"I thought you said you trusted me, Spike," Buffy's teasing voice reminded the blonde vampire reproachfully, as she quickly replaced her hands over his eyes, after his latest attempt to pull away from her blinding hands.

He had, against his better judgment, agreed to let himself be led to the "surprise" that she had waiting for him – but every few steps he found himself instinctively trying to see where he was going anyway, a bit uncomfortable with surrendering all control to anyone else – even if it was Buffy.

"I do, pet," he insisted, a bit defensively, yielding to her with a sigh of resignation as she pressed her warm, soft palms over his eyes from her place, half behind him, half beside him, and started them moving again. "It's just – there's so many bleedin' obstacles between the – place where we started, and – wherever you're taking me – and I don't fancy being led shin-first into your coffee table, or face-first into your stairs."

"So what you're trying to say is," Buffy began in a voice that was a sly parody of innocence, a tone that always told him that whatever the argument was – he had lost it already, "you don't trust me not to be careful where I lead you? You think I'm gonna let you get hurt?"

"No," he protested. "No, that's not – I mean..." Finally, he gave up with a weary sigh. "Lead on, pet. I trust you."

He missed Buffy's little grin of satisfaction, but he could easily picture it on her pretty, playful face, as she nodded, "Good." She leaned in close behind him, rising up on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear in a voice of playful seduction, "I like your face too much to let it bash into the stairs."

He felt his arousal increasing at her nearness, the low sultry sound of her voice, the scent of her own rising need for him.

Then her tone changed, as she drew back slightly and ordered lightly, "Now come on. We're almost to – um, the stairs."

"The bleedin' stairs?" he echoed in disbelief. "Buffy," he groaned – but it was more a sound of resignation and defeat than of actual protest.

For better or for worse – his face and the rest of him were going up those stairs.

"Do you trust me or not?" Buffy challenged him, albeit good-naturedly, suddenly halting their process, he guessed a few short yards from the stairs.

"Yes," he replied without hesitation, deliberately taking a step forward toward them, though slow enough that her gentle hands were not dislodged from his eyes. "As I said, pet – lead on." The words were accompanied by a grand little flourish of his hand which was both dashing and comical, considering his current position.

Buffy could not help but smile with affection at the romantic, sweet – and devastatingly sexy – blonde vampire that she had come to know so much better over the past few weeks. She almost couldn't believe that she had allowed herself to come so close to losing what she now knew was the best thing she had ever had.

Over the past few weeks, her new and improved relationship with Spike had been growing stronger and stronger, as they increasingly allowed themselves to give in to the emotions, the attraction, that consumed them, giving themselves to each other freely, with an openness and intensity that Buffy, at least, had never thought possible.

Spike, for his part, had dreamed of it – had made it clear to Buffy that it was what he wanted from her – not just the physical connection they had shared before, but emotional intimacy as well.

For too long, she had refused to allow it – and now, she would regret that mistake for the rest of her life. She had taken his hope, his cherished dreams of what they could share, and used those very dreams to devastate and drive him away.

He had longed for her to invite him out of the darkness and into the intimate sanctuary of her life, her home, her very room – and she had used that very hope to shatter his trust in her.

Through painstaking effort, and a lot of heartfelt love and affection, she had managed to earn back Spike's trust in her, and now it seemed that they were well on their way to a happy, healthy, and permanent relationship.

But there was still something she wanted to make right between them.

She had put a lot of planning into this night, into making it everything it needed to be, to counteract the pain and uncertainty she had initiated with her careless actions, nearly six months ago now. Willow was staying over at Tara's – a common occurrence lately – and she had sent Dawn to spend the night at Anya's apartment, as for once, Xander was not going to be there, so Buffy would not have to worry about Dawn's being scarred for life by the visit.

She didn't want to have to worry about anything tonight.

Tonight had to be perfect.

"Watch the first step," she instructed softly as they reached the bottom of the stairs.

