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Ghost in the Machine #20

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


And a huge thank you to all those who so kindly commented and read this story

Part 20

Xander came to sprawled on his back halfway out of the pentagram his feet still touching the approximate area where Spike’s form had been. Ignoring the pain from his burnt hand and arm he sat up focused on the very obvious scorched ground and pile of dust at the centre and gave a heart wrenching “No!!!” Seconds later, the other wiccans who had only just begun to regain consciousness, woke to the sight of Xander kneeling, head on the ground, obviously sobbing and fisting the ash and soil.

It was beginning to become light again, though the flashes across the sky continued. Dazed and disorientated, all who had been part of the ceremony sat up gradually. A couple of the group immediately crawled a short distance away and rid themselves of their stomach contents. The drums that had accompanied the chanting were lying useless some ten or so meters away, their caribou skins now in tatters. Willow’s long white hair was singed and frizzy at the front, as though she had been standing too close to a log fire and Mistress Yollanda was looking decidedly pale.

It was Willow who first spotted the additional person in their midst and forewent any attempt to help others in preference for helping the being.

Despite noting Xander in distress at the centre of the pentagram, she crawled over to the very nude, fetal position, shaking form on the northern most point. Despite the lack of peroxide, she immediately realized the blonde curls and near perfect male anatomy for who it was. “Spike? Um… William?”

The shape on its side uncurled a little, hands still close to a face that had obvious tears tracking down and over a perfectly formed nose. Azure blue eyes still brimming with tears of emotion blinked open and blearily found her green ones.

“I… I… Will..ow? Xan! What… where’s…? Ohh!!!” A huge sob or sigh of relief followed, she couldn’t be sure, then a cry of belated pain wracked Spike’s body… or was it William the human… for now he was here that was all that mattered.

Willow pulled off her oversized jacket and threw it over the newly restored… person. “You’re fine honey. Just stay there for a minute.” She then turned her attention to Xander who was still in a state of shocked grief at the centre of the pentagram.

Xander’s hand was badly burned but he seemed not to notice as he continued to paw the ground and sob. She knelt beside him, “Xan? Xan… look up for a minute… just…”

She gentled his face up. His tear streaked countenance was covered in the ash that had once been the wood of Spike’s making. He had obviously been rubbing it into his face in a desperate attempt to find what he believed was all that was left of Spike. “It worked Xan… Xan he’s over here… Please sweetie, just come with me.”

Xander took some moments to realize what was being said then finally, in an emotion choked voice said, “It worked? But…”

“Just… come on Xan just come with me… Look.” She didn’t quite get Xander to his feet because as he saw the figure on the ground he scrambled any way he could to the prone figure lying under Willow’s jacket. He hauled Spike into his lap and sought out the face he had seen for so many months in virtual form. Spike’s eyes were initially closed and he too was crying softly, but they opened as strong male arms surrounded him and first his forehead then cheek was kissed and he finally found himself in a bruising kiss that left him literally breathless.

The other wiccans were all beginning to recover from what could best be described as a blast of lightening. Wiccans who had been wearing jewelry had burn marks where various pendants and bracelets had touched skin. Most were dazed but essentially unhurt yet all had an overwhelming sense of fatigue, regardless of age or experience at powerful conjuring.

Eventually Spike and Xander were helped to their feet and eased into the old four wheel drive vehicle that had originally brought Spike to the location and were transported back to the coven headquarters. Neither Spike nor Xander had any clear recollection of the next three hours, other than being carried inside and laid out to rest on a large bed covered with soft duvet and Xander registering his hand and burnt forearm was carefully tended and dressed.

Some time around six that morning Spike rolled onto his side, pulled Xander close and fell asleep again.

Willow, Mistress Yollanda and the other senior members of the covens present met to debrief the events of the evening while Spike and Xander slept.

“There have been reports of electrical disturbances as far south as St Petersburg and Helsinki. It coincided with the cyber attack promised by Illyria. It is fairly safe to say the scale of our magicks were well masked from hostile interests.”

“And Illyria? What of Illyria’s essence?”

Mistress Yollanda answered, “Illyria’s presence came and went as Spike was restored. I believe we did as promised and gave her the push she needed for a transfer to another dimension. Certainly the energy was more and of a very different nature to any we have experienced before… Does anyone else…?”

A painfully thin older woman from the Ivalo coven stepped forward and spoke through an interpreter, “I felt the shift of the one called Illyria. She/he is no longer of this dimension. There was relief as the change occurred. I believe we completed our task as far as that being is concerned. Of the one you call Spike I am not sure. I did not feel his shift before the final energy push.”

