The Next Chapter

Chapter 93

A/N Here it is! I think the ending came out good. I love Buffy's fight back attitude with Damon and how she knows which buttons to push. They're starting to resemble a happy old married couple... who just happen to be vampires.

Chapter 93

Damon punched the rock wall of his cell in frustration. He kept punching it over and over, not really sure of a coherent plan. All he knew was that when he'd woken up, Buffy was missing. Considering where they were, he knew that nothing good was happening to her. The only thought in his head was "save Buffy."

A big piece of rock fell from the wall and he reached down to pick it up. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a glint on the floor outside the cell. Aaron had dropped a bullet when he had been there before. Damon laid on the floor and stretched his arm through the gate, reaching for the bullet. He managed to move it with the tip of his fingers and finally, after painstakingly slow seconds, he finally grabbed it. He pulled back into the cage and put the bullet inside the keyhole of the gate. He grabbed the rock again and hit the lock, causing the bullet to explode.

"Thank you, Mythbusters!" Damon muttered as he tried to open the gate. It didn't budge. "Stupid Mythbusters." He started to pound at the gate. "Come on!" Damon shook the gate furiously before starting to kick it in frustration. After one good kick, it popped open. "Yes! Buffy!" Damon took off running in the direction of the lab where he'd been tortured. He burst through the door. "Buffy!" But the place was empty. "Buffy?" Damon grabbed a table and flipped it across the room angrily before running out to find his wife.

He rushed around campus, desperately looking for anyone who resembled Buffy or Wes. "Damon!?" Willow cried from across the quad. "Oh my…. Are you ok?"

"Where's Buffy?" Damon asked, rushing over to her.

"She's not with you? Elena said she was supposed to be with you."

"Well, she's not!"

"Damon, calm down. What happened? You look…."

"Willow! If he's got her, he's probably torturing her."

"Who? What's going on?"

"We were taken…. Wes Maxfield is behind it."

"Behind what?"

"There's this group…. Augustines…. They capture and torture vampires for science."

"Oh god!"

"He took Buffy. We've got to find her."

"Come on." Willow pulled on his hand. "I'll go do a locater spell. We'll find her."

Damon rushed into the boarding house and looked through the rooms, calling his wife's name. There was no sign of Buffy. Willow's spell said Buffy was in Mystic Falls, but it hadn't been specific because they didn't have anything of Buffy's. "Stef, you awake?" He yelled as he rushed up the stairs to his brother's room.

Stefan was putting some clothes away and smiling to himself when he was startled by Damon. "Where the hell have you been?"

"Oh, you know, being held against my will, shot in the head, now I can't find my wife."

"What do you mean you can't find Buffy?"

"I mean, she's missing. She's not picking up her phone, she's nowhere in this house…. Which leads me to believe that Dr. Creepy Ken-doll has her somewhere."

"Are you talking about the Whitmore bio teacher?"

"Yeah, the one that operated on vampires during business hours. Yeah, that one. Put your hero hair on, Stefan. Let's go get Buffy."

"You just said you don't know where she is."

"I don't. Well, I do…. Sort of. She's somewhere in Mystic Falls, according to Willow's spell. She's on her way here with some supplies to get a more accurate location. But in the meantime, we're gonna have to find us some leverage because he's not going to give Buffy back for nothing. So come on."

Buffy laid on the test bed and looked around at her surroundings. The place really seemed familiar, but she couldn't place it in her fog. Wes was keeping her drained and pumped full of vervain. She needed to find a way to tap into her Slayer strength and ignore the vampire part of her that was hindered by the vervain. It wouldn't be as hard if she wasn't drained of blood.

"Subject 83182 appears conscious."

Buffy looked over to see Wes and his stupid little recording device. "Where am I?"

"Why? Does it look familiar?" Wes asked.

Buffy shook her head and she looked around the room again. There was a big dialysis machine near the bed. "What are you doing to me?"

"83182 resume prep for blood dialysis." He put a mask over her face. "Count from 10. 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…." Despite wanting to fight off the drugs, Buffy was still weakened. She lasted longer than Wes expected and he ended up upping the dosage and counting down from 20 the second time. She was out by the time he reached 2 on the third try.

