The Next Chapter

Chapter 38

A/N I'm venturing off into a little story of my very own for the next two chapters before I start with the third season.

Chapter 38

Buffy sat amongst a sea of boxes spread around her and stared at the journal in her hands. It had been Giles's last Watcher Diary. He'd been writing in it when Angelus had interrupted. After pushing him to tell her, Angel finally relented and told Buffy what had happened to Giles. Angelus hadn't tortured him. Klaus had just wanted the Watcher dead because he knew about Klaus's curse. He hadn't known that Elijah had told them about it.

Buffy looked down at the words on the page. He'd been talking about Klaus and the curse. Before that he'd been talking about Mystic Falls and everything Buffy had been going through there. He'd started this particular journal when Buffy had gone off with Lexi.

Damon walked into the room and sat down next to her. "Hey." She looked up, tears glistening on her cheeks. He pulled her to him and rested her head on his shoulder. "Shh…."

"I'm sorry I keep leaking all over you." Buffy said.

"I wouldn't expect anything else."

"I'm glad he didn't suffer. I'm glad it was quick for him."

"You shouldn't even think about that."

Buffy sighed and looked around the room from her place on Damon's shoulder. "I don't know what to do with all of this stuff."

"We've got plenty of room back home. Keep it till you can figure it out."

"When my mom died…. Giles took care of most of it. The funeral…. The flowers…. The insurance stuff…. I didn't have to deal with it. I didn't even have to deal with the hospital paperwork at the morgue. Now I wish that I had because I have no idea what to do."

"The lawyers will help you. I'll help you. Willow will help you. You're not alone."

"I know." Buffy inhaled deeply and sat up. She stood up in one fluid movement and stretched. "I'm going to call Elena and check on her and Jeremy."

"You did that two hours ago." Damon said, standing up and following her to the kitchen.

"I know. I'm just worried."

Damon was suddenly in front of her, grasping her shoulders. "Elena and Jeremy are fine. Alaric is taking good care of them."

"Klaus…."

"Isn't going to bother them. He doesn't even know that Elena's alive."

"He wants me. He'll go to Mystic Falls."

"Stefan won't let that happen. Whatever deal he made with Klaus, he'll make him stick to it for as long as possible. Klaus won't bother you anytime soon." He sat her down on a barstool and looked her in the eyes. "You need to grieve. And to do that, you need to slow down. You haven't given yourself the chance to mourn and you need to do that." She gave him an exasperated look. "You'll end up falling apart at a very inopportune time and I really don't want to hold you together if we're fighting for our lives again."

Buffy shook her head. "You're so good to me." She said sarcastically.

"You're better to me." He said sincerely as he smoothed her hair away from her face, pushing it behind her ears. "I'm serious. We're not going back until you've properly mourned the man that was your father in every way that counted."

"I don't have time."

"You are so stubborn!"

"Yes. I am. Besides, I don't do that whole wear black for a year thing."

"Though I think you look sexy in black, I wouldn't expect you to mourn for a year. I've moved on from those days." He smiled slightly.

Buffy sighed. "Will you help me finish packing now? The realtor wants to start showing the place next week and we need to be finished before then."

"And then what?"

"Then…. we take this stuff back home and sort through it there."

Elena and Jeremy stood in the living room with Angel, Alaric, and Caroline. There was a large Welcome Home banner strung across the top of the doorway leading from the hallway. Buffy and Damon were supposed to be back soon. The boxes full of Giles's belongings had arrived the day before and Angel, Alaric, and Jeremy had put them in Buffy's room.

The door opened and Damon walked in with Buffy right behind him. Elena smiled brightly and ran up to hug Buffy. "Welcome home!"

"Oh my gosh!" Buffy cried as the teenager suddenly cut off her air supply. "Hi! Wow."

"How was your trip? We missed you here. I'm so glad you're back! How did everything go? How was your flight? Do you need any help with your bags? Are you hungry? I am so glad you're back!" Elena said in rapid fire English. If Buffy didn't talk fast herself sometimes, she wouldn't have understood any of it.

"Slow down, Speedy!" Damon said. "We were only gone a week and a half."

"Summer break." Alaric said. "The kids haven't had anything to do."

"Don't know how I can help that." Buffy said as she hugged both Elena and Caroline at the same time.

"We've had plenty to do." Caroline protested.

"Actually, we have a surprise for you." Elena said to Buffy.

"Should I be scared?" Buffy asked.

"No! Come on!" Elena took Buffy's hand and dragged her towards the stairs. Damon fell into step behind Buffy and Jeremy, Angel, Alaric, and Caroline followed. "We actually have two surprises, but this one I couldn't wait to show you." Elena stopped outside the door to the room that Damon and Buffy had been working on turning into a weapons/training room. She smiled brightly and opened the door. "We found your plans and Angel and Alaric helped us finish it."

