Spike put down the wrench and wiped another streak of grease from the back of his wrist to his forehead, but he grinned.


Right, then. Not exactly good, but better, ey? Not bad for just a quick slap and tickle, so to speak.


Right on cue, he heard the sound of a key in the door – the front door, not the basement door, so Xander must have seen the note that Spike taped to the door – and presently Xander’s “better” shoes, all that Spike could see from his current position, appeared at the front of the car.


“Spike?” Xander’s voice was puzzled. “What’re you doing under there?”


Spike chuckled and scooted out from under the convertible.


“What’s it look like, Pet?” he said. “Fixing this bloody heap. Think I’ve got it, too. Try the key, would you?”


Xander gave him a skeptical glance, but slid into the seat and turned the ignition key. His eyebrows jumped when the engine turned over immediately, running with a nearly normal sound.


“Wow,” he said, grinning. “That’s great. I didn’t know you knew anything about auto mechanics.”


Spike shrugged, pleased.


“Don’t live 140 years without learning a thing or two,” he said negligently. “It’s not all fixed – needs some parts I couldn’t go out in the daylight to get – but I’ll go get ‘em come sundown and finish up tomorrow. So how’d the job search go?” he added, although he could tell the answer from the untroubled expression on Xander’s face.


“I got it!” Xander said, his face lighting up even more. “It’s just sort of an apprentice position, basic fetch and carry, and it’s just part-time right now – kind of a tryout sort of thing, because I’ve been fired from so many places – but if everything’s going okay, they’ll put me on full-time with benefits in a month. But I told them about all the drywall and trim work I’ve done, and they’re really short on experienced interior people, and the month will be up right about the time they start on the interior on this project, so that works out fine. And the pay’s great, best I’ve ever gotten, or at least will be when I finish out my probationary month. I’ll get a big raise then when I go full-time.” He gave Spike a worried glance. “Did you put in a word with somebody or something?”


Spike shook his head, grinning.


“Not hardly, Pet,” he said. “The owner of the new building’s kind of a friend of a friend, and I called him and got the name of the builder, that’s all. Never talked to the builder, never so much as mentioned your name.” Which was maybe bending the truth just a bit; he’d just happened to casually mention that his Consort was looking for a daytime construction job, and Spike might send him ‘round to the builder for an interview. Of course, that was bending the truth a bit, too, since Xander wasn’t his Consort . . . technically . . . yet. He didn’t know whether Lissik had done anything with that information, and he didn’t want to know.


“So . . . now I’m employed and mobile again,” Xander said, gesturing to the car, “I think that calls for a celebration.”


“Suppose it does, Pet,” Spike grinned, thinking of the surprise he had waiting for Xander – the reason why he’d left a sign on the door telling Xander to come into the warehouse building at the ground level instead of through the basement. “But right now, the state I’m in, I think that calls for a shower. C’mon.”


They walked down the stairs to the basement; as soon as they opened the door, Xander’s head shot up and he sniffed the air.


“What’s that?” he asked. “That smells like – like – “


“Go on, look,” Spike grinned, giving Xander a push in the direction of the kitchen.


Xander lifted the lid of the pot on the stove, an expression of stunned bliss on his face.


“It is! It’s chicken soup! Homemade chicken soup!” Xander turned to look at Spike, and the naked emotion in his eyes made Spike shiver. “You knew how to make chicken soup. You made chicken soup for me.”


Spike chuckled, steadying his voice.


“No trick to it, Pet,” he said. “Nice that grocery stores deliver nowadays, innit? Had the stuff cooking all morning. Still need to put in the noodles, though. Oh, and I paid the grocery boy to go past the bakery, pick up some nice fresh bread. I’ll pop it in the oven for a minute or two.”


Xander looked away, and for a moment Spike was worried. Then he saw Xander’s jaw muscles working, and a moment later he had two arms full of warm, hugging Xander.


“Thanks,” he whispered against Spike’s neck, his warm breath fanning the skin and making Spike shiver again.


“Welcome, Pet,” Spike said, trying to sound casual and realizing that he’d failed utterly. He stroked Xander’s back softly for a moment, just a moment, couldn’t look too bloody sentimental, then gently pushed the mortal away. “Getting grease all over your least-adolescent duds,” he commented.


Xander laughed a little shakily, swiping the back of his wrist hastily across his eyes.


“Boy, way to spoil a moment,” he said. “I’m starved, are you? Why don’t you go take a quick shower, I’ll do the noodles and the bread and we can eat that much sooner.”


