“I feel like a moron,” Xander grumbled as Spike minutely adjusted the jacket.


“Well, you look like a bloody wet dream come true,” Spike muttered to himself.


Xander blushed but didn’t look displeased. He was giving his new suit its maiden voyage. Xander hadn’t picked the suit; Spike had.


“You’re not wearing a suit,” Xander said pointedly.


Spike snickered.


“Trust me, Pet, I don’t look half silly in one,” he said. “’Sides, I never go anywhere I might need one.”


“And I do?” Xander retorted.


“You go on interviews,” Spike pointed out. “And you’re moving up in the world, eh?”


“I wouldn’t say that too loudly,” Xander said pessimistically, but he was grinning as he said it. His boss had switched Xander over to full-time permanent after two weeks instead of the stated month, and had given Xander more of a raise than he’d expected, too. This unexpected bonus had come after Xander had noticed a serious mistake on the plans that would have cost the company considerable time and money to correct if it had been built in – and, later in the same week, had saved a carpenter’s life by knocking him out of the way when a support board broke and a couple dozen pieces of iron rebar fell (Scooby-honed reflexes, probably sharpened with a dash of vampire’s blood, came in handy at times).


The switch to permanent employment was wonderful; the raise was fantastic; and the praise on his employment record was even better, but best of all was the fact that Xander’s good work had been brought to the attention of the owner of the company as well as the general contractor on the project, and (something that Spike knew but Xander didn’t) to Lissik, the building owner. Spike had little doubt that Xander would be a foreman before the summer was out.


So tonight they were celebrating with a return trip to Leng Chi’s. To Spike’s way of thinking, they had plenty to celebrate – all right, Xander’s job, yes, but there was also the fact that Xander thought of himself as Spike’s Consort, even though that wasn’t exactly true. There was the fact that Spike hadn’t had to see the Slayer or the Watcher for nearly a week, ever since the parking lot incident; that in itself had been a wonderful relief. There was the half-dozen ghouls he and Xander had massacred the night before, all without a scratch taken by either; that had been a fun bit of exercise for them both. Spike’s personal choice for a celebration topic was the aftermath of the ghoul fight, when an adrenalin-pumped and victory-happy Xander had bent him over the sofa back and ridden him hard and fast, testing out one of those wonderful new lubricants, purchased during an eye-opening trip to a sex toy store miles outside of town (at Xander’s insistence).


Spike smiled fondly at that memory.


Got to give the nod to modern technology, he thought with a certain amount of awe. The couch episode, plus the visit to the toy store, had given Spike a couple of ideas he planned to broach to Xander, maybe over supper tonight. He had a couple of other surprises for Xander too for another time, as a nice side effect of a late-late-night visit to the storage locker Angel had rented.


There was something else to celebrate, too. Willow and Tara had stopped by midweek to bring over Spike’s packets of blood and another jar of liniment. If either of them had been astonished to see Xander fully recovered, they’d hidden it well. But as they were leaving, Willow had turned to Spike and said quietly, “I won’t tell Buffy, and Tara won’t, either.”


A sharp pang of fear shot through Spike.


“Tell her what?” he bluffed.


Willow smiled, a small, secret smile.


“That it isn’t the liniment,” she said. She gave Spike a slightly reproachful glance. “You shouldn’t lie about things that are so easy to check. When I made the last jar, I put some on my wrist and it didn’t do anything. I mean, it felt good, but that’s all. And I remembered how your face looked when Buffy grabbed Xander. You looked like I felt when that troll went after Tara. So I got into Giles’ books and did some reading about vampires, and a lot of things made sense. But Xander’s still Xander and I know you couldn’t be forcing him to do anything ‘cause of the chip, so I won’t say anything. You’re lucky Buffy never asked me for any of that liniment since it seemed to work so well.” She sighed, looking suddenly sad. “I wish Xander didn’t keep so many secrets from me. I don’t know why he doesn’t trust me. He used to tell me everything. Or at least I thought he did.”


“Don’t think it’s about trust, Pet,” Spike said, patting her arm. “Think maybe he was just trying to protect you, keep you out of a difficult spot.” He meant keeping Willow out of the middle of the conflict with Buffy, but he realized the same probably applied to the abuse Xander had suffered from his parents. There wouldn’t have been much that childhood Willow could have done.


