The Next Chapter

Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Buffy sat with Elena in the teen's room talking about what she'd just discovered from her aunt Jenna. "Alaric's wife might have been your mother?" Buffy asked.

"It can't be true, right? I mean, the coincidence alone is just crazy."

"I don't believe in coincidences."

"I have the address for her friend Trudie."

"Do you want to talk to her?"

"I don't know. I…. I…. I don't know. If it's true and they are the same person, that means that my birth mother is dead and I don't know if I could handle that."

"Elena, did Jenna tell you anything about Alaric's wife? How she died?"

"Just that she was killed and the case was never solved. You knew that already?"

"That night at the school when Stefan and I went to talk to him…. He told us some things about her death. And…. Well…." Buffy sighed. "If you do decide to go talk to Isobel's friend, I'll go with you."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"Cool. I just don't know what I'm gonna do yet."

Buffy nodded. "I should probably get going. I've gotta go relieve Stefan and take over Damon-duty."

"How's he doing?"

"He's…. dealing…. in his own way."

Buffy walked up to the house to find Stefan standing on the front porch. "Hey."

"I'm not sure you want to go in there." Stefan said.

"Oh god, what now?"

Stefan sighed and opened the door, letting Buffy in first. She heard giggling and loud music coming from the library and followed the sounds. She walked in to find Damon dancing and feeding off of a sorority girl.

"How do I taste?" The girl asked.

"Oh, so much better than your friends." Damon said. His words were slurred. "But shh. Don't tell them. They might get jealous." He noticed Stefan standing next to Buffy when Stefan turned the lights on and Buffy turned the music off. "No. Buzzkill Betty. Greetings!"

"Can we talk?" Buffy asked. "Preferably without the Tri-Delts."

"Anything you have to say to me…. You can say in front of them. They're really good at keeping secrets."

"Foyer. Now." Buffy ordered, walking out. Stefan followed and to his amazement, Damon did too.

"You're worried about me." Damon said as soon as he caught up to Buffy. "That's nice. Don't be. There's no need. I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be? Spent the last 145 years with one goal: Get in that tomb. I succeeded. Granted, Katherine wasn't in there to be rescued, but why dwell? You know, it's so liberating not having a master plan because I can do whatever the hell I want."

"That's kind of what we're afraid of." Stefan said.

"Relax. I haven't killed anyone in…. too long."

"Those girls?" Buffy asked, crossing her arms.

"Will end up in their dorm with headaches. They'll think they blacked out. Business as usual. Predictable you didn't pull me over here for a pep talk. Spill it, Blondie."

"There was a woman you may have known a few years back named Isobel in North Carolina at Duke."

"You wanna discuss the women in my past right now? Seriously?"

"You killed her."

"What's your point?"

"I just want to know if you remember anything about her."

"Oh, it's like a needle in a haystack, Buffy."

"Think hard. It's important."

"Nothing is important, not anymore. Great chat. I have to go and exploit some women in the name of grief…. Which I'm sure you understand. TTFN said the Tri-Delt." Damon walked back into the library.

Buffy shook her head and sighed. "What's this about?" Stefan asked.

"Elena's mother may have been Alaric's dead wife Isobel." Stefan looked completely stunned. "Yeah. Same reaction here."

"Is she ok?"

"Yeah. She's taking it in stride. She has the address to a friend of Isobel's. She said she'd call me when she decided to go visit."

Stefan's phone rang. "Maybe that's her." He looked at it. It was Alaric.

Alaric met Buffy and Stefan in the park. "Thanks for meeting me." He said. "Something's come up."

"Jenna told you." Buffy said.

"Yeah."

"So it's true? Your wife Isobel was Elena's birth mother?"

"What does Elena know?"

"About your wife?"

"About everything. About you, about Stefan…. About your brother, Stefan."

"She knows what we all are. And she knows that you know about the vampires."

"Does she know about Damon and Isobel?"

"No. I couldn't tell her until I was sure."

"You said you'd help me."

"I asked Damon without saying too much. He doesn't remember."

