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The Carnivorous Carnival

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Spike parked his DeSoto half a mile away from the vacant lot and lit up a cigarette, waiting for the last dwindling rays of the sun to vanish behind the trees before heading out on his mission. He had hours, of course, but he’d been awake since noon, pacing his crypt, and he was bloody well sick of the company of his own thoughts, that was what.

Not that sitting in his car was any better, he supposed, but at least while he was driving he could pretend to concentrate on something other than how much he’d buggered everything up.

He’d kissed her.

He hadn’t meant to – he knew she wasn’t meant for him, that he was a monster, but she’d been treating him like a friend, like a partner, like a man for months, ever since they’d gotten that nasty Glory business squared away, and there she’d been, sitting beside him on the porch, laughing and bruised and bloody gorgeous, and then somehow her lips had been soft and sweet against his, and if it hadn’t been completely unbelievable he would have sworn she was actually kissing him back for a bit there – but then she’d pulled away and looked at him, her eyes wide with horror, and run on into the house and… he had fled as well, back to the safety of his crypt where he could stare at the dead stone walls and reassure himself that that was where he belonged, among the dead, not mucking about with a living woman, no matter how brilliant and strong and exciting she was, and then that had been too much and he’d scarpered off again to the back room of Willy’s, where he’d learned he had apparently forgotten how to cheat now that he was fighting alongside and chatting with and bloody snogging the bloody slayer.

But god how she kissed!

He closed his eyes for just a moment, tilting his head back and letting the smoke trickle out of his mouth as he relived it, the good part at least, the part before he’d had to admit it’d been a bloody wrong call, like so many of the decisions he’d made over the course of his long existence.

Such as the reason he was headed to a vacant lot at sundown with a basket of bloody kittens.

And… well, the sun was down now.  No reason to delay any further. He crushed out his cigarette in the DeSoto’s overflowing ashtray and took one last peek at the wriggling contents of the basket riding shotgun before he shut the lid firmly and stepped out of the car, turning to stride towards the vacant lot where he was due to meet his loan shark.

Except, as he approached, Spike couldn’t help but notice that the lot was… significantly less vacant than he remembered from his last loan payment. It was, in fact, full right to the edges with striped tents, nightmarishly blinking lights, and rickety-looking rides. The overwhelming smell of deep-fried foods floated on the breeze, and from the depths of the hubbub came the tinkling sounds of a calliope playing some bloody circus tune.

Spike stood agog for a long moment, basket of squirming capitalized interest dangling forgotten from his arm.

“What the bloody hell?”

*

“I’m telling you, it has to be evil!”

Giles cast the barest glance at Buffy, keeping his attention on the road. “Yes, Buffy, I do believe we are all agreed on that point. A circus of this magnitude turning up on the Hellmouth overnight is unlikely to be benign. However, my actual question was, why do you insist on a frontal assault at this very moment? A little more research…”

Buffy interrupted. “No dice, Giles. What if this carnival is actually eating people? Do you know how many kids it could get in one night with the lure of funnel cakes and crappy rides? This is way more important than patrol.”

There was something in her tone of voice that didn’t ring quite true, but Giles couldn’t argue with her logic. “In that case, let us move on to the next question. Why, if this carnival is guaranteed to be evil, are they all tagging along?”

Willow’s voice piped up from the back seat of the convertible, where the Scoobies were squashed like marshmallows. “Funnel cakes and crappy rides?”

Giles cast a disgusted look over his shoulder, to which Willow quirked a smile.

“I mean they’re probably evil funnel cakes and crappy rides, but we can’t just send Buffy out to face those funnel cakes alone. She needs backup, and we are so willing to throw ourselves on the deep-fried-dessert grenade.” Her voice faltered. “Unless it’s actually, you know, a deep-fried grenade, in which case we will probably, um, run.”

“Xander’s prepared to resist the evil deep-fried goodness,” Anya piped up. “He’s been eating Hostess Cupcakes this whole time, to counteract their diabolical attraction.”

A muffled noise from the back seat was probably Xander agreeing through a mouthful of revolting snack cake, but Giles refused to turn and verify that fact, as he preferred not to vomit while driving.

Buffy sighed in exasperation. “Don’t worry, Giles. I’m sure whatever this Carnival of Creepy has to offer, we can handle it. And you never know, it might not be evil.”

“And here I thought four in the back seat was stupidly optimistic.”

*

Ethan Rayne gazed upon his scrying pool, regarding his grand creation with deep satisfaction. It was amazing what one could do with exactly the right artifacts and a rather large dose of creative inspiration.

He hoped his dear old friend Rupert would appreciate the accomplishment.

Truth be told, it hadn’t been all that hard. There had already been a fly-by-night traveling circus meandering down the California coast, so the raw materials had been there. All Ethan had needed to do was… extrapolate. Embellish. Add a sprinkling of dimensional portals, a dash of whimsy, and a hefty dollop of chaos magic, and set it all on the Hellmouth to simmer.

Or, more likely, to boil over.

The best part was, even Ethan himself didn’t know what might happen within the boundaries of his magical fête. That was the beauty of chaos; you didn’t need to fuss over getting any specific results, measuring ingredients and practicing accents and researching the bloody joy out of everything, you just… stirred the pot to see what bubbled up. All Ethan had to do now was sit back and watch the fun.

He couldn’t wait.

*

Buffy drummed her fingers on her thighs as they approached the evil carnival. She was antsy and on edge, and she kept telling herself it was because they were heading into peril, but… It was because they were heading into peril. It was.

It totally wasn’t because she was avoiding… patrol. Patrol was what she was avoiding, or rather what she wasn’t avoiding, because she wasn’t being avoidy at all, she was one-hundred-percent non-avoidy-girl, because there really wasn’t anyone to avoid anyhow, and the whole point was, evil carnival.

Probably-evil carnival.

Whatever.

Her little litany of convincing-herself got her all the way to the parking area at the front of the carnival and out of the car, but then of course the house of aces-and-eights came tumbling down around her ears when they all made their way to the entrance, and there he was.

Spike.

The guy she was one-hundred-percent not trying to avoid.

He was staring up at the carnival with an expression somewhere between disgust and confusion, a lidded picnic basket draped incongruously over his arm, and Buffy froze in her tracks, because… it was weird. It was just too weird, and for a brief panicked second she thought maybe she could make a break for it, accede to Giles’s suggestion of more research and leave the carnival-busting for another night, but then Willow called out a greeting.

Spike turned in shock, then shrugged and sauntered in their direction, greeting the other girls and clapping Xander on the back – making him spit out cupcake bits – and trading some snarky insult with Giles, and Buffy still hung back a bit.

Because, well… things had been weird between them – or would have been weird, if she had seen him, so mostly just weird in her head – since the other night. No, she corrected herself – because pedantry was a fantastic distraction when someone you totally weren’t avoiding showed up unexpectedly to put the kibosh on the not-avoiding-thing – things had been weird between them since…

 

Choose a Buffy episode:

Blood Ties GO TO CHAPTER 6

Triangle GO TO CHAPTER 24

I Was Made to Love You GO TO CHAPTER 51

Spiral GO TO CHAPTER 84