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Healed By Love

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******Los Angeles******

Angel and Spike walked into their home with a sigh of relief. It wasn't much, but it was theirs. Before dishing out their rooms to their sudden guests, Angel faced the motley crew.

"If Illyria is able to bring Klaus back, I think we all need to come to an agreement," he said.

"Do you think she can do it?" Caroline asked hopefully.

"If she can gain back her portal opening powers, yes," Angel said. Caroline reached for Kol's hand and gave it a squeeze. "However, you have to be prepared for the changes you may find in him. Time passes differently in other dimensions. I was in a hell once for a few months, but it was years there. I came out of it nothing more than a rabid animal. Your brother has two natures inside him. There's no telling how he will come back."

"What brought you back to yourself?" Elijah inquired. Angel didn't answer but looked at Damon, the best man of the one who now had claim to his beloved.

"Love. Love for Buffy," Spike said with a smirk.

"Klaus doesn't love anyone," Kol said in concern.

"He loves his family," Caroline said firmly. She reached out and took Oz's hand in her other. "He loves his friends."

"My concern is what he may do if he found out Willow is no longer in possession of the power she once had. He will try to kill her," Angel said. "This will cause Buffy and all her slayers to mark him as a dead man."

"She can try to kill him. See what happens!" Kol said hotly. Oz's eyes flashed yellow, a warning growl coming from him.

Angel held up his hands. "No one wants that. That's why you cannot let Klaus know that Will is vulnerable," he said.

"Our brother's instinct is always to eliminate all threats," Elijah said with a frown.

"Tell him that Willow regrets her rash actions and promised Rebekah that she'd never harm her family again," Angel said. "Tell him whatever you need to, but don't tell him that she has had her powers bound."

"Yes, Niklaus will most definitely try to kill her," Elijah said in agreement. "We will do as you ask."

"But if he comes to Mystic Falls, he will find out," Caroline said in concern.

"Then don't encourage him to come visit you," Angel said in warning.

Caroline didn't like that. "Rebekah lives there, and he has a home there," Caroline said.

"He has homes other places I'm sure," Angel said.

"He does," Elijah agreed.

"Oz, you can bunk with me," Angel said. "Caroline, Illyria won't mind if you bunk with her. She's got the third floor."

"Kol and I have a suite reserved at the Wilshire Beverly," Elijah said.

"Of course, you do," Spike said, rolling his eyes.

"Caroline and Oz are welcome to stay with us," Elijah invited. He glanced at Xander, who knew he was expected to stay with him.

"I will stay with Angel," Oz said. A connection away from the Mikaelson's seemed to calm the voices. Whoever was responsible for his hex hated the Original family. Oz was afraid that he'd soon lose control, and he knew that Angel would do what was necessary to contain him.

"I would like to stay here in case Illyria needs convincing," Caroline said.

"Very well. We will be back here in the morning. Call us if something comes up," Elijah said.

Before he could leave, a bright light entered the room and a portal opened up, astonishing the Mystic Falls crew. Illyria stepped through.

"Blue! Where'd you disappear to?" Spike asked with a grin.

"I traveled to many hells until I found the one holding the hybrid," she said without preamble.

"You found our brother?" Elijah asked hopefully.

When Klaus stepped through the still open portal, the question was answered.

"Anyone else feel this was a bit anti-climactic?" Damon said dryly.

"Klaus!" Caroline exclaimed, throwing her arms around him in a tight hug. Kol and Elijah both clasped one of his arms, relieved he was whole and back with him.

"Brother, are you okay?" Elijah asked in concern. Niklaus looked more exhausted and unkempt than they had ever seen him.

"As well as could be expected," Klaus said in exhaustion. "It is good to see you, brothers. Where is our fair sister?"

Kol frowned. "She is with the witch. We had a nasty battle killing our father yesterday," he shared.

"Mikael is dead?" Klaus asked in surprise. The news was most welcome and unexpected.

"He is, brother. Rebekah, Kol, and I killed him with his own white oak dagger," Elijah said in satisfaction.

Klaus felt extreme pleasure at that news. However, a wave of exhaustion hit, and he swayed on his feet.

Elijah grabbed him. "I got you, Niklaus. When did you last have blood?" he asked.

"Weeks," Klaus said warily.

"You weren't gone weeks, Nik," Kol said, frowning.

"Time is different in a hell dimension," Angel reminded them.

"I was there several," Klaus said, his eyes flashing. "How much time passed here?"

"Not quite a week," Elijah replied.

Caroline went to her suitcase and pulled out a few blood bags. "Here. Drink this," she said, handing them to him.

Klaus gave her a half smile in thanks before taking a long, much needed drink. His energy restored the more he drank. By the third blood bag, he was feeling much better. "That will do for now," he said, handing her the empty bags.

"Come, brother. Let's go to the hotel where you can refresh," Elijah said. He looked at Illyria and gave a slight bow. "Thank you for returning our brother to us. We are in your debt."

She shrugged. "My shell would allow nothing else," she replied. "And I…well, your brother is a fitting mate."

"You're going to mate with her?" Caroline asked in disbelief, while Kol snickered.

Klaus ignored Caroline's question and stepped toward Illyria. He reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips. "I won't forget, my queen," he said, giving her a wink. Then he turned to leave, his eyes connecting with Oz. He walked toward his friend, putting his hand on his shoulder. "Give me a few days, my friend. Then we will go to New Orleans, the witches there will be able to help break your hex."

Kol smiled widely. "The French Quarter? Seriously? We're going to go home?" he asked eagerly.

"Eventually," Klaus said. He looked at Oz. "Are you coming?"

"I will be along shortly," Oz said. Klaus nodded, expecting nothing less.

They all left together. Oz, Angel and Spike looked at Illyria. "You didn't think to call us?" Spike asked crossly.

"Why?" she asked.

"To tell us you can now open bloody portals!" Spike exclaimed. "To tell us you figured out where the hybrid was!"

"I imagine he's pretty pissed," Angel said with a sigh as he sat in his chair.

"He's spent his time there fighting to survive," Illyria stated. "He was most happy to see me."

"I bet!" Spike said knowingly.

"I better call Buffy and warn her," Angel said, pulling out her phone.

"I will permit no one to hurt the hybrid," Illyria announced.

"No one will hurt him unless he tries to hurt Buffy or her friends," Angel said. "If he does, you may have to make a choice."

"We do not want a war with that family," Spike said.

"No, we don't," Angel stated. "Let's hope his family and friends can keep him from going on a bloody revenge spree."

"I will go to the hotel and see exactly where his head is at," Oz said. "I'll get back to you." He felt loyalty and affection for Klaus. However, he wouldn't permit anyone to hurt Willow, especially not now that she was so vulnerable.

Angel nodded, trusting Oz to always do the right thing.

******Mystic Falls******

Buffy and Rick were at the florist picking out flowers for their wedding. Buffy couldn't believe this was her life. Sure, they'd had some problems since coming to this sleepy historic town. However, it wasn't a hellmouth. Vampires—the soulless kind—were few and far between. She'd found a man who fit so perfectly in her life. He wanted to marry her. Best of all, they were going to have a baby—something she truly never thought was in the cards for her. She'd wanted to get started on the wedding planning right away. Unlike many men, Rick wanted to be a part of every decision. Buffy had never been this happy.

They were good-naturedly arguing over flower choices when her phone rang. She saw it was Angel and knew it would be important. She answered. "Hey, Angel. What's up?" she asked. She listened. "Okay, keep me posted…Yes, I'll call you if anything happens. See you at the end of the month. Thanks."

"What's wrong?" Rick asked.

"Illyria managed to save Klaus from the hell Willow sent him to," she shared.

"Is that good?" Rick asked.

"Well, it's good that his siblings aren't worried or upset," Buffy said. "If he doesn't come back to town for vengeance against Will, then it's good, I guess. I didn't like that Willow just did that no matter what anyone thought."

"Yea, anyone who can do that is kind of scary," he said.

"Well, she won't be doing that again anytime soon," Buffy remarked. She couldn't help but worry about Klaus's next move. She had no doubt he'd find some way to make Willow pay. Since Willow didn't have any real magic to defend herself, they would have to remain vigilant.

******Back in Los Angeles******

An hour later, Klaus was feeling decidedly more human. He'd fed on a few of the hotel staff. Oz's judgy eyes kept him from ripping their heads off. Even hexed, his friend was better than any human. After showering, he found Elijah in his room. Oz went to see Lorne because he hoped the clairvoyant could give him some direction.

"I'm fine, brother," Klaus said to the hovering Elijah.

"Was it a true hell?" Elijah asked, curious.

Klaus gave him a grim look and nodded. "It was more horrible than anything I could've ever conceived. The witch has a lot to answer for," he said coldly.

"You know attacking her would put all of us in jeopardy. She has formidable allies, and I don't want to make enemies of the slayers," Elijah said. "They do much good in the world."

"So you would stand with me if I chose to cross them?" Klaus asked, unsure of his big brother's loyalty.

"We are family, Niklaus. Always and forever," Elijah said simply. "However, I would urge you to think carefully if you decide to go there. Many good people will be hurt, and our sister will be destroyed."

"Yes—our sister, who is in love with a witch, who has the power to send her enemies to hell," Klaus muttered. It galled him to no end. "I will not attack the witch directly, but she will not go unpunished."

Elijah was relieved. "Do you need my help?" Elijah asked.

"Will you take Oz down to New Orleans? Prepare our home for our return," Klaus said.

Elijah smiled. "I don't believe Xander has ever been. He will enjoy the sights. Being surrounded by so many people will be a good way to teach him control," Elijah said.

Klaus grinned. "I was surprised that he was here with you," Klaus remarked. "I didn't think anyone could pry him from his women."

"He will return to them when he is sure he is no danger to them," Elijah stated. "His second sight, though, remains."

"Excuse me?" Klaus asked, not understanding.

"On the flight over here, Xander had a dream. His dead ex-lover told him that he was still a conduit for the Powers That Be. His vampirism didn't change that as the dead can still communicate with him. The Powers can warn him of things to come if they choose to," Elijah explained.

"Really? He's not a witch, but he can foretell the future? That's never happened," Klaus remarked in bemusement. He had known the man was special. However, he never foresaw such a talent.

"Anya warned him that the witch on the other side that seeks our destruction is angry that Willow interfered. She wants to destroy us herself," Elijah said.

"An ancient, powerful witch that hates us," Klaus said thoughtfully. He'd pissed off many a witch in his day. "We know that Celeste is over there causing problems. However, she's not really ancient."

"No, she's not," Elijah said.

"It can only be one person," Klaus said.

Elijah nodded. "Yes," he agreed. "Our mother seeks to end our existence."

"Having access to the witches in the French Quarter would probably only aid her vendetta," Klaus remarked. "Yet I need them to help Oz."

"We must be on guard," Elijah said.

"And get his hex broken and then leave," Klaus said. His fight in hell had killed his drive to take back his rightful place as ruler of New Orleans.

"I will speak with Kol. We will leave in the morning," Elijah said as he got up to leave. "It's good to have you back, brother."

Klaus smiled. "It's good to be back. You'll never know how good," Klaus said before turning away.

When Elijah opened the door, Caroline had her hand raised to knock. She gave him a rueful smile. "Is Klaus up for a visit?" she asked.

"Come in," Klaus called out. Elijah said goodnight as she stepped in.

Caroline was nervous, but her concern for Klaus propelled her forward. When he smiled at her, she couldn't help herself. She ran and threw herself in his arms, hugging him tight. "I was so scared," she whispered. She pulled back and looked at him, keeping her arms around him. "I kept imagining the most awful things. I can't believe Willow sent you to hell! I mean, who does that?"

For the first time in a very long time, warmth filled Klaus. This young vampire with her generous nature and big heart gave him her loyalty. It humbled him. "I'm okay, sweetheart," he assured her. "It was pretty bad, but it didn't defeat me!"

He stepped away from her and poured them both a drink. She accepted hers with a smile and sat on the edge of his bed. He sat down in the chair next to it.

"I kind of like seeing you in my bed," he said with a wink.

Caroline didn't smile like he expected. Instead, she grew somber. "So are you going to mate with Illyria?" she asked, not ready to admit why the idea bothered her so much.

Klaus grinned, finding her jealousy endearing. "She is an extraordinary creature. I've never known anyone like her," he said. "I didn't strike a bargain with her, though. Somehow, the person whose body she possessed had strong morals. Much to her distaste, her body's humanity influences her more than she likes. She wasn't going to leave me there no matter what."

"So you're not going to procreate with her?" Caroline inquired, seeking a clarification.

Klaus put his drink down on the nightstand and contemplated her. Instead of answering, he got up and sat on the bed next to her. "Why do you care?" he asked.

Caroline looked down at her drink and shrugged. "I don't know," she mumbled.

Klaus brushed her hair off her shoulder, causing her to turn and looked at him again. He smiled warmly at her, flashing his dimples. "If I had sex with lllyria, it wouldn't mean anything. It'd just be sex," he said. "She's not the woman whose image I thought on when I was in that hell."

Caroline felt her mouth go dry at his words. She swallowed, trying to form a reply. Then she lifted up her drink and drained it. "You thought of me?" she asked, giving him an uncharacteristic shy smile as she tried to ignore the hand on her shoulder.

"Every hour of every day," he said as he moved his hand around her neck to tug her forward, fusing his mouth to hers.

Caroline allowed herself to get lost in his kiss. It was everything she imagined; it was passionate yet sweet. Although she could tell her was holding himself back, she didn't care. She just allowed herself to get lost in his embrace.

Klaus kept himself under tight control as he kissed the beautiful and still somewhat innocent Caroline Forbes. He pulled back and gazed down at her closed eyes. Then he put one last kiss on her lips.

"Sweetheart, one day you and I will take time to explore this attraction between us. When you no longer care so much about your friends' opinions and judgments, you and I will travel the world and have the time of our life," he said, giving her a tender smile—one few people have ever seen.

Caroline was floored. The kiss was so unexpected, but she felt a flash of guilt. He'd killed her best friend. Did it matter than Elena managed to escape that fate? Why did he have to be so sexy and have adorable dimples? It was unfair!

She managed to stand up and give him a shaky smile. "You may be more than I can handle," she admitted.

Klaus reached out for her hand and stood. "Actually, I don't think there's anything you can't handle," he remarked.

Caroline decided to do something very daring. "Will you be my date to a wedding? It's not until Thanksgiving at the end of month," she said, refusing to care about everyone's reaction to her bold impulse.

Klaus grinned. "Your date? I'd be delighted!" he exclaimed. "Who's getting married?"

Caroline winced. "Well, I hope it's not a problem. It's Buffy's wedding to Rick," she shared.

Klaus was surprised. "The slayer is marrying the vampire hunter who wears flannel?" he asked with a smirk. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. From what I hear, he's the first man she's been with who isn't a vampire or threatened by her many assets. The hunter is an honorable man."

"She's pregnant," Caroline shared. Then she winced. Should she reveal a weakness to Klaus?

"Really?" Klaus said. "A slayer can have a baby? It never occurred to me."

"That's because they don't usually live long enough," Caroline said. "Only one in a hundred years, Robin Wood, was born to a slayer."

"I can't imagine that I'd be a welcome guest," Klaus pointed out.

"Well, I don't care," Caroline said rebelliously. "I can bring a date. Plus, I want you to hear me sing."

Klaus' eyes lit up. "You're going to sing?" he asked.

"Yep," she said proudly. "I'll let Buffy know, so it won't ruin her big day or anything. You'll have to promise to behave. Do you think you can do that?"

"I suppose," he said with a smile. He couldn't and wouldn't tell her of his plans. There was no way he was going to allow the witch to go unpunished for what she did to him. He'd find a way to hurt her. Some place she'd least expect.

******Chapter End******

I know this first chapter is heavily centered around the Originals. They are really entwined in the story since they are somehow involved with so many main players. I will have to get into some of the characters for the Originals, but I will try to make it easy to follow for those that may not watch that show (you're missing out). Since both VD and The Originals were phenomenal, it'll be a challenge to write them so differently. Haley will NOT be in my story. I hope you don't mind! Thanks for reading.

 

Chapter Text

*****The Next Day*****

Xander woke up feeling pleasantly content. It'd been a long time since he'd felt that way—not since before his engagement to Anya. After they'd gotten engaged, things were never the same between them. Now, though, his world was so vastly different, he didn't even know how to compare the man he was then to the man he was now. He opened his eyes, looking for the source of his contentment. He grinned when he saw his lover already dressed, sipping coffee and reading the paper.

"How can you be so put together so early in the morning?" Xander complained.

"It is ten o'clock," Elijah replied, giving him an indulgent smile.

"What can I say? You wore me out!" Xander teased.

"Are you hungry? There's pastries and fruit over there," Elijah said, pointing.

"In a bit. Thanks. What's on the agenda?" Xander asked, pouring a cup of coffee from the carafe.

"Niklaus wants us to head to New Orleans. We will access the strong magics that are there to break Oz's curse," Elijah explained. "The witches there are unusually powerful. They use ancestral magic."

"What's that? Calling on the power of their ancestors?" Xander asked.

"Basically," Elijah said. "There's more to it, but unlike your friend Willow, their power is the strongest where their family is buried and resides."

"I really hope we can get this hex broken. Oz is the nicest guy. I've never met anyone like him. I don't always get him, but he always got me," Xander said, a small smile on his face as he thought of their old Scooby meetings.

Elijah looked at him with interest. "That's right. You knew him in high school—I had forgotten," Elijah said.

"I knew him before he became a werewolf. He'd just started hanging around, and he was stuck on Will. He was the first one to really see her. She really started to blossom when she dated him," Xander said. "He was a year ahead, but he repeated his senior year. He was too into his band to go to class and didn't pass. I thought that was hilarious because he's even smarter than Will."

"Why did he and Willow break up?" Elijah asked. He'd not gotten to spend much time with his brother's hybrid. However, Kol had told him what a positive influence the hybrid had on their brother.

"He met another female werewolf that had some weird type of attraction for his wolf. He went wolfing with her and maybe had sex with her. Will never actually said, but she was so devastated that I figured it was more than just him leaving," Xander said. "The girl tried to kill Willow, but his wolf killed the girl instead. Oz was so guilt-stricken that he left town. He returned several months later after he'd got a handle on his wolf. But by that time, Willow had already met and fallen for Tara."

"It takes an incredible amount of self-control for a werewolf to not turn on a full moon," Elijah said thoughtfully. "In fact, in all my years, I've never came across one that managed to do so."

"Oz did," Xander said proudly. He drained his cup of coffee. "I'm going to get cleaned up."

"I will have some blood for you when you return," Elijah said. He was trying to teach Xander to control his blood lust while drinking blood bags and from a human. Sometimes, a blood bag might not be on hand. Elijah didn't want him to ever hurt any of his friends since he was always surrounded by people. So far, the young man was proving to be every bit as extraordinary as he had been as a human. Elijah couldn't help but look forward to long years observing the things he would do.

*****Down the Hall******

Klaus hung up his phone. His contact had proved very helpful. There was a knock on his door, so he went to the door and opened it. It was Oz.

"Come in," he said, smiling at his friend. "When I was in that hell, I didn't know if I was going to see your stoic face again."

Oz gave him a look of concern. "Are you okay?" Oz asked him. "Angel came out of hell a rabid animal. You seem okay. Yesterday, I was a bit concerned."

"Well, I don't reek of demon like the souled vamp," Klaus said, curling his lip in derision. "Also, I believe he was in a hell much longer. I know I was at the end of my strength. I owe the Old One a real debt."

"I lost control after you left," Oz admitted.

"Really? In what way?" Klaus asked with interest.

"I ripped out Willow's throat," he said, obviously upset still at the thought of his actions.

"What?" Klaus asked in amazement. "You hurt your beloved witch?" He would've never had predicted such a thing.

"It's the hex! You know I'd never hurt a hair on her head!" Oz protested, showing more real emotion than normal.

"I know," Klaus said, putting his hand on his friend's shoulder. "I'm sure that you would've controlled your anger without the hex. I am grateful, though, that you stood with me against the woman who means so much to you."

"She shouldn't have done it, and she knows that now," Oz said. "You and Will aren't so different you know."

"I am nothing like that woman!" Klaus said in annoyance.

"You both are extremely powerful and often lash out in extreme ways when provoked," Oz pointed out. "Also, you both are very protective of those you care about."

Klaus glared at him. "Why are you trying to provoke me?" he asked crossly.

"I'm not. I'm just trying to make you understand that Willow made a mistake—one she regrets. Rebekah was really upset with her," Oz shared. "Willow didn't understand your complicated family relationship—the years of devotion between you and your sister."

"So I take it she survived your attack?" Klaus inquired.

"Barely. Her magic healed her when we couldn't," he said. "It was a close call, though. I'm not sure what I would've done if I'd actually killed her. Hex or no hex—it'd still be my fault."

"For your sake, I'm glad she still lives," Klaus said, meaning it. His friend had the purest heart he'd ever encountered, whether human or not. He would never want him to carry the burden of killing someone he loved. Klaus knew what that was like.

"You won't hurt her?" Oz asked, eying him carefully.

Klaus shook his head. "I have no plans to lay a hand on your witch. Nor send anyone to do so in my stead," Klaus said.

Oz gave him a grateful look. "Thanks," he said.

"It does not mean that I will let her go unpunished, however," Klaus warned. "She must suffer for what she did."

"You're not planning on going to Mystic Falls and killing all my friends to hurt her?" Oz asked, alarmed at the thought.

"I do not wish a war with the slayers," Klaus admitted. "Also, the two people she loves most are loved by me and Elijah. I could not hurt Xander or my sister. Nor do I want to spend the next few decades battling slayers."

Oz looked relieved. "Good," he said. He sat down on one of the chairs in the room. "So I went to sing for Lorne last night."

"Did he have any advice we can use?" Klaus wondered.

"Not really. He said I was marked for death," Oz said morosely. "He said the challenge would be not to get everyone I cared about killed, too. You and your family have a big magical target on your back."

"It's our mother," Klaus shared.

"What?" Oz asked in surprise.

"Our mother requires our death. She's the ancient, powerful witch on the Other Side trying to kill us," Klaus said grimly.

"Seriously?" Oz asked, having trouble believing it.

"She turned us into monsters and then hated us for it," Klaus said. "She went against nature and regretted it soon after."

"I'm sorry," Oz said, giving him a look of compassion and sorrow.

Klaus waved away his sympathy. "I'm not. I love being this powerful," he said arrogantly.

Oz gave him a small smile. Then he looked at the time. "I guess I'll go see what time Elijah wants us to leave," Oz said.

"I won't be leaving with you," Klaus revealed. "I have some things to take care of before heading to New Orleans. Some arrangements to make."

"We can wait for you," Oz offered.

"No. It's important that Elijah go to our New Orleans home and begin reacquainting himself with our old friends in the city," Klaus said. "You will need to be on hand in case something develops before I can be there. Trust Elijah. He's a bit stodgy in his old age, but he's a lot like you. He doesn't like it when I kill indiscriminately either."

Oz nodded, a half-smile on his face, and said goodbye. Then he left to go to Elijah and Xander's room. When Elijah welcomed him into the room, Oz smiled in greeting.

Oz walked forward and stopped when he saw the still rumbled king size bed. His wolf sense of smell detected a surprising scent, and he gave Elijah a curious look.

Elijah knew what the hybrid smelled. "I would hope that you would respect Xander's wish for discretion," he said.

Oz frowned. "Is he sired bonded to you? Are you taking advantage of him?" Oz asked, unsure what to think.

Elijah's eyes narrowed in annoyance. "Out of respect for your friendship with both Xander and my brother, I will forgive your insult," he said coldly.

"No insult intended. Just genuine concern," Oz replied, not backing down from the deadly Original.

"I appreciate your friendship with Xander. Rest assured he will never come to any harm at my hands," Elijah assured Oz. "Nor is he sire bonded to me. I didn't sire him, remember?"

Oz nodded. "Fine. Just be careful with him. He's more fragile than most people think," Oz said.

Elijah looked thoughtful. "Yes, I am aware," Elijah, surprised by the hybrid's insight. However, he shouldn't be since many had told him that the man was unique.

"Hey, Oz," Xander said, coming in, toweling his head dry. A towel wrapped around his waist. "How are you feeling?" He walked over to his suitcase and took out some clothes.

"Fine. I just wanted to know when we were leaving," Oz asked.

"Our flight is in three hours. We should leave within one," Elijah said. "Will you tell Kol?"

"Sure," Oz said. He turned and left.

Xander dropped his towel and began to dress. Elijah waited until he was dressed before speaking.

"I think your friend Oz is aware of the nature of our relationship," Elijah said.

Xander shrugged. "I'm not ashamed of it," Xander said. "He won't say anything to anyone anyway. If you looked up private in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of his face!"

Kol came in through the connecting door. "Are we ready to get this show on the road?" he asked eagerly. "I can taste the gumbo now!"

"I've never been," Xander said.

"Oh, you're going to love it! I'll show you all the best spots!" Kol said excitedly.

"I'm sure, brother, the city has changed since we were last there. It's been around a hundred years. A hurricane almost destroyed the place recently," Elijah said.

"New Orleans never really changes, big brother. You'll see!" Kol said.

Elijah hoped he was right. They had fled the city once long ago, running from their father. He hoped things would not be so turbulent this time around.

*****Mystic Falls*****

Buffy and Dawn were with Willow and Rebekah trying on dresses. Caroline, Bonnie, and Elena were also there. Willow was the maid of honor. Dawn and Elena were bridesmaids. Even though Buffy hadn't known Elena long, Rick considered her family. Since he had even less than Buffy, Buffy had asked Elena to be one of her bridesmaids. Damon was going to be Rick's best man. Xander and Jeremy were his groomsmen. Matt had agreed to be one of the ushers while Caroline was going to sing. Buffy couldn't believe how quickly things were falling into place. She and Rick agreed on flowers a few days earlier. Yesterday, they'd ordered their cake. Now if she could just find the perfect dress…

"I'm so glad you picked blue for our dresses," Dawn said. "I look amazing in blue!"

"Not as amazing as I!" Willow said with a wink.

"Sorry, love, but I'm going to upstage you all," Rebekah said arrogantly as she posed in a strapless red dress that had a very short train.

"Oooh," Willow said, grinning at her girlfriend. She put the dress she was looking at back on the rack and walked over to her. She ran her hand down the bare shoulder. "You look good enough to eat!"

"Ick! Gross! None of that! Virgin ears here!" Dawn said, putting her hand to her ears.

"You're still a virgin?" Rebekah asked in surprise.

"Of course, she is still a virgin!" Buffy said hotly.

"What's with the 'of course'? You weren't at her age," Willow said with a snicker.

"Hey!" Buffy protested with a pout. "I'm the bride! There's no-picking-on-Buffy-day until after I've been married!"

The girls laughed. "Buffy, what do you think of this one?" Bonnie asked, pulling out an ivory lace dress with three quarter sleeves that had a long, flowing princess train.

"Gimme!" Buffy said, eagerly. She took the dress to the dressing room to try on.

Dawn and Elena also went to try on a dress while Bonnie kept looking through the bride dresses.

"Bon, you need to find one for you to wear," Caroline said.

"I already have one. I don't need to buy one," Bonnie said.

"A wedding is a perfect excuse to buy a new dress, Bonnie!" Caroline scolded. "Have I taught you nothing?"

Bonnie gave her a fond smile. Then she heard Elena yell for her assistance in the dressing room, so she went to help her.

"So, Caroline, is my brother really okay?" Rebekah asked. Caroline had arrived back home the day before, but Rebekah hadn't had a chance to ask.

"He's okay. He looked pretty awful when he came through that portal," Caroline said, giving Willow a pointed glare. Willow flushed and moved to give them privacy.

"How is his state of mind?" Rebekah asked. "Is he very angry?"

"What do you think? She sent him to hell where he had to fight every second just to live. He had no source of blood or nutriment. For him, it wasn't a few days but weeks," Caroline shared.

Rebekah was distraught at the news. "Is he angry with me for not being there?" she asked tentatively.

Caroline shrugged. "I can't say. We didn't really talk about you," Caroline said. "I don't think he plans on hurting Willow, though."

"Really?" Rebekah asked in surprise.

"We all agreed not to tell him that she lost her mojo," Caroline explained. "Right now, he's mostly worried about Oz. They're hoping the witches in New Orleans can help him."

"Yes, Elijah has told me," Rebekah said. She's spent so little time away from her family in her long life that it was strange having none of them around. Although she loved her new life, she missed her brothers much more than she'd anticipated. "Does he hate me?"

"I don't think so," Caroline answered honestly. "He loves you. He just needs some time."

Buffy came out in her dress, the rest of the girls right behind her. She was smiling happily. "I think this is it!" she exclaimed excitedly.

They all looked at her, admiring her dress. "I feel like a princess!" she said as she twirled in the dress, the full skirt flowing around her.

"You look like one!" Willow said, happy for her. If anyone deserved a happy ending, it was Buffy.

*****Los Angeles*****

Damon dodged one of the creature's four arms while Spike slashed off two arms with his sword.

"Ha!" Spike yelled in satisfaction. He smirked at Damon. "That's how you get it done!"

Too busy boasting, he didn't notice when the creature grabbed him with one of his other arms around the waist, pulling him closer. Then the other hand went around his throat, squeezing.

Damon smirked. "Not so clever now are you!" he exclaimed.

"What are you waiting for? Kill it!" Spike gasped.

However, before Damon could, Illyria sliced off its other arms while Angel separated its head from the body.

"About bloody time!" Spike complained from his crouched position.

"If you two clowns didn't talk to so much, these jobs wouldn't take nearly as long," Angel scolded.

Damon snickered. He never knew how much fun he'd have killing demons. How he managed to live so long without being aware that he wasn't the deadliest creature in the world was beyond him. Los Angeles, he'd discovered, was brimming with all kinds of demonic activity. Whatever moron named the city was full of wishful thinking.

"City of Angels, my ass," he muttered.

The supernatural creatures with him, though, heard his remark.

"It's filled with angels—visions of loveliness," Spike said. "You and I need to spend more time enjoying the night life. Find us an angel or two to take home." Katherine hadn't been waiting for him when they'd returned. He'd given her one fleeting thought of regret before pushing her out of his mind.

Illyria blinked and frowned. "I have not come across angels on this planet. Do such creatures exist?" she wondered.

While Damon and Spike snickered, Angel gave a longsuffering sigh. "Not in the heavenly sense. Metaphorically," Angel exclaimed.

"Don't worry, love, no one would mistake you for one," Spike said.

Illyria gave him a puzzled look, not sure if that was an insult she should beat him for or a compliment. With these duplicit creatures, one could never be sure. Finally, she decided to beat him on principle. She swung her fist and hit him hard in the face. When he went airborne, Damon glared at her.

"What did you do that for?" he said, offended on his friend's behalf.

She gave him the same treatment. "Because I can," she simply. Then she turned and walked away.

Angel finally laughed.

******New York******

Klaus finally had all the pieces in place. His revenge would be complete tonight. He knew using this particular vampire wouldn't be easy. She had a reputation for being very hard to manage. She'd left a lot of bodies behind in Los Angeles a few years ago. However, Klaus knew that he would be able to handle her just fine. He had found one of the demon vampire's the slayers hunted and tried his compulsion on it. It still worked. His power was superior. His source told him that she was in this club somewhere. Carefully, he surveyed the room. Finally, he spotted her dancing in the corner by herself, her arms raised above her. Her eyes were closed as she swayed to the music.

He approached slowly, observing. Her long dark hair framed an attractive face. When he stopped several feet away, her eyes opened. Her lips formed a knowing smile—as if she knew exactly who he was and what he wanted. He returned her smile with one of his. Then he crooked his index finger at her, beckoning her to come to him.

She danced slowly toward him. When she made it to him, her body never stopped swaying. "Dance with me," she ordered.

"I'm not here to dance," he said.

"I am," she said, closing her eyes and dancing to the music.

Klaus said nothing, waiting for the song to end. When it did, she kept moving. Impatient, he reached out and pulled her against him, startling her eyes open.

"Such a strong man!" she said with a giggle, unafraid. "But you're not a man, are you? You're a beast and a vampire." Then she frowned, titling her head as if listening. "There's no demon in you. How are you a vampire with a soul? Are you like my daddy, Angelus? Cursed with one because you were a bad boy?" She grinned at the thought. Then her eyes filled with sorrow. "Or did you go fight for yours like my poor, whipped Spike. The Slayer took away his fangs. Then she gave him back his soul. He left me for her, but now he's with Daddy, and I'm all alone."

At first, Klaus found her ramblings amusing. However, when they seemed to have no end in sight, he cut her off. "I'm Klaus. My family is the original vampires that were created by magic. We are not demons. I am, though, the original hybrid. Part werewolf," he explained.

She growled and barked. "I like dogs. My William gave me a dog once, but he died so easily. Their necks are so fragile, you know," she said matter-of-factly.

Klaus realized the reports about her were not exaggerated. The woman was a loon, but it mattered not. She'd do what he wanted regardless. "I'm not a dog. Call me that again, and you will feel my bite," he warned.

She grinned, still unafraid. She tilted her head again as if listening to voices that were not there. "You are angry. The big mean witch sent you to a very bad place. You want to punish her, but you live in fear of her and her friends," she said. Her eyes widened. "Your witch is that dreadful slayer's friend! Do you want to kill the slayer and her witch? Can I watch? Can I bathe in their blood?" She twirled around and rubbed her hands down her body as if she could feel their blood on her and relished in the feeling.

"No, I don't want to kill Willow. I want to punish her," Klaus said. "As for the slayer, Buffy is no enemy of mine."

"What do you need me from then?" she said, giving him a disappointed pout.

"My darling Drusilla, I was hoping you would ask that," Klaus said with a grin. "Come with me." He held out her hand. She gave that mad giggle of hers and took his hand. He led her out of the club.

*****To Be Continued*****

So I have always been very intimidated about the thought of writing Drusilla in any of my stories. Her character is so singularly unique that I am not overly confident in my ability to get her down right. However, I finally decided to take a chance with this story. I hope I didn't do her too badly. (I wrote this story before writing my SG-1/BTVS story where she was brought in for a bit). Reviews are much appreciated!

 

Chapter Text

*****The Hellmouth, OH*****

Stefan watched the girls training with Faith. The house was overflowing with bodies and estrogen, and it was a bit intense at times. Stefan had spent most of the past century alone or with Damon or Lexie, but now he was surrounded by a dozen woman with super powers. It was nice but exhausting at times. Some of the girls were fifteen and easily upset. More than once, he had to console a slayer with hurt feelings. For some reason, all the girls ran to him and not Faith whenever they were upset or had a dispute. He'd only been there a week, and it didn't seem to matter. They had gotten over the fact that he was a vampire after the first day.

Faith thought it was hilarious the way the slayerettes took to her guy. She shouldn't have been so surprised. He radiated compassion and endless patience. While she intimidated and challenged them, Stefan soothed them. Sometimes it irritated her—she wouldn't admit to jealousy. Most of the time, though, it made her desire him more. To see the way he was with them and how well he fit into her life brought her joy she'd never known.

She knocked Bimpe on her ass. "You are dropping your guard still!" she scoffed. She held out her hand, pulling her up.

Bimpe grinned. "Sorry," she said sheepishly.

Faith faced the girls who were assembled in the backyard. The sun was about to set. "This hellmouth is about to heat up. You have to be ready for anything. Sloppy technique could get you killed," she told them. "It's time to patrol. Keeva, you take a group to the south end of town. Bimpe, the north. Stefan will take a group to the east. I'll take the west. No one goes investigating alone, got it?"

"Got it," several chorused back. Then there was a shoving match to Stefan as they fought to be in his group.

Faith moved to his side, snickering. "Should I be jealous that they prefer you over me?" she asked dryly.

Stefan smiled. "I'm just the only guy here. Imagine if my brother showed up. They'd ignore me in a heartbeat," he said.

"I don't think so," Faith said confidently. "Damon is too good at pissing people off."

Stefan laughed. "That's true," he said. He missed his brother, but it was funny how these girls were growing on him. Of course, it was Faith that was the real appeal. Every day with her was an exciting adventure. Every day, he discovered something new about her, some other reason to love her. He told her often that he loved her. Although she hadn't said the words back, her eyes grew happier daily.

For now, that was enough.

******Dover, England******

Liz stood on the balcony sipping her coffee and watched the girls below. She'd been in England over a week, and it was still a lot to take in. Rupert managed a hundred or more slayers at the compound at any given time. He also had witches and watchers coming and going. There were five witches who lived full-time there and several watchers. Rupert seemed to balance all of them so effortlessly. Of course, he claimed otherwise. He said things were in chaos now that they'd lost Kennedy and Xander was changed forever. He had no idea when Xander would be able to return and take up his duties. Elijah leaving when the girls had just started getting used to him had added to the chaos.

She was glad she had come. The first day, Rupert had been busy organizing the girls now that Xander was on leave and Kennedy gone. The second day, he'd given her a tour of Dover. It'd been so nice to not have to worry about anything, to relax and take in the sights. He spent a few days working while she'd explored the castle and grounds where he lived. The place was amazing. The only thing missing was Caroline. She would love it here. Hopefully, this wouldn't be the only time she'd come for a visit.

Rupert came up behind her, putting his arms around her waist and drawing her against his chest.

"Are you enjoying yourself?" Rupert asked her, kissing her cheek. He was so sweet.

"I am," she said. She put her hands over his. "This is such a peaceful place. I love looking out this window."

"I love having you here with me," Rupert said. "You can't imagine how much easier it makes the day knowing I'll soon get to spend my evening and night with you."

She turned in his arms, smiling up at him. "I'm so glad I listened to my daughter and came here," she admitted.

Rupert smiled and kissed her. "Would like to teach a class on dealing with authorities? The girls don't normally have to talk to police officers, but I know it'll happen sometimes," Rupert said. "It did with Buffy more than once, and it never went well. She had a way of turning into a suspect."

Liz smiled. "I'd love to do that," she said. He'd already learned to anticipate her needs. Being idle wasn't something she was used to, so he'd found a way to make her feel useful. She was very much afraid that she was falling in love with this wonderful man. Leaving England wasn't going to be easy.

******Mystic Falls*******

Dawn was on a date with Matt. They were playing a round of miniature golf. Well, he was playing, and she was doing badly on purpose so that he'd put his arms around her. He was coaching her. The man had endless patience, and she was so crazy about him. She turned in his arms, looking up at him. "Matt, I love you," she told him. They hadn't exchanged the words even though they both knew what they were feeling was stronger than anything they'd had before.

Matt's smile grew wider. "I love you, too," he said. Then he dropped the club and put his arm around her, kissing her.

A whistle and clapping distracted them. They pulled a part and saw Bonnie and Jeremy in the course behind them. "We came to play golf! Kiss her later!" Jeremy scolded with a grin.

"She loves me!" Matt bragged.

"Duh, dude! Did you just now figure that out?" Jeremy asked laughingly.

Dawn felt a warm glow fill her. She missed her mother every day, but she didn't think she'd ever been this happy. Life was perfect. Normally, that meant something bad was coming. The Summers girls didn't do happiness well. Save the world, yes. Happiness? Not so much.

"Do you think this will last?" Dawn asked him.

"Us? I hope so," Matt said, looking at her with his heart in his eyes.

"No, I mean things being this good. Normally, more bad things always come just when things are going well. It's the Summers' curse," Dawn said, biting her lip.

"It doesn't matter if something bad happens," Matt said sagely. "We'll enjoy each moment each day while we can. Then if something bad happens, we'll face it together."

Dawn looked at him in awe. "How did I get so lucky?" she asked in bemusement.

"Are you guys going to play or what?" Jeremy asked impatiently.

Matt sighed, hating the interruption. However, there would be other moments. This he knew. The dark cloud that seemed to be over him since his sister had died was finally gone.

******Mikaelsons******

Rebekah called Klaus again. Again, it went to voicemail. She wanted to strangle him. The prat was ignoring her, and it pissed her off to no end. The fact that she wasn't by his side angered him. She had dared to choose a life outside of him. The fact that it was a life with the only woman on the planet he had grounds to fear didn't make things any better. It also angered her that she felt guilty. She knew she had no reason to. There was nothing wrong with her deciding to grab some happiness for herself.

Rebekah had once thought the only way she could be truly happy was if she was human with a family. Now, though, she realized that she just needed someone to love her that wasn't afraid of her brother. Too long had Niklaus dictated her life, and she refused to feel guilty for being happy. Sure, Willow was rash when she sent him to hell, but he was fine. No lasting damage. He had daggered his siblings for decades even centuries. He had no idea how bad that really was. In the grand scheme of things, Willow's actions weren't that deplorable.

Her doorbell rang. She smiled in anticipation. It would be Willow; it was always Willow. Her certainty filled her with happiness. For centuries, she'd only ever depended on her family. Now, however, she had someone who loved her as much as she loved them.

"Hello, darling," she said when she saw Willow on the other side of the door. She held out her hand, and Willow took it.

"Hi," Willow said, giving her that shy, loving smile Rebekah had grown to love.

"I'm going to give you a key, so you don't have to keep ringing that bell," Rebekah said.

"Really?" Willow said in surprise. "Don't you think your brother would be pissed? This is his house."

"There's something you need to know about my family. We fight like dogs, but we share everything. I've lived with my brother for a thousand years. I've earned the right to all of his possessions," Rebekah said with a smug smile.

Willow laughed. "True. I can't imagine being with someone so long. And your brother isn't an easy person to be with. You are a saint," Willow said, smiling at her.

Rebekah led her to the sofa. "So what's going on? I thought you had projects to grade," Rebekah said.

"I do, but I wanted to tell you about my phone call," Willow said eagerly. "My parents are teaching a seminar at Whitmore College nearby. They actually remembered where I'm living and called to tell me that they'll be in the area next week."

"Really?" Rebekah asked in surprise. Willow hadn't spoken much about her parents except to say they worked a lot and never paid much attention to her. However, there obviously was still some part of her that sought their approval and affection.

"Yep!" Willow said happily. "And I told them all about you. They can't wait to meet you."

"You told them all about me?" Rebekah asked in surprise.

"Well, not the vampire part or the psycho brother I sent to a hell dimension or that you're my student!" Willow said with a grin.

"So you told them nothing," Rebekah said, smiling.

"I told them nothing real," Willow said sheepishly. "I told them I had a girlfriend that I loved and wanted them to meet. Mom still thinks being a lesbian is a fad I'll outgrow. They never really got to know Tara, but I'd like you to know them. We're not really close, but they're my parents. A lot of who I am is because of them."

"Then I'll love them," Rebekah said. "I'll be glad to meet them."

Willow smiled. "I've got to go back to grading. I want to have it done tonight, so I don't have to worry about it anymore," she said.

"Okay," Rebekah said. She kissed Willow goodbye. It was still strange sometimes having a girlfriend, but she'd never been this happy with a man. Her brother would just have to get over it. He was only in hell a few days that seemed like weeks. She and her siblings had been daggered for decades—Finn for centuries by him. He had to forgive Willow eventually. He had ruined more than one of her relationships over the centuries, so he owed her this.

When Willow returned home, Buffy was in the kitchen heating up some leftovers.

"Did you already eat?" Buffy asked her.

"Yes. I just took a break from grading to go see Rebekah and tell her about my parents coming to Whitmore College next week for a seminar they're giving," Willow said excitedly.

"That's great, Willow," Buffy said with a smile. She refrained from adding that it was about time her parents actually extended an olive branch. Willow had gone out of her way to visit them in New York last spring, and she'd not had anything more than an occasional email. Willow pretended to be satisfied with that, but Buffy knew it hurt her.

"I'm going to introduce them to Rebekah," she said. "I've met all her family. It's only fair she gets to meet my parents."

"True," Buffy said, happy for her.

"So have you and Rick decided where you will live after you get married?" Willow asked.

Buffy frowned and groaned. "We can't stay here. It'd be too crowded when the baby gets here," Buffy said. "The Gilbert house is pretty full, too, but we could make room. However, there wouldn't be room for Dawn. I want Dawn to be with us."

Willow thought about it a minute then said, "Well, you know Dawnie is perfectly fine with me here. After the baby is born, Elena will be about done with school. When she graduates, you can look at moving out of the Gilberts and getting a bigger place."

Buffy brightened. "That sounds perfect! Thanks!" she said. The doorbell rang. "Come in!"

The door opened. It was Alaric. "Ladies," he said with a smile.

Buffy lit up at his presence. "I thought you were staying at the Gilberts' tonight," she said, standing to greet him.

"Well, I was going to, but then I missed you too much," he said, kissing her.

Willow smiled at the happy couple. It was so nice to see Buffy truly happy. Willow didn't think she'd ever really seen her that way—not since she'd known her anyway. The ever-present shadows that had been her constant companion since Willow had erroneously pulled her out of heaven were finally gone. "You two are too cute!" she observed.

Buffy grinned. "I know," she said smugly. "In less than a month, we are going to be husband and wife. How cool is that?"

"Way cool," Willow said in agreement.

"Have you eaten?" Buffy asked him.

"Yes," he said. "Getting any cravings yet? I can run to the store."

She gave him a smile of approval. "I so love having a man cater to my every whim!" she exclaimed.

Willow laughed. "Okay, no more talk. I've got to get these projects done if I want any Becca time this weekend!" she declared.

"We'll take our party upstairs," Buffy said. "Dawn is closing tonight, so she won't be home until ten."

"Got it," Willow said.

Rick and Buffy went up to their room. He surfed the channels on her TV while she ate. She fell asleep against him watching reruns of I Love Lucy. It had been a perfect evening.

******To Be Continued******

Does happiness ever last in Mystic Falls? Enjoy it while it lasts! Thanks for reading! More drama coming up.

Chapter Text

******The Next Morning*******

Buffy awoke unable to breath. She opened her eyes but couldn't see because it was still dark outside. Someone had their hands around her throat. Fear for Rick filled her. She had too much to lose to be strangled in her bed by some psycho. She punched the guy hard with her fist. His grip didn't loosen enough, so she did it again. The hand released her throat. She used her feet to throw the guy off of her, knocking over the lamp. It hit the floor with a loud crash.

She took a deep breath, reaching out and not finding Rick. "Rick!" she called out, fear for him gripping her.

The bedroom door opened, and the light came on.

"What's going on?" Willow asked.

Wide-eyed, Buffy looked for Rick and saw him on the floor next to the bed. "Rick!" she exclaimed, scrambling to him.

"Check the house," she told Willow. "Someone is here."

Looking alarmed, Willow ran to check on Dawn.

"What's going on?" Rick asked, blinking in confusion. "Why am I on the floor?"

Willow came into the room with Dawn on her heels. "The front door is shut and locked," she said, going to Buffy's window and checking it.

"Someone was here, and they tried to strangle me," Buffy said. "I fought them off. That's how the lamp got broke."

They looked at the lamp that was a few feet from Rick. Willow frowned. "Do you think it's possible Rick was experiencing night terrors?" she asked.

"You think this was Rick?" Buffy asked incredulously.

"It makes the most sense," Willow said. "There's no evidence of an intruder."

"Does your face hurt?" Dawn asked him.

Wincing, Rick nodded as he rubbed his jaw. "I feel like I got hit by a sledgehammer," he admitted.

"That would be Buffy," Dawn said.

Frowning, Buffy held out her hand to help him up. "I don't understand. He's never had nightmares," she said. "He doesn't even talk in his sleep."

Rick sat on the bed, confused and upset. "How could I hurt you and not know it?" he asked.

She sat down next to him, holding his hand. "How did I not realize it was you?" she asked. She put her other hand on his cheek, checking him out. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I can't believe I tried to kill you in my sleep," he said, feeling sick at the thought.

"I can get you some crystals to keep on you when you sleep that ward off restless sleep and nightmares," Willow said. "Also, I have some herbal tea that should help you sleep better."

"I think I should go home," he said, hating the idea that he could hurt Buffy without realizing it.

"No!" Buffy insisted. "We're going to be married in less than a month. I don't plan on sleeping alone from my husband."

"Okay," he said in resignation. "But for the rest of the night, I'm sleeping on the couch." He got up and left the room.

"I'll get him a blanket and pillow," Dawn offered.

Buffy gave her a grateful look before she left. "What's going on, Will?" she asked, freaked out.

"I'm sure his nerves about being married and a father have mixed with some horrific vampire slaying memories someone," Willow said.

"So marrying me is going to make him crazy?" she asked in outrage.

"That's not what I'm saying!" Willow said quickly. "I just meant stress can stir up other feelings of anxiety that are unrelated. He's had a few pretty horrific things happen to him. A nightmare isn't unheard of."

"But he tried to strangle me," Buffy said, her eyes filling with tears. "I could never hurt him, not even if I wasn't in my right mind."

"Let's not forget the time you weren't in your right mind and almost killed all of us, including your sister,' Willow reminded her.

Buffy winced. The time Warren's mojo how somehow convinced her that she was really still in the mental hospital in L.A. and that the being a slayer was just a delusion. "Not one of my finer moments," she agreed.

"Exactly. Rick will get pass this, too," Willow said. "We'll help him."

Buffy felt reassured. "I guess it's not so bad. He doesn't have a demon in him that wants to kill me," she said with a smile.

"Exactly!" Willow said beaming. "It's going to be fine." And she really thought so.

*****New Orleans*****

Kol was reminding Xander of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh more and more. He was bouncing up and down as they left the New Orleans airport.

"Excited much?" Xander asked with a grin.

"New Orleans is the most amazing city on Earth!" Kol said eagerly. "The food, the music, the witches!"

"The witches?" Xander asked in surprise.

"Some of the most beautiful women I've ever known were witches," Kol said with a dreamy sigh.

"So you know a lot of witches in this city?" Oz asked Elijah.

"We've not been here in almost a hundred years," Elijah said. "However, we do have a home in the French Quarter."

"Our family help found this city over three hundred years ago," Kol bragged. "It was the last real home we had as a family."

"Why did you leave?" Xander asked.

"Our father. He killed most of our friends and allies," Elijah said, his eyes darkening at the memory. "We barely escaped."

"I was already daggered at the point," Kol said with a glare.

"Your escapades would've brought Father to our door much earlier," Elijah said, unapologetic.

"I'm going to hail a cab," Xander said, hoping to prevent the argument.

"It is not necessary," Elijah said. "Our car is here." They looked, and a limo driver was holding a sign with their name on it.

"Sweet!" Xander said excitedly, slapping Elijah on the back and bounding ahead, Kol on his heels.

"I don't know how things will go down because this city is unpredictable. Be vigilant and be on your guard," Elijah advised Oz.

Oz nodded in understanding. Twenty minutes later, the car paused in front of a huge gate. A large, looming mansion could be seen in the distance. However, it wasn't dark and empty like Oz expected. It was lit up and cars were crammed everywhere.

Xander peered out the window. "Did you plan a party for us?" he asked Elijah with a grin.

"No," Elijah said. "It seems someone has taken up residence in our home in our long absence."

"That sucks," Xander said.

"For them," Kol said crossly. "Who would dare?"

"Easy, brother. We cannot begin our time in this city at war with its people," Elijah said. "Remember why we are here. We need help." He gave a pointed look to Oz.

They rolled through the gate, the limo stopping in front of the entrance to the house. People were milling about at the entrance. Oz could tell immediately that most of them were vampires. However, there were a few humans. It was unexpected, but he said nothing as he followed Xander and Kol out of the car.

"They have turned our home into a frat house!" Kol said angrily.

"I would think this would please you, brother," Elijah said with a smile. "You always enjoyed a good party."

"Only ones that I'm throwing," he clarified. Elijah smiled and said nothing.

They walked into the entrance. It opened up into an open courtyard. There were close to a hundred bodies dancing in the yard. Elijah looked around, searching for a familiar face. There he was. One he and his family thought was long dead.

"Who's in charge?" Kol asked, grabbing a nearby vampire. The vampire pointed to an attractive African-American in his twenties that was standing on the second story balcony. Before Elijah could restrain him, he jumped a level to the balcony where the leader stood. "So you dare make yourself at home in our home?"

The man stood with another, who glared at him and moved in front of the leader. "You dare to challenge Marcel?" he asked.

Kol gave him a look of derision. "Marcel? My brother's lackey?" he asked.

The vampire in question stepped forward, recognizing him. "Kol Mikaelson? Is that really you?"

Elijah jumped up next to his brother. "Marcelus. We didn't realize you survived our father's massacre," he said.

"I did. I woke to find my so-called family had abandoned me, so I made myself another," Marcel said, gesturing to the partiers.

"This is your new family?" Kol said with a dismissive smirk.

"Forgive my brother. He learned his manners from Niklaus," Elijah said, giving Marcel an easy smile.

"Is Klaus here also?" Marcel asked looking down for a sign of him. He saw no Klaus but spotted two strangers.

"No," Elijah said. "He sent us ahead while he attends to other things. He's had a run of bad luck lately and needed a time out."

Marcel grinned. "Someone got the better of Klaus?" he asked.

"Something like that," Elijah said dismissively. "We came because we need help for a friend." He motioned for Xander and Oz, who went around to the stairs instead of jumping up as they had.

"Since you stole our house, helping us should be the least you could do," Kol said to him.

Marcel glared and took a step forward. Before he could attack Kol with words or his fist, Elijah intervened. "Come now, Kol. Marcel is family. He is welcome to care for our home in our absence," he said diplomatically.

Marcel was conflicted by Elijah's words. On one hand, being referred to as family by a Mikaelson soothed an emptiness he'd had inside for decades. This was the family who had saved him from the whip. Klaus had sired him and made him the man he was. On the other hand, he resented the implication that the family was doing him a favor. Before he could respond yet again, they were interrupted.

"Nice party. Lots of hot babes. Do the humans know about vampires here?" Xander asked, looking around.

"These are our friends Xander and Oz," Elijah introduced.

Xander smiled and held out his hand. "Nice to meet you," he said.

Marcel was caught off guard by the man's friendliness. He didn't seem like the kind of friend the Mikaelsons normally had. The shorter redhead didn't say a word. Marcel shook Xander's hand.

"I'm Marcel. That's Thierry," he said, gesturing to his friend next to him. "The other guy is Diego."

"So what's the occasion?" Xander asked. "For the party?"

"It's Wednesday," Marcel replied.

Xander laughed. "Oh, that's rich! I like how you think!" he said with admiration.

"So what exactly brings you to town after all these years?" Marcel asked. "Still running from your father?"

"Our father is dead. My siblings and I killed him just this past week," Elijah said coolly. "We came because we needed some help with a problem. We're hoping someone in the Quarter could help."

"I know everyone in the Quarter, so I'm sure I can help," Marcel said easily.

"We need a witch that can break a hex," Xander supplied.

Marcel exchanged a look with Thierry. "Well, that may be a problem," he said.

"Why? Are there still witches in the French Quarter?" Kol asked.

"Yes, but vampires rule this city. I got rid of the werewolves, and I control the witches," Marcel announced, flashing a wide smile.

Oz tensed at his words, clutching his hands to keep control. Xander put a hand on his shoulder. "Easy," he whispered.

Marcel noticed Oz's flash of yellow eyes. "You brought a werewolf into my house?" he asked angrily.

"Your house?" Kol replied, offended. "You forget your place!"

"Oz isn't a werewolf exactly," Xander explained. "He's also a vampire."

"A hybrid?" Marcel asked in surprise. "Like Klaus?"

"Yes," Elijah said. "He's very important to Niklaus, so any attempt to harm him will be an attack against my brother."

Marcel said nothing. Then Diego stepped forward and told him, "It's time."

"Time for what?" Kol asked.

"This is how I keep my guys happy and in check," Marcel said with satisfaction. "The blood never stops flowing, and the party never ends." He gave a signal and all over the room vampires began feeding on the humans.

"What are you doing?" Xander asked, horrified.

Marcel looked at him in surprise. "Aren't you a vampire? Aren't you familiar with how it works?" he asked. Diego laughed and jumped down to pounce on a female.

"If you do this all the time, don't the bodies cause a problem?" Kol asked. The lawlessness of the 1800s was no longer the norm. In this new modern era he had awoken in, a vamp couldn't kill indiscriminately without causing panic and police detectives investigating. It was most constraining.

"We don't kill them. We give them some blood and wipe their memories," Marcel explained.

"That works?" Kol asked in surprise.

"For the most part," Marcel said with a shrug. "Occasionally, someone gets overeager, but we try to keep the body count down."

"How nice for you," Elijah said dryly.

A growl came from Oz. "You are preying on these people! It is wrong!" he snarled.

Thierry stepped forward, insulted. "You dare insult us!" he exclaimed.

Before anyone could react, Oz pounced on him, biting him. Elijah moved quickly, pulling Oz off him.

"Oz is hexed. He can't control himself all the time. Please. We don't want a fight," Elijah said.

"Not to mention their brother is very attached to him," Xander said with a grin.

"Not to mention a werewolf bite is deadly to vampires, and only Niklaus can save him," Kol said, grinning in amusement. "Which he won't do if you try to hurt Oz, who is like his only friend."

"I was his friend," Marcel reminded them.

"You were more than that," Elijah countered. "We mourned you. Why did you not come find us?"

"You fled and left me for dead," Marcel said, his air of geniality gone. "I wasn't about to leave my home. Now I've built everything I could want. I have guys that are loyal to me. Friends who would die for me. This is my home, my family. Now you've come and endangered it all and demand something from me? I don't think so!"

Kol moved to rip his head off, but Elijah grabbed his arm, restraining him. "We will take our leave. When you decide your friend's life is worth more than your pride, you will find us at the Palace Royale," Elijah said.

"I'm not going to let him just feed on humans," Oz said coldly.

"Me either!" Xander announced.

Marcel laughed. "My sire has now surrounded himself with vegetarian vampires? Seriously?" he asked, incredulous.

"We don't kill humans," Xander said hotly.

"Ever?" Marcel asked in surprise.

"They are the rarest of creatures," Elijah said, a small smile gracing his face. "They have mastered their blood lust."

Marcel didn't know what to think, but he knew the Mikaelsons very well. He knew that while Klaus was rash and impulsive and Kol reckless, Elijah was cold as ice—slow to anger. However, he was impossible to control once roused. Marcel had no plans to rouse him. "It's best if you leave," he said, glancing at Thierry, who had slumped to the ground.

Elijah led his brother and their friends out of their former home. No one spoke until they got into the limo.

"Our brother is going to be pissed," Kol said.

"Yes," Elijah said grimly. Marcel controlled the witches and thought he could dictate terms to them. The situation was most precarious.

*****Mystic Falls*****

Willow was in class teaching when Buffy interrupted, upset. Alaric was with her. "I need to speak with you, Will," she said urgently. "Rick will watch your class."

Willow's stomach knotted in fear. Something was very wrong. It'd been two days since Rick had attempted to strangle Buffy in her sleep. They'd kept a watchful eye and had no other incidents. However, Willow still worried. "What's wrong?" she asked when they got outside the class.

"We got a call at the house from New York," Buffy said, her eyes filling with tears of sympathy.

"Has something happened to my parents?" Willow asked, her hand going to her mouth.

"There was some type of home invasion, Will. Your mom is missing," Buffy said.

"Oh goddess!" she gasped. "My dad? Is he okay?"

"I'm sorry, Will," Buffy said, putting her hand on Willow's shoulder. "Your dad is dead."

Willow looked at her in horror. This couldn't be happening.

******To Be Continued*******

Chapter Text

******The Next Day******

Willow was a wreck. Her father was dead, and her mother was missing. Her parents were so normal and stable that it never occurred to her that something bad could happen to them in New York City. They weren't staying in the Bronx. They were living in a respectable neighborhood, so she couldn't fathom something bad happening to them.

"Are you okay?" Dawn asked tentatively. She knew Willow hadn't been close to her parents, but she'd been with Will when they'd visited in the spring. They seemed nice and loved her even if they didn't understand her. Dawn knew how awful it was to lose a parent. Now Willow may have lost both.

Willow was packing a bag and wiped her cheeks. "I don't know why I'm crying. It could be a mistake. I'm going to go to New York and do a locator spell and find them. Everything's going to be all right," she said.

"Sweetie, the police found your father's body," Rebekah said gently. "His throat was slashed. They suspect a home invasion or a domestic dispute."

Willow's eyes flashed. "My mother would never hurt my father! Sure, she tried to burn me at the stake that one time, but she was under a magical compulsion! In her right mind, she'd never do that!" Willow exclaimed.

"Of course not," Buffy said soothingly. "My mom was there, too. We will go and find your mom. Whoever took her will regret it."

"I don't think it's a good idea, Buffy, for you to go," Dawn said worriedly. She glanced at Rick for some help.

"She's right, Buffy. We have a wedding to plan," Rick reminded her.

"And you're pregnant," Dawn added. "You're still in your first trimester. You should stay here."

"I can't let Will face that alone!" Buffy said. She hated that Oz and Xander were tied up in New Orleans because both would be great second choices.

"We can call Faith. She can meet her in New York," Dawn said.

"Faith's not exactly a soothing presence," Buffy said with a frown.

"We can't pull her away from the hellmouth every time one of us needs a hand to hold," Willow said.

"I am going with her. She won't be alone," Rebekah stated.

Willow gave her a watery smile. "Thank you," she said. She turned to Rick. "I emailed you my lesson plans for the week. Can you make sure the sub gets them?"

"I will. Don't worry," he said.

"I just can't believe this," Willow said. "Why would someone want to kill my dad?"

"People get murdered all the time in New York City. I looked it up," Dawn said. "The crime rates have gone down over the past decade or so, but it's still a city of 9 million people."

"It's hard to imagine so many people," Rebekah said.

"You've never been to New York City?" Dawn asked.

"Not since the 1800s," she relied. "It was crowded and dirty. We were not impressed."

"It's still crowded, but it's much improved," Willow said, giving her a small smile. She zipped up her suitcase. "I'm ready. Do we need to go get your stuff?"

"It's already in your car," Rebekah said. "You can pay to keep your car at the airport, so we won't have to worry about someone meeting us when we return."

"Good idea," Willow said. She opened her mouth, but Rebekah cut her off.

"I'm driving," she informed her.

Willow hugged her. "Thank you," she said.

"Call us when you get there," Buffy said, walking down the stairs with them.

"Call us if you find out anything," Dawn said.

"I will," Willow said, hugging them goodbye. She and Rebekah left for the airport.

Buffy and Dawn stood in the doorway watching them drive off. It didn't feel right that she was leaving without them. "Do you think she'll be okay?" Dawn asked worriedly.

"I hope so," Buffy said, equally concerned. She put her hand on her stomach, cradling her baby. She wasn't sure she'd ever get used to sitting on the sidelines.

*****New York*****

When they arrived in New York, Willow didn't know if she should go to her parent's apartment first or the morgue where her father's body was. Since it didn't seem real, she decided to go to the morgue first.

Rebekah was by her side the entire time. It took them several minutes of waiting before they were allowed to see the body. Even though Willow spent her life fighting and killing demons, she'd not seen very many dead humans. Seeing her father's pale, lifeless corpse was horrifying. The slash at his neck was obvious. When she saw it, she sagged against Rebekah, who held her.

"That's him. That's my father," she told the medical examiner. "I can't believe it."

"If it's any consolation, it seemed to be quick. He had very little defensive wounds, which would indicate that he never got much of a chance to fight back. It was over before he realized what was happening," the medical examiner told her.

"I guess that's good," Willow murmured. Was it? Was it good to die with barely a whimper or fight? However, her studious father was no fighter. She was glad he hadn't been tortured.

Willow held it together until they arrived at her parent's apartment. The evidence of a fight showed that her parents had put up a struggle—at least one of her parents did. Since they'd taken her mother, she figured her mother saw her dad killed and then was terrified and tried to escape. It broke Willow's heart to know the terror her mother must've felt. She may still be out there somewhere—terrified.

Unable to keep it inside any longer, she fell to her knees, sobbing. Rebekah joined her on the floor, her arms around Willow while she cried.

*****New Orleans*****

Klaus walked down the French Quarter feeling well satisfied. The witch would even now be crushed at the bad family news, and he could honestly say it wasn't him that harmed her family. He could face his brother and Oz with a clear conscience. It was so nice being brilliant and conniving.

He met his family at the Palace Royale. "Why are we here and not at our home in the Quarter?" he asked Elijah.

"Our home has been stolen," Kol replied.

Klaus looked at Elijah expectantly.

"It seems your adopted son Marcellus is alive and residing there," Elijah said.

A look of joy came over Klaus. "Marcel is alive?" he asked.

"It seems he not only survived our father's massacre in the Quarter, but he has thrived," Elijah said.

"He says the city is his and that he got rid of the werewolves and controls the witches," Kol shared.

"He feeds on the humans like they're cattle," Oz said, his eyes flashing yellow. Klaus could tell that he was hanging on by a thread.

"But he doesn't kill them," Xander interjected quickly.

Klaus couldn't believe his adopted son was alive. His happiness at the news was crushed with the realization that Marcel never looked for him. He had abandoned his family. "Did you ask why he did not come to us?" Klaus asked, feeling hurt.

"I would assume it was because New Orleans is his home," Elijah said. "We left him after all."

"I would see him now," Klaus said.

"Would you like me to accompany you?" Elijah asked.

"If you'd like," Klaus said indifferently.

Elijah turned to Xander, putting his hand on his shoulder. "Stay with Kol. We will return," Elijah said to him. He nodded. Kol grinned. Elijah frowned at his baby brother. "Do not get into trouble."

"Oz will keep them out of trouble," Klaus said to his brother.

"I think I should stay here," Oz said. "It's getting harder and harder to keep control. I'm afraid I'm going to hurt someone."

"Then you shall come with us," Klaus said. "I will keep you from hurting anyone."

Oz nodded, relieved. "Do you think one of the witches here can help?"

"If anyone can, they can. Ancestral magic is very powerful," Klaus said.

They left the hotel. Kol taking Xander to see the sights and explore the city while Klaus led them to their old home in the city.

"You and Xander seem quite close," Klaus observed as they were walking. He gave his brother a sly, knowing smile.

"Yes. I have grown quite fond of him," Elijah said.

Klaus smirked but didn't say anything else. It wasn't long before they were at their own home. Standing outside the courtyard, he was bombarded with memories. They'd spent two hundred years in this city, building alliance, amassing a fortune. Their family had built this city. It was the last place he'd truly been happy. Then Mikael had come and destroyed it all.

They walked inside; vampires were lounging all over the place. Klaus ignored his impulse to rage against the intrusion. "They have made themselves right at home in our home!" Klaus fumed.

"Easy, brother," Elijah cautioned. "We need something from Marcellus. Let's not start a fight."

"Klaus Mikaelson!" Marcel called out from the balcony, grinning down. All activity stopped as he jumped down. "My sire, my friend! Welcome to my home."

"Your home? Don't you mean mine?" Klaus challenged.

Marcel grinned, holding out his hand. "What's mine is yours," Marcel said easily.

Klaus smiled, took his hand and embraced him. "You are a sight for sore eyes," Klaus said. "I did not know you were still alive."

"It wasn't easy, but I managed to come out of your father's massacre mostly unscathed," Marcel admitted.

"And you rushed to join us but couldn't find us?" Klaus questioned, more than a hint of sarcasm. "Or did you bother looking?"

"You ran like a bitch. You left me. I stayed and took care of the only home I ever knew," Marcel said flatly.

Klaus' eyes flashed with anger. "Let's not forget that I gave you that home. You had another before that, remember? I killed your slave master and freed you from a life of slavery," Klaus reminded him. Marcel was the son of the former governor of the state. It had been common practices for owners to impregnate their female slaves and then refuse to acknowledge them. Marcel's so-called father had allowed him to be abused in the hands of a handler who Klaus killed.

Elijah and Oz exchanged a glance. Oz wanted to rip into anyone that approached and snarled at a few vampires that got too close. Sensing a werewolf on the premises the vampires stepped back. A few recognized him as the one who'd bit one of them the night before.

"I know, Klaus. I'm grateful," Marcel said. "I'd be more grateful when you save Thierry. Your friend there bit him. He's really bad." He glared at Oz.

"I'm sorry," Oz said apologetically. "I can't always control myself."

"Oz is why we are here," Klaus said. "I found a way to make hybrids like myself, but Oz is so unique, I have no need for another." It was a good thing Kol wasn't there. He'd be snickering at Klaus' spin on things. "However, he's been hexed by a witch. He grows more dangerous daily, so I need a witch that can save him."

