Title: Ghost in the Machine
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes later on - ie M/M
Summary: Post Black Thorn and final AtS - The PtBs screw with Spike yet again.
Spoilers: Canon is Post S7 BtVS and S5 AtS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don’t like boys together, don’t play here!
Author’s Note: Don’t own the characters nor make any money from stories etc, and bow down to their original creators
Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give the Buffy/Angel verse characters life. Previous parts here
Giles was strangely affected by Spike’s words. His human memories, new instincts and magical history warred for a time as he flew silently across the coven’s territory… His territory now.
In truth, he was thrown by Spike’s words, his understanding and acceptance. But how could that be?
As he flew circles over the land he contemplated the meeting. How was it that Spike was back? Why had Xander referred to him as William? And why had he detected a joining of essences? The human was the visage of an old foe, still had the signature of a vampire, yet there seemed more. He somehow instinctively knew there was a soul firmly in place, and a pure heart in both men, yet how was it that Spike was back? He should have known in his human form that it was so?
His new form insisted he listen to instinct, “Just accept.” And suddenly realized that what Spike had conveyed, what the vampire now human always lived (and died) by seemed to fit exactly that. It was a mantra that his avian mind seemed to infuse into every questioning thought, and on his fifth lap of his, the coven’s, territory, he finally appreciated the true gift he had been granted. His natural owl instincts simply accepted with no question, his current form demanded he feed, and all other questions could and would be answered by the Mistress on another day.
He dismissed all human concerns, focused on the task in hand and dove skillfully on a small rat as it scampered for cover across the outer edge of the southern field. Talons caught it with ease and his beak finished the small rodent’s life, and despite his human worry regards eating such a creature, his current form had no such qualms. It would not be the first kill for the night, and he accepted his new reality fully as all thoughts other than hunt were subsumed by his form.
The sculpture of Drusilla was almost complete and Xander was meticulously fine sanding the long fingers of the right hand as Lilah waltzed into the workshop with her typical smile that never really did meet her eyes.
Matti tensed as Lilah swept into the workshop three weeks out from the final delivery date. He quickly covered his own new work, a small statue of a female. It was something Xander had not seen him try before, though had smiled at his protégé as the new piece was started. It was a new direction for the boy and not to be discouraged. Unbeknownst to him, Matti and William understood its real purpose.
She leered menacingly then waved in two unfamiliar men.
“I have brought a couple of photographers with me to document your work. Now all you need to do is pose by it and smile.”
Xander instantly knew something was afoot. “I make no apologies as to the following. I *never* have my photo taken with an unfinished piece. So if you don’t mind I will ask the Mistress to direct your camera friends go take pictures of more pretentious artists and let me get on with my work.”
Lilah was incensed.
She had figured on getting photo of the insipid, crippled, ex- Scoobie sculptor to add the icing on the cake to her gift to the Senior Partners would be a masterstroke. She had already arranged for the Wolfram and Hart mages to be on standby, the intention to tie his life to the sculpture via the photo using dark magic. As the spell calling Drusilla’s essence to the piece, Xander would be compelled to come to his carving at once and be powerless to leave. It would seal his fate for all time, essentially he would be a thrall, beholden to do the company’s bidding, thereby ensure Wolfram and Hart a steady supply of demon sculptures to ‘play with’, and possibly give her ammunition to manipulate the coven and the Watcher’s Council, since they both valued him apparently.
No matter, the Senior Partners knew nothing of her plan, and there would be other opportunities to please them post the Drusilla gift.
Giles understood the plans Lilah had for the statue and had conveyed the same to the Mistress in his regular evening visit to her open office window as soon as he could post his change. He was stunned that there was no surprise at his revelation and informed of the coven’s part in protecting the vampiress.
Over the ensuing two weeks post his change, Giles had come to learn the history of Spike’s return to the realm of the ‘living’ and marveled at the extent to which they had all ‘played’ Lilah (and he and Sarah for that matter) and the coven and Xander’s ability to ‘William’s’ identity, and his whereabouts. In a sense the ex-Watcher was very grateful he had been left clueless as to the same. He was also stunned to learn that William was both vampire and human melded, and that he and Xander were mated partners in both human and demon sense. The realization that Xander’s hand was not merely a woodworking accident made the pairing even more poignant.
Giles had spent a few mornings after learning the truth ‘hoo’ing himself to sleep before he requested that the Mistress convey his regrets and congratulations to ‘William’ on his behalf.
Giles also now understood the utter impossibility of Drusilla’s essence ever being drawn to the statue or her skills of death and mayhem used by the Senior Partners again. Mulling over the information during his daytime on and off again snooze in the rafters, he came up with the perfect solution - an effigy of Lilah.
As she was already technically dead so the spell that was meant for Drusilla should have the same effect on Lilah’s essence should her effigy be placed in the centre of a pentagram close to the casting of the spell. No doubt any building being used for a strong spell would be warded, but if Xander or Matti could accompany the delivery ostensibly to ensure the safe installation of the Drusilla sculpture, there was no reason they could not also appropriately place the smaller piece somewhere in the building. Giles had passed on his thoughts to the Mistress the following evening.
