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Ghost in the Machine #22

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 22

A week after their return to the coven Xander was again being seen to by a local plastic surgeon who maintained that his fast recovery could be put down to good health and fitness, and fine attention from several wiccans who continued to dress and monitor his wounds… and Spike… or rather ‘William, Xander’s ‘significant other’.

Initially a few of the younger girls had flirted with the pretty male who made himself known as the newcomer picked up some prepared food for he and Xander from the main coven kitchen, and Spike was charming as ever. But eventually the two were quietly told that it was probably unwanted attention by an ever vigilant Mistress Yollanda, who tolerated inter-wiccan relations at the coven, but also knew that Spike was a one person… person.

And so Xander had improved.

It was again the Mistress who found a wistful Spike sitting out in the sunshine on the small landing of the workshop. He and Matti had spent the day packing and loading all items for the big show in less than a week.

“You OK Dear?”

Spike snorted a little at the endearment then started up at the middle aged wiccan with sad blue eyes, “’Dear’, somethin’ only me ol’ mum used to say. God rest her…”

The Mistress patted him on the shoulder and sat down on the step beside him. “I’m worried about you William. The transition… was something I’ve never dealt with before… and certainly the nature of the reversion to human must be unique…”

“Special am I? Well… what c’n I say love… Not s’ bad yourself.” Spike tried for a half hearted grin and nudged the Mistress on the arm in a friendly gesture of resignation.

She slapped him lightly and tut tutted without serious intent, “You know what I mean William… You are trying so hard for dear Xander in there, and yet are struggling yourself.”

“Thought I weren’t bein’ so bloody obvious. What gave it away? Me not exactly moonin’ around the place… thought I was bein’… useful… least as much as possible.”

“William… You’re doing wonderfully dear… But you need to give yourself time to adjust fully. Humanity is…”

“Yeah I know, overrated and underpaid. But it’s me now innit?”

“It is indeed. Now Xander is due in London for the opening of the new gallery and his collection at the end of the week. I think it is wise if only myself and Matti accompany him. He has already expressed his concern for you in the presence of anyone who might… *know* you by sight, i.e. Wolfram and Hart. And I think it would be good if I can get a feel, literally, for anything they have done or not to the twin sculpture, don’t you?”

“Appreciated luv. Might use the time to get meself across the drink ‘n check on some Swiss interests o’ mine. All this nurse-maidin’ is sure to have let a few things slide investment wise. ‘N gettin’ me hands on a little cash will certainly see your coffers on the improve, I don’t mind sayin’.”

“You don’t have to…”

“Know that luv… I *want* to. Let me do that at least. Promise it won’t be oil baron stuff, but should help things along a bit.” Spike looked at his hands again and added, “One thing as has me puzzled though… What happened to me demon… Don’t feel like the William of old, truth be told… then again probably forgot what that is after all this time…”

“Didn’t Willow tell you?”

Spike looked up with surprise at that, “Tell me what exactly?”

“You’re demon has integrated with you William… Spike… you… he… are all one, you have been since you regained your soul. You may not have the vampire urges but then you had come to control and work with that a very long time ago.”

“So what? I’m just a homicidal human now??”

The Mistress smiled knowingly, “No Spike, you’re you. We read your aura when you were under the weather at Ivalo, everyone saw it. A perfect match of dark and light.”

“Shades of grey then. Still should be me there in that room… sufferin’. Not me out here enjoyin’ the bloody sunshine…Can’t do naught but sit ‘n make idle chat… Fat lotta good that is.”

“Would you rather it be you Spike… William…? What good would that be?”

Spike put his head in his hands, and allowed a tear to drop, “Don’t know Luv… Just know that I wish it were me hurtin’. Deserve the hurt you know… Can’t say sorry to the boy, not in a way that makes any sense… not to me not to him… Just… Never meant…”

“Of course you didn’t. We are informed by our past. It doesn’t define the present or the future. Use your hard earned knowledge, your history and your intellect… Make of it what you will… But for now tend Xander. Care for him and make his sacrifice, which was made willingly, worth it.

“I’ll arrange a flight for you to Geneva for late tomorrow morning. We can drop you off at Heathrow on the way through to the gallery.” The Mistress patted Spike on the hand and stood to leave. She barely heard the mumbled “Thanks” before wandering back to the big house, leaving Spike to contemplate the enormity of what had been revealed. It made any maneuvering by Wolfram and Hart ‘interesting’ that was for sure.

Spike spent some minutes trying to come to terms with the apparent fact that his demon was integrated, part of the picture now, without the fangs, and super speed, and allergy to the sun etc etc… but somehow all there. And he had a friend who needed and deserved better of him, the whole him… now. He allowed a couple more tears to fall before he stood. He sniffed hard and hoped Xander would forgive any puffiness of eyes… just a little… Perhaps he could get away with an ‘allergy’ of the summertime pollen, human sort of excuse.

…………………………..

Xander woke to Spike’s careful attention and a kiss to the forehead. There was nothing sexual in the gesture, but a simple “Hey Pet. There you are.”

“Hey yourself. Did I sleep long?”

“Beauty sleep only Luv. Just wandered out for a few minutes in the sun… hope you don’t mind.”

“You? Ghod… I feel like I’m Mr Useless to you now… I mean…”

“Here for you and because of you. You know that.” Spike kissed the man on the forehead affectionately. “Gotta run an idea by you… You’re goin’ to London on the morrow for that opening and whatnot. The Mistress ‘n I have been havin’ a bit of a conflab and it seems best if I head over the drink to do some quiet banking transactions… withdrawals checkups that sort of thing.”

Xander frowned then started to look particularly distressed, finally in a near whisper grinding out, “For how long? I mean are you coming back? I thought you’d… I don’t know.”

