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.
Willow sat behind the wheel of her car parked at the edge of the large, open field
and she stared. Her chest heaved as her lungs sucked and expelled the air in the
closed-up vehicle and her heart pounded in horror. Her fingers held an iron grip
on the steering wheel as her knuckles turned white. Her face matched.
She sat unmoving in her seat and contemplated the rows of tents and trailers ahead.
They were the exact ones that she recalled trying to torch all those years ago. Not
ones that looked like them. Not cloned canvas, stitched and sewn in a fashion to
resemble the originals. No, Willow swore that these were the ones. The same.
Rationality insisted that the tents could not have survived for decades. Fabric
rotted and stitches gave way. Yet, here they were. Mocking her with their
very exsistence. Laughing in the face of her denial.
It all was the same. Right down to the huge banner at the entranceway. A garishly
painted clown's face that bid the innocents of the world to enter with the threatening
WELCOME TO THE CARNIVALE MYSTIQUE
This was it. This was what she had dedicated her whole life to. This day. This
moment. Yet now that it was here, she couldn't believe what she was seeing.
The memories flooded back and she felt as though it were yesterday and not
nearly 40 years ago. Her stomach rolled and churned and threatened to expel
her tea and toast of earlier.
She closed her eyes, and her ears could hear the shouts of the nearby revelers
enjoying the novelty of a traveling show. Slowly, in her brain the voices morphed
into those of her friends of days gone by. Young voices. Voices filled with false
confidence and the arrogance of ignorance. Voices she hadn't heard in forever.
Buffy. Giles. Xander.
She suddenly felt claustrophobic and she cranked down her window, hoping that
the fresh air would bring some stability and rationality to this bizarre situation. She
breathed in. As the smells of the sugary and spicy foods wafted in, it only served
to add another element to the memory. It reminded her of the same smells that filled
Kutter's Field halfway across the country and in her own backyard.
They had already lost Jesse. Her friend since infancy was gone and the fate of her
other companion was in question. That was the real reason she had gone with them
to the carnival that night. Xander. Xander was there and he needed her help.
She dropped her head in her hands and she remembered.
"Yeah, I understand what you are saying, Giles; you are saying Xander is
expendable. If we have to, we let him die. We do the job and let him die."
Willow had been furious with the older man. How could he even consider
such a thing. Was he heartless? Was he inhumane?
Giles placed a fatherly hand on her shoulder and spoke softly but firmly.
"Willow, in the bigger scheme of things, in the overall picture, we are all
With no further comment, she turned and stomped away. Buffy and Giles
shared a wordless glance and followed. Within minutes they crossed past
the city limits sign and they headed into the woods.
Looking down, Willow was startled to see the spirit crystal in her hand had
changed. Its steady, glowing light had assured her that Xander was still
alive and nearby. But now something was different. Where before it was
blue, it now pulsed a deep red. Like a heart beating blood.
She was too frightened to ask Giles what that could mean.
Blue was reassuring. It indicated that somewhere Xander's spirit was still
strong. He was still breathing and could be rescued. As long as the crystal
whispered its promise, Willow held out hope and followed its path. This
shift was unsettling. If Xander had died, there would be no light. No color.
The crystal would have been clear. Red was unknown and unsettling, but
she forged on.
Moving quickly, they darted through the trees and down the dirt path. When
they approached the huge maple, Willow cried out and the others stopped.
Giles ran back to where she stood, hand open, again staring at the crystal.
"Willow, what is it? What's wrong?"
Willow looked up at her mentor with tears in her eyes.
"It's hot. Giles, it's hot and it's changed. It's nearly burning my... AAAHHH!"
Willow screamed as the crystal floated up from her hand, spun in the air like
a child's top, and finally burst, exploding into a thousand glass shards.
Unaware of the dozen small cuts the glass had put on her face and hand,
Willow tossed down her unlit torch and she dashed for Kutter's Field.
Buffy and Giles were fast on her heels.
When they reached the clearing, Willow again shouted in disbelief.
The field was empty. There was no sign that a carnival had ever been there.
The tents, the trailers, the food and game booths and the carneys were gone.
Rushing through the pasture, she was stunned to see the tall grass and
wildflowers swaying, undisturbed and untrampled in the autumn breeze.
Buffy scratched her head.
"Giles? I don't get it. Where the hell did it go? There's nothing here.'"
Before the Watcher could answer, Willow called from the far end of the clearing.
"Wait. I found something! Look!"
The other two ran to join her and Giles tried to see what she was cradling in
"Good Lord. It appears to be a stuffed bat."
Willow clutched it to her chest. She dropped to her knees, rocking back and f
orth, and she whispered to the moon and stars.
"Good bye, Xander. I love you."
Willow sat where she was and waited till the power of the memory eased and slid
into the background. She was oblivious to the odd glances and curious looks of
the others in the parking lot that wondered about the small, older woman who chose
to sit on the outside rather than join in the fun of a carnival.
She knew she was not the Willow of her teens. She had grown complacent and
comfortable in her life and although she kept vigil, she had to be honest and admit
she never believed this night would ever come. Yet, here it was and the anxiety
that threatened to permeate her mind and body was kept marginally at bay by mature
reasoning and that scant spark of hope that she had clung to all these years.
Apprehension battled curiosity. Bottom line was, she had to know. What had been
Xander's fate? Had he died that night, like Larry, Harmony and Jesse; or had they
taken him away where he was held captive, tortured and died in pain and alone
begging for an emancipation that would never come. Waiting for friends that could
save the world but not him.
Before coming tonight, she had scanned the newspapers and listened to the radio
and had been somewhat mollified by the fact that there were no reports of missing
or murdered citizens.
That could mean any number of things. Maybe this was not the same Carnivale
Mystique, although intuition said that was not the case. Perhaps they no longer
killed. No, her years with Giles and Buffy told her that a demon seldom changes
it spots. The most likely scenario was that they had just arrived and if Willow
didn't stop them, this would be Sunnydale all over again.
Could she stop them? She wondered. Probably not. She knew her days of
demon fighting and world saving were behind her. All she wanted now was to
protect her own. To keep Xani safe and secure till the carnival moved on and,
if possible, to discover Xander's fate.
If this was indeed the same depraved carnival that had laid siege to Sunnydale,
California, then possibly some of the same workers were still there. She would
have bet money they were. And if so, then the place to start was at the dark
corner of the game's booth and a certain blond vampire.
Willow jumped out of her car and slammed the door shut behind her. With no
more hesitation, she marched across the parking lot and through the painted
canvas mouth that lead her into her past.