rngrdead (rngrdead) wrote in bloodclaim,
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Ghost in the Machine #4

Title: Ghost in the Machine

Author: josie_h

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.
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


PART 4

Spike had been focusing his attentions on the Middle East again, in particular the United Arab Emirates. Like all of his true generation all things 'exotic' held a certain appeal and for now that appeal was to watch countries that the British Empire (in all her heady dominant past) had annexed or written off thrive.

Despite initially trading on Western markets, his list of investments of late, had leaned toward China, India and other emerging nations. Combined with Illyria's occassional interruptions, or as he was increasingly aware, rather demanding insistance that he turn his attention to this or that company, he was quickly able to respond to market trends.

Illyria's interest in the 'human folly' had a distinctive Machiavellian flavour and her ability to infiltrate the email systems of governments and larger conglomerates had her geninely fascinated by trends. Her view was still one of the malevolent ex-god, interested in intrigue and now the general patterns in the online behaviour of wealthy rulers of failing companies when collapse or major takeovers were becoming apparent. She delighted in having discovered (with a little help from human research) that internal email traffic at the top level of such organizations increased tenfold as a large company began to faulter, or was genuinely threatened by a competitor, and similar trends seen in countries facing governmental collapse or all out war.

Spike for his part merely responded to her 'tip offs' by dutifully shifting investments at her delighted reports but was fast becoming tired of her insistance of the stupidity of the earth bound creatures and their obvious self interest and lack of insight but in the months that had past had also become skilled in keeping his thoughts relatively hidden from her. A task made all the easier when he realised that for all her perceived 'omnipotence', her understanding of the virtues of those same creatures really was limited to self interest.

Spike had long known that once an investment was secured there was little to be gained by 'tinkerin' around the edges' unless there was a particular reason. He had already resigned himself to the idea that their obtaining of sufficient wealth would take a while. Granted Illyria's insights had been useful and certainly her sequestering of a number of umbrella companies residing in tax havens allowed Spike's trading to 'fly under the radar' as it were and saw a steady stream of income legitimately flow into the originating Swiss Aurelian accounts without question.

For the first few months there had been a certain thrill in fast accumulating wealth, but something of William's sensibilities still existed within the essence that was Spike. Old, hard learned lessons of
the evils of class snobbery, the excesses of the idle rich, and of overconfidence borne of arrogance, prejudice and fast money niggled whenever Illyria demanded that he push their money around as though
there was no human cost involved.

Accompanying his somewhat conflicted moral compass, there was also the inner William who was coming up for a hundred and sixty years of existence. A William/Spike who had and still genuinely loved art, writing, poetry, music and all things of the 'today', whenever and wherever that might happen to be, and who had a sense of honour and loyalty that extended well beyond the simplistic excuse of 'a soul'.

Of late it was this inner sensibility that was becoming ever more dominant. His interest in all things online role playing had waned after he had dominated in several Warcraft games, made several million virtual dollars in Second Life and bored of a number of other wannabe blood thirsty individuals in online games. He still occasionally commmented on one or other rather esoteric (and some borderline eccentric) lists ranging from classical literature study to interest groups for all things occult but even that was becoming less and less attractive.

He found some solace in just 'floating', accessing a server that was on 'down time' and ceasing to be for a while in the digital blackness.

It was during one of these rest times that Illyria sought him out, jolting him from his place of nothing by a blast of energy that had him reeling.

"Bloody Hell Blue! Give a chap some warnin'..."

"I believe I have finally cracked the security on the Global coven network."

"Well bully for you... Would have figured that would be a doddle after your little adventures into corporate America and MI5."

"It is true that I have been able to merge with those human concerns relatively easily. But my interest in the coven communications has more to do with their ability to ward their electronic signals with magic, a
rather unique system and most sophisticated, allowing them to shield their dialogue from other magical influences, such as the Wolf, Ram and Hart. To date you have merely dabbled in monetary gains for the purpose of us purchasing favours as we need them, now we must also explore and enlist the aid of those in the magical community sympathetic to our cause... without undue attention.

"Fred knew of one called Willow who is mentioned several times in correspondance. It seems she is powerful and may be sympathetic to my cause..."

"Ehh hemm... That would be *our* cause your high and mightyness, and you might care to know that I reckon Red would be just the ticket. If anyone could pull us from this mess she would."

"You also know of this witch?"

"Worked along side her in Sunnyhell... right sweetheart when she wasn't tryin' to destroy the planet, or save it. Last I heard she was in Brazil."

"That may be so, though the Email trace is convoluted. I shall attempt to establish contact with her using an anonymous monicker. It is unwise to alert even the covens of our status until their service is secured. I charge you with the task of learning as much as possible of the Berkshire coven as there seems to be a festival of some importance being held there attracting a large number of magical beings on the summer solstice..."

Spike was tiring of being ordered around by the sharer of his virtual thought space, so cut off the conversation with a curt, "Berkshire coven, got it. If that's all Highness, got some serious down time to catch up on."