"Ask him again."

"Damon is not what you would call stable at the moment."

"You know he murdered my wife or at the very least made a meal out of her. When has he been stable?"

"We're telling you not to push this." Stefan said.

"Give me a reason not to."

"Your survival. How's that for a reason?"

"We'll handle it." Buffy said, her voice leaving no room for argument. "For now, we need you to let it go."

"Is that what you'll tell Elena?" Alaric asked. "Let it go?"

"Leave Elena out of this." Stefan said.

"I need to know what happened. I think you would, too."

"I need something more than just your wife's name." Buffy said. "A picture, something I could show Damon." Alaric reached into his wallet and pulled out a folded photograph. "Thank you."

Buffy walked into her room and set her bag down. She sighed and turned around. "Why are you in my room?"

"It's the place to be!" Damon said. He was standing in the doorway to her bathroom with only his pants on and they were about to fall off his waist.

"You look…."

"Dashing? Gorgeous?" He leaned into her, getting close enough to kiss. "Irresistible?"

Buffy took a step away. "I was going to go with trashed."

"Do you know that I am one of Mystic Falls' most eligible bachelors?"

Buffy smiled slightly, crossing her arms. "Really?""Yep." Damon grabbed his shirt off her bed. "What can I do for you? I'm a barrel of favors today. It's my newfound purpose: how can I help people?"

"I was just coming up to my room to get ready for the fundraiser. Liz asked me if I would come and donate some money. What did you tell her about me?"

"Just that you know about vampires and you're a hero…. Like me." He was struggling with the buttons on his shirt. "Help a guy out, will you? I can't get this."

Buffy rolled her eyes and got to work on fixing Damon's buttons. "You're pitiful."

"Will you try to win me?"

"What?"

"They're selling off bachelors and I'm one of them. Win me. Please?"

Buffy raised an eyebrow, pausing in her button pursuit. "Why would I want to buy a date with you?"

"Because you like me."

"You're annoying and…."

"Knock, knock." Buffy turned to find Stefan standing in her doorway with Elena. "Can we come in?"

"Sure. My room is the place to be." Damon let out a loud bark of laughter and Buffy rolled her eyes. "What's up?"

"Just wondering if you were coming to the fundraiser."

"Yeah. I was on my way to get ready when Mr. Train-wreck himself needed help getting dressed."

"Speaking of…." Damon took the jacket off he had been trying to put on. "I need a bigger jacket. Wow. You know, an occasional sorority girl might, um, you know, help fill you out a little bit."

"Did you steal your brother's clothes?" Buffy asked incredulously. "I always thought the younger sibling stole the older sibling's clothes. That's how it worked in my family."

Damon grinned. "I'll see you there. Wear something pretty and make all the girls jealous." He kissed her cheek and walked out.

Buffy shook her head. "He's fine."

"He's Damon." Stefan countered.

"Maybe this heartache will be good for him." Elena said. "It'll remind him that he has one, even if it doesn't beat."

"Won't hold my breath."

"So I went to see Trudie Peterson." Elena said to Buffy as Buffy started to rifle through her closet. Buffy looked back at Elena. "I know. I'm sorry. I didn't plan it."

"How was it?" Buffy asked.

"She has vervain. She knows about vampire stuff and it can't be a coincidence."

"You know how I feel about those. Stefan, that picture's in my purse."

Stefan grabbed the picture. "It isn't a coincidence, Elena. This is Alaric's wife." He showed her the picture that Alaric had given Buffy.

"This is her. This is Isobel. He gave this to you?" Elena asked.

"Everything he knows about vampires, he learned from her."

"He believes that she was killed by one." Buffy added.

"Oh, my god." Elena sat down on the bed.

"Listen, Elena, there's a lot about Isobel that Alaric can tell you, but I need you to hold off a little while before you talk to him." Buffy said.

"Why?"

"I know that it's a lot to ask of you, but will you do that for me?"

Buffy could tell Elena didn't like that, but she nodded anyway.

