Buffy and Spike are in for the surprise of a lifetime when an enigmatic Watcher travels from the future to enlist the help of the Scoobies in retrieving a mysterious weapon that has been stolen from the future Slayer. But when the true nature of the weapon is revealed, Buffy is forced to consider a shocking future with a vampire she loathes—or does she? Set in Season Five, after Family.

Rated M for eventual smut.

Disclaimer: The story is mine, but the characters aren't. Buffy & Co. belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.

Author's Note: Last chapter everyone! Thanks so much for following along, and special thanks to all of you who have read the story and have taken the time to review. Sometimes I read fanfic stories that were written ages ago, and I'm not sure if the author still has any interest in hearing feedback on their work. Just want you to know that, whether you've been reading this story as I've been writing it or if you stumble upon it at some point in the future, I'm always interested in hearing your thoughts!

Author's 2nd Note: I did choose to skip the meeting with Travers, because, in my mind, it's very similar to the meeting that took place on the show, just a little bit earlier in the timeline.

Ahead of Her Time

Chapter 16

Buffy took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Dealing with Travers had been nothing compared to what she was about to face.

Riley opened the door and stared at her. His eyes were rimmed red, and he was still wearing the clothes she had seen him in earlier. Was that alcohol she smelled? He didn't ask her to come in, only stepped aside to allow her entry into the apartment.

"You were with him, weren't you?" he asked, his voice cold.

"Hello to you, too." Okay, so not going the way she'd planned. Although to say she'd had anything planned at all would have been a complete exaggeration. Her head was still too jumbled to even know the right thing to do, how to start this conversation with Riley, and he wasn't making things any easier. Eden had been gone for several hours now, but she was still front and center in Buffy's mind. She couldn't shake the memory of watching her daughter shimmer and disappear before her eyes, couldn't forget the despair she'd felt at watching her go. Couldn't forget Spike's arms around her, soothing her, holding her tighter than any man had ever dared. The most intimate embrace she'd ever experienced.

She wanted to be with Spike even now, wanted to walk right out of this apartment and back to the vampire's crypt, where he would put his arms around her again. He would. She knew he would.

Crap. Crap, crap, crap.

This thing with Riley couldn't wait. She'd known it by the dangerous clench of his jaw when he stood in her doorway that morning and appraised her outfit. She mentally chastised herself. Couldn't she have at least changed back into one of her own shirts when she'd gotten home that morning? She could have at least spared Riley the pain of seeing his girlfriend wearing another man's clothes. But she'd liked the feel of Spike's shirt against her bare skin, the soft worn cotton, the smell of Spike all over her. She'd slept better than she had in ages in their little pile on the sofa, her body pressed into Spike's, her fingertips resting on Eden's arm.

She couldn't avoid Riley, though. She wanted to soothe him, to try and explain how everything felt so confusing to her, but the minute he'd opened the door, he'd hit her with the million-dollar question. The relationship-killing question.

"Were you?" he asked again.

"With him?" she repeated in a quiet voice, not wanting to admit that she knew perfectly well what he meant. "We rescued her together, so yes, I was with him."

"You know that's not what I meant," he said. His teeth were clenched together so tightly that she didn't know how he could get the next words out. "You slept with him."

She looked at the floor. Had he really guessed that things had gone that far, just from the shirt? Or was he more perceptive than she'd ever given him credit for? Or…he'd been looking for her the night before. He'd believed her to be with Spike. Had he gone to the crypt? Oh, God.

Buffy knew she should cry for him and for the death of their relationship, but after her intense and unexpected burst of emotion earlier in the day, she just couldn't work up tears for anything less than the memory of Eden's smiling face as she disappeared. She couldn't summon tears for Riley. Her voice was steady when she answered. "I did."

She jumped as Riley punched his fist into the wall. She couldn't tell if it was only the sheetrock that was broken, or if Riley's hand was broken as well. His knuckles were shiny red with blood when he pulled his fist out of the jagged hole he'd made.

