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.
Xani dashed up the stairs, ran in to her room and slammed the door loudly
behind her. Knowing her grandmother would be in the kitchen directly below
her, she stomped her feet as hard as she could as she marched across the worn,
threadbare carpet before flopping sideways onto her bed, landing in the middle
of an ocean of soft, well-cuddled stuffed toys.
Dramatically, she flipped over onto her stomach, grabbed Mr. Bunny Butt
and she buried her face in the rabbit's overstuffed belly in order to muffle the
sounds of her outraged screams. As accompaniment, she kicked her legs wildly
and every muscle in her tiny frame went rigid with rage.
As her temper tantrum eventually ran out of steam, she slumped weakly and
released the ears of the beleaguered rabbit, tossing him callously to the side.
She sighed and rolled over on her back.
She had never been grounded before. Not really. She had been sent to her room
on several occasions but only for an hour or two at a time and even then she hadn't
really minded. This room was her sanctuary. When she first came to live here 10
years ago, this room had seemed like a fairy tale.
The chaotic years with her mother had seen them living in motels or charity houses.
Often between jobs, what little money they had went to alcohol and drugs. The ache
of an empty stomach was a feeling the small girl knew well. When the lady from the
CPS paid them a visit, her mother decided some choices had to be made and she sat
down with Alexandria to explain the facts of a cruel life.
Hope had said that she was stuck in the bottom of the barrel and if she was ever
going to get herself straight, she needed to do it alone. She showed Xani an airline
ticket to London where she said that Grampa Giles would take her in and help her
get on her feet but that she couldn't do it with a baby in tow. She told of a grand-
mother Xani never met, and Hope promised that as soon as she could, she would
send for her daughter.
Xani cried and hung on her mother's shirttail, begging her to take her along. But
Hope had made her decisions and no amount of pleas or tears would sway her.
The very next day everything they owned was packed into tattered suitcases.
Hope's property in the two large ones and Xani's in the small one. A male friend
of Hope's drove them for two days till they arrived in the small village in Ohio.
Hope had knocked on the door, shoved the frightened child toward the startled
older woman and without so much as a by-your-leave, turned to go. Chasing the
retreating figure out onto the front porch, the older woman and Xani's mother
argued in muted, muffled tones behind a closed door while the small girl stood,
apparently forgotten, on shaky, spindly legs in the strange house. Within minutes,
her grandmother returned, sighed and put an arm around the scared little girl.
"Hi, Xani. I'm your gramma and we are going to do just fine."
From that day on, her life improved. Her gramma was everything her mother was
not. She was kind, quiet, patient and loving, and together they converted the small
side room into a safe haven where the child could find consistency and solace.
Gramma had let her pick the pink paint for the walls and, hand in hand, they had
shopped for a special quilt and small items that made this space her own. Over
the years, the posters on the walls changed from My Little Pony to the latest boy
band, and the prized possessions on the shelves shifted to make room for the
cheerleading trophies and a blue ribbon won for a 4-H cherry pie.
Despite its various transformations over the years, this room had always been her
comfort zone. Her fortress of solitude. Till now. Now it was a cell in Alcatraz.
It was a round stone room in the Tower of London. It was a dungeon, and it
amazed her that she had never realized till now just how small and claustrophobic
it had become.
Depression and anger made moving her body difficult but finally, with great effort,
she slid off the bed and walked over to sit at her vanity table. She stared at herself
in the mirror and tipped her head to the side. She lifted her fingers and traced the
outline of her facial reflection, wondering for the millionth time why she couldn't
see her own aura like she did everyone else's. It was there. She was certain of
that, but not for her eyes to view.
Then, as she continued to stare into the looking glass, a realization dawned. She
wasn't a baby anymore. She was very nearly a grown woman and she was in love.
She was in love with a man who was head over heels for her. So much so that
he sat for hours as she talked about herself. He hung on every word, fascinated
by her in a way no one had ever been before.
The look in his gentle brown eyes and the glow of his aura told the story. He was
more than smitten. He was a goner. Xani shivered in delight at the knowledge,
then just as quickly, her face went somber. What to do about it. That was the
all-consuming question. Immediately she jumped to her feet, knocking over the
small vanity chair, and determination ruled her mind.
She needed to get out of here. She needed to be with her Alex. She needed a
Willow sat at the small breakfast table in the kitchen and listened as Xani had
stomped, yelled and raised sand overhead. In all the years the girl had been with
her they had never argued like this and Willow was scared to death. It was the
carnival, she was certain. The evil influence of the carnival was touching her life
And the ironic part? It was Willow's fault they were here. She had, through her
magic, determined that this was an eventual stopping place for the travelling show
and she had come here to wait. Well, as they say, be careful what you ask for.
When the 'BANG' of what sounded like a chair hit the floor overhead, Willow
jumped to her feet and reached for the phone. Giles might not be able to give her
any physical help, but right now she had no one else to call for counsel. At
10 AM here, she estimated, it would be 4 PM there. Tea time. Perfect.
"Hope, it's me again. Let me speak to Giles."
"I'm sorry, Mother, but....."
"Damn it, Hope, stop being such a brat. You are right. I was a terrible mother
so hate me if you want, I don't care, but just for once set aside your petty, hurt
feelings. I need Rupert. Now!"
Hope's arrogant, snotty attitude fell off her shoulders at the sound of vulnerability
and fear in her mother's voice.
"What is it? What's happened? Oh, God, Mom, is it Xani? Is she...."
"No! No, Xani is alright. Please, Hope, I need your father."
With no more argument or delay, Hope took the phone to Giles and she backed
out of the room. She then hurried to the kitchen and gently lifted the handset from
the receiver, catching the narrative in midsentence.
"........broke her promise and went there. Oh God, Giles, it was everything I
remembered. The evil is so thick in the air you could cut it with a knife and it has
already touched her. Please, Rupert. Tell me what to do. Give me a spell. I
can still do it. I have most of the things I need in the attic and..........."
"And what, Willow? You would attempt magic with old, outdated ingredients and
unused crystals? No. You, of all people should know how dangerous that is. It
has been too many years and you could cause Xani harm. Listen, as soon as I
hang up I will call the airlines and book two tickets for you and the girl to come
to London. Stay here for a week or two until the carnival is long gone. It is the
only way, Willow. Trust me. It is the best way."
Willow clutched the phone tightly in her hand and she nodded, trusting that Giles
could hear her nonanswer as an agreement. He apparently did, as he sighed in
"Good. Good. It's the best thing, my dear. The only thing. Now quickly, pack
some things up and go to the airport. Your tickets will be waiting. Oh, and Willow......
it will be good to see you."
Willow knew the unspoken conclusion of that last line was.....'one last time.' Giles
was old and sick and she would miss him very much when he was gone. Despite
it all, he would always be in her heart.
"I'm looking forward to it. Thank you, Rupert. Thank you."
Willow hung up the phone and allowed herself a weak smile of relief. Everything
would be all right after all. She was certain of it.
Quietly, Hope replaced the receiver and she frowned. It was time for a heart-to-heart
with her father. She was sick of the years of secrets and now she would have answers.
Gently, Xani hit the off button on the phone in her grandmother's room and she too
scowled at the conspiracy that swirled, surrounding and threatening her future.