Friday was a beautiful day by Spike’s standards – dark, gloomy, rainy. A little frustrating, too, because under normal circumstances he’d have taken advantage of the weather to go outside, maybe even wander down by the construction site where Xander was working on the chance that he’d get a glance of the whelp all sweaty with his shirt off. Or maybe drop in at the Magic Shop and pester Giles, demand some more blood packets or money. But he was trapped at home waiting for the packet from Angel and news from Brumwalt.


To his surprise he didn’t have to wait all day for either. A FedEx deliveryman brought the thick envelope from Angel just before noon, and a second packet arrived by courier from Brumwalt only a few minutes later. He tore into both eagerly.


How Angel had managed to get Spike’s bank account switched over from Angel’s name to his and have checks printed and a debit card issued so quickly, Spike neither knew nor cared. He was pleased to note the balances on the accounts – more than he’d thought, quite a bit more. Then he grimaced. Having to admit that Angel had been right about the whole investment thing almost spoiled the fun of being rich. And if he ever managed to get back on Angel’s good side again, he’d probably hear about it for the next decade, too.


The packet from Brumwalt was unadulterated good news. Spike glanced briefly through it, sent one of his new checks back via the same courier, and set the packet aside for Xander to look at later. Hmmm, this called for a celebration dinner, and he knew just the place. He made a quick call to Leng Chi, then cheerfully tore through Xander’s wardrobe, tossing clothes in piles.


“Goodwill, Goodwill, Goodwill – ugh, bloody hell, rag bag, I wouldn’t wish that on the homeless. Goodwill, Goodwill – oh, shit, stake me now before I have to look at that thing again. Trash, couldn’t stand to clean the loo with it. Trash, trash, Goodwill – “


The “keep” pile was pretty damned small and consisted mostly of jeans and a few sweaters Xander had bought for himself or Willow had bought him. Xander’s closet and dresser were almost empty when Spike replaced the “keepers”, but neither that nor his unapproved wardrobe-pruning troubled Spike in the slightest. He laid out Xander’s interview clothes – still pathetic, but less pathetic than the rest – for dinner. He was just stuffing the last of the Goodwill pile into a big trash bag when he was startled by the sound of a key in the lock.


Before he had time to become alarmed, Xander’s familiar voice called, “Spike?”


“Yeah, in here, Pet,” Spike said, hurrying out to the living room. “You all right?”


Xander looked at him quizzically. “Fine. Why?”


“Well, you’re home early.” Spike ran a hand through his hair embarrassedly, regretting that worried tone that had slipped out.


“It’s raining,” Xander said patiently. “Hard. The foreman sent us all home for the day.” His eyes flickered past Spike. “Um, Spike? What were you doing in my room, and why are there trash bags all over the place?”


“Just getting rid of some of those nasty shirts, Pet,” Spike said cheerfully. “Come on, have a bit of lunch, unless you’ve eaten?”


“No, we were hurrying to get everything covered up,” Xander said, allowing Spike to draw him into the kitchen, although he glanced back at his room worriedly. “Um, Spike? I don’t get my first paycheck for another week, and I’ve got to wear something, you know.”


Spike smirked.


“Not if you ask me,” he said. “Look, don’t worry about it right now, just eat your lunch and we’ll talk after.”


He fried Xander a hamburger but drew the line at frozen french fries – “Maybe you Yanks call those chips, but I’m not having ‘em here” – and poured Xander’s daily dose of Spiked V-8.


“That’s it?” Xander complained. “One hamburger?”


Spike grinned smugly. “We’ve got dinner plans at five. Didn’t know you’d be home early, did I?”


“Dinner plans?” Xander glanced at the stove, empty but for the hamburger frying pan. “Oh, did Giles want us over there?”


“Nope, and we aren’t going if he does,” Spike chuckled. “Dinner plans, Pet, as in going out. Reservations. Celebration dinner.”


Xander finished the last bite of his hamburger.


“Okaaaaay . . . and we’re celebrating what?” he asked anxiously.


“C’mon in and sit down and I’ll show you,” Spike told him, leading Xander back to the living room. He handed Xander the packet from Angel first, grinning as Xander’s eyes widened when he saw the account balances.


