So, how busy could one little mall be the week before Christmas?
Vampires she could handle. Lineups out the door and women fighting over Wiis made her want to run back to Sunnydale, even if it was just a big hole in the ground. Why did she leave her shopping until the last minute every year? Her mom always had it done by Labour Day.
Somehow she’d gotten turned around. She wanted The Gap, but instead she was in the middle section near Santa’s Wonderland. Sure enough, the place was packed with children, some grinning, some screaming, some crying to go home. And lots of bitchy, exasperated mothers.
If she’d remembered a month ago, she could have gotten Willow to help her shop online.
“No, ma’am. I may be wearing a red hat, but I’m not an elf.” Good grief. She had to get out of here. She could buy presents at the 7/11. Everyone liked magazines and chocolate bars, didn’t they?
She could probably get out without stepping on a toddler if she deked around Orange Julius and pulled a hard left at Starbucks. She was pretty sure there was an exit out to the parking lot near there.
Nope. That was the entrance to the restrooms. Then it was across the other way. Right past the giant candy canes and the papier mache North Pole. Through the sea of rugrats.
If Buffy hadn’t been hardened by her years of battling demons, she would have sat down on the mini-igloo and had a good cry. But she was made of sterner stuff. She took a deep breath and headed, slowly, towards the heart of the crowd. Towards Santa’s very armchair/throne.
But as she approached the centre, the veritable heart, of the mall, she felt her feet go out from under her. “Whoa,” she said, her head spinning, “I knew I shoulda had some breakfast.”
She was still surrounded by screaming children. Screaming, terrified children. Santa towered over them, his talon hands dripping blood, his pointed teeth a rictus grin through his mangy beard.
“Buffy?” He stood in front of her, a sword in each hand.
“Spike?” Now she was sure. She really should have eaten. Low blood sugar was a dangerous thing. “Dead Spike?”
“Not really.” He tossed her a sword. “Protect the children!” he cried, running towards the slathering demon Kringle. “For Christmas!!”
The sword felt real enough. She joined Spike in the attack of the massive creature, pieces of red velvet and white fur flying through the air. It might have defeated one of them, but was no match for the vampire and Slayer. The children cheered as it fell.
“Good timing,” Spike said, leaning against a plastic reindeer.
“What the hell is going on?” Buffy demanded.
“Welcome to Hell-A, Slayer. I reckon you fell through a portal or some such.”
“Not dead.” He sheathed his sword. “No more than usual, at least.” He looked above her. “Ah, how about that. Mistletoe.”
“There isn’t any...” But she was in his embrace before she could finish the sentence.
When she finally came up for air, she could feel the tug of something pulling her away from him.
“I don’t understand. What...?”
“LA is under demon control.” His voice was becoming faint. “There’s a glamour keeping the world from finding out. We need...”
She was back in Santa’s Village. The less evil one. She pulled out her cell phone.
“Willow. Get the girls together. We’re going to LA.”