"Riley, I…I'm sorry. I know this hurts. I didn't mean for this to happen. I didn't expect any of this."

"You mean you didn't expect to have sex with a bloodsucking, murderous psychopath?" His voice was harsh, ragged.

"He's not…it's not…he's not that. Anymore. People change."

"People change. Vampires don't."

She wanted to argue with him, because she knew better. Vampires could change, could become something better. It had happened with Angel. And, according to Asher, it would happen to Spike. Hell, now that she was paying attention, she could see that he was already changing, little by little.

"Tell me it didn't mean anything, Buffy. Tell me he doesn't mean anything to you."

She took a slow, deep breath. She wanted to lie to spare his feelings, but it would have been a betrayal to Spike, and even though he wasn't here to listen in, the lie refused to leave her mouth. "God, Riley. I can't. What I did was wrong. I know that." Except it hadn't felt wrong, at the time. She truly hadn't meant to hurt Riley, but when she was in Spike's arms, she'd known that she belonged there. "I can't…I can't take it back." There was a hesitant, deadly pause before she continued. "I wouldn't want to."

Riley's voice had been cold, but scarily calm since the moment she'd walked in the door. That changed with those last words from Buffy. I wouldn't want to. The nail in the coffin of their relationship. She would have laughed at the irony of her analogy, except now was most definitely not the time for giggles. Even hysterical ones.

"Wouldn't want to?" he shouted. "You know, I always knew you had a sick, twisted thing for vamps, especially that one. Ever since you told me you were engaged to him, and then fed me the crazy story about it all being a joke. Even then, I knew. What I don't know is why. Why would you want him? He's evil. Prophecies aren't always right, Buffy. You know that! Now, you hear some prophecy that you're meant to be with a demon and you run to him, just like that? You wanted this. You wanted him, all along. You just needed a reason."

"Riley, I…that's not true." But she didn't know anymore. Was it true? Had she wanted Spike all along?

"This doesn't have to happen," he said. "You could stop it from happening. Hell, I could stop it from happening. If I went to his crypt right now and staked him, that would stop it, wouldn't it?"

She was on the defensive before she knew it. "If you touch him, I…it won't be pretty, Riley. Yes, we...we slept together and yes, it was wrong and so not the right way to cope with the situation, but this…this thing that happened with the prophecy and our daughter…it's no more his fault than mine. This…this crazy thing happened to both of us. Don't you get that? We weren't expecting this!"

He laughed bitterly. "Prophecy is what you make of it, Buffy. If I staked him right now, what would become of your little prophecy? Spike would be dust, you'd come to your senses, and that hybrid thing would never exist."

It was his nose that made the crunching sound this time, as Buffy's fist lashed out suddenly and smashed into cartilage. Crap, crap, crap. She'd hit Riley without even realizing what she was doing. Huh…protective instincts already in place. She just couldn't hear it, couldn't listen to him say such things about her child. She could change the prophecy. Maybe that was the truth. But all it took was Buffy's mind pulling into focus the so-recent image of the little girl—all blue eyes and soft skin and sweet little lips, and yes, even her tiny razor-sharp fangs, to know that she'd never, ever wish her away. Quite the opposite, actually. She would do everything in her power to make sure she did exist. Even if that meant putting her faith in one de-fanged but currently soulless vampire.

Even if it meant throwing Riley away, tossing out her one shot at a "normal" life.

"Did you even see her, Riley? If you had, you wouldn't dream of saying that. And if you want me to leave this apartment before you're a battered heap on the floor, you won't say it again." She turned on her heel and headed for the door. Her hand was on the knob before she stopped and looked at him, his face red, one bloodied hand holding his bloodied nose. "I really am sorry. For hurting you." And then she walked out the door.

A week had passed since Eden had appeared in their lives and then, quite literally, disappeared from it. And Buffy was still trying to wrap her head around it all.

She and Spike. Somehow together. She hadn't seen him since the day Eden had left. Although she'd wanted to—God, how she'd wanted to. As soon as Buffy had managed to pull herself together and they'd extracted themselves from each other's arms, they'd gone their separate ways—him to his crypt, her to confront Travers about the deadly diva she now knew as Glory.

