Disclaimer: I own none of the characters or products named in this
story and make no profit from it.
Summary: A mysterious carnival appears on the outskirts of Sunnydale.
Despite the sudden disappearance of townspeople and pets, Xander is
intrigued and wants a closer look. What he gets is more than he could
This story is based on a suggested story idea from the lovely Mystic Oblivion.
As always, thanks to the wonderful Petxnd for the banners that put the perfect
visual to my words.
The ground was covered with sawdust and the smell of wood, food, smoke,
and magic filled the air. Despite the carnival being spread out over a vast
area of Kutter's Field, the place was packed. It appeared as if every citizen
of Sunnydale had chosen tonight to attend the traveling show.
Xander, Jesse, Buffy, and Willow had already seen and spoken to almost
every one of their classmates. Cliques that wouldn't give them the time of
day in the hallowed halls, now were caught up in the thrill and excitement of the
night and smiled and waved freely.
Both groups knew the acceptance would not be repeated in the light of day.
The first hour spun by like a whirlwind. The four friends dashed from one
stomach wrenching thrill ride to the next. Xander would throw his head
back and close his eyes. He let his soul soar free from his body as the
sensation of flying lifted him up and around, spinning, sailing and dropping
him on the poorly constructed mechanical monsters. It took him away from
the mundane and tossed him into the realm of the miraculous.
Jesse took every opportunity to position himself so that at each twist and
turn, Buffy's body would be slammed and pressed against him.. He didn't
care that she seemed distracted, her eyes constantly darting around, looking
for what, he didn't know and really didn't care.
He had felt her soft, firm breasts pressing against his arm and her strong, long
legs pushing tightly into his. Willow had tried to copy their positions in her seat
with Xander, but like Buffy, his mind was elsewhere.
Finally, as the four laughingly staggered from their second trip on the plunging
drop of the Alpine Cliffhanger, they flopped down to sit on the hard wooden
bench, await the return of their stability and decide their next move.
Buffy continued to subtly survey the area. Her whole body tingled sharply
as if she were rolling in a bed of fleas that were bitting every inch of her flesh.
This entire planned evening that, to her friends seemed an innocent lark,
was, to her, a scouting mission.
Her Watcher, Rupert Giles had told her that since this mysterious traveling
carnival had arrived in town, certain ugly incidents had begun to occur all
Several people, mostly homeless and prostitutes, had gone missing. Reports
of family pets, cats and dogs, being found scattered around their front lawns,
dead, drained of blood, had the local police scrambling to locate the vandals.
Officials were less interested in the disappearance of the indigent.
Giles was adamant that this was not the work of juvenile delinquents and
now that Buffy was here, she knew he was right. Every one of her Slayer
senses was on uberalert. From what she could tell, most of the carnies
running the rides were demons of various species.
She had seen some, like the Pit'krs and the Remelons who were vegetarian,
harmless and benign. Those were the ones who barely raised a blip on her
radar. But then there were others. De'rnged, who killed strictly for the
pleasure of it and worse, vampires.
Giles had been firm. She was not to act yet. He made her promise several
times that she would do nothing to put the others in danger. It was simply
a check it out and report back mission. Then, later, when the carnival was
closed for the night, she would slip back in and wipe it of the face of the earth.
She couldn't wait.
Willow relaxed back on the bench as her eyes glanced to the side where
her lifelong best friend sat beside her. She blindly chose to pretend this was
a date despite his insistence that it wasn't. Willow freely admitted to herself
and now to Buffy, that she has been in love with Xander from the first day
she met him in kindergarten.
When that love went from best buds to till death do us part, she wasn't sure.
And why he didn't recognize that she was the only girl for him, was one of
life's great puzzles, but Willow had no doubt that when Xander was finally
ready to settle down with that one special woman, it would be her.
Till then, she would wait.
Right under his nose.
Suddenly, Willow sat bolt upright.
"I'm hungry! Who else wants to find some sugary, fat fried goodness?"
Xander grinned. She sure knew what he loved.
"Yeah, I could eat."
Buffy jumped to her feet.
"Great. Sounds good. Um, although I think I could use a trip to the
little girls room first. I think I saw a row of, UGH, porta potties over
by the game booths. Why don't you guys head over there and Willow and
I will catch up with you?"
Xander smiled. The concept of going to the bathroom as group participation
was one of those odd female things that have to be accepted on face value
because trying to understand it's logic could drive you crazy.
"Sounds good. We will be waiting."
As soon as the girls blended into the milling crowd, Jesse grinned.
"You go on. I'm gonna follow the girls. You know, act all protective and
make sure they get back safely. Chicks dig that bravery shit."
Xander rolled his eyes. He hated to see his friend make an ass of himself
especially when Buffy had been clear that she didn't feel that way about him
but actually, that was just what he wanted. To be on his own. To wander
and explore uninhibited.
"I'll bet you're right. Buffy looks like the type of girl that would just gobble
up that hero shit. You go get 'em, buddy."
Jesse bounced on the balls of his feet at Xander's encouragement, turned
and bolted into the wave of humanity. Xander watched for all of 30 seconds
before he too turned and walked off.
The minuted he stepped foot in the game booth area, the air seemed to change.
He could no longer smell the sweet peppers and onions from the sausage
sandwich booth and the music from the rides seemed tinny and hallow.
As if he were standing in a tunnel.
The numbers of people in this area of the field had also dropped off greatly.
Perhaps, he thought, put off by the lack of brightly colored lights or uninterested
in the cheesy toys that were being touted as 'once in a lifetime' prizes.
Xander was not put off by the dim, recessed section of the carnival. In fact,
he was drawn to it like a small mouse is drawn to a piece of cheese resting on
a block of wood and a wire trap.
The row of game booths was long, maybe six or seven, they stretched out in a single
line. All facing inward, Xander stood at the beginning of the row and stared down.
All he could see was the sides of the wooden booths and the colorful awnings that hung
out over the fronts. With the small, weak bulbs that lit them, it was hard to see all
the way down to the last one.
Before he could reason with himself as to the advisability of it, Xander started
walking. With his friends forgotten and the safety of the situation never entering
his mind, Xander patted the birthday money in his pocket. It was suddenly very
important to him that he win a prize.