The Next Chapter

Chapter 83

Chapter 83

Buffy, Damon, Alaric, Joyce, Giles, Jeremy, and Elena were eating lunch together in the little hidden gazebo in the Salvatore garden. Stefan and Lexi had opted to stay inside and hang out. Bon Jovi could be heard blaring from the living room. Tara and Willow were holed up in Willow's room upstairs. They weren't likely to come out any time soon if at all. Angel was off somewhere with Cordelia who had shown up at the school while everyone had left to go to Damon and Buffy's wedding.

"Mm. Oh, my god." Alaric said, dripping burger grease down his chin.

"No grease on the Other Side, huh?" Elena asked, laughing as he brother wiped grease off his chin.

"Or chocolate." Giles said, enjoying his candy bar.

"I do miss chocolate." Joyce said, taking a bite of Giles's candy bar.

"For the love of my sanity! Please, stop flirting. It's band candy all over again!" Buffy said.

"Oh, hush!"

"So how does it feel?" Elena asked Buffy, trying to change the subject.

Buffy looked over at Elena with a shocked face. "Seeing my mom and my Watcher get their flirt on despite my burning retinas?"

Elena shook her head and laughed. "No! How does it feel being Mrs. Salvatore?"

"Oh, that's going to take some getting used to."

"Buffy Salvatore." Damon said. "It has a nice ring to it."

"It is a nice ring." Buffy said, holding her left hand up to admire the set. "My man's got taste."

Joyce laughed and kissed her daughter's hair. "I'm glad you're happy."

"You have no idea how much I've missed this." Alaric said. He held up a bottle of bourbon. "And this." Elena took the bottle from him. "No, hey. Hey!"

Before Elena could take a swig, Buffy took it away. "She just got her humanity back. Let her live a little." Jeremy said. He reached for the bottle but Buffy held it away from him.

"You both wish." Buffy said, taking a swig and handing it back to Alaric.

"I'm dead. What are they gonna do, throw me in juvie?"

"Well, at least you'd have a place to live." Alaric quipped.

"You're not planning on burning down any more houses, are you?" Buffy asked. "I kind of like this one."

"You all suck!" Elena said with a laugh.

"Hey! There it is." Alaric said. "That smile."

"I wasn't sure we were gonna see that again." Buffy said, playing with Elena's hair.

"I did some pretty terrible things." Elena said, taking a deep breath.

"Hey, no." Jeremy said. "No tears. If Caroline was right, we only have until tonight. We need a no-crying rule."

"But the crying is good. It means that I'm finally feeling something, and right now I…. I feel happy." She leaned her head against Buffy's shoulder and Buffy hugged Elena tightly, pulling Jeremy into the hug.

"I always knew you would make a good mother." Joyce said.

"Yeah?" Buffy shrugged. "I never had a chance to think about it."

Before Joyce could answer, Elena's phone started ringing. She took it out and looked at it. "It's the Grill."

"Must be Matt." Buffy said.

Elena nodded and answered her phone. "Hey, you went AWOL this morning. What happened?"

"Hello, Elena. It's your dead friend, Connor. You remember me?" Elena looked at Buffy with shocked and terror filled eyes. "We want Silas, and we want the cure."

"I don't know where they are, so I guess I can't help you."

Buffy got everyone up and moving. She motioned to Elena to keep Connor talking and asked Damon to get everyone inside. She grabbed Alaric and they headed off to the Grill. They stood behind Connor as he hung up his phone.

"You get off on terrorizing innocent people?" Alaric asked.

Connor turned around. "And who might you be?"

"The guy that helped me raise the 18-year-old you just threatened." Buffy snapped.

"Well, that 18-year-old snapped my neck with her bare hands."

"We taught her that."

Connor chuckled. "And here I thought you were a big bad Slayer. But you must not know a damn thing if you're trying to intimidate a dead guy packing C4." He opened his jacket slightly to reveal he was strapped with explosives.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I'm going to reiterate a previous point that I made about you: You're an idiot." Connor grinned and lifted a detonator in his hand. It clicked just as Buffy grabbed him and hauled him outside with her super vampire speed. The bomb exploded, causing some damage to the edge of the restaurant. The Grill patrons screamed in fright and Alaric helped them to escape to safety.

Buffy walked back in inspecting her hair. "It got singed."

"Thank god it was after the wedding pictures." Alaric joked.

"Right!?" Buffy laughed. "Come on, let's get home before anymore of these fools show up. Race ya?"

"Hell no! You're faster than me and you know it."

"Oh come on! You were an Original vampire. You got speed."

"Oh, that's true." Alaric took off and Buffy laughed.

