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Ghost in the Machine #9

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 the lovely petxnd for the wonderful banner



Part 9

Shortly after eleven a rather exhausted Willow returned from the main coven building to find a dressed Xander snoozing on the couch, television still on, so tiptoed to her temporary bedroom to change into her pajamas, dressing gown and slippers.

She had just finished cleaning her teeth when Xander knocked politely. “Wills? Are you decent?”

“Hey Mister. Yup very decent and very tired. Hang on, I’ll be out in a minute.”

Xander decided that coffee was needed, at least if he was going to be lucid when Spike and/or Illyria made contact again, so busied himself with that task after flicking off whatever late night movie was showing.

A weary but smiling Willow wandered in just as the percolator huffed to life.

“Mmmm caffeine. Sorry I’m so late back, but most of the other coven leaders leave really early tomorrow morning, well two went tonight with their members… Anyway, did you talk to Spike?”

“For a while yeah. Important news is that Illyria will be online at midnight.”

Willow leaned heavily against the small kitchen bench and, closing her eyes stretched her neck from side to side and sighed a little. “Well it’s better now than never. I’ll try to make sure I’m a bit pepped up before then. Is Spike still online?”

“Not sure. I left the computer going just in case he wanted, you know, company of sorts. Really didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

Willow seemed to consider that for a moment then accepted to proffered coffee and made her way to the computer in the corner to check Email and wait until contact was made. Xander simply busied himself washing the few dishes left strewn around and generally tidied his small abode.

By the time to computer pinged to indicate a message, the two were sitting comfortably chatting about some of the more bizarre of Willow’s experiences in Brazil (and a few besides). Their reaction was one of excitement and not a little trepidation.

“Evenin’ all, you two still up an’ around I see.”

Xander indicated the chair for Willow. “Hey Spike.”

“Red. All the hoo haa over then?”

“For this year, yes. I’m so glad you could convince Illyria to talk to me.”

“Not much convincin’ involved. Reckon she’s a mite over this existence too. Kept rabbiting on about botnets ‘n DFFcons ‘n such like, whatever the Hell that means in the King’s English.”

“Botnets are where you infect other machines with a virus so the person using them doesn’t realize their machine has actually been turned into a zombie.”

“That’s all we bloody need, zombies bad enough in the flesh. So what, the machine has a demon controller or sommit?”

“Well I guess it could be a demon, but essentially it is a hacker or group of hackers that use the power of the combined computer network of ‘bots’ to do something, you know like the denial of service stuff that happened at Yahoo a few years back. They can do heaps of damage and it’s a real worry especially with all the unsecured networks these days.”

“OK lost me a little but I get the gist. Be just up her alley to want to do that. Anyway, heads up here comes the missus.”

Illyria’s presence came online with a blast of power that temporarily had the computer blue screen. A very worried Willow quickly rebooted and within a minute or so Illyria was ‘in the building’.

“Willow Rosenburg. I am interested that both Spike and the memories of Fred have you as what humans call a redhead. It seems that is a misnomer.”

Willow was a little taken aback by the comment but answered politely. “Hello Illyria. I am so glad you agreed to meet with us.”

“I have need of your skills as I hope Spike has informed you.”

“Well yes, but I guess I need a bit more information before I know if there’s anything I can really do to help. Perhaps you could tell me what exactly it is you need.”

“I assume you are familiar with the workings of the electromagnetic energies on this earthly plane.”

“I did a bit of research but yes, certainly as far as the usual manifestations and sources, although I’m sure you, and Fred, are/were far more advanced in understanding.”

“Of course. It had been my intention to transfer temporarily and use the internet and connectivity to move into a more satisfactory realm for my permanent dominion however this domain I currently inhabit is restricted in its scope when attempting conversion/transfer of entities. I will need the magical input of you and the coven along with a large earthly source of such energy to give my being the boost required to ‘move on’ as you humans so inadequately put it.”

“So you don’t want to manifest back here at all here on Earth, not even the Deeper Well.”

“I have neither reason nor desire to sleep for eternity, nor can I countenance the idea of ruling this planet of such pathetic creatures once again. From Fred’s calculations it is entirely possible to transfer my essence to another dimension where I shall take form of an appropriate being and rule again I am meant to do.”

