."

"I'm merely stating the facts. Jeremy has the spell on his body. Bonnie is the witch that unseals the cure. Shane is the human compass. Willow is the backup witch. Buffy is the Slayer and Jeremy's legal guardian. He can't go on a trip like this without her. You and I have the tombstone, which does god knows what. And Elena has no point."

"What about me?" Damon asked.

"You have a nice behind."

Damon smirked as though it was an acceptable way to be useful and Buffy groaned. Stefan laughed at Rebekah. "I wouldn't let the woman who has the stake that can kill you and the power to use it know that you're checking out her fiancé's backside."

"Words to live by." Buffy threatened. "Key word: Live. You won't be if you don't put your eyes back in your head."

"You're very grumpy today." Rebekah said, moving up next to Buffy.

"I have every reason to be. I'm stuck on an island with the Complaint Queen, a shady professor, and a witch who can barely control her powers…."

"Willow?"

"Hey!" Willow protested.

"Bonnie. And when I get back home, I've got to deal with Klaus and your other brother trashed my kids' house while he was dying. Grumpy doesn't begin to cover it."

Rebekah didn't say anything to that. She just fell back with Stefan. Damon took Buffy's hand as they continued walking.

It was nighttime on the island now. They'd been hiking all day with small rests for the humans. Shane was still babbling on about the history of the island. "Centuries after Qetsiyah died, there were these miners who were excavating a well on the island. They suddenly went mad. They bled themselves dry. No apparent reason. So, the legend spread that these miners, in exchange for a drop of their blood, saw visions of their lost loved ones in the well they were digging. The word traveled and explorers sought out the well to see if the legend was true."

"So, the well was magic?" Bonnie asked.

"Well, you know, some people believe the voices of lost souls were just a wind vortex whipping through the caves, and visions were caused by inhaling the island's poisonous plant life."

"And what do you believe?" Elena asked.

"I believe in magic. My wife and my son died within months of each other. And so…. I decided to try the well out for myself. I offered up my blood and I waited. When nothing happened, I decided to go down into the well. I saw my wife. I saw her eyes, her smile. My blood let me see her again."

"Yeah, got it." Damon said. "Don't eat the poisonous flowers."

"Wait. Stop. Stop! Stop." Everyone stopped and looked at Shane. "Is everybody paying attention?" He picked up a large rock and said, "Our first lesson in survival" before throwing the rock. It triggered a net trap that swung up into the trees. "Stay together. Keep your eyes open."

"You're with a group of vampires." Buffy quipped. "Two of them with super-super-powers. We saw that trap literally a mile away." She rolled her eyes at him as Rebekah laughed. Shane sighed and continued on. Everyone else fell in behind him again.

Jeremy, the last in the group, stopped. "Ugh, I'm out of water."

"Here, take mine." Elena said, handing him her water bottle.

"A magic well? Seriously?""I don't know. I mean…. We've all lost someone. The chance to maybe see them again? I kinda get it." Jeremy smiled sadly and took a sip of his water while Elena turned and followed after the others. A branch snapped somewhere off to the left and Jeremy turned to see a man with tribal paint on his face aiming an arrow at him.

Buffy was standing in front of Jeremy suddenly, catching the arrow aimed at his out of the air. The man started to reload his bow, but he suddenly grunted and fell to the ground with a hatchet buried in his back.

Elena ran over to Buffy and Jeremy. "What the hell just happened?"

"Somebody just saved my life." Jeremy said.

Buffy broke the arrow in half with one hand and tossed it away. She looked at Jeremy. "You ok?"

"Looks like we're not alone." Jeremy said.

"We should keep moving." Shane said. "We're almost there."

"Almost where?" Damon asked.

"Our campsite." Shane turned and headed off. The others trudged in behind him. A few minutes later, they came to a clearing with a barn like structure off the one side.

"What is this place?" Stefan asked.

"According to island lore, a group of college kids came here for spring break." Shane explained. "A few weeks later, they were all found dead, completely drained of blood."

"Well, tragic for them, brilliant for us." Rebekah said. "Who sleeps where?" She moved off to find a place to rest.

Buffy looked at Damon and nodded her head towards Shane. He nodded and they followed Shane towards the barn. "There's a mystery man with a hatchet lurking in the woods and we're just gonna camp?" Buffy asked. "Do you not have any survival skills?"

"We're safer here than we are hiking in the dark." Shane said.

"Did you miss my little speech earlier about being surrounded by vampires? We see perfectly fine in the dark. Let's just keep going and get the cure. We can get in and get out quick. Just tell us where is it."

