rngrdead (rngrdead) wrote in bloodclaim,
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Ghost in the Machine # 3

Title: Ghost in the Machine

Author: josie_h

All Stories at http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=rngrdead

Pairing: Xander/Spike
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. Xander is in England - how will they ever connect?
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.

PART 3

Spike had lost track of time, and Illyria.

He had found an online role playing game involving vampires and demons, and put his Big Bad knowledge and new found powers of influence over the medium to good use, well as far as he was concerned - the players no doubt thought otherwise. He began by favouring one or other player, boosting their performance, but eventually managed to insert himself nicely in the game and temprarily took out the most powerful players with a use of his own knowledge of street fighting and personal experience of the hunt as vampire.

Eventually he bored of the caper and turned his attention to watching various soccer matches online before metaphysically wandering into the Oxford University system. Here he had become both elated and immensely frustrated by the third year English Literature students who were studying a Nineteenth Century fiction unit. In particular he was frustrated by the apparent lack of historical context reflected in many of the comments being exchanged, and was utterly offended when one writer suggested that Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe" was somehow inferior to Thomas Hardy's "Far from the Madding Crowd", eventually weighing in to the online argument as WtB to argue the merits of Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Gray" and slamming Bram Stoker's "Dracula" as a misrepresentation of all things vampire. He was interrupted mid critical diatribe by a blinding flash and Illyria's dominating presence in his psyche.

Once recovered he realised he had been cut off the 'conversation'. "Bloody Hell, Blue! Was just about to make me point! Load of upstart bloody try-hard so called English students! Couldn't spell themselves out of a corner I'll wager."

"Your indignation unfounded, indeed I find it mildly annoying. My absence was necessary. I have been establishing the use of a network of the so called 'blackhole' IP addresses from which you may trade using the Aurelian funds."

"And remind me again why we want to do that, 'cause gotta say, 's all a bit of skullduggery if you ask me. We ain't gonna *buy* our way out of this mess... and sure as heck not got a lot of use for cash in me current form... hardly purchase a body on Ebay now can I, less it's a used one from the W&H spare parts lot, 'n frankly you'd never know what'd turn up with that even if they were offerin'."

"You are too short sighted halfbreed. This is about power. In this human domain, power is money and for us to have leverage. We require a steady large cash flow and increasing asset base in the markets of the world to then press those who are able to assist us whilst avoiding any interference by the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart as they operate in this realm. I will focus my attention on the dilemma that is our current form and determine the solution. While you will accrue, without detection, the necessary funds for a time we may need them."

"Right, so me agenda is to make the odd squillion until told otherwise."

"Correct. I will lead you to the numeric position and provide you with the codes you need. You will also note the pathway to the concealed trading 'company' that I have created to enable trading." Spike had the odd sensation of being dragged to a different 'place' and blessed the Angelus of old for his foresight in teaching the fledgling William the ins and outs of their fortune. He became aware of a pleasantly, *very* large sum freely available to trade with, provided he was able to access it. Seconds later Illyria again assailed his consciousness. "I assume you can manipulate the medium to provide your signature on this release document. Here are the associated codes you will need."

The codes were entered and 'William T.B. Aurelius' was required to 'sign' the authorization. Fortunately it seemed that Angel had left Spike's identity on the account, and after some effort a slight shift in the fabric that was Spike's awareness signalled that he was able to access the money and begin his allocated task.

Illyria seemed satisfied and he felt her presence diminish as he turned his attention to the complex market statistics he would need to grapple with, grumbling to himself, "Don't mean an ex-vamp still can't 'ave a little fun on the side. ::sigh:: Still... reckon a little precious metals tradin' to start, obviously got plenty of time on me hands for playin' later."

>>>>>>>>>

It had been almost a year since Xander had moved to the coven and things had settled into quite a routine. Breakfast was had after most of the group had eaten, after which he returned to his workshop to begin the tasks of the day.

His 'hubby for hire' repair work had given way to a steady stream of original pieces of furniture that were now being offered for sale online and brought in a tidy sum. As a direct consequence he had also engaged in a number of masterclasses in woodturning, brass work and classic inlay, and had him constantly sourcing materials from far and wide to enhance his more creative works. He also found that the local art community quickly embraced him as one of their own after his series of functional but unusual set of 'one off' occasional tables, featuring hand carved images of 'creatures of the night', were displayed at their annual festival.

Sales after the festival had increased dramatically and Matti was now a constant companion in the afternoons, the young man proving good company and a dab hand at french polishing - a very welcome skill with the more 'exclusive' pieces. The addition of an industrial ventilation unit to extract dust and safer electrical system in the workshop (all funded by Xander's income) were necessary additions.