"Where'd Stefan and Elena go?" Damon asked, catching Buffy in the hallway.

"They're on their way to the Grill." Buffy said. "Hey, listen…. I wanted to talk to you." She grabbed the picture of Isobel out of her purse and showed it to Damon. "This is the woman, Isobel, from North Carolina. Remember her now?"

"Who wants to know?"

"I do."

"Who else wants to know?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Did you kill her?"

"Sorry. Don't know her. Hey, are you coming?" He stuck his hands inside her coat and pushed it away to reveal the blue shirt he liked and a mid-thigh length black skirt that clung to Buffy's curves. She had also put on a pair of stiletto ankle boots. Damon whistled. "Thank you."

"It wasn't for you. I wanted to get dressed up."

"I like it." He noticed the small tattoo of a cherry blossom branch she had on her inner right ankle. "Sexy."

Buffy walked in and ran into Liz Forbes as she was taking her jacket off. "Buffy. Wow, you look amazing."

"Thank you." Buffy smiled slightly, blushing. "I don't get to dress up very often."

"It suits you. Listen, have you seen Damon?"

"He left before me."

"Are you two ok? He's been acting like you two have broken up…."

"Oh, Damon and I aren't…. We're just…. Friends."

"Oh. I just assumed…. Well, you should buy a couple of tickets and see if you can get him."

"It's not an auction?"

"No. It's a raffle. I said the auction would've been more fun, but who listens to the woman who married a gay man?"

Buffy laughed and spotted Jenna heading towards her. "Hey, Buffy."

"Hey Jenna. Excuse me, Liz."

"You look amazing!" Jenna said, hugging her friend. The two had been spending time together since they were closer in age.

"Thank you."

"Come on. I got us good seats." Jenna led Buffy over to a table close to the front where Elena was waiting.

"Wow." Elena said. "Buffy, you…. Wow."

"Thank you." Buffy set her bag down. "Please don't make a fuss. It's just an outfit. I'll be right back." She headed up to the bar and ordered a drink.

Damon appeared next to her. "Did you buy any tickets? Cause I have got a great date planned."

"I haven't bought any tickets yet."

"I figured. That's why I bought some for you." He handed her twenty tickets.

Buffy shook her head. "Why do you want me to win you so bad?"

"Because I don't like anybody else. You're the closest thing I've got to a friend."

"And what about the Tri-Delts?"

Damon snorted. "Please. They're just play toys." He looked behind him. "They're lining us up now. Gotta go. Good luck." He winked at her, paid for her drink, and walked off.

Buffy took her tickets and drink and headed back to the table. "What was that about?" Elena asked.

"He wants me to win him." Buffy held up her tickets. "He bought me twenty tickets."

"Wow." Jenna said. "He must like you."

"Unfortunately."

"Hey, I wouldn't mind. The guy's hot."

"Doesn't make him any less of an ass." Elena said, snickering with Buffy.

"So you've never told me how you met the Salvatore brothers." Jenna said to Buffy.

"My friend Lexi introduced us…. A long time ago. Stefan is kind of like a little brother to me. Damon just kind of comes with the package." Buffy noticed Alaric on the stage. "Hey, Alaric's up there. Jenna, did you buy any tickets?"

Jenna held her six up. "Sure did."

Up on stage, Carol was in the middle of introducing the bachelors. "And what do you do, bachelor number 3?"

"Yeah, I'm a plumber." He answered.

"Well, isn't that wonderful? We could always use more plumbers. Moving on. Number 4, 'Alaric Saltzman.' Wow. That's quite a mouthful. What do you do, Alaric?"

"I'm a teacher at Mystic Falls High." Alaric answered.

"Oh, beauty and brains, ladies. This one's a keeper. What do you teach?"

"History."

"History. Oh, well, give us a fun fact about Mystic Falls. Something crazy."

"Uh, well…." Alaric was distracted by something Damon was doing.

"He's probably saving the best stories for his date. And last, but not least, Damon Salvatore. We don't have much on you."

"Well, I'm tough to fit on a card." Damon said.

