The Next Chapter

Chapter 84

A/N Hey guys! Yay! We're back in action! Sorry it's been a slow summer. Got a lot on my plate, but I suddenly find myself jobless, so I'll be able to finish those two chapters of Footnotes that I've been working on. One of them will explain the Pompeii reference in this chapter.

Enjoy!

Chapter 84

Buffy was trying to put the finishing touches on dinner while Damon was trying to distract her from it by kissing her neck. Elena was leaving for college in the morning and Jeremy would be going back to school. Damon was chomping at the bit to have the house all to themselves. Willow had signed up for classes at Whitmore, too. All summer, while everyone had been away, she'd been taking classes. She had decided to finish her senior year of college and get her degree in Occult Studies.

"I'm going to burn it!" Buffy complained as he nipped her earlobe.

"I don't care." Damon laughed.

"Seriously, Damon, tomorrow we will have the house all to ourselves." She turned around and kissed him. "Tonight we are celebrating the last day of summer break." He kissed her again. "With our family."

Damon groaned. "You're killing me!"

"You'll get over it." She kissed him quickly before turning back to the sauce.

Elena came bouncing in the kitchen. "When is dinner ready? It smells delicious and I'm starving! And Jeremy's stomach is growling so loud it sounds like a velociraptor invaded the house."

Buffy gave Elena an arched eyebrow while Damon said, "That's the last time we have a Jurassic Park marathon."

"Sorry. It was the first thing that came to mind."

"Ok, dinner is about ready." Buffy announced. "Can you go get Jeremy?"

Damon had his arms around Buffy's waist as he stood behind her. His chin was resting on the top of her head and he was watching her and Elena go over Jeremy's cover story. "There were issues at home." Jeremy was saying. "Ever since I lost my parents, my aunt, I've been acting out…. drugs, drinking…. I was looking for attention, so I lit my house on fire and faked my own death."

"Really stress the drug thing." Elena said.

"And I would definitely say that the fire was an accident." Buffy added. "Because there's crazy, and then there's…. well, Elena."

"Hey!"

"Or I could just not go back, considering my school already had a memorial for me." Jeremy said.

"I don't think so." Buffy said. "You're going back to school." A car horn honked outside the house.

"Caroline just pulled up." Damon announced. He was way too happy about getting rid of the kids.

"I-I can't leave." Elena said. "I should stay and at least wait until Jeremy settles in to school…."

"You're leaving." Buffy cut her off. "You're going to college. You're going to drink cheap beer and protest things you don't care about. You're going to have the awesome college experience that I didn't get to have. And Damon and I are going to take care of your little brother. Trust me, you have nothing to worry about."

"Ok, well at least Whitmore is only a few hours away, so if there's anything you need, Jer, just call me…."

"Hey, I'll see you on laundry day." Jeremy said, hugging her tightly.

Elena smiled. "Bye." She walked over to Damon and Buffy. "You guys…."

"We will take care of Jeremy. Now get out." Damon said.Buffy rolled her eyes and gave Elena a tight hug. "Are you sure you don't want me to help you move in?"

"I don't think Damon will let you go. Besides, you're newlyweds. You need as much time alone time together as possible. This is my wedding present to you."

"All right. Off you go, then." Buffy followed Elena to the door and waved at Caroline and Sheriff Forbes. She waved again as Elena got in the car and they drove off.

Damon turned to look at Jeremy. "You. Go to school."

"Damon!" Buffy smacked his arm. "Be nice."

"No, it's ok." Jeremy said. "Elena and I crashed your honeymoon and I nearly got us both killed in Pompeii."

"That wasn't your fault."

"You guys need a break from kids for a while." He gave Buffy a half hug as he walked past. "Have fun."

As soon as the door shut behind Jeremy, Damon grabbed Buffy by the waist and lifted her off the ground. She let out a little squeal and wrapped her legs around his waist. He brought her lips to his as he raced up the stairs with her.

Buffy walked down the stairs wrapped in a sheet and talking to Elena on the phone. Her hair was in messy waves down her back. It was the first time all day that she'd left the bed, but she and Damon had needed blood. When Elena had called, it had given Buffy a good reason to head downstairs.

