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 her friendship and her banners that
put the perfect visual to my words.
With a quick apology to Big Bill for the mess, Xander kicked his dog and sloppy
fixin's under the food trailer for the mice to eat and he pushed his way through the
crowd toward the direction of what had caught his eye. He craned his head and
he weaved in and out of the happy, bustling mob of carnival goers.
It didn't make sense and he knew it wasn't possible. In the first place, Xander
could tell by the feel of the nip in the air and the flat terrain surrounding them, that
they were nowhere near California. Midwest more likely and despite where they
were, it was nearly 40 years past. It couldn't be. No way could it be...
The name came to him from somewhere in the furthest corner of his memory.
It elicited warm feelings and at the same time, a deep, hollow sense of loss.
She had been his life, his first and most loyal friend and his love in a way that no
sexual relationship could rival. She had been his Willow.
'This is stupid,' he thought. He had only caught a glimpse of the girl at a
distance but something about the red hair, the mannerism of the way she stood
and the casual flip of her head had shot an arrow straight through him. It was
impossible that it could be his old friend. Lots of girls had red hair. On and on
the self speak went as he continued to search the crowds for the one who had
caught his eye. He just needed to see. To satisfy himself that he was wrong.
Years and years of living this life and exchanging blood with a vampire had changed
Xander's physiology considerably. As well as nearly halting the aging and deterioration
of his body, it gave him the enhanced hearing and vision of a lesser vampire and now,
the dark night and the smells of the foods and animals were dismissed and filtered
through as he sought another long-forgotten yet familiar scent.
Finally, frustrated and confused, Xander stopped. He stood outside the merchant's
building and turned in a 360, looking in all directions. Nothing. He had been wrong.
A simple trick of the eye. He snorted at his own foolishness and breathed a sigh
of relief as he considered all the jokes Spike would lay on him over this one.
With his confidence restored, Xander relaxed, smiled and turned to walk away.
Just as he did, the entrance door to the merchant's building flew open and he was
face to face and nose to nose with the one he sought.
Xander was stunned. Like a punch in the stomach, it knocked the wind out of him
and his mouth fell open. The face, the hair, the freckles and especially the scent.
It was her. It was his Willow, but not. Xander's brow wrinkled and before he
could check himself, he whispered.
The spell that held him entranced was broken when the chubby girl beside her
screeched loudly and punched the redhead in the arm.
"EEEWWWW!!! He thinks you are your grandma! Shit, Xani, you need some
wrinkle cream and a cane?"
Xani didn't share in the hilarity. Instead she stared deeply into the dark brown eyes
of the handsome young man. She didn't know if he was mistaken in the dim light
or if he knew another Willow, but it didn't matter. The glorious, incredible soft
blue light that glowed around him was like nothing she had ever seen and she was
drawn like a moth to a flame. It was warm and cool. It was fierce and gentle and,
most of all, it felt uncomfortably intimate.
Before she knew what she was doing, her hand lifted slowly, independently of
thought, and brazenly reached out to touch his face. At the last second, Connie,
who had now recovered and was no longer laughing, grabbed her wrist and jerked
Connie knew Xani. As lifelong best friends, Connie had known for years that there
was something different, something that Xani understood that the rest of the world
didn't. Something that, one night during a sleepover, in the dark, Xani had whispered.
Connie had believed and sworn her loyal secrecy on a pinky oath.
"Xani! What the fuck? Come on, we gotta go."
Xander watched as the other two girls spirited the redhead away. The blood in his
veins had turned to ice and his feet were glued to the sawdust that covered the ground.
Although a million questions danced in his brain, fear of the answers prevented him
from again chasing her down.
Once they were at a safe distance, the girls dropped down onto a bench and Mel
grabbed Xani's hands. Connie frowned and wished they were alone so she could
ask her friend what she had seen. Mel was breathless as she probed.
"Wow, Xani, what was that all about? Did you know him? Does he know your
gramma? Cause really, Willow is NOT a common name. Jiminy Crickets he
was hot and holy fuck, you were gonna touch him. I mean, Oh, My, God!"
Xani's heart was pounding in her chest. The light around him. The light. It was
all she could think about. When she answered, her voice shook.
"No, I never saw him before. He couldn't know my gramma could he? How old
do you think he is? He looks about 18 or 19 but he seems a lot older, doesn't he?"
Connie tried to keep reason and calm in her voice as she grounded her friend.
"I don't know, but if he was 18 he would be a senior and he sure doesn't go to our
school or we would know him. Even if he graduated last year, we would remember.
All I know is sure, he was cute, but he is a stranger. Hell, he could be an insane
serial killer. You can't just be touchin' crazy ax murderers."
Xani turned to her friend, her voice was now soft and steady.
"He was no ax murderer. He was incredible. His color was......"
"Shhh. Xani. "
Mel scowled at the exchange between Connie and Xani. She knew these two had
secrets that she wasn't privy to and she sometimes resented it, but they were her
friends. Her best friends, so she chose to ignore the glances and the insinuations
that sailed over her head and she pretended not to notice. Instead, she grinned.
"Well, I don't know about you two but I don't want to waste any more time sitting
on this gum-covered nasty bench, and it is getting late. Why don't we go check out
the game booths before we have to head home? Hey, maybe we can win a stuffed
Xani's eyes continually darted around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wonderful boy
in the sea of faceless beings while she tried to turn her focus back on her friends.
"Yeah, sure, sounds good."
Moving as one, the three girls jumped to their feet, arms interlocked and small bodies
squeezed close as adolescent girls do. They grabbed each others' hands and they
squealed in renewed excitement before darting away. It was just what Xani needed
to get her mind back on the here and now.
Their matching Sketchers kicked up sawdust and dirtied the hems of their snug
hip-hugging jeans as they skipped towards the far end of the field where the games
were set up. The closer they got, the more the mood shifted for Xani. It was
different here than the rest of the carnival. Although surrounded by the same
twinkling strings of lights, the game booths were dark and ominous.
When they reached the first one, they stopped. The carny that worked the dart
and balloon game leered, showing a row of rotted, black teeth. He wore a Grateful
Dead t-shirt and his arms were covered with tattoos of skulls and snakes. One,
on his upper arm read "Mother."
"Good evening, ladies. Have you come to play with me? It's easy. A guaranteed
winner every time. Come on. Come closer. Give it a try. First toss is free. Come
here and let me give you a free toss."
All three squeezed each others' hands and stepped back. They didn't need to be
psychic to know they were in dangerous territory. Finally, Connie tugged on Mel's
"Hey, I don't know about you guys but I'm hungry."
Mel nodded but never took her eyes off the evil face of the man in the booth.
"Um, yeah, yeah, me too. Come on."
Immediately they spun around and took off at a full run, back to the safety of the
dense crowds as the carny hooted and laughed behind them.