“Friends protect each other,” Willow chided, but she’d reluctantly accepted that.


So they were out – to Willow and Tara, at least, it appeared, and obscurely Spike was relieved. He didn’t know if he could count on the witches as allies, if it came down to a showdown, but at least he didn’t have to count them as enemies.


He hadn’t been able to give Leng Chi much notice this time, and the fact that the elderly Risza demon seemed not the slightest bit disturbed by that – that, in fact, the old one seemed to have expected his call – disturbed Spike a bit. Didn’t exactly surprise him, just disturbed him.


Fortunately he himself had the perfect clothes for the occasion – his black leather pants again, of course, since he’d loved the effect they had on Xander, but to go over it a black Mandarin silk jacket, embroidered in crimson, that Leng Chi himself had once given Spike. By wearing it, he was sending a subtle reminder that while Spike had a very healthy respect for the ancient Risza, Leng Chi owed him several times over – not least for ridding him of his troublesome local Slayer during the Boxer rebellion.


Xander swallowed heavily when he saw Spike’s outfit.


“Why is it,” Xander said, licking his lips, “that whenever we’re going to go out, you insist on dressing up in outfits that make me want to stay in?”


Spike smirked.


“Nice to feel appreciated, luv,” he chuckled. “Come on, wouldn’t do to keep Leng Chi waiting.”


Xander snatched up a shopping bag from the dresser at the last moment, trying to keep it semi-hidden behind him. Spike grinned to himself and pretended not to notice. His own presents were already stowed in the car in a bag also. Xander kept glancing at Spike’s bag in the back seat all the way to the restaurant. They grinned at each other when Spike parked at the noodle shop and they both grabbed their respective bags.


The noodle shop was busy tonight, but the man behind the counter had apparently been told to expect Spike and Xander, for Spike didn’t have to use his code phrase this time to be escorted back to the door where the stairway led down to Leng Chi’s basement. Once again, Leng Mei was waiting for them.


“Master Spike, most honorable Consort,” she murmured, bowing deeply. “We are deeply honored that you grace our humble establishment with your return. If you will please follow me.”


This time she didn’t take them to the same room, which rather surprised Spike, but led them down another flight of stairs. She paused at the bottom.


“My father asks me to convey his humble request that you join him for tea before your meal,” Leng Mei said politely, although Spike took the summons for the order that it evidently was.


“Our pleasure,” Spike said, flashing Xander a warning glance, a little disturbed by this development. He really had no desire to see Leng Chi himself just yet, and he’d have much preferred to give Xander a little preparation for the meeting, too. But there was nothing to be done about it now.


Leng Mei opened the door and escorted them into a luxurious, dimly-lit room, heavily scented with thick, sweet incense smoke. The room was divided by a thin, translucent curtain backlit by a low fire. Two sets of comfortable cushions had been placed by a small, low table on this side of the curtain. Spike permitted himself a small inward sigh of relief. At least Xander was apparently going to be spared a face-to-face meeting with the ancient Risza demon.


“Please, make yourselves comfortable, honored guests,” a thin, sibilant voice said from behind the curtain. Spike saw a shadow moving there and glanced at Xander. The mortal was staring at the decidedly nonhuman outline.


“Thanks for your hospitality,” Spike said briefly, pulling Xander forward and nodding to him to sit down. Angelus knew all the polite phrases and ritualistic back-and-forths; he himself had never bothered, believing actions spoke louder than words.


Leng Mei returned, carrying a tray with a pot of tea, cups, and a smoking bowl. She set the bowl on the center of the table and served the tea.


“I know that polite conversation is wasted on you, Master Spike,” the aged voice hissed. “So I will come directly to the point. I have information you desire, regarding an opener of gates. The Tiger in Red is the one you seek.”


Spike frowned. It wasn’t like Leng Chi to be so forthcoming, much less so direct.


“Why are you telling me this?” he asked suspiciously. “What’s the price?”


“The answers to your questions are the same,” the shadow answered. “The Watcher’s books and the Slayer’s strength and the witches’ Sight will avail you naught. But in their seeking, their path will eventually lead them to my door. I would have it otherwise, but if not prevented, then at least delayed. I cannot tell you how to find your foe, but I can tell you how he may be defeated. And here is my price: When the Slayer stands before me, I will make one request of you, and you will fulfill that request. It will be of no harm to you or those under your protection, upon my word.”