"Do you have any hobbies, like to travel?"

"Oh, yeah. L.A., New York. Couple of years ago, I was in North Carolina. Near the Duke campus, actually. I think…. I think Alaric went to school there. Didn't you, Rick? Yeah, cause I…. I know your wife. I had a drink with her once. She was…. she was a great girl. I ever tell you that? Cause she was…. She was delicious."

"Are you ok?" Jenna asked. Buffy looked over at Elena who was looking pale.

"I just need some air." Elena got up and rushed away.

"What was that about?" Jenna asked.

"I'll find out." Buffy got up and found Stefan already at the door and following Elena out.

"Elena…." Stefan started.

"He killed her? Damon was the vampire that killed her?" Elena asked.

"I don't know what happened. Alaric said that they never found the body."

"Oh, my god."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"We wanted to tell you, but we just wanted to know more first." Buffy said.

"I was feeling sorry for him, hoping that this whole Katherine thing would change him. I'm so stupid."

"He doesn't know about the connection to you. I thought about confronting him earlier, but he's already so on edge."

"Why are you two protecting him?"

"Because you're not the only one hoping that he might actually change." Stefan said.

Elena was staring behind Buffy's shoulder. "That man…. I saw that man outside of Trudie's."

"Get back inside. Come on." Stefan pulled Elena back inside and Buffy glared at the man before following them back in.

"And bachelor number 3 goes to 37458." Carol announced onstage.

"That's me." A woman said.

"Ah. Kelly Donovan. Lovely. You and the plumber should have so much fun."

"Oh, snide comments." Buffy said. "What's the juice behind that?"

"That's Matt's mother." Elena explained. "She's not exactly a model mother and she's kind of the town joke."

"That's…. sad."

"She's a great woman…. Just kinda flaky. I've gotta go to the bathroom." Elena walked off and ran into Damon.

"Whoa. Easy there." Damon said. "Buy a ticket like everyone else."

"Did you enjoy that? Rubbing it in to Alaric Saltzman?"

"What?"

"Just as I was starting to think that there was something redeemable about you."

"Elena…." Buffy started.

Damon turned to look at the blonde. "Am I missing something here?"

"Did I forget to mention that I found my birth mother? Her name was Isobel. Go ahead. Reminisce about how you killed her." Elena pushed away from Damon and walked out. Stefan followed her out.

Damon looked at Buffy. "Is that what you were asking me about earlier?"

"Yes." Buffy said.

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"You haven't exactly been Mr. Stable."

"Buffy, don't ever beat around the bush with me. Just come out and say whatever it is, ok?" Buffy nodded. "Thank you." Damon glanced at the stage where Carol was still announcing the winners. "Can we just get out of here?"

"You don't want to see if I won you?"

"You don't need to win me." He headed out towards the back exit and Buffy followed.

She grabbed his hand and stopped him before they left the alley. "Damon, what about Isobel? What happened?"

Damon sighed. "It's not what everyone thinks. I didn't kill her…. Exactly."

"You turned her."

"She came to me and begged me to turn her."

"Why?"

"I don't know. She was obsessed with it. Wasn't she into researching that stuff?"

"Alaric did say that it was her job."

"I just know that she was really persistent. So I turned her and I haven't looked back until now."

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"The truth."

Damon nodded. "You're welcome." He started walking towards the parking lot. "So, are you coming home with me?"

Buffy chuckled. "Sure. I think I'm going to take another shower. Get this hairspray out of my hair." She noticed him pouting slightly. "What?"

"It's just that I've never seen you all…. Gussied up. I like it."

"Well, I can't stay like this forever."

"I wouldn't complain."

"I'm sure you wouldn't." They drove back to the house in silence.

Damon opened the front door and let Buffy in first. He followed her to the stairs and stopped her before she could take the first step. "Can I ask you a question?"

Buffy turned to him. "Depends on the question."

"Why did you kiss me that night?"

Buffy hoped he didn't notice the blush that she felt burn across her cheeks. "It was the only thing I could think to do to snap you out of your crazy rage."

