Stalker


by Saber ShadowKitten





Part Four



Buffy woke the following morning to find a sweatpants-clad, sleeping vampire on his side next to her and a hand on her butt. "Figures you'd cop a feel even in your sleep, you old lecher," she said quietly, amusement heavy in her voice. "Luckily, you're pretty damn sexy, so I won't have to hurt you."

She moved his arm, then impulsively ran her fingers over the ridges on his abdomen, grinning when the muscles quivered under her touch. "Make that too damn sexy," she sighed, climbing out of the bed and heading for the stairs.

She dared to peek into the living room and was surprised to find the Christmas tree bare, save for the lights. Two boxes sat on the coffee table and were filled with the ornaments that had been thrown about the back lawn the previous night. Her gifts were stacked neatly on the floor beside the tree.

"You definitely have your moments, Spike," she said in awe. She now knew how he'd wiggled his way into her mother's heart.

Repeating "vampire, vampire, vampire" to herself, she went up the stairs to get cleaned up. Then she was going to redecorate the tree and come up with a plan to capture the creep stalking her.

*****

"I hate waiting," Buffy grumbled, flopping down across her bed with a magazine. She'd sent Spike out to patrol alone and told him to see a movie or something. Her stalker must be aware of their comings and goings, and this would ensure he'd know she was alone in the house. A prime target.

The tree was once again redecorated to her liking, star still on the top, and all her gifts were set out under it. Her afternoon had been spent in the traditional Christmas fashion of baking cookies -- and eating cookie dough until she became sick to her stomach - and through it all, she'd formulated and discarded plan after plan until she had the perfect one.

The back door had been left unlocked and rigged with the simple "bucket over the door" prank. The bucket was filled with chocolate syrup, which would not only leave dark footprints but was easy to clean up, too. A little bell had been attached to the bucket, enabling her to hear when it opened. The front door was locked, as were all the windows save the one in her bedroom, which was not only unlocked, but open as well.

The plan was to allow the stalker to enter the house and, while he was being covered by chocolate, Buffy would exit through her window and block his retreat. Simple, effective and she couldn't wait for the guy to show. She was looking forward to pounding him in a Spike-like fashion.

Four hours later, she was still waiting. She read her magazine, watched some television and even started to redecorate her bedroom. Spike would more than likely be returning at any time and her easy target status would decrease.

Buffy sighed and took another butterfly off the wall. She added it to the shoe box filled with the others she'd already removed. If something didn't happen soon, she was going to scream.

The power went out.

"Great," Buffy grumbled, setting the shoe box on her bed. She walked over to her window and looked out, wondering how much of the block lost their power.

Her neighbor's lights were on.

Suspicion and wariness flared and she quickly left her bedroom for her mother's room. Pushing aside the curtains slightly on the side window, she looked out.

Her other neighbor's lights were on.

As were everyone's across the street.

A slow, predatory smile crossed her face. "So, you think cutting the power to my house is going to frighten me, huh?" she said quietly.

Letting the curtains fall back into place, Buffy went out into the hallway and took a seat on the top step, putting her in the center-most position within her house. She closed her eyes and focused solely on listening. Her body was poised and ready, the adrenaline she felt before a big fight gathering within her.

She heard a rasping at the front door and opened her eyes. Rising, she descended the stairs silently and positioned herself in the entryway to the dining room. The doorknob turned and the door began to open. Excitement bubbled up in her.

This was it, the perp was toast, she thought. All she had to do was wait until he entered the house and...

Spike walked through the door. She'd recognize that shock of white-blond hair anywhere.

She attacked anyway.

"Aah!" Spike yelped out, falling to the floor when a five-foot-three blond launched herself at him. He had been startled, but recovered quickly enough to block a punch aimed to his face. "Bloody hell, Slayer, what the fuck has gotten into you?"

"The jerk didn't show," Buffy spat, drawing back to hit him again. "Four fucking hours I've been waiting and now the power is out, but still no one."

Spike twisted and threw her off. He jumped to his feet and glared down at her. "So that means I'm to be your personal punching bag? Sod that."