Aaron was sitting on a couch in the student lounge at Whitmore, headphones on and writing on a notebook. Damon sat down next to him and pulled his left earphone off his ear. Aaron looked over at him. "Pop quiz." Damon said. "So your wife's taken by a mad scientist. Now, do you: A, get a new wife; B, call the police; or C, kill someone close to the mad scientist?" Aaron stood up to run. Damon stayed seated on the couch, smirking, and Stefan and Elena met Aaron right next to the couch.

"Don't hurt me." Aaron said.

"Trust me, my brother and I will be on you making you beg for death if you don't help us get Buffy back." Stefan said.

"Sit." Elena ordered. Aaron sat down and Stefan took a seat on his other side while Elena sat on the coffee table in front of him so he was surrounded by vampires. "You lied to me. You said that you had seen Buffy and Damon and they were fine."

"I…. I did see them." Aaron said.

"You left us locked in cells where your legal guardian was waiting to torture us." Damon growled.

"You need to tell us where he took her." Elena said. "Now."

"I have no idea where Wes took her." Aaron said.

"Well, they're not at his lab, so where else could he hide a vampire?" Stefan asked.

"I'm sorry. Am I supposed to know who you are?"

"That's my brother Stefan," Damon said.

Aaron nodded slightly and looked back at Damon. "How are you not dead? I shot you."

"Go for the heart next time." Damon snapped. "Now, where's Buffy?"

"I have no idea. All that Wes told me was to go about my life as usual."

"Aaron, please." Elena said. "I don't want to see you hurt and they will hurt you if you don't help them get Buffy back."

"We're gonna call Wes, and you're gonna tell him that if he doesn't give us Buffy, the next experiment that he conducts it's gonna be sewing your arms back on." Damon said.

Buffy woke up again to find Wes poking around at a big bag of blood strapped to an IV. Of course it was coming out of her. "4.1 pints drained." He said, moving back over to look at Buffy and point his little flashlight on her half closed eyes. "83182 still shows signs of consciousness. Note that 15 years ago subject 12144 faded into unconsciousness after losing 2.9 pints. Does this have something to do with the hybrid aspect of this particular subject? Mystery for another day."

"What are you doing?" Buffy asked, pulling on her restraints. "What are these tubes?"

Wes opened a curtain as he approached a little table and wrote some notes down. "Relax. I plan to once I'm through with you."

"My family is gonna find me and you're going to be in some serious trouble."

"Your heroic vampire friends?" Wes taunted.

"I've got a couple of witches in that bag, too."

"Did you know Aaron Whitmore spent his entire life thinking his family was haunted by some death curse? Turns out that curse was your husband systematically killing every member on his family tree. I'm curious…. How does one justify that in their mind?"

"Yes, because holding people against their will and torturing them is a healthy pastime. Tell me Doctor Mengele, how do you justify that?"

"Science."

"Of course. Didn't Dr. Frankenstien say the same thing right before his creation went postal on the village? Where did you get your degree? Mad Scientist Tech? Did you know someone named Maggie Walsh?"

Wes opened a journal and read from it. "'June 25, 1999. Incredible findings today. After enduring 3,000 volts of electricity, the subject continues to have a heartbeat. June 26. More sucess. Subject was exposed to 4,000 volts today. Seizing continues after electrocution. Flesh remains hot to the touch.'"

"That's really inspiring. Have you thought about a career as a self-help writer?"

"This isn't my journal. These are the hand-written medical findings of Dr. Grayson Gilbert."

Buffy looked over at him in confusion. "Elena's dad?"

"Everything I'm doing to you I learned from him."

She looked around the room again and sighed, finally placing her surroundings. "This is her dad's clinic. We're in the basement."

"Correction, this was her dad's clinic. Then your town council burned a whole bunch of vampires down here. Now it's just a condemned building in Mystic Falls where no one will find us."

"Man, I hate this place. I was in here when it was burnt down."

"You can survive fire?" Wes began to write in his personal journal, but was interrupted by his cell phone ringing.

"Aren't you supposed to have that thing turned off around medical equipment?"