“Works for me,” Spike said. He settled for a quick shower instead of his usual lengthy tub soak, then pulled on a silk robe and joined Xander in the kitchen. Xander had found time to change out of his interview clothes was wearing a pair of sweat pants – and, Spike could tell with no difficulty whatsoever, nothing else. For some bizarre reason, Xander’s bare feet made him look just as sexy as did the bare chest. Xander dished up bowls of soup just as Spike walked in, and his expression as his eyes swept over Spike in the robe was as appreciative as Spike’s had probably been about the sweats.


“Good timing,” Xander said, grinning before he turned to pull the warmed bread out of the oven. “The soup smells wonderful. Just like my grandma’s. Only better.” He looked up, and the expression in his eyes made Spike’s long-stilled heart threaten to beat. Pound, even. “Because you made it for me.”


Spike forced a chuckle.


“Loading that soup up with a lot of baggage before you even taste it,” he said. “Might be crap, you know. After all, it’s been more’n a century since I did it.”


“I had a taste,” Xander admitted, blushing. “I couldn’t wait.”


Just my sentiments exactly, Pet, Spike thought, eyeing the sweat pants again. Think you’d let me have a taste, hmmm? Down, Spikey. Good things come – heh heh – and so on and so forth.


Spike sat down, sniffing and smiling. He’d forgotten how much he’d loved the stuff. There’d been too many times in his career as an admittedly atrocious poet when the scraggy bits of chicken and wilted vegetables to make soup had been about the best he could afford. But he could sit there and smell it cooking and feel like a rich man, knowing how good it was going to taste. He took a spoonful. Ahhhhhh – almost as good as blood. Almost.


Xander, across the table, had his face all but buried in the bowl as he inhaled the fragrant soup, slurping rudely at the noodles. Spike grinned, enjoying the sight of his mortal lover going primal on a bowl of soup. Most people didn’t know how to enjoy a good meal. They picked away at it like polite foreplay. Xander, on the other hand, was shagging the hell out of his soup, and it was a thing of joy to behold.


Spike grabbed the loaf of bread, tore off a chunk – nicely cutting the loaf would be a sin now – and spread altogether too much butter on it, and shoved it across the table at Xander.


“Crunch, then slurp,” he advised. Xander gave him a sheepish but appreciative glance, accepted the bread and the advice, and dove back into his meal. Spike chuckled and tore off his favorite heel end of the loaf, disdaining butter in favor of the time-honored sop-up-the-soup technique.


For several minutes, the sounds of slurping, crunching and little contented whimpers were the only noises in the kitchen. At last Xander, pausing to refill his bowl, glanced uncertainly at Spike.


“Don’t you want some blood?” he asked hesitantly. “I’ll heat it up for you if you – “


Spike shook his head.


“Ate earlier,” he said briefly. He didn’t want to mention that he knew the sight and smell of the heated blood did nothing good for Xander’s appetite, and that he’d wanted the whelp to enjoy his soup-bowl trip down Memory Lane unmarred by disgust. Nor did he mention that if his post-supper plans went as he hoped, he wouldn’t want to interrupt the action to go brush his teeth.


“Oh.” Xander looked surprised. He hesitated, ladle in hand. “More?”


Spike grinned.


“Always,” he said, handing over his bowl. “Once around’s never enough of anything good, is it?” He raised one eyebrow at Xander, who blushed.


“I thought we were talking food here,” Xander mumbled, filling Spike’s bowl.


“I thought we were celebrating here,” Spike said casually, tilting his chair back, letting his robe gape strategically. “All sorts of ways to celebrate, hmmmm?”


Xander licked his lips, his pupils dilating.


“Ummm . . . what did you have in mind?”


“Oh, that’d spoil the fun, ey?” Spike chuckled. “But you did good, getting that job, and good boys get rewarded.”


“Well . . . you fixed my car and made me chicken soup, so you’re a good boy too,” Xander said weakly, licking his lips again. “Doesn’t that mean you get rewarded too?”


Spike grinned broadly. Xander had no idea just how good Spike had been, or how much he’d been up to the night before, or while Xander was gone.


“Been a long time since anybody thought of me as a good boy,” he said. “But I don’t see no reason why we can’t sort of . . . reward each other, mmm?”


“Oh boy,” Xander said, rather hoarsely. He glanced down at his bowl of soup. “Ummm . . . suddenly less hungry now.”


“Eat up,” Spike chuckled. “Gonna need your strength, Pet.”


