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Ghost in the Machine # 13

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 13

The following day the quiet routine was repeated for Spike, who enjoyed Xander’s commentary of his morning activities then was left once more to ponder his life as it was now. The window was again open allowing a slight breeze and the sounds of the outside world to float in.

Though he had not physically seen the coven buildings or many of the members and friends, he could guess the activities and owners of the voices. The daily life at the coven was obviously conducted at a leisurely but purposeful pace. Three cars and a motorbike (or rather badly tuned old car) arrived early and there were children’s voices mixing with the adults. “Jasper put that back sweetie, you can only take *one* of your toys today remember, Mistress Di said.” An accompanied whine, “But Maaaamm” then the distracting “Oooh look sweetheart, Bella’s here today…” a squeal, then children greeting each other and hurried small footfalls as the same youngsters raced to the main coven house.

He heard the intermittent whine of Xander’s drop saw, a ride on mower later in the morning and the postie’s whistle signaling mail had arrived. There was also the sound of a dog excitedly announcing the arrival of each visitor, the passive clucking of chickens and a goat or three bleating somewhere close by. And there was an intermittent strange ‘thunking’ noise that he would later learn was a rather ancient hot water service struggling to meet the needs of washing day.

Willow visited around lunchtime, ushered in by Xander and accompanied by two young wiccans Tracy and Ella, and Matti. Spike could see most of the scene and strained to use his peripheral vision to catch the goings on that did not fall in his direct line of sight. Frustrated he stopped trying and simply listened.

“Thanks *so* much for letting Tracey and I come and learn from you Xander. Mistress Willow said we can have two afternoons off a week. Is that OK with you?” It was Ella’s quiet ‘girly’ soprano, Spike enjoying putting a face to a name as she came into his direct line of vision momentarily.

Xander was obviously distracted finding glasses as the four others settled on old kitchen chairs and the couch. A platter of sandwiches and fruit bowl were placed on the coffee table and Spike was privy to the excited discussion of the plans for Xander to instruct the girls while Matti ‘worked on his new pieces’. Spike drifted for a few minutes, allowing the ‘company’ to enjoy their shared meal, so was a little surprised when his shoulder registered Willow’s soft touch.

“It does seem to have soaked in.”

Spike noted the hint of embarrassment in Xander’s matter of fact reply, “Yeah… I’ll have to reapply it at least three more times I think, to get the proper protection for the wood.”

Willow’s hand ceased its slow path down his arm as she pondered Xander’s words. “Hmmm. No tingles or anything… you know… when you’re applying the oil.”

Spike *wished* he could turn to see Xander’s face, because he could almost feel the heat of the man blushing from his fixed position. Willow’s light hearted giggle left no doubt that there was at least a little truth in his supposition.

Repast consumed, the group moved back to the shed, but not before both Xander and Willow had had some quiet words with Spike, both reassuring him that they would break the communication barrier soon and Willow adding in a low whispered (just out of Xander’s earshot) that “… Xan has a connection with you, I just know it. Hang in there Spike.”

Xander had closed the windows and turned up the heating before departing, so Spike was left to enjoy the comfort of the general warmth and shimmer of afternoon sun falling on his midriff. He drifted again until the door creaked its objection to the increasingly cold weather and a rather chilled and tired Xander pushed into the lounge room.
The usual “Hey honey I’m home…” brought Spike back to the present and gave him a little thrill as Xander dropped the few tools he was carrying on the couch and moved straight over to caress Spike’s forearm thoughtfully.

“The oil seems to have soaked in nicely Spike. I’ll have a bit of a meal then we’ll do it again, and that seems all types of wrong put that way. The photographer from the gallery is coming next Monday so I’ve got to make sure you’re ready to be moved by then. We’ll take you up to the big house but I promise there’ll be plenty of hands on deck for that.” Xander’s voice trailed off as he continued to run his hand down Spike’s arm and pondered their situation a little more.

As he had the previous evening, Xander turned on the computer and let it ‘fire up’ while he took the remainder of the fruit platter from the fridge and grabbed a beer before logging on to Spike’s investments and reading out the results of the day. Little had changed in twenty four hours, nevertheless Xander went through all the figures Spike had requested he track. There was a note in the Email from a hotelier discussing the possibility of purchasing two properties in ‘the orient’.

Xander did a quick search and sat back for a moment to ponder the result. Apparently Spike owned the Romantique chain of boutique hotels that spanned Europe - Paris, St Petersburg, Milan, Prague, Geneva, Venice, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, London and the list went on, fifty seven hotels in total and all doing extremely well, their signature being ‘old style opulence for the discerning traveler’. He wondered again at Spike’s history and his business acumen. It was apparent that the hotels were all at the ‘upper end’ of expensive and all doing extremely well.

Xander eventually tore himself from his musings, checked his own savings and resolved to ask Spike for some investment tips when they were able to talk again.