He shot her an annoyed glare and walked out of the basement. With a sigh, Buffy closed her eyes and tried to focus on mediational healing like Willow had taught her. Shouldn't be too hard pulling from the earth since she was surrounded by it. Of course, it was hard to get into a meditative state when you were surrounded by a place where you were nearly murdered and were now strapped up to be tortured.

Damon and Stefan walked with Aaron and Elena behind them across the quad towards Wes's classroom. Aaron had called his guardian and Wes had told them to meet him in his classroom. "You want to give me a little back story as to how you know one another?" Stefan asked.

"Aaron is Aaron Whitmore and he comes from a very long line of vampire-probing, blood-testing, organ-removing freaks called Augustine." Damon said.

"Why do you know this?"

"Because I was their test subject in the '50s."

"What do you mean test subject?"

"Meaning I donated my body to science except I was alive and it was against my will."

"Wait. Hold on a minute." Stefan pulled Damon to a stop. "How do I not know about this?"

"Don't get all guilt-ridden Stefan, on me. We were on the outs back then, and by the time it was over, you know, it was over."

"Does Buffy know about this?"

"She does now." Damon started to walk away.

"Why don't you finish the rest of the story, Damon?" Aaron said.

Stefan turned around and glared at him. "I don't recall saying that you could talk." He looked at his brother. "Did I say that he could talk?"

"I don't remember anything."

"I didn't think so."

"Come on, guys." Elena said. "We need to get Buffy back in one piece. Bickering isn't going to do that."

Buffy opened her eyes and looked around her. Apparently she'd drifted off instead of meditating. Crap. What had happened while she was out? Wes was back and examining her blood. Or she assumed it was her blood. Enzo was in the other room. It could be his blood.

"So, Kevorkian, when did you meet Elena's dad?" Buffy asked.

"He was working with the Augustines to turn vampire blood into a magical cure-all to fight disease, cure cancer, save the world." Wes said.

"Obviously it didn't work. You should probably leave the world saving to the professionals."

"And I suppose you're a professional?"

Buffy shot him a knowing smirk and changed the subject. "So, I saw Enzo when I woke up earlier. Good to know a friend of my husband's is still alive since they're a bit rare. Though, I'm pretty sure there's some animosity there, so I don't think I have to worry about him being upset he didn't get an invite to the wedding. Where is he now?"

"He's on a little day trip. You're right…. He did have some unresolved business with your husband."

Buffy sighed. "What did you do?" Wes didn't answer. He just stopped the dialysis machine and turned to Buffy to remove the IV attached to the machine. "Enzo is the Augustine vampire. He's the vampire that killed Elena's roommate Megan."

"Conserve your energy. I've drained enough blood to start phase two."

"No, don't tell me. Let me guess what phase two is! You're going to freeze my head and put it with Walt Disney's under the Pirates ride?"

"If phase two works, you'll be the first one to know." Wes walked over to another table and opened a small box.

"Elena told me that Megan had a picture of her dad on her cell phone. I bet you know why."

"Maybe because her parents helped fund Dr. Gilbert's projects."

"They knew about Augustine, too."

Wes brought over a box from another table that was smoking as if it had dry ice in it. "Well, no. All they knew was that he had an unregulated compound that could cure most injuries."

"Vampire blood."

He put some drops of the contents of the box on the dialysis machine. "But, as Megan grew up, she got suspicious, enrolled at Whitmore, roomed with Dr. Gilbert's daughter, and she went to a party at Whitmore House and put her nose where it didn't belong."

"She found Enzo in his cell."

"And being clueless to what a starving vampire will do around fresh human blood, I'm guessing she got too close." Wes's phone rang and he answered it in front of her. "Aaron."

"Where's Buffy?" She heard Stefan say on the other line.

"Who's this?"

"We have Aaron, and we're trying to decide how to kill him."

"Funny. I have Buffy, and I'm wondering how she'll function without her cerebral cortex. Touch him, and you'll never see her again."

"That threat works both ways."

"Stefan! I'm in the basement of…." Wes ended the call before Buffy could finish her sentence. "That was rude."

Aaron, Stefan, and Damon walked into the building where Wes' classroom was. "Which one is it?" Damon asked.

