Carnival of Rust
: I don't own Buffy and Co, that's Joss's playground. I also don't own Johnny Smith. He belongs to Stephen King and Michael & Shawn Piller (book and TV show, respectively)
~~~~~~~ Chapter One - Carnival of Rust [Ethan’s Costume Shop]
Dejected, Xander watched as a junior high school boy walked off with the last toy rifle. He searched in vain for another rifle but came up empty. He was about to give up and rejoin the girls when someone grabbed his shoulder.
Xander jumped and spun around, instinctively starting to defend himself from any unseen danger when he realized that the one gripping his shoulder was an apparently innocuous man who had a sly smile on his face.
“Last one got away, eh?” he asked, his British accent distinct. “The name’s Ethan and this is my store. Perhaps we can find something else for you.” Xander shrugged, still looking disappointed. Ethan pressed on, paying no attention to the boy’s disinterest. “Did you have any other costume ideas?”
Xander merely shook his head, and replied, “I have an old pair of fatigues from the Army Surplus store. I really didn’t put much thought into it.”
Ethan nodded absently before glancing around his store. “Hmm, let me see if I can help you out…”
The costume issue momentarily out of his hands, the teen perked up a bit. “Cool accent, by the way. I know someone who talks like that.”
Ethan, still paying little attention to the teen, merely said “Oh?”
Xander, starting to get interested in the idea of a new costume, replied “Yeah! Our school librarian, Giles, er, Mr. Giles.”
At the name, Ethan’s head whipped around in shock. Luckily, Xander had been looking in a different direction. Ethan’s face split into a wide, evil grin as his mind settled on an idea. “Tell me, son, do you read Stephen King?”
The young man shook his head, thinking ‘No way. Hit’s too close to home.’ Aloud, he said, “No. Why?”
Ethan placed a guiding hand against Xander’s back and directed him towards a far corner of the store, saying “I think I have just the thing for you, at a very reasonable price…”[Later That Night]
John Smith shook his head to clear it. ‘Wow. That’s a new feeling.’ He looked up at all the chaos around him, his eyes widening. ‘Must be a vision.’ he thought, looking around for a clue as to the source of the mayhem. He did a quick 360° before noticing that a redhead seemed to be talking to him. He kept looking around, his head slowly clearing, until he noticed that this didn’t feel like a vision. With that realization, the sounds around his body came rushing back.
“Xander?!” the redhead half shouted.
The psychic shook his head to clear the cobwebs. “I’m sorry, miss. I think you have me confused with someone else. My name is John Smith.” He strode forward, bracing his cane for the pain. When it never came, John looked around, confused again. He caught his reflection in a nearby shop window that hadn’t been broken yet. The image looking back was light years different from his own. Dark brown hair and eyes had replaced his blonde locks and blue eyes and the body was years younger than his own.
The girl’s voice interrupted his inspection, “Miss, what is going on here?” he asked, harshly interrupting her rant. Before she could answer, a scream pierced the already chaotic night.
The two took off, or rather the red-head did. As Johnny took a step, he realized that even though the pain was gone, the limp wasn’t. He caught up with the girl who was now standing next to another girl; she had dark hair like his and was dressed up as an English Noblewoman.
Looking at the pair, he realized what the redhead was wearing. “Not garish enough to be Las Vegas…” he said, partially to himself. She looked at him, puzzled before noticing where he was gesturing. She turned bright pink and tried to cover herself. Johnny turned as the still screaming girl grabbed for Johnny’s arm
“Monster!” she yelled, pointing at a passing vehicle.
“Uh, no. SUV.” Johnny replied, trying to keep away. The girl finally managed to latch onto his arm and the shocking jolt of a vision overwhelmed him. - There were two separate visions. One was humdrum. The dark-haired girl taking dancing lessons, before that view was overlapped and finally overtaken by a blonde girl who was a mirror image of the noblewoman; she was kicking and punching a group of men before jamming a sharpened piece of wood into the heart of one of the mob. John stared, horrified, until the man crumbled into dust-
Johnny came out of the vision to hear the dark-haired girl, ‘Buffy’ his subconscious reminded him, asking if he would protect her. A baffled look appeared on the man’s face.
As he brought a hand to his head, he asked, incredulously “Protect you?” He looked at the redhead and asked again, “What the hell is going on here?” The girl looked as confused as he did, so John reached out to find out the answer on his own. His hand passed through her arm and Johnny was assaulted with another vision. He only saw flashes, bits and pieces, but two names stuck out at him.
As he came out, he could feel a warm liquid on his upper lip. “Oh, my God, Xander! Your nose!”
Brushing the blood away, Johnny stared into the redhead’s eyes. “Listen, Willow, right?” Willow stared at him in confusion, but nodded. “Find Giles…Tell him that Ethan is in town. Everyone that bought anything from him is turning into their costumes. Tell him it’s the statue that’s the focus! Do you understand?”
