The soft clink of the small metal object swinging slowly from Spike's long, graceful fingers was the only sound in the shocked silence that followed his provocative question. Buffy's eyes widened as she stared at the pair of handcuffs for a long moment, before meeting his eyes again, aghast at the question and its implications – at least outwardly.

Spike did not appear the least bit embarrassed or phased by the turn the conversation had taken – he shouldn't, she supposed, considering that he was the one who had steered it that way – but just watched her intently, calmly, silently waiting for her response.

She debated over what to say, staring again at the handcuffs in his hand, and trying to ignore the increase in her arousal caused by imagining all the deliciously dirty things she and Spike could do with them. She glanced furtively at Spike again, hoping the heavy lingering scent of their recent antics would mask her reaction to his suggestion.

If it failed to – Spike did not show it. He just kept waiting patiently for her reaction.

For a moment, she allowed herself to actually consider the question. Did she trust Spike? The answer that rose in her mind automatically was "depends", though she did not speak it aloud. She did trust him, she admitted to herself silently – with some things.

With being her backup in a life or death battle situation?


With protecting her little sister's life, keeping Dawn safe when she herself could not be there to do it?


Even with her own emotional vulnerability, her confusion following her resurrection, she had trusted Spike enough to open up to him, to begin to allow him to be her friend – for a short time. Until "this" had started.

She had no name for it, as she had informed him just moments before. It was simply "this". But even in "this", she had to admit that she knew deep down, if she were to surrender to what he was suggesting, he would never use it as an opportunity to hurt her.

Unless she wanted him to.

Still, somehow, she could not bring herself to submit to such a thing. It was the one thing she had left that she could not let him or anyone else have – control. She had relinquished her control, given in to her feelings, once before.

And it had ended in heartache and hell.

So – could she trust him with the last thing she had to hold onto, now that everything she held precious had been stripped from her? Could she find the courage to surrender control to Spike – or anyone else – ever again?

"Never," she softly spoke the answer to his question – and then quickly looked down again, wanting to avoid the look of clear pain that instantly appeared in his eyes at her response.

The brief flash of hurt was all he allowed himself to reveal, for the moment, rising abruptly to his feet, tossing the handcuffs carelessly to the floor with a loud, abrasive clatter as he grabbed his jeans and began putting them on with much greater force than was necessary.

Hurt had been quickly disguised with fury.

"Bloody typical," he snarled in a low voice, his back turned to her – but in the stillness that had settled over the room, she could clearly hear his words, and the pain he was trying so hard – but failing – to hide.

"What?" she demanded defensively, glaring up at him with defiance in her eyes. She knew very well what had him so upset, but was not ready to admit fault just yet. "What's typical?"

"You!" he snapped, whirling around on her as he struggled to button his jeans, his hands trembling and uncoordinated with sheer rage that he was allowing to build, to help to defend his already wounded emotions. "This is just typical of you, Slayer! Doesn't matter how hard I bloody try – how many times I help save you and your soddin' Scoobies or look out for the Bit or do whatever I bloody well can to prove it to you – you still think I'm just waiting to get this bleedin' doohickey out of my head so I can turn around and drain the lot of you dry!"

The resentment, the wounded sound in his voice made her feel guilty for what she had said – and guilt was just one more burden that she did not need at the moment. She couldn't seem to feel anything else lately – why should she have to feel guilty? She could feel her own anger rising up within her, a defensive reaction to being called on her mistakes, and she recklessly decided to just let it go – it wasn't as if she could make the situation much worse.

"Oh, please, Spike! You're a vampire, I'm the Slayer. What do you expect?" she sneered, her tone derisive. "It's kind of the natural order of things, isn't it? I'd be crazy to trust you!"

Okay – so she could make it worse. A lot worse.

She almost flinched herself when Spike drew back sharply, his eyes wide, his lips parted in stunned reaction to her words. He looked almost as if she had slapped him in the face – and that was a look she should recognize, as many times as she had seen it.

I'm sorry, came to her mind – but she choked it back, refusing to allow the words to pass her lips as she looked away again.

For once, the blonde vampire seemed struck speechless – and that was just another clue as to just how upset he was, as he turned his back to her and reached for his rumpled black t-shirt.

"Oh come on," Buffy muttered defensively, still trying to find a way to justify her thoughtless words. "Like you trust me!" she pointed out sarcastically.

The vampire froze for a moment before turning to face her, an indignant look on his face. "I do!" he declared, his voice just a hint defensive.

"Yeah," Buffy scoffed with a harsh little laugh. "Right."

She swallowed back a sudden unexpected lump of emotion that rose in her throat, rising suddenly and turning her back to him. Suddenly, she was the one who did not want her emotions to be all-too-visible on her face. The thought that he might actually trust her – after the way she had been using him, the times she had hurt him – made her feel beyond guilty.

And that made her angry.

"I do!" Spike insisted, eyes wide with surprise that she did not believe him, crossing the room in an instant and coming up behind her as she pulled her own jeans on, her back still pointedly turned to him as she reached for her blouse. "I do trust you, love!"

Buffy could hear it in his voice. God, he means it! she thought, feeling a funny little ache building in her chest at the thought. This vampire, her mortal enemy, whom she had hurt and mistreated for the past couple of months – said that he trusted her? How could he trust her, after everything that had happened?

The answer was simple – he didn't.

Her back still turned to him, Buffy spoke softly, her hands sliding into her pockets and her shoulders slumping slightly, her head bowed. "You really do, Spike?"