"It's right here." Aaron opened the door and walked in followed by Elena, Stefan, and Damon. The classroom was empty except for someone sitting on the back, with their feet up against the backrest of the chair on front.

"21051." Enzo said.

"Enzo?" Damon said in disbelief.

Enzo stood up, his eyes still locked on Damon. "It's been a while, mate."

"Who the hell are you?" Stefan asked.

"Lorenzo, but my friends call me Enzo. Ah. Kidding. I don't have any friends." Enzo made his way forward and offered his hand to Stefan but Stefan didn't shake it.

"Enzo's another Augustine vampire. Our cells were next to each other." Damon explained. "So we're here to meet somebody. Wes Maxfield. You know him?"

"That's your first question for me? Not 'how are you?' 'How'd you survive in that fire I left you to die in?'"

"Uh, can somebody tell me what's going on?" Elena asked.

"I'd love to. Have a seat. Been waiting 70 years to tell my story."

"Not interested." Stefan said. He turned to Aaron. "Give me your phone."

"What for?" Aaron asked.

"Don't ask questions." Damon snapped.

Aaron sighed and handed Stefan his phone. Stefan took it and walked out into the hallway. "Aaron." Wes said when he picked up.

"Where's Buffy?" Stefan asked.

"Who's this?"

"We have Aaron, and we're trying to decide how to kill him."

"Funny. I have Buffy, and I'm wondering how she'll function without her cerebral cortex. Touch him, and you'll never see her again."

"That threat works both ways."

"Stefan!" Buffy yelled in the background. "I'm in the basement of…." The line went dead.

"Buffy!?" Stefan asked. He looked at the phone. "Damn it! The basement of where?" He headed back into the classroom and interrupted Enzo. "He's not sending her."

"Tragic." Enzo said. "Can I continue my story now, please?"

"Doesn't he know we have Aaron?" Damon asked, ignoring Enzo.

"He doesn't care. He's willing to risk it." Stefan said. "But…."

"What? Let me to talk to him!" Aaron cried. "He'll listen to me."

"What part of 'he doesn't care' are you not registering?" Damon asked.

"If anybody cares, Buffy's still alive." Stefan said.

"What?" Damon asked.

"Is she ok?" Elena asked.

"I don't know." Stefan said.

"How do you know he hasn't killed her?" Damon asked.

"Hello!" Enzo said. Nobody paid him any mind.

"She tried to tell me where she was, but Wes hung up." Stefan said. "She's in a basement somewhere."

"A basement somewhere in Mystic Falls." Damon said. "That narrows it down."

"Willow's probably located her by now." Elena said.

Enzo was apparently pissed at being ignored and ripped off a classroom chair from the floor and threw it out the window. "Where were we?" He said calmly. "Uh, ah, right. I was telling my story, and you were all politely listening. Huh? So I'd given Damon all of my blood ration so he'd have the strength to escape and save me in the process. Our plan began perfectly, didn't it? I was waiting in the cage for him to release me, waiting for my friend, my cellmate, the only soul with whom I'd connected with in all those years of captivity. Then a fire starts, burns out of control, but Damon just can't get the damn cage open. He looks me in the eye as if he doesn't even recognize me, turns around, saves himself, leaving me to die.""Well, you didn't die, obviously." Stefan said.

"No. Unfortunately I lived. I was spared by one of the scientists so I could spend another 50 years on a table being opened and closed. Now that we've all been acquainted, I'm gonna find something to wet my whistle." Enzo strolled out of the classroom.

"You didn't tell me about him." Stefan said.

"It was the 1950s." Damon said. "I'm supposed to remember every moment of my life? Do you want to kill Aaron, or should I?"

"This guy was your cellmate for 5 years, you left him to die, he comes back, and you're completely unfazed?"

"Fine. I will." Damon turned and walked towards Aaron.

"Damon, stop." Elena said. "Think."

"No."

"This isn't what Buffy would want."

"This is exactly what she would want. This little twerp had the chance to help. All he had to do was open the cell doors, but he shot me and left us down there. Now my wife is off somewhere being tortured. Someone gets to pay."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on, hold on, hold on!" Aaron cried. "Wes gave me a bunch of files on my family history. They're in my dorm, ok? Maybe there's something in there you need, a name, I mean, another lab."