"I know a few that are knowledgeable about hexes. The witches recently put one on a human—a seminary student—who went crazy and killed nine of his classmates and himself," Marcel shared.

Oz looked horrified and clenched his hands that began to turn into claws. Klaus put his hand on his shoulder. "Look at me, Oz," Klaus said. He used compulsion. "You will not harm anyone here. You will remain calm and in control."

Oz nodded and let out a breath. "Thanks," he said in relief as his mind cleared somewhat.

Marcel frowned at the two of them, uneasy. "Will you help Thierry?" he asked.

"Of course," Klaus said with an easy smile. "Point the way." Marcel led them upstairs to one of the bedrooms—Kol's old room if he recalled. Once again, he was glad Kol had stayed behind.

Klaus grabbed a tumbler on the bar tray in the corner. Then he bit his wrist, draining blood into the cup. He handed it to Marcel. "This will do it," he said.

Marcel gave him a grateful look. "Thanks," he said. Then he quickly moved to give Thierry the blood. Immediately, his eyes began to clear. Relieved, he turned toward Klaus. He led them out of the room. "I will take you to Agnes. She's one of the elders in the most powerful coven in the Quarter. She's probably the one who hexed the human."

"Can she be trusted?" Klaus asked as they walked down the stairs to the courtyard.

"No. None of them can be. About a month ago, they tried to slaughter some of their own girls for one of their spells to increase their power. I saved Davina—the last one waiting to be killed. It stopped their spell, and she absorbed the magics meant for the coven. They're pretty pissed at me," Marcel said.

"If this girl is so powerful, maybe she should be the one we speak to," Elijah suggested.

"We will if it comes to it, but she's young and not fully trained," Marcel said. "I doubt she'll know anything about hexes."

Klaus clenched his fist in frustration. "If they won't help, I'll just kill them all!" he fumed.

Oz looked at him in disappointment. "No. You won't," he said simply.

"I am not bloody well going to let you go mad and die!" Klaus responded angrily.

"You already killed me once," Oz pointed out. "What will be, will be."

Marcel watched their interaction in surprise. "You made a Buddhist monk your hybrid?" he asked incredulously.

"I'm not a monk," Oz said.

"You may as well be since you're only devoted to a woman who loves my sister!" Klaus snarled.

Marcel gave him a sharp look. "Rebekah?" he asked.

Klaus smiled deviously. "Oh, yes, I'd forgotten. You loved my sister enough to defy me. You'll be happy to know that since you, no man has been able to satisfy her. Now she is in love with a witch who recently sent me to a hell dimension," Klaus shared in disgust.

Marcel's mouth fell open slightly in shock. He looked at Elijah for confirmation. "Niklaus has been most impulsive of late and has discovered that he's not the most powerful creature on Earth after all," Elijah said.

Much to Klaus' annoyance, Marcel burst out laughing. "Bex always knew how to pick the ones that would most annoy you," Marcel said knowingly.

Klaus gave him a considering look. "Feel like taking a trip to Mystic Falls and rekindling your old flame? You now have my complete blessing!" Klaus encouraged.

Oz glared at him. "Have you not learned to stay out of our sister's love life?" Elijah said with a sigh.

"If he goes near Willow, I will kill him," Oz said coldly, his eyes flashing yellow.

Marcel frowned. "Better control your guy, Klaus. I'm not going to put up with his threats," Marcel said.

Oz blinked, his mind clearing. He gave Marcel an apologetic frown. "I'm sorry. I'm not normally like this," Oz said, disgusted with himself. "It's like a red haze of rage comes over me at the slightest provocation."

"If you knew my friend here, you would know that he normally has more self-control than anyone I've ever known," Klaus said.

Marcel, who was normally a good-natured man, smiled easily. "Anyone that can spend quality time with Klaus and not want to kill him, definitely has that!" Marcel said, causing the brother to chuckle and Oz to relax.

"So where can we find this Agnes?" Klaus asked.

"Follow me," Marcel said, leading them through the throng of people in the Quarter.

*****Mystic Falls*****

Willow had been gone most of the day, and Buffy was already worried. She went to work distracted. It seemed her fellow deputies were particularly needy today. Even though she by no means had seniority, she was left in charge by the town's council when Liz was out of town. The council knew who she was and her abilities. Several of the deputies did know who she was and automatically deferred to her. She really liked her job. Who would've thought that high school assessment all those years ago would be so accurate?

She got a call on her radio. "There's a body in the woods," the dispatcher said.

Concerned, she and her partner Tom headed out.

"A hiker came across the body," a deputy told her as she approached.

Buffy looked down at the man. "His throat is slashed," she said, somewhat relieved it was a human kill.

"The body has probably been here for two days," her partner said.

"Do we know who he is?" Buffy asked Tom.

"Yes. He is a member of the council," Tom said grim.

"So was this a random killing or is someone targeting the council?" Buffy wondered aloud.

"If another body shows up, we'll have our answer," Tom said.

Buffy sighed. She'd never been in charge of a murder investigation before. She really hoped there wouldn't be any more bodies.

*****Chapter End*****

I am manipulation the timeline a bit on The Originals to fit my story (Harvest/Davina stuff).

Chapter Text

*****New Orleans*****

Marcel went with unvoiced trepidation to the witches' sanctuary in the Quarter. He had done much to alienate the witches. He wasn't sure they'd be very helpful. He also knew that Klaus didn't handle the word no very well. He glanced over at Klaus, who was pointing out sights to his hybrid. Marcel would've said he knew Klaus better than anyone except his siblings, but he had never seen Klaus so protective of someone.

"So I gotta warn you," Marcel told Klaus, "that I've really pissed off the witches. It might not garner you any goodwill, me showing up with you."

"Maybe you should point out which place is hers, and we'll go in without you," Elijah suggested.

Marcel looked at Klaus, who shrugged. "I am grateful for your help, Marcel. I will let you know how it goes," Klaus said, putting his hand on his shoulder.

They walked into a shop called Jardin Gris Voodoo Shop. A very attractive mocha colored woman with long curly hair was behind the counter. She smiled at them when they stepped in the door, but her smile faltered as she realized what they were.

"I don't want any trouble," she said quickly.

"We're not here to cause trouble," Elijah said, flashing her his most charming smile. "We're looking for some help. We were told that a woman named Agnes might be here. Do you know her?"

The woman eyed them warily. "I know an Agnes. Why do you want her?" she asked.

Impatiently, Klaus stepped forward. "Come now. You know what we are. We know what you are. We need a witch to break a hex. If you cannot help us, bring the witch we seek," Klaus said.

"What my brother is trying to say," Elijah said, stepping forward after glaring at Klaus, "is we have a problem only someone with special skills can help."

"You're Elijah Mikaelson, aren't you?" the woman asked.

"How do you know that?" Elijah asked.

"An original vampire who always wears a suit? It's not hard to figure out," the woman smiled.

"Yes, that's my name. This is my brother Klaus and our friend Oz. Forgive me, but we didn't catch your name," Elijah said, smiling at her.

"Sabine," the witch said. "I can call Agnes, but I'm not sure she will help you. Marcel has forbidden magic in the Quarter."

"Don't worry about Marcel," Klaus said. "He won't be interfering with this."

Sabine stared at them a moment and then nodded. "Excuse me," she said. Then she went behind some beads.

Oz was frowning. "Something's not right about that woman," he murmured.

"She's a witch. Sometimes, they cause our hackles to rise," Klaus said.

"No. It's something else," Oz said, unsure how to explain it. "There's something familiar about her." The mark on his hand burned, and he looked down at it expecting to see it bright red. It wasn't, but he rubbed it. His world didn't seem to make much sense in the weeks that he'd been hexed. Oz only knew that he didn't have much time left.

Elijah frowned while Klaus rolled his eyes. "Sometimes beautiful women all begin looking the same," Klaus said with a shrug. "It means nothing."

A few minutes later, Sabine returned and motioned with her hand. "Come," she said.

They followed her into a back room. It seemed to be a storage room of sorts with a small desk sat in the corner. No one else was there, and Klaus was growing impatient. Elijah put a restraining hand on him.

"Patience, brother," Elijah murmured.

Finally, an older African-American woman came into the room from a back door. A redhead around the same age accompanied her.

"Gentlemen, this is Agnes and Bastiana, two of our elders," Sabine introduced.

"What would two original vampires want with us?" Agnes asked.

"We would seek your help in breaking a hex," Elijah said smoothly. "Our friend Oz was recently hexed by a witch from the Other Side."

The two elders exchanged looks. "How is that possible?" Bastiana, the redhead, inquired.

"A spell had allowed spirits from the Other Side to appear for a night in our city in Mystic Falls, Virginia, where will now live. One of our enemies marked our friend. It was a hex from a witch we knew long ago, and only another witch can break it," Elijah explained.

"Magic has been forbidden in the Quarter," Agnes said. "Vampires have only caused us pain. Why should we help you?"

"Because I will rip off your head if you don't!" Klaus exclaimed angrily.

Oz's eyes flashed yellow as he glared at Klaus. "Stop threatening people!" Oz ordered.

The three witches looked at the small hybrid in surprise. Agnes stepped forward. "Give me your hand," she ordered, keeping her eyes locked on Oz. Warily, Oz put his hexed hand into hers.

Agnes gasped. "How is this possible?" she asked.

"He's a hybrid like I am," Klaus explained.

"No. He's a cursed vampire, but his soul burns as bright as the sun. I've never seen such a thing!" she exclaimed, looking at Oz in awe.

"Oz is special," Elijah said.

"He's a bloody saint and doesn't deserve this hex!" Klaus said angrily.

Sabine and Bastiana stepped forward, curious. They put their hand over Agnes'.

"He is tainted still," Sabine said. "The hex is rooted deeply."

"Such a thing cannot be undone," Bastiana said as she stepped away, frowning at Oz.

"All magic can be undone. There is always a loophole of some kind," Elijah said.

"Not one that doesn't require a blood sacrifice," Agnes said.

"Who do I need to kill?" Klaus asked.

Oz glared at him. "No one is dying for me!" he exclaimed. "You are not going to kill anyone!"

"I cannot allow you to die!" Klaus said, hating the feeling of helplessness his young hybrid roused in him.

"We all die," Oz said sagely. "It's part of the cycle of life. I do not fear death."

"Well, I am not prepared to lose you so soon!" Klaus growled.

The witches were taken aback by the interaction between the hybrids. Klaus' reputation had painted him as ruthless and uncaring—cruel even to his own family. However, this young man meant much to him—the young hybrid was unexpected.

"Have you ever taken a human life?" Agnes asked Oz.

"No," Oz said. "I've lost control a few times a hurt a few people, but I've never killed anyone."

"How did he activate his curse?" Sabine inquired. "A werewolf curse is only activated when they take an innocent life."

"He is from the polluted strain," Klaus explained. "He was bitten, not cursed."

"We may be able to do something, but we will have to do some research," Agnes said.

"What will you do for us?" Sabine asked. "Marcel holds us in subjugation. We cannot practice any magic, which is our right!"

"I will talk to him," Klaus said. "I'm sure I can persuade him to see reason."

"Thank you for your time, ladies," Elijah said, inclining his head slightly.

"Thanks," Oz said.

The witches watched them leave. "Most unusual," murmured Agnes.

"It doesn't matter. The Mikaelsons are not to be trusted," Sabine said, a bitter edge to her voice.

Bastiana gave her an inquiring look. "I don't believe they have been in this city in our life lifetime. How do you know anything about them?" she asked.

"They're vampires, aren't they?" Sabine pointed out.

"The young hybrid, though, isn't like them," Agnes said. "Such a one should receive our help."

"The cost is too high. The risk is too great," Bastiana added.

"Klaus won't let him do what is necessary," Sabine said.

"If he wants to save his friend, he'll have no choice," Agnes said grimly.

*****New York*****

Willow decided not to pack up her parents' apartment because she was hopeful that her mother would return. After she and Rebekah cleaned up the mess in the place, she wanted to do a locator spell to see if she could find her mother. However, she was so exhausted that Rebekah suggested she take a nap. She fell asleep. Unfortunately, her sleep wasn't very restful but filled with images of her mother dead with her own throat slashed.

She woke up with a gasp. Rebekah was next to her at the foot of the couch—she'd refused to lay on her parents' bed. "Are you okay, sweetheart?" Rebekah asked in concern.

"No. I had horrible dreams," she said, rubbing her eyes. "I found my mom dead like my father."

"Don't you think if she was dead, her body would've been found here, too?" Rebekah pointed out.

"Maybe," Willow said. She pulled her legs up, sitting up on the couch.

"Why don't you freshen up, and then we'll go get some dinner?" Rebekah suggested. "A bit of fresh air will do you some good."

Willow agreed and went to the bathroom. A short time later, they were outside walking down the block. Neither of them noticed they were being followed.

"See—that's the Red Witch," Drusilla said to her companion, pointing across the street. "The woman with her is very strong. We don't want to bother her now. No, we want the Red Witch to lead us to the slayer." Drusilla hummed happily to herself in anticipation. "Yes, I know the no-fun-hybrid told me to only make the witch suffer, but if I hurt the slayer, the Red Witch will suffer, so it's the same thing." Drusilla clapped her hands. Then she lifted her finger to her lips. "Ssshh! We don't want them to hear us!" Giggling, she followed Willow and Rebekah as they moved down the street.

*****Los Angeles*****

Damon and Spike had convinced Illyria and Angel to go to a new bar with them after killing the newest demon bad of the week. Illyria scanned her memories of Fred and knew this was a common practice amongst mortals. She didn't enjoy the repugnant taste of alcohol and couldn't get drunk, but she had a memory of a bar fight that Fred witnessed once. She was hopeful that one would occur.

They found a table in the corner, so they could watch the room. Damon and Spike went to the bar to get their drinks. While they were waiting, a female body pressed itself against Spike's backside. He grinned and turned around.

"Did you miss me?" Katherine asked with a coy smile.

"Like syphilis," Damon said with a snort.

Spike grinned, surprised and happy to see her. "I thought you had flown the coop for good," he said.

"I didn't know how long you were going to be gone," Katherine said. "You didn't tell me. Nor did you call." She gave him a frown of rebuke.

"I'm sorry, my sweet dove," Spike said nuzzling her neck.

"Now I'm officially sick," Damon said, making a gagging noise as he accepted the three drinks.

He took them back to the table, leaving Spike with his reconciliation with Katherine.

Angel watched him approach. "So Katherine is back," Angel observed, watching them.

Illyria brightened. "This pleases me," she said.

Damon glared at her. "If you knew how soulless and conniving the woman was, you wouldn't be so pleased!" Damon told her.

"My most formidable enemies were particularly conniving. It's a trait I admire," Illyria said, unconcerned.

"You would," Damon muttered.

"I spent two hundred years with a woman like that," Angel shared, surprising both of them. He never shared personal things with them. All the things they knew they knew from Spike.

"Really?" Damon asked. "You were close to a woman that wasn't Buffy?"

"I only spent three years with Buffy," Angel replied. "I love Buffy. I will always love Buffy. However, Darla was the woman who sired me and made me the killer that became part of the Scourge of Europe."

"Connor's mother?" Illyria asked, tapping into Fred's memories like she did most of the time she was with the humans.

Angel nodded. "Darla was beautiful, deadly, and lived to keep me panting after her," Angel said with a fond smile. After all they had been through, he could now think of her without bitterness. "She, unlike Katherine, really was a soulless demon."

"Who's Connor?" Damon asked, then frowned. "Wait. If she was a vampire, how did she become a mother?"

"Connor is my son," Angel said, causing Damon to choke on his drink.

"Excuse me? Did you say son? You have a son?" Damon inquired. "How is that possible?"

"I'm not exactly sure," Angel said with a shrug. "A fulfillment of a prophecy. The Higher Powers messing with me or wanting me to produce a son that would be a champion."

Damon was flabbergasted. "I have never heard of such a thing. Not even amongst my kind of vamps," Damon said.

"The most unusual aspect was that the son was born human," Illyria said. "Fred was most fascinated by that phenomenon. He does possess strength greater than a normal human, however. He is a formidable fighter—for a human."

Angel looked momentarily pained at the mention of Fred but didn't rebuke her. "In the end, Darla killed herself so that Connor could be born. Even the most soulless can surprise you," Angel said. "If Katherine was a woman you loved once, there has to be something worth loving in there."

"It was all a lie—a form of manipulation," Damon said, annoyed.

"No one lies completely all the time. Some of what she showed you was real," Angel said knowingly.

They watched Spike with her a few minutes. None of them were surprised when he led her out of the bar.

"Bet I know what they're going to do!" Damon said with a snicker.

Sarcasm often escaped Illyria, and she replied, "They are going to copulate."

Damon laughed at her while Angel actually smiled.

Later that night, Angel was in his room reading when a received a vision. He winced and closed his eyes as the hammer of pain hit him and the images came.

Buffy in a wedding dress. Screams filling the air. The assailant's face wasn't shown but blood splattered all over the pristine whiteness of the dress.

Angel shook off the vision, trying to recall every detail. There just never was enough! It was maddening at the best of times. When the vision was about the only woman he'd ever truly loved, anger built inside him. Someone was going to attack her on her wedding day. He had to find a way to stop it.

*****Chapter End*****

For those that never stuck with Angel season 5, Angel inherits Cordelia's visions before she dies. The Powers That Be gives him visions of people in danger that he is to help.

Chapter Text

*****Two Days Later*****

Angel was fed up with Spike. It's been almost two days since he had his vision of Buffy's nightmare of a wedding. He'd not called her yet because he didn't want to spoil her big day. Spike had been holed up in his room with Katherine since the bar. However, he needed someone that cared about Buffy to bounce ideas off. They needed to decide what to do. It wasn't that he needed Spike to do anything, but he had gotten used to having him put his two cents in. Angel hated to admit to anyone—even himself—how much he had come to depend on the bleach blonde vampire.

He went to Spike's room and banged on the door. "Spike! Open up! We have to talk!" he yelled. When he only heard a "Go away, I'm busy!" in response, he said, "It's about Buffy!"

A minute later, the door opened to a shirtless Spike. "What's about Buffy?" he asked in concern.

"Get dressed and meet me downstairs. We have things to discuss," Angel said grimly.

Spike nodded and shut the door. A very annoyed Katherine came out of his room, a sheet wrapped around her.

"Did I just hear him mention the name of your ex?" Katherine asked. She couldn't believe how quickly the man left her bed at the mere mention of the slayer's name. It was enough to give a girl a complex.

"Sorry, love, duty calls," Spike said easily. He grabbed a shirt.

"So just one mention of her name and I'm forgotten?" Katherine asked in outrage.

"Never forgotten, Kat. Just put on hold for a bit," Spike said with a wink as he opened the front door. "I'll be back soon."

Katherine grew angry as he left her without a backward glance. It wasn't often that a man so easily left her bed to focus on another woman. Annoyed, she found that she didn't like the feeling.

Katherine didn't know why she didn't just cut her losses. Was it jealousy or a sense of competition that kept her with Spike? He wasn't like any guy she'd ever been with, however. He had a sweetness and gallantry and that reminded her of Stefan, but a zest for life that was pure Damon.  However, his demon core gave him a fire and edge that neither Salvatore brother had.  Spike was an intriguing vampire, and she found that she wasn't quite ready to walk away.

Downstairs, Angel was imparting his dream to Spike and Illyria. "Her wedding isn't going to be perfect like she believes," Angel said with a frown. "There was blood and screams. I don't want this particular vision to come to past! We have to do something!"

"Did you call and warn her?" Spike asked.

"No. I don't want to upset her. She's pregnant, Spike!" Angel reminded him.

"Well, we can't do nothing," Spike said with a glare.

"I didn't purpose we do nothing," Angel said crossly. "We just need to decide what to do."

Illyria finally spoke. "The slayer has a protector. This man she is to marry. Surely, he should be made aware," she said.

"Good point," Spike said. "He's a hunter. He'll be on guard if he knows something is about to happen."

"Yes. We should tell Willow, too," Angel said.

"Should this news be delivered in person?" Spike asked.

"You and I both have a past relationship with Buffy. I don't think it's a good idea for us to be in Mystic Falls right now. No use muddying the waters," Angel said. "We can show up a day or two before the wedding."

"I will go," Illyria volunteered.

Spike looked surprised at her willingness. "Seriously?"

"You can't go about on your own," Angel said, shaking his head.

Illyria gave him her haughtiest sniff. "I have been in existence for eons. I do not need a babysitter," she said, borrowing a term from this world.

"She'll be fine," Spike said.

Angel frowned, not happy with the idea. "You couldn't go around as yourself," he pointed out.

"It bothers you when I take on my host's form, but it won't bother the people in Mystic Falls," she countered.

"That's true," Spike agreed.

"You can't go around killing or maiming," Angel said, unable to believe he was even considering it.

"Where would she stay?" Spike asked. "She really should stick around until the wedding. If we can't be there, I'd sure feel better if she was there watching out for Buffy."

"I can stay at my mate's house," Illyria said with relish.

"You don't have a mate," Spike reminded her.

"The hybrid and I have an arrangement. My presence will not be unwelcome," she said confidently.

"He's not even there, remember?" Angel said. "They went to New Orleans to find a cure for Oz."

"They'll return eventually," she said, unconcerned.

"Fine," Angel said in resignation. He called Willow and got voicemail. Frowning, he left a message telling her to call him. "Will's not answering."

Spike pulled out his phone and Angel asked, "Who are you calling?"

"Little Bit," Spike said.

"You can't tell her! That'd be worse than telling Buffy!" Angel scolded.

"Relax, old man. I'm not a bloody idiot," Spike said in annoyance. Then he spoke into the phone. "What's going on, Dawnie?... Really? No, I hadn't heard. That's too bad. So Red's in New York with Rebekah. Do you think they'd mind if Illyria crashed at her house? She's sick of Los Angeles and has never been to Virginia. We'll collect her at the wedding…Will Buffy care? I don't want to stress her out, so I thought I'd ask you….murders in town? Blue likes a good mystery. She may be useful…See you in a few weeks. Bye."

Damon had come into the room to overhear Spike's phone call. "You finally came up for air. What's going on?" he asked.

"Well, Angel face had a vision about Buffy and Alaric's wedding turning into a slaughter," Spike said.

Damon blanched. "What?" he asked. "Did you call him?"

"We thought we'd leave that to you seeing as we don't have his number, and we don't want to upset a pregnant bride," Spike said meaningfully.

"Illyria is going to go to Mystic Falls to keep an eye on things," Angel said.

"I should go with her," Damon said. "Alaric should hear this in person."

Angel looked relieved. "I'd feel a lot better if someone was around to keep an eye on Illyria. She wants to stay at the Mikaelsons' place," he said.

"She'll stay with me," Damon said. "I have a house fit for a queen," he said, flashing her a flirtatious smile. "Besides, if something ugly is going to happen to mess up my best friend's wedding, I want to be there to stop it."

"You're going to leave me alone with this bloke?" Spike asked with a pout.

Damon slapped him on the back. "It's a match made in heaven. You two were made for each other. As soon as you admit it, the happier you'll both be!" he said with a snicker.

Angel looked shock at the suggestion while Spike smirked. "A match made in hell maybe! I'd have to be in hell to ever rut with him!" Spike said.

"As if I'd want to have sex with you!" Angel replied crossly.

"Well, there was that one time in Wales with the girls," Spike said with a wink.

"I haven't been Angelus in a very long time," Angel said coldly.

Damon laughed. "Okay, you guys clearly need to spend some alone time together, so I'm going to go pack!" he said. He looked at Illyria and grinned. "We're going to have so much fun!"

Illyria frowned in confusion. "Is not the vampire doppelganger still here? My pet will not be alone regardless," she pointed out.

Damon curled his lip. "Oh, yeah. You're still lying down with that bitch," he said.

"Careful. That's no way to talk about a lady," Spike warned. He cut off Damon before Damon could say his predictable response. "You spent over a hundred years pining for this woman. She broke your heart—I get it.  Been rejected before, and I know how it sticks. But sod off the constant attacks. I may begin to think you're not as over her as you say."

Damon held up a hand in surrender. "Fine. I'll shut up. Let's not fight my last day in town. Not over her anyway," Damon said.

Spike smiled easily and nodded. "Works for me," he said.

"You're welcome back anytime," Angel told him.

"Thanks. What you guys do is something else. I appreciate you teaching me another way to be a predator," Damon told him.

"Take care of our girl," Spike told him.

"I'll take care of Rick's girl," Damon said with a smirk. He really hoped Rick got his happy ending. No one deserved it more. Damon had helped ruin his first love, his late wife, Isobel, who had been Elena’s birth mother. Maybe this time, he'd be able to do more good than harm.

******Mystic Falls******

Dawn hung up from Spike, considering. Why would Spike send Illyria to town? She was a loose cannon, so Dawn didn't buy his reason. However, she knew the unpredictable Old One would keep things interesting to say the least. She heard the front door open and went downstairs.

"Has Willow called?" Buffy asked her as she came down the stairs.

"No. Isn't she coming back tomorrow?" Dawn asked.

"Yes. She was burying her dad today and flying out tomorrow. Her locator spell didn't bring up anything. I think she's convinced her mom's dead, too," Buffy said as she took off her gun belt and laid it on the kitchen table.

Dawn frowned down at it. "I'm a minor. You can't keep a loaded gun on the table with a minor!" she told her sister.

"I'll put it up in a minute," Buffy said warily. "I've been working for sixteen hours. There's been a third council member murdered."

Dawn looked alarmed. "Another one? I just told Spike about the two, and now there's another? What's going on?" she asked in alarm.

"You talked to Spike? Is everything okay?" Buffy asked.

"Yes. He just called to tell me that Illyria would be coming to town until the wedding," Dawn said.

"Illyria? Really? How come?" she asked.

"I think they want a break from her," Dawn answered. "She has never witnessed a wedding."

"I'm too busy to corral her now," Buffy said with a frown.

"Hey, she's an ancient hell god. Maybe she can help," Dawn suggested.

The front door opened, and Alaric came in. "Ladies," he said smiling at them. He moved to kiss Buffy. "My bride-to-be."

Buffy laid her head on his chest. "I'm so glad to see you. It's been a grueling day," she said. She looked up at him. "Where were you last night? I thought you were going to stay here?"

Alaric frowned. "I guess I passed out before I had a chance to come over. Sorry," he said.

"It's for the best because you wouldn't have got much rest over here. Another council member was killed. I got a call around 2 a.m. I really wish Liz was here. I'm out of my depth trying to solve murders. I'm a kill the monster kind of girl, not the figure out who the monster is," Buffy said with a pout. "That's Willow and Giles area."

Alaric led her over to the couch to sit down. "So how was this one killed? Same way?" Alaric asked.

"Yes. It's a knife each time," Buffy said.

"Have you called Liz to discuss it with her?" Alaric asked.

"Do you think I should? I didn't want to ruin her vacation. She hasn't had one in a long time," Buffy said.

"She'll probably be upset if she isn't told," Alaric said. "Besides, she may give you some insight. Has forensics uncovered anything yet?"

"We have a foot print. That's about it," Buffy said. Her stomach growled audibly.

"Sounds like someone is hungry," Alaric said in amusement.

"Me and baby are famished!" she acknowledged, patting her stomach.

"I ordered some Chinese," Dawn said. "It should be here soon."

The doorbell rang, and Dawn got up to open the door. It was Matt carrying bags of food. He smiled at his girlfriend. "I got it all," Matt said.

"I thought you ordered Chinese?" Buffy said.

"Matt volunteered to pick it up," Dawn said, giving him a happy smile.

"Elena and Jeremy are on their way. I thought we could all eat together since we didn't get to have family night this week," Dawn said.

Buffy felt a stab of guilt. Between her wedding planning and the investigations, she'd been neglecting her makeshift family. "That's a great idea," she said. She started to get up. "I'll set the table."

"No, I will. You rest!" Alaric told her.

The front door opened, and Elena and Jeremy came in. Dawn laughed at their entrance.

"What's so funny?" Jeremy asked.

"I think it's funny that Rick, who practically lives here still rings the bell, and you two don't!" she pointed out.

Elena looked embarrassed. "Sorry. I never ring the bell at Stefan and Damon's," she confessed. "I've gotten out of the habit."

"No one needs to ring the doorbell," Buffy said. "You all are welcome here anytime. After my mom died, I don't think anyone ever rang the doorbell at our house. They just came in."

Jeremy pulled out a liter of soda. "We brought some drinks," he said.

"I brought something sweet," Elena said, pulling a cake out of her plastic bag. "I didn't bake it, though. I got it from the bakery."

Buffy's eyes lit up. "Is it chocolate? Baby is really wanting some chocolate!" she exclaimed rubbing her tummy.

"So now every craving you have gets blamed on the baby?" Dawn asked laughingly.

"Of course! It's my pregnant woman's right!" Buffy replied as she got up to look at the cake. "Can I start with dessert?"

"Momma can start with whatever she wants," Elena said laughingly.

They begin to disperse the food, crowding around the kitchen table. After everyone had spent a few minutes eating, Buffy inquired, "So has Caroline heard from Kol or Klaus? Xander hasn't called to give us an update."

"Kol called Caroline the other day complaining about squatters in the house they used to live in," Elena shared. "He said that Elijah won't let him run them off because the guy responsible has the city wired, and they need his help."

"So do they think they can help Oz?" Buffy asked.

"I guess so. There's a lot of witches in the French Quarter," Elena said.

"When's Willow coming back?" Jeremy asked.

"Tomorrow," Buffy supplied.

"They never tracked down her mom?" Elena wondered.

Dawn shook her head. "She did a locator spell and didn't find anything. Her mom's probably dead," Dawn said sadly.

Elena grimaced. "That's awful! Not knowing for sure has to be the worst thing," Elena said.

"If her mom was alive but taken out of the city, would her spell indicate that?" Jeremy inquired.

Buffy looked thoughtful. "I'm not sure. I guess it would depend on how far away she was taken," Buffy said.

"How about we talk about happy things?" Matt suggested. "Everyone who came into the Grille today would only talk about the murders. I'm sick of dark topics."

"The wedding is always a good thing to talk about!" Dawn said. "Where do you two want to go for your honeymoon?"

Buffy and Alaric exchanged a look. "Mexico," Alaric said.

"Really? But Buffy doesn't speak any Spanish!" Dawn said.

"I don't have to. Alaric knows enough to get by," Buffy said. "I'll get my beach time—one thing I really miss about California. And he can explore some ancient Aztec ruins."

"Incas actually," Alaric said with a smile.

"You're going to dig in the dirt on your honeymoon? Man, you got issues!" Jeremy said laughingly.

They joked around, talking wedding time. It was good to relax and push all their worries out of their mind.

Buffy went to bed wrapped in Alaric's arms. Her exhaustion caused her to sleep deeply, so she never noticed as Alaric slipped from her bed. He looked down at her, his lips curled in disgust. His fists clenched as he itched to put her out of her misery. A slayer who allowed vampires to live, who loved vampires was not to be tolerated. He glanced down at her stomach. Only the innocent life within her kept her safe. Once, he'd lost control. However, he knew what was right. Unlike her, he wouldn't forget who the bad guys were or what his responsibilities were. He went to his jacket tossed carelessly on a chair and put it on. In the inside pocket, he felt for his blade. When he felt its comforting presence, he gave a smug smile. Time to cleanse the town of its vampire lovers. The hypocrisy of the Council would be addressed first. Then, he'll turn his attention to the vampires daring to live in daylight.

He would kill them all.

******Chapter End******

Yes, this is the storyline from season 3 that has Rick's hunter side take on its own psycho personality. Reviews are welcome!

Chapter Text

*****New Orleans*****

Xander had enjoyed the past few days in New Orleans. The city was alive in a way that no city he'd ever been to was. There was a zest for life that seemed to pulsate through the French Quarter. The history of the city seemed to be the foundation that moved people. There was such pride in the people who lived there. The visitors loved every moment, and Xander was no exception. The street music, the food, the art that was everywhere—it was incredible. While they waited for the witches to get back to them about Oz, Elijah showed him everything. Klaus stayed with Oz at the hotel most of the time. Xander felt a bit guilty for having such a good time while Oz was in such misery. However, he knew that Oz wouldn't be upset or begrudge him a good time. Xander had had plenty of his own bad days.

Being with Elijah, though, was unlike any other experience of his life. Kol was there and teased the two of them for their closeness—it was obvious he suspected they were more than friends. However, neither Xander nor Elijah would confirm it. Both of them liked to keep Kol guessing. Since they never displayed any public affection outside of the normal bond between friends, Kol was never completely sure. They had separate rooms that connected like Kol and Klaus' did, so they were discreet. Oz stayed with Klaus because his condition was worse, and he didn't want to be away from Klaus for long. Klaus was the only one Oz trusted to keep him safe.

Of course, the nights were different. Kol usually found some willing women to spend his time with, so Xander was free to be with Elijah.

The second night, they joined Klaus and Oz for a late dinner at the hotel. Klaus' growing anger was obvious.

"If they don't get back to me soon, I'm going kill every witch in the Quarter!" Klaus vowed.

Oz gave him a disappointed look but didn't comment. He knew that Klaus was motivated by his sense of impotence in the face of Oz's destruction. Oz also knew that if he died Klaus probably would kill any he held responsible. It was too much engrained in him to lash out when in pain. Oz didn't want to die for several reasons—one being he didn't want to be the source of more blood on Klaus' hands. However, he no longer had the energy to cajole Klaus into a good mood. It was taking all his effort to keep from killing everyone he saw.

Klaus waited for Oz's lecture at his words. When it didn't come, he knew how bad his hybrid was feeling. Alarmed, he called Marcel, demanding he come to their hotel.

"Niklaus, yelling at Marcel won't save Oz," Elijah told him.

"Maybe not, but I'll feel better," Klaus said with a smirk.

Xander snickered. Sometimes Klaus was really funny in an immature way that Xander could've never gotten away with. It seems when you live a thousand years, you can get away with a lot.

A short time later, Marcel came in with two of his vampires accompanying him.

"Klaus. Is this where you've been hiding? I've seen your brothers around town, but I haven't seen much of you," Marcel said, pulling up a chair and joining him. His friends stayed in the background.

Xander got a text from Kol. Come outside. I have a surprise for you. Xander debated on whether or not he should ignore the text. However, Kol was not predictable and would have no qualms about causing a scene that would upset Oz and his brothers. Xander decided it would probably be wiser to go see what was up.

"Kol needs me outside. I'll be back," he told the table before getting up.

When Xander went outside, he saw Kol with two very attractive women. Kol grinned. "This is the man I was telling you about," Kol said to the two women. One was caramel colored wearing a black dress. The other had long blonde hair. "Xander, this is Sandi and Alisha. Ladies, this is my friend Xander. I told them you would be happy to join us."

"It's nice to meet you," Xander said, smiling at them. He wondered why he had no interest at all in joining Kol.

"They're vampires, so you can relax. They won't tempt you," Kol said. Then he winked. "Well, no more than any beautiful woman would."

"Can I speak with you a moment?" Xander asked him. He pulled him aside. "Why are you doing this? You know I'm having dinner with your brothers."

"Surely, my brothers can handle one dinner without you," Kol said. "It's not like you and Elijah have some kind of understanding, right?"

Xander knew that Kol had him trapped. His feelings for Elijah was too new, and he wasn't ready to discuss it with even Willow. There was no way he was baring his soul to Kol. He sighed in resignation. "Let me send Elijah a text, so he won't worry," he said.

"Good idea. He is a bit of a worry wart where you're concerned," Kol said with a grin.

Xander sent off a text telling Elijah not to worry but Kol was going to drag him elsewhere for a while. He wasn't surprised when Elijah simply replied, Have Fun.

For the first hour, things were fine. They went to a bar and had some drinks, listening to live music. Then Kol became bored and had them going to a dance club frequented by vampires in the city. The two women were obviously familiar with it. Alisha asked Xander to dance, and he graciously agreed. He'd been dancing with women who were and weren't his girlfriend for years.

The problem began when Alisha's lover spotted them—the lover she neglected to mention.

"What the hell, Alisha?" a very large man asked.

"I told you I was done waiting around for you to find time for me," Alisha said, giving him a dismissive look. She snuggled closer to an alarmed Xander.

"If you don't get your hands off my woman, I will literally rip you head off!" the man yelled at Xander.

Xander stepped back, holding his hands up in surrender. "No offense meant!" Xander said, giving the man a friendly smile.

The man bared his fangs, letting Xander know that he wasn't exactly just a man as he stepped forward. "Well, offense is taken!" he snarled. Then he punched Xander hard in the face, the force knocking him back.

Xander waited for Kol to come to his rescue as he slowly got to his feet, murmuring an apology to the people he'd knocked into. He didn't know that Kol had slipped into a back room with Sandi and was unaware of Xander's situation.

"I don't want any problems. My friend Kol Mikaelson just asked me to tag along with him and two friends. Nothing is happening here but dancing," Xander said in the most reasonable tone he could muster. He knew that he could speed away. However, running from a fight had never been his nature. Too many years on a hellmouth had taught him to stand and fight no matter the odds. The chances were this vampire was older and, therefore, stronger than he was.

Someone said something to the jealous vampire. The vampire shook of his friend. "I don't care who he's friends with! He touched my woman! He's going to regret it!" the vampire said as he charged Xander.

Xander ducked the first blow. However, the guy was strong as a human and even stronger as a vampire. He managed to get a hold of Xander and hit him hard in the stomach. Xander felt a rib break at the hit and winced. Then he was hit in the face two times. The commotion finally penetrated the room Kol was in. Not wanting to miss any action, he peeked his head out of the room.

"Kol! We're not done!" Sandi said with a pout.

"Give me a minute, love. I'll be right back!" Kol assured her as he went toward the fight.

He grew concerned when the spectators turned away when they recognized Kol. One or two looked guilty. He scanned the room for Xander. When he didn't see him, his stomach churned. Elijah would have his head if anything happened to the young vampire. As he moved closer, he saw a large man beating another badly. Alarmed, he realized it was Xander. Moving quickly, he pulled the guy off Xander.

"You're going to regret that!" Kol said enraged.

"He's going to regret touching my girl!" the vampire replied.

"No one hurts a friend of the Mikaelsons," Kol said coldly. He stepped up to the vampire, ignoring his audience. This called for a clear display of power.

"You think that name means anything to anyone here? You've been gone too long. No one's afraid of you!" the vampire said with a disdain.

"That's the last mistake you'll ever make," Kol said, as he moved even closer.

"I'm okay, Kol," Xander assured him, straightening. He worked to suppress a moan. "Let's just go."

Kol glanced back at Xander, wincing at the man's face. Yep. Elijah was not going to be happy. He turned back to the vampire responsible. "Rip out your own heart," he compelled the man.

The audience gasped. A few laughed uncertainly. Vampires couldn't be compelled. Most didn't really know who the Original family was or what they could do. They were about to learn.

"Kol! Stop!" Xander ordered.

"No way. Elijah will rip out my heart if he learns I let the man who hurt you live!" Kol said. He watched the vampire try to fight the compulsion even as his hand moved to his own chest. Alisha begged him to stop even as his claws pierced his chest.

"Don't do this!" Xander begged, horrified by the sight. He knew that vampires could be compelled by the Originals. However, he hadn't realized the full extent of their power if they chose to exercise it. The lesson was sickening.

When the man ripped out his own heart and fell dead, Kol raked his eyes around the group of vampires assembled. "I am the weakest of my brothers. If anyone of you are foolish enough to retaliate, you will die," Kol warned. No one moved except for Alisha, who fell to the ground next to her lover, crying.

"You didn't have to kill him!" she exclaimed.

"Maybe next time you'll think twice before toying with a man's affections, love," Kol said. "Tell Sandi I have to go."

Kol put his arm around Xander, leading him out of the club. When he made it back to the hotel, Marcel was still there with Klaus and Elijah. Oz wasn't. Kol assumed he'd went back to their rooms. Klaus was facing the entrance, so he was the first to spot them coming in. When Klaus stood to his feet, Elijah turned his head to see what was coming their way. Seeing Xander hurt, he moved quickly to them.

"What happened?" he asked Kol.

"I'm fine," Xander said. "I could use a chair."

Kol sat him down in the chair nearest them. "Some vampire took exception to Xander dancing with his girl. She neglected to mention her possessive boyfriend when I introduced her to Xander," Kol said.

"Does this vampire live?" Elijah coolly, his face not revealing what he was feeling at the sight of Xander's injuries.

"Of course not!" Kol said quickly. "I took care of him and made it clear that anyone who hurts our friends will pay dearly."

"You can't just kill vampires in the Quarter!" Marcel exclaimed, upset. "Those are my guys! If you have a problem with one of them, it's my job to take care of them!"

Klaus wisely said nothing, knowing that Elijah would deal with Marcel. No matter how many years Marcel had lived with them, he still had trouble grasping some things about their nature.

"Marcel, I suggest you leave now. I'd hate to interpret an attack on my friend by one of your guys as an attack and insult against my family," Elijah said, giving him a cold look, waiting expectantly.

Marcel hadn't forgotten that look. Elijah never lashed out like Klaus. He was cold as ice and could kill just as coldly. Marcel didn't think he'd ever seen the elder brother lose his temper once in the many years he'd lived with them. However, he'd seen Elijah ruthlessly strike down enemies or any who dared insult his family. Marcel glanced at Xander. He didn't know exactly what the man was to Elijah, but he knew now was not the time to push the issue.

"I will make it clear to my guys to show more respect," Marcel said. He turned to Klaus. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Don't forget to talk to the witches you know. Oz can't wait much longer," Klaus said to him. Marcel nodded and left.

"He needs blood," Klaus said, gesturing to the waiter to come.

Elijah knew how uncomfortable Xander would be to a public feeding. "Why don't we take this up to our room? Have the waiter follow us up," he told Klaus. "Give us ten minutes to get him cleaned up." Klaus nodded.

When they left, he glared at Kol. "If that had been my hybrid coming in all broken and bloody, I'd probably dagger you for a decade or two!" he warned.

Kol rolled his eyes. "He's fine! It's not the first fight he's been in. He did live on a hellmouth—one he helped close in case you forgot!" Kol said, annoyed and feeling guilty.

"Did anyone challenge you?" Klaus asked.

"The guy who attacked Xander informed me that our family meant nothing to this city anymore. He wasn't afraid of us," Kol shared in disgust.

"I hope you set him straight," Klaus replied.

"He and the vampires watching now understand what happens when they hurt one of ours," Kol said smugly.

"What did you do?" Klaus inquired.

"I made him rip out his own heart," Kol said in satisfaction.

Klaus looked at him in approval, slapping his back. "Good. Don't share the story with my hybrid, though. You know how he gets about these things," Klaus warned. "He has enough to worry about."

Kol laughed. He had gotten to know and like the hybrid quite well. He was the most fascinating vampire Kol had ever met. "Yeah, I know. I won't say anything," he said.

Upstairs, Elijah took Xander to the bathroom and helped him get out of his bloody clothes. "Do you think you're up for a shower?" he asked.

"Yes. This isn't the first time I've had a broken rib you know," Xander said. "I'm okay. At least now I have the superhealing."

When Elijah remained silent and turned to the shower, turning it on, Xander frowned. He couldn't tell if Elijah was upset or not. The man was the opposite of an open book. He made Angel look like one.

"Are you okay?" Xander asked him.

Elijah turned toward him, frowning. "I'm fine. You are the one who is hurt," Elijah said. When Elijah held out his hand to help him into the shower, Xander held up a hand, forcing him to pause and wait a minute.

"Are you mad at me?" Xander asked, anxious.

"Why would I be mad at you?" Elijah asked, frowning.

"I was dancing with someone that wasn't you," Xander said, unable to hold his gaze. He didn't know if Elijah cared, and he felt stupid for trying to ask.

Elijah moved toward him, putting his hand on Xander's shoulder. His other hand moved Xander's chin up, so he'd have to look at Elijah. "You are free to dance with anyone you want. Just as I am," Elijah said. When he saw the hurt come into Xander's eyes and then disappear, he knew he had to say more. "Dancing is dancing. I'm not upset by that."

"But it would bother you if I had sex with someone else?" Xander asked, needing more from him. What was going on between them? He had to know.

Elijah was silent a long moment. He looked away finally before nodding. "Yes, I suppose it would," he said quietly. Then he stepped back. "I'll have your blood ready for you when you get out."

Xander couldn't help the foolish grin that came over his face as he stepped into the shower.

"He likes me," Xander thought. Even though the shower was painful, he smiled through the whole thing.

Elijah let in the waiter after deciding that Xander shouldn't risk feeding from the man's vein. He grabbed a tumbler and bled some of the man's blood into it before compelling the man to forget. All his tasks complete, he waited for Xander to emerge from the shower.

Seeing Xander so hurt had affected Elijah more than it should have. Elijah was forced to examine what he was doing with the young vampire. He'd never cared deeply for someone of the same gender—not how he had with Celeste and a few other women in his long life. However, Xander was unique and unlike anyone Elijah had ever known. He was loyal and foolishly brave, and he took self-sacrifice to an entire new level. Elijah admired him immensely. Allowing them to become lovers, however, had changed things between them. Their relationship had gone into an entire direction that he hadn't really planned or prepared for. It was disconcerting to realize how deep his feelings already ran for Xander.

When Xander emerged from the shower, he had a towel wrapped around his waist. The bruises on his chest and face were purple, but he already looked much better than he had.

Elijah handed him the glass of blood. Keeping his eyes on Elijah, Xander drank it. Then he gave it back to Elijah. "I'm not sure that was enough. I feel very weak still," he admitted.

Elijah moved closer. His hand went to Xander's cheek, resting there. "Take mine," he said.

Xander held his gaze a moment before biting into his neck. Nothing was like Elijah's blood—it was hard to describe. His arms went around Elijah as he drank. He could feel the blood already working to strengthen him.

Elijah couldn't recall the last person he'd allowed to feed from his neck. It was too intimate. However, he'd made a conscious choice not to offer his wrist as family or close friends would. When Xander was done, Elijah held his face in his hands and said, "You're mine."

Xander knew what he was saying and nodded. "I'm yours," he said simply. Then he grinned. "Does that make me your boy toy?"

Elijah shook his head and chuckled softly before pulling Xander's lips to his own. It was really the only means he'd discovered in silencing the man.

*****Hellmouth in Ohio*****

Stefan was patrolling with Faith in one of the towns many cemeteries. The past week had been mostly uneventful by slayer standards. The most eventful thing was a call from Buffy about Willow's parents. Faith knew the sensitive witch would be upset about them even if she wasn't overly close to either. They had loved her in their own half-hazard way, which was more than Faith had ever experienced. The murders in Mystic Falls concerned Stefan, but he was too distracted by the going-ons at the slayer house to spend too much time worrying.

Slayers may have similar superstrength that vampires have. However, they were so very different. They rarely relaxed and were often like a bunch of hyperactive kids. For Stefan, it took some getting used to. Luckily, there was rarely a dull moment. The girls were fun and entertaining. Watching Faith with them made him love her even more. She battled her insecurities, yet she still managed to lead and inspire them. She was so special, but she never quite realized it. Stefan knew that she was forever comparing herself to Buffy and feeling she was less. He didn't really know how to convince her she was perfect the way she was. Buffy's way had worked, but it wasn't the only way to do things. He kept encouraging her. Every day she seemed more comfortable with her responsibilities. When it had just been Keeva and Bimpe at the house, she was able to pretend like she wasn't much different from them. However, when the numbers grew to a near dozen, she had to step up and really lead them.

Tonight, they were investigating some deaths that didn't seem supernatural in origin but were deaths of supernatural creatures that the slayers weren't responsible for. Stefan suspected there was another slayer in town they didn't know about or a hunter. Faith didn't believe a hunter like Alaric could take out some of the dead demons they had discovered. Nor did she believe Willow had missed a slayer.

"Over there," Faith whispered, indicating a man kneeling over something.

They move quickly to surprise the man before he could run off.

"Hey!" Faith yelled when they were directly behind him. He turned, and they saw he was definitely human and in his mid-twenties. A headless demon was on the ground next to him. "Who are you and why are you killing demons?"

The dark-skinned man stood slowly scoping out both of them. "They're demons. I am hunter. It's what I do," the man said simply. He gave Stefan a piercing look. "You're a vampire." Before Stefan could react, the man charged him, plunging a stake into his chest.

Faith was frozen in horror a full minute before she pounced on the man, ripping him away. She saw the stake sticking out of Stefan's chest and started crying. "Oh God! No!" she cried as she moved to the ground next to him.

Stefan coughed up blood. "It's okay. Pull it out. I'll be okay," he gasped.

"Are you sure?" she asked fearfully.

He nodded. "Yes. It missed my heart. It pierced my lung," he said, choking on blood.

Quickly, Faith took hold of the dagger and pulled it out. "Are you okay?" she said, panic threatening to paralyze her. She couldn't lose him—not when she'd just found him.

"Why do you care? He's a vampire. You're not," the man said.

Faith got up and faced the would-be vampire slayer. "I'm the vampire slayer on this hellmouth, and I kill demons that hurt humans—not every demon. I kill soulless vampires or those that prey and hurt humans. Stefan is neither of those things!" she fumed. "You hurt him, so now I'm going to hurt you!" She charged the man, hitting him hard in the face. Since she assumed he was just a regular human, she was more than a little surprised when he didn't fall but returned the blow.

"What the hell are you?" Faith asked.

"I'm a hunter," he said simply. "One of the Five." Then he hit her again.

Faith grew angry. "I don't know what that means but let me explain something to you. Killing vampires in this city is the job of slayers. Since there's a dozen in this town, you can leave before you get really hurt," she warned. Then she proceeded to let loose her rage. She hit him like she'd not hit any human since Buffy. The man smiled smugly at first, but when Faith didn't let up, his smile was lost. He realized that whatever a slayer was, she was equal to him in strength at the very least. This woman, though, was very angry. Her anger fueled her, and she meant to cause him pain.

Finally, Stefan was able to get to his feet. "Faith, that's enough. Stop!" Stefan ordered. When Faith kicked the man hard in the stomach, causing him to fly several feet away and crash into a tree, she finally paused.

Faith finally stopped. She glared down at the man. "Who are you?" she asked him.

The man slowly got to his feet, wiping the blood off his mouth. "Connor Jordan," he said. "I'm one of the Five."

Faith frowned and looked at Stefan to see if he knew anything. "Is that supposed to mean something to me?" she asked him.

"One of the Five hunters. We've been around a long time. When one of us dies, another is called. Our goal is to stomp out the Original family's line of murderous vampires. We're equipped to kill them. We train for it," Connor said.

"Not all vampires from the Mikaelson line kill humans," Stefan said.

"Stefan feeds on animals, not humans. He doesn't deserve to be murdered by you," Faith said angrily.

The man was quiet a moment. Finally, he asked, "But you do slay vampires?"

"I don't know whether or not you know this, but this town is full of an entirely different kind of vampire. When you kill it, it turns to dust. That type of vamp is a soulless demon. Literally," Faith explained. "The kind you kill can be monsters, or they can be human. It's up to each individual vampire. If you kill indiscriminately, you are killing the innocent."

"An innocent vampire?" the man scoffed. "You are really naïve."

Faith took a step forward, wanting to hit him again. Stefan grabbed her arm. "Why don't we agree to disagree, and you go find some other town to kill vampires in?" he suggested. "We got this town covered."

The man shrugged. "I guess I can do that. I heard this town was full of vampires, and I thought it would be negligent of me not to check it out," Connor said.

"Tell the other four of you that if they don't want a dozen pissed of slayers kicking their asses, they'll stay clear of this place," Faith warned.

"Most are under the age of twenty. It's kind of humiliating," Stefan said with a grin.

"Fine. I'll go," Connor said. "I'd heard rumors of super powered women killing vamps, but I thought it was just a myth."

"As you can see, I'm not a myth," Faith said.

"The myths say there's only one of you at a time," he said.

"That's the way it used to be until Buffy changed everything. She activated all potential slayers in the world with the help of a very powerful witch, so now there are hundreds of vampire slayers," Faith explained.

"Good to know," Connor said, filing away the information.

"Next time you or your brothers go into a town to kill vampires, I suggest you do your research and find out if a slayer is in residence," Faith said. "There are plenty of towns where you can do your thing in."

"But you may want to find out if the vampires deserve to be killed," Stefan warned before taking Faith's hand and leading her away.

When they made it back to their house, Faith was glad to see Stefan was already healing and no longer spitting blood. She shared their encounter with the slayers in the house before leading Stefan up to their room.

Stefan grabbed a shirt to clean up and went to their bathroom. Faith was pacing when he returned. She stopped and looked at him. "You need blood," she said. "Take mine."

"That's not a good idea. Not when I'm this weak," he said with a frown.

"I will keep you from taking too much," she assured him.

Stefan knew she could, but he didn't like the idea that he might actually hurt her. She moved closer and put her arms around his neck, baring her own. "Take what you need."

Stefan finally did, biting gently into her neck. The taste of her was unlike anything he'd ever tasted, and he knew he'd never get enough. As soon as that thought hit him, he forced himself to pull away. Licking all the blood off his mouth, he looked at her. Then he kissed her.

Faith returned his kiss, an edge of desperation to it. She'd almost lost him. Finally, she pulled back and just hugged him tightly. "You almost died," she whispered.

"But I didn't," he said, rubbing her back slowly. "I'm fine."

Finally, Faith pulled back and looked at him. "I love you," she told him for the first time. "I've never said that to another man before. If you die on me, I'll be extremely pissed."

Stefan grinned. "I love you, too," he said. Then he kissed her again.

*****Chapter End******

The next chapter will include what is going to happen to Oz finally and will have use back in Mystic Falls with Damon and Illyria and company. I hope you liked this update. Please, please review!

Chapter Text

*****Mystic Falls*****

Since Stefan wasn't home, there was no point in Damon heading straight home. He rented a car and drove he and Illyria into town. Even though he'd flown across the country with her, it was still unsettling seeing her look so human.

"Is this your home?" she asked him.

Her Texas twang really creeped him out. "No. It's my favorite diner," he said. "Do you have to sound so weird?"

"This is how my host sounded. Spike said that I had to appear fully human when outside of the city of angels," Illyria said with a frown.

"It's just weird seeing you so different," Damon said. "I suppose I'll get used to it."

They got out of the car and went into Mystic Grille. Damon headed to the bar. Matt was behind the counter and smiled at him. "Hey, what are you doing here?" he asked.

"I thought I better accompany our friend," Damon replied, looking at Illyria.

Matt smiled and held out his hand. "I'm Matt," he said.

"I'm Winifred Burkle, but my friends call me Fred," Illyria said, giving Fred's shy, friendly smile that never failed to charm recipients.

"You can call her Illyria," Damon said pointedly.

Matt's eyes widened as he recognized the name. "Oh, I should've known! I've seen videos from Elena, and Dawn told me you were coming!" he exclaimed. He looked at her carefully. "Wow! That's a big change. You can just change your appearance?"

"I can," Illyria said.

"Give us two of my usuals," Damon said.

Matt nodded and reached under the bar with one hand and then sat two glasses on the bar. "Does Elena know you're in town?" he asked Damon.

"No. I thought I'd surprise her," Damon said with a smirk.

"We figured you'd be in for the wedding. You're kind of early," Matt said, probing.

"Our leader had a vision. The slayer is in danger," Illyria answered in her blunt manner.

Damon gave her a sour look. "Don't go blabbing stuff," Damon said to her. "We're not going to ruin Buffy's wedding. We're going to keep bad things from happening. Now you've told the slayer's sister's boyfriend. Not cool."

"I can keep a secret," Matt said, frowning. "But Dawn's not stupid. She already thinks Angel sent Illyria her for some type of protection detail."

"Yea, well, let her think that, but you don't have to confirm anything," Damon said, a warning in his voice.

"I didn't know trouble was in town," Alaric said from behind them.

Illyria stiffened and looked at the man she knew but didn't. Frowning, she remained silent.

"Rick, it's good to see you," Damon said, slapping his best friend on the back as he sat down in the stool next to Damon.

"What are you doing here?" Rick asked. He glanced at Illyria and blinked. "Is that Illyria? I almost didn't recognize her."

"I figured I'd better come to town to keep her out of trouble," Damon said. He glanced at Matt, who took the hint and went to clean a table.

When Matt moved out of earshot, Rick asked, "So why are you really here?"

"Angel had a vision of a bloody wedding in your and Buffy's future. He didn't think it appropriate for him or Spike to come, so he sent Illyria. I decided to come and keep an eye out for trouble," Damon explained.

Rick frowned. "We've been having trouble with someone killing the members of the council. With Liz out of town, Buffy's been trying to solve it," Matt said.

"Any leads?" Damon asked.

"They've all been killed with a knife," Rick supplied. "It's happened late at night each time, and there's been no witnesses."

"Well, if they're going through the council, we need to keep an eye on the rest of the members that could be a target," Damon said.

"Good idea," Rick said. "Buffy already thought about it, though." He gave Damon a smug look.

Damon laughed. "It's good you have managed to find such a capable woman. God knows she's lost her mind if she's willing to have a family with you!" Damon teased.

"Will your offspring inherit her powers?" Illyria asked.

"Good question," Damon said, giving his best friend an inquiring look.

"I don't think so. Robin Wood, who trains the slayers back in England, had a slayer mom. He's a good fighter, but I don't think that's because of his mom," Rick said. "Because the slayer's power is mystical and not genetic, it's not passed down."

"Too bad," Damon said.

"Buffy Summers, however, is not a typical slayer. Her offspring will be special," Illyria said.

"She's an amazing woman," Rick said proudly.

"No, she is more than that. She has defeated death more than once. She has crossed over into the realms of the heavens and returned. Don't assume her child will be a mere human," Illyria stated.

Rick didn't find her words comforting. They rattled him. Was she trying to say his child wouldn't be human? The idea greatly disturbed him.

******New Orleans******

Oz woke up from a horrible nightmare that plagued him. He didn't think he could hold on much longer. The hallucinations were getting worse every hour. His ability to keep control was almost gone. There was no point in fighting it anymore. He thought of Willow—he was a danger to her. He was a danger to everyone.

When he looked down at his hands, they appeared to be covered in blood. Intellectually, he knew that was false, but he knew it was only a matter of time before it was a reality. He took off his daylight ring and sat it on the night stand. Glancing at the other side of the king size bed, he saw that Klaus was asleep. The hybrid refused to leave Oz's side, insisting they share the same room. Oz mourned the loss of his new friend. Oz made friends easily, but he never let very many people get close to him. He kept himself aloof mainly because he was different from everyone else.

Now he was like Klaus, a man set apart. He slipped quietly from the bed and moved across the room to the window. Glancing back regretfully at Klaus, he whispered, "Goodbye, brother." Then he opened the curtain, sunlight poured in. Immediately, his skin begin to burn.

The smell, of course, alerted Klaus, who jumped from the bed. Without hesitating, he knocked Oz to the ground away from the sunlight streaming in the room. Oz struggled against him.

"It's my choice!" Oz exclaimed angrily.

Kol came into the room and recognized the threat and moved quickly to shut the curtain. "What's going on?" he asked.

"Our friend, our new brother here wants to die," Klaus said in disgust as he stood up over Oz.

"I don't want to die, but I don't want to kill anyone I love!" Oz shouted, finally losing his trademark cool.

"I forbid it!" Klaus shouted angrily.

"It's not your place to forbid me anything," Oz said stonily. "It's my life."

Klaus turned away from him in disgust, feeling powerless, which enraged him. He wasn't prepared to lose the only hybrid he had. The man had quickly become as close to him as his brothers. There was no way he was going to lose Oz. He moved to Oz, using compulsion and said, "You will not seek to end your life. You will keep fighting. You will not give up!"

"Compulsion isn't going to fix what is wrong with me!" Oz said, angry that he felt the compulsion kick in.

Klaus kept his hands on Oz's shoulders. "I promise you that I am not going to let this defeat you! I'm going to figure this out. Trust me. I will not fail you! Put your ring back on and don't take it off again," Klaus ordered. Kol handed it to him.

"I will call the witches. They will do something today. I will see to it," Klaus said confidently. "Watch him."

He left their room and went to his big brother's across the hall. Banging on the door, he shouted, "Elijah, open up!"

A bare-chested Elijah opened the door. "What's wrong?" he asked. He stepped back and let his brother in.

Klaus glanced at the room, noting that Xander was asleep in the only bed. Although he'd shared his king size bed with Oz, he knew that it wasn't quite the same thing. He was trying to keep his friend from killing anyone. He and Oz would never be lovers. "You have taken a male lover?" he asked bluntly.

"How is that your concern?" Elijah asked, raising an eyebrow.

"He is too important to too many people—dangerous people—for you to trifle with," Klaus warned.

"I am not trifling with him," Elijah said simply as he reached for his shirt.

Klaus arched an eyebrow and said nothing for a moment. Then he grinned. "Well, your taste has improved," he said. "Wake him up. I need him to go talk some sense into Oz. I woke up to him trying to kill himself."

"We'll take care of him," Elijah said. "Are you going to go see the witches?"

"Yes, I'll return shortly," Klaus said.

He left and went to Sabine's shop. She wasn't surprised to see him. "Your friend grows worse?" she asked.

"He does. Have you figured out a way to help him?" Klaus asked.

"Possibly," she said. "But you're not going to like what it will require."

"What?" Klaus inquired.

"Blood and death," she said grimly.

Klaus wasn't any happier with her explanation. "I will talk to Oz. If he agrees, we'll be back," Klaus said.

"Tomorrow at sundown," Sabine said. "We will get everything ready."

"If you cannot do what you say you can, I will kill you and every witch in your coven," Klaus promised before leaving.

"We can get it done, but you have to give us what we want," she replied.

"What is that? I'm not turning a young witch over to be slaughtered. My hybrid would not approve, and he's grown testy lately," Klaus said.

"Your mother's grimoire will be sufficient," Sabine said. With that book, the coven could find a way to defeat Marcel and his child witch. Then she could seek what she really desired.

"I cannot give it to you because I do not have it, but I can get photocopies of it sent to me," Klaus said.

Sabine was silent a moment, considering. The power was in the spells, not the book itself. "That will suffice," she said. "What about your mother's body? She was a powerful witch, and she should be buried here in her home with her sisters."

Klaus smirked. "You seek to increase your ancestral strength with my mother? She's a vindictive witch, who is seeking our destruction even in death. I'd not give you such a weapon," Klaus said.

"You won't be here, so what do you care?" she replied.

Klaus considered. "If you actually save my hybrid, I'd consider bringing my mother back here to be buried," he said. "But I make no promises as Elijah may not agree."

"I thought you were in charge of the Mikaelson clan," Sabine said with a mocking smile.

"My brother is not under my control, but he does what is best for the family. As he likes to remind me, he, not I, is the eldest. He may not consider this deal the best thing for our family," Klaus said. "However, I will owe you a debt that will be paid. You have my word."

"I will talk to the coven. I'm sure I can get them to agree to help your hybrid. Agnus and Bastiana were most impressed with him. They believe he is worthy to be saved, so they will do what they can," she said.

"Good. I will be in touch," Klaus said, leaving.

Sabine, who wasn't really Sabine, smiled. Now that she knew where the Original family was living she could exact her vengeance whenever she wanted. But she's promised Esther that she'd get her chance to set the abominations she'd created right. In the meantime, she'd have the spells that the very powerful witch used. She'd find a way to be truly immortal.

*****Mystic Falls*****

Caroline was leaving school when her phone rang. It was Klaus. Eagerly, she answered it. "Hey, how's it going?" she asked as she took the call.

"It's going okay. The witches here claim they can help Oz, but it's risky. If he dies, so will they," Klaus said grimly.

"Don't be a Negative Nancy," she chided. "Of course, it will work. You just have to have faith."

Klaus smiled at her. She was always a fresh of breath air. "I called to ask you a favor," he told her.

"Sure. What do you need?" she asked.

Her willingness to aid him filled him with warmth. She was truly unique. Like with Oz, he didn't have to use compulsion or threats to get her help. "I need you to go to my house and locate a book I have in the library. Then I need you to photograph every page and send it to me," he said.

"What am I looking for?" she asked.

"It's my mother's grimoire," he replied.

"You have that?" she asked in surprise.

"Rebekah saved it long ago. Elijah felt it'd come in handy. He wasn't wrong," Klaus said.

"You know my best friend's a witch," Caroline said.

"Do you seek to increase her power?" Klaus asked.

"It'd be a nice Christmas gift," Caroline pointed out.

Klaus was silent a moment, considering. He didn't like giving anything away for free. However, he knew that soon he'd need a witch ally. Caroline was his friend. She could do things to influence those who hated him like he never could. She was impossible to resist—even her friends weren't immune to her charms. "If you can get a vow from her to never use anything in it to harm me or my family, you may keep copies to give to her," he said.

Caroline grinned. "Thank you! I'll go now. Is your house locked?" she asked.

"Of course. Do you know how many priceless heirlooms are in that house?" he asked.

Elena came up to her. "How will I get in?" she asked. After he explained, she assured him it would get done that day and said goodbye. "

"Who was that?" she asked.

"Klaus. He needs me to get something from his house to help Oz. Tomorrow, they should have a cure for Oz," Caroline said.

Elena looked relieved. There was something special about the hybrid, and she hated that he suffered. "That's great! I'll go tell Buffy. Willow should be home soon. She'll need some good news," Elena said.

"Has she found her mother?" Caroline asked as they walked to the school parking lot.

Elena shook her head. "No. Her spell turned up nothing," Elena said.

"Do you think that's because her mom's dead or because she's lost her mojo?" Caroline wondered.

"I really don't know. She's so strong that I can't imagine her not being able to do a simple locator spell," Elena said.

"There's Dawn," Caroline said, waving to their friend who was walking with Rick to his car.

She walked to them while Rick went to his car. "Rick's going to take me to work. I just got a text from Matt. Damon's in town with Illyria," Dawn said.

Elena couldn't help but be pleased. She called Damon as she waved goodbye and got into her car.

"So a little birdy told me you're home. Would you like to join us for dinner? Bring Illyria," Elena suggested.

Damon was silent a moment. Then he agreed. There was no avoiding Elena—not that he wanted to. He missed her every day he was away.

Buffy came home to find both Damon and Illyria in her living room talking to Rick and Dawn. She was startled at Illyria's appearance.

"Did you get a makeover?" Buffy asked her.

"This is how my host looks," Illyria said. "It grieves Angel and my pet when I appear thus, but they said this small town would take exception to my normal appearance."

Buffy grinned. "Yeah, they probably would," she said.

"So is Damon going to be best man or what?" Dawn asked.

Damon looked surprised. Rick hadn't actually talked to him about the wedding.

"Why does he look surprised?" Buffy asked, frowning at Rick. "Didn't you ask him?"

"I was going to," Rick said sheepishly. It had been understood, so he hadn't thought of the particulars. "So what do you say? Be my best man?"

"You're marrying a vampire slayer and want a vampire as your best friend?" Damon asked, grinning.

"Xander's a groomsman, so you won't be the only vamp in the wedding party!" Rick said.

"I'd be honored to be your best man," Damon said, holding out his hand for Rick to shake.

"Great! If I had to tell Will that we had no best man, she might kill me and refuse to bring me back!" Buffy joked.

"When she's coming back to town?" Damon inquired.

"Tomorrow. She buried her dad and couldn't find her mom. She's heading back after closing up her parents’ apartment," Buffy said.

"So who are you guarding tonight? Rick tells me that you're keeping an eye on the council members in town," Damon probed.

"I don't have the man power to guard them all," Buffy said sourly. "Rick's told me who the most active and prominent families are. I'm focusing on them."

"Me and my favorite Blue Man Girl are happy to stand guard, too," Damon said.

"That's great! I can use the help. Liz is due back in a few days. I'd like to have some progress to report. Being the slayer is enough responsibility, but since I'm a deputy and the council knows about me, they expect me to be in charge of everything. It totally sucks!" she complained.

"Being able to order the town around must be a total drag," Dawn said, rolling her eyes. Elena laughed.

A few hours later, Illyria and Damon were staking out one of the council member's house. Illyria was back to looking like herself. Damon assured her that it was okay in private to be herself. She had actually seemed pleased at seeing his home even if she hadn't said.

"Your friend Rick isn't your friend any longer," Illyria told him as they were sitting in his car.