“Wow,” Xander said in a small voice. “You told me you had money, but – “


“Yup, surprised me too,” Spike admitted. “Still, those long-term investments do pay off, eh, Pet?”


“I guess so.” Xander looked up, troubled. “But I still don’t like you buying me all kinds of stuff. It feels – I don’t know, it makes me feel like a charity case or something.”


“Then buy clothes yourself,” Spike said, handing Xander the package from Brumwalt.


“’Dear Sir,’” Xander read, “’Enclosed please find the following: A copy of our response and counterclaim to Alexander Harris, Sr.’s complaint filed by Eric Norton, Esquire against Alexander Harris, Jr. and all exhibits and cover letter thereto, including your original photographs; A copy of Mr. Norton’s correspondence in response to our counterclaim; a copy of the settlement agreement executed by Alexander Harris, Sr. and properly notarized; a check for the full amount of the settlement; and an executed copy of the dismissal notice of both actions.’ Huh?” He flipped back a few pages. “’My firm is filing a counterclaim on behalf of Mr. Alexander Harris, Jr., alleging severe and repeated assault and battery . . . evidence in the form of photographs, copies attached, and a belt and pool cue bearing our client’s blood and Mr. Harris, Sr.’s fingerprints’ – “


Xander glanced up, his face pale.




Spike nodded silently, indicating the packet with a jerk of his head. Xander paged back and stared at the Polaroids.


“You took pictures?” Xander asked in a hushed voice. “When?”


“First night,” Spike admitted, shrugging. “Don’t know why, just seemed like a good idea.”


“And you stole the pool cue and my dad’s belt?” Xander asked blankly.


Spike grinned.


“Yup. Go on, look at the rest.”


Xander looked.


“’Will agree to dismiss our counterclaim in return for the following consideration: Dismissal of all allegations against my client and indemnity from all further claims arising out of . . . an agreed restraining order prohibiting any contact between . . . restitution to my client of all monies paid for . . . amount for physical and emotional damages, and reimbursement for’ – “


Xander glanced up again, his eyes sparkling, the beginnings of a smile twitching the corners of his lips.


“You blackmailed him?”


“Blackmail is such an ugly word, Pet,” Spike smirked. “I prefer to think of it as, oh, application of carefully selected information toward a desired financial goal. Go on, have a look.”


Xander picked out the check and stared.


“Uh, Spike? This is a certified check for $65,000.”


“Yup.” Spike grinned triumphantly. “Three years’ rent at $600 a month – and if that wasn’t highway robbery for that shithole of a basement, don’t know what is – plus interest, plus what Brumwalt told me was a pitiful pain and suffering claim. Think he’s right, personally, but if we asked much more your dad would just declare bankruptcy. So there you are, start up your retirement fund or whatever.”


“Wow.” Xander stared at the check as if it might bite him. “And he dismissed the lawsuit?”


“Yup.” Brumwalt had earned his fee. “Brumwalt dug around a bit, found out it was against the local zoning laws, plus your neighborhood association rules, to use the house as a rental property. So you get a full refund plus interest. I told him to throw in the restraining order part. If your mum or dad wants to contact you, they’ve got to go through B.”


“You blackmailed him,” Xander repeated, grinning now. “I wonder where he came up with $65,000. Probably had to borrow it against his retirement account or something.”


Spike snorted.


“Pet, I don’t care if he has to earn it peddling his arse on the docks,” he said. “Point is, that isn’t half what he owes you, but it’s the most I figured we could get. An’ I just hope and pray he breaks that restraining order, ‘cause then we’re free and clear to sue for every damn splinter he owns.”


“Wow.” Xander’s grin broadened. “You must’ve found one efficient, slimy lawyer.”


“Brumwalt’s the best,” Spike said, nodding. “’E’s a Thrilk demon. If there’s anybody purely meant to be a lawyer, it’s a Thrilk demon.”


“A demonic lawyer?” Xander repeated, surprised.


“You’d be surprised how many of ‘em are,” Spike chuckled. “Some are even vampires.”


