The King's Head was Harry's favourite pub because it was ordinary. It seemed to have collected all the trappings of a traditional pub and compacted them, until just walking into the place brought a rush of familiarity, whether you'd been there before or not. There was a selection of beer and lager but not much wine; there was a dartboard and a faded, fuzzy carpet with an indecipherable pattern; there were three men who huddled at the bar after work, every day without fail. Harry sometimes wondered if they were being paid to add to the King's Head's ambiance. There was a sign outside the pub that proudly declared: SERVING LONDON SINCE 1867. Harry would be willing to bet it hadn't changed since.

It might seem odd to choose such a place to start off his nights out – not the nights he spent laughing with Ron and dancing with Hermione, but the nights when he indulged his craving for a pretty boy who'd obey him and let him take care of everything, stare up at him with enormous trusting eyes, let him fuck and suck and spank until the boy was exhausted and sweaty and covered in come. Harry's craving for familiarity had once been the stuff of legend. But since he'd allowed it to lead him into a relationship with Ginny, a pretty girl he barely knew, Harry had let go of that. At the age of twenty-three, he was pursuing happiness instead.

Yet still, he came here. It was quiet, and no one bothered him. He could get himself into the headspace: dominant and disciplinarian. Besides, Harry's other favoured pubs were all near the Ministry, where he headed for a pint after work. He didn't relish the thought of meeting another Auror on one of these nights: those more skilled at Legilimecy would surely see the whimpering, arching, moaning boys squirming in his mind.

He entered and waved a hello to Les, the bartender. Les nodded to him and raised the glass he'd been giving a cursory rub. "The usual?"

Harry came over to the bar. "Yeah, great." Harry wore his usual understated club gear for nights out with his friends and nights at more... specific clubs both: black jeans, tight T-shirts. But with his mates he'd get Guinness; these nights, it was always whiskey. Harry wondered where he'd picked up the idea that whiskey was for dissolute sophisticates. Lucius Malfoy drank whiskey, didn't he?

He stood at the bar and sipped his Glenfiddich, listening to the silence. This was an Auror meditation technique but it could be used for other purposes than detecting... danger...

His eyes narrowed.

There was something here that hadn't been there before. The awareness jangled at his senses like one out-of-tune instrument in an orchestra. An anomaly; something out of place and unexplained. And if it was sending his Auror's alarm bells ringing so loudly, it was dangerous too.

He picked up his whiskey and sipped it, holding it in front of his face as his eyes scanned the pub. No... just the regulars, and a sweaty man who looked in need of a sit down... there! In the corner.

A man, tucked away in a corner booth. Now he was neither familiar, nor ordinary. The shadows he was swathed in couldn't hide the white, bleached hair, or the air of menace. They didn't conceal the cut-glass cheekbones and plush lips, either. Harry raked his eyes over the man, taking in his pretty face and the black leather duster that screamed 'attitude'. Harry imagined fucking the attitude right out of him until he was grateful for the chance to take Harry's cock between those pouty lips –

Harry blinked, and stopped staring. There was something odd about the man, quite aside from his apparent desire to hide his pretty self in a dark corner; Harry's Auror instincts for danger, not his Dom instincts for someone pretty and pliant, had set him looking that way. He wasn't doing anything threatening, though; just staring blankly into his glass of whiskey.

Harry looked back over the bar, aware the man would surely notice his staring if he didn't. He checked the mirror behind the bar for –

Ah.

A vampire, then. He didn't seem particularly dangerous, and certainly not actively on the hunt. Harry had supported Hermione at the Ministry since the beginning: she believed wizards shouldn't be hostile unless the vampires were first. So he wasn't going to arrest the vampire, or hurt him. But his Auror's duty surely dictated that he check the vamp. Aside from anything else, it was entirely possible that the vampire, like Harry himself, was merely stopping off here before heading to a club for the night's hunting.

He asked Les quietly for two glasses and the whiskey bottle, then headed over to the corner. Time for some covert information-gathering. He'd flirt with the vampire and see if he tried to take a bite out of Harry.

Harry smirked at his own self-justification. This particular instance of doing his duty would be no hardship at all.

The vampire looked up, and Harry was taken aback by the intense blue of his eyes. He blinked for a moment, as if staring into a bright light; then he sat down without being asked and handed the vamp the other whiskey.

The vampire gave him a frank look. "Not really my type, sonny-boy." Harry saw with some amusement that this didn't stop him from taking the whiskey and knocking back half of it.

"I'm Harry," he said, voice quiet and low. "And actually, I was thinking you'd be the boy."

