rngrdead (rngrdead) wrote in bloodclaim,
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Ghost in the Machine #7

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




With thanks to lovely petxnd for the banner

Part 7

Xander hardly saw Willow the following day. A makeshift market had been set up in the coven grounds which served as ‘break out’ area for those attending and gave local fresh producers, craftspeople (including some of Xander’s smaller works at one stall), buskers, purveyors of alternative remedies, and various magic goods sellers to mix with curious members of the public welcomed in until late afternoon.

At the end of the day and despite the invitation to join the general throng of wiccans for dinner and praise to the moon, Xander made an excuse to finish his bar duties early in preference to returning to the cabin logging on as soon as he was able, almost hopeful that Spike, or ‘S’, had left a message. It was not to be.

Xander remembered all the times he had felt alone, isolated, ‘lost’ even, and found himself *wishing* the computer to register a note from a… missed friend. He left a simple note on his ‘Facebook’, “Drinks served, waiting for S.”

With no reply and despite the hour with Willow still absent, Xander turned to something he did know. He fired up the images of Spike in their last months, the ones Andrew had so enthusiastically documented. Then he took a lamp and highlighted the current carving and deliberately angled the webcam so it caught every detail on a live stream.

The nose was perfected, the hand gesture defined, the… and then there was a ping indicating a message on his MSN.

Xander immediately stopped what he was doing and raced for the computer.

It was Buffy, inquiring how Dawn was coping at the Solstice festivities. He was almost annoyed.

“Yup. Hey Buff, she’s doin’ fine. Wils and the Lady D still at the Solstice Supper. Let you know when they come in OK?”

“Sure. You not there?”

“Got an exhibition coming up and wiccan 101 – do that for the rest of the year. You well?”

“Yup… Tell Dawn we’ll pick her up at the airport Friday.”

“You and the Immortal? That’s been a while now!”

“Yeah well.Giles still doesn’t approve.”

“You always were into older guys with a dark past. He’s probably just jealous.”

“LOL… Anyway, say Hi to everyone – hugs B.”

Xander pushed away his chair and was just about to return to sanding the edges off the latest carving when the computer pinged again.

“Harris? You finished gabbin’ to her ladyship I see.”

“Hey Spike”

“Be a pet ‘n set up the camera, can’t see a bloody thing.”

“Oh… oops, hang on.” Xander quickly picked up the small webcam, plugged it in and placed it on the top of a speaker so it pointed into the room before settling back into his chair. “Is that OK?”

“Taa. How’s the party goin’? Red still at the festivities?”

“Good and yes.”

“She had time to do any investigatin’ for yours the almost dearly departed?”

“Not really – it’s pretty busy here. But I know she’s been thinking about it. She did say something this morning about talking to Mistress Yollanda, you know, after she’s kind of sussed out what is going on.”

“Yeah well…”

“Any word from Illyria?”

“Nothing. Still that’s not unusual. You’ll be the first to know.”

“So… what have you been, I don’t know… doing since last night?”

“Sweet bugger all. Mucked about a bit with investments, checked out some games, the usual.”

“Investments?”

“Yeah well have to do somethin’ to keep a chap interested ‘n Illyria seemed to think we might need it. Frankly I reckon it’s just her way of challenging herself with all the security and whatnot, although lately it’s pretty much mine to tinker with.”

“So what… like bank accounts and things?? But Spike that’s illegal!”

“Not when it’s mine in the first place! ‘M not a thief. Anyway, not like they’re gonna catch on if they wanted to.”

“But how do *you* have money? I mean I know Angel did but…”

“Grandsire’s dusted ‘member?! Anyway it’s family funds of old ‘n all that, set up here in Europe a good while back. Not touchin’ anythin’ of Angel’s from the states. Not stupid enough to mess with any blood money from Wolfram and Hart days even if there was anythin’ there.”

“Oh. Sorry. I just…”

“’S OK. Nice someone still thinks I’m the Big Bad I guess. Nope… all’s sort of above board. Anyway it’s all passwords ‘n electronic transactions these days.” There was a slight pause, “You finished me face on that carvin’ yet?”

“No not really, but I have sanded back the nose and you were right, it does look a bit better.”

“Should bloody well hope so. Show us it here would ya?”

Xander still wasn’t too sure what Spike could or couldn’t see in the rather poorly lit living room, so flicked on an extra lamp and held the vampire figurine up in front of the webcam.

Spike admired the handy work as it was turned slowly for his benefit. The folds of the coat were delicately rendered and the boots were particularly good.

Xander put the figure off to the side and resumed typing, “The face is still not finished but I’ve got a couple of photos from Willow and... well anyway.”

“Got a real talent Harris. Nice to see you’re puttin’ it to good use.” Spike was still typing as he saw Xander turn as Willow entered the room.

“I got away as soon as I could Xan. Is Spike…?”

“Yup here in the… well not flesh exactly… but you know what I mean.”

“Any news from Illyria?”

“Seems she’s still to make contact. Look I need coffee. Can you maybe just chat to him for a minute?”

“Of course. Here I brought you a piece of the celebration cake, and don’t worry, it’s from the chocolate one – I knew the carrot cake wasn’t really your style.”

Xander took the proffered cake and wandered over to the kitchenette while Willow settled in front of the computer and typed, “Hey Mister, it’s Willow.”

“C’n see that. But taa for the heads up.”

“So Xan tells me you haven’t heard from Illyria yet.”

“’fraid not. Anything your end – well apart from the usual witchy business that is?”

“Well, I did do a bit of thinking and I guess I have a few basic questions that might help when Illyria does make contact. But Spike, I’m heading back to Brazil at the end of this month, not that that is a really big deal, but if I’m here it would just be easier I guess.”