“So – “ Xander looked at the check again. “How much do I owe this lawyer? Brumwalt?”


“Nothing,” Spike said. “He owed me a favor, ‘s all.”


Xander glanced up sharply.


“That’s a lie,” he said. “You paid him, didn’t you?”


Spike shrugged, not particularly bothered that Xander had caught him out in a lie.


“My idea, my case, my bill,” he said. “Anyway, B don’t like to deal with mortals. He’d’ve sucked you for twice the price.” Spike grinned. “Whereas I’d do it for nothing, ey?”


That brought only the ghost of a smile.


“I want to pay you back,” Xander said, looking down.


“All right,” Spike said, shrugging again. “Tell me when I get this frigging chip out of my head, you won’t try to stop me havin’ my fun with your dad and mum, and we’ll call it even.”


Xander shivered.


“I couldn’t stop you, could I?” he asked softly.


“Hmmm. Doubt it,” Spike said honestly. “Would you want to?”


Xander took a deep breath.


“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I mean . . . they’re my mother and my father. Sometimes I wish they were dead with all my heart, and sometimes . . . sometimes I just want to know what I did, you know? To make them treat me like that. I want to know why they couldn’t love me.” He looked away, but not before Spike saw the sheen to his eyes.


“Ah, Pet.” Spike sat down beside Xander on the couch and pulled him over and around so he was sitting back against Spike’s chest as they had in the tub. “Don’t take on. Wasn’t your fault.”


“You don’t know that,” Xander said, very quietly.


“Pet, when’s the first time you remember getting a bad beating?” Spike asked practically.


Xander shrugged uncomfortably.


“I don’t know,” he said almost inaudibly. “I don’t remember. It was before I started school, I guess. I remember starting kindergarten with a cast on my left arm and telling the teacher I fell down the stairs.”


Spike forced down the change to his game face with some difficulty.


“Probably wasn’t the first time, then,” he said. “If you had a lie made up, that is. See, Pet, what in the world could a five-year-old boy do that warranted breaking his arm, hmmm? Nothing. Wasn’t you, wasn’t never you. It was just them and their rotten souls. Demons and vampires don’t have the corner on evil, you know. Mortals do just fine on their own. Watch the news sometime.”


Xander sat still for a moment, accepting Spike’s loose embrace, then abruptly changed the subject.


“So . . . what’s dinner plans?” he asked.


“Well, I’d say if you want to go take a shower and put on the clothes I laid out, you just might find out,” Spike grinned. “If you hurry, we’ve got time to stop by the bank on the way, sock away that check.”


Xander hurried, although not without some griping at having to wear his rather uncomfortable and ill-fitting suit for dinner. While Xander showered and dressed, Spike changed into what passed for his own “better” clothes – black leather pants, black silk shirt, black leather vest, and a bit of shine to his boots.


Spike couldn’t honestly say that Xander looked good in his interview suit, but he did look better. And the way Xander’s jaw dropped when he looked at Spike made everything worthwhile. Everything. Funny how Xander’s pants seemed a little too loose when he put them on, and then a bit too tight as he assessed Spike’s outfit.


“Wow,” Xander said, swallowing hard. “GQ meets Heavy Metal, or: Vamps at the Leather Ball.”


Spike smirked.


“Like it, eh?” he prompted.


“Parts of me are giving you a standing ovation,” Xander admitted, blushing. “Um, dinner?”


Spike chuckled and stepped in close, giving Xander the scent of leather, letting him feel the soft brush of it against him. The mortal was fairly radiating arousal.


“I could be persuaded to eat in,” he purred, then snickered when an expression of pure lust flashed through Xander’s eyes. He stepped away again. “But not tonight.”


Xander grimaced.


“Tease,” he pouted. “How am I supposed to sit there and eat now?”


“Bank first,” Spike reminded him. “If banking won’t wilt a woody, nothing will.”


He was right, although it was fun to watch the bankers scamper around getting Xander’s accounts set up. Spike took advantage of the rare opportunity to do business during daylight banking hours, deciding that it couldn’t hurt to move some of his assets to local accounts, and he arranged to transfer part of one of his accounts to Sunnydale. Spike reminded Xander to draw out some cash until the bank could issue a debit card, warning him that they were going clothes shopping soon.