With initial prompting from none other than their new resident owl, the Mistress had conveyed the message from Giles to William. The sculpture had to be accurate and prompt and images of Lilah from the Wolfram and Hart website, along with clandestine photos were taken with Spike’s newest acquisition – a lovely digital SLR Pentax® camera – providing the remaining current images needed.
So Matti worked on the carving, Spike continued to provide him with as many photos of the she-bitch he could find, and they both tried to decide when to tell Xander, and more importantly who it would be that ensured its placement on the ‘big day’.
Matti’s task was not a work of passion, but rather one with a practicality and hope all would go as planned. He was focused and diligent.
Since his return to human/vampire status, Spike/William had genuinely needed a purpose and a nice regular schedule. To Xander’s apparent amusement, his lover did still tend to keep semi-vampire hours, snuggling (and sometimes more) early morning prior to Xander getting up, inevitably sprawling out, starfish style, as soon as the ‘other’ side of the bed was vacated and return to slumber. Usually he rose (most days in more ways than one) just before lunchtime and would be cooking (or at least preparing something) as his lover came home for his midday meal.
Three afternoons a week were spent up at the main coven learning, though to the Mistress’s delight, more often of late assisting with magical studies. Spike/William was not only a quick study, he had also been a scholar with a penchant for languages – both ancient and modern, and had a century and a half (plus) of knowledge of magic. And to the Mistress’s joy, in addition, was more than happy to assist with the Tai Chi lessons post theory periods.
Now, on the few days he did not attend the coven central, he had taken to heading for the barn to entice the old Watcher from his perch with a short ‘So… C’mon!’.
What followed was a flurry of feathers, a now elegant landing on an outstretched arm, and silent wander to Xander and Spike’s shared abode. There Giles would be encouraged to alight onto the computer table, be fed a handful or two raw meat, then rest (eyes closed) while Spike sorted out his investment matters. Inevitably, after an hour or two, he would be lifted by gentle hands, placed on the couch by Spike and read to from some classic novel or play.
For Spike it was company, for Giles a revelation and joy. The ‘creature’ Giles had so easily written off when he was Watcher was indeed both scholar and gentleman… and now counted also as dear friend. He conveyed as much to the Mistress and had bobbed his head many times the day following, as Spike leveled blindingly brilliant eyes at the bird and thanked him for the compliment, and their new friendship.
In the last week before delivering Xander worked on Drusilla’s visage with what seemed like obsessive focus, his injured hand still causing pain when certain actions were undertaken. Spike had taken to massaging the injured appendage of an evening, lovingly reprimanding the sculptor for working too hard and hurting (again), but inevitably, after a Spike made meal, it would end in a massage of other parts of his anatomy. Sometimes for comfort, and others, for what happened next. Either way, for Xander it was always perfect and apparent through their link, it was also the same for Spike. Whether they were making love or merely spooning and snuggling seemed to make no difference. It seemed right.
Now all they needed was to be rid of their main threat.
Matti’s sculpture was completed and had a final oiling (by Spike) on the same day as Xander’s Drusilla.
Matti had always covered it with a burlap throw, so as it was revealed, the older man was stunned by the accuracy and beauty of his protégé’s piece. And more particularly disturbed that he been too preoccupied to notice the development of the same.
“ Wow!! Matti… this is…”
“On the Mistress’s instructions according to the owl Giles advice. William and I kept it from you so there was no risk to you… And I’m not really sure? William can fill you in.” His lover duly did.
Xander stumbled back a little, bracing himself against the workshop bench with his marred hand, and after what seemed like minutes, simply stated, “S#%t. It’s a risk, but I guess it’s worth it.” He looked to William then back to Matti.
Matti stepped forward, though did look to the ground and had the temerity to look contrite and told the absolute truth, “I… we were merely trying to… I don’t know… We didn’t tell you in case Lilah had mystiques or something. But Mistress thinks that we can fix things, you know, the balance, for all time.”
The long straight, black locks fell over the young man’s face, his now worried green eyes eventually looking up at a one eyed sculptor with respect and begging forgiveness for the apparent crime of concealment. It left Xander almost breathless as he scanned between his apprentice, his lover and the magnificent piece.
Matti’s voice dropped to a near whisper, “Do… do you think it looks OK?”
Xander walked around the small piece and admired, and was just about to say something when a sweet baritone voice he knew so well intoned, “It’s bloody brilliant mate, and you know it. The whole thing is brilliant…”
Xander was shaking his head in disbelief, “Matti, Wil, and Giles? Wow.”
Almost on cue and most out of character, a barn owl swooped into the workshop in the middle of the conversation and landing without effort, momentarily on Drusilla’s finished statue. He bobbed his head several times, then took off to fly a couple of meters to an adjoining workbench conscious of not to injuring the sculpture with his talons before he truly settled. He knew from his time at the coven the previous day that Lilah’s minions would be by early the next morning to pick up the piece, and the Mistress had arranged for Matti *and* Xander to follow the truck and be able to instigate the final plans for Matti’s creation.
The day was finally approaching and Giles hoped for all of them that the planned ridding of Lilah in their lives would ensue.