"You guys did this?" Buffy asked as she walked into the finished room. Her bigger, more impressive weapons, including her scythe, were displayed on one wall. On the other wall were shelves filled with her smaller weapons neatly arranged by name. The middle of the room contained a large blue floor mat. On the far wall by the window was a dresser. Inside was her work out clothes along with some new ones. In the corner sat a sparring dummy and a hanging punching bag. On the same wall as the door was a weight lifting bench with weights neatly stacked in order next to it. "This is amazing."

"You like it?" Elena asked hopefully.

"I love it. Now I can stay in shape."

"And teach Damon to fight." Alaric said playfully.

"Hey. I can fight." Damon protested. "Just not as good as her."

"I brought the bag from my own collection." Angel said.

"Oh, Angel, you didn't have to do that." Buffy said.

"Somebody had to use it. It was just collecting dust at the Hyperion."

"This is awesome, you guys! Thank you so much!" Buffy hugged Elena and Caroline again. Jeremy came up from behind and wrapped his arms around all three girls.

"Oh! The second surprise!" Elena said. "We've got to go finish. Buffy, you stay up here until we come get you." She smiled and walked out with Caroline and Jeremy. Alaric, Angel, and Damon stayed with Buffy as she went over to the shelves of weapons.

"How's she doing?" Buffy asked Alaric.

"She's doing ok." Alaric said. "She missed you."

"Has she mentioned Stefan?"

"She believes he's going to find a way to come back. Have you talked to him?"

"No. Damon and I both have tried texting and calling, but he's changed his number I think."

"Any idea what kind of deal was made?" Alaric asked.

"Whatever it was, Stefan wouldn't let Klaus get near Buffy." Damon said. "Beyond that, I'm not worried."

"Well, I am." Buffy announced. "I want to find them and see if Stefan can be saved."

"That's suicide." Alaric said.

"Maybe. Maybe not."

"You are not bargaining yourself for Stefan." Damon said.

"I can't just sit here and do nothing while Klaus is doing gods only knows what to Stefan."

"We don't have much of a choice." Angel said.

"Stefan's doing this to protect you and Elena." Damon said. "Let him…."

"I don't need protecting!"

"I know that. You know that. We all know that. Hell, Stefan knows that. But he'll never accept it. He's not happy unless he's being the hero. He'll call us when he can."

"I don't like just sitting."

"I know you don't."

"He's right." Angel said. "There's nothing we can do until Stefan calls."

"What if he never calls?"

Damon sighed. No one had an answer to that. At least not one Buffy wanted to hear. Thankfully Caroline suddenly appeared in the doorway. "Ok guys! We're ready." She grabbed Buffy's hand and led her down the stairs and into the dining room. "Ta-da!" Elena was putting a turkey in the center of the table. Around the turkey was an array of different side dishes and steaming rolls.

"Wow!" Buffy said. "You guys did all of this?"

"Angel and Alaric helped." Elena said. "Turns out Angel's a really good cook."

"So I've heard." Buffy said, glancing at Angel.

"The kids wanted to do something nice for you when you got home." Alaric said.

"I love it! Thank you guys!"

Elena pulled the chair out at the head of the table. "Here you go, Buffy."

"Thank you." Buffy said, sitting down. Damon took the chair to her right and everyone else made their way to a seat with Alaric at the other end of the table.

Caroline and Alaric had finally gone home at almost one in the morning. Jeremy was upstairs asleep and Damon had offered to unpack. Angel had gone for a stroll, which meant he was going out to patrol. That left Elena and Buffy alone. Buffy was putting away dishes while Elena washed them.

"Buffy…." Elena started. The petite blonde turned to look at Elena expectantly. The teen was obviously having trouble forming the words she wanted to say.

"Don't tell me you're pregnant." Buffy said jokingly. "I know Matt's free now and John said something about you having kids…."

Elena laughed. "No. God, no!" She sighed and got serious. "I know what everyone thinks about what happened to Stefan and I know how they feel about finding him, but you haven't said anything."

Buffy nodded and set down the dish she was drying. She went over and closed the door to the kitchen and lowered her voice. "I don't care what everyone thinks. I can't leave Stefan out there alone with Klaus."

Elena exhaled and tears sprang to her eyes. "What are we going to do?"

"I don't know right now, but I'm going to think of something."

"I know that Klaus wants you, too, but I don't want you to trade yourself for Stefan." Elena looked down at the ground. "I can't lose you, too."

