Christmas Day. Alone.

Yeah, that's how he wanted to spend it. Almost.

Spike shuffled aimless along the dark streets of Sunnydale, the only sound the scraping of his worn boots against the rough pavement. Sure, Buffy hadn't asked him to leave, but she hadn't insisted he stay either. No matter though, he had felt a bit put out in the middle of the Scoobies little holiday feast anyway.

Yeah, it was best that he left them to their own. No sense in ruining one of the few times of the year Buffy actually got to feel like a normal girl and spend some quality time with her family and friends. Xander would have just shot off his mouth had he stuck around anyway, stupid git. Sure, his intentions were good, but most of the time his mouth just made things worse, especially when it came to him.

"Why you alone?"

Spike was jarred from his thoughts at the sound of a girl voice. He looked up quickly to be met with the curious face of a girl sitting on the park bench in front of him. She was probably about Dawn's age, maybe a bit younger. She arced an eyebrow at him, her dark blue eyes twinkling under her wispy, ash blond locks.

"Could ask the same of you." He replied, returning her curious stare. He shoved his hands in his pockets.

"Then why don't you?"

"Cause I'd like to think a girl like you has somewhere better to be on Christmas night 'sides this place."

"What's wrong with the park?"

"I think you're missin' the point."

"Am I?"

He narrowed his eyes, giving her a small smirk. "You're a quirky lil thing, aren't you?"

"So I've been told." She said, standing. She extended her small hand toward him, smiling. He wrapped his hand around hers, giving it a small shake. "Casey."

"Spike."

Her smile faded a bit, and she stared down at his hand curiously. "You're hands are awful warm for a vampire." He jerked it away quickly.

"How did you…"

"Don't worry 'bout it." She said warmly, her smile returning. "So why are you out here all alone? Like you said, there are better places to be on Christmas than alone in the park."

He shrugged. "Nowhere else to be, I s'pose."

"You w\sure about that?" She asked, quirking her head to the side, a small smile on her lips. "There's nowhere else you'd rather be spending the holiday?"

"Doesn't matter much what I want anymore, does it?" He replied, returning his hands to his pockets. Something about the girl irked him.

"Sure it does. Everyone should have a place to go, especially during the holidays." She stated, jabbing him playfully in the arm. He gave her an odd look.

"Then why are you out here?"

"Because unlike you, I really don't have any place to go." She said, the same small smile on her face.

"What 'bout your parents?"

She shrugged. "Died a long time ago."

"So you're on your own then?"

"No."

"Sister?"

"Brother." She corrected. "But I don't see him much anymore."

He shrugged a bit, taking a seat on the bench. "Pity."

"Eh, s'not so bad." She stated, plopping down beside him. "You know, it doesn't matter what you think. No matter what, there is always someone who cares. You're never truly alone in this world."

"I think you got a few things to learn, kiddo."

"Not much of a scholar." She said, leaning back. "You should go home."

"Would if I knew where that was."

She looked over at him, smirking.

"What's so funny?" He questioned, looking over at her.

"I told you you weren't alone." She said smugly, smirking.

"Spike?"

The vampire's head turned and he was surprised to see Buffy walking towards them, a small smile on her face. "Buffy, what are you doing here?"

"Looking for you." She replied, smiling. She held out a small box wrapped up in colorful reindeer wrapping paper, a bow placed crookedly near the center. "Merry Christmas."

He gave her an odd look, taking the package hesitantly. "Buffy, you didn't have to…"

"It's more of a sentimental thing." She said, her smile still planted firmly on her face. "Open it."

"Guess you were right, kid…" He said, looking over his shoulder. His eyes went wide.

"Uh…. Who are you talking to?" Buffy questioned, giving him an odd look.

"The girl…. There was a girl here a minute ago." He said, looking at the spot where Casey had been sitting.

"I didn't see anyone." She said, looking at him strangely.

"Guess she left…" He mumbled, shaking his head a bit. He returned his focus to the box in front of him.

"Well? You gonna open it or just stare at it?" The Slayer questioned with a smirk, sitting down beside him.

"Will it eat me?"

She jabbed him in the arm, earning a small smile.

He tore the paper off rather neatly, which she found rather ironic as she had watched him shred so many living creatures brutally to bits with those same exact hands. Who would have thought the Big Bad would spare the wrapping paper his wrath?