Spike scowled.


“I don’t like making open-ended promises, you know that,” he growled. “What’ve you seen?”


“That creation follows in the wake of destruction,” Leng Chi said smoothly. “Just as the end of a Slayer begins the cycle anew, just as death for you began a new life. And on that note . . . let us discuss your Consort – in spirit, at least.”


Spike glanced at Xander, then froze. The mortal sat exactly as he had before, still, relaxed, but his eyes were glazed, his breathing slow and deep.


“Xander, Pet?” Spike said worriedly. He reached over and took the mortal’s hand, squeezing the fingers. No reaction. Spike whirled to face the curtain in full game face. “What the bloody hell have you done to him!”


A dry chuckle came from behind the curtain.


“I would hardly harm your Consort if I wished to win your aid,” Leng Chi said drily. “The smoke gives him only silence and peace for a time, until he is removed from its influence, so that you and I may speak frankly.”


Spike scowled harder but sat back on the cushions. He could feel Xander’s steady, relaxed pulse, hear his deep breaths. There was no scent of fear about him.


“You should’ve asked me first,” he growled.


“I will look upon your Consort,” Leng Chi said, ignoring Spike’s comment. A clawed, withered – and scaled – hand drew the curtain aside.


Leng Chi hadn’t improved in the century since Spike had met him. A long white braid trailed down his back and dragged on the floor; his thin beard and long drooping Mandarin moustache hung almost as low. His wizened face was that of an ancient Chinese gentleman – if you ignored the scales, or the reptilian eyes, or the long flickering tongue.


His voluminous silk robe hid most of his snakelike torso, although his tail emerged from the bottom and dragged a good fifteen feet behind him and his clawed feet stuck out from under the hem. The robe had been altered to accommodate his six thin, clawed arms, almost sticklike in age. A sweetish, sickly scent of decay emerged from the curtain with him, and the scaly skin was dull and cracked.


Spike shivered slightly, unable to help himself. He’d known the Risza was incredibly old, but it looked like Leng Chi was on his last legs now – all four of them.


One gnarled hand reached out and touched Xander’s chin, tilting his face up; there was no resistance. The reptilian head swept low on the end of a long, supple neck, gazing into Xander’s eyes, smelling his breath, then retreated.


“He is a special one,” Leng Chi said. “His gift is powerful, and already his friends feel its lack, although none know it – least of all him, for it is an unselfish gift. He is stronger than he knows, stronger in heart and soul than the Slayer is in body, or the witches in magic, or the Watcher in knowledge, but you know that already. His love is stronger than any evil. Remember that, nightwalker, when the time comes.”


Spike sighed. Leng Chi loved his riddles. Why the hell can’t the old lizard just say what the hell he means? But if Spike said as much, he knew from experience that he’d get no further information from the ancient Risza, and Leng Chi still hadn’t delivered his information on this Tiger in Red.


“He does not yet trust you fully,” Leng Chi announced, frowning when Spike smirked. “Do not laugh, infant. He trusts you with his life and his soul – perhaps more than he should, since without your mark you are insecure in your claim upon him. That does not mean he trusts you with the lives of others. In time he will offer you a choice you will not like. My advice to you is to accept, for the shackles of love are looser and easier to bear than those of fear and hatred. And in turn you both will face a difficult choice. If the decision is made from love, not fear, you will choose rightly.” Leng Chi glanced at Spike slyly, out of the corners of his long eyes. “And one last bit of advice: When your Consort sleeps a sleep from which you fear his waking, let him wake to the sight of your face, and you will know that all is well.”


“Thanks,” Spike said, fighting not to roll his eyes or make some other sign of his frustration. Leng Chi’s prophecies invariably contained a kernel of vital truth – well hidden inside a labyrinth of confusion. He’d try to sort it out later. “But how about this Red Tiger bloke, eh?”


“So impatient, always so impatient,” Leng Chi chided. He waved his hand; Leng Mei materialized and whisked away the smoking bowl, and Leng Chi withdrew behind the curtain once more. Leng Mei laid a bottle on the table.


“The Tiger in Red cannot cross this essence,” Leng Chi said. “A line will bar him, a circle will hold him, but it is wiser to try to keep him out than in, for given time, he will merely conjure a gate to another plane. But the potion is only a stopgap, not a solution.


