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Ghost in the Machine # 15

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 15

Spike was facing in slightly the wrong direction so he was unable to see Willow as she spoke but listened with interest as the events of the day within the coven were related to Xander.

"Illyria contacted me around lunchtime. As we thought, the added energy needed to make Spike 'real' again has to come from more than just the earth. Not to say that we have to be anywhere in particular, but as I thought we would be in a better position to garner the sun's electromagnetic influence if we head for one of the poles. Since it's coming up for winter it's not going to happen any time soon, but in six or so months we can be in position. It will take a solar flare for the best results but that gives us a couple of days from detection to when high energy particles arrive here. If we are near the poles the concentration will be highest."

Xander moved over to the statue and gently touched Spike's raised arm, "But how does that help exactly?"

"The sort of power we need to help Illyria from her electromagnetic state just isn't available unless there is a major earthquake or something like the Carrington event in the direct vicinity. Sunspots are much more regular and the more concentrated the magnetic field of the earth, the better the energy is channeled to where we need it. Also we can call the covens together without arising too much suspicion. Illyria was adament that we not alert Wolfram and Hart or any other nefarious groups to what we are doing."

The discussion continued and despite the soft touch of his friend, Spike worried. To date there had been no problem with the law firm, but he knew better than to think they would not be interested in Illyria's plans were they made known. He resolved to say something to that effect to Xander but for now was forced to wait and listen.

"So Spike is stuck like this for another six months plus? But Wils how is that fair. I mean... You said an earthquake, they happen all the time don't they?"

"Yes but I did some research and the electromagnetism associated happens just before a big event and it just doesn't give us the time or any guarantees that it would be enough to push the change. Besides a lot of the activity is in remote areas like Tibet and so on. We will need a powerful gathering to channel the energy properly, and even then it's touch and go. Xan it's our best chance. I know Spike can hear all this but... Just talk to him Xan, see what he feels about it."

Spike could see the disappointment and worry on Xander's face and wished he could reach out to reassure the caring friend. Six months was, in the bigger picture of his hundred and seventy or so years, but a blink of an eye, and if each night could be in good company and days filled with rest and sunshine on occasion then he counted himself lucky.

Like the previous evening, Spike's form was carefully placed in Xander's bed and the man joined him. He relished the softness of the cover and the feel of the dip of the bed as the strong male form relaxed and prepared to commune with his old friend. This time Willow and the Mistress simply presided rather than chanting, the hope being that Xander would be able to meditate strongly enough alone that he would eventually be able to make contact without need of a boost of the witches' energies.

It took a little longer than the previous evening but success was eventually forthcoming and Xander found himself once more on the secluded beach he had come to visualize for the past few evenings. A smiling Spike was again lying beside him, sun kissing his pale form, blue eyes reflecting the colour and calm of a broad imagined ocean.

"Hey there pet."

He reached over to touch Spike's face, and smiled back, encouraged that he had made the transition by himself. "Hey yourself."

f"Need to tell you sommit fer the record as it were." Spike pushed up on one elbow and stared straight into Xander's good eye, noting that even in his meditative form, the other eye was missing. "Want to thank you for today in the sun... Brilliant. 'N you're to stop worryin' 'bout me. Six months is nothin' in the big picture, 'n we have this in the meantime. We keep meetin' like this in company for too many more days an' the witches'll be all a blushin' , that is assumin' you're not averse to a bit of Spiked pleasure... 'cause... seems only fair don't you think?"

Xander felt himself blush and hoped that the flush of interest to his nether regions would be well covered by the duvet in real life, nevertheless could not help but ask, "But I thought... you know... Buffy... Drusilla... um... You know... hello... *girls*."

"'M a vampire, pet, or have ya forgotten. 'N must say, if this..." Spike pressed in against Xander's side and placed a hand on Xander's obvious erection, "...is any indication seems like you could do with some action, even if it does have to be here and like this for a bit. No more thoughts of that webcam?"

Xander groaned and threw his arm over his eyes as a well practiced cool hand began to stroke him in earnest. "You're incorrigible"

"Ah now see that luv, already havin' a good influence on you. Now lie back and enjoy. Only time I get to do this for the moment innit."

Xander enjoyed the firm touch of a man he was fast coming to love in a quiet way that had a definite maturity to the experience. Spike had known him since high school, there was no need to hash over past insicurities, and had saved his life more times than he could count in the Sunnydale days. Spike had seen the best and worst of him, as he had of Spike. They had alternately liked and hated each other, respected and baited, defended and attacked, seen desperate and jubilant, lost and found each other, and now... now there was no need for words as Xander leaned into the touch of someone he for whom he was protector and friend.

