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Ghost in the Machine # 21

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 21

A day later Spike had had his first human meal and waited (almost) patiently to hear of Xander’s status.

The ex-Scoobie had been driven to the small hospital in Ivalo with Master Olaf. The operation was classed as an emergency so had priority and was attended by one of Olaf’s personal friends and fellow surgeons from Russia who specialized in trauma. The most worrying part of the injury was the damage done to the whole arm’s nervous system.

In the end Olaf and team had been forced to remove the pinky, ring, middle finger, and some of the attached palm, but managed to save the thumb and pointer, though the arm itself would be weakened as the electrical blast and consequent burn had destroyed a number of neural pathways at a local level.

Spike was sitting at his bedside as soon as an unconscious Xander was returned to the coven, and refused to move even to eat.

Xander woke on and off during the first day and still too drugged to really make sense of the world, though he knew there was a warm hand stroking his brow and holding his left hand.

Finally two days after his surgery, Xander woke properly to an aching limb, warm kiss on the forehead and baritone voice.

“There you are… Sweetheart… Just rest…”

Strains of Khachaturian’s Spartacus was playing somewhere in the coven and seemed somehow appropriate. The journey they had travelled and the one they were about to embark on was indeed an epic one.

Xander lifted his injured limb with some effort. Spike caught his arm and supported it as the man tried to comprehend what had happened, what he had gained… and what he had lost.

His hand was bound with layers of bandage but even so he could see that there were only two digits left. He groaned and tried to sit up but found the act virtually impossible.

Willow was there in an instant, as was the Mistress Yollanda and Matti. All looked tired and somewhat pained. But all Xander saw was the visage of a rather pale blonde male dressed in an old oversized shirt and sweat pants.

He ground out in the rasping voice of those who had so recently been ill, “Hey you…”

Spike and Willow answered in unison, “Hey yourself…”

Spike stroked Xander’s face as Willow began to explain what had transpired.

“Xan… I’m sorry but… They managed to save your thumb and pointer finger… but… Xan they had to take the others… There really was no choice given how badly burned they were.”

“Ahh well there goes my virtuoso piano career.” Xander tried to smile but found his stomach lurching. Spike saw the signs and grabbed a bedpan in time for Xander to lean over the side of the bed and part cough, part gag then throw up a minute amount of water and bile. Still sweating and visibly shaking, he fell back onto the pillow and closed his eyes for a time. “Sorry ‘bout that.”

Willow waited for a moment until Xander opened his good eye, “Xander honey... Mistress Yollanda has managed to get us all flights back to the UK for Tuesday this coming week. We’re arranging a passport for Spike through some very unofficial channels… but it still takes a bit of time and Master Olaf thinks you will be OK to travel by then.”

Xander closed his good eye for a moment then answered, “OK… Is Spike??”

“Right here Luv… in the flesh and still tryin to work out what that’s all about… All thanks to you.” Spike leant forward and kissed Xander on the forehead.

“Hmmm… all of the good then.”

Willow patted his arm and repeated, “All of the good…” as Xander slipped into medicated unconsciousness once more.

Spike relinquished his spot beside Xander’s bed, stretched and finally took himself outside for a sit in the sun. Matti followed him, rolled a cigarette and handed it to the newly formed human.

“Taa mate… Prob’ly have to give ‘em up now I’ve got a real set of lungs… still…”

Matti lit his own then handed Spike the lighter. Something about the man had Matti more than a little curious. There was a sadness and a stillness that spelt age and someone who had been ‘through the mill’ more times than once.

“You OK Spike?”

Spike looked up, smiled wanly and took a long drag on his cigarette before answering, “Just gettin’ used to everythin’ I guess. Strange hearin’ me own heartbeat after all these years. ‘N bodily functions are all a bit out of wack but essentially ‘m fine. Unlike the boy in there. Right white hat is he… second time he’s lost bits of ‘is anatomy in the good fight. Can’t say as I could’ve done anythin’ for ‘im this time around though. Just hope he don’t hate me for it in the mornin’.”