He stalked toward the kitchen and Buffy stayed on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. She balled her fists. "Argh!" she growled in frustration, hitting the floor on either side of her.

The doorbell rang and she tensed, then smiled. She rose and opened the front door without hesitation, expecting to see another envelope or a package.

She wasn't expecting to see Giles.

"Giles!" Buffy said, surprised. "What are you doing here?"

"We have a-a-a problem," Giles told her. "I tried to telephone, but the line was busy."

"Busy? I haven't had a single...," she trailed off and rolled her eyes. "He must have cut the phone lines, too."

"Pardon?" Giles asked.

"Never mind," Buffy said, waving him inside. The lights went on suddenly and she slumped her shoulders in defeat. "Looks like he's given up for tonight. So, what's the big crisis this time?"

*****

Buffy grabbed the phone on the third ring the following evening, quickly swallowing the cookie bite she'd taken. "'Lo?"

"Hi, honey," Joyce greeted.

"Hi, Mom," Buffy replied. "What's up? Is there a change in time flight time?"

"Actually, yes," Joyce said over the line. "My flight is now coming in at never o'clock."

"What?" she asked in confusion.

"We're snowed in, Buffy," Joyce said. "All flights have been canceled until further notice. It doesn't look like I'll be home tomorrow or for Christmas."

Disappointment coursed through Buffy. "Oh no."

"I know, sweetie," Joyce said. "I'm unhappy, too."

"Couldn't you take a train or something?"

"Everything is shut down, Buffy," Joyce told her. "I can't even get out of the hotel."

"This sucks," Buffy said unhappily. "Big time."

"I agree," Joyce said. "But that doesn't mean you can't still have a good Christmas."

"Are you being sarcastic, Mom?" Buffy said.

"No," Joyce replied. "Go ahead and make the dinner. Most of the food is pre-made in the refrigerator. All you have to do is put the roast in the oven two hours before you want to eat. Then you and Spike can sit down..."

Buffy snorted. "Mom, Spike is not going to want to eat Christmas dinner with me."

"He will and he is," Joyce stated. "I had already told him before I left that he was expected to join us at the table. And you could always invite Rupert over. I'm sure he would appreciate it."

"Maybe," Buffy sighed. "I'd rather have you home."

"Me, too," Joyce said. "Now, my gifts for the two of you are on the top shelf in my closet. Feel free to open them like we normally do on Christmas Eve. And take pictures. I don't think Spike realizes he gets presents, too."

"I think the concept of Christmas is lost on vampires, Mom," Buffy said wryly. "Unless they think 'goodwill towards men' means they only feed on women for the night."

"Very amusing," Joyce commented.

"Isn't it, though?" Buffy teased.

"Alright, on that note, I'm going to tell you I love you and to put Spike on the phone," Joyce said.

"I love you, too, Mom," Buffy said. "Call me tomorrow?"

"Of course," Joyce replied.

Buffy said her disappointed goodbye and set the phone down. Opening the basement door, she yelled, "Spike, Mom wants to talk to you!"

"I'm not deaf, you know," Spike grumbled to her, coming up the stairs.

Buffy headed down the hallway and started to giggle when she heard Spike whine, "But I don't want to get dressed up..."

*****

"Bed, bed, bed, bed, bed," Buffy chanted, stumbling up the stairs. She and Spike had spent the last few hours fighting a possessed Santa and a dozen of his elves outside the Sunnydale Mall. Because they were human, she and Spike couldn't kill them, which made the fight doubly hard, considering the possession gave them extra strength and stamina. Plus, they refused to stay unconscious.

Giles had finally found the spell to de-possess them and sent the confused mall employees home. Of course, several vampires had appeared and decided that Santa and his elves would make a good, hearty meal. By the time the last vampire was dust, she was tired enough to sleep standing up right in the parking lot of the mall.

After a quick stop in the bathroom, she tiredly changed into her pyjamas and climbed into bed. She stared at the white ceiling a moment, then happily gave into the pull of sleep. She immediately started to dream. It was one of those dreams where she knew she was dreaming, but wanted to stay in it to see what would happen.

