The Next Chapter

Chapter 87

A/N I am really sorry about how long this took. It hasn't been the easiest couple of weeks for me. Hope you guys enjoy.

Chapter 87

Buffy rode in the back of the stolen 1969 Mustang while Stefan rode shotgun and Damon drove. Stefan was reading another one of his journals. Damon hoped that the journals would jog his brother's memories, but so far that wasn't happening. They'd argued that they needed to get Willow involved, but had decided to try old fashioned memories first. Stefan was still getting used to the idea of being a vampire. Best not to throw in a super powerful witch.

"March 12, 1922," Stefan read. "I blacked out for days…. I wake up with strangers' blood…. In places I don't recognize with women I don't remember."

"I feel alive again." Damon interjected.

"All right, I think I've read enough."

Buffy looked at her husband. "When did you memorize Stefan's journals?"

"I needed ammo to throw at my baby brother when he got on my nerves." Damon said.

"Oh. Well, that I understand. I used to do the same thing to Dawn when we were younger."

"And Dawn is your…. Little sister?" Stefan asked.

"Yes." Buffy watched Stefan for a second. "Anything else coming back?"

"No. Nothing. I know what day it is. I know what year it is. I know this car has a V8 engine. I am two journals deep and I have absolutely no memory of who the hell I am." Stefan took a sip from the blood bag Damon had given him.

"Brutal." Damon said.

Stefan waggled the empty blood bag at them. "Is this supposed to fill me up?"

"Well, yes and no. Technically yes, cause you're a vampire."

"Weird."

"Realistically? No. Cause you're you."

"Ah, yes. The insatiable, blood lusting, vampire Ripper of Monterey."

"And we're only in the 1920s, baby."

Stefan rolled down the window. "Well, sorry, but this is a lot to process." He started to toss the bag out the window, but Buffy moved faster than he could track and had the bag out of his hand.

"Ew…. Don't litter. You're a vampire, not a caveman." She said.

"So, let me get this straight: I helped you two steal this car, I found out I was a vampire who killed his own father, and yet I don't litter?"

"You're a man of principals, Stefan, who had his memories erased by a 2000 year old witch." Damon said.

"Yeah? Well I bet that 2000 year old witch probably drives a little faster than you." Buffy let out a laugh that received a glare from Damon. "Let me guess," Stefan pointed at himself. "Fun brother," He pointed at Damon. "Safe brother?" He turned to look at Buffy. "You don't strike me as a safe kinda girl. Are you sure you and I aren't married?"

Damon let out a growl and slammed his foot down on the accelerator. "What are you doing, Damon?" Buffy asked.

"Trust me?" Damon asked.

"Do we really have a choice?" Stefan asked.

"Nope." Damon pulled the emergency brake and the car spun out of control. It flipped more times than Buffy could count as they were all thrown about the interior and then thrown out of the car. Somehow, Buffy managed to roll and pop to her feet to watch the car come to a fiery stop. Damon and Stefan laid on the road amongst the debris.

Damon laughed slightly and turned to look up at Buffy. "Are you out of your mind?" Buffy snapped at him. "That car was a classic! That's the whole reason I chose it."

"Just had to prove a point." Damon said.

"Yes, we know! You're the fun brother! And I'm your wife, not Stefan's. The poor car didn't need to learn that lesson in such a hard way."

"I'll buy you one." He smirked as he stood up.

Buffy rolled her eyes at him as he walked behind her. "Oh, yes, turn on the charm. That always works."

"You're not really mad at me." His hands snaked up her hips and around her waist, pulling her back against him. "You actually had some fun with that."

"Fun is driving really fast in a car like that. Or getting wild in the driver's seat while driving really fast."

"Damn! I didn't even think of that."

"Now you've ruined it."

"Living with you two must be interesting." Stefan said.

"You have no idea." Damon said with a smirk, moving Buffy's hair away from her neck and kissing just below her ear.

Buffy smiled and melted into Damon with a sigh. "We've got a nice little walk back into town."

"Just gives us more time to work on getting Stefan's memories back." Damon took her hand and they started their trek back to their house.

