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Ghost in the Machine # 25

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 25

The conversation with Giles was stilted at best, downright aversive at worst. Issues of the carving of Spike were easily diverted into other conversations of loves found and lost, memories of old Sunnydale battles, wins and defeats, all raised and deflected. More disturbing were questions pointing to Xander’s own allegiances which were successfully deflected but comments on is orientation hit a sore point so were met with a staunch ‘that’s my business for now if you don’t mind.”

In the end Giles had been a little too persistent, beyond what Xander thought was friendly interest, and the conversation had ended awkwardly with Giles asking Xander to reconsider the time frame for the carving of Drusilla, the premise that the Watchers’ Council interested in the carving themselves – for research purposes.

Xander didn’t buy it for a minute. Unsure whether the Watchers’ Council had ‘sided with the other’ but neither he nor Spike would have been unsurprised if they had their own agenda for the carving of a notorious vampire. Xander’s accurate memory of the Council’s treatment of Buffy in her early days, and the effort to wipe out Spike prior to the last stand still fresh in his mind. That and the unwillingness of the Council to intervene in a number of the African conflicts that had seen a fair few Slayers dead soured his opinion and had far too much weight when it came to not trusting the group. His only worry, that he could not work out why Giles was now apparently one of the ‘inner circle’ and was, at least in part, complicit with the Wolfram and Hart plans.

By the time he hung up, Xander had decided his injuries would make the production of the requested carving might just be put on the ‘backburner’ perhaps never to happen. The Mistress had already made the point on his behalf that it would be at least months and there was no reason he should not use that time frame, regardless of the Watcher Council’s agenda. He rang the Mistress on her mobile to debrief for a few minutes regards the same, was offered the expected full support of the covens and reassured that then wandered outside.

A day later there was an issue far closer to home.

Spike had been distinctly maudlin since his visit to the graves of his family, and Xander worried, no manner of reassuring sex seemed to lift the mood. Finally, on a slow Saturday of lunch followed by a few relaxed glasses of wine, Spike admitted the source of his angst.

They were sitting on the back porch, with the afternoon summer sun lighting the surrounds, Xander put the half empty bottle of wine behind them both, rounding on the far too quiet Spike and challenging him, “You want to explain? Or would you rather... Ghodess Spike… How can I help?”

Spike felt his newborn sense of humanity push through with a vengeance, heart racing and sinking feeling in the stomach coming to the fore, “Don’t think you can Pet… Seems as I’m out of place… Not with you… Never with you… Just… I’ve done so much damage… And really don’t know why I got the free pass or where I fit any more… You know…? Can do all the niceties an’ bankin’ an’ so on, but time has changed nothing at all, tried puttin’ an end to the stinkin’ thinkin’, but it don’t matter. I owe too many too much… Don’t deserve the sun… Should be dead ‘n gone and now still got the demon in me see? It’s part o’ me forever! How can you love that?? No one has before. You deserve so much better!! T’would have been better that I went down fightin’… Not worthy of you pet… not in the least. Was there when this was happenin’, you know that? Dru & I feasted and cheered… but now… should’ve been me ten times over plus some… I’m sorry…” Tears streamed down Spike’s alabaster cheeks now pink with emotion and a little sun.

Xander kissed the forehead of his lover and held on as they both sat listening to another round of the song that had Spike so upset.

Well, how do you do, Young Willie McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here down by your graveside?
And rest for awhile neath the warm summer sun,
I've been walkin' all day, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean
Or, Young Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post and chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Did you leave a young wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some fateful night is your memory enshrined?
Although you died back in 1916,
In that fateful heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enclosed and Forever behind a glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and battered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

The sun now it shines on the green fields of France;
The warm summer breeze, that makes the red poppies dance.
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds
No gas, no barbed wire, there's no gun firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses stand mute in sand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man.
To a whole generation that were butchered and damned.

Ah Young Willie McBride, I can't help but wonder why
Do those who lie here know why that they died?
Did they believe them when they answered "The Cause?"
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well sound of the suffering, the glory, the pain
The killin', and dying, were all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.” (The Green Fields of France – the Fureys)

Spike’s tears would not be checked as he hugged tight to his lover, continuing to stroke over the so injured hand in its elegant purpose made glove. All Xander could make out was the last refrain “and again and again and again.”