"What?" The vampire looked startled, eyes going wide in his pale face.

"I suppose you could be the 'sonny-boy'," Harry continued, "but personally I've never been a fan of daddy kink."

The vampire was still staring. He obviously hadn't expected Harry to keep trying, let alone with such a blatant come-on. "What?" he said again, sounding incredulous.

Harry grinned at him, showing his teeth. "I thought vampires had superior hearing?"

The vampire nearly choked at that. Harry liked his look of shock, and deliberately kept him off his guard. "You'll have to do better, you know. I like my partners to hear what I say and obey me instantly."

He glared, blue eyes flaring the yellow of a feral cat's. He stood up, saying, "shove off, wanker. I'm not in the mood. I just wanted a quiet drink and some soggy nostalgia, not some pervert trying to make me his bitch."

He started to leave the booth. Harry wasn't letting that happen: he grabbed the blond's wrist, using the hold he usually used on prisoners right before he slammed them onto a table and cuffed them. The vampire glared down at Harry's grip on his pale wrist. His gelled white hair and leather coat lent him a hard edge; his blazing blue eyes were full of his supernatural strength and fury. He was magnificent.

He was also frightening: but Harry wasn't an ex-Gryffindor for nothing. "My name's Harry," he said calmly. "I came here for a quiet drink too; we can always just talk. What's your name?"

The vampire glared at him for another long second, his lips going tight as he thrust out his chin defiantly. Harry felt him tense a little more under his hand, as if he was going to rip his wrist from Harry's hand and quite probably smack Harry one – then he suddenly seemed to go limp, the light in his eyes fading slightly as his shoulders slumped. The vampire sat down, and reached for the whiskey again.

"So what is your name?"

"Spike."

Harry grinned. "Let me guess, you're one of those vampires who dropped your human name when you were turned. Who were you originally?"

Spike looked at him with blank, angry eyes; looking into them was like seeing fire behind reflective glass. Harry held up his hands. "OK. You're Spike. It's more interesting than my name, anyway."

"You don't recognise it?" Spike said, raising an eyebrow. "I guess the Watcher's Academy ain't what it used to be."

"I'm not a Watcher," Harry said, making a face. He'd managed thus far to avoid that particular lot of old duffers, because they didn't like working with the Aurors. (Harry often thought sourly that this was because the Aurors actually did something.) "I'm a wizard."

"Huh." Spike's lip curled a little. "I don't like magic."

"Why not? Because we have power you don't?"

"No!" Spike glared, then subsided, muttering to himself about "bleedin' arrogant bastards..."

"Why not, then?"

"Magic has consequences." Spike's jaw tightened and he reached for the bottle of whiskey. "I've seen too much of people forgettin' that lately."

Harry drank silently, leaving a space for him to speak. Spike sloshed yet more whiskey into his glass, then sighed. His eyes were still true-blue, but they were shadowed, now: veils hiding varied secrets within them. "There's this girl." He gave a small, rough laugh. "Always is, isn't there? This one's been usin' magic, and forgetting the consequences. And there's another girl, who's payin' em. And makin' me pay an' all..." He stared into his glass for a moment, then tipped his head back, exposing the long, pale link of his neck, and poured the amber liquid down his throat. He slammed it back onto the table. "Told her I was her willin' slave. Turns out you don't wanna say that, even to a hero-type."

Harry frowned. "She hurt you?"

"Oh yeah." Spike's rough-edged voice was full of complicated, conflicting emotion: like colours swirled in a paintbox, until violet and cyan and blazing scarlet were left the ugly, damaged brown of an abused mongrel. "She hurt me. An' she fucked me, and made it feel so good in so many bad ways." He shook his head. "Shouldn't fall in love with someone who needs to hurt you, but I keep doin' it."

Harry raised an eyebrow. Perhaps he wouldn't need to go on to a club for his fuck of the night. "Maybe not. But some of the ones who hurt you will take care of you too."

Spike gave a half-grin and muttered a word: Harry thought it was 'angel-puss' but he wasn't sure. Better change the subject, anyhow. "Why'd you pick this place for your 'soggy nostalgia'?"

"I've been here before." Spike's expansive gesture seemed to take in the whole world, and definitely showed he'd been drinking for a while. "This pub was one of the first places I went with Dru – that's my sire. We tore this place apart, grabbed the customers and sank our fangs in, feasted on their gore – " He stopped suddenly, and gave Harry an oddly guilty look for a vampire. "Uh, sorry."