Xander looked less thrilled, however, when Spike directed him to park in front of the Hong Kong Noodle House.


“We got dressed up for this?” he said skeptically. “Limp ramen noodles? I can get those at the grocery store.”


Spike snickered.


“Not by half,” he said. “Come on.” He led Xander into the shop and up to the counter, nodding to the middle-aged Chinese man behind the cash register. “Got a seat at the back,” he said casually.


The man’s eyes flickered over Spike and Xander and he smiled.


“This way, gentlemen,” he said smoothly, raising the gate to let them behind the counter. They followed him through a spotless but uninteresting kitchen, down a short hallway. The man opened a door, revealing a flight of lushly carpeted stairs leading down – and an exotically beautiful, tiny Oriental woman dressed in red silk, apparently waiting for them.


“Follow me, please, sirs,” she said, her voice smooth and sweet as honey. “Welcome to the humble kitchen of master Leng Chi. I am Leng Mei, and if there is anything I can do to help make your dining experience an unforgettable one, you have only to ask it.”


Xander looked flummoxed, but he followed Spike down the stairs into a richly decorated room with a single long, low table with a big Lazy Susan on top of it – no chairs, just piles of soft cushions on the thick rug. Xander settled himself awkwardly, Spike easily. Leng Mei brought bowls of hot water with rose petals scattered over the surface and washed their hands lingeringly with a silken cloth. She poured cups of fragrant hot tea, bowed deeply, and vanished behind a silk curtain after pointing out a silken bell pull by which they could summon her.


“I never knew this was here,” Xander murmured, looking around.


“Yeah, well, if you ever want to eat here again, you won’t tell the Slayer about it,” Spike grinned. “You might call it an inside secret.”


Xander swallowed heavily.


“Vampires?” he whispered.


“Uh-uh.” Spike shook his head. “Risza demons. That little lady you were just undressing with your eyes was probably around to welcome in the last millenium – if not the one before that. Her father, Leng Chi, there’s just no telling. Bet your Watcher friend’d love to get his hands on him. Leng Chi’s probably forgotten more demon and vampire lore than the whole council of Watchers have ever known. He’s sort of an old friend of mine.” He grinned. “Hell of a cook, too. You’ll see.”


The dishes began arriving immediately, fragrant bowls and platters of exotic delicacies borne in by a series of Oriental boys and young women under Leng Mei’s strict supervision. Xander eyed the dishes with a mixture of awe and trepidation.


“Ummm – smells good, but what is it?” he asked, sotto voce.


Spike grinned.


“Don’t ask, Pet,” he said. “Trust me. Just enjoy.”


“Uh, Spike?” Xander said plaintively. “I, um, can’t enjoy when I don’t know whether or not somebody’s family pet – or somebody, for that matter – might be on my plate.”


Spike sighed, rolled his eyes and pulled the bell cord. Xander’s eyes widened when Spike queried Leng Mei in Chinese, and Spike snickered at Leng Mei’s rather indignant response. He turned back to Xander after the lady had once again vanished behind the curtain.


“She says they’d never serve domestic pets or human flesh,” he said, grinning. “Hereabouts neither are raised under sufficiently sanitary conditions.”


“Hey, I showered right before we came over here,” Xander protested.


“Sorry, Pet,” Spike said unrepentantly. “If anybody’s gonna eat you tonight, it’s gonna be me.”


“Spike!” Xander hissed as Leng Mei returned to pour more tea. “Don’t say things like that.”


Spike smiled innocently and spooned a liberal helping from one of the dishes onto Xander’s plate.


“Eat up.”


Xander managed the chopsticks awkwardly but ate, raised his eyebrows and ate some more. He helped himself from a bowl, then moaned in pleasure.


“Oh, this is great,” he said, reaching for more. He speared a piece and gave it a worried look. “It’s – uh, octopus, isn’t it?”


Spike picked up a segment with his chopsticks and chewed thoughtfully.