"How stupid do you think I am?"

"Stupid enough to raise an immortal witch, so I'd say…. incredibly." Damon said.

"You know, I'm shocked you two even want the cure."

"Why?" Buffy asked.

"With Elena human, you'll be stuck in Mystic Falls taking care of her. Don't you want to go off and have a life with your fiancé?" Shane walked off and Buffy scoffed.

"Shane doesn't know what he's talking about." Elena said, walking over to them.

"Sure sounded like it to me." Buffy growled. She headed over to help Willow set up their massive tent.

Elena looked at Damon. "This cure is gonna change so many things. Jeremy's not gonna want to kill me anymore. We're finally gonna get rid of Klaus. Bonnie's mom isn't gonna be a vampire. And anyone who wants to take this cure is gonna have that option. If you guys want to travel, I can take care of Jeremy. I don't need to be a vampire to do that."

Damon just shook his head and headed over to help Buffy and Willow. Buffy wasn't with Willow, though. "She wandered off into the woods." Willow said, holding out her hands towards the tent. Damon watched, impressed, as the tent set itself up through Willow's magic. "You should go talk to her."

"Is she ok? She's been…. Grumpy."

"She's worried about what Klaus told you while he was making sure you didn't kill Jeremy. Since you've dodged the questions, I'm guessing he told you something bad."

Damon sighed. "He said that she kissed him and that she has feelings for him. All standard stuff I've heard from him before, but he told me the times when it happened. He described them…."

"You should really be talking to Buffy about this, Damon."

"I don't know how. She gets angry when I ask her."

Willow walked over and grabbed Damon's shoulders, shaking him a little bit. "Look, I don't know how many times I'll end up saying this to you because you just don't seem to realize it and Buffy seems to repeat it a lot, too. But this is coming from her best friend. Someone who has seen her through thick and thin and everything in between. And you're not arguing with me on this because I've got my resolve face on." She pointed at her face to reiterate her point. "You are the best thing for Buffy. She loves you. Out of all of her boyfriends…. And trust me, it's really not that long of a list…. You are the one she's happiest with. Accept it: You're her One." She turned Damon towards the woods. "She went that way."

With a small shove, Damon headed off into the woods to find Buffy. He knew that Buffy loved him, but if she really did have feelings for Klaus, how could he even compare with that? Klaus was over a thousand years old. He could show her so many things that Damon had no idea about. He could take her away from him.

Finally, Damon found Buffy standing near the barn structure. She was in the shadows and hard for even him to make out. So Bonnie and Shane definitely had no idea she was even there. Of course she heard him approaching and turned to shush him. He sighed and stood next to her.

"I've been staring at pictures of Jeremy's tattoo and there's no spell." Bonnie was saying inside the barn.

"Expression doesn't require a written spell." Shane said. "Just think of it as a way of accessing magic that already exists inside you. You just have to want it bad enough."

"And I'm just supposed to trust you?"

"Bonnie, listen, I taught you expression so that you could access the cure. I'll be right there with you the whole time, I promise."

"You didn't answer the trust part." Buffy said, suddenly appearing in the light. Damon smirked and stood behind her in the doorway.

"All right. Let me put it this way. You need me to help you through it, Bonnie. Because as you've demonstrated, expression can get messy. Believe me when I say I've seen it get a lot worse."

"How much worse?" Damon asked.

"When we lost our son in the car accident, my wife kind of lost it. She tried to resurrect his body using magic."

"Your wife was a witch?" Bonnie asked.

"She was a powerful witch. And incredibly undisciplined."

"And you never thought to tell me?"

"I just didn't want to scare you. The truth is, she tried to bring our son back using expression, and it overwhelmed her, and she died."

"You taught me the same magic that killed your wife?"

"Yeah, but look, the upside is I've learned the warning signs, all right? I can keep expression from consuming you."

"Downside: you turned her into a bomb that only you can dismantle." Buffy said.

"Don't you think I know how this ends? I came here to raise Silas so that he could bring back the dead, but you're never gonna let that happen. The second I point to a cure, you or your boyfriend is gonna kill me. Now Bonnie has to keep me alive so I can keep her alive."

"Aren't you forgetting that Willow is about twenty thousand times more powerful than Bonnie? She's got a spell all ready to bind Bonnie's powers. You allow Bonnie to put anyone here in danger, Willow will use that spell."

"I don't want her to bind my powers." Bonnie protested.

Buffy looked at Bonnie and rolled her eyes. "Then try not to kill anyone with your newfound dark magic and she won't."

Bonnie huffed and marched out. "You don't have much faith in her." Shane observed.