“Appreciate you’re on a timeline. Just not much I can do to hurry Blue. Guess it’s just nice to have someone to give a toss that I’m still around.”

“Lots of ‘toss’ giving here. I’ve kind of signaled to Mistress Yollanda that there’s something important I need to work on with her once things calm down around here again. I didn’t really go into it though.” Willow looked around to see Xander standing behind her, coffee in hand, munching on the chocolate cake she had brought. He smiled a slightly choclatey grin and nodded toward the screen indicating she should continue.

“Spike, I was just wondering how you write exactly… You know is it machine code sort of ‘Matrixy’ or…”

“Don’t rightly know. More just think things and they come up. Illyria’s the one who gets me into places with passwords and such.”

“So don’t see things that are encrypted?”

“Not exactly, just get a bit of fuzz before the password goes in then bingo, all clear… Best be askin’ her the why’s and wherefores. Know I choose to… well sort of kip I s’pose, in places where the computers are idlin’. Just to take a break. C’n get bloody borin’ in here, not ta mention lonely.”

Willow looked saddened by that thought, then typed, “Do you have any… you know … physical type of sensations at all?”

“Not apart from a bit of light and sound show when Blue’s in the buildin’. Even then can’t rightly say if it’s physical exactly. But if you’re talkin’ about touch, smell, that sort of thing, not a twinge…a big nothin’ worse than even when I was hauntin’ Angel ‘n crew.”

Willow simply wrote, “Oh… Spike I’m so sorry.”

“Not your fault is it. Anyway I’ll be off. No point crampin’ your two’s style if there’s aught to report now is there.”

“We can leave the computer on… you know in case Illyria comes back… or you just want to sort of… be here.”

“’preciate that Red, but I’ll take me leave until her ladyship calls in. ‘night.”

“Goodnight Spike, from Xander as well.”

Willow couldn’t be sure Spike was really gone but there were no more messages so she turned her attention to Xander who had pulled up a second chair and reached over for the statuette he had left on the bench in sight of the webcam.

“You’ve done more work on it?”

“Not much really, just fixed the nose… Spike liked it I think. He kind of… gave me a real compliment which is a bit of the weird.”

“Did he say much else?”

“Not really, but… kind of sounds lonely don’t you think?”

“Even if I can’t find out enough while I’m here, it’s good you two can chat. At least if he’s online regularly we’ll have more of a chance to… I don’t know. It will buy us some time and Illyria will eventually make contact I suppose.” Willow grabbed her long, now white hair at the nape of her neck, twisted and wound it then pushed the whole lot into a bun at the back using a pencil from the table as a makeshift clasp while still staring at the last note from Spike.

“Oh and Buff dropped a line before. She’s going to pick up Dawn Friday from the airport, can you remind me to tell her tomorrow. She said Hi.”

“OK… Xan is it OK if I do some research for a few minutes? Or do you need the Net?”

“Hey go for it. Me Mr tired guy anyway. Think I’ll turn in. You OK for everything else.”

“Sure… and Xan? We will find a way to help Spike I just know it.”

“Think he does too. Thanks Wills… for being here… ‘night.” With that Xander stood, placed the statuette on the sideboard, kissed her hair gently and made for the tiny bathroom to change for bed.

Willow turned her attention to researching electromagnetic energy, in particular any crossovers with her magical studies. It certainly seemed plausible that Illyria had managed something that had not previously occurred in their earthly dimension, but until she made direct contact, Willow really was struggling. One thing was certain. If Illyria truly did have access to Fred’s intellect and memories then the depth and breadth of her knowledge in the science of what had gone on was certainly out of Willow’s league. She wanted to at least have the basics.

……………..

The next two days were busy with the Solstice gathering of Covens, but followed much the same pattern as the previous one, Xander worked the bar and Willow participated in various healing circles, guided two ‘Gaia reading groups’, and met with various coven leaders where some more pressing topics of discussion included political and fiscal concerns both internal and external to the various covens and their geographical locations. But overall the mood for those attending remained one of carnival and fun.
Xander caught up with Dawn for a few brief moments on the second day, passed on Buffy’s and introduced her to Matti, pleased when he saw her turn on the charm, take the young man by the arm and head off to his workshop for a requested quick guided tour. She returned sometime later gushing with praise for Xander’s work and embarrassed Matti a little when she publically suggested he was the perfect apprentice for her old friend and that he was so lucky to learn “…a whole bunch of stuff about life in general from Xander.” He had apparently let slip at some stage that he was gay and that Xander and he had that in common. Something Dawn made a point of telling Xander about and that she was ‘…*totally* cool with it, and well *derr*!”

That evening Xander and Willow had returned to his residence late after the bonfire and fireworks to find a simple “Spike woz here” screen saver on the computer, but apparently no ex-vampire present.

The final evening, Monday, meant for an early pack up and saw an exhausted Xander slumping onto the sofa after returning the only unsold figurine (a small ‘mistress and moon’ piece) to the shelf of completed pieces in the lounge room. He stared for a moment at the message bouncing around the inert computer screen and felt a pang of guilt. They hadn’t been here when Spike checked in the previous evening. He knew only too well how it felt to be stood up by a friend, particularly one who you had only just connected with again.

He kicked his shoes off, groaned and pushed up. He grabbed a beer from the small bar fridge under the kitchenette counter and wandered over to hit the space bar on the computer keyboard. There was a message in his email inbox. Though the address was unknown the subject read, “For the whelp.”

He took a long draft of his beer before opening it and beginning to read.

“Evenin’ Harris. Illyria’s agreed to a meetin’ of sorts. Midnight tonight. Be up an’ waitin’ with the witch. By the way, your collection of male erotica on this bloody machine needed a bit of an update, call it service to modern education. S.”
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