Xander ate, although Spike could tell that his enjoyment of the soup was falling second to his anticipation of dessert. Well, fine. Just as it should be.


“So . . . I suppose I should clean this up, since you cooked,” Xander said, glancing at the pot and the empty bowls.


“Later,” Spike said firmly. He drew Xander to his feet. “Always good to work off a big dinner.”


“Oh yeah?” Xander said hoarsely. He let Spike draw him close. “What did you have in mind?”


Spike grinned, licking his lips. “Dessert,” he said simply. He drew Xander to what he privately thought of as his “old room.” Not bad, though, to have a bed just for sex. Meant that for the cost of a brief toddle across the living room, nobody had to sleep in the wet spot.


“Ummm – Spike?”


Spike turned, realizing suddenly that Xander wasn’t coming along nearly as eagerly as he’d expected – in fact, he was pretty much dragging the whelp along. He grimaced when he saw the nervousness in Xander’s eyes, even though there was a pretty good high-rise going up in Xander’s sweat pants. He forced himself to stop, calm down a little.


“’S all right, Pet,” Spike said as gently as he could. “Moving too fast?”


“No – um – “ Xander squirmed, his eyes pleading for understanding. “Just – “


“Shhh, Pet, I know,” Spike soothed. “Come on, we’ll have a bit of a lie down, snuggle up and just wait and see what comes up, eh?” He grinned wickedly.


“Ouch,” Xander complained at the pun, but he was grinning now too, and he followed Spike a great deal less reluctantly into the bedroom, stretching out on the black satin sheets. Spike froze, shivering unaccountably.


“What?” Xander asked hesitantly.


“Can I – “ Spike cut himself off before he could beg Xander to lose the sweats. Too fast, too fast. “Nothing, Pet. You’re just a lovely sight, is all.”


Xander flushed, the color making him even more beautiful.


“Really?” he asked almost in a whisper.


“Most beautiful thing I’ve seen in – well, a bloody long time,” Spike murmured, shaking his head. “You on my sheets. Lovely.”


“Oh.” Just that, but Xander looked inordinately pleased, and before Spike could say or do anything more, Xander had untied the drawstring of his sweat pants and was pushing the fleece down over his hips. The mortal kicked the garment away, then lay back, blushing but achingly aroused, his eyes on Spike, watching Spike watching him.


“Oh, luv,” Spike whispered, swallowing hard. “Oh, luv. Now I know why Angelus hired that bloody painter.”


“Painter?” Xander murmured, still watching Spike hungrily. His hand drifted over his chest, just brushing over his nipples.


“Angelus hired a painter once to do me portrait,” Spike said, his eyes riveted on the glorious spectacle of Xander on his bed. “Had ‘im do me in just my nightshirt. Angelus said – “ Speech suddenly deserted him as Xander’s fingertips ghosted up his erection, barely teasing the length.


“Angelus said?” Xander prompted in a low, unsteady voice.


“Angelus said I’d last forever, might even be his forever,” Spike said hoarsely, “but the beauty of that perfect moment would be gone unless he did something to keep it.”


Xander smiled shyly, reaching lower to trace his fingertips over his balls.


“Don’t think you can find a portrait artist for that sort of thing anymore,” he said. “Maybe in San Francisco or something.”


Spike swallowed hard again. His mouth had gone dry. Then he remembered the Polaroid camera in his dresser drawer. He pulled it out almost frantically, holding it up.


“May I? Please?” he asked, amazed to hear that begging tone coming out of his mouth.


A new flush suffused Xander’s face and body, and to Spike’s amazement, his erection throbbed an impossible degree harder.


“Okay,” Xander barely whispered, shocking the hell out of the vampire, who had fully expected immediate denial, if not embarrassed retreat.


It took Spike forever to get the camera ready because his hands were shaking so badly. At last, however, the bloody thing was set up, and he shot the first picture. Not even waiting to see how it came out, he shot another, and another, and another, clicking the button time after time until the film pack was empty. And to his amazement Xander seemed as turned on by it as he was, caressing himself boldly, writhing across the black sheets to show off his sleek body to best advantage. Spike cursed the fact that he was out of film and plotted to buy out the drug store, the grocery store and the department store as soon as the sun went down, but that didn’t help him now.


“Are you just gonna look?” Xander asked almost innocently, not shy or reluctant anymore, oh no; he looked positively drunk on Spike’s visual worship.