She was standing on her front porch at night. The houses around her had all their Christmas lights on. Santa and his possessed elves ran by her first, being chased by Giles, who was dressed in a yellow rain slicker and holding a can of Camp Dry, yelling, "You can't come to London unless you waterproof yourselves!"

Her mother walked up to her next, wearing a snowsuit and carrying a roast. "Remember, two hours," she told her. "And don't forget to take pictures."

As Joyce walked away, Spike appeared at the bottom of the steps and smirked. "A great Christmas gift from you to me would be if you shoved your tits in my face again," he said, then looked up at the night sky. "Looks like rain."

Buffy leaned over her porch railing and looked up at the sky. She felt a large drop hit her face and she brought her hand up to wipe the water away. When she returned her eyes to where Spike was standing, he was gone. Another drop hit her face and she wiped at it. She retreated under the porch and looked around, wondering what was next. She felt yet another drop hit her face and she frowned. She looked up and saw someone sitting on an exposed beam.

Startled, Buffy woke up. She opened her eyes and saw that it was three in the morning. With a small groan, she rolled her head on her pillow and looked up at the ceiling.

Her heart stopped.

~~~

Hello Buffy

~~~

The words were scrawled across her ceiling in glow-in-the-dark paint. She sat up quickly and felt something slide down her chest and hit her lap. Reaching over, she snapped on her lamp.

She screamed.

The entire bed was covered in photographs.

Every single one of them was of her.

*****

When Spike heard the scream, the world dropped from under him. Scrambling from his bed, he tore up the basement stairs, terrified for the first time in what seemed like forever. The high-pitched, horrified sound echoed around him and he couldn't run fast enough. He grabbed the end of the banister in the front hallway and used it to catapult himself up the second flight of stairs, stumbling part way up.

He threw open Buffy's bedroom door and saw her sitting up in bed surrounded by hundreds of photographs. Her huge eyes were framed by an ashen face streaked with yellow and she was gasping for breath, a hand pressed to her chest.

He was at her side in an instant, pulling her onto his lap and cradling her against his chest. "Slayer, I'm here. I'm here," he said, rocking her slightly. His eyes caught sight of what the pictures were of and he turned paler than normal. "Oh fuck."

Putting his arm under her knees, Spike stood and quickly carried her out of the bedroom. His mind was whirling. He knew for a fact that he double-checked the locks on all the doors and windows before heading to the basement, save for Buffy's room. He had been awake and reading since then and he hadn't heard a single sound other than the normal noises of the house.

Not wanting to let go of her for an instant, he had to preform some tricky maneuvering to close the basement door behind him before he descended the stairs. He scanned the basement with all his senses, making sure he and Buffy were the only ones there. The furnace went on suddenly and he knew, if he were still human, he would have had to change his shorts.

"Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god...," Buffy began repeating rapidly. Spike could hear her heart slamming in her chest as he rounded the bed and sat down near the fish tank with her in his lap. He hoped the colorful creatures would catch her attention and help calm her down with their lazy swimming. He hoped it would do the same for him.

"Shh, Buffy, you're safe," Spike said, running his hand over the back of her hair. "You're safe. There's no one here but me. Shh. I've got you. I'm here. Shh..."



Part Five



Buffy was awake and trembling in his arms until after daybreak. Even after she'd fallen asleep, Spike loathed to leave her alone. However, he didn't want her to have to return to her bedroom in the condition it was in.

Covering her with the comforter, he made his way upstairs. He knew how to get around in the house during the day without worry of getting char-broiled. He grabbed a garbage bag from under the kitchen sink, then went upstairs to remove the photographs.

He slowly got sicker and angrier with each picture he put in the bag. Every shot captured Buffy in various clothing, places and moods, testifying that the stalker had been watching her for some time. A few of them were of her changing in the bedroom, obviously taken with a telephoto lens due to the blurry image of her blinds at the top and bottom of the photo.

He gritted his teeth and shoved the pictures into the bag. When the last one was gone, he noticed a yellowish stain on her pillow. Examining it closer, he realized it was paint. The same paint that streaked her face.

He turned his eyes to the ceiling and swore fluently. Whomever was doing this was going to pay. But first, he had to take care of Buffy.

