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A Study of the Hellmouth

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Buffy had been watching the two men for fifteen minutes, and there was no doubt in her mind that they were dead. At least, one of them was. The tall one was porcelain pale and his posture way too perfect. Plus, he dressed like he'd come from a cocktail party. His suit might even be tailored. The little guy with him looked kind of like a puppy.

The two definitely weren't locals; Buffy would've remembered seeing them before. They were fresh, dead meat. Just what she needed.

The tall one swept up the stairs (that was how he walked; he swept) and paced the catwalk, looking for someone. Another dead giveaway: the way he watched the crowd. It was too purposeful.

Buffy waited and watched.

He came back downstairs to get his puppy. They were actually kinda cute together, Buffy thought. She wondered if they were a couple.

They crossed the room to the exit, the taller brunette leading the way. The crowd, drunk and mostly oblivious, parted for him. Did he even notice? How old was he?

Buffy slipped out a side door, grabbing the stake from her waistband, and circled around the building to head them off.

"Thought you'd never leave," she said when they emerged. They didn't seem surprised to see her; in fact, the tall one smiled a little. He had great hair. Dark, curly and thick. How did he get it to curl like that without frizzing? She made a note to ask before she staked him.

"Welcome to Sunnydale," she said. And then she charged them.

Or, at least, she started to. Until the puppy pulled out a gun.

Buffy skidded to a stop, arms pinwheeling for balance, only a couple feet away from them. "A gun," she said, staring down the barrel. "Tacky."

"Careful, John," the brunette vamp said to the pup. "You've just been accused of tackiness by an American."

"I won't take it personally," John said.

Ugh. They weren't old or interesting after all. And John definitely wasn't a vamp; vampires don't use guns. The tall one was just a new vamp faking a British accent and getting his crony to copy him. He probably ate a tailor to get the suit – everybody wanted to be exotic.

"Neat accents," Buffy said, looking between them and smiling crookedly. "Did you get 'em on clearance at the K-Mart?"

"No, as a matter of fact," the brunette said. He extended his hand. "Sherlock Holmes. Consulting detective."

"Buffy," she said, crossing her arms and ignoring his hand. "Vampire slayer. The."

The brunette, Sherlock, slowly withdrew his hand. He lifted his chin and stared at her; Buffy got the feeling she was being studied. "This is normally the part where you run," she added.

"I'm sorry," John interrupted. "I think I must have heard you wrong. Did you say vampire slayer?"

"Did I stutter?"

"Ah, no."

"But this is perfect," Sherlock said, steepling his fingers. Buffy liked the purple button-up shirt he was wearing. Maybe she could save it before she staked him… "Truly astonishing," he continued. "You're one of the vigilantes I read about. The slayer, did you call yourself?"

Buffy snapped her gaze up to his face. "One of the vigilantes? I'm the vigilante. The chosen one, etcetera. You really are new in town, aren't you?" Maybe their accents were genuine, after all... Oh no. She closed her eyes as a horrible possibility presented itself to her. "Are you friends of Spike's? Did he send you to follow me?"

"Spike?" John said. "That's a name?"

Thank god, Buffy thought.

"Okay," she said, raising her stake again. "Enough talking. You, puppy guy, why don't you put the gun down before you poke someone's eye out."

John turned his head a bit to look at Sherlock. "She called me puppy guy."

"So I heard," Sherlock said. "Listen, Miss...? I apologize, I didn't catch your last name."

"No, you didn't."

"Right. Miss Slayer, then. John is unlikely to lower his gun while you are armed with a sharpened stake and apparently prepared to slay us. Though if you'd like to come inside, we'd love to have a little chat."

"We would?" John said. Sherlock ignored him.

Buffy looked at Sherlock - what kind of name was that, anyway? - more closely. His chest rose and fell like he was breathing, but that was easy to fake. She'd been so sure he was dead. But since when did vampires make their henchmen use guns? Could be a British thing. Except... weren't guns illegal there?

"Gimme your wrist," Buffy finally said.

Sherlock extended an arm, rolling the sleeve of his jacket and shirt up by the cuffs. Buffy wished he would slouch a little. He was making her feel like a slob. She straightened her shoulders as she reached out to touch the thick blue veins of his wrist.

Sherlock's pulse beat against her fingers.

"You're alive," she said.

He smiled a little. "Opinions on that differ."

Buffy pulled her hand back and stepped away. "Let's go inside."