“I’ve got to admit I really had my doubts about… well you know… everything. You were really a vampire, you know… blood and everything?”

“Strange as it might seem but yeah… Bloody good one too ‘til a few bits ‘n pieces happened.”

“So you’re like… hundreds of years old?”

“Born March 14th eighteen fifty six, turned eighteen eighty, so yeah, by my reckoning, that makes me a hundred ‘n fifty five plus a bit o’ change.”

“But that’s… amazing.” Matti stared at the very attractive, slight man dressed in an oversized borrowed t-shirt and sweat pants, now sitting with a burning cigarette in hand and had his eyes closed, face pointed toward the sun. He was about to ask another question when a rather exhausted Willow joined them on the landing.

Spike butted out the remains of his cigarette and smiled at the witch.

“Hey guys… new bookings are done. We leave tomorrow. We’ve sorted a passport for you Spike. William B. Aurelius, aged twenty nine. Born in Surrey, returning to the UK after some time away, permanent residence to be the coven etc etc.”

“Taa pet. Boy good to travel?”

“Master Olaf seems to think so but we’ve arranged for a wheel chair in Helsinki and back at Heathrow just in case.”

“You comin’ with?”

“I really have to get back to Brazil, but the inter-coven meeting is still on for the Solstice so I’ll be back here again late June and have agreed to be back in the UK for Xander’s big opening just after.”

“Hope you booked business class for the return… Happy to foot the bill.”

Willow smiled, “All the way from Moscow… Looking forward to lying out flat for the journey. The Mistress said you want to head to Geneva soon after you get back?”

“Need to tidy up some loose ends, investments, that sort of thing. Long as the boy’s on the mend I figure I should make some ‘withdrawals’ on the old dosh… and new. Got a life ta build an hopin’ Xan wants a part of it… Keep ‘im in the way he’d rather become accustomed, that sort of thing.”

Willow recognized the caring Spike of old. She leaned forward to kiss the newly made human on the temple and was caught by a near desperate hugging arm and whispered, “Thankin’ you yeah? But gotta ask… It’s all gonna be OK with the boy…yeah?”

Willow was careful with her answer, “You *and* he will be fine… Maybe not right now but… it’ll be fine.”

……………

Three days later saw Xander sitting up and eating a little, though still taking some fairly heavy duty painkillers, necessary particularly when the dressings on his burnt arm and hand had to be replaced. Happily Master Olaf had been able to graft skin from Xander’s own thigh to cover the worst of the burn to his arm but there was still much healing to be done. Xander knew that Spike had been there for him virtually all the time, but they really hadn’t talked much, and certainly Spike seemed reluctant to discuss his new human status beyond the fact that he now had a heartbeat and had to “… Go to the bloody loo *again*.”

The trip back to Rovaniemi airport gave Willow an opportunity to talk quietly to Spike regards ‘what next’. It really was the first time since they had met in Sunnydale that Willow was able to fully appreciate the sensitive, quietly spoken, deep thinker that was the former vampire.

“Got a lot to be grateful for Pet. Not many around who c’n say they’ve had a what… fourth or fifth chance at life. Had I not been turned would’ve been pushin’ up daisies somewhere round the turn of last century… ‘n if ‘Gelus hadn’t taken me on would’ve been dust a few years after that… then got me the chip that should’ve done me in, then the soul… then the showdown ‘t Sunnydale then bloody well a ghostie then real then sommit else courtesy of the Black Thorn takedown ‘n now this… back to square one as it were… Funny ol’ world innit. Prob’ly should’ve been a cat all the lives I ticked off.”

“Did you ever think that maybe there’s some purpose in you being here?… You know ‘cause Angel…”

“Ol man was all about broodin’ ‘n moonin’ over what coulda been. Then again he was a mite older’n me… Honestly never really gave a piss about atonement like he did, and never really put much thought into the ‘I’m a hero’ thing he always seemed on about…”

“That’s not true though, is it. You always protected those you loved… I mean even Buffy! Spike you went and got your soul back because of her.”