But Spike was a step ahead of her, and his foot hit the bottom stair, sending him pitching forward, stumbling for balance, before righting himself – Buffy's hands still clasped over his eyes firmly.

"Bloody hell, woman!" he growled. "What are you bloody trying to do to me?"

"That was so -- step – not my fault. Step. I told you we were at the steps…step!"

Again, her warning was a second too late, and Spike missed the stair in front of him – and his time, Buffy's hands did leave his eyes as she quickly lowered her arms to steady him, as he lurched forward and then overcorrected backward in a motion that, if not for her Slayer strength and balance, would have taken them both tumbling down the stairs.

Well – the three short stairs that they had actually managed to get up.

As it was, Spike found himself leaning back against her for a moment, her hands gently resting at his waist, as he sighed wearily, yet without opening his eyes.

"Buffy, love," he pointed out patiently, "I know we're going upstairs. Why not just get up the bloody stairs, and then continue with your cute little mysterious game, yeah?"

The pout was clearly heard in her voice as she replied with a sigh of exasperation, "Fine. I just wanted to surprise you."

"Is the surprise waiting for me at the very top of the stairs, love? Because if not, I don't see how it's a problem just to let me get to the landing in one piece," he pointed out dryly.

Buffy was quiet for a moment, and when she spoke again, it was clear in her voice that she was feeling a bit silly – and maybe a bit insecure at the moment.

Spike wondered what that was about…

"Okay," she agreed, releasing him suddenly, and darting past him up the stairs, before he had opened his eyes, causing him to wobble slightly, his eyes flying open as he grabbed at the banister – just in time to see the Slayer disappearing at the top of the stairs and down the hallway. "Just – wait a second," she called over her shoulder, a slight quaver in her voice.

Spike shook his head, smiling after her as he waited with surprising patience on the stairs for Buffy to declare it safe to proceed.

She was just too bloody adorable.

After a couple of moments, he heard Buffy's slightly muffled voice call from beyond her half-open bedroom door, "Ready!"

Spike had lived over a century, and was by no means inexperienced. His most lengthy relationship – his only pre-Buffy relationship, actually – had been with a very…er…open-minded woman, up for any sort of experimentation, and usually initiating said experimentation herself. He highly doubted that whatever Buffy had planned for him would come as a true surprise.

Still, his breath caught in his throat as he stopped in the doorway to her bedroom, his eyes widening in awe and stunned wonder.

On the dresser and the desk, various white candles had been lit, and were filling the room with an almost ethereal glow – though the Slayer had been careful to keep the candles far from the bed. For the occasion, she had made her bed with a bedding set that Spike had never seen before, probably brand new – in a dark, rich, blood-red silk.

The room was beautiful and warm and inviting.

Spike did not even notice the room.

Lying there in the middle of the bed, dressed in a deep red, satin teddy that fell just barely around her hips, Buffy waited for him, her hands above her head, one knee pulled up, as she quirked one eyebrow at him in daring invitation.

Daring, indeed – she had handcuffed herself to her bed.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" she asked softly, her eyes shining with a mixture of amusement, love – and an instinctive uncertainty that she couldn't help feeling, no matter how much she trusted Spike.

Was he happy with what he saw?

"No bloody clue," he replied in a soft, breathless voice, shaking his head, as he approached her, crystal blue eyes searching her face in wonder. "Buffy – love – what…?"

"The key's on the dresser across the room. I couldn't get to it if I tried…" Buffy explained in a quiet, matter-of-fact voice. "I'm here until you want me to be somewhere else, Spike. All yours."

He was well aware of the double meaning of her words, and he felt a warm, soft sensation in his chest as he slowly climbed onto the bed in front of her, moving to lean over her on his hands and knees, as she lowered her leg to allow him to move in closer. Her unusually soft emerald eyes searched his in return, a question in them at the suddenly serious look on his face.

"Buffy…" he began, then just shook his head slowly, not going on.