*****

Buffy didn't leave Spike's bed until after noon and then it was only after vast prompting by the vampire. He had ordered her to start getting everything ready for Christmas dinner, despite her not being in the holiday mood. She doubted that anything could make this a Merry Christmas for her.

She could count the number of times on one hand since becoming the Slayer she'd been as terrified as she was earlier that morning. The first time she'd slayed a vampire. The first time she'd found out Angel was a vampire. When Sid the dummy had been in her room. When the Master sunk his fangs in her neck. The events surrounding her eighteenth birthday.

Yes, she'd been scared other times, but not the type of fear that reached to the very core of her strength and tested it. She'd been terrified, unable to do anything other than scream and then try to breathe. If Spike hadn't been in the house, she probably would have been hiding in her closet for the rest of winter break.

Spike. Her peroxide-blond hero. She was exceedingly grateful to him for cleaning up her bedroom. She doubted she would have held it together if she'd had to see the photographs again. He had also painted over the words on her ceiling and gone as far as changing the sheets on her bed. Sometimes the things he did shocked her and she would have trouble remembering he was a soulless vampire.

"I look like a soddin' toff," Spike grumbled, pulling at his collar. He picked up the knife and two- pronged fork and began to cut the roast. "The things I do for your mum..."

Buffy looked him over from head-to-toe with a grin on her face. He was wearing a cranberry-colored dress shirt, paisley tie in cranberry, black and gold, and a pair of black, dress chinos. His only protest to dressing up were the Doc Martins the black pants were tucked into on his feet. The clothes were just one of the Christmas presents from her mother Buffy had been told to give to Spike when she'd called at four.

They were in the kitchen, transferring dinner from cooking dishes to her mothers China. The sounds of a choir singing Christmas carols floated from the stereo in the living room. The dining room table was set with a red tablecloth, two lit taper candles, and two place-settings. Buffy had asked Giles to join them, but a friend of his had come up from Los Angeles for the holiday.

The Christmas tree was lit up in the living room, adding to the ambiance of the evening. The number of gifts under the tree had grown once Buffy had added her mother's from her closet. There were also several clumsily wrapped ones that Spike shoved with the others, growling at her when she had arched her brow mockingly.

Buffy picked up two dishes of food and headed for the dining room. She set them down carefully so as not to get anything on her deep red, long-sleeved dress. She smoothed her hands over the soft, form-fitting, ankle-length material and returned to the kitchen. Spike was still grumbling over his clothes, the roast and the holiday in general, causing a smile to cross her lips.

"Alright, Mr. Scrooge, I think you've cut enough," Buffy said. He scowled at her, but set the fork and knife next to the sink. She picked up the plate and headed for the dining room, adding over her shoulder, "Bring the drinks."

"I think Scrooge had the right idea," Spike said, coming into the dining room with two wine glasses in his hands. He set one down at each of their places. "Christmas is a useless holiday designed to get people to spend their hard-earned pounds on frivolous things."

"Since when have you worked to earn money?" Buffy asked mockingly, sitting down in the chair he'd pulled out for her. "Do you have another night job at the local Suds-n-Duds?"

"You are just so bleedin' cute," Spike said, taking his own seat. He looked at the food spread on the table with trepidation. "Now what?"

"Now we say thanks to a higher power neither one of us really believes in any more and dig in," Buffy replied. She picked up her glass and raised it, waiting for Spike to do the same. When he did, she gave a toast. "To my Mom, who's stuck in New York. If it wasn't for her, we'd be doing something much more fun and not with each other."

Spike rolled his eyes, but clinked glasses with her anyway. They each took a sip, then began passing the food back and forth, filling their plates. Conversation revolved around the holiday movies on television and memories if Christmas' past, including those that Spike could remember from when he was still human.

By the time the meal was over, Buffy was pleasantly stuffed and relaxed, the events of the morning disappearing in the enjoyment of the evening. Leaving the dishes at the table to clean up later, they moved to the living room with Egg Nog and cookies for dessert. They decided to wait until her mother came home to open the gifts from her and instead only exchanged personal gifts to one another.