"Wait a minute, how'd that happen?" Buffy asked. Elena was telling her about the random roommate that had shown up.

"There must've been a mix-up at the housing office." Elena said.

"Well, there's always compulsion. It's the unwanted roommate repellant."

"That's exactly what Caroline said."

"So just compel her ass out the door."

"Buffy, what's the point in going to college if we're just going to recreate what happens in Mystic Falls?"

"Well, my first college roommate was a demon that was trying to suck my soul. So…."

"Thanks for that. Caroline's already worried about Megan. That's the last thing she needs to hear!"

"Just warning you how bad it could be."

Elena sighed. "Did Jeremy get to school ok?"

"Yes, Elena." Buffy walked past the parlor to find Katherine, disheveled and very human, standing there. "Listen, I've got to go. I'll call you later." She hung up and glared at Katherine.

"It's been a long summer, Buffy." Katherine said.

"Maybe for you."

"I heard you got married. Congratulations."

"Yeah. DAMON!" Buffy yelled up the stairs. A few seconds later, Damon appeared next to her wearing lounge pants. "Deal with her. I'm getting us that drink." She headed down to the cellar to grab a couple of blood bags and some clothes from the laundry room. After getting dressed and hitting the kitchen to warm the blood up a bit, she headed back into the living room.

Katherine was downing a glass of bourbon while Damon watched her pour another glass. "Thanks, babe." He said, taking the glass from Buffy.

"You're gonna have to cut me off soon." Katherine said. "My tolerance is a joke now. It's just so…. Glorious."

Buffy took a drink from her blood and looked at Katherine with a slight smile. "You're miserable."

"Please. I'm Katherine Pierce: I'm a survivor."

"You're a liar. Your hair is messed up…. Your nails are chipped…. You're a sad and miserable human being and you want one of us to turn you."

"I didn't say that."

"Then why are you here?" Katherine refused to answer. "Fine." Buffy bit her wrist and offered it to Katherine. "It'll give me the pleasure of killing you."

She shoved Buffy's wrist away. "I can't, ok? No one's ever taken the cure before. If I die, there's a good chance I may never wake up."

"And that would be tragic." Damon said.

"And deep down, in that mushy-gushy Buffy-loving heart, there's a part of you that doesn't want me to die."

"Keep dreaming."

"What are you doing here, Katherine?" Buffy asked. Before Katherine could answer, the house phone started ringing. Buffy took it from Katherine before she could answer. "Hello?"

"Is this Miss Summers?" Principal Weber asked.

"It's Mrs. Salvatore now, but yet, this is her."

"My apologies. I hate to have to do this, but Jeremy was involved in a serious fight this morning."

"What?"

"I know this isn't what you want to hear after everything that's happened, but I was forced to expel him. He stormed out and no one has seen him since."

"You're right, I really didn't want to hear that. Listen, can we please talk about this expulsion thing before you make it official. He's been through a lot and…."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Salvatore, but the paperwork is already in the process of being filed."

"Shouldn't you consult the parents before you make rash decisions? I'll find him." Buffy hung up and crushed the phone in her hand.

"Expelled?" Damon asked. "For what?"

"He was in a fight and now he's missing. We need to find him."

"Yeah. Of course." Damon and Buffy headed for the stairs.

"When we get back here, you're gone." Buffy said.

"Wait, Buffy! There's someone chasing me."

"Then run fast."

"You don't understand. I have enemies everywhere. What happens when word gets out that I'm a human? I can't protect myself! I'm weak and I'm slow. Do you have any idea what it's like to run in heels?"

"Yes. Not that bad." Buffy started to head for the stairs again, but Katherine grabbed her wrist.

"I have blisters, Buffy! Please, just…. help me. Please?"

Buffy groaned. "It's only because I'm in a hurry and you look like Elena. You can take my old room. But no funny business."

"Thank you."

"Yeah." Buffy headed upstairs to finish getting dressed.

Buffy and Damon approached Jeremy sitting at a table in the Mystic Grill. They'd spent three hours looking for him after making a visit to the principal's office. This was the second time they'd come to the Grill.

"One day." Damon snapped. "One day where you don't screw it up."

"Leave me alone, Damon." Jeremy said.

"You're lucky you didn't put one of those idiots in ICU."