“Nope,” he said. “Luzak tentacle. Hard to come by, those.” In the interests of Xander’s appetite, he decided not to tell the whelp what Luzaks used those tentacles for.


The bite stopped midway between the plate and Xander’s mouth.


“And Luzaks are – “ Xander began uneasily, then stopped, shaking his head. “Never mind, ignorance is bliss, and tonight I’m blissful.” He popped the morsel in his mouth.


“Good philosophy,” Spike grinned, and ate.


Almost two hours later, toying with delicate, almost perfumey fruit ices, the table was cleared and Xander and Spike were relaxing on the cushions when one of the beautiful young women who had served the food returned, bearing fresh bowls of rose-scented water. She washed Spike’s and Xander’s hands, handed them warm towels for their faces, then knelt before Spike, sweeping her long black hair aside and offering her throat in obvious invitation.


Before Spike could muddle out some excuse, Leng Mei came to the rescue, hauling the girl roughly to her feet.


“No!” she hissed in Mandarin. “Never when a master has brought his Consort, do you understand?” Immediately she turned to Spike and Xander and said in English, “My apologies, gentlemen. No offense was intended.” She placed a small bowl and a covered warming plate on the table and bowed again. “For you to share, gentlemen. We will not disturb you further. Good evening.”


“What was that all about?” Xander said, glancing at the silk curtain. “Vampires don’t get after-dinner drinks at Chinese restaurants or something? And what was it she said?”


Spike snickered, then rethought his reply. He decided a partial truth could do no harm.


“She thinks we’re, you know, Pet, together,” Spike told him.


“Well, we are,” Xander said, then his eyebrows jumped. “Oh – together as in together?”


“Together as in, you’re feeding me,” Spike said. He reached over and stroked Xander’s throat lightly with his fingertips. “Not many other reasons for a master vampire to be dining down here with a mortal, eh?”


“Wellllll . . . “ Xander grinned. “I can’t go making a liar out of you, can I?” He drew something out of his pocket, and Spike was surprised to see his scalpel in its plastic sheath. “Dessert?”


Spike shivered, suddenly hard, achingly hard.


“Right,” he said hoarsely. “C’mere, then.”


Xander didn’t resist when Spike unbuttoned his shirt, but he looked worried, glancing at the silk curtain.


“Don’t worry,” Spike said, sliding the shirt off and starting on Xander’s pants. “Mei knows better than to interrupt us, or let anybody else. And I want to see you naked on these cushions, another yummy dish for me to nibble on.”


Xander groaned and skinned out of his pants with amazing speed, lying back on the soft cushions, his eyes dilated.


“What’s that?” he murmured, nodding to the bowl and plate on the table. “I’m almost afraid to ask.”


Spike lifted the cover on the warming plate and sniffed the bowl.


“Hot towels,” he said, grinning. “And rose syrup.”


“Rose syrup?” Xander repeated blankly. “What’s that for?”


Spike smirked, dipping his finger in the syrup. He traced it slowly over Xander’s lips.


“For this,” he said, leaning in for a kiss.


He kissed, licked and nibbled his way up and down Xander’s body, tracing designs on his skin with the rose syrup and then licking it off; by the time he reached Xander’s cock, Xander was reduced to a moaning, whimpering puddle of desire. Spike sucked him in slowly, took him almost to the edge, then backed off, picking up the scalpel and handing it to Xander.


“You’ll have to do this, luv,” he whispered.


Xander took the scalpel and made a rather wavery cut with shaking hands at the top of his chest. Spike sealed his lips over the wound and let the blood trickle into his mouth while his fingers stroked Xander back up to the edge again. He closed his eyes in ecstasy, nearly moaning himself as Xander came with a shuddering gasp of delight. The endorphin-laden blood, heady with strange spices, was the most intoxicating thing Spike had ever tasted. He allowed himself to suck very gently, just enough to get all the fragrant droplets he could before the bleeding stopped. He bit into his lip and closed the shallow cut, then sat back, contentedly licking Xander’s come from his fingers.


“Wow,” Xander panted, sprawled sweaty and sated and beautiful over the cushions. “That was . . . intense.” Then he glanced at Spike, troubled. “But what about you?”


