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.
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.
Left standing at the entrance of the carnival, Xani stood with her mouth hanging open
and her eyes bugged wide. She took one step forward then two steps back as she
watched Alex disappear into the darkness. Curiosity pushed her forward but caution
held her back. She hadn't heard what was said to him but she knew it must have
been really bad news.
Gripped with indecision and the need to help, she suddenly spun on her heels and
ran as fast as her legs would carry her. Back through the midway, past the food tents
and around the merchants' buildings, she dashed, her heart pumping and her lungs
straining, down the long, dark, forbidden path of games till she reached the last one.
Then, without pausing for questions or explanations, she shouted,
"Spike! Hurry! Alex needs help!"
And she turned, knowing the small blond man with no aura of his own would be hot
on her heels. Together, exchanging curt one-word questions and responses, they
made their way rapidly toward the entrance and out into the parking lot where
Spike suddenly stopped and tipped his head, listening. Xani panted and gasped for
air as she searched his face for what to do next. It didn't take long. Within seconds,
Spike's arm shot up and he pointed off to the side.
This time when they ran, Xani felt as though she were standing still as Spike easily
sprinted off in a speed she would not have believed possible, while her young legs
pumped and her feet pounded in an effort to keep up.
The instant Spike had zeroed in on the distinct heartbeat of his pet, Spike rushed
blindly toward it. The simple answers the girl had given his queries really gave him
no indication of who or what had dared threaten his pet, but that didn't matter
because someone would die for simply causing him concern.
As they turned the corner at the side of the entrance, Spike's vision pierced the
darkness and he saw and smelled several humans and one vamp. The faint scent
of dust that whiffed down to tickle the sensitive hairs in his nose told that there had
been other vampires that he could scratch off the payroll ledger.
Like a stag clearing the odor of human intrusion from his nostrils, Spike snorted,
flushing the irritating dust particles from his sinuses. And when he did, another familiar
smell took its place. Human women. Three of them. One of which was
expelling fertile blood. In another time and place, and if Spike were a lesser, more
weak-willed vampire, that would have sent him into a shark's feeding frenzy.
But this smell didn't spur his hunger or drive his maniacal urge to slaughter and kill.
Instead the scent of another curled in his stomach in fear. It was the smell of the
old woman. The one who had come to him with his pet's name on her tongue,
and the memory of her that Spike knew still lived in Xander's heart.
She was the threat he had always lived with.
She was the witch that could spin the magic that needed no spell and lure his boy
away. She held the first precious years of his life in her fist. Years that should have
been Spike's. Years she can use like a carrot to dangle in front of his face and lead
Spike closed the remaining distance between them with an earth-shuddering yowl
as he watched Phil explode into a cloud of dust that twinkled and sparkled in
the slight sliver of moonlight. And then it happened. His worst nightmare came true.
Just as he reached his beloved Xander, his pet turned from him and the old woman
flew into his arms, collected and accepted by his pet's warm embrace.
Seconds later Xani skidded to a stop, nearly slamming into Spike's rigid back.
What she saw was a confused jumble of characters playing parts in a production
whose plot she apparently missed completely. She knew the darkness had distorted
her vision, but she could have sworn she saw a man poof off in a puff of dust particles
and she would have questioned and pondered the oddity of that if the picture she was
now looking at weren't much stranger.
It was the same thing Spike was staring at. It was her grandmother clinging to
Xander and he was hugging back just as hard. And they were both crying.
Easing closer to the small blond man, Xani's hand lifted marginally with the intent
to touch his shoulder begging an understanding. However, before the tips of her
fingers could make contact with the black t-shirt, Xani tore her eyes from the strange
embrace and she turned to Spike. The expression on his face left her mute and her
hand rapidly drew back. His face was the mask of devastation. It was fury born
of fear and sorrow. It was a face that told her that there was an incredible history
between these two that left the rest of the world outside.
So totally consumed with the odd scene in front of her, Xani barely noticed the other
two people who remained off to the side. She was only tugged from her trance when
she felt her sweater being jerked on and a voice hoarsely calling her name.
"Xani. Xani. Hey, Xani!"
Her head snapped to the side and she nearly sobbed with relief at the familiar face.
Somewhere in the back of her head a little brain cell registered that her best friend must
have dropped a dime on her, broke her promised confidence, and that Xani should be
indignant and outraged. Luckily, common sense rode roughshod over stupidity and
pride and she grabbed Connie in a BFF hug of their own.
"Oh my God, Connie. You told on me! Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Relieved, Connie relaxed in her friend's arms and the two girls bounced and jumped up
and down, laughing and kangarooing as if they were five years old. Suddenly, Xani
stopped. Her body went stiff and if she thought her gramma hugging the post love of
her life was the big stunner of the night, she was in for a shock. When she had opened
her eyes and glanced over Connie's shoulder, she stared directly into the face of the
woman standing silently off alone.
Xani felt cold and uncomfortable in her own skin. She stepped back and pushed
Connie away as her eyes never left the figure who waited for the uncertain reaction.
It had been ten years. She had seen pictures sent in Christmas cards of her mother
and grandfather, but a picture had no depth for perception. It is deceptive in dimensions
and lacks a feel of reality.
Xani tipped her head to the side as though that would bring her understanding into a
better clarity. It didn't, and she feared looking foolish if she allowed the word to escape
her mouth and she was wrong. Finally, deciding that tonight was already the night of
the bizarre and unthinkable, Xani took a leap of faith and spoke.
The voice was everything Hope had prayed for. It held no animosity or disgust. It
was soft, gentle and forgiving. It was mature beyond her years and it was a hand that
reached out for a response. Still, she didn't want to press her luck so, with a smile
and a short step forward, Hope wrapped her jacket tightly around herself and she
"Yeah, Xani, it's me."
Xani was swamped with emotion. Her body felt cold and numb, and her arms hung
limply at her sides waiting for instructions from her brain. She wanted to run. She
wanted to stay. She wanted to scream and cry but was unsure if the tears sprang for
anger or joy. Finally, she decided that a good place to start was with a question.
"Why are you here? What do you want?"
Hope snorted. The answers were complicated. They were a dozen chapters in the
book of her life and she was desperate for Xani to understand each one. She was sorry.
She had been stupid, selfish and spoiled. She was too young and now felt too old. She
had been addicted and now was clean. She was ashamed. She was lonely. She missed
her mother. She loved her daughter and wanted to beg her for a small morsel of her life
that Hope knew she didn't deserve.
When all of that swam around in a whirlpool that couldn't be put into words, Hope tried
for a simpler truth that she prayed would be enough.
"I was worried about you. Dad said you were in trouble and I wanted to help."
All heads turned and fresh tears fell as Xani rushed into her mother's arms.