“He cannot be defeated or banished by any weapon or magic of this world, for he stands never wholly in it,” Leng Chi continued. “The Tooth of Ryla can destroy him, but I know not its whereabouts. If you find it, only one pure of heart may wield it.”


Spike snorted.


“Where are we supposed to find a bloody virgin in this day and age?” he demanded, then paused thoughtfully. Had Dawn ever done the nasty? Probably not. But did they dare risk her?


“I said pure of heart, not pure in flesh,” Leng Chi scolded, this time with a touch of impatience. “Listen if you would learn!”


“All right, all right, pure in heart,” Spike grumbled; then his eyes widened and he glanced at Xander. “Oh, no, not a chance in bloody hell!”


“That I cannot see,” Leng Chi admitted. “The boy’s heart is pure, although darkened with much sorrow. But there are others who may suit as well. The Tooth will choose, if you find it.” He waved his hand. “I can tell you nothing more, for already I have bored you with my senile meanderings.” He sounded amused. “Go and enjoy the pleasures of my table, where at least I can satisfy you with what I offer.”


“Thanks,” Spike said ungratefully – damn, he’d have gotten more information out of a bloody fortune cookie! – and pulled Xander to his feet. The mortal jumped slightly and turned startled eyes toward Spike.


“I thought we were going to have tea,” Xander said confusedly.


Spike snorted.


“Come on, Pet, audience is over,” he said. “You missed it. Sorry, Leng Chi slipped you a mickey when I wasn’t looking.”


Xander scowled.


“Damn it, that’s not fair!” He whirled around and repeated it to the curtain. “That’s not fair!”


A dry chuckle from behind the curtain.


“Nor is life, infant, but enjoy the delusion while you can.” The silhouette against the curtain disappeared, and Spike heard a door closing.


Leng Mei guided them back to the same room where they’d dined before; Xander followed sulkily. When she brought in the rose-scented water and cloths to wash their hands, she placed an exquisitely glazed porcelain jar in front of Xander.


“From Leng Chi, with his most humble apologies for your displeasure,” Leng Mei said smoothly, withdrawing with her bowls just before the parade of young men and women bearing plates and bowls commenced.


“What’s this?” Xander said distrustfully, but he lifted the porcelain lid and glanced in. Then sniffed. “Tea?”


Spike sniffed, closed his eyes, and purred.


“Mmmm, Pet, if you rate a whole jar of Leng Chi’s special tea leaves, I’m gonna beg him to smoke you again,” Spike chuckled.


“Good stuff?” Xander asked, thawing slightly.


“Well, picture this, luv,” Spike said, dishing up food. “If you were a filthy rich, millenia-old demon with access to just about anything in China that you could ever want, and this is the best stuff that he keeps back for really special occasions, you think maybe it’s ‘good stuff’?”


“Oh.” Xander grinned. “Okay. I get it.”


“And this is good stuff too.” Spike spooned samples onto a mound of steaming fragrant rice on Xander’s plate. “Now stop sulking and suck up all the nummy food.”


Xander raised his eyebrows.


“’Nummy food’?”


“Oh, bloody ‘ell,” Spike groaned. “Not bad enough that the whelp’s shagging me, eating up my Weetabix, leaving his dirty socks on the bathroom floor for me to slip on, clogging up the tub drain with concrete dust, and tracking demon goo into me kitchen, now ‘e’s got me talking like ‘im too.” He leaned over and kissed Xander hard to take the sting out of his teasing.


“These are good,” Xander said, popping a round tidbit into Spike’s mouth. “What are they?”


Nope, nope, not gonna tell the whelp they’re larb eyes.


“Happier if you don’t ask, remember, Pet?” Spike said cheerfully.


“Oh. Right,” Xander said, nibbling from another dish. “Ignorance, blissful, got it.”


Spike stifled a snicker. Blissful, indeed – he knew enough about demonic cuisine to realize that most of what they were being fed had reputedly aphrodisiac properties. Somebody was doing a bit of matchmaking back in the kitchen. He suspected Leng Mei had had a hand in choosing the menu this time; she’d never liked Dru or Angelus (Thankfully she’d never met Harmony; Spike could just imagine) and thought Spike should seek a mate who “more appropriately balanced him.” He grinned broadly, suddenly realizing that Xander had this evening gotten the nod of approval from both Risza. Strangely that knowledge relieved him considerably.