There was a steady stream of young wiccans happy to admire his work, chat to Matti and generally 'hang out'. Xander always felt welcome at the dining table and certainly enjoyed a healthy level of respect, yet Xander still felt somewhat disconnected from... people really, and it wasn't just the fact that Willow had been away a lot lately. He still chatted to her online, certainly enjoyed the occasional chatty email from Dawn, and an even less frequent brief phonecall with Giles.

His behaviour must have caught the attention of Mistress Yollanda, either that or Willow had given her a heads up at some point, because the High Wiccan made a point of visiting him in the workshop in the early evening, just prior to the summer Solstice celebrations. He assumed it was to check on the final arrangements for the evening of festivities for which Xander was providing his services as barman, but the friendly conversation quickly turned to deeper issues.

Yollanda was in her early fifties with salt and pepper grey hair and a sparkle in her dark eyes that spelt wisdom with just a dash of mischief. Xander had often thought that she would have been quite the beauty in her more 'hippie days', and still had a habit of wearing lose flowing hand dyed clothes in rainbow colours. She had an ease about her that exuded an inner peace that drew people in and allowed honest
reflection should that be needed.


The conversation began easily enough, touching on the matters of the solstice day - it would run much as any other celebration, Xander's duties simple and the atmosphere relaxed. Xander had continued with his hand sanding of his latest art piece (a small male sitting figure of a winged faerie, or was it an angel, suitable for one leg of a coffee table).

... "All in hand Mistress. But you didn't wander this far to just talk about that? What's really on your mind? If it's about the girls wandering down here then I think that's to see Matti, who is doing a great job by the way. And they certainly don't interupt."

"No no... nothing of that ilk."

"Oh... Look if it's my contributions, I can up that to twenty perc..."

"Not at all! The coven coffers have enjoyed the extra cash flow you bring in. No this is about *you* Xander, more particularly your happiness here."

"Did Willow...?"

"Willow has told me some of your history yes, but only as it pertains to your stay here and your shared Sunnydale experiences. She also alerted me to the fact that you gave away much of your Sunnydale emergency fund compensation to your African charity, something which is both generous and to be applauded. No the reason for my inquiry is that you seem less than happy, driven yes but content, not so much.

"You are a popular member of our community and give much to all you encounter but there is also a measure of melancholy that I wonder you might share. Sometimes a burden shared is one lightened."

Xander stopped what he was doing and looked hard at the motherly figure who was now sitting at the end of his work bench. He saw nothing but friendly concern on Yollanda's face.
"I guess you're right... And please don't take this the wrong way... um... I... I guess I just don't feel like I really fit anywhere, not that I ever have, not completely." Xander paused for a moment and lifted his eye patch enough to slip a finger under and rub the slightly irritated socket, a habit that was as reflexive as it was necessary when he was feeling 'out of sorts'. "It just seems like I always end up the outsider somehow and most of the time that's fine, it's just that lately... I guess I sort of had the idea that as you get older things become clearer, that I could find someone who likes me just as I am... and by like I mean a... well I guess I'm trying to say..." He rubbed his eye again, this time over the patch then took up his sanding again as he talked a little of his family, the loss of his parents, of Willow and he as children and later, of his experiences in Africa, then finally, very briefly of his decision to come to the coven.

The Mistress leaned forward a little and put a calm hand over his. "I understand the feeling Alexander, more than you might know, and I too have loved and lost many times over. You may feel at odds with the world now, but you continue to give to it, to others, in so many ways and you are deeply respected for your many contributions. I believe it is acceptance you seek and that can only come from within.

"Thoughts, memories, of the past are only words and images in your head as are your musings on the future. If you accept that and only work with the ones that are useful all the while living in the moment, you may approach the inner peace you seek. And remember we all eventually draw to us those we need most when the time is right, and without conscious thought. I believe in the wisdom of Gaia and am sure you will feel her full blessings when you least expect it. I thank you for your candid sharing Alexander, and will take my leave now, but please feel free to join me for a quiet supper anytime you are inclined. My door is always open."

Xander did feel oddly more at ease after the Mistress departed and found himself thinking of the latter days of Sunnydale with a detached fondness he had not really expected. Thoughts of his workmates, the last days of the Scoobies, of Anya, his parents and... Spike. And eventually sent a quiet prayer to whoever might be listening that those lost to him and/or the world might have found themselves in a better place.

.........

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