"That's a timely revelation." Damon said.

"Yeah. Well, you know, he's not gonna help me, why should I help him?"

"I don't like you. I don't like your family. I don't like that you left us down there to be tortured by your guardian. If you're lying, I'm gonna take my thumbs and I'm gonna gouge your sad little eyes out of your sad little head!"

Enzo walked in with two bottles of booze. "Ah. It's frightening what you can find on campus these days."

"Knock yourself out." Stefan said. "We're going with plan 'b.'"

"Damon's not. Damon's staying right here. He knows all my secrets, so he knows how ornery I can get when I don't get my way."

"Yeah, I don't think so. That's my wife…." Damon started.

"Oh, you got married, did you? I never got that option. I wonder why."

"I'm leaving now." Damon started to walk out, but Enzo suddenly had Elena by the throat and a broken chair leg at her chest. Damon sighed. "She will mind that. Fine. I'll stay. Let her go." Enzo tossed Elena towards Stefan. "Call me if you find anything." He gestured at Aaron. "Kill him if you don't."

"Let's go." Stefan grabbed Aaron and hauled him towards the door. Elena followed close behind. Stefan pulled out his phone and dialed Willow. "What have you found?"

"It says she's downtown by the square. I'm headed that way to look for her."

"Wait for me. Wes is dangerous. I don't want you getting caught up, too."

"Ok. Hurry, Stefan."

Stefan hung up and turned to Elena. "I'm going to help Willow look for Buffy."

"I'll stick with Aaron then and get those files." Elena said. "What about Damon?"

"He can handle Enzo." Stefan leaned down and kissed Elena. "Be careful."

"You too."

Stefan looked at Aaron. "If anything happens to her, you won't have to worry about just Damon coming after you." He turned and headed off to head back to Mystic Falls.

Buffy pulled on her restraints again, but they wouldn't budge. She was still too weak from blood loss and vervain. Wes had gone off upstairs for something after he'd hung up on Stefan and left her alone. She started to pull again, but Wes came back down the stairs.

"Good news. The sample cells mutated. My compound worked." He announced.

"Sorry, I don't speak nerd." Buffy retorted.

"You've heard of Pavlov? Conditioned his dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. This compound is like that bell except instead of a ding, your body will salivate at the smell of vampire blood."

"Yeah, I have no intentions of becoming like Jesse."

"Jesse was a fantastic case study, but he took too long to condition, and considering the size of the vampire population, a single-dose injection is much more efficient."

"He was insatiable. He couldn't stop feeding."

"Exactly. Vampires are now one shot away from craving their own kind." He filled up a syringe. "And you're about to be patient zero."

"Yeah, I don't think so. I've seen enough zombie movies to know that that's not on my bucket list. I'd like to enjoy life with my husband. Not try to suck him dry every five seconds."

"Your blood isn't like anything I've ever seen. It was the key to phase two. If you hadn't have walked into my life…."

"If you're going to propose, you're barking up the wrong tree. I'm already married."

"Subject 83182 prepped for compound injection." Wes said into his little recorder.

"I'm sure you'll make someone a nice, insane husband, but Damon already put a ring on it."

"You'll be doing the work you were born to do. You'll be able to kill vampires."

"Been there. Done that. Moved on. Retired even." Buffy yanked again on her restraints. It was seriously time to get the heck out of there. She yanked as hard as she could and was rewarded with a rip she hoped was the restraint as Wes came towards her with the syringe.

"Buffy!" Stefan called from the stairs.

"Stefan!" Buffy cried as Wes stabbed the needle into her chest. She yanked away and the needle broke off in her chest. She hissed in pain, but Stefan grabbed Wes's head and slammed it against the wall.

"Are you ok?" Stefan asked as he rushed over to her and helped release her from the restraints. He gently took the IVs out of her arms and the needle of out her chest.

"Where's Damon?"

"Dealing with Enzo." He helped her off the table and she nearly collapsed. Stefan held her against him so she wouldn't fall. "Whoa! Are you ok?"

"I'm really hungry and there is way too much vervain in my system."

"We'll get you fixed up." He swept her up in his arms and headed for the stairs. Buffy reached out quickly and grabbed Elena's dad's journal from the table. "You're making a habit of having me save you from this basement."