Willow was more than a little taken aback that Illyria had not even mentioned Spike in the equation so decided to remind the Old One. “And Spike? What about Spike’s essence?”

“Spike has been a loyal servant and is a brave warrior, but has expressed disinterest in following me to my new realm. I would have you restore him to an earthly form and believe that may occur concurrently with my ascendance.”

“But his ‘form’ was dusted. I don’t think even I have the magicks to reverse that, apart from the fact that we don’t even have the dust!”

“I can assist you with the final transformation, but initially you will need to provide him with an appropriate vessel of his choosing.”

“Grave robbing? Or worse… Spike wouldn’t agree to taking over someone else surely?”

Spike’s typing suddenly appeared, “Too right I bloody wouldn’t. Mistress here already knows that! Keep talkin’. Sommit about changin’ atoms or some such.”

“Do not interrupt underling.” There was a slight pause then Illyria continued, “As I was saying a vessel needs to be prepared. It must be carbon based and of the shape he desires his final form. Now to more pressing matters… I would have you research the magical consequences of two types of events, as this is an information shortfall in Fred’s repertoire and there is little written on the internet regarding the same. An oversight you may want to address in due course.”

Willow was temporarily distracted by Xander who was rifling through a drawer in search of a pen but simply typed, “What are the events?”

“The first are the solar storms, sunspots and events that cause high energy plasma to rain onto the earth’s magnetic field and are able to effect serious change in the electromagnetic state of the planet. The last such event was in the year of 1989 as you name it, and affected California and Texas according to my research. There will be members of your covens who may shed light on the magical advantages or otherwise of such an occurrence. And the second is the associated electromagnetic waves that accompany large seismic events. Far more common. I would suggest you consult globally regards the same. You may wish to focus some attention on those of your membership who reside in the polar regions as the magnetic field convergence is constant at those locations. Spike will furnish you with the monetary resources you require and I assume assist you until the task is in need of my attention once more.”

“No wait…” and typed in Xander’s hastily scribbled note, “Would a wood carving have to right properties for Spike’s needs?”

“Wood would be appropriate, yes, I leave those details to you. That is all.”

With that the computer blue screened once more and Willow hit restart hoping to once again make contact with Spike, and turned to Xander as Windows began to boot up.

“Wills, I was just thinking that I might be able to carve Spike, you know a life sized one. Don’t know if he’d trust me but…”

“It does seem a possibility. Either that or something in plastic, but I’m sure that wood would be easier and kind of more natural if we are going to affect it by magic. Just let’s as Spike. It really doesn’t seem like there are many other options though. What did he/she mean Spike had money?”

The computer pinged indicating Spike was back, “So you lot gonna make me a real boy anytime soon or was her ladyship too much of her usual arrogant, annoying self?”

Willow typed furiously, “It’s all OK Spike. But I do still need to do a fair bit of research. I think Xander’s come up with an idea though. I’ll let him tell you.”

She vacated the seat in favour of Xander who was madly shaking his head and mumbling, “But we haven’t even really thought it through!”

“So what’s the master plan from the former donut boy Hmmm?”

“I should so be insulted Spike!”

“Nahh mate, what’s a memory amongst friends if a chap can’t get an occasional dig in… Now come on… if Red says you’ve got a plan then it must be a good one.”

“Well, Illyria said a carbon based form so I was just thinking, and it might not work, but if I was to carve you, well that is your former… any way… if I carve you in wood life size then maybe we can reanimate that and you can, I don’t know… get in somehow, with the coven’s help obviously.”

“What me Pinocchio? You’ve got to be kiddin’ me! Goin’ by me nose on the practice run I’d end up with a fat arse an’ wing nut ears!”

“Hey be fair! I thought you liked…”

“Steady on. Give a chap time to come to terms ehh? Casting aspersions second nature in these circumstances I would’ve thought.”

Xander smiled a little then typed, “As long as you think you can trust me.”

“None better Harris, just want editing rights is all. When’s all this gotta happen by, ‘cause seems as though you’re plenty busy with other projects.”