Damon frowned and looked at her. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"I sense a great darkness in him," she said.

Damon smirked. "Rick has no darkness. He's the most decent man I've met. I turned his wife into a vampire, and he still became my friend, helping me save Stefan," he said.

"He is not the man he was in Los Angeles," she said.

Damon was disturbed by her words because he knew that she sensed things about people that others could not. What did she mean?

*****Chapter End*****

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Chapter Text

*****England*****

Liz couldn't believe that her vacation was over. She was all packed and ready to be taken to the airport. The trip had been better than she'd imagined. Finally, she'd got to see things all over Europe. The best part was spending time with Rupert. They were so compatible and had so much fun together.

"I see you're packed," Rupert said as he came into the room.

Now it was time for the worst part—saying goodbye.

"Yes," she said, giving him a stoic look. She turned back to her suitcase to zip it up, and Rupert's arms came around her waist.

"I don't want you to go," Rupert murmured, kissing her neck.

She turned in his arms, facing him. "I know. I can't imagine not waking up in your arms," she admitted.

"Buffy's wedding is in a few weeks, so I'll be flying in to see you," Rupert reminded her.

Liz nodded. "I know. That's the only thing that's pushing me onto the plane," she said.

Rupert put his hand onto her cheek. "I love you, Elizabeth Forbes," he told her.

Liz smiled widely. For so long, she'd ignored this side of herself, pretending she wasn't lonely or hurt by her ex's betrayal and abandonment. However, she felt so much more of everything with Rupert. His brilliant mind never stopped challenging her. His dry sense of humor never stopped amusing her. Most importantly, his kindness, goodness, and bravery never failed to amaze and move her. The way he was with his girls—father, grandfather, teacher, leader—he wore so many hats. His endless patience and capacity for love was incredible. She had never known anyone like him.

"I love you, too," she told him, raising up to kiss him.

Rupert kissed her gently, ignoring the passion her touch stirred. He'd been alone so long but surrounded by women—his own personal paradox. Liz was the best surprise of his life. She understood commitment and sacrifice; she lived for her town. She was beautiful and brave, and he didn't want to say goodbye to her. Not since Jenny had he ever felt so connected to another. Unlike Jenny, though, she had no dark skeletons.

He pulled back and gave a heavy sigh. "Well, I guess we better head downstairs, so you can say your goodbyes. The girls will really miss you," Rupert said.

"I'm going to miss them," Liz said. "You've done a wonderful thing here. I wish my deputies would be half as disciplined as some of yours."

"They have their moments," Rupert said with a fond smile as he grabbed her large suitcase off the bed and extended the handle.

When they made it downstairs, all the residing slayers and witches were assembled with Robin and Andrew. They all wanted to say goodbye to Liz.

"We wish you didn't have to go," Andrew said.

"I'll try to visit again," Liz said.

"Giles is right down pleasant when you're around," Andrew added with a grin.

Giles frowned. "I'm always pleasant. You're just exceedingly annoying," Giles said. Everyone laughed.

Liz came to his defense. "I found Andrew very nice and a good tour guide," she said.

"The woman is a saint and obviously too good for you," Robin said with a smirk.

"She is that," Giles said, his arm around her shoulder. "Unfortunately, she has a plane to catch."

Liz said goodbye to the group, who wished her well. Then she followed Rupert out the door.

It took them a half hour to get to the airport. After she checked in her very large suitcase, she turned to Rupert. "Well, it's time to say goodbye," she said with a sigh.

Rupert pulled her close and held her. He didn't want her to leave ever. "Liz, do you think you could ever walk away from Mystic Falls? You could do so much good here with me, and I need you," Rupert said, looking down at her.

Liz smiled up at him, her heart in her eyes. "In what way?" she asked.

"In every way. Marry me," Rupert asked. He'd been thinking about this for the past week. He'd even considered buying her a ring, but he'd decided to wait until after Buffy's wedding. Now, however, he was faced with her departure and wanted something more tangible to tie them together.

"What?" Liz asked in surprise.

"I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you," Rupert said.

"I love you, too, Rupert. I'd love to be your wife," she admitted honestly.

Rupert smiled brilliantly. "That's a yes then?" he asked hopefully.

Liz considered it. Not long ago she wouldn't have ever considered leaving Mystic Falls. The town needed her. Now, though, Buffy had made it her home. Liz could walk away with a clear conscious. "Yes. Yes, I will marry you," she said.

Rupert pulled her close again, hugging her. Then he kissed her. "I know it will take time to figure out the details," he told her. I'll get you a proper ring and bring it to you when I come to Mystic Falls for the wedding."

"You know I can't leave Mystic Falls until Caroline graduates, though," she pointed out.

"I know. We can plan a spring wedding," Rupert said happily.

She laughed and hugged him. "Caroline will go nuts planning," Liz said.

"I'll see you very soon. Call me when you land," Rupert said, watching as she left. She had said yes. Joy and anticipation warred inside him. He missed her already.

******Mystic Falls******

Buffy was worried. Willow had been back for hours and hadn't said more than a hand full of words. It was so unlike her that Buffy was trying not to freak. "I need my Xander shaped friend," she mumbled as she peered in at Willow lying on her bed. Rebekah looked up. She had been reading on the bed next to Willow.

"She'll be okay," Rebekah assured her when she came to the door.

"She's so silent. It's unlike her," Buffy said when Rebekah stepped in the hall, shutting the door behind her.

"Not finding her mother really shook her. Having her magic fail her as made it even harder," Rebekah said. "Seeing her dad like that will haunt her forever. I know it's been a thousand years, and I still recall the murdered body of my mother."

Buffy remembered her own mother's body and shuddered. "Been there," she said with sympathy.

"I think once your wedding gets here, she'll be fine. She just needs some time," Rebekah advised.

"I hope you're right," Buffy said. They walked down the stairs.

Her phone rang. "Xander!" she exclaimed. "I was just wishing you were here!"

"Tonight, the witches are doing something that will hopefully help Oz, so maybe I'll be back in a few days," Xander told her.

"That's great! How's he doing?" Buffy asked.

"Not so good. He tried to kill himself this morning. Klaus was really upset," Xander shared.

"Seriously? He's that bad?" Buffy asked worriedly.

"He took off his ring and opened a curtain," Xander said. "Klaus had to compel him not to try that again."

"Sheesh," Buffy said with a grimace. She glanced at Rebekah who was listening.

"Klaus will tear this city apart if Oz doesn't make it," Xander said worriedly. "I don't think even Elijah could stop him."

"Do you need any help? Willow and Rebekah are home. I can send Rebekah to you," Buffy suggested, looking at Rebekah.

"No. Things are going to happen very soon, and it'll probably be over by the time she got here," Xander said. "Klaus seems confident that the witches can fix Oz, so let's hope that's the case. How's things there? How's Will? How are you?"

"Will's okay, I guess. She's not said much since she came back. She couldn't find her mother, so she's pretty upset," Buffy shared.

"Really? Dr. Rosenberg is still missing? Do you think she's dead?" Xander asked.

"Since Willow's spell couldn't locate her, probably," Buffy admitted. "She thinks it's her magic, but I think no Wicca goddess could keep her from doing the most basic spell if she really wanted to. That means her mom is probably gone."

Xander hated to hear that. He had a lot of fond memories of Willow's mother when they were young. The neglect never really started until Willow hit puberty. "I'll be back before you know it," Xander said. "Do you feel okay? No problems, right?"

"I feel great. We've had a serial killer, though, killing council members," Buffy shared.

"Man, things can never be easy in our world, can they?" Xander asked in bemusement.

"Nope," Buffy said.

Elijah came into the room. Xander held up a finger, indicating that he needed a moment. "Listen, Buff, I have to go. I'll let you know how it goes tonight," Xander said.

"Please do. Willow could use some good news," Buffy replied. She said goodbye and hung up. "Did you catch all that?"

"Yes," Rebekah said. "The witches in New Orleans are very powerful. If anyone can help him, it will be them."

"That's good to hear," Buffy said. She looked at her watch. "Time for us to go get Liz from the airport. She's flying into Charleston. I'll be back late. Are you going to stay here with Will?"

"Yes," Rebekah said.

"I'm going to go pick up Caroline and Dawn. Both wanted to be there. Dawn just wanted to go to go shopping in Charleston, I think," Buffy said.

Rebekah said goodbye and went back upstairs to check on Will.

*****New Orleans*****

Elijah waited for Xander to end his phone call. "Is everything okay in Mystic Falls?" Elijah asked.

"Mostly. There's a killer on the loose. They think it's not supernatural, though. Buffy's dealing. Willow is back, but she couldn't find her mother or her mother's body," Xander said.

"That's unfortunate," Elijah said. "Klaus said it's time."

"Good. I want Oz to get better, so I can get back to Willow. She needs me right now," Xander said.

Elijah nodded in understanding. Xander's friends meant a lot to him, and Elijah respected that. "I want you to stay here," Elijah told him.

Xander looked dismayed. "What? Of course, I'm going. Oz is my friend. One of my oldest friends. The only guy I survived high school with that I actually liked!" Xander said.

"It's too dangerous," Elijah protested.

"Yea, well, I've faced world ending apocalypses when I was just a human. Now I'm a supervamp," Xander pointed out.

Elijah was silent, unused to feeling this way. It'd been a long time since he cared so much for anyone outside of his family. "I won't like it if you get hurt," Elijah admitted.

Xander shrugged. "I've been hurt plenty of times. Now I've got superhealing. Don't worry. I'll be fine," Xander assured him. "Besides, I have the three strongest vampires in the world to keep me safe, right?"

Elijah sighed in resignation. "I suppose," he admitted.

Xander moved closer, losing his smile. He put his hand on Elijah's shoulder. "It's going to be fine. I'll be careful," Xander assured him, moved that Elijah cared so much.

Klaus came into their room without knocking. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything," he said with a knowing smirk.

Xander turned and faced him. Elijah had told him that Klaus knew and approved of their new relationship status. Xander, though, wasn't entirely comfortable since he'd always thought of himself as strictly heterosexual. He still did really. It's just Elijah was so incredible that anyone would be tempted by him.

"We were just discussing my desire that Xander stay behind," Elijah said.

"And my desire to go," Xander said. He flashed a smug smile. "I won."

Klaus chuckled. "Big brother is very protective. You'll get used to it," Klaus said. "Kol and Oz are waiting downstairs."

The five of them went to the witches' cemetery. They met up with several witches that were gathered in the center of the area.

Sabine, Agnes, and Bastiana broke away from the group and walked toward them. "Are you ready?" Agnes asked Oz.

"I am," Oz said. Tonight, he'd be free of the curse, or he'd be dead.

*****Mystic Falls*****

Caroline met her mom at the luggage, hugging her tight. "I missed you so much!" she exclaimed.

"I missed you too, sweetheart," Liz said. She saw Buffy and Dawn and hugged them. "How are you feeling?"

"Great," Buffy said. "I'm so glad you're back, though. The case seems to be getting worse. There's been three bodies so far."

"I just can't believe it," Liz said as they walked out.

"Can you save talk of death and murder until my mom shows up for work tomorrow?" Caroline asked.

"Sure," Buffy said, flashing Liz an apologetic smile.

"It's fine. I need to be caught up," Liz said.

"That can wait. What you need is to tell me all about your trip! Was it fabulous?" Caroline asked as they stepped into an elevator.

Liz's smile spoke volumes. Caroline didn't think she'd ever seen her mother so happy and relaxed—so in the moment. Usually her mother was so distracted with her job that Caroline never felt like she had her complete attention.

"It was wonderful," she said.

"Giles show you a good time?" Buffy asked with a wink.

When Liz blushed, the girls laughed. "Tell us!" Caroline ordered.

The elevator stopped, and they got out. Liz faced them. "Right before I got on the plane, he proposed. We're going to get married," she shared.

"Oh my God!" Caroline yelled. "That's awesome!" She hugged her mother.

"Giles is going to be your husband? That's great but wiggy at the same time," Buffy said, wrinkling her nose at the image of Giles having sex with Liz.

"Did he give you a ring?" Dawn asked eagerly.

"Not yet. He said he'll bring me one when he comes in for the wedding," Liz said.

"He couldn't stand the thought of being apart from you and popped the question!" Caroline said with a happy sigh. "That's so romantic!"

Buffy and Dawn grinned. "It's about time Giles got his own happy," Buffy said. "Congratulations!"

"We won't be married until after your graduation," Liz said. "It'll give everyone plenty of time to adjust to the idea of me being gone."

Caroline's stomach lurched at the thought. "I guess you'll be moving to England," she said slowly. Then she pushed away the panic that filled her at the thought. "I now have an excuse to go to Europe anytime I need some mom time!"

Liz smiled in relief. "You'll be busy with college, but I'm hoping you'll spend the summer with us in England," Liz said.

Caroline hugged her again, trying not to squeal. "That'd be amazing!" she enthused.

"I can show you all my favorite spots," Dawn added excitedly. She'd only had the slayerettes and Andrew and Xander, never someone that was just her friend first. Having Caroline there would be fabulous.

Then Caroline realized something. "Oh, a spring wedding will be perfect!" she exclaimed.

"How about we wait until after Buffy gets married to begin talking about mine that'll be six months away?" she suggested.

Caroline just grinned. She was so happy that things were going so perfectly with everyone she loved right now. Her friends were all well for once. Her mom was happy, and Klaus and Kol were going to save Oz. Things couldn't be better.

"Wait until you see all the dresses we've picked out for the wedding!" Caroline said. Then she realized something. "Oh, we'll totally have to go dress shopping for your dress!"

"We should stay in Charleston and go shopping tomorrow!" Dawn suggested.

"We have to get back. Willow just returned home, and I have work," Buffy said.

"So do I," Liz said. "I've been away long enough."

Caroline pouted but wasn't really upset. It was just great to have her mom back. Soon Klaus and Kol would be back with Oz, and everything would be perfect.

******Chapter End*****

Obviously, Caroline is being overly optimistic! Thanks so much for reading! Reviews are the best!

 

Chapter Text

******New Orleans******

Oz faced the groups of witches warily. Several of them looked at him with fear and others loathing. A peaceful man by nature, it was disturbing to find that now he actually inspired such feelings in others.

"We will need you to remove your shirt," Sabine told him.

Oz raised an eyebrow but said nothing as he removed his shirt. He was short but well built. However, it was surprising to some of the witches to see his well-defined physique.

"Look at Oz—rockin' the six-pack," Xander teased, relieving the tension.

"So what are you going to require of him?" Klaus, ever protective, asked.

"To break the curse requires sacrifice. His and yours," Agnes said.

"We will see if the ancestors are willing to break the hex," Bastiana added.

"If he is found worthy, it will be done," Agnes explained.

Sabine looked at the original vampires. "We will need you to surround him, lending him your strength," she told them. She worked hard to hide her eagerness. Celeste had not been in Sabine's body very long and already she was presented with an opportunity to do the will of one the most powerful ancestors.

"We will need your blood," Agnes said to Oz. She sliced his hand with a dagger and dropped some blood into a wide bowl.

Sabine looked at Klaus. "You and your brothers' too. We will need all the power we can access," she said. As soon as she had all the blood mixed, she could link them. Of course, she didn't tell them that.

Agnes gave her a curious look but said nothing. "In order to break the curse, you have to meet the ancestors in person on the Other Side," she told them.

"What?" Kol asked in confusion. "How can he do that if he's alive?"

"He will need to die temporarily," Agnes explained. "His heart will stop long enough for him to go over to the Other Side."

"Do not worry. We will revive him before he is lost permanently," Sabine assured him.

"You think I'm going to just let you kill him?" Klaus asked angrily.

"We are not going to kill him," Bastiana said. "We are going to save him."

Oz looked at Klaus. "I can't live like this, Klaus. It's destroying everything about me. If I die, know that I will be at peace," Oz said.

Klaus gritted his teeth in impotent rage. He couldn't lose Oz—he wouldn't. His eyes flashed over the assembled witches. There was a dozen or so channeling their power to aid the three leaders. Klaus knew bringing someone back from the dead was something only a Bennett witch could do alone. Bonnie had yet to reach her full potential and was too ignorant of dark magics to help Oz. The witch who'd sent him to hell could've helped Oz if Oz had been willing to allow her. His fear of hurting the woman he loved, however, wouldn't compel him to endanger the witch.

"If he cannot be revived, I will claim all your lives as forfeit," Klaus warned.

"If you kill the women who are trying to help me, I'll never forgive you," Oz said to him. He looked at Elijah and Kol. "I expect you to be my friend and remove your brother from this city before there can be further bloodshed."

"We will," Elijah promised.

"There will be no need of bloodshed," Agnes assured them. "The ancestors will remove the hex. I have been assured."

Xander had a flash: Elijah and his brothers dead at his feet. He blinked. Was that a vision or his fear? He pulled Elijah aside. "I'm not sure this is a good idea. I think there's something wrong," he said.

Elijah put his hand on his forearm. "Do not worry. All will be well," he said. Then he turned back to his siblings and took their hands while Xander stood behind them filled with growing anxiety.

The witches began chanting. Unbeknownst to the original siblings, Sabine linked them all to Oz, who they had laying on an altar of sorts. Again, Agnes gave her a curious glance but remained silent. Sabine was young and probably worried that their magic wouldn't be strong enough to bring the hybrid back unless they were linked. She had no idea that Sabine had her own nefarious plots that were hers alone since she had no idea that Sabine was not Sabine.

Sabine held the dagger at Oz's head, still chanting, while Agnes and Bastiana were on each side of him. Xander worked hard to keep from stopping the ceremony when the dagger was plunged into Oz's heart. He knew that a sword couldn't normally kill a vampire, not even his kind. However, this dagger was magically protected, so Oz's face turned ashen. Xander felt sick; Oz was dying. Then the originals that surrounded him began to desiccate. Xander looked on in horror.

"What the hell is this?" Klaus yelled as he felt his body begin to die.

"We've been betrayed," Elijah gasped as he fell to his knees and looked up at Xander.

Xander caught him as he fell. "Elijah!" he exclaimed.

"You were right," Elijah said. "I should've listened."

"Why? Why are you doing this?" Kol asked as he fell on his side.

"What did you do, Sabine?" asked Bastiana in dismay.

"Worry not. We'll revive them all soon enough," Agnes said, still ignorant of what Sabine was planning.

Xander felt helpless as he held Elijah and watched him die. But he couldn't die, so Xander would wait before he despaired.

Oz had felt a stab of pain as the dagger was plunged into his heart, and then darkness moved over his eyes. He felt something pass through him and then was surrounded by darkness. Finally, he could see. It was like he was still in New Orleans, but everything was tinged in gray. He turned and saw the witches and himself. Then he grew angry when he saw his friends appearing dead on the ground next to him.

A woman's voice said, "She did it. Celeste actually managed to end the plague I accidentally unleased on the earth."

Oz looked at the woman walking toward him. Somehow, he just knew. It was their mother. Klaus had been right. His mother really had sought his destruction. "You're Esther, their mother," he said.

"I am. I am sorry that my impetuous son destroyed you," she said regretfully.

"He didn't destroy me. The witch who hexed me did. Do you know how to remove the hex?" Oz asked.

"It matters not now that you are here. Celeste found you a convenient tool to torment my sons. She cleverly managed to bind your life to theirs with her spell. Now that you are dead, so are they," Esther said.

Oz frowned, trying to figure out what she meant. "Celeste is Sabine? How is that possible?" Oz asked.

"Magic. She is a very powerful witch and figured out how to jump from body to body over the past few centuries," Esther said.

"So we have been betrayed," Oz said sadly.

"If there was a way to save you and end my children's curse, I'd do so," Esther said regretfully. "I have watched you with my son. You are a good influence on him. In a short time, you've managed to do what no one in a thousand years—not even Elijah—has been able to do. You've brought out the goodness that yet remains in my son. Something, I thought was gone forever."

"If that's so, why then are you trying to kill him? He deserves a chance to earn his redemption," Oz said.

"And he's going to get that chance," someone next to them said. Oz looked and smiled. It was Xander's girlfriend who had died closing the hellmouth.

"Anya? What are you doing here?" he asked.

"I spent a thousand years as a vengeance demon. Even though I died a human, I have to spend some time here in purgatory before I can find peace," Anya said.

"This is purgatory?" Oz asked.

"No, it's just where all supernatural creatures go," Esther defended.

Anya gave her a derisive snort. "You can say it all day long; it doesn't make it true. This is purgatory, but you witches have convinced yourself otherwise. Even the witch who created this place did so at the will of God. There's a lot of witches here, but there's a few who find peace and aren't force to come here," Anya said smugly.

Esther seemed shaken by that news. "We serve nature—we're not evil," she said defensively.

"Not everyone would agree with that," another voice said. A bright glow surrounded the voice.

Oz blinked. The glow was a sharp contrast against the darkness of the place he was in. The glow was getting closer, so he waited. His eyes widened in surprise when he saw who it was.

"Cordelia?" he gasped in surprise. Then he saw she wasn't alone. "Tara?"

Both girls smiled at him. Cordelia stepped forward and embraced him. "It's good to see you, Oz," she said.

Esther was noticeably shaken at their presence. "How are you here? Higher beings are not supposed to be here," she said.

"When you spend time saving the world, you can sometimes bend the rules. The Big Guy has a soft spot for us," Cordelia said smugly. "Tara here's a witch, and unlike you, she doesn't spend her afterlife blaming people for her bad choices."

"If you want to kill your children, you don't have the right to use Oz to do it," Tara said.

"A mother who turns her kids into vampires to save them can be understood. I think that was brave and clever of you," Cordelia said. "But you spending your time in purgatory trying to end their existence is just totally messed up! You'll never find peace if you do that."

"I will. I must free them from the abomination they have become," Esther said with conviction.

"Tell yourself whatever you need to because I don't really care. Your kids have their issues. Who doesn't? But you're not going to kill Oz in your sick vendetta," Cordelia said firmly.

Tara went to Oz. "Will you tell Willow that I'm doing well, and that I miss her? I'm glad she's let herself love again. I want every bit of happiness she can find in this world," Tara said.

"I will," Oz said.

Tara put her hand on his forehead. Then she took his hand that had the hex mark. She murmured a few words. Then she smiled. "Your hex is broken. Now you can go back home," Tara said.

"You cannot do that!" Esther exclaimed.

"You can't stop us," Cordelia said with a smirk. "You may be a big bad witch back in your day, but we're higher beings. You're out of your league!"

"It's time for you to go back, Oz," Tara told him.

"Send that witch to us. We'll see that she's never free to jump into another body," Cordelia said.

Oz felt a wrenching sensation pulling at him. "Kiss Xander for us," Anya said with a wink.

"How about I tell him you said hi?" Oz said with a small smile.

"You could tell that hot son of the witch here to do it," Anya said with a knowing wink.

"Take care of the gang. Tell Angel that I miss him, but I'm always with him," Cordelia said.

"I will. Goodbye," Oz said.

The women began to blur, and then everything faded.

Back on the living side, Xander was yelling, "You better bring them back!"

Sabine, flush with her success, smiled in satisfaction. "We have ended the vampire plague that fills the Earth. All that they have sired will die with them!" she announced.

"What have you done?" Agnes gasped, realizing that she had foolishly trusted the woman. "The sister yet lives and will descend on this city, killing us all!"

"I know a lot of witches. I will find a way to strip your entire coven of its power if you don't bring Oz back!" Xander exclaimed, panic building inside as his friends didn't stir.

The witches were murmuring, trying to decide what to do. "We will bring him back," Agnes announced.

"We will not!" Sabine replied. "It is done! The ancestors ordered me to do it!"

An argument broke out. Then a gasp was heard because Oz was sitting up. He pulled the dagger out of his chest, and his color immediately returned. "Celeste, I was told that you're not going to jump into another body," he said. Then he handed the dagger to Klaus, who had just revived and jumped to his feet. For once, he would allow Klaus to do what he wanted to do. The witch had to die, and Oz felt only resignation.

"I should've known—witches always hold a grudge," Klaus said. Then he sliced Sabine's throat. "That was not Sabine. It was Celeste, an old lover of Elijah's."

Agnes and Bastiana looked down at the now dead body. They had been completely manipulated. How did things unravel so fast?

Xander hugged Elijah in relief. "You scared me!" he said.

Oz stepped off the altar. "The hex is broken," he shared.

"The ancestors did it!" Agnes exclaimed, relieved. Maybe they'd get through this night alive after all.

"No. Klaus' mother was behind this, but friends of mine and Xander intervened," Oz said, glancing at Xander.

"Anya? Anya was on the Other Side helping you?" Xander guessed.

"Yes, but she wasn't alone. Cordy and Tara were there, too," Oz said.

"Really?" Xander asked in amazement.

"They're higher beings and put Esther in her place," Oz said.

"I'd like to have seen that," Klaus said with a grin.

“I thought Tara was on the Other Side since she showed up on Halloween?” Xander asked.

Oz shrugged. “Not anymore,” he said. “They said the Other Side is a type of purgatory that witches don’t have to stay at once they are ready to pass on or find peace. Some, like Anya, are there as a penance until they’ve spent enough time to pass on.”

"So Mom's plan to kill us failed because of friends of Oz's?" Kol asked. He threw his arm around Oz's shoulder. "This calls for a drink or two. Then you can give us the details."

"We have to deal with these traitorous witches first," Klaus said, glaring at Agnes and Bastiana.

"We did not know what Sabine was planning or that she wasn't Sabine!" Agnes declared.

"Klaus, don't," Oz said, putting his hand on Klaus' arms.

Klaus clenched his fist. His pacifist hybrid was going to drive him insane! "Bloody hell!" he complained, turning away and marching toward the cemetery's front entrance.

Oz and Kol followed him. Elijah held out his hand to Agnes. "We appreciate your willingness to help," he told her, surprising her.

"So you understand that the coven wasn't trying to kill your family? Sabine acted alone," Agnes said.

"Unfortunately, your Sabine lost her free will when Celeste high jacked her body. I know how powerful Celeste is, so I do not hold you responsible," he replied. “I am sorry for the loss of your friend, however. Sabine has been gone for some time. Killing her body was the only way to release Celeste from her.”

“I do not know how we failed to see it, but we are grateful,” Bastiana said.

"And your brother?" Agnes asked.

"My brother will, of course, blame you until he calms down. Oz holds great influence over him as you witnessed," Elijah said. "So I don't think you need worry."

"What about your mother's body? Will you still bury her here?" Bastiana asked.

"I think not. You will receive the pages of my mother's spell book as promised," Elijah said. "It will have to be sufficient."

Agnes nodded, relieved that they weren't going to be slaughtered for Celeste's treachery.

Poor Sabine.

*****Mystic Falls*****

Oz felt so good that he gave Kol his night of drinking and celebrating. Then he demanded they return back to Mystic Falls because he had to see Willow. He knew that she was hurting right now because of the loss of her parents. He knew hearing he was cured and that he had spoken to Tara would be just what she needed. He'd already called Angel, who had been grateful for the message Oz passed on.

When they arrived in Mystic Falls, Oz convinced Klaus to keep a low profile and stay at his mansion with his brothers. Xander went with him to Buffy and Willow's. They rang the bell.

Willow didn't know her two favorite guys were back in town, so she was really surprised when she opened the door. "You're back!" she said with a happy grin.

"Yes, and I'm hex free," Oz announced.

Willow threw her arms around both guys and felt some of the gloom that had surrounded her begin to lift.

******Chapter End******

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Chapter Text

******Los Angeles******

Ever since Oz had called Angel and shared the message from Cordy the day before, he'd been in his room thinking. Of course, if Cordy was here, she'd say that he was brooding. He'd lost a lot of people in his long life even though he'd worked hard to keep himself a part, to keep himself from caring. The weight of his soul had nearly crushed him for decades. Then he'd rejoined civilization, so caring about people was a given. Loving Buffy and finding out about his curse and how much he'd hurt her had been devastating. Being sent back from hell only to have to leave her again was the hardest thing he'd ever done. He never expected to find love again because he truly believed that Buffy was his soulmate. He had wanted to conquer the world for her. It was hard to accept that he'd never really get that chance.

It wasn't easy building a life completely a part from her. Discovering that Cordelia had a good heart had been a nice surprise. Becoming dependent on her, though, had been a bigger surprise. She'd turned into the most selfless and brave person that he'd ever known. Unlike Buffy, Cordy didn't have to fight the darkness. She didn't have to risk her life and sanity fighting monsters, but she did it anyway. Cordy had done so at an incredible cost to herself. However, she'd still fought. Her willingness to bear so much pain without much complaint when she'd received her visions had shown the depth of her change. She'd shown compassion and love to everyone. The Cordy he'd met in Sunnydale had matured into an amazing woman.

How could he not fall in love with such a woman?

Naturally, his love for her was doomed from the start. The fact that he'd never even questioned her sudden relationship with his son Connor when she'd been the one to change his diapers mere months before still upset him. She'd been infected or possessed, and he hadn't known until it was too late.

It did give him comfort to know that she was a higher being for real this time and that she was at peace. But he missed her every day. His only consolation was that she hadn't had to see them lose Fred the way that they had. If she'd been alive, he wasn't sure that he'd have made his devil bargain that destroyed Fred's soul.

Spike came into his room with Katherine was trailing him. Angel couldn't believe the woman was still hanging around Spike. Since she'd been so infatuated with Stefan Salvatore for so long, Angel had trouble seeing Spike as the guy for her. He wasn't anything like Faith's new boyfriend. Angel just hoped she left before Spike got too attached.

"Go away," Angel said with a glare.

"So what's got you so dark and gloomy? Ever since Oz called to tell you his good news, you've been shut up in here," Spike said. "I think you didn't tell me something. Kat and I aren't going to leave until you tell me what's got you more broody and depressing than usual."

Angel knew his glare wasn't going to send Spike away—he had known Angel too long. Sighing in resignation, he said, "Oz saw Cordy when he was on the other side."

"Really?" Spike asked with interest.

"She and Tara both appeared. They're higher beings," Angel shared.

"Like angels?" Katherine wondered.

"Basically, I guess," Angel said with a shrug. "They're in a place of power and no suffering."

"They're at peace. That's good," Spike pointed out. "So why are you so mopey? Since Cordelia was possessed by a demon, isn't it good news to know she was sent to a good place?"

"Yes, it's good news," Angel agreed, getting up and moving around his room. He felt restless. "It's just that she told Oz to tell me that she missed me. It brought back some things."

Katherine listened with interest. "Wait, I thought it was the slayer you loved?" she asked.

"I did," Angel said. "I always will. Cordy worked with me here after I left Buffy in Sunnydale."

"Angel has that pesky little curse," Spike said to her, smirking. "He killed the wrong girl and was cursed to never know one moment of happiness."

Katherine looked thoughtful. "All curses can be broken. Didn't your friend just get one broken? You just have to find the right witch," Katherine pointed out.

Angel blinked, and Spike looked amazed. No one had ever suggested that Angel's fate could be altered or that there could be another way. "No one's ever said that," Spike said. He grabbed Katherine and kissed her. "You're beautiful and brilliant!"

"You don't think I've thought of that?" Angel said crossly. "The curse gave me back my soul. If I break the curse, I could lose my soul. I won't risk ever going back to the monster that was Angelus."

"Spike got his soul back without a curse, so it's possible for souls to be restored without a curse," Katherine said.

"Good point," Spike said.

"What's the point? Cordy is dead and Buffy is starting a life with the man she loves," Angel reminded them.

"True, mate. But there are plenty of lovely ladies out there," Spike said. He put his arm around Katherine. "Look what I found?"

Angel started to reply then winced as he got a vision.

Spike recognized the signs and grinned eagerly. "So what do we get to kill now?" he asked happily.

Katherine looked confused—she missed something. "What?" she asked.

"Angel had a vision," Spike explained.

"How did you know that?" Katherine asked. She had yet to figure out the relationship between her new lover and Angel. At times, she thought they truly disliked one another. However, Spike was as sensitive to Angel's mood as a lover would be. He also refused to abandon Angel for long term. It was a strange dichotomy.

"I can tell by his face. It normally just has that one broody expression," Spike said with a smirk.

"A woman's getting attacked on the corner of Fifth and Elm," Angel said. He grabbed his axe. "Let's go."

Spike looked at Katherine. "We'll be back in a jiffy, love," he said. Then he turned to follow Angel.

Katherine frowned. She didn't like this constant leaving Spike did, and she hated to feel left out. "I wanna go!" she called after them. Then she hurried, so they wouldn't leave her behind.

*****Mystic Falls*****

Klaus had been more than a little surprised to see Illyria in his house, but he'd not been displeased. He owed this former hell god everything. He had been so relieved that Oz was going to be okay that he'd challenged her to a drinking game. Unbeknownst to him, Illyria's human biological functions were much different from his. Alcohol had no effect on her. He got drunker and drunker, finding her funnier and funnier. He'd even tried to seduce her.

"Do you wish to mate with me?" she'd asked him. "It is not yet my needing time."

Klaus laughed. "Do you have any human emotions?" he'd asked, finding her phrasings both strange and amusing.

"I am not human," she replied, unoffended.

It was both nice and annoying to be unable to offend or annoy the woman. "Well, I haven't been with a woman in a while. My sweet Caroline is a long way from allowing me into her bed. How about you get human and join me upstairs?" he'd asked suggestively.

She changed into Fred. "Is this the form you are referring to?" she'd asked.

"I care not what color you are. Blue, black, brown—it is irrelevant," he said with a shrug. "However, if you channel your host's memories, I bet we could have a jolly good roll. Of course, your body suit, might get in the way!"

Her voice took on a noticeable Texan twang as she smiled. Then she giggled, and he blinked. That was unexpected. Klaus found himself giving her a perusal, regarding her with real interest for the first time.

"I'm game if you are," she said, giving him a shy smile. Klaus was genuinely intrigued and took her hand, leading her to his room.

He woke up with her naked body next to his and smiled. The body Illyria was inhabiting had obviously belonged to an extraordinary woman. The two vampires loved her, so he had trouble understanding why they had not killed the creature who had taken such a woman from them. Was their desire to defeat their enemies so great that they'd used any weapon? He stroked his hand down Illyria's naked form. Such commitment was foreign to Klaus.

"Klaus!" a voice called out. "Are you home?"

It was Caroline. He knew that she wouldn't understand his current situation, and he moved quickly to throw on some clothes. Then he opened up the door, stepping into hall. She was coming up the stairs. So he gave her a wave. "This is a nice surprise!" he said, smiling warmly. He shut his bedroom door behind him.

"I heard you were back. Why didn't you call me?" she asked.

"I was going to today," he said easily. "I spent last night getting drunk in celebration of our victory over my mother."

"So your mother really was behind it?" Caroline asked.

Klaus nodded. "Yea, Oz saw her when he was on the Other Side. He got put in her place by some friends of his and the slayer," Klaus said.

"You know she has a name," Caroline admonished. "And she's not the only one anymore."

Klaus grinned. "Make no mistake, sweetheart. She'll always be the only one," he said. He knew power. It mattered not how many arose after her. Buffy Summers would always be the only one that really mattered.

"Do you want to have breakfast with me?" Caroline asked hopefully.

"Of course!" he said.

"I thought I heard voices," Kol said, coming out of his room with a yawn.

"Good morning!" Caroline said, giving him a bright smile.

"Oh, you're a sight for sour eyes!" Kol said, holding open his arms. Caroline moved to give him a hug.

Klaus glared. His annoying brother was always interrupting. "She and I were just about to get breakfast," Klaus said, holding out his hand to Caroline.

Kol grinned. "I'd love to have breakfast with you," he said to Caroline.

"You weren't invited," Klaus said with a frown.

"Of course, you're invited," Caroline said to him, giving Klaus an admonishing glance.

"I'll go get dressed. Meet you in a minute," Kol said, turning around in time to see Illyria walking out of Klaus' bedroom. He stopped, unable to refrain from stirring the pot. "Oh, good morning, Illyria!"

Caroline had her hand on the staircase banister about to step downstairs when Kol greeted the hell god. She glanced back, ready to extend an invitation to the woman that she found amusing. Then she realized that she was coming out of Klaus' room. She turned and looked at Klaus, and his look of guilt told her everything. "On second thought, I just realized I have to meet Elena. Rain check," she said, throwing them an empty smile. Then she hurried down the stairs.

Klaus ran after her, stopping her at their front door. "Caroline! Wait!" he ordered.

Caroline faced him. "Did you sleep with her?" she asked.

"I was drunk. It meant nothing," he said defensively.

Caroline was deeply hurt because she had believed that he liked her. "I thought you liked me," she said softly, looking down at the ground.

Klaus cursed himself for hurting her. It hadn't been his intention—not ever. "Of course, I do!" he assured her. "I am deeply sorry. I was celebrating and got carried away. It meant nothing. Illyria means nothing!"

"Why is she angry?" Illyria asked as she clearly heard their exchange and was puzzled.

"You slept with him!" Caroline accused, her anger showing.

"He desired my host's form. I find him amusing," she said with a shrug. "Why does it anger you?"

"Because she fancies him," Kol explained from the bottom of the stairs.

Illyria frowned. "She is pleasing to me. I do not mind if she has the hybrid," Illyria said.

Kol snickered while Klaus glared at her. "I do not belong to you!" he reminded her.

Illyria shrugged, unconcerned. "I do not understand your anger, but my host has experience with jealousy. I assume your vampire is jealous," she said with rancor.

"I am not jealous!" Caroline defended.

Illyria, always able to sense emotion, realized her error. "You are hurt. My copulation with the hybrid has hurt you," she said, a note of surprise in her voice. She looked at Klaus and frowned. "Did you know that our union would hurt her?"

Klaus was caught off guard by the question and wasn't sure how to reply. "I would never want to hurt Caroline because I care very much for her," he asked.

"I wanted to mate with him during my needing time because he is the strongest of creatures in this realm and would create a fitting father for my progeny," Illyria explained. "I meant no harm to you."

Caroline wanted to scream. She felt embarrassed and upset. "It's okay," she said to Illyria. "Klaus can sleep with whomever he wants. It's not really my business. I'll see you guys later." Then she opened the door and fled.

Illyria gave Klaus an annoyed look. "You hurt her," she said flatly. She hit him, knocking him off his feet. She gave him a disapproving look and shot a glare at Kol who was laughing his ass off. Then Illyria left.

She didn't always understand the humans. Vampires from the Mikaelson line were much different than Angel and Spike. They were so emotional about everything it seemed. However, they were powerful allies. They hybrid cared for the blonde vampire, and Illyria's memories of Fred allowed her to know why copulating with Illyria was wrong. Illyria was not unaware of the girl's affection for the hybrid. Yet she had failed to understand the hurt that would occur by her actions. If it was her needing time, Illyria would've dismissed the young vampire's feelings because Illyria's need would be great. But last night there had been no need. Klaus had used her.

Illyria found that realization made her very angry at the hybrid.

No one uses her.

*****A Few Blocks Over*****

Alaric woke up very confused. He hadn't wanted to worry his pregnant fiancé, but he was losing time. He woke up feeling too tired like he never even went to sleep. It was hard some days to teach because he was so exhausted. He considered talking to someone.

"Good morning," a cheery Buffy called from the bathroom door.

"Good morning, sweetheart," he said, smiling at her. Her presence never ceased to clear the fog from his brain. "How are you feeling?"

"Good. I think the worst of my morning sickness is past," she said. "Giles told me that my slayerness might make pregnancy easier. I think he's right."

"That's good to hear," he said, yawning.

"Did you sleep last night?" she asked. "You look tired."

"I don't feel like I've slept in a week. Did I get up?" he asked.

"I wish I could say," she said apologetically. "Before pregnancy, I was a very light sleeper. Now I seem to sleep like the dead."

"I think something's wrong," he admitted. He didn't want to worry her, but he also felt too out of it to keep it from her. She deserved to know. Ever since he'd had the night terror where he tried to kill her, he'd been out of sorts.

"What's wrong?" Buffy asked, going to him immediately.

"I think something is not right. I'm too tired. I feel like I haven't slept in days," he said. He didn't mention the black outs. He really didn't want to upset her.

"Why don't you call in sick today and go see Meredith?" Buffy suggested. "Then you can come home and rest."

Alaric agreed, and Buffy made him an appointment while he showered. An hour later, he was explaining to Meredith what was wrong. She listened thoughtfully.

"I think a sleep test would be the best thing. Come back tonight so we can monitor what's going on," Meredith said. "We'll go from there."

"Can't you just give me some sleeping pills?" he asked.

Meredith frowned. "I think black outs and waking up with your hand around your girlfriend's throat is indicative of something more serious," she said.

"I'm about to be married in two weeks. We're going to have a baby. This isn't a good time for me to start losing my mind," Alaric said unhappily.

Meredith gave him a reassuring smile. "You're not losing your mind. It's probably your mind trying to work out the stress of marrying such an extraordinary woman," she said.

Alaric smiled. "She is incredible," he said. "She told me to go home and take a nap."

"Well, we want you to be able to sleep tonight, so maybe skip the nap. Be back here at seven, okay?" she said.

Alaric agreed and went to the sheriff's office to tell Buffy before heading to school.

He was unaware of the pair of eyes watching him from a darkly tinted car.

"I'm hungry," the vampire said.

"Patience, my sweet. We mustn't allow the slayer to know where here. We don't want to spoil her big day," Drusilla said with a manic smile.

"Why don't we go visit my daughter? I'm sure she'll be glad to give us something to eat!"

Drusilla giggled. "Oh, you're so clueless, aren't you? Your daughter is a very powerful witch. We mustn't let her know yet that you're in town. I want it to be a nice surprise for Buffy's big day," Dru informed her.

"Witch?" Sheila Rosenberg scoffed. "There's no such thing as witches!"

"Oh, but there is. Just like vampires and demons are real," Dru said confidently. She started the car. "You have much to learn. We'll find a place to stay and return in time for the wedding. Buffy and your daughter aren't going anywhere."

Sheila was disappointed, but she didn't argue. Her shell contained vast intelligence and was constantly analyzing the changes that had occurred in her. Her psychology background had given her several tools in dealing with one so clearly unhinged as her sire. It was obvious to Sheila that the woman was completely insane. However, she couldn't do anything yet to change her circumstances. She'd bide her time and see how the events played out.

She was curious to find out what her dear daughter was really all about.

*****Chapter End*****

I'm going to be moving the storyline along, so I hope you'll continue to read. Thanks so much! If you don't watch "The Originals," you should check it out on Netflix.

Chapter Text

*****A Short Time Later*****

Caroline left Klaus' fighting back tears. Why was she surprised? He was an evil man who sacrificed her best friend and her best friend's aunt on an altar of blood. He would've sacrificed her if the circumstances had been right. It was just she'd felt a strong connection to him. The way he smiled at her made her feel so many things. None of the guys she'd dated had come close to what he brought out in her. She'd thought she was special to him and that he cared about her.

She drove her car over to Dawn's. Neither Elena or Bonnie was the right person to discuss Klaus with.

"What's up, Caroline?" Dawn asked, letting her in. She saw that Caroline was on the verge of tears. "Are you okay?"

"No," Caroline said, wiping her eyes. "I went to Klaus'. He's back in town since Oz is cured. He had sex last night with Illyria."

"Do you want me to have Buffy beat him up for you?" Dawn asked hopefully. "I know she'd like that a lot."

"She's pregnant!" Caroline reminded her.

"True. But she said to me just this morning, 'I'm pregnant, not terminal! I can do it myself!'" Dawn imitated.

Caroline gave a small smile. "I don't want any fighting. It's not good for the baby. I just thought Klaus liked me. He kissed me once," she said morosely. She walked over and threw herself down on the sofa. Dawn sat next to her. "It's crazy. He's like a monster, and here I am upset because he only did what was in his nature."

"I don't know. He's a complex guy—like Spike," Dawn said. "He loved my sister even when he didn't have a soul. But his nature was evil, and he almost raped her. He hated what he was so much that he went and found a way to get his soul. His love for Buffy changed him completely."

"You don't think I'm crazy for liking Klaus?" Caroline asked in a small voice.

"No. I've seen the way he is with you. Both he and Kol treat you differently than they treat everyone else," Dawn said. "Besides, Oz likes him. Oz is a good judge of character."

"Don't you think that Oz has to 'cause he's his sire?" Caroline wondered.

"Is that you asking, or did that come from Bonnie or Elena?" Dawn asked.

"Bonnie," Caroline admitted.

"She doesn't know Oz. He doesn't do anything he doesn't want to do. He learned to control his wolf on his own just so he wouldn't hurt Willow. Even though she'd already fallen for Tara and even now that she loves Rebekah, he's still devoted to her," Dawn said. "If Klaus was unredeemable, Oz wouldn't be wasting his time."

"Kol told me that Oz has become very important to Klaus—like a brother. Klaus was ready to do anything to save him," Caroline shared.

"See. That shows he has a heart," Dawn said.

"Then why did he sleep with Illyria?" Caroline asked.

"He's a guy. Guys are stupid and often think with their dicks!" Dawn said, rolling her eyes.

There was a knock on the door. "Come in," Dawn called out. She blinked in surprise to see Illyria there. She looked normal—like Fred would probably look like. "Illyria. Is everything okay?"

"I wish to speak to the vampire," Illyria said looking at Caroline.

Caroline got up to face her. "I have a name you know? How about you learn to use it instead of calling me vampire," Caroline said in annoyance. "How did you find me anyway?"

"My host was very intelligent for a human. She would've expected you to go to one of your friends if you were upset. The slayer's sister was the most logical choice," Illyria explained.

"What do you want?" Caroline asked, a note of hostility in her voice.

"I wanted to see if you were well. I did not mean for my actions to cause you harm," Illyria said gravely. Then she gave her a Fred-like shy smile. "I punched him really hard for it."

Caroline couldn't help but smile. "You did?" she asked.

"I am not human and do not have the human need to constantly copulate. However, I do once a year. Only then could this human host bear fruit," Illyria said. "I found the hybrid worthy as he is the strongest and most devious of all males I've encountered in this realm."

"He is both those things," Caroline agreed. "And a lying two-faced asshat!"

"I was unaware that one could wear a hat on one's ass," Illyria said with a puzzled frown. "How is that possible?"

Dawn laughed. "It's not. It's just an expression meaning that he can be a real jerk," she explained.

"I did not need to mate with him last night and should not have done so," Illyria said. "This human body makes me weak."

"I appreciate you saying that," Caroline said.

"Nice to know that you're just like the rest of us!" Dawn said with a grin.

Illyria gave her a withering glare but remained silent.

"Have you had breakfast? I was going to go grab some food at the Diner," Caroline said to Dawn.

"Sure. I work at five, but I can join you for breakfast," Dawn said. "I'll send Buffy a text. Since these murders, she's been back in over-protective mode."

While she pulled out her cell, Caroline looked at Illyria. "Do you want to join us?" she asked, deciding to forgive the former hell god. She wasn't the one who'd hurt Caroline.

Illyria smiled. "I would," she said the young vampire's forgiving nature did not go unappreciated by Illyria. She vowed to make sure Klaus treated the young woman better in the future. She would enjoy teaching him some manners.

******That Night******

Rick kissed Buffy good night and went to the hospital where Meredith was conducting his sleep study. She greeted him and explained what was going to happen, attaching monitoring equipment to him.

"This will keep track of your heart rate and read your brain patterns," she explained.

"So what do I do?" Rick asked.

"Just try to go to sleep," she advised. "The whole point is to figure out what's going on with you when you're asleep."

Rick nodded and laid down on the bed. He felt strange. Of course, he'd been feeling strange ever since he'd woken up with his hands around Buffy's throat. Now that she was having his baby, it was even more important that he figure out what was going on. He wanted to be a good father. Once, he'd dreamed about having a family with Isobel. However, she'd dreamed of becoming a vampire and never having children. She hadn't even told him that Elena had been born. Buffy, though, shared everything with Rick—all her hopes and dreams. He had to be whole and healthy for her.

He fell into dreamless sleep; everything went black. An hour into his sleep cycle, he sat up. Rick the fiancée of Buffy was gone. Only the hunter remained.

"Rick, are you okay?" Meredith asked over the speaker.

He didn't reply. He got up and moved to his jacket, his back toward her. Meredith wasn't sure if he was awake or sleep walking. She went into the room. "Rick, you need to get back to bed," she said, tapping the back of his left shoulder.

When he turned and stabbed her in the stomach with his knife, she looked at him in shock. It was him. He was the one killing the council members. "Why? I'm not a council member," she gasped.

"You are a founding family. You have aided the vampires in this town," he said coldly.

"Rick? Why are you doing this? This isn't you," she said, the pain was excruciating.

"I am a hunter," he replied without emotion. He pulled out the knife and stabbed her again. She fell to the ground. Then he wiped his prints off the knife. After jumping back onto the bed, he took a breath. Then he stabbed himself in the side. He knocked down the equipment next to him and reached for the phone. Wincing, he dialed Buffy.

"Buffy. Someone was here," he gasped. "I'm hurt. Meredith is too. Get help."

Buffy was at home when he called. His call for help was like a splash of cold water. The line went dead. "Rick!" She called. She immediately called Liz and told her what he said. Liz would get help faster. Then she jumped out of bed. "Willow!" she yelled as she began to get dressed.

Willow came in. "What's going on?" She asked in concern. "Are you sick?"

"Rick called. Something bad's happened. He and Meredith are hurt. Will you drive me to the hospital?" Buffy asked her.

"Of course. Let me get my shoes on," Willow said.

A short time later, she was racing into the hospital. Willow on her heels. "Where is Meredith Fall's office?" she asked a clerk.

They were directed to the second floor. Buffy could see medical personnel working. Liz and deputies were in the hall. "Liz, where's Rick? Is he okay?" she asked.

"He'll be okay. He was stabbed in the side," Liz said. "But Meredith is dead."

"What?" Buffy asked in dismay and horror.

"It was just like the others. A knife was used except this time the killer left it behind. Rick says he was asleep and doesn't really know what happened. I figured he fought the guy off before he could pull out the knife," Liz said.

A gurney came out of the room. Rick was on it. A knife was sticking out of him. "Oh my God! Are you okay?" she asked, upset at the sight.

"They said it was good that I didn't try to pull it out," Rick said. "It hurts, but they already gave me something. I barely feel it."

Buffy felt sick seeing the blood and knife sticking in him. "I can't believe this has happened! Why would anyone kill Meredith? She's a doctor!" Buffy said.

"I would assume because she's a Fell, and Rick's on the council. He votes for Elena and Jeremy," Liz said. "I'm going to view the security footage."

Buffy turned to Willow. "Will you stay with Liz and find out what she discovers and come tell me? I'm going to wherever they're taking Rick," she said.

"Fourth floor," the nurse told her.

"I'll find you," Willow said. Buffy kept a hold of Rick's hand as they wheeled him away in the gurney. She looked at the sheriff. "What next?"

"Now we get the pleasure of going through footage," Liz said. "Follow me."

*****A few miles away*****

Caroline had just pulled into her drive way and was getting out of her car when Klaus approached her. "Caroline, I would speak with you," he said.

"Yea, well, I don't think I really want to talk to you right now," Caroline said, giving him a sour look.

"I just want to apologize, sweetheart," Klaus said. "I didn't mean to hurt you."

Caroline snorted. "You didn't think I'd find out is what you mean," she said, rolling her eyes.

"I wasn't planning on telling you, no. It didn't mean anything. We were celebrating. She turned into Fred, and I was fascinated," Klaus shared.

"I bet," Caroline said sourly.

He reached out and took her hand. "You know that I care about you, Caroline," he said sincerely.

Caroline looked at him. He seemed so sincere. Did having sex with Illyria mean she mattered less? Maybe. But it didn't mean that she didn't matter at all. "Fine," she said with a sigh. "I forgive you. It's not like you can't have sex with whomever you want anyway. We're not together."

Klaus tugged her closer. "I'd be with you any day, any hour, any minute. No other woman holds a candle to you, love. I will prove to you that I mean it," he vowed.

"How will you do that?" Caroline asked, intrigued.

"I'll surprise you," he said. He placed a light kiss on her lips. Then he stepped way. "Sweet dreams, sweet Caroline."

She finally smiled at him. "Good night," she said. Then she went to her door.

Klaus watched her go into her house, full of hope. His friend was sane again, and he was home with his family. Caroline smiled at him once again. Things were looking up.

******Salvatores*******

Damon was pouring himself a drink in his too empty house. He'd been with Spike or his brother nearly every day the past few years. It was unsettling to be back in this house all by himself. He considered calling Elena. However, she was too much of a temptation.

His door opened. "Damon?" Elena called. "Are you home?"

"I'm in here!" he called back. Well, temptation was the name of the evening after all.

She came into his living room. "Hey," she said.

"What's up?" he asked.

"Nothing. I just wanted to see you," she said.

"Well, have a seat," he said, gesturing to the sofa. He sat down, and she sat down next to him.

"Is it good being home?" she asked him.

"It is," he said. "But it's also weird to be here without Stefan."

Elena gave him a knowing smile. "You're not used to being alone anymore," she said.

"I was alone for over a hundred years, and I picked up women off and on. Went to a few colleges. But yes, I was mostly alone," Damon shared.

"What's it like fighting demons in Los Angeles?" Elena asked.

"Not what I imagined," Damon said with a smirk. "Not that I imagined anything."

"You like it, don't you?" Elena inquired, smiling.

"Spike is a bit like me. He relishes in the fight and blood," Damon said with a grin. "Angel is more somber than even Stefan, but he's an incredible fighter. He gets these visions of people who need help. Then he helps them. It's all that he is. He lives to atone for the lives that he took when he had no soul."

"You admire him," Elena observed. Damon never showed admiration for anyone.

Damon shrugged. "He's not so bad," Damon said. "He and Spike are amusing together. They bicker more than an old married couple."

Elena laughed. "They're coming in for the wedding?" she asked.

Damon nodded. "They sent Illyria here to keep an eye on some threat that Angel saw. Didn't think it'd be appropriate for them to be here considering their history with Buffy," he shared.

"There's been some murders in town—human not vampire," Elena said. "It seems someone is killing off council members."

Damon considered it. "I don't know what that'd have to do with Buffy's wedding. Angel said she was in a wedding dress, so the trouble will happen then," Damon said.

Elena's phone rang. It was Dawn. Dawn didn't call much, so Elena knew it was important. "Hello?" She listened as Dawn told her what had happened. "I'm with Damon. We'll be right there."

"What's going on? Why would someone hurt Rick?" Damon asked.

"Since Meredith Fell was murdered at the same time, it must be the killer. Let's get to the hospital. They're taking him into surgery," Elena said as she got to her feet.

Damon followed her out the door, worried for his friend.

******Back at the Hospital*******

Willow was shown how to fast forward the surveillance tapes in the security room while Liz conferred with the security guards on shift. Finally, she got the time stamp for the past two hours. She slowed it down, watching for someone to enter the door. No one ever did.

She turned in the chair. "Sheriff, do you have a camera inside the room?" she asked.

"No. Unless a doctor is worried about theft, they don't usually keep one inside the rooms. Most of the cameras are focused on medicine or blood areas—of course, in case there's blood theft," Liz said. "Meredith, kept her meds in the room across the hall. That's why the camera shows both angles."

"Well, there is no one going into the room," Willow shared. "How is that possible? If Alaric was the only one in there with her, who did the stabbing?"

Liz couldn't believe she was considering an awful possibility. "There's only one possibility," she said unhappily.

Willow thought a moment. "Oh, goddesss! You don't think…I mean there's no way…It's just not possible…Rick would never!" she exclaimed.

"What else could it be? It has to be Alaric. He is the killer," Liz said, feeling sick.

*****To Be Continued*****

Since Rick stabbed himself on the show, I figured this would work well. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for reading!

Chapter Text

******The Next Day******

Oz woke up after another restless night. Although the curse was broken, he still was plagued by nightmares. Most of the dreams were memories of hallucinations. Or they were fears that he'd developed because of the curse. He went downstairs and grabbed a blood bag and poured it into a coffee cup and heated it up. Drinking blood was not as abhorrent to him as most would think considering he was a pacifist by nature. Growing up on a hellmouth made him pragmatic. Bad things needed to die. Now he was a supernatural creature that needed blood to survive. He didn't do the animal blood like Stefan Salvatore because he didn't like the idea of having to kill to live. He supposed he could drink pig's blood like Angel, but he knew that Klaus wouldn't like anything that made him weaker. His new reality was human blood kept him at his strongest. Blood bags were donated by willing humans. Yes, it bothered him that he was taking something others needed to live. However, he usually spent an afternoon once a week compelling people in whatever area his blood supply was from to donate blood to make up the difference.

Kol teased him about this new habit that no vampire in the history of vampires had ever developed. Klaus wasn't surprised at all, though, and said nothing. He knew that being a vampire amplified traits. To him, this was just another example of how utterly selfless his hybrid was. He was like no one else on Earth. Although Oz's selfless nature made him nuts most of the time, it also made him proud. To know that someone like Oz existed made him hope for mankind. Oz's willingness to be in a real friendship with him made Klaus feel like he wasn't a complete monster after all. It gave him hope for his own redemption. He had only known the worst of humans. Oz was the best as a human and even greater as a hybrid. Like his sweet Caroline, Oz only improved as a vampire.

Of course, Oz would not agree. Klaus watched him drinking his blood in a coffee cup as he read the morning paper. "Good morning, Oz," he said as he came into the kitchen.

Oz looked up. "Morning," he said in his usual one-word manner.

His hybrid rarely used a sentence when one word would suffice. Such a refreshing change from Kol and Rebekah who never ceased their prattling. "Have you seen my sister?" he asked, realizing that she'd not come by since he'd returned.

"Yes," Oz said.

Klaus waited for more information, but his monosyllabic friend said nothing. "Why hasn't see come to see me?" he asked.

"Maybe because she's busy keeping Will from coming over here and picking a fight with you," Oz said. They had all agreed to keep Willow's lack of magic a secret from Klaus as long as possible. Buffy had her hands full with the town murders. She didn't need to have to deal with Klaus when she was pregnant and about to get married.

"We are her family, not that witch," Klaus complained.

Oz looked at Klaus with that disappointing look. "That witch is my family, and you promised me you wouldn't hurt her," Oz said flatly.

Klaus' eyes flashed angrily. His possessive nature resented Oz's attachment to the witch, but he knew nothing short of death would end it. For a moment, he felt guilty for what he did in the name of vengeance. Then he pushed it aside—she deserved far worse. "I won't lay a hand on her, but can she say the same?" Klaus asked pointedly.

"She won't hurt you again," Oz said confidently.

"What would you do if she did?" Klaus asked.

"She won't, but you know I'd never just stand by and let anyone hurt anyone I care about," Oz assured him. "That goes both ways."

Klaus knew that on some level, but he was relieved to hear it reaffirmed. What would his hybrid do when he found out what Klaus had set in motion?

Oz looked at Klaus closely, sensing something was wrong. Frowning, he probed, "What's wrong?"

Klaus shrugged. "Caroline caught me in bed with Illyria, and she's upset," he said, seeking to turn Oz's too intelligent gaze.

Oz looked surprised. "You had sex with Illyria? I didn't know that was even possible," he said.

"She is in a human body, and she has all the right parts," Klaus said, a note of defensiveness in his voice. "I was celebrating your restoration and may have allowed myself to become a bit inebriated."

Oz shook his head. "Caroline is a teenage vampire. Of course, she was upset. She likes you," Oz said.

"I like her just as much. In fact, I'm crazy about her," Klaus said. "Illyria meant nothing."

"She meant something to Caroline," Oz pointed out. "Women don't like to share. They like to know that they aren't easily replaced or interchangeable."

Klaus said nothing, knowing he was right. Then he said, "You need to find yourself a woman."

Oz shrugged. "I'm sure it'll happen at some point," he said.

Klaus was relieved that his hybrid wasn't planning on pining after the witch for the foreseeable future. "The slayer's wedding will have lots of single women there. If you can pull yourself way from your witch, who knows?" Klaus said with a grin.

Oz gave him a slight smile but said nothing.

*****Sheriff's Office*****

Liz's mind was a chaotic mess. She kept trying to wrap her mind around what was happening with Alaric. How could he be a serial killer? He was in love with Buffy, and Liz had witnessed their love more than once. They were about to have a baby. Already, they took care of the orphan teens in town. Why would Alaric destroy their happiness? Why would he be killing council members? What was his motive? She had called Damon to come speak to her. He was Alaric's closest friend and needed to know her suspicions. Maybe, he could shed some light.

Willow arrived with Rebekah. She, too, was having a hard time understanding what was happening. She'd went off the dark edge before, and she knew what that looked like. However, that didn't seem to be what was happening with Rick. He was still the guy they all knew and loved. Why would he commit murder? She'd shared their concerns about Rick with Rebekah. Finally, she might have an answer that made sense.

"Liz, Rebekah believes she knows what's happening with Rick," Willow said as they entered her office.

"I hope so. I for one don't understand. I just can't believe Alaric would kill anyone," Liz remarked.

"What?" Damon asked in dismay. He was standing in the doorway. Illyria, appearing as Fred, was with him.

"Damon, come in and shut the door," Liz ordered as she stood to her feet.

"Rick is the one killing the council members," Willow told him. "At least that's what we believe. I mean, he was the only one in the room with Meredith Fell. I watched the video. It has to be him."

"That's preposterous!" Damon exclaimed. "Rick could never murder anyone. I turned his wife into a vampire, and he still asked me to be his best friend at his wedding. He'd never hurt humans."

"No, he wouldn't," Rebekah agreed. "But it's possible he's doing it without realizing it."

"What do you mean?" Liz asked.

"That's why I brought Rebekah. I told her what we thought was happening, and she has a theory," Willow said.

"It's his ring. One of the ring's prior owners used to be in love with my brother Kol," Rebekah shared. "The ring that kept her safe from a supernatural death drove her mad."

"I've always sensed something off about the ring," Willow admitted. A look of guilt flashed across her face. "I should've been more insistent that he stop wearing the ring!"

"It would not have mattered," Illyria said. "Once a darkness takes root, the source of the seed becomes irrelevant."

"You mean if he takes off the ring, he'll still have this split personality?" Willow asked.

"Yes," Illyria said.

Damon scoffed in disbelief. "He's my best friend. If he had a dark side, don't you think I'd know it?" he asked.

"Not if he was unaware of it himself," Rebekah said.

"I have seen him stalking his prey. I know that this is true," Illyria said.

"Where was I when you came to this revelation?" Damon asked, getting angry.

"I told you that your friend was not your friend," Illyria reminded him.

"We have to do something," Willow said. "What do I tell Buffy?"

"You should not tell her anything until we speak with Alaric," Liz said.

"She will be pissed. A pissed off pregnant slayer is never a good thing," Willow said, upset.

"Where's Alaric now?" Liz asked.

"Damon gave him blood, so he was healed from his knife wound. He's on his way to school. That's where I need to go, too," Willow said, glancing at the time.

"After school is out, bring him to my office," Liz said.

"Are you formerly going to charge him?" Willow asked. "That'll ruin his career forever."

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Liz admitted wearily. "Just bring him here. We'll figure it out." Rebekah and Willow left.

"I think you're wrong about this," Damon told her. "I saw him last night. I just can't believe he'd stabbed himself, so you have to be wrong."

"I wish I was, Damon, but it's the only thing that fits. No one else was in or out of the room where Meredith was killed but him. I spoke to a doctor. His wound could be self-inflicted," Liz said.

Damon didn't argue further. He knew better, but their mind was made up. It was up to him to prove his friend's innocence.

*****The High School*****

Elena and Bonnie were walking to meet their friends for lunch. Elena was upset about Rick's attack and the murders. Her fear that she was once again going to lose someone she loved was foremost in her mind. Things had been so much better since Buffy had arrived. She and Willow were strong enough to protect them from anything. To know that something as natural as simple murder could still rip away someone she loved kept her stomach in knots.

"I really hope they figure out who is behind these murders soon. I don't want Buffy to have to worry about anything but her perfect wedding and the baby," Elena said.

Bonnie was preoccupied and didn't reply. Elena glanced at her in concern. "Are you okay, Bon?" she asked.

"I-I'm not sure," Bonnie stammered. "I had a really disturbing dream. It's like the ancestors are trying to tell me something."

Elena stopped, putting her arm on Bonnie's. "Is it a warning? What did they say?" she asked.

"They want me to do something, I think. I don't know. It's strange," Bonnie said.

"What did Willow say about it?" Elena asked.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to her yet," Bonnie said. "It's hard. What with her not having her powers. Also, she doesn't draw any power from her ancestors. She's Jewish."

"What if they want you to do something that you don't want to do? Shouldn't Willow know?" Elena pointed out.

Bonnie knew she had a point and decided to go see Willow, who was still in her classroom.

"Willow, do you have a minute? I wanted to tell you something," Bonnie said.

"Sure, sweetie. What's going on?" Willow asked.

"I've been having weird dreams. They're not normal," Bonnie said. "It's like the ancestors want me to do something for them. Their voice is in my head."

"What do you think they want?" Willow asked, frowning. There was her lack of magic, the wedding, the murders, her parents, and now Alaric. She didn't need another problem.

"I don't know. I just didn't feel right," Bonnie confessed.

"We need to make time after school or tonight to do some meditating," Willow suggested.

"Do you mind doing it now? I can't even eat. I feel like a sword or something is hanging over my head," Bonnie said.

"Okay, I guess. Let me send Rick a text that I won't be joining him for lunch," Willow said, pulling out her phone. She hoped he didn't have an episode while he was at school. She felt too much turmoil to meditate. Then again, it might be just what she needed. "I guess if we don't get anywhere before our lunch break is over, we can try again tonight." She sent Rick a text and locked her classroom door. Then she moved two of the rolling chairs away from computers and put them across from each other. She sat in one and Bonnie sat in the other. Willow held out her hands, and Bonnie took hers.

Willow took a deep breath and exhaled. "We need to clear our minds and focus on our breathing," Willow said. For several minutes, they just breathed and worked on relaxing. Bonnie always meditated better with someone, so she felt a lot of her tension drain away.

"We call on the ancestors; we call on Mother Earth. We are your instruments. We surrender to your will," Willow said.

Bonnie didn't like the idea of surrendering herself to anyone, but she repeated the mantra. Then they fell silent, focusing. However, it wasn't Bonnie who received a vision. It was Willow.

Willow gasped, and her hand tightened around Bonnie's as images filled her mind. Knowledge followed. An image of a beautiful mocha colored young woman fighting a vampire. Willow knew instantly it was a new slayer. Willow heard her own voice in the woman's head, Are you ready to be strong? The woman had a cascade of black hair that fell almost to her hips. In one image, it flowed free. In another, it was braided and whirled around her head like a whip. Then she saw the woman facing a naked looking Clem-type demon. The loose skinned demon looked terrified and tried to run as the slayer killed her. Willow saw the slayer then collapse. A voice cried out, "Asha!" Then the scene changed as the girl became a wolf.

Willow's eyes opened, and she realized she was crying.

"What's wrong? What happened?" an anxious Bonnie asked.

"A slayer needs our help. I've got to call Giles," Willow said, jumping up. "I'm sorry, Bonnie, but I just received a vision of a slayer far away that needs us. It's been a while since I've had a slayer-connected vision. Since I did the spell, I usually know when someone is called. But this girl was missed. Now she needs us."

"Okay," Bonnie said, nodding.

"Try to meditate tonight before you go to bed. If I can, I'll come to your house. There's a lot going on, though, so I may not be able to. Please call me if you need me," Willow said as she pulled out her phone to call Giles.

*****England*****

Giles was trying to listen to Andrew's report, but his mind kept wandering. He missed Liz more than he thought he would. She'd only been gone a few days. Buffy's wedding was still a few weeks away. Giles didn't know how he was going to manage to wait until the spring to be with her full time. Without Xander here, Andrew was more tiresome than normal. Robin also had his hands full.

"We need to get back on a better training schedule," Andrew said. "The girls are getting sloppy. Robin is good at instructing, but he's not so good at leading in a battle. Without Kennedy and Xander, the girls are just undisciplined. They don't listen to me."

"Yes, I know," Giles said, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. His phone rang. Glancing, he saw it was Willow. "We'll figure out something, Andrew. Willow's calling."

"Hello," he said.

"Giles! I just got a vision of a new slayer in India. Her name is Asha," Willow exclaimed.