"What's this?" Spike asked, looking at a flat envelope from Buffy.

"Snow tires," Buffy replied sarcastically. She fingered the black onyx teardrop pendant Spike had given her and was now around her neck. She had also gotten a vampire teddy bear, complete with fangs and black cape. Next to him on the chair was a stake she'd carved as a gag gift with his name on it. She'd told him it was either for him to use or for her to use on him.

"Actually, I'd be interested in seeing that trick," Spike said, opening the candy cane-striped envelope. He pulled out a card showing Rudolph holding a shotgun surrounded by the bloody carcasses of other deer. The caption read: "Look who's laughing and calling names now."

Spike chuckled and opened the card. The inside read "Happy Holidays" and was signed: "Love, that Slayer you hate." Two tickets were included and, when he turned them over to see what they were for, he gasped. "Holy fuck, these are Sex Pistols tickets!"

"I take it you like," Buffy said. He nodded enthusiastically and she laughed. "I thought you would. When I saw the article in Entertainment Weekly that they were coming to the U.S., I thought I'd get them to use as a bribe for a future favor."

"Name it," Spike told her immediately. He held the tickets as if they were gold.

"Nah," she replied. "Seeing you act like a total goob is enough for me."

"Cor, pet, this is...thank you," he said.

Buffy smiled. "You're welcome, Spike."

The doorbell rang.

Her smile slowly faded. She stared at the entry to the living room, not moving from her seat on the couch. Her heart started to speed up in her chest and she felt the licks of nervousness inside of her. All her relaxation and good humor disappeared with the single chime of the doorbell.

Spike rose and went to answer the door. When she heard the door open, she almost bolted from the couch. She was not yet prepared to deal with whatever the stalker had planned next.

"Slayer, it's for you," Spike said, returning into view in the entryway to the living room. He gave her a half-smile. "Merry Christmas, luv."

Angel stepped into view.

"Angel," Buffy breathed. She stood on shaky legs and stared at him. When he opened his arms, she was across the room and in his embrace in a second. "I'm so glad your here."

"Well, I'll leave you two alone before I lose my supper," Spike said. He turned and walked into the dining room.

Angel released Buffy and dropped his gaze to her. "How are you doing?"

"Including or not including this week?" Buffy asked. She led him into the living room and they both sat down on the couch. She gave him a thoughtful look. "Not that I'm not happy you're here, but why are you here? There's not something evil happening that I need to change clothes for, is there?"

"Spike called me this morning," Angel answered.

"He called you?" Buffy said, surprised. Angel nodded. "Will you excuse me for a minute?"

She stood and headed into the kitchen, where she could hear Spike doing the dishes. "You called Angel this morning?"

"I like to call him a bloody nonce," Spike replied, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up and his hands in the soapy water. "'This morning' just doesn't have the same ring to it."

She leaned against the counter beside the sink and frowned at him. "Why?"

Spike looked at her and said quietly, "Why do you think, luv?"

Buffy had to blink back her tears. She straightened and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you," she told him softly.

"Go on, then." He gestured with his head. "I'll do the cleanin' up."

She reached over and yanked on his tie. With a smile in response to his scowl, she returned to the living room. "So, what did Spike tell you about my stalker?" she asked Angel, sitting back down on the couch.

"Everything that he knew," Angel replied. "Letters, phone calls, the clapping, the tree, the pictures..."

Buffy shivered and rubbed her arms. "I didn't like that."

"I don't like it, either," Angel said. A hard gleam entered his eyes. "We're going to put a stop to him."

"That's fine by me," Buffy said. "That's very fine by me."

*****

Buffy left the two vampires in the kitchen discussing the stalker at eleven. As she had listened, she was unpleasantly reminded of why Angel was one of the most cruel vampires in recent history. In a span of an hour, he'd come up with all sorts of other things the stalker hadn't done to her in trying to figure out his next step. She was extremely happy she'd only gotten a taste of the soulless version of her ex-boyfriend.

Spike hadn't helped matters, either. He kept interjecting disgustingly graphic ways they could kill the stalker. She had sat there as long as she could until deciding she'd better leave before she became afraid of them.