"I do," he repeated in a soft but emphatic voice as he came around in front of her, needing to see her face, to know what she was thinking. "I trust you, Buffy. With my life."

A small secretive smile began to form on her lips, but tinged with bitterness as she thought to herself that he could not have chosen any better words for the point she was about to make.

As his soft, strong hand reached to gently take her arm, the Slayer moved very quickly, spinning them around and pushing him so that his back hit the wall several feet away from her. She stared at him intently for a moment as she strode purposefully toward him, reaching into her back pocket as she did and taking out a stake.

His eyes widened as he tried to process what she was doing, and why. It just didn't make sense – he hadn't done anything. But as she reached him, instinct took over, and his hand shot up to catch her wrist, freezing the deadly weapon less than an inch from his chest.

He realized the instant that he touched her that he was not really holding her back; her hand had already stopped before he caught her wrist. His eyes widened as he took in the strangely sad look of satisfaction in her empty, achingly sorrowful eyes – and he realized the little test she had been putting him too – too late.

He had already failed it.

"See?" she said softly, a note of regret to her voice as she pocketed the stake again and turned away to button up her shirt. "You don't trust me." She was silent for a moment, as she gathered up the last of her belongings and headed toward the door. She paused, looking back at him for a moment to add quietly, "And you shouldn't."

He finally managed to recover from his shock of the situation enough to follow after her, voicing his objections. "Now, wait just a bloody minute, Slayer, that's not fair! What kind of a test is that? That was a bloody reflex, pet! You can't base anything off a reflex!"

She knew in her heart that he was right. The test had not really been fair. But it had served to dramatically illustrate her point and get her out of the situation, and she really didn't feel like discussing it any further at the moment.

"Spike – just go home," she said in a tired voice, as she made her way quickly toward her own house, with an incensed vampire determined to change her mind, close behind her and trying to keep up. "If you thought I was gonna stake you, then that proves you don't trust me. So I don't trust you, you don't trust me – we're even. Just – let it go."

"No!" he snapped, grabbing her arm and spinning her around again to face him. "You haven't proved anything here, love! I do trust you! But that doesn't mean I haven't learned anything in a hundred and twenty years. And lesson number one is, 'You see a pointed piece of wood heading straight toward your heart at ninety miles an hour – you better bloody well stop it or get out of the way!"

She stopped, glaring pointedly down at his hand on her arm until he finally relented enough to let her go. "Touch me again," she said in a low, calm but dangerous voice, "and I will stake you, Spike."

He had heard it a million times before; that threat was nowhere near as hurtful as the words she spoke next, with a cold smile.

"Still trust me now?"

He stood there, stunned, as she turned and walked away from him toward her house, taking the opportunity to get away and get home.

Finally he found his voice, calling after her emphatically, "Yes! I bloody well do trust you, Buffy! And if you think you've got something to prove, you're gonna have to come up with a better test than that to prove it!"

She ignored him, disappearing around the corner – and out of his life again, until the next time she decided that she wanted him in hers again.

By the next night, Spike still had not worked off the anger of his disastrous encounter with the Slayer the night before. He was busy pouring a bit of the excess energy into one of the two things he knew he could still do better than most – fighting demons.

The other – well – he was pretty sure he wasn't going to get the chance to practice tonight. Not if Buffy was still determined to act like a raging bloody bitch.

He was currently taking on a small gang of fledgling vamps, about six or seven of them – hardly even a challenge, but something to do. He dispatched most of them quickly, and then took his time with the last one, who seemed to fancy himself the leader of the pathetic pack.

As the dust of the final vampire settled around him, he pocketed his stake, feeling a vague sense of satisfaction at the victory that was still somehow – well – unsatisfying.

Just face it, mate… he chided himself glumly as he turned back toward his crypt. You'd rather be doing…

His thoughts were cut off as he was suddenly knocked off his feet from behind, thinking as he went down that he had thought he had killed them all already. He quickly rolled over onto his back to face his unknown assailant, one fist ready to strike out and take the unfortunate fledgling down – because certainly only a foolish fledge would dare to attack a master vampire such as him in such a way.

A foolish fledge – or a Slayer.

His eyes widened as he realized who it was that had literally swept him off his feet.

"Buffy," he whispered, preparing to say more, to ask her what he'd done, what was going on.

But whatever he was going to say was silenced by an intense, forceful kiss, as the Slayer plunged forward, plundering his mouth with her tongue and teeth, leaving him more breathless than she was, though he didn't even need to breathe.

"Buffy," he gasped, trying again, searching her eyes through the haze of lust that had descended over him at the taste of her warm, sweet mouth, and the feel of her soft, strong body on his. "What…"

"Shhh," she murmured, a wicked gleam in her sparkling green eyes, a playful smirk on her face. "I think I came up with a better test," was all the cryptic explanation she offered, before glancing down leadingly to her hand, held up for his inspection.

He frowned, a bit confused, when he noticed the soft, long silk scarf she held in her hand – one he had seen her wear on occasion. It took him a moment to understand what exactly she intended – but when he did his eyes widened with surprise.

Before he could say anything, she leaned in close, gently draping the soft fabric over his eyes, holding it closed behind his head with one hand as she kissed him again, more slowly and deliberately, her free hand sliding slowly down his body to caress low on his stomach, torturously near to the part of his anatomy that was by now begging for her attention.

The lack of sight only added to the sensation of her warm breath on his neck, her soft hand on his body, and her lush, sensuous voice next to his ear as she whispered temptingly,

"Do you trust me?"