"I promise. This is the last time."

"Buffy!" Willow cried as Stefan emerged at the top of the stairs with Buffy in his arms. "Are you ok?"

"Peachy."

"You don't look it."

"Thanks."

"Come on. Let's get you home." Stefan said.

Enzo woke up in Wes's lab and sat up. He looked around and spotted Damon by a table. "Oh. Never mind." Damon said.

"What did you do now?" Enzo asked.

"Well, I injected you with a bunch of these that say, 'antidote' and apparently, one of them worked."

"If this is some attempt to make amends, it's a bit pathetic, mate."

"I don't care about amends, mate. My wife's safe, so technically, I'm not suffering, and it'd really suck if you desiccated in vain…." Enzo rushed at Damon, but Damon shoved his fist through Enzo's chest and grabbed him by the heart. "And I'm gonna tell you my side of the story. You asked me if I thought about you after I escaped, and the answer is no, and I sure as hell don't feel guilty about leaving you because in order for me to save myself and leave you, I had to shut off my humanity, damn it, so I flipped the switch, and then I felt nothing, no remorse, no regret, no pain."

"And now what do you feel, remorse, regret, pain? Even if I forgave you, Damon, would that make you less of a horrible person?" Damon squeezed harder onto his heart. "Damn it!"

"We're even, Enzo." Damon let go of Enzo and pushed him away.

"You were the most important person in my life, and you ruined me, but that's just who you are, that's who you'll always be: A monster." Enzo said, walking out of the lab.

Damon stood there and stared off into the distance, not hearing Buffy come in behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist and kissed his shoulder blade. "You're not." She said quietly.

"He's right." Damon said.

"Maybe he is. But look at me." She let go of Damon's waist and he turned to look at her. "If you're a monster then so am I. We're in the same boat."

"I made you that way. What was it that Angel said? You were inherently good before you met me?"

Buffy shook her head and started to laugh. "Damon, you did not make me evil. I was not 'inherently good' before I met you. That's just how Angel has always chosen to see me. I have had a dark side in me for a very long time. A dark side he was always very good at ignoring." Damon shook his head, obviously not believing her. "Ok, I turned my head and let my psycho, soulless ex-boyfriend kill a good percentage of my classmates and the population of Sunnydale before I finally got the guts up to face him. I let him kill people here in Mystic Falls because I didn't have the guts to just kill him."

"Because you believed in his soul. You believed he could be saved. I can't be saved. I don't want to be saved." Damon walked past her and out the door.

Buffy stood there for a minute, shaking her head. She turned and walked out of the door after him. He was gone and Buffy let out a growl. She headed into the woods and used her speed to make it to the boarding house in minutes. Stefan and Elena were walking past the front door when she walked in. "Where is he?"

"Damon? He's not here." Stefan said. "Are you ok?"

"Not really." Buffy didn't elaborate. She headed to the library, grabbed a drink to calm down, and sat down in front of the fire to wait for her husband to walk in.

Stefan came in and sat down next to her. "What's going on?"

"Enzo made him feel guilty and now he's doing that thing where he thinks he's not good enough for me."

"Don't let him."

"Oh, I'm not." She took a long drink from her glass.

Stefan reached out and took her hand. "Are you ok? You spent the better part of the day being tortured in a basement where you were almost killed a couple of years ago."

"That? That was nothing."

"Buffy, you can tell me."

"It wasn't pleasant, but I'm fine. Really, Stefan."

"Well, I wanted to apologize to you."

"For what?"

"For not getting there sooner and stopping him."

"It's ok, Stefan. I never doubted that you guys were out there looking for me. Not once." She noticed his disbelieving and worried face and gave him a smile. "Really…. I'm fine. I only stayed to get answers. I could've broken out of there at any time." Stefan obviously didn't believe her. "He had no idea what I really am." She took a sip of her drink and said in a lower voice, "I don't even know what I really am."

"Buff…."

She waved him away and smiled. "But for now I'm ok. I'm just…. Waiting to kick my husband's ass."

"Well, I'll leave you to it." Stefan started to get up, but Buffy grabbed his hand.