“Willow has to do some more research although I think she’s pretty confident.” Willow shrugged a little then nodded. “And I will have to get a piece of wood big enough to carve.” Xander couldn’t help but type the next comment, “You were what? Five foot one?”

“You cheeky sod! Five nine at least if I was an inch! ‘N if you’re not careful I’ll make you blush in front of your lady friend there by givin’ you all me other measurements too!”

Willow was audibly giggling in the back ground at the exchange but managed to swallow them for long enough to say, “Ask him what Illyria meant about the money thing.”

“Willow said to ask you what Illyria meant about helping out with money for the research.”

“Tell the witch I’ve got plenty. Cover her for airfares out of pocket and a bit besides. Whatever she needs OK? You c’n fill her in on the basics of how. Now if ya don’t mind me sayin’ but you lot look knackered. Go get some kip an’ I’ll see you tomorrow. Still happy for some company in that shed o’ yours.”

“Sure Spike. And yeah… Sleep of the good. Night Spike.” He looked up at Willow to see if she wanted to add anything, she smiled and shook her head so he added, “And from Willow too.”

The message screen read offline and Xander sat staring at the screen for a moment.

“You OK Xan?”

“Just thinking how much Spike’s got to lose if I get this all wrong, the carving I mean.”

“He trusts you Xan, that’s pretty obvious. And it’s me who should be worried. You’ll do a fantastic job I know it, but then so much more needs to happen. Still, to quote Spike, I am ‘knackered’ so see you in the morning. Hug for an old friend first.”

Xander stood up, “Hug it is.” And pulled her to his chest for a warm squeeze.

……………….

The next morning saw Willow up early to attend breakfast at the main house and farewell departing colleagues while Xander unplugged the laptop and carried it and camera out to the workshop. Matti was already there sanding a table top. He switched off the belt sander and removed his safety goggles to grin a good morning and look quizzically at the computer being set up.

“Willow thought it would be good to record us working so I thought I’d video for an hour or two each day. Is that OK with you or do you want me to do it some other time when you’re not here?”

“No it’s fine… You going to edit later I hope!”

“Only the best bits, you know me. And don’t worry, commentary goes on later too.”

Xander fired up the laptop, positioned the webcam just so and went to work. There was really no telling if Spike was there or not but at least he had kept his promise.

Around lunchtime Willow arrived with an invitation for Matti to join Dawn and two other young wiccans who were staying until the Friday for a shopping ‘adventure’ in town. Xander nodded his approval added ‘have fun’ and accepted the plate of sandwiches from Willow. He was sitting within line of sight of the computer and as soon as Matti left a message popped up.

“Got a pretty arse when you’re workin’ Harris. Afternoon Red.”

Willow looked amazed, “Xander! What a lovely idea!”

Xander blushed at both the compliment and Spike’s comment hoping to heaven he wouldn’t say anything more lewd. “Well it seemed like a way of kind of including him. And I’ll need him to be here when I start, you know, the sculpture.”

“Did you have any luck with the wood suppliers?”

“Not yet but they said to ring back tomorrow. George, the manager, said he’s happy to have a piece milled specially, so I’ve given him the dimensions of what I think I’ll need. It could be a couple of weeks though.”

“Well you’ve done better than me, though Mistress Yollanda is going to come over this evening to talk things through. I think we need all the help we can get.”

“Definitely.”

The computer pinged again, “So gonna include a chap in the conversation?”

Willow moved over and typed in what she had just said, adding Xander’s news about the wood. There was a pause then, “Right then. Well much as I’d love to hang about, it’s time for this international trader to get to some business. Talk later… And thank Harris for this morning. Mighty nice to feel included of sorts.”

…………….

The evening with Yollanda was a serious one: Discussions of Spike’s history, of Fred, Illyria and various other vital pieces of the Sunnydale/LA backstory (which was far more complicated than either Xander or Willow had previously realized).

In the end Yollanda had been not only fully supported but genuinely enthusiastic to assist Spike’s cause. Apart from anything else the prospect of collecting information about what was perhaps the most powerful untapped sources of energy, and using them in hitherto never or at best, rarely, attempted magical ways and for good, was of great interest.
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