"Really? How old?" Giles asked, grabbing a pen.

"She looked to be older. Probably eighteen or so. I don't think she was just called," Willow said. "The visions seemed to show time passing. Then I saw her kill a demon that looked like Clem but without his clothes. I think she is a werewolf."

"What?" Giles exclaimed, sitting up straight.

"I think she comes from a family of werewolves. When she killed the Clem demon, he was innocent. It must've activated her werewolf gene," Willow said. "She's really confused and lost."

"Oh, dear," Giles remarked. "This is unprecedented. A slayer that is also a werewolf!"

"I know, Giles. But there's something wrong. She was so scared—we have to find her," Willow said.

"We will. I'll have the coven find her," Giles said.

Willow was glad but frustrated that her magics were still limited. However, the vision was a sign that she was doing things right, though. Her powers weren't gone for good. "Good. Keep me posted," Willow said. "I'll talk to Xander. See if he can head back there to lend a hand. He's always good with new slayers."

"Yes, that would be helpful. Things have been become chaotic in his and Kennedy's absence," Giles admitted.

"Do you think she could use another werewolf who understands slayers?" Willow wondered. "Maybe Oz should be there, too, when you bring her back."

"That is a good idea. Oz has a soothing way about him even outside of his werewolf status," Giles said. "Of course, he's a vampire, too, now. We'll have to tread carefully."

"If they go now, they can hopefully be free to come back for the wedding. There's a lot going on here, Giles. Has Liz told you?" Willow asked.

"Told me what?" Giles inquired.

Willow took a deep breath. "It's really bad, Giles," she said. Then she filled him in.

******Back in Mystic Falls******

Elijah glanced down at Xander, who was lying face down on the bed still asleep. They'd spent most of the night christening his bed in their Mystic Falls' home. Elijah never considered that he'd ever want to spend time this way with a man. All of his serious lovers had been women—amazing, beautiful women. He'd begun this interlude with Xander as a way to manipulate him, needing an ally within the slayer's inner circle. They were already friends before that—his annoying, persistent and very loyal human friend. As a vampire, though, Xander was just as loyal. He was a good man, and he made Elijah feel things that were unexpected. He felt possessive in a way he rarely did with anyone. Elijah felt much of the darkness he held onto tightly inside him begin to recede. Hope for their future filled him. Looking into his endless future no longer filled him with loneliness and despair. He had his family, and he had a new mission back in England.  With Xander, he couldn’t hold on to his anger against Willow and Buffy for what happened with Klaus.

He gently stroked Xander's back. Now he had someone to share his life with—someone Niklaus would never dare harm. A legion of slayers and several witches as well as Miss Summers would find a way to end his brother's existence if he ever hurt Xander. Elijah could let down his guard. Of course, not even Niklaus was immune to Xander's charm. Niklaus didn't seem at all bothered by Elijah's new relationship—that was a first.

Suddenly, Xander mumbled something. Then he cried out, "Buffy!"

Elijah shook him from his nightmare. Xander rose up from the bed, breathing heavily. He turned to sit upright and faced Elijah, who asked, "Are you alright?"

"I just had a bad dream about Buffy's wedding. Something bad happened in the middle of the ceremony," Xander shared, frowning.

"Do you think it was just a dream or something more?" Elijah asked.

"I don't know," Xander said. "Every time I've had a vision I've been wide awake."

There was a knock on the door. "Come in," Elijah called out.

Xander was too preoccupied to be concerned about who might be at the door. Oz opened it. "Xander, Will is downstairs. She needs to talk to us," Oz said. He didn't blink at finding Xander in bed with Elijah. He had known from the beginning the change in their relationship. His wolf could always tell when two were lovers. Scents lingered even after showering.

Xander was alarmed. For Willow to come to Klaus' house, it had to be important. "We'll be right down," he said, jumping out of the bed.

Oz went back downstairs. "He'll be right down," Oz said.

"Was he still asleep?" Willow asked with a frown.

"No, he was awake, but I think just," Oz replied without elaboration. It wasn't his place to tell Willow about Xander's new relationship.

"I'm on my planning period," Willow said. "I probably should've waited until after school, but there's other things going on then. I needed to update you guys."

Rebekah, who had left school with Willow, reached out and took Willow's hand to calm her down. "It'll be fine. We have forty-five minutes before we have to be back to school for your next class," she said.

"Do I hear my fair sister's voice?" Klaus called out as he came into the room.

Willow squeezed Rebekah's hand anxiously. She had not been in his presence sent she'd sent him to the hell dimension. Klaus' eyes narrowed as he saw his sister and her lover, the bitch who'd sent him to that place of torment. His eyes went yellow and a growl came out of him. Rebekah moved to stand in front of Willow while Oz moved in front of Klaus.

"Klaus," Oz said quietly. "Don't."

Klaus worked hard to control his rage. He'd had his revenge—her suffering was only just beginning. Besides, making nice with her will buy him some grace if things go sideways for him.

"Nik, we aren't here to fight. Willow needs to speak with Xander. It's important," Rebekah said easily.

Klaus decided to ignore the witch and focus on his disloyal sister. "So, Rebekah, you finally deemed to come home," he said with heavy sarcasm.

Rebekah rolled her eyes. "Let's not fight, Nik. I was helping Willow, not avoiding you. I am happy you're back in one piece," she said sincerely. "She lost her parents—or at least her father. We don't know what happened with her mom. She's missing."

"Sounds like a problem for a witch. They're usually good at locating people," Klaus said.

"I tried. She wasn't to be found in New York," Willow said sadly. Rebekah moved slightly, so that she wasn't directly in front of Willow.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Klaus said with apparent sincerity. He must've been convincing because Oz gave him an approving smile.

Willow was twisting both her hands nervously. "And I am sorry for sending you to hell," she said to Klaus, surprising him. "I didn't think it through. I have control issues when I'm angry."

"I can relate," Klaus said dryly. He was, though, caught off guard by her apology. It was unexpected.

Willow smiled in relief. "Yes, well, Buffy pointed out to me that I had no moral high ground since I...uh...skinned Warren after he killed Tara…tried to kill my friends and then almost raised a Satanic temple that could've destroyed the world," Willow shared. "I also hurt Xander."

"What?" Xander asked as he came down the stairs with Elijah a step behind him. His hair was wet. He did love his superspeed because it made getting somewhere fast so much easier. "You didn't hurt me!"

"I was just saying I did when I went off the rails after Tara died," Willow explained.

"Oh, yeah. Very unfun times," Xander said with a grimace.

"But Xander saved me," Willow said, giving him a fond look. "He didn't stop telling me how much he loved me even when I kept electrocuting him with my magic."

Oz didn't like to hear about Willow going through such a thing without him. He shouldn't have cut himself off from his friends so completely. Maybe, he could've helped.

Klaus and Elijah both glanced at Xander with admiration, causing him to squirm. "Okay, that's enough of the one time I did something foolishly brave! That's not why you're here. What's up?" he asked, pushing the conversation onto a new topic.

Willow grinned at him, feeling her tension drain away. Xander could always do that. The one good thing about him being a vampire was she didn't have to worry so much about him getting hurt. Now he was strong. She glanced at Elijah who was regarding Xander warmly. And he had a protector even stronger than she and Buffy. "I have a few things to tell you and not much time, so I'll just say it. Giles wants you back in England," Willow stated. "I had a vision of a new slayer. She's in India. Giles is going to track her down and bring her home. But she's not just a slayer. She's also a werewolf."

The four men blinked in surprise. "A werewolf who is a slayer?" Klaus asked. "How is that possible?"

"She's like you," Willow said to him. "She was born with the gene and activated it after she became a slayer. I saw her accidentally kill a demon that wasn't evil. Poor girl probably didn't know any better. The guy looked like Clem."

Xander winced. "Oh, that's unfortunate. Clem is pretty creepy at first sight," Xander said.

"So she is still a wolf?" Oz asked with interest.

Willow nodded. "Yes. Giles thinks it may be good for you to come also, Oz. You're a wolf. None of the girls or witches can really relate to what she's going through," Willow said.

Oz nodded. "Of course. I  will be glad to help," he said.

Klaus frowned, not willinzg to be parted from his only hybrid. "How long?" he asked.

"Buffy's wedding is in a few weeks. We're hoping this girl will be settled by then. Hopefully much sooner," Willow said. "Which brings me to the final thing. After school today, we'll be meeting with Buffy and Rick at the Sheriff's office. Liz and I think maybe Rick is the one killing the council members."

"What?" Xander demanded in shock. Equal shock was on the others’ faces.

"It's his ring," Rebekah interjected. "It's driving him insane, and he doesn't remember what he's doing."

"Is Liz going to arrest him? Oh, God, Buffy is going to flip!" Xander explained, reeling.

"Why do you think this is Alaric?" Elijah asked.

"Meredith Fall was killed last night while doing a sleep study on Alaric. He's been losing time and not resting well. Once, he woke up and tried to strangle Buffy. That was weeks ago, though. It only happened that one time," Willow said.

"Oh, just the one time," Klaus said sarcastically. "The woman does love a bit of darkness in her men, doesn't she?"

Willow ignored him. "Alaric was stabbed, too. However, Liz and I watched the hospital's security tapes. No one went in or out of the room. His wound was self-inflicted," Willow said. She glanced down at her phone. "Crap. I'm out of time. I gotta go. Don't say anything to Buffy."

"How can I leave town with this going on?" Xander asked, upset.

"You know I'll take care of her," Willow said. "As will everyone else here, including Dawnie. Not worrying about the slayers in England helps Buffy. You know that. If things go south, I'll let you know, so you can return. You can take the jet back."

"Xander had a premonition about something bad happening to Buffy," Elijah shared.

Xander groaned. "I almost forgot!" he exclaimed, slapping his forehead. "I had a dream or maybe it was a vision—I was a sleep this time. The wedding was a disaster."

"More reason to get all this sorted out now before the wedding," Willow said, trying not to panic. She needed to talk to Rick. "I really have to get to class. Call me later." She hugged Oz and then Xander.

"I'll see you two later," Rebekah said, turning to follow.

"Not so fast," Klaus said to his sister.

"Stay. Spend time with your brothers," Willow encouraged. Then she left.

"See, even your lover knows you've been neglecting us," Klaus said in annoyance.

"You're just mad that I'm no longer here ready to accept the scraps of your affection," Rebekah said haughtily.

"How about I miss my only sister who's spent all her days in the past ten centuries by my side," Klaus countered.

"Except the decades I was daggered in my coffin," Rebekah said snidely.

Oz frowned and spoke, "Klaus is impulsive and controlling. However, nothing he has done to you was done in spite. Constantly focusing on the past will only hurt you, Rebekah. Let it go. He won't be daggering you in the future." Klaus would never be a better man if those he loved didn't believe in him.

Rebekah didn't know her girlfriend's ex well, so she didn't dismiss him coldly. She knew enough about him to know that he rarely interfered unless he felt strongly. She glanced at her brother, who was looking at Oz with grateful affection. "I see my brother has completely ensnared you into his web. Be careful. He betrays those who love him. Don't be fooled because he will destroy you in the end. It's what he does," Rebekah said before turning and walking out of the room.

Klaus went to go after her, enraged at her daring. Oz, though, reached out and grabbed his arm. "Let her be. She's the female version of you, Klaus. Don't you see? She's your mirror image. You both wear your emotions on your sleeve. You hold on tightly to slights and betrayal. Forgiveness and trust takes time. You don't give either of those things easily, so why do you expect her to?" Oz asked.

Elijah blinked in surprise. How well this young man understood his brother! "He's right, Niklaus. Rebekah needs time. She's happy and safe, which is all we've ever wanted for her. If you continue to try and hold on to her, you'll lose her entirely," Elijah advised.

Klaus sighed. "Fine," he relented. He looked at Oz. "If you're going to England, I am going with you."

Xander snickered. "You want to face a castle full of slayers, who already hate you for turning me into a vampire?" he asked incredulously.

"They'll get over it," Klaus said with a shrug. "Their witch punished me severely. I've learned the error of my ways. Your friends are a forgiving bunch, are they not?"

Xander nodded. "True. We are," he agreed. He looked at Elijah. "You're going, right?"

"Of course," he said. "I'll go make arrangements. Maybe you should go visit Buffy. Let her know your plans in case Willow gets distracted with Alaric."

"Don't mention Willow's revelation about Rick. Let them handle it," Oz suggested.

"Don't worry. I hate being the bearer of bad news," Xander said. He looked at Klaus. "I guess having another werewolf that is more like this new slayer would be a good idea. Oz was bitten and turned. He doesn't have the exact experience that this woman does."

"Good point," Oz agreed.

"You do realize if we go, we're leaving Kol here to get into all kinds of trouble without us," Elijah told Klaus.

Klaus grinned. "I will call Caroline. She will keep him in line," Klaus said.

Having things to do, the four of them quickly dispersed.

*****The High Schools*****

Damon was at Alaric's classroom and school was ending. "Rick," he said.

"Damon. What brings you by? Here to see Elena?" Rick asked as he gathered up some things.

"No. I really need you to come home with me. We have to talk," Damon said.

"No can do. I've got a council meeting with Liz to get to," Rick said.

"You want to skip that meeting," Damon told him.

"Why?" Rick asked him.

"Because you're going to be shanghaied," Damon said.

Rick gave him a confused frown. "Huh?" he inquired.

"She thinks you're the one killing the council members," Damon revealed.

"What?" Rick asked in dismay.

*****Sheriff's Office******

Buffy arrived at work for her three to eleven shift. She was not in a good mood. Rick refused to stay home from school because of some damn test review he had to give. He had almost died the night before. She couldn't handle the thought that someone she was yet to find was trying to kill her husband. If Willow hadn't promised to keep an eye on him, she would've forced him to stay home. Now Xander was leaving to help with a new slayer, but he had just gotten back into town. She sighed. Goodbye seemed to be one of the words she had to continually say to those she loved.

"Buffy, how are you?" Liz asked, smiling at her.

"Not good. I didn't sleep at all last night. All I could do was worry about Rick. Stupid man refused to stay home from work. He's so damn dedicated to those students that not even his pregnant fiancé begging worked!" Buffy complained, sitting down on the chair across from Liz's desk.

Liz smiled. "He's a great teacher," Liz said. "I asked him to come by here after school. There's some things I need to discuss with him about last night."

Buffy sat up straight in the chair. "Why? Did you find out some information?" Buffy asked. "Is there a break in this case?"

Liz nodded. "Yes, and you're not going to like it," Liz said with apprehension.

"Huh?" Buffy asked with a confused frown.

"Willow and I went over the surveillance tapes from last night," Liz said slowly.

Buffy got excited. "You have a real lead?" she asked hopefully.

Liz nodded again. "You know these murderers are done by humans, right? The killer isn't a demon or witch. There's nothing ritualistic about them," Liz said.

"Yeah, I know. It seems someone's pretty pissed at the council," Buffy said in agreement.

"You know the room Rick and Meredith were in last night shows no signs of a break in. The window was still sealed," Liz shared.

"Okay," Buffy said, trying to piece it together.

"There's not a camera in the room, but there's one in the hall that gave us a view of the entrance," Liz revealed.

"That's great! So we got this guy on camera!" Buffy said excitedly.

"Not exactly," Liz said, hedging. She wished Willow was here, but she knew it was her job to talk to Buffy before Rick arrived. "No one went into the room, Buffy."

Buffy blinked, not expecting that. "What do you mean? Someone had to. Meredith is dead. Someone tried kill Rick!" she protested.

"I don't think so, Buffy," Liz said slowly.

"What are you trying to say?" Buffy said, confused.

"I believe Rick's wounds were self-inflicted, Buffy. He was the only one in the room. That means he's the killer," Liz informed her.

Buffy's mouth fell slightly opened as she absorbed Liz's words. For a full minute, she sat there in silence, her eyes locked on Liz. Rage began to build. She stood up, glaring at Liz. "You've lost your damn mind!" she exclaimed angrily. "There's no way the father of my baby is a killer! Say that again and you and I will have a serious problem!"

She'd faced both Angelus and Spike at their worse. She knew evil. The First tried to destroy her. There was no way the man she loved was evil, and she'd bet her life on it. Her hand went to her swollen stomach. She'd already bet the life of her child. There had to be another explanation.

*****To Be Continued*****

I hope you liked this! More to come. Please review and let me know if you're reading and liking/hating my story!

Chapter Text

*****Mostly Where We Left Off*****

Buffy stared in growing anger at Liz, her accusations about Rick ringing in her ears. She went to leave, but Rick had just come into the office. Damon and Willow was with him.

Buffy went into his arms, hugging him tightly.

"Hon, ease up," Rick said, smiling down at her. She forgot her own strength sometimes.

"Are you okay?" Buffy asked him. She lifted up his shirt and saw that he wasn't wearing his bandage. The skin was smooth and unblemished.

"You're welcome," Damon said smugly.

"So Damon tells me I might be the council killer?" Rick said with a wry smile.

Buffy's eyes flashed fire. "No! That's insane! I just told Liz that she was totally wrong!" Buffy defended.

"Buffy, we don't know anything for sure," Rick said, a sad look in his eyes.

"I know you," Buffy said adamantly. "I know that you aren't capable of murder!"

"I've been losing time, sweetheart," Rick said gently. "I woke up choking you, recently—something is wrong."

"You have no memory of killing the council members?" Liz wondered.

"No," Rick shook his head. "But this morning when I was putting on my jacket to go to work, I found this." He reached into his jacket and pulled out a knife.

Liz grabbed a glove and took hold of it. "If this is what I think it is, it proves that you are the one who's been killing the council members," she said sadly.

"But it's not your fault!" Willow said quickly. "We know that! It's the ring. It's done something to you."

"Until we figure out what's going on, Rick, we need to lock you up for your protection and to make sure no one else gets hurt," Liz said.

Buffy stood in front of Rick, a mother tiger ready to take down any who threatened. "You will do so under my dead body!" she exclaimed.

"Buffy, we can't just let him go around killing people!" Liz said, upset at the entire mess.

"If you lock him in your jail, there will be a record. He'll never teach again!" Buffy said, upset at the thought. She didn't want the father of her child in a jail. It made her blood boil. She took a deep breath, trying to calm down. A higher blood pressure wasn't good for the baby.

"Why don't we lock him in my dungeon?" Damon suggested. "Stefan's locked me up in it before. He won't be able to get out."

"You have a dungeon?" Buffy asked.

"Why do you have a dungeon?" Willow inquired.

"It's really a wine cellar or root cellar," Damon said with a shrug. "I call it a dungeon since I get locked up in it when I'm a bad boy."

"So it was like your bedroom?" Willow said with a grin. Damon smirked and shrugged.

"That'll work, Damon, but you have to keep him in there," Liz said. She looked at Buffy. "Buffy, you can't let him out."

Buffy looked upset, so Rick put his arm around her. "I'll be okay, sweetheart. I don't want to hurt anyone else," he said, feeling sick. How could he have done it? Why? Why would he do such things?

"Give me the ring," Willow said, holding out her hand. "Bonnie and I will see if we can figure out a way to reverse whatever's going on with you."

Rick took off the ring and handed it to her.

"Let's go," Damon said to Rick.

"I'm going with you," Buffy said.

"Buffy, I don't want you to see me locked up anywhere," Rick said. "It's not good for you. The best way you can help is to finish planning our wedding and take care of yourself and our baby."

"If you stay locked up, there might not be a wedding!" Buffy said, her eyes filling with tears. She hated this!

"Buffy, we'll figure this out," Willow said.

"I can't arrest him if he has no culpability," Liz said. She knew, though, that she had enough evidence to arrest him. However, her future with Giles and what she now knew about the supernatural wouldn't allow her to just go by the book anymore. Things weren't the black and white she'd once believed.

"I left Illyria at the Grille. I need to pick her up before she gets into trouble, so we need to go," Damon said.

Rick kissed Buffy. When he pulled back, she hugged him tightly once again. "I can't breathe, Buff," he said.

She loosened her grip. "Sorry," she said, giving him a sheepish smile.

"I love you," Rick said.

"I love you, too. Call me!" Buffy ordered.

"I will. I'll be fine," Rick assured her.

Buffy watched them leave. Liz wanted to talk, but Buffy held up her hand. "This is too much. I need to go. I'll see you tomorrow," she said. She rushed out the door.

"I'll keep an eye on her," Willow told her. She looked down at the ring, feeling the darkness that radiated from it. "I should've prevented this. I knew something was off about this ring. I just kept putting it off!"

"This isn't your fault, Willow. How could you know?" Liz said.

"I'll let you know if I find out anything," Willow told her. She left with the ring. As she got into her car, she pulled out her phone to call Bonnie. They had to find a way to help Rick.

*****The Next Day*****

Xander was glad to be back in England. Elijah had a limo waiting for them when they embarked. Xander grinned. "I could get used to this!" he enthused. He was sitting next to Elijah, whose arms were extended over the back of the seat. Klaus sat in a similar position. Oz was next to Xander with Klaus on his other side.

Elijah lightly stroked the back of Xander's neck. "Well, we've gotten used to a certain level of comfort in our travels," Elijah said.

"Decades of running from Father didn't allow for much comfort," Klaus said sourly.

"A limo is just an overpriced mode of transportation. A taxi would get us to our destination just as well," Oz pointed out.

"It's good that Kol isn't here to hear you say that!" Klaus said with a grin.

Xander pulled out his phone and listened to his voicemail. When he was done, he shared, "Damon is keeping Rick locked in his wine cellar instead of Liz arresting him. Bonnie and Will are trying to find some way to help."

"That is good," Elijah observed.

"Giles says that they have Asha and have explained what she is and what it means to be a slayer. She's locked herself into a room, though," Xander said. "They've decided not to bother her. I guess they're waiting for us."

"Now, Niklaus, you have to behave while we are here. The girls are young and prone to outburst, dramatics, and fights," Elijah said.

"So it's like a castle full of Rebekahs?" he asked with a snicker.

Elijah shrugged, not denying it. "Sometimes," he said.

"A few might very well attack you," Xander told him. "Let them get a few hits in. It'll make them feel better."

"As long as no one there has any curses or portals to throw my way, I'll be fine," Klaus said.

When they arrived at the castle, Klaus whistled. "A place like this brings back so many memories," he said.

"I thought the same when I first arrived," Elijah said, a ghost of a smile around his lips. When the limo stopped. Xander didn't jumped out immediately.

"Will you two give me a minute? I need to talk to Elijah about something," Xander said, realizing that this wasn't the best timing. However, there were too many people at the castle that would be watching him and Elijah pretty much every minute.

Klaus just gave them a knowing smirk and got out of the limo. He and Oz helped the driver unload the bags.

"What is bothering you?" Elijah asked, even though he suspected.

"I don't think I can be discrete about us the entire time we are here," Xander informed him.

"If you do not want our relationship to be made public, we can just be friends," Elijah said.

Xander frowned, a feeling of hurt washing over him. "You don't want to be with me anymore? Tired of me already, huh?" he asked with an attempt at a smile.

"I don't want you to ever feel uncomfortable about our relationship," Elijah clarified. He reached for Xander's hand.

"I haven't told Buffy and Will. They should know first," Xander said, feeling guilty. "I should've before we left. Why didn't I tell them?"

"Why don't you call them later? We'll be circumspect while we're here. Our relationship is our business," Elijah pointed.

"Okay," Xander said, giving him a sheepish smile.

Elijah leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. "Shall we?" he said, gesturing to the door.

Xander nodded and opened the door. As soon as he stepped out, he was bombarded. Three of the youngest slayers surrounded him. They were twelve and all were from a Welsh family, cousins. The only related slayers they'd discovered so far.

"Xander!" Bronwen shouted gleefully, wrapping herself around him. Ceri and Emlyn were a step behind them. The girls had various shades of brown hair. However, all three had very light blue eyes that showed their familial connections.

"Hey, girls," Xander said, smiling at them. "Did you miss me?"

"Duh!" the precocious Bronwen said.

"Andrew is too annoying when you're not here to make fun of him!" Ceri complained.

Emlyn said nothing. She just looked at him with her soulful blue eyes, flashing him a sweet, dimpled smile.

"Girls, did you meet my friends?" Xander asked.

"They make my tummy feel funny," Bronwen said, eyeing them suspiciously.

"This is Oz. You heard Willow mention him, right?" Xander reminded her.

Bronwen smiled. "Oh, the one time she loved a man?" she asked.

"Yes, this is Oz," Xander introduced.

"Isn't he a werewolf? Do we get to lock him up?" Ceri wondered, a hopeful look on her face. "Giles says the new slayer is a wolf and tonight's a full moon!"

Oz smiled at the girls, finding them too cute. "I don't worry anymore about the full moon. I learned how to control my wolf a long time ago," he shared.

"This is Klaus, Elijah's brother," Xander introduced.

Klaus flashed the young ladies a warm smile. "It is nice to meet you," he said.

More girls were pouring out of the castle as word of their arrival spread. Andrew came out.

"You're back! Thank the Maker!" Andrew exclaimed. He looked at one of the older girls. "Amber, you and Lizabeth and Deidre need to take their bags to Xander's room. We'll figure out where they'll stay later."

The girls moved to comply, taking the bags from the driver. The driver blinked at the sight of the young, slight girls so easily carrying all the luggage. However, Elijah smoothly handed him some money and thanked him for the ride, dismissing him.

"Let's get inside, girls," Xander said as he greeted all that appeared. Several made time to greet Elijah. Some were bold and others shy. Elijah spoke to a few.

Klaus watched with interest as they girls surrounded the newest vampire. Their love and adoration were obvious. One or two of the older girls, threw Klaus a dark look, obviously aware of who he was and the reason for the change in Xander. "I see no one exaggerated. These girls think he hung the moon," Klaus observed, watching them.

"He doesn't see slayers or weapons. He just sees them. To Xander, the girls are individuals. He loves them, and they love him back quite fiercely," Elijah said.

"He is the One Who Sees," Andrew said, loftily. Then he eyed Klaus with interest. "Isn't he the one who killed Xander, thus making him a creature of the night?" He directed the question to Klaus.

Suddenly, two dozen pair of eyes were looking at Klaus with various degrees of hostility.

"Girls, I'm fine. Yes, Klaus is an ass sometimes, but he's Elijah's brother. Elijah is very important to me, so I expect you to treat his brother with respect," Xander ordered.

"But Xan, he turned you into a blood sucker!" one of the girls complained.

"And Willow spanked him real good for it, so let it go," Xander said. "I'm stronger and not so easy to kill or maim now."

"Really?" Ceri asked. "You don't look much different."

"I'm a little different but mostly the same Xander you know and love," Xander assured them. "No harm, no foul."

"Well, if tries to make any of us a vamp, we'll dismember him and see how long it takes his limbs to grow back," a girl said, giving Klaus a glare.

Oz frowned, not liking the threat. Klaus, though, found the girls a delight. They were loyal and fierce and unafraid—so different than he had expected. Each one of them seemed unique. He also enjoyed the bloodthirsty threat. It was not one anyone had ever dared utter to him before. If they were older, he might've been angered. However, when faced with their youthful appearance, he found it amusing.

Giles finally appeared. "Girls, all of you have places to be right now. I suggest you quit threatening the immortal hybrid, whom you don't want to antagonize and get back to your routine. You'll have plenty of time to catch up with Xander," he ordered. The girls grumbled but when Robin appeared, they scattered.

Robin stepped toward the four of them. "Xander, Elijah, it's so good to have you back," he said, holding out his hand.

Klaus looked at the dark-skinned man, who eyed him warily but not unwelcomely. Xander had shared some details about the major players, so he knew that Robin Wood was the only living child of a slayer. Slayers living long enough to bear a child wasn't very common due to their short life span. However, his mother was particularly talented and had been killed by Spike, a former lover of Buffy. It seemed that the group really was a forgiving lot.

"Robin, this is Klaus Mikaelson and Daniel Osborne," Giles introduced.

"Oz, please," Oz said, shaking his hand.

"I've heard a lot of things about you," Robin told him. "I'd love to hear about how you learned to control your wolf. I've been studying Buddhism myself."

"There will be plenty of time to catch up," Giles said. "But we have a very troubled slayer who needs their help."

"The new slayer is okay?" Xander inquired.

"She arrived early this morning. Robin and I spoke at length with her. She said very little, but she wasn't violent," Giles said.

"That's a good sign," Xander said knowingly.

"What is her name?" Oz inquired.

"Her name is Asha Goswami. She's from New Delhi," Giles supplied. "She's had a rough time. The past eighteen months have been difficult. She's nineteen now but was seventeen when she was called. It was in the middle of her arranged marriage—something that is still customary for the families in India. She was to be married the day after her eighteenth birthday."

"I take it the engagement didn't last?" Xander asked.

"No. When she began sharing her dreams, her superstitious family thought she was being blessed by the gods," Giles shared. "Some even began whispering that she was touched by one special god who wanted to reach out to the youth of India. However, when she showed her new strength, there were mixed reactions. Some believed that a new god was now walking among them. Others said her new powers would bring down the wrath of the gods because they would grow jealous."

"Did her family discover she was a werewolf?" Oz asked.

Giles nodded. "Her brother was the only who did not condemn her. The townspeople, though, were divided. From day to day, they would either worship her as a goddess or clamor to stone her as a devil living among them," he said.

"Do you think we should go see her now?" Xander asked.

"Why don't you settle into your rooms? Then you and Oz should see her first, so she's not so overwhelmed," Giles suggested.

"What rooms are empty?" Xander asked. "Are the two across from mine still vacant?

"Yes," Giles said. He looked at Elijah. "Your room is the way you left it."

Elijah nodded. It was nice to discover that he had a place here still.

The four men got settled. Then they decided that Elijah would give Klaus a tour while Giles introduced Oz and Xander to their newest arrival.

Giles knocked on her door. "Asha, may I come in?" he asked.

"Come in," a slightly accented voice said. Giles opened the door, and they stepped in the room behind them.

Xander's mouth fell open slightly as he gazed at the newest slayer. Although she was probably as short as Buffy, she radiated power. She had a cascade of wavy, black as ink hair that fell passed her waist. She was possibly the most beautiful woman Xander had ever seen.

"Oh. My. God," he said as he took in her appearance.

"Asha, this is Xander and Oz; the men I told you about. They're here to help you," Giles said.

Asha gazed at the new arrivals suspiciously. She sniffed. "I don't need any help," she insisted. "I thank you for taking me out of my home. It was becoming increasingly difficult."

"Of course, she has a sexy accent to go with that perfect face and body!" Xander said with a dreamy smile.

Normally, Oz would've smiled at Xander, showing his amusement. This time, however, he had a much different reaction. As soon as her scent hit him, he knew.

She is mine.

Everything in Oz stilled as he gazed at the young woman. Her eyes were full of intelligence and passion and fear, yet she stared at them so defiantly. She was around the same height as Oz, maybe an inch taller.

She is perfect.

When Xander showed his admiration, however, Oz's snarled. His eyes blackened, and he lashed out. "Get out!"

Xander blinked, not sure he hadn't imagined it. Oz yelling at someone? Oz yelling at him? It was too strange to comprehend, but when Oz got in front of him, blocking his view of Asha, he realized something was seriously wrong.

"Oz? What's wrong?" Xander asked, eying him quizzically.

"I said get out!" Oz yelled, flashing his fangs. His eyes were yellow.

"Giles, go get Klaus," Xander said very carefully. It was all he could think of. He knew a werewolf bite was deadly to him, but he also knew that Klaus' blood was the cure. Oz's unusual behavior, though, was grounds for major concern.

Giles nodded and left. He, too, had only ever seen Oz lose his cool one time that wasn't due to the full moon. It was the time Wesley suggested they let the Mayor keep Willow. However, Oz didn't yell even then. Now he was literally snarly and flashing his fangs.

"What is wrong?" Asha asked. She looked at the cute redhead, her eyes widened. "What is he? Why are you bringing me a monster?"

"He's not a monster. He is a werewolf," Giles said easily. "And a very good friend of the slayers. You can trust him."

"He's not like any wolf I've ever seen," Asha said, her doubt evident.

Oz tried to reign in his temper, and he took a deep breath. Giles was no threat. He was too old, so he didn't have the urge to rip out his throat. However, his reaction to Xander was upsetting. He smelled Xander's reaction to Asha while he had his own reaction. For the first time since becoming a werewolf, Oz could sense his wolf and why his wolf was upset. The time he'd smelled Willow on Tara, he'd receded, and the wolf had taken over. Now, though, both Oz the man and Oz the wolf wanted the same thing. He looked at Asha, who was looking at him warily. They both wanted her.

Xander returned with Klaus. "What's wrong?" Klaus asked Oz as he stepped into the room. He took in the woman.

Immediately, their presence served to enrage Oz. "Get out!" he exclaimed, his fists clenched against the claws that wanted to burst out.

"Why don't you guys leave me with him?" Klaus suggested.

Xander reluctantly agreed. Giles followed him out of the door.

"Who are you?" Asha asked, sensing a threat at the new man's arrival. He wasn't like the others. There was something about him. He felt…familiar and foreign at the same time.

"I am Klaus, the original hybrid. I am both a werewolf by birth and a vampire," Klaus stated. "I am not the soulless demon kind you slayers kill, however. I was created by my witch mother with magic. She saved me and my siblings from the werewolf threat in our town—at least that was her intention. She did not know she was creating a new line of vampires. My siblings and I are the original vampires of our line. However, my mother had an affair with a werewolf, so I am different from them."

"You are a friend of the slayers?" Asha asked, her body coiled with tension, prepared to fight if he became a threat to her.

"I am a friend of Xander and Oz. They are friends of the slayers, so I guess you could say I am by extension," he said with a rueful grin.

"Go away, Klaus," Oz said, not liking his attempt to charm. For the first time, he resented his sire's presence.

"How about you step out in the hall and talk to me a minute?" Klaus asked him. "Tell me what's got you so riled up." He looked at Asha and smiled. "Normally, my hybrid is the calmest of chaps. He attempts to keep me on a leash at all times."

Oz gave a slight nod and opened the door. Out in the hall, Elijah and Xander waited. Giles wasn't there. "What's going on?" Xander asked Oz. "Why did you act that way?"

Oz took a deep breath, trying to release the anger and aggression he felt. "I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. You can't be around her," Oz said.

"Why not? I'm supposed to help her," Xander reminded him.

"She's mine. You can't be around her," Oz said flatly.

Xander frowned in confusion. "What do you mean?" he asked.

Klaus laughed as he realized what was going on. "He's saying that the new slayer is his mate," Klaus explained.

Xander blinked. "What?"

Oz nodded. "Yes. That's it. She's my mate," he said as that became abundantly clear to him. Something inside him unclenched at the explanation. She was his, and it was his job to help her. Now he wouldn't have to be alone.

"But she's a vampire slayer, Oz. She's not going to want to mate with you," Xander said, giving him a look of pity.

"It doesn't matter. She's mine to help," Oz said flatly. He reached for the doorknob. "Stay away from her. I could smell your attraction to her. I can't have you around her when I'm there." He opened the door and stepped back in the room.

Klaus snickered and slapped Elijah on the back. "Looks like your new toy might be growing bored with you already, brother," he said. Then he decided to go find something else to amuse himself with, leaving the two lovers.

Elijah gave Xander a considering look.

Xander gulped. "Oops!" he exclaimed, feeling guilty.

Back in the room, Oz gazed at Asha in wonder. "Hello," he said quietly. Now he had to figure out how to get her to trust him.

******Chapter End*****

Yes, I finally found someone for Oz. Thoughts?

Chapter Text

*****Where We Left Off*****

Asha returned the stare of the short redheaded man, who yelled at his friend. She was confused and nervous. He seemed a bit off like the other—the hybrid Klaus. However, the way he looked at her made her feel funny.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm Oz, and I'd never try to hurt you. I'm sorry for flipping out like that. That's not me." Of course, she wouldn't know that all these words at once to someone he just met wasn't normal either.

"It's okay," she said. It felt too weird to just stand there staring at one another. "Do you want to sit down?"

Oz nodded and sat down in the chair in front of the desk. She sat on the edge of the bed and faced him warily. "I guess I'll just tell you about how I became a werewolf," he began. "I was seventeen, a senior in Sunnydale, California, the hellmouth Buffy and Willow closed a few years ago. I wasn't born a werewolf. I was turned by a weaker line. My little cousin was one, and he bit me."

"You didn't kill an innocent?" Asha asked in surprise.

"No. My kind didn't have to kill to become one. Some are infected, but they don't become full wolves like your kind. We were ugly beast-like creatures—mindless beasts that would hurt anyone," Oz said. "So on the full moon, I'd lock myself up." He continued sharing more about himself. For the first time in a very long time, he wanted to talk. He wanted to share himself with another. He'd gotten close to Klaus, but it had been in bits and pieces. Oz wanted this woman to know him. The more he talked, the more the girl relaxed. Eventually, she drew up her legs and got more comfortable. When Oz shared what Klaus did, her eyes glowed yellow with anger.

"I will rip out his heart!" she vowed, standing up.

"It's not necessary. What's done is done," Oz said. "I've forgiven him. Klaus is the most complex person I've ever met. He is terrified of being alone, yet he's always pushing away his family. He wanted hybrids because he didn't want to ever be alone. In his mind, he gifted me with immortality and power."

"Is that how you see it?" she asked, surprised by his mild response to his own murder.

Oz nodded. "Yes. He's become my brother now," Oz said.

"So you like being a vampire?" Asha asked uncertainly.

"Do I like needing blood to live? Of course not. I'm a Buddhist, so the entire thing is abhorrent. My kind of vampire, though, doesn't have to kill to feed. Some feed on animals, which I find barbaric. I use blood bags," he shared.

"Oh," Asha said, finding him strange. However, there was something about him that brought her comfort and excited her at the same time. "Why do I find you so easy to be around?"

"Most people find me soothing," Oz said with a shrug.

"I don't find anyone soothing," Asha said, frowning. She was disconcerted.

"Would you like to walk around the castle and explore with me? I've never been here before," he said.

"Is it safe? You seemed a little bit upset at your friend," she reminded him.

Oz felt uncomfortable. How did he explain? Finally, he said, "I could smell his attraction to you. It bothered me."

"Oh," she said again. Her eyes stared into his several minutes without speaking. It was the oddest thing. Something was happening between them, and a feeling of panic came over her. "What are you doing to me? Vampires can hypnotize!"

Oz gave her a wounded look. "I would never compel you! I've never done that to anyone!" he exclaimed.

"Then what is happening?" Asha asked, a note of panic in her voice.

Oz slowly stepped forward, not wanting to alarm her with sudden movements. He reached out and took her hand. "I feel the same thing," he said. Electricity seemed to spark between them. Oz kept his eyes on her as he raised her hand to her lips. For the first time in his life, he kissed another's hand. It didn't feel weird or silly. Instead, he felt like he was holding the most precious of things. Her hand belonged in his; he just knew it.

Asha felt his touch reach down deep inside her. She took her other hand and moved her hair back from one side of her neck. The desire to display her neck was strong. She had no idea that it was the wolf's way of showing submission.

Oz, though, saw her gesture and knew. Using her hand, he tugged her closer, his eyes locked on hers, looking for fear. He saw none. Instead, he saw a look of wonder. Her height was a perfect match for his. He had no trouble pressing his lips to her neck. The compulsion to bite her was stronger than ever. He allowed his teeth to make an impression, but he never broke the skin. Then he moved his lips to hers and kissed her.

Asha had never in her life kissed a man that she just met. In fact, she'd only ever been kissed one time. Her fiancée had kissed her the night he asked her to marry her. However, he'd broken the engagement, scared by the changes in her. Oz's lips were gentle and sweet. There was no fear, only pleasure at his touch.

Oz knew not to push her, so he soon pulled back, smiling warmly at her. "I am yours," he said simply. He stared intently at her a long moment before saying, "I'd like you to meet my friends."

Asha smiled, feeling better than she had in a long time. She didn't know what he meant by his comment, but the loneliness and isolation that she'd been feeling was gone.

Oz kept a hold of her hand and led her out of the room.

*****Mystic Falls*****

Buffy went into work very unhappy. Not having Rick in bed with her upset her all night. Knowing he was locked in Damon's wine cellar that doubled as his dungeon made it worse. She made it through half her shift before giving in. She drove the patrol car to Damon's.

She rang the bell. No one answered. She rang it again, and Damon appeared.

"He's fine," Damon assured her as soon as he opened the door.

"I need to see him," Buffy said.

"Okay," Damon said with a shrug. He led her down the long hallway. Buffy was too distracted to appreciate the décor. When they went down the steps, Damon turned on a light. "He's been fed and watered."

"He's not an animal!" Buffy said, annoyed at his levity.

"Relax. He's my best friend. I want him to be okay, too, you know," Damon reminded her.

"I know," Buffy said, giving him an apologetic look. "It's hard."

Rick jumped up when he heard voices. "Buffy!" he exclaimed when he saw her. "Why are you here? I told you not to come!"

"I couldn't help it. The baby and I miss you!" Buffy informed him. She looked at Damon. "Open the door."

Damon hesitated. "I don't know that I should. What if he gets freaky or something?" Damon said.

"I can handle him. Open the door!" she ordered.

"That's not a good idea," Rick protested.

"I need to spend five minutes with my fiancée, or I'm going to beat up the closest vampire I can find," Buffy said, giving Damon a pointed glare.

"Visit away!" Damon said, holding up his hands in surrender. He tossed her the key.

Buffy caught it and opened the door. Then she wrapped her arms around Rick, who hugged her back.

"I missed you so much last night. I hate this. I hate that we don't know how long you need to be locked up. Or what's happening or how to fix it!" she said against his chest.

"It's okay," he murmured soothingly as he rubbed her back. His love for her was suddenly pushed away as anger welled up inside him. "Maybe if you were better at your job, this wouldn't be happening. It's all your fault, you know."

"What?" Buffy asked, stunned. She looked up at him and found a look of disgust was on his face. She stepped back as if he'd slapped her.

"You're a vampire slayer. If you'd been doing your job, I wouldn't have to," Rick said, a note of disdain in his voice.

"Excuse me?" Buffy said, still having trouble believing what she was hearing.

"You really are just a pretty face. If you weren't pregnant, I've had killed you first for being so lousy at your job!" Rick said in disgust.

"How can you say that to me?" Buffy asked in outrage.

"The truth hurts, doesn't it? First you fall in love with a vampire with a soul. Then you screw one without. It's no wonder that you let them run rampant in this town!" Rick said with derision.

Buffy clenched her fist, disbelief, hurt, and anger all battling for supremacy.

"Step out of there, Slayer," Illyria ordered. Buffy looked and saw her in the doorway.

"He's not himself," Buffy said, confused. Illyria pushed her way past Buffy without comment and had her hands around Rick's throat before Buffy could do anything. "What are you doing?"

Illyria slammed him against the wall. "He reeks of darkness. Taking the ring off will not stop what he has become," she said.

Rick grinned even as he struggled to breath. "I reek of darkness? You're a living demon!" he accused.

"One that you cannot kill or harm," Illyria said. "If you harm the slayer, I will rip out your spine!"

"There will be no ripping out of his spine!" Buffy yelled. "Damon!"

"Your fiancée is gone. Something has poisoned him. If I don't kill him, he will harm you as soon as your baby is born," Illyria announced.

"Put him down!" Buffy yelled.

Damon appeared and ripped Illyria away from Rick. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked her.

Rick coughed and then laughed. "And here's my vampire best friend! Let the vampire and demon live and choke the human! My fiancée has the best taste in companions!" Rick said.

Damon narrowed his eyes. "So this is the evil alter ego, huh?" he asked. He glanced at Buffy. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"

"Not physically," Buffy said, her arm around her stomach as if to shield her unborn baby.

"Your friend is gone," Illyria said. "This one will hurt you all as soon as he can."

"She's not wrong. All vampires and vampire sympathizers will die," Rick said coldly.

"Rick, this isn't you!" Buffy exclaimed.

"I'm a vampire hunter, Buffy. I can only be bad at the job for so long," Rick said sourly.

Buffy didn't know what to think, but she just suddenly felt sick to her stomach. "I can't be here," she said, and she rushed out of the room.

Damon stared hard at Rick. "So what's your plan? You know you can't beat Buffy, not even pregnant. You surely can't hurt Illyria. You're totally outgunned," Damon said.

"For now," Rick said with a smirk.

"We should kill him now," Illyria said.

"No, we're not going to kill him. We're going to leave him in here and figure out a way to get back my favorite drinking buddy," Damon said, leading her out of the room. He locked it back, eyeing Rick. "Don't get comfortable." He was disturbed by what he witnessed, but at least he now knew that locking his friend up was the right course of action.

Buffy tried to finish out her shift, but it was hard. All she could think about was the words Rick said and the look on his face. It was like a stranger had taken over his body, reminding her strongly of the morning after with her first time with Angel. As soon as her shift was over, she went home, grateful to see Willow's car out front. Willow was already in bed, so Buffy knocked on her door. "I gotta talk to you, Will!" she exclaimed. Then she opened the door.

Willow sat up in bed. "Buffy? What's wrong?" she asked. Buffy poured out her tale, tears filling her eyes and rolling down her face as she recounted the story.

"Stupid hormones!" Buffy wailed as she wiped her cheeks.

"This would upset anyone!" Willow said in concern. "I've got to get my powers back. The ring allows him to come back from the dead. That has to be the catalyst for all of this—his deaths."

"Do you think he's possessed by something? Can a demon get inside a human?" Buffy asked.

"Demon possession is rare, but I know Angel had a case of that in L.A. I don't think that's what's happening with him. He doesn't remember what he's done, so something else is happening. It's almost like a dissociative state," Willow said thoughtfully. "When he's died, his spirit goes to the Other Side. Something over there could be influencing and tainting his spirit."

"How do we untaint him?" Buffy asked.

"I don't know yet, Buffy," Willow, feeling guilty and powerless. "But I promise I won't stop until I figure it out."

"What about Jeremy? He can see things on the Other Side. Maybe you should work with him," Buffy suggested.

"That's a good idea. I'll talk to him tomorrow at school," Willow said. "Remember, Buff, that Rick loves you. Whatever he said, he didn't mean. Those words would never come from him!"

"I know, but he said them, and the look on his face—I'll never forget it," Buffy said, looking pained at the memory.

Willow gave her a hug. "Hang in there. We'll figure this out. Stress isn't good for the baby," Willow admonished. "Drink some of that tea I got you before bed. It'll will calm you and help you sleep."

"Okay," Buffy agreed, standing. "Thanks, Will."

"That's what I'm for," Willow said. She watched Buffy leave. If she didn't do something soon, they might lose Rick for good. She couldn't let that happen!

*****To Be Continued*****

Chapter Text

******The Hellmouth, OH******

Stefan hung up the phone and watched Faith as she did some push-ups by their bed. Her unfailing energy never ceased to amuse and surprise him. He still had trouble believing that this was his life now. He lived on the mouth of hell, and he'd never been happier. It didn't matter how many vampires or demons he killed; nothing could mar his pleasure in his new life.

Faith looked up. "What did Damon have to say?" she asked.

"Just that Alaric was somehow possessed by some evil hunter and was going around killing council members," Stefan shared.

Faith sat up on her knees and frowned. "I hope that's your attempt at a joke," she said. "I've been meaning to tell you that your jokes suck!"

Stefan stood and walked toward her. He pulled her to her feet and nudged her down on the bed, sitting next to her. "I wish I was joking," he said grimly.

"You're not shitting?" Faith asked incredulous.

Stefan shook his head. "Damon says it's the ring somehow corrupting him. They have him locked in one of our root cellars," he said with a sad sigh.

"Does he need you?" Faith asked. "I bet B is freakin' out!"

"Damon said she almost ripped off his head earlier for not wanting her to visit Rick face to face, and then Illyria arrived and suggested they kill Rick because the man we knew was gone," Stefan said.

"Seriously?" Faith asked in surprise. "How does Illyria know that?"

"I think one of her powers in sensing the true nature of things," he said.

"The wedding is supposed to be in less than two weeks. Are they canceling?" Faith asked. "Or postponing?"

"I don't think so," Stefan said. "Damon said that Willow and Bonnie are working on it. Buffy thinks they'll figure it out."

"Do you want to go help?" Faith inquired.

"Not really. I'm happier here with you than I ever was in Mystic Falls with Damon," Stefan said, giving her a sweet smile and picking up her hand.

Faith grinned, nudging his shoulder. "I am pretty amazing!" she exclaimed.

"You are," Stefan said, leaning closer to give her a soft kiss.

Faith returned his kiss like she always did—with enthusiasm. Then she pulled away to look at him. "I could go with you. The girls could handle things until after the wedding. Bimpe has proven herself to be very dependable and Buffy like," Faith said with a smirk.

"She is pretty consistent," Stefan agreed. "I don't like Damon handling things without me because he doesn't always make good choices."

"You go corral big bro, and I'll help big sis keep from turning into bridezilla," Faith said. "Willow's without her mojo, so she could probably use some help. And if Illyria decides to end Rick 'cause he's a threat, I can help put her down."

"Isn't she friends with Spike and Angel?" Stefan asked with a frown.

Faith shrugged. "If she tries to harm a human, she'll die," Faith said, not worried.

"I don't think it'll come to that. Damon was able to reign her in," Stefan said. He picked up his phone. "I'll make a reservation."

"And I'll go talk to the girls," Faith said. "I'll be back."

Stefan looked down at the phone a minute after she left before dialing. He was reluctant to be back so soon in Mystic Falls. The town was like quicksand and always managed to suck him back in.

Resigned, he called the airlines.

******Mystic Falls******

Willow was snuggled against Rebekah when her phone rang. She blinked and looked at the time. It was just five in the morning.

"Everyone you know is in this town. Who is bloody calling you so early?" Rebekah complained.

She grabbed the phone and looked. "Xander and Oz aren't," she said. Then she accepted the call. "What's up, Xander?"

"I'm sorry for waking you," Xander said. He glanced over at his lover that was sitting patiently in the chair by the bed. Xander had felt so guilty about his attraction to Asha that he'd decided to not put off this phone call any longer.

"It's no big deal. Is everything okay?" Willow asked.

"It's fine. I mean, mostly. Oz wigged out when I met the new slayer Asha. I think she's his mate," Xander shared.

Willow sat up in bed. "Really?" she asked excitedly. "What's she like? Does she like him, too? How does he know?"

"She's hot. I think she likes him. They were holding hands last night, and that's pretty fast for Oz," Xander said.

"It really is," Willow said. She nudged Rebekah. "Are you listening?"

"How can I not?" Rebekah grumbled.

"I didn't call to talk to you about Oz, though," Xander said. "There's something I've been meaning to tell you. You and Buffy."

"What is it?" Willow asked.

"I'm involved with someone, and it's pretty serious," Xander admitted. He glanced at Elijah and felt his face get hot. Whether or not Elijah was as serious as he was remained to be seen. However, what was happening between them didn't feel like a fling.

"What? How is that possible? You've not met any girls that I don't know! How could you be involved with a girl?" she asked in dismay.

Rebekah snickered. "You're barking up the wrong tree, sweetie," she said, sitting up, now fully awake. She knew exactly what Xander was trying to share.

"Why does it have to be a woman?" Xander asked.

Willow blinked, unprepared for Xander's remark. "What do you mean? You've only ever liked women! Are you telling me that you're gay? How could you be gay and not tell me? I thought we were best friends? Does Buffy know you're gay? Why doesn't anyone tell me anything?" she asked, upset at being in the dark.

"Slow down, Will!" Xander ordered. "I've not told anyone anything. You're the first one I'm telling, and I don't really consider myself gay. I've never been attracted to another man before—except for him. I'm still attracted to other women. This guy is just special."

"Who?" Willow asked.

"For a genius, you're kind of slow, baby," Rebekah said, smiling fondly at her. "It's my brother."

"Elijah," Xander answered. "I'm in a relationship with Elijah."

Willow glanced at Rebekah's smug smile. "Are you sired to him? I've heard about that from Bonnie," she said.

Rebekah's smile turned into a glare. "Are you suggesting my brother would seduce and manipulate him?" she asked in outrage.

"He's a vampire. It's your nature," Willow said flatly. She loved Rebekah, but she wasn't blind to her flaws.

"Did he seduce me?" Xander asked, glancing at Elijah, who arched an eyebrow and smiled arrogantly. "Well, yeah! But he's not my sire—Klaus is, remember? And he isn't compelling me. Elijah would never do that kind of thing. We were friends first."

Willow was at a loss. She'd known Xander longer than she'd known anyone, and it was hard for her to change the way she viewed him. "I'm sorry, Xander. I'm just confused and surprised. You've never liked men before. You've always been into girls," she pointed out.

"I still am," Xander admitted, giving Elijah a guilty glance. "Oz flipped out earlier 'cause he could sense my attraction to Asha, and his wolf objected strongly."

"So you're bisexual?" Willow asked, trying to label him in a way she could understand.

"I'm not anything but me," Xander said. "I can't really explain it." His eyes locked with Elijah. "Elijah was my friend. Then he became my lover. Now I'm happier than I've ever been, and it's because of him. His gender is irrelevant to me. I'm not suddenly into men. Just him."

"My brother is amazing! Of course, he'd fall for him! Everyone does!" Rebekah said smugly.

"Elijah is great. I'm not saying that he's not," Willow said, directing her comment to both of them. "I'm just surprised."

"I'm still surprised, too," Xander admitted. "But it's a good kind of surprise."

"Do you love him?" Willow wondered.

Xander locked eyes with Elijah. Neither of them had said those words to the other. Did he love Elijah? He wasn't quite sure because it was still hard to believe. Xander was a vampire, and he was totally infatuated with a beautiful man. "I don't know if it's love or not, but I'm head over heels. I've never felt this way before—not with anyone," he said, knowing Willow would get how significant his confession was.

"Being a vampire amplifies your feelings, so whatever you feel, you'll feel strongly," Willow said.

"It doesn't make it any less real," Xander said defensively.

"I didn't mean it did; I was just saying," Willow said weakly.

"Will you tell Buffy? I don't want to call and wake her up since I know she's probably not resting well now," Xander said. "Elijah and I will be discreet here, but I'm not ashamed of what's happening between us. I don't want Buffy to hear from someone else."

"I'll tell her. I'm happy for you, Xander," Willow said sincerely.

"Thanks. I better go. Take care," Xander said.

"I love you," Willow told him.

"Same here," Xander said, hanging up.

Willow put down the phone. "How did I not see this? How long do you think it's been going on? Am I a self-centered friend?" she asked Rebekah.

"You'd do anything for your friends, so no, you're not self-centered. I, on the other hand, am utterly!" Rebekah said with a cheeky grin. "I'm sure it's been going on since he was turned."

"How come you didn't tell me?" Willow asked, feeling hurt.

"Honey, I didn't actually know. I haven't spent time with the two of them really to notice," Rebekah said. "But I knew when Xander said it wasn't a woman. Who else could it be?"

"Has your brother had a boyfriend before?" Willow asked doubtfully. "I don't want him breaking Xander's heart. Xander's only had two serious girlfriends. He's not nearly as experienced."

"No, Elijah hasn't had a boyfriend. I'm not privy to his sexual exploits, but I'm sure that Xander isn't the first man he's been with," Rebekah said. "In fact, when I started developing feelings for you, I was a bit freaked out since there'd never been a woman in that role for me. I talked it over with Elijah. He told me that he'd been with men before, and that if I cared about you enough, I shouldn't let stigmas or other's dictate my feelings."

"Really? He said that?" Willow asked.

Rebekah nodded. "Elijah is the best man I've ever known. Xander will be treated the way he treats everyone—with kindness, patience, and respect," she said confidently.

Willow let go of her anxiety about it. She just wanted Xander to be happy. "Good. It's what he needs," she said. She was involved with Elijah's sister, so she knew exactly how potent an Original vampire could be. Who could blame Xander for not being able to resist the appeal? Willow hadn't, nor had she regretted giving in to temptation. She smiled at her girlfriend.

"Now that I'm completely awake and school doesn't start for two hours, we should have some fun," Rebekah said, giving Willow a suggestive grin. She pulled down Willow's covers and began kissing her neck.

"If you insist," Willow said with a happy sigh.

An hour or so later, she went down to talk to Buffy while Rebekah got ready for class. She found Buffy at the table sipping coffee.

"Are you supposed to have coffee?" Willow asked, sitting next to her at the table.

"I can have one cup. I sip it slowly, so it seems like more," Buffy said with a tired smile. "I need it since sleep eludes me."

"We'll figure this out, sweetie," Willow assured her.

"You didn't see him yesterday, Will. He was like a different person, and that person hated me. It was awful," Buffy said, her eyes filling with tears as she replayed the scene in her mind. "Maybe I should cancel the wedding."

"I don't think you need to give up on Rick. He's still in there fighting for you and your baby," Willow said. "Let's wait until the very last moment. The wedding is still twelve days away. If we need to postpone it, we can do that. But let's not talk about canceling."

"He's killed people, Will," Buffy said in a near whisper.

"So did Angel and even Spike when the First was controlling him, and you never for one moment held it against them!" Willow reminded her.

"But they had a demon inside them. It's not the same thing. I'm not sure I can get past this," Buffy said, looking stricken.

"Do you love him?" Willow asked.

"Of course!" Buffy replied.

"More than you loved Angel?" Willow asked.

Buffy nodded. "I do. I was just a girl when I fell for Angel. I didn't even understand what love really was. He understood me and got who I was, but he left me. He didn't trust in us enough," she said.

"It's time for you to trust in Rick and in what the two of you have," Willow said, reaching for her hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze. "You're going to get your happy ending. I promise."

Buffy wiped her face and nodded. "Thanks, Willow," she said, hoping desperately that she was right.

"Now I have some news that will completely distract you from all your troubles," Willow said with an eager smile.

"Really? What?"

"Xander has a new lover that he is crazy about!" Willow said, her excitement obvious.

"What?" Buffy asked, blinking in surprise.

"It's Elijah! He's involved with Rebekah's brother! He called me a bit ago and told me," Willow said.

Buffy stared at her in wordless silence for several beats. Then she said, "You're right. Now I can't think of anything else! Give me the details!"

Willow shared her conversation with Buffy. "I couldn't believe it either. How could I not know? I'm in a lesbian relationship with the man's sister!" she exclaimed.

"Xander's always checking out women! I catch him all the time!" Buffy insisted.

"I know. He says it's Elijah—Elijah is special," Willow said.

"He is pretty sigh worthy," Buffy acknowledged with a smile.

Willow grinned. "I know, right? The poise, that accent, the way he dresses," she said with a dreamy smile.

"Xander's one lucky guy," Buffy said happily. "Now that Xander's a vampire, he's going to live longer than us. He won't be alone if this works out."

Willow's eyes brightened at the thought. "That's very true. He's found his ever after," she said.

"Finally," Buffy said.

"Finally," Willow agreed. "And we don't have to make ourselves like some girl, who you know would have demon-like tendencies either in personality or reality!"

Buffy giggled, her gloom temporarily lifted. "True. We don't have to share him with another woman!" she said smugly.

Rebekah stood unnoticed in the doorway, listening. She smiled. She hoped Elijah knew what he was getting into.

******Mystic High******

Jeremy met up with Bonnie at lunch. "Hey! How's class?" he asked, reaching for her hand.

"Fine, I guess," she said with a shrug. "I don't actually remember."

"What's wrong?" Jeremy asked in concern.

"I just can't concentrate," she said as she sat down on one of the tables in the cafeteria.

"Bad dreams?" Jeremy asked.

"Not exactly. Just weird dreams. Willow and I were trying to meditate to figure out what the ancestors are trying to tell me, but she got a vision that had nothing to do with me. We have to try when she has time," she said in frustration.

"Do you think they want something from you?" he asked.

She nodded. "Yes," she said.

"Maybe we can see if I can reach someone from the Other Side that can help?" he suggested.

"That's a good idea! After school?" she asked.

Jeremy nodded.

After school, Bonnie went to Jeremy's house with him and Elena, who like always was eager to help.

"Do you think Anna can find out something?" Elena asked.

Jeremy frowned. "I don't think I should be thinking about her or asking her for help," he said, giving Bonnie a pointed look.

"It's okay, Jer. I trust you," Bonnie said.

"I know that you do, but it's not cool. I was thinking about trying to get Anya, Buffy's friend, the ex-demon that's on the Other Side, to help," Jeremy said.

"Doesn't she have to think about you at the same time that you're thinking of her?" Elena asked.

"I called Rose after she died based on Damon's memories. I think if we call her, I can get her to respond," Jeremy said.

The girls nodded and set up in Elena's room since it was bigger. Bonnie lit a candle for them to focus on, and Elena pulled up some pictures Dawn had on Facebook. Anya was in one with Xander. They looked happy.

"It's hard to believe she was alive over a thousand years but wasn't a vampire," Bonnie said, gazing at her picture.

"Yeah. Dawn said she was very literal and loved money and Xander. He broke her heart when he left her at the altar, but she still stayed to fight with him in the final battle closing Sunnydale. She died taking a sword for someone else. She was a real hero," Elena said, feeling sad as she looked at the woman who didn't look older than twenty-three. Too young to die.

They gazed down at the picture in silence for several minutes, clearing their minds of everything but the ex-vengeance demon. Then Bonnie began to speak. "Anya, friend of Buffy and Willow, hear us!" Bonnie called out. She murmured some words in Latin.

"What are you saying?" Elena questioned.

"It's just a prayer to the dead my grandmother taught me. I figured it couldn't hurt," Bonnie said with a shrug.

"Anya, the woman Xander Harris loved, we need to talk to you!" Jeremy added. He focused on the woman's picture, trying to draw her to them. For several minutes, nothing happened.

"Anya!" Bonnie called.

"Sheesh, I hear you already!" Anya exclaimed in annoyance. She flopped down on the bed. "What's with the séance?"

Jeremy looked up in surprise. "She's here. She's on the bed and wants to know why we're having a séance," he told them.

"You’re dead, and we needed to speak to you," Bonnie said, directing her gaze toward the empty bed.

Anya shrugged. "Whatever. I heard you. What do you need? Xander's not in this town anymore, so I'm not sure what we have to talk about," she said.

"He went to England to help Giles with a slayer. He'll be back soon," Jeremy said. "I was hoping you could help Bonnie. Willow's magic isn't working. Our friend Alaric, Buffy's fiancé, has been poisoned by some ring that allows him to come back to life. He's got some murderous alter-ego, and Bonnie is being harassed by the ancestors. What's going on?"

Anya frowned and sat up. "Don't you know? Xander knows, so Buffy knows. The two are joined at the hip. I always had to share my Xander with her and Willow. The Mikaelsons' very powerful mother wants them dead," she said.

"What does that have to do with Alaric or Bonnie?" Jeremy asked.

"What's she saying?" Bonnie asked.

"She says it's the Mikaelsons' mom. She wants her children dead," Jeremy explained. He looked back at Anya.

"That's messed up," Elena commented. "What does Rick have to do with that?"

"If he's dying with a magic ring on his finger, he's probably coming to the Other Side each time," Anya said. "That means he's wide open for witchy corruption and influence."

Bonnie's eyes widened when Jeremy repeated her words. "You think a witch has bespelled in some way?" she asked.

Jeremy nodded as Anya did. "It's Xander's new boyfriend's mother, Esther. She's a real bitch. She had that witch hex Oz and nearly succeeded in killing him, Kol, and Klaus in New Orleans. I had to bring some friends from a higher plane to put a stop to it," Anya said.

"What is my part in this? I have no love for the Mikaelsons," Bonnie remarked.

"You're a Bennett witch, which means you have power. You hate Klaus, which means you can be swayed to Esther's side," Anya said.

Jeremy told her. Then he asked, "How can Bonnie protect herself?"

"I'm not sure that she can. There's too many on this side that Esther controls. She's very powerful. Willow could match her if she had her powers," Anya said.

"How can Willow get her powers back?" Jeremy asked.

Anya was silent as she considered his question. Then she said, "Her powers were taken because she allowed them to be rooted in darkness. Magic is meant to serve mankind. It's why so many witches are here instead of in heaven. Even with the best of intentions, power corrupts. Willow needs to perform an act of self-sacrifice to prove that she is willing to give her life for others."

Bonnie was alarmed when Jeremy repeated Anya's words. "She has to die to get her powers?" she asked.

Anya shrugged. "Maybe. To be a true servant of Mother Earth, she has to be willing to do what Xander did that day on the mountain, what Buffy did when she jumped off the tower. She has never one time given up anything. When Tara was taken from her, she went on a rampage," Anya pointed out. "Her magic has been encased in darkness because it was birthed on a hellmouth. She has to find a way to cleanse herself of dark magics and become one with Mother Earth."

"Thanks, Anya. We'll tell Willow," Jeremy said.

"How do I protect myself from Esther's influence?" Bonnie asked.

Anya frowned. "Don't be weak," she said with a shrug. "Do a protection spell over yourself when you sleep, which is when you're the most vulnerable."

"We need to go see Willow," Jeremy said.

"Thanks, Anya," Bonnie called out.

Anya disappeared. Elena frowned. "What did she mean by the boyfriend comment? Are Xander and Elijah a couple?" she asked.

"We can't worry about that now. I have to go speak to Willow. Thanks, Elena," Bonnie said, rising to her feet.

"I'll go with you," Jeremy said, standing.

They went to Willow's and shared what they found out. By the time the trio was done taking apart Anya's message, it was dark.

"I'll call Giles and discuss this with him," Willow said. "Rebekah might have some insight. She's studied under her mother until her death."

"Okay. I'll do a protection spell tonight and hope to sleep better," Bonnie said.

Willow gave her a hug. "Be careful. I know you can beat those nasty witches," she said.

The pair walked outside, not seeing the duo watching the house.

"We should drain them. I'm hungry!" Willow's mother complained to her new mentor.

"The dark-skinned girl has power," Dru said to her vampire childe. "Let's follow them and see where the boy lives." They'd been watching Buffy's house by killing the neighbors and squatting in the house next door. It made their jobs very convenient. They even had car keys. Dru followed her Spike's example and blocked out most of the windows on the car in case they needed a daylight drive.

When Bonnie dropped Jeremy off, Dru stopped the car. "The witch can hurt us. The boy cannot. He's a puppy surrounded by wolves. We should turn him into a lion. What do you think?" she asked Sheila with an eager grin.

"If he's a puppy, why would we turn him into a lion? That's not a good metaphor at all," Sheila lectured in disapproval.

Drusilla was reminded of why she hated smart people. They thought she was stupid, but she wasn't. She would make the mean slayer suffer. Elena came to the door as they parked on the curve and got out of the car.

"My mommy's choking! Please help us!" Dru called out in fear, imploring the teens to come to their aid.

Sheila smiled at her sire's ingenuity. The two teens immediately turned to help.

This is going to be like taking candy from a baby! Sheila thought as she opened the door for easier access.

*****To Be Continued!*****

Enjoy this? I hope so. Leave a review if you have the time. Thanks for reading!

Chapter Text

*****Not Long After We Left off*****

Matt drove up to Elena's home, his home, too, now. However, before he arrived, he slammed on his brakes. A body was in the road. Horrified, he got out of his truck. When he realized it was Jeremy, he ran to his side. Feeling Jeremy's pulse, he felt none. His neck had a familiar blood wound. Vampire.

"Oh God, Jeremy!" Matt cried. He grabbed his hand and looked for the ring. It wasn't there. Then he remembered Buffy telling him to not wear it because it was too dangerous after what was happening with Rick. He pulled out his phone and called 911. After giving them the location, he called Liz, who promised to come right away.

Where was Elena? He didn't want to leave Jeremy, but what if she was hurt? He pulled out his phone to call Damon as he headed toward the house.

"Damon, get to Elena's. Jeremy is dead. I'm looking for Elena," he said before hanging up. He knew that he wouldn't need to say more.

He found Elena at the foot of the stairs. A trail of blood led from the front door to the stairs. It looked like she'd collapsed. Fear filled him as he turned her prone body over. Her face was covered in blood and cuts. It looked deliberate. In fact, her entire body seemed to have been sliced. "Oh God!" Matt gasped. Shakily, he pushed a finger to her pulse and felt a faint beat.

"Is she alive?" a voice from the doorway asked. Matt wasn't surprised to see Damon there so soon. He probably ran in a blur the entire few miles.

"Barely," Matt said.