Eventually Xander used his good hand to stroke through the long dark blonde locks of his lover and whispered, “Why that song Spike?”

“Was there… in 1916… Dru ‘n me. Wars are the vampire’s smorgasbord ya see. But even as a vamp… Not cheerin’ for any side makes you see things. The futility, the desperation of the foot soldiers, the stupidity and greed of the ruling classes. Seen it again and again. Demon world got nothin’ on human carnage. No accountin’ for human hatred pet, when it’s all still about power there’s no tellin’ when it’ll happen again… Lost me ol’ Sire for a good cause in the end, tryin’ to even the balance for the good… Bloody Hero of an Irish git to the end. He would’ve called me a weak sod for cryin’ for ‘im now. Hell Angelus would’ve whipped me, but we stood together ensouled vampires and committed to take back the power for the benefit of… the cause of ‘right’, an’ I still couldn’t save ‘im. Now gotta wonder why I was the one given another shot at real life, see?”

“You were a champion too… more times over than you can probably count… And you’re a champion to me Spike, you earned your second chance.”

Spike wiped away more tears with an angry hand and stood with his back to Xander and put his face toward the sun before adding. “Couldn’t save you either though could I? Not your eye, not your hand… ‘N now you’ve got the Watcher bloody Council and the lawyers to the damned peckin’ at your heels.”

“You saved my life, my other eye, and my lonely heart, and I’d give my other hand if I knew it would help you now.”

“Oh Pet… I *never* want to see you there again either Luv… Ever! An’ me like this, what chance of savin’ you is there? Bloody useless me now - not a demon, an’ not truly even human, even if Gaia *has* forgiven my presence.” As though to make a point Spike turned and stood arms outstretched in the sun and faced his lover for a moment before turning away again to hug himself and let his head drop in defeat.

Xander pushed up with a slight groan and grabbed the blonde around the waist, hugging him tight from behind and bent down a little until his mouth was pressed firmly against Spike’s turning mark that had somehow survived his restoration. “We’ll work it out together OK?”

“Sorry ::sniff:: Guess I’m just havin’ a moment Pet.”

The music played on and “Anniversary Song” somehow taking the last of the heat from Spike’s argument and explained appropriately what they both felt at that moment.

As the music continued they rocked in time for a moment, Xander encouraging Spike to rest back against his strong chest then whispered, “Moments are all of the good. We’ll work this through together… And I’m not being sentimental or ridiculous or over optimistic… But we are both survivors Spike… We’ve got that… and each other. Let’s us do this *together*. Not just you against the slayer, the humans, Angelus, the demon world, whatever… We’re in this together OK? Can you accept that… just that small start? We won’t get it right all the time, but it’s *us* this time… not you looking after me – it’s reciprocal OK?! I’m not mad or mean or hopeless, and yes I might be a mere human… But I love you and together we will make this work.”

Spike spun on his heel, grabbed Xander around the waist and gave him a breathtaking desperate kiss that continued until both men had to part for need of air before the act was reciprocated with much the same end. Xander eventually led a compliant Spike into their shared bedroom gently (if a little awkwardly) stripped first his lover then himself before pushing them both down and covering the ex-vampire with his bigger form and began to make sweet love.

Xander stopped caressing only enough to reassure and bless his lover over and over. “We both have things to be sorry for sweetheart.”; “the demon is part of you – wouldn’t want anything else”; “you complete me Spike, and I love *you* as you are now and what you might become”; “please take me now Spike… William… take and accept me”.

As both completed and Spike rolled off to spoon his taller partner he licked then kissed Xander’s neck and finally whispered, “In this for the long haul if you’ll have me. In it together then.”

Xander smiled to himself, twisted awkwardly to kiss Spike on the forehead and used one of the ex-vampire’s own quips with a very bad attempt at an accent “Now you’re gettin’ it Pet!” which earned him a light slap on the rump though he could feel Spike’s grin at his shoulder blades as they fell into slumber.
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