The Next Chapter

Chapter 39

Chapter 39

Buffy sat on the couch next to Elena and shook her head. "I'm not sure how this could've happened." Buffy said. "When I went to sleep, everything was normal. When I wake up, it's…. fourteen years later?"

"We think it might be a spell." Damon said. "Elena, have you talked to Bonnie yet?"

"I left her a message." Elena said. "I think she's doing something with her dad today."

Angel walked into the room. "I couldn't get a hold of Willow, but I got a hold of Dawn. She's going to track Willow down."

"Who's Dawn?" Buffy asked.

"She's your sister." Elena said.

Buffy shook her head. "I don't have a sister."

Elena, Damon, and Jeremy all looked at Angel in confusion. He sighed. "Her memories are before the monks made Dawn. So she doesn't remember that she has a sister." Damon nodded, but Elena and Jeremy obviously didn't know the story there. "I'm not sure we should explain everything."

Buffy looked up at him. "Why not?"

"It's kind of a lot to take in." Damon said.

Buffy shook her head and stood up. "See! I hate being the Slayer. I keep telling Giles that it totally ruins everything. My clothes, my social life…. Where does it end?" She caught sight of herself in a mirror. "And if it's fourteen years later, why do I look the same?" Buffy turned and looked at Angel in a panic. "Oh god! I'm not a vampire am I?" She rushed over to the window and opened it up to let the sun hit her skin. She didn't burn. "Oh thank god!" Angel shook his head and Damon just watched his girlfriend in amazement. "Can anyone explain why I can move so fast? And why I look the same if I'm not a vampire?"

"You're still a Slayer." Angel explained, cutting Damon off. "You're just a lot more powerful. You're the longest living Slayer."

"What does that even mean?" Buffy asked.

Angel smiled proudly. "It means you're the best."

"So the best come to…. Where exactly am I?"

"Mystic Falls, Virginia." Damon said.

"That's a long way from home." Buffy crossed her arms. "So, tell me everything."

"I don't think we should." Angel said.

"Why not?"

Angel smiled slightly when she cocked her hips to the side and held a defiant pose. This 17 year old Buffy brought back a flood of emotions and memories that he hadn't visited in a long time. "Sometimes knowing the future isn't a good thing."

"So you're saying my future hasn't been so bright? Well, I said that over and over during the career fair, but nobody listens to me. I only save the world on a nightly basis." She paused and Angel could see the click in her mind. "Wait…. Why, if you're not Angelus, did I wake up next to that guy?" She pointed at Damon before turning sad eyes back to Angel. "Are we not together anymore?"

Angel sighed and looked at Damon. He was staring out the window. "Well, we haven't been together in a long time." Angel started, moving closer to Buffy. "You and Damon have been…. seeing each other for almost a year now." He paused before saying quietly, "You love him."

Buffy looked at Damon's back for a long moment and then back at Angel. "Oh." She shrugged and looked at Damon again. This time he looked back at her. "Well, at 17 I can barely see beyond tomorrow and my tomorrow up until today wasn't looking too good. At least I know I'm not a complete loser at almost 30 if I can get someone as hot as you." Her face scrunched up. "Then again, I do look 17, so does that make you a pedophile?" Elena and Jeremy started laughing and Angel tried to hide his amusement.

Damon shook his head, not amused. "Not a pedophile. Vampire."

Buffy's face fell. "Are you serious! I'm doomed to never date a human?" She blushed at her outburst when Damon's face turned even more serious. "Wow! I can't say I'm surprised, but I'm pretty sure my mom's going to be disappointed when I don't produce any grandbabies. But I'm sure Giles isn't complaining about…." She noticed the quick look between Damon and Angel. "Why do you guys do that whenever I mention Giles?"

"Uh…." Angel started.

"Oh, I really did push him into an early grave! He's always said I was going to, but I never thought…."

"It wasn't you." Angel assured her.

"Wait…. He's really…." The tears started to well up. "No."

"I'm sorry." Damon went to comfort her and he saw her tense up when he got near.