Damon didn't waste any time going to Elena's side and giving her his blood. The two men watched as her cuts healed and her eyes fluttered open.

Elena came to in fog. Then she realized where she was, and her memory came slamming back. "Jeremy!" she screamed as she sat up.

"Take it easy," Damon urged. But she struggled, so he helped her to her feet.

The sirens could be heard. When they got to the doorway, Elena saw Illyria kneeling down at Jeremy's side.

"Is he alive?" Elena asked.

"He is dead," Illyria said without emotion.

"No!" Elena wailed, her grief overwhelming her.

Liz and Buffy pulled up directly ahead of the ambulance. Both women jumped out of the car.

"What happened?" Buffy asked.

"He's dead, Buffy! She killed him!" Elena wailed.

"Who? Who did this, Elena?" Liz asked, looking down at Jeremy, her own eyes filling with tears.

"Some woman with black hair that talked crazy. She was a vampire, but she didn't look like Damon or Stefan," Elena explained as she sobbed against Damon, who held her up.

Buffy straightened and gave Elena a sharp look. "Did you say she talked crazy? Was she wearing a long white dress and have long hair? Pale?" she asked.

Elena nodded. "She had another vampire with her that she seemed to be teaching. The other vampire was a redhead woman that I've never seen," Elena said.

Buffy glanced down at Jeremy in consideration. "Does he have on his ring? Did she feed him blood?" Buffy asked.

Elena clutched her stomach as she realized what Buffy was asking. "No, she didn't give him blood. She just drained him while the other held me. Then the crazy girl kept slicing me with her nails saying that she had to fix my too pretty face. I managed to run into the house after kicking her back for a moment. I had left the door open, so I got inside. They couldn't come in. They taunted me a bit until I passed out from blood loss," Elena said, tears coursing down her face.

Damon held her up, feeling helpless. How did he make this better?

Buffy felt sick as guilt swamped her. "I told him to take the ring off. I was afraid. Look what the ring did to Rick?" she said.

"The ring can't bring out darkness in a person that has no darkness in them," Illyria said. "The boy is tainted with tragedy, not evil."

"Can you bring him back? What kind of power do you have?" Elena asked her.

"Healing has never been one of my powers, although I can bend time," Illyria said.

"Don't you mean that you used to bend time? I didn't see any time bending in L.A.," Damon pointed out. They were interrupted by the ambulance as the paramedics began to work on the unmoving Jeremy.

Buffy looked at Illyria. "Do you mean that Rick has evil in him? That's why the ring has poisoned him?" she asked.

"He is killing people he thinks are aiding vampires, so I do not think he is inherently evil. He believes he is doing good," Illyria said.

"Where's Jeremy's ring?" Elena asked, a note of hysteria in her voice. "If he doesn't have it, where is it?"

"I'm not sure," Buffy said. She looked at Matt. "Will you go check his room?"

Matt nodded. "I will. I'll call Caroline and Bonnie, too," he said.

Buffy took her hand as she leaned still against Damon, broken in her grief. Her desire to see Rick and have him console her was so strong. How could this all be happening? Jeremy was dead and wouldn't be coming back because she told him to take off the ring. The ring could save him or destroy. What had she done?

If Drusilla was in town, the bad times were just beginning.

*****England*****

Asha gave Oz a shy glance at breakfast. The hybrid was so unexpected. He both disturbed her slayer senses and brought her comfort with his presence. They had spent hours together the night before. She found herself telling him things that had happened to her—things she'd done. Things no one knew. He listened without judgment. She fell asleep in the middle of a story and woke up to him a sleep on the floor by her bed. The sight of him there startled her at first. Then it brought a smile to her face.

As for Oz, he felt at peace. He had loved Willow with everything in him. She had been the best thing in his life. Losing her had been so difficult, so awful. Now, though, it didn't even register. Willow was his past—Asha was his future. He was content to simply be with her. The uncertainty and stress of the last few months were completely forgotten.

Xander grinned as she watched the two love birds staring at one another. "Aren't they cute?" he said to Elijah.

"It seems Niklaus' hybrid has found his match," Elijah observed.

Klaus wasn't oblivious to the new development, but he wasn't so sure it was a good thing. What if Oz wanted to stay in England? Klaus didn't want to lose his new friend and brother so soon.

"I think after breakfast, Asha, we can get in some training," Giles said. "If you feel up to it?"

Asha nodded. "I would like that," she said.

"Oh, can we fight the vampires?" one of the girls asked eagerly.

"We'll see," Giles said.

"I don't fight little girls," Klaus said with a wink.

"We're not little girls," Bronwen said, giving him the dark eye. Her cousins Ceri and Emlyn were frowning at him in disapproval.

"Sweetheart, I've been on this earth over a thousand years. To me, you are children," he said.

Ceri grinned and glanced at Giles. "Mr. Giles is like a puppy compared to you!" she realized.

"How about we not try to antagonize the immortal hybrid?" Giles said dryly.

"Breathing too loudly can antagonize my brother," Elijah said, giving Klaus a fond smile. "I wouldn't worry too much about that."

Klaus winked at the girls and said nothing. He was enjoying both the scenery change and his first experience being surrounded by such adorable and beautiful deadly girls. When you lived for centuries, finding a new experience was a challenge.

After breakfast, Robin organized the girls and allowed the slayers to spar with Xander and Elijah. Above on the balcony, Klaus watched on in amusement. Giles stood next to him, observing and taking notes.

"It is quite impressive what you've done here," Klaus said to Giles.

"It has been a long journey," Giles said with a small smile.

Klaus could see the age lines around the man, the intelligence and strength in his eyes. Who might he have been with such a mentor? "The girls are lucky to have you," he said.

Giles shook his head. "I'm the lucky one. I have no family to speak of, no children. The group I dedicated most of my life to abandoned and betrayed me, so my slayer and her friends became my family. Now our family has grown," Giles said frankly. "Life with a noble purpose is much better lived than a life that serves only oneself."

Klaus felt the man's mild rebuke keenly. "I take it you do not approve of my evil ways," Klaus said.

"It is not my place to judge another man who has a soul," Giles said. "You will face heaven or hell based on your own merits. However, I can promise you this: Hurt another child of mine, and I will find a way to send you to a hell you will never escape from."

Klaus met the man's unwavering gaze in surprise. His heartbeat was steady as he faced Klaus with utter confidence and no fear. "You dare threaten me?" Klaus asked, arching his brow.

"I would dare anything to protect those I love—as would you," Giles said knowingly. "However, I trust that your intentions are good while you are here. I respect and trust your brother and Oz. If they trust you, so will I."

Klaus was surprised once more and touched by the man's generosity. He held out his hand in friendship—something he rarely did. "I won't let you down. I promise," Klaus vowed.

Down below, Elijah looked up, wondering where his brother was and heard the exchange. Pleased, he faced his newest challenger with a warm smile. Coming here had been a good idea. Maybe his lost brother would find some redemption here, too. He allowed the trio of young cousins to attack him as he considered how to use this newest development to his family's advantage.

*****Mystic Falls******

Stefan called his brother when he arrived home to an empty house. Faith came down the stairs having searched for Damon and Illyria.

"No one is here," Faith said. "Did you go check on Rick?"

"I'm trying to get a hold of Damon," Stefan said. "But follow me. Rick's down in the cellar." He kept calling Damon as he led her down the stairs.

"Damon? Where are you?" Stefan asked when his brother finally answered his third call.

"I'm at the hospital. Some vamp killed Jeremy and tortured Elena," Damon revealed.

"What?" Stefan asked incredulous as he stopped in front of Rick's cell.

Rick stood as he heard them approach. "What's going on?" he asked them.

"Are you okay?" Faith asked, peering in. "I can't believe B let you be locked up like this!"

"It's for her own safety. There's something wrong with me," Rick said with a grimace. He remembered the awful things he said, but he still didn't recall killing anyone. It was like he'd completely lost his mind. Fear for Buffy and their baby was all he could think about.

"Some vamp is in town. It killed Jeremy and attacked Elena. She lost a lot of blood. I gave her mine to heal her, but the paramedics thought a doctor should check her out," Damon said.

"What's happening?" Rick asked anxiously.

"Damon said that Jeremy was killed by a vampire and Elena was hurt. She's okay now," Stefan said.

"What?" Rick asked, upset. "Jeremy's dead? What about his ring?"

"He didn't have it on. Buffy made him take it off," Stefan relayed, feeling sick. Poor Elena. He knew how much she loved her brother.

Rick fell back as he realized this was all his fault. He'd somehow become so tainted that he killed men he respected on the council. He'd tried to hurt Buffy.

What the hell was he supposed to do now?

*****Chapter End*****

Chapter Text

******Mystic Falls******

Caroline wiped the tears from her eyes as she walked up Bonnie's sidewalk. Dawn had called her with the bad news about Jeremy. Elena was a wreck, so it was up to Caroline to break the new to Bonnie. She wanted very badly to call Klaus and get an encouraging word. He always knew how to make her feel good about herself. Caroline could use some of that right now. She took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.

Bonnie opened the door and smiled. "Hey, Care. What's up?" she asked.

"Bonnie, I have some bad news. Can I come in?" Caroline asked.

"Of course," Bonnie said, stepping back and letting her in. "Did something happen to Rick? Is Buffy okay?"

"No, they're fine. Or as well as they can be," Caroline said. She grabbed Bonnie's hand and pulled her down next to her. "It's Jeremy. He and Elena were attacked by some vamps. Damon got to Elena in time. She's fine, but, Jeremy isn't. He's dead, Bon."

Bonnie looked at her shock. "What? Jeremy's dead?" She jumped to her feet. "He has the ring! He can't die by a vampire's hand!"

"Unfortunately, Buffy made him take it off because of Rick. She didn't want to take the chance he'd go crazy, too," Caroline said.

Bonnie started crying. "I don't understand. This isn't supposed to happen! He's not yet made it to seventeen!" she wailed.

"I know," Caroline murmured, holding her. Her eyes filled with tears—this wasn't supposed to happen.

*****Hospital*****

Buffy paced in the waiting room. Damon had compelled the staff, so he could go to Jeremy and see if he had the ring anywhere on him.

"Maybe he was wearing around his neck on a chain," Elena had suggested, needing some type of hope.

"I don't think so," Buffy had replied. However, the thought was out there, so she looked at Damon, who immediately went to check.

"I can't believe this is happening!" Elena cried.

"I'm so sorry," Buffy said, feeling like the darkness was closing in around her. First Rick and now Jeremy. Her hand moved to her stomach, the desire to protect her unborn baby was overwhelming.

"If you hadn't told him to take it off, he'd still be here!" Elena accused, wiping at her tears.

Buffy felt the words like a blow. "The rings are bad. Look what's happened to Rick," she pointed out. Was Elena right, though? Was this her fault?

"Rick was fine, too, before he met you!" Elena said angrily.

"Elena, that's enough," Liz said in disapproval. "What's happened to Rick would've happened if she hadn't been here. The rings are not a good thing. No one should be able to cheat death so much."

"You heard Illyria. She said that a person without darkness couldn't be turned!" Elena replied.

"The rings drive people mad. You told me so yourself from your own research into your family journals," Liz reminded her. "Jeremy could've been driven to suicide or something."

Elena thought about his one attempt at it and grimaced. Maybe, Liz had a point.

Damon appeared. Elena could tell by the look in his eyes that there wasn't any hope. She began sobbing. "I'm sorry, Elena," he said as she pulled her close.

Buffy was devastated all over again. She needed Rick. "I need to see Rick," she said and turned to leave. When she made it to the exit, she ran into Stefan and Faith.

"Buffy!" Faith asked her. "Are you okay?"

Buffy collapsed into her arms, totally surprising Faith, who glanced at Stefan, begging him for help.

"Jeremy isn't coming back this time?" Stefan asked as Buffy cried on Faith's shoulder.

"No! It's my fault! I told him to take off the ring!" she exclaimed, the guilt almost too much to bear.

"You couldn't have known, B," Faith said, pushing her back so she could see her face. "The ring has messed up Rick. You did the right thing telling him not to wear it."

"We need to locate this vampire that did this. Any ideas?" Stefan asked.

The question cause Buffy to focus on what mattered. "I think it's someone from Sunnydale," she replied.

"Really?" Faith asked in surprise.

"From Elena's description, I think Drusilla's in town," Buffy said grimly.

"No f***ing way!" Faith exclaimed in surprise.

"We need to find her," Buffy said, said wiping her eyes with the end of her shirt.

"Who's this?" Stefan asked.

"She's this totally insane vampire that Angel sired over two hundred years ago. She sired Spike and was his great love for a long time," Buffy explained.

"Maybe we should call him to come help deal with her," Faith suggested.

"No!" Buffy replied. "He won't want to kill her. He never stops caring for the women he loves, and even as a soulless demon, he loved her. She has to die." Spike's compassion would compel him to find a way to save her. Buffy was in no mood to play peacemaker. Whoever this vampire was, she would be dust once Buffy located her.

"Let's go find her," Faith said eagerly.

Buffy was torn between her desire to see the father of her unborn child and her duty. The need for vengeance won out. "We can take my car," she offered.

*****Hours Later****

Faith and Buffy didn't find any signs of Drusilla and her minion after searching for a few hours. Buffy accompanied her back to the Salvatore mansion.

"Did you find the vampire?" Illyria asked.

"No. No sign," Faith said in disappointment. "Is Stefan here?"

"No. He is with Damon at the home of Katherine's doppelganger," Illyria said.

"They're with Elena?" Buffy asked, relieved. "I shouldn't have left her alone so long."

"The guys will take care of her," Faith said. "Go be with your man."

"How is he?" Buffy asked Illyria.

"He seems himself. Grief for the young man fills him. It grows tedious," Illyria said in disapproval. "I will leave and find this vampire. I will rip out her spine for causing me this annoyance."

Faith grinned in approval. "You go do that! Call us if you need an extra hand," she said.

Illyria looked offended. "Help to kill a mere vampire?" she scoffed. "I am Illyria, the God King."

"Yeah, we know," Buffy said wearily. "Just go. Maybe you'll have better luck."

Illyria nodded and left.

Faith chuckled. "That girl is something else!" she observed.

"Yea. She's one of a kind," Buffy agreed. "But it's good to have her here in case things get worse. She's good in a fight."

"I'm going to go take a shower. Will you be okay with Rick?" Faith asked in concern.

"I hope so," Buffy said, her eyes filled with sorrow.

Faith had never seen her friend so low. She put her hand on her shoulder. "It's going to be all right, B," she assured her.

"I—I'm not so sure," Buffy said doubtfully.

"You sent a lover to hell once, and he came back and still loved you. You died and got ripped out of heaven. You forgave. You inspired a witch to change the world and closed the mouth of hell. There is nothing you can't do," Faith told her firmly. "You're the strongest and best person I've ever known—hell, you even forgave me. There's nothing you can't get through. You and Rick will get through this!"

Buffy was both surprised and touched by Faith's words. Never had she been so transparent to Buffy or so encouraging. Instead of saying thanks, Buffy moved and hugged her, resting her head against the taller woman's shoulder, absorbing her strength.

Faith felt embarrassed at her word vomit. Where did that come from? She just didn't like to see Buffy so despondent. It made her world seem all screwy because Buffy was the closest thing she had to a sister.

Gathering her courage, Buffy moved away from Faith. "I won't be long. I don't want to leave Elena and Matt alone tonight," she said.

"They'll be okay. Damon won't leave her," Faith said.

Buffy nodded and walked toward the stairs that led to the cellar. She braced herself before stepping into Rick's line of sight. He jumped up. "God, Buffy! I've been going nuts! Please tell me this is a joke! Jeremy's okay? He had his ring on?" he asked.

Buffy unlocked the door, not caring about the risk. "No. He's dead," she said flatly.

The pain of that hit Rick like a blow. He moved forward and pulled her close.

His arms around her did more than any words of solace could. Despite all that had happened, he made her feel safe. This was where she belonged.

*****Elena's*****

Dawn curled around Matt, hugging him tight. She had come as soon as he called, unable to believe that Jeremy was dead. She had an art class with him. He was such a cutie, so sweet to all the girls. If she hadn't fallen for Matt, she might have had a serious crush. Matt was hurting so badly. He lost his sister, and his mother had abandoned him. Jeremy was like a brother to him—his best friend. Moving into the Gilbert household had lifted a weight that he'd been carrying since Dawn had met him. Now he was once more forced to say goodbye to someone he loved.

Dawn had never seen very many men cry. Spike and Giles had cried when Buffy died. Xander hadn't around her even though Anya had complained once to her that he'd cried a lot in her arms—the ex-demon was never that comfortable with naked emotion.

Matt, though, had seemed unashamed of his grief. He had cried with Elena. Then he'd withdrew into his room, leaving her with the Salvatores. At first, Dawn had felt awkward. Although Jeremy's death saddened her, it didn't hurt her like it hurt them. His absence from their life wouldn't alter hers the way it would Matt's.

Then she'd walked into his room and found him sitting on the edge of his bed, his head in his hands. "Are you okay?" she had asked.

When he looked up at he with shattered eyes, she didn't hesitate and moved forward to sit next to him, putting her arms around him. Matt had leaned against her, crying like he would never stop. Eventually, he curled up on the bed, drained.

"Thank you, Dawn," he said in that quiet way he had about him.

"You're welcome," she replied. "I'm sorry that this has happened. He is too young to be gone."

Matt turned in her arms, facing her. His hand lifted to brush a strand of her hair away from her face. He twined it around his finger. It was so silky. Love for her pushed away his grief for a moment. "I love you," he said. "I didn't know before really what love was. I thought I loved Elena. Caroline maybe. But now I know that I didn't really love them—or it was puppy love. But this is real." He moved to place a soft kiss on her lips.

Dawn sighed into the kiss, happy that she could bring him some relief from his grief.

Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for the Salvatores. The two brothers had been trying to comfort Elena, but she was inconsolable.

"I have no family left," she said flatly. "No amount of pithy words is going to make this okay."

"That's not what we are trying to do, Elena," Stefan said in that soft reassuring way he had about him.

Normally, Stefan's manner brought her comfort. Now, though, it annoyed the hell out of her. She stood up. "I'm going to go to bed. I can't face this anymore," she said.

"Okay," Stefan said in understanding.

He was always so understanding. How had that not bothered her before? Patience may be a virtue, but it was also irritating. Elena struggled to keep the annoyance off her face. "Thanks for staying. But I'm going to be okay. Losing relatives is an old hat by now."

The bitterness of her words hung in the air between them. Damon reached out and took her hand. "You're not alone. We're here for you," he told her. His compassion stirred her grief, so she withdrew her had. An ocean of tears had already flowed out of her. She felt hollow and didn't want to unleash the floodgates again.

"I know," she said. Then she turned and headed to the stairs.

"Good night," Stefan called out.

"Good night," she replied without pausing.

"I'm staying on the couch," Damon told her.

She stopped, turning to face him. "I'd rather you not. Dawn is here with Matt. I know Buffy will be here soon. There's no need for you to stay," Elena told him.

"I want to be here for you," Damon said. Why was she pushing him away now?

"And you are. I just don't want to put you out. Your giant bed at home is a far cry from this couch—it's ancient," she said, wrinkling her nose. He had to leave.

Damon nodded and watched her walk away. He hated feeling impotent. Always, he and Stefan had managed to slay the monsters in her life, make things right. This, though, was beyond them. He looked at his brother. "We need to find the bitch who did this," he said.

"We will," Stefan vowed.

"I'm glad you came home, brother," Damon said to him.

"We'll be here until the wedding," Stefan told him.

"Good," Damon said as they walked out the door.

Elena waited at her bedroom window, watching them leave. Damon peered up at her before getting into his car. She lifted her hand to wave at him. He nodded to her and then got into the car, driving off. Immediately, she turned and grabbed her purse and car keys. Quietly, she crept down the stairs, hoping Dawn and Matt wouldn't hear her.

They didn't appear, so she snuck out the front door.

When she got to the car, she had one destination in mind—she had to get a drink. Elena needed something to numb the pain. Luckily, her fake ID and a nearby bar would get her what she needed.

*****A Few Streets Over*****

Bonnie tossed and turned, exhausted after hours of crying with Caroline. She wanted to go see Elena—knew that she should—but she couldn't face Elena and see the devastation in her eyes. Bonnie knew more than anyone how important Jeremy was to Elena, especially after their parents died. Finding out he was her cousin and not brother hadn't changed a thing. Elena loved him just the same.

Bonnie loved him, too. He was the first boy who'd stirred her. She loved him and had given him every part of herself. Feeling despair surrounding her like a cloud, she finally drifted into slumber.

Soon Bonnie was caught up in a dream. She was in a dark place. The silence was broken by a woman's voice.

"Bonnie Bennett, I have need of you," the woman said.

Bonnie moved toward the voice, seeing an attractive white woman with long honey colored hair sitting on a large rock. Bonnie recognized the very distinctive rock. They were in the woods outside of the Lockwood estate. How did Bonnie get here? "How did I get outside?" Bonnie asked suspiciously. "Who are you?"

"You are in a dream and have nothing to fear from me," the woman said. "I felt your pain and knew that I, alone, could help you."

"How? How can you help me? Who are you?" Bonnie asked.

"My name is Esther Mikaelson," the woman said calmly.

Recognizing the name, Bonnie took a step back. "Klaus' mother?"

"I am," she replied. "You have no reason to be afraid. Sit next to me, Bonnie. We have much to discuss."

Bonnie hesitated a moment. All Mikaelsons were to be handled with care and a certain amount of wariness. Little was known about this one except she was a powerful witch that had created the spell that began the vampire line through her children. What could she possibly want with Bonnie?

"I'm not going to help you hurt anyone!" Bonnie announced, wanting to make that clear from the start.

"I'm a servant of nature. I would not ask that of you," Esther replied, giving her a gentle smile. "Please." She gestured to the space next to her.

Bonnie sat, waiting to see what this ancient witch wanted from her.

******To Be Continued******

Did you enjoy the update? Let me know with a review! Yes, Jeremy is really dead with no resurrection plans as I needed a real sacrifice, and he was the one I could easily part with. Thanks for reading.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20: Death and Rebirth

*****A Few Hours Later*****

Elena had no idea that her neighbor next door was dead and that two vampires had taken refuge next door. Nor did she know the same vampire that had killed her brother was watching her house. Drusilla and her companion knew when she left.

"Should we follow?" her companion had asked.

"I think it's better if we wait and give her a nice welcome back," Drusilla eagerly.

"How will we know when she's coming?"

Drusilla realized that she had a point. "Why don't you follow her and call me when she is heading back home. No attacking. She's mine," Drusilla said.

Her new daughter was quite smart about all the modern technology and had given Drusilla a truly devious plan on had to capture the little birdy who'd escaped death. She also knew how the pretty girl was loved by the slayer, the slayer's man, and the vampires who healed her with their magic blood. Drusilla didn't like the power these other vamps had. She was determined to make them all pay—the slayer most of all.

She stood at the base of Wickery Bridge waiting. After a few hours, her phone rang. She eyed it with distaste. Her new daughter had convinced her it was the best way to communicate. She made it sound so easy. Drusilla reluctantly answered the phone.

It was time.

When the pretty birdie drove across the bridge, she skipped toward the bright headlight of the car.

Elena swerved to avoid the woman that was running in the middle of the road.

"What the hell?" she gasped. She over corrected and hit guardrail.

A sick feeling of deja vu filled her as her car crashed into the water below.

*****The Next Morning******

Buffy knocked on Elena's bedroom door. "Elena? Are you up?" she asked as she pushed the door open.

The bed looked like no one had slept in it. Elena's was not that fastidious. There's no way that she'd woken up and made the bed. Buffy walked over to the bathroom door to see if she was in there. She wasn't.

She opened the connecting door and looked in Jeremy's room. The emptiness of the room struck like a blow. His bed was undisturbed also.

Quickly, she turned back to the hallway and walked down to Matt's room.

"Matt? Do you know where Elena is? She isn't upstairs, and her room hasn't been slept in," Buffy called out.

Dawn opened Matt's bedroom door. "She's not in here," she said.

Buffy blinked. "What are you doing here? How did I not know you were here?" she asked. Then her eyes widened. "Did you sleep with him?"

Dawn smirked. "Some slayer you are! I've been here all night. I didn't want to leave him alone. He was too upset," she said. "And yes, I did sleep with him."

Matt quickly opened the door. "Slept. That's all we did! Slept! I swear!" he exclaimed.

"That's all we did this time," Dawn said pointedly. "You were my age when you had sex with Angel, a few months younger even!"

"Yeah and look how well that turned out for me!" she replied pointedly. "I didn't have good sex again until college. Even then, I found a real loser before Riley."

"It's not like that for everyone. Willow said she slept with Oz her senior year, and he was perfect!" Dawn declared.

Matt wanted desperately to be anywhere else. Maybe if he prayed to the goddess Hecate that Willow always prayed to the earth would swallow him, and he would not be so utterly humiliated.

"That's because Oz is, like, perfect and an exception, not the rule!" Buffy countered.

"So are you saying that there's something wrong with Matt? He's just as perfect as Oz!" Dawn insisted, offended.

"How about you not talk about me like I'm not here?" Matt interjected. "How about we get back to the point? What's happened with Elena? She never told me she was going somewhere."

"She's not in the house, and I don't think she slept in her bed," Buffy said.

"I'll call her," Matt said, going back into his room to get his phone.

"I didn't hear her leave," Dawn said. "The Salvatores were with her, so I was in here with Matt."

"I'll call them," Buffy said. She grabbed her phone and called Faith.

"What's up, B?" Faith asked.

"Can you ask Stefan if he knows where Elena is? She isn't here at the house, and her bed doesn't look slept in. I assumed that she was asleep when I got home," Buffy said.

"I will," Faith said.

Buffy waited a beat and then Stefan was on the phone. "Buffy? This is Stefan. Why isn't Elena there?" he asked.

"I don't know. I thought she might be with you," Buffy said.

"She wasn't home when you got there last night?" Stefan asked.

"I'm not sure. I never checked on her. It was so late, and I was so exhausted," Buffy said, feeling guilty. She'd cried all over Rick before making it back. She was staying with the Gilberts until Rick was better.

"Did you see her car? Is it there?" Stefan asked.

Buffy groaned. "I'm the worst cop ever! I didn't even notice when I arrived last night," she said. She walked to the front door and opened it, looking for Elena's car. "No. It's not there."

Matt came out of the room. "She's not answering her phone. I sent Bonnie and Caroline a text," he said. His phone beeped, and he looked down at it. "She's not with them. Caroline said she was with Bonnie until late, and they didn't hear from Elena while Caroline was there." His phone peeped again. "Caroline says she'll drive by Bonnie's on the way to school to make sure."

Buffy went back to her phone. "Did you hear all that?" she asked Stefan.

"I did," he said. "I don't like this. This isn't like her. Something is wrong."

"I agree. I'll get in my car now and see if I can find her. I'll call you if I find her," Buffy said.

"Same here," Stefan said, hanging up.

The doorbell rang, so Buffy walked over to answer it. When she saw Liz, she knew the news was bad. "Liz? Why are you here? Did you find Elena? Is she okay?" Buffy asked.

Liz's eyes filled with tears. "No, she's not," Liz told her. "She drove off Wickery bridge. She's dead."

******Caroline's******

Caroline was locking her front door. She turned and saw Kol. "Kol!" she exclaimed.

"Good morning, love," he said with a grin.

"Where they hell have you been?" Caroline scolded. "Things have been hell. Jeremy's dead. Elena was attacked. Now she's missing. I spent all night trying to console Bonnie. I could've used someone to console me!"

Kol stepped forward. "I'm sorry, Caroline. I went to see an old friend. I should've called," he said apologetically. He moved closer and pulled her in for a hug.

Caroline leaned into him, letting herself absorb his strength. "I really hate this. Jeremy is dead," she said, pain in her voice obvious.

"What the bloody hell happened?" Kol asked.

Caroline pulled back and filled him in. "Now Matt's telling me that Elena's bed was empty this morning—like she never slept in it. I'm going to Bonnie's to see what's happening," she told him.

"I'll go with you," Kol said.

They drove to Bonnie's together. Caroline rang the doorbell several times before an obviously not awake Bonnie opened the door.

"What? Why are you ringing the bell so incessantly?" Bonnie asked, scowling at Caroline.

"Are you okay? It took you too long to answer?" Caroline inquired anxiously.

"I didn't sleep well. I don't think I'll make it to school today," Bonnie said. She glanced behind Caroline and saw Kol. Her face took on a weird expression.

"What's going on? Why are you looking so weird?" Caroline asked her.

"Aren't you supposed to be asking her about Elena?" Kol asked, interrupting.

"What's wrong with Elena?" Bonnie asked worriedly.

"We don't know. I told Matt I'd stop by here to ask you if you've seen her? She isn't at home," Caroline said.

"No, I've not seen her," Bonnie said, frowning.

"I'll go to school and see if she's there. I'll let you know what if I find her," Caroline said. She started to turn and paused. "Are you sure you're okay? It seemed like you got something going on."

"I had a really strange dream is all," Bonnie said, rubbing her temple. "When you rang the bell, it rattled me. I think Kol might've been in it."

Kol grinned. "Dreaming about me, huh? That happens. Witches, especially, find me irresistible," he boasted.

Bonnie rolled her eyes as Caroline grinned. "So on that note, we'll get out of your hair. Rest," Caroline said. She gave Bonnie a quick hug and then walked back to her car. Kol followed her.

"I think I'm going to go check on Bex. I've not seen her in a bit," Kol said.

"She'll be at school. You might as well come with me," Caroline said.

When she got into the car and pulled out, her mom called her. "Honey, where are you?" her mom asked.

"In the car about to go to school," Caroline said.

"I need you to come to the hospital. Buffy and Matt are here. They need you to come," she said.

"Why? What's happened?" Caroline asked in concern.

"I will tell you when you get here. Drive safely," her mother said. She disconnected before Caroline could asked anything else.

A stunned Caroline stopped at the stop sign and glanced at Kol. "What is wrong now?" she asked with a groan.

*****The Salvatores*****

Illyria was finding this Mystic Falls very unsettling. Rings that allowed men to escape death. A pregnant and hormonal slayer. Dead teenage boys normally would not bother her at all. However, more and more she felt her shell's conscience pushing in. She had a feeling that her shell's soul had not be destroyed as she thought. Now she heard the vampire talking to the slayers.

The doppelganger was missing. Illyria knew that things were about to change once again. She walked into the room where Stefan was speaking.

"How can she be missing? What the hell, Stefan!" Damon explained. "We were just with her, and we saw her going to bed!"

"Do teenagers in this world always do what they say they are going to do?" Illyria asked. The three set of eyes looked at her, noticing her presence for the first time.

"Nope. Never," Faith said grimly.

Damon's phone rang. "What's up, Liz?" he asked, knowing she never called without bad news of some kind.

"Damon," she choked out.

He could hear the tears in her voice and tensed. "What's happened?" he asked hollowly.

"We found Elena's car. They're taking her to a hospital. I don't think she's alive, Damon," Liz said, her voice breaking in a sob. Elena was like her own daughter. She'd been best friends with her mother. She'd raised Caroline next to Elena from birth. "I'm at her house. I'm going to tell Buffy and Matt. We'll be at the hospital."

"We'll be there," Damon said grimly.

"What happened to her?" Stefan asked.

"I don't know. But if she's dead…" his voice trailed off.

Stefan looked grimmer than Faith had ever seen. "What? What would happen?" she asked.

"She had vampire blood still in her system," Stefan explained.

Faith's eyes widened in realization. "So if she's dead, she could wake up a vampire?" she asked.

Stefan nodded. "Yes," he said.

"Not could. Will," Damon said. "Let's go."

*****Hospital*****

Damon and Stefan found Buffy sitting in the ER waiting room, her head in hands. She looked up as they came into the room.

"Where is she?" Damon asked.

"She's dead," Buffy said. "I didn't even notice she wasn't home, and now she's dead!"

"No!" Damon exclaimed. Stefan put his hand on Damon's shoulder. Both felt the horror of the moment.

Caroline arrived with Kol. "Where's Mom? What's going on?" she asked.

Her mother came out of a side door. Caroline could tell that she'd been crying. "Mom? Who's hurt?" Caroline asked. She scanned the room, looking for who was missing. "Where's Matt? Did something happen to Matt?"

Matt was not very far away. He held on tightly to Dawn's hand as they stared down at Elena's body that was lying on a metal table in the hospital's morgue. "I can't believe she's gone," he said, crying.

"She's not gone," Dawn said quietly. "Matt, you know Damon gave her his blood yesterday."

Matt's eyes widened as he realized what that meant. Then Elena sat up on the bed gasping.

*****Mikaelsons*****

Rebekah opened her door, throwing her keys and bag on the table.

"What a crappy day!" she complained. Of course, it was still mid-morning. She left school when Willow ran off after a call from her precious Buffy.

"How does one phone call cause her to drop everything and run to the Slayer? She didn't even call me!" Rebekah complained.

She went to her fridge and pulled out some blood.

"I see you still eat when you're upset," a voice said behind her.

Rebekah turned. When she saw who was standing in kitchen, the blood slipped from her hand, spilling onto the floor.

"Mother?" she gasped in disbelief.

*****To Be Continued*****

Chapter Text

******England******

Xander was getting introduced to the new slayers by Andrew. There were three new ones that Xander didn't know. A shy sweet one named Ellen, who was sixteen. A friendly all-American named Kenzy was seventeen. Then there was Katerina. A blonde bombshell of a girl from Sweden. She was nineteen. As soon as Xander said hello, her eyes lit up.

"Xander Harris? The White Knight? The one who saved the Queen Slayer?" she asked eagerly.

Xander glanced at Andrew, who beamed at him. "Ah…well…sometimes…." His voice trailed off.

"Yes, this is the One Who Sees," Andrew said loftily.

"Andrew!" Xander exclaimed in annoyance.

"You may call me Kitty," the slayer purred as she sauntered up to Xander and planted a kiss on his cheek.

Xander put his hand up to push her back slightly. "Respect personal space," he said with a friendly smile.

"Excuse me," she said, giving him a wink and stepping back.

"No problem," Xander said easily.

Elijah appeared next to Xander as the slayers walked away. "Looks like you have a fan," he said dryly.

Xander looked up at his lover. "Some of the newbies get a bit star struck," he said.

"Well, you are their White Knight," Elijah teased.

"Have I told you that Angel was the first one to give me that title?" Xander asked. "He didn't mean it as a compliment! Then that psycho Caleb who gauged out my eye used it. It doesn't necessary invoke warm memories."

"That's understandable," Elijah acknowledged. "But your slayers don't mean it as an insult."

"Yeah, I know," Xander said.

Klaus came up to them. "The slayers are going on a demon hunt," he said, his excitement in his eyes. "In a thousand years on this earth, I have not had the pleasure of such a thing. We have lived in such ignorance."

"We spent so much of our energy running from Father," Elijah pointed out.

"We missed a lot," Klaus said. "Are you going to join us?"

"I will," Elijah said, looking Xander.

"Do you know how many demon hunts I've been on?" Xander asked. "I don't think I can count that high!"

Elijah smiled. "Such a man of the world," he said dryly.

"Where is Oz?" Klaus asked.

"Don't bother asking him to go," Xander said knowingly. "Unless Asha is going, which I doubt, he won't want to be a part of a slaughter."

Klaus looked annoyed. "He's such a bloody saint!" he complained.

Elijah clapped his brother on the back. "He might be the best thing that has ever happened to you," Elijah said confidently.

"He's not my bloody wife!" Klaus complained as they walked toward the stairs.

"I'll come," Xander decided, following them. "It's good to check out how the new slayers fight. Andrew isn't the best at evaluating them."

They found Oz sitting at Asha's feet while she read a book on demons in the main room. He seemed utterly content.

Klaus was happy for his friend, but he didn't like sharing. His siblings knew this about him, but he was unaware that Oz understood this about him, too. "Oz, we are going to go with the slayers on a mission. I would like you to join us," Klaus told him.

Oz had no desire to go anywhere without his new lady. However, he knew that it was important that Klaus not feel threatened by his presence in Asha's life. Kol had told him more than one story of Klaus' interaction with his siblings' lovers. "All right," he said, getting to his feet. Klaus' pleased expression let him know that he'd made the right choice. He turned to Asha. "Do you want to join us?"

"No. I do not want to do any killing unless I have to," she said.

"It's doubtful that I will either," Oz said.

"Oz doesn't enjoy a needless slaughter," Klaus said.

"However, he's good at keeping my brother from creating a needless slaughter," Elijah said with a fond smile.

"Asha isn't ready to go out onto the field yet," Giles said, overhearing them.

"I do not want to anyway," Asha said.

"How long will we be gone?" Oz asked.

Klaus looked at Giles questioningly. "Not too long. The nest is about an hour from here," Giles said.

"I will be back soon," Oz said to Asha who nodded without speaking. She wasn't ready to admit that his presence brought her comfort.

"What are we waiting for?" Klaus asked eagerly.

His brother, Xander, and a reluctant Oz followed him to his very first demon hunt.

******Mystic Falls' Hospital******

Elena couldn't catch her breath. The bridge! Water! She stared wide-eyed at Matt and Dawn. "Matt? What's going on? Why am I on a metal table?" she asked, looking around with a frown. "What happened? I crashed into the water off that damn bridge! It's like I'm cursed or something!"

Matt was crying and moved hug her. "You're alive! Thank God!" he exclaimed.

"She had vampire blood in her system," Damon said from the doorway.

Elena looked up, locking eyes with him. "Damon?" she asked in a scared voice.

Damon, with Stefan on his heel, rushed to embrace her. "It's going to be okay," he told her.

"How do you feel?" Stefan asked her.

Damon helped her to the feet.

"I feel odd," Elena said. "What happened?"

"Why don't we have this conversation outside of the morgue?" Damon suggested, ushering them all into the hallway.

Buffy, Caroline, and Liz where in the ER waiting room, so the hallway in the basement where the morgue was located was empty.

"Damon, what's going on?" Elena asked fearfully.

"You drove your car off the bridge, Elena," Stefan told her.

"Do you remember what happened?" Damon asked.

"I was driving back from the bar where I had some drinks," Elena said.

"When you were supposed to be tuck safely in your bed," Damon said pointedly.

Elena flashed him a guilty look. "Yea, well, I needed to be alone and vent," she said. "There was a woman with long dark hair in the road. I swerved to avoid hitting her." She paused, her eyes wide as she realized something. "I drove off the bridge! Am I dead? Did I die?" The panic was obvious in her voice.

"Yes," Stefan said sorrowfully.

"Did you save me?" Elena asked him. Stefan had done so last time.

"Actually, Stefan's hero hair didn't get to you in time," Damon said. "But lucky for you, my blood was in your system. You're in transition."

"What? I'm going to have be a vampire or I'm dead forever?" she asked, her eyes filling with tears.

"You get to make whatever decision is best for you, Elena," Stefan assured her.

"You get to drink Donavon's blood and live," Damon said, grabbing Matt's arm.

Dawn moved away quickly to go get Buffy. This was going to be ugly really fast, she felt.

"She gets to do what's best for her, Damon," Stefan said, pulling Matt away.

"Guys, chill out!" Matt exclaimed in annoyance. "Look, no one is happier than I am that Elena's alive, but you need to give her some space."

"Please, Damon, back off," Elena said. "I need to think."

"What's to think about?" Damon asked. "This sucks. I wished it hadn't happened to you, but it did. So we gotta deal with it. If you want to live, you have to drink."

"Don't you mean that if I want to live as a vampire?" Elena said bluntly.

"At least you'll be alive!" Damon said, grabbing her hands and putting them against his chest. "You have to be alive!"

Elena's eyes looked at his for a long moment. Finally, she said, "Damon, I have to make this decision for me. You can't make it for me."

"You know, Damon, how it feels to have someone make the decision for you," Stefan reminded him.

"I got over it!" Damon said hotly, fear for her driving all other thoughts from his mind.

"Damon, back off!" Buffy yelled, marching toward them. Caroline and Liz a step behind her.

Buffy pushed both men away from Elena and pulled her in for a hug. Liz and Caroline did the same.

"Let's get you out of here," Buffy said.

"I'll take you home while Damon compels the medical staff that knew you were dead," Caroline said, giving him a look.

"Fine," Damon said, letting her go and walking off.

"We can go out the exit on this floor. It's that way," Liz said, pointing. Caroline kept her arm around Elena's waist.

They walked toward the exit.

*****The Mikaelsons'*****

Rebekah stared in dismay at her mother. "Are you a ghost?" she finally asked.

Her mother laughed. "No, dear. It is I," she said, stepping forward and putting her hand out for Rebekah.

Rebekah hesitated a moment before reaching out and touching her mother. She was real. "Mother? How can this be?" she asked as she pulled her mother close.

"Magic. Very powerful magic and the will of the ancestors," Esther explained.

Rebekah pulled back and looked at her mother. She still looked exactly as she remembered. Long hair, beautiful face, and intelligent eyes mirrored her memories of her mother. "You look the same," she said.

"I look the way I did when your brother killed me," she said frankly.

"Nik and Elijah are in England now," Rebekah said, ignoring her remark.

"Yes, I know. I've been on the Other Side watching you and your brothers for centuries," she said.

"Then you know how well we're doing?" Rebekah asked, smiling. "Nik has been contained by Willow and Buffy."

"Yes, you've aligned yourself with someone very powerful," Esther said thoughtfully.

"A whole group of powerful people, Mother," Rebekah said. "Buffy has hundreds of slayers."

"What kind of slayer is she that she allows you and your brothers to live?" Esther asked.

Rebekah felt a flash of hurt. "One that doesn't kill creatures with a soul indiscriminately," she replied, giving her mother a cold look. She stepped away from her mother. "Have you come back to harm our family?"

"I've come back to save you," Esther assured her. "We can be a family again."

Rebekah smiled in relief. The front door opened. "Rebekah? Are you here?" Willow called out. "Elena's been killed!"

"What?" Rebekah said in surprise as she stepped out of the kitchen to greet her girlfriend.

"Buffy just called me. She says Elena drove of Wickery bridge and drowned!" Willow shared.

"Oh God!" Rebekah exclaimed.

"But she had vampire blood in her system," Willow said.

Relieved, Rebekah smiled. "Well, that's good!"

"How is it good? Your friend will now become a vampire, surviving off the blood of others," Esther said, stepping into the room. Inwardly, she fumed as it became clear to her that she could not use the blood of the doppelganger to aid her quest.

Willow looked at the strange woman, sensing power. "Who is this, Rebekah?" she asked.

"It's my mother!" Rebekah said excitedly. "She's come back to us!"

Willow frowned. "It would take some very dark magic to raise her," she said.

"Or the power and will of hundreds of witches," Esther said.

"Maybe," Willow acknowledged.

"This is Willow, Mother," Rebekah said, reaching for Willow's hand. "My love."

Willow smiled warmly at Rebekah, squeezing her hand. "It's nice to meet you," she said, turning back to Esther.

"Anyone that can make my daughter so happy is a welcome addition to the family," Esther said, nodding her head regally. However, she did not extend her hand.

Willow felt a deep misgiving fill her as she stared at Rebekah's mother. For some reason, she felt that her appearance was a herald of something big about to happen. Although her lover seemed happy at her arrival, Willow knew that Mother Dearest did not seek a happy family reunion. However, the look of joy in Rebekah's eyes kept her silent.

Instead, she said, "As the witch that created the vampires like Rebekah, maybe you know a way to save Elena? I know her. She won't want to be a vampire. She has a pure soul."

Esther smiled as her plans began to shift. "I will definitely do what I can to help your friend," Esther assured them.

The blood of the doppelganger might be salvaged after all.

*****Chapter End*****

Reviews are always welcome and appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Chapter Text

Buffy took Elena home, ordering both Salvatore brothers to leave her be.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" Damon fumed, getting in her face. "We love Elena and need to support her and make sure she makes the right decision."

"What Damon means is, we're concerned," Stefan said.

Buffy just swung back and decked Damon, causing him to move back a few feet. "Who I am is fed up! I'm pregnant, hoping to be married in less than two weeks, but my man is a bit on the psychotic side," she said with a sharp edge. "Now the girl he trusted me to care for while he can't has died! She is upset and has a decision to make. She won't be guilted into making the one you want because you can't imagine life without her. Suck it up, Damon! Saying goodbye to people we love is what it means to be human!"

Angry but unwilling to provoke the pregnant woman further, Damon left. Stefan followed after him.

"Damon!" he called out.

Damon stopped by his car, glaring at Stefan. "What do you want? To tell me how we have to let Elena make her own choice even if her choices kill her?" he asked.

"Yes," Stefan replied. "And you need to remember how you felt when I made the choice for you."

Damon stepped closer to him. "I. Got. Over. It! I'm not letting her die even if I have to force the blood in her myself!" he exclaimed.

"Do you really want a fight with the slayer? Buffy is pregnant with your best friend's baby. Does she need this kind of stress?" Stefan asked.

Damon glared, not ready to admit his brother had a point.

"Trust Elena. She may not want to be a vampire, but does she want her life to be over either?" Stefan pointed out.

Damon opened his car door. "Get in if you're coming," Damon spit out.

They drove back to the house in silence. After arriving, Damon stormed up to his room. Faith and Illyria were waiting, so Stefan told them what had happened at Buffy's.

"We have found no sign of any other vampires," Illyria said.

"We have to keep looking," Stefan said. "They could be hiding in an abandoned house somewhere in town. Or even compel a couple to let them in."

"If it's Spike's kind of vampire, they cannot compel," Illyria reminded him.

"So look for both," Stefan said.

Illyria nodded. "I will keep looking," she said. Then she turned to leave.

Faith hugged Stefan. "I know this isn't easy for you," she told him.

Stefan clung to her a moment before pulling back. "It's pretty awful. I know Elena. I know that being a vampire isn't what she wants. With Jeremy gone, the emotions will be overwhelming for her," he said.

"Well, what choice does have? She'll be dead if she doesn't drink blood," Faith said.

Stefan gave a small nod, feeling deep sorrow. "You know we've not really talked about it, but I'm an immortal vampire, and you're not," he pointed out.

"So is that a question?" Faith asked him with a smirk.

Stefan picked up her hand and brought it to her lips. "I love you, and I want to spend eternity with you," he stated.

"Are you asking me if I'd consider being a blood sucker?" Faith asked, raising an eyebrow. "You know what my sacred duty is, right?"

"And I'd never expect you to give that up," Stefan said. He got a mischievous look in his eyes. "But I'm going to stay hot. One day you're going to be a sexy old lady."

"But I'll still be hot!" Faith boasted.

"Damn right," he agreed.

"How about you wait until I get a gray hair before asking me to be your vampire bride?" Faith asked. "That experience will be traumatic enough that I might beg you for the fountain of youth."

Stefan smiled, relieved she didn't reject the idea out of hand. "You know that you won't get younger, though, right? That gray hair will be yours forever!" he teased.

"Now you're just being mean!" she pouted, slugging him on the shoulder.

He winced. "I'll love every hair," he said.

His phone rang. Pulling it out, he saw that it was Buffy. "Is Elena okay?" he asked.

"No change. She's talking to Bonnie and Caroline right now. That's not why I called. Willow just called me," Buffy said. "It seems that somehow Rebekah's witch mother who cursed them accidentally as vampires is back from the dead."

"What?" Stefan asked in surprise.

"That's what I said!" Buffy exclaimed. "But that isn't the reason I'm calling. Willow says that Esther—that's her name—said there might be a way to preserve Elena. Keep her from becoming a vampire."

"You're kidding?" Stefan asked.

"What's she saying?" Faith asked impatiently.

"Klaus' dead mom is alive and says she may be able to help Elena," Stefan told her.

"Hell no!" Faith said, instantly suspicious. "No one comes back from the dead with major mojo can be trusted!"

"Faith says we should be on guard," Stefan said.

"I heard her," Buffy said. "I'm not stupid. But I trust Willow."

Faith grabbed the phone from Stefan. "Red has no power right now. This isn't a good idea," Faith advised.

"Ask her if Klaus and Elijah know yet? They probably should be back here and deal with her. I don't like the idea of Kol and Rebekah handling her on their own," Stefan said.

"We'll be there soon," Faith said, hanging up. "Let's just go over there and discuss it face to face."

Stefan followed her to the car.

*****England*****

Xander had just finished cleaning up from their demon raid and went into the hall, heading to the kitchen when Kitty came out of her room in a tiny red bikini. Her very large breast were on prime display. Xander couldn't help but whistle.

"You might set off the fire alarms walking around in that thing!" he teased.

Kitty smiled proudly and walked toward him. Xander realized that he might've made a mistake when she turned in a full circle, showing off her backside. "I'm glad you like. I'm about to go for a swim. Would you like to join me?" she asked suggestively. She stepped closer.

Xander resisted the urge to step back. He knew slayers. If he showed a sign of weakness, he would be dead. He grinned. "No thanks. I'm hungry. Heading to get some food," he said.

"So you still eat food?" she asked curiously.

He nodded. "Yep!" he assured her.

She put her arms around his neck and turned her head slightly. "You can eat me if you like. I've always wanted to be bitten by a vampire," she informed him.

Xander's heart raced as he felt her heartbeat and could literally smell the blood pumping in her neck. For a moment, he struggled to resist the real temptation she offered. His hand moved to push back her hair—it was her idea.

"Xander," Elijah called out, a sharp rebuke in his tone.

Xander jerked, stepping back. Kitty pouted up at him. "Don't you want to taste me? I bet I taste delicious!" she told him.

Elijah was there next to him. Then he moved to intercept Kitty. "Katerina, you're very foolish," he said, a gentle rebuke in his voice.

Kitty gave him a hurt look. "I know what I'm doing! Xander wouldn't hurt me! He couldn't. I've heard too many stories about him. All the girls worship him!" she exclaimed.

"First of all, he is still a vampire—a newly formed one at that. Self-control doesn't come easy to vampires, especially new ones," Elijah shared. "Second of all, he is mine. No one touches him but me. Is that clear?" Most of the slayers were not compellable, but Elijah didn't try compulsion. Instead, he let the coldness in his voice convey his threat.

Kitty, though, was a bold creature, not easily intimidated. "What is that supposed to mean? You don't own him! Does Giles know you've enslaved him? Wait 'til Buffy finds out! You're so dead!" she threatened.

"Kitty!" Xander said in a sharp voice. He reached out and took Elijah's hand. "He is not controlling me. He means that we are a couple—as in lovers."

"I don't share," Elijah added, flashing his fangs at her.

Kitty's eyes widened as she looked from one to the other, realization finally hitting her. "You guys are a couple?" she asked.

Xander nodded. "Yes, so stop trying to hit on me," he said.

"Do the other girls know this?" she asked.

He shook his head. "You're the first," she said.

Her eyes lit up. "I have the good gossip!" she exclaimed. She kissed his cheek. "Friends?"

"Of course," Xander said, grinning at her as she skipped away, no longer the siren but the teenager.

"I fear our secret will be out," Elijah observed.

Xander turned to face him and moved his free hand to Elijah's waist. "I don't care. Although I did mean to talk to Giles first," he said. Then he grinned at him. "You were jealous!"

Elijah raised an eyebrow. "Me?" he asked.

"Just admit it!" Xander said smugly. "I don't think I've ever had anyone be jealous of me before. Well, Anya was always jealous of Buffy and Willow."

Elijah enjoyed the light in Xander's eyes. "Maybe a little jealous. She was very presumptuous," he said, pulling Xander closer.

Xander kissed him.

Andrew came down the hall and got an eye-witness account to the new couple as they were involved in a very passionate embrace. His eyes widened as he took in the scene, his heart breaking as the man he most admired, Xander, was kissing his own crush. Then his romantic heart rallied, and a gasp of excitement came out of him. "Oh, my God! You two are so great together!" he gushed as he pulled out his phone and snapped a picture. "This will be perfect for the monthly newsletter!"

"Give me that phone!" Xander ordered. Andrew just grinned and took off running. He sent it to his cloud just in case.

Giles and Klaus saw the two race by the open study. Klaus poked his head out in the hall to see why they were running and saw Elijah coming at a much leisurely pace. "Is something amiss?"

"Andrew took a picture of us in an intimate moment, and Xander prefers he not keep it," Elijah said, a smile on his face.

"Is everything alright?" Giles asked.

Elijah realized he had the awkward job of telling Giles about his relationship with Xander. Klaus noticed his brother's hesitation and grinned.

"Andrew has probably discovered that Elijah and Xander are now lovers," Klaus shared.

Giles blinked in surprise. Then he took off his glasses. "Oh, well…I see," he said. "I guess that's…"

"I can assure you, Rupert, that I am in no way taking advantage of Xander," Elijah assured him.

Giles put on his glasses and looked at Elijah a long moment. "I should hope not," he finally said. "He is an extraordinary man. If you hurt him, there is no place on Earth you can hide."

"I am aware," Elijah said with a faint smile, ignoring his brother's snicker.

Klaus' phone rang, distracting him from his brother's rare discomfort. "It's our sister," he said, looking down. He stepped out in the hall to take her call.

Xander walked into the room looking satisfied. "That little bugger actually thought he could outrun me! Hello? Vampire speed!" Xander boasted.

"Xander, I was just telling Rupert that we are involved," Elijah told him.

Xander blushed. "Oh, well, I was going to tell you!" Xander said quickly.

"Xander, you are not under any obligation to keep me apprised of your personal relationships," Giles told him.

"But G-Man, you're like my father! Of course, I'm going to tell you when I have a major life style change," Xander said, putting his hand on Giles' shoulder.

Giles was touched by his words. "I appreciate that, Xander. You've always made me proud," he said.

Klaus hung up his phone and stepped back into the room, interrupting. "Elijah, that was our sister. We must return home immediately," he announced.

"What's wrong?" Elijah asked.

"It seems our witch mother has gotten herself resurrected. My doppelganger has died with vampire blood in her system while her brother was murdered by a mad vampire named Drusilla—at least that's the theory," Klaus shared.

"What?" Xander asked in dismay. "Elena and Jeremy are dead?"

"Our mother is alive?" Elijah asked.

"Did you say Drusilla?" Giles asked.

"I'm going to go find Oz," Klaus said. "Call Rebekah. She'll give you the details."

Elijah pulled out his phone and did that as Klaus left the room.

Giles called Buffy while Xander called Willow.

Oz was downstairs with his werewolf slayer.

"Oz, may I speak with you?" Klaus asked him.

Oz got up and followed him into the corner of the room. "What's wrong?" he said, detecting the stress in Klaus.

"We must head back to Mystic Falls immediately. My mother, who we know wants us all dead, has risen from the dead," Klaus shared.

"Really?" Oz said in surprise. He glanced at Asha, feeling torn. "Klaus, I can't leave now."

"You can, and you will," Klaus said pointedly.

"I cannot leave her," Oz said in a low voice. "You know that I if I could, I would. This isn't about loyalty; it's instinct."

Klaus wanted to yell in frustration because he needed his hybrid by his side. "I should kill your slayer wolf!" he threatened.

"Don't threaten her!" Oz growled, his eyes flashing yellow.

Klaus worked hard to calm his murderous rage. He knew that he was taking the wrong tactic with Oz. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that," he said.

"You did," Oz said. "That's your instinct—to lash out and destroy all opposers. You can't do that with me. You can't do that with your mother. You forget, I'm not your lackey. I'm your friend."

"I know. That's why I need you with me!" Klaus exclaimed.

"No," Oz said. "You can't force me to go against instinct."

"I can compel you," Klaus reminded him.

Oz gave him a hurt look and turned away. Klaus wanted to howl in frustration. Instead, he went to pack. He'd deal with Oz another time.

*****Mystic Falls*****

Faith and Stefan arrived at the Mikaelsons. Buffy's car was already there. Faith was surprised to see her sitting in the car, and she knocked on the window of the car. Buffy opened the door and got out, looking more lost than Faith had ever seen.

"Are you okay, B?" she asked, holding out her hand to help her out.

"No. I'm not," Buffy said. "Xander had a vision about this woman. We know she's not our ally, but yet we're going to let her work mojo on Elena? It's not right."

"Where is Elena?" Stefan asked.

"She wanted to talk to Rick. Damon is going to bring her here in a bit," Buffy said. "I kind of wanted to feel this witch out myself first anyway."

"Well, let's get to it," Faith said, linking her arm through Buffy's.

Esther was inside the house with her daughter and Willow. That Willow's power had been bound was very fortunate. Esther knew from watching on the other side that this witch could oppose her. She was very powerful—like Esther's older sister had been.

When the two slayers came into the room, she took in their presence without expression. The power, though, the two had was obvious. The brunette had a raw sexuality and energy that rolled off her. The pregnant blonde, though, was the one that defied prophecies, had killed a god and sent her own vampire lover to hell. Esther felt a twinge of guilt for the way she would hurt this woman with her plans. However, the slayer had grown soft. She had managed to do, though, what no one had ever done: she'd reigned in her middle son. She'd even inspired Elijah, but it wasn't enough. The blood on her family's hands needed to be cleansed for all time. This was the only way.

"Buffy, are you feeling okay?" Willow asked her, not liking the look of her.

"Not really but physically I feel fine," Buffy said. "Rick left me in charge for a few days, and I managed to let both of his kids get killed. What kind of mom am I going to be to this one?" She put her hands on her stomach.

Willow hugged her. "You're going to be a terrific mom. I have no doubt," Willow said. "Esther has found a spell that will keep Elena from transitioning until the next full moon."

"Really?" Buffy asked, her eyes lighting up.

"We're waiting on Bonnie to bring an ingredient and for Elena," Willow said.

"Buffy, this is my mom, Esther," Rebekah introduced. "Mom, this is Buffy and Faith, the vampire slayers. That's Stefan Salvatore."

"It's nice to meet you," Esther said, giving them a bright smile.

"That remains to be seen," Faith said coldly.

"There's no reason to be rude to my mother! She is just trying to help!" Rebekah said, glaring at Faith.

"Did you forget that this woman is responsible for hexing Oz and trying to kill you and your siblings? Xander was warned more than once about the threat she posed," Buffy said.

"It was I that ultimately saved your friend," Esther pointed out. "You have done what I didn't think was possible. You've corralled Niklaus and Kol. I mean no harm. I simply want to unite my family once again."

"That better be true. Since you're resurrected, killing you won't be a violation of my slayer code," Buffy said.

"Where is the doppelganger?" Esther asked.

"She will be here soon," Buffy said. "Damon is bringing her."

Willow went to the kitchen and brought back a food tray. "Snacks?" she asked.

"Why not?" Buffy said.

*****Salvatores*****

Elena found Kol and Caroline waiting in Damon's parlor. "What are you doing here?" she asked.

"We knew you were here. Kol's freaked out about his mom being back from the dead, so he's hiding," Caroline said.

"I want to see Rick," Elena said. "Do you think your mom can help me?"

Kol shrugged. "She is a powerful witch. Death hasn't changed that," he said.

"I want to know how she managed to come back from the dead," Damon said.

"It was Bonnie," Caroline said. "The witches on the other side manipulated her."

"No surprise," Kol said in disgust.

"Do you want me to go with you to see Rick?" Caroline asked.

"I got this," Damon said, taking her hand and leading her down the stairs.

"How's he been?" Elena asked.

"Himself the past two days," Damon said.

Rick looked up from the book he was reading when he heard them approach. "Elena!" he exclaimed when he saw her.

"Are you yourself, Rick?" Damon asked, eying warily.

"Yes, Damon," Rick said in annoyance.

Damon opened the door for Elena, who ran to embrace Rick. She started crying as soon as his arms went around her. "Jeremy's dead, Rick!" she exclaimed in anguish

"I know, sweetheart. I'm so sorry," he said, his own grief choking him.

"I drowned, Rick. Now I have to be a vampire or leave you and everyone!" she wailed.

"Mama Original is going to stop that for a bit, though," Damon said.

"Really?" Rick asked with interest.

"She says there's a spell that will keep me from transitioning for a few weeks," Elena said. "Until the next full moon Willow told me."

"You know what you have to do, right?" Rick asked, putting his hands on her shoulder and looking down at her with compassion

"No. That's why I'm here, so you can tell me what to do," Elena said.

"You have to die," Rick told her.

Elena looked surprised. "What? You want me to die?" she asked.

"No, of course, I don't. I also didn't want you to fall in love with a vampire and endanger all of us, but you're too much like your bio mom," Rick said with a shrug.

"What the hell's wrong with you, Rick?" an angry Damon asked.

"I'm just telling her the truth. She doesn't want to be a vampire, so she has to die," he said firmly.

"What if Esther and Willow can cure me? She made the first vampire. Maybe she can do something!" Elena said, fighting tears.

"Don't delude yourself, Elena. Death is inevitable," Rick said.

"Step away from him, Elena," Damon said. "That's not our Rick. It's the mean one."

Elena tried to move away from him, but his grip on her shoulder tightened. Feeling scared, she looked up at him. "Rick?" she asked.

*****To Be Continued*****

Chapter Text

*****Where We Left Off*****

Elena's heart filled with pain as she stared at Rick. He didn't look at her the way he normally did.

"Rick, we're going to help you. I love you no matter what kind of ass you are," Elena said. Then she turned and walked away.

"Not cool, Rick," Damon said, tisking.

"You think Elena wants to be a vampire? Drink blood to survive? Hurt people when she can't control her bloodlust? If you love her, you'll make sure she makes the right choice," Rick said.

Damon looked at him, tried to deny some of the truth of his words.

"I would never let her hurt anyone," Damon said. "Neither would the mother of your child. Remember her?" With that pointed jab, Damon left.

*****Mikaelsons*****

Caroline and Kol finally joined the witching party at his house. His mother was a wily, dangerous foe. He didn't like being around her without his brothers. As much as he loathed to admit it, they usually dealt with situations like this. Not having them here, made Kol feel more than a little vulnerable.

Caroline squeezed his hand reassuringly. "It's going to be okay," Caroline said.

"Sure," Kol said, giving her a careless smile as he opened the door.

"Where have you been?" Rebekah asked Kol with a glare.

"Out," Kol said, giving her a smirk. After a thousand years, he knew exactly which buttons to push to reap maximum anger level.

"Children, let's not start bickering," their mother chided.

Willow couldn't help but snicker at the thousand-year-old vampires getting scolded by their mother.

"Where's Bonnie?" Caroline asked, not seeing her.

"She's not coming," Willow said. "She's pissed that Esther and the ancestors manipulated her."

"I would be too if I were her," Caroline said.

Damon and Elena arrived. "We're here," Damon said. He looked at Esther. "I take it that's the Original witch that spawned my sire line?"

"This is my mother," Rebekah said. "Mother, this is Damon Salvatore and Elena Gilbert."

Esther smiled and held out her hand. "Come, Elena. I think we can begin now," she said.

Elena walked toward her. "Where's Buffy? Shouldn't she be here?" Elena asked.

"She had work stuff," Willow said. "I'm here. I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you."

"Neither will I," Damon said. "If Mama Original here decides to hurt you, it'll be the last mistake she makes."

"Don't you threaten my mother!" Rebekah said, glaring at him.

"Everyone needs to calm down," said Willow. She looked at Esther. "I think we're ready to begin."

Esther nodded. "Give me your hand. I'll need some blood from you," she said to Elena.

Elena held out her hand and winced as Esther sliced open her hand. When Damon offered to heal her, she waved him away. "Ingesting vampire blood is what got me into this mess," she pointed out. She put a hand towel over her bleeding hand, keeping pressure on the wound.

"If you didn't, you'd be dead," Damon reminded her.

Willow watched carefully as Esther mixed the ingredients into the bowl with Elena's blood. Then Esther spoke the ritual Latin words.

"What's she saying?" Caroline asked, looking at Willow.

"It's a preservation spell. Basically, Elena's body is frozen in time so that she won't die nor have to turn," Willow explained.

"Okay," Esther said. "That should do it. You won't have to make a decision on your vampire status until the next full moon."

Elena took a deep breath, relieved. "Thank you!" she said. Caroline hugged her.

Esther grabbed a new cloth and something else. "Let me see your hand," she said. She took the towel off and them rubbed some salve into the cut. "It's mostly stopped bleeding."

"Good work, Mother," Rebekah said, smiling in approval.

"So, I can go home now?" Elena asked.

"You may," Esther said, smiling. She looked down at the cloth with the doppelganger's blood on it. This would suffice.

*****The Next Morning*****

Elena woke up feeling strange. All her senses were so heightened. She could hear the neighbor's dog across the street, the cars opening, and Buffy downstairs talking on the phone.

She went to the bathroom. As she was washing her hands and brushing her teeth, she kept looking at the closed door that opened to Jeremy's room. Finally, she couldn't resist any longer. Then she pushed open his door. The room was empty, and Jeremy's death hit her all over again. Tears coursed down her cheek as she walked around the room, touching Jeremy's things. How could he be dead? Her sweet, gentle, talented brother murdered by a vampire, an evil soulless creature. The thought of Elena having to become one made her feel so lost.

While Elena was crying her eyes out holding Jeremy's pillow, Buffy was talking to Giles.

"They'll be here in a few hours? Good. I don't trust that woman. I don't care what Rebekah says," Buffy told him.

"No, you shouldn't," Giles advised. "I am confident that Elijah will determine her intentions."

"I'll feel better knowing he's here," Buffy said. "With Rick, the baby, and some killer vamp that might be Drusilla running around, I can't focus on the Mikaelson family drama."

"I'd feel better if Willow got her powers back. This Esther created an entire species. That type of power is extremely rare," Giles said.

"Actually, Dawn told me that Caroline told her that Klaus's mom had help from a Bennet witch," Buffy said.

"Regardless. It was her magic that worked the spell," Giles said. "Be careful with her."

"I will," she said. "Is Oz returning with Xander? He's good at keeping Klaus in check."

"No, he won't leave Asha," Giles said. "He's quite taken with her."

Buffy sighed. "Well, that's too bad. Let's hope we won't need him," she said.

*****A Few Hours Later*****

Klaus and Elijah walked into their house without Xander, who decided it was not a scene he wanted to be a part of and went to see his girls.

The brothers both felt some trepidation. Their mother had disappointed them so much in their human life. The betrayal of turning them into vampires was always there. Why their parents didn't simply move them to another place rather than turn to such drastic measures was something Elijah never understood.

Rebekah was coming down the stairs, and her face lit up at the sight of her brothers. "You're here!" she exclaimed, running to embrace them.

Kol heard them and came out of the room. "It's about time you got back," he said, relieved to see him.

"We cut our trip short to see the newly risen mother of ours. Where is she?" Klaus said, looking around.

"I am here," Esther said coming into the living room. She smiled at her sons. "Elijah. Niklaus. It is good to see you."

The two men stared at her a moment. Then Elijah broke free from his momentary stupor and moved to hug her. "It is good to see you, Mother," Elijah said, smiling at her.

She kept an arm around him and looked at Niklaus. "Well, Niklaus. Are you going to embrace me?" she asked.

"That depends. Why are you here? You tried to hurt us from the Other Side. You almost killed my hybrid. I cannot imagine you being here with good intentions," Klaus said honestly.

Esther shook her head and walked toward him. "My middle son, always suspicious. Always looking for betrayals," she said.

"I usually find them," he said sourly.

"Have you considered that treating those that love you with suspicious breeds distrust and betrayal?" she pointed out.

"I killed you," Klaus said. "I cannot imagine you forgiving me for that."

"I betrayed you. I turned you into a creature with dark impulses," she said. "I know that you regretted it."

"I did," Klaus admitted, unable to hold her gaze any further.

Esther took a few more steps and put her arms around him. "It is going to be all right, Niklaus. I am here now. We will be a family once again," she said.

"You know Finn is no longer with us," Elijah said to her.

"Yes, I know. He was killed by the slayer," Esther said. "He was with me on the Other Side."

"So, you just abandoned your favorite son to be here with us?" Klaus said suspiciously.

"I have no favorites. I love all my children equally," Esther insisted. "Where are your companions?"

"Are you referring to Xander and Oz?" Kol asked. He noticed they weren't in the room. "Where are they?"

"Oz claims he has met his mate, a werewolf and newly called slayer. He stayed in England," Klaus said sourly.

"Xander is visiting his friends," Elijah said.

"You heard about the Gilberts?" Kol asked. "Caroline is very upset. You should go see her."

"I will," Klaus said. He pulled out his phone and let her know he was in town.