"Says the guy who once killed me."

"Yes, in the privacy of your own home! Away from prying eyes, unlike you who went all hunter in the middle of a hallway."

"Damon, chill." Buffy said. "You got expelled, Jeremy."

"Does that mean I don't have to go back to school?" Jeremy asked.

"Of course not. I compelled Principal Weber into a very generous three-day suspension." Buffy sighed. "Look, Elena doesn't need to know about this. Can we keep it between us?"

"I guess. You're not mad?"

Buffy let out a sharp laugh. "I'm pretty pissed, Jer. Your first day back and you got expelled. I know people don't understand and they're going to press your buttons, but you can't use your superpowers on them. Trust me, been there done that." She glanced over Damon's shoulder when a movement caught her eye. To her surprise, Stefan had just walked in. "Stefan!" She called, getting up and walking over to him. For some odd reason, he felt off. Her Slayer senses were sending warning signals.

"Buffy." He smiled and hugged her tightly. "How was the honeymoon?" Stefan asked, hugging his brother.

"It was great. Minus a little incident in Pompeii." Damon said.

"Welcome home." Buffy said, ignoring the uneasy feeling in her stomach.

"Thanks." Stefan looked at Jeremy. "Am I interrupting family time?"

"No. Just dealing with first day back at school drama and an annoyance at home."

"Yeah. Katherine's living at Château Salvatore."

"How do you know that?" Damon asked.

"Because I can read your mind?" Stefan paused and then smiled. "I'm kidding. Katherine called me first."

"Huh." Buffy sat back down next to Jeremy and Damon followed her lead.

Stefan looked at Jeremy and placed a hand on Jeremy's arm. "Hey, Jeremy. Looking good, man."

"Hey, Stefan. Glad you're back." Jeremy was obviously uneasy suddenly.

"Yeah…. yeah." Stefan looked at Damon and Buffy. "All right, I'll, uh, see you guys at home."

"Great." Damon said.

Buffy watched him leave and waved when he turned to glance back. As soon as he was gone, the uneasy feeling lifted a bit. "Something's wrong." She said at the same time Jeremy did.

"What?" Damon asked.

"Something's off about Stefan. I didn't even notice him come in." Buffy said. She looked at Jeremy. "How could you tell?"

"When he touched me, I felt a chill where my tattoo was." Jeremy said.

"What are you talking about?" Damon asked.

"Right before I died, Silas grabbed me and I felt the same thing."

"Silas is gone. Bonnie turned him into a big piece of rock, remember?"

"That was Silas."

"That's impossible."

"I'm a hunter. Our whole reason for existing is to kill him. I know what I'm feeling, Damon."

"I think he's right." Buffy said. "That definitely wasn't Stefan."

"I just watched him walk through a crowd of people that saw Stefan. There's no way he could fool that many people at once. I mean, he's psychic, but no one's that psychic."

"Damon, seriously, I know what you and Stefan feel like. My Slayer senses are used to you and they went a bit crazy when he walked in. Just like when Silas was around. Would you trust us?"

"What did he want?" Jeremy asked.

"He didn't really say."

"He read our minds." Damon said. "He mentioned Katherine."

"Do you think he wants to kill her?" Buffy asked.

"Don't you?"

"Good point."

"So, do we go after him or let him take out Katherine for us?"

Buffy sighed. "She's human. I guess we need to go save her. But we're going to drive home."

When they got to their house, Buffy took the lead while Damon kept Jeremy behind him. Katherine came hurrying down the staircase while Silas followed slowly. She ran straight into Buffy, who handed her off to Damon who handed her off to Jeremy.

"Get her out of here. Don't tell us where you're going." Damon said. He made sure they got out the door as Silas made it to the hallway.

"God, you're slow." Buffy said. "Guess vamp-speed came with the upgrade."

"Get out of my way and give me Katherine." Silas demanded.

"First, drop the Stefan look." Silas let out a small laugh and Buffy and Damon exchanged glances. "What?"

"Shouldn't be too hard to figure out." Silas paused. "Nothing?" He laughed. "Does the word doppelganger mean anything to you?"

Damon groaned. "If I have to hear the word 'doppelgänger' one more time, I think I'm gonna actually have to learn how to spell it."

