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A Regular Van Helsing

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Somewhere along the line, Buffy started fighting on backstreets, with weapons she can hide. Even when she first became the Slayer it was obvious she couldn't walk down Main Street with a broadsword, but it took a while for her to realise that, to some cops, she and Angel walking with intent to walk was just as much a threat.

Things were easier, sometimes, with Xander and Willow as her patrol buddies, and her patrols with Riley (so tall and charming – and white, but let's not mention that) were blissfully uninterrupted by comparison. These days, though, she patrols with Spike, if she doesn't patrol alone, and that's something more of an issue. It doesn't even matter that Spike is not Latino: whatever your heritage, brown skin and black leather don't go down well in Sunnydale.

Huh. Maybe that's why she wears so much of it?

She's never really understood why black leather is so threatening, anyway. There are the bondage associations, sure, but still she wonders if people's main fear isn't the other message. Spike projects it more than her – Buffy's certain of that – but every time she's knocked to the ground, when gravel scrapes her shoulder but doesn't reach her skin, she feels like there's a little 'fuck you' there. You can knock me down, but you can't make me bleed. That's got to piss some people off.

Tonight, while Buffy thinks these thoughts, there's a blonde girl running down an alley. (It's not her.) She's wearing something lacy, white and fashionable; her hair whips out behind her, gold and flailing, light in the wind. Naturally she's a California girl, so in the sunshine she'd have a tan – but here, beneath the moon and the floodlight, her skin is as pale as virgin snow. Buffy watches her, removed from the scene and wedged in a window frame, waiting for the vampire to come.

Sure enough, he comes chasing – and, hey, look, his jacket's black as Buffy's, all leather and buckles. Maybe the world's onto something.

He's gaining speed and, for a moment, Buffy wonders what it would be like for the girl to turn around. If she were the slayer, not Buffy; if, when she tripped (they always trip), she didn't scream, but rolled to her feet and turned and staked.

Of course, she doesn't. There's only one girl chosen in all the world, so, when this girl trips, she falls. She doesn't actually scream – it's surprising how few do – but Buffy takes her cue anyway, leaping to the alley floor and tackling the vamp to the tarmac. As always, it's left to her to save these people.

In seconds Buffy and the vampire have both climbed to their feet – he with a scramble, she letting herself roll up onto her shoes. He snarls, clearly expecting a fight, but she simply slips her stake into her palm and stabs him in the heart. Now dust is falling.

Silence follows the vampire's scream and Buffy breathes it in, tucking her stake back into her own leather jacket. Then –

"Buffy Solis?"

Startled, Buffy looks round, at the girl now standing up. She appears more put-together now she's no longer prey – a woman, not a girl; definitely Buffy's age, not Dawn's. Her shirt's cute, white with chiffon ruffles, like a couple of shirts Buffy has for work. Her face is almost familiar.

"Have we met?" Buffy asks, picking up the woman's bag from where it's landed, flung in the fall to the side of the alley, then offering it back to her.

"Oh, thanks," comes the reply, after a moment's surprise, as the woman re-shoulders the bag and begins smoothing down her hair. "I'm – Blue Nicholls? From Sunnydale High?" Another Sunnydale alum who remembers her? After Holden Buffy's beginning to think there's a reunion happening. Blue continues, "I graduated a class before you, I think."

"Oh, OK," Buffy replies, pretty sure that means she doesn't need to remember this woman. "Hi; how've you been?"

"Hi! Good." Blue nods, swallowing as she looks around the alley and at the dust joining dirt on the ground. "Yeah, scaling it pretty high – you know, when I'm not running for my life."

There's humour in Blue's eyes, beating back the fear and shock, and Buffy realises that this is the feeling that bound their school together. She relaxes as well, smiling in return. "Oh, do I know that feeling…"

The problem is, there isn't much more to say than that, so the nighttime silence quickly becomes awkward, after which they're just two women standing in an alley, vampire ash on the floor.

This is usually the point where Buffy takes her leave, so she starts walking back to the street, but Blue follows, asking another question, "So – do you do this a lot?" She blushes, then babbles like she's only just remembered, "Thank you, I mean, by the way – I can't – wow, you saved my life here, didn't you?" Blue's eyes are wide, bright with gratitude.

Uncomfortably Buffy shrugs. "It's no big, really." She knows this is meant to be the best part of the job, but thanks never feel right – and that, for some reason, makes her more annoyed.

"Were you – is this what you were doing back in school?" Comprehension's dawning on Blue's face now, settling apprehensively in her (namesake?) big blue eyes. "We all heard you were getting into fights."

"Oh, well, I was," Buffy replies, quirking a smile, nodding back to where one of her fights just happened.

"No," Blue replies, frowning as she shakes her head. "I mean – we thought you were in a gang."

"Oh." They're back on the road now and Buffy thinks about just walking away. She's heard this enough times that it seems pointless to argue the turf war over Sunnydale is something different from how it sounds, but she can't leave it, all the same. She's never been able to leave it. "Well, it's lucky," Buffy says, looking Blue in the face one last time before she carries on with her patrol. "My gang saves the world."

"How was patrol?" Willow asks when Buffy returns home, looking up from her laptop on the living room table. The potentials are asleep in the dining room, it looks like – or at least their bags are there. It's entirely possible they're treating the kitchen as a free 7-Eleven.

In response to Willow's question, Buffy shrugs. "Same as always."

"Wannabe Lucy Westenras fainting in alleyways?" Now Willow shuts the laptop, budging up on the sofa so Buffy can sit down. With a grin she adds, in a high-pitched voice, "Oh, Buffy – save me, save me!"

Buffy wrinkles her nose, not sure if she's amused. "You know," she says with a sigh, "my mom always said she wanted better for me than a service profession."

"Slaying's not…" Willow begins instinctively, before frowning as Buffy looks at her. "But it isn't as…" She snags some kosher jerky from the packet on the table and chews on it. At last she says, "You're like a fireman – firewoman, if anything. Vitally vital."

"Yeah," Buffy replies, long resigned to this. Because everyone knows that firemen are top of the respect league tables.

Willow's still looking thoughtful. "Also, I guess – sacred duty. Who doesn't want that?"

"Oh, sure." Her sacred duty to protect the nice white people of southern California. "Who doesn't want that?"