Willow frowned at this but was aware of the facts. Spike was corporeal. Xander was injured but safe and Illyria had moved on to another dimension. But something still niggled, and then she realized. By the time they were loading Spike into the four wheel drive, and certainly as they were lifting him into the coven… the sun had been up. Was it because it was the midsummer weak rays? Was it the fact that he had been newly restored? Had so many bodies around to assist his being carried to the car somehow shielded him from the rising orb’s energy? Or was it something else?

…………….

Spike woke slowly, dozing on and off with a sense of exhaustion that he had only felt a century and a half ago as a lad when recovering from a fever. Nearly twelve hours after the restoration spell, he woke fully. He had had odd dreams but really couldn’t remember if he and Xander were communing and something had gone awry, or whether he was simply out of the box and resting somewhere. And then...

Xander who had been similarly ‘knocked out’, rolled over, groaned once and snuggled down against him… and an amazed Spike shifted under the soft covers to hold the injured friend. *Really* hold him, with arms that worked and legs that could be gently entangled.

And that’s when he heard it. For the first time in a hundred and sixty plus years, he was warm and had… a pulse.

Initially he interpreted it as Xander’s, but then pushed a hand to his own neck… And it was true. It was his. Most definitely, slowly, a steady thump was coming from his carotid.

Xander was still asleep so he nuzzled the other man’s neck. His sense of smell was certainly a little less acute, and his hearing no longer as sharp, but when his fangs refused to drop and face did not change despite the proximity of Xander’s neck he really began to panic, then recalled Illyria’s last words before she departed the realm and the burning sensation began. “For myself I am moving on to a dimension few could comprehend, and I thank you. You have been a loyal servant, better than my most loyal Quoaa Hazhaad. For that I would intend and hope you are restored properly to this realm and wish you well.”

Spike lay for a time cataloguing the new sensations, and ones he was more familiar with. He certainly recalled the onslaught of the burning and the words of Illyria, but the ensuing hours were rather more of a mystery. There had been warm hands, soft covers, strong male muscles and unfamiliar sounds, and black… lots of black.

Finally he blinked his eyes open. The room was darkened but he could tell from the blackout blinds that it must be day outside. He knew he was in the Ivalo coven that’s where he remembered they should be, and looked over to see an exhausted Matti sleeping in an extremely uncomfortable position on a rather too small old couch by the wall. The gauze clad arm and hand of his maker and rescuer was resting on his nude stomach and Xander was showing signs of waking up, if the snuffles and groans were any measure of the same. Spike lay still trying to take it all in.

He was no longer a carving, he somehow knew he had retained his soul… and he was… human. With all his various incarnations since 1880, all the pain, all the… He was human again.

He did something he had not done since a young boy. He slid out of bed onto his knees and began to pray. “Loving Ghod, goddess, Powers, Gaia, Jesu, Allah… ah bugger… whoever! Thank you… and… Give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can… And bless those who made the difference.” It might have been a take on an old prayer, but it felt enough for the moment.

Matti stirred, so did Xander, and within minutes Spike was being lifted back onto the bed by kind hands of wiccans he could not identify and examined gently, caringly and thoroughly, offered water and asked all manner of questions. It was still confusing, but at around eleven in the morning by the clock, he and Xander were tucked up in bed sipping a potent dandelion/cinnamon tea and attempted to answer all manner of questions in a variety of languages.

Xander’s arm and hand were again being tended by Ivalo wiccans as Mistress Willow held Spike’s hand, leveled her stunningly green eyes at his blue and told him what he already knew. “It… You are human again Spike… I’m sorry… But we really didn’t…”

“’s OK Luv Second time around… or third or fourth… Jus… Is the boy OK?”

Willow looked across to Xander who now had a drip in his arm and was being examined by one of the Russian wiccans who happened to have conventional medical training with a specialty in burns trauma. “I think he’ll be fine. Though it will scar… and… um… they’re not quite sure if he… There may have to be surgery on his hand. Three fingers are burnt beyond… We will operate this afternoon.”

Spike gave a pained look toward the pale figure of Xander, “Can I…? You know… lad saved and… would my blood…?”

Willow patted his shoulder, “Spike? Spike… It’s OK Spike… Master Olaf is trained. You… just heal… relax and just heal… Xander will need you…”

Willow was pressing practiced hands across his brow and massaging his neck and then a needle pricked somewhere around his inner elbow and… black.
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