Xander stopped, chopsticks halfway to his mouth, gazing suspiciously at Spike’s grin.


“If you’re gonna keep doing that,” he warned, “I’m gonna have to ask what I’m eating.”


“Not that, Pet,” Spike chuckled. “Just realized that you passed muster with the in-laws, so to speak.”


“I did?” Xander blushed. “Cool. But aren’t, um, Angel and Dru more the in-laws?”


Spike shrugged.


“If you’re worried about what Dru thinks, wait ten minutes and she’ll have changed her mind,” he said. He remembered his telephone call to Angel. “And I’m not looking forward to Angel finding out, but I think he likes you well enough. Likes you enough that even as mad as he is at me, he rushed me access to all my stuff so’s I could get you a lawyer.”


Xander’s jaw dropped.


“You mean you told him – he knows about – “


“Hold it, hold it, Pet,” Spike said, holding up a hand to forestall the explosion he could see was coming. “Didn’t tell him nothing but that you were living with me and needed a lawyer and I needed my stuff. That’s all.”


“Oh.” Xander took a deep breath. “Okay. Somehow I don’t think he’d like the idea of, you know, you and me together very much.”


Spike grinned.


“Don’t doubt it, but it’d be because of me, not you,” Spike said, then shrugged. “Don’t matter, Pet. He wouldn’t interfere. Give me a hard time, but he wouldn’t interfere.” Not himself, he added mentally. Angel wouldn’t interfere. By vampiric custom, he couldn’t come between a master vampire and his Consort. If Xander was really my Consort. But of course Angel knows he’s not. On the other hand, there was nothing stopping Angel from informing somebody. Such as Giles, or Buffy. And that was a worry.


Xander gave Spike a worry-filled glance that told Spike Xander had probably figured out what Spike wasn’t saying, and Spike looked for a distraction.


“So . . . going to show me what’s in that bag, Pet?” he said lightly.


Xander looked as relieved by the change of subject as Spike felt.


“Uh . . . yeah,” he said, blushing. “Are you going to show me what’s in yours?”


“You first,” Spike said.


“Uh-uh, you first,” Xander said, blushing harder.


Spike considered.


“How many you got?” he asked.




“Me too.” Spike pulled out a small box. “Take turns?”


“Works for me,” Xander said. He accepted the small box and opened it, glancing up. “Film?”


“Special film,” Spike told him. “The kind you wanted. For pictures of me. It’s for your new camera.”


“Cool!” Xander sparkled. He reluctantly put the film away, taking a large box out of his bag and handing it over. “I’m kind of embarrassed I didn’t think of this sooner.”


Spike opened the box and stared down into it, blinking.


“It’s a Kevlar vest,” Xander said abashedly. “Not a real heavy one, but it’s only got to stop wood, not metal, so I figured this one would be less bulky under your clothes. I had some extra reinforcement added over your heart, front and back.” He didn’t meet Spike’s eyes. “I just figured it might be handy if Buffy gets pissed.”


Spike ran his fingers over the vest, surprised and touched. Body armor against stakes. God, what an idea. Simple, elegant, but who’d have thought of it? Nobody but Xander. His Xander.


“Thanks, Pet,” he said, swallowing hard. “Bloody brilliant idea, this. Expect it’ll keep me from a good dusting sometime.”


“Promise you’ll wear it?” Xander said softly. “Every time you go out of the house?”


The vest touched him, but it was the worry in Xander’s voice that made Spike’s voice unsteady when he answered.


“Promise,” he said. Then he grinned. “Just picture the look on the Slayer’s face, eh? I’m tempted to provoke her, just to see her snit when she smashes Mister Pointy.”


Xander’s face broke out in a huge grin.


“Oh, wow,” he said. “That’d be something to see.” Then he blushed again. “Your turn.”


“Oh.” Spike hesitated. “Well – sure you don’t want to do yours first?”


Xander nodded firmly.


“Right, then.” Spike shrugged uncomfortably, handing Xander another small box. “See, I had this idea.”


Xander opened the box, then blushed crimson as he picked up the small butt plug inside.


“I can’t wait to hear this one,” he said weakly.