"That's cheating!" She called as she took off after him.

He laughed as she passed him and packed on more speed. She still beat him by a good six seconds, though. They walked into the house laughing at each other, but that quickly died out when they noticed the dead Vaughn laying on the ground in front of Lexi.

"Lex! No dead guys in the house…. Apart from the living dead guys, I mean." Buffy said. "Especially since my mom is here."

"Stefan did it." Lexi said.

"He shot Damon and threatened us." Stefan said in a defensive tone.

"Where is everyone?" Buffy asked.

"Your mom is on the phone with Dawn in the library. Dawn's pissed you didn't call her about the wedding or the fact that your mother is back." Buffy cringed at the thought of Dawn's wrath. "Damon's upstairs changing his shirt since he got shot. Elena and Jeremy are outside walking the gardens…." Stefan said.

"No, no, no! Get them back inside. These hunters seem to be everywhere and they probably don't stay dead for long." Buffy headed upstairs to her and Damon's room. Damon was rubbing his shoulder uncomfortably as he checked himself in the mirror. "Hey."

He turned with a smile. "Hey there Mrs. Salvatore."

Buffy laughed slightly. "Still getting used to that." She ran her hands up his chest and when she hit his shoulder, Damon groaned uncomfortably, flinching away slightly. "What was that?"

"Nothing." He leaned down to kiss her, but she bent back to avoid it.

"Take off your shirt."

"Starting the honeymoon early, huh?" He smirked, but she touched his shoulder again and he cringed.

Buffy pulled the collar of his shirt down to reveal the wound in his shoulder. It looked a lot like his wound from when Tyler…. "Damon, why isn't this healed?"

"Because the bullet was laced with werewolf venom, ok? The hunters are dicks."

"We need Klaus. We need his blood."

"Klaus would rather see me die so he can have you. Plus, Klaus is a thousand miles away sipping Hurricanes on Bourbon Street."

"That wound will kill you!"

"What about the cure?" Alaric asked, standing in the doorway holding up the vial.

"Where did you get that?"

"Stole it from Silas."

Buffy nodded, taking the cure from Alaric and handing it to Damon. "He's right, Damon. If you're human, the werewolf venom won't hurt you."

Damon looked past Alaric. "Sounds like Vaughn's awake." He walked past them and headed downstairs.

"Damon, wait…." She and Alaric headed after him and made it downstairs just as the door shut behind Damon and Vaughn. "Wait…. What just happened?"

"Is everything ok?" Joyce asked, walking out of the library and joining her daughter.

"Damon gave the cure to Vaughn and is leading him to Silas." Lexi said.

"What?" Alaric shook his head. "That can't be right. If those hunters give the cure to Silas…."

"They're not giving it to Silas." Buffy said. "Wherever Damon is taking Vaughn right now, it's to stall, because Damon hasn't had time to bury Silas' body yet. He's still here in my trunk. So I guess we're stalling the hunters now…. Thanks for that, sweetheart…. but Damon is still dying."

"Damon's dying?" Joyce asked.

"It was one bullet and it was only laced." Stefan said. "We still have a little bit of time. I will go to New Orleans myself and I will beg Klaus if I have to."

"What about Elena's graduation?" Jeremy asked, walking in with Elena.

"No, Jer." Elena said. "I never even sent in my college applications."

"I don't care. Mom and Dad would kill you if there wasn't a photo of you in your graduation getup."

"Jer, no. Not if you can't be there."

"Lexi'll keep me company and Buffy's mom will take lots of pictures. You're going."

"He's right." Buffy said. "You go get ready and I'll call Klaus."

Elena relented. "Let's go graduate."

Joyce walked over to where Elena's cap and gown were laying and picked them up. "Elena, may I help you get ready? I missed out on my daughter's graduation since she wouldn't let me go."

"I would like that." Elena said with a big smile.

Joyce smiled back and she and Elena headed upstairs to get Elena ready. Buffy smiled as she watched them go, but it melted as she pulled out her phone and dialed Klaus. It rang and went to voicemail. "Hey, Klaus, it's me. Listen, I really need you to come back to Mystic Falls. It's important. Please call me as soon as you get this. Please." She hung up and sighed.

"Just focus on the fact that we have plenty of time to save him." Alaric said, hugging her tightly.

"Will you find them? Damon shouldn't be missing graduation. I mean, his brother is graduating too."

Alaric smiled. "Yeah. I'll go find him." He kissed her hair and headed out.

"I better go get ready, too." Stefan said. He headed upstairs leaving Buffy with Lexi and Jeremy.

"So, Mrs. Salvatore, how does it feel to have a daughter and a brother-in-law graduating at the same time?" Lexi joked.