"What?" she prodded gently, pulling unconsciously against her self-inflicted bonds, wanting to touch him, to attempt to feel what he was feeling. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing…nothing's wrong, love – it's just…" Spike hesitated, looking down for a moment at the vision that she was, willingly laid out for him – undeniably tempting…but…

"Why are you doing this?"

The uncertain question came out in a hushed whisper, barely audible, and she could see the fear, the confusion in his eyes – and suddenly, Buffy was sure she had made an enormous mistake. Was this dramatic, symbolic gesture, intended to show him how much she had changed, how willing she was to give herself to him completely, simply too much? Too painfully reminiscent of the last – only – terrible night they had spent in this room?

"I – I trust you, Spike," she began in a slightly trembling voice, attempting to explain, a pleading look in her eyes. "I want you to know that – that I trust you completely. With my life. With my heart. With everything. I'm yours, Spike. I just – I guess – it's stupid, I guess," she admitted in a small, defeated voice, looking away.

"I – I'm sorry. I shouldn't have…"


His quiet, firm voice stopped her protests, and she reluctantly met his gaze again. He could see the tension in the dejected set of her shoulders against the handcuffs that held her arms above her head – knew that she had misunderstood his reaction.

"Don't be sorry, love – I understand," he assured her with a warm, tender smile. "It's just – you don't have to do this. I – I'd rather have you – free – free to – to touch me back," he explained, his voice taking on a hushed, sensual quality as his hand slid up her leg to rest at her hip.

Buffy drew in a sharp little gasp as his hand slid just slightly under the hem of her skimpy little nightgown, and she edged nearer to his touch.

"I just – just wanted you to know…I trust you, Spike – I do," she whispered, sounding more than a little distracted as his hands began a slow, gentle exploration of her still barely covered body.

"I know," he murmured, moving in closer, gently lowering his body down over hers, his hands sliding up under the teddy to rest on either side of her ribcage, as he lowered his mouth to hers in a slow, tender kiss. "And it means the world to me, pet…"

"Mmmm," she whimpered softly in a mixture of contentment and frustration, pulling against the handcuffs. "Spike…"

"Yes, pet," he whispered before lowering his lips to her throat, his teeth closing over her skin in a playful little nip that drew another gasp from her throat.

"Cuffs – off – now," she gasped, jerking against her bonds and thrusting up toward him in her desire.

Spike's motions stilled for a moment as he drew back to look at her, a teasing sparkle in his wicked blue eyes. "You sure, love?" he asked, eyes suddenly wide and innocent. " 'Cause you know…handcuffs can be a lot of fun…"

"Spike," she said with an edge of warning to her voice, her eyes meeting his, full of desperation and desire as her fingers flexed in anxious anticipation of touching him. "Now."

"Now, pet," he replied in a gently reproachful voice, his full, perfect lower lip jutting out in a pout that only made him that much more tempting, "not very courteous of you, rather bloody demanding, actually…let's see if you can ask nicely…"

"Spike," she whispered, her tone instantly changed, when she realized with slight alarm that he really could leave her like this as long as he wanted.

And she needed to touch him.

"Please," she whimpered. "Please, Spike…"

"All you had to do was ask," he informed her, leaning down to kiss her briefly on the tip of her nose, smiling innocently, before rising from the bed to retrieve the key from the dresser.

The moment her wrists were free, the Slayer surprised him with a possessive little growl of desire and triumph, grabbing his arms and suddenly reversing their positions so that she was over him, her eyes glittering with a wicked amusement – but still sparkling with her affection for him.

She straddled his waist, leaning down over him, her hands trailing up to his wrists as she brought her lips close to his ear to whisper in a voice of playful menace, "You're gonna pay for that." She punctuated her words with a light little nibble on his earlobe, drawing a little shudder from the vampire before she drew back slightly.