"Never have." Buffy said. "She's a judgy little thing."

"You should try trusting her sometime. She just might surprise you."

"Doubt it."

Elena rushed in just then. "Buffy, Jeremy's gone."

"What do you mean gone?"

"He was in the tent sleeping and now he's just gone." Buffy followed Elena out and everyone moved around the campsite trying to locate Jeremy. A few minutes later, they all returned from their sweeps of the nearby area.

"Jeremy!" Elena called. "Did you find anything?"

"He's not on the trail." Buffy said, walking back with Damon.

"His gear's still here." Shane said, holding up Jeremy's backpack.

"He's not at the quarry, either." Stefan said, coming back with Rebekah.

"Let's split up." Damon said.

"I'm gonna stay and try a locator spell." Bonnie said.

"Then I'm going to supervise." Willow said.

"Ok. I'll stay here." Shane said. "I'll make sure they're safe."

"I'll stay here and make sure you're not lying." Damon countered.

Elena looked at Stefan and Rebekah, who glanced at each other. "Fine. We'll keep searching the island."

Buffy sighed. "I'm gonna go with them." She said to Damon. "Make sure he doesn't try anything funny." Damon nodded and walked off. Stefan and Rebekah turned around and started walking. Elena waited for Buffy to join her and they followed after them.

"Jeremy! Jeremy!" Elena called.

"Why don't you yell louder?" Rebekah said. "Maybe we haven't drawn enough attention to ourselves already."

"I'm sorry, and how are you helping?"

"I'm stronger than you and faster than you and I'm quite certain I can charm the islanders a lot easier than you."

"Not disagreeing on the easy part."

Buffy let out a laugh and Rebekah glared at her. Stefan rolled his eyes. "All right, we get it. You two hate each other. Can we just keep going, please?"

"I tried to be her friend, but somehow I ended up with a dagger in my back because I'm the evil one." Rebekah said. She glanced at Buffy standing off to the side, staring into the dark woods.

"Technically, you didn't achieve evil status until you killed me." Elena retorted just before she walked into a trip-wire and set off a trap. Rebekah was suddenly there to stop it from impaling Elena. They exchanged glances as Elena tried to catch her breath and Buffy rushed over. She hadn't been paying attention. A movement off into the woods a little ways had caught her attention.

"Nice catch." Stefan said.

"Thank you." Rebekah said.

"No, actually, thank you." Elena said. "This thing would've killed me."

"I don't care what happens to you either way. But if you're gonna die, it might as well be epic."

"I'm gonna go back and check on Bonnie, see if she found anything. Be careful."

Buffy looked at Stefan and Rebekah. "I'm going to stick with Elena to make sure she gets there safely. There's someone out there, so you two watch your backs."

"Is that what you were tracking?" Stefan asked.

"Yeah. I couldn't get a good look, but it's definitely a someone. Be careful." With that, Buffy faded into the shadows and went after Elena.

Damon had Shane tied up in the barn and was working on getting information out of him. "Where's the cure?" He asked.

"Does it matter?" Shane said. "I think we both know you'd rather just torture me. Torture gives you a sense of control, especially with your relevance slipping away." Damon calmly broke a metal rod in half. "And look at you. You found out that your fiancée has feelings for the bad guy. You're starting to freak out a little bit. Listen, you want my advice? Give up. Klaus won't stop until he gets what he wants." Damon whacked Shane with the halves of the metal rod, making Shane cry out. "Fine. Ok. Let's say that Klaus doesn't get his way now. They're both immortal. Both unkillable. He's got years to work on cultivating those feelings." Damon struck Shane across the face with the rod and Shane groaned in pain. "It's doomed, Damon. Klaus wins. See, you're not torturing me, man. You're torturing yourself by staying with someone who you're not worthy of."

"I think I'm just going to kill you. Your psycho babble is getting on my nerves."

"We've established that you can't kill me without sending Bonnie off the deep end. You can leave the island. Have a modicum of self-respect. Don't stick around and watch the love of your life ride off into the sunset with another vampire."

"I'm not that easily manipulated, professor. And there is one flaw in your logic." Damon bent down to Shane's ear. "I don't give a crap about Bonnie Bennett." He grabbed Shane's head, ready to snap it, but suddenly Elena ran in and pushed him away from Shane.

"What is wrong with you?!" Elena cried. Buffy walked in calmly, having heard the last part of their conversation. She knew Damon was about to explode. He walked out of the shed without answering Elena. "What did you say to him?" Elena demanded of Shane.

"Your fiancé's a maniac, Buffy." Shane said.