"You say you don't believe me, and yet both of your minds are spinning at the possibility."

"A, Get out of our heads; B, I think I'd know if my little brother had an evil twin."

"Oh, we're not twins. See, when I became truly immortal, nature retaliated by creating a version of me that was killable. It's called a 'shadow-self'."

"Well, whatever you are, your plan didn't work. The cure's gone."

"What do you want with Katherine?" Buffy asked.'

"I could tell you, but wouldn't it be so much more fun if it were a surprise?" Silas retorted.

"You're not getting her."

"Do you really think you can stop me?"

"Obviously you don't know my track record."

"I've been doing my reading."

"Good on you. Where's Stefan?"

"He's suffering, like I suffered. So, call the hunter, bring me Katherine, and then I will tell you where your brother-in-law is."

Buffy sighed. "Fine. It's not like I give a crap about her." She took out her phone and dialed Jeremy's number.

"Hey." He said when he finally picked up.

"How far did you get?"

"Damon said not to tell you."

"Jeremy…." Buffy warned.

"We just passed Old Miller Road."

"Good. Turn around and bring her back."

"What? No!" Katherine cried just before Jeremy hung up.

Buffy put her phone back in her pocket. "There. Now tell us where Stefan is."

"You know it doesn't work like that." Silas said. "When Katherine is here, then I'll tell you."

Damon groaned. "Of course."

Silas chuckled and sat down. Buffy headed into the library to get a drink and get away from Silas. She checked her cell phone every few minutes to see where Jeremy should be. He hadn't called yet and he should've been here by now. There was a voicemail from Elena telling her that her father might be a vampire and he might have just killed her roommate. Buffy decided that could wait while she dialed Jeremy's number, but he didn't answer.

As she was sending him a text, Silas wandered in with Damon close behind. "Oh, your thoughts are churning. It's like a…. spool of pink taffy. It's very messy, but very fun to watch."

"Did anyone ever tell you that's creepy?" Buffy asked.

"You're worried. Jeremy's not answering the phone. He should be back by now. You think something's very wrong."

"Of course I do. Ever had kids before? You worry." Buffy pushed past him. "I'm going to find him."

"Hurry back."

Damon followed his wife out the door as she jumped in her car. "Do you think he's hurt?"

Buffy gunned the car and shot off down the driveway. "I think Katherine would kill him if it would keep her away from Silas."

"I know she would."

They drove down the road, heading for Old Miller Road. Buffy slammed on the brakes when she spotted Jeremy's car wrecked on the side of the road. "Jeremy!" She was out of the car and holding him in her arms. He wasn't breathing. Damon bit into his wrist and shoved it over Jeremy's mouth, feeding him his blood. "Open your eyes, Jer."

"Come on. You do not get to die on us, you hear me?" Damon said. "We're supposed to be taking care of you, you little punk!"

"Jeremy, I swear, if you don't wake up right now then I'll kill you myself!"

Jeremy gasped and woke up. "Katherine…. is gone." He said.

Buffy and Damon sighed in relief and Buffy hugged Jeremy close. She let out a little laugh. "It's ok. I don't care."

"Am I still in trouble?"

"Of course you are." Buffy and Damon helped Jeremy to stand. "And you're probably grounded, but right now we need to figure out what to do about your car."

Damon's phone rang and he handed it to Buffy. "It's our other kid."

Buffy smiled, taking the phone. "Our?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Buffy answered Damon's phone. "Hey, sorry I didn't answer earlier. Car trouble."

"What happened?" Elena asked.

"Some idiot broke the window. Based on your voicemail, sounds like your day sucked worse than mine. You all right? You wanna come home?"

"I can't. And especially if my dad's connected to this somehow…. I need to know why."

"Ok. I'll talk to you later?"

"Definitely. Bye, Buffy."

"Bye." Buffy hung up and turned to find Jeremy looking at her with a slightly shocked face.

"You didn't tell her Silas was here." He said.

"Nope. And I didn't tell her Stefan's missing, Katherine's in town, and you got expelled."

"So you lied."

"No, I took a page from my husband's book and withheld a bit of the truth. So Elena won't drop everything and come running home to help. We'll figure all this out." She looked at the car. "Starting with that mess."

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