The next day, Buffy, Damon, and Stefan were at the Mystic Grill. Everyone around them was celebrating Remembrance Day by ringing a bell and taking shots. After lunch, the three of them had decided to go ahead and join in, too. Stefan had read through another journal before he'd wanted to go out and see the town.

A guy at the bar held up a shot and rang the bell. "To Uncle Steve!"

"To Uncle Steve!" Everyone raised their glasses and took a drink, including Buffy, Stefan, and Damon.

"Wow. Ahh….. This town always so upbeat about dead people?" Stefan asked.

"Well, in the theme of morbid town tradition, you go back to the 1820s when everyone was so paranoid about the cholera thing that they would occasionally bury a body a wee bit before its time." Damon said.

"So, we have a holiday dedicated to burying people alive?"

"Well, they were so paranoid that they would actually request to be buried with a string attached to a bell above ground, and then the whole family would hang around the grave for 24 hours in hopes of hearing the bell and that their loved one would come back, but now it's just really…. It's really a kick-ass excuse to get hammered."

A waitress came to the table and started to pick up the empty glasses. Buffy caught Stefan staring at the waitress' neck. "Hey, there." She said to the waitress. "We'd love another round, please."

"You got it." As the waitress walked away, Stefan followed her with his head and even stretched his neck a little in her direction.

He snapped out of it and looked at his family. "What the hell was that?"

"That, my brother, was you jonesing for something a little stronger than a blood bag." Damon said.

"So, what's the problem? You spent the whole day trying to convince me I was a vampire. I'm convinced. Let me act like one."

"Well, unfortunately, Stefan, there are two types of vampires in the world, ok? There are those that can handle moderation…."

"And then there's you." Buffy finished.

"Well, I'm no shrink." Stefan said. "Right?"

"Right." Buffy and Damon said.

"But maybe killing our father and turning into a vampire and all the trauma associated with that is what made me become a vampire who feeds on people and then rips their heads off, but now that I don't have all those memories and all that guilt, maybe the Ripper thing won't be such a problem."

"Let's not try it out, ok?" Buffy said. The bell rang again and they clinked their glasses together.

As they were about to drink, Elena walked in. "And here I thought catching up on nearly two centuries would be a drag."

"Remind me of your name again." Stefan said.

Elena tried to hide the look of hurt. "Elena."

"Elena. Right."

"You haven't told him about me?" Elena asked Buffy and Damon.

"200 years is a long time." Damon said as the bell rang again.

"Right. Well…." Elena grabbed for a shot, but Buffy took it from her and drank it.

"Sorry. You're underage." Buffy smiled at her.

Elena sighed and sat down. "Willow wanted me to let you know she's going to stay at Whitmore."

"I thought she was coming back for a visit."

"Excuse me." Stefan stood up and headed towards the bar.

"She said you should answer your phone so she could tell you that she's got to head to DC this weekend for some Watcher Council business." Elena said.

"Well, I would answer my phone, but it got destroyed this morning." Buffy said, glancing at Stefan flirting with the waitress.

"Destroyed?"

"Long story. We ordered a new one already and it'll be here tomorrow."

"You go through phones faster than you go through a bottle of bourbon."

"I live a different lifestyle than most."

"And it's not like we can't afford it." Damon said.

Elena turned to Damon. "So, Mr. 'So Far, So Good,' Mr. 'I Can Handle My Brother,' Mr. 'I Know What I'm Doing.'"

"Hey. I never said I know what I'm doing."

Elena grabbed her phone and dialed a number. "Who are you calling?" Buffy asked.

"Bonnie. A witch did this to him. Maybe a witch can undo it."

Buffy took the phone from Elena. "Don't worry about it. Willow will handle it when she gets back. Besides, I trust her with Stefan's brain more than I trust Bonnie. Let's just let Stefan be Stefan."

"Fun, carefree, drunk Stefan without a 100 years of vampire guilt on his shoulders." Damon added.

"That guilt came from a blood addiction that might still be hard-wired in his brain." Elena said.

"You take one philosophy class, now you're the queen of nature versus nurture?"