Buffy hugged Elena tightly. "You're not going to lose me, Elena. I'm going to find a way to get Stefan back and not get myself entangled with Klaus too. I promise that I won't let anything happen to me."

Damon opened the door and strutted in snacking on an apple. "What are you two blubbering about down here?"

"I'm just assuring Elena that I'm not going anywhere." Buffy said, smiling at her boyfriend. "And I was also saying that her birthday is coming up soon. It's a milestone one."

"I don't want anyone to make a big deal out of it." Elena said.

"Too bad. You have to deal with the fact that I am now your legal guardian until you turn 18 and you have to do what I say. And I say that you have to celebrate your 18th birthday in a big way."

"Ok…. How did you celebrate yours?"

Buffy let out a sharp laugh. "I had a Cruciamentum." Elena gave her a weird look. "I had my powers stripped and was supposed to be locked in a house with a crazy vampire trying to kill me while I tried to figure out how to kill it. But that crazy vampire escaped and kidnapped my mom. So I had to go after it with no powers."

"You won."

"Of course I did. I'm not the best Slayer ever if I hadn't."

"You wouldn't be if you hadn't." Damon interjected.

"But before that I was supposed to have a Stars On Ice date with my dad."

"Supposed to?" Elena asked.

"He cancelled. Just like the three years before that. My dad's a flake."

"Yeah. I don't want to have a Cruciamentum or a date with Stars On Ice."

"Good. I was hoping that a standard, run of the mill party hosted by Damon and I would suffice." Buffy smiled. "Are there any special presents you'd like to ask for?"

"A new car?"

"Are there any special presents within reason you'd like to ask for?"

Elena laughed. "I'll think about it and get back to you." She looked at the dishes as she yawned. "I'm going to finish these up tomorrow. Is that ok?"

"Yeah. Go on to bed."

Elena hugged Buffy tightly. "I am so glad you're back." She smiled and headed out of the kitchen.

"Hmm…." Damon said, leaning against the counter next to Buffy.

"What 'hmm'?" She asked, grabbing another dish to dry.

He moved behind her and pressed against her back. His breath tickled her ear as he said, "You two are plotting something."

"Yes, Damon. We're plotting a birthday party."

"You're not a very good liar."

"Who's lying? I'm going to make sure Elena's 18th birthday is a memorable one. She's had enough sorrow in her life. I want to try and make it better."

"Well aren't you just the doting big sister."

"Maybe I am. What's it to you?"

Damon grabbed her shoulders and turned her around. He caught the dish she almost dropped and set it on the counter before placing his arms on the counter on each side of her, boxing her in. Their faces were only an inch apart. "I happen to find it incredibly endearing."

"Endearing is not a word I would place in your vocabulary."

"Love wasn't either but you changed that." He smiled sexily at her and she shook her head. His lips met hers and they were upstairs in his bedroom between one heartbeat and the next.

Buffy set the open book down in front of Bonnie and crossed her arms. They were convened at the Grill where Buffy and Elena had gone to eat lunch. Buffy had found a spell book that had belonged to Giles and she'd formed an idea.

"Buffy, I don't know if I can do this spell." Bonnie said, looking at the book.

"You just have to try." Elena said. "If it doesn't work, then we'll figure something else out."

"I just want to know what the deal was that Stefan made with Klaus." Buffy said.

"How will calling on the past do that?" Bonnie asked.

"You can call on the deal, which was made in the past, and we can see what was said and done." Elena said.

"Are you sure you guys want to know?"

"More than." Buffy said. "We can't allow Stefan to suffer just to keep Klaus away. I can take care of Klaus and so can you, Bonnie."

"Why isn't Damon here?"

Buffy uncrossed her arms with a sigh. "Because he's worried that if I go looking for Stefan, Klaus will snatch me up. He's worried about his brother just as much as we are."

"But he's more worried about you."

"No. He just doesn't want to lose Stefan and me. But I can't just sit here while Stefan is out there having gods know what done to him by Klaus."

Bonnie sighed. "Give me a day to look over the spell and see what I need to do it?"

Buffy and Elena exchanged glances. "Yeah." Elena said.

"We can do that." Buffy agreed.

"It's ok, Bonnie." Buffy said, standing in the young witch's bedroom two days later. She'd called Buffy over to try the spell, but it hadn't worked.

"I'm sorry. I know you and Elena were counting on me." Bonnie said.

"Don't worry about it. We'll find another way."

"I can try again. Maybe go to the house where…."

"No. They wouldn't understand. They're not exactly fans of Stefan's."

"Yeah."

"Thanks for trying though."

"Yeah. Anytime." Bonnie hugged Buffy tightly and they both jumped when an electric charge from Bonnie's fingers shocked Buffy. "Sorry!"