“Now before you get your knickers in a twist, it’s just while you’re in London and not least of which is to keep you safe. Wolfram an’ bloody Hart are sniffin’ around. That Lilah bird *knows* me by sight, so does Giles, and I’ll wager that Sarah bird, and they’ll all be there at your opening shindig. Hardly do for me to turn up in the flesh with your pretty rendition of me in wood sittin’ on the pedestal now would it, Hmmm?? Give the whole game away if’n they knew you were carvin’ some dashingly handsome *real* lover now would it?” As if to emphasize the point Spike kissed him hard then pressed on Xander’s crotch area feeling a desperate (though still somewhat drug effected) twitch of interest. “Promise to ravish you within an inch of me apparently present life when I get back Luv… Now there’s a promise worth waiting for don’t you think.”

“Ghod Spike… You have no idea.”

Spike grinned, pecked Xander on the nose, and lifted onto the bed to straddle him and rub their semi-hard, fully-clad erections together then leaned down, licked the brunette’s ear and whispered seductively, “Oh Pet… But I think I do!”

Xander closed his eyes and enjoyed the anticipation then was blessed with a warm tight hug and Spike’s quiet words, “You saved me Luv… Fully intend to pay me dues… But for now… If it’s not too much trouble, just like to lie here in your arms (OK on top of you) and enjoy.”

Xander mumbled, “Enjoy away” and rejoiced at the feeling of the strong male form sliding to his left, non-injured side, stretching out beside him and nuzzling into his neck before he sighed and gave in to contented sleep once more.

……………..

The following day could not have been more different. Bags were packed, tickets, passports etc checked, last minute art pieces packed into the Gallery paid for taxi. Preliminary sketches and photos of works in progress, extra information leaflets on the coven and the community college Xander worked at, and pictures of previously sold pieces were included in the suitcase of ‘Extras’ bound for London.

Spike collected all he needed, put on his only vaguely passable for business button down black shirt and black jeans. Airport security might look at him twice, but there was a bank balance (and access to boutiques of all descriptions) that would allow more casual chic attire once he was in Switzerland.

There was no time for real goodbyes at the airport (Spike insisting that the parking officers were reincarnated highway robbers and refusing the offer to see him off) but Spike did manage a rather public ‘snog’ with Xander as he was dropped at the departure gates. He made his way unimpeded through customs and had but an hour wait for his plane. The jet was in the air even before the Mistress, Matti and Xander had wound their way back into central London.

………………………….

Lilah was livid. It was only a month and a half after their whole system had been crashed by a cyber attack of massive proportions and she still had no word from her research department. They had been examining the statue of the vampire Spike (despite the name ‘Adonis’ it was obvious who it was), they had been unable to establish anything untoward about the wooden figure. The conclusion from all her sources was that it was indeed simply a tribute to a lost comrade by a sculptor with a ‘man fetish’.


As for the cyber attack, it had been concluded that it was simply unfortunate and for a company that prided itself on knowing all groups that operated with more intel on groups with malicious intent, it seemed ridiculous not to be able to pinpoint the source of the attacks. All that could be determined by their crack technical team was the same as anyone else knew. It was a massive ‘botnet’ with an unknown sleeper ‘worm’ that might have been planted months or years ago and triggered by the sun spot. The best the Wolfram and Hart team could gather was that it was an incredibly simple algorithm carried by a virus written specifically to ‘take out’ major companies for a time. According to their hired hackers it was simple enough for anyone with the technology to do. The worry was that it was virtually undetectable and once activated, unstoppable as the computers which participated in the ‘denial of service’ were numbered over a million machines from across the globe.

There had been some discussion at the time that the shut downs were due to the large energy surge due to the sunspot activity coinciding with the problems but the scientific data could not verify or deny the theory, and likewise Wolfram and Hart’s own psychics were struggling as the blast of electromagnetic energy and related alteration of the earth’s energy states generally compromised even the best of their staff.

What was certain was that any attempt to ‘call’ the vampire William the Bloody’s demon had been utterly without success and Lilah was not only at a loss but also looking to explain her rather high expenditure on the venture that included par funding the New Watchers’ Council. Now she was faced with a ‘cutting losses and strategic advantage’ report rather than positive evidence that they once more had a key figure in the vampire world. Still at least there was the ex-Sunnydale now sculptor Alexander Harris. At least he was still around, though she had heard via her art contacts, had been badly injured in a recent accident, so may still be doubtful. She resolved to leave him on the ‘pending’ file.

…………..

The opening of the gallery was a triumph as far as Brigette, Adrianna, and Wolfram and Hart were concerned. All the who’s who of fashion, the arts, politics, industry and the media were there. Many were in ‘Wolfram and Hart’s pocket’ but all were willing to drink the free champagne and toast the newest ‘go to’ art gallery in London.

The Adonis carving was front and centre, and drew a significant crowd as a rather emotional (and extremely nervous) Alexander Harris, artist, spoke of the inspiration for the piece as in keeping with his mythological theme and the facial features a tribute to a fallen friend.

Lilah had her psychics scanning for deceit as Xander spoke but all reports were negative. The man was obviously just besotted with the now dusted vampire. Why they couldn’t resurrect him with the standard use of an effigy was also worrying – but then souls had a nasty way of *always* complicating things. After all she had been forced to give up on Angelus after only two months following the Black Thorn incident, why should she be surprised that William the Bloody (the most ensouled of that bloody ridiculously unconventional Aurelian line) would be any different?

Xander tired quickly with the opening and departed well before the rest of the guests, Matti staying to promote his own works but the Mistress realizing the distress and helping Xander into the waiting car and easing him into bed in his rooms at the Savoy (hotel of choice paid for by Wolfram and Hart), before retiring to her own quarters.

……………………………..
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