And she hadn't seen him since. She'd intended to go straight to him after she and Riley had gone through what some might classify as the world's worst breakup. She'd been filled with the need to confess it all then, to tell Spike how much she wanted this—this family, this future. That she wanted him.

She'd gotten scared, though. In the quiet that followed the unbelievable events of those previous twenty-four hours, she'd let herself start to wonder if what she felt was real, or if she just needed something to cling to in all this confusion. Someone who understood everything she was feeling. Someone with strong arms to hold her.

So, against every screaming instinct in her body, she'd avoided his crypt that night.

And every day since.

She needed to figure things out first.

She could feel him at night, while she was on patrol. She knew he was following her, but he kept his distance, and she didn't let on that she knew. Still, she liked knowing that he was there with her.

It was as if she'd gotten a free pass to have feelings for Spike, in the eyes of the Scoobies. Even Xander hadn't had anything snarky to say since he'd first seen Eden at the high school that night. The little girl had enchanted them all to the extent that Spike didn't seem so bad to them anymore. It was enough to make Buffy wonder if that was somehow part of Eden's magic, to inspire peace and acceptance in people she was near. She'd brought out the very best in all of them. But Asher had played a part as well; by asserting that Spike would be a champion in the future, he'd somehow managed to make them see that he wasn't all that bad now. That maybe he was already changing, and they'd simply failed to notice.

No one mentioned anything about Spike to Buffy, though, because she would get that confused and emotional look on her face like she might have another breakdown any second. And she would punch things. Mostly the punching bag, but everyone knew what she'd done to Riley.

Not that anyone blamed her.

Dawn was the only one who wouldn't leave her alone about Spike. She'd been so upset to learn that she'd missed out on Eden and the time-traveling Watcher, but following Buffy around the house chanting, "Buffy and Spike, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" seemed to make her feel better about not seeing it all for herself.

Buffy knew she shouldn't even be worrying over this. She should be thinking of the hellbitch, of Glory. She knew now, everything the Council knew, and it was all scary information. She didn't see any way of defeating her. She didn't have the first scrap of a plan. She should be focusing on that, researching, figuring something out. Because fighting a hellgod? Seemed pretty hopeless.

Except Asher had said Buffy would win.

She shouldn't be spending so much time thinking about Eden when there were other frightening forces at work. But she couldn't help it. Somewhere in the future, she was the mother of a powerful, gorgeous little girl, one with a great big destiny of her own. Somewhere in the future, she and Spike were expecting another child, and who even knew what its story would be?

But she shouldn't even know about any of that. She shouldn't be thinking of it. She certainly shouldn't be pacing back and forth in front of the door to Spike's crypt.

Knock, damnit.

Don't. Just leave. It's too soon.

Then why am I here?

He was in the lower level of his crypt, tidying things up. The day after he'd met Eden (his daughter, he thought again with wonder), he'd come back to his crypt and boxed up his odd, makeshift shrine to Buffy. It wasn't enough, now that he'd had a real taste of his Slayer, to only have these relics. Plus, he knew she'd come to him eventually, hoped she would. And it wouldn't be a good thing for her to see the silly shrine. Might give her the wrong idea, when all he'd wanted was to surround himself with her.

He hadn't believed she could really even want it, this future with him, with their girl, until she'd gone to pieces when Eden disappeared. He'd been just about knocked off his feet by the force of her emotions. He could feel it when he held her in his arms as she cried and cried—just how deeply she wanted this. Wanted this little girl. Wanted to be loved by someone who wouldn't leave, who would love her back just the way she needed.

Wanted him.

Or so he'd thought. But then days had passed, and she hadn't been around. He figured she needed time and space to sort it all out, so he'd stayed away. As away as he could, at least. He still needed to see her. He craved her. So he'd followed her on patrol, just to make sure she was safe. Just to see.

