Title: "Episode 83 & 1/2 - With A Little Help From My Friends".
Part: 01/12
Author: "A Gentleman Of Leisure".
Summary: There's a stranger in town and the world's about to end. Who you gonna call?
Story Type: In-Canon adventure set between Episodes 83 & 84 (hence the title).
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Up to Series 5, Episode 83 (of course).
Pairing: In-Canon
Disclaimer: In the beginning there was Joss. And Joss said "Let there be Buffy". And there was Buffy. And it was the morning and the evening of the first episode. And lo, Joss saw that it was good. (All copyrights and trademarks acknowledged - it's all just a bit of fun, folks. Thank you.)

Author's Note: I'm a British writer, so there may be some terms (and spelling) not used in the US. OK? Now read on...


Part One - 'Strangers In The Night' - Frank Sinatra.

It was a dark evening in late fall in Sunnydale. The wind coming in off the sea was colder than she had expected as Buffy Summers walked slowly across the uncut grass in the Municipal Cemetery. She shivered. She was bored, even though she had only been out on patrol for a couple of hours. Nothing much was happening - it looked as if tonight was going to be a total waste of time. The only vampire she had come across so far had taken one look at her and run - in the opposite direction. She hadn't had the heart to chase after such a cowardly creature, even though it was manifestly her slayerly duty to do so.

'Very sensible of it', she thought, 'but I just can't go home with a zero score. It's much too early, and I'm not really tired'.

She shook herself awake, thereby proving herself a liar, and peered into the darkest shadows where there was a small group of mausoleums, looking for all the world like an exclusive little housing estate for dead people.

'And the undead too', she remarked to herself. 'Oh well, A-hunting-we-will-go!' She wondered why that phrase had come into her head - it was a typical Giles-type remark. Sometimes his dry British humour would baffle her, but it could be comforting too. It wasn't boffo laugh-out-loud stuff, but none the less it could make her smile. Anyway, vampires had no sense of humour at all, so cracking jokes could confuse a one as you slew it. Very satisfactory!

She thought to herself that she needed to have a serious talk to Giles soon, to confide in him what she had learned about her younger sister, Dawn. It was strange, how she could remember all the years of them growing up together, big sister and little sister, and yet now she knew that none of it was real. Absolutely none of it had happened the way she remembered it. All her memories were - what - imaginary? And that felt really creepy.

Somewhere in the distance out over the sea there was a flicker like lightening in the night sky, and the low mutter of thunder. Beneath her feet the ground trembled as if in sympathy. It bought her back to the present moment, and it seemed to Buffy that it was entirely appropriate. In any other town it might be a prelude to rain, but in Sunnydale you were just as likely to have frogs or fish fall from the sky. Or electric eels.

Suddenly there was a brilliant flash really close in front of her, just beyond the trees, and instantly a crash of thunder so loud it left her ears ringing. She shook her head and wondered if it wasn't time to call it a night and head for home. It didn't look as if there were going to be many people out in weather like this, and fewer people meant less of a problem from vamps. Not that she'd had much luck on that score tonight.

Her thoughts were interrupted as something moved beyond the cypress trees away to her right, close to where the lightening had struck. A tall figure passed behind the low square shape of a crypt and reappeared, walking at an easy, unhurried pace. For a moment it almost seemed familiar.

"Is that..? No, not much like a vamp at all", she murmured to herself. Puzzled, she moved cautiously forwards to investigate. A couple of moments later she came to the edge of a large open space in front of another small cluster of mausoleums, stopped, and crouched down among the bushes to observe.

Near the middle of the moonlit clearing a tall man was standing as still as a statue. He seemed to be just listening. He was clean shaven, and was wearing a long black coat and the sort of hat that might have come straight out of a Humphrey Bogart movie.

'Curiouser and curiouser. Well, he can't be Santa Claus, it's not December yet', Buffy told herself. 'Anyway, no reindeer'.

She tried to make out what he was doing. He stood so still that he almost seemed to be waiting for something. Then, slowly, he began to turn towards her. As he did so another figure rose quietly out of the dense shadows on the other side of the clearing, close behind him. A vamp!