Elena glanced over at where Stefan had been. "Hey. Where'd he go?"

"You don't see that cute, little waitress anywhere, do you?" Damon asked. He caught the look from Buffy. "She doesn't hold a candle to you, babe."

Buffy sighed and closed her eyes, extending her senses to take in the entire restaurant. After a moment, she heard Stefan in the backroom saying, "I keep being told that if I have one taste I won't be able to stop…. and although the thought of killing you scares the hell out of me, this feeling of hunger that I have inside of me is just so much more powerful." Buffy was gone from the table before Elena or Damon could blink. Stefan had vamped out and was about to bite into the waitress's neck.

Buffy grabbed him and pulled him away. She turned to the waitress and caught her eyes. "Go away and forget this happened." The waitress turned and walked out. Buffy turned back to Stefan. "Ok, I think it's time to move on from The Grill."

"And go where?" Stefan asked.

"Well, it's Remembrance Day. Let's go remember the Salvatore family."

The cemetery was filled with people drinking and the sound of bells ringing. Elena and Stefan followed Damon and Buffy as they headed towards the Salvatore family crypt. Stefan noticed a tombstone with the name Honoria Fell on it.

"What kind of name is Honoria Fell?" He asked.

"Shh. You're kind of the one that killed her." Damon said.

"Oh."

The four of them walked into the Salvatore mausoleum. "Hindsight being 20/20, way too much temptation at the bar, so if this Ripper gene is biological, then we need to minimize human contact until we get your brain all witchy-wooed back to normal, so here it is."

"So, this is the family crypt, huh?"

"Mmhmm."

"Anybody here I didn't kill?"

"Well, we've covered our father, who art in hell." Damon rang a bell he'd stolen from a grave. "Uncle Zach, my bad." He rang the bell again. "On the bright side, our mother died of consumption." One more ring of the bell.

"Oh, good." Stefan said.

"And there's one more name in here that we should honor." Damon gestured at a wall and Buffy looked over to see that someone had carved Joyce Summers into the marble.

"Damon…."

"I thought you'd like to have somewhere to pay your respects to your mother since her grave was swallowed by a Hellmouth collapsing. She may not have been a Salvatore, but she's still family." Damon rang the bell for Joyce and Buffy smiled at him.

She reached up and kissed him lovingly. "Thank you, Damon. This means the world to me."

"I didn't kill her, did I?" Stefan asked.

Buffy smiled at him. "No, you didn't. It was an aneurysm from a brain tumor a long time before I even met you."

Damon's phone vibrated and he pulled it out of his pocket. "Oh." He held it out to show Buffy the text from Jeremy that read I need to talk to you and Buffy ALONE. "We've got to go. Party on without us. Brother…. for you." He put a bottle of liquor down. "And this is for you." He handed the bell to Elena who was lighting some candles.

"We'll see you later." Buffy said, following Damon out. As soon as they were out of earshot, she looked up at her husband. "I have a feeling this is where we find out for sure that Bonnie is dead."

"Yeah."

"How are we going to break that news to Elena?"

"I don't know."

"I've wanted to keep it from her. You know, just in case it wasn't true."

"Well, if it is true, then we need to prepare ourselves to break her heart."

"I know."

Damon reached out and took her hand, giving it a quick squeeze. When they got home, Jeremy was sitting in the living room staring at the fireplace. He looked over at them and Buffy looked around for Bonnie.

"So what's wrong?" Damon asked. "We're here."

"I've been lying to everyone for months." Jeremy said. "And I can't keep lying knowing that everyone's waiting for Bonnie to swoop in and save the day."

"No one's waiting on Bonnie to save the day. There's no pressure."

"What were you lying about, Jeremy?" Buffy asked.

"I was dead." Jeremy said. "I wasn't supposed to come back. Magic finds a balance. I'm not supposed to be here. You can't just bring somebody back from the dead. There is always a price to pay for it."

Buffy sighed. "She was the price."

"Wait, you knew?"