He hadn't seen her around with the Soldier Boy, but he didn't know if it was over between them. He'd been awake that morning of course, when Captain Cardboard had stopped by Buffy's house, had woken the minute the wanker knocked at the door. He'd heard it all. Any other time, he'd have felt smug at knowing that the Slayer was in the doorway, wearing his shirt in full view of her useless boyfriend. But all he'd felt then was his heart swelling with love and hope as she'd sent Riley away. But he didn't know if she would get scared and run back to the boy. He didn't know if she'd really have the nerve to tell White Bread the truth. If she'd have the nerve to tell her friends the truth. God, he hoped she would.

He'd tossed Harmony out good and proper. No use pretending anymore. Why would he want to, when he knew what was heading his way? He'd thrown out the red satin bed linens too, and bought fresh ones, clean gray cotton. A fresh start. He ached to make love to Buffy in this bed, beneath these soft sheets, ached to show her that he could be tender with her. That there was more than desperate, wonderful, bloody amazing shagging on his crypt floor. That there was more to him.

He was tidying up his crypt, tidying up his life, for his Buffy. His wife. He really had to stop thinking of her that way. It was sure to piss her off, when she finally came around. He stopped his hands from where they'd been smoothing the soft new sheets on the four-poster bed, tilted his head to one side and listened. And breathed in. Speak of the devil…

She ran her hand over the wood of the door, considering. They had a future together, as long as they didn't mess it up. He was hers if she wanted him. Wasn't he? Oh God, what if he had changed his mind? What if he didn't want it anymore?

Asher said that she saw the good in Spike. Was that true? Could she see the good in him?

She thought of his hands on her thighs, spreading her legs gently. How his hands had trembled against her. How he'd felt, inside of her. Her body was on fire just thinking of it. Being with him had made her feel like herself in a way she realized she never had before. She'd never felt so good as when she was all wrapped around him, never felt so connected to anyone, ever.

There weren't many places in the world for a petite blonde California girl with a powerful killer hidden inside. But in his arms…somehow, it seemed like a place she belonged. The place she belonged.

She knocked on his door.

His eyes were guarded but hopeful when he pulled the door open. "Buffy," he said.

Her name, her given name and not "Slayer" still felt unfamiliar on his tongue, but he knew it was what she needed to hear. Her name on his lips. He motioned for her to come in and she stepped inside, cautiously.

She heard the door close, and turned to look into his eyes. Bright, intense blue looked right back at her.

He was so nervous, and he could feel that she was too, could hear the speeding thump of her heartbeat, see the slow flush rising in her cheeks. He stepped closer to her, and was pleased to see that she didn't step back. Another step, and he was close enough to feel her warm breath against his neck.

"Um, hi," she said, finally.

"Hello, luv."

"I don't…I'm…well, I'm here." Her eyes were round and she looked so innocent staring at him.

"Soldier Boy?" he asked, quietly.

"Over." He nodded, jaw clenched. He waited, wanting to hear more. Needing to.

"I told him everything," she said. His gaze was so intense and frightening that her first instinct was to turn away, but she fought it. Every inch of her body was tingling beneath the naked desire in his eyes, the adoration.

"I'm glad."

"I know."

"Do you...do you want me, Buffy?"

"I…I…you know I do."

"I'm about as far from perfect as it gets, pet," he warned her softly. "But if you want me, I'll try my best. Won't leave. Might need some pointers along the way, but I'll be my best for you, if you give me the chance."

She smiled at him, warily. "I…I want to, Spike, I do. I want Eden. I want us." She took his hand, held it against her heart so he could feel the flutter of it against his palm. It made him tremble. "I just don't know how it happens…how do we get there…from here?"

He lifted her chin with one finger and rested his forehead against hers. "Don't know," he said, his voice a whisper as the finger left her chin and traced her cheekbone. He lowered his head and kissed her softly, tenderly, but she could feel the restrained passion just below the surface, could feel her own blood crying out for him. He pulled away just long enough to whisper the words into the concave of her ear.

"But maybe it starts like this."

The End.