Willow only stared at him in confusion. “How do you…”
Johnny cradled his head in his right hand, and glared up at her. “Never mind that now. Just go!”
As Willow ran off, Buffy screamed again. John spun to see a group of people approaching, a thin, bleach-blonde man leading them.
“Look everyone,” he said, his face deforming grotesquely, “The Slayer and her whelp.” Johnny positioned himself in front of the girl, and the man laughed evilly. “Isn’t that cute? The Pup’s trying to play with the big dogs!”
Suddenly, Johnny moved, his cane flashing in the dim light. He struck the Brit a harsh blow with the heavy cane head, sending him stumbling backwards. His next swing was caught in a grip like a steel trap. The man beside the blonde dragged him closer, and dealt him a crippling blow to the solar plexus. John’s air whooshed from his lungs at once, and sent him to the ground, gasping.
Once he had enough air, he shouted hoarsely to Buffy, “Run!” The frightened girl took flight, disappearing into the night. Johnny felt himself being hauled to his feet as the rest of the mob ran after the girl. The British man grabbed the young man’s lapels and pulled him until they were almost nose to nose.
“Boy, you’ll pay for that. But, if I want to feed from your precious Buffy, I need to catch up with my boys. I’ll find you.” As he finished speaking, the blonde pivoted on his hips and threw Johnny almost headfirst into the brick wall behind them.
As he passed, John’s fingertips brushed the man’s cold hand. He saw what would happen to Buffy when they caught up, and realized what he was up against. The shock of the vision and the back of his head impacting against the mortar and bricks of the wall made him black out.
Johnny felt warm and safe. The only problem was that a tiny voice wouldn’t stop saying his name. The voice only got more insistent until he opened his eyes and saw Willow standing over him.
“John! Oh, thank God, you’re awake. Where’s Buffy?”
The young man’s head instantly cleared and he checked his watch. “There’s not much time. Panic later.” he said as he picked himself off the ground.
“Wait…what? Not much time for what?” Willow asked, staring at John’s retreating back, before following.
As soon as he saw the warehouse, John knew he had found the place. On the trip over, he had removed the metal foot on his wooden cane, and he used it to stake the guard at the front door. He threw open the metal doors and jogged up the stairs. John just hoped that he wasn’t too late.
Spike had been trying to find that elusive Slayer for almost an hour. He was beginning to get frustrated and it was showing as he overturned boxes and long tables, cursing. Finally, he caught a strong scent and smiled. It was going to be a good night after all.
Quietly, Johnny slowly made his way through the abandoned warehouse, dispatching vampires when he could. Eventually, he caught up with the bleached vamp, ‘Spike,’ he reminded himself, as the vampire stalked an unknowing Buffy. With his attention on the cowering girl, Spike never heard John sneaking up behind him.
“Gotcha!” Spike shouted, grabbing the helpless Slayer. Her eyes got as big as saucers, before they rolled back and she finally fainted from fright. As Spike lowered his mouth to her neck, he felt a heavy blow on his shoulder. He turned, growling at the offender, positioning the Slayer between them. Johnny hefted his cane, looking for an opening to destroy the vampire.
“You’re going to wish you were never born, boy.” Spike sneered, moving to keep Buffy in the line of fire.
John merely smiled, “And you’re going to wish I came alone.”
Spike’s eyes widened as he heard the almost silent scrape of a foot along the floor. The fist across his chops buckled his knees, but he kept his balance and scurried backwards. John swung around, keeping Spike away from the stairs as Spike looked at his attacker. Angel’s growling visage stepped into the light. The blonde vampire’s mind reeled as he tried to think of a way out of this jam, when he heard the Whelp try to move behind him, his thrice-blasted cane held out like a stake. Spike stepped forward, dancing out of the line of fire, his brain rapidly searching for someway, anyway out.
Suddenly, Spike grinned and spun, launching the unconscious slayer towards the window, while throwing a disabling shot at Angel. John dropped the cane and jumped in front of Buffy. As they collided, John felt himself fading away as the spell keeping him here ended.
Xander, unable to stop Buffy’s momentum, was carried with her out the window. Only by sheer luck was he able to grab the sides of the window, perched precariously just outside.
“Buffy…” he managed to choke out, “Buffy, wake up.” Looking down at the three story fall into a sunroof below him, ahead at the cackling Spike advancing on them and the growling Angel rushing Spike, he made a decision. Xander let go and shoved Buffy back inside.
Xander closed his eyes as he saw the sunroof rocketing at him. He was bleeding badly as he hit the heavy wooden boxes, and just before the darkness surrounded him, his last thought was, ‘God, I hope I did the right thing.’
And silence prevailed.
Years passed, friends lived and died, and this little blue ball of a planet kept turning. And Xander slept.