Spike felt decidedly out of sorts courtesy of the conversation so as soon as he felt her gone, he turned his attention to some online porn, grumbling that at least *someone* was having some fun.

..........

The preparations for the inter-coven solstice festivities was in full swing and though Xander was on the periphery of the general running of any such events there was still a steady stream of young wiccans attending his workshop with a variety of minor requests for his skills.

He had realised some months ago that the reason for the girls attending to the requests with quite such intense personal interest was undoubtedly that Matti was nearly always at his side in the afternoons, preferring to spend most of his spare time in the workshop. Xander was happy for the company of the young man, and enjoyed watching the girls as they giggled, flirted a little and did their best to engage Matti's full attention.

For his part Matti was charming, friendly and enjoyed being the centre of attention, particularly after he learned (or rather directly quizzed) Xander about the older man's preference for male rather than female love interests. The discussion had been frank and non threatening for the late teen who was questioning his own leanings, and seemed to settle some of the tension that had permeated the first few afternoons 'in the shed'.

Xander had eventually decided to come clean to Matti, stating that he had no designs on any of the women (or men) at the coven or in the village, that his relationship with Willow was one of deep mature friendship, and that he had come to his own decision
regards his staunchly single status and sexual preference rather late in the piece, and only after many baulked starts and a number of disasterous partnerings.

Matti's realization that his own fascination with all things 'boy on boy' was one of curiosity rather than any lifestyle choice seemed to clear the air and certainly seemed to have allowed him to gain greater
confidence within the coven community in general. And Xander had been amused to note that the previously dyed jetblack 'emo-mop' had given way to Matti's natural dark blonde curls being trimmed to a far more flattering style that had his enthusiastic classmates begging to plat it with flowers for the coming celebrations.

With Mistress Yollanda's encouragement, Xander had also qualified as a teacher of woodwork through the technical college in Reading, and taken on some teaching duties at the local village community house, providing popular courses in furniture making, handyman renovation and 'wood art'. All in all he felt a little more like he belonged though still shyed away from any discussion of his Sunnydale days, even when pushed by curious coven members (especially after the biennial visit from Watcher 'expert lecturer' Andrew whose stories of the heady last days of the Scoobies seemed to become more fantastical as each year passed).

With the delivery of the last Maypole and departure of his helpers of the day, Xander turned his attention to tidying up the tools of trade then retreated to the quiet comfort of his small abode, relieved that the addition of a small microwave allowed dinner to be taken privately on this occasion.

He roughly cut a chunk of coven-made sourdough bread and waited for the typical 'ding' signalling that soup was ready before settling in front of his laptop to catch up with messages and enjoy the peace and quiet of the evening.

Willow was en route back to England for the solstice, and apparently Giles was coming down from London for the event also. Xander sent Willow a quick note wishing her a safe trip before adding a "Kudos, well done" to Dawn's enthusiastic entry regards her current work at a
fashion magazine in New York (pictures of 'celebs I interviewed this week' included on her facebook page).

Xander took a break to collect his digital camera, make a coffee then returned to the real task of the evening, uploading photos of his latest wood carving series to his own website. The more tedious part of the task being to put accurate sizings and ptions, 'interesting' titles and prices under each image.

He had been pleased with the public response to his 'Avian series', enjoying the attention and extra cash after a local art show named his 'Ladyhawk' piece as 'Best Sculpture' prize winner.

His more recent pieces were leaning toward depicting the male torso, well toned casual stances, more often than not leaning against a tree or wall with face obsured. Jaw lines were easy but he struggled with more than that. He'd asked a rather embarrassed Matti to pose for him a couple of times but found that he sought a certain quality in his male faces that seemed to ellude and for the most part that was fine. As carved table legs or feature figurines framing a mirror there was little need for absolute accuracy, yet an old memory seemed to niggle.

Xander finished at the computer, flicked on a CD of classical music he had loaned from Mistress Yollanda and pulled out a sketch he had been working on for his latest figure. The soft cedar wood had seemed to 'want' to become a male in a long coat, leaning casually against a headstone, hand up as though to... light a cigarette.

Xander found himself sadly thinking of a certain dusted vampire, another fallen comrade in arms, and realised that it was that rather perfect face he wanted so badly to depict, to no avail.

Perhaps that was the face he sought for his other figures too, the defined features, the irreverent smirk, the impossibly handsome, timeless... After several more attempts he tore out the page of the sketch book and flung it toward the bin in the corner. He knew Andrew had a video of Spike (he'd watched a few highly edited pieces on the Watcher's facebook page) but was reluctant to source those as it brought up a whole lot of unwanted memories and feelings that he just did not want to address for the sake of a sulpture.

Reluctantly he packed up and resolved instead to ask Willow if she had any digital images of Spike somewhere when she returned to the coven and there was some context to the question.

He logged on again, this time to simply lookup some 'decent' male pornography but found even that uninteresting and went to bed with images of a perfect male blond vampire in various states of undress and welcomed the oblivion of sleep.

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