Harry shrugged. "I know what vampires do, Spike. I'm not a child, I'm an Auror." As he said it he realised he'd given up even cursory attempts to covertly check the vampire for evil intentions: but his instincts were saying Spike didn't have any. At Spike's expression he held up his hands, showing the lack of a wand. "Hey, I'm not going to arrest you. Times have changed – kill-on-sight went out fifty years ago, and I support the current policy."

"What's that then?" Spike said with a deeply distrustful expression.

"Basically, 'we don't bug you if you don't bite them'. Buy your blood instead of hunting and you'll be left alone by the Ministry."

Spike's face twisted. "No fear of that, I promise you, Harry."

Harry didn't understand the derision and pain in his voice; like a good Englishman, he hastily steered the conversation away from difficult emotions. "You said you came here with your sire, when was that?" Harry poured some more whiskey into his glass.

"Just after she sired me – 1881, it would have been."

Harry choked.

Spike laughed, deep and genuine, while he watched Harry splutter. "You weren't expecting someone this old, then?"

Harry slid closer, pressing his thigh against Spike's, and managed to speak. "I don't mind older men."

That was the turning point. They kept talking: shop-talk about defeating evil, and male talk about football (Spike was ecstatic to be back with someone who didn't call it 'soccer'). More and more, though, came the flirt talk: deep voices going deeper, heads dipping close together, thighs pressing together as they laughed. Harry explained Quidditch, and Spike made the most of the opportunities to ask him about the balls and riding of broomsticks – always with an eyebrow raised and a press of his tongue to the back of his teeth.

Harry mentioned being a hero, and how tired he was of people expecting purity, how tied down it made him feel. Spike, after a hard swallow and another drink, told him about being chipped: that there were nasty electronics in his brain, shocking him if he tried to bite or hurt or even hit. Harry swallowed, remembering pain caused by sadistic bureaucrats, and surprised Spike with his sympathy.

Spike talked about being a vampire: when he mentioned his grandsire, who was a "big bugger" and a "bloody sadist", Harry raised his eyebrows and was delighted to see the vampire flush. "Shuttup," he muttered. "Nothin' wrong with likin' a bit of kink now and then, and Angelus, he was the best. Could make you cry and scream and love every minute of it."

Harry leaned in. "Angelus was the best, eh? Think I'll have to change your mind about that."

They talked about old girlfriends. Harry mentioned Ginny, saying they were still friends, and that they couldn't ever have worked as a couple. Ginny had wanted him so desperately and he'd fallen into the relationship when he'd wanted to forget using dark magic: it wasn't fair to her, and it wasn't going to lead to happiness for himself. Spike gave a rough-edged laugh. "I understand that. You've no idea."

Spike told him about falling in love with the current Slayer, and laughed at Harry's surprise. The laugh sounded painful: mirth ripped through with barbed wire. "Yeah. She'll never want me... not for more than a fuck. We were fucking before I left, and every bloody time she'd run out on me. The second we were finished, she'd..." He made a tired gesture, and Harry noticed his bitten nails. "Off into the night. I came back coz she blew up me crypt. I'm homeless." He stared into his glass. "Never used to bother me. Ran around with Dru, never wanted to be tied to one place... but I had Dru, then. Had family..."

Harry felt his heart twinge. He reached out and stroked his fingertips gently along Spike's jawline, turning the narrow face to his. Spike's eyes were wide; then they went narrow and intent as Harry leaned in and kissed him.

The kiss was slow, both men careful at first; then Harry pressed his tongue to the seam of Spike's lips and the vampire's mouth opened sweetly for him. Spike tasted of whiskey. Harry carded his fingers into the hair just above Spike's nape, tipping his head back to kiss him more deeply. Their tongues slid together; Harry bit at Spike's lip, and laughed softly into his cool mouth when he groaned.

They drank and kissed some more, slow, drugging kisses; by midnight, Harry's whole world seemed to be tinted with the slow-burn of amber. Spike was talking again, saying something Harry heard only vaguely: maybe the vampire was much drunker than he was, because "I bet you could bring the house down. We could do it together... you might not be a Slayer but you do have your wand..." didn't make any sense. And now he'd dissolved into giggles, leaning into Harry, his bright head coming down into the hollow between Harry's shoulder and his neck. Harry felt a shiver as Spike pressed closer.

When Spike said he'd heard the cathedral bells at one o' clock, Harry spoke with a sense of easy, pleased inevitability: like a dislocated shoulder snapping back into place.

"It's past my bedtime. I should really go home... Want to come and put me to bed?"