rngrdead (rngrdead) wrote in bloodclaim,

Ghost in the Machine # 16

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 16

Spike's eyes did not turn gold as would have been the case in the past, but the sentiment was one shared by both men.

Xander felt decidedly protective, and worried by his 'performance' in front of Giles. "I... Did I say anything wrong? Spike you could hear... Did I give anything away by mistake?"

Spike rolled onto his side and pushed up on one elbow. Today there was a blue beach blanket under them courtesy of Xander's efforts to imagine the experience. The ex-vampire smiled sadly, "No pet, but the longer this goes on the more tricky it becomes. Just promise me... Burn me bloody ediface rather than let any lawyer or the Watchers take me. Got better things to do with this unlife than stand in some back room bein' dusted off to give some set of wankers their jollies. Present company notwithstandin' o' course. "

"I... do you think he knew? I was trying not to... you know..."

"You did fine pet. Jus' fine. 'N thank you. If aught the Watchers think is yer a screaming queen with a fetish fer devilishly handsome ex-vampires then no harm no foul."

Xander relaxed a little but still levelled a rather worried chocolate coloured eye at Spike's blue pair, "I just... want to keep you safe until we... you know..."

"Make me a real boy? Reckon you did yer best mate. Just... p'raps be on guard yeah?"

"Big yeah from me..." Spike leaned up and accepted a kiss, Xander appreciating once more, how tolerant Spike was of a near impossible (and most certainly improbable) status.

"Just do us a favour would you?"


"Move me a little further from the heater of a daytime would you? Don't fancy meself with a burn marked backside 'n not really able to shuffle aside as it were when the goin' gets hot."

"Oh Ghod! Did I...? Have you...?" A worried Xander sat up immediately to check Spike's pale form, only pausing when a snort of mirth and "Harris you really are daft sometimes... Happy figment of your lovely imagination at the mo' aren't I."

Xander had the decency to look a little embarrassed but added, "I'll still check in the morning."

"You do that pet... check as much o' me as you like."

Xander lay back and threw his arm over his face for a moment, "Gahh, you really are..."

"Devilishly handsome? All thanks to you now, ain't it pet. Careful for what you wish for an' all that."

The remainder of their sojourn on the beach was spent briefly discussing some business matters, then simply enjoying eah other's company and comfort.

The following day Xander did as he had promised Giles and sent a message of "Giles said you told him you were worried about me. I'm fine, so's you know who. How's Ecuador?"

He was surprised when the computer pinged as he was fixing some lunch for he and Matti. The reply in his inbox marked urgent and as baffling as it was worrying. "Haven't been in touch with Giles since summer solstice and then not about you. Will call asap. Something's up. xxoo W"

Xander worried for the rest of the day but really could do nothing but work a little harder at his current tallboy project. Matti noted the furrowed brow but said nothing, focussing instead on the final sanding of a table top and assisting the two young wiccans who had come down for their regular woodworking session.

Willow's call came just as they were doing a final tidy up for the evening. Xander excused himself immediately and took his cellphone into the garden behind the workshop.

"Xander? Oh thank Gaia... this will have to be quick."

"Go ahead..."

"I've been wracking my brains to try to remember if I've said anything in passing about you or Spike to Giles and it's all a big nothing."

"So why would he say... you know... that stuff. He really was trying for something."

"I'm not sure Xan, all I can think of is that the Council would be curious regards Spike and maybe they just want to keep tabs on you... You know ex Scoobie that sort of thing."

"But why the, as Spike put it, 'ruse' of being concerned about me? And what's with the new Watcher? Matti seems to think she's going to be a regular visitor... Wills it just doesn't seem to ring true. Or am I just being paranoid?"

"If it helps Xan, the Summer Solstice arrangements are set. Can I make a suggestion though?"

"Suggest away."

"Could you do another carving, you know of 'Adonis'? If the Council or someone else starts poking around too much, well it might put them off. Talk to the Mistress. She's up on some of this and I really think she should know the full extent of your worry... Look I've got to go. I'll try to Skype again tomorrow same time."

"Thanks Willow, I'll think about a twin for you know who. Take care yeah?"

"You too Xan... bye."

Xander tucked the phone into his back pocket and returned to the workshop where a rather agitated Sarah was quizzing Matti about the intricacies of Xander's collection and processes involved in making each piece.

Matti looked decidedly grateful to see Xander, "Here he is. You can ask him that yourself."

With that Sarah turned to face Xander. She was an attractive brunette in her late thirties, though her hair was pulled back into a bun giving her the appearance of someone a good deal older. She smiled at Xander though he noted that there was no warmth in the gesture. "I was just asking Matti here where your inspiration comes from Xander. Giles tells me you started out in regular construction, how did you discover your talent for sculpting?"

"I guess it just kind of happened." Xander moved over to the workbench and continued packing up the tools ready for the following day. When Sarah didn't move for some time he turned to her and finally said, "Is there something else I can help you with, just that we'll be finished here in five."

"Oh I just thought I could have another look at your 'Adonis', that is if you have no objections. I find it rather fascinating that you found it necessary to keep it in your cabin rather than here or in the big house. I would have thought you would want to have it on full display surely? Especially after such a wonderful write up in so many art magazines."

