Christmas Eve.

After the carols, the parties, the TV specials that threaten to cause wholesale genocide via saccarine overdose, comes the time where the parents with those children who still believe in Jolly Old Saint Nick have bribed/threatened their young ones into going to bed and staying there.

Now is the time; 2am, in this darkened living room, where an impressive tree festooned with all sorts of finery from the hallowed halls of K-Mart takes centre stage.

Before the dawn, the parents will drag themselves out of bed scant minutes before their kids will come tearing from their bedrooms, and plant their presents.

Now however, the house, and it's inhabitants, sleep.

Which made the squeaking, squealing sounds made from the chimney and the fireplace even more unusual.

Something - someone - was cursing, as he dragged himself from the chimney, and into the fireplace. Finally freeing himself from the tight confines, he pushed himself out of the blackened remains of the night's fire, and stepped into the living room itself.

"No wonder that fat bastard gave it up ... " The intruder stretched his arms and leaned backwards. "... his chiropracter's bills must have been enormous ..."

Something else fell into the fireplace with a muffled thump, and a large black cloud which billowed out with the impact.

The man didn't bother to turn around. "Still haven't got the hang of it yet, Slayer?"

The blonde girl looked up, her face reminding the blonde (suspected) man of the minstrel acts he'd seen once. "Shove it Spike."

Somehow, he didn't fancy his chances of getting her to sing "Mammy" at this point in time.

She'd landed on her back, and was trying very hard to get up. "Gimme a hand here."

Spike, deadpan, raised his hands and started to clap. "Bravo. Eight point five from the East German Judge."

Buffy slowly wriggled herself into a position where she could lever herself out of the fireplace. "Let's get this over with."

"Oh, I dunno ..." Spike found the little plate of nibbles - the expensive shortbread cookies and a nice glass of sherry. "... has it's perks."

"What?" Buffy stomped over to the vampire, tramping dust all over the living room, and snatched the sherry bottle from which Spike was about to take an unhealthy swing.

"We are cursed, Spike. Cursed to spend Christmas Eve, delivering presents to all the good little boys and girls."

"Just one night."

"For everyone else on the planet, it's one night. For us? It's ... I don't know, three months? And we're not even half way through America yet!"

"You think you know about curses, love? Try having something in your head that'll fry your brain every time you try and beat up some prat that desperately deserves it. This ... is a holiday."

"Wierd vacation."

"Yeah. Three months of night ... free invitation to every house in Christendom ... quality booze ..." Spike raised the sherry bottle he'd liberated from Buffy when she wasn't looking, while handing her the pre-poured crystal glass.

Buffy sighed, touching her glass against Spike's bottle. "Merry christmas."

"Don't worry, Spike has thought of a way to convince the powers that be that some other sucker should do the job."

There was something in the vampire's tone that made Buffy very wary "What have you done, Spike."

"Oh, I just took a few things in California ..."

"Like ..."

Spike took two objects from his sack.

Buffy dropped her glass.

This was not a normal occurance, but it could be forgiven, because if you were suddenly presented with the decapitated heads of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, you'd probably drop something as well.

"Oh God."

"Better clean that up, sherry might leave a stain."

"You can't be serious."

"I am. That carpet looks expensive."

"You have murdered ... " Buffy got up, and started pacing. "Are there any other ... famous heads in that bag?"

"I thought about that Justin Timberlake bloke, but you know how niblet goes on and on ... didn't want to upset her."

"Oh, I'm very glad to hear it."

"It was a tough decision to make, Slayer. Can't stand the bloke meself. Look, we leave a few of these lying around, and the people who gave us this job will give us the arse. Simple."

"So there is more."

Spike hefted the heads, his expression earnest. "One word, Slayer. Gigli."

"You saw it?"

"No ... but I heard about a vamp that did. Trapped in a movie theatre during the day. Was in the projectionist booth during the manintees, and saw the movie. Ran out into the sun halfway through. True story."

"Do you want to traumatise the kids who live here for life?"

Spike thought about it for a second, and started to snigger.

"Oh, yes. I keep on forgetting who I'm talking to."

"I could leave Jenny from the Block right here ... so that everybody gets a good view ... and when dad turns towards the phone to call 911, he gets a load of Ben ..."

"Let's. Go." Buffy took the heads, and threw them back in the sack. She stepped into the fireplace and started climbing.

Spike waited until she was wedged in good and proper before taking another head he'd placed under a cushion before revealing his plan.

"You're king of the Christmas Tree now, Leo." whispered Spike, before placing him on the nibbles tray.

"Come on Spike!"

Spike moved into the fireplace and looked up. "Keep your knickers on love ... " his smirk grew "... or do you want to sit on Santa Spike's lap?"

The thick clod of dust flew into Spike's face was a clue that Buffy wasn't entirely interested in his proposal.