"Weird." Buffy sighed and shook her head. "If Klaus doesn't get here in time to save Damon I won't even get to enjoy being a Salvatore before I'm declared a widow." She crinkled her nose in distaste. "Of all the titles I've had, 'widow' is not one that would suit me very well."

The students, all in caps and gowns, were milling about the football field getting ready for the ceremony. Caroline was pacing angrily in front of Bonnie as she ranted about no one being there. "Where is everyone?"

"I'm here." Matt said, running up.

"Where have you been?"

"Oh, you know, making plans for the summer, dodging death by vampire hunter."

"Where's Elena? We can't do this without her." Bonnie said.

Elena arrived with Stefan, Buffy, and Joyce. Buffy was on the phone leaving Klaus another message. "We're here." Elena said, hugging Bonnie. "Thank you for today."

"Who's that?" Caroline asked, gesturing at Joyce.

Buffy hung up. "Caroline, this is my mom. Mom this is Caroline, that's Bonnie, and that's Matt."

"Your mom? I thought she…."

"She is. But she's a special case and she's here."

Caroline smiled brightly. "It is so nice to meet you! Buffy talks so highly of you. I see where she gets her good looks from."

"Thank you." Joyce said. "It's lovely to meet you, too, Caroline."

"She really does talk a lot about you." Bonnie said. "She's lucky to have such an awesome mom."

"Thank you, Bonnie."

"I can't believe it!" Caroline cried. "We're actually all here. We are all here together! Bonnie Bennett, are you crying?"

"It's our last hurrah before you guys go off to college." Bonnie said.

"Before we go off to college."

"I…. kinda sorta missed the deadline." Elena said. "You know, being an emotionless bitch."

"Well, the perks of being a vampire: we can go wherever we wanna go. We can choose our own roommates. We could…. We could get a triple room!"

"I'm happy we're all here."

"Aw! Group hug!"

"Ah, I don't…. I don't hug…." Stefan said.

"Oh, get over yourself!" Caroline pulled everyone in for a big group hug, including Buffy, while Joyce took pictures.

They took a little more time to take various group shots before Joyce shooed them all off to get them in line with their classmates. Joyce looked at her daughter. "We should take our seats. I want to make sure I have a good spot so I can take good pictures for you."

"Thanks mom. I'm going to call Klaus again and we can head over." Buffy said. She dialed Klaus again and again it rang and rang before going to voicemail. "It's me again. Now is seriously not a good time to decide you're over me. Please call me back, Klaus." Buffy hung up and followed her mom to the stands.

After the ceremony was over, Buffy and Joyce waited for Elena and Stefan to join them. Joyce took more pictures of everyone with their diplomas. While Stefan and Elena were taking a picture, Buffy's phone rang. She yanked it out, hoping for it to be Klaus, but it was Damon.

"Where the hell are you!?"

"It's me." Alaric said.

"You found him?"

"At the quarry. It's not good Buffy."

"What do you mean?"

"Vaughn shot him again…. More than once…. And he doesn't have much time."

"Do you have the cure back from Vaughn?"

"Yeah. I got it before I tossed him off a cliff."

"Then make him take it and get him home."

"I would love nothing more than to get out of here before Vaughn comes back to life, but Damon won't take the cure. He wants it for Elena."

Buffy sighed in exasperation. "Ok, just hang on a little longer. I'm going to try calling Klaus again."

"Buff, we are past the point of Hail Mary phone calls. What do you want me to do, stand here and watch him die, or force-feed him the cure?" Buffy looked at Stefan, but suddenly a high-pitched noise caused Stefan, Caroline, and Elena to clutch at their heads in pain. "Buffy?"

Buffy turned to see Aja and the other dead witches approach them. "Get behind me mom." She moved Joyce behind her and away from the witches.

"Why aren't you in pain?" Aja asked. "You're a vampire."

"Because I've got a witch with way more mojo than you on my side. You can't touch me."

"What about her?" Aja pointed her hand at Joyce and she crumpled to the ground with a scream,

"Mom!" Buffy screamed, dropping down to catch her mother before she hit the ground. She held her tightly as Joyce screamed and thrashed in pain. "Stop it! She didn't do a damn thing to you!"

Suddenly Klaus showed up and threw a graduation cap like a disk at Aja. Her headless body fell to the ground and the noise stopped. "There are plenty more of these to go around. Who's next? I can do this all day." The witches turned and ran and Klaus went over to Buffy. "Is this your mother?"

"Yeah."

"You look like her." Klaus helped Joyce to sit on a nearby bench. "Is she all right?"