"I... well it needed some more work... oiling that sort of thing... and that takes time for such a big piece... I do that in my spare time, you know... that way it will be done properly." Xander could tell the woman wasn't going to be put off another viewing of Spike, but he resolved to make *sure* she didn't make direct contact with Spike's wooden form. He indicated the door of the workshop and led her to his cabin, flashing a rather worried look to Matti as he passed.

Sarah ushered herself into the room and quickly made her way to the carving, mobile phone in hand ready to take pictures, Xander close on her heels.

“I… I’d prefer if you didn’t touch the sculpture.”

Sarah turned momentarily but seemed to acquiesce then take slight offence, “No, of course not. I am not a complete novice at art appreciation. In my old office I had an original Szaljo tapestry and several Janovich bronzes!”

Xander tried to look contrite but also decided to do a little of his own ‘fishing’, his old ‘jovial’ with side serve of ‘naïve Sunnydale donut boy’ kicking in with ease. “Oh! Wow… Sorry… I just… What did you do, before, you know, before Watcher central and all that?”

A rather haughty, yet offhanded answer ensued as Sarah moved to switch on all the lights in the simple living room and lined her phone camera up for the ready, “I would have thought Mr Giles would have filled you in. I qualified to the bar prior to my interest in the occult.”

Xander tried to look interested and just a little baffled, hoping he pulled it off by commenting, “Oh? I pulled beer too, in Oxnard over one summer.”

Sarah turned after checking her shot and looking just a little annoyed. The first shot marked by a flash didn’t really capture the statue’s face, so her answer was somewhat distracted, “Bar meaning Barrister at Law, my specialty was corporate disputes, on a team of course, Wolfram and Hart, I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Now I just need… Do you have a lamp or something we can use? This light really is not giving a good representation.”

Xander decided to play the ‘dumb but helpful’ card, “Sure, um, give me a second…” As he rummaged around in an old wall cupboard, he commented, “Wolfram and Hart… They’re the ones Watcher Andrew talks about. But… in they’re in LA aren’t they? Hang on… [grunt]” Xander pulled out an ancient reading lamp with no bulb. “Taa dah!”

Sarah seemed much more intent on her task to be bothered wondering why the carpenter was asking questions, and particularly annoyed that she was not going to get a more revealing shot, and even more annoyed that the man was not better informed. “Of course they are we… they… have head offices in most capitals of the world… Do you have a globe?”

“I can check… Nope… sorry.”

Sarah huffed then muttered under her breath, “Andrew was right… all brawn, no real brains. Any wonder he ended up here.” Then more audibly, “Oh don’t worry, I think I have what I need.” With Xander still distracted she feigned a small trip and reached toward the statue, Spike relieved when she connected with the leaning post rather than his being, and hoping beyond hope that there was no transference of magical energy.

Sarah was within Spike’s range of view and he saw (with some relief) that she frowned. Xander swiftly moved over with bulb-less lamp in left hand and took her nearest upper arm with his right. “You OK? Geez, look… if you’ve got the shots you need… maybe it’s time to you know, go.”

Sarah made a point of ‘dusting off’ before turning and giving Xander a rather cold glare. “Fine and yes I think I’ve seen enough. Just one thing intrigues me…” Her voice dropped to a conspiratorial purr, “What is it about the vampire Spike that spins your dial? It seems this sculpture is a more than accurate representation….”

Bingo. And Xander was ready, for effect he pulled off his eye patch and sat heavily on the kitchen chair closest, and hoped he could shed an appropriate tear. He stared at his own hands and drew from sentiments that were genuine, “He… he was a hero to the last… and saved my other eye in a battle I’d rather not go into. But there were other casualties… Anja… my sweet brave… intended wife… and my p…” Xander paused, not for effect but with the still raw grief that remembering the last days of Sunnydale always managed to produce.

He composed himself enough to brush over the rest of his own history, “Mum, Dad, then so many others… in Africa, there, here… people die… and sometimes all you can do is honor them in art… in some small way… in art…and I don’t care… human, demon, perfect, imperfect, whatever! I’m not to judge… Goddess! (if that’s what you say) Who am I to judge… Imperfection an art-form here”

Xander was genuinely upset by the time he had finished, but the reaction from Sarah was observed by Spike. Ever the astute judge of people, the ex-vampire saw her shoulders relax and tighten as she gave her ‘corporate’ reply. “I am sorry for your loss(es) and thank you for your time.”

Sarah snapped her phone closed and ushered herself out as swiftly as she was able, without ‘tipping off’ the obviously damaged Sunnydale expat. Giles had been wrong. The statue held no special essence by her own feeling, but there was certainly something going on with Xander and the carving… something that was probably best left in the annals of ‘weird and wonderful sexual practices’. Still, she would do what she had been asked, and report her findings to her former boss at Wolfram and Hart London office, Lilah, and continue to be vigilant as required by her monthly retainer.

Two nights after Giles and Sarah departed Xander took delivery of yet another few large pieces of wood in anticipation of his new collection. One particularly large shoulder of cedar was immediately dealt with. The preliminaries of Spike’s ‘twin’ carved out and Matti and he moved the rough object to his lounge room just after midnight.

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