"Why didn't you just slap me? Or knock me unconscious?"

She shrugged. "I figured if I hit you, then you'd attack and I honestly didn't want to hurt you."

Damon nodded. "Good reasoning. The way I was feeling…. I probably would've tried to kill you."

"I know." Buffy nodded and the silence started to get uncomfortable. "So…. I'm going to go…. take a shower."

Damon sighed. He grabbed her and pulled her to him, kissing her deeply. She clung to him and kissed him back. He lifted her up and she wrapped her legs around his waist as he raced up the stairs and into his room. They fell into his bed, kissing passionately.

Damon sat in the library staring at the fire he'd built. His hair was wet from the shower he'd taken with Buffy after their little tryst upstairs. He was drinking and thinking about what had just happened with the petite blonde. Alaric walked in behind him, interrupting his thoughts. "Are you really this stupid?" Damon asked. "Guess so." Damon threw Alaric across the room. Alaric stumbled back up to his feet. "You gonna put down the stake?" Alaric just stood there, poised to strike or defend. "Wow. That's courage."

"Where's Isobel?" Alaric demanded. "What have you done to my wife?"

"You want me to tell you I killed her? Would that make you happy? Because I think you know what happened."

"I saw you feeding on her."

"Yeah. I did and I wasn't lying. She was delicious." Alaric attacked, but Damon punched him in the gut. Alaric fell back, gasping in pain. "Oh, come on. What do you think happened? Not an inkling? Never considered the possibility? I turned her."

"Why?"

"She came to me, all pathetic, looking for vampires. There was something about her, something I liked. There was something special."

"You turned her because you liked her?"

"No, I slept with her because I liked her. I turned her because she begged me to. Yeah. But you knew that, too, didn't you? Hmm. I guess she wasn't happy at home…. Wasn't happy with life in general…. Wasn't happy with you." Alaric charged and Damon stuck out his arm, stopping him. He gripped the stake in Alaric's hand and turned it on the man, stabbing him in the chest. "Ah, this is a shame. We're kindred spirits, abandoned by the women we love. Unrequited love sucks." Damon pulled the stake out of Alaric's chest. "Sounds like I got a lung. Which means I get to sit here and watch you die." Damon sat down as Alaric died on the floor in front of the fire.

Buffy walked in, her hair wet down her back, and gasped. "What happened? What did you do?" She knelt down by Alaric and checked for a pulse.

"What? He attacked me."

"Damon!"

"All I did was tell him the truth. His wife didn't want him anymore. It's not my fault he couldn't handle it."

"Like you've been handling Katherine?"

"I'm handling it fine. I told you! Isobel came to me. She found me. And if she's related to Elena, that means she's related to Katherine. Maybe Katherine sent her to me."

"Oh, Damon, stop it! Just stop, damn it! You don't have to keep looking."

"Can't be a coincidence Isobel sought me out. Can't." Damon got up and walked out. Buffy shook her head and looked down at Alaric, tears welling up in her eyes.

Stefan walked in and found Buffy crying over the dead Alaric. "What happened?" He rushed over and hugged her tightly, moving her slightly away from the body. "Buffy, what happened?"

"Damon happened." Buffy said.

"How did…."

"He said Alaric attacked him. I was upstairs…."

"Shh…. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't here." Stefan looked at Alaric. "I'll take care of this." Out of the corner of his eye, Stefan caught Alaric's hand move.

Alaric suddenly gasped, grabbing at his chest, and sat up, causing Buffy and Stefan to move back slightly. "What happened? What's going on?" Alaric asked.

"You were just…." Buffy shook her head and looked at Stefan, bewildered.

"Did Damon turn you?" Stefan asked.

"No. I went for him and then he stabbed me." Alaric said.

"You must have vampire blood in your system. Somebody slipped it to you."

"No. It's…. it's something else."

"How?" Buffy asked.

"I…. Isobel." He looked down at his hand. "This ring protected me."

"That's impossible." Stefan said.

"I know." Alaric said.

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