“I had this idea,” Spike repeated, mumbling now. “About – you know, what you wanted. Me doing you.”


Xander froze, his eyes wide. Spike would have blushed if he could have. Xander had never brought the subject up again, but Spike hoped the occasional wistful glances he’d gotten from Xander meant that Xander hadn’t changed his mind about wanting it.


“I thought you couldn’t – “ Xander said hesitantly, but to Spike’s relief the expression in his eyes was undeniably hopeful.


“Well – “ Spike hesitated. “Still not positive it’ll work. But here’s what I’m thinking. Maybe we kind of work up to it, you know?” He grinned. “Can’t let all those toys in the box go to waste, now, can we? And when you can take something me-sized without it hurting, then we’ll know you’re ready, right?”


Xander blushed, but he was smiling.


“Okaaaaaaay . . . and you know what you’re doing, right?”


Spike snorted.


“Not hardly,” he admitted. “Got to remember, Angelus was more the ‘hop on top and take it’ type. Breaking in virgins was his game, not mine. But we’ll muddle it out, all right?” That last came out much more anxiously than he’d meant, but to his relief, Xander just smiled.


“Why not?” Xander said, still blushing. “It’s a little late for me to be worried about ‘kinky’ now.” He swallowed. “And speaking of that . . . “ He pulled the second box from his bag and handed it to Spike.


Spike opened the box, surprised to see another box inside – this box, however, was beautifully carved and inlaid ebony. Spike ran his fingers over the smooth wood, marveling at its silky feel. He found the clasp at one side and opened it, then stared.


On a bed of red velvet was a knife – easily the most beautiful knife Spike had ever seen. The blade was long and tapered, sharp on only one edge, but that edge, Spike’s testing finger told him, was amazingly sharp. The hilt was black wood also, exquisitely formed, unadorned except at the end, where a circle of dark inlaid garnets formed a ring around its circumference.


“Bloody hell, Pet, it’s beautiful,” Spike said in a hushed voice. It was. If he’d seen this in a shop, he’d have bought it in an instant. If he’d seen somebody else with it, he’d – well, he’d have given the bloody chip a serious test. “Where’d you come by this?”


“Actually it’s, um, kind of custom made,” Xander said abashedly. “I found it on one of Willow’s witch-supply web sites.”


“And what am I supposed to do with it?” Spike asked, but he already had an idea of what Xander had in mind, and the thought had him instantly and achingly hard and a breath away from game face.


“You don’t,” Xander said simply. “I do.” Xander slipped off his jacket, wrestled free of his tie and tossed it aside, and took the knife from Spike, his eyes on the vampire’s. “I do this.”


Eyes half closed, Xander trailed the blade down his cheek, sharp edge carefully away from his skin. His tongue flickered out to taste the shining metal, and the flat of the blade caressed the curve of his lips. The point of the blade barely touched his tongue.


Spike stared hypnotized as the knife traced a curving path down Xander’s throat, up, down, across – if Spike had needed to breathe, he’d be in serious trouble now. Then the knife dipped lower, the tip slid under Xander’s collar button. A single flick and the button fell, the collar gaping slightly open. Holding Spike’s gaze, Xander lowered the knife; another flick, another button fell, the shirt opened a little wider.


Spike watched spellbound as button by button, Xander opened the shirt. Two side flicks and the sleeve buttons fell. Xander relinquished the knife for the few seconds it took to slide the shirt off; to Spike’s surprise, he slid his pants off too, leaving his boxers on.


But hopefully not for long.


Spike sat frozen as he watched the shining blade of the knife trace slowly down Xander’s shoulders, over his arms as if following the path of his veins, back up, sllllooooooowwwwwly down his chest, tracing spirals around the suddenly rock-hard nipples, over his abdomen – Spike heard himself groan as he saw the blade, blunt back carefully against Xander’s skin, slide under the waistband of Xander’s boxers. Then the boxers tented up (more than they were already, rather) and the silken fabric parted smoothly as the blade sliced upward, cutting the garment from Xander’s body down one leg, then the other, the fabric falling aside.


Spike realized that he’d slid into game face, and also that his mouth was hanging open, when Xander gave a throaty chuckle. Spike closed his mouth.


“I like you watching me,” Xander whispered, and Spike’s eyes helplessly followed the knife blade as it swept in patterns over the insides of Xander’s thighs.