Buffy shrugged. "It's no big. Willow sometimes had that static electricity thing going after a spell. It's ok."

"So Elena says you're planning a birthday party for her?"

"Yeah."

"You know Caroline will want to help with the planning. She loves throwing parties."

"I figured. I was going to call her soon and ask for her help. Honestly the party idea came up as a diversion when Damon started asking questions. I'm not very good at throwing parties."

"Well, as soon as you enlist Caroline, you won't have to worry about that."

After saying goodbye to Bonnie, Buffy went to meet Damon at the Grill. He'd wanted some normal alone time, so they'd agreed to go on a date. It was their first normal date in a long time. And it was their first after admitting their feelings for each other.

"So, what have you been up to today?" Damon asked, playing with her hair as he kissed her neck and nibbled her ear.

Buffy smiled and blushed at the PDA, but they were secluded enough that not a lot of people could see them. "I was talking with Bonnie about party planning."

"Still planning a party, huh?"

"She says I should enlist Caroline's help."

Damon sat up. "Are you?"

"Yeah. I forgot that I'm not a good party planner. I figure Caroline can give it that special touch and I'll just provide the money."

"Is that all you did?"

"It was a pretty uneventful day, actually. Elena and I were talking about what was going to happen after she turned 18. Jeremy said he's applying for a job here. I told him he didn't have to do that since Giles left me enough money that I'm set for a long, long time. And Angel's going to talk to his banker friend who keeps his accounts and he's going to show me how to invest over the 'long term' so I never have to worry about money again."

"I used to just take my victim's money."

"Damon!"

"What? Between it and the compulsion…. I lived large on very little money."

"I'm sure you did."

"But now that I have a financially sound girlfriend, I can give up those horrible ways."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I'm sure you will." She said sarcastically.

They finished out their night at the Grill with a couple of rounds of pool and a game of darts before heading back home. Damon drew her into the bed as she was changing into her usual shorts and tank top and they spent the night tangled up in each other. After a long few hours, they finally drifted off to sleep.

Buffy opened her eyes slowly and stretched. The first thing she realized was that she was naked. The second thing, as her eyes really snapped open, was that she was not in her bedroom. She snapped her arms back down to her sides and brushed someone's arm next to her. She looked over in confusion at the arm and then followed it up to realize that it was not someone she knew.

Before she could stop herself, a blood curdling scream flew out of her mouth. The guy in the bed next to her bolted awake and sat up straight, obviously ready for a fight. Buffy yanked the sheet away and stood up faster than she'd meant to. In fact, she was pretty sure that she made it across the room in the blink of an eye. It almost distracted her since she'd never been that fast, but the guy stood up and looked around and pulled her attention back to him."What's wrong?" He asked, checking out the room.

"Who are you and where the hell am I?" Buffy asked, wrapping the sheet tighter around her.

"What?"

Angel suddenly burst into the room followed by a brunette teenage girl and a tall, brunette teenage boy. Buffy let out another scream when she saw Angel and was suddenly on the opposite side of the room by the windows, away from everyone.

"What's going on?" Angel asked.

"I should've known you'd be behind this!" Buffy said.

"What?" Angel exchanged glances with the man from the bed and they both looked at her in confusion.

"Buffy, what's going on?" The teenage girl asked as she pushed the boy out of the room. She looked to be about Buffy's age.

"Who are you people and what is going on? Where am I?"

"What's the last thing you remember?" Angel asked.

Buffy was suddenly standing in front of him, knocking him to the ground with a right hook before she stomped on his chest to pin him to the ground. Again with the super super-speed! "What did you do to me?"

"Buffy, I don't…. What's wrong?"

Buffy looked down at Angel and it took a moment for her to register that it wasn't Angelus looking at her. "Angel?" She removed her foot and stared at him in wonder as he stood up. "How?"

"Buffy, what are you talking about?"

"You were Angelus."

"Yeah, but that was a while ago. I'm back. Willow fixed that."

"Willow? She's not a witch. Did Jenny or Giles help her?"

"Jenny…." Angel stopped. He took her shoulders gently and looked her in the eyes. "Buffy, what is the last thing you remember?"

She had to think about it for a long moment. "Uh…. I was on my way home from the Bronze with Willow and Xander. I made them go home first because I was worried about you…. Angelus coming after them. Then I went home, said goodnight to mom, and went to bed. I kind of skipped patrolling. Giles is gonna be so mad, but I just couldn't bring myself because I might have run into you."

Angel's brows knitted in confusion. "What year do you think this is?"

It was Buffy's turn to look confused. "1997?"

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