Elena stood up and walked over to Buffy to diffuse the tension she could see building up in Damon. "Do you want to get some air? We can take a walk in the gardens."

Buffy sighed. "Yeah. Sure. It's daylight. What's the worst that could happen?" She followed Elena out and Angel turned to look at Damon.

"I know! She doesn't know who I am." Damon said, sitting down in Buffy's vacated seat.

"It's not her fault." Jeremy said.

"I know that!" Damon looked at Angel. "How could this have happened? She was fine yesterday."

"Then she woke up fourteen years younger."

"It's got to be a spell." Angel said.

"I know it's got to be a spell." Damon countered, obviously annoyed. "Buffy doesn't just wake up and lose that many years of her life every day."

"Do you think Klaus did this?" Jeremy asked.

"Why would he want her to be 17 again?"

"So she doesn't remember who he is and she doesn't remember what kind of power she actually has." Angel said, agreeing with Jeremy. "He was pretty scared about her being able to stop the ritual to break the curse."

Damon shook his head. "It has to be Bonnie."

"Why does it have to be Bonnie?" Jeremy asked, obviously offended for his girlfriend.

"Buffy was with her yesterday and she, Elena, and Buffy have been in cahoots with each other."

"Yeah. To plan Elena's birthday party."

"I think they're looking for Stefan."

"Why aren't you?"

"Because I don't want Klaus to get my brother and my girlfriend. He's taken enough as it is."

Jeremy sighed. "She's out with her dad today. But I know where they're at." He stood up. "I'll go talk to her and see if she knows anything."

"Thank you." Angel said as Jeremy headed out the door. He looked at Damon who was watching Buffy walk with Elena. "We'll get her back."

"What about until then?" Damon asked.

"Damon, she's your girlfriend. I'm not going to do anything to compromise that."

"Even if she only remembers being with you?" Damon walked out of the room. He knew it was irrational to be mad at Buffy for not knowing who he was, but he couldn't take another moment of those lovey-dovey looks she kept shooting Angel. Or the looks he kept giving her right back.

"So we're pretty close?" Buffy asked. She and Elena were sitting on one of the benches in the garden.

"Yeah. You showed up here with a friend of yours and we hit it off." Elena said. "You and my aunt were really good friends too."

"Were?"

"She, uh…. She died recently."

"I'm sorry."

"She asked you to be mine and Jeremy's legal guardian before she died. Willow did some magic and somehow made Jenna's will say that."

"So, Willow's pretty powerful, huh?" Buffy asked, still blown away that her computer geek best friend was a witch.

"Yeah."

"What about Xander?"

"I don't really know him, actually. He stopped by for a visit a few months ago and I met him briefly, but he wasn't here very long and we were all kind of busy. But he's apparently a contractor. And really good at it. He travels all over the US building things."

"Wow. Go Xand." Buffy paused. "So…. I must be pretty responsible if I'm your legal guardian?"

Elena laughed. "You do all right."

Buffy shrugged. "Well, I'm surprised you and your brother are still alive. I've had four goldfish and they've all gone belly up."

Elena smiled. "Trust me. Without you, I don't think Jeremy and I would be half as ok as we are now."

"So Damon…." Buffy looked through the nearest window, but she didn't see him. "What's his story? What's our story?"

"Well…. He loves you. He's different with you. Way different. Stefan told me…."

"Who's Stefan?"

"Damon's brother."

"Oh. Does he not live here?"

Elena looked away. "Uh, not at the moment."

"I'm sensing there's a story there."

"A long, long story. I don't want to burden you with it."

"Hey, burden away." Buffy shrugged. "The last thing I remember is my boyfriend turning into a homicidal maniac and stalking me and my friends. Apparently this time frame of my life is a lot better." Elena nodded and started to talk about Stefan, but Angel walked outside just then. Buffy jumped up. "Whoa! You're in the sun!"

"I have a ring." Angel said, holding up his hand to show Buffy the ring Bonnie had given me. "It protects me."

"Wow. That's pretty nifty." Buffy said, holding Angel's hand and inspecting the ring.

"Are you ok?"