“Loved every second, Pet,” Spike assured him. He lifted the lid of the warming plate, took out one of the hot towels, and gently wiped Xander down. Xander purred.


“That’s not what I mean,” Xander protested drowsily. “I mean, you’re still – “ He illustratively ran his fingertip across the front of Spike’s leather trousers, outlining the bulge there.


Spike shrugged.


“’S all right, Pet,” he said.


“No, I – “ Xander rolled over suddenly, and Spike abruptly found himself half pinned under the mortal’s warm, naked body. A marvelous position, he decided.


“I want to do something for you,” Xander murmured, fumbling with the buttons of Spike’s trousers. “Teach me something you really like.”


A million thoughts swirled through Spike’s head, but after what he’d just done with Xander, one image remained foremost. He helped Xander open his trousers – no point going home sticky – then unbuttoned his shirt partially.


“Tell you something, then, Pet,” Spike said huskily. He took Xander’s hand, drew the work-roughened fingertips down the side of his throat, shivering at the sensation. “Throats are a big thing with vampires.”


“Gee, couldn’t have guessed that,” Xander grinned, his eyes sparkling mischievously. Holding Spike’s gaze, he dipped one finger in the rose syrup and traced a sticky trail over Spike’s throat, then bent down.


Spike moaned as the warm, moist tongue traced patterns over his skin, teasing the nerve endings on his sensitive throat even as a warm hand closed around his erection, stroking it slowly. More rose syrup and rougher cat licks this time, exploring every millimeter of skin from chin to collarbone and back again, mapping out all the sensitive spots. Spike was shuddering now, thrusting up into the pumping hand and moaning helplessly.


Then Xander nipped.




Howling, Spike threw his head back and came, came so hard that it hurt, but it was a beautiful pain, as beautiful as the tingling ache where Xander had sunk his teeth into a fold of Spike’s flesh, just there below his ear. Xander nipped again, a little lower, and Spike whimpered through a fresh wave of ecstasy, again, again until he thought he’d go mad.


At last Xander took pity on him and relinquished Spike’s throat with one last lick, then grabbed a warm towel and meticulously cleaned Spike off. Spike purred, rolling over to pull Xander close.


“Mmmmm. Pet, you amaze me,” Spike rumbled in Xander’s ear. “You’re a wicked thing, aren’t you?”


“Why, you’d rather I was virtuous and shy?” Xander whispered, chuckling.


“Virtue’s overrated,” Spike drawled lazily.


“So . . . “ Xander rolled over, gazing at Spike smugly. “I take it you liked that.”


“Bloody loved it,” Spike said unabashedly. “Come on, get your kit on. No clothes shopping tonight. I’m knackered, good for nothing but lounging about in bed or in front of the telly, but I’d just as soon do it at home.”


“Sounds good,” Xander admitted, looking a little tired himself, and no wonder, Spike realized. He’d had a full day, and a strange one, too.


And there was the whole weekend ahead of them.


Spike tucked several bills under the bowl of rose syrup as they left, not letting Xander see the amount. As they walked back up the stairs, Xander asked, “You know, we never met that guy, your friend. Leng Chi.”


“’Nother time, Pet,” Spike said. “Don’t think you’re quite ready for Leng Chi yet.”


Spike himself wasn’t quite ready to see Leng Chi in person; the old one was far too discerning, and Spike was just as happy to keep the Risza demon from realizing the true state of affairs, either concerning the chip in Spike’s brain or the fact that Xander wasn’t really Spike’s Consort. Technically. Yet.


“Hey.” Xander stopped outside the restaurant, turning to Spike. “I just wanted to say, you know, thanks. That was a hell of a dinner.”


Spike grinned.


“Was, wasn’t it? Although I liked the dessert best.”


“Me too,” Xander admitted. He snickered. “Chinese food with an American chaser, huh?”


Spike rolled his eyes.


“So, Pet – think you’d like to do it again sometime?”


Xander gave Spike a sideways grin.


“You know, we don’t have any plans this weekend,” he said. “So – your friend . . . think he does carry-out?”


Email: Shadow