“N a fat lot of good that did me…”

“Spike think through this a bit though. You protected Drusilla all those years. When Glory was doing her worst you protected Dawnie and us… After Buffy died the same… and again after that… You’ve rolled with the punches and always done the right thing according to circumstance… Maybe this is your reward… Maybe you get to… I don’t know…”

“Grow old ‘n die like the next bloke? Pffft well that’ll be a lark.”

“No I just meant… Well maybe you will be able to *live* You know really, in the world, as a person… And I’m pretty sure Xan ‘n you… Although I might be presuming but it seems pretty obvious… He really loves you I think…”

Spike blushed a little at that, the odd hot flushing sensation hitting his face and his groin at about the same time. “Boy’s a treasure… Saved my bacon ‘n all… Got a lot to live up to there…Gonna treat him right though – don’t you worry ‘bout that. Can’t guarantee I’ll be much good in that workshop ‘o his… but gonna keep ‘im safe ‘n well looked after.”

“What will you do Spike… You know when you get back to England?”

“Dunno… Play ladies for a while I suppose. Boy back there has the say… Jus’ hopin’ he don’t hate me in the mornin’.”

“Xander could never hate you Spike. He loves you… I mean really loves you…” Willow saw the shadow of doubt cross Spike’s features and heard the mumbled, “Yeah well they all say that ‘til I bollocks it up somehow… ‘n reckon three fingers are a pretty big bollocksin’.”

Willow grabbed his hand at that and held on, pulling him in to kiss a very worried brow, “You didn’t do anything Spike! Xander *wanted* to help you… You must know he threw himself…”

Now there was a tear tracking down the right side of Spike’s face and a barely controlled hiccup, “Weren’t in ‘is right mind though was he?!”

“But he *was* Spike! He… He… He was desperate to keep you on this plane. I saw it, we all did… and he was willing to give *everything* for you… Oh Spike… Just love him back now, OK? You both deserve that at least and you do have it… there for the taking… And the Mistress and I will try our hardest to make things easy for you any way we can…”

Spike sniffed audibly, lifted Willow’s hand to his lips and kissed it gently, “’Spose I c’n always teach the King’s English if they still do that sort of rot at that community college the boy works at. Heard the university of the third age is all the go for us old types anyways. Always fancied meself as a fan of the Bard.”

Willow smiled and patted the hand holding hers, “There you go. And Xan’s going to need some rehab too. You up for that.”

“Reckon I can assist with wieldin’ me a hammer ‘til the boy’s all mended, but yeah… I guess we’ll be fine.”

They took their leave at the airport, Matti, the Mistress and Spike pushing a still quite drugged Xander through the domestic ‘invalid entry’ while Willow headed for international and her flight to Moscow and beyond.

Their arrival in Heathrow was eased by the medical documents travelling with Xander and a number of ‘phone ahead’s on the part of the airline.

The wiccans Gemyma and Crissy were waiting at the arrivals, the old VW combie from the coven parked in the ‘special allowance’ bay ready for Xander’s transfer.

Finally eased into his own bed, Xander accepted the medications proffered by wiccan (and registered trauma nurse) Crissy, but held off swallowing them until he and Spike were alone. His arm and hand hurt terribly but he just needed to talk for a moment before blessed black.

“Thanks… You know… for being here with me… I thought you might…”

“What? Dump the person I’ve just found… Spike… I…”

“It’s OK pet… you don’t need to say what you don’t mean…”

“But I *do*… I… And if you ditch me now… I guess it’s OK… but… I love *you*… the whole too much history and the hero and the… But can you… I’m glad you’re back… and I don’t care the cost…” As if to illustrate the point Xander held up his still too injured hand and brought finger to thumb, “See? Still have the pirate thing happening, Hook 101.” He tried to laugh but ended up coughing a little then shedding more than a few tears. “Sorry… Meds… and…”

“Aught to be sorry about pet, you’re home now… let’s just gentle you ta sleep. Reckon I can rustle up some old bedtime tunes… hardcore metal not included.”

Spike kissed the man shortly after he took the prescribed painkillers and shortly after fell into a deep sleep.

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