"We had our suspicions. Well, Willow did. We were a bit…. Busy this summer. But Willow's a witch. She gets the balance thing and she knew that a spell that big without a magical thingy to channel that power through would kill Bonnie. She told us about it when we picked Elena up from Whitmore.""That was a while ago. Why haven't you told anyone?"

"Because this kind of news will hurt Elena. I didn't want to break her heart again." Buffy sat down. "I really hoped that you were going to tell us she was fine and really travelling around the world." She looked up at Jeremy. "Are you ok?"

"I've been in contact with her all summer. She doesn't want people to know she's dead…. But they need to know."

"Yes. They do." Buffy reached out and took Jeremy's hand. He sat down next to her and she pulled him to her in a tight hug. "I'm sorry you've had to carry this burden all summer."

"Me too." Jeremy looked at Buffy. "How do we tell Elena?""I don't know. I just…. I don't know."

"We'll find a way." Damon said.

Buffy sat on hers and Damon's bed drinking from a glass of bourbon that Damon had brought her. Elena had called his phone a number of times, but they had decided to ignore it for now. Buffy looked around the room and sighed, shaking her head. "You're so stupid, Bonnie! You should've just worked it out with Willow. I am so happy to have Jeremy back, but damn it you're an idiot."

Buffy glanced at Damon's phone sitting on the bed next to her. She let out a sigh. She was going to have to tell Elena eventually. "Hey! Where are you? I've been calling." Elena said when she answered her phone.

"Sorry. We're at home." Buffy said. "Look…. I really need to talk to you about something."

"Buffy, Stefan's gone."

"What? What happened?"

"I told him about why I broke up with him and before I could explain everything, he just…. He stormed off and said that he was hungry. Buffy, there's an entire graveyard full of people here tonight."

"Ok. I'm on my way." Buffy hung up and climbed out of the bed. "Damon! We have a problem!"

After hunting the whole town for Stefan, Buffy, Damon, and Elena found him by the fireplace back at their house. And to their surprise, he was burning his diaries. Elena moved forward with a worried look. "Stefan. There you are." She said. "We've been looking everywhere for y…."

"What you doing there, brother?" Damon asked.

"Well, you know, just tying up a few odds and ends." Stefan said.

"You sure you want to do that?" Buffy asked.

"Well, I know what I don't want. I don't want to be the person in these journals anymore. I don't want to live in this house. I don't want my brother's advice. I don't want to hear how I supported you, Elena, and I definitely do not want to continue this conversation." Stefan grabbed a bag and started walking.

"Stefan, wait." Elena said.

"Don't worry. I'm not gonna go on a Ripper binge. Besides, Caroline said she'd call me every hour to make sure I was ok and, uh…. I actually do trust her." Stefan paused. "I'm not sure what I think about you, Buffy. You seem pretty trustworthy…. And a victim in everything."

"Thanks?" Buffy said.

"Yeah. Your number seems to be in my phone, so I'll call you if I need you."

"But…." Elena started as Stefan headed out the door.

"I think we just got dumped." Damon said.

"What all did you tell him?" Buffy asked. "He was pissed."

Elena shook her head. "I…. I told him that I had feelings for Damon before and I didn't think it was fair to him to keep dating him until I worked everything out."

"Oh…. That explains the victim comment. He probably thinks that you slept with Damon behind my back."

"If Willow isn't coming, then we need Bonnie. Why hasn't she called us back? It's so unlike her. He can't stay like this."

Buffy glanced at Damon. "Elena, Bonnie can't help us." He said.

"Did you guys talk to her? What did she say? There's got to be something that she can do. I mean, she'll figure it out. She always does."

Buffy sighed and moved towards Elena. She gently took Elena's arms. "Bonnie's dead, Elena."

There was a long pause from Elena as she processed what Buffy had said. "What?!"

"She's dead. I'm sorry."

"I don't understand…. How? When?"

"Can we sit? Before you grab a match and torch this house too?" Buffy gently led Elena over to the couch and sat her down. She sat down next to Elena and Damon sat down on the coffee table in front of them. "She's been gone all summer."

"Why didn't you say anything!? How could you go on a honeymoon and be happy while Bonnie…."