Xander let himself come with a sigh, only belatedly worrying that the women in the room might have noticed. In the aftermath they spoke quietly of the plans to photograph Spike the following day. The planned trip to Finland was well in the future, for now it was enough to enjoy each other as they would each night until any possible change in the coming summer.


A day later saw all hands on deck as the statue was manouvered into the main house and placed in the bay window of the library. The sun fell on Spike's face and he rested back and enjoyed yet another view of the garden, this time watchng with pleasure as the children of coven members fed chickens and grazing ducks within sight of his window and the Mistress's choice of Beethoven piano sonatas played quietly in the background.

Wiccans came and went from the library at various times in the morning and around midday (marked by the chime of a grandfather clock somewhere in the hall) the front doorbell rang signalling the arrival of the photographer from Adrianna's gallery.

Spike's figure was to be shot in situe and a photographer's silver umbrella and bright lights were set up as appropriate. The effusive Benny fussed around while his bored looking assistant Levi simply followed instructions for the setup. A rather rushed Xander arrived in time to be cajoled into sitting next to his work, Spike happy that the instruction that the sculptor rest his hand on Spike's bent knee meant that his 'privates' would be obscured from public view in the shot.

The shoot was swift but Spike felt increasingly annoyed as Benny seemed to make a play for Xander. Inuendo and posturing hinting that a) Xander was a closet gay and b) Benny was interested in male erotica and mildly annoyed that his obviously forward comments were brushed off politely. Something also niggled at Spike, something Illyria had said about keeping a low profile. It was a rather belated worry, but then again this was simply a piece in an art magazine, and he was a *statue* sculpted by Alexander Harris, "Adonis at Rest". And yet...

He resolved to pass a message to Willow regards his mild concern but there was nothing that could be said or done for now. The catalogue would not be ready for distribution until at least November and by then Xander's new collection of small statuettes and a number of exquisite furniture pieces would be ready. So he waited as the room was packed up and tried to count his blessings as he felt his form carried in three sets of strong arms back to its usual place in Xander's abode.

............

It was early December and the first snow of the season fell outside his window. Willow had left for South America late October after Xander's ability to commune with Spike had been assured, and only after the pattern of each day was well established.

Spike was lifted into Xander's bed, whoever helped withdrew and Xander and he talked, planned and just... were. Xander then slept, greeted him in the morning with a kiss to his wooden temple, and some time later Matti would assist his mentor to lift the statue carefully back to its pedestal.

Matti had had the reason for the need to have the statue reclining in Xander's bed (as regards to contact with Spike for the meditations at night) explained to him. Indeed he had been in the group that had been called upon to provide the initial boost to inculcate Spike's essence into the statue, but as time went on and the statue was unchanging, had his own doubts regards the reality of the whole situation, but held his tongue. Whatever 'spun Xander's dial' was his business. The man was a great teacher and obviously a gifted artist with a past he only partly understood (Watcher Andrew's convoluted lecture on the 'Sunnydale Days' at the beginning of November in no way helping!)

The Festive Season gallery catalogue out on December 1st, featured 'Newly established USA artist with his 'MasterPeace' for the season' on the cover, and short, complimentary story about the coven and Xander's (and Matti's) work within. The response had been an enthusiastic one and two more photo shoots with notable London art magazines ensued. Adrianna was ecstatic as the demand for both men's work and patronage of her gallery escalated. But it was a visitor to Mistress Yollanda late afternoon on the winter solstice that took Xander by surprise.

Giles rarely made contact with the wiccan community, other than Willow, preferring to take an strictly consultative/advisory role with the New Watchers' Council, and he had certainly restricted his contact with Xander to polite cards on birthdays and Christmases.

Giles pushed open the door of Xander's workshop without announcement just after Matti and he had donned face masks and began their post luncheon sanding session of a commissioned oak table top (and filligre legs). The aging Giles was flanked by the Mistress and a statuesque twenty something woman Xander assumed was another watcher.

Xander immediately reached to throw off the power, pulled his mask off, and moved to greet the new company, all acts mirrored by his protege.

Giles took of his thick woollen gloves and extended a hand to Xander who adjusted his eye patch then stepped over to him and shook it with an easy smile, "Giles! What brings you to Xander's house of sawdust and wood? I thought you'd be Yuletiding with your council buddies."

"Yes well... I actually came at the Mistress Yollanda's behest. She thought I might be interested in speaking to the wiccan group, guest speaker as it were, for the Winter celebrations. This is Sarah by the way, she is one of our brightest trainee Watchers according to Andrew." Xander nodded toward the woman, "Nice to meet you."

Giles continued, "I am intrigued to see your latest work. It seems you are making quite a name for yourself in the art world, congratulations."