"You are happy?" Esther asked Elijah.

Elijah smiled. "Surprisingly, I am,' he said. "It's been a long road. The slayer and her friends have given me hope for redemption. And Xander has brought me something I had not foreseen. It's new, but he is special."

"Klaus was punished most severely for turning that particular human," Kol said with a snicker. "He picked the one human on Earth that is adored by the strongest slayer and witch alive as well as dozens of other slayers."

"How about you shut your mouth before I break your neck?" Klaus said angrily. He didn't like to be reminded of his time in hell.

"Yes, I saw that. She was able to send you to a hell dimension. You were out of my sight," Esther said. "I thought you were dead."

"It was worse than death," Klaus said coldly. "The witch should suffer for what she did to me, but instead, she is comforted by my own sister." He glared at Rebekah.

Rebekah flashed him a smug look. "You killed Xander and turned him. You turned Oz before that. Xander was the last straw," she said. "She was punished, though, for her actions. She has no magic."

Klaus gave her a sharp look. "What?"

Rebekah flinched as she realized what she'd just revealed. Klaus wasn't supposed to know Willow was vulnerable. "Nothing," she said. She turned to go.

Klaus sped and stood in front of her. "You're not going anywhere until you tell me what it is you're keeping from me," he said, glaring at her.

"If you try to hurt Willow, it'll be the last thing you ever do!" Rebekah warned.

Elijah stepped between them, pushing Klaus back. "Willow was reprimanded by a primal goddess of some sort—the source of her power. She bound Willow's powers for a time," Elijah said.

Klaus laughed. "Seriously? She's helpless?"

"Never that," Rebekah said coldly.

"Niklaus will not hurt her, right Niklaus? You don't want a war with the slayers," Elijah said. "I'm sure her state is temporary anyway."

"Or upset Oz," Kol said with a smirk.

Esther watched their interaction with interest. It was obvious that much had changed between them.

"Relax, I have no intentions bothering your girlfriend any further. I consider us even," Klaus said. "Now I'm going to go see my favorite girl."

"Caroline? I'll go with you," Kol said eagerly.

Klaus knew better than to try to tell him no. Resigned, he left with Kol a step behind him.

Rebekah went to warn Willow about her slip.

Esther looked at Elijah. "I guess it's just you and me," she said. She moved and sat down on the sofa. She patted the spot next to her. "Come sit. Tell me all about your Xander."

*****Summers'*****

Buffy was on the phone ordering flowers for Jeremy's memorial when Xander walked through her door. Seeing him made her emotional. She choked out a response to the woman on the phone and then hung up.

"You're back!" she exclaimed, jumping up to embrace him.

Now that he was a vampire, he could actually handle one of her hugs. "I wasn't gone that long," he said.

"It feels like it," Buffy said against his chest.

Xander grew alarmed when she didn't let go and began to sob. "Hey, don't cry. Everything's going to be okay," he said.

Buffy pulled up so that she could look at him, and he wiped her face with a paper towel. "How can things be better, Xan? Jeremy is dead! Elena died and has to be a vampire or die again! My fiancée is locked up because he's got a homicidal alter-ego. My wedding is supposed to be in ten days!" she exclaimed.

"I'm sorry about Jeremy," Xander said, giving her arms a gentle squeeze. "How's Elena?"

"She's a wreck. She went to Caroline's. I found her upstairs at her house crying on Jeremy's bed. I brought her here, so she'd be in a different space," Buffy said.

"Isn't Caroline in school?" Xander asked.

"She left at lunch when Elena texted her. Bonnie is there, too, I think," Buffy said. She sat down at the kitchen table.

"I promise you, things have to get better. For you and everyone," Xander assured her again.

"I don't know how it will," she mumbled. She hated feeling so helpless. Her life had been perfect for a short time. Now it was shit—the slayer curse.

"You have friends. You're not going through any of this alone. We can't bring Jeremy back, but we'll be there for Elena. I'll help her adjust to being a vampire. It's not so bad," Xander said.

"She'll never get to have kids," Buffy said, putting her hand on her stomach.

"So she'll adopt," Xander said.

Buffy managed to smile at Xander. "I'm so glad you're here, Xander. You make everything so much better," she said. "I love you. If we have a son, I'm totally naming him after you!"

"I love you, too, and Rick might not agree to that," Xander said, grinning. "Oh, by the way, Giles and everyone know about me and Elijah."

"How did they take it?" Buffy asked.

"Fine. I think Andrew was a bit heartbroken since he's got a major crush on Elijah, but he rallied. Giles gave Elijah the shovel talk. It was good," Xander said.

"Giles gave Elijah the shovel talk?" Buffy asked with a grin.

"Yep. Except he didn't mention a shovel in his threat," Xander said with a snicker. "He showed a bit of the Ripper."

"We haven't really had a chance to talk about you and Elijah," Buffy said. "How are things? Is it serious."

Xander didn't say anything for a minute, but his expression grew thoughtful. "I never dreamed that I would be in a relationship with a man. I remember in high school when Larry came out to me, thinking I was gay, too. I was so freaked out. I had mostly female friends and took more than a little ribbing over the fact, but I never looked at a man with sexual desire," he said.

Buffy grinned. "Until Elijah," she said.

Xander smiled. "Until him. Maybe it's because I'm a vampire and I've lost some of my inhibitions. I feel different," he admitted. "Elijah seduced me—he did. But he didn't force me. I loved every minute of it—I can't really describe it."

"But it's more than sex?" Buffy prodded.

Xander nodded. "I'm in love with him, Buffy. He fills up my every waking thought in a way I didn't know was possible," he said. "I loved Anya, but with her, it was a gradual thing. She took off her clothes a lot around me. I loved her more every year that passed, but I didn't think of her all the time. Cordy maybe. At seventeen, sex and Cordy was pretty much all I thought about. Elijah, though, is larger than life. He's so strong and noble. Perfect."

"He is dreamy," Buffy agreed. "I'm happy for you."

"Maybe we can have dinner tonight? I'll bring him. Willow can bring Rebekah. You bring Dawn," Xander said.

"If I can pry her away from Matt. He's pretty torn up," Buffy said.

Xander stood. "I'm going to go see Will at school. What time do you want to eat?" he asked.

"Seven?" Buffy suggested.

"See you then," Xander said.

*****Caroline's*****

Caroline was doing her best to try and cheer up her two inconsolable best friends. She was failing miserably. "I'm going to make some margaritas. We can totally use a drink," she announced, getting up.

"It's not even one," Bonnie said.

"So. Things suck right now," Caroline said, going to her kitchen.

A knock at the kitchen door drew her attention. When she opened it, she was surprised to see Klaus. "You're back!" she exclaimed. Then she hugged him.

"My mother rose from the dead, so I had to shorten my time overseas. My disloyal hybrid stayed behind," Klaus said sourly.

"He left Nik for a woman!" Kol shared, enjoying his brother's irritation.

"I heard that my doppelganger got vamped. Are you okay?" Klaus asked.

"She's not yours!" Caroline said in annoyance. "And no, none of us are okay. Jeremy's dead. Elena died! Your mother did a spell to freeze her, so she doesn't have to turn. But it's only a matter of time."

"Who did this?" Klaus asked.

"We're not sure, but Buffy suspects some crazy vamp from Sunnydale named Drusilla," Caroline said.

Klaus was surprised and didn't hide his expression. Caroline didn't notice but Kol did. Kol debated on whether or not to say something, but since he still hoped to win Caroline, he spoke.

"Does that name mean something to you?" Kol asked. "Why do you look surprised at the name? Do you know it?"

"Sure. I've known vampires named Drusilla," Klaus said with a shrug.

"You'd remember her if you'd met her. Dawn told me she is a total nut job. She was gifted with some psychic ability as a human. Angel, when he was Angelus, murdered her entire family, driving her insane. Then he turned her," Caroline said. "She's not the vampire we are, but she still has some type of compulsion power. She used it to mesmerize and kill the slayer called before Faith."

"Sounds like a formidable woman," Klaus said.

"I wish we could find this woman and end her. It would give Elena some consolation," Caroline said.

"It will be done. I'll find her and kill her for you," Klaus promised.

"I'll help," Kol said, not to be outdone.

"You will?" Caroline asked.

"Whoever killed your friend, will be found. I promise," Klaus said. If it was Drusilla, he had to find her and kill her before her connection to Klaus became known.

There was no way she would be allowed to live and ruin his place in Mystic Falls. She threatened him too much. Not to mention, the vampire was unstable. There was no telling who she might target next. If the slayer was Drusilla's target, her sister Dawn could be in danger. Caroline was good friends with the slayer's sister. Klaus wouldn't let anyone hurt Caroline.

If Drusilla was in town, the crazy bitch would soon be dead.

*****Chapter End*****

I hope you enjoyed an update. Have a happy and SAFE New Years! Thanks for reading. 

Chapter Text

*****Two Days Later*****

Illyria patrolled the streets of Mystic Falls like a caged tiger.  There was something very wrong with this town and not knowing exactly what it was frustrated her to no end.  To make matters worse, she could feel her host.  Winifred Burkle’s presence was somehow inside of her, smothering her with her goodness.  She didn’t know what was happening, but Illyria wanted to rip someone’s spine out.

She threw open the Salvatore’s front door. 

“Hey, watch the wood!  This is a historical house!” Damon hollered from the other room.

“Once again, I have discovered nothing.  This vampire that killed the Gilberts has escaped me yet again!" Illyria fumed.

"It's okay.  She'll make a move soon, and we'll be ready for her," Damon assured her.

"I wish to do violence," Illyria said.  "Is the Dark Slayer here?"

"What? I'm not good enough to slap around?" Damon asked with a pout.  Though he was acting light-hearted, he could use a good fight himself.  He wanted to be there for Elena, but she was keeping him at a distance.  Jeremy's funeral was tomorrow.  Damon understood Illyria's frustration.  Not finding Jeremy's killer was his failure, too.

"I suppose you'll do," Illyria said with a dismissive sniff.

Damon snickered, unoffended at her manner.  He had gotten used to her arrogance—she made Klaus seem humble.  He also realized that the hell god had favorites.  Although Angel had earned her respect and loyalty, Spike was the one she loved slapping around the most.  Mostly because Spike loved violence as much as she did.  That was why she loved sparring with Faith.  Damon used his super speed too much and didn't have the skill set that either of them had.  However, in the time he'd spent in L. A., he had improved greatly—he had too.  His pride was at stake.

They went into the mostly unused ballroom that gave them the open space they desired. 

"Will this do?" Damon asked.  Before he got a reply, he was punched hard in the face.  "What the hell, your bitchiness?  Can't wait until I'm ready?"

"A true champion is always ready to battle evil," she said coldly, swinging another hit toward him.

Damon blocked it, frowning at her.  Something was up.  "What's your deal?  You seem more violence prone than normal," he observed, ducking as she swung again.  Then he kicked out, hitting her in the leg.  She didn't fall but stepped back.

"My shell—something's not right," Illyria shared, surprising Damon with her honesty.

He was so intrigued by her comment that he didn't move away when she next swung, and he got a broken nose in return.  "Ouch!" He complained as he set it back.  Blood spurted out. 

She said nothing but looked satisfied.

"What's going on with you?" Damon asked.  "You didn't have to break my nose!  This shirt is silk!"

Illyria stopped, frowned up at him.  "Are you okay?" she asked.

Damon blinked at her unexpected—and uncharacteristic concern.  "Oh, well, yea, of course," he said.  "The fact that you are asking about my well-being is disconcerting.  What's up? How is your shell affecting you?"

"She isn't gone—not completely," Illyria admitted. 

"What?" Damon asked, stunned.

"I feel her when I should not.  I care when I should not.  I should be rid of her.  Her soul consumed by my arrival—yet she lingers," she shared.

"Sounds like a witchy-mystery," he said.  "Maybe you should go see Willow and Bon-Bon.  Let them check you out.  It's better to know what's happening than be caught off guard."

Illyria saw the wisdom of his words and went to the slayer's house.  It would be better to have answers.

She rang the door, and the slayer’s sister answered the door.  Illyria gave her a contemplative look.  The girl was not entirely human, but Illyria did not know her full history.  She normally wouldn't care enough to ask, yet she found herself asking, "Why are you so different from the other muck on this planet?"

Dawn gave her a startled look.  Illyria had on her Fred disguise—only shedding it at the Salvatore's as she agreed when coming to town.  "What do you mean?" she asked.

"You don't seem like every other human.  Why?" Illyria asked, fixing her with an unblinking gaze.

"Because I used to be a great ball of energy.  Didn't Angel or Spike tell you?" Dawn asked in surprise.  "I was—"

"Dawn!" Buffy said sharply.  "How about we don't tell the power-hungry former hell god about your super powers?"

"I don't have any powers," Dawn said pointedly.

"Sorry, Lyria," Buffy said.  "But I already died once protecting her from a god.  I don't want you getting any ideas."

"I would not harm your sister," Illyria said in an offended tone.  She found that Buffy's lack of trust actually hurt her feelings.  This was not normal.  The change in her emotional stability made her angry.

"I hope not," Buffy said, looking tired.  "I'm too tired and pregnant to be diplomatic, so please forgive me.  How can I help you?  Willow and Bonnie think they have something to keep Rick's psychosis at bay."

"That is good," Illyria said diplomatically.  She was happy to see Bonnie and Willow both in the kitchen.  Willow waved. 

"No luck finding Drusilla or any other vamps?" Buffy asked her.

Feeling real shame, Illyria shook her head, looking down.  "I have failed," she said glumly.

Buffy reached out and squeezed her hand affectionately.  When Illyria was looking human, Buffy would find herself wanting to connect with the woman.  She was such an enigma.  "It's okay.  She'll turn up," she assured Illyria. 

"What's up, Illyria?" Willow asked, giving her a bright smile. 

This human was special, and Illyria had genuine respect for her.  She was the closest to Illyria's equal—at least before her power was bound.  Illyria had memories of when Fred first met her—the two were kindred spirits.  Winifred Burkle had been a genius—smarter even than Willow.  She was a friendly puppy like Willow.  Unlike Willow, she didn't have the killer instinct, though, and always saw the good in everyone.  It's why she was chosen as Illyria's vessel.  Her assistant had been besotted with Fred.

"Something is wrong.  I feel my shell's presence too much.  She has died.  Her spirit should've been extinguished, yet I sense her more and more," Illyria said.  "It is not right."

Willow and Buffy exchanged a look.  They had never seen the Old One so uncertain.

"Come sit with us," Willow said, pointing to the empty chair.  "We'll figure it out."

"I am going to go take this to Rick," Buffy said anxiously. "I hope it will work."  She looked at the amber that Bonnie had spelled.  Willow had talked her through the difficult spell that should keep all dark energies from Rick.

*****The Next Day****

Damon was tense and pacing as Stefan and Faith came downstairs in the morning.  "This is not a good idea," he said immediately.

"Good morning to you, too, Damon," Stefan said.

"You think some magic stone is going to keep Rick from flipping out and trying to kill someone?  What if he hurts her?  He'll never get past it!" Damon said.

"I'm going to stay over. I'll be there the whole day," Faith said.  "So chill.  I won't let anything happen to B."

Buffy had given Rick the stone bond in a leather cord to wear around his neck. It was supposed to keep him from being a psychopath, but Damon had his doubts.  They decided he'd wear it locked up one full night and let him out for the funeral.

"The wedding is supposed to go on in a week.  The Mikaelsons are having that party tomorrow night.  If Rick is going to go vamp hunter crazy, that will be when it'll happen," Stefan said.  "We'll know then if it's working or not.  We'll all be watching."

"Did you make sure Klaus knows not to hurt Rick?  He stole his body once, so they have a history," Damon said.

Faith grinned up at Damon.  "Man, you are such a mother hen when it comes to Rick.  That’s so cute!" Faith teased.

"He's like that with me sometimes," Stefan said, giving Damon a fond smile. It was good to see his brother showing his heart more and more.

"Well, Elena won't let me do much for her.  I gotta obsess over someone," Damon said darkly.

"Let's hope this helps Rick because I know he wouldn't want to miss Jeremy's funeral," Stefan said. 

"The caterers are going to be here in an hour to set up while the funeral is going on.  Since half the town will probably be here, it's a good thing Buffy agreed to let us do it here," Damon said.

"It's good of you," Faith said, patting him on the shoulder as she poured herself a glass of water.  "I'm going to go see B.  I'll see you guys there."  She gave Stefan a lingering kiss.

Damon watched the couple.  When Faith left, he said, "I still can't believe you got a smokin' hot vampire slayer to fall in love with you."

"Green isn't a good color on you, Damon," Stefan said with a smug grin.

Damon glared at him and went to pour himself a drink.

Two hours later, they were all in the church, listening to the minister try to offer words of comfort for Jeremy's untimely death.  Elena could feel the looks of pity from everyone—she had suffered too much loss.  It both moved others to compassion and filled them with fear.  Losing everyone in your family could begin to make people think you were cursed.

Matt got up to talk about Jeremy.  "For the longest time, Jeremy was just the kid brother of Elena.  He'd trail after us, spy on us, tattle on us," he said.  The audience laughed.  "Then he grew up and became my friend."  He stopped, his throat closing up.  "Elena and I have lost a lot.  Our parents—hers to death, mine to abandonment.  I didn't want her to ever know what it was like to lose a sibling.  I'm sorry, Elena."  He paused to look at her, a trail of tears rolling down his face.  Elena was on the front row, her eyes mirroring his.  Rick sat on one side of her, and Bonnie on the other side.  Matt wiped his eyes and took a deep breath.  "Jeremy became a close friend a year ago.  Over the summer, he became my best friend.  I moved in with his family, and he became my brother."  He forced the sob away.  "He died too soon, but no one that knew him will ever forget him."  He looked down at the closed casket.  His eyes stopped at the large, smiling picture of him.  Then he stepped away from the podium and off the stage.

Elena stood as he approached and hugged him.  Taking a deep breath, she struggled to compose herself.  She had to say some words.  He was her family.

She walked up to the podium and looked down at the words she had written out.  "My brother Jeremy was a gentle soul—an artist, a gentleman, a class cutter at times," she said, smiling at his picture.  Some chuckles broke out.  "He made me crazy, sometimes.  He felt things so deeply.  Losing our parents were hard, but we were there for each other.  I don't like to think about life without him.  But I want to make him proud—live enough for him."  It came to her then that if she didn't accept a life as a vampire, she might not get to do that.  "I'm not going to say goodbye to Jeremy today because I truly believe that one day, I will seem him again."  She paused and looked at his picture.  "Until then, little brother, try not to get kicked out of heaven for annoying the angels."  Laughter broke out.  "I will always love you, Jeremy, and I will miss you every single day."  Tears threatened, so she decided to cut it short.  "Until we meet again."  She glanced at his photo with a small smile.  Then she stepped away.

Rick stood to hug her.  He was going to speak, but it seemed unnecessary now.  Matt and Elena said enough.  He was just relieved to be in control of himself again so that he could be here for her.  They sat down, his right arm around Elena, his left reaching for Buffy's hand.

Buffy gave him a smile, so relieved that he was himself again.  She and Willow had liberated him from Damon's as soon as the sun came up.  Damon wasn't happy about it, but Faith was going to be with them for the entire night.  Buffy just knew that things would work out.  This wedding of hers would happen because he was finally her happily-ever-after. 

Buffy refused to consider the alternative.  They would find Jeremy's killer.  Willow would get her powers back, and Elena and Rick both would be fine.  She looked up—God, you owe me this—she reminded him.

Would He listen?

*****To Be Continued*****

 Thanks so much for reading.  Please take a minute to review and let me know that you're still interested in this tale!  The next chapter will feature the Mikaelsons and more. I felt Jeremy needed a proper send off.  Sorry, I do not plan on resurrecting him.

Chapter Text

*****The Next Day*****

Xander watched Elijah's mother very carefully. He didn't need a vision to know that the woman was bad news. Sure, she might've helped Oz and Elena, but he knew that she did it for her own reasons, not out of kindness. A mother didn't try to kill her children and then have a change of heart. She was not to be trusted.

Esther smiled at him. "How are you today, Alexander?" she asked.

"I am fine," he said.

"All the details are ready, Mother," Rebekah said excitedly. She would get to have a ball—or the modern equivalent of one—and dance with Willow. It would be a smashing success. Willow was going to wear green, so Rebekah would wear red.

"I believe all the invites were sent out," Elijah said, looking at Kol.

"Yes, brother," he said, rolling his eyes. "I can bloody well deliver invitations."

"This town thrives on formal affairs," Klaus said. "They all will come."

After Rebekah left to go shopping for new shoes, dragging Kol with her, Xander spoke.

"If you try to hurt your children again, it will be the last thing you ever do," he told her coldly.

All eyes looked to him in various stages of surprise. Elijah frowned at him in disapproval. "Xander, that is uncalled for," he said.

"It's entirely called for," Xander said, giving his lover a glance. "This woman is a viper. It takes a particular cold-hearted and ruthless individual to murder their children in the pretense of saving them, regret their actions, and then spend centuries plotting to destroy them."

"That is the past. I want to build a future—a better one for my family," Esther said.

"Bullshit," Xander said with derision. "I will never be convinced that you no longer desire their destruction. Your entire reason for being here is to ensure their downfall. You might fool your children, but you don't fool me. I grew up on a hellmouth, and I know diabolical when I'm in its presence."

Klaus looked grim but said nothing. He, too, believed that. However, his siblings were so hopeful, and he couldn't bear hurting them once again by gainsaying their mother. It was better they find out on their own.

"I guess you will have to wait and see that I mean no harm," Esther said easily.

"If you try to hurt Elijah or me, I have an entire army of slayers and many witches that will destroy you and make sure you suffer for eternity," Xander promised.

Esther worked to school her expression—his threat shook her. She had been watching from beyond the veil and knew that his threat was not an empty one.

"Right, well, now that the threatening portion of the morning is over, I'm going to go secure my date," Klaus said with a grin. He patted Xander on the shoulder in approval.

Esther, too, got up and began clearing her dishes.

Elijah looked at Xander and sighed. "Was that necessary?"

"It was completely necessary," Xander said, getting up and walking to the side door that led to the balcony.

Elijah got up and followed his lover. "Xander, do you think I am foolish or naïve?" he asked Xander.

"Of course not," Xander said. "I just think you like to see the best in people you love."

"Is that so bad?"

Xander hugged him. "No. But she's not here to make your family whole," he said softly. He wished it was different, but he knew deep down that it wasn't the case.

*****A Short Time Later*****

Klaus knocked on Caroline's door. "Come in," she called out.

"Hello, my love," he said, smiling warmly at her. "How are you feeling?" She was sitting on her sofa, holding a cushion.

She shrugged. "Okay. I can't believe Jeremy's dead. I wish Elena wasn't going through this," she said.

Klaus sat down next to her and put his arm around her, pulling her close. "We'll find the bitch who did it and make them pay," he promised.

"I hope so," she said, leaning against him.

"If Elena's a vampire, you won't ever have to say goodbye to her," Klaus pointed out.

"Is it awful that I'm not so upset about that?" Caroline asked, looking up at him.

"I don't think so," he said. "Not all vampires turn out like me and my siblings. Some turn out like you and Xander. Or Oz—he's a bloody pacifist."

Caroline grinned at the real annoyance in his voice. "But she can never have kids. She's always wanted kids," Caroline said.

"A person can be a parent without giving birth," he pointed out. He moved his arm away to get something out of the inside pocket of his jacket. "I made this for you."

Caroline sat up, surprised as she reached out to take it from him. "What? You made me something?" she asked. She opened it and saw that he'd drawn a picture of her. "Did you draw this? It's so great!"

"I did," he said.

"It's very sweet," she said, moving to kiss his cheek. However, he moved and caught her lips with his own, kissing her thoroughly.

"Come to the ball with me as my date," he said against her lips. His mouth trailed down her neck, and she gasped.

He was potent, and Caroline's head was spinning. "Okay," she said breathlessly.

Klaus kissed her one last time, and then Caroline pushed him away.

"Enough of that. I need to get a new dress!" she said, grinning as she got up.

Klaus laughed, amused by her. "Remember, when Kol comes by, you tell him that you already are spoken for," he said.

"I hope I'm more than a prize to be won," Caroline said in disapproval.

"Of course," Klaus said. "But to be clear, you picked me, right?"

Since he flashed that hopeful look and his dimple, she couldn't hold on to her anger and smiled in resignation. "Yes, I pick you," she said.

Klaus hugged her and stole one final kiss before leaving.

Caroline looked at the time and realized she wanted to check out the town's only boutique to see if there was anything new they might have in. She took her car and parked in front of the shop.

"Caroline!" A voice called out. She turned and saw Kol with his sister.

"I'll see you inside," Rebekah said.

"Here to buy a dress for our party?" Kol asked.

"I have a dress, but it doesn't hurt to see if they have something I might like better," she said, smiling. "Your brother asked me to go as his date, and I said yes."

Kol looked disappointed but not surprised. "Save me a dance?" he asked hopefully.

"Of course," she said. "You could go by and see if Bonnie wants to go with you. She won't feel like going, but it'll be good for her to be there. Bad things tend to happen at parties in this town, so a witch on hand might be a good idea."

Kol grinned. "A bit of drama is good for any party," he said.

"I've had enough drama to last me a life time," she said.

"Well, you can help Bex pick out her shoes. I'll go see your witch," Kol said with a wink and off he went.

He went directly to Bonnie Bennett's house. Kol knew more about witchcraft than even his sister. If his mother hadn't turned him, he would've followed in her witchy footsteps. When they lived in New Orleans, he befriended and seduced many a witch, collecting and creating dark objects. Bonnie Bennett was from a powerful witch line. She had been wasting herself on the Gilbert boy anyway.

He rang the bell. The door opened, and an unsmiling Bonnie answered.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"No hello? No welcome?" he said with a tsk.

"Kol, I'm not in a social mood, so just tell me what you want," Bonnie said warily. She hadn't slept much.

"Shall I rip out his heart for you?" a voice said.

Kol blinked and saw the weird Illyria woman. She looked harmless, but then she rose from the chair she had been sitting on and came to stand next to Bonnie. Her appearance changed into the blue tinged, creepy Old One. His eyes narrowed. "Did you just threaten to kill an Original?" He asked. "I can't be killed."

"Did not the slayer kill your brother?" Illyria said, arching an eyebrow.

"How about I rip out your heart instead?" Kol asked, starting to get angry.

"You can try," Illyria said with an amused shrug.

Kol wasn't one to back down from a challenge and punched into her rib cage—or rather he tried. His hand shattered. "Aaahhh!" he yelled.

Bonnie didn't know whether to laugh or yell. Finally, she smiled at Illyria. "Thanks. I needed that," she said.

"Damn it! That hurt!" Kol complained, glaring at both women.

"Guess you shouldn't go around trying to rip hearts out of people stronger than you," Bonnie said with a smirk.

Kol started to protest, then eyed the Old One. "I wasn't going to rip out her heart—just squeeze it a bit," he said.

In a blur, Illyria punched her way through his chest cavity. "Like this," she said, squeezing his heart.

"Okay! I'm sorry!" Kol gasped.

Amused, Illyria pulled her arm out of his chest.

"Kol, why are you here?" Bonnie asked.

"I wanted to see if you wanted to go to my mother's party with me? Have some fun?" Kol asked, rubbing his chest as it healed. He glared at Illyria. "You owe me a shirt."

Illyria changed her form once again, looking like the harmless Fred. No blood on her hand. Kol blinked at her casual display of power. Maybe he shouldn't antagonize the creature. She did get his brother out of a hell dimension after all. "A party sounds like fun. You should go," Illyria/Fred said, smiling at Bonnie.

"I don't think I should leave you alone," Bonnie said doubtfully.

"Illyria is invited, of course," Kol said.

"I will be there to make sure the slayer's pet doesn't attempt to harm anyone," Illyria said, referring to Alaric. "I will be fine." She wasn't convinced that Rick wouldn't become a threat once again.

Bonnie looked at Kol. "Give me a minute," she said. Kol nodded and walked off the porch to give them some privacy or semblance of it—he could hear them.

"Finding out Fred isn't completely gone isn't a bad thing, Illyria. She can make living in this world easier for you," Bonnie said softly.

"She makes me care about things that I should not," Illyria said coldly. Why did she care if the witch went to a party? It should be beneath her.

"It's what humans do—they care," Bonnie said, hugging her. "I'll see you later, okay?"

Illyria nodded and left. Kol jumped back on the porch. "So I'll pick you up this evening at seven?" he asked.

"Fine," Bonnie said. "But this isn't a date, so don't expect anything datelike!"

"Of course," Kol said with a wink. Then he was gone.

Bonnie closed the door and leaned against it. What did she get herself into?

*****The Gilberts*****

Elena was still having trouble believing that Jeremy was really gone. So many times, he'd cheated death with the ring. At least the evil creature that had killed her hadn't turned Jeremy into what she was. Elena had heard too many stories from Dawn about the things they fought. Xander had ended up having to kill his best friend in high school when he was turned.

There was a knock on her door. "Come in," Elena said.

"How are you doing, kiddo?" Rick asked.

"Okay," she said. It was good to have Rick back. She couldn't have gotten through the funeral without him.

"There's someone here to see you. Can he come up?" Rick asked.

"Damon?" she guessed.

Rick nodded. "Cut the poor guy some slack. He loves you and hates to see you in pain," he said.

"I know," Elena said. "Let him come up."

Damon appeared. "How's my favorite girl? You doing okay?" he asked as he stood in her doorway.

"I'm okay," she said. "It sucks. Jeremy is gone. It doesn't seem real."

"No. It doesn't," Damon said. He sat down on the chair in front of her vanity, facing her. "I wish I could make things better for you."

"You can't always fix everything, Damon," she said.

"I should be able to," he said with a pout.

A real smile appeared on her face. "No, you shouldn't. Death is a part of life. If I'm going to live for centuries, I guess I got to get used to it," she said.

Damon's eyes widened. "You've decided? You're going to take the blood and keep living?" He asked.

She nodded. "At the funeral yesterday, I realized that I couldn't live for Jeremy if I just gave up and died," she said. "I have to live for both of us now."

"I'm glad," he said.

"I know," she said. "I want to wait until after Rick and Buffy's wedding in case I have control issues. I don't want to have anything get in the way of their perfect day."

"You know Xander's seen a bloody wedding in a vision? I think it's a guarantee that something's going to get in the way of their perfect wedding day," Damon said.

"No, we're going to get everything worked out before then. We know the possible threats, and we'll prepare accordingly," Elena said firmly. This wedding was the one good thing she had to look forward to—nothing was going to mess it up.

"Do you feel like getting out and coming to the party at the Mikaelsons? I'd love to take you," Damon said.

A party was the last thing she wanted to go to. However, she knew formal parties weren't really overly festive. Getting out of the house might be good. "Buffy and Rick are going, right?"

Damon nodded. "I believe just about everyone is," he said.

"Then I'll go. But when I get sick of being there, I expect you to escort me home without protest," she said.

Damon stood. "No problem!" he replied, happy. He pulled her to her feet and hugged her close. "Things will get better. One day at a time."

Elena laid her head on his chest, finding comfort in his familiar embrace.

*****The Mikaelsons*****

Esther stood at the top of the stairs, looking at the throng of people in their home. Klaus was right. Everyone who received an invitation was there. She nodded at Elijah and motioned to the servant that she had prepared.

"Can I have everyone's attention?" Elijah called out. The music stopped, and all eyes looked up. His siblings were all on the stairs. Rebekah was at the foot of the stairs with Willow. Esther's servant gave them each a flute of champagne.

"Tonight, my family and I wanted to introduce our mother Esther to the town of Mystic Falls and thank you for your warm welcome. Let's raise a glass to Mystic Falls, our new home," he said, holding up his glass. Everyone joined him and took a sip.

Esther breathed a sigh of relief. They were all now linked. If she killed one of her children, Klaus would die. She would finally have her atonement.

In the receiving line, Drusilla giggled. "Oh, what a fine party this will be! All our friends in one place!" she said to her partner in crime.

Sheila Rosenberg wasn't in her element at this type of event—there was hardly an academic amongst them. All the warm blood, though, made the room they stepped into tantalizing.

"Remember, we must be discreet. No snacking unless the person is special to the Slayer," Drusilla ordered with a grin.

"What about my daughter? I would sure like to say hello. It's been too long," Sheila said eagerly.

"A little birdie told me that your daughter has no power," Drusilla said. "We can easily take her. A girl needs her mother, after all." A servant handed them a drink. Drusilla grinned. "Some mothers, though, don't need their children." Her eyes looked up and saw the Mommy Witch coming down the stair case with her son. "We must be careful with the Mikaelsons. They aren't like other vamps, and they can ruin all our fun."

"Maybe we shouldn't be at this party where they're all going to be," Sheila countered.

"A little danger makes the blood sing," Drusilla said, picking up her dress and twirling to the music. For once, it wasn't only in her head. She knew that something significant had just happened. There were so many powerful players aligning and conspiring. It was a perfect chance to slip in undetected.

******To Be Continued*******

Comments make me VERY happy! Thanks for reading.

Chapter Text

Chapter 26: Comfort and Love

******The Mikaelsons******

Buffy clung to Rick's arm as they stepped into the Mikaelsons. The relief she felt at Rick's improved behavior was tremendous. He was back to being the man she fell in love with. Rick hadn't wanted to go to the party hosted by vampires. However, she pointed out that they needed to keep an eye the recently raised Original witch. Xander was convinced the woman was up to no good. Willow still had no magic, so Buffy felt she needed to be there even though she was too pregnant to do much good.

"B!" Faith hollered from several feet way. Buffy shook her head—the woman would never learn discretion. Since Faith was here, she could keep things in check if something happened.

Faith was wearing a shimmering silver dress that plunged in both the front and back.

"You looked amazing," Buffy said with a grin. She glanced at Stefan who looked very dapper in a tux. The man looked at Faith like no one ever had, and Buffy knew that he really loved Faith. When Faith smiled up at Stefan, it was clear the feeling was mutual.

"I had to keep Stefan on his toes. I figured this dress would do it," Faith said, smirking. "You look pretty hot yourself." Buffy was wearing a princess-style pale pink dress that hid her baby bump quite well. "Where did you get that dress?"

"Actually, Elena gave it to me. It's one of the dozen or so she has. This town dresses up for a half dozen occasions a year," Buffy said.

"That's true," Stefan said, chuckling. He looked at Rick. "Rick, how are you feeling?"

"Good. Back to myself," he said. "But I have to live with what I did."

"It wasn't you," Buffy said firmly.

"It was. Some part of me hates vampires more than any sense of right or wrong," Rick said grimly.

"I hate vamps," Faith said. "There are a few exceptions. Angel, Stefan—his annoying brother. Elijah is cool. His siblings are okay sometimes. But any creature that feeds on humans to live will get the end of my stake. There's nothing wrong with that."

"Wise words to live by according to Faith," Stefan said, smiling at her.

"Lover, let's dance," Faith said, dragging him onto the floor.

Kol was on the sidelines with Bonnie, who was ravishing in a dark purple dress. They were sipping champagne and watching the dancers. "Stefan is a brave man. Piss off his girl and she could literally kill him," he said with a smirk.

"She wouldn't do that," Bonnie said. "She loves him."

"You think two people so different really have a chance?" Kol asked her, curious.

"I think if there's enough love, they can," Bonnie said. She drained her champagne. "Let's dance." Kol gladly took her out to the dance floor.

She stopped and turned toward him, holding up her hand in warning. "You try anything, I'll be breaking fingers and causing aneurisms!" she exclaimed.

Kol grinned at her boldness. "I'll be a well behaved as a Puritan," he said. Bonnie rolled her eyes but let him pull her into his arms for a dance.

Nearby, Klaus was watching the unlikely duo as he held Caroline close in a dance. "Is that your doing?" he asked, gesturing to Kol and Bonnie dancing.

Caroline looked and smiled. "Yes. I suggested that Kol ask Bonnie, who is devastated and depressed over Jeremy. Kol will be a nice distraction," Caroline said.

"You aren't worried that he might hurt her?" Klaus asked in surprise.

She shook her head. "No. Bonnie can take care of herself," she replied. "Besides, I don't think your brother would try to hurt her. She's been through a lot."

Klaus hoped that was the case, but his baby brother was unpredictable. The song ended, and he led her to the side. "Would you like to see more of my artwork?" he asked her.

Caroline was surprised. "Of course! I'd love to see it," she said. Klaus led her up the stairs to his bedroom. It had two connecting rooms.

"This is your room?" she asked, looking at the paintings everywhere. There were so many.

"My sleeping quarters are through that door," he said, pointing. "Sometimes, I nap on the sofa." He grinned at her.

He watched her anxiously as she slowly walked around the room looking at his work. She stopped in front of the large canvas he was currently working on.

Caroline was impressed as his talent was evident. Of course, after so many years alive, he had plenty of time to hone his craft. However, the current painting was horrific and startling. "They're very good, Klaus, but this is so disturbing," she said, pointing. It was a picture of a hell scene with flames and some huge demon creature.

"It was a disturbing experience," he said dryly.

Caroline lifted startled eyes to his. "Is this real? This is what it was like when Willow sent you there?" she asked in dismay.

"A bit," Klaus said. "I fought creatures like that endlessly—nearly hourly it seemed. It was truly hell."

Caroline walked toward him, seeking to comfort him. "I'm sorry you had to go through that," she said, reaching out and taking his hand.

Klaus pulled her into his arms. "I probably deserved to suffer like that—I've caused endless suffering to countless others in my long existence," he admitted. His hand moved down her cheek, stroking her long neck. He placed a kiss on it and smiled as he felt her heartbeat skip a beat.

"No one deserves that," she said, gulping. When his lips trailed up to capture her lips, she couldn't think—she just kissed him back.

Klaus pushed her a few feet toward the sofa. They fell onto the sofa still kissing.

Downstairs, another would-be lover coaxed Elena onto the dance floor.

"I don't think I should be dancing, Damon, when I just buried my brother yesterday," Elena said sourly. Like always, she looked stunning.

"This is a slow, somber dance," Damon said, pulling her onto his arms. "I just want to hold you for a bit. You've kept me at a distance lately, and I don't like it."

"You can't fix everything, Damon. My life has been destroyed," she said, but she put her head against him. His arms always made her feel safe.

"You'll build a new life," Damon said. They danced in silence for a few minutes. When the song ended, another slow song played, so he kept her close.

Elena looked up at him and smiled even if it didn't quite reach her eyes. "Thanks, Damon, for being here," she said.

"There's nowhere else I'd rather be," he said. They danced another dance. Then he led her to the drinks, handing her a drink. "I have a suggestion for you."

"What?" Elena asked, sipping her drink.

"I think you should apply to UCLA in Los Angeles. California has some of the best medical schools in the nation," Damon said. "Graduate next semester and spend the summer relaxing in L. A. with me and Spike. Then you can start school away from Mystic Falls and all the bad memories."

Elena was surprised at his suggestion, more so that she liked it. "I'll think about it," she said.

"It can't hurt to apply. You might be really into the idea in six months or so," Damon said.

"Maybe. Rick and Buffy's baby will be born. Dawn will be starting college, too," she said.

"Exactly. Stefan's already left and nothing's going to pry him from his hot little slayer," Damon said with a smirk.

"It's definitely something to think about," Elena said.

"Good. Applying just leaves you with options," he said.

Elena liked the idea of starting college in a fresh place entirely.

Not too far away, Esther stood sipping her own glass of wine and noting the players that were in the room. All of her children were occupied. She saw Klaus head upstairs with his date—he'd be preoccupied for a while. Both Rebekah and Kol were dancing. Only Elijah did she not see. She searched the crowd and finally spotted Elijah in a small circle with his partner, smiling at the young vampire's story. Both the pregnant slayer, her fiancée, and the Illyria creature were listening. Satisfied that they wouldn't notice her slipping out, she headed toward the kitchen.

Esther failed to notice the truly soulless monsters that lurked in the shadow.

Drusilla giggled and glanced at her daughter. "Oh, the wicked thoughts in that momma's head! Her plans make my heart sing!" she exclaimed, clapping excitedly.

Sheila, though, was indifferent. She had spotted her daughter finally dancing in the warms of a beautiful blonde woman. "I want to see my daughter. I'm tired of waiting," Sheila said.

"If we show ourselves here with all these Mikaelson vampires, we will be killed like my Darla was," Drusilla said. "But we can go into the kitchen and grab us a little snack." She smiled eagerly and turned to the kitchen. Sheila glanced once more at her daughter and then shrugged, following her sire.

Willow, dancing with Rebekah, had no idea that her mother was in the house. The presence of several supernatural creatures would've masked the presence of other vampires even if she still had her power.

"This is nice," Willow said, smiling up at her girlfriend.

"Yes, our family can still manage to throw a party," Rebekah said. "I, of course, have the hottest date here." Willow was stunning in a dark green dress with spaghetti straps. Rebekah wore a strapless red dress with a flowing skirt.

"Where's your mother? I haven't seen her in a while," Willow said, looking around. She smiled at Buffy wrapped in Rick's arms as Xander entertained them with a tall tale. Elena was dancing with Matt while Damon twirled Dawn around, making her laugh.

"She's probably talking to someone about something boring or pulling Klaus out of trouble," Rebekah said, looking around. "I haven't seen him in a while either."

"You don't think they're fighting, do you?" Willow asked.

"Probably," Rebekah said with a shrug. "Nik's maddening."

"You know that I want you to be happy, right?" Willow said.

"I know. I am happy. You make me happy," Rebekah said, brushing her red hair off her shoulder.

"I'm glad you got this time with your mom, but I think she has an agenda that won't work out well for you. I don't have any magic, so I can't protect you," Willow said, anxious.

Rebekah smiled widely. "You're so sweet! A frail human upset because you can't protect me," Rebekah teased.

Willow pouted. "I won't always be frail," she protested.

"I kind of like having you at my mercy," Rebekah said.

Illyria came up to them. As Fred, she said, "Sorry, girls, for interrupting. May I dance with Willow here? I really need to talk to her."

Rebekah found the Old One terrifying and fascinating. All that power and yet she looked like a regular human in her black dress with the plunging neckline. That Texas twang was utterly disarming—and deceptive. "I don't know. You're looking awfully good in that dress. Can I trust you?" Rebekah asked, winking at Willow, who laughed.

Illyria/Fred colored prettily and looked bashful. "Damon took me shopping and picked it out," she shared.

"Now that I can believe," Rebekah said, rolling her eyes. She kissed Willow and handed her off to Illyria.

"What's going on, Ria?" Willow asked, looking at the Old One.

"Something is not right with me," she shared. "Bonnie has confirmed that my host's soul isn't destroyed like we believed. She's not completely gone."

"Really?" Willow asked. "Bonnie was able to confirm it?" Illyria nodded. "I bet that's disconcerting."

"It is. It weakens me. I feel too mortal. My emotions seem to be out of control," she admitted.

"Being human isn't all bad, sweetie. Extreme emotion means joy and happiness, too," Willow said.

"I think there's something else wrong. I feel like there's something else going on inside," Illyria shared, hating her new human weakness. Since when did she need to unburden herself? Dependency on others was a human weakness that she despised.

"Whatever it is, we'll figure it out. Don't worry," Willow said. She pulled her close for a hug.

Illyria was torn between disgust at the human gesture and comfort. It was almost like she could hear Winifred Burkle. Friends are the best part of life.

As shaken as she was by the words that seemed to echo in her head, Illyria still didn't push her away.

*****An Hour Later*****

Esther made it back inside the house without anyone knowing she'd gone. As she suspected, the slayer kept her house unlocked. It was easy getting what she needed from both her and Rick. She was making her way toward the kitchen to check on the food levels when she heard a scream.

She made it to the kitchen door just as Elijah and Xander did. Buffy was a step behind them.

"They're all dead!" a servant cried.

Esther pulled her aside to calm her as Buffy followed her son inside the kitchen.

Buffy looked at the slaughter of six of the kitchen staff in dismay and horror. Two men and four women were dead. Three of them had their throats practically ripped out. The other three were dead, but as she bent down to examine them, she noted the difference.

"There's two of them," she said, looking up at Rick, who nodded. "If it's Drusilla, she's got a partner that doesn't have her control."

Xander took a deep breath, having trouble controlling both his rage and his bloodlust at the sight of the murders.

"Are you okay?" Elijah asked, putting his hand on Xander's shoulder.

"No, I'm not," Xander said, leaving the kitchen. Elijah followed him. Rebekah and Kol were approaching with their dates.

"What's going on?" Rebekah asked.

"Some vampires slaughtered the help," Elijah said.

Rebekah and Kol went to the door and looked in.

"Good help is so hard to find," Kol said, shaking his head.

Rebekah smacked him on the back of the head. "Not the thing to say, brother," she said.

"What do you expect?" Bonnie asked. "Vampires have no respect for human life. It's their nature."

Xander found her judgmental words offensive and glared at her. "That's not true. That's like me saying all witches are self-righteous bitches, looking to gain power," he said.

"Xander!" Willow scolded.

"Sorry," Xander mumbled, looking away.

"I shouldn't have said what I said," Bonnie said, apologizing.

Sheriff Forbes joined them. "What's the situation?" She asked.

"Go see for yourself," Elijah said. "We need to check everyone here."

"How could two vampires be here and none of us notice?" Xander asked.

"There's too many people here," Rebekah said. "It's easy to get lost in a crowd."

Liz made her way to the kitchen and saw Buffy checking out the bodies.

She stood when Liz entered. "Liz, it's bad. Six bodies. It looks like two vampires did the work," Buffy said, pointing out the different neck wounds.

"We've got to find these vampires. It has to be the same ones that killed Jeremy and attacked Elena," Liz said starkly.

"My wedding is in ten days. We'll find them," Buffy vowed. Nothing was going to ruin her wedding. Definitely not Drusilla the bat-crazy Kendra killer. "I'll stake them myself." Rick put his hands on her shoulders, standing behind her.

"We will," he assured her. The thought of vampires loose in the town killing humans made everything inside him rage at the wrongness. A veil of anger came over him.

"Rick, I'm going to take Buffy and scope out the perimeter. Can you work with the Mikaelsons to clear the house?" Liz asked.

Rick nodded. "We'll take care of it," he said.

Esther was in the doorway. "I will take him upstairs and tell Niklaus what is happening," she said.

"Elijah and I will examine the guests," Rebekah said.

"Xander and I will check the other rooms downstairs," Willow said.

"Sounds good. I'll call the coroner and we'll meet back here in half an hour," Liz said.

Everyone cleared the room except for the six individuals who couldn't.

*****Chapter End*****

More is coming.. Things are about to come to a head. I hope you're enjoying it still. Reviews are the best! Thanks!

Chapter Text

*****A Few Hours Later (same night)*****

When Klaus and Caroline finally came up for air and went downstairs, they realized that no one was around.

Caroline was in a daze—Klaus was not like any lover she'd ever had before. She'd only slept with boys, and he'd shown her exactly how true that was.

"Where is everyone?" Klaus wondered. He held Caroline's hand and walked toward the kitchen, noticing the police tape.

"Something must've happened," Caroline said, feeling guilty. She reached into her purse and pulled out her phone. "I have several missed calls and messages." She started to read them while Klaus stepped into the kitchen. The bodies were gone, but he could see the blood evidence.

"There was a massacre in here," he said grimly. "Elijah! Kol!" He waited to hear a response.

"Klaus?" Oz asked.

"Oz?" Klaus said in surprise. "What are you doing here?" He went toward his hybrid and pulled him close for a hug.

"The Coven Giles knows said that bad mojo was here, so I thought I'd see what your mother was up to," Oz said.

"So far, she's been fine," Klaus said. "But something's happened. There's a massacre in my kitchen. I'm not sure what was happening."

"Hi, Oz," Caroline said, greeting him warmly. "Klaus missed you a lot."

Oz smiled, noticing how close the two were. "I see you've helped him cope," Oz said.

Caroline blushed as Klaus pulled her close, his arm around her shoulder. "She most definitely has," he said. "How's your wolf?"

"Perfect," Oz said. "She's not ready to come here, though."

"You're staying until after the wedding?" Klaus asked.

"Yes," Oz said. "So what's going on? Where is everyone? Xander told me that there was a party here."

"From the messages I got, it appears some vamps crashed the party and killed several of the party servers," Caroline said.

"Mom really knows how to throw a party," Kol said as he appeared.

"Where were you?" Klaus asked.

"I was escorting my lovely date home after a few hours of fruitless searching for the vampires that did this," Kol said, gesturing to the kitchen. He grinned at Oz. "Great to have you back, mate!" He held his hand out and embraced his favorite hybrid.

"Thanks. Good to see you," Oz said.

"Well, I need to go home and return some phone calls," Caroline said.

"Okay, love," Klaus said. "Oz, we'll catch up later."

The couple left. "So, Oz, I want to hear all about this hot babe of yours!" Kol said with a grin.

Oz realized that he had missed the youngest Mikaelson brother. "Her name is Asha," Oz said.

"Asha," Kol said slowly. "Sounds sexy."

"She is," Oz said, his eyes taking on an expression that Kol had never seen before.

"Tell me more," Kol said eagerly.

While Oz engaged in uncharacteristic gossip, Klaus was pulling up at Caroline's. He walked her to the door, pulling her close for a passionate kiss.

"Oh, the vampire wolf has got a pretty doll to play with," a voice said.

Klaus looked up and spotted the crazy vampire from New York.

"Do you think he'll share?" Drusilla asked her companion.

"Klaus, who is that?" Caroline asked, narrowing her eyes at the two women. One had red hair and looked vaguely familiar.

"A soon to be dead vampire," Klaus said with a growl.

"Naughty, naughty," Drusilla said, making a tsking sound and wagging her finger. "You let loose the dogs of war, and you might get bit!" She made a biting motion, clanging her teeth together.

Frowning, Caroline looked at the weird vampire. "What does she mean?" Caroline asked.

"Who cares? I bet these are the vamps that killed Jeremy and Elena," Klaus said, turning her attention.

Caroline moved fast and grabbed Drusilla. "It was you? You killed my friends!" she exclaimed.

"Your friend is alive. I saw so myself," Drusilla said with a smirk. Then her smile left as she stared intently at Caroline. "Look at me. Be in me."

Caroline frowned as she stared at the woman. It was like a fog came over her. Then the vampire slashed Caroline's throat and threw her body down, knowing Klaus would catch her and not stop and chase Drusilla.

Klaus heard the mad vampire giggle as she ran off with her companion. Rage burned inside him as he cradled his sweet Caroline, blood pouring from her neck. He grabbed the bottom of her dress and ripped a long strip to hold against her neck.

"It's okay. You'll be okay," he said.

Liz Forbes opened up the front door. "What's going on?" she asked.

"The vampire you're looking for attacked Caroline," he said. "She needs blood."

He carried Caroline to the door but wasn't able to get in. "I need an invitation," he said.

"Come in," Liz said without hesitation.

By the time he set her on the couch, the wound had closed up. He was torn. A part of him wanted to stay and the other part wanted to tear off after the crazy vampire. Now that he'd seen her, he knew without a doubt that the vampire he'd set against Willow was the one in town causing all the mayhem. This could be disastrous for him. His mind raced with possibilities.

Liz returned with a blood bag and gave it to her daughter. "Here you go, sweetheart," she said.

Caroline quickly drunk down the blood. "Who was that bitch?" she asked when she was done.

"I believe she's the vampire who killed the help tonight," Klaus said. "And attacked the Gilberts."

"I'm going to call it in and scout the area," Liz said, grabbing her gun belt and heading out.

"Be careful, Mom. Guns won't kill her. Remember that!" Caroline called out.

"Are you feeling better?" Klaus asked, wiping her neck with tissues from the box on the table.

"Yes," Caroline said. "How did she do that? She's from a demon line. Not only should she not be able to compel anyone, how could she compel me?"

"I don't think it was compulsion but a form of hypnotism," Klaus said.

"Do you know her, Klaus?" Caroline asked as she replayed their interaction. Something wasn't right.

"How would I know her?" Klaus asked, trying to divert her attention.

"You've been around a long time. You're smart. That redhead vamp she was with looked familiar to me," Caroline said, her mind trying to put it together. Then it hit her. Willow. The woman looked like Willow. Why would she look like Willow? "Oh God! That other woman! I bet she's Willow's mom! Her dad was murdered, and her mom's body wasn't found. What if it was a vampire attack? Drusilla killed the dad and turned the mom." Caroline stopped, trying to put it together. Why would Drusilla, who loved Spike and hated Buffy, want to hurt Willow? How would she even know Willow's parents were in New York and not California? Klaus was watching her too intently.

Then it occurred to her.

"Klaus, please, tell me that you had nothing to do with Drusilla being here," Caroline said.

"I can assure you that I never told that crack pot to come to Mystic Falls and start killing people!" Klaus said hotly.

"But Willow hurt you. She hurt you like no one ever has," Caroline said slowly. "It's not like you to let things go. Killing her parents—or rather having Drusilla do it—would be a way to make her pay without getting your hands dirty yourself."

"I never told her to do anything," Klaus insisted.

"But you did contact her and aim her in Willow's direction, right?" Caroline said warily.

Klaus lifted up his chin, not wanting to lie to her further. "Maybe," he admitted.

"Oh, Klaus, how could you do that? That vampire is insane! Look what she's done!" Caroline exclaimed.

"I had no idea she was such a ravin' loon!" he said defensively.

"You should've just killed her parents yourself and none of this would've been happening!"

"I couldn't do that! Oz would never forgive me," Klaus said, shaking his head.

"Well, how the hell do you think he'll feel when he finds out that you put Drusilla up to it!" she countered. "Jeremy is dead. Elena died and has to become a vampire or die. Those workers at the party. All of that is because of your actions!"

"I did none of that!" Klaus said, getting angry.

"You need to leave," Caroline said, grim. "I can't even look at you right now."

"I came to this town and killed Elena, yet you befriended me. I've always been who I am," Klaus said hollowly. "I thought that you were different than everyone else. That you knew things are never black and white. I thought I mattered to you, but only your precious friends matter!" He turned and left.

Caroline watched him leave in dismay. How did he do that? How did he turn things around and make her feel like she was the bad guy?

*****The Next Morning*****

Buffy woke up early, knowing something was wrong. Not only had she had a slayer dream that gave her images of a dark figure rising up, killing Xander, but Rick wasn't in bed next to her. He never came home. When she called his cell, there was no answer. She sent Elena and Matt texts asking if he was there. While waiting for their reply, she called Angel.

"Angel, I need you," she said, fighting tears.

"Buffy? What's wrong? Where are you?" he asked, wiping the sleep from his eyes. He'd been asleep a short while. The sound of her voice, though, brought him quickly to awareness.

"Can you and Spike come to Mystic Falls? Something's wrong. Rick is gone. People are getting killed. I think Drusilla is in town, but I don't know what's going on with Rick. He's not himself lately—it's been so awful," she said, a sob breaking through.

Angel was out of his bed and dressing as he held the phone to his ear. "We'll be there as soon as we can. Now we can fly in the daylight," he reminded her. She had gifted them with daylight rings. The sun was no longer their enemy, but Angel still kept his regular vampire hours. It was too engrained in him.

"Thank you, Angel," she said softly.

"Take care of yourself and that baby," he ordered. "See you soon." He hung up.

There was a terror building inside of her. The baby she was carrying had to be protected at all cost. That meant she needed a shield. There was no one she trusted more to fight in front of her and behind her than Angel and Spike. Willow had no magic, and Xander she couldn't bear to risk. It didn't matter that he was stronger than ever. He had been the heart too long, and she wouldn't stop protecting him. In her dream, he was the one who died.

"I can't lose them both," she whispered as she ended the call. Where was Rick?

******Several Hours Later*****

Rick woke up to a splitting headache. Did he get drunk and pass out again? Wait. He didn't do that kind of thing anymore. He had Buffy now, and the baby was coming. He sat up slowly and realized he was on the ground. He got up, looking around, trying to get his bearings. Where the hell was he?

Slowly standing, his eyes began to adjust. A small lantern was burning in the corner. He picked it up and realized that he was in a cave of some kind. Directing the light, he found the exit. Relieved, he walked toward it. However, when he tried to step outside, he hit an invisible barrier.

"What the hell?" he exclaimed. He felt for a pulse. He was still alive, so he couldn't be a vampire. Of course, a cave wasn't a home anyway. What was going on? Who trapped him like this?

Rick knew that it had to be a witch. Only one came to mind.

He can't say he was too surprised when Esther Mikaelson same inside an hour later. She was the last person he remembered seeing at her house.

"Good, you're awake," she said, smiling.

"What the hell are you doing? Let me out of here! I got a pregnant fiancée at home!" he reminded her.

Esther flashed him a regretful look. "Yes, I know, but you can't be with her. You have a job to do for me," she said.

"A job? What job?" Rick asked, frowning in confusion.

"A very important job. I'm going to make you the ultimate weapon," she said, turning up the lantern. She began mixing some things in a large bowl.

Rick blinked, not expecting her to say that. He felt suddenly like he was about to lose something very important.

Rick knew the woman was powerful, but he thought of a way to hurt her before she could work anymore mojo. If she was unconscious would the barrier disappear? Would he have to kill her? Could she even be killed? There were so many unknowns. In his hesitation, he lost his window. She poured blood over some hairs she pulled out of a Ziplock bag. When she began to chant, Rick froze.

He couldn't move.

*****To Be Continued*****

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Chapter Text

*****The Same Evening*****

When Angel and Spike made it into town, they went straight to Buffy's. Katherine, of course, wasn't about to watch the two vampires cater to the slayer's every whim, so she went to torment the Salvatores.

"It's bad enough that Spike about leaped out of bed to run to his precious slayer's side," she grumbled as she opened the Damon and Stefan's front door without knocking. "Can't expect me to join their fan club."

"Katherine?" Damon asked, surprised to see her. "Are you talking to yourself? Why are you here?"

"I'm here because the precious pregnant slayer called her ex-lovers to come save her current lover, and like the total saps they are, they jumped at the chance to be her white knight," Katherine complained as she helped herself to his alcohol.

Damon didn't try to hide the smirk. "Poor little Katherine not getting all her lover's attention," he mocked.

"Spike gives me plenty of attention," she defended. Then she threw herself on his sofa. "I just hate that he still loves the blonde bimbo."

"You know very well that Buffy is no bimbo," Damon said as he sat down next to her. "Rick is missing, and she is pregnant. He's been going all serial-killer on her. It's a lot for anyone, but it's too much for someone in her condition—even a slayer."

Katherine pouted. "Maybe. But I'm never going to be okay with my lover being devoted to another woman. He should be devoted only to me!" she declared.

"Give him time. He'll get there," Damon said. "He's loved two women. His sire Drusilla, who is a crazy psycho bitch and Buffy, a self-sacrificing hero. You totally have a shot!"

"Maybe," she said.

"I'm surprised you're still giving him a chance. Normally, you get what you want and get gone," he said.

Katherine was silent a long moment as she sipped her drink. Finally, she said, "I guess everyone wants someone to love them."

Damon couldn't resist reminding her, "I loved you. I waited for you for over a century. Regardless, you've never had trouble finding some pathetic man to love. Case in point, Tyler's Uncle Mason."

"People can change, Damon. Even me," she replied. "Maybe I'm tired of losing in love or living alone."

"That's always been your choice. You can have any guy you want," he said.

She shook her hand. "That's not true. I wanted Elijah. I couldn't have him. I wanted Stefan and couldn't have him," she said. "Spike is the most intense lover I've ever known. Unlike Elijah and Stefan, he isn't conflicted. He's like me. He loves being a vampire—he just directs the drive for murder and mayhem into killing demons. When I'm with him and he's focused on me, it's the most beautiful moment in my long life."

Damon was once again surprised. "You're in love with him," Damon realized.

Katherine didn't reply. Then Faith came downstairs. She grinned at Katherine. "Since you look sexier than Elena, I'm going to go with Katherine?"

Katherine nodded, giving the slayer a pleased smile. She had to hate this woman on principle since Stefan loved her. However, Katherine actually found her more tolerable than Buffy.

"Sun's set," Faith said to Damon. "Dru will be out doing her thing, so we need to find her before she kills someone else. B will be looking for Rick, so it's up to us to take care of the psycho-vamp."

Damon stood. "You coming with us, Kat?" he asked her.

She downed her drink. "I might as well," she said in resignation.

Across town, Angel and Spike were trying to comfort Buffy, who had thrown herself against them, sobbing as soon as she saw them. Since neither side had ever encountered such an emotional Buffy, they were more than a little discombobulated. Buffy hadn't fallen apart when her mom had died. She hadn't even fell into a sobbing mess after killing Angel or losing Dawn to Glory. Not a tear was shed when she was pulled out of heaven and had to dig herself out of a grave. Her current tears, then, were highly unsettling to both men, Spike especially since he hero-worshiped her more than Angel did. As her tears didn't subside no matter what they said or did, Spike was wishing for a good catatonic state like the one she'd been in when Dawn was first nabbed.

Then Xander arrived. His shadow, the debonair oldest Mikaelson was with him. They were quite a contrast. Elijah in his designer suit and perfectly groomed hair and Xander wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a picture of Scooby-Doo on it.

Buffy jumped up and threw herself into his arms. Spike and Angel would never admit this, but they were both relieved to see him. He had more practice wrangling emotional slayers.

"I dreamed it, Xander. You died!" she exclaimed. "You gotta stay inside and stay safe. I can't handle it if something happens to you, too!"

"Buffy, you need to get a grip," Xander said firmly. "This isn't like you. You're the slayer. You don't overreact. Just because you're pregnant and more emotional doesn't mean all reason has left you. You know very well that your slayer dreams aren't written in stone. I'm in danger? Fine. I'll take precautions. I got this handy little bodyguard." He gestured back to Elijah, who gave a longsuffering sigh.

"Keeping this git safe is probably a full-time job," Spike said to Elijah, who smiled as he nodded in agreement.

"It can be a challenge," he acknowledged.

"Please, I'm not the one with psycho witch mom coming back from the dead, trying to kill you and your siblings," Xander said with a snort.

"She's done something?" Buffy said, straightening up, the tears stopped. Show her a threat she could fight, and just like that, the emotional basket case left the building.

"My mother has done nothing but insist she wants her family whole again," Elijah said, giving Xander a pointed look.

"If you believe that, I have some oceanside property not too far from here that I can sell you," Xander said with a smirk. "I, too, had a vision. And unlike Buffy's dreams, my visions aren't weird and vague. My visions don't need to be interpreted. She will strike soon."

Buffy looked at Spike. "She's human, so she's your problem, okay? Willow is still on the ropes with the bounding of the magics," Buffy said.

"If my mother becomes a problem, I will handle her," Elijah said firmly.

"If their mother is conspiring, could she have done something with Rick?" Angel wondered.

They were silent as they considered his question. Finally, Elijah said, "What would she want with Rick? If she is plotting against her children, how could Rick be involved in that? He's just a human."

"He's my human," Buffy said sharply. "Your mother better not being messing with him!"

"Sun's down. Let's get out and look," Spike suggested. "The Poofer and I will go look for Dru. You all keep searching for Rick."

"Good plan," Buffy said.

"We'll stay with you," Xander said.

Spike and Angel walked outside. They started to go to turn down the street toward the direction of town when Spike stopped, suddenly alert.

"What's wrong?" Angel asked.

"I don't know," he said. He turned and faced Buffy's house. His eyes strayed to the houses on both sides. There it was—a curtain moved. "We're being watched." Somehow, he just knew it was Dru.

Angel saw what had caught Spike's attention. "Noisy neighbor or something more?" he wondered.

"I can't say for sure, but if I was a betting man—it's Dru. It's not like her to be so subtle, but she's smarter than people give her credit for," Spike said.

"You think she's been next to Buffy this whole time?" Angel asked in surprise.

"I think we should go find out," Spike said.

Before they could get to the house, Willow pulled up—Bonnie was with her.

"Hey, guys," Willow said, smiling at them when she got out of the car. She moved to embrace them both.

"Bonnie, you've met Angel and Spike, right? The vamps who Buffy sent Damon to in L. A.?" Willow asked.

Bonnie grinned. "Yes," she said. "Elena showed us more than one video of you guys that Damon made. Glad you guys could make it. Things seem to be about to come to a head."

"Maybe more than you think," Angel said. "Spike thinks Dru is living in the house next door."

Bonnie frowned. "That's impossible. The Tanners live there. They've been on this street for a long time," she said.

"Not anymore," Spike said. "If I'm right and Dru is in there, the neighbors are dead."

Damon's car pulled up. He grinned to see his two L.A. friends. "Guys! Katherine said you were in town," he said. Katherine got out and so did Faith.

"Good to see you, mate," Spike said to his friend. He eyed the house. "We were just about to go visit Willow's neighbor."

"Okay," Damon said with a questioning look.

"Who's the neighbor?" Faith asked, knowing they wouldn't do that unless the need was serious.

"I think Dru is in that house," Spike said.

Faith looked incredulous. "You're shitting me!" she exclaimed. "She's right next to B this whole time? If that's true, Buffy's going to flip her lid!"

The group split up. Damon and Angel took the back in case the occupants tried to go out the back. That left Faith, Willow, Katherine, and Bonnie at the front door behind Spike. Spike started to kick the door down.

"Wait!" Bonnie cautioned. "What if you're wrong? What if the Tanners are actually inside? You can't just kick the door down."

Spike rolled his eyes but rang the doorbell. When no one answered, he turned the knob. "It's not locked," he said. He pushed the door open. The room was dark except for a single lamp casting a small glow. They didn't see anyone. He took a step forward. When no barrier hit him, he smirked back at Bonnie. "See. I told you. Tanners are gone. May they rest in peace."

Bonnie looked pained at his words and followed Katherine as she stepped inside next.

Then Drusilla was there, holding a crossbow. The sudden surprise of her didn't allow for much reaction. Spike said her name, and she grinned happily at him.

"Hello, my Spike," she said. Then she aimed the weapon at Katherine, who was frowning at Spike—she didn't like the vamp's possessive tone. Her distraction cost her as the wooden arrow struck her in the chest. Spike's vision narrowed at the thought that his ex might've just killed his new girl.

Bonnie caught Katherine in her arms. Willow helped sit her down while Spike moved quickly to Dru, grabbing the weapon out of her arms and tossing it away.

"What the hell, Dru?" he exclaimed, angry at her. Feeling this kind of rage at her felt wrong somehow. She'd always made him batty and frustrated. However, he'd not really felt rage. Seeing Katherine hurt, though, enraged him. "Since when did you get so quick to shoot?"

"Since you got that dirty soul and replaced me first with the slayer and then with her!" Dru said sourly. For the first time, Spike didn't see madness in her. He saw reason and ruthlessness—a side of her he had only ever seen on occasion.

Bonnie used her powers to bust a blood vessel in the vampire, not wanting to wait on Spike to act. As Drusilla cried out in pain, falling into Spike, another vampire appeared holding twin crossbows.

Bonnie got an arrow in the arm and cried out in pain. Gently, laying Katherine down, Willow rose to her feet to face the new attacker and gasped in shock and horror as she recognized the vampire helping Drusilla.

"Mother?"

"Hello, Willow," Sheila Rosenberg said coldly. Then she released an arrow, trying to finish off Bonnie. However, Willow moved in front of Bonnie, taking the arrow in the chest.

Damon had kicked in the back door as soon as Bonnie's cry of pain was heard. He didn't hesitate and pushed his hand hard into Sheila's back, grabbing onto her heart and ripping it out. Willow wanted to protest the quick end to her mother, but she couldn't speak. Blood poured out of her mouth.

Angel arrived a step or two behind him just in time to watch Willow collapse.

Bonnie, despite her own injury was trying to help Willow, but she didn't know how.

"Kill her, Spike," Damon bit out as he saw the two girls bleeding out on the floor. Bonnie's wound didn't look critical, but she was human—they were notoriously frail. Willow, though, was fading in front of them.

"Sorry, Dru," Spike said, giving his one-time dark queen a sad smile of regret.

"Is this what we've come to, my bloody William?" Dru asked.