Spike opened his mouth again to speak, but nothing but a dry squeak came out. He swallowed, cleared his throat and tried again.


“I like watching you,” he said hoarsely. “But is watching all I’m gonna get to do here?”


“Oh, no, not hardly,” Xander panted, and Spike almost came in his pants as the tip of the knife cut a fine line across the tender skin inside Xander’s right thigh. “No . . . I want you to do a lot more than watch.”


The knife moved up, made a mere scratch across Xander’s belly, just enough for a few precious droplets of blood to well up.


“A lot more.”


Up farther, and the knife tip traced a thin scarlet line just above Xander’s left nipple, right over his heart.


“I want you to do so many things to me.”


Up again, and the knife traced a final line, barely breaking the skin, down the side of Xander’s throat.


“But right now you could start by coming here.”


Control forgotten, Spike howled and pounced. By the time he’d landed, he’d already flung the silk jacket aside and the pants were down to his knees, and thank goodness Xander had gotten rid of the knife somewhere or Spike would probably have landed on it. Hot skin pressed against his own and he could smell precome and sweat and that beautiful tang of blood and feel the blood pulsing just under the skin so close to his fangs. Someone was saying something, he didn’t know what and he ignored it and bent down to –




Spike rocked back, not hurt enough to matter, just surprised, and that moment of delay was apparently all Xander needed.


“Spike. Spike! Listen, will you? I’m here, I’m all yours, okay? But you’ve got to settle down a little bit, get a grip, all right, vampirically speaking. I’m sorry I teased you so much, guess I should have known better, all the other times you’d just drank lots of blood already, but listen, if you bite me you’re gonna hurt, remember? Chip? Head? Much pain? You with me here?”


Spike ground his teeth and reined himself in with difficulty. Right. Chip. Couldn’t bite Xander.


Fuck, fuck, fuck that was close. Bloody hell, I could’ve killed him, or fried me own brain, or both. Shit, I keep forgetting he’s not my Consort, without my mark the fucking demon thinks food, and as long as he’s not marked I could go too fucking far. Could drain him.


Spike shook his head, not in negation but trying to shake some of the red haze away from his vision. He pulled back slightly, gazing into Xander’s eyes. Not trusting himself to speak, he nodded, just once. Xander relaxed slightly and nodded back, then reached up to trace a gentle fingertip over Spike’s lips, gently outlining the ridges of Spike’s game face.


“You don’t have to take,” Xander whispered, his eyes hot. “Not when I want to give.”


And that was all Spike needed to hear; he moaned and bent down, trailing his tongue over the cut in Xander’s thigh, kissing the ruby droplets away. Before licking the cut on Xander’s belly he paused to suck Xander’s cock down, all the way, GULP!, holding the mortal’s hips down while Xander bucked and screamed but pulling back before he could come. The flavors of blood and precome mingled intoxicatingly on Spike’s tongue, and he paused again to lick and nibble at the hard little nipples, lapping up the blood that had trickled down Xander’s chest. Then he was there at Xander’s throat, and the touch of lips on skin was nothing short of worship. Xander must have felt it too, for the second Spike’s tongue flickered out to taste, Xander groaned richly, arched his back, and came.


Spike grinned, licked up the last droplets of blood, bit his lip for the blood to heal Xander’s cuts, and slid back down Xander’s body to lap up dessert. By the time he’d finished – Bloody hell I love hormonal teenage boys! – Xander’s cock was showing signs of renewed interest.


Oh, it’ll be plenty interested by the time I’m done, Spike thought smugly.


Xander was pliant and relaxed with satisfaction, but he wasn’t too out of it to murmur with faint surprise when Spike pushed his legs up, draping them over Spike’s shoulders – followed by another twitch of definite interest from his cock – when Spike sucked his balls into the cool mouth, one at a time, then licked and nibbled over Xander’s perineum.


“Spike?” Drowsy, pleasure-filled murmur. “Need this?” A movement by his head, and Spike glanced over, raising his eyebrows and grinning when he saw the little bottle of lube.


“Ready for anything, eh, Pet?” Spike murmured, returning to licking the creases of Xander’s groin.


“Well, considering what happened – uhhhhh! – last time, and what – oh, oh shit – I was planning on doing with the knife, I kind of – ahhhhhh! – figured you’d – oh, oh do that again! Yeah, that! – you’d want me to – to – whoooOhGod!”