"Yeah. Elena was filling me in on the last year or so of my life."

"Where's Damon and Jeremy?" Elena asked.

"Your brother went to find Bonnie." Angel said. "Damon is…."

"Sulking." Elena finished.

"I think so, yeah." Angel smiled.

"I'll go talk to him. Can you watch Buffy?"

Angel looked at Buffy. "She doesn't need to be watched. She's pretty good at taking care of herself."

Elena nodded. "Yeah. She is." She smiled at Buffy and went back inside the house.

"You don't do that much." Buffy said.

"What's that?" Angel asked.

"Smile. It's usually doom and gloom with you."

"I smile for you."

"On occasion." Suddenly Buffy started to cry. She turned away and took a deep shuddering breath, trying to stop the sobs.

"What's wrong?" Angel asked, instinctively moving towards her.

"I'm sorry. I just…. I never thought I'd see you again. I've been trying my hardest to convince myself to kill you and then suddenly I wake up and you're back." She shook her head. "But we're not together."

"I'm sorry."

"What happened? To us?"

"Buffy…."

"I'm a big girl. I can take it."

Angel looked down and sighed. "We just…. We can't be together."

"Because I'm the trigger? To your curse?"

"Yes.""Does Damon have a curse?"

"What?"

"Obviously he's a good vampire or else I wouldn't be with him. So, does he have a curse too? To give him a soul?"

"Oh, uh…. No. He's a different kind of vampire."

"A different…. How many kinds are there? Why hasn't Giles told me about them?"

"Because I'm pretty sure in 1997, Giles didn't believe they existed."

"They have souls?"

"Technically."

Buffy shook her head. "Talk about drawing the short stick!"

"Damon?"

"You." Buffy shook her head again. "Why couldn't you be like Damon? Fate is not my friend." She sighed. "Can I at least hug you? It's been forever." Angel smiled slightly and held his arms out. Buffy folded herself into his arms and buried her face into his chest. "I've missed this so much."

"Yeah. I have too." He laid his cheek on top of her head.

"Are we at least friends?"

"We don't get to see each other much. You're kind of…. busy."

"Well, saving the world is a full time job."

"Actually, you retired…. Sort of."

"I retired?"

"Well, you and Willow made thousands of Slayers all around the world and since you weren't the only Chosen One anymore…. You travelled the world."

"And ended up in Virginia?"

"It wasn't your idea, but you love it here."

"And apparently Damon." She looked up at him

Angel pulled back from their hug and cupped her face in his hands. "Buffy, I know it's difficult to understand. Your memories…. You're only 17 years old. It's not exactly your best year and it's hard to see past everything that's going on." He dropped his hands, fighting the urge to kiss her. "But Damon loves you and you love him. You should go talk to him."

"What do I say?"

Angel shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know what you two talk about. I only came here recently."

"How recently?"

"A few weeks ago."

"Oh. Why do you seem so sad about this?"

"Buffy, I'll always love you. That will never change. But, you don't belong to me. So I'm jealous."

Buffy smiled, loving the idea of Angel being jealous. "Jealous, huh?"

"Quit stalling."

"I'm not stalling."

"Buffy, I may not know the 29 year old version of you very well, but I do know the 17 year old. You're stalling. Go talk to him." Angel gently pushed her towards the house.

Damon stood in his bedroom staring out the window at the gardens when Buffy found him. He hadn't missed their little encounter down there and he didn't much like Angel admitting that he loved Buffy and was jealous of Damon. "Hi." Buffy said.

"Everything ok?" Damon asked, turning around and looking at her.

Buffy shrugged. "It's a little much to take in." Damon smiled. "I want to apologize."

"For what?"

"For how I've been treating you. I know we're seeing each other and that we…. Love…. Each other. And I'm sorry for how hard that word is to say…. About you…. And…."

Damon waved a hand, feigning nonchalance. "I understand. Your memories are picked up from some random day when you were seventeen. I don't expect this Buffy to know me and love me right off the bat." Buffy nodded and shifted uncomfortably. Damon had never seen her so…. Self-conscious. "If it makes you feel any better, this is almost how we started off."