Angel moved to pull her away from Spike. "She's not your mistake, Spike. She's mine," he said. He had done this to the poor girl. The greatest shame of his life—even more than the slaughter of his own family—was what he had done to Drusilla. He had tortured her by killing everyone she loved. He drove her mad with her grief and terror. Then he turned her as he raped her. Angelus deserved a thousand hells for that. Angel, though, could end it now. He staked Drusilla without much hesitation, sparing Spike the guilt that Angel knew the vampire would feel. Spike gave Angel a grateful look. He hadn't really wanted to do it—he wasn't sure he could bear it. As her ashes dissolved, he didn't feel grief, however. He felt relief. She and every part of his old life that Dru represented was gone forever.

Damon was at the feet of the women, trying to give Bonnie blood. His cries of distress reminded Spike of the damage Dru had reeked in a very short window of time. Both he and Angel rushed to the girls, watching Damon try to force Bonnie to drink his blood. She was turning her head, refusing.

"No, Damon. Willow first. She's worse," Bonnie said, crying. She knew Willow was really hurt and would die if he didn't help her.

Damon, though, already knew it was too late.

Willow was dead.

*****To Be Continued*****

Chapter Text

*******Where We Left Off******

Spike kneeled down next to Katherine. She wasn't turning grey. Relief filled him as he realized the arrow in Katherine missed her heart.

"Don't just stand there looking at me!" she scolded. "Pull the damn thing out!"

Damon moved to do just that, not hesitating the way her lover probably would.

"Owww!" she yelled. Then Spike felt relieved as her body began to heal.

"She's dead!" Bonnie yelled as she realized why Damon hadn't moved to Willow's side. Angel was already examining her.

"What?" Spike asked in shock as he kneeled. Willow's face had a look of surprise on it, and her eyes were still open.

"The arrow pierced her heart," Angel said quietly.

"She can't die! Red is the baddest witch on Earth! No way a simple arrow was going to take her out!" Spike insisted as panic and grief filled him.

"She took the arrow for me," Bonnie said as she held Willow in her arms. Damon had already removed her arrow and healed her. "The redhead vamp was about to shoot me again when Willow jumped in front of me."

"She cried out Mom. That vampire must've been her missing mother. She's got the same red hair as Red," Spike said in disgust. "That means Dru turned her mother and killed her father."

"Now she's killed Willow," Bonnie said.

"Good thing that bitch is dead," Damon said grimly.

Angel reached down and picked Willow up in her arms.

"Should we remove the arrow?" Bonnie asked.

Spike nodded. "No need to upset Buffy more than necessary. This is going to destroy her and the whelp," he said. He gently pulled it out.

"Better send messages to Xander and Buffy to meet up," Damon said.

"Where should we take her?" Angel said, looking down at her too still face. He couldn't believe it.

Spike reached over and closed her eyes.

"My place," Damon said. "No need in destroying Buffy's peace in her own home. The image of Willow dead inside it would do exactly that."

They had finally destroyed Dru, but the price was too high.

*****The Mikaelsons*****

Kol had not seen his mother since the party the night before. With the slayer's boyfriend missing, he was highly suspicious. He was trying to decide what to do next when his sister came in with Klaus.

"Where is Mother?" he asked them.

"How would I know?" Klaus said, pouring a drink. He had been occupied trying to determine what to do now that Caroline knew about his involvement with Drusilla. Should he tell Oz himself that way he isn't blamed unduly?

"Is she not in her room?" Rebekah asked, frowning.

"No. Our dear mother hasn't been spotted since the party—the same party that Mr. Saltzman disappeared at. I doubt it's a coincidence," Kol said.

"You think Mother did something with Alaric?" Rebekah asked. "That's ridiculous! What could she possibly want with the man?"

The doorbell rang, interrupting them. Rebekah was closest, so she opened the door. She was surprised to see Damon. "Since when do you ring the doorbell?" she asked, stepping back to let him in.

"People always coming in without announcing themselves is just rude," he said. "I get it too much at my house. Besides I have bad news and am not anxious to share it."

"You found Alaric?" Rebekah asked hopefully. The little slayer was lost without her man, and Rebekah sympathized. To be pregnant and not now where the father of your baby was had to be a nightmare.

"No. Not Rick," Damon said grimly. He nodded to Klaus and Kol who stepped up to hear his news. "We found Dru and her sidekick. She was staying in the house next to Elena—had killed the owners, of course. Angel killed her. I killed the sidekick that turned out to be Willow's recently turned mother."

"Oh God!" Rebekah said in dismay. "Willow must be devastated. I'll go to her now."

Damon reached out to grab her arm. "Wait. She's not at her house," he said. "The two vamps were armed with crossbows. They got Bonnie in the arm, and Willow's mom shot her. She was set to shoot Bonnie again, but Willow got in front of her. She saved Bonnie's life."

Fear and a growing alarm filled Rebekah as she stared at Damon. "She's hurt? Why didn't you heal her?" she asked.

Klaus had a sick feeling inside. Did Willow's own mother kill her? Was the witch dead? The look on Damon's face spoke volumes.

"I'm sorry, Bex," Damon said. "Willow took an arrow straight to her heart. She's dead. It happened too fast, and there was nothing I could do. She died instantly."

"What?" Rebekah asked. "No! That's not funny, Damon. Why would you say that?"

"I couldn't save her," he admitted. He paused as Rebekah tried to take in what he was saying. Then he continued, "We took her to my place. Spike went to get Buffy and Xander."

Rebekah's face held a look of horror as she opened her mouth to speak but said nothing. Her brain refused to allow her to form words. It had to be a mistake. Damon was lying; he was an ass. Surely, this was a misunderstanding. Willow was too powerful to die. She knew that she would have to see Willow before she'd believe anything was wrong. She slapped Damon hard on the face. Whatever happened was his fault. He should've protected Willow because he was the only one fast enough. She glared silently at him. Then she was gone, running out the door.

Kol forgot about his mom as he realized that Willow's death was going to devastate more than just Rebekah. "We need to find Oz," Kol said.

Klaus nodded and ran to his room. Oz was on his computer skyping with Asha in England since the timing was right. "Oz, I need to speak to you," Klaus said. "Something's happened."

"Come over here and say hi to Asha," Oz said, smiling at his friend. He turned the computer toward him.

"Actually, is Rupert handy? I have news that he will want to hear, too," Klaus said to Asha.

Oz became cold all over as he caught the expression on his sire's face. Something was wrong, very wrong. "What is it? What's happened?" he asked in that quiet manner of his. When he saw a look of guilt flash on Klaus' face, he narrowed his eyes. "What did you do?"

"I didn't do anything!" Klaus protested.

Kol was in the doorway and agreed. "Damon and company figured out where that crazy vamp Dru was," he began.

"Oz? How is everything?" Giles asked as he now appeared in front of the computer screen.

"I'm not sure, Giles," Oz said. "Klaus has some news." He angled the computer as Klaus stepped closer, looking grim. "Can you see him?"

"I can," Giles said.

"That vampire Drusilla was the one here killing. They discovered her next to Elena's house. Her partner in crime was Willow's mother," he shared.

"Dear Lord," Giles said, removing his glasses in a familiar gesture. "She must've been the one who killed Willow's dad. What horrific news for Willow!"

Oz could tell from Klaus' hesitancy that there was more. "What else?" he asked.

"They were armed with crossbows, I believe. They are both dead now, but one of them managed to kill Willow," Klaus revealed.

"What?" Giles asked, believing he misunderstood.

"Willow is dead. An arrow pierced her heart, and Damon's blood could not revive her," he said. "You should come. The slayer will need you."

Oz was on his feet. "Where is she?" he demanded.

"At the Salvatores'," Klaus said. "I am sorry for your loss." Surprisingly, he was. In his rage and humiliation, he wanted to hurt the woman who'd managed to hurt him so soundly by sending him to that hell. Now, though, it seemed petty. There hadn't been any permanent damage. He was fine now, hardly thinking of his ordeal.

Unlike Rebekah, Oz walked slowly out the door, his brilliant mind already accepting and processing the loss. He breathed slowly to keep the animal in at bay. His suspicions could not fail to see the look of guilt on Klaus' face. Klaus somehow felt guilty for Willow's death. Maybe, though, there was a mistake. Until he could see her with his own two eyes, he refused to believe that she was gone.

"Klaus, are you sure there is nothing that can be done for Willow?" Giles asked.

"I do not know. I just got the news from Damon," Klaus admitted. "Rebekah went to her."

"Who is telling Xander and Buffy?" Giles asked.

"I believe Angel and Spike are going to her—probably there now," he said.

"I will be there soon," he said. "Prepare your town. I'll be bringing the Coven and several slayers with me."

He signed off and Klaus looked at Kol. "I think this is somehow going to turn into a clusterfuck," Kol said.

"What do you mean?" Klaus asked. He had not confessed his crime to Kol.

"Mother is involved in Rick's disappearance. I know it," Kol said. "The slayer's closet mate is dead and her lover missing? She's going to go bat-shit crazy. Now we have an invasion of slayers and witches heading this way."

"We need to find Mother," Klaus said. "Where's Elijah?"

Kol shrugged. "Probably with Xander," he said. "Xander had visions of Buffy's wedding being bloody. We haven't even gotten to the wedding, and there's already plenty of blood."

"Well, you know the thing with visions and prophecy," Klaus said. "Always open to interpretation and change."

******Buffy's******

Buffy, Xander, and Elijah just made it back to her home, frustrated.

"Where is he, Xander? How could Rick just disappear like that? This town isn't that big!" she complained, throwing her phone onto the couch and lowering her body at a much slower rate.

"He's around somewhere, Buff," Xander assured her, sitting next to her. He put his arm around her.

"It is likely that someone has taken him prisoner," Elijah said.

Xander gave his lover a dark look. "Not necessarily. The dark side of Rick could just be off in a secret lair of some kind," he suggested.

Buffy groaned. "Neither of those scenarios sound good to me," she said, closing her eyes warily. All she wanted was to marry her honey and have his baby. Why was that too much to ask? She'd done her time saving the world. Didn't she deserve a little bit of happiness?

Dawn came downstairs. "Buffy? Did you find Rick?" she asked.

"No," Buffy said glumly. "Did you eat?"

"Matt's picking up some food and bringing it back," Dawn told her.

"That's good. I'm too depressed to bother with dinner," she said.

"Well, we'll head home and pick back up tomorrow," Xander said, getting up. He reached down to squeeze Buffy's shoulder. "Don't give up, Buff. We'll find him. Then we'll get Will to lojack him with some kind of do-hicky, so this can't happen again."

Buffy gave him a wan smile, appreciating him. "Okay. Thanks, Xan. Elijah," she said.

Elijah smiled and moved to the door. He opened it and saw Angel and Spike standing there. "Gentlemen," he said, stepping back to let them in. They looked upset, so he paused to find out what was happening, shutting the door behind them.

"Hey, guys," Buffy said, standing. "Any luck?"

Angel and Spike exchanged looks, both feeling sick at what they were going to do to Buffy by sharing their news. Spike shook his head. "No, we didn't find Rick," he said.

"We found Drusilla, though," Angel said. "She killed Elena's neighbors and was in their house."

"That's how she knew so much!" Buffy said, fuming. "Did you get her?"

Angel nodded. "I did. She's dead, but that's not the worst. Her partner that was helping her was Willow's mom. She had turned Sheila."

"Oh, God!" Buffy exclaimed. "Where's Willow? She must be devastated."

Angel reached for her hand. "Come sit down, Buffy," he said.

Xander was very alarmed. Elijah moved to stand next to him, reaching out to take his hand. "Where is she?" Xander asked, bracing himself. He could see the pain in Angel's eyes. Something terrible had happened.

"Sheila was armed with a crossbow," Angel said. "She shot Bonnie in the arm."

"Is she okay?" Buffy asked in concern.

"She's fine," Angel said. "Sheila, though, shot another bow, trying to kill Bonnie, but Willow jumped in front of her, taking the arrow."

"What? Willow's hurt?" Xander demanded. "Is she in the hospital?"

"She's at Damon's," Spike said.

Xander felt relief. She must be okay then. "Oh. What's with all the dramatics? You scared me to death!" he said, glaring at the two vampires.

Angel shot Spike a dirty look. "What Spike means is Willow's body is at Damon's. The arrow pierced her heart. She's dead," he said, spelling it out for them.

Dawn let her presence be known by wailing and collapsing. Elijah moved and caught her. Spike took her from him and hugged her close. She thought of her mom, Buffy, Tara, and now Willow. It's too much.

"Willow's dead?" Buffy gasped, standing back up. "Willow's too powerful to be killed by some newbie vamp!"

"She doesn't have her magic, Buffy," Angel reminded her. "It happened too fast. She saved Bonnie's life."

Xander felt rage like never before. "Is she dead? Willow's mom? Did you kill her?" he demanded.

"Yes," Angel said, nodding. "It's over."

Buffy fell into Angel's arms sobbing. "No, no, no! It can't be! How can this be happening? Willow is supposed to live forever!" He held her close, worried for her baby. This stress couldn't be good. Where was Rick? It wasn't Angel's job anymore to comfort Buffy.

"Does Rebekah know?" Elijah asked Spike.

Spike nodded. "Damon was telling her. She's probably with Willow now," he said.

"Oz was at the house, too," Elijah said. The witch was beloved by too many people. She had finally been the one to make his sister happy. He glanced worriedly at Xander, whose eyes were black and veiny. Xander wasn't feeling grief yet. He was feeling rage, and it was not his nature. Elijah had to move carefully. "Let's go to the Salvatores'."

Xander pulled away, nodding. But before they could, the front door opened as Matt stepped in. "I got enough—" he paused as he looked and saw the group, taking in the upset. "What's going on?"

Dawn jumped up, throwing herself at him, causing him to drop the bag of food he was carrying. "Willow's dead."

Matt held her close as the heartbreak continued. Buffy cried out for Xander, and he moved quickly to replace Angel, his rage banked for a moment. His girl needed him.

*****An hour later*****

Rebekah had allowed Stefan and Faith to change Willow's clothes, so there wouldn't be any blood on her body. Rebekah felt like she was dying—it felt worse than all the times Niklaus had daggered her. Her beautiful love was so still, so cold. Sheriff Forbes had come and gone, leaving to check on Buffy. Rebekah felt a mild concern for Buffy and the life inside her—humans were too fragile. Look at Willow lying there. Without her magic, she couldn't stop the arrow. Ironic that it was her own mother who had done what Klaus couldn't do.

Oz was sitting on the floor at Rebekah's feet. She held Willow's head in her lap, unwilling to let her go. The sheriff had wanted to call the coroner, but Rebekah refused. Magic could bring her back. Her mother had to fix this—she owed them this.

"Mother will come. She will heal her," Rebekah kept saying.

Damon looked at Stefan. "Barbie Original is going batty on us. Doesn't she realize you can't heal death?" he murmured.

"Shut up," Stefan said.

Faith hung up her phone and joined them. "Giles is already on his way. I guess, he pretty much left as soon as Klaus told him. He's brining several coven members and slayers who were closest to Will. If Rick's still alive, they'll find them. B needs her man now more than ever," she said.

Oz felt the wolf try to break free. Willow had been his anchor, then his catalyst. Her death left a place inside him void. He needed his mate. It was too soon to ask Asha to come, but he really wished she was here.

Kol and Klaus came in, concerned for their sister.

"Did you find Mother?" Rebekah asked as soon as she saw them.

"No. We've been looking the past hour," Kol said. "I think she took Mr. Saltzman."

"What?"

They looked toward the new voice and saw Buffy with pretty much everyone else they knew. Bonnie and Caroline were there as well as Dawn and Matt. Elijah and Xander held up the rear. Even Sheriff Forbes had returned again along with Spike and Angel. Only Illyria was missing.

"Mother hasn't been seen since the party," Kol explained. "The same party that Mr. Saltzman disappeared from. It cannot be a coincidence."

"Why would Mother take Alaric?" Rebekah asked, frowning.

"I do not know," Kol said.

"We don't know anything for sure," Elijah said, trying to keep everyone calm.

"If your mother has taken Rick for some nefarious purpose, I'll make sure she is sent to a hell that she'll never escape from!" Buffy exclaimed.

Rebekah opened her mouth to protest, but then she looked down at Willow. Fighting with Willow's closest friend seemed wrong right now.

"I can't believe that Willow's own mother is the one that killed her," Caroline said, shaking her head. She flashed Klaus a reproachful look that was noticed by both Xander and Elijah.

Suspicion filled Xander as he attacked Klaus, his hand around his neck, knocking him into the nearby piano. "What did you do?" he demanded.

Oz looked up and stood. "Xander!" he exclaimed. "Now isn't the time for fighting. Klaus didn't kill Willow. He wasn't even there!"

"Sorry, Oz, but Klaus reeks of guilt. I can smell it. Surely, you can?" Xander said. The fact that Klaus wasn't fighting Xander spoke volumes.

Oz and Elijah both moved to stand on Klaus. "He's right," Oz said as Klaus' guilt registered on his senses. "What did you do? Why do you feel guilty for Willow's death?"

Caroline looked alarmed and stepped away to call Illyria. Illyria wouldn't let anyone hurt Klaus since she had a thing for him. The Old One was still out searching for Rick.

Klaus resigned himself. Oz's eyes—damn those eyes—pushed him to confess. "I did nothing and did not know Drusilla was coming here. Nor did I tell her to," he said, trying to make himself look as innocent as possible before revealing his part.

"Tell the truth—the complete truth," Oz ordered. "You owe me that."

Unwilling to deny his closest companion anything, Klaus admitted, "I did, however, find Drusilla in New York months ago and introduce myself. I had just come from hell and wanted vengeance on Willow."

Xander released him, stepping back. "You turned Drusilla loose on Will?" he asked, shocked even though he had been suspicious.

"Not exactly. I just told her that Willow's parents were in the state," Klaus said. "I didn't know she'd be so crazy. Or that she'd come to Mystic Falls to torment the slayer and everyone."

"Drusilla hated Buffy because Spike loved Buffy," Angel said, coming close. "You basically sent a rabid dog loose in their world."

"She sent me to hell! You can't imagine how awful that was!" Klaus protested.

"Can't I?" Angel said coldly. "The woman I loved sent me to one when my demon took control. I spent 300 years in torment. I came back no better than a rabid dog, but my soul and senses eventually returned. I never lifted a finger against her. You have a soul. What is your excuse?"

"His excuse is that he is unused to anyone getting the better of him," Elijah said sadly. "Willow did what no one ever has."

Klaus felt cornered. All eyes were looking at him various degrees of hate, disgust, and disappointment. Rage was quickly growing. "That's right! And she deserved to be punished! But if I wanted her dead, I just would've killed her. This was not my will or desire!" he insisted.

"Never have you wanted me to be happy. Not with Marcel, nor Stefan or anyone. Finally, I was happy. I had someone that loved me. Someone that wasn't afraid of you," Rebekah said, her anger pushing away her despair. "You can't stand to see any of us happy because you are so miserable! Get out of my sight!"

"That's not true, Rebekah!" Klaus protested. "I love you. I knew Marcellus wanted something more than you. You weren't enough for him. And Stefan loved my doppelganger—in the 20's, he was a ripper, unable to love you at all. I was protecting you! I never wanted anything but your happiness."

"A thousand years of pain at your hand tells me otherwise," Rebekah said, tears falling down her cheek at this latest betrayal. She looked down at Willow, her heart breaking all over again at her brother's final betrayal.

Xander looked at Angel. "Go back to L.A. Find someone strong enough to put this rapid dog down," he said, not wanting to risk Buffy in her current state.

Oz finally spoke. "No. He's going to leave," Oz said. "Leave and don't return."

"Oz—" Klaus began and was cut off.

"Stop!" Oz ordered. "I don't want to hear another word. Banishment did wonders for Damon. Maybe it will help you see what you've done. Actions have consequences, Klaus. You can't keep behaving as if nothing you do matters. You're no vampire king, so stop acting like you are."

Buffy finally spoke. "No. He killed Willow. Everything is his fault. He deserves to die," she said firmly. She looked at Faith. "Go get my scythe. It worked on Finn. Let's see if it works on him."

Her words silenced the group.

*****To Be Continued*****

Thoughts? Take a minute to comment!

Chapter Text

******Where We Left Off******

Although Buffy's words stunned the group, Damon stepped forward. "I hate to point out the obvious, but you can't kill Klaus. He dies, I die, Stefan dies, and wolf boy die as well as Elijah's boy toy," Damon said, pointing to Xander.

Buffy glared. "Fine, but I can use it to slice off some of his body parts. He doesn't need a dick since he is such a big one to begin with!" she insisted.

Faith snickered. "Okay, I'm always up for some torture. I'll go get a blade or three," she said and left before Buffy could change her mind.

She met Elena outside. "Why is Illyria talking to the rose bush?" she asked Faith, pointing across the yard.

"She's got some mojo with greenery," Faith said shrugging. "I'm going to get my blade in the trunk. She wants to cut off Klaus' body parts."

Elena grinned. "Really? Do you think she'll let me take a swing?" she asked hopefully.

"Maybe if you play the dead family card," Faith said over her shoulder as she kept walking toward her car.

"If you think I'm going to let you dismember me, you're not as smart as I thought you were," Klaus said coldly.

"No one is going to dismember anyone," Caroline said. "Klaus made a mistake. I liked Willow, but you can't put this all on Klaus. Willow did something horrible to him like it was nothing."

"He deserves to suffer," Xander said angrily. He charged Klaus, but Elijah moved to stand in front of Klaus.

"Stop, Alexander," Elijah said, holding up his hand.

"You're going to defend him?" Xander asked incredulous.

"He is my brother," Elijah said simply. "No one knows better than I what he is capable of doing. However, I believe him when he says he did not know how unstable Drusilla was."

"So killing Willow's parents was okay?" Xander asked angrily.

"I killed no one!" Klaus denied.

"You are responsible," Buffy said in anger.

"How about everyone take a beat?" Sheriff Forbes said. For a long moment, there was silence.

"Rick has disappeared. Now my best friend is dead because of you. You deserve to suffer," Buffy said coldly.

Faith came back with the two swords, only short and one long. "Here you go. I had these in the trunk. Hold him still, and I will start chopping!" Faith said with determination. She gave one of the swords to Buffy.

Then Illyria walked into the house, realizing much had happened in her absence. "What is amiss? Why are you holding your weapon when there is no enemy?" she asked.

"Klaus is the reason Willow is dead," Buffy told her.

"Did he kill the witch? I thought it was the vampire Drusilla?" Illyria asked, arching her eyebrow.

"Not with his own hands, but he pointed the gun!" Buffy insisted.

"That does not make him her murderer," Illyria said.

"What she means is Klaus met with Drusilla in New York, and he told her where Willow's parents were. They died because of him. Willow's mom was a vampire because of him!" Xander exclaimed. "And Willow's dead because of him!"

"So we're going to cut off bits of him like his balls or legs," Faith said, lifting the scythe. "We can't kill him, but we want him to suffer."

"You will not harm my mate," Illyria coldly. "He is the strongest of you all. The only one that is worthy of me. If you harm him, I will harm you."

Caroline arched her eyebrow. Surprised and relived at Illyria's defense even if Illyria's claim bothered her more than a little.

"Thank you, Illyria, but I do not need anyone to fight my battles," Klaus said angrily. "If the slayer wants to attack me, I'll rip off her head!"

"No, Klaus, you won't," Stefan said, now angry at Klaus for threatening Faith.

Damon sighed, feeling that this was about to turn into a massacre. He admired Klaus' ingenuity and felt a bit of sympathy for the guy's plight. An ingenuous revenge plot went sideways. Damon had experienced the same thing more than once. However, he wasn't about to let baby bro get in the middle of this. He moved behind Klaus' snapping his neck to defuse the situation.

"I will rip out your spine!" Illyria said angrily.

"Klaus is fine," Angel assured her.

"We need to immobilize him before he comes to," Buffy said.

"You are not hurting my brother," Elijah said firmly.

"I don't take orders from you," Buffy said, glaring at him.

"What's going on?" a voice from behind them asked. Everyone turned. It was Esther.

"About bloody time!" Kol said. "Where the hell have you been?"

"I was collecting ingredients for a spell to help Elena," Esther said. "I got Rebekah's message and came right here."

"You have to bring her back to me, Mother!" Rebekah said, embracing her mother.

Esther hugged her only daughter, not enjoying her pain but knowing it was good that she was so distracted. She saw Willow's still form. "I am sorry for your loss, my dear," she said.

"Bring her back, Mother!" Rebekah begged.

"I cannot do that," Esther said. "Nor will I. I have messed enough with nature."

"I will take Niklaus home," Elijah said, bending down to get his brother.

"We're not just going to let you leave with him," Faith said, gripping her sword.

"I do not wish to hurt any of you," Elijah said. "But my brother will not be harmed by any of you."

"Nor will I allow it," Illyria said coldly.

"Everyone needs to calm down," Liz said. "You're reacting to grief. Let's get him out of here and not fight. It isn't the time."

"Getting pay back for what happened to Willow will make me feel much better," Buffy said.

"That's not going to bring Willow back," Caroline interjected. She looked at Oz. "Oz, you know that Klaus cares about you. He wouldn't have had Willow killed because he knows how much she means to you. You're his friend, and I know you don't want to see him hurt."

Oz felt a pang of guilt because he knew that Caroline was right. Instead of arguing, though, he turned and walked out of the house. He needed to forget—for a bit. He began stripping off his clothes, and when he was naked, allowed the change to come over him. Then he went running into the woods behind the house, wanting to lose himself in his beast, his howls piercing the air.

Xander was eying Elijah with a betrayed look. They were a new couple, but he had believed Elijah loved him. Yet he didn't stand with Xander but with Klaus. When Elijah, who was carrying Klaus over his shoulder, Caroline, Kol, and Illyria walked out, Xander did not follow.

"I can't believe Elijah stood against me," Xander muttered.

Rebekah looked up at him. "Elijah will always choose Nik. Always and forever. It might not mean anything to Nik, but it means everything to Elijah," Rebekah said. "He will choose Nik over his own happiness. It's happened again and again. I'm sorry. It doesn't mean my brother doesn't care about you. It just means that our family means more."

Xander felt like he'd been punched in the gut.

"So what's the play, B?" Faith asked.

"I-I don't know," Buffy said, her anger gone. Wariness took its place. She sat down on the nearest chair.

"I think we need to take a minute to decompress," Liz said. "Giles will be here tomorrow, and he will help plan the funeral."

Buffy got up and went to Willow's body, looking down at her. "How could she be gone?" she asked.

All of a sudden, her body began to rise off the couch, causing Buffy to step back in surprise. "What the hell?" she exclaimed.

Everyone gaped in shock as Willow's body began rising several feet higher and paused.

"What's happening?" Xander asked, looking at Faith.

"How the hell would I know?" Faith asked.

"Feel her pulse. Make sure she's still dead," Bonnie suggested. "She's a powerful witch. Maybe the power that bound her is healing her."

Buffy's hand reached out for Xander's. "Please, God!" she begged.

Liz stepped forward and put her hand on Willow's throat. Her body still felt cold and lifeless. There was no pulse. "No. She's still dead," she said.

"What the hell is happening?" Xander said. He wished Elijah was here. Then he got angry again, thinking about why he wasn't.

"Obviously, it's something magical, right?" Elena said, looking at Bonnie, who seemed at a loss.

"The last time this happened magic flew out of her, remember?" Xander reminded them of the time a hexed Oz had ripped out her throat.

"I guess we'll just have to wait," Bonnie said.

"For what? For her to stop floating? To come back to us?" Buffy wondered.

No one knew.

*****Mikealsons******

Elijah didn't quite make it to their home before Klaus woke back up. "Who snapped my neck?" he demanded.

"Does it matter, brother? They all want you dead," Elijah said.

"It was Damon," Kol said. "Smart move. He could see Stefan was about to play knight to his slayer and attack you for threatening his girl."

They went inside. Esther thought about how she wanted to handle her children. It wouldn't be long now. Soon they'll all be together again, and Finn would be with them. Now he was waiting for them on the Other Side.

Illyria eyed the witch mother with distrust. Her instinct was telling her that the slayers were not the biggest threat to Klaus.

*****To Be Continued*****

Chapter Text

******The Next Day******

Rebekah woke up in one of the many beds in the Salvatore mansion. She sat up in a rush, instinctively searching the room for signs of Willow. Did she come back to them? Was she now among the living? There was no sign of her in the room, so she raced down the stairs and saw Willow still encased in white.

"What the hell is going on?" she wondered.

"It's pretty wicked, huh?" Faith observed, sipping a cup of coffee. "I figure, though, if she was going to stay dead this wouldn't be happening. Gotta stay positive. I bet she'll be five by five in no time."

"I hope you're right," Rebekah said. "I just hoped that she'd be awake this morning or something."

"Red witchy not back in the land of the living?" Damon asked, coming into the room.

"No. No change," Rebekah said with a sigh. "I think I'm going to go home and freshen up. Will someone call me if there's a change?"

"Sure," Faith said.

"I'm going to be looking for Rick, but Stefan should be around," Damon said.

"You should start hiding from my brother," Rebekah said. "He won't appreciate the neck break."

Damon smirked. "I did him a favor, and you know it," Damon said. "He will, too. He came back from hell and set things in motion when he was all angry and traumatized. Everybody over reacted. I just diffused the situation."

"Overreacted?" Faith said. "Red is dead 'cause of the things he set in motion."

"She's dead 'cause she got in the way of a cross bolt meant for Bonnie. It's as simple as that," Damon said. "Klaus has made a lot of vamps in his too long life, but he didn't turn Willow's mother. If he had, none of this probably would have happened to begin with since our kind of vamp isn't soulless. It's as simple as that. Him having a conversation with a crazy vampire doesn't make him an evil mastermind of this story."

"So it was just bad luck or coincidence?" Faith said with a snort.

"Not saying that. I'm just saying, he probably wanted Will to suffer. He probably wanted the whack job vamp to kill her parents. But I doubt he could've predicted how it would all turn out," Damon said.

"I'm wary of this argument. I'm leaving," Rebekah said. "I'll be back." She went out the front door.

Damon's cell rang. He pulled it and looked at the ID. "It's Rick!" he exclaimed. He answered it. "Buddy, where are you? Are you okay?"

"I don't know what the hell happened to me," Rick said. "I woke up near the Lockwood estate. I'm heading home to Buffy now."

"She could use some good news. Something happened to Willow. She's dead," Damon said. "We think."

"What?" Rick asked.

"Just get home safely to your woman. She'll explain. I see you soon, brother," he said hanging.

"Rick's safe?" Faith asked hopefully.

"Yes. Finally, some good news," Damon said.

"Most definitely," she said. "Where was he?"

"He said he woke up near the Lockwood's estate. He doesn't know what happened," Damon said.

"I'm going to go tell Stefan," she said, turning.

Damon couldn't help but wonder what went on with Rick. Why did he disappear? Who was behind it? With Drusilla dead, he didn't like knowing there might be another enemy out there.

*****Summers*****

Buffy was about to go to a doctor's appointment when she heard her front door open. She came out of the kitchen and stopped, relieved that it was Rick.

"I'm so sorry," Rick began. But Buffy ran to embrace him, cutting him off with a passionate kiss. Then she pulled back and looked him over for injuries. For a long moment, she closed her eyes in relief.

Then her eyes opened and narrowed. "Where the hell have you been?" she asked.

"I don't know what happened," he admitted. "I remember being at the Mikaelson 's party. Then it's black. I really don't know what the hell happened to me. I woke up on the Lockwood property."

Buffy frowned, not liking how this sounded. "I haven't heard any reports of you killing anyone," she said.

Rick looked ill. "I can't believe this is the kind of thing we have to deal with. I have a psycho alter ego living inside me that can take control at any moment," he said, feeling helpless.

"We'll figure it out," she assured him.

"We better figure it out soon," Rick said, frustrated.

"I have a doctor's appointment. Do you want to go with me?" she asked.

"I need a shower. Do you have time?" he asked.

Buffy nodded. "I always leave early, so I can read the baby magazines they have in the office. I can't seem to find time to do it here," she said with a sheepish smile.

Rick pulled her close for a hug. "I love you, Buffy. More than anything. I don't know what's happening with me," he said, his voice breaking.

Buffy returned his hug and then looked up at him. "It's going to be okay. Giles will be here soon, and he'll know what to do. You and I are getting married in ten days if I have to go speak to the Powers That Be themselves!" she vowed.

Rick smiled, his heart full of emotion. How did he get a woman like this to love him? He would find a way to be the husband she deserved.

It wasn't much later that they were at the doctor's office and waited patiently as the doctor checked her.

"Are you ready for your ultra-sound?" the doctor asked.

Buffy grinned and reached for Rick's hand. "Most definitely, yes!" Buffy said.

The doctor smiled and put the gel on her stomach. "Will you be able to tell us the sex?" Rick asked.

"Do you want to know?" the doctor asked.

Buffy looked at Rick, who smiled and nodded. "We do. I hate waiting!" she shared.

"There," the doctor said, pointing to the monitor.

Buffy couldn't believe it—the face was visible. "This isn't like the one in my baby book my mother showed me," she said in awe.

"No," the doctor acknowledged. "They've come a long way with imaging."

"Does the baby look okay?" Rick asked anxiously.

"Well, the size is slightly above average," the doctor said, looking at the screen.

Buffy flashed Rick a proud grin. "That's obviously your DNA," she told him.

Rick chuckled. "Is it a girl?" he wondered. "Then she'll be strong like her momma."

Buffy frowned a moment, not sure she liked the idea of her daughter being a slayer or having the burden that she did. However, the doctor spoke, alleviating her fears.

"It's a boy," she said.

"What?" Buffy asked in amazement. "Are you sure?"

The doctor pointed at the screen. "You can see right there that it's a boy," she said.

"A boy? We're having a boy?" Rick asked in awe.

"Alexander Rupert Saltzman has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?" Buffy asked excitedly.

"It kind of does," he admitted.

"Saltzman is the only American last name that actually fits Rupert," Buffy said laughing. "I can't wait to tell everyone. Will's going to freak!" She stopped abruptly and teared up. "Oh, God, Rick! Willow is dead!"

The doctor's eyes widened in alarm. "Excuse me?" she asked.

"Her best friend was killed very recently," Rick explained.

"I'm so sorry," the doctor replied. "I'll give you a moment."

"Baby, don't cry," Rick said, wiping Buffy's face with a tissue he grabbed off a table. "Everything's going to be okay."

"Is it, Rick?" Buffy asked. "I want to believe that, but I can't. Something's really wrong with you, and we have no idea what. We're supposed to be married in less than two weeks, and my maid of honor is dead." Her emotions were a roller coaster since she became pregnant. One moment she would feel fine and then next, tears.

"Are we sure about that? You said she was floating and glowing," Rick said. "I have a ring that brings me back from the dead. It was created by magic, so surely a woman with as much magic as Willow can find a way to conquer death."

"You really think so?" Buffy asked hopefully.

"I do," Rick said. "But if I'm wrong, it's not going to change the fact that you and I are going to have a son in a few months."

"I can't wait to see him," Buffy said.

The nurse came in. "Are you two okay?" she asked.

"I'm fine now," Buffy said. "Can we go?"

"Give us a minute to get you cleaned up," the nurse said. She moved to wipe Buffy's stomach, and the doctor came back in.

"We have images of your baby printing up for you to take with you," she told them.

Buffy smiled and thanked the women. She was left alone with Rick so that she could change back into her clothes. Finding out she was having a son made her happy, but she still felt scared and unbalanced, not a feeling she was used to, and it pissed her off. When she found out who was causing her man to be messed up in the head, someone was going to pay.

*****Mikaelsons*****

Xander stayed with Buffy, but when the sun came up, he decided to go to the Mikaelsons and talk to Elijah. "Gotta man up," he muttered as he nervously opened their front door.

Esther smiled at him. "Good morning, Alexander," she said. "There's coffee in the kitchen."

"Thanks," Xander said. He decided to put off talking to Elijah a few minutes longer and went to the kitchen.

Kol was there. "Hey, mate," he said.

"Hey," Xander said, grabbing a cup out of the cabinet.

"Have you seen Oz?" Kol asked.

"No," Xander said. "He didn't stay at Buffy's."

"He didn't come home," Kol said.

"He just needs some time," Xander said.

"I didn't know he was even capable of getting mad," Kol remarked.

"He's a cool customer, but, I've seen him mad. Once," Xander said. "It was senior year when Faith and the Mayor kidnapped Willow. Wesley, Buffy and Faith's Watcher, wanted us to wait to rescue her. Oz broke something to show his anger." Xander grinned. "He didn't yell, though."

"Good morning, Alexander," Elijah said, coming into the room.

Xander gave him a cool look and said nothing as he sipped his coffee.

"Will you give us a moment?" Elijah said to Kol.

Kol nodded. "Sure. Better learn to grovel, brother," he said, grinning and slapping his oldest brother's shoulder as he walked out.

"I'm glad you came home," Elijah said. He sat down in the chair next to Xander.

"I'm surprised you noticed," Xander said.

"Of course, I noticed," Elijah said.

Xander remained silent.

"How long have you been friends with Willow?" Elijah asked.

"Since we were five," Xander said.

"So not even twenty years," Elijah said. "And you met Buffy ten years later, right?"

Xander nodded. "But surviving a literal hellmouth draws a group close," he pointed out.

"Yes," Elijah said in agreement. "Imagine nine hundred years with them. Surviving wars, angry mobs, a psychopathic father set to destroy you. Nine hundred years."

"I thought it was a thousand," Xander questioned.

"Well, at least a hundred of them Niklaus was an ass, and either staked me or Rebekah, so I'm not counting those," Elijah said with a faint smile.

"So your saying that we haven't known each other long enough for me to matter nearly as much," Xander said with a shrug. "I get it."

Elijah reached for his hand. "No, I don't think you do," Elijah said. "You matter. If Niklaus was trying to hurt you, I'd stand in front of you. I'd fight him, try to kill him even if he can't die. But he wouldn't try to hurt you because he knows you are not in any way a threat to the family or bad for me. One thing our sister cannot always see is that Niklaus is always looking for threats against us. Most of the men he deemed unworthy of her were, or they didn't love her enough. He can always tell these things. Even with Marcellus. Marcellus wanted to be a vampire and desired the power it brought more than he desired our sister. Rebekah, though, refuses to see that."

"But you do, so you just let him break her heart whenever," Xander said in disgust. He pulled his hand away.

"One does not let Niklaus do anything. He does what he wants," Elijah said. "Sometimes, I get him to listen to reason, and sometimes I do not. Your Willow is the very first in centuries that managed to truly frighten him. Only our father ever had that distinction. He acted rashly as he is prone to do. Unlike myself, Niklaus was turned at nineteen. He is frozen as a young man, whose emotions never cool or learn to temper."

"So that makes what he does okay?" Xander asked.

"I am not saying that," Elijah said. "I'm just saying that his actions are understandable, not excusable. I know that he regrets that his actions led to Willow's death. He knows how much she matters to Rebekah and Oz. Oz is the first friend he's had in a long time."

"So where does that leave me? You'll stand by me as long as I agree with your brother?" Xander asked. "How's that going to work?"

"I made a vow, Alexander," Elijah said. "My vow isn't always convenient, but it's sacred."

Xander didn't say anything. What could he say? He sort of understood, but it didn't make it hurt any less.

"Will you stay with me?" Elijah asked.

"Would it make much of a difference to you if I didn't?" Xander asked bluntly.

A pained look came into Elijah's eyes, and then it was gone. "It would," he said simply. "I'm sorry that I hurt you."

Xander could tell him meant it. "It's okay. I'm a big boy, and I'll get over it," he said with a shrug.

"I don't want you to simply to get over it," Elijah said, giving him an intent look. "I want you to forgive me." He reached again for Xander's hand.

Xander glared at him. "Don't look at me like that," he said, feeling his anger slip away.

Elijah smiled and tugged him closer for a kiss. He rested his forehead against Xander's and said, "I love you, Alexander Lavelle Harris. I do not love easily, and my love is a commitment to you."

Xander pulled back so that he could look him in the eye. "You mean it?"

Elijah nodded. "I do," he said.

"Okay, then," Xander said, satisfied. His phone rang. It was Damon. "Damon never calls me." He opened it up and answered it.

"Rick is okay. He's with Buffy now," he shared.

"Really?" Xander asked, relieved.

"Yes," Damon answered. "He didn't remember what happened. Woke up on the Lockwood property."

"Buffy had a doctor's appointment, so I bet he went with her," Xander said.

"Good. Now we need to get Bonnie on trying to figure out what the hell is going on with him," Damon said.

"That's a good idea. Maybe Elijah's witch mother can help him," Xander said.

"I would not trust the witch," Illyria said, stepping out of the doorway she'd been standing in.

"What was that?" Damon asked.

"Illyria says we shouldn't trust their mother, which is something I've said before, too," Xander said.

"Well, she is even more ancient than that family, so I'd go with her instincts," Damon said. "I don't know her as well as Spike, but she was an actual god at one time."

Xander said goodbye and looked at Elijah. "She's your mother. Do you trust her?" he asked.

"She did kill all five of her children and turn us into vampires," Elijah pointed out. "She does seem sincere now, however."

"I guess we'll find out," Xander said.

"If she dares to harm my hybrid, I will rip out her spine," Illyria informed them before turning and quitting the room.

"Illyria sure has a way with words," Xander said. Then he grinned. "She is seriously stuck on your brother!"

"Which brother?" Klaus said, coming into the room. "Good morning, Xander."

"Alexander was remarking on Illyria's attachment to you," Elijah said. "She does not trust our mother and thinks she means you harm."

"Illyria said that she was going to rip out your mother's spine if she harms you," Xander said.

"Hmm," Klaus said thoughtfully. "Illyria isn't human and has none of the weaknesses of humans, so she isn't swayed or influenced by sentiment."

"Meaning we are?" Xander asked.

"Of course," Klaus said. "I would not dismiss her out of hand. We should be on guard."

Rebekah came into the room. "I see you're plotting your next diabolical move," she said, glaring at Klaus.

"Good morning to you, too, sister," Klaus said, smirking at her.

"How's the neck?" she asked with her own smirk.

"Fine, thanks," he said. "How's the lover? Still dead?"

Rebekah gasped and moved to charge him when Elijah intervened. "Niklaus, that was uncalled for," he said. "Control your tongue."

Klaus looked contrite for a moment.

"I loathe the sight of you," Rebekah said angrily. "I'm taking a shower, and then I'm heading back to the Salvatores."

Esther came into the room. "There you are, my dear," she said, moving to hug her daughter. "Are you all right?"

"Not really," Rebekah said.

"Tonight, I want to cook you a special dinner. I am going to order a nice lamb. I'll make that special sauce you love," Esther said.

"I will return then," Rebekah said.

After she walked out, Esther said to Xander. "I hope you don't mind, Xander. I want to spend some time with my children," she said.

"Not at all. We have friends coming from England this afternoon, so I'll be busy with them anyway," Xander said. "I'm going to go try and track down Oz."

"He did not stay with you last night?" Klaus asked, frowning.

"No," Xander said. "He wasn't at Buffy's."

"Your hybrid is an extraordinary young man," Esther said. "I'm sure he is fine."

"I will come with you, " Elijah said to Xander.

"One moment, brother," Klaus said.

Xander nodded. "I'm going to go upstairs and change. I'll be back down in a bit," he said. Then he left.

"I am going to go shopping for dinner," Esther told them. "I will see you later."

"Good day, mother," Elijah said, kissing her cheek before she left.

After she was gone, Klaus looked at Elijah and said, "Thank you for standing with me last night."

"You are my brother—for good or bad," Elijah said simply.

"I am glad that your actions did not cause a rift between you and Xander," Klaus told me.

"He was hurt, but he understands. He is very loyal to his friends as I am to you," Elijah said.

"It means everything to know that you are by my side," Klaus said.

"I know that you would not seek to hurt either Rebekah or Oz this way. You are often rash, but not needlessly cruel to those you love," Elijah said.

Klaus put his hand on Elijah's shoulder. "Thank you, brother, for understanding me when others do not," Klaus said.

"Always and forever," Elijah reminded him, putting his hand on Klaus for a moment.

Klaus stepped away. "I believe I have lost my hybrid," he commented.

"Don't be too hard on Oz. He loved Willow as a human. He loved her as a werewolf. As a hybrid, all his feelings are magnified, so he feels hurt and betrayal even deeper," Elijah said.

"I fear he will not forgive what my actions led to," Klaus said admitted.

"He will. He is just in pain," Elijah said. "Give him time."

"Do you think we need to be wary of Mother?" Klaus asked.

"You did kill her, and she is a witch," Elijah reminded him.

"True," Klaus said, frowning.

"We will deal with whatever she brings—if anything," Elijah said.

"Together," Klaus said.

"Together," Elijah agreed.

*****The Airport*****

Giles closed the book he was reading as the plane landed in Richmond, Virginia. Andrew was next to him.

"Do you think things will be bad in Mystic Falls?" Andrew wondered.

"I think any circumstances that causes the death of the most powerful witch alive has to be bad," Giles said grimly. "Although the vampires might be dead who caused Willow's death, I fear things in Mystic Falls are not good. Buffy needs us."

"We will be there for the Queen Slayer and her progeny," Andrew said in the lofty way of his.

Giles rolled his eyes. "Don't bloody call her that to her face. She has enough to be stressed about," he warned.

"We brought a dozen slayers with us. Two dozen more will be here in another day or so," Andrew said. "If there's evil a foot in Mystic Falls, we'll put it down. If a slayer can't handle whatever is going on, the witches we brought will."

Giles nodded and pulled on his cell to turn it on. He had several text messages. "It looks like Rick has returned safely home," Giles said as he read. Then he frowned. "Somehow, Klaus is behind this, or they suspect he is. Buffy almost killed him. Elijah stood with Klaus. Xander is upset."

Andrew looked stricken. "We will be fighting the Mikaelsons?" he asked in dismay. He had fallen hard for the debonair Elijah, looking up to him as the epitome of elegance and manliness.

"I hope not," Giles said as he called Liz.

"Hello," she said.

"We are in the States. We'll rent some cars and be there soon," he told his fiancée.

Liz closed her eyes in relief. "Thank God," she said. "I miss you so much that I cannot bear it some days."

Giles felt a wealth of emotion at her words. "I feel the same," he shared. "I will see you soon. I love you."

"I love you, too," Liz said. She put away her phone and rang the doorbell at Damon's.

He opened the door. "Hey, Liz. Come on in," Damon said.

"You heard the good news?" Liz asked.

"Yes, Rick called a while ago," Damon said.

"I went to the Lockwood estate and could not find any evidence of foul play," she shared. She followed him into the living room and gaped. "What's going on here?"

"Oh, well, that's Willow. She's all white and glowy, but she was or is dead. Her mother was turned by the insaneo vamp that's been leaving bodies everywhere. Willow's mommy dearest tried to kill Bon-Bon with a crossbow, but Willow jumped in front of her, taking the arrow straight to the heart. I couldn't heal her," Damon said.

"Yea, I know about that, but what's going on there!" Liz said, pointing at the body as it began rising off the couch.

Damon's eyes widened. "Stefan!" he called out. "Faith!"

The two appeared. "What's wrong?" Stefan asked as they walked down the stairs.

"Something's happening with Willow," Damon said. Stefan and Faith stepped into the room only to see Willow's body floating toward them.

"What the hell?" Faith asked, freaked.

"What should we do?" Liz asked.

"This is witch business. How the hell should I know?" Damon asked. "I'll call Bonnie." He pulled out his phone and started to call when his front door opened.

They all looked expectantly, but there was no one at the door. When Willow's body began going toward the door, it became clear why the door was opened.

"We can't just let her body float away!" Faith said, upset. "What will we tell Buffy?"

"What will we tell Rebekah?" Stefan countered.

The body wasn't moving fast, but it moved steadily out the door. They followed it and saw that Rebekah was pulling up in her car. Her eyes widened in alarm when she saw the floating body.

"We don't know what's going on," Damon told her before she could ask. "She just started levitating and the door opened on its own. Now this."

Rebekah felt hope building inside her. "She must be coming back to us!" she exclaimed. "Call Buffy."

Faith pulled out her phone to do so. Stefan sent a message to Xander while Damon finished calling Bonnie.

The body steadily moved to the backside of the house.

"It's heading to the trees," Stefan remarked.

"Why?" Rebekah wondered as they slowly followed the floating body.

They were several yards into the woods when the body stopped moving and laid at the base of a large oak tree. Rebekah moved to reach out and touch Willow, but some type of field barred her from touching her.

"She's protected by something," Rebekah said, frowning.

Plants and vines began coming out of the ground and wrapping around Willow at an incredible rate.

"What's happening?" Faith said, gaping.

"We have to stop it!" Rebekah exclaimed, feeling scared.

"How?" Stefan asked.

"Don't do anything. This is some major mojo," Damon said. "Don't interfere."

In less than two minutes, Willow was covered in plant life. The white glow left her, and her face was partially visible.

Rebekah knelt next to her and slowly reached her hand out. She felt nothing. "I think the force field is gone," she said.

"Don't try to free her!" Damon advised. "This is happening for a reason. Let it be. Bonnie is coming."

"So is Buffy and everyone," Faith said. She looked down at Willow. This was the freakiest thing she'd ever seen, and in her life as a slayer, she'd seen a lot of freaky things.

"I just hope this is a good thing," Stefan murmured to her.

Faith was thinking the same thing. A dead extremely powerful witch glowing and then burying herself could be a good thing. Right?

*****To Be Continued******

Thanks so much for reading and following this tale and series. Not much more, but I'd love a review.

Chapter Text

******On Another Plane of Existence*****

Willow felt the pain from the crossbow, and then everything went dark. Now she opened her eyes.

"Wake, daughter," a voice said.

Thinking her mom was okay and the rest was a nightmare, Willow sat up eagerly and looked around. She was in a familiar garden; its beauty without compare. She saw the long-haired woman standing nearby, smiling at her. Recognition bloomed in Willow.

"Gaia!" she exclaimed. "Where am I? Did I die?"

"Yes, my child, you did," Gaia said solemnly. "You died saving the life of another—the greatest gift one can give another."

"So Bonnie is okay?" Willow asked.

"She is," Gaia said.

"Good," Willow said in relief. "What happens now? Do I stay here with you or go on to another place?"

"No begging to be sent back or tears of sorrow for all you'll miss?" Gaia asked.

"Well, I messed with death after bringing Buffy back. I don't think I should try to do it again," Willow said. "Besides, Buffy said heaven was pretty amazing."

"There are many heavens as there are many hells," Gaia said. "Your slayer friend went to the place all warriors go when they give their life for humanity. You acted on instinct, not truly knowing your act would end your life. Although brave, it was not the same as Buffy Summers. She knew jumping in her sister's stead would save her reality and take her life. The Key was not really her sister. She is power and energy, ancient. Older than the Earth itself. The Key she calls Dawn became her real sister the moment Buffy Summers saw her as such and loved her enough to die in her place. Such sacrifice and evidence of love is more powerful than death or magics. If the Powers had not felt Buffy Summers had earned the right to live out her life, your magic would not have been able to pull her from her resting place."

"Oh," Willow said, trying to process the goddess' words.

"Things are in motion now, however, that will destroy your friend's well-earned happiness," Gaia said.

"Really? Is there anything that can be done?" Willow asked.

"The witches of Earth grow arrogant and foolish. They learn nothing in death and still continue to meddle in human affairs," Gaia said. "It angers the Earth, for life and death are a cycle that should continue unmolested. When the dead move against the living, the Earth cries out in anger. When the dead rip through the veil and ignore my safeguards, I grow angry."

"Are you talking about Rebekah's mother?" Willow asked.

Gaia nodded. "She seeks to murder her children yet again in a foolish attempt to make up for the thing she unleashed when she altered nature by creating their new forms," Gaia explained. "She foolishly believes taking more lives will atone for all she has unleashed."

Willow was alarmed. "Can you help them?" Willow said.

"Do the Mikaelsons deserve my help?" Gaia asked.

Willow frowned. "Well, I can't speak for all of them. I don't really know Kol, but Oz is friends with him. I know that Elijah is a good man, a noble one that desires to do right," Willow said.

Gaia nodded. "That is true, and he is on the path to do much good," she said. "His White Knight will lead him well."

"And I know that Rebekah is a good person. I love her," Willow said. Anxiously, she bit her lip as she thought of her lover. "I don't know, though, how well she will do without me."

"What about the hybrid? Is he as evil as you have thought in the past?" Gaia asked.

Willow was silent as she considered the question. "I'm not sure," she said. "I don't think he's evil the way Angelus was or some others we faced in Sunnydale, but he can do truly evil things sometimes."

"Would it surprise you to know that he is the one who told Drusilla where your parents lived?" Gaia asked.

Willow gasped in disbelief. "They're dead because of him? I'm dead because of him?" she asked, anger building.

"One could say that, but he did not kill your parents," she replied. "Nor did he kill you."

"But it's his fault!" Willow protested.

"Is it? Is he responsible for what a mad vampire chooses to do?" Gaia asked. "Do you want to waste time and energy on anger? What good does that do? What good does that ever do anyone?"

Willow realized she was right. Anger had only ever led her to very bad things. "What's going to happen with my friends?" she asked, pushing down the anger.

"Would you like to be able to help them?" Gaia asked.

"You just said the dead shouldn't interfere with the living," Willow said confused.

"That's true," Gaia said. "However, if you wish to be reborn as my disciple, you may return and aid them."

"Really?" Willow asked in surprise.

"However, I must tell you that one you love waits on beyond this place for you," Gaia said.

Willow's eyes widened. "Tara? Tara is here?"

"Do you wish to see her?" Gaia asked.

"Can I?" Willow asked hopefully.

"If you wish to let go of your earthly life, you can spend eternity with your love," Gaia said. "Or you can return to life, reborn, bearing my mark, blessed with my power."

Indecision warred within her. Tears filled her eyes as she thought of Tara and how much she missed her. She could just go to her right now.

What would happen, though, to Buffy and her friends? Could she let Rebekah die?

"What happens to vampires that have souls when they die?" she asked. "Do they go to a hell dimension?"

"No, it's not hell, but it might seem like it to them," Gaia said. "They go to the Other Side where witches go."

"Seriously? The same place? All of them?" Willow asked. She knew that the place existed. Anya had crossed over from it to speak to them. However, she didn't think it was the place all of them went.

"Mostly," Gaia said. "The Powers spend most of their time punishing the demons and rewarding their champions. Vampires like the Mikaelsons are neither wholly evil or good. The Other Side is a sort of purgatory."

Rebekah had spent a thousand years looking for happiness, and she'd finally found it with Willow. Could Willow leave her and be with Tara? Didn't Tara deserve her loyalty? Willow didn't know what to do…

*****Mystic Falls*****

Angel and Spike were feeling impotent. They can come to Mystic Falls to help Buffy, and they couldn't find any sign of her fiancée. Since they both had magical jewelry that allowed them to be in the daylight, they were using Rick's car to drive around town looking for him.

"It's like he bloody well disappeared!" Spike exclaimed in frustration.

"Do you think he got cold feet and ran off?" Angel wondered.

Spike snickered. "What kind of idiot would run off and leave a girl like Buffy?" he asked. Then he glanced at Angel and smirked. "Oh, yea, I forgot that I'm talking to an idiot who did just that!"

"It wasn't a week before our engagement," Angel said sourly. "Nor was she pregnant with my kid."

"Look, the bloke may have a psycho killer alter ego living inside of him, but who doesn't?" Spike said, grinning. "He loves Buffy more than anything. He'd never leave her—not willingly."

"Yea, I know you're probably right," he said.

"We should go to Damon's and see if they have any news," Spike suggested.

"Okay," Angel said.

Spike's phone rang. "Hello," he said.

"Guys, where are you?" Buffy asked, sounding happier than they'd heard in a long time.

"We are heading to Damon's to see if there's any news," Spike said. "But it sounds like you have some."

"Is she okay?" Angel asked.

Spike pulled the phone back and pushed speaker phone. "Angel face is here. What's going on? Are you okay?"

"I'm perfect. Rick is back!" Buffy shared.

"He is?" Angel asked. "That's great. Is he okay?"

"He is. We're not sure what happened," Buffy told them. "I'll tell you about that later, but I wanted you two to know before the word gets out that I found out the sex of the baby. It's a boy!"

Spike and Angel exchanged a look. Both were a bit disappointed. They had wanted a girl. A little miniature Buffy to spoil. The two men had long accepted that a child of their own would never happen. It was something they couldn't give Buffy. Although they'd never verbalize it, parts of them were grateful to Alaric for giving her what they couldn't. She deserved to have it all.

"That's great, Buffy," Angel said.

"I was hoping for a girl just like you, but maybe the next one," Spike said.

Buffy giggled—she actually giggled. It has been so long since they'd heard the sound that the beauty of the it struck them both. For that reason alone, they'd embrace Alaric. He brought her the joy that life had long denied her.

"Giles just talked to Liz. They've arrived in Richmond, and they'll be here soon," Buffy shared.

"Good. Let's hope Giles can figure out what's going on with your guy," Spike said.

They heard Rick say something to her. "What?" Buffy screeched.

"What's happening?" Angel asked, anxious.

"Give me a second," Buffy said. She went silent. They could hear a murmur of voices. Then Buffy was back. "Damon just called Rick. Something is happening with Willow. Head to his house, and we'll see you there."

"We're pulling up now," Spike said.

The two vampires went to the front door and inside. "Where is everyone?" Angel said. No one was around.

"Willow should be lying there, and she's not," Spike said, frowning.

"Maybe she's alive?" Angel asked, hopefully.

"I'm telling you, Stefan, that's some freaky shit," Damon was saying as he came into the room.

"What's going on?" Angel asked. "Where were you? Where's Willow?"

"Is she alive again?" Spike asked.

"Not exactly," Stefan said.

"What does that mean?" Angel asked.

"Well, her body was glowing and then it was floating out the front door," Damon said.

"Huh?" Spike remarked.

"That's not the freakiest part," Damon said. "The body floats to the back of the house, goes into the woods and then lays on the ground. Now she's covered with grass and vines."

"She's what?" Angel asked, thinking he wasn't hearing right.

"It's what he said," Stefan answered. "Plants from the ground came over her, wrapping her. All you can see is her face. There was a force field of some kind around her for a bit. It's gone now."

"Is she alive?" Spike asked.

"We can't tell," Stefan explained. "Her hands and throat are covered. There's no detectable signs, though. I couldn't hear her heartbeat."

"But this has to mean something, right?" Spike pointed out.

"It's the strangest thing I've ever seen," Damon remarked.

The two vampires were led out there by Stefan. Damon went to get Illyria. Since she had this weird communion with plant life, he thought that she might be able to tell them something.

By the time he returned with Illyria, Buffy and Rick were both there, sitting on the ground next to Rebekah. Faith, Xander, and Elijah were on her other side. Bonnie was at her feet while Angel and Spike were standing behind Buffy.

"What's the word?" Damon asked.

"Elijah said he's never seen the like," Buffy said. "I'm really freaked, and I'm glad Bonnie got away from school without telling Dawn about this."

"Well, I'm sure Elena or Caroline will be by after school," Bonnie said. "I'm not thinking this can stay secret for long."

"What do you think, Illyria?" Buffy asked. "Angel says you have a gift with plants. Can you help us or tell us what's going on?"

"The song of the green often speaks to me," Illyria said, looking down. "This is most unusual. I have not seen this in many ages."

"But you have seen it?" Buffy asked.

"Perhaps," Illyria said, noncommittally. She walked around the body and then sat down at Willow's head, her back against the large oak tree.

"I'm sensing a lot of magic," Bonnie said. "Whatever is happening with her has to do with her powers."

"Her powers were taken, though," Xander said.

"Not taken, just bound," Elijah said. "One can't take powers from a witch—not really."

"Where's Oz?" Buffy asked, noticing finally that he wasn't around.

"He wolfed out last night, and we haven't seen him since," Xander said. "He's not taking Klaus' part in this very well."

Illyria put her hands on Willow's temple, touching a vine that was wrapped on her head like a crown.

"Did you send him a text?" Buffy asked.

Xander shook his head, so she pulled out her phone to text Oz.

"She's coming back to me," Rebekah said, smiling. "I just know it!"

Buffy was afraid to hope for such good news, so she said nothing.

Finally, Illyria spoke. "The witch is no longer a witch," Illyria announced. "She is being transformed."

"Into what?" Buffy asked.

"Please don't say giant preying mantis lady!" Xander begged. "Been there. Don't ever wanna be a virgin sacrifice again!"

Elijah looked puzzled but amused.

"I cannot say what she will become," Illyria said, removing her hands. "However, the human witch you knew as Willow Rosenberg is dead. This vessel will be something else, something more."

"Like what you did to Fred?" Angel asked, giving her a hard look.

"No. That is not what I mean," Illyria said. "Her soul is back in her body."

"So she's alive?" Rebekah asked, excited.

"I believe so," Illyria said. "However, it is best if you do not disturb whatever is happening with her."

"How long will she be like this?" Buffy asked.

"However long it takes," Illyria said.

"I wonder what she'll become?" Xander wondered.

"Why we wait, Rick and I have news," Buffy said, grabbing and holding his hand. She looked at him and nodded.

"We're having a boy," Rick announced.

Everyone smiled and offered their congratulations. The couple stood and accepted the hugs and handshakes.

"So Damon is an ancient family name," Damon offered with a grin.

"Sorry, Damon. Maybe with the next one," Rick said, slapping him on the shoulder.

"We're going to name him Alexander Rupert Saltzman," Buffy said, looking at Xander for his reaction.

"Seriously?" Xander asked in surprise.

"Is that okay?" Buffy asked, smiling.

"That's amazing! I get first billing!" he replied, hugging her.

"Well, I can't see naming an American boy Rupert," Buffy said.

The group laughed, feeling a release of the tension they'd been feeling.

"So are we going to take turns watching over Willow?" Bonnie asked.

"That's a good idea," Buffy said. "How about four-hour shifts? Or should they be shorter?"

"I think that's fine," Spike said. "Angel and I will divide up the night shifts. He will start at 10 that way I can watch the sun rise."

"What if I want to watch the sun rise?" Angel said, glaring at Spike.

"I called dibs on all sunrises," Spike said.

"You can't call dibs on sunrises," Angel said in annoyance.

"Sure, I can. I just did," Spike said smugly.

Buffy laughed. "Come on, guys. Let's go to my house. Giles should be there soon," Buffy told them, hooking her arms through each of the bickering vampires.

"You know Buffy's exes are going to be around a lot once the baby's born," Damon said to Rick, smirking.

"Don't rub it in," Rick said.

"At least the kid will be safe," Stefan said.

"Safest baby on the planet," Faith agreed. "I'm going to call dibs on godmother!"

The group walked away bickering over who would get to be godparents while Rebekah stayed with her lover.

She bent over and placed a soft kiss on Willow's cold forehead. She still appeared dead, but Rebekah had hope. "Come back to me, my love," she whispered.

It had taken her ten centuries to find Willow. She didn't want to live in a world without her. If Willow didn't come back to her, she would face the dawn without her ring. Immortality had often been a burden, but she'd always had hope of love and happiness. Now that she found both, she couldn't contemplate living with it. She refused to live without Willow.

*****Chapter End*****

I always found Buffy as pretty impatient, so I don't see her waiting to share baby news like many do.

 

Chapter Text

*****Not Much Longer From Last Time*****

Giles wasn't at Buffy's long before he took off his glasses and began to clean them. He was rattled. Buffy was having a son who would bear his name. Rick was back, but they didn't know what was going on with him. Willow was possibly sort of alive and planted in the ground for some reason.

"Oh, dear," he muttered.

Buffy laughed. "I missed you," she said, relishing in the sight of his glasses being cleaned.

Giles smiled at her. "And I missed you," he said as he put his arm around her shoulders for a hug. "We will figure this out, Buffy."

"How about you go to your room and take a nap? I'll wake you in three hours, so you can go relieve Rebekah and study what's going on," Buffy suggested.

"That's a good idea," he said. He looked at Liz, who gave him a look of understanding.

"I'll meet you there in a few hours," Liz said. She kissed him goodbye and left to finish her shift.

"I can't wait to see you happily married," Buffy said to Giles. "Liz is the best."

"She really is," Giles murmured. Smiling, he went to his room that she set aside for him in the den.

"I think you need to take a nap yourself," Rick suggested to Buffy.

"I want to catch up with my slayers," she told him.

Rick frowned. "Can't you do that tomorrow?" he said.

"I'll just be two hours," she said. "I won't be back late. Do you want to come and meet them?"

"I can wait until tomorrow," Rick said. "I feel unusually tired, so I'm going to lay down myself."

"Do you want me to stay?" Buffy asked. She felt more than a bit anxious to leave him alone again. What if he disappeared on her again?

"No, I'll be fine," Rick said.

"Are you sure? I don't want you to disappear or have anything happen," Buffy said, sharing her misgivings.

"I feel fine. I can't say I understand what's happening, but I know I'll be asleep and here when you return," he assured her.

"Okay," she said reluctantly.

He kissed her softly. "I love you. Take care of little Alex there."

Buffy grinned, holding her hands on her stomach before leaving. "I'll bring back dinner," she told him before leaving.

Rick did do exactly what he said. He went to Buffy's room and laid down. It didn't take long for him to fall asleep. He was unaware, though, when he woke up and left out the front door.

*****The Woods*****

Oz was hanging out in the woods behind the Mikaelson's house. He was no longer in his wolf form, but he didn't feel like facing anyone. He wasn't sure that he wanted to live in a world without Willow in it. His grief was crippling him. Being a vampire heightened his emotions and challenged his normal stoicism. He didn't like feeling so out of control, but he didn't know what else to do with is grief and anger. He wasn't yet ready to think about how he was going to deal with his sire.

A twig snapped, alerting him to another's presence. He turned and saw an image he wasn't expecting.

"Asha?" he asked in surprise.

"It is I," she said.

Oz gazed at her with longing, and she stepped closer. "I can't believe you came," he said, his voice rough.

Asha was shaken by the ravaged appearance of her would-be mate. He was clearly in pain. "Are you okay?" she asked.

Oz shook his head but said nothing. When she moved to stand directly in front of him, he locked eyes with her. She put her hand on his cheek. "I'm sorry that your friend is dead," she said softly.

In the face of her compassion, he crumbled, hugging her tightly as tears coursed down his face.

*****Gilberts*****

Elena came home from school feeling ill. Something was wrong with her. She felt both sick and weak, so she called Bonnie.

"Bon. Where are you? I don't feel well. Something's not right," Elena said.

"There's a lot going on, Elena. Willow floated outside the Salvatores' house and somehow buried herself in the woods behind the house," Bonnie said.

"Really?" Elena said.

"But they don't need me right now, so I'll come see you now," Bonnie said.

Elena was relieved. She knew that she was already living on borrowed time thanks to Esther Mikaelson. What if her time was already up?

*****The Grille*****

Dawn went to work after school with Matt. Buffy arrived an hour into her shift with several slayers, including Faith, Stefan, Angel, Damon, and Spike. Her sister was unusually bright, so Dawn went to investigate.

"What's going on? You look too happy!" Dawn exclaimed.

"Of course, I'm happy. Rick's back," Buffy said happily. "Giles is in town, and Willow might not be dead. Bonnie told you, right?"

"What?" Dawn asked in surprised.

"Oh," Buffy said, cringing. "I thought you knew." She explained what was happening. When Dawn pulled Matt to the table, Damon summed it up for him.

"Witchy stuff is going on at my house. Go by after your shift and see Willow planted in my yard," he said, grinning.

"Seriously?" Matt asked.

"Hey, that's nothing," Spike interjected. "Come visit us in Los Angeles, and I'll show you some real freaky shit."

"I get enough freaky shit in this town," Matt said.

"L. A. is great without the freaks," Dawn defended.

"Did you tell her your other good news?" Angel asked.

"You figured out what's going on with Rick?" Dawn asked hopefully.

Buffy's smile noticeably dimmed. "No," she said.

"But she will," Faith said quickly.

"Of course, she will," Stefan echoed.

"I found out the sex today. I'm having a boy," Buffy shared.

"A boy? I'll have a nephew?" Dawn asked in bemusement.

"Yep!" Buffy said. She reached into her bag and showed her the images. "I would've texted, but I wanted to tell you in person."

Dawn didn't really care what sex the baby was. She was just excited to see a tangible picture of the life inside her sister. "I can't believe the detail. This is so cool!"