That last exclamation, accompanied by a violent jump in Xander’s now totally one hundred percent reawakened cock, resulted from the experimental application of Spike’s tongue to Xander’s cute little pucker (although Spike made a mental note to himself to refrain, at least in Xander’s hearing, from verbally describing it as cute; didn’t sound very complimentary, somehow). The total amazement in the exclamation, together with the sudden violent resurrection of Xander’s erection, clued Spike in on two good-to-know facts: First, that Xander had most likely never experienced anything of the sort; and second, he was loving the hell out of it.


Spike grinned to himself and decided to probe a little deeper into the subject at hand.


Spike was far from inhibited or finicky where sex was concerned; there wasn’t actually a whole lot that he hadn’t seen, done and most likely enjoyed. He hadn’t done a lot of rimming since Angelus; it wasn’t the sort of thing a master vampire did. But Dru had always enjoyed his mouth, and he’d prided himself in keeping his tongue in prime form, thank you very much, vampires being rather orally inclined to begin with. And at this moment, he had every intention of convincing Xander that his arse was the happiest part of his body and would demand a great deal more attention in the future.


And judging from Xander’s moans, shudders, whimpers, pleas and screams, his plan was working.


He waited until Xander was totally incoherent before flipping up the top on the bottle of lube and awkwardly squeezing an over-liberal quantity out onto his fingers. Quickly, in what Spike thought smugly was a pretty smooth move, Spike withdrew his tongue, substituted his slick finger – yup, prostate was right where he remembered it – and gulped down Xander’s cock again without even pausing.


Xander let out an unearthly howl, went totally rigid, came in a surprising quantity considering he’d just come a few minutes before –


-- and passed out.


Spike might have felt a bit frustrated and left out (he was, after all, still fully dressed, not to mention fully hard), but he was feeling magnanimous after that lovely knife show Xander had put on for his pleasure; and besides, the whole sweaty, sated, passed-out Xander bit was just too wonderful. Spike yanked his jacket up and his trousers down and put his lubed hand to good use; he was so worked up that it only took a second, which might’ve been a bit embarrassing if the whelp had been awake to see. He groaned with satisfaction, thoughtfully wiped his come on Xander’s belly, and lazily licked it off again, enjoying their mingled flavors. By the time he’d finished, Xander was groaning and stretching happily under Spike’s mouth.


“Have a heart,” Xander muttered sleepily. “Recovery time needed here.”


“’Have a heart’?” Spike chuckled. “Don’t use the one I’ve got, Pet. There, all nice and clean, and I’d like to know what you think you’re wearing home, seeing as you’ve trashed your shirt and your shorts.”


Xander yawned, stretched and sat up.


“Spares in the bag,” he grinned. “The shirt just needs the buttons sewn back on. Except I can’t sew. Clothes, that is – I think I did okay on you.” He glanced at the box with the slender butt plug in it. “Was that your finger? Well, I know it wasn’t your finger at first, I mean. I can’t believe you – I mean, wow. That was. Ummm.” He blushed bright red.


Spike snickered.


“Liked that, ey, Pet?”


“Gee, how could you tell?” Xander chuckled weakly. “Was it the screaming thing, the coming thing, or the passing-out thing? Can we do it again?”  Then realization struck and he looked guilty. “Um, sorry, did I kind of leave you high and dry there?”


Spike held up his hand and waggled his fingers in answer.


“Funny thing, Pet, I thought I’d be doing less of that nowadays . . . “


Xander groaned.


“I’m sorry,” he said.


“’S all right, Pet,” Spike said, rolling over and kissing Xander soundly. “Bloody near came in my trousers during that little knife dance of yours anyway.” He paused, shaking his head. “Beautiful. Just beautiful. Don’t suppose you might do that again sometime?” he added hopefully.


Xander smiled shyly.


“If you’ll keep me supplied with buttons and boxers,” he said, sliding his hand into Spike’s.


“It’s a deal,” Spike promised. “Come on, Pet, better toddle off home.” He sighed. “Then, much as I hate it, suppose we’d better give the Watcher a call.”


“About what?” Xander said, pulling clothes out of his shopping bag.


“Tigers,” Spike sighed. “And teeth . . . “


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