"Really?" Buffy stopped fidgeting for a minute.

"Yeah. We got off on the wrong foot and you didn't like me for a long time.""What happened?"

"You said I grew on you like a fungus."

"Well, I guess I'm pretty hard to crack."

"That you definitely are. I spent months trying to figure you out, but you always kept me off balance."

"When did we, uh…. Get together?"

Damon shrugged. "Officially, only a few months ago. But before that…. We were on and off."

"So, what am I like…. Now?"

He smiled and sat down on the edge of the bed. Buffy took the leather chair next to the bed and curled up in it, facing him. He could tell it was the insecure way for a teenager to make herself smaller. The Buffy of this time only curled up when she was hurt. Damon sighed and looked at her. "You are incredibly incredible."

Buffy laughed. "Wow. Cheesy much?"

Damon shrugged. "Well, I hear that love makes you cheesy."

"Elena says that you're different around me. Why is that?""Before I met you…. I didn't care."

"About what?"

"About anything. Then you came in here with your bad ass self and I found myself changed. A new man. I started to care." He paused. "But don't tell anyone that. I still have a reputation to uphold."

Buffy nodded. "Your secret's safe with me."

"So, how long have you been seventeen? I remember you telling me that Angel turned into Angelus on your seventeenth birthday. From your reaction earlier…. It's been a while."

"Um…. A couple of months." She was clearly uncomfortable with that topic, so he switched again."Would you like to go grab some lunch? I know you must be starved."

"I am kinda hungry."

"Good. Well, let's go then." Damon stood up and held his hand out to help her up.

"Where are we going?"

"The Grill. You like their food."

They started out the door, but Angel walked up the stairs, blocking their path. "Hey." He said. Damon bit back the growl when Buffy's face lit up at seeing Angel. He knew it wasn't fair because she didn't know him. This wasn't his Buffy. "So, Jeremy just called. He's on his way back with Bonnie. They should be here in an hour or so. They were up past Richmond."

"Who's Bonnie again?" Buffy asked.

"She's a little witch friend of Elena's." Damon said. "I'm guessing she had something to do with this."

"We don't know that." Angel said.

"Klaus wouldn't do this. There's no need to."

"If Buffy doesn't know who he is, then she doesn't know to be afraid of him."

"She wasn't ever afraid of him in the first place."

"If Klaus is after her, then he'll stop at nothing. This could just be a play to get at her."

"Why would he even want her when she doesn't know what kind of strength and power she actually possesses? That's what attracted him in the first place. That's why he wants her. And that's why we need to fix this before he shows up."

"Uh, hi!" Buffy said, waving her hands in their faces. "I'm standing right here." She fixed her gaze on Angel. "And I thought you said that I retired."

"It didn't stick." Damon said.

"Ok. So who's Klaus and why does he want me?"

"It's a long story." Angel said.

"Then fill me in. Both of you. While we wait for Bonnie." Buffy looked between the two men and waited for their reactions.

Buffy sat with Elena on the couch again while Damon sat on the arm next to Buffy and Angel sat on one of the chairs opposite the couch. "I have to agree with Damon. If I'm so powerful, Klaus wouldn't want me as a seventeen year old. I mean, right now I hate being a Slayer. It's brought me nothing but pain and heartache and death. I want nothing to do with it. But apparently, in this time frame, I really enjoy being the Slayer. I embrace it. Klaus sounds like the type of guy to respect that."

"Thank you." Damon said.

"But why would Bonnie make me a seventeen year old?"

Elena shook her head. "I don't think she meant to. She may have been trying a new spell…." Elena stopped and inhaled sharply.

Damon turned and looked at Elena. "What do you know?"

Elena looked at Buffy for guidance, but quickly remembered that Buffy was only seventeen and had no idea what was going on in the present. She sighed and said, "Buffy and I are looking for Stefan."

"Damon's brother?" Buffy asked.

"Yes."

"I thought I was very clear on why that is a bad idea." Damon said slowly, obviously angry.

"Is your brother missing?" Buffy asked Damon.