"So much better than the old days. Mom showed me my ultrasound once. I pretended to see me in it, but it looked like a big gray blob," Buffy said, grinning.

"Matt, can we have some drinks?" Damon asked.

"Sure," Matt said.

"Hey, I'm your server!" Dawn protested.

"Well, then give me some service," Damon said with smirk.

Dawn glared. "I'm talking to my sister," she said.

"Come to the bar," Matt said. Stefan and Spike followed Damon to the bar to get drinks.

Xander came in. "There's my girls!" Xander said.

"Did you see the pictures, Xander?" Dawn asked.

"Yep. My namesake is gonna be awesome!" Xander bragged.

"Your namesake?" Dawn asked, looking confused.

"We're going to name the baby Alexander Rupert Saltzman," Buffy said.

"It's perfect," Dawn said in approval. "I guess we'll go with Alex or Lex?"

"As in Lex Luthor?" Xander asked, frowning.

"No!" Buffy said. "We're not calling my baby Lex. Alex is great. Or even the full Alexander."

Xander grimaced. "That's a bit much."

"I think Alexander is a good name," Angel said.

"I'm going to call Rick and see if he's up and hungry. I'll take him some food," Buffy said, pulling out her phone. It went to voicemail, so she left him a message. "He must still be asleep," Buffy said. She called Giles.

"Hello," Giles said.

"Hey, Giles. Is Rick up? I was going to bring up some food," Buffy said. "He's not answering."

"I've not seen him, but I'll go check your room and see," Giles said. He walked to her room and knocked on the door. There was no answer, so he swung it open. It was empty. "He's not here."

"He's not?" Buffy asked. "He didn't answer his phone." She stood up. Angel and Faith stood with her as the guys came to the table with drinks. "Rick is missing again."

"He's probably on his way to you here," Damon said, sitting down two drinks.

"I'm going to go looking for him," Buffy said.

"I'll go with," Faith said.

"Well, I'll wait for him here," Damon said confidently.

"I'll go find Blue. She's got a sense for things," Spike volunteered. He gulped his beer and put the glass down. "You got this, right?"

"It's on my tab," Damon said, waving his hand. "No worries."

Stefan sat down with his brother as the group dispensed. Xander went with Buffy and Faith while Angel and Spike went to find Illyria.

"You really think Rick's okay?" Stefan asked.

Damon took a drink and sat his glass on the table. "Of course, because things always go the way we want, right?"

Stefan looked grim as he took a drink of his own.

*****The Mikaelsons*****

Illyria was outside the Mikaelsons trying to decide the best way to proceed. She resented her indecision and blamed in on her shell. Winifred Burkle was not gone. Her soul was inside Illyria somehow—Illyria could feel her. It had to be the reasons she felt so emotional, so human. Something wasn't right, not with her and not with the Mikaelsons. Esther had ill intentions—she just knew it. Klaus and his siblings were having dinner with her right now. Anger burned within her.

She was Illyria, goddess of the primordial, and she was not going to be dismissed or ignored. If the witch was planning on harming her mate, Illyria would rip her into pieces.

Decided, she walked to the front door and opened it without knocking. The family was at the table and all looked up at her arrival.

"Illyria? Is something amiss?" Klaus asked.

Without a word, she moved to his mother and grabbed her by the throat, pulling her up. "What do you have planned? I know you are an enemy. You are not the loving mother you pretend to be!" she exclaimed.

"Release my mother!" Rebekah ordered, standing to her feet.

"I will not. She conspires against her children. I know deception and evil intent," Illyria said, giving the mother a cold look.

"Lyria," Klaus said softly. "She has not yet taken action against us, so your attacking her is a bit presumptuous."

Illyria looked at him as she tossed Esther back in her chair. "I will not allow my mate to be harmed by this pathetic human. I will open a portal and send her to the hell I pulled you from. She can practice her witchery there," she said. She lifted her hand to do just that when Elijah moved swiftly to pull her away from Esther.

"Stop it," Elijah said angrily. "You will not harm our mother."

"It's okay, Elijah," Esther said, getting to her feet. They heard the front door open. "She's not wrong. I have been conspiring." She waved her hand, and Illyria was frozen in place.

"This will not hold me for long," Illyria fumed.

"Mother?" Rebekah asked in confusion.

"I'll explain in a moment, sweetheart," Esther said, smiling at her youngest.

"She's right?" Kol asked, surprised and standing to his feet. He moved to escape the room, but someone grabbed him by the throat as he left the room. Shocked, he looked up at a human face. "Alaric?"

No one was more surprised than Klaus when Alaric came into the dining room, dragging Kol by his neck.

"Brother? Have you gone weak?" Klaus asked in a mocking tone.

"No, brother. Our human vampire hunter has suddenly become stronger than I," Kol said, struggling against Alaric's hands. His siblings looked as shocked as he felt.

Illyria shook off whatever magics had her rooted, but Esther was ready for her. She had begun chanting as soon as Kol appeared. Chains appeared and began wrapping around Illyria. She tried to fight them off, but they were like living snakes, twisting and fighting her. Then Esther reached into her pocket and pulled out a small pouch. She blew the same sleeping powder Klaus had once used on Willow. It had knocked her out, ending Esther's most immediate threat.

Klaus didn't hesitate and moved to attack his mother.

A pain burst in his head, and he bent over. His siblings all experienced the same thing, immobilizing them all.

Kol couldn't believe it. Not only were Xander and Illyria right about his mother, but she'd managed to mojo up the slayer's fiancée, making him her weapon.

"Bullocks!" Kol muttered.

*****To Be Continued*****

I do realize that Buffy could NOT know her baby's gender this early in her pregnancy. As I reread the story, I realized that she and Alaric haven't even been together six months. She's about four months, which does allow for an ultrasound. However, it's too early for gender. For the purposes of this story, however, you'll have to suspend reality a bit for that!

Chapter Text

******Not Exactly Where We Left Off*****

Giles was utterly fascinated by the sight he found when he relieved Rebekah to watch over Willow.

"She is actually in the ground!" he exclaimed.

"Well, not actually. There wasn't a hole," Rebekah said, standing up.

"I've never seen anything like this," he said in awe. He didn't see dirt like a vampire coming up from a grave. Instead, it was plant life covering her. Flowers had even sprouted in her hair and between her fingers. "There's even buds of flowers."

"Yes, that's new. They came up an hour ago," Rebekah said. "You'll call me if anything changes?"

"Of course," Giles assured her. "Will you see your brother, Elijah, tonight?"

"Yes, Mother is preparing a special dinner for us," she explained.

"Will you let him know that I hope to speak to him soon?" Giles said. "I do not like the new distance between your family and mine."

"Neither do I," Rebekah said. "But Niklaus is impossible to deal with, and Elijah will always stand with Niklaus."

"Not always. He did conspire against him to save Elena last year. He planned to kill Klaus, right?"

"I was daggered for that exciting event," Rebekah said dryly. "But I do not believe that Elijah would've went through with it no matter the promises he gave. He is incapable of breaking the vow he made a millennium ago. Always and Forever."

Giles was silent a moment as he thought of the depth of devotion those years would entail. "I cannot fathom building a bond with anyone for such a length of time," he said. "I would imagine that there would be enough love to overcome anything."

"My love for my brothers is strong, but I don't always feel that Nik has my best interest at heart as much as his own!" Rebekah declared.

"I only met your brother recently and spoke to him very little," Giles said. "However, I could sense that he is no monster. As someone who has survived torture by vampires, I know soulless evil. Klaus isn't it. There may be hope yet for him."

Rebekah wish she had his confidence. "I hope so," she said. She left Giles there, contemplating things and taking notes as he recorded details of Willow.

As she was leaving the Salvatores’, Liz Forbes was getting out of her car carrying a picnic basket.

"Mother?" Caroline asked, having also just arrived.

"Hey, sweetie," Liz said, shutting her car door as Caroline walked toward her. "What brings you here?"

"Bonnie told me that Willow was not quite dead, and I wanted to see the newest weird thing this town produced," she said.

"I'm not sure we can blame Mystic Falls for Willow," Liz said, putting her arm around her daughter.

"What's in the basket?" Caroline asked.

"I brought dinner for Giles," Liz said.

Caroline grinned. "A picnic dinner outside by a corpse? Only in this town would that seem romantic and sweet!" she teased.

"Well, we are engaged, and I've not spent much time with him since he's been an ocean away," Liz said as they went around the house.

"So where is she?" Caroline asked, looking around.

"She's down that way," Liz said, pointing. Caroline followed her mother to where Giles was sitting next to Willow's body. It wasn't yet dark, so they had no trouble spotting him.

Giles stood when he saw the two women. "Ladies," he said, smiling warmly at them. He pulled his fiancée in for a hug and kissed her lightly on the lips as he grabbed the basket from her.

"I brought dinner," Liz said.

"Bonnie wasn't kidding," Caroline said, looking down at the body. "This is insane!"

"Yes, it's unlike anything I've ever seen," Giles said.

"Are you hungry, dear?" Liz asked her daughter.

"I'm good. I don't want to intrude," Caroline said. "I'm going to go check on Elena. She seemed a bit off today at school."

"Are you doing okay?" Giles asked. "How are your classes?"

"They're fine. Senior year is kind of a joke for seniors at my school," Caroline said with a shrug.

"Caroline has a 4.0," Liz said proudly.

"What schools have you applied for? Have you considered Oxford? It's one of the finest institutions for higher education on the planet," Giles said.

"Oxford? You mean in England?" Caroline asked in surprise.

"Your mother will be there. It won't hurt to apply," Giles pointed out.

"Maybe," Caroline said. "It's really hard to get into, though, right?"

"I'd be happy to offer a letter of recommendation," Giles said. "I have some connections at the school."

Caroline grinned. "Well, okay. I'll add it to my list. I've applied already to the Virginian schools, Columbia, UCLA, and Duke," she said.

"Good choices," Giles said, nodding.

"It's hard to focus on school, though, when there's always so much going on in this town," Caroline admitted.

"We'll get through this, honey," her mother assured her.

"I don't like to be at odds with my friends," Caroline admitted. "I know Klaus has done some really awful things, but that's not all there is to him."

"I agree," Giles said. "I believe much of his story is yet to be written. Do not despair."

"You don't want to get in the middle of his family drama, sweetheart," Liz warned. "It could be dangerous for you. Not to mention, he is entirely too old for you!"

Caroline laughed. "Oh, Mom!" she exclaimed. Then she kissed her mom on the cheek. "Enjoy your dinner."

When she left, Liz turned to Giles. "I worry so much for her," she said.

"That's normal. My kids aren't even mine by blood, and I worry all the time," Giles said. "Shall we eat?"

Liz smiled and sat down.

*****Gilberts*****

Bonnie went over Elena's to check on her. "Are you feeling any better?" Bonnie asked, noticing how pale Elena looked.

Elena shook her head. "No. Something is very wrong with me," she said as Bonnie stepped inside.

Bonnie followed her into the living room, sitting down next to her on the sofa. She reached for Elena's hand. "You seem cooler than normal, but you're also very pale. Do you hurt anywhere?" she asked.

"Not like a throbbing pain, but something here feels wrong," Elena said, putting her hands to her stomach.

Bonnie took her hand and put it on Elena's stomach and then grabbed one of Elena's hand with her other. She whispered a spell that Willow had taught her. "Egritudo."

Bonnie gasped as she magically sensed what was wrong. "It's not good, Elena," she said. "Your transitioning is coming to an end. If you don't drink blood, you will die."

"What?" Elena gasped, standing. "I'm not ready! Esther said I'd have more time!"

"What she did was not natural—it's not done," Bonnie said. "I couldn't find anything in my grandmother's books. Willow didn't know of it either."

"Esther is ancient," Elena said. "I need to go find her."

"Wait. We should call Buffy. Giles is in town, and he knows a lot," Bonnie said. "Willow and Dawn are always quoting him."

Bonnie pulled out her phone to call Buffy while Elena texted Damon.

Damon arrived before Buffy. "What's going on? Alaric's flown the coop again," he shared.

"Great," Elena muttered.

"I probably shouldn't have called Buffy then. Dawn could get Giles," Bonnie said, feeling guilty. Buffy had enough on her plate.

"Bonnie says that I'm out of time. If I don't drink blood, I'll die," Elena said.

Damon grabbed Bonnie's hand and held it up. "So drink," he ordered.

"It's not that easy, Damon," Elena said.

Damon looked at Bonnie. "Can you give me a moment alone with Elena?" he asked her.

"I'm going to go to Buffy's and do a locator spell to find Rick. Then I'll talk to Giles," she said. "I'll be back soon."

"Don't be mad, Damon," Elena said, sitting back on the sofa.

Damon sat down next to her. "I don't understand, Elena. Do you want to die?" he asked.

"Of course not," Elena said.

"Then you have no choice," Damon said grimly. "You have to drink blood to live."

Elena started to cry, and Damon felt a stab of guilt. He pulled her against his chest. "It's going to be okay," he said.

When she stopped crying, he handed her a tissue from the corner table. "I'm sorry," she said.

"Elena, I've lived much longer than I should've, but I know that I could not bear living in a world that doesn't have you in it," he said.

"You'll be fine, Damon," Elena said, giving him a small smile. "We both know that Stefan is the only person you need to be happy."

"I spent decades without Stefan, Elena. He's not the key to my happiness," Damon informed her. "He's not the woman I love."

Elena's eyes widened. "What are you saying?" she asked. Damon's feelings weren't a secret, but he'd pushed her away so much that she no longer knew where she stood with him.

"I'm saying that I love you," Damon said, putting his hand on her face. "If you love me even a little, you won't break my heart and leave me."

Elena gave him a searching look before nodding. "Okay," she said in agreement.

Damon pulled her in close, kissing her. Relief coursed through him, and he poured it into his kiss.

The ringing doorbell interrupted the kiss just as it was getting interesting. Elena pulled back, breathing heavy. "I better get that," she said.

"You deal with your visitor, and I'll go get you some blood," Damon said.

It was Caroline. "Hey," she said, eying Damon skeptically. "I was just checking on you."

"I'll be back," Damon said.

"What's going on?" Caroline asked.

"It looks like my time's up," Elena said as she shut the front door.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean if I don't drink blood, I'll die," Elena said glumly.

"Really? Did you call Esther?" Caroline asked.

"No. Bonnie did a spell. She doesn't think Esther can extend my time more," Elena said.

"You know Dawn told me that Xander is convinced Esther is here to hurt her kids," Caroline shared. "He had a vision."

"What could she do? Klaus can't be killed," Elena said.

"I'd hate to imagine," Caroline said glumly. "If she succeeds in killing her siblings, we both will die. You get that, right? Klaus is the line that turned Katherine."

Elena was filled with fear. Now that she'd made her choice, she didn't want to die.

*****Salvatores*****

Stefan and Faith returned home. He liked having Faith in the place he would always call home.

"I can't believe we can't find Alaric again! B needs to lojack that man!" Faith complained.

"Bonnie is with Buffy right now. I'm sure she's doing a locator spell," Stefan said, pouring them both a drink.

Faith accepted it. "If I don't get something to fight or kill soon, I'm going to go nuts," she complained as she downed her drink and flopped down on his couch.

Stefan grinned at her and sipped his drink, amused that Faith wasn't one to savor. "Living on a hellmouth does make life a bit more exciting," he admitted.

"I better call the girls and see how they're doing," Faith said pulling out her phone.

He watched and half-listened as she talked to one of the girls in Cleveland. Her face was animated as she gossiped and listened. Stefan couldn't believe how she had changed him in such a short time. As much as he loved Elena, she had never been first. Instead, he'd held his guilt close and his brother. Reconciling with Damon after so many years apart wasn't something he'd wanted to lose. He couldn't fail to see that it was Elena who was bringing back the brother he used to love and admire more than anything. Now, though, he didn't worry much about his brother because he knew Damon would be okay. Spike and Angel would make sure of it. Elena no longer was the center of either brother's worlds, and that was a good thing. Faith, though, was definitely the center of his.

When she hung up her phone, she laughingly shared the tale Bimpe had told her. "The girls wanted to know what detergent got out demon goo the best!" she shared. "I told them that I just burned my clothes when they got too bad. It's the advantage of never spending money on clothes."

"I'll take you to Paris and buy you clothes that you'll care about," Stefan told her as he wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer.

"Yea, I can see me in Paris with all those stuck-up bitches shopping!" she said with a snort. "Talk about out of place."

Stefan tilted her head up so their eyes could meet. "Don't do that, Faith. Don't put yourself down," he said softly. "You are beautiful, kind, passionate, and brave. No place is above you." Then he kissed her.

Faith felt her insides melting at his look and kiss. How did do that? How did he make her forget everything but him? His touch, his lips set her on fire—man could he kiss!

"Faith, I love you," Stefan told her.

"Yea, I know," she said, smiling. It was hard to believe that a guy like him could love her, but she believed him. He showed her how much every day.

"Would you ever consider getting married?" he inquired.

Faith's mouth fell open. "What?"

"Married. Not now or anything. I'd want to surprise you with a proposal and a ring," he said, smiling. "It's okay if you think it's not for you. But I want you to be my family. Faith Salvatore has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"

Faith's heart was pounding so loudly that there was a ringing in her ears. "Married? You want to marry me?" she asked.

"Why does that shock you?" Stefan asked. "People in love normally think of making their union official—permanent."

"No one's ever wanted me that much before," she admitted, looking away.

Once again, he gently pushed her chin up. "I want you more than anything—more than blood," he said.

Faith had to grin. "Only a vampire would think that's romantic," she quipped.

"It is!" he insisted, kissing her neck.

"What about the fact that you're never going to grow old, and I will," she told him. "What are we going to do about that?"

Stefan pulled back and looked at her. "It won't matter to me," he said.

"That's easy to say when I'm sitting here looking hot as hell," she said. "But everyone ages—even slayers. Grant it, none have ever lived to be old before, but it will happen."

"I'll love every wrinkle and every gray hair," he assured her.

"Gray hair?" she repeated in distaste. "This hair ain't ever going gray! I will become a fancy lady with a standing hair appointment."

Stefan laughed. "Whatever makes you happy," he said. Then he sobered as he felt compelled to asked something that he'd never asked before. "Would you consider being a vampire like me?"

Faith looked stunned at the question. Her first instinct was to flat out tell him no way in hell. The fear of being turned was deep inside most slayers—she knew it was Buffy's greatest fear next to losing Dawn. Before Stefan, she'd have no trouble telling him no. Now, though, things were different. His love had changed her more than she cared to admit. Even if he walked away, she would never forget what it was like to be loved by him. "What if I was a vamp like you and we broke up? Then I'd go forever without you. That's like the suckiest fate ever," she said sourly.

The fact that she didn't dismiss it out of hand surprised and excited Stefan. Before he could say anything more, they were interrupted by Liz. She looked relieved to see them.

"I'm glad you're here," Liz said. "Something's happening with Willow."

"Something else?" Faith said, rising to her feet.

"Giles and I were on watch when this pale green cocoon wrapped around her," Liz said. "Giles is calling Buffy and Dawn."

"I wish he wouldn't. She's worried enough trying to find Rick again," Faith said, following her out, Stefan behind her.

"Rick's gone again?" Liz asked in surprise.

"Yes," Faith said.

They quickly made it to Giles. "Okay, I was wrong. Things can get freakier! What the hell is going on now?" Faith asked Giles.

"I've got a few witches from the coven coming," he said. "Buffy said that Bonnie did a locator spell on Rick, and he's at the Mikaelsons’."

"So Xander is right. Momma Witch is up to no good," Faith said.

"We have no idea why he's there," Giles said. "There could be a perfectly valid reason for it."

Faith snorted. "Yea, right. 'Cause that's how things work out with us!"

"Either way, Stefan will stay here in case I need him to go somewhere quickly," Giles said. "You will head to the Mikaelsons to render Buffy aid if any is needed."

"Got it," she said, turning to leave.

"Be careful," Stefan called after her. She winked before sauntering off.

"What happens now?" Liz asked, looking down at Willow's green ball of whatever the hell it was.

"We wait," Giles said grimly. "I suspect that she's going through some type of metamorphosis. It looks similar to a caterpillar's cocoon."

"Except it's green," Stefan remarked.

Giles nodded.

"What do you think she'll change into?" Stefan asked.

Giles didn't know how to answer that.

*****Mikaelsons******

Outside, Oz walked up to the open front door, holding on to Asha's hand. He frowned at the open door.

"What's wrong?" Asha asked.

"Something's wrong. This door shouldn't be open," he said, hesitating before going in. Then he heard his friends crying out in pain. "Something's wrong."

He moved into the house, Asha following. When he made it to the dining room, he was shocked at the scene. Illyria was immobilized by some type of living chains. Rick was holding a stake on Kol, who was screaming in pain as was his siblings.

"What is going on?" he asked.

Esther looked up, giving him a look of regret. "I am sorry, Daniel, but my children's existence has come to an end," she said.

"You're trying to kill them?" he asked.

"I am their mother. I gave them life, and I can take it away," she said. "It is my right and my duty."

"What about your duty to those of us who will die if you kill your children?" Oz said.

"You have already died once—by my son's hands,” she reminded him. “I will free you from your cursed existence."

Asha didn't understand the scene they walked into, but she knew a threat when she saw one. The man holding a stake was a vampire like all in the room except the one calling herself mother and the one bound—she was something entirely new. Since she was already contained, Asha didn’t give her a thought. Instead, she attacked the closest threat, knocking Kol from the man holding him.

"Thanks, love," Kol said. Then he did what he'd done countless times—he ran away in a blur. However, when he got to the front door, it closed, sealing him in. "Damn!"

He pulled out his phone to call Caroline. Maybe she could bring some slayers. The irony wasn't lost on him as he called.

Rick was defending himself against Asha. "You are no vampire, thus no threat to me," he said as he blocked her blow, knocking her back.

"I am a vampire slayer, and you are a vampire!" she exclaimed, hitting him. Her blows, however, did little.

Oz was more than shocked at her words. How was Rick a vampire?

"She is more than a slayer," Esther said with interest. She looked at Oz. "This is the woman you stayed in England for? The werewolf? She took an innocent life and activated her curse."

"She saw a demon and assumed incorrectly it was evil," Oz said. "What did you do to Rick?"

Before she could answer, Klaus got to his feet, ignoring the pain that had temporarily immobilized him. He moved quickly to his mother and snapped her neck. "There. That should end this diabolical plot of hers," he said in satisfaction. Elijah and Rebekah stood up.

Illyria's chains stopped moving, but she was still unconscious. Klaus spared a glance but knew she was alright.

"What has Mother done to you, Mr. Saltzman?" Elijah asked.

"She has made me like you," Rick said. "I am an Original. I cannot be killed except by this weapon." He held up the stake.

"Then let's take it from you," Klaus said, about to charge the newly formed vampire, but he was interrupted.

"Rick? What are you doing here?" Buffy asked as she came into the room with Xander and Bonnie.

"Buffy, stay away from him," Elijah warned.

"What?" Buffy said, moving toward Rick.

"Buffy," Oz said. "He is not the Rick you love."

"Has his evil alter ego taken over again?" Buffy asked, eying her fiancée warily.

"He is a vampire," Asha told her.

"Who is this?" Buffy asked.

"This is Asha," Oz said.

"Asha? The werewolf vampire slayer from India?" Buffy asked. She smiled at the newcomer. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Buffy."

"The head slayer? You would marry a vampire?" Asha asked in surprise.

"What are you talking about? Rick's not a vampire!" Buffy insisted.

"I'm afraid he is," Esther said as she came to her feet, shocking her children.

"How are you alive? I snapped your neck," Klaus said.

"How easily you murder your own mother for the second time," she said in disapproval. "I cannot be killed as long as you live, Niklaus. I have bonded our life force together."

Klaus exchanged an incredulous look with Elijah.

"I told you that she was evil!" Xander said, looking smug.

"Why would you do this, Mother?" Rebekah asked. "I thought you loved us."

"I do love you, Rebekah. It's because I love you that I must save you now. Save you from what you've become," Esther said.

"You made us this way!" Rebekah reminded her.

"I'm sorry, my dear," Esther said regretfully. "I've spent centuries watching you all wreak havoc and death all over the globe, making more like you, who in turn, make more. The vampire plague on this earth will come to an end with your deaths."

"How insaneo are you?" Xander asked incredulously. "Vampires have been around longer than people. I've spent years fighting the demon ones. Killing your kids won't stop anything!"

"It will end the existence of countless vampires," Esther replied.

"Some who are good people, making a difference!" Buffy said, getting angry. "You have no right to play judge and executioner. You're not God!"

Rick laughed. "You have to be the worst vampire slayer ever. You fall in love with vampires. You have sex with their cold, soulless bodies," Rick said to her, scorn in his tone. "Now you seek to save and defend them."

"What's happened to you, Rick? This isn't you!" Buffy exclaimed.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Summers," Esther said. "I do regret the harm my ploy is causing you. If there was another way, I would not have brought Mr. Saltzman into this."

"How did you get him so messed up? This is not the man I love!" Buffy said. Rick didn't look at her with love but distaste.

"Each time Mr. Saltzman was killed, I spoke with him on the Other Side, turning a part of him further away from who he was," Esther explained. "I fed the part of him that hated vampires for taking his wife from him."

"Rick, you love Damon. He's your best friend," Buffy reminded him. "It stopped mattering to you that he was a vampire a long time ago."

"I'm a hunter, Buffy. Unlike you, I haven't forgotten my sacred calling," Rick said. "I will kill all vampires and those who aid them."

"Why are you killing off the council members? You make no sense!" Buffy said, her eyes filling with tears. "The only council member that knowingly helped vampires is Liz Forbes. The others were innocent, but you killed them anyway."

Xander reached for her hand. "He's just a little confused, Buffy. Like Dark Willow was that time she tried to raise that Satanic temple to destroy the world."

Esther felt a twinge of relief that Willow was dead and no longer a threat.

"Your fiancée is dead. Mr. Saltzman is now an Original vampire," Esther said.

"How is making another immortal vamp making up for what you did?" Xander asked, giving her a sour look.

While they were arguing with Esther, Bonnie was slowly making her way to Illyria, who seemed unconscious.

"I have tied his life to the mother of his child. When she dies, so will he," Esther said. "He will live only a mortal existence. His sole purpose will be to eradicate the vampire plague wherever he finds it."

Buffy stared at Rick. Then she looked at Klaus. "Stop him without killing him," she ordered.  She didn’t have it in her to fight the father of her child.

Klaus nodded, prepared to end this latest threat.

*****Salvatores'*****

The witches and slayers who came to town with Giles were surrounding Willow's encased body. Matt, Dawn, and Caroline had also arrived to check out the scene. So far, they were unable to find answers to the latest mystery she presented.

"I say we get a big javelin and hammer and break through and get Red," Spike said.

"Don't be stupid," Angel said dismissively.

"How does that make me stupid? It's better than just standing here doing nothin'!" Spike complained.

"We cannot interfere," Giles said. "Willow was dead. This is signs of life. Whatever's happening to her has to be for her betterment."

Suddenly an invisible wave of energy came from the cocoon, knocking all of them down. Then there was aloud crack. Stefan reached over to help the older witch named Naomi to her feet. "We need to move back!" he told everyone.

They all quickly moved further away as the cocoon began to open.

*****Mikaelsons*****

Klaus moved to attack his mother once again when she warned him.

"Take another step, and I will kill all the non-vampires in this room," Esther said. "Unlike you, they can't survive an aneurysm."

Klaus paused, glancing at his hybrid, who gave him that look. He signed in resignation. "What do I care about a witch, a werewolf, and the slayer who killed Finn?" he said, trying to sound indifferent.

"You might not care about them personally, but you care about those that care for them," his mother said with confidence.

"We're not just going to stand here and be slaughtered!" Rebekah exclaimed.

"Oh, but you are," Rick said, moving in a blur to impale his silver covered stake into her heart.

Buffy acted on instinct, attacking Rick, feelings of déjà vu hitting her. This was not the first lover she had to contain. She knocked him away as Elijah cradled Rebekah's body as it turned to gray. When it caught fire, the siblings looked on in horror. Elijah worked to stomp out the flames, but it was too late.

Rebekah was dead.

*****Salvatore's*****

"What's happening?" Spike asked Angel.

"How would I know?" he replied annoyed.

A hand came out. Then another. Finally, Willow sat up.

"Willow?" Giles asked, stepping closer.

"Giles?" her voice came out.

A ripple of relief and excitement went through the group. Giles stepped closer and reached for her hand, pulling her up. She carefully stepped out of the shell.

As the group got a look at her, they took a step back in fear.

She was no longer human looking but alien. Her skin was green the way Illyria's was blue. Her hair had the same red roots but with green tints all throughout. A bird immediately came and perched on her shoulder, tweeting in her ear.

"Yes, I know," Willow said, her voice sounding more lyrical than it had.

When she looked at Giles, he gasped. Her eyes were glowing green orbs that seemed to pierce his soul.

"Willow, is that still you?" he asked.

"She has to be possessed. Like Cordy. Some higher power has hijacked her body," Angel said angrily.

Her face smiled, filling them with warmth, banishing their fears. "No, Angel. It's me. I am the same Willow who once owned fish your evil side killed long ago," she said gently.

"What has happened to you?" Spike asked.

"Mother has asked me to be her disciple," Willow explained. "I am a witch no more. I am now a Druid high priestess with all the powers of Earth. I am to do her will because I'm her instrument."

"Bullocks," Spike muttered in awe.

"You can't go in public like that, Will," Caroline said, curling her nose in distaste.

Dawn and Matt had joined her after their shift, and she had remained utterly silent, afraid to hope. Finally, Dawn rushed forward, daring to embrace Willow.

"I can't believe it! You're alive!" Dawn said, crying against her.

Willow wrapped her arms around her, hugging her tight. "I am, little sister. I've been given a new life. A chance to right some wrongs," she said.

"We are so very glad to have you back, Willow," Giles said, smiling at her.

"Even if you looked like a green smurfette," Caroline muttered.

"No, she looks like the green alien from Guardian of the Galaxy," Matt remarked.

"Gamora? Good call," Caroline said.

Willow gasped, sensing a blow to the one she loved. "I must go," she said.

"Where?" Giles asked.

"Buffy needs me," Willow said. "Rick will be lost forever, and Rebekah is dead."

"What?" Caroline asked in shock.

"I must stop their mother before it’s too late," Willow said. Then she disappeared.

“Well, that’s new,” Giles remarked at her effortless teleportation.

Stefan looked at Angel. "We must get to the Mikaelsons," he said.

In mass, they all headed for cars. They didn't want to miss the showdown.

*****To Be Continued*****

I think Willow fans should be incredibly pleased for the exciting storyline I gave her.  Reviews are the best. Thanks!

Chapter Text

******Mikaelsons*****

Xander was watching in horror as Rebekah's body died. Before anyone could react, however, someone appeared in the midst of them.

"What have you done?" Willow asked, looking at Rebekah's body.

"She is dead!" Klaus exclaimed, unnecessarily.

"Willow?" Xander asked, confused by his best friend's appearance. "Is that you?"

Willow smiled at him, her eyes turning from green to their normal shade. "It's me, Xander. I'm just different," she said.

"You're alive!" Xander said, moving to embrace her.

Willow hugged him back and then locked eyes with Oz, who was showing his surprise. She grinned at her ex. "It's okay, Oz. I'm better now," she said. Oz moved to embrace her also.

"It's so good to see you, Will," Buffy said, hugging her after Oz. "Are you powered up or just feeling sick to your stomach?"

Willow flashed a familiar grin. "I have evolved. My color reflects my unity with Mother Earth," she said. She looked at Esther. "You have gone too far. You cannot give birth to a new species, and then massacre the same species. Genocide is abhorrent to Mother Earth."

"My children are not a new species. They are monsters who kill innocent lives," Esther said defensively.

Kol, who had been watching the events unfold from the safety of the doorway, fell down dead.

Asha was the only one with the view. "Another has fallen," she said, pointing him out to Oz.

"Kol is dead? How?" Oz asked.

"I combined all of our life forces," Esther said. "Rebekah is dead. Soon Elijah will be and then Niklaus and myself. Alaric will die when Buffy dies. They're lives are combined."

"We haven't even taken our vows yet," Buffy said, disgusted by the woman and the way her would-be husband was looking at her.

"Your children aren't monsters any more than a tiger is a monster. All superior species kill prey to survive," Willow said. "Like all animal life, they evolve. They now do not need to kill to live. All vampires from your line can learn to value human life. If they cannot control themselves in this life, they will be punished in the next."

Esther started to scoff in disbelief when Willow raised her hand, pulling Esther toward her. "Mother is very disappointed in you," Willow told her. "You have betrayed your gift, and as consequence all your magic will be taken from you." Willow reached out and grabbed Esther's hand, causing her to scream.

Esther could feel all the power leaving her body, and she glanced at Willow in horror. "What are you doing to me?" she asked, trying to pull away. However, the woman's grip was unshakable.

"You are not going to die a witch and go back to the Other Side," Willow said. "You will live out your life as a human without the power to do anything." She pulled all of Esther's power from her. Then she put her other hand on top of Esther's, and Esther screamed in agony.

"There," Willow said, looking down at Esther's hand in satisfaction. The group all moved closer to see what she did. There was a small tattoo of a willow tree on Esther's hand.

"You marked her?" Buffy asked in confusion.

"This mark will keep her from ever gaining back her power," Willow said.

She released Esther, who fell to her knees sobbing at the emptiness inside of her. "It's gone!" she cried out.

Willow bent down to get the woman's attention. "Your punishment is to live out your life as a human, serving the slayers. The ancient knowledge you possess will be quite an asset to Giles and the coven in England. You will spend the rest of your days fighting for your own redemption or you will find a hell with your name on it waiting to embrace you when you die a final time," Willow said.

Esther trembled with fear at this woman's power. How did she do this? "What have you become?"

"Something you couldn't possibly imagine," Willow said as she straightened.

Illyria finally woke up. "Where is that witch? I'm going to rip out her spine!" she declared as she got to her feet.

"Get in line," Klaus said. Now that Willow had rendered his mother powerless, he would see her dead. He moved to do just that and bounced off an invisible shield.

"No one can touch your mother but I," Willow said. "I have marked her, so her life is mine to take."

"You cannot keep her alive. She is too dangerous! If she cannot kill us, she will conspire with others to see it done!" Klaus said.

"If she tries to harm any of you, I will send her to her death and her soul to hell," Willow said simply.

"Is her spell broken, Will?" Xander asked, looking worriedly at Elijah.

"With her powers removed the rest of them are safe," Willow said.

Elijah was relieved and accepted Xander's embrace.

Faith arrived. "Where's the party?" she asked.

"You missed it," Xander said. "Jolly green Willow took away Esther's power."

"But our sister and brother lie dead!" Klaus said, hating the way Willow was leaving him without anything, not even revenge.

"I will heal them," Willow said, confidently.

Illyria was confused by the witch's appearance. She looked different from the way Willow normally appeared. Was she an Old One now? She watched as Willow moved to Rebekah, kneeling down next to her.

Willow glanced lovingly at the corpse of her beloved, filled with faith that she could restore her.

"You can bring back the dead?" Elijah asked in awe.

"I have all the powers of Mother Earth. I can restore life as long as it does not violate nature," Willow explained. "It is not my place to interfere with the natural order of things. I cannot go to a hospital and heal the sick. Death is a part of life and most be respected, but vampires are not the natural order of things." She leaned down and put her mouth to Rebekah's and blew into her, filling her with the kiss of life.

The rest of the group, even Rick, watched in silence, awed by what they were seeing. The rest of the group finally arrived. Oz quietly told Giles what was happening. Caroline was kneeling at Kol's dead body, crying.

Rebekah's body began changing as life was breathed into her. Klaus stood amazed along with the rest as Willow did what should not be possible.

"I'll be damned!" Spike exclaimed as he and Angel had also arrived in time for the show.

Although Rebekah's body looked restored, she did not stir. "Is she alive?" Klaus questioned.

"Soon," Willow responded as she once more put her lips to her lover. She breathed once more into Rebekah.

Rebekah took a breath and opened her eyes. The group exclaimed.

"She did it!" Xander said excitedly.

Elijah held out his hand to his sister. "Welcome back, sister," he said, smiling down at her.

Rebekah grabbed it as her eyes locked with Willow's. "Is that you, Willow?" she asked.

Willow nodded. "It is," she said. "I'm just different."

Rebekah stood and was hugged by her brothers. Then she moved to hug Willow. "You came back to me," she said, her voice choking with emotion.

"I did," Willow said. "Tara told me it wasn't my time, so I came to be with you."

Rebekah couldn't believe that she had chosen her over Tara and joy filled her. She kissed Willow, finally believing that she was real and alive once more.

"What about Kol?" Caroline asked.

Esther could not believe the power the witch was displaying. "How are you able to do this? No witch is that powerful!" she exclaimed.

Willow broke away from Rebekah's kiss and looked at Esther. "I am no longer a witch. I am a druid—a high priestess of Gaia. I can only do as She wills," she said.

Esther and Illyria both looked shaken by her words and said nothing.

"This is fascinating!" Giles said in amazement.

"Kol? What about him?" Caroline said again.

This time, however, Rick moved to stand in front of Willow. "I'm not sure what evil powers you have now, nor do I care. If you aid a vampire, I will kill you," he said.

Willow smiled at him and pulled the stake out of his hand with the force of her will alone. The stake floated in the air, and then she set fire to it, burning it to ash. "There will be no more killing today," she announced.

Klaus was gratified by her display of power even if it worried him. Now the damn woman was even more powerful than ever. However, she brought his sister back from the dead and stripped his mother of her power. It would be wise to embrace his new sister. "Welcome to the family!" he announced with a grin.

Elijah smiled at his brother, shaking his head. "You are without shame, brother," he said.

"I know when to make an enemy and when to make them my friend," Klaus said with a smirk. "As she loves our sister, that makes her family."

"Now he sees it," Rebekah said, rolling her eyes.

"You all have forgotten your purpose," Rick said, looking at Faith, Asha, and Buffy. "You are vampire slayers. They are vampires. Do your duty or I will."

"They are not the soulless demons we were created to kill," Buffy said to him. "You are not this, Rick." She looked at Willow. "Can you fix him?"

"Yes," Willow said. "I will. But let's fix Kol first."

Rick moved to attack, but Willow held up her hand, rendering him immobile.

"Is there nothing she can't do?" Liz whispered to Giles.

"I think not," he said, fascinated by what he was seeing.

She moved to Kol and breathed into him, healing his body. Then she breathed into him again, and he took a breath.

"She did it!" Caroline exclaimed, bending down to hug her friend.

"Wow!" Kol said, looking at his new body in amazement. "I'm not barbeque anymore!"

"Nope," Xander said. "You were giving the natives food poison, so Will fixed you right up!"

Kol couldn't believe it, and then he realized something. His body wasn't quite the same. "What did you do to me?" he asked.

"She brought you back from the dead," Klaus told him.

"No, that's not what I meant," Kol said. "I'm different."

Rebekah thought about it and realized he was right. "I do feel different," she acknowledged.

Klaus reached out and grabbed Kol's hand. Then he understood what Kol meant. "You're no longer a vampire," he said.

"No, they're both human," Willow said smiling.

"You made our siblings human without asking?" Klaus said, outraged.

Rebekah grinned. "I can have children?" she asked, hope in her eyes.

Willow nodded. "Yes, my love. You can," she said.

Kol wasn't sure how he felt. Then he sensed something else about his new body and grinned. "I can feel it again!" he cried.

"What?" Caroline asked.

"Magic," he said, creating a fire ball on top of his hand. He grinned gleefully. "She restored us to what we were." Her youngest two children had been training to follow her witchy ways.

"You can cure vampirism?" Giles asked in disbelief.

"Well, I can heal vampires," Willow said.

Esther felt hope. "Did their entire line become human again?" she asked.

"No. I will not change countless others without their permission," she said. "I did this because I know both Kol and Rebekah would be happier as human. Kol cannot control his blood lust, and both are locked in immature bodies. Now they can reach adulthood physically as well as emotionally."

Stefan stepped forward. "Can you heal me?" he asked.

Faith reached out and grabbed his hand. "Are you sure that's what you want?" she asked.

He nodded. "I will train as a Watcher and help you that way. I want to have a family with you and grow old with you," he said, squeezing her hand.

"I can if it is your desire," Willow told him. When he stepped in front of her, she leaned forward and put her lips to his.

"No tongue, Will!" Faith called out, causing laughter.

Willow wasn't distracted, though, and breathed into Stefan.

"What's going on?" Damon asked as he had arrived with Bonnie and Elena finally. "Why is my brother kissing Willow and what the hell is wrong with Willow?"

"You missed a lot," Caroline told him. "Esther killed Rebekah and Kol, but Willow healed them after stripping Esther of all her magic. But she didn't just bring them back to life, she made them human. Stefan asked her to heal him, too."

Damon and Elena watched in amazement as Stefan was restored. Willow pulled back. "It's done," she said.

"How do you feel?" Faith asked in concern.

For the first time in a very long time, Stefan didn't feel the hunger that had driven him for so long, and he smiled. "I'm human," he announced.

"She can do that?" Elena asked. "Really?"

"Yes, Elena, I can fix you," Willow said, gesturing her to move forward.

Damon didn't know what to do. Did he want to be human? Once, he wanted it more than anything. After Willow healed Elena, she looked at Damon. "I don't think you are ready yet, are you?" she asked.

Damon shook his head. "I don't think so," he admitted. He wanted to find the redemption that Angel and Spike spoke so much about.

"When you're ready, come to me," Willow said. She looked at Xander and Oz.

Xander, though, had no trouble deciding. "Sorry, Willow, but I don't want to ever feel helpless again," he announced, making Klaus smile.

"Me either," Caroline said. Bonnie and Elena frowned. "Sorry, guys, but I like how I feel now."

"But what about children?" Liz asked. "Don't you want to have them?"

"Someday, but not now," she said.

Oz glanced at Klaus, undecided. Then he looked at Asha. Her life would be in constant danger. He was able to protect her as a hybrid more than he would as a werewolf. Then he wondered something and asked, "Would it restore me to completely human or just a werewolf?"

"You were infected as a wolf, so you'd be the same Oz that I fell in love with all those years ago," Willow told him.

"Then I will stay as I am," he announced. He looked at Asha. "I have to be able to protect you."

Asha glared. "I can take care of myself!" she insisted.

"I didn't say you couldn't," Oz said, reaching for her hand.

Klaus was relieved—his hybrid hadn't forsaken him after all. He looked at Elijah. Now it was his turn to decide. "Elijah?" he asked.

Elijah shook his head. "I have much to atone for and can better serve as I am," he said. He looked at Giles. "After the wedding, Alexander and I will return with you."

Giles smiled. "We would be happy to have you," he said.

"What about Rick?" Buffy asked. "Can you fix him?"

"I can restore his mind and purge him of Esther's influence. It will be up to him to decide on what he will do," Willow said. Rick would hate his vampire nature, yet he might be relieved that he could stand next to Buffy and not behind her as he was now. She moved and put her hands up, resting a hand on each side of his temple. If she had killed Esther, her influence would be gone. Now she had to enter his mind and purge it. It took several minutes.

Buffy was growing concerned. "How can she raise the dead so quickly and take so long fixing Rick?" she whispered to Rebekah.

"Have faith," Rebekah said, reaching out and taking the slayer's hand.

Then Willow stood back. "There," she said. "He should be fine."

Rick blinked and looked around. "What's going on?" he asked.

Buffy ran and hugged him. For once, he didn't wince in pain. "What's wrong with me? Why doesn't your hug hurt?" he asked.

"Esther turned you into a vampire," Buffy said. "She tied our lives together, so when I die, so will you. Willow can fix you, though, if you want."

Rick didn't know what to think, but he knew that he needed to be alone with his fiancée. It was too much. "Good to know. Let's go home. I feel like I haven't seen you in forever," he said.

The couple left hand in hand and others began to follow. Oz hugged Willow and then introduced her to Asha.

Willow smiled. "It's great to meet you. Oz is the best man I have ever known," she said.

"Hey!" Xander protested.

"Second best," she quickly corrected with a wink.

"That's right!" Xander said.

"What about how you look?" Dawn asked. "You can't go around looking like a freak, Will. The school will fire you."

Willow nodded and ran her hand over her body, changing her appearance back to human. "That should do it," she said. "It's a glamour."

Dawn clapped. "I'm so glad you're back," she said.

"How about you take me to your bed and we'll see how your new fragile body holds out?" Faith whispered to Stefan, causing Damon to snicker.

Stefan happily followed his lover out the door.

Angel and Spike moved to stand in front of Willow. "Don't go try to heal me," Spike warned. "I'm fine the way I am."

"Could you heal a vampire like us?" Angel asked.

Willow shook her head. "No. I could probably restore their soul if they asked, but they'd have to be prepared for how that would feel—the trauma it could cause," she said.

"I think that's enough healing for today," Rebekah said. She looked at her mother. "What are you going to do with Mother?"

"I think we should confine her to her room until after the wedding. Giles can take her back with him," Willow said.

"Come along, Mother," Rebekah gestured.

"I'll be right there," Willow said, looking closely at Illyria.

Elijah began a conversation with Giles, and Damon took Elena back to her house. All her friends decided to join them. Bonnie was more than freaked about by the implications of Willow's actions and needed time to process. Oz, Klaus, and Asha followed Kol into the dining room to get a drink.

"Illyria," Willow said. "Are you all right?"

"Are you now an Old One?" Illyria inquired.

Willow thought a moment, and then she shook her head. "No, because I live to serve others. Old Ones only used power to serve themselves," she explained. "You have a new life inside of you. Are you ready for what it will bring to you?"

"My host is still here," Illyria said.

"No, she's not," Willow said. "She is haunting you because she was ripped from her body and destroyed."

"How does she yet live? I feel her inside," Illyria said.

"She had great love for many people, and they kept her soul from being destroyed completely. Her will is strong, and she came back from oblivion," Willow explained. "If you like, I can give you peace."

"You can rid me of her?" Illyria asked in surprise.

"I can give you peace, which does not mean destroying a soul," Willow clarified. "Right now, she is not inside you but surrounds you—that's why you feel her. Your body is her connection to this plane of existence. "

Illyria was torn. She wanted Burkle gone and didn't want to be infected with humanity. It meant weakness. Then she thought of the new friends she had made and the humanity they all possessed to one degree or another. Would having her make her life better or worse?

"I don't know what to do," Illyria admitted, cursing herself for being weak. This was what humanity had brought her to.

"You are never weak," Willow assured her. "But you can be more than a ruler terrorizing people with your power. You can be a hero setting people free from the demons that would do them in. Winifred Burkle had a brilliant mind and a kind heart. What happened to her wasn't your fault, but she has a right to have her body back."

"What would happen to me?" Illyria asked.

"You would have to co-exist," Willow said.

"What's going on?" Angel asked, not liking the look on Illyria's face.

Spike stepped toward them to see what was happening, too. "Is Blue okay?" he asked.

"No," Willow said. "She's about to have her life completely changed, and she needs help."

"We're here for you, Blue," Spike assured her.

"You care about my vessel, not me," Illyria said coldly.

"Well, sure, we loved Fred. She was hard not to love," Spike said. "But she's gone, and you're pretty great, too."

Illyria sniffed and said nothing. She looked at Willow and nodded. "Okay, go ahead," she said.

Willow stepped forward and put her hand on Illyria's stomach and her other hand on her forehead. "Kutsun Winifred Burkle pois syvyyksistä. Ole matkustaja enää. Liity vielä kerran kehosi ja tehdä koko," she spoke, confusing the two vampires who were listening.

"What are you saying?" Spike asked.

Willow translated: "I call Winifred Burkle out of the depths. Be a passenger no more. Join once more to your body and be made whole." Illyria flashed brightly for one moment and then her formed turned to Fred.

She blinked and looked at Angel. "Angel?" she asked, confused.

"Fred?" Angel asked, stunned.

Spike's mouth fell open in shock. "What the hell? You brought Fred back?" he asked.

"How?" Angel asked.

"She was leaking into Illyria, causing her much distress," Willow said. "This is better for them both."

"Illyria's not gone?" Angel asked.

"No," Willow said. "She's there. They must learn to co-exist," Angel said.

"Like Dr. Banner and the Hulk?" Spike asked.

Willow grinned. "You spent more time with Andrew than anyone knew, huh?"

"I was alive when the comics were created," Spike said, glaring at her.

Angel moved forward and hugged Fred. "We missed you, Fred. Every day," he said.

Fred was crying and hugging Angel. "I got so lost," she said.

"We found you," he said, staggered by what Willow had done. Spike pulled him back and hugged Fred.

"It's my turn. You're always stealing all the ladies," he complained as he hugged her. When she giggled, Spike knew it was really Fred. The smartest girl he'd ever known. The one person in all the world who figured out how to make him corporeal again. He could never do it for her, but Willow had. After he hugged Fred, he surprised Willow by hugging her.

"What's going on?" Klaus asked. He had been in the other room speaking with his brother, who was both freaked and excited about his change. Seeing Spike hugging Willow was an odd sight.

"Who is that?" Fred asked. He seemed familiar, but as he approached she remained confused.

Klaus smiled, flashing his most charming smile. "Has my goddess forgotten me already?" he asked.

Fred frowned, looking confused. "I don't know you," she said. She looked at Angel for help. "Angel?"

Klaus moved forward, angry. "What did you do to Illyria? Where is she?" he asked Willow.

In a flash, Fred changed back to Illyria. "I am here," she said.

Now it was Klaus' turn to be confused. "What's going on? Why didn't you know me?" he asked.

"That was my host," Illyria said.

"She wasn't completely gone, so I helped Illyria," Willow said. "Either will appear if you request one. Illyria, though, will probably immerge automatically if there's a physical threat. Fred will come when things are too emotional or human for Illyria—or sciencey."

"Are you okay, love?" Klaus asked Illyria in concern. This woman was a true friend. She had brought him out of the hell he had been in. She remained loyal to him when all others were against him, and he was not about to forget her loyalty.

Illyria smiled at the man she considered her mate and equal. "I am well," she said. "This is strange but not as I feared. I am not diminished."

Klaus reached for her hand, kissing it in a courtly manner that made Spike gag. "You could never be diminished," he said. Then he walked off once more.

"I want to speak to Fred," Angel said.

Just like that, Fred was once more there. "Angel, was that Illyria's boyfriend?" Fred asked. "How would that work?"

"Illyria claims him as her mate, but he is not convinced," Angel said. "However, he was rescued from a hell dimension Willow sent him to by Illyria, so he is indebted to her. I think Klaus considers her a friend."

"So you could see what Illyria was seeing?" Spike asked. "How come you didn't know him?"

"She wasn't actually in the body before," Willow clarified. "Now it will be like one is a passenger while the other is in control."

"I always wanted a sister," Fred said, smiling. She was just so happy to be alive again. Where was he? "Where's Wes?"

Angel looked at Spike, who winced. "Bullocks," he muttered.

"It's been about seven months since we fought the Black Thorn," Angel explained. "Wesley died in the battle. Illyria was very upset."

Fred cried out in pain. "No!" she yelled and threw herself into Angel's arms.

Kol and Klaus came back into the room and saw Illyria crying in Angel's arms. The sight was so strange to Klaus that decided it must be the other girl. "I've got to leave this house before I explode," he said.

"We should go see our sweet Caroline," Kol suggested.

"I'm going to get a drink," Klaus said.

"I'll tell her to meet us at the Grille," Kol said, pulling out his phone to text.

At Buffy's, Rick and Buffy were in her room. Buffy had finished telling Rick what had recently transpired.

"So I'm now a vampire on the level of Elijah?" Rick asked.

"Willow can cure you, though," Buffy explained. "You don't have to stay a vampire."

He sat on the bed, trying to think. It was a lot to take in. Buffy sat down next to him, resting her head against him. "I don't really care. I loved two vampires, so I if you want to stay immortal for a while, it's fine for me."

Rick could hear her heart beating and suddenly felt an incredible urge to taste her. When he realized that it was more than that—he was actually hungering to feed off her—he jumped up. "I could hurt you," he said. "That's not okay. We're about to bring a child into this world. I can't be like this."

"You are stronger this way. You can protect our child better," Buffy pointed out.

"I don't need to," he said. "Our baby has you."

Buffy was a bit surprised. "It really doesn't bother you at all that I'm stronger than you? That I can do things you can't? Or can't if you're human," she wondered. He was so different from Riley.

Rick shook his head. "No. I'm tired of fighting. I just want to be your husband, a history teacher, and the best dad I can be," he told her.

Buffy stood up and pulled his head down so that she could kiss him. "I love you," she said.

"I love you," he said. "Are you ready to get married now?"

"I'll call Willow and tell her to come by in the morning," Buffy said. She gave him a wicked look. "I think we should try out your vampire stamina at least once."

"What if I hurt you?" he asked, worried.

"I won't let you, and you won't," Buffy said as she took off her clothes.

"Let me call, Damon, and have him bring blood bags," he said.

The doorbell rang. "No need. Stefan is already bringing some," Buffy said. "Faith texted me as soon as we got here."

Rick grinned and went down to open the door. He expected to see Stefan, but it was Damon. "I thought Stefan was bringing it," he said.

"He was, but I told him that I would," Damon said, handing Rick a tote bag. "Keep it cold. Heat it up if you want a warm drink."

"Thanks. It's just for tonight," Rick said. "I'm going to be human again tomorrow."

"Are you sure?" Damon asked. "Like this, you are stronger than anyone alive except for maybe Klaus. You could kick my ass."

Rick laughed. "That would be fun, but Buffy can do any ass-kicking you need," he said. "I'm a threat to my family like this. I don't want to hurt them."

"You could never," Damon said. "It's not in your nature to hurt people. Being a vampire just amplifies your nature. Look at Caroline. As young as she was, it took her no time at all to master her control. This will be a piece of cake for you."

"Maybe," Rick acknowledged. "Why didn't you decide to be human with Elena?"

"I will be—someday," Damon said. "Knowing that Willow can do that anytime is great. After Elena finishes school and decides to have a family, I will go see Willow. Right now, though, I want to go back to Los Angeles and help Spike and Angel. They make our nature seem like a gift, and it's fun."

"It's good to have a nobler purpose, isn't it?" Rick asked, giving his friend a smile.

Damon shrugged. "It doesn't hurt," he said. "Well, go back to your lady. I'll see you later."

Rick thanked him and shut the door. Then he took the blood into the kitchen and stuck it in the fridge after taking out a few bags. He drunk one like he saw his friends do on more than once occasion. Surprisingly, the blood didn't taste cooper and gross like he expected. Instead, it tasted yummy. "Weird," he said after he downed the bag. He grabbed another in case he started to get urges when with Buffy.

Although he did see the advantage to being strong, he just wanted to live his life as a regular guy, loving the most incredible woman on the planet. He grinned in anticipation as he opened their door.

"You have too many clothes on!" his naked fiancée complained as she displayed herself on the bed.

In a heartbeat, he was naked. "Now the speed thing is very cool," he said as he crawled into bed.

"You better not finish that fast," she said, glaring up at him.

He dropped a kiss to her belly and then looked up at her. "Oh, I'm sure I can last for hours," he said. Then his mouth moved down.

Several hours later, his pregnant fiancée passed out from exhaustion. He pulled her against him, feeling smug. "Now that is a perk I could get used to," he mumbled as he succumbed to sleep.

*****The Wedding Day******

Buffy's wedding day had finally arrived. Dawn came bouncing in as soon as the sun came up.

"It's your wedding day!" she screamed as she jumped on the bed, waking her sister.

"You know I was up to one, right? Why are you here so early?" Buffy groaned.

"Your wedding is at noon and your flight to your honeymoon in Italy is at five," Dawn reminded her. "You can sleep on the plane!"

Due to the events of the past few weeks, she and Rick hadn't wanted separate parties even though Damon wanted to drag Rick down to Atlantic City for a bachelor's party. Instead, they'd rented out the Grille and had karaoke, dancing, and drinking. Buffy was one of the few sober people left when the party wrapped up. Since it was her wedding night, Willow insisted that Rick had to go home for the night.

"That was an amazing party!" Dawn said. Several dozen slayers had arrived on top of the ones that were already in town. The place was packed. The party was also a shower, and the couple had spent over an hour opening up all the gifts. Some were naughty; some were thoughtful, and some were just strange. Buffy, though, had been delighted with the nearly dozen new weapons her sister slayers had gotten her.

"I did get some cool gifts," Buffy said with a smile.

"You would find old swords and knifes attractive," Dawn said with a smirk.

"Rick liked them, too!" Buffy said.

"Only 'cause he's a nerdy history buff and wants to study them!" Dawn exclaimed, laughing. "Elena and Matt will be here in an hour with a light breakfast. They'll be a good spread at the wedding."

"I will hop in the shower," Buffy said, stepping out of bed and stretching.

Willow came in just as she was finishing her shower. "I can't believe it, Buffy! You're getting married!" Willow said excitedly.

Buffy had a towel wrapped around her, but she returned Willow's exuberant hug. "I know. After all the death, it's finally here," she said.

"And no more bloody visions of your wedding day!" Willow said happily.

"What?" Buffy asked.

"Oops," Willow said, looking guilty. For once, a secret was actually kept, and no one had spilled to Buffy about Xander’s bloody vision. She gave a mental grown at her slip.

So close. . .

*****Hour Later*****

Rick watched the most beautiful woman he had ever met walk down the aisle toward him. There had been moments when he wasn't sure the day would come, but now it was happening. Buffy had on a dress with a full skirt that covered her baby bump. The weather was perfect—Willow had something to do with that. It was November in Virginia, but the temperature was in the low sixties. There wind was still, and his bride was now in front of him.

He knew they had planned every detail of the day, but he barely heard Caroline sing. He was lost in Buffy's eyes—her joy was so bright that everything else faded away but her. His vows were repeated—they didn't write their own. It was a good thing since he could only focus on her face.

For Buffy, the day was magical and perfect. Everyone she loved was there smiling at her as Giles walked her down the aisle. Caroline was singing her favorite love song by Christina Perri, "A Thousand Years."

I have died every day, waiting for you
Darling, don't be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed, I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

Although Rick was no longer immortal, Buffy knew that their love would last forever, and they would face eternity together. She was no longer just a slayer.

She was a wife. Soon she would be a mother. Finally, life was perfect.

*****The Reception*****

Klaus was twirling his sweet Caroline on the dance floor when Kol interrupted. "My turn, brother," he said, elbowing his way in.

"Get your own date," Klaus said, dismissing his brother.

"I need to speak to her," Kol reminded him. Klaus nodded and handed her off.

"What's going on?" Caroline asked.

"I just wanted to dance with the prettiest girl here," Kol said, smiling at her.

"I don't know about prettiest," Caroline said. "Some of these slayers are ridiculously attractive!"

"They don't hold a candle to you!" he insisted, making her grin. "But I did want to tell you about my plans."

"What's up?" she asked.

"I'm going home to New Orleans," he said. "It was the last home I had before Mystic Falls and my long daggering."

"Did Klaus give you back that dagger? He won't be doing that anymore!" she insisted.

"He can't, love. I'm human now," Kol reminded her. "I get to age just like all the other blokes."

"When will you leave?" she asked.

"Tonight," he said. "I know that Marcel is using our home, but we have other properties in New Orleans. The witches there are being persecuted by my nephew. I'm going to go free them."

Caroline looked concerned. "You could get hurt, Kol. You're not invincible anymore," she said.

"Spike and Katherine are going to go with me," he said. "Spike says he can spare a few weeks more away from New Orleans. Elijah said he can send in slayers if things get ugly after Spike leaves. I'll be okay."

"Are you sure?" Caroline asked. "That's awfully far."

"You'll be graduating in a few months. I'll be back for your graduation," he promised. "But then you'll be off to college somewhere."

"I'll miss you," Caroline said.

"And I you," Kol said. "I just have this feeling, love. My destiny is in New Orleans."

Caroline nodded and hugged him. Things were changing so fast.

Nearby, Damon was dancing with Elena. She laughed as he twirled her. Dancing with Damon was never dull, and it'd been too long since they'd gotten to enjoy themselves so many hours in a row. The party last night, and now the wedding—it was all so magical.

"I hope I have a wedding day as great as this one," Elena said.

"Just name the day, I'll make sure it happens," Damon said, grinning.

"Even if it's to another man?" Elena wondered.

Damon stopped moving. "Do you want it to be to another man?" he asked, looking intently at her.

Elena gazed into his eyes and considered it. Could another man ever love her more than Damon? Finally, she smiled and shook her head. "I love you, Damon," she said, knowing it was true.

Damon's smile was warm as he kissed her softly. "I love you, too," he whispered.

"Look at that," Matt said, watching his best friend kiss Damon as he danced with Dawn.

Dawn turned her head and saw the couple. "Wow! I guess Elena finally realized how much Damon loves her," Dawn said.

"He better not hurt her," Matt said, frowning.

Dawn grinned. "He won't. He loves her," she said confidently.

"Damon is unpredictable and still a vampire," Matt pointed out.

"Xander is a vampire. It doesn't make them evil," Dawn argued.

"Xander is special, and you weren't here when Damon came to town," Matt said. "He turned my sister into a vampire, and Stefan staked her."

"You don't have to like him," Dawn said. "But you need to let it go if you want to stay close to Elena."

Matt knew she was probably right, but he would never be comfortable with Damon Salvatore. "He killed my best friend," he reminded her. Everyone seemed to have forgotten Tyler, but he never would.

"And he will have to atone for that," Dawn said. "But let's not worry about him. We're happy and my sister is finally happy. Can't we just enjoy that?"

Matt felt guilty and nodded. "I'm sorry," he said.

"That's okay," she said, laying her head against his chest.

Matt wasn't the only one to see Damon kiss Elena. Faith saw it to and whistled. "Your brother might get lucky tonight!" she said, waiting to see how Stefan would react.

Stefan barely gave them a glance. "Good for him," he said. "It's not fair that I have all the luck." He put his lips on her neck and kiss it. What his brother did or didn't do with Elena no longer mattered to him.

Faith sighed in happiness. "You are pretty lucky," she said. "But then so am I." She hoped her luck wouldn't run out because Stefan Salvatore was better than anything she could've imagined.

On the side lines, Bonnie watched feeling lonely. Everyone was all coupled up while she was all alone. She missed Jeremy so much, and it felt wrong to live without him. "He should be here dancing with me," she thought.

Willow, holding Rebekah's hand, walked toward her. "Do you want to dance with us?" she asked.

"Dancing is something done in a couple," Bonnie replied. "I don't have anyone."

"You have lots of people," Willow said. "But don't worry, Bonnie. Your soul mate is out there."

"Jeremy is dead," Bonnie said.

"He wasn't your soulmate, sweetie," Willow told her. "First loves rarely are."

Bonnie didn't know what to think. Willow was her mentor, but she was so different now. It made Bonnie uncomfortable sometimes. "Are you being supportive, or do you actually know something?" Bonnie wondered.

"I know that you should go to Whitmore College," Willow said with a wink. "You won't regret it."

Bonnie's eyes widened as she realized what Willow was saying.

"Come on! I want to dance!" Rebekah said, reaching for Bonnie's hand and dragging her with them to the dance floor.

Elijah and Xander were watching from the sidelines, sipping champagne. "I think you can relax," Elijah said. "Your vision isn't going to happen. We stopped it."

"I know, but it's hard," Xander admitted. "The vision was so strong."

"You haven't had it again since Willow came back. We killed Drusilla. There's no threats," Elijah said. "Would you like to dance?"

"I still think dancing with a guy is weird," Xander said, frowning.

"Well, we can go inside and violate Damon's bed," Elijah said with a smug grin.

Xander's eyes brightened. "Now that's a plan!" he said, taking his lover’s arm.

Angel was enjoying dancing with Fred. The past few days had been hard, and she wasn't feeling too well. He'd filled her in on what all she'd missed. Having her back made him so happy that he was a bit concerned about his soul. "I wonder if enjoying dancing with you like this puts my soul at risk?" he asked, smiling down at her.

Fred grinned. "Well, if I was your one true love, then maybe," she said. She looked over at the very happy bride dancing with her new husband. "I am sorry yours is now married to another."

Angel gave her a small smile. "It's okay. I love seeing her so happy," he said, glancing at Buffy. "Alaric is giving her everything I can't. She's going to be a mom, and I'm okay with it."

"There's going to be someone else for you, Angel. We'll figure out how to tie your soul to you permanently," Fred said. "Willow can cure vampires. Surely, that's not beyond her."

"It's probably not," Angel said, filled with hope. The future was full of possibilities.

****The Next Morning*****

Klaus was in his studio painting as he was prone to do when the morning light was especially good. Today, he was painting a small picture of Caroline that he was going to give as a gift to her mother on her wedding day. His painting was interrupted.

"Klaus, I must speak with you," Illyria said.

"Come in," Klaus said.

Illyria walked closer and saw what he was painting. "You are painting the child?" she asked, arching an eyebrow in disapproval.

"She is no child," he said.

"Compared to you and me, she is," Illyria. "Fred says you and a high school girl is icky. What does icky mean?"

"It means gross or unappealing," Klaus said, staring at her curiously. "Your host is truly there in your body? She speaks to you?"

"We share the same form, so we can communicate," Illyria said.

"That must be strange," Klaus said.

"Yes, it is disconcerting at times, but I already grow comfortable with it," Illyria said. "Knowing that she is there gives me comfort. I lost my guide when her lover died, and I've looked for one to guide me in this strange world. My pet does sometimes, but he is not as knowledgeable as Wesley was. No one is smarter than my host. Her brain is strange, but it processes information at an incredible speed. She is a scientist."

"It is good to have someone to counsel you," Klaus said. "My brother Elijah does that for me. In many ways, he is my North Star."

Illyria changed. "Ah, that's so sweet!" Fred said. "You are a sensitive man, which isn't surprising since you're an artist."

The Texas accent that Illyria has once adorned in his presence wasn't off-putting on this one. Now he could tell the difference between Illyria imitating Fred and Fred herself. "Changing like that is a bit strange," Klaus said.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" Fred told him. "I didn't mean to be rude. It's just Ria doesn't do well with the emotion, and we both found your words sweet. Well, I did. She just admired your loyalty to your brother."

Klaus smiled, and Fred's eyes grew big.

"Wow! That's some smile! You have a dimple! That's so darn sexy! I bet girls go wild for you," she observed.

Klaus laughed, charmed by the Texan. "I do okay," he said modestly.

"I wonder if our baby will have your dimple?" Fred wondered.

Klaus stopped laughing and looked at her in dismay. "What?" he asked.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" Fred said, wincing. "I didn't mean to just blurt it out like that."

"What do you mean?" Klaus asked.

"Well, we're pregnant, and Ria says that you're the daddy," Fred told him.

"What?" he bellowed in shock. "That's not possible. Vampires cannot reproduce."

"Yes, I have a theory about that," Fred said excitedly.

Klaus held up his hand. "Illyria," he called.

Fred changed. "I am here," she said.

"Is your other form insane? You cannot possibly be pregnant with my child!" he insisted.

"I was surprised, and when Willow said I had a new life inside of me, I thought she meant my host. I should have known your mother was only able to contain me because my energy was split," Illyria said. "When I became sick, Fred was suspicious. We took a test. Somehow, urinating on a small plastic stick is how humans determine if they are with child."

"It cannot be mine!" Klaus argued.

Illyria changed back to Fred. "Listen, here, mister. I don't know what you're implying, but Illyria isn't some tramp! She says you are the only one she has carnal knowledge of, so that makes you the daddy! And you are going to go to Texas with me and tell my daddy you knocked me up!" Fred said, glaring up at him. "If he gets out his shotgun, you will not hurt him! He bark is worse than his bite."

Klaus was rendered speechless.

******The End*****

I had this exact ending pictured over a year or so before I wrote it. It was just too perfect, and I hope you were delighted and stunned. Klaus' line about Elijah being his North Star comes from an episode in the final season of the Originals.

If you've never reviewed this story, here's your chance. Tell me how you liked this final chapter and how it wrapped. Feel free to let me know what you would like in another sequel if I write it. Thanks again!

The new sequel to this story is called Transformed By Love. Check it out when I post it. I've only gotten 5 chapters written. This is not my most popular series by any means, but it's my favorite to write as I love to imagine the worlds combined.