“Oh, no, Pet,” Spike said, laying the camera and the developing photos aside and crawling onto the bed, flinging his robe haphazardly behind him. “Had my look. Now I want to get my hands dirty, as it were.”


“Your hands?” Xander repeated, panting, his eyes so dilated that they looked black.


“Or better yet, my mouth,” Spike said, just before he pounced.


He’d been more or less exaggerating; his fangs wanted to come down so badly that he didn’t dare suck Xander. But he could lick, and he did, worshipping the throbbing length with lips and tongue, caressing Xander’s thighs and belly and chest as he savored that wonderful salt-sweet flavor. Xander was moaning nonstop, his hips thrusting up against Spike’s mouth, and Spike was as drunk on those moans as he might be on blood. Xander gave one last hoarse scream, his back arching like a bow, and Spike closed his lips carefully over the head of Xander’s cock to catch the offering, continuing his slow licks and caresses until Xander collapsed limply back to the bed.


Xander looked so peaceful, so sweetly sated that Spike didn’t have the heart to bother him; he resigned himself to yet another wank and took his cock in hand, only to freeze as warm fingers slid over his own. He glanced up, startled, to meet Xander’s drowsy eyes.


“May I?” Xander murmured, and Spike nodded mutely, lying back and letting Xander figure it out for himself. The whelp figured it out bloody fast, in fact – of course, he was a teenage boy, he’d probably had a thousand wanks in the last year alone. But the first touch of moist lips sent Spike almost through the roof with arousal and surprise, and from there it was one long howling drop over the edge of the cliff, thankfully in Xander’s hand because if the whelp had actually sucked him in, there was no chance Spike would’ve had the willpower to push him off.


And then it was over, all over but for the cuddling bit, and that was unexpectedly nice too. And drowsing in his mortal lover’s arms, Spike, who’d been dead for a hundred twenty years, thought idly that he’d never ever felt so alive.


Spike thought Xander had nodded off, but a moment later warm fingers carded through his hair.


“Spike?” Xander said softly.


“Yeah, Pet?” Spike personally had never been much for talk after shagging, but Dru had. And judging from the fact that the whelp’s mouth ran nonstop the rest of the time, he’d pretty well resigned himself to the fact that Xander would likely be a post-fuck talker too.


“Thanks,” Xander said quietly. “For the soup and bread and my car. And, um, for the pictures.”

Spike shifted around so he was half-lying on Xander’s chest, so he could see the mortal’s face. He smiled.


“Surprised me, that,” he said. “Didn’t expect you to have such a dishy kink, luv. Like it, though.” He traced the beautiful curve of Xander’s lip with his fingertip. “Suppose I’ll have to buy a proper camera. Can’t waste a luscious perversion like that.”


Xander turned beet red.


“Um, Spike? A Polaroid’s one thing. But a regular camera, the film’s got to be, you know, developed. And I don’t think film development places do that kind of pictures.”


Spike grinned.


“I know somebody,” he said. “He’ll do ‘em. Won’t even keep a set for himself – at least if I threaten to suck his eyeballs out if he does.”


“Hey, that’s not fair,” Xander protested. “I can’t take pictures of you.”


Spike shrugged.


“Can if you want,” he said.


“I thought vampires didn’t photograph.” Xander thought it over. “In fact, I know vampires don’t photograph.”


Spike smirked.


“Can if you get properly enchanted film,” he said smugly. “It’ll cost, but I can live with it. Fair’s fair, after all.” He thought of posing for Xander, displaying himself wantonly for Xander’s pleasure, and shivered, feeling a pang of renewed arousal. Then he added, “Ummm, Pet, that’s our secret, got it?”


“As in, no telling the Slayer about vamp photography?” Xander guessed.


“As in,” Spike agreed, a little worriedly. He’d spoken without thinking, but it wouldn’t do for the Slayer or the Watchers council to get hold of the secret to photographing vampires. Or the Initiative.


Xander grinned slowly.


“I’ll keep quiet,” he said. “But it’ll cost you.” The renewed heat in his eyes – Bless teenagers and their hormones! – told Spike just what kind of payment he had in mind.


“Blackmail?” Spike said, grinning delightedly. “Why, Pet, I’m amazed. Looks like I’m rubbing off on you.”


Xander licked his lips and squirmed, urging Spike to move closer.


“Funny you should say that,” Xander said huskily. “Because that’s kind of what I had in mind . . . “


Spike chuckled, slid lingeringly up Xander’s body, and set out to pay the first installment of his bribe.


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