"We didn't know, Elena!" Damon snapped. "We only just found out ourselves."

"Willow had had her suspicions, but she wasn't sure. And she didn't want to ruin our vacation with it."

"She should have! We should've known. She's should've…."

"Jeremy knew. All summer. He was there when she died. She gave her life to bring Jeremy back." Elena sucked in a breath and blinked rapidly. "She didn't want him to tell us. He's been hiding it from us because she wanted him to. He couldn't take it anymore and he told us the truth today." The weight of everything hit Elena and she began to sob. Buffy pulled her into a tight hug and held her until she fell asleep from crying.

Buffy walked into hers and Damon's room to find Elena violently rummaging through their closet. "Hey." She said.

"I don't have any clothes." Elena said. "I have nothing to wear. I mean, I burned my house down with all of my funeral clothes in it. I'm supposed to be strong, I'm supposed to have learned how to handle this, but…." She started crying again. "I can't. I can't keep doing this, Buffy. Stefan's gone, Bonnie's dead…. She gave up her life so that I could have my brother back, and I didn't even know about it."

"I know."

"I can't believe this is happening." Buffy pulled Elena to her and stroked her hair. "I can't believe she's gone."

"I'm so sorry. I'm sorry." After a few more moments of crying, Buffy pulled back and looked at Elena. "I've got a dress you can have. Come on, let's get you ready."

An hour later, Buffy, Damon, Elena, Willow, Caroline, and Matt walked towards the stump of a tree in the woods. Jeremy was already there wearing a black suit. He placed a picture frame on top of the stump. Caroline approached the stump and placed black and red cheerleading pom poms on top. Matt walked over and placed a coach's whistle on the stump. Buffy and Damon took a cute little witch doll that matched the charm Bonnie had helped pick out for Buffy's Pandora bracelet and placed it on the stump. Elena walked up and scattered white feathers over the stump and all the other items before backing away as she began to cry again. Caroline hugged her as Willow walked up and placed Bonnie's grimoire on the stump.

Willow also set down a pillar candle and lit the wick with her powers. "Journey on now, sister. We will follow when we can. May you be born again at the same time and in the same place as those you knew and loved in this life. May you know them again and love them again." She turned to the east. "The sun will rise again." She turned to the south. "Life continues." She turned to the west. "Love is all that we can be sure of." And finally she turned to the north. "Only the Mother is eternal." She touched the candle and closed her eyes, saying a silent blessing for Bonnie, before walking over to join Buffy and Damon.

Jeremy grabbed a bell that was sitting on the stump. "We ring this bell in honor of Bonnie, in remembrance for her." He rang the bell and placed it back on the stump. "I'm not sure what else to say."

"You don't have to say anything, Jer." Buffy said.

Jeremy looked to his side as if he were listening. "She says that she's not going anywhere, that she has been here all along. Bonnie has watched you have the summer of your life." He looked at Elena. "She saw you happy and she knows you think now that you can't have a normal life…. That you have to be there for everyone, but you don't. Everyone will find their way, so you are gonna repack your things, you're gonna go back to college, and you're gonna live it up." He turned to Matt. "You didn't do anything wrong, Matt. You know she would have sent you 300 e-mails back if she could. She misses you." Jeremy turned to Caroline. "Caroline…. She watched you decorate that dorm room like your life depended on it. And I know that college isn't everything you expected and that you feel like something's missing, but…. Tyler…." Tyler appeared behind everyone, walking up and holding a single white rose. Caroline ran to hug him and clung to him as he walked over and placed the rose among the other items. Jeremy turned to Willow. "Thank you for guiding her and mentoring her as best you could. She wasn't the easiest student to work with, but you helped her." He turned to look at Buffy and Damon. "She says she knows you guys didn't always get along and that you had your moments, but she cares about you two. She is incredibly happy that you two found each other and love each other. She wants you to make sure that you always continue to push each other and love each other and make each other better." Damon wrapped his arm around Buffy tightly, kissing her hair. For the first time, Buffy could see Bonnie looking at all of them as she held Jeremy's hand, a serene smile on her face.

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