Warnings: Strong sexual language and M/M sexual situations.
Disclaimer: The Bee freely admits she owns none of the characters in this story
and makes no profit. I simply borrow them, then hose them down before returning
them to the shelf for others to use.
Summary: AU. This story is a follow-up to Carnivale Mystique.
At the ending of Carnivale, Willow vowed to spend her life looking for her lost
friend and that is just what she has done. Now, after nearly 40 years, she and
the carnival cross paths again. Can she finally get the answers she needs and
protect her granddaughter from falling victim to the special allure of the carnival?
During the telling of this story will be flashback chapters that tell how Spike
and Xander adjusted to their roles of master and pet.
Note: If you haven't read Carnivale Mystique or have forgotten the story,
there is a prologue that contains a brief summary of the story. Use the tags
at the top of the page to find your way there.
Thanks and credit to silk_labyrinth for betaing the spelling, punctuation and
finding wandering boo boos.
As always, thanks to the wonderful Petxnd for the banners that put the perfect
visual to my words.
Willow wrapped her sweater tightly around her small, bony shoulders and tossed
another log on the open fireplace. Although it was only early September, she
could already feel the threat of the oncoming winter in the air that no longer
blew warm and soothing.
As a young girl, her small size was her pride and joy: now, at 55 years old,
she almost wished she had an extra layer or two insulate her. It was this
time of year, every year, that she wondered why she ever left California and
why she remained to endure extream fluctuations of the seasons in the Midwest.
She was fit and trim, and while her face and body lied to the outside world by
making her appear ten years less than her true age, her heart and the burdens
her soul carried made her feel, at times, as though she were closer to eighty.
Checking the time on the mantel clock, Willow was surprised that it had gotten
so late without her realizing it. Nearly 2. Just an hour till Alexandria
would return from school and her life would begin again. When the young girl
was not home, Willow felt no need to exist. Her granddaughter was her everything.
Her only reason to go on.
Another deep shudder wracked her body and Willow pulled her arms tighter
around herself. She knew that although there would still be warm days ahead,
and Indian Summer had not arrived, winter would not be far off. It was this
time of the year that she hated the most.
Not because of the snow, the ice or the unrelenting conditions outside but
because of the frigid ache that filled her inside. It was this time of year
that had changed her life. Changed all their lives.
It was the season of the carnival.
Even after all these years, just the thought of the word sent fingers of
apprehension skittering up her spine. It was odd. She would have imagined
that it would have lost its power over her, but apparently not. As if in a
hypnotic trance, Willow stood from her chair and she walked slowly from the
small living room.
It was time. It was a once a year ritual that had no designated day or date.
It was, instead, dictated by some unknown internal setting that she neither
understood nor argued with.
Refusing to allow her mind the rational consideration of where and why she was
going, Willow blanked her face and her brain and she proceeded through the
small house, up the stairs, down the hall and stopped only when she reached
the doorway to the attic.
She slipped the key from her pocket, slightly surprised to find it there as
she had no memory of removing it from her jewelry box, and she opened the
attic door, swinging it wide open and turning her head to avoid breathing in
the dank smell of the stuffy unused space.
Climbing the steps was a strain. Each one increased the heavy feeling in
her chest and heart tenfold till she finally reached the landing. Tugging
the chain lit the single bulb and offered enough light to illuminate the
path to the steamer trunk where she knelt on the dusty floor and she opened
Right on schedule, the tears welled up in her eyes.
Slowly, her small, delicate hands passed over the top of the neat stack of
items that she knew by heart. She had studied each one a thousand times over
the years as her emotional bond to them had changed.
Thirty-seven years ago, when she first packed it up, she had been both hopeful
and sad in equal measure. Sad because her closest friend had disappeared, yet
hopeful that with her powers as a witch she would have no trouble finding and
But the time had passed.
As the years progressed, her confidence had slipped, sliding her toward
desperation and dipping to depression. She had all but moved in with Giles
who taught her all he could while still serving as Watcher to the Slayer.
In their second year together, Willow found she was pregnant and although
Giles halfheartedly offered matrimony, Willow declined.
She gave birth to a daughter she named Hope, but while she went through the
motions of mothering, her focus, her priority had always been Xander and the
daughter had grown up clinging to a father who surprisingly flourished in his
Carefully, as though they were fragile, Willow removed the top layer if items.
One of her as a young girl. She was laughing, eating birthday cake with Xander,
her Xander, sitting next to her at the table. The next one was of the three of
them. Willow, Xander and Jesse. Best friends. They used to clasp pinky fingers
and swear they would be together forever.
None of them imagined forever would end so soon.
The next pictures were ones of Buffy and one of Giles with his arm around Willow.
They were all taken after. The strain in the smiles on their faces were tinged
with guilt and regret. There were a few, very few, of Willow holding a small
dark-haired crying baby. There was one more of Hope and Giles standing proudly
on her daughter's graduation day.
Willow remembered it well. It had been the same day that Giles announced he was
returning to London. He had been assigned a post at the new Watcher's Council
and he needed to go. It was never considered that Willow would go with him.
It was never considered that Hope would not.
Now blissfully alone, Willow was free to finally focus all her efforts on
With the pictures set out, Willow looked at the other items in the precious
trunk. It was the layer of devotion and concentration. It was from the
period of her total concentration. During the years she spent raising her
daughter, Willow had put aside her practice of witchcraft but when Hope was
gone, she threw herself back into it full force.
These items in her trunk were reminiscent of that. There were spell books,
crystals, amulets and personal items touched and revered by her beloved friend.
She had an old t-shirt he had left at her house. A key chain that never held
any keys and an odd black stuffed bat.
After studying and refreshing herself on the practice of witchcraft, Willow
had done a spirit spell. It was terrifying. If Xander was dead, her search
would end before it began but she had to know.
As soon as the spell had been cast, the crystal lit up. It glowed bright,
pulsing and beaming with a stunning blue light that left no doubt that somewhere
in the world, her friend's spirit was strong. It gave her hope and filled her
heart with a determination she hadn't felt in ages.
Unfortunately, the crystal and the locator spells had not been as successful
as she had hoped. Following its indicators, she traveled all over the country
only to find that she was too late. The carnival had been there and moved on,
and usually the townsfolk would not talk to her at all out of fear of the strange
traveling show's return.
Still, each time she checked, the crystal remained strong.
Unfortunately, the leads did not.