In her bedroom, she carefully removed her new necklace and set it on her dresser before slipping out of her dress. She put on her robe, grabbed some comfy clothes and headed to the bathroom.

Once there, she unpinned her hair, cracked open the frosted window, then got into the shower. The hot water felt wonderful. She stuck her head under the spray for several minutes and let the water wash away her worries.

Reaching for the shampoo sitting on the window ledge, she poured a good amount of the sweet smelling stuff onto her hand. She absently noted that she was almost out as she went to put it back on the ledge.

A hand came through the window opening and clamped a handcuff around her wrist.

*****

Angel and Spike froze mid-argument when a scream split the air. Chairs flew backwards and the two almost knocked each other down in their rush from the kitchen. Spike hit the stairs first and sprinted up them with Angel at his heels. He didn't pause when he saw the closed bathroom door.

Buffy was crouched up on the sink, her back against the mirror, a bloody hand and wrist clutched to her chest. She screamed again when the door flew open, but threw herself at Spike when she recognized him.

"He's here, he's here, he's here," she squealed in fright, grabbing the front of his shirt.

Spike practically shoved her at Angel, then ran back down the stairs and out the front door. Buffy buried her face against the familiar chest, the strong arms around her body giving her a feeling of protection. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to calm her ragged breathing.

Angel's gaze found the end of a broken handcuff hanging from the window ledge. Fear and anger slammed into him at the same time. Hearing about the stalker and seeing something he did first hand were two entirely different things. If Buffy hadn't been the Slayer or had been home alone... He didn't let himself complete the thought.

Reaching behind the open door, he pulled her robe off the hook and wrapped it around her wet shoulders. He could feel her trembling against him. She was truly afraid, he thought. He was infinitely glad that Spike had called him.

"Um, ow," Buffy sniffed. She stepped back from him slightly and looked at her wrist. Her mind and body was slowly comprehended the fact that she was hurt.

"Here, slide your other arm in," Angel said, holding up one side of her robe. She did as he said, then pulled it closed around her. "Where's the first aid kit?"

"There's one in my room," Buffy told him, her voice shaky.

Angel put his arm around her shoulder and led her towards her room. He pushed open the partially closed door and froze.

Buffy screamed again.

Hanging from a hook in her ceiling was a naked, blond, blow-up doll with her name scrawled across its stomach in red.



Part Six



"Nothing," Spike said in defeat. He shut the kitchen door behind him. "I searched around the area, but the pillock must be part soddin' greyhound."

Buffy and Angel were sitting at the island counter, with the Slayer dressed in the clothing from the bathroom. She had a white bandage around her wrist and a haunted look in her eyes. "He was in my room again," she told Spike.

"What?" Spike shot a disbelieving look at Angel.

"He left a present," Angel said from between clenched teeth.

"Now how the bloody hell did he do that?" Spike said. "We were down here the whole fucking time."

"Through my window," Buffy said, her voice small and slightly scared. "He must have come through my window, put the...put it up, then climbed around to the bathroom to..."

Angel put his hand on her arm and squeezed gently. "It's ok, Buffy."

"It's not ok!" Buffy exclaimed, standing abruptly. "He handcuffed me! If I was here alone, he could have done stuff to me!"

"Luv, you're the Slayer, you would have been ab-"

"Spike, I was terrified!" Buffy yelled. "I couldn't even open the damn bathroom door!"

Angel stood and pulled Buffy into his arms. "Let's get away from 'what ifs,'" he said. "He's gone now and you're alright, that's what's important."

"But I'm not alright," Buffy said, starting to cry. She pressed her face to his chest. "I'm so scared. I hate it."

Angel exchanged an angry look with Spike. At that moment, he would feel no remorse if he were to tear the stalker's head off. After torturing him for days, that was.

"Why don't you two go downstairs," Spike suggested, silently communicating with Angel that he would take care of everything. Angel nodded and led Buffy to the basement.

After the door had closed behind them, Spike slammed his fists down on the island countertop. He was furious that something else happened while they were sitting right there in the kitchen. He hated that Buffy had been frightened. He hated the frightened Buffy, period. He wanted his sarcastic, tough, could kick his ass into next week Slayer back.