He washed his hands thoroughly collected the soft rag and bottle of linseed oil and went to work on the second application of oil.

Like before Spike felt every pass of the cloth and luxuriated in the strong pressure on his back, buttocks and legs. The rhythmic rubbing soon had him wishing he could breathe again if only to truly relax into the feel.

Xander carefully levered Spike’s form forward to effectively apply the oil to Spike’s lower back and Spike had the lovely sensation of leaning against Xander’s strong left shoulder as the man worked the linseed into the wood. The ex-vampire could distinctly feel the muscles as they moved, the warmth of the human’s body and the pulse near Xander’s neck. Up that close he could see the beads of sweat as they emerged with the exertion and detect the increased heart rate. He could also, on and off, spy Xander’s growing erection.

Xander replaced the rag on and off with a wad of cotton wool for the more intricate areas of Spike’s anatomy, meticulously rubbing each finely detailed section of his face hands and feet so as to cover with oil completely evenly. Again the nether regions were left until last, this time Xander kneeling down in front to gain a better angle and Spike *wishing* he could have made some sort of comment about how good Harris looked in that position, wishing something else was rubbing over his apparently disinterested wooden private parts… preferably a tongue!

Like the previous evening he was left to quietly calm as Xander showered and then made his way up to dinner and the meditation/channeling lesson at the coven.

This time soft meditation music was playing as Xander entered the library and a salt crystal glowed in a room filled with the scent of fresh lavender. He knew to lie on the thin mattress on the floor and relaxed immediately. Unlike the previous evening however, the move into semi-consciousness was easy and the image of Spike included in the relaxing beach scene from the beginning.

Mistress Yollanda’s soft voice coaxed him to touch Spike, first on the arm, then to take his hand and pull it to Xander’s chest. Xander adding his own move to kiss the hand he held before taking it across to his sternum.

In the cabin the tingling in Spike’s hand began again, soon followed by what he could swear was a touch of lips on his palm then the distinct sensation of a beating heart. He too relaxed and focused on a strange set of images that seemed to make their way into his consciousness. The warmth of the sun, swoosh of waves and a brunette lying beside him holding his hand to the man’s heart. He couldn’t quite make out the face but knew it was Xander so tried to imagine a squeeze of the digits intertwined with his own.

In the library Xander came out of the trance like state with a jump.

“He squeezed my hand Willow! Yollanda! He, Spike, I swear he squeezed my hand!”

The Mistress Yollanda put a calming hand on Xander’s shoulder, encouraging him to lie still. “That’s wonderful Xander. Now see if you can do a little more. We will try again and this time see if you can speak to him.”

Xander looked over to Willow who smiled encouragement at him before he closed his eyes once more and breathed into the experience. This time it was Willow’s voice that sent Xander to the beach and had him roll toward Spike, place his top leg over Spike’s right thigh and continue stroke over first the pretty face, down the jawline and turn the vampire’s face toward him. This time the bottle of linseed oil seemed to emerge from nowhere just on the other side of Spike. Willow encouraged Xander to imagine he was picking up the bottle and first dribble a little on the taut torso and rub it in much as he had when doing it to the statue.

Xander felt the form soften under his touch and watched in wonder as the perfect male muscles under the pale skin tightened then relaxed. He was aware of the lazy strains of Satie’s Gymnopedies playing in the background somewhere and began to talk softly to Spike. With Willow’s prompt he continued to rub gently over the form while telling him of some of his good memories of Sunnydale, of Spike’s loyalty and bravery then went on to say how lost he felt in the years after, the struggle of life in Africa and finding meaning there, the relief of reconnecting with Willow and pleasure in discovering his creative outlet, and finally his surprise and thrill in being able to help Spike at least in some way.

For Spike the experience was more bizarre than even his encounters with Illyria in the electromagnetic world of the Net, and far more erotic. The tingles across his form were relentless but a sense of calm and contentment was also present. In his minds eye he could imagine the hand that had so recently polished him for real was the source of the sensation and he could ‘hear’ Xander’s quiet commentary, much of it old news but the sentiment different. This was a potential lover’s touch, a man he had come to cherish as a friend. As he felt lips again press on the back of his hand he sighed and said simply “Lovely here, pet, just perfect.”

Yollanda and Willow were so focused on their subject that they almost missed Xander’s slight gasp of surprise. Yollanda immediately began to bring Xander back out of his relaxation but waited patiently to question him until the man sat up with some effort.

“He spoke Willow, Spike, I mean he really did. I heard him.”

It was a rather exhausted Yollanda who replied, offering Xander a glass of water as he righted himself. “That is wonderful Xander. It is the first step. I believe we will be able to make full contact within the next few days, and I think that next time we should perhaps have you in contact with his physical presence, as it is now, for a more effective connection.”

The discussion to debrief the whole experience was brief and to the point, and Xander returned to the cabin feeling decidedly more hopeful that the scheme to restore Spike that had been borne of hope and supposition was in fact going to work.

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