"I think she'll be ok." Buffy said, smoothing Joyce's hair. She looked at Klaus. "Very timely."

"I do my best. Where's Damon, then?"

"He's at the quarry with Rick."

"You get your mother home and I'll go fix Damon…. Again. I'll call you when it's done."

"Thank you."

Klaus nodded and disappeared. Elena came over and sat down next to Joyce. "Are you ok, Mrs. Summers?"

"I think I'll be ok." Joyce said, holding her head.

"Let's get you home." Buffy said, not liking seeing her mother's head hurting. It only reminded her that her mother had died from an aneurism caused by the surgery to remove a brain tumor years before and her time now with her mother was limited.

Klaus stood with Buffy in the Slavatore gardens and watched her in the fading sun. "I can't thank you enough, Klaus. How did you get here so fast?"

"I was already on my way." Klaus said. Buffy gave him a confused look and he chuckled, pulling out a piece of paper from the inside of his coat. "Your motherly pride was shining through when I received Elena's graduation announcement from you."

Buffy smiled slightly. "I sent them to everyone I call a friend since Elena doesn't have much family left."

"Friend. I like how you slipped that in there. Very sneaky."

"You know that I consider you a friend."

He smiled at her. "I have a gift for you. Consider it a wedding present, Mrs. Salvatore."

Buffy looked up at him, surprised. "How'd you know?"

"I have my sources." He smiled slightly. "I'm happy for you. Really. And that's why I'm offering you this." He reached in his jacket pocket and pulled out a small jar of blood. "I don't want to see you sad…. Ever…. So I thought this would be a decent gift for you. Your lot seems to get infected with werewolf venom on a regular basis…. Damon being the worst…. And I'm not always going to be able to rush in and save the day." He handed her the bottle, holding her hand in his for a moment. "If you run out, just call me and I'll give you more."

"I don't know what to say. I thought you would be angry that I married Damon."

"Well, I would've preferred that you waited until I'd had my chance…. But let's look at the bright side. Marriage isn't permanent." Buffy laughed slightly and rolled her eyes at him. "Look, Angel was your first love. Damon is your great love. But I intend to be your last and greatest love…. However long it takes." Klaus leaned in and kissed her on the side of her lips. "Congratulations, Buffy." He pulled away and looked around. "I should get out of here before 12 angry hybrids decide to pick a fight."

She watched him fade into the woods before she turned to walk back to the house. "And speaking of picking a fight…. I have a few choice words for my husband." Buffy headed inside the house and found Damon in the library staring at the fire.

He turned around and looked at her as she approached him. "Hi."

"Are you feeling better?" She asked.

"Yeah."

"So it's all healed up?"

"Fresh as a daisy."

"Good." Buffy slapped Damon hard across his face.

"Ow!"

"We've been married for a day and you were going to make me a widow!"

Damon rubbed his cheek. He stared at her angry face and sighed. "I wanted to apologize…."

"Good." She crossed her arms. "Go on."

"I said I wanted to. And then I realized, I'm not sorry."

"You would rather die than be human and you expect me to be ok with that?"

"I didn't say you were supposed to be ok with it, I just said I'm not sorry. But you know what I really am? Selfish, because I make bad choices that hurt you. Yes, I would rather have died than be human. I'd rather die right now than spend a handful of years with you, only to lose you to Klaus when I'm too old and sick and miserable and you're still you. I'd rather die right now than spend my last final years remembering how good I had it and how happy I was, because that's who I am, Buffy, and I'm not gonna change. And there's no apology in the world that encompasses all the reasons that I'm wrong for you."

Buffy stared at Damon for a long moment. She finally nodded. "You're right. You are wrong for me. There are a thousand other choices out there better for me. You've been a terrible person. You constantly make all the wrong choices. And you are selfish. But so am I. I would've turned you right back into a vampire because I can't bear the thought of spending an eternity not able to be held by you." She walked over and hugged him tightly. "Ever since I was yanked out of heaven and brought back to this hell, you're the one that made me feel most alive. I'm not sorry either. I'm not sorry that I came to Mystic Falls and I met you. I'm not sorry that knowing you has made me question everything about myself. And I'm really not sorry that I married you because I love you more than life itself, Damon Salvatore." She looked up at him. "I love you." Damon closed the distance between their lips and kissed her passionately. They held onto each other until they were sure neither of them was going anywhere. Buffy pulled away first and looked up at him. "We should go to Italy for our honeymoon."

"I like that idea. Let's leave tomorrow."

"Works for me."

Stefan knocked on the door. "Hey."

"Hey, brother." Damon smiled. "We're going on our honeymoon tomorrow!"