"Oh look, it's a…. piece of paper." He trailed off, looking confusedly at the small white paper he was now holding. One edge was tattered, as if it had been torn out of a book.

"Yeah, but what's on it?" she asked, still grinning.

"Uhm…." He turned it over, squinting to make sure he was missing some miniscule little picture or some tiny words scrawled somewhere. No luck. "M'not seeing nothin', luv."

"That's the point."

He looked at her out of the corner of his eyes, confused.

She took a breath, turning her body so she was facing him. "Look, I know you're taking this whole soul thing pretty hard, and that's understandable, but I want you to look at something." With that, she pulled out a tiny book from her pocket. She opened the cover. "Giles gave this to me awhile back. You know, kind of like a journal? I ended up using it as a coaster, and  as luck would have it, spilled cranberry juice on it."

"So I see." He agreed, noting the large red stains covering most of the page. "Does this have a point?"

"I'm getting there." She said, hushing him. "So, I thought it was ruined, but as it turned out, there were still a couple pages near the back that didn't get anything on them. They were still good."

"And I take it this…"

"… is one of those pages." She finished for him, nodding towards the paper he held in his hand. She then closed the book, slipping it silently back into her pocket. "Look, Spike. No matter how bad something is, no matter how bad it's messed up, if you look a little harder before you throw it away, you're likely to find something good. All you have to do is take the time to look."

His hand wrapped loosely around the paper he held in his hand, his eyes slowly drifting to meet hers. "Thanks, Buffy."

She smiled, nodding as she stood. "Come on, Spike. Let's go home."

He returned the smile, slipping the small piece of paper into his pocket as he stood. His smile faded for a moment as he pulled out a folded envelope. That hadn't been there before…

"What's that?" Buffy questioned, watching as he unfolded it.

"Uh…" He stared at it dumbly. Buffy's name was spelled across it in swirly cursive letters, so much like his own writing that it would have been hard to tell them apart. He looked up at Buffy, and for some reason found himself handing the strange envelope over to her.

She gave him a small smile before returning her gaze to the envelope, sliding her finger under the flap and peeling it open. Inside was a worn piece of paper, folded neatly. She pulled it out, unfolding it carefully. Spike watched intently as her eyes scanned over the peculiar words written there. The only legible thing on the whole page was the small script in the upper left corner saying "read me" in the same definitive writing as the rest of the page.

She looked up at his, a playful smirk on her mouth as she began to read the text, the words flowing of her tongue surprisingly easily. She had never been one for reading other languages…

"… esac'ar l'hai ahk aluai." She finished, her mouth curved up in a smile.

"Buffy, I don't think…"

He was cut short as the page went up in a puff of smoke, causing them both to jump slightly. When the smoke cleared, there were hundreds of tiny specs in the air around them, shimmering and twinkling like tiny stars. They both stared in awe for a moment, not moving, but the little specs didn't remain there for long. All at once, they began to swirl together, creating a small whirlwind around them before whooshing off towards the sky.

Buffy grinned, staring at the point in the sky where the specs had disappeared. She looked back at Spike, stilling grinning wildly. "Spike, that was…" She froze, disbelieving. She looked back up as another snowflake touched her nose, melting away as it touched her warm flesh. "Oh…. My…. God!!"

The next thing Spike new, Buffy had her arms tightly around his neck, hugging him fiercely and giggling as the snow swirled wildly around them. He couldn't help but smile himself, hugging her back.

That's when he saw her.

Casey was standing in the distance, barely visable through the flurries around them. She smiled, waving. He mouthed the words "thank you" and watched as she turned and disappeared.

----------

Spike watched intently from his seat on the couch as Buffy carefully placed the weapons they had been using earlier in the day back into the trunk near the wall. They had spent a majority of they day with the Slayers in Training…well, training. "Glad that's over…" She mumbled, closing the trunk and standing.

"Uhm, Buffy?"

"Yeah?" The Slayer questioned, watching as Giles walked out of the dining room. She sat down besides Spike, her eyes not leaving her watcher.

"I've received a call from a friend. It appears another girl has been killed." He informed her, looking glum.

"But I though we had all of the girls here?" Buffy asked.

"We do. She's been dead for two weeks now."

"She died a week before Christmas…" Buffy mumbled, looking down at her hands.

Giles nodded. "Casey Marie Gillespie…"

Spike's eyes went wide. Then, almost instantly, he heard a voice echoes through his head.

"I told you you weren't alone."

~fin~