Damon sighed. "Yes and no."

"He was taken by Klaus." Elena said. "He made a deal to save Damon…. And keep Klaus away from you."

"Wait…. I'm so very confused right now."

Damon stood up. "This is all very confusing. We should just stop talking about it."

"No, Damon." Elena said, standing up. "We are not leaving Stefan out there alone. We can't."

"Look what's happened, Elena! Look what you've done!"

"Hey!" Buffy stood up. "She said that we were looking for your brother. This is as much my fault as it is hers."

"And I told you, too, that looking for Stefan is a very bad idea."

"Why?"

"Because Klaus will snatch you up just like he did Stefan."

"Obviously I'm not scared of him."

"And you should be! Damn it, Buffy! You have to be careful. I can't lose you, too."

Buffy sighed. "Hard headed no matter how old I am."

Angel laughed and Damon shot him a glare. Damon walked over to Buffy and took her hands. He moved her into the hallway and lowered his voice so the others couldn't hear. "Look. I love you. I know right now that doesn't mean much, but when you get your memories back, it will. Klaus will take you and that will leave Elena and Jeremy without a guardian."

"And you without me."

"Yes."

"Why don't you want to find your brother?"

Damon sighed. "I do want to find him. I am…. worried about him. But losing you too would be too much to bear." Buffy didn't know how to respond to that. If it had been Angel saying those words, she would've understood and promised to be careful. But she still would've gone through with her plan. Maybe that was the same for her 29 year old self.

Just then, the door opened and Jeremy and Bonnie walked in. "What's going on?" Bonnie asked. "How are you seventeen?"

Buffy shrugged. "No clue. You're Bonnie, I guess?"

"Did you guys do the spell?" Elena asked.

"What spell?" Damon asked.

"Yeah. I got all the stuff, but it didn't work." Bonnie said.

"What spell?" Angel asked.

"To bring the past forward." Bonnie said. "Buffy found the spell in one of Giles' books."

"We thought that if we could see the deal that Stefan made with Klaus, then we could work a way around it." Elena admitted.

"But it didn't work." Bonnie reminded.

"No." Angel said. "I think it did. You called on the past and the past showed up." He gestured at Buffy. "Just not the past you were looking for."

"Maybe that's what that shock was…."

"What shock?" Elena asked.

"Before Buffy left, I gave her a hug and we both thought it was static electricity. Maybe it was the spell working?"

"Why did it make my girlfriend seventeen years old again?" Damon asked.

"I don't know."

"Well, fix it!"

"I need to call Willow."

"We already have. She's working on it."

"Where's the book?" Angel asked. "The one with the spell? I'm no witch or warlock, but I've been around enough. Maybe I can help."

"I have something to propose." Damon looked up at Buffy as she walked into his room.

"Is that so?" He asked as she sat down next to him. Before she could say anything, Damon held up a finger. "Uh, who am I talking to?" Buffy leaned in and kissed him gently, but passionately. "My girl." He cleared his throat. "So, a proposal?"

"I propose that you work with us. If it gets too much or it looks like Klaus is turning his eye on me, then we'll back off."

Damon groaned. "Not this! Look at what happened to you!"

"Oh, I was seventeen again. They even made a movie about it, but I didn't need to learn a life lesson to come back."

"Just get the witch who screwed up the spell to fix it."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Damon, Elena and I are going to continue to look for Stefan. It would be very helpful if you'd…. help."

"What do I get if I do?"

"The pleasure of your brother's company again."

"Really?"

"Ok, the pleasure of mine and Elena's company?"

"Close, but…. No."

"Both?" He gave her an obvious 'no way in hell' look. "Add to that the pleasure of knowing that I love you and that I am completely yours and you can have me any time, day or night."

Damon smiled. "I already know that."

"Right. Because those jealous eyes you were shooting Angel were just for giggles?"

"Ok, I was a little jealous." Damon sighed. "Fine. I will help you look for Stefan. But I decide when it's getting too close."

"Deal." Buffy leaned in to kiss him, but he grabbed her and flipped her underneath him.

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