Instinctively Buffy leaped to her feet and charged forward, but they were too far away, and the vampire was much nearer to its victim - she wouldn't make it in time!

Then, as she raced across the clearing, something happened, so fast that even she couldn't make out exactly how. The man suddenly lifted his right hand from inside his coat, and swiftly half-turned in the same direction. His arm rose high above his head in a sort of backhand stroke, and something glinted for an instant in the moonlight. Then the vampire shrieked and stumbled back, clutching at its stomach.

The man paused with his right arm outstretched towards the sky for the merest fraction of a second, then swept it down and round again, and the vamp's head leaped high off its shoulders looking utterly astonished for the second or so before it and its body exploded into dust.

The man slipped his hand back inside his coat for a moment, and then calmly adjusted his hat. Buffy could have sworn she heard him laughing quietly to himself.

She slowed to a walk and stopped a few yards from him, ready for whatever might happen. This was weird. She was the official patroller and slayer of vamps in this here town. So who was this person?

"Good evening", said the stranger with a slight smile, and lifted his hat politely. "Well met by moonlight". He looked at her quizzically, his head tilted slightly. "Isn't it a bit dangerous for young ladies to be out so late after dark, especially here?" he asked.

"I might say the same", Buffy responded, a little miffed. "This place is not exactly on the recommended tourist trail".

"Touche", came the reply. "I must assume then that you know what you are doing wandering round in a cemetery on your own. Especially at this time of night".

"I know how to look after myself, if that's what you mean. And", she added, "you sound English!"

The man nodded, and she could see that the remark amused him. His teeth gleamed like a toothpaste ad! She usually liked people who smiled, so long as they didn't have long pointy teeth, that is.

"You recognise the accent - most Americans can't. That's very promising".

'Promising of what?' Buffy wondered.

"What did you use just then", she asked him, "on your attacker I mean?" She didn't say vampire. You never knew quite who you were talking to in Sunnydale. If this guy was just an ordinary tourist there was no point in alarming him, though he didn't seem to be the type who did 'alarm'.

The man slipped his hand under his coat, which Buffy could see was nearly as long as Spike's, and he slowly drew out a thin jet-black sword. It had a strange elaborate hilt, and an unusual narrow leaf-shaped blade only about twenty inches long, with a very sharp pointed tip. Buffy had a thorough knowledge of weapons of all sorts, and though she didn't really recognise the shape, she guessed that it was old, something from way back in ancient history.

The stranger held it up in front of him in the moonlight for a few seconds, with its tip pointing to the stars, then without any warning he suddenly lunged forwards at her.

He was very, very fast. Because she was unarmed, except for her stake, Mr. Pointy, Buffy quickly dived to one side and rolled out of reach, coming to her feet in a fighting stance with her fists clenched - just in time to see the stranger slash off the head of another vampire that had crept up unnoticed on the two of them as they stood in the open, and which had leaped out at Buffy from the bushes behind her.

In a swift continuous graceful movement the sword came back down and slipped away beneath the long coat again even as the vamp disintegrated.

"I like the way you move, Miss Summers", the stranger said. "Very cool".

"Likewise, I'm sure", Buffy replied, pushing her hair back out of her eyes as she relaxed. "I think", she added. "Where did he come from? I didn't hear anything".

"You were distracted. I noticed him sneaking up on us. I expect he thought we were a nice late-evening snack".

"Well he was dead wrong. He kinda choked on something sharp there. You are pretty quick, Mister!" she added.

"So are you", he replied, "but I think it might be unwise for us to stay here too long. There are some more early risers coming our way. Would you like some assistance with them?"

Buffy spun round and peered away into the distance. She shook her head.

"Oh, I don't think so. I'll be fine thanks. I'm in need of the exercise. I was getting bored before you turned up, but thanks for the offer".

" OK, if you're sure then", the man said. "I expect I'll see you around". She heard him laugh quietly again.

"You think so?" Buffy said, only mildly interested, and glanced back at him over her shoulder. To her complete surprise she found she was alone!

End Of Part One. To Be Continued...