"About time." Stefan smiled. "Lexi and I are going to take Silas out of here."

"Where are you taking him?" Buffy asked.

"Think the quarry will be deep enough?"

"Yeah, I don't think anyone's gonna stumble on him there." Damon said.

"Good. I'll see you guys when you get back, then."

Lexi popped her head in. "See you around, Buff."

"See you around, Lex." Buffy said. Lexi and Stefan left and Buffy turned to Damon. "Let's go start packing."

Damon smiled brightly. "Great plan."

Buffy and Joyce were going through Buffy and Damon's clothes as they worked on packing for Buffy's honeymoon. Giles sat on the bed folding the clothes they picked out. Damon was in the bathroom gathering up the toiletries they would need while Alaric looked out the window.

"I am so glad the last 24 hours got to happen." Joyce said. "I got to see my daughter get married and now I'm helping her pack for her honeymoon."

"I'm glad I got to spend one more day with my mom." Buffy said.

"I suppose I'm just chopped liver." Giles said with a playful smirk.

"You were never just chopped liver. You were the best Watcher a girl could have. And by the way, when I died to become a vampire…. Was that whole thing real?"

Giles smiled. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Buffy threw a shirt at him. "So I've said my goodbye to you, then, and that's all you're getting."

"Oh, Damon…. You should put those in individual plastic bags." Joyce said, going over to help Damon. "The shampoo always leaks and you don't want that all over the inside of your bag."

Damon smiled. "Thank you, Mrs. Summers."

"Call me mom. I don't think we have much time left, so we're cramming a lifetime into a few minutes."

Buffy laughed at her mother. "Mom, chill."

"No, it's ok, Buff." Damon said. "I'll go grab some bags from downstairs, mom." He disappeared using his vampire speed.

Joyce smiled brightly and went over to hug her daughter. "It's so good to know that I'm leaving you in good hands."

Buffy's smiled faded as she suddenly remembered what she'd been told about the Other Side. "Are you all alone over there?""I've been watching over my girls. I don't feel alone. And because I've gotten to say goodbye to you both and I know you're both very well taken care of…. I think I'll be able to move on now."

Buffy clung to her mother as she started to cry. "I wish you didn't have to leave me. I've missed you so much."

"Oh, baby." Joyce kissed her daughter's hair. "I love you more than you'll ever realize. It makes me so proud to see everything that you've accomplished without me here. You're going to be great."

Damon walked back in with plastic ziplock bags. "Got em. Whoa. Tears."

"Damon, you look after my little girl." Joyce said.

"Don't worry, Mrs. Summers." Alaric said. "I'll haunt his ass if he hurts her. She's like a sister to me."

"And I have complete confidence that Willow will turn him into a wart on a toad's backside if he hurts her." Giles said.

"She threatened me with worse." Damon said, looking a little paler than usual at the thought of Willow's threat.

"What did she threaten you with?" Buffy asked."You really don't want to know. Back me up on this, Rick. You…." Damon looked up to discover that he and Buffy were the only two in the room. The veil must've gone back up. He sighed sadly and looked at Buffy. She was staring at the place her mother had been standing with a blank look on her face and tears shining in her eyes. Damon wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly to him as she cried.

Damon took Buffy's hand and kissed her knuckles. She looked away from the view out of the plane's window and over at him. "How are you feeling?" Damon asked.

Buffy smiled. "I'm ok. No…. I'm great. I got to spend one last day with my mother. I finally married the man of my dreams. My kid graduated from high school with her emotions intact. The bad guy is gone. Life has finally settled down. And now I'm sitting in first class heading to Italy for my honeymoon."

Damon smiled. "Yeah."

"You forgot something." Elena said, popping her head around Damon's seat. "Jeremy is back to life thanks to Bonnie and we're all going to Italy!"

Damon sighed. "Did we seriously have to bring the whole family?"

Buffy shrugged. "I couldn't just leave after Jeremy came back to life. It was kind of too huge to ignore."

"Don't worry, Damon." Jeremy said, his head popping up over Buffy's seat. "We'll be on the other side of the Italian villa you guys rented. You won't even know we're there."

"Something tells me that's not even remotely true." Damon said.

"Can we go to the South of France?" Elena asked. "Isn't the Cannes film festival going on? We could compel our way into the parties and meet some celebrities."

"Oh! Catching Fire is supposed to be debuting there. I wouldn't mind seeing that before everyone else." Buffy said.

"What is it with you and those books?" Damon asked.

"What? They're really good!"

"I kind of burned my copies with the house." Elena said. "I need to buy new ones."

"This is going to be a long summer." Damon said, shaking his head.

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