"Am I?" he shot back, one eyebrow raised, as he thrust upward against her suddenly, sending a jolt of sensation through her body that threw her off guard, long enough for him to reverse their positions again, pinning her gently beneath him. "Come on, Slayer," he taunted her gently. "Teach me a lesson."

"I plan on it," she retorted, her smile open and utterly in contrast to her words as her eyes gazed into his with unconcealed adoration, "just as soon as I can think straight again…"

Spike chuckled softly, lowering his mouth to hers again – and the game melted away, consumed by their mutual affection and desire, as he slid the teddy she wore up over her shoulders, baring her body to him. She was already at work on the button of his jeans, gasping softly for breath as she looked down between them, frowning slightly in concentration.

Once they were both naked, exposed to each other – but neither feeling particularly vulnerable – they froze for a moment, lost in each other's eyes…just taking the moment, and holding it, placing it away somewhere where they would always have it.

The moment when everything came together again.

When Spike entered her a moment later, the moment was shattered, though in the best of ways.

And Buffy shattered with it.

Her trembling, desperate hands clung to him, pulling him nearer to her, as she gasped and moaned her desire for him, whispering his name in a breathless chant of need and adoration.

"I love you," she whispered, "I love you so much…"

Those words drove Spike's desire higher than any physical touch could have done, and he gasped as he thrust inside her again, moaning softly, "Buffy – Buffy, love – love you so much…"

The rising sensations of pleasure and intimacy drew Buffy ever nearer to the edge of her own climax, as she clung to her lover as if she were drowning, and he the only one who could save her.

"Buffy," he gasped, his motions slowly slightly, as he looked into her eyes through hazy blue depths of desire. "Buffy – do you trust me?"

"You know I do," she replied without hesitation, holding his gaze unflinchingly. She did not know where he was going with this, could hardly think to imagine at the moment, but she sensed it was huge and life-changing and very important.

And she was unafraid.

"With your very life? Forever?" he asked her in a breathless, earnest whisper, his eyes wide and vulnerable – and she knew that if she said no, it would be terribly painful for him.

That was okay. She didn't want to say no.

"Forever," she whispered with a resolute nod. "I trust you completely, Spike. With everything I am – forever. I'm yours."

His eyes widened slightly at her words, and he nodded slowly in response, and she watched as a decision was made in his mind. He lowered his mouth to her throat again, resuming their slow, rhythmic movements as he laved her soft skin with cool, moist kisses.

"Love you, Buffy," he whispered against her skin between kisses. "Love you – trust me…"

And in the next moment, she felt a sharp, piercing sting, that lasted only an instant, immediately swallowed up in a deep, intense sense of pleasure like nothing she had every felt before, as the vampire drew gently from her veins.

And still – she was utterly unafraid.

Buffy's hand rose to the back of his head, pressing him gently nearer to her, her throat arching to allow him better access. "Spike," she whispered. "Spike…"

"Love you, Buffy," he repeated. "Want you to be mine…forever…will you be mine, Buffy?" he whispered, withdrawing his fangs long enough to ask the vital question.

"Already am," she replied immediately. "Yes – yours, Spike…I'm yours…"

His golden eyes, no less beautiful than the blue she was accustomed to, stared into hers with something that was almost disbelief – but not quite. He did believe her. And then, he lowered his fangs to her throat again, slipping them into the marks he had made again – just after a soft, possessive growled word.


"Yours," Buffy replied with soft certainty, clutching her lover – now her mate – to her as if she never wanted to let go.

And she felt a sense of sweet contentment wash over her, with the realization that she would never have to.

They had come down a long, winding, and treacherous road to get to this point – but they had arrived. She knew beyond all doubt that he would never hurt her – and finally, he could know with a certainty that he could place the same trust in her. There would be struggles, of course – and it would not always be easy.

But they would always have their love, never changing, for each other – forged in the fires of trial and heartache, yet emerging stronger for the flames, fortified with a firm foundation of mutual trust.

No matter what happened – they would always have each other.

And she knew, in that moment, that that was all either of them would ever need.