*****

Angel opened his eyes when he heard Spike come down the stairs. He was half-sitting, half-laying on the blond vampire's bed, Buffy curled against him, asleep. Whatever awkwardness that should have been between him and Buffy had been displaced. He had sworn to himself when he had left Sunnydale that if she should ever need him, he would be there for her. And here he was.

"She ok?" Spike asked quietly, walking across the basement. He pulled off his tie and tossed it onto the dresser.

"For now," Angel replied, equally as quiet. "But until we get this bastard..."

"She's going to be a scared little twit," he finished. His shirt got thrown into the laundry basket. "Makes me want to kill her."

"Harm one hair on her head and I will rip your heart out through your nose with a coat hanger," Angel growled.

Spike rolled his eyes. "Right."

"You're not going to get undressed down here," Angel said, glaring at Spike when the younger vampire started to remove his pants.

"It's my room," Spike replied. "And it's not like you haven't seen it before, you git." He smirked. "The Slayer's seen it all, too."

If Spike was a lesser vampire, he would have turned tail and ran at the look Angel gave him. However, since he wasn't, all he did was chuckle and throw on a pair of sweats. He grabbed a book off of the top of one of the book towers, then settled onto the opposite side of the bed.

He paused after opening the cover and looked over at Angel. "Tomorrow, we kill the bloke."

Angel gave Spike a single nod, then closed his eyes again. Tomorrow couldn't get there soon enough.

*****

"Still nothing," Buffy muttered to herself. The lights from the tree behind her were reflecting on the front window and she pressed her forehead against the glass to see outside better. Her arms were wrapped around herself in an effort to feel protected.

She mostly felt afraid.

Merry Christmas, Buffy, she thought sarcastically. Her eyes shifted from shadow to shadow nervously. Spike and Angel were outside somewhere, watching and waiting. Her demon guardian angels.

Waking up between them had been a new experience. If there hadn't been someone stalking her, she might have taken advantage of the situation. It wasn't everyday a girl was pressed between two very sexy men. But, alas, she hadn't been in the mood, so after a quick fright-filled trip to the bathroom, she had returned and snuggled back between them as if they were vampire security blankets.

They didn't seem to mind too much.

Now they were outside and she was inside, alone, hoping to draw the stalker. All the windows and doors in the house were locked. That way, if he did come, he'd have to take the time to pick the lock. Then Spike and Angel would catch him and, more than likely, kill him. She wasn't feeling too upset about that notion.

She lifted her head from the window and leaned against the back of the couch. The foot wide gap between the wall and the couch was just wide enough for her to stand behind. From outside, she probably looked like a young woman, waiting for her Christmas Day company to arrive. She wished that was really the case.

Buffy felt the hairs rising on the back of her neck and she tensed. Not moving, she stared outside the window, searching for the cause of the feeling. She inhaled shakily when she saw someone walking straight towards the window. Straight towards her.

Him.

She knew it was the stalker. She could feel it in her bones and by the fear bubbling up inside of her. He was taller than her. He had dark, scraggily hair. He had a thick, bushy beard and mustache.

Buffy froze as reality hit her. The stalker couldn't be heading straight towards her across the lawn and be taller than her. He would have to had come up the steps to the porch. Even if he ducked down, she would have seen him crossing from the stairs to the window.

Which meant that he was reflected in the window.

Buffy whirled around and pressed her back against the window, just as the stalker reached out to grab her. Their eyes met and she opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out. She was frozen in terror as the man slowly smiled at her.

Her mind was screaming over and over: "He's in the house! He's in the house!" The part of her that was still an eighteen year old girl was petrified.

Then the part of her that was the Slayer got pissed.

"YOU FUCKING BASTARD!!!" the Slayer screamed, then launched herself over the back of the couch at the man. They both hit the coffee table hard before sliding off of it onto the floor. She got to her knees beside him and threw several punches at his face. When he brought his arms up to block her, she grabbed one and broke it with little effort.