"Shut up." Buffy growled, walking out after Damon.

Elena ripped the ropes off Shane and walked out after Damon. "Shane is the only thing that's keeping Bonnie safe, and you try to kill him?" She demanded "And you wonder why Bonnie hates you."

"I don't wonder, Elena, because I don't care." Damon said. "I don't care about her. I don't care about some lame-ass cure for vampires, either."

"How can you say that right now?"

"Elena, could you give us a minute?" Buffy asked.

"But…."

"Now." Elena huffed and walked off and Buffy turned back to Damon.

"Maybe we should just face reality, Buffy. We don't work." Damon said.

"We work just fine."

"Obviously we don't if you have feelings for Klaus."

"I told you. They're not romantic."

"You kissed him!"

"He kissed me, Damon. I have never kissed him. I have never grabbed him and put my lips to his. That's reserved only for you." She shook her head. "I will not let you do this. Whenever things aren't easy, you push people away. You've done it to me before. Whenever you think that you don't deserve something, you ruin it. I won't let you pull that this time." Damon turned around and started walking away. "Damon, I love you. Stop acting like that doesn't mean anything." He kept walking. "Damon!"

Elena rushed over to Buffy. "It's Willow!"

Buffy glanced after Damon and sighed. She followed Elena over to Bonnie's tent where an unconscious Willow was lying on the ground. Her forehead was bruised and bloodied where someone had hit her. "What happened?"

"I don't know. I came in here to find Bonnie and I found Willow. Bonnie's missing and Shane's gone, too."

"Get me some water, Elena?"

Elena nodded and headed out to find her water bottle. Stefan and Rebekah came into the tent. "What's going on?" Stefan asked, kneeling down with Buffy beside Willow.

"Someone hurt her." Buffy said, biting her finger and rubbing her blood on Willow's forehead. The wounds healed and Willow gasped awake.

"What…." Willow looked around. "What happened?"

"What do you remember?" Stefan asked.

"I was watching Bonnie cast a spell and a trail of fire just appeared. She didn't make that trail. It wasn't her spell…." Willow shook her head slightly and winced. "Then everything went black…. Why does my head hurt?"

"Someone hit you." Buffy said.

Elena walked back in with her water bottle. "Where is everyone?"

"What are you talking about?" Stefan asked.

"Well, Bonnie's not here and Shane's stuff is all gone…."

"Oh my god." Rebekah disappeared from the tent and everyone went out to find her tearing through her bags. "The tombstone's gone." She rushed over to Buffy's tent and Elena followed her. Stefan and Buffy supported Willow as they made their way to the tent where Rebekah was rifling through bags.

"What are you doing in our tent?" Elena demanded.

Rebekah grabbed Elena by the throat and Buffy was suddenly standing behind Rebekah with the white oak stake pressed to her back right where her heart would be. "Let her go." Buffy growled.

"Where's the tombstone?"

"Let her go, Rebekah." Buffy warned.

"What have you done with it?!"

"What are you talking about?" Elena asked.

Buffy grabbed Rebekah's hair and yanked her head back. Rebekah let go of Elena and moved away from Buffy. "Like it's not bloody obvious? All you people ever do is betray me and here you go again!"

"She didn't take it." Stefan said.

"Was any of this real? Or was it just a ploy to distract me while Shane ran off with the tombstone?"

"You think I would do that? You think I would let some psychopath run off with the cure? Every single moment of my last 146 years has been ruled by the pain of being a vampire. And this cure ends that. It ends the guilt and it ends the suffering. And you really think I would jeopardize that?"

"Fine. You didn't take it. But that doesn't mean I trust her." She turned on Buffy. "Or you for that matter."

"Nobody took it." Buffy said. "I was too busy possibly breaking up with Damon and Elena was in Bonnie's tent discovering my best friend clobbered over the head. So, if you didn't notice by now: We're kind of screwed. Bonnie's gone. Shane's got the tombstone. Jeremy's missing. Who knows if Damon's coming back? So, the five of us, right here? This is all we've got. We've got to be in this together or it's all over. We were friends at one point, Rebekah."

"That doesn't mean we are now."

"No. It doesn't. But I do want you to have that cure."

"Why? You don't even want the cure."

"Not now, no. Maybe one day I'll be tired of the immortal life, but right now…. I like it. But that doesn't mean I don't get wanting to be human. I used to hate being a freak. I would've done anything to stop and just have a normal life. It sucks. No one should be forced into something like that. And if you have the chance to be normal…. Human…. Then I want you to have it."

Rebekah stared at Buffy for a long moment. "Fine. How do we find them?"

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