"In no small part due to the coven, and of course Matti here." Matti shook Giles' hand a little shyly then moved back to the work bench, picked up a broom and began pushing the shavings and sawdust that had accumulated during the morning's work into a neat pile.

Giles looked around the workshop with interest. There was an impressive array of works in progress, including several ornate furniture pieces that were in their final stages of sanding, a number of completed statuettes ready for lacquering and the beginnings of a tallboy obviously being constructed of recycled mahogany.

"You've sold the 'Adonis'? Just that I was expecting it to be in the library where the photo was taken."

"What? No! Didn't the Mistress..." Yollanda was standing behind Giles and shook her head and frowned slightly. They had all agreed that the fewer people who knew of Spike's current predicament the better, and despite the seven or eight photographs of the sculpture, there were none that captured Spike's face fully, rendering his identity still unknown. But if Giles saw Spike 'in all his glory' there was no doubt questions would ensue. Nevertheless Xander led the visiting trio to his cabin leaving Matti to finish the clean up.

Spike's form was facing the window as usual, Xander always careful to leave the room well heated and quiet music of Spike's choosing playing. The selection was always the subjet of some discussion the night before and often the source of surprise from Xander's perspective when the request was for classical, adagio and romantic in nature, Spike's excuse being that there was "...noone decent enough in mother's circle at the piano to..." followed by "Just play the bloody recordin' you twat, an' stop askin' questions a chap 'd rather avoid!" After which there was the inevitable kiss and make up, something that made Xander ever more aware and protective of Spike's current vulnerable state.

Xander busied himself at the kitchenette, indicating the lounge to Sarah, who (in Xander's opinion) smiled a little too widely and seemed to take an undue interest in his photo collection. Nevertheless his attention fell to Giles, despite the fact that he had yet to examine the sculpture closely, was moved to stroke down the strong right arm of the scuplture with the back of his hand, reeling back as a short sharp shock seemed to come from the surface of the carving. Sarah looked up as the ageing ex Watcher pulled back as though bitten by the wood, Giles caught the desperate, worried look exchanged between Mistress and Xander but misunderstood the sentiment. He pulled his forefinger to his mouth and exclaimed "Good Lord Xander, I confess I found a splinter!"

Xander sent a quick look of relief to Giles and exclaimed quickly, "Oh! Sorry G-man... Must have missed one."

Giles fell into an old pattern easily, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket with his sore hand and pulling off his glasses with the other for a swift polish, "Indeed... Now where is that tea."

The rather overly formal Sarah was swiftly directed to the lounge, tea was served and polite discussion directed toward the evening of winter solstice celebrations and the Watchers' roles over the next few days. In the end it was the Mistress who gave the older man and his former student time for a private dialogue by inviting the young Sarah to supper with the wiccans whilst the Sunnydale 'alumni' caught up.

Pushing the door shut as Sarah and Yollanda made their way up the path to the coven, Xander sighed with some relief but it was Giles who spoke first.

"I am impressed by your work Xander. But surely the rather accurate depiction of Spike in the 'raw' as it were is a little unnecessary. Willow seems to think it was wise we spoke directly. Do you want to tell me what is going on... or am I to guess?"

Xander felt a little on the back foot, but if Willow had pointed Giles in his direction then there must have been a reason, and despite the rather strained relationship between coven and Watchers' Council, Giles was a 'good guy' and an old friend. He decided to start with an easy topic, "Well I have been doing a fair bit of work on my meditation and of course teaching... I enjoy it here... I really do."

Giles settled onto the couch and accepted an offered biscuit with his tea, "Yes you've made quite an impression I see. But in Willow's letters she alluded so some sort of difficulty... with an old friend. I am assuming it is from one of your... ahem... friends from the United States."

Xander looked decidedly uncomfortable, but decided to go with the flow. He knew of Spike's dislike for all things Watchers' Council... albeit the new council was a great deal more considerate of their position in the bigger picture of demons vs humans and was tutoring their slayers likewise. "I um... yes it's someone from there. We've sort of... reconnected, and I kind of need to help him out."

"Xander if you are in some sort of... legal or financial difficulty with this person, I'm sure it can be resolved with the right advice. Are you in contact regularly?"

"Well yes... pretty much daily... and financially I'm fine in fact S.. this person has really helped in that department. Plus living here is all of the good when it comes to that. I contribute to the coven for my bed and board like the next person... and then there's the art... So no financial and legal all clear."

Giles paused for a moment to take a sip of his tea and considered his next question carefully, "So... you have feelings... for 'him'?"