He let out a choked scream and she smiled evilly. Rising to her feet, she grabbed his shirt and threw him out the front window. Glass shattered and rained down onto the porch and the grass beyond it. Before the stalker even hit the ground, she was out the window after him.

Spike ran around the corner of the house when he heard the loud crash and stopped abruptly when he saw the scene before him. That's my girl, he thought, a broad grin crossing his face. Buffy was wailing on the downed man with a fury he knew and loved.

He saw Angel come around the opposite side of the house, pause, then run over to Buffy and pull her off of the man. The grin was replaced by a scowl for his sire and he jogged over to them.

"Let me go, Angel," Buffy was saying, struggling against the dark-haired vampire.

"Buffy, no," Angel said, holding her tight. "You don't want to kill a human."

"Yes, I do," Buffy growled.

Angel turned her around and met her angry eyes. "No, you don't," he said firmly.

"I'll do it," Spike happily volunteered.

"No, you won't, either," Angel said, raising his gaze to meet Spike's. "Take Buffy inside."

"But-," Buffy started.

"Bugger th-," Spike began at the same time.

"Now," Angel stated, his eyes flashing gold as he stared down his childe.

"Fine," Spike sighed heavily. He stepped over the unconscious man and put his arm around Buffy's shoulders. "Come on, Slayer. Let's do what the kill-joy says."

Angel waited until the two went inside before looking down at the stalker.

The stars shuddered at his smile.





Epilogue





"You have to, Slayer, it's tradition," Spike said.

"Forget it," Buffy stated.

"Afraid you'd love it?" he taunted.

She snorted. "Yeah, right."

"Prove me wrong, then," Spike said. He shook the piece of mistletoe he was holding. "I dare you."

"Not gonna happen, Spike," Buffy told him before heading to the basement with a laundry basket.

"Wuss!" Spike yelled after her.

"Pervert!" she yelled back.

Spike grinned and dropped the plant on the counter in the kitchen. Angel had left a few hours before, which he was exceedingly happy about, and Buffy was trying to bring herself back to normal. He had called the window people as soon as the sun set, but no one seemed to want to work the day after Christmas.

Picking up the local newspaper that he'd retrieved after making sure his sire was really gone, Spike scanned the headlines. His eyes widened briefly at what he saw.

~~~

Serial Killer Found Brutally Murdered In Alleyway

Bruce Sarno was found at two o'clock a.m., December 26, in an alleyway outside of the Sunnydale Police Department. The serial killer, number one on the FBI's Most Wanted list, had escaped from California's Maximum Security Facility during an appellate hearing.

Sarno was sitting on death row for his crimes that spanned twenty years and took forty women's lives when he escaped. His modus operandi was horrifyingly clever - he'd break into his intended victim's home and conduct his plan of terror, and eventual rape and murder, right from the victim's own attic.

The body was found by two local police officers returning from their tour of duty. Despite swelling and numerous contusions, Sarno's face was easily identifiable.

Laying beside the body on the ground.

"It was the sickest thing I've seen since I saw that movie 'Silence of the Lambs,'" Officer Charles Davies, one of the two who found the body, commented. "His face had just been cut right off of his head. The rest of him wasn't too pretty to look at, either."

At the time of printing, the medical examiner stated that Sarno died from massive blood loss. Time of death was approximated to be shortly before midnight on Christmas Day.

"This may sound cruel, but Sarno's death should be considered a Christmas gift to the women of California," the medical examiner stated. (Continued on page 2)

~~~

"Why you old dog," Spike said in amazement. "I'd of never thought you had it in you."

He needed to tell Buffy about the story, minus several pertinent details she didn't need to know her soulful ex had done, in order to reassure her the stalker was gone. After turning to page two, he hurried down the steps, still reading. "Hey, Slayer. I found out how the stalker was getting in here without us hear-"

Spike looked up just in time to hit his nose between Buffy's breasts. He staggered back a step, more surprised than hurt, a cupped a hand over his face. He stared for a moment at the upside down Slayer hanging from the pipe in the ceiling. He dropped his hand and grinned.

"Bloody hell, pet, your tits should be registered as lethal weapons."



End