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.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
The minute the door had opened, Hope's eyes landed on the young girl beside her
mother and she was sickened and shamed to realize that she was not instantly
certain whether or not the girl was her own.
Her automatic response was, as always, twisted into an anger born of guilt which she
tried to deflect from herself and onto the one person she felt should shoulder all the
"Well, nice to see you too, Mother."
Willow huffed out a breath of disbelief and exasperation. Her wayward daughter
certainly had the worst timing in the history of awkward appearances. Past practice
told Willow how this dialog was supposed to play out. She would humbly bend over
backwards in an attempt to right all the perceived wrongs of a lifetime of poor
mothering, and Hope would toss her apologies back in her face. The irony of her
own abandonment of her child seemed to escape both women.
Right now, however, Willow had no time for this game or interest in any further
self-flagellation. It was a mental exercise she had long ago abandoned. Her days of
kicking herself for her lack of maternal leanings was past and, frankly, she believed
that Hope, too, needed to grow the fuck up and move on with her life.
"Oh, for Pete's sake, Hope. If you came all this way just to pick up a conversation
that we should have put to rest years ago, then I hope your fucking ticket was a
round trip one. Xani is missing, and we think she has run off to the carnival to be
with a boy she met there."
Before she could shove the surprise visitor aside, Hope's expression instantly softened
and even took on a faint look of regret and shame. Connie stood, mouth hanging open
and in a state of shock. Xani seldom spoke of her mother and Connie knew her
friend hadn't seen this woman in years. It was an astounding situation that only served
to accentuate the fact that Xani was not here to share in it.
"Look, you two seem to have unresolved issues so why don't you just stand here and
bicker-pick at each other like a couple old hens and while you do that, I'll be out there
alone, in the dark, searching for my friend!"
Hope quickly recovered her sense of priority and gave the girl a snap of the head
in agreement. Without being invited in, she pushed past Willow and tossed her
suitcase and purse into the house before turning back to her mother.
"She's right, Mom. Dad told me everything. I know that you and Xani are in some
sort of trouble and Dad seems to think you know what to do. I'm just here to help.
You are my....family after all. He gave me the crib note facts of the history of the
carnival and what happened when you were a teenager. Jesus, Mom, don't you think
that is the kind of thing I should have known about you?"
Willow quickly pulled the door shut behind them and grabbed Connie's hand as they
all rushed toward Willow's car.
"Yeah well, the time just never seemed to come up when the discussion of witches,
demons, and vampires was appropriate."
Hope hurried behind them and she placed a tentative hand on her mother's shoulder
before tipping her head in Connie's direction. She was confused that the teenager didn't
seem the least bit rattled at the talk of such outrageous fairy-tale creatures.
When they reached the car, Connie grabbed for the passenger's door as she looked
back at the woman she disliked for causing her friend so much misery.
"I call shotgun and don't worry about me. I know all about stuff like that. Maybe
if you spent time with Xani and Miss R, you would have known too."
Automatically, Hope flared with fury at the snotty brat and a dozen acid retorts spilled
from her brain to land with a plop on her tongue. But before she could spit them out,
she checked herself, snorted and jumped in the back seat.
"Yeah, you are probably right. So, ladies, what is the plan? How do we save our
Alexandria and stop this evil carnival? Um, you do have a plan, don't you?"
Willow threw the car into gear, floored the gas pedal and squealed the tires as her
passengers grabbed for their seatbelts.
"Oh, I have a plan all right. We are going to drag her out of there and then when
they think we are long gone, we burn the fucking thing to the ground!"
Hope flailed about and clutched the back of the driver's seat as her mother took
the turn at the corner of Thornfield and Rochester on two wheels. This was NOT
the woman she knew! The profanity, the daring and courage as she led the charge
into dangerous territory sent a surge of pride through her for the mother she had
so often dismissed as boring and stupid.
Although only 6:30 in the evening, it was already pitch-black outside as a heavy
cloud cover blocked out the moon and stars and gave the cold night air a frightening,
In the front seat Willow and Connie spoke in low informative tones about Xani and
the history of the auras. Connie told her that Xani had first explained it several years
ago and that no one else knew. Xani had said that she didn't want people, her
grandmother included, to think she was a freak.
Over the years, whenever they met anyone new, Connie always counted on Xani to
tell her what kind of person they were and Xani was never wrong. A liar was a liar
and a person's colors could not hide what a fake smile could. Silently, without
interjecting, Hope listened from the back, only partially comprehending what they
were saying but understanding that there was a lot going on that yesterday she
never would have believed.
Within minutes, the mood in the car shifted from false calm to downright tense, and
Hope realized that they must be nearing their destination. All conversation ceased
and the car slowed considerably. Leaving the main highway, they pulled onto a
smaller side street and then, after approximately one mile, they turned onto a
gravel road which ended in a large field that was obviously being used as a parking
Hope craned her head to look between the two women in the front seat and off in
the distance she spotted the colored lights twinkling on the perimeters of a collection
of tents and small buildings.
Willow eased the wheel and she parked in the last row. She then turned with her
arm flung over the back of her seat and she spoke to both her companions.
"OK, the plan is simple. Connie, I don't want you inside the carnival and we
need someone to stay with the torches. We will take them from the trunk around
to the far side of the field where we can't be seen and we will set them and the
gas can there. Hope, you and I are going to go in as if we are there to have a good
time. We search every inch of the carnival, and I have a pretty good idea where to
start. When we find Xani, we get her out. I would prefer she came willingly, but to
be honest, I don't care if I have to knock her in the head and drag her out. I think
a threat of calling the law over an underaged girl and the term statutory rape should
prevent any of them from stopping us. Any questions?"
Connie twisted the friendship ring she wore that matched Xani's and her anxiety
grew by leaps and bounds at the thought of being out there in the dark alone.
Especially now, after being told what sort of things crept around when the sun sets.
"Gosh. Can't I go with? I mean, wouldn't it be better if we all stayed together?"
Willow took both the young girl's cold hands in hers and she looked her in the eye.
"Listen, Connie, I know how you feel. In fact I know exactly how you feel because
when I was your age, I was in the same spot and I was scared to death. Unfortunately,
back then my friends and I failed to stop the carnival and that is why this is happening
now. So I know you are frightened, I'm frightened too, but I'm more frightened of
failing again and losing someone else I love. My hesitation led to the carnival escaping
and I don't know how many people over the last 38 years have died because we failed.
I carry the weight of all their deaths on my back and it has to stop tonight."
Connie lifted her head and conjured up a weak smile. She was still scared shitless
but there was no way she would be sitting here in another thirty years with the guilt of
countless innocent people weighing down her shoulders.
"I'm all right. Come on, let's get the stuff ready and find a place to set up. Time's
wasting, and Xani needs the cavalry whether she wants us or not."
In the back seat, under the cloak of darkness, Hope sat silently as the tears ran
freely down her cheeks to drip off her chin. Suddenly, so much about her mother
made sense and she was flooded with regret for all the time they had lost on
misunderstanding and misplaced emotions. Failure must run in the family because
right now, Hope was crushed under it.