Xander was unsure of what Willow had said and certainly wasn't going to reveal Spike's presence or condition just yet, so went with the idea of telling the truth with ommissions for now, aware that Spike could hear every word. "It... yes... A bit unexpected but a very big yes." Xander thought of all the times in the past months that he and Spike had relaxed on 'their beach' talking about everything and nothing, touching gently, learning each other's history (or more accurately, details about Spike's very long life - edited where necessary for Xander's benefit). And the more they had spoken the deeper the friendship had become, early snide remarks and innuendo giving way to quiet dialogue and genuine laughter at some of the more embarrassing or ridiculous moments, and when the occassion called, tears and comfort.

"Is it the fact it is a male to whom you are attracted that is the problem, because I would have expected the members of the coven to..."

"What? No! Well not everyone knows obviously..." Xander looked up to see Giles smiling rather knowingly.

"My dear fellow, I could see that for a mile. I gleaned you are quite the flavour of the month amongst the younger wiccans - and I suspect being one of the few males here and 'on staff' as it were, would attract some measure of female admiration. Nevertheless, it must be... um... difficult to conduct a relationship outside the confines of the coven."

"Well not so much that... I um... We make contact pretty much every day. It's just... well it's kind of hard to explain."

"I see... and you are worried regards... your sexual orientation perhaps? Xander being attracted to men, or even just a particular man, is hardly unusual, and in this day and age I suspect would hardly raise an eyebrow. You met through your art?"

"You could say that." Xander smiled, a little embarrassed, as he thought of the first 'oiling' activities of a few months past.

"And the relationship has progressed I take it... He reciprocates your feelings?"

Xander looked whistfully at the statue, "I think so... but we can't sort of... He's kind of stuck for the moment... Where he is, you know..."

"And this makes you... what? Frustrated? These things take time Xander. My advice is that you enjoy the moment... tell him how you feel in no uncertain terms. If it is meant to be and you are both clear it will work out somehow..." Giles looked toward the statue then at Xander's computer and its background of a montage of photos of Spike. "I can't help but ask, but you do seem a little... ahem... I assume your friend knows that Spike was... It just seems to me that he would perhaps assume another interest."

Xander sat back for a moment then realized where the older man was looking and what he might assume. "What? No! Um..."

Giles turned back and looked him square in his good eye, "My dear fellow, I do have some idea of our... losses as it were... in Sunnydale... I'm assuming Willow, or at worst Andrew, told you that Spike came back but was consequently dusted in the final battle with the Black Thorn in Los Angeles over three years ago... I *do* assume you know that."

Xander broke the stare but held his resolve and spoke only the truth, "Yes... yes I did know. The pictures...", he nodded toward the screen, "Were only so I could get the sculpture... Anyway... It all worked out, sort of."

"Yes, yes I see. That is as may be, but... I suppose I am simply intigued as to why you felt it necessary to carve his form quite so precisely, it does seem to point to an obsession of sorts, or is there more to it? It's just that Spike did have rather a habit of 'turning up' after apparently dusting, and it would certainly interest the Council were he to have somehow done it again." Giles seemed to be fishing for something but when Xander merely shrugged and looked at the floor apparently embarrassed.

Giles seemed to consider him for a moment, then changed gears, "Please don't mistake me Xander, I most certainly I applaud your skill. And do let Willow know how you get on. She is a good friend Xander, and cares for your happiness a great deal, as do I. And please feel free to call me or even bring your friends up to London for a weekend. You are welcome, both welcome, to stay at my flat at the Council... I am often away if that makes it easier, and there won't be any questions asked if I arrange it, I'm sure. Does 'he' have a name?"

Xander was still processing the offer as he answered, "Sp... William... William... And I'm not sure if he... we..."

Giles seemed to relax a little, confident that Xander was at least willing to consider the options. He leaned over and patted Xander on the knee and stood to leave, "The offer is there. Now I'd better get back to the coven, I have to prepare for tomorrow's lecture, and word up Sarah. She can be a bit... officious as it were, when it comes to Council dogma, I suspect its her corporate law background that informs that. I'm hoping this little excursion will allow her to see the value in magical communities pulling together a little more, particularly when it comes to the coven/watchers relationship."

Giles departed just as Matti came to the door to assist Xander in shifting the statue for a night of rest

..........

As soon as Spike was in place and Matti left, Xander forewent dinner, quickly checked on Spike's investments, then wasted no time stripping and joining his sculpture under the covers as was usual. His meditation did not come easily as his mind kept wandering back to the conversation with Giles, had he inadvertantly pointed the old Watcher to Spike's presence? Could Giles feel the magic in the sculpture when he touched it? And why would the Council be so interested in Spike anyway?

Finally he found his beach, but only after a frustrated hour that included him getting up twice - once to put soft music on and a second time to light some incense Willow had given him to try to assist his transition into the relaxed state.

His meditative self finally rolled toward the pale male form beside him, to be greeted by, "Bloody Watchers... Giles was tryin' for sommit... Bloody Hell."
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