"Actually…. Would you…. Would you stay? I'm, uh…. I'm really worried that he might actually go through with it. That he might actually…."

Stefan squeezed her hand. "I won't let him."

"Thanks."

Stefan stayed sitting next to Buffy, holding her hand. Elena came to check on them a couple of times and even talked with them for a little while to distract Buffy. Damon walked in thirty minutes after Buffy had gotten home and headed straight for the drink cart in the library. He obviously didn't notice Stefan or Buffy sitting there.

"Why do you always assume I want you to be saved?" Buffy asked, standing up and startling him. "Why do you always believe I'm out to change you?"

"Buffy…." Damon started.

"Let her talk." Stefan said, suddenly standing in the library's doorway to block the exit.

Before Damon could speak, Buffy cut in. "When I said yes to dating you, I knew who you were. You murdered my best friend right in front of me, for god's sake! And I still went on a date with you. When I said yes to marrying you, I knew who you were and I still loved you. And when I said 'I do' and bound myself to you for the rest of eternity…. Literally, eternity…. I still knew who you were and I loved you. Damon, I love you. All of you. Every little piece of you. Just because somebody from your past decides that he thinks he knows you, doesn't mean he actually does. I know you. I know you better than anyone…. Including yourself…. And I still love you. Do you remember what you said to me once? That you believe that everything happens for a reason. You said that to me. Everything that happened then led you to now. To a better relationship with your brother. To me…. The love of your life."

"You had no idea that I killed someone, Buffy." Damon said. "Behind your back. That I used a romantic getaway as the excuse! You had no idea that I'd made it my mission to kill off a family for generations, even after I married you."

"Do you honestly think that that bothers me?"

"Yes."

"Then apparently you don't know me very well. The only thing that upsets me is that you weren't honest about our trip. I wouldn't have been mad if you had explained everything to me." She took his face in her hand and made sure that he looked at her. "They tortured you for five years. They did deplorable things to you that had consequences that lasted for a lot longer than those five years. I destroyed an entire secret government outfit in Sunnydale because they were doing the same thing." She let her hand drift down his neck to his chest and then suddenly grabbed the front of his shirt with one hand and hauled him closer to her unexpectedly angry face. His feet were actually dangling a bit. "And let me be perfectly clear…. If you think for one second that I'm going to let you back out on our wedding vows, then so help me, I will make it my mission to make those five years seem like child's play, Damon Salvatore. I will not have yet another man I love with a dark past decide that I can't handle it and that it's for my own good to walk away from our relationship."

Damon glanced at Stefan for help, but Stefan crossed his arms. He looked back at his angry wife. "Maybe it's for the best."

"Seriously? You're an idiot sometimes." Buffy set him down.

Damon turned and tried to walk away, but Stefan blocked him again. "You're not going anywhere, brother. I won't watch you throw away the best thing that's ever walked into your life because you suddenly know what guilt feels like."

"Can't I just sulk?"

"No." Buffy and Stefan said.

"I…."

"No." Buffy and Stefan said again.

"Shut up!"

"No!" Buffy yelled back.

"Fine."

"Fine what?"

"Fine. You win. I won't go anywhere." He took her drink from her. "I believe you about that whole child's play thing." Damon took a sip and glanced at his brother. "And I think that Stefan would help you."

"Damn right." Stefan said.

"So, I'll…. respect your choice and I'll stay. You win."

"I think that's the smartest thing you've ever done."

"I don't need comments from the peanut gallery, thanks." Damon called after his brother as Stefan walked out of the library.

"I think that's the smartest thing you've ever done." Buffy said with a slight smile.

Damon sneered at her. "Can I sulk now?"

"No. But you're welcome to stay here with me and I'll hold you until you're done being Angel."

Damon straightened up and glowered at her. "I'm not being Angel."

"Guilt ridden, brooding, trying to end it with me because you think I can't handle it…. That's so completely Angel in a nutshell. You've even got the same scowl happening." She took his hands. "Be Damon. I like him better."

"Be Damon…. Hmm…. And what would he do right now?"

"Toss back that drink and then toss me on that couch."